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

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A further easing of lockdown measures in England planned for 1 today.

Evening summary

  • A further easing of lockdown measures in England planned for 1 August was delayed for at least two weeks. In the surprise move for businesses that were planning to reopen tomorrow, Boris Johnson said he was pausing the reopening of higher risk indoor settings including casinos and bowling alleys, and preventing beauty salons resuming close-up treatments, for at least a fortnight. Pilot sports events would be cancelled from 1 August and the move to allow wedding receptions to have up to 30 guests from this weekend was also reversed. However, shielding advice for up to 2.2 million people who were advised to avoid leaving their homes from March would be lifted as planned on Saturday.
  • Sage said it did not have confidence that the reproduction rate was currently below 1 in England. The government postponed the further lockdown easing after new Office for National Statistics data showed infection levels in England were at about 4,200 new cases per day as of 23 July, the highest number since mid-May and, at 31%, the highest week-on-week percentage increase in the same period.
  • England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty said the country appears to be “at the outer edge” of how far society can reopen safely amid the continued prevalence of the virus. It comes as large areas in the north of England faced new curbs and restrictions which were hastily announced last night.
  • Rules on the wearing of face coverings will be extended to more indoor settings from 8 August. The prime minister announced that masks should be worn in indoor venues including museums, galleries and cinemas, and that this would be enforceable by law.
  • The Scottish government strongly advised against all but essential travel to parts of northern England which are facing new lockdown restrictions. Following a rise in coronavirus cases in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire, Nicola Sturgeon urged anyone intending to travel to those areas to cancel their plans.
  • Boris Johnson was accused of “the worst kind of cronyism” after he granted peerages to his brother Jo Johnson, as well as Tory grandees and Brexit allies. Among the list of 36 figures heading to the House of Lords were the ex-England cricket player and Brexit supporter Sir Ian Botham, newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev and numerous former Labour MPs who rebelled against the party’s position to support Brexit, including Kate Hoey, Ian Austin and Gisela Stuart. Philip May, the husband of the former PM Theresa May, will receive a knighthood.
  • The Tory MP Craig Whittaker, was condemned after claiming that the “vast majority” of people breaching coronavirus lockdown rules were from BAME communities, particularly Muslim backgrounds. Labour called the comments “overt racism” and the Muslim Council of Britain said it was a case of “shameless scapegoating of minorities”. But the PM didn’t distance himself from them, saying at his press conference that it was “up to the whole country to get this right”.
  • The UK’s death toll exceeded 46,000 as another 120 Covid-19-related deaths were recorded, bringing the government’s tally to 46,119.

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 a 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.

Read the full piece here:


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.

He added:

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

This move is an absolute insult to voters. This is making a mockery of democracy.

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

The Liberal Democrat Lords leader, Lord Newby, said:

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.


UK passes 46,000 coronavirus deaths

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.

However, there is a caveat about this data, as my colleague Andrew Sparrow writes:

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.

This was debated by the Lords itself with over 90 speakers, commanding overwhelming support.

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 36-strong list of peerage nominations means the House of Lords will soon have nearly 200 more members than the Commons.
The 36-strong list of peerage nominations means the House of Lords will soon have nearly 200 more members than the Commons. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AFP via Getty Images


PM's brother, Tory grandees and Brexit backers nominated for peerages

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.


More from our north of England correspondent Josh Halliday.

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.].

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.

Lucy Frazer QC MP, the minister for prisons and probation said:

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.

Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester city council, added:

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.

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.

I would urge everyone in their 20s and 30s not to be complacent.

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.

Unless your journey is absolutely essential, please don’t travel to these areas.

Sturgeon repeated her warnings for everyone to follow all the physical distancing and hygiene rules:

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.


Tui has extended the suspension of holidays in Spain for UK customers.

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.

Tui UK and Ireland managing director, Andrew Flintham, said:

The health and safety of our customers and colleagues is always our highest priority.

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.

Here’s a regional breakdown of where the deaths occurred:

Midlands 1

North East & Yorkshire 4

North West 2

South East 2


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.


Cars parked alongside the road as members of the public walk Pen y Fan, South Wales highest mountain in Brecon. High temperatures are forecast across the UK today, with some areas in the south expected to reach 33-34C.
Cars parked alongside the road as members of the public walk Pen y Fan, South Wales highest mountain in Brecon. High temperatures are forecast across the UK today, with some areas in the south expected to reach 33-34C. Photograph: Huw Fairclough/Getty Images


People wearing face masks have their temperatures checked before being allowed to go into Manchester Central Mosque as Muslims worldwide marked the start of Eid.
People wearing face masks have their temperatures checked before being allowed to go into Manchester Central Mosque as Muslims worldwide marked the start of Eid. Photograph: Jon Super/AP


Brighton urges tourists to stay away

People enjoying the sunny weather at the beach in Brighton on Friday.
People enjoying the sunny weather at the beach in Brighton on Friday. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters

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.

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


The government has launched a review of the powers available to the public to challenge its decisions in court, seen by many as an attack on the judiciary.

A panel of experts, led by a Conservative former minister, is to examine if there is a need to reform the judicial review process, which is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, was humiliated last year when the process was used to overturn his decision to prorogue parliament. He has reportedly scrapped a manifesto pledge to set up a “constitution, democracy and human rights commission” and instead plans to speed up the process by setting up small expert panels to deal with different elements individually.

Johnson believes the courts have become increasingly politicised and are being used to “conduct politics by another means”. He wants to define in law what they can and cannot be used to challenge.

The review, to be chaired by Edward Faulks, a former justice minister, will consider whether the right balance is being struck between the rights of citizens to challenge executive decisions and the need for effective and efficient government, the Ministry of Justice announced.

Specifically, the review will consider whether the terms of judicial review should be written into law, whether certain executive decisions should be decided on by judges, and which grounds and remedies should be available in claims brought against the government.

The justice secretary and lord chancellor, Robert Buckland, said:

Judicial review will always be an essential part of our democratic constitution – protecting citizens from an overbearing state.

This review will ensure this precious check on government power is maintained, while making sure the process is not abused or used to conduct politics by another means.

Any recommendations for reform put forward by the panel will be considered by Buckland and the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove. The panel will report back later this year.


Here’s the start of Peter Walker’s news story on the PM’s announcements:

Boris Johnson has reversed a decision to further relax lockdown restrictions in England from Saturday, as the chief medical officer says the country is “at the outer edge” of how far society can reopen with coronavirus.

Speaking at a hastily arranged Downing Street press conference, the prime minister said he was pausing the reopening of leisure businesses, such as casinos and bowling alleys, and preventing beauty salons resuming close-up treatments, for at least two weeks.

It was time to “squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep that virus under control”, he said. With infections rising, Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said the country had reached the limits of reopening.

Johnson said rules on face coverings would be extended from 8 August, meaning people would be obliged to wear them in indoor venues such as museums, galleries and cinemas, and that there would be greater police enforcement of mask-wearing.

BT has seen a near 70% surge in customers switching to next-generation full-fibre broadband as the working-from-home revolution prompts people to upgrade to the fastest internet connection available.

The company said the number of sign-ups for full fibre broadband, which enables users to download a hi-definition TV show in 15 seconds instead of the typical three minutes or more with standard broadband, spiked in June to 10,000 per week.

Prior to that, around 6,000 customers per week had been signing up for full-fibre broadband, BT said.


In this afternoon’s briefing, the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, said “the ONS data suggests we have reached the limits of what we can do in terms of opening things up in society”.

It would appear that he was talking about the weekly coronavirus (Covid-19) Infection Survey pilot released this morning which shows that in the week to 26 July 2020 there were around 4,200 new cases in England per day (or 0.78 new Covid-19 infections for every 10,000 people in the community population).

This is the highest rate of infection estimated since mid-May. In its analysis, the ONS stated that: “Modelling of the rate of new infections over time suggests that there is now some evidence that the incidence of new infections has increased in recent weeks.

The data suggests there were around 4,200 new cases per day in England in the week to 26 July.
The data suggests there were around 4,200 new cases per day in England in the week to 26 July.

However, the same report found “there is not enough evidence to say with confidence whether Covid-19 infection rates differ by region in England, nor whether infection rates have increased in different regions over the past six weeks.”

Elsewhere the report, which is produced in partnership with the American health tech company IQVIA, Oxford University and UK Biocentre, says that, between 26 April and 26 July, 6.2% of people tested positive for antibodies against coronavirus following a blood test, suggesting they had the infection in the past, or one-in-16 people.


A Tory MP who claimed the “vast majority” of people breaking lockdown rules were from the BAME community has been criticised by Labour counterparts.

Craig Whittaker, whose West Yorkshire seat of Calder Valley was one of the areas affected by the new measures announced on Thursday night, told LBC there were “sections of the community that are not taking the pandemic seriously”.

When asked if he was talking about the Muslim community, the Tory MP replied: “Of course,” adding:

If you look at the areas where we’ve seen rises and cases, the vast majority, but not by any stretch of the imagination all areas, it is the BAME communities that are not taking this seriously enough.

In a further interview with PA Media, Whittaker said he was talking specifically about the situation in his constituency, particularly in three wards in Halifax where there was a high proportion of Asian residents, or houses of multiple occupancy.

We have come from a situation where the infection rate was very low and we have seen spikes in those areas, but not exclusively to those areas.

The shadow health and social care secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, told Times Radio:

To be frank, the Tory party should do something about it because it is quite disgraceful, what he was saying.

Asked if he agreed with Whittaker’s comments at the news conference earlier, Boris Johnson did not refute them, saying only:

I think it’s up to all of us in government to make sure that the message is being heard loud and clear by everybody across the country, and to make sure that everybody is complying with the guidance.

Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP for neighbouring Huddersfield, said he didn’t think Whittaker’s comments represented “a balanced view”. He said people from all communities were breaking the rules, for instance in pubs, and that people had lost sight of the regulations after the Dominic Cummings affair.

It’s got nothing to do with religion, I have seen naughty people breaking the rules of every creed, race and religion.

Tracy Brabin, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, another neighbour of Whittaker, also disagreed with his “unhelpful” analysis.

That is a very disappointing comment for someone who is an elected member of parliament, particularly as the BAME community has paid the biggest price. It is not helpful.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, the Labour MP for Tooting, tweeted:


In Trafford, a mostly affluent part of Greater Manchester, health officials said younger middle-class residents were behind the recent rise in cases – not the south Asian community.

Eleanor Roaf, Trafford council’s director of public health, said about 57% of the new cases were people aged 25 or below and included those in its wealthiest suburbs, Altrincham and Hale, home to footballers and television stars.

“It’s spread across Trafford. It’s not concentrated at all in our more deprived areas,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, adding:

My real concern is that perhaps the messaging - definitely the harms from Covid are concentrated in the more deprived areas but in fact anyone can get it and we really need to make sure that people living in wealthier areas aren’t complacent because that’s the biggest risk.

Altrincham, Hale have been some of our hotspots in Trafford, so the messaging I’m wanting to get out is [that] absolutely anyone can get it.


For the Bradford councillor Tariq Hussain the timing of the lockdown was “sacrilege” and he predicted rising tensions amongst communities. He told the Guardian:

We are in a catch-22 situation where the Covid rates are going up and we need to control it but a lockdown on the eve of Eid when families were due to see each other is just a farce.

He added:

The government has failed and failed again the people of Great Britain. To have an announcement like this, all of a sudden, with no warning is just so disappointing. It will create mayhem in Bradford because many people won’t know about the new rules and will carry on with the arrangements they have made today. When you do something so short notice how do you expect it to be policed?

Mustafa Graf, the imam at Didsbury mosque in Manchester, who had just finished leading Eid prayers, said the announcement was upsetting but encouraged the public to adhere to the new guidelines.

I was shocked when I first heard it and I had a lot of phonecalls from people asking me what they should do. It was unclear at first whether we would still be able to go to the mosque and we were relieved when we realised we could and we told people that they could still pray.

Graf, who normally holds three prayers for his congregation during Eid celebrations, held five this morning to maintain social distancing.

I know people are upset but we have to understand the gravity of this situation and it is an emergency. We won’t be able to see each other today but we must remain patient.


The growth rate and R value of coronavirus transmission in the UK has changed slightly in the last week, new figures published by the government show.

Data released on Friday revealed the growth rate is now between minus 4% to minus 1%, compared with a rate of minus 5% to minus 1% per day, last week.

The R value for the UK is between 0.8 to 0.9, a slight change from 0.7 to 0.9.

The figures are published by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

A growth rate between -1% to -4% means the number of new infections is shrinking by between 1% to 4% every day, the report said.

It added:

However, we are starting to see early indications that these values may be increasing.

This is not yet reflected in these estimates because the data used to calculate R and growth rate reflect the situation from a few weeks ago.


Sage does not have confidence that R is currently below 1 in England

To recap on what the prime minister just said about the R rate in England, a further easing of lockdown across England has been postponed as Boris Johnson warned the country “cannot be complacent” amid a rise in the prevalence of coronavirus in the community.

Measures due to be lifted on Saturday, including allowing small wedding receptions and reopening bowling alleys and casinos, have been postponed for at least two weeks.

Face coverings will also become mandatory in indoor settings such as museums and places of worship from 8 August, Johnson said.

And England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned the data suggests England has “reached the limit” of reopening society from the lockdown and it might not be possible with the current numbers to ease lockdown further.

Growth rates and R value estimates are provided by the scientific pandemic influenza group on modelling (SPI-M), a subgroup of Sage.

They are calculated using different models, with data gathered from multiple sources, such as hospital admissions and deaths, admissions to the intensive care unit, as well as epidemiological data.

A time delay between initial infection and the need for hospital care usually means it may take between two to three weeks for the changes in the spread of Covid-19 to be reflected in the estimates. But models that use Covid-19 testing data, which have less of a time delay, indicate higher values for R in England, the report said.

It added:

For this reason, Sage does not have confidence that R is currently below 1 in England.

We would expect to see this change in transmission reflected in the R and growth rate published over the next few weeks.


“Hands, face, space, get a test, self-isolate if you have symptoms,” the prime minster said, once more for the seats at the back.

And that’s it, the conference is over.


Q. Do you agree with a Conservative Yorkshire MP who said that local BAME communities aren’t taking the pandemic seriously enough?

Johnson says it’s up to all of us to make sure the message is being heard across the country and everyone is complying with the guidance.

“Hands, face, space, get a test and self-isolate,” he says (yet again).

Q. Can you guarantee that no patients will be discharged from hospital into a care home or their own home if they test positive for Covid-19?

Johnson says he will make sure this doesn’t happen and that everyone will be tested, whether they are symptomatic or not.


Q. Are staycations in doubt given the rise in the R rate? Have you just cancelled summer?

Johnson says he would encourage people to still think of staycation-ing in the UK.

Q. What’s your message to workers who feel apprehensive about returning to work amid the latest restrictions?

Johnson says employees should discuss working from home with their employers, and workplaces should be Covid-secure.

Whitty adds he’s grateful to a large number of employers who have worked to make their workplaces Covid-secure and everyone should be doing that.

Johnson adds that if employers won’t do this, it’s a matter that can be enforced in law and the government will come down hard on people who aren’t doing the right thing.

Q. What are your own plans for the summer?

Johnson says he will be working flat-out, bar the odd brief staycation if possible.

Q. How worried are you that this is going to turn into a surge? And why do we find ourselves in this position? Is it the government’s messaging or are we all to blame?

Johnson says he said there would be fresh outbreaks and wouldn’t hesitate to put on the brakes throughout the pandemic.

This is a warning light on the dashboard so we’re right to respond in this way, he says.

“Hands, face, space, get a test,” he repeats.

Q. Did we move too fast with the loosening of restrictions?

Whitty says there are clearly big disadvantages to opening things up in the winter months.

Ministers made the decision to reopen in stages, he says. This staged reopening includes being able to stop things if the data deems it not sensible, he adds.


Q. Do you have to get better at explaining the rules as they become more complex?

Johnson says he puts his hands up, the government must explain things clearly.

Without a vaccine all we have at our disposal to control the virus is human behaviour, he says, and this is determined by advice.

Remember: “Hands, face, space, and get a test,” he says.

Q. Do you think this is the beginning of a second wave?

Whitty says it isn’t sensible to think of this as a second wave that’s happening around the world.

Rather, as more households become linked the rate of the virus will start to increase and we’ve probably reached the limits of that, he adds.

If people continue to meet others, the rate will continue to go up, he says.

We either pull back to keep it under control and hold the line, or we don’t and cases increase, he says.


'We have reached near the limit of what we can reopen in society,' says Whitty

They are taking questions from the media now.

Q. Why are you lifting guidance from tomorrow encouraging people to go back to work tomorrow and planning to reopen schools in September when the virus is on the rise across the country.

Johnson says the measures in the north of England are targeted and local lockdowns will continue to be implemented as needed.

Whitty says we need to reopen society and the economy to the outer edge before incidence of the virus would increase again - a difficult balancing act.

The ONS data suggests we have reached the limits of what we can do in terms of opening things up in society, he says.

This creates difficult trade offs for government and for citizens, he adds.

The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong, he says.


Unless people follow the rules and behave safely, they may need to go further, he adds.

We must all continue to wash our hands, cover our faces, keep our distance and get tested if we need to be tested, he says.

Face coverings to be made mandatory in more indoor settings in England from 8 August

The home secretary has been asked to work with the police to ensure the rules are properly enforced, he says.

There will be a greater police presence to ensure face coverings are being worn as required by law, he adds.

They are also extending the requirement to wear a face covering to other indoor settings where you’re likely to come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, such as museums, cinemas, galleries and places of worship, he says.

The government is now recommending the wearing of face coverings in these settings and this will be enforceable in law from 8 August, he confirms.


Shielding will be paused nationally on 1 August as planned, he says.

Medical experts will explain more about this later today, he adds.

He apologises to people who had wedding plans or will not be able to celebrate Eid as they had wished, but the risk can’t be taken, he says.

Employees should continue to work from home or in a Covid-secure workplace, he adds.


The further easing of lockdown restrictions in England that were due on 1 August for higher risk settings, including allowing small wedding receptions and the reopening of bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos, has been postponed for at least two weeks, Johnson says.

Indoor performances will not resume, pilots of crowds in sports centres will not take place, and wedding receptions of more than 30 people will not be permitted, he adds.


Further easing of lockdown measures in England planned for 1 August postponed 'for at least a fortnight'

Boris Johnson has announced he will reverse a decision to relax a range of lockdown restrictions due to come into force on Saturday.

The prime minister briefed the UK’s devolved governments on Friday morning that he was rowing back on the next phase of the lockdown easing plans, and was planning to make the announcement at noon on Friday alongside Matt Hancock, the UK health and social care secretary.

The prime minister is thought to have been forced to maintain the restrictions because the rate of community infections from Covid-19 has increased in England; earlier this week he warned fresh measures could be needed to suppress the spread of the virus.


We cannot be complacent; we have to act rapidly, Johnson says.

The decision to tighten restrictions in parts of the north of England are targeted measures that had to be done, he adds.

Measures taken in Leicester and Luton have successfully suppressed the virus, he says.

The plan to reopen society has always been conditional on progress against the virus and the brakes would be put on if needed, he says.

There has been an increase in the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in England, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says.

According to the ONS, between 20 July and 26 July there were around 0.78 new Covid-19 infections for every 10,000 people in the community population in England.

This is equal to around 4,200 new cases per day. This is up from an estimated 2,800 new cases a day in the previous week.


The prime minister is speaking now, providing an update on progress the country is making against the spread of the virus.

The number of deaths continues to fall, he says.

But he has consistently warned that the virus could return, he adds, citing rises in cases in numerous countries around the world.

The ONS reports that the prevalence of the virus in the community is likely to be rising in the country for the first time since May, he says.

The ONS also estimates the number of infections per day has been rising, compared to last month, he adds.

We can’t ignore this, Johnson says.

Boris Johnson's press conference

The prime minister’s news conference this afternoon, alongside the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, is due to begin shortly.

Scottish government advises against travel to parts of northern England

The Scottish government is advising against all but essential travel to Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire for people in Scotland.

People living in Scotland are being advised to avoid travel to areas in northern England facing new lockdown restrictions after a rise in coronavirus cases.

The Scottish government said travel between Scotland and Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire should only be undertaken if absolutely essential.

Anyone from Scotland currently in the affected areas need not travel back immediately, but should be extra vigilant, it added.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, urged anyone planning to travel to those areas to cancel their plans. She said:

I’m grateful to the prime minister for the update on the recent developments in the North West of England and all four nations agreed on the importance of sharing localised information as we work together to continue to suppress the virus.

We have always been clear that localised flare ups are likely as we continue to suppress the virus but by responding quickly and appropriately we can limit the effect these have on wider transmission.

I strongly advise anyone planning to travel to areas affected in the north of England, or anyone planning to travel to Scotland from those same areas, to cancel their plans.

Anyone whose travel is essential should follow public health advice at all times including the FACTS guidance and remain extra vigilant in monitoring for symptoms.


Measures to be further relaxed in Wales from Monday

Up to 30 people can meet outside in Wales while maintaining physical distancing from Monday, the first minister has announced.

Mark Drakeford said children under the age of 11 will also no longer need to keep to the 2-metre rule while outdoors due to the falling transmission rate.

He said the changes would help “family and friends” but would be restricted to outside locations “because we know it’s much safer to be meeting in the outdoors and the sunlight.”

The latest set of relaxed measures comes alongside the reopening of indoor service for pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes from Monday.

This morning, Drakeford told Sky News the Welsh government believes it has some “further headroom” to reopen aspects of society as the circulation of the virus continues to fall in Wales:

That gives us the opportunity to reopen bars, restaurants, cafes and so on, indoors, and to afford some extra flexibility to family and friends to meet in the outdoors.

The first minister also told the BBC’s Breakfast programme that a set of measures had been agreed with the hospitality sector to mitigate the risks of meeting indoors, adding:

We’re confident now those things will be in place and that it will be safe for people to go back.

People social distancing in the grounds of Cardiff Castle which is attracting over 2000 visitors a day. Coronavirus lockdown measures continue to be eased as circulation of the coronavirus falls in Wales.
People social distancing in the grounds of Cardiff Castle, which is attracting over 2,000 visitors a day. Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Swimming pools, gyms, leisure centres and children’s indoor play areas will be able to reopen from 10 August, he confirmed.

The Welsh government would look to offer people “more opportunities to meet indoor” from 15 August, he said, including allowing people to expand the number of other households they can join into an extended household.

Drakeford said he did not need to introduce a mandatory face covering rule for shops as has been done in England because Wales had “stronger rules” than its neighbour on physical distancing.

In our regulations we require a two metres social distance, and we require premises to take all reasonable measures to make sure that a two metre distance can be observed.

On a rise in Covid-19 cases in the Wrexham area, Drakeford said the situation was “under control” but that further measures would be taken if needed.

The first minister will formally announce the latest relaxing of measures at a press briefing later this afternoon.


Labour criticises 'shambolic' government announcement of new restrictions in north of England

Labour has slammed the UK government’s “shambolic” communication over the new lockdown restrictions affecting some 4 million people across Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

Matt Hancock made the announcement via Twitter on Thursday night, giving swathes of northern England less than three hours’ notice that they must endure tighter restrictions following a resurgence of Covid-19 cases.

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said that while he supported the decision to tighten restrictions in the affected areas, there had been “poor communication” from the government. He wrote on Twitter:

He implored people to follow the new restrictions to prevent another outbreak.

Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said the last-minute nature of the announcement had caused much “widespread confusion, anxiety and upset”:

Given the infection levels in parts of the country, and international warnings of a resurgence in the virus, Labour understands why measures have had to be taken to bring infection rates down.

The virus remains widely distributed across the UK and yesterday’s official statistics confirming we have had the highest excess death rate in Europe is a clear reminder that being slow to act has devastating consequences.

But the way in which the government has made the announcement has caused widespread confusion, anxiety and upset.

Labour has called on the UK government to answer 12 questions on the situation, including: what is the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in these areas? And what is the evidence behind pausing shielding for these groups given the local peaks?

Mike Kane, the Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East and a shadow transport minister, said the way the new restrictions were announced was “a complete shambles”.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he said:

As much as I always support the government, it’s a complete shambles the way it was announced. It’s been released on social media with hours notice. It puts people in a place of uncertainty, fear and confusion.

He said local MPs were invited by regional public health officials on Thursday morning to discuss how the pandemic was affecting the area, but he said no one had known about the impending new restrictions that were announced that evening.

The government has got to do better than this in informing people and give people the heads up. These things shouldn’t be binary, it shouldn’t be switched on and then switched off.


Upset for British Muslims as lockdown announcement came hours before Eid celebrations were due to start

The Muslim Council of Britain’s secretary general, Harun Khan, has criticised the way the government announced new Covid-19 restrictions for parts of the north of England, which came the day before Eid celebrations began.

The health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, made the announcement via Twitter, giving swaths of northern England less than three hours’ notice on Thursday night that they must endure tighter restrictions following a rise in coronavirus cases.

People in the affected areas are not allowed to visit or host friends or family in private homes or gardens, the government says, nor should they meet and mix in restaurants or cafes. Two households, or up to six people from different households may meet outdoors in public spaces but physical distancing must be maintained for those who don’t live together.

Mosques may be attended but physical distancing must be maintained between households. “This means maintaining a distance of 2 metres, or 1 metre with mitigations (such as wearing face coverings). We recommend at this time that, if possible, prayer/religious services take place outdoors,” the government guidance states.

In a statement, Khan said:

With the first day of Eid being today, for Muslims in the affected areas, it is like being told they cannot visit family and friends for Christmas on Christmas Eve itself.

Whilst the safety of communities is of paramount importance, as has remained the case from the very outset of this crisis, so is effective communication delivered in a timely fashion.

Failure to communicate makes it difficult for communities across the country to continue working together to minimise the spread of the virus, whilst eroding trust in the ability of authorities to steer our course as we tackle the Covid-19 crisis.

The UK government has failed to provide clarity on the shockingly short notice and the reasoning behind the new rules that British Muslims deserve. Any such clarification would be most welcome.


Most areas of the UK peaked in April in terms of coronavirus infections but some are rising again, according to Guardian analysis of data, which we’ve presented on a page where you can check the situation in your area.

We’ve mapped to show local authorities where the number of cases has increased week-on-week and where it has fallen.

Some of this is due to natural fluctuations, especially in areas where there are very few cases, and so a rise from 1 to 2 is a doubling. Increased testing also means that more cases may be being detected than previously, although the impact of this between one week and the next is likely to be slight.

But even in Kent, a large and populous county with relatively many cases, a rise week-on-week may still be consistent with a downward trajectory overall, if outweighed by falls in the weeks before and after. It does, however, suggest the value of continued vigilance.


Tracy Brabin, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire, has said the way the new lockdown measures in the north of England were announced was “deeply chaotic”.

She said: “The government had said big announcements would be handled with the seriousness that they merit. To announce this sort of measure late at night on Twitter caused an awful lot of anxiety in my community. It’s a new low.”

The shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, who is MP for Wigan, told Sky News: “Nobody is arguing that the government shouldn’t move quickly where evidence exits that there has been a spike in Covid cases, and we have certainly seen that in Greater Manchester.”


About 5,000 racing fans are being allowed into the final day of the Goodwood festival on Saturday, where a team of 700 staff will be on duty.

Ordinarily, about 25,000 would be attending, but there are still nerves about the numbers.

The Chichester Observer quotes Adam Waterworth, the managing director of sport at Goodwood, as saying: “Planning is going well for Saturday. It will be complicated but these are exceptional times.”

Here’s a bit more on what’s planned, via ITV’s Richard Gaisford, where some of the replies are quite cutting to say the least:

The Chichester Observer reports that there will be 10 different enclosures in place. The aim, added Waterworth, was “to give everyone who attends an enjoyable, if different, afternoon’s racing while making sure people’s health and safety is the top priority”.


Less than half of adults fully respecting social distancing – ONS

Less than half of adults spending time with family and friends are fully respecting social distancing measures when they meet up, according to new survey data for the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Almost three-quarters of adults polled by the ONS said they had socialised with others during the last seven days, with 50% welcoming family or friends into their homes.

Of the 1,150 people who reported socialising, 47% said they had always maintained social distancing, with this proportion rising to 70% of those aged 70 and over.

Three in 10 (31%) said they often followed the measures, 13% said they sometimes did, while 8% said they rarely or never followed social distancing.

The ONS analysed responses from 1,564 people in Britain between 22 and 26 July about their activities over the past week as part of its Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

A family in face masks walk along Coney Street, one of the main shopping streets in York, North Yorkshire.
A family in face coverings walk along Coney Street, one of the main shopping streets in York, North Yorkshire. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer


Confusion over Matt Hancock's comments

There was confusion following health secretary Matt Hancock’s morning interviews about whether households in the affected areas would be allowed to visit peoples’ homes outside the restricted zone.

The official guidance suggests this would illegal but Hancock initially suggested it would be allowed as long as people adhered to social distancing, telling BBC Breakfast: “Strictly, the law that we’re bringing in is that two households cannot meet in the area defined but obviously any two households should follow the social distancing rules.”

Later on BBC Radio Manchester he suggested that visiting households outside the affected area was “against the advice” but suggested it would not be covered by law, saying there was a “distinction between the guidance and the law on this issue”.

However, this appears to be against the official advice published on Friday morning. The DHSC has been contacted for clarity.

Hancock appeared to struggle when pressed on the issue by BBC Radio Manchester presenter Becky Want, saying: “I’ll make it absolutely clear, which is that there’s a distinction between the guidance and the law. I will absolutely get back to you with the exact ... ” before his words became inaudible.

Asked four times whether a household in the affected area could visit someone who was not, he then said: “No because that is against the advice but the point I was making is about the specifics of the law, which is that this law applies to people who are in the affected area.”


House prices went up in July – survey

The cost of buying a house shot up by 4,500 in July as the property market recovered quicker than expected since the end of lockdown.

Prices were up 1.7% compared with last month, and 1.5% higher than the same period the year before, according to a closely watched survey.

Nationwide Building Society said that the average price of a home sold in the last month was 220,936, up from 216,403 in June.

Nationwide’s chief economist said that pent-up demand was likely coming through in July as lockdown eased.

“The bounce back in prices reflects the unexpectedly rapid recovery in housing market activity since the easing of lockdown restrictions,” Robert Gardner said.

Residential properties in London in July 2020.
Residential properties in London in July 2020. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA


The prime minister, Boris Johnson, and chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, are to hold a press conference at noon.


A slew of England’s biggest businesses are set to defy the government’s push to get workers back into offices in August, a Guardian analysis shows, with many big businesses sticking to home working arrangements or delaying a partial return until September at the earliest.

Law firms, insurers, energy providers and tech firms are among those reacting cautiously to the change in government advice, which means from Saturday employers can decide whether staff can safely come back to offices. Some companies, such as Google and NatWest Group, are allowing workers to stay at home until 2021 amid signs of a permanent shift in working culture.

A man wearing a protective face mask in front of a shop window in central London on June 16.
A man wearing a protective face mask in front of a shop window in central London. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

However, businesses that are trying to maintain or grow an office-based workforce are taking remarkable steps to keep staff safe. Banks are offering staff home coronavirus testing kits, conducting temperature checks in offices and in one case even stationing a nurse on reception as part of efforts to reassure workers it is safe to return to their desks.

Many major British employers contacted by the Guardian are not planning a wholesale return to offices from 1 August, when government advice on working from home changes in England.


Rail union officials have urged passengers to avoid crowding onto trains this weekend amid fears that unofficial Pride events and the hot weather may compromise social distancing.

The official Brighton Pride has been cancelled due to the virus pandemic, but the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said a combination of unofficial events and other attractions on a hot weekend have sparked concerns among its members.

Assistant general secretary Mick Lynch said: “RMT has a strong history of supporting Brighton Pride and the organisers took the correct decision to postpone it this year in light of the pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

“However, we have been made aware that unofficial events have been organised this weekend which, combined with other attractions could lead to a surge of passengers that compromises social distancing and safety measures and it’s important that is not allowed to happen.”

Here’s a clip from BBC breakfast, via my northern colleague Josh Halliday, in which Matt Hancock appears to get it wrong on the rules about people in the north of England visiting other areas.


IAG, the owner of British Airways, is to raise €2.75bn (£2.5bn) to strengthen its balance sheet after reporting a record loss in the second quarter as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hammer the travel market.

IAG, which also owns Iberia and Aer Lingus, reported a record €1.36bn operating loss as passenger numbers fell by more than 98% in the second quarter. That compares with a profit of €960m for the same period last year.

Willie Walsh, IAG’s chief executive, expects it to take until at least 2023 for passenger demand to reach the pre-coronavirus levels of 2019.

“All IAG airlines made substantial losses,” Walsh said. “Each airline has taken actions to adjust their business and reduce their cost base to reflect forecast demand in their markets.”

Airplanes at Chateauroux airport in FranceTechnicians move a British Airways Airbus A380 airplane stored on the tarmac of Marcel-Dassault airport at Chateauroux, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France July 30, 2020.
A BA plane at Marcel-Dassault airport in Châteauroux, France. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters


Matt Hancock also confirmed that households in the areas of the north of England affected by the additional lockdown measure cannot visit each other at home – but they can visit households outside the affected areas as long as they observe social distancing.

He told BBC Breakfast: “Strictly, the law that we’re bringing in is that two households cannot meet in the area defined but obviously any two households should follow the social distancing rules.”



Lockdown measures not done with Eid in mind - Hancock

The UK health secretary has denied that the additional lockdown measures in the north of England were introduced with this evening’s celebrations of the Muslim festival of Eid in mind.

“My heart goes out to the Muslim communities in these areas because I know how important the Eid celebrations are. I am very grateful to the local Muslim leaders, the imams, who have been working so hard across the country to have Covid-secure celebrations,” he told the Today programme.

He also told the BBC: “Unfortunately this change does mean that people won’t be able to get together in their houses, in their gardens.

“But we are allowing mosques and other religious places to stay open because they’ve done so much work to allow for Covid-secure celebration and worship.”

Questioned about the rules, Hancock said parks and outdoor public spaces were the safest place. Asked why people could not have guests from other households in their gardens, but could go to the pub, he said the “guidance for hospitality” is to only go with your own household.

But people would end up mixing with others at the pub?

“No, because the way pubs have managed to do that is to do that in a socially distanced way from other households,” he replied.

The decision to implement the additional lockdown measures in the north of England was taken “as soon as was practically possible”, according to Hancock, responding to questions about why it as announced in a tweet with three hours before them came into effect.

It was also clear from data that the spread of the virus was happening in households between people visiting each other, much more than among people in work, and that was why the measures were taken.


A “functioning” test and trace system is what is really needed in place of the additional lockdown measures in the north of England, according to one expert who has been a high-profile commentator during the pandemic and who is sceptical of the actions taken by the government in the north of England

Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, has told the BBC’s Today programme that the alarm needs to be sounded because of concerns about care homes.

“If you really want to do a great job in reducing excess deaths then you need a plan that focuses on the old and the very vulnerable and I just don’t see that plan now,” he said.

Prof Heneghan had tweeted this yesterday:


While things are tightening up in the north, pubs and restaurants in Leicester are set to reopen from Monday as a number of lockdown restrictions recently imposed in the city are lifted.

I’ve received this email from one resident of the city:

We are furious about how Leicester has been handled! We have been in complete lock down until now, not allowed to leave our city at all, we have all lost money on holidays in uk and abroad that we have had to cancel as we are told it was now illegal for us to spend the night away from home.

Police are ready to set up roadblocks, create diversions and close off sections of Bournemouth beach to prevent a repeat of last month’s chaotic scenes as a heatwave sweeps parts of the UK.

With temperatures forecast to hit 33C in parts of southern England, some officers have been asked to work extended shifts and weekend leave has been cancelled for others as the emergency services and the local council brace themselves for another major influx of visitors.

Supt Richard Bell, of Dorset police, said plans had been put in place to cope with another possible surge. But Bell said: “We are definitely not asking people to stay away. We welcome all visitors, but ask them to respect the environment and the community.”

Bell said the force did not expect the beaches to be as crowded this time because hotels, campsites, pubs and restaurants are open. In June, the beach was one of the few places people could go to.

A plan is also in place for Lulworth Cove in Dorset, another spot that has attracted crowds this summer. Bell said a one-way system used when the Camp Bestival was being staged would swing into operation if it got too busy.

Cyclists making their way past a taped off bench on the sea front on Bournemouth beach on 4 July 2020
Cyclists making their way past a taped off bench on the sea front on Bournemouth beach on 4 July. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA


The Guardian leads this morning on this story on warnings by trade unions that up to 2 million extremely vulnerable people shielding in England must not be forced to return to their workplaces, amid concerns over rising coronavirus infection rates.


News of the additional lockdown measures dominate a number of the morning front pages, including the Mirror, Times and Telegraph


The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has said the government was right to take action in the north of England after it became clear that the picture on Covid-19 cases had changed.

He told Sky News:

On the substance, we do accept that these steps are needed. They’re modest steps. We’re asking people not to have visitors at home, if they go to the pub to stick within their own household - steps that hopefully will prevent much more severe restrictions if we take firm action at this time.

And the reason for it is the picture changed in Greater Manchester over the last week. We’re watching the data very, very closely, like the government is.

At the same time, the government has been taking flak from its own ranks

Drinkers sit outside a pub in Rochdale in Rochdale, greater Manchester, northwest England on July 30, 2020.
Drinkers sit outside a pub in Rochdale in Rochdale, greater Manchester, northwest England on July 30, 2020. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images


There has been confusion about how widely the new restrictions applied in parts of northern England and the handling of the announcement was criticised by both Labour and Conservative MPs.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said announcing the lockdown measures “late at night on Twitter” was “a new low for the government’s communications during this crisis”.

He added: “When the government ended the daily press conferences, they said they would hold them for ‘significant announcements’, including local lockdowns. It’s hard to imagine what could be more significant than this.

In his statement, Hancock said that from midnight last night“people from different households will not be allowed to meet each other indoors” in Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and the city of Leicester.

In 13 of the 19 local authority areas affected, the rate of Covid-19 in the seven days to 27 July has gone up, with 1,536 cases recorded across all the areas in the space of a week.


Parts of Northern England wake up to new lockdown measures

Good morning and welcome to the Guardian’s live blog coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, where large swathes of northern England have been waking up this morning to additional lockdown restrictions are to be imposed over large swathes of northern England.

The measures, announced on Thursday evening and put in place from midnight, come after what Health Secretary Matt Hancock said had been a a surge of coronavirus cases caused largely by people “not abiding to social distancing”,

Hancock announced that people from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Leicester would not be able to meet each other indoors.

It is the first time further lockdown measures have been applied to such a large geographic area, covering millions of homes, and comes on the eve of Eid al-Adha celebrations, which would have been held in many of the cities and towns affected.

Also on our radar today is an Office for National Statistics (ONS) weekly update of figures on coronavirus and social impacts (9.30pm). It comes after data analysis released by the ONS revealed that England had the highest levels of excess deaths in Europe in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

There’s also a briefing by the grouping of experts who have set themselves up as an independent ‘mirror’ to the government’s official Sage advisory panel (11.30pm)

The Independent Sage committee – a body of 12 scientists and experts set up in parallel to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) – is chaired by the former UK government chief scientific adviser Sir David King, who has criticised the official body’s previous lack of transparency.

This is Ben Quinn. You can email me or reach me on twitter if you want to point us in the direction of any stories which you think we should be covering today.