England’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance poured cold water on Operation Moon Shot, warning it is “completely wrong” to say that ministers’ proposed mass coronavirus testing regime could allow for a return to semi-normality by Christmas - just minutes after Boris Johnson touted hopes that it could.
Speaking at Downing Street, the prime minister tightened England’s coronavirus restrictions, making it illegal from Monday for people to gather in groups larger than six, with some exemptions.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Donald Trump came under fire after it was revealed he had downplayed the potential severity of the virus to ‘avoid panic’.
And case numbers continue to rise around the world - with India reporting 90,802 new confirmed infections in a 24 hour period, the nation’s highest daily spike so far.
Good morning, welcome to today’s blog. We’ll be bringing you all the latest updates and statistics on the coronavirus pandemic from around the world.
One of our top coronavirus stories this morning is the ban on gatherings both indoors and outdoors of more than six people in England from Monday.
The ban, which sees the number of people who can legally gather reduced from 30 people, will not apply to households or support bubbles larger than six, workplaces, schools, weddings, funerals or Covid-secure organised team sports.
Our policy correspondent Jon Stone has more on this:
Police will be able to find and break up parties or gatherings
Trials of a Covid-19 vaccine under development by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have been put on hold after a patient in the UK suffered a side effect.
AstraZeneca issued a statement on Tuesday night saying the late-stage studies of the vaccine had been paused while the company investigates whether the patient's reported side effect is connected with the vaccine.
AstraZeneca did not reveal any information about the patient's condition other than to describe it as "a potentially unexplained illness".
‘We are working to expedite the review of the single event to minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline’
As coronavirus cases quickly rise across Europe, with France, Spain, Croatia and Hungary all reporting a recent spike in infections, one expert believes the UK will follow in the footsteps of its neighbours.
Samuel Lovett spoke to Gabriel Scally, a member of Independent Sage and visiting professor of public health at the University of Bristol, who said he thinks the UK is “going along the same lines”.
Read more here:
There is a mounting sense among the government and health experts that we are now treading a similar path to our European neighbours
Some 700,000 people will be “pulled into poverty” if a £20-a-week welfare “lifeline” introduced for the coronavirus crisis is withdrawn as planned in April, a charity has warned.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation urged ministers to make the temporary uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit permanent, to avoid the “significant shock” of losing support worth £1,040 a year to 16 million families.
Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has more on this:
Labour calls on new Tory MPs to back its push for furlough extension
Hands Face Space
A new campaign has been launched to encourage people to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
The "Hands Face Space" campaign urges people to ensure they have washed their hands, used a mask where appropriate and maintain social distancing.
It comes after experts voiced concerns that people are becoming "relaxed" following a spike in infections and health secretary Matt Hancock warned of the possibility of a second peak of Covid-19 as he said that the virus was "still a threat".
Boris Johnson first used the slogan at a press conference more than a month ago
Hancock refuses to rule out second lockdown
Health secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out a second lockdown, despite assurances by the prime minister.
Speaking to LBC, Mr Hancock said: "Our goal is to avoid having to do anything more drastic by people following the rules."
But he would not rule out a return to lockdown, saying: "I wouldn't make a vow like that.
"You wouldn't expect me to - I am the health secretary in the middle of a pandemic where we are trying to keep the country safe."
But he added he "hoped" lockdown could be avoided, saying: "The number of cases is largely driven by people socialising."
Only get tested if showing symptoms
Health secretary Matt Hancock told the public not to get coronavirus tests unless they have symptoms to help stop people having to travel long distances to get tested.
He told BBC Breakfast: "We have seen this quite sharp rise in the last couple of weeks of people without symptoms who don't have a good reason coming forward to get a test.
"There have been stories of whole schools, or parts of schools, being all sent to get a test - that is not acceptable, that is not an appropriate use of our testing resources.
"I've even heard stories of people saying, 'I'm going on holiday next week therefore I'm going to get a test.' No - that is not what the testing system is there for.
"We've got to be firmer, I'm afraid, with the rules around eligibility for testing."
New rules for gatherings
My colleague Olivia Petter has put together this guide explaining the new rules on gatherings and what they mean for seeing friends and family:
Social gatherings over six people to be banned in England from Monday
Gatherings ban ‘for foreseeable future’
Matt Hancock has said the ban on gatherings of more than six people will be in place for the "foreseeable future".
The health secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's absolutely there for the foreseeable future. I really hope we can turn this round before Christmas.
"I think that, in a pandemic, Christmas is a long way off.
"Three months is a long time in a pandemic and I very much hope this strong rule, together with the local action we've taken in places like Bolton... I very hope much therefore this can work to do that by Christmas."
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