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NHS Test and Trace chief insists system is working despite contact-tracing reaching record low 


Booking system error sent hundreds to English town for Covid tests, MPs told


Controversial US biker rally led to more than 260,000 Covid-19 cases, study suggests 


Death toll in England rises by eight

A further eight people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,639, NHS England said on Thursday.

Patients were aged between 39 and 93 years old and all but one patient had known underlying health conditions.

The dates of the deaths were between September 4 and September 9.

No deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.


Airport virus testing should be trialled for popular routes – Chris Grayling

Former transport secretary Chris Grayling suggested that airport coronavirus testing should be trialled for popular travel routes.

Discussing testing, Tory Mr Grayling said: “This has to be the way forward. It is vitally important for this industry not just that we get short haul flights moving again, but actually that we open up transatlantic routes that are so fundamentally important to the industry.

“And we can only do that through testing. I cannot understand why we are not at the very least trialling testing on a number of routes to demonstrate where the issues are.

“And my message to the minister and through him to all of those on the Treasury bench and in Number 10, and in the Treasury and elsewhere in Government: We have got to do this and we have got to do it now.

“There is absolutely no reason why a regime of trial testing could not be introduced in a few days in this country, why the results could not be carefully monitored on selected routes to give us a blue-print to take things forwards.

“We must do this, we must do it now.”


Former PM says protecting public health and protecting the economy is not an ‘either-or’ situation

Theresa May told MPs: “Stopping people flying into the UK isn’t going to mean that there is no virus here in the UK. The virus is here, we are going to continue to have cases of Covid, we will have more cases of Covid in the coming months.

“What it does mean is job losses and a negative impact on our economy. Passenger numbers at Heathrow have fallen by 82 per cent, cargo is down 35 per cent. It is reckoned that for every 1,000 passengers, one job is created.

“The fewer passengers, the fewer jobs. But cargo is also important, particularly for the UK as we’re looking to improve our trading relationships around the world and a lot of cargo is carried on passenger flights.”

Mrs May added: “Sadly, there are those who say that if you want to promote testing and therefore reduce quarantine and increase the number of flights, you’re putting public health at risk and putting the economy first.

“This is not an either-or situation. It is about assessing the proportionate risks. It’s about mitigating the risk of people coming into the UK with the virus, while at the same time reducing the risk of a damaging impact on the economy.”


Senior Tory MP Huw Merriman has warned airlines need greater support from the Government as he outlined the “absolute collapse” in demand carriers have faced due to the pandemic.

Opening a Commons debate on the aviation sector, the chairman of the Commons Transport Select Committee said: “Numbers are down compared to April last year by 97%. Just to put that in focus that’s 5,800 flights whereas we previously had 201,000 – it has been an absolute collapse.”

Mr Merriman called on the Government to introduce a set of measures tailored for the industry.

He added: “I think that justifies a sector-specific deal for aviation. I would like to see an extension of furlough for aviation.

“I would like to see a cut completely of air passenger duty for a period of time – easyJet say that would allow 60% of national flights to continue if there was such a cut.

“And I would like to see the business rate cessation in the same way that the Scottish Government has brought forward.”


People hoping for a Covid-19 test could face “eligibility checks” and be subject to an order of priority system, the Health Secretary has said

Matt Hancock told MPs the measures were under consideration following a “very sharp rise” in the last fortnight of people “coming forward for tests when they’re not eligible”.

MPs raised concerns over test shortages in their areas and people having to travel several miles in a bid to get one, with Tory former minister Greg Clark calling on the Health Secretary to get a “grip” of the testing situation.

Mr Hancock was also heckled by some opposition MPs as he outlined his ambitions for Operation Moonshot, which will aim to provide mass testing using saliva and other methods which can deliver results within 20 to 90 minutes.

He aimed a message at the “naysayers” doubting the idea, although later did not deny reports the project could cost £100 billion when pressed by Labour.


Protesters with placards gather outside the entrance to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to demonstrate against a secondary lockdown


British Airways’ parent company IAG announces cutting of flights due to cquarantine requirements

Between October and December the group expects to operate 60 per cent less capacity than during the same period last year, compared with a previously planned reduction of 46 per cent.

The firm said it continues to expect it will take until at least 2023 for passenger demand to recover to 2019 levels. It saw an “almost complete cessation of new booking activity” in April and May due to the pandemic, while the easing of country lockdowns sparked an increase in ticket sales in June.

Since July there has been an “overall levelling off of bookings”, IAG said.

Demand for short-haul travel has “fallen slightly” following the UK and other European countries reimposing quarantine requirements for travellers returning from specific countries such as Spain.


Tory Sir Desmond Swayne questions whether social distancing policies are having an impact worse than coronavirus itself

Sir Desmond said: “Is there no scintilla of doubt in (Matt Hancock’s) mind occasioned by the growing body of scientific opinion which questions the interpretation of the data and concludes that the policies of governments, I use the plural, the policies of governments are having an impact worse than the disease itself?”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock replied: “I’m afraid to say I would love (Sir Desmond) to be right, but I firmly believe, not only based on the clinical advice, but also based on my own analysis of and judgment of the facts and the international comparisons, that it is necessary for the public health of the nation to take actions to control the spread of the disease.

“And to take the firm and now legislative actions that we are. And the reason is that if the virus spreads, we know that it then spreads into the older age group who too often die from this disease and we also know that it doesn’t just go up in a straight line, if you let this disease rip, it goes up exponentially.

“And that is why, with a heavy heart, I strongly support the extra measures that the Prime Minister outlined yesterday and the strategy of this Government and of most governments around the world to handle this pandemic.”


‘Youth groups’ exempt from new rule of six restrictions

Matt Hancock confirmed that youth groups are exempt from the new restrictions as they have their own guidelines in place.

He said: “Youth groups are exempt from the rule of six because they have their own Covid-secure guidelines in the same way that schools do, in the same way that organised sport is exempt.”

The Health Secretary also said that the virus is “very, very hard” to eradicate.

Asked whether the strategy is now to get to ‘zero-Covid’ in England, he said: “We have seen a number of countries around the world announce that they’re going for an eradication strategy.

“Indeed the Scottish Government announced that it was going for an eradication strategy, but this virus has shown that it is very, very hard to eradicate.

“And we want to keep it under control whilst we pursue both the mass testing and then the vaccine to deal with it once and for all.”


Hancock to consider eligibility check and order of priority for who should receive coronavirus tests

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs: “There’s record testing capacity and most people get tested close to home, however, we have got this challenge that some people without symptoms who are not eligible for a test have been coming forward.

“Thus far I have been reluctant to put a barrier and a strong eligibility check on the front of the testing system because I want people with symptoms to be able to get tests as fast and as easily as possible.

“However, with this very sharp rise we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks of people coming forward for tests when they’re not eligible, that is something we’re having to look at.”

Conservative Laura Farris (Newbury) later asked: “If there is a reluctance to impose more stringent eligibility criteria, would he consider an order of priority based on, for example, working parents, teachers being able to access tests sooner?”

Mr Hancock replied: “She makes a very good point about the prioritisation, and the question is how to enforce a prioritisation without putting in place barriers that slow down access to tests for people that need them – and that’s something we’re looking at now.”




Social gatherings of people in Scotland will be limited to groups of six from two households both indoors and outdoors, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs at Holyrood.

Ms Sturgeon said given the rise in Covid-19 cases, putting these moves back was “the only responsible decision we can reach”.

She added that the reopening of call centres and offices where staff are still working from home would “definitely not take place” before October 1 – when this will be reviewed.

“For now, working from home will remain the default position,” Ms Sturgeon said.


Public ‘should not and must not go and use a test that somebody else who needs it should be using’ if you do not have symptoms – Hancock

Former Labour minister Maria Eagle said constituents in her Garston and Halewood constituency were struggling to get tested.

In the Commons, Health Secretary Matt Hancock replied: “With this very sharp rise we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks of people coming forward for tests when they are not eligible that is something that we’re having to look at.

“The key message to her constituents is that these tests are absolutely vital for people who have symptoms and therefore if you don’t have symptoms and haven’t been told by a clinician or by a local authority to get a test then you should not and must not go and use a test that somebody else who needs it should be using.”

SNP public health spokesman Martyn Day said “some experts have described this mass testing strategy as fundamentally flawed,” adding: “Does the Secretary of State think the Prime Minister is gambling on something experts feel cannot be delivered?”

Mr Hancock replied: “There were some people in the spring who complained about my determination to expand our test capacity at a record pace and we’re hearing some of those voices out this morning again complaining that we want to increase testing.”


Madrid brings in fresh virus restrictions as Spain hits 500,000 cases 


Coronavirus cases in England up 43 per cent in highest jump since May 


Matt Hancock was heckled by some opposition MPs as he outlined his ambitions for “Operation Moonshot”, which will aim to provide mass testing using saliva and other methods which can deliver results within 20 to 90 minutes.

He said the approach is being piloted and steps are being taken to verify the new technology ahead of a desired nationwide roll-out, adding: “I’m going to depart from my script there because I’ve heard the naysayers before and I’ve heard the people on the other side complain we’ll never get testing going – and they’re the same old voices.

“They opposed 100,000 tests and did we deliver that? Yes we did. They’re saying what about testing in care homes, well we delivered the test to care homes earlier this week.

“They are against everything that’s needed to sort this problem for this country and they’d do far better to support their constituents and get with the programme.

“I’m looking forward to rolling out this programme and this work, which has been under way for some time already, I’m absolutely determined that we will get there.

“And if everything comes together, and if the technology comes off, it’ll be possible even for challenging sectors like theatres to get closer to normal before Christmas.”


Hancock makes a statement in the Commons

Speaking in the Commons about the new coronavirus restrictions, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he “vowed that we will not keep these rules in place for longer than we have to”.

“Our goal as much as possible is to keep schools and businesses open,” he said. “The number of cases among the under 16s remain very low, and we all know how important it is to keep schools open.”

Students will not be sent home if there is an outbreak at university, Mr Hancock said, to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The Department for Education has published the updated guidance for universities on how they can operate in a Covid-secure way, and this includes a clear request not to send students home in the event of an outbreak in order to avoid spreading the virus further across the country,” he said.

“If you are a student who is about to return to university or go to university for the first time then please, for the sake of your education and your parents’ and grandparents’ health, follow the rules and don’t gather in groups of more than six.”

On testing, Mr Hancock said the UK has “record capacity”. Mr Hancock said the average distance to a testing site is 6.4 miles and 90 per cent of people who book a test travel 22 miles or less. 

“If you do not have symptoms, haven’t been asked, then you are not eligible for a test,” Mr Hancock added.


Schools and colleges report difficulties accessing coronavirus tests

Hundreds of schools and colleges have experienced difficulties with accessing Covid-19 tests, according to a headteachers’ union.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has warned that the work of schools and colleges in reopening to all students is being undermined by testing delays.

Within hours of inviting feedback on the issue in an email to union members on Wednesday afternoon, more than 200 school and college leaders in England reported problems with the test and trace system.

Mr Barton said: “Having spent the summer working extremely hard to put in place safety measures, school and college leaders feel utterly let down by the fact that within days of term starting it is immediately apparent that there are significant problems in accessing Covid tests.”

He added: “Staff and pupils must be able to obtain tests immediately and easily, so that if they are clear of the virus they can return to school as soon as possible, and if they are positive then the appropriate action can be taken to contact and isolate close contacts.

“If this does not happen the system will come under increasing strain and the health risks will grow.”