October 21, 2020

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Coronavirus live news: WHO reports record one-day rise in global cases; Paris hospitals in emergency mode

One of the world’s most prestigious medical journals has lambasted the Trump administration’s “dangerously incompetent” handling of the pandemic and called for them to be voted out of office, as US coronavirus cases continue to soar.

In an unprecedented move in its more than two centuries-long history, the New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial in which it said the current leadership had “recklessly squandered lives” and “largely claimed immunity for their actions”.

The article, published on Wednesday under the headline “Dying in a leadership vacuum”, said protections against the virus have been politicised in the US, stating: “Truth is neither liberal nor conservative.”

It did not endorse a particular candidate in the presidential election that is less than a month away, but said America should not “abet” its current leaders by allowing them to stay in power.

While it has been widely accepted that the closure of UK schools in March was bad for the life chances of its children, a research paper from the University of Edinburgh has gone as far as to say that the move could have contributed to a higher Covid-19 death toll.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, suggested lockdown restrictions were the most effective way of reducing peak demand for intensive care unit beds, but argued they were also likely to prolong the epidemic because, once lifted, they left a large population susceptible to the virus.

Some commentators have seized on the study as evidence that the government was too quick to impose a full lockdown, including shutting schools, and should have allowed herd immunity to build up in the younger population instead.

“Major study reveals Covid rules may INCREASE deaths,” said Thursday’s Daily Mail front page. “Herd immunity ‘could have saved more lives than social distancing’,” read the Telegraph’s.

The study’s conclusions are consistent with the strategy proposed in the Great Barrington declaration – a letter signed by an international group of scientists earlier this week – arguing for “focused protection” of the most vulnerable and allowing the rest of society to return to relative normality.

However, assumptions made by the study mean its conclusions would only hold water if all social distancing restrictions were lifted, resulting in a large second wave and others after that, and if an effective vaccine were not forthcoming.

“More realistically, if the case isolation, household quarantine, and social distancing of over-70s strategy is followed, alongside other non-pharmaceutical intervention measures such as non-mandatory social distancing and improved medical outcomes, the second wave will grow more slowly than the first, with more cases but lower mortality,” the authors said.

Singapore has approved Covid-secure cruise holidays to nowhere, in the latest attempt to offer a long-distance travel experience, albeit with no stops.

Australian airline Qantas drew criticism from environmental groups last month after advertising a seven-hour round trip from Sydney including fly-pasts of famous sights including Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.

Now the Singapore government has given approval for cruises to nowhere in a bid to help a tourism sector battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Residents of the city-state will from November be allowed to board the cruises, during which they will be confined to the ships for the entire time.

The Singapore Tourism Board on Thursday announced that Genting Cruise Lines’ World Dream would be the first ship to welcome passengers aboard on 6 November. Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas will begin sailing in December.

The ships launching from Singapore will only be allowed to carry half their full capacity, with extra cleaning schedules and mandatory masks “at all times”.