Vaccine before Christmas ‘unlikely’ says Whitty


Good morning and welcome to today’s live blog. We’ll be bringing you all the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across the world.

2020-07-21T06:55:09.403ZEU leaders have this morning reached an “historic” deal on a massive stimulus plan for their coronavirus-hit economies after a fractious summit that lasted almost five days.

Summit chairman Charles Michel tweeted “Deal” shortly after the 27 leaders finally reached agreement at a 5.15am (4.15 BST) plenary session.

The deal includes a €750bn coronavirus recovery fund, as well as an agreement on the bloc’s broader seven-year budget, worth about €1.1tn

2020-07-21T06:55:52.763ZNearly 900,000 public sector workers are to receive a pay rise, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced, after months of political pressure to reward key workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Doctors, dentists, teachers, police officers and soldiers are among those who will see extra money in their wage packets, as the government chooses to honour the recommendations of independent pay review bodies.

Teachers and doctors will see the largest above-inflation increases, at 3.1 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively, according to the Treasury. But NHS staff in other roles were left out of the announcement.

2020-07-21T07:08:51.926ZThe coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University induces a strong immune response and appears to be safe, according to preliminary trial results.

The early stage trial, which involved 1,077 people, has found that the vaccine trains the immune system to produce antibodies and white blood cells capable of fighting the virus. It also causes few side effects.

Professor Sarah Gilbert, co-author of the Oxford University study, described the findings as promising but said there “is still much work to be done before we can confirm if our vaccine will help manage the Covid-19 pandemic”.

2020-07-21T07:20:07.000ZWorking-age households have suffered the biggest immediate shock to their incomes in nearly half a century as a result of coronavirus, according to a think tank.

The pandemic has hit the typical family’s finances by 4.5 per cent, the Resolution Foundation said. It calculated the fall by comparing the months leading up to the crisis with the situation in May this year.

According to the think tank’s Living Standards Audit, this was the biggest short-term income drop since the oil crisis-induced inflation spikes of the mid-1970s.

2020-07-21T07:30:37.000ZSocial care workers ‘reliant on minimum wage increases to improve pay levels’

Policing minister Kit Malthouse has said social care workers would have to rely on increases in the minimum wage to improve their pay levels.

As almost a million public sector workers were awarded pay rises, Mr Malthouse said: “The vast majority of social care workers are paid in the private sector so our ability to influence pay rates there is limited.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that – apart from “nationalising the entire thing” – the minimum wage rate was the best tool the government had to recognise the efforts of care workers.

“What we have done is raise the level of the minimum wage very significantly over the last few years to get it up towards the £10.50 mark,” he said.

“That, we hope, will push through into these private sector jobs.

“Everybody looks at people who work in social care during coronavirus and thinks they have done a fantastic job in very, very difficult circumstances.

“But that’s the mechanism by which we think we can increase pay in that sector.”


How does the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine work? 


2020-07-21T07:57:09.600ZRussia death toll rises to 12,580

Russia has reported 5,842 new cases of coronavirus, pushing its total infection tally to 783,328, the fourth largest in the world.

The country’s coronavirus response centre said 153 people had died in the past 24 hours, bringing Russia’s overall death toll from the virus to 12,580.


Government borrowing reached £35.5bn in June, around five times more than the same month last year, due to the soaring cost of the coronavirus crisis.

June was the third highest for any month on record, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The figures mean borrowing in the first quarter of the financial year was more than double the £55.4bn seen in the whole of the previous year as the UK spent heavily on emergency support measures during the lockdown.

2020-07-21T08:12:36.353ZRegulator will face ‘toughest job’ of deciding whether to approve vaccine

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said regulators would face a tough decision on whether to approve a Covid-19 vaccine.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Probably the toughest job of anybody will be the regulator who has to make the call on whether this is safe and effective in a way that it can be rolled out to the population. I would not want that job.”

If the regulators say “yes” then “there will be a queue of 3.5 billion people” around the world for the vaccine.

But Sir John said there is no chance of totally eliminating coronavirus in the global population so any form of treatment would be valuable.

“We are never going to eliminate this virus from the global population, we can forget that, that’s never happening, so I think we have got to learn to live with this virus, and if we can stop it from progressing and making people really ill and killing them, that’s a pretty good result,” he said.

2020-07-21T08:29:11.710Z’No certainty’ Oxford vaccine will be rolled out this year

The University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out by the end of the year but there is no certainty that will happen, the lead developer of the vaccine has said.

The experimental vaccine, which has been licensed to AstraZeneca produced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials, data showed on Monday, preserving hopes it could be in use by the end of the year.

However Professor Sarah Gilbert told the BBC: “The end of the year target for getting vaccine rollout, it’s a possibility but there’s absolutely no certainty about that because we need three things to happen.”

She also said it needed to be shown to work in late stage trials, there needed to be large quantities manufactured and regulators had to agree quickly to licence it for emergency use.

“All of these three things have to happen and come together before we can start seeing large numbers of people vaccinated,” she added.

2020-07-21T08:41:46.990ZNepal to resume international flights

Nepal will allow regular international airline flights from August 17, a minister said today, nearly four months after suspending them to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wedged between China and India, Nepal enforced a nationwide lockdown, halting scheduled flights, in March, when reported its first confirmed cases of Covid-19.

So far, Nepal has reported 17,844 infections with 40 deaths from the disease.

Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains including Mount Everest, is dependent on tourism including mountain climbing.

The decision to restart flights from Nepal’s only international airport in Kathmandu was taken at a cabinet meeting late on Monday.

“We’ll prepare the safety regulations which must be followed by airlines to operate,” tourism and civil aviation minister Yogesh Bhattarai told Reuters.

Deochandra Lal Karna, a spokesman for Kathmandu airport, said safety rules like social distancing, use of sanitisers and masks were already in place for specially chartered evacuation flights for nationals stranded because of the pandemic.

“Now the airlines will submit their flight schedules for approval before starting services,” he said.

2020-07-21T08:58:53.190ZJofra Archer is no longer in self-isolation and will be available for selection for England’s third Test decider against the West Indies this week after both of his coronavirus test results returned negative.

The fast bowler was excluded from the second Test after breaching the strict coronavirus protocols that have been implemented for the series to go ahead, with the 25-year-old leaving the ‘bio-bubble’ to return to his home in Hove between the first and second Tests, where he came into contact with an unnamed individual.

2020-07-21T09:14:24.143ZUK coronavirus deaths top 56,000

Just over 56,100 deaths involving Covid-19 have now been registered in the UK, PA news agency reports.

Figures published today by the ONS show that 51,096 deaths involving Covid-19 occurred in England and Wales up to July 10, and had been registered by July 18.

Figures published last week by the National Records for Scotland showed that 4,187 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Scotland up to July 12, while 844 deaths had occurred in Northern Ireland up to July 10 (and had been registered up to July 15) according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

Together these figures mean that so far 56,127 deaths have been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.

2020-07-21T09:20:48.000ZSage advice ‘could have been more blunt and robust’, says expert

Wellcome Trust director Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar has said he regrets the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) was not more “blunt” with its advice.

He told the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee: “If it was possible to ramp up testing, to have testing in place throughout January and February, as was the advice of WHO (World Health Organisation) at that time, and as what actually Germany and Korea and Singapore were able to do, and Vietnam, that would have been a better option, to ramp up the testing in February.

“It goes back to my comment about the eight weeks in January and February, when I think there was not enough urgency.

“And if I, again, now look back on my time on the Sage committee, I regret that Sage wasn’t more blunt in its advice and wasn’t more robust.

“But it didn’t have a job in holding people to account, unfortunately, for delivery of interventions that were made.”

2020-07-21T09:30:25.000ZGreta Thunberg has said she will donate €100,000 (£90,175) of prize money to help tackle the spread of Covid-19 in the Brazilian Amazon.

The Swedish climate activist received the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity on Monday and was awarded a total of €1 million.

Thunberg, 17, immediately promised to use all of the prize money to support climate projects around the world through her Fridays for Future Foundation, with the first €100,000 going to SOS Amazonia, an organisation that protects the rights of Brazil indigenous people.

2020-07-21T09:40:34.000ZWeekly coronavirus deaths fall by almost a third

Weekly coronavirus deaths have fallen by almost a third within seven days and remain at the lowest level since before the lockdown, official statistics show.

There were 366 deaths registered in the week ending July 10 involving Covid-19 – accounting for 4.2% of all deaths in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This is a 31.2% fall from the previous week, when there were 532 deaths where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.

It is also the fourth week in a row that deaths have been below the number that would usually be expected at this time of year, based on an average from the previous five years.

There were a total of 8,690 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to July 10, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 560 fewer than the five-year average of 9,250.

The number of deaths in care homes and hospitals was also below the five-year average (283 and 901 deaths lower respectively).

But the number of deaths in private homes remains above the average, with 706 deaths higher during the week.


2020-07-21T09:49:35.860ZOman to implement night curfew

Oman will ban travel between all provinces from July 25 to August 8 to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, state news agency ONA has said.

The Gulf state will also implement a daily 7pm to 6am curfew during that same period, which includes the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Shops and public spaces will be closed during the curfew hours.

2020-07-21T10:09:05.416ZCovid-19 worse in colder weather, research suggests

Coronavirus may be more severe in colder months than warmer ones, and dry indoor air may encourage its spread, new research suggests.

Severe Covid-19 outcomes decreased as the pandemic progressed from winter to the warmer months, analysis indicates.

Experts warn that their findings paint a grim picture for the colder weather, when it is thought the disease may re-emerge.

Researchers analysed data from 6,914 patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in Croatia, Spain, Italy, Finland, Poland, Germany, the UK and China.

They mapped this against local temperature and estimated indoor humidity and found that severe outcomes – being taken to hospital, admittance to ICU or the need for ventilation – dropped in most European countries over the course of the pandemic, covering the transition from winter to early summer.

The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, suggests there was a corresponding decrease in the rate of deaths from the disease.

There was roughly a 15% drop in mortality for every one degree Celsius rise in temperature, the King’s College London researchers say.


2020-07-21T10:25:32.810ZEuropean Union leaders are set to slash tens of billions of euros from funds aimed at preventing catastrophic climate breakdown, after agreeing a coronavirus recovery package after almost five days of difficult talks.

The Brussels summit brought 27 leaders face-to-face after five months of remote diplomacy, in which time the pandemic brought existing cracks across the bloc into sharp focus.

With some diplomats fearing talks over a record €1.1trn budget and €750bn coronavirus stimulus could be “make or break” for the bloc, the distance between the aims of four so-called “frugal” nations – led by the Netherlands – and other member states, finally began to diminish on Monday, albeit at the cost of environmental schemes.