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Coronavirus - 17th August


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covidaug Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 12:14

Summary for Monday, 17th August

  • Some 315 people connected to South Korea's Sarang Jeil Church test positive in the county's biggest outbreak for months
  • New Zealand's general election is postponed by a month because of a fresh Covid-19 outbreak
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to end row over A-Levels in England amid growing anger
  • Japan's economy - the world's third biggest - suffers the biggest contraction in modern history
  • The scaled-down Democratic party convention begins later in the US, largely held online
  • Globally more than 775,000 people have died and 21.6m cases have been reported, according to Johns Hopkins University

Hello and thanks for joining our live coverage of the global pandemic. We’ll be following the latest stories and other things you need to know about coronavirus around the world. Here are the main headlines on Monday:

  • South Korea is tackling a new outbreak linked to a church where some 300 infections have caused the country’s worst rise in cases in five months. The government has accused the Sarang Jeil Church pastor of flouting self-isolation rules
  • New Zealand has postponed its general election , moving it by four weeks to 17 October. The country, which had the virus under control, is seeing a cluster of cases spread through the city of Auckland, despite a lockdown imposed last Wednesday. Nine new cases were confirmed there on Monday, bringing the total number of active cases to 58
  • More than 50,000 people in India have now died from Covid-19, according to the health ministry. It’s the fourth country to pass the milestone, after the US, Brazil and Mexico. The country has counted 2.6 million cases, but authorities say the growth in cases is now slowing
  • Japan’s economy – the world’s third biggest - has seen its largest contraction in modern history. The country’s GDP shrank by nearly 8% in the second quarter this year

Hundreds gathered in Madrid for anti-mask protest

Crowds of protesters gathered in the Spanish capital on Sunday to voice their opposition to the mandatory use of face masks and other measures imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus.
It came two days after the government introduced a swathe of new restrictions, including a ban on smoking in public.
Spain has seen a surge in new infections since lifting its three-month lockdown in late June. The national death toll stands at more than 28,600 people.

What's happening in the UK?

In the UK, the row over the awarding of A-level grades is continuing, with grammar school heads and sixth form colleges calling for action .
Students, who were not able to sit exams this year because of the coronavirus pandemic had their grades predicted by teachers instead, but 280,000 results were downgraded.
Hundreds of students held a demonstration in central London on Sunday to demand clarity over the appeals procedure.

Authorities accuse South Korean church of fuelling outbreak

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Around 3,400 members of the Sarang Jeil Church have been asked to quarantine

Authorities in South Korea are accusing the leader of Sarang Jeil Church of ignoring coronavirus restrictions, including by organising a large anti-government rally on Saturday when gatherings are still not permitted. In two complaints filed by authorities, Jun Kwang-hoon is also accused of obstructing testing of church members by refusing to provide a list of followers.
Social distancing rules across the country were tightened on Sunday.
The incident is reminiscent of the country's largest outbreak, which was traced back in February to a secrective religious cult in Daegu.
Elsewhere smaller clusters have been identified, including 30 cases linked to a Starbucks cafe in the city of Paju, north of Seoul.

Northern Ireland's GCSE results 'will be based on teacher predictions'

Northern Ireland's Education Minister Peter Weir says GCSE results there will be solely based on grades provided by teachers .
It follows controversy last week after more than a third of A-level and AS-level grades provided by schools were lowered by the exams board CCEA.
Schools in Northern Ireland were asked to give predicted grades but then other data was used by CCEA to standardise the results.
Weir says GCSEs taken with exams body CCEA - which provides about 97% of GCSE exams in Northern Ireland - would be covered by the decision.
"Having received advice from CCEA and listened to the concerns of school leaders, teachers, parents and young people, I have decided that all GCSE candidates will now be awarded the grades submitted by their centre," he says.

Apology over Australia cruise ship outbreak

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Around 2,650 passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney and catch public transport, and domestic and overseas flights home

In early spring, cruise ships globally became a significant source of coronavirus infections.
Among those was the Ruby Princess cruise ship, from which about 2,650 passengers disembarked in Sydney, Australia, in March.
State officials in New South Wales have now issued an apology after an inquiry found that health authorities made "serious mistakes" in allowing the passengers onshore without testing for the virus. That was despite suspected cases aboard.
The ship was ultimately linked to at least 900 infections and 28 deaths, and until June was the country's biggest coronavirus cluster.
Read more about the story here .

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covidaug Re: Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 12:24

'Anxiety' over computer algorithm - shadow education secretary

The awarding of GCSE results on the basis of teacher assessments in Northern Ireland shows the "sheer scale of anxiety" of relying on a computer algorithm, says England's shadow education secretary Kate Green.
The Labour MP has called for a "full technical review of the algorithm" that Ofqual, England's exam regulator, used.
Students in England, who were not able to sit exams this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, had 280,000 A-level results downgraded.
Exam regulator Ofqual has faced criticism over the statistical model it used to decide the grades.
Green told BBC Breakfast that GCSE results day on Wednesday should not be delayed in England.
"Delay is terribly worrying for young people," she said, adding that it would make it difficult for colleges to know in good time how many students would be studying with them.
Postponing would "penalise students" for the government’s failures, she said.

A-level grades algorithm 'failed' in England

The algorithm used to allocate A-level grades in England has "failed", according to a study by the Sixth Form Colleges Association.
Bill Watkin, chief executive of the association, told BBC Breakfast the study looked at 65,000 entries in sixth form colleges across 41 A-level subjects and "every single one" of the entries "came out lower than the previous three-year average".
When asked how the situation could be put right, Watkin said the algorithm should be "immediately" re-calibrated and rerun.
"We need to do a national, institution level, automated rerun as a single appeal, and in doing that we need to reassure young people that no-one will get a grade lower than they were issued as their calculated grade last week because we need to protect them," he said.

Exam regulator 'needs to claw back public confidence' over A-levels

Awarding A-level students their teacher-assessed grades would "take the heat off", a member of England's exam regulator's independent standards advisory group says.
Prof Robert Coe, speaking independently of Ofqual, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The big downside of just going with teacher-assessed grades is this problem of grade inflation - and that is a problem because too many students would qualify for university or, in the case of GCSEs, would qualify for further destinations.
"I mean, that seems like a relatively minor problem compared with the amount of outrage that is out there and the political momentum that this whole thing is taking on."
He adds: "It does have implications, it is not a cost-free solution, but politically it maybe takes the heat off."
Prof Tina Isaacs, who also sits on Ofqual's advisory group, says the regulator and the government need to "claw back" public confidence after A-level results day.
"I'm afraid it will not be able to claw back all of it," she says.

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covidaug Re: Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 12:30

Tory MPs weigh in on England's exam results row

There is growing pressure on ministers to resolve the exam grades crisis in England, including from some Conservative MPs.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith says A-level grades calculated by algorithm should be abandoned, with teacher assessments or mock results used instead.
He told LBC Radio: "The idea that you have an algorithm to figure out what they [students] might have done in an exam is really impossible and I think that's where the big mistakes will be made."
Tory former minister Stephen Hammond says the grading system and appeals process have been "a shambles".
He told Sky News that delaying GCSE results was "probably the right thing to do".
And Sir Robert Syms, who says his son's results were downgraded, told Times Radio: "If you have a computer system, as we have at the moment, adjusting grades, I just think it is terribly unfair."

Claims open for second self-employed support grant

Kevin Peachey - Personal finance reporter
Millions of self-employed people whose trade has been hit by coronavirus can now apply for a second support grant from the government.
More than three million people may be eligible for the payment of up to £6,570 each, which Chancellor Rishi Sunak said would be the final hand-out.
The first grant, launched in May, saw £7.8bn claimed by 2.7 million people.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has admitted thousands were paid too much, but it will not be demanding repayment.
Some 15,000 payments - less than 0.6% of the total - were miscalculated in the first tranche of support, the tax authority said.
Read more here

Domestic abuse calls to police 'every 30 seconds' during UK's lockdown

Research by the charity Women's Aid for the BBC's Panorama programme found almost two thirds of people living with an abuser said the violence got worse during lockdown.
More than three quarters said lockdown made it harder for them to escape their abuser.
Panorama also found in the first seven weeks of UK lockdown someone called police for help about domestic abuse every 30 seconds - both female and male victims.
Read more here from the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire , whose own father was violent.

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covidaug Re: Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 12:35

South Korean church leader tests positive - report

The lead pastor of the Sarang Jeil Church, which has been linked to more than 300 infections in South Korea, has now tested positive for the virus, says local news site Yonhap.
Rev Jun Kwang-hoon is accused of breaking coronavirus restrictions by participating in an unauthorised anti-government rally in the capital Seoul over the weekend.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has criticised church members who attended the rally, saying they had taken part in an "unforgivable act that threatens the lives of the people".
It's not clear when Rev Jun might have been tested for the virus, said Yonhap without providing any more details.
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A sign bans people from entering the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, South Korea

Wedding receptions in north-west England broken up by police

Police in north-west England broke up two wedding receptions on Sunday for breaching coronavirus restrictions.
Officers in Blackburn found more than 100 guests attending one reception, while in Greater Manchester a fixed penalty notice was issued to the organiser of a wedding with more than 50 guests and a marquee.
Both areas are subject to local restrictions to prevent people socialising with other households. Elsewhere across England, sit-down wedding receptions of up to 30 people are allowed .
The wedding in Whalley Range, Manchester, was one of 54 reported coronavirus breaches between 15:00 BST and 23:00 on Sunday in Greater Manchester, police said.
Deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police Ian Pilling said most people were "doing the right thing" so it was "incredibly disappointing that these people are being continuously let down by a small [minority], who are selfishly flouting the very guidance that is there to keep us safe".

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covidaug Re: Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 12:37

What's the latest in Europe?

The UK government brought in new quarantine rules over the weekend for people arriving from France and five other countries, including the Netherlands and Malta. The requirement has been imposed because of concerns about rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in those places. Here is how things are looking in Europe today:

  • Countries across the continent are reporting a surge in infections. Spain, which recently recorded its highest daily case figures in months, imposed tighter restrictions nationwide on Sunday. France also recorded a sharp rise in infections over the weekend, a trend the health ministry said was "worrying"
  • Italy, which is facing its own spike in infections, said it was closing all nightclubs for at least three weeks from Monday. Masks will also be compulsory in some areas between 18:00 and 06:00. It follows concern that the rate of infection is rising among young people
  • Travel plans continue to be disrupted as countries change their guidance. Germany's health minister issued a travel warning for nearly all of Spain over the weekend. Those returning will face a coronavirus test or mandatory two week quarantine
  • For the latest on how European countries are responding to the pandemic, we've put together this handy country-by-country guide

Uncertainty over claim Malaysia strain is '10 times more infectious'

On Sunday Malaysia’s health ministry said it had detected the now globally dominant D614G mutation of the coronavirus, warning in a post on Facebook that it was “10 times more infectious”.
But an infectious diseases expert says there is “no basis” to that figure.
The D614G mutation appeared after the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in the Chinese city of Wuhan. And it’s now seen in as many as 97% of samples around the world.
In July our heath reporter wrote about how growing numbers of virologists believe this mutation has an evolutionary edge. But they said there’s not enough evidence to show it’s “more transmissible” than other strains.
A July paper published by Cell Press also said it was “not clear” whether this virus variation “increases transmissibility”.
Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Dr Dale Fisher, a professor in infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore, said: “There was some laboratory evidence that patients with the D614G mutation secreted more virus, which potentially could make it more infectious.
“But in countries where it's spread more quickly, clearly the controls haven't been as good either, so you can't really extrapolate what's a potential in the lab to what is seen in countries with a poor response anyway,” said Dr Fisher, who is also chair of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network for the WHO.
He says there is “no basis” to the 10 times more infectious figure.
“It's presumptuous to translate what we've seen in the lab to an epidemiological outcome.”

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covidaug Re: Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 12:42

Record daily high in Peru and other news from Latin America

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Peru surpassed 10,000 daily cases for the first time on Sunday

Peru registered its highest number of daily cases on Sunday with 10,143 confirmed infections. In total, there have been more than 525,000 cases. Health Minister Pilar Mazzetti said that without the strict lockdown the government imposed early on in the pandemic, more than half a million people would have died rather than the 26,000 who have lost their lives until now.
Here are some of the other developments in the region:

  • Bolivia, Peru's southern neighbour, passed the 100,000 total cases mark on Sunday - but experts warn that the pandemic there is not expected to reach its peak until September.
  • Among the more than 4,000 people who have died of Covid-related diseases in Bolivia is Esther Morales, the sister of former President Evo Morales, who died in hospital on Sunday
  • The government of Chile has launched a $34bn (£25.9bn) recovery plan, which aims to create 250,000 jobs to counteract some of the losses incurred during the pandemic. The number of jobs lost during the pandemic in the country is estimated at 1.8 million

Thousands of South Korean church members told to quarantine

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Thousands flouted a ban on large gatherings in an anti-government march at the weekend in Seoul

More information now about the virus cluster linked to a South Korean church. Cases associated with the church have now reached 319, an increase of 70 from Sunday, according to the Central Disease Control Headquarters.
Pastor Jun Kwang-hoon, who leads the Sarang Jeil Church, has reportedly himself tested positive.
The government is asking thousands who attended an illegal rally held by the church at the weekend to now quarantine. Some 3,400 have already been identified and placed in quarantine, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said in a press briefing.
The country has previously been a global leader in successfully managing outbreaks of the virus.
Read more here

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covidaug Re: Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 12:58

Alcohol and cigarettes permitted again in South Africa

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There have been protests over South Africa's ban on alcohol sales

South Africa is beginning to ease coronavirus restrictions today, allowing sales of alcohol and cigarettes to resume.
Domestic travel, small family gatherings and the reopening of businesses will also now all be allowed, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.
He reimposed a ban on alcohol sales in July, saying it would take pressure off the national healthcare system.
The country has recorded more than half of Africa's coronavirus infections, with more than 570,000 cases and 11,500 deaths.
But there are signs that the case numbers could be stabilising, and the World Health Organization says the hospitalisation rate is also slowing down.
Read more about the pandemic in Africa.

Lebanon's health minister calls for two-week lockdown after resurgence

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Many of Beirut's healthcare facilities were left non-functional by the explosion at the city's port

Lebanon’s caretaker health minister has called for a two-week lockdown after a resurgence of Covid-19 in the wake of the devastating explosion in Beirut on 4 August.
“We declare today a state of general alert and we need a brave decision to close [the country],” Hamad Hassan told Voice of Lebanon radio.
Hassan separately told the newspaper Annahar that the two weeks would allow medics to focus on treating the more than 6,000 people injured by the blast and free up beds at Beirut’s hospitals, many of which were severely damaged.
On Sunday, the health ministry reported 439 new coronavirus infections and six deaths. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, meanwhile, confirmed that four people with Covid-19 had died at camps in Lebanon and warned that “things may get out of control”.
In other developments in the Middle East:

  • Authorities in Jordan sealed off the northern town of Ramtha, which is close to the border with Syria, following a spike in new Covid-19 cases
  • Iraq barred foreign tourists from entering the country to help limit the spread of coronavirus ahead of the Shia Muslim religious rituals of Ashura, which start at the end of August. Millions of people traditionally gather at shrines and mosques in the city of Karbala and elsewhere

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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 13:02

US Democratic National Convention adapts to virus

The US will pick its next president in November. By now we know who the candidates are but the political parties still need to formally sign them off.
For the Democratic party that event is taking place this week, and coronavirus is making the ordinarily raucous, showy affair more subdued.
Due to start later today, the Democratic convention will still feature major speeches and announcements, but they will be virtual.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his pick for Vice-President Kamala Harris will be addressing the party and laying out their policies by video conference.
Instead of 50,000 people gathering in Milwaukee, Winsconson, the venue will instead just have the core staff needed to run the event. Sessions will be streamed from the Democratic Party's social media channels and aired live on most US news channels from 21:00 to 23:00 EDT each night until Thursday this week.

Tory backlash over A-levels crisis in England

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a backlash from within his own party over the deepening A-levels crisis in England.
Senior Conservatives - including the Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt, as well as Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis and Caroline Noakes - have raised concerns after many students got lower-than-expected grades in their exams.
Ms Mordaunt said she was "seeking a further meeting today" with the Department for Education after speaking with students and parents about exam results.
"This group of young people have lost out on so much already, we must ensure that bright, capable students can progress on their next step. Delaying a year won't be an option, and it shouldn't be an option. For many it will mean falling out of education," she tweeted .
Read more: Pressure mounts on ministers to solve exam crisis

Calls for England's GCSE results to be delayed

Following the growing criticism over the grading of A-level exams in England, there have been calls for GCSE results - out this Thursday - to be delayed.
The government has defended the approach it used to determine the grades after exams were cancelled due to the pandemic.
But David Laws, executive chairman of the Education Policy Institute, says that England is facing "a crisis of confidence in its exam grading".
"It is essential that GCSE grades are not published until [regulator] Ofqual is confident that they are fair and robust and will not lead to further speculation or uncertainty and a requirement for mass appeals," the former Liberal Democrat minister says.
The Conservative former education secretary Lord Baker of Dorking is also urging ministers to delay the publication of GCSE results until the problems with A-levels had been resolved.
And Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Academy Trust, tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Let's not make all the same mistakes over the GCSEs."
Labour's shadow education secretary Kate Green earlier told BBC Breakfast that "options have to be kept on the table" when it comes to awarding GCSE results.
"I certainly don't think that delay is an ideal outcome either for students or for those education institutions," she says.

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covidaug Re: Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 13:07

Nigerian children begin final year exams

One of the biggest stories in the UK today is the argument over exam results after British students were unable to sit tests as normal because of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria more than 1.5 million secondary students are starting their delayed final exams after they were disrupted by the pandemic.
The students, who will wear face masks during the exams, began school again two weeks ago in order to prepare. Some teaching was provided online or via radio and TV stations during lockdown, but there are concerns that poorer students have been disadvantaged.
In Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Gambia, children are also sitting exams set by the West African Examination Council.

UK appeals for more vaccine trial volunteers

More than 100,000 people have signed up to take part in future NHS trials of a coronavirus vaccine - but more volunteers are needed, UK researchers say.
They want as many people as possible to enrol, to speed up their efforts to find a safe and effective jab.
And they are particularly looking for more volunteers from the "high-priority groups" disproportionately affected by the virus - those belonging to ethnic minorities or aged over 65.
Kate Bingham, who chairs the UK's vaccine taskforce, said: "These trials are safe...
"The quicker we get the clinical trials enrolled, vaccinated and get the results, the quicker we can get a vaccine."
By the end of the year, there could be at least half a dozen different coronavirus vaccines in clinical trials, including one being developed by Oxford University that is already in an advanced stage of testing .
Read more here.

Blink Star Announcement on A-levels 'imminent'

A fresh announcement on A-level results in England is coming "imminently", according to reports.
About 40% of results were downgraded after the regulator Ofqual used an algorithm based on schools' previous results when the exams were cancelled due to the pandemic.
And pressure has been mounting on ministers to let teacher-assessed grades stand in England to avoid a second wave of exams chaos hitting GCSE results this week.
BBC education correspondent Sean Coughlan stressed that nothing was confirmed, but said in a tweet there could be a switch to use teachers' grades - centre assessment grades.
The government has so far stood by its system.

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covidaug Re: Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 13:09

Public Health England 'to be replaced'

An announcement on the future of Public Health England is expected on Tuesday, according to a leaked memo.
It follows a Sunday Telegraph report that said it will be replaced by a new agency that will specifically deal with protecting the country from pandemics.
The memo seen by the BBC and written by the PHE head Duncan Selbie to staff said the aim of the new national institute for health protection was to boost expertise with "much needed new investment".
Ministers have reportedly been unhappy with the way PHE has responded to the coronavirus crisis.
There is a logic to moving PHE's coronavirus functions, including testing and surveillance, into a new health protection agency which also takes in the test and trace network and management, our health editor Hugh Pym says.
But shaking up the defences with the virus threat still present is risky, he says.
Read more in our story here

Latest developments this lunchtime

It's lunchtime in the UK, so it's a good time to reflect on the latest news stories here and around the world:

  • Boris Johnson is facing a backlash from within his own party over the deepening A-levels crisis in England. Senior Conservatives - including the Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt and Defence Minister Johnny Mercer - have spoken out after many students got lower-than-expected grades when their exams were cancelled because of the pandemic
  • There are reports that an announcement from the government on A-levels will be made this afternoon
  • GCSE results in Northern Ireland on Thursday will be based solely on grades predicted by teachers
  • The authorities in South Korea have accused a conservative Christian church leader of violating self-isolation rules and fuelling the country's worst outbreak of coronavirus infections in several months. Some 300 new cases have been linked to the Sarang Jeil Church in the capital, Seoul, and members of the church have been asked to self-quarantine
  • Japan's economy has shrunk at its fastest rate on record
  • School children across West Africa are taking vital final exams after months of disruption caused by the pandemic

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covidaug Re: Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 13:53

No delay to GCSE results in England - UK government

Downing Street has said there will be no delay to GCSE results which are due out this Thursday in England.
The UK prime minister's spokesman said the government was continuing to work on the "fairest system possible", following outcry over poor A-level exam results.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, currently on holiday in Scotland, spoke to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and senior officials this morning in the wake of growing pressure over A-level results announced last week and ahead of GCSE results due this week.
Asked repeatedly about a possible U-turn on the results system, the PM’s spokesman would only say the government continued to work to come up with the fairest system possible.
Asked whether Mr Johnson would apologise to those students issued with unfair results, his spokesman said the government recognised it had been an "incredibly difficult year" for pupils, which is why the government continued to work on the fairest system possible.
He said the PM did have confidence in the education secretary and the Chief Regulator of Ofqual Sally Collier.

UK 'not ruling out' quarantine measures for Greece and Croatia

The UK government has not ruled out that Britons returning from Croatia and Greece could face quarantine measures, following reports that ministers are concerned about the two countries .
Asked whether Greece and its islands would count as one country for quarantine rule purposes, a No 10 spokesman said: "We will continue to keep data for all countries and territories under constant review. We update the list on a weekly basis."
It comes after thousands of holidaymakers had their plans thrown into chaos last week when UK quarantine measures were imposed on countries including France and the Netherlands from Saturday.
Meanwhile, returning travellers who must quarantine for 14 days should not do a supermarket shop on their way home before isolating, the government has stressed.
"The guidance is published and clearly sets out what you can and can't do when you are quarantining," a No 10 spokesman said.
"It specifically says you should not go shopping. If you require help to buy groceries, other shopping or picking up medication, you should ask friends or relatives or a delivery."

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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 16:06

Japan suffers its biggest economic slump on record

The Japanese economy has shrunk at its fastest rate on record as it battles the coronavirus pandemic.
The world’s third largest economy saw its gross domestic product fall 7.8% in April-June from the previous quarter, or 27.8% on an annualised basis.
Japan was already struggling with low economic growth before the crisis.
The figures released on Monday are a stark reminder of the severe financial impact faced by countries around the world.
Japan slipped into recession earlier this year following two successive quarters of economic contraction.
Its latest data for the April to June quarter was the biggest decline since comparable figures became available in 1980 and was slightly bigger than analysts had expected.
Read more here

Local measures 'may be needed' in NI

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Prof Ian Young said localised measures could not be ruled out

Local measures may have to be considered in areas of Northern Ireland with high numbers of coronavirus cases, the nation's chief scientific adviser has said.
Prof Ian Young said the 288 Covid-19 cases recorded by NI's Department of Health in the past week was of "considerable concern".
He said there were high numbers of cases in the Antrim and Newtownabbey and Mid and East Antrim council areas, and added there was indication of widespread community transmission.
"We're getting close to the point, certainly in those areas with the high numbers of cases, that we may have to consider whether any additional local measures are required," Prof Ian Young told BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme.
There have been no local lockdowns in NI to date.

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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 16:11

China reports no new domestic cases

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
It’s big news in China today that the country has reported no new domestic cases for the first time in more than a month.
The last time the country reported zero domestic cases was 14 July. This was a day before a woman tested positive in Urumqi, north-western Xinjiang, and led to a localised outbreak, with more than 600 people being infected.
It has been rare that China, a country with a population of 1.4bn people, has seen a single day with zero domestic infections. The first time was 19 March, after the original outbreak in the central city of Wuhan.
The country again, briefly, recorded no domestic cases in early May, but state media have consistently warned that localised outbreaks can happen, and so mask-wearing and social distancing is still encouraged.
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New cases of the coronavirus were found in Urumqi, Xinjiang province, in July

The Xinjiang outbreak, much like others in the country, has been brought under control with strict local lockdown and quarantine measures, and mass, free testing procedures.
However, there have still been cases of earlier patients testing positive again, and there have been concerns that people could contract the virus from frozen seafood or meat. It is believed this is how a localised outbreak began in the capital Beijing, in June.

Ryanair cuts flight capacity by a fifth in September and October

Ryanair has said it will cut capacity by 20% in September and October after bookings had "notably weakened" in the past 10 days.
The budget airline says the drop-off in flight bookings is due to uncertainty over coronavirus infection rates in some countries.
The cuts will mostly be reductions in flight numbers, not route closures.
Ryanair said the cuts will be "heavily focused" on Spain, France, and Sweden, where rising virus rates have led to travel restrictions.

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covidaug Re: Coronavirus - 17th August

Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 16:13

A-level and GCSE grades in Wales to be awarded by teacher assessments

A-level and GCSE grades will now be awarded to students in Wales on the basis of teacher assessments, the Welsh government has said.
It comes after the Welsh government was urged to drop its system for allocating A-level and GCSE results following claims it unfairly downgraded students.

Welsh education minister on 'difficult' exam results decision

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Wales' education minister Kirsty Williams confirms in a statement that A-level, AS, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate and Welsh Baccalaureate grades will now be awarded on the basis of teacher assessments.
School exams across the UK were cancelled because of the pandemic.
Williams says: "It is clear that maintaining confidence in our qualifications whilst being fair to students requires this difficult decision.
“These have been exceptional circumstances, and in due course I will be making a further statement on an independent review of events."
She says the decision is being made now ahead of this week's GCSE results "so that there is time for the necessary work to take place," adding: “For those young people, for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand."
It comes after Northern Ireland's education minister announced this morning that GCSE results there will be solely based on grades provided by teachers. And the Scottish government said last week that tens of thousands of school pupils will have their exam results upgraded after it agreed to accept teacher estimates of scores.
There is increasing pressure on ministers in England to do the same - with an announcement reported to be taking place later.

Northern Ireland A-levels 'to be based on teachers' predictions'

We've already reported that GCSE results in Northern Ireland on Thursday will be based solely on grades predicted by teachers.
Now sources have told the PA news agency that A-level results are also set to be based on teachers' predictions.
Stormont ministers faced a backlash from head teachers, parents and pupils after last week's results were based around an approach calculating grades on a regional basis.
Education minister Peter Weir has been under pressure to act amid claims significant numbers of students were downgraded from their teachers' expectations.

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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 16:21

Tennis world number two pulls out of US Open

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Simona Halep won the Prague Open on Sunday

Simona Halep has said she won't be playing in the US Open , which is due to start in New York on 31 August.
Halep, who won Wimbledon last year, is the latest player to pull out of the competition.
"After weighing up all the factors involved and with the exceptional circumstances in which we are living, I have decided that I will not travel," she explained.
She is the sixth top ten player to opt out.
Meanwhile Japan's Kei Nishikori has tested positive for coronavirus and will not play in the Cincinnati Masters.

Spanish regions impose fresh restrictions

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Customers at this bar in Marbella had their temperatures checked before entering

Four more Spanish regions have introduced fresh restrictions today aimed at curbing a surge in infections.
Andalusia, Galicia, Cantabria, and Castile and León are the latest regions to be required to impose 11 new rules. La Rioja and Murcia began applying the measures on Sunday.
Restrictions include the closure of all nightclubs and the requirement for restaurants and bars not to admit new customers from midnight and to close by 01:00.
Smoking outdoors in public places is banned if social distancing cannot be maintained.
Meanwhile, the northern Basque region is expected to declare a "health emergency" on Monday that allows it to impose tougher restrictions than its neighbours.
Spain has seen a surge in new infections since lifting its three-month lockdown in late June. The death toll stands at more than 28,600 people.
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Residents of Barcelona queued to receive tests for Covid-19

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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 16:30

Days of chaos, confusion and anger

Sean Coughlan - BBC News, education correspondent
After days of chaos, confusion and anger, the u-turn on A-level and GCSE exam grades has been announced.
It will mean an increase in grades for about 40% of the entries for A-levels - as the grades will now be based on estimates submitted by teachers and schools - the so-called “centre assessment grades”.
It will mean unexpected celebrations for some students and inescapable recriminations for ministers and regulators. There will be a political blame game asking why no one saw this exam iceberg on the horizon, particularly when Scotland showed what would happen?
Most of those benefiting will see their results improving by one grade, but for others this second chance could mean going up by two grades or more, as the system of moderation that had lowered teachers’ grades has been ditched.
Ofqual, the exams watchdog, has apologised that the problems have caused “real anguish” and “damaged public confidence”. Education Secretary Gavin Wiliamson said he was “sorry for the distress”.
But there will still be questions. What will happen about university places? Students who missed out might now find themselves with good enough grades. Will the government have to life the limits on student numbers.
But in the end the u-turn had become inevitable - with one school leader saying it had become the only way out of what had become an increasingly angry “gridlock”.

Exam chief: 'I would like to say sorry'

The chairman of Ofqual, Roger Taylor, has apologised after a U-turn on the system for awarding A-level and GCSE exam results in England.
"I would like to say sorry," he told the BBC.
"We have recognised the difficulty that young people have faced coping with the receipt of grades that they were unable to understand the basis on which they were awarded."
He said the exam regulator was "now taking steps to put that right".
There's more from him here:


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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 16:34

England's education secretary sorry for 'significant inconsistencies' in A-level grades

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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has apologised to students and parents affected by "significant inconsistencies" with process for allocating grades in England.
"This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for young people who were unable to take their exams," Mr Williamson said in a statement.
"We worked with Ofqual to construct the fairest possible model, but it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process."
He added: "We now believe it is better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A and AS level and GCSE results.
"I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve."

Labour leader: England exam results process a 'complete fiasco'

The UK government's handling of A-level and GCSE exam results in England during the coronavirus pandemic has been "a complete fiasco", the leader of the opposition has said.
"The government has had months to sort out exams and has now been forced into a screeching U-turn after days of confusion," Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted.
"This is a victory for the thousands of young people who have powerfully made their voices heard this past week.
"However, the Tories' handling of this situation has been a complete fiasco.
"Incompetence has become this government's watchword, whether that is on schools, testing or care homes.
"Boris Johnson's failure to lead is holding Britain back."

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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 17:39

Three more people die with coronavirus in UK

The exam result U-turn followed the cancellation of exams across the UK because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest figures show a further three people have died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus, as of 17:00 BST on Sunday, the government said.
This brings the total in the UK to 41,369.
Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies show there have been 56,800 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
The government also said that as of 09:00 BST on Monday, there had been another 713 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Overall, a total of 319,197 cases have been confirmed.
UK-wide death figures may not match the totals for the four nations, as they cover a different time scale and cover deaths in all settings.
Following a review of the way coronavirus deaths are counted, the government's figure for the death toll in England has been reduced. This also reduces the figure for the UK as a whole.
New rules mean deaths anywhere in the UK are included in the coronavirus total only if they occurred within 28 days of a positive test - this brings England into line with the other UK nations. Previously in England all deaths after a positive test were included.
Deaths are published on the government's coronavirus dashboard

Ex-Tory leader: Exams U-turn 'the right thing'

The change in policy on A-level and GCSE results in England "is the right thing to do," former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith has said.
"Every parent will breathe a sigh of relief," the Tory MP for Chingford and Woodford Green told the BBC.
Asked about the timing of the announcement, five days after students received their A-level results, he added: “At least they’re had the common sense to change it.”
Earlier, he joined a number of other Tory back bench MPs in saying that the algorithm-awarded A-level grades should be abandoned, with teacher assessments or mocks used instead.

How did the exam algorithm work?

Following widespread uproar over last week's results day, A-level students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their grades based on teacher assessments rather than an algorithm.
But how were A-level grades originally decided and why did some schools feel they had been treated unfairly?
Our colleagues at BBC News Analysis have all the background you need

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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 19:42

The latest developments

The U-turns on exam grades in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, of course, comes after A-level and GCSE tests were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Other Covid-related news today from the UK included an announcement that more than 100,000 people have signed up to take part in future NHS trials of a vaccine.
And the government also said that as of 09:00 BST on Monday, there had been another 713 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus. Overall, a total of 319,197 cases have been confirmed in the UK, and there have been 41,369.deaths
We're going to bring you a few more updates from around the world now.

What's been happening in the US?

[*]The US Democratic convention kicks off later, but will largely be held online because of the coronavirus.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his choice for Vice-President Kamala Harris will address party supporters by video conference.
The Democratic Party's social media channels will stream the sessions and they will be broadcast on most US news channels each evening until Thursday.
In other US news:

  • An entire sorority house at Oklahoma State University has been placed under quarantine after 23 members tested positive for Covid-19. University spokeswoman Monica Roberts said there were "protocols in place to manage the situation", The Oklahoman newspaper reported
  • The mayor of Tuscaloosa in Alabama has appealed to university students returning for a new term to wear masks and adhere to social distancing. Walt Maddox spoke out after pictures on social media showed crowds of young people violating Covid-19 restrictions. Police said they issued 12 citations and made four arrests
  • The number of new cases in Florida has fallen to its lowest since June, the Miami Herald reported . There were 3,779 new cases reported on Sunday, 900 of which came from the worst-hit county, Miami-Dade. The daily positive test rate for the past seven days was 9.1, down from 9.7 from the previous week, the newspaper added

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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 19:50

French theme park show with 9,000 guests criticised

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The historical themed park in Vendee, western France was allowed to re-open in June

The French government has defended the decision to allow a gathering of 9,000 people to go ahead at a medieval-themed park in western France.
The current limit on gatherings is 5,000. But the Puy du Fou park in Vendée was given permission by local authorities to stage its Cinéscénie show at the weekend, despite concerns about a rise of infections in the country.
The history-themed performance involves fireworks and hundreds of actors and horses.
Critics pointed out that other summer festivals had been prevented from going ahead and suggested it was irresponsible. But local officials said the open-air event was permitted with mask-wearing and strict social distancing.

House party links to two Covid clusters in Scotland

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Some of the eight positive cases are pupils at Bannerman High School

Dozens of students are self-isolating as Covid-19 clusters in Glasgow and Lanarkshire have been linked to house parties.
A joint statement from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire said the two boards were working together on the outbreak.
A total of 14 linked Covid cases have been identified in north-east Glasgow in addition to eight North Lanarkshire cases.
The health boards confirmed on Monday that the cases were linked.
They also said that evidence of social gatherings with no social distancing was a factor in their investigation.
The number of new confirmed cases in Scotland has slowed drastically over the last few weeks, but localised outbreaks are still occurring.
Over the past 14 days there have been 641 cases detected following a test, with 26 confirmed on Monday.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 20:15

Sharon Stone: 'One of you non-mask wearers did this'

US actor Sharon Stone has blasted "non-mask wearers" in a post on Instagram revealing that her sister is in hospital "fighting for her life" with Covid-19.
She says her sister was already vulnerable with lupus. "The only place she went was the pharmacy," Stone wrote. Her brother-in-law is also in hospital, she explained in a video that criticised the lack of testing in Montana state where they live.
“My grandmother died of Covid and my godmother died of Covid,” said Stone.
Mask-wearing varies across the US, but in many places it is not mandatory and has become a divisive issue.
"Wear a mask! For yourself and others. Please," Stone said.
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  tweet  sharonstone:
:Left Quotes: My sister Kelly, who already has lupus, now has COVID-19. This is her hospital room. One of you Non-Mask wearers did this.
She does not have an immune system.
The only place she went was the pharmacy.
There is no testing in her county unless you are symptomatic, and then its 5 day wait for results.
Wear a mask! For yourself and others, PLEASE.

Charts track rise of infections in India

The number of people in India who have died after testing positive for Covid-19 has now passed 50,000. The world's second most populous country has recorded more than 2.5 million cases so far and has been averaging around 60,000 new infections every day.
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Meanwhile, Latin America remains the epicentre of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.
Brazil has the second highest number of cases, after the US, and has recorded nearly 108,000 deaths. Mexico has the second-highest death toll in the region with more than 56,000 deaths.
Outside Latin America, cases in Iran are on the rise again, The official death toll there is nearly at 20,000 but documents leaked to the BBC Persian service suggest the real number is more than double that.
Indonesia reported 1,821 new infections on Monday, bringing its total to 141,370.
View more charts tracking the global pandemic in the latest guide from the BBC News Visual and Data Journalism Team .
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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 20:27

Czechs to see mandatory face masks reinstated

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The Czech Republic has gradually relaxed the wearing of masks

The Czech Republic will reinstate the mandatory wearing of face masks on public transport and in shops from 1 September following a resurgence of cases.
Authorities say the measure is preventative to coincide with the start of the school year. Masks will also be mandatory in schools but not in classrooms themselves.
The country was one of the first in Europe to make the wearing of masks mandatory in most public places in March but gradually lifted the requirement as infections fell.
"We consider this to be a preventative measure given that we are probably facing a complicated autumn, especially after September 1 when there will be high social interaction," said Health Minister Adam Vojtech.
The Czech Republic has reported around 20,000 Covid-19 cases but only 399 deaths. It is currently dealing with 5,816 active cases, the highest number so far.

Most Victoria infections linked to quarantine hotels - inquiry

Nearly all current cases of coronavirus in the Australian state of Victoria can be linked to returned travellers who have been quarantined in hotels, an inquiry has heard.
The inquiry into Victoria's hotel quarantine system was told that data suggested at least 99% of cases at the end of July could be traced to people who had returned after travelling abroad.
The quarantine programme "fell short of its goal" of preventing the spread of Covid-19, Barrister Tony Neal QC said. For some people in quarantine it was "not clear who was in overall command of the operation", he added.
Victoria is currently in lockdown because of a second wave of infections.
Read more on this story here .

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Post by Kitkat on Mon Aug 17 2020, 20:29

We’re pausing our live coverage

That's all from us for today. Thanks for joining our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
We'll be back tomorrow with more updates from the UK and around the world.
Before we go, here's a summary of today’s top stories:

  • England, Wales and Northern Ireland have all announced U-turns on A-level and GCSE results
  • Results were predicted by teachers after the exams were cancelled because of the pandemic - but had been downgraded
  • Almost all current cases of Covid-19 in Victoria, Australia, can be linked to returned travellers quarantined in the state, an inquiry has heard
  • The US Democratic convention kicks off later, but will largely be held online because of the coronavirus
  • Ryanair has said it will cut capacity by 20% in September and October following "notably weakened" bookings in recent days
  • South Korea is dealing with its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases in five months - with 279 cases reported on Sunday alone
  • And globally more than 776,000 people have died with coronavirus and 21.7m cases have been reported, according to Johns Hopkins University

Our reporting today has been brought to you by Jasmine Taylor-Coleman, Emma Harrison, Georgina Rannard, Alex Kleiderman, Ella Wills and David Walker.

    Current date/time is Tue Sep 29 2020, 18:59