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COVID-19: All the latest LIVE worldwide updates - today's updates are also on our Portal page, here)

Coronavirus - 16th October


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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 11:06

Summary for Friday, 16th September

  • A flight carrying about 300 passengers from New Zealand to Australia under a new so-called "travel bubble" has landed in Sydney
  • New coronavirus restrictions are coming into force in several European regions and countries as Covid infections surge
  • France reported a jump of more than 30,000 new Covid-19 cases ahead of a night-time curfew being imposed on Paris and eight other cities
  • The Spanish region of Catalonia has introduced tough new measures, including closing some bars and restaurants
  • Poland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have also introduced additional measures
  • Divisions between the government and local leaders in England are "very dangerous" and harming the ability to control the disease, a scientist warns
  • UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has defended the three-tier restrictions, saying they are necessary to avoid a "severe" national lockdown
  • It comes as millions more people in England will move to the second highest tier of restrictions - high alert - from Saturday


Welcome to today's coverage

It's early morning here in London as we resume our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. We will be updating you on the latest news from the UK and around the world.
Here are some of the latest key developments:

  • The first flight from New Zealand to Australia under a new so-called "travel bubble" has landed
  • France has reported a large jump in new Covid-19 cases ahead of a night-time curfew being imposed on Paris and eight other cities on Saturday
  • The Spanish region of Catalonia has introduced tougher new coronavirus restrictions - including closing some bars and restaurants - to try to halt a resurgence of the disease in the area
  • The row over England's three-tier regional Covid restrictions is "very damaging to public health" , a scientist advising the government has warned
  • Talks are due to continue later between government and local leaders over moving Greater Manchester and Lancashire to the toughest tier of rules
  • Millions more people in England will move to the second highest tier of restrictions - high alert - from Saturday, including London, Essex (apart from Southend and Thurrock), York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Erewash in Derbyshire, Elmbridge in Surrey, and Barrow in Furness, Cumbria
  • New restrictions come into force in Northern Ireland this evening - meaning pubs and restaurants will only be able to serve takeaways, and hairdressers and beauticians will shut
  • And a ban on travelling to Wales from coronavirus hotspots elsewhere in the UK comes into effect on Friday evening
  • In the US, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in a town hall campaign meeting in Philadelphia that Donald Trump had refused to boost efforts to combat the virus even after testing positive: "What's he doing? Nothing. He's still not wearing masks."
  • President Trump, at a separate event in Miami, rejected criticism of his handling of the pandemic, saying he had done an "amazing" job
  • In China, a coronavirus vaccine has been found to be safe and to trigger immune responses in combined early and mid-stage trials

Latest as Europe battles Covid surge

Partial lockdowns are continuing to spread across Europe as governments battle to curb virus infections.

  • The Netherlands has closed bars and restaurants as cases there surge. Hospitals in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague are under pressure from new Covid patients. Hospitals in western Germany have readied spare beds to take Dutch patients if necessary, as happened early on in the crisis
  • New infections are also rising rapidly in Germany: the latest official daily figure is 7,334 cases, up from 6,638 on Thursday. Germany has declared many neighbouring countries and regions to be "high risk", including the whole of France and the Netherlands, and parts of Italy and Switzerland. Germans returning from there will have to quarantine
  • Ireland now has a four-week national restriction on household visits, except for attending to medical and care needs. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said Covid-19 in Ireland was "not in control" – that is, the current track-and-trace system could not keep up with it
  • Austria has imposed a quarantine on Kuchl, a town of 6,600 inhabitants in the Salzburg region, because of a Covid cluster there. It is the first such measure in Austria for months
  • France faces one last evening before a night curfew takes effect in Paris and eight other cities. The number of new cases in 24 hours reached 30,621 on Thursday – a new record.

What's the three-tier system in England?

London and Essex are among the areas moving into Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions from Saturday. It means millions more people won't be able to mix with other households indoors.
The announcement follows the introduction of England's new three-tier system. Other parts of the UK have also introduced new restrictions.
Every area of England now falls into three categories - medium (Tier 1), high (Tier 2) or very high (Tier 3) - depending on the local rate of infection.
Read the rules for each tier here .

Scientists estimate 47,000 daily Covid cases in England

Around 47,000 Covid-19 infections are occurring each day across England, with daily deaths expected to hit 240 to 690 by 26 October, according to evidence presented to government scientists.
The Medical Research Council (MRC) biostatistics unit at Cambridge University published new predictions this week on how fast the epidemic is growing across the country.
It estimates cases are doubling in under 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 (PHE) teams.
On 12 October, the MRC unit published a report saying: "Our current estimate of the number of infections occurring each day across England is 47,000.
"We predict that the number of deaths each day is likely to be between 240 and 690 on 26 October."
It said the daily number of infections was within the range of 28,900 to 74,900, with the best estimate being 47,000, and said the number of new infections is particularly high in the north-west of England, north-east of England and Yorkshire, followed by London and the Midlands.
It added the estimated growth rate for England was 0.09 per day.

Wales ban on people visiting from UK hotspots to begin

A ban on travelling to Wales from coronavirus hotspots elsewhere in the UK comes into effect this evening.
First Minister Mark Drakeford asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson twice to stop people in areas of England with high coronavirus rates from travelling.
But after receiving no reply, the first minister used devolved powers to shut Wales' borders to people from hotspots.
The ban will cover all of Northern Ireland, England's tier two and three areas and the Scottish central belt.
Read more on this story here .

Tighter rules introduced on face coverings in Scotland

New rules have come into effect in Scotland extending the mandatory wearing of face coverings.
They will now be required in workplace settings such as canteens.
Other areas such as corridors and other communal facilities will be included in a further extension of the rules coming into force on Monday.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the measures were part of the response needed at a "critical moment" in the pandemic.

Greater Manchester mayor wants 'fairness' for workers

The UK's foreign secretary has said Greater Manchester's mayor should "do the right thing by the people" and agree to the highest level of Covid measures.
Dominic Raab said Labour's Andy Burnham was "effectively trying to hold the government over a barrel over money and politics".
Burnham later tweeted: "It's not about what we want for ourselves, Dominic Raab. It's about what we want for low-paid and self-employed people everywhere: fairness."
On Thursday, Burnham said Greater Manchester would "stand firm" against plans to move it into Tier 3, calling it a "flawed" and "unfair" policy.
He wants more financial support for people affected by tougher rules.
Meanwhile, discussions between central government and local leaders over putting the region into Tier 3 have stalled.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast earlier, Sir Richard Lees, the leader of Manchester City council, said no talks were planned for Friday.
He said that "at the moment there are no meetings in the diary between us and government", adding: "We are in a bit of a vacuum."

Breaking News

Lancashire to enter very high Covid Tier 3

A deal has been agreed for Lancashire to enter England's highest tier of coronavirus restrictions.
Under Tier 3 - the "very high" alert level - measures include pub closures and a ban on household mixing indoors, in private gardens and in most outdoor venues.
Currently the Liverpool City Region is the only area under Tier 3 measures.

Announcement on Lancashire expected at 1100 BST

An official announcement on the new measures in Lancashire is expected shortly - at 11:00 BST.

One-way Australia-New Zealand 'bubble' opens

As we reported earlier, the first passengers from New Zealand have arrived in Australia under new "travel bubble" arrangements between the two countries.
None of the passengers will have to quarantine on arrival in Sydney, though they will have to do so on returning to New Zealand.
Australia and New Zealand are among the first countries in the Asia-Pacific region to loosen restrictions on international travel since Covid-19 travel bans came into effect earlier this year.
Since March, Australia's borders have been closed to everyone except returning Australian citizens and residents and those with special permission.

Swiss yodelling concert creates European hotspot

In Switzerland, a yodel concert attended by 600 people is believed to have made one canton a European virus hotspot.
According to the authorities, people at the event, which took place at the end of September in the rural canton of Schwyz, were asked to keep their distances, but were not required to wear masks.
"We found out nine days after the performance that several people from the group were infected," event organiser Beat Hegner told Swiss television.
With more than 1,230 coronavirus cases, the canton is now one of the continent's hotspots.
"The explosion in the number of cases in Schwyz is one of the worst in all of Europe," local hospital chief Reto Nueesch is quoted as saying in local media.
On Wednesday, some 94 people tested positive, twice as many as the day before, and 114 on Thursday.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 11:19

Test swab snapped off into woman's lung at UK hospital

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A woman who was being tested for Covid-19 in a UK hospital ended up having the swab snap off into one of her lungs, a report said.
The patient, in her 50s, had a tracheostomy - a procedure where an opening in the neck is made - at a hospital in Leicester.
When a nurse tried to swab the woman for Covid-19 through her neck tube, the swab snapped off into her right lung.
The trust said additional safety measures were now in place.
The patient was being treated by University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust after a neurosurgical operation, a British Medical Journal (BMJ) report said, and was due to be discharged to a nursing home.
The test swab is designed to snap to fit into its test tube.

London wedding venue hosts 100-guest reception

Police have broken up a wedding reception in the UK where more than 100 guests congregated in breach of coronavirus restrictions .
The event at the Tudor Rose in Southall, west London, on Tuesday evening was described as a "flagrant and arrogant violation of the law".
The venue's owner has been reported and could face a fine of up to £10,000.
Under current regional guidance, the number of guests allowed at weddings is limited to 15 people.
Body-worn camera footage of the reception, released by the Metropolitan Police, showed guests being led from the venue.

Remdesivir has little impact on Covid, says WHO

James Gallagher - Health and science correspondent, BBC News
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the antiviral drug remdesivir has "little or no effect" on hospital patients with Covid.
Remdesivir has been touted as a potential therapy since the beginning of the pandemic and gained greater attention when it formed part of US President Donald Trump's cocktail of treatments.
But the WHO trial, published online , gives a damning verdict.
There is a bit of uncertainty in the data, but the study says it "absolutely excludes" the idea remdesivir can save a significant number of lives, and says the findings are "comfortably compatible" with the drug having no life-saving effect at all.
It is a similar message for preventing people needing ventilation or speeding up recovery.
The manufacturer, Gilead, says there is "more robust" evidence which includes another trial in the US that showed remdesivir cut hospital stays from 15 to 10 days.
So far, doctors have been raiding the cupboard for existing drugs that can fight coronavirus.
The results have been disappointing with malaria drugs, HIV drugs, MS drugs and now an Ebola drug (remdesivir). Only an old steroid – dexamethasone – has proven life-saving.
The attention is now turning to new experimental therapies such as antibodies designed in the lab to fight the virus and new, untested, antiviral drugs.
We are still waiting for the results of these trials, but the worry is that "new" in medicine tends to mean "expensive", and that will raise questions about who will have access to the drugs.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 11:30

Ireland told to move to Level 5 as NPHET urges government to increase restrictions for six weeks
Harry Brent - Irish Post
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has reportedly urged the Government to move the entire country to Level Five of the Covid plan.
After meeting with government representatives on Thursday evening, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned that the coronavirus situation in Ireland was "not in control".
He advised that the country increases its restrictions to Level Five for six weeks in order to curb the recent spike in cases.
It's understood that NPHET recommended that schools remain open in spite of the increased restrictions.
Level Five essentially asks the over 70s to cocoon, and the health body said it will give further consideration to the restrictions that should apply to older people.
The recommendations were proposed to the Government via a letter - signed by Dr Holohan.
In the letter, it says that NPHET understands how difficult these restrictions will be for the population but it encourages them to show solidarity with one another.
It comes as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases reached record daily figures of 1,205; and three more people have died from the virus.
Dr Holohan expressed "extreme concern" at the increased spread of the virus over the last week in particular, and warned of a "rapidly deteriorating trajectory nationally" of coronavirus.
"It's clear the disease is not in control. That's the situation in the North of Ireland," he said.
"That's the same situation in Europe. We share that challenge. Almost no country in Europe could regard them as having this virus in control.
"The data is clear. The infection has added at least 50% in the last seven days."

Poland confirms record number of daily Covid related deaths

Adam Easton - Warsaw Correspondent
In Poland, there have been 132 Covid-19 related deaths recorded in the past 24 hours, the health ministry has tweeted - the highest daily number there since the start of the pandemic.
There were 7,705 new Covid-19 infections over the same period, the second highest Poland has reported and down from Thursday’s record of 8,099.
From Saturday, the highest level of restrictions will be introduced in almost half of Poland, including Warsaw and most major cities.
In those areas, distance learning will be reintroduced for secondary schools and universities. Wedding and family parties will be banned and public gatherings limited to 10 people. Restaurants and bars will be limited to 50% capacity and they must close at 21:00 (19:00 GMT), after which a takeaway service will be available.
Swimming pools and gyms will close throughout the country and spectators will no longer be permitted in sports grounds, which were previously allowed to be one quarter full. Face masks are already mandatory for everyone in public spaces.
Hospital admissions are rising rapidly and Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Thursday the health system was "testing its limits". Some hospitals are already reporting shortages of beds and ventilators, and trained staff needed to operate them.
Poland has reported a total of 157,608 cases and 3,440 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 11:32

Mayors in north of England issue statement on financial support

Mayors in the north of England have issued a joint statement on the financial package available to people affected by regional coronavirus restrictions - as a stand-off with the UK government continues over England's three-tier system.
The statement from Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North Tyne, and Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, says: "The government is claiming that the [north of England] is divided and only interested in getting what we can for our own region.
"That is simply not the case.
"We are all united in fighting for an 80% furlough scheme for all people affected by regional lockdowns, wherever they are in the country.
"Paying two-thirds of salaries will not be enough to protect the jobs of thousands - it should at least match the 80% that was available under furlough, with the minimum wage as the minimum support.
"The Universal Credit top-up is not the answer. It doesn't help everybody and takes weeks to come through. It will not prevent severe hardship for thousands of low-paid workers before Christmas.
"But we won't forget the self-employed and freelancers and other business who will be affected by these lockdowns, they also need support and we stand firm for those too.
"This is a fight for what is right."

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 11:42

Lancashire deal involves £42m support package

Mike Stevens - BBC Radio Lancashire political reporter
The deal agreed with Lancashire over going into Tier 3 restrictions involves a support package worth £42m.
This is more than local leaders had hoped for, having been promised £12m.
They’ve also been promised more support for local Test and Trace and a specific ministerial team to deal with the outbreak in Lancashire.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to the leaders but didn’t take questions.
He thanked them for their hard work, recognised the difficulty in coming to an agreement and emphasised how difficult the situation was in Lancashire.
However, some council leaders are not happy and wanted a bigger package of financial support.

French dog-walkers can break curfew

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Dogs will still get their exercise during the curfew

About 20 million people in France are bracing for the start of night curfews from midnight Friday (22:00GMT).
The entire Paris region will have night curfews – from 21:00 to 06:00 - for at least a month, as will eight other cities, including Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse.
So what are the dos and don’ts?
Restaurants, bars, cafes and cinemas must shut at 21:00 and diners remain restricted to six maximum per table, French media report. Food outlets can still provide night-time deliveries.
Jogging and dog-walking will still be allowed during the curfew but, as during the two-month lockdown, a signed permit will be required, which can be downloaded onto a phone.
France is deploying 12,000 police officers specifically to enforce the curfew. The fine for a violation will be €135 (£122) and a repeat offender could face six months in prison and a €3,750 fine.
The few exemptions include medical emergencies, essential home care visits and travel by train or plane at night. Shift workers with late hours may also break the curfew.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 12:05

Breaking News

UK government confirms Lancashire going into top tier of restrictions

The UK government has confirmed that Lancashire is to move into the top tier of restrictions from 00.01 on Saturday 17 October.
It confirmed the following restrictions were coming into place:

  • People must not socialise with anybody they do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events
  • People must not socialise in a group of more than six in an outdoor public space such as a park or beach, the countryside, a public garden or a sports venue
  • All pubs and bars must close, unless they are serving substantial meals
  • People should try to avoid travelling outside the very-high alert level or entering a very-high alert level area, other than for work, education or for caring responsibilities or to travel through as part of a longer journey
  • Residents should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK, and others should avoid staying overnight in the very high alert area

In addition, following discussions with local leaders, it was agreed that from Monday 19 October at 00.01:

  • The adult gaming industry, casinos, bingo halls, bookmakers, betting shops, and soft play areas must close
  • Car boot sales would not be permitted

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “An unrelenting rise in cases in Lancashire means we must act now, and we have worked intensively with local leaders to agree on additional restrictions.
“I know how heavy these additional challenges will weigh on every day life for the people of Lancashire – but they are critical in bringing this virus under control.
“Without them, we risk the health of your loved ones, your most vulnerable and your local NHS services. Now is the time to play your part, and we will make sure you are supported.”

Finnish PM leaves EU summit as contact tests positive

Natalie Higgins - BBC News, Brussels
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Finland's prime minister has become the second leader to leave a face-to-face EU summit taking place in Brussels, after a recent contact of hers tested positive for Covid-19.
Sanna Marin will immediately return to Finland, take a test and enter voluntary quarantine. She earlier came into contact with MP Tom Packalenin - who has since been confirmed to be infected - in the Finnish parliament.
The Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven will represent Marin for the rest of the summit.
Yesterday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen left the summit after a member of her team tested positive, entering voluntary self-isolation "as a precaution".

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 12:15

Gyms and leisure centres to stay open in Lancashire

As we reported earlier, a deal has been agreed for Lancashire to enter England's highest tier of coronavirus restrictions.
Geoff Driver, Conservative leader of Lancashire County Council, told the BBC that pubs and bars would close in the area, in line with Tier 3 restrictions.
But he said gyms and leisure centres would remain open for now, after the council convinced the government it had sufficient measures in place to monitor their performance.
He revealed the council had received £42m in total - £12m for being an area going into Tier and a further £30m the council had negotiated.
Gyms and coronavirus: What are the facts?

Liverpool mayor demands 'immediate clarification' on restrictions

Liverpool's mayor has called for "immediate clarification" on why gyms in Lancashire are allowed to stay open when they are closed in the Liverpool City Region.
Joe Anderson tweeted: "Inconsistent mess, we now have Tier 3 A and Tier 3 B.
"Are gym users in Lancashire more safer than those in Liverpool region?"
Wirral Council leader Jan Williamson also tweeted: "As Liverpool City Region leaders we demanding the evidence from government immediately as to why our gyms have had to shut and Lancashire can keep theirs open.
"We need fairness and consistency, what we have is a shambles."
How does Tier 3 work?
Areas on very high alert - Tier 3 - face the strictest curbs, with bans on household mixing indoors, in private gardens and most outdoor venues.
People from different households can still meet in certain outdoor public spaces, such as parks, beaches, the countryside, forests, public gardens, allotments, outdoor sports facilities and playgrounds.
Pubs and bars will be closed unless they are serving substantial meals and there is also guidance against travelling in and out of the area.
Further restrictions may be agreed for particular regions in the top tier and in the Liverpool City Region gyms, leisure centres, betting shops and casinos have also been forced to close.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 12:18

Israel to ease second lockdown as infections fall

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Electronic candles were placed in a Jerusalem square on Monday in memory of the more than 2,000 people who have died from Covid-19 in Israel

Israel's government has agreed to lift some of the restrictions imposed during a month-long second nationwide lockdown, with the daily number of new infections continuing to decline.
From Sunday, Israelis will be allowed to travel more than 1km (0.6 mile) from their homes for non-essential purposes; children will return to nurseries and pre-schools; restaurants will be permitted to serve takeaway food.
People will also be able to visit beaches and national parks, and pray at the Western Wall, the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The lockdown began on 18 September, after Israel experienced infection and mortality rates that were among the highest in the world relative to population size.
The daily number of new confirmed cases has gradually fallen from a high of almost 9,000 at the end of September to below 2,000. The rate of positive tests - 4.5% - is also the lowest recorded since mid-July, while the reproduction number, or R value, currently stands at 0.62.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein nevertheless warned that there was "still a long road ahead", noting that the infection rate might begin to rise as restrictions were eased.

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Infections in England up 50% on last week, ONS survey says

Robert Cuffe - BBC head of statistics
Coronavirus cases in England have risen by 50% in a week , the Office for National Statistics infection survey suggests.
Approximately one in 160 people in homes in England had coronavirus in the week ending 8 October, which equates to 336,500 people.
This figure is approximately 50% higher than the figure for the previous week - 224,000.
The ONS further estimates there are 27,900 new infections each day in homes in England, up just over 60% on last week’s figure (17,200).
Since the survey is of homes, it misses outbreaks in communal residences such as university student halls.
But the figure is far higher than the number of confirmed cases announced by the government each day - which was 18,980 yesterday.

Wales facing circuit-breaker lockdown

First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed the Welsh government is "looking very carefully" at introducing a circuit-breaker lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus in the country.
At a press conference in Cardiff, he said "This would be a short, sharp shock to the virus which could turn back the clock, slowing down its spread and buying us more time and vital capacity in the health service.
"A firebreak would also, however, be a short, sharp shock to all our lives. We will all have to stay at home once again, to save those lives.
"But this time, it will be for weeks and not months. We are considering a two or three-week firebreak. The shorter the period, the sharper the measures will have to be."
Mr Drakeford said no decisions had been taken yet, with discussions set to continue over the weekend and a final announcement planned for Monday.
More than 2,500 people were now being infected each day, Mr Drakeford said, with critical care units in hospital full.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” he said.
What is a circuit-breaker lockdown?

Tier-2 garden visit rules stricter than in first lockdown

We've had some clarification on what the rules are on visiting friends and family for people in Tier 2 areas of England.
BBC health correspondent Catherine Burns says: "It's going to be illegal for people from these high-risk areas like London to visit the homes of people in lower risk areas.
"That will also apply to meeting them inside pubs and restaurants."
This does not mean you cannot see others - but such visits will have to be restricted to outdoor spaces, or gardens.
Those in Tier 2 are allowed to meet as many as five other people in someone else's private garden - but not if they have to go through their house to get to it.
"This is something that is stricter than it used to be," said our health correspondent. "You might remember in England, earlier this summer when the lockdown was starting to be eased, people were allowed to walk through homes quickly to go to gardens.
"They were even allowed to nip in and use the loo. I called the Department of Health and Social care today to check and they have said that is no longer the case."

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 14:06

Breaking News

UK R number rises again

Earlier, we reported that coronavirus cases in England have risen by 50% in a week .
Now, government data shows the reproduction rate of the virus - or R number - across the UK has also increased.
Data released by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) shows the estimate for R for the whole of the UK is between 1.3 and 1.5.
Last week, the R number was between 1.2 and 1.5.
R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.
When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially.
An R number between 1.3 and 1.5 means that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 13 and 15 other people.

PM to give coronavirus press conference later

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to give a coronavirus press conference later today.
It will be held at Downing Street and is expected to take place at 16:00 BST.
Mr Johnson will be joined by chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance and Dr Susan Hopkins, medical advisor to the government's Covid-19 response.

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Berlin bar curfew overturned by court

Jenny Hill - BBC Berlin correspondent
There's growing alarm in Germany at how fast the virus is spreading, and there's growing public frustration with the patchwork of restrictions that apply to different parts of the country.
In Berlin - which is badly affected - the authorities had ordered bars and restaurants to close at 23:00 (21:00 GMT).
On Friday morning, following an application from a number of establishments who argued that they were not the source of rising case numbers, a city court overturned the order - although a ban on the sale of alcohol after 23:00 remains in place.
The ruling calls into question one of the few measures agreed upon for high-risk areas by the leaders of Germany's 16 states. They are also at odds over whether to ban people from so-called hotspots staying in hotels in the rest of the country.

Germany cancels EU summit due to virus

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The summit was set to be held on 26 November

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has cancelled an EU summit that was due to be held in Berlin in November.
Merkel told reporters that the summit should not take place "in the context of the pandemic".
Germany, currently holding the EU's rotating presidency, called for the meeting to discuss the bloc's stance towards China.
Germany is hoping to clinch an EU-China investment deal by the end of the year, AFP news agency reports.

In charts: Europe's cases spike amid second wave

Ever tighter restrictions are being brought in across Europe in an effort to curb virus infections.
The graphs here show how cases have been rising again in recent weeks, and how countries in Europe are seeing a second rise in cases overall.
Germany, for example, has again recorded its worst daily figure of new infections - more than 7,300. France has reported a large jump in new Covid-19 cases , with more than 30,000 infections confirmed on Thursday. And nearly 19,000 new cases were reported in the UK .

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 15:33

Bolton MP doubtful Tier 3 restrictions will work

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Chris Green, the Bolton West MP who resigned as a ministerial aide over coronavirus restrictions, has been commenting on news that Lancashire is to be placed into the highest Covid alert level from Saturday.
Mr Green told the BBC he was doubtful the Tier 3 restrictions would effectively reduce the infection rate in the county.
He said Tier 3 restrictions were "mild" compared to those Bolton had, until recently, been living under.
Bolton has been under local restrictions for about 10 weeks - three of which he described as an "economic lockdown" that meant the closure of many beauticians, the bowling alley, pubs, cafes and restaurants.
"Tier 3 is mild in comparison. The lockdown in Bolton didn't work, the lockdown in Greater Manchester hasn't worked. So I don't know how hopeful this Tier 3 option is in terms of it actually having the impact we would want."
He pointed to the fact that when it was initially hoped Bolton could come out of local restrictions, the infection rate was under 20 per 100,000 people - now it's approaching 300 per 100,000.
"It's hardly seeming to be a recipe for success."

How bad is the Covid situation in Lancashire?

Daniel Wainwright - BBC England Data Unit
Parts of Lancashire continue to be among the worst affected for new Covid cases, while the county's hospitals are also among the highest in England for new coronavirus admissions.
In Burnley, there were 517 new confirmed cases in the week to 12 October, up by about a third on the week before.
West Lancashire, Pendle and Blackburn with Darwen were also in the 10 areas of England with the highest rates of new cases per 100,000 population.
Weekly data on hospital admissions shows 105 patients at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals were admitted or diagnosed with Covid-19 in the week to 11 October.
The Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS trusts each recorded 57 patients in the same week.
Elsewhere in England, the hospital trust with the highest number of new admissions and diagnoses was Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust, which had 255.
Another 125 were recorded at University Hospitals Birmingham, which is England's biggest hospital trust, while 110 were admitted or diagnosed at Leeds Teaching Hospitals.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 15:37

Poland urges citizens not to travel overseas

Warsaw has recorded its highest daily number of deaths since the start of the pandemic
Poland has urged its citizens not to travel overseas unless it is absolutely necessary.
The country earlier reported 132 Covid-19 related deaths in the previous 24 hours. It's the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic.
"We are issuing a recommendation to our compatriots for them to consider if they must travel across borders, if this is absolutely necessary for familial or professional reasons," Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk said.
Poland has recorded 157,608 cases since the outbreak began, and 3,440 deaths. The second wave is much bigger than its first - the number of daily cases is now 13 times higher than the highest number back in the spring.
Authorities introduced new restrictions on Thursday including the closure of all gyms, limits on the size of weddings and in some regions, cancelling them all together.

Slovenia tightens restrictions as cases spike

Guy Delauney - BBC News, Belgrade
Internal barriers have come crashing down in Slovenia after the government declared most of the country was in the "red zone" for coronavirus.
Red-zone residents may no longer travel beyond the borders of their home region. The ruling affects seven of the country's 12 regions – including central Slovenia, which takes in the capital, Ljubljana.
The restrictions may not be as tight as they were in the spring, when Slovenians were confined to municipal boundaries - with wardens manning checkpoints to police the policy. But city residents planning an autumn escape to the coast, lakes or mountains may feel that the walls are starting to close in again.
Working out frustration in next weekend's Ljubljana marathon will not be an option either. The event normally attracts 14,000 runners - but the organisers say that even with numbers limited to less than a 10th of that figure, the surge in Covid-19 cases "prevented us from carrying out the event safely".
Sports facilities in red-zone regions will close on Saturday - as will restaurants and bars, although takeaway and home delivery will still be an option. And schools are moving online for all classes apart from the first five years.
The government is hoping the measures will reduce the incidence of coronavirus by the time they review the restrictions in a fortnight.
Slovenia reported record numbers of new cases of Covid-19 on consecutive days this week, as the 14-day incidence rate rose well beyond 200 per 100,000 people.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 15:39

Lancashire council leaders 'bullied' into going into tier 3

Lancashire was "bullied" by the government into going into the highest Covid alert level, three council leaders from the county have claimed.
In a joint statement, Matthew Brown and Mohammad Iqbal, leaders of Preston City Council and Pendle Council respectively, said the prime minister's officials, led by Sir Ed Lister, were "unwilling to listen to any evidence" and did not present a plan on how the government's proposals would control the virus.
They said schools, retail, the workplace and a minority of non-compliant individuals were behind the majority of coronavirus transmission, but officials told them these and other areas were "off-limits" and "non-negotiable".
"Throughout the negotiations, government officials were only interested in the politics and threatened any district leader who did not fall into line with 10 Downing Street's threats to accept tier three would suffer an imposition of tier three and that their borough 'would become an island' that would receive much less in funding and resource."
Paul Foster, leader of South Ribble Council, echoed the views, describing the discussions as a "complete shambles".
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government had "worked intensively with local leaders" to agree the move.

Government insists it worked in 'consultation' with councils

The government worked in "consultation" with councils over moving regions into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions, Downing Street has said.
The prime minister's spokesman said Boris Johnson was "very grateful" that council leaders in Lancashire "worked in consultation with the government and have come on board" - after some Lancashire leaders were reported as saying they were bullied into the region's move to tier three.
Downing Street also insisted it was up to regional leaders to decide whether gyms should be closed as part of the top level of restrictions.

As we mentioned earlier, in the Liverpool City Region gyms are closed, but they will remain open in Lancashire when it enters tier three.
Asked about financial support for regions affected by stricter restrictions, the PM's spokesman suggested that no further fiscal support would be provided to Greater Manchester in the bid to encourage the region to accept tier three proposals.
And Number 10 said Johnson was not currently looking at imposing a so-called "circuit-breaker" national lockdown.
His spokesman added: "We do keep all measures under review but [the PM] has set out this week that he doesn't believe there should be a national lockdown, and that we believe our three-tiered approach is the right way forward."

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 15:41

Boris Johnson to give Covid update

In about half an hour we will hear the latest about the state of play in the UK and the government’s efforts to try and contain the growth of coronavirus across England.
Boris Johnson will chair a press conference in Downing Street.
He will be accompanied by the UK government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, and Dr Susan Hopkins, an epidemiologist and Public Health England official who is the UK government's medical adviser to the Covid-19 response.
The PM is likely to face questions about the growing number of people living in "very high" Covid areas, after it was announced Lancashire will move into the highest of the three alert levels on Saturday, joining the Liverpool City Region.
It followed an agreement with local leaders on a package of financial support - although some have come out subsequently and said they felt “bullied” into accepting tougher restrictions.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 16:12

Can I stay with my partner if we live in tier 2?

Your Questions Answered
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More and more people in the UK face tougher restrictions as the government tries to stop Covid spreading.
We're answering some of your questions about the rapidly changing rules, and other related topics.

Luke in east London asks: If my partner and I both live alone in separate houses can we stay at each other’s?
From Saturday 17 October - as you live in London which is becoming a tier two area - you will no longer be allowed to visit each other indoors or stay overnight in each other’s homes. Meeting indoors in private spaces and indoor public spaces such as a pub or restaurant will be breaking the law in a tier two or tier three area, unless you have formed a support bubble.
A support bubble "is where a household with only one adult joins with another household". Households in that support bubble "can still visit each other, stay overnight, and visit public places together”.
Another exception is if you are in a legally permitted childcare bubble , “where someone in one household provides informal childcare to a child aged 13 or under in another household”.
You can still meet each other outside, including in a garden or outdoor space or outdoors at a pub, restaurant, leisure or entertainment venue and place of worship.

  • Read more of your questions here

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 18:03

Key points from the Downing Street press conference

Here are the main points the PM and his advisers made:

  • Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham needs to engage with the government so that tier three measures can be brought in quickly
  • Testing is being increased, with new systems being developed
  • Firms will have to wait a while before they can get enough testing kits to make sure more staff can come in to work safely
  • New cases numbered 362,000 in the two weeks to 8 October - "a big increase"
  • Infection rates are increasing most quickly among the over-85s
  • A circuit-breaker lockdown has not been ruled out
  • Single parents who live in different areas to their children could face restrictions on seeing them

Mexico's president happy to take Covid vaccine

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The president said he will take the vaccine if doctors approve the treatment

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has announced that he will take a Covid-19 vaccine - if doctors approve the treatment.
The president did not elaborate on what vaccine it was that he would take.
A number of vaccines are being developed around the world.
Mexico has the fourth highest number of deaths with 85,285 fatalities. A total of 834,910 cases have been confirmed since the outbreak began there.

Record cases in Croatia and Slovenia

Guy Delauney - BBC News, Belgrade
Croatia has reported a record number of new coronavirus cases for the third day in succession.
1,131 people tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday. It is the first time there have been more than a thousand new cases in one day.
Slovenia also reported a record number of cases for a third day. 834 people tested positive for Covid-19 today.
A partial lockdown is being enforced in seven out of the country’s 12 regions.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 18:14

Protests in Barcelona over bar and restaurant closures

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Restaurants and bars can only offer take-away or delivery services until 30 October

About 1,000 hospitality workers protested in Barcelona on Thursday against a 15-day shutdown of bars and restaurants by the regional government.
Under the new restrictions, bars and restaurants may only offer takeaway services or deliver orders until 30 October.
Hospitality association Fecasarm said the shutdown would affect some 30,000 establishments throughout the region.
Catalonia is Spain's second worst affected region after the region of Madrid.
Spain confirmed more than 13,300 cases on Thursday.
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Catalonia is Spain's second-worst affected region after Madrid

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The protest comes as Spain announced more than 13,000 cases on Friday

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 20:37

Italy confirms more than 10,000 cases

More than 10,000 cases were confirmed in Italy on Friday, the highest ever daily figure reported in the country.
A further 55 deaths were reported.
During the height of the pandemic in March, Italy was badly affected.
More than 36,427 people have died and more than 391,000 people have contracted the virus since the outbreak began there.

Passengers stopped from disembarking cruise ship in Malta

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Passengers were banned from disembarking from a ship in Malta

Passengers have been stopped from disembarking a cruise ship in Malta due to a suspected case of Covid-19.
The MSC Grandiosa cruise ship was allowed into Valetta harbour but left the port after collecting supplies.
During the beginning of the pandemic, cruise ships were involved in a large number of cases.
Malta allowed cruise ships into its harbours on the condition that passengers did not mix with locals.

US nears eight million total cases

The US reported more than 65,000 cases across the country on Thursday - the most in a single day since July - as it inches toward a total of eight million infections.
Uncontrolled outbreaks are raging on in the Upper Midwest, in states like Wisconsin and Montana. Nearby, North Dakota and South Dakota are now adding more cases than any states have since the start of the pandemic.
The return of students to colleges and universities has been linked to the rapid spread. A recent study from the US Centers for Disease Control on the almost 100,000 coronavirus cases reported between 2 August and 5 September - around when college students began their return to school - found that weekly cases among those aged 18-22 increased by 55% nationally.
Authorities have also pointed to a rise in "pandemic fatigue", now more than six months after the outbreak reached the US.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 20:41

How is Russia dealing with spreading infection?

As almost every day brings another record high in the number of daily infections in Russia, the authorities have been tightening restrictions across the vast country.
They differ from region to region since President Vladimir Putin delegated significant powers for fighting the epidemic to local authorities in April.
On 16 October, Russia reported another spike of 15,150 new coronavirus cases, up from 13,754 the previous day. In late August, the number was below 5,000. The daily death toll from Covid-19 has been rising too, reaching an all-time high of 286 yesterday.
To combat the spread of the epidemic, employers in some cities have been told to move at least some of their staff to home working, some regional administrations have urged locals to stay at home, but no part of Russia has returned to the strict lockdown measures that were imposed at the start of the pandemic.
Wearing a face mask in shops or on public transport is mandatory in most Russian regions.
Employers in Moscow, Rostov and Volgograd have been ordered to switch at least 30% of staff – as well as everyone older than 65 - to working from home.
Also in Moscow, the autumn school holidays were extended from one week to two (until 18 October) and older pupils will be moved to distance learning until the end of the month.
The authorities in Moscow, Volgograd, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, Nizhny Novgorod Region, Krasnodar Territory and Russia-annexed Crimea ruled that people over 65, pregnant women and those with chronic diseases must stay at home.
In Rostov, local residents are required to stay at home unless they are on the way to work, shopping or engaged in one of a number of other activities such as exercising or walking a dog.
Mass public events are banned in Rostov Region, Krasnodar Territory, Transbaikal Territory, Udmurtia and the city of Sevastopol in Crimea.
Stavropol Territory requires visitors from other regions to quarantine for 14 days.
Leningrad Region introduced "red", "yellow" and "green" zones depending on the density of Covid-19 cases in the area, and limits the number of people present in these zones accordingly.
Kaliningrad Region banned cinemas on weekends. Bars and night clubs are closed in Kaliningrad Region, Chukotka and Rostov Region.
Rostov Region and Lipetsk Region suspended routine medical care, except for urgent conditions, for everyone apart from Covid-19 patients.

Chris Christie: 'No contract tracing done by White House'

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says "there was no contact tracing done" with him by the White House after he tested positive for Covid-19.
"My contact tracing was done by my local county board of health. They called me when i was in the hospital," he said to ABC News in his first televised interview since his release from hospital.
The Republican was present at the 26 September Rose Garden event, now under scrutiny as a possible super-spreading event.
Christie has since expressed regret over the event, saying he incorrectly believed the White House was a "safe zone" and that he was "wrong" not to wear a mask.
"I let my guard down. And it was wrong, it was just a big mistake," he said to ABC.
Asked on Friday if he has since urged President Trump to advocate for mask wearing, Christie said that "everybody's going to make their own decisions on that".

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 20:45

Pfizer won't seek vaccine authorization until after US election

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has confirmed it will not apply for emergency authorisation for its Covid-19 vaccine before late next month - puncturing President Donald Trump's hope for a virus jab before the 3 November presidential election.
In a statement, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company may know whether or not their vaccine is effective by the end of October, but that the time needed to collect safety and manufacturing data will push the authorisation date several weeks later.
"We are operating at the speed of science," he said.
Trump has hinted that a vaccine might be ready before Americans go to the polls next month, fueling speculation that the timeline is politically motivated.
At a town hall event last night, Democratic challenger Joe Biden said he would take a vaccine when it becomes ready, if "the body of scientists" say it is safe.

All bars, cafes and restaurants to close in Belgium for a month

Gavin Lee - BBC Europe reporter
All bars, cafes and restaurants across Belgium will close from Monday for a month, following a surge in the number of Covid 19 cases.
A night time curfew will also be in place across the country from Monday from midnight until 5am.
The Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo announced the measures this evening, stating that the country had entered a “very serious alert phase, phase four”.
The measures will also mean that people can only have one close contact outside of their household, compared to four close contacts previously.
Mr De Croo also stated that working from home will be compulsory for all workers who are able to. Sales of alcohol will also be banned after 8pm.
He added that the situation could be reviewed after two weeks for all measures.
Belgium has had an average of 6,000 infections and 20 deaths per day in the past 7 days, including a rise of 7,360 cases in a single day recorded on Wednesday.
The infection rate over the past two weeks stands at 549 infections per 100,000 people. That’s an increase of 182% compared to that two weeks before.
The daily flow of patients at several hospitals in Brussels and Wallonia is starting to put pressure on the health system again, according to medical staff.
Officials have now ordered hospitals to reserve 50% of ICU beds for Covid patients, up from 30%.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 20:47

Manchester officials say they are still waiting for Downing Street meeting

Tensions are running high between Downing Street and local leaders in Greater Manchester, who have been unable to agree on whether the areas should move to England's highest, tier-three level of Covid restrictions.
Mayor Andy Burnham, his deputy mayors and other Greater Manchester leaders have just released a statement, saying: "At our last meeting with Downing Street officials yesterday morning, we were told they would arrange a further meeting later in the day to provide a response to our requests. That did not happen and, despite being on standby all day today, we are still waiting for it to be arranged. We can assure the prime minister that we are ready to meet at any time to try to agree a way forward.
They add that they are “not convinced that closing hospitality venues is the only way to protect hospitals" and they would prefer to look at other measures "such as reinstating shielding arrangements and introducing tougher instant closure powers on non-compliant pubs, restaurants, shops and other business premises”.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned he may “have to intervene” if tier-three measures were not agreed for Manchester.
The prime minister urged Mayor Andy Burnham to "engage constructively" with the government, saying the situation was worsening every day and "time is of the essence".

Internet searches in Hong Kong for Singapore flights up 400%

Danai Howard - BBC News
Internet searches in Hong Kong for flights to Singapore have jumped by 400% following the announcement that the two cities were planning a potential "travel bubble".
The travel website Expedia said it saw a three-digit surge in the number of customers, while prices for flights in December rose by at least 57% in the last 24 hours, to $3,297 [Hong Kong dollars] (£329) for a round-trip. Meanwhile, the share price for Hong Kong’s airline Cathay Pacific jumped by 7% following the announcement on Thursday.
The travel bubble would mean that people would be able to travel between Hong Kong and Singapore without the need to quarantine, but Singapore’s Transport Minister, Ong Ye Kung, has said travellers would still need to have received negative Covid-19 test results to travel under the scheme.
International travel to Asia collapsed during the pandemic, with passenger numbers down 97% in August, according to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines.
The Singapore-Hong Kong deal will provide some much-needed relief for the region’s aviation and tourism sectors.
“It is a safe, careful, but significant step forward to revive air travel, and provide a model for future collaboration with other parts of the world," Mr Ong said.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Oct 16 2020, 20:52

Main headlines from around the world

Here are the main stories from around the world today:

  • The US has reported more than 65,000 cases across the country on Thursday. It’s the most in a single day since July. The US is inching towards a total of eight million infections
  • Belgium has announced it is closing all bars, cafes and restaurants for a month as cases rise in the country
  • Italy confirmed 10,000 cases on Friday, the highest daily total ever recorded in the country
  • People in the hospitality industry have protested against the closure of bars and restaurants in Barcelona. Under the new restrictions, bars and restaurants may only offer takeaway services or deliver orders until 30 October
  • Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has announced that he will take a Covid-19 vaccine - if doctors approve the treatment
  • France is introducing rapid Covid-19 tests at airports, according to the health minister. Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said the tests will be put in place by the end of October

UK round-up

We will soon be bringing our coronavirus live page to a pause for the day.Before we do, here are the main UK stories from today:

That's it from us for today

We are now closing our live page. Thanks for joining us today.

The live page writers today were:
Alexandra Fouché, Ella Wills, Sophie Williams, Justin Parkinson, Gavin Stamp and Alex Therrien.
The page was edited by Mal Siret and Martha Buckley.

    Current date/time is Sat May 15 2021, 12:38