Government signs new vaccine deals for 90 million doses

Pfizer covid vaccine – Dado Ruvic / Reuters Coronavirus Article Bar with counter .. The Government

Pfizer covid vaccine - Dado Ruvic / Reuters
Pfizer covid vaccine – Dado Ruvic / Reuters
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

The Government says it has secured an agreement for 30 million doses of a vaccine being developed – and currently at phase two trials – by BioNTech and German firm Pfizer.

There has also been an in-principle deal done for 60 million doses of a vaccine that is being developed by France’s Valneva.

The figure of 90 million is in addition to the 100 million doses of vaccine that are being developed by Oxford University in partnership with AstraZeneca.

But the head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce has insisted that the Government is “not pursuing a strategy of vaccine nationalism”.

 Kate Bingham said the UK’s goal was “to find vaccines for the UK, but also to ensure that any successful vaccine is distributed across the globe, so that anybody who is at risk of infection is vaccinated”.

She added that the latest deals are significant as they further the UK’s attempt to invest in a diverse portfolio of vaccines that use different technologies. This will maximise the chances of having access to a jab that meets regulatory and safety standards, Ms Bingham said. 

Later today the first results of the Oxford University vaccine trial are also expected to be published. Last week the Telegraph was told by those involved in the trial that the vaccine did provoke both a T cell and antibody response – but the data itself will be thoroughly analysed. 

Coronavirus podcast newest episode
Coronavirus podcast newest episode

 Follow the latest updates below. 

12:27 PM

Register your interest to get involved in a vaccine trial

Interested in taking part in a vaccine trial? From today, you can register online (here) to be contacted by researchers.

The National Institute for Health Research has approved two national studies in the UK, to test the vaccines being developed by teams at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London.

12:21 PM

Greece tightens rules for foreign seasonal workers

Greece has today introduced stricter rules for foreign seasonal workers, after a recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the Balkans.

Last year, more than 10,000 seasonal workers were employed in Greece’s agricultural sector, mainly from Albania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

“Land workers that exit the country before August 4 will not be able to return until further notice,” Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman, told a news briefing today.  Seasonal workers were permitted into the country in early May under a three-month special licence.

Petsas added that land entry to Greece will be allowed only via six northern border crossings to better control imported Covid-19 cases.

Greece started easing lockdown measures in early May, but social-distancing rules still apply. It toughened rules for visitors at the border with Bulgaria earlier this month and stepped up spot checks inside the country.

The Mediterranean nation has so far managed to contain the spread of the virus to just over 4,000 cases, faring better than other European Union countries mainly due to an early nationwide lockdown.

12:12 PM

What do you think of the coronavirus live blog?

The Telegraph’s coronavirus liveblog has been running since early March – and now we want your feedback. What do you like about our liveblog? How could we improve? 

Our research team has pulled together this interactive form so we can gather your thoughts on our coverage and the Telegraph’s website more broadly. It takes roughly five minutes to fill in and we’d really appreciate your feedback. 

Click here to fill in the survey. 

12:07 PM

Controversy in Kenya: Top official quits Covid committee

The chairman of Kenya’s senate committee overseeing the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis has quit the post after police said he flouted an overnight curfew to enjoy drinks with others in a Nairobi bar.

“I will bear responsibility … I apologise to Kenyans and I will face the full consequences of the law,” Johnson Sakaja, who represents Nairobi county and is a close ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta, told reporters on today.

Police said Sakaja was caught in the early hours of Saturday morning drinking with about 10 others, long after a 9pm-4am. curfew had set in. He is the first Kenyan official to lay on his sword after breaking the myriad lockdown rules.

Kenya began easing its lockdown earlier this month, but kept the curfew in place as well as a prohibition on bars. There have been a string of arrests for people drinking illegally.

The East African nation has so far reported just over 13,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 234 fatalities.

A police officer stops a car during the lockdown restrictions set by the government to prevent the rampant spread of the coronavirus - REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
A police officer stops a car during the lockdown restrictions set by the government to prevent the rampant spread of the coronavirus – REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

11:57 AM

Children over 10 transmit the coronavirus more easily than adults

This could be a significant finding. According to a new epidemiological study from South Korea, children between the ages of 10 and 19 are more likely to spread the coronavirus within a household than younger children or adults.

The findings, released on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, come as countries across the world grapple with the heated question of how and when to reopen schools amid fears of a resurgence in cases when students return to the classroom.

The researchers traced and tested more than 59,000 people who had contact with 5,706 South Korean Covid-19 patients between January 20 and March 27 and found that:

  • On average, 11.8 percent of household contacts tested positive for the virus.

  • For people who lived with infected older children, 18.6 percent tested positive for the virus within about 10 days after the initial case was detected — the highest rate of transmission among the age groups studied.

  • Children under the age of 10 spread the virus at the lowest rate, though researchers warned that the figure may have been impacted by school closures and could change when they reopen.

Nicola Smith has the full details here. 

11:51 AM

Boris Johnson on vaccines, UK-China relations and changes to Hong Kong extradition treaty

11:42 AM

Russian elite received experimental Covid-19 vaccine in April

Scores of top Russian government officials and executives got shots of Russia’s experimental coronavirus vaccine as early as in April before human trials started, the Bloomberg news agency reported on Monday.

Reports came a few days after the UK government said it had evidence that Russian government-connected cyber hackers had been trying to steal research from two British labs which have been developing Covid-19 vaccines.

Bloomberg quotes several unnamed sources as saying that billionaire tycoons as well as executives at aluminum giant Rusal, owned by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, got access to an experimental vaccine developed by the Gamalei Institute in Moscow.

Nataliya Vasilyeva has the full story here.

11:33 AM

China: Cases rise in Xinjiang as Beijing downgrades emergency response level

Some bad news for China – in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has continue to rise today, with another 17 cases reported. This brings the total cases in the country’s latest hotspot to at least 47.

One of the 17 new cases reported on Monday was in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, the regional government said on its official microblog. The remainder were in the regional capital of Urumqi, where all other cases have been reported since the outbreak emerged earlier this month.

Another five cases were brought from outside the country, according to the National Health Commission.

China had largely contained local transmission of the virus before the Urumqi outbreak and has taken swift action to bring it under control, cutting subway, bus and taxi service, closing some communities, imposing travel restrictions and ordering widespread testing.

But in better news, Beijing has gone 14 days without a case of local transmission. City authorities yesterday said they were downgrading the emergency response level from two to three as a result. 

vA medical worker swabs throat of a citizen during the outbreak in Urumqi, Xinjiang - Shi Yujiang/China News Service via Getty Images
vA medical worker swabs throat of a citizen during the outbreak in Urumqi, Xinjiang – Shi Yujiang/China News Service via Getty Images

11:22 AM

The email scams and fake goods from fraudsters exploiting coronavirus panic

Scammers are using the desperation and confusion caused by the coronavirus pandemic to steal hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Nervous and vulnerable individuals are prime targets for those who would unscrupulously steal money. Many have become susceptible in these uncertain times.

More than £11m has already been lost to coronavirus-related scams since early February, according to Action Fraud, the national scams reporting centre. It warned the public to be vigilant, particularly online. Meanwhile, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) warned about door-to-door salesmen selling fake testing kits and apps which will infest phones.

Marianna Hunt takes us through some of the most common scams to watch out for here.

11:16 AM

PM: We cannot be “100% confident” that a vaccine would be available this year

Boris Johnson has been visiting a school in Kent this morning. When asked about vaccines, the Prime Minister said that while he is hopeful about the outlook,  to “say that I’m 100 per cent confident that we will get a vaccine this year – or indeed next year – is, alas, just an exaggeration.

“We are not there yet,” he said. 

Mr Johnson added that the “sheer weight of international effort” will produce some forms of treatment or vaccines, but until that point it was important to continue with social distancing measures, washing hands and wearing face coverings on public transport and in shops.

“Then we will continue to drive the virus down by our own collective action,” he said. “It may be that the vaccine is going to come riding over the hill like the cavalry, but we just can’t count on it right now.”

Boris Johnson - Jeremy Selwyn/Pool via REUTERS
Boris Johnson – Jeremy Selwyn/Pool via REUTERS
Boris Johnson - Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/ Getty Images
Boris Johnson – Jeremy Selwyn – WPA Pool/ Getty Images
 Boris Johnson - Jeremy Selwyn / POOL / AFP
Boris Johnson – Jeremy Selwyn / POOL / AFP

11:06 AM

Is the Coronavirus drug from Synairgen really a game changer?

Synairgen, a Southampton based company, has said this morning that a coronavirus treatment is has developed has been found to prevent a Covid-19 infection becoming more severe in around 79 per cent of cases.

The treatment, called SNG001, uses a protein called interferon beta which the body produces when it gets a viral infection.

But is this really as good as it sounds? Here’s some interesting expert reaction to the news, which was released without accompanying trial data.

Prof Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow: “these results are very exciting”

“The results seem very impressive, and although accepted that the trial is small with just over 100 participants, a 79 per cent reduction in disease severity could be a game changer.

“It would be good to see the full results once presented and peer-reviewed to make sure they are robust and the trial conduct was rigorous. Also, with small numbers comes less certainty on the true level of benefit, or whether benefits vary between people with differing risk characteristics.

“Such work would require a larger trial but, even so, these results are very exciting.”

Prof Steve Goodacre, Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Sheffield: “the results are not interpretable”.

“We need the full details and, perhaps more importantly, the trial protocol. The trial should have been registered and a protocol made available before any analysis was undertaken. They could easily have included a link to the trial protocol in their press release. I am concerned they have not done this.

“As it stands, we have no way of knowing whether the trial was designed to detect the positive outcomes reported in the press release (which would be more convincing) or whether these are just serendipitous findings from a trial that was designed for another purpose (which would be bad reporting practice).”

10:57 AM

EU leaders signal possible compromise on stimulus  

Signs emerged that leaders of northern European Union countries are willing to compromise on a 1.8 trillion euro ($2 trillion) coronavirus stimulus plan today as talks in Brussels extended to a fourth day, Reuters has reported. 

Divided and slow to respond at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, EU leaders believe they now have a chance to redeem themselves with an aid plan that would show Europeans the bloc can react to a crisis.

But old grievances between countries less affected by the pandemic and the indebted countries of Italy and Greece, whose economies are in freefall, have resurfaced.

With leaders not expected to restart until after lunchtime, much rests on European Council President Charles Michel’s efforts to present a new basis for a deal.

Our Brussels Correspondent, James Crisp, has more on the fraught relations between leaders here, after Emmanuel Macron accused the prime minister of the Netherlands of taking Brexit Britain’s obstructive role at EU summits.

From left: Mark Rutte with Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Mr Macron at the summit. - Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP
From left: Mark Rutte with Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Mr Macron at the summit. – Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP

10:49 AM

UK morning update

Taking a quick break from the news updates – here’s a summary of the key UK coronavirus news this morning:

  • Boris Johnson has said he cannot be “100 per cent confident” that a vaccine would be available this year or next year.

  • The Prime Minister added that the “sheer weight of international effort” will produce some forms of treatment or vaccines – but until then it will be important to continue with social distancing measures, washing hands and wearing face coverings on public transport and in shops, he said. 

  • This comes after the Government signed deals for 90 million doses of promising Covid-19 vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer and Valneva, with more in the pipeline.

  • This takes the total number of doses secured to 190 million – the UK already has a deal with AstraZeneca for access to 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine.

  • Results of the first clinical trials for this immunisation are expected later today – reports last week suggested they will be positive. 

  • There have also been promising results from trials of an inhaled coronavirus treatment. The manufacturer, Southampton-based biotech Synairgen, says that hospital patients who took the drug had a 79 per cent lower risk of developing severe disease.

  • Elsewhere, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has not ruled out penalties being levied against the owners of a North Lanarkshire Test and Trace call centre which has seen a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

  • And he historic Beefeater guards are facing layoffs for what is believed to be the first time in their 500-year history as part of “heartbreaking” measures to cut costs at the Tower of London following the coronavirus crisis.

10:39 AM

Trump claims pandemic ‘is going to be under control’ as cases spiral

American newspapers have reported that Donald Trump “appears to be living in an alternate reality when it comes to the Covid-19 threat”, after the President downplayed the risk of the virus during a wide-ranging interview with Fox News. 

Trump pledged that “it’s going to be under control” and clung to the misguided notion that the virus is “going to disappear”.

His comments come as Florida reported over 12,000 new cases of Covid-19 yesterday, the fifth day in a row the state has announced over 10,000 new infections.

The virus has now killed more than 140,000 Americans since the pandemic started – the highest death toll in the world – and more than 3.7 million people have been infected (though experts say this could well be an underestimate). Florida, California, and other Southern and Western states are shattering records for new infections every day.

But during the Fox interview, Trump described the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, as a “a little bit of an alarmist”. He also continued to wrongly insist that anyone who wants a coronavirus test is getting one.

Here’s a look at the trajectory of America’s outbreak – the resurgence of infections is dramatic:

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

10:22 AM

Beefeaters face layoffs for the first time in 500 years

The historic Beefeater guards are facing layoffs for what is believed to be the first time in their 500-year history as part of “heartbreaking” measures to cut costs at the Tower of London following the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has seen the temporary closure of six sites run by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), which all rely heavily on visitor income.

A spokesperson for HRP confirmed that a voluntary redundancy scheme had been introduced last month and that staff had been warned that a compulsory redundancy scheme was likely to follow.

HRP believes it is the first time that the guards, recognisable for their decorative red and black uniforms, have faced redundancy in their long history – having been formed by Henry VII in 1485.

At least two of the 37 Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, who guard the Crown Jewels, have reportedly taken voluntary redundancy already.

HRP chief executive John Barnes said the organisation had “simply had no choice” but to make the cuts.

Yeoman Warders (more commonly known as Beefeaters), as they reportedly facing redundancies for the first time in their long histor - Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Yeoman Warders (more commonly known as Beefeaters), as they reportedly facing redundancies for the first time in their long histor – Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

10:17 AM

Vaccine news: Bangladesh to host Sinovac trials

In yet more vaccine news this morning, Bangladesh has approved a third-phase trial of a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, as infections rise in the densely populated South Asian country.

Sinovac has been looking for volunteers outside China as the number of coronavirus cases there has dwindled, a member of Bangladesh’s national technical advisory committee to tackle Covid-19 told Reuters. 

The trial, to be conducted by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research,could begin next month.

“We have given ethical permission for the trial after reviewing the research protocol,” said Mahmood Uz Jahan, director of the Bangladesh Medical Research Council. He added that it will involve 4,200 volunteers – half will be vaccinated. 

Earlier this month, Sinovac announced it was also starting Phase III trials of its potential vaccine in Brazil.

10:09 AM

Data: Blackburn with Darwen has Britain’s highest infection rate

Blackburn with Darwen has overtaken Leicester as the local authority with the highest coronavirus infection rate per 100,000 population, according to the latest ONS data for the week of the 11-17 July (more at 10:14am).

Our data team have pulled together this map showing the state of new infections across the Britain:

10:05 AM

Russia: New infections lowest since April

Russia, the world’s fourth hardest-hit country in terms of coronavirus infections, has reported fewer than 6,000 new cases today – for the first time since the end of April.

Health authorities also said 85 people died over the past 24 hours, the lowest daily fatality figure since May 4.

The country’s Covid-19 death toll is now 12,427 while the number of infections stands at 777,486. But Russia’s fatality rate has remained low compared to other badly-hit countries, raising speculation that Moscow could be underreporting figures.

Russian authorities began easing anti-virus measures in June ahead of a massive World War II military parade in Moscow and a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms that now allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.

In the capital city, where masks are mandatory in stores and on public transport but not in the streets, there are plans to open cinemas and theatres on August 1. 

The country reported 5,940 new infections today. The last time Russia reported fewer than 6,000 cases was on April 29. Here’s a look at the trajectory of Russia’s outbreak:

Coronavirus Russia Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Russia Spotlight Chart – Cases default

09:56 AM

Today in photos

The pandemic has changed life across the globe – here’s a look at those changes have impacted cultural events:

Newquay, UK:

Customers enjoy the show on the opening night of Britain's first ever drive-in circus performed by The Paulos Circus yesterday at Circus Field, Newquay, Cornwall - Hugh R Hastings/Getty Images
Customers enjoy the show on the opening night of Britain’s first ever drive-in circus performed by The Paulos Circus yesterday at Circus Field, Newquay, Cornwall – Hugh R Hastings/Getty Images

Avignon, France:

People look at a video projection in the "Cour d'Honneur du Palais des Papes" in Avignon southern France. As the 2020 edition of the International Theatre Festival of Since Avignon theatre festival has been cancelled due to the COVID-19, coronavirus crisis, the festival's organization has decided to offer a cycle of video projection of plays that made its history - CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP
People look at a video projection in the “Cour d’Honneur du Palais des Papes” in Avignon southern France. As the 2020 edition of the International Theatre Festival of Since Avignon theatre festival has been cancelled due to the COVID-19, coronavirus crisis, the festival’s organization has decided to offer a cycle of video projection of plays that made its history – CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

Entringen, Germany:

Visitors watch a cello concert by J'rgen Gerlinger performed in an empty outdoor swimming pool, in Entringen, Germany yesterday - Christoph Schmidt/dpa via AP
Visitors watch a cello concert by J’rgen Gerlinger performed in an empty outdoor swimming pool, in Entringen, Germany yesterday – Christoph Schmidt/dpa via AP

Ottowa, Canada:

Attendees wait for the start of a movie at the Mayfair Theatre on its first day of reopening, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada - Justin Tang/Bloomberg
Attendees wait for the start of a movie at the Mayfair Theatre on its first day of reopening, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – Justin Tang/Bloomberg

09:44 AM

The women-only bank that could help Afghanistan’s economy recover

In a country where women are shut off from work and finance the government hopes the new venture will lift families out of poverty, Ben Farmer reports in this dispatch. Here’s an extract:

Visitors climbing the stairs of a Kabul office block are met with an unusual sight for a bank in Afghanistan.

The cashiers, advisers, manager and customers are all women. Moreover the Finca branch is buzzing with a hum of chatter more like a social club than a sober financial institution.

The busy women-only branch in a central suburb is part of an experiment giving more women access to loans in a country where many are shut off from work and finance. Tiny loans of just a couple of hundred pounds have allowed women to set up and grow businesses, or pay off emergency costs.

Such micro finance loans not only help development, advocates say, but could also be key to helping poor communities bounce back after the economic devastation wrought by Covid-19.

Experts say giving women access to banking and the opportunity to save, send and receive money can lift whole families out of poverty.   

09:31 AM

Hong Kong: 73 new cases as new restrictions introduced

Hong Kong has reported 73 new Covid-19 infections today, including 66 that were locally transmitted, authorities are reported.

This is a drop from a record number of more than 100 yesterday, but authorities warned that there was no indication that the situation was coming under control. 

As of today, new restrictions have come into force, with non-essential civil servants told to work from home from this week. A requirement for restaurants to only provide takeaway after 6pm was extended and face masks will be mandatory in indoor public areas.

“The situation is very serious and there is no sign of it coming under control,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said yesterday. 

09:24 AM

France identifies as many as 500 active coronavirus clusters

French authorities have reported 400 to 500 active coronavirus outbreak clusters but there are no signs of an imminent “second wave,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said Monday.

Many of the current virus clusters involve abattoirs or other contained professional settings such as old age homes, he said. Others had resulted from family reunions during the summer holidays.

“At this point we are very far from a second wave,” Veran told Franceinfo radio, as face masks were made mandatory in all enclosed public spaces including shops, covered markets and administrative buildings.

“The goal is not to worry people excessively, but to keep them on their guard,” he said.

Nationwide the R number indicating the viral transmission rate now stands at 1.2, meaning the outbreak is growing – every 10 infected people will infect an additional 12 on average, according to the Sante Publique France health agency.

But in some areas on the French mainland, the rate is much higher, with the southern Mediterranean region including Marseille and Nice now reporting a rate of 1.55.

Women wearing face masks walk along a street in Avignon southern France - CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU/AFP
Women wearing face masks walk along a street in Avignon southern France – CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU/AFP

09:14 AM

Blackburn with Darwen has Britain’s highest infection rate

Blackburn with Darwen has overtaken Leicester as the local authority with the highest coronavirus infection rate per 100,000 population, according to the latest ONS data for the week of the 11-17 July.

Our data team have crunched the numbers – here are the five biggest hotspots in the Britain:

  • Blackburn with Darwen: 78.8 infections per 100,000 people

  • Leicester: 77.9

  • Oadby and Wigston: 61.3 

  • Rochdale: 43.6 

  • Bradford: 39.2

You can use our interactive tool here to find out whether cases are rising or falling in your are.

08:59 AM

Lanarkshire call centre: Penalties not ruled out

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has not ruled out penalties being levied against the owners of a North Lanarkshire call centre which has seen a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

Six cases were reported yesterday within the Sitel call centre at Eurocentral business park near Bellshill, which is currently working on test and trace cases for NHS England (more detail on this here).

When asked on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Monday if penalties could levied against Sitel, Mr Swinney said:

“These are all issues that will be explored, but what our primary focus is on is to make sure that we interrupt any transmission of the virus.

“The virus is at a very low level within Scottish society today, the compliance efforts of members of the public have successfully reduced the prevalence of coronavirus, but we have to keep it that way.”

08:50 AM

Weight loss surgery drive to tackle obesity 

Boris Johnson is said to have emerged from his stint in hospital with coronavirus more determined than ever to reduce not only his own weight but the nations.

So what will his attempt to tackle Britain’s obesity problem look like? The Telegraph understands that ministers are set to dramatically increase the NHS’s capacity to conduct weight-loss surgery in a radical bid to tackle Britain’s obesity crisis.

The plans, which are said to be part of a broader “comprehensive obesity strategy” to be announced later this summer, could see obesity formally defined as a “chronic disease” and NHS trusts and GPs financially incentivised to encourage those most at risk to have bariatric surgery.

You can find all the details about the plans in this report – but these analysis pieces are a must-read:

08:40 AM

Global roundup

Just joining us? Here’s a quick update of all the international news stories to be aware of this morning:

  •  EU leaders were making progress  after three days of haggling over a plan to revive economies throttled by the Covid-19 pandemic – but Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has warned the discussions could still fall apart.

  • As of today, France has made face masks mandatory in supermarkets, shopping malls, banks, stores and indoor markets to curb worrisome signs that the coronavirus is making inroads again.

  • Similar measures have been introduced in Australia – people in Melbourne must now wear masks when leaving their homes as Victoria marked two weeks of triple-digit increases in new coronavirus infections yesterday.

  • An inquiry in Victoria is also trying to determine how security breaches may have undermined the Covid-19 hotel quarantine programme in the state.

  • India reported more than 40,000 new cases of the coronavirus today – a record high for the country.

  • Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has said coronavirus lockdown measures “kill” and have “suffocated” the country’s economy.

  • Hong Kong tightened coronavirus restrictions, with non-essential civil servants told to work from home from this week, as the territory reported a record number of daily cases.

  • And ending on some good news from South Korea – the country reported its smallest daily jump in local Covid-19 transmissions in two months as health authorities express cautious optimism that the outbreak is being brought under control.

08:22 AM

Watch: How to stop your glasses steaming up when wearing a face mask

08:14 AM

Thailand in favour of closing borders to tourists

Perhaps hold off booking that trip to Thailand, if these numbers are anything to go by. More than 90 per cent of Thais would be in favour of barring foreigners from entering the country to prevent a second Covid-19 wave, according to a new poll.

The opinion survey in mid-July by the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University in Bangkok found that 94 per cent of respondents would rather keep the borders closed for health reasons, despite the damage to the economy, Nicola Smith reports.

It was conducted in the wake of public frustration over recently imported cases – one an Egyptian soldier, and the other involving a Sudanese diplomatic family. Some 52 per cent of respondents said they were very worried about the two cases.

The poll also showed that 86 per cent suggested stringent screening processes at the border and that 76 per cent want free access to Covid-19 tests.

Despite Thailand’s relative success in containing the spread of the virus – with just 3,249 cases and 58 deaths – more than 95 per cent of respondents said they were worried about a second round of infections.

Students eat their lunch, separated from each other by plastic sheets, during the first day of school, at a school in Bangkok earlier this month - DIEGO AZUBEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Students eat their lunch, separated from each other by plastic sheets, during the first day of school, at a school in Bangkok earlier this month – DIEGO AZUBEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

08:03 AM

UK ‘not pursuing a strategy of vaccine nationalism’

Vaccine news has dominated the headlines this morning, after the UK announced it has signed two deals to secure 90 million doses of promising immunisations. This is in addition to 100 million doses of jabs being developed by Oxford University with AstraZeneca. 

But speaking to Sky News Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, insisted that the UK is “not pursuing a strategy of vaccine nationalism”.

There are some concerns that wealthy countries will purchase the majority of vaccine supplies and leave nations with fewer resources unable to access immunisations (more on this here).

Ms Bingham said the UK’s goal was “to find vaccines for the UK, but also to ensure that any successful vaccine is distributed across the globe, so that anybody who is at risk of infection is vaccinated”.

“We are recognising that this is a global pandemic and we need to ensure that the globe – and all those who need it – are vaccinated,” she added. 

Ms Bingham also said that the UK Vaccine Taskforce is investing in a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates, in an attempt to maximise the chances of having access to a jab that meets regulatory and safety standards.

But she warned: “I urge against being complacent or over-optimistic. The fact remains we may never get a vaccine and if we do get one, we have to be prepared that it may not be a vaccine which prevents getting the virus, but rather one that reduces symptoms.”

07:43 AM

Indonesia set to become one of the ‘worst hit countries worldwide’

Here’s a stark update from our Asia Correspondent, Nicola Smith, about the unfolding crisis in Indonesia – experts have warned the nation is on track to become one of the worst coronavirus-afflicted countries in the world.

The Southeast Asian country has seen cases and deaths double as citizens re-emerge from a lockdown during a government effort to reboot the economy. As of Sunday, Indonesia had recorded 86,521 total cases and 4,143 deaths, twice the cumulative figure from the previous month, reported the Jakarta Post.

On Saturday, the case count had exceeded the official tally in China for the first time after large-scale social restrictions were lifted in early June.

Riris Andono Ahmad, an epidemiologist from Gadjah Mada University, told the Post that the country to become one of the worst hit in the world if there was no intervention, pointing to risk factors like boarding schools, which drew people from all over the country.

Confirmed Covid-19 hotspots have now spread outside of the capital, Jakarta, to East Java, Central Java, South Sulawesi and South Kalimantan.

“There must be tough enforcement from the government and popular awareness if [people] don’t want to prolong the pandemic. The problem is that there is sometimes resistance, and with the large number of people there, there has to be bargaining in prevention efforts,” he said.

Coronavirus Indonesia Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Indonesia Spotlight Chart – Cases default

07:25 AM

Alok Sharma confirms new coronavirus vaccine deals

“I am delighted to announce a new partnership with some of the world’s foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies,” he says 

“This deal will help ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine for COVID-19 that protects those most at risk.

 

07:12 AM

Gavin Williamson would “absolutely” take part in a coronavirus vaccine trial

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he would “absolutely” take part in a coronavirus vaccine trial.

Mr Williamson told BBC Breakfast on Monday that 500,000 people would be needed to take part in clinical trials during the winter months.

It comes as the Government announced it had signed new deals which will provide more than 90 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

Gavin Williamson - PIPPA FOWLES/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images
Gavin Williamson – PIPPA FOWLES/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images

Asked if a vaccine would be ready by winter, Mr Williamson said: “The whole purpose is that they will be getting trialled out.

“Half a million people will be having the trials of these vaccines and it will be something that comes after winter.”

Asked if he would take part in a trial, Mr Williamson said: “Absolutely. As you are probably aware politicians tend to meet lots of people, so it would be a sensible thing to do.”

06:58 AM

Synairgen drug trials give positive results 

The preliminary results of a clinical trial suggest a new treatment for Covid-19 dramatically reduces the number of patients needing intensive care, according to the UK company that developed it.

Synairgen’s drug SNG001 has been found to prevent COVID-19 coronavirus becoming more severe in around 79% of cases, it says.

The treatment uses a protein called interferon beta which the body produces when it gets a viral infection.

The protein is inhaled directly into the lungs of patients with coronavirus, using a nebuliser, in the hope that it will stimulate an immune response.

The initial findings suggest the treatment cut the odds of a Covid-19 patient in hospital developing severe disease – such as requiring ventilation by 79 per cent.

Richard Marsden, CEO of Synairgen, said: “We are all delighted with the trial results announced today.”

The results have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, nor has the full data been made available; so the 

06:38 AM

Macron accuses Dutch of acting like Brexit Britain as EU coronavirus summit enters fourth day

James Crisp, our Brussels Correspondent, has been watching the EU bloc’s difficult negotiations over the scale of a coronavirus rescue fund.

He writes: “Emmanuel Macron accused the prime minister of the Netherlands of taking Brexit Britain’s obstructive role at EU summits, as marathon talks over a massive coronavirus rescue fund stretched into a fourth straight day on Monday. 

“The French President’s patience snapped as tempers flared in tough negotiations over the plans for a €750 bn coronavirus stimulus package and bolstered €1.1 trillion EU Budget for seven years from 2021. 

“The package is backed by France, Germany, Spain, Italy and others but resisted by the “frugal four” of the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark, who were joined by Finland on Sunday. 

“Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands and his allies have demanded more oversight of payments from the rescue fund, more of the cash to be loans  rather than non-repayable grants and for the Budget to be slimmed down. 

“Mr Macron accused Mr Rutte of behaving like David Cameron, the former British prime minister who would often boast of “battling for Britain” in Brussels.”

Read the full article here.

05:48 AM

Questions over test and trace privacy

Privacy campaigners say the coronavirus test and trace programme implemented in England broke a key data protection law.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) wrote to the Open Rights Group (ORG) to concede the scheme was launched without an assessment of its impact on privacy, the group told the BBC.

ORG said the concession meant the programme has been unlawful since it started on May 28, but DHSC says there is no evidence data has been used in an unlawful manner.

ORG is just one group to raise privacy concerns over the scheme, with a former Cabinet minister also previously warning of “serious errors” in its implementation.

Test and Trace app - PAUL ELLIS/Britain's Department of Health/AFP via Getty Images
Test and Trace app – PAUL ELLIS/Britain’s Department of Health/AFP via Getty Images

Labour’s Lord Hain said last month that the NHS had failed to carry out its legal data protection obligations prior to the launch and had entered into data sharing relationships “on unnecessarily favourable terms to large companies”.

The track and trace app has been trialled on the Isle of Wight, but the Government has suggested it may not be ready to roll out across the UK until the winter.

05:34 AM

Covid vaccine deal signed by Government

The Government has signed new deals which will provide more than 90 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme reported the Government has secured an agreement for 30 million doses of a vaccine being developed – and currently at phase two trials – by BioNTech and German firm Pfizer.

There has also been an in-principle deal done for 60 million doses of a vaccine that is being developed by France’s Valneva.

The figure of 90 million is in addition to the 100 million doses of vaccine that are being developed by Oxford University in partnership with AstraZeneca, as well as another at Imperial College London which started human trials in June.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the new agreements would “ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk”.

05:15 AM

Tower of London Beefeaters facing redundancies over coronavirus

The PA news agency has reported that Beefeaters are facing redundancies for the first time in their long history, due to the coronavirus lockdown’s impact on tourism at the Tower of London.

John Barnes, the head of the Historic Royal Palace (HRP) charity which runs the Tower, said: “We simply have no choice but to reduce our payroll costs,” according to the Sun.

“We are heartbroken that it has come to this.”

Tower of London Beefeater - Heathcliff O'Malley
Tower of London Beefeater – Heathcliff O’Malley

There are 37 Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, who guard the Crown Jewels and live inside the Tower’s grounds with their families.

At least two Beefeaters have taken voluntary redundancies but HRP has warned compulsory redundancies will be enforced.

The attraction reopened on July 10, with new provisions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 including hand sanitiser dispensers and one-way routes throughout.

Tourists wanting a photograph with a Beefeater now have to do so while standing two metres away.

Three million visitors passed through the Tower last year, but now it can welcome less than 1,000 people each day.

04:01 AM

Outbreak spreads to second city in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang

China’s latest outbreak has spread to a second city in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

One of the 17 new cases reported on Monday was in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, the regional government said on its official microblog. The remainder were in the regional capital of Urumqi, where all other cases have been reported since the outbreak that has now infected at least 47 people emerged earlier this month.

Authorities in Urumqi have tried to prevent the spread by closing off communities and imposing travel restrictions.

Xinjiang is a vast, thinly populated region of mountains and deserts and had seen little impact from the pandemic that emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and was largely contained within China in March.

Another five new cases reported Monday by the National Health Commission were imported.

A medical worker swabs throat of a citizen in Urumqi - China News Service
A medical worker swabs throat of a citizen in Urumqi – China News Service

03:10 AM

Cases in South Korea at two-month low

South Korea has reported its smallest daily jump in local Covid-19 transmissions in two months as health authorities express cautious optimism that the outbreak is being brought under control.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday still reported 26 newly confirmed cases, including 22 that were tied to international arrivals.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said during a virus briefing that the four local transmissions represented the first time that such infections came below 10 since May 19. He continued to plead for vigilance, encouraging people to avoid crowded places or even stay at home during the summer holiday period.

Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed
Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed

02:26 AM

Summary of news from around the world

  • Numbers of confirmed cases in China‘s northwestern city of Urumqi continue to rise, with another 17 reported on Monday, bringing the total in the latest outbreak to at least 47. 

  • Hong Kong has seen a spike in cases, with more than 100 reported on Sunday. 

  • Beijing has gone 14 days without a case of local transmission and city authorities on Sunday said they were downgrading the emergency response level from two to three. 

  • France’s most worrisome virus hot spot is on the northern coast of South America: French Guiana, a territory of about 300,000 people where poverty is rampant and health care is scarce. 

  • The Italian region that includes Rome is warning citizens that local lockdowns might have to be ordered if there are more clusters of infections. 

  • Pope Francis is assuring his closeness to all those grappling with Covid-19 and its “economic and social consequences”. 

  • Turkey has suspended flights to Iran and Afghanistan because of the outbreak, Turkey’s Transport Ministry said on Sunday. 

  • Cyprus’ health minister says there’s concern that infected migrants could be seeping through the ethnically divided island nation’s porous cease-fire line. 

  • A record 24-hour surge of 38,902 new cases has taken India’s  total to 1,077,618.

People gather at Sea View Beach violating government bans imposed as a preventive measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus, in Karachi - AFP
People gather at Sea View Beach violating government bans imposed as a preventive measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus, in Karachi – AFP

01:26 AM

Australia warns outbreak will take weeks to tame

A surge in cases in Australia’s second-biggest city could take weeks to subside despite a lockdown and orders to wear masks, Australia’s acting chief medical officer said on Monday as the country braces for a second wave of infection.

Coronavirus flared up in the state of Victoria in July, mainly in Melbourne, with a daily record of 438 new cases detected on Friday.

Victoria’s government has ordered about five million people into a partial lockdown for six weeks and told residents around Melbourne to cover their faces if they have to leave their homes.

Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it would take “weeks” to slow the outbreak to levels seen as recently as June, when Victoria and the rest of Australia reported single or double-digit daily infections.

“We have learned over time that the time between introducing a measure and seeing its effect is at least two weeks and sometimes longer than that,” Mr Kelly told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

Read more:  Only 350 overseas travellers to be allowed in to Sydney each day as restrictions tighten

Residents around Melbourne must cover their faces if they have to leave their homes from July 22 - DAVID CROSLING/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Residents around Melbourne must cover their faces if they have to leave their homes from July 22 – DAVID CROSLING/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

12:54 AM

Mexican president pays tribute to 39,000 victims of virus

Mexican president Manuel Lopez Obrador on Sunday vowed to improve health standards in the nation, which has the fourth-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, as the number of fatalities rose to nearly 39,000.

“We want to remember those who died from the Covid-19 pandemic, and send a loving, fraternal hug to their relatives, to their friends,” Mr Lopez Obrador said in a video released on social media.

Mexico, with 127 million inhabitants, had recorded 38,888 deaths, according to health authorities on Saturday, with additional suspected deaths lifting the total to more than 40,000.

Mexico has the second-highest death toll in Latin America after Brazil, which has 78,772 deaths.

A sign reads in Spanish "Caution! You Are Entering A High Contagion Zone" in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City - Bloomberg
A sign reads in Spanish “Caution! You Are Entering A High Contagion Zone” in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City – Bloomberg

11:47 PM

Cases continue to surge in US as Trump says ‘it’s going to disappear’

Florida reported over 12,000 new cases on Sunday, the fifth day in a row the state has announced over 10,000 new infections, even as President Donald Trump pledged that “it’s going to be under control”.

The virus has claimed over 140,000 US lives and Florida, California, and other Southern and Western states shatter records every day.

Texas reported 7,300 new cases on Sunday after five straight days of new infections exceeding 10,000.

Despite record levels of new cases nationwide, the Trump administration is pushing for schools to reopen in a few weeks and resisting a federal mandate to wear masks in public.

Mr Trump, who faces a tough battle for re-election in November, defended his handling of the pandemic in an interview broadcast on Sunday. 

Mr Trump on Fox News Sunday repeated his assertion that the virus would eventually disappear.

“I’ll be right eventually,” he said. “It’s going to disappear and I’ll be right.”

Read more: Los Angeles mayor says the city ‘on the brink’ of a second lockdown

Police officers maintain the 8pm curfew imposed due to Florida's climbing numbers of cases - Reuters
Police officers maintain the 8pm curfew imposed due to Florida’s climbing numbers of cases – Reuters

11:25 PM

Councils to be given names and addresses of people who test positive 

Councils will be given the names and full addresses of people who have tested positive for Coronavirus under government plans to tackle local outbreaks.

The government is expected to announce as early as Monday that public health directors working with councils will be able to access the “named patient data”,  as long as they abide by strict rules on data protection.

Councils can already access details of patients’ postcode areas, age and occupations. A government source said: “We’ve been giving more and more data over the past few weeks.”

Read the full story

Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically
Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically

11:07 PM

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