New door-knocking contact tracers will be stretched, warns health chief

The Government’s test and trace operation is being farmed out to local councils – Christopher Furlong/Getty Images A new system of contact tracers knocking on doors could be threatened by under-resourcing, a health chief has warned. Last night it was revealed large parts of the test and trace operation will […]

The Government's test and trace operation is being farmed out to local councils - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
The Government’s test and trace operation is being farmed out to local councils – Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A new system of contact tracers knocking on doors could be threatened by under-resourcing, a health chief has warned.

Last night it was revealed large parts of the test and trace operation will be operated by local councils, to allow contact tracers to visit people in person and convince them to self-isolate if they have been exposed to the virus.

But Jeanelle de Gruchy, the director of public health for Thameside Council and President of the Association of the Directors of Public Health, suggested there may not be enough staff to run the system effectively.

“What we are asking people is a lot, asking them to self-isolate for 14 days, so all the support we can give to them really does help make it the most effective it can be,” she told the BBC.

“Resources to deliver it will be an issue because we are being asked to do a lot more but we need to work through that with the national system as we develop how we are going to integrate from the national through to the local.

“Because the whole system is really important, it’s not one or the other.

Ms de Gruchy called for the test and trace system to be “more effective than it is at the moment”.

But Edward Argar, a health minister, insisted NHS Test and Trace was a “successful system”.

 “I think this is actually, this is a reflection of a successful system that, as we’ve always said, will flex and evolve to meet our understanding of the disease and the changing needs of our communities,” he said.

Follow the latest updates below.

09:40 AM

Singapore reports 61 Covid-19 cases 

Singapore has reported 61 new coronavirus cases, its lowest daily count in more than four months.

The region went into a lockdown in mid-April after mass outbreaks in cramped migrant worker dormitories pushed its caseload to one of the highest in Asia.

Last week, the city-state said it had cleared infections from all of the dormitories – which house around 300,000 workers.

09:24 AM

Special report: Meet the workers fighting back against bosses who spy on them while working from home 

Many employers have embraced monitoring software to keep tabs on what their staff are up to at home, reports Hannah Boland. 

Many employers have embraced monitoring software to keep tabs on what their staff are up to at home - Joe Giddens/PA
Many employers have embraced monitoring software to keep tabs on what their staff are up to at home – Joe Giddens/PA

When Steve Williams created a piece of software to automatically move a mouse around a screen 10 years ago, there was nothing underhand about his motives. 

At the time, he was working at a large investment bank where different members of staff needed to use a single machine without logging out each time.

“Move Mouse just started as a really simple script to keep the machine alive,” he says. 

Ever since, the software has developed a small but loyal fan-base of people who rely on the software and other similar tools to keep their systems logged in during lengthy work processes. 

Williams had never predicted what would come next – or how the spread of a deadly virus might impact demand.

This year, since the first few weeks of lockdown, Williams says the software has experienced a “massive spike” in downloads. In the end, he says: “There were something like 40,000 people a day using Move Mouse”. 

What explains the huge surge? Williams says one obvious reason is that people are working from home – and want to appear to be online even when they are not.

Read the full story here. 

09:07 AM

Russia approves first coronavirus vaccine

Russia’s health ministry has given regulatory approval for the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine, President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday. 

It is hoped that the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, will pave the way for mass inoculation – even as the final stages of clinical trials to test safety and efficacy continue.   

“This morning, for the first time in the world, a vaccine against the new coronavirus was registered” in Russia, President Putin said during a televised video conference call with government ministers.

09:05 AM

Test and trace system ‘has to be run locally’ says leading professor

Professor Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, has said that the test and trace system will be more effective “if it’s done close to the population” and if local authorities are able to take the lead. 

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “I think, as many of us have been saying for quite some time now and particularly the local directors of public health, any infectious disease surveillance system will only work well if it’s done close to the population.”

Samples are taken at a coronavirus testing facility in Temple Green Park and Ride, Leeds - Danny Lawson/PA
Samples are taken at a coronavirus testing facility in Temple Green Park and Ride, Leeds – Danny Lawson/PA

He continued: “In this country we have had many years of very successful, very effective infectious disease surveillance for a wide range of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, meningitis and many others, and not to actually have used that skill and that experience, I think it was very clear this was not going to be as effective as it could have been.”

Asked if money should go to local councils instead, he replied: “Oh absolutely, the local councils are already, in terms of the investigation of local outbreaks, are showing a very effective system and I think it has to be run locally and it has to be resourced so that local government can achieve that and it’s reassuring that actually this might now happen.”

08:56 AM

More than 50,000 deaths involving Covid-19 recorded in England and Wales, ONS figures show 

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics have been released. 

Here are some of the key points: 

  • A total of 8,946 deaths were registered in England and Wales in the week ending July 31  – 90 fewer than the five-year average of 9,036.

  • The latest figures mark the seventh week in a row that deaths have been below the five-year average.

  • Of the deaths registered in the week to July 31, 193 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate – the lowest number of deaths involving Covid-19 since the week ending March 20. 

  • In total, 51,779 deaths involving Covid-19 occurred in England and Wales up to July 31 – the figures include deaths registered by August 8.

08:44 AM

Heathrow passenger numbers fall by 89 per cent 

Heathrow’s passenger numbers were down 89 per cent in July, figures published by the airport show.

Just 867,000 people travelled through the west London airport last month, compared with 7.754 million in July 2019.

According to the airport, more than half of the passengers who used Heathrow in July were visiting European destinations, the majority of which do not require people to go into quarantine upon returning to the UK. 

Heathrow also said that 60 per cent of its route network remained grounded and argued that the Government’s quarantine policy was “preventing the UK from travelling to and trading with these countries”.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said:

“Tens of thousands of jobs are being lost because Britain remains cut off from critical markets such as the US, Canada and Singapore.

“The Government can save jobs by introducing testing to cut quarantine from higher-risk countries, while keeping the public safe from a second wave of Covid.”

Click here, to keep up-to-date with the latest travel news on our live blog. 

08:32 AM

Russia: Covid death toll rises to 15,131 

A further 130 coronavirus deaths have been recorded within Russia taking the total death toll to 15,131. 

The number of confirmed, new cases rose by 4,945, bringing the country’s caseload to 897,599 – the fourth largest in the world. 

 

08:19 AM

Former Indian President placed on ventilator support after contracting Covid-19  

Former Indian president Pranab Mukherjee has been placed on ventilator support, just one day after announcing that he had tested positive for coronavirus. 

According to local media, Mr Mukherjee was in hospital for a surgical procedure to remove a blood clot from his brain. 

On Monday, Mr Mukherjee announced on Twitter that he had tested positive for coronavirus and urged individuals who had been in contact with him to get tested. 

The 84 year old, served as president between 2012 and 2017 and also led India’s federal defence, foreign affairs, finance ministries over a decades-long political career. 

At least 50,000 new cases have been reported in India every day since July 30.

 

08:10 AM

No plans for face masks in the classroom, says minister

Edward Argar, a health minister, said face coverings for pupils was “not something that’s in prospect at this point”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “On the basis of the many studies we’ve seen so far, I think parents can have confidence that it’s safe for their children to go back to school and it’s very important their children do go back to school so they can continue their education.”

Asked about masks, he said: “Well, that’s not something that’s in prospect at this point. We’ve been clear and the Department for Education have been clear that that poses a challenge to actually the ability to teach and the ability to learn in certain contexts.

“We don’t think that that’s necessary at this point, not least because we are essentially setting up different class groups or year groups as social bubbles…

“But at the moment we believe the measures that have been put in place around social distancing, around those bubbles and around the facility to test if necessary, are the right ones to continue to make our schools safe when they reopen.”

He added: “What we’ve done is, we’ve been – quite rightly I think – willing to be guided by the scientific advice on things like masks and other aspects of this which, as you’ll have seen over those past three or four months, has evolved.”

07:47 AM

Covid-19 sends 730,000 UK workers home for good

The number of UK workers on payrolls fell by 730,000 between March and July as another 81,000 jobs were lost last month, in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Office for National Statistics has said.

The latest tranche of economic data gives a clear view of the effect of coronavirus on the jobs market.

Louis Ashworth, our lightning-fingered business live blogger, has all the latest here.

07:33 AM

Bhutan heads into lockdown for the first time

A luxury hotel in Bhutan, closed since March - Six Senses Bhutan
A luxury hotel in Bhutan, closed since March – Six Senses Bhutan

Bhutan has ordered its first nationwide lockdown after a returning resident tested positive for coronavirus after being discharged from quarantine.

The case took the total in the tiny Himalayan kingdom to 113, still the lowest in South Asia.

The country has yet to record a fatality.

Bhutan, which is heavily reliant on high-end tourists, banned tourism in March after an American visitor tested positive for the virus, and ordered a three week mandatory quarantine for everyone returning from abroad.

The lockdown was ordered after a 27-year-old Bhutanese woman, who returned from Kuwait and was discharged from quarantine after testing negative, tested positive at a clinic on Monday.

“The unprecedented lockdown is enforced to identify and isolate all positive cases, immediately breaking the chain of transmission,” the government said in a statement, restricting movement of people and vehicles in the largely Buddhist nation of 750,000 people.

“Everyone is asked to stay home to protect themselves and their families from the disease, should there be undetected, rampant transmission,” the government said.

07:26 AM

Global Covid cases have hit 20 million, says tally

The global number of Covid-19 cases has reached 20 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Centre.

The grim milestone was reached in the early hours of Tuesday morning, UK time, with 20,011,186 cases worldwide.

The total number of global coronavirus deaths stands at 734,664, according to experts at Johns Hopkins, the American university whose aggregated tally has become the main reference for monitoring the disease.

The US has also suffered the most deaths at 163,331, while there have been 101,000 in Brazil, 52,000 in Mexico, 46,611 in the UK and more than 44,000 in India.

The number of cases in the US has just passed five million, Brazil has reached three million, with 2.2 million in India, almost 900,000 in Russia and 560,000 in South Africa.

The UK has 313,392 cases according to the university, putting it 12th on the list, just behind Spain.

Track all the latest here:

07:24 AM

Councils won’t get any extra money for door-to-door tracing, suggests minister

Edward Argar - Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph
Edward Argar – Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph

Edward Argar, a health minister, has been sent out to bat for the Government on the Today programme.

He was just confronted with the claim that  councils won’t have enough money to run the new door-to-door contact tracing system.

Asked whether councils will receive extra funding from central Government to operate the system, Mr Argar said the Government had already been given “billions of pounds” to run local health responses to Covid-19.

He would not commit to any extra funding for the contact tracing work that councils will be doing under the new system.

“This is about having the scale of the national calling alongside the work on the ground from people who know the local communities,” he said.

“You will still have that national calling, that national push to make contact, but for people we can’t reach, they will be contacted door-to-door.”

Jeanelle de Gruchy, the director of public health for Thameside Council, has already said “resources will be an issue”.

07:03 AM

Do teenagers spread Covid just like adults?

This morning’s health debate revolves around a new piece of research published in the Times this morning that suggests teenagers in secondary schools may be able to spread the virus as easily as adults can.

If accurate, that could be an issue for Boris Johnson’s plans to send high schoolers back to the classroom in September, especially since older children are more likely to socialise outside their classroom “bubbles”.

But Edward Argar, a health minister, said this morning people should be “cautious” interpreting the report, which was a “work in progress”.

06:53 AM

Good morning

Good morning. If you’re just joining us and want to catch up on the latest Covid news over breakfast, here is all you need to know from the morning’s papers.

This morning's Daily Telegraph - Daily Telegraph
This morning’s Daily Telegraph – Daily Telegraph
  • Today’s Daily Telegraph splash reports that contact tracers will soon be sent to knock on doors rather than calling potentially infected people, as part of a wider devolution of the Government’s test and trace programme to local councils. Local health chiefs have welcomed the move but – unsurprisingly – called for more resources to make the UK’s system “world beating”.

  • A global tally of coronavirus cases run by Johns Hopkins University in the United States says there are now more than 20 million cases worldwide. The tally is one of the most reliably reported figures but, as always, the true figure could be much higher.

  • Children in Scottish schools are heading back to the classroom today for the first time since the start of lockdown. We’ll be bringing you the latest on that as it comes in.

  • New figures published just now show 730,000 jobs were lost in first four months of the Covid crisis in the UK. Claims for income support also jumped, with 2.69m people now claiming either Jobseekers’ Allowance or certain unemployment-related versions of Universal Credit. Louis Ashworth has the latest on our business blog.

  • Worried would-be holidaymakers wake up to the news in the Daily Mail this morning that quarantine measures could be extended to France, Holland, Switzerland and Malta. Downing Street has not ruled out any more last-minute changes to the rules based on foreign ‘R’ rates, with Whitehall sources declaring last night:  “No holiday is necessarily guaranteed.”

  • In happier news, more than 10.5 million Britons have already cashed in on the Government’s Eat Out to Help out scheme, saving up to £10 each on a meal out to bring confidence back to the hospitality sector.

05:29 AM

Philippine President offers to be ‘guinea pig’ in Russia vaccine trial

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has lauded Russia’s efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine and is willing to participate in trials, as he welcomed a supply offer from Moscow that he expects will be free of charge.

Russia expects regulatory approval for a potential Covid-19 vaccine this month and is ready to provide it to the Philippines, or team up with a local firm to mass produce it.

The Philippines has among Asia’s highest numbers of  infections, which rose to 136,638 on Monday after a record daily jump of 6,958 cases.

“I will tell President (Vladimir) Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating Covid and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity,” Mr Duterte said on television late on Monday.

The frenetic global race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine has raised concern that speed and national prestige could compromise safety.

To allay public fears, Mr Duterte offered to be a guinea pig when the vaccine arrives and said: “I can be the first they can experiment on.”

Read more: Scientists have to take risks to secure a vaccine

Filipinos who were hoping to go back home to their provinces but were left stranded after the government reimposed a lockdown queue for free meals - Getty
Filipinos who were hoping to go back home to their provinces but were left stranded after the government reimposed a lockdown queue for free meals – Getty

04:50 AM

S. Korean drugmaker gets India nod to test anti-parasite drug 

South Korea’s Daewoong Pharmaceutical Co  said on Tuesday it received Indian regulatory approval to test its anti-parasitic niclosamide drug to treat Covid-19 patients in an early-stage human trial.

The phase 1 trial, approved by India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, will involve around 30 healthy participants to test safety and kickstart this month, Daewoong said in a statement.

The South Korean drugmaker is testing the drug in partnership with New Delhi-based Mankind Pharma Ltd, which will continue the second and third phases of trials in India on mild and severe coronavirus patients.

The trial results from India will be used for export permits in Europe and the US, said Daewoong. 

Daewoong had said its anti-viral drug had completely eliminated the virus from animals’ lungs during pre-clinical testing.

Read more: Scientists in spat over whether to infect people in vaccine trials

04:32 AM

Late-stage trial for potential vaccine launched in Indonesia

China’s Sinovac Biotech launched on Tuesday a late-stage human trial involving as many as 1,620 patients in Indonesia for a Covid-19 vaccine candidate that it is developing with Indonesian state-owned peer Bio Farma.

The candidate, known as CoronaVac and previously PiCoVacc, is among few potential vaccines that have entered late-stage trials for a large-scale study to gather proof of efficacy for regulatory approval.

CoronaVac is already undergoing a late-stage trial in Brazil slated for as many as 9,000 people.

Its Indonesia trial comes as Southeast Asia’s most populous country grapples with spiking infection numbers, with over 127,000 cases recorded as of Tuesday. The trial has so far recruited 1,215 people and will last six months.

Read more: When will a Covid-19 vaccine be ready?

A worker walks through a grave site provided by the government for coronavirus victims in Medan, North Sumatra Province, Indonesia - via Reuters
A worker walks through a grave site provided by the government for coronavirus victims in Medan, North Sumatra Province, Indonesia – via Reuters

03:47 AM

NZ retirement village in lockdown

A New Zealand retirement village has gone into lockdown after residents displayed symptoms of respiratory illness, the New Zealand Herald reported on Tuesday.

The Village Palms retirement village in Christchurch advised of the lockdown in a letter to family members today, the newspaper said. No further details were immediately available.

New Zealand, which has managed to largely contain the spread of the coronavirus, has gone more than 100 days without community transmission of COVID-19.

02:02 AM

Wuhan on the road to recovery

Fans dancing at an electronic music festival, long lines at breakfast stands, gridlocked traffic – the scenes in ground zero Wuhan these days would have been unthinkable in January.

The central Chinese city’s recovery after a 76-day lockdown was lifted in April has brought life back onto its streets.

The queues snaking outside breakfast stands are a far cry from the terrified crowds that lined up at the city’s hospitals in the first weeks after the city was quarantined in January.

The hazmat suits and safety goggles that were once the norm have given way to umbrellas and sun hats as tourists shield themselves from the scorching summer sun, posing for photos in front of the city’s historic Yellow Crane Tower.

But all is not back to normal.

Business remains slow in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people where the coronavirus was first detected late last year before it unleashed a global pandemic.

People dancing during the afternoon next to the Yangtze River in Wuhan - AFP
People dancing during the afternoon next to the Yangtze River in Wuhan – AFP

12:50 AM

Summary of news from around the world

  • Spanish actor Antonio Banderas says he has tested positive  and is celebrating his 60th birthday in quarantine. 

  • Greece‘s culture ministry is closing down the Museum of the Ancient Agora, a major archaeological site in central Athens, for two weeks after a cleaner there was diagnosed with Covid-19. 

  • Thailand is making plans to allow at least 3,000 foreign teachers to enter the country, even as it continues to keep out tourists and tightly restricts other arrivals to guard against infections.

  • The incoming president of the United Nations General Assembly has praised Pakistan for quickly containing the coronavirus, saying the South Asian nation’s handling of the pandemic is a good example for the world.

  •  Mexico‘s health ministry on Monday reported 5,558 new cases and 705 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 485,836 cases and 53,003 deaths.

  • In the US, California’s top public health officer has resigned following data-collection failures that led to an undercount of cases as the state was reporting a downward trend in infections. 

  • Australia‘s second-most populous state of Victoria on Tuesday reported 19 deaths  in the last 24 hours and 331 new cases.

Thai kindergarteners wear face masks as they play in screened in play areas - Getty
Thai kindergarteners wear face masks as they play in screened in play areas – Getty

12:17 AM

Global cases tally reaches 20 million

The global number of Covid-19 cases has reached 20 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Centre.

The total number of global deaths stands at 733,103, according to experts at the American university, whose aggregated tally has become the main reference for monitoring the disease.

The UK has 313,390 cases according to the university, putting it 12th on the list, just behind Spain.

The US has suffered the most deaths at 163,331, while there have been 101,000 in Brazil, 52,000 in Mexico, 46,611 in the UK and more than 44,000 in India.

A health worker collects a swab from a resident at a makeshift free Covid-19 testing booth in Hyderabad - AFP
A health worker collects a swab from a resident at a makeshift free Covid-19 testing booth in Hyderabad – AFP

11:35 PM

Rio considers app for beachgoers to reserve space

Sunbathers wanting to visit Rio de Janeiro’s famous beaches, despite Brazil’s raging Covid-19 epidemic, could soon be able to reserve socially-distant sand space through a mobile app, the city’s mayor said on Monday.

Rio’s beaches currently have a hodgepodge of sanitary restrictions in place. Visitors and cariocas, as local residents are known, can swim and practice individual sports on the sand during the week. But team sports can only be played Monday through Friday. Merchants can sell beverages, but not alcoholic ones.

The one thing nobody has been allowed to do since the outbreak, officially at least, is to simply plunk down on the beaches and take in the sun.

Rio’s beaches have often been full recently, especially on weekends, as visitors ignore restrictions aimed at fighting the world’s second worst outbreak, with deaths surpassing 100,000.

Now city officials are hoping to turn to technology to help ensure that social-distancing measures, including and proper conditions for sunbathing, are respected.

Cariocas and tourists who wish to sunbathe on the beaches will have to reserve their space through a mobile application - Antonio Lacerda/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Cariocas and tourists who wish to sunbathe on the beaches will have to reserve their space through a mobile application – Antonio Lacerda/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

11:19 PM

Trump weighs blocking US citizens coming home over infection fears

The administration of US President Donald Trump is considering a measure to block US citizens and permanent residents from returning home if they are suspected of being infected with coronavirus, a senior US official confirmed to Reuters.

The official said a draft regulation, which has not been finalised and could change, would give the government authorisation to block individuals who could “reasonably” be believed to have contracted Covid-19 or other diseases.

Mr Trump has instituted a series of sweeping immigration restrictions since the start of the pandemic, suspending some legal immigration and allowing US border authorities to rapidly deport migrants caught at the border without standard legal processes.

Read the full story

11:02 PM

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