Councils can BULLDOZE contaminated homes and as a last resort to stop second wave of coronavirus 

Councils can BULLDOZE contaminated homes and crush cars as a last resort under new laws to stop second wave of coronavirus

  • Boris Johnson remains determined to avoid a second nationwide lockdown
  • Councils able to draw on laws to impose lightning closures of public buildings
  • As last resort the 1984 Control of Disease Act allows for building demolition

Councils and public health officials have the power to demolish buildings and even homes infected with coronavirus, it has emerged. 

As a last resort for preventing the spread of the disease, powers granted to local authorities – with the permission of a magistrate – could see anything from a car to a train destroyed.

The revelation comes as Boris Johnson remains determined to avoid a second nationwide lockdown at all costs, and has chosen to empower councils to properly enforce localised lockdowns. 

 Councils and public health officials have the power to demolish buildings and even homes infected with coronavirus , it has emerged

In the recently published COVID-19 contain framework guide, local decision making related to the disease is placed in the hands of Directors of Public Health, supported by council chief executives. 

The document makes reference to several pieces of legislation they can call upon, including the Health Protection Regulations 2020, which passed in July, which can force business premises to close and also restrict events. 

Among the most powerful laws councils could take advantage of is the Public Health (Control of Disease Act) 1984, giving the power to destroy buildings.

As a last resort for preventing the spread of the disease, powers granted to local authorities - with the permission of a magistrate - could see anything from a car to a train destroyed (stock photo)

As a last resort for preventing the spread of the disease, powers granted to local authorities – with the permission of a magistrate – could see anything from a car to a train destroyed (stock photo)

The law says: ‘Local authorities can make an application to a Justice of the Peace in the Magistrates’ Court to impose restrictions or requirements to close contaminated premises; close public spaces in the area of the local authority; detain a conveyance or movable structure; disinfect or decontaminate premises; or order that a building, conveyance or structure be destroyed.’

This could mean factories or care homes which were the locations of super-spreading events could be destroyed as a last resort if councils do not believe they are safe environments.

The rest of the legislation stretches from the Food Safety Act 1990 to The Health Protection (Local Authority Powers) Regulations 2010.

On top of these powers, local authorities may also seek support from ministers to close or limit schools to set year groups attendance, to cancel or place restrictions on organised events or gatherings, or to close premises.

ROSS CLARK: Workshy Whitehall is wrecking the recovery 

This week we were meant to witness the great return to work, following Boris Johnson‘s plea for the country to get back to the office and fire up our beleaguered economy.

City centres, it was hoped, would be buzzing again as white-collar workers returned to their desks for the first time in five months, buying coffees and lunchtime sandwiches, transforming our city centres from ghost towns to something resembling normality.

And who better to set an example than the 430,000 civil servants whose job, after all, is to put Government policy into effect?

Yet an investigation by the Mail has shown that Whitehall workers are among the worst offenders when it comes to failing to get back to work.

At many government departments, the number of workers back behind their desks on Monday was down on the already pitiful figures in evidence last week.

City centres, it was hoped, would be buzzing again as white-collar workers returned to their desks for the first time in five months. Pictured, workers in the Square Mile on Monday

At the 800,000sq ft Home Office, for example, just 94 people turned up – some 50 fewer than bothered to arrive last Wednesday.

At the Department for Education – which should be working flat-out to get children back to school next month – just two dozen staff arrived, compared to 34 last Thursday (when some showed up dressed in shorts and surfing tops).

Over at the Treasury, 112 workers showed up on Monday, down from an average of 140 last week. (One source told the Mail that there was ‘basically no one in apart from Rishi [Sunak, the Chancellor]’.)

Even with new social distancing policies, many civil servants appear too frightened to step across the threshold. 

It doesn’t take a cynic to suspect that many may be using the virus as an excuse to work from home indefinitely. 

If they were as productive at home, the situation might be more excusable. But that does not seem to be the case. 

Last week, the Home Office admitted to a shameful backlog of 400,000 passport applications – a tragedy for countless families hoping for a holiday abroad.

Motorists, meanwhile, have reported waiting months for a driving licence or to register a new vehicle. 

An investigation by the Mail has shown that Whitehall workers are among the worst offenders when it comes to failing to get back to work. Pictured, people enjoying the warm weather in St James' Park on Monday

An investigation by the Mail has shown that Whitehall workers are among the worst offenders when it comes to failing to get back to work. Pictured, people enjoying the warm weather in St James’ Park on Monday

Last week, disgracefully, Mark Serwotka – the general secretary of the 200,000 strong Public and Communication Services Union – threatened ‘serious industrial unrest’ if any pressure was put on civil servants to return to their desks.

So much for the ‘Blitz spirit’ that we were repeatedly told characterised Britain’s early reaction to the crisis.

Little wonder therefore that increasing numbers of people agree with the Prime Minister and his svengali Dominic Cummings that the Civil Service – huge, unaccountable and expensive – is in desperate need of reform.

That said, Boris has hardly helped his cause by ceaselessly talking up fears of a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus that will devastate Europe in the coming months.

Yes, there has been an uptick in recorded cases in Spain, but this is partly a product of increased testing. And, importantly, there has been a negligible increase in deaths.

In Britain, the current overall death rate is below the seasonal average, while ONS data shows the number of Covid deaths in the week to July 24 was the lowest in 18 weeks, at just 217. So why the emotive language about a ‘second wave’?

The virus hasn't gone away. But it is high time that office workers stopped hiding on their sofas and returned to their desks. Pictures, a panoramic view of London

The virus hasn’t gone away. But it is high time that office workers stopped hiding on their sofas and returned to their desks. Pictures, a panoramic view of London

Efforts to get us back to work are also being frustrated by relentlessly pessimistic reporting – led by the BBC. 

Yesterday’s edition of Radio 4’s Today programme was a classic example, leading with dire reports of a study claiming that Britain could be facing a second spike this winter which would be twice as high as the first peak.

The paper, from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was a highly speculative piece of modelling, examining what might happen if schools are fully reopened and the ‘test and trace’ system proved inadequate.

You would have thought that, after the failure of predictions from the likes of Imperial College’s Professor Neil Ferguson, the BBC might have learnt to take such modelling with a pinch of salt.

Commuters at Canary Wharf in central London yesterday. While the BBC consistently pounces on any pessimistic forecast it can find, data that presents a less depressing outlook often goes unreported

Commuters at Canary Wharf in central London yesterday. While the BBC consistently pounces on any pessimistic forecast it can find, data that presents a less depressing outlook often goes unreported

Like Ferguson’s model, this paper made questionable assumptions such as suggesting that children and teenagers spread Covid-19 at half the rate adults do.

Yet data from Iceland failed to find a single instance of a child passing the disease on to a parent.

While the BBC consistently pounces on any pessimistic forecast it can find, data that presents a less depressing outlook often goes unreported.

Now, with the threat of joblessness, pronounced recession, higher taxes and deteriorating public services, the priority must be for the country to go back to economic normality.

The virus hasn’t gone away. But it is high time that office workers stopped hiding on their sofas and returned to their desks.

And if that is to happen, the civil servants must lead from the front. 

Minister ‘tried to get Boris Johnson to back Charlie Elphicke’

Cabinet minister ‘tried to lobby Boris Johnson to back Charlie Elphicke after he was charged with sexual assault’, source claims

  • He allegedly tried to get members of the Cabinet to raise his case with the PM
  • The PM was said to be ‘initially sympathetic’ but was warned not to intervene
  • Elphicke was convicted of three counts of sexual assault against two women

A cabinet minister attempted to lobby Boris Johnson on behalf of disgraced former Tory MP Charlie Elphicke after he was charged with sexual assault, it was claimed last night.

Elphicke, who represented Dover from 2010 until last year, is understood to have asked ministers to help him.

In November 2019, having been charged in July that year after 20 months of police investigation, he allegedly tried to convince members of the Cabinet to raise his case with the PM.

Elphicke (pictured), who represented Dover from 2010 until last year, is understood to have asked ministers to help him

One Cabinet minister reportedly lobbied Mr Johnson, telling him: ‘We should do something, Prime Minister, to help Charlie.’ 

The PM was said to be ‘initially sympathetic’ but was warned not to intervene by another Cabinet minister and so did not, it was reported.

Elphicke was last week convicted of three counts of sexual assault against two women in 2007 and 2016. 

He is due to be sentenced later this year and could face jail.

‘Charlie went around saying that he had no idea why he was being investigated, so in a way there was a legitimate case for why people felt that he was being unfairly treated,’ a source told The Guardian. 

‘He successfully lobbied one of Boris [Johnson’s] Cabinet ministers, who raised it and said: “We should do something, Prime Minister, to help Charlie.”’

The revelation raises fresh questions about how senior Conservatives handled Elphicke’s case when he was under criminal investigation, and the extent to which MPs continued to support him.

Elphicke lost the Tory whip in 2017 when the allegations were referred to the police, but was reinstated in December 2018 before a vote of confidence in the then-prime minister, Theresa May.

Tory MPs, particularly women, felt unease when Elphicke and Andrew Griffiths, a colleague who had the whip removed after being accused of sexually inappropriate conduct, were welcomed back into the fold, The Guardian reported.

‘There was a lot of thumping of tables with fists and I remember just looking across at another woman with a frozen look,’ one Conservative who attended a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs in December 2018 told the paper.

Griffiths, who sent lewd text messages to two young women, was cleared of wrongdoing by the parliamentary standards watchdog in September last year.

The Cabinet Office and No 10 were contacted for a response.

Trade documents ‘stolen from Liam Fox by Russian hackers’ 

Secret UK trade documents used by then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to attack the Government were stolen by Russian hackers from the email account of former international trade secretary Liam Fox, it was reported today.

The Department of International Trade documents on post-Brexit trade talks with the US were brandished by the hard Left MP at a press conference in November, days before he led his party to a catastrophic vote defeat at the hands of Boris Johnson.

The Reuters news agency today cited sources who said they  were taken from the email of Dr Fox, who had been removed from his post by Boris Johnson the previous July.  

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a criminal investigation is underway, said the hackers accessed the account multiple times between July 12 and October 21 last year.

The account was said to have been the victim of a ‘spear phishing’ message, where users are tricked into handing over their log-in details and password. 

They declined to name which Russian group or organisation they believed was responsible, but said the attack bore the hallmarks of a state-backed operation.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment today. 

The Department of International Trade documents were brandished by the hard Left MP at a press conference in November days before he led his party to a catastrophic vote defeat at the hands of Boris Johnson 

The Reuters news agency today cited sources who said they were taken from the email of Mr Fox, who was removed from his post by Boris Johnson the previous July

The Reuters news agency today cited sources who said they were taken from the email of Mr Fox, who was removed from his post by Boris Johnson the previous July

Among the stolen information were six tranches of documents detailing British trade negotiations with the United States, which Reuters first reported last year were leaked and disseminated online by a Russian disinformation campaign.

British foreign minister Dominic Raab confirmed that report last month, saying that ‘Russian actors’ had sought to interfere in the election ‘through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents’.

Reuters was not able to determine which of Mr Fox’s email accounts was hacked and when it was first compromised. It is not clear if Mr Fox, who is still an MP but stood down as trade minister on July 24 last year in a cabinet reshuffle, was a minister at the time.

On November 27 last year Mr Corbyn staged a stunt claiming to reveal the sensitive documents about US-UK trade talks, as he fought of attacks over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

The documents date from 2018, well before Boris Johnson was PM, and only includes officials rather than ministers. 

The unredacted versions were also shared on Reddit for months before the conference, and were even tweeted by a Labour MEP five days previously without attracting any attention.

Mr Fox’s replacement, Liz Truss, is currently in the US for talks with Donald Trump’s administration. 

She is scheduled to meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday and Tuesday, his office said. 

A British government spokeswoman said today: ‘There is an ongoing criminal investigation into how the documents were acquired, and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this point.’

She added that the government had ‘very robust systems in place to protect the IT systems of officials and staff.’

Representatives for Fox declined to comment on the details of Reuters findings.

The hack of Fox’s account – which has not been previously reported – and subsequent leak of the classified documents ahead of last year’s election is one of the most direct examples of suspected Russian attempts to meddle in British politics.

In the past, Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations of election meddling in Britain, France, the United States and other countries. Russia’s foreign ministry described the latest British accusations by Raab as ‘foggy and contradictory’.

A British parliamentary report released last month found that Moscow had tried to influence a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, and that Britain’s government had failed to adequately investigate possible Russian attempts to sway the 2016 vote on Brexit.

Fox’s email account was hacked using a so-called ‘spear phishing’ message, which tricks the target into handing over their password and login details, the sources said.

The sources said it was not clear if the hackers who stole the trade documents were the same people who later leaked them online.

After first being posted online by an anonymous internet user in the run-up to last year’s vote, the stolen documents were seized on by Britain’s opposition Labour Party during the election campaign.

It said they showed a government plot to sell the much-loved National Health Service to the United States, an accusation Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly denied.

Sadiq Khan furious at ‘plans to quarantine London inside M25’

No10 today refused to rule out effectively sealing off London if coronavirus cases spike as Sadiq Khan accused Boris Johnson of ‘riding roughshod’ over the city’s best interests.

The Mayor of London has written to the PM to voice ‘great surprise’ at suggestions a quarantine zone could be created within the M25, complaining that it has been 12 weeks since he was invited to a Cobra meeting and the lack of consultation is ‘unacceptable’.

Mr Johnson held a ‘war game’ session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week to run through possible options as fears mount over a second peak in the disease.

Measures considered included lockdown-like conditions for London, with the M25 acting as a barrier around the capital, according to the Times.

Downing Street said the government’s ‘Contain’ strategy set out that restrictions can be imposed on transport links ‘if there is an area that is particularly badly affected’. But the PM’s spokesman said that was not only a possibility for London – as any location could be subject to similar curbs.

It comes as the UK today recorded its most coronavirus infections in six weeks, after 938 people were diagnosed with the life-threatening disease in 24 hours. Not since June 27 – a week before pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas opened on ‘Super Saturday’ – have daily cases been so high.

In other developments today:

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock has dismissed ‘inaccurate’ claims that all over-50s could be ordered to shield if the situation deteriorates; 
  • The coronavirus R rate could be as high as 1.1 in the North West of England, scientists say as separate data revealed infections have doubled in a week in locked-down parts of Greater Manchester;
  • The government has launched its ‘eat out to help out’ scheme with 50 per cent discounts to encourage people to support restaurants; 
  • A top scientist has condemned the ‘shroud of secrecy’ around government decision-making on coronavirus; 
  • Civil servants are rebelling against Mr Johnson’s call for them to return to offices amid concerns about the risk of infection; 
  • New 90-minute saliva tests have been unveiled and hailed as a ‘game-changer’ by ministers. 

A map of London shows the weekly infection rates — how many cases were diagnosed for every 100,000 people between July 25 and 31 — across the capital’s 32 boroughs. For comparison, the highest rate in London is in Hackney and the City of London (19.4), making it the fifteenth worst-hit area of England and behind seven of ten boroughs in Greater Manchester, which was last week hit by tough new lockdown measures to control soaring coronavirus cases

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (pictured last month) has written to the PM to voice 'great surprise' at suggestions the capital could be effectively sealed off if there is a spike in coronavirus infections

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (pictured last month) has written to the PM to voice ‘great surprise’ at suggestions the capital could be effectively sealed off if there is a spike in coronavirus infections

Mr Khan said it was 'totally unacceptable' that contingency plans were being discussed without his knowledge

Mr Khan said it was ‘totally unacceptable’ that contingency plans were being discussed without his knowledge

Top scientist slams ‘shroud of secrecy’ over Covid decisions 

A top scientist has slammed the ‘shroud of secrecy’ around the government’s coronavirus decisions – as civil servants rebel over Boris Johnson‘s call for people to return to offices.

Sir Paul Nurse, chief of the Francis Crick Institute, raised concerns that crucial choices seemed to be made by a ‘black box’ in Whitehall with the results sometimes ‘shambolic’. 

He insisted more transparency and scrutiny was needed to get the ‘best results’.

The intervention came as the government faces a fresh backlash about mixed messaging. Treasury subsidies for eating out at restaurants are launched today, and advice that everyone should work from home is being downgraded.

However, there are also mounting rumours about tightening coronavirus rules in some areas, with fears of a looming second wave.

Civil servants have complained they are being used as guinea pigs for the return to offices, with claims of more cases at the heart of government over the past fortnight.

A letter sent to Mr Johnson from Mr Khan and chair of London Councils, Peter John, said: ‘It is with great surprise that we read in the Sunday papers that Government held a critical exercise last week in which a major resurgence in Covid-19 infections in London was a central scenario.

‘According to media reports, the plans included using the M25 as a quarantine ring – effectively sealing off the city.

‘Our surprise is that such far-reaching contingency plans have been discussed and tested without the involvement or awareness of London’s government.

‘This is clearly totally unacceptable and an affront to London and Londoners.’

The letter also said the Government has been slow to take decisions or has taken the wrong decisions ‘time and again throughout this crisis’, adding: ‘This must stop.

‘Riding roughshod over democratically elected representatives who understand their communities better than central Government will lead to worse outcomes for Londoners, and the country as a whole.’

In a tweet, Mr Khan said: ‘Excluding local leaders in this way won’t help us control the virus and must stop now.’

Downing Street said the ability to impose travel restrictions had been set out in its strategy for preventing the spread of coronavirus but denied it was a plan specifically drawn up for the capital. 

The ‘Contain’ strategy sets out ‘the possibility of putting in place restrictions on travel if there is an area that is particularly badly affected’. 

‘One of the steps within that potentially includes closing down local transport networks,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said. 

‘It’s there, it’s contained in the document, it’s not a new thing – we have informed the public and politicians of that being a potential action that we could take. 

CORONAVIRUS R RATE COULD BE AS HIGH AS 1.1 IN THE NORTH WEST 

The coronavirus reproduction rate could be as high as 1.1 in the North West of England, according to figures released today — as separate data revealed infections have doubled in a week in locked-down parts of Greater Manchester.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine estimate the ‘R’ level has risen well above the danger zone in the North West, where 4.5million people were put under tough new lockdown measures last week because of a spike in cases. 

The R – which represents the average number of people an infected Covid-19 patient passes the disease to – must stay below 1 or the virus will start to grow exponentially.

The data, compiled by the university’s Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases, suggests cases in the region could double in 56 days if the R rate is not squashed. 

But the estimates are slightly out of date due to a lag in the way the reproduction rate is calculated, meaning they only go up to July 18. Any effect last week’s lockdown might’ve had on the R value won’t show up in the figures for several weeks.

Separate worrying figures published by Public Health England today show that infection rates increased in nine out of 10 boroughs in Manchester between July 22 and 29, two days before the new rules were introduced. 

Rochdale was the only place where cases were not on the rise but infections have now also started to dip in Wigan and Bolton after a weekend of lockdown measures.

Oldham, the second worst affected borough in England, saw 148 cases over the week — taking its rate from 41.6 to 62.8 cases per 100,000 people. Rates in both the City of Manchester and Tameside have more than doubled in seven days.

‘But, to be clear, it’s not something that is specific to London or anywhere else.’ 

Meanwhile, a top scientist has slammed the ‘shroud of secrecy’ around the government’s coronavirus decisions.

Sir Paul Nurse, chief of the Francis Crick Institute, raised concerns that crucial choices seemed to be made by a ‘black box’ in Whitehall with the results sometimes ‘shambolic’. 

He insisted more transparency and scrutiny was needed to get the ‘best results’.

The intervention came as the government faces a fresh backlash about mixed messaging. Treasury subsidies for eating out at restaurants are launched today, and advice that everyone should work from home is being downgraded.

However, there are also mounting rumours about tightening coronavirus rules in some areas, with fears of a looming second wave.

Civil servants have complained they are being used as guinea pigs for the return to offices, with claims of more cases at the heart of government over the past fortnight.

A leading expert today hit out at the ‘rash’ move to put 4.5million people in the North West under tough new lockdown measures because of a spike in coronavirus cases.

Ministers last week announced people from different homes in Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire would be banned from meeting each other inside their homes or in gardens following a spike in cases.

But Professor Carl Heneghan, director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, claimed Covid-19 cases aren’t actually rising — despite government figures showing an upwards trend. 

He said the rising infection rates are down to more people being tested and warned of inaccuracies in the data, telling the Daily Telegraph: ‘The northern lockdown was a rash decision.

‘Where’s the rise? By date of test through July there’s no change if you factor in all the increased testing that’s going on.’

He warned there was a rise in detected cases because of more targeted testing in areas such as Oldham, the second-worst hit borough in the country with 55.2 cases for every 100,000 people in the past week.

Boris Johnson (pictured today) held a 'war game' session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to run through possible options if there is a second coronavirus peak

Boris Johnson (pictured today) held a ‘war game’ session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to run through possible options if there is a second coronavirus peak

Tube journeys are 75% down on the day Boris urges Britons to return to work: Trains are far from full as workers ignore pleas to get back to their desks 

London Underground journeys are still down by 75 per cent on last year as workers ignored the government’s drive to get back to work today.

Just 240,000 trips were made on the Tube during this morning’s rush hour to 10am, which marks a six per cent increase on last week.

Passengers, some still not wearing face coverings, had plenty of space for social distancing as a few took the Jubilee Line into the city centre.

Boris Johnson had heralded today – the first Monday in August – as the day ‘work from home’ guidance ends and Britain should return to the office.

But almost five in six office employees will continue to stay at home despite the desperate drive to reignite the economy.

Commuters sat on the Tube on their phones and read the newspaper this morning, with plenty of spare seats and only a few travellers forced to stand.

It is a world away from the usual jostle for a position at rush hour, when thousands of weary Londoners cram into all available spaces in the carriages.

On a typical morning before the coronavirus struck, about 1,124,825 would take the London Underground between 4am and 10am.

But during the pandemic this plummeted by up to 90 per cent, with just 109,306 taking the network on the morning of May 29. MailOnline has contacted Transport for London for today’s figures. 

Liverpool Street Station in central London looks bare today as few passengers take to public transport to get back to the office

Liverpool Street Station in central London looks bare today as few passengers take to public transport to get back to the office

A woman scratches her head as she walks down a gangway from a train as she gets into Liverpool Street Station in central London

A woman scratches her head as she walks down a gangway from a train as she gets into Liverpool Street Station in central London

The Tube today
The Tube last week

Left: Today. Right: Last week. The London Underground remained quiet at rush hour this morning despite the PM saying ‘work from home’ is over

Passengers, some still not wearing face coverings (pictured), had plenty of space for social distancing as a few took the Jubilee Line into the city centre

A few passengers leave the train at Liverpool Street Station this morning as they head to work in the city centre

A few passengers leave the train at Liverpool Street Station this morning as they head to work in the city centre 

Desolate trains are parked at Liverpool Street Station in London which was devoid of commuters at rush hour today

Desolate trains are parked at Liverpool Street Station in London which was devoid of commuters at rush hour today

Boris Johnson had heralded today – the first Monday in August – as the day 'work from home' guidance ends and Britain should return to the office. But rush hour was quiet

Boris Johnson had heralded today – the first Monday in August – as the day ‘work from home’ guidance ends and Britain should return to the office. But rush hour was quiet

London traffic data from TomTom shows congestion at rush hour this morning stood at just 22 per cent, down from 26 per cent last week and 52 per cent last year.

But Apple mobility trends, which is only available up to Saturday, suggests there are more people driving in London – up 10 per cent – while walking and transit are down 11 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.

A Mail audit of 30 of Britain’s biggest firms, representing 320,000 employees, found just 17 per cent of office-based staff would travel to work this week.

The PM said Britons could go back to the workplace at the ‘discretion’ of their employers and would no longer be advised to stay away from public transport.

But many businesses are not planning for most workers to return to offices until at least towards the end of the year, while the likes of Facebook and bank RBS said staff will not go back until 2021.

Coronavirus R-rate in the North West may now be as high as 1.1 as figures show cases have DOUBLED in some parts of locked-down Greater Manchester and officials declare a ‘major incident’

The coronavirus reproduction rate could be as high as 1.1 in the North West of England, according to figures released today – as separate data revealed infections have doubled in a week in locked-down parts of Greater Manchester. 

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine estimate the ‘R’ level has risen well above the danger zone in the North West, where 4.5million people were put under tough new lockdown measures last week because of a spike in cases. The R – which represents the average number of people an infected Covid-19 patient passes the disease to – must stay below 1 or the virus will start to grow exponentially. 

The data, compiled by the university’s Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases, suggests cases in the region could double in 56 days if the R rate is not squashed. But the estimates are slightly out of date due to a lag in the way the reproduction rate is calculated, meaning they only go up to July 18. Any effect last week’s lockdown might’ve had on the R value won’t show up in the figures for several weeks.

Separate worrying figures published by Public Health England today show that infection rates increased in nine out of 10 boroughs in Manchester between July 22 and 29, two days before the new rules were introduced. Rochdale was the only place where cases were not on the rise but infections have now also started to dip in Wigan and Bolton after a weekend of lockdown measures.

Oldham, the second worst affected borough in England, saw 148 cases over the week — taking its rate from 41.6 to 62.8 cases per 100,000 people. Rates in both the City of Manchester and Tameside have more than doubled in seven days. 

Local public health officials who were privy to the PHE data declared a ‘major incident’  in Greater Manchester over the weekend due to the rapidly escalating transmission rates. The alert level is normally reserved for major floods or terror attacks.  

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine estimate that the R rate has crept to 1.1 in the North West of England

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine estimate that the R rate has crept to 1.1 in the North West of England

This graph shows the number of infections across Greater Manchester from July 1 to July 29, two days before the new lockdown measures were reintroduced

This graph shows the number of infections across Greater Manchester from July 1 to July 29, two days before the new lockdown measures were reintroduced

Revellers in Manchester on Saturday night did not follow social distancing measures despite the rise in cases

Revellers in Manchester on Saturday night did not follow social distancing measures despite the rise in cases  

HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE AFFECTED BY THE NEW RULES? 

Greater Manchester (including City of Manchester, Trafford, Stockport, Oldham, Bury, Wigan, Bolton, Tameside, Rochdale and Salford):  2,835,686

Blackburn with Darwen: 149,696

Burnley: 88,920

Hyndburn: 81,043

Pendle: 92,112

Rossendale: 71,482

Bradford: 539,776

Calderdale: 211,455

Kirklees: 439,787

Total: 4,509,957

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham told the Manchester Evening News that the figures ‘underline the need for caution and to follow the guidance. 

All 2.8million residents in Greater Manchester were banned from meeting anyone from different households inside their homes or in gardens, in a drastic move that was announced with just three hours’ notice last Friday.

The ban, also applied to parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire, extended to pubs and restaurants — but those businesses are permitted to remain open for people visiting individually or from the same household. 

But young people are still flocking to packed pubs, with large groups of friends gathering at busy nightspots on Saturday. 

Ministers have been urged to encourage youngsters to abide by the rules, which are designed to halt the spread of the virus and give the economy chance to recover. 

Meanwhile, mounting fears of a second wave last week prompted Boris Johnson to announce he was ‘squeezing the brake pedal’ on lifting coronavirus restrictions still throttling some sectors of UK business. 

Officials have drawn up radical plans that could see millions of people — including over-50s — asked to stay at home, if the virus does strike again. 

And two new game-changing tests will be offered to millions of Britons in a major advance in the war on coronavirus as the government looks to avert a second wave and restart the stalled economy, which experts fear face a ‘long and precarious’ recovery. 

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine calculated the R rate for all regions in the UK by drawing on figures from Public Health England, the NHS and Office for National Statistics to get aggregate case data. 

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine calculated the R rate for all regions in the UK by drawing on figures from Public Health England, the NHS and Office for National Statistics to aggregate case data

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine calculated the R rate for all regions in the UK by drawing on figures from Public Health England, the NHS and Office for National Statistics to aggregate case data

They believe the reproduction rate - the average number of people an infected patient passes the disease to - is at 1 in the West Midlands and Yorkshire

 They believe the reproduction rate – the average number of people an infected patient passes the disease to – is at 1 in the West Midlands and Yorkshire

The R in the East Midlands is still just under 1, according to the estimates, but it is hovering at the danger zone in London

The R in the East Midlands is still just under 1, according to the estimates, but it is hovering at the danger zone in London

After escaping the first epidemic relatively unscathed, the South East has also seen its R creep up to 1, the researchers say

After escaping the first epidemic relatively unscathed, the South East has also seen its R creep up to 1, the researchers say

TWO NEW COVID TESTS THAT GIVE RESULTS IN 90 MINUTES TO BE OFFERED TO BRITS  

Two new game-changing tests will be offered to millions of Britons in a major advance in the war on coronavirus.

Hailed as ‘transformative’, the tests – which give results in 90 minutes – will start being rolled out from next week. 

One is so simple it could soon be deployed in airports, offices, schools, pubs and restaurants – bringing testing to the bulk of the population.

The companies involved would not reveal the cost but claim it is similar or cheaper to current tests – which are around £18 privately but less to the NHS.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night described the move as ‘lifesaving’ as the Government looks to avert a second wave of the disease, prevent the need for draconian lockdowns and restart the stalled economy.

The two tests will initially be introduced in the NHS and care homes before being made available more widely over the next few months.

Unlike current tests given mainly to patients who already think they  have the virus, the new methods will be used to routinely screen members of the public who show no symptoms.

Officials hope they will flag up local outbreaks before they take hold, avoiding the need for local lockdowns such as that imposed in the North West last week.

They estimate the R is above the level 1 in the North West (1.1), Wales (1.1) and Northern Ireland (1.3). But due to the low case rates in Wales and Northern Ireland, they are less confident about their estimates.

Scientists say the R becomes increasingly difficult to predict when there are only a handful of cases each day, because one small cluster can skew the figures upwards. 

The researchers also believe the R is hovering at the danger zone of 1 in London, the South East, West Midlands and in Yorkshire and The Humber.

Data released today by Public Health England, which takes into account cases diagnosed between July 25 and 31 — the first day of the measures being in place, shows that infection rates are still rising in seven of the 10 boroughs in Greater Manchester. 

Bury — home to 190,000 people — saw the biggest rise in cases compared to the week before. Its infection rate jumped by 112 per cent, to 18.9 cases for every 100,000 people.

Stockport’s coronavirus infection rate jumped by 59 per cent to 22.3 compared to the previous seven-day spell, followed by a 51 per cent rise in the City of Manchester (32.5) and a 41 per cent increase in Tameside (24.4). 

Salford’s rate jumped 18 per cent to 23.6, followed by a slightly smaller 7 per cent rise in Oldham (55.2) and just a 3 per cent increase in Trafford (34.3). 

However, Rochdale’s infection rate dropped 38 per cent to 24.5, Wigan’s plummeted by 24 per cent to 4.9 and Bolton’s fell 2 per cent to 17.9.   

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, urged residents to stay calm last night after officials decided to increase their readiness as they grapple with the escalating coronavirus transmission rates in the region.

‘People should not be alarmed that a major incident has been declared,’ Sir Richard said.

The Labour politician called the move ‘standard practice for complex situations’ and said it would allow a ‘central command structure’ to be created to enable agencies to ‘draw on extra resources’.

Oldham has seen the highest number of cases in Greater Manchester, with the boroughs of Trafford, Tameside, Rochdale and Stockport, along with the cities of Manchester and Salford, also featuring among a list of England’s 20 worst-hit areas.  

This graphic shows infection rates in the North West - with parts of Greater Manchester seeing among the highest concentrations of cases, according to figures released today

This graphic shows infection rates in the North West – with parts of Greater Manchester seeing among the highest concentrations of cases, according to figures released today

A group of friends out on the town have a hug on Manchester's Wilmslow Road which was packed on Saturday night

A group of friends out on the town have a hug on Manchester’s Wilmslow Road which was packed on Saturday night

It was still business as usual for restaurants and pubs across Manchester yesterday

It was still business as usual for restaurants and pubs across Manchester yesterday

Groups of people - including eight women who appear to be celebrating a hen do - were pictured meeting for drinks in the city centre yesterday

Groups of people – including eight women who appear to be celebrating a hen do – were pictured meeting for drinks in the city centre yesterday

RESIDENTS OF BEAUTY SPOTS BRACE FOR FRESH STAMPEDE OF TRAVELLERS FOR AFRICAN ‘HEAT FLARE’ 

Residents of beauty spots across Britain are bracing for a fresh stampede of revellers as a major ‘African heat flare’ is set to roast the country during a ten-day heatwave.

Tourists are expected to flock back to beaches across the country as temperatures up to 91F (33C) sweep in from central Europe by the end of the week – following 71F (22C) highs today.

But the warm weather will concern local authorities in areas such as Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Sussex which can expect another huge influx of holidaymakers as Britons shun foreign trips to go on staycations.

Beleaguered Cornish residents reported over the weekend how the popular county had turned into ‘Benidorm on steroids’ as floods of visitors left them too scared to leave their homes.

Meanwhile Thanet District Council in Kent begged people to avoid four of the area’s beaches – including the popular Margate’s Main Sands – due to the number of visitors.

And a drunken fight broke out on the seafront in Brighton on Saturday night as two women went toe-to-toe and others cheered and ignored social distancing.

Pictures of partygoers packing local nightspots this weekend are likely to cause concern amid the rise in cases.

Writing in the Sunday Mirror before the announcement, Labour mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said people in the area ‘on the whole’ had been brilliant at adhering to the new rules and rejected ‘efforts to blame some for breaking lockdown rules’.

The comments follow a claim made by Tory MP Craig Whittaker, whose West Yorkshire seat of Calder Valley was one of the areas affected by the fresh lockdown measures, that it was the ‘BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities that are not taking this seriously enough’.

While the new regulations for Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford were published on Friday, those for Greater Manchester are not expected to be published until this week.

Mr Burnham has said restrictions will be reviewed on a weekly basis.

It came as former England midfielder Paul Scholes was accused of holding a party at his Oldham home to celebrate his son’s 21st on the same day lockdown measures were reimposed across parts of the North West.

The Sun cited phone footage as showing revellers ignored social distancing ‘as they drank and danced’ at the seven-hour party on Friday, with the paper citing Tory MP Andrew Bridgen criticising Mr Scholes for ‘reckless behaviour’.

Greater Manchester Police said they attended the property and encouraged those present to ‘be compliant’ with the newly imposed restrictions.

In national developments, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick cast doubt on reports of so-called ‘nuclear’ options under consideration for avoiding a second national lockdown. 

The Times reported the Prime Minister held a ‘war game’ session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options in the event of a second wave of infections, measures that are said to include lockdown-like conditions for London, with the M25 acting as a barrier around the capital. 

But Mr Jenrick told Times Radio the mooted proposals, such as asking those as young as 50 to shield from society, were ‘just speculation’.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme launched today, giving diners 50 per cent off at a range of pubs and restaurants.  

Two new game-changing tests are also set to be offered to millions of Britons in a major advance in the war on coronavirus.

Hailed as ‘transformative’, the tests – which give results in 90 minutes – will start being rolled out from next week.

One is so simple it could soon be deployed in airports, offices, schools, pubs and restaurants – bringing testing to the bulk of the population.

And the Government will start testing sewage to track coronavirus and could ban domestic travel to stop local outbreaks. 

It comes as residents of beauty spots across Britain were today bracing for a fresh stampede of revellers as a major ‘African heat flare’ is set to roast the country during a ten-day heatwave.

Tourists are expected to flock back to beaches across the country as temperatures up to 91F (33C) sweep in from central Europe by the end of the week – following 71F (22C) highs today.

But the warm weather will concern local authorities in areas such as Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Sussex which can expect another huge influx of holidaymakers as Britons  shun foreign trips to go on staycations.

Beleaguered Cornish residents reported over the weekend how the popular county had turned into ‘Benidorm on steroids’ as floods of visitors left them too scared to leave their homes.

Meanwhile Thanet District Council in Kent begged people to avoid four of the area’s beaches – including the popular Margate’s Main Sands – due to the number of visitors.

And a drunken fight broke out on the seafront in Brighton on Saturday night as two women went toe-to-toe and others cheered and ignored social distancing.