Health

UK coronavirus live: 3,105 new cases as Hancock says testing shortage will take weeks to resolve


News updates: UK records another rise in cases in 24 hours; health secretary signals access to testing could be prioritised for those most in need

The two main political stories dominating the agenda at Westminster – and on this blog – are coronavirus and Brexit, but it is not often they converge quite like this.

Ebbsfleet coronavirus testing centre in Kent closed to make way for lorry park for post-Brexit customs checkshttps://t.co/YqKcR0inGQ

The figure on the summary page of the UK government’s coronavirus dashboard for hospital admissions has not been updated since 2 September (because Scotland’s data only comes out weekly) but within the healthcare page there are statistics showing hospital admissions, hospital numbers and mechanical ventilation patients for England are all going up. Here are the key points.

Many people are still sceptical that admissions are still very low. Zooming out a bit, here’s why I’m worried. It took the moving ave 35 days to fall from 119 to 50, and just 11 to increase back from 52 to 118. Another 2 weeks will take us back to June 9th. @ActuarybyDay pic.twitter.com/WaiUxGHZVf

And the UK government has just updated the daily figures on its coronavirus dashboard. Here are the main figures.

There has been one further coronavirus death in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health there has announced in its latest daily update.

Turning back to Brexit for a moment, Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt says Boris Johnson has had a friendly meeting with Sir Bob Neill, the Conservative MP who is tabling a relative amendment that would ensure MPs had a vote on any government decision to use the powers in the internal market bill to override the withdrawal agreement.

Break: Boris Johnson met potential rebel leader Bob Neil and some of his supporters before last night’s Commons vote, raising hopes of a deal in the wake of the government’s warning that it is prepared to break international law on the Brexit withdrawal agreement

I am told that the talks between Bob Neil and Boris Johnson were friendly and productive. No agreement on the table yet and another week until Neil is due to table his amendment. But a source says: the ball is rolling

Welcome surprise among supporters of Bob Neil at the constructive attitude of Boris Johnson which contrasted, some say, with noises that often emanate from No 10 which are seen as hostile to Conservative MPs

Some supporters of Bob Neil picking up a feeling in No 10 that the government’s explanation of the possibility of breaking international law has not been its finest hour. Sounds like Brandon Lewis, who made the admission, has a dwindling fan base

Two interesting explanations doing the rounds for a possible change of heart by Boris Johnson. 1) While the potential rebels may not be able to defeat the government in the commons next week, a strong rebellion would embolden peers who are adamantly against the plan

2) There may be a virtue in Bob Neil plan for govt bc it would mean the controversial clauses could only be invoked by a parliamentary vote and not directly by ministers. That = more difficult to challenge in court. Judges up for challenging ministers, less keen to challenge parl

In the Welsh parliament the Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, asked if figures from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggesting the R number is 1.4 in Wales were correct.

The first minister, Mark Drakeford, said the number was above 1 but he “wouldn’t sign up” to 1.43. He said: “There are whole parts of Wales where numbers are very successfully suppressed”.

Here are the main points from what was said during the Commons UQ (urgent question) to Matt Hancock, the health secretary, on coronavirus.

Have received numerous emails & calls today from constituents with symptoms who are unable to get a test.

This is an absolute shambles. It’s not the world-beating service we were promised. The public deserve answers from the govt who seem pre-occupied with other matters.

How on this very earth has @MattHancock the brass nerve to advise MPs to tell constituents that there are plenty of tests available within an average of 5.8 miles !!

Utter political tosh !! It’s an insult to thoroughly decent people who are very anxious and desperate for help.

The capacity constraint that there is is in the labs rather than the centres. We have the centres available to be able to process a huge amount of tests … but it is in the labs that the constraint is.

Now, we are bringing in more machines, they’re being installed all the time. That is why the capacity is constantly going up. But, nevertheless, clearly we need to keep driving that, because the demand is going up as well.

Everyone in this house knows that we’re doing more testing per head of population than almost any other major nation, and I can update the house that we have now carried out over 20 million tests for coronavirus in this country.

As we expand capacity further, we’re working around the clock to make sure everyone who needs a test can get a test.

“[Some] have been advised that if they put an Aberdeen postcode into the system, they can get a test in Twickenham. And they have succeeded,” says Lib Dem MP Munira Wilson

Health Secretary Matt Hancock says people should “not game the system”https://t.co/HsEitzkAKh pic.twitter.com/HjhpYFEnXH

Honestly, staggering that MPs are lining up in the House of Commons staying residents from all over the country are being offered tests in Oldham… bar people who actually in Oldham! pic.twitter.com/ffKtgyKtzd

Also the population of Sweden followed some guidance that wasn’t enforced by law more closely than has been the case in almost any other country in the world.

I absolutely keep an open mind on all of these things and we constantly are looking at the evidence and the data and updating policy accordingly.

NHS England has recorded a further 14 coronavirus hospital deaths. The people who died were aged between 62 and 94 and they all had underlying health conditions. The full details are here.

Almost nine in 10 pupils have attended schools in England since their full reopening this month, government figures show. Around 92% of state schools were fully open on Thursday 10 September , and approximately 88% of students were back in class on the same day, the Department for Education analysis suggests.

There have been a further 110 cases of Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 19,681. 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.

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the No 10 spokesman also claimed that the Salisbury convention – a non-statutory but widely respected rule saying the House of Lords does not vote down policies in a governing party’s election manifesto – applies to the internal market bill. The spokesman said:

We would expect the Lords to abide by the Salisbury convention.

Guaranteeing the full economic benefit of leaving the EU to all parts of the United Kingdom and ensuring Northern Ireland’s businesses and producers enjoy unfettered access to the rest of the UK were clear Conservative manifesto commitments which this legislation delivers.

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the No 10 spokesman adopted the same line as Priti Patel (see 10.43am) when asked about people not being able to get coronavirus tests in particular areas. The spokesman said:

We would say that it is wrong to say that testing is not available in these areas. Our capacity continues to be targeted to where it is most needed, which is why booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for people with symptoms.

Laboratories that analyse swabs from people in the community, including care homes, were stretched to capacity even in late August, unable to process all the Covid test samples coming in and seeking help from the NHS, the Guardian can reveal. My colleague Sarah Boseley has the full story here.

Related: Private labs unable to process all Covid tests, NHS email reveals

Jason McCartney (Con) asks about parents in his constituency would could not get tests. He urges Hancock, “before we talk about the moon”, to get more testing available locally.

Hancock says that, as well as focusing on local testing, they do need to develop new technologies, so that these problems can be addressed in the long term.

Alicia Kearns (Con) asks Hancock if he will support her campaign for partners to be allowed to support pregnant women at all stage of labour.

Hancock says he will. He congratulates Kearns – hesitating when he says he does not know if her pregnancy is public knowledge. It is now, he says. (He seems to have had an assurance that it was.)

Hancock says he is “optimistic” about the chances of rapid-result testing becoming available. He says he is optimistic about lots of things. He needs to be in this job, he says.

Addressing the Speaker, Hancock also acknowledges that Sir Lindsay Hoyle has raised his own concerns about testing. (See 11.12am.) Hancock suggests it was legitimate for Hoyle to raise this.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams asks Hancock to make sure that directors of public health are getting timely information about infections. Hancock says he will do this. He says he is working on “innovative solutions” to make this data sharing work better.

Hancock says the problems are caused by processing capacity in laboratories. But more machines are being brought in all the time to address this, he says.

Here is another extract from the opening statement from Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, at the start of the UQ.

We are at a perilous moment.

Imperial College estimates the virus is doubling every seven to eight days.

Andrew Selous (Con) asks if the UK can learn from what happened in Sweden.

Hancock says he has looked closely at Sweden. He says in Sweden people followed social distancing guidance more closely than in many other places, even though the rules did not require that.

Back in the Commons Hancock says the case rate in Cornwall has stayed very low, even though many holidaymakers visited the county during the summer. He pays tribute to people in Cornwall for taking steps to keep people Covid secure.

From the BBC’s Evan Davis

Search data suggests that on Sept 3rd, we started asking the internet whether “a sore throat is a Covid symptom” in rapidly increasing numbers. Not sure what scale of the phenomenon is, but I suspect a lot of people have colds right now. pic.twitter.com/F0YJ1AsC1G

Here is the clip of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, telling the BBC that testing is “actually a government success”.

“The testing issue is actually a government success,” says Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg

“I think it’s going as well as could possibly be expected, considering the demand”

Hospital bosses have warned that a lack of tests for staff is leading to absenceshttps://t.co/F4bwbtRMYU pic.twitter.com/IjphVuRX2Z

Tim Farron (Lib Dem) says there is a “terrifying” backlog for cancer treatment. Hde says, even working at 135% capacity, it would take six months to clear this.

Hancock says he feels very strongly about this. He will look at any ideas proposed to speed this up.

In his response to Hancock earlier, Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary asked why the government did not foresee a rise in infections. He added:

When schools reopen and people return to workplaces and social distancing becomes harder infections rise.

So extra demand on the system was inevitable, so why didn’t he use the summer to significantly expand NHS lab capacity and fix contact tracing?

Tim Loughton, a Conservative, says he is getting many reports of children being turned away from school if they have the sniffles. He says testing is not at a record high in his constituency.

Hancock says, when schools go back, children often get a normal cold. That is contributing to the increase in demand.

On the government’s “moonshot” plan, Hancock says there are no plans to carry out 10m tests per day. But the government does want to get testing into the millions.

(This is misleading. Whether or not it is an official target, the 10m tests per day figure was clearly set out in leaked official documents about the project reported by the Guardian.)

Labour’s Stephanie Peacock asks if Hancock will apologise to a constituent in Barnsley who could not get a test.

Hancock says more than 600 people in Barnsley did get a test yesterday. He asks Peacock to provide details of this case.

Stephen Crabb, a Conservative, asks about the rule of six. Wouldn’t it be better to have one rule for the whole of the UK? And can children be exempt from the way the rule works in England?

Hancock says the government is keeping the issue of children under review. But they were included to keep the rule simple.

More from what Matt Hancock has been telling the Commons

Matt Hancock says the testing backlog is less than one day’s testing capacity.

One day’s capacity is 370,000 tests.

Isn’t that actually a rather large backlog? https://t.co/9wpD3xff1a

Matt Hancock says people should not be gaming the system by putting different postcodes in to try and get tested even if the portal says they can’t. MPs claim this is possible and currently happening.

Matt Hancock says more than 9,000 tests were processed from top 10 Covid hotspots in England yesterday. That does little to help people trying and failing to get tested in these areas. This was the message when trying to book a Bolton test this morning: pic.twitter.com/KuyKkPZ79n

This is what Hancock said in his opening statement about needing to prioritise people for testing.

We’ve seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible.

And throughout this pandemic we have prioritised testing according to need. Over the summer, when demand was low, we were able to meet all requirements for testing, whether priorities or not.

Jeremy Hunt, the chair of the Commons health committee, said a week ago Hancock said it would take two weeks to sort out these delays. He asked if Hancock still thought he would be able to sort this out within a week from now.

Hancock said that he thought this could be sorted out within a matter of weeks. He told Hunt:

Well I think that we will be able to solve this problem in a matter of weeks and in his own constituency yesterday 194 people got their tests. So we are managing to deliver record capacity, but as he well knows demand is also high and the response to that is to make sure we have prioritisation so the people who most need it can get the tests that they need.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is responding to the urgent question on coronavirus now.

He starts by saying cases are going up around the world. France and Spain are recording more than 10,000 cases daily. And the UK had 2,600 new cases daily.

Nicola Sturgeon revealed that she had a “constructive” conference call with Matt Hancock and Dido Harding yesterday evening, after raising urgent concerns with the UK government about significant delays getting Covid test results from the UK’s rapid testing centre.

At her daily briefing, the Scottish first minister said that she had “sought assurances that Scotland will continue to get fair access to UK wide testing capacity” and that her government would continue to monitor the situation.

In his speech to the TUC virtual conference, delivered from his home, where he has been self-isolating, Sir Keir Starmer said the unavailability of tests was “completely unacceptable”. He said:

Yesterday, my family were able to get a test quickly when we needed one.

But only because my wife works for the NHS in a hospital that provides tests for staff and their families.

Doctors have told the government it needs to be honest with the public about the scale of the NHS backlog caused by the pandemic and provide the cash needed to deal with it. As PA Media reports, delegates attending the British Medical Association’s annual representative meeting passed a motion calling on the union to work with the government to develop a public information campaign on the NHS backlog and likely timescale for returning to normal services.

The motion also called for the union to demand adequate funding for the NHS to increase its capacity to address the backlog of planned care.

We have a situation where more than 3 million people in England alone are waiting for elective procedures, with many more left in limbo not knowing when they are likely to be seen for what can often be painful and distressing conditions.

Doctors are naturally deeply concerned about these patients, and the government has a duty to the public to be honest about the scale of the backlog and how long it will take to clear – informed by the experiences of clinicians on the ground.

From the BBC’s Chris Mason

NEW: The Leader of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg — who recently had to self isolate — has said the testing programme in England is going “as well as could possibility be expected considering the demand.”

Sir Lindsay Hoyle is not the only MP using Twitter to flag up the problems his constituents are having getting coronavirus tests. (See 11.12am.) Here are some Labour MPs who have also been speaking out.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is due in the Commons shortly, where he will have to address these complaints.

I’m being contacted by an increasing number of constituents, many of whom are very vulnerable, who are unable to get a COVID test.

The Government has to explain why this has happened and when it will be fixed. I will be contacting @MattHancock to get answers for my constituents

And I’ve got constituents with sick kids being told there are no tests in Bristol and sending them to Abercynon tonight. https://t.co/45mkXMzSkm

My letter to @MattHancock and @GavinWilliamson on behalf of frustrated constituents, parents and Heads struggling to get a #CoronavirusTest. Vital this shortfall is addressed as a matter of urgency. pic.twitter.com/WwsjgFipVs

People across Salford and GM still stuggling to access Covid tests. Schools reporting cases, care homes seeing outbreaks and infection rates rising. It’s critical Gov ramps up testing resources urgently. Easing lockdown rested on test,track,trace and isolate, we haven’t got that! pic.twitter.com/dJu3RMm9yD

I’ve had a flood of complaints from Cambridge residents struggling to access #COVID19 tests locally, some being directed as far as Birmingham for a test.

This incompetence is far from the promised ‘world-beating’ test & trace system. Govt must get a grip. https://t.co/OUC2q7kWpt

I’m told people have turned up for their test appointments today at Abercynon and been told they’ve run out of tests and “hope” to have a delivery at 1230. It feels like chaos. @MattHancock can you sort it?

Children in my constituency have been denied tests over the last week. The Government said that it wants to prioritise testing because there isn’t enough capacity, but it can’t even get that right. Far from world beating, the testing regime is failing. https://t.co/WihwmUwKSO

William Hague has written a powerful column (paywall) in today’s Daily Telegraph criticising Boris Johnson’s internal market bill. Hague, a former Conservative party leader and former foreign secretary, says passing a law that would deliberately abrogate an international treaty would be a “serious foreign policy error” that would “have a lasting and damaging effect on our international reputation and standing, diminishing our ability to exert our influence and protect our interests”.

The whole article is about the value of international law. Here are some extracts.

In the four years I spent at the Foreign Office, I doubt there was a single day that I did not rely on international law – the body of treaties, conventions and agreements that we and other nations have signed over the years – in some shape or form. Every time we ask for consular access to a British national held in a foreign prison we are basing our argument on international law, as Dominic Raab has done in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, held in Iran. Every day that we seek fair treatment for a British company with operations overseas against unfair taxation, or confiscation of assets, or discriminatory exclusion from a domestic market, we refer to international law ….

So international law is not some abstract concept that only comes up occasionally. It matters to British people every hour of every day …

Boris Johnson’s government is right to protect integrity of UK. For the full FT article read here: Internal Market Bill | Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP – Member of Parliament for Chingford and Woodford Green https://t.co/dSPWXivf7B

Dominic Cummings was pictured with an archive letter from one of the leading figures of the US missile and space programmes as he entered Downing Street, PA Media reports.

The document, from former US air force general Bernard Schriever, appears to rail against the “blizzard of legislation” around defence procurement and accused the system of “inhibiting technological innovation”.

This morning Priti Patel, the home secretary, told the Today programme that if two families of four were to stop for a chat when they met in the street, that would constitute “mingling”, which is illegal under the rule of six legislation. (See 10.27am.)

But the human rights barrister Adam Wagner says she’s wrong. He explains why here.

On @BBCr4today @pritipatel was asked if a family of 4 stoping and chatting with another family of 4 on the way to the park was “mingling” which was banned.

She suggested it was – people listening will think ‘mingling’ on the way to the park is banned.

This is *wrong* [thread]

The ban on mingling has a specific context and definitely does *not* apply to two families meeting on the way to the park.

It is about events organised by charities/businesses/public authorities where ‘qualifying groups’ (households up to 6) must not mingle with each other /2 pic.twitter.com/pxj71Xs0L3

People walking to the park must not form a ‘gathering’ of more than 6. But that has a different definition

A gathering is where people are “present together… in order to engage in any form of social interaction…”

I doubt people accidentally bumping into each other… /3 pic.twitter.com/KxkEsSISTR

…. saying ‘hi’ would meet that definition as they are not there ‘in order’ to socially engage, they have bumped into each other unintentionally.

There is no definition of “mingling” though Patel offered one as “people coming together”. That is probably wrong – too wide /4

You can read the full regulation 5 here: https://t.co/vdoJuvu5Xl

It is really disappointing that the Minister who signed these regulations into law doesn’t understand them herself. The government should urgently correct her /5 pic.twitter.com/HVHKGbpLUS

This is what happens when you draft criminal laws in secret, spring them on country 20 minutes (yes really) before they come into force, make them increasingly complex and unworkable. Reg 5 (gatherings) has ballooned from 850 to over 2,000 words – PM said it was “simplifying” /6

“Sometimes I think the Welsh government cares more about the union than the UK government does” … there is “absolutely no trust” left between the UK and Scottish governments … this morning the devolved administrations continued to hammer home their profound concerns about the UK internal market bill, both in terms of specific policy implications and its impact on the concept of devolution.

Giving evidence to the Commons future relationship with the EU committee, Jeremy Miles, the Welsh consul general, and Mike Russell, Holyrood’s Brexit secretary, told MPs they had been excluded from discussions about what they argue are far-reaching changes to the devolution settlement contained in the bill.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, has joined MPs speaking out about the unavailability of coronavirus tests. He says that he is receiving “numerous complaints” and that the current situation is “completely unacceptable”.

I am receiving numerous complaints from residents unable to book a test after displaying Covid symptoms. This is completely unacceptable and totally undermines track and trace so I have raised my concerns with Ministers to push for action to be taken as a matter of urgency.

Migrants who have crossed the Channel in small boats are to be housed in military barracks while their asylum claims are processed, PA Media reports. Around 400 people including families are to be housed in temporary accommodation at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, from next week. They are understood to include migrants who have crossed to the UK in small boats. A barracks in Pembrokeshire, Wales, is also being considered for use by the Home Office, the PA Media reports.

The head of the British Medical Association has urged the government to produce a test-and-trace system that is “fit for purpose”. In an extract from a speech being delivered at today’s BMA annual meeting, its chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, says:

The government is now shooting for the moon promising to deliver mass continuous testing with a test that doesn’t yet exist at a cost nearly as much as the total NHS budget.

Down here on planet Earth, we need a fit-for-purpose test-and-trace system in the here and now with capacity, agility and accessibility that doesn’t require 100-mile journeys that disadvantage some of the most vulnerable.

In an interview on BBC Breakfast Priti Patel, the home secretary, claimed it was “wrong to say” that there were no tests available. When asked about the shortage of tests, she said:

Tests are available, you’ve heard me say, particularly in local lockdown areas, I’ve seen this myself, I’ve seen the teams that have been working on this.

Mobile testing is going in, capacity is going into local areas where lockdowns have been undertaken and are taking place.

Related: People in England’s 10 worst-hit Covid-19 hotspots unable to get tests

Two families of four stopping for a chat in the street would contravene England’s “rule of six” coronavirus restrictions and constitute mingling, Priti Patel, the home secretary, has said. My colleague Alexandra Topping has the full story here.

Related: Two families of four chatting in the street would break England’s Covid laws, Patel says

Prof Alan McNally, the director of the institute of microbiology and infection at the University of Birmingham, who helped set up the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab, told BBC Breakfast there were “clearly underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about” in relation to why people cannot get coronavirus tests.

He said he had heard from friends working in labs that there were no issues with things such as access to reagents. He went on:

The labs are still fully staffed, they are still churning through huge amounts of samples per day – the same number as they were a couple of months ago – so there are problems elsewhere in the chain.

Clearly what we have now is some underlying issues that no one wants to tell us about …

I think the testing situation of Birmingham is the exact same as we’re hearing in other parts of the country … lots of people struggling to get tests and no real quantity of information on why that’s the case.

I think this is multi-factorial. I think you almost have a perfect storm of events that have come together to almost essentially crash the testing system.

Only 1% of deaths in England and Wales in the week ending 4 September involved coronavirus, according to the latest weekly death statistics from the Office for National Statistics. Of the 7,739 deaths registered that week, 78 had Covid mentioned on the death certificate. That is the lowest number of Covid deaths in the last 25 weeks, the ONS says.

Overall deaths in the week ending 4 September were also 15.7% below the five-year average for this time of year, the report says.

The personal data of every Welsh resident who tested positive for Covid-19 between the end of February and 30 August was accidentally uploaded to a public server, where it was searchable by anyone using the site.

Public Health Wales said the data breach, involving the details of 18,105 people, was the result of “individual human error”.

In the light of Sir John Bell’s comment about how the second wave has arrived (see 9.20am), it is worth flagging up the last graph from the government’s coronavirus dashboard showing the pattern for new cases. It was only published at about 6.30pm yesterday, later than usual.

Good morning. Boris Johnson won his first vote on the internal market bill very easily last night, but the morning papers won’t bring him much comfort because several are focusing on the coronavirus testing crisis, with large numbers of people continuing to report that they cannot get a test.

Tuesday’s Metro:
“No trace of a test”
 #BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/JgjEJ8E9Gq

Tuesday’s Telegraph:
“Crisis in hospitals with health workers unable to access tests”
 #BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/ddyiW5mgYR

Tuesday’s Times:
“Virus tests run out as labs struggle with demand”
#BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/WWCI4k0FxI

I think what’s going wrong is the second wave. A month ago they had spare capacity in testing – significant spare capacity – but I think what has been underestimated was the speed at which the second wave would arrive, but also the pressure put on the system from children returning to school, and the testing demands associated with that, and people increasingly out and about.

So, I think they are definitely behind the curve in terms of getting the necessary tests for what we need today.

This will get worse because of course we haven’t hit winter yet – we haven’t all started to sniffle, get fevers, get colds, and that’s going to add additional confusion to the problem. The demand will go up. The real question is whether they can get supply in a position where it can outpace demand, and that’s the challenge at the moment.

Part of the problem here is that the government isn’t being as open as trusts would like about how big this problem is, how widespread it is, and how long it’s going to last. So, it’s difficult to get full information.

Governments, when they get operational problems like this, face a choice, which is do they try and politically communicate their way out of them – say, for example, ‘look how many million tests we’ve done’, or ‘we’re going to do a very ambitious moonshot next year’ – or do they calmly and soberly explain the appropriate detail of what’s going on, and in doing that help and support those organisations … who are trying to deal with these problems. And I suppose there’s a pretty clear view from our trust leaders that they really want rather less of the former and rather more of the latter.

Related: Coronavirus live news: global cases near 30m as India’s death toll passes 80,000

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