Coronavirus news – live: France to make face masks compulsory in workplaces as Covid-19 now being spread by asymptomatic young people, WHO warns

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the coronavirus is being spread largely by young people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are unaware they have been infected.

Takeshi Kasai, regional director for WHO Western Pacific, told a virtual briefing on Tuesday that young people driving the spread pose a risk to more vulnerable groups.

It comes as the number of Covid-19 infections worldwide surpassed 21.9 million people, with over 770,000 fatalities.

As the rush to find more effective treatment and a vaccine continues, a major state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company has claimed its coronavirus vaccine will be commercially available by the end of the year.

SinoPharm has two vaccines in trial and an annual manufacturing capacity of 220 million doses, said its chairman, Liu Jingzhen.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday showed England and Wales have recorded the lowest weekly number of deaths from coronavirus since March, when lockdown was imposed.

152 people died from Covid-19 in the week up to 7 August, the lowest number of deaths from the disease over seven days since the week ending 20 March.

Jared Kushner calls US handling of coronavirus a success story

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to Donald Trump, has praised his father-in-law’s administration as a success after he was questioned about the death toll in America, which surpassed 170,000.

In an interview with CNN’s The Situation Room, Mr Kushner said the president was “able to rush the supplies we needed” in the first phase of the pandemic as it hit the US.

Andrew Naughtie reports:

‘The Government risks making a major misstep’

The chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, an independent health think tank, has warned that the government is risking a “major misstep” by dismantling Public Health England.
 

Responding to Matt Hancock’s speech on the future of public health, Nigel Edwards said: “There is no doubt that Public Health England is far from perfect: serious questions should be asked about the agency’s role in some of the failures around testing, contract tracing and PPE in the early stages of the pandemic. 
 

“But the correct way to respond to these questions is a proper and evidence-led investigation of what went wrong across government. Without this, we risk a disproportionate response to problems that could be dealt with through straightforward managerial action.  
 

“The government risks making a major misstep by dismantling its own Public Health agency at such a crucial time, creating a huge distraction for staff who should be dedicating themselves to the next stage of the pandemic. 
 

“There is no clear argument as to why this rebranding and reshuffling will solve some of the problems highlighted by the secretary of state today.”
 

Richard Murray, chief executive of health think tank The King’s Fund, was equally critical of Mr Hancock’s decision to break up PHE.

“Undoubtedly, there are questions to be answered about England’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, but the middle of a pandemic is not the time to dismantle England’s public health agency,” Mr Murray said.

New National Institute for Health Protection announced

Matt Hancock has announced the formation of a new organisation, the National Institute for Health Protection, which will replace Public Health England.

He said the new organisation will protect “people from external threats to this country’s health”.

“To give ourselves the best chance of beating this virus and spotting and tackling other external health threats now and in the future, we need to bring together the science and the skill into one coherent whole.

“So today, I am announcing that we are forming a new organisation, the National Institute for Health Protection.

“The National Institute for Health Protection will have a single and relentless mission: protecting people from external threats to this country’s health. External threats like biological weapons, pandemics and, of course, infectious diseases of all kinds.”

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France to make face coverings mandatory in work places

France will make wearing face masks mandatory in work places from 1 September, with some exceptions, the head of a leading union told BFM TV on Tuesday.

Yves Veyrier, leader of Force ouvriere, said the government “deems it necessary to wear a mask when you’re not alone (in the work place)”, adding the labour minister made it clear it was up to the companies concerned to pay for the masks.

France’s High Council for Public Health recommended that mask-wearing be made compulsory in all workplaces as the daily infection numbers surged past 3,000 for the first time since May.

According to French newspaper Journal du Dimanche, French labour minister Elisabeth Borne is laying out the new requirements today. Face masks could be required in collective spaces and during meetings, but could be taken off in private offices, it was reported.

London City Airport pauses £500m expansion due to pandemic

London City Airport is pressing pause on its £500m expansion plans at the end of the year because of coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the aviation industry hard, and the airport said it will have to “re-evaluate the timing of the next phases of the development programme”.

Helen Coffey reports:

World Health Organisation calls for end to ‘vaccine nationalism’

(Reuters)
The pandemic is being worsened by countries prioritising their own supplies of a potential vaccine for coronavirus, warned WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

He said on Tuesday that each country should be acting “strategically and globally” as “no one is safe until everyone is safe”.

Mr Ghrebreyesus told a virtual briefing he had sent a letter to all WHO members asking them to join the multilateral COVAX vaccine effort.

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Surge in depression among British adults during pandemic

The proportion of people in Britain suffering with depression has almost doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic, official data showed on Tuesday.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 19% of adults reported some form of depression during June, compared with 10 per cent in the nine months to March 2020. Stress and anxiety were the most common types of depression listed by people, it said.

In this graph, created for The Independent by Statista, data from the ONS shows 19.2 per cent of British adults reported depressive symptoms in June alone, compared to 9.7 per cent between July 2019 to March this year.

(Statista)

One-person households twice as likely to test positive for Covid-19

Data from the ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey found that people in one-person households were estimated to be around twice as likely to test positive for coronavirus than those in two-person households.

The ONS said it will investigate why one-person households appear more likely to test positive. It added there was no evidence to suggest that those living in larger households than two people were at higher or lower risk of testing positive than those living in two-person households.

“There is some evidence to suggest that household size affects the percentage of individuals testing positive for Covid-19 on a swab test taken between 8 June and 2 August 2020,” said the ONS.

“Those in one-person households were estimated to be around 2.1 times more likely to test positive for Covid-19 on a swab test than those in two-person households.

“Recently, we have introduced new questions in the study about contacts, so we will investigate why those in one-person households might be more likely to test positive in a future article.”

Less than a third of people who test positive reported Covid symptoms, data shows

New figures show that less than a third of people testing positive for coronavirus reported having symptoms of the disease.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), an analysis found only around 28 per cent of people testing positive for coronavirus reported any symptoms at the time of their swab test or at either the preceding or subsequent tests.

The remaining 72 per cent of positive cases either did not report having any specific or general symptoms on the day of their positive swab test, preceding or subsequent swab tests, or did not answer both questions, the ONS added.

“This suggests there is a potentially large number of asymptomatic cases, but it is important to note that symptoms were self-reported rather than professionally diagnosed,” said the ONS.

Respondents were asked to report symptoms including fever, muscle ache, fatigue, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, headache, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, loss of taste or loss of smell.

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Prince Charles sends message of support to Australians amid second wave of coronavirus

(PA)
The Prince of Wales has sent a message to encourage Australians battling a second wave of coronavirus in Victoria.

Charles said Australians are made of “tough stuff” and the second wave would have “heartbreaking consequences” for so many but the state would emerge stronger than ever.

“I just wanted to say, on behalf of my wife and myself, that you are so much in our special thoughts at what I can well imagine is a tremendously testing and frustrating time, and that we care deeply for what you are having to go through,” he said.

Melbourne, the capital city of Victoria, has been in lockdown for over a month. The state still has more than 7,000 active cases of coronavirus and remains Australia’s worst concern.

“I’ve always felt a special fondness of Victoria, having spend six very happy months there at school 54 years ago and having had a chance to explore various parts of the state,” added Charles.

“From being able to live among you, and then to have the good fortune to revisit your marvellous state on many occasions, I know that Victorians, like all Australians, are tenacious, and resilient, or indeed, as you might say in Australia, made of tough stuff.”

Fewest weekly deaths in England and Wales since lockdown began, latest figures show

England and Wales have recorded the lowest weekly number of deaths from coronavirus since lockdown was imposed in March, the latest figures show.

There were 152 fatalities from Covid-19 in the week up to 7 August, according to the Office for National Statistics.
 

New travel insurance partnership offers policies for countries not on quarantine exemption list

A new partnership between Holiday Extras and specialist insurance provider Battleface will offer travel insurance policies for countries that the Foreign Office (FCO) currently advises against travelling to.

The policies will cover customers if they fall ill and require medical or emergency assistance, including medical expenses due to Covid-19, as well as covering loss of baggage, personal money and passport and personal liability.

Find out more from reporter Helen Coffey:

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Shadow health secretary calls PHE shake-up ‘irresponsible’

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary, has described the replacing of Public Health England as “irresponsible” and “desperate blame-shifting”.

He tweeted: “Last year ministers outlined PHE’s priorities. They didn’t mention preparing for a pandemic…

“A structural reorganisation mid-pandemic is time-consuming, energy sapping. It’s risky indeed irresponsible.

“And what an insulting way to treat hardworking staff who heard about this from a pay-walled Sunday newspaper leaving them with questions and worries about their jobs.”


Baroness Dido Harding, who runs NHS England’s Test and Trace scheme, will reportedly head the government’s new Institute for Health Protection, which will replace PHE.

Is the UK’s post-lockdown housing market boom running out of steam?

The UK property market had its busiest month in July in more than a decade with over £37bn of sales going through, according to Rightmove.

But there are signs things could be slowing down. Ben Chapman investigates:

Everything you need to know about reusable face coverings

Louise Whitbread has all the details:

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Irish health chiefs back more coronavirus restrictions – report

Public health officials in Ireland have recommended that older people be urged to limit time spent outdoors and gatherings in homes be restricted to six people to control the spread of coronavirus.

According to a report by the Irish Independent, health chiefs met on Monday to decide if more restrictions were needed to stem a growing spread of Covid-19.

Government and officials have called the rise in cases deeply concerning. The cabinet will meet later today to consider the recommendations.

Ireland’s restrictions now limit gatherings to 50, while 10 visitors from no more than four different households are allowed in the homes of anyone else to limit house parties.

Three primary school pupils test positive for coronavirus

(PA)
Three children attending separate primary schools have tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland.

Renfrewshire Council confirmed a positive case at Todholm Primary School in Paisley. Two other cases were detected in pupils in Perth and Kinross, and both are self-isolating at home with mild symptoms along with their immediate family members.

NHS Tayside and Perth and Kinross Council said in a joint statement the schools will remain open as there is currently no evidence of any transmission of the coronavirus within either of the schools and the risk to staff and other pupils has been assessed as low by public health specialists.

41 close contacts of the positive cases have been identified by the health protection team, including some school pupils and staff. They have been notified and advised to self-isolate for two weeks from 14 August.

Jacquie Pepper, depute director, education and children’s services at Perth and Kinross Council, said: “We hope both children who have tested positive for Covid-19 make a full and speedy recovery.

“We have worked closely with NHS Tayside’s health protection team and wish to reassure parents that all settings which these pupils have attended during their infectious period have been identified. Close contacts have been asked to self-isolate as a precaution.

“This will be a worrying time for parents; however, there is no evidence of wider transmission and children should attend school as normal.”

Marks & Spencer to cut 7,000 jobs due to pandemic

Marks & Spencer has announced it is to cut 7,000 jobs in the next three months as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic becomes ever clearer.

Workers at stores across the UK will be affected by the cuts, as well as those working in regional management and at the high street chain’s central support centre.

The company said total sales have been down 29.9 per cent since shops reopened two months ago, with stores in town centres and shopping centres remaining “heavily impacted by social distancing and reduced footfall”.

Harry Cockburn reports:

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Coronavirus could be linked to type 1 diabetes in children, study suggests

A study has suggested that Covid-19 could be linked to the onset of type 1 diabetes in children, after finding some hospitals saw twice as many young patients with the condition compared to normal times.

Diabetes, which inhibits the body’s ability to produce insulin, may develop alongside the virus.

Vincent Wood has the details:

Coronavirus vaccine ready by end of year, says Chinese company

(AFP)
The head of a major state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company has claimed its coronavirus vaccine will be commercially available by the end of 2020.

Liu Jingzhen, chairman of SinoPharm, said the vaccine would cost under 1,000 yuan (approximately £109) and would be administered in two shots, 28 days apart.

He told state-owned newspaper Guangming Daily that students and workers in major cities would have to get the vaccine, but “not all of the 1.4 billion people in our country have to take it”.

Mr Liu is also the company’s Communist Party secretary. He told the paper he had been injected with the vaccine.

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