A medical worker takes a swab sample following a spike in cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to visitors of a pub in Stone, Britain, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Carl Recine - Reuters
A medical worker takes a swab sample following a spike in cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to visitors of a pub in Stone, Britain, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Carl Recine – Reuters
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

“Hundreds” of people have turned up to a town’s Covid-19 walk-in centre after pub-goers were urged to get tested following the confirmation of 10 positive cases.

Health chiefs asked people who had been working or drinking at the Crown & Anchor in Stone, Staffordshire, on July 16, 17, and 18 to get tested, after an outbreak linked to the premises.

One individual who tested positive from the pub then attended a private social gathering, further spreading the virus, Staffordshire County Council said.

The pub said on Facebook that it had since taken the decision to temporarily close “due to the overwhelming amount of people visiting”.

Follow the latest updates below.

05:22 PM

Madonna post blocked by Instagram for false virus video 

Superstar singer Madonna has been censored on Instagram for spreading false information about a supposed cure for Covid-19 after she shared clips from a video also re-tweeted by Donald Trump.

In her post to 15.4 million followers, Madonna claimed that a proven vaccine had been available for months but it was being kept secret “to let the rich get richer and the poor and sick get sicker.”

She attached a video of US physician Stella Immanuel who praised hydroxychloroquine as a miracle coronavirus cure.

“We’ve removed this video for making false claims about cures and prevention methods for COVID-19,” a company spokeswoman for Facebook, which owns Instagram, told AFP on Wednesday.

“People who reacted to, commented on, or shared this video, will see messages directing them to authoritative information about the virus.”

05:09 PM

Mea culpa

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli has apologised for appearing to belittle the coronavirus by saying he didn’t know anyone who had gone into intensive care, comments that angered many and set off a storm of criticism on social media.

In a video on Facebook, Bocelli asked forgiveness for any suffering, saying “it was not my intention to offend those who have been struck by Covid”.

Speaking at the Senate on Monday, Bocelli said he believed the situation could not have been as serious as authorities were saying because he did not know anyone who had to go into intensive care. He urged people to disobey rules still in place.

05:04 PM

Grant Shapps to quarantine upon return

The Transport secretary must now quarantine for 14 days after falling foul of his own “air bridges” policy after jetting off to Spain.

Business minister Paul Scully fell into the same trap by going on holiday in the Canary Islands.

Mr Shapps said at the time that he was unaware that his Government colleagues were about to remove Spain from the “safe list” of countries with lower levels of coronavirus infection when he set off on holiday last week.

05:02 PM

Other countries could be included on quarantine list, says Transport Secretary

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he “cannot rule out” that other countries could be included under the UK’s quarantine measures.

He told reporters on his return to the UK from Spain that the decision to require travellers arriving in the UK from Spain to isolate for 14 days was the “right thing to do”.

He said: “We absolutely have to act the moment we get the information and that’s exactly what happened with Spain as we saw and as we’ve seen over the weekend where there was over 6,100 cases – the highest since the peak in March over there.

“It was the right thing to do and it’s why the whole of the UK did (it) at the same time.

“I can’t therefore rule out other countries having to go into the quarantine as well.”

He said the exclusion of certain Spanish islands from the measures taken by the UK Government had been considered:

“We did have a look at whether certain islands could be included (on the list) and not others.

“Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, was very clear with us that he was concerned about the data, we’d seen how the data had come very fast forward in Spain in 20, 48 hours, it had gone up by 75%.”

04:57 PM

Shapps arrives back in UK

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, arrived home early from his holiday in Spain.

He arrived by taxi from Stansted airport Hatfield Herts and was met by reporters.

The Transport Secretary came home to deal with the quarantine crisis, leaving his family in Spain.

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, arrives home early from his holiday in Spain. - JULIAN SIMMONDS
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, arrives home early from his holiday in Spain. – JULIAN SIMMONDS
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, arrives home early from his holiday in Spain. - JULIAN SIMMONDS
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, arrives home early from his holiday in Spain. – JULIAN SIMMONDS
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, arrives home early from his holiday in Spain. - JULIAN SIMMONDS
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, arrives home early from his holiday in Spain. – JULIAN SIMMONDS

04:35 PM

Latest weekly Covid rates in local areas

Today’s update of the rolling seven-day rate of new cases of Covid-19 for every local authority in England.

The figures, for the seven days to July 26, are based on tests carried out in laboratories and in the wider community.

The rate is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people.

In Blackburn with Darwen, the rate has risen from 81.2 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to July 19 to 87.3 in the seven days to July 26. A total of 130 new cases have been recorded.

Oldham has drawn level with Leicester, with both areas recording broadly the same rate.

In Leicester, the seven-day rate has fallen from 73.2 to 56.3, with 200 new cases. While in Oldham the rate has risen from 18.7 to 56.4, with 133 new cases.

Other areas reporting notable week-on-week jumps include:

  • – Trafford (up from 11.0 to 38.1, with 90 new cases)

  • – Manchester (up from 14.2 to 23.2, with 127 new cases)

  • – Sandwell (up from 23.2 to 32.4, with 106 new cases)

  • – Swindon (up from 8.1 to 21.2, with 47 new cases)

04:18 PM

Watch: Airport testing: Could it cut quarantine and save our summer holidays?

British holidaymakers, thousands of whom booked their Spanish holidays after quarantine rules were relaxed three weeks ago, must now cancel them or self-isolate for 14 days on their return, and reports indicate that those with plans to travel to France and Germany could find themselves in the same position if infection rates continue to rise.

But now a growing number of commentators and businesses are asking whether these measures are necessary at all, as more European countries switch to airport-based coronavirus tests as an alternative that combines the need to contain Covid-19 with the need to save thousands of desperately struggling tourism businesses.

Watch the video to find out more about airport testing and why some are unconvinced that it’s a viable alternative to quarantine.

04:02 PM

Trump defends use of virus aid bill to fund new FBI office near his hotel 

US President Donald Trump has defended his push to use a coronavirus relief package to fund a new FBI headquarters near his Washington hotel, despite opposition from fellow Republicans.

The bill, which is being negotiated in the Senate before the expiration of a number of provisions aimed at helping Americans stave off financial losses amid the coronavirus pandemic, is on rough ground with the White House at odds with both Democrats and Trump’s own Republicans over the measure.

Trump at first did not directly answer questions about whether he would drop his demand for $1.8 billion to fund a new FBI headquarters in downtown Washington. He later said the provision “should stay.”

“Republicans should go back to school and learn,” he told reporters at the White House, referring to opposition from conservative lawmakers. “I’m very good at real estate.”

Donald Trump speaks to the press outside the White House - SARAH SILBIGER/Shutterstock
Donald Trump speaks to the press outside the White House – SARAH SILBIGER/Shutterstock

03:49 PM

Spain diagnoses more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections 

Spain diagnosed 1,153 new coronavirus infections in the past day, the health ministry said, as the country continues to struggle with a rapidly accelerating surge of new cases.

The cumulative total rose to 282,641 cases, the ministry said. The figure was up 2,031 from the previous day, and includes results from antibody tests on people who may already have recovered.

03:38 PM

US Attorney General to be tested fro Covid

US Attorney General William Barr will be tested for Covid-19, after coming in close contact with Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert when Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee, a Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed.

03:28 PM

The local council official who stopped coronavirus in Germany 

Return to coronavirus ground zero: Stephan Pusch places a quarter of a million people under lockdown when Germany’s first outbreak hit. Justin Huggler has the latest from Gangelt:

Stephan Pusch may be the man who saved Germany from the coronavirus. The local council leader in a small rural district on the Dutch border, Mr Pusch is not exactly a household name. But it was he who ordered the lockdown that successfully contained the first outbreak of the virus in Germany — arguably saving thousands of lives.

Today, there’s little to suggest that anything out of the ordinary happened in Gangelt, a sleepy market town of dark red brick houses and well tended flower beds in the northern Rhineland.

There are none of the scars you find in the worst-hit Italian and Spanish towns. But for the plastic tape sealing off alternate pews in the 14th century church, and the facemasks worn by shoppers, life has returned to normal.

But this was the town at the epicentre of Germany’s first coronavirus outbreak — and but for Mr Pusch, things could have been much worse here.

You can read the full piece here.

03:18 PM

Test more often to reduce quarantine time, says Labour

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has said people arriving in the UK from high-risk countries should be tested twice for coronavirus over a number of days to potentially reduce the quarantine period for new arrivals.

He said that he currently supports the 14-day quarantine measures for arrivals from countries including Spain, but pointed to evidence suggesting the duration could be reduced with multiple tests.

During a visit to Falmouth, he told reporters that “we do support measures being taken to quarantine”.

“It’s really unfortunate for those in other countries and I really feel for them but it is necessary that we take all preventative measures to prevent a second spike,” he said.

But asked whether the Government should consider shortening the period, he said: “There’s some evidence it could be shortened to 10 or nine days but that depends on really effective testing and that is why we have pushed the Government so hard on testing.

“There’s the capacity to test, the Government needs to use that to test on arrival and then after a short interval because if that period of 14 days can be brought down to eight, nine or 10 then obviously there’s a huge benefit in that.”

03:11 PM

National Trust plans 1,200 job cuts as a result of coronavirus

The National Trust is planning to make 1,200 staff redundant as it looks to save £100 million in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The conservation and heritage charity, which has 5.6 million members, said it has lost almost £200 million as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, which shut all of its houses, gardens, car parks, shops and cafes, and stopped holidays and events.

The trust said it had already saved millions of pounds through furloughing staff, drawing on reserves, borrowing and stopping or deferring projects, but still needs to make savings to keep it sustainable in the long term.

It has proposed £100 million in annual savings, equivalent to almost a fifth of its annual spend, through changes to operations and cuts to staff and budgets.

Some 1,200 salaried staff face redundancy as part of £60 million proposed pay savings – around 13% of the 9,500-strong salaried workforce.

02:59 PM

Vietnam’s capital to shut bars and ban big gatherings after Covid-19 outbreak in Danang

People wearing protective face masks wait at a bus stop as they return from work in Hanoi on July 29, 2020. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP) (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYA - AFP
People wearing protective face masks wait at a bus stop as they return from work in Hanoi on July 29, 2020. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP) (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYA – AFP

Hanoi has ordered bars and pubs to shut and banned large gatherings from midnight today because of a Covid-19 outbreak in the city of Danang, the head of the city’s administration said.

Vietnam’s capital city officially registered its first case of the virus linked to the Danang outbreak.

“We have to act now and act fast. All large gatherings will be banned until further notice,” Nguyen Duc Chung, Hanoi’s chairman, said in a statement on the city’s website.

“Over 21,000 people returned to Hanoi from Danang will be closely monitored and will undergo rapid testing,” he said.

02:49 PM

USA: Florida reports record increase in Covid-19 deaths for second day in a row

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 24, 2020 nurse practitioner Raciel Gomez (L) swabs the nose of Jeewan Prabha Mehta through a glass pane at the Aardvark Mobile Health's Mobile Covid-19 Testing Truck in Miami Beach. - Florida has emerged as a major new epicenter of the US coronavirus battle, but two key weapons in the state's fight are misfiring badly: testing and contact tracing. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via .) - AFP
(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 24, 2020 nurse practitioner Raciel Gomez (L) swabs the nose of Jeewan Prabha Mehta through a glass pane at the Aardvark Mobile Health’s Mobile Covid-19 Testing Truck in Miami Beach. – Florida has emerged as a major new epicenter of the US coronavirus battle, but two key weapons in the state’s fight are misfiring badly: testing and contact tracing. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via .) – AFP

Florida reported a record increase in new Covid-19 deaths for a second day in a row today, with 217 fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to the state health department.

An additional  9,446 new cases, brought the state’s total infections to over 451,000, the second highest in the country behind California.

Florida’s total death toll rose to 6,457, the eighth highest in the nation,

02:30 PM

Watch: Lord’s peer holds mask over face while speaking to chamber on train

Conservative former minister Lord Duncan of Springbank held his mask in front of his face as he asked the minister a question before replacing it, which is likely to raise questions over whether this was in line with pandemic rules.

Lord Duncan appeared aboard his speeding train on screens in the House of Lords chamber as he asked a question about engagement with the devolved administrations in a scheme to allow eligible Hongkongers to move to the UK.

02:25 PM

Russia says it is close to world’s first approval of Covid-19 vaccine

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a cabinet meeting via a video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) - Pool Sputnik Kremlin
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a cabinet meeting via a video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) – Pool Sputnik Kremlin

A top Russian official says that the country’s coronavirus vaccine is nearing the end of clinical trials and is likely to get approval in mid-August, potentially making it the world’s first approved vaccine against the disease.

Russia currently has at least three vaccines in development, and President Vladimir Putin, who chaired a conference call on the epidemic today, has said that developing one would be a matter of national pride.

One of the three vaccines is nearing the end of clinical trials and is likely to be approved next month, Tatyana Golikova, a deputy prime minister, told the meeting on Wednesday

 “We’re planning to give it a state registration in August 2020 as long as there are clinical trials for 1,600 people following approval,” she said, adding that Russia hopes to begin manufacturing the vaccine as early as in September.

Russia’s previous announcement about fast-tracking clinical trials has raised questions about the safety of the new vaccine.

 Our Moscow correspondent Nataliya Vasilyeva has the full report here

02:18 PM

COVID-style: French ministers keep their distance for group photo

French President Emmanuel Macron (C) poses with members of the cabinet, on July 29, 2020 at the Elysee palace in Paris, prior to the weekly cabinet meeting. (Photo by Ludovic Marin / - AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron (C) poses with members of the cabinet, on July 29, 2020 at the Elysee palace in Paris, prior to the weekly cabinet meeting. (Photo by Ludovic Marin / – AFP

France’s new cabinet posed for its official photograph today, standing in an unusual, spaced formation to observe social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Rather than the traditional shoulder-to-shoulder group shot, the portrait is taken from afar to fit President Emmanuel Macron’s new 43-member team into the frame on the Elysee Palace’s lawn.

The 30 ministers and 12 junior ministers under new Prime Minister Jean Castex appear tiny, their shadows long in the empty space between them, and their faces almost indistinguishable in the photo dominated by large trees in the far background.

The new government was thrashed out earlier this month in a reshuffle seen by analysts as a bid by Macron to improve his reelection chances in 2022.

02:09 PM

Shopworkers’ refusal to wear masks is resulting in hundreds of complaints, survey shows

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, talks to the owner of the the Cycle Lounge, Rodney Rouse, a bicycle repair shop in Beeston, central England, on July 28, 2020, during an event to launch the the government's new cycling intuitive to help get people fitter. - The British government promised Monday to build thousands of miles of new bike lanes to get people moving and healthy after months of coronavirus lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's pledge comes on the heels of a plan to force restaurants to display calories on menus as part of a broader effort to win the battle of the bulge. (Photo by Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP) (Photo by RUI VIEIRA/POOL/AFP via .) - AFP
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, talks to the owner of the the Cycle Lounge, Rodney Rouse, a bicycle repair shop in Beeston, central England, on July 28, 2020, during an event to launch the the government’s new cycling intuitive to help get people fitter. – The British government promised Monday to build thousands of miles of new bike lanes to get people moving and healthy after months of coronavirus lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge comes on the heels of a plan to force restaurants to display calories on menus as part of a broader effort to win the battle of the bulge. (Photo by Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP) (Photo by RUI VIEIRA/POOL/AFP via .) – AFP

Shopworkers’ refusal to wear masks is causing “conflict at the cash register” and sparking hundreds of complaints, a new survey shows.

While members of the public who visit supermarkets, banks and clothing stores must wear a face covering, the people who work in those venues do not.

This split has caused anger amongst shoppers, who have made more than 350 complaints to companies, mainly about staff not being masked and the failure of retailers to enforce social distancing.

A study by Resolver, an online complaints platform, showed that between March and July, some 2,008 people specifically mentioned face masks when making a complaint, with 500 coming in July alone.

While 443 complaints were made about online retailers, some 363 people had issues in high street shops.

Read Jamie Johnson and Jessica Beard’s full story here

01:59 PM

Gambia’s president self isolating after vice-president tests positive for Covid-19

Gambia’s Vice President Isatou Touray has tested positive for COVID-19, leading President Adama Barrow to enter self-isolation for the next two weeks, the presidency announced today.

The presidency’s statement did not provide any further details about Touray’s condition. Touray, who is 65, was named vice president last year.

Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest country, has recorded 326 cases of COVID-19, including nine deaths, the lowest totals in West Africa

01:49 PM

Cycling: UAE Team Emirates sends home riders from Vuelta a Burgos in coronavirus scare

VILLADIEGO, SPAIN - JULY 29: Start / Fernando Gaviria Rendon of Colombia, Maximiliano Ariel Richeze of Argentina, David De la Cruz Melgarejo of Spain, Fabio Aru of Italy and UAE Team Emirates / Covid Safe measures / Andres Camilo Ardila Ordoñez of Colombia, Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides of Colombia and Cristian Camilo Muñoz Lancheros of Colombia are COVID-19 positive / Team Presentation / during the 42nd Vuelta a Burgos 2020, Stage 2 a 168km stage from Castrojeriz to Villadiego / #VueltaBurgos / on July 29, 2020 in Villadiego, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/.) - Velo
VILLADIEGO, SPAIN РJULY 29: Start / Fernando Gaviria Rendon of Colombia, Maximiliano Ariel Richeze of Argentina, David De la Cruz Melgarejo of Spain, Fabio Aru of Italy and UAE Team Emirates / Covid Safe measures / Andres Camilo Ardila Ordo̱ez of Colombia, Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides of Colombia and Cristian Camilo Mu̱oz Lancheros of Colombia are COVID-19 positive / Team Presentation / during the 42nd Vuelta a Burgos 2020, Stage 2 a 168km stage from Castrojeriz to Villadiego / #VueltaBurgos / on July 29, 2020 in Villadiego, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/.) РVelo

Just three days before the first race of the revised WorldTour gets under way, the cycling season has been handed cause for concern as three riders were pulled from the Vuelta a Burgos in Spain today. 

Although a handful of races have been completed after an easing of lockdown restrictions following the coronavirus pandemic, the Vuelta a Burgos is the highest-profile men’s race to have started.

Ahead of Tuesday’s opening stage, won by Austrian rider Felix Grosschartner from Bora-Hansgrohe, British time trial champion Alex Dowsett and his Israel Start-Up Nation team-mate Itamor Einhorn were withdrawn from the race after another team-mate Omer Goldstein, who is not racing in Spain, had tested positive test for coronavirus.

Although he was not at the race in northern Spain, it was revealed that Goldstein had had contact with Einhorn in the countdown to the Vuelta a Burgos.

Despite returning negative tests for the virus, the results were not delivered to the team until after the race had started forcing Dowsett and Einhorn to withdraw.

John Macleary has the full story here

01:42 PM

UK researchers trial robots to help vulnerable during pandemic

A SoftBank Group Corp. Pepper humanoid robot reminds travelers to social distance at an All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) check-in area at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, June 28, 2020. Concern over the virus situation in Japan in growing as cases have surged in recent weeks. An outbreak initially thought confined to nighttime entertainment areas in Tokyo has spread to workplaces and across the country. Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg - Bloomberg
A SoftBank Group Corp. Pepper humanoid robot reminds travelers to social distance at an All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) check-in area at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, June 28, 2020. Concern over the virus situation in Japan in growing as cases have surged in recent weeks. An outbreak initially thought confined to nighttime entertainment areas in Tokyo has spread to workplaces and across the country. Photographer: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg – Bloomberg

Pepper’s skill set includes making phone calls, identifying missing items in the kitchen and occasional aerobics instruction.

Now, after a surge in loneliness among vulnerable groups during the coronavirus pandemic, this robot’s potential as a companion have earned her a role in a Scottish university’s assisted living experiment with artificial intelligence.

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have programmed robots, including Pepper – who was launched as the world’s first humanoid in Japan in 2014 – to perform tasks normally carried out by care workers.

“We are specifically interested in understanding the needs of the most vulnerable at this time and what technology could be used to make their lives better,” Mauro Dragone, the project’s lead scientist, said. 

“Successful innovation in the field is crucial to alleviate the strain on health and social care services.”

01:32 PM

Fear of a second-wave is no excuse to destroy what’s left of the economy, writes Ross Clark

From tourism to theatres, the Government’s capricious response to rising cases is making it impossible to get businesses going again 

By appearing in public flanked by scientific and medical advisers the Prime Minister has indicated he wants us to know that all his decisions are backed by science.

But what difference might it have made if he had involved economists to anything like the same extent?

Even if the quarantine rules are relaxed again over the next few weeks, who in their right mind is going to book a holiday in Spain, knowing how the government has acted this time? 

Who, indeed, is going to book any foreign holiday anywhere, knowing they could be wasting every penny they spend upfront?

Read Ross Clark’s full commentary here

01:26 PM

Vietnam brings 140 virus-hit workers home on rare rescue flight from Africa

A specially converted Vietnam Airlines passenger plane equipped with ventilators and state doctors returned from Equatorial Guinea to Hanoi today carrying 140 Vietnamese workers infected with Covid-19.

The plane, which left on Monday night for 27-hour, 21,000-kilometre (13,000 mile) round trip to the town of Bata in the West African country, arrived in the capital Hanoi, where infected patients were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Pham Ngoc Thach, director of the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases said:

“We are all prepared. One hundred ventilators, medicine and other equipment for testing and treatment as well as some 500 rooms have been set aside for the passengers.”

A health worker in a white protective suit sprays disinfectant at Vietnamese construction workers infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), upon their arrival at the tropical diseases hospital after being repatriated from Equatorial Guinea via a specially-adapted Vietnam Airlines plane filled with medical equipment and negative pressure chambers, in Hanoi, Vietnam July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Kham - Reuters
A health worker in a white protective suit sprays disinfectant at Vietnamese construction workers infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), upon their arrival at the tropical diseases hospital after being repatriated from Equatorial Guinea via a specially-adapted Vietnam Airlines plane filled with medical equipment and negative pressure chambers, in Hanoi, Vietnam July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Kham – Reuters

01:15 PM

Europe had 50% ‘excess mortality’ at Covid peak, new data shows

Europe experienced a 50 percent rise in excess mortality over a week in March and April due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to data released by France’s Insee statistics agency Wednesday.

Excess mortality is the number of deaths in a given period over and above what one would have expected to see, and is a measure widely used to estimate how many people died due to Covid-19.

Insee said Spain, Italy, Belgium and France had the highest number of excess deaths over the week from March 30 to April 6, which was “the peak of excess mortality… linked to the Covid-19 epidemic” in Europe.

While in other years the number of deaths tends to decline in Europe in March after the annual flu season, in 2020 it rose sharply, the agency said in a report based on data collected by EU agency Eurostat from 21 national jurisdictions.

New cases of Covid 19 in Europe
New cases of Covid 19 in Europe

01:08 PM

Ten people catch coronavirus in outbreak at Staffordshire pub where 200 drinkers were crammed into beer garden ‘like sardines’

A Staffordshire market town is today fighting a coronavirus outbreak linked to a local pub where at least ten people were infected after 200 drinkers were filmed crammed into a beer garden ‘like sardines’ in clear contravention of social distancing guidelines.

Punters and staff who were at the Crown and Anchor in Stone between July 16 and 18 are now being told to urgently get swabs done, as well as anyone who has been in close contact with visitors to the pub.

A new testing centre has been set up 350 yards away at a car park, and people who were out in Stone on one of those nights who have since displayed symptoms despite not going to the pub should also now get a test.

One customer at the pub – which has now shut due to overcrowding – who tested positive is also said to have held a private gathering, causing a further spread. There were 43 new cases in Staffordshire in the week to Sunday – level to the previous week.  

A medical worker takes a swab sample following a spike in cases of the coronavirus disease
A medical worker takes a swab sample following a spike in cases of the coronavirus disease

12:54 PM

Russia rejects accusations of spreading virus disinformation 

Russian officials have rejected accusations from the U.S that Moscow is spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, calling them “conspiracy theories” and a “persistent phobia.”

U.S. officials said that Russian intelligence services were using a trio of English-language websites to spread false news about the virus and are seeking to exploit a crisis that America is struggling to contain ahead of the presidential election in November.

The three websites published about 150 articles about the pandemic response, including coverage aimed either at propping up Russia or denigrating the U.S. between late May and early July, one of the officials said.

One of the identified websites, One World, posted a response Wednesday, denouncing as “categorically false” allegations that it worked for the Russian military intelligence service or was involved in propaganda or meddling.

Read more here

MOSCOW, REGION - JULY 29, 2020: Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks at a video screen in his office in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence during a video-conference meeting of Russian government officials to discuss the current situation in Russia in relation to the pandemic of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the preparation of Russia's healthcare system for the autumn and winter seasons. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei Nikolsky\TASS via .) - TASS
MOSCOW, REGION – JULY 29, 2020: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin looks at a video screen in his office in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence during a video-conference meeting of Russian government officials to discuss the current situation in Russia in relation to the pandemic of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the preparation of Russia’s healthcare system for the autumn and winter seasons. Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS (Photo by Alexei Nikolsky\TASS via .) – TASS

12:45 PM

The European Commission signs £55 million deal to secure thousands of doses of experimental drug to treat  Covid-19

The European Commission says it has signed a €63 million euro  deal to secure thousands of doses of remdesavir, the only licensed experimental drug to treat people with severe Covid-19.

The drug, sold by Gilead Sciences as Veklury, will treat about 30,000 patients with serious coronavirus illness for member countries and the United Kingdom, the European Commission said. 

This month, the U.S. announced it had signed a deal with Gilead to buy nearly all of the company’s production of the drug through September.

Numerous public health experts slammed the agreement, calling the U.S. move selfish and warned other countries could lose out.

12:32 PM

India’s most vulnerable could get coronavirus vaccine by November 2020

India’s most vulnerable citizens could be immunised against Covid-19 as early as November, if proposed trials of the Oxford vaccine here prove to be successful.

The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine producer by volume, has applied for permission from the Indian drug regulatory body to begin the third and final stage of testing in August.

After having inked a deal with Oxford University and AstraZeneca, the SII will test the vaccine – which has elicited an immune response on volunteers in trials in the United Kingdom – on thousands of front-line health workers in 11 hospitals in India.

A laborer wearing a face mask rests at a warehouse in Jammu, India, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Channi Anand) - AP
A laborer wearing a face mask rests at a warehouse in Jammu, India, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Channi Anand) – AP

 Read the full article here by Joe Wallen

12:25 PM

Arthritis drug designed to treat Covid-19 fails in large-scale trial

A trial from Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche for its rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra/RoActemra, designed to treat patients hospitalised with severe Covid-19-related pneumonia, has failed. 

Roche launched the 330-patient trial in March as it joined other pharmaceutical companies seeking to re-purpose existing medicines to fight the pandemic.

The “COVACTA trial did not meet its primary end-point of improved clinical status in patients with COVID-19 associated pneumonia, or the key secondary end-point of reduced patient mortality,” Roche said.

The news follows an Italian study that showed the drug failed to help patients with early-stage COVID-19 pneumonia.

12:15 PM

Portugal says EU countries broke pact to reinstate free movement after coronavirus lockdowns were lifted

Portugal’s foreign ministry said that some member states in the European Union had broken a pact to reinstate freedom of movement inside the bloc after coronavirus lockdowns were lifted.

“We understand we were all required to reinstate freedom of movement within the EU from July 1 the latest,” the ministry said. 

“We believe restrictions and decisions taken by member states related to other member states manifestly disregard this bond,” it added, without specifying which member states it was referring to.

The ministry’s comments came after Britain – which left the EU in January but is observing its trade and travel regulations until the end of the year – decided on Friday to persist with a quarantine regime for travellers from Portugal.

12:05 PM

Italy extends coronavirus state of emergency

Italy’s parliament today gave the go-ahead to extend the country’s state of emergency until October 15, allowing the government more flexibility to fight the pandemic.

The state of emergency serves primarily to cut red tape and accelerate decision-making for the government when faced with disasters such as earthquakes, floods and other catastrophes. 

The decree had been set to expire on July 31.

Italy’s Senate on Tuesday night gave its approval to extend the state of emergency, followed by the chamber of deputies on Wednesday, which voted 286 to 221 for the measure, with five abstentions.

Watch: Italians use snow cannons to disinfect streets from coronavirus

11:55 AM

Germany to introduce mandatory Covid-19 tests for travellers next week 

New rules for mandatory coronavirus tests for travellers entering Germany from countries designated as risk areas are due to come into effect next week, a spokeswoman for the country’s health ministry said on Wednesday at a regular news conference.

This announcement follows a recent study showing one in five patients hospitalised in Germany with Covid – 19 succumbed to the virus, with the fatality rate rising to 53 percent for those who received ventilation. 

Data of 10,000 patients admitted to 930 German hospitals between February 26 and April 19 were analysed by the German Interdisciplinary Association of Critical Care and Emergency Medicine, the Technical University of Berlin and AOK health insurance group’s research arm WIdO.

Hospitalised male patients had a higher mortality rate than women, with 25 percent compared to 19 percent.

Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart – cases default

11:45 AM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

A hadnout picture released by the Saudi ministry of media shows pilgrims circumambulating around the Kaaba (not seen in picture) at the centre of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia at the start of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage on July 29, 2020. - Mask-clad Muslim pilgrims began the annual hajj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage. The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings. (Photo by - / Saudi Ministry of Media / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HANDOUT / SAUDI MINISTRY OF MEDIA" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo by -/Saudi Ministry of Media/AFP via .) - AFP
A hadnout picture released by the Saudi ministry of media shows pilgrims circumambulating around the Kaaba (not seen in picture) at the centre of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia at the start of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage on July 29, 2020. – Mask-clad Muslim pilgrims began the annual hajj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage. The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings. (Photo by – / Saudi Ministry of Media / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO / HANDOUT / SAUDI MINISTRY OF MEDIA” – NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo by -/Saudi Ministry of Media/AFP via .) – AFP
Passengers, wearing full protective gear to protect against the spread of coronavirus, push their luggage to check-in, as they check in to travel to Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the Zaventem international airport in Brussels, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. Europe's tourism revival is running into turbulence only weeks after countries reopened their borders, with rising infections in Spain and other nations causing increasing concern among health authorities over people bringing the coronavirus home from their summer vacations. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) - AP
Passengers, wearing full protective gear to protect against the spread of coronavirus, push their luggage to check-in, as they check in to travel to Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the Zaventem international airport in Brussels, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. Europe’s tourism revival is running into turbulence only weeks after countries reopened their borders, with rising infections in Spain and other nations causing increasing concern among health authorities over people bringing the coronavirus home from their summer vacations. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) – AP
A woman wearing a face shield carries a mask as she walks along a street amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana - Reuters
A woman wearing a face shield carries a mask as she walks along a street amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana – Reuters

11:33 AM

EU set to drop Algeria from safe country travel list

The European Union is set to exclude Algeria from its safe list of countries from which the bloc allows non-essential travel after a meeting of EU ambassadors today. 

The list of countries will fall to eleven, assuming the provisional decision is confirmed in writing by EU members, two EU diplomats familiar with the discussions said. The deadline for submissions was likely to be Thursday afternoon.

The safe countries deemed to have Covid-19 largely under control are Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Tunisia and Uruguay.

China has also been provisionally approved, although travel would only open up if Chinese authorities also allowed in EU visitors.

Read here: Countries exempt from England’s travel quarantine

11:24 AM

Cabinet minister warns there is no ‘viable alternative’ to quarantine policy

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said testing passengers at airports is not a “silver bullet” allowing restrictions to be eased.

He made the comments as the boss of Heathrow Airport declared the UK “needs a passenger testing regime and fast”.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye claimed travellers are being forced to play “quarantine roulette”.

The UK reimposed the self-isolation requirement for people arriving from Spain on Sunday, making the announcement just five hours before the change in policy came into force.

Mr Dowden told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

“We are not at the point where there is a viable alternative to the 14-day quarantine.

“There is a real risk here – the virus is spreading around the world, it’s rising rapidly around the world.

11:17 AM

UK pubs in ‘dead’ city centres struggle while rural boozers recover during pandemic

Outdoor spaces, rural locations and food menus are tempting drinkers, but urban pubs continue to feel the pinch in deserted town centres . 

In cities, while drinkers cluster on pavements outside some pubs, for many others the picture is bleak, and a considerable number of city boozers are still to reopen. 

The “vast majority” of Greene King’s country pubs, for example, have reopened, yet in London around 40 per cent remain closed “as they are not currently viable,” says the brewery’s managing director of Premium, Urban and Venture brands. Those in central London that did reopen were last week trading “significantly behind the rest.”

Socially distanced tables at The Terrace Bar, Alexandra Palace, London, as it reopens following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions across England. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 4, 2020. The easing of restrictions, which were imposed on March 23, allows businesses including pubs restaurants and hair salons, to reopen to members of the public with measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire - PA
Socially distanced tables at The Terrace Bar, Alexandra Palace, London, as it reopens following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions across England. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 4, 2020. The easing of restrictions, which were imposed on March 23, allows businesses including pubs restaurants and hair salons, to reopen to members of the public with measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire – PA

 Read the full piece by Tomé Morrissy-Swan here

11:10 AM

Coronavirus pandemic sends Portugal jobless rate to 7% in June

Portugal’s monthly unemployment rate rose to seven percent in June from a revised 5.9% in May as thousands of jobs were wiped out amid the coronavirus pandemic, the National Statistics Institute (INE) said today. 

Unemployment had been falling as the country slowly recovered from the debt crisis, but is likely to soar to 9.6% this year due to the impact of the outbreak on the economy, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said last month.

“The evolution of the labour market continues to be marked by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” INE said in a statement, adding there was a sharp drop in employment between February and May.

The country’s gross domestic product, heavily dependent on tourism, grew 2.2% in 2019, while unemployment was at 6.5%, near record lows, but coronavirus lockdowns in Portugal and abroad have kept tourists away and forced many businesses to shut their doors.

A total of 406,665 people were registered as unemployed in Portugal last month, a 36% increase compared with the same period last year, official figures from the Institute of Employment and Professional Training (IEFP) showed.

11:00 AM

UK deal with GSK and Sanofi will fuel Covid-19 vaccine nationalism among richer countries, 

The UK Government’s latest deal to secure advanced supplies of potential Covid-19 vaccines for the UK will fuel the global scramble to hoard vaccines by rich countries, public health and social justice organisations have warned.

The move to purchase 60 million doses from pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi undermines global efforts to ensure fair and world-wide access to COVID-19 vaccines, Médecins Sans Frontières  have claimed. 

Heidi Chow from  Global Justice Now said:

 “The government’s race to secure vaccine deals makes a mockery of its own rhetoric on equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

This UK-first approach is fuelling a dangerous scramble with rich countries hoarding initial vaccine supplies, leaving poorer countries without.

Ensuring fair access is not just a matter of equity but it is the fastest way to end this global pandemic and the government should be supporting global fair allocation based on public health needs rather that trying to win a self-defeating race of who can hoard the fastest.”

Read more here about the dangers of ‘vaccine nationalism’

10:51 AM

Vietnam says every city and province now at risk of virus infection

Vietnam, virus-free for months, is bracing for another wave of Covid-19 infections today after state media reported new cases in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the Central Highlands linked to a recent outbreak in the central city of Danang.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the current wave of infections was different to the second wave Vietnam had fought in March and every province and city in the Southeast Asian country was now at risk.

Thanks to a centralised quarantine programme and an aggressive contact-tracing system, Vietnam had managed to keep its coronavirus tally to just 446 cases, despite sharing a border with China.

With over 95 million people, Vietnam is the most populous country in the world to have recorded no deaths from the virus, and until now no locally transmitted infections had been reported for months.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by LUONG THAI LINH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10726328c) A worker sprays disinfectant next to a restaurant where a worker tested positive with COVID-19 after travel from Da Nang, in Hanoi, Vietnam 29 July 2020. Covid-19 outbreak in Vietnam, Ha Noi, Viet Nam - 29 Jul 2020 - Shutterstock
Mandatory Credit: Photo by LUONG THAI LINH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10726328c) A worker sprays disinfectant next to a restaurant where a worker tested positive with COVID-19 after travel from Da Nang, in Hanoi, Vietnam 29 July 2020. Covid-19 outbreak in Vietnam, Ha Noi, Viet Nam – 29 Jul 2020 – Shutterstock

10:43 AM

China using Uighur forced labour to produce face masks for US market, report claims

People wearing masks stand during a rally to show support for Uighurs and their fight for human rights in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019 - AP
People wearing masks stand during a rally to show support for Uighurs and their fight for human rights in Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019 – AP

People could be unwittingly wearing masks manufactured via forced labour by ethnic Muslim Uighurs in China.

A review of Chinese state media footage from Xinjiang, where millions of Muslims have been detained in vast  internment camps, shows Uighurs being transferred to factories as part of a controversial labour transfer programme where experts say many are forced to work, reported the New York Times.

Masks produced at these plants have been traced to the US, Europe and Latin America. 

Chinese authorities claim the programme reduces poverty, but experts say it is coercive, pointing to political indoctrination and Chinese flag-raising ceremonies where workers must pledge allegiance to the ruling Communist Party.

Former detainees have told The Telegraph of being forced to produce gloves in squalid conditions. Factories producing shoes where Uighurs have been coerced to work have previously been traced to major brands, such as Nike, according to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank. 

Read Sophia Yan’s full report here

10:34 AM

Live rock returns, from a distance: inside Frank Turner’s ‘government-endorsed’ pilot concert

Gig-going is back, with a sold-out experimental show in Clapham – but did it make Frank Turner and the other performers hope or despair? 

Keep your distance: gig-goers at the Clapham Grand enjoy Frank Turner's set at some range - Corinne Cumming
Keep your distance: gig-goers at the Clapham Grand enjoy Frank Turner’s set at some range – Corinne Cumming

Inevitably, it’s a bit of a palaver. Admission to the venue is staggered and features a temperature check, a one-way system, the filling-out of a form, and an in-house “test, track and trace” system.

Masked waiting staff are summoned by customers waving rainbow-coloured flags.

Despite a bounty of booze behind the bar, by far the most popular alcoholic products are the bottles of hand-sanitiser on each of the 50 tables.  

Read Ian Winwood’s firsthand account here

10:28 AM

UK lawmakers attack “reckless” and “appalling” Government advice to hospitals during pandemic

A committee of British lawmakers says the Government’s decision to advise English hospitals to discharge thousands of patients into care homes without knowing if they had the coronavirus was a “reckless” and “appalling” policy error.

The Public Accounts Committee said discharging around 25,000 patients to free up beds was an example of the government’s “slow, inconsistent and at times negligent” approach to social care.

In a report, it voiced concerns that the Department of Health and Social Care continued with the policy “even once it was clear there was an emerging problem.” 

Hospitals in England were asked on March 17 to discharge patients, but did insist on coronavirus tests prior to discharge until April 15.

The Government only said at the end of April that all care home residents and staff, regardless of symptoms, would be able to access tests.

10:20 AM

Boarding schools back in style as parents worry about a Covid-19 second wave

Applications at independent schools are soaring with boarding in particular seen as an ideal way to keep children safe and happy 

Concerns over educational standards appear to be the driving motivator for parents. 

More than two million children have done virtually no schoolwork during the lockdown, warned research by University College London’s Institute of Education last month, with a huge gulf between the amount of home learning carried out by pupils at state and private schools

Nearly a third (31 per cent) of private schools provided four or more online lessons each day, compared with just six per cent of state schools. 

Read the full story here by Annabel Heseltine 

10:12 AM

White House: lawmakers tangle over scope of new coronavirus legislation

Top Trump administration officials and Democratic congressional leaders will try today to narrow their stark differences over a coronavirus aid bill,

But there are no guarantees they can craft a compromise before some jobless benefits expire at the end of this week.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows were expected to resume negotiations with the two senior Democrats in Congress – House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

An hour-long meeting of the four broke up late on Tuesday afternoon amid no sign of progress.

“I don’t know that I would characterize it as getting closer” to a deal, Meadows told reporters.

Senate Republican leaders are pushing for around $1 trillion in new aid, on top of more than $3 trillion enacted since early this year. Democrats see a far greater need as they back $3 trillion in new spending.

10:05 AM

Tennis: U.S. Open can’t be a national championship says Serena Williams’ coach

Patrick Mouratoglou, the long-time coach of Serena Williams, feels the U.S. Open must not turn into a national championships for the United States and says organisers need to address players’ health concerns by next week.

The Grand Slam is due to start without spectators on August 31 and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) is planning to set up a strict bio-security ‘bubble’ around it for protection against coronavirus. 

But concerns remain that players might have to undergo mandatory quarantine upon returning to Europe, forcing them to miss high-profile tournaments in Madrid and Rome ahead of the French Open at the end of September.

“If there is a quarantine it will mean that players cannot play Madrid and Rome,” Frenchman Mouratoglou told Reuters.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 28: Judy Murray, Coach of the Union Jacks with Andy Murray during day two of the St. James's Place Battle Of The Brits Team Tennis at National Tennis Centre on July 28, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/. for Battle Of The Brits) - Alex Davidson/. Europe
LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 28: Judy Murray, Coach of the Union Jacks with Andy Murray during day two of the St. James’s Place Battle Of The Brits Team Tennis at National Tennis Centre on July 28, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/. for Battle Of The Brits) – Alex Davidson/. Europe

09:58 AM

Heathrow sinks to record loss as passenger numbers plunge

Heathrow has sunk to a record half-year loss after the pandemic sent passenger numbers plunging at Britain’s biggest airport.

The near-global aviation standstill in recent months resulted in a £1.06bn loss for the six months to June in the wake of a 96pc decline in passenger numbers in the last quarter.

The dire figures prompted chief executive John Holland-Kaye to push for a virus testing regime at airports that could reduce the time of the 14-day quarantine. 

Read more here by Simon Foy

09:50 AM

Indian businessman converts office into coronavirus ward

An Indian businessman who recovered from coronavirus has converted his office into an 85-bed facility to provide free treatment for the poor.

With public hospitals struggling to cope, Kadar Shaikh spent 20 days in a private clinic last month in the western city of Surat – and was horrified by the bill.

“The cost of treatment at a private hospital was huge. How could poor people afford such treatment?” property developer Shaikh said.

“So I decided to do something and contribute in the fight against the deadly virus.”

Once back on his feet, Shaikh secured approval from local authorities to convert his 30,000-square-feet (2,800-square-metre) office premises.

In this picture taken on July 28, 2020, a man adjusts a bed inside an office space of Indian businessman Kadar Shaikh, which has been converted into a COVID-19 coronavirus care facility, at Surat in Gujarat state. - Shaikh who recovered from coronavirus has converted his office into an 85-bed facility to provide free treatment for the poor. The coronavirus epidemic is still raging in the world's second-most populous nation, with the number of infections passing 1.5 million on Wednesday, and almost 35,000 deaths. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via .) - AFP
In this picture taken on July 28, 2020, a man adjusts a bed inside an office space of Indian businessman Kadar Shaikh, which has been converted into a COVID-19 coronavirus care facility, at Surat in Gujarat state. – Shaikh who recovered from coronavirus has converted his office into an 85-bed facility to provide free treatment for the poor. The coronavirus epidemic is still raging in the world’s second-most populous nation, with the number of infections passing 1.5 million on Wednesday, and almost 35,000 deaths. (Photo by – / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via .) – AFP

09:42 AM

50 per cent of Britons in need of a holiday after months of lockdown

More than half of Britons say they need a holiday for their mental wellbeing after months of lockdown, but their priorities have changed, a new study suggests.

A survey of 2,000 adults found that half were spending more time researching and planning breaks because of the impact of the virus crisis.

Most of those questioned by holiday giant Eurocamp said having plenty of space was now an important consideration when booking a trip, with fewer than two in five listing good weather as a priority.

More than two thirds of those polled said they do not want to visit anywhere crowded, with one in five looking for somewhere off the beaten track, said the report.

Bustling nightlife and restaurants were named as important by just one in four respondents.

09:34 AM

Watch: Downsized Hajj pilgrimage starts after coronavirus preparations

Islam’s most important pilgrimage started today under new rules to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Only 1,000 people have been selected to perform the pilgrimage this year. A reduction from the usual number of two million people over the course of the pilgrimage.

 

09:28 AM

TUI UK cancels holidays to Balearics and Canary Islands until August 4

Travel and tourism giant TUI UK today said it had cancelled holidays to the Balearics and Canary Islands until August 4 after Britain advised against all non-essential travel to the islands due to its assessment of COVID-19 risks in Spain.

The UK guidance, issued on Monday, brought advice in line with travel advice to mainland Spain. On Saturday Britain said all travellers from Spain are subject to a 14-day quarantine due to a spike in new coronavirus cases there.

TUI UK has cancelled all holidays to mainland Spain until August 10.

09:23 AM

India virus cases hit 1.5 million, but slum study casts doubt on official data

Coronavirus infections in India passed 1.5 million and deaths neared 35,000 on Wednesday, but test results in Mumbai cast further doubt on official data in the world’s second-most populated nation.

Even as case numbers soar and more areas impose lockdowns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this week that India was in a “better position that other countries”. 

The health ministry website – which no longer includes total infections as the government puts more emphasis on recoveries – on Wednesday reported almost 50,000 new infections and 768 more deaths.

India had passed one million cases only 12 days earlier.

But many experts have said India is not testing enough people, and that many coronavirus-linked deaths are not being recorded as such.

09:14 AM

MP criticises Government over failure to respond to Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP has today criticised the Government for failing to meet the Committee’s request to respond urgently to its report on the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave, which was published earlier this month.

In a letter from Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, the Government stated that a response to the Report from his department would not be possible before the House rose for Summer Recess on 22 July due to the need for careful consideration of recommendations and for discussions with counterparts in other relevant departments.

In its report, the Committee found that the Government needed to urgently review how new parents are supported during the crisis after thousands of petitioners raised concerns about the dangerous impact the pandemic is having on their children’s development and their own mental health.

09:02 AM

Hong Kong shuts restaurants and warns hospitals face ‘collapse’ over new outbreak

Hong Kong is on the verge of a “large-scale” coronavirus outbreak that could overwhelm hospitals, its leader warned today as authorities implemented their toughest social distancing measures yet.

From July 29 all residents in the densely packed city of 7.5 million must wear masks when they leave their homes while restaurants can only serve takeaway meals.

No more than two people from different households can gather in public with fines of up to HK$5,000 ($625) for those who breach the new emergency rules.

Read the full story here

A restaurant employee looks at empty seats at a Chinese food court in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. Hong Kong has banned dining-in at restaurants completely on Wednesday and make it mandatory to wear masks in all public places, as the city battles its worst coronavirus outbreak to date. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) - AP
A restaurant employee looks at empty seats at a Chinese food court in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. Hong Kong has banned dining-in at restaurants completely on Wednesday and make it mandatory to wear masks in all public places, as the city battles its worst coronavirus outbreak to date. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) – AP

08:43 AM

Indonesia reports 2,381 new coronavirus infections, 74 new deaths

Indonesia reported 2,381 new coronavirus infections today taking the total to 104,432, the highest in Southeast Asia. 

The country’s national Covid-19 task force has classified Jakarta as a ‘red zone’, a high-risk area for the virus. 

Indonesia also reported 74 new Covid-19 related deaths, taking total fatalities to 4,975.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MAST IRHAM/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10726181e) People wear face masks at a market amid the coronavirus pandemic in Jakarta, Indonesia, 29 July 2020. The national COVID-19 task force has classified Jakarta as a 'red zone', a high risk area for COVID-19. Indonesia has recorded over 100,000 cases of COVID-19, the highest in Southeast Asia. Coronavirus in Jakarta, Indonesia - 29 Jul 2020 - Shutterstock
Mandatory Credit: Photo by MAST IRHAM/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10726181e) People wear face masks at a market amid the coronavirus pandemic in Jakarta, Indonesia, 29 July 2020. The national COVID-19 task force has classified Jakarta as a ‘red zone’, a high risk area for COVID-19. Indonesia has recorded over 100,000 cases of COVID-19, the highest in Southeast Asia. Coronavirus in Jakarta, Indonesia – 29 Jul 2020 – Shutterstock

 

08:32 AM

Arts venues may not find out until autumn whether they can reopen, government says

 Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the “vast majority” of the Government’s arts rescue package will be awarded “over the summer” but said venues should reach out sooner if they are “on the verge of going under”.

On social distancing, he said: “The Prime Minister said a couple of weeks ago when we get to November we will look again at social distancing and where we are with the spread of the virus.

“We can’t give a stronger commitment because, as we’re seeing, the virus is rising in other countries around the world.

“The risk remains heightened. It is not the case now that we could move to ease social distancing, we’re having to work hard to keep this virus under control.”

 

08:23 AM

Germany says coronavirus vaccine unlikely to be widely available before mid-2021

Germany awarded three biotech companies grants to help them speed up the development of coronavirus vaccine candidates, but Research Minister Anja Karliczek said any vaccine was unlikely to be widely available before the middle of next year.

Europe’s largest economy has reported a rise in infections in recent days, with the head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases blaming negligence and saying it was unclear if a second wave was underway. 

“We should not expect a miracle,” Karliczek said. 

“We must continue to assume that vaccines for the broader population will only be available from the middle of next year at the earliest.”

08:13 AM

Luxembourg and Belgium at risk of having quarantine re-imposed as cases rise

Telegraph analysis shows both Luxembourg and Belgium have seen week-on-week rises in the Covid-19 rates to post-lockdown peaks. 

Belgium has seen its weekly Covid-19 rate rise from 5.3 to 15.1 per 100,000 of the population since the beginning of July, with cases up from 615 to 1,751. 

Luxembourg, which is bordered by Belgium to the north and west, has seen its weekly rates per 100,000 rise from 45.7 to 114.4, with the number of cases up from 286 to 716 in the same period.

Covid-19 infections on the rise
Covid-19 infections on the rise

 Read more here by Charles Hymas and Dominic Gilbert

08:03 AM

Six ways Covid is eroding our Britishness 

First it was handshakes. Then pubs and choirs. Now, after a long but patient wait, queueing itself is under threat. What key part of British life will Covid-19 try and strike down next, the Prime Minister himself? Oh…

This week, in news that shouldn’t necessarily be dispiriting but somehow is, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis are reportedly ready to launch apps that will allow shoppers to wait in cars or cafés until it is their turn to enter, instead of standing, at least 1m apart, outside.

It will, they say, be safer and more convenient. But it will also bring an end to what is perhaps the closest thing to Britain’s national sport. “An Englishman, even if he is alone,” the humourist George Mikes famously wrote, “forms an orderly queue of one.” Not on his phone in the nearby Starbucks, he doesn’t.

Read more here by Guy Kelly

07:53 AM

Treating Covid in the world’s largest refugee camp

Balukhali camp in Cox's Bazaar - widely accepted as the world's largest refugee camp - Paddy Dowling/DEC
Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazaar – widely accepted as the world’s largest refugee camp – Paddy Dowling/DEC

One NHS doctor shares her experience of how the pandemic has impacted the residents of Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh.

The sprawling mass of makeshift shelters that make up the refugee camp in southeast Bangladesh is the perfect breeding ground for Covid-19. 

The population density is one and a half times that of New York City, making physical distancing near impossible. There are few sanitation or health facilities to speak of and residents, who have a long history of persecution, are wary of outsiders.

“I’m not trying to compare suffering. We are all suffering. I’m very clear that this is an awful time for people. But we have to remember that the most vulnerable communities will suffer more,”.

Read more here by Jordan-Kelley-Linden 

07:42 AM

South Korea seeks phase 2 trials of Covid-19 plasma drug

South Korea’s Green Cross Corp has sought regulatory approval for Phase II trials of an experimental Covid-19 blood plasma treatment drug, the company said today sending its shares up nearly 10%.

Drugmakers worldwide are rushing to develop treatments for the coronavirus, which has killed more than 650,000 and infected more than 16 million since first emerging in China late last year.

Green Cross said the clinical trial would review the safety and efficacy of the drug in 60 domestic patients in five hospitals.

The firm, which was allowed to skip phase I trials, said its therapy would be the country’s first to enter phase II for COVID-19 plasma treatment.

07:34 AM

Heathrow demands end to ‘quarantine roulette’ after pre-tax loss OF £1.1BN

Heathrow has urged the Government to stop imposing “quarantine roulette” on travellers as it announced a pre-tax loss of £1.1 billion in the first six months of the year.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the financial results “should serve as a clarion call” to ministers to introduce a scheme for coronavirus testing of arriving passengers.

He wants the 14-day self-isolation requirement to be eased for people arriving from countries not on the Government’s exemption list if they test negative for the virus.

It comes after Boris Johnson warned that further European nations could lose their exempted status amid signs of a “second wave” of Covid-19.

The Prime Minister triggered a diplomatic row with Spain by reimposing a warning against all but essential travel to the country and insisting that travellers arriving in the UK from there spend 14 days in quarantine.

Heathrow’s passenger numbers were down 96% year on year between April and June.

07:33 AM

‘There is always risk with foreign travel’, says minister

On the quarantine for people travelling to the UK from Spain, Mr Dowden told BBC Breakfast: “I genuinely appreciate how deeply frustrating it is for families who were looking forward to going on holiday to Spain this summer after the dreadful year that we’ve had so far.

“We’ve had to take these quarantine measures to make sure we keep the disease under control in this country and we don’t import cases from Spain.”

When asked whether booking foreign travel was unwise at the moment, Mr Dowden said: “I completely understand why people want to book foreign travel, we all want a break after the year we’ve had so far.

“Of course there is always going to be an element of risk in relation to foreign travel.

“We’ve said we’ll keep the situation in other countries under review and I hope your viewers will appreciate the reason why we’re doing this is because after all the sacrifices we’ve made, if the disease is rising in other countries we don’t want to be in a situation where people are coming back from that country carrying Covid and it starts to be spread widely in the United Kingdom again.

“It’s all part of ensuring we keep it under control here so we can start to move back to more of our normal lives.”

07:22 AM

Get Britons cycling scheme crashes

Boris Johnson’s ambitious plan to get Britons cycling after the global pandemic has got off to a rocky start, with the website offering bicycle repair vouchers crashing at launch.

As part of the Prime Minister’s £2 billion scheme to boost active travel, the Government has made some 50,000 Fix Your Bike vouchers worth up to £50 available to be used for standard servicing and replacing components.

The website, fixyourbikevoucherscheme.est.org.uk, was due to go live at 11.45pm on Tuesday night.

However, initial efforts to access the site returned only an “Error 404” message.

Then those wanting a voucher were told: “Due to extreme volumes of traffic this resource has been temporarily paused whilst we take action to improve performance for users. Please try again later today.”

07:21 AM

Testing at airports is not a silver bullet, says minister

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden said of testing at airports: “The challenge we have here is that it’s not the case you can simply test somebody and be sure that they don’t have the disease.”

He told BBC Breakfast: “It can incubate over a period of time, so there’s not a silver bullet of just testing immediately at the border.”

07:05 AM

Our scientists are racing to find a safe vaccine, says minister

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Our scientists and researchers are racing to find a safe and effective vaccine at a speed and scale never seen before.

“While this progress is truly remarkable, the fact remains that there are no guarantees.

“In the meantime, it is important that we secure early access to a diverse range of promising vaccine candidates, like GSK and Sanofi, to increase our chances of finding one that works so we can protect the public and save lives.”

06:54 AM

The breakdown of the UK’s 250million vaccine doses

  1. 60million doses from pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur

  2. 100million doses from the Oxford vaccine made from a genetically engineered virus

  3. 30million doses from the BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine, which injects part of the coronavirus’ genetic code

  4. 60 million doses from the Valneva, which uses an inactive version of the coronavirus

06:45 AM

Donald Trump defends doctor touting hydroxychloroquine

Donald Trump has defended his support of a controversial Texas doctor who has touted unproven drugs to treat the coronavirus and pushed other unscientific theories. 

The US president on Monday shared a video on Twitter of Dr Stella Immanuel promoting the use of the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 cases.

In the video, which was taken on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington at a so-called “White Coat Summit”, Dr Immanuel recommended hydroxychloroquine, which studies have shown is not effective for treating the novel coronavirus. She described studies casting doubt on the drug as “fake science” sponsored by “fake pharma companies”. 

Mr Trump said: “She was on air, along with other doctors, and they were big fans of hydroxychloroquine and I thought she was very impressive. She says she has had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients. I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her.” 

The President’s son, Donald Trump Jnr, also shared the clip, describing it as a “must-watch”, and was on Tuesday issued with a temporary ban by Twitter.

06:39 AM

Today’s front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, July 29. 

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05:54 AM

Britain signs supply deal for 60 million doses of a possible vaccine

Britain has signed a supply deal for up to 60 million doses of a possible Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline , it said on Wednesday, its fourth such arrangement.

No vaccine has yet been approved to treat or prevent Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus that has killed more than 659,000 people and unleashed economic havoc worldwide.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Sanofi and GSK, which had first teamed up in April, confirmed in a statement that regulatory approval for their vaccine could be won by the first half of 2021 if clinical data was positive.

Read the full story

05:36 AM

Roche trial of drug to treat Covid-19-related pneumonia fails

 A late-stage clinical trial of Roche’s Actemra/RoActemra drug to treat patients hospitalised with severe Covid-19-related pneumonia failed, the drugmaker said on Wednesday.

The “COVACTA trial did not meet its primary endpoint of improved clinical status in patients with Covid-19 associated pneumonia, or the key secondary endpoint of reduced patient mortality,” Roche said.

04:12 AM

Vietnam warns of potential outbreak in Hanoi

Vietnam’s government warned on Wednesday health authorities in the capital Hanoi to prepare for a potential outbreak after media reported the first suspected case in months in the city of about eight million people.

A staff member at a pizza restaurant in Hanoi had tested positive, online newspaper VnExpress reported, adding that authorities had locked down the restaurant and were disinfecting the premises.

“The city’s health department should get ready with materials and equipment needed for the prevention and fight against Covid-19,” the government said in a statement.

Read more: Vietnam joins list of Asia-Pacific nations struggling to beat Covid-19

According to media reports, Vietnam has evacuated 80,000 people, mostly tourists - LUONG THAI LINH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
According to media reports, Vietnam has evacuated 80,000 people, mostly tourists – LUONG THAI LINH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

03:54 AM

Hong Kong on verge of a ‘large-scale’ outbreak

Hong Kong is on the verge of a “large-scale” outbreak that could overwhelm hospitals, its leader warned on Wednesday, as authorities implemented their toughest social distancing measures yet.

From Wednesday all residents in the densely packed city of 7.5 million must wear masks when they leave their homes while restaurants can only serve take-out meals.

No more than two people from different households can gather in public with fines of up to $HK5,000 (£499) for those who breach the new emergency rules.

The latest measures are a bid to stifle a sudden spike in cases that have upended the city’s otherwise enviable battle against the deadly disease.

More than 1,000 infections have been confirmed since early July – more than 40 per cent of the total since the virus first hit the city in late January.

New daily infections have been above 100 for the past six days.

Medical workers carry an elderly man onto an ambulance at a nursing home after 23 people were confirmed to be infected in Hong Kong - China News Service
Medical workers carry an elderly man onto an ambulance at a nursing home after 23 people were confirmed to be infected in Hong Kong – China News Service

03:14 AM

China’s daily cases continue to increase

China reported more than 100 new cases on Wednesday as the country continues to battle an outbreak in Xinjiang.

The 101 new cases was Chinas highest one-day tally since April 12. The northwestern region of Xinjiang accounted for 89, with another eight in the northeastern province of Liaoning and one in Beijing. Another three cases were brought from outside the country by returning Chinese citizens.

People pray in Shanghai's famous landmark Jing'an Temple in downtown Shanghai, China - ALEX PLAVEVSKI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
People pray in Shanghai’s famous landmark Jing’an Temple in downtown Shanghai, China – ALEX PLAVEVSKI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

02:50 AM

Daily cases fall in Australian state

Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, said on Wednesday that the total daily coronavirus cases fell below 300 for the first time in more than a week.

The state reported nine deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours with seven casualties linked to aged care facilities, Premier Daniel Andrews said.

The southeast state has endured a flare-up in infections in the past few weeks and authorities have sent an emergency medical team to care homes, which are at the centre of the outbreak.

Victoria reported 295 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, compared with 384 a day earlier.

Medical staff remove a body from a care home in Melbourne - GETTY IMAGES
Medical staff remove a body from a care home in Melbourne – GETTY IMAGES

02:39 AM

In pictures: Virus-affected Hajj begins

Muslim pilgrims on Wednesday begin the annual hajj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage.

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.

But this year only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in the ritual, a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world that attended last year.

Pilgrims will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing during a series of religious rites that are completed over five days in the holy city of Mecca and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.

A woman stands on a ring delineating where worshippers can stand around the Kaaba in Mecca - GETTY IMAGES
A woman stands on a ring delineating where worshippers can stand around the Kaaba in Mecca – GETTY IMAGES
The hajj begins on Wednesday - GETTY IMAGES
The hajj begins on Wednesday – GETTY IMAGES
A camel in Kolkata, bought for the festival of Eid al-Adha - GETTY IMAGES
A camel in Kolkata, bought for the festival of Eid al-Adha – GETTY IMAGES
A farmer in Dakar, Senegal, drags his sheep to the shore to wash it before sale - GETTY IMAGES
A farmer in Dakar, Senegal, drags his sheep to the shore to wash it before sale – GETTY IMAGES

01:24 AM

US posts highest daily death toll for more than two months

The United States recorded 1,592 new coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest number of daily fatalities in more than months.

The US, which has the highest number of cases in the world, also recorded more than 60,000 new coronavirus cases in a day, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Six states – Arkansas, California, Florida, Montana, Oregon and Texas – reported a record number of fatalities.

A House Judiciary Committee staff member adjusts flags before U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies in the Congressional Auditorium at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 28, 2020 in Washington, DC - GETTY IMAGES
A House Judiciary Committee staff member adjusts flags before U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies in the Congressional Auditorium at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 28, 2020 in Washington, DC – GETTY IMAGES

12:39 AM

Lockdown drives search for gardens

Searches for homes with gardens have doubled since last year as prospective house buyers place more importance on outdoor space following lockdown, property experts have said.

Homes with south-facing gardens were most in demand – selling more quickly in almost all regions of England, Scotland and Wales, a survey by property website Rightmove found.

The study revealed that homes advertised with south-facing outdoor areas sold two days faster and were priced at nearly £23,000 more than those without.

Property experts at Rightmove said data showed that searches on the website for homes with a garden had increased by more than 100 per cent in June compared to June 2019 – with total buyer searches up 56% for the same period.

And a survey conducted by the company in May found that having a bigger garden, or at least access to one, was the top requirement for house buyers that had changed as a result of lockdown.

Searches on Rightmove for homes with a garden had increased by more than 100 per cent on ast year - CLARE MOLDEN
Searches on Rightmove for homes with a garden had increased by more than 100 per cent on ast year – CLARE MOLDEN

12:27 AM

US vaccine hope as trial shows boosted immune response

US biotech firm Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine induced a robust immune response and prevented the coronavirus from replicating in the noses and lungs of monkeys, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine said.

The fact that the vaccine prevented the virus from replicating in the nose is seen as particularly crucial in preventing it from being transmitted onward to others.

The same outcome did not occur when the University of Oxford’s vaccine was tested on monkeys, though that vaccine did prevent the virus from entering the animals’ lungs and making them very sick.

The authors reported that the vaccine also induced the production of a different immune cell known as T-cells that may have helped boost the overall response.

Read more: When will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?

A nurse administers a vaccine to a volunteer in the Moderna trial - AP
A nurse administers a vaccine to a volunteer in the Moderna trial – AP

11:14 PM

Heathrow boss calls for passenger virus tests on arrival

The chief executive of Heathrow Airport has urged the Government to allow passengers to be tested for Covid-19 on arrival in a trial to rescue the summer tourism season.

John Holland-Kaye told The Telegraph that Heathrow could have a test “up and running” in two weeks, meaning holidaymakers who have just set off for Spain could be checked – at a cost of £150 – when they arrived home.

They would be tested on arrival and, if the result was negative, would be tested again five or eight days later. A second negative test would allow them to come out of quarantine up to six or nine days early, depending on how quickly tests are processed.

France and Germany are among at least 20 countries already using such tests to cut quarantine for arrivals from countries with high levels of coronavirus, and there is growing pressure on Boris Johnson to follow suit.

Read more: Heathrow wants to trial testing of arrivals

11:01 PM

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