The UK has recorded its highest daily rise in infections for two months, with an official total of 1,441 new cases – four times higher than those just over a month ago.
Meanwhile, local lockdown restrictions in parts of the northwest, West Yorkshire, east Lancashire and Leicester will continue until further notice after coronavirus cases there failed to fall to a safe level over the past two weeks, the government has said.
People in the affected areas are not permitted to mix with other households (excluding a support bubble) within private homes or gardens to slow the spread of the virus.
The decision came as France threatened to impose reciprocal measures against the UK after the British government added the country, along with Malta and the Netherlands, to its coronavirus quarantine list.
This is how our live coverage today unfolded:
Hello and welcome to The Independent‘s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
UK travellers returning from France face quarantine after government places country on ‘no-go’ list
Hundreds of thousands of British tourists in France will be forced to follow strict quarantine restrictions when returning to the UK after a surge in coronavirus infections in the country.
France reported 2,669 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday – the highest figure since lockdown measures were eased – as officials warned the epidemic was “intensifying”.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said the Netherlands, Malta and Monaco would also be added to the quarantine list from 4am on Saturday.
Fines for refusing to wear face masks to increase to £3,200 ahead of lockdown easing
Boris Johnson has announced people who repeatedly refuse to wear a face mask in mandatory settings will risk increased fines up to £3,200 ahead of a further easing of lockdown on Saturday.
Organisers of illegal raves will also face a maximum fine of £10,000 under tougher enforcement rules which are designed to slow the spread of the virus.
From 15 August, indoor theatre, music and other performing arts venues will be able to stage events with socially distanced audiences, while spectators will return to sports in selected pilot events.
Government making ‘absolute mess’ of exams grading system, Labour’s deputy leader says
Labour’s deputy leader has criticised the government for making an “absolute mess” of school exams grading after about 40 per cent of teachers’ estimate grades were downgraded.
Angela Rayner told BBC Breakfast that the “only option” left for the government now was to U-turn, like the Scottish government, and go back to the original teacher-awarded grades.
“If you look at what’s happened over the last 24 hours, a lot of children who have worked incredibly hard have been devastated by a system that’s been completely flawed and has taken into account the school’s previous history rather than what that child’s been able to achieve this year,” Ms Rayner said.
“I think that’s devastating and there’s baked inequality in what’s happened.”
She added: “The government has to act very quickly on this. There’s a lot of young people out there that their life chances are determined by whether or not they’re able to get on and get into university or onto the course or the apprenticeship scheme that they want based on these grades.
“The government has made an absolute mess of it and they’ve known for months now that this was coming down the track.”
All travellers returning to UK must complete passenger locator form, transport secretary says
The transport secretary has said it is important that all travellers returning to the UK complete a passenger locator form after France and other countries were added to the coronavirus quarantine list.
“What we have to do is provide clear guidance and, in this case, clear law in order to require people to quarantine,” Grant Shapps said.
“I just want to stress it is very important that people do quarantine.
“Everybody returning to the UK, no matter where from, doesn’t matter whether you’re in a travel corridor country or a quarantine country, must at this stage fill in a passenger locator form.”
Mr Shapps added: “That is the law and you may well find that people call up to check where you are, and you’ll be breaking the law if you were not quarantining, if that was a requirement for the country you’d come from.”
Travel options running out for UK holidaymakers returning from France
Travel options are fast closing down and prices are going up as British tourists in France rush to return to the UK to beat the new quarantine deadline.
The UK government announced last night that a 14-day self-isolation would be mandatory for anyone arriving back from France, the Netherlands and Malta after 4am on Saturday morning.
Minister insists more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university
The transport secretary has insisted that more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university overall following controversy over the system for awarding A-level results this year.
Grant Shapps was asked on BBC Breakfast if he accepted that poor students had been hardest-hit by the moderation system after thousands of pupils had their teacher-assessed results downgraded.
Mr Shapps replied: “No, I think again you should go on the evidence here – that’s not been the upshot.
“I was having a look at the numbers and 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, on the basis of the exam results yesterday, 7.3 per cent more are going to university, have been accepted for university, than just last year.”
When asked whether he was discounting statistics indicating children from the most deprived areas were being affected the most by the results downgrade, the minister added: “I don’t [discount it], it’s just that I’m reading an actual statistic – 7.3 per cent more children from disadvantaged backgrounds, 18-year-olds, accepted to university this than last year, to which you’re coming back and saying I don’t agree with that, but you’re not providing me any numbers.”
Belgium’s hospitals stockpile medical supplies amid fears of second wave
Hospitals in Belgium are stockpiling drugs and protective equipment amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus following a spike in new infections in the country.
New infections have risen steadily in recent weeks, with Belgium now reporting one of the highest number of cases per inhabitant of any European country.
The country of 11 million people has already had one of the world’s highest death rates from Covid-19 per head, with nearly 10,000 deaths linked to the virus so far.
Michel Dewever, chief physician at the Delta Hospital in Brussels, said Belgium had learned lessons from the first wave of the pandemic.
“We have stocked up on curare, anesthetics and antibiotics that allow us to last for two or three months during any second wave that might arise,” Mr Dewever said.
“We have built up a stock of protective equipment for all the staff, whether it be gloves, gowns or masks. We received part of this inventory from the government. We also bought part of it.”
Hundreds of deaths linked to Covid-19 misinformation, study finds
Online conspiracy theories and misinformation relating to coronavirus have resulted in at least 800 deaths, new research has found.
The so-called “infodemic” resulted in about 5,800 people being admitted to hospital as a result of following false information on social media in the first three months of this year, according to a study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
UK government signs deals for 90 million doses of two more experimental vaccines
The UK government has signed deals for early access to two more coronavirus vaccine candidates which could provide 90 million doses in total.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it had secured access for UK citizens to the candidates through in-principle arrangements with the companies Novavax and Janssen.
It brings the UK’s stockpile of potential coronavirus vaccines to 340 million doses from six candidates.
France threatens to impose ‘reciprocal’ measures over UK quarantine decision
France has warned it will impose “reciprocal” measures after the UK government removed the country from its list of destinations exempt from quarantine restrictions.
Clement Beaune, France’s secretary of state for European affairs, described the quarantine announcement as “a British decision which we regret and which will lead to reciprocal measures, all in hoping for a return for normal as soon as possible.”
Notting Hill Carnival to go online-only after cancellation due to coronavirus restrictions
Notting Hill Carnival is set to swap the streets of West London for computer screens around the world this year as the event goes online-only due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The organisers of the carnival, which usually attracts more than a million visitors, have spent a month filming acts to be broadcast online between 29 and 31 August after the physical parade was cancelled earlier this year.
“First I was very sad that it wouldn’t be on the streets – I still am – but I’m very excited about the possibilities of this year taking Carnival into unique places,” Matthew Phillip, the carnival’s executive director, said.
The online 2020 event will be set against a backdrop of heightened focus on racial inequality in the UK following large protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and attention on the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities.
‘Troubling’ signs virus is re-emerging fastest among young people in France
Health authorities in France have warned that new coronavirus infections have been rising fastest among younger people in the country.
Santé Publique, the French health ministry’s public health arm, said the infection rate in the week beginning 3 August was fastest among people aged 15 to 44 and described the rise as a “troubling situation”.
It came as the national government declared Paris and Marseilles as high-risk zones for the virus and granted authorities greater powers to impose localised restrictions.
England’s latest lockdown easing is political and science ‘has not really changed’, Sage adviser says
The latest easing of England’s coronavirus lockdown is a political decision not based on a change in scientific evidence, a leading expert has suggested.
John Edmunds, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “nothing has really changed” in terms of the science around the pandemic in the last couple of weeks.
Professor Edmunds, who is also a member of the Sage group of advisers, added that there was “huge uncertainty” around estimates for the prevalence of coronavirus in society
Nearly 8 per cent of people in German hot spot have Covid-19 antibodies, data shows
Results from a study in a town which had one of Germany’s earliest coronavirus outbreaks found 7.7 per cent of residents had antibodies for Covid-19, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases has said.
Researchers tested 2,203 people in the town of Kupferzell in southern Germany – where a church concert led to an outbreak in early March – between 20 May and 9 June.
The findings showed there were almost four times as many infections in the town as previously reported, the study’s project leader Claudia Santos-Hoevener from the RKI told a news conference.
Just shy of 17 per cent of people did not show any symptoms, the institute added.
China’s levels of air pollutant drop by nearly 11 per cent during lockdown period
China saw its average concentrations of the air pollutant PM2.5 fall by 10.8 per cent from January to July as industries shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released on Friday.
Average PM2.5 stood at 33 micrograms per cubic metre over the seven months, according to data collected from monitoring stations in more than 300 cities, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends levels of no more than 10 micrograms due to health problems linked to the pollutant – China’s national standard is 35 micrograms.
Environmental groups have warned that China might turn a blind eye to industrial polluters and rely on energy-intensive processes to try to reverse the economic impact of the pandemic in the second half of the year.
“There was a temporary pollution increase in April but it quickly went down in May,” Li Shuo, senior energy and climate analyst with Greenpeace, said.
“We need to see if July represents the beginning of a larger trend.”
In July, average PM2.5 levels fell 5 per cent, but some regions saw a rebound.
The capital of Beijing saw average PM2.5 rise 10.8 per cent to 41 micrograms, while the smog-prone Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region as a whole jumped 5.9 per cent to 36 micrograms.
India’s Covid-19 death toll overtakes UK to become fourth highest in world
India’s confirmed coronavirus death toll has overtaken the UK, giving the South Asian country the fourth highest total of fatalities in the world.
The Health Ministry reported 1,007 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 48,040 – behind only the US, Brazil and Mexico.
India’s total number of confirmed cases also reached 2,461,190 after a single-day spike of 64,553, the ministry said.
The country’s two-month lockdown in late March kept infections low, but nationwide measures have since been eased and restrictions are now largely being enforced in high-risk areas.
New cases spiked after India reopened shops and manufacturing and allowed hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to return to their homes from coronavirus-hit regions.
Our travel correspondent, Simon Calder, has an update on France’s response to being put on the UK’s quarantine list.
French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbar has warned that President Emmanuel Macron’s government will bring in quarantine for arrivals from the UK.
He said: “France regrets the UK’s decision and will apply reciprocal measures in the transport field.
“I’ve told my counterpart Grant Shapps that we want to harmonise health protocols to ensure a high level of protection on both sides of the Channel.”
France imposed tit-for-tat quarantine between 8 June and 9 July in response to the UK’s initial blanket policy of requiring travellers to self-isolate at home for two weeks.
But French officials made it clear that it was a voluntary or advisory procedure, which was never policed.