Pakistan, World

Pakistan’s united opposition protests against Imran Khan’s rule

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Pakistan’s united opposition protests against Imran Khan’s rule” was written by Shah Meer Baloch in Gujranwala and Hannah Ellis-Petersen, for The Guardian on Saturday 17th October 2020 01.33 UTC

An anti-government demonstration in Pakistan organised by a new alliance of opposition political parties drew crowds of tens of thousands on Friday in scenes described by the prime minister’s opponents as the “beginning of the end” for Imran Khan.

The protest in Gujranwala on Friday was the first held by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of 11 opposition political parties that have united to oust Khan from power.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of the PDM, said: “This is an illegal government. It’s been imposed upon us by the establishment. We reject this illegal rule.”

Three-time former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, in his first public speech since his release on bail to go to the UK for medical treatment, accused the army of toppling his government and installing Khan during elections in 2018.

Speaking via videolink from London, the former leader, who was sentenced to jail on corruption charges, said: “Should I blame Imran Khan for this catastrophe, unemployment and inflation or people who brought him into power? Who stole your vote and rigged your election? Who selected this government?”

“They have barred me from speaking so that my voice gets stifled and does not reach you and your voice does not reach me … they have failed.”

Calling for “one Pakistan for all”, he urged punishment for the military figures he says installed Khan and violated the constitution. “ I am being labelled as traitor right now because I talk of constitution and democracy,” he said.

The night before the rally the government embarked on mass detentions and arrests of about 500 opposition figures and activists, mainly from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.

Ahsan Iqbal, PML-N secretary general, described how at midnight on the eve of the protest “police jumped over the walls of our workers’ home in Gujranwala and Punjab. They have arrested hundreds of our workers and booked hundreds of fake cases.”

“Over three decades of political experience, I have seen martial law imposed but I have never witnessed this kind of brutality,” said Iqbal. “The raids against our workers are still ongoing. They have put containers in our way, arrested workers and torn banners, but we won’t stop. It’s the beginning of the end for Khan.”

The PDM alliance, which was formed last month, is the first time in Pakistan’s history that all opposition political parties have come together to challenge the military’s interference in politics. The three mainstream opposition parties – PML-N, Pakistan People’s party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) – are at the forefront of the movement.

The party leaders allege that the military, which wields enormous unchecked power in Pakistan, rigged the 2018 elections that brought Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to power, and that his administration is just a puppet for the military’s agenda.

Iqbal said: “We don’t need the involvement of military establishment in politics. It must stop. That’s why all opposition will gather today. There is only one way forward for Pakistan – democracy without military involvement.”

The rally is the first of many protests and public meetings that the PDM has planned over the coming weeks, before they embark on a “long march” to parliament in the capital, Islamabad, in January 2021 to demand that Khan steps down. The opposition leaders have said they would use mass resignations and votes of no confidence in parliament to take down the government.

The protests come at a time when Khan’s government is struggling to cope with a severe economic decline, unemployment and the worst inflation rates in Asia, causing a steep rise in food prices which have led to mass discontent.

Pakistan’s dire economic situation was worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, with the country’s economy contracting for the first time in 68 years in June.

Pakistan is seen as having handled the pandemic relatively well so far, reporting just 322,000 cases and 6,621 deaths in a population of 220 million, far below neighbouring India. However, there are fears that complacency is paving the way for a second wave.

At Friday’s rally, for which 50,000 people piled into the stadium, no social distancing was enforced and no face coverings were visible on people in the crowd or on political leaders.

Banners bearing the faces of former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were held up by the crowds. Waseem Ahmed Khan, a resident of Rawalpindi, said he was there “for a democratic Pakistan where everyone will be answerable and accountable”.

He said: “Since Imran Khan came to the power my monthly expenses have doubled to £300. Even then it’s hard to feed my family on that amount as the Pakistan rupee has depreciated so badly. Is it the new Pakistan Imran Khan campaigned for? It’s not for the poor, for sure.”

Liaqat Ali Qureshi, who had travelled from the neighbouring city of Gujrat to attend the rally said: “The government is crushing the poor. We were happy in our old Pakistan but Imran Khan made false promises of a new Pakistan and looted us.”

He added: “Everyone knows that he was made prime minister by those who have been controlling Pakistani politics for over seven decades: the military establishment.”

There have been multiple arrests of opposition senior figures in retaliation to the mounting anti-government criticism. Last month, anti-corruption forces arrested Shehbaz Sharif, leader of PML-N, and the brother of Nawaz Sharif.

Last year, Sharif, 70, was granted eight weeks of bail to travel to the UK for medical treatment, but is now considered by the courts to have absconded. The Pakistan authorities are attempting to get him extradited back from the UK.

This week, an arrest warrant was also issued for the former presidentAsif Ali Zardari, husband of the assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and a senior figure in the PPP.

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, a PPP spokesperson, said Khan’s government was “doing what an authoritarian regime does”.

Khokhar said: “The government is using all methods from arrests to blocking roads to stop us from protesting. They have started fake cases against opposition parties and leaders. I won’t call it an elected government.”

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

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 198

Read more

World

French terror inquiry as professor killed after showing class cartoons of Muhammad

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Macron speaks of ‘existential’ fight against terrorism after teacher killed in France” was written by Kim Willsher in Paris, for The Guardian on Saturday 17th October 2020 06.48 UTC

President Emmanuel Macron has said France’s battle against Islamic terrorism is “existential” following the killing of a teacher after he showed his class a caricature of the prophet Muhammad from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Macron, who visited the site near a school 25km north-west of Paris , said the victim had been “assassinated” and that his killer sought to “attack the republic and its values”. “This is our battle and it is existential. They [terrorists] will not succeed … They will not divide us.”

The president spoke after French police shot dead a man who decapitated a teacher with a large kitchen knife. Officials swiftly announced the killing was being investigated by an anti-terror judge.

Four people, including a minor, are reported to have been arrested since.

The victim was a 47-year-old history-geography professor – the subjects are taught together in France – but also gave the obligatory courses in “moral and civil education”. It was as part of these, and while talking about freedom of speech, that the professor showed pupils, aged 12 to 14, the caricatures. This sparked complaints from a number of parents and one family lodged a legal complaint.

The 18-year-old Moscow-born suspect is said to have shared photos of the attack on social media. Some reports said that he had Chechen roots. He was said to be a “perfect unknown” to the country’s intelligence service, but had a petty criminal record.

The alarm was raised at 5pm on Friday when local police informed their national colleagues that a body had been found outside a school at Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in the Yvelines, a suburb north-west of central Paris.

The killer was chased by police but refused to surrender and was shot several times and killed after reportedly threatening police. Officers sealed off the area after fears the assailant was wearing a suicide vest.

Anti-terror prosecutors said they were treating the killing as an “assassination in connection with a terrorist organisation”.

After the contested lesson, an angry parent posted a video on YouTube complaining about the teacher. On Friday night, another parent posted below the video, defending the professor, writing: “I am a parent of a student at this college. The teacher just showed caricatures from Charlie Hebdo as part of a history lesson on freedom of expression. He asked the Muslim students to leave the classroom if they wished, out of respect … He was a great teacher. He tried to encourage the critical spirit of his students, always with respect and intelligence. This evening, I am sad, for my daughter, but also for teachers in France. Can we continue to teach without being afraid of being killed?”

The video was taken down on Friday night.

The mayor of D’Éragny-sur-Oise Thibault Humbert spoke to reporters about the “horror” of events in his commune. “It’s a barbaric act,” he told BFMTV. .

Macron, sombre and visibly moved, spoke briefly after visiting the college where the murdered professor worked. “One of our compatriots was assassinated today because he taught. He taught his students about freedom of expression, freedom to believe or not believe. It was a cowardly attack. He was the victim of a terrorist Islamist attack,” Macron said.

“This evening my thoughts are with all those close to him, with his family, with his colleagues at the college where we have seen the head teacher show courage in the last week. In the face of pressure [from parents], she did her job with remarkable duty.

“This evening I want to say to teachers all over France, we are with them, the whole nation is with them today and tomorrow. We must protect them, defend them, allow them to do their job and educate the citizens of tomorrow.”

The education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, who was also expected at the scene, tweeted: “This evening, it was the republic that was attacked with this despicable killing of one of its servants, a teacher. My thoughts this evening are with his family. Our unity and our firmness are the only responses faced with the monstrosity of Islamic terrorism. We will deal with it.”

Paris has been on high alert since two journalists from a film production company were stabbed outside the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo three weeks ago.

In January 2015, Islamist terrorists Saïd and Chérif Kouachi gunned down 12 people in and around the Charlie Hebdo offices. The following day, gunman Amédy Coulibaly shot a policewoman dead and killed four Jewish people at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket. The Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly were killed in separate shootouts with police.

The trial of 14 people suspected of being linked to the January 2015 terror attacks is currently being held in a Paris court and is due to continue until November.

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

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 256

Read more

Culture

Star Trek: Discovery season three review – its most thoughtful series yet

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Star Trek: Discovery season three review – its most thoughtful series yet” was written by Sam Thielman, for theguardian.com on Friday 16th October 2020 12.00 UTC

After three seasons, Star Trek: Discovery has got around to boldly going where no one had gone before – namely 900 years into the future, far beyond the time periods charted out with extensive lore by other Trek shows.

This decision, and the accompanying hypnotic space worms, disreputable space bazaars and alluring space rogues, comes as a great relief. Discovery has been hemmed in since its inception by everything else bearing the Star Trek name. The show was originally set 10 years before the original series, in a parallel universe populated by the characters of the current Trek movie franchise, also named Kirk and Spock, rather than the versions played by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy – though not played by the actors in the recent films, either – and if that all sounds confusing, and possibly not worth spelunking through Wikipedia to work out, then good.

Season two had some behind-the-scenes drama: the showrunners left the series after complaints by staff that they were mistreated; now the show is run by Alex Kurtzman and Discovery writers’ room veteran Michelle Paradise, who both wrote this first episode with Jenny Lumet, the author of, among other things, the screenplay to Jonathan Demme’s masterly Rachel Getting Married. So there are reasons to hope, which, incidentally, is also now the theme of the series.

Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) crash-lands on an unfamiliar world after leaping through a temporal wormhole at the end of Discovery’s second season, to defeat an evil artificial intelligence. The friction of the planet’s atmosphere seems to have burned away all the optimism that has always been the most basic atomic unit of Star Trek – when Michael arrives, she immediately stumbles across a piratical “courier” of contraband goods named Book (David Ajala in an enjoyable Han Solo mode) and learns that a huge cataclysm has essentially ended the peace enforced for so many centuries by the omnipresent Federation.

Somehow, this isn’t gloomy. Martin-Green is very funny, and she is, finally, our guide to the secrets of an unknown world. Her boring love interest is gone, her crewmates are awol (though some of them will turn up), and the future is filled with the sort of double-crosses, shootouts and ramshackle spaceships you associate with a Star War, rather than a Trek. The possibility of the network high-fiving itself over references to shows that have been over for decades seems blessedly remote. The result is a far weirder and more eccentric show than Discovery has ever been – one character has a digital alarm parrot in lieu of a clock. There are even signs that it may begin affording its characters the kind of quiet everyday business that will allow the audience to know them as people, rather than as entries in branching wikis of lore.

I reviewed the programme when it began in 2017; I wasn’t a fan of the elongated story arcs or the heavy-handed politics. The sadder-but-wiser show it has become mirrors the toll the past three years have taken on so many of us. It’s a Star Trek that takes place, for the first time, in a broken world where there is no benign bureaucracy that must be saved from space invaders, brightly coloured disasters or a few bad apples. Now, Discovery promises to explore the idea of salvage – how to make the most of what we have, especially when we don’t have enough. In this, as in a few other ways, it seems to take its cues not from the voyages of Captain Cook (who inspired Gene Roddenberry to create the original Trek), but from modern sci-fi writers such as NK Jemisin, who are concerned with how societies can – or can’t – be built to survive hostile worlds.

That requires vigilance, something this opening episode shows us in moving closeup. At the outset, we see a man who is waiting to fulfil his duties as an officer of an institution so thoroughly destroyed that it has been reduced to a mere idea. At the end of the episode, he finally gets to do so, giving meaning to his years of waiting. In our own world, so many public institutions seem to have become only slightly less fictional than Starfleet, and this humble resurrection seems a bit miraculous. Discovery is a show given to histrionics, but stripped of its familiar setting, it now reaches for profundity with a little more assurance.

“Hope is a powerful thing,” muses one character. “Sometimes it’s the only thing,” Michael replies.

Star Trek: Discovery is available on Netflix in the UK and CBS in the US

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

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 171

Read more

Corona Virus, Health, World

‘On the brink of disaster’: Europe’s Covid fight takes a turn for the worse

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘On the brink of disaster’: Europe’s Covid fight takes a turn for the worse” was written by Jon Henley in Paris, for The Guardian on Friday 16th October 2020 13.14 UTC

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, that requires making all but impossible compromises.

default

Most European governments relaxed strict lockdowns over the summer to revive economies shattered by the pandemic’s first wave. The return of normal activity, from packed bars to new academic terms, has fuelled an exponential increase in infections.

With infections across the continent breaking the barrier of 120,000 a day, authorities must tighten restrictions once more to slow the spread of the disease – while doing all they can to avoid destroying already-jeopardised jobs and livelihoods.

Pharmacists in a chemist in Rome.
Pharmacists in a chemist in Rome.
Photograph: Giuseppe Lami/EPA

They are also facing legal challenges: the Dutch government must work out how it can make masks mandatory while complying with the law, and a Berlin court suspended a city order requiring bars to close at 11pm, for lack of evidence it would prove effective.

In France, which reported more than 30,000 new infections on Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron said a curfew was needed to halt “the parties, the moments of conviviality, the festive evenings … They accelerate the disease. We have to act.”

The government will deploy 12,000 police to enforce it, and spend an extra €1bn (£900m) to help already hard-hit businesses in the entertainment and hospitality sectors. “We cannot live normally while the virus is here,” said the prime minister, Jean Castex.

As in many countries, hospital and particularly intensive care unit capacity is starting to become a serious concern. Aurélien Rousseau, the director of the Paris region’s public health agency, said nearly half of its ICU beds were occupied by Covid patients, with other hospital beds filling rapidly too.

“It’s a kind of rising spring tide that affects everybody, simultaneously,” Rousseau said. “We had a blind spot in our tracking policies, one that’s actually very difficult to track – it’s the private sphere, festive events.”

Alarm bells have begun ringing increasingly loudly in Germany, too, which has one of the strongest coronavirus records in Europe but reported more than 6,600 cases in 24 hours on Thursday – 300 more than its previous high set in late March.

The chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the country’s 16 state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions, agreed to tighten mask-wearing rules, oblige bars to close early and limit gatherings in areas where infection rates are high.

A sign advertising face masks on Berlin’s famous Kurfürstendamm shopping street
A sign advertising face masks on Berlin’s famous Kurfürstendamm shopping street.
Photograph: Hayoung Jeon/EPA

But Merkel reportedly wanted more, arguing Germany’s response in the coming days and weeks would be decisive in determining how well it made it through the crisis, and her chief of staff admitted the measures “probably won’t be enough”.

Italy also reported a record 8,800 new cases on Thursday; Rome has already imposed tough new rules, including an end to parties, amid rumours of a nationwide 10pm curfew. The Campania region has closed its schools, with Milan likely to follow.

Even countries that managed the first wave well are struggling badly. The Czech Republic now has Europe’s highest per capita infection rate, with a high of 9,720 daily infections on Thursday. It is building a virus hospital in Prague’s exhibition centre.

“We have to build extra capacity as soon as possible,” the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, said. “We have no time. The prognosis is not good.”

Poland, too, which was also spared a high death toll this spring, registered a record of nearly 9,000 new cases. It is expanding training for nurses and planning new field hospitals. “We are on the brink of disaster,” the immunologist Paweł Grzesiowski said.

Map

In Belgium, which has Europe’s second-worst infection rate per capita, hospitals have been ordered to reserve a quarter of all their beds for Covid patients. “We can’t see the end of the tunnel,” said Renaud Mazy of the Saint-Luc clinics in Brussels.

And even Sweden, whose anti-lockdown approach was an international outlier, has raised the prospect of tougher restrictions. “Too many are not following the rules,” said the prime minister, Stefan Löfven. “If there is no correction, we will have to tighten up.”

The stakes are certainly high. Bavaria’s outspoken governor, Markus Söder, said bluntly that “Europe’s prosperity is at stake”. But while it warned that without countermeasures daily coronavirus deaths in Europe could reach four or five times their April peak within months, the WHO said there was cause for some optimism.

“The pandemic today is not the pandemic yesterday – not only in terms of its transmission dynamic, but in the ways we are now equipped to face it,” Dr Hans Kluge, the organisation’s regional director for Europe, said on Thursday.

Vastly increased testing capacities meant it was impossible to compare this week’s figures to those of March and April, Kluge noted, while higher transmission among younger, less vulnerable people, plus an improved ability to manage severe cases, meant mortality rates, while rising, were still relatively low.

Europe is recording two to three times more new daily infections compared with April, he said, but five times fewer deaths, while hospital admission numbers are taking two to three times longer to double than during the spring.

According to WHO models, quite simple measures – such as near-100% mask wearing, and strict limits on social gatherings – could save up to 281,000 lives across Europe by 1 February. “These may be pandemic times. But that need not necessarily mean dark times,” Kluge said.

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

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 310

Read more

Health, Life and Style

My in-laws are manipulating our children. How do I stop them?

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “My in-laws are manipulating our children. How do I stop them?” was written by Annalisa Barbieri, for The Guardian on Friday 16th October 2020 14.00 UTC

I am worried my in-laws are trying to turn my children against me. They are mainly civil on the surface, but they’ve never liked me and I have had years of passive-aggressive comments, in particular from my mother-in-law. My husband and I are often excluded from family gatherings, which are regularly organised when they know we can’t attend.

My husband is a lovely man who views asserting himself with his family as confrontation. It took a long time for us to find success but we are now quite well-off. We come from very humble beginnings and do not brag, but the jealousy from the family has been evident. Every single time we take a holiday, we have to listen to comments about how children don’t like holidays and want to spend time at home instead. It’s purely jealousy, and of course the children love our holidays. I frequently invite my in-laws over and have also invited them to join us on holiday.

Recently my children came home from a family gathering and announced that they no longer want to go on holidays with us, but instead want to stay at home. We asked where this had come from and they got very upset and wouldn’t discuss it.

I am sure the idea was planted by my in-laws. I am worried about what could come next. I don’t want to start interrogating my children, and I am worried that my in-laws will somehow turn them against us. Can you please advise on how to react when my in-laws’ meddling descends to manipulating children?

Years ago, my parents were working nights and left me with a family member who was highly competitive with my mother. When the time came for my parents to collect me, this family member asked me to say to my mother that I didn’t want to go home with her and wanted to stay where I was. It was done expressly to hurt her. I saw this immediately, and I said no. She bribed me with a hanging mobile of dolls she’d made that she knew I coveted. I really wanted it, but I said no. Getting desperate, she offered me the mobile and some money. I said yes. The moment my mother came to get me, I darted through the door to her and showed her my bounty. I was five. I knew I was being manipulated and decided to do it back. She never tried it with me again.

The point of this story is that your children are your children; have faith in them and your parenting. They won’t be turned against you so easily. You are right not to interrogate them, because you don’t want to use them as sounding boards or messengers. Do not criticise their grandparents to them (this is what friends are for) or you will be putting them in an impossible situation. Do not use them as weapons in a fight between grownups: this absolutely destroys children.

Next time they come home with an idea “planted”, respond with lighthearted curiosity and start a conversation. Don’t defend; discuss. For example: “Oh, really? That’s an idea, isn’t it? What would we do if we stayed at home?” I would imagine that, having been listened to, the idea will evaporate. I would also imagine that next time you’re planning a holiday they will be all for it. Remember: this isn’t the big deal for them that it is for you; it’s not imbued with resentment and anger. Next time your in-laws say, “Children prefer staying at home,” say, “Is that what it was like when you were children? Did you go on holiday?” Remember: don’t defend; discuss.

Keep up with organising your own family occasions to suit you, and invite your in-laws. Personally I would go into overdrive with this: it shows willing to the children, and it puts you in control of schedules and the onus on your in-laws to say no.

Remember that your children’s relationship with their grandparents is theirs – not yours. If your in-laws are as manipulative and passive-aggressive as you say, your children will see it eventually all on their own. But also, that’s sad, isn’t it? Because there will be disillusionment and disappointment for your children. I know it’s hard, but I would try to be authentic and protect them by emphasising the good things about their grandparents: how much they love their grandchildren, etc. This will pay dividends in the long run. In so doing you are not acquiescing to your in-laws but protecting your children. And that’s worth it, isn’t it?

• Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a family-related problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter, please send your problem to ask.annalisa@theguardian.com. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure the discussion remains on the topics raised by the article. Please be aware that there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.

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

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 157

Read more

Corona Virus, Health, US NEWS, World

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

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


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

12.40am BST

12.23am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 12.26am BST

12.01am BST

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

11.55pm BST

Just back to the United States, momentarily.

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

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

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

Kresch blames “human behaviour” for the record highs.

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

Updated at 12.03am BST

11.50pm BST

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

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

11.43pm BST

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

11.39pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

pic


Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

11.31pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 11.32pm BST

11.26pm BST

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

Wilson:

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

Updated at 11.29pm BST

11.19pm BST

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

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

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

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

You can read their full piece here:

Updated at 11.25pm BST

10.46pm BST

Victoria reports one new case and zero deaths

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 10.48pm BST

10.25pm BST

Brazil records a further 30,000 Covid-19 cases

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

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

10.21pm BST

Seventeen New Zealanders caught trying to enter Melbourne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 11.53pm BST

10.14pm BST

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

10.02pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.47pm BST

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

9.32pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.17pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 10.02pm BST

9.01pm BST

A summary of today’s developments

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

8.51pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.33pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 8.39pm BST

8.16pm BST

US surpasses 8 million coronavirus cases

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

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

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

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

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

8.03pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 8.16pm BST

7.48pm BST

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

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

7.31pm BST

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

7.16pm BST

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

7.10pm BST

Belgium to close cafes and restaurants for four weeks

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

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

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

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

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

“Our hospitals are clogged,” he added.

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

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

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

6.58pm BST

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

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

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

Updated at 7.06pm BST

6.18pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 7.07pm BST

5.46pm BST

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

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

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

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

Updated at 7.08pm BST

5.27pm BST

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

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

Updated at 7.08pm BST

5.02pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 7.09pm BST

4.34pm BST

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

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

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

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

Updated at 5.03pm BST

4.33pm BST

Italy records more than 10,000 cases in a day

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

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

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

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

Updated at 5.02pm BST

4.19pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 5.01pm BST

3.52pm BST

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

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

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

Updated at 5.00pm BST

3.19pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 4.59pm BST

3.08pm BST

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

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

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

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

Updated at 4.58pm BST

2.48pm BST

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

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

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

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

They also flag the need to improve adherence to isolation.

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

Prof Christina Pagel, of University College London, said:

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

Updated at 3.00pm BST

2.09pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Brussels, 20% of tests turn out positive.

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

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

Updated at 2.43pm BST

1.40pm BST

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

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

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

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

Updated at 2.42pm BST

1.38pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 2.39pm BST

1.33pm BST

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

1.09pm BST

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

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

Updated at 1.18pm BST

12.48pm BST

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

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

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

Updated at 1.14pm BST

12.43pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 1.13pm BST

12.05pm BST

Berlin court overturns government-imposed curfew on bars and restaurants

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 12.38pm BST

12.02pm BST

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

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

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

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

Updated at 12.03pm BST

11.50am BST

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

Updated at 12.03pm BST

11.49am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 12.02pm BST

11.39am BST

Switzerland sees worst day for new cases

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

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

Updated at 12.00pm BST

11.22am BST

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

Updated at 12.02pm BST

11.04am BST

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

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

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

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

Updated at 11.13am BST

10.59am BST

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

10.32am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

He adds:

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

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

Updated at 10.48am BST

10.28am BST

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

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

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

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

Updated at 10.46am BST

10.25am BST

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 10.45am BST

10.21am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 10.42am BST

10.04am BST

Pharma company questions WHO findings on antiviral drug remdesivir

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 10.07am BST

9.53am BST

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 10.02am BST

9.30am BST

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

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

Updated at 9.34am BST

9.19am BST

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 9.23am BST

9.04am BST

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

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

Updated at 9.15am BST

8.59am BST

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

Updated at 9.15am BST

8.52am BST

Schools in Italy’s Campania region close

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 9.16am BST

8.38am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 9.17am BST

8.31am BST

UK foreign secretary hits out at reported Russian misinformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 9.18am BST

8.22am BST

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

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

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

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

Updated at 8.25am BST

8.17am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.08am BST

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

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

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

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

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

7.58am BST

Czech Republic breaks daily cases record for second day running

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

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

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

Updated at 11.04am BST

7.44am BST

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 8.00am BST

7.39am BST

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

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

7.36am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 7.41am BST

7.23am BST

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

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

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

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

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

7.17am BST

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

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

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

Elsewhere in the UK

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

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

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

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

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

6.58am BST

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

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

6.37am BST

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

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

6.21am BST

London prepares for Tier 2 lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.16am BST

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

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

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

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

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

6.10am BST

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

Linda Geddes and Ian Sample report:

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

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

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

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

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

5.59am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 6.11am BST

5.48am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 5.56am BST

5.19am BST

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

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

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

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

5.03am BST

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

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

4.39am BST

More analysis of the battle of the town halls:

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

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

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

4.17am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.11am BST

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

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

4.01am BST

Germany sees record daily case rise

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

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

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

Updated at 4.43am BST

3.46am BST

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

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

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

3.21am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.03am BST

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

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

3.01am BST

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

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

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

2.47am BST

NHS in talks to potentially roll out vaccine from December

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 6.12am BST

2.24am BST

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

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

2.19am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.09am BST

US cases near 8m

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

The current infections tally is 7,975,725.

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

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

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

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

2.03am BST

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

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

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

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

2.01am BST

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

2.00am BST

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

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

1.54am BST

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

1.46am BST

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

1.43am BST

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

1.28am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.24am BST

1.23am BST

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

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

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

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

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

1.15am BST

From a few minutes earlier in the debate:

1.14am BST

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

He has just been asked if he supports herd immunity.

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

“It happened because of China,” he says.

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

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

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

1.10am BST

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

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

The Biden town hall is here.

Trump’s is here.

Our liveblog is here:

12.53am BST

Solomon Islands confirm third case

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

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

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

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

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

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

12.31am BST

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

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

12.11am BST

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 12.12am BST

11.51pm BST

WHO warns Europe case surge ‘of great concern’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.38pm BST

Summary

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

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

Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

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

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

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

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 429

Read more

US NEWS, World

Trump v Biden at TV town halls: a president kept in check – latest reaction live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Biden’s town hall drew in 1 million more viewers than Trump’s – how it happened” was written by Sam Levin (now), Joan E Greve, Tom McCarthy and Martin Belam (earlier), for theguardian.com on Saturday 17th October 2020 00.13 UTC

1.13am BST

Summary

We’re ending our live coverage for the day, thanks for following along. Some links and developments from the day:

12.46am BST

Minnesota traces Covid outbreak to Trump rally

The Minnesota department of health said it has so far traced 20 Covid-19 cases to a Trump rally in Bemidji in September, CNN reports:

Sixteen of the 20 cases are people who were at the rally. Two people are now hospitalized, according to CNN.

12.42am BST

Donald Trump is now speaking at a rally in Macon, Georgia, attacking the media and Democrats with typical falsehoods and unsubstantiated claims.

In his last speech today, the president repeatedly mocked Joe Biden for verbal slips, but misspoke in numerous bizarre ways himself, notes CNN’s fact checker Daniel Dale:

At the Macon rally, one state representative and Trump supporter crowd-surfed, an activity that clearly violates social-distancing guidelines:

12.32am BST

Joe Kennedy III reports campaign finance violation

Congressman Joe Kennedy III’s failed Senate campaign reported today that it improperly spent .5m of donations intended for the general election during the primary against Senator Ed Markey, the Boston Globe has just reported.

Federal campaign finance rules bar candidates from spending their general election funds on expenses during the primary, the Globe said.

“After an internal review, I believe it was an honest mistake by those involved, resulting from misinformation, not malintent,” Kennedy said in a statement to the Globe. “But as the candidate, I take full responsibility for the error that occurred and have worked to rectify it as expeditiously as possible.”

Kennedy also said he did not know about the improper spending.

Markey won the tight race with support of progressive groups.

Updated at 12.44am BST

12.00am BST

The QAnon conspiracy theory has been linked to several violent acts since 2018, with QAnon supporters arrested for threatening politicians, breaking into the residence of the Canadian prime minister, an armed standoff near the Hoover dam, a kidnapping plot and two kidnappings, and at least one murder.

QAnon adherents believe that Donald Trump is trying to save the world from a cabal of satanic pedophiles. The conspiracy theory’s narrative includes centuries-old antisemitic tropes, like the belief that the cabal is harvesting blood from abused children, and it names specific people, including Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities, as participants in a global plot. Experts call these extreme, baseless claims “an incitement to violence”.

The conspiracy theory’s claims have put ordinary people at risk. The FBI identified QAnon in 2019 as a potential domestic terror threat and the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point described it as a “novel challenge to public security”.

QAnon supporters believe that there will soon be mass arrests, and members of the cabal will be brought to justice. If supporters of the conspiracy theory begin to lose faith in Trump’s ability to stop the cabal of child abusers, said Travis View, one of the hosts of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, that might inspire them to begin taking more direct violent action themselves.

More here:

11.49pm BST

1,000 current and former CDC officers criticize Covid response

More than 1,000 current and former officers of a disease-fighting program at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have authored an open letter criticizing the US response to Covid, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The absence of national leadership on Covid-19 is unprecedented and dangerous. CDC should be at the forefront of a successful response to this global public health emergency,” said the letter signed by officers from the Epidemic Intelligence Service program of the CDC. More details:

11.39pm BST

Trump’s cabinet is “scrambling to enact regulatory changes affecting millions of Americans” due to fears that he will lose his re-election, according to a new New York Times report.

The rushed proposed rules, the Times says, include:

  • Labor department changes that would redefine what it means to be an “independent contractor”, affecting 19m people.
  • A department of homeland security rule that would make it much more difficult to sponsor an immigrant coming to the US.
  • A proposal that would loosen limits on how many hours some truckers can spend behind the wheel.
  • Another DHS proposal that would enable the government to more easily collect biometric data.

The blitz is so hurried that some of the changes could be particularly vulnerable to court challenges, the Times reported.

11.22pm BST

A Montana concert attended by Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte, who is also running for governor, has been linked to a Covid-19 outbreak, the AP reports.

Gianforte hasn’t since taken a test, his spokesperson said, saying he does not have symptoms and his healthcare provider said it wasn’t necessary.

The outdoor concert, held on 3 October in Helena,had been approved by the local health department, the Independent Record reported. The event organizers have since faced criticisms for failing to follow local Covid regulations, which say public events should not have more than 250 attendees.

Gianforte has previously faced criticisms for not wearing a mask and hugging supporters:

11.10pm BST

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee who also recently had Covid, is present at Trump’s rally, without a mask:

11.01pm BST

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris both tested negative for Covid-19 today, the campaigns said:

This comes one day after both reported that they flew on planes this week with people who have tested positive for coronavirus, though they both said they did not have close contact with the affected people.

10.53pm BST

Supreme court agrees to hear arguments in Census case

The US supreme court agreed today to hear arguments in a closely-watched case over whether Donald Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from the total population count used to determine how many US House seats each state gets.

The court said Friday it will hear oral argument in the case on 30 November. Trump issued an executive order blocking undocumented people from the count earlier this summer, but a three-judge panel blocked the measure in early September. The constitution requires the census, which is used to apportion House seats, to count all “persons”. In September, the judges wrote that because the decennial census does not ask about citizenship, citizenship status could not be taken into account when apportioning seats.

But the supreme court’s decision alone to hear the case is ominous. The case took a unique procedural route to the court and because it came from a three judge panel, the court is obligated to consider it. The court could have upheld the three judge panel’s ruling without an oral argument – the fact that it set one may be a signal it is open to overturning it.

Separately, the supreme court this week allowed the Trump administration to end counting for the census two weeks early, despite warnings it would result in an undercount of the population. Observers have speculated the Trump administration is trying to rush the census to ensure Trump has the opportunity to try and exclude undocumented immigrants from the count before he leaves office.

10.47pm BST

Donald Trump called Hope Hicks, his senior advisor who tested positive for Covid earlier this month, up to the stage at his Florida rally:

She was not wearing a mask, and said very little, but joked: “We can share a microphone now.”

Trump is back on the campaign trail this week after his hospitalization for Covid. At a town hall last night, the president spread falsehoods about the virus and masks.

10.31pm BST

Trump approves wildfire aid for California, reversing rejection

Donald Trump reversed his administration’s decision to deny California’s request for additional federal wildfire aid, the state’s governor has announced.

“Just got off the phone with President Trump who has approved our major disaster declaration request,” Gavin Newsom tweeted. “Grateful for his quick response.”

Newsom’s tweet came hours after he said he was appealing the president’s rejection for additional aid to clean up the damage from six recent large fires. It has been a disastrous wildfire season in California, with more than 8,500 blazes burning more than 6,400 square miles (16,000 sq km) since the start of the year.

10.21pm BST

Senator Dianne Feinstein faces growing progressive backlash

Hi all – Sam Levin in Los Angeles, taking over our live coverage for the rest of the day.

California senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, is facing growing backlash from progressive groups who argue she has failed in her leadership role in the Amy Coney Barrett nomination hearings.

After Demand Justice, a progressive group, called for her to step down yesterday, Naral Pro-Choice America, a leading reproductive rights group, has also called her “wildly out of step with the American people”, saying the “committee needs new leadership”:

Naral criticized Feinstein of offering “an appearance of credibility to the proceedings”. The ranking Democratic senator notably said, “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in,” and gave chairman Lindsey Graham a hug:

California congresswoman Katie Porter, a Democrat, also criticized Feinstein, telling HuffPost, “I disagree strongly with senator Feinstein that that set of hearings was one of the best or was even acceptable. I think Amy Coney Barrett did not answer basic questions about her beliefs and stonewalled repeatedly. We got many fewer direct answers than we have out of most supreme court hearings.”

10.14pm BST

The Los Angeles Times has obtained an early copy of another Trump book, this one called Tower of Lies: What My 18 Years of Working With Donald Trump Reveals About Him and by Barbara A Res, a former Trump Organization staffer.

“The book recounts racist, anti-Semitic and sexist behavior,the Times reports, “along with Trump’s ability to lie ‘so naturally’ that ‘if you didn’t know the actual facts, he could slip something past you.’”

Res left Trump’s employ two decades ago and has been critical of him since. On the page, the Times said, she…

…recalled Trump berating her when he spotted a Black worker on a construction site.

“Get him off there right now,” he said, “and don’t ever let that happen again. I don’t want people to think that Trump Tower is being built by Black people.”

Trump turned red-faced when she brought a young Black job applicant into the lobby of another building, she wrote.

“Barbara, I don’t want Black kids sitting in the lobby where people come to buy million-dollar apartments!”

Res wrote that Trump hired a German residential manager, believing his heritage made him “especially clean and orderly”, and then joked in front of Jewish executives that “this guy still reminisces about the ovens, so you guys better watch out for him”.

Trump and his campaign often pointed to Res during the 2016 election as an example of his progressive history of hiring and promoting women. But during her 18-year tenure, she wrote, Trump talked frequently and graphically about women’s looks and his own sexual exploits – and forced Res to fire a woman because she was pregnant and bar her own secretary from important meetings because she did not look like a model.

One might think – see below – that so close to the election, the seam of Trump books might be close to mined out. Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, would hope so. He told the Times Res’s book was “transparently a disgruntled former employee packaging a bunch of lies in a book to make money”.

10.01pm BST

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Sam Levin, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The number of US coronavirus cases surpassed 8 million, which is more than any other country in the world. The US reported 63,610 new coronavirus cases yesterday, marking the highest single-day total since mid-August.
  • Despite those alarming statistics, Trump again claimed the country is “rounding the turn” in its coronavirus crisis. Speaking in Southfield, Michigan, Joe Biden criticized the president for suggesting the situation is improving. “It’s not disappearing. In fact, it’s on the rise again,” Biden said. “It’s getting worse, as predicted.”
  • Biden’s ABC town hall attracted more viewers than Trump’s NBC town hall last night. According to Nielsen, Biden’s event was watched by almost 1 million more viewers, even though Trump’s town hall was broadcast on more channels. The figures will likely enrage the ratings-obsessed president, who reportedly told aides he hoped to beat Biden and then use the numbers to humiliate them.
  • The US has posted a record-high federal budget deficit of .1tr, which is three times as high as last year’s deficit. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s revenue has declined while government spending has soared this year.
  • Barack Obama will campaign for Biden in Philadelphia next week. The Biden campaign announced Obama, who won Pennsylvania in 2008 and 2012, will travel to Philadelphia next Wednesday.

Sam will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

9.47pm BST

Trump is now speaking in Ocala, Florida, and the president is once again attacking Joe Biden as the head of a “corrupt family”.

As Trump attacked Biden and his son, Hunter, the Florida crowd started to chant, “Lock him up!”

“Joe Biden is a corrupt politician, and he has been for a long time,” Trump said. “The Biden family is a criminal enterprise.”

The president added, “In fact, they sort of make ‘Crooked Hillary Clinton’ look like amateur hour.”

Trump repeatedly referenced a New York Post story about some of Hunter Biden’s emails that federal investigators are reportedly examining as part of a potential foreign intelligence operation.

Updated at 9.53pm BST

9.36pm BST

Echoing other recent comments, Joe Biden called on the country to unite and promised to give equal concern to all Americans, including those who don’t support him, if he wins the presidential race.

“If we can’t unite the country, we’re in trouble,” Biden said. “I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I’m going to govern as an American president.”

The Democratic nominee implicitly criticized Trump for further dividing the country during his four years in office.

“Bring the country together, that’s the job of a president,” Biden said. “We can be so much better than what we’ve seen.”

After delivering an impassioned plea for everyone to vote, Biden concluded his remarks in Southfield.

9.28pm BST

Joe Biden also criticized Senate Republicans for moving to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court just days before the presidential election.

“Getting rid of Obamacare is why [Republicans] are racing to get this nominee through the supreme court. Make no mistake about it,” Biden told the small audience in Southfield, Michigan.

The supreme court is set to hear arguments in a case involving the ACA one week after the election. The Trump administration has sided with states calling for the ACA to be dismantled in the case.

9.17pm BST

Biden criticizes Trump for saying US is ’rounding the turn’ in coronavirus crisis

Joe Biden criticized Trump for repeatedly suggesting, as recently as this afternoon, that the US is “rounding the turn” in its coronavirus crisis.

“He’s gone around the bend,” Biden joked about the president’s comments. “It’s not disappearing. In fact, it’s on the rise again. It’s getting worse, as predicted.”

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

The country’s total number of coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic also surpassed 8 million today, representing a far higher case count than any other nation in the world.

9.08pm BST

Joe Biden said he was “grateful” to the FBI for intervening in a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, describing those involved in the scheme as “domestic terrorists”.

“It’s the sort of behavior you might expect from Isis. It should shock the conscience of every American,” Biden said.

The Democratic nominee added, “The failure to condemn these folks is stunning, from the outset.”

During his NBC News town hall last night, Trump refused to condemn the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon.

Updated at 9.29pm BST

9.03pm BST

Joe Biden opened his remarks by thanking the three people who introduced him, including a woman who described her family’s struggles to secure reliable healthcare coverage.

The Democratic nominee said her story was far too common across the country.

Biden also said of Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, “There’s not a better governor in the United States of America than Gretchen Whitmer.”

The Democrat also emphasized that Michigan needed to reelect Senator Gary Peters, who is facing a difficult reelection race right now.

“We badly need you back in the United States Senate,” Biden told Peters.

8.51pm BST

Biden delivers healthcare speech in Michigan

Joe Biden is now speaking in Southfield, Michigan, where he will deliver a speech on “protecting and expanding access to affordable health care” according to his campaign.

Biden was introduced by Democratic Senator Gary Peters, who is in a tough reelection race right now, and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Biden’s speech comes as polls show the Democratic nominee leading in Michigan, which Trump won by less than 1 point in 2016.

After the Southfield speech, Biden will attend a virtual meeting with African American faith leaders and hold a voter mobilization event in Detroit.

Watch Biden’s speech here:

Updated at 8.55pm BST

8.45pm BST

US federal budget deficit hits record high of .1tr

The US has posted a record-high federal budget deficit of .1tr, due to decreased revenue and increased government spending amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The AP reports:

The Trump administration reported Friday that the deficit for the budget year that ended on 30 September was three times the size of last year’s deficit of 4bn. It was also tr higher than the administration had estimated in February, before the pandemic hit.

It was the government’s largest annual shortfall in dollar terms, surpassing the previous record of .4tr set in 2009. At that time, the Obama administration was spending heavily to shore up the nation’s banking system and limit the economic damage from the 2008 financial crisis. …

The administration’s final accounting of the 2020 budget year shows that revenues fell by 1.2% to .42tr, while government spending surged 47.3% to .55tr. That spending reflects the relief programs Congress passed in the spring to support the economy as millions of Americans were losing their jobs.

Some Republican lawmakers are now voicing opposition to another massive coronavirus relief bill due to budget concerns, but Trump himself has instructed Congress to “go big or go home” on the relief package.

Updated at 8.54pm BST

8.31pm BST

The Democratic National Committee sharply criticized Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, after the number of US cases surpassed 8 million.

“Eight million have been infected. Eight million have fallen into poverty since May. Over 217,ooo have lost their lives and millions more are out of work. And in recent weeks, hospitalizations have surged,” chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

“The only thing more staggering than these numbers is the incompetence that caused them. Donald Trump abandoned the American people when they needed strong leadership, refusing to provide the relief they deserve.”

Speaking to voters in Florida today, Trump claimed the country was “rounding the turn” in its coronavirus crisis, even though the US reported 63,610 new coronavirus cases yesterday, marking the highest single-day total since mid-August.

Updated at 8.36pm BST

8.19pm BST

The California GOP has agreed not to place its own unauthorized ballot boxes that the state deemed illegal, election officials just announced.

The state Republican party sparked national scrutiny this week after installing their own unofficial ballot drop-boxes in Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno counties, raising concerns about potential fraud and voter confusion.

County election officials are responsible for official drop-boxes, and experts said it was misleading and potentially unlawful to install Republican-controlled boxes that voters could mistake for legitimate collection sites.

After GOP officials publicly pledged to keep their boxes up and defy a cease-and-desist order, the Republican party agreed “they will not make available or condone the use of unstaffed, unsecured unofficial ballot drop boxes”, the secretary of state, Alex Padilla, said in a statement.

California law does allow groups to collect and deliver ballots on voters’ behalf if the voters give permission, but the state has said it is unlawful to install unattended boxes and to misrepresent them as “official”.

The GOP has admitted that one of their boxes was labeled “official” in error, but has defended their ballot collection efforts, and argued that Democratic election leaders have misrepresented their activities.

8.04pm BST

Obama to campaign for Biden in Philadelphia

The Biden campaign has announced that Barack Obama will travel to Philadelphia next Wednesday to stump for the Democratic nominee.

The campaign did not yet announce where or specifically when Obama would be speaking in Philadelphia, which is also where the former president delivered his Democratic convention speech in August.

Obama won Pennsylvania in 2008 and 2012, but Hillary Clinton lost the state to Trump by less than 1 point in 2016.

Joe Biden has repeatedly traveled to Pennsylvania in recent months, and Democrats hope he will be able to flip the state on 3 November.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average, Biden currently has a 6.9-point advantage over Trump in Pennsylvania.

Updated at 8.14pm BST

7.45pm BST

Trump is using an official White House event on “protecting America’s seniors” to attack Joe Biden and NBC News anchor Savannah Guthrie, who moderated his town hall last night.

Speaking in Fort Myers, Florida, Trump said of Guthrie, “I had somebody going totally crazy last night.”

Despite that, Trump said the event went “very well”, even though he attracted widespread criticism for refusing to denounce the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon.

The president also attacked Biden’s son, Hunter, outlandishly describing the Bidens as a “crime family”.

Updated at 8.15pm BST

7.34pm BST

US surpasses 8 million coronavirus cases

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

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

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

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

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

7.22pm BST

Trump cited his son Barron’s experience with coronavirus to argue that states should reopen schools despite concerns about the spread of the virus.

“Children should go to school,” Trump said. “My young son Barron had it. And he had it. And all of a sudden he doesn’t have it. It’s like, you know, it’s different.”

The first lady announced in a statement earlier this week that 14-year-old Barron had tested positive for the virus but developed no symptoms.

“We cannot allow unscientific, panic-driven, fear-based policies to deny our children and grandchildren their future and their dreams,” Trump told the Florida crowd.

The president also attacked his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, at the official White House event in Fort Myers.

“And you know one thing: ‘Sleepy Joe’ can do nothing about it,” Trump said.

7.11pm BST

Speaking to voters in Florida, Trump reflected on his own experience with coronavirus, crediting an experimental antibody drug cocktail with his rapid recovery.

“I don’t know what they gave me, but give me some more and you can have some,” Trump said, before adding that he was joking.

“I wasn’t feeling great, and the next day I wake up and I’m like, ‘Who can I fight today?’” the president said.

Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center for three days after he tested positive for coronavirus.

7.05pm BST

Trump has started speaking in Fort Myers, Florida, where he is holding an event on “protecting America’s seniors.”

The president said of the coronavirus pandemic, “We are rounding the turn. I say that all the time.”

In reality, coronavirus cases are on the rise across the country. According to Johns Hopkins University, the US reported 63,610 new coronavirus cases yesterday, marking the highest single-day total since mid-August.

6.57pm BST

The crowd at Trump’s Florida event on “protecting America’s seniors” is “several hundred strong,” according to the White House press pool.

The chairs in the large ballroom have been spaced apart, but some attendees have pushed them closer together. Mask-wearing at the event is also inconsistent.

6.45pm BST

Trump has arrived in Fort Myers, Florida, for his speech on “protecting America’s seniors,” who make up a crucial voting bloc in the swing state.

The president was greeted by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis when he arrived. Neither man wore a face mask as they greeted each other.

6.31pm BST

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden’s town hall last night attracted more viewers than Trump’s, according to Nielsen. Although Trump’s event was broadcast on more channels, Biden still attracted almost 1 million more viewers. The figures will likely enrage the ratings-obsessed president, who told aides he hoped to beat Biden and then use the numbers to humiliate them.
  • The Trump campaign raised 7.8m in September, while the Biden team raised 3m last month. Biden’s record-shattering fundraising totals in August and September have erased Trump’s cash advantage in the presidential race.
  • The US reported 63,610 new coronavirus cases yesterday, marking the highest single-day total since mid-August. Another 904 Americans also died of the virus yesterday.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated at 7.29pm BST

6.22pm BST

Biden beat Trump in the ratings game, Nielsen says

It’s official: Joe Biden beat Trump in the ratings game from last night’s dueling town halls, a fact that will likely enrage a president who loves to boast about his ratings.

CNN reports:

Joe Biden’s town hall on ABC averaged 13.9 million viewers on Thursday night, easily surpassing the Nielsen ratings for President Trump’s town hall on NBC. That alone was a result virtually no one in the TV business expected. And that’s not even the most surprising part.

The Trump town hall was simulcast by two of NBC’s cable channels, MSNBC and CNBC, but even when those channels are included in the total, Biden — on only one network — still prevailed.

The Trump town hall averaged 10.6 million viewers on the NBC broadcast network. On MSNBC, Trump reached 1.74 million viewers, and on CNBC, about 671,000 viewers. So Trump’s gross audience across the three channels was 13 million, about one million fewer than Biden’s audience on ABC alone.

NBC News received some criticism for scheduling Trump’s town hall at the same time as Biden’s, although Biden’s event ran 30 minutes longer.

Trump reportedly told aides before the town halls that he wanted to directly counter-program Biden, in the hopes of getting better ratings and then using them to humiliate his Democratic rival.

That wish has clearly not come to pass. The blog will now be closely watching Trump’s Twitter feed to see how he reacts.

6.13pm BST

According to excerpts of Trump’s Fort Myers speech, the president will say he is fighting for America’s seniors “with every ounce of energy and conviction that I have.”

“As president, I am deeply aware that America’s 54 million seniors have borne the heaviest burden of the China virus,” Trump will say, continuing his efforts to blame Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am moving heaven and earth to safeguard our seniors from the China virus, to deliver life-saving therapies in record time, and to distribute a safe and effective vaccine before the end of the year,” Trump will say.

The president will add, “Seniors will be the first in line for the vaccine and we will soon end the pandemic.”

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Robert Redfield, has said a coronavirus vaccine will not be widely available to the American public until mid to late 2021.

Recent polls indicate Trump has lost major ground with Florida’s senior voters since 2016, when he won the swing state.

5.54pm BST

Trump is en route to Fort Myers, Florida, to deliver a speech on “protecting America’s seniors,” a crucial voting group that has recently been moving toward Joe Biden in the polls.

Although the focus of Trump’s speech is on protecting older Americans, an NBC News reporter noted the event was being held indoors with few people wearing masks, in contradiction of public health experts’ guidelines on limiting the spread of coronavirus.

5.40pm BST

Mitt Romney has released another statement criticizing Trump, specifically the president’s refusal to denounce the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon during last night’s town hall.

But the Republican senator once again wrapped his criticism in some “bothsidesism,” condemning politicians’ refusal to denounce groups like “antifa, white supremacists, and conspiracy peddlers.”

The president has similarly tried to deflect criticism for his approach to white supremacist violence by accusing Joe Biden of refusing to condemn violence on the left from groups like antifa.

However, Biden has repeatedly condemned all violence from Americans of all political leanings, and FBI Director Christopher Wray has said antifa is not a group, as Trump has indicated, but a broad philosophy.

5.17pm BST

Biden wins early ratings game against Trump

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Tom McCarthy.

The early numbers from last night’s dueling town halls are in, and the president will not be happy.

According to the early figures, Joe Biden’s ABC News town hall drew 2.3 million more viewers than Trump’s NBC News town hall.

Variety reports:

Biden drew 12.7 million total viewers on the Disney-owned network, while Trump drew 10.4 million in the same 9-10 p.m. time slot on NBC. Across the entire runtime, the Biden town hall averaged 12.3 million viewers. In terms of the fast national 18-49 demographic, Biden is comfortably on top with a 2.6 rating to Trump’s 1.7.

The official ratings from last night will be available later today, but there were already some signs that Biden’s event was attracting more interest, as the ABC telecast saw higher viewership numbers on YouTube.

The numbers will likely frustrate the famously ratings-focused president, who reportedly told aides that he wanted to counter-program Biden to get better ratings and then use them to humiliate his Democratic rival.

4.59pm BST

The Trump campaign is removing ads from the airwaves in Minnesota’s biggest media market, according to local reports – indicating 1) they’re out of money, and/or 2) they no longer think Minnesota, which Trump barely lost in 2016, is in play in 2020:

In a daunting dynamic for Trump backers, the campaign has been pulling down tens of millions of dollars worth of ads in battleground states across the country in recent weeks to play defense in erstwhile Trump states such as Georgia.

(h/t: @bencjacobs)

Updated at 5.01pm BST

4.27pm BST

The journalism nonprofit ProPublica has published a stunning investigative report on how the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – for decades the global gold standard for tracking and treating infectious diseases – succumbed to political pressure and infiltration from the Trump administration to issue advice its own scientists disagreed with.

Here’s a crucial passage:

How could an agency that eradicated smallpox globally and wiped out polio in the United States have fallen so far?

ProPublica obtained hundreds of emails and other internal government documents and interviewed more than 30 CDC employees, contractors and Trump administration officials who witnessed or were involved in key moments of the crisis. Although news organizations around the world have chronicled the CDC’s stumbles in real time, ProPublica’s reporting affords the most comprehensive inside look at the escalating tensions, paranoia and pained discussions that unfolded behind the walls of CDC’s Atlanta headquarters. And it sheds new light on the botched COVID-19 tests, the unprecedented political interference in public health policy, and the capitulations of some of the world’s top public health leaders.

CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, testifies during a US Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine Covid-19, on September 23, 2020.
CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, testifies during a US Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine Covid-19, on September 23, 2020.
Photograph: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

Senior CDC staff describe waging battles that are as much about protecting science from the White House as protecting the public from COVID-19. It is a war that they have, more often than not, lost.

Employees spoke openly about their “hill to die on” — the political interference that would prompt them to leave. Yet again and again, they surrendered and did as they were told. It wasn’t just worries over paying mortgages or forfeiting the prestige of the job. Many feared that if they left and spoke out, the White House would stop consulting the CDC at all, and would push through even more dangerous policies.

To some veteran scientists, this acquiescence was the real sign that the CDC had lost its way. One scientist swore repeatedly in an interview and said, “The cowardice and the caving are disgusting to me.”

Collectively, the interviews and documents show an insular, rigorous agency colliding head-on with an administration desperate to preserve the impression that it had the pandemic under control.

Read the full piece here.

3.51pm BST

Incumbent Republican senator Joni Ernst of Iowa had an awkward moment at a debate with challenger Theresa Greenfield last night when she failed to demonstrate basic knowledge about one of the state’s top commodities, soybeans.

It’s a hugely important race – a Greenfield win, and a flip of the seat from red to blue, could seal control of the US senate next year for Democrats.

Whether Ernst’s stumble here will hurt her with voters is an open question. The Trump administration is breaking all records for subsidizing farmers (bn in 2020 federal payouts alone) after Trump’s trade war with China sent commodities prices plummeting. So maybe Republicans have some goodwill to burn with farmers.

Anyway Ernst is asked what is “the break-even price for soybeans in Iowa?” Meaning what’s the rough average price per bushel farmers need to sell at to cover costs – not counting the gigantic subsidies. She answers .50, about half of the best answer, .05.

Is this the biggest political pricing stumble since presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani (that happened) couldn’t say how much milk and bread cost back in 2007?

For a dive into the senate races that matter this cycle, visit our interactive:

3.14pm BST

Joe Biden said at a town hall event Thursday night that he would announce before election day whether he favors expanding the supreme court.

Biden has repeatedly declined to lay out a stance on the issue amid an ongoing Republican sprint to install a third justice nominated by Donald Trump before the election, in what critics have called a naked power grab.

The Senate judiciary committee appeared poised to approve and hand off the nomination of judge Amy Coney Barrett to the full Senate next week.

Barrett’s installation on the court would make for the most dramatic ideological realignment on the court in decades. In part that’s because she would replace a liberal justice, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Protestors against Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination march to the Hart Senate building on Thursday.
Protestors against Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination march to the Hart Senate building on Thursday.
Photograph: Bryan Dozier/REX/Shutterstock

But the conservative court coup would also be the result of a successful plot by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to hold open a supreme court seat for almost a year in 2016 so that Trump could fill it instead of Barack Obama.

That fact, combined with similar maneuvering by McConnell at the district and appeals court levels, have led Biden backers to express outrage that the candidate’s unwillingness to stake out a position on so-called “court-packing” would create controversy.

The court has already been packed, Biden supporters say, by Trump, McConnell and their Republican surrogates and outside accomplices.

Read the further:

2.32pm BST

In a new interactive elections timeline, Alvin Chang has explained how various 2020 US election scenarios, including the case of Trump losing but refusing to concede, could play out.

Americans are used to a certain routine with presidential elections – but this year might be different, Alvin writes. If you’re not current on such concepts as the safe harbor deadline and wonder how states select electors, read about it here:

Updated at 2.33pm BST

1.43pm BST

Republican senator Susan Collins, who is up against Sara Gideon in a competitive Senate race in November, will no doubt be thrilled at the ‘endorsement’ she has just received from the president. Donald Trump has tweeted that she is “Not worth the work!” that he claims to have done for Maine.

Collins has previously been clear that she would not vote for a rushed nomination to the supreme court.

Collins has represented Maine since 1996. A poll yesterday put Gideon seven points ahead of her. Joe Biden is similarly ahead in the polls for both of Maine’s congressional districts and the statewide vote. Maine is one of only two states to split its electoral college votes rather than adopting a winner-takes-all approach. In 2016 Hillary Clinton received three votes, and Trump one.

Updated at 1.44pm BST

1.28pm BST

Nina Lakhani in New York writes for us this morning on how Native Americans’ right to vote has been systematically violated for generations. She has interviewed Jean Reith Schroedel, professor emerita of political science at Claremont Graduate University, whose new book, Voting in Indian County: The View from the Trenches weaves together historical and contemporary voting rights conflicts. Schroedel says:

One thing few Americans understand is that American Indians and Native Alaskans were the last group in the United States to get citizenship and to get the vote. Even after the civil war and the Reconstruction (13th, 14th and 15th) amendments there was a supreme court decision that said indigenous people could never become US citizens, and some laws used to disenfranchise them were still in place in 1975. It’s impossible to understand contemporary voter suppression in Indian Country without understanding this historical context.

Take Jackson county in South Dakota. The county council has just decided to close the legally mandated early voting centre on the Pine Ridge Reservation, citing concerns about Covid, but not in the voting site in Kadoka, where the white people go. Regardless of the intent, this will absolutely have a detrimental effect on Native people’s ability to vote.

ID requirements can make it very difficult for people who live on reservations where many roads don’t have names or numbers – so-called non-standard addresses, which are very problematic in states requiring IDs with residential addresses. A number of states like South Dakota have chosen to make it a felony offense with prison terms and fines if someone votes using an address different to the one given to register, even though unstable housing is a big issue on reservations, and people crash in different places all the time.

Read more here: How Native Americans’ right to vote has been systematically violated for generations

1.19pm BST

Angela Stanton King, the Trump ally who is running for Congress, has appeared to double-down on her support for QAnon this morning on social media, retweeting another user asking: “Why would people feel so threatened by a group that is fighting against pedophilia and child sex trafficking? …unless of course….”

King, who is running in Atlanta, Georgia, for the congressional seat once held by the late civil rights icon John Lewis, told the Guardian in an on-camera interview she believed the debunked conspiracy theory while continuing to deny she was a follower of QAnon.

When asked if she believed the retailer Wayfair was involved in a global pedophilia conspiracy, she replied: “You know they are. You saw it. You watch the news just like I did.” The candidate then ended the interview.

The QAnon conspiracy theory of course goes beyond pedophilia and incorporates time-worn antisemitic tropes into its fabric, as Julia Carrie Wong explained for us back in August.

Read it here: QAnon explained – the antisemitic conspiracy theory gaining traction around the world

1.11pm BST

Steve Peoples and Hannah Fingerhut are reporting on a new poll from the Associated Press this morning which brings the news that the overwhelming majority of American voters believe the nation is deeply divided over its most important values, and many have doubts about the health of the democracy itself. Supporters of President Donald Trump and Joe Biden alike think the opposing candidate will make things even worse if elected.

Overall, 85% of registered voters describe Americans as being greatly divided in their values, and only 15% say that democracy in the United States is working extremely or very well.

The poll shows voters overall are especially pessimistic about the impact of Trump’s reelection: 65% say divisions would worsen if the Republican president were reelected. Amazingly, that number includes a quarter of Trump’s own supporters who think he’ll aggravate division.

The poll finds fewer than half of voters say they are highly confident that votes in the election will be counted accurately, but more Biden supporters than Trump supporters say that, 53% vs. 28%.

12.50pm BST

There can be no more thankless task than trying to fact-check a TV debate in real-time, except perhaps to attempt to fact-check two competing town halls being shown simultaneously in real-time. CNN have nevertheless had a crack at. They found the following claims by Trump to be false or misleading…

  • 85% of people who wear masks get the coronavirus – false
  • US deaths from Covid were expected to exceed 2 million – misleading
  • Biden called him ‘xenophobic’ – misleading
  • Biden wants to “quadruple” taxes – false
  • We set a record on jobs – misleading
  • ‘Thousands of ballots’ were found in dumpsters – false
  • He’ll protect people with pre-existing conditions – false
  • He’ll ‘take care’ of DACA recipients – misleading
  • Obama and Biden never tried criminal justice reform – false
  • He has done more for the Black community than any president but Lincoln – false
  • People can decide for themselves if Osama bin Laden is alive – “a baseless claim with no evidence to back it up. The facts around the killing of bin Laden are not a debatable opinion.”

This was their verdict on Joe Biden

  • Trump said injecting bleach will combat coronavirus – misleading
  • Redfield said masks would save more lives than a vaccine – goes beyond what Redfield said
  • Trump did nothing on unemployment after congressional aid expired – false
  • There are more American troops in Afghanistan than when Obama left office – false
  • Green New Deal calls for eliminating non-renewable energy by 2030 – misleading

Read all the details here: CNN – Competing town halls highlight Trump’s dishonesty

12.28pm BST

Donald Trump seems very confident of his poll numbers this morning.

You can keep an eye on the latest poll numbers in the crucial swing states that are going to decide November’s election with our US election polls tracker. At the moment Joe Biden is enjoying a national polling lead average of 10.6%.

12.21pm BST

I posted earlier an excerpt from Chris McGreal’s piece for us today, looking at former Democrat voters in Minnesota who are sticking with Trump for 2020. Michael Sainato has the flipside for us – people who voted for Trump in 2016 but who are now dismayed by the broken promises on jobs since then.

Shannon Mulcahy of Whitestown, Indiana, voted for Trump in the last election. This time his rival Joe Biden will get her vote. For 18 years she worked at the Rexnord steel bearings plant in Indianapolis before it shut down in 2017, moving operations to Mexico. Mulcahy was one of 300 workers who lost their jobs.

Since losing her job, Mulcahy has struggled with depression while trying to find other work. She’s managed to find a new job, though it pays significantly lower than what she was making at the plant.

“There are a lot of plant closings he could have stopped. He talked the talk everyone wanted to hear about saving jobs. I don’t see him saving any jobs,” said Mulcahy. “I think it’s all fake. It’s all a campaign thing. He’s telling people what they want to hear.”

Trump won the 2016 election in part with his promise to keep manufacturing jobs like Mulcahy’s in the US. A promise that helped him win former Democratic voters across the midwest’s manufacturing states. Those promises have done little to turn around the long-term decline of manufacturing in the US.

The US gained roughly 500,000 manufacturing jobs between 2016 and 2019, according to an analysis by the Economics Policy Institute. Trump’s trade wars hurt manufacturing but then came the coronavirus pandemic. Even after adding 66,000 manufacturing jobs in September, the sector is still 647,000 jobs short of where it was in February before the pandemic hit the US. In the meantime, nearly 1,800 US factories disappeared between 2016 and 2018.

Read it here: ‘It’s all fake’: Trump’s manufacturing jobs promises ring hollow in midwest

12.15pm BST

Glenn Greenwald has addressed the topic in typically forthright style for the Intercept today, arguing that “Facebook and Twitter cross a line far more dangerous than what they censor”. Greenwald, who has previously written for this paper, says in his piece:

State censorship is not the only kind of censorship. Private-sector repression of speech and thought, particularly in the internet era, can be as dangerous and consequential. Imagine, for instance, if these two Silicon Valley giants [Facebook and Twitter ]united with Google to declare: henceforth we will ban all content that is critical of President Trump and/or the Republican Party, but will actively promote criticisms of Joe Biden and the Democrats.

Would anyone encounter difficultly understanding why such a decree would constitute dangerous corporate censorship? Would Democrats respond to such a policy by simply shrugging it off on the radical libertarian ground that private corporations have the right to do whatever they want?

It has been astonishing to watch Democrats over the last twenty-four hours justify this censorship on the grounds that private corporations are entitled to do whatever they want. Not even radical free-market libertarians espouse such a pro-corporate view. Even the most ardent capitalist recognizes that companies that wield monopoly or quasi-monopoly power have an obligation to act in the public interest, and are answerable to the public regarding whether they are doing so.

The grave dangers posed by the censorship actions of yesterday should be self-evident. Just over two weeks before a presidential election, Silicon Valley giants — whose industry leaders and workforce overwhelmingly favor the Democratic candidate — took extraordinary steps to block millions, perhaps tens of millions, of American voters from being exposed to what purports to be a major exposé by one of the country’s oldest and largest newspapers.

Read more here: The Intercept – Glenn Greenwald: Facebook and Twitter cross a line far more dangerous than what they censor

12.10pm BST

Alex Hern reports for us this morning on the backlash that Twitter has been experiencing after it attempted to stop the spread of a story about Hunter Biden from the New York Post. The tech company has now changed its policy. Hern writes:

The story, supposedly based on materials stolen from Hunter Biden’s laptop by a computer repair shop, was blocked by Twitter on two grounds, the company said. First, it contained personal information such as private email addresses; and second, it contained hacked material, violating a policy instituted in 2018 to try to limit “hack-and-leak” information operations of the sort run by the Russian state in 2016. That latter policy has now been weakened.

“We will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them,” Twitter’s policy chief Vijaya Gadde tweeted. “We will label tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter.”

The policy against hacked materials had led to concern, going beyond Republican politicians and activists, that Twitter could penalise reporting around hacks, limiting legitimate journalism, Gadde said. “We want to address the concerns that there could be many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter’s purpose of serving the public conversation.”

Read more here: Twitter softens policy on hacking after row over blocked New York Post story

11.55am BST

Pfizer to apply for emergency US use of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate in November

A quick snap from Reuters here that Pfizer has said today that it would apply for emergency use in the United States of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate as soon as a safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November. It is being developed along with Germany’s BioNTech.

Donald Trump has repeatedly said that a vaccine in the US was just around the corner, and applied pressure to the Food and Drug Administration over their process for approving a vaccine for use.

This is the current homepage of the Donald Trump website:

The front page of the Donald Trump official website.
The front page of the Donald Trump official website.
Photograph: Donald Trump official website

As I reported earlier, yesterday, according to the Johns Hopkins university tracker, the US saw 63,610 new coronavirus cases. That’s higher than yesterday and at a level not seen since mid-August. There were 904 new deaths recorded. The level of new daily cases being reported is now around 25% higher than it was a fortnight ago.

11.45am BST

The New York Times opinion desk have put together a panel of what they thought were the best and worst moments of the competing Trump and Biden town halls last night. Some of the views on Biden:

Frank Bruni: For the first half-hour, I struggled to retain consciousness. By the last half-hour, I had plunged into a state of political somnambulism. In other words, Joe Biden had an excellent night. My low rating for how compelling his performance was equals a high rating for how smart it was. Biden is protecting a lead.

Michelle Goldberg: When it was over, Biden put his mask on and kept up a (socially distanced) dialogue with the audience. I wish ABC had left the audio on, but even without it, the visual showed how comfortable he is connecting with normal people.

Peter Wehner: Biden’s best moments came when he spoke not about policy but about concepts like honor and decency, why holding grudges never works and his commitment to heal a weary and wounded nation.

And on Trump:

Matthew Continetti: He made a case for a second term based on the economic and foreign policy achievements that preceded the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. He spent much of the event on defense, but the final moments offered Trump a chance to remind undecided voters about the pre-Covid world and project optimism about the future.

Michelle Cottle: It was bad when he pretended that there is serious dispute about the public health benefits of wearing masks, based largely on some encounter he had with a waiter. Also not good: when he said that people should decide for themselves whether to believe his retweet of a conspiracy theory that President Obama had SEAL team 6 killed to cover up that Osama bin Laden isn’t really dead.

Daniel McCarthy The best moment was Trump’s insistence that he wouldn’t try to set expectations for Amy Coney Barrett’s rulings. He could have said what his base wanted to hear, or he could have said something vague and pleasing to all. Instead he said something true and displeasing — judges should not be proxies for political questions.

Read it here: New York Times – The dueling Biden-Trump town halls: best and worst moments

11.17am BST

Donald Trump has a few events in his diary today. He delivers remarks on ‘Protecting America’s Seniors’ in Fort Myers, Florida this afternoon, before heading to hold a rally in Ocala. He then jumps back on Air Force One to head for Georgia, where there is a second 7pm rally in Macon.

He’s up and tweeting, and rather bizarrely his first tweet of the day is to an article on satirical website the Babylon Bee. The president of the United States has shared an article they wrote yesterday saying that Twitter had shut their entire site down to stop negative stories about Joe Biden spreading.

Trump says: “Wow, this has never been done in history. This includes his really bad interview last night. Why is Twitter doing this. Bringing more attention to Sleepy Joe & Big T”

Other recent articles on the Babylon Bee site include ‘Mark Zuckerberg pops out of man’s shower to warn him the story he’s reading is fake news’, ‘Senator Hirono demands Amy Coney Barrett be weighed against a duck to see if she is a witch’ and ‘Man forced to resign as patriarch after failing to bring all groceries inside in one trip’.

You can imagine how this is being recieved.

Updated at 11.18am BST

10.56am BST

Here’s what Max Greenwood at the Hill thought about Joe Biden’s performance last night:

Biden’s town hall was a far cry from that of president Trump. [It] was a calm affair, in which he was asked and answered questions on everything from criminal justice reform to climate change and foreign policy.

In one of the most notable exchanges of the evening, the former vice president left the door open to adding justices to the Supreme Court. He noted that he was “not a fan” of such a move, but expressed openness to the issue if he believed Senate Republicans were moving too quickly to confirm Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Asked whether voters had a right to know his position on the matter, Biden said that he would make his stance clear before election day.

Biden acknowledged that his past support for a decades-old crime bill that included mandatory minimums for drug offenses was a “mistake.” He defended other aspects of criminal justice legislation that he supported during his time in the Senate, however, and said certain elements weren’t executed properly by the states.

At times, the former vice president found himself walking a fine line between his own platform and the politics of the voters he needs to win over if he hopes to capture the White House in November.

Asked at one point about whether he would move to ban fracking, an important issue in Pennsylvania, he reiterated that he would not. But he also said that he would “stop giving tax breaks and subsidizing oil,” and planned to invest heavily in renewable energy.

Biden sought to cast himself as an even-keeled alternative to Trump. Responding to a question about the president’s foreign policy accomplishments Biden said that Trump deserved “a little but not a whole lot” of credit.

“We find ourselves less secure than we’ve been,” Biden said. “I do compliment the president on the deal with Israel recently, but if you take a look we’re not very well trusted around the world.”

Read more here: The Hill – Biden draws sharp contrast with Trump in low-key town hall

10.50am BST

There’s a school of thought that says that Joe Biden’s large national polling lead suggests the election is his to lose on 3 November. But there’s also the ramifications of the US electoral system to contend with. To end up in the White House Biden has to flip key swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin blue. He’s also got to keep the Democratic vote up in the battleground states that narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Chris McGreal has been in Virginia, Minnesota for us, talking to Democrats who voted Trump in 2016, and who plan to back him again…

“The Democratic party left us. Even in the past four years it’s changed so much. Supporting people who riot? Defunding the police? That’s crazy. I think a lot of us up here are Democrats in Republican clothing now,” he said.

Cuffe, who twice voted for Barack Obama, is one of six mayors from a stretch of Minnesota mining country, known as the Iron Range, who turned their back on the Democratic party and signed a joint letter endorsing Trump even as the state is swinging behind the president’s opponent, Joe Biden

The mayors said that after decades of voting for Democrats, they no longer regarded the party as advocating for workers.

“Lifelong politicians like Joe Biden are out of touch with the working class, out of touch with what the country needs, and out of touch with those of us here on the Iron Range and in small towns like ours across our nation,” they said.

The mayors praised Trump for standing up to China, cutting taxes and said he “fought for the working class”.

“Now, four years later, the Iron Range is roaring back to life and for the first time in a very long time, locals are hopeful because of this president’s policies and willingness to fight for us,” the mayors said in their endorsement.

Read more here: ‘The Democratic party left us’: how rural Minnesota is making the switch to Trump

10.43am BST

Here’s a reminder that we’ve got a live online discussion of the US election coming up on Tuesday 20 October at 2pm ET – that’s a 7pm BST evening kick-off if, like me, you are based in the UK. It will feature a panel of our leading US journalists.

Senior political reporter Daniel Strauss, political correspondent Lauren Gambino and columnist Richard Wolffe will be chaired by our columnist and podcast presenter Jonathan Freedland. There are more details and the ability to book your tickets here: Guardian Newsroom: The US presidential election

10.42am BST

Russell Contreras reports for the Associated Press on a group of Black scholars, activists and writers who have launched a new project to combat misleading information online around voting, reparations and immigration, supporters.

The newly formed National Black Cultural Information Trust seeks to counter fake social media accounts and Twitter trolls that often discourage Black voters from participating in elections or seek to turn Black voters against other communities of color.

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor, the project’s founder, said some dubious accounts behind the social media #ADOS movement which stands for American Descendants of Slavery have urged Black voters to skip the presidential election.

Some accounts also use the hashtag to flame supposed divisions between African Americans and Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America, she said. Most recently, some social media users have used #ADOS to blame Somali immigrants in Minneapolis for the May 2020 death of George Floyd rather than the police officer charged with killing him.

“The disinformation used to target Black communities is cultural,” said Aiwuyor, an African American activist and scholar. “It’s cultural disinformation, which uses cultural issues to infuse false information and cause confusion.”

Aiwuyor said some social media accounts are using “digital Blackface” posing as Black users when they aren’t or resurrecting old accounts that haven’t tweeted in four years to spread false information about where to vote or where candidates stand on issues.

Members of the National Black Cultural Information Trust plan to monitor social media posts and flag those spreading misleading and fake stories. They plan to use crowdsourcing, website tools that show if accounts have troll-like behavior, and scholars on standby to counter any claims about slavery or voting.

10.23am BST

Gabby Orr for Politico has some glimpses of what it was like behind the scenes at Trump’s town hall TV appearance last night. She writes:

Like a boxer consulting his coach during breaks, the president was egged on by aides when Guthrie and the audience paused for commercials. Some clustered around the president for several minutes during the breaks.

At the edge of the stage during the event stood White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah and senior campaign adviser David Bossie. Trump’s daughter Tiffany and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of his eldest son Don Jr., were also seated among the audience.

During one TV break, Trump stood up and acknowledged a small audience behind him — some of whom delivered a whoop and cheer, another calling out “Latinos for Trump.”

The setting marked a starkly different scene from the flurry of rallies Trump has embarked upon in the final three weeks before election day. Most of the rallies feature crowds packed shoulder to shoulder just like they were pre-pandemic, many not wearing masks. Thursday’s town hall event forced Trump into an environment designed for social distancing, with many attendees shown wearing masks.

President Donald Trump talks with voters after the NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami.
President Donald Trump talks with voters after the NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami.
Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Read it here: Politico – Inside Trump’s town hall: Plenty of sparring and a few cheers

10.13am BST

Five of the men accused in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will return to federal court today as a hearing on whether there is enough evidence to charge them continues, reports the Associated Press.

A federal judge also plans to consider whether two of the men, including the Michigan man described by federal authorities as the ringleader of the effort, should remain in jail before trial.

US magistrate Judge Sally Berens on Tuesday ordered Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta held without bond until trial, saying their repeated participation in discussions about abducting Michigan’s Democratic governor and surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation home validated the decision. Berens is scheduled to make bond decisions Friday for Adam Fox and Ty Garbin.

A sixth man, Delaware resident Barry Croft, was separately ordered to be transferred to Michigan earlier this week.

The preliminary hearing began Tuesday and featured hours of testimony by a lead FBI agent on the Michigan case, revealing new detail about investigators’ use of confidential informants, undercover agents and encrypted communication to thwart the purported scheme.

Agent Richard Trask also said members of anti-government paramilitary groups from several states discussed abducting Whitmer or Virginia’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, during a June meeting in Ohio.

Fox and Croft were among those who attended that session, according to testimony and federal court documents. But it was not clear if talk of targeting Northam went beyond that meeting, and nothing from the complaint or Trask’s testimony indicated that anyone had been charged with a plot involving Northam.

Several of their defense attorneys implied during questioning on Tuesday that their clients were “big talkers” who did not intend to follow through with action.

Prosecutors, though, said some of the men conducted surveillance of Whitmer’s northern Michigan house in August and September and four of the men had planned to meet last week to pay for explosives and exchange tactical gear.

Seven other men purportedly linked to an extremist paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen were charged in state court last week with providing material support for terrorist acts and possession of a firearm while committing a felony. Michigan’s attorney general charged an eighth person, a Wisconsin man, in that case on Thursday.

After news of the alleged plot emerged, Gov. Whitmer was very vocal in her criticism of Donald Trump for failing to disavow white supremacy and for encouraging militias with a call to ‘Liberate Michigan’ on social media.

10.09am BST

Ken Dilanian has this for NBC News on those emails that the New York Post is claiming are from Hunter Biden’s laptop:

Federal investigators are examining whether the emails allegedly describing activities by Joe Biden and his son Hunter and found on a laptop at a Delaware repair shop are linked to a foreign intelligence operation, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The FBI seized the laptop and a hard drive through a grand jury subpoena. The subpoena was later published by the New York Post. The bureau has declined to comment.

George Mesires, attorney for Hunter Biden, said in a statement, “We have no idea where this came from, and certainly cannot credit anything that Rudy Giuliani provided to the New York Post, but what I do know for certain is that this purported meeting never happened.”

“The New York Post never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story,” said Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates. “They certainly never raised that Rudy Giuliani — whose discredited conspiracy theories and alliance with figures connected to Russian intelligence have been widely reported — claimed to have such materials.”

Bates added, “We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.”

Read more here: NBC News – Feds examining whether alleged Hunter Biden emails are linked to a foreign intel operation

10.06am BST

63,610 new coronavirus cases and 904 further deaths reported in US yesterday

There’s no sign that the spread of coronavirus in the US is slowing down. Yesterday, according to the Johns Hopkins university tracker, the US saw 63,610 new coronavirus cases reported. That’s higher than yesterday and at a level not seen since mid-August. There were 904 new deaths recorded.

There’s often criticism of the media having a focus on daily figures rather than the broader trend, but the trend in the US is definitely heading in the wrong direction. The level of new daily cases being reported is now around 25% higher than it was a fortnight ago.

Updated at 11.56am BST

9.55am BST

Our Politics Weekly podcast out this morning has a US election slant to it. Our columnists Jonathan Freedland and Rafael Behr look at how the election might affect America’s relationship with the rest of the world. You can listen to it here:

9.53am BST

You would not say it has been a vintage week for Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and personal lawyer to Donald Trump. Firstly, his staff managed somehow to upload to his YouTube channel by mistake a video where he mocked Asian people in a racist way.

Then, his daughter Caroline Rose Giuliani wrote a scathing piece for Vanity Fair in which she endorsed Joe Biden, described how she’d spent a lifetime trying to forge an identity separate from her last name, and said: “As a child, I saw firsthand the kind of cruel, selfish politics that Donald Trump has now inflicted on our country. It made me want to run as far away from them as possible. But trust me when I tell you: Running away does not solve the problem.”

And now this morning the Washington Post has come out with a story saying that the White House was warned that Giuliani was target of Russian intelligence operation to feed misinformation to Trump.

The Washington Post says:

US intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence, according to four former officials familiar with the matter.

The warnings were based on multiple sources, including intercepted communications, that showed Giuliani was interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence during a December 2019 trip to Ukraine, where he was gathering information that he thought would expose corrupt acts by former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

The intelligence raised concerns that Giuliani was being used to feed Russian misinformation to the president, the former officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information and conversations.

Read it here: Washington Post – White House was warned Giuliani was target of Russian intelligence operation to feed misinformation to Trump

It’s a significant development, because as Mother Jones’ David Corn wrote on Wednesday, Giuliani is a key cog in the wheels of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden story this week.

On Wednesday, the New York Post released what it hailed as a bombshell: an unidentified computer repair store owner in Delaware had come to possess a laptop that contained Hunter Biden emails (and purportedly a sex tape), the hard drive and computer was seized by the FBI, the store owner at some point passed a copy of the hard drive to Rudy Giuliani.

The bad faith animating the Post story is demonstrated by its open embrace—in the first sentence—of a demonstrably false narrative and by its failure to report Giuliani’s association with a Russian intelligence agent who the Department of Treasury has accused of interfering in the 2020 election.

Read it here: Mother Jones – Giuliani and the New York Post Are Pushing Russian Disinformation. It’s a Big Test for the Media

9.41am BST

I’ve mentioned QAnon a few times this morning after it cropped up during Trump’s town hall. The president refused to disavow it. Lois Beckett has put together for us a timeline of the violence linked to QAnon.

QAnon adherents believe that Donald Trump is trying to save the world from a cabal of satanic pedophiles. The conspiracy theory’s narrative includes centuries-old antisemitic tropes, like the belief that the cabal is harvesting blood from abused children, and it names specific people, including Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities, as participants in a global plot. Experts call these extreme, baseless claims “an incitement to violence”.

The conspiracy theory’s claims have put ordinary people at risk. The FBI identified QAnon in 2019 as a potential domestic terror threat and the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point described it as a “novel challenge to public security”.

QAnon supporters believe that there will soon be mass arrests, and members of the cabal will be brought to justice. If supporters of the conspiracy theory begin to lose faith in Trump’s ability to stop the cabal of child abusers, said Travis View, one of the hosts of the QAnon Anonymous podcast, that might inspire them to begin taking more direct violent action themselves.

Beckett lists 12 incidents of violence since June 2018 that have been associated with the conspiracy theory. Read more here: QAnon – a timeline of violence linked to the conspiracy theory

9.37am BST

Here’s what our senior political reporter Daniel Strauss made of it all last night:

  1. Biden more at ease in a town hall setting. Whether he was more at ease or felt less restrained, Joe Biden was clearly more comfortable in the town-hall format than a debate setting.
  2. Trump still won’t disavow QAnon. Trump again refrained from condemning QAnon, the internet conspiracy theory that a massive cabal of high-profile figures are involved in a satanic pedophilia ring. The movement has no basis in fact.
  3. Biden open to court-packing. Biden didn’t commit to supporting adding seats to the supreme court, but he suggested more openness than he has in the past.
  4. Guthrie was on her game and did her homework. NBC host Savannah Guthrie came ready to press Trump. She had follow-up questions. She was ready for Trump’s false statements and incorrect claims.
  5. Trump was unclear on coronavirus testing. We still don’t know if he tested negative before the TV debate with Joe Biden that took place a couple of days before Trump’s positive test was announced.
  6. Trump won’t apologize for anything.

Read Daniel’s verdict in full here: Town hall takeaways – Biden at ease while Trump struggles under pressure

9.18am BST

Trump campaign raised 7.8m in September – 5.2m less than Biden did

Overnight the Donald Trump campaign released their September fund-raising figures. Trump, the Republican National Committee and affiliated joint fundraising committees raised 7.8 million last month. The campaign says it has 1.4 million cash on hand.

The figures compare poorly to those previously announced by his opponent Joe Biden. On Wednesday they announced that they raised a record 3 million in September, and have 2 million in reserves.

9.05am BST

Donald Trump’s campaign director of comms, Tim Murtaugh, has been vexed overnight that Joe Biden was not pressed on the recent reporting by the New York Post about his son Hunter Biden – declaring journalism to be dead.

It should be noted, if you’ve not been following the New York Post’s story, they claim to have produced an email which shows that Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, approached Hunter Biden about setting up a meeting with his father, contrary to Joe Biden’s claim that he has never spoken to his son about his business interests in Ukraine. The New York Post have yet to produce any evidence that Hunter Biden replied to the email, or that any such meeting between Pozharskyi and Biden Snr ever took place.

The Trump campaign have issued a statement from Murtaugh delivering his full verdict on last night’s dueling town halls:

Even though the commission canceled the in-person debate that could have happened tonight, one occurred anyway, and President Trump soundly defeated NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in her role as debate opponent and Joe Biden surrogate. President Trump masterfully handled Guthrie’s attacks and interacted warmly and effectively with the voters in the room. Over on ABC it was a completely different scene, as once again Biden was kept comfortable and away from any questions that might challenge him.

8.57am BST

Last night’s competing town halls have slightly over-shadowed the fact that yesterday also saw the close of the committee stage of nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the US supreme court.

Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said that he has the votes to confirm the nomination of conservative Barrett as the upper chamber’s judiciary committee scheduled a vote for 22 October to advance the nomination towards a full Senate ballot shortly after.

Here are the highlights of the four days of hearings.

8.49am BST

Here’s what Aaron Blake and Eugene Scott at the Washington Post pulled out as their five key takeaways from last night:

  1. Trump’s smorgasbord of misinformation was deftly called out in real time. In the approximately 20 minutes before the town hall was turned over to audience questions, Guthrie thoroughly grilled him.
  2. Biden had the steady showing he needed with the clock ticking down. Biden didn’t make any glaring mistakes that would jeopardize his position.
  3. Trump steps into another non-denouncing minefield — on QAnon. In the span of less than a minute Trump sought to once and for all put to bed the denounce-white-supremacy issue that dogged him after the debate two weeks ago — then almost immediately created another not-denouncing issue.
  4. Biden opens the door further on court-packing and says he’ll confirm a stance soon. Biden has been cagey in his answers about this. He has said that if he gives an answer that will dominate the conversation, rather than the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett itself. Biden said he’ll take a firm position by election day.
  5. Trump’s last negative test before his coronavirus diagnosis: Still clear as mud. He said he was “probably” tested the day of the debate. Then added, “Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t.”

Read it in full here: Washington Post – 5 takeaways from the dueling Trump and Biden town halls

8.38am BST

It was this exchange between NBC host Savannah Guthrie and Donald Trump that prompted what was probably the most cutting social media interjection of the night. As Adam Gabbatt noted for us:

Guthrie challenged Trump over QAnon, a baseless online conspiracy theory that the FBI believes is a potential domestic terror threat. Asked by Guthrie if he would denounce the QAnon theory and “just say it’s crazy and not true”, Trump responded: “I don’t know about QAnon.”

“What I do hear about it, they are very strongly against pedophilia,” Trump said.

Trump then seemingly offered a tacit defense of QAnon, whose adherents believe that a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires runs the world while engaging in pedophilia.

This week Trump shared a post from a QAnon Twitter account which claimed, baselessly, that Joe Biden had had a navy Seal team killed. Guthrie asked Trump why he had done so.

“That was a retweet! People can decide for themselves!” Trump said.

Guthrie responded: “I don’t get that. You’re the president, not someone’s crazy uncle.”

On Twitter, Trump’s niece, who wrote the book Too Much and Never Enough documenting her experiences with her uncle, appeared to suggest Guthrie could be mistaken.

Read more here: Moderator Savannah Guthrie hailed for keeping Trump in check at town hall

8.28am BST

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

The NBC network hosted a town hall event with Donald Trump. ABC hosted a simultaneous town hall event with his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. It was a fitting battle for a ratings-obsessed US president who made himself a reality TV star on The Apprentice.

For political geeks, it required a nimble finger on the remote control, like toggling between two unmissable sports games. Anyone who took that trouble discovered, not entirely unexpectedly, that the candidates for the American presidency are not merely from different parties but apparently also from different planets.

The president perched awkwardly on a stool, sweating under studio lights, and rambled feverishly like “someone’s crazy uncle”, as host Savannah Guthrie put it. Biden, by contrast, looked relaxed in a white armchair like a grandfather with pipe, slippers and twinkle in his eye.

Guthrie delivered a better performance than the moderators of the first presidential debate or last week’s vice-presidential debate. She pushed Trump hard on whether he had taken a Covid-19 test on the day of the first debate. He stumbled through a variety of answers: possibly, probably and don’t know. Guthrie also challenged Trump over his longtime refusal to wear a mask and America’s high death rate. The president became defensive.

What was happening in Bidenworld over on ABC? He was reminding host George Stephanopoulos that Trump had advocated “crazy stuff” like injecting bleach in your body.

Switching back to NBC, Trump was saying of the virus: “It should’ve never happened because of China. It happened because of China. And you have to get that and understand that. But it shouldn’t have happened.”

By 8.13pm, the president was being asked about white supremacy.

Read more here: David Smith – Trump and Biden town halls: two channels, two candidates, two planets

8.21am BST

Here are some quick clips of the two performances last night. US president Donald Trump refused to denounce right wing conspiracy theory QAnon during a town hall-style event, claiming he didn’t know about it, despite retweeting QAnon accounts.

In heated exchanges with NBC host Savannah Guthrie, Trump was pressed to denounce white supremacy before being asked about QAnon and a baseless conspiracy theory about Joe Biden.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden meanwhile took to the stage in Pennsylvania in a modified town hall event, following the cancellation of the second debate. Biden gave detailed answers about his proposals on everything from the coronavirus pandemic to tax reform – but he wasn’t asked about the recent New York Post article featuring his son Hunter Biden which has caused quite a stir in Republican circles.

8.13am BST

Good morning, and welcome to our live coverage of US politics for Friday. Debates are usually seen as a chance to potentially sway the minds of a few undecided voters. Whether anybody was persuaded to change their view by yesterday’s competing presidential town halls on different networks remains to be seen.

The day is sure to be dominated by the fall-out from the events. Here’s a catch up on where we are, and a little of what we might expect today…

I’m Martin Belam – you can email me at martin.belam@theguardian.com if you want to get in touch.

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

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 113

Read more

Food, Life and Style

Easy as pie: 17 mouth-watering apple recipes – from tarte tatin to roast pork belly

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Easy as pie: 17 mouth-watering apple recipes – from tarte tatin to roast pork belly” was written by Tim Dowling, for The Guardian on Wednesday 9th September 2020 10.30 UTC

The British apple season is a long one – spanning the earliest and latest ripening varieties, it runs from August to November – so there is no need to panic or speak of gluts. Stored under optimal conditions, apples also last a really long time, which is why we’re never without them. For the grower, apple season is a thing – for the rest of us, not so much.

But there’s nothing like year-round plenty to induce a failure of imagination, a failure that often starts at the supermarket. I’ll just buy apples, you think. I can always pile them in a bowl until inspiration strikes. Sometimes the fruit flies get there first.

Fortunately there is no shortage of apple recipes to warm up the cooling nights of early autumn. Here are 17 of the best.

Nigel Slater’s baked apples.
Nigel Slater’s baked apples. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

If the words “peel, core and slice a kilo of apples” are enough to put you off any new recipe, you may want to think about purchasing a crank-handle peeling machine. While hardly necessary gadgets, peeler-corers are relatively inexpensive things of beauty, fun to use, and most claim to do pears as well. Even if you don’t want to risk the investment, you should still watch a YouTube video of someone demonstrating some antique models, which is reliably mesmerising.

An old-fashioned baked apple is as good a place to begin as any, since it requires a minimum of effort, skill or planning. Cored eating apples are stuffed with a mix of spices and dried fruit and then baked until soft – between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on size. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall uses a fruit butter that also includes muscovado sugar and cider brandy, while Nigel Slater offers the option of honey, brandy and crumbled ginger cake. A baked apple is, as you can see, a forgiving thing, so feel free to use what you’ve got.

Apple charlotte from Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
Apple charlotte from Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard. Photograph: Kate Young of The Little Library Café

Apple charlotte is only marginally more complicated: browned apples are baked in a loaf tin lined with white bread, like an autumnal version of summer pudding. Apple crumble is another classic, and it’s also a handy way to use up any blackberries you may have picked. You should never pass up the opportunity because there simply aren’t 17 good ways to cook with blackberries. There are, by my count, four, and this is one of them.

Dan Lepard’s alehouse apple pie.
Dan Lepard’s alehouse apple pie. Photograph: Colin Campbell

Dan Lepard’s alehouse apple pie is as rough and ready as it sounds: the pastry even has beer in it. The apples, chopped, browned in butter and layered with spices, are loaded into the middle of a square of rolled pastry, which is then folded haphazardly over them by the corners, so the resulting pie looks as if it was made by a drunk.

For a more considered-looking pudding, Felicity Cloake’s perfect French apple tart has a slick, patisserie-style finish, but don’t worry – all that fussiness is confined to the top layer, with thinly sliced apples (peeling, she insists, is optional) laid out in a neat spiral. Below that are layers of frangipane and apple puree. This is not the same as a tarte tatin, which is baked upside down, with the pastry on top, and then inverted for serving. Here’s an easy recipe for that using shop-bought puff pastry.

Crisp eating apples are recommended for all of the above, by the way. As Lepard points out, sour cooking apples tend to turn to fluff when baked. His recipe for bramley and custard meringue pie actually makes a virtue of this – the fluffy apple mush is swirled into a custard and topped with stiff egg whites.

Toffee apples exert a powerful nostalgic pull, although thinking back they were probably more fun to make than they were to eat. This recipe is certainly simple enough, but it begins with an off-putting step: you have to drop your apples in boiling water first, because they’re coated in a preservative wax and if you don’t get it off the toffee won’t stick. To be fair, you’d probably need to do this even if your fruit came straight from the tree – apples produce their own natural wax, which is washed off during processing, and then replaced.

Liam Charles’s toffee apple buns.
Liam Charles’s toffee apple buns. Photograph: Yuki Sugiura/The Guardian

The classic combination of apple and toffee can be revisited in more genteel form in this toffee apple cake from James Rich, or in Liam Charles’ toffee apple buns. Granny smith is the preferred variety for both recipes, but don’t let an ageing bowl of cox’s stop you trying either.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s roast pork belly with apple, soy and ginger.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s roast pork belly with apple, soy and ginger. Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian

Apart from puddings, apples work beautifully in any number of savoury dishes, and have a well-known affinity with pork – surely the least alarming of all the meat/fruit pairings. This is exploited to good effect in Yotam Ottolenghi’s roast pork belly, along with soy and ginger and again in this chorizo, apple and cider tapas from Rachel Kelly. Gizzi Erskine’s pork and apple stroganoff is a slow braise that can be left to gently bubble away until tender.

Apple is a familiar component of fruit salad, but here are two salads where apple is the only fruit, providing a sharp, sweet contrasting note – a tart variety would be ideal for this sort of thing. The first is a remoulade of apple and radish and the second a Thai-inspired tomato, apple and shallot salad with a lime and fish sauce dressing.

The Cutting Room Bar’s Yoann Carrot’s apple crumble in a glass.
The Cutting Room Bar’s Yoann Carrot’s apple crumble in a glass. Photograph: Dan Mathews/The Guardian

Finally, an apple cocktail – not the ubiquitous and deeply misguided appletini, but a drink from the Cutting Room Bar’s Yoann Carrot called Apple Crumble in a Glass. It’s a heady mix of bourbon, apple juice, amaretto, cannelle syrup and digestive biscuit. Unless you press your own apple juice – and I think you should – the only apple required here is for the fan-shaped garnish, which is probably also the most difficult part of the recipe. Skip that bit if you have to, and remember: do not operate apple-peeling machinery under the influence of alcohol.

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

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 1037

Read more

Corona Virus, Health, India, World

Coronavirus live news: India cases pass 4m; anti-lockdown protesters arrested in Victoria

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Portugal records biggest surge in infections since May – as it happened” was written by Helen Sullivan (now), Jedidajah Otte, Sarah Marsh, Nicola Slawson, Elias Visontay and Michael McGowan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Saturday 5th September 2020 23.51 UTC

12.51am BST

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

12.45am BST

‘Nobody is safe’: why Australia’s Covid jobs crisis could last years

It is almost 30 years since Australia last slid into recession, a now distant time when no one had heard of the internet and the Property Council had just appointed a young researcher called Scott Morrison.

The then treasurer, Paul Keating, famously said it was the “recession we had to have”, but the slump prompted structural reforms and the economic scars were quickly healed as Australia rode the Chinese tiger to unprecedented prosperity.

Fast-forward three decades and the path out of recession does not look so simple with unemployment climbing to more than 1 million. One expert says “nobody is safe” from redundancy.

The combination of a recession and the coronavirus lockdown laid over the top poses a profound economic challenge for the future labour market:

12.22am BST

Brazil recorded 30,168 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as well as 682 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said on Saturday.

Brazil has registered 4.1 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 126,203, according to ministry data.

Brazil has the second highest number of coronavirus cases and related deaths in the world. India, which has now registered more than 4 million cases, could soon overtake Brazil.

A city health worker waits for the results of a resident’s quick Covid-19 test at Morro da Providencia favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3 September 2020.
A city health worker waits for the results of a resident’s quick Covid-19 test at Morro da Providencia favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3 September 2020. Photograph: Silvia Izquierdo/AP

12.06am BST

Hi, Helen Sullivan joining you now.

I’ll be bringing you the latest global developments in the pandemic as well as Australian updates.

As always, you can find me on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com.

12.01am BST

Summary

Here the latest key developments at a glance:

That’s all from me for today, I’m now handing over to my colleagues in Australia.

11.56pm BST

With coronavirus spreading through colleges at alarming rates, US universities are scrambling to find quarantine locations in dormitory buildings and off-campus properties to isolate the thousands of students who have caught Covid-19 or been exposed to it.

Sacred Heart University has converted a 34-room guest house at the former Connecticut headquarters of General Electric to quarantine students.

The University of South Carolina ran out of space at a dormitory for quarantined students and began sending them to rooms it rented in hotel-like quarters at a training centre for prosecutors, the Associated Press reports.

The Air Force Academy sent 400 cadets to hotels to free up space on its Colorado base for quarantines.

Students walk on campus at the University of South Carolina on 3 September 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. During the final week of August the university reported a 26.6% positivity rate among the student population tested for Covid-19.
Students walk on campus at the University of South Carolina on 3 September 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. During the final week of August the university reported a 26.6% positivity rate among the student population tested for Covid-19. Photograph: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

The actions again demonstrate how the virus has uprooted traditional campus life amid a pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people in the US and proven to be especially problematic for universities since the start of the school year.

Many colleges quickly scrapped in-person learning in favour of online after cases began to spike, bars have been shut down in college towns, and students, fraternities and sororities have been repeatedly disciplined for parties and large gatherings.

Health officials such as White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx have been urging colleges to keep students on campus to avoid them infecting members of their family and community.

Updated at 12.05am BST

11.34pm BST

As of 6 September, authorities reported 63 new cases and 5 further deaths in Australia’s Victoria state over the past 24 hours.

“Our thoughts are with the loved ones of all those affected. More information will be available later today,” the Department of Health and Human Services tweeted.

11.22pm BST

Here are a few impressions of the unfolding pandemic from around the world:

People gather on the beach at the Pacific Ocean on the first day of the Labor Day weekend amid a heatwave on 5 September 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Temperatures are soaring across California, sparking concerns that crowded beaches could allow for wider spread of the coronavirus.
People gather on the beach at the Pacific Ocean on the first day of the Labor Day weekend amid a heatwave on 5 September 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Temperatures are soaring across California, sparking concerns that crowded beaches could allow for wider spread of the coronavirus. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Delhi Metro network in New Delhi, India prepares to resume services partially after long lockdown of more than five months due to the pandemic. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) announced that it will resume its operation services on the Yellow Line from 7 September.
Delhi Metro network in New Delhi, India prepares to resume services partially after long lockdown of more than five months due to the pandemic. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) announced that it will resume its operation services on the Yellow Line from 7 September. Photograph: Manish Rajput/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock
A waitress wearing a face mask serves a table at a restaurant in Vienna, Austria, on 5 September 2020. The Covid-19 ‘traffic light’ system has officially started operation in Austria, the government announced on Friday. Due to the consistently high number of new infections, Austria’s three large cities – Vienna, Linz and Graz – as well as the Tyrolean district of Kufstein light up in ‘yellow’ (medium risk), while the rest of the country is designated ‘green’ (low risk), according to a press conference held by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and other government officials.
A waitress wearing a face mask serves a table at a restaurant in Vienna, Austria, on 5 September 2020. The Covid-19 ‘traffic light’ system has officially started operation in Austria, the government announced on Friday. Due to the consistently high number of new infections, Austria’s three large cities – Vienna, Linz and Graz – as well as the Tyrolean district of Kufstein light up in ‘yellow’ (medium risk), while the rest of the country is designated ‘green’ (low risk), according to a press conference held by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and other government officials. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Updated at 11.35pm BST

10.09pm BST

As in previous weeks, thousands of Israelis gathered outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem on Saturday despite record levels of coronavirus infections, calling on Benjamin Netanyahu to resign.

The protesters held banners reading “Revolution” and “Citizens Write the Constitution” as they marched toward Netanyahu’s residence.

The government’s missteps in handling the coronavirus crisis after relative success in its early stages have mostly fuelled the summer-long weekend demonstrations.

Demonstrators stage a protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding his resignation over corruption cases and his failure to combat the pandemic in Jerusalem on 5 September 2020. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Demonstrators stage a protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding his resignation over corruption cases and his failure to combat the pandemic in Jerusalem on 5 September 2020. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The death toll has surpassed 1,000 and the country is mulling a new lockdown to stop the rapid spike in daily infections.

Israel currently has over 26,000 active Covid-19 patients.

Police have clashed with protesters on several occasions and used water cannons to clear them off main streets and squares, though in recent weeks the gatherings have been calmer but larger, the Associated Press reports.

Updated at 10.29pm BST

9.45pm BST

French health authorities reported 8,550 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, down from Friday’s 8,975.

Friday’s figure had set a new all-time high of daily additional infections since the disease started to spread in the country at the end of the winter.

The number of people in France who have died from Covid-19 increased by 12 to 30,698, and the cumulative number of cases now totals 317,706.

Re-enactors in World War One (WWI) French army uniform wear protective masks on 5 September, as they participate in a two-day event in Meaux, France, to mark the 106th anniversary of the Battle of the Marne. The battle took place in September 1914 and resulted in an allied victory against the German armies in the west.
Re-enactors in World War One (WWI) French army uniform wear protective masks on 5 September, as they participate in a two-day event in Meaux, France, to mark the 106th anniversary of the Battle of the Marne. The battle took place in September 1914 and resulted in an allied victory against the German armies in the west. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 10.23pm BST

9.13pm BST

Covid-19 could now be endemic in some parts of England that combine severe deprivation, poor housing and large BAME communities, according to a highly confidential government analysis.

The document, leaked to the Observer, and marked “official sensitive”, suggests the national lockdown in these parts of the north of England had little effect in reducing the level of infections, and that in such communities it is now firmly established.

My colleague Toby Helm reports.

8.57pm BST

The lengthy coronavirus shutdown of pubs in Ireland has hit the 3,000 or so people in the village of Dunmore and surrounding area particularly hard.

Five out of its six village pubs have been shut since March, depriving the community of institutions that act as pillars of rural life.

Publican Joe Sheridan unbolts the door of Walsh’s Bar in the County Galway village.

With bars shut, “you can see the people carrying the woes of life on their faces”, he said.

The walls of his pub are jammed with group photos, sports memorabilia and dusty bottles.

It is testament to the pub’s fluid role as community hall, museum and an understated sort of group catharsis in the village.

“The lights are going out in rural Ireland,” he said.

Publican Joe Sheridan poses for a photograph in his closed pub, Walsh’s bar, in the rural village of Dunmore, west of Ireland, on 3 September, 2020.
Joe Sheridan poses for a photograph in his closed pub, Walsh’s bar, in the village of Dunmore, west of Ireland, on 3 September. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Irish pubs shut on 16 March, as the nation braced for the coronavirus, which has so far claimed 1,777 lives.

After a 15-week hibernation, those serving food were permitted to reopen.

But so-called “wet pubs” serving drink only remained shut, with the government repeatedly pushing back reopening.

Restrictions are due to expire on 13 September in what the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland has called the “longest lockdown in the EU”.

Industry bodies estimated that around half of the Republic’s 7,000 pubs are still shuttered.

With population flight, a declining agriculture industry and scant alternative social outlets, pubs in rural Ireland play a role that is hard to overstate.

Many people in the countryside still eat their main daily meal at lunchtime, reserving a stretch of uninterrupted evening for the pub.

Historically, pubs have acted as hardware stores, grocery shops and drapers, filling the void of state infrastructure with small business and mutual aid.

“It’s the thing of a ‘meitheal’,” explained Sheridan. “It’s an Irish word for a group coming together to work voluntarily.”

But the lockdown is “messing with traditions that have been built up over generations”, he said.

Updated at 9.02pm BST

8.22pm BST

Thousands attend "covidiot" protest in Croatia

Several thousand people rallied on Saturday in the Croatian capital to protest against measures imposed by the authorities in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which they said endangered human rights and freedoms.

“Covid is a lie, we are not all covidiots” and “Take off the mask, turn off the TV, live a full life”, read some of the banners carried by the protesters who gathered at Zagreb’s main square.

The rally, dubbed Festival of Freedom, was aimed at warning against the coronavirus-related restrictive measures which, the organisers say, “limited citizens’ basic rights and freedoms” without a “valid medical or legal basis”.

“We insist on safeguarding human rights, freedoms, knowledge, solidarity and mutual respect,” the group that organised the event said in a statement, according to AFP.

It warned notably against limiting of “socialisation, imposing of physical distance and deprivation of physical contact”.

People hold placards as several thousand people protest against measures imposed by the authorities due to the coronavirus pandemic in Zagreb’s main square on 5 September 2020.
Thousands of people protest against measures imposed by the authorities owing to the coronavirus pandemic in Zagreb’s main square on 5 September. Photograph: Denis Lovrović/AFP/Getty Images

On Facebook, health minister Vili Beros said of the rally that he could not support a “non-scientific approach to Covid-19”.

“All temporary restrictions had only one goal – to protect the health and lives of Croatian citizens. We succeeded in that,” he wrote.

The nation of 4.2 million braved the first few months of the pandemic recording less than 100 cases daily for several months and then almost no new infections by mid-May.

But new cases have risen sharply since the country opened its borders to tourists for the summer season, hitting more than 200 daily in late August and a record 369 on Thursday.

Since mid-July, the wearing of face masks is mandatory on public transport, and in shops and all services involving close contact with clients.

Restrictions on the number of people attending public gatherings vary depending on the region.

Croatia has so far reported nearly 12,000 infections and 197 deaths.

Updated at 11.44pm BST

7.52pm BST

With the help of a local fishing boat, hundreds of migrants were transferred on Saturday to a ferry from the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa to relieve severe overcrowding during the pandemic at a residence for asylum-seekers.

After their transfer on Saturday, they must spend 14 days in precautionary quarantine on the ferry, according to AFP.

The vessel was one of several chartered by the Italian government, after Lampedusa’s mayor and Sicily’s governor complained about the risk of spreading Covid-19.

After so many migrants arrived this summer – some of them rescued at sea, others reaching the island’s shores without help – Lampedusa’s migrant centre held 2,000 people despite a capacity of less than 200.

Migrants wait to board a coastguard ship that will take them to the GNV Rhapsody ferry moored off Lampedusa island, Italy, Saturday 5 September 2020.
Migrants wait to board a coastguard ship that will take them to the GNV Rhapsody ferry moored off Lampedusa island, Italy, Saturday 5 September 2020. Photograph: Mauro Seminara/AP

Lampedusa mayor Salvatore Martello said 752 migrants were transferred.

The migrants will receive Covid-19 tests once they settle aboard and again at the end of their stay.

After quarantine, the migrants will be taken to a residence on Sicily or the Italian mainland while their asylum applications are processed.

High winds and choppy waters meant the ferry couldn’t dock at Lampedusa.

Another chartered ferry is due to take more migrants from the centre, which after Saturday was holding 400 people.

Early in the pandemic, the Italian government, citing health risks, closed its ports to vessels with migrants aboard.

Updated at 8.09pm BST

7.21pm BST

About 1,000 people demonstrated in the heart of Rome on Saturday against the mandatory use of face masks for schoolchildren and compulsory vaccination for them.

More than 35,500 people have died in Italy – one of the first countries in Europe to be hit.

The country, where almost 276,000 cases have been reported, emerged in May from a strict two-month lockdown.

The crowd was composed of anti-vaccine activists and conspiracy theorists, AFP reports.

“No masks, no social distancing,” a banner read.

A woman holds placards reading ‘Personal freedom is inviolable’ and ‘Long live freedom’ as protesters from ‘No Mask’ movements, Covid-19 deniers, anti-5G movements and anti-vaxxers protest against the government’s health policy on 5 September 2020 in Rome, Italy.
A woman holds placards reading ‘Personal freedom is inviolable’ and ‘Long live freedom’ as protesters from ‘No Mask’ movements, Covid-19 deniers, anti-5G movements and anti-vaxxers protest against the government’s health policy on 5 September 2020 in Rome, Italy. Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

One protester carried a photo of Pope Francis with the word Satan written above it and the number 666 – considered a symbol of the devil.

Earlier in the day, prime minister Giuseppe Conte reacted frostily saying: “More than 274,000 ill and 35,000 dead. Full stop.”

He said there would be no new lockdown but only targeted confinements if needed.

Updated at 7.41pm BST

6.56pm BST

Democratic US vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris said she would not trust Donald Trump in regard to a potential coronavirus vaccine.

In an interview excerpt broadcast by CNN on Saturday, Harris said Trump had a track record of suppressing expert opinion about the coronavirus pandemic and worried that might happen again in the case of a prospective vaccine.

“I would not trust Donald Trump,” she said, saying she would only be convinced of the efficacy of a vaccine if someone credible were vouching for it as well.

“I will not take his word for it.”

Democratic US vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris during a campaign speech in Washington on 27 August 2020.
Democratic US vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris during a campaign speech in Washington on 27 August 2020. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

At least 6.2 million people have been infected in the US coronavirus outbreak, which has taken 187,833 lives, according to a Reuters tally.

With the government’s handling of the world’s worst outbreak of the disease under close scrutiny, Trump has dangled the possibility that a vaccine might be ready ahead of the 3 November US presidential election.

But the president has a track record of flouting scientific advice and some experts are skeptical that vaccine trials, which have to study potential side effects on a wide range of people before they can deliver a verdict, can be completed by late this year or even early next year.

Harris suggested to CNN that Trump might seize on a vaccine – no matter how untested – to burnish his image.

“He’s looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days and he’s grasping for whatever he can get to pretend he can be a leader on this issue when he’s not,” she said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Donald Trump prepares to sign four executive orders during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on 8 August 2020.
President Donald Trump prepares to sign four executive orders during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on 8 August 2020.
Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Updated at 7.21pm BST

6.42pm BST

The leader of Leeds, a city added to the UK government’s Covid-19 watchlist, has called for the local council to be granted greater powers to intervene in order to stem the spread of the virus.

Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said “personal contact” with local people would be more effective in convincing them to self-isolate than the centralised over-the-phone NHS Test and Trace system has been, the Press Association reports.

Leeds, along with South Tyneside, Corby, Middlesbrough and Kettering, was added on Friday to the list of areas which ministers are concerned about.

At present, those who have tested positive for coronavirus, and people they have been in contact with, are phoned by the Test and Trace team and asked to quarantine.

But Blake, a Labour councillor, told BBC Breakfast on Saturday that she feared there was “a bit of complacency coming in” and that more needed to be done to remind people of the precautions they needed to take.

She reiterated a call made by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham this week for test and trace powers to be handed directly to the council.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said:

We’re saying to central government that actually, in line with other local authorities, if they give us the powers and resources they need, actually these things are far better dealt with at a local level.

We have the experience through our public health teams, our environmental health teams, and we’re saying to government, ‘Let us do what we do well and do best’.

We know our communities and we know how to get out there and reach people in terms of self-isolating.

Personal contact is so much more powerful than down a phone line.

Leeds city centre on 4 September 2020, the day it was placed on a national coronavirus infection watchlist due to the rising infection rate within the city.
Leeds city centre on 4 September 2020, the day it was placed on a national coronavirus infection watchlist due to the rising infection rate within the city. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

Updated at 7.12pm BST

6.10pm BST

The US state of Arizona’s number of ventilators in use by Covid-19 patients dropped to 131 on Saturday, the lowest since reporting began and down by approximately 81% since 16 July.

The office of Arizona governor Doug Ducey said the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients in the south-western state dropped to 702, the lowest since 3 May and down by circa 80% since 13 July.

As of Saturday, 225 ICU beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients, the lowest figure since 8 April.

At the height of the state’s outbreak, nearly 5,500 people tested positive on a single day in late June, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey puts on his face covering after speaking at a news conference regarding the latest information on the coronavirus and the upcoming flu season Monday 31 August 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona, US.
Arizona governor Doug Ducey puts on his face covering after speaking at a news conference regarding the latest information on the coronavirus and the upcoming flu season Monday 31 August 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona, US. Photograph: Ross D Franklin/AP

By the end of the first week of July, Arizona was the worst affected region in the world, with the most recorded cases per capita.

In June, cities and counties across Arizona rushed to make face coverings mandatory after Ducey signed an executive order allowing communities to make their own rules on masks.

Updated at 6.18pm BST

5.48pm BST

Portugal records biggest surge in infections since May

Portugal reported 486 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, its biggest daily increase since the week its lockdown was lifted in May.

The increase brought the cumulative total to 59,943, the health authority DGS said.

Portugal, with 10 million people, has reported just 1,838 deaths so far, a significantly lower rate per capita than in many European countries including neighbouring Spain.

It initially won praise for its quick response to the pandemic, but a wave of localised outbreaks in Lisbon has worried authorities and forced them to re-impose some restrictions.

Tourists wearing protective masks walk at Comercio Square, amid the outbreak of coronavirus, in downtown Lisbon, Portugal on 1 September 2020.
Tourists wearing protective masks walk at Comercio Square, amid the outbreak of coronavirus, in downtown Lisbon, Portugal on 1 September 2020. Photograph: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

The majority of the new coronavirus cases registered on Saturday were in and around Lisbon and across the northern region, where the country’s second biggest city Porto is located.

Stricter measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak will be introduced across Portugal from mid-September as students return to schools and many workers go back to the office, although details have yet to be announced.

Although Portugal remains on the list of “safe” destinations, for English tourists at least, rumours to the contrary sparked a wave of cancellations last week, after the UK ambassador to Portugal fuelled speculation that the country would soon revert to the quarantine list.

A server offers the menu on a street during the coronavirus pandemic in Albufeira, Portugal on 20 July 2020.
A server offers the menu on a street during the coronavirus pandemic in Albufeira, Portugal on 20 July 2020. Photograph: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

Updated at 6.02pm BST

5.14pm BST

Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was reported to be in a “stable” condition on Saturday, two days after being hospitalised with coronavirus, his doctor said.

The 83-year-old media tycoon is being treated for a lung infection at San Raffaele hospital in Milan where he was admitted on Thursday night.

“The clinical condition of Silvio Berlusconi remains stable,” his doctor Alberto Zangrillo said, adding that his patient’s condition was “evolving regularly and expectedly, generating cautious but reasonable hope”.

Berlusconi had tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week after returning from a holiday at his luxury villa on Sardinia’s jet-set Emerald Coast.

Zangrillo said at a news conference on Friday that Berlusconi was not on a ventilator, AFP reports.

Professor Alberto Zangrillo, doctor of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, speaks during a press conference following Berlusconi’s hospitalisation, after testing positive for coronavirus, at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan on 4 September 2020.
Professor Alberto Zangrillo, doctor of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, speaks during a press conference following Berlusconi’s hospitalisation, after testing positive for coronavirus, at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan on 4 September 2020. Photograph: Piero Cruciatti/AFP/Getty Images

The billionaire is “a patient at risk because of his age and previous illnesses,” the doctor said, adding that he should remain in hospital for “a few days”.

Berlusconi, who has had a long but scandal-plagued political career, announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive for coronavirus and was in quarantine at home.

Two of his children – daughter Barbara, 36, and son Luigi, 31 – have also contracted the virus, as has his companion Marta Fascina.

Berlusconi, who once owned the AC Milan football club, had insisted on Wednesday that he would continue his political activities.

“I will be present in the electoral campaign with interviews on television and in newspapers,” he said during a video-conference held by the women’s movement of his Forza Italia party.

Regional elections are due to take place in two weeks as well as a referendum on reducing the number of Italian parliamentarians.

The leader of the Forza Italia party, Silvio Berlusconi, talks onstage at Italian Pride, a rally against the Italian government formed by the Five Star movement and Democratic Party in San Giovanni Square on 19 October 2019 in Rome, Italy.
The leader of the Forza Italia party, Silvio Berlusconi, talks onstage at Italian Pride, a rally against the Italian government formed by the Five Star movement and Democratic Party in San Giovanni Square on 19 October 2019 in Rome, Italy. Photograph: Stefano Montesi – Corbis/Corbis/Getty Images

Updated at 5.34pm BST

5.06pm BST

Czech World of Warcraft fans donned costumes on Saturday to bring the massively popular online game to life, pushing ahead with a scaled-back festival after the coronavirus pandemic postponed the annual event earlier this year.

Dressed as shamans, elves and knights, the gaming fans took part in games and competitions in a forest in Kamyk nad Vltavou, south of Prague, but the usual live-action battle was scrapped due to a low turnout, Reuters reports.

The online role-playing game has become a cultural phenomenon since launching in 2004, with millions of players worldwide.

Jaroslav Racek, a policeman by day, said he was making his seventh visit to the Czech event and that for him it was a chance to be immersed in something different.

“There is a great group of people here,” he said, dressed as a “Burning Legion” demon.

“A person can enjoy himself in this world and not just sit at a computer.”

Enthusiasts dressed as characters from the computer game World of Warcraft stand on a meadow during a festival near the town of Kamyk nad Vltavou, Czech Republic, on Saturday 5 September 2020.
Enthusiasts dressed as characters from the computer game World of Warcraft stand on a meadow during a festival near the town of Kamyk nad Vltavou, Czech Republic, on Saturday 5 September 2020. Photograph: Petr David Josek/AP

Updated at 5.11pm BST

4.49pm BST

Health officials in Thailand check a woman’s temperature during a nasal swab test for coronavirus at a popular tourist spot on Khaosan road in Bangkok
Health officials in Thailand check a woman’s temperature during a nasal swab test for coronavirus at a popular tourist spot on Khaosan road in Bangkok. The Thai government confirmed one new local infection on Thursday, one day after the government announced a 100-day streak without local infections. Photograph: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA

Updated at 4.59pm BST

4.40pm BST

More than 1,000 doctors in the UK plan to quit working for the National Health Service (NHS) because they are disillusioned with the government’s handling of the pandemic and frustrated about their pay, a new survey has found.

The doctors either intend to move abroad, take a career break, switch to private hospitals or resign to work as locums instead, amid growing concern about mental health and stress levels in the profession.

My colleague Denis Campbell reports.

Updated at 4.47pm BST

4.23pm BST

The UK recorded 1,813 new infections on Saturday, slightly down from the 1,940 cases that were reported Friday, the highest figure since 30 May.

According to government data, a further 12 people died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.

Daily case numbers were about 1,000 a day for most of August, but have started to increase in recent days. Britain’s testing capacity has also increased since the peak of the first wave earlier this year.

Updated at 4.47pm BST

4.07pm BST

Hi everyone, I’m taking over the blog and will, as always, appreciate relevant tips and pointers from readers. You can get in touch with me via Twitter @JedySays or via email.

4.04pm BST

That’s all from me today, thanks for following. I will now be passing the blog over to my colleague Jedidajah Otte who will be bringing you more news throughout the evening.

3.25pm BST

Summary of the latest news

Here is a summary of the latest global developments.

• Covid-19 has killed at least 875,703 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP on Saturday. At least 26,671,700 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 17,496,300 are considered to have recovered.

• A further eight people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,604, NHS England said on Saturday. One person who tested positive for coronavirus in Wales has died, bringing the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,597.

• There have been 118 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, according to the Department of Health.

China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and Sinovac Biotech Ltd said on Saturday that four more countries had agreed to run late-stage clinical tests of their coronavirus vaccine candidates, as China steps up its efforts in the global race.

• Schools in Iran reopened to 15 million students on Saturday after a seven-month closure despite concerns over the increased spread of coronavirus in the country.

• Pope Francis will next month visit the Italian town of Assisi, his first trip out of Rome since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in February, and will sign a new encyclical, a spokesman for the Assisi Basilica said on Saturday.

Russia reported 5,205 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, pushing its national tally to 1,020,310, the fourth largest in the world. Authorities said 110 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 17,759.

India’s total coronavirus cases surged beyond 4 million with a record rise on Saturday, making it the third country in the world to surpass that mark, following the US and Brazil.

Updated at 3.35pm BST

3.22pm BST

There have been 118 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, according to the Department of Health.
While the department’s statistical dashboard provides updates on the number of positive test results over the weekend, it does not relay up-to-date information on coronavirus fatalities on Saturdays and Sundays. The latest death toll reported by the department on Friday stood at 564.

3.21pm BST

In the US, with coronavirus spreading through colleges at alarming rates, universities are scrambling to find quarantine locations in dormitory buildings and off-campus properties to isolate the thousands of students who have caught or been exposed to Covid-19.

Sacred Heart University has converted a 34-room guest house at the former Connecticut headquarters of General Electric to quarantine students. The University of South Carolina ran out of space at a dormitory for quarantined students and began sending them to rooms it rented in hotel-like quarters at a training center for prosecutors.

The Air Force Academy sent 400 cadets to hotels to free up space on its Colorado base for quarantines. The actions again demonstrate how the virus has uprooted traditional campus life amid a pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people in the US and proven to be especially problematic for universities since the start of the school year.

Many colleges quickly scrapped in-person learning in favor of online after cases began to spike, bars have been shut down in college towns, and students, fraternities and sororities have been repeatedly disciplined for parties and large gatherings.

Health officials such as White House coronavirus task force member Dr Deborah Birx have been urging colleges to keep students on campus to avoid them infecting members of their family and community.
At Sacred Heart, which acquired the 66-acre GE campus in 2016, the guest house that once provided rooms for visiting corporate executives will be used for the rest of the year to isolate any of its 3,000 students who test positive for Covid-19 and are unable to return home, said Gary MacNamara, the school’s director of public safety.

Rooms are stocked with snacks and equipped with TVs and work stations for remote learning. Heath officials will do periodic check-ups, security is stationed outside and card swipes keep track of who enters or leaves.

With all the stress and fear a student may have if in isolation we believe we need to make it as comfortable as possible, MacNamara said. This guest house helps us accomplish that.

But not every situation is as comfortable. Ryan Bologna has been locked in his dorm room at the University of Connecticut since 12 cases were found in his building last week. He’s allowed to go to a dining hall next door but has had no other contact with the outside world.

Zoom classes and virtual marching band practice and video gaming are not what the communications major had envisioned for the start of his senior year.

“I do have friends I’ve made throughout the years that I can talk to,” he said. “But If I were a freshman, I’d be really struggling right now as far as the social aspect.”

3.15pm BST

The Guardian has published an article looking at how the UK government flip-flopping over the quarantine list has devastated the Portuguese tourist industry. Although Portugal remains on the safe list, for English tourists at least, rumours to the contrary have sparked panic and holiday cancellations.

Updated at 3.18pm BST

2.50pm BST

The bleak Covid winter? America still not on course to beat back the virus

Even with three decades of experience in the travel industry, Jorge Pesquera has never seen a downturn in business like this one.

Summer officially ends on Monday in the US, and now is the time when many people in colder climes in North America and across the world start dreaming about a winter break on Florida’s golden shores.

Not this year.

The US is closed for many outside its borders, and many within are too scared to fly as coronavirus continues its deadly sweep across the country. The rate of infection has eased in Florida and elsewhere, and Pesquera, president of the marketing group Discover the Palm Beaches, is hopeful business is improving. But it comes in a year of catastrophic collapse for Florida’s tourism.

“Nobody has seen anything like this in a couple of generations,” said Pesquera.

As the US enters its first coronavirus winter, economists and epidemiologists see a pivotal moment – a hinge whose swing will determine the direction of the economy and the course of the disease into 2021 and for years and potentially generations to come.

Read more here.

Updated at 3.02pm BST

2.48pm BST

An anonymous teacher has written a diary of the first week back at school. Read more by clicking on the link below.

2.47pm BST

At least 6,000 people say they caught coronavirus in Ischgl, an Austrian ski resort known as “Ibiza on ice”, and their class action is gaining pace. Those who were there recall a terrifying week.

Updated at 3.03pm BST

2.23pm BST

As I continue my coverage, bringing you the latest updates on coronavirus from around the globe, please do get in touch with any comments or news tips.

Twitter: @sloumarsh
Instagram: sarah_marsh_journalist
Email: sarah.marsh@theguardian.com

2.22pm BST

One person who tested positive for coronavirus in Wales has died, bringing the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,597. Public Health Wales said the total number of cases in the country had increased by 77, bringing the revised total of confirmed cases to 18,283.

Updated at 2.35pm BST

2.21pm BST

Eight more hospital deaths in England as total reaches 29,604

A further eight people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,604, NHS England said on Saturday.

The patients were aged between 56 and 94 and all had known underlying health conditions.

The dates of the deaths ranged from 31 August to 4 September, with the majority on or after 3 September. Another two deaths have been reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

Updated at 2.36pm BST

2.00pm BST

Pubs and restaurants in Middlesbrough – in the north-east of England – that put “profits before people” by failing to enforce Covid-19 safety measures risk being closed down, the town’s mayor has said.

Andy Preston said public health officials would visit venues with police on Saturday night after the town was put on the government’s “areas of concern” watchlist after a rise in coronavirus cases.

He said if venues were found to be putting the public’s health at risk by failing to adhere to coronavirus regulations, they could be immediately closed down.

Speaking to BBC News on Saturday, Preston said: “We are seeing a lot of dangerous behaviour and a number of infections coming from pubs and restaurants, and in fact tonight we are out with the police and we are going to be visiting venues. And where we see bad practice, if we think the public’s health is in danger, we may well close those venues down.”

Asked if he would be prepared to close venues down on the spot, Preston said: “Yes, if we see sufficiently bad practice, if the public’s health is in significant danger, we will take everything we legally can to stay out of a lockdown.”

Preston said he was expecting Middlesbrough to be put on the government’s “areas of concern” list.

He said during the government’s eat out to help out scheme in August, two-hour queues could be seen outside some restaurants. Preston said: “[There were] huge numbers of people bunched together, we saw tables way too close together, we saw a number of establishments putting profits before people, and that’s what we are on the lookout for tonight.”

He said while customers were in charge of their own behaviour, it was the venues’ responsibility to police it, adding that if the town was forced into a local lockdown it would damage jobs and people’s mental health.

Updated at 2.35pm BST

1.48pm BST

China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and Sinovac Biotech Ltd said on Saturday that four more countries had agreed to run late-stage clinical tests of their coronavirus vaccine candidates, as China steps up its efforts in the global race.

Serbia and Pakistan are among the new countries agreeing to phase 3 trials, as the two companies seek more data overseas amid dwindling new cases in China.

Serbia will test two vaccines developed by CNBG’s Wuhan and Beijing units, and Pakistan will test the Beijing unit’s candidate, the company told Reuters.

CNBG’s phase 3 trials are expected to involve 50,000 people in about 10 countries, said the CNBG vice president Zhang Yuntao. Trials have already begun in United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Peru, Morocco, Argentina and Jordan.

Zhang said foreign countries have expressed interest in ordering a combined 500m doses of its vaccines.

CNBG is expected to be able to produce 300m doses of vaccine a year once it upgrades manufacturing techniques, and is working on a plan to raise its annual capacity to 1bn doses, Zhang said.

Updated at 1.52pm BST

1.35pm BST

Hello everyone and thank you for following the live feed today, with all the latest updates on coronavirus from around the globe. I am working in our London offices, so please do get in touch with any comments or news tips.

Twitter: @sloumarsh
Instagram: sarah_marsh_journalist
Email: sarah.marsh@theguardian.com

1.01pm BST

Covid-19 has killed at least 875,703 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP on Saturday.

At least 26,671,700 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 17,496,300 are considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

On Friday, 5,693 new deaths and 305,583 new cases were recorded worldwide. Based on the latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were India with 1,089, followed by the US with 998 and Brazil with 888.

The US is the worst-hit country with 187,777 deaths from 6,202,053 cases. At least 2,283,454 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 125,502 deaths from 4,091,801 cases, India with 69,561 deaths from 4,023,179 cases, Mexico with 66,851 deaths from 623,090 cases, and Britain with 41,537 deaths from 342,351 cases.

Updated at 1.14pm BST

12.33pm BST

This is Nicola Slawson taking over the reins from Sarah while she takes lunch. Do get in touch with any tips or questions you have.

Email: nicola.slawson@theguardian.com
Twitter: @Nicola_Slawson

Updated at 12.51pm BST

12.10pm BST

In England, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said it would be willing to consider strike action after confirming it opposed government plans for 80% of civil servants to have returned to the office by the end of the month.

In a statement, the union said: “Our members have kept the country running during the pandemic while working from home and we believe it is not safe to return to workplaces while Covid-19 infection rates remain high and given the likelihood of a second wave in the coming weeks.

“We are asking departments to provide, as a matter of urgency, for each building the Covid-secure limit, current staffing in each building and current risk assessment for each building.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “If the government or any employer starts forcing people back to work and we believe that it is not safe to do so we will first consider our legal options, secondly give individual legal advice, and thirdly consider whether a collective response is required.

“As a last resort, if you have no other option and people’s health and safety are at risk, of course we would be prepared to consider industrial action.”

Its national executive committee is due to meet on 9 September and will decide how to respond, the union said.

Updated at 12.27pm BST

11.44am BST

Millions of pupils return to school in Iran

Schools in Iran reopened to 15 million students on Saturday after a seven-month closure despite concerns over the increased spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.

“This year, we shoulder a heavier burden of responsibility toward our students,” said President Hassan Rouhani, who oversaw the opening of schools in a video conference broadcast live on state television.

He said education and health were equally important to society, but added that parents would not be forced to send their children back to school. Iranian media said seminaries also reopened on Saturday to about 50,000 students.

Several medical professionals have voiced concerns over the reopening of schools and universities in Iran, one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic in the Middle East.

Updated at 2.25pm BST

11.29am BST

Pope Francis will next month visit the Italian town of Assisi, his first trip out of Rome since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in February, and will sign a new encyclical, a spokesman for the Assisi Basilica said on Saturday.

The encyclical, which is the highest form of papal writing, is expected to focus on what Francis believes the post-pandemic world should look like, and will be called “Brothers All…”.

Father Enzo Fortunato said in a statement that the pope would travel to Assisi on 3 October, the day before the Feast of St Francis, who was born in the small Umbrian hill town in the centre of Italy.

“The visit will take place in private, without the participation of the faithful,” Fortunato said.

10.53am BST

The UK government will deliver 250,000 clear face masks to frontline NHS and social care workers to help them communicate with people with conditions such as hearing loss and dementia.

The transparent masks are made from plastic with an anti-fogging barrier, meaning patients will be able to see the mouth of the wearer as they speak. The Department of Health and Social Care said this would help the millions of people with hearing loss who needed to use lip-reading to communicate.

In May, a group of nine charities said using transparent face masks could prevent “months of misery” for deaf people, calling for clear face coverings to be commissioned.

People with learning disabilities, dementia and autism may also benefit from the clear masks, as many rely on facial expressions to help them communicate.

The government has said the masks will be delivered to NHS trusts and social care providers in the next few weeks. All four countries in the UK will receive an allocation of the masks and deliveries have already begun.

Helen Whately, the minister for care, said: “Everyone using our remarkable health and care system deserves the best care possible and communication is a vital part of that. This pandemic has posed numerous challenges to the sector, so we are always on the hunt for simple solutions to support those giving and receiving care.

“The introduction of clear face masks will help overcome some of the difficulties carers wearing PPE are facing communicating with people who rely on lip-reading. If this proves a success I look forward to increasing the supply to make sure whenever a clear mask is needed, there is one available.”

Updated at 11.05am BST

10.38am BST

In England, coronavirus restrictions are to be eased in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, Matt Hancock has said.

Casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, exhibition halls, conference centres and indoor play areas, including soft play areas, will be able to lawfully reopen on Tuesday in all three places, apart from Bolton in Greater Manchester.

Socially distanced indoor performances will also be able to resume, and restrictions will be lifted on close contact services such as treatments on the face, such as eyebrow threading or makeup application.

But the rate of infection is still too high in Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire to allow lifting restrictions on gatherings.

The health secretary said: “The rates of infection remain too high in Bolton for these easements to be applied and further work is now under way with local leaders.”

Elsewhere, swimming pools, gyms and sports facilities will be allowed to open from Tuesday in Leicester and the remaining areas of Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford where the restrictions were still in place. This will bring these locations in line with the national lockdown rules brought in on 25 July.

In Leicester, however, there will still be a series of restrictions that will be reviewed next Friday, including on indoor gatherings. Casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, exhibition halls, conference centres and indoor play areas will remain closed, socially distanced indoor performances will not be allowed and restrictions on certain close contact services will remain.

Updated at 11.09am BST

10.17am BST

Hello all. I am a news reporter based in London and will be updating the live feed today (morning here), bringing you the latest updates on coronavirus from around the world. Please do get share any news tips and comments with me. You can get in touch via any of the channels below. Thanks in advance.

Twitter: @sloumarsh
Instagram: sarah_marsh_journalist
Email: sarah.marsh@theguardian.com

Updated at 10.42am BST

9.58am BST

Doctors in state-run hospitals in Nigeria will go on strike next week to demand a pay rise, better welfare and adequate facilities, union leaders have said.

The strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors (Nard), which represents 40% of doctors, is the latest in a string of stoppages by medics to hit Africa’s most populous nation as it struggles to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“NEC [national executive council] resolved to proceed on an indefinite nationwide strike action from Monday,” said Nard president Aliyu Sokomba in a statement on Friday.

He said the action would take place unless the government provided life insurance and death in service benefits for all health workers as well as paying outstanding salaries and allowances.

He said the union wanted pay parity for doctors in federal and state health institutions.

Strikes by medics have been common in Nigeria where the health sector is underfunded.

Updated at 10.32am BST

9.31am BST

Russia reported 5,205 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, pushing its national tally to 1,020,310, the fourth largest in the world. Authorities said 110 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 17,759.

9.15am BST

Hello. I am a news reporter based in London and will be bringing you the latest updates on coronavirus from around the world.

Please do get in touch while I blog, sharing news tips and comments with me. You can get in touch via any of the channels below.

Thanks in advance.

Twitter: @sloumarsh
Instagram: sarah_marsh_journalist
Email: sarah.marsh@theguardian.com

9.15am BST

Iran on Saturday opened the new school year after nearly seven months of closure.

In a video conference, President Hassan Rouhani said the education of 15 million students was as important as the health system. He said education would not be closed in Iran even under the worst situation, urging authorities to implement health measures in schools to the level of those in military garrisons.

The reopening of schools came as many expressed concern over a possible increase in infections, including medical professionals. Abbas Aghazadeh, a member of the board of the medical council, said the national Covid-19 task force should defend the lives of millions of students. Prevent physical reopening of all schools across the country.

Iran has so far used distance learning via internet apps and TV programs. Authorities say the system will continue for undergraduate university students.

Iran’s death toll from Covid-19 has so far passed 22,000 out of 382,772 confirmed cases. The country has had the first and worst outbreak in the region.

Updated at 9.56am BST

9.13am BST

In England, seven 10,000 fines were issued to organisers of illegal raves in Leeds last weekend, the city’s council leader has said.
Judith Blake told BBC Breakfast on Saturday that the council “fully expected” Leeds to be put on the government’s Covid-19 watchlist as an “area of concern” due to an increase in cases.
She said: “We have been monitoring our number every single day and we recognise that the numbers have been creeping up, so we fully expected to be on the list to become an area of concern.

“We feel there is a bit of complacency coming in. What we are seeing is the numbers are changing, and actually more young people are testing positive and they are spread around the city.”

She added: “Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in house parties, but we are working with police. “Last weekend we issued, with the police, seven of the 10,000 fines for organisers of illegal raves.”

8.30am BST

Covid concerns over university students’ return home at Christmas

In the UK, as schools reopen, Mike Tildesley, associate professor of infection modelling at the University of Warwick, said the vast majority of students had a very low risk of developing severe symptoms of Covid-19.

He told the BBC: “What we’re more worried about really is universities acting as amplifiers, so potentially lots of students mixing together that can cause lots of infection that could spill over into the community.

“But also there’s a concern at the end of term when students start to travel home to their families, potentially interacting with more elderly relatives, more vulnerable people with underlying health conditions, that’s where the real concern is.

“What we don’t want is because of this large mixing in universities, it could cause a knock-on effect and as we approach Christmas, that could cause a significant wave of infection in cities across the UK as students move home.”

Updated at 2.40pm BST

8.24am BST

India’s total coronavirus cases surged beyond 4 million with a record rise on Saturday, making it the third country in the world to surpass that mark, following the US and Brazil.

India added 86,432 cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, a global daily record, according to data from the federal health ministry. Infections rose across the country, including in New Delhi and the large states of Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The jump to more than 4 million cases comes only 13 days after India reached 3 million cases, accelerating sharply from the more than 100 days it took to increase by the previous 1 million.

India has logged the world’s largest daily coronavirus caseload for almost a month, as its government pushes the reopening of businesses to revive a sharply contracting economy. The number of coronavirus deaths in India rose by more than 1,000 to 69,561 on Saturday.

Updated at 9.37am BST

8.22am BST

It’s the multibillion-pound industry that kept on growing, based on a bean that Britons couldn’t seem to get enough of: coffee.

Until, that is, the pandemic struck. As is the case with many businesses hit hard by coronavirus, the ubiquitous coffee chains that have powered city centres and high streets across the UK are in deep trouble.

This week in the UK, Costa announced it is cutting more than 1,500 jobs. Pret a Manger is losing almost 3,000 staff and closing 30 outlets – while independents from the Exploding Bakery in Exeter to Kaffeine in central London have reported a slump in customer numbers.

The problems are laid bare in figures that would undermine any business model: spending on takeaway hot drinks in the UK slumped nearly 90% in April, the peak of the high street lockdown, according to the market research firm Kantar.

Read more here.

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

Updated at 9.15am BST

8.21am BST

Hello. I am a news reporter based in London and will be bringing you the latest updates on coronavirus from around the world.

Please do get in touch while I blog, sharing news tips and comments with me. You can get in touch via any of the channels below.

Thanks in advance.

Twitter: @sloumarsh
Instagram: sarah_marsh_journalist
Email: sarah.marsh@theguardian.com

Updated at 10.44am BST

8.14am BST

That’s it from me in Sydney for the day. I’m passing you over to my colleague Sarah Marsh in London, who will keep you updated over the next several hours.

For readers in Australia, here’s a recap of today’s main Covid-19 news:

Updated at 8.16am BST

8.04am BST

Tourism hotspots across the UK are extending the domestic season through autumn to recover business lost during the coronavirus lockdown.

This report from my colleague Richard Partington:

Updated at 8.06am BST

7.33am BST

India’s coronavirus cases pass 4m

Good morning to readers in the UK and across Europe.

AP have this report on Covid-19 in India and elsewhere around the world:

India’s coronavirus cases crossed 4m on Saturday, leading the world in new infections and deepening misery in the country’s vast hinterlands where surges have crippled the underfunded healthcare system.

Initially, the virus ravaged India’s sprawling and densely populated cities. It has since stretched to almost every state, spreading through villages and smaller towns.

With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, India’s massive caseload isn’t surprising experts. The country’s delayed response to the virus forced the government to implement a harsh lockdown in late March.

For more than two months, the economy remained shuttered, buying time for health workers to prepare for the worst. But with the cost of the restrictions also rising, authorities saw no choice but to reopen businesses and everyday activities.

Most of India’s cases are in western Maharashtra state and the four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka.

But new surges are popping up elsewhere. The 86,432 cases added in the past 24 hours pushed India’s total to 4,023,179.

Globally, Brazil has confirmed 4,091,801 infections while the United States has 6,200,186 people infected, according to Johns Hopkins University.

A health worker wearing a PPE suit tests a woman for Covid-19 in Hyderabad on Friday
A health worker wearing a PPE suit tests a woman for Covid-19 in Hyderabad on Friday. Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 8.12am BST

7.29am BST

South Australia records new case

Health authorities in South Australia will look to expand testing across the state after Covid-19 was detected in sewage water.

The announcement that coronavirus was detected at two wastewater treatment facilities has prompted SA Health to expand regional testing from three to six sites.

One of the facilities where Covid-19 was detected collects water from a catchment near a popular interstate trucking route. The sample from the other facility, at Bolivar, subsequently tested negative.

On Saturday, the state also recorded its first case of Covid-19 in 12 days – in a Melbourne woman in her 20s who was travelling with her family through the state on their way to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

The family is now isolating in South Australian hotel quarantine, as the woman, who is asymptomatic, isolates in a separate room.

Updated at 7.38am BST

7.07am BST

Further information about Queensland’s new Covid-19 case has been released.

The only new case announced on Saturday is a woman in her 60s living on Russell Island, about 40km south-east of Brisbane.

Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said health authorities had been planning for “situations like this”, where a case was diagnosed on an island.

Young said:

Contact tracing is under way and we will continue to assess the situation and provide the local community with the relevant advice as more information comes to light.

Metro South Health is currently planning to set up a pop-up Covid-19 testing clinic at the Russell Island Recreation Hall, 2 High Street, Russell Island, near the ferry terminal, and at this stage it will be in operation from 4pm-8pm today and 8am-4pm tomorrow.

About 3,000 people live on Russell Island.

Updated at 7.18am BST

6.49am BST

Australia’s deputy chief health officer, Prof Michael Kidd, is asked about the anti-lockdown protests taking place in Melbourne and elsewhere across the country today.

He says he hasn’t seen reports about how today’s protests went, but that the gatherings would be in breach of Victoria’s current restrictions.

I hope that people are maintaining their physical distancing and that people are wearing appropriate face coverings to protect themselves and protect others.

While there may be a few hundred people protesting, there are millions adhering by the restrictions and doing all they can to bring Covid-19 under control in that state.

For more on the protests in Melbourne, my colleague Michael McGowan has filed this report about the arrests that have taken place.

Updated at 6.53am BST

6.45am BST

Prof Michael Kidd reiterates advice that Father’s Day in Australia (on Sunday) will be different this year.

Many families in Australia are separated due to the stage four restrictions in Melbourne and the stage three restrictions across Victoria.

Many families are separated by the border closures between some of our states and territories. And many families are separated by the international border restrictions …

Tomorrow, if you are lucky enough to still have your father or your grandfathers, or perhaps even your great-grandfathers in your life, please reach out to them and let them know how special they are to you.

If you can’t see them in person, you can still reach out by telephone or video chat and come together virtually on the special day.

Please do not breach any restrictions in your local area to see your father or put his health and well-being at risk, especially if you are living in an area of community transmission or under restrictions.

Updated at 6.54am BST

6.41am BST

Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Michael Kidd, is giving a national Covid-19 update.

There have been 83 new coronavirus cases recorded over the past 24 hours in Australia.

This takes Australia’s tally of infections to 26,207.

Kidd outlines the impact Melbourne’s strict lockdowns have had on the nation’s Covid-19 case numbers.

In the past week we have seen 663 new cases of Covid-19 in Australia. This figure continues to fall and compares to the previous week when we saw 951 new cases. The week before, with 1,600 new cases, 2,354 new cases the week before that, and 3,493 cases a week before that.

This continuing and welcome fall in new numbers of cases is the result of the restrictions in place over the past month in Melbourne and across Victoria.

Updated at 6.46am BST

6.14am BST

Several arrests at anti-lockdown protests in NSW

There have also been anti-lockdown protests happening in New South Wales today.

Earlier in the day, police arrested three people at an unauthorised protest in Sydney’s Hyde Park.

Two men, aged 44 and 54, were arrested for allegedly assaulting police, while a woman was arrested for failing to comply with a move on direction.

Eighteen penalty infringement notices were also issued for people failing to comply with the public health order in place for Covid-19. A 16-year-old boy was issued with a youth caution.

That protest has concluded.

In Byron Bay, in the state’s north, eight people were arrested at an unauthorised anti-lockdown protest earlier on Saturday, with charges including assault of police officers. That protest has also wrapped up.

Currently, police are dispersing protesters at a third unauthorised anti-lockdown protest at Sydney’s Olympic Park. A police spokeswoman told the Guardian this protest was larger than the two earlier gatherings.

She did not know if any arrests had been made.

Updated at 6.59am BST

5.45am BST

Ahead of Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, unveiling the roadmap out of Covid-19 restrictions on Sunday, here is a report looking at what freedoms are expected to be introduced first, based on leaked drafts of the roadmap obtained by Guardian Australia.

Updated at 6.01am BST

5.04am BST

In New South Wales, the state government has identified Bondi Bowling Club as “the worst venue to date” in terms of Covid-19 breaches.

The Sydney venue has been handed a double fine totalling ,000 after Liquor & Gaming NSW inspectors visited the club on 29 August and identified multiple breaches, including serious physical distancing and hygiene issues such as:

  • Multiple group bookings of more than 10 people.
  • Patrons mingling and walking around drinking alcohol.
  • A complete lack of social distancing in queues to the bar.
  • Dirty cups and plates left on tables.
  • Inadequate sign-in processes with staff unable or unwilling to enforce the mandatory Covid safety measures.

Dimitri Argeres, the director of compliance at Liquor & Gaming NSW, said “while we came across Bondi Bowling Club’s breaches during a routine visit, we also use information and feedback from the public along with other sources of intelligence to focus our inspections on venues posing a higher risk”.

We are still on a cliff edge, but you wouldn’t know it if you went to Bondi Bowling Club on 29 August. The venue was operating as though the Covid safety measures were optional.

This presented a pretty grim picture of patrons and staff who are simply ignoring the restrictions everyone else has to live with and putting the entire community at risk.

He urged members of the public to report breaches to the government’s safety feedback portal at www.nsw.gov.au.

The NSW government issued 11 new Covid-related fines over the past week, bringing the total number of venues fined to 105 and the total fine amounts to 9,000.

Updated at 5.24am BST

4.39am BST

Some vision from the Melbourne protests

Updated at 4.39am BST

4.00am BST

This report from AAP on the protests in Victoria:

Unmasked anti-lockdown protesters have been arrested by police during violent scuffles in Melbourne.

Officers were punched by one man at the city’s Shrine of Remembrance on Saturday before being fitted with a mask and handcuffs.

He was one of more than 20 people arrested at the scene, an AAP photographer reported.

Up to 300 people gathered at the shrine where the mood was described as tense.

Anti-lockdown protesters at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne
Anti-lockdown protesters at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Police on horses pushed the mob towards the shrine’s steps, before protesters started to disperse. Some of the group carried placards with anti-government sentiments and at one stage were singing the Australian anthem.

Police are on standby for a number of protest rallies across Victoria after plans were aired to challenge the state’s strict lockdown rules, which include an 8pm to 5am curfew and limited travel and time away from home.

Ahead of Saturday, police confirmed they had arrested four men in connection with the planned Freedom Day rally.

Those arrests followed the well-publicised arrest of a pregnant Ballarat woman over allegations of a separate rally planned there for Saturday.

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, sent a general message to those protesting during his daily press conference.

“It is not smart, it is not safe, it is not lawful, in fact it is absolutely selfish to be out there protesting,” he said.

“The only fight we should be engaged in is against this virus.”

An anti-lockdown protester scuffles with with police outside the Shrine of Remembrance
An anti-lockdown protester scuffles with with police outside the Shrine of Remembrance. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Updated at 4.18am BST

3.53am BST

As scrutiny of Australia’s handling of Covid-19 across aged care homes intensifies, here is a report from my colleagues Ben Butler and Melissa Davey about growing demands for aged care providers to reveal how they use taxpayer dollars.

Guardian Australia analysis of the 10 aged care homes worst affected by coronavirus in Victoria shows that three are controlled by two large companies, which between them received more than .45bn in government funding over the past two years and paid out dividends to their shareholders totalling m.

Updated at 3.57am BST

3.16am BST

Australia’s opposition Labor party is continuing to get stuck into the government over one of its Liberal MPs, Craig Kelly.

Kelly was heavily criticised over his recent promotion of hydroxychloroquine – both via social media and a speech in parliament – to treat Covid-19.

This week, he compared Victorian police’s arrest of a Ballarat woman for anti-lockdown incitement on social media to Nazi Germany.

Of the arrest, Kelly said “this is what you’d see expect (sic) in Nazi Germany” and “No it’s not Nazi Germany it’s happening in Australia in 2020”, later saying he makes “no apology for using the Nazi Germany analogy”.

Today, Labor’s health spokesman, Chris Bowen, and MP Josh Burns called on the prime minister, Scott Morrison, to take action over Kelly’s comments.

Scott Morrison personally intervened in Craig Kelly’s preselection but has failed to stop the dangerous and offensive behaviour of the Member for Hughes.

In just 48 hours, Craig Kelly has made three offensive and ignorant comments comparing the Victorian authorities to Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Mr Kelly’s comments on Hydroxychloroquine are especially dangerous during a medical pandemic as Hydroxychloroquine has potentially fatal side effects if not administered properly.

His comments on Nazi Germany are an insult to the many Jewish and other Australians who lost family members in the Holocaust, and all of the Australian soldiers who fought Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Yet Scott Morrison remains a bystander on Craig Kelly’s dangerous and offensive behaviour.

Updated at 4.02am BST

3.04am BST

I’m going to hand you over to my colleague Elias Visontay, who will take you through the afternoon.

2.39am BST

Police arrest anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne

Things are heating up at the anti-lockdown protest at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. These videos come via Aneeka Simonis at the Herald Sun.

Updated at 3.30am BST

2.34am BST

The China Daily reports there are 10 new Covid-19 cases in the country today.

2.31am BST

Here’s our story on the former Cook Islands prime minister Joseph Williams, who has died of coronavirus in Auckland, according to New Zealand’s health ministry.

2.30am BST

And that’s all from Victoria. As we told you earlier, there have been 76 new cases and 11 deaths reported today. Six of those deaths occurred in the past 24 hours. The other five happened in recent days, according to premier Daniel Andrews.

2.22am BST

Sutton is talking about his hopes for a vaccine:

There are over 30 who in those phase-three trials with tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people around the world now going through phase three trials where we will see what a vaccine might be able to achieve, and if just one of those vaccines, and there will be probably three or four or more of those vaccines that show effectiveness, that are safe, and can be produced, that is what we are hanging out for, so if we can do that and hang on for those months ahead when a vaccine is available and can be provided across the population, then we are all in a much better position.

Updated at 2.29am BST

2.12am BST

Andrews is asked whether he believes the national cabinet process is “fractured” after the prime minister, Scott Morrison, yesterday ended the so-called consensus model of the body because of Queensland and Western Australia’s refusal to sign up to a border re-opening timetable.

From my point of view, I wouldn’t describe national cabinet in those terms, it has served us well and will continue to serve us well. There are some things that all of us need to put aside the things that sometimes occupy us, and instead of acting on those sort of interests, we act in what is undoubtedly the national interest, that is what has driven national cabinet, and I don’t see that changing.

At the same time, though, I will let the prime minister speak to those matters in more detail, he is the chair of that body … from my point of view, the outcome in relation to having free movement of key agricultural workers and the process to improve those arrangements between South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales was a very important outcome.

Updated at 2.13am BST

2.03am BST

Five new Covid-19 cases in NSW

In New South Wales, five new cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday, bringing the total number of cases in NSW to 3,915.

The new cases include:

  • One returned traveller in hotel quarantine
  • Four linked to the CBD cluster, bringing the total linked to this cluster to 61.

Updated at 3.07am BST

2.01am BST

Andrews is asked about the heavy police presence in Melbourne before those anti-lockdown protests today:

There is a very visible, very significant police presence in the city. Some people have forecast that they in a selfish, dangerous and unlawful way protest and police are taking appropriate steps, and as for number they can leave it to Victoria police to provide you with any details.

Updated at 2.03am BST

1.57am BST

Brett Sutton is being asked whether the roadmap out of lockdown, to be released tomorrow, would move to allow businesses to reopen while increasing protections around aged care.

He says it’s “important to understand that the real epidemic in aged care followed the epidemic in the community”.

And the number of new introductions in aged-care facilities happened at the height of community transmission. And so getting on top of community transmission is protecting aged-care settings. It’s both the response within those settings, so making sure that it doesn’t spread amongst residents, it doesn’t spread amongst staff, and it doesn’t go between staff and residents. But it’s also about keeping on top of the numbers in the community, because the aged-care outbreaks follow community transmission, and they’re now a challenge to make sure that it’s not reintroduced to prolong community transmission.

Updated at 2.03am BST

1.51am BST

As this press conference goes on, a heavy police presence at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance are already making arrests before a planned anti-lockdown protest.

1.48am BST

Victoria’s chief medical officer, Brett Sutton, says there are in fact 64 new cases, based on some reclassification of previous cases. Only one is from an unknown source. Sutton says mystery cases have accounted for about 10% or 15% of total cases in recent days.

Updated at 1.53am BST

1.45am BST

Andrews is addressing a push from members of the business community to force Victoria out of the stage-four restrictions:

I understand why they want to do that. It’s not just for profits, it’s for their people. Their staff. Their future. I absolutely get that. But when you really think about it, I don’t know that any business – my own experience, my family background, and the people that I speak to almost every day – no one is really advocating to open and be open for just a few weeks. And if you opened at these levels, that is exactly what would happen. It would be five minutes of sunshine and then a third wave that arguably will be even more devastating than the second. We just have to find a way to be as steadfast as this virus, it is stubborn. The tail of the second wave is a stubborn thing.

Updated at 1.54am BST

1.41am BST

Andrews says there are now 4,370 cases with an unknown source, an increase of just one since yesterday. The total number of active cases across the state has fallen to 1,956.

He says cases in regional Victoria “have come right off and we are very pleased with that”.

Essentially, it is good to see these numbers continue to fall. It is good to see that the strategy continues to be successful. Obviously, at 76 new cases, that is still a really significant challenge for us. And to open up with those numbers would, of course, see the total number of coronavirus infections explode. It would see many, many hundreds, indeed thousands, of Victorians infected with this virus. So, as frustrating, as challenging as it is, we need to stay the course on this.

1.39am BST

Victoria reports 76 new cases and 11 deaths

Daniel Andrews is speaking now and is running through the latest numbers.

Of the 11 deaths reported today, 10 are linked to aged care outbreaks. Six of the deaths occurred in the last 24 hours, and five deaths occurred “in recent days”.

Updated at 7.47am BST

1.34am BST

We’re expecting Victorian premier Daniel Andrews any moment now.

1.15am BST

Mexico’s health ministry on Friday reported 6,196 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 infections and 522 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 623,090 cases and 66,851 deaths.

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

Updated at 1.15am BST

1.11am BST

My colleagues Ben Butler and Melissa Davey report today that three of the aged care homes in Melbourne worst hit by Covid-19 outbreaks are controlled by two large companies, which between them received more than .45bn in government funding over the past two years and paid out dividends to their shareholders totalling m.

1.02am BST

Reuters reports that a former prime minister of the Cook Islands, Joseph Williams, has died of Covid-19 in Auckland, New Zealand’s health ministry said on Saturday, taking the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the country to 24.

Williams, who was in his 80s, was a well known doctor as well as a politician and author, living in New Zealand. He was briefly prime minister of the Cook Islands in 1999 after having served as the South Pacific nation’s minister of health and education.

“Dr Williams was seen as a leading figure in the Cook Islands medical community and he will be sadly missed,” New Zealand’s director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said in a statement.

New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, has been under restrictions to fight the spread of the coronavirus since an outbreak last month. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday extended the 2.5 alert level until at least mid-September after the country reported the Covid-19 death of a man in his 50s.

“Today’s sad news again reinforces the importance of our shared vigilance against Covid-19, the very serious consequences the virus can carry with it,” Bloomfield said.

Updated at 1.09am BST

12.54am BST

Queensland records one new Covid-19 case

Queensland has recorded one new Covid-19 case on Saturday, the state’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. It is a known close contact of a previous case. There are now 26 active cases of the virus in Queensland.

Updated at 1.09am BST

12.51am BST

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews will give his daily Covid-19 update at 10.30am. I’ll bring it to you then.

12.49am BST

In case you missed it earlier, here’s former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott’s statement on his appointment as an adviser to the UK Board of Trade.

12.34am BST

Good morning, this is the Guardian’s Covid-19 live coverage.

Police in the Australian state of Victoria are warning protesters to stay away from anti-lockdown rallies planned in Melbourne on Saturday as the state records 76 new cases of the virus and 11 deaths.

In the lead-up to Saturday, police arrested five people and warned about 80 others against attending the protests as they enforce Victoria’s lockdown rules.

On Friday, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews backed police efforts to shut down any planned protest rallies while the lockdown rules remain in place.

You can’t ignore the reality you’re in and give yourself a leave pass and go and do something that, in all likelihood, will contribute to the spread of this (virus),” Andrews said.

Elsewhere:

  • The World Health Organisation director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said the UN body would never endorse a vaccine that has not proven safe and effective amid concerns over the rush to develop a jab for Covid-19. Ghebreyesus, also called for countries around the world to join forces to tackle the coronavirus, saying that “vaccine nationalism” would only slow the response to the pandemic.
  • US presidential candidate Joe Biden disclosed publicly for the first time he has been tested at least once for Covid-19 and promised he will be tested regularly during his election campaign against US President Donald Trump. The Democratic presidential nominee told reporters of his testing protocol during a news conference in which he criticised Trump for downplaying the coronavirus.
  • Italy on Friday registered 1,733 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily rise since 2 May, and 11 deaths.
  • Spain’s health ministry has reported 10,476 new cases since yesterday, bringing the country’s total to 498,989. It has also logged 256 deaths over the past week, bringing the toll to 24,918.Madrid continues to be the worst-hit region, accounting for 31,538 of the 101,962 cases detected over the past two weeks.
  • Health authorities in France reported 8,975 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, setting an all-time high of daily additional infections since the disease started to spread in the country at the end of the winter.The number of people hospitalised for the disease, while still well below its April 14 peak of 32,292, has gone up for the sixth day running, at 4,671.
  • Iraq on Friday recorded its highest single-day rise in Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, prompting authorities to warn hospitals may “lose control” in the coming days. According to the Iraqi health ministry, 5,036 new coronavirus infections were confirmed on Friday, bringing the total number of cases across the country to 252,075, of which 191,368 had recovered, but 7,359 had died.

Updated at 12.37am BST

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

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 2921

Read more