Corona Virus, Health, World

Coronavirus live news: France nears 1m cases as six US states see record one-day deaths


Powered by article titled “Coronavirus live news: France nears 1m cases as six US states see record one-day deaths” was written by Helen Sullivan, for on Thursday 22nd October 2020 02.18 UTC

Number of US states seeing record one-day deaths rises to six

The number of US states that reported record day-over-day increases in Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday has now risen to six, according to a Reuters analysis, as infections rose across the Midwest and elsewhere, prompting new clampdowns on residents, schools and businesses.

Deaths attributed to Covid-19 hit daily records in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Kansas, Hawaii and Wisconsin, Reuters found. Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Colorado and Ohio reported record daily increases in new infections, the tally showed.

The number of patients in U.S. hospitals suffering from the virus hit 40,000 for the first time since August on Wednesday, according to the analysis.

“Folks, please stay home,” Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said in a statement on Wednesday. “Help us protect our communities from this highly-contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals.”

Evers said a week-old field hospital in the Milwaukee suburbs had admitted its first patient.

Wisconsin is a pivotal battleground state in the 3 November election between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 221,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work. Opinion polls show Trump’s handling of the pandemic has hurt his re-election prospects.

Podcast: US election 2020 – can we trust the polls?

The Guardian US data editor, Mona Chalabi, casts a sceptical eye over the US polling industry that is once again predicting defeat for Donald Trump. Has it learned lessons from 2016?

Barack Obama has delivered a stinging rebuke of president Donald Trump in a speech delivered in Philadelphia while campaigning for Joe Biden. Obama criticised Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis as well as divisive behaviour including retweeting conspiracy theories that you wouldn’t tolerate from anyone “except from a crazy uncle”.

The former president also praised the positivity shown during the pandemic and recent Black Lives Matter movement . “We see that what is best is us is still there, but we’ve got to give it voice.”


Magda Szubanski was targeted by a coordinated “avalanche of hate” from rightwing extremists online after appearing in a Victorian government ad encouraging mask use, Australia’s e-safety commissioner, Julie Inman-Grant, has said.

In late August, when Victoria was reporting Covid-19 cases of close to 200 a day, Szubanski was one of several celebrities to appear in ads encouraging social distancing and compliance with mask rules.

Szubanski brought back her Kath & Kim character Sharon Strzelecki for the promotion, and quickly found herself on the receiving end of an online trolling campaign:

Barack Obama returned to the campaign trail on Wednesday to deliver a scathing – and occasionally humorous – condemnation of his successor while envisioning an America led by his former vice-president, Joe Biden.

Sleeves rolled and wearing a black mask that read VOTE, Obama assailed Donald Trump over his response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 Americans and infected millions more, including the president.

“Eight months into this pandemic, cases are rising again across this country” Obama said at a drive-in rally in Philadelphia less than two weeks before election day. “Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself.”

Declaring this “the most important election of our lifetime”, Obama stressed the importance of voting and urged Americans to make a plan for casting their ballots. “What we do now these next 13 days will matter for decades to come,” he said:

Residents in five suburbs in Australia’s second-largest city have been put on alert and people living in a public housing block urged to self-isolate after a new coronavirus case in a school sparked fears of a fresh outbreak, Reuters reports.

Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, is just emerging from a second wave after a hard lockdown since July helped bring down daily Covid-19 cases to single digits in recent days from a peak of 700 in early August.

Authorities have asked people in the affected suburbs and 120 residents living in a public housing block to get tested if they experienced any flu-like symptoms.

Coronavirus cases could spread rapidly in the densely populated public housing buildings and in early July, nine high-rise housing blocks in Melbourne were placed on a hard lockdown for several days.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Victoria health authorities were responding effectively to the new virus clusters in the state.

Former Masters champion Adam Scott has tested positive for Covid-19 and withdrawn from the Zozo Championship at Sherwood, becoming the second high-profile golfer in as many weeks to do so.

Dustin Johnson, the world No 1, tested positive last week at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas.

Scott has not played since the US Open, and the Australian has played only four times – two majors and two FedEx Cup playoff events – in the four months since the PGA Tour returned from the Covid shutdown:

New Zealand reports two new coronavirus cases, both returned travellers in quarantine

Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian:

A day after recording its highest number of new Covid-19 cases in a single day for more than six months – most of them diagnosed in border quarantine facilities – New Zealand reported just two new cases of the virus on Thursday.

Both new cases were diagnosed in travellers returning to the country, who must spend two weeks in government-run quarantine, where they are tested twice for the coronavirus.

Neither of the new cases were related to the 18 instances of the virus reported yesterday, after being diagnosed in fishing crews recently arrived from Russia. All of the 235 Russian and Ukraine workers are in isolation.

There were no new cases diagnosed in the community on Thursday; New Zealand currently has three active cases of domestic spread, and 55 cases in the border quarantine facilities.

In total, the country has recorded 1,558 cases of the virus and 25 deaths. A strict, early lockdown when the virus first emerged in New Zealand has resulted in one of the world’s lowest death tolls to date.

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial Brazil volunteer dies, trial to continue

Brazilian health authority Anvisa said on Wednesday that a volunteer in a clinical trial of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had died but added that the trial would continue, Reuters reports.

Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial.”
AstraZeneca declined to comment immediately.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters the trial would have been suspended if the volunteer who died had received the Covid-19 vaccine, suggesting the person was part of the control group that was given a meningitis jab.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which is helping coordinate phase 3 clinical trials in Brazil, said an independent review committee had also recommended the trial continue. The university earlier confirmed the volunteer was Brazilian but gave no further personal details.

“Everything is proceeding as expected, without any record of serious vaccine-related complications involving any of the participating volunteers,” the Brazilian university said in a statement.

So far, 8,000 of the planned 10,000 volunteers in the trial have been recruited and given the first dose in six cities in Brazil, and many have already received the second shot, said a university spokesman.

CNN Brasil reported that the volunteer was a 28-year-old man who lived in Rio de Janeiro and died from Covid-19 complications.

Hospitals across the United States are starting to buckle from a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, with several states setting records for the number of people hospitalised and leaders scrambling to find extra beds and staff. New highs in cases have been reported in states big and small — from Idaho to Ohio — in recent days.

The rise in cases and hospitalizations was alarming to medical experts, AP reports.

“By the time we see hospitalizations rise, it means we’re really struggling,” said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist at George Mason University.

Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday the United States is seeing a “distressing trend” with Covid-19 cases growing in nearly three-quarters of the country.

Surges in coronavirus cases have led hospitals in Rocky Mountain states to raise concerns as their intensive care bed space dwindles. Utah, Montana and Wyoming have all reported record highs this week for the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19.

Seven of 10 intensive care beds were filled in Utah hospitals and about six in 10 in Montana.

Alabama lieutenant governor tests positive for coronavirus

Alabama’s lieutenant governor, who has called the state’s mask order a government overstep, announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for Covid-19.

AP reports:

Republican Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said he had a positive test result but so far, he has no symptoms. He said he took the test after being notified Wednesday that a member of his Sunday school church group had acquired the coronavirus. Ainsworth has criticised mandatory mask orders, although he says he personally wears one.

Ainsworth said he “will quarantine for the appropriate period and seek follow-up tests to ensure the virus has run its course before resuming public activities.”

Ainsworth has been critical of the state’s Covid-19 response under Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. In March, he criticized what he said at the time was the state’s slow response to prepare for a possible “tsunami of hospital patients.” He has also been critical of the state’s mandatory mask order. He said last month that “masks should be voluntary, not mandatory.”

Numbers show the coronavirus pandemic appears to be worsening again in Alabama after weeks of improvement.

Nearly 175,000 people in Alabama have contracted the virus since the pandemic began and at least 2,805 have died.

The virus has been spreading at a quickened pace since early October, figures show, and around 840 people have been hospitalised a day over the past week, compared to around 750 a day in late September.

While the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, it can be deadly for the elderly and people with other health problems.

The UK government is to make the recording of ethnicity on birth certificates mandatory in an effort to tackle the unequal impact of Covid-19 on people from minority ethnic groups.

A series of measures to better understand why people from ethnic minorities are more likely to contract Covid-19 and die as a result are due to be put in place, after the prime minister accepted recommendations from the government’s Race Disparity Unit (RDU) advisory group:

Here is a clip from Barack Obama’s appearance in Pennsylvania.

“Look, I get that this president wants full credit for the economy he inherited and zero blame for the pandemic that he ignored. But you know what, the job doesn’t work that way”:

France nears 1m cases

As Spain becomes the first Western European country to cross 1m cases, France is nearing the toll, too. There are currently 999,744 confirmed infections in the country, and 34,072 deaths.

On Wednesday, France recorded more than 25,000 new infections for the sixth time in 12 days, with the government likely to announce a geographical extension of the curfews currently in place in Paris and eight other major cities.

Several more regions are to enter red-alert status, which means that they will have to impose curfews, the government said on Wednesday. It came as hospitals in several cities including Paris moved into emergency mode to cope with the influx of patients with the virus.

Four US states see record deaths

Four US states reported a record one-day increase in Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday including Wisconsin, a hotly contested state in the 3 November election, as infections keep rising across the Midwest and beyond.

Coronavirus deaths hit daily records in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin, according to a Reuters analysis. Wisconsin also reported a record daily increase in new cases together with Illinois and Ohio, the analysis showed.

There were 66 deaths in Illinois, the state’s highest single-day increase since mid-June, as governor JB Pritzker imposed fresh restrictions in some counties this week.

On Wednesday, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers said 48 people had died from the virus as he announced that a week-old field hospital in the Milwaukee suburbs has admitted its first patient.

“Folks, please stay home,” Evers said in a statement. “Help us protect our communities from this highly contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals.”


Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next few hours – and I’ll try my best to include a little good news (even when not strictly Covid-related).

Seen anything you think we should be covering – get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan. Anything joyful welcome, too.

As Spain becomes the first Western European country to cross 1m cases, France is nearing the toll, too. There are currently 999,744 confirmed infections in the country, and 34,072 deaths.

On Wednesday, France recorded more than 25,000 new infections for the sixth time in 12 days, with the government likely to announce a geographical extension of the curfews currently in place in Paris and eight other major cities.

Meanwhile, Four US states reported a record one-day increase in Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday including Wisconsin, a hotly contested state in the 3 November election, as infections keep rising across the Midwest and beyond.Coronavirus deaths hit daily records in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin, according to a Reuters analysis.

Here are the other key developments from the last few hours:

  • Trump says he doesn’t see agreement with Democrats on stimulus. Donald Trump has said he does not see any way house speaker Nancy Pelosi and senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer “will be willing to do what is right for our great American workers, or our wonderful USA itself, on stimulus.”
  • Italy’s Lazio region, including the capital Rome, is set to introduce a curfew on Friday from midnight to 5am to try to curb its surging Covid-19 infections, a regional government source told Reuters.
  • It comes as Italy registered a record of 15,199 new Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Greek authorities announced a regional lockdown of the northern region of Kastoria, after declaring the region an elevated risk, the highest of a four-tier risk assessment. Restrictions will be imposed from 23 October. It comes as the country reported 865 new cases of Covid-19, a new high since the outbreak began in late February.
  • Spain became the first western European country to surpass a million coronavirus cases. The unwelcome milestone comes as the government considers a curfew and as political bickering threaten to jeopardise efforts to control the second wave of the virus.
  • The UK reported a daily record of 26,688 coronavirus cases, bringing the tally of lab-confirmed infections to 789,229.
  • Russia is not planning to impose any blanket restrictions to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, the president Vladimir Putin said, even as the country reported a record new daily death toll from the respiratory disease. Russia needs keep on carrying out tests for Covid-19, observe safety measures and start vaccinations, Putin said.
  • The German health minister Jens Spahn tested positive for the coronavirus, the health ministry said. He took part in a cabinet meeting earlier in the day but other ministers do not need to go into quarantine, a government spokesman said.
  • Poland will announce fresh restrictions on Thursday after coronavirus infections doubled in less than three weeks, possibly including moving some primary school students to distance learning. On Wednesday, it reported a daily record of 10,040 new cases, taking its tally past 200,000.
  • The Netherlands hit a new record for daily coronavirus cases, with more than 8,500 infections in the 24 hours, nearly a week after the government imposed “partial lockdown” measures including the closure of bars and restaurants.
  • Scotland will introduce a five-tier system of coronavirus restrictionson Friday that will partly mirror England’s three-tier traffic light system of controls, as infections and fatalities climbed sharply to levels not seen since May.
  • Turkey is considering reimposing some measures to stem rising coronavirus cases, such as stay-home orders for younger and older people or even weekend lockdowns, but will avoid hurting the economic recovery.
  • Iran reported its highest daily number of cases since February,recording 5,616 new coronavirus cases for the previous 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 545,286 in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country. Authorities have urged people to avoid unnecessary trips and stay home, warning that hospitals in Tehran and some other major cities are overflowing with patients with coronavirus.
  • The Czech Republic shut most shops and services and sought to limit all movement to essential trips such as for work and medical visits to curb Europe’s fastest growth in new coronavirus infections. The country recorded a record daily rise of 11,984 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, amid a surge in recent weeks, and the health minister said the health system would soon reach the limits of its capacity and that hospitals would run short of beds in November without immediate action.
  • People who host house parties in Ireland can be fined up to €1,000 or jailed for up to one month to ensure compliance with a new Covid-19 lockdown. The government is fast-tracking legislation to give police new powers to levy on the spot fines for breaches of the new restrictions, which come into effect on Thursday.
  • Slovenia and Croatia both reported record daily highs in new infections. This week Slovenia introduced a curfew from 9pm to 6am and a 30-day state of emergency to cope with the coronavirus, while Croatia isn’t yet considering such measures.

Updated © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Corona Virus, Health, World

Coronavirus live news: Czech Republic shuts shops to curb Europe’s fastest growth in cases; record deaths in Russia


Powered by article titled “Coronavirus live news: Czech Republic shuts shops to curb Europe’s fastest growth in cases; record deaths in Russia” was written by Lucy Campbell (now); Amy Walker and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for on Wednesday 21st October 2020 13.25 UTC

South Africa faces a high risk of surging coronavirus infections that may force the country back into a stricter lockdown, after new cases rose by 42% in Western Cape province in the last two weeks, the health minister said on Wednesday.

Zweli Mkhize said in a statement that the increase in infections and deaths “will inform the recommendations that the Health Department makes to the National Coronavirus Council”, the body that decides lockdown levels.

The Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of putting politics before lives after announcing he would refuse to acquire an experimental coronavirus vaccine from China.

“I’m alerting you that we will not buy vaccine from China,” the rightwing nationalist reportedly told ministers.

Urged on social media to shun the vaccine of “the Chinese dictatorship”, Bolsonaro insisted he would. “IT WILL NOT BE PURCHASED,” he wrote.

Those statements, likely to irk Brazil’s top trade partner, came just hours after Bolsonaro’s own health ministry, Eduardo Pazuello, signed off on the purchase of 46 million doses of an experimental vaccine from the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac.

In another social media post Bolsonaro suggested Pazuello was a traitor.

Bolsonaro’s opposition to the Chinese vaccine appears partly the result of his longstanding hostility to China’s Communist party rulers and proximity to Donald Trump. But it is also part of a bitter political fight with the governor of São Paulo state, João Doria.

Doria hopes to challenge Bolsonaro for the presidency in 2022 and has spearheaded attempts to bring the so-called CoronaVac to Brazil through a partnership between Sinovac and the Butantan Institute, a São Paulo-based biomedical research centre.

Critics slammed Bolsonaro’s stance. “The politics of death,” tweeted Daniel Dourado, a public health expert and lawyer from the University of São Paulo.

Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said the move underlined Bolsonaro’s submissiveness to Trump: “The US doesn’t tolerate any Latin American country having ties with China.”

Since schools in the southern Italian region of Campania closed due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, teachers have been taking their classes to the streets to prevent students from falling behind, Reuters reports.

Campania, around Naples, escaped largely unscathed from Italy’s first coronavirus wave in the spring, but the region has seen infections soar in recent weeks and local authorities have closed most schools until the end of October.

“Mothers called me and said the kids are in floods of tears, they want to go back to school, they don’t understand why schools need to be stopped,” said Pamela Buda, while holding a class for pupils sitting on public steps in central Naples.

Tonino Stornaiuolo yells out his lessons to pupils listening from their balconies and on the streets outside their homes.

We do everything to respect the rules because I think this emergency in Italy is serious and real.

Naples school teacher Tonino Stornaiuolo holds his lessons to students on their balconies while he safely social distances in the street below.
Naples school teacher Tonino Stornaiuolo holds his lessons to students on their balconies while he safely social distances in the street below.
Photograph: Ciro de Luca/Reuters

The government has so far avoided imposing nationwide curbs on schools, businesses and freedom of movement, but has urged regional authorities to draw up their own restrictions if needed.

Lombardy, where Milan is located, has already introduced a curfew from 11pm to 5am to put a stop to late night gatherings. Campania has said it will follow suit.

“I wanted to find a way in which the kids could see us and share time with us, at least as long as it is possible and until we know whether there will be another lockdown,” Stornaiuolo added.

Naples school teacher Pamela Buda holds her lessons to her social distancing students on public steps, after the region of Campania closed schools due to a spread of the coronavirus.
Naples school teacher Pamela Buda holds her lessons to her social distancing students on public steps, after the region of Campania closed schools due to a spread of the coronavirus.
Photograph: Ciro de Luca/Reuters

The Netherlands hit a new record for daily coronavirus cases, with more than 8,500 infections in the 24 hours, data released by the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) on Wednesday showed.

The daily number of confirmed cases continues to rise in one of Europe’s second-wave hotspots, nearly a week after the government imposed “partial lockdown” measures including the closure of bars and restaurants.

More French regions will have to impose curfews, government says

Several more French departments are to enter red-alert status amid the coronavirus pandemic, which means that they will have to impose curfews, the government said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Gabriel Attal also told a news conference that the government was proposing to extend a state of emergency to 16 February. This would mean it retained the power to extend curfews already in place in France’s biggest cities, including Paris.

From Saturday, Paris and other big cities have been put on a 9pm to 6am curfew, which is set to last four weeks but could be extended to six weeks.

Attal also said that the country’s emergency rooms were now at 40% of capacity due to the heavy influx of Covid-19 patients.

French media reported that hospitals in the cities of Clermont and Dijon were moving to emergency mode, meaning that they postpone non-coronavirus related operations and cancel staff holidays.

Hospitals in the Paris region moved into emergency mode early October, as coronavirus patients made up close to half of all patients in intensive care units.


Here is some much-needed midday joy courtesy of Reuters, which reports that in Spain a 99-year-old is back to playing computer games with her grandchildren after recovering from Covid-19.

Florentina Martin, who survived coronavirus, sits on a sofa with her pet Luna as she watches TV in her home in Pinto, near Madrid.
Florentina Martin, who survived coronavirus, sits on a sofa with her pet Luna as she watches TV in her home in Pinto, near Madrid.
Photograph: Sergio Pérez/Reuters

When Florentina Martin contracted the coronavirus in September, her grand-daughter’s greatest fear was not that the disease would kill her, but that she would end up alone on an emergency ward.

Noelia Valle thinks her grandmother probably got infected at her 99th birthday party on 16 September, when the family went outside to enjoy the fine weather with drinks on a terrace, close together without masks.

A few days later, Martin began to feel weak and retreated to bed. Exposure to contaminated rapeseed oil when she was younger left Martin with lifelong health problems, heightening her vulnerability to respiratory complications from Covid-19.

But she only developed mild symptoms and was able to recuperate at home in Madrid, supported by her family, her carer Olga Arauz and her dog, a half-deaf Havanese called Luna.

Now she is back to watching her favourite TV shows and playing games on a tablet with her five-year old great-grandson Pedro.

Despite her grandmother’s full recovery, Valle, who is a biologist, still insists on wearing a mask when she stops by for a visit.

I don’t want to let my guard down but of course I feel a huge sense of relief.

Her caregiver Olga Arauz wears a protective mask when she is in Martin’s home.
Her caregiver Olga Arauz wears a protective mask when she is in Martin’s home.
Photograph: Sergio Pérez/Reuters

Scotland to introduce new five-tier alert system

Pubs and restaurants in the central belt of Scotland are to remain closed, Nicola Sturgeon said as she extended coronavirus restrictions for a third week.

Speaking at the Scottish government’s daily virus briefing, the first minister said the measures introduced at the beginning of October and intended to last for two weeks will now continue until 2 November.

They were due to end on 25 October, and also forced the closure of snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling, casinos and bingo halls in the central belt, with a 6pm indoor curfew brought in for hospitality businesses elsewhere in Scotland.

People across the country are also banned from visiting each other’s homes, unless they are part of an extended household.

The restrictions will now be in place until a tiered system is introduced on 2 November, with different measures for different areas.

Sturgeon said while there is “cautious optimism” that the current restrictions are working, Scottish ministers have been told by advisers it would not be safe to lift them as originally planned on Monday.

The extension allows us to transition more smoothly to the new levels system that we hope will be introduced on November 2.

The Guardian’s Scotland editor Severin Carrell reports that at that top level, people living in areas affected will reportedly live under restrictions close to the full lockdown introduced in late March across the UK, when there were strict controls on travel, a “stay at home” message and the closure of the vast majority of shops and businesses.

Unlike the full lockdown, schools would not automatically close if they were in areas hit by the extreme tier unless public health advice recommended it; that would be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Sturgeon is due to publish her draft proposals on Friday before a debate in the Scottish parliament next week.

More from the UK on our politics and coronavirus live blog:

Separately, a video clip posted on social media showed at least two dozen bodies in black bags on beds or lying on the floor in the basement corridor of a Siberian hospital for patients with Covid-19.

Reuters reports that the Altai region’s health ministry confirmed the authenticity of the video and said the bodies had built up because doctors have to conduct post-mortems on all victims and were unable to keep up despite working overtime.

Russia recorded 15,700 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, while a daily record high of 317 deaths pushed the total number of fatalities since the start of the pandemic to 24,952. With 1,447,335 infections in total, the country of around 145 million has the world’s fourth largest caseload.

Russia is not planning to impose any further lockdowns to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, after deaths hit a record daily high of 317 (see 8.36am.).

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no harsh restrictions were required to contain the virus, saying safety precautions, hygiene and certain curbs imposed by local authorities were key.

He told reporters that Russia was now better-equipped to respond to the pandemic.

The work that has been done has already yielded results. The health system is ready to sustain the pressure caused by the pandemic.

Russia’s health watchdog said it was investigating after local media outlet reported that several people in a hospital in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don had died when their oxygen supply ran out. A city official denied the report. Peskov called the report alarming.

Beds in intensive care units (ICU) in Tunisian public hospitals are about 80% full as Covid-19 cases surge, the health minister said on Wednesday, calling the situation “critical”.

Tunisia has just 181 ICU beds, of which 145 are being used by patients, Fouzi Mehdi told reporters.

Coronavirus cases have been rising fast in the country, which had managed to contain the virus earlier this year, and have reached 45,000 cases and 740 deaths.

The government imposed a curfew this month in the capital, Tunis, to slow a second wave of the pandemic.

But the prime minister, Hichem Mechichi, said he will not impose another lockdown, saying the economic cost it too high, with the economy expected to shrink by 7% this year and the fiscal deficit to double to about 14%.


Turkey is considering reimposing some measures to stem rising coronavirus cases, such as stay-home orders for younger and older people or even weekend lockdowns, but will avoid hurting the economic recovery, a senior official said.

The official, who requested anonymity, said the total number of Covid-19 cases is about five times that reported in the government’s daily tally – echoing concerns by Turkey’s top medical association and opposition lawmakers.

Health ministry officials were not immediately available to comment. The health minister Fahrettin Koca has warned about the increase in numbers and urged Turks to abide by nationwide distancing and mask rules, which are subject to fines.

The senior official was speaking to Reuters after Turkey’s daily new symptomatic coronavirus cases rose to 2,026 on Monday, the highest level since early May when restrictions on businesses and households were in place.

“New measures could be enforced after looking at the process over a few weeks,” the senior official said, adding the picture would become clearer after assessing the impact of the partial reopening of schools earlier this month.

Turkey’s medical association and main opposition party have criticised a government decision to only disclose the number of symptomatic patients.

The health ministry changed the wording in its daily reports from “cases” to “patients” on 29 July, and Koca said the daily number only includes symptomatic cases.

The official told Reuters there were many without symptoms.

It appears the number of cases is around five times the number of patients. If this trend goes higher of course some measures will be taken.

Members of Istanbul Police Department Mounted Unit patrol against people not wearing protective face masks at Taksim Square.
Members of Istanbul Police Department Mounted Unit patrol against people not wearing protective face masks at Taksim Square.
Photograph: Murad Sezer/Reuters

Another official said that while a recent rapid rise in cases in the capital Ankara had slowed somewhat, upticks in cities such as Istanbul posed a risk for the country in this “difficult period”.

But draconian measures like “a full lockdown” were not on the agenda, he said.

The number of “patients” in Turkey since the outbreak began exceeds 350,000, with nearly 9,500 deaths, ministry data shows.

Turkey imposed lockdowns, restricted intercity travel and closed restaurants and cafes earlier this year. Almost all restrictions were lifted in June.

The economy shrank 10% in the second quarter and a Reuters poll on Wednesday showed growth was seen contracting 3.4% in 2020 as a whole, a much bleaker outlook than government forecasts.

Any new curbs would have a “narrower scope” and protect the economy, the first official said.

“Measures on the agenda are: closure of restaurants and facilities at certain hours; fixed hours during which young people and over-65s can go out; or as a last step, weekend lockdowns,” he said, adding the cabinet is working on it. “We will see some steps without waiting too long.”


Medical workers transport a patient with Covid-19 at Rasoul Akram Hospital after a sudden surge in cases led hospitals to reach full capacity in Tehran, Iran.
Medical workers transport a patient with Covid-19 at Rasoul Akram Hospital after a sudden surge in cases led hospitals to reach full capacity in Tehran, Iran.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iran’s health ministry on Wednesday reported 5,616 new coronavirus cases for the previous 24 hours, the highest daily number since February, bringing the national tally to 545,286 in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country.

Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 312 people had died from the disease in the past 24 hours, bringing total fatalities to 31,346.

To stem a third wave of the outbreak, authorities have urged people to avoid unnecessary trips and stay home, warning that hospitals in Tehran and some other major cities are overflowing with patients with coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the health minister Saeed Namaki appealed for more public and government support to enforce restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

Earlier this month, mask-wearing became mandatory in public in Tehran, where the government said violators would be fined. The government on Saturday extended restrictions and closures in the capital into a third week.

Authorities plan to impose similar restrictions in other cities, where the infection rates are high.


Up to 30% of the people now contracting Covid-19 in Poland could end up being hospitalised, the health minister said on Wednesday, as the government weighs new restrictions amid an ongoing surge in cases.

“From studies by our experts, about 20 to 30% of new daily coronavirus cases could end up in hospital, which means we could have up to 2,000 to 3,000 new patients in hospital daily,” Poland’s health minister Adam Niedzielski told the lower house of parliament.

Czech Republic shuts shops and curbs movement to stem Covid-19 surge

The Czech government on Wednesday ordered most shops and services to shutter and sought to limit all movement to essential trips such as for work and medical visits to curb Europe’s fastest growth in new coronavirus infections. Food stores and pharmacies will remain open.

The health minister Roman Prymula said the Czech health system would soon reach the limits of its capacity and that hospitals would run short of beds in November without immediate action.

It comes as the country recorded a record daily rise of 11,984 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, amid a surge in recent weeks. The number of people who died of Covid-19 rose to 1,619 from 1,513 over the past 24 hours in the country of more than 10 million.

A man wearing a face mask walks his dog across the Charles Bridge, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in Prague.
A man wearing a face mask walks his dog across the Charles Bridge, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in Prague.
Photograph: David W Černý/Reuters


Poland will most likely move older primary school students to distance learning, the prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday, as the country tries to combat a big increase in Covid-19 cases.

Poland’s infections have doubled in less than three weeks and now exceed 200,000, the health ministry said. It reported on Wednesday 10,040 new infections, a daily record.

Earlier on Wednesday, government Covid-19 advisor Andrzej Horban said 10,000 daily cases is the upper limit of the health system’s capacity, with up to 2,000 patients admitted to hospitals every day.

As of Wednesday, patients with Covid-19 occupied 9,439 hospital beds and were using 757 ventilators, compared with 8,962 and 725 a day earlier, the ministry said. Its spokesman said that capacity as of Wednesday is about 17,000 Covid-19 hospital beds.

Morawiecki said the government wants to create 13,000 new hospital beds and will move to create more temporary hospitals.

Malaysia reported 732 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, raising the total to 22,957 infections.

The country, which imposed targeted lockdowns this month amid an increase in cases, also recorded six new deaths, raising its total number of fatalities to 199.

Switzerland’s new coronavirus infections almost doubled in a day to a record level, health authorities said on Wednesday.

The public health agency reported 5,596 new coronavirus cases, compared to 3,008 on Tuesday. The total confirmed cases in Switzerland and tiny neighbouring principality Liechtenstein rose to 91,763 and the death toll by 11 to 1,856.

People who host house parties in Ireland can be fined up to €1,000 or jailed for up to one month to ensure compliance with a new Covid-19 lockdown.

The government is fast-tracking legislation to give police new powers to levy on the spot fines for breaches of the new restrictions, which come into effect on Thursday.

Authorities are also considering fines of €60 for those who travel outside a 5km travel limit and refuse to wear masks in public areas.

“Too many people are acting in a manner which enables the transmission of the virus and therefore additional measures are needed,” said the justice minister, Helen McEntee.

The system of penalties being proposed here may help to change behaviour … the objective is to get people to behave responsibly, rather than impose punishment.

The level five restrictions, the highest tier, will close non-essential retail as well as beauty salons, gyms and many amenities. The lockdown is to last six weeks.

Ireland’s contact tracing system, meanwhile, has become overwhelmed by a 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population of 279.3.

Thousands of close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases from over a three day period will not be contacted, the Irish Times reported. Instead tracers will text infected people to ask them to contact their own close contacts.

A man wearing a protective face mask walks past shuttered businesses in an empty shopping street in Galway as the government announced they were moving the country to its highest level of restrictions, Level 5, for six weeks.
A man wearing a protective face mask walks past shuttered businesses in an empty shopping street in Galway.
Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters


Slovenia reported a record 1,503 daily cases of Covid-19, while Croatia too posted a record high of 1,424 new infections.

This week Slovenia introduced a curfew from 9pm to 6am and a 30-day state of emergency to cope with the coronavirus. Slovenia has had 15,982 cases of Covid-19 and 200 fatalities.

Meanwhile, Croatia, which so far has had 28,287 cases and 393 deaths, said it was not yet considering such measures. At the moment, Croatia mandates wearing face masks indoors, limits the number of customers in bars and restaurants, and receive a limited number of guests, and requires gatherings of more than 50 people to get approval from the authorities.


A landslide win by Bolivia’s socialist party at weekend elections may herald a year of dramatic shifts in Latin American politics as the painful economic impact of the pandemic discredits incumbents and fuels demand for change, Reuters reports.

Bolivia’s former economy minister Luis Arce won Sunday’s vote in the Andean nation, pledging to protect welfare spending as he takes over next month from a conservative interim government.

“The pandemic has caused the Bolivian people to suffer and this government did not know how to handle it,” said Nicanor Baltazar, a leader of Bolivia’s largest workers group, the COB. “The people have understood that.”

With Latin America one of the hardest-hit regions in terms of Covid-19 deaths and impact on economic growth, analysts said the outcome in Bolivia could mark a shift towards populism as more elections loom in 2021.

Voters will elect new presidents next year in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras and Nicaragua, with major legislative votes also due in Mexico and Argentina. Even before the coronavirus struck, violent protests had rocked countries including Chile and Colombia, fuelled by anger over inequality and political scandals.

With Latin America’s $5.7 trillion regional economy forecast to contract more than 9% this year and poverty indicators for its 650 million people due to surge back to rates last seen in 2005, tensions are already mounting.

The pandemic’s economic fallout will leave Latin American governments burdened by crippling deficits and facing angry demands from voters for action on poverty and public services, said Benjamin Gedan, director of the Wilson Center’s Argentina Project in Washington.

The pandemic’s toll in Latin America is a godsend to outsiders and populists, who will promise to repudiate debt, reject budget cuts and fight corruption.

Aymara women from Huachacalla wearing face masks wait for a meeting at the La Casa Grande del Pueblo after the election day in La Paz.
Aymara women from Huachacalla wearing face masks wait for a meeting at the La Casa Grande del Pueblo after the election day in La Paz.
Photograph: David Mercado/Reuters

Barcelona’s hospitals are braced as a second wave of Covid-19 hospital admissions is under way, Reuters reports.

For Julio Pascual, a sharp rise in coronavirus admissions at the Barcelona hospital he serves as medical director carries an unwelcome sense of deja vu.

As Spain’s total registered cases near 1 million, daily admissions at the Catalan capital’s Hospital del Mar have more than doubled to around 16 over the past few days.

Situated in a pandemic hotspot, the hospital is better prepared to treat patients with Covid-19 than it was in March, but Pascual is concerned over a chronic shortage of nurses, and risks that overworked staff could burn out.

It is not the speed of the first wave but there’s an evident uptick in cases. If the rhythm [of Covid-19 hospitalisations] of the past week continues, rescheduling and suspending some non-priority activities will become unavoidable.

With the most confirmed cases in western Europe, Spain is struggling to manage its second wave.

Restrictions have been imposed across the country, notably in the two hardest hit regions, with Madrid placed on partial lockdown and Catalonia shutting bars and restaurants.

Xavier Borras, medical director at the Hospital de Sant Pau, also in Barcelona, told Reuters:

We need to convince people not to socially interact. What’s at stake are the non-Covid patients … The resources that were working well until a week ago are simply not enough anymore.

In the 24 hours to Tuesday afternoon, coronavirus admissions there rose to 11, the highest since late April though still far off the peaks of 50-60 daily reached in late March, he said.

Borras said the hospital was expanding its number of beds for coronavirus patients, which could eventually lead to the cancellation of scheduled non-urgent operations.

Since 5 October, national health ministry figures show Covid-19 hospitalisations are up around 20%, but with sharp regional variations. In Catalonia they surged 71% to 2,410 while in Madrid they fell 12%.

A source at Madrid’s La Princesa hospital said a few non-urgent procedures were postponed around two weeks ago, but admissions had since stabilised.

A hospital staff member prepares to treat a patient suffering from Covid-19 in Barcelona, after Catalonia’s government imposed new restrictions in an effort to control the outbreak.
A hospital staff member prepares to treat a patient suffering from Covid-19 in Barcelona, after Catalonia’s government imposed new restrictions in an effort to control the outbreak.
Photograph: Nacho Doce/Reuters


Good morning from London. I’m Lucy Campbell, I’ll be bringing you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic for the next eight hours. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.

Twitter: @lucy_campbell_

The Czech Republic’s deputy prime minister, Jan Hamáček, who is also the interior minister, has tested positive for Covid-19, Reuters has reported.

Hamáček, 41, is chief of the Social Democratic party, junior partner in the ruling coalition, and is also head of the crisis committee coordinating logistical efforts to counter the pandemic.

It comes as the country recorded a record daily rise of 11,984 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday.


Slovakia and Poland have reported record daily tallies of coronavirus cases.

In Poland, the total number of confirmed Covid-19 infections has doubled in less than three weeks and now exceeds 200,000, the health ministry said, as it announced a new daily record of 10,040 cases.

As of Wednesday, coronavirus patients 9,439 hospital beds and were using 757 ventilators, compared with 8,962 and 725 respectively a day earlier

South Yorkshire will move into England’s highest tier of coronavirus restrictions, the Sheffield city region mayor, Dan Jarvis, said on Wednesday.

You can read more about the development here:


In the UK, the government has been accused of hitting Londoners with a “triple whammy” of higher costs in return for Covid-related funding for Transport for London (TfL).

Mayor Sadiq Khan called on ministers to reconsider “ill-advised and draconian” proposals.

He said the government wanted to extend the congestion charge zone to the North and South Circular roads in 12 months’ time, which would expand the zone to cover about 4 million more Londoners.

Passengers on the London underground last week.
Passengers on the London underground last week.
Photograph: Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock

The government was also said to want to increase TfL fares by well above the inflation rate, and double down on demands to remove free travel for under-18s.

A further government proposal is to introduce a new council tax charge in the capital, regardless of whether residents use public transport, said the mayor.

Khan said:

I simply cannot accept this government plan, which would hit Londoners with a triple whammy of higher costs at a time when so many people are already facing hardship.

“The government should be supporting Londoners through this difficult time, not making ill-advised and draconian proposals which will choke off our economic recovery.

“Ministers already forced TfL to bring forward proposals to increase the cost and hours of the congestion charge in May. Now they want to expand it to cover 4 million more Londoners.


Record daily coronavirus deaths in Russia

Russia recorded 15,700 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, as well as a daily record high of 317 deaths from the highly-contagious virus.

Since the start of the pandemic, the country of about 145 million people has recorded 1,447,335 infections and 24,952 deaths, authorities said.


UK: South Yorkshire ‘on cusp’ of tier 3 deal

The UK government is “on the cusp” of agreeing a deal with local leaders in South Yorkshire for the area to go into the tightest coronavirus measures, the housing secretary said on Wednesday.

“We have had very successful conversations … with the leaders of South Yorkshire,” Robert Jenrick told Sky News. “Again, there’s a serious situation there.”

It comes after the government imposed tier 3 restrictions – which includes the closure of indoor venues such as pubs – on Greater Manchester.


Ukraine and the Czech Republic have reported daily record rises in coronavirus infections.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s national security council reported a record 6,719 new cases registered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 315,826 cases.

The number of daily Covid-19 deaths also jumped to 141 from the previous record of 113 registered on Tuesday, the council said. The country’s coronavirus death toll now stands at 5,927.

The Czech Republic reported 11,984 new cases of the virus for 20 October, the highest daily tally on record, amid a surge in recent weeks,

The number of people who died of Covid-19 rose to 1,619 from 1,513 over the past 24 hours in the country of more than 10 million, Health Ministry data showed on Wednesday.

In the North of England, leaders have warned of “winter hardship” as Greater Manchester is forced into tougher coronavirus restrictions.

Prime minister Boris Johnson imposed the stringent tier 3 rules when negotiations between ministers and local politicians broke down after more than a week, but only confirmed a fraction of the funds they had asked the government for.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham accused Johnson of “playing poker” with people’s lives when a deal could not be reached on cash for the region to support them through the measures.

You can catch up with yesterday’s events, ahead of the region going into tier 3 from midnight on Thursday, here:

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today. The best thing I learned in the last few hours – and it has nothing to do with the dreaded lurgy – is that there is such a fish as a “handfish”. It has its own, small, human-like hands:

Here’s more about handfish:

A wardrobe of fur coats that children could touch and feel before entering “Narnia”; a giant bed big enough for 30 kids to lie on while they listened to a storyteller; a purpose-built studio for live performances. Bringing stories to life through interactive and hands-on experiences was at the core of Oxford’s new Story Museum.

After a two-year, £6m transformation, the new museum was due to be unveiled on 4 April, replacing a series of temporary exhibitions with permanent galleries designed to immerse visitors, especially young people, in a world of stories.

Then, Covid-19 struck and the UK went into lockdown. The opening weekend of festivities was cancelled and the museum remained shut.

“I can’t tell you how crushing it was to be poised [to open] and stopped in our tracks,” said museum director Caroline Jones.

But it wasn’t just disappointment at having to postpone the unveiling. Jones had to rethink the museum’s entire approach for Covid times. Out went the sensory activities: the cheesy props children were encouraged to sniff to transport them into Aesop’s fable of the fox and the crow; the chance to whisper their own stories to the trees. In came a guided, touch-free experience delivered at a distance for a vastly reduced number of visitors:

Australia may have recorded first case of Covid-19 re-infection

A case of Covid-19 in Victoria is being treated as a rare case of reinfection, the first case classified as such in Australia.

Reinfection with Covid-19 is rare, with only a six cases reported among the 40m cases worldwide to date, including in the US and Hong Kong. It seems that in most cases of Covid-19, people develop immunity to the virus after being infected, though it is still unclear how strong this immunity is or for how long it remains.

The Victorian case is less clear. Genomic sequencing has not yet been completed, but the premier Daniel Andrews said the man first tested positive to the virus in July. He tested positive again in October. In many cases it is unclear whether a second positive test is truly a reinfection or merely dead virus being shed.

Andrews announced the possible reinfection on Wednesday saying the man was being treated as a reinfected case “out of an abundance of caution”:


  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Protection has found that 300,000 excess deaths were recorded in the US this year – 66% of which are accounted for by the official coronavirus death toll of around 220,000. Excess deaths refer to how many more deaths have been reported in total this year compared with the same period last year. Usually, between the beginning of February and the end of September, about 1.9 million deaths are reported. This year, it is closer to 2.2 million – a 14.5% increase. The remaining deaths, the CDC wrote, “provide information about the degree to which Covid-19 deaths might be underascertained”.
  • Brazil’s health minister Eduardo Pazuello has fallen ill with a suspected case of Covid-19. The ministry said Pazuello had a fever on Tuesday and would be tested for Covid-19. On Monday, the minister had missed a public event with President Jair Bolsonaro.
  • Pazuello also announced that Brazil would add the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine against Covid-19 to its national immunisation program, despite a political and diplomatic row over whether to use it.
  • Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways said on Wednesday it would cut 5,900 jobs and end its regional Cathay Dragon brand as it grapples with a plunge in demand. The restructuring will cost HK$2.2bn ($284m) and the airline will also seek changes to conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots, it told the stock exchange.
  • A state-owned drugmaker in China is setting up production lines to supply a billion doses of two possible vaccines that are being tested on 50,000 people in 10 countries, the company chairman said on Tuesday. Testing by SinoPharm Group is “in the last kilometre of a long march”, chairman Liu Jingzhen said. He gave no indication when results were expected.
  • Health officials in New Zealand recorded 25 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday – the highest number in a single day in many weeks – with two of them diagnosed in the community.
  • Spain is nearing a total of a million infections over the course of the pandemic so far, with 988,322 registered on the Johns Hopkins database, which would make it the first European country and sixth country globally to do so. Its death toll stands at more than 34,000.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, Trump told voters “If you want depression, doom and despair. Vote for sleepy Joe Biden. And boredom”. Trump blamed former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton when his microphone cut out during the rally and also claimed that if the virus had not struck he would not have needed to campaign very hard to win re-election:


Brazil adds CoronaVac vaccine to national immunisation program

Brazil’s health minister said Tuesday the country would add the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine against Covid-19 to its national immunisation program, despite a political and diplomatic row over whether to use it.

AFP reports that health minister Eduardo Pazuello said the federal government had reached a deal with Sao Paulo state, which is helping test and produce the vaccine, to buy 46 million doses to be administered starting in January.

“This vaccine will be Brazil’s vaccine,” in addition to another developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, Pazuello told a video meeting of the South American country’s 27 governors.

“That’s our big news. This is going to recalibrate the process” of eventually vaccinating Brazil’s population against Covid-19, which has claimed more lives here than any country except the United States.

CoronaVac, developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech, has been caught up in a messy battle in Brazil.

India has recorded 54,044 new coronavirus infections, taking its tally to 7.65 million, health ministry data showed on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

The world’s second most populous nation also has the second highest caseload, after the United States, which has a total of 8.2 million.

India’s death toll from the virus stood at 115,914, with 717 deaths in the last 24 hours, the ministry said.

Infections in India have been on the decline since a September peak, but experts have warned there could be a surge as the festival season approaches.

Durga Puja Pandal in Kolkata, India, 20 Oct 2020.
Durga Puja Pandal in Kolkata, India, 20 Oct 2020.
Photograph: Jit Chattopadhyay/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

In other news from Japan:

The famed deer that roam the city of Nara no longer face discomfort – or far worse – after local companies developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs.

Last year several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers, prompting calls for tourists not to leave their rubbish behind. One of the dead animals had swallowed more than 4kg of rubbish:

The Mainchi reports that Japan is expecting a sharp drop in newborns next year after pregnancies fell 11.4% in the three months from May compared to the same period in 2019.

A government tally, seen by Kyodo News, underscores fears that the pandemic will worsen the nation’s already low birth rate. It marks the first such figures released by the government, linking a drop in the number of births to the impact of the coronavirus.

Japan, home to one of the world’s longest-living populaces, is also one of the most aged societies, with the highest percentage of elderly people anywhere in the world.

The nation’s dwindling number of newborns fell below 1 million for the first time in 2016 and fell to a record low of 865,000 last year. There are concerns that the number could dip below 800,000 next year if the current trend continues.

Asian shares and US stock futures rose on Wednesday as renewed hopes for a new round of U.S. stimulus drew money into equities from government debt, Reuters reports.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.56%. Australian stocks edged up by 0.1%, while shares in China rose 0.07%. Tokyo shares gained 0.4%.

U.S. stock futures also rose 0.44%.

The yuan surged to the strongest level against the dollar in more than two years on growing optimism about China’s economy and speculation that a victory for US.

Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden next month will lead to better Sino-US ties.

In peaceful, non-coronavirus news:

A Nasa spacecraft has successfully landed on an asteroid, dodging boulders the size of buildings, in order to collect a handful of cosmic rubble for analysis back on Earth.

The space agency team behind the Osiris-Rex project said preliminary data showed the sample collection went as planned and that the spacecraft had lifted off the surface of asteroid Bennu.

“I can’t believe we actually pulled this off,” said lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona. “The spacecraft did everything it was supposed to do.”

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Tuesday urged their residents to not travel between the three states as the US Northeast sees a rise in Covid-19 cases, Reuters reports.

The governors, however, said they would not attempt to impose quarantines on visitors from neighboring states.

New York, an early epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic and home to more Covid-19 deaths than any other state, requires travellers from 38 states and two U.S. territories where cases are rising to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania now also meet New York’s criteria for the quarantine requirements, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, but implementing such restrictions would be impractical.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 7,595 to 380,762, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.

The reported death toll rose by 39 to 9,875, the tally showed.


More now on the state-owned Chinese drugmaker setting up production lines to supply 1 billion doses of two possible coronavirus vaccines that are being tested on 50,000 people in 10 countries, the company chairman said Tuesday.

AP reports:

Testing by SinoPharm Group is “in the last kilometer of a long march,” chairman Liu Jingzhen said at a news conference. He gave no indication when results are expected.
China’s fledgling drug industry is part of a global race to produce a vaccine and has four candidates in final stages of testing. Health experts say, however, that even if China succeeds, stringent certification rules in the United States, Europe and Japan might mean its vaccine can be distributed only in other developing countries.
SinoPharm is testing two vaccines in countries including Egypt, Argentina, Jordan and Peru, Liu said. Both are inactivated, meaning they use a non-infectious version of the coronavirus.

According to Liu, production lines for vaccines are being set up in Beijing and Wuhan, the city in central China where the outbreak began in December.

“The production capacity will reach 1 billion doses next year, ensuring sufficient safety,” Liu said.

Chinese-developed vaccines have been tested on 60,000 people with “only slight adverse effects,” said Tian Baoguo, an official of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Thousands of people in China including healthcare workers and others deemed to be at risk have been given the experimental vaccines. Three city governments have announced plans to inoculate members of the public who need it.

As the second coronavirus wave bites, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – who shut the borders in September – is holding back on tougher measures such as a lockdown, despite growing criticism of his response, AFP reports.

During the first wave, the Central European EU member had relatively low numbers of infections and deaths from the virus compared with most European countries.

An elderly resident wearing a protective face mask walks in a park of the Prividius House, a home for elderly people in Leanyfalu, north of Budapest, on 5 October 2020.
An elderly resident wearing a protective face mask walks in a park of the Prividius House, a home for elderly people in Leanyfalu, north of Budapest, on 5 October 2020.
Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

But in October more Hungarians have died than in the previous four months put together. And seven-day rolling average data from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) show that on October 19 Hungary had the third-highest Covid-19 death rate per million in the bloc – behind the Czech Republic and Romania.

A shift in government policy as well as a complacent population are to blame, according to experts.

Orban’s critics say the government’s messaging over the summer was not strict enough on issues such as mask wearing, avoiding large gatherings and travel abroad.

Australia’s most heavily hit coronavirus state of Victoria logged a sixth consecutive day of low single digit new cases on Wednesday, as the state government said it was on track to announce fresh easing measures at the weekend.

“We do genuinely hope on Sunday to make some announcements in the future and if these numbers stay on trend we will be able to do that,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference.


Victoria, which has been under strict lockdown measures since early July, hopes to revitalise outdoor dining over the summer in the hard hit hospitality sector, by allowing pop up restaurants in public gardens and carparks in downtown areas.

New infections in the Victoria’s state capital Melbourne rose by three in the past 24 hours, up from a revised number of two from the day before, bringing total state numbers to 20,323 cases since the outbreak began, of which just 109 remain active.

A downward trend in Victoria, which has been under strict lockdown measures since early July, brings it within reach of a milestone required for opening measures to take place.

Mexico’s health ministry on Tuesday reported 5,788 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 555 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 860,714 and the death toll to 86,893.

Health officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Venezuela plans to vaccinate citizens with Russian and Chinese coronavirus vaccines, which could arrive in the South American nation in December or January, President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

“It has been announced that the completed Russian and Chinese vaccines should arrive by December, January, December-January, and we are going to start vaccination,” Maduro said during a live broadcast on state television.

He added that older people and those with existing diseases would take priority, but that all Venezuelans would be vaccinated.

The country received a first batch of the Russian “Sputnik-V” coronavirus vaccine in early October as part of the Phase Three clinical trial, and the government said about 2,000 volunteers would participate. The delivery was the first in Latin America.

Maduro in September proposed administering the Russian coronavirus vaccine to nearly 15,000 candidates in upcoming legislative elections so that they could campaign safely.

Brazilian health minister ill with suspected Covid case

Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello has fallen ill with a suspected case of Covid-19, the ministry’s press office said on Tuesday, as the country battles with the third-worst coronavirus outbreak globally, with nearly 5.3 million cases.

Reuters reports that the ministry said Pazuello had a fever on Tuesday and would be tested for Covid-19. On Monday, the minister had missed a public event with President Jair Bolsonaro.

“He had a small indisposition and went to the hospital,” Bolsonaro said at the event. The ministry said on Monday that Pazuello had been discharged and was at home.

The government of Brazil, the country with the second highest number of deaths from Covid-19 coronavirus, approved a plan for a partial return of fans to football stadiums though it did not set a return date.
The government of Brazil, the country with the second highest number of deaths from Covid-19 coronavirus, approved a plan for a partial return of fans to football stadiums though it did not set a return date.
Photograph: Sergio Lima/AFP/Getty Images

Bolsonaro has sought to downplay the severity of the coronavirus, calling it a little flu. The president fell ill with a mild case of Covid-19 earlier this year, and several of his cabinet ministers have been infected previously.

Two different health ministers resigned in the span of roughly a month before Bolsonaro appointed Pazuello. Bolsonaro has endorsed the drug hydroxychloroquine for treating coronavirus, despite its being unproven for that purpose; the former ministers had advised a more cautious approach.

Pazuello, who does not hold a medical degree, expanded access to hydroxychloroquine and allowed for public doctors to prescribe it for almost anyone who tests positive for coronavirus.

England’s widening north-south political divide dominates the papers after Boris Johnson’s government imposed tier 3 restrictions on Manchester despite fierce resistance from the city’s mayor, Andy Burnham.

The Guardian reports that Burnham accused the prime minister of playing a “game of poker with people’s lives” after the imposition of the highest level of restrictions on the city and surrounding area:

Trump is has just finished speaking at a rally in Pennsylvania. Here is one moment from his appearance:

Cathay to cut 5,900 jobs

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Wednesday it would cut 5,900 jobs and end its regional Cathay Dragon brand as it grapples with a plunge in demand from the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters.

The restructuring will cost HK$2.2 billion ($283.9 million) and the airline will also seek changes in conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots, it told the stock exchange.

Overall, it will cut 8,500 positions, or 24% of its normal headcount, but that includes 2,600 roles currently unfilled due to cost reduction initiatives, Cathay said.

A Cathay Pacific employee wearing a face mask following the coronavirus disease outbreak, walks past a ticketing counter at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, China 20 October 2020.
A Cathay Pacific employee wearing a face mask following the coronavirus disease outbreak, walks past a ticketing counter at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, China 20 October 2020.
Photograph: Lam Yik/Reuters

“The global pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on aviation and the hard truth is we must fundamentally restructure the group to survive,” Cathay Chief Executive Augustus Tang said in a statement.

The International Air Transport Association expects it will take until 2024 for passenger traffic to recover to pre-Covid-levels.

The airline, which has stored around 40% of its fleet outside Hong Kong, said on Monday it planned to operate less than 50% of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.

After receiving a $5 billion rescue package led by the Hong Kong government in June, it had been conducting a strategic review that analysts expected would result in major job losses because it has been bleeding HK$1.5 billion to HK$2 billion of cash a month.

New Zealand records 25 new coronavirus cases including two in community

Charlotte Graham McLay reports:

Health officials in New Zealand recorded 25 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday – the highest number in a single day in many weeks – with two of the instances diagnosed in the community.

The others were diagnosed in managed isolation facilities, where all travelers entering New Zealand must spend a fortnight. 18 of those were recorded from Russian and Ukraine fishing crews who had been flown to New Zealand to work on fishing boats, and are staying in a quarantine hotel.

Only New Zealanders and their families are permitted to enter the country – unless they are essential workers who obtain visa exemptions. The infected arrivals from Moscow were among 235 fishing crews who arrived from Russia via Singapore on a charter flight, remaining on the plane during the Singapore stop.

The workers were all tested for Covid-19 before they left Russia, said Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health, and two people were barred from boarding the plane due to positive tests.

“At least one person must have boarded that plane who was infectious,” Bloomfield told reporters in Wellington. “The fact that we’ve found these infections is absolutely the system working.”

The two community cases were contacts of a ports worker whose case was reported on Sunday. That case was the first instance of community transmission in New Zealand since 25 September.

There are currently 56 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, 53 of them in managed isolation facilities. There have been 1,556 total confirmed cases of the virus in New Zealand, with 25 deaths.


Chinese vaccines have been given to 60,000 people worldwide

The New York Times reports:

Chinese vaccines have been administered to 60,000 people in clinical trials, many of them around the world, and none of them have experienced any serious adverse reactions, a senior Chinese official said on Tuesday.

The figures came from Tian Baoguo, a senior official at China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, who spoke at a news conference. “Initial results show that they are safe,” he said.

China has four vaccine candidates in Phase 3 trials, the last stage of testing before regulatory approval. Because the outbreak is largely under control in China, these trials are conducted in more than 10 countries.

Within China, the Chinese government has not waited for clinical trials to conclude before vaccinating tens of thousands of people. Officials have already laid out plans to give shots to even more people, citing emergency use. But scientists have warned that taking a vaccine that has not completed Phase 3 trials carries health risks. On Sunday, the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu stopped the sale of a coronavirus vaccine after dozens of people demanded to be inoculated over the weekend.

Charlotte Graham McLay writes:

We reported this story last week about American doctors moving to New Zealand during the Covid-19 pandemic – with their in-demand skills making them one of the only groups of people who can obtain visa exemptions to enter the country at the moment.

Medical recruiting firms in both New Zealand and the United States told us the South Pacific nation was in hot demand for US doctors due to New Zealand’s free healthcare, scientific regard given to doctors during the pandemic, better management of the coronavirus, and more progressive politics.

On Wednesday, New Zealand’s immigration agency told us that it wasn’t just American doctors making the move. Since 10 August alone, the agency has approved visa exemptions for 80 Indian health workers to come to New Zealand, 74 Britons, 41 Filipinos, and 36 from the US.

They’ve also approved visa exemptions for 24 South Africans, 11 medical workers from Ireland and Australia, 9 from Canada, and a handful from each of 20 other countries from Belgium to Zambia. And that’s just since 10 August — the agency did not provide earlier figures.

New Zealand has seen, so far, one of the lowest Covid-19 death tolls in the world after a strict, early lockdown. Normal life here has largely resumed, except for strict border controls that bar anyone except New Zealanders and their families from entering the country.

The five percent of people in Britain predicted by a new tool to be at highest risk from Covid-19 accounted for three-quarters of deaths during the first wave of the pandemic, researchers reported Wednesday.

From AFP:

Tthe risk-assessment method – which also predicts the chances of hospitalisation – could help identify the small percentage of the population most in need of being shielded from the virus, they reported in BMJ, a medical journal.

“The tool provides nuanced information on people’s risk of serious illness due to Covid-19 and is designed for use by clinicians with patients to reach a shared understanding of risk,” the authors said in a statement.

To develop the new application, called QCOVID, researchers from across Britain compiled data from six million patients, including age, height-weight ratio, ethnicity, and pre-existing conditions – such as high-blood pressure and diabetes – known to increase the risk of serious outcomes after infection.

They then tested the approach on 2.2 million patients – most of whom did not have Covid-19 – to see how well it predicted hospitalisation and deaths during two periods, late January to the end of April, and May 1 to June 30.

More than three-quarters of those who died from the virus were in the top five percent of those predicted to be at maximum risk.

While the tool effectively profiled those facing the worst odds, it did not identify which factors caused fatal outcomes, the researchers cautioned.

More than 100 people are believed to have been infected by the coronavirus at a wedding early this month in the northern Mexico border city of Mexicali, authorities said, AP reports.

About 300 people attended the 0 October nuptials of a soap opera actor and the daughter of a businessman, Alonso Oscar Pérez Rico, the health secretary of Baja California state said Monday.

Pérez Rico told local media that there were apparently no masks or temperature checks at the event and that the organisers also did not have permission to hold an event of that size during the pandemic.

He said authorities are investigating whether anyone attended the wedding knowing they had Covid-19 or were infected by the virus. In some states in Mexico, knowingly infecting someone with a disease is a crime.

In the UK, Labour is stepping up the pressure to impose an England-wide “circuit-breaker”, claiming the economy will be billions of pounds worse off if the government fails to act.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, last week endorsed calls by the government’s scientific advisers for a two- to three-week shutdown. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has opposed the plan, calling it a “blunt instrument” and warning about the damaging economic impact of shuttering many sectors.

Heather Stewart and Richard Partington report:

Spain nears 1m cases

Spain is nearing a total of a million coronavirus infections over the course of the pandemic so far, with 988,322 currently registered on the Johns Hopkins coronavirus database, which would make it the first European country and sixth country overall to to do so.

More than 34,000 people have died.

The Spanish Health Ministry reported Tuesday that authorities have recorded nearly 14,000 new cases, taking the total to 988,322.

At the current rate of infection, Spain is likely to exceed 1 million on Wednesday.

Health experts say the true number of infections is probably much higher. That’s because insufficient testing, asymptomatic cases and other issues mean official counts fail to capture the real scale of the outbreak.


CDC finds 300,000 excess deaths in US

Here is a closer look at that report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which shows the has seen 300,000 more deaths than it usually would.

The CDC has been tracking how many deaths have been reported and comparing them with counts seen in other years. Usually, between the beginning of February and the end of September, about 1.9 million deaths are reported. This year, it’s closer to 2.2 million – a 14.5% increase, AP reports.

The CDC says around 200,000 of the deaths are already attributed to coronavirus, but that the it’s likely Covid-19 was a factor in many other deaths, too. For example, someone with heart attack symptoms may have hesitated to go to a hospital that was busy with coronavirus patients.

The largest segment of the excess deaths, about 95,000, were in elderly people ages 75 to 84. That was 21.5% more than in a normal year. But the biggest relative increase, 26.5%, was in people ages 25 to 44. Deaths in people younger than 25 actually dropped slightly.

Deaths were up for different racial and ethnic groups, but the largest increase – 54% – was among Hispanic Americans.


Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s Wednesday here in Sydney, my name is Helen Sullivan, and this is the place to be for Covid news from around the world.

You can find me on Twitter, too @helenrsullivan.

The US has seen 299,028 excess deaths since January 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report. 66% of these deaths have already been attributed to coronavirus, in line with the official total of just over 220,000 deaths.

The CDC warns that, “these results provide information about the degree to which Covid-19 deaths might be underascertained and inform efforts to prevent mortality directly or indirectly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as efforts to minimise disruptions to health care.”

“The largest percentage increases were seen among adults aged 25–44 years and among Hispanic or Latino persons.”

Meanwhile Spain is nearing 1m coronavirus cases, a milestone that would make it the sixth country worldwide to cross the threshold.

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine trial in the US is expected to resume as early as this week after the US food and drug administration (FDA) completed its review of a serious illness, sources told Reuters.AstraZeneca’s large, late-stage US trial has been on hold since 6 September, after a participant in the company’s UK trial fell ill with what was suspected to be a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.
  • The White House and Democrats in the US congress have moved closer to agreement on a new coronavirus relief package. With just two weeks to go until the US presidential election, Trump signalled a willingness to go along with more than $2.2tn in new Covid-19 relief, as Democrats had been pushing for months – despite opposition from the Republican party.
  • Chaos and fury as Boris Johnson forces curbs on Greater Manchester. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester in England, accused the government of playing a “game of poker with people’s lives” after Boris Johnson imposed the toughest Covid restrictions on the region without agreeing a support package for businesses and low-paid workers.
  • Lombardy curfew aims to curb Covid hospital admissions rise. Authorities in Lombardy have been given the green light to impose a curfew as the Italian region hardest hit in the coronavirus first wave braces itself for a surge in hospital admissions.
  • Belgium postpones non-essential hospital work to deal with Covid-19 surge. The country will need to postpone all non-essential hospital procedures to deal with a surge in Covid-19 infections, the health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said, days after warning of a Covid “tsunami” hitting the country.
  • UK to spend £30m on trials infecting young people to hasten Covid vaccine. More than £30m of UK government money is to fund the world’s first Covid-19 “challenge trials”, in which healthy young volunteers are intentionally infected with the virus to hasten the development of a vaccine.
  • Italy’s southern Campania region plans to introduce a night-time curfew from this weekend in an effort to tackle a surge in Covid-19 cases. The move follows a similar decision taken on Monday by the northern region of Lombardy following a rise in hospital admissions. The Campania governor Vincenzo De Luca said he planned to introduce an 11pm curfew from this weekend.
  • Berlin’s municipal government has made it compulsory to wear masks at markets, in queues and on 10 busy shopping streets, but stopped short of imposing another lockdown to curb a new wave of infections in the German capital. The mayor, Michael Müller, urged the capital’s residents to comply with the new rules, which also included limits on parties, to avoid shutting down public life again. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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fashion, Life and Style

Trend watch: how sweatpants became a hot fashion look


Powered by article titled “Trend watch: how sweatpants became a hot fashion look” was written by Jo Jones and Helen Seamons, for The Observer on Saturday 17th October 2020 22.45 UTC

Black, £29.99,
Black, £29.99, Photograph: PR

Jogging bottoms have been the unforeseen wardrobe hit of 2020. They got us all through lockdown and now we are reluctant to relinquish their comfort. Here’s our guide to get the best pair for you, with styling suggestions for work and leisure.

The key is to find a style that suits you. If you are short in the leg opt for a tapered pair without an elasticated cuff, like Reiss’s needlecord joggers. These can be rolled up as required. If you are petite, go for a fitted waist without pleating as that creates an excess of bulky fabric. Try Paige, J Brand and River Island. Also worth considering is Sweaty Betty’s Gary Luxe, as they come in short and regular lengths. Keep footwear the same colour to draw the eye down. If you are long in the body, a high waist will balance your figure. Consider French Connection, or Serena Bute’s silky, flowing styles. For a curvy silhouette, try Asos and Karen Millen’s curve ranges.

Swap jersey for satin to elevate your look. The Arkin by J Brand, and Me and Em’s espresso pair are super-slick. Be bold and choose a print. Hush does camo and leopard options, as does Anthropologie. Zara has faux leather in three shades, including a deep red that’ll work for socially distanced drinks. For full partywear Pinko has a pair with all-over gold sequins and Wyse London has launched Ath-Disco lurex and stripe styles.

From left: Alexandra Guerain and Jen Azoulay, both at Paris Fashion Week, and Sonia Lyson at Berlin Fashion Week
From left: Alexandra Guerain and Jen Azoulay, both at Paris Fashion Week, and Sonia Lyson at Berlin Fashion Week Photograph: “PR

A long-line double-breasted blazer neatens your look. Layer it over a T-shirt, skinny rollneck or silk blouse for business meetings (IRL or Zoom). Or go utilitarian and wear your joggers with a chunky knitted rollneck or cardigan, and finish with a cross-body bag to break the line around your body. If you are tall, try the boyfriend slouchy, relaxed look – layer your sweatpants and knit under an oversized coat and finish with trainers, as seen on the Balenciaga catwalk.

Dress up your joggers with a pointed high court shoe in a metallic or a leopard print. Styling the look with a smart blazer or coat and a chandelier earring will make your sweatpants evening appropriate.

Leopard heel, £77,
Leopard heel, £77,
Photograph: LK Bennett

For a dress-down weekend look, choose flat boots, from a chunky walking style to a military lace-up. A fresh white trainer is a failsafe option for a smart casual work look or alternatively opt for a neat ankle boot with a block heel. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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New Zealand, World

Jacinda Ardern eases into second term amid relief in New Zealand at election landslide


Powered by article titled “Jacinda Ardern considers coalition despite New Zealand election landslide” was written by Eleanor Ainge Roy in Auckland, for The Guardian on Sunday 18th October 2020 04.37 UTC

Jacinda Ardern has held out the possibility of forming a coalition government despite securing a historic election victory that will enable her Labour party to govern alone.

New Zealanders expressed relief on Sunday at her re-election, after a campaign that felt long and wearying for many. Ardern’s party won the highest percentage of the vote in more than five decades, claiming 64 seats in parliament, with her handling of the Covid-19 crisis regarded as decisive in her win.

Leaders around the world – from Boris Johnson to the Dalai Lama – congratulated her for her compassion and action on climate change.

As Ardern swung straight back into the job – meeting her senior MPs for a coffee – tens of thousands of New Zealanders made their way to Eden Park in Auckland to watch the second Bledisloe cup, further highlighting the country’s many freedoms and liberties at a time when cases in Europe and the US are soaring, and lockdowns slamming back into place. One new local case of Covid did however emerge in Auckland on Sunday, halting the nation’s three-week streak.

But on Sunday, the prime minister said she would take two to three weeks to officially form government, after talks with potential coalition partners. Ardern said she had informed the governor general she would be in a position to form a government soon.

“We’ll be cracking on very quickly with our agenda, we clearly have a mandate from New Zealand,” said Ardern. “I have been a consensus builder but I also need to work with the strong mandate Labour has been given.”

Ardern said new talent coming into the Labour caucus included GPs, a midwife and an infectious disease expert, which would inform her decision on who would take over the crucial health portfolio.

Her opponent, National party leader Judith Collins, said on Sunday morning that she would carry on as leader of the party, but it is yet to be seen if her caucus will back her after such a resounding loss.

Ardern will be making contact with many untested Labour candidates who have been voted in, including a former music teacher and church leader in Hamilton, a midwife in Christchurch, and a long-term foster parent and youth advocate in New Plymouth.

Green party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson have confirmed they spoke to Ardern. The party won 10 seats in parliament – two more than the previous election – and is hoping to be invited to join her government – pushing it further to the left.

While Labour could rule alone, Shaw is confident the Greens will be included to make use of their ministers’ specific experience, to bolster the new government’s majority and to build their partnership for the future, and an even more progressive government down the line.

“We want to win again in 2023,” Shaw told the Guardian. “We are stronger at the end of our first term in government than we were at the beginning,” Shaw said. “We defied the odds. We made history.

Green supporter Suzanne Kendrick said the new government was full of “young, vibrant and interesting people”. “It’s time to move on from middle-aged people trying to hold on to the past,” Kendrick said, a claim Ardern laid at Collins’ feet, too, during the leaders debates. “And it’s a victory for the whole world, for liberal democracy, for those who believe in that sort of government and in the environment too.”

Ardern’s victory was hailed around the world, with the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, tweeting that he looked forward to working with her on “climate change issues”.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he and Ardern shared a vision for “for an inclusive, fairer and greener future”.

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said he looked forward to working with Ardern “fighting climate change, empowering women and girls around the world, [and] ensuring equitable vaccine distribution”.

The Dalai Lama also sent warm words of praise and congratulations. “I admire the courage, wisdom and leadership [of Jacinda Ardern], as well as the calm, compassion and respect for others, she has shown in these challenging times.”

“Science and clear communication around Covid-19 have won the day against Trumpery and fake news – people have clearly seen how the government looked after us,” said Christine, a Labour supporter.

“I think people are really grateful with the way Jacinda has handled Covid; she is leading the world. We are able to live our lives normally with very few restrictions – it is just a blessing.”

But political experts in New Zealand say the Labour leader is facing one of the toughest leadership terms in modern history, and expectations are now so high it will be hard for her not to disappoint voters.

The party is also full of inexperienced new MPs, with only a handful of veterans available to manage the important portfolios.

In September, New Zealand officially entered a recession, as a result of multiple lockdowns and closed borders. The tourism industry, construction and horticulture have taken significant knocks, and poverty and benefit numbers are on the rise, with the waiting list for state housing at record highs.

Writing for the Guardian, Claire Robinson says the pressure to deliver is high, and after promising transformational change in her first term, Ardern must now achieve it.

Peter Wilson, an economist, said voters will need more from Ardern than Covid action. “Voters have thanked Ardern for keeping the country safe from Covid-19. They won’t do it again,” he said. “The next three years will be about economic recovery and the way the government deals with it, a very different challenge and arguably a more difficult one.”

Multiple observers have suggested that despite Ardern being a darling of the progressive left, her second term will not be defined by as much dramatic change as promised.

The new government will have much on their plate, but don’t expect large-scale and bold changes,” writes economist Shambueel Eaqab. “Jacinda Ardern as prime minister has been a pragmatic and centrist leader. Quick and bold to act in crises, but cautious with large-scale disruption.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Tamal Ray’s recipe for leftover breadcrumb plum cake


Powered by article titled “Tamal Ray’s recipe for leftover breadcrumb plum cake” was written by Tamal Ray, for The Guardian on Saturday 17th October 2020 10.30 UTC

When it comes to bread, it’s feast or famine at my house. We’ve either run out – just when I’m most craving buttered toast – or I make too much, forget about it, and find a stale boulder the next time I look in the bread bin. I hate food waste, but the options for stale bread are rather limited. So I’m forever indebted to the reader who inspired this week’s recipe. They suggested using breadcrumbs in a cake and the result is both thrifty and delicious.

Breadcrumb plum cake

A blender with the blade attachment is the easiest way to turn stale bread into crumbs. If you don’t have one, a rolling pin, canvas bag and the mental image of a boss you don’t like also works well.

Prep 10 min
Soak 1 hr
Cook 45 min
Serves 8

For the cake
100g stale bread, crushed into crumbs
175g unsalted butter, softened
140g soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
75g ground almonds
25g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder

For the plum topping
4 plums
100ml red wine
75g caster sugar

Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin. Heat the oven to 190C (180C fan)/375F/gas 5.

Quarter and stone the plums, then cut each quarter in half again to make eight crescents per plum. Put the plum segments into a pan with the wine and sugar, and simmer gently for six minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the plum segments to soak for one hour.

To make the breadcrumbs, blitz the stale bread in a blender (or put it in a canvas bag and bash with a rolling pin). Cream the butter and sugar until pale and airy, then stir through the eggs, followed by the breadcrumbs, almonds, flour and baking powder. Pour the batter into the cake tin, even it out with the back of a spoon, then arrange the poached plum slices over the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top of the cake is toasted brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean of batter. If it still seems a little wet, bake for another five minutes before checking again. While the cake bakes, bring the plum syrup to a boil and cook for a few minutes, until thickened. Brush this over the warm cake once it has finished baking.

• This article was amended 20 October 2020 to correct the baking time to 30-35 minutes, from 20 minutes as an earlier version said. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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US NEWS, World

Biden accuses Trump of trying to wish away Covid ahead of Wisconsin rally – live


Powered by article titled “Biden accuses Trump of trying to wish away Covid ahead of Wisconsin rally – as it happened” was written by Bryan Armen Graham in New York (now) and Tom Lutz and Martin Pengelly (earlier), for on Saturday 17th October 2020 21.43 UTC

10.43pm BST


Here’s a summary of the latest events:

10.29pm BST

Mitch McConnell announced Saturday that the Senate will vote Tuesday on a Paycheck Protection Plan funding bill and Wednesday on the same 0bn Covid-19 aid package that Democrats blocked last month on the grounds that it didn’t go far enough.

“It is long past time for the two parties to agree where we can and get more money out the door,” the Senate majority leader said in a statement.

10.21pm BST

Amid a pandemic-induced economic meltdown that has seen thousands of businesses closed and millions put out of work, one industry in California appears to be booming: gun sales.

A study by the UC Davis violence prevention research program estimates that 110,000 Californians have purchased a firearm since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. And for almost half of them – 47,000 – it was the first time they had bought a weapon.

The lead researcher of the study, assistant professor Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, said while previous spikes in firearms sales could be linked at least partially to actual rising levels of violent crime, the coronavirus “surge” is related more to apprehension.

The UC Davis team found that respondents’ concerns about violence happening to them significantly increased during the pandemic compared with before, including robbery, assault, homicide, police violence, suicide and unintentional firearm injury. Significantly, the fears did not extend to mass shootings.

“Our findings add support to public health-oriented strategies designed to address the enduring psychological trauma associated with direct and indirect exposure to violence, as well as the underlying social and structural factors that contribute to violence-related harms,” Kravitz-Wirtz said.

“We wanted to capture individuals’ lived experiences of violence in the context of the pandemic, along with information on pandemic-induced firearm acquisition.”

Another finding was that “more than one in 10 respondents, representing an estimated four million California adults, were concerned that someone they know might physically harm themselves on purpose.”

For many, Kravitz-Wirtz noted, the concern was because the person they were worried about had suffered a major loss due to the pandemic, such as losing a loved one, their job or housing.

The California study mirrored a national study that tracked rising levels of gun crime and firearms sales through the early months of the pandemic.

9.53pm BST

Thousands of people gathered for the Women’s March in downtown Washington on Saturday to exhort voters to expel Donald Trump from the White House and protest his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

The latest of rallies that began with a massive women’s march the day after Trump’s January 2017 inauguration was playing out during the coronavirus pandemic, and demonstrators were asked to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, opened the event by asking people to keep their distance from one another, saying that the only superspreader event would be the recent one at the White House.

“His presidency began with women marching and now it’s going to end with woman voting. Period,” she said.

Women's March
Women’s March activists participate in a nationwide protest against US president Donald Trump’s decision to fill the seat on the Supreme Court left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the 2020 election. Photograph: Michael McCoy/Reuters

Dozens of other rallies were planned from New York to San Francisco to signal opposition to Trump and his policies, including the push to fill the seat of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg before Election Day.

One march was being held at Cornell University in upstate New York outside the dormitory where Bader Ginsburg lived as an undergraduate student.

In Washington, Sonja Spoo, director of reproductive rights campaigns at Ultraviolet, said she has to chuckle when she hears reporters ask Trump whether he will accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses his reelection bid, according to the Associated Press.

“When we vote him out, come November 3rrd, there is no choice,” said Spoo. “Donald Trump will not get to choose whether he stays in power.”

“That is not his power, that is our power. … We are the hell and high water,” she said.

9.12pm BST

Tensions are rising between Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, a keen Donald Trump ally, and elections supervisors, two days before early in-person voting begins in the crucial swing state.

Brad McVay, general counsel for Florida’s department of state, emailed supervisors of elections in all 67 counties this week informing them of a requirement that all ballot drop-off boxes must be attended at all times by elections staff or an armed guard, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

While burdensome, McVay says the in-person measures are necessary to ensure the drop boxes are protected “from those who intend to do harm to the boxes (or the contents within them).”

He warns: “A person onsite can prevent foreign substances or small incendiary devices (like firecrackers) from being thrown into the drop box; video monitoring cannot do the same.”

But the supervisors’ representative body, the Florida Supervisors of Elections association, has effectively told them to ignore the directive, advising that no state law, statute or regulation compels them to comply.

Vote by mail ballot drop box
A vote by mail ballot drop box at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Florida. Photograph: Larry Marano/REX/Shutterstock

“Drop boxes that are at the main office, a branch office or early voting site are required to be secure, but I don’t see that there is any staffing requirement or hours of operation related to those drop boxes [in state law]” the association’s general counsel Ron Labasky wrote in his own memo.

“There is no definition of secure, so in my view that is within the discretion of the supervisor.”

In South Florida’s three most populous counties, the Sun-Sentinel reports, Palm Beach has four drop boxes that are monitored by 24-hour video surveillance, Broward County has two, and Miami-Dade has only daytime drop off facilities at 33 early-voting locations that will be guarded from Monday.

Florida is notorious for post-election finger pointing and lawsuits, and this latest wrangle sets the stage for another contentious and controversial voting season.

Already this year, DeSantis and the Republicans in control of the state legislature have successfully nullified a voter-approved ballot initiative from 2018 that would have restored voting rights to hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised former felons.

Almost 2.5m mail-in votes, a record for this stage of an election cycle, have already been submitted in Florida, with Democrats holding a sizable advantage. Trump needs Republican voters to turn out in person in massive numbers to capture the state and its 29 electoral college votes, which most analysts say the president must win to secure a second term.

8.45pm BST

A representative for Nebraska senator Ben Sasse has responded to Donald Trump’s Twitter broadside earlier Saturday, in which he called the conservative lawmaker “little”, “the least effective of our 53 Republican senators”, “rather stupid and obnoxious” and “an embarrassment”.

Sasse’s crime was to have criticized Trump in robust terms on a call with constituents first reported by the Washington Examiner, saying the president “kisses dictators’ butts” and “flirts with white supremacists”.

“I’m now looking at the possibility of a Republican bloodbath in the Senate, and that’s why I’ve never been on the Trump train,” Sasse said.

James Wegmann, a spokesman for Sasse, claimed:

Ben said the same thing to Nebraskans that he has repeatedly said to the president directly in the Oval Office. Ben is focused on defending the Republican Senate majority, and he’s not going to waste a single minute on tweets.

Sasse, 48, is considered a shoo-in for re-election against Democratic opponent Chris Janicek, who has faced criticism and calls to drop out after he sent sexually vulgar texts to a campaign staffer.

Updated at 8.45pm BST

8.23pm BST

Donald Trump’s presidential motorcade departed the White House at the top of the hour for today’s trips to Michigan, Wisconsin and an overnight in Las Vegas.

Ahead of departure, Jared Kushner could be seen walking back and forth next to waiting cars as he chatted on his cell phone and took a quick selfie. He was wearing in a light ski jacket.

Later Stephen Miller could be seen heading for the cars with a bag in each hand.

The reason for the motorcade instead of Marine One is the White House 2020 Fall Garden Tours. It is a beautiful fall day for it.

Trump is holding rallies around the country to try to secure key battleground states that he won four years ago. The former New York businessman prevailed in Michigan and Wisconsin in 2016 but surveys show him running behind Biden, the Democratic candidate, in those states this year.

The president’s advisers have long seen Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Pennsylvania, as key to his chances of re-election. The president is also playing defense in traditional Republican strongholds, including Arizona, where he plans to campaign on Monday, and Georgia, where he campaigned on Friday night.

7.45pm BST

Thousands of travelers have already taken advantage of Hawaii’s new testing program that allows visitors to bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19 at least 72 hours before their arrival.

On Thursday, the program’s first day, about 8,300 passengers came through the state’s local airports. Over the last few months, about 100 visitors a day arrived in the islands.

Since March, travelers looking to experience their dream Hawaiian getaway were looking at a 14-day quarantine once they touched down in the Hawaiian islands. By July, nearly 200 people were arrested for breaking quarantine, which required people to shelter-in-place as soon as they left the airport. As a result, the number of visitors crashed down from nearly 862,572 in January to 22,344 visitors in August, bringing down with it the state’s economy that relied on the -billion tourism industry.

Hawaii is just coming down from an influx of cases of Covid-19 that it saw in the summer. At its peak in August, the average number of new cases a day was 250. Recently, the number has climbed down to around 90 cases per day. Since the number of visitors flying into the islands was so low, community transmission played a major role in the spread of the virus.

Some have spoken out about the program leading to increased cases if travelers end up contracting the virus before they arrive in the islands and after they take a test. But local leaders are generally enthusiastic about the program, particularly its potential to get the state’s economy rolling again after a months-long halt. The state had a 12.5% unemployment rate in August, the fourth highest of any state, down from its peak of 13.9% in June.

7.16pm BST

US daily Covid cases at highest level since July

More than 68,000 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the US on Friday, the highest number in a single day since July, further confirmation the country is in the midst of a coronavirus resurgence.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project, the last time the US saw close to 68,000 new cases in a day was 31 July, when a summer peak was starting to recede.

“You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, on Friday, while discussing the difficulties the virus will present in the coming weeks.

Fauci has said repeatedly that the US is still in its first wave of coronavirus, pointing out that case numbers have not dipped to a low enough point to constitute an end to that first phase. On Friday, the US hit a global record of total cases, 8 million since March, with a death toll close to 220,000.

6.30pm BST

Joe Biden has continued his attack on what his campaign see as a weak spot for Donald Trump: the Covid-19 pandemic. On Saturday, Biden tweeted out a video of Trump saying America is “rounding a corner” in the fight against the virus. Headlines are then displayed detailing the rise in cases of the coronavirus across America. The video ends with three words: “Clueless. Dangerous. Reckless”.

The US passed 8m Covid-19 cases on Friday as fatalities in America from the virus approach 220,000.

6.15pm BST

Black voters in North Carolina are disproportionately having their mail-in ballots flagged for potential rejection in the battleground state, setting off alarms about disenfranchisement.

North Carolina requires mail-in voters to get a witness for their ballots and at least 7,000 mail-in ballots have been flagged across the state because of a deficiency, according to data collected by Michael Bitzer, a professor at Catawba College who closely tracks voting data in the state. As of Wednesday, 40% of rejected ballots – 2,871 – were from Black voters, even though they comprised only 16% of the overall ballots returned. (A spokesman for the state board of elections cautioned some of the data may be outdated because local election offices have not been entering rejection data into the statewide system while legal challenges are pending.)

Postal voting will play a huge part in this year’s election
Postal voting will play a huge part in this year’s election. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP

The Rev Anthony Spearman, the head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, attributed the higher rate at which Black voters’ ballots were being flagged to the fact that African Americans traditionally have not widely voted by mail in the state, instead opting for in-person voting. Many voters are getting tripped up by the state’s requirement that mail-in voters get a witness to sign their absentee ballot, he said.

“The African American community, many of them for the first time, are utilizing absentee ballots and have not been cultivated to the practices thereof. There is a level of them being not aware of the process and how it goes and so they’re not filling out their forms correctly,” he said.

Just 3% of the Black voters whose ballots were flagged for rejection voted by mail in 2016, according to data collected by Bitzer.

“Voting by mail is very different than voting in person,” Bitzer said. “Until I’m presented otherwise I have to think lack of familiarity with the vote method process is probably what is hanging up so much of these ballots.”

The North Carolina data underscores the conundrum Democrats are facing this year as they encourage supporters to cast their votes by mail amid concerns about Covid-19. A mail vote is more likely to be rejected than an in-person one and research has shown that first-time voters and minorities are all much more likely to have their ballots rejected.

You can read the full article below:

5.55pm BST

Cinemas in areas of New York with low Covid-19 positivity rates will be able to reopen from Friday, the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, says.

Theatres will only be allowed to operate at 25% capacity, up to a maximum audience of 50, and the ruling only applies outside of New York City.

There were 1,784 new cases of Covid-19 reported in New York on Friday, and nine fatalities. Of the 159,972 tests reported, 1.11% came back positive.

5.39pm BST

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, arguably the most powerful person in the Republican party and a ruthless political operator, is up for reelection this November and holds a 12-point lead over his challenger, Amy McGrath.

However, one of the largest newspapers in his home state of Kentucky has endorsed McGrath’s candidacy.

“During his 36 years in office, McConnell has made it perfectly clear that his only passion is the pursuit of power, his own and that of the Republican Party,” the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote in its editorial. “For that reason alone, we would endorse his opponent.

“Luckily for voters, McGrath, a former fighter pilot and public servant, would make an excellent senator who would actually put the needs and interests of Kentuckians above her own.”

5.21pm BST

In 1994, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware stood proudly behind Bill Clinton as he signed into law a reform bill that touched nearly every aspect of the US criminal justice system.

More than 25 years later, amid national protests against racial injustice in law enforcement, the Democratic presidential nominee is grappling anew with the implications of legislation he helped author and which experts say opened the door to an era of mass incarceration that devastated African American communities.

At a town hall in Philadelphia on Thursday night, Biden was asked by a voter about the legacy of the 1994 bill, which she said included “prejudice against minorities”, and what his view of the legislation was now.

Biden sought to defend the bill as a product of a different era, while arguing that elements of it were wrongly implemented.

Pressed by the moderator, George Stephanopoulos, to say if his support for the bill had been a mistake, Biden replied: “Yes, it was.

“But here’s where the mistake came,” he said. “The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally.”

In an eight-minute response, Biden said the bill passed with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and Black mayors around the country. He noted that it contained the landmark Violence Against Women Act and an assault weapons ban.

Conditions were different now, he said, as activists demand an overhaul of policing and incarceration policies in response to police killings of Black Americans.

“Things have changed drastically,” Biden said.

You can read the full article below:

5.04pm BST

A little over a week since, six men were charged over a plot to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, a man in Wichita, Kansas, has been arrested over allegations he threatened to kidnap and kill the city’s mayor, Brandon Whipple. In both cases, the motive appears to have been discontent over the handling of the pandemic.

According to the Wichita Eagle, 59-year-old Meredith Dowty had asked for Whipple’s address after becoming frustrated with the city’s mask mandates. “He said he was going to kidnap me and slash my throat and he needed my address because I needed to see the hangman – me and everyone who, something about tyranny,” Whipple told the Eagle.

“It sounded like the person was very upset about pretty much mask mandates and he said something about not being able to see his mother because of Covid restrictions on elderly homes.”

Whipple has received pushback in Wichita due to a mandate requiring people to wear masks in most public settings.

4.45pm BST

Kamala Harris will return to the campaign trail on Monday, according to the Biden campaign. Harris cancelled her in-person appearances on Thursday after it emerged she had flown with someone who had later tested positive for Covid-19. Harris tested negative for the virus on Friday, and she will appear at an event in Florida on Monday.

Kamala Harris will return to the campaign trail on Monday
Kamala Harris will return to the campaign trail on Monday. Photograph: Ronda Churchill/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile David Perdue, a Republican senator from Georgia, has been criticized for mocking Harris’s name. During an event in Macon, Georgia, Perdue mentioned: “Kah-mah-la or Kah-ma-la or Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever.”

Harris’s late mother was Indian and her father is black, and Democrats accused Perdue of using racially-charged language.

“Senator David Perdue has served in the Senate alongside Vice Presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Harris since 2017. He knows her name and he knows how to say it. His disgusting performance today is nothing more than a desperate dog whistle from a losing politician … Perdue has shown he lacks the dignity and respect that Georgians deserve from their US senator, and he must immediately apologize,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Helen Kalla said in a statement.

4.18pm BST

Stimulus talks between House speaker Nancy Pelosi and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, are due to take place later today on a new stimulus package. But, as Politico points out, don’t expect agreement on a subject that has been dragging on for months: Mnuchin is due to leave the country for talks in Israel and the UAE, perhaps showing how much importance he places on the talks.

4.03pm BST

When Vernon Jones, a black Democratic state representative from Georgia, crossed party lines to deliver a passionate endorsement of the president’s re-election bid at the Republican convention, the GOP greeted him like a rock star. Now there’s evidence the label has gone to his head.

In arguably the most ill-advised and dangerous crowdsurf since electro dance legend Steve Aoki broke a concert goer’s neck in a dinghy, a maskless Jones launched himself into a mostly maskless audience at Trump’s rally in Macon, Georgia, on Friday night.

Riding a sea of red Maga hats packed tightly together in contravention of CDC guidelines, the grinning 59-year-old lawmaker, in suit and tie and with thumbs raised, was passed overhead from deplorable to deplorable, to use a term for Trump supporters Jones used in a tweet defending the stunt.

“Yes, I surfed that crowd!” Jones said in a follow-up message. “To the haters – stay mad! You’ll be even more mad come 3 November.”

Vernon Jones crowdsurfs.
Vernon Jones crowdsurfs during an event in Georgia on Friday night. Photograph: John Bazemore/AP

On social media, reaction was swift and brutal. One Twitter user dubbed Jones “Captain Covid” alongside a photograph of him in superhero pose. Others denounced him as an idiot and a loser, living in fairytale land.

Republicans hope Jones, who was first elected to the Georgia state house in 1992, can help shore up the black Republican vote in his state. Trump won Georgia from Hillary Clinton by more than five points in 2016, but recent polls show the president trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden by almost one and a half points.

At the Republican convention in August, Jones tore into Democrats’ handling of race issues, as one of a number of first-night speakers of color to deliver a similar message.

“Why is a lifelong Democrat speaking at the Republican National Convention? The Democratic party does not want black people to leave their mental plantation. We’ve been forced to be there for decades and generations,” Jones said, in a controversial speech he later said he intended to be “a culture shock”.

Jones resigned his Georgia House seat in April, after first endorsing Trump. But he rescinded his decision days later, claiming he had received “overwhelming support”.

Updated at 4.29pm BST

3.49pm BST

Donald Trump has responded on (where else) Twitter to criticism from Ben Sasse, a Republican senator for Nebraska. During a town hall of Wednesday, Sasse said the president “flirted with white supremacists”, “kisses dictators’ butts” and lambasted Trump for the “way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor.”

“The least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great, is Little Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a State which I have gladly done so much to help,” wrote the president on Saturday morning. He added: “Little Ben is a liability to the Republican Party, and an embarrassment to the Great State of Nebraska. Other than that, he’s just a wonderful guy!”

Ben Sasse is considering a run for the presidency in 2024
Ben Sasse is considering a run for the presidency in 2024. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Sasse is one of an increasing number of Republicans critical of Trump as the election approaches – and the president trails in the polls. In an article for the Washington Post this week, Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan said he had written in the name of Ronald Reagan on his mail-in ballot. “It’s not going to change the outcome in my state. But I thought it was important to just cast a vote that showed the kind of person I’d like to see in office,” said Hogan.

Both Sasse and Hogan are believed to be considering runs for the presidency in 2024. Their comments this week will allow them to claim they had always opposed Trump when they start their campaigns (of course, if Trump wins, that’s another story…)

3.28pm BST

There is something worse than Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican party.

Yes, even worse than a party that doesn’t take seriously a pandemic that has killed more than 217,000 Americans. Worse than a party that doesn’t care about locking up children in cages at the border or separating them permanently from their parents. Worse than a party that celebrates a leader who was impeached for abusing overseas military aid as a tool to smear his political opponent.

What could be worse than Trump’s version of Republican politics? It’s the Trump-driven conversion of the Grand Old Party into a cult of unhinged conspiracy wingnuts.

Donald Trump has refused to distance himself from QAnon
Donald Trump has refused to distance himself from QAnon. Photograph: Kyle Grillot/AFP/Getty Images

The QAnon cult is a bizarre world where everything makes sense of nonsense: where Trump is a savior of the nation’s children from a secret pedophile ring of satanic Democrats and deep state officials, who will be overthrown in some great awakening. And that’s the sane, simplified version of the story.

It should be easier to condemn these fringe-heads than the white supremacists who form such a loyal base for this white supremacist president. But it isn’t. Because to the spiritual leader of the cult of Trump – Donald himself – there are no fringe-heads who think he’s a savior. They are all just very fine people.

You can read the full article below:

3.07pm BST

Biden: Trump has panicked and tried to wish away Covid-19

With Covid-19 cases hitting record levels in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Friday (see the entry below for more), Joe Biden has attacked Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic. The president is due to hold a rally in the state later today.

“Wisconsin is in the grips of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country,” said Biden after a record daily total of 3,861 cases were recorded in the state on Friday. “Jill and I are praying for the health of those who’ve contracted the virus, and for the families who are mourning the loss of a loved one. We have lost far too many lives to this pandemic – and the sad fact is, it didn’t have to be this way.

“President Trump is knowingly downplaying the severity of the virus. At virtually every turn, he has panicked and tried to wish it away, rather than doing the hard work to get it under control. And today, 150,000 fewer Wisconsin workers are employed than when President Trump took office and his failed response to the pandemic has crushed Wisconsin’s economy.

“If you send me to the White House, I’ll be ready to tackle this crisis on day one. My administration will trust the science, lead by example, speak the truth to the American people, and help Wisconsin families and small businesses build back better than before.”

Trump had planned to hold Saturday’s rally in La Crosse, but was forced to move the event to Janesville, about 175 miles away, where there are fewer cases of the virus, after objections from the local officials.

You can read about the spread of Covid-19 across the midwest below:

2.48pm BST

According to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data, 10 US states recorded their highest-ever daily total of Covid-19 cases on Friday. Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming all had their highest daily totals since the start of the pandemic.

Wisconsin had the highest total of those 10 states, with 3,861 new cases on Friday. Wisconsin is considered a battleground state in the presidential election, with Joe Biden holding a lead of 7.5% over Donald Trump in the most recent poll. Trump is holding a rally in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Saturday night.

“I want you all to be aware that Wisconsin is currently one of our red states,” the US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, said on Friday. “Meaning, your positivity rates are over 10% and going in the wrong direction. Cases are in the red, going in the wrong direction.”

2.28pm BST

NBC’s Noah Pransky reports that mail-in voting in the swing state of Florida is very high, with 2.4m votes cast already and 19 days to go with the option still open.

During a campaign appearance on Friday, Trump joked he would fire Florida governor Ron DeSantis if he loses the state in the election.

“He’s done a great job and he’s been my friend. Hey, Ron, are we going to win this state, please? You know if we don’t win it, I’m blaming the governor. I’ll fire him somehow. I’m going to fire him. I will find a way, anyway,” Trump said.

You can keep up-to-date with which candidate is leading in all the battleground states with our poll tracker:

Updated at 2.35pm BST

2.13pm BST

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has announced the six topics that will be covered in the debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in Tennessee next Thursday: “fighting Covid-19”, “American families”, “race in America”, “climate change”, “national security” and “leadership”.

The debate will take place at 9pm ET and will be moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker. CPD has not announced any modifications to the format of the event, even though it said after the last debate that it would announce “additional structure … to the format of the remaining debates, to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues”.

The first debate, which took place on 29 September, was largely seen as a chaotic rumble between Trump and Biden, criticized for its lack of substance.

Of course the debate line-up itself changed after Trump contracted Covid-19 and refused to participate in a virtual debate. The two opted for town halls instead.

Of which:

1.50pm BST

Senate hug symbolizes California’s Dianne Feinstein fatigue

It was a hug that would have shocked many, even in a year without social distancing: Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, ending a contentious week of supreme court confirmation hearings with a full-body embrace of Lindsey Graham, the committee’s Republican chair.

The act and her remarks about the hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett – “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in” – sparked calls among progressives for her retirement, and outcry that she had been in office for too long. Many of the California senator’s constituents and her more progressive Democratic colleagues have been arguing that for years.

“There have been a number of us in San Francisco that for a long time felt that, without taking away from what she has accomplished, it has gotten to a point where she is out of touch with where San Francisco is and where California is,” said David Campos, chair of the San Francisco Democratic party, not speaking on behalf of the organization.

“She represents the past of San Francisco and California,” Campos continued. “It’s not surprising that at a time when we’re facing a crisis, when we have a rightwing supremacist being rushed through the supreme court, she’s not up to the task. And it’s not because of her age. It’s just because of who she is.”

1.35pm BST

Some highlights of the Associated Press’s reporting of some of the lowlights of Trump’s campaigning on Friday, in Florida, forever a key battleground state, and Georgia, until now a state any Republican candidate would have had a hard time imagining losing:

Backed into a corner and facing financial strains, President Donald Trump went after his opponent’s family and defended his own struggle to contain the pandemic as he fought to energize his sagging reelection bid.

Trump campaigned Friday in Florida and Georgia, neighboring states he carried four years ago and must win again to extend his presidency. His decision to devote Friday evening’s prime-time slot to Georgia in particular highlighted the serious nature of his challenge: far from his original plan to expand into Democratic-leaning states, he is laboring to stave off a defeat of major proportions.

In Macon, he cited support from former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker to win favor from his rally crowd. “How good was Herschel Walker?” Trump said as the Georgia crowd roared. “He’s on our side, and he’s an incredible guy.”

Trump had tried the same strategy Wednesday in Iowa, bringing wrestling legend Dan Gable onstage.

Earlier, in Florida, the president derided the Bidens as “an organized crime family”, renewing his daily claims about the candidate’s son, Hunter, and his business dealings in Ukraine and China.

Of that accusation – as the Washington Post literary critic Carlos Lozada has so adroitly pointed out, Trump tends to project. The AP again, on a group with whom Trump needs to succeed, and which polling suggests is not buying what he’s selling:

More to the point for Trump’s Florida audience, he spoke directly to seniors who have increasingly soured on his handling of the pandemic.

“I am moving heaven and earth to safeguard our seniors from the China virus,” Trump said, using his usual blame-shifting term to describe the coronavirus. “We are prevailing,” the president said, promising to deliver the first doses of a vaccine to seniors when it’s ready.

… Meanwhile, the president’s campaign released new numbers suggesting he’s likely the first incumbent to face a fundraising disadvantage in the modern era.

Trump’s campaign, along with the Republican national committee and associated groups, raised 7.8m in September, well short of the 3m raised by Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

Here, meanwhile, is Georgia senator David Perdue shamelessly bating a Trump crowd by pretending not to be able to pronounce Kamala Harris’s name, thereby upholding the august dignity of the matchless deliberative body in which they both serve with the sort of effortless gravitas which even Charles Sumner could never have hoped to match. Yes, you can’t type sarcasm, I know:

And here’s David Smith’s survey of the state of the race, again:

1.13pm BST

Good morning …

… and welcome to another day of coverage of electoral politics and Covid crisis in America. The election is two weeks and two days away, and Joe Biden holds a decent lead over Donald Trump in most national polls and many polls in battleground states.

Trump is heading to no fewer than three such states today: Michigan, to deliver “remarks on Supporting the American Way of Life”; Wisconsin, for an evening rally in a Covid “red zone”; and then on to Nevada.

Here’s Jo Walters on the Wisconsin trip:

On Sunday, Biden will head for North Carolina, a state many think Trump has to win if he is to find a path to victory in the electoral college. puts Biden up there, but only by 3.1%. Here’s David Smith’s survey of the situation:

In Covid news, on Friday the Johns Hopkins case count in the US passed 8m, with nearly 220,000 deaths, even as Dr Anthony Fauci, the most recognised public health expert in the country, said the White House task force is hardly meeting anymore – and while, as mentioned, Trump charges about the country, disregarding public health measures at campaign events though making sure attendees sign disclaimers lest they catch the bloody thing.

Here’s Lloyd Green’s review of Andrew Cuomo’s new book on the early days of the crisis, when the New York governor battled both virus and a hostile White House:

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Corona Virus, Health, World

Coronavirus live news: Liverpool mayor’s brother dies; Iran deaths exceed 30,000


Powered by article titled “World sees record new cases; Australian state set to ease restrictions – as it happened” was written by Lisa Cox (now), Jedidajah Otte , Haroon Siddique, Aaron Walawalkar , Naaman Zhou and Christopher Knaus (earlier), for on Saturday 17th October 2020 23.21 UTC

12.31am BST

This blog is closing now but you can continue to follow live coverage on our new blog here. Thanks for reading.

12.18am BST


We’ll be moving over to a fresh blog shortly and my colleague Ben Doherty will be taking you through the day.

Here’s a recap of the key events so far today:

  • Global coronavirus cases rose by more than 400,000 for the first time late on Friday, a record one-day increase as much of Europe enacts new restrictions to curb the outbreak.
  • Italy had a record daily rise in cases of 10,925 and is considering toughening nationwide restrictions in response to the increase. The Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Malaysia also recorded their highest daily totals since the pandemic began.
  • The number of deaths in Iran from Covid-19 now exceeds 30,000, with the country’s health ministry saying the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic was now 30,123.
  • A two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown is expected to commence in Wales on 23 October that will see all but essential retail outlets close, according to a leaked letter.
  • Thailand has recorded its first locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 in more than a month.
  • The foreign ministers of Austria and Belgium have both tested positive for Covid-19.
  • The Australian state of Victoria recorded two new cases of Covid-19 and no deaths as the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, prepares to announce an easing of restrictions on Sunday.

Updated at 12.21am BST

12.11am BST

An update from Victoria: The premier Daniel Andrews will hold his daily press conference at 11am today.

This is the press conference at which he is expected to announce an easing of restrictions for the state after more than 100 days of lockdown in Melbourne. We will bring you that as it happens.

Updated at 12.13am BST

11.22pm BST

Further evidence of the growing tension within the UK’s Conservative party has emerged after it was revealed 20 MPs from Conservative heartland seats in southern England have written to the Labour leader, Kier Starmer, and Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, asking them to work with the government’s regional policy. Starmer has called on the government to impose a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown.

The letter, signed by Norfolk MP Jerome Mayhew, says a national lockdown is the wrong approach. It says that businesses would close and jobs lost in Manchester irrespective of a national or regional lockdown. It goes on to claim that a national lockdown would cause tens of thousands of job losses in southern Tory constituencies despite the fact most are areas of low infection prevalence. Steve Double, Damian Green and Dan Poulter and Anne-Marie Morris are other Tories to sign.

The letter sparked sharp responses from fellow Tories representing constituencies in the Greater Manchester area. William Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove, replied: “May I politely ask that colleagues concern themselves with their own constituencies. I would not wish tighter restrictions on their constituents. We’re willing to work constructively to improve the situation in Greater Manchester & would ask for the short time and space to do so.”

Christian Wakeford, the Bury South MP, said bluntly: “Interventions from fellow members who don’t understand the situation are neither wanted nor helpful.”

Bolton MP Chris Green, who resigned as junior government minister last week, said: “I have never thought that the affairs of Norfolk should be determined by what may be of benefit to parts of Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire. Science matters but this No.10 approved communication does not.”

11.17pm BST

Victoria reports two new Covid cases and no deaths

Victoria has reported another day of single-figure Covid-19 diagnoses and no deaths.

The state reported two new cases on Sunday and a rolling daily case count of 7.5 in metropolitan Melbourne for the fortnight up to Saturday. Regional Victoria’s two-week average is 0.5.

The statistics mean Victoria’s coronavirus death count remains at 816 and the national toll is 904.

Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to reveal significant changes to Melbourne’s restrictions on movement and gatherings on Sunday.

Updated at 11.22pm BST

11.02pm BST

New South Wales on high alert as Oran Park cluster grows

Just a little more on the situation in NSW. Health authorities issued some alerts late yesterday related to the Oran Park Covid-19 cluster.

Any staff or children who attended the Great Beginnings Child Care Centre at Oran Park on any day from 2 October to 13 October are now considered close contacts of confirmed cases and should get tested and isolate for 14 days from the day they last attended.

NSW Health on Saturday night issued alerts for people who were at the following venues to get tested if they develop symptoms and to isolate until a negative test is received:

* The Gregory Hills Hotel, Gregory Hills, on the evening of Friday, 9 October.

* The 1500 United Cinema, Narellan Town Centre on early Saturday afternoon, 10 October.

* Shellharbour South Beach and Little Park on Sunday, 11 October, 12pm-4pm.

* Woolworths Oran Park on Monday, 12 October, 6.40-6.55pm.

Alerts are also on the NSW Health website for four bus routes to or from Oran Park, Campbelltown and Bradbury between 9.40am and 3.30pm on 14 October.

Updated at 11.10pm BST

10.51pm BST

Covid update in Australia: Victoria set to ease restrictions

Good morning, Lisa Cox with you in Sydney for the next couple of hours. Just a short update on the latest events in Australia.

Today we’ll be watching the state of Victoria where the premier, Daniel Andrews, is expected to announce some easing of restrictions after more than 100 days of lockdown in Melbourne. The state recorded just one new case of Covid-19 on Saturday.

Andrews has said Sunday’s announcements will be “much more in the social space than in the economic space”, suggesting the government is likely to take a cautious approach to the reopening of businesses. News Corp is reporting this morning the government will scrap two-hour limits on exercise and outdoor social activities, increase the number of people permitted to gather outdoors, and widen Melbourne’s travel limit from 5km to 20km. We’ll bring you updates as they come.

On Saturday, the premier rejected pressure from the federal government, including the health minister, Greg Hunt, to ease restrictions in line with the state of New South Wales.

Meanwhile, NSW remains on alert as a Covid-19 cluster in south-west Sydney’s Oran Park continues to grow and authorities urge more people to get tested.

NSW recorded seven new cases of coronavirus – including five locally-transmitted cases – in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday from almost 14,400 tests.

The five community cases were all connected to previously reported infections in Sydney’s south-west, with the cluster around Oran Park growing to 18.

Updated at 11.09pm BST

10.21pm BST

Marigolds, known in Mexico as “the flower of the dead” for a scent believed be strong and sweet enough to attract souls and draw them back, are generally all around by mid-October as the Day of the Dead approaches.

But with the country exceeding 85,700 official deaths from the coronavirus pandemic this year, the bright, orange color has not been as prominent as Mexican authorities have said cemeteries will remain closed for the 2 November celebration, Reuters reports.

“There have been a lot of losses this year,” said Concepcion Cruz, who cultivates marigold in Mexico City.

She said only about half as many of the flowers are being grown this year as would have been planted normally for the annual holiday.

Ratcheting back the celebrations is a sacrifice that must be made if Mexico is to curb the spread of the pandemic, said Columba Lopez, director of Mexico City’s Commission for Natural Resources and Rural Development.

“People have to stay at home,” he added.

Indigenous people are seen by the graves of their relatives during an annual Day of the Dead celebration, in Santa Maria Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico, on 1 November 2019.
Indigenous people are seen by the graves of their relatives during an annual Day of the Dead celebration, in Santa Maria Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico, on 1 November 2019. Photograph: Jorge Luis Plata/Reuters

The Day of the Dead tradition blends Catholic rituals with the pre-Hispanic belief that the dead return once a year from the underworld.

Cemeteries, public gardens and houses light up in the bright, orange color as marigolds are planted everywhere in October.

In their homes, Mexicans build altars adorned with photographs of the deceased, marigolds, candy skulls, papier-mâché skeletons and chocolate coffins.

The dead are also offered their favourite food, pastries, tequila and cigarettes – or whatever might entice them to return from the underworld.

With cemeteries closed but more dead to remember this year, Mexicans are planning more private remembrances for their loved ones.

A general view of the Altar de Muertos (lit. ‘The Altar of the Dead’) at the main stairs of the headquarters of the House of Mexico in Madrid, Spain.
A general view of the Altar de Muertos (lit. ‘The Altar of the Dead’) at the main stairs of the headquarters of the House of Mexico in Madrid, Spain. Photograph: Mariscal/EPA

Updated at 10.28pm BST

10.05pm BST

People in England who have been told to self-isolate through NHS test and trace could have their contact details passed to police, a move some fear could deter people from being tested for coronavirus.

Police forces will be able to access information about people “on a case-by-case” basis, so they can learn whether an individual has been told to self-isolate, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHCS) said.

Full story below.

9.32pm BST

Irish ministers will meet again early next week to decide whether to tighten Covid-19 restrictions, a senior minister has said, Reuters reports, after a meeting today with health chiefs recommended a return to national lockdown.

Micheál Martin, the prime minister, said on Friday that further action is needed to slow the spread of the virus. Local media reported that health chiefs had renewed their calls for a second national lockdown that the cabinet rejected two weeks ago.

Ireland broke its record for the number of cases recorded in a single day for the fourth time in the space of a week on Saturday with 1,276 new infections bringing cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days to 232.

It had the 12th highest 14-day rate among the 31 countries monitored by the European Union’s independent European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, according to data collated on its website.

9.07pm BST

Israel to ease lockdown from Sunday

Israel is preparing to ease some lockdown restrictions from Sunday in the first phase of scaling back measures imposed last month to stem soaring coronavirus infection rates.

“We will exit [lockdown] carefully this time, in line with the plan set out by the experts at the health ministry,” prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Saturday evening.

The easing of some of the rules, in force since 18 September as part of a second lockdown in six months against the pandemic, had been approved on Thursday by Netanyahu’s government, contingent on new cases not increasing beyond 2,000 per day.

On Friday, there were 1,695 new cases, according to official figures, down from around 8,000-9,000 per day at the end of September, Agence France-Presse reports.

“If everyone follows the rules, I am sure that it will work,” the prime minister added.

Israeli protesters, wearing protective gear due to the coronavirus pandemic, take part in a demonstration against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coastal city of Tel Aviv.
Israeli protesters, wearing protective gear due to the coronavirus pandemic, take part in a demonstration against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coastal city of Tel Aviv. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

The lifting of restrictions is scheduled to take place in several phases, through to February 2021.

Israel, a country of about nine million people, has recorded 301,896 coronavirus cases, including 2,141 deaths, as of data released on Friday.

The government faced widespread criticism when cases surged after the country exited an initial weeks-long lockdown earlier this year.

One key measure set to be lifted on Sunday is a restriction on people moving more than one kilometre (less than a mile) from their home.

That rule sparked anger from some Israelis who claimed it was designed to stem protests against Netanyahu.

Children’s nurseries, as well as beaches and national parks, are set to reopen.

People will also be able to visit friends or relatives, as long as gatherings remain no more than 10 if inside, and 20 outside.

But the lockdown will remain in place until at least midnight Wednesday in some areas designated “red”, mainly those with high ultra-Orthodox populations, where infections remain high, according to authorities.

Updated at 9.17pm BST

8.32pm BST

Anti-lockdown demonstrators gathered in central London on Saturday, hours after the British capital moved to the second highest Covid-19 alert level.

As a second wave of infections gathers pace, prime minister Boris Johnson’s government has stepped up local restrictions in parts of England where cases are surging – hoping to shield the economy by allowing the least-affected regions to remain open.

As of midnight, London was moved to the “tier 2” or “high-risk” level.

This bans people from meeting anybody outside their household or “support bubble” – including friends or relatives who help to care for children – in any indoor setting.

The rules also forbid more than six people to meet outdoors, though the police chose not to enforce them as several thousand anti-lockdown campaigners marched down Oxford Street, usually one of the world’s busiest shopping streets.

The protesters view Covid-19 restrictions as unnecessary and a breach of their human rights. Some oppose mask-wearing and vaccinations.

Protesters take part in the March For Freedom demonstration organised by Stand Up X, on 17 October 2020 in London, United Kingdom.
Protesters take part in the March For Freedom demonstration organised by Stand Up X, on 17 October 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Photograph: Ray Tang/REX/Shutterstock

Some carried placards saying: “MY BODY MY CHOICE, NO TO MANDATORY MASKS.”

“There’s plenty of things that can kill you, you know, it could happen any day,” protester Aragorn Kyley, 17, told Reuters.

“It’s about living, not just surviving. We want to be able to enjoy our lives, not just be stuck at home.”

As of Saturday, 57% of the UK’s population was living under tighter coronavirus-restrictions.

However, scientists from the Sage group that advises the government, and the main opposition Labour party, want ministers to go further and impose a short nationwide lockdown or so-called “circuit breaker” to halt the spread of the disease.

Updated at 8.45pm BST

7.46pm BST

Cyprus registered a daily record of 203 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, health authorities said, urging the public to stick to strict health protocols at a crucial point in tackling the pandemic.

The east Mediterranean island had largely kept a lid on cases by introducing an early lockdown in March, which was eased from early May onwards, Reuters reports.

After a relatively uneventful summer, cases started surging in the early part of this month.

“We are at possibly the most crucial point in the pandemic, and a possible increase in cases will, unavoidably, lead to the worst-case scenario; that unfortunately we will start counting victims, which is of course something nobody wants,” the health ministry said in a statement.

Authorities ordered that restaurants, bars and cafeterias in the populous Limassol district in the south close by 10.30pm from Sunday until at least 26 October.

Cyprus has registered 2,581 coronavirus cases since March and 25 deaths.

Grounded international cruise ships are docked off the coast of the southern Cypriot port of Limassol on 7 October.
Grounded international cruise ships are docked off the coast of the southern Cypriot port of Limassol on 7 October. Photograph: Haro Chakmakjian/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 7.55pm BST

7.25pm BST

France reports new record rise in cases

The French health ministry reported a record number of 32,427 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, after reporting 25,086 on Friday.

The total number of infections since the start of the year now stands at 867,197 while the total number of deaths stands at 33,392, up by 90 from Friday.

Updated at 7.53pm BST

7.06pm BST

Pubs and restaurants in one of London’s main hotspots were bustling on Saturday but businesses admitted they do not know how to enforce the latest restrictions.

The English capital was placed into tier 2 lockdown measures at midnight on Friday, meaning it is now illegal for Londoners to socialise indoors with people outside their household.

Soho, famous for its thriving nightlife, was pedestrianised when the national lockdown started to lift at the start of summer so its eateries and bars could set tables up in the street.

People dine out in London’s Soho neighbourhood before 10pm.
People dine out in London’s Soho neighbourhood before 10pm. Photograph: Jack Dredd/REX/Shutterstock

Some said they had seen a slight drop in customer numbers compared to last weekend, but said it could be down to the falling temperatures rather than the latest measures.

One member of staff, who asked not to be named, at the Greyhounds Pub on Greek Street told the Press Association he now had to ask everyone sitting inside if they came from the same household.

“I ask them but it’s just not practical, I have no way of checking unless I ask everyone to give me their address,” he said.

A waiter at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele on Old Compton Street said they could no longer take bookings as a result of the changes, and relied on walk-ins.

Police disperse people on Old Compton street in Soho at the 10pm curfew on 16 October, the night new tier 2 lockdown restrictions came into force in London.
Police disperse people on Old Compton street in Soho at the 10pm curfew on 16 October, the night new tier 2 lockdown restrictions came into force in London. Photograph: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock

Despite that, he said the restaurant had been at its “busiest for months” on Friday.

Door staff at Comptons, a nearby pub, said they were also having to rely on people’s honesty when it came to making sure customers sitting inside were all from the same household.

One member of staff said they had been very lucky so far in terms of customer numbers, but were worried about what would happen when the weather turned colder.

Earlier in the day, anti-lockdown protesters marched down Oxford Street before congregating in nearby Leicester Square to demonstrate against the restrictions.

Protesters take part in the March For Freedom demonstration organised by Stand Up X in London. The group are against the Covid-19 restrictions, including the wearing of face masks and the erosion of civil liberties.
Protesters take part in the March For Freedom demonstration organised by Stand Up X in London. The group are against the Covid-19 restrictions, including the wearing of face masks and the erosion of civil liberties. Photograph: Ray Tang/REX/Shutterstock

Led by Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, protesters yelled at passers by to remove their masks, telling them any Covid-19 vaccine would be “poison”.

Many of those on the march headed to Soho’s pubs at the end of the demo.

Updated at 7.52pm BST

6.45pm BST

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday reported 8,028,332 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 70,078 from its previous count a day earlier, and said the number of deaths had risen by 1,001 to 217,918.

On Friday, the US reported more than 69,100 new cases, the most in a single day since about 71,300 were reported on 29 July, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Ten states on Friday reported their highest one-day case counts: Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to Johns Hopkins.

The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, announced on Saturday that cinemas in the state outside of New York City would be able to reopen from 23 October at 25% capacity with up to 50 people per screen.

“New York broke a new testing record yesterday,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter, “with over 159,000 tests reported. We do more testing than any other state in the country. For context, the entire country of France reported just under 200,000 tests yesterday.”

New York state still has the highest death toll of all US states, with 33,347 confirmed coronavirus fatalities so far, followed by Texas, California, New Jersey and Florida.

6.24pm BST

The governor of Italy’s southern Campania region has blasted the Halloween holiday as a “stupid American extravagance” and a “monument to imbecility”, as he announced a 10pm curfew in Naples and the surrounding region over Halloween weekend.

Vincenzo De Luca blamed “irresponsible” young people for Campania’s surge in infections, and this week closed schools for in-person learning for two weeks, the Associated Press reports.

While Italy has long celebrated the religious holidays of All Saints and All Souls, Halloween has only taken off in the last generation, most strongly in the Italian south.

Campania was largely spared the first wave of Covid-19, but the region is now one of the worst-hit in Italy and is reaching a critical stage given it has far fewer hospital beds, intensive care units and medical personnel than other regions of a similar size.

De Luca won praise — and another term in office — for taking a tough line to keep infections down during Italy’s initial outbreak.

But his decision to shift all learning online prompted criticism from the education minister and protests from parents.

Parents, children and teachers gathered to protest against the schools closure and call for the reopening of all schools in Naples, Italy.
Parents, children and teachers gathered to protest against the schools closure and call for the reopening of all schools in Naples, Italy. Photograph: Pasquale Senatore/Pacific Press/REX/Shutterstock

Updated at 6.58pm BST

5.46pm BST

World sees record 400,000 new cases in a single day

Global coronavirus cases rose by more than 400,000 for the first time late on Friday, a record one-day increase as much of Europe enacts new restrictions to curb the outbreak.

Europe, which successfully damped down the first surge of infections, has emerged as the new coronavirus epicentre in recent weeks and is reporting on average 140,000 cases a day over the past week.

As a region, Europe is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the US combined.

Of every 100 infections reported around the world, 34 were from European countries, according to a Reuters analysis.

The region is currently reporting a million new infections about every nine days and has reported more than 6.3 million cases since the pandemic began.

Major European countries – the UK, France, Russia, the Netherlands and Spain – accounted for about half of Europe’s new cases in the week to 18 October.

France is reporting the highest seven-day average of new cases in Europe with 19,425 infections per day followed by the United Kingdom, Russia, Spain and the Netherlands in the list of worst affected European countries.

King Philip VI and Queen Letizia, together with Infanta Sofia and Princess Leonor, visit Somao, Spain, which has been honoured as the 2020 Best Asturian Village.
King Philip VI and Queen Letizia, together with Infanta Sofia and Princess Leonor, visit Somao, Spain, which has been honoured as the 2020 Best Asturian Village. Photograph: Europa Press News/Europa Press/Getty Images

Several European countries are closing schools, cancelling elective surgeries and enlisting student medics as the authorities face a Covid-19 resurgence.

Russia is moving students to online learning and Northern Ireland is closing schools for two weeks and restaurants for four.

In Spain, authorities in Catalonia ordered bars and restaurants to close for 15 days and limited the numbers of people allowed in shops.

Bittles bar owner John Bittles closes his pub in Belfast on 16 October, 2020, as Northern Ireland imposes tighter coronavirus restrictions on the hospitality sector amid an uptick in Covid-19 cases.
Bittles bar owner John Bittles closes his pub in Belfast on 16 October, 2020, as Northern Ireland imposes tighter coronavirus restrictions on the hospitality sector amid an uptick in Covid-19 cases. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

The Czech Republic has also shifted schools to distance learning and plans to call up thousands of medical students. Hospitals are cutting non-urgent medical procedures to free up beds.

Polish health officials have warned the country is on the brink of a disaster as a record 6,526 new coronavirus infections and 116 deaths were reported this week.

Poland is ramping up training for nurses and considering creating military field hospitals.

Latin America is the worst-affected region with about 27% of total Covid-19 cases followed by Asia, North America and Europe.

India is reporting fewer cases this month compared with September, with 69,000 cases per day.

A health worker collects a nasal swab sample to test for Covid-19 at a government hospital in Jammu, India.
A health worker collects a nasal swab sample to test for Covid-19 at a government hospital in Jammu, India. Photograph: Channi Anand/AP

The numbers have fallen by more than 20,400 over the last three weeks, down 22% from its previous peak. India reported 55,342 cases on 13 October, its lowest daily increase since 18 August.

In the US, which has the largest total number of cases and deaths in the world, new infections are edging higher along with the most hospitalised Covid-19 patients since early September.

Updated at 6.00pm BST

5.24pm BST

Wales circuit breaker to begin on 23 October, leaked letter says

Here some more detail on a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown in Wales, which is expected to come into effect next week.

The lockdown is due to begin at 6pm on 23 October and to last until 9 November, and will see all but essential retail outlets close.

The details of the plan were contained in a letter from a regional director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport to its members in Wales, which was posted on Twitter.

In the letter, dated 16 October, John Pockett writes:

The Welsh Government will announce on Monday a ‘circuit break’ lockdown to begin at 1800 on Friday 23 October and continue in force until 0001 on Monday 9 November.

We have met with officials this morning, but as this is a very fast moving situation with decisions still to be made by ministers, much of the detail has not yet been agreed by the Government.

Nevertheless I wanted to let you know what we know so far.

Pockett said the lockdown would “take us back to the situation in March” when pubs, cafes, restaurants and hairdressers were closed, and that “some schools” would reopen on 2 November.

“Ministers have not yet determined the details on this; it seems that primary schools will reopen, but a decision on secondary schools (or at least some or part of individual schools) will be made over the weekend,” he said.

Public transport would be for “essential journeys only” and the Welsh government was yet to decide what level of services would run during the lockdown, he added.

Pockett told the Press Association the letter was genuine, but said he was “surmising” what would happen.

The letter is genuine and it contains what I assume or surmised would be the position. It was me advising my bus operator members to be prepared for something and this is what it may well be. It could be more; it could be anything. I think other associations have communicated with their members in the same way.

On Friday, first minister Mark Drakeford said the Welsh government was looking “very carefully” at introducing a circuit-breaker lockdown with a decision due to be announced on Monday.

Local lockdowns are in force in 17 areas of Wales affecting more than 2.3 million people but had not slowed the spread of the virus enough, he said.

A travel ban preventing people from areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus from entering Wales came into force on Friday.

A Welsh government spokesperson said:

The measures we have put in place at both a local and a national level, with help from the public, have kept the spread of the virus under check.

However, there is a growing consensus that we now need to introduce a different set of measures and actions to respond to the virus as it is spreading across Wales more quickly through the autumn and winter.

We are actively considering advice from Sage and our TAC Group. A ‘fire break’ set of measures to control Covid-19, similar to that described in the Sage papers, is under consideration in Wales.

As the First Minister set out in his press conference on Friday, we have discussed this advice with stakeholders and partners. But no decisions have been made.

Updated at 5.58pm BST

5.03pm BST

In Scotland, 629 Covid-19 patients were in hospital as of Friday, up from 397 a week earlier, with 58 in ventilation beds, up from 31 a week earlier, the PA reports.

In Wales, 442 Covid-19 patients were in hospital as of Friday, up from 291 a week earlier, with 32 occupying ventilation beds, remaining the same figure as a week earlier.

In Northern Ireland, 213 Covid-19 patients were in hospital as of Thursday, up from 174 a week earlier, with 20 in ventilation beds as of Friday, up from 10 a week earlier.

4.47pm BST

The Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, will announce new measures on Sunday to counter a surge in coronavirus cases, his office said on Saturday, after Italy registered a record number of new infections over 24 hours.

Conte’s office said the government is discussing new restrictions with local and health authorities, aiming to stem contagion while limiting the impact on individuals and businesses.

Italy was the first major European country to be hit by Covid-19 and had managed to get the outbreak under control by the summer thanks to a rigid two-month lockdown on business and people’s movement.

But infections have soared in recent weeks.

Government ministers have ruled out a repeat of the lockdown imposed at the start of the crisis but officials have looked at a range of alternative measures to reduce social contact.

Updated at 6.04pm BST

4.33pm BST

The UK recorded 16,171 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, up from 15,650 on Friday.

The government also announced 150 further deaths from Covid-19. On Friday, 136 new deaths were reported. Saturday’s update brings the total number of cases in the UK to 705,428, and the country’s total confirmed death toll to 43,579.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 58,500 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The Press Association reports that there were 4,814 Covid-19 patients in hospital in England on Saturday, up from 3,225 a week ago, while 494 were in ventilation beds, up from 396 a week ago.

A total of 792 patients with confirmed Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in England on Thursday, compared with 513 a week earlier.

Updated at 4.42pm BST

4.19pm BST

Italy reports new record rise in cases

Italy registered 10,925 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Saturday, a not insubstantial increase from the previous record of 10,010 cases posted on Friday.

There were also 47 Covid-related deaths on Saturday, down from 55 the day before, the ministry said, far fewer than at the height of the pandemic in Italy in March and April when daily fatalities peaked at more than 900.

Italy was the first country in Europe to be hit by Covid-19 and has the second-highest death toll in the region after Britain, with 36,427 fatalities since the outbreak flared in February, according to official figures.

People wearing protective masks walk across the Piazza del Duomo in Milan.
People wearing protective masks walk across the Piazza del Duomo in Milan. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty

Italy is considering tightening nationwide restrictions in response to an increase in cases, the head of the north-western region of Liguria said, Reuters reports.

Giovanni Toti said the Italian health minister Roberto Speranza met local authorities on Saturday to discuss possible new steps.

“We are working on some measures,” Toti said on Facebook, adding that the government would urge schools to alternate between online and in-person lessons, and tell companies to increase remote working.

Updated at 4.31pm BST

4.11pm BST

Hello, I’m taking over from my colleague Haroon now. Do get in touch if you have tips, comments or questions. You can reach me on Twitter @JedySays or via email.

I won’t always be able to respond, but I read everything.

Updated at 4.32pm BST

4.05pm BST


  • The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has said his brother has died after being admitted to intensive care with Covid-19. Yesterday evening, Anderson urged people to follow the rules to prevent the spread of the virus as he revealed his eldest brother was in a “very serious condition” in hospital in the city in northern England.
  • An adviser to the UK government has said a short national circuit-breaker – a near total shutdown – may be necessary as he described other measures as “biting around the edges”. Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme numbers in parts of the country were “pretty eye-watering”. The Conservative former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also indicated support for a national circuit-breaker lockdown.
  • Iran has announced that its death toll from the coronavirus has passed the milestone of 30,000 deaths. The health ministry spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, said Iran’s total death toll from the outbreak was 30,123 killed, with a total of 526,490 confirmed cases since it announced its first infections in February.
  • The foreign ministers of Austria and Belgium have both tested positive for coronavirus, it was announced today. Austria’s Alexander Schallenberg and Belgium’s Sophie Wilmes both attended the foreign affairs council in Luxembourg on Monday.
  • Confusion reigns as the stand-off continues between the UK government and local leaders in Greater Manchester, in the north of England, over whether the harshest level of restrictions – tier 3 – should be introduced in the area. Downing Street said the parties had agreed to talks tomorrow morning but a spokesman for the mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, said there had been no agreement on discussions. Meanwhile, the head of Greater Manchester police, Ian Hopkins, said his force is “operationally independent” amid a report that Boris Johnson is not imposing the restrictions because of fears the force will side with Burnham who is opposed to them.
  • The Czech Republic, Ukraine, Poland and Malaysia all recorded their highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
  • Thailand has recorded its first two locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 in more than a month. The country’s Covid-19 administration centre said in its daily report that the cases were among two Myanmar nationals living near the border with Myanmar, where infections have been surging recently. The two were tested on 13 October, they showed no symptoms but results were positive, the centre said in the statement. The last known local case was in early September.

3.53pm BST

My colleague Jason Rodrigues has alerted me to the fact that another anti-lockdown protest is taking place in central London, with Piers Corbyn again at the forefront. The brother of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among protesters in Soho last night. He has has previously been arrested and fined £10,000 for breaching coronavirus regulations.

3.42pm BST

The head of Greater Manchester police, in northern England, has hit back in response to a report in the Daily Telegraph claiming that the prime minister has not imposed harsher coronavirus restrictions on the city because of concerns the police would side with the Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, who is opposing the restrictions, and not enforce them.

In an open letter, Ian Hopkins, said:

I wish to clarify that as the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police I am accountable to the mayor of Greater Manchester and responsible to the people of Greater Manchester, critically I am operationally independent …

It is for local and national politicians to agree the necessary restrictions to keep us all safe. As the chief constable I will then ensure my officers and staff enforce these in a proportionate manner alongside our local authority partners.

Updated at 3.54pm BST

3.23pm BST

The respective foreign ministers of Belgium and Austria have tested positive, we have learned today.

Here is a reminder of other politicians who have tested positive around the world since the onset of the pandemic:

Updated at 3.30pm BST

3.06pm BST

Iran, the Middle Eastern country hardest-hit by the coronavirus, has today extended restrictions and closures in the capital Tehran into a third week, as the death toll in the country rose above 30,000.

Schools, mosques, shops, restaurants and other public institutions in Tehran, where the infection rate has been highest, have been closed since 3 October, and Tehran’s province governor, Anoushiravan Mohseni-Bandpey, announced an extension of the measures until at least Friday, state media reported.

Iran is experiencing its third surge of coronavirus infections and says its fight against the coronavirus has been hampered by US sanctions, which have limited its crude oil sales and its access to foreign banks.

On Wednesday it reported record daily figures of 279 deaths and 4,830 new coronavirus infections. It has registered more than 250 deaths and 4,000 cases in each of the past six days.

The rial currency was trading at a new low of about 322,000 per dollar on Saturday on the unofficial market, according to the foreign exchange website, hit by worries over new US sanctions that may block some Iranian medicine purchases.

A requirement to wear face masks in public in the capital, imposed last Saturday, remains in effect, as does a ban on travel in and out of five cities including Tehran, which was announced on Wednesday.

2.49pm BST

Belgium’s foreign minister tests positive

Belgium’s foreign minister Sophie Wilmes said today she has tested positive for Covid-19.

She said on Twitter:

My Covid test result is positive. Contamination probably occurred within my family circle given the precautions taken outside my home.

Wilmes yesterday said she was going into self-isolation with suspected Covid-19 symptoms. On 12 October she attended face-to-face talks with other EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

Updated at 3.21pm BST

2.41pm BST

The biggest teachers’ union in England and Wales has backed calls for a “circuit breaker” (a near total shutdown) to curb the spread of Covid. Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Education Union, said a circuit breaker should include “at the very least secondary schools and sixth forms”.

Updated at 2.42pm BST

2.24pm BST

A further 86 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 30,910, NHS England said today.

Patients were aged between 44 and 99. All but two patients, aged 62 and 79, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between 16 September and 16 October. Three other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

Updated at 2.43pm BST

2.15pm BST

In England, the standoff over whether tougher restrictions should be introduced in Greater Manchester appears no closer to resolution.

Downing Street indicated a call had been arranged for tomorrow morning to resolve the row over the region entering the highest level of coronavirus restrictions.

However, a spokesman for the Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, has denied that talks have been scheduled, saying: “Nothing has yet been arranged.”

Local leaders say that if Greater Manchester is to enter tier 3 (the “very high” level of alert) the government must be willing to cough up more cash than it has thus far offered.

Updated at 2.34pm BST

2.08pm BST

There have been a further 674 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 34,679.

Public Health Wales said five further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,708.

1.42pm BST

The former prime minister Gordon Brown has warned the UK is heading for a double cliff edge of Brexit and an economic collapse caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Brown, who is the longest serving chancellor of the exchequer in modern times, said the impending double whammy would cost jobs.

He said the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, would have to introduce further measures to limit the impact of rising unemployment, as his replacement for the costly furlough scheme was “very limited”.

Addressing a Welsh Labour party event, Brown said:

I think we’ve got two cliff edges coming, if it is possible to go over two cliff edges at once.

We’ve got 31 October and the end of the furlough scheme, and then we’ve got the end of the negotiations over Brexit.

You’ve got two critical points where at each of them, jobs are at risk.

Brown went on:

There’s not enough money available for furlough. His [Sunak’s] new proposals seem very limited.

I believe the chancellor will have to come back to the House of Commons quite soon to update, revise and change his plans because it is simply not adequate for the circumstances of today.

We praised him in March for doing the furlough and I’m afraid now he has proved he is not doing enough to help us through this crisis, and unemployment will definitely rise very fast if he doesn’t take further action.

Updated at 1.51pm BST

1.15pm BST

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s latest Ebola epidemic is now under control, a leading scientist has said as the nation continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fifty-three people have died since June in what has been the 11th outbreak of Ebola in the central African country since 1976.

On Saturday, Prof Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the man tasked with leading the nation’s Ebola response, tweeted: “We are on the 16th day without new cases.”

The situation in the affected north-west province of Equateur is now “under control”, he added.

He said the treatment centres no longer had any Ebola patients and just one of 13 affected zones remains under surveillance.

His comments were echoed by the World Health Organization.

The latest epidemic was declared at the beginning of June in the remote north-east of the country.

Since then, 128 cases of the haemorrhagic fever have been recorded (119 confirmed and nine probable) with 53 deaths, according to the DRC authorities.

The previous epidemic, which broke out in the east in August 2018, was the deadliest in the country with 2,277 deaths.

The DRC has recorded 11,000 Covid cases, including 302 deaths, according to the latest government figures.

Updated at 1.42pm BST

1.01pm BST

Austria announces record infections

Austria has joined the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Malaysia in reporting a record daily number of coronavirus infections. It said today there have been 1,747 coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours.

The daily count has this month repeatedly exceeded the peak of 1,050 reached in March during the first wave of infections.

Updated at 1.49pm BST

12.44pm BST

Mayor of Liverpool’s brother dies

The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has said his brother has died after being admitted to intensive care with Covid-19.

On Friday evening, Anderson urged people to follow the rules to prevent the spread of the virus as he revealed his eldest brother was in a “very serious condition” in hospital in the city.

Updated at 12.50pm BST

12.40pm BST

Here are the latest developments:

  • An adviser to the UK government has said a short national circuit-breaker – a near total shutdown – may be necessary as he described other measures as “biting around the edges”. Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme numbers in parts of the country were “pretty eye-watering”. The Conservative former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also indicated support for a national circuit-breaker lockdown.
  • Iran has announced that its death toll from the coronavirus has passed the milestone of 30,000 deaths. The health ministry spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, said Iran’s total death toll from the outbreak was 30,123 killed, with a total of 526,490 confirmed cases since it announced its first infections in February.
  • The Czech Republic, Ukraine, Poland and Malaysia all recorded their highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
  • Thailand has recorded its first two locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 in more than a month. The country’s Covid-19 administration centre said in its daily report that the cases were among two Myanmar nationals living near the border with Myanmar, where infections have been surging recently. The two were tested on 13 October, they showed no symptoms but results were positive, the centre said in the statement.The last known local case was in early September.
  • The UK government and local leaders in Greater Manchester remain at odds over whether the harshest level of restrictions – tier 3 – should be introduced in the area. The local leaders say the government is trying to impose it without sufficient financial assistance.

12.16pm BST

The Dutch royal couple were back in the Netherlands on Saturday after abandoning their holiday to Greece because of an uproar back home, where people are urged to stay at home as much as possible.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima said in a statement that they saw the reactions of people, “which are intense, and they touch us”. As a result they said they would cancel the rest of their vacation.

Let there be no doubt: To beat the Covid-19 virus it is necessary to follow the rules. The discussion caused by our vacation does not contribute to that.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the Netherlands has more than doubled over the past two weeks, to 42 cases per 100,000 people on Friday.

Dutch bars and restaurants were closed as of Wednesday as part of a partial lockdown that will last at least four weeks to counter the sustained surge in coronavirus cases across the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the nation needed to move a step closer to a full lockdown because otherwise hospitals would become so overburdened that people with other urgent needs would be unable to get treatment.

“The vacation shows the wide gap between the king and society,” headlined the public broadcaster NOS.

Updated at 12.23pm BST

12.01pm BST

Several people in England have been in touch about the NHS Covid app not updating the risk level in the area where they live, despite the changes at midnight. Some have been receiving notifications saying their risk level has changed only to find it has not been updated when they click through.

The NHS says people should receive a notification “during the course of the day”.

For my part, I have received three or four notifications over the past couple of days, including one today, saying that the risk level had changed only to find it had not when I clicked through. It finally updated within the past hour.

Updated at 12.05pm BST

11.43am BST

Iran deaths exceed 30,000

Iran has announced that its death toll from the coronavirus has passed the milestone of 30,000 deaths.

People buy food produce at a bazaar in Tehran, Iran.
People buy food produce at a bazaar in Tehran, Iran. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

The health ministry spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, announced that Iran’s total death toll from the outbreak was 30,123 killed, with a total of 526,490 confirmed cases since it announced its first infections in February.

Updated at 12.15pm BST

11.34am BST

Malaysia records record daily infections

Malaysia reported 869 new coronavirus cases today, its highest daily count so far, health authorities said.

The south-east Asian country, which has imposed targeted lockdowns this month as infections surged, has had a total of 19,627 infections. Malaysia also recorded four new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 180.

11.10am BST

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd have received renewed approval to conduct late-stage clinical trials in India of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine, the sovereign wealth fund has said.

Large-scale trials of the Sputnik V vaccine in India were first announced and then knocked back by Indian regulators, who said the scale of phase I and II trials conducted in Russia earlier this year was too small, requesting that they be repeated.

Following a new agreement, India will now carry out an adaptive phase II and III human clinical trial involving 1,500 participants, said RDIF, which is marketing the vaccine abroad.

Under the deal, Dr Reddy’s will conduct the clinical trials and, subject to approval, distribute the finished vaccine in India. RDIF will supply 100m doses to Dr Reddy’s.

Russia, the first country to grant regulatory approval for a novel coronavirus vaccine, is also conducting phase III trials of Sputnik V in Belarus, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates.

RDIF has reached agreements with Indian manufacturers to produce 300m doses of the shot.

A phase III trial involving 40,000 participants is currently under way in Moscow, with 16,000 people having already received the first dose of the two-shot vaccine. Interim results are expected to be published in early November.

Indian regulators have agreed to incorporate data, provided by Russia on a weekly basis, from the Moscow trial, a source close to the deal told Reuters. Russia has also reached an agreement with the biotechnology department of India’s Science and Technology Ministry to use its laboratories as a base for the Indian clinical trial, the source said.

Updated at 11.14am BST

10.43am BST

Poland reports record rise in infections

Poland reported a record 9,622 new coronavirus infections today, according to health ministry data, as fitness workers gathered in the capital to protest against new restrictions to fight the pandemic.

The country has now confirmed 167,230 cases and 3,524 deaths. The ministry also said that from Saturday, Covid patients occupied 7,612 hospital beds and were using 604 ventilators, compared with 6,980 and 540 respectively a day earlier.

The country was initially successful in containing the virus in spring but has faced a sharp rise in the number of infections and related deaths in recent weeks, threatening to overload the health system.

People wear masks in Warsaw as infections rise in Poland.
People wear masks in Warsaw as infections rise in Poland. Photograph: Agencja Gazeta/Reuters

Earlier this week the government urged citizens to stay at home and ordered gyms and pools to close, restaurants to limit opening hours and a shift to remote teaching in universities and secondary schools.

It is also considering building new hospitals and giving doctors incentives to treat Covid-19 patients.

Businesses, which fear the loss of jobs and profits, have criticised the restrictions, and on Saturday hundreds of people representing the fitness industry protested in central Warsaw against the closure of gyms.

The government has said that it is trying to avoid a total lockdown, but experts say this may be inevitable if the situation becomes critical. “If the situation is dramatic, lockdown is the only solution. We would not have other tools to control the situation,” Krzysztof Pyrc, a virologist told the private radio station RMF.

Updated at 11.33am BST

10.02am BST

Chancellor Angela Merkel today urged Germans to curb social contacts and keep travel to a minimum, making a personal appeal after the federal and state governments struggled to agree on ways to contain a second wave of coronavirus infection.

“We have to do everything to prevent the virus from spreading out of control. Every day counts,” Merkel said in her weekly video podcast.

While Germany’s infection rates have been lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating and hit a daily record high of 7,830 on Saturday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. The reported death toll rose by 33 to 9,767.

German leaders were unable this week to reach a consensus on strong new measures to contain the second Covid-19 wave. Courts in several regions have, meanwhile, overturned bans on hotel stays for visitors from infection hotspots.

Politicians and health experts have appealed to the population to take voluntary measures over and above those already prescribed – including wearing masks, avoiding close contact with others and handwashing. Merkel said:

We have to go further. I appeal to you: Meet with fewer people, either at home or outside. Please forsake any journey that is not absolutely essential, every party that is not absolutely essential. Stay at home, where at all possible.

Updated at 10.15am BST

9.49am BST

More than half of England is living with heightened coronavirus restrictions after the severest measures came into force in Lancashire and Londoners were banned from meeting indoors.

Here is an explainer to what you can and cannot do depending on where you live.

Updated at 11.35am BST

9.39am BST

Indonesia has today reported 4,301 new coronavirus infections, taking its total number of cases to 357,762, data from the country’s Covid-19 task force showed.

There were 84 new deaths for a total of 12,431. Both case numbers and deaths are the most for a south-east Asian country.

Updated at 10.12am BST

9.12am BST

UK government adviser supports ‘circuit-breaker’

An adviser to the UK government has said a short national circuit-breaker – a near total shutdown – may be necessary as he described other measures as “biting around the edges”.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

I can see very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit-breaker because the numbers are actually pretty eye-watering in some bits of the country and I think it’s going to be very hard to get on top of this just biting around the edges.

I think there will be every effort to keep schools open. If in the end we have to take kids out for two weeks, calm it all down, and then start ideally embedded in a much more rigorous testing regime then that’s maybe what we may have to do.

The Conservative former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also indicated support for a national circuit-breaker lockdown. He said:

I’ve always thought that it’s better to do things quickly and decisively than to wait until the virus has grown so I have a lot of sympathy with that.

But I think more important right now is we stop this public war of words between local leaders and national leaders because in a pandemic the most important thing is a consistent message because you really have to have compliance with the very, very important public health messages about social distancing.

And if local leaders and national leaders are saying different things, it’s incredibly damaging. I really do urge Andy Burnham and other local leaders to have these arguments, and I’m sure they’re very fierce arguments and I’m sure there’s some justification for some of their concerns, but have those arguments in private not in public because that’s so damaging to the national fight against the virus.

8.53am BST

Russia has recorded 14,922 new coronavirus cases, pushing the national tally to 1,384,235.

Officials also said 279 people had died in the previous 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 24,002.

8.50am BST

Staying in England, Labour’s shadow education secretary, Kate Green, has urged the government to resume talks with Greater Manchester’s leaders today to end the stand-off over whether tougher restrictions should be imposed there. Local leaders say the tier 3 restrictions (the highest level) should only be introduced if extra money is provided to protect businesses. Prime minister Boris Johnson has refused to provide the cash local leaders demand.

Green, the MP for Stretford and Urmston in Greater Manchester, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

I’m really, really alarmed, I do think that every day we’re delaying taking action is a day wasted but we have to have the financial support, the package of measures, to enable people to close their businesses, to isolate at home if necessary if additional restrictions are to work.

That has not been offered by the government. There hasn’t even been discussions over the past 24 hours between the government and Greater Manchester’s leaders. We need to get everybody around the table really as a matter of desperate urgency now. The situation here is very, very grave.

Our infection rate is rising very sharply and our hospitals could be overwhelmed very quickly if action isn’t taken. So I’m absolutely with the prime minister in saying we have to have an urgent resolution to this, we’re putting lives at risk, but it has to be done by stopping the blame game and getting everyone around the table.

We have to have our local leaders around the table with the prime minister or with his representatives to thrash out a deal today. There were no talks at all yesterday, No 10 did not pick up the phone to local leaders.

Updated at 9.20am BST

8.34am BST

In Soho, central London, police were forced to disperse groups of drinkers gathering in the streets ahead of new restrictions, which came in at midnight, to curb the spread of coronavirus in the capital of England.

The new measures mean that people from separate households in London will no longer be allowed to meet indoors in pubs, bars or restaurants.

A small protest against the new measures was staged in Soho and some revellers in Soho were led away in handcuffs.

Piers Corybn, who has previously been arrested and fined £10,000 for breaching coronavirus regulations, later arrived to show his support.

“We’re here to drink against curfew,” said the brother of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “To oppose the lockdowns, to oppose job losses caused by lockdowns, to oppose all of it. The whole lot should be lifted now.”

Police make arrests in Soho, central London, before new coronavirus restrictions come into force
Police make arrests in Soho, central London, before new coronavirus restrictions come into force. Photograph: Jack Dredd/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated at 9.15am BST

8.17am BST

In the US, the White House quietly told Tennessee early this week that “a statewide mask mandate must be implemented” to curb its growing spread of Covid-19, instructions that were only revealed in a records request, AP reports.

The 11 October state report for Tennessee, where the Republican governor, Bill Lee, has let counties decide whether to require masks in public, first came to light in a records request by WUOT-FM. The Associated Press obtained the report from the Knox County health department afterwards.

“A statewide mask mandate must be implemented to stop the increasing spread among residents in rural and urban areas of Tennessee,” states the record in a list of recommendations.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he was not in favour of mask mandates, but the recommendations of the task force and public health agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have often been at odds with the White House’s rhetoric.

The report takes the strongest tone to date in urging Tennessee to act, though Lee has made it clear for months that he did not think masks should be required across the state. Lee, who has urged people to wear masks, continued to advise against a statewide mandate on Friday in an online news conference, in which he didn’t mention the White House’s instruction a few days earlier.

“Statewide, one-size-fits-all mandates are not as effective in many cases as local decision-making,” Lee said.

In a statement late on Friday, the governor’s office said the White House report had not altered his thinking.

“The governor has strongly encouraged Tennesseans to make responsible decisions to protect themselves and others from Covid-19, including wearing masks in public, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home when sick,” the statement said. “The governor’s view has not changed based upon non-binding recommendations from the federal government. Previous White House reports dating back to the summer have included similar recommendations, so the inclusion here is not novel.”

Tennessee has seen coronavirus case counts grow in cities and, particularly, in rural areas.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Tennessee has risen from 1,412 new cases per day on 1 October to 1,911 new cases per day on Thursday. Likewise, the positivity rate seven-day rolling average has grown from 5.7% on 1 October to 7.48% on Thursday.

Updated at 9.14am BST

8.08am BST

Hello, this is Haroon taking over the blog. If you want to contact me with suggestions etc, you can do so via the following channels:

Twitter: @Haroon_Siddique

Email: haroon[dot]siddique[at]theguardian[dot]com

8.03am BST

With that, I’ll be handing over the blog to my colleague Haroon Siddique, who will take you through all the latest news from the UK and Europe over the next few hours.

7.57am BST

Czech Republic hits record number of new cases

Much like Ukraine, the Czech Republic has recorded its highest daily total of new cases.

It reported 11,105 Covid-19 cases on Friday, its largest single-day tally so far of the pandemic, health ministry data showed on Saturday.

The total number of cases the country has detected since March has risen to 160,112, double the number seen on 2 October and more than six times the amount overall before September, Reuters reports.

Updated at 9.17am BST

7.41am BST

Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg tests positive

The foreign minister of Austria, Alexander Schallenberg, has tested positive for coronavirus – and might have caught it at a meeting with his European Union counterparts on Monday, a spokeswoman for his ministry has said.

“As a precautionary measure all members of the government will be tested on Saturday,” she said, as reported by Reuters.

“It is suspected that Schallenberg might have been infected at the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday.”

Schallenberg’s spokeswoman added that he was symptom-free and had a routine test.

Updated at 9.18am BST

7.27am BST

Ukraine hits record number of new cases

Ukraine has registered a record 6,410 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the national security council said on Saturday, up from a previous record of 5,992 reported on Friday.

The council said 109 patients had died in the past 24 hours, the highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic, Reuters reports.

A total of 293,641 cases had been registered in Ukraine as of 17 October, with 5,517 deaths.

The daily tally of coronavirus infections spiked above 5,000 in October, prompting the government to extend lockdown measures until the end of 2020.

Updated at 7.35am BST

7.08am BST

Polls close in New Zealand

And for all the results, follow this liveblog here. We could know the result within two hours.

7.06am BST

Here is the Australian government minister Alan Tudge doubling down on his earlier statements that Victoria was aware that New Zealanders could fly into the state from NSW.

He said this morning:

The concept that people may be arriving into NSW and then potentially going on to other destinations was explicitly raised in the meeting [of the AHPPC]. And no official from any jurisdiction raised any concerns.

There was an understanding that when Kiwis … once they arrived in Sydney they would be treated like every other person in NSW and be able to travel into any other jurisdictions that their visa enables them to travel into, including Victoria.

He’s just tweeted that Victoria’s chief medical officer, Prof Brett Sutton, was in the meeting and “did not raise any concerns”.

Updated at 7.34am BST

6.59am BST

South Australia records three new cases

Three new coronavirus cases have been recorded in South Australia – all are travellers from overseas.

A man and woman in their 30s and and a woman in her 50s returned positive test results while in hotel quarantine.

“They have been in a medi-hotel since their arrival and there is no public health risk,” the SA health department said on Saturday.

One of the cases is an old infection and not active, the department said.

There are six active cases in the state in total.

Updated at 7.08am BST

6.27am BST

Thailand records first local cases in over a month

Thailand has recorded its first two locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 in more than a month, Reuters reports.

The country’s Covid-19 administration centre said in its daily report that the cases were among two Myanmar nationals living near the border with Myanmar, where infections have been surging recently.

The two were tested on 13 October, they showed no symptoms but results were positive, the centre said in the statement. The last known local case was in early September.

Updated at 6.30am BST

6.14am BST

And for those of you settling in to follow the New Zealand election – we have fired up our liveblog to follow today’s result. Polls close in about 45 minutes.

Updated at 6.31am BST

5.48am BST

Fire crews sent to bushfire in Manly in Sydney

Emergency services – including helicopters carrying water – have been dispatched to a bushfire that has broken out on Sydney’s north shore.

A fire at the North Head national park in Manly broke out this afternoon after a hazard reduction burn jumped containment lines.

A spokesman for NSW Fire and Rescue told Guardian Australia they were on site, along with the Rural Fire Service and NSW Parks.

“We have enough resources on site to escort the fire around a couple of assets,” he said. “There have been 60 and 70 evacuations.”

The RFS said homes in the area were not being threatened.

Updated at 5.54am BST

5.30am BST

What a great time for Australia to be searching for its top medical officer.

Updated at 5.30am BST

5.26am BST

Reuters reports that China has recorded 13 new coronavirus cases in the mainland, compared with 24 cases a day earlier.

All of the new infections were imported, according to a statement by the National Health Commission. China reported 11 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 10 a day earlier.

As of Friday, mainland China had 85,659 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The Covid-19 death toll stands at 4,634.

A couple wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 share a laugh as they take pictures with a phone on a bridge at the Hu Hai lake in Beijing on October 16, 2020. Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

5.18am BST

AAP have just published a summary of the latest data out of Victoria, the worst hit Australian state.

In the past 24 hours, the state has recorded:

  • No deaths, leaving the state toll at 816 and the national figure 904.
  • One new case, linked to a known outbreak.
  • 14-day rolling case average is 8.1 for Melbourne and 0.5 for regional Victoria.
  • 17 mystery cases in Melbourne for the fortnight to Wednesday and none for regional Victoria.
  • 157 active cases in the state, including seven in regional Victoria – four in Mitchell shire and three in greater Shepparton. The remaining 150 are in metropolitan Melbourne.
  • 13 people in hospital, none in ICU.
  • 11 active cases involving healthcare workers.
  • 13 active cases linked to aged care.
  • 2,925,810 tests have been conducted since the pandemic outbreak and 18,934 in the latest 24-hour period.
  • 53 new fines issued, including 13 for failing to wear a face mask and six at vehicle checkpoints.

The current restrictions in force in Victoria are:

  • Two-hour exercise limit within five kilometres of work or home.
  • Face masks must cover the mouth and nose every time Victorians leave home – scarves and bandanas are unacceptable.
  • A household, or maximum of five people from no more than two households, can gather outside.
  • Religious activities of up to five people, plus one faith leader for outdoor gatherings and ceremonies, are permitted.
  • The next easing of Melbourne restrictions is due on Monday.

Updated at 5.21am BST

5.13am BST

We’ve just got a little more detail about the situation in Victoria, Australia, after the good news this morning that it has only recorded a single new case. The Department of Health and Human Services says:

Today’s new case is linked to a new Hoppers Crossing community outbreak that comprises three cases across two households. This outbreak includes what was originally referred to as a complex case linked to Woolworths QV. The new case is a known family close contact of that case. There is no evidence of workplace transmission.

Authorities are still working to contain an outbreak of coronavirus in Shepparton. There are three cases in Shepparton, which is no change from yesterday. Testing capacity has increased in Shepparton, with 693 tests taken yesterday in Shepparton.

Updated at 5.15am BST

4.48am BST

In the US, Republican senator David Perdue has appeared to mock Kamala Harris’s name at a Donald Trump rally, where he repeatedly mispronounced the vice presidential nominee’s name.

Perdue, spoke before Trump in the central Georgia city of Macon on Friday evening, Reuters report.

Video of his speech shows Perdue repeatedly making exaggerated attempts to pronounce the name before saying, “I don’t know, whatever”. The crowd responded with laughter.

His Democratic opponent in Georgia, Jon Ossoff, tweeted that Perdue would not have mocked a fellow senator who was male or white.

John Burke, a spokesman for Perdue’s campaign, tweeted that the senator “simply mispronounced Senator Harris’ name, and he didn’t mean anything by it”.

Updated at 5.00am BST

4.30am BST

A crew member on another cargo ship in Western Australia is being tested for coronavirus.

AAP report that a nurse in full protective gear has boarded a bulk carrier in Geraldton Port to swab a crew member with coronavirus symptoms.

The carrier Key Integrity arrived in the port from Manila on Saturday morning but the fast-tracked test result is not yet known, WA Health said on Saturday.

It said on Friday none of the other 19 crew members were reporting symptoms and the ill crewman was isolating in his cabin.

“The Department of Health would like to reassure the Geraldton community they are not at risk. The Key Integrity will remain berthed and no crew will disembark,” WA Health said.

Authorities also said an outbreak team was on standby.

WA on Saturday recorded two new cases of coronavirus, both in travellers in hotel quarantine, according to the federal Department of Health’s Dr Alison McMillan.

4.12am BST

The NSW opposition leader, Jodi McKay, has said Gladys Berejiklian’s government is “rotting from the top down” in a speech to the 2020 NSW Labor convention.

Following this week’s explosive evidence in Icac, she accused Berejiklian of “turning a blind eye” to Daryl Maguire’s alleged misconduct and called on her to resign, AAP report.

“After a decade in power, this government is rotting from the top down,” she said. “She knew and did nothing [and] has turned a blind eye to misconduct for six-and-a-half years.

“What we’ve seen this week isn’t about whether Gladys Berejiklian works hard – it’s actually about something far more important. It’s about trust and integrity in public office and the standards we set for our government and ourselves.

“To walk past this would be to accept an impossibly low standard in government.”

3.55am BST

Germany’s cases rise by 7,830, with 33 new deaths

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 7,830 to 348,557, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

The reported death toll rose by 33 to 9,734.

3.38am BST

Across the Tasman, New Zealanders are voting today in their general election that could grant Jacinda Ardern a second term, or see her opponent, Judith Collins, installed after only three months as opposition leader.

In this age of coronavirus, a record number of vote – more than 1.7 million – have been cast in advance. That is almost half the roughly 3.5 million New Zealanders on the electoral rolls.

And, under the country’s strict rules, news outlets are restricted in what they can report until polls close at 7pm local time (5pm AEDT), candidates cannot campaign, and you cannot post anything on social media that promotes candidates.

Earlier today, the electoral commission told off a British MP for a tweet doing just that – and it was later deleted.

Updated at 4.03am BST

3.22am BST

China’s economic recovery gathered pace in the third quarter, according to a poll conducted by Agence France-Presse of analysts.

Growth in July-September is expected to come in at 5.2 percent when official data is released Monday, AFP reports.

With the virus now largely under control in China, most social distancing measures have been removed – and consumers have streamed back into restaurants and malls, hopped on flights and trains for domestic holidays and packed tourist districts.

AFP’s survey, involving analysts from 13 institutions, also forecast full-year growth of 2.3 percent, slightly above the International Monetary Fund’s forecast, which tagged China as the only major economy likely to expand this year.

“China’s stimulus has differed from that of much of the region with its focus on the industrial sector and construction, rather than for small and medium-sized enterprises or direct payments to the unemployed,” said Moody’s Analytics economist Xu Xiaochun.

“Thus, China’s rapid recovery is led by goods-producing industries and export shipments.”

Nathan Chow of DBS Bank added that the biggest boost came from investments, especially those driven by the government, while overseas demand has also improved.

While consumer spending has lagged behind, it is catching up “at least among middle- and upper-income households”, and retail sales are nearing their levels of late 2019, Xu said.

But economists maintained that growth will be modest and driven mostly by production rather than services, adding that lingering uncertainty has led to an increase in savings.

HSBC analysts added in a recent report that China’s recovery has been “highly uneven”, stressing a rebound in the private sector will be “essential for a sustainable economic recovery”.

Economists warned, however, that a sharp rebound is unlikely for Chinese consumer demand given the anxiety surrounding the coronavirus, while global tensions are also weighing on the external market.

Tommy Wu, lead economist at Oxford Economics, said analysts are still “waiting for signs of a more significant improvement in employment, which will underpin consumption”.

Raphie Hayat, senior economist at Rabobank, said “the external market is not likely to help the Chinese economy either”.

“China’s tensions with several countries are increasing, while some of its trading partners are experiencing second wave outbreaks of the virus.”

This could boost certain exports such as protective equipment and electronics but the effect will “likely be more than offset by generally weaker external demand”, he added.

3.07am BST

At the Trump rally in Georgia, the president falsely claims the pandemic is ending without the vaccine. He promises to have 100 million vaccine doses before the end of the year, but says the country doesn’t need it anyway. The statement ignores the fact that case numbers are again increasing significantly in the United States, particularly in Midwest states like Wisconsin, which has just recorded record cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.

Trump: “Without the vaccine it’s ending too. We’re rounding the turn. It’s ending without the vaccine, but the vaccine is going to make it quicker.”

2.53am BST

‘There was an understanding’ that New Zealanders could sneak into Victoria, Tudge says

Acting immigration minister Alan Tudge now addresses Daniel Andrews’s comments today, as the Victorian and federal governments spar over 17 New Zealanders who snuck into Victoria from NSW.

Tudge says Andrews’s comments are “a complete distraction”.

He says Andrews should focus on “keeping up his side of the bargain” and “start to open up Victoria [like] NSW”.

Tudge says that the possibility of New Zealanders flying into NSW and then flying into other parts of Australia was discussed, and no Victorians raised any concerns.

“The concept that people may be arriving into NSW and then potentially going on to other destinations was explicitly raised in the meeting [of the AHPPC],” he says. “And no official from any jurisdiction raised any concerns.

“There was an understanding that when Kiwis … coming from a country with zero transmissions … once they arrived in Sydney they would be treated like every other person in NSW and be able to travel into any other jurisdictions that their visa enables them to travel into, including Victoria.”

He says that the passenger cards were requested this morning “just after 8 o’clock and they were delivered to the Victorian government at midday. So just four hours.”

Updated at 2.55am BST

2.44am BST

In a very fortuitous case of synchronicity, the acting immigration minister, Alan Tudge, is now speaking in Canberra announcing a digital passenger arrival card.

Just a few minutes ago, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews condemned the Australian Border Force for taking more than 12 hours to give him the passenger cards of 17 new Zealanders who snuck into Melbourne. He says he still has not been given the passenger cards.

Meanwhile, in Canberra, Tudge says: “From next year, we will no longer need this incoming passenger card.”

He then rips up a paper card. “Because we will have a fully digital incoming passenger card.”

Tudge says the government will put out a tender for the digital passenger card next week, with the intent of setting it up by next year.

He says the digital card will be able to record whether someone has been vaccinated against Covid-19, when a vaccine is ready.

Updated at 2.49am BST

2.31am BST

Andrews says that Sutton has his full confidence.

He says he does not know what the hotel inquiry plans to look at, after it announced an additional extraordinary sitting. On Friday, the inquiry said it would hold an additional sitting on 20 October.

Andrews says he has not been called to testify for this sitting, and that he is not aware of who has been called.

2.26am BST

Brett Sutton is now being asked about new emails that the Age has described as “contradicting” his account before the hotel quarantine inquiry.

Sutton says the emails do not show that he was aware of the decision to use private security – and he “did not register” that private security was mentioned.

“My statement to the inquiry was true,” he says.

“I was not aware, that is what I said to the inquiry and that is what I stand by.”

He says he made all his emails available to the team at DHHS that went through the emails to present to the inquiry.

He is asked about an email where he said “thanks” to an email mentioning private security.

A reporter asks him: “So your acknowledgement of the email, saying thanks … you might not have read that?”

Sutton responds: “This particular email was a response to the Commonwealth where they had asked some questions. It was passed to someone in the command structure for the hotel quarantine … they responded to the commonwealth.

“I thanked them … and I clearly did not register that anything was being said about private security.”

Updated at 2.50am BST

2.14am BST

Chief medical officer Dr Brett Sutton says that Victoria is still not ready to relax restrictions to the same level as NSW.

He says there will be eased restrictions tomorrow, but that Victoria is still in a different position to NSW.

He is asked about comments from the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, who said “Vic should now be able to move to the next step in line with NSW.”

Sutton says:

The conditions for easing in New South Wales after their first wave were actually – they had gotten to a 14-day rolling average of under four. We are at eight today.

We are not in an equivalent position. It is fantastic to have a two and a one in the last two days, fantastic. [But] we were at 15 a few days before that.

Andrews then steps up to speak directly against Hunt.

If Minister Hunt is genuinely suggesting that we are keeping this lockdown on because somehow we think Victorians are enjoying it or it is a choice that we are making, this is just – it’s just wrong.

I will boldly predict that whatever I stand up here tomorrow and announce, there will be members of that federal government, some who are from Victoria but I don’t think they’re for Victoria, who will be out there saying ‘It is not enough, you should have done more’.

Some people should reflect on the fact that they are in fact a health minister and that actually requires a certain standard.

Earlier Sutton said that the new case today is linked to the Hoppers Crossing outbreak.

“The outbreak includes which was originally referred to as a complex case linked to QV Woolworths,” he says.

He says there is a new mystery case – to be announced tomorrow – in postcode 3128.

Updated at 2.33am BST

2.05am BST

‘There will be easing tomorrow,’ Andrews says after one new case

Andrews says that there will be eased restrictions announced tomorrow.

“These numbers today are a credit to every single Victorian,” he says. “These restrictions are painful, there is hurt out there I know that.”

“What this makes possible is tomorrow we will make announcements about easing. We will give people a clear sense of what next weekend and the weekend after will look like.

He says there will be meetings tonight that will finalise “what is possible tomorrow”.

He also adds that he will “try and make announcements early tomorrow” to not clash with the Super Netball.

“There will be easing tomorrow and it is a credit to the hard work and sacrifice … Victorians have proved themselves to be as stubborn as this virus.”

Updated at 2.13am BST

2.03am BST

Andrews is asked if the New Zealanders will be deported.

He says:

I won’t speculate on what might happen to them beyond this. I don’t have the power to deport people, nor do I have the power to limit people coming from other countries. That is done by the commonwealth.

Earlier, he said there was “no warning” about the New Zealanders entering the state.

At a time when Victorians can’t freely move around their own state for the best of public health reasons, it is not acceptable to me that people from another country, when we have expressly said that we don’t want this to happen now, are able to get into Melbourne without us knowing. No warning – in fact it is exactly the opposite of what we signed up for. It has happened now, it can’t be undone.

Updated at 2.16am BST

1.58am BST

Regional Victoria ‘very close’ to interstate travel with NSW and SA

Andrews says that regional Victoria could soon be opened to NSW and South Australia after the state recorded only one case today.

He says this could happen by Christmas, which was already the aim for both him and the prime minister.

We’re very close to having a situation where regional Victorians will be able to travel into New South Wales and into SA as well. Those arrangements are for other premiers to announce. [But] we are closer to that.

Once we’re in a position to bring down that ring of steel between metro Melbourne and regional Victoria, then there will be greater freedom of movement within Victoria and then there can be further interstate travel.

Earlier Andrews continued to criticise the Border Force for allowing the New Zealanders in.

He says: “Somehow, something has gone wrong in Sydney, I think, to allow people to travel on beyond international flight.

“When you have an entire agency that is in charge of our borders who 12 hours after 17 people have turned up … can’t tell us who they are. That matters. It is a significant issue. I would like the cards and quickly, so we can have a proper discussion with these 17 people.”

Updated at 2.04am BST

1.50am BST

Andrews says that he is disappointed in the Australian Border Force and the systems that allowed the New Zealanders into Victoria.

He says that the ABF has not yet given him the passengers cards of the New Zealanders.

Now we see 17 people turning up on our doorstep without any notice, without any structure and we still can’t get the cards from Australian Border Force as to who these people are,” he says.

“There are more flights coming from New Zealand on Sunday and we do not want a repeat of this.”

He says that the people could be Australian citizens, or could be from Victoria, but does not know because Border Force have not yet given him the passenger cards.

No one is alleging that they have done anything wrong. It is just a matter of there should have been a process, when they tried to board a domestic flight to travel within Australia after arriving at international terminal in Sydney, the answer should have been “Where are you going? You can’t go to Victoria”

“I stand here every day makings sure every Victorian knows they can’t freely move around their own State for the best of reasons and at the same time we have people being allowed in from another country and we were the last ones to find out about it. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Updated at 1.53am BST

1.46am BST

New Zealanders who snuck into Melbourne will be visited by police – Andrews

Daniel Andrews is now addressing the news that 17 New Zealanders snuck into Melbourne yesterday.

New Zealanders are allowed into NSW and the NT now without quarantine, but not yet into Victoria.

Andrews says that Victoria police will immediately identify and visit the New Zealanders and “make sure that they are fully up to date” with Victoria’s rules and restrictions.

He says that the Victorian health department does not have the legislative power to detain them, which is why they have now entered Melbourne.

“I want to be clear on this I have written to the prime minister this morning and we’re disappointed this has happened,” he says. “The previous day or the day before I had written to the prime minister on this very issue, saying at some point we will join that New Zealand/Australia travel bubble but it is not appropriate now.”

He tells reporters:

At around 5.30 yesterday evening, 17 people from New Zealand, having travelled on an international flight from New Zealand to Sydney, were then allowed to board a plane and travel to Melbourne. They didn’t spend very long at the airport. They left the airport within only minutes, really, of having arrived.

Our officers have absolutely no power to stop someone, to detain someone in those circumstances, particularly given they were coming from a very low virus part of the world.

We are still waiting – I am not sure why we’re waiting, but we are still waiting for Australian Border Force to provide us with the passenger cards for each of those 17 people.

As soon as we get that detail, we will be visiting each of those people and making sure that they are fully up to date, as it were, when it comes to the rules, the regulations, the structures that we have in Victoria.

He says he is “not sure” whether the New Zealanders will need to be tested.

Updated at 1.50am BST

1.40am BST

Andrews says 5,796 people from Shepparton and surrounds have been tested.

“That is a phenomenal effort in a community of that size. I am told there is only a few hundred results to come back and they likely will be reported in tomorrow’s test results. That is again impressive in and of itself.”

1.38am BST

There are 11 healthcare workers with Covid-19, and 13 active cases in residential aged care.

There are no mystery cases in regional Victoria, and there are 17 in metro Melbourne.

The new case today was in metro Melbourne, meaning that there are stil seven active cases in regional local government areas. That includes four active cases in Mitchell shire and three in Greater Shepparton.

Andrews says that in Shepparton, there are 234 primary close contacts and 177 secondary close contacts – meaning hundreds of people are still in isolation.

Updated at 1.39am BST

1.36am BST

Daniel Andrews is speaking now.

He says the one new case recorded in the state is linked to a known outbreak, and that another case has been reclassified. This means that the total number of cases in the state has not increased today.

1.31am BST

Donald Trump is speaking about his Covid-19 treatment at a rally in Macon, Georgia. He is again saying he believes the therapeutic drugs he received were a cure. They are not. Trump received Regeneron’s antibody cocktail and is promising to provide it to everyone who needs it.


I wasn’t feeling too great, and they gave me something, Regeneron, and a day later I felt like superman. I said ‘hey, whatever the hell that stuff was’. And it’s brand new, developed because of this. We are going to do something very special, we are going to get it for every person that we think is appropriate for … they can call it a therapeutic, but to me it was a cure.

Updated at 1.35am BST

1.25am BST

Hi all, it’s Naaman Zhou here. As Chris said earlier, Daniel Andrews is due to step up in five minutes.

In the meantime, more on a third pub in NSW that has been closed after repeated breaches of coronavirus health orders.

The Shaws Bay Hotel in Ballina will be shut for a week from 5am on Saturday after police identified 12 breaches of the public health orders across two visits in late September and early October, which resulted in two ,000 fines.

AAP reports Liquor & Gaming compliance director Dimitri Argeres said the hotel’s ongoing non-compliance with physical distancing obligations presented a “serious risk” to public safety.

The Shaws Bay Hotel will be closed until 5am on October 24.

It is the third NSW venue to be closed for a week, following the closure of Unity Hall Hotel in Rozelle and the Rivers Inn Restaurant in Thredbo last month.

Liquor & Gaming, NSW Fair Trading and SafeWork NSW have conducted 311 hospitality venue inspections over the last fortnight and reportedly found almost 100 per cent compliance.

Updated at 1.28am BST

1.18am BST

I’m going to hand over to my colleague Naaman Zhou now. He’ll take you through the next few hours.

1.10am BST

New South Wales reports seven new coronavirus cases

Back to Australia, New South Wales has reported five new cases of locally transmitted Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, all linked to the Oran Park area in south-west Sydney.

A further two cases from returned overseas travellers were recorded.

The total number of cases in NSW is now 4,144.

Of the five locally transmitted cases, three were from a family who attend the Greater Beginnings childcare centre in Oran Park. Another infection was recorded in a staff member of the childcare centre.

The fifth case was a student who attends the Oran Park high school. NSW Health said in a statement:

Staff and students have been asked to self-isolate. Contact tracing has commenced and the school will be thoroughly cleaned over the weekend. This student is a close contact of a known confirmed case linked to the Liverpool private clinic cluster which now numbers 11 cases.

One new case today visited Woolworths Oran Park on Oran Park Drive, on Friday 12 October from 7pm to 7.30pm. Anyone who was at this store during this time is considered a casual contact and must monitor for symptoms and get tested immediately if they develop. After testing, they must remain in isolation until a negative test result is received.

Updated at 1.15am BST

1.05am BST

The 20 cases reportedly traced back to Trump’s Minnesota rally is a significant increase on previous numbers.

Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health said it had identified nine Covid-19 cases in people who reported attending the Bemidji rally last month.

12.58am BST

An outbreak in Minnesota has been traced to a Trump rally

CNN is reporting that an outbreak in Minnesota has been traced back to a Trump rally.

Local health authorities say they have so far traced 20 Covid-19 cases to a Trump rally in Bemidji in September, CNN reports.

12.54am BST

In Australia, we are expecting to hear from the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews in about 40 minutes, or 11.30am, local time.

The state has recorded a remarkable result this morning. Only one new Covid-19 case has been detected, with no new deaths.

Andrews is likely to be pressed on whether this will lead to an easing of restrictions for the state. We’ve already heard from federal health minister Greg Hunt this morning, who has said the requirements for lifting restrictions have now been met.

We’ll bring that to you live as it happens.

12.49am BST

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is urging Americans to think about the risk posed by gathering for Thanksgiving.

For some, he says, the risk may be too high, particularly if they have vulnerable people in their home.

I think people are going to have to make a choice of where they fit in the risk-benefit ratio of having someone come in maybe from out of town, who’s been through a crowded airport, who do you have in the home?

I think each family needs to think seriously about that and make a decision based on the level of risk they want to put themselves through.

12.42am BST

In Queensland, Australia, health authorities have again reported no new Covid-19 infections.

The state has four active cases and has conducted 4,722 tests in its last testing period.

The state’s deputy premier, Steven Miles, said the testing of sewage had detected some virus fragments in parts of the state, including Maroochydore and Wynnum.

We also have a subsequent round of wastewater testing from right across the state, and the good news is that the subsequent testing in Townsville has come back negative, so there is no longer virus fragments in that wastewater in Townsville. However, samples taken at the Sandgate wastewater plant on the 12th, and the Maroochydore and Wynnum wastewater plants on the 13th, both returned positive results for virus fragments. The chief health officer will discuss what that means, what levels they were at. But also the response. And that’s the most important thing. What we’re asking people in those areas to do is the same thing as we have been asking them every other day, but it’s perhaps just a little bit more important over the next week or so. And that is, if they have any symptoms whatsoever, please do go and get tested.

Updated at 12.45am BST

12.39am BST

In France, the health ministry has reported 25,086 new confirmed cases in past 24 hours, Reuters reports. The new figure follows a record 30,621 infections on Thursday.

Reports suggest that 122 people died from Covid-19 in hospitals in the past 24 hours, an increase from 88 on Thursday.

12.17am BST

Hello and welcome to our global coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s Christoper Knaus here, blogging from Australia, and I’ll continue to take you through developments as they happen.

The top stories so far are:

  • In Australia, hopes for an easing of restrictions in the state of Victoria have been raised considerably, after the state recorded just one new Covid-19 case in the past 24 hours. The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, is urging his state counterpart to now lift some of the harshest aspects of the state’s lockdown. The state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, is due to make an announcement on restrictions on Sunday.
  • A newly created travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand has already resulted in problems. Seventeen New Zealanders managed to make their way to Melbourne, the locked down Victorian capital, after flying into Sydney. Victoria is not accepting any international travellers.
  • the United States has surpassed 8 million cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The US has confirmed at least 8,008,402 cases of coronavirus since March, and cases have surged to record levels in Midwest states like Wisconsin, where Donald Trump plans to campaign.
  • Pfizer Inc said it could file in late November for US authorisation of the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing, suggesting that a vaccine could potentially be available by the end of the year.
  • The UK foreign secretary denounced what he said was a Russian effort to “disrupt the attempts to find a safe vaccine”. Dominic Raab described claims that Moscow was attempting to sow seeds of confusion about the vaccine being developed in the UK as “very serious”.
  • Brazil has registered 754 further coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours and 30,914 new confirmed cases, the nation’s health ministry said on Friday.
  • Belgium is planning a four-week closure of all cafes and restaurants to tackle a sharp rise in cases, following a meeting of the Belgian government’s crisis unit.
  • South Africa has now surpassed 700,000 cases since early March, and fears an impending second wave amid the nation’s economic recession. About 2,019 new cases were detected on Friday alone.
  • Italy, which was hammered by Covid-19 in the early stages of the pandemic, is struggling again. The country has recorded 10,010 new cases in 24 hours.
  • Malta will make face masks mandatory in public and has ordered bars and clubs to close at 11pm.
  • The Czech Republic is struggling with record case numbers. It had 9,721 new infections on Thursday, the second consecutive day it posted its worst daily figures. The country of 10.7 million has registered the biggest surge of new cases in Europe.

Stick with me, it’s shaping up to be a busy 24 hours.

A couple wearing protective face masks embrace, in front of the Paris skyline seen from Montmartre at nightfall, just hours before a city-wide night time curfew goes into effect in Paris, France. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

Updated at 12.38am BST © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Animal welfare, Health, India, World

‘Not just a dog bite’: why India is struggling to keep rabies at bay


Powered by article titled “‘Not just a dog bite’: why India is struggling to keep rabies at bay” was written by Amrit Dhillon in New Delhi, for on Wednesday 14th October 2020 06.15 UTC

By the time the patient, a young man, reached Dr Ramesh Masthi at a Bengaluru hospital, it was too late to save him. After being bitten by a pack of stray dogs as he went out to buy some milk, his family had applied a paste of green chillis, then lime juice and finally, when the wound looked gruesome, turmeric.

“He came about a week after he was bitten. The wound was serious, and we couldn’t save him. There is so much ignorance about dog bites and myths. A rabies shot in time would have saved him,” Masthi says.

It is this unnecessary loss of human life to rabies that led India’s first Rabies Awareness Summit in early October, organised by the Integrated Health and Wellbeing Council in Delhi and attended by Masthi, to demand the eradication of the disease by 2030.

The only way to achieve this, experts say, is for the Indian government to make rabies a “notifiable” disease like polio or tuberculosis, significantly changing its status. Essentially, it means the government would pay proper attention to it, measuring the incidence rate, monitoring progress, and allocating resources and funds. Health clinics across the country, for example, would have to keep adequate supplies of the rabies shot, as opposed to the current situation, with clinics in remote areas often running out of supplies or lacking trained staff to administer a complete course of shots.

A government programme would need to include a campaign to improve public awareness as well as the crucial matter of vaccinating and sterilising stray dogs.

Stray dogs shelter from rain under a bus in Kochi, in the southern state of Kerala.
Experts say a government programme is needed to vaccinate and sterilise stray dogs. Photograph: RS Iyer/AP

“Eradicating rabies will take a sustained programme like the one we have for polio, so that measures can be monitored and evaluated. It requires vaccination and sterilisation of dogs, but the political will for all this is largely missing,” says Maneka Gandhi, minister of women and child development and animal welfare activist.

The World Health Organization’s target of ending human rabies deaths globally by 2030 will not be achieved unless India succeeds (it accounts for 36% of cases).

Over the years, India’s stray dog population has grown. It is estimated to be between 35–40 million. Visit any city, town, or village and packs of dogs, usually friendly but sometimes feral, are unavoidable. Going for an evening walk often entails running the gauntlet of a pack.

The animals are usually fed by dog lovers but no one is responsible for vaccinating them. Even if they are vaccinated, but not sterilised, a dog can have several puppies in a year, and the whole cycle begins again.

“When I take my beagle for a walk, I carry a big stick and have to be aggressive to keep the street dogs away. It ruins my enjoyment completely. They are fed by dog lovers but no one takes responsibility for them,” says Avantika Gupta, who lives in New Friends Colony in Delhi.

Pet owners carry their dog for its vaccination at a government veterinary hospital in Hyderabad on World Zoonoses Day on 6 July 2020.
Pet owners take their dog for vaccination … dog bites are the cause of almost all rabies cases in India. Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty

India has around 20,000 rabies deaths a year. Worldwide, over 59,000 people die every year from rabies, around 40% of them aged under 15.

Dog bites, as opposed to bites from monkeys or bats, cause almost all the cases of rabies in India. Many poor Indians are unaware that it is vital to treat a dog bite immediately. Even if they are aware of this, they often get one or two rabies shots and fail to return for the remainder.

Eliminating rabies requires vaccinating and sterilising the stray dog population. This is not easy. Catching stray dogs – hardy, streetwise animals, not lumbering, overweight labradors – to vaccinate them is a challenge.

The dogs see the dog catchers coming a mile off, setting off a chase which may or may not result in a dog being caught, immobilised and given a shot. Most municipal authorities, already struggling with huge issues of pollution, waste treatment, and homelessness, tend to treat dog vaccination as a low priority.

Dr M K Sudarshan, founder of the Association for Prevention and Control of Rabies in India, believes human rabies is neglected because “it is a disease of the poor”.

Making it a notifiable disease is the only way for it to be taken seriously rather than left as an issue for animal lovers, or those bitten by dogs, to worry about, he says.

“Once it becomes a notifiable disease, for which a law has to be passed, reporting cases will become mandatory. Any doctor or hospital that fails to report cases will be penalised. Making it notifiable will raise its profile hugely,” he says.

This, he cautions, will take time. The government would have to come under pressure from the public, who are currently not well-informed, he says.

Changing the disease’s official status is the key to eradicating rabies. “Only then will people stop treating it as ‘just a dog bite’,” he says. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Culture, India, World

Rickshaw driver’s son beats odds to join famed UK ballet school


Powered by article titled “Rickshaw driver’s son beats odds to join famed UK ballet school” was written by Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Lanre Bakare, for The Guardian on Friday 16th October 2020 06.00 UTC

Kamal Singh did not even know what ballet was when he turned up nervously at the Imperial Fernando Ballet School, in Delhi, during the summer of 2016. But the 17-year-old, known as Noddy, whose father was a rickshaw driver in the west of the city, had been transfixed by ballet dancers in a Bollywood film, and wanted to try it for himself.

Four years on Singh is now one of the first Indian students to be admitted to the English National Ballet school. He started this week.

The school fees and London living expenses totalling about £20,000 were far beyond the reach of Singh’s family, but a crowdfunding campaign, backed by some of Bollywood’s biggest names, managed to raise all the funds needed in less than two weeks.

“I cannot explain how it feels, it is all my dreams come true” said Singh, 21. “It’s amazing, I’m enjoying every day. “My family do not know much about ballet but they are very happy and very proud that I am at the English National Ballet. I am the first in my family to come to London.”

When Fernando Aguilera, his teacher, mentor and the founder of the school in Delhi where he danced, first encountered Singh, he recalled his astonishment at the boy’s natural gifts.

“I knew immediately he was such a talent,” said Aguilera, who is from Argentina. “He was completely flexible, like a rubber. He had a body that was ready-made for ballet by god – he just needed to be taught how to use it.”

Singh told Aguilera he desperately wanted to carry on with classes but could not afford the 3,500 rupees (£37) fees per month. “In that moment my heart broke into pieces. I told him ‘come back tomorrow. I’m not going to charge you, just come because I want to keep seeing you in class’,” said Aguilera.

After Singh’s second class, Aguilera said he realised the boy had a “true gift, even though he didn’t know it”. He later took Singh on as a full-time student with a scholarship, even paying for his lunch and transport to the school, a two and a half-hour journey from the boy’s home.

Singh had never heard classical music or even a piano before his first lesson, but under Aguilera’s private tuition he learned not only ballet but the basics of reading music, the stories of famous ballet dancers, and all the storylines of the great ballets such as Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and Giselle. He studied at the school for 10 to 12 hours every day.

Aguilera said: “He was very dedicated, he worked very hard and he wanted to learn. I taught him for four years, and he never asked for a break, he never missed a single day.”

Passion for dance: Kamal Singh
Passion for dance: Kamal Singh, left. Photograph: Imperial Fernando Ballet Company

He also made Singh and his family realise that there was a future in ballet. “He made me watch videos of professional ballet dancers and taught me that it can be a career, just like a doctor or an engineer, and he also met my father to explain. After that my father allowed me to study full-time.”

Under Aguilera’s sponsorship Singh went to Russia in 2019 to take part in a prestigious summer ballet course. He had been granted a scholarship to return this year but the Covid-19 pandemic happened and everything was cancelled.

Just as it seemed as if the opportunities were disappearing, an advert on Instagram said that English National Ballet in London was looking for male dancers. So Singh applied.

In September an acceptance email landed in Aguilera’s inbox. “I read this email seven times, I could not believe it,” said Aguilera. “I even translated it into Spanish just to make sure I was reading it right. And then I started crying.”

Singh’s first response was “‘sir I don’t think so, read the letter again”. But the initial celebrations swiftly turned to worry. The fees of £8,000 plus living expenses of £12,000 were unimaginable for Singh’s family. Aguilera, determined for money not to get in the way, was on the brink of taking out a loan to fund his student, when they had an idea to start a crowdfunding page.

Within a week they had raised 1.5m rupees (£16,000); by two weeks more than 1.9m rupees after several Bollywood stars such as Kunal Kapoor caught wind of the campaign, donated and shared the information widely. In the final week of September Singh boarded a flight to London.

Viviana Durante, artistic director of the English National Ballet School, said the year-long programme would provide Singh with “intense training in classical and contemporary techniques”, and he would be taught how to adapt to a dance world drastically altered by Covid-19. “Talk about passion, optimism and education. That’s what you need in these times and the students have it, including Kamal,” she said. He is one of only ten male dancers and ten female dancers who were selected this year.

Having only started training at 17, Singh’s capabilities as classically trained ballet dancer developed relatively late. But Durante said he was in good company. “Rudolf Nureyev started quite late as well. Obviously, if you start earlier you have more time to train. But you do get cases like Kamal where they start late and passion comes through – and his devotion and ability as well.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Environment, US NEWS, World

Elderly lemur missing from San Francisco zoo found at a playground


Powered by article titled “Elderly lemur missing from San Francisco zoo found at a playground” was written by Vivian Ho in San Francisco, for on Friday 16th October 2020 23.15 UTC

An elderly, endangered ring-tailed lemur stolen from the San Francisco zoo earlier this week has been found and returned safely to his home, police said on Thursday.

Maki, a 21-year-old male lemur, was discovered missing on Wednesday morning, shortly before the zoo opened to visitors. Police found evidence of a forced entry to the enclosure.

On Thursday evening, witnesses spotted what they believed to be Maki at a playground in Daly City, a few miles south of the zoo. They alerted the authorities, who quickly responded, San Francisco police said.

“We contained him until staff from the zoo took him back home,” Daly City police tweeted.

The lemur was “positively identified” to be Maki and was in good health, San Francisco police said.

SFPD on Friday afternoon said they arrested a suspect in the burglary – or kidnapping, as it has been called on the Twitter account created for the character Maki the Lemur. The department said it had reason to believe a 30-year-old man who was arrested on an unrelated matter was connected to the incident.

This was not the first time an elderly animal was taken from the San Francisco zoo. In 2011, “Banana Sam” – a 17-year-old squirrel monkey, was taken from his cage before being found “hungry, trembling and thirsty” in a nearby park a few days later. As with most mishaps and misadventures in San Francisco, someone made him his own Twitter account and took to tweeting his time away from the zoo.

Banana Sam died two years later.

In 2000, two teenagers were arrested for stealing two koalas – seven-year-old Leanne and her mother, Pat, 15 – from the zoo. The two koalas, described as “the cutest things you have ever seen”, were found safely playing at the teenagers’ home.

UPDATE: this story has been updated to reflect that the San Francisco police department have made an arrest in the case. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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