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As it happenedended1598647637

Coronavirus news: France facing another nationwide lockdown as cases surge and UK government could fast-track vaccine under new plans

Follow the latest updates from the pandemic

Conrad Duncan,Jane Dalton,Peter Stubley
Friday 28 August 2020 21:45 BST
Grant Shapps: It is now safe to start returning to work

A coronavirus vaccine could be fast-tracked as an unlicensed medicine before the end of the year under new government plans.

The proposals would allow the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to grant temporary authorisation before a full licence has been approved.

More healthcare workers - including student nurses and physiotherapists - could also be trained to administer vaccines. It is hoped the new measures could be in force by October.

England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: "The proposals consulted on today suggest ways to improve access and ensure as many people are protected from COVID-19 and flu as possible without sacrificing the absolute need to ensure that any vaccine used is both safe and effective."

Downing Street is also preparing to launch a media campaign to encourage workers to return to offices in an effort to save shops in town and city centres from closure.

However Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, said she would not support any plans to "intimidate people back to work" during the pandemic before it is safe for employees to return.

Meanwhile France is facing a new lockdown after its health ministry said new cases were increasing "exponentially" and hospitalisations and intensive care admissions were also rising.

President Emmanuel Macron said his government would do "everything possible" to avoid reimposing nationwide restrictions but admitted it could not be ruled out.

Follow our live coverage below:


Hello and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Conrad Duncan28 August 2020 07:54

Government to launch media campaign encouraging workers to return to offices

The government is set to launch a major media campaign next week to encourage workers to return to offices in a bid to save shops in town and city centres.

Ministers have been concerned that once-busy centres are becoming ghost areas as many workers stay at home.

Labour has criticised the plans as being “unconscionable”, while the CBI has said any return to work push should involve a “hybrid” approach to avoid forcing people to return to offices.

“It beggars belief that the government are threatening people like this during a pandemic. Forcing people to choose between their health and their job is unconscionable,” Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow business minister, said.

“Number 10 should condemn this briefing and categorically rule out any such campaign.”

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said a hybrid approach with home and office working should be the way forward to get “the best of both worlds”. 

A government spokesperson said the government had been “working closely” with employers to make workplaces safe during the pandemic.

“Next week we will showcase the benefits of returning safely to work and raise awareness of companies getting this right,” they said.

“We'll also provide practical steps businesses are taking to ensure offices are Covid secure as well as alternative ways of travelling to work.”

Conrad Duncan28 August 2020 08:05

Czech Republic, Switzerland and Jamaica added to UK’s quarantine list

Holidaymakers are once-again facing a rush to return to the UK after the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Jamaica were added to the UK’s quarantine list.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, announced on Thursday that those arriving in England from those countries after 4am on Saturday would need to self-isolate for 14 days.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said equivalent measures were being put in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, a reduction in coronavirus cases in Cuba means the country has been added to the list of destinations which people can travel to without having to quarantine in England or Wales.

Conrad Duncan28 August 2020 08:12

Pret a Manger axes 2,800 jobs after undergoing complete UK restructure

Pret a Manger has announced it will axe 2,800 roles from its shops after completing a restructuring of its business in the UK.

The coffee and sandwich chain, which once boasted more than 450 sites across the UK, has struggled for footfall during the coronavirus pandemic with trade declining 60 per cent year-on-year.

In a statement on the restructuring, Pano Christou, the company’s CEO, urged the government to continue to support the sector for “as long as possible”

Our reporter, Vincent Wood, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan28 August 2020 08:23

Quarantine rules may continue to change ‘very quickly’, minister warns

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has warned British holidaymakers that self-isolation rules could continue to change rapidly after three more countries were added to the UK’s quarantine list.

“Look there is a travel corridor list and I think it contains probably still about 55, 60 countries,” Mr Shapps told Sky News. 

“It changes every week - a country went on - Cuba went on - the list yesterday, or goes on at the weekend.”

He added: “However, when people travel at the moment when coronavirus is still a thing... just need to be aware that unfortunately things can change very quickly and, you know, if you go with your eyes open and you know that things can change, it won't then come as so much as of a surprise.

“Though as I say, sometimes countries just move very quickly.”

Conrad Duncan28 August 2020 08:36

Shapps admits ‘challenges’ in getting more people on public transport

Grant Shapps has admitted that more people using the transport system as they return to work is “obviously not without its challenges”.

The transport secretary was asked by BBC Breakfast whether the transport system was fit and safe for more workers during the pandemic.

He replied: “Yeah, so it's obviously not without its challenges, but we're ramping it up so that the transport system will be back and, in particular, putting on additional coaches bespoke for the school children returning in many cases.”

Mr Shapps added: “What I found, what I tend to find... in London they are a bit busier. They're sort of up to about 40 even 50 per cent of where they were. Out of town they tend to be less busy.

“The key thing is to make sure there is still sufficient social distancing there with the one metre-plus [rule] which there will be, certainly on lines outside of London.”

Conrad Duncan28 August 2020 08:48

Parents should be ‘reassured’ by study showing low coronavirus risk for children, researcher says

A professor who sits on the government’s Sage advisory group has said parents should be “reassured” by a study showing coronavirus has not caused the deaths of any healthy school children.

The study, published in the BMJ, looked at 651 children with Covid-19 in hospitals in England, Wales and Scotland and found the risk posed by the virus to children was “tiny”.

“We looked at roughly two-thirds of all hospital admissions to England, Scotland and Wales over the first wave of the pandemic, so we looked at 69,500 people attending, I think, 280 hospitals,” Professor Calum Semple of the University of Liverpool told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

“And when we looked really carefully and did all the numbers, we found that out of that 69,500 there was only 650 children - so 1 per cent of hospital admissions were children.

“And then of that 1 per cent, only six children died.”

Professor Semple added: “Now each of these deaths is a huge personal tragedy, of course, but in the bigger picture, this is quite reassuring.”

Conrad Duncan28 August 2020 09:05

Watchdog takes action against hospital after patients infected with coronavirus

The care watchdog has taken action against a scandal-hit hospital following a high number of coronavirus infections on its wards.

East Kent University Hospitals Trust was warned by the Care Quality Commission to take urgent steps after inspectors found patients on wards were being put at risk of contracting Covid-19.

Our health correspondent, Shaun Lintern, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan28 August 2020 09:14

Calls for £270m government fund to support private renters

The government has been urged to support private renters with a £270m fund to help with rent arrears during the coronavirus pandemic.

A coalition of landlords, letting agents and charities have said at least 322,000 private renters have fallen behind on payments in recent months, with Shelter’s chief executive warning a “devastating homelessness crisis” could emerge.

“This one-off opportunity to provide emergency relief to those renters most in need must not be missed,” Polly Neate said.

Renters have been protected during the Covid-19 outbreak by a ban on evictions which was recently extended.

Shelter, the National Residential Landlords Association, ARLA Propertymark, Crisis, Citizens Advice and Generation Rent said the fund would help renters who have missed out on income or been furloughed.

Financial assistance could include ring-fenced grants handed out by councils to renters who already receive benefits, and interest-free loans for tenants who will be able to afford rent once the crisis has passed.

“Ever since this pandemic gripped hold of the country, causing chaos for hundreds of thousands of renters, our services have been deluged with calls from worried families and workers plunged unexpectedly into debt,” Ms Neate added.

“When the ban lifts, their ability to clear Covid arrears will be critical if they are to stay safe in their homes.

“We simply cannot afford to lurch into another devastating homelessness crisis now that will ruin countless lives and undermine the country's economic recovery.”

Conrad Duncan28 August 2020 09:26

Nine out of 10 people want to continue working from home, report finds

Nine out of 10 people in the UK who have worked from home during lockdown want to continue doing so, according to new research.

The report, Homeworking in the UK: before and during the 2020 lockdown, is thought to be the first to analyse survey data focused on homeworking during the pandemic.

It said working from home in the UK rose from 6 per cent of employees before the start of the pandemic up to 43 per cent in April, with results indicating that productivity mostly remained stable compared with the six months before.

Its publication comes as the UK government is set to encourage workers to return to offices amid concerns of the impact of homeworking on cities and towns.

The report, by academics at Cardiff University and the University of Southampton, said 88 per cent of employees who worked at home during lockdown would like to continue doing so in some capacity, with 47 per cent wanting to do so often or all the time.

About two-fifths (41 per cent) said they got as much work done at home as they did six months earlier when most, but not all, were in their usual places of work.

More than a quarter (29 per cent) said they got more work done at home, while 30 per cent said their productivity had fallen.

Professor Alan Felstead, based at Cardiff University and the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD), said the results suggested there could be a “major shift” from the traditional workplace.

“What is particularly striking is that many of those who have worked at home during lockdown would like to continue to work in this way, even when social distancing rules do not require them to,” Professor Felstead said.

“These people are among the most productive, so preventing them from choosing how they work in the future does not make economic sense.

“Giving employees flexibility on where they work could be extremely beneficial for companies as they attempt to recover from the impact of Covid-19.”

The report analysed data gathered for the Understanding Society Covid-19 Study, comprising three surveys by the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, in April to June.

It questioned a representative sample of 6,000-7,000 workers who had worked at least one hour in the week before interview, and who provided information on where they worked either side of the lockdown.

Conrad Duncan28 August 2020 09:40

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