Boris Johnson is announcing a tightening of social distancing rules by banning social gatherings of more than six people in England.
The Prime Minister is revealing more details of the new restrictions at a press conference, after the number of daily cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000. The new measures will come into force on Monday, applying to gatherings indoors and outdoors – including private homes – as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.
It comes after Mr Johnson was grilled by Keir Starmer on the “frankly ridiculous” test and trace system during PMQs, with the Prime Minister saying the Government “will do more” to ensure people have access to coronavirus tests.
Meanwhile, Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine trails have been halted after a British patient fell ill, and the number of cases has risen by 2,659 over night, with deaths up by 12 in hospitals, as the worrying surge in infections continues.
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Here’s a breakdown of the latest official figures:
The Government said that as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 2,659 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus. Overall, 355,219 cases have been confirmed.
The Government said 41,594 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, an increase of eight on the day before.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 57,400 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Cases have risen ‘really quite sharply’ in certain age groups – Whitty
England’s chief medical officer has pointed out that cases have risen “really quite sharply” among some age groups.
In older people and in younger children the rates remain quite “flat”, he told today’s briefing.
Pointing to a slide, he showed how case numbers among 17 to 18-year-olds and 19 to 21-year-olds have been rising “really quite steeply since the middle of August”.
Chris Whitty has begun the briefing by setting out the latest statistics
The press briefing has begun…
In case you missed PMQs earlier:
If you are wondering how badly Sir Keir Starmer wants to be Prime Minister, just listen to his six questions at PMQs today.
It’s not what he asked. It’s what he didn’t ask. Here was a distinguished lawyer-MP, someone who has literally upheld the rule of law as DPP, facing a PM who openly plans to rip up international law. Surely Sir Keir could not resist?
Man forced to travel 500 miles for test, before results were lost…
One member of the public said he had been forced to make a near-500 mile journey to get a Covid-19 test, only to find the results were then lost.
The man, who asked not to be named, said he was working in Maidstone, Kent, and was given the option of either Newport in Wales or Chesterfield in Derbyshire – both around 200 miles away.
After choosing Chesterfield and driving for around four hours to get the test done, he stopped off at his home in Doncaster before returning to Maidstone the following day.
He explained how he had gone back to work after finding he was unable to book another test, which he intended to take as a precaution after his children became ill.
“I told work four kids were all showing flu-like symptoms and they told me to get a test and stay off until I had my results which never actually came.”
“I decided to just book myself a test as I figured if I was OK they would be OK, and to be honest we did just suspect the common cold,” he said.
“I can’t book another test anyway, so I’ve no choice but to carry on as normal,” he added.
A further 12 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,631, NHS England said.
Patients were aged between 50 and 92 years old and all but one patient had known underlying health conditions.
The dates of the deaths were between August 27 and September 8, with the majority on or after September 6.
One other death was reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
The highest number of positive coronavirus cases in Wales on Wednesday were seen in Caerphilly, which had 33 new cases.
Rhondda Cynon Taf saw an increase of 20 cases, while Newport had 18 new cases, 13 in Cardiff and 12 in Merthyr Tydfil.
Dr Giri Shankar, of Public Health Wales, said: “We are concerned at the significant rise in positive coronavirus cases in the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf areas over the past few days, and our investigations indicate that a lack of social distancing by people of all age groups in a range of different locations has resulted in the spread of the virus to other parts of the population.
“It appears that as lockdown restrictions have eased, people have taken advantage of the greater possibilities for activities, but they seem to have forgotten the importance of social distancing – resulting in possible transmission in the wider community.”
A holidaymaker from Cardiff currently in Santorini has described the Welsh Government’s decision to add the island to its quarantine list at short notice as “absolutely crazy”.
“It’s very safe here and only one reported case here, so I just cannot get my head around the drastic measures enforced by the Welsh government,” she told the PA news agency.
“They haven’t even given any time to try and get an earlier flight home – I got the news with four hours to spare – so I have no choice but to self-isolate at home now for 14 days when I land on Thursday night,” she added.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said that quarantining meant she would be unable to see a family member who had fallen seriously ill and was in hospital.
“I don’t understand why it is deemed such a risk here. Especially when there is such a small amount of Welsh people here in Santorini currently!”
There have been a further 165 cases of Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 18,829.
Public Health Wales said no further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,597.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay defended the decision to end the furlough scheme at the end of October.
He told the Commons: “The House needs no reminding of the scale of the economic challenge facing our country. Recent GDP figures confirm that we have entered an acute recession on a speed and scale we’ve never seen before.
“An economic crisis on this scale means whatever the Government does, that jobs will be lost, businesses will close and as the Chancellor said last month, hard times are here.”
On setting the duration for the furlough scheme, Mr Barclay added: “It has been one of the most difficult decisions the Government has taken, but this is the right one and I would remind the House of the extent of the support that we have offered.
“Firstly the furlough is over eight months already, it is one of the most generous schemes in the world and we have been contributing at a higher rate of people’s wages than in Spain.
“We are supporting a wider range of businesses than in New Zealand and our scheme will run for twice as long as in Denmark.”
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said it may continue to be necessary to take targeted local action to keep the virus under control.
He said: “We know the impact these local measures have on people and businesses.”
He added: “Today I can announce further new measures to support businesses. The Government will provide direct cash grants to businesses that have been ordered to close.
“Closed businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will receive a cash grant of £1,000 for each three-week period they are closed.”
Anneliese Dodds said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is not listening to businesses amid calls for an extension of the furlough scheme.
“The Chancellor likes to think he’s got the ear of business, but it’s clear he’s just not listening when business tells him to change course,” Ms Dodds told the Commons.
“I would love it frankly if the Chancellor and his team wish to open talks with the Opposition, with business, with trade unions, looking at the different options.”
She added: “They (business owners) don’t want a hand-out, they just want a fair chance. If they end up having to close their businesses, if they end up having to lay off staff, it will take a very long time to build those businesses back up again.
“The Government should be listening to them and they should be listening… to those members on the Government benches who are concerned about this withdrawal.”
An assistant headteacher at a primary in Leicestershire said Matt Hancock’s criticism of a school that sent an entire year group for testing was “disgusting”.
“The Government had months to consider how the return of schools might affect testing capacity and yet nothing has been done about it,” she said.
“Teachers and children, alongside NHS staff and carers, need to be given testing priority.”
The teacher said her school had already had six members of staff forced to stay at home due to a lack of available testing, out of a total of around 45 – a loss which makes a “huge difference” to their teaching provision.
This had meant that learning support assistants, who were meant to give closer attention to children with special educational needs, were instead having to cover teaching shortages.
“Teachers are putting themselves at risk with no complaint… to give the best life chances by teaching pupils in person in school,” she added.
“Teachers want children in school but the lack of adequate availability for teachers and children not only means that teachers can’t teach their class but children are needlessly missing out on face-to-face lessons.”
Arlene Foster also said she hopes to give an indicative date for the reopening of so-called “wet pubs” on Thursday.
She said: “What we are seeing is household transmission and I think that’s the same in other parts of the UK. If you look at what is happening in Glasgow when they introduced restrictions it was in and around households, so it’s not to do with the opening up of hospitality.
“Having been out and about I have been very impressed in the way in which the hospitality sector have been able to mitigate against Covid-19, and restrict movement but yet offer a service.
“I think it is unfair that one section of one part of our economy have not been able to open.
“I hope that we can give an indicative date tomorrow to those wet pubs.
“They deserve it and people have been abiding by the law for a very long time and I want to pay tribute to their resilience, but I think we do need to give them, in a graduated way, a date they can reopen.”
JUST IN …
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.”