These are the coronavirus morning headlines for Monday, September 21, as Professor Chris Whitty is warning that the UK stands at a “critical point” in the coronavirus pandemic.
The chief medical officer for England will potentially lay the ground for tough new controls in an urgent attempt to halt the surge in infections.
In a televised briefing on Monday, he will say the country faces a “very challenging winter”, with the current trend heading in “the wrong direction”.
Boris Johnson spent the weekend with senior ministers and advisers discussing what action to take as the rise in the number of new cases showed no sign of slowing.
It is thought the Prime Minister could set out new measures, including potentially a two-week lockdown for England in October, in a press conference as early as Tuesday.
In Wales, the infection rate has grown to 27.2 cases for every 100,000 people in the last week, according to the latest data published on Sunday, with hotspots in Caerphilly, Merthyr, RCT, Newport, Blaenau Gwent and Bridgend.
In England, the figure is only marginally higher at 33.1 cases for every 100,000, for the seven days up to Thursday, September 17, according to the UK government’s data. However the hotspot in Greater Manchester is seeing far greater levels of infection with 187 cases for every 100k people in Bolton.
Prof Whitty, who will appear alongside the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, will explain how the virus is spreading in the UK and the potential scenarios that could unfold as winter approaches.
They will draw on data from other countries such as Spain and France, which are experiencing a second surge, to underline how their experience could be replicated in the UK.
Prof Whitty is expected to say: “The trend in the 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.”
Ministers were reported to be split on how far any new restrictions should go, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak said to be resisting controls which could further damage the economy.
No new deaths were recorded in people who tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, according to the latest report from Public Health Wales.
It comes as Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil are being closely monitored for rising rates of coronavirus.
The weekly rate of infection is now highest in Merthyr Tydfil with 94.5 cases per 100,000 people – a slight drop from yesterday’s figure of 96.1.
Meanwhile, Caerphilly’s infection rate continues to drop. At it’s peak it had well over 90 cases for every 100,000 people.
The local authority’s weekly rate of infection now stands at 63.5, down from 67.9 on Saturday and 73.5 on Friday.
The overall number of new cases on Saturday brings the total number to 20,644 in Wales since the beginning of the pandemic.
Hospital visitors are being restricted from seeing their loved ones across sites in Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board due to a rise in Covid cases.
New rules were unveiled by health bosses over the weekend as a result of the surge in coronavirus cases.
They are now operating in the line with the plans rolled out in March at the start of the pandemic.
Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board, in a statement, said: “Despite the increased measures and local lockdown in Rhondda Cynon Taf earlier this week, cases of coronavirus across the Cwm Taf Morgannwg area are continuing to rise and are a real cause for concern.”
People in England who refuse an order to self-isolate could face fines of up to £10,000, the Government has said.
Fines will initially start at £1,000 rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders and for “the most egregious breaches” including those who stop others from self-isolating, like an employer who asks a staff member to come into work in violation of an order.
The penalties are in line with those for people who fail to quarantine for 14 days after returning to the UK from a country not on the list of low-risk nations.
The new regulations will come into force in England on September 28, although ministers are discussing with the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about extending them UK-wide.
The heavy penalty is the latest in a series of financial punishments introduced by authorities aimed at deterring would-be rule-flouters amid a recent sharp upsurge in coronavirus infections.
Welsh Government have said they will have to look at who are breaking the rules before increasing the fines here.
A bar, takeaway and kebab shop have all been shut down for breaching coronavirus rules.
The three venues, Noah’s Yard in Uplands and Chick-O-land and Swansea Kebabs both on Wind Street, were all ordered to close by Swansea council.
They were all served with immediate closure notices and won’t be able to reopen within 14 days unless they can show improvements.
The news comes as another bar on Wind Street, No Sign Wine Bar, revealed a member of its staff had tested positive for coronavirus.
Noah’s Yard was visited by licensing officers from the council at 10pm on Saturday, September 19.
Bar owner Noah Redfern said they approached management as they were unhappy about the distancing between customers.
Mr Redfern said: “I will find out in due course what’s going to happen. I think everybody interprets the laws differently.
The Government must urgently improve its testing regime in order to avoid ‘throwing away’ the progress made by reopening schools, the Children’s Commissioner for England has warned.
A survey conducted by school leaders union’ NAHT revealed more than four in five schools in England currently have children not in class because they cannot access a Covid-19 test.
Now Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to address the testing shortages and ensure schools remain a priority as the prospect of a second national lockdown looms.
She told The Sun: “The PM and Chief Medical Officer have said schools are a priority – they must be the last to close, the first to open.
Ms Longfield also said priority testing should be implemented for teachers and children before more students and staff are forced out of the classroom when suspected Covid-19 cases worsen in the winter months.
London mayor Sadiq Khan is to meet with council leaders on Monday to discuss lockdown restriction measures for the city as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the capital.
The rate of cases in London is reported to have increased in a seven day period ending early last week, from 18.8 per 100,000 people to around 25.
Mayoral sources said London’s case rates were catching up to those in Covid hotspots in the north-west and north-east of England, which have been placed under new controls.
A spokesperson for Mr Khan said on Sunday: “The situation is clearly worsening. Sadiq will meet council leaders tomorrow and any London-specific measures will be recommended to ministers following that.
“The mayor wants fast action as we cannot risk a delay, as happened in March. It is better for both health and business to move too early than too late.”
It comes as Mr Khan urged ministers to extend the latest regional restrictions – including ordering bars and restaurants to close at 10pm – to cover the capital as well.
The latest figures raised the country’s virus tally to more than 5.4 million. India, however, also has the highest number of recovered patients in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. Its recovery rate stands at about 80%.
Prime minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced scathing criticism for its handling of the pandemic amid a contracting economy that left millions jobless.
Meanwhile, Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, has moved close to easing severe lockdown restrictions after recording only 14 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday.
It was the second day in a row new infections fell below 30. There were also five deaths recorded on Sunday.
Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions are due to be eased next weekend when childcare centres will be allowed to reopen and gatherings of up to five people from two different households will be permitted. But that depends on the rolling 14-day average of new cases being below 50. It now stands at 36.2.
News – UK’s two top scientific advisors to address the nation at 11am