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Volunteers in Cambridge have used lockdown to create an organic market garden near the city centre, which is now helping to stock local community food hubs. Mattha Busby has been speaking to them. You can read his full report here:

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Cases of Covid-19 nearly double in a week in Stoke-on-Trent

Cases of Covid-19 have nearly doubled in a week in Stoke-on-Trent, days after the council pleaded with residents to comply with distancing measures. Figures published by Public Health England today show 79 cases were detected in the city in the week to 20 August. The infection rate has now risen from 15.6 to 30.8 cases per 100,000 people.

On Friday, 12 cases were confirmed in Stoke-on-Trent on one day, with the majority concentrated in the Normacot area of the city.

Gillani Noor Mosque and Al Hafiz Academy have voluntarily closed for two weeks in response to the surge, while hundreds of people were tested for the virus over the weekend at a temporary testing facility set up at Alexandra Infants school on Melville Road.

On Friday, Stoke-on-Trent city council’s leader, Abi Brown, pleaded with communities to abide by public health guidance in order to avoid a local lockdown. “While cases have up until now predominantly been concentrated on a small area of the community in Normacot, coronavirus does not care who it targets,” she said.

“It affects each and every community regardless of race, class or religion. We need to contain the virus. That is why with 12 new cases recorded in one day across the city, we’re urging everyone to play their part.”

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Switzerland could become the next European country to be subject to quarantine measures by all four nations of the UK, according to latest figures.

A seven-day rate of 20 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people is the threshold above which the UK government considers triggering quarantine conditions. Switzerland is currently recording a seven-day rate of 20.7 cases per 100,000.

Scotland has already taken Switzerland off its list of countries from which people do not need to self-isolate on arrival. The rest of the UK could follow later this week.

The Czech Republic and Greece are also likely to have their Covid-19 figures scrutinised closely by the UK government this week. In the Czech Republic the seven-day rate is currently 17.9, up from 15.6 a week ago. In Greece the rate is 14.8, up from 13.5.

Neither country has breached the threshold of 20 cases per 100,000, but both appear to be heading in that direction. The latest seven-day rates have been calculated by the PA news agency based on data collected by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Iceland is currently reporting the same seven-day rate as Greece – 14.8 – but while in Greece there have been 1,589 new cases recorded in the past week, in Iceland there have been only 53.

The rate in Iceland is also unchanged on last week. These factors should keep Iceland on the list of countries from which people do not need to self-isolate on arrival in the UK. Meanwhile in Ireland, the seven-day rate has ticked upwards from 11.4 to 14.9 – the highest it has been since late May.

By contrast the seven-day rate in the UK is currently 10.7.

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More on whether schools would stay open in the event of a local lockdown.

A Number 10 spokesman said:

Obviously we would need to look at the local area and it would be done on a case by case basis. We’ve been clear about any suspected cases and how we would deal with them and if there was a case where… children weren’t able to go to school, we’ve been clear. We expect the school to provide remote education and Nick Gibb (minister for school standards), I believe this morning, set out during his interviews the process we would go through if we were to find an outbreak in a school, so isolating students, testing those in the local – who they’ve been sitting close to, testing their teachers and so on.

Asked about union suggestions that teachers or pupils be allowed to wear face coverings, he said:

Our guidance, which we published a while ago, does not recommend face coverings as pupils and staff are working with consistent groups … I believe our guidance does not recommend face coverings. Pupils and staff will mix in consistent groups and we acknowledge that face coverings could obstruct communication between teachers and pupils.

Downing Street played down the prospect of a review into whether face coverings should be worn in England’s schools. The No 10 spokesman said:

There are no plans to review the guidance on face coverings in schools. We are conscious of the fact that it would obstruct communication between teachers and pupils.

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No 10 has not ruled out schools closing again if local lockdowns are required.

Jessica Elgot

No10 not ruling out that schools could close again if local lockdowns are required – but teachers must prepare remote lessons for students.

“if that was the case and that needed to happen we would expect the school to provide a remote education.”

August 24, 2020

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UK will be first in line for any Oxford University-developed vaccine, insists Downing Street

Downing Street insisted the UK would be first in line for a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University if it was proven to be effective, following reports Donald Trump is considering granting emergency authorisation for it to be deployed in the US.

The vaccine is being developed by Oxford scientists and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. A Number 10 spokesman said: “We have been clear that we will only roll out a vaccine once it is deemed safe and effective by our regulators.”

The UK government has struck a deal with AstraZeneca to get “first access” to it once approved, the spokesman said.

“AstraZeneca have entered into a number of agreements with other countries, they have the global licensing agreement with Oxford, but we have been clear: once it has been found to be effective, we have signed a deal for 100 million doses, which means that once it is effective the UK will get first access.”

Biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca which is producing a possible Covid-19 vaccine.

Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/EPA

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No 10 has been asked if Boris Johnson regretted the government’s handling of exam results this year, and if the prime minister was personally sorry about the way things had panned out.

A Number 10 spokesman said:

The PM is of course sorry for any distress that has been caused … our focus has been and will be ensuring that students can move on to the next phase and ensuring kids can get back to school next week.”

Asked should headteachers fine parents who do not send their children back to the classroom, the spokesman said:

The PM’s words are clear… we believe there’s a moral duty. We’ve also been clear that the risk posed to students from Covid is less than the risk of them not attending school. The prime minister’s clear; he believes that every child should be back in school next week. As has been made clear in the past, fining is obviously (the) last resort, but we encourage headteachers and parents to speak if they are concerned, bu t… we’ve been working with … schools and local authorities throughout the pandemic to ensure schools are safe to return next week.

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Downing Street said mass testing was “incredibly important” and pilot schemes were taking place.

Responding to reports that the health secretary, Matt Hancock, wants up to 4m coronavirus tests a day by early next year, a Number 10 spokesman said pilot schemes were currently being assessed.

The spokesman said:

We have, throughout the pandemic, increased our capacity to test for coronavirus and we have always been clear that we’ll continue to increase capacity. DHSC (the Department of Health and Social Care) has three pilots currently under way and we are continuing to assess their feasibility.”

Mass testing on that scale “would allow for us to test wider sections of society that may be asymptomatic”.

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Secondary school pupils in Scotland expected to be told to wear face coverings

Scottish secondary pupils are expected to be told to wear face coverings in corridors and public spaces at school after the World Health Organization updated its advice, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

The first minister said John Swinney, the education secretary, was consulting with local councils and union leaders on the change after the WHO recommended three days ago pupils over 12 use face coverings in schools where physical distancing is not possible.

Several high schools in Scotland have already implemented those measures, including James Gillespie’s in Edinburgh, Grantown grammar school in Grantown-on-Spey and Millburn academy in Inverness, after experiencing over-crowding in corridors and circulation areas.

The EIS, Scotland’s largest teachers union, said it would press ministers to adopt the WHO’s new guidance after schools across the country found it extremely hard to maintain physical distancing while pupils moved between classes or at break times and lunch time.

Grantown told parents over the weekend face coverings would be required from the start of school on Monday. Its Facebook page said: “Don’t forget to bring your face masks to school tomorrow! Pupils and staff need to wear them in the corridors when moving between classes and in the canteen.”

The new measures follow an upsurge of cases involving Scottish schools and nurseries after they reopened earlier in August, including one cluster affecting 17 staff at a special school in Dundee. A nursery attached to Newburgh primary school in Fife was closed down after a child there fell ill with Covid-19.

Sturgeon denied she had ever said there was no risk of Covid-19 transmission within schools and conceded the Kingspark school cluster could show it was an issue. She said the greatest risk for schools was transmission in the wider community. Even so “we must have the right mitigations in schools to keep the risk of transmission as low as possible”, she said.

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BBC drama boss Piers Wenger has told the Edinburgh TV Festival that productions ranging from EastEnders to The Pursuit Of Love are using “ingenious” ways to navigate Covid-19 filming restrictions, including have actors kissing through a sheet of perspex, which is then taken out in post-production, or putting cast and crew in “bubbles”.

Also speaking at the festival, the BBC director of content, Charlotte Moore, has spoken about how the corporation has handled the coronavirus crisis, saying:

We had to be nimble-footed and agile and work with the production sector and work out what we were able to make and what we could edit. It’s been the most extraordinary time. Shows like The Repair Shop and Sewing Bee had extraordinary figures as well. And dramas like The Salisbury Poisonings, Talking Heads, The Nest, I May Destroy You, Normal People, suddenly there was so much focus and attention on shows that deserved to hit that mainstream, that suddenly had big audiences. We were reading the audience every day and trying to feel the mood.”

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The Guardian’s John Harris has been examining how the Covid crisis in the aviation industry is hitting towns across the UK, with workers from Belfast to Caerphilly fearing mass unemployment.

Near Caerphilly, nearly 600 posts are being lost at the vast aeroplane engine maintenance plant run by the global giant General Electric, which before the pandemic employed 1,400 people. In Broughton in north Wales, where employees of Airbus assemble wings for the company’s entire range of planes, there are plans to cut 1,400 jobs from a total of 6,000. In Derby and Nottinghamshire, Rolls-Royce is expected to lose about 1,500 workers.

You can read John’s full report below:

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More on Tesco’s plan to create 16,000 new permanent roles to support growth of its online business.

These 16,000 jobs are in addition to around 4,000 permanent jobs that have already been created since the start of the pandemic, Tesco said.

It expects the majority of these roles to be filled by staff who have joined the company on a temporary basis in recent months.

Jason Tarry, chief executive officer of Tesco UK and ROI, said:

Since the start of the pandemic, our colleagues have helped us to more than double our online capacity, safely serving nearly 1.5 million customers every week and prioritising vulnerable customers to ensure they get the food they need. These new roles will help us continue to meet online demand for the long term, and will create permanent employment opportunities for 16,000 people across the UK.

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Preparing for Christmas in a pandemic. The Ministry of Fun’s summer Santa school at Southwark Cathedral in London is aiming to create Covid-safe Christmas grottos by teaching Father Christmases how to appear safely in person while maintaining the Christmas magic.

Santa school at Southwark Cathedral

Santas at the Ministry of Fun’s Summer School at Southwark Cathedral Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

Members of the physically distanced Santa School travel to Southwark Cathedral, London.

Santas on their way to the Ministry of Fun’s summer school.

Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

Lessons in how to give presents safely.

A Santa is taught by school founder James Lovell, right, how to give a present while physcially distancing during a Santa school training at Southwark Cathedral in London. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

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