Headteachers are drawing up contingency plans:
Here’s more from Edward Argar this morning:
The shortage of coronavirus testing capacity is affecting the ability of authorities to track the spread of the disease, a scientist involved in advising the Government has warned.
Dr Adam Kucharski, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the lack of tests could mean more severe restrictions have to be brought in to control it.
“I think we are getting to the point where potentially we are losing our ability to accurately track the virus,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“That means that we could have a situation where it is getting into risk groups, we start to see more cases appear and we don’t have good warning of that.
“It also affects our ability to have more targeted, nuanced measures. If we lose the ability to track the virus it ends up that more blunt tools will be deployed. That is what we saw earlier in the year.”
Health minister Edward Argar said the Government believes the rise in coronavirus cases can be controlled through local measures.
“We saw in Leicester it worked, we saw those rates come right down – it does work and it does control it at a local level,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“I don’t think we are at a place where we would wish to see or need to see a national level of restrictions.”
Mr Argar said that while the Government was “ramping up” testing capacity as cases rose, it would need to prioritise key workers.
“We will see this in the next few days, the official guidance coming out that will prioritise frontline NHS care workers, teachers and similar.
“It is possible that there are people with symptoms who apply for a test who have to wait longer because we are prioritising those key frontline workers we need to keep our NHS and care system working.”
Ticket sales app Trainline has said demand for train travel amid the pandemic is recovering more slowly than expected as it reported tumbling half-year sales.
The group said ticket sales in the UK were just 15% of previous year levels in its first half to the end of August.
UK ticket sales slumped to £67 million in the first quarter – just 8% of prior year levels – but it saw better trading in the second quarter, with ticket sales of £174 million, though this was still just 22% of those seen a year earlier.
The group said: “With the industry now on a path to recovery, albeit more slowly than previously expected, Trainline is phasing its operations back to normal.”
The John Lewis Partnership confirmed that staff members will not receive a bonus for the first time since 1953 after the group was hit by lockdown store closures.
Dame Sharon White, chairwoman of the retail group, told partners on Thursday that the announcement “will come as a blow”.
The group said it posted a £55 million loss for the six months to July 25 after higher costs offset an increase in revenues.
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes has said new coronavirus restrictions are being introduced in the North East as a “preventative” measure.
“I think we should all be deeply concerned about the rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases we have seen over the last week in the North East,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“And not just the rapid rise in numbers, but also the fact that the average age of people being infected is going up as well.
“Last week 60% of the people that were being tested were between the ages of 18 and 30. That is now starting to reach into older age groups as well.
“We know that when it starts to affect older people that’s when you start to get the hospitalisations and sadly also the mortality too.
“That’s why we are acting now as a preventative measure to try to put off any further spread of the virus and ensure that we don’t end up here in the North East in a more restrictive lockdown instead.”
Retail giant Next has upped its full-year earnings outlook following a better-than-feared first half, despite tumbling to a loss after sales plunged 33%.
The fashion chain reported pre-tax losses of £16.5 million for the six months to the end of July against profits of £327.4 million a year earlier.
On an underlying basis, it posted profits of £9 million, having expected to be loss-making.
Next said it now expects full-year underlying pre-tax profits of £300 million – up from the £195 million previously predicted – thanks to recent rebound in sales, up 4% since the first half.
Health Minister Edward Argar has played down reports that the Government is considering a two-week national lockdown as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
“It is not something I have seen within the department,” he told Sky News.
“The Prime Minister has been very clear on this. He doesn’t want to see another national lockdown. He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work.”
With further lockdowns expected to be announced in North East England, Mr Argar said the region was seeing a spike in cases similar to that in the North West.
“In the North East we are seeing a spike in infections. It is exactly what we have seen in the North West. We monitor that rate. Where we need to, we step in and take action,” he said.
Mr Argar said that in the North West, the rise had been driven in part by people not adhering to the social distancing requirements.
“Obviously a nighttime economy will fuel that with people having been out late into the evening.”
The Co-operative Group has said that half-year sales surged higher on the back of “exceptional” food and wholesale trading after the pandemic drove grocery demand.
The business said total revenues increased by 7.6% to £5.8 billion for the 26 weeks to July 4.
It said food revenues increased by 5.2% to £3.9 billion for the period, with 9.9% like-for-like growth in the second quarter, after customers shopped closer to home and ate out less frequently during the lockdown.
Mr Argar said that if children have symptoms they should go home and have a test.
Mr Argar said that the average distance that people have to travel is 5.4 miles.
He said: “It is really important to emphasises that only people who have symptoms should go for tests.”
Mr Argar said he thinks the rule of six “will work” to prevent a second national lockdown.
Health minister Edward Argar says that he is not aware of plans for a two week national lockdown.
“It’s not something I’ve had a conversation about,” he said.
Local lockdown restrictions are set to come into force across the North East following a spike in coronavirus cases.
The measures are expected to include a 10pm curfew on licensed premises including pubs and restaurants, according to reports.
People are also to be banned from meeting anyone outside their household under the new rules due to come into force on Thursday evening.
Good morning! Here’s the latest from Boris Johnson:
People should not snitch on their neighbours for breaching the ‘rule of six’ unless they are having large parties, Boris Johnson has said.
Any social gathering of more than six people in England is against the law, with people facing fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the new measure.
However, the Prime Minister has now urged that people to speak with rule-breakers before notifying the authorities. “I have never much been in favour of sneak culture, myself,” Mr Johnson said.
UK’s first socially distanced immersive concert launches in London Bridge
The UK’s first socially distanced immersive concert will offer a template for how the creative industries can return from “the brink of bankruptcy and ruin”, organisers have said.
Lockdown Town, created by One Night Records, spans five tunnels in London Bridge and will feature 300 different musicians across its 60-day run.
The show, which opens on October 2, will see audience members guided through a series of 15-minute performances from 1918 ragtime to 1950s rock and roll.
Camden Town singer-songwriter Simeon Hammond Dallas, Belfast’s Winnie Ama and soul artist Miss Baby Sol will all feature.
Designed by a team which builds stages at Glastonbury, some of the vaults will feature a giant train or hark back to the Second World War.
Speaking during a launch event on Wednesday, Tim Wilson, managing director of One Night Records, described the event as a “carousel of music”.
More on lockdown restrictions in the North East:
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told ITV’s Peston on Wednesday: “The number of cases has been rising rapidly in many parts of the country, but in particular in the North East, and so a decision has been made to impose further restrictions there.
“And a full announcement will be made tomorrow and so people living in that part of the country should watch out for that.
“And the measures will come into play at midnight on Thursday evening.
“So, over the course of the day a full briefing will be made available to everybody including the councils and business community.”