This article titled “World sees record new cases; Australian state set to ease restrictions – as it happened” was written by Lisa Cox (now), Jedidajah Otte , Haroon Siddique, Aaron Walawalkar , Naaman Zhou and Christopher Knaus (earlier), for theguardian.com on Saturday 17th October 2020 23.21 UTC
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We’ll be moving over to a fresh blog shortly and my colleague Ben Doherty will be taking you through the day.
Here’s a recap of the key events so far today:
- Global coronavirus cases rose by more than 400,000 for the first time late on Friday, a record one-day increase as much of Europe enacts new restrictions to curb the outbreak.
- Italy had a record daily rise in cases of 10,925 and is considering toughening nationwide restrictions in response to the increase. The Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Malaysia also recorded their highest daily totals since the pandemic began.
- The number of deaths in Iran from Covid-19 now exceeds 30,000, with the country’s health ministry saying the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic was now 30,123.
- A two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown is expected to commence in Wales on 23 October that will see all but essential retail outlets close, according to a leaked letter.
- Thailand has recorded its first locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 in more than a month.
- The foreign ministers of Austria and Belgium have both tested positive for Covid-19.
- The Australian state of Victoria recorded two new cases of Covid-19 and no deaths as the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, prepares to announce an easing of restrictions on Sunday.
Updated at 12.21am BST
An update from Victoria: The premier Daniel Andrews will hold his daily press conference at 11am today.
This is the press conference at which he is expected to announce an easing of restrictions for the state after more than 100 days of lockdown in Melbourne. We will bring you that as it happens.
Updated at 12.13am BST
Further evidence of the growing tension within the UK’s Conservative party has emerged after it was revealed 20 MPs from Conservative heartland seats in southern England have written to the Labour leader, Kier Starmer, and Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, asking them to work with the government’s regional policy. Starmer has called on the government to impose a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown.
The letter, signed by Norfolk MP Jerome Mayhew, says a national lockdown is the wrong approach. It says that businesses would close and jobs lost in Manchester irrespective of a national or regional lockdown. It goes on to claim that a national lockdown would cause tens of thousands of job losses in southern Tory constituencies despite the fact most are areas of low infection prevalence. Steve Double, Damian Green and Dan Poulter and Anne-Marie Morris are other Tories to sign.
The letter sparked sharp responses from fellow Tories representing constituencies in the Greater Manchester area. William Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove, replied: “May I politely ask that colleagues concern themselves with their own constituencies. I would not wish tighter restrictions on their constituents. We’re willing to work constructively to improve the situation in Greater Manchester & would ask for the short time and space to do so.”
Christian Wakeford, the Bury South MP, said bluntly: “Interventions from fellow members who don’t understand the situation are neither wanted nor helpful.”
Bolton MP Chris Green, who resigned as junior government minister last week, said: “I have never thought that the affairs of Norfolk should be determined by what may be of benefit to parts of Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire. Science matters but this No.10 approved communication does not.”
Victoria reports two new Covid cases and no deaths
Victoria has reported another day of single-figure Covid-19 diagnoses and no deaths.
The state reported two new cases on Sunday and a rolling daily case count of 7.5 in metropolitan Melbourne for the fortnight up to Saturday. Regional Victoria’s two-week average is 0.5.
The statistics mean Victoria’s coronavirus death count remains at 816 and the national toll is 904.
Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to reveal significant changes to Melbourne’s restrictions on movement and gatherings on Sunday.
Updated at 11.22pm BST
New South Wales on high alert as Oran Park cluster grows
Just a little more on the situation in NSW. Health authorities issued some alerts late yesterday related to the Oran Park Covid-19 cluster.
Any staff or children who attended the Great Beginnings Child Care Centre at Oran Park on any day from 2 October to 13 October are now considered close contacts of confirmed cases and should get tested and isolate for 14 days from the day they last attended.
NSW Health on Saturday night issued alerts for people who were at the following venues to get tested if they develop symptoms and to isolate until a negative test is received:
* The Gregory Hills Hotel, Gregory Hills, on the evening of Friday, 9 October.
* The 1500 United Cinema, Narellan Town Centre on early Saturday afternoon, 10 October.
* Shellharbour South Beach and Little Park on Sunday, 11 October, 12pm-4pm.
* Woolworths Oran Park on Monday, 12 October, 6.40-6.55pm.
Alerts are also on the NSW Health website for four bus routes to or from Oran Park, Campbelltown and Bradbury between 9.40am and 3.30pm on 14 October.
Updated at 11.10pm BST
Covid update in Australia: Victoria set to ease restrictions
Good morning, Lisa Cox with you in Sydney for the next couple of hours. Just a short update on the latest events in Australia.
Today we’ll be watching the state of Victoria where the premier, Daniel Andrews, is expected to announce some easing of restrictions after more than 100 days of lockdown in Melbourne. The state recorded just one new case of Covid-19 on Saturday.
Andrews has said Sunday’s announcements will be “much more in the social space than in the economic space”, suggesting the government is likely to take a cautious approach to the reopening of businesses. News Corp is reporting this morning the government will scrap two-hour limits on exercise and outdoor social activities, increase the number of people permitted to gather outdoors, and widen Melbourne’s travel limit from 5km to 20km. We’ll bring you updates as they come.
On Saturday, the premier rejected pressure from the federal government, including the health minister, Greg Hunt, to ease restrictions in line with the state of New South Wales.
Meanwhile, NSW remains on alert as a Covid-19 cluster in south-west Sydney’s Oran Park continues to grow and authorities urge more people to get tested.
NSW recorded seven new cases of coronavirus – including five locally-transmitted cases – in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday from almost 14,400 tests.
The five community cases were all connected to previously reported infections in Sydney’s south-west, with the cluster around Oran Park growing to 18.
Updated at 11.09pm BST
Marigolds, known in Mexico as “the flower of the dead” for a scent believed be strong and sweet enough to attract souls and draw them back, are generally all around by mid-October as the Day of the Dead approaches.
But with the country exceeding 85,700 official deaths from the coronavirus pandemic this year, the bright, orange color has not been as prominent as Mexican authorities have said cemeteries will remain closed for the 2 November celebration, Reuters reports.
“There have been a lot of losses this year,” said Concepcion Cruz, who cultivates marigold in Mexico City.
She said only about half as many of the flowers are being grown this year as would have been planted normally for the annual holiday.
Ratcheting back the celebrations is a sacrifice that must be made if Mexico is to curb the spread of the pandemic, said Columba Lopez, director of Mexico City’s Commission for Natural Resources and Rural Development.
“People have to stay at home,” he added.
The Day of the Dead tradition blends Catholic rituals with the pre-Hispanic belief that the dead return once a year from the underworld.
Cemeteries, public gardens and houses light up in the bright, orange color as marigolds are planted everywhere in October.
In their homes, Mexicans build altars adorned with photographs of the deceased, marigolds, candy skulls, papier-mâché skeletons and chocolate coffins.
The dead are also offered their favourite food, pastries, tequila and cigarettes – or whatever might entice them to return from the underworld.
With cemeteries closed but more dead to remember this year, Mexicans are planning more private remembrances for their loved ones.
Updated at 10.28pm BST
People in England who have been told to self-isolate through NHS test and trace could have their contact details passed to police, a move some fear could deter people from being tested for coronavirus.
Police forces will be able to access information about people “on a case-by-case” basis, so they can learn whether an individual has been told to self-isolate, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHCS) said.
Full story below.
Irish ministers will meet again early next week to decide whether to tighten Covid-19 restrictions, a senior minister has said, Reuters reports, after a meeting today with health chiefs recommended a return to national lockdown.
Micheál Martin, the prime minister, said on Friday that further action is needed to slow the spread of the virus. Local media reported that health chiefs had renewed their calls for a second national lockdown that the cabinet rejected two weeks ago.
Ireland broke its record for the number of cases recorded in a single day for the fourth time in the space of a week on Saturday with 1,276 new infections bringing cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days to 232.
It had the 12th highest 14-day rate among the 31 countries monitored by the European Union’s independent European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, according to data collated on its website.
Israel to ease lockdown from Sunday
Israel is preparing to ease some lockdown restrictions from Sunday in the first phase of scaling back measures imposed last month to stem soaring coronavirus infection rates.
“We will exit [lockdown] carefully this time, in line with the plan set out by the experts at the health ministry,” prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Saturday evening.
The easing of some of the rules, in force since 18 September as part of a second lockdown in six months against the pandemic, had been approved on Thursday by Netanyahu’s government, contingent on new cases not increasing beyond 2,000 per day.
On Friday, there were 1,695 new cases, according to official figures, down from around 8,000-9,000 per day at the end of September, Agence France-Presse reports.
“If everyone follows the rules, I am sure that it will work,” the prime minister added.
The lifting of restrictions is scheduled to take place in several phases, through to February 2021.
Israel, a country of about nine million people, has recorded 301,896 coronavirus cases, including 2,141 deaths, as of data released on Friday.
The government faced widespread criticism when cases surged after the country exited an initial weeks-long lockdown earlier this year.
One key measure set to be lifted on Sunday is a restriction on people moving more than one kilometre (less than a mile) from their home.
That rule sparked anger from some Israelis who claimed it was designed to stem protests against Netanyahu.
Children’s nurseries, as well as beaches and national parks, are set to reopen.
People will also be able to visit friends or relatives, as long as gatherings remain no more than 10 if inside, and 20 outside.
But the lockdown will remain in place until at least midnight Wednesday in some areas designated “red”, mainly those with high ultra-Orthodox populations, where infections remain high, according to authorities.
Updated at 9.17pm BST
Anti-lockdown demonstrators gathered in central London on Saturday, hours after the British capital moved to the second highest Covid-19 alert level.
As a second wave of infections gathers pace, prime minister Boris Johnson’s government has stepped up local restrictions in parts of England where cases are surging – hoping to shield the economy by allowing the least-affected regions to remain open.
As of midnight, London was moved to the “tier 2” or “high-risk” level.
This bans people from meeting anybody outside their household or “support bubble” – including friends or relatives who help to care for children – in any indoor setting.
The rules also forbid more than six people to meet outdoors, though the police chose not to enforce them as several thousand anti-lockdown campaigners marched down Oxford Street, usually one of the world’s busiest shopping streets.
The protesters view Covid-19 restrictions as unnecessary and a breach of their human rights. Some oppose mask-wearing and vaccinations.
Some carried placards saying: “MY BODY MY CHOICE, NO TO MANDATORY MASKS.”
“There’s plenty of things that can kill you, you know, it could happen any day,” protester Aragorn Kyley, 17, told Reuters.
“It’s about living, not just surviving. We want to be able to enjoy our lives, not just be stuck at home.”
As of Saturday, 57% of the UK’s population was living under tighter coronavirus-restrictions.
However, scientists from the Sage group that advises the government, and the main opposition Labour party, want ministers to go further and impose a short nationwide lockdown or so-called “circuit breaker” to halt the spread of the disease.
Updated at 8.45pm BST
Cyprus registered a daily record of 203 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, health authorities said, urging the public to stick to strict health protocols at a crucial point in tackling the pandemic.
The east Mediterranean island had largely kept a lid on cases by introducing an early lockdown in March, which was eased from early May onwards, Reuters reports.
After a relatively uneventful summer, cases started surging in the early part of this month.
“We are at possibly the most crucial point in the pandemic, and a possible increase in cases will, unavoidably, lead to the worst-case scenario; that unfortunately we will start counting victims, which is of course something nobody wants,” the health ministry said in a statement.
Authorities ordered that restaurants, bars and cafeterias in the populous Limassol district in the south close by 10.30pm from Sunday until at least 26 October.
Cyprus has registered 2,581 coronavirus cases since March and 25 deaths.
Updated at 7.55pm BST
France reports new record rise in cases
The French health ministry reported a record number of 32,427 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, after reporting 25,086 on Friday.
The total number of infections since the start of the year now stands at 867,197 while the total number of deaths stands at 33,392, up by 90 from Friday.
Updated at 7.53pm BST
Pubs and restaurants in one of London’s main hotspots were bustling on Saturday but businesses admitted they do not know how to enforce the latest restrictions.
The English capital was placed into tier 2 lockdown measures at midnight on Friday, meaning it is now illegal for Londoners to socialise indoors with people outside their household.
Soho, famous for its thriving nightlife, was pedestrianised when the national lockdown started to lift at the start of summer so its eateries and bars could set tables up in the street.
Some said they had seen a slight drop in customer numbers compared to last weekend, but said it could be down to the falling temperatures rather than the latest measures.
One member of staff, who asked not to be named, at the Greyhounds Pub on Greek Street told the Press Association he now had to ask everyone sitting inside if they came from the same household.
“I ask them but it’s just not practical, I have no way of checking unless I ask everyone to give me their address,” he said.
A waiter at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele on Old Compton Street said they could no longer take bookings as a result of the changes, and relied on walk-ins.
Despite that, he said the restaurant had been at its “busiest for months” on Friday.
Door staff at Comptons, a nearby pub, said they were also having to rely on people’s honesty when it came to making sure customers sitting inside were all from the same household.
One member of staff said they had been very lucky so far in terms of customer numbers, but were worried about what would happen when the weather turned colder.
Earlier in the day, anti-lockdown protesters marched down Oxford Street before congregating in nearby Leicester Square to demonstrate against the restrictions.
Led by Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, protesters yelled at passers by to remove their masks, telling them any Covid-19 vaccine would be “poison”.
Many of those on the march headed to Soho’s pubs at the end of the demo.
Updated at 7.52pm BST
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday reported 8,028,332 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 70,078 from its previous count a day earlier, and said the number of deaths had risen by 1,001 to 217,918.
On Friday, the US reported more than 69,100 new cases, the most in a single day since about 71,300 were reported on 29 July, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Ten states on Friday reported their highest one-day case counts: Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to Johns Hopkins.
The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, announced on Saturday that cinemas in the state outside of New York City would be able to reopen from 23 October at 25% capacity with up to 50 people per screen.
“New York broke a new testing record yesterday,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter, “with over 159,000 tests reported. We do more testing than any other state in the country. For context, the entire country of France reported just under 200,000 tests yesterday.”
New York state still has the highest death toll of all US states, with 33,347 confirmed coronavirus fatalities so far, followed by Texas, California, New Jersey and Florida.
The governor of Italy’s southern Campania region has blasted the Halloween holiday as a “stupid American extravagance” and a “monument to imbecility”, as he announced a 10pm curfew in Naples and the surrounding region over Halloween weekend.
Vincenzo De Luca blamed “irresponsible” young people for Campania’s surge in infections, and this week closed schools for in-person learning for two weeks, the Associated Press reports.
While Italy has long celebrated the religious holidays of All Saints and All Souls, Halloween has only taken off in the last generation, most strongly in the Italian south.
Campania was largely spared the first wave of Covid-19, but the region is now one of the worst-hit in Italy and is reaching a critical stage given it has far fewer hospital beds, intensive care units and medical personnel than other regions of a similar size.
De Luca won praise — and another term in office — for taking a tough line to keep infections down during Italy’s initial outbreak.
But his decision to shift all learning online prompted criticism from the education minister and protests from parents.
Updated at 6.58pm BST
World sees record 400,000 new cases in a single day
Global coronavirus cases rose by more than 400,000 for the first time late on Friday, a record one-day increase as much of Europe enacts new restrictions to curb the outbreak.
Europe, which successfully damped down the first surge of infections, has emerged as the new coronavirus epicentre in recent weeks and is reporting on average 140,000 cases a day over the past week.
As a region, Europe is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the US combined.
Of every 100 infections reported around the world, 34 were from European countries, according to a Reuters analysis.
The region is currently reporting a million new infections about every nine days and has reported more than 6.3 million cases since the pandemic began.
Major European countries – the UK, France, Russia, the Netherlands and Spain – accounted for about half of Europe’s new cases in the week to 18 October.
France is reporting the highest seven-day average of new cases in Europe with 19,425 infections per day followed by the United Kingdom, Russia, Spain and the Netherlands in the list of worst affected European countries.
Several European countries are closing schools, cancelling elective surgeries and enlisting student medics as the authorities face a Covid-19 resurgence.
Russia is moving students to online learning and Northern Ireland is closing schools for two weeks and restaurants for four.
In Spain, authorities in Catalonia ordered bars and restaurants to close for 15 days and limited the numbers of people allowed in shops.
The Czech Republic has also shifted schools to distance learning and plans to call up thousands of medical students. Hospitals are cutting non-urgent medical procedures to free up beds.
Polish health officials have warned the country is on the brink of a disaster as a record 6,526 new coronavirus infections and 116 deaths were reported this week.
Poland is ramping up training for nurses and considering creating military field hospitals.
Latin America is the worst-affected region with about 27% of total Covid-19 cases followed by Asia, North America and Europe.
India is reporting fewer cases this month compared with September, with 69,000 cases per day.
The numbers have fallen by more than 20,400 over the last three weeks, down 22% from its previous peak. India reported 55,342 cases on 13 October, its lowest daily increase since 18 August.
In the US, which has the largest total number of cases and deaths in the world, new infections are edging higher along with the most hospitalised Covid-19 patients since early September.
Updated at 6.00pm BST
Wales circuit breaker to begin on 23 October, leaked letter says
Here some more detail on a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown in Wales, which is expected to come into effect next week.
The lockdown is due to begin at 6pm on 23 October and to last until 9 November, and will see all but essential retail outlets close.
The details of the plan were contained in a letter from a regional director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport to its members in Wales, which was posted on Twitter.
In the letter, dated 16 October, John Pockett writes:
The Welsh Government will announce on Monday a ‘circuit break’ lockdown to begin at 1800 on Friday 23 October and continue in force until 0001 on Monday 9 November.
We have met with officials this morning, but as this is a very fast moving situation with decisions still to be made by ministers, much of the detail has not yet been agreed by the Government.
Nevertheless I wanted to let you know what we know so far.
Pockett said the lockdown would “take us back to the situation in March” when pubs, cafes, restaurants and hairdressers were closed, and that “some schools” would reopen on 2 November.
“Ministers have not yet determined the details on this; it seems that primary schools will reopen, but a decision on secondary schools (or at least some or part of individual schools) will be made over the weekend,” he said.
Public transport would be for “essential journeys only” and the Welsh government was yet to decide what level of services would run during the lockdown, he added.
Pockett told the Press Association the letter was genuine, but said he was “surmising” what would happen.
The letter is genuine and it contains what I assume or surmised would be the position. It was me advising my bus operator members to be prepared for something and this is what it may well be. It could be more; it could be anything. I think other associations have communicated with their members in the same way.
On Friday, first minister Mark Drakeford said the Welsh government was looking “very carefully” at introducing a circuit-breaker lockdown with a decision due to be announced on Monday.
Local lockdowns are in force in 17 areas of Wales affecting more than 2.3 million people but had not slowed the spread of the virus enough, he said.
A travel ban preventing people from areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus from entering Wales came into force on Friday.
A Welsh government spokesperson said:
The measures we have put in place at both a local and a national level, with help from the public, have kept the spread of the virus under check.
However, there is a growing consensus that we now need to introduce a different set of measures and actions to respond to the virus as it is spreading across Wales more quickly through the autumn and winter.
We are actively considering advice from Sage and our TAC Group. A ‘fire break’ set of measures to control Covid-19, similar to that described in the Sage papers, is under consideration in Wales.
As the First Minister set out in his press conference on Friday, we have discussed this advice with stakeholders and partners. But no decisions have been made.
Updated at 5.58pm BST
In Scotland, 629 Covid-19 patients were in hospital as of Friday, up from 397 a week earlier, with 58 in ventilation beds, up from 31 a week earlier, the PA reports.
In Wales, 442 Covid-19 patients were in hospital as of Friday, up from 291 a week earlier, with 32 occupying ventilation beds, remaining the same figure as a week earlier.
In Northern Ireland, 213 Covid-19 patients were in hospital as of Thursday, up from 174 a week earlier, with 20 in ventilation beds as of Friday, up from 10 a week earlier.
The Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, will announce new measures on Sunday to counter a surge in coronavirus cases, his office said on Saturday, after Italy registered a record number of new infections over 24 hours.
Conte’s office said the government is discussing new restrictions with local and health authorities, aiming to stem contagion while limiting the impact on individuals and businesses.
Italy was the first major European country to be hit by Covid-19 and had managed to get the outbreak under control by the summer thanks to a rigid two-month lockdown on business and people’s movement.
But infections have soared in recent weeks.
Government ministers have ruled out a repeat of the lockdown imposed at the start of the crisis but officials have looked at a range of alternative measures to reduce social contact.
Updated at 6.04pm BST
The UK recorded 16,171 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, up from 15,650 on Friday.
The government also announced 150 further deaths from Covid-19. On Friday, 136 new deaths were reported. Saturday’s update brings the total number of cases in the UK to 705,428, and the country’s total confirmed death toll to 43,579.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 58,500 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
The Press Association reports that there were 4,814 Covid-19 patients in hospital in England on Saturday, up from 3,225 a week ago, while 494 were in ventilation beds, up from 396 a week ago.
A total of 792 patients with confirmed Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in England on Thursday, compared with 513 a week earlier.
Updated at 4.42pm BST
Italy reports new record rise in cases
Italy registered 10,925 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Saturday, a not insubstantial increase from the previous record of 10,010 cases posted on Friday.
There were also 47 Covid-related deaths on Saturday, down from 55 the day before, the ministry said, far fewer than at the height of the pandemic in Italy in March and April when daily fatalities peaked at more than 900.
Italy was the first country in Europe to be hit by Covid-19 and has the second-highest death toll in the region after Britain, with 36,427 fatalities since the outbreak flared in February, according to official figures.
Italy is considering tightening nationwide restrictions in response to an increase in cases, the head of the north-western region of Liguria said, Reuters reports.
Giovanni Toti said the Italian health minister Roberto Speranza met local authorities on Saturday to discuss possible new steps.
“We are working on some measures,” Toti said on Facebook, adding that the government would urge schools to alternate between online and in-person lessons, and tell companies to increase remote working.
Updated at 4.31pm BST
I won’t always be able to respond, but I read everything.
Updated at 4.32pm BST
- The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has said his brother has died after being admitted to intensive care with Covid-19. Yesterday evening, Anderson urged people to follow the rules to prevent the spread of the virus as he revealed his eldest brother was in a “very serious condition” in hospital in the city in northern England.
- An adviser to the UK government has said a short national circuit-breaker – a near total shutdown – may be necessary as he described other measures as “biting around the edges”. Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme numbers in parts of the country were “pretty eye-watering”. The Conservative former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also indicated support for a national circuit-breaker lockdown.
- Iran has announced that its death toll from the coronavirus has passed the milestone of 30,000 deaths. The health ministry spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, said Iran’s total death toll from the outbreak was 30,123 killed, with a total of 526,490 confirmed cases since it announced its first infections in February.
- The foreign ministers of Austria and Belgium have both tested positive for coronavirus, it was announced today. Austria’s Alexander Schallenberg and Belgium’s Sophie Wilmes both attended the foreign affairs council in Luxembourg on Monday.
- Confusion reigns as the stand-off continues between the UK government and local leaders in Greater Manchester, in the north of England, over whether the harshest level of restrictions – tier 3 – should be introduced in the area. Downing Street said the parties had agreed to talks tomorrow morning but a spokesman for the mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, said there had been no agreement on discussions. Meanwhile, the head of Greater Manchester police, Ian Hopkins, said his force is “operationally independent” amid a report that Boris Johnson is not imposing the restrictions because of fears the force will side with Burnham who is opposed to them.
- The Czech Republic, Ukraine, Poland and Malaysia all recorded their highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
- Thailand has recorded its first two locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 in more than a month. The country’s Covid-19 administration centre said in its daily report that the cases were among two Myanmar nationals living near the border with Myanmar, where infections have been surging recently. The two were tested on 13 October, they showed no symptoms but results were positive, the centre said in the statement. The last known local case was in early September.
My colleague Jason Rodrigues has alerted me to the fact that another anti-lockdown protest is taking place in central London, with Piers Corbyn again at the forefront. The brother of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among protesters in Soho last night. He has has previously been arrested and fined £10,000 for breaching coronavirus regulations.
The head of Greater Manchester police, in northern England, has hit back in response to a report in the Daily Telegraph claiming that the prime minister has not imposed harsher coronavirus restrictions on the city because of concerns the police would side with the Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, who is opposing the restrictions, and not enforce them.
In an open letter, Ian Hopkins, said:
I wish to clarify that as the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police I am accountable to the mayor of Greater Manchester and responsible to the people of Greater Manchester, critically I am operationally independent …
It is for local and national politicians to agree the necessary restrictions to keep us all safe. As the chief constable I will then ensure my officers and staff enforce these in a proportionate manner alongside our local authority partners.
Updated at 3.54pm BST
The respective foreign ministers of Belgium and Austria have tested positive, we have learned today.
Here is a reminder of other politicians who have tested positive around the world since the onset of the pandemic:
Updated at 3.30pm BST
Iran, the Middle Eastern country hardest-hit by the coronavirus, has today extended restrictions and closures in the capital Tehran into a third week, as the death toll in the country rose above 30,000.
Schools, mosques, shops, restaurants and other public institutions in Tehran, where the infection rate has been highest, have been closed since 3 October, and Tehran’s province governor, Anoushiravan Mohseni-Bandpey, announced an extension of the measures until at least Friday, state media reported.
Iran is experiencing its third surge of coronavirus infections and says its fight against the coronavirus has been hampered by US sanctions, which have limited its crude oil sales and its access to foreign banks.
On Wednesday it reported record daily figures of 279 deaths and 4,830 new coronavirus infections. It has registered more than 250 deaths and 4,000 cases in each of the past six days.
The rial currency was trading at a new low of about 322,000 per dollar on Saturday on the unofficial market, according to the foreign exchange website Bonbast.com, hit by worries over new US sanctions that may block some Iranian medicine purchases.
A requirement to wear face masks in public in the capital, imposed last Saturday, remains in effect, as does a ban on travel in and out of five cities including Tehran, which was announced on Wednesday.
Belgium’s foreign minister tests positive
Belgium’s foreign minister Sophie Wilmes said today she has tested positive for Covid-19.
She said on Twitter:
My Covid test result is positive. Contamination probably occurred within my family circle given the precautions taken outside my home.
Wilmes yesterday said she was going into self-isolation with suspected Covid-19 symptoms. On 12 October she attended face-to-face talks with other EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
Updated at 3.21pm BST
The biggest teachers’ union in England and Wales has backed calls for a “circuit breaker” (a near total shutdown) to curb the spread of Covid. Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Education Union, said a circuit breaker should include “at the very least secondary schools and sixth forms”.
Updated at 2.42pm BST
A further 86 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 30,910, NHS England said today.
Patients were aged between 44 and 99. All but two patients, aged 62 and 79, had known underlying health conditions.
The deaths were between 16 September and 16 October. Three other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
Updated at 2.43pm BST
In England, the standoff over whether tougher restrictions should be introduced in Greater Manchester appears no closer to resolution.
Downing Street indicated a call had been arranged for tomorrow morning to resolve the row over the region entering the highest level of coronavirus restrictions.
However, a spokesman for the Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, has denied that talks have been scheduled, saying: “Nothing has yet been arranged.”
Local leaders say that if Greater Manchester is to enter tier 3 (the “very high” level of alert) the government must be willing to cough up more cash than it has thus far offered.
Updated at 2.34pm BST
There have been a further 674 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 34,679.
Public Health Wales said five further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,708.
The former prime minister Gordon Brown has warned the UK is heading for a double cliff edge of Brexit and an economic collapse caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Brown, who is the longest serving chancellor of the exchequer in modern times, said the impending double whammy would cost jobs.
He said the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, would have to introduce further measures to limit the impact of rising unemployment, as his replacement for the costly furlough scheme was “very limited”.
Addressing a Welsh Labour party event, Brown said:
I think we’ve got two cliff edges coming, if it is possible to go over two cliff edges at once.
We’ve got 31 October and the end of the furlough scheme, and then we’ve got the end of the negotiations over Brexit.
You’ve got two critical points where at each of them, jobs are at risk.
Brown went on:
There’s not enough money available for furlough. His [Sunak’s] new proposals seem very limited.
I believe the chancellor will have to come back to the House of Commons quite soon to update, revise and change his plans because it is simply not adequate for the circumstances of today.
We praised him in March for doing the furlough and I’m afraid now he has proved he is not doing enough to help us through this crisis, and unemployment will definitely rise very fast if he doesn’t take further action.
Updated at 1.51pm BST
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s latest Ebola epidemic is now under control, a leading scientist has said as the nation continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fifty-three people have died since June in what has been the 11th outbreak of Ebola in the central African country since 1976.
On Saturday, Prof Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the man tasked with leading the nation’s Ebola response, tweeted: “We are on the 16th day without new cases.”
The situation in the affected north-west province of Equateur is now “under control”, he added.
He said the treatment centres no longer had any Ebola patients and just one of 13 affected zones remains under surveillance.
His comments were echoed by the World Health Organization.
The latest epidemic was declared at the beginning of June in the remote north-east of the country.
Since then, 128 cases of the haemorrhagic fever have been recorded (119 confirmed and nine probable) with 53 deaths, according to the DRC authorities.
The previous epidemic, which broke out in the east in August 2018, was the deadliest in the country with 2,277 deaths.
The DRC has recorded 11,000 Covid cases, including 302 deaths, according to the latest government figures.
Updated at 1.42pm BST
Austria announces record infections
Austria has joined the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Malaysia in reporting a record daily number of coronavirus infections. It said today there have been 1,747 coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours.
The daily count has this month repeatedly exceeded the peak of 1,050 reached in March during the first wave of infections.
Updated at 1.49pm BST
Mayor of Liverpool’s brother dies
The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has said his brother has died after being admitted to intensive care with Covid-19.
On Friday evening, Anderson urged people to follow the rules to prevent the spread of the virus as he revealed his eldest brother was in a “very serious condition” in hospital in the city.
Updated at 12.50pm BST
Here are the latest developments:
- An adviser to the UK government has said a short national circuit-breaker – a near total shutdown – may be necessary as he described other measures as “biting around the edges”. Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme numbers in parts of the country were “pretty eye-watering”. The Conservative former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also indicated support for a national circuit-breaker lockdown.
- Iran has announced that its death toll from the coronavirus has passed the milestone of 30,000 deaths. The health ministry spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, said Iran’s total death toll from the outbreak was 30,123 killed, with a total of 526,490 confirmed cases since it announced its first infections in February.
- The Czech Republic, Ukraine, Poland and Malaysia all recorded their highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
- Thailand has recorded its first two locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 in more than a month. The country’s Covid-19 administration centre said in its daily report that the cases were among two Myanmar nationals living near the border with Myanmar, where infections have been surging recently. The two were tested on 13 October, they showed no symptoms but results were positive, the centre said in the statement.The last known local case was in early September.
- The UK government and local leaders in Greater Manchester remain at odds over whether the harshest level of restrictions – tier 3 – should be introduced in the area. The local leaders say the government is trying to impose it without sufficient financial assistance.
The Dutch royal couple were back in the Netherlands on Saturday after abandoning their holiday to Greece because of an uproar back home, where people are urged to stay at home as much as possible.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima said in a statement that they saw the reactions of people, “which are intense, and they touch us”. As a result they said they would cancel the rest of their vacation.
Let there be no doubt: To beat the Covid-19 virus it is necessary to follow the rules. The discussion caused by our vacation does not contribute to that.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the Netherlands has more than doubled over the past two weeks, to 42 cases per 100,000 people on Friday.
Dutch bars and restaurants were closed as of Wednesday as part of a partial lockdown that will last at least four weeks to counter the sustained surge in coronavirus cases across the Netherlands.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the nation needed to move a step closer to a full lockdown because otherwise hospitals would become so overburdened that people with other urgent needs would be unable to get treatment.
“The vacation shows the wide gap between the king and society,” headlined the public broadcaster NOS.
Updated at 12.23pm BST
Several people in England have been in touch about the NHS Covid app not updating the risk level in the area where they live, despite the changes at midnight. Some have been receiving notifications saying their risk level has changed only to find it has not been updated when they click through.
The NHS says people should receive a notification “during the course of the day”.
For my part, I have received three or four notifications over the past couple of days, including one today, saying that the risk level had changed only to find it had not when I clicked through. It finally updated within the past hour.
Updated at 12.05pm BST
Iran deaths exceed 30,000
Iran has announced that its death toll from the coronavirus has passed the milestone of 30,000 deaths.
The health ministry spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, announced that Iran’s total death toll from the outbreak was 30,123 killed, with a total of 526,490 confirmed cases since it announced its first infections in February.
Updated at 12.15pm BST
Malaysia records record daily infections
Malaysia reported 869 new coronavirus cases today, its highest daily count so far, health authorities said.
The south-east Asian country, which has imposed targeted lockdowns this month as infections surged, has had a total of 19,627 infections. Malaysia also recorded four new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 180.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd have received renewed approval to conduct late-stage clinical trials in India of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine, the sovereign wealth fund has said.
Large-scale trials of the Sputnik V vaccine in India were first announced and then knocked back by Indian regulators, who said the scale of phase I and II trials conducted in Russia earlier this year was too small, requesting that they be repeated.
Following a new agreement, India will now carry out an adaptive phase II and III human clinical trial involving 1,500 participants, said RDIF, which is marketing the vaccine abroad.
Under the deal, Dr Reddy’s will conduct the clinical trials and, subject to approval, distribute the finished vaccine in India. RDIF will supply 100m doses to Dr Reddy’s.
Russia, the first country to grant regulatory approval for a novel coronavirus vaccine, is also conducting phase III trials of Sputnik V in Belarus, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates.
RDIF has reached agreements with Indian manufacturers to produce 300m doses of the shot.
A phase III trial involving 40,000 participants is currently under way in Moscow, with 16,000 people having already received the first dose of the two-shot vaccine. Interim results are expected to be published in early November.
Indian regulators have agreed to incorporate data, provided by Russia on a weekly basis, from the Moscow trial, a source close to the deal told Reuters. Russia has also reached an agreement with the biotechnology department of India’s Science and Technology Ministry to use its laboratories as a base for the Indian clinical trial, the source said.
Updated at 11.14am BST
Poland reports record rise in infections
Poland reported a record 9,622 new coronavirus infections today, according to health ministry data, as fitness workers gathered in the capital to protest against new restrictions to fight the pandemic.
The country has now confirmed 167,230 cases and 3,524 deaths. The ministry also said that from Saturday, Covid patients occupied 7,612 hospital beds and were using 604 ventilators, compared with 6,980 and 540 respectively a day earlier.
The country was initially successful in containing the virus in spring but has faced a sharp rise in the number of infections and related deaths in recent weeks, threatening to overload the health system.
Earlier this week the government urged citizens to stay at home and ordered gyms and pools to close, restaurants to limit opening hours and a shift to remote teaching in universities and secondary schools.
It is also considering building new hospitals and giving doctors incentives to treat Covid-19 patients.
Businesses, which fear the loss of jobs and profits, have criticised the restrictions, and on Saturday hundreds of people representing the fitness industry protested in central Warsaw against the closure of gyms.
The government has said that it is trying to avoid a total lockdown, but experts say this may be inevitable if the situation becomes critical. “If the situation is dramatic, lockdown is the only solution. We would not have other tools to control the situation,” Krzysztof Pyrc, a virologist told the private radio station RMF.
Updated at 11.33am BST
Chancellor Angela Merkel today urged Germans to curb social contacts and keep travel to a minimum, making a personal appeal after the federal and state governments struggled to agree on ways to contain a second wave of coronavirus infection.
“We have to do everything to prevent the virus from spreading out of control. Every day counts,” Merkel said in her weekly video podcast.
While Germany’s infection rates have been lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating and hit a daily record high of 7,830 on Saturday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. The reported death toll rose by 33 to 9,767.
German leaders were unable this week to reach a consensus on strong new measures to contain the second Covid-19 wave. Courts in several regions have, meanwhile, overturned bans on hotel stays for visitors from infection hotspots.
Politicians and health experts have appealed to the population to take voluntary measures over and above those already prescribed – including wearing masks, avoiding close contact with others and handwashing. Merkel said:
We have to go further. I appeal to you: Meet with fewer people, either at home or outside. Please forsake any journey that is not absolutely essential, every party that is not absolutely essential. Stay at home, where at all possible.
Updated at 10.15am BST
More than half of England is living with heightened coronavirus restrictions after the severest measures came into force in Lancashire and Londoners were banned from meeting indoors.
Here is an explainer to what you can and cannot do depending on where you live.
Updated at 11.35am BST
Indonesia has today reported 4,301 new coronavirus infections, taking its total number of cases to 357,762, data from the country’s Covid-19 task force showed.
There were 84 new deaths for a total of 12,431. Both case numbers and deaths are the most for a south-east Asian country.
Updated at 10.12am BST
UK government adviser supports ‘circuit-breaker’
An adviser to the UK government has said a short national circuit-breaker – a near total shutdown – may be necessary as he described other measures as “biting around the edges”.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
I can see very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit-breaker because the numbers are actually pretty eye-watering in some bits of the country and I think it’s going to be very hard to get on top of this just biting around the edges.
I think there will be every effort to keep schools open. If in the end we have to take kids out for two weeks, calm it all down, and then start ideally embedded in a much more rigorous testing regime then that’s maybe what we may have to do.
The Conservative former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also indicated support for a national circuit-breaker lockdown. He said:
I’ve always thought that it’s better to do things quickly and decisively than to wait until the virus has grown so I have a lot of sympathy with that.
But I think more important right now is we stop this public war of words between local leaders and national leaders because in a pandemic the most important thing is a consistent message because you really have to have compliance with the very, very important public health messages about social distancing.
And if local leaders and national leaders are saying different things, it’s incredibly damaging. I really do urge Andy Burnham and other local leaders to have these arguments, and I’m sure they’re very fierce arguments and I’m sure there’s some justification for some of their concerns, but have those arguments in private not in public because that’s so damaging to the national fight against the virus.
Russia has recorded 14,922 new coronavirus cases, pushing the national tally to 1,384,235.
Officials also said 279 people had died in the previous 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 24,002.
Staying in England, Labour’s shadow education secretary, Kate Green, has urged the government to resume talks with Greater Manchester’s leaders today to end the stand-off over whether tougher restrictions should be imposed there. Local leaders say the tier 3 restrictions (the highest level) should only be introduced if extra money is provided to protect businesses. Prime minister Boris Johnson has refused to provide the cash local leaders demand.
Green, the MP for Stretford and Urmston in Greater Manchester, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
I’m really, really alarmed, I do think that every day we’re delaying taking action is a day wasted but we have to have the financial support, the package of measures, to enable people to close their businesses, to isolate at home if necessary if additional restrictions are to work.
That has not been offered by the government. There hasn’t even been discussions over the past 24 hours between the government and Greater Manchester’s leaders. We need to get everybody around the table really as a matter of desperate urgency now. The situation here is very, very grave.
Our infection rate is rising very sharply and our hospitals could be overwhelmed very quickly if action isn’t taken. So I’m absolutely with the prime minister in saying we have to have an urgent resolution to this, we’re putting lives at risk, but it has to be done by stopping the blame game and getting everyone around the table.
We have to have our local leaders around the table with the prime minister or with his representatives to thrash out a deal today. There were no talks at all yesterday, No 10 did not pick up the phone to local leaders.
Updated at 9.20am BST
In Soho, central London, police were forced to disperse groups of drinkers gathering in the streets ahead of new restrictions, which came in at midnight, to curb the spread of coronavirus in the capital of England.
The new measures mean that people from separate households in London will no longer be allowed to meet indoors in pubs, bars or restaurants.
A small protest against the new measures was staged in Soho and some revellers in Soho were led away in handcuffs.
Piers Corybn, who has previously been arrested and fined £10,000 for breaching coronavirus regulations, later arrived to show his support.
“We’re here to drink against curfew,” said the brother of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “To oppose the lockdowns, to oppose job losses caused by lockdowns, to oppose all of it. The whole lot should be lifted now.”
Updated at 9.15am BST
In the US, the White House quietly told Tennessee early this week that “a statewide mask mandate must be implemented” to curb its growing spread of Covid-19, instructions that were only revealed in a records request, AP reports.
The 11 October state report for Tennessee, where the Republican governor, Bill Lee, has let counties decide whether to require masks in public, first came to light in a records request by WUOT-FM. The Associated Press obtained the report from the Knox County health department afterwards.
“A statewide mask mandate must be implemented to stop the increasing spread among residents in rural and urban areas of Tennessee,” states the record in a list of recommendations.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he was not in favour of mask mandates, but the recommendations of the task force and public health agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have often been at odds with the White House’s rhetoric.
The report takes the strongest tone to date in urging Tennessee to act, though Lee has made it clear for months that he did not think masks should be required across the state. Lee, who has urged people to wear masks, continued to advise against a statewide mandate on Friday in an online news conference, in which he didn’t mention the White House’s instruction a few days earlier.
“Statewide, one-size-fits-all mandates are not as effective in many cases as local decision-making,” Lee said.
In a statement late on Friday, the governor’s office said the White House report had not altered his thinking.
“The governor has strongly encouraged Tennesseans to make responsible decisions to protect themselves and others from Covid-19, including wearing masks in public, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home when sick,” the statement said. “The governor’s view has not changed based upon non-binding recommendations from the federal government. Previous White House reports dating back to the summer have included similar recommendations, so the inclusion here is not novel.”
Tennessee has seen coronavirus case counts grow in cities and, particularly, in rural areas.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Tennessee has risen from 1,412 new cases per day on 1 October to 1,911 new cases per day on Thursday. Likewise, the positivity rate seven-day rolling average has grown from 5.7% on 1 October to 7.48% on Thursday.
Updated at 9.14am BST
Hello, this is Haroon taking over the blog. If you want to contact me with suggestions etc, you can do so via the following channels:
With that, I’ll be handing over the blog to my colleague Haroon Siddique, who will take you through all the latest news from the UK and Europe over the next few hours.
Czech Republic hits record number of new cases
Much like Ukraine, the Czech Republic has recorded its highest daily total of new cases.
It reported 11,105 Covid-19 cases on Friday, its largest single-day tally so far of the pandemic, health ministry data showed on Saturday.
The total number of cases the country has detected since March has risen to 160,112, double the number seen on 2 October and more than six times the amount overall before September, Reuters reports.
Updated at 9.17am BST
Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg tests positive
The foreign minister of Austria, Alexander Schallenberg, has tested positive for coronavirus – and might have caught it at a meeting with his European Union counterparts on Monday, a spokeswoman for his ministry has said.
“As a precautionary measure all members of the government will be tested on Saturday,” she said, as reported by Reuters.
“It is suspected that Schallenberg might have been infected at the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday.”
Schallenberg’s spokeswoman added that he was symptom-free and had a routine test.
Updated at 9.18am BST
Ukraine hits record number of new cases
Ukraine has registered a record 6,410 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the national security council said on Saturday, up from a previous record of 5,992 reported on Friday.
The council said 109 patients had died in the past 24 hours, the highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic, Reuters reports.
A total of 293,641 cases had been registered in Ukraine as of 17 October, with 5,517 deaths.
The daily tally of coronavirus infections spiked above 5,000 in October, prompting the government to extend lockdown measures until the end of 2020.
Updated at 7.35am BST
Polls close in New Zealand
And for all the results, follow this liveblog here. We could know the result within two hours.
Here is the Australian government minister Alan Tudge doubling down on his earlier statements that Victoria was aware that New Zealanders could fly into the state from NSW.
He said this morning:
The concept that people may be arriving into NSW and then potentially going on to other destinations was explicitly raised in the meeting [of the AHPPC]. And no official from any jurisdiction raised any concerns.
There was an understanding that when Kiwis … once they arrived in Sydney they would be treated like every other person in NSW and be able to travel into any other jurisdictions that their visa enables them to travel into, including Victoria.
He’s just tweeted that Victoria’s chief medical officer, Prof Brett Sutton, was in the meeting and “did not raise any concerns”.
Updated at 7.34am BST
South Australia records three new cases
Three new coronavirus cases have been recorded in South Australia – all are travellers from overseas.
A man and woman in their 30s and and a woman in her 50s returned positive test results while in hotel quarantine.
“They have been in a medi-hotel since their arrival and there is no public health risk,” the SA health department said on Saturday.
One of the cases is an old infection and not active, the department said.
There are six active cases in the state in total.
Updated at 7.08am BST
Thailand records first local cases in over a month
Thailand has recorded its first two locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 in more than a month, Reuters reports.
The country’s Covid-19 administration centre said in its daily report that the cases were among two Myanmar nationals living near the border with Myanmar, where infections have been surging recently.
The two were tested on 13 October, they showed no symptoms but results were positive, the centre said in the statement. The last known local case was in early September.
Updated at 6.30am BST
And for those of you settling in to follow the New Zealand election – we have fired up our liveblog to follow today’s result. Polls close in about 45 minutes.
Updated at 6.31am BST
Fire crews sent to bushfire in Manly in Sydney
Emergency services – including helicopters carrying water – have been dispatched to a bushfire that has broken out on Sydney’s north shore.
A fire at the North Head national park in Manly broke out this afternoon after a hazard reduction burn jumped containment lines.
A spokesman for NSW Fire and Rescue told Guardian Australia they were on site, along with the Rural Fire Service and NSW Parks.
“We have enough resources on site to escort the fire around a couple of assets,” he said. “There have been 60 and 70 evacuations.”
The RFS said homes in the area were not being threatened.
Updated at 5.54am BST
What a great time for Australia to be searching for its top medical officer.
Updated at 5.30am BST
Reuters reports that China has recorded 13 new coronavirus cases in the mainland, compared with 24 cases a day earlier.
All of the new infections were imported, according to a statement by the National Health Commission. China reported 11 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 10 a day earlier.
As of Friday, mainland China had 85,659 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The Covid-19 death toll stands at 4,634.
AAP have just published a summary of the latest data out of Victoria, the worst hit Australian state.
In the past 24 hours, the state has recorded:
- No deaths, leaving the state toll at 816 and the national figure 904.
- One new case, linked to a known outbreak.
- 14-day rolling case average is 8.1 for Melbourne and 0.5 for regional Victoria.
- 17 mystery cases in Melbourne for the fortnight to Wednesday and none for regional Victoria.
- 157 active cases in the state, including seven in regional Victoria – four in Mitchell shire and three in greater Shepparton. The remaining 150 are in metropolitan Melbourne.
- 13 people in hospital, none in ICU.
- 11 active cases involving healthcare workers.
- 13 active cases linked to aged care.
- 2,925,810 tests have been conducted since the pandemic outbreak and 18,934 in the latest 24-hour period.
- 53 new fines issued, including 13 for failing to wear a face mask and six at vehicle checkpoints.
The current restrictions in force in Victoria are:
- Two-hour exercise limit within five kilometres of work or home.
- Face masks must cover the mouth and nose every time Victorians leave home – scarves and bandanas are unacceptable.
- A household, or maximum of five people from no more than two households, can gather outside.
- Religious activities of up to five people, plus one faith leader for outdoor gatherings and ceremonies, are permitted.
- The next easing of Melbourne restrictions is due on Monday.
Updated at 5.21am BST
We’ve just got a little more detail about the situation in Victoria, Australia, after the good news this morning that it has only recorded a single new case. The Department of Health and Human Services says:
Today’s new case is linked to a new Hoppers Crossing community outbreak that comprises three cases across two households. This outbreak includes what was originally referred to as a complex case linked to Woolworths QV. The new case is a known family close contact of that case. There is no evidence of workplace transmission.
Authorities are still working to contain an outbreak of coronavirus in Shepparton. There are three cases in Shepparton, which is no change from yesterday. Testing capacity has increased in Shepparton, with 693 tests taken yesterday in Shepparton.
Updated at 5.15am BST
In the US, Republican senator David Perdue has appeared to mock Kamala Harris’s name at a Donald Trump rally, where he repeatedly mispronounced the vice presidential nominee’s name.
Perdue, spoke before Trump in the central Georgia city of Macon on Friday evening, Reuters report.
Video of his speech shows Perdue repeatedly making exaggerated attempts to pronounce the name before saying, “I don’t know, whatever”. The crowd responded with laughter.
His Democratic opponent in Georgia, Jon Ossoff, tweeted that Perdue would not have mocked a fellow senator who was male or white.
John Burke, a spokesman for Perdue’s campaign, tweeted that the senator “simply mispronounced Senator Harris’ name, and he didn’t mean anything by it”.
Updated at 5.00am BST
A crew member on another cargo ship in Western Australia is being tested for coronavirus.
AAP report that a nurse in full protective gear has boarded a bulk carrier in Geraldton Port to swab a crew member with coronavirus symptoms.
The carrier Key Integrity arrived in the port from Manila on Saturday morning but the fast-tracked test result is not yet known, WA Health said on Saturday.
It said on Friday none of the other 19 crew members were reporting symptoms and the ill crewman was isolating in his cabin.
“The Department of Health would like to reassure the Geraldton community they are not at risk. The Key Integrity will remain berthed and no crew will disembark,” WA Health said.
Authorities also said an outbreak team was on standby.
WA on Saturday recorded two new cases of coronavirus, both in travellers in hotel quarantine, according to the federal Department of Health’s Dr Alison McMillan.
The NSW opposition leader, Jodi McKay, has said Gladys Berejiklian’s government is “rotting from the top down” in a speech to the 2020 NSW Labor convention.
Following this week’s explosive evidence in Icac, she accused Berejiklian of “turning a blind eye” to Daryl Maguire’s alleged misconduct and called on her to resign, AAP report.
“After a decade in power, this government is rotting from the top down,” she said. “She knew and did nothing [and] has turned a blind eye to misconduct for six-and-a-half years.
“What we’ve seen this week isn’t about whether Gladys Berejiklian works hard – it’s actually about something far more important. It’s about trust and integrity in public office and the standards we set for our government and ourselves.
“To walk past this would be to accept an impossibly low standard in government.”
Germany’s cases rise by 7,830, with 33 new deaths
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 7,830 to 348,557, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.
The reported death toll rose by 33 to 9,734.
Across the Tasman, New Zealanders are voting today in their general election that could grant Jacinda Ardern a second term, or see her opponent, Judith Collins, installed after only three months as opposition leader.
In this age of coronavirus, a record number of vote – more than 1.7 million – have been cast in advance. That is almost half the roughly 3.5 million New Zealanders on the electoral rolls.
And, under the country’s strict rules, news outlets are restricted in what they can report until polls close at 7pm local time (5pm AEDT), candidates cannot campaign, and you cannot post anything on social media that promotes candidates.
Earlier today, the electoral commission told off a British MP for a tweet doing just that – and it was later deleted.
Updated at 4.03am BST
China’s economic recovery gathered pace in the third quarter, according to a poll conducted by Agence France-Presse of analysts.
Growth in July-September is expected to come in at 5.2 percent when official data is released Monday, AFP reports.
With the virus now largely under control in China, most social distancing measures have been removed – and consumers have streamed back into restaurants and malls, hopped on flights and trains for domestic holidays and packed tourist districts.
AFP’s survey, involving analysts from 13 institutions, also forecast full-year growth of 2.3 percent, slightly above the International Monetary Fund’s forecast, which tagged China as the only major economy likely to expand this year.
“China’s stimulus has differed from that of much of the region with its focus on the industrial sector and construction, rather than for small and medium-sized enterprises or direct payments to the unemployed,” said Moody’s Analytics economist Xu Xiaochun.
“Thus, China’s rapid recovery is led by goods-producing industries and export shipments.”
Nathan Chow of DBS Bank added that the biggest boost came from investments, especially those driven by the government, while overseas demand has also improved.
While consumer spending has lagged behind, it is catching up “at least among middle- and upper-income households”, and retail sales are nearing their levels of late 2019, Xu said.
But economists maintained that growth will be modest and driven mostly by production rather than services, adding that lingering uncertainty has led to an increase in savings.
HSBC analysts added in a recent report that China’s recovery has been “highly uneven”, stressing a rebound in the private sector will be “essential for a sustainable economic recovery”.
Economists warned, however, that a sharp rebound is unlikely for Chinese consumer demand given the anxiety surrounding the coronavirus, while global tensions are also weighing on the external market.
Tommy Wu, lead economist at Oxford Economics, said analysts are still “waiting for signs of a more significant improvement in employment, which will underpin consumption”.
Raphie Hayat, senior economist at Rabobank, said “the external market is not likely to help the Chinese economy either”.
“China’s tensions with several countries are increasing, while some of its trading partners are experiencing second wave outbreaks of the virus.”
This could boost certain exports such as protective equipment and electronics but the effect will “likely be more than offset by generally weaker external demand”, he added.
At the Trump rally in Georgia, the president falsely claims the pandemic is ending without the vaccine. He promises to have 100 million vaccine doses before the end of the year, but says the country doesn’t need it anyway. The statement ignores the fact that case numbers are again increasing significantly in the United States, particularly in Midwest states like Wisconsin, which has just recorded record cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.
Trump: “Without the vaccine it’s ending too. We’re rounding the turn. It’s ending without the vaccine, but the vaccine is going to make it quicker.”
‘There was an understanding’ that New Zealanders could sneak into Victoria, Tudge says
Acting immigration minister Alan Tudge now addresses Daniel Andrews’s comments today, as the Victorian and federal governments spar over 17 New Zealanders who snuck into Victoria from NSW.
Tudge says Andrews’s comments are “a complete distraction”.
He says Andrews should focus on “keeping up his side of the bargain” and “start to open up Victoria [like] NSW”.
Tudge says that the possibility of New Zealanders flying into NSW and then flying into other parts of Australia was discussed, and no Victorians raised any concerns.
“The concept that people may be arriving into NSW and then potentially going on to other destinations was explicitly raised in the meeting [of the AHPPC],” he says. “And no official from any jurisdiction raised any concerns.
“There was an understanding that when Kiwis … coming from a country with zero transmissions … once they arrived in Sydney they would be treated like every other person in NSW and be able to travel into any other jurisdictions that their visa enables them to travel into, including Victoria.”
He says that the passenger cards were requested this morning “just after 8 o’clock and they were delivered to the Victorian government at midday. So just four hours.”
Updated at 2.55am BST
In a very fortuitous case of synchronicity, the acting immigration minister, Alan Tudge, is now speaking in Canberra announcing a digital passenger arrival card.
Just a few minutes ago, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews condemned the Australian Border Force for taking more than 12 hours to give him the passenger cards of 17 new Zealanders who snuck into Melbourne. He says he still has not been given the passenger cards.
Meanwhile, in Canberra, Tudge says: “From next year, we will no longer need this incoming passenger card.”
He then rips up a paper card. “Because we will have a fully digital incoming passenger card.”
Tudge says the government will put out a tender for the digital passenger card next week, with the intent of setting it up by next year.
He says the digital card will be able to record whether someone has been vaccinated against Covid-19, when a vaccine is ready.
Updated at 2.49am BST
Andrews says that Sutton has his full confidence.
He says he does not know what the hotel inquiry plans to look at, after it announced an additional extraordinary sitting. On Friday, the inquiry said it would hold an additional sitting on 20 October.
Andrews says he has not been called to testify for this sitting, and that he is not aware of who has been called.
Brett Sutton is now being asked about new emails that the Age has described as “contradicting” his account before the hotel quarantine inquiry.
Sutton says the emails do not show that he was aware of the decision to use private security – and he “did not register” that private security was mentioned.
“My statement to the inquiry was true,” he says.
“I was not aware, that is what I said to the inquiry and that is what I stand by.”
He says he made all his emails available to the team at DHHS that went through the emails to present to the inquiry.
He is asked about an email where he said “thanks” to an email mentioning private security.
A reporter asks him: “So your acknowledgement of the email, saying thanks … you might not have read that?”
Sutton responds: “This particular email was a response to the Commonwealth where they had asked some questions. It was passed to someone in the command structure for the hotel quarantine … they responded to the commonwealth.
“I thanked them … and I clearly did not register that anything was being said about private security.”
Updated at 2.50am BST
Chief medical officer Dr Brett Sutton says that Victoria is still not ready to relax restrictions to the same level as NSW.
He says there will be eased restrictions tomorrow, but that Victoria is still in a different position to NSW.
He is asked about comments from the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, who said “Vic should now be able to move to the next step in line with NSW.”
The conditions for easing in New South Wales after their first wave were actually – they had gotten to a 14-day rolling average of under four. We are at eight today.
We are not in an equivalent position. It is fantastic to have a two and a one in the last two days, fantastic. [But] we were at 15 a few days before that.
Andrews then steps up to speak directly against Hunt.
If Minister Hunt is genuinely suggesting that we are keeping this lockdown on because somehow we think Victorians are enjoying it or it is a choice that we are making, this is just – it’s just wrong.
I will boldly predict that whatever I stand up here tomorrow and announce, there will be members of that federal government, some who are from Victoria but I don’t think they’re for Victoria, who will be out there saying ‘It is not enough, you should have done more’.
Some people should reflect on the fact that they are in fact a health minister and that actually requires a certain standard.
Earlier Sutton said that the new case today is linked to the Hoppers Crossing outbreak.
“The outbreak includes which was originally referred to as a complex case linked to QV Woolworths,” he says.
He says there is a new mystery case – to be announced tomorrow – in postcode 3128.
Updated at 2.33am BST
‘There will be easing tomorrow,’ Andrews says after one new case
Andrews says that there will be eased restrictions announced tomorrow.
“These numbers today are a credit to every single Victorian,” he says. “These restrictions are painful, there is hurt out there I know that.”
“What this makes possible is tomorrow we will make announcements about easing. We will give people a clear sense of what next weekend and the weekend after will look like.
He says there will be meetings tonight that will finalise “what is possible tomorrow”.
He also adds that he will “try and make announcements early tomorrow” to not clash with the Super Netball.
“There will be easing tomorrow and it is a credit to the hard work and sacrifice … Victorians have proved themselves to be as stubborn as this virus.”
Updated at 2.13am BST
Andrews is asked if the New Zealanders will be deported.
I won’t speculate on what might happen to them beyond this. I don’t have the power to deport people, nor do I have the power to limit people coming from other countries. That is done by the commonwealth.
Earlier, he said there was “no warning” about the New Zealanders entering the state.
At a time when Victorians can’t freely move around their own state for the best of public health reasons, it is not acceptable to me that people from another country, when we have expressly said that we don’t want this to happen now, are able to get into Melbourne without us knowing. No warning – in fact it is exactly the opposite of what we signed up for. It has happened now, it can’t be undone.
Updated at 2.16am BST
Regional Victoria ‘very close’ to interstate travel with NSW and SA
Andrews says that regional Victoria could soon be opened to NSW and South Australia after the state recorded only one case today.
He says this could happen by Christmas, which was already the aim for both him and the prime minister.
We’re very close to having a situation where regional Victorians will be able to travel into New South Wales and into SA as well. Those arrangements are for other premiers to announce. [But] we are closer to that.
Once we’re in a position to bring down that ring of steel between metro Melbourne and regional Victoria, then there will be greater freedom of movement within Victoria and then there can be further interstate travel.
Earlier Andrews continued to criticise the Border Force for allowing the New Zealanders in.
He says: “Somehow, something has gone wrong in Sydney, I think, to allow people to travel on beyond international flight.
“When you have an entire agency that is in charge of our borders who 12 hours after 17 people have turned up … can’t tell us who they are. That matters. It is a significant issue. I would like the cards and quickly, so we can have a proper discussion with these 17 people.”
Updated at 2.04am BST
Andrews says that he is disappointed in the Australian Border Force and the systems that allowed the New Zealanders into Victoria.
He says that the ABF has not yet given him the passengers cards of the New Zealanders.
Now we see 17 people turning up on our doorstep without any notice, without any structure and we still can’t get the cards from Australian Border Force as to who these people are,” he says.
“There are more flights coming from New Zealand on Sunday and we do not want a repeat of this.”
He says that the people could be Australian citizens, or could be from Victoria, but does not know because Border Force have not yet given him the passenger cards.
No one is alleging that they have done anything wrong. It is just a matter of there should have been a process, when they tried to board a domestic flight to travel within Australia after arriving at international terminal in Sydney, the answer should have been “Where are you going? You can’t go to Victoria”
“I stand here every day makings sure every Victorian knows they can’t freely move around their own State for the best of reasons and at the same time we have people being allowed in from another country and we were the last ones to find out about it. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Updated at 1.53am BST
New Zealanders who snuck into Melbourne will be visited by police – Andrews
Daniel Andrews is now addressing the news that 17 New Zealanders snuck into Melbourne yesterday.
New Zealanders are allowed into NSW and the NT now without quarantine, but not yet into Victoria.
Andrews says that Victoria police will immediately identify and visit the New Zealanders and “make sure that they are fully up to date” with Victoria’s rules and restrictions.
He says that the Victorian health department does not have the legislative power to detain them, which is why they have now entered Melbourne.
“I want to be clear on this I have written to the prime minister this morning and we’re disappointed this has happened,” he says. “The previous day or the day before I had written to the prime minister on this very issue, saying at some point we will join that New Zealand/Australia travel bubble but it is not appropriate now.”
He tells reporters:
At around 5.30 yesterday evening, 17 people from New Zealand, having travelled on an international flight from New Zealand to Sydney, were then allowed to board a plane and travel to Melbourne. They didn’t spend very long at the airport. They left the airport within only minutes, really, of having arrived.
Our officers have absolutely no power to stop someone, to detain someone in those circumstances, particularly given they were coming from a very low virus part of the world.
We are still waiting – I am not sure why we’re waiting, but we are still waiting for Australian Border Force to provide us with the passenger cards for each of those 17 people.
As soon as we get that detail, we will be visiting each of those people and making sure that they are fully up to date, as it were, when it comes to the rules, the regulations, the structures that we have in Victoria.
He says he is “not sure” whether the New Zealanders will need to be tested.
Updated at 1.50am BST
Andrews says 5,796 people from Shepparton and surrounds have been tested.
“That is a phenomenal effort in a community of that size. I am told there is only a few hundred results to come back and they likely will be reported in tomorrow’s test results. That is again impressive in and of itself.”
There are 11 healthcare workers with Covid-19, and 13 active cases in residential aged care.
There are no mystery cases in regional Victoria, and there are 17 in metro Melbourne.
The new case today was in metro Melbourne, meaning that there are stil seven active cases in regional local government areas. That includes four active cases in Mitchell shire and three in Greater Shepparton.
Andrews says that in Shepparton, there are 234 primary close contacts and 177 secondary close contacts – meaning hundreds of people are still in isolation.
Updated at 1.39am BST
Daniel Andrews is speaking now.
He says the one new case recorded in the state is linked to a known outbreak, and that another case has been reclassified. This means that the total number of cases in the state has not increased today.
Donald Trump is speaking about his Covid-19 treatment at a rally in Macon, Georgia. He is again saying he believes the therapeutic drugs he received were a cure. They are not. Trump received Regeneron’s antibody cocktail and is promising to provide it to everyone who needs it.
I wasn’t feeling too great, and they gave me something, Regeneron, and a day later I felt like superman. I said ‘hey, whatever the hell that stuff was’. And it’s brand new, developed because of this. We are going to do something very special, we are going to get it for every person that we think is appropriate for … they can call it a therapeutic, but to me it was a cure.
Updated at 1.35am BST
Hi all, it’s Naaman Zhou here. As Chris said earlier, Daniel Andrews is due to step up in five minutes.
In the meantime, more on a third pub in NSW that has been closed after repeated breaches of coronavirus health orders.
The Shaws Bay Hotel in Ballina will be shut for a week from 5am on Saturday after police identified 12 breaches of the public health orders across two visits in late September and early October, which resulted in two ,000 fines.
AAP reports Liquor & Gaming compliance director Dimitri Argeres said the hotel’s ongoing non-compliance with physical distancing obligations presented a “serious risk” to public safety.
The Shaws Bay Hotel will be closed until 5am on October 24.
It is the third NSW venue to be closed for a week, following the closure of Unity Hall Hotel in Rozelle and the Rivers Inn Restaurant in Thredbo last month.
Liquor & Gaming, NSW Fair Trading and SafeWork NSW have conducted 311 hospitality venue inspections over the last fortnight and reportedly found almost 100 per cent compliance.
Updated at 1.28am BST
I’m going to hand over to my colleague Naaman Zhou now. He’ll take you through the next few hours.
New South Wales reports seven new coronavirus cases
Back to Australia, New South Wales has reported five new cases of locally transmitted Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, all linked to the Oran Park area in south-west Sydney.
A further two cases from returned overseas travellers were recorded.
The total number of cases in NSW is now 4,144.
Of the five locally transmitted cases, three were from a family who attend the Greater Beginnings childcare centre in Oran Park. Another infection was recorded in a staff member of the childcare centre.
The fifth case was a student who attends the Oran Park high school. NSW Health said in a statement:
Staff and students have been asked to self-isolate. Contact tracing has commenced and the school will be thoroughly cleaned over the weekend. This student is a close contact of a known confirmed case linked to the Liverpool private clinic cluster which now numbers 11 cases.
One new case today visited Woolworths Oran Park on Oran Park Drive, on Friday 12 October from 7pm to 7.30pm. Anyone who was at this store during this time is considered a casual contact and must monitor for symptoms and get tested immediately if they develop. After testing, they must remain in isolation until a negative test result is received.
Updated at 1.15am BST
The 20 cases reportedly traced back to Trump’s Minnesota rally is a significant increase on previous numbers.
Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health said it had identified nine Covid-19 cases in people who reported attending the Bemidji rally last month.
An outbreak in Minnesota has been traced to a Trump rally
CNN is reporting that an outbreak in Minnesota has been traced back to a Trump rally.
Local health authorities say they have so far traced 20 Covid-19 cases to a Trump rally in Bemidji in September, CNN reports.
In Australia, we are expecting to hear from the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews in about 40 minutes, or 11.30am, local time.
The state has recorded a remarkable result this morning. Only one new Covid-19 case has been detected, with no new deaths.
Andrews is likely to be pressed on whether this will lead to an easing of restrictions for the state. We’ve already heard from federal health minister Greg Hunt this morning, who has said the requirements for lifting restrictions have now been met.
We’ll bring that to you live as it happens.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is urging Americans to think about the risk posed by gathering for Thanksgiving.
For some, he says, the risk may be too high, particularly if they have vulnerable people in their home.
I think people are going to have to make a choice of where they fit in the risk-benefit ratio of having someone come in maybe from out of town, who’s been through a crowded airport, who do you have in the home?
I think each family needs to think seriously about that and make a decision based on the level of risk they want to put themselves through.
In Queensland, Australia, health authorities have again reported no new Covid-19 infections.
The state has four active cases and has conducted 4,722 tests in its last testing period.
The state’s deputy premier, Steven Miles, said the testing of sewage had detected some virus fragments in parts of the state, including Maroochydore and Wynnum.
We also have a subsequent round of wastewater testing from right across the state, and the good news is that the subsequent testing in Townsville has come back negative, so there is no longer virus fragments in that wastewater in Townsville. However, samples taken at the Sandgate wastewater plant on the 12th, and the Maroochydore and Wynnum wastewater plants on the 13th, both returned positive results for virus fragments. The chief health officer will discuss what that means, what levels they were at. But also the response. And that’s the most important thing. What we’re asking people in those areas to do is the same thing as we have been asking them every other day, but it’s perhaps just a little bit more important over the next week or so. And that is, if they have any symptoms whatsoever, please do go and get tested.
Updated at 12.45am BST
In France, the health ministry has reported 25,086 new confirmed cases in past 24 hours, Reuters reports. The new figure follows a record 30,621 infections on Thursday.
Reports suggest that 122 people died from Covid-19 in hospitals in the past 24 hours, an increase from 88 on Thursday.
Hello and welcome to our global coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s Christoper Knaus here, blogging from Australia, and I’ll continue to take you through developments as they happen.
The top stories so far are:
- In Australia, hopes for an easing of restrictions in the state of Victoria have been raised considerably, after the state recorded just one new Covid-19 case in the past 24 hours. The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, is urging his state counterpart to now lift some of the harshest aspects of the state’s lockdown. The state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, is due to make an announcement on restrictions on Sunday.
- A newly created travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand has already resulted in problems. Seventeen New Zealanders managed to make their way to Melbourne, the locked down Victorian capital, after flying into Sydney. Victoria is not accepting any international travellers.
- the United States has surpassed 8 million cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The US has confirmed at least 8,008,402 cases of coronavirus since March, and cases have surged to record levels in Midwest states like Wisconsin, where Donald Trump plans to campaign.
- Pfizer Inc said it could file in late November for US authorisation of the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing, suggesting that a vaccine could potentially be available by the end of the year.
- The UK foreign secretary denounced what he said was a Russian effort to “disrupt the attempts to find a safe vaccine”. Dominic Raab described claims that Moscow was attempting to sow seeds of confusion about the vaccine being developed in the UK as “very serious”.
- Brazil has registered 754 further coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours and 30,914 new confirmed cases, the nation’s health ministry said on Friday.
- Belgium is planning a four-week closure of all cafes and restaurants to tackle a sharp rise in cases, following a meeting of the Belgian government’s crisis unit.
- South Africa has now surpassed 700,000 cases since early March, and fears an impending second wave amid the nation’s economic recession. About 2,019 new cases were detected on Friday alone.
- Italy, which was hammered by Covid-19 in the early stages of the pandemic, is struggling again. The country has recorded 10,010 new cases in 24 hours.
- Malta will make face masks mandatory in public and has ordered bars and clubs to close at 11pm.
- The Czech Republic is struggling with record case numbers. It had 9,721 new infections on Thursday, the second consecutive day it posted its worst daily figures. The country of 10.7 million has registered the biggest surge of new cases in Europe.
Stick with me, it’s shaping up to be a busy 24 hours.
Updated at 12.38am BST
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