The Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has welcomed the Welsh government’s decision to impose a ban on visitors from high-Covid areas of England. In a statement he said:
This announcement is long overdue and I’m pleased to see the Welsh government finally taking this necessary course of action to protect the people of Wales.
We now need a clear timetable for exactly when the draft legislation will be ready to publish, the proposed timescales and plans for implementation and how this is to be communicated across the UK. With half term arriving for much of England next week, timing is now critical.
Let this be a lesson to Welsh government. Continued correspondence with Downing Street will not get us the answers we want. We should have learnt our lessons from the first wave: depending on Westminster does not work for Wales.
His tweet summed it up.
At last! O’r diwedd! pic.twitter.com/Vs7l9aTxeJ
October 14, 2020
Manchester and Liverpool metro mayors threaten legal action over ‘discriminatory’ furlough scheme
Two of England’s metro mayors are considering legal action against the government’s “discriminatory” furlough scheme amid a deepening stand-off with ministers over the three-tier approach to lockdowns.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said imposing tier three restrictions – closing pubs and other public venues – was “surrendering people to certain hardship” without significant financial support.
Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool city region, indicated that he and Burnham would launch a legal challenge to the Treasury’s “discriminatory” new furlough scheme that will pay two-thirds of a workers’ wages compared to 80% during the national lockdown. He said:
For me it appears to be discriminatory that the government are saying we gave people 80% in March but because its happening in the Liverpool City Region you’re only going to get two-thirds of your wage.
Burnham said he “will not accept” the imposition of tier 3 restrictions but that he would not urge people to break the law if it was imposed. He said legal action would aim to protect workers in the event that further support was not forthcoming: He added:
That’s not an idle threat – will do anything to protect our residents facing hardship, particularly in the run-up to Christmas.
The 10 leaders of Greater Manchester’s local authorities – including the Conservative leader of Bolton council – said earlier they would not accept further restrictions on the region without additional support. (See 11.35am.)
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is expected to discuss moving the region to tier three – meaning the closure of pubs and other public venues – at a Gold meeting with the government’s chief medical officers tomorrow.
However, it is not clear whether a decision will be made at this meeting. Burnham is due to hold a meeting with Jonathan Van Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, later today in which he will resist any attempt to impose further restrictions.
Repeating his calls for a national circuit breaker with additional financial support, Burnham said were “fundamentally flawed,” “morally wrong” and if “would be surrendering people here to certain hardship in the run up to Christmas”.
Andy Burnham on TV in a deserted pub in Manchester. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
at 4.42pm BST
UK records almost 20,000 new coronavirus cases – up 14% from yesterday
The UK government has just updated its coronavirus dashboard. Here are the key figures.
The UK has recorded 19,724 new coronavirus cases. That is the highest daily figure on record (excluding a day when the total was artificially inflated by previous tests) and a rise of almost 2,500 (or 14%) on the total for yesterday (17,234).
The UK has recorded 137 new deaths. This is only just below the figure for yesterday (143) which was the highest daily figure since early June. This takes the total number of people who have died within 28 days of a positive test to 43,155. But the dashboard says there have been at least 57,690 deaths where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.
There are now more than 4,000 coronavirus patients in hospital in England. Today’s total is 4,146, up from 3,905 yesterday. On Monday, the last day for which specific admissions figures are on the dashboard, there were 647 coronavirus admissions to hospital in England, up from 628 the previous day.
There are now 468 hospital patients in England on mechanical ventilation, up from 441 yesterday.
Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, is at pains to stress that there is nothing anti-English in his stance. But at first minister’s questions on Tuesday, Mark Reckless, the Brexit party leader, taunted Drakeford – whose government is a firm supporter of the union – by arguing Wales was “sleepwalking towards independence”
Meanwhile, at her briefing on Wednesday, the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, backed her Welsh counterpart and said she would write to Boris Johnson on the issue to seek “urgent talks”.
Sturgeon drew attention to the Lancashire resort of Blackpool, revealing at her daily briefing that 94 people in the last week alone have tested positive having visited the seaside town. She urged Scots not to visit the resort. See 12.42pm.
at 4.15pm BST
How Wales might enforce ban on visitors from high-Covid areas of England
Police forces across Wales have begun to work out how to enforce a ban. There is no suggestion that checkpoints or roadblocks at the 160-mile border will be brought in. Even if the Welsh government did want this – and it doesn’t – there are simply too many ways in and out to make this practical.
Dafydd Llywelyn, the police and crime commissioner for Dyfed-Powys, said it would not be possible to completely close the border. But other tactics are available, including setting up road checks within Wales and following up tips from members of the public.
He gave an example of the current inconsistencies. Dyfed-Powys officers recently issued fixed penalty notices to three men who had driven out of Caerphilly for a day out. But the police had not been able to stop a coachload of people from a hotspot area in the north of England visiting Tenby in Pembrokeshire, an area of low Covid incidence.
Llywelyn said: “The police are ready to protect our local communities.” He said that the first minister should have acted sooner – and accused the prime minister of putting wealth before health.
Arfon Jones, the north Wales commissioner, accused Johnson of behaving “irresponsibly”. He said:
I can’t see us lining the border with patrol cars because none of the police forces in Wales have the resources to do that. But we will do our best, along with our partners in local authorities and health to enforce the regulations.
at 3.57pm BST
The Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford has defended his plan to ban visitors from high-Covid areas of England (see 3.21pm and 3.30pm) by saying that people were “anxious and fearful” and were “clamouring” for action to be taken.
He said up to 80% of new infections were spread by super-spreaders. “It doesn’t take many people to come in from an outside area who are a super-spreaders to have a very large effect.”
The Welsh government would act by the end of the week if the UK government continued to refused to stop people travelling from English Covid hotspots, he added. But Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused requests from Cardiff for English regulations to be used to stop those visitors entering Wales.
Ahead of Drakeford’s announcement, the Welsh government published a report (pdf) on the genetic makeup of the virus that causes Covid-19, which it said suggested some Welsh cases could be traced back to England.
Health minister Vaughan Gething called the insights from the study, produced by experts from Public Health Wales and Cardiff University’s school of biosciences, “fascinating and terrible”. Gething said:
What is clear from the data is that the easing of lockdown rules into August has corresponded with an increase in cases, which may partly be driven by imports from other parts of the UK and wider world.
On Wednesday Public Health Wales reported 946 new cases of coronavirus – the largest number of positive cases on a single day in Wales for the entire pandemic.
There are more than 700 Covid-related patients in Welsh hospitals, 49% more than last week and the highest number since late June.
This is from Andrew RT Davies, a Conservative member of the Senedd (Welsh parliament) and a former Tory leader in Wales.
Andrew RT Davies
The Welsh Government’s unhealthy obsession with travel restrictions and “banning the English” flies in the face of all the evidence.
Last month’s SAGE advice said such a move would have a “low impact” and would be “complicated” to enforce. pic.twitter.com/wroKDJlnIS
October 14, 2020
Students in Birmingham were given used coronavirus tests by mistake, with the council launching a review of the incident amid concern from those who received contaminated swabs.
The council coronavirus swab tests were accidentally handed out in Selly Oak, Birmingham as part of the city council’s drop-off and collect service. University of Birmingham students who then received the kits opened the boxes and found sealed bags inside.
Posting on the university Feb n Fresh Facebook group people have been discussing it, with one person writing: “Was anyone accidentally given a used swab kit by UOB??”
Second-year student Tasha Ashbridge reported on the community Facebook page, according to the student newspaper the Redbrick, that people in hi-vis jackets handed them testing kits that were “sealed and snapped” already, with students in affected houses saying “some had people’s names and addresses on the tests bags”.
The council said:
We are aware that a small number of tests were mistakenly given out during Drop and Collect activity in Selly Oak yesterday (13th Oct).
As soon as it became apparent that the wrong tests had been given out steps were taken immediately to rectify the mistake. Drop and Collect is a vital part of helping to tackle the spread of Covid in our city, with 100,000 tests being undertaken to date.
The circumstances around this incident are being fully reviewed and any required changes to the process will be implemented.
at 3.52pm BST
The latest edition of the Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast is out. Jessica Elgot and Helen Pidd break down the three-tier risk system now in place in England. Lisa O’Carroll and Mujtaba Rahman look at the latest Brexit negotiations. Plus, Rajeev Syal speaks to Meg Hillier MP, chair of the public accounts committee.
Here is the quote from Mark Drakeford, first minister of Wales, explaining why his government intends to ban visitors from areas of England with high rates of coronavirus. Drakeford said:
Evidence from public health professionals suggests coronavirus is moving from east to west across the UK and across Wales. As a general rule, it is concentrating in urban areas and then spreading to more sparsely populated areas as a result of people travelling.
Much of Wales is now subject to local restriction measures because levels of the virus have risen and people living in those areas are not able to travel beyond their county boundary without a reasonable excuse. This is designed to prevent the spread of infection within Wales and to other areas of the UK.
We are preparing to take this action to prevent people who live in areas where there are higher covid infection rates across the UK from travelling to Wales and bringing the virus with them. I am determined to keep Wales safe.
Mark Drakeford. Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
People from high-Covid areas of England to be banned from going to Wales, first minister says
People who live in Covid-19 hotspots in England are to be banned from travelling to Wales, the Welsh first minister has announced.
Mark Drakeford said he had asked for the “necessary work” to take place to allow devolved powers to be used to prevent people from travelling into Wales from “high prevalence” areas of the UK.
A sign on the M4 motorway near Cardiff in Wales. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA
Katrina Stephens, the director of public health at Oldham council, has said a circuit breaker over the October half term is the only sufficient way to tackle the virus given the transmission rate.
Stephens called for “a combination of measures” in addition to three-tier system. She added:
We’re going to need to reduce the level of contact that people have with each other quite substantially in order to really make a profound impact on the levels of transmission that we’re seeing.
But I think whatever measures come into put into place, we’ve got to consider how we mitigate the negative impact, particularly around the impact on people’s mental health and well being and financial support.
I think infection rates have got to a level where the circuit breaker approach which could potentially be a good move.
Stephens said the closure of pubs and bars – as is the base level of tier 3 – would not be enough to bring the virus under control and that universities should move teaching online as much as possible. “I think we need a combination of measures and I do think they need to be additional measures beyond what we’ve got in place at the moment,” she said.
Oldham had the highest infection rate in England throughout much of August, when its infection rate reached more than 100 cases per 100,000 people. Stephens said its infection rate is now almost four times higher – 379 cases per 100,000 – and that there had been a “particularly worrying” rise in infections among the elderly in the past fortnight which, she said, was likely to lead to increased deaths and hospital admissions.
No 10 says it wants ‘maximum possible consensus’ on moving areas into toughest tier 3 restrictions
Here are the main lines from the Downing Street lobby briefing.
The prime minister’s spokesman said Boris Johnson would shortly take a decision about the next steps in the UK-EU trade talks. In September Johnson set 15 October – tomorrow – as a deadline. He said that if there was no agreement by then, “I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.” Today his spokesman said:
Some progress has been made this week, primarily in technical areas of the negotiations, but there are still differences with fisheries being the starkest.
We need to get the substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult.
The prime minister’s September 7 statement was very clear about the significance of October 15.
He will need to take a decision on next steps following the European Council in the light of his conversation with President von der Leyen, and on advice from his negotiating team. I cannot prejudge what that decision will be.
The spokesman said the government wanted to reach a consensus with local leaders about moving their regions into the toughest tier 3 restrictions. But he did not rule out the government imposing tier 3 on places if necessary. He said:
We want to create the maximum possible local consensus behind what would be the most severe kind of local actions. We continue to work with local leaders on that.
But the spokesman added: “The government does have the ability to impose measures if it was felt that was what was needed to reduce transmission and to protect the NHS.”
We are leading efforts on development of a vaccine and also – to maximise our opportunities to detect, treat and protect ourselves against the virus – we are also supporting the development of safe and effective treatments and tests.
We can’t, obviously, pin our hopes on a vaccine but we are doing everything possible both to develop a vaccine but also to develop those other treatments which can help to reduce the symptoms of coronavirus and to save lives.
The spokesman condemned as “irresponsible” the behaviour of some people in a crowd on the streets in Liverpool last night. (See 9.30am.)
NHS England has recorded 68 further hospital deaths for people who had tested positive for coronavirus. There were 25 in the north-west, 16 in the north-east and Yorkshire, 12 in London, seven in the Midlands, four in the south-east, three in the east of England, and one in the south-west.
This is down 19 on the equivalent figure for yesterday (87) but up 14 on the equivalent figure for this time last week (54).
Today NHS England is also recording eight further deaths where there was no positive test, but coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.
The final process of withdrawing from the EU is as risky and complex as “political brain surgery”, the justice secretary has said in defence of the government’s controversial internal market bill, which sanctions breaking international law.
Appearing before the House of Lords constitution select committee, Robert Buckland admitted that it was an “extraordinary measure”. He repeatedly denied that supporting legislation which contemplated breaching the EU withdrawal agreement was inconsistent with his oath of office to uphold the rule of law.
Asked by the crossbench peer Lord Hennessy what would be the point where he “could take no more”, Buckland replied that his resignation would come if the government was proposing to breach “domestic law or the independence of the judiciary”. Then, he explained, “I would be the first person to lie down before the proverbial bulldozer.”
Having extricated ourselves after nearly 40 years from an unprecedented relationship with other sovereign states on the continent of Europe. This was never going to be easy.
I don’t think you can … [shy] away from the fact that the process of Brexit was going to be akin to political brain surgery. And here we are at the end of that enterprise trying to anticipate the last threads, last complications that could upset things in quite a dramatic way.
He said controversial clauses in the bill would only be used if the EU demonstrated “bad faith” but admitted there had been no sign of that in negotiations so far. He promised the government would abide by dispute resolution mechanisms in the EU withdrawal agreement in parallel with the emergency clauses in the bill.
The House of Lords is due to debate and vote on the internal market bill next week.
at 2.08pm BST