Matt Hancock has warned that the Government will not shy away from imposing more localised lockdown measures if necessary after the rules were tightened in parts of the North and Midlands.
On Thursday night, Boris Johnson ordered swathes of the north of England back into partial lockdown as he warned of a “damaging second wave” hitting the UK.
Speaking on Friday morning, the Health Secretary said: “We’ve demonstrated that we’re prepared to take the action that’s necessary to keep people safe.
“That was true in Leicester when we took action there and we’re taking much more localised action in hundreds of different locations right across the country.
“And we are seeing in some parts of the country that increase in the number of cases and we take action where we need to.
“Now, in the South West and the South East of England, thankfully, the number of cases is much, much lower so we haven’t had to take this sort of action.
“But we don’t shy away from taking it wherever it’s necessary. Of course we’d rather not because of the impact it has on people’s lives, but we’re prepared to if that’s needed.”
Follow the latest coronavirus updates below.
New restrictions as heatwave hits
The Government will be pleased with one thing – the weather today will push people outdoors.
Matt Hancock said two households can still meet “at a social distance in a public place outdoors” such as a park where there is lots of space, but meeting another household in pub gardens or outdoor restaurant space is not allowed in the newly restricted area of the North West.
Asked about the prospect of crowds gathering together too closely ahead of the expected hottest day of the year on Friday, the Health Secretary told the BBC: “It’s so important that people follow social distancing rules. My message is people need to keep doing that.
“We’ve shown we’re prepared to take action if that’s necessary.
“Having just announced this action last night I don’t this morning want to talk about what more we might do, but we have shown we’re prepared to take action.”
And here’s Friday’s forecast.
Confusion over rules in Manchester
Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell said she has been “inundated” with questions which she did not know the answers to from her constituents about the new lockdown restrictions.
Share examples with Times Radio, she said they included people questioning whether they are able to visit elderly relatives they are looking after who live outside of the restricted area, and whether they can go on holiday with another household elsewhere.
“I’ve been inundated with questions that I don’t know the answers to them,” she said.
But Matt Hancock insisted the new rules set out for the northern England region are “crystal clear”.
Read them for yourself here.
Downing Street press conference later today
Remember those daily briefings that we were all hooked to for a few weeks?
It looks like it will be returning for one night only.
Hancock says there will be a No10 press conference later today
— John Stevens (@johnestevens) July 31, 2020
Second wave ‘not yet’ in the UK
Matt Hancock said a second wave of coronavirus was “not yet” happening in the UK, adding: “These measures are very much being taken to prevent a second wave – we can see that second wave in Europe.
“We’re absolutely determined to keep people safe.”
Asked about the Islamic celebration of Eid which begins today, Mr Hancock told the BBC: “Unfortunately this change does mean that people won’t be able to get together in their houses, in their gardens.
“But we are allowing mosques and other religious places to stay open because they’ve done so much work to allow for Covid-secure celebration and worship.”
Government’s new lockdown announcement ‘a disaster’, says shadow minister
Shadow business minister Lucy Powell described the way in which the Government had announced the new coronavirus restrictions on parts of northern England as a “disaster”.
Speaking on Times Radio, the MP for Manchester Central said: “I mean announcing them two hours before they come into effect is a bit of a bolt out of the blue.
“With no one around to be able to answer some of the basic questions, I really think is not the way to build confidence and to take people with you and maximise compliance with these steps.”
Today’s front page
Here is your Daily Telegraph on Friday, July 31.
Northern lockdown ‘right’, says Manchester mayor
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has said the Government was right to take action in the north of England after it became clear that the picture on Covid-19 cases had changed.
He told Sky News: “On the substance, we do accept that these steps are needed. They’re modest steps.
“We’re asking people not to have visitors at home, if they go to the pub to stick within their own household – steps that hopefully will prevent much more severe restrictions if we take firm action at this time.
“And the reason for it is the picture changed in Greater Manchester over the last week. We’re watching the data very, very closely, like the Government is.
“So when the Government contacted me to say, ‘look we think something is happening here’, I could already see that it was and it wasn’t just in one locality, there was a change across all of our boroughs and that’s why we said to the Government they were right to take quick action.”
More than 20 officers in self-isolation after police party
A police retirement party has forced 22 officers into self-isolation after one of their colleagues tested positive for Covid-19.
Nine of the party guests – who are based in one of the towns currently worst affected by the virus – had attended the gathering, where they came into contact with an officer who later developed symptoms.
Read the full story here.
China tightens travel restrictions amid outbreak
China is tightening travel restrictions in the Xinjiang capital amid a Covid-19 outbreak in the northwestern city.
People arriving in Urumqi from regions considered to have a high infection risk must undergo a two-week quarantine. Others arriving from less-risky areas most show proof of good health.
Locals “in principle” must stay in the city or show proof of health to be allowed to leave.
Almost all regions in China have been downgraded to low and medium risk, except for the northeastern port city of Dalian, which is high risk due to an ongoing but smaller outbreak.
Since mid-July, the Xinjiang outbreak centered in Urumqi has seen more than 600 cases of illness, including 112 new ones reported on Friday.
Another 11 cases new were reported on Friday in Liaoning, bringing the northeastern province’s total to around 75 since June 22, when a seafood worker in Dalian tested positive.
Britons show more interest in moving to New Zealand
British interest in emigrating to New Zealand increased during Covid-19, officials in Wellington have revealed.
As the country managed to end local transmission of the virus and kept the death rate low, many are seeking out a new life there in order to escape coronavirus in the UK.
Searches on the country’s immigration website have skyrocketed.
The trend is matched by a sudden surge internationally in Google searches last month using key words “move to New Zealand”.
Read the full story here.
Restrictions extended in the Philippines
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday extended coronavirus restrictions in the capital Manila until mid-August and said the Southeast Asian country would be given priority by China if supplies of a vaccine became available.
The Philippines this month recorded Southeast Asia’s biggest daily jump in coronavirus deaths and biggest single-day increase in confirmed infections.
The capital region, provinces south of it, and cities in central Philippines were placed under general community quarantine, limiting movement of elderly people and children, and the capacity of business establishments.
Mr Duterte promised free vaccines if they became available by late this year, prioritising first the poor and then the middle class, police and military personnel.
The Philippines would be given precedence by China in vaccine distribution, he said.
Partial lockdown reimposed across north of England
Boris Johnson on Thursday night ordered swathes of the north of England back into partial lockdown as he warned of a “damaging second wave” hitting the UK.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Greater Manchester, Bradford, Blackburn and other areas were banned from holding indoor meetings involving people from different households.
It comes after NHS data showed coronavirus reaching worrying levels in parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, prompting the Prime Minister to take “immediate action” to keep people safe.
Read the full story here.
Call for virtual GP consultations sparks patient backlash
Matt Hancock is facing a backlash from patient and medical groups after declaring that all consultations should be conducted virtually unless there was a “compelling clinical reason not to”.
During a speech in London on Thursday, the Health Secretary hailed a new era of “Zoom medicine” in which face-to-face meetings with doctors will be replaced by video link or phone.
READ MORE: Matt Hancock’s call for virtual GP consultations to replace face-to-face meetings sparks patient backlash
150,000 tests a day to stop asymptomatic virus spread
Up to 150,000 people with no symptoms could be screened for Covid-19 every day in an attempt to stop symptomless spreading and cut quarantine for holidaymakers.
New plans from NHS Test and Trace commit to a mass expansion of testing by September in an attempt to fend off a second wave of coronavirus.
Health officials also promised that a long-delayed contact tracing app will be piloted “shortly”, with roll-out by winter.
READ MORE: Plan to test 150,000 symptomless people a day could cut coronavirus spread and quarantine
Countries with worse Covid rate than Portugal stay on green list
Portugal is to remain on the Government’s travel ban list despite having lower Covid-19 rates than “green” listed countries under the latest Government changes.
Luxembourg is the only country to be removed from the “green” list of 79 countries and territories that exempt returning holidaymakers from 14 days UK quarantine.
It is the second nation taken off after a surge in Covid-19 cases following the weekend removal of Spain.
The continued rejection of Portugal will provoke fury in Lisbon.
Read the full story here.
Study shows children have major amounts of virus
Children younger than five carried major amounts of coronavirus in their upper respiratory tract, a small study published on Thursday showed, raising new questions about whether they can infect others.
Data on children as sources of coronavirus spread are sparse, and early reports did not find strong evidence of children as major contributors to the deadly virus.
Understanding the transmission potential in children would be key to developing public health guidelines, the researchers said.
The study included 145 individuals aged between one month and 65 years with mild to moderate Covid-19 who were studied in three groups: children younger than five years, children five to 17 years, and adults 18 to 65 years.
Their analysis suggested that the younger children had a viral load in their upper respiratory tracts up to 100-fold greater than adults.
It raised concerns about their habits and proximity in schools and day-care centres as public health restrictions eased, researchers said.
Prime Minister says Melbourne numbers remain a challenge
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that he was confident a coronavirus flare-up in Sydney, the country’s biggest city, was under control, but he acknowledged a larger spike in cases in Melbourne remained a challenge.
The state of Victoria, whose capital Melbourne is under a reimposed six-week lockdown, reported a record 723 new infections on Thursday followed by 627 on Friday.
The state now accounts for more than half of the country’s 190 deaths from the coronavirus and about 60 per cent of the nation’s 16,304 cases.
The majority of Victoria’s fresh cases are in Melbourne, Australia’s second biggest city.
“The level of community outbreak and community transmission in Victoria is the great challenge down there,” Mr Morrison said on 2GB radio. “And there’s still a lot of work to do and we’re not on top of it yet.”
He said New South Wales, home to Sydney, had contained the spread of the virus from outbreaks at pubs, restaurants and aged-care homes thanks to better contact tracing than in Victoria.
“The key difference is that in NSW … there are no cases that have an unknown source. None,” he said, noting that Victoria has had around 50 cases a day with no known source.
First dog to test positive in US has died
The first dog to test positive for coronavirus in the United States has died after struggling with symptoms that may be familiar to many of the virus’ human sufferers.
Buddy, a seven-year-old German shepherd from New York, became sick in April, around the same time his owner Robert Mahoney was recovering from Covid-19, National Geographic magazine reported this week.
Buddy seemed to have a stuffed nose and difficulty breathing, and his condition only worsened over the following weeks and months.
Biggest daily rise in cases for Vietnam
Vietnam’s health ministry on Friday reported 45 new coronavirus infections linked to a recent outbreak in the central city of Danang, marking the highest daily increase since the first cases emerged in the country in late January.
The new patients, with ages ranging from 27 to 87, are linked to four hospitals and a hotel in Danang.
Total infections since the virus resurfaced have reached 93, the ministry said.
Vietnam has registered 509 cases of the virus in total, with no deaths. The country recorded 100 days without a locally transmitted case before the reemergence of the virus.
Brazilian president jokes about mould in his lungs
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that he was taking antibiotics for an infection that left him feeling weak, chuckling in an online video about “mould” in his lungs, having spent weeks in isolation after catching coronavirus.
“I just did a blood test. I was feeling kind of weak yesterday. They found a bit of infection also. Now I’m on antibiotics,” Mr Bolsonaro said in a livestream video, without elaborating on the infection.
He tested positive for coronavirus on July 7 and then negative last Saturday.
“After 20 days indoors, I have other problems. I have mold in my lungs,” he said, referring to nearly three weeks he spent at the official presidential residence.
His wife, Michelle, tested positive on Thursday, according to a statement from the presidential palace.
Main virus spreaders outside of China travelled from Italy
Travellers from Italy brought Covid-19 to more than a quarter of the virus-hit countries outside mainland China, according to an analysis mapping the global spread of the disease.
In almost two-thirds of the 99 nations affected in the first 11 weeks of the pandemic, the initial coronavirus cases were linked to travellers from just three countries: 27 per cent saw the virus arrive via Italy, 22 per cent from China and 11 per cent via Iran.
The research, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, used official websites, press releases and social media to trace how the virus crossed the globe in the period leading up to the World Health Organisation’s declaration that the outbreak was a pandemic, on March 11.
READ MORE: Travellers from Italy brought Covid-19 to one in four virus-hit countries outside China