Coronavirus latest: Here’s what you need to know this morning, Thursday, October 22

Here are the latest regional, national and international updates on the Covid-19 crisis:

THE UK can expect tens of thousands of deaths from the second wave of coronavirus in what is a “bleak” situation, a Government scientist has said. Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told MPs that immediate action was needed – and not just regionally – to stem the rising tide of Covid-19 cases. Asked for his view on current Government measures and what the trajectory looked like in terms of the number of cases, deaths and pressure on the NHS, he replied “quite gloomy”. He added: “We’re already in Liverpool… elective operations are already being cancelled, so we’re already at the stage where that’s under strain. Elsewhere in the North West in particular but also in the North and Yorkshire, it’s not very far behind. So we are already at the point or getting close to the point where the health service in much of the North will be under strain in the next few weeks. And… even if we stopped things now, cases and hospitalisations would continue to go up. I think if you look at where we are, there’s no way we come out of this wave now without counting our deaths in the tens of thousands.”

THE University of Oxford has said a trial of its coronavirus vaccine will continue in Brazil amid reports of the death of a volunteer. The university is in advanced stages of testing a Covid-19 immunisation being developed with AstraZeneca, with volunteers in countries including Brazil, the UK and the US. The institution told Sky News it has investigated the case but found “no concerns about safety” around the vaccine. It said: “Following careful assessment of this case in Brazil, there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial, and the independent review in addition to the Brazilian regulator have recommended that the trial should continue.” Brazil’s health authority said it was informed of the death of a participant earlier this week.

A DECISION on whether the North-East will be placed into the strictest tier of restrictions may not be made this week as talks have been paused, it is understood. Council and authority leaders in the region were reportedly in talks with the Government over whether Tier 3 restrictions would be introduced. A decision on whether the North-East would see tighter measures, including a ban of mixing with other households both indoors and outdoors, was expected on Friday. But talks have reportedly been paused following signs that progress has been made in the Tees Valley and Tyneside area with fewer new Covid-19 cases reported this week.

LEADERS of Tees Valley authorities have confirmed that the area will not be considered for higher levels of restrictions. Speaking on behalf of the group, Cllr Mary Lanigan, who chaired this evening’s meeting, said: “We welcome an indication from Government earlier this week that the Tees Valley will not be considered for entering the Tier 3, ‘very High’ local Covid alert restrictions at this stage. The Tier 2 restrictions were only introduced in the Tees Valley very recently and the data has shown a flattening of coronavirus cases, but we need more time to show that these restrictions are working.

A BUSINESS leader has said it is “ridiculous” that funding for an effective system to support businesses should only come with Tier 3 restrictions. There is currently no specific funding in place for businesses in Tier 2 areas, many of whom have seen footfall plummet since being place at the high alert level. Jonathan Walker, director of policy for the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: “Businesses need sufficient support to protect jobs and prevent irreparable cash flow problems.”

THE Government underestimates the effectiveness of coronavirus testing of air passengers, according to new research commissioned by aviation companies.Up to 63% of cases would be identified by testing travellers on arrival, a review by firms Oxera and Edge Health suggested. When defending the Government’s quarantine policy, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has repeatedly cited a Public Health England (PHE) study which found that testing on arrival would pick up as few as 7% of cases. The research by Oxera and Edge Health claimed this was based on “a flawed methodology” as it assumed all passengers who are infected with Covid-19 and detectable prior to departure would not board flights to the UK. These travellers should be accounted for when considering the effectiveness of a testing regime, according to the review commissioned by airlines, airports and industry organisations including Virgin Atlantic, British Airways’ owner IAG and Heathrow Airport.

A FURTHER 2,237 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the North-East and North Yorkshire in the last 24-hours. Meanwhile, a further 27 people were reported to have died with the virus at the region’s hospitals. On Wednesday, the Government announced a further 26,688 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK, taking the total number to 789,229. This is a jump of more than 5,000 on the 21,330 positive cases confirmed on Tuesday and is the highest daily rise in lab-confirmed coronavirus cases since the outbreak began. A further 191 people died within 28 days of a positive test, meaning the death toll reached 44,158. The daily number of positive cases has climbed steeply in recent weeks and has nearly doubled in the last fortnight. The daily figure was 19,724 positive cases seven days ago and 14,162 a week before that. The number of patients in hospital and on ventilators is also increasing. Separate Government figures show there were 5,828 Covid-19 patients in hospital in England on Tuesday – the latest figure available – up from 3,905 a week ago, while 559 were in ventilation beds, up from 441. These numbers are highest in the North-West of the country, where 2,042 patients were in hospital as of Tuesday, with 186 people on ventilators.

Here is a breakdown of the latest confirmed cases in the region:

County Durham: 9,716 was 9,318, an increase of 398

Darlington: 1,573 was 1,514, an increase of 59

Gateshead: 3,866 was 3,725, an increase of 141

Hartlepool: 1,845 was 1,782, an increase of 63

Middlesbrough: 2,831 was 2,700, an increase of 131

Newcastle: 7,474 was 7,238, an increase of 236

North Tyneside: 3,214 was 3,073, an increase of 141

North Yorkshire: 6,341 was 6,134, an increase of 207

Northumberland: 4,457 was 4,321, an increase of 136

Redcar and Cleveland: 1,981 was 1,848, an increase of 133

South Tyneside: 3,125 was 3,039, an increase of 86

Stockton: 3,428 was 3,256, an increase of 172

Sunderland: 6,004 was 5,812, an increase of 192

York: 3,016 was 2,874, an increase of 142

Total daily increase in North-East and North Yorkshire: 2,237

The Northern Echo | Durham