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Coronavirus news - live: Burnham accuses Johnson of ‘exaggerating’ Covid situation amid warning Christmas will be ‘tough’

Follow the day’s events as they happened

Samuel Osborne,Sam Hancock
Sunday 18 October 2020 21:52 BST
Chief Constable: Leaders are agreed for need of proportionate enforcement of lockdown rules in Manchester

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has accused Boris Johnson of “exaggerating” the coronavirus situation in the region as he called for an end to the “war of words” between local leaders and ministers.

His comments came amid a stand-off between politicians in Greater Manchester and No 10 over the imposition of Tier 3 measures – the most severe restrictions – including the closure of all pubs and bars.

Mr Burnham has been calling for additional economic support for the region’s residents, but on Sunday Michael Gove risked inflaming tensions as he dismissed the concerns and accused him of political "posturing”.

Meanwhile, Christmas will be "tough" this year and not the "usual celebration" it traditionally is, Sage member Professor Jeremy Farrar has said.

He told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday: "Christmas will be tough this year. I don't think it's going to be the usual celebration it is and all families coming together, I'm afraid.

“I think we have to be honest and realistic and say that we are in for three to six months of a very difficult period.”


Circuit-break lockdown would allow chance to ‘reset’ before virus spirals out of control, Labour says

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said that a circuit-break lockdown would give the UK a chance to "reset" before coronavirus spirals out of control.

She told Sky News' Sophy Ridge: "What we're saying is that a circuit-breaker for two to three weeks would mean that we would be able to halt and reverse the spread of the infection right across the country.

"We could use that time to boost our lab capacity, to put proper local tracing processes in place and then we would have that breathing space which would buy us time really and stop the real danger that our NHS faces, that our hospitals are going to be filling up far too quickly over the next few weeks.

"And so it would really give us the chance to reset and take a step back before this virus really spirals right out of control."

Ms Green added: "I think it is really important not to waste the period of a circuit-breaker. You know, it's not just everybody goes home and stays at home for two to three weeks and then we come back out again."

Samuel Osborne18 October 2020 10:31

No evidence Covid-19 has become less dangerous, senior medic says

There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 has become less dangerous despite falling death rates from the virus, a senior medic has said.

Dr Alison Pittard, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine in London, said that although treatment is improving, social distancing is also having an impact on transmission and viral load.

She told Sky News: "It is still a very deadly virus, although the majority of people who still become infected will have a very, very minor illness or may not even know that they are ill at all. For those people that require hospital admission, for those that come to intensive care it's still a very severe disease."

She added: "If you end up in critical care with Covid pneumonia you are almost twice as likely to die than somebody who's admitted with a pneumonia not due to Covid - so it is still something to be worried about."

Samuel Osborne18 October 2020 10:18

Christmas will be ‘tough’ and not the ‘usual celebration’, Sage professor says

Christmas will be "tough" this year and not the "usual celebration" it traditionally is, Sage member Professor Jeremy Farrar has said.

He told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday that he did not believe a coronavirus vaccine would be ready for the festive period.

Prof Farrar said: "Christmas will be tough this year. I don't think it's going to be the usual celebration it is and all families coming together, I'm afraid.

"I think we have to be honest and realistic and say that we are in for three to six months of a very difficult period.

"The temperatures drop, we are all indoors more often, we have the other infections that come this time of year. It's much better for us to be upfront and honest now."

However, Prof Farrar believed Covid-19 vaccines and working treatments were "three to six months away".

Samuel Osborne18 October 2020 10:06

Michael Gove rules out circuit breaker ‘at the moment’

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has ruled out a national "circuit-breaker" lockdown to control the coronavirus resurgence "at the moment".

Asked if the government would take the measure on Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday, he flatly replied: "No.

"It would seem an error to try to impose on every part of the country the same level of restriction when we know that the disease is spreading more intensively and quicker in some parts of the country."

Pressed on whether the measure could be taken in the future, he said: "We always look at how the disease spreads and we will take whatever steps are necessary to maintain public health.

"But Kate (Green, shadow education secretary) and the Labour Party are arguing the blanket restrictions across the country at the moment and the spread and nature of the disease does not merit that at the moment."

Samuel Osborne18 October 2020 09:58

Andy Burnham accuses Boris Johnson of having exaggerated severity of coronavirus situation in Greater Manchester

Andy Burnham accused Boris Johnson of having exaggerated the severity of the coronavirus situation in the region.

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "It's a serious situation but I don't think it was the situation that was described by the prime minister on Friday evening.

"I think it was an exaggeration of the position that we're in.

"Of course it's a matter of concern, and we watch the figures very closely indeed, but the figures have been falling in Manchester itself in the last few days, across Greater Manchester up slightly but certainly not doubling every nine days.

"So let's be careful here. I would certainly say this morning let's step back a bit from a war of words."

Samuel Osborne18 October 2020 09:45

Andy Burnham to have conservation with prime minister’s chief strategic adviser over lockdown restrictions

Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, has said he will be having a call with the prime minister's chief strategic adviser, Sir Edward Lister, over lockdown restrictions today.

Asked if he was going to be speaking with Boris Johnson, Mr Burnham told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "I was due to speak to Sir Ed Lister today so that's the call I was expecting to take later this morning but beyond that I'm ready to speak to ministers to try to resolve this situation."

Samuel Osborne18 October 2020 09:35

Lockdown restrictions without financial support risk ‘catastrophic economic consequences’, British Chambers of Commerce tells PM

The British Chambers of Commerce has told the prime minister that any new lockdown restrictions must come with "truly commensurate" financial support or risk "catastrophic economic consequences".

In a letter to Boris Johnson on Saturday, they raised particular concern about the tier 2 restrictions imposed on London and other areas on Saturday because they "dramatically" hamper businesses without extra support.

Samuel Osborne18 October 2020 09:21

Police to be given test-and-trace data to help enforce isolation rules

Police forces are to be given the personal details of people told to self-isolate by the government’s test-and-trace service in an effort to help officers enforce the quarantine rules.

Ministers have agreed a deal with the National Police Chiefs Council that will allow officers to request on a case-by-case basis information including the name, address and contact details of people who have been told to isolate.

My colleague Shaun Lintern has the full story:

Police to be given test and trace data to help enforce coronavirus isolation rules

Change sparks concern that sharing data will discourage some people from testing

Samuel Osborne18 October 2020 09:01

Burnham blames Sunak for being ‘the problem’ in row over lockdown

Andy Burnham has blamed Rishi Sunak for being “the problem” in the row over a lockdown for Greater Manchester.

The mayor has called for a return to the generosity of the original furlough scheme that saw the Treasury pay 80 per cent of workers wages, but the chancellor has only offered a 66 per cent subsidy for those whose firms forced to shut by tier 3 measures

Mr Burnham told the New Statesman magazine: "I think the problem now is, to a large degree, the chancellor. I think he's made wrong judgements throughout this."

He criticised the Eat Out to Help Out meal subsidy scheme as a "poor judgment", and added: "The cost of that should have been paying for the furlough now."

But he insisted, during the interview conducted on Friday, that the failure ultimately lies with Boris Johnson as prime minister: "He shouldn't be allowing the Treasury to run the policy".

Samuel Osborne18 October 2020 08:47

Good morning and welcome to the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic from The Independent.

Samuel Osborne18 October 2020 08:40

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