A UK government decision on plans to introduce Covid-19 testing for international arrivals to cut quarantine times will not come until next month at the earliest, with Downing Street instead setting up a global travel taskforce to look at proposals, the Guardian understands.
My colleagues Simon Murphy and Gwyn Topham report that after months of lobbying by the beleaguered aviation industry, which has been crippled by two-week quarantine restrictions, an announcement on whether tests for arrivals from at-risk countries would be introduced by the government was widely anticipated to come this week.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, had indicated an impending change, telling the Tory party’s virtual conference on Monday that he would be saying more shortly.
However, in a blow to the aviation industry, rather than announcing the start of testing for international arrivals, the Guardian has learned the government is instead planning to announce the launch on Thursday of the taskforce – jointly chaired by Shapps and the health secretary, Matt Hancock – which has been set up at the request of Boris Johnson.
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Hours after the UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s speech at the Conservative party conference, twelve of his MPs voted against approving the “rule of six” regulation, which limits social gatherings.
Rebels included the chair and vice-chair of the backbench 1922 committee Graham Brady and Charles Walker, select committee chair Huw Merriman and the former cabinet minister Esther McVey.
Johnson is likely to face more opposition when MPs are due to approve the 10pm curfew, which both Tory MPs and the Labour frontbench have called on the government to publish further evidence for its effectiveness.
Tory former minister Steve Baker said people were being “destroyed by this lockdown, strong, confident people, outgoing people, gregarious people… reduced to repeated episodes of tears on the phone”.
Kenya’s education ministry has said that select classes would resume this week after previously declaring the school year lost, following a drop in coronavirus cases, AFP reports.
Kenya shut schools in March along with a slew of other measures to contain the pandemic, including a night curfew, the closure of restaurants and bars, and the cordoning off of main cities.
These measures have been progressively relaxed as cases fall. the president Uhuru Kenyatta last week allowed bars to reopen and restaurants to sell alcohol again, while moving the start of an evening curfew from 9pm to 11pm.
The education minister George Magoha said the “progressive re-opening of schools” will begin with three classes: students in Grade 4 – about halfway through primary school – those in their final year of primary school and those finishing high school.
Key final primary school and high school exams will take place between mid-March and mid-April 2021.
“Although physical distancing will remain a challenge, it should not be used as a bottleneck to keep any child away from school,” Magoha said in a statement.
All students will be required to wear masks, while schools will have to monitor the temperature of students and staff.
“Where there is no running water, schools will use sanitisers,” the statement said.
For several weeks, the health ministry has been recording between about 50 and 250 new infections every day, a slump from highs approaching 900 in just late July.
While testing has also plummeted, prompting some observers to question to what extent official date reflects the extent of the pandemic, the positivity rate has declined from a high of 13% at the end of July to about 5% in recent weeks.
Kenya has recorded a total of 39,586 cases and 743 deaths.
Here’s a quick recap of all the latest coronavirus developments from the last few hours.
- European countries face shortages of Covid-19 drug remdesivir. European countries are facing shortages of Covid-19 drug remdesivir because limited supplies are running out, with cases surging and the US having bought up most of drugmaker Gilead’s output.
- White House likened to ‘ghost town’ as anxiety over coronavirus cluster grows. The West Wing has reportedly turned into a “ghost town” amid complaints that the White House has failed to trace potential contacts of Trump and his infected aides, with many now working from home even as the president exhorted Americans “not to be afraid of Covid”.
- IMF chief says world economy faces long ascent from Covid crisis. The head of the International Monetary Fund has said the recovery in the global economy since the spring is fragile and warned policymakers against an over-hasty withdrawal of support.
- Europe must go beyond science to survive Covid crisis, says WHO. The World Health Organization has said European countries will need to “move beyond biomedical science” to overcome Covid-19 as “pandemic fatigue” and new infections rapidly rise across the continent.
- Poland reports new record of daily coronavirus-related deaths. Poland said it would enforce restrictions more strictly as it reported a daily record of 58 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, as well as sharp increases in the number of ventilators and hospital beds being used by Covid-19 patients.
- Italy prepares to make masks outdoors mandatory. Italy is considering making the use of masks outdoors mandatory nationwide to fight the coronavirus, health minister Roberto Speranza has said.
- Belgium tightens social contact rules as coronavirus cases surge. Belgium will tighten coronavirus restrictions at the end of the week, limiting groups to a maximum of four people in a bid to stem a sharp rise of Covid-19 infections.
- Finland’s Covid-19 cases hit new daily record. Finland has reported its highest daily number of Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic and they now exceed the rate that Helsinki sets for other countries before their citizens are allowed to visit without being quarantined.
- Iran to require face masks in capital as virus cases hit high. Iran will require face masks in public in the capital Tehran from Saturday, authorities said, announcing a daily record of 4,151 new coronavirus cases.
- Moscow restricts transport for students and elderly as Covid-19 cases jump. Russia’s daily tally of new coronavirus cases rose to its highest since 11 May on Tuesday, prompting Moscow to take measures to keep students and the elderly off the city’s sprawling public transport network.
That’s it from me Jessica Murray today, I’m now handing over to my colleague Lucy Campbell.
Belgium will tighten coronavirus restrictions at the end of the week, limiting groups to a maximum of four people in a bid to stem a sharp rise of Covid-19 infections.
New prime minister Alexander De Croo, who took office five days ago, told a news conference he was aware Belgians were tired of restrictions, but they had to stick to the rules to avoid a fresh lockdown.
Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said that from Friday Belgians should limit to three the number of people outside their homes for whom they did not observe social distancing.
No more than four people should be invited inside a home, be seated at a single bar table or gather outside. Bars will all have to close at 11pm.
Belgians have been able to see up to five people without social distancing and be in groups of up to 10 people at a table in a bar or restaurant.
“People are tired, we know, but we are going to again ask for an effort for our children, so they can keep going to school, for our businesses, so they can keep functioning and so that people don’t lose their jobs,” Vandenbroucke said.
Covid-19 has claimed 10,078 lives in the country of 11 million people, producing one of the highest per capita fatality rates in the world.
The average daily number of new infections over a week passed 2,300 on Tuesday.
Hospital admissions are also rising, as are deaths from the virus in the country, the home of EU institutions and the headquarters of military alliance NATO.
Israel’s prime minister has announced the country will be installing rapid 15-minute coronavirus test kits in nursing homes across the country.
Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video on Twitter of himself being administered the Sofia test, developed by US firm, Quidel Corp.
“I was tested today for the first time by the rapid test for coronavirus (result within 15 minutes). Glad to announce that I came out negative,” he said, adding it could be used in airports, hotels and hospitals.
Netanyahu did not disclose the cost of the test.
With the country currently under a second lockdown following a surge in infections, the 70-year-old leader has faced criticism of his handling of the pandemic and is looking to reassure the public about the months ahead.
The top US military leaders are self-quarantining after the Coast Guard’s No. 2 tested positive for the coronavirus, Pentagon officials said.
The Coast Guard disclosed earlier on Tuesday that Admiral Charles Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, had tested positive on Monday for the virus.
Ray had attended a meeting last week with service chiefs, including Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Out of an abundance of caution, all potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining and have been tested this morning,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“No Pentagon contacts have exhibited symptoms and we have no additional positive tests to report at this time.”
US president Donald Trump is doing “extremely well” and reporting no symptoms of Covid-19, a day after returning to the White House after being hospitalised with the virus, his doctor has said in a statement.
Sean Conley, a Navy commander, said a team of physicians met with the president on Tuesday morning.
“He had a restful first night at home, and today he reports no symptoms. Vital signs and physical exam remain stable, with an ambulatory oxygen saturation level of 95-97%,” he said in a statement released by the White House. “Overall he continues to do extremely well.”
US president Donald Trump has played down the Covid-19 pandemic again, comparing it to the flu in a tweet on Tuesday, and Twitter has responded by putting a warning label on the tweet, saying the post included potentially misleading information.
“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” Trump tweeted.
Earlier in the day, Facebook removed a similar post by Trump, according to CNN.
The tweet comes hours after Trump was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
On Monday, Trump told Americans “to get out there” and not fear Covid-19 as he returned to the White House after a three-night hospital stay to be treated for the coronavirus, and removed his white surgical mask to pose for pictures.
During the 2019-2020 influenza season, the flu was associated with 22,000 deaths, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.
Romanian authorities will close theatres, cinemas and indoor restaurants in the capital Bucharest and several other cities from Wednesday to try to stem an increase in coronavirus infections.
Also from Wednesday, travellers from 49 high-risk countries, including France, Spain and Britain, will need to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival, except those travelling for less than three days, who must have a negative coronavirus test.
Romania has been reporting more than 2,000 new cases daily almost every day for the past week, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 139,612.
While 109,898 people have recovered, 5,121 have died, the highest fatality rate in the EU’s eastern wing, and the government has extended a state of alert until mid-October.
Indoor restaurants, cinemas and theatres re-opened in September after being shut since March. The restrictions will remain in place until the number of infections in the affected areas drops to 1.5 per 1,000 people over 14 days.
Across the country, officials said on Monday they were banning religious pilgrimages.
The number of Covid-19 patients in English hospitals has risen to 2,783, the most since 25 June, according to government data published on Tuesday.
The figure marks an increase of 190 from Monday.