Donald Trump has pushed yet another conspiracy theory in alleging that “deep state” officials in the US Food and Drug Administration are deliberately hampering the development of a coronavirus vaccine in a bid to harm his re-election efforts, despite having nominated the agency’s top official for the role.
As John Hopkins University calculated the virus has now claimed at least 800,000 lives, city officials in Chengdu said China had approved human trials of a vaccine cultivated inside insect cells, after trials on monkeys found it prevented infection from Sars-Cov-2 with no obvious side effects.
In the UK, Birmingham was declared an “area of enhanced support” with coronavirus cases “rising quickly”, as residents in Oldham, Blackburn and parts of Pendle awoke to renewed restrictions – the imposition of which was dubbed confusing by one council leader and mixed up live on-air by another, who also sought greater clarity.
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Scientists put on a show to test spread of virus at gigs
Researchers in Germany have put on a concert to assess how good the virus is at spreading at gigs.
The show in Leipzig was attended by around 1,500 people, who were packed in to watch German pop signer Tim Bendzko perform.
However unlike the shows of the pre-Covid era, each volunteer attendee was equipped with contract tracing technology to map their route around the arena and track the path of potential virus-carrying aerosol particles as the talked and mingled.
Fluorescent disinfectants were also used to highlight which surfaces at the mock concert were touched most frequently.
“We really had a lot of fun,” Mr Bendzko said. “We survived drive-in concerts this summer and in that respect, for us this is a first step toward normalcy.”
To mitigate the actual potential to spread the virus each attendee was tested for the virus ahead of time, and all were made to wear protective masks throughout the test.
Stefan Moritz, who led the study, said despite turnout being lower than had been hoped researchers had been able to acquire “good quality data”. The results of the test are expected in the next four to six weeks.
Deaths top 800,000 worldwide
Coronavirus has taken 800,000 lives around the world, according to a John Hopkins University tally, and has been found to have infected close to 23 million people.
China has been giving experimental coronavirus vaccines to high-risk groups since July, official says
While no vaccine has yet passed final, large-scale trials to prove it is safe and effective enough to protect people from coronavirus, China has been providing high-risk groups with jabs since July, a senior National Health Commission official has told state TV.
The aim is to boost the immunity of specific groups of people, including medical workers and those who work at food markets and in the transportation and service sectors, Zheng Zhongwei said.
Authorities could consider modestly expanding the emergency use programme to try to prevent possible outbreaks during the autumn and winter, added Mr Zheng, who directs the team coordinating state resources for coronavirus vaccine development.
The guidelines for emergency use of potential coronavirus vaccines, approved on 24 June 24 according to Mr Zheng, have not been made public.
The state-backed Global Times reported in June that China had been offering candidate coronavirus vaccines to employees at state-owned firms travelling overseas.
Italy records largest surge in new infections since May
Italy has recorded more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since mid-May, when the country was still in lockdown.
“There is continued talk of a second wave of the virus, but in fact the first wave is actually not over yet,’’ health ministry consultant Walter Ricciardi said on Friday.
“We knew that easing measures would have consequences.’’
UK cases rise by 1,288
The UK recorded another four-figure surge in new cases today, up from 1,033 a day earlier, government figures show.
Eighteen people died within 28 days of having tested positive for the virus, after two deaths recorded the previous day.
STA Travel UK, one of the biggest names for backpackers and adventurers has gone out of business.
On Friday evening, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that the London-based firm had failed with the loss of 500 jobs.
The news leaves thousands of customers who are owed refunds uncertain about when they might get their money back.
Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has the key questions and answers.
Six more people die with virus in England
A further six people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals to 29,496, NHS England has said.
The patients were aged between 79 and 93, and all had known underlying health conditions.
Another four deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
WHO chief hopes pandemic can be ended in less than two years
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, noted on Friday that the Spanish flu pandemic which began in 1918 took two years to end, Conrad Duncan reports.
“Our situation now with more technology, of course with more [connectivity] … the virus has a better chance of spreading, it can move fast,” Mr Tedros said. “At the same time we have the technology and knowledge to stop it.”
More than 22.81 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported around the world and 793,382 have died from the virus, according to a Reuters tally.
At the WHO’s media briefing on Friday, Mr Tedros also warned that countries needed to continue to suppress Covid-19 transmission until a vaccine or treatment is found.
“No country can just ride this out until we have a vaccine,” the health chief said. “A vaccine will be a vital tool, and we hope that we will have one as soon as possible. But there’s no guarantee that we will, and even if we do have a vaccine, it won’t end the pandemic on its own.”
Scotland reports first three-figure rise in three months – centred around food processing plant
Scotland has reported 123 new cases of coronavirus – the largest daily surge in new infections since 16 May.
The outbreak is centred around a cluster linked to the 2 Sisters food processing plant in Coupar Angus, with 78 of the new infections recorded in the surrounding area of Tayside.
The food plant is currently closed, with anyone living in a household with a factory worker having been told to isolate at home until 31 August.
A total of 19,728 people have now tested positive for Covid-19 in Scotland. Some 246 people are in hospital with the virus, a drop of eight from the previous day’s total, and two remain in intensive care.
There were eight new cases of coronavirus in the NHS Grampian area, where authorities have been dealing with a cluster of cases linked to pubs in Aberdeen. This outbreak has seen local lockdown measures imposed on the city, forcing bars, cafes and restaurants to shut, while residents are being asked not to go into other people’s homes.
‘They should never have let us go abroad’: Holidaymakers describe ‘near-on impossible’ bid to reach UK before quarantine deadline
Karen Emery, 57, who works in a school, and her sister Dionne, from Newcastle, were due to fly back from Dubrovnik on Sunday, but had to cut their holiday short in a bid to avoid quarantine measures, embarking on a “near-on impossible” journey back to the UK as a result.
“We had to get an overnight ferry from Croatia to Italy before flying to Heathrow, which was near-on impossible, it’s not like coming back from France, there’s no way out in time,” Ms Emery told the PA news agency at Heathrow Airport.
“They should have given us until Monday, so we could plan a way out, but there wasn’t enough time, so our holiday has been cut short.
“They should have never let us go abroad, it’s a disgrace, we knew this could happen but there was no support, no advice from the government, we were pretty much forgotten about, we were all on our own.”
John Rentoul: Mass unemployment is the next problem that Boris Johnson should have seen coming
The next problem that Boris Johnson saw coming and failed to prepare for is mass unemployment. After the A-level grades, the end of the evictions ban and the certainty that his holiday location would be on the front pages of the newspapers, he knows that the jobless total is likely to rise to three million when the furlough scheme ends in two months, writes our chief political commentator for Independent Voices.
This is the sort of level of unemployment the country endured in the mid-1980s, when it scarred lives and depressed whole towns and cities. Historians and economists still argue about how necessary it was, as Britain modernised, but it was a terrible price to pay.
It could be argued that Margaret Thatcher didn’t see it coming, although there were plenty of warnings that putting interest rates up and keeping them high would price Britain out of world markets.
But Johnson can see it coming, because he knows there are still a lot of people on furlough, and he knows they won’t all have jobs to go back to. Most forecasts expect total unemployment to rise to between 2.5 million and 3.5 million.
He must hope for an outcome at the lower end of that range, and some of the statistics for the bounce-back of consumer spending have been quite hopeful, but even 2.5 million would be bad. That would take us back to the level of the last peak, in 2012, four years after the financial crash.
China approves human testing for potential vaccine cultivated inside insect cells
China has approved human testing for a potential coronavirus vaccine cultivated within insect cells, Chengdu city officials have said.
Using insect cells to grow proteins for the vaccine – a first in China – could speed up large-scale production, the city government of Chengdu said in a notice on WeChat.
The vaccine developed by Chengdu’s Sichuan University has received approval from the National Medical Products Administration to enter a clinical trial, the notice said, having been found to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections in monkeys with no obvious side-effects.
Trump claims ‘deep state’ is delaying coronavirus vaccine until after election
The head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr Stephen Hahn, was nominated by Trump for the role in 2019, Richard Hall reports. Human trials for a Covid-19 vaccine are currently ongoing around the world. But there are still things scientists don’t fully understand about the virus, which has killed some 800,000 people worldwide.
Donald Trump followed up on his tweet with another referencing the FDA’s decision to revoke emergency authorisation of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treating Covid-19, citing evidence that it is “unlikely to be effective” in treating the coronavirus.
Ukrainian president urges citizens to take health advice seriously after record rise in cases
Ukraine saw 2,328 new cases and 37 deaths in the past 24 hours, surpassing the previous record of 2,134 set on Thursday after a sharp rise in infections, pushing the total number of cases to 102,971.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked people to take seriously the recent jump in the daily tally of new infections, urging them to wear masks and keep social distancing.
“Please help doctors, be careful,” Mr Zelensky said in a televised interview. “We really did not have the first wave when it happened in Europe. Now it is coming, now we are growing … almost daily.”
He said Ukraine had managed to avoid a big number of infections in March through May thanks to a strict lockdown. Yet as soon as restrictions had gradually been lifted, numbers of new daily coronavirus cases started rising, from bellow 1,000 in June to above 2,000 this week.
“We are well prepared in terms of [hospital] places, equipment, number of tests … But no number of places in hospitals, and especially no number of specialists, will help us survive if there is the second and third wave, if it is very powerful,” he added. “And here the question is only for our people”.
Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has the details on the government announcement that left holidaymakers dashing for flights at inflated prices to return from Croatia and Austria.
Immediately, demand for the few flights out of Croatia on Friday surged. The two scheduled flights from the capital, Zagreb, to London Heathrow quickly sold out – even with Croatia Airlines charging £476 one way.
Overnight, British Airways laid on an extra service on the route. The flight was on sale at £275.
Some holidaymakers in the north of the country headed for Venice, from where Ryanair was charging £275 for flights to Stansted and British Airways had an evening flight for £574 to Heathrow.
Birmingham added to Covid watch list as ‘area of enhanced support’ amid rising cases
As part of the move, after cases were found to be “rising quickly” to 31 per 100,000 last week, Birmingham will receive more testing and intensified calls for guidelines to be adhered to.
With Matt Hancock set to meet city officials, Birmingham’s Labour council leader Ian Ward said it was a “wake-up call for everyone”, pledging to announce “as soon as possible” what the progression would mean for residents.
“If our previous warnings to keep doing the basics haven’t been enough, this has to be the wake-up call for everyone,” Andy Street said. “Wash your hands, wear face coverings wherever possible, keep two metres apart from others and get tested if you have Covid-19 symptoms.”
“People across the region have made an enormous sacrifice since the start of lockdown to keep the virus at bay, but the virus is now returning and recent efforts to counter that have been insufficient,” he added.
While statistics from last week showed the rate of infection had more than doubled, it remains lower than in Leicester and parts of northern England where local lockdown measures were previously imposed.
Police stations close in Northern Ireland after officers test positive for Covid-19
Two police stations have closed after eight officers tested positive for coronavirus, the Police Service of Northern Ireland has said.
“Following reports of a number of officers from Antrim Station being unwell, these officers have undergone testing for Covid-19,” Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said.
“At this time, eight of these officers have tested positive for the virus.”
Mr Todd added: “We have undertaken, and we will continue to undertake a range of appropriate measures, in line with public health advice and guidance, to address the issue.
“This includes the closure of both Antrim and Newtownabbey stations in order to conduct a deep clean.
“Colleagues from across the district are also self-isolating and will undergo testing for Covid-19.”
He said there were plans in place to ensure police services could continue during the outbreak.
South Korea bans large gatherings and shuts nightspots due to ‘very dangerous situation’
South Korea has announced strict new measures to control the spread of coronavirus, including banning large gatherings, closing beaches, shutting nightspots and churches, and removing fans from professional sports.
Park Neung-hoo, the country’s health minister, announced the measures shortly after the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 332 new cases – the ninth straight day of triple-digit increases.
While most of the new cases have come from the Seoul metropolitan area, infections have also been reported in practically every major city and town – raising concerns of widespread transmission.
The government had already imposed elevated social distancing measures in Seoul this week after resisting them for months out of economic concerns.
“We are now in a very dangerous situation that could trigger a massive nationwide spread of Covid-19,” Mr Park said.
Churches had been a major source of new cases in the Seoul area before authorities shut them this week.
Nightclubs, karaoke bars, buffet restaurants and computer gaming cafes in the greater capital region have also closed and spectators have been banned again from baseball and football games, just weeks after teams had been allowed to sell portions of their seats.
Argentina joins Phase 3 trials for Chinese coronavirus vaccine
Argentina has joined Peru, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates in approving Phase 3 clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), the company has said.
CNBG has been looking for research participants from other countries for testing as coronavirus cases in China have dwindled.
Phase 3 trials, which usually involve several thousand participants, allow researchers to gather data on the efficacy of potential vaccines for final regulatory approvals.
CNBG will partner with Argentina’s ELEA in the vaccine trial, the Chinese company said in a statement late on Friday.
The experimental vaccine by CNBG, a unit of state-owned pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), received approval from the UAE in June for a Phase 3 trial and has since recruited 15,000 volunteers.
The company said on Thursday that Peru and Morocco also approved the trials.
More than half of Spanish companies reopen after closing during lockdown
More than half of the companies in Spain which closed at the height of the coronavirus pandemic have now reopened, according to government data released on Saturday.
The number of companies registered to pay social security by the end of July was 1,282,346, according to figures from the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, or 91,240 fewer firms than in February before the government imposed a strict lockdown.
However, the statistics showed that since the easing of lockdown started in May, 49,159 companies had registered with the government.
This is just over half the number which closed when the pandemic was at its height in March and April, suggesting the economy is recovering slowly.
The worst affected sectors of the economy between February and July were education, where 22.6 per cent of companies closed, and agriculture and fishing, in which 15.2 per cent of firms stopped trading, according to the data.