Coronavirus news – live: Senior Tory hits out over repeated Boris Johnson U-turns, as fears grow …

A senior Conservative has warned that the prime minister’s U-turns are creating a “climate of uncertainty”, making it “increasingly difficult” for MPs to defend government policy.

Charles Walker, deputy chair of the 1922 Committee, told the Observer: “Too often it looks like this government licks its finger and sticks it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. This is not a sustainable way to approach the business of governing and government.”

Meanwhile, a higher education union has said that universities could become the “care homes of the second wave of Covid-19”. The University and College Union (UCU) says the government and universities are risking public health by pushing on with plans to fully reopen campuses.

Follow the latest updates live:

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Labour and Conservatives tied in latest poll

The Tories and Labour are neck and neck in a new opinion poll.

The snapshot survey by Opinium puts both parties on 40 per cent each when it comes to voting intentions.

It marks the first time the Conservatives have not been ahead of Labour in an Opinium survey for 13 months.

Nearly half of voters, 47 per cent, disapprove of the government’s handling of coronavirus, compared to less than a third, 31 per cent, who approve, according to the poll.

With English schools reopening next week, 63 per cent of parents with school age children say it is safe for primary schools to do so. And 60 per cent back pupils returning to secondary schools.

But pupils aged 14-15 appear most concerned about returning to class as 45 per cent of parents with children in this age group say their child is worried, against to 48 per cent who say they are not.

More than half of adults surveyed, 52 per cent, support making face masks compulsory for children in school, with 22 per cent neither supporting nor opposing, and 19% against such a move.

Samuel Lovett30 August 2020 10:55

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Gavin Williamson has pleaded with parents to send their children back to school despite mounting criticism of the government’s plans for the start of the new academic year, reports Peter Stubley.

In an open letter, the under-fire education secretary insisted that children’s health and wellbeing was threatened more by being kept at home than by the “extremely low” risk posed by .

He also claimed that “huge lengths had been taken” to prepare schools for teaching during the pandemic – even though the official guidance on how to deal with new outbreaks and local lockdowns was only published on Friday night.

Teaching unions said the new advice should have been issued “months ago” while Labour described the timing of the announcement as unfair and insulting to staff.

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Samuel Lovett30 August 2020 10:40

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Australia and New Zealand tread cautiously as coronavirus lingers

New coronavirus cases in Australia’s state of Victoria returned to the triple digits on Sunday, while neighbouring New Zealand said it would ease curbs slightly in its largest city, hit by a resurgence of infections.

Southeastern Victoria reported 114 new cases, a day after the daily tally fell to 94, its lowest in nearly two months. Its capital, Melbourne, is four weeks into a six-week hard lockdown that authorities have said may ease only gradually.

“At 100, 94, at 114, whatever the number, we simply could not open up,” state premier Daniel Andrews told a televised briefing.

The nation of 25 million has suffered about 25,600 infections and just over 600 deaths since the start of the year.

Australia’s closest neighbour, New Zealand, reported two new virus cases on Sunday, taking its tally of infections to 1,378, while the death toll stands at 22.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said curbs in Auckland would be eased from Monday, but would be tightened again if needed.

Limits will stay on public gatherings and movement in Auckland, however, with masks made mandatory nationwide from Monday.

Samuel Lovett30 August 2020 10:25

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Treasury officials ‘pushing for tax hikes’

Treasury officials in Britain are pushing for tax hikes to plug holes blown in public finances by the coronavirus pandemic, according to reports.

Such hikes will enable the exchequer to raise at least £20bn a year, and some could be introduced in the November budget, the Sunday Telegraph said.

The Sunday Times newspaper said officials were drawing up plans for a £30bn “tax raid” on the wealthy, businesses, pensions and foreign aid.

In its budget, the government also plans to raise both capital gains tax and corporation tax, the Sunday Times added.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering a proposal to boost corporation tax to 24 per cent from 19 per cent, a move that would raise 12 billion pounds next year, rising to 17 billion in 2023-24, the paper said.

UK’s economic recovery from the shock of the pandemic has gathered pace, data showed this month, but government borrowing has exceeded two trillion pounds and fears of future job losses are mounting.

The economy still faces a long recovery after shrinking by a record 20 per cent in the second quarter, the largest decline of any major country.

Samuel Lovett30 August 2020 10:10

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US networks struggle to fill fall TV slots after coronavirus shutdowns

Reality shows, re-runs and revivals make up most of the television menu this fall as America’s top four broadcasters grapple to fill holes in their schedules caused by coronavirus production shutdowns. 

Most scripted dramas, including popular shows like “This Is Us” and “9-1-1,” will not be available until November or later, while the “Star Trek: Discovery” series that has been behind a paywall for three years will get a run on free-to-view CBS, the networks announced this week.

Samuel Lovett30 August 2020 09:55

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The UK is facing up to 50,000 unnecessary deaths because Boris Johnson’s government “consciously allowed” coronavirus to spread, a former chief scientific adviser has said, reports political editor Andrew Woodcock.

Sir David King described the official response to the pandemic as a “complete cock-up by government”, driven in part by a desire to maintain secrecy around the scientific advice it was receiving.

In an interview with Red Pepper magazine, the first part of which is published today, Professor King said he founded the Independent Sage group of scientific experts to inform the public about because of the “complete mess” of the official response in the first months of the outbreak.

And in the second part of the interview, due for publication on Wednesday, he claimed: “The prime minister believed in the herd immunity programme … The prime minister said, ‘We have to be prepared for losing some of our loved ones, every one of us has to be prepared.’

“So, there was that expectation. They consciously allowed the disease to spread.”

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Samuel Lovett30 August 2020 09:40

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Russia’s infection tally climbs to near 1 million

Russia reported 4,980 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, pushing its confirmed national tally up to 990,326.

Authorities said 68 people had died of over the last 24 hours, raising the official death toll to 17,093.

Samuel Lovett30 August 2020 09:25

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Health experts decry Trump’s shunning of virus rules

Public health experts expressed concern Friday about president ’s largely mask-free, socially un-distanced Republican convention event on the White House lawn, saying some of his 1,500 guests may have inadvertently brought and spread the coronavirus to others.

“There almost certainly were individuals there who were infected with but don’t know it,” said Dr Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University.

“I worry about these individuals infecting one another and most certainly going back to their home,” said Dr Wen, who previously served as Baltimore’s health commissioner.

Mr Trump delivered his speech accepting the GOP presidential nomination at the Thursday night event, which continued a pattern of flouting coronavirus safety guidelines.

Few in the audience wore masks when virtually all leading public health professionals, including the administration’s, say face coverings play a big part in slowing virus transmission.

Public health officials also expressed concern over a march in Washington on Friday to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The size of the event had been scaled back because of coronavirus concerns.

Samuel Lovett30 August 2020 09:10

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Germany’s confirmed cases continue to grow

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 785 to 241,771, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday.

The reported death toll rose by six to 9,295, the tally showed. 

Samuel Lovett30 August 2020 08:55

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Influencers paid taxpayer funds to promote struggling test and trace scheme  

The government has admitted to paying social media influencers and reality TV stars to promote the NHS Test and Trace system as it failed to reach its 80 per cent target for the ninth week in a row.

A spokesman said the government had a responsibility to “use every means possible” to keep the public informed during the pandemic.

He said: “Our use of social media influencers has meant over 7 million people have been reached. This is just one part of a wider campaign utilising TV, radio, social, print and other advertisements to ensure the public has the information it needs.”

It comes as the Sunday Mirror reported Love Island stars Shaughna Phillips, Chris Hughes and Josh Denzel were among those paid by the Cabinet Office to tell their online followers testing for was “free, quick and vital to stop the spread”.

But Ms Phillips and Mr Hughes have also both posted images online in the last month which showed them failing to socially distance from others on Mediterranean islands.

The Mirror cited a social media expert as saying the stars would usually command between £5,000 and £10,000 for an ad post.

The government’s spokesman said: “All costs involved in the campaign will be published as part of the regular transparency reports on gov.uk.”

Samuel Lovett30 August 2020 08:40

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