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Coronavirus news: Fresh nationwide restrictions cannot be ruled out, says Hancock, as report warns of 85,000 UK winter deaths

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Samuel Lovett,Peter Stubley
Saturday 29 August 2020 20:27
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WHO state cooperation is key to coronavirus recovery

Nationwide restrictions cannot be ruled out should England see a spike in coronavirus cases this winter, the health secretary has warned. Matt Hancock also hinted that restrictions may not be eased over Christmas to avoid an “uptick” in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Speaking on Saturday, Mr Hancock said countries in others parts of the world were already experiencing a second wave, adding it was “a very serious threat”. He continued: “Cases go up again, and we have to use very extensive local lockdowns or take further national action. We don’t rule that out, but we don’t want to see it.”

It came after a leaked scientific paper prepared for the government suggested that as many as 85,000 people could die in the UK in a second wave of coronavirus this winter. The report, by the prime minister’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage), seen by BBC2’s Newsnight, said that some lockdown restrictions may have to be reintroduced and kept in place until March 2021.

Meanwhile the government was criticised by school leaders after issuing new coronavirus guidance for schools on Friday evening - just days before the start of the autumn term. Labour also described the timing of the announcement as “insulting” to teachers and staff.

Gavin Williamson said the measures – which include a four-tier system for schools in local lockdown areas – were a “last resort” and insisted that it was safe for all pupils to return to the classrooms.

Follow the updates as they happened below:

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. We'll be bringing you the latest updates, breaking news and analysis throughout the day.

Samuel Lovett29 August 2020 10:34
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As many as 85,000 people could die in the UK in a second wave of coronavirus this winter, a leaked scientific paper prepared for the government has suggested, reports political editor Andrew Woodcock.

The paper by the prime minister’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage), seen by BBC2’s Newsnight, said that some lockdown restrictions may have to be reintroduced and kept in place until March 2021, though it added that schools are likely to remain open.

The document stressed that it was setting out a worst-case scenario and not a prediction of what is likely to happen and said that there was “a wide range of uncertainty” about the actual outcome.

It was prepared to help the NHS and local authorities plan services such as mortuaries and burials to ensure they are not overwhelmed in the months ahead.

Read more below:

Samuel Lovett29 August 2020 10:37
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Manchester mayor says government should not ‘impose’ local lockdown decisions

Decisions on easing or tightening local coronavirus lockdown restrictions should not be "imposed" by the government, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has said.

The Labour former cabinet minister called for more negotiation and agreement between Westminster and local authorities on such issues.

His comments came after the government moved to ease lockdown measures in some parts of the North West from next week.

Mr Burnham told BBC Breakfast: "I think we will better negotiate what lies ahead of us in the autumn and winter if government listens to local leaders - they know their communities.

"It wasn't just in Greater Manchester where they overruled us. In Bradford, basically communities were split there - some are still under restrictions, some not.

"You then have the situation where some people on one half of the street are under restrictions and others not.

"My main message to the government is you must not impose these things from London when you are going to affect communities in this way, it must be by negotiation and agreement.

"And that needs to be a core principle that we agree on before we go any further into the rest of what will be a very difficult year."

Samuel Lovett29 August 2020 10:38
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Hancock warns of extensive lockdowns in event of second wave

Nationwide restrictions cannot be ruled out should England see a spike in coronavirus cases this winter, the health secretary has warned.

Matt Hancock also hinted that restrictions may not be eased over Christmas to avoid an "uptick" in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Speaking to The Times, Mr Hancock said countries in others parts of the world were already experiencing a second wave, adding it was "a very serious threat".

But he said the UK was managing to keep the number of new cases "flat" through the test and trace system and local lockdowns.

Describing the worst-case scenario, he said the UK could be battling bad flu and a growth in coronavirus as people spend more time indoors.

He continued: "Cases go up again, and we have to use very extensive local lockdowns or take further national action.

"We don't rule that out, but we don't want to see it."

Samuel Lovett29 August 2020 10:44
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India records another surge in daily cases

India reported 76,472 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, slightly lower than the record breaking numbers of the past couple of days, but extending a run that has made the country's outbreak currently the world's worst.

India has reported a total of 3.46 million cases during the pandemic, a tally that places them behind the United States and Brazil in terms of total caseload. However, the south Asian country has reported higher single-day case rises than both those countries for almost two weeks.

India's death toll rose by 1,021 to 62,550, data from the federal health ministry showed, even as local media reported that some nationwide restrictions on travel could be eased from next week.

The goverment might allow underground train networks to partially reopen, local media reported, an easing that Delhi's chief minister has said is necessary to get the city back to full speed.

The western Indian state of Maharashtra, home to India's financial capital Mumbai, recorded 331 fatalities, the steepest single-day increase among all states over the past two days.

Samuel Lovett29 August 2020 10:57
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Australia’s Victoria state posts lowest case rise in two months

Australia's Victoria state on Saturday reported its lowest rise in new coronavirus cases in almost two months, but authorities warned there would be no rush to lift social distancing restrictions.

The Victorian state capital of Melbourne is four weeks into a six-week hard lockdown that was spurred by a second wave of infections in Australia's second largest city.

State officials on Saturday reported 94 new Covid-19 infections and 18 deaths. It was the first time new daily case numbers have fallen below 100 in eight weeks, and continued a steady trajectory downward this week. Australia has recorded a total of around 25,500 cases and 601 deaths so far in the pandemic.

"Every day we see the strategy working is a good day but we just need a bit more time to be able to be confident that we are, in fact, defeating this and that we can open up, gradually, steadily, safely," Victoria premier Daniel Andrews said at a televised news briefing.

The hard lockdown has restricted most people in the city to one hour of outdoor activity per day. Even if the current measures are eased at the end of the six weeks, some restrictions are expected to remain.

"There's still a way to go so stay strong and keep going," Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison said on his Facebook page. "Australians all around the country are backing you."

Samuel Lovett29 August 2020 11:16
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France seeing 'exponential' rise in cases

Authorities in France have warned that the country is seeing an “exponential” rise in coronavirus cases, amid growing fear that a second wave will hit in the coming weeks and months.

On Friday, the country recorded its biggest daily raise in infections since March, confirming 7,379 cases in total.

It was the largest daily spike since 31 March, when 7,578 cases were tallied at the peak of the first wave.

France was seeing an "exponential" rise in cases, the health ministry said.

Despite the sharp rise, hospital numbers and daily deaths remain relatively stable, as young people less vulnerable to the disease make up most of the new infections, the ministry said.

Before Friday's figures were released, president Emmanuel Macron said a second national lockdown could not be ruled out if infections spiralled out of control.

"Containment is the crudest of measures to fight against a virus," he added.

Samuel Lovett29 August 2020 11:35
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School leaders condemn government over ‘reprehensible’ last-minute guidance 

Teaching unions have criticised the government for releasing guidance on schools in local lockdown areas just days before pupils are set to return to classrooms.

A "rota system" limiting the number of students attending secondary schools at any one time could be used in areas with a significant rise in Covid-19 cases, according to guidance for England.

But while the new guidelines were welcomed by school leaders, one union expressed a "weary, resigned sense of inevitability" at the timing.

Published by the Department for Education (DfE) on Friday evening, it came just before the bank holiday weekend, with millions of pupils returning to class next week for autumn term.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think, probably, the most polite response... is a weary, resigned sense of inevitability that here we are again, right at the last minute with something that we have been accused of expressing treachery in asking for - where's the plan B in case of local lockdown - at last it has arrived."

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, branded the timing of the new guidance "reprehensible".

Samuel Lovett29 August 2020 11:55
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Surge in South Korea cases sparks hospital bed shortage concerns

South Korea recorded its 16th consecutive day of triple digit rises in new coronavirus cases on Saturday, extending a second wave of infections that is fanning concerns about a shortage of hospital beds in Seoul.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) posted 308 new cases as of midnight Friday, the majority of them in the capital and surrounding areas.

Outbreaks have continued to erupt at churches, offices, nursing homes and medical facilities, even after officials tightened social-distancing rules.

The spike in cases has depleted hospital facilities, with the health ministry reporting that just 4.5 per cent of beds in greater Seoul were available for critical cases as of Friday, down from 22 per cent a week earlier.

"Only about 15 beds are immediately available in the greater Seoul area for patients in critical condition as there were numerous patients who were in a serious condition and needed to be hospitalised," Yoon Tae-ho, director general for public health policy at the health ministry, said on Saturday.

Samuel Lovett29 August 2020 12:10
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Patel warns organisers of illegal raves: ‘You are not above the law’

The home secretary has lashed out at the organisers of illegal raves, warning them they are "not above the law".

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Priti Patel says the Metropolitan Police have responded to more than 1,000 unlicensed music events since June, calling their prevalence amid the coronavirus pandemic "unacceptable".

Addressing those thinking of organising such events, Ms Patel wrote: "It is critical that you consider the potential impact of these events, otherwise we risk undoing all the hard work the majority have done to stop the spread of this deadly virus.

"I urge you to seriously consider the risks you're creating for everyone in attendance, as well as the wider community."

The home secretary also defended new legislation aimed at deterring illegal music events.

Under the new measures, which came into force on Friday, organisers of illegal raves will be hit with £10,000 fines.

Samuel Lovett29 August 2020 12:30

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