Coronavirus latest: Here’s what you need to know this morning, Thursday, October 15

HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock will update MPs on coronavirus in a statement to the House of Commons on Thursday.

GREATER Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said he is expecting a meeting with Boris Johnson’s team on Thursday to discuss the latest coronavirus restrictions. Mr Burnham tweeted: “Just to keep people updated. We’ve just concluded a briefing with the deputy chief medical officer. We are expecting a further meeting with the PM’s team in the morning.”

MAYOR of Liverpool Joe Anderson tweeted that critical care and ICU units at the city’s hospitals were at 80% capacity and would be full next week. He added that 8,436 pupils and 527 teachers were self-isolating, with 206 teachers and 265 pupils testing positive for coronavirus in the past 14 days.

THE opportunity to impose a precautionary two-week circuit-breaker lockdown is slipping away, experts have warned. Prof Graham Medley, a specialist in infectious disease modelling who sits on Sage, said: “When would it have been a good idea to have done it? Any time from August to now would have been a better time to do it. It’s slightly perverse but essentially the earlier you do it, the better.”

HIS colleague said that it is still not too late to use the tactic before the rising R rate forces the Government’s hand and an emergency, indeterminate lockdown becomes necessary. Prof Matt Keeling, of the University Warwick, said: “I don’t think we are quite there yet – we’re not in the situation we were in back in March. It’s true that cases are increasing everywhere but it’s not as quick. Whether the Government decides to start thinking about precautionary lockdowns is very much a policy choice, but obviously we have been saying throughout ‘the sooner this is done, the better’ because the impact is going to roll forward for several months. I don’t think we need to switch tactics yet, if we can get this in sooner, the better.”

SCIENTISTS have warned that Christmas was going to be a very difficult period even if the Government does not decide to impose a circuit-breaker lockdown over the period. Government advisers considering when to impose a short, sharp lockdown have suggested the coming October half-term or the Christmas holidays might be a good time as it would minimise disruption to education. Prof Graham Medley told a webinar: “Christmas is going to be very difficult anyway.

“At the moment we have places that are in Tier 3 level lockdown, it’s quite likely that several level 2 places will go into Tier 3 level between now and the end of the year, if not a lot, and we don’t know that if the measures in Tier 3 are enough to move them down to Tier 2. So it’s not going to be an easy Christmas and in some ways we kind of missed the boat a little and they are certainly something to think about in terms of the future.” He said the Government should be considering imposing short term lockdowns as far ahead as the spring half-term.

BORIS Johnson wants to form a consensus with local leaders about the toughest Tier 3 restrictions – but ministers could impose them if that is not possible. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We want to create the maximum possible local consensus behind what would be the most severe kind of local actions. “We continue to work with local leaders on that.” But the spokesman added: “The Government does have the ability to impose measures if it was felt that was what was needed to reduce transmission and to protect the NHS.”

DOWNING Street condemned the “irresponsible” behaviour by some people in Liverpool on Tuesday night ahead of the Tier 3 restrictions being imposed. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “In terms of what were the actions of a minority of people, I think you would have to judge it as irresponsible in the sense that we shouldn’t be doing anything that risks putting others in danger of catching the virus.”

LABOUR would consider a regional coronavirus circuit-breaker but wants the Government to impose nationwide restrictions, a spokesman for Sir Keir Starmer said. The spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “The proposal we’ve put on the table at the moment is that it needs to be a nationwide circuit-breaker. Because as the Government’s own scientists have admitted, the virus is spreading across the country and the infection rate is going up across all regions of the country. So the proposal we are putting at the moment is that it needs to be nationwide.”

But asked if a regional circuit-breaker would be considered, the spokesman said: “We’ll always look at whatever the Government puts forward and judge it on its merits but the arguments we’re making at the moment is for a national one.”

CULTURE Secretary Oliver Dowden said it was “reasonable” to work on a timeline of having a Covid-19 vaccine by the early stages of next year. He told MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee: “There is not just one vaccine, there are multiple vaccines being trialled around the world and they will have setbacks at different stages. I think the overall trajectory is the same and most scientists agree that it is a reasonable enough scenario to think we will have one towards the beginning of next year, and clearly there are challenges around rollout.”

He said the situation would improve by next spring, even without a vaccine or improvements in quick-result mass testing.

Mr Dowden said: “It is the case anyway with the disease we will get to the point in the spring where we come out of a difficult period, which is people being indoors and the ‘flu season.”

A FURTHER 1,503 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the North-East and North Yorkshire in the last 24 hours.

A further 16 deaths were reported at hospitals in the North-East.

Separate figures show there were 4,146 Covid-19 patients in hospital in England as of Wednesday, up from 2,944 a week ago, while 468 Covid-19 hospital patients were in ventilation beds, up from 376 a week ago.

A total of 647 patients with confirmed Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in England on Monday, compared with 472 a week earlier.

The Government said that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 19,724 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 654,644.

The Government also said a further 137 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday. This brings the UK total to 43,155.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 58,500 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

A further 68 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 30,662, NHS England said on Wednesday.

Patients were aged between 48 and 98 years old. All but four patients, aged between 65 and 93, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between October 2 and October 13.

Eight other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

Figures for the North-East and North Yorkshire for the last 24 hours:

County Durham: 7,894 was 7,612 was 7,328, an increase of 282

Darlington: 1,251 was 1,219, an increase of 32

Gateshead: 3,321 was 3,219, an increase of 102

Hartlepool: 1,507 was 1,442, an increase of 65

Middlesbrough: 2,298 was 2,246, an increase of 52

Newcastle: 6,488 was 6,307, an increase of 181

North Tyneside: 2,756 was 2,683, an increase of 73

North Yorkshire: 5,359 was 5,222, an increase of 137

Northumberland: 3,874 was 3,786, an increase of 88

Redcar and Cleveland: 1,518was 1,471, an increase of 47

South Tyneside: 2,759 was 2,689, an increase of 70

Stockton: 2,611 was 2,528, an increase of 83

Sunderland: 5,037 was 4,884, an increase of 153

York: 2,328 was 2,190, an increase of 138

Total increase in North-East and North Yorkshire of 1503

The Northern Echo | Durham