Coronavirus UK news – Covid test chaos may last WEEKS, Health Secretary warns as 'true' death toll hits 57,500

THE UK's "true" Covid death toll has surpassed more than 57,500, the ONS has confirmed.

In figures published this morning, the ONS reported that there had been 52,420 deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales up to September 4.

While figures published last week showed Scotland had 4,231 Covid deaths up to September 6 and Northern Ireland had 877 deaths up to September 4.

This new data comes as up to 230,000 people wait for their test results which Matt Hancock admitted today said could last for weeks.

The Health Secretary said he would have to set out new rules for rationing tests and prioritising people in the NHS and social care settings to try and fight the chaos and shortages – as some sites reportedly ran out.

The Health Sec admitted there had been "operational" challenges to the testing system, blaming people who are not eligible to get swabbed, for delays, and the increased demand.

And he said that there was a hold up of "less than a day's capacity" – currently at 227,000 for the swab tests.

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  • FLU STILL BIGGER KILLER THAN COVID

    The flu is still killing killing ten times more people in England than Covid-19, new figures show.

    The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that deaths from coronavirus fell below 100 for the first time since March.

    In both England and Wales, 12.8 per cent of deaths mentioned flu and pneumonia, Covid-19 or both compared with 12.6 per cent the week before.

    The ONS includes data on flu and pneumonia as it claims it has “somewhat similar risk factors to Covid-19”.

  • BOGUS CORONAVIRUS TEST CALLS 'UTTERLY DESPICABLE', SAYS FIRST MINISTER

    Coronavirus con artists who pose as contact tracers as part of a scam in which they ask people to pay money to get tested have been branded “truly and utterly despicable” by Nicola Sturgeon.

    The First Minister said the Scottish Government has recently “become aware that some fake callers are pretending to work for Test and Protect and are trying to con people that payment is needed for a test”.

    Raising awareness of the issue at the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, she said this shows a small number people will use “any situation they can to exploit people”.

    Ms Sturgeon said: “It is truly and utterly despicable, particularly at this time of the crisis we are living through.

    “Covid tests are free and will always be free to those who need them.”

  • COVID-19 TESTING CENTRE CLOSED 'TO MAKE WAY FOR POST-BREXIT LORRY PARK'

    A coronavirus testing centre was closed to make way for a post-Brexit lorry park, it has been reported.

    Testing at a railway station car park in Kent was suspended earlier this month.

    KentOnline reported that a leaked letter from Kent County Council stated: “We have … been notified that the Ebbsfleet testing centre has closed, as the site is required by HMRC for EU Exit.”

    It is understood the car park serving Ebbsfleet International is being considered for use as a site to carry out customs checks of cross-Channel lorries after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

    Covid-19 testing at the site began in April but staff were told “out of the blue” earlier this month that the centre was closing, according to KentOnline.

  • GRIM LESSON

    Anti-maskers caught without a face covering were forced to dig graves for coronavirus victims, according to reports in Indonesia.

    Villagers were given the punishment for breaking Covid rules as authorities battle to contain spiralling infections.

    Eight people caught without masks were forced to dig graves in a public cemetery in Ngabetan, East Java, reports The Jakarta Post.

    “Hopefully this can create a deterrent,” said a local leader named Suyono.

    “There are only three available gravediggers at the moment, so I thought I might as well put these people to work with them.”

    More on the story here.

  • ON THE LIST

    Holidays abroad are harder than ever as countries enforce quarantine restrictions or close their borders due to the coronavirus crisis.

    There are now just 14 countries which have no travel restrictions either on arrival or back in the UK for British travellers.

    Here is what you need to know about travelling to the quarantine-free countries.

  • CALM BEFORE THE STORM?

    The second wave of coronavirus has hit faster than anticipated, causing a shortage of tests, one expert has warned.

    Towns and cities across the UK are battling a surge in cases of Covid-19 and a lack of capacity has meant many Brits are unable to access tests locally when they develop symptoms.

    Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University this morning said that the issue with the government's testing programme is the looming second wave.

    Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Sir John, who has been overseeing the Government's antibody test programme and advising ministers said the “speed of the second wave had been underestimated”.

    More on the story here.

  • HEART DISEASE PATIENTS BEING DEALT DOUBLE BLOW BY COVID-19 – EXPERT

    Cardiovascular disease patients in the UK are being dealt a double blow by the Covid-19 epidemic, a leading cardiologist has said.

    Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, told MPs that those with heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions are not only at increased risk of coronavirus-related death, they are also “dying in excess of expected numbers from their heart and circulatory disease unrelated directly to Covid-19”.

    Speaking at the Lords Science and Technology Committee, she said: “We are seeing the tragic effect of Covid-19 and statistics related to deaths.

    “Whilst Covid-19 explains 80% of the excess mortality you've seen during the peak of the pandemic, it does not explain all.

    “And it does seem that some of this excess mortality is driven by patients with heart and circulation conditions.”

  • TESTING TIMES

    Up to 230,000 people are waiting for their test results as Matt Hancock admitted today that the shambles could last for WEEKS.

    The Health Secretary said he would have to set out new rules for rationing tests and prioritising people in the NHS and social care settings to try and fight the chaos and shortages – as some sites reportedly ran out.

    The Health Sec admitted there had been “operational” challenges to the testing system, blaming people who are not eligible to get swabbed, for delays, and the increased demand.

    And he said that there was a hold up of “less than a day's capacity” – currently at 227,000 for the swab tests.

    The Sunday Times claimed last weekend that Britain has a backlog of around 185,000 – but it was so stretched it is sending tests to labs in Germany and Italy.

    More on the story here.

  • PLAID CYMRU CALLS FOR MICRO-QUARANTINES IN WALES TO PREVENT SECOND COVID-19 WAVE

    Wales could use micro-quarantines focused on high-infection areas to avoid a second lockdown, the leader of Plaid Cymru has said.

    The country's health minister Vaughan Gething is due to outline the preparations being made by NHS and social care services for this winter later.

    It is understood the plan, which is focused on responding to Covid-19, will include extra bed capacity, changes to the way services are delivered and expanding the flu vaccination programme.

    Adam Price, the leader of Plaid Cymru, said a “smart lockdown” cluster-based approach adopted by countries such as Pakistan could be used instead of targeting a whole local authority area.

  • WALES – COVID IN FIGURES

    There have been a further 110 cases of Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 19,681.

    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

  • 'BLOODSPORT' EXEMPT 'FROM RULE OF SIX'

    The new 'rule of six' has come into force, banning groups of more than six people from meeting indoors or outdoors.

    There are certain exemptions to the social distancing law to help fight a potential second spike of Covid-19 – but is shooting and hunting one of them?

    Yes, shooting and hunting have been made exempt from the new 'rule of six' measures which came into force on Monday.

    Labour has criticised the move, saying the Tories were trying to exempt the “bloodsports of their big donors”.

    Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said: “Across the country, people are struggling to get COVID-19 tests anywhere near their homes.

    “But the Conservatives are distracted with trying to exempt the bloodsport passions of their big donors from coronavirus regulations. It shows where this government's priorities really lie. It is clear there's one rule for the Cabinet and their mates and another for the rest of us.”

    More on the story here.

  • DUBLIN PUBS TO STAY CLOSED AS CITY PLACED UNDER ADDED RESTRICTIONS

    Closed Dublin pubs will not be able to reopen along with those in the rest of Ireland as part of tailored restrictions to tackle spiralling infection rates in the city.

    While Dublin city and county has been given the same “Level 2” status as the rest of the country under the Government's new Covid-19 threat classification system, they will be subject to some additional limitations.

    Level 2 allows people to participate in gatherings at home and outside of six people from no more than three other households.

    Pubs that do not serve food are set to reopen on September 21 but Dublin establishments have now been excluded from that plan.

  • PAY OUT

    Hundreds of thousands of small businesses could receive a payout from insurers if they have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

    Until now, insurers had been refusing to pay out for disruption caused by lockdown, such as temporary closures, arguing policies didn't cover pandemics.

    But following the landmark ruling by the High Court today, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said insurers should now pay out on future claims and reassess ones that have previously been rejected on these grounds.

    It's estimated some 370,000 policyholders are affected by the ruling, although not everyone is guaranteed a payout as it still depends on the exact wording of the policy.

    More on the story here.

  • HANCOCK CONFIRMS NEW PRIORITISATION LIST FOR COVID-19 TESTS

    Suspected Covid-19 patients with acute medical needs and people in care homes will be prioritised under plans to ration coronavirus tests, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs.

    NHS leaders have called for health workers and patients to be given priority amid signs the testing system is failing to meet demand.

    The Health Secretary acknowledged that there were “operational challenges” in the testing system as he was summoned to answer an urgent question on the situation in the Commons.

    Mr Hancock said an updated prioritisation list would be published setting out who will be at the front of the queue for tests.

  • GOVERNMENTS URGED TO INVEST MORE IN GREEN CITIES

    Governments should look at making their cities green in order to create jobs and spur growth as they seek to revive economies hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, say researchers.

    “We have seen from the COVID-19 pandemic that when cities stop working, so does the global economy,” said lead author Manisha Gulati of the Coalition for Urban Transitions, a group of research organisations pushing for more sustainable cities.

    “When we are now looking at recovery, it is only natural that we start with cities,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

  • NO FURLOUGH EXTENSION

    The Government's furlough scheme WON'T be extended, but a new package of support could be on the cards, the Chancellor hinted today.

    Rishi Sunak gave the Cabinet an update on the economy today as the Government tries to grapple with spiralling job cuts.

    Mr Sunak told the Cabinet today the furlough scheme had been the right thing to roll out to deal with the economic crisis during lockdown, but it can't be extended as the nation recovers.

    He said: “We cannot lose sight of the fact the significant support we have put in place already to help people through this crisis – which was absolutely the right thing to do – has come at a cost.”

    But he hinted that the Treasury is looking at a new raft of measures to ensure people aren't left struggling to make ends meet.

  • VIRGIN REFUNDS BY OCTOBER

    Passengers still waiting for cancelled holiday and flight refunds from Virgin Atlantic have been promised their cash by the end of October.

    Shai Weiss, the boss of Virgin Atlantic, which last month secured a £1.2bn rescue deal, said outstanding requests for refunds will be paid by the end of next month.

    Some customers have been waiting months to get back the money they are entitled to after holidays and flights were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Speaking on Radio 5 Live, Mr Weiss said he expects to “clear all the backlog” by November of everyone who claimed a Virgin Holiday or Virgin Atlantic refund before August.

    He acknowledged and thanked customers for their patience and said the number of refund requests it has received is in the millions.

    “It has taken us much longer, we have now increased the capacity over the past few months of our team to handle refunds tenfold and I can assure customers that those requesting a refund in September will be dealt with very quickly,” Mr Weiss said.

    More on the story here.

  • HOT WEATHER 'COVID RISK'

    The hot weather can increase the risk of catching Covid-19 as sweat can make your mask slip, say experts.

    Excessive heat can also lead to heavy breathing – increasing the number of droplets ejected through the mouth and nose.

    Sweating cannot directly transmit the virus, but it “may make your mask slide down and constantly putting it back in place with your hands isn’t recommended,” warned Dr Roland Krzentowsk, a French specialist.

    Other medics say it is best to be extra cautious in hot weather.

    “Sweat is not a means of transmission, but we should all be careful,” said Juan Gestal, professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Santiago de Compostela.

    “As a preventative measure, we need to wash our hands after use and avoid touching our eyes, mouth, or nose.”

  • KID STUFF

    Boris Johnson has introduced new rules limiting social gatherings to six people in England from Monday September 14.

    The fresh restrictions come after a recent surge in infections and rising fears over a second wave of coronavirus.

    Yes. The new rules mean only six people can meet at anyone time in any indoor or outdoor social setting, including in pubs and restaurants in England.

    This includes situations where there are only two households meeting, but there are more than six people in total as a group.

    More on the story here.

  • BE ALERT

    It may feel like we've been battling coronavirus for a long time now.

    But the reality is that Covid-19 is still a completely new virus and experts are still working hard to understand it.

    Scientists agree that the virus affects different people in various ways and what has become clearer as the pandemic has unfolded are the signs to look out for.

  • POSTHUMOUS FELLOWSHIP FOR DOCTOR WHO DIED AFTER CONTRACTING CORONAVIRUS

    A “very special” doctor who died after contracting coronavirus is to receive what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind posthumous fellowship.

    Dr Peter Tun was an associate specialist in neurological rehabilitation at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading for more than 21 years, and died in April after contracting Covid-19.

    The Royal College of Physicians said it would honour him with a fellowship reserved for “some of the most inspiring and innovative physicians in the world”.

    Dr Tun, who died aged 62, first moved to the UK in 1994, having studied and worked as a GP in Myanmar.

    He lived first in West Yorkshire before moving to London and later Reading, where he settled with his family.

    RCP registrar, Professor Donal O'Donoghue, said it was believed to be the first time someone who died actively in service had been posthumously nominated for the fellowship award.

    “One might argue that election to fellowship should have come earlier,” he said.

  • WEEKLY CORONAVIRUS DEATHS FALL BELOW 100 AMID AUGUST BANK HOLIDAY

    Weekly registered deaths involving coronavirus have fallen below one hundred for the first time since the lockdown, in part due to the August bank holiday, official figures show.

    There were 78 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending September 4, 23 fewer than the previous week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

    The bank holiday on August 31 would have contributed to a lower number of deaths registered that week, it said.

    Its data shows dips in registered deaths from all causes in the weeks ending May 8 and May 29 – which both contained bank holidays.

    It is the twentieth consecutive week that the number of registered deaths involving Covid-19 has fallen.

  • PRITI PATEL SAYS SHE WOULD REPORT NEIGHBOURS OVER 'RULE OF SIX' BREACHES

    The Home Secretary has said she would report breaches of the “rule of six” coronavirus restrictions, while suggesting that families stopping to talk in the street could be breaking the new laws.

    When asked if she would call the police on her neighbours if they breached the new rule, Ms Patel told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “I don't spend my time looking into people's gardens.”

    Pressed on the topic, she said: “I think anybody would want to take responsibility and ensure we're not spreading this awful disease and therefore if I saw gatherings of more than six people clearly I would report that.”

    Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Ms Patel said that two families of four stopping for a chat on the way to the park is “absolutely mingling”.

    “You have got to put this in the context of coronavirus and keeping distance, wearing masks. The rule of six is about making sure that people are being conscientious and not putting other people's health at risk.”

    The Home Secretary added: “Mingling is people coming together. That is my definition of mingling.”

  • WALK ON BY

    Stopping to chat with another family in the street would break the 'rule of six' law, Priti Patel said today.

    The Home Secretary said any “mingling” with a group of over six would risk those people being slapped with a £100 fine.

    Ms Patel was asked on the BBC's Radio 4 today whether a family of four could stop and chat with another family of four in the street.

    But she replied: “It is mingling.The rule of six is about making sure people are being conscientious and not putting people's health at risk. Coronavirus is increasing.”

    More on the story here.

  • TRIED AND TESTED

    While more countries are added to the quarantine list for Brits, essentially stopping any holidays for those who cannot self-isolate for two weeks, others are instead requiring negative coronavirus tests upon entry instead.

    Some countries require a negative test to be allowed entry.

    Cyprus is one of them – Brits must have a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours to be allowed into the country.

    While mainland Portugal is on the quarantine list, Madeira and the Azores are not, but they also require a negative PCR test 72 hours before travel, along with other health checks and details.

    More on the story here.

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