Health Secretary blamed for early failings of Cobra

Britain has suffered one of the highest rates of excess deaths in the pandemic - Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg
Britain has suffered one of the highest rates of excess deaths in the pandemic – Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

The Health Secretary is being blamed for a series of poorly focused Cobra meetings at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that hampered early attempts to fight the virus.

Senior government figures have accused Matt Hancock of failing to get a grip on the crisis when he chaired a series of Cobra meetings before the Covid-19 crisis took hold – a claim strongly denied by Mr Hancock’s friends.

Cobra is the UK’s cross-government national emergency committee.

The Telegraph understands that ministers have now informally decided that future Cobra meetings must be chaired by a senior independent government minister not involved with the decision-making process.

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Table of Contents

12:01 PM

North Korea delivers aid to border town in lockdown

North Korea’s ruling party has delivered aid packages of food and medical supplies to residents of Kaesong, close to the border with the South, after imposing a lockdown there due to coronavirus concerns, state media reports.

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared an emergency and imposed a lockdown on the small border town after a 24 year old, who defected to South Korea in 2017, returned to Kaesong across the highly fortified border showing coronavirus symptoms.

Seoul officials said the individual returned to the North after facing a sexual assault investigation in the South. South Korean health officials said there was no sign he was infected before he crossed the border, and at least two people who were in close contact with him have tested negative.

Pyongyang has not confirmed any coronavirus infections but has been taking strict quarantine measures and screening the town, while providing food, test kits and other medical equipment, according to state media.

State television on Sunday showed a train arriving at the Kaesong station and trucks delivering supplies to residents.

Kaesong city is seen across the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating North Korea from South Korea - Lee Jae Won / Reuters
Kaesong city is seen across the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating North Korea from South Korea – Lee Jae Won / Reuters

11:42 AM

Southend beach packed with sun-seekers as heatwave continues

Thousands flocked to Southend beach over the weekend to enjoy the hot weather in the south of England. On Friday, the UK saw its hottest August day in 17 years with a high of 36.4C.

11:20 AM

Tesco Swindon store staff test positive

Tesco says a number of staff at one of its supermarkets have tested positive for coronavirus.

The cases were found among workers at its Extra store on Ocotal Way in Swindon.

The town is on the government’s coronavirus watchlist after a recent rise in cases centred around an Iceland supermarket distribution centre.

Tesco says the affected staff are now self isolating.

Confirming the cases at the Ocotal Way Extra store, a Tesco spokesperson said: “We have introduced extensive measures across all of our stores to help keep everyone safe, including protective screens at every checkout, social distancing signage and regular deep cleaning.”

11:04 AM

Improve Test and Trace to help schools, Shadow Education Sec says

Shadow education secretary Kate Green urged the Government to improve Test and Trace and help teachers make schools safe for a return in September.

The Labour MP told Times Radio:

“I think it’s essential that schools open in September and that all pupils are expected to be back in the classrooms.

“I do think the Government could be doing more to support them (teachers) part
icularly, for example, making sure we’ve got a really robust Test and Trace system in place.

“The work is being done to make schools safe but more is needed to support those schools, they may need extra resources for example for extra clearing or to stagger the school day or to make sure children can travel to and fro safely.

“The Government has a window between now and the beginning of September to get that right and it absolutely must do so.

“It’s really, really important that we don’t write off a generation of Covid children – they need to be back in class, the whole of our futures depend on this.”

10:41 AM

Schools not reopening would spell ‘absolute disaster’, says Children’s commissioner

10:24 AM

Drakeford calls for caution ahead of reopening in Wales

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford has urged people to “continue to keep 2m from others and wash your hands often”, ahead of further reopening in Wales tomorrow.

Swimming pools, indoor fitness studios, gyms and leisure centres are set to reopen in Wales tomorrow. Children’s indoor play areas are also allowed to open, but should keep areas which are difficult to clean closed.

10:20 AM

Case emerges at second mine in Papua New Guinea

Covid-19 cases have emerged in a second mine in Papua New Guinea, after an employee at the Lihir Mine owned by Newcrest Mining Ltd tested positive for the disease.

The 30-year-old male, who flew in from Port Moresby at the end of July, is among 26 confirmed cases reported on Sunday by the National Pandemic Control Centre in the capital Port Moresby.

The island nation has now reported a total of 214 coronavirus cases and three deaths.

The Lihir mine case was detected during a routine screening process for all incoming workers who have to observe a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival on the mine site.

It comes after PNG’s Ok Tedi copper and gold mine suspended operations for at least 14 days from Wednesday, after seven workers tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

While the number of cases in PNG are still low compared with many other countries, they have jumped sharply over the past few weeks.

“This is a critical time for all of us,” National Pandemic Response Deputy Controller Paison Dakulala said in a statement.

10:00 AM

US health chief arrives in Taiwan on trip condemned by China

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday as the highest-level US official to visit in four decades, a trip condemned by China which claims the island as its own, further irritating Sino-US relations.

Washington broke off official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favour of Beijing. The Trump administration has made strengthening its support for the democratic island a priority, and boosted arms sales.

Beijing, already arguing with Washington over everything from human rights and trade to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, has threatened unspecified countermeasures to Mr Azar’s visit. China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if needed.

Mr Azar arrived at Taipei’s downtown Songshan airport on a U.S. government aircraft late in the afternoon, and was met by Brent Christensen, the de facto US ambassador to Taiwan, and by Taiwan Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang.

The trip aims to strengthen economic and public-health cooperation with Taiwan and support Taiwan’s international role in fighting the pandemic.

On Monday Mr Azar will sign a health cooperation memorandum of understanding with Taiwan’s government and visit Taiwan’s Centres for Disease Control.He is also scheduled to meet President Tsai Ing-wen during his visit.

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar
US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar

09:43 AM

Hong Kong reports 72 new coronavirus cases

Hong Kong reported 72 new coronavirus cases today, of which 63 were locally transmitted, as authorities continued efforts to contain a resurgence of infections in the global financial hub over the past month.

More than 4,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong since January, 51 of whom have died. Sunday’s figure was slightly up from Saturday’s 69 cases.

09:20 AM

Europe doubles down on anti-virus efforts

Countries across Europe are doubling down on their efforts to curb a second wave of Covid-19.

Spanish police last night sent special units to nightclubs in the beach resort of Fuengirola near Malaga to enforce health regulations on partygoers, including the wearing of masks and the practise of social distancing.

“The police pressure that is carried out is essential so that people who are resistant to the law end up complying with it,” police officer Jorge Moreno told The Associated Press, stating that since June 15, officers have issued 2,000 sanctions for rule-breakers. 

Since lockdown was lifted in Spain, most new recorded cases of the virus fall within the 15-to-29 age bracket, according to a recent report by the Carlos III Health Institute. Northeast Catalonia has ordered all nightclubs to be shut down altogether.

Meanwhile in France, face masks will be mandatory in busy outdoor areas in Paris from Monday, including open-air markets and along the banks of the River Seine; but not including tourist sites such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees boulevard.

Our travel live blog has more on this here.

A man and a woman wearing face masks walk on Trocadero Plaza as a French national flag flies on the Eiffel Tower - AFP
A man and a woman wearing face masks walk on Trocadero Plaza as a French national flag flies on the Eiffel Tower – AFP

09:01 AM

Brazil passes 100,000 deaths as outbreak shows no sign of easing

Brazil has had 100,477 virus-related deaths and 3 million cases, according to the health ministry, though the numbers are believed to be much higher because of insufficient testing. Only the United States has higher figures.

There are fears the disease is spreading faster in deprived neighbourhoods and remote areas, such as indigenous communities, where access to adequate health care is difficult.

“We should be living in despair, because this is a tragedy like a world war. But Brazil is under collective anaesthesia,” Dr José Davi Urbaez, a senior member of the Infectious Diseases Society, told Reuters news agency.

“The government’s message today is: ‘Catch your coronavirus and if it’s serious, there is intensive care.’ That sums up our policy today.”

Brazil accounts for nearly half of all coronavirus-related deaths recorded in Latin America and the Caribbean, where more than five million cases have been confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the disease globally.

Coronavirus Brazil Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Brazil Spotlight Chart – Cases default

08:41 AM

How the Covid takeaway boom helped turn Deliveroo profitable

Deliveroo swung to a profit earlier this year just months after warning Britain’s competition regulator it could go bankrupt, after the lockdown saw families splurge on takeaways. 

During both May and June, Deliveroo had “both profitable and had a positive cash flow”, a report by the UK’s competition watchdog last week revealed. 

It came thanks to a “significant increase” in order volumes, the Competition & Markets Authority said.

Hannah Boland has the story here.


08:22 AM

Russia reports 5,000 new cases

Russia has reported a further 5,189 new cases of coronavirus, bringing its nationwide tally to 887,536.

This is the fourth highest number of cases in the world, after the US, Brazil and India respectively.

Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said a further 77 people had died over the last 24 hours, putting the official death toll at 14,931.

08:09 AM

US approaches five million infections

The United States’ failure to contain the spread of the coronavirus has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe, as the world’s most powerful country edges closer to a global record of five million confirmed infections.

Much of the incredulity in Europe stems from the fact that America had the benefit of time, European experience and medical know-how to treat the virus that the continent itself didn’t have when the first Covid patients started filling intensive care units.

Yet, more than four months into a sustained outbreak, the US is about to hit an astonishing milestone of five million confirmed infections, easily the highest in the world.

Health officials believe the actual number is closer to 50 million, given testing limitations and the fact that as many as 40 per cent of all cases are asymptomatic.

Read more here.

Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart – cases default

07:53 AM

Moral duty to get all children back in school – PM

There is a “moral duty” to get all children back into schools in England next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said it was the “national priority” after months without in-person education during the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools across the UK closed on 20 March, except to children of key workers or vulnerable children. On 1 June, they began a limited reopening for early years pupils, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

The current plan is for most children across the country to be back in class by next month.

Guidance on reopening h
as been published for England. There are also separate plans for Wales, Northern Ireland and also Scotland, where schools are scheduled to return from Tuesday.

In his article, Mr Johnson said: “This pandemic isn’t over, and the last thing any of us can afford to do is become complacent.

“But now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so.”

The prime minister also warned of the “spiralling economic costs” of parents and carers being unable to work.

He added: “Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson - AP
Prime Minister Boris Johnson – AP

06:32 AM

New Zealand experts fear complacency

New Zealand marked 100 days without a domestic transmission of coronavirus on Sunday, but warned against complacency as countries like Vietnam and Australia – which once had the virus under control – battle a resurgence in infections.

New Zealand’s successful fight against Covid has made the Pacific island nation of five million people one of the safest places in the world.

New Zealanders have returned to normal life, but authorities are concerned that people are now refusing testing, not using the government’s contact-tracing apps, and even ignoring basic hygiene rules.

New Zealand has 23 active cases in managed isolation facilities, and a total of 1,219 cases.

Vietnam, which went for three months without detecting any domestic transmission, is now racing to control a new outbreak in Danang.

Neighbouring Australia’s second-biggest city, Melbourne, has gone into a six week lockdown due to a surge in cases. The second wave of cases in Melbourne has been largely a result of lapses in quarantining.

There have been cases of returning New Zealanders sneaking out of quarantine, and other security slip ups.

05:42 AM

Sources of many cases in Australian state untraceable

The premier of the Australian state of Victoria said more than 2,700 active cases had no known source and remained the primary concern of health authorities.

Victoria on Sunday saw a welcome drop in its new cases with 394, but had a record 17 deaths.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said confirmed cases also included almost 1,000 health care workers.

The city of Melbourne has been under tough restrictions since a week ago, including an overnight curfew and mandatory masks. The results of these efforts will not be seen for another one to two weeks.

Almost 270 Victorian residents have been fined over the past 24 hours for breaching restrictions.

A woman is detained during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne - ERIK ANDERSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A woman is detained during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne – ERIK ANDERSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

05:26 AM

In pictures: The Amazing Tuk Tuk Festival

Bangkok’s music scene is slowly coming back to life with the first drive-in music festival at Asiatique the Riverfront. 

Concertgoers brought their own private tuk tuk to a 16sqm spot to maintain social distancing.

Music fans enjoy a performance in Bangkok during the first-ever new normal Thai-style concert - AFP
Music fans enjoy a performance in Bangkok during the first-ever new normal Thai-style concert – AFP
The event, organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, is aimed at promoting tourism and stimulating the economy - AFP
The event, organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, is aimed at promoting tourism and stimulating the economy – AFP
The festival respects social distancing to avoid the spread of coronavirus - AFP
The festival respects social distancing to avoid the spread of coronavirus – AFP

05:03 AM

Patients killed in fire at Indian Covid facility

At least 11 people died after a massive fire broke out at a hotel that was being used as a Covid-19 facility in India’s southern Andhra Pradesh state early on Sunday, police said.

“Several people who were trapped and injured have been rescued and moved to a government hospital. Fire is under control but rescue and firefighting operations are still underway,” said Lakshmi, a constable at the police control room.

Eight Covid patients died in a fire that broke out in the intensive care ward of a private hospital in India’s western city of Ahmedabad last week.

Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart – Cases default

03:57 AM

MotoGP records positive case ahead of grand prix

MotoGP said one person from its world championship paddock tested positive for coronavirus and was in isolation ahead of the Czech Republic Grand Prix in Brno on Sunday.

The person is a member of promoter Dorna Sports’ team and was asymptomatic, said MotoGP, the premier motorcycle racing championship.

The person tested positive twice, and all close contacts were put in isolation.

“Local health authorities will now decide on the duration of self-isolation they are required to undertake,” MotoGP said.

03:18 AM

Obese may be told to stay home if virus rebounds

Obese people could be told to stay home in coronavirus hotspots as part of a targeted approach to tackling a feared second wave of Covid-19 this autumn.

The Government is understood to be examining plans for a “more sophisticated model” for shielding to avoid mass lockdown if Covid-19 returns over the next few months.

One Cabinet minister described the plan as a “stiletto not a sledgehammer” approach to tackling outbreaks, with people who are especially vulnerable told to remain indoors.

READ MORE: Obese people in Coronavirus hotspots will be told to stay indoors to combat second wave

02:16 AM

More than 20 new cases for China

China has reported 23 new coronavirus cases on the mainland.

Among the new cases, 15 were locally transmitted and eight were imported infections, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.

China claims its total number of infections is 84,619, with the death toll unchanged at 4,634.

02:07 AM

North Korea sends aid to locked-down city

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the distribution of aid to the border city of Kaesong after the area was locked down last month to fight coronavirus, state media said on Sunday.

Authorities raised the state of emergency to the maximum level for the city in July, saying they had discovered the country’s first suspected virus case.

A train carrying goods arrived in the “totally blocked” city of Kaesong on Friday, the official KCNA news agency reported.

“The Supreme Leader has made sure that emergency measures were taken for supplying food and medicines right after the city was totally blocked and this time he saw to it that lots of rice and subsidy were sent to the city,” it said.

Kim had been concerned “day and night” about people in Kaesong as they continue their “campaign for checking the spread of the malignant virus”.

Read the full story here.

01:47 AM

Cluster closes Europe’s biggest pork-product producer

Meat giant Danish Crown announced on Saturday that it had closed a large slaughterhouse in Denmark after nearly 150 employees tested positive for coronavirus.

The abattoir in Ringsted, about 30 miles from the capital Copenhagen, employs nearly 900 people and slaughters tens of thousands of pigs every week.

Danish Crown said 120 employees tested positive in a first round of tests of 600 employees.

It retested all the negative cases and detected 22 additional infections.

“For this reason, we are closing the abattoir for at least a week to try to break the chain of transmission among employees on site,” Danish Crown said.

All the employees must quarantine.

The company is one of Denmark’s biggest exporters and the biggest pork-product producer in Europe.

Several European slaughterhouses have been hit with the virus in recent months, particularly in Germany.

The virus cluster at Ringsted is the main active one in Denmark, where the number of cases has increased sharply in recent days.

The resurgence has forced the government to abandon plans to ease restrictions at concert halls and nightclubs, and instead prepare new curbs.

Several dozen infections have been registered in Aarhus, the country’s second-biggest city.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Friday that Denmark intends to make masks compulsory on public transport.

01:37 AM

Global fatalities soar past 722,000

Brazil has became the second country to pass the grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths.

Just a day after Latin America and the Caribbean became the hardest-hit region in the global pandemic, Brazil reported a total of 100,477 fatalities, joining the United States as the only two countries to surpass the six-digit death mark.

Tolls continue to rise across the world, with global fatalities having now soared past 722,000.

India has more than two million infections – its caseload doubling in three weeks – and has recorded 42,518 deaths.

And more than 10,000 people have died from coronavirus in South Africa.

01:27 AM

Mexico’s death tally trails behind US and Brazil

On the outskirts of Mexico City, workers dig fresh graves in a section of the municipal cemetery of Valle de Chalco, which opened three months ago to accommodate the surge in deaths during the pandemic - Rebecca Blackwell/AP
On the outskirts of Mexico City, workers dig fresh graves in a section of the municipal cemetery of Valle de Chalco, which opened three months ago to accommodate the surge in deaths during the pandemic – Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Mexico’s health ministry has reported 6,495 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 695 fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 475,902 cases and 52,006 deaths.

Officials say the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Mexico has the third-highest coronavirus death tally globally, behind the United States and Brazil.

01:00 AM

Beachgoers reminded of Covid risk

As temperatures soared across western Europe, holidaymakers crowded beaches despite warnings about the risk of infection.

On Saturday, a day after Britain recorded its hottest August day in 17 years at 36.4 degrees Celsius (97.5 Fahrenheit), much of its southern coastline was packed with tourists.

Local authorities in Germany warned that some beaches and lakes would be closed if there were too many people.

Belgian police arrested several people on Saturday after a brawl broke out on a beach at the Blankenberge resort between officers and youths they had told to leave for refusing to respect virus safety measures.

12:56 AM

Paris police to enforce masks as infection numbers rise

Growing infections in and around Paris have prompted officials to make masks compulsory outdoors in crowded areas and tourist hotspots in the city and surrounding areas from Monday.

Police said masks would be obligatory for all those aged 11 and over “in certain very crowded zones”, including the banks of the Seine River and more than 100 streets in the French capital.

12:51 AM

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