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Coronavirus - 19th October


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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 12:46

Summary for Monday, 19th October

  • Wales is to go into a 17-day "sharp, deep" lockdown from Friday
  • All non-essential shops, leisure facilities and places of worship in Wales must close
  • Welsh primary schools and years 7 and 8 will return as usual after half term but older students must study at home
  • All mixing between households in Wales will be banned, whether indoors or outside
  • In England, talks continue over whether Greater Manchester will enter tier 3 of Covid restrictions
  • Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick says lives will be put at risk there if action isn't taken soon.
  • The number of confirmed cases around the world has passed 40 million
  • Italy has announced a new raft of measures to tighten restrictions amid a surge in cases
  • In Australia, officials are easing tight restrictions in the state of Victoria after more than 100 days of lockdown

Good morning and welcome to our live page, where we will be bringing all the latest coronavirus updates, as well as breaking news from around the world.
Here are some of the main stories so far this Monday morning:

  • A decision on a "short, sharp" national lockdown across Wales is due to be announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford. He's expected to make an announcement shortly after midday. It will follow a meeting of the Welsh government cabinet this morning. The government previously said any "fire-break" lockdown would last "for weeks not months". But Welsh hospitality bosses have warned jobs could be at risk for almost a third of their 140,000-strong workforce
  • Talks are to resume on whether Greater Manchester will enter England's highest level of Covid restrictions , after leaders in the region resisted the move, saying better financial support was needed. Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said he had a "constructive call" with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's team yesterday - and Treasury sources have indicated extra support could be made available.
  • Energy regulator Ofgem is introducing new rules this winter to help vulnerable customers struggling to pay their energy bills. Suppliers will be required to offer emergency credit to customers who cannot top up prepayment meters. In March, suppliers voluntarily agreed with the government to support people affected by the pandemic. Ofgem's new measures makes this a formal requirement.
  • Elsewhere, Italy has announced a new raft of measures to tighten restrictions . Mayors will have powers to close public areas after 21:00, with the opening times of restaurants and size of groups allowed inside to tighten. The country has recorded its highest daily infection rate for the second day in a row.

The latest figures in the UK

If you're catching up on the news after the weekend, there were 16,982 new cases reported on Sunday.
There were also a further 67 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.
You can find more information here - as well as using our look-up tool to find out about the situation where you live.

Breaking News 

Global cases pass 40 million

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections across the world has passed 40 million, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
More than half of the cases come from just three countries - the US, India and Brazil.
At least 1.1 million people have died with coronavirus since the pandemic began.

What's happening around Europe?

Across the continent, a number of countries have strengthened their approach to the virus as the so-called "second wave" of infections continues.

  • Italy announced a raft of new measures after it recorded its highest daily infection rate on Sunday. Mayors will be able to close public areas after 21:00 and the opening times of restaurants will be further restricted
  • Nine major French cities, including the capital, Paris, have been placed under a 21:00 to 06:00 curfew for at least a month. The country saw a record number of new cases on Saturday
  • All bars and restaurants in Belgium have been closed for four weeks. A curfew will also be in force from 00:00-05:00
  • Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, which has the highest coronavirus infection rate in Europe, said it would wait two weeks before deciding whether a full lockdown was needed
  • Austria has announced new limits on gatherings, with six people allowed to meet indoors and 12 outside. Shops, restaurants, bars and theatres remain open
  • And Ireland is set to announce tighter restrictions on Monday. A minister said a localised policy had not been sufficient and implied the cabinet was looking at closing all non-essential businesses

You can read more about how Europe is responding to the pandemic here.

Breaking News 

Wales to enter circuit-breaker lockdown

Wales is to start a two-week "firebreak" lockdown, starting later this week, First Minister Mark Drakeford says.
It will last from 23 October to 9 November.
It is a "short sharp shock" to stop the clock in the fight against the virus he said.
It comes after a meeting of the Welsh Government cabinet this morning. They considered advice from experts before making the decision.

More details on the Wales national lockdown

"Unless we act the NHS will not be able to look after the increasing number of people who are falling seriously ill, even with the extra 5,000 beds that we have available for this winter," says Mr Drakeford.
The two-week firebreak will start at 18:00 on Friday 24 October.
It will include the half-term holiday and end on Monday 9 November.
"This firebreak is the shortest we can make but that means it will be sharp and deep in order to have the impact," said Mr Drakeford.
He said from 23 October to 9 November:

  • everyone in Wales will be required to stay at home. This means working from home wherever that is possible
  • All non-essential retail, leisure and tourism businesses will close, as well as community centres, libraries and places of worship (except for funerals and wedding ceremonies)
  • As a result over this period childcare facilities will stay open.

All gatherings banned with those outside household

All gatherings indoors and outdoors with people not from other households will be banned, says First Minister Mark Drakeford.
People must stay at home but exercise will be permitted, the first minister has told the briefing.
Other measures include the closure of close-contact services like hairdressers and beauticians.

'Real risk' of NHS being overwhelmed, says Drakeford

Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford said: "There no easy choices in front of us as the virus spreads rapidly in every part of Wales.
"If we do not act now it will continue to accelerate."
He said there was then a "real risk" the NHS could be overwhelmed.
"Most starkly of all, even more people will die from this deadly virus," he said.
If action were not taken now, in a time-limited way, there could be an "open-ended lockdown" like that in March, he added.

Students to stay in university accommodation in Wales

Students will have to stay in their university accommodation rather than going home to their families elsewhere, says Drakeford.
University learning will continue to be a blend of in-person and online lessons, he says.

More tier 3 areas 'mean national lockdown by the back door'

Sean Fielding, Labour leader of Oldham Council, told BBC Breakfast negotiations between the government and leaders in Greater Manchester over whether the region should go into tier three restrictions have "moved on" from last week but he was yet to receive details of a new financial offer.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Friday that he might have to "intervene" if Greater Manchester did not come on board and agree to entering the toughest tier of coronavirus measures.
Greater Manchester leaders including Mr Fielding, and Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham have been holding out for more financial help for those whose incomes would be affected by the restrictions - but Mr Fielding stressed "this isn't an argument just about money".
There are concerns about whether or not moving to a higher tier of restrictions would actually bring down the infection rate, he said, adding that he would prefer a short, England-wide lockdown, which he says would be cheaper in the long run, as tier-three restrictions could "run on and on".
Simply moving more levels to tier three is "a national lockdown by the back door" said Mr Fielding, in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
And he argued that the current situation meant people from tier three areas such as Liverpool City Region were able to travel elsewhere to go to the pub - and that this simply was "moving the problem down the road".

Government 'hopeful' amid Manchester restrictions row

Talks are to resume today on whether Greater Manchester will enter the highest level of Covid restrictions, after leaders in the region said better financial support was needed.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast this morning, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he was "hopeful" an agreement could be reached.
He added: "People in Greater Manchester want a single, co-ordinated, public health message. That is why we have gone to so much trouble to try to reach an agreement with local leaders.
"I hope that they will, today, come forward, support us and that we can reach that sort of agreement. If not, then we will have to consider other options.
"Because, obviously, the government has over-arching responsibility to protect people in all parts of the country, including in Greater Manchester, but ... doing so by imposition has never been our desired approach."

So what are the rules in different parts of England?

England is now divided into three areas, in terms of coronavirus restrictions - tier one, tier two and tier three.
Currently, Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region are in tier three, the highest level of restrictions - with tight rules on meeting up and for businesses, including that pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals.
Areas that are in tier two include London and Essex - which means you cannot mix with people from other households indoors.
For tier one, you can only meet in groups of six, and pubs and bars close at 22:00.
The tier a region is put into depends on the level of infections there.
For all of the details on the rules, have a look at our feature here.
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Lockdown eased in Australia's Victoria as cases fall

Coronavirus rules in the Australian state of Victoria have been eased after more than 100 days of lockdown.
The changes came into effect on Monday, with people now able to travel further and meet up with more friends without a time limit on how long they spend outside the home.
But strict measures remain in place for restaurants and retailers, limiting them to takeaway and delivery options.
The city of Melbourne, which has been under stricter lockdown, has also relaxed its rules.
According to the state's health department, two new daily cases were recorded in Victoria on Sunday - far below a peak of 687 reported on 4 August.
Find out more about the new rules in Melbourne and Victoria here .

UK and Scottish governments clash over testing

There's a row brewing in Scotland over who is responsible for a delay to the publication of Covid test results.
On Sunday there were 316 new cases were recorded in 24 hours - a dramatic drop from 1,167 on Saturday.
The Scottish government said there was a "testing capacity issue" with the UK government Lighthouse lab in Glasgow, causing 64,000 tests to be re-routed to other sites.
The UK government, however, said this was "categorically untrue".
A post on the Scottish government website said an increase in the number of positive Covid test results was expected on Monday and Tuesday.
Read more about the row here.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 13:00

Bolton MP in hospital with Covid-19

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Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi has been admitted to hospital with pneumonia after testing positive for Covid-19.
The shadow international development minister and MP for Bolton South East in Greater Manchester said she was being "very well looked after".
Writing on Facebook , she said she started to feel unwell two weeks ago and subsequently tested positive for coronavirus. She was isolating at home but then started feeling worse 10 days later, which led to her being admitted to the Royal Bolton Hospital on Saturday.
She said she had "nothing but praise" for the "wonderful staff" at the hospital.
"They have been amazing throughout the process and I would like to extend my thanks to everyone working here in such difficult circumstances," she wrote.
There are concerns about hospital capacity in the region. One intensive care consultant in the region told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the recent rise in admissions was "very concerning".
Dr Indeewar Kapila said Manchester's rate of infection - which was 431 cases per 100,000 in the week to 13 October - was "extremely high" and could lead to a "situation very soon where intensive care beds are beginning to run out".

Top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat in critical condition, Israeli hospital says

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Saeb Erekat is the Palestinians’ chief negotiator in peace talks with Israel

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat is in a critical condition with Covid-19 and has been placed on a ventilator, the Israeli hospital treating him has said.
On Sunday, the 65-year-old was rushed to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem from his home in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank, after suffering respiratory problems. His condition was described as “serious” but “stable” and he was given oxygen.
“Mr Erekat had a quiet night but this morning his condition deteriorated and it is now defined as critical," the hospital said in a statement on Monday.
"Due to respiratory distress, he was put on a ventilator and placed in a medically induced coma.”
Treating Mr Erekat was a “huge challenge”, the hospital said, because he received a lung transplant three years ago and had a “weakened immune system and bacterial infection, in addition to coronavirus”.
He tested positive for Covid-19 on 9 October.
Mr Erekat is the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), serves as an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and has been the Palestinians’ chief negotiator in peace talks with Israel for two and a half decades.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 13:05

Drakeford: 'Firebreak is our best chance' but 'window to act is small'

Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford continues: "Both I and my cabinet colleagues are absolutely aware of the demands that we are making of our fellow citizens here in Wales as we ask everyone to stay at home and require businesses to shut.
"Of course we are all tired of coronavirus and the many rules and regulations with which we have to live our lives. We all want to see an end to this pandemic and our lives returned to us once again.
"Unfortunately we do not yet have a vaccine which will allow that to happen. And a firebreak period is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much longer and much more damaging national lockdown.
"The window we have within which to act is only a small one and to be successful we need everybody's help.
"Here in Wales, this is the moment to come together, to play our part in a common endeavour, to do everything we can together to protect the NHS and to save lives."
He says it "will not be easy" but there can be success if everyone works together.

Firebreak will definitely end on 9 November

Answering questions, Wales's first minister stresses the firebreak is for a fixed period and will end on that Monday, 9 November.
But he says "we will not see the benefit" of the two-week period by then, but rather "in the weeks that follow".
He says there will be an element of self-policing as it will be obvious when people try to break the law.
Official organised events for Remembrance Sunday will still take place, "small in scale" and "different from previous years", but they will be the only exceptions to the ban on gatherings during the firebreak, he adds.

Wales will be 'better prepared for difficult winter', says Drakeford

The two-week lockdown period "will be used purposefully", says Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford.
This will include strengthening the test, trace and protect system, he says - including the recruitment of more staff and allowing them to catch up on the "huge volume" of contacts that have to be traced.
The NHS will also be accelerating plans for field hospitals in Wales.
And the government will review the fixed penalty notices introduced over the past six months to make sure they are fair and proportionate.
These measures, he says, will allow Wales to come out of this time "better prepared for the difficult winter that still lies ahead".

What is a "circuit-breaker" or "firebreak"?

BBC Explainers
The Welsh government has just announced a two-week circuit-breaker , or "firebreak," which it said was the nation’s "best chance of regaining control of the virus".
A circuit-breaker imposes a tight set of restrictions that are similar to the national lockdown seen in March but for a short, fixed period of time.
The hope is it can bring the number of coronavirus cases back down quickly, while inflicting less damage to the economy and to people's mental health than an indefinite national lockdown would.
In Wales, this includes closing non-essential businesses and asking most people to stay at home – although primary and some secondary school pupils will return after half term as normal.
Read more about why circuit breakers are introduced

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 13:06

Drakeford: People who live alone can still see another houshold

As part of the new national lockdown in Wales, people will not be allowed to meet up with other households indoors or outdoors.
But there will be an exception for adults living alone and single parents who will be able to join with one other household for support.
As he answers questions from the media, Mr Drakeford calls on everyone to follow the rules. "Everybody has to play their part," he says.
"If you don't, then it is other people's lives, other people's futures that you'll be putting at risk."
Asked about the support for businesses, Mr Drakeford says his government has brought together the largest sum of money it was able to provide.
He suggests it is "the most generous package we can" give, and adds that the impact on businesses "weighs very heavily indeed" on the decision making.

No Halloween gatherings allowed in Wales

Bonfire Night fireworks parties and Halloween gatherings will be banned during the "firebreak" lockdown, Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed.
Mr Drakeford said: “We’ve got to be completely clear with people - the rules, the law as it applies in Wales, will not allow bonfire gatherings or for gatherings for Halloween.
“In this extraordinary period, we all have to do everything we can do, because every little action that we take to work together will make a difference.”

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 14:23

That's it from Wales' first minister - so what was announced?

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford's press conference has now finished. If you missed it, here's what was announced:

  • A short nationwide lockdown is to take place, starting on Friday 23 October at 18:00 BST and ending on Monday 9 November at 00:01 GMT
  • During this lockdown, people in Wales must stay at home but outdoor exercise will be permitted
  • People should work from home, with the exception of "critical workers and jobs where working from home is simply not possible”
  • Those who have holidays booked in Wales during the "firebreak" lockdown "must not come"
  • Multi-household gatherings - both indoors and outdoors - will be banned, although people who live alone can meet one other household for support
  • However, on Sunday 8 November - Remembrance Sunday - some small organised events will be allowed to go ahead
  • All non-essential retail, leisure and tourism businesses will close, as well as community centres, libraries and places of worship (except for funerals and wedding ceremonies)
  • After half-term, primary schools will stay open but some secondary years will stay at home
  • Students will be required to stay in their university accommodation
  • Almost £300m has been allocated for business support, with a one-off payment up to £5,000 per business forced to close
  • Mr Drakeford said "this will save people's lives", adding: "If we do not act now [the virus] will continue to accelerate"
  • The purpose of the lockdown is to "get us through to Christmas" - with additional measures after that not ruled out
  • You can read a fuller explanation of the new rules in this Q&A

Belgium surge likened to tsunami

Gavin Lee - BBC Europe reporter
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Brussels: Belgium was already hit hard in the first wave in spring

"We are close to a tsunami": that was the stark warning on the gravity of the situation in Belgium, from health minister Frank Vandenbroucke.
He told reporters that a “tsunami” would be a scenario where “we no longer control what is happening". The health pressures in Brussels and the southern French-speaking Wallonia region were “the most dangerous in all of Europe”, he said.
Belgium is now recording on average almost 8,000 cases a day. Most are in Brussels and Liège. That figure is four times higher than the daily average only two weeks ago.
In the past three days, more than 10,000 daily cases were recorded.
The death rate is also slowly rising again, at around 30 per day. But that is still 10 times less than at the peak of the first wave, when Belgium had the world’s highest coronavirus death rate per capita.
There is concern over medical staff and their ability to cope with an influx of cases. Several hospitals in Brussels and Liège have started sending patients elsewhere to avoid saturation. In some cases hospitals in Aalst and Charleroi refused to accept new Covid patients. The mayor of Aalst, Christophe D’Haese, said “the limits of medical solidarity" had been reached.
Doctors' surgeries are also feeling the strain. On Friday, I called my GP for a check-up and was told to avoid coming in because the chance of contracting coronavirus was too high. The doctor said the place was “an aquarium of Covid cases”. Authorities here blame the spread on “pandemic fatigue” - people becoming complacent and no longer observing social distancing rules.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 14:31

Holidaymakers from England 'must not come' to Wales

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford was asked what his message is for people in England with holidays booked in Wales - including those who might be tempted to come in their campervan.
"I'm afraid my message to them is that they must not come," said Mr Drakeford.
"Regrettable as it is... this is not the time to do it," he said. "We will need your help as much as we will need the help of people here in Wales."
During the lockdown, non-essential travel in Wales and across the border will have to end, he said. (Currently, people can travel to Wales unless they are from an area with extra local restrictions.)
Mr Drakeford also said he could not rule out further measures lasting into next year.
"The aim of the firebreak period is to get us through to Christmas," he said. "Beyond that, it simply wouldn't be sensible, given the speed at which things change... to be offering people guarantees of how the future may unfold."

The care home residents facing winter alone

Care home residents are facing a winter isolated from their family and friends, with fresh restrictions in place across much of the UK.
Back in March, care homes - which house about 400,000 elderly people in the UK - shut their doors as the coronavirus pandemic surged. Their aim was to keep infections down by limiting the number of people who would regularly come into homes.
It meant both family visits and visits from services - hairdressers, chiropodists, music therapists - were immediately ended. While some of this was relaxed over the summer, things are far from back to normal.
And with virus cases rising, many homes are again having to exclude visitors.
Residents and their relatives have been talking to the BBC about the painful situation.
Lesley Lightfoot says her mother Blumah Samuels, 89, is now simply "existing" rather than truly living.
Lesley says her once "bright and cheerful" mother has "suffered" from the social isolation and limited visits.
Read more of their stories here .

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 14:35

What's the latest from Africa?

  • South Africa's health minister has said he and his wife have tested positive for Covid-19. Zweli Mkhize is the fifth minister to contract the virus in South Africa, which is the continent's worst-affected country with more than 700,000 cases
  • Morocco has Africa's second-highest caseload, with almost 174,000 infections, followed by Egypt and Ethiopia
  • In Kenya, meanwhile, the health minister has warned that rising Covid-19 infections in the country could lead to a second wave of the pandemic
  • Schools in Ethiopia have opened for the first time in more than seven months, after being closed due to the pandemic. The schools will reopen in stages with students in rural districts returning to classes first. The country is aiming to reopen all primary and secondary schools by mid-November.

Find out about more about the spread of coronavirus in Africa here .

Airline chief calls for airport testing to replace travel quarantine

The new British Airways chief executive has called for an end to the quarantine requirement for international arrivals.
Currently, travellers arriving from countries not on the Foreign Office's safe travel list have to self-isolate for 14 days.
But Sean Doyle said he believed the system should be replaced with airport testing.
"We believe the best way to reassure people is to introduce a reliable and affordable test before flying," he told the Airlines 2050 conference.
"For the UK, this approach reduces the stress on the NHS testing systems within the UK and on policing the quarantine system.
"If we look abroad to our near neighbours, we see that business travel and indeed tourism is being prioritised by some countries.
"We need to get the economy moving again and this just isn't possible when you're asking people to quarantine for 14 days."
You can read more about travel quarantine rules and the countries affected here.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 14:43

Boris Johnson seeks to 'avoid national lockdown' by putting great swathes of country under increased restrictions
Fiona Audley - Irish Post

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is standing by the Government’s local lockdown approach to curbing the resurgence in cases of Covid-19 across the country.
In a week which saw great swathes of the country – including London, Liverpool, Lancashire, Essex and Surrey - all placed under increased restrictions, within the new three-tier Covid alert system, Mr Johnson maintained that a national lockdown was not required, yet.
“These were tough discussions, difficult decisions,” he said in a Downing Street press conference held on Friday, October 16.
“No one wants to have to implement these measures which damage local businesses, curtail individual freedom and impose significant strains on people’s mental health.
“But these decisions were necessary because of the rate of increase not just of infections but also in hospitalisations and admissions to intensive care.”
He added: “Without action, there is no doubt that our NHS would soon be struggling to treat the sheer number of people seriously ill with Covid. Non-Covid treatments and surgeries would need to be cancelled in order to cope. And many more people would die.”
The battle to put Greater Manchester under the ‘Very High’ tier of Covid alert restrictions is ongoing this week – with Mayor Andy Burnham maintaining the city would not accept the move unless more Government funding was provided to support the region.

As lockdown announcements were made regionally over the past week, critics have claimed that a national lockdown would stand a better chance of bringing down the rate of coronavirus transmission, which has seen a surge in recent weeks.
Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, which is within the Liverpool City Region that went under ‘Very High’ lockdown restrictions on October 14, has called for the entire country to “share the pain”.
The Armagh native, whose constituents now find themselves under restrictions barring households mixing and forcing all bars, restaurants, gyms, leisure centres, casinos and betting shops to close, claimed: “It is time that everybody shared in the pain, in a short break, a national lockdown for two weeks to get this under control.”

Mr Johnson has rejected such calls.
“Some have argued that we should introduce a national lockdown instead of targeted local action and I disagree,” he said last week.
“Closing businesses in Cornwall, where transmission is low, will not cut transmission in Manchester,” he added.
“So while I cannot rule anything out, if at all possible I want to avoid another national lockdown, with the damaging health, economic and social effects it would have.”
He explained: “Alongside our local strategy we have been working throughout to find other ways to suppress this virus.
“We are backing our brilliant scientists leading the global effort to find a safe and effective vaccine.
“We have also secured early access to over 350 million vaccine doses through a portfolio of promising new vaccines to ensure we are in the best place, and we are taking every possible step to ensure we can move as quickly as possible to deploy a vaccine if and when one is found to work.”

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 14:48

What's on offer financially for areas on brink of tier 3 in England?

Iain Watson - Political correspondent
When an area goes in to tier three - the "very high alert" category - this unlocks enhanced financial support from the government.
In the Liverpool City Region, some of the funds will be used both to bolster test and trace and to enhance compliance. The armed forces will be made available, if requested, to offer "logistical support".
Support for the clinically extremely vulnerable is also part of the package. This is worth £14m - and a similar package in Lancashire is worth £12m.
After negotiations, both areas have also been given £30m in "business support"
Leader of Lancashire County Council Geoff Driver said he would use some of the cash to "top up where needed" the support for businesses and individuals in hardship, above and beyond the job support scheme from the Treasury.
Whitehall sources have told the BBC that Greater Manchester would be offered no less generous terms than Lancashire or Liverpool.
On a per capita basis, that could mean potentially £70-80m being made available from central government in return for enhanced restrictions - though Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has said he won’t "roll over" at the first sign of a cheque.
Talks are under way between the government and local authority leaders in South Yorkshire, too. The council leaders want a comprehensive package of support, encompassing more resources for the NHS in the area. And are clear they won’t be "bounced into accepting a move to tier three.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 14:56

Travel quarantine to be cut to one week plus a test - minister

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Earlier we reported the new chief executive of British Airways calling for an end to the two-week quarantine rules for travellers arriving in the UK.
Speaking at the same virtual conference, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested new rules for England could be forthcoming - but some level of quarantine would need to remain.
He said the government had been developing a "test and release regime", which would still involve a quarantine period of at least a week.
"My ministerial colleagues and I have agreed a regime, based on a single test provided by the private sector and at the cost to the passenger, after a period of self-isolation and doing those things could achieve our objectives," he said.
"The next step is to develop how this approach can be implemented."
Mr Shapps added: "It will mean a single test for international arrivals, a week after arrival."
Here's a reminder of the current rules.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 15:02

Manchester leaders to talk with minister over restrictions shortly

Kevin Fitzpatrick - BBC Radio Manchester Political Reporter
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Staff from a noodle bar hand out food parcels to self-isolating students in Manchester

Greater Manchester's leaders are meeting now, ahead of talks with the government on moving the area up to tier three - very high alert - of Covid restrictions.
BBC Radio Manchester understands they have an appointment with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick at 15:00 BST.
Leaders don't yet know the full details of the government's financial offer to support businesses.
After "constructive" talks yesterday, some leaders think this could be the government’s final attempt at an agreement before it imposes the new restrictions anyway.
Read more on the situation in Manchester here.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 15:23

Why are more people dying at home than normal?

Philippa Roxby - Health reporter, BBC News
Figures for England and Wales show that since March around 26,000 more people than usual have died at home.
Most of these deaths were not related to Covid-19.
Instead, they were caused by heart disease, lung cancer, dementia and other conditions.
While hospitals and care homes saw huge spikes in deaths, mainly from Covid during April and May – these reduced to lower than average levels during the summer.
However, in private homes the opposite happened – and more deaths occurred there than the average over the past five years.
Increases in deaths from heart disease were particularly marked in men, while deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s saw the largest increase in women.
It looks like these deaths would normally have happened in hospital.
So are people being put off going, being told not to come for treatment or choosing to stay at home?
And how many of these lives could have been saved if they had gone to hospital?
These are all important questions ahead of a busy winter for hospitals juggling the second Covid wave and the healthcare needs of all other patients.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 18:45

Doubts in China over whether two weeks is long enough for quarantine

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
There are fresh concerns of Covid-19 in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong, after a 50-year-old man has tested positive in the city of Yantai.
Yantai is just over 100 miles from Qingdao, the city that last week completed a mass testing drive of its nine million residents after 13 people tested positive.
Mr Liu tested positive twice on 17-18 October, and has no symptoms. He has a recent history of visiting Qingdao, but had also recently completed 14 days of mandatory quarantine, having returned from overseas.
Official media say that he travelled to Guinea and France in late September. He returned to China on 1 October and left quarantine on 14 October.
His case has ignited concerns about whether China should extend its mandatory 14-day isolation period, as many Chinese social media users are speculating that he caught the virus overseas.
There have been recent fears in China about the virus manifesting over a longer period of time. It is believed that last week's Qingdao outbreak began after a man handled import seafood on 19 September. He tested positive on 24 September, but only developed symptoms on 16 October – 27 days later.

Liverpool leaders demand rethink on gym closures

The mayors of Liverpool City Region, along with council leaders, are asking the government to review the decision to close gyms and leisure centres.
It's one of only two regions in England, along with Lancashire, to be subject to tier three restrictions.
The leaders want ministers to show them the scientific evidence behind the decision and - if they cannot - it wants the law changed so they can open again.
But they want people to obey the law as it stands, they added in the letter addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It was signed by the Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and City Mayor Joe Anderson, as well as the leaders of local councils.
Unlike in Merseyside, gyms in Lancashire have been allowed to stay open .
"We simply cannot accept our region being treated differently to other tier three areas, without robust scientific evidence," they wrote.
"These inconsistencies in restrictions between areas within the same tier risk undermining the new system from the beginning."

Iran's daily death toll hits new record amid 'third wave'

Iran has reported its highest daily death toll from Covid-19, as the country grapples with what officials have called a “third wave” of its outbreak.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said 337 people had died in the past 24 hours, exceeding the previous daily high of 279 set last Wednesday and bringing the total since February to 30,712. She also announced 4,251 new confirmed cases.
"In recent days, we have witnessed an unprecedented increase in mortality from the disease," Ms Lari was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
The surge in infections and deaths since early September was the “result of [people] neglecting to comply with health protocols, reduced use of masks, and dangerous social behaviour”, she added.
The situation in Tehran is particularly bad, with intensive care units reportedly running at full capacity.
Authorities have closed schools, mosques, shops, restaurants and other public institutions in the capital and made it mandatory for people to wear face masks in public. Travel into and out of Tehran and four other major cities has also been banned.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 18:49

China says ‘live’ coronavirus found on cod packaging

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
China’s Centre for Disease Control says that, in a world first, it has been able to detect and isolate the coronavirus living on the packaging of frozen cod.
The discovery was made during an investigation to trace the source of last week’s outbreak in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao. There were 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the city, that originated with two dockworkers who handled cold-chain goods.
The centre says that the discovery “has proved that contact withpackaging contaminated by the live novel coronavirus could lead to infection” and that “people who work in the frozen cod industry are at high risk”.
However, it stresses that the risk is “very low” that consumers could contract the virus from contaminated seafood packaging.
“So far, we haven't found any case among the general public of a person who was infected either from touching or eating cold-chain food,” it says.
There have been fears in China about eating seafood since the virus was discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon during an outbreak in the capital city Beijing back in June.
But China's Centre for Disease Control (CDC) said at the time that it was unlikely that salmon carried the virus.

Rooney self-isolating after friend tests positive

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Former England captain Wayne Rooney has to self-isolate for 10 days after a friend who visited him at home on Thursday tested positive for Covid-19.
Derby County forward Rooney, 34, has tested negative but will still have to miss Derby's next three matches.
Derby say Rooney must self-isolate until 29 October in line with UK government guidelines.
Rooney tweeted he was "angry and disappointed" at missing the fixtures, but "delighted for myself and family" at hearing he did not have it.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 18:53

Breaking News

UK cases rise by 18,804

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A further 18,804 confirmed cases of the virus have been announced by the UK government.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 741,212.
There have also been 80 new deaths, the government said.
Of those deaths, 72 were in England, six in Northern Ireland, one in Wales and one in Scotland.
Read more on the cases and find out how many there are in your area.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 18:57

Germany improves ventilation to chase away Covid

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The German government is investing €500m (£452m; $488m) in improving ventilation systems in public buildings to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
The grants will go to improve the air circulation in public offices, museums, theatres, universities and schools. Private firms are not yet eligible.
Viruses spread on tiny droplets called aerosols, exhaled by infected people - especially when they sneeze or cough. Studies suggest they can remain in a room's air for at least eight minutes.
Colder weather puts more people at risk because they spend more time indoors.
The aim is mainly to upgrade existing air conditioning systems, rather than install new ones, which would cost more.
The infection rate has risen across Germany in recent weeks, but the surge is less marked than in some neighbouring countries, notably the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and France.
Find out more about the scheme here.

Can I eat out with someone from a different tier? And other questions

Your Questions Answered
We've been answering more of your questions about what new regulations in place across the UK mean for you.
They include one from a reader who lives in a tier two area who wants to know if they can have dinner with their sister at a tier one restaurant, indoors. The answer is no, as you can't mix with anyone indoors if you live in a tier two area, as it's under high alert. You can meet outside though, as long as there aren't more than six of you.
There are also questions on whether you can stay at a partner's house if you live in areas under different regulations (in short - it depends where you live, whether you have formed a bubble and whether there's childcare to take into consideration), and on the job support scheme.
Read more here - and click or tap here if you want to send in a question yourself.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 19:03

Analysis: Manchester and Westminster yet to reach agreement

Laura Kuenssberg - Political editor
There is frustration on the Greater Manchester side after the meeting with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick today.
Greater Manchester side says there were discussions about a hardship fund this morning that could have been used to support low-paid staff out of work because of Tier 3 restrictions - by this afternoon, that offer seemed to have gone.
Greater Manchester and the Treasury had been talking about how cash could stack up for that kind of scheme - ministers determined not to open up national furlough, but extra cash, perhaps £15m, could have been used locally on the ground.
At this afternoon's meeting, Greater Manchester sources say it felt like ministers ended conversations abruptly and just weren't interested in trying to get agreement.
Sources said "it was surreal". Meeting ended with no conclusion and ministers saying they'd have to go back to No 10.
Suspicion on Greater Manchester side now that government intent on imposing restrictions - will be interesting to see what Westminster side has to say in next few hours about progress - or lack of.

Hancock seen in chauffeur-driven car without mask

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been seen travelling in his chauffeur-driven car without wearing a mask - against the advice of No 10.
Members of the public face fines of £200 if they fail to wear a covering in taxis or private hire cars.
There is an exemption for chauffeur-driven cars, but Downing Street said it had advised all its ministers to wear coverings.
A No 10 spokesman said there were masks available in all ministerial cars.
The BBC has contacted Mr Hancock's office for comment.
Read the full story here.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 19:07

What's happening in the US today?

If you're just joining our coverage, here's a reminder of today's top US coronavirus stories:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin must reach an agreement within 48 hours if a coronavirus relief deal is to be finalised before the 3 November election. You can follow our live election coverage here
  • The country's top expert on infectious diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, has said he was "absolutely not" surprised the president contracted coronavirus. He said he first had concerns after seeing TV footage of what "turned out to be a super-spreader event" at the White House
  • Twitter has removed a tweet by one of President Donald Trump's aides, which falsely claimed that masks do not protect against coronavirus. The company said that Scott Atlas's post - which read: “Masks work? NO.” - violated its policies on coronavirus misinformation
  • The US has recorded almost 220,000 deaths and more than 8.1 million cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began

Poland builds field hospital at football stadium

Poland has begun constructing a field hospital at a football stadium in the capital, Warsaw.
Works at the PGE Narodowy stadium began on Saturday, the prime minister's office announced in a tweet on Monday morning.
Tweet  Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland:
:Left Quotes:  This week, the first field hospital for COVID-19 patients will be built at the @PGENarodowy Stadium in #Warsaw . The first works started on Saturday. #coronavirus #KoronawirusWPolsce
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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 19:10

Welsh lockdown 'should be used to improve test and trace'

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Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price says Wales' "firebreak" lockdown should be used to build a "resilient" test and trace system.
The 17-day lockdown - beginning on Friday at 18:00 BST - was announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford earlier today.
Responding to the announcement, Mr Price said: "A firebreak is a last resort and should only be used in an emergency. We are now in an emergency.
"The time the firebreak buys us must be used to build up a resilient test, trace and isolate system in Wales, which means we can prevent being in the position we're currently in where the case numbers have risen to the point where they can overwhelm an already exhausted NHS.
"We also need to ensure the safeguarding of workplaces, and that sufficient financial support is available for businesses and their employees who will be directly impacted by this firebreak."

No 10: 'Disappointing' still no agreement with Manchester

The government has issued a statement following talks this afternoon with local leaders in Manchester. No 10 wants Greater Manchester to move to the highest level of restrictions - tier three - but local leaders want better financial support before agreeing.
"A meeting between government and local leaders in Greater Manchester has concluded this afternoon following discussions throughout last week, over the weekend and this morning on measures necessary to protect the public," a government spokesman said.
"Disappointingly, we have still not been able to reach an agreement.
"This is particularly concerning against the backdrop of rising cases and hospitalisations in Greater Manchester.
"We are carefully considering next steps."

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 19:14

French first lady to self-isolate for seven days

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French first lady Brigitte Macron is to self-isolate for seven days after coming into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with Covid-19.
"Brigitte Macron was in contact on Thursday 15 October with aperson who has been tested positive for Covid-19 this Monday, 19 October," French president Emmanuel Macron's office said in a statement.
"In accordance with health authorities' recommendations, shewill self-isolate for seven days. Brigitte Macron has nosymptoms of the disease at this stage."

What's happened today?

It's been another busy day for coronavirus news from the UK and around the world.

  • The big story in the UK today is Wales, which will go in to national lockdown from Friday for just over two weeks, until 9 November. It's similar to the lockdown that the UK had in March - everyone must stay at home and pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will close. But unlike the first lockdown, primary schools will remain open - although only years seven and eight will go to school in secondaries. Here's a Q&A on the lockdown
  • Talks continued between the government and local leaders in Manchester amid the row over restrictions. Manchester is in tier two - high alert - but the government wants it to move into tier three, the highest level. Local leaders want better financial support before agreeing to a move
  • The UK transport secretary says he's "very hopeful" that a new testing system for travellers coming to the UK could be set up by 1 December. It could see travellers tested after a week in isolation and if they're negative they could end quarantine early
  • The Labour MP for Bolton South East, Yasmin Qureshi, has been admitted to hospital with pneumonia after testing positive
  • Belgium's health minister has warned that the country is facing a "tsunami" of new infections. Belgium was one of the worst-hit European countries during the first wave, and new lockdown rules came into force on Monday
  • France's first lady Brigitte Macron is self-isolating for seven days after coming into contact with someone with the virus
  • And in the US, new infections and hospital admissions are growing rapidly, experts say. Nearly 70,000 new cases were recorded on Friday and cases have been increasing for 48 states over the past week.

That's all for today

Thanks for joining our live coverage. We will be back with more coronavirus updates tomorrow morning.

Your writers today have been Hamish Mackay, Francesca Gillett, Victoria Bisset, Lauren Turner, and Ella Wills.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 19:26

:shamrock: The Irish Outlook today:
(from The Irish Post):

Ireland is facing six weeks of the highest level of restrictions to help stem the spread of coronavirus, multiple outlets are reporting this afternoon.

A cabinet meeting is underway to discuss the latest advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), who recommended for the second time in two weeks that Ireland should move to Level 5 restrictions.
It was believed that the Government would instead support a move to Level 4+ restrictions-- stricter than Level 4 but less strict than Level 5-- however The Irish Times  and other Irish outlets report that the Cabinet is now preparing a move to Level 5.

The restrictions would potentially be in place for six weeks, up until the end of November, with the hope the country could then relax restrictions to Level 3 followed by Level 2 in the lead-up to Christmas.

Senior Government sources allegedly told The Irish Times that Ministers are currently being asked to approve a return to the highest restrictions not seen since March and April this year, with a ban on moving further than 10km from your home-- apart for work and essential reasons-- tipped as one of the potential new rules.
A source told the outlet that the draconian measures were "very depressing" but it was the only way to ensure a reverse int he trajectory of the virus.

Reduced off-license hours are also being discussed, with businesses possibly being asked to close at 8pm in line with the current rules in Northern Ireland. Other non-essential, close-contact businesses such as hairdressers will also close their doors to the public again.
Schools will reportedly remain open, however.
Any decision made would likely take a few days to come into effect in order to allow the public to make necessary arrangements.

The Government is expected to make an official announcement at around 9pm tonight.

An Irish man living in Sweden insists that Ireland could learn a lot from the way his adoptive country is tackling the coronavirus crisis.

Patrick O'Reilly, originally from Drogheda, Co. Louth, works at Lund University in the south of Sweden.
He says that the country has benefitted long-term by not going into full-lockdown at the height of the pandemic, despite almost every other European nation doing so at the time.
"I generally support the Swedish approach as it has been consistent from the start, as opposed to Ireland where they keep chopping and changing the restrictions," he told the Irish Mirror .
"Swedes trust their government more and tend to do what they are told.
"The government is treating the public like adults and they are responding by keeping their distance and following the rules; it's a long-term approach here."

Schools and childcare remained open in Sweden throughout the pandemic in another rather unique move.
Despite O'Reilly's endorsement, Sweden's death toll from Covid-19 is nearly three times greater than Ireland's, despite only having a population around double that of Ireland's.
Nearly 6,000 people have died from coronavirus in Sweden, while just over 1,800 people have died as a result of the disease here.
Meanwhile, there have been over 100,000 cases of virus diagnosed in Sweden, with just under 50,000 confirmed in Ireland.
Sweden's per capita death rate is much higher than its Nordic neighbours at 58.5 per 100,000, compared to 11.7 in Denmark and 6.32 in Finland.

Ireland's per capita rate is 37.2.

Breaking News
The Cabinet has this evening agreed to move Ireland up to Level Five of the Living With Covid Plan.
Restrictions will reportedly begin at midnight on Wednesday and will be in place for six weeks.
A review of the restrictions will take place after four weeks.
Schools are to remain open, however.
Construction will also remain open under the plan, while people will also only be able to exercise within five kilometres of their homes.
Under Level Five, people will be able to meet up outdoors with one other household away from their home for things such as exercise, within the 5km limit, but no mixing of households indoors will be allowed.
Non-essential retailers will be forced to close under the new restrictions, including things like pubs, restaurants and hairdressers.
Pubs and restaurants will however be able to serve takeaways.
It's understood that the Cabinet met this afternoon to discuss an increase in restrictions around the country, following concerns that Level Three had not done enough to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
The apparent aim of the Government is to try and quell any further spread so that they can open the country up again in time for Christmas.

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Post by Kitkat Mon Oct 19 2020, 22:24

and the BBC reports:

Republic of Ireland to move to highest restrictions

Taoiseach (prime minister) Mícheál Martin gave a televised address

The Irish government is to move the country to the highest level of coronavirus restrictions, broadly similar to the spring lockdown.
Cabinet ministers have agreed to level five restrictions from midnight on Wednesday in a bid to combat the rise in cases.
The restrictions are to last for six weeks but will be reviewed after four.
Under the rules, people will only be able to exercise within 5km (3 miles) of their home.
However, schools and creches will remain open and elite sport and construction will continue.

What are the changes?

  • People will be able to meet up outdoors with one other household away from their home for the likes of exercise, within the 5km limit
  • Many non-essential shops and hairdressers will have to close
  • Bars and restaurants will only be able to provide a takeaway service
  • The number of wedding guests permitted will remain at 25 until the end of the year
  • Elite sporting events can take place

In a televised address on Monday evening, Taoiseach (prime minister) Mícheál Martin said that despite having introduced what was probably "Europe's strictest regime", the current restrictions on their own had not been enough to significantly reduce levels of infection.
"2020 has been a hard year and we are not through it yet; Families, individuals and front-line families have sacrificed so much," he said.
However, he added that many people had done all that had been asked of them but some had not.

On Monday, the Irish Department of Health reported no further coronavirus-related deaths, with the total remaining at 1,852.
The total number of positive cases stands at 50,993, after a further 1,031 were recorded.
The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospitals has risen to 298 in the last 24 hours.

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Harsh measures with a Christmas carrot

Analysis by Chris Page, BBC News Ireland correspondent
Although Ireland has recorded its record highest number of daily cases over the last few weeks, it's still lower than many countries in Europe.
Hospitalisations have been rising, but they're not at the level seen earlier in the year and again while deaths are slowly rising, they're nowhere near what they were at the peak.
The government is trying to stave off a worsening situation.
The thinking is - put in place these measures now until the end of November and then the reward that's being held up is that if people stick to the restrictions, then maybe they can have a more normal Christmas than would previously have been possible.
The government thinks there could be more than 200,000 job losses as a result of these restrictions - that's a lot in a country of close to five million people.
But they think if they can get the country opened up in December, that will make a major difference in terms of getting the country back on its feet again economically.

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The move to level five follows a recommendation from the country's Public Health Emergency Team.
Ministers rejected a similar recommendation less than a fortnight ago.
The Irish government published its five-stage plan for "living with Covid-19" in mid-September, which ranges from relaxed measures at level one to the most severe restrictions at level five.
At the time, the government said it was moving from a short-term emergency response to the pandemic to a medium-term approach which involved "managing risk" posed by the disease and repairing the damage it had inflicted on society.
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Garda (Irish police) checkpoints were set up when level three travel restrictions were imposed in early October (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

Currently, most of the country is at the mid-way point on level three.
However, people in the border counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan have been living with level four restrictions since Thursday.
The taoiseach said there would be advanced financial measures supporting businesses and individuals, as well as measures to support mental health.
The top rate of €350 (£318) a week for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be restored, with a sliding scale of payments depending on a person's pre-pandemic income.

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