UK coronavirus live: England at limit of lockdown easing, says Whitty; official UK death toll passes 46,000

Face coverings to be made mandatory in more indoor settings in England; government criticised for ‘shockingly short notice’ lockdown before Eid

That’s it from me on the UK side. Thank you for reading along today. If you would like to continue following the Guardian’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, head over to the global live blog for the worldwide picture:

Though an effective way to stop the spread of the virus once it has got out of hand, the government’s whack-a-mole approach to the northern lockdown represents failure on a massive scale, writes Devi Sridhar, a professor and chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh.

To fix this, the government needs to look six to eight months ahead. Lockdowns should be a last-resort measure when the frontline outbreak responders – the local testing and tracing teams – can no longer suppress the infection sufficiently.

There are tough decisions ahead. In the absence of a vaccine, people must realise that they cannot have it all. We can either have our daily lives back with borders largely closed, or we can have free movement and constant outbreaks. It’s important when weighing this up to realise that the biggest problem for the economy is not lockdown. It is the virus itself.

Why not make the choice to make the UK a beacon of suppression, a success in the fight against Covid-19, a model for others? The government owes it to the people of Greater Manchester and beyond to find a better way.

The prime minister has been accused of “the worst kind of cronyism” following his latest appointments to the House of Lords, PA Media reportS.

This afternoon’s announcement saw peerages granted for his brother, the former Tory minister Jo Johnson, as well as Tory grandees and Brexit backers [see 4.14pm.].

The Scottish National party’s Cabinet Office spokesman, Pete Wishart, said the prime minister was “handing out jobs for life in the unelected House of Lords to friends and those who have done him favours”, adding:

The prime minister’s idea of levelling up involves gifting his cronies, damaging policy facilitators, and family members with jobs as legislators for life – with no democratic mandate or accountability to people across the UK.

It’s the worst kind of cronyism that only highlights the rotten Westminster system that is detached from reality.

It’s clear beyond doubt that Westminster is simply not working for Scotland and that it is acting against our interests. The House of Lords needs to be abolished – not filled further to the brim at the taxpayers’ expense.

Darren Hughes, the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said the 36 new peers could cost the taxpayer £1.1m a year.

By appointing a host of ex-MPs, party loyalists and his own brother, the PM is inviting total derision. That he can get away with it shows what a private member’s club this house is.

Is packing the Lords with party loyalists really a priority, as a pandemic rages across the world?

Today marks a nail in the coffin for the idea that the Lords is some kind of independent chamber of experts.

By giving a large number of his cronies peerages, he has shown that the Tories have abandoned any pretence of reducing the size of the bloated House of Lords.

A further 120 Covid-19-associated deaths have been recorded, according to today’s update on the government’s coronavirus data dashboard. That brings the government’s tally to 46,119.

This is a Public Health England figure for the UK as a whole. But, confusingly, the Department of Health and Social Care has given up publishing this figure as part of its only daily update, because it no longer views it as reliable.

The PHE figure is suspect because it includes people in England who tested positive for coronavirus and died, even if they died of something else.

But the main problem with the headline total is that it is an underestimate because it does not include people who died from coronavirus without testing positive. When these deaths are included, total UK coronavirus deaths are more than 55,000.

Lord Fowler, the Lord Speaker, has called the prime minister’s list of nominations for peerages a “missed opportunity”. He said:

This list of new peers marks a lost opportunity to reduce numbers in the House of Lords.

The result will be that the house will soon be nearly 830 strong, almost 200 greater than the House of Commons.

That is a massive policy U-turn. It was only two years ago that the then prime minister, Mrs May, pledged herself to a policy of ‘restraint’ in the number of new appointments. It was the first time that any prime minister had made such a pledge.

This followed a report by a special Lord Speaker’s committee chaired by Lord (Terry) Burns proposing that numbers should be reduced to 600.

The big opportunity was for the present government to take forward this movement for reform. I emphasise that this is not a matter of personalities. It is a question of numbers and the abandonment of an established policy to reduce the size of the House.

It is also a vast pity that the list has been announced within the first few days of the summer recess when neither house is sitting, and the government cannot be challenged in parliament.

The prime minister has nominated his brother, Jo Johnson, his chief strategic adviser, Sir Edward Lister and several Tory grandees for peerages, while a suite of Brexiters are also set for the Lords, PA Media reports.

Philip May, husband of Theresa May, Boris Johnson’s immediate predecessor in Downing Street, is also destined for a knighthood, a list of nominations published today showed.

Ex-England cricket player and Brexit supporter Sir Ian Botham, newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev and the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson will also head to the House of Lords.

The 36-strong list includes numerous former MPs who rebelled against the Labour position to back Brexit, including Kate Hoey, Ian Austin, and Gisela Stuart.

Notable absentees from the list include the former Commons speaker John Bercow and Labour’s former deputy leader Tom Watson.

But Johnson did pick the Conservative former chancellors Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond for peerages, even after he stripped them from the Tory whip after they defied him over Brexit.

He also selected his own brother, Jo, who dealt his older sibling a major blow by resigning from his cabinet citing “the national interest”.

Lister, a long-term ally of the prime minister, having supported him as London mayor, also made Johnson’s list for peerages.

The leader of Bradford council, Susan Hinchcliffe, has accused some people of using the new restrictions in parts of the north “to play the blame game” and to “promote division and disharmony” [see 1.29pm.].

Bradford council leader @SHinchcliffe says some people, including politicians, are using the new regulations “as a political football” to “promote division and disharmony”.https://t.co/LHV7n0HaBM pic.twitter.com/CYCGC7XEpg

The Ministry of Justice has announced significant changes to the care of pregnant women and mothers and babies following a year-long review of prison mother and baby units.

In the course of the review one baby died in prison and another was stillborn. The changes include individual care plans for each woman and increased staff training on supporting vulnerable mothers and pregnant women. Every female prison will have resident mother and baby specialist and a new advisory group will be established to ensure support for such women.

The support currently available to women on MBUs will now be extended to pregnant prisoners and those separated from young children.

Six of the 12 women’s prisons have MBUs. More than 60% of women in custody have experienced domestic abuse and around half have a history of substance misuse.

Pregnant women and those in prison with young children often come from complex backgrounds and with specific needs, which is why it is vital we provide them with the best possible support. The changes will help to ensure children get a good start in life,

Kirsty Kitchen, the head of policy at Birth Companions, which supports pregnant women and mothers and babies in prison,said:

While these reforms are a significant and welcome step in the right direction, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that most of these women shouldn’t be in the prison system at all. The vast majority are there to serve very short sentences for non-violent offences and their needs and the drivers of their offending would be better addressed in the community.

The leaders of Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities and the region’s mayor Andy Burnham have condemned the government’s communication of the change as causing “confusion and distress for our residents”.In a press conference, Burnham said he first heard about the proposed measures when he was called by Matt Hancock shortly before 5pm when the health and social care secretary was due to have a meeting with England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty.The meeting was delayed slightly at Burnham’s request, the mayor said, so that he could feed in information from local health officials.

While Burnham said he supported the extra measures, he was concerned that they were first announced by Hancock on Twitter at 9.16pm without any additional detail.He also said the rules announced were slightly different to those briefed by Hancock on the phone earlier in the evening. Hancock had earlier suggested that the new measures would a larger part of the north of England, Burnham said, and would not restrict visits to people’s gardens.He added:

The picture did change and did cause us some surprise but obviously it’s for the government to make those decisions.

I think it’s fairly clear that what was announced in guidance is not what we were expecting on the basis of conversations last night. And it’s also equally clear that we’re not clear about what the guidance is precisely.

Leese said he agreed that the government needed to act quickly but that it was important to be “on exactly the same page” as government ministers and officials and that they were now hoping to have “real engagement” about refining the guidance.The 10 local authority leaders have asked for urgent clarification was needed on several areas:• How many people are allowed together in an outdoor space in the affected area? Is it 30, as is the rule in the rest of England, or is it only six?• Hospitality businesses need clarity on their ability to continue to operate if they have outdoor areas, they said.• The leaders also asked for the government to confirm that shielding arrangements would be extended for clinically vulnerable people in the areas affected where the new rules apply.• They said they are not convinced that banning people from meeting in private gardens is a “proportionate measure” and call on the government to provide further evidence or amend the regulations.

Nicola Sturgeon has urged young people to exercise much greater caution going to bars and social events after a spike of Covid-19 infections in Scotland, including 30 new confirmed cases overnight.

The first minister said about half of all the new cases over the last week involved people in their 20s and 30s, including young people in a new cluster of 13 cases in the Port Glasgow area which has involved staff at a pharmacy and an Amazon warehouse.

📺 Watch live: First Minister @NicolaSturgeon holds a press conference on #coronavirus (#COVIDー19).Joining the First Minister today is National Clinical Director Jason Leitch. https://t.co/t6jFpEDv0x

Included in the 30 new cases, the largest daily increase in eight weeks, were 12 infections in care homes. While there were no new deaths in hospital in the last 24 hours, the number of people in intensive care rose from two to four.

She urged people to act far more cautiously meeting other people, and to consider strictly limiting their socialising and observe distancing rules.

“Every single time one of us breaches one of those rules, we give this virus an opportunity to jump from us to someone else,” she said at a hastily arranged briefing.

Jason Leitch, the Scottish government’s national clinical director, echoed warnings from the prime minister that the governments could reverse some relaxations. Ministers could use “a reverse gear” if they had to, Leitch said.

“There’s no doubt all of us in each nation of the UK will face clusters and outbreaks as we have in Scotland and possibly we will face more generalised increases in community transmission of Covid,” Sturgeon said.

She also urged people to avoid all non-essential travel from Scotland to several areas of northern England affected by Thursday night’s emergency lockdown [see 11.49am.], pleading with Muslims in Scotland not to travel south to see family for the Eid festival today.

We have made some progress but we are surrounded right now, here in Scotland, here in England, across Europe and the world, we are surrounded by warnings that tell that this virus hasn’t gone away. It is still out there. It is still infectious. It is still dangerous and it is still in many cases, sadly, deadly. So we cannot drop our guard against it. We absolutely ignore these warnings at our peril.

The UK’s largest tour operator has cancelled all trips to mainland Spain until at least 17 August, while its programmes in Spain’s Balearic Islands and Canary Islands are on hold until 10 August.

The firm is adding more flights and using larger aircraft for trips to Greece and Turkey to enable affected customers to change their holiday destinations.

Importantly, we also call upon the UK government to work closely with the travel industry and remove the blunt-tool approach to quarantine and consider the rapid introduction of regional travel corridors.

The level of uncertainty and confusion created this week is damaging for business and customer confidence in travel.

Tui announced on Thursday that it plans to close nearly a third of its high street stores in the UK and the Republic of Ireland to cut costs and respond to changes in customer behaviour.

Further lockdown restrictions are being lifted in Wales to allow families and friends to be reunited, though the government admitted the new regime in northern England had given it pause for thought.

The Labour-led government said it had no plans to close the border between England and Wales but it was ready to reimpose “stay local” restrictions if there were fresh Welsh outbreaks.

The first minister, Mark Drakeford, said it was important for people who had been separated to get back together before autumn. He stressed the pandemic would not be over by Christmas.

From Monday, up to 30 people will be able to meet outdoors in Wales, though physical distancing must be maintained for people over the age of 11. Younger children will no longer have to maintain a 2-metre distance from adults or other young people.

A further nine people, who tested positive for coronavirus have died in English hospitals, NHS England has announced.

The patients were aged between 73 and 92. All had known underlying health conditions apart from one, who was 75.

Nicola Sturgeon announced 13 new positive cases in Scotland, taking its total to 18,627. This is the largest rise in 13 weeks. There have been no deaths in the last 24 hours.

All new cases in the past seven days or so have been in the 20-39 age group, Sturgeon said. She said:

I urge everyone, and particularly people in their 20s and 30s, not to be complacent and to please follow all of the rules, it is there for a very clear and important purpose …

Have we maybe just let our standards slip a little bit in the last few days? If that’s the case, then this is a moment for all of us to tighten up.

Everywhere you go, act as if Covid is in the room with you because it absolutely could be.

Brighton and Hove council has expressed concern about the number of people visiting the seaside resort and urged tourists to stay away.

“If you’re not already here, please don’t travel to the city,” it said in a tweet.

We’re concerned about the number of people in the city.- If you’re not already here, please don’t travel to the city today- There is limited capacity on public transport- Large numbers make it impossible to maintain physical distancing pic.twitter.com/n7UxPpxp3N

Folkestone and Hythe council warned that Kent beaches were “proving very popular” and urged visitors to plan ahead.

We’ve mentioned certain parts of our district in this post, but a lot of our coastline is currently proving very popular.We would advise residents and visitors to plan ahead before making any journey to our beaches.

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News – UK coronavirus live: England at limit of lockdown easing, says Whitty; official UK death toll passes 46,000

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