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Hotspots should get priority testing – mayor

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said those with a postcode in areas with the highest rates of coronavirus should be given priority when booking a coronavirus test.

He said: “On testing, we do need the Government to prioritise areas with the highest numbers of cases for bookings through the national system.”

Mr Burnham added: “What we have here are systems which are not sufficiently attuned to the needs of local communities, systems that don’t prioritise areas of greatest need for testing to available capacity.”

He said tests had still been taking place in Greater Manchester this week but probably at a reduced capacity and there was increased demand.


Test and Trace is failing Greater Manchester, says mayor

Speaking during his weekly online press conference, mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said police community support officers and fire staff would be called on to help with contact tracing as the national Test and Trace system was failing to reach 46 per cent of named contacts in the area.

He said: “Test, trace and isolate is not working well enough for Greater Manchester at the moment and we have only a small number of weeks to fix it before we go into the really tough time which lies ahead in the autumn and into the winter.”

Mr Burnham added: “We have agreements from Greater Manchester Police and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to mobilise a number of police community support officers and fire safety staff to focus their efforts on contacting the contacts that are currently not being reached in Greater Manchester by the national system.”

He also called on businesses to give employees permission and financial support to self-isolate if asked to do so by the NHS Test and Trace system and said a self-isolation support service was being set up by the Greater Manchester Growth Company.


Hospital deaths up by 11 in England:

A further 11 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England.

This brings the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals to 29,687, NHS England reported this lunchtime.

Patients were aged between 69 and 98 and all had known underlying health conditions.

The dates of the deaths were between September 11 and September 15, with the majority on September 14.

Five other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.


The latest figures for Wales are in:

There have been a further 199 cases of Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 19,880.

Public Health Wales said no further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,597.


Cases, and hospital admissions, are on the up…


World update:

Study hints antibody drug may cut Covid-19 hospitalisations


A drug company says that partial results from a study testing an antibody drug hint that it may help mild to moderately ill coronavirus patients from needing to be hospitalised.

This is a goal no current coronavirus medicine has been able to meet.

Eli Lilly announced the results in a press release today, but they have not been published or reviewed by independent scientists.

The company said it would talk with regulators about possible next steps but that it was too soon to speculate on whether interim results might lead to any action to allow early use.

“I’m strongly encouraged” by the results, said Dr Myron Cohen, a University of North Carolina virologist.

He had no role in the Lilly study but helps direct antibody studies for a public-private research group the federal government formed to speed testing of these drugs.

“This seems to demonstrate what we thought” — that such drugs would give a benefit, he said.

The drugs that Lilly and other companies are testing are concentrated versions of specific antibodies that worked best against the coronavirus in lab and animal tests, and can be made in large, standardised doses.

They are being tested to treat newly diagnosed Covid-19 patients in hope of preventing serious disease or death, and to try to prevent infection in people at high risk of that such as nursing home residents and health workers.

Lilly has already started manufacturing its antibody drug, hoping to have hundreds of thousands of doses ready by autumn if studies give positive results.



A hospital boss in Bolton has urged people to stay away from its accident and emergency unit unless strictly necessary after nearly 100 turned up to request Covid-19 tests.

The plea came as admissions of patients with coronavirus increased over the weekend and the infection rate across the borough – the highest by far in England – continued to rise sharply.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, which is based at the Royal Bolton Hospital in Farnworth, said on Tuesday morning there were three coronavirus patients in critical care and a total of 20 on wards.

It added an increased number of patients under 65 are being admitted, with some in their 40s and 50s.

The trust’s medical director, Dr Francis Andrews, said: “We are seeing more people being admitted with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 as a result of the very high rate of infections in Bolton. This is not a shift we want to see.

“The situation at the hospital is under control and we were well prepared for this.

“However, the rate continuing to rise is of concern and we continue to urge the people of Bolton to consider others when making decisions that could jeopardise their safety.”

He added: “We are extremely busy in our emergency department as a result of this increase.

“Only attend this department if you have experienced a life-threatening accident or illness and need urgent medical attention.”


Teachers and kids to be given testing priority 

Robert Halfon MP, Tory chairman of the Commons Education Committee, said he understood schools would be included in the Government’s list of priority groups for who should be first in line for Covid-19 tests.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on Tuesday that tests would need to be rationed due to the current strain on the system.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, Mr Halfon said: “As I understand it, schools will be on the priority list.

“Also, the Government, the Department for Education need to make a decision – are we going to risk damaging the life chances of our children still further?

“We have got to do everything possible to keep our schools open.”

Mr Halfon has called for schools to have access to coronavirus tests within 48 hours, explaining: “If we don’t do this, we won’t just have over 300 schools partially closed or fully closed as we have at the moment, we could have a lot more.”


This graph shows how hospital admissions have steadily crept up in the UK since July:


More on that lockdown announcement for Wales:

Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru member of the Senedd for the Rhondda, said the local lockdown was “disappointing but not a surprise”.

“This was something we feared would happen due to the increase in transmission rates,” she said.

“I urge everyone to follow the guidance on social distancing, washing hands and only meeting other households outdoors.

“Wearing face masks inside shops is also essential. I also urge everyone who is contacted by Track and Trace to co-operate fully so we can shut this virus down.

“The sooner we get this under control, the sooner we can ease restrictions and the safer our loved ones will be.”


Here’s Sir Keir Starmer’s reaction to his deputy’s performance at today’s PMQs:



NHS and social care staff are being urged to “do their bit” and have a flu jab as the health service ramps up its preparations for winter.

In a letter to all frontline workers in England, leaders including Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, and NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said it was “now more important than ever that we act to protect ourselves, our teams, our families and patients from getting flu”.

NHS chiefs want staff to have their annual free flu jab as soon as possible, as the first vaccine deliveries start to reach local employers this week.

Social care workers are also eligible to get a free flu vaccination from a GP or pharmacist, with pharmacists also visiting care homes to vaccinate staff.

The letter pointed to the fact seasonal flu and Covid-19 will be circulating at the same time this winter, adding: “We strongly urge you to take up the offer of free vaccination against flu as soon as possible; and to remind your patients to get their vaccine.”

Flu virus spreads from person to person “even amongst those not showing any symptoms”, while also contributing to staff sickness rates, it added.

“As we all know, flu can have serious and even fatal consequences, especially for our most vulnerable patients, such as young children, pregnant women and the elderly.

“Therefore, vaccination of healthcare workers is a critical part of the NHS’s flu prevention strategy.”


Sports update: BREAKING

Ten Football League clubs will be permitted to admit spectators, at a capacity of 1,000, into matches this weekend as part of the ongoing fans pilot programme, the English Football League has announced.


PM continues to be tested on testing…

Labour MP for Cardiff South, Stephen Doughty, quizzed Boris Johnson on testing “rationing”.

He told the Commons: “It is clear the problems originate, not in Wales, but with the UK testing and online system which has led to rationing, chaos and confusion, and all the while the virus spreads further.”

“This should have been seen coming months ago,” he added.

“The Prime Minister is incompetent and he hasn’t got control of this. When is he going to get a grip?”

Mr Johnson replied: “Once again the opposition is at risk of undermining the colossal work of NHS test and trace.”

He added that the Government is “continuing to improve the system the whole time”.


Another set of job casualties here:


Meanwhile… Middlesborough steps up Covid fight

Every household in Middlesbrough will be given free masks with information leaflets as the elected mayor steps up its fight against coronavirus.

The town is on the Government register as an area of concern and the independent mayor Andy Preston is in the process of updating residents with 65,000 leaflets.

Re-usable face coverings will be handed out alongside the leaflets to help people follow the latest guidance.

People have been repeatedly warned that lockdown measures could return to some or all of the borough if the local infection rate is not halted.

Mr Preston said: “We always knew there was a risk of new infections with the easing of lockdown, but it’s what we do next that really matters.

“New cases are rising at worrying levels in Middlesbrough and the Government is now watching our situation closely – but we can turn the tide if we work together.

“Any new lockdown will seriously damage jobs and mental health, so we need to act now.

“The information in this leaflet – and the face coverings we’re giving out for free – couldn’t be more important, so I’m urging everyone to play their part.”


What about weddings?

Tory MP Gagan Mohindra asked the PM if he was open to changing the current 30-person limit on weddings in favour of a “fairer system”.

Mr Mohindra suggested that if venues were allowed to operate at a proportion of their normal capacity – say 50 per cent – they would be able to “bounce back” and keep staff.

In reply, Mr Johnson said he understood and appreciated the concerns raised by businesses facing restrictions, adding: “The trouble is that in all these things there is an increase in the risk involved, an increase in the risk of contagion and we simply have to balance that risk with what we’re seeing now in the spread of the virus.

“So I must reluctantly say to (Mr Mohindra) that we will work as fast as possible to get our whole economy open, to take all these restrictions off.”

Mr Johnson said the best way to achieve this is for the country to work together to enforce social distancing, obey the rules, and take a test if they have symptoms.


What about support for ailing air travel?

Boris Johnson said he would “certainly look at” air passenger duty reforms but added it would be wrong of him to “make any fiscal commitment at this stage”.

His remarks came after Conservative Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) warned smaller airports face closure unless they receive support.

Mr Double asked: “Could (Mr Johnson) please ensure our regional airports get all the help that they need, whether that’s through grants, the Government backing more public service obligation routes and would he carefully look at reducing air passenger duty – particularly on domestic flights?”

The Prime Minister replied: “Yes, I can tell (Mr Double)… we will continue to consider applications for public service obligations on routes such as into Newquay and elsewhere, and we will certainly look at air passenger duty though it’d be wrong of me to make any fiscal commitment at this stage.”


Government will ‘creatively’ continue to ‘put arms around’ UK workforce – PM

Boris Johnson insisted the Government would act with “maximum creativity” to support jobs when pressed by Labour MP Rachael Maskell (York Central) to extend the furlough scheme in a reformed and targeted way to help thousands of workers.

The Prime Minister replied in the Commons: “We need to get people off furlough and into work and that is what this Government is doing.”

He listed schemes to help keep people in work, adding: “We will continue to apply the maximum creativity as we have in putting our arms around the workforce of the UK.”