US cases pass 7m; Australian PM says countries must share vaccines – as it happened

Last modified: 12: 37 AM GMT+0

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Here is some of the reaction to the resignation of Victoria’s health minister Jenny Mikakos less than an hour ago, including from the former state liberal party leader Matthew Guy and former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett.

We still haven’t been given a time for the daily press conference from the premier, Daniel Andrews.

2 Days ago Premier Andrews was supporting Health Minister Mikakos, yesterday he decided to throw her and senior Victorian public servants under the bus. The buck always stops at the top. He has demonstratively failed. He should resign immediately. And watch the leaking start now.

— Jeff Kennett (@jeff_kennett) September 25, 2020

In her statement Mikakos said while she is “deeply sorry for the situation Victorians find themselves in” it also says “in good conscience, I do not believe that my actions led to them”.

Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett says Daniel Andrews should resign immediately.
Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett says Daniel Andrews should resign immediately. Photograph: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

It follows comments from Andrews to the hotel quarantine inquiry on Friday that he regarded Mikakos as “accountable for the program” that ultimately led to Victoria’s virus second wave.

Because Andrews is clearly lying. He is the one that should be resigning. https://t.co/IUOzlyjsfz

— Matthew Guy MP (@MatthewGuyMP) September 25, 2020

Updated

Meanwhile in Queensland:

Saturday, 26 September – coronavirus cases in Queensland:

• 3 new confirmed cases
• 7 active cases
• 1,156 total confirmed cases
• 1,094,924 tests conducted

Sadly, six Queenslanders with COVID-19 have died. 1,141 patients have recovered.#covid19au pic.twitter.com/pzjNbQ5M4v

— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) September 25, 2020

Victoria's health minister resigns

After increasing pressure on the Victorian government and its health minister, Jenny Mikakos, due to failures of the state’s hotel quarantine program, Mikakos resigned on Saturday morning.

My media statement is attached. #springst pic.twitter.com/h0Quxyed2P

— Jenny Mikakos MP #StayHomeSaveLives (@JennyMikakos) September 25, 2020

It follows a six-week inquiry into the state’s hotel quarantine program for returned international travellers, with infection control failures in the program ultimately sparking Victoria’s second wave. Much of the state is now under strict lockdown restrictions, and borders to other Australian states remain closed or heavily restricted.

While most other states and territories opted to use police officer or Australian Defence Force [ADF] staff to implement the hotel quarantine program, Victoria used private security contractors who were poorly trained in infection control, the inquiry previously heard. The premier and health minister have been under pressure to explain why ADF and police were not used.

As Guardian Australia reporter Josh Taylor wrote on Friday;

In his long-awaited appearance at the hotel quarantine inquiry, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he regarded his health minister, Jenny Mikakos, as “accountable for the program”.

The premier’s written statement provided to the inquiry on Friday said Mikakos and jobs minister Martin Pakula were responsible for informing cabinet about the program, and the pair provided a submission on the model for the program to the crisis council of cabinet on 8 April.

“The CCC [crisis council of cabinet] was provided with regular reports by Minister Mikakos containing data relevant to Victoria’s response to the public health emergency, key insights from the data, as well as other updates, including in relation to the program,” the submission read.

The premier stopped short of saying who was behind the decision to use private security guards, but the claim potentially puts Andrews at odds with health minister Jenny Mikakos.

The health minister’s statements to the inquiry on Thursday said she was not aware security guards were used in the program until the outbreak at the Rydges Hotel in late May.

Mikakos released a statement to the inquiry after Andrews’ submission was released denying she had misled the inquiry.

The premier told the inquiry it was “very disappointing” that the decision on private security guards was supposedly made by a “collective” of officials, with no one taking responsibility.

In her resignation letter to the premier on Saturday, Mikakos wrote; “I am disappointed that my integrity has sought to be undermined”.

“I have today written to the Governor of Victoria to resign my commissions as a minister effective today.”

Mikakos also intends to resign from parliament.

Updated

Summary

As Australia wakes up, here are some key developments from the past few hours.

In 2019 Rio de Janeiro’s carnival was as big and bold as ever. 2020’s carnival has been postponed for the first time in 100 years as the death toll in Brazil rises to 140,537.
In 2019 Rio de Janeiro’s carnival was as big and bold as ever. 2020’s carnival has been postponed for the first time in 100 years as the death toll in Brazil rises to 140,537. Photograph: Pilar Olivares/Reuters

Updated

This week in Australia, the Queensland government announced it would expand the border zone further into New South Wales to include councils taking in Byron Bay and other northern communities. There has been pressure on the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palasczuk, for weeks to ease border restrictions, but the state is keen to avoid cases in Victoria and NSW from entering.

Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, says her government’s “solid health response” had kept Queenslanders safe.
Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, says her government’s “solid health response” had kept Queenslanders safe. Photograph: Glenn Hunt/AAP

On Saturday the premier tweeted that the “solid health response” had kept Queenslanders safe.

When you look at COVID-19 stats from around the world, it really brings home how well we’ve done here in Queensland.

Our solid health response has kept us safe, but it’s important that we don’t get complacent.

Keep following the health advice and stay safe ❤️#covid19 pic.twitter.com/FX8iEe0szA

— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) September 25, 2020

Updated

Australian prime minister calls for independent inquiry into Covid origins before UN

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, is standing firm on his calls for the independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus and urged all nations to share a vaccine once it is proven.

Morrison’s pre-recorded speech on the virtual stage on Saturday morning to the 75th United Nations general assembly, praised the World Health Organization for establishing an inquiry into the global response to coronavirus, AAP reports.

“There is also a clear mandate to identify the zoonotic source of the Covid-19 virus and how it was transmitted to humans,” he said.

“This virus has inflicted a calamity on our world and its peoples. We must do all we can to understand what happened for no other purpose than to prevent it from happening again.”

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, makes his pre-recorded speech to the UN with the Sydney Opera House as a backdrop.
The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, makes his pre-recorded speech to the UN with the Sydney Opera House as a backdrop. Photograph: AP

The inquiry resolution backed by 145 countries in May does not mention China, instead committing to an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation.

China eventually supported the European Union motion. Ties between the two nations have since been fraught, with tariffs being imposed on some goods and Australian journalists being evacuated from China.

Morrison urged other leaders to share a coronavirus vaccine if they discover one. He has previously said if Australia found a vaccine, it would be shared across the world.

“This is a global responsibility and it’s a moral responsibility for a vaccine to be shared far and wide,” he said. “Some might see short-term advantage or even profit. But I assure you to anyone who may think along those lines, humanity will have a very long memory and be a very, very severe judge.”

Updated

AFP reports that on Friday the American credit rating agency Fitch Ratings left Britain’s debt rating unchanged at AA- and the outlook at negative, after downgrading both in March on fears of economic damage from Covid-19.

The affirmed negative outlook “reflects the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the UK economy and the resulting material deterioration in the public finances, with Fitch forecasting the fiscal deficit to materially widen this year and government debt set to increase to well over 120% of GDP over the next few years,” it said.

Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced new restrictions in England this week.
Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced new restrictions in England this week. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Fitch saw Britain’s deficit climbing to 17.7% of GDP this year from 2.2% in 2019, an increase well above that seen during the 2008-10 global financial crisis, which the agency blamed on the slowdown in economic activity and government measures to fend off the pandemic.

The deficit is predicted to drop back to about 12% of GDP by next year and below 10% of GDP in 2022.

The forecast comes after the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced a raft of new restrictions in England earlier this week, mirrored to varying extents in other UK nations, to try to curb a rise in coronavirus cases.

Updated

12 new cases and one death overnight in Victoria, Australia

The numbers in Victoria remain in the low double digits, with 12 new cases announced by the health department on Saturday morning. One person died.

Over the past week Victoria has recorded its lowest daily numbers since June, with new cases under 20 on five days including today. On Monday, just 11 new Covid-19 cases were announced.

Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average is now 23.6, and regional Victoria’s is 0.8, while the death takes the state toll to 782 and the national death toll to 870.

Here is a list of the latest Victoria case locations and outbreaks.

#COVID19VicData: Yesterday there were 12 new cases & the loss of 1 life reported. Our thoughts are with all affected.
The 14 day rolling average & number of cases with unknown source are down from yesterday as we move toward COVID Normal. Info https://t.co/pcll7yB2RZ #COVID19Vic pic.twitter.com/AH7htALbeT

— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) September 25, 2020

Updated

Melissa Davey here in Melbourne, Australia taking over the blog from Nadeem Badshah. We are expecting the daily case numbers for Victoria to come through shortly, with much of the state still under stage four lockdown, which means a 9pm-5am curfew and strict restrictions on travel.

On Friday, the state’s premier Daniel Andrews made his long-awaited appearance before the hotel quarantine inquiry, which is examining how infection control protocols were breached, spreading the virus beyond the hotels housing returned international travellers. The virus then spread into the broader community, triggering a second wave.

After six weeks of inquiry hearings, it is still not known who made the decision to use security guards instead of the police or the Australian Defence Force, which assisted in securing travellers in the quarantine hotels in other states.

The premier, health minister Jenny Mikakos, jobs minister Martin Pakula and police minister Lisa Neville have all denied being involved in the decision. Victoria Police chief commissioner Shane Patton, his predecessor Graham Ashton, chief health officer Brett Sutton and multiple senior public servants have also pleaded ignorance.

Andrews said he was disappointed no one in his government knows who made the fateful decision.

“There’s just no one who says it was them. Are you aware of that?” counsel assisting the inquiry Rachel Ellyard asked.

“I am,” the premier replied.

“Do you know who it was?”

“No, I don’t.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepares to leave a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Ontario and Quebec together account for 79% of the 150,140 cases reported in Canada so far and 93% of the 9,249 deaths.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepares to leave a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Ontario and Quebec together account for 79% of the 150,140 cases reported in Canada so far and 93% of the 9,249 deaths. Photograph: Blair Gable/Reuters

Death toll in Brazil surpasses 140,000

The death toll in Brazil has risen to 140,537 from 139,808 yesterday, the country’s health ministry said.

The country has also registered 4,689,613 confirmed cases, up from 4,657,702 on Thursday.

Boris Johnson will urge world leaders to overcome their differences and unite in the battle against coronavirus as he outlines measures to prevent future pandemics.

The UK prime minister is set to tell foreign counterparts at the United Nations General Assembly that the “notion of the international community looks tattered” after the Covid crisis.

He will call for states to “reach across borders and repair these ugly rifts”, as he announces a plan, developed with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Wellcome Trust, to help stop future pandemics.

The proposals include developing a global network of “zoonotic hubs” to identify dangerous pathogens before they jump from animals to humans, as well as improving manufacturing capacity for treatments and vaccines.

Other measures include designing a global pandemic early warning system, improving the ability to collect and analyse samples and distribute the findings, and agreeing common protocols on information sharing to PPE supplies around the world.

Johnson is also proposing states reduce trade barriers on Covid-critical products, such as soap, to help the global response, and he will commit 500 million in aid funding for the Covax vaccines procurement pool to help poor countries access a coronavirus jab.

In a pre-recorded speech to be played on Saturday afternoon, the Prime Minister will say: “After nine months of fighting Covid, the very notion of the international community looks tattered.

“We know that we cannot continue in this way. Unless we unite and turn our fire against our common foe, we know that everyone will lose.

“Now is the time therefore, here at what I devoutly hope will be the first and last ever Zoom UNGA, for humanity to reach across borders and repair these ugly rifts.

“Here in the UK, the birthplace of Edward Jenner who pioneered the world’s first vaccine, we are determined to do everything in our power to work with our friends across the UN to heal those divisions and to heal the world.”

Romilly Greenhill, UK director of The One Campaign, which fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, said: “This is powerful leadership from the British Government at a moment when it could not be more important.”

Saturday’s Guardian front page.

Saturday’s GUARDIAN: “Universities urged to drop all face-to-face teaching” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/QLZy4DrBUx

— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) September 25, 2020

A selection of some of Saturday’s UK front pages, starting with the Telegraph.

Saturday’s Daily TELEGRAPH: “Ministers’ plan to save Christmas at all costs” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/tW98TNuyvn

— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) September 25, 2020

A challenge laid down to US President Donald Trump.

Since President Trump claims he can force the FDA to approve a vaccine and ignore its own safety rules, I'm asking him whether he'll commit to vaccinating himself and each member of his family before November 3rd with any COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA before election day. pic.twitter.com/KWL4HzKwJv

— Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (@CongressmanRaja) September 25, 2020

Spain’s Fernando Verdasco questioned the French Open’s Covid-19 testing protocols after having to withdraw from the tournament due to a positive result, which he deemed was false.

Verdasco, 36, pulled out of the final Grand Slam of the year in Paris on Thursday, alongside Canada’s Milos Raonic and Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic.

The Spaniard said he had returned a negative result on several occasions before he arrived in Paris, including at this month’s Italian Open in Rome, where he lost in the qualifiers.

The world number 58 criticised the French Open’s testing procedures after he was denied a re-test.

“In August, I passed the COVID-19 asymptomatically,” he said in a statement on Twitter

“Since then I have done multiple PCR tests, with negative results... I tested negative again a few days ago in the test I took before going to Hamburg...

“My team and family travelled to Paris on Tuesday... they all tested negative except me. I explained my history and situation to try to request another test...

“The Roland Garros organisation refused to do another test, even taking into account all these circumstances, and that there were enough days to repeat the tests before the competition and the draw ceremony. Still, I was disqualified.”

Verdasco said he had undergone two Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests and an antibody test since his withdrawal from the French Open and returned a negative result in all three tests.

“I want to communicate my total frustration and outrage with the organisation of Roland Garros for taking away my right to participate even without giving me the opportunity to take another test with a new sample to confirm that the result of the first could be an error,” he said.

On Wednesday, Bosnian Damir Dzumhur said he was taking legal action against the French Open organisers after he was barred from entering the qualification round after his coach Petar Popovic tested positive for the virus.

The French Open, moved from its usual late May slot due to the coronavirus pandemic, begins on Sunday.

A tweet from Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau on potential vaccines.

Vaccines save lives. That’s why we’ve reserved doses of multiple vaccine candidates, including up to 20 million doses from @AstraZeneca. And we’re supporting the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, procuring doses for people in Canada and in low- and middle-income countries.

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 25, 2020

Colleges and universities in the US have now counted more than 130,000 coronavirus cases on campus, most of those since the return for the fall semester.

More than 35 colleges have reported at least 1,000 cases, The New York Times reported.

Governor Ron DeSantis has lifted all restrictions on restaurants and other businesses in Florida, in a move to reopen the economy despite the spread of the coronavirus.

The governor, a close Trump ally, has also banned local fines against people who refuse to wear masks.

FL COVID-19 Update:

1) COVID+ hospitalizations have declined by 77% since the July peak.

2) COVID+ ICU hospitalizations have declined 72% since the July peak.

3) ED visits for COVID-like illness has declined by nearly 80% since the July peak.

— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) September 25, 2020

The AP reported:

The Republican’s order unleashed fresh debate in the politically divided state, where pandemic responses have become intertwined with the upcoming presidential election. DeSantis acknowledged that the pandemic is far from over, but said the threat has eased.

“We’re not closing anything going forward,” DeSantis said, while insisting that the state is prepared if infections increase again.

The governor said he would stop cities and counties from collecting fines on people who don’t wear face masks.

“As an act of executive grace, all fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals are suspended,” the governor said.

The Democrats bemoaned the push to reopen as hasty.

“No one is advocating for a full-scale lockdown in Florida. But we have been and continue to ask for common sense prevention measures such as face masks, which are essential to preventing further spread,” state senator Audrey Gibson said.

Florida has long been a Covid-19 hotspot, with nearly 700,000 infected. Nearly 14,000 have died.

Costa Rica’s government said it has signed up for the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility vaccine program to be able to pre-order more than one million doses of the vaccine once it is made available.

A summary of today's developments

  • The global death toll could double to 2 million people before a successful vaccine is widely used, the World Health Organization warned. Dr Mike Ryan, the head of the body’s emergencies programme, said it could be even higher without concerted action to curb the pandemic.
  • The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the US has passed 7 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • France has reported 15,797 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total past 500,000.
  • The body’s technical lead on Covid-19 Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said numbers in Europe are going in the wrong direction. She indicated that the upcoming start of the flu season could exacerbate the problem.
  • Lockdown conditions were recommended for the whole of Madrid. The Spanish government said the whole of the capital should be covered by restrictions. But the regional government refused, saying only selected districts should be locked down.
  • South Korea said it would impose tighter restrictions during the Chuseok autumn holiday weeks. People traditionally reunite with families during the period, flagging the risks of new clusters of infections.
  • The UK borrowed £35.9bn in August in an effort to tackle the economic fallout, official figures showed. It means the national debt hit a record £2.024tn at the end of that month – £249.5bn more than the same time last year – according to the Office for National Statistics.
  • A cluster of about 100 cases in Iceland were traced back to two French tourists who refused to isolate. The country’s chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason said the pair arrived in mid-August and were instructed to remain in isolation after testing positive.
  • The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.
  • The virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus had made it more lethal or changed its effects.
  • India’s coronavirus case tally surged to 5.82 million after it recorded 86,052 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Friday. India has regularly been confirming daily case numbers above 80,000 since late August, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 1,141 people died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the ministry said, taking mortalities to 92,290, which is a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.
  • Brazil cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event.Rio’s authorities are yet to announce a decision about the carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to the Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it was uncertain when large public events could resume.
  • In Europe, the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, the European Union warned, as governments reimpose drastic measures. New infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”. The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.

US surpasses 7m coronavirus cases

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the US has passed 7 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s a link to their map, which shows 7,015,242 cases and 203,240 deaths.

People sit at terraces with plastic screens in Groningen, The Netherlands.
People sit at terraces with plastic screens in Groningen, The Netherlands. Photograph: Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

A single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s experimental Covid-19 vaccine produced a strong immune response against coronavirus in an early to mid stage clinical trial, according to interim results.

The vaccine, Ad26.COV2.S, was equally well tolerated at two different doses, the results showed. A single shot versus a rival two-dose approach being tested by Moderna and Pfizer could simplify distribution of the vaccine.

However, it is unclear whether elderly people, one of the populations most at risk from the virus, will be protected to the same degree as younger people with the J&J vaccine.

The trial in close to 1,000 healthy adults, which is backed by the US government, began after the J&J vaccine was found in July to offer strong protection in a single dose to monkeys.

Based on the current results, J&J on Wednesday kicked off a final 60,000-person trial, which could pave the way for an application for regulatory approval. The company said it expects results of that phase three trial by the end of the year or early next year.

The results, released on the medical website medRxiv, have not been peer-reviewed.

Researchers, including those from J&J’s unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals, said 98% of participants with data available for the interim analysis had neutralising antibodies, which defend cells from pathogens, 29 days after vaccination.

However, immune response results were available from only a small number of people – 15 participants – over 65 years old, limiting the interpretation.

Dr Barry Bloom, a professor at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health who was not involved in the J&J trial, told Reuters: “Overall, the vaccine is doing what you would expect it to do if you were to move it to phase three trials.”

Updated

After 127 students at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK tested positive for coronavirus, a local lockdown for student accommodation at the Birley campus and Cambridge Halls has been implemented.

All students in the accommodation will be instructed to self-isolate for 14 days even if they have no symptoms. Medical, welfare and emotional wellbeing support will be put in place for them.

Dr Yasmin Ahmed-Little, from Public Health England North West, said: “We are working closely with Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester city council and partners to provide public health advice aimed at helping stop the spread of the virus.

“We have seen an increase in positive cases and students with symptoms in the university and all students in these accommodation blocks are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.

“It is really important for all students follow the advice from the university and the city council to stay safe.

“Young people play a crucial role in preventing the spread of coronavirus to protect those at much greater risk.”

Updated

Officials have stopped a Covid-19 testing study in the US after multiple reports that state and federal public health workers were threatened and face racial slurs.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pulled federal surveyors out of Minnesota this week after they experienced verbal abuse and intimidation. In Eitzen, along the Iowa border, one survey team was boxed in by two cars and threatened by three men, including one with a gun.

The team felt the intent was clearly to intimidate and scare them, said Stephanie Yendell, who supervised Minnesota’s role in the survey.

Dr Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist, said frustration with the state’s response to the pandemic is understandable, but there is “no justification for this, the enemy is the virus and not the public health workers who are trying to help.”

The survey teams were going to 180 neighborhoods this month to offer free testing for Covid-19 and for antibodies, and to try to understand how the virus was spreading, particularly among people with no known symptoms.

Updated

Anti-lockdown activists are aiming to stage their biggest protest yet in central London tomorrow, as the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, warned it had reached “a worrying tipping point” with Covid-19 hospital admissions increasing.

Facebook groups and other social media channels being used to organise the event indicate that large numbers are planning to travel into the city from other parts of the country, using public transport and other means.

The rally in Trafalgar Square comes six months on since the Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force and week on from protests against lockdown and mass vaccinations, when police made dozens of arrests in London.

Speakers tomorrow will include the conspiracy theorist David Icke, who was joined on stage by Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers and others at a previous rally, which drew thousands of participants.

The same coalition of groups, who draw support from 5G conspiracy theorists, coronavirus sceptics and “anti-vaxxers”, are involved in this weekend’s demonstration. Another event, billed as a People’s network and family picnic, is being organised by the same activists for Sunday in Hyde Park.

An activist from one of the groups involved, Save our Rights UK, said that the idea of submitting a risk assessment to authorities so that the event could gain some official approval was being explored and there had been some correspondence about how it could proceed in a “Covid-secure way”.

“Whether we can or not is in question. We are not sure if we are going to get that [approval]. On the day we will be doing what we can,” she told viewers of a video broadcast on its Facebook account.

Organisers were eager to work with the police as much as possible and were working hard to ensure it would be a peaceful event.

“A lot of the police probably are on our side but they are stuck and torn and we have to recognise they are following orders,”

The Metropolitan police had yet to respond to queries about whether the protest was illegal and what action the force planned to take.

Updated

Two former heads of a veterans home in the US have been indicted on criminal neglect charges for their roles in handling a Covid-19 outbreak that killed 76 people.

Massachusetts attorney Maura Healey said the criminal case against the former officials at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home was believed to be the first yet linked to an outbreak at a US nursing facility during the pandemic.

The case against former superintendent Bennett Walsh and former medical director David Clinton stemmed from a March decision to consolidate two dementia units, putting Covid-19 positive residents within feet of ones without symptoms, Healey said.

In a tribute to the victims, Healey said: “They risked their lives from the beaches of Normandy to some, the jungles of Vietnam ... And to know that they died under the most horrific of circumstances is truly shocking.”

Authorities began investigating the Soldiers’ Home, a 247-bed, state-run facility in Holyoke that provides healthcare, hospice care, nursing and other services to veterans, after learning of “serious issues” with infection control procedures.

The US justice department has also launched a related investigation into conditions at the facility.

The indictment in Hampden county superior court charges Walsh and Clinton with five counts of “wantonly or recklessly” committing or permitting bodily injury, and five counts for abuse, neglect or mistreatment of an elderly or disabled person.

Walsh plans to plead not guilty, his lawyer, Tracy Miner, said.

“It is unfortunate that the attorney general is blaming the effects of a deadly virus that our state and federal governments have not been able to stop on Bennett Walsh,” she said.

Updated

A surge in coronavirus cases has prompted Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to resume his public briefings and tighten provincial restrictions as the country races to avert a damaging second wave of infections.

On Friday, officials in Ontario announced plans to shut down strip clubs province-wide and limit the hours of bars and restaurants, after two consecutive days with more than 400 new cases.

The move to shut adult entertainment venues comes after two documented infections at strip clubs in Toronto. Contact tracers found that many of the patrons had left incomplete or falsified contact information.

The province says it will reduce operating hours for bars and nightclubs and prohibit the sale of on-sales of alcohol from midnight to 9am.

Public health officials have expressed growing concern over a sustained increase in cases in recent weeks, many of which are tied to social gatherings, bars and restaurants.

These measures are designed to address the rapid increase in community transmission in order to keep schools, businesses and post-secondary institutions open and to protect our most vulnerable,” said health minister Christine Elliott.

In neighbouring Quebec, the province officially exceeded 70,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 637 new infections recorded on Friday. Earlier in the week, provincial health minister Christian Dubé urged people to cancel their upcoming Thanksgiving holiday plans – celebrated on 12 October in Canada – in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

Appearing alongside public health officials at a daily briefing, Trudeau announced plans to secure an additional 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from AstraZeneca. In his public remarks, Trudeau reiterated the importance of procuring a vaccine and also in ensuring a vaccine remained accessible.

“This pandemic can’t be solved by any one country alone because to eliminate the virus anywhere, we need to eliminate it everywhere,” he said.

The federal government already has reached vaccine agreements with GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi for an estimated 282 million doses.

Earlier in the week, modelling from the country’s public health agency showed cases in Canada could increases by more than 5,000 a day by October – far worse than the spring – if greater action isn’t taken.

Updated

Cases in France surpass 500,000

France has reported 15,797 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total past 500,000.

The death toll has reached a total of 31,661, compared with 31,511 yesterday.

Updated

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • The global death toll could double to 2 million people before a successful vaccine is widely used, the World Health Organization warned. Dr Mike Ryan, the head of the body’s emergencies programme, said it could be even higher without concerted action to curb the pandemic.
  • The body’s technical lead on Covid-19 Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said numbers in Europe are going in the wrong direction. She indicated that the upcoming start of the flu season could exacerbate the problem.
  • Lockdown conditions were recommended for the whole of Madrid. The Spanish government said the whole of the capital should be covered by restrictions. But the regional government refused, saying only selected districts should be locked down.
  • South Korea said it would impose tighter restrictions during the Chuseok autumn holiday weeks. People traditionally reunite with families during the period, flagging the risks of new clusters of infections.
  • The UK borrowed £35.9bn in August in an effort to tackle the economic fallout, official figures showed. It means the national debt hit a record £2.024tn at the end of that month – £249.5bn more than the same time last year – according to the Office for National Statistics.
  • A cluster of about 100 cases in Iceland were traced back to two French tourists who refused to isolate. The country’s chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason said the pair arrived in mid-August and were instructed to remain in isolation after testing positive.
  • The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.
  • The virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus had made it more lethal or changed its effects.
  • India’s coronavirus case tally surged to 5.82 million after it recorded 86,052 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Friday. India has regularly been confirming daily case numbers above 80,000 since late August, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 1,141 people died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the ministry said, taking mortalities to 92,290, which is a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.
  • Brazil cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event.Rio’s authorities are yet to announce a decision about the carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to the Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it was uncertain when large public events could resume.
  • In Europe, the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, the European Union warned, as governments reimpose drastic measures. New infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”. The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.

WHO warns: European numbers 'going in wrong direction'

Rates of Covid-19 infections and hospital bed occupancy are rising in Europe, where authorities need to work to halt the spread ahead of the influenza season, a top World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Friday. Dr Mike Ryan said:

Europe has a lot of work to do to stabilise the situation and bring transmission under control. Overall within that very large region we are seeing a worrying increase in disease.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said:

We are at the end of September and we haven’t even started our flu season yet, so what we are worried about is the possibility that these trends are going in the wrong direction.

Earlier admissions to hospital and the use of the steroid dexamethasone were saving lives, she said, adding:

We want to avoid any national lockdowns that were happening in the beginning.

Updated

The US has recorded 42,340 new cases and 918 more deaths, Washington’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has said. That takes the respective cumulative figures to 6,958,632 and 202,329.

The number of deaths about nine months since the virus was discovered in China is nearing 1 million.

Ryan said young people should not be blamed for a recent increase in infections despite growing concerns that youths are driving its spread after restrictions and lockdowns were eased around the world.

I really hope we don’t get into finger wagging: it’s all because of the youth. The last thing a young person needs is an old person pontificating and wagging the finger.

The WHO is continuing talks with China about its possible involvement in the Covax financing scheme designed to guarantee fast and equitable access globally to a vaccine; a week after the deadline for committing passed.

“We’re in discussions with China about the role they may play as we go forward,” said Bruce Aylward, WHO senior adviser and head of the ACT-Accelerator programme to back vaccines, treatments and diagnostics against Covid-19.

Talks with China also include discussion of the world’s second-largest economy potentially supplying vaccines to the scheme, he said.

Updated

Two million could be dead before vaccine is ready, warns WHO

The global death toll could double to 2 million people before a successful vaccine is widely used – and could be even higher without concerted action to curb the pandemic, an official at the World Health Organization has warned. Dr Mike Ryan, the head of the body’s emergencies programme, said:

Unless we do it, all the number you speak about [2 million deaths] is not only imaginable, but sadly very likely.

His assessment came as the total number of deaths nine months since the virus was discovered in China neared the grim milestone of 1 million.

Updated

Canada has signed a deal with the Cambridge-based AstraZeneca to buy up to 20m doses of its potential Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said. The medication is among the leading candidates in the global race for a vaccine, now in late-stage trials in Britain, South Africa and elsewhere.

Updated

Some Greek shops must close earlier from Saturday until 4 October, local authorities have said, further tightening restrictions amid a surge in cases in the greater Athens area and other parts of the country.

In a state address on Thursday, the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, cautioned Greeks to stick to mask-wearing and social distancing to help avert a second lockdown, which would have a “dramatic impact” on the economy.

On Friday, the deputy civil protection minister, Nikos Hardalias, said kiosks, mini-markets and wine shops would close from midnight until 5am local time in Athens and other areas with high caseloads; including the islands of Lesbos and Mykonos. Pharmacies and fuel stations will be exempt from the measure.

Greece imposed an upper limit of nine people in all public gatherings outdoors and suspended indoor and outdoor concerts in Athens last week.

Health authorities reported 286 cases on Friday; more than half of them in the Athens metropolitan area, Attica, where about one-third of the country’s population lives. The new infections brought the total number of cases to 16,913 since late February. There were three new fatalities, with total deaths reaching 369.

Updated

Spain’s cumulative tally of confirmed coronavirus infections have risen by 12,272 on Friday from the previous day to 716,481, health ministry data shows. That includes 4,122 diagnosed in the last 24 hours, but these daily figures tend to end up much higher after retroactive updates of the infection tally, having exceeded 10,000 cases a day for most of last week.

The total number of Covid-19 fatalities reached 31,232 from the 31,118 reported on Thursday. The daily number of deaths is now around their highest levels since early May, but is still well below the nearly 900 seen in late March.

Updated

It is the question scientists around the world are trying to answer: How long can the coronavirus survive in the tiny aerosol particles we exhale? In a high-security lab near Bristol, entered through a series of airlock doors, scientists may be weeks from finding out.

On Monday, they will start launching tiny droplets of live Sars-CoV-2 and levitating them between two electric rings to test how long the airborne virus remains infectious under different environmental conditions. Prof Denis Doorly, an expert in fluid mechanics at Imperial College London, who is not involved in the research, said:

It is a very important question.. There is now huge interest in what it could take to mitigate the risk of infection in enclosed spaces, in terms of enhanced natural ventilation, or air-scrubbing systems, or UV-C lighting – but this all depends on knowing how much viable virus remains suspended in the air.

When it opened in Brussels 31 years ago, many said a tourist attraction about European integration would never work. Now Mini-Europe – a collection of miniature landmarks and probably the only theme park in the world dedicated to the European Union – is closing its doors.

Earlier this month, owner and director, Thierry Meeùs, announced he had failed to reach agreement with landlords Brussels Expo, despite promising “major investment”. In a statement released last week, he said the Covid-19 crisis had “spared no one”, leaving him no other choice but to close on 31 December 2020.

Belgian media have since reported that the park, which includes the Eiffel Tower, Mount Vesuvius and the Acropolis modelled in exacting detail, could move outside Brussels. The nearby towns of Louvain-La-Neuve and Waterloo have been touted as possibilities.

Cases are surging in the UK, new figures suggest, with 1 in 300 people in Wales, and 1 in 500 people in England, thought to have had Covid between 13 to 19 September.

Meanwhile, one in 300 people are thought to have had Covid in Northern Ireland between 6 to 19 September.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics, which surveys infections in the community, come as the latest R figure from the government is revealed to be between 1.2 and 1.5 for both England and the UK, with the number of new infections growing by between 4% and 8% every day.

But the scientists behind the R value warn the number does not reflect today’s situation, noting the value is based on data collected over the previous three weeks or so – meaning the current situation could be even more concerning that the figures suggest.

Data from the Covid Symptom Study app, a project led by researchers at King’s College London, has also shown an surge in infections:

The latest prevalence figures estimate that 147,498 people currently have symptomatic Covid in the UK, this figure has more than doubled since last week for the second week in a row.

Tim Spector, professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, said cases were rising at an alarming rate:

In particular, we are worried about places like London and other major cities like Manchester, Belfast and Glasgow where cases are surging and the R value is around 1.4.

Updated

Moscow hospitals have been instructed to free up hundreds of beds for Covid-19 patients in response to a sharp acceleration in case numbers, Reuters reports citing four medical sources.

Dozens of hospitals in the Russian capital were designated as special coronavirus centres when the pandemic struck in March but returned to treating other patients as it ebbed over the summer. Now some are reverting to Covid-only mode or partially reopening for Covid, the sources said.

“This is a really big second wave,” a medic at the Kommunarka hospital, one of Moscow’s main coronavirus centres, told Reuters.

After the highest number of patients since the start of the outbreak were admitted to the hospital on Thursday, it was working at 120% of normal capacity, the source said.

Updated

Household visits must soon be banned for London’s 9 million residents, Sadiq Khan has urged the prime minister, warning that a 43% fall in testing in the capital risks masking the severity of the virus’s spread.

The mayor of London spoke to the Guardian as the government announced the city had been placed on the “watchlist” of areas at risk from tougher restrictions. “It’s obviously bad news that London is an area of concern. But the good news is that finally the government will pull their finger out and give us additional support,” Khan said.

He said the number of Covid tests carried out each week in London had fallen 43% between mid-August and mid-September as other areas were prioritised, despite the period coinciding with schools, universities and offices starting to reopen.

It beggars belief. We all knew that in September there would be a greater need for testing.

I’m really angry. It’s another example of lessons not being learned. You can explain the delay, incompetence in March. There’s no excuse now.

Updated

Mexico has signed a commitment agreement to buy potential Covid-19 vaccines through the World Health Organisation’s global Covax plan, the country’s foreign minister has said.

The plan aims to deliver at least 2bn doses of vaccines by the end of next year. Reuters quotes the government minister, Marcelo Ebrard, as saying:

Mexico ensures its participation in the principal multilateral initiative to guarantee universal access to the vaccine against COVID-19.

Updated

The Czech Republic will tighten restrictions on public activities and gatherings next week as the country struggles with a surge in infections, the country’s health minister Roman Prymula has said.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the nation has reported 243.8 cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days; the fastest pace in Europe except for in Spain.

The “R” number showing how many people are likely to get infected by one person with the virus has dipped to roughly 1.4 from around 1.6 last week but still indicates exponential growth, Prymula said. He told a televised press conference:

With the current measures, we can cut (“R”) towards 1.2, but we need it below 1. Therefore there will be measures, which won’t harm the economy, but they will affect gatherings.

Updated

A second wave of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands is “very worrying” and will require new restrictive measures, then Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has said. Reuters quotes him as saying:

The figures look downright terrible...In short, the situation is very worrisome and will force us to take extra measures.

Updated

Johnson & Johnson has signed a manufacturing deal for its coronavirus vaccine candidate with Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing Inc, the company has said.

Michigan-based GRAM will manufacture the healthcare conglomerate’s SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate, which is being developed with part funding from the US government, and provide finished vials, Reuters reports.

J&J launched a late-stage trial of its experimental single-shot Covid-19 vaccine earlier this week and said its expects results of the trial by year end or early next year.

Updated

Hi, I’m Aamna and I’ll be taking over the liveblog while Kevin has a break. If you want to get in contact, you can email me on aamna.mohdin@theguardian.com

The UK government has been continuing to source medical gloves used as PPE by frontline healthcare workers from a manufacturer in Malaysia repeatedly accused of forcing its workers to endure “slave-like conditions” in its factories, the Guardian can reveal.

Top Glove, the world’s biggest producer of rubber medical gloves, has faced multiple allegations of exploitation from migrant workers mostly from Bangladesh and Nepal.

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Lockdown conditions were recommended for the whole of Madrid. The Spanish government said the whole of the capital should be covered by restrictions. But the regional government refused, saying only selected districts should be locked down.
  • South Korea said it would impose tighter restrictions during the Chuseok autumn holiday weeks. People traditionally reunite with families during the period, flagging the risks of new clusters of infections.
  • The UK borrowed £35.9bn in August in an effort to tackle the economic fallout, official figures showed. It means the national debt hit a record £2.024tn at the end of that month – £249.5bn more than the same time last year – according to the Office for National Statistics.
  • A cluster of about 100 cases in Iceland were traced back to two French tourists who refused to isolate. The country’s chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason said the pair arrived in mid-August and were instructed to remain in isolation after testing positive.
  • The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.
  • The virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus had made it more lethal or changed its effects.
  • India’s coronavirus case tally surged to 5.82 million after it recorded 86,052 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Friday.India has regularly been confirming daily case numbers above 80,000 since late August, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 1,141 people died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the ministry said, taking mortalities to 92,290, which is a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.
  • Brazil cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event.Rio’s authorities are yet to announce a decision about the carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to the Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it was uncertain when large public events could resume.
  • In Europe, the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, the European Union warned, as governments reimpose drastic measures. New infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”. The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.

Cases in the Netherlands hit new record

The Netherlands has recorded its worst day for new cases, confirming 2,777 new ones in the past 24 hours, according to health authority data. That made Friday the second consecutive day to rank as the nation’s worst after 2,544 cases were recorded on Thursday.

The rise is part of a broader second wave that began in late August. The prime minister Mark Rutte has said the public should regain a sense of urgency about following social distancing rules to slow the virus’s spread, and the government will order regional measures as needed. Schools and bars remain open, with masks required only on public transportation.

Updated

Hundreds of people have protested against tough new measures in the French city of Marseille.

Reuters reports that crowds gathered outside the city’s commercial tribunal to denounce an order from Paris that restaurants and bars close for two weeks from Saturday, arguing the move was disproportionate to the risk and would devastate the local economy.

Some proprietors said they would defy the order, amid signs of mounting public frustration across France at the reimposition of restrictions on public life after a resurgence of the country’s epidemic. Jean-Pierre Cotens, owner of the 13 Coins bar, said:

We should stay open, they won’t be able to close everyone. And if there’s a fine, well, we’ll take it, but we’ll be better off working than shutting.

Restaurateur Bernard Marty said:

We’re in complete despair. When they shut us down, they humiliate us. This doesn’t just penalise the restaurateur behind the till. It’s an entire sector plunged into crisis: suppliers, event organisers, discotheques. Do they expect us to die in silence?

The labour minister Elisabeth Borne has said the government would cover the fixed costs of bars and restaurants during the shutdown. Partial unemployment schemes would guarantee employees receive their full salary, she added.

Poland can expect further increases in coronavirus infections until mid-October, its president Andrzej Duda has said during a visit to the Vatican.

Poland reported 1,587 new infections on Friday; the worst nominal daily increase since the start of the pandemic in March. In total, the nation of 38 million people has registered 84,396 infections, including 2,392 deaths. Duda told reporters:

We do not have any risk of an explosion, there is an increase that has been forecast and we can probably expect that there may still be increases until mid-October.

Some 51 out of 186 crew members on a European Union naval vessel have tested positive, the EU’s Irini military mission has said, adding that the infections were discovered following routine testing.

The mission operates in the Mediterranean to stop arms from reaching warring factions in Libya, enforcing an embargo imposed by the UN security council to stop military clashes and facilitate the peace process in the North African country.

The Margottini frigate is docked in the southern Italian port of Augusta for logistic reasons after 15 days of activity at sea, the mission said. The majority of those who tested positive were Italian. Irini said it would now repeat the test for all the personnel on board to check whether there were even more infections.

Updated

For the past decade, Yusuf Iswahyu has ferried Indonesian children in his yellow bus to and from their schools. But, with many shut now, the 29-year-old has now signed up alongside other drivers to take patients infected with the virus to an emergency hospital in Jakarta.

His bus has a screen to shield him and he wears protective equipment, but that does not stop him feeling apprehensive – especially after contracting the disease during an earlier stint transporting healthcare workers. Yusuf, who has stayed away from his hometown of Cirebon on Java island since the pandemic began to cut the risk of infecting his family, told Reuters:

Of course I am scared ... but I never thought of quitting as what I do is not only about work but for humanity.

School bus driver Yusuf Iswahyu rests before transporting infected patients to an emergency hospital
School bus driver Yusuf Iswahyu rests before transporting infected patients to an emergency hospital Photograph: Willy Kurniawan/Reuters

Indonesia reported its biggest daily rise of cases on Friday – the third consecutive such daily total – and the capital is the epicentre of the new outbreak.

The hospital where Yusuf ferries his charges was converted from the athletes’ village built for the 2018 Asian Games and it is where he himself became a patient in May.

It is one of several state-appointed facilities where Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan has ordered those infected to be isolated, even if they do not have acute symptoms.

The world’s fourth most populous country has struggled to stem a rise in transmission for months, with 266,845 confirmed cases and a death toll of 10,218; one of the worst in Asia.

Updated

Iran’s death toll rose by 207 to 25,222 on Friday, with the total number of identified cases spiking to 439,882, a health ministry spokeswoman has said.

It was the highest single-day death toll since the ministry registered 216 deaths on 1 August. Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 3,563 new cases were identified in the last 24 hours in Iran, the country hardest-hit by the pandemic in the Middle East.

Iran’s health officials have voiced alarm over a surge in infections, urging the nation to respect health protocols to control the spread of the disease.

Updated

On Thursday, Illa warned that “difficult weeks” lay ahead for Madrid and that a concerted effort was needed to stop the spread of the virus in Spain’s hardest-hit region. But he also said that it was up to the regional government to accept or reject the central government’s recommendations.

To date, Spain has logged 704,209 Covid cases – 133,206 of them diagnosed over the past two weeks – and 31,118 deaths.

In an article published in the Lancet this week, a team of experts compared the lockdown exit strategies of nine different countries and found that Spain, like the UK, had struggled to implement an effective “find, test, trace, isolate and support system” before lockdown restrictions were eased over the summer.

In Spain – far and away the worst affected western European country, with a total of more than 700,000 cases – there has been more disunity and contradictory messaging from the central government and the regional government of Madrid.

Despite pledging to work together to improve the dire situation in and around the capital, the national and regional governments are favouring different strategies for tackling the surge in Madrid.

On Friday, the regional government rejected the central government’s calls for a city-wide return to lockdown, instead announcing that another eight areas in the region would be put into the partial lockdown already in force across 37 zones. When the order comes into effect next week, more than a million people in the region will only be allowed to enter and exit their home zones on work, educational, legal or medical grounds.

Public and private gatherings have been limited to six people and parks closed. The restrictions are being applied, among other considerations, to areas where there are more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.

But, in a parallel press conference, Spain’s health minister urged more drastic action, saying that cities with more than 500 cases per 100,000 people should go into lockdown. As of Thursday evening, the Madrid region had recorded 746.15 cases per 100,000 people over the preceding fortnight.

Illa also recommended an end to all unnecessary movement across the city, a ban on people eating and drinking at counters in bars and restaurants, and that the capacity at outside terraces be reduced to 50%.

Updated

Lockdown recommended for Madrid

The Spanish government has recommended locking down all of the city of Madrid again after local authorities imposed restrictions on some areas of the region, the country’s health minister Salvador Illa has said.

New restrictions were expected after Spain’s tally of confirmed infections passed 700,000 and it emerged that the capital accounts for more than a third of the country’s hospital admissions.

Updated

The number of new Covid-19 cases in France has jumped to a record high as the government faces an ongoing backlash against strict measures to halt the spread of the virus.

Santé Publique France, the French public health authority, recorded 16,096 new infections in the previous 24 hours on Thursday evening.

The surge is not entirely due to increased testing; while the authorities claim to be carrying out 1m Covid tests a week, the number of positive results has risen to 6.5%. On 14 August it was 2.4%.

Another indicator is the increase in hospital and intensive care admissions: the French health authority reported an “exponential” rise in the number of new patients requiring emergency treatment.

Read the full story here:

Iceland cluster traced to French tourists

A cluster of around 100 Covid-19 cases in Iceland have been traced back to two French tourists who refused to isolate, a local newspaper reports.

The French pair arrived in Iceland in mid August and were instructed to remain in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus, the country’s chief epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason said.

“I have information that it was difficult to get them to follow instructions,” he stated. “I really cannot say more.”

Around 100 new infections in Iceland have been traced back to two venues in Reykjavik.
Around 100 new infections in Iceland have been traced back to two venues in Reykjavik. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The epidemiologist said the pair brought with them a “French strain” of Covid-19 that has been picked up in around 100 new infections traced back to two establishments: the Irishman pub and the Brewdog restaurant, both in Reykjavík.

Updated

The World Health Organisation’s chief for influenza preparedness and response has said some northern hemisphere countries are struggling to source flu vaccines amid increased demand.

“Some countries are having trouble sourcing additional vaccine,” Dr Ann Moen told a United Nations briefing in Geneva, adding that health workers and the elderly should be prioritised in the event of shortages.

Less flu virus in circulating in the southern hemisphere’s current flu season, including in Australia and South Africa, partly due to social distancing and travel restrictions in place against Covid-19, she said.

“If this follows suit and influenza also is low circulation in the northern hemisphere, we may see less infections. And we also hope to see less infections due to the very high uptake of influenza vaccine,” she added.

Updated

The UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco, is introducing limits to prevent customers stockpiling products such as flour, pasta, toilet roll and anti-bacterial wipes after new restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 were introduced.

Empty supermarket shelves in London in March 2020.
Empty supermarket shelves in London in March 2020. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

Back in March, at the start of the national lockdown, supermarket shelves were left bare after customers stockpiled essential goods.

“We have good availability, with plenty of stock to go round, and we would encourage our customers to shop as normal,” a spokeswoman said.

“To ensure that everyone can keep buying what they need, we have introduced bulk-buy limits on a small number of products.”

You can read more on the situation in the UK, where daily infections rose to the highest level since the start of the pandemic yesterday, over on our dedicated blog:

Moscow’s mayor has urged more people to work form home after Russia’s daily coronavirus caseload hit the highest level since the end of June.

On Friday, officials reported 7,212 new infections, bringing the total tally of infections to 1,136,048.

In the capital, new cases rose by almost 50% overnight to 1,560 from 1,050 on Thursday.

Russia lifted most of its lockdown restrictions in June, and shops, businesses and public transport in Moscow are largely operating as normal.

Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.
Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. Photograph: Alexei Druzhinin/RIA NOVOSTI/KREMLIN POOL/EPA

But mayor Sergei Sobyanin recommended that the heads of all companies in the capital switch as many staff as possible to working from home from Monday.

Sobyanin also advised anyone with chronic health problems or those over 65 to stay at home except in urgent circumstances.

Updated

Poland and Slovakia have both reported record daily coronavirus caseloads.

Slovakian prime minister Igor Matovic said on Friday that 419 new infections had been recorded in the country in the past 24 hours.

It is the third record daily tally in a row for the country which has one of Europe’s lowest Covid-19 death tolls.

Meanwhile, Poland’s health ministry reported 1,578 new infections in the past 24 hours, the highest daily count since the beginning of the pandemic.

The country of 38 million has reported a total of 84,396 Covid-19 infections and 2,392 deaths.

Updated

Russia’s daily coronavirus caseload has hit its highest level since 23 June, as officials reported 7,212 infections on Friday.

The national tally now stands at 1,136,048.

In Moscow, new cases rose by almost 50% overnight to 1,560 from 1,050 the previous day.

Authorities also said a further 108 people had died after contracting the virus, pushing the country’s official Covid-19 death toll to 20,056.

More from the UK, where the Covid-19 situation is rapidly deteriorating. Britons have been urged to take heed of the “stark warning” of cases rising to their highest level yet as the chancellor set out a multibillion-pound support package in a bid to save jobs.

A total of 6,634 new cases were recorded on Thursday – the largest daily count since the beginning of the pandemic.

It came as chancellor Rishi Sunak said the virus’s resurgence poses a threat to the UK’s “fragile” economic recovery.

The rise in cases is a “clear” signal, Public Health England’s Professor Yvonne Doyle said, as she insisted people must follow the stricter measures announced this week in order to help control the virus.

Testing capacity has expanded significantly since the outbreak began meaning more cases will be detected, but Prof Doyle said the latest figure was “a stark warning for us all”.

She added:

The signals are clear. Positivity rates are rising across all age groups and we’re continuing to see spikes in rates of admission to hospital and critical care.

“We must all follow the new measures that have been brought in to help control the virus and download the new NHS Covid-19 App which is the fastest way of knowing when you’re at risk.”

The app, which launched in England and Wales on Thursday, had been downloaded more than one million times by Android users by that evening according to the Google Play Store - a figure likely to be higher when iPhone downloads are included.

North Korea has said it is “sorry” for shooting dead a missing South Korean to prevent the spread of coronavirus, amid growing backlash.

North Korea’s United Front Department, in charge of cross-border ties, sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office a day after Seoul officials said North Korean soldiers killed a South Korean before dousing his body in oil and setting it on fire.

The rare message came as Moon faced intense political fallout over the incident, which coincided with a renewed push for policy to engage Pyongyang.

A South Korean military official gives a briefing on North Korea’s shooting of a South Korean at the National Assembly in Seoul on Thursday.
A South Korean military official gives a briefing on North Korea’s shooting of a South Korean at the National Assembly in Seoul on Thursday. Photograph: Ha Sa-hun/AP

The letter cited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as saying he was “sorry” that the incident disappointed the South Korean public and should not have happened, Moon’s security adviser Suh Hoon said.

The soldiers fired more than 10 shots at the man, a South Korean fisheries official who went missing this week, after he did not reveal his identity and tried to flee, Suh said, citing the letter.

But the letter said they burned a floatation device he was using, according to their anti-virus manuals, and not his body.

“The troops could not locate the unidentified trespasser during a search after firing the shots, and burned the device under national emergency disease prevention measures,” Suh told a briefing, referring to the letter.

The shooting shocked many South Koreans and triggered a fierce backlash from opposition lawmakers, prompting Moon to issue an unusually stringent response calling it “unpardonable.”

Russia has agreed to supply up to 35 million doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine to Uzbekistan.

The deal with pharmaceutical company Laxisam is one of several agreed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund in recent weeks to supply the vaccine, which is currently being tested in a large-scale trial in Moscow.

It has also made supply deals with Kazakhstan, India, Mexico and two Brazilian states.

The Czech Republic’s daily coronavirus caseload rose to 2,913 on Thursday, the second highest figure on record.

Data from the health ministry shows the total number of infections now stands at 58,374 in the country of 10.7 million people, which has been experiencing a surge in infections in recent weeks after a relaxation of lockdown measures in the summer.

UK debt soars over pandemic costs

The UK government borrowed £35.9bn in August in an effort to tackle the economic fallout from Covid-19, official figures show.

It means the national debt hit a record £2.024 trillion at the end of August – £249.5bn more than the same time last year – according to the Office for National Statistics, pushing borrowing up to 101.9% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Public sector net debt was £2,023.9 billion at the end of August 2020, 101.9% of GDP, £249.5 billion more than at the same point last year https://t.co/4OWYxcUcS8 pic.twitter.com/Qed3wtQUk5

— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) September 25, 2020

In July, the UK’s debt passed £2 trillion for the first time in history as the government threw billions at offsetting the economic chaos caused by lockdown measures.

Updated

European governments will pay claims above an agreed limit against AstraZeneca over side-effects from its potential Covid-19 vaccine, under different terms to a deal struck with Sanofi, an EU official has told Reuters.

The deals reflect different strategies by two of the world’s top drugmakers for protecting themselves as a debate rages about liabilities for vaccines aimed at ending the pandemic.

AstraZeneca has secured the European Union’s backing in a confidential agreement which reflects the lower price sought by the British drugmaker, the official said.

“If a company asks for a higher price we don’t give the same conditions,” said the official, who was involved in the talks but declined to be identified as the contracts are confidential.

Unexpected side-effects after a drug has regulatory approval are rare, but the speed at which a vaccine is being pursued increases the risks of unforeseen conditions.

The deal with AstraZeneca, which shifts some of the risks involved in the roll-out of a vaccine to taxpayers, was struck in August and its liability clauses have not previously been reported.

Under the deal, AstraZeneca would only pay legal costs up to a certain threshold, the official said, declining to elaborate on how the costs would be shared with individual European governments or the cap.

The financial shield would cover both legal costs and potential compensation, which is rarer but potentially a much bigger outlay in the event of something going wrong.

In return for the higher price paid for its vaccine, French drugmaker Sanofi, which is working with GlaxoSmithKline as a partner, did not get any liability waiver.

Spokespeople for AstraZeneca, Sanofi and the European Commission declined to comment on the specifics of the deals.

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.
  • The virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus had made it more lethal or changed its effects.
  • India’s coronavirus case tally surged to 5.82 million after it recorded 86,052 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Friday.India has regularly been confirming daily case numbers above 80,000 since late August, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 1,141 people died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the ministry said, taking mortalities to 92,290, which is a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.
  • Brazil cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event.Rio’s authorities are yet to announce a decision about the carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to the Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it was uncertain when large public events could resume.
  • In Europe, the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, the European Union warned, as governments reimpose drastic measures. New infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”. The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.
  • Israel further toughened its lockdown measures on Thursday after existing restrictions failed to bring down the infection rate. The country has 212,115 cases out of a population of just under 9 million: roughly equivalent to one case per 23 people.The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.
  • France set a new record for daily new cases. Health authorities reported 16,096 new confirmed cases on Thursday, a significant increase on the previous record of 13,498 and setting a fourth all-time high of daily additional infections in eight days.
  • Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, Victoria, looks set to ease restrictions over the weekend. The two-week average of new infections in Melbourne dropped below 26, well below the 30-50 level which the state has set as a precondition to relax its strict curbs.

Updated

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today.

Now, as you all know, it is my duty and honour to bring you the very latest in coronavirus news. But if you’ll allow it, here is a non-pandemic piece about sisters, a pair of stolen boots and very Scottish chins:

I’m not sure that I’ll ever feel completely Australian. But I know that I only began to feel settled here when my sister visited. She is where I am from, she fastens the compass needle to the compass. In my old-new boots, I feel like she is where I am always going, too.

Updated

In June Boris Johnson told the country it was our patriotic duty to go to the pub and spread the coronavirus: that having been an effective message, the government is now mandating the early closure of pubs and restaurants in what is being called a “curfew”, as though it were the public and not the government who were a bunch of unruly children.

“Curfew” is a contraction of the original French couvre-feu, meaning literally “cover the fire”. In medieval Europe, it was common for a bell to be rung at a certain hour in the evening (often eight o’clock) indicating that all fires must be covered or put out, in order to prevent domestic fires from accidentally burning down whole villages or towns.

The term was subsequently borrowed to refer to a restriction on citizens’ movements after dark, but the traditional “ringing of curfew” by church bells persisted long after its original purpose, as in Grey’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”: “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day.” Now it is tolling the knell of parting beer. One may doubt, though, that these curfews will suffice to put out the fire of the resurgent pandemic:

South Korea to tighten social distancing curbs during two holiday weeks

South Korea on Friday said it would impose tighter restrictions during the Chuseok autumn holiday weeks when people traditionally reunite with families, flagging the risks of new clusters of coronavirus infections.

The new curbs apply to at least 11 high-risk facilities in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, including nightclubs and bars.

Those restrictions are on top of the current so-called phase two social distancing, which limits indoor gatherings to 50 people and outdoor gatherings to 100, and bans spectators from sporting events.

The new measures will be in place from 28 September to 11 October. Korea’s Hangul holiday, which memorialises when King Sejong introduced the language’s unique characters, is on 9 October.

Health workers disinfect streets near Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, which is at the centre of a recent resurgence of the coronavirus, ahead of the Chuseok holiday, which falls on 1 October, in Seoul, South Korea, 24 September 2020.
Health workers disinfect streets near Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, which is at the centre of a recent resurgence of the coronavirus, ahead of the Chuseok holiday, which falls on 1 October, in Seoul, South Korea, 24 September 2020. Photograph: YONHAP/EPA

Asia’s fourth-largest economy managed to contain the virus and avoid a full lockdown this year, but infections at a church and political rally in August sparked the country’s largest outbreak.

It peaked at more than 440 new cases at the end of August, and despite a steady decline since then, officials say they fear the holiday, which runs from 30 September to 2 October, may lead to another spike.

“We are at an important crossroads that will decide whether we will be able to return to the phase one social distancing policy or revisit another Covid-19 outbreak,* Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing.

Park urged residents to hold online visits during the holiday and outsource the tidying of ancestors’ graves, one of the main Chuseok traditions.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 114 new coronavirus cases as of midnight Thursday, bringing the country’s total to 23,455, with 395 deaths.

In strictly non-pandemic news:

A landmine detection rat has been awarded a gold medal for his “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty”.

Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, has discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance in Cambodia since he was trained by charity APOPO. He is the charity’s most successful Hero Rat, having cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land – the equivalent of 20 football pitches.

0mg a picture of a rat wearing the medal he got for bravery
https://t.co/6TGRCEHGdE pic.twitter.com/tXqrtWUmhf

— Helen Sullivan (@helenrsullivan) September 25, 2020

Magawa has been formally recognised for his work and been presented with a miniature PDSA Gold Medal, the animal equivalent of the George Cross. He is the first rat in the charity’s 77-year history to receive such an award:

As the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide looked set to pass a million within days, Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade for the first time in a century because of Brazil’s continued vulnerability in the pandemic.

The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.

Coronavirus live news: France sees record new cases; virus may be becoming more contagiousRead more

Earlier in the week, death toll in the United States, which has suffered more coronavirus-related deaths than any other country, passed 200,000. The number of cases is nearing 7m.

Brazil, which has the second-worst death toll worldwide with 139,000, and the third-most cases, with 4.6m, cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event:

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.
  • The virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus had made it more lethal or changed its effects.
  • India’s coronavirus case tally surged to 5.82 million after it recorded 86,052 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Friday.India has regularly been confirming daily case numbers above 80,000 since late August, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 1,141 people died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the ministry said, taking mortalities to 92,290, which is a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.
  • Brazil cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event.Rio’s authorities are yet to announce a decision about the carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to the Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it was uncertain when large public events could resume.
  • In Europe, the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, the European Union warned, as governments reimpose drastic measures. New infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”. The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.
  • Israel further toughened its lockdown measures on Thursday after existing restrictions failed to bring down the infection rate. The country has 212,115 cases out of a population of just under 9 million: roughly equivalent to one case per 23 people.The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.
  • France set a new record for daily new cases. Health authorities reported 16,096 new confirmed cases on Thursday, a significant increase on the previous record of 13,498 and setting a fourth all-time high of daily additional infections in eight days.
  • Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, Victoria, looks set to ease restrictions over the weekend. The two-week average of new infections in Melbourne dropped below 26, well below the 30-50 level which the state has set as a precondition to relax its strict curbs.

Updated

India records 86,052 new cases

India’s coronavirus case tally surged to 5.82 million after it recorded 86,052 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Friday.

India has regularly been confirming daily case numbers above 80,000 since late August, according to Johns Hopkins University.

A total of 1,141 people died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the ministry said, taking mortalities to 92,290, which is a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.

Globally, India has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases, behind the United States where infections neared 7m on Thursday.

Daily wage labourers wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus stand together as they wait for work at a wholesale market in Bengaluru, India, Thursday, 24 September 2020.
Daily wage labourers wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus stand together as they wait for work at a wholesale market in Bengaluru, India, Thursday, 24 September 2020. Photograph: Aijaz Rahi/AP

Updated

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 2,153 to 280,223, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Friday.

The reported death toll rose by 15 to 9,443, the tally showed.

Rio carnival delayed for first time in a century

Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade, saying Thursday night that the global spectacle cannot go ahead in February because of Brazil’s continued vulnerability to the pandemic, AP reports.

Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus has made it impossible to safely hold the traditional parades that are a cultural mainstay and, for many, a source of livelihood.

Carnival parade floats sit unfinished in the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school workshop, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, 21 September 2020.
Carnival parade floats sit unfinished in the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school workshop, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, 21 September 2020. Photograph: Silvia Izquierdo/AP

Rio’s City Hall has yet to announce a decision about the Carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to The Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it is uncertain when large public events can resume.

Brazil’s first confirmed coronavirus case was 26 February, one day after this years Carnival ended. As the number of infections grew, the samba schools that participate in the glitzy annual parade halted preparations for the 2021 event. Thursdays announcement removed the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the city one of worst hit by the pandemic in Brazil.

Updated

In the US, all Midwest states except Ohio reported more cases in the past four weeks as compared with the prior four weeks, led by South Dakota and North Dakota. South Dakota had the biggest percentage increase at 166% with 8,129 new cases, while North Dakota’s new cases doubled to 8,752 as compared to 4,243 during the same time in August, Reuters reports.

Many cases in those two states have been linked to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, that annually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.
According to a Reuters analysis, positive cases rose in half of the 50 US states this month. Ten states have reported a record one-day increase in Covid-19 cases in September.
New cases rose last week after falling for eight consecutive weeks. Health experts believe this spike was due to reopening schools and universities as well as parties over the recent Labor Day holiday.

A study by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Indiana University, the University of Washington and Davidson College said recent reopening of college and university campuses for in-person instruction during late summer this year could be associated with more than 3,000 additional cases of Covid-19 per day in the United States in recent weeks.

The US, with nearly 7m confirmed cases, has the highest number of infections in the world followed by India with 5.7 million cases and Brazil with 4.6 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The United states is currently averaging 40,000 new infections per day.

Top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he would like to see the number to fall below 10,000 per day before flu season starts in October.

Health officials and President Donald Trump have presented different views about the nation’s health crisis. Trump, who is seeking re-election to a second term on Nov. 3, early this month had claimed that the United States was “rounding the corner” on the crisis. Fauci contradicted the claim the next day, saying the statistics were disturbing.

More on the rally, from Reuters:

Trump campaigned in the battleground states of North Carolina and Florida on Thursday, saying the country’s economic prosperity was riding on the outcome of his 3 November showdown with Democrat Joe Biden.

“If you want to save America, you must get out and vote,” he told thousands of cheering supporters, most not wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic, at the outdoor airport rally in front of Air Force One in Jacksonville, Florida.

People attend a campaign rally by US President Donald Trump at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida, US, 24 September 2020.
People attend a campaign rally by US President Donald Trump at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida, US, 24 September 2020. Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Trump criticised Biden as too far left for Americans and warned that the Democrat’s efforts to battle the coronavirus would endanger the economy.

Trump has been criticised for failing to lay out a national strategy to combat the pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States, the most deaths of any country from the virus.

He has pushed for rapid deployment of a vaccine once one is ready, and for a broad reopening of the economy after a lockdown in the spring that resulted in heavy job losses.

“Biden’s plan will crush Florida,” Trump said. “My plan will crush the virus.”

Here is a picture of the crowd at US President Donald Trump’s rally in Jacksonville, Florida. There are few masks and little, if any, social distancing:

The crowd here at Trump’s Jacksonville, Florida rally just goes on and on. pic.twitter.com/0uQCv7lHUY

— Jill Colvin (@colvinj) September 24, 2020

Israel toughens restrictions

Israel toughened its coronavirus measures on Thursday as a second nationwide lockdown failed to bring down the world’s highest infection rate a week after it was imposed, AFP reports.

The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.

“Saving lives is our priority - we are living in a moment of national crisis,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised news conference late Thursday, justifying the decision to reinforce restrictions.

“The State of Israel will overcome the epidemic and we will emerge stronger,” he added without detailing all the measures taken by his government.

The move comes as Israel is poised to enter the second week of a three-week lockdown imposed last Friday, which included the closure of schools and restrictions on work and leisure.

Under the new measures approved during a first reading by parliament on Thursday, only “essential” work will be permitted from 2.00 pm local time (1100 GMT) on Friday and synagogues will only be allowed to open on Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday that begins Sunday afternoon.

At other times, only outdoor prayer with a maximum of 20 people in attendance will be allowed. The same restrictions have been applied to demonstrations.

A decision on whether to close Ben Gurion international airport outside Tel Aviv would be made later on Thursday, the government said.

“To save the lives of Israel’s citizens, we need to impose a full lockdown now for two weeks,” Netanyahu said earlier.

“This is also necessary for the economy. Whoever thinks we can work with a raging pandemic, with death and infections rising, without it affecting the economy, is wrong.”

Israel has the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate per capita, according to an AFP tally from the past fortnight - more than 200,000 infections have been recorded, out of a population of nine million.

Meanwhile The Telegraph has a report that suggests face masks are giving people a form of immunity from the virus.

The idea comes from research that suggests that the lower the amount of the virus your are exposed to when you are first infected, the higher your chances of survival: “Indeed, a large study published in the Lancet last month found that ‘viral load at diagnosis’ was an ‘independent predictor of mortality’ in hospital patients,” the Telegraph reports.

Wearing masks could therefore reduce the infectious dose that the wearer is exposed to and, subsequently, the impact of the disease, as masks filter out some virus-containing droplets.

If this theory bears out, researchers argue, then population-wide mask wearing might ensure that a higher proportion of Covid-19 infections are asymptomatic.

Better still, as data has emerged in recent weeks suggesting that there can be strong immune responses from even mild or asymptomatic coronavirus infection, researchers say that any public health strategy that helps reduce the severity of the virus - such as mask wearing - should increase population-wide immunity as well.

This is because even a low viral load can be enough to induce an immune response, which is effectively what a typical vaccine does.

More now on the the mutation of SARS-CoV-2, which US scientists believe may be making the virus more contagious.

The Washington Post reports that a genetic mutation has been detected on one of the spikes on on the virus – these are the spikes that give the virus it’s crown or “corona”, and which are an important part of how it is able to infect people so quickly.

Because the virus is so widespread, especially in the US, which has the highest number of infections worldwide, it has had “a lot of chances,” the author of the study told the Washington Post: “There is a huge population size out there right now.”

It is also important to note that while the virus may be more contagious, it does not appear to be deadlier. In other words, the scientists haven’t found a mutation that suggests the virus has become deadlier.

From the Post:

Like all coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 has a series of characteristic spikes surrounding its core. These spikes are what allow the virus to attach to human cells.

A mutation affecting the spike protein changed amino acid 614 from “D” (aspartic acid) to “G” (glycine). Research suggests that this small change — which affects three identical amino acid chains — might enhance the virus’s transmissibility.

Here is our story on the study:

Late on Thursday, the UK’s chancellor defended his decision to replace the government’s furlough scheme with a plan that will subsidise the wages of people in work. Workers will need to work at least a third of their normal hours to qualify for the new Job Support Scheme.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Rishi Sunak said the change was necessary to manage the long-term economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘We can’t continue to provide the same degree of support that we did at the beginning of this crisis,’ he told reporters. ‘It’s not sustainable for a prolonged period of time.’

Buckingham Palace is belt-tightening after a projected £35m double-whammy financial blow due to Covid-19, as royal accounts reveal the Sussexes’ flights to southern Africa cost nearly £250,000 and Prince Andrew took a £16,000 charter to a Northern Ireland golf tournament.

The palace also confirmed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made a “substantial contribution” for an undisclosed amount to the sovereign grant for Frogmore Cottage, their private Windsor residence refurbished with £2.4m in public money before the couple relocated to Los Angeles.

The one-off payment for a number of years’ rental is set at a commercial rate and takes into account the property’s enhanced value as a result of the refurbishment. A senior palace source indicated the private rental agreement would cover the £2.4m the couple agreed to repay to the sovereign grant. They want to retain the residence, and will be expected to make further rental payments in future years:

Global deaths pass 980,000

The global coronavirus death toll has passed another grim milestone as we near the toll of one million lives lost as a result of the virus in just nine months.

There are currently 980,299 deaths confirmed on the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data. The true toll is believed to be higher due to lags in reporting, differing definitions and testing rates and suspected underreporting in some countries.

These are the ten countries with the highest tolls worldwide:

  1. US: 202,728 deaths
  2. Brazil: 138,977 deaths
  3. India: 91,149 deaths
  4. Mexico: 74,949 deaths
  5. United Kingdom: 41,991 deaths
  6. Italy: 35,781 deaths
  7. Peru: 31,870 deaths
  8. France: 31,524 deaths
  9. Spain: 31,118 deaths
  10. Iran: 25,015 deaths

Brazil recorded 32,817 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 831 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

South America’s largest country has registered more than 4.6 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, according to ministry data, ranking it as the third worst outbreak in the world after the United States and India.

Nearly 140,000 people have died of the disease in Brazil, which ranks second after the United States in coronavirus deaths.

Activists of the NGO Rio de Paz in protective gear dig graves on Copacabana beach to symbolise the dead from coronavirus during a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 June 2020.
Activists of the NGO Rio de Paz in protective gear dig graves on Copacabana beach to symbolise the dead from coronavirus during a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11 June 2020. Photograph: Pilar Olivares/Reuters

Updated

The state of Victoria, Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, on Friday reported eight deaths from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours and 14 new infections as the state looks set to ease some tough restrictions during the weekend.

A day earlier the state reported two deaths from the virus and 12 new cases.

The two-week average of new infections in the city of Melbourne dropped below 26, well below the 30-50 level which the state has set as a precondition to ease curbs.

Londoners are increasingly looking for jobs outside the capital as the city’s economy stalls, one of the UK’s largest recruitment sites has found, raising the prospect of a wave of “reverse commuters” or a continued exodus of residents.

Figures from Indeed, based on millions of job adverts and searches, show that on 18 September, the number of posts advertised in London was down by 55% on the same date in 2019.

The sharp decline reflects the impact of closed offices and reduced hospitality services on the city’s jobs market:

Mental health experts have joined forces with nearly 2,000 family members bereaved by Covid-19 to warn of an impending crisis unless support services for grieving relatives are made available.

Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, together with organisations including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the National Bereavement Partnership, want the government to use the comprehensive spending review to fund measures addressing particularly traumatic forms of grief:

EU warns virus epidemic worsening, as restrictions ramp up

The European Union raised the alarm on Thursday over the coronavirus pandemic, saying it is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, as governments in Europe and beyond reimpose drastic measures, AFP reports.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.

The death rate has not returned to the levels seen earlier this year but new infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”.

Customers have breakfast inside a bar in the southern neighbourhood of Vallecas in Madrid, Spain, Monday, 21 September, 2020.
Customers have breakfast inside a bar in the southern neighbourhood of Vallecas in Madrid, Spain, Monday, 21 September, 2020. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP

The countries, including Spain and several of the EU’s eastern states, have “an increased proportion of hospitalised and severe cases” among older people and rising death notification rates.

Although France was not among those nations, it has tightened its measures - closing restaurants, workplaces and gyms as businesses already hammered by the earlier lockdown struggle to stay afloat.

Bars in Paris and 10 other cities will be forced to close early and the southern city of Marseille will see restaurants and bars close completely.

Local officials have reacted with anger and frustration.

Virus may be becoming more contagious

The Covid-19 virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious, as coronavirus cases in the US have started to rise once again, according to new research.

The new US study analyzed 5,000 genetic sequences of the virus, which has continued to mutate as it has spread through the population. The study did not find that mutations of the virus have made it more lethal or changed its effects, even as it may be becoming easier to catch, according to a report in the Washington Post, which noted that public health experts acknowledge all viruses have mutations, most of which are insignificant.

David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the new study should not be over-interpreted, but added that the virus could be responding to public health interventions such as social distancing.

“All those things are barriers to transmissibility, or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” he said.

Morens noted that this could mean that the virus might continue to mutate even after a vaccine is available, meaning the vaccine will have to be tinkered with – just as the flu vaccine is altered each year:

Updated

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest from around the world for the next few hours.

Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com.

The Covid-19 virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus have made it more lethal or changed its effects.

Meanwhile France set a new record for daily new Covid-19 cases, at more than 16,000. French health authorities reported 16,096 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, a significant increase on the previous record of 13,498 and setting a fourth all-time high of daily additional infections in eight days.

  • Hundreds of thousands of students in Scotland banned from socialising. In a set of rules agreed by Scottish university leaders, students across the country were told they will not be allowed to socialise outside their households and must avoid bars, pubs and other venues.
  • Genetic or immune defects may impair ability to fight Covid-19. A significant proportion of patients who develop life-threatening forms of Covid-19 have genetic or immunological defects that impair their ability to fight the virus, research has found.
  • Coronavirus continuing to mutate, study finds. The Covid-19 virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious, as coronavirus cases in the US have started to rise once again, according to new research.
  • Italian president rebuts Johnson’s ‘freedom’ remarks over restrictions. Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, said its citizens “also love freedom, but we also care about seriousness”, responding to Boris Johnson’s suggestion that the UK’s rate of coronavirus infection was worse than both Italy and Germany’s because Britons loved their freedom more.
  • Spain’s tally of confirmed coronavirus infections passed 700,000 as authorities warned of tougher times ahead in the region of Madrid, which accounts for over a third of hospital admissions.The number of cases now stands at 704,209, the highest in western Europe. “Tough weeks are coming in Madrid. We must act with resolve to bring the pandemic under control,” the health minister Salvador Illa said. Authorities in Madrid could announce further measures on Friday.
  • The UK reported a record daily rise in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases. A further 6,634 lab-confirmed positive test results took the overall number to 416,363. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that there are more cases now than there were during the peak in the spring, as there was a lack of community testing at that time.
  • Denmark, Slovakia, Iceland and Curaçao were removed from the UK government’s list of travel corridors. Travellers arriving in England from those countries after 4am on Saturday must self-isolate for 14 days, the transport secretary Grant Shapps said.
  • Portugal has extended measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic until at least mid-October, the government announced.The country will remain under a state of contingency until 14 October, meaning gatherings continue to be limited to 10 people and commercial establishments must close between 8pm and 11pm.

Contributors

Melissa Davey (now) and Nadeem Badshah, Kevin Rawlinson, Aamna Mohdin, Amy Walker and Helen Sullivan (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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27, Apr, 2020 @11:20 PM

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Confirmed global cases pass 1.5m - as it happened
This blog is closed

Helen Sullivan (now and earlier) ; Nadeem Badshah , Damien Gayle, Gregory Robinson, and Amy Walker

09, Apr, 2020 @11:44 PM

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France reports 20,155 new cases – as it happened
This blog is now closed. We’ve launched a new blog at the link below:

Lucy Campbell (now); Josh Halliday, Caroline Davies and Helen Sullivan (earlier)

09, Nov, 2020 @11:42 PM

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Worldwide Covid-19 deaths pass 290,000 – as it happened
Spain to quarantine overseas travellers; Trump walks out of press conference; White House staff ordered to wear masks. This blog is now closed

Helen Sullivan (now and earlier); Kevin Rawlinson , Damien Gayle, and Jessica Murray

12, May, 2020 @11:33 PM

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Spain cases jump by nearly 1,700 – as it happened
Country struggling with surge in infections; Moscow rejects concerns over safety; Germans told to keep guard up against virus. This blog is closed

Helen Sullivan (now and earlier); Lucy Campbell , Jessica Murray, and Aamna Mohdin

12, Aug, 2020 @11:10 PM

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Global confirmed Covid-19 cases top 400,000 – as it happened
WHO says US could be next virus hotspot; EU urged to evacuate Greek refugee camps; Greta Thunberg says she believes she had Covid-19. This blog is now closed.

Helen Sullivan (now and earlier); Kevin Rawlinson, Ben Quinn and Alexandra Topping

25, Mar, 2020 @12:43 AM

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Iran sees highest daily cases since June – as it happened
This blog is now closed. Follow our new blog at the link below:

Jessica Murray (now); Sarah Marsh, Damien Gayle Kevin Rawlinson and Helen Sullivan (earlier)

21, Sep, 2020 @10:57 PM