02.08.2021

Boris Johnson considers stricter rules on face masks

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation warned the coronavirus pandemic had still not reached its peak, with the organisation’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the virus is not under control “in most of the world” and is in fact “getting worse”.

Gyms and beauty salons will be allowed to reopen in England later this month as more lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, announced beauticians, tattooists and tanning salons can reopen from Monday – while gyms, indoor pools and other sports facilities can open from 25 July.

It comes as quarantine rules for people returning to or visiting the UK from a list of 76 countries are relaxed from Friday.

Florida records spike in daily coronavirus cases as Disney World prepares to reopen

Florida has reported its second sharpest daily rise in cases as Disney World prepares to reopen in Orlando to the chagrin of some employees.

The state recorded 11,433 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the state health department said, just short of its record high set last weekend.

On Saturday, the Walt Disney World theme parks in Orlando will open to a limited number of guests, with measures such as mask wearing and temperature checks in place.

About 19,000 people, including workers, signed a petition asking Disney to delay the reopening.

Meanwhile, the actors’ union that represents 750 Walt Disney World performers has filed a grievance alleging retaliation against its members over the union’s demand that they be tested for the virus.

Florida is one of the few states that does not disclose the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients, but more than four dozen Florida hospitals reported their intensive care units reached capacity earlier this week.

Coronavirus deaths for under 65s more common with non-white people, CDC report says

Coronavirus deaths among Americans aged 65 and younger are more common among non-white people than among white people, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said.

A publication released on Friday found 34.9 per cent of Hispanic patients who died were younger than 65, while 29.5 per cent of non-whites who died were under 65, compared to only 13.2 per cent of white, non-Hispanic descendants.

Researchers analysed 10,647 Covid-19 deaths between 12 February and 24 April from 16 public health departments in 15 states.

Most of those who died were older than 65 years and had underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The percentages of Hispanic and non-white people under age 65 who died of coronavirus were greater than their share of the US population, the report said.

The researchers noted that more Hispanic and non-white people work in occupations or essential activities that do not allow physical distancing.

WHO expert warns eradication of new coronavirus is unlikely

Dr Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organisation’s emergencies programme, has said it is unlikely that the new coronavirus will be eliminated completely.

“In the current situation, it is unlikely we can eradicate this virus,” Dr Ryan told an online briefing from Geneva.

However, he said that by extinguishing clusters of infection the world could “potentially avoid the worst of having second peaks and having to move backwards in terms of lockdown”.

Doctors and teachers reject Trump pressure on reopening schools

Groups representing US doctors, teachers and top school officials have pushed back against pressure from Donald Trump to fully reopen schools amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

“Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics,” the American Academy of Pediatrics, two national teachers’ unions and a school superintendents’ group said, following days of threats by Mr Trump to cut off federal education funds.

“We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it,” AAP, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the School Superintendents Association said in a joint statement.

Their call was echoed by two medical groups – the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association.

The government overstated the total number of people who had been tested for coronavirus by as many as 200,000 at the height of the UK’s first wave of Covid-19, according to analysis by

Jobs in locked-down Leicester ‘threatened by lack of government help’

Firms and jobs in locked-down Leicester are being threatened by a lack of government help as the rest of the country opens up for businesses, the Leicester East MP has said.

Labour’s Claudia Webbe wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to provide “desperately needed financial support” for the city, whose residents are “anxious and confused” as the rest of England enjoys a gradual loosening of restrictions.

Ms Webbe also outlined concerns ministers were too slow to give Leicester County Council the data and information “essential to tackling the virus at a local level”.

The city became the first place in the country to have tight restrictions reimposed on June 30, after a spike in Covid-19 infections.

Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi has said there are “no plans” for any further aid measures, beyond those such as furlough and business grants, put in place at the start of the pandemic.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby has accused health secretary Matt Hancock of breaking promises and called the situation “very bad news”, while Liz Kendall, Labour MP for Leicester West, said the situation was “totally unacceptable”.

Phone scam warning

The Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland is urging the public to be vigilant in light of reports of a telephone/text scam from criminals claiming to be contact tracing and testing staff.

The fraudulent calls and text messages claim that the person has been identified as a close contact of someone who has Covid-19 and ask for money for a testing kit to be sent to them and for bank details.

The HSE said it does not charge the public for Covid-19 related services, including testing, and such texts and calls should be ignored.

Any close contacts of a confirmed positive case of Covid-19 will be contacted by phone call by the contact tracing team or public health staff in the HSE and referred for a test.

The HSE said if the Covid-19 tracker app has identified you as a close contact you will see a red box with the advice on what you should do next on all pages of the app.

It added that people will never be asked for their bank details or to pay for testing by a member of HSE contact tracing staff.

The public have been advised to call HSE Live on 1850 24 1850 or contact Gardai if they are concerned or suspicious about any contact they have received regarding Covid-19 testing.

France coronavirus death toll tops 30,000

France has became the sixth country to report a coronavirus death toll of more than 30,000.

The health ministry today said 25 people had died from coronavirus infection in the past 24 hours, taking the cumulative total since early March to 30,004.

Friday’s increase compares to an average increase of 15 in the previous seven days. In June, France counted on average 34 new deaths per day, in May 143 and in April 695.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 fell by 115 to 7,062, continuing a weeks-long downtrend, and the number of people in intensive care units fell by 16 to 496, the first time the ICU count fell below 500 since mid-March.

Boris Johnson has been seen wearing a face mask in public, in what is thought to be the first time, while visiting businesses in Uxbridge.

The prime minister posed for selfies in the bright blue face covering as he met people in his constituency today.

Johnson ‘plans to bring NHS back under more political control’

Boris Johnson is planning to bring the NHS under more political control with a new reorganisation of the health service, a report has claimed.

The Guardian has reported that the prime minister’s Health and Social Care Taskforce is drawing up plans which would give more power to the government and reduce the operational independence of NHS England.

White House official urges mask use where Covid-19 rates are rising

White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Deborah Birx has urged the use of masks among people living in counties and metro areas where more than 5 per cent of coronavirus tests are positive.

“We really believe [in]… the uniform use of masks in all metros and in all areas with rising new infections, particularly counties and metros with over 5 per cent positivity,” Ms Birx said on Friday.

Her comments came despite Donald Trump refusing to wear a mask publicly or ask Americans to do so – although he has said he would wear one if he was in a crowd and could not distance himself.

Ms Birx said there were 13 states where both case rates and the percentage of positive tests were rising.

Trump suggests phase two of US-China trade deal is low priority due to coronavirus

Donald Trump has suggested work on the second phase of a US-China trade deal has become a low priority, arguing the two nation’s relationship has been “severely damaged” by Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking aboard Air Force One on his way to Miami on Friday, Mr Trump repeated his persistent criticism that China could have done more to stop the spread of Covid-19 earlier this year.

The president did not completely rule out working on phase two of the deal but made clear that it was not a top concern.

“Honestly, I have many other things in mind,” Mr Trump said.

The United States and China signed phase one of a trade agreement in January, boosting stock markets and seemingly ending a trade war.

Exclusive: ‘Clueless’ government officials unsure of how to bring Leicester out of lockdown

The government has not yet devised a concrete strategy for Leicester’s route out of its localised lockdown, the city’s mayor has said, amid uncertainty over whether the tightening of restrictions has brought the city’s outbreak under control.

Sir Peter Soulsby told The Independent that the government “haven’t got any clue of what might be the route out and the thresholds that need to be reached to achieve this.”

“They’re reviewing it at the end of next week, but there is no consensus in government. There is no consensus whether it has been a success and what the next steps might be,” he added.

WHO reports record daily increase in global coronavirus cases

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by 228,102 in 24 hours.

The biggest increases were from the US, Brazil, India and South Africa, according to WHO’s daily report.

Friday’s increase beat the previous record for new cases (212,326 on 4 July) by more than 15,000.

Although deaths remain steady at about 5,000 a day, there is a lag between increases in cases and increases in deaths.

It came after WHO warned on Thursday that the pandemic was “accelerating”, with the virus not under control in many countries.

Government will not join EU vaccine scheme because UK one is more developed, Hancock says

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said the UK will not join an EU scheme to procure a coronavirus vaccine if one is successfully developed because its own procurement programmes are more developed.

Mr Hancock said signing up to the EU programme would have meant abandoning the UK’s own procurement programmes.

“We have chosen not to join the EU scheme on vaccine purchase,” he told Times Radio.

“The reason is that it wouldn’t have allowed us to have a say in the vaccines that were procured, the price, the quantity of the delivery schedule.”

He added: “We are further ahead than the EU schemes are. We would have joined the EU scheme if they had allowed us also to continue with our own negotiations, but one of the conditions of the scheme was that we would have had to stop our own negotiations and only do them through the European Commission, and we weren’t prepared to do that.

“We think we will go faster this way.”

Are global coronavirus death rates linked to a country’s obesity levels?

Boris Johnson is expected to launch an anti-obesity drive following suggestions that weight is connected to the severity of coronavirus cases.

The theory is supported by researchers at Queen Mary University of London who argued the food industry had to take its share of the blame “not only for the obesity pandemic but also for the severity of Covid-19 disease and its devastating consequences”.

But can a national obesity problem really go some way towards explaining the UK’s high coronavirus death rate?

Two men arrested over suspected £500,000 ‘bounce back loan’ scam

Two men have been arrested over an alleged scam to claim “bounce back loans” from the government’s scheme to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The main suspect, who is in his late 40s, is believed to have recruited people to set up fake companies and bank accounts.

Detectives have orders to freeze 10 bank accounts containing a total of £553,305 after finding application forms for bounce back loans following a routine drug search on a vehicle in Holland Park, west London, on Wednesday.

The two suspects have been arrested on suspicion of money laundering and fraud.

“I would like to assure the public that we take a zero tolerance approach to fraud-related criminality of any kind within our community, and we are committed to bringing those involved to justice,” Detective Sergeant Neil Stanley said.

“During these unprecedented times, we have intensified our effort to dismantle organised criminal networks and will continue to crackdown on individuals who are found to be exploiting government schemes for their own monetary gain.”

Coronavirus must be suppressed ahead of winter, Johnson says

Boris Johnson has said it is important to suppress coronavirus ahead of the winter when the UK could see a second wave of the disease.

“If we do that we have got a fantastic chance of slowly getting the economy going again over the summer, keeping it down, and then being in a good position for the colder months,” Mr Johnson said during an online Q&A session.

“It is going to be the winter where we are really going to have to be on it, because that is when you are going to get flu, you are going to get real problems of general public health, and there is a risk that the virus will come back again anyway.

“It is so important now to make real, real progress in driving it down.”

Johnson urges public to go back to work if they can

Boris Johnson has urged people to go back to work if they can, in an apparent shift in government policy from asking people to work from home.

“I want people to go back to work as carefully as possible. It’s very important that people should be going back to work if they can now,” the prime minister said.

“I think everybody has sort of taken the ‘stay at home if you can’ – I think we should now say, well, ‘go back to work if you can’. Because I think it’s very important that people should try to lead their lives more normally.

“I want to see more people feeling confident to use the shops, use the restaurants, and get back into work – but only if we all follow the guidance.”

Mr Johnson added that he wanted to see universities restart teaching along with schools this autumn but noted the government would need to “provide proper guidance” for such a return.

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