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Coronavirus UK: Bolton pubs ordered BACK into lockdown

Young people were handed a stark warning tonight that the UK faces more lockdown misery unless they start obeying social distancing rules.

Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock joined medical experts in delivering a desperate appeal for 20 and 30-somethings to rein in their behaviour, amid growing alarm over a surge in cases. 

In a potential sign of things to come for the rest of the country, the Health Secretary announced that pubs in Bolton must shut their doors to stem a flare-up. With immediate effect, they can only serve takeaway, and are obliged to close between 10pm and 5am. 

Mr Hancock said the dramatic action – along with giving legal force to a ban on mixing outside your own household – was needed as the area has the highest rate of cases in the UK, at 120 per 100,000 people. 

But those in Bolton showed no sign of heading for a final evening of carnage, with all ten pubs in the empty town centre already shut to customers ahead of the new closure time of 10pm.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has warned he ‘will not hesitate’ to impose tougher measures to tackle a renewed threat from Covid.  

The PM is on the verge of slashing the legal limit on private gatherings, potentially as early as tomorrow, to assuage concerns about the level of infections in the UK. Cases were well over 2,000 for the third day running, while 30 deaths were declared today – the highest for six weeks. 

The number of people legally allowed to meet up in private homes could be reduced in England from the current maximum of 30, potentially to as low as six, and subject to fines running into thousands of pounds.  It is not expected the change would cover venues such as pubs, which have ‘Covid Secure’ measures in place.

Addressing his Cabinet this morning, Mr Johnson warned that in other countries the rise in infections ‘was followed a couple of weeks later by a rise in hospitalisations’. He said that was due to young people picking up the disease and then ‘going on to infect other generations’. 

No10 refused to confirm that the limit on gatherings will definitely be tightened this week, but insisted the government was taking the situation ‘extremely seriously’ and ‘will not hesitate’ to act if necessary. 

However, the move immediately sparked anger from Tory MPs who pointed out that infection levels remain extremely low. One former minister told MailOnline it would be ‘dreadful and disproportionate’, an ‘enormous intrustion into private life’ and ‘rule by directive’. 

In other developments in the coronavirus crisis today:

  • The number of people dying from coronavirus in the UK fell to a 24-week low in the final week of August, official data revealed. A total of 73 people died from Covid-19 in England and Wales in the week ending August 28, according to the Office for National Statistics; 
  • Nicola Sturgeon risked a fresh row with today after she said the Scottish government is ‘not encouraging people to rush back to the office’;
  • England’s deputy chief medical officer warned coronavirus must be taken very seriously again or the UK will face ‘a bumpy ride over the next few months’;
  • The director of the government’s test and trace system has admitted that screening for the public is being held back by problems with testing capacity. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that bars and restaurants in Bolton will only be allowed to serve takeaway, and must close between 10pm and 5am

Boris Johnson (pictured chairing Cabinet today) and his senior ministers are working out how to deal with concerns about rising infections - which have topped 2,000 for three days running

Boris Johnson (pictured chairing Cabinet today) and his senior ministers are working out how to deal with concerns about rising infections – which have topped 2,000 for three days running

The Cabinet meeting today was held in the grand environs of the Locarno room in the Foreign Office, where there is more space for social distancing

The Cabinet meeting today was held in the grand environs of the Locarno room in the Foreign Office, where there is more space for social distancing

The infection rates for young people have been rising recently, but so far they have been relatively flat for older people

The infection rates for young people have been rising recently, but so far they have been relatively flat for older people

Data from Public Health England shows that more than 40 per cent of coronavirus tests done in hospitals were positive in March and April but this has now plummeted and remains below 2.5 per cent in both hospitals and the community. This shows that there remains only a small proportion of people with the symptoms of coronavirus who actually have it

Data from Public Health England shows that more than 40 per cent of coronavirus tests done in hospitals were positive in March and April but this has now plummeted and remains below 2.5 per cent in both hospitals and the community. This shows that there remains only a small proportion of people with the symptoms of coronavirus who actually have it

Scientists have previously said cases have risen over August as a result of increased testing (pictured, how testing has risen during the pandemic)

Scientists have previously said cases have risen over August as a result of increased testing (pictured, how testing has risen during the pandemic)

But the number of people who receive a 'positive' result after getting tested under Pillar 2 has increased in recent weeks (blue line) to 2.3 per cent. It's also increased under Pillar 2 (red line), but is nowhere near the levels seen at the height of the pandemic

But the number of people who receive a ‘positive’ result after getting tested under Pillar 2 has increased in recent weeks (blue line) to 2.3 per cent. It’s also increased under Pillar 2 (red line), but is nowhere near the levels seen at the height of the pandemic

The challenge facing the government was underlined today with the director of the test and trace programme admitting that accessing screening was being hampered by problems with lab capacity

The challenge facing the government was underlined today with the director of the test and trace programme admitting that accessing screening was being hampered by problems with lab capacity

WHAT DO THE RISING CORONAVIRUS CASES IN BRITAIN ACTUALLY MEAN? 

Are cases really rising?

The number of people testing positive has definitely risen. On Sunday and Monday almost 6,000 new cases were confirmed, which was a level not seen since May.

And after June and July had no days with 1,000 or more positive cases, there were 19 with four-figure counts in August.

The daily average is now 2,032 cases per day, which is up from 1,323 a week ago and 834 on August 7.    

The most recent data from the Office for National Statistics, however, suggests infections are relatively stable.

The ONS, which does mass testing in households around the country, said last Friday that it estimates around 2,000 people per day are catching the virus in England. This has ‘levelled off’, it said, and ‘Evidence suggests that the incidence rate for England remains unchanged’ throughout August.

ONS’s estimate fell throughout June from 8,700 cases per day in May to a low of 1,700 per day in early July. It then spiked at the end of July and has since levelled off at 2,000 daily.

Is increased testing behind the surge? 

Experts say that increased testing – particularly in places where there are known surges in infections – was always going to lead to more cases being discovered.

It is likely that tests now pick up on a greater proportion of the true number of cases in the community, whereas it only found the most seriously ill during the peak of the crisis. For this reason, the raw numbers of cases cannot be compared like-for-like, because there are now fewer ‘hidden’ infections.

The positivity of tests – the proportion that are positive – is still very low, at just 2.3 per cent in the community and 0.5 per cent in hospitals. 

The huge numbers of negative tests – over 90 per cent of all tests done each day, so more than 150,000 – show that still only a small number of people who think they have Covid-19 actually do. 

This suggests the testing regime is successfully picking up most infected people. During the peak of the crisis, positivity was above 40 per cent at times, meaning there were likely a lot more infected people who were not getting tested.

Who is catching coronavirus now and is that important?

A major change in the cases being diagnosed now is the shift towards younger age groups.

Infection rates in people in their teens and 20s have surged since lockdown was lifted in July, at least trebling in both groups.

MailOnline analysis shows infections have surged from 9.2 to 28 cases per 100,000 since July 4, ‘Super Saturday’, in those aged 20 to 29 in England.

And the case rate has also quadrupled among teenagers – those aged 10 to 19 years old – over July and August, before schools reopened, from 4.1 cases per 100,000 people to 16.2.

At the same time, cases in elderly groups have dropped drastically since the height of the pandemic, when they made up the majority of Covid-19 cases, and have halved since July.

This shift towards younger people is promising because they are significantly less likely to get seriously ill or die if they catch Covid-19. 

Sir John Bell, a medicine professor at the University of Oxford, wrote in the Daily Mail today: ‘[Rising cases] are concerning and, yes, we must be prepared for a second wave of Covid-19 while working hard to contain localised outbreaks to prevent it.

‘We must not, however, let this hamper our efforts to return to normality.

‘Much of the increase in infections is among the young, who tend to experience moderate or no symptoms. Crucially, we have not yet seen a jump in hospital admissions or deaths.’    

Is this a second wave?

Scientists and politicians have largely refused to brand what is happening now a second wave. 

Mr Hancock has warned that one could be on its way, while critics of the Government have said there is ‘no sign’ of one coming at all.

They say that it was obvious that cases would rise when lockdown was lifted, and that the priority now is keeping local lockdowns effective and continuing to test to isolate outbreaks.

Experts do not expect another crisis like the one we had in March and April, which happened because hundreds of thousands of people were already infected by the time the Government had realised there was a UK outbreak.

Professor Carl Heneghan said recently: ‘There is currently no second wave. What we are seeing is a sharp rise in the number of healthy people who are carrying the virus, but exhibiting no symptoms. Almost all of them are young. They are being spotted because – finally – a comprehensive system of national test and trace is in place.’

The sharp increase in coronavirus cases over the past few days has caused anxiety about the possibility of a second peak, but experts point out that the uplift has been concentrated among younger people rather than the more vulnerable older generation.

However, some experts believe the situation might be less serious than it initially appears, with theories that treatments have improved and social distancing could be reducing the viral load – meaning cases are less severe.   

The government’s existing guidance is that gatherings indoors should involve either a maximum of two households, or up to six people from more households.

However, the legal limit is currently 30.

Above that gatherings can be subject to police enforcement, with fines of £100 for attending and up to £10,000 for those who organise events.

Reducing the ceiling would potentially enable the government to crack down on house parties, particularly with students preparing to start or return to university. 

Making a statement to the Commons on the Bolton situation, Mr Hancock said: ‘Unfortunately after improving for several weeks, we’ve seen a very significant rise in cases in Bolton. 

‘Bolton is up to 120 cases per 100,000 of population, the highest case rate in the country and I’m publishing the data behind the decisions that we’ve taken.

‘I must therefore tell that House that, working with the local council, we’re taking further local action. 

‘The rise in cases in Bolton is partly due to socialising by people in their 20s and 30s, we know this from contact tracing.

‘And through our contacting tracing system we’ve identified a number of pubs at which the virus has spread significantly…

‘We will restrict all hospitality to takeaways-only and we’ll introduce a late-night restriction of operating hours which will mean all venues will be required to close from 10pm to 5am.

‘We’ll introduce urgently further measures that put the current guidance that people cannot socialise outside their household into law.’

He added: ‘Young people do not just spread the virus to each other. They spread the virus to their parent and their grandparents… 

‘I know social distancing can be hard, and how it can be extra-tough for students who will be starting university – but please, stick with it and play your part in getting this virus under control.’ 

The challenge facing the government was underlined today with the director of the test and trace programme admitting that accessing screening was being hampered by problems with lab capacity.

Sarah-Jane Marsh tweeted: ‘Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a COVID test at present. 

‘All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, its our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point. 

‘We are doing all we can to expand quickly.’ 

Mr Johnson and the Cabinet were updated on the Covid-19 response by chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister cautioned that in other countries which had seen an increase in infections this was followed a number of weeks later by a rise in hospitalisations.

‘The PM said that what had taken place elsewhere was that young people had gone on to infect older generations that had become seriously ill, and it was vital to ensure that did not happen here.

‘The Prime Minister said the Government must remain extremely vigilant and ensure that there was no complacency from the public and young people, in particular in following the guidance on how to prevent the virus from spreading.’

Asked about the prospective lowering of the numbers on gatherings, the spokesman said: ‘We are taking the rise in infections which has been reported in recent days extremely seriously.

‘Throughout the pandemic we have kept all of (the) regulations under review and we will not hesitate to act if further steps are needed to protect the NHS and to save lives.’

Mr Johnson is expected to stage a press conference in Downing Street later this week. 

But Tory MP Desmond Swayne said the idea of toughening rules on private gatherings was ‘dreadful and disproportionate’.

‘In Hampshire cases are 6 per 100,000,’ he said. ‘This is enormous intrusion into private life. It is rule by directive.’ 

The government’s deputy chief medical officer said last night that coronavirus must be taken very seriously again or the UK will face ‘a bumpy ride over the next few months’.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the public had ‘relaxed too much’ over the summer and described the rising number of cases as of ‘great concern’, despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying the situation was not ‘out of control’.

Professor Van-Tam issued the warning as Caerphilly in south Wales prepared to be placed under local lockdown and stricter measures were extended in Scotland.

There were a further 2,948 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am yesterday, following the 2,988 reported on Sunday, which was the largest daily figure since May.

In an interview with journalists, Prof Van-Tam said: ‘This is a big change. It’s now consistent over two days and it’s of great concern at this point. 

‘We’ve been able to relax a bit over the summer, the disease levels have been really quite low in the UK through the summer but these latest figures really show us that much as people might like to say ‘oh well it’s gone away’ – this hasn’t gone away.

The Department of Health announced the significant hike in deaths but said it did not include Northern Ireland which is yet to report its figures

The Department of Health announced the significant hike in deaths but said it did not include Northern Ireland which is yet to report its figures

The outbreak as a whole

The more recent surge in cases

Public Health England data show that over the outbreak as a whole infections have been focused on older people (chart left), but the more recent surge has been among younger people (chart right)

Mr Johnson climbs the stairs in the Foreign Office on his way to the gathering of senior ministers this morning

Mr Johnson climbs the stairs in the Foreign Office on his way to the gathering of senior ministers this morning

It was the last Cabinet meeting for Sir Mark Sedwill (pictured centre), who has stood down amid rumours of clashes with No10 chief aide Dominic Cummings

It was the last Cabinet meeting for Sir Mark Sedwill (pictured centre), who has stood down amid rumours of clashes with No10 chief aide Dominic Cummings

The government's chief medical officer urged younger people to 'protect others' amid rising cases of coronavirus

The government’s chief medical officer urged younger people to ‘protect others’ amid rising cases of coronavirus 

Michael Gove walked through Downing Street to get to the Cabinet meeting in the Foreign Office - which has more space for social distancing

Priti Patel today

Michael Gove and Priti Patel were among the ministers at the Cabinet meeting in the Foreign Office today – which has more space for social distancing

Rising Covid cases being driven by young people 

Rising Covid-19 cases are being driven by people in their teens and 20s, where cases have tripled since July, official data shows, while the number of positive tests among older generations has continued to fall. 

MailOnline analysis shows infections have surged from 9.2 to 28 cases per 100,000 since July 4, ‘Super Saturday’, in those aged 20 to 29 in England.

And the case rate has also quadrupled among teenagers – those aged 10 to 19 years old – over July and August, before schools reopened, from 4.1 cases per 100,000 people to 16.2.

At the same time, cases in those over 80 have dropped drastically since the height of the pandemic, when they made up the majority of Covid-19 cases, and have halved since July.

Infections among older people – those who are most likely to get seriously ill or die if they catch the virus – have fallen steadily since lockdown.

Those groups may be more likely to take social distancing rules seriously and to continue staying home to protect themselves because they understand the risks the virus brings, scientists have said. 

While fears grow of a severe second wave of Covid-19 hitting the UK, the fact that most cases are among younger, healthy generations offers reassurance that hospitalisations and deaths will not be a direct result of small spikes.

‘And if we’re not careful, if we don’t take this incredibly seriously from this point in we’re going to have a bumpy ride over the next few months.’

He said that the rise is ‘much more marked’ in the 17-21 age group, but noted there is a ‘more general and creeping geographic trend’ across the UK.

‘People have relaxed too much,’ Prof Van-Tam said. ‘Now is the time for us to re-engage and realise that this is a continuing threat to us.’

Mr Hancock told MPs at a committee hearing earlier today that people needed to take responsibility for their behaviour.

‘There is no inevitability to a second peak,’ he said. ‘It depends on the decisions that all of us take.’ 

Following the lockdown news, the Conservative leader of Bolton Council, councillor David Greenhalgh, said: ‘This is not something we want to do but it is clear the virus is currently moving round the borough uncontrolled and so we need to halt the transmission rate…

‘Be under no illusion, we are in this position due to the irresponsible actions of a few which has led to a position where our rates are at a level where Government had no choice but to take action.’ 

Oxford professor Sir John Bell today urged the government to keep focusing on the economic damage being done by tight restrictions. 

‘The spike in infections reported in the past few days was to be expected as life slowly returns to our streets and workplaces,’ he wrote in the Mail.

‘They are concerning and, yes, we must be prepared for a second wave of Covid-19 while working hard to contain localised outbreaks to prevent it.

‘We must not, however, let this hamper our efforts to return to normality.

‘Much of the increase in infections is among the young, who tend to experience moderate or no symptoms. Crucially, we have not yet seen a jump in hospital admissions or deaths.’

At her daily briefing in Edinburgh today, Nicola Sturgeon said the ‘really unwelcome’ decision to impose more lockdown restrictions on Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire was a ‘proportionate’ response to rising coronavirus cases.

There are now restrictions preventing people meeting in homes in East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, Refrewshire, East Renfrewshire and Glasgow City.

The First Minister said of the restrictions: ‘Overall, I believe that they represent a proportionate and hopefully effective – but also an absolutely necessary – response to a worrying increase in Covid-19 across these areas.

‘The restrictions will be reviewed again next week and they will stay in place for as long as they are needed, but they will not stay in place for any longer than that.’

She said that gatherings in people’s homes were the biggest source of coronavirus spreading in the west of Scotland, rather than the hospitality sector.

She added: ‘They’re also a setting in which older and more vulnerable people are often most at risk of infection because older and more vulnerable people are perhaps more likely to socialise at home, rather than visit pubs and restaurants.

‘As a result, our restrictions focus on meetings in people’s houses.

‘However, we know some transmission is taking place in pubs and restaurants and so we will also keep that under close review.

The latest surge in infection figures means the UK is above its own threshold for imposing quarantine on other countries

The latest surge in infection figures means the UK is above its own threshold for imposing quarantine on other countries

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the public had 'relaxed too much' over the summer and described the rising number of cases as of 'great concern'

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the public had ‘relaxed too much’ over the summer and described the rising number of cases as of ‘great concern’

What are the current rules on gatherings? 

The government’s guidance is that gatherings indoors should involve either a maximum of two households, or up to six people from more households.

However, the legal limit is currently 30.

Above that gatherings can be subject to police enforcement, with fines of up to £10,000 for those who organise events.

Reducing the ceiling would potentially enable the government to crack down on house parties, particularly with students preparing to start or return to university.

The change would not be expected to apply to pubs and other venues, which have ‘Covid Secure’ measures in place. 

‘We’ll discuss with the five local authorities concerned what further steps we can take to ensure that pubs, bars and restaurants are operating in line with the necessary rules.’

In a plea to partying 20-somethings, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘To younger people, please think about your loved ones and to older people be even more vigilant with hygiene and distancing if you’re spending time with young relatives who might have been in pubs and restaurants.’ 

Rising Covid-19 cases are being driven by people in their teens and 20s, where cases have tripled since July, official data shows, while the number of positive tests among older generations has continued to fall. 

MailOnline analysis shows infections have surged from 9.2 to 28 cases per 100,000 since July 4, ‘Super Saturday’, in those aged 20 to 29 in England.

And the case rate has also quadrupled among teenagers – those aged 10 to 19 years old – over July and August, before schools reopened, from 4.1 cases per 100,000 people to 16.2.

At the same time, cases in those over 80 have dropped drastically since the height of the pandemic, when they made up the majority of Covid-19 cases, and have halved since July.

Infections among older people – those who are most likely to get seriously ill or die if they catch the virus – have fallen steadily since lockdown.

Those groups may be more likely to take social distancing rules seriously and to continue staying home to protect themselves because they understand the risks the virus brings, scientists have said. 

While fears grow of a severe second wave of Covid-19 hitting the UK, the fact that most cases are among younger, healthy generations offers reassurance that hospitalisations and deaths will not be a direct result of small spikes.

Health officials are rattled, however, and are warning young people to stop going to parties and large gatherings and to respect the social distancing laws. Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday appeared on Radio 1 to tell youngsters ‘Don’t kill your gran

Mr Johnson said in July that he was hoping for a ‘significant return to normality’ by Christmas.

‘It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest – possibly in time for Christmas,’ he told a Downing Street press conference. 

But John Edmunds, a member of the government’s SAGE scientific group, told ITV’s Robert Peston last night: ‘The epidemic continues to increase and then we have Christmas. 

‘And that is very difficult. What is Christmas? Well it’s meeting with your family very close. Restaurants and pubs and stuff like that. It’s all high risk. And it’s all indoors.’  

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned today that gatherings in people's homes were the biggest source of coronavirus spreading in the west of Scotland, rather than the hospitality sector

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned today that gatherings in people’s homes were the biggest source of coronavirus spreading in the west of Scotland, rather than the hospitality sector

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