A member of the government’s scientific advisory panel Sage has said that he has changed his mind on the enforcement of the two-metre rule.
Professor Calum Semple, a professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, said current coronavirus infection rates mean more decisions can be taken to reopen parts of society.
“I think the reason that I changed my mind now, and whereas I was of a very different opinion three weeks ago, is that now we are in a position where there are low levels and sustained low levels of transmission throughout the country,” Prof Semple told the Today programme.
“I’m still saying that two metres is safer than one, but in my opinion it is now a reasonable political decision to relax these rules – perhaps accelerate school opening and start opening up other parts of the economy where it becomes harder to maintain the two metre rule.”
It comes a day after scientists recommended that the UK’s alert level should be lowered from four to three, which guidance says will permit gradual relaxation of social distancing.
Follow the latest updates below.
Stonehenge locked down for summer solstice
Stonehenge is today being patrolled by security guards in an attempt to keep people away from celebrating the summer solstice.
The Wiltshire monument is traditionally a firm favourite among thousands of druids and revellers who gather to watch the sun rise and set on the longest day of the year, but the pandemic led to the cancellation of this year’s planned celebrations.
The sunset will be live streamed online for the first time ever, but some senior druids have insisted that they will make their way to the site in order to witness it there.
Prominent names join forces for lockdown gender gap letter
More than 50 leaders from the worlds of business, politics and sport have raised concern the Government is overlooking the impact of its coronavirus response on the gender gap.
In a letter to the editor of the Telegraph, which you can read in full below, some of the biggest names in finance, tech, fashion and politics, including Dame Helena Morrissey, Amber Rudd and Nicola Mendelsohn, have urged the Government to commit to considering the impact of policymaking on women’s lives.
Eleanor Steafel has more details here.
Perspex screens will help boating reopen in Cambridge
Traditional punts in Cambridge have been fitted with perspex screens to enable social distancing between different households.
Let’s Go Punting and The Traditional Punting Company have both given their boats a makeover so they can safely relaunch on July 4, and have fixed the screens to their boats to ensure protective barriers.
Joe Merwiak, owner of The Traditional Punting Company, said that while punting will look different for a while, “it will still be a beautiful and relaxing experience.”
The potential ‘air bridge’ locations from next month
A dozen potential countries are being considered for bilateral arrangements from July 4, which would permit Britons to travel there and back without a 14-day quarantine period.
The list includes Portugal, Spain, France and Greece, but air bridges will only be cleared following advice on each ‘low risk’ country from the chief medical officer, in addition to the agreement of the Foreign Office to lift its ban on non-essential travel to the destinations in question.
Read the full story here.
100,000 antibody tests ‘gathering dust’
Thousands of Covid-19 antibody tests which could help Britain get back to work are “gathering dust in warehouses”, The Telegraph can reveal.
The tests could be used to help health authorities detect local and regional spikes in the virus as the country emerges from lockdown and tell individuals whether they might have had the illness.
But small firms that would be able to supply vital antibody tests – which tell users whether they may have had coronavirus – have accused the Government of dragging its feet over buying proven tests.
Our senior reporter Patrick Sawer has the full story.
Restrictions reinstated in Victoria after spike in cases
Australia’s second most populous state has announced it will reinstate tighter restrictions after a double digit rise in coronavirus cases for a fourth consecutive day.
Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews reimposed a limit of five people visiting households and 10 people at public gatherings, restrictions which will last until at least July 12.
“It is unacceptable that families anywhere in our state just because they want this to be over pretend that it is. It is not over,” Andrews said at a televised media conference, noting a rise in family transmissions since April.
State officials reported 25 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, including within families who had held gatherings and workers at a hotel where travellers had been quarantined.
Charles Moore: Time for PM to follow his instincts
Telegraph columnist Charles Moore has called on the Prime Minister to start following his instincts in moving Britain out of the coronavirus lockdown.
Much of the present discontent is caused by the loss of direction over the lockdown. Once the Government decided to lock down, it was fast and fiercely repetitive. In terms of “buy-in”, it worked. The public got the message, and obeyed.
Since the Government started trying to unlock, it has seemed to fiddle nervously with the keys, rather than opening the gates and helping people towards freedom.
Frustrated Tory MPs, reflecting what Mrs Thatcher used to call “our people” across the country, fear the Government is cut off from the right sources on the ground. Having given too central a role to scientists in policy-making, it is too timid about moving without them.
Read Charles’ full column here.
The ‘new normal’ for pubs from July
Beer gardens will be patrolled to ensure social distancing and punters will be asked to order on phone apps under plans currently being considered by the Government.
As calls grow for the two-metre rule to be cut down to one, ministers hope to be able to press ahead with the reopening of pubs, restaurants and cafes on July 4 to boost Britain’s flagging economy.
It is hoped pubs, restaurants and cafes will be able to help give a boost to Britain’s ailing economy by reopening with new measures in place designed to avoid a spike in infections.
Our reporters have the full story.
Iain Duncan Smith joins calls for two-metre rule to end
Conservative MP and former Work and Pensions Secretary Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said the two-metre distancing rule must be reduced before companies start “calling it a day” and cutting jobs.
“The economy is teetering at the moment, so we’re supporting lots of people through the furlough schemes and through loans, and these are of course going to have to come to an end,” he said on BBC Breakfast.
He added that it was reducing the two-metre rule was “critical” in order to restart the economy and avoid widespread unemployment.
Portuguese ambassador wants to welcome Britons back
Portugal’s ambassador to the UK has said that the nation is once again wanting to welcome back British tourists amid hopes that ‘air bridge’ agreements between the countries could be announced.
“There was very good news for you, for us, for Europe that the alert system has come from four to three and that means a significant improvement in the control of the pandemic here in the UK,” Manuel Lobo Antunes said.
He added that he feels the outbreak in the UK is “under control” and so Portugal would want to welcome as many Britons as before, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Sage member supports two-metre rule relaxation
Professor Calum Semple, a professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool who sits as part of the Government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), had three weeks ago opposed any reduction to the two-metre rule.
But he has now told the Today programme that current coronavirus infection rates mean more decisions can be taken to reopen parts of society.
“I think the reason that I changed my mind now, and whereas I was of a very different opinion three weeks ago, is that now we are in a position where there are low levels and sustained low levels of transmission throughout the country,” he said.
“I’m still saying that two metres is safer than one, but in my opinion it is now a reasonable political decision to relax these rules, perhaps accelerate school opening and start opening up other parts of the economy where it becomes harder to maintain the two metre rule.”
Prof Semple said that a one-metre rule could be possible “with other caveats and various precautions”, and called for a flexible approach in order to “allow parts of society to keep going”.
Matt Hancock shares video thanking pharmacists
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has released a video thanking pharmacists “for all they’ve been doing throughout this crisis”, paying tribute to their “amazing” work in staying open throughout the pandemic.
Mr Hancock said that we can “learn the lessons of what went well”, as well as learning lessons while recovering from the crisis.
Jeremy Corbyn’s brother charged for breaching Covid regulations
Piers Corbyn, brother of ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has been charged with two counts of breaching coronavirus regulations after attending protests in central London, the Metropolitan Police said.
The 73-year-old, of Southwark, south London, was pictured at a protest over 5G in Hyde Park on May 16, while he has also been charged in relation to a protest on May 30.
He faces charges under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 and has been given two court dates, according to the Met.
He is said to be due before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on July 24 and August 20 this year over the separate incidents.
Twelve other people were also charged with similar alleged breaches at the May 16 protest.
What are the real risks of dying from Covid-19?
What are the real risks with Covid-19? And how worried should we be? Is the risk about the same as driving 250 miles in a car, or more like flying a mission with bomber command?
These are some of the questions Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician and Chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, Cambridge, tried to answer this week.
For some, the results will be reassuring but for others much less so.
Sir David crunched the data on the number of people who had died from Covid-19 over the ten-week peak of the pandemic spanning March 28 to June 5. He found that for the majority of us, the risk was so small that it “would normally be deemed an acceptable part of life”.
Read the full story
Over one third of care home residents not yet tested, data suggests
More than a third of care home residents have yet to be tested for coronavirus despite a Government pledge to test every resident, new data suggests.
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, 14,028 coronavirus-related deaths were recorded in care homes in England and Wales up to June 5 this year.
The Government had pledged to test all care home residents in England by early June.
However, figures from the Data Analysis Bureau, based on Person Centred Software, suggest that 37 per cent of residents have not been tested at all during the pandemic, while some 15 per cent of care homes have not had any residents tested for coronavirus at any stage.
Read the full story
Pakistan’s fatalities hit daily high
Pakistan has reported 153 fatalities, a new daily record, as infections continue to spiral, pushing the overall number of confirmed cases to 171,665.
Pakistan recorded 6,604 new infections in the last 24 hours. The total death toll stands at 3,382.
Hospitals are filling up and in many cities across the country, Covid-19 patients are being turned away.
In a country of 220 million people, Pakistan has less than 3,000 ICU beds, among the world’s lowest. Ventilators are being distributed to some of the worst-hit areas and the government has sealed more than 800 residential and business areas where clusters of infections have surfaced.
Yet despite urging from medical professionals, who have recorded more than 3,000 infections from among their ranks, and the World Health Organisation, Pakistan has refused to impose strict lockdowns. Prime Minister Imran Khan says easing restrictions is the only way to save the economy.
Private school unveils its own track and trace system
A leading private school has unveiled its own test and trace system which could see individual boarding house wings locked down to get all students back to the classroom in September.
Uppingham School, which charges £38,700-a-year for boarders, has written to parents outlining its blueprint on how it intends to fully reopen after the summer holidays.
It is the first fee-paying institution to announce its reopening plans, with others expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.
Read the full story
Beijing records another drop in confirmed cases
China’s capital has recorded a further drop in new confirmed cases as tightened measures to contain the spread remain in place.
Officials reported 22 new cases in Beijing on Saturday, along with five others elsewhere in the country. No new deaths were reported and 308 people remain hospitalised.
One of the Beijing cases is a nurse at a hospital in the suburban Changping district. The Peking University International Hospital where she worked is now under tightened restrictions, along with residential communities in the surrounding area.
A total of 205 people have been diagnosed with the virus in Beijing since the outbreak began last week, with at least two of them critically ill and 11 others in serious condition.
Cases in South Korea spike
South Korea has reported 67 additional cases, the largest daily jump in about three weeks amid an upward trend in new infections.
Figures released on Saturday took the country’s total to 12,373 with 280 deaths. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 31 of the new cases came from overseas while the rest were locally infected. They are the largest daily increase since 79 cases on May 28.
South Korea is struggling to contain a spike in fresh virus transmissions since early May, when it eased social distancing rules. Most of the new cases have been reported in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of the country’s 51 million people reside.
News in brief
Costa Rica‘s government will halt reopening the country’s economy due to an increase in the number of cases over recent days, a senior official said on Friday.
Deaths in Mexico surpassed 20,000 on Friday after the health ministry reported 647 new fatalities and 5,030 new confirmed cases.
Japan‘s economy is opening cautiously, with social-distancing restrictions as a long stagnant economy sorely needs tourism, exports and thriving small businesses to avoid sliding deeper into recession.
South Africa and Ethiopia say they are recommending the limited use of a commonly available drug, dexamethasone, that appears to offer hope for people seriously ill.
Guatemala has replaced its health minister amid a spike in infections and deaths in the Central American country.
French authorities are keeping a close eye on signs of an accelerating spread of the virus in Normandy, a region that’s until now been spared the worst of the outbreak that has hit Paris and the east of France particularly hard.
Canada‘s deputy prime minister says a National Hockey League plan to play in Canada amid the pandemic has been approved.
Italy added 251 new cases in 24 hours, bringing the national total to 238,011 as of Friday.
German authorities say the number of confirmed infections linked to an outbreak at a slaughterhouse has risen to 803.
Portugal’s government is lashing out at some of its EU partners who have barred Portuguese from entering their country due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.
The US lost another 705 people in the 24 hours leading up to 8:30 pm Friday (0030 GMT Saturday), according a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Cases in Brazil rise above one million
Brazil’s government confirmed on Friday that the country has risen above 1 million confirmed cases, second only to the US.
The country’s health ministry said that the total now stood at 1,032,913, up more than 50,000 from Thursday. The ministry said the sharp increase was due to corrections of previous days’ under-reported numbers.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro still downplays the risks of the virus after nearly 50,000 deaths from Covid-19 in three months, saying the impact of social isolation measures on the economy could be worse than the disease itself.
Specialists believe the actual number of cases in Brazil could be up to seven times higher than the official statistic. Johns Hopkins University says Brazil is performing an average of 14 tests per 100,000 people each day, and health experts say that number is up to 20 times less than needed to track the virus.
Virus in ‘new and dangerous phase’, says WHO
The coronavirus pandemic is now in a “new and dangerous phase”, the World Health Organisation has said, with the disease accelerating at the same time as people tire of lockdowns.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO chief, urged nations and citizens to remain extremely vigilant, as the number of cases reported to the UN health agency hit a new peak.
“The pandemic is accelerating. More than 150,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported to WHO yesterday – the most in a single day so far,” Tedros told a virtual press conference on Friday.
He said almost half of those cases were reported from the Americas, with large numbers also being reported from South Asia and the Middle East.
“The world is in a new and dangerous phase. Many people are understandably fed up with being at home. Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and economies,” he said.
Read more: Virus is accelerating, WHO chief warns
End of lockdown in sight
Boris Johnson is preparing to end the “big national lockdown” with a raft of announcements to reopen England in the next fortnight after the official threat rating from coronavirus was reduced for the first time.
The government’s scientific advisers have given the go-ahead for the two-metre social distancing rule to be cut in half – providing masks are worn in certain circumstances – which will pave the way for pubs, restaurants and hotels to reopen early next month.
Schools will also be provided with new guidance to allow all children to return in bigger classes of up to 30 in September.
Ministers are also in the final stages of negotiations to set up holiday “air bridges” with about 10 countries – and plans are being drawn up to allow overnight stays in this country so families who live significant distances apart can reunite.
Read more: Pubs, restaurants and hotels to reopen in early July