Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

As it happenedended1592596805

Coronavirus news – live: Boris Johnson hints two-metre rule could be scrapped in schools, after Covid-19 alert level lowered

Follow the latest updates

Jon Sharman,Chiara Giordano,Vincent Wood
Friday 19 June 2020 20:43 BST
Over-50s and keys workers to be given priority for coronavirus vaccine, Hancock says

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Boris Johnson has hinted he may scrap the two-metre social distancing rule for schools, adding: “Watch this space.” His comments came after schools in England were offered £1bn to help children catch up on learning lost due to coronavirus.

Plus, the UK’s Covid-19 alert level has been lowered from 4 to 3 on the recommendation of the four chief medical officers, who nonetheless warned: “It does not mean that the pandemic is over.”

Also on Friday, figures showed that black men suffered the highest coronavirus death rate of any group at the height of the UK’s epidemic.


Welcome to our live coronavirus coverage for Friday.

Jon Sharman19 June 2020 07:02

US states and cities eye mandatory mask rules

California, North Carolina and a number of American cities have either made wearing a face mask mandatory, or have urged authorities to allow them to do so, after six states set one-day records for rises in infections.

California governor Gavin Newsom ordered mask use in most places as the state for the second day in a row registered over 4,000 new cases.

And in Arizona, where another infection record was set, the Democratic mayors of Tucson and Phoenix respectively ordered and prepared to vote on mandatory face coverings after Republican governor Doug Ducey allowed cities to set their own rules.

The mayors of nine Texas cities have asked that state's governor for similar powers.

Florida posted 3,207 new cases on Thursday, its second daily record in a week. Orange County mayor Jerry Demings ordered obligatory mask use, telling residents of Orlando and other cities it would help them avoid a second shutdown.

Wearing a face mask has become a political issue in the US. Donald Trump has refused to use them and many people see them as a marker of one's political sympathies.

Jon Sharman19 June 2020 07:44

Schools get £1bn to help children catch up

State schools in England will be granted an additional £1bn of funding in a bid to help children catch up on teaching time lost during the lockdown, the government has announced, writes Vincent Wood.

The most disadvantaged children will have access to tutors through a £350m national programme for the 2020-21 academic year, as part of an attempt to prevent the attainment gap from widening further.

The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, has also announced that a further £650m will be shared across state primary and secondary schools to help children from all backgrounds who have lost teaching time.

Jon Sharman19 June 2020 07:45

'Clear intention' to have all pupils back at school by September

The government's "clear intention" is that all children should be back in classrooms across England by September, a minister has said.

Nick Gibb, the schools standards minister, told Sky News: "Our clear intention is that all pupils will return in September. We've had a very phased, very cautious approach to reopening schools to all children."

Mr Gibb added: "Of course, we're working on other contingency plans but the clear intention is that we'll have all children back in school in September."

He also said that schools would be able to use the £650m portion of the £1bn new funding announced this morning "at their discretion".

Jon Sharman19 June 2020 07:55

Mexico posts record daily infections

Mexico logged another record one-day increase in confirmed coronavirus infections on Thursdaay, with 5,662, while 667 more deaths were reported.

The daily death toll has been hovering around 700 for much of this week, but the daily case load increase has usually remained below 5,000.

Mexico now has seen 19,747 confirmed coronavirus deaths and 165,455 confirmed cases.

Officials have acknowledged that both figures are undercounts because of a lack of testing and delayed results.

Jon Sharman19 June 2020 08:05

Has government signed contact-tracing contract with Apple and Google?

Nick Gibb couldn't, or wouldn't, say.

Asked if a deal to develop the app had been completed with the tech giants, the school standards minister told Sky News: "Well, that's a matter for [Matt Hancock, the health secretary]. He's working with Google and Apple, I don't know the details of the contracts that they have."

He added: "What I do know is that we are working with Google and Apple to iron out these problems with the system to make it robust and accurate in how it tracks and traces."

Yesterday the government ditched its plans to administer the app data itself, in the latest of a series of high-profile U-turns.

Jon Sharman19 June 2020 08:10

Catch up on our main story from overnight - NHS app U-turn

The government has ditched plans to develop a custom-made contact-tracing app in favour of a new model after the rollout was beset with problems, writes Lizzy Buchan.

In a major U-turn, ministers announced a switch to technology provided by Apple and Google – abandoning an NHS model which aimed to give the health service greater access to patient data.

Officials admitted the app, designed by the health service’s tech arm NHSX, was highly inaccurate, picking up just 4 per cent of contacts on Apple phones and 75 per cent of contacts on Android handsets.

Jon Sharman19 June 2020 08:15

Singapore open for business again

People in Singapore reunited with lovers and friends on Friday as the city-state lifted restrictions on socialising, shopping and dining out after more than two months.

Many residents had been forbidden from mixing with non-family members since early April.

Singapore has had more than 41,000 cases of Covid-19.

In some restaurants customers scan QR codes on their phone as a pre-emptive measure to aid contact-tracing.

Gyms have also reopened.

Jon Sharman19 June 2020 08:25

China releases genome of coronavirus from latest outbreak

China has released genome sequencing data of the coronavirus responsible for a recent outbreak in Beijing.

Officials have submitted the data to the World Health Organisation, they said. They also claimed it showed the virus was a European strain.

Seafood and meat areas of the gigantic Beijing wholesale market called Xinfadi have been found to be highly contaminated with coronavirus. Norwegian and Chinese officials have previously said they do not believe salmon from the Scandinavian nation is to blame for the outbreak.

Details published on China's National Microbiology Data Center website revealed the genome data was based on three samples - two human and one environmental - collected on 11 June.

"According to preliminary genomic and epidemiological study results, the virus is from Europe, but it is different from the virus currently spreading in Europe," Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention official Zhang Yong said in an article published on Friday. "It's older than the virus currently spreading in Europe."

Jon Sharman19 June 2020 08:35

UK's over-50s to get vaccine first

Over-50s are to be given priority for a coronavirus vaccine if and when it becomes available, along with key workers in the health and social care sectors and those with heart and kidney disease, the health secretary has said, writes Andrew Woodcock.

No jab is yet available, but human trials began on a second potential vaccine being developed at Imperial College London this week, while production has already started on another possible inoculation at Oxford with the aim of building up stockpiles to be ready for deployment if it is approved for use in the autumn.

Jon Sharman19 June 2020 08:45

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in