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Officials at Doncaster have announced that after the completion of today’s meeting, which is the first to have crowds on a racecourse since March as part of the Government’s pilot events for sport, the rest of the St Leger Festival will be staged behind closed doors.
Arlene Foster said the Northern Ireland Executive may have to introduce local lockdowns to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 which is rising in certain parts of the province.
The First Minister said the Executive will meet on Thursday to discuss further measures.
“We’re discussing these matters tomorrow and it may be that we have to take similar interventions in various places,” she said.
“What we don’t want to see happening is going back to where we were in March and April time.
“We want to take proportionate action and we will always have to under the law.
“We will have a full discussion on Covid. You have seen limited lockdowns in other parts of the UK and the Republic, we haven’t had to do that thus far, we may have to do that again tomorrow.”
Anneliese Dodds added that Labour wants to see support targeted at sectors of the economy worst affected by the pandemic.
She said: “As I said, we are not arguing for a continuation of that furlough scheme exactly as it stands across every sector of the economy, but for others, often in sectors crucial to our country’s economic future, additional, targeted support could be the difference between survival and going under.”
Ms Dodds continued: “We need support that is targeted to the sectors of our economy that have been the hardest hit by the virus, but that are critical to our country’s economic future.
“To areas of the country that are subject to local restrictions because of this Government’s failure to get a proper grip on the health crisis.
“To businesses that would be viable in ordinary times, employing people doing jobs they love who just need a little more help to get through this crisis.”
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said the Government must show “some humility, willingness to listen and flexibility” with regards to the furlough scheme.
Introducing Labour’s debate on the extension of the furlough scheme and protecting jobs, Ms Dodds told MPs: “Our country is in the grip of a jobs crisis, a crisis that will intensify if the Conservative Government does not change course.”
She added that “it is not enough for Government now to say simply that this is an unprecedented crisis and that there is only so much that can be done to mitigate the damage”.
Ms Dodds said: “We believe Government needs to be sitting down, talking to exactly those stakeholders that it trumpets so much it worked with when it created the furlough scheme, so that it can provide that system of support that is necessary to protect jobs, to protect our economic capacity.
“And as I have said time and time again, we do not believe that a continuation of the furlough scheme precisely as it stands now is what is required, we need a targeted wage support scheme which, as I will go on to mention, is exactly the approach being taken by huge numbers of other countries but which this Government is turning its face against.”
“This has already been an extraordinary year,” he said.
“The months ahead will no doubt be uncertain and at points scary.
“But thanks to the dedication and sacrifice of those of you working across the emergency services and in the NHS, I count myself and others in this country very fortunate.
“Your dedication is not only apparent when we are faced with a global pandemic.
“Each and every day, people from teams across the blue light community are called to the scenes of dreadful incidents.”
Nicola Sturgeon was clear she was not suggesting the “increase in cases we are seeing is anyone’s fault”, saying that this “absolutely is not” the case.
She added: “We had always known that opening up the economy and society again, which we have to try to do for obvious reasons, gives the virus more chance to spread.”
The First Minister stressed the best way of keeping the economy open and “allowing life to maintain some kind of normality” was to follow public health guidelines.
She told people: “We all need to think about our own behaviour. I know how hard it must be to hear this after six months – I certainly take no pleasure in saying it after six months – but letting our guard down does allow the virus to spread.”
The Commons Speaker has threatened to run Matt Hancock “ragged” over his failure to inform MPs first about major changes to coronavirus restrictions.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he accepted decisions are taken in a fast-moving way but blasted the Health Secretary for not telling the Commons about new rules banning social gatherings of more than six people.
The policy change was released via the media on Tuesday evening, hours after Mr Hancock appeared before MPs without providing the same details.
Sir Lindsay told the Commons: “It’s really not good enough for the Government to make decisions of this kind in a way which shows insufficient regard for the importance of major policy announcements being made first to this House and members of this House wherever possible.”
The Speaker said he had written to Mr Hancock and criticised his “total disregard” for the Commons, adding: “I expect the Secretary of State to apologise to members and make sure that this chamber knows first of when he was fully aware of what was going to be said later.
“And let me say, if this minister wants to run this chamber ragged I can assure you now I’m sure a UQ (urgent question) every day might just begin to run him ragged.”
Nicola Sturgeon made a fresh plea for the UK Government to continue its job retention scheme.
The plea came as a new report from the Royal Bank of Scotland found that recruitment for new jobs was still declining, with demand for permanent staff falling in every sector of the economy apart from IT.
Ms Sturgeon said the report “demonstrates the ongoing need for exceptional support for businesses during what are, after all, exceptional times”.
The First Minister, speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, said if the furlough scheme ends in October, as currently planned, it “will put many jobs at risk”.
She added: “By removing an important source of economic support for businesses, it would narrow the options available to us in controlling the spread of the virus in the next few months.
“The bottom line here, unfortunately, is this pandemic will not end next month, so it stands to reason the economic impact of the pandemic will not end next month either, so we continue to urge the UK Government to maintain support for jobs and employment for as long as that is needed.”
Nicola Sturgeon said new cases of Covid-19 were being reported again in all mainland healthboard areas.
The First Minister added that the average number of new cases over the past seven days increased to 155 a day, up from 52 three weeks ago.
“We have seen roughly a trebling of daily cases over that period,” she said.
Meanwhile the latest statistics from the National Records of Scotland showed that up until Sunday September 6, there had been 4,231 deaths where coronavirus was either confirmed or suspected as a contributing factor.
That included just two deaths in the most recent week, Ms Sturgeon said.
She added: “For the first time since the start of the pandemic there were no Covid deaths registered at all last week.”
She said this was “positive news” but was “not a cause for complacency”.
Racegoers make their way into the course as a pilot scheme for the return of crowds to sporting events is expected to bring in 2500 spectators during day one of the William Hill St Leger Festival at Doncaster Racecourse:
Mr Johnson replied: “I think he was on the money when he said this Government lacks incompetence. If I can just say to him that we are working flat-out to address all the issues confronting us today, including trying to get the infection rate down.”
He added: “When it comes, by the way, to sticking up for our UK internal market and for delivering on the will of the British people, one of the most important issues facing us today, he is totally silent on this Bill that obsesses the rest of his backbenchers, he’s been totally silent.
“The great ox once again has stood on his tongue, he has nothing at all to say about that subject today because he doesn’t want to offend the huge number of his backbenchers who want to overturn the verdict of the people and take us back into the EU, which is of course what he wants to do himself.”
Boris Johnson said the Government was “getting on with taking the tough decisions, making the tough calls” that will take the country through the pandemic.
Sir Keir Starmer said: “The infection rate is rising, this is the very point we need a functioning testing regime. But far from the world-beating system we were promised, the Government can’t even get the basics right.
“The Government is lurching from crisis to crisis, it still lacks even basic incompetence… it lacks competence. This is what is holding Britain back, so my final question is this, when is this problem with test, trace and isolate going to be fixed?”
Sir Keir Starmer asked Boris Johnson when he knew there was a problem with the availability of coronavirus tests.
He said: “Is he saying there are too many people coming forward for tests, it is a capacity problem, or not?”
Sir Keir added: “The Government’s side of the bargain was to deliver an effective test, trace and isolate scheme, but two weeks into September there is a glaring hole.
“Can the Prime Minister tell us, when did he first know about this particular problem of having to go hundreds of miles or that tests were not going to be available – it’s last week it has arisen, when did he first know that that was a problem?”
Mr Johnson replied: “It is obviously a function of the growing demand and the growing public confidence in NHS Test and Trace that we have to supply more and more tests and that is what we’ve been doing.”
He added: “It is hard work, it is hard work, it is a big job, and they’re doing a fantastic job. And I really think what they would like to hear is some praise and encouragement and support from (Sir Keir Starmer).”
In response to a question from Sir Keir Starmer about testing capacity, the Prime Minister said NHS staff are the priority.
He told the Commons: “The issue at the moment is there has been a massive increase in the number of people who need or want a test and particularly people who don’t have symptoms.
“And we need, and I hope he agrees, we need to prioritise people such as NHS frontline staff, our care workers who urgently need those tests.
“And as we massively increase the number of tests it is those groups who are getting priority.”
Police last night turned desperate parents away from one of London’s main drive-in Covid-19 testing centres:
Ministers faced growing fury today over the “failing” test-and-trace system with people being told they have to travel hundreds of miles to get a test.
Police last night turned desperate parents away from one of London’s main drive-in Covid-19 testing centres, in Edmonton, which shut after becoming “over-booked”.
Ministers were today urged not to commit an “act of folly” by allowing central London’s night-time economy to be devastated by scrapping the furlough scheme completely in October.
The Prime Minister said the Government “will do more” and outlined his vision for people to take a daily Covid-19 test.
Boris Johnson said: “We will do more and the world we want to move to as fast as possible is a world in which… everybody can take enabling tests at the beginning of the day, an antigen test, to identify whether or not we have the virus or not.
“Like a pregnancy test, within 15 minutes or so, so that we know whether we’re able to live our lives as normally as possible.
“That’s the vision that the Health Secretary and others have been sketching out over the last few days and that’s where we intend to get to.”
No new coronavirus deaths have been reported in Scotland in the past 24 hours, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, but 159 new cases have been recorded.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, she said 21,878 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up from 21,719 the day before.
This represents 1.9% of people newly tested, down from 2.3% on Tuesday.
Of the new cases, provisional figures indicate 63 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 29 in Lothian, 19 in Lanarkshire and 10 in Forth Valley.
The toll of people who died within 28 days of their first positive Covid-19 test remains at 2,499.
There are 274 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a rise of seven in 24 hours.
Of these patients, six were in intensive care, no change on the previous day.
The daughter of a British man who may have been the first person outside China to die from Covid-19 has accused Chinese officials of covering up the outbreak:
The daughter of a British man who may have been the first person outside China to die from Covid-19 has accused Chinese officials of covering up the outbreak.
Peter Attwood, 84, from Chatham, Kent, fell ill shortly before Christmas with a cough and fever before later dying in hospital on January 30.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said people were being left feeling anxious because they or their loved ones have Covid symptoms but are unable to get a test.
During PMQs he told the Commons: “Hundreds of families have tried to get a test in the last week and they can’t get one.
“I do acknowledge the number of tests overall but this is basic stuff. People who have got Covid symptoms are very anxious about themselves, their children, their families and what to do.
“It means they can’t go to work, they can’t send their children to school, it matters. And if they can’t get tests the Prime Minister needs to take responsibility.”