The prime minister faces a diplomatic row with Spain after warning against all but essential travel to the country and its resort islands, as well as insisting travellers arriving in the UK from there spend two weeks in quarantine.
“I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic,” the prime minister warned. ”It’s vital that when people are coming back from abroad, if they are coming back from a place where I’m afraid there is another outbreak, they must go into quarantine. That’s why we have taken the action that we have and we will continue, throughout the summer, to take such action where it is necessary.”
It comes as the government signed a deal with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur for 60 million doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine. If proven successful, the UK could begin to vaccine priority groups such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased risk from coronavirus as early as the first half of next year, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.
The government has now signed deals for four different types of potential coronavirus vaccines and a total of 250 million doses.
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Germany to introduce mandatory coronavirus testing for travellers
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 has announced.
Germany announced plans on Monday for free, mandatory coronavirus tests for holidaymakers returning from high-risk countries in order to slow the spread of infections as the holiday season kicks into high gear.
Possible cluster of cases in Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, Nicole Sturgeon says
A possible cluster of coronavirus cases has been identified in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed.
Of the 22 new cases that were identified in Scotland on Tuesday, the first minister said provisional information showed that 14 were in this area.
She said a “possible cluster” was now under investigation by an incident management team.
Scotland sees second lowest weekly coronavirus death toll since start of pandemic
A total of 4,201 people have died in Scotland with confirmed or suspected coronavirus, according to the National Records of Scotland (NRS).
Eight deaths relating to Covid-19 were registered between 20 July and 26 July, an increase of two on the previous week.
This is the second lowest weekly total for deaths involving Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
The statistics are published weekly and account for all deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
They differ from the lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths announced daily by the Scottish government because they include suspected or probable cases of Covid-19.
Portugal accuses EU member states of breaking pact to reinstate freedom of movement after lockdowns lifted
Portugal’s foreign ministry said some European Union member states 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 1 July the latest,” the ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters.
“We believe restrictions and decisions taken by member states related to other member states manifestly disregard this bond.”
Donald Trump dismissed plans for a $1 trillion (£776bn) Republican economic stimulus package aimed at easing the impact of the coronavirus crisis as “semi-irrelevant”, as he sought to big up a deal with Kodak to manufacture medical products, Matt Mathers reports.
Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, on Monday proposed a package that would make payments of $1,200 (£925) to most Americans, with $100bn (£77m) set aside to help schools struggling amid the pandemic.
But the proposal means around 32 million citizens could see their unemployment payments slashed from $600 (£466) to $200 (£155).
At a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Trump lambasted the proposals, telling reporters there were elements of the deal he did not agree with.
“It’s sort of semi-irrelevant because the Democrats come with their needs and asks and the Republicans go with theirs,” he said. “We’ll be talking about it.”
US records 10,000 deaths in 11 days
US coronavirus deaths approached 150,000 on Wednesday, the highest level in the world and rising by 10,000 in 11 days, according to a Reuters tally.
This is the fastest increase in fatalities since the US went from 100,000 cases to 110,000 cases in 11 days in early June, according to the tally.
Nationally, Covid-19 deaths have risen for three weeks in a row while the number of new cases week-over-week recently fell for the first time since June.
‘Wrecking our lives’: Foreign nationals unable to work or see dying relatives because of visa gridlock
A gridlock on visa processing in the UK has left people unable to work or travel to see dying relatives during the pandemic despite being legally resident, prompting renewed criticism of the Home Office’s privatised visa system, social affairs correspondent May Bulman reports.
Hundreds and possibly thousands of foreign nationals have been left in a “state of limbo” as they have been informed that although visa centres have re-opened, they must continue to wait before they can proceed with submitting their biometrics.
Foreign nationals in the UK are required to submit their biometric information, such as fingerprints, in order to obtain a visa. This process usually takes place in centres across the country run by firm Sopra Steria, which is contracted by the Home Office to deliver the service.
Before the private company took over the contract last year, applicants could go to their local post office to provide biometric data such as fingerprints. Under Sopra Steria’s service, they must attend one of six “core centres” across the country which offer a free service, or another 51 which usually charge a fee starting from £69.99.
However, these centres were closed in March due to the lockdown, putting the process on hold. A phased re-opening of the centres began on 1 June, but nearly two months on, many applicants are still “in limbo”.
Scientists have discovered why coronavirus causes some patients to lose their sense of smell.
Temporary loss of smell, or anosmia, is one of the earliest and most commonly reported warning signs of Covid-19, Chiara Giordano reports.
Studies suggest the “devastating” symptom better predicts the disease than other well-known symptoms such as a fever or cough.
But the actual cause for loss of smell in Covid-19 patients has been unclear – until now.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School in the United States have identified which cell types used for smelling are most vulnerable to infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
Muslim pilgrims wearing face masks and moving in socially distanced groups have started arriving in Mecca for what may be the most scaled-down Hajj in history, Colin Drury reports.
Coronavirus restrictions mean just 1,000 visitors are being allowed into Islam’s holiest city for the annual event – compared with around 2.5 million people normally.
The limitations mean only Muslims already living in Saudi Arabia – where Mecca is – and aged between 20 and 50 are being allowed to take part. The holy Ka’bah, the religion’s most sacred site, will be cordoned off over the full five days.
Authorities in the Middle East kingdom are desperate to prevent a further spike in Covid-19 cases there: some 270,000 people have already been infected in the country, making it one of the worst hit places in the world.
“There are no security-related concerns in this pilgrimage, but [downsizing] is to protect pilgrims from the danger of the pandemic,” said Khalid bin Qarar al-Harbi, Saudi Arabia’s director of public security.
Tui suspends holidays to Balearic and Canary Islands until early August
Tour operator Tui has extended the suspension of holidays to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands until 4 August.
It had previously cancelled trips up to and including Friday.
Holidays to mainland Spain remain cancelled until 10 August.
The tour operator will increase flights to Greece and Turkey this weekend to enable more affected customers to switch their destinations.
Romania set to make wearing masks mandatory outside
Romania’s government plans to introduce new measures to help try to contain a spike in coronavirus cases, including shortening working hours for outdoor pubs and restaurants and making the wearing of protective masks outside mandatory, officials said.
A government emergency committee said late on Tuesday it would ask authorities to approve closing down outdoors bars by 11pm local time and making protective masks mandatory outside at certain times and locations where places could be crowded.
The number of coronavirus infections in Romania has exceeded 1,000 new cases each day for the last week, lifting confirmed cases to 47,053 since the pandemic reached the country in late February. Some 2,239 people have died.
The European Union member country has extended a state of alert until the middle of August, and local authorities have placed several small towns and villages under localised quarantine.
Heathrow Chief Executive says testing on arrival could be ‘up and running in the next couple of weeks’
Some 60 million doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine could start to be made available in the first half of 2021 after the government struck a deal with the two pharmaceutical giants behind it, Colin Drury reports.
The jab is being developed at pace by GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur with human trials set to begin in September.
If it is proven to work and to be safe it will be rolled out to priority groups – including health and social care workers, as well as those most at risk of coronavirus – in the early months of next year, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has said.
It is the fourth different type of potential coronavirus vaccine the government has now signed up for.
Hong Kong reports 118 new cases as local transmissions remain high
Hong Kong reported 118 new coronavirus cases, including 113 that were locally transmitted, as strict new measures including a restriction of gatherings to two people and a ban on restaurant dining, took effect.
The measures, which are the toughest introduced since the outbreak, are to last for at least one week as leader Carrie Lam warned the city is on the brink of a large-scale outbreak.
The global financial hub reported 106 new cases on Tuesday.
Since late January, about 3,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 24 of whom have died.
As Heathrow slips from its usual position as the busiest airport in Europe, its chief executive has demanded “a passenger-testing regime and fast”, travel correspondent Simon Calder reports.
Britain’s busiest airport lost an average of £2.6m per day in the first six months of 2020, as passenger traffic collapsed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures issued on Tuesday by Eurocontrol show that Heathrow is now behind the Spanish holiday airport of Palma in terms of the number of flights on 27 July.
Heathrow airport handled 428 movements, two fewer than the Mallorcan gateway.
Coronavirus vaccine unlikely to be widely available before mid-2021, German research minister says
A coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to be widely available before the middle of next year, Germany’s research minister has said.
“We should not expect a miracle,” Anja Karliczek told a news conference, calling for people to maintain social distancing and mask-wearing to avoid jeopardising what Germany had achieved in recent weeks in terms of bringing the pandemic under control.
“We must continue to assume that vaccines for the broader population will only be available from the middle of next year at the earliest.”
Oliver Dowden has claimed there is no “viable” alternative the mandatory 14-day quarantine for travellers returning the UK from countries not on the government’s airbridge agreement list, political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports.
The culture secretary’s comments come as Heathrow’s chief executive urged the government to stop imposing “quarantine roulette” and called for ministers to introduce passenger testing. Reports have also suggested the period of self-isolation could be reduced to 10 days.
Pressed on whether the government was considering alternatives to what Labour has previously described as a “blunt” mechanism, Mr Dowden said: “Of course we keep all options under review and we want to minimise the disruption for travellers”.
But he also warned that it was “not quite as simple as testing” passengers who arrive in the UK due to incubation period of the coronavirus.
“There’s still a risk of spread,” he said. “That’s why our advice continues to be to avoid all but essential travel to Spain and other countries we designate in that way and to ensure that people quarantine for 14 days. That’s the best way to stop the spread.”
Mr Dowden added: “If we could avoid imposing quarantine in a way that it was safe to do so then of course we do so that’s why we keep it under review.
“Of course we continue to look at all alternatives but 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.
“We need to ensure the measures we’ve taken in the UK, which have been very difficult to keep this virus under control do not go to waste because we allow cases to come in from elsewhere that’s why we’ve taken this decision.”
‘Element of risk’ in relation to travel, culture secretary says
On the quarantine for people travelling to the UK from Spain, Oliver 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, the culture secretary 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.”
Heathrow Airport’s chief executive has urged the government to consider testing all arrivals for coronavirus in a bid to reduce the two-week quarantine time for those travelling from countries deemed high-risk, Andy Gregory reports.
Ministers are reported to be mulling proposals to reduce the mandatory length of self-isolation in a bid to shore up the travel sector and rescue the summer tourism season.
While testing at airports is unlikely to rule out the need for quarantines, new scientific modelling has suggested that a series of staggered tests could reduce the necessary isolation period by several days.
Introducing tests one week after arrival, with a turnaround time of 24 hours, could reduce the amount of coronavirus entering the country by 94 per cent, according to research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), which has not yet been peer-reviewed.
This would reduce the necessary quarantine period to eight days – cutting it by almost half.
French health minister says country wants to avoid another lockdown
French health minister, Olivier Veran, said the battle against the coronavirus would be long and urged people to comply with social distancing rules as authorities wanted to avoid another national lockdown.
“We are not facing a second wave, the epidemic is continuing… Some people do not respect the rules. We must not let down our guard,” Mr Veran told LCI television.
“We do not want to resort to another lockdown, we are examining the situation on a case-by-case basis. The war is not over… People must understand that we are going to live with this virus for a fairly long time,” he added.