Coronavirus live news: Berlin court overturns government curfew on bars and restaurants; record Swiss cases

PLEASE NOTE: Add your own commentary here above the horizontal line, but do not make any changes below the line. (Of course, you should also delete this text before you publish this post.)


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Number of US cases surpasses 8 million; France reports 25,086 new infections – as it happened” was written by Christopher Knaus (now); Nadeem Badshah, Kevin Rawlinson, Jessica Murray, Ben Quinn and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Friday 16th October 2020 23.26 UTC

12.40am BST

12.23am BST

Covid-19 testing will be increased in a south-west Sydney suburb after a positive case at Oran Park high school and a family and staff member tested positive at the suburb’s Great Beginnings childcare centre.

Saturday sport has been cancelled for the high school, the NSW education department says, and authorities have directed all staff and pupils to self-isolate. Classrooms will be deep cleaned.

The childcare centre cases are linked to another case confirmed on Tuesday, which prompted the centre’s lockdown.

All staff and children who attended the centre between October 2 and Tuesday have been told to get tested and self-isolate for a fortnight.

This weekend brings eased restrictions in NSW for outdoor venues, with up to 500 people allowed to attend open-air concerts so long as they stay seated and four metres apart.

Limits on outdoor dining venues have also been relaxed, allowing one patron per two square metres with venues to use an electronic QR code to record contact details.

Updated at 12.26am BST

12.01am BST

Prof Brett Sutton, the top medical official in Victoria, Australia, has welcomed news of only a single Covid-19 case in the state in the past 24 hours.

11.55pm BST

Just back to the United States, momentarily.

I mentioned a little earlier the record surges of Covid-19 in states like Wisconsin, which is now recording its highest levels of cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.

Dr Agnes Kresch, an infectious diseases physician in Green Bay, Wisconsin, said the numbers there are “unbelievable”.

She told CNN that the Covid-19 surge is threatening to overwhelm Green Bay hospitals.

Kresch blames “human behaviour” for the record highs.

For the city of Green Bay we have over 130 people hospitalised just with coronavirus, and the real issue is where does that leave the rest of the patients who are still coming in with their strokes and heart attacks. How do we find space for them?

Updated at 12.03am BST

11.50pm BST

Australia’s federal health minister, Greg Hunt, is urging his state counterparts in Victoria to ease restrictions following the welcome news of only one new Covid-19 case in the past 24 hours.

Hunt says the conditions for a safe reopening of the state have now been “firmly met”.

11.43pm BST

Australian health authorities are urging residents to make their Halloween Covid-safe by hanging their treats along a fence or down the driveway, instead of giving them away at the front door.

11.39pm BST

In the United States, Covid-19 cases are rising in key battleground states in the presidential election campaign.

AP reports that Midwest states such as Iowa and Wisconsin are opening more early voting locations, recruiting backup workers and encouraging voters to plan for long lines and other inconveniences.

Confirmed virus cases and deaths are on the rise in the swing states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin governor Tony Evers, whose state is seeing record Covid-19 cases, says he plans to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to fill any staffing shortages at election sites.

While holding a competitive presidential election during a pandemic is “tricky business,” the governor said, “People are ready to have this election over, and I think it will be a successful election with very few hiccups.”

pic


Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

11.31pm BST

In the Australian state of New South Wales, health authorities have in recent weeks been highly critical of pubs and venues refusing to implement proper contact tracing and social distancing measures.

AAP reports that another NSW pub has now been closed for failing to adhere to Covid-19 health orders.

The Shaws Bay Hotel in Ballina will be shut for a week from 5am on Saturday after police identified 12 breaches of the public health orders across two visits in late September and early October, which resulted in two 00 fines.

Police said the breaches included one drunk patron mingling between six different groups and tables in the venue.

It is the third venue this week to be shut down, AAP reports.

Updated at 11.32pm BST

11.26pm BST

Tim Wilson, a federal Australian government MP, says he doesn’t see any problem with news that 17 New Zealanders have made it to locked down city of Melbourne. The New Zealanders travelled to Sydney under a new travel bubble arrangement, allowing them to travel without quarantine. But the travel bubble does not extend to Victoria and the state is not taking international travellers.

Wilson:

Well, to be frank, I don’t really understand what the issue is … New South Wales are accepting flights as part of the trans-Tasman bubble from New Zealand. There is no quarantine obligations when people go from New South Wales into Victoria. There is in reverse. So, once people have arrived here and have been assessed ultimately as safe, then the ordinary pathways for people to be able to travel into Victoria, if they wish to do so. So, I want to know what the basis of – and it’s not clear to me what the basis of, is there a new quarantine requirement to go into Victoria? I’m in the ACT right now. If I go to Victoria, I’m not expected to quarantine, because it isn’t a source of Covid-19.

Updated at 11.29pm BST

11.19pm BST

In locked down Melbourne, the government has set itself a target of five cases in the rolling 14-day case average, before easing restrictions.

This morning’s result takes metropolitan Melbourne’s 14-day rolling case average to 8.1, down from 8.7 yesterday.

Jodie McVernon and James McCaw have written this piece about why expectations of an “elegant linear decline to zero” is misguided.

So instead of being discouraged by the failure to meet five, we should be encouraged by the stability of close to 10. Victorians should celebrate the success of all their efforts to suppress the spread of this virus, given daily reports of new cases in excess of 700 at the peak. As of 15 October, we had a total of 175 active cases across the state, of which 21 were in hospital . While lockdown was painful, it has convincingly done its job of putting a brake on widespread community transmission.

You can read their full piece here:

Updated at 11.25pm BST

10.46pm BST

Victoria reports one new case and zero deaths

We’ve just heard some excellent news from Victoria, the Australian state currently under strict lockdown.

The state has only recorded a single new Covid-19 case in the past 24 hours, with no new deaths.

The news will be music to the ears of Victorian residents and could help encourage the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, to ease restrictions on Sunday.

The result takes the state’s rolling 14-day average of Covid-19 cases to 8.1. Victoria has been by far the hardest hit of any Australian state or territory during the pandemic, and has faced harsh restrictions, including restrictions on travelling more than 5kms from home and, at one point, a nightly curfew.

But case numbers have eased considerably in recent weeks, giving residents hope.

Updated at 10.48pm BST

10.25pm BST

Brazil records a further 30,000 Covid-19 cases

Brazil has registered 754 further coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours and 30,914 new confirmed cases, the nation’s health ministry said on Friday.

The South American country has now registered 153,214 total coronavirus deaths and 5.2 million total confirmed cases.

10.21pm BST

Seventeen New Zealanders caught trying to enter Melbourne

In Australia, 17 passengers who travelled to Australia from New Zealand have been caught trying to enter the locked down city of Melbourne.

The two countries announced a travel bubble to allow limited international travel for some citizens earlier this month, and three flights from New Zealand touched down at Sydney Airport on Friday, prompting joyous scenes.

But the travel bubble arrangement was not extended to the state of Victoria and its capital Melbourne, a city hit hard by Covid-19, which is not accepting any international passengers.

Seventeen passengers from New Zealand flew to Sydney before taking a connecting flight to Melbourne.

The state’s health authorities say they do not have the legal authority to detain the travellers.

But the state said it did “not expect to receive international travellers” as a result of other states making arrangements with New Zealand.

“The Victorian Government has made it clear to the Commonwealth that we expect NZ passengers who have not undertaken quarantine will not be permitted to board flights in Sydney bound for Melbourne,” the Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Updated at 11.53pm BST

10.14pm BST

A selection of some of the front pages of Saturday’s UK newspapers, starting with the Mirror.

10.02pm BST

The Mayor of Liverpool has revealed his brother is in intensive care with Covid-19 and urged people to follow the rules to prevent the spread of the virus.

Joe Anderson said on Twitter that his eldest brother was in a “very serious condition” in hospital in the city, the first area to face the toughest local lockdown restrictions in England after being placed on a “very high” alert level.

Anderson tweeted on Friday night: “10 mins ago my sister-in-law a Nursing Sister has told me my eldest brother her husband has got Covid-19 he is in the Royal LivHospitals in the ICU in a very serious condition.”

His tweet also highlighted a video shared by the Liverpool City Council Twitter account that featured Dr Richard Wenstone making a plea for people to follow coronavirus rules to ease pressure on the NHS.

Anderson wrote: “Please watch the video, follow the rules & understand why we all need to fight the enemy Covid.”

Earlier on Friday, he joined Liverpool City Region leaders in branding the tier system of coronavirus regulations a “shambles”, following the announcement that gyms in Lancashire can stay open under the strictest measures.

9.47pm BST

People walk near a burning barricade set up by street vendors during a protest to demand the government of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez to allow them to work at the Belen market amid the economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, in Tegucigalpa. Over 2,500 people died in Honduras due to the new coronavirus out of at least 86,100 contagions.
People walk near a burning barricade set up by street vendors during a protest to demand the government of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez to allow them to work at the Belen market amid the economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, in Tegucigalpa. Over 2,500 people died in Honduras due to the new coronavirus out of at least 86,100 contagions.
Photograph: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

9.32pm BST

Pfizer Inc said it could file in late November for US authorisation of the COVID-19 vaccine it is developing, suggesting that a vaccine could potentially be available by the end of the year.

That timeline makes it unlikely, however, that a vaccine will be available before the US election, as President Donald Trump has promised.

Pfizer, which is developing the vaccine with German partner BioNTech, said that it may confirm if the vaccine is effective as soon as this month but that it also needs safety data from a 44,000-person clinical trial that will not be available until next month.

The Pfizer news, published in a letter from its chief executive on its website, lifted the US stock market and the company’s shares.

Shares fell slightly of rival vaccine maker Moderna Inc, which is close to Pfizer in its vaccine development.

“So let me be clear, assuming positive data, Pfizer will apply for Emergency Authorization Use in the U.S. soon after the safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said, noting that he published the letter to provide greater clarity on the timeline for the vaccine.

9.17pm BST

A total of 181 students and staff at a private boarding school in Nigeria’s capital Lagos have tested positive for coronavirus, state health authorities said.

Authorities said there had been a “minor but significant” outbreak among the 441 staff and students at the school in the suburb of Lekki and said most of the now-quarantined positive cases were asymptomatic.

Lagos state Commissioner for Health Akin Abayomi said in a statement posted on Twitter that the cases came to light after a 14-year-old girl fell sick on October 3.

She tested positive for Covid-19 on 6 October, prompting state health authorities to launch an investigation.

“Positive students and staff have been isolated on the premises … and are being monitored in isolation within the school premises,” Abayomi said.

He said authorities had taken steps to contain the spread of the virus, and were discouraging any students from going home, lest they infect family members.

Nigeria has confirmed a total 60,982 cases of Covid-19 and 1,116 deaths linked to the disease.

The government announced early this month that federal government schools could reopen from October 12, while schools run by states and private owners could open on their own timetables, following a steady decline in the rate of infection.

Updated at 10.02pm BST

9.01pm BST

A summary of today’s developments

  • The number of coronavirus cases in the US since the start of the pandemic has now surpassed 8 million. According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the US has confirmed at least 8,008,402 cases of coronavirus since March.
  • Belgium will close all cafes and restaurants for four weeks on Monday as it seeks to tackle a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. The move was announced by deputy prime minister Georges Gilkinet following a meeting of the Belgian government’s crisis unit.
  • South African coronavirus cases reported since the first infection in early March surpassed 700,000 on Friday, the health ministry said, amid fears of an impending second wave as the nation battles an economic recession. Some 2,019 new cases were identified on Friday, taking the total to 700,203 the ministry said.
  • Italy has registered 10,010 new infections in 24 hours, the health ministry has said. It is the highest daily tally since the start of the country’s outbreak, and up 13% from the previous high of 8,804 posted the day before.
  • Malta is making the wearing of face masks mandatory in public and ordering clubs, bars and places of entertainment to close at 11 pm to reduce the spread of Covid-19, the prime minister, Robert Abela, said.
  • The Czech Republic recorded 9,721 new infections on Thursday, the second consecutive day it posted its worst daily figures. The country of 10.7 million has registered the biggest surge of new cases in Europe.
  • The UK foreign secretary denounced what he said was a Russian effort to “disrupt the attempts to find a safe vaccine”. Dominic Raab described claims that Moscow was attempting to sow seeds of confusion about the vaccine being developed in the UK as “very serious”.
  • Schools in Italy’s Campania region have closed less than a month after reopening. Amid a rapid rise in cases, authorities said schools would remain closed until the end of October.

8.51pm BST

South African coronavirus cases reported since the first infection in early March surpassed 700,000 on Friday, the health ministry said, amid fears of an impending second wave as the nation battles an economic recession.

Some 2,019 new cases were identified on Friday, taking the total to 700,203 the ministry said.

There have been 18,370 deaths in South Africa, while 629,260 people have recovered from Covid-19 and 4,505,553 have been tested.

The health ministry had recently warned of a second wave of the pandemic in the country of 58 million people if citizens and authorities become complacent and stop taking precautions.

After a sharp spike in cases in the month of July, when the country was reporting an increase of 100,000 infections every 7-10 days, the spread of the virus has slowed considerably.

The 700,000 mark was passed almost two months after South Africa crossed 600,000 coronavirus infections.

Stringent lockdown measures imposed from end-March to curb the spread of the disease have taken a heavy toll on Africa’s most industrialised economy, which was already in recession with nearly a third of its workforce jobless.

The economy has shrunk to the same size as in 2007 and unemployment has shot up by millions more.

“The damage caused by the pandemic to an already weak economy, to employment, to livelihoods, to public finances and to state-owned companies has been colossal,”

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday, unveiling an economic package to stave off a debt crisis due to Covid-19.

8.33pm BST

Puerto Rico’s governor has announced that more people will be able to visit restaurants, gyms, theatres and casinos as the US territory relaxes some pandemic-related restrictions.

In addition, public transportation including buses and trains will resume service next week, and ferries will be allowed to take tourists to the popular nearby island of Culebra.

A 10pm–5am curfew remains in place, and face masks continue to be mandatory.

“We cannot lower our guard,” said governor Wanda Vázquez.

Starting Saturday, capacity at restaurants will increase from 50% to 55%, while capacity at theatres, gyms and casinos will increase from 25% to 30%.

Business owners had been demanding that capacity increase by at least 60% given an economic crisis that the pandemic has worsened.

The island of 3.2 million people has reported more than 28,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, more than 28,000 suspected ones, and more than 750 deaths from Covid-19.

Updated at 8.39pm BST

8.16pm BST

US surpasses 8 million coronavirus cases

The number of coronavirus cases in the US since the start of the pandemic has now surpassed 8 million.

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the US has confirmed 8,008,402 cases of coronavirus since March.

The country reported 63,610 new coronavirus cases yesterday, marking the highest single-day total since mid-August.

Health experts have also warned of increased spread of the virus in the Midwest, as the weather gets colder and more Americans gather inside.

Despite those alarming statistics, US President Donald Trump said at his event in Florida, “We are rounding the turn. I say that all the time.”

8.03pm BST

Malta is making the wearing of face masks mandatory in public and ordering clubs, bars and places of entertainment to close at 11 pm to reduce the spread of Covid-19, the prime minister, Robert Abela, has said.

“Health was and will remain a priority, but life has to go on,” Abela told a press conference on the day the Mediterranean island recorded a daily record 122 new cases among its population of 500,000.

“This is a crucial time to fight Covid-19 and protect the economy and jobs,” he said, adding that measures to help businesses would be announced on Monday, when the national budget is presented.

Abela said the limit of 10 people who may meet in groups is being maintained, but everyone now has to wear a mask unless they are at home or in their car. People may remove their masks when seated in restaurants.

The 11 pm closing time for bars and clubs will come into force on Monday.

Health minister Chris Fearne said rapid testing for Covid-19 will also be rolled out for airport arrivals and at schools and clinics where cases of the virus are suspected.

Malta on Friday stopped passengers disembarking from the MSC Grandiosa cruise ship over a suspected case of Covid-19.

Updated at 8.16pm BST

7.48pm BST

Boris Johnson has attempted to strong-arm Greater Manchester into accepting tougher Covid restrictions without providing extra money to protect businesses, by claiming that every day of delay would mean “more people will die”.

In a Downing Street press conference, the UK prime minister reiterated his threat to impose the tier 3 lockdown if an agreement could not be reached this weekend – and dismissed the idea of a short national “circuit break” to help bring down infection rates.

7.31pm BST

A couple wearing face masks walk past a poster representing the Colosseum amid the Covid-19 pandemic in central Rome.
A couple wearing face masks walk past a poster representing the Colosseum amid the Covid-19 pandemic in central Rome.
Photograph: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

7.16pm BST

The war of words between Juventus and Portugal footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and the Italian government continues after he returned to the country having tested positive for coronavirus.

7.10pm BST

Belgium to close cafes and restaurants for four weeks

Belgium will close all cafes and restaurants for four weeks on Monday as it seeks to tackle a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

The move was announced by deputy prime minister Georges Gilkinet following a meeting of the Belgian government’s crisis unit.

The Brussels city region already imposed similar restrictions last week but Friday’s announcement extends them nationwide.

Gilkinet said the decision to close cafes and restaurants – deemed high-risk venues for spreading the virus – was taken to try to head off another full lockdown like the one Belgium enforced earlier in the year.

He warned “the situation is serious from a health point of view”, and we must “prevent our healthcare system from becoming saturated”.

“Our hospitals are clogged,” he added.

“The figures are as high as they were in March when we decided on a lockdown, that’s what we absolutely want to avoid”.

Belgium has recorded 191,959 covid cases and 10,327 deaths as of Friday.

As a result of a surge in infections in September, the rate of hospitalisations has accelerated in recent days, particularly in Brussels and Belgium’s French-speaking southern provinces.

6.58pm BST

The French health ministry reported 25,086 new confirmed cases in 24 hours on Friday, after reporting a record 30,621 on Thursday.

It also reported that 122 people had died from infection in hospitals in the past 24 hours, compared with 88 on Thursday. Including deaths in retirement homes, which are often reported in multi-day batches, the death toll increased by 178 on Friday.

The cumulative total number of infections since the start of the year now stands at 834,770, the cumulative number of dead at 33,303.

Updated at 7.06pm BST

6.18pm BST

Intensive care units in various European cities could reach maximum capacity in the coming weeks, the World Health Organization has warned.

In response to the second surge, the Czech Republic has shut schools and is building a field hospital, Poland has limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and schools, and France is planning a 9pm curfew in Paris and other big cities.

Europe is not alone in seeing a resurgence, the Associated Press reports. In theUS, new cases per day are on the rise in 44 states, and deaths per day are climbing in 30. Bertrand Levrat, the head of Switzerland’s biggest hospital complex, told the news agency:

If we don’t get a handle on this, we run the risk of getting into a situation that’s harder to control. We are really at a turning point: things can go both ways.

But, while officials are sounding the alarm on rising cases, they are also wary of imposing the stricter nationwide lockdowns that devastated their economies this spring. Instead, they are trying more targeted restrictions.

France is deploying 12,000 extra police to enforce its new curfew; Saturday night will be the first time establishments will be forced to close at 9pm. Restaurants, cinemas and theatres are trying to figure out how can survive the forced early closures.

Updated at 7.07pm BST

5.46pm BST

Spain has reported the greatest number of daily infections on Friday, logging 15,186 new cases; of which 6,591 were detected over the previous 24 hours. The daily jump brings Spain’s total number of cases to 936,560.

The country’s health ministry has reported 575 deaths over the past seven days, bringing the total death toll to 33,775.

Salvador Illa, Spain’s health minister, said the country was facing “five or six more complicated months” as the search for a vaccine continues. He told the Catalan radio station RAC1 that this Christmas would be “different and distanced”.

Madrid and eight satellite towns remain in a limited lockdown, while bars and restaurants in Catalonia have been limited to takeaway or delivery services.

Updated at 7.08pm BST

5.27pm BST

The World Health Organization said on Friday it has had very good dialogue with developers of a second Russian vaccine candidate against Covid-19. Its chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, said:

We will only be able to have a position on a vaccine when we see results of the phase 3 clinical trials.

Updated at 7.08pm BST

5.02pm BST

Greece recorded 508 new confirmed infections on Friday, topping the 500 daily mark for the first time, health authorities said, as they urged compliance with mask wearing and social distancing.

Of the 508 new cases, 227 were recorded in the Athens metropolitan area and 63 in Thessaloniki, the country’s second largest city. There were eight deaths from the disease. The epidemiologist Gikas Magiorkinis told Reuters:

For the first time we went over 500 daily diagnoses of coronavirus. The drop in temperatures may tilt the balance, intensifying the epidemiological trend.

Earlier, the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, told reporters after an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels that Greece was still among the countries faring better in Europe.

But this may change at any moment if we do not comply with the recommended measures.

The deputy civil protection minister, Nikos Hardalias, said the country was still in a stable situation, but “this stability is especially fragile”. He said: “All that is happening in Europe shows that we should not be complacent.”

Updated at 7.09pm BST

4.34pm BST

Malta has stopped passengers disembarking from the MSC Grandiosa cruise ship over a suspected case, its tourism minister, Julia Farrugia Portelli, has said. Although the ship was let into Valletta harbour, it was not allowed to disembark passengers.

The ship, which has been cruising around the central Mediterranean, left port after taking in supplies. There was no immediate comment from MSC Cruises, which operates the vessel.

Cruise ships were home to the some of the earliest clusters as the pandemic spread globally early this year and the cruise industry has been devastated by the fallout.

Malta started allowing cruise ships back in its harbour in July on condition that passengers stay in a bubble, meaning they had to stay together and not mingle with locals.

Updated at 5.03pm BST

4.33pm BST

Italy records more than 10,000 cases in a day

Italy has registered 10,010 new infections in 24 hours, the health ministry has said. It is the highest daily tally since the start of the country’s outbreak, and up 13% from the previous high of 8,804 posted the day before.

The ministry also reported 55 Covid-related deaths, down from 83 the day before and far fewer than at the height of the pandemic in Italy in March and April, when a daily peak of more than 900 fatalities was reached.

The number of people in intensive care with the virus has risen steadily. It stood at 638 on Friday, up from 586 on Thursday, and compared with a low of around 40 in the second half of July.

Italy was the first country in Europe to be heavily affected and has the second-highest death toll in the continent after Britain, with 36,427 fatalities since the outbreak flared in February, according to official figures.

Updated at 5.02pm BST

4.19pm BST

The resurgent pandemic disrupted the EU leaders’ summit, only their third face-to-face meeting since it began, with the EU’s chief executive and Finland’s prime minister dropping out after coming near people who later tested positive.

An EU diplomat said this week’s meeting was likely to be “the last physical gathering of EU leaders for a while” as the second wave brings record daily infections and forces governments to restrict lives again.

Europe’s economy is in its worst ever recession after spring lockdowns hit travel and tourism. With leaders still struggling to agree a common approach to tackling the pandemic, businesses are again fretting about their futures.

The European commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, abruptly left the two-day summit less than an hour after it started on Thursday, followed by the Finnish premier, Sanna Marin, on Friday.

The Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, was not present either as he was self-isolating in Warsaw even before the talks, at which leaders wore face masks.

The Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, had said on arriving in Brussels that the summit “should be held as a video conference … instead of meeting physically”. Leaders agreed to hold video calls to coordinate measures to combat the pandemic among the bloc’s 27 countries.

Updated at 5.01pm BST

3.52pm BST

After spending 47 days in intensive care fighting coronavirus, Michael Rosen, one of Britain’s most beloved authors, is bringing out a book about his experiences with the illness, from tales of the doctor who said he had a 50/50 chance of survival to the nurses who cared for him while in a coma.

The former children’s laureate will publish his coronavirus diaries, a mix of prose poems and extracts from the notes written by nurses on his hospital ward, in March next year, 12 months after he first fell ill. The poet went home in June having lost most of the sight in his left eye and hearing in his left ear, and having had to learn to walk again.

“It’s like an itch almost – if something happens to you, you go to the computer or the pencil and paper and start scribbling,” he said. “And so I just started writing these fragments. After I had a batch I sent them off just to see if anybody would be interested.”

Updated at 5.00pm BST

3.19pm BST

Bosnia’s new Covid-19 infections hit a record high for the third day in a row, with 621 cases on Friday, and authorities warned the healthcare system could collapse if the trend continues.

The country of around 3.3 million people has so far recorded 32,845 cases of the coronavirus and 980 deaths. Currently there are 7,262 active cases – 1,512 more than a week ago.

A significant rise has been recorded in the capital, Sarajevo, with 248 new cases in the past two days.

The head of the Sarajevo University Clinical Centre (KCUS), where the main regional Covid centre is based, warned about strains on the health system and medical staff.

“The situation becomes very serious … the number of infected people rises every day,” said Sebija Izetbegović. “If the number of people infected with Covid-19 gets very high, it is certain that the health system may collapse.”

Health authorities across the Balkan country also warned their hospitals were close to reaching capacity.

Updated at 4.59pm BST

3.08pm BST

“It’s not a word I’ve heard in a long, long time,” an elderly Paris resident said, leaving her apartment in mask and gloves for an early expedition to the shops. “A curfew. That’s for wartime, isn’t it? But in a way I suppose that’s what this is.”

Europe’s second wave took a dramatic turn for the worse this week, forcing governments across the continent to make tough choices as more than a dozen countries reported their highest ever number of new infections.

In France, 18 million people in nine big cities risk a fine from Saturday if they are not at home by 9pm. In the Czech Republic, schools have closed and medical students are being enlisted to help doctors. All Dutch bars and restaurants are shut.

Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland are among countries to have broken daily case records, prompting the World Health Organization to call for an “uncompromising” effort to stem the spread.

Updated at 4.58pm BST

2.48pm BST

The much-mooted plan for a two- or three-week “circuit breaker” lockdown in the UK has been backed by experts on the Independent Sage panel as part of a six-week plan the group has drawn up to reduce the infection rate to fewer than 5,000 a day.

They argue that a circuit breaker followed by a further two or three weeks of enhanced restrictions would provide breathing space in which to improve the test-and-trace system. They write:

Without an effective find, test, trace, isolate and support (FTTIS) system, the government has little choice but to rely on imprecise and damaging local and national lockdowns to prevent surges in infection.

The team say such improvements should include placing regional directors of public health in charge of managing the local test-and-trace programmes, with national oversight by the NHS, while testing should be undertaken by a national consortium headed by the NHS. Contracts with the private “lighthouse labs” should be terminated, they add.

They also flag the need to improve adherence to isolation.

Self-isolation should be replaced by ‘supported isolation’ with assistance, if needed, with accommodation, domestic assistance and financial support up to £800 per week.

Prof Christina Pagel, of University College London, said:

Cases, hospitalisations and deaths are rising across England. The tiered system will not be enough to reverse growth. Despite four weeks of living under tier 2-type restrictions in many areas and three weeks of tier 1 restrictions elsewhere, cases continued to increase rapidly everywhere.

Updated at 3.00pm BST

2.09pm BST

Belgium is expected to tighten measures as infections soar and hospitals risk running out of beds.

Health experts said stricter measures were due. “We are beating records day after day,” virologist Yves Van Laethem told a news conference.

The measures are expected to include reducing to just one the number of people Belgians can see at close proximity outside their homes, and enforcing work from home for most employees.

Belgium could also follow neighbours France in imposing a night-time curfew and reduce opening hours for bars and restaurants, or even close them as the Netherlands has done.

It is also expected to introduce a colour-coded “barometer”, with rules according to whether a region is green, orange or red.

Five weeks after reopening, Belgian universities will have to switch mostly to online teaching from Monday, although schools will remain open for now.

The nation of 11 million people has Europe’s second highest infection rate per capita after the Czech Republic. New infections are doubling every week, hitting a peak of 8,500 on Monday and probably more than 10,000 on Tuesday.

In Brussels, 20% of tests turn out positive.

The number of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) has doubled over 11 days to 327 on Thursday.

Belgium’s maximum capacity of 2,000 ICU beds might be fully exhausted by mid-November at the current rate of increasing infections, health authorities have said. Covid-19 has claimed 10,283 lives in Belgium; one of the highest per capita fatality rates in the world.

Updated at 2.43pm BST

1.40pm BST

Slovakia reported more than 2,000 new daily cases for the first time on Friday, meaning the country now has one of the highest infection rates in Europe.

The central European country was among the most successful at containing the virus during the pandemic’s first wave in the spring. But, like the rest of Europe, it is facing a stronger second wave.

The health ministry recorded 2,075 new cases on Thursday to bring the total in the country to 26,300 since March. Of those, 19,047 are considered active, a threefold increase in October alone, while 7,182 have recovered and 71 people have died.

Slovakia has reported 244 cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days, the ninth highest rate in Europe, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and compared with 70 at the end of September.

Updated at 2.42pm BST

1.38pm BST

France will introduce rapid tests at airports this month, the country’s transport minister has said, in a boost for Air France-KLM and other airlines pushing for an easing of travel restrictions and quarantines. “We’ll put that in place by the end of October,” Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on CNews television.

Airlines represented by their global industry body IATA are pushing for rapid antigen tests to be administered to all departing international passengers at airports. Such tests are slightly less accurate than lab-based PCR alternatives but allow for last-minute screening.

The measures will only become effective in reviving collapsed air traffic when the scheme is widely used and accepted by governments as a substitute for long quarantine requirements that deter travel.

France will initially offer the tests for passengers bound for destinations including the US and Italy, Djebbari said, as well as arrivals from countries on its coronavirus red list where infection rates are high.

Testing may begin as soon as next week at Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, the newspaper La Tribune reported.

Updated at 2.39pm BST

1.33pm BST

The Netherlands recorded 7,984 new infections in 24 hours, the latest data from the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) shows. It is the nation’s worst day for new cases since the start of its epidemic.

1.09pm BST

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • The Czech Republic recorded 9,721 new infections on Thursday, the second consecutive day it posted its worst daily figures. The country of 10.7 million has registered the biggest surge of new cases in Europe.
  • The UK foreign secretary denounced what he said was a Russian effort to “disrupt the attempts to find a safe vaccine”. Dominic Raab described claims that Moscow was attempting to sow seeds of confusion about the vaccine being developed in the UK as “very serious”.
  • Schools in Italy’s Campania region have closed less than a month after reopening. Amid a rapid rise in cases, authorities said schools would remain closed until the end of October.
  • Italy has two weeks to stop the rising rate of transmission, a senior Italian virologist has said. If not, it risks following in the footsteps of European neighbours where exponential spreads have ushered back harsh restrictions, according to Massimo Galli.
  • Gilead Sciences has questioned the findings of a World Health Organization (WHO) study that concluded that Gilead’s drug remdesivir does not help patients who have been admitted to hospital.
  • Switzerland suffered its worst day for infections again on Friday, having posted its previous worst figure the day before. There have been a total of 74,422 confirmed cases in Switzerland and the neighbouring principality Liechtenstein.
  • A court suspended a curfew on Berlin’s bars and restaurants. It joined others in Germany in overturning government-imposed measures meant to contain the further spread of the virus.
  • Global deaths near 1.1m and US cases near 8m. The global death toll is nearing 1.1m – it is likely to pass this milestone within the next 24 hours. The current figure on the Johns Hopkins University tracker is 1,096,833, and more than 5,000 new deaths are being reported daily worldwide.
  • London prepares for “tier 2” lockdown. The English capital is bracing for tougher restrictions from Saturday, banning separate households from mixing indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.
  • The UK government’s flagship policy for tackling the coronavirus in England descended into chaos after mayors and MPs from the north-west emphatically rejected being moved into the highest lockdown level and accused ministers of treating the region with contempt.

Updated at 1.18pm BST

12.48pm BST

Angela Merkel’s attempt to lower Germany’s rising second curve of infections is being increasingly frustrated by resistance at a local level. Berlin’s administrative court has suspended a curfew that the city senate had imposed a week ago.

The court said data published by Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, showed that bars that stuck to hygiene rules did not carry a “significant share” of the blame for spiralling infections in the city. The new closing time, the first in Berlin in 70 years, was therefore not a justifiable measure, judges reasoned.

The Berlin senate can try to reinstate the closing time via a higher court. But the capital isn’t the only region in Germany that is rebelling against restrictions pushed for by Merkel’s government. An attempt to ban hotels from hosting travellers from Covid hotspots unless they could show a negative test result from the last 48 hours has been overturned by nine out of the country’s 16 federal states.

Updated at 1.14pm BST

12.43pm BST

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has started a late-stage trial to evaluate if immune-modulating therapies from three drugmakers can help reduce the need for ventilators for Covid-19 patients and shorten their hospital stays.

The NIH said on Friday it had selected three agents for the study – Johnson & Johnson unit Janssen Research’s Remicade, Bristol Myers Squibb’s Orencia and Abbvie Inc’s experimental drug cenicriviroc.

The study will enrol up to 2,100 hospitalised adults with moderate to severe symptoms in the US and Latin America, Reuters reports.

Immune-modulating therapies are medications that alter the way the immune system works. Severe infections are believed to be triggered by an over-reaction of the immune system, known as a cytokine storm, and drugs that suppress certain elements of the immune system can play a role in arresting a rapid escalation of symptoms.

The NIH said its clinical trial – ACTIV-1 Immune Modulators (IM) – would last six months. The agency will study whether the therapeutics can restore balance by modulating the immune response.

All patients will be given Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir – the current standard of care – and they will be randomly assigned to receive a placebo or one of the immune modulators as an add-on treatment, the NIH said.

Remdesivir was one of the drugs used to treat Donald Trump’s infection, and has been shown in previous studies to have cut time to recovery, though the EU is investigating it for possible kidney injury.

Updated at 1.13pm BST

12.05pm BST

Berlin court overturns government-imposed curfew on bars and restaurants

A court has suspended a curfew on Berlin’s bars and restaurants, joining others in Germany in overturning government-imposed measures meant to contain the further spread of the virus.

Berlin’s local government imposed a night-time curfew from 11pm to 6am to tackle surging numbers of new infections a week ago. On Friday a spokesman for the administrative court in Berlin said:

The curfew has been suspended for the time being as the court considers it disproportionate in view of other measures taken to fight the pandemic.

The court said there was no evidence that bars and restaurants that stick to rules on mask-wearing and social distancing contributed to any increase in infection rates. The ruling was in response to legal action brought by 11 restaurant owners who contested the curfew, but not a ban on the sale of alcohol after 11pm.

Several other German cities, including the financial hub Frankfurt, have also imposed curfews on bars and restaurants. Germany’s states agreed with the chancellor, Angela Merkel, this week that such measures should be automatic as soon as infection rates in any area exceed 50 per 100,000 residents over a week.

Germany, like other countries across Europe, is dealing with a sharp rise in coronavirus infections. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported a daily tally of more than 7,300 new cases on Friday.

Updated at 12.38pm BST

12.02pm BST

Belgium’s foreign minister and deputy premier, Sophie Wilmès, is going into self-isolation with suspected Covid-19 symptoms. She tweeted:

I will not attend the consultation committee meeting. After some suspicious symptoms. I’ve decided to self-isolate and to contact my doctor and to take a test, in line with protocol.

Even though there has been no positive case among those close to me and my colleagues and my team have respected the safety guidelines, we still need to be cautious.

On Monday, Wilmès attended face-to-face talks with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

Updated at 12.03pm BST

11.50am BST

Malaysia reported 629 new cases on Friday, raising its cumulative tally of infections to 18,758. The south-east Asian country, which has imposed targeted lockdowns this month to rein in a new surge in infections, also recorded six deaths, bringing the total number to 176.

Updated at 12.03pm BST

11.49am BST

Families in Delhi with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma are stocking up on oxygen cylinders and pulse oximeters, fearing that the city’s worsening air quality will make them more vulnerable, Reuters reports.

After months of relatively clean air because of the city’s lockdown, pollution levels have risen to their worst in two years for October, caused by farmers burning crop stubble in surrounding states and cooler weather. On Friday, haze hung over the city of 18 million people and the air quality level was at 235 on a scale of 500.

Rupesh Gupta, 45, who has recovered from Covid-19, said he was asthmatic and having difficulty breathing the city’s dirty air. He told Reuters:

I am neither able to walk, nor get out of the house. Even if I try and get out of the house, it takes me an effort to breathe.

Gupta lost his mother to Covid, and his anxiety levels are high. His wife, Neelam, said:

There is paranoia that you never know from what source we might get infection again in our home.

The family has bought a 15kg oxygen cylinder for emergency use and a portable pulse oximeter to measure oxygen levels in the blood each day. They are also keen to stock up on air purifiers that most well-heeled families in Delhi own.

The air quality index (AQI) has remained in the “very poor” category all week due to slowing wind speeds that allow deadly pollutants such as PM2.5 particles to remain suspended in the air. Vivek Nangia, the principal director at the Max Super speciality hospital in New Delhi, said:

Air pollution will weaken the respiratory tract, lung functions will be compromised. The probability of catching Covid-19 would increase substantially.

Updated at 12.02pm BST

11.39am BST

Switzerland sees worst day for new cases

Switzerland has reported another 3,105 new infections, setting a new record for a second consecutive day.

There have been a total of 74,422 confirmed cases in Switzerland and the neighbouring principality Liechtenstein. The death toll rose by five people to 1,823.

Updated at 12.00pm BST

11.22am BST

Hello, I’m taking over the blog from Ben Quinn now and will be with you for the next few hours. If you’d like to draw my attention to anything, your best bet is Twitter, where I’m @KevinJRawlinson.

Updated at 12.02pm BST

11.04am BST

Hundreds of anti-government protesters have been defying restrictions on gatherings for a second day in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

Thailand’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, rejected calls for his resignation today as his government stepped up efforts to stop student-led protesters from rallying in the capital for a second day in defiance of a strict state of emergency.

Police closed roads and put up barricades around a major Bangkok intersection where the protesters had vowed to gather again to push their core demands, including that Prayuth leaves office, the constitution is amended and the nation’s monarchy undergoes reform.

Police officers stand in lines as they close a road near Ratchaprasong junction in Bangkok
Police officers stand in lines as they close a road near Ratchaprasong junction in Bangkok.
Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

Updated at 11.13am BST

10.59am BST

Detention facilities in Moscow are to stop admitting new suspects due to Covid-19, according to a snap on Reuters, sourcing the Tass news agency

10.32am BST

Millions of French people are preparing to enjoy a last night of freedom before a Covid-19 curfew in Paris and other large cities tonight, after officials warned that new efforts were needed to curb an alarming surge in new cases.

The curfew, which aims to keep 20 million people at home from 9pm to 6am, was unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron this week as the number of new infections and deaths raised the spectre of hospital overloads like those seen in March and April.

On Thursday health authorities reported a record 30,621 new cases in the past 24 hours and 88 deaths, and more than 200 new Covid admissions to intensive care units.

While the curfew has broad public support – a Harris Interactive poll after Macron’s announcement found 70% approval – officials in several cities worried about the heavy social and economic costs of a measure set to last at least a month.

A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a closed cafe at a nearly empty Rue de Rivoli on October 15, 2020 in Paris, France.
A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a closed cafe at a nearly empty Rue de Rivoli on October 15, 2020 in Paris, France.
Photograph: Chesnot/Getty Images

The need for countries to start preparing and adjusting to cope with the likelihood of coping with the Covid-19 crisis for at least another year was major theme of talks between the UK’s Boris Johnson and France’s Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, British journalist James Forsyth writes in an informative piece in The Times.

He adds:

The two are pursuing a very similar strategy of local lockdowns in the hope of avoiding the catastrophe of another national one.

There is also a sense that there is safety in numbers; the more leaders who are doing the same thing, the more political cover there is to follow that path. As one source familiar with the discussion suggests: “It is obviously helpful if we are all moving together.

Updated at 10.48am BST

10.28am BST

The Western Isles, off the coast of Scotland, has recorded its first death from Covid-19. A resident at a care home on South Uist died on Thursday, three weeks after contracting the virus.

Health authorities and the local council confirmed the death at Sacred Heart care home in Daliburgh in a joint statement and sent their condolences to the family.

Their statement indicated, however, that the decision to record the death as Covid-related was procedural, implying that the care home resident did not have the virus when they died.

“We are sorry to confirm the death in a care home of a resident who had tested positive for Covid-19 approximately three weeks before their death, and send our condolences to their family and loved ones,” it said.

Updated at 10.46am BST

10.25am BST

Around 47,000 Covid-19 infections are occurring daily in England, and deaths are expected to hit 240 to 690 per day by 26 October, according to evidence presented to British government scientists.

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is expected to announce new restrictions in Greater Manchester and Lancashire, which you can follow on our UK blog here. Devolved administrations in other parts of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have largely been pursuing their own policies on Covid-19.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) biostatistics unit at Cambridge University published new predictions on 12 October on how fast the epidemic was growing across the country. The scientists estimated that cases were doubling in less than seven days, with a “substantial proportion” of those being asymptomatic.

The figures are fed to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which provides real-time information to the government through the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and to regional Public Health England teams.

The MRC report said: “Our current estimate of the number of infections occurring each day across England is 47,000.”

Updated at 10.45am BST

10.21am BST

Christmas is coming but the pandemic is causing problems for a Finnish village that markets itself as the home of Santa Claus.

Finland has adopted some of the strictest travel restrictions in Europe, despite its low level of infections, meaning most foreigners cannot enter the country and those who can face a two-week quarantine.

The northern part of Finland, where many businesses rely on tourists flying in to meet Santa Claus, see the northern lights or take a snowmobile safari, has seen visitor numbers plummet.

In August, foreign tourist numbers were down 78% from a year earlier, according to travel industry data from Business Finland.

“For local businesses, definitely, Christmas is in danger,” said Sanna Kärkkäinen, the managing director of Visit Rovaniemi tourist board. “Christmas itself will come, but how merry it will be, that’s the question mark.”

Santa Claus in his chamber behind a plexiglas screen in the village of Rovaniemi, Finland
Santa Claus in his chamber behind a plexiglas screen in the village of Rovaniemi, Finland.
Photograph: Attila Cser/Reuters

Updated at 10.42am BST

10.04am BST

Pharma company questions WHO findings on antiviral drug remdesivir

Gilead Sciences has questioned the findings of a World Health Organization (WHO) study that concluded that its Covid-19 drug remdesivir does not help patients who have been admitted to hospital.

The US company told Reuters that the data appeared inconsistent, the findings were premature and that other studies had validated the drug’s benefits.

In a blow to one of the few drugs being used to treat people with Covid-19, the WHO said on Thursday that its Solidarity trial had concluded that remdesivir appeared to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or length of hospital stays among patients with the respiratory disease.

Details of the WHO trial can be read here. Some newer antiviral drugs are now being considered for evaluation.

Remdesivir was one of two drugs recently given to Donald Trump after he contracted Covid. Scientists have said they still lack conclusive proof that either of the two – the other was REGN-COV2 – are clinically effective.

Updated at 10.07am BST

9.53am BST

In the Canadian provide of Quebec, authorities have said Halloween is just for children this year. Children will be able to go door to door to collect treats, but only if they trick-or-treat with members of their households, Quebec’s premier, François Legault, has said.

Quebec, with 89,963 confirmed cases, is Canada’s hardest-hit province in the pandemic. There have been 191,311 confirmed cases in Canada nationally.

Adults are not permitted to celebrate Halloween in groups and they will need to keep a two-metre distance when distributing sweets to costumed youths, the Toronto Star reported.

Legault said some partial lockdown measures imposed on the biggest cities in Quebec were likely to continue beyond the end of this month.

People walk past a Halloween shop in Montreal
People walk past a Halloween shop in Montreal.
Photograph: Canadian Press/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated at 10.02am BST

9.30am BST

Indonesia reported 4,301 new coronavirus cases on Friday, taking its tally to 353,461, the highest in south-east Asia.

Reuters reports that the country also reported 79 more Covid deaths, making a total of 12,347, also the region’s highest.

Updated at 9.34am BST

9.19am BST

Italy has ‘two weeks’ to stop rising rates – virologist warns

Italy has two weeks to stop the rising rate of transmission of coronavirus or it risks following in the footsteps of European neighbours where exponential spreads have ushered back harsh restrictions, an Italian virologist has said.

Italian health officials have declared that the resurgence of Covid-19 has reached an “acute phase”. Massimo Galli, the director of infectious diseases at Milan’s Luigi Sacco hospital, said Italy’s surge was not the result of record testing, as policymakers have suggested, but a sign of a real return among the population most at risk.

It only takes a look at Sacco’s Covid-19 ward, a few steps from Galli’s office, to raise the alarm, the Associated Press news agency reports. “We have a situation that reminds one quite distressingly of the one that we already have experienced,’’ said Galli, referring to the peak in March and April when Italy had a one-day record of 969 deaths.

Massimo Galli at Milan’s Luigi Sacco hospital
Massimo Galli at Milan’s Luigi Sacco hospital.
Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP

Updated at 9.23am BST

9.04am BST

The Philippines’ health ministry has reported 3,139 new coronavirus infections and 34 additional deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had reached 351,750, while deaths had increased to 6,531, with the Philippines recording the second highest number of casualties in south-east Asia.

Updated at 9.15am BST

8.59am BST

The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has been hitting back on Twitter at the UK’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, amid a continued standoff between local leaders in some northern English cities and the government in London over plans for an escalation in restrictions.

Updated at 9.15am BST

8.52am BST

Schools in Italy’s Campania region close

Schools in Italy’s southern Campania region have closed less than a month after reopening amid a rapid rise in coronavirus cases.

Authorities said schools would remain closed until the end of October after the region, which was relatively unscathed by the first wave of the pandemic, recorded 1,127 new cases in a day.

The move has created tension between the regional authorities and central government, with the education minister, Lucia Azzolina, arguing that the increase in infections is not the fault of schools.

“If we don’t want to sacrifice education we should promote home working more,” she said. “It’s not just students getting on buses in the morning. Leaving students at home is unacceptable.”

The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said closing schools “isn’t the best option”.

Concerns over coronavirus in Campania are high owing to its high population density and less well-equipped hospitals compared with those in the north.

The region had declared itself Covid-free in June before the number of infections started rising from mid-August.

Italy recorded 8,804 new cases on Thursday, its highest daily tally since the beginning of the pandemic.

Medical staff at the entrance of a hospital in Naples on October 6.
Medical staff at the entrance of a hospital in Naples on October 6.
Photograph: Pasquale Gargano/Pacific Press/REX/Shutterstock

Updated at 9.16am BST

8.38am BST

Rugby world champions South Africa will not take part in the Rugby Championship, leaving the event greatly diminished 16 days before its scheduled start.

The annual tournament also featuring New Zealand, Australia and Argentina was already delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and is being staged in one country for the first time.

The South African Rugby Union said it had pulled out due to concerns over “player welfare”, with the Springboks having had less time to prepare in competition than Australia and New Zealand, who completed domestic tournaments weeks ago and opened their Test season last weekend.

“This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the ongoing impacts of the pandemic … mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges,” said the SARU chief executive, Jurie Roux.

Much of the Argentina squad have had no match preparation but are training in a bio-secure bubble in Sydney. Several Pumas players and coach Mario Ledesma tested positive for Covid during a preparatory camp at home.

A photo from 2019 showing South Africa’s JC Pretorius after scoring a try
A photo from 2019 showing South Africa’s JC Pretorius after scoring a try
Photograph: Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 9.17am BST

8.31am BST

UK foreign secretary hits out at reported Russian misinformation

Claims that Russia is attempting to sow the seeds of confusion about the vaccine being developed in the UK are “very serious,” according to Britain’s foreign secretary.

“It’s very serious because it’s an attempt to disrupt the attempts to find a safe vaccine,” said Dominic Raab, while also making an apparent jibe towards the vaccines which have already been approved by Russia amid concerns from global health experts.

“We know Russia has a track record of using misinformation as a foreign policy tool,” Raab told the BBC.

He was speaking after a Times report [paywall] on a Russian disinformation campaign which the newspaper said was designed to undermine and spread fear about the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine.

Pictures, memes and video clips depicting the British-made vaccine as dangerous have reportedly been devised in Russia and middlemen are now seeking to “seed” the images on social media networks around the world.

After the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, announced on 11 August that the Russian vaccine had “passed all necessary tests”, there was a chorus of unease from scientists around the world. Many pointed out that no scientific data had been made public from early trials, and phase three trials of the vaccine had not even started.

A medic at a regional hospital receives Russia’s “Sputnik-V” vaccine shot against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Tver.
A medic at a regional hospital receives Russia’s “Sputnik-V” vaccine shot against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Tver.
Photograph: Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

Updated at 9.18am BST

8.22am BST

Britain’s foreign secretary has accused the mayor of the Greater Manchester area of trying to “hold the government over a barrel” by resisting tougher coronavirus restrictions.

Criticising Andy Burnham, the Labour party politician who is the mayor of the Greater Manchester area, Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast: “Ultimately we need to take action – we can’t have a situation as we have seen in Manchester where Andy Burnham is effectively trying to hold the government over a barrel over money and politics when actually we need to take action.

“The cases there are 470 per 100,000 so it is very serious, and we must take action in the interest of the people of Manchester and the wider area, and if we take those targeted actions in those areas most affected … we get through this and we avoid the national level lockdown.”

Downing Street’s flagship policy for tackling the coronavirus in England has descended into chaos after mayors and MPs from the north-west of the country emphatically rejected being moved into the highest lockdown level and accused ministers of treating the region with contempt.

Updated at 8.25am BST

8.17am BST

Some news of more woes now for the British pub industry, via my colleague Rob Davies, who reports on major losses for the UK’s largest pub chain.

The chairman of JD Wetherspoon boss, Tim Martin, has said closing pubs, bars and restaurants will not help stop coronavirus.

Speaking earlier this year as Boris Johnson announced the closure of every pub and restaurant in the country, Martin had vowed to keep his 867 UK pubs open as long as possible.

Today he told London’s Evening Standard that the British government should “go swedish,” referencing the controversial approach taken by the Swedish government.

Martin accused the government in London of acting on a “frantic basis” as if it were in permanent election mode.

He added: “In the last week Sweden had 16 fatalities, we had 600. Adjusted for population we are doing six times worse than Sweden. The solution is to buy a Volvo, listen to Abba. Go Swedish.”

For those who would like to know more about what it means to “Go Swedish” here’s a piece my colleague Jon Henley filed last month:

8.08am BST

England is already getting “very close” to the peak of Covid-19 in April, one of the government’s health advisors has said, as he warned that it would take more than just a one-week circuit breaker to bring the situation under control.

Professor Graham Medley, an expert in infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and member of Sage, believes that in terms of healthcare “some areas are going to be back to the same kind of position they were at the end of March”.

Dismissing the suggestion that a lockdown or lockdowns were ‘kicking the can down the road,’ he said that they had a role to play as there was a real prospect of a vaccine.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

We are struggling at the moment to understand how we’re balancing that imperative of having to prevent healthcare being completely overwhelmed and yet how to mitigate against the damage caused by the intervention which of course is huge.

7.58am BST

Czech Republic breaks daily cases record for second day running

The Czech Republic recorded 9,721 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, setting a single-day record for a second day running, government data showed today.

The country of 10.7 million has registered the biggest surge of new coronavirus cases in Europe, with the total number of infections detected since the pandemic hit in March having more than doubled to 149,010.

Men walk past a Prague cafe in the Czech Republic, 15 October 2020.
Men walk past a Prague cafe in the Czech Republic, 15 October 2020.
Photograph: Martin Divíšek/EPA

Updated at 11.04am BST

7.44am BST

The head of a leading pub chain in Britain has condemned the extension of lockdowns announced on Thursday as “a catastrophe from which the pub trade will never fully recover”.

Patrick Dardis, the chief executive of Young’s Pubs, said Britain’s drinking establishments had complied with government guidelines throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in pubs being safer than most supermarket aisles in the fight against the disease.

Yet, Mr Dardis said, the pub industry was now reeling from its second body blow in quick succession dealt by the Government, with the lockdown extension following the “abrupt and entirely pointless 10pm curfew” imposed last month.

“When pubs were allowed to reopen in July, we estimated cautiously that about 5,000 pubs would not survive,” Mr Dardis wrote in the Daily Mail.
“But after the reckless introduction of the curfew, which predictably killed trade, I doubled this figure to 10,000.

New lockdown restrictions to be imposed across much of England from Saturday could be the “death knell” for many pubs and restaurants, the government has been told, as business groups voiced concerns about a wave of job losses within weeks.

Updated at 8.00am BST

7.39am BST

Azerbaijan will suspend secondary school classes and the use of Baku’s metro system from October 19 until November 2 to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said on Friday.

The former Soviet republic in the South Caucasus of almost 10 million people had reported 43,280 coronavirus cases and 619 deaths as of Thursday.

7.36am BST

Israel intends to ease some lockdown restrictions on Sunday, the government has announced, following a four-week national shutdown seeking to stall what was one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that as of Sunday:

  • Companies that have no in-person customers can open.
  • Daycares and nurseries for children aged 0 to 6 can restart.
  • National parks and beaches will reopen.
  • Restrictions of leaving one’s home or hosting people are lifted, as long as gatherings do no exceed 10 people inside and 20 people outside.

The statement warned that the restrictions could be reimposed if the infection rate, currently around 2,000 per day, increase. It added that areas with very high transmission rates may not be included under the new rules.

With schools, bars, and most shops remaining closed, Israel intends to exit the second national lockdown cautiously, after an overzealous reopening in the spring saw infection rates spiral.

Israeli soldiers in the central national control room headquarters of the Home Front Command dealing with Covid-19 in the city of Ramla near Tel Aviv, 08 October 2020.
Israeli soldiers in the central national control room headquarters of the Home Front Command dealing with Covid-19 in the city of Ramla near Tel Aviv, 08 October 2020.
Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA

Updated at 7.41am BST

7.23am BST

Turning the focus of efforts to contain and counter the spread of Covid-19 in England into a “north-south” or party political issue was “a very dangerous route,” according to a member of the UK government’s panel of public health advisors.

Countries that had controlled the virus well so far – including South Korea and New Zealand – had demonstrated that a “national consensus about the way forward” was the best one, said Sir Jeremy Farrar, who is the director of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation, and sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

“I think we’ve got to come together as a country, this fragmentation, and frankly making this either a north-south or a party political issue, that’s a very dangerous route to go on,” he told the BBC.

“What we don’t want now is a fragmentation or confusion – one area or region or city pitched against another. I think that would be very, very damaging to public health and the country’s ability to respond.”

His comments came as the flagship policy of the government in London for tackling the coronavirus in England descended into chaos after mayors and MPs from the north-west of the country emphatically rejected being moved into the highest lockdown level and accused ministers of treating the region with contempt.

7.17am BST

Britons are waking up to a continued stand-off between the government in London and local authority leaders in the north of England over the prime minister’s flagship policy for tackling the coronavirus in England.

Those plans have descended into chaos after mayors and MPs from the north-west of England emphatically rejected being moved into the highest lockdown, with talks continuing late into the night.

Fresh efforts to reach an agreement will continue today as scientists and health experts look on with dismay.

Elsewhere in the UK

• New Covid-19 restrictions are due to coming to force in Northern Ireland, where an extended break for school children also begins today.

• Extended ‘circuit break’ type restrictions are due to be announced in the next few days in Wales

• New rules have come into force in Scotland to extend the mandatory wearing of face coverings, which will now be required in workplace settings such as canteens.

While ministers could still unilaterally impose a lockdown in England, they believe local leaders’ cooperation is crucial in communicating and enforcing the restrictions.

This is Ben Quinn in London, picking up the global blog now from Helen. You can reach me on Twitter at @BenQuinn75 or email me if you would like to flag up any news which we should be reporting.

6.58am BST

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with our live coverage of the New Zealand election.

In the meantime, my colleague Ben Quinn will be bringing you the latest coronavirus news.

6.37am BST

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Global deaths near 1.1m as US cases near 8m. The global death toll is nearing 1.1m – it is likely to pass this milestone within the next 24 hours. The current figure on Johns Hopkins is 1,096,833 and more than 5k new deaths are, on average, being reported daily worldwide. The number of cases in the US on the brink if 8m, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.
  • London prepares for Tier 2 lockdown. The capital city is bracing for Tier 2 restrictions from Saturday, which means a ban on separate households mixing indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.
  • The UK government’s flagship policy for tackling the coronavirus in England descended into chaos after mayors and MPs from the north-west of the country emphatically rejected being moved into the highest lockdown level and accused ministers of treating the region with contempt.
  • Russian disinformation campaign set up to spread fear about Oxford vaccine – report. The Times reported that a Russian disinformation campaign has been set up in order to spread fear about the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine, with pictures, memes and video clips depicting the British-made inoculation as dangerous.
  • Germany sees record daily case rise for second consecutive day. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 7,334 to 348,557, the highest one-day tally recorded in Germany over the course of the pandemic so far, according to Johns Hopkins University. It is the second day in a row that Germany has reported record new cases. The death toll rose by 24 to 9,734, the RKI data showed.
  • Premier of Australian state of Victoria to announce ‘significant’ easing of restrictions. In Australia, Victorian state Premier Daniel Andrews has offered Victorians hope there will be a “significant” easing of restrictions soon, after only two new coronavirus cases and no deaths. The state capital city, Melbourne, has been under some form of stay-at-home orders for 99 days, including 75 days under the highest stage-4 restrictions. By comparison, Wuhan in China was under total lockdown for 76 days.
  • NHS in talks to potentially roll out vaccine from December. The National Health Service is in talks with the British Medical Association and others around mobilising the rollout of a potential Covid-19 vaccine from December, Pulse website for health professionals reported on Thursday.
  • France’s new infections set 24-hour record, above 30,000. French health authorities on Thursday reported the number of new daily coronavirus infections rose above 30,000 for the first time since the start of the epidemic, with a total of 30,621 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours.
  • WHO warns Europe case surge “of great concern”. At a press conference in Copenhagen, the WHO’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told reporters it was time to “step up the measures” as rising case numbers on the continent were of “great concern,” AFP reports.
  • Spain’s cumulative tally of coronavirus infections rose by over 13,300 to 921,374 in a slight acceleration from the previous few days, as Catalonia prepared to shut down bars and restaurants in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
  • Germany’s foreign ministry has warned against non-essential travel to France, the Netherlands, Malta and Slovakia from Saturday due to high coronavirus infection rates.
  • Europe has recorded its highest ever weekly number of new Covid-19 cases, the World Health Organization has said, warning that without effective countermeasures daily death rates could reach four or five times their April peak within months.
  • More than half of countries in the EU, plus the UK, were on Thursday labelled red in a new map issued by the bloc’s disease control agency aimed at guiding decisions on travel restrictions. The map was issued after EU member states decided on Tuesday to coordinate their approach to travel restrictions on other countries in response to Covid-19 outbreaks.
  • As Switzerland sees record high Covid-19 infection numbers on a daily basis, the health minister warned Thursday that the situation is “deteriorating” at an alarming rate.
  • US president Donald Trump on Thursday said he is willing to raise his offer of .8 trillion for a Covid-19 relief package to get a deal with House of Representatives Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a move likely to raise concern among his fellow Republicans in the Senate.
  • Italy’s coronavirus infections reached 8,804 on Thursday, up by almost 1,500 in a day, while deaths almost doubled to 83. Daily records were registered in Lombardy, where there were over 2,000 new cases, Campania and Piedmont. Cases in the southern Campania region, which was relatively unscathed by the first wave of the pandemic, eclipsed 1,000 in a day for the first time.
  • The Czech Republic will start building capacity for Covid-19 patients outside of hospitals, officials said on Thursday, as the country faces the fastest rate of infections in Europe.
  • The president of the European Commission says she is going into self-isolation with immediate effect after a colleague tested positive for Covid-19.

6.21am BST

London prepares for Tier 2 lockdown

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has told Londoners who are being asked to make “monumental sacrifices” in the forthcoming local lockdown to “ignore Government politicians” who have flouted coronavirus rules, PA reports.

The capital city is bracing for Tier 2 restrictions from Saturday, which means a ban on separate households mixing indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.

On the day extra restrictions were announced for areas including London, Essex and areas of Yorkshire, it was also disclosed that MP Margaret Ferrier will face no further action from police after travelling between London and Glasgow following a positive coronavirus test.

“My advice to Londoners is to ignore what Government ministers do, or Government advisers do, or members of Parliament do,” said Khan.

“Do what is the right thing for our city and for your loved ones and for yourself.

“These restrictions are there because there are no good options, and this will slow down the spread of the virus, which means hopefully you not catching the virus, your loved one not catching the virus, and then not needing the NHS, which means the NHS can continue to treat patients who are non-Covid as well as those who have Covid.”

6.16am BST

Russian disinformation campaign set up to spread fear about Oxford vaccine – report

The Times reported that a Russian disinformation campaign has been set up in order to spread fear about the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine, with pictures, memes and video clips depicting the British-made inoculation as dangerous.

The paper said the campaign crudely claims the vaccine could turn people into monkeys because it uses a chimpanzee virus as a vector and reported that Russia is targeting countries where it wants to sell its own Sputnik V vaccine, as well as western nations.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical giant that plans to mass produce the Oxford vaccine if cleared for public use, said: “Misinformation is a clear risk to public health.

“I urge everyone to use reliable sources of information, to trust regulatory agencies and to remember the enormous benefit vaccines and medicines continue to bring to humanity.”

6.10am BST

Covid-19 rates: Can London be different from the regions?

Linda Geddes and Ian Sample report:

The number of coronavirus infections is rising across the UK, but until recently it was England’s northern cities which seemed to be igniting like powder kegs while London was smouldering but not catching fire. But the announcement that second-tier restrictions (high alert level) would be imposed on the capital from Saturday heralded the possibility that people in London would not escape a second wave.

Infection rates in 12 London boroughs already exceed 100 cases per 100,000; Richmond upon Thames tops the list at 140.

UK Covid: Andy Burnham says England’s north must not be ‘sacrificial lamb’ for flawed lockdowns – as it happenedRead more

Some scientists have suggested that former hotspots could be less affected second time round due to higher rates of immunity, or altered behaviour patterns. Others think it is only a matter of time before the capital seriously re-ignites.

Here are some of the leading theories about differences over Britain’s regions in Covid-19 infection rates:

5.59am BST

Premier of Australian state of Victoria to announce ‘significant’ easing of restrictions

In Australia, Victorian state Premier Daniel Andrews has offered Victorians hope there will be a “significant” easing of restrictions soon, after only two new coronavirus cases and no deaths.

The state capital city, Melbourne, has been under some form of stay-at-home orders for 99 days, including 75 days under the highest stage-4 restrictions.

By comparison, Wuhan in China was under total lockdown for 76 days.

The new case count is Victoria’s lowest since 9 June when no infections were recorded, just weeks before the state’s deadly second wave began to emerge.

People enjoy the spring weather along the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River on October 16, 2020, as Australia’s Victoria state records only two new Covid-19 coronavirus cases and no deaths, the lowest daily figure since 9 June.
People enjoy the spring weather along the banks of Melbourne’s Yarra River on October 16, 2020, as Australia’s Victoria state records only two new Covid-19 coronavirus cases and no deaths, the lowest daily figure since 9 June.
Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

“Today is a day where we can be optimistic and we can be positive and we can all of us as Victorians look at all that we have achieved,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Friday.

“We have stayed the course. We have not let our frustration get the better of us. We have made a conscious decision to defeat this second wave.”

Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average now sits at 8.7 cases, with 17 mystery cases in the past fortnight, while regional Victoria’s average remains at 0.6.

The premier said the state is well placed to ease restrictions on Sunday, albeit in a steady, safe way.

Updated at 6.11am BST

5.48am BST

Ongoing illness after infection with Covid-19, sometimes called “long Covid”, may not be one syndrome but possibly up to four causing a rollercoaster of symptoms affecting all parts of the body and mind, doctors said on Thursday.

In an initial report about long-term COVID-19, Britain’s National Institute for Health Research said one common theme among ongoing COVID patients – some of whom are seven months or more into their illness – is that symptoms appear in one physiological area, such as the heart or lungs, only to abate and then arise again in a different area, Reuters reports.

“This review highlights the detrimental physical and psychological impact that ongoing Covid is having on many people’s lives,” said Dr Elaine Maxwell, who led the report.

According to UK-based patient group LongCovidSOS, data from a King’s College London-devised symptom tracker app shows that 10% of Covid-19 patients remain unwell after three weeks, and up to 5% may continue to be sick for months.

Maxwell, who presented the findings of the “Living with Covid” report in an online media briefing, said health services are already struggling “to manage these new and fluctuating patterns of symptoms and problems”.

She and her co-authors urged patients and doctors to log and track symptoms so that health researchers can learn more about the condition and how to ease it as swiftly as possible.

Updated at 5.56am BST

5.19am BST

India’s tally of coronavirus infections stood at 7.37 million on Friday, having risen by 63,371 in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed.

Deaths from Covid-19 infections rose by 895 to 112,161, the ministry said.

India crossed the 7-million mark on Sunday, adding a million cases in just 13 days. It has the world’s second-highest tally after the United States, where the figure is nearing 8 million.

A health worker takes swab sample of a woman to test for Covid-19 outside a garment shop in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, 13 October 2020.
A health worker takes swab sample of a woman to test for Covid-19 outside a garment shop in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, 13 October 2020.
Photograph: Rajanish Kakade/AP

5.03am BST

Politics Weekly Extra podcast: How will the election affect US relations with allies?

As reports suggest that No 10 Downing Street has been preparing for Trump’s exit from the White House, Jonathan Freedland and Rafael Behr look at how the election might affect America’s relationship with the rest of the world

4.39am BST

More analysis of the battle of the town halls:

America is often described as a “split screen nation”, bitterly divided between two political tribes dwelling in echo chambers. But Thursday night at 8pm was a bit too on the nose.

The NBC network hosted a town hall event with Donald Trump. ABC hosted a simultaneous town hall event with his Democratic challenger Joe Biden. CBS, meanwhile, hosted the reality TV show Big Brother with Julie Chen Moonves.

It was a fitting battle for a ratings-obsessed US president who made himself a reality TV star on The Apprentice. Though for some the two men talking at the same time on two different channels was at least preferable to them talking at the same time in the notoriously rancorous first presidential debate:

4.17am BST

Donald Trump’s floundering performance during Thursday’s NBC town hall left many feeling there was only one winner from the event – Trump’s interviewer, Savannah Guthrie.

Guthrie, a co-host of NBC’s Today morning show, repeatedly got the better of Trump as she pressed the president on his debts, his actions on coronavirus, and the dangerous rightwing conspiracy theory QAnon.

Trump was at times clearly uncomfortable, and his campaign attacked Guthrie less than an hour after the event finished, suggesting Guthrie had filled the role of “Joe Biden surrogate”.

In Guthrie, Trump met someone who not only fact-checked him in real time, but at times pushed back on his usually unchallenged rhetoric.

The tone was set early, when Trump claimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had found that “85% of people who wear a mask catch [coronavirus]”.

Guthrie corrected the president, explaining that is not what the survey said – it found that of a group of 150 Covid-19 patients, 85% said they had worn a mask.

It was rare for Trump to be contradicted, given his “interviews” with Fox News frequently consist of him phoning in and talking at length, uninterrupted:

4.11am BST

The dueling town halls between Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden may not have had the face-to-face fireworks of the presidential debate which they replaced, but they still provided moments of drama and offered clear insight into the dynamics of the 2020 campaign.

Here are some of the key takeaways of an evening when America had a split-screen experience of the race to the White House.

4.01am BST

Germany sees record daily case rise

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 7,334 to 348,557, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday.

The 24 hour total is the highest recorded in Germany over the course of the pandemic so far according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. It is the second day in a row that Germany has reported record new cases.

The death toll rose by 24 to 9,734, the RKI data showed.

Updated at 4.43am BST

3.46am BST

The world is caught in a perfect storm of rising rates of chronic disease, persistent infectious diseases and public health failures that have fuelled deaths in the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a major global study of human health.

Reuters reports that the emergence and overlap of the coronavirus pandemic with a continued global rise in chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes – with added environmental risks such as air pollution – have exacerbated the coronavirus death toll, according to the study.

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study is the most comprehensive of its kind. Published in The Lancet medical journal, it analysed 286 causes of death, 369 diseases and injuries and 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories to offer a view on the underlying health of the global population and the impact of Covid-19.

3.21am BST

One of China’s front-running coronavirus vaccine candidates was shown to be safe and triggered immune responses in a combined early and mid-stage test in humans, researchers said.

Reuters reports that the potential vaccine, dubbed BBIBP-CorV, is being developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group.

It has already been approved for an emergency inoculation programme in China targeting essential workers and other limited groups of people facing high infection risk.

However, whether the shot can safely protect people from the Covid-19 disease that has killed more than 1 million people worldwide will only become clear when final Phase III trials – which are ongoing outside China – are complete.

BBIBP-CorV is one of at least 10 coronavirus vaccine projects globally to have entered Phase III trials, four of which are led by Chinese scientists, according to the World Health Organization.
It did not cause any severe side effects, while common mild or moderate adverse reactions included fever and pain in injection sites, according to a paper published on Thursday in medical journal the Lancet.

The results came from a combined Phase I and Phase II trial involving more than 600 healthy adults conducted between April 29 and July 30.

3.03am BST

Podcast: Covid in the UK – a new north-south divide?

Strict new measures have been imposed on cities in the north of England this week in an attempt to control the increasing spread of Covid-19 infections. But the way the new restrictions have been rolled out has angered local leaders and residents alike, says Josh Halliday:

3.01am BST

The Trump campaign attacked NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie in a statement released after tonight’s dueling town halls.

“Even though the commission canceled the in-person debate that could have happened tonight, one occurred anyway, and President Trump soundly defeated NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in her role as debate opponent and Joe Biden surrogate,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director.

Guthrie has been widely praised for pressing Trump on his coronavirus testing history and the QAnon conspiracy theory, which the president refused to denounce.

2.47am BST

NHS in talks to potentially roll out vaccine from December

The National Health Service is in talks with the British Medical Association and others around mobilising the rollout of a potential Covid-19 vaccine from December, Pulse website for health professionals reported on Thursday, Reuters reports.

There is optimism around the first cohorts being given a vaccine in December but there is a 50/50 chance of the vaccine being available by that time, Pulse reported, citing a person close to the discussions.

Talks are taking place between NHS England, the BMA and other groups over who will administer vaccines and who will receive it first, Pulse reported, citing multiple sources.

The government had proposed in August to allow more healthcare workers to administer vaccines.

There is debate on whether the first people to be vaccinated will be care home patients and their staff, or health care professionals, including general practitioners.

Updated at 6.12am BST

2.24am BST

Mexico’s health ministry on Thursday reported 5,514 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 387 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 834,910 cases and 85,285 deaths.

The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

2.19am BST

In a very different election race, in a country that has had a very different coronavirus response:

It’s been called the Covid election, with stability the order of the day.

But it has turned into the weirdest general election campaign New Zealanders have ever seen, with most of the country desperate for it to be over and some semblance of normality to resume in a deeply abnormal year.

After a month’s delay caused by the coronavirus outbreak in Auckland, the country’s largest city, New Zealanders will finally head to the voting booths on Saturday.

But with a record million people having already cast their vote in advance, even voting day will be subdued.

The lack of excitement and muted atmosphere has everything to do with Covid and incumbent Jacinda Ardern’s overwhelming success in managing the pandemic. For many struggling with job losses and uncertainty, the election is an unwelcome speed bump hindering a swift return to their old lives.

For months now, opinion polls have shown the Labour party streets ahead of the opposition National party, and it is currently leading by 15 points on 46%, with Ardern also leading in polls as the preferred prime minister.

2.09am BST

US cases near 8m

The number of cases in the US on the brink if 8m, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

The current infections tally is 7,975,725.

The US has the highest cases and deaths worldwide, with a toll of 217,746 dead over the course of the pandemic so far.

The global death toll is nearing 1.1m – it is likely to pass this milestone within the next 24 hours.

The current figure on Johns Hopkins is 1,096,833 and more than 5k new deaths are, on average, being reported daily worldwide.

India, with the second-highest case total has 7.3m cases and 111,266 deaths.

2.03am BST

China reported 24 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 15 October, compared with 10 cases a day earlier, the health commission said on Friday.

All of the new infections were imported, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.

China reported 10 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 23 a day earlier.

As of 15 October, mainland China had 85,646 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The Covid-19 death toll stands at 4,634.

2.01am BST

The Trump town hall has now ended. Biden’s is set to continue for another 30 mins. I’ll bring you anything coronavirus related.

2.00am BST

NBC host Savannah Guthrie is commanding this Trump town hall in a way that we have rarely seen a moderator or interviewer do with the president over the last four years.

After the spectacle of the first debate, when Trump made over 100 interruptions by some counts, it’s been a breath of fresh air for many viewers:

1.54am BST

The number of people watching Biden’s town hall on Youtube is now 150,000 higher than those watching Trump.

1.46am BST

This isn’t coronavirus-related but it was an incredible moment in the Trump town hall:

1.43am BST

Are you watching the debate? Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

1.28am BST

After contracting Covid-19 yourself, has your opinion changed on mask wearing, Trump is asked.

Trump says no, because he’s heard so many different things.

“You have on the masks two different stories. You have a story where they want. You have a story where they don’t want.”

Guthrie says: all of your top scientists are in unison about this.

Trump quotes a Stanford professor (sorry, I didn’t catch the name) who allegedly says masks aren’t necessary.

Guthrie responds right away: He’s not an infectious diseases expert.

1.24am BST

1.23am BST

Meanwhile at an altogether calmer town hall, Joe Biden answered more questions on coronavirus, and one undecided voter asked him about a potential coronavirus vaccine.

The Democratic nominee said he doesn’t trust what Trump says about vaccine candidates because he says “crazy stuff.”

But Biden emphasized that he would take a vaccine if public heath experts endorsed it, and he said he would encourage every American to do so as well, although he acknowledged it would be difficult to mandate vaccinations.

Biden also stressed that the usage of masks would be key to allowing the economy to remain open in the months to come.

“You don’t have to lock down if you’re wearing a mask,” Biden said.

1.15am BST

From a few minutes earlier in the debate:

1.14am BST

Trump is being grilled pretty hard on coronavirus by Savannah Guthrie, the moderator of his Town Hall.

He has just been asked if he supports herd immunity.

“The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself,” says Trump.

“It happened because of China,” he says.

He again quotes the figure of scientists predicting two million people could have died, which Guthrie points out, correctly was an early figure predicting the toll if nothing was done.

Trump responds criticising New York’s restrictions, saying the city is “like a ghost town.”

“The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself,” he again says – seemingly saying that lockdowns are worse than letting the virus spread (but this is not clear).

1.10am BST

Trump and Biden are currently holding simultaneous town halls, which means that we should be able to know eventually how many people tuned into each of them.

For now, the official livestreams on YouTube show about 50,000 more people tuning into Biden – but this could reflect international viewers who are less likely to be watching on their TVs.

The Biden town hall is here.

Trump’s is here.

Our liveblog is here:

12.53am BST

Solomon Islands confirm third case

Another case of Covid-19 has been confirmed in quarantine in Solomon Islands: after nine months virus-free the archipelago has recorded three cases in less than a fortnight.

All three cases have been in quarantine, detected in students repatriated from the Philippines.

Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare has resisted imposing lockdowns. There are fears if the virus escapes quarantine it could run unchecked through crowded Honiara and quickly overwhelm the country’s fragile healthcare system.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, the US territory of Guam recorded its 63rd death – from 3,427 known infections. The Mariana Islands, also a US territory, has recorded 80 cases, the majority of those transported into the country.

In PNG, Covid cases continue to be detected in provinces across the country, including new outbreaks in the eastern highlands. The country has recorded 575 confirmed cases, with seven deaths, though the actual number of infections is likely many times higher.

The Pacific is the least Covid-infected region on earth. The small and remote island nations and territories of Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are believed to be still free of the virus.

12.31am BST

US President Donald Trump and Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Joe Biden will be hosting simultaneous town halls this evening, starting in about 30 minutes’ time.

I’ll do my best to bring any coronavirus-related news here, but the best place to follow along live is on our dedicated blog at the link below:

12.11am BST

France’s new infections set 24-hour record, above 30,000

French health authorities on Thursday reported the number of new daily coronavirus infections rose above 30,000 for the first time since the start of the epidemic.

There were a total of 30,621 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours, up on Wednesday’s 22,591, while hospitalisations and deaths linked to the disease also rose.

The number of people in France who have died from Covid-19 infections rose by 88 to 33,125, versus 104 on Wednesday. The cumulative number of cases now totals 809,684. Patients in ICU now total 1,750, an increase of 77 in 24 hours.

The French president Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday ordered a nightly curfew in Paris and eight other big cities where the coronavirus is actively spreading.

Updated at 12.12am BST

11.51pm BST

WHO warns Europe case surge ‘of great concern’

At a press conference in Copenhagen, the WHO’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told reporters it was time to “step up the measures” as rising case numbers on the continent were of “great concern,” AFP reports.

But he said the situation was not as bad as the peak in March and April, and stressed that full-on lockdowns “where every corner of our society and economy has been halted” should be avoided.

“The collateral damage on the people was too much,” he said, encouraging governments not to “hold back with relatively smaller actions”.

People’s mental health, the risk of domestic violence and children’s education should all be taken into consideration, he added.

Britain hopes a local three-tier system will fit the bill, with London heading into level two at the weekend and northwestern city Liverpool the only area in the top level, with strict limits on social mixing including the closure of pubs.

In France, police searched the home of Health Minister Olivier Veran, one of several current or former ministers being probed following complaints by victims of Covid-19 that they were slow to act to check its spread.

The action came after France announced a virus shutdown between 9 pm and 6 am in Paris and other hotspot cities that will remain for as long as six weeks.

In neighbouring Spain, bars and restaurants will close across the northeastern region of Catalonia for the next 15 days, while Germany said daily infections have reached levels not seen since the start of the pandemic.

11.38pm BST

Summary

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

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest pandemic news for the next few hours, as France’s new infections set a 24-hour record, rising above 30,000 for the first time since the start of the epidemic.

Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

European countries have unveiled tough new measures to try to curb a surge in coronavirus infections which the World Health Organization warned Thursday is of “great concern”.

  • The UK government’s flagship policy for tackling the coronavirus in England descended into chaos after mayors and MPs from the north-west of the country emphatically rejected being moved into the highest lockdown level and accused ministers of treating the region with contempt.
  • Spain’s cumulative tally of coronavirus infections rose by over 13,300 to 921,374 in a slight acceleration from the previous few days, as Catalonia prepared to shut down bars and restaurants in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
  • Germany’s foreign ministry has warned against non-essential travel to France, the Netherlands, Malta and Slovakia from Saturday due to high coronavirus infection rates.
  • Europe has recorded its highest ever weekly number of new Covid-19 cases, the World Health Organization has said, warning that without effective countermeasures daily death rates could reach four or five times their April peak within months.
  • More than half of countries in the EU, plus the UK, were on Thursday labelled red in a new map issued by the bloc’s disease control agency aimed at guiding decisions on travel restrictions. The map was issued after EU member states decided on Tuesday to coordinate their approach to travel restrictions on other countries in response to Covid-19 outbreaks.
  • As Switzerland sees record high Covid-19 infection numbers on a daily basis, the health minister warned Thursday that the situation is “deteriorating” at an alarming rate.
  • US president Donald Trump on Thursday said he is willing to raise his offer of .8 trillion for a Covid-19 relief package to get a deal with House of Representatives Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a move likely to raise concern among his fellow Republicans in the Senate.
  • Italy’s coronavirus infections reached 8,804 on Thursday, up by almost 1,500 in a day, while deaths almost doubled to 83. Daily records were registered in Lombardy, where there were over 2,000 new cases, Campania and Piedmont. Cases in the southern Campania region, which was relatively unscathed by the first wave of the pandemic, eclipsed 1,000 in a day for the first time.
  • The Czech Republic will start building capacity for Covid-19 patients outside of hospitals, officials said on Thursday, as the country faces the fastest rate of infections in Europe.
  • The president of the European Commission says she is going into self-isolation with immediate effect after a colleague tested positive for Covid-19.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 333