Coronavirus live news: Angela Merkel heckled in parliament; UK job retention scheme to end

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “West Yorkshire to move to toughest Covid restrictions – as it happened” was written by Jessica Murray (now); Lucy Campbell, Damien Gayle and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Thursday 29th October 2020 23.39 UTC

11.39pm GMT

We’ve launched a new blog at the link below – head there for the latest:

11.36pm GMT

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is under growing pressure to implement a pre- and post- Christmas lockdown to allow families to meet over the festive period, the Telegraph has reported.

The article cites sources close to the government saying current restrictions don’t go far enough, and tighter restrictions on the run up to Christmas would “get on top of the numbers” and allow people to meet in homes.

A “circuit breaker” lockdown in January could then be used to reverse numbers and would be easier to implement than on the run up to Christmas, the newspaper reported.

10.58pm GMT

Summary

Here’s a quick recap of all the latest coronavirus developments across the globe.

  • EU to fund transfer of Covid-19 patients across borders to prevent hospital collapse. The EU will finance the transfer of patients across borders within the bloc to prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed as Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations rise across the continent. “The spread of the virus will overwhelm our healthcare systems if we do not act urgently,” said Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU Commission.
  • Spain hit a new record in daily cases, recording another 23,580 infections. It brought the nation’s tally to 1,136,503, health ministry data showed. The government voted in favour of a six-month extension of the state of emergency, which allows Spain’s 17 regional governments to limit mobility, impose curfews and shut their borders with other regions.
  • France will restrict outdoor movement and make working from home mandatory under new lockdown rules, coming into effect at midnight. People will only be able to leave their own homes for certain essential purposes, as the country tries to put the brakes on a Covid-19 outbreak that the president Emmanuel Macron said risked accelerating out of control. More details here.
  • West Yorkshire in England will move into tier 3 restrictions from 12.01 on Monday. The ‘very high’ restrictions – the strictest level in England – will see indoor social mixing banned and the closure of pubs and bars unless they can operate as a restaurant. More details here.
  • Greece will impose regional lockdowns on its second-largest city of Thessaloniki and two other regions from Friday after a rise in cases of Covid-19, the government said.
  • Italy registered a record of 26,831 new Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Under new restrictions bars and restaurants must stop serving customers at 6pm while cinemas, theatres, swimming pools and gyms must close completely.
  • Sweden registered 2,820 new coronavirus cases, the highest since the start of the pandemic and the third record number in a matter of days. Hospitals are feeling the strain, with the number of patients with Covid-19 in need of care in the region having risen about 60% over the past week after a near 80% surge in recorded infections.

10.37pm GMT

EU at risk of being overwhelmed by coronavirus – EU Commission head

The EU’s healthcare systems are at risk of being overwhelmed by the number of coronavirus cases unless authorities act quickly, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said.

“The spread of the virus will overwhelm our healthcare systems if we do not act urgently,” she said after a video conference of EU leaders to coordinate the EU’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said the Commission made available €220m to finance the transfer of Covid-19 patients across EU countries to avoid healthcare systems in the most affected countries not being able to cope.

At the meeting leaders agreed to better coordinate efforts to battle the virus as infections in Europe exceeded 10 million, making the continent again the centre of the pandemic.

EU countries want to avoid divisions which dogged the 27-nation bloc at the beginning of the pandemic, when nations vied with each other to buy scarce medical equipment.

To better trace infections, von der Leyen said the EU would work for the quick validation at EU level of rapid antigen tests, which allow quicker results than the standard PCR (polymerase chain reaction) molecular kits.

Updated at 10.39pm GMT

10.35pm GMT

The European Commission is in talks with four companies to secure a potential Covid-19 vaccine, president Ursula von der Leyen said following an EU leaders’ video conference.

The EU has already secured potential vaccines being developed by AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson. It is also said to be in talks with Moderna, CureVac and a partnership of Pfizer and BionTech.

10.34pm GMT

Mexicans this year paid their respects early to departed loved-ones in the capital city, where the coronavirus pandemic will cast a pall over cemeteries usually resplendent with colour and light during the 1-2 November Day of the Dead celebrations.

The festive tradition typically draws thousands of people to burial grounds and public plazas across Mexico, many dressed as skeletons, to picnic at gravesides and decorate altars with sugar skulls and photos of dead friends and relatives.

But in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus, city authorities have reluctantly ordered cemeteries to stay closed for Day of the Dead this year, prompting Mexicans to file out early.

People decorate a relative’s grave prior to the Day of the Dead at the Municipal Pantheon in Valle de Chalco, Mexico.
People decorate a relative’s grave prior to the Day of the Dead at the Municipal Pantheon in Valle de Chalco, Mexico.
Photograph: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

At the Xilotepec Pantheon in southeastern Mexico City, Maura Medina polished a crucifix adorning the tomb of her husband, who died last December. Their two daughters planted bright golden marigolds, the holiday’s traditional flower.

“I’m glad I came to see him,” said the elder Medina. “Now I feel very much at peace.”

Only three people per family may enter the cemetery, where signs warn: “Caution, you are entering a high contagion zone.”

Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, who tested positive for Covid-19 this week, urged the public to mark Day of the Dead at home, and stay away from the capital’s 120 cemeteries.

Mexico has the world’s fourth highest official death toll from Covid-19, with over 90,000 fatalities.

Adrian Velasco, who went to the final resting place of his grandparents, was grateful he could visit ahead of time.

“It’s good they’ve let us come to leave our flowers and plants,” he said. “And above all, to be with our dead for a day.”

9.29pm GMT

EU leaders have agreed to fairly distribute among EU countries a vaccine against the coronavirus, once such a vaccine becomes available, the chairman of the leaders said.

“We very much agreed, it was repeated around the video conference table, to guarantee a fair distribution between member states in the case of contracts signed by the Commission and those we hope will be signed in the coming weeks,” Charles Michel told a news conference after an EU video summit.

8.58pm GMT

Global coronavirus cases rose by more than 500,000 on Wednesday, Reuters reports, a record one-day increase as countries across the Northern Hemisphere reported rising cases.

Global daily Covid-19 cases have risen by nearly 25% in less than two weeks as the world witnessed 400,000 daily reported cases for the first time last Friday.

Most western countries and parts of Latin America have reported their highest single-day surges in the past few weeks. Many governments, with the notable exception of the US, have started taking stronger measures to bring the spread of the virus under control.

The global coronavirus tally stands at 44.7 million cases and about 1.17 million deaths.

Europe, North America and Latin America account for over 66% of global cases and over 76% of global deaths.

Europe’s new daily infections have doubled over the past two weeks as it reported more than 250,000 cases for the first time on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally.

The region has so far reported about 9.5 million cases and about 261,000 deaths.

France reported a new record daily total of more than 50,000 infections for the first time on Sunday.

The US broke its daily record for new coronavirus infections on Friday as it reported 84,169 new cases due to outbreaks in virtually every part of the country shortly before its presidential election on Tuesday.

The US is reporting about 75,000 cases a day on an average, according to a Reuters analysis, and its death toll from Covid-19 could surpass 500,000 by February unless nearly all Americans wear face masks, researchers said.

Asia surpassed 10 million infections on Saturday, according to a Reuters tally, as cases continue to mount in India.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi promised to provide any successful vaccine to each of India’s 1.3 billion people, and the country is preparing a database of all government and private health personnel to speed up vaccinations once they become available.

In the Middle East, Iran is reporting one death every three minutes, according to state television.

8.39pm GMT

Algeria’s president underwent medical tests in a German hospital and is in a stable condition, days after suspected coronavirus cases were reported among his aides.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, 74, was transferred on Wednesday to Germany for treatment from an Algerian hospital.

His office said he “underwent thorough medical tests in one of Germany’s largest specialised hospitals” and is in “a stable” condition.

“The medical team says that the results of the tests are reassuring,” his office added in a statement.

The president “has begun to received the adequate treatment”, it said, without giving further details.

Algeria’s president has been transferred to Germany for medical treatment after coming into contact with coronavirus cases among his aides.
Algeria’s president has been transferred to Germany for medical treatment after coming into contact with coronavirus cases among his aides.
Photograph: Ryad Kramdi/AFP/Getty Images

Tebboune’s transfer to Germany came after officials on Saturday said he had “voluntarily” gone into self-isolation for five days amid reports several officials in the presidency and government had contracted the Covid-19 disease.

On Tuesday, Tebboune, a heavy smoker, was admitted into a “specialised care unit” in a military hospital in Algeria’s capital.

Algeria has seen a resurgence in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

More than 57,300 infections have been recorded in the country of 44 million, including 1,949 deaths.

8.24pm GMT

Brazil expects to have a vaccine against Covid-19 approved and ready for use in a national inoculation programme by June, the head of the country’s health regulator, Anvisa, said.

With the world’s worst outbreak of coronavirus after the US and India, Brazil has become a key testing ground and has approved late stage clinical trials for four vaccines that are under development.

Anvisa boss Antonio Barra Torres told Reuters the agency has approved vaccines in the past with less than 50% effectiveness, but did not say what efficacy would be required for the vaccine to be approved.

Health authorities in Europe are debating whether to accept a so-called efficacy rate of less than 50% to be able to deliver a vaccine sooner, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

Sandra Gallina, director general for health and food safety at the European Commission, told EU lawmakers the article was speculation, but added that it’s not rare to have vaccines that only work with 50% efficacy.

Last week, Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro disavowed a decision by his health minister to buy 46m doses of a vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech, saying: “We will not buy a Chinese vaccine.”

But Torres said Anvisa could register more than one of the four candidates now being tested in Brazil, irrespective of their country of origin.

“The origin of the vaccine has no bearing for us, there is no prejudice,” he said.

8.18pm GMT

Hi everyone, this is Jessica Murray, taking over the blog for the next few hours.

Please do get in touch with any story tips or personal experiences you would like to share

Email: jessica.murray@theguardian.com
Twitter: @journojess_

7.11pm GMT

Close to one-in-five people in England will be living under the most severe lockdown restrictions by Monday following the announcement that Leeds and West Yorkshire are to come under tier 3.

The combined population of Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield is 2.3 million. This brings to 10.9 million English residents living under the government’s “very high” Covid curbs.

A further 21.6 million people will be under tier 2 restrictions after an earlier announcement that additional areas in the Midlands, parts of Yorkshire, Luton and Oxford would move into Tier 2.

At that time more than 32 million people – 58% of England’s population – will be living under some form of local lockdown.

7.10pm GMT

Summary

  • Spain hit a new record in daily cases, recording another 23,580 infections. It brought the nation’s tally to 1,136,503, health ministry data showed. The government voted in favour of a six-month extension of the state of emergency, which allows Spain’s 17 regional governments to limit mobility, impose curfews and shut their borders with other regions.
  • France will restrict outdoor movement and make working from home mandatory under new lockdown rules, coming into effect at midnight. People will only be able to leave their own homes for certain essential purposes, as the country tries to put the brakes on a Covid-19 outbreak that the president Emmanuel Macron said risked accelerating out of control. More details here.
  • West Yorkshire will move into tier 3 restrictions from 12.01 on Monday. The ‘very high’ restrictions – the strictest level in England – will see indoor social mixing banned and the closure of pubs and bars unless they can operate as a restaurant. More details here.
  • Oxford, Hull, Luton and parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands will enter tier 2 on Saturday. The full list: East Riding of Yorkshire, Kingston-Upon-Hull, North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire; Dudley, Staffordshire, Telford and the Wrekin, Amber Valley, Bolsover, Derbyshire Dales, Derby City, South Derbyshire, the whole of High Peak, Charnwood, Luton, and Oxford City.
  • Greece will impose regional lockdowns on its second-largest city of Thessaloniki and two other regions from Friday after a rise in cases of Covid-19, the government said.
  • Cyprus and Lithuania have been removed from the government’s list of travel
    corridors
    , meaning travellers arriving in England from those places after 4am on
    Sunday must self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Italy registered a record of 26,831 new Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Under new restrictions bars and restaurants must stop serving customers at 6pm while cinemas, theatres, swimming pools and gyms must close completely.
  • Four in 10 close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England are still not being reached by Test and Trace, at the same time as it recorded the highest ever weekly number of positive cases. A total of 126,065 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to 21 October, an increase of 23% in positive cases on the previous week and is the highest weekly number since Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.
  • The UK reported another 280 deaths from coronavirus within 28 days of positive test. At least 23,065 people tested positive with Covid-19, while 1404 people were admitted into hospital. The number of patients with Covid-19 in Nottinghamshire hospitals now exceeds the first wave peak by about 40%, according to the county council’s director of public health.
  • Spain’s Catalan regional government announced a 15-day ban on entering or leaving its territory, saying it had to protect its hospital from being overwhelmed. Catalonia already has some of the toughest measures in place in the country, including a 15-day shutdown of bars and restaurants, which will also be extended.
  • The West Midlands mayor Andy Street says coronavirus situation is “becoming very serious” and that local leaders are having “active conversations” about tier 3. Birmingham city council’s leader had earlier said that tier 3 was “inevitable” if not “imminent”.
  • Austria will announce tighter restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus on Saturday, the chancellor Sebastian Kurz said, as the daily tally of new cases surged past 4,000 to a new record on Thursday.
  • Sweden registered 2,820 new coronavirus cases, the highest since the start of the pandemic and the third record number in a matter of days. Hospitals are feeling the strain, with the number of patients with Covid-19 in need of care in the region having risen about 60% over the past week after a near 80% surge in recorded infections.
  • Millions of residents across central Scotland face a continued ban on indoor socialising and drinking in pubs and restaurants alongside significantly tighter travel restrictions from next Monday, as the Scottish government’s five tier system of Covid-19 controls comes into force. Full report here.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has reached a “critical” stage in England, with prevalence doubling since last month with the fastest increases in the south where the R number has risen above 2, research has found. It triggered warnings from scientists that current measures – including bans for millions on households mixing and the closure of pubs – were not working and urgent action is needed to avoid a sharp rise in hospitalisations and deaths.
  • A coronavirus strain that emerged in Spain in June has spread across Europe and now makes up a large proportion of infections in several countries, researchers said, highlighting the role of travel in the pandemic and the need to track mutations. The FT (paywall) has the story.
  • The world is in an “era of pandemics” and unless the destruction of the natural world is halted they will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, kill more people and affect the global economy with more devastating impact than ever before, according to a report from some of the world’s leading scientists.

That’s it from me for today! Many thanks to everybody who shared tips and kept me going throughout the day. I’ll now be handing over to my colleague. Take care.

6.29pm GMT

Spain registers new record rise in daily infections

Spain’s coronavirus tally climbed by a record 23,580 cases, bringing the the total to 1,136,503 infections, health ministry data showed on Thursday. The death toll rose by 173 to 35,639, the data showed, accelerating slightly from the previous day but below Tuesday’s steep rise of 267.

Updated at 6.37pm GMT

6.28pm GMT

Working from home will be mandatory in France except when it is technically impossible, the labour minister Elisabeth Borne said on Thursday, as France ordered a new lockdown to curb a second wave of coronavirus infections.

The French government was giving details of a second lockdown that will last until 1 December (see 6.02pm.).

6.15pm GMT

West Yorkshire to be placed under strictest restrictions from Monday

The whole of West Yorkshire will be moving into tier 3 from Monday, Leeds city council leader Judith Blake has told a press conference.

The ‘very high’ restrictions mean that people living across West Yorkshire will not be allowed to meet socially with anybody who is not part of their household, or support bubble, indoors.

Casinos, soft play, adult gaming centres, betting shops and car boot sales will all be close.

People cannot meet in private or pub gardens, but can meet in parks, beaches, countryside or forests, as long as they are not in a group of more than six.

Pubs and bars must close unless they can operate as a restaurant serving substantial meals. Alcohol can only be served as part of a meal.

People are also being advised not to travel into or out of tier three areas, other than for work, education, youth services or because of caring responsibilities.

This is from Josh Halliday

Updated at 7.14pm GMT

6.13pm GMT

Responding to reports that the UK’s death toll could reach 85,000 this winter under a “reasonable worst case scenario” according to leaked documents from Sage, the co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Jo Goodman, who lost her dad Stuart to the virus, said:

We now know this government hasn’t been sleepwalking into a second wave – they’ve been hurtling towards it with their eyes wide open.

Bungling test and trace. Mixed messages. Late lockdowns. It all feels like a grim replay of the first wave.

We need a public inquiry with a ‘rapid review’ phase finished by Christmas.

How else can we learn lessons, and act on them quickly? Lives depend on it.

The group has approximately 2,000 members who have lost a relative to the virus, and have been calling for an urgent “rapid review” public inquiry so that lessons can be learned immediately and the response to the pandemic improved.

6.02pm GMT

France restricts outdoor movement under new lockdown rules

The French prime minister Jean Castex is outlining the new Covid-19 national lockdown rules, which will come into effect at midnight on Thursday. The second lockdown was announced on Wednesday by the president Emmanuel Macron, who said it was needed to put the brakes on a Covid-19 outbreak that he said risked accelerating out of control.

People will only be allowed to leave the house for essential purposes: food shopping, commuting to work (if it isn’t technically possible to work from home), medical or imperative family reasons, Castex said. Outdoor exercise would be allowed for one hour per day and within 1km.

Visiting family or friends (or receiving them in your home), community sport and travel within France (including to holiday homes) are all not allowed, he said. Individual sports such as jogging are permitted.

For every outing, citizens will need to show a government document. Other attestations can be issued by an employer where the employee needs to travel to work or by a school if children need to be taken to school, Castex said. A €135 fine can be issued for non-respect of this rule.

France’s EU borders will remain open, its exterior borders will close, the prime minister said. Anyone arriving from non EU/Schengen areas must have a Covid-19 test showing a negative result or they will be tested.

Bars and restaurants, shops (except for essential goods) and theme parks will close. Food shops, petrol stations, tabac and newsagents, chemists, care hire, creches and schools will remain open.

Children as young as six will have to wear face masks during lessons, Castex said.

Sports clubs and conservatories must close. Hotels may remain open, Castex said, but their restaurants must close and only use room service. Public transport will stay open at the current levels of service.

Updated at 6.38pm GMT

5.45pm GMT

The leaders of seven local authorities in the North East of England have met to discuss the ongoing Covid-19 situation.

In a statement, they said there were serious concerns the region could be heading for a strain on the health service in the winter months:

Since we introduced restrictions on September 18, thanks to the collective efforts of the North East, we have seen the rate of Covid infections slowing down but sadly they are still too high.

Action taken locally in September worked and has helped us to remain in tier 2.

We have gone from being one of the areas with the worst rates of infection to being more in line with what is happening across the UK.

Our directors of public health met with the chief medical officer yesterday [October 28], who agreed our region’s data was plateauing, but it is clear the situation the North East still finds itself in is concerning.

In particular, NHS bed occupancy has continued to climb. Although we have not yet suffered the pressure seen in Liverpool and the North West, we have serious concerns that we could be heading for a strain on the health service just as winter begins to bite.

The leaders said people must reduce social contact and the government must give them the support they needed, including control over test and trace.

They added:

Halloween cannot be seen as an excuse to trick and treat or hold house parties which could have devastating consequences.

This is another critical point and we urge everyone to do their bit to help drive the infections down further and faster.

5.20pm GMT

Greece introduces regional lockdown in north after Covid surge

Greece will impose regional lockdowns on its second-largest city of Thessaloniki and two other regions from Friday after a rise in cases of Covid-19, the government said.

The country has recorded significantly lower numbers of Covid-19 than other countries in Europe but cases have been rising rapidly since early October. Testing has also increased.

On Wednesday, Greece registered 1,547 new Covid-19 cases, its highest daily tally. There were 1,211 new cases reported on Thursday and 12 deaths, bringing the number of victims since the onset of the virus in late February to 615.

“The average age of new infections suggests there is a big correlation with gatherings for entertainment, sport and other activities,” said civil protection minister Nikos Hardalias.

Thursday’s decision puts Thessaloniki and the central cities of Larissa and the northern Rodopi region in the highest risk category on Greece’s four-tier risk assessment scale. In the highest category, public or private gatherings are banned and movement between districts is prohibited.

5.07pm GMT

Cyprus and Lithuania have been removed from the government’s list of travel
corridors, meaning travellers arriving in England from those places after 4am on
Sunday must self-isolate for 14 days, the transport secretary Grant Shapps said.

He added the government wouldn’t be adding any countries to the travel corridor list this week. The list is here.

5.00pm GMT

Italy hits new record in daily Covid-19 cases

Italy on Thursday registered a record of 26,831 new Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Over the past day, 217 people have died of coronavirus, bringing Italy’s total number of deaths to 38,122. The new increase brings the total number of confirmed cases to 616,595.

Premier Giuseppe Conte called for national unity on Thursday as he presented the government’s latest restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19. The new restrictions mean Italy’s bars and restaurants must stop serving customers at 6pm while cinemas, theatres, swimming pools and gyms must close completely.

Conte described the upswing in contagion as “sly and sudden”.

Allow me to say that this is truly the time to remain united”.

4.49pm GMT

Germany plans to deploy thousands of federal police officers across the country to enforce toughened coronavirus restrictions from Monday, interior minister Horst Seehofer said on Thursday.

Reuters reports:

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s state leaders agreed on Wednesday to an emergency month-long lockdown that includes closing restaurants, gyms and theatres to reverse a spike in coronavirus cases that risks overwhelming hospitals.

“Running checks will be crucial to ensure the success of the new measures,” Seehofer said. “In coordination with the states, federal police will deploy thousands of officers.”

Heightened checks could be unpopular in a country wary of state surveillance after the experience of Communist East Germany and Hitler’s Nazis.

The western city of Essen has provoked criticism from opposition politicians for trying to recruit residents to report other citizens who do not comply with coronavirus restrictions, a method seen by some as a reminder of the Nazi past.

On its homepage, Essen provides an online form for people to fill in their complaints over violations of the rules, including the possibility to upload pictures.

Seehofer said federal police would first be used in big cities and areas most severely hit by the pandemic.

4.47pm GMT

Four in 10 close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England are still not being reached by the NHS Test and Trace system, at the same time as it recorded the highest ever weekly number of positive cases.

PA reports:

A total of 126,065 people tested positive for Covid-19 at least once in the week to October 21 – an increase of 23% in positive cases on the previous week and the highest weekly number since Test and Trace began at the end of May.

Some 60.3% of close contacts of people who tested positive were reached through the system in the week ending October 21 – up very slightly from 60.0% in the previous week, which was the lowest weekly percentage ever recorded.

For cases managed by local health protection teams, 97.0% of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to October 21.

4.20pm GMT

UK reports 280 more deaths overnight as 23,065 people test positive

The UK reported another 280 deaths from coronavirus within 28 days of positive test.

At least 23,065 people tested positive with Covid-19, while 1404 people were admitted into hospital.

Updated at 4.24pm GMT

4.17pm GMT

The following regions in England will be put in Tier 2 from Saturday:

  • East Riding of Yorkshire,
  • Kingston-Upon-Hull,
  • North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire; Dudley
  • Staffordshire
  • Telford and the Wrekin
  • Amber Valley
  • Bolsover
  • Derbyshire Dales
  • Derby City
  • South Derbyshire
  • The whole of High Peak
  • Charnwood
  • Luton
  • Oxford City

Health secretary Matt Hancock said:

We continue to see a worrying rise in cases right across the country, and it is clear decisive action is needed.

We have agreed with local leaders to move more areas into the high local Covid alert level this week.

These restrictions are challenging for us all, but it is only by working together and following the rules that we will bring down the rates of infection.

A failure to act now will only lead to longer disruption and greater economic damage.

Leader of Dudley council, Patrick Harley, said:

I know everyone has made huge efforts so far in helping to curb the spread of coronavirus and I want to thank you for all you have done.

Sadly, despite this, cases in Dudley, as across the country, have continued to rise. Your efforts helped us remain in Tier 1, the last authority in the West Midlands Combined Authority area to do so, but we have now joined our neighbours.

Our borough will now move into the high alert category, with further restrictions, particularly around social mixing, coming into place.

3.50pm GMT

While there are signs that tier 3 restrictions are working, cases are still rising in most English regions and this week has seen a dramatic change in the number of deaths reported. How worried should we be?

The Guardian’s science correspondent Nicola Davis reports.

3.48pm GMT

Oxford, Hull, Luton and parts of Yorkshire and Midlands to enter tier 2 on Saturday

Our north of England correspondent Josh Halliday has the full list for parts of England moving into tier 2 restrictions from Saturday.

Updated at 4.02pm GMT

3.47pm GMT

Telford and Wrekin will be put under tier 2 restrictions from 12.01am on Saturday, the council have said. The local authority said the UK government had announced that the restrictions would be reviewed after 14 days.

3.44pm GMT

Spain votes to extend Covid-19 state of emergency by six months

Spain’s congress of deputies has voted in favour of a six-month extension of the state of emergency that was declared last Sunday by the Socialist-led coalition government in an attempt to flatten the second wave of the coronavirus.

The extension was approved with 194 votes in favour and 53 against. There were 99 abstentions, including those of the conservative People’s party, which had said the state of emergency should end in December.

The emergency powers, which will remain in force until 9 May 2021, allow Spain’s 17 regional governments to limit mobility, impose curfews and shut their borders with other regions.

Thursday’s vote in congress came as the Catalan regional government announced a 15-day ban on entering or leaving the northeastern Spanish region, saying it had to protect its hospital from being overwhelmed (see 1.31pm.).

“Our health system cannot deal with this level of stress,” said the regional health chief, Alba Vergés.It can’t take much more.”

Last week, Spain became the first western European country to record more than a million Covid cases, although the government says the true infection figure is likely to be three times as high. To date, Spain has officially recorded 35,466 deaths.

3.39pm GMT

With most schools in Jamaica still closed due to the pandemic, schoolteacher Taneka Mckoy trudges around her inner city Kingston community to write lessons on blackboards painted on its walls.

Parents and children of primary school age take photos on their phones of the lessons or write them down in a notebook. Later, the children pass by Mckoy’s home to hand in or pick up their homework, wearing face masks and respecting social distancing measures while they stand in line.

Mckoy, 39, told Reuters she felt compelled to start the project when the coronavirus reached Jamaica seven months ago and the government closed down its schools in order to contain infections.

I said that if we don’t meet them and bring them [to learn], the family would have lost this opportunity that lies within these inner-city community children. I said I have to do something.

Educator Taneka Mckoy Phipps writes a lesson on a blackboard painted on a zinc fence, in a low-income neighbourhood in Kingston.
Educator Taneka Mckoy Phipps writes a lesson on a blackboard painted on a zinc fence, in a low-income neighbourhood in Kingston.
Photograph: Reuters

First, Mckoy got her husband to paint nine blackboards, then she started getting up before dawn to plod through a warren of muddy lanes and potholed streets to write numeracy and literacy lessons on them in green, purple and white chalk.

The teacher, who is now joined in her mission by other teachers, including her 23-year old daughter, estimated she is now reaching around 120 children.

And while lessons resumed earlier this month online, her project is as relevant as ever because many schoolchildren in Jamaica do not have access to the necessary technology or the internet – a problem for many families in Latin America and the Caribbean, one of the epicentres of the pandemic.

Locals say her lessons provide a respite from the harsh realities of the community. Local mother Natalie Turner said:

Right now the community we are living in is very violent, and it affects the kids, so if they can come and see the work on the board, at least something can occupy their time.

If people in the community see children running around, they will urge them to get the daily lessons, she added.

The initiative has gone viral nationally, motivating the private sector to provide financial support and supplies.

“For some, teaching is a calling, and she exemplifies this,” says Rebecca Tortello, education specialist at the Jamaica branch of United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.
“We… are liaising with the government to see if, and how best, her innovative and practical process can be scaled up.”

Educator Taneka Mckoy Phipps writes a lesson on a blackboard painted on a zinc fence, in a low-income neighbourhood in Kingston.
Educator Taneka Mckoy Phipps writes a lesson on a blackboard painted on a zinc fence, in a low-income neighbourhood in Kingston.
Photograph: Reuters

3.29pm GMT

Speaking during a press briefing on Thursday, Nottinghamshire director of public health Jonathan Gribbin said hospitals such as the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust have “exceeded wave one by around 40%”.

Gribbin said the infection rate among the over-60s has been “leading to the most severe pressure in the whole care system and the NHS”.

The leader of Nottinghamshire county council Kay Cutts said the UK government would be reviewing the tier 3 restrictions in the region at 14 days and 21 days.

This is from Josh Halliday

3.25pm GMT

NHS Test and Trace is struggling to keep up with a rising number of Covid-19 infections according to the latest performance figures, with the number of people found to have the virus in England rising by almost a quarter in the week ending 21 October.

The centralised system’s effectiveness at contacting people who test positive declined slightly with 23% of the 126,065 people who tested positive not being reached.

Of the contacts that were provided call-centre operators only managed to reach six out of ten to ask them to self-isolate. That left around 113,000 people who had been in proximity to someone known to have been carrying the virus not contacted by Test and Trace, up from 101,000 the week before.

The figures are also likely to fuel calls for more contact tracing resources to be devolved to councils. Contact tracers working for NHS test and trace through call centres operated by the outsourcing giant Serco typically gathered two contacts from each infected person. Local public health teams doing the same job gathered five contacts and they managed to reach 97% of an infected person’s contacts to ask them to self-isolate.

But the speed of England’s Covid-19 testing – operated through centralised “lighthouse” laboratories – has improved, after weeks of decline that sparked calls for the resignation of the system’s leader, Dido Harding.

The figures showed an increase in the proportion of people taking tests who were found to have the virus (8.3% up from 7.1%) but the speed of results from swab testing for the wide population, known as pillar 2, also increased.

Those results are likely to provide some relief to the leadership of the widely criticised system after last week Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said that slow test results were diminishing its effectiveness and the prime minister Boris Johnson voiced “frustration” and called for faster turnaround times.

It took 63 hours on average – just under three days – for people sending off home test kits to get their results back in the week ending 21 October, 16 hours quicker than the previous week. Results for people attending mobile test sites came back in 33 hours typically rather than 42 hours the week before.

3.18pm GMT

The West Midlands mayor Andy Street has said that although no decision has yet been made on moving the region into tier 3 “the situation is becoming very serious and if further measures are to be avoided we must bring the rate of infection down”.

Street said hospitals were coming under intense pressure as cases continued to rise, more people are dying and the virus is spreading again in the elderly and vulnerable.

Discussions were taking place about what would be needed from a tier 3 support package, he said, adding that it was “critical we get this support agreed in advance”.

I know many will question why there is talk of tier 3 despite our current rate of infection being lower than those in other parts of the country when they entered the highest tier of restrictions.

But if our cases continue to rise we must protect our hospitals and by acting before our cases reach the levels seen elsewhere we have a better chance of the restrictions working.

This is from my colleague Josh Halliday

Updated at 3.27pm GMT

3.04pm GMT

Total confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Japan exceeded the 100,000 mark on Thursday, public broadcaster NHK said, as the number of daily infections has crept up in recent weeks.

The number of people infected with the coronavirus in Japan has come to 100,516, including those who contracted the virus aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship earlier this year, after 809 people newly tested positive, NHK said.

“The number of newly infected people was largely flat before, but it has been edging up since [the start of] October,” the deputy chief cabinet secretary Naoki Okada told a regular news conference.

“As prime minister [Yoshihide] Suga said in his policy speech, we need to steer clear of the kind of explosive outbreak seen in some other countries no matter what.”

Japan has not suffered the same sort of surge in Covid-19 cases seen in Europe and the United States, and Suga has said he is determined to hold the Tokyo Olympics next year after the games were postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

2.55pm GMT

Austria will announce tighter restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus on Saturday, the chancellor Sebastian Kurz said, as the daily tally of new cases surged past 4,000 to a new record on Thursday.

The Alpine nation’s conservative-led government has repeatedly said it wants to avoid an economically harmful second lockdown and currently has relatively loose restrictions in place – restaurants, bars and theatres remain open.

But new daily cases have kept rising, reaching 4,435 in the past 24 hours on Thursday in a country of just under 9 million. Kurz said the point at which hospitals would be stretched beyond their capacity was roughly 6,000, which his health minister said could be close to being reached by the end of next week.

Kurz told a news conference:

We as a government must of course react to that. We have therefore invited the social partners tomorrow, we will hold discussions on Saturday with the other parliamentary parties and with the provincial governors, and afterwards inform the public about the next steps.

The term “social partners” refers to employers’ and labour representatives, with whom economic aid measures relating to employment are usually hammered out. Kurz declined to say what measures would be taken or whether they would amount to a form of lockdown like those recently announced by Germany and France.

The health minister Rudolf Anschober said recent measures like limiting private indoor gatherings to six people were too little to slow the rapidly rising infections:

Given the dramatic momentum of this development we believe that will absolutely not be enough, that we must markedly, markedly adjust.

2.36pm GMT

Members of medical staff in PPE in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for Covid-19 in the San Filippo Neri hospital in Rome. Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte tightened nationwide coronavirus restrictions after the country registered a record number of new infections, despite opposition from regional heads and street protests over curfews.
Members of medical staff in PPE in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for Covid-19 in the San Filippo Neri hospital in Rome. Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte tightened nationwide coronavirus restrictions after the country registered a record number of new infections, despite opposition from regional heads and street protests over curfews.
Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

2.30pm GMT

Protect nature or face deadlier pandemics than Covid-19, scientists warn

The world is in an “era of pandemics” and unless the destruction of the natural world is halted they will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, kill more people and affect the global economy with more devastating impact than ever before, according to a report from some of the world’s leading scientists.

The emergence of diseases such as Covid-19, bird flu and HIV from animals was entirely driven by the razing of wild places for farming and the trade in wild species, which were bringing people into contact with the dangerous microbes, the experts said.

The report reads:

The risk of pandemics is increasing rapidly, with more than five new diseases emerging in people every year, any one of which has the potential to become pandemic.

It estimates there are more than 500,000 unknown viruses in mammals and birds that could infect humans. Risks are rapidly rising, with more than five new diseases emerging in humans every year – any of which has the potential to spread and become a pandemic.

But it is wrong to blame wildlife for the emergence of diseases because pandemics, including Covid-19, are caused by human activities and their impact on the environment, the report said.

Peter Daszak, the chair of the group convened by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, (Ipbes) to produce the report, said:

There is no great mystery about the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic, or of any modern pandemic. The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment.

Changes in the way we use land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people. This is the path to pandemics.

It is possible to “escape the era of pandemics” but it requires a shift from responding with public health measures and developing vaccines towards preventing diseases emerging, experts said.

That means tackling the unsustainable exploitation of the environment, including clearing forests for farming, more intensive agriculture, and trade in and eating wild species, which increase contact between wildlife, livestock and people and “has led to almost all pandemics”.

Taxes on eating meat and livestock production, curbing the wildlife trade in species that present a high risk of a new disease and conservation of protected areas are among the measures suggested in the report.

Responding to the report, Prof Andy Jones, professor of public health, University of East Anglia, said:

Biodiversity loss, climate change, international trade and uncontrolled population growth are all creating conditions that make another global pandemic inevitable.

Unless urgent action is taken, the question is not if we will see another Covid-like pandemic, but simply when will it occur?

My colleague Damian Carrington has the story.

Updated at 3.03pm GMT

2.21pm GMT

Number of people tested positive for Covid in England jumps 23% in a week

A total of 126,065 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to 21 October, according to the latest Test and Trace figures. This is an increase of 23% in positive cases on the previous week and is the highest weekly number since Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.

Updated at 3.23pm GMT

2.20pm GMT

Pope Francis’ weekly general audiences, which had resumed with the public participating, will be moved back indoors and held virtually from 4 November after one participant tested positive for Covid-19, the Vatican said on Thursday.

A statement said the audiences will be held from the pope’s official private library, as they were during the height of the lockdown in Italy earlier this year.

In recent weeks, the public was allowed to return to the audiences, held first in a Vatican courtyard and then in a Vatican auditorium. But a participant at the 21 October audience tested positive for the virus, the statement said, prompting the change.

As of next Wednesday, the audiences will go back to being held in the library in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace without public participation “in order to avoid any eventual future risk to the health of the participants.”

The Vatican’s decision coincides with a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases in Italy. Recently, 13 Swiss Guards and one person who lives in the residence that houses the pope tested positive for the coronavirus.

Pope Francis’ weekly general audience on 28 October. The pope has come under heavy criticism for infrequently wearing a face mask when out in public.
Pope Francis’ weekly general audience on 28 October. The pope has come under heavy criticism for infrequently wearing a face mask when out in public.
Photograph: Grzegorz Galazka/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

2.17pm GMT

A further 1,375 Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Wales today, bringing the tally to 47,834. Public Health Wales said another 21 deaths had been recorded, bringing the death toll t0 1,848.

2.15pm GMT

Oxford city council said the city will be moving to tier 2 from 00:01 on Saturday.

A notice on the council’s website said:

Over the past three weeks, we have not only seen a continued rise in cases in the city, but increasing evidence of the spread of the virus beyond people in their teens and twenties to older, and potentially more vulnerable, age groups.

It is evident that the virus is no longer confined to younger people but is now affecting a much wider age range. Hospital admissions have begun to increase as a result.

An explanation of the tier system for England and what the lockdown rules are for tier 2 can be found here:

2.03pm GMT

Travellers arriving in the UK from Germany, Cyprus and Lithuania could be required to enter quarantine due to a rise in coronavirus cases, figures indicate.

Germany’s seven-day rate of cases per 100,000 people has reached 107 after nearly 17,000 cases were reported on Wednesday. The rate for Lithuania is 140, while Cyprus is on 112. Figures have been calculated by the PA news agency based on data collected by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The UK government is believed to be using a rate of 100 as the threshold above which it considers triggering quarantine conditions. This is up from 20 in recent months. The UK’s own rate is 230.

The transport secretary Grant Shapps is expected to announce the weekly adjustment to the Government’s travel corridors list at 5pm (GMT) on Thursday.

Travellers arriving from areas not on the list must self-isolate for 14 days. Most popular tourist destinations have been removed from the list due to a rise in coronavirus cases, including Spain, France and Italy.

1.43pm GMT

The Bulgarian president Rumen Radev is self-isolating after his secretary general tested positive for coronavirus and will continue to carry out his duties remotely, the president’s office said on Thursday.

Bulgaria has closed universities, high schools and nightclubs for two weeks among other curbs aimed at containing a rise in new Covid-19 cases.

On Thursday, the Balkan country of 7 million people reported a new daily record of 2,760 infections. Some 45,461 Bulgarians have tested positive for the disease since March and 1,197 have died.

The prime minister Boyko Borissov and the Central Bank Governor Dimitar Radev are also in self-isolation after testing positive for the infection.

The Bulgaria’s president Rumen Radev will continue to carry out his duties remotely as he self-isolates after his secretary general tested positive for Covid-19.
The Bulgaria’s president Rumen Radev will continue to carry out his duties remotely as he self-isolates after his secretary general tested positive for Covid-19.
Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Updated at 1.48pm GMT

1.36pm GMT

Finland’s government said on Thursday it would lift its restrictions on opening hours for restaurants serving mainly food but kept stricter rules on bars and nightclubs in place, as the Covid-19 pandemic showed signs of slowing down in the Nordic country.

Earlier on Thursday, Finnish health authorities said the earlier rise in the number of new Covid-19 cases had levelled off and the numbers even seemed to be decreasing slightly.

1.32pm GMT

The number of new coronavirus infections in the Netherlands remained above 10,000 over the past hours, near a record high, according to data released by the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) on Thursday.

The RIVM said the number of confirmed new cases of Covid-19 was 10,264, just below a high of 10,343 on Oct. 26. The number is being closely watched by the Dutch government, which is weighing tighter curbs.

King Willem-Alexander visited the Haaglanden Medical Center, The Hague, The Netherlands. The visit focused on the current treatment of patients with Covid-19 and the working method of the Covid-19 crisis structure.
King Willem-Alexander visited the Haaglanden Medical Center, The Hague, The Netherlands. The visit focused on the current treatment of patients with Covid-19 and the working method of the Covid-19 crisis structure.
Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Updated at 1.35pm GMT

1.31pm GMT

Spain’s Catalonia region closes its borders to contain pandemic

The Spanish region of Catalonia on Thursday announced a ban on entering or exiting its territory for 15 days, the latest in a series of restrictions taken by Spanish regions to try and curb coronavirus infections.

Catalonia, home to the city of Barcelona, is one of the virus’ hotspots and has already some of the toughest measures in place in the country, including a 15-day shutdown of bars and restaurants, which will also be extended.

It announced the new measures as the parliament in Madrid debated a nationwide state of emergency, which the central government wants to last until May to give regions legal backing for taking such restrictive measures.

“The government is aware that citizens are tired after months of effort and sacrifices, of not being able to do what they used to do before, to hug people, our family and friends,” the health minister Salvador Illa told parliament.

But it is not the time to relax measures, we have very tough weeks and months ahead of us.

After a lot of political wrangling over how to tackle the crisis, the government is expected to gather enough support for parliament to approve the extension of the state of emergency at a vote later on Thursday.

Updated at 1.45pm GMT

1.24pm GMT

Saudi Arabia will open the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca for Muslims from other countries from 1 November, Saudi media reported on Thursday, as the kingdom relaxes measures it had taken to check the spread of the coronavirus.

“The Umrah pilgrimage is allowed for Muslims from across the world,” Saudi state TV said, citing a statement from the Ministry of Pilgrimage. The Saudi-owned, Dubai-based TV channel Al-Arabiya said Umrah will be allowed from 1 November.

Umrah is a pilgrimage which can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to Hajj, which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

Saudi Arabia closed its borders in February to foreign Umrah pilgrims, and in March stopped its own citizens and residents from taking part. In July, it allowed a limited number of domestic pilgrims to perform the Hajj.

1.19pm GMT

Sweden sets another daily case record as hospitals feel strain

Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, registered 2,820 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest since the start of the pandemic and the third record number in a matter of days, health agency statistics showed.

A steady rise in new cases has appeared to be gaining momentum in Sweden in recent weeks though the resurgence of the disease has come later than in wide swaths of Europe and not so far hit the kind of peaks recorded in countries such as France.

The increase compares with a record set only the previous day, a figure that was revised up to just over 2,400 cases on Thursday. The Health Agency has said the peak during the spring probably ran much higher but went unrecorded due to a lack of testing.

Chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told a news conference:

We’re beginning to approach the ceiling for what the healthcare system can handle. Together, as during the spring, we can push down this curve and avoid the strain on healthcare.

The health agency also moved to tighten pandemic recommendations for three additional regions, including Sweden’s biggest cities Stockholm and Gothenburg, saying infection rates were rising sharply in these areas.

Sweden has relied primarily on voluntary measures, largely unenforced but still widely adhered to. The new tighter local recommendations, already introduced in two regions with surging infections, included advice to avoid indoor environments such as shops and gyms.

Stockholm authorities said separately that the number of patients with Covid-19 in need of care in the region had risen about 60% over the past week after a near 80% surge in recorded infections.

Sweden registered 7 new deaths, taking the total to 5,934. Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than Nordic neighbours, but lower than some larger European countries, such as Spain and the UK.

Updated at 1.51pm GMT

1.17pm GMT

Revealing the classifications for the new tiers, Nicola Sturgeon explained that the decision-making had been deliberately cautious as the new system was rolled out across Scotland for the first time.

She highlighted the case of Inverclyde, which had hoped to be assessed as level 2, but was put into level 3 because of its proximity to other parts of west central Scotland with high transmission rates.

Conversely, the council areas of Angus and Perth & Kinross were placed in level 2, despite being close to the city of Dundee, which has been assessed as level 3. Sturgeon said that residents of the adjoining areas “have a big part to play” to prevent cross-border transmission.

Sturgeon also warned that she could not rule out a move back to nationwide restrictions in the next few weeks, including at level 4, the most severe level.

That could happen if, for example, cases in parts of the county start to rise faster again, to the extent that controlling spread with travel restrictions will not be effective.

12.57pm GMT

Most Scots to face level 3 restrictions in new five-tier system

Millions of residents across central Scotland face a continued ban on indoor socialising and drinking in pubs and restaurants alongside significantly tighter travel restrictions from next Monday, as the Scottish government’s five tier system of Covid-19 controls comes into force.

Councils in four health board areas that have faced some of the toughest restrictions in the UK since 9 October – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley – will now be placed in level 3, along with Dundee.

Those living in level 3 areas are advised not to travel beyond their local authority area, unless they require to do so for essential reasons including for work, education, healthcare or caring responsibilities. This represents a major reduction in permitted travel for residents, who are currently allowed to move freely within their much larger health board areas.

Appealing to the public to comply with the new travel limits, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

I know travel restrictions are unwelcome and can be controversial, but they are an absolutely essential part of any regional approach to tackling Covid. They are – unfortunately – a price we must pay for more targeted restrictions.

Updated at 1.17pm GMT

12.52pm GMT

The UK’s Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis is self-isolating, after coming into contact with somebody who recently tested positive for Covid-19. Writing on Twitter, Lewis said that he does not currently have any symptoms.

12.19pm GMT

The Covid-19 pandemic has reached a “critical” stage in England, with prevalence doubling since last month with the fastest increases in the south where the R number has risen above 2, research has found.

While cases remain highest in northern England, a dramatic increase in infections has been recorded across all areas, according to the latest interim findings from the React-1 study from Imperial College London.

It triggered warnings from scientists that current measures – including bans for millions on households mixing and the closure of pubs – were not working and urgent action is needed to avoid a sharp rise in hospitalisations and deaths.

12.04pm GMT

A woman looks for decorations at a roadside stall ahead of Diwali, in Kolkata, India. India’s confirmed coronavirus caseload surpassed 8 million on Thursday with daily infections dipping to the lowest level this week, as concerns grew over a major Hindu festival season and winter setting in.
A woman looks for decorations at a roadside stall ahead of Diwali, in Kolkata, India. India’s confirmed coronavirus caseload surpassed 8 million on Thursday with daily infections dipping to the lowest level this week, as concerns grew over a major Hindu festival season and winter setting in.
Photograph: Bikas Das/AP

12.01pm GMT

White House advisers warn of ‘unrelenting’ Covid-19 spread in parts of US

The White House coronavirus task force is warning of a persistent and broad spread of Covid-19 in the western half of the United States and its members urged aggressive mitigation measures.

Dr Anthony Fauci, task force member and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said:

We are on a very difficult trajectory. We’re going in the wrong direction.

In an interview with CNBC on Wednesday night, Fauci noted that coronavirus cases are rising in 47 states and patients are overwhelming hospitals across the country.

If things do not change, if they continue on the course we’re on, there’s gonna be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalisations, and deaths.

The White House coronavirus task force has warned states in the middle and west of the country that aggressive mitigation measures will be necessary, according to weekly state reports obtained by CNN.

One state’s report said:

We continue to see unrelenting, broad community spread in the Midwest, Upper Midwest and West. This will require aggressive mitigation to control both the silent, asymptomatic spread and symptomatic spread.

The task force reports said the cooler weather is a major factor in the increase as friends and families move gatherings indoors. It urged states to intensify efforts to encourage mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding crowds in public spaces.

US hospitalisations are soaring, a metric not affected by the amount of testing done. Thirteen states, mainly in the Midwest and West, reported a record number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients on Wednesday, according to a Reuters analysis.

Wisconsin, a hotly contested battleground in next week’s presidential election, is one of 36 states where coronavirus hospitalisations are rising by at least 10% compared with the previous week. Michigan, another election battleground state, logged a one-day record of over 3,500 new cases.

The president Donald Trump has been excoriated for his handling of the pandemic and his push to reopen the economy, sometimes against the advice of his own government health experts, while many of his supporters in Michigan and elsewhere protested lockdown and mitigation efforts.

Illinois reported over 6,000 new cases on Wednesday, the biggest increase of any state in the country and topping the 5,700 new cases in the much more populous state of Texas and 4,200 new cases in California, according to a Reuters tally of state and county reports.

11.51am GMT

UK urged to decide quickly if it will go into second nationwide lockdown

The UK government resisted pressure on Thursday to impose a second nationwide lockdown after France and Germany ordered sweeping restrictions on social life to contain record increases in coronavirus infections that have pushed health services to their limits in recent weeks.

Boris Johnson’s government has so far tried to avoid a nationwide lockdown, opting instead for a tiered system of local controls intended to tighten measures in affected regions while leaving others less restricted.

However, a new study by Imperial College London underlined the dire situation facing Britain, the country with the largest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe, showing cases in England doubling every nine days.

Steven Riley, the author of the study and a professor of infectious disease and dynamics, told the BBC the government should decide quickly if it wanted to follow France and Germany.

And sooner is better than later for these.

However, the housing minister Robert Jenrick said he did not think it was inevitable that the UK would follow France and Germany in imposing nationwide restrictions. He told Times Radio:

The judgement of the government today is that a blanket national lockdown is not appropriate, would do more harm than good.

Europe’s economies were plunged into their deepest recession on record by the blanket lockdowns imposed at the start of the crisis in March and April and the latest restrictions have snuffed out the faint signs of recovery seen over the summer.

Financial markets steadied somewhat on Thursday after a brutal selloff a day before as the prospect of a double dip recession came ever more clearly into view.

Governments have been desperate to avoid a repeat of the spring lockdowns but have been forced to move by the speed of new infections and a steadily increasing mortality rate across the continent.

11.40am GMT

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Iran rose by 8,293 to 596,941, the health ministry spokeswoman told state TV on Thursday, as the country reported 399 deaths in the past 24 hours. Sima Sadat Lari said the death toll from the Covid-19 stood at 34,113 in the Middle East’s worst-hit country.

Updated at 11.41am GMT

11.39am GMT

Austria’s daily tally of new coronavirus cases has surged past 4,000 to a new record of 4,453, newspapers Kronen Zeitung and Oesterreich reported on Thursday before the figure’s official publication.

Infections in Austria have been rising steadily but the country has only relatively lenient restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus – shops, bars, restaurants and theatres remain open.

The chancellor Sebastian Kurz is due to speak on Thursday afternoon after meeting experts on hospital capacity.

11.36am GMT

Greece will introduce further restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19, the prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday, as further lockdowns were imposed in the country’s northern and central regions.

Greece has recorded significantly lower numbers of Covid-19 than other countries in Europe but cases have been rising rapidly since early October. Testing has also increased.

On Wednesday, the country registered 1,547 new Covid-19 cases, its highest daily tally, bringing its total number of infections to 34,299 so far. A total of 603 patients have died, authorities said.

Greece would unveil a one-month plan on Friday to combat the second wave of coronavirus, Mitsotakis told a cabinet meeting, saying ‘targeted’ restrictions would be in place.

Based on a four-tier risk assessment by authorities, the country’s second-largest city Thessaloniki, as well as the central cities of Larissa and the northern Rodopi region would be in localised lockdown with only schools and retail businesses operating.

A woman walking in central Athens as Greece saw a record-breaking rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day.
A woman walking in central Athens as Greece saw a record-breaking rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day.
Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP

Updated at 2.55pm GMT

11.31am GMT

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Switzerland rose by 9,386 in a day, data from Swiss health authorities showed on Thursday, a day after the government tightened restrictions meant to slow the accelerating spread of Covid-19. The total confirmed cases in Switzerland and neighbouring Liechtenstein increased to 145,044 and the reported death toll rose by 31 to 1,985.

11.16am GMT

A coronavirus variant that originated in Spanish farm workers has spread rapidly through much of Europe since the summer, and now accounts for the majority of new Covid-19 cases in several countries, including 80% in the UK, the Financial Times (paywall) reports.

An international team of scientists that has been tracking the virus through its genetic mutations described the extraordinary spread of the variant, called 20A.EU1, in a research paper to be published on Thursday.

Their work suggests that people returning from holiday in Spain played a key role in transmitting the virus across Europe, raising questions about whether the second wave that is sweeping the continent could have been reduced by improved screening at airports and other transport hubs.

11.13am GMT

Good morning from London. I’m Lucy Campbell, I’ll be bringing you all the latest updates on the Covid-19 pandemic from the UK and across the world for the next eight hours. If you have a story that we should be covering here, please feel free to get in touch with me as I work.

Email: lucy.campbell@theguardian.com
Twitter: @lucy_campbell_

10.51am GMT

Total cases in Poland triple in less than a month

The total number of coronavirus infections so far in Poland has now passed 300,000, after tripling in less than a month.

The milestone was reached after the Polish health ministry made another record-breaking announcement of new infections, with 20,156 new cases, along with 301 Covid-related deaths, Reuters reports.

Officials have warned infections could rise fast due to protests sweeping the country over a constitutional court ruling last Thursday that introduced a near total ban on abortions. Tens of thousands have gathered in towns and cities for several days, blaming the nationalist government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki for the verdict.

No major protests are planned on Thursday but a mass gathering is scheduled in Warsaw on Friday.

Poland has closed restaurants and bars, banned gatherings of more than five people, and introduced online teaching for most students to slow the spread of the virus, but it has so far resisted a full lockdown and said it would take time for the new curbs to bring results.

Updated at 10.52am GMT

10.39am GMT

Over 1.5 million more people in England’s West Midlands region look set to have tier 2 restrictions imposed amid a continuing rise in coronavirus infections, according to the PA Media news agency.

The whole of Staffordshire, Dudley, in the Black Country, and Telford & Wrekin, in Shropshire, are the latest areas set for a move from medium to high controls.

The Staffordshire county council leader, Alan White, warned the area’s 880,000 residents “we are now facing tighter restrictions” because of rapidly rising cases, and the new measures could be in place as soon as the end of the week.

The council said the exact date of when restrictions will be imposed was to be confirmed, but would be reviewed after 14 days.

An official announcement is expected later.

10.29am GMT

A 17-year-old schoolboy has become the youngest person in Northern Ireland to die from causes linked to Covid-19, writes Rory Carroll, the Guardian’s Ireland correspondent.

Aaron Doherty, from Derry, died on Tuesday after testing positive for the virus several weeks ago. He appeared to have recovered and tested negative last week but deteriorated suddenly on Monday and was taken to Altnagelvin hospital, where he died. He reportedly had an underlying condition.

“My beautiful son. Rest in Peace. Love you,” his father, Jim Doherty, posted on Facebook. Aaron’s former football club, Ballymoor FC, expressed condolences. “Taken too soon – RIP Aaron.”

Northern Ireland reported 840 new cases of the virus on Wednesday. Covid patients occupy 450 hospital beds, with 44 in intensive care, pushing the region’s hospitals beyond capacity.

Sean Gibson, head of estate management at the Western Health Trust, said Altnagelvin hospital may need to ration oxygen. “If we experience the growth in numbers that we have, then we may not have enough oxygen to treat them,” he told the BBC. “We may have to ration oxygen – it’s that serious.”

The Derry and Strabane District Council area had some of the UK’s highest rates but cases have dropped 49% since restrictions were imposed three weeks ago.

10.16am GMT

As the row over the discharge of Covid-positive patients into Scotland’s care homes during the early days of the pandemic deepens, health secretary Jeane Freeman has insisted that a new report does not diminish government accountability, writes Libby Brookes, the Guardian’s Scotland correspondent.

The report – which concluded the risk of an outbreak linked to discharge of positive or untested patients was “not statistically significant” – prompted anger from opposition parties, care chiefs and unions, who argued that it failed to properly explain why dozens of patients who tested positive for coronavirus, along with thousands who went untested, were discharged from Scottish hospitals into care homes in April and May.

Deaths in care homes account for about half of Covid-related deaths in Scotland, with about 2,000 residents having died.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Freeman said:

For relatives and families of people who have died in care homes during this pandemic, I want them to know really clearly that I am not saying that this report says there is no accountability here or that I think that report in any way offers them comfort. It’s a very technical report and it comes to a statistical conclusion but that doesn’t take away from the human impact of this virus…

Speaking on the same programme, Professor June Andrews, advisor to Dementia Services Development Trust at Stirling University, called into question the “statistical conclusion” that there was no significant risk posed by the discharges, saying that the data had been “cobbled together from a variety of sources” and that the conclusion appeared “defensive”.

She warned that the report – which also suggested that smaller care homes had dealt better with outbreaks – should not be used to blame staff. Others within the care sector have pointed out that larger homes tend to involve more elderly residents and more nursing care, which requires closer contact.

Andrews said that it made more sense to wait for a public inquiry – which the Scottish government has already agreed to – where the quality of data would be much better.

9.58am GMT

Angela Merkel heckled by opposition MPs in parliament

Angela Merkel faced shouts and heckles in Germany’s parliament this morning as she outlined her government’s plans for a “soft” second lockdown, writes Philip Oltermann, the Guardian’s Berlin bureau chief.

From Monday, bars, restaurants, theatres, swimming pools and fitness studios will close for a month, and public gatherings be limited to two households or up to ten people. Unnecessary travel is discouraged and hotels advised not to host tourists. Schools, nurseries and shops will stay open, however.

Merkel said on Thursday morning that Germany was in a “dramatic situation” as it entered the cold season. With the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care having doubled in the last ten days, the chancellor said, hospitals would be overwhelmed “within weeks” unless further steps were taken to curb the spread of the virus.

But Merkel’s “wavebreaker” lockdown has been met with cries of despair especially from the gastronomy sectors. In spite of guarantees for further state subsidies, restaurants, bars and hotels will be hit hard by the new closures, in spite of many owners saying they have willingly complied with requests for new hygiene measures so far. There is little data to suggest that restaurants and bars where guests wear masks have driven the recent spike in infections.

Angela Merkel wears a face mask as she walks past finance minister and vice-chancellor Olaf Scholz to take her seat at the Bundestag.
Angela Merkel wears a face mask as she walks past finance minister and vice-chancellor Olaf Scholz to take her seat at the Bundestag.
Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) led the charge against Merkel’s second lockdown in the Bundestag. “We consider Ms Merkel’s paralysation of the culture and gastronomy sector, practically the entire leisure life of our citizens, to be excessive and inappropriate”, said AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland.

Neither Gauland nor FDP leader Christian Lindner offered concrete proposals for an alternative plan, such as a closure of schools. Merkel justified keeping open nurseries and schools “with view to the supreme significance of education”.

Germany’s disease control agency on Thursday recorded a record new 16,774 new infections in the last 24 hours, though for now the infection rate in Germany is still considerably lower than in neighbouring countries such as France or Belgium.

Updated at 10.24am GMT

9.35am GMT

Children age six to wear masks in class in France

Schoolchildren aged six and over in France will be required to wear face masks in class, the French prime minister, Jean Castex, has said.

Castex told lawmakers in the national assembly that the new measure was needed “to protect all our children, teachers and parents.” Face masks were already mandatory for children aged 11 and over.

France is preparing to enter a new lockdown from midnight. The president, Emmanuel Macron, said on Wednesday, that unlike during France’s two-month virus lockdown last spring, schools would remain open.

The French prime minister, Jean Castex, speaks at the national assembly at the Palais Bourbon in Paris.
The French prime minister, Jean Castex, speaks at the national assembly at the Palais Bourbon in Paris.
Photograph: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

Restaurants, bars and non-essential businesses will be closed until at least 1 December. Castex said companies would be urged to have employees work from home “five days a week.”

“We have to keep working as much as possible, but of course under strict sanitary conditions that stop the virus from spreading,” he was quoting as saying by AFP, the French state-backed news agency, warning that “unemployment and poverty can also kill.”

9.24am GMT

China’s largest coronavirus outbreak in months appears to have emerged in a factory in Xinjiang linked to forced labour and the government’s controversial policies towards Uighur residents.

More than 180 cases of Covid-19 documented in the past week in Shufu county, in southern Xinjiang, can be traced back to a factory that was built in 2018 as part of government “poverty alleviation” efforts, a campaign that researchers and rights advocates describe as coercive.

Under the initiative, Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region are tracked and given work placements that they have little choice but to take up.

9.10am GMT

Taiwan reaches 200 days without domestic transmission

Taiwan has reached 200 days without any officially confirmed domestically transmitted cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, the Associated Press reports.

Taiwan’s Centre for Disease Control last reported a domestic case on 12 April. CDC officials noted the milestone and thanked the public for playing a role, while urging people to continue to wear masks and to wash their hands often.

Since the pandemic began, Taiwan has recorded 553 cases of Covid-19, and just seven deaths. While it has stopped domestic transmission, it continues to record new cases in people arriving from abroad.

Taiwan has been pointed to as a success story in how to respond to the pandemic, especially considering its close business and tourism ties with China, where the virus first emerged late last year.

Questions remain, however, as to whether the island is truly free of the coronavirus. Local media has been paying close attention to reports of people who tested positive for coronavirus after leaving Taiwan.

8.57am GMT

Angela Merkel speaks at the Bundestag.
Angela Merkel speaks at the Bundestag.
Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Angela Merkel was heckled in the Bundestag, the lower house of Germany’s parliament, on Thursday morning, according to Reuters, as she said populists who purport the coronavirus is harmless are dangerous and irresponsible.

“Lies and disinformation, conspiracy theories and hatred damage not only the democratic debate but also the fight against the virus,” she said, adding this put human lives in danger.

“It is only with solidarity and transparency that we will be able to confront the pandemic,” she told the Bundestag. She sought to defend a circuit break lockdown announced on Wednesday, including the closure of restaurants, gyms and theatres, that is aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

Merkel said German intensive care units risked being overwhelmed in a few weeks. “We are in a dramatic situation,” she said.

Preparations for coronavirus vaccinations in Germany are underway and the government is working on ethical guidelines on who vaccines should be available for, said Merkel.

“The winter will be hard,” she said. “Four long, hard months. But it will end.”

Updated at 9.01am GMT

8.47am GMT

Record increases in cases and deaths in Russia

Russia has recorded a new record high increase in new cases of coronavirus and deaths from Covid-19.

Health authorities announced 17,717 new cases on Thursday, including 4,906 in Moscow, taking the national total to 1,581,693 since the pandemic began, Reuters reports.

Authorities also reported a record high of 366 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 27,301.

8.41am GMT

UK police “could break up Christmas family gatherings”

Police could break up large family gatherings at Christmas, Britain’s housing minister Robert Jenrick warned, as he said it was right that they enforce coronavirus rules on socialising.

“Well that’s not something that anyone would want to see but it’s right that everybody follows the law and obviously the police have to do what’s necessary to enforce it,” he said on Times Radio when asked about Christmas celebrations.

8.32am GMT

The debate continues to rage in England over whether a national lockdown is required to curb the spread of coronavirus, as infection rates increase in some areas and the country reports large increase in infections.

Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London, said the data from a nationwide study of coronavirus prevalence suggests “we need to think about changing the approach”.

I think what our study shows is there would be genuine benefits to some kind of national policy.

In that we could prevent the pattern in the South turning into the current pattern in the North and bring about a reversal in the North as quickly as possible.

If we’re going to end up using those restrictions that have been brought in elsewhere in Europe today and yesterday… we should think about timing. And sooner is better than later for these.

There has to be a change. The rate of growth that we’re seeing in these data is really quite rapid, so one way or another there has to be a change before Christmas.

We’ve fairly reliably measured a slight decrease in R (reproduction number) in our interim round five, now we have measured a slight increase in R, and the slight increase in R means that current measures are not sufficient.

Dr David Strain, clinical senior lecturer and honorary consultant at University of Exeter Medical School, questioned the rule of six.

The rule of six is fundamentally flawed – it allows people to spread the virus around multiple households completely legitimately.

Yet this is permitted indoors in Tier 1 and outdoors in Tier 2. All of these mean the virus is still growing.

But Strain said a national lockdown or circuit-breaker can only be effective if there is a “sensible exit strategy”, adding:

I do believe the local approach is likely to be a better way forward. Currently the focus is very much on controlling the outbreaks in Tier 3.

More focus should be placed on maintaining Tier 1 regions in Tier 1. These areas, after all, are currently maintaining the economy.

8.21am GMT

The British government’s coronavirus job retention scheme closes on Saturday, ending the first phase of the UK’s economic response to the pandemic.

When the scheme was announced in March it was hailed as an unprecedented intervention by the government, which committed to paying 80% of the wages of any furloughed worker (up to a monthly limit of £2,500). As large parts of the economy were forced to shut down, economists said the policy had been the main factor in preventing a dramatic rise in unemployment.

However, almost 32 weeks later, employment data suggests businesses and workers around the country are still relying on government support, even as the generosity of the support has been reduced. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, last week updated the furlough programme’s more limited replacement, the job support scheme.

Jasper Jolly looks at six different ways UK jobs market has fared during the pandemic.

8.15am GMT

In London, ambulance crews are dealing with another kind of epidemic.

The number of suicides and attempted suicides attended by ambulance crews has doubled compared to five years ago.

8.10am GMT

The Philippines’ health ministry on Thursday recorded 1,761 new coronavirus infections and 33 more deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed infections had risen to 376,935, while deaths had reached 7,147. New Covid-19 cases in the Philippines increased by fewer than 2,000 in seven of the last 10 days.

8.08am GMT

The Czech Republic has reported 12,977 new coronavirus cases, health ministry data showed on Thursday.

Total cases rose to 297,013 while deaths climbed by 128 to 2,675.

Hospitals in the country have been looking for volunteers, as the country struggles with one of Europe’s fastest growing infection rates.

An empty Wenceslas square is seen during the curfew in Prague.
An empty Wenceslas square is seen during the curfew in Prague.
Photograph: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

According to the Associated Press, the government is deploying thousands of medical students to hospitals and other students to testing sites.

The mayor of Prague, Zdenek Hrib, who has a degree in medicine, volunteered to help do initial exams of possible coronavirus patients at a university hospital.

And 28 medical personnel from the US national guards are expected to arrive to help treat patients at Prague’s military hospital and a new field hospital at the city’s exhibition ground.

7.56am GMT

Time for some UK national papers now, where the divisions in attitudes towards the coronavirus pandemic are being played out.

The Guardian reports on a plan to test 10% of the population for coronavirus every week.

Up to 10% of England’s population could be tested for coronavirus every week after government officials asked local health chiefs to deploy 30-minute saliva kits in an acceleration of Boris Johnson’s controversial “Operation Moonshot” mass screening plan.

In a letter seen by the Guardian, NHS test and trace claims it is embarking on an “important new front in our fight against coronavirus” and asks all directors of public health to sign up to receive rapid-result test kits for up to a tenth of their populations every week, to contain outbreaks and preserve freedoms.

In The Times they are once again talking of a vaccine by Christmas.

The government believes that a German vaccine backed by Pfizer could be ready to distribute before Christmas, with the first doses earmarked for the elderly and vulnerable.

Albert Bourla, the chief executive of Pfizer, said that the vaccine was in the “last mile” and that the pharmaceutical company expected results within a matter of weeks.

Britain has already bought enough doses for 20 million people and is anticipating that some will be available for use immediately if the drug is shown to be successful.

The Telegraph has one for all its readers worried about travelling to their second homes in the Dordogne.

France will be plunged into a second lockdown tomorrow after Emmanuel Macron said Europe was being “overrun” by a second wave of coronavirus which would be “harder, more deadly than the first”.

The French president ordered the closure of non-essential shops, along with bars and restaurants, and told people to stay at home unless they had documentation showing why they needed to go to work or make other journeys.

Britons will be banned from entering France unless they have a signed certificate stating why they need to travel.

The Daily Mail rails against the prospect of a second national lockdown.

Business leaders, campaigners and MPs last night pleaded with Boris Johnson to resist a devastating new lockdown.

They warned that it would wreak economic carnage and devastate thousands of businesses.

It came as scientists said up to 85,000 could die in a second virus wave.

And the Daily Express warns of a Covid cancer time bomb.

Deadly delays in cancer testing due to the pandemic mean 50,000 people have the disease but are campaigners warned yesterday.

Experts claim this number could double in the next 12 months if referrals and screening do not catch up, with urgent action essential.

The toll, described by one of the world’s leading experts as “colossal”, relates to the number affected during the eight-month Covid crisis.

7.43am GMT

England should act sooner rather than later if it is going to follow Germany and France and take nationwide steps to slow a second wave of the coronavirus, said Steven Riley, author of an Imperial College study into the spread of the disease.

“I think we need decide if we’re going to end up using those restrictions that have been brought in elsewhere in Europe today and yesterday. And if we’re if we’re going to do that, then we should think about timing. And sooner is better than later for these,” Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics, told the BBC.

The spread of the coronavirus continues to increase across all parts of England with cases doubling every nine days, according to the new study by Imperial College.

However, the UK’s ruling Conservative party is facing opposition among its own MPs and prominent supporters against a second lockdown.

The hotelier Rocco Forte, a Tory donor who hosted a party for the prime minister after the Conservative election victory in December, told the BBC he was sceptical that the government was taking the correct approach.

I don’t think they got the balance right. I think they have overreacted, they have panicked in the first instance on the basis of a forecast of 500,000 deaths. We are now seeing new forecasts done by the same people who made the mistakes last time … forecasting armageddon and they have started to panic again.

The reality of the virus is that it is not the killer it was thought to be. At the beginning, I mean, they were talking about a bubonic type plague, where a third of the population dies. Deaths are terrible in any circumstances, but we are looking at a very very small proportion at the moment. Now we have more people dying of influenza and pneumonia than we have of Covid, and yet the concentration is solely on Covid. It doesn’t matter what you die of, if you die of a heart attack or cancer or anything that’s irrelevant. The only thing that matters is if you die of Covid, and it’s quite ridiculous.

7.30am GMT

The UK government is doing everything it can to avoid a second national lockdown in England, and it believes it can control the virus with local measures, Robert Jenrick, the housing minister, has said.

Speaking on breakfast television, Jenrick said that the government kept everything under review but it wanted to avoid a second full national shutdown because of the damage it creates to livelihoods and the economy.

“The very clear policy of the government is to do everything we can to avoid a full national lockdown,” he told Sky News. Jenrick added:

We will continue with our localised but proportionate approach on taking action where the virus is strongest but you can see from those figures that the virus is in a bad place in all parts of the country.

The approach of trying to bear down on it where it is most concentrated I think continues to be the best way forward because despite the fact the virus is rising across the country it is very concentrated in some places nonetheless.

Updated at 7.33am GMT

7.20am GMT

A national lockdown in France may have to be extended beyond 1 December, the initial deadline, according to Prof Jean-François Delfraissy, a government scientific adviser.

The president, Emmanuel Macron, said on Wednesday that France might start to ease back lockdown measures once coronavirus infections fell back to about 5,000 per day, from around 40,000 per day at present.

But Delfraissy said he did not think that could be achieved by 1 December, according to Reuters.

“By 1 December, we will not be at 5,000 contaminations per day. I can tell that to you straight away today. We will need more time,” said Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the French government on the pandemic.

Updated at 7.30am GMT

7.08am GMT

Good morning from London. This is Damien Gayle and I’ll be bringing you the latest updates in coronavirus news from the UK and around the world for the next few hours.

If you have any comments, tips or suggestions for coverage from your part of the world, please send them my way, either via email to damien.gayle@theguardian.com or via Twitter direct message to @damiengayle.

6.57am GMT

‘Turning pain into purpose’: why the Covid crisis is driving Arizonans to the polls

Maanvi Singh and Lauren Gambino in Phoenix

The coronavirus crisis, which has dominated the election cycle, looms especially large over Arizona. The virus has killed more than 227,000 people in the US, including nearly 6,000 Arizonans, and forced hundreds of thousands more to file for unemployment. It has taken a disproportionate toll on Latino, Black and Native American populations.

Maricopa county was especially hard hit, and remains the fifth worst affected in the US. With election day less than a week away, a traumatized electorate is weighing the failures of Republican leaders to control the pandemic in Arizona, and across the country.

6.39am GMT

More than 500 scout troops are facing closure after fundraising activities from jumble sales to supermarket bag packing were cancelled because of Covid, the movement has warned.

It means the 113-year-old institution faces the possible loss of at least 7% of its 7,300 groups.

Many of those in the severest financial difficulty are in the highest areas of deprivation. One, in Willesden, west London, only opened last May as part of a drive by the scouts to set up packs, troops and colonies in the UK’s poorest areas. It attracted children looking to avoid gang life:

6.27am GMT

Taiwan celebrates 200 days with no new local cases

Taiwan celebrated 200 days without a single locally transmitted case on Wednesday.

Despite being incredibly close to China and with high volumes of travel and trade, Taiwan has recorded just 550 cases and seven deaths so far this year. Since January it has not seen more than 30 daily cases, and most have been imported.

People wear face masks at a Mass Rapid Transit train station in Taipei, Taiwan, 24 October 2020.
People wear face masks at a Mass Rapid Transit train station in Taipei, Taiwan, 24 October 2020.
Photograph: David Chang/EPA

Experts credit Taiwan’s very early response as a key factor in it having one of the world’s most successful responses to the outbreak. Health authorities acted on informal reports of a new severe pneumonia outbreak on 31 December and began immediately quarantining flights and then enforcing border restrictions and quarantine on arrival.

The systems were largely in place: After the Sars epidemic killed 73 people including many healthcare workers in 2003, and its isolation from international healthcare networks limited access to resources, Taiwan strengthened and centralised its disease control framework and pandemic preparations.

Taiwan’s former vice president Chen Chien-jen also happens to be an epidemiologist. About 340,000 people quarantined in Taiwan at some point this year, Chen told Bloomberg today.

“We sacrificed 14 days of 340,000 people in exchange for normal lives for 23 million people,” he said.

Initially closed to all non-residents, Taiwan has begun slowly re-opening to some, including those on work visas and business travellers. But all arrivals must complete a quarantine either in a hotel, government facility or at home, during which they are closely monitored via phone tracking apps and staff in the police and centres for disease control.

6.15am GMT

Covid has hit ‘critical’ stage in England, research finds

Sarah Boseley, Simon Murphy and Josh Halliday report:

The Covid pandemic has reached a “critical” stage in England, with prevalence doubling since last month with the fastest increases in the south where the R number has risen above 2, research has found.

While cases remain highest in northern England, a dramatic increase in infections has been recorded across all areas, according to the latest interim findings from the React-1 study from Imperial College London.

It triggered warnings from scientists that current measures – including bans for millions on households mixing and the closure of pubs – were not working and urgent action is needed to avoid a sharp rise in hospitalisations and deaths.

The React-1 study found that infections are still highest among 18- to 24-year-olds (2.2%) but are spreading into older and more vulnerable age groups. The percentage of people infected aged 55-64 increased more than threefold from 0.37% to 1.2%.

There has been a downturn in infections among young people in the north-east, where the strictest tier 3 restrictions were first imposed, the scientists said, but a large increase in the numbers among over-65s which is likely to translate to hospital admissions and deaths:

6.08am GMT

This El Pais guide showing how quickly coronavirus spreads in enclosed spaces is well worth your time – what is particularly striking about it is the significant difference ventilation makes.

5.44am GMT

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, has praised Australia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying he ‘would like to say the same for the United States’.

Speaking during a discussion with the University of Melbourne, Fauci celebrated Victoria’s approach to wearing masks, lamenting that ‘masks in the United States have almost become a political statement’:

5.37am GMT

The dollar held gains against a basket of major currencies on Thursday as escalating coronavirus cases in Europe stoked investor fears that fresh lockdowns would further hit the already fragile economic recovery, Reuters reports.

The safe-haven greenback steadied against a basket of six currencies at 93.39, taking a pause after its 0.3% gains in early trade.

Concerns of further damage to the economy grew as France and Germany went back into lockdown on Wednesday, as a massive second wave of coronavirus cases threatened to overwhelm Europe.

5.09am GMT

More than 300,000 migrant workers who have spent months mostly confined to dormitories in Singapore will soon be allowed to visit recreation centres on their days off, as coronavirus measures are relaxed.

Singapore was initially lauded for its response to Covid-19, but later faced criticism over an explosion in case numbers among low-wage migrant workers living in overcrowded facilities on the outskirts of town. Activists had warned about the risk of infection among the workers, who were sleeping in rooms with up to 20 people, and travelling to and from construction sites on crowded trucks.

View of a dormitory room for migrant workers who have recovered from coronavirus amid the outbreak in Singapore on 15 May 2020.
View of a dormitory room for migrant workers who have recovered from coronavirus amid the outbreak in Singapore on 15 May 2020.
Photograph: Edgar Su/Reuters

Singapore has recorded almost 58,000 infections since the start of the pandemic, the vast majority of which involve migrant workers.

While disease prevention measures have been relaxed for most residents, workers have remained under tighter controls since April, when the dormitories were sealed off. Over recent months they have been allowed to travel to work and run errands, with social distancing and regular testing in place as a precaution.

From 31 October, people who test negative for Covid-19, and come from a dormitory with no active cases, will be allowed to visit recreation centres on their days off, where they will be able to shop for food, remit money, go to restaurants or get a haircut.

4.48am GMT

More now on US hospitals facing increases threats of cybercrime.

Federal agencies have warned that the US healthcare system is facing an “increased and imminent” threat of cybercrime, and that cybercriminals are unleashing a wave of extortion attempts designed to lock up hospital information systems, which could hurt patient care just as nationwide cases of Covid-19 are spiking.

In a joint alert Wednesday, the FBI and two federal agencies warned that they had “credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to US hospitals and healthcare providers”. The alert said malicious groups are targeting the sector with attacks that produce “data theft and disruption of healthcare services”.

The cyberattacks involve ransomware, which scrambles data into gibberish that can only be unlocked with software keys provided once targets pay up. Independent security experts say it has already hobbled at least five US hospitals this week, and could potentially impact hundreds more:

4.31am GMT

India crossing 8m cases comes amod concerns grew over a major Hindu festival season and winter setting in, AP reports.

Life in India is edging back to pre-virus levels with shops, businesses, subway trains and movie theaters reopening and the country’s third-largest state of Bihar with a population of about 122 million people holding elections.

But health experts warn that mask and distancing fatigue is setting in and can lead to a fresh wave of infections.

People wait to be tested at the Municipal Corporation dispensary Coronavirus Testing centre in Delhi, India, 28 Oct 2020.
People wait to be tested at the Municipal Corporation dispensary Coronavirus Testing centre in Delhi, India, 28 Oct 2020.
Photograph: Pradeep Gaur/REX/Shutterstock

India saw a steep rise in cases in July and added more than 2 million in August and another 3 million in September. But it is seeing a slower pace of coronavirus spread since mid-September, when daily infections touched a record of 97,894 and the highest number of deaths at 1,275.

Dr. T. Jacob John, a retired virologist, said that in most parts of India the infection curve was never flattened and the number of people who are now susceptible to the virus had decreased.

He warned that the ongoing festival season was likely to increase the speed of the viral spread, resulting in localized outbreaks where people gathered without masks and didn’t adhere to social distancing.

4.20am GMT

Germany reports record 16,774 new cases

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 16,774 to 481,013, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Thursday.

The reported death toll rose by 89 to 10,272, the tally showed.

The new case figure is the highest ever recorded in Germany. The previous record, reported the day before, was 14,964.

4.06am GMT

India becomes second country worldwide to pass 8m cases

India’s Covid-19 tally surpassed the 8-million mark on Thursday, according to the health ministry, after 49,881 new cases were confirmed.

The ministry on Thursday also reported 517 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 120,527.

The Johns Hopkins tracker doesn’t yet reflect the new data (it currently shows 7,990,322), but with the new cases, the total stands at 80,40,526, according to the Times of India.

The only other country worldwide with more than 8m cases is the United States, with 8.8m cases.

Updated at 4.10am GMT

3.36am GMT

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have published an alert warning that hospitals and healthcare providers accross the country are facing an “increased and imminent cybercrime threat”.

Among these threats are ransomware attacks – where an institution’s systems are encrypted and held for ransom: the attacker will release the encrypted information only once money is paid.

The report’s key findings include:

CISA, FBI, and HHS assess malicious cyber actors are targeting the HPH Sector with Trickbot malware, often leading to ransomware attacks, data theft, and the disruption of healthcare services.

These issues will be particularly challenging for organizations within the COVID-19 pandemic; therefore, administrators will need to balance this risk when determining their cybersecurity investments.

3.25am GMT

America’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has praised Melbourne, Australia’s response to the coronavirus, saying he “wished” the US could adopt the same mentality.

In an interview hosted by the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne-based Doherty Institute, Fauci said Australia was “one of the countries that has done actually quite well” in handling the virus.

“I really wish that we could transplant that kind of mentality here,” he said. “Because masks in the United States have almost become a political statement”:

Fauci, who is the most senior member of the White House’s coronavirus taskforce, said that Melbourne’s lockdown and mandatory mask-wearing had struck the right balance between public health and opening up the economy.

“A couple of hours before I came to my home here to pick up this Zoom, I was at a meeting virtually in the situation room in the White House,” he said. “If I were to use the word ‘shutdown’ the country or ‘lockdown’, I would be in serious trouble. They would probably be throwing tomatoes at me or something”:

3.15am GMT

Nicola Sturgeon is due to outline how each area in Scotland will be impacted by the tiered lockdown restrictions, PA media reports.

The new graded system is to come into effect on Monday after the proposals were backed by the Scottish Parliament.

It will be a five-tier system, ranging from the baseline Level 0 to the highest Level 4. The First Minister is expected to announce how local authorities will fall into each category at FMQs on Thursday.

Local leaders in Lanarkshire have pleaded with the Scottish Government not to impose the toughest coronavirus restrictions in the area – warning they could have “potentially catastrophic impacts” on local businesses.

North and South Lanarkshire are the only two authorities where the First Minister has been considering imposing the toughest restrictions straight away.

Much of central Scotland, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as Dundee, could be placed straight into Level 3 when the tiers are introduced from Monday.

In Level 3, bars and restaurants are not permitted to sell alcohol either indoors or outside, and must close by 6pm.

Updated at 3.43am GMT

3.03am GMT

Five Spanish regions close their borders

Five more Spanish regions, including Madrid, said Wednesday they would close their borders ahead of the All Saints’ Day long weekend to try to halt a surge in coronavirus infections, AFP reports.

Spanish families traditionally visit the graves of loved ones on the November 1 holiday to leave flowers. As this year the holiday falls on a Sunday, Monday has been declared a holiday to create a three-day weekend.

Some six million people traditionally travel to other parts of Spain during the All Saints’ Day holiday weekend and as a result the regional government of Madrid plans to close the region’s borders from Friday until November 2, said the head of the region’s government, Isabel Diaz Ayuso.

“We are aware that we must continue to reduce social contacts,” she told a joint news conference with the heads of the neighbouring regions of Castilla and Leon and Castilla-La Mancha who said they would shut their borders until Monday November 9, a bank holiday in Madrid.

A pharmacy in Mostoles, Spain.
A pharmacy in Mostoles, Spain.
Photograph: May Robledo/Alfa Images/REX/Shutterstock

Separately, the coastal regions of Murcia in the southeast and Andalusia in the southwest, popular destinations for residents of inland cities like Madrid during long weekends, said they would also shut their borders from Friday until November 9.

The move means no one will be able to enter or leave the regions during this period except for essential reasons such as seeking medical care or going to work.

Three of Spain’s 17 regions – Navarra, La Rioja and the Basque Country – have already closed their borders earlier this month.

Since exiting a strict national lockdown in June, coronavirus cases in Spain have soared, with thousands of infections diagnosed every day. Hospitalisations, though lower than their March-April peak, are also on the rise.

Spain last week became the first European Union nation to surpass one million confirmed Covid-19 infections, with the virus claiming more than 35,000 lives.

Updated at 3.06am GMT

2.51am GMT

In other Australian news – not coronavirus related – a bull has escaped from an enclosure at a private all-boys school in Sydney and has been on the run for more than 24 hours.

The one-year-old steer – a castrated bull – was brought to St Ignatius College Riverview in Sydney’s Lane Cove as part of the school’s agricultural education program.

But the animal broke through a fence at the school on Tuesday night and escaped.

On Thursday, the school said the bull was still at large, and was concerned about it “roaming in a highly urbanised area”. It was last sighted in Lane Cove, a spokeswoman said.

New South Wales police confirmed they had received a report about the missing bull.

“It was reported yesterday that a cow was not in its place,” a spokeswoman told Guardian Australia:

Updated at 2.59am GMT

2.37am GMT

Australia’s Covid-19 hotspot state Victoria reported only one new infection on Thursday, a day after it lifted a four month lockdown in the city of Melbourne.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said that while there were three positive cases of Covid-19 detected in the past 24 hours, two may be old infections.

“This is another good day,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.

Victoria, which accounts for more than 90% of the 905 deaths nationally, did not record any new deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours.

People are seen enjoying eased covid19 restrictions at the Melbourne Zoo in Melbourne, Thursday, 29 October 2020.
People are seen enjoying eased covid19 restrictions at the Melbourne Zoo in Melbourne, Thursday, 29 October 2020.
Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Melbourne, a city of some five million people, on Wednesday emerged from a stringent lockdown credited with ending a Covid second wave, allowing restaurants, cafes and shops to reopen.

Australia’s most populous state New South Wales said it detected three locally acquired infections in the past 24 hours.

Australia has recorded just over 27,500 novel coronavirus infections, far fewer than many other developed countries.

Updated at 2.49am GMT

2.25am GMT

Coronavirus has had a “devastating” impact on the UK’s pubs and will exacerbate the decline in the number of independent breweries – for the first time in nearly two decades – an influential consumer guide has warned.

Thousands of pubs and breweries that survived the first lockdown are now fighting to stay afloat amid a slump in business following ongoing restrictions and curfews that could “make or break” the industry, according to the 2021 Good Beer Guide, published on Thursday by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).

The annual guide reveals that the total number of independent UK breweries has dipped to 1,816 from 1,823 last year – the first time it has recorded a decline in numbers since the explosion in UK breweries started in 2008. While 163 breweries have opened this year and are newly listed, many more have closed their doors, cutting the net figure:

2.10am GMT

Stock markets in Asia Pacific have followed Wall Street and Europe into the red on Thursday led by hefty losses in Australia, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Concerns about the continuing rise in coronavirus infections across the northern hemisphere has been driving the selloff in stocks, which had made a strong recovery after big falls in March and April.

The ASX200 in Sydney is down 1.4%, as is the Kospi in Seoul and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong. The Nikkei has not suffered so much and is off 0.7%.

Despite having a much better record on containing the virus than the US and Europe, the weak sentiment has nevertheless spread to Asia Pacific markets, said Jingyi Pan, senior market strategist at IG Markets in Singapore.

“With US and Europe under pressure, Asia will not be totally immune to a slowdown either though it remains a wait-and-see situation. As such, we are looking at Asia markets broadly sliding on Thursda,” she said.

There is some better news in the futures market where the S&P500 and the Dow Jones are seen bouncing back by 1% later on Thursday.

2.03am GMT

Mexico’s health ministry reported on Wednesday 5,595 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 495 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 906,863 and the death toll to 90,309.

Health officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases. On Sunday, the ministry said the true death toll from Covid-19 may be around 50,000 higher.

1.54am GMT

Germany meanwhile will shut bars, restaurants and theatres from 2-30 November under measures agreed between Merkel and heads of regional governments. Schools will stay open, and shops will be allowed to operate with strict limits on access.

“We need to take action now,” Merkel said. “Our health system can still cope with this challenge today, but at this speed of infections it will reach the limits of its capacity within weeks.”

Her finance minister, Olaf Scholz, posted on Twitter: “November will be a month of truth. The increasing numbers of infections are forcing us to take tough countermeasures in order to break the second wave.”

1.41am GMT

Here is what we know so far about France’s new national lockdown.

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered the country back into lockdown on Wednesday, as a massive second wave of coronavirus infections threatened to overwhelm Europe before the winter.

World stock markets went into a dive in response to the news that Europe’s biggest economies – Germany has also ordered lockdown – were imposing nationwide restrictions almost as severe as the ones that drove the global economy this year into its deepest recession in generations.

“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated,” Macron said in a televised address.

“Like all our neighbours, we are submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus.”

“We are all in the same position: overrun by a second wave which we know will be harder, more deadly than the first,” he said. “I have decided that we need to return to the lockdown which stopped the virus.”

Under the new French measures, which come into force at midnight on Thursday, people will be required to stay in their homes except to buy essential goods, seek medical attention, or exercise for up to one hour a day. They will be permitted to go to work if their employer deems it impossible for them to do the job from home. Schools will stay open.

As in the darkest days of spring, anyone leaving their home in France will now have to carry a document justifying being outside, which can be checked by police.

Updated at 3.48am GMT

1.27am GMT

Iran reports record new deaths

Iran declared “full-scale war” with coronavirus as it reported a record death toll Wednesday for a second straight day and surging infections overload a health care system struggling with US sanctions.

The Middle East’s worst-hit country recorded 415 deaths in 24 hours.

AFP:

“This is the result of an unprecedented rise in infections and hospitalisations in recent weeks,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised address, visibly moved as she gave the grim figures.

“We are now in a full-scale war with the coronavirus,” she said.

Iranian women wearing face masks walk past next to the Saleh shrine in Tehran, Iran, 26 October 2020.
Iranian women wearing face masks walk past next to the Saleh shrine in Tehran, Iran, 26 October 2020.
Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA

The latest fatalities, 69 above Tuesday’s toll which was also a daily record, raised the total virus deaths to 33,714 in the country of 80 million. Lari said 6,824 people had tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing Iran’s declared cases to 558,648.

President Hassan Rouhani warned last week that his country was now faced with “a larger wave of this virus and we have to fight it”.

Figures have kept rising since September. Tehran province accounts for more than half of Iran’s daily Covid-19 deaths, according to its crisis management chief, Reza Karami.

The burgeoning cases have overloaded Iran’s already stretched hospitals, as renewed US sanctions since its withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran hit all sectors of the Iranian economy.

1.18am GMT

Phil Taylor reports for the Guardian:

New Zealand house prices have defied the Covid-19 recession and soared to record levels, prompting warnings that the hot property market will damage the country’s long-term economic wellbeing and widen inequality.

New Zealand, which already had some of the most unaffordable housing in the world, saw median prices rise 11.1 % in the year to September, while the median price in Auckland reached nearly m (US0,000). Prices rose 2.5% across the country just in September.

But while cheap loans and looser lending requirements designed to stimulate the economy during the pandemic have attracted investors back into the market, many fear that first-time buyers and lower-income groups will be increasingly left behind by the rise in prices:

1.02am GMT

(yes, this article is by that Cate Blanchett)

The other day I had to go into town for a dental appointment. I put on all sorts of lovely clothes as if I were going out to dinner and an opening night. The prospect of being out and about was both exhilarating and daunting. I so desperately wanted to be among people and in the city, but I’d also completely forgotten what an event was. The dentist did not seem surprised by my sartorial over-commitment – but then, I was not the first patient he had seen since lockdown.

As a person working in the arts sector, the lockdown was strangely familiar on one level – a lot of actors get stuck in a kind of limbo waiting for someone else to give them permission to do what they are good at. It was as if we were all waiting by the phone for our agent to call. It was also strangely unfamiliar because the community that holds us together, the audiences, as well as the changing of the shows and the new releases, were all put on hold too. The flow between us all was severely affected, and I was both heartened and horrified when it began to surface online. Heartened because the urge to express ourselves and the desire to communicate seems undaunted by anything. Horrified because the worst place to rehearse and perform is alone in the mirror, and sometimes the phone is just a mirror:

12.47am GMT

China reports 47 new cases – highest in two months

Mainland China reported 47 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on 28 October, up from 42 a day earlier and marking the highest daily increase in more than two months, the country’s national health authority said on Thursday.

Of the new cases, 23 were local infections in Xinjiang involving previously asymptomatic patients following a mass infection reported in Kashgar. The rest were imported infections originating from overseas.

Commuters wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus look out from a traveling bus during the morning rush hour in Beijing, Monday, 26 October, 2020.
Commuters wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus look out from a traveling bus during the morning rush hour in Beijing, Monday, 26 October, 2020.
Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

The increase in confirmed Covid-19 infections marks the highest since 49 cases were reported for 9 August, but still at a small fraction of what the country saw at the height of the epidemic in February. The total number of new asymptomatic cases fell to 16 from 38 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 85,915, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Updated at 1.40am GMT

12.28am GMT

Remote Marshall Islands records its first coronavirus cases

One of the last coronavirus-free sanctuaries in the world has been breached, with the US military importing two cases of Covid-19 into the remote Marshall Islands.

The Marshalls had been one of the last nations on Earth – most of which are in the Pacific – without a single confirmed case of Covid-19.

But the country’s chief secretary issued an alert on Wednesday night saying the country’s first border cases of the novel coronavirus had been identified in two workers on the US military base on Kwajalein Atoll:

12.19am GMT

A generation of babies born during the Covid-19 pandemic may be at risk because they and their parents are not being fully supported by health visitors in the weeks and months after birth, a coalition of children’s charities has said.

The NSPCC and nine other early-years charities say restrictions to the service and redeployment of health visitors could mean thousands of families do not receive checks they are entitled to.

Only one in 10 parents with children under the age of two saw a health visitor face to face during lockdown, according to a study published in August:

12.05am GMT

Global daily cases pass 500,000

A total of 516,898 new infections were registered worldwide on Tuesday, according to an AFP tally from health authorities around the globe – a record figure, although experts caution that most coronavirus cases were undiagnosed during the first wave.

The Johns Hopkins University tracker shows that the world has twice so far recorded a total of over 500,000 – and both in the last week. 23 October saw 506,713 new infections, while 26 October had a total of 525,164.

Many epidemiologists have been warning for weeks that European governments have lost control of the latest outbreaks, AFP ereports, making lockdowns almost inevitable as a last resort in what has become the global epicentre of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

New cases in Europe have been doubling every week or so, while track-and-trace and mass-testing systems that were promised after the first wave have been quickly overwhelmed.

Reflecting the bleak outlook, and with the seasonal winter flu season still ahead in the northern hemisphere, European and US stock markets tumbled as investors fretted over how the new measures will further hurt the economy.

11.53pm GMT

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

Shortly before he announced a new national lockdown, French president, Emmanuel Macron, said Covid-19 is circulating more quickly than forecast and new measures are needed.

He said it is predicted that by mid-November all intensive care beds will be filled with Covid-19 cases and that France needs a sudden “brutal brake” on the transmission of the virus so doctors don’t have to make choices between Covid cases and car accident cases, for example.

  • French President Emmanuel Macron imposed a new nationwide lockdown as Covid-19 cases continue to surge. The new measures echo the eight-week lockdown that France enforced in the spring, when hospitalisations and deaths caused by Covid-19 reached a peak. But unlike the previous lockdown, most schools are to remain open, Macron said, while universities will revert to online teaching and working from home will be generalised.
  • The number of new cases recorded across Europe and beyond continued to grow, with new highs in cases or deaths in many countries, including Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Portugal, Iran, and Russia.
  • AFP said that Tuesday’s daily toll of more than 500,000 infections was a new high – a figure that is likely to be overshadowed by Wednesday’s once the total is known.
  • European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen set out a raft of new measures. Her key coronavirus advisor Peter Piot said that the new resurgence in the virus had come back because “we kind of relaxed too much”.
  • Germany will impose an emergency month-long lockdown that includes the closure of restaurants, gyms and theatres to reverse a rise in coronavirus cases that risks overwhelming hospitals, chancellor Angela Merkel said.
  • South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa went into self-isolation after a guest at a dinner he attended on Saturday tested positive. He is showing no symptoms, according to the government.
  • The death tolls in Canada and Turkey rose to over 10,000. In Argentina, it went past 30,000. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said: “This is going to be a tough winter”.

Updated at 3.44am GMT

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