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Coronavirus news – live: Boris Johnson says government failed to understand asymptomatic spread of Covid-19

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Chiara Giordano,Andy Gregory
Friday 24 July 2020 17:13
Johnson says there were 'open questions' about the timing of his lockdown decision

Pressed on whether the UK was too slow to enter lockdown, Boris Johnson has admitted that “maybe there were things we could have done differently”, conceding that the government failed to understand the extent to which coronavirus was spreading asymptomatically.

The prime minister told BBC News that “when you listen to the scientists, the questions that you’ve just asked are actually very open questions as far as they are concerned”, adding: “There will be a time obviously to consider all those issues.”

Referencing his own time in hospital with covid-19, Mr Johnson called for a “summer of weight loss” in order to limit the harms of the pandemic. It is expected that ministers will soon unveil plans to curb obesity in the UK.

As the new rules on face coverings came into effect in England, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda joined a growing list of retailers who have said they will not challenge customers failing to wear a face covering, insisting that it falls on police to penalise people.

But John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation for England and Wales, said forces do not have the capacity to ensure every person who enters a store is wearing a face covering, and urged shops to refuse entry to anyone not obeying the law.

Mr Apter also called for understanding among the public, tweeting: “If you’re out shopping today and you see somebody not wearing a face covering it may be because they have a hidden disability. Don’t jump to conclusions, don’t have a go at them. This is new for us all, it’s about keeping each other safe. Please be nice.”

Meanwhile, figures published by Sage and the Government Office for Science showed that England's rate of infection remained at a similar figure to the previous week, with no discernable spike following the reopening of pubs and restaurants.

In more stark analysis, the Office for National Statistics revealed that the poorest areas of England have suffered more than twice as many coronavirus deaths as the richest.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We'll be bringing you rolling updates from across the globe.

Chiara.Giordano24 July 2020 07:46

New face mask rules have come into force in a number of indoor settings including shops, takeaways, banks and sandwich shops in England today.

Anyone who flouts the rules could face a fine of up to £100.

Here's a guide to everywhere you'll need to wear a face covering from now on:

Chiara.Giordano24 July 2020 07:48

Luton, in Bedfordshire, and Blackburn with Darwen, in Lancashire, are the latest places facing local lockdowns amid high infection rates.

The areas have been added to Public Health England’s coronavirus watchlist as “areas of intervention”, meaning further lockdown-easing measures such as the reopening of sports centres have been postponed in both areas.

Here's more on this:

Chiara.Giordano24 July 2020 07:52

A woman has created dozens of face masks with clear panels so that people who have partial or full hearing loss are able to communicate with others during the pandemic by lip-reading.

Claire Cross, a furloughed pub manager from Devon, has made approximately 100 masks with clear panels sewn into them for people who are deaf or have hearing loss.

Chiara.Giordano24 July 2020 08:16

Police 'just don't have the capacity' to enforce face masks 


The chair of the Police Federation has warned police "just don't have the capacity" to enforce new face mask rules which came into effect today. 

John Apter, who represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales, has called on businesses to help educate people on the new regulations as a joint effort. 

The police chief said forces are now busier than they were before the pandemic and will only respond to a call from a shop if a person is refusing to leave or becomes aggressive. 

He told BBC Breakfast: “I think the unfortunate thing is there’s an expectation that the police are almost the first port of call when it comes to enforcement or dealing with, in this case, the face coverings. 

“First of all, we just don’t have the capacity, we simply can’t do it, not to the level some people expect which is for us to be almost in every high street, in every store, ensuring that people are wearing a face covering. 

“The retailers and those who operate in these stores or businesses also have a responsibility to educate the public because this is all very new and some people are scared, some people genuinely don’t know what’s expected of them so it’s about a combined effort in educating people.” 

People who refuse to wear a mask covering their face and nose in places set out by the government, including supermarkets, shops, takeaways, banks and post offices, could face a £100 fine for today. 

However Mr Apter said “enforcement will be absolutely the last resort”. 

He added: “If certain customers, and I genuinely believe this will be a tiny minority, if somebody is refusing to leave the store or becomes aggressive of course that’s right that the police should be called. 

“But if somebody calls the police because somebody is just not wearing a face covering, I’m afraid that will go into the pot of jobs that my colleagues have to respond to because business as usual is still there – in fact we are now busier than we were before this pandemic – so we have very little capacity. 

“So I just want to manage the public’s expectation.” 

Chiara.Giordano24 July 2020 08:27

It’s already clear that men are twice as likely to die from Covid-19, writes Ian Hamilton for Indy Voices. Given this higher risk, you’d expect them to be keen to take any necessary precaution.

But new research suggests otherwise. It is women who are twice as likely to wear a face mask, with men thinking it’s uncool and a sign of weakness. It’s difficult to imagine a starker example of how pride can kill.

Chiara.Giordano24 July 2020 08:45

Emirates will pay medical bills for travellers who become symptomatic with coronavirus while at their destination, at least until 31 October 2020.

If a passenger is diagnosed with Covid-19 while they are away from home, the Dubai-based airline says it will cover medical and repatriation expenses of up to €150,000 (£137,000).

Chiara.Giordano24 July 2020 08:55

Some stores say they won't challenge customers over face masks

People buying a takeaway coffee are among those required by law to wear a face covering from today, but some high street chains have said they will not penalise customers who fail to do so.

Government guidance states that staff in premises where face coverings are required are encouraged to "take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law" and can refuse entry to people who do not have a valid exemption under the rules.

However, Costa Coffee said it would "not be challenging customers" who are not wearing a mask "since they may have a legitimate reason as to why they are unable to wear one".

Sainsbury's said while it is asking everyone to continue "playing their part" in helping to keep everyone safe in store by following the rules, "our colleagues will not be responsible for enforcing them".

Asda said it will "strongly encourage customers to wear a face covering", but added: "It is the responsibility of the relevant authorities to police and enforce the new rules."

Tesco will be selling face coverings at the entrance, and Waitrose said staff would be at the entrance to stores reminding customers of the requirement.

Customers will be "required" to wear a face covering in Greggs.

McDonald's said takeaway customers will need to wear face coverings but those who eat in the restaurant will not unless they are moving around the premises, for example to use toilets or when at self-order screens.

Chiara.Giordano24 July 2020 09:03

Minister defends face mask regulations being released at short notice

A government minister has defended the short notice at which guidance on face coverings in England was issued.

Details of the new regulations, which came into force today, were only released on Thursday afternoon.

However care minister Helen Whately told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Well, it has been talked about a certain amount over recent days and weeks."

Chiara.Giordano24 July 2020 09:23

Coffee shop face mask rules 'not totally clear', says customer

At the Westminster branch of Pret a Manger, where several ministers were seen prior to parliament's summer recess, customer John, 61, said he was happy to wear a face covering.

He told the PA news agency: "I think it's just a matter of getting used to.

"If it does help keep the coronavirus down then I suppose it's worthwhile.

"I mean, people in the Far East have been wearing them for ages and they think nothing of it."

He said the government's guidance on face coverings was "not totally clear" on when they should be worn in coffee shops and takeaways, adding it was clearer for other shops and supermarkets.

He said: "It's not clear, because how do you drink a coffee if you're having to wear a face mask?"

Chiara.Giordano24 July 2020 09:30

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