HALF a million swab test kits have been recalled over safety concerns, Matt Hancock confirmed on Thursday.
Spot checks revealed a batch of swabs from the Government’s main supplier Rondax Labs were not sterile – raising concerns about their reliability.
It comes as the Health Secretary announced a partial lifting of the lockdown in Leicester, with schools and shops to reopen in parts of the city from July 24.
Boris Johnson is also set to announce changes to the work-from-home guidance today.
The PM is poised to tell Brits it is safe to return to work and will relax rules on using public transport.
It comes as the coronavirus death toll in the UK reached 45,119 on Thursday as 66 more deaths were recorded.
Follow the latest news and updates surrounding coronavirus below…
Lightning lockdowns to halt the virus spread will be unveiled by the PM today.
Boris Johnson will set a target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October so flare-ups can be dealt with swiftly.
He will give the NHS an extra £3billion so hospitals are “battle ready” for winter.
Speaking at No 10, the PM will outline more of the road map to unlock England.
Councils are expected to be given powers to shut pubs and cafés without going to Government first.
The rules could even allow town hall bosses to ban weddings and other gatherings at short notice.
– CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK WORSENS IN BRAZIL: The coronavirus outbreak has continued to worsen in Brazil over recent days, as the total number of cases passed through the two million mark on Thursday, just days after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19.
– U.S. SETS SINGLE-DAY RECORD FOR NEW CASES: More than 75,000 new cases were reported on Thursday, according to reports, the 11th time in the past month that America has broken its single-day record for new coronavirus cases has been broken.
– TOP DOC CALLS OUT RACIAL DISPARITIES IN COVID INFECTIONS AND DEATHS: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.'s top infectious disease expert, has said the racial disparities that have opened up during the pandemic are a “very disturbing phenomenon,” with minority groups reportedly hardest hit.
– STARBUCKS STAFF TRAINED TO DEAL WITH MASK-LESS CUSTOMERS: Coffee giant Starbucks is training staff to deal with customers who don't wear masks – including those who question the policy without government mandate, those citing their rights as America, and those claiming a medical condition.
– DATA POINTING IN “WRONG DIRECTION” FOR COLLEGE SPORTS: NCAA president Mark Emmert has said if college sports is to restart in the fall, America needs to get a much better handle on the pandemic.
– NASA DELAYS TELESCOPE LAUNCH: NASA has had to delay the launch of one of its most complex space observatory, James Webb Space Telescope, until Halloween 2021, citing coronavirus and technical challenges.
DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS ENCOURAGED NOT TO GO TO CONVENTION
A top Democratic convention official told members of Congress on Thursday not to travel to Wisconsin next month for the already-scaled back gathering.
Senior adviser for Congressional affairs Chasseny Lewis told Democratic Senate and House offices in that members “should not plan to travel to Milwaukee,” NBC News reported.
The convention remains on track to be largely virtual, as Democrats plan to avoid the likes a crowded convention hall and related in-person events.
Meanwhile, Republicans are still deciding on how best to approach their convention in Florida next month.
NASA DELAYS LAUNCH OF TELESCOPE DUE TO COVID-19
NASA has had to delay the launch of one of its telescopes until Halloween 2021, citing coronavirus and technical challenges.
The space agency is now “targeting Oct. 31, 2021, for the launch of the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope from French Guiana,” it said.
According Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, the Webb telescope is the world's most complex space observatory.
Zurbuchen added in a news statement that the telescope remains NASA's “top science priority.”
CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK WORSES IN BRAZIL AS CASES TOP TWO MILLION
The coronavirus outbreak has continued to worsen in Brazil over recent days.
On Thursday, the nationwide total number of cases topped two million as 45,403 new cases were reported.
Brazil's health ministry also reported 1,322 new coronavirus fatalities, bringing the national death toll to 76,688.
Earlier this week, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19.
DATA POINTING IN “WRONG DIRECTION” FOR COLLEGE SPORTS
NCAA president Mark Emmert has said that data is pointing in the “wrong direction” for college sports to restart later this year.
Speaking on Thursday, Emmert added : “If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic.”
The comments come a day after the NCAA Sports Science Institute issued its guidelines on dealing with the coronavirus, which included self-health checks and testing within 72 hours of competition.
The Ivy League has already announced it will not hold sports during the fall semester, while several Pac-12 sports, including football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball, would schedule conference-only games.
STARBUCKS STAFF TRAINED TO DEAL WITH MASK-LESS CUSTOMERS
Coffee giant Starbucks is training its staff to deal with customers who enter its stores without wearing a mask, according to a document obtained by CNN.
The document outlines three scenarios: where unhappy customers question the policy without a government mandate, refusing to wear a mask by citing their rights as America, and those claiming a medical condition.
In all scenarios, employees are encouraged to provide alternatives like drive-thru or curbside ordering.
Should a situation escalate, employees – who are encouraged to remain positive – are urged to avoid fixtures that could be used as weapons and never to turn their backs on customers.
If necessary, employees may need to call 911 but shouldn't inform customers they're doing so, CNN reported.
TOP DOC CALLS OUT RACIAL DISPARITIES IN COVID INFECTIONS AND DEATHS
Dr Anthony Fauci, the U.S.'s top infectious disease expert, has said the racial disparities that have opened up during the pandemic are a “very disturbing phenomenon.”
African-Americans, Latinx, Native Americans and Alaskan Americans tend to have jobs that don’t allow them to work remotely, Fauci said, increasing the risk of them getting infected.
Such demographics also have higher levels of underlying conditions – such as hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, other types of chronic lung disease, diabetes – adding to that risk factor, Fauci added.
The doctor was speaking to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a live chat.
He said that resources need to be allocated to where you have such demographic concentrations of individuals, so that they can be tested quickly and easily in harder-hit areas.
UNITED STATES SHATTERS ITS SINGLE-DAY RECORD FOR NEW CASES
The United States has shattered its single-day record for new coronavirus cases on Thursday.
According to a New York Times database, more than 75,000 new cases were reported – the 11th time in the past month the single-day record has been broken.
The total number of new cases nationwide has more than doubled since June 24, when the registered number of new cases stood at 37,014.
Ten states also set records for deaths in a single day this week: Florida, Idaho, Alabama, Arizona, Utah, Oregon, Texas, Hawaii, Montana and South Carolina.
EUROPE WRAP UP
That's all from us in the UK this evening, but our US team will continue to update you with the latest on coronavirus.
Here's a run down of the key stories in Britain.
- Half a million swab test kits have been recalled over safety concerns, Matt Hancock confirmed this evening. Spot checks revealed a batch of swabs from the Government’s main supplier Rondax Labs were not sterile – raising concerns about their reliability.
- Health Secretary announced a partial lifting of the lockdown in Leicester, with schools and shops to reopen in parts of the city from July 24. Pubs and restaurants will remain shut in the city.
- Boris Johnson is also set to announce changes to the work-from-home guidance later today. The PM is poised to tell Brits it is safe to return to work and will relax rules on using public transport.
- Meanwhile, earlier it was revealed Russia was behind cyber attacks on the UK's coronavirus vaccine project and Vladimir Putin knew.
- The coronavirus death toll in the UK reached 45,119 on Thursday as 66 more deaths were recorded.
LABOUR SAYS 'DECISIVE ACTION' NEEDED TO TACKLE CHILDHOOD OBESITY
Labour says that “decisive” action is needed from the government to tackle rising rates of childhood obesity.
It follows new research cited by the party that suggests that Covid-19 lockdowns worsen childhood obesity.
The party also called for restrictions on “junk food advertising” and the promotion of more healthy food choices in shops and “mandatory and clearer calorie and nutrition labelling” on all food and drinks.
According to Labour, analysis of NHS England's figures for 2018/19 showed that there were more than 11,000 hospital admissions for people of all ages directly attributable to obesity, a 4% rise on the previous year.
And less than half of children, 47%, are meeting current physical activity guidelines, they added.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The childhood obesity crisis means we need decisive action from Boris Johnson not more dither and delay.”
CAPTAIN TOM TO BE KNIGHTED TODAY
Captain Tom Moore, the war veteran who won the hearts of the nation during lockdown, is set to become “Sir Tom” later today when he is knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
The World War Two vet raised a record sum of £33 million by walking 100 laps of his garden with the aid of his walking frame in April just before his 100th birthday.
Moore, who has already been made an honorary colonel and an honorary member of the England cricket team, will receive the ancient accolade at Windsor Castle, where the 94-year-old monarch has been sheltering.
“I hope she's not very heavy-handed with the sword,” Tom quipped when the knighthood was announced.
BRITS NOT FLOCKING TO REOPENED PUBS AND RESTAURANTS
Brits are not flocking back to pubs and restaurants just yet following their reopening on July 4, new data suggests.
According to The Guardian, pubs open in the same week beginning 6 July saw a 39% decline in sales compared with the same period last year.
Bars were down 43% and restaurants down 40%.
But Karl Chessell, director of a CGA, a consultancy which produces the tracker data, said that “traidng at almost 60% of pre-Covid norms is actually a better performance than many other markets internationally”, such as the US.
VIDEO: LEICESTER MAYOR'S FURY AS RESTRICTIONS CONTINUE
EUROPEAN STUDENTS EXEMPT FROM CORONAVIRUS TRAVEL BAN
European students are exempt from the Trump administration's various coronavirus travel bans, according to a memo from the State Department.
The Wall Street Journal reports that students, along with some au pairs and family members of visa holders in the US, are exempt from the bans imposed to stop the spread of the virus.
'BE PART OF THE SOLUTION', FAUCI TELLS YOUNG PEOPLE
In his interview with the Facebook CEO, Fauci also implored young people in the US to take social distancing seriously.
He said: “Please assume the societal responsibility of being part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
ZUCKERBERG TELLS FAUCI THAT TRUMP IS TO BLAME
Mark Zuckerberg has blamed the Trump administration for the US coronavirus outbreak becoming “worse than many other countries” due to “less effective” leadership.
The Facebook CEO slammed President Donald Trump's response to the pandemic during a Thursday afternoon discussion with Dr Anthony Fauci.
“At this point, it is clear that the trajectory of the US is significantly worse than many other countries, and that our government and this administration have been considerably less effective in handling this,” Zuckerberg said during the convo, which was live-streamed by Reuters.
The tech entrepreneur asserted that the US “reopened too quickly” before lowering the number of reported cases, citing the sharp drop of cases in “every other developed country” as an example of the misstep.
“Our response needs to be guided by science,” he added before expressing his gratitude for Fauci's “dedicated leadership”.
Full story here.
US BAN ON CRUISE SHIPS EXTENDED
Health officials in the US have extended a ban on cruise ships until the end of September.
It comes amidst a huge spike in cases across the country, notably in Florida and Texas.
The new order, announced today by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, covers cruise ships with 250 or more passengers.
The CDC said cruise ships are more crowded than most urban settings, and even when only essential crew remains on board, the virus continues to spread.
According to the CDC, there have been nearly 3,000 cases of COVID-19 or similar illnesses and 34 deaths on cruise ships from the beginning of March 1.
UN BLASTS "GROSSLY INADEQUATE" COVID SUPPORT FOR POOR COUNTRIES
Coronavirus support to poor countries has been so far “grossly inadequate and that’s dangerously shortsighted,” a U.N. aid chief said.
Mark Lowcock today urged wealthy countries for billions more dollars in assistance.
The United Nations increased its humanitarian appeal by more than a third to $10.3 billion to help 63 states, mainly in Africa and Latin America, tackle the spread and destabilizing effects of the coronavirus. This is up from the world body’s initial $2 billion request in March, then $6.7 billion in May.
So far, Lowcock said, the United Nations has only received $1.7 billion.
LABOUR DEPUTY LEADER ACCUSES HEALTH SEC OF 'RE-WRITING HISTORY'
Labour's deputy leader accused the Health Secretary of “attempting to re-write history” over lockdown measures.
Angela Rayner launched a Twitter tirade Matt Hancock said he imposed lockdown on March 16.
On that day he told the House of Commons that the government was “advising” people to not make unnecessary contact or travel, but critics said this was only advice and official lockdown did not start until March 23.
Mrs Rayner tweeted: “Matt Hancock is trying to claim Lockdown started on March 16th even though it was not imposed until March 23rd.
“The Tories are attempting to re-write history on their shocking response to coronavirus and cover up their failures. Matt must correct this Now and stop this nonsense!”
She later added: “We must never allow Tories to re-write history on their coronavirus response, they are attempting to alter timelines to make their position on the response appear better, it’s wrong and disgusting in my opinion and demeans our collective attempts to defeat this wretched virus”
Mr Hancock today insisted to the Commons: “What I said was: ‘Today we are advising people against all unnecessary social contact with others and all unnecessary travel.’ That, that, is when the lockdown truly started!”
PREGNANT MUM IN COVID COMA IS TOLD HER UNBORN CHILD DIED
A seven months pregnant mum who survived a two-week coronavirus coma was told her unborn child died.
Marzanne Lennox, 29, was 30-weeks gone when she was rushed to hospital in South Africa and immediately put on a ventilator from June 30.
Her family, who cannot see her because of coronavirus restrictions, were told three days later that her unborn child had died.
Fashion designer Mrs Lennox was only told on Tuesday when she was strong enough to receive the devastating news.
Read the full story here.
BORIS TO GIVE £3BN BOOST TO KEEP NIGHTINGALE HOSPITALS OPEN UNTIL MARCH
Boris Johnson is to give a £3billion boost to keep Nightingale hospitals open until March.
He will reportedly set out the funding boost tomorrow amid fears that Winter will bring an even deadlier second wave.
A further 12,000 patients could die in hospitals if the virus surges again.
UK MAY ALREADY HAVE ENOUGH HERD IMMUNITY TO PREVENT SECOND WAVE, STUDY SAYS
A study from Oxford University suggests that the UK may have enough herd immunity to prevent a second wave of infections.
The Telegraph reports that scientists believe the “threshold” could have been lowered as thousands may already be immune to the disease without ever having symptoms.
A model created by the Oxford team shows that as little as 20 per cent of people need to be resistant to the virus in order to prevent an epidemic spreading, the Telegraph writes.
The study reads: “It is widely believed that herd immunity threshold (HIT) required to prevent a resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 is in excess of 50 per cent for any epidemiological setting.
“Here, we demonstrate that HIT may be greatly reduced if a fraction of the population is unable to transmit the virus due to innate resistance or cross-protection from exposure to seasonal coronaviruses”, it adds.
PANDEMIC HELPS NETFLIX
Netflix is one of the few companies to have benefited from the coronavirus pandemic, after boosting its number of global subscriptions by more than 10 million in the last quarter.
The streaming giant has now seen the number of paid memberships it receives grow by 26 million in the first half this year, according to a company letter to shareholders.
However growth rate is slowing “as consumers get through the initial shock of Covid and social restrictions”, the letter added.
GERMANY PUSHES WHO ON PANDEMIC REVIEW
Germany's health minister has urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) to speed up a review of how it has handled the coronavirus pandemic.
Jens Spahn told reporters today: “When it comes to reappraising the work of the WHO during the crisis, I had the opportunity to talk to director general Tedros (Adhanom Ghebreyesus) on Tuesday in Paris as well as two weeks ago in Geneva, and in both conversations I encouraged him very clearly to launch this independent commission of experts and to expedite its launch”.
It comes as the WHO said last week that it was setting up an independent panel to review its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the response by different governments.
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