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UK coronavirus live: Rhondda Valley outbreak linked to Doncaster races; patients urged not to go to A&E for tests UK coronavirus live: Boris Johnson admits country does not have enough testing capacity
(32 minutes later)
Fresh restrictions in south Wales after cluster of new cases; Bolton hospital boss says 100 people turned up to ask for Covid tests PM tells Commons liaison committee capacity will be up to 500,000 tests per day by end of October; Rhondda Valley outbreak linked to Doncaster races
In response to another question from Stride, Johnson says he is right to say the threat of interest rates rising in the future is a real one.
Mel Stride, the Tory chair of the Treasury committee, goes next.
Q: Will the Treasury consider what it can to do support businesses that will be viable when this is over?
Johnson says the government will be intensely creative to help. People would not have expected it to produce something as imaginative as the furlough scheme. It will continue like that, he says.
Q: If you land at an Italian airport, you can be tested and get a result in 30 minutes. But our constituents cannot get tested. What are you going to do about it?
Johnson says he knows people have had infuriating experiences. He sympathises with them. But 89% of people get a result within 24 hours.
As for airport tests, they can produce false results giving people a false sense of security.
Q: Your ‘it all seems to be going well’ response is not appropriate.
Johnson says that is not what he said.
Q: If the government can break the law in a limited and specific way, why shouldn’t people do the same with the rule of six?
Johnson says he is urging people to obey this rule.
Catherine McKinnell (Lab) goes next.
Q: Why did you reject the recommendations from a committee proposing measures to support pregnant women during the crisis?
Johnson says he does not think that is the case. He supports partners being allowed to be present when women are giving birth. He said so in the Commons at PMQs, he says.
Q: But the petitions committee made a series of recommendations on this. Currently it is easier for a male partner to go to the pub than to be present at the birth. The government rejected almost all of them.
Johnson says he is not aware of this, but will look into it.
Q: Why do you think the civil service needs reform?
Johnson says he thinks the civil service is fantastic. But he thinks it could do some things faster.
He says he wants to stress that any reform will not be motivated by disapproval.
He is still committed to the Northcote-Trevelyan principles.
Q: So when will ministers take responsibility for things going wrong, not officials?
Johnson says as PM he takes responsibility for what the government does.
William Wragg (Con) goes next.
Q: When will you hold the inquiry you have promised?
Johnson says he does not think it would be sensible to start working on it now.
Q: You must have done some work already on lessons learnt. Can you give examples?
Johnson says they have learnt much more about asymptomatic transmission.
Jenkin says if schools can’t stay open, there will be huge problems. He says at a school in his constituency 97% of pupils went back. Now only 88% of them are in school.
Johnson says the government is trying to speed up the testing process.
Q: Why are so many people demanding tests now?
Johnson says people want tests so they can go about their normal lives.
But the guidance is that people should only seek tests when they have symptoms.
He says the government will shortly set out the criteria that will decide who gets priority for testing.
Greg Clark, the Tory chair of the science committee, goes first.
Q: Do we have enough testing capacity?
Johnson says the short answer is no.
But he says by the end of October capacity will be up to 500,000 tests per day.
Sir Bernard Jenkin, the committee chair, starts by asking Boris Johnson to commit to appearing three times before the committee in 2020 - which would mean one more appearance before Christmas.
Johnson says he will “look carefully at his diary” and do his utmost to comply.
Jenkin says he will take that as a yes.
(Based on previous experience, that may not be wise.)
Boris Johnson will start giving evidence to the Commons liaison committee in the next few minutes. It’s a committee made up of the chairs of Commons select committees, and it normally questions the PM about three times a year.
Greater Manchester will start using hundreds of police community support officers and fire safety staff to plug the holes of the struggling NHS Test and Trace system.Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, said the new locally-run contact-tracing unit would aim to quickly reach the 3,600 people falling through the gaps of the national system each week.The new unit will be staffed by more than 100 police and community support officers and 100 fire safety officers and aim to be established “in days rather than weeks”, Burnham said.Figures released by Burnham’s office today showed the government’s flagship NHS Test and Trace programme was still failing to reach 46% of the close contacts of people who had tested positive for coronavirus in Greater Manchester, equating to 519 people a day and 3,633 people a week.Burnham said instead of waiting for improvements to the privatised arm of Test and Trace, which is run by Serco and Sitel and is where most of the contacts are missed, Greater Manchester was taking matters into its own hands.“We are absolutely working flat-out to get this up and running as quickly as possible,” he said.The new command unit will mean staff are taken away from the already stretched Greater Manchester police and the region’s fire and rescue service. Burnham said the move “isn’t necessarily sustainable over the long term” but that it was being done in collaboration with the emergency services.The contact-tracing unit will also link into a new support service being launched to help people in Greater Manchester who will struggle to self-isolate for financial reasons.
Scotland has recorded 267 new coronavirus cases, amounting to 3.6% of people testing positive. And it has recorded one new death.Scotland has recorded 267 new coronavirus cases, amounting to 3.6% of people testing positive. And it has recorded one new death.
There have been no further deaths in Wales, but Public Health Wales has recorded 199 new cases.There have been no further deaths in Wales, but Public Health Wales has recorded 199 new cases.
And in Northern Ireland 129 new cases have been recorded, and two new deaths.And in Northern Ireland 129 new cases have been recorded, and two new deaths.
A new UK body to advocate for freedom of religion and belief has been launched with the backing of more than 50 organisations.A new UK body to advocate for freedom of religion and belief has been launched with the backing of more than 50 organisations.
The first action of the UK Freedom of Religion or Belief Forum was to urge the prime minister to act swiftly in appointing a new special envoy on religious freedom following the resignation on Monday of Rehman Chishti in protest at the government’s moves towards breaking international law through the internal market bill.The first action of the UK Freedom of Religion or Belief Forum was to urge the prime minister to act swiftly in appointing a new special envoy on religious freedom following the resignation on Monday of Rehman Chishti in protest at the government’s moves towards breaking international law through the internal market bill.
The forum is chaired by Philip Mounstephen, the bishop of Truro, who last year led an independent review commissioned by the foreign office on how the government should respond to Christian persecution around the world. The forum is chaired by Philip Mounstephen, the bishop of Truro, who last year led an independent review commissioned by the Foreign Office on how the government should respond to Christian persecution around the world.
MPs were told that it was a “national priority” for GCSE and A-level exams to be held in England next year, with education secretary Gavin Williamson assuring parliament’s education committee that back-up plans would be in place, including the use of public buildings as emergency exam sites.
Susan Acland-Hood, the new permanent secretary of the Department for Education, told the committee:
Williamson told the MPs that pushing back next summer’s exam dates – likely to be by two or three weeks - was still being considered, and that an extra “reserve set” of exam papers may be created for pupils unable to sit a scheduled exam if they are unwell or self-isolating, or in areas under local lockdowns. He said:
Williamson was questioned by MPs about this year’s exams fiasco, but he rebuffed most questions by highlighting the role of the independent exam regulator Ofqual, and contradicting some of the answers that Ofqual staff gave to the same committee earlier this month.
Noting that Sally Collier, Ofqual’s chief regulator, made it clear to the DfE on March 18 that running an exam series was not something the watchdog “thought would be viable” during a national lockdown, Williamson said that Ofqual’s model used to award grades left “too many youngsters with a grade that didn’t reflect their effort, and that was why Ofqual ended up in the position that they were.”
Williamson also carefully dodged a series of questions, including why Acland-Hood’s predecessor Jonathan Slater resigned as a result of the exams fiasco.
Asked if Ofqual’s reputation had been “damaged beyond repair” by the summer chaos, Williamson said:
NHS England has recorded a further 11 coronavirus hospital deaths. The people who died were aged between 69 and 98 and NHS England says they all had underlying health conditions. The full details are here.
Every household in Middlesbrough will be given free masks with information leaflets as the elected mayor steps up the fight against coronavirus, PA Media reports. The town is on the government register as an area of concern and the independent mayor, Andy Preston, is in the process of updating residents with 65,000 leaflets. Reusable face coverings will be handed out alongside the leaflets to help people follow the latest guidance.
Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons education committee, told Radio 4’s World at One that his understanding was that schools would get priority for testing under the new plans due to be announced shortly. “As I understand it, schools will be on the priority list,” he told the programme.
In an interview with the Evening Standard Prof Kevin Fenton, London director of Public Health England, has suggested that pubs could be forces to close early in the capital to help combat coronavirus. A policy like this is already in force in Bolton, where pubs, restaurants and takeaways have to close between 10pm and 5am.
Some media organisations have described restrictions like this as amounting to a curfew but that’s misleading. A curfew does not just stop you going to the pub after a certain time at night; it means you cannot even leave your home.
A hospital boss in Bolton has urged people to stay away from its accident and emergency unit unless strictly necessary after nearly 100 turned up to request Covid-19 tests. As PA Media reports, the plea came as admissions of patients with coronavirus increased over the weekend and the infection rate across the borough - the highest by far in England - continued to rise sharply. Bolton NHS foundation trust, which is based at the Royal Bolton hospital in Farnworth, said this morning there were three coronavirus patients in critical care and a total of 20 on wards. It added an increased number of patients under 65 are being admitted, with some in their 40s and 50s.
The trust’s medical director, Dr Francis Andrews, said:
Here is the Guardian story by my colleagues Heather Stewart and Severin Carrell about Lord Keen of Elie being on the brink of leaving the government.
A trip to Doncaster races has been blamed for a cluster of coronavirus cases in the Rhondda Valley, south Wales, as restrictions were tightened severely.
The Welsh government said one of the clusters in the area was associated “with a club outing to the Doncaster races, which stopped off at a series of pubs on the way”.
More than 2,500 spectators were allowed into the first day of the meeting last week.
Other clusters are associated with a rugby club and pub in the lower Rhondda.
A range of new measures will come into force from 6pm tomorrow.
People will not be allowed to enter or leave the Rhondda Cynon Taf council area without a reasonable excuse.
People will only be able to meet outdoors for the time being. People will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors or form an extended household.
All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm.
The Welsh health minister, Vaughan Gething, said:
The latest figures show the rolling seven-day new case rate is 82.1 per 100,000 people in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Yesterday, the testing positivity rate was 4.3% – this is the highest positivity rate in Wales.
Contact-tracing teams have been able to trace about half of the cases back to a series of clusters in the borough. The rest are linked to community transmission.
From Joanna Cherry, the SNP’s justice and home affairs spokesperson in the Commons: