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Coronavirus - 21st October


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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 09:53

Summary for Wednesday, 21st October

  • South Yorkshire will move into tier three of England's coronavirus restrictions
  • Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley will come under the strictest level of rules from 00:01 on Saturday
  • UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the offer of £60m to support Greater Manchester when it goes into the highest level of coronavirus restrictions is "still on the table"
  • Local leaders in the region say the government is not offering them enough cash to support low-paid workers in businesses which will have to shut due to the tier three lockdown
  • Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and other local leaders want £65m to help the region, but the government is offering £60m
  • A scientific study suggests factors including age, weight and gender can increase the risk of "long Covid"
  • Brazil plans to use a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine as part of a national immunisation programme, officials say
  • UK government borrowing hit £36.1bn in September as it continued spending to support the economy during the pandemic

Good morning. Here are the main stories coming from the UK today.

  • The £60m offered to support Greater Manchester as it enters tier three restrictions "remains on the table" , says Health Secretary Matt Hancock. It comes after talks broke down between the region's leaders and the UK government over the size of the package to help businesses and employees
  • An announcement is expected to be made later on South Yorkshire moving into tier three restrictions by Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis. Discussions have been ongoing with the government and leaders there about support measures - even though on Tuesday night, Jarvis said the right support had not been offered
  • It's hoped a new study will help identify an early-warning system for who might develop "long Covid" - which sees symptoms continue for weeks. Researchers at King's College, London, have created a piece of computer code to predict, from the start of a coronavirus infection, who is at risk of the longer version of the condition
  • Royal Mail will start collecting parcels and mail from people's homes from Wednesday as it tries to grab a bigger share of the parcel market, amid a rise in online shopping accelerated by the pandemic
  • UK government borrowing hit £36.1bn in September as the UK continued heavy spending to support the economy during the coronavirus pandemic
  • And the inflation rate climbed to 0.5% in September , from 0.2% in August. Prices started to rise more quickly in September after the Eat Out To Help Out scheme ended, pushing up restaurant and café prices

What's happening around the world?

South Yorkshire awaits announcement

An announcement on whether South Yorkshire will face the toughest Covid restrictions is expected on Wednesday morning, the communities secretary has said .
Robert Jenrick said ministers have had "detailed conversations" with local leaders about moving into tier three.
He said he expects an announcement will be made by the Labour mayor for the Sheffield City Region "very shortly".
Jenrick told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there had been "intense discussions" over the past 48 hours. He said he was hopeful an agreement could be reached later today - but there are some further points to discuss, he added.
He's also been on BBC Breakfast, where he said the package for South Yorkshire would be "proportionate to what we've done in other parts of the country".
"I think we've got to be fair between different areas that are all going through similar challenges," he said.
He declined to say when the restrictions would come in.

Breaking News 

South Yorkshire to go to 'very high' Covid alert status

South Yorkshire, including the districts of Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley are to be placed in the "very high" tier three level of coronavirus restrictions from 00:01 on Saturday, the region's mayor says.
Dan Jarvis, who leads the Sheffield City Region, says the government will provide a total of £41m to support local businesses and public health teams.

Sheffield mayor: 'Inaction was not an option'

Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis has issued a statement on South Yorkshire entering tier three restrictions.
He said: “We all recognise the gravity of the situation and have taken the responsible route to ensure we save lives and livelihoods, and protect our NHS.
"More older people are contracting the virus. The number of people with Covid in our hospitals has doubled over the last 10 days, with no signs this will relent over the coming weeks. Inaction was not an option.“
Local leaders have agreed a funding package of £41m - including £30m to support businesses and £11m for public health measures like test and trace.
Jarvis added: "We called on government to offer a local lockdown lifeline for our local authorities and economy, and the new restrictions will be introduced alongside resources which mean we are better equipped to control the virus and limit some of the damage on jobs and businesses.
"While infection rates vary across South Yorkshire, collective action was the only practical choice to keep everyone in our region safe. If restrictions are effective, individual local authorities will be able to move to lower alert levels as soon as it is safe to do so, in consultation with fellow local leaders, myself and national government.“
He urged people to "follow the new restrictions as soon as they are in place".
"The character and grit of people in South Yorkshire will be needed in abundance to help us get through what will be an incredibly challenging period," he added.

What will the new measures in South Yorkshire be?

The tier three measures are the strictest in place in England.
It means that:

  • You are not allowed to meet socially with anybody who is not part of your household, or support bubble, indoors
  • You cannot meet in private or pub gardens, but can meet in parks, beaches, countryside or forests, as long as you are not in a group of more than six
  • Pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals. Alcohol can only be served as part of a meal
  • People are advised not to travel into or out of tier three areas, other than for work, education, youth services or because of caring responsibilities
  • Casinos, bingo halls and betting shops, adult gaming centres and soft play areas have closed in all tier three areas

Extra measures can be introduced following discussions between central and local government.

'Enforcement for those who flout law' in South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings says if going into tier three is necessary for his area, then the police will enforce the new rules "for all our sakes".
"Having spoken to the chief constable and senior officers, I have no doubt that they will continue to do this in a proportionate way, but we should be in no doubt that there will be enforcement activity if people wilfully flout the law.
"Of course, the police cannot be everywhere all the time. It is essential, therefore, that we all play our part."
But, he warned: "Equally, the government needs to understand that people will continue to observe the rules as long as they feel that what is being proposed is not just reactive, but part of a longer term strategy to defeat the virus.
"How the tier three restrictions fit into that strategy needs careful, constant and consistent explanation."

Greater Manchester: Hancock says 'door is open' for more talks

Our top story this morning is that a £60m offer to support Greater Manchester through tougher Covid restrictions "remains on the table".
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the "door is open" to more talks on the package to support businesses and employees. Local leaders had asked for at least £65m before talks broke down.
The 2.8 million people in Greater Manchester are the first to be forced into tier three, England's highest level of restrictions, despite the misgivings of local leaders. The area will get £22m to help enforce the rules that begin on Friday.
Under tier three, pubs and bars which do not serve substantial meals have to close, and there are further restrictions on households mixing. An announcement is expected this morning on whether South Yorkshire will be next to move into tier three.

What do the papers say?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, they're dominated by Greater Manchester going into tier three measures .
"Tier and Loathing" is Metro's headline, while the Manchester Evening News has a full page picture of a joker playing card with Boris Johnson's head superimposed on it alongside the headline "Playing Poker With Our Lives".
The Daily Mirror also borrows a similar quote from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.
The Times lays the blame for the failure of negotiations to secure financial assistance for the region at Mr Burnham's feet, with unnamed government sources telling the paper his pride caused talks to fail.
The online-only Independent points out that the Treasury will only be providing £8 of support for every resident of Greater Manchester under the current plan.

Helping identify those at risk from 'long Covid'

Scientists have been looking at what increases the risk of "long Covid" - the condition which sees coronavirus symptoms continue for weeks or even months.
One in 20 people is ill for at least eight weeks, according to the study. It says age, weight and being female are among the factors that increase the risk
The findings come from an analysis of people entering their symptoms and test results into the Covid Symptom Study app.
It's hoped the research from King's College London will help develop an early warning system that can identify patients who need extra care or who might benefit from early treatment.
The study estimates:

  • One in seven people is ill for at least four weeks
  • One in 20 people is ill for at least eight weeks
  • One in 45 people is ill for at least 12 weeks

Researchers have created computer code to pick out from the start of a coronavirus infection who is at risk of the longer version of the illness.

UK 'didn't have exact measures in place' for Covid

The UK didn't have the "exact measures" in place to deal with a pandemic, the ex-head of the civil service has said.
Lord Sedwill, who left his job last month, told the BBC there is "a genuine question" about whether the UK could have been "better prepared" for the Covid pandemic.
He told political editor Laura Kuenssberg that "although we had exercised and prepared for pandemic threats, we didn't have in place the exact measures, and we hadn't rehearsed the exact measures" for the challenge Covid-19 presented.
"I think there is a genuine question about whether we could have been better prepared in the first place and that is obviously a very legitimate challenge," he said.
He said any future inquiry into the UK's handling of the pandemic would have to look at whether decisions were taken at the right time, if the lockdown was imposed fast enough and what capabilities the state had to deploy to tackle the virus.
And he said the PM's adviser Dominic Cummings' trip to Barnard Castle "clearly undermined the government's coherent narrative about following the rules" on coronavirus.


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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 10:04

More than seven million people under toughest restrictions

With South Yorkshire set to be placed under the toughest coronavirus restrictions from Saturday, it looks like around 7.2 million people in England are now in tier three - that's about 13% of the country's population.

The numbers stack up like this:

  • South Yorkshire - 1.4 million

  • Greater Manchester - 2.8 million

  • Liverpool City Region - 1.5 million

  • Lancashire - 1.5 million

If you want to know what the coronavirus restrictions are wherever you live in the UK, click here .

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 10:27

Barnsley leader tells of 'severe situation'

Reacting to this morning's announcement that South Yorkshire is to be placed into the highest tier of the government's coronavirus restrictions, Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton said it was no surprise, but was "difficult to see our borough in such a severe situation".
Sir Steve added: "We understand the impact this virus is having on people's daily lives and on jobs and businesses, but Barnsley cases are spreading from young to old, putting more lives in danger, leading to more people in our hospital, more people becoming seriously ill, and sadly more people dying.
"We must act now to save lives and prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed."
Sir Steve said that Barnsley has an outbreak control plan which will allow it to leave restrictions once cases are under control.

What's happening across Europe?

Away from the changes happening in England, a record 11,894 daily infections have been recorded in the Czech Republic as the government in Prague holds an emergency meeting to consider further restrictions on public life. Schools have been closed, masks are required in built-up areas and pubs and restaurants are limited to takeways. BBC Prague correspondent Rob Cameron says there’s not much left to tighten, short of a full lockdown.
Fines of up to €1,000 (£910) are being proposed in Ireland for people who hold parties that breach the partial lockdown coming into force at midnight tonight, RTÉ reports. Although schools will stay open, the level five restrictions are the most stringent the government has. These are the details .
Italy’s southern Campania region around Naples is planning to start overnight curfews from Friday night, 24 hours after the northern region of Lombardy. Health Minister Roberto Speranza says "we're working day and night to avoid a lockdown" and he's called on Italians not to make unnecessary journeys.
Ukraine has declared a record 141 deaths in the past 24 hours - and 6,791 new infections.
Dutch princesses Amalia and Alexia returned from Greece last night, days after the royal family's holiday was aborted because of a political Covid backlash. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima flew back with Princess Ariane on Saturday , a day after they had left.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 10:39

:shamrock: The Irish Outlook today:

From The Irish Post

Gardaí are to be granted brand new powers ahead of Ireland's move to Level Five restrictions later this week.
From Thursday, officers will be given license to call upon homes to break up house parties, and will be allowed to hand out on the spot fines for anyone in breach of new regulations.
While they're not legally permitted to enter homes without permission, they will be given the power to stop people from entering house parties or indoor gatherings which are banned under the Government’s Covid-19 restrictions.
They'll be able to fine the occupier of a house if it is found to be holding an illegal party, and they'll be able to ask revellers at any such illegal event to disperse.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly are understood to be the ones behind the proposal of their new powers and the new fine system. which is to be debated by the Cabinet this afternoon with the view to giving An Garda Siochana upgraded powers to ensure that Covid-19 restrictions are adhered to.
The new legislation, which is expected to be published later today, will make it an offence to organise or manage a house party or an indoor event that is in breach of public health regulations.
If gardaí suspect someone is on their way to a house party or are in the vicinity of a house party which is about to begin they can direct them to leave the area in a peaceful manner.
If the individual refuses to leave, gardaí can issue them with an automatic fine, according to the Irish Independent

As of midnight on Wednesday, Ireland will move to Level Five restrictions for a six-week period.
There's to be no indoor social gatherings of any kind under Level Five, and no mixing of households either, making house parties of any kind strictly against the rules.

Shops across Ireland have been flooded with panic buyers as many gear-up for the imminent six-week lockdown.
While everyday items and groceries proved popular, some evidently had Christmas on their minds with toys and clothing on many shopping lists, the Irish Mirror reports.
Winter warmers were also in demand with many stocking up on hat, gloves and other garments for kids with more cold weather on the way.
The public was out in force in high street retailers like Pennys, H&M and Smyths, which are required to close until December as part of the new Level 5 lockdown rules.
Speaking to the Irish Mirror , a staff member of Penneys in Nutgrove Shopping Centre described the queues as “absolutely mental”.
“People are buying whatever they can grab,” they said.
“Luckily the company were great to us when we were shut the last time so I’m not too worried about money but I know lots of other people aren’t that lucky.
According to at least one shopper who braved a branch of Penneys, it "resembled something like the back bar of buskers in the golden days - Survival of the fittest."
Under the restrictions, non-essential shops will close and people will be asked to stay at home, with a 5km (3 mile) travel limit for exercise.
It is hoped that the change will curb surging infection rates across the country.
The measures are due to come into force from midnight on Wednesday, October 21 with many opting to brave the windy wet weather to get one last shop in.
Away from the high street, supermarkets proved similarly busy with customers panic-buying food, toilet roll and other essential household items before the deadline.
In many instances, supermarkets have been forced to place a limit on certain items to ensure everyone can access the products they need.
Retailers like Smyths have also sought to reassure customers that they will be able to purchase items online.

The HSE is set to ask anyone who tested positive for Covid-19 over the weekend to alert any close contacts themselves.
It comes after the contact tracing system became overwhelmed with new cases between Friday and Sunday of last week.
As a result, 2,000 to 2,500 individuals who tested will be sent a text asking them to tell anyone they have come into close contact with to contact their GP and undergo a coronavirus text.
According to the Irish Times, the HSE decided on the course of action amid fears it would lead to a delay of days in contact tracing.
The system will now concentrate on tracing the contacts of Monday’s cases in order to avoid a potential backlog given the continuing high of daily cases.
There are several exemptions to the one-off change.
Vulnerable people over the age of 70 and any schoolchildren among the confirmed Covid-19 cases recorded over the weekend will still be assisted by the contact tracing system.
The HSE has been keen to stress that the move is a "temporary measure" and a "once off" .
“In response to the high numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19 over the past weekend, and in a continuing effort to maintain effective turnaround times for contact tracing, the HSE is asking a limited number of people to alert their own close contacts of their positive result as a once-off measure,” said Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE manager in charge of testing and tracing told the Irish Times.
“This step is being taken to ensure that each person receives information as quickly as possible, allowing them to be aware of their status as a close contact and to take action to care for themselves, and protect others from infection.”
Speaking to Morning Ireland, Donegal GP Dr Denis McCauley offered up some advice to anyone who may have tested positive over the weekend.
"I would encourage them to make a list of the people they think are close contacts and not casual contacts,” he said.
"That's someone who they were in contact with for greater than 15 minutes over the previous few days be it indoors or outdoors.
"And to ring them and say: 'Listen, I'm positive and I have been advised to contact you that you may need a test and some information given to you by your GP. Would you mind ringing them, this is a once off process that's happened over the weekend.'"
Sinn Fein spokesperson on health David Cullinane described the development as "extremely concerning".
"The report tonight (Tuesday) by the Irish Times that up to 2,500 people will be asked to contact their own close contacts represents a fundamental breakdown in the tracing system.
“The system is overwhelmed and this is a direct result of rising cases and underinvestment. It is extremely concerning.
"Sinn Féin have been calling for some time for an enhanced tracing system and for additional tracers to be recruited. There are constant reports coming from tracers about staff being overworked and a lack of training.
Such reports have been met by denial from government.
"The government promised 1,200 additional tracing staff recently and that target has not been achieved.
"They have not in fact, spelled out how many tracers have been recruited - despite being repeatedly asked for this information.
"The time for talking and for promises by the Minister for Health is over. This is a serious situation that has happened on his watch."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 10:46

Rotherham leader: Government's approach is 'tawdry'

The leader of Rotherham Council says there have been "no meaningful negotiations" between the government and local leaders over the area moving into tier three restrictions.
Chris Read said there had been "alarming increases in the rates of coronavirus infections in Rotherham".
"Our hospital has gone from only a handful of Covid patients to nearly 50 and it is clear that if that rate of increase continues we run the very real risk of seeing local health services overwhelmed," he said.
"Our priority therefore must be the safety of the public of Rotherham. Whilst no one will welcome further restrictions, I believe these are proportionate to the risks that we face. I very much hope that with these rules in place, we can pull together and turn around the infection rates."
But he said there was nothing in today's announcement the government "could not have decided to introduce days ago".
"There have been no meaningful negotiations with local leaders," he said. "It has become clear over the last few days during our conversations with government that they already had a template of measures and funding in mind."
He added that "a government in paralysis has used our conversations as displacement activity", and said: "I have personally found the government's approach to be tawdry."

In graphics: What's the global picture?

The BBC's Visual Journalism team have been looking at the extent of the coronavirus around the world - and the picture is one where infections are continuing to increase.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 12:39

South Yorkshire cases 'sky-rocketing', says MP

The Conservative MP for Rother Valley, Alexander Stafford, had said action had to be taken in South Yorkshire because the number of coronavirus cases was "sky-rocketing".
Stafford said local council leaders and the mayor of the Sheffield City Region all agreed that without action the population and health services right across South Yorkshire were at risk.
He added: "Our collective response must find a balance between the health and economic challenges in front of us."
Stafford - whose constituency covers an area south of Rotherham - said he wanted to reassure local people that the tier three restrictions would not be open-ended and will be reviewed in 28 days.
He added that he hoped in that time case numbers will have reduced and the restrictions could be loosened.

Gyms 'could close' in Greater Manchester

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he thinks gyms in Greater Manchester are being asked to close as part of tier three restrictions being introduced.
But, speaking to BBC Breakfast, he suggested looking at the government website to check the rules when they are published.
He told BBC Breakfast the total package for Greater Manchester is "likely to be over £150m of additional support on top of everything else that we've done together since the start of the pandemic".

But in Liverpool region, the iron's ready to pump

Gyms will be able to reopen in the Liverpool City Region, the area's mayor has said.
They had been ordered to close when the area was placed into tier three of the coronavirus restrictions last week, causing an outcry.
Steve Rotheram said they would now be allowed to reopen - but soft play areas would close, after talks with the government.
The mayor said talks with the government continued until late on Tuesday evening after he appealed to bring the area in line with other areas under the "very high" level of alert.
He had campaigned against the decision after gyms in Lancashire were allowed to stay open when it entered tier three.
Empowered Fit in Wirral, which had campaigned to reopen gyms, said it was "overwhelmed" by the decision.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 12:43

Portugal cases 'could double in November'

Alison Roberts - Portugal Correspondent, Lisbon
In Portugal, daily new coronavirus cases could double in November, with a peak of over 4,000 "perfectly possible" unless there are "drastic alterations in the frequency of contagions", according to an article in the scientific journal of the country's Order of Physicians.
According to the study outlined in the article, the current "second wave" of new cases originated in late August, before the start of the school year, as a result of "an excessive resumption of... contagious contacts", above all "super-spreader" events such as parties and the virus entering care homes undetected.
The statistical model used suggests daily new cases exceeding 3,500 in the coming weeks and possibly breaking the 4,000 barrier. Portugal's national health authority, the DGS, yesterday reported 1,876 new confirmed cases and 15 deaths. The highest number of daily new cases was 2,603, reported last Friday. So far there have been a total of 101,736 confirmed cases in Portugal, and 2,213 deaths.
The government has said it wants to avoid another lockdown and plans to table legislation to make masks mandatory in public outdoors, although it has dropped plans to make use of the official coronavirus tracing app compulsory in workplaces and educational institutions.
A state of public calamity remains in place until the end of this month with restrictions including a limit on gatherings to five people and a ban on the sale of alcohol after 20:00 in the evening.

Breaking News 

75 deaths in Scotland linked to Covid-19 in last week

A total of 4,376 Scots deaths have been linked to Covid-19, official figures show.
The National Records of Scotland (NRS) figures indicate 75 people died in the week ending 18 October, an increase of 50 deaths from the previous week.
The figures are higher than the daily figure announced by Nicola Sturgeon because they include all cases where Covid-19 is mentioned on a death certificate, even if the patient had not been tested.

Number of positive cases in Scotland above 50,000

Nicola Sturgeon is giving an update on the latest coronavirus figures in Scotland. She confirms a further 1,739 people have tested positive for Covid-19, 19.8% of those newly tested yesterday. That is 9.7 % of the total number of people tested.
This takes the total number of positive cases in Scotland to 50,903.
Health board breakdown:
Ms Sturgeon says the provisional data indicates the breakdown of new cases is as follows:

  • NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde: 605
  • NHS Lanarkshire: 520
  • NHS Lothian: 250
  • NHS Ayrshire and Arran: 105

The remaining cases are spread across nine other health boards.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 12:46


Breaking News 

New Scotland restriction details coming on Friday

Ms Sturgeon says her government will publish a new strategic coronavirus framework - setting out rules on things such as household mixing and hospitality - on Friday.
It will include different levels of restrictions that can be applied nationally or just in certain areas.
She has been talking about the Scottish government's current short-term restrictions on hospitality.
They differ in the central belt from the rest of the country and will be extended for another week.
The coming rules will be subject to Scottish parliamentary approval and, if that is gained, applied by 2 November.

Breaking News

Czech Republic going back into lockdown from Thursday

Rob Cameron - BBC Prague Correspondent
The Czech government has announced a new lockdown similar to that imposed in spring, effective tomorrow from 06:00 local time (04:00 GMT).
Andrej Babis said it pained him to announce something he had previously ruled out but said if the government did not take harsh measures now, the Czech hospital system would collapse between 7-11 November, according to the government's modelling.
Health minister Roman Prymula echoed this, and provided data to support it.
From tomorrow, freedom of movement will be restricted. People will be able to travel to and from work, buy food/medicine, make trips for medical reasons, make essential family visits and exercise or walk in parks and the countryside, similar to measures in spring.
All shops and services with the exception of those selling essential supplies will close from tomorrow. The measures will last until Tuesday 3 November.
Babis took issue with the word lockdown to describe the latest measures, saying it was not like restrictions in places such as Israel where the economy was actually shutdown altogether, saying he preferred the phrase "tightening of measures".

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 12:52

Analysis: Pragmatism and realism in South Yorkshire lockdown deal

Nick Eardley - Political correspondent
It’s worth remembering some of thinking behind the local tier system.
It was supposed to allow rapid interventions in areas where the virus was spreading – and to get the backing of local leaders so they could share expertise but also responsibility for their decisions.
Neither has proved easy.
Negotiations have taken a long time – around 10 days in some areas.
The row with Greater Manchester shows getting local backing for restrictions is far from guaranteed.
The announcement of a deal in South Yorkshire will allow ministers to say some Labour politicians – like Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis – are being more pragmatic and realistic when it comes to deals.
But the new strategy has not always gone according to plan.

PMQs: Johnson to face Starmer

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Boris Johnson is to face Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in parliament for Prime Minister's Questions in about 15 minutes, following the news that South Yorkshire is to move to tier three .
The continued dispute over Greater Manchester going into the highest level of restrictions , and the financial support which comes with it, may well come up too.

Nottinghamshire Tier 3 talks 'not started yet'

We've been hearing about South Yorkshire going into tier three measures, and the continuing debate over the situation in Greater Manchester.
Another area that could be subject to the restrictions is Nottinghamshire - but discussions still haven't started there, despite government comments, according to a council chief.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said conversations with "local leaders" in the county were ongoing.
But Nottingham City Council leader David Mellen said talks had not begun, despite the city having one of the highest infection rates in England.
He said he would do whatever was needed to "protect the population".
On BBC Radio 4's Today programme earlier, Mr Mellen said of the talks: "They haven't started, we've had some minor conversations with civil servants in the Department for Health but there has been no contact with ministers as yet."
He said the council had expected a letter "outlining what was going to happen" on Tuesday evening, but "that hasn't been received".

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 12:56

112,000 stopped for not wearing face coverings, says TfL boss

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Transport for London (TfL) boss Andy Byford says 112,000 people were stopped on public transport in the city from 4 July to 5 October for not wearing face coverings.
Messages are on display across the network reminding people to wear them over their mouth and nose - unless they are medically exempt.
It's mandatory to wear coverings on the public transport network - and that includes inside stations, in taxis and private hire vehicles.
Byford also told a TfL board meeting today that another bus driver in the capital has died from coronavirus.
He said: "That brings the total number of colleagues who've died during the pandemic to 45, including bus drivers. It breaks my heart.
"I know it does resonate personally with you, Sadiq (London mayor Sadiq Khan), to have lost another colleague.
"We are putting every effort into making sure that lessons learned from the early part of the pandemic are embedded and we're putting a huge focus on making sure that we're fully prepared for the second wave which does appear to becoming apparent."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 15:27

What's the latest on the Greater Manchester Covid cash row?

As we've been hearing, Boris Johnson used today's Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons to announce that the proposed £60m-worth of support for Greater Manchester will be distributed via the region's borough councils .
Greater Manchester is to move into England's toughest level of coronavirus restrictions - tier three - on Friday. This will mean that certain businesses will have to close.
The move to tier three is taking place against the backdrop of a huge row between the region's mayor, Andy Burnham, and the UK government over how much cash it would receive to support people's jobs and businesses if they have to close because of the change to the "very high" level of alert.
Burnham argued Greater Manchester needed £65m to see it through the winter, saying the government's offer of £60m was too low.
But speaking in the Commons, Johnson accused Burnham of having "turned down" the government's offer.

The latest UK coronavirus headlines this lunchtime

If you are just joining us this lunchtime it has been a busy morning. Here are some of the headlines from around the UK:

What’s happening around the world today?

  • A scientific journal in Portugal has warned that new coronavirus cases there could double in November, with a peak of over 4,000 “perfectly possible” unless there are “drastic alterations in the frequency of contagions”
  • The Czech government has announced a return to lockdown from Thursday. Shops except food stores will close, and people will be allowed out only for work and essentials
  • Cathay Pacific has announced it is closing its subsidiary Cathay Dragon and cutting 8,500 jobs. Cathay Dragon was a regional carrier flying mainly to mainland China and other Asian destinations
  • New infections in Switzerland and Lichtenstein have almost doubled in a day to record levels. There were 5,596 cases on Wednesday compared with 3,008 on Tuesday
  • Additional measures have been ordered in north-west Syria in an effort to stem the spread of the virus. The rebel-held region’s self-styled authorities are reported to have told restaurants, markets, gyms, swimming pools and wedding halls to close immediately. They will stay shut until the end of the month
  • Coronavirus cases in the Netherlands have risen by more than 8,500 in 24 hours, according to Reuters news agency

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 15:32

Iran reports highest daily case rise since February

Iran has reported 5,616 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number since February.
Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswomen for the health ministry, said 312 people have died from Covid-19 over the past 24 hours.
Authorities in the country have urged people to stay at home and avoid any unnecessary trips.
They have warned that hospitals in Tehran and other major cities are overflowing with coronavirus patients, according to Reuters news agency.
Earlier this month, mask wearing became mandatory in public in Tehran.

Wasps cleared to play Premiership final despite positive cases

English rugby union side Wasps will take part in Saturday's Premiership final against Exeter Chiefs, despite 11 Covid-19 cases within the club in the past week.
Premiership Rugby confirmed Wasps were clear to play at Twickenham after the latest round of testing.
Seven players and four backroom staff had been diagnosed with coronavirus before further tests were undertaken on Tuesday.
But in a statement, Wasps said that "no further players or staff have tested positive", although a coaching staff test was damaged in transit and that member will now self-isolate as a precaution.

Government spending review dropped amid pandemic uncertainty

The UK government has dropped its long-term Comprehensive Spending Review amid economic uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Treasury said it was "the right thing" at the moment to "focus entirely" on protecting jobs and responding to the crisis.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will instead set out a one-year review in late November.
And he is due to address the House of Commons on Thursday.
Economists had warned that the pandemic meant setting longer-term spending targets would prove difficult.
Last month, Mr Sunak scrapped plans for an autumn Budget in favour of the review, which sets out how much each government department can spend and does not include changes to taxation.
In its latest figures, the Office for National Statistics said the UK economy was still 9.2% smaller than in February, before lockdown began.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 15:35

Netherlands records new daily record rise in infections

The Netherlands has recorded a new daily record rise of infections with more than 8,500 cases confirmed over the past 24 hours.
It comes almost a week after the government enforced “partial lockdown” measures including the closure of bars and restaurants.
Grocery stores are banned from selling alcohol after 20:00 and masks are now compulsory in public indoor spaces.

Health minister 'not aware' of local circuit-breaker plans

Health minister Edward Argar has said he is not aware of reported plans to implement short, limited "circuit-break" local lockdowns.
Conservative former health minister Steve Brine said: "Surely people in South Yorkshire and elsewhere need to know where they're at and be confident the goalposts won't move.
"So can the minister please comment on stories this morning that plans are being worked up by the CMO [Chief Medical Officer] for local, not national, three-week circuit-break lockdowns in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas?"
Mr Argar said: "I can reassure him that is not something I have been involved in or being sighted of."
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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 15:45

New infections in Switzerland almost double in a day

New coronavirus infections in Switzerland and the neighbouring principality of Liechtenstein almost doubled in a day to record levels, health authorities say.
There were 5,596 new cases on Wednesday, compared with 3,008 on Tuesday.
Since the start of the pandemic there have been 1,856 deaths, with a further 11 reported on Wednesday.

Further 94 deaths in English hospitals

A further 94 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 in hospitals in England, NHS England has confirmed.
It takes the reported death toll for hospitals to 31,275.
In Wales there have been a further 962 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 38,361.
Public Health Wales said 14 further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,736.
Scotland has recorded 28 deaths from coronavirus and 1,739 positive tests in the past 24 hours, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said. It is the highest number of fatalities since 21 May.

Johnson and Starmer on restriction exit

Tier three restrictions are a “gateway to weeks and weeks, more likely months and months, of agony” the Labour leader has told the Commons, as Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Boris Johnson clashed over the government's efforts to curb rising Covid infections.
Sir Keir claimed they brought “significant economic harm” but without getting the virus under control.
But Johnson said there were “signs of progress” in areas with restrictions, and that tier three measures were reviewed after 28 days.

Government 'won't back down' on holiday-time school meals

The government has said it won't back down over the issue of extending free school meal provision in England to include the coming half-term and Christmas breaks, BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley says .
Footballer Marcus Rashford wants the government to extend food voucher support in England just as it did during the summer holiday, following his campaigning on the issue. Rashford argues the coronavirus pandemic means there are more children at risk of living in poverty.
Labour is holding an opposition day debate on the topic this afternoon.
Earlier today, Rashford said he was: "Paying close attention to the Commons today and to those who are willing to turn a blind eye to the needs of our most vulnerable children, 2.2m of them who currently qualify for free school meals. 42% newly registered. Not to mention the 1.5m children who currently don’t qualify."
Speaking in the Commons earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked twice about extending the scheme to the coming holidays, saying "we support kids of low incomes (families) in school and we will continue to do so".
He said the government would "continue to use the benefit system and all the systems of income support to support young people and children throughout the holidays as well".

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 18:39

Thailand opens up to tourists for first time in seven months

Thailand has opened up its borders to a small group of tourists for the first time in seven months.
The group of 39 visitors from the Chinese city of Shanghai will have to stay in the country for a minimum of 30 days.
They are holders of a “Special Tourist Visa” which was approved by the Thai government last month.
Holders of the visa must have special insurance policies and get a Covid test before travelling. They also have to have their accommodation booked for the duration of their stay and download a tracking app upon arrival.
The tourists have now entered a 14-day mandatory quarantine in Bangkok, according to the Bangkok Post.

Johnson and Khan clash over TfL 'bankruptcy'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that Transport for London (TfL) was "effectively bankrupted" before the coronavirus pandemic after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan accused the government of "draconian" demands in exchange for a bailout.
The prime minister said any increase in fares was "entirely the responsibility" of Khan who he said had "left a massive black hole in its finances".
But Khan called Johnson a "liar" and said he had successfully reduced the deficit, which he said was accrued by the prime minister when he was mayor in 2016, by 71%.
"Covid-19 is the sole cause of TfL's challenges. The PM wants to increase fares, the C-Charge and taxes and end free travel for children and older Londoners," he tweeted.
The mayor said government proposals for a second bail-out of TfL include higher council taxes, an expanded congestion charge zone and a hike in Tube and bus fares.
The Department for Transport said talks over a settlement were continuing.
TfL bosses have asked for a £5.7bn package to prop up services for the next 18 months, after passenger numbers and revenues plummeted in the aftermath the March lockdown. In May, the government granted TfL £1.6bn in emergency funding to keep services running.

Football team fined after 'same household' claim in pub

Twelve members of a football team have been fined after claiming they were from the same household while drinking in a pub.
They were in the Wouldhave in South Shields, South Tyneside, when staff members challenged them after seeing their football kit under their jackets, said pub chain JD Wetherspoon.
Northumbria Police said the member of staff reported a breach of the coronavirus regulations, and officers arrived at the pub. The group was fined £200 each, which will be halved if it is paid within a fortnight.
Ch Supt Janice Hutton of Northumbria Police, said: "This group showed a flagrant disregard for the rules which are in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus."
The Wetherspoon spokesman said the group had been asked if they were from the same household and that they had said yes.
But player Josh Robertson, one of the those who was fined, denied that version of events.
He told the PA news agency: "They didn't ask if we lived in the same house. Why would 12 lads say we lived in the same house?"

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 18:42

Do all Tier 3 area workers get 80% of their wages?

Reality Check
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly claimed that employees of closed businesses in tier three areas will get 80% of their income.
This is important because the furlough scheme, which closes at the end of October, made sure such workers received 80% of their wages up to a maximum of £2,500.
But the Job Support Scheme , which will replace it in November, will provide 67% of normal salary up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.
It is certainly the case that some workers on low incomes will get at least 80% of their usual wages. In particular, people whose wages were low enough for them to qualify for Universal Credit before their employers were forced to close, are likely to get at least 80% of their wages.
But it is also the case that some workers will get less than 80%.
The point is that the prime minister failed to mention those who do not get UC at all, or only get a bit of it, who would receive less than 80% of their usual income.
Read our full Reality Check here .

Weeks before we know if restrictions are working - expert

We've been hearing today about the stricter coronavirus measures coming into place for South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.
But the effects will take two or three weeks to show if top-tier coronavirus restrictions are working in a region, MPs have heard.
Dr Clare Gardiner, director general of the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) told two select committees that it would take that long for the data to come through, with part of the lag due to the virus having a 10-day incubation period.
She added: "We also are looking really keenly at the number of people being admitted to hospital.
"We are particularly concerned and will be looking closely at case rates in the over-60s and watching quite carefully the information about outbreaks in care homes, so looking to protect and being able to protect the vulnerable."
When asked about the criteria used to raise an area from tier two to tier three, Dr Gardiner said there were a "basket of indicators" which were looked at with the chief medical officer who would then make recommendations to ministers.
These included having a rate of more than 100-150 cases a week per 100,000 people, case rates among the over-60s, a positivity rate in tests of more than 7.5% and the number of people being admitted to hospital.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 19:03

Dutch royal family apologise for holiday

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The royal family came under criticism for going on holiday during a partial lockdown

The Dutch royal family say they regret going on holiday during a partial lockdown in the Netherlands.
King Willem-Alexander went on holiday to Greece on Saturday along with his wife and children. They returned a day later following a public outcry.
Speaking in a video, the King said: “Our journey to Greece has provoked strong reactions from many Dutch people. It hurts to have betrayed your trust in us.”
Last week The Netherlands entered a partial lockdown. All bars and restaurants are closed for four weeks. The government urged people to limit international travel.
"Even though the journey was in line with the regulations, it was very unwise not to take into account the impact of the new restrictions on our community," the King said.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte has come under fire for allowing the family to go. He admitted on Sunday that a “wrong assessment” was made by not stopping them from going on holiday.

People will have to live with virus 'forever more'

A member of the UK government's scientific advisory group has told MPs that people will have to learn to live with the virus "forever more".
Epidemiologist Prof John Edmunds said it was an "almost certainty" that a vaccine will help to manage the epidemic in the "not-too-distant future".
But he also said: "There is very little chance that it's going to become eradicated."
He also warned the second Covid-19 wave would lead to tens of thousands of deaths.
Prof Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told a select committee things were "getting to the point where the health service will be under strain in much of the North in the next few weeks".
He said: "There's no way we come out of this wave now without counting our deaths in the tens of thousands”

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 21:10

Sheffield pub landlord: 'We'll stay open'

BBC Radio 5 Live
From Saturday, South Yorkshire will follow Liverpool, Lancashire and Greater Manchester into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions.
Paul Foster is the landlord of two pubs in Sheffield, the Norfolk Arms and the Red Lion.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live his pubs would be staying open.
“Purely because the bit of research we have done into the support package is that it’s negligent; it doesn’t cover anything. So we’ll stay open and do our best to serve our community," he said.
“October’s always a difficult month to trade in anyway, as people need a reason to come out, and at the moment they’ve got a reason to stay away, so it’s been a challenging month.
"We always try to work on the front foot, so we’ve sustained trade at the moment. If there are quite a lot of pubs shutting down, do we increase our market by staying open?”
“As a publican, I don’t understand what the negotiations are about. If we’re having to close places down because of health, close places down because of health."

UK records more than 26,000 daily cases

The UK government has announced there have been a further 26,688 daily coronavirus cases.
Another 191 people died within 28 days of positive test, it said, taking the UK's total to 44,158.

Poland considering new restrictions

Poland says it will announce new restrictions on Thursday after reporting a record 10,040 new cases in a single day.
The infection rate has doubled in less than three weeks.
On Wednesday, the lower house of parliament held an emergency session to discuss a bill to help the country’s health system, Reuters news agency reports.
Government spokesman Piotr Muller said the government will decide whether to move the teaching of older pupils in primary schools online.
It comes as the government’s Covid-19 adviser Andrzej Horban told local radio that the health system can only cope with a maximum of 10,000 new cases a day.

South Yorkshire's hospitality sector 'thrown under a bus'

Business owners in South Yorkshire have expressed concerns about their survival as news came today that they will face tighter coronavirus restrictions.
Jamie Hawksworth, who owns the Sheffield Tap, says he saw the new restrictions coming and they will be "devastating" for his staff.
"We've had the entire business pulled from under us," he says. "We're basically being thrown under the bus, we're the scapegoat."
The family-run Acorn Brewery in Wombwell, Barnsley, is facing similar worries.
The microbrewery's managing director Dave Hughes says the business was operating at about 20% of the level it was at before the pandemic and its team has been cut from 11 to four.
Mr Hughes also runs a real ale pub which will have to close under the new restrictions.
"We can't offer a substantial meal. A lots of pubs that don't have a food offering will suffer and those that do - well will they get the footfall?"

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Post by Kitkat Wed Oct 21 2020, 21:14

Germany's health minister tests positive

Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn has tested positive for coronavirus and is quarantining at home, the government says.
Infection rates in the country have been rising in recent weeks, and they hit a daily record of 7,830 new cases on Saturday.

Tunisia's ICU units 80% full, health minister confirms

Tunisia’s health minister has warned that intensive care units in the country’s public hospitals are about 80% full.
Fouzi Mehdi told reporters that the country only has 181 intensive care unit beds – 145 are now being used.
Tunisia is seeing a rise in the number of cases and has now reported a total of 45,000 infections and 740 deaths since the pandemic began.

Spain passes a million cases

Spain has surpassed one million coronavirus cases, its health ministry says.
It means it is the first country in western Europe to have more than a million total cases, at 1,005,295.
The country's death toll rose to 34,366 on Wednesday.

What's been happening today?

As our coverage heads to a close, here are some of the headlines from across the UK and the rest of the world today:


Join us tomorrow

Live updates on the coronavirus pandemic today were brought to you by Robert Corp, Gareth Evans, Doug Faulkner, Claire Heald, Lauren Turner, Sophie Williams and Katie Wright.
Do join us again tomorrow.

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