Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the decision to impose the lockdown in March, has warned that the UK should not rule out more restrictions.

The Imperial College epidemiologist told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The measures just announced will take some weeks to have an effect, so we need to wait at this point and see how much it will flatten the curve.

“And then if that is not sufficient to bring the reproduction number below one, so the epidemic starts shrinking again, then yes, we may need to clamp down in other areas.”

The Government has tightened restrictions on meeting in groups after a surge in infections prompted concerns over a second wave of coronavirus.

From Monday 14 September it will be illegal for people in England to gather in groups of more than six.

Prof Ferguson said he was still working from home, and cautioned: “Certainly I think we should hesitate and maybe pause at the headlong rush to get everybody back into offices.

“But some people have to work and I completely understand the concerns in many quarters that everybody working at home has an economic impact, particularly on city centres.”

A&E attendances remain low

A&E attendances at hospitals in England continue to be below levels a year ago, according to the latest figures from NHS England.

A total of 1.7 million attendances were recorded in August 2020, down 19 per cent from 2.1 million attendances in August 2019.

NHS England said the fall was “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response” – suggesting that people are still staying away from A&E departments because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The year-on-year drop in A&E attendances of 19 per cent in August compares with a fall of 30 per cent recorded in July and 33 per cent in June.

Oxford vaccine could be approved by Christmas despite suspended trials says AstraZeneca CEO

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot has sad it is “still feasible” to see the Oxford vaccine approved by regulators “by the end of this year”

Mr Soriot was speaking at a Tortoise event and added that this does depend on how quickly the currently suspended trials are restarted, as well as the approval process.

It suspended the late-stage trials after an illness in a study subject in Britain. The patient was reportedly suffering from neurological symptoms associated with a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.

Soriot said during a call on the vaccine, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has flagged as the most promising in combatting coronavirus, that it was very common for a trial to be suspended, the difference being that the world was watching.

The CEO said AstraZeneca did not know the diagnosis for the volunteer in the trial, adding that it was not clear if they had transverse myelitis and more tests were needed.

Soriot said the diagnosis would be submitted to an independent safety committee and this would usually then tell the company whether trials can be resumed.

Quiet zones could help cut transmission

More quiet zones in high-risk indoor spaces, such as hospitals and restaurants, could help to cut coronavirus contagion risks, researchers have said, after a study showed that lowering speaking volume can reduce the spread of the disease.

In efforts to rein in transmission, a reduction of 6 decibels in average speech levels can have the same effect as doubling a room’s ventilation, scientists said on Wednesday, in an advance copy of a paper detailing their study.

“The results suggest that public health authorities should consider implementing ‘quiet zones’ in high-risk indoor environments, such as hospital waiting rooms or dining facilities,” wrote the six researchers from the University of California, Davis.

The World Health Organization changed its guidance in July to acknowledge the possibility of aerosol transmission, such as during choir practice, or when in restaurants or fitness classes.

‘Moonshot’ could lead to 600,000 people being unnecessarily labelled as having coronavirus

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said Boris Johnson’s “Operation Moonshot” project – which would see millions of UK-wide tests carried out daily – could lead to hundreds of thousands of people being unnecessarily labelled as having coronavirus.

“Statisticians are just sort of banging their heads on the wall at this, because mass screening always seems like a good idea in any disease – ‘Oh yes, let’s test everybody’. But the huge danger is false positives – no tests are perfect, it is not a simple yes/no thing.

“And if you’re going to have a test that would allow someone into a theatre or allow them back to work, you’re going to have to be really sure they’re not infectious.

“And so you have to set a threshold that is not very sensitive, that will pick up anything that hints at being infectious. That means that such a test will always generate a very large number of false positives.

“That doesn’t matter so much perhaps if you’re just being stopped going into a theatre – the point is it is not just a matter of testing.

“You’ve got this whole downstream business that that person will be told to isolate, their contacts will be told to isolate, and so on.

“And if you only have 1 per cent false positives among all the people who are not infectious, and you’re testing the whole country, that’s 600,000 people unnecessarily labelled as positives.”

Risk of dying from coronavirus ‘doubles every six years’, says statistician

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, said the risk of dying from coronavirus “doubles every six years”.

“A 20-year-old has double the risk of a 14-year-old, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, adding: “It’s like a horrible form of compound interest.”

“The real danger points, in a sense, are intergenerational meetings. At the moment, the people who are getting the virus are the 20-29s – if 5,000 get it, there may be one death if you’re unlucky, there will be other sort of long-term conditions as well.

“But if 5,000 people my age – 67 – get it, there would be about 75 deaths, and for people older, in their 80s, it would be 10 times that many.

“So it shows the crucial care is where the generations meet, and I think what this shows is that, for the young, anyone over 55 should be treated with caution, respect, in terms of masks and the distance and so on.”

Tricky thing with ‘Moonshot’ is not the technology but how it gets used in practice, says public health expert

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said the tricky thing with Moonshot is not so much the technology, which she said is likely to be available in weeks to months, but how it gets used in practice.

She told BBC Breakfast: “So that, if you have, for example, a false negative test, but you feel assured that you don’t have the disease, you don’t end up going back into the workplace.

“Which brings me back to why it’s still so important that the critical measure here – although testing is really important, whether it be mass testing or whether it be our routine NHS Test and Trace – the issue is that if people have symptoms they need to come out of society in order to prevent disease transmission.”

Dr Harries said mass testing is an adjunct to managing the whole of the pandemic.

Myanmar increases lockdown

Myanmar increased lockdown measures in its biggest city on Thursday after reporting another record daily rise in coronavirus cases, with 120 new infections taking its overall cases past the 2,000 mark.

Health authorities expanded a stay-at-home order to nearly half of the townships in greater Yangon, a city of at least 5 million people, where most of the new infections were found.

The country has now reported a total of 2009 Covid-19 cases and 14 deaths, with infections quadrupling since a month ago, when the virus resurfaced in the western state of Rakhine after weeks without a domestic case.

That prompted authorities to close schools nationwide and re-impose some restrictions that had earlier been eased.

Curbs on entry into Yangon and the capital Naypyitaw are also in place.

Buddhist monk Ottamasara, the abbot of Thabarwa meditation center, collects alms placed into recycled plastic container in Yangon, Myanmar, September 4, 2020
Buddhist monk Ottamasara, the abbot of Thabarwa meditation center, collects alms placed into recycled plastic container in Yangon, Myanmar, September 4, 2020 CREDIT: REUTERS 

Indonesia’s capital Jakarta to re-impose a partial lockdown

Indonesia’s capital Jakarta plans to re-impose a partial lockdown as early as Monday over fears that surging coronavirus cases could “collapse” its under-pressure hospitals, the sprawling city’s governor said.

The megacity of some 30 million will see many office buildings and large mosques closed along with restaurants and other entertainment venues, while public transport hours will also be restricted.

The announcement comes three months after an earlier lockdown was lifted, sending infection rates soaring.

Funeral workers wearing protective suits bury a coffin of coronavirus victim at Pondok Ranggon cemetery in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 9, 2020. The cemetery of Pondok Ranggon is almost full as Jakarta's administration recorded more than 5,000 bodies buried with Covid-19 protocols. 

“The Jakarta administration has decided to pull the emergency brake and go back to large-scale restrictions,” governor Anies Baswedan said late Wednesday.

Without fresh moves to contain virus cases, the capital’s hospitals could be overrun as early as next week, he said.

“After that, Jakarta’s health facilities would collapse,” he added.

Jakarta had by Wednesday recorded just under 50,000 confirmed cases – around a quarter of the national total – as well as more than 1,300 deaths.

But with some of the world’s lowest testing rates, the spread of the disease is widely believed to be much greater than official figures suggest.

 

Grant Shapps admits there is ‘some pressure’ on the testing system

Grant Shapps admitted that there is “some pressure” on the testing system at the moment.

Asked about why there is talk of ambitious targets for the future when there are immediate problems, he told BBC Breakfast: “There are pressures on testing right now, even though we can perform 300,000 a day.

“Now we’re going to bring that up to half a million tests per day.”

He said two new test centres will be opened.

Mr Shapps said the UK is doing more tests than France, Italy, Germany and other places.

He said the reason there are pressures on the system is due to schools and universities returning.

‘Moonshot’ plan: Technology does not exist yet, says Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps has said the technology for the Government’s “moonshot” plan of 10 million Covid-19 tests a day does not yet exist.

Speaking on Sky News, he said: “We know this isn’t simple to achieve, but we hope it will be possible through technology and new tests to have a test which works by not having to return the sample to a lab.”

He said the Government was hoping to develop a test that provided a result in between 20 minutes and 90 minutes.

“This is technology that, to be perfectly blunt, requires further development – there isn’t a certified test in the world that does this but there are people that are working on prototypes,” he said.

 

Six set as the limit because it’s ‘a pragmatic number’ says Grant Shapps

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has defended the Government’s new social distancing rules.

Speaking to Sky News, he said the Government had chosen six as the limit on gatherings because it is “a pragmatic number”.

“What we do know is the more you mix, the more you spread it around, the more people (meeting) in different circumstances, the more likely it is to spread.”

He continued: “Six is a pragmatic number because it is the foundation of a number that people will recognise – we’ve had this rule of six in a slightly different form before.

“What we are now saying is ‘it is six in every circumstance – indoors, outdoors, in a pub or restaurant, it is always the rule of six.”

People should ‘hesitate’ before returning to the office, says Professor Neil Ferguson

Professor Neil Ferguson said people should “hesitate” at the “headlong rush to get everybody back into offices”.

“The case number increases we’ve seen in the last two weeks, do not yet account for the reopening of schools. So undoubtedly that may increase transmission still further and there may be a need therefore to reduce contacts in other settings,” he told Today.

Prof Ferguson said he was still working from home, and cautioned: “Certainly I think we should hesitate and maybe pause at the headlong rush to get everybody back into offices.

“But some people have to work and I completely understand the concerns in many quarters that everybody working at home has an economic impact, particularly on city centres.”

Don’t rule out more restrictions, warns Professor Neil Ferguson

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the decision to impose the lockdown in March, has warned that the UK should not rule out more restrictions.

The Imperial College epidemiologist told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The measures just announced will take some weeks to have an effect, so we need to wait at this point and see how much it will flatten the curve.

“And then if that is not sufficient to bring the reproduction number below one, so the epidemic starts shrinking again, then yes, we may need to clamp down in other areas.”

British Airways to cut flights

British Airways’ parent company IAG has announced it is cutting flights due to “the impact of current travel restrictions and quarantine requirements”.

Between October and December the group expects to operate 60 per cent less capacity than during the same period last year, compared with a previously planned reduction of 46 per cent.

The firm said it continues to expect it will take until at least 2023 for passenger demand to recover to 2019 levels.

Donald Trump’s Woodward interview: ‘I wanted to always play it down’

President Donald Trump admits he tried to minimise the seriousness of the threat from Covid-19 at the outset of the pandemic in audio recordings released Wednesday from interviews with veteran US journalist Bob Woodward.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in an interview with Woodward on March 19, according to a CNN preview of the book “Rage,” due to be published September 15.

“I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” he said in the conversation with Woodward, which was recorded.

In another recorded interview, on February 7, he told Woodward the virus “goes through the air” – despite repeatedly mocking people who wear masks in the weeks and months after. It took until July before he was seen publicly wearing a mask.

Coming eight weeks before the November 3 presidential election, the revelations add new pressure on Trump. Opinion polls show around two thirds of Americans disapprove of his handling of the virus and he has often been accused of minimizing the crisis in order to try and boost his re-election chances.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump denounced the book as “another political hit job” and said if he’d downplayed Covid-19 it was to prevent a “frenzy.”

“I don’t want people to be frightened,” he said.

“I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy,” he said. “We have to show leadership and the last thing you want to do is create a panic.”

India reports 95,735 new cases

India has recorded another one day record increase in new coronavirus infections, logging 95,735 new cases.

According to the Health Ministry, India’s number of recorded infections since the pandemic began reached 4,465,863 on Thursday, while total fatalities rose to 75,062 after another 1,172 deaths in the past 24 hours.

The ministry said the surge in new infections is due to ramping of daily testing, with more than 1 million tests now being run each day. India’s recovery rate from the illness is now 77.7 per cent.

Experts caution that India’s outbreak is entering a more dangerous phase as the virus spreads to smaller towns and villages.

With the economy contracting by a record 23.9 pr cent in the April-June quarter leaving millions jobless, the Indian government is continuing with relaxing lockdown restrictions that were imposed in late March.

Cash payments to small businesses in South Korea

South Korea is preparing the fourth supplementary budget of this year of around $6.6 billion to aid struggling small businesses facing mass closures amid unprecedented social distancing restrictions to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus.

At an emergency economic policy meeting, President Moon Jae-in said the fresh spending of 7.8 trillion won ($6.58 billion) will be used to help small businesses and households.

“The unexpected resurgence of the coronavirus is delaying recovery momentum, and economic activities across domestic demand and consumption are sharply contracting,” Moon told the meeting.

A currency trader watches computer monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. Asian stock markets gained Thursday after Wall Street rebounded from a three-day slump for tech stocks.
A currency trader watches computer monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. Asian stock markets gained Thursday after Wall Street rebounded from a three-day slump for tech stocks. CREDIT: LEE JIN-MAN 

Of the new budget subject to parliamentary approval, 3.2 trillion won will be used as cash payments to small businesses, while another 1.4 trillion won will support struggling job seekers.

Moreover, every South Korean aged 13 years old or older will be able to receive subsidies for mobile phone bills.

The fourth extra budget of this year comes on top of 277 trillion won ($233.66 billion) of stimulus pledged so far to prevent a deeper downturn in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Italy’s 5,000 extra classrooms as children set to return to school

Students wearing a protective mask attend recovery courses at the Alessandro Volta High School on September 7, 2020 in Milan, after schools have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through March - June, 2020
Students wearing a protective mask attend recovery courses at the Alessandro Volta High School on September 7, 2020 in Milan, after schools have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through March – June, 2020 CREDIT: MIGUEL MEDINA 

Millions of Italian pupils head back to the classroom next week after six months at home, confronting a new reality of outdoor lessons, coronavirus “isolation rooms” and even a possible ban on singing.

While some in the north of the country already returned this week, the majority of Italy’s around eight million school pupils go back on Monday after the coronavirus shuttered classes in early March.

Italy was one of the first European countries to be hard hit by Covid-19, which has so far killed more than 35,500 people in the country, out of a total of more than 280,000 cases.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte vowed on Wednesday to make a safe return to school “a beacon of the government.”

“Thank you, you have paid the highest price in this crisis,” he said, addressing schoolchildren, during a televised news conference.

“Closing schools and distance learning have been a huge burden,” he added.

Italian Education Minister Lucia Azzolina said that more than 5,000 extra classrooms had been created.

Halloween a more sombre affair in LA this year

Halloween and Christmas are two of the top spending holidays in the United States but retailers are spooked by Halloween this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Los Angeles County banning Trick or Treating
Halloween and Christmas are two of the top spending holidays in the United States but retailers are spooked by Halloween this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with Los Angeles County banning Trick or Treating CREDIT: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP

While New York prepares to resume indoor dining, Los Angeles County health officials have prohibited Halloween parties and say children should not be allowed to trick or treat during the popular holiday on October 31.

The contrasting moves on opposite coasts of the United States came as new coronavirus infections have fallen for seven weeks in a row, but the nationwide death toll since the pandemic broke out in March exceeded 190,000, according to a Reuters tally.

In Los Angeles, health officials said children should not be allowed to trick or treat because maintaining proper social distancing on porches and at front doors would be difficult and “because sharing food is risky”.

“Halloween gatherings, events or parties with non-household members are not permitted even if they are conducted outdoors,” the department said in statement entitled Guidance for Celebrating Halloween.

County health officials also banned Halloween carnivals, festivals, live entertainment and haunted houses.

Although the four most populous states – California, Florida, New York and Texas – account for about 40 per cent of the 6.3 million US infections, the Midwest has been hardest hit in recent weeks.

New York prepares to resume indoor dining

A view of 46th Street, which has been temporarily converted to "Restaurant Row" during the fourth phase of the coronavirus pandemic reopening on September 6 in New York
A view of 46th Street, which has been temporarily converted to “Restaurant Row” during the fourth phase of the coronavirus pandemic reopening on September 6 in New York CREDIT: ROY ROCHLIN/GETTY IMAGES

New York City restaurants struggling to stay in business after months of closures imposed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic won a long-awaited approval on Wednesday to resume limited indoor dining.

In New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said indoor dining could resume at thousands of restaurants as of September 30, although capacity was limited to 25 per cent.

Mr Cuomo had said lifting the ban could lead to a resurgence of the virus in New York, which has seen 32,000 deaths, more than any other US state.

New York prides itself as one of the world’s culinary capitals, with a dining scene that spans from Michelin-star restaurants to homespun delis. It also acts as both a pillar of economic activity and a sounding board for city life.

The forced shutdowns led to widespread worries that many of the city’s restaurants would not survive the pandemic.

Restaurants will be required to take the temperature of diners and collect information from one member of each party for contact tracing in case of an outbreak.

The state will establish a whistle-blowing system whereby patrons can anonymously report restaurants not in compliance.

New York City could raise the capacity to 50 per cent after a reassessment conducted by November 1, depending on infection rates, Mr Cuomo said. Most of New York state is operating with indoor dining at 50 per cent capacity.

More than 38m people face new restrictions

More than 38 million people in England face fresh coronavirus restrictions – despite living in an area with an infection rate below the Government’s own assessment of when a country is unsafe for travel, The Telegraph‘s analysis has found.

Some 238 local authority areas in England with a combined population of 38.3 million have a weekly rate of new Covid-19 infections per 100,000 people that is below 20 – the rate the Government uses to remove a country’s air bridge and impose quarantine requirements on returning travellers.

 

PM admits family gatherings could be curtailed all winter

Family Christmases are under threat, Boris Johnson conceded on Wednesday, as his chief medic suggested tough new lockdown measures could last until spring.

The Prime Minister said it was “too early to say” whether it would be possible to have large family gatherings over the festive period, after imposing a blanket ban on social meetings of more than six people.

Mr Johnson admitted he was “not comfortable” bringing in rules that could separate families for months to come, and said it “breaks my heart” to do so.

“I am sorry and I wish that we did not have to take this step. But, as your Prime Minister, I must do what is necessary to stop the spread of the virus and to save lives,” he said.

He insisted that “decisive” measures now were the only way to prevent Britain following countries like Spain and France into a full-blown second wave of coronavirus.

Tokyo considers loosening restrictions as virus fears ease

Tokyo’s government is heading towards dropping its coronavirus alert from the highest level on Thursday as cases continue to trend down, broadcaster NHK reported, opening the path for a loosening of restrictions on night-time activity.

The capital raised the alert to “red” in July on the advice of experts following a rise in infections.

Tokyo’s daily cases have gradually declined since hitting a peak of 472 in early August, with 149 new cases reported on Wednesday.

Separately at a national level, a group of experts will convene on Friday to consider easing of restrictions on large-scale events. That follows appeals from Japan’s top baseball and soccer leagues, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Thursday.

The government will also consider adding Tokyo to its “Go To Travel” subsidised domestic tourism campaign, following its exclusion after becoming a coronavirus hotspot.

The campaign was criticised for potentially facilitating the spread of the virus.

Scientists find that some Covid patients develop a punctured lung

Around one in 100 patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 develop a punctured lung, scientists have found.

The condition, known as pneumothorax, occurs when when air collects in the space between the lung and the chest wall, causing pressure on the lungs and preventing it from expanding.

The researchers believe formation of cysts in lungs could be one of the reasons why Covid-19 patients develop a punctured lung – which has previously been observed in X-rays and CT scans of those with the disease.

Symptoms of the condition include shortness of breath and sudden, sharp chest pain that is worse when taking a deep breath while coughing.

In some cases, treatment may involve draining trapped air.

Based on their findings, published in the European Respiratory Journal, the researchers say punctured lungs are a complication clinicians treating Covid-19 patients should be aware of.

Study author Prof Stefan Marciniak, from the Cambridge Institute of Medical Research, said: “Doctors need to be alert to the possibility of a punctured lung in patients with Covid-19, even in people who would not be thought to be typical at-risk patients.”

The team from the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University NHS Foundation Trust, looked at clinical data from 71 patients around the UK with Covid-19 who had developed a punctured lung but did not fall in either of the risk categories.

‘Moonshot’ mass-testing plans

Taking a test every morning is the way Britons will beat coronavirus and return to a normal way of life, Boris Johnson claimed on Wednesday, despite severe national delays.

Under the Government’s “Moonshot” programme, the Prime Minister wants to increase testing to 10 million people a day who would swab themselves in the morning and get the results back within 20 to 90 minutes, like a pregnancy test.

Heathrow boss urges Government to back 20-second test

Heathrow Airport’s boss is urging the Government to fast-track a Covid-19 test that gives results in 20 seconds.

It comes after the Prime Minister announced plans for mass testing under so-called Operation Moonshot, in which millions of people could be tested every day so they could “behave in a way that was exactly as in the world before Covid”.

The new Virolens test, which is said to provide results in 20 seconds, launched on Wednesday following a three-week trial at Heathrow.

 

British researchers design death-risk tool

British scientists have developed a four-level scoring model for predicting the death risk of patients hospitalised with Covid-19, saying it should help doctors quickly decide on the best care for each patient.

The tool, detailed in research published in the BMJ medical journal on Wednesday, helps doctors put patients into one of four Covid risk groups – from low to intermediate, high, or very high risk of death.

With hospitals around the world facing waves of patients with Covid, doctors have said they need quicker and more accurate risk-prediction tools to swiftly identify those patients at highest risk of dying and help get them targeted treatment.

The new model – called the 4C (Coronavirus Clinical Characterisation Consortium) Mortality Score – uses data such as age, sex, underlying conditions, breathing and blood oxygen levels.

New rules: what you can and can’t do from Monday

The number of people who can attend social gatherings will be slashed to six in England following a rise in Covid-19 cases.

“In England from Monday we are introducing the rule of six,” Boris Johnson said.

“You must not meet socially in groups of more than six.

“And, if you do, you will be breaking the law.”

So what are the new social gathering rules?

 

Numbers decrease in Australian hotspot

Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria on Thursday reported 51 new cases and seven deaths from coronavirus, compared with 76 cases and 11 deaths a day earlier.

The state, which is at the centre of Australia’s coronavirus outbreak, has brought the daily rise in cases to double digits in recent days due to a strict lockdown after it touched highs of more than 700 in early August.

Victoria, home to one-quarter of Australia’s population of 25 million , now accounts for about 75 per cent of the country’s 26,516 Covid cases and 90 per cent of its 788 deaths.

By OLUWADAIRO EDUCATIONAL SERVICES

I am an experienced seasoned educational with training in early childhood and international education practices. I have worked in schools accredited by accreditation bodies and worked at different levels in both local and international schools.

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