Top UK government scientists making direct appeal to the public, warning ‘a critical point has been reached’

He presents a graph showing the rate of spread of Covid (on the left) and the rate of increase (on the right). It is a threat everywhere, he says.

In London the figure could be a high as 17%. That would slow the spread, he says, but not stop it.

He says that is not just due to more testing. In every age group the proportion of people testing positive is going up.

And the ONS study suggests cases are going up. It suggests about 6,000 people a day are getting infected.

Increases in case numbers have led to an increase in hospitalisations. And deaths are increasing too, he says.

He says there is a simple message from the slide: as the disease spreads, there will be more hospitalisations and more deaths, he says.

The briefing from Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, is about to start.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, told ITV’s This Morning that the final decisions about what new restrictions will be imposed have not yet been taken. But he strongly implied that pubs in England will face some restrictions.

We will be absolutely clear about the changes we need to make in the very, very near future.

Hancock said his answer on pubs was “not a no, and it’s not a yes”, adding:

We have been working on this all weekend, we haven’t taken the final decisions about what we need to do in response to the surge that we have seen in the last few weeks.

Hancock said he had spoken to Boris Johnson this morning. “He is as worried as we all are about the rise in the number of cases and we have to make a final decision about what’s the best response to that,” Hancock said.

Hancock also suggested that any new restrictions would focus on social settings rather than schools or the workplace.

The evidence is … schools aren’t where a lot of the transmission happens, it’s more about people socialising.

He pointed out that there were already parts of the country where “there are measures in place to say that you shouldn’t socialise with people outside your household”.

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, is delivering her speech to the virtual Labour conference. You can watch it here.

Last week Liam Fox, the former international trade secretary, got through to the final five in the contest to become the next head of the World Trade Organization. The government is backing his candidature although, as a Brexiter, he does not have much EU support and he is not seen as a favourite to win.

And Boris Johnson’s threat to override the Brexit withdrawal agreement that he signed early this year has not helped, Fox has admitted. Asked how helpful it was to his campaign to have the government announce that it would be willing to break international law, Fox told Sky News:

Most of the questions directed at Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, during his broadcast interviews this morning were about coronavirus, not the rail system. Here are the main points he was making.

It’s very clear when you follow the data that we need to make sure we are applying all these measures or we are at this tipping point where we may need to go further – that’s something we would like to avoid.

Everyone recognises there is a tension between the virus and the measures we need to take and the economy and ensuring that people’s livelihoods are protected, and we want to protect lives and livelihoods.

Ferrari questions the Transport Secretary on reports of a cabinet split.”Which side are you on? Are you more draconian or do you want to keep the lifeblood going?”Grant Shapps: “I’m on both sides. We need to protect lives and livelihoods.”

I’m a member of parliament as well as a minister so I don’t disagree about parliament’s role in all of this.

But I do just stress that the exceptional circumstance have meant we’ve needed to move at unbelievable pace and that hasn’t always meant that we could come to parliament first when you’re dealing with something like the coronavirus.

The UK government has extended emergency funding measures for rail companies for the next six to 18 months to help them get through the Covid-19 crisis, as a first step towards a complete overhaul of the railway system, my colleague Julia Kollewe reports.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, who was doing a round of interviews this morning, has described this as the end of the rail franchising system that has been in place for quarter of a century. He said:

The model of privatisation adopted 25 years ago has seen significant rises in passenger numbers, but this pandemic has proven that it is no longer working.

Our new deal for rail demands more for passengers. It will simplify people’s journeys, ending the uncertainty and confusion about whether you are using the right ticket or the right train company.

It will keep the best elements of the private sector, including competition and investment, that have helped to drive growth – but deliver strategic direction, leadership and accountability.

One of Boris Johnson’s ministers has denied a report in the Italian media that the UK prime minister made a secret trip to the country less than a fortnight ago, a claim Downing Street has also rejected as “completely untrue”, my colleague Peter Walker reports.

Good morning. Last night No 10 sent out a short press release with the title “CSA and CMO to give coronavirus data briefing”. In Whitehall it is often the case that the blander the title, the more significant the announcement, and today’s should be very important indeed. CSA is the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and CMO is the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty (also the UK government’s chief medical adviser), and they are going to tell the nation how serious they think the risk is from the recent rise in coronavirus cases.

The trend in UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic.

We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.

Whitty and Vallance are speaking ahead of an announcement expected soon, possibly tomorrow, about further measures being imposed to counter the spread of coronavirus. But Boris Johnson will not be joining them, and it appears that, although ministers have been discussing what new measures might be imposed – nationally as well as locally – no final decisions have yet been taken.

How bad could it get? The Times splash (paywall) today, attributing its information to an unnamed senior government figure, starts: “Britain faces a further six months of ‘very difficult’ lockdown restrictions, Downing Street has warned.” No 10 has been playing this down, but it’s worth remembering that right at the start of the first lockdown government scientists were stressing that it was unlikely to be a one-off. This is what SPI-M-O, the scientific pandemic influenza group on modelling, a sub-committee of the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), said in a statement (pdf) on 16 March, the day soft lockdown measures were announced:

It was agreed that a policy of alternating between periods of more and less strict social distancing measures could plausibly be effective at keeping the number of critical care cases within capacity. These would need to be in place for at least most of a year. Under such as policy, at least half of the year would be spent under the stricter social distancing measures.

The Imperial College paper (pdf) published the same day (the one that persuaded Johnson to commit to the lockdown) included this graph showing one possible scenario for the future involving restrictions being imposed, then lifted, then imposed again (as cases increased), running until the end of 2021.

10.35am: Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, delivers a speech to Labour’s online conference. As my colleague Heather Stewart reports, Dodds will accuse the Conservatives of wasting billions of pounds of public money through botched outsourcing and poorly-designed job schemes.

11am: Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, hold a briefing.

Politics Live has been doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog for some time and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and where they seem more important and interesting, they will take precedence.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

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News – UK coronavirus live news: Vallance says 6,000 new cases a day in UK, doubling every seven days