Friday, October 23, 2020
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Covid: Tokyo Olympics must happen ‘at any cost’

Live Reporting

Edited by Helier Cheung and Martha Buckley

All times stated are UK

  1. Taj Mahal to reopen – despite India’s Covid surge

    Taj Mahal being guarded during India's lockdown

    Copyright: Reuters

    One of India’s most popular tourist sites, the Taj Mahal, is going to reopen to visitors on 21 September, even though India is seeing record numbers of new cases and deaths.

    According to Uttar Pradesh state’s Tourism Department, visitors to the monument will have to follow “all Covid-19 protocols, like physical distancing [and] masks”.

    The department’s director Amit Srivastava also told AFP news agency that visitors will be limited to 5,000 – compared to the usual daily average of 20,000.

    Today, India recorded its highest daily death toll from the virus in more than a month, although the rise in new cases is slowing. Yesterday, it overtook Brazil for the number of overall coronavirus cases, and is now second only to the US, with 4.2m cases.

  2. Mbappe to miss tonight’s Croatia match after testing positive

    Kylian Mbappe

    Copyright: Reuters

    In football news, Kylian Mbappe is going to miss France’s Nations League match against Croatia on Tuesday after testing positive for coronavirus.

    Several other players from his regional team, Paris St-Germain, also tested positive last week.

    Mbappe, 21, scored the only goal as France beat Sweden in their Nations League opener on Saturday. He was separated from the rest of the team on Monday, and later sent home, the France Football Federation said.

    Meanwhile the Ligue 1 season has started, but the opening match between Marseille and Saint-Etienne last month had to be postponed because four home players had tested positive for Covid-19.

    Read more from our Sport team here.

  3. What is the R number?

    R number graphic

    Copyright: Getty Images

    The “R number” is in the news today – with health experts in both the UK and France expressing concern about it.

    Health expert John Edmunds has said the UK R number has risen “above one”, putting the UK in a “risky period”.

    Meanwhile, French Health Minister Olivier Véran says his country’s R-rate is about 1.2 – which is “worrying” but at least lower than the 3.2 it was in the spring.

    So what exactly is the R number, and how is it calculated? Read our full story on the R number here

  4. England and Wales death figures falling

    The latest figures to come out from the Office for National Statistics show 101 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 28 August mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

    This is down from 138 deaths in the previous week, and is also the lowest number since the week ending March 13, when five deaths involving Covid-19 were registered.

    You can find out here how many confirmed deaths there have been in your area.

  5. Brazil’s daily death toll drops to lowest since May

    Vanessa Buschschluter

    Latin America and Caribbean Editor, BBC News

    nstallation of red balloons and crosses honoring victims of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil, at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 08 August 2020

    Copyright: EPA

    Image caption: Crosses and balloons have been placed on Copacabana beach in memory of those who died in the pandemic.

    In Brazil, the country with the second-highest number of Covid-related deaths after the US, the daily death toll on Monday dropped to its lowest in four months.

    At its highest in July, the reported number of deaths within 24 hours was 1,554. On Monday, it stood at 315.

    However, Monday was a holiday in Brazil so experts have urged caution, warning that a delay in the reporting of fatalities may have contributed to the low number.

    They say that looking at the average daily deaths within a one-week period gives a more reliable indication of any trends. That figure – an average of 784 deaths per day for the last seven days – was 17% lower than two weeks previously.

    In total, there have been more than 125,000 Covid-related deaths in Brazil.

    Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been sceptical about the risks posed by the virus and vociferously opposed lockdowns imposed by regional governors.

    The lockdowns have since been eased amid concerns for Brazil’s economy but a run on many beaches on the holiday weekend has reignited fears that a lack of social distancing may drive the number of cases up again.

  6. Hong Kong eases coronavirus restrictions amid ‘third wave’

    Social distancing marks are seen at a restaurant following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hong Kong, China July 27, 2020

    Copyright: Reuters

    While case numbers are rising in some places, they’re falling in others.

    The number of new daily cases in Hong Kong has dropped into the single digits, and the city announced today it would relax more of its coronavirus restrictions, increasing the size of public gatherings from two to four people.

    They will also reopen more sports venues from Friday, although swimming pools will stay closed.

    “We must strike a balance,” Health Secretary Sophia Chan said. “The third wave is entering two months already, and we have yet to see an end to it.”

    The relaxation comes two days after parliamentary elections were due to be held, on 6 September. Officials postponed the election for a year, citing the pandemic as a reason – but critics accused the government of using the outbreak as a pretext to stop people from voting.

    Read more: Why Hong Kong’s ‘third wave’ is a warning

  7. Flouting of social distancing rules ‘led to Caerphilly lockdown’

    Caerphilly town centre

    Copyright: Getty Images

    Earlier we told you that the Welsh county of Caerphilly is to enter a local lockdown later today which will mean no one can leave or enter the area without good reason.

    Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, said there was evidence of “community transmission” in the area, with some infection coming from travellers from the European mainland. However, the largest element was people socialising in larger numbers at home, he added.

    “It is that breakdown in social distancing, that breakdown in respecting the rules around extended households that is driving infection rates,” he told the BBC, adding that without action, the disease would spread to more vulnerable people.

    He warned that those who breached the lockdown rules would be fined and suggested people were likely to shop any rule-breakers to the police.

    Read more here.

  8. UK cases numbers could ‘get out of hand’

    Chart showing daily confirmed cases in the UK

    Copyright: BBC

    We’ve already heard the stark warnings from two members of the scientific advisory group to the UK government (SAGE) that the UK is lowering its guard too quickly, and seeing case numbers rise.

    Andrew Hayward, a professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at UCL who is also an adviser to SAGE, said there was concern local outbreaks, as we’ve seen in Leicester, Greater Manchester and now Caerphilly, would move towards broader transmission.

    He told the BBC that SAGE would be monitoring the extent of transmission using the test and trace system and population studies, with a focus on looking at the age distribution of cases and where in the country numbers are rising.

    He warned the increase in cases “can potentially get out of hand if we don’t be very serious about the control measures”.

    He acknowledged the need to balance the return to normality with controlling the virus but said many restrictions, including reopening schools and universities, and getting people back to work, were all happening at the time of year when they expect to see high levels of transmission.

    “The key thing to do to reduce the risk of transmission is to reduce the number of people we come into contact with,” he said, in particular contact between generations.

  9. China honours ‘heroes of Covid war’ and says it passed a ‘historic test’

    Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) poses with vaccine researcher and People

    Copyright: EPA

    Image caption: President Xi Jinping (centre) gave awards to medical experts

    China’s ruling Communist Party held a ceremony honouring the “heroes” of the “people’s war” against Covid-19 today, with President Xi Jinping saying his country had passed a “historic test”.

    Xi said China acted in an open and transparent manner throughout the outbreak, and “helped save the lives of tens of millions of people around the world with its practical actions”.

    Not everyone would agree, however – US president Donald Trump has claimed that early failures in China allowed the virus to spread more quickly, while Australia has backed an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

    The awards ceremony also made no mention of Dr Li Wenliang, who was punished after raising the first alarm about a new infectious disease in Wuhan. He later died of the virus.

    There have been doubts about China’s coronavirus figures in the past. However, life in China now appears more or less back to normal. Last month, thousands of people packed into a pool party in Wuhan, where virus transmission is now close to zero.

  10. French surge ‘worrying’: Latest around Europe

    Olivier Véran

    Copyright: Reuters

    Image caption: Olivier Véran says officials will consider cutting quarantine by a week on Friday

    French Health Minister Olivier Véran says the increase in cases – 4,203 more announced on Monday – is “worrying”. However, he has stressed that the rate of infection is nowhere near as problematic as during the initial stage of the pandemic. The so-called R-rate is now around 1.2, whereas it was around 3.2 in the spring. He says France’s science council backs the idea of a seven-day isolation period, rather than 14 days for people who test positive.

    Elsewhere in Europe:

    • Spain’s total number of infections has reached 525,549, the first country in the EU to surpass half a million. The spread has sped up dramatically in the past month
    • Meanwhile, Spain’s foreign minister Arancha González Laya says a tourism corridor will be opened with the UK to the Canary Islands as winter approaches. “The important thing is that this window of opportunity opens,” she told Spanish radio. The UK said yesterday it had a “new islands policy” to add and remove specific islands from quarantine
    • A Dutch TV survey suggests as many as 74% of under 35s have suffered
      psychologically from Covid – stress, loneliness and persistent
      fatigue are the most common complaints
    • Italian ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi appears to be on the mend. Reports say he could leave hospital in Milan next week. He was admitted last week with early-stage double pneumonia.

    Read more: What is the R-number and how is it calculated?

  11. ‘Long Covid’ patients need better care, doctors say

    Elly MacDonald

    Copyright: BBC

    Image caption: Elly MacDonald used to cycle at least six days a week

    The Royal College of GPs is calling
    for a national network of “post-Covid” clinics to help people left
    chronically ill with Covid-19 symptoms.

    Tim
    Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and leader
    of the Covid Symptom Study app, said about 300,000 people in the UK have
    reported symptoms lasting for more than a month – so called “long
    Covid”.

    However,
    many of these people may not have been tested for Covid.

    People
    like Elly MacDonald,
    37, from Surbiton, who was training for the London Marathon when she first
    developed what she believes were Covid symptoms on 21 March.

    More than
    five months on, she still suffers from breathlessness and extreme fatigue, but
    has not received a positive test result – because community testing was
    re-introduced too late for it to detect her illness.

    Currently, less than 12% of 86 NHS
    care commissioning groups asked by the BBC said they were running rehabilitation
    services.

    NHS England
    said it was “rapidly expanding new and strengthened rehab centres”.

    Read more on this story here.

    File on 4’s Covid-19: The Long Road to Recovery
    is on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 8 September at 20:00 and available afterwards on
    BBC Sounds.

  12. UK minister: ‘Virus still very much with us’

    Robert Jenrick

    Copyright: BBC

    We mentioned earlier that the UK has seen nearly 3,000 new infections for two days in a row, with one expert warning that cases are now “increasing exponentially”.

    UK minister Robert Jenrick has just been asked on BBC Breakfast about his own concerns about the rising numbers of infections in the UK.

    The communities secretary stressed that the virus is “still very much with us – we have to still be concerned about it”, and reminded people to wash their hands, wear a mask and stay socially distanced.

    “If we do that and we all play our own part then we should be able to maintain our daily lives in this new normal,” he added.

    He was also asked about the possibility of testing for the virus at airports – something the opposition Labour party has been calling for as a way of cutting the numbers of travellers required to quarantine for two weeks.

    Jenrick said it was an “attractive solution” but “not the panacea that some suggest,” adding that “we don’t want to give people a false sense of security”.

    passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport

    Copyright: PA Media

  13. Tokyo Olympics ‘must happen next year at any cost’

    The Olympic Rings at Odaiba Marine Park, the venue of distance swimming and triathlon events of the Olympics, are moved for maintenance in Tokyo, Japan, 06 August 2020

    Copyright: EPA

    Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto has said the Tokyo Olympics should be held next year “at any cost” – that is, regardless of the challenges and risks posed by the coronavirus.

    The Olympics were originally supposed to be held this summer, but were postponed because of the pandemic.

    “Everyone involved with the Games is working together to prepare, and the athletes are also making considerable efforts towards next year,” she told a news conference today. “I think we have to hold the Games at any cost.”

    Yesterday John Coates, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), also said the Games would go ahead next July “with or without Covid”. Organisers are now looking at ways to hold the Games safely, including anti-virus measures at the Athletes’ Village.

    This is the first time in history the Olympics has ever been postponed – although it’s been cancelled before, because of war. In March, before the postponement was announced, athletes demanded the Games be pushed back and accused the IOC of risking their lives.

  14. What’s happening in the UK today?

    There’s a stark warning for those waking up in the UK, where the number of new infections reached nearly 3,000 a day for
    two days in a row:

    • Prof John Edmunds, from the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group
      for Emergencies (Sage), says the UK is in a “risky period”, with the epidemic
      “taking off again”. England’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof
      Jonathan Van Tam, said people had “relaxed too much”.
    • A local lockdown in the county of Caerphilly in South Wales will be imposed this evening, after nearly 100 new cases were reported there in the last week. From 18:00 BST no-one will be allowed to leave or enter the area without good reason. The Welsh government said the infection rate
      was 55 per 100,000 people – one of the highest in the UK.
    • The Royal College of GPs is calling for a national network of “post-covid” clinics to support people who’ve been
      chronically ill with coronavirus for months. NHS England said it was rapidly
      expanding new and strengthened rehab centres.
    • And It’s been revealed that as
      much as £3.5bn ($4.6bn) may have been paid out incorrectly or in fraudulent claims for
      the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. HMRC is looking into 27,000 cases where it’s believed a
      serious error has been made in the amount an employer has claimed.
  15. Welcome to our live coverage

    Sign encouraging people to wear a mask on Labor Day weekend

    Copyright: EPA

    Thanks for joining our rolling coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic – it’s Helier Cheung, Ashitha Nagesh and Marie Jackson with you this morning in London.

    To help you catch up, here are some of the main headlines from across the world.

    • Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto has said the Tokyo Olympics, which were supposed to be held this year, must be held in 2021 “at any cost”. He said the Games should be held for the benefit of athletes, regardless of the challenges posed by the pandemic
    • India has today recorded its highest daily death toll from the virus in more than a month, even though new cases are slowing. Yesterday India overtook Brazil in overall number of coronavirus cases, and is now second only to the US
    • In the US, many people celebrated Labor Day weekend by holding large gatherings across the country, despite warnings from public health officials. More than 1,000 people went to a beach event in San Francisco, while people gathered on beaches and rooftops in Georgia and South Carolina. The US has 6m cases of the virus – the highest in the world
    • Still in the US, President Donald Trump and his electoral rival Joe Biden have sparred over each other’s positions on a Covid-19 vaccine. Trump hinted again that a vaccine would be available before the election in November, while Biden expressed scepticism that Trump would listen to scientists
    • Globally there have now been more than 27.3m cases of the virus and more than 892,000 deaths, according to the toll kept by Johns Hopkins University

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