Top story: Virus not going to disappear, Fauci warns
Hello and good morning from me, Warren Murray. Hopefully you are settled into a comfortable position – or a comfortable stride. Here is the news to start your Wednesday.
Eight million people with underlying health conditions should be exempted from plans to get Britain back to work and normal life, according to scientists who warn that easing lockdown too quickly could propel the Covid-19 death toll to 73,000 this year. Union leaders have voiced concerns over Boris Johnson’s exhortations to people to return to work from today if their jobs can’t be done from home. Whether to “stay alert” or “stay home” is a different story from today depending on where you live in the UK, with devolved administrations diverging from the central government’s plans for lifting the lockdown.
As many as 6,000 children around the world could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months due to the impact of coronavirus on routine health services, such as family planning, childbirth, postnatal care and vaccination, Unicef has warned. This is in addition to the 2.5 million children who die globally every six months before their fifth birthday, and threatens to reverse nearly a decade of progress on ending preventable child deaths.
Brazil and Mexico have both seen deaths from Covid-19 spike sharply on their deadliest days yet. The US remains by far the worst-affected country and now has almost one-third of the world’s 4.26m cases, and a national death tally of 82,339. Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top public health expert, has warned in Senate testimony via videoconference that the country’s coronavirus death toll is under-counted and “the consequences could be really serious” if America relaxes safeguards too abruptly.
“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control. Not only leading to some suffering and death, but it could even set you back on the road to economic recovery.” Fauci said America might be headed in the right direction but this did not mean the pandemic was under control. And as Trump has claimed more than once, is the virus going to disappear? “That is just not going to happen,” said Fauci, who has headed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
There’s more in our Coronavirus Extra section further down … and here’s where you can find all our coverage of the outbreak – from breaking news to factchecks and advice.
Pension changes wreck health – Women in lower-grade occupations forced to work up to six years longer because of changes to the state pension age are a third more likely to suffer debilitating and potentially permanent depression, as well as higher rates of health problems, according to a paper by academics at King’s College London. “We know that worsening mental health will lead to higher healthcare costs, higher use of disability benefits and greater use of health services. Worsening mental health also leads to lower economic productivity and reduced ability to participate in life,” said Dr Ludovico Carrino, co-author of the research paper. Almost 4 million women born in the 1950s lost their pensions when the pension age was raised from 60 to 66 between 2010 and 2018. The BackTo60 campaign took the government to court last year and lost but is appealing the verdict.
> At least five experienced surfers have drowned after going into the sea in stormy weather off the coast of The Hague. Their lives were lost in thick foam whipped up by wind and waves that hampered rescue efforts. Authorities fear more victims after the coast guard picked up more surfboards than victims.
> The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is due in Israel today to discuss US-backed plans to annex Palestinian land. France, Ireland and Belgium are reportedly considering economic retaliation if Israel breaks international law by unilaterally claiming sovereignty over land it occupies.
> Georgia is investigating the prosecutors who first handled the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was killed while out jogging. Gregory and Travis McMichael were charged with murder last week, more than two months after Arbery was shot.
> Volunteers spending their lockdown poring over aerial surveys of the Cornwall and Devon borders have spotted 30 previously unknown Roman settlements believed to date from between 300BC and AD300, as well as more than 20 miles of Roman road. And so far they have only studied a tenth of the material available.
Wind power ramp-up – Britain’s biggest green energy companies are working on multibillion-pound wind farm investments across the north-east of England and Scotland to help power a cleaner economic recovery. Scottish Power will revamp Hagshaw Hill, Scotland’s oldest commercial wind farm, as part of a £150m scheme to develop a clean energy cluster capable of supplying 100,000 homes. Separately, SSE and Equinor plan to use the Port of Tyne to host the operations base for the world’s largest offshore wind development, the £9bn Dogger Bank project.
‘Hormones are raging’ – Teenagers can be hard to handle, now it turns out the same is true for adolescent dogs, with researchers saying they become less responsive to instructions. They looked at German shepherds, golden retrievers, labrador retrievers or crosses of the breeds, which start puberty at about six to nine months old. Dr Lucy Asher, co-author of the research at Newcastle University, said adolescent dogs may “play up” to test the strength of the bond with their owner. Asher said she hoped the findings would help address the spike in owners taking their dogs to shelters at that age: “The hormones are raging and there are things going on in the brain,” she said.
Do we need more than one vaccine? Hannah Devlin speaks to Prof Andrew Pollard about the work being done by different teams around the world to create a vaccine for Covid-19, and where his team at Oxford University fit into this international effort.
As the coronavirus continues to kill thousands each day, tech companies are seizing the opportunity to extend their reach and power, writes Naomi Klein.
And Twitter has announced that employees will be able to work from home “forever” since it has been so successful.
Today in Focus podcast: Biggest slump in 300 years?
As the chancellor announces plans to extend the unprecedented scheme to pay the wages of millions of workers, whole sectors of the economy remain shut because of Covid-19, causing a recession unseen in Britain for centuries. Larry Elliott explains what it will mean.
Lunchtime read: Hong Kong – it isn’t over
On Friday, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) hosted alarming scenes as pro-Beijing legislators protected by security took control of a committee chair, seeking to pass a controversial law that would criminalise disrespect of the national anthem. Violent confrontation and a weekend of flash mobs followed. It recalled 2019 when protests against an extradition bill sparked months of massive demonstrations that evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement that promises to kick on this year.
Covid-19 may have intervened but analysts say the stakes are rising again, with September elections looming at which pro-democracy candidates could win a majority. In recent weeks the Beijing government’s senior regional representatives have made extraordinary interventions: claiming Hong Kong’s constitutional bar on Chinese interference does not apply to them; labelling protesters a virus that must be eradicated; and demanding enactment of security laws that would target Hong Kong’s independence movement. After almost a year of Beijing’s escalating anger, a growing sense of impunity among police and a still-dangerous pandemic, the rules of engagement are being redrawn, writes Helen Davidson.
The Premier League will attempt to show that players will be safer at club training grounds than they would be at home when they host a pivotal conference call this afternoon. The LTA has issued guidance to nearly 5,000 tennis clubs across the country with lockdown set to ease today, as golf clubs also work hard to welcome back players. The England and Wales Cricket Board is also expected to deliver guidelines on reopening some parts of club and recreational cricket, possibly as early as Wednesday. Sebastian Vettel’s impending departure from Ferrari has dramatically reopened the drivers’ market, with even Mercedes admitting his availability changes the dynamic. And the W Series is strongly placed to ride out the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak even if it is unable to race this year, according to the chief executive of the all-female racing championship, Catherine Bond Muir.
More retailers will be forced to close down and lay off staff after consumer spending saw the biggest monthly drop since records began 25 years ago, industry leaders have warned. Shares in Asia fell overnight thanks to renewed concern about the possible negative impact of a second wave of Covid-19 infections across the world. The FTSE100 is accordingly looking at a drop of more than 1% while the pound is on $1.226 and €1.13.
The Guardian’s front-page picture belongs to a terrible story: that of Belly Mujinga, a railway ticket officer in London, who died of Covid-19 after being spat on by a man who said he had the virus. She had respiratory problems and asked for PPE but did not receive it. A spokeswoman for Govia Thameslink said government advice at the time of the incident was that “PPE for our staff was not required”. The TSSA union has reported the case to the Railway Inspectorate and called for families of all frontline workers to receive the same £60,000 payments given to survivors of health and care workers who die in the pandemic.
Our print edition’s lead story confirms the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of October. The i greets that news with “No summer cliff edge for 7.5m workers” and the Express likes it too, calling it a “Sigh of relief for millions”. The FT says Rishi Sunak’s announcement “cheers businesses and unions”. “Rishi goes bails out” says the Sun, a bit nonsensically.
The Mail notes the pros and cons. “You CAN move house … you CAN’T move abroad”. The Telegraph counts the beans: “Treasury says virus to cost £300bn as it warns of tax rises and pay freeze”. The Metro calculates 40,000 is “our true death toll” rather than the official figure of 32,692. The Times says the property ladder is being dusted off – “Housing market kick-started” – as viewings are permitted to resume.
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