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Coronavirus news – live: Vaccine before Christmas ‘unlikely’ says Whitty, as Hancock makes preparing for winter ‘a priority’

Follow all the latest updates on the pandemic

Chiara Giordano,Samuel Lovett,Vincent Wood
Tuesday 21 July 2020 23:50 BST
Sage advice meant ministers had to make incredibly difficult decisions, says Chris Whitty

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, has warned that the chances of a “highly effective” vaccine being ready for distribution by Christmas are “very low”.

Giving evidence to the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee on Tuesday, Prof Whitty said although he was “cautiously optimistic” there would be a vaccine this side of Christmas, the chances of it being “actually highly effective is in my view very low.”

It comes as a Nobel Prize winning geneticist has warned the UK government risks sleepwalking into a “winter of discontent” unless clear governance structures are implemented for the remainder of the pandemic. Professor Sir Paul Nurse, a distinguished scientist and director of the Francis Crick Institute, criticised what he described as the government’s “pass the parcel” approach. Matt Hancock has since told MPs preparing for winter was a 'priority' for his department.


Good morning and welcome to today's live blog. We'll be bringing you all the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the world.

Chiara.Giordano21 July 2020 07:53

EU leaders have this morning reached an "historic" deal on a massive stimulus plan for their coronavirus-hit economies after a fractious summit that lasted almost five days.

Summit chairman Charles Michel tweeted "Deal" shortly after the 27 leaders finally reached agreement at a 5.15am (4.15 BST) plenary session.

The deal includes a €750bn coronavirus recovery fund, as well as an agreement on the bloc's broader seven-year budget, worth about €1.1tn

Chiara.Giordano21 July 2020 07:55

Nearly 900,000 public sector workers are to receive a pay rise, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced, after months of political pressure to reward key workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Doctors, dentists, teachers, police officers and soldiers are among those who will see extra money in their wage packets, as the government chooses to honour the recommendations of independent pay review bodies.

Teachers and doctors will see the largest above-inflation increases, at 3.1 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively, according to the Treasury. But NHS staff in other roles were left out of the announcement.

Chiara.Giordano21 July 2020 07:55

The coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University induces a strong immune response and appears to be safe, according to preliminary trial results.

The early stage trial, which involved 1,077 people, has found that the vaccine trains the immune system to produce antibodies and white blood cells capable of fighting the virus. It also causes few side effects.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, co-author of the Oxford University study, described the findings as promising but said there “is still much work to be done before we can confirm if our vaccine will help manage the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Chiara.Giordano21 July 2020 08:08

Working-age households have suffered the biggest immediate shock to their incomes in nearly half a century as a result of coronavirus, according to a think tank.

The pandemic has hit the typical family’s finances by 4.5 per cent, the Resolution Foundation said. It calculated the fall by comparing the months leading up to the crisis with the situation in May this year.

According to the think tank’s Living Standards Audit, this was the biggest short-term income drop since the oil crisis-induced inflation spikes of the mid-1970s.

Chiara.Giordano21 July 2020 08:20

Social care workers 'reliant on minimum wage increases to improve pay levels'

Policing minister Kit Malthouse has said social care workers would have to rely on increases in the minimum wage to improve their pay levels.

As almost a million public sector workers were awarded pay rises, Mr Malthouse said: "The vast majority of social care workers are paid in the private sector so our ability to influence pay rates there is limited."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that - apart from "nationalising the entire thing" - the minimum wage rate was the best tool the government had to recognise the efforts of care workers.

"What we have done is raise the level of the minimum wage very significantly over the last few years to get it up towards the £10.50 mark," he said.

"That, we hope, will push through into these private sector jobs.

"Everybody looks at people who work in social care during coronavirus and thinks they have done a fantastic job in very, very difficult circumstances.

"But that's the mechanism by which we think we can increase pay in that sector."

Chiara.Giordano21 July 2020 08:30

How does the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine work? 

Chiara.Giordano21 July 2020 08:40

Russia death toll rises to 12,580

Russia has reported 5,842 new cases of coronavirus, pushing its total infection tally to 783,328, the fourth largest in the world.

The country's coronavirus response centre said 153 people had died in the past 24 hours, bringing Russia's overall death toll from the virus to 12,580.

Chiara.Giordano21 July 2020 08:57

Government borrowing reached £35.5bn in June, around five times more than the same month last year, due to the soaring cost of the coronavirus crisis.

June was the third highest for any month on record, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The figures mean borrowing in the first quarter of the financial year was more than double the £55.4bn seen in the whole of the previous year as the UK spent heavily on emergency support measures during the lockdown.

Chiara.Giordano21 July 2020 09:05

Regulator will face 'toughest job' of deciding whether to approve vaccine

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said regulators would face a tough decision on whether to approve a Covid-19 vaccine.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Probably the toughest job of anybody will be the regulator who has to make the call on whether this is safe and effective in a way that it can be rolled out to the population. I would not want that job."

If the regulators say "yes" then "there will be a queue of 3.5 billion people" around the world for the vaccine.

But Sir John said there is no chance of totally eliminating coronavirus in the global population so any form of treatment would be valuable.

"We are never going to eliminate this virus from the global population, we can forget that, that's never happening, so I think we have got to learn to live with this virus, and if we can stop it from progressing and making people really ill and killing them, that's a pretty good result," he said.

Chiara.Giordano21 July 2020 09:12

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