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Edited by Becky Morton

All times stated are UK

  1. That's it from us

  2. What's been happening today?

    We'll be bringing this live page to a close shortly so here's a summary of the main stories today:

    • The number of new daily cases has fallen for a sixth day in a row, the latest government figures show. The last time that happened was mid-November, after the second national lockdown in England was introduced
    • But No 10 has said "we're not out the woods yet" even though the number of new cases is falling. The PM's spokesman said we have not yet seen the impact of easing rules on 19 July - and the government believes cases will increase
    • A new survey has found more than 40% of adults have put on weight during the pandemic - with the average gain half a stone (just over 3kg)
    • On-site Covid testing for workers at supermarket depots and food manufacturers began today. Those workers are considered essential and don't have to self-isolate if told to by NHS contact tracers, as long as they take daily tests
    • Tunisia's president has sacked the PM and suspended parliament after mass protests over the government's handling of Covid
    • The US does not intend to lift Covid-19 travel restrictions for non-Americans, a senior White House official has said
  3. 'Fall in cases is exciting - but too early to say if it's just a blip'

    Radio 4 PM

    A Covid vaccination centre in London, Britain, 26 July 2021. Covid-19 cases have dropped significantly in after a sharp increase following England

    Copyright: EPA

    The number of new cases recorded in the UK has fallen for the sixth day in a row - the first time this has happened without any lockdown being imposed since the whole pandemic began.

    Prof Peter Openshaw, an immunologist who advises the government on respiratory viruses, was asked on BBC Radio 4's PM programme why this is happening.

    "I think we're all cautiously pleased," he says - but adds that the next few days of figures will show if it's a sustained reduction, or "just a blip".

    "It is exciting to see those rather encouraging figures but there have been some delays in reporting the figures and we're still waiting for the full data to be released by the Office for National Statistics," he says. "So let's not get overexcited."

    Have we reached herd immunity? We're getting there, suggests Openshaw.

    "The proportion of people who have got antibodies... is reaching those very, very high levels that we would want to see in a population that is going to be resistant," he says.

    But because the Delta variant is so transmissible, there have been predictions that we'd need immunity rates of up to 98.5% because it's so contagious. The UK is at more than 90%, he says.

    "I really don't want people to go away with the idea they can now throw away all caution," he adds.

    And of course, any impact of the lockdown easing in England last Monday isn't showing up yet, he says.

  4. Air travel bookings have not recovered, says UK industry

    Passenger at Heathrow

    Copyright: Reuters

    Airlines UK - the trade group representing carriers - has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps saying international bookings have failed to recover despite some restrictions easing.

    The group blamed the government's "frustrating" traffic light system and expensive requirements to get tested.

    It said spending on travel was now back at "the same fraught position as last year" - and said confidence has been weakened by the government removing Portugal and the Balearics from the green list less than a month after they were added.

    "These represent examples of the frustrating, last-minute and opaque decision-making that has been a mainstay of the [traffic light] system so far," the group wrote.

    The government says the traffic light system helps to stop new Covid variants from being brought into the UK.

    More on this story here.

  5. Cases surge in Senegal where just 5% are vaccinated

    Will Ross

    Africa editor, BBC News

    A health worker receives a dose of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Dakar, Senegal

    Copyright: Reuters

    Image caption: Senegal is one of the countries that Unicef is working to get vaccines to under the Covax scheme

    Senegal's health ministry is warning that hospitals in the capital Dakar are becoming overwhelmed due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

    Infections have soared over the past month from a few dozen a day to around 1,700 daily cases.

    Health officials in Senegal are warning that medical staff in the capital Dakar are experiencing burn-out and almost all hospital beds in the city are full.

    This third wave of Covid-19 infections is also putting a strain on laboratories which are overwhelmed by the rise in demand for tests.

    Senegal - like many other African countries - is a victim of the lopsided global distribution of vaccines.

    It's struggling to get supplies and so far just 5% of the Senegalese population has received a single dose.

    The authorities will also be aware that a few months ago curfews and other restrictions led to riots as people struggled to earn a living.

  6. Theatres can reopen in NI tomorrow, executive agrees

    Theatre seats

    Copyright: BBC

    Image caption: Ministers delayed taking a decision last Thursday saying they wanted more information about the risks

    Theatres and concert venues in Northern Ireland can reopen from Tuesday evening, the NI Executive has agreed.

    Ministers met earlier after delaying the decision, saying they wanted more information about risks.

    But unlike in England, there are still rules for theatres and venues - including audience members must purchase tickets in advance, must have allocated seating and social distancing of 1m (3ft) will be required.

    Other changes to restrictions have also been made, including an increase in the number of people who can meet indoors.

    And in line with elsewhere in the the UK, fully vaccinated people returning to Northern Ireland from so-called amber countries will not have to quarantine.

    Read the full story here.

  7. Why remote working could leave us vulnerable to cyber-attacks

    A man wearing a hood using a laptop

    Copyright: Getty Images

    Hacking experts warn that cyber-attacks are likely to become more frequent, and suggest businesses cannot afford to underestimate the hidden impact the pandemic has had on their vulnerability.

    A recent survey from the UK and US-based security firm, Tessian, has found that 56% of senior IT technicians believe their employees have picked up bad cyber-security habits while working from home. Worryingly, the survey found that many employees agreed with that assessment.

    Nearly two in five (39%) admitted that their cyber-security practices at home were less thorough than those practised in the office, with half admitting that this is a result of feeling less scrutinised by their IT departments now than prior to Covid.

    "One of the main mistakes we've seen is moving company data to personal e-mail accounts," says Henry Trevelyan-Thomas, Tessian's vice-president of Customer Success.

    "When you do that, it's likely you don't have any sort of two-factor authentication. This then makes it easier for attackers to exploit that data. If data is leaked, attackers compromise it and it can end up in the wrong hands."

    Read more here.

  8. BreakingNew cases in UK fall for a sixth day in a row

    The number of people testing positive for Covid has continued to fall in the UK, the latest daily figures show.

    A further 24,950 new cases were reported on Monday - down from 29,173 the day before.

    It's the first time since mid-November that the UK has seen cases fall for six consecutive days. Back then, it was following the reintroduction of national lockdown measures in England.

    Because of technical difficulties, there were delays in processing the number of daily deaths in England so that figure hasn't been released yet.

  9. GP investigated for giving vaccines away from official site

    Coronavirus vaccine

    Copyright: Reuters

    A GP is being investigated for taking 300 Covid-19 vaccines to be administered outside of an official vaccination centre.

    Patients in Portsmouth, Hampshire, who received one of the doses are being offered an additional jab as a precaution.

    The Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group has warned that the 300 vaccinations given by the GP, who has not been named, might not be as effective if they had not been stored at the correct temperature.

    A spokeswoman says: "These vaccinations were given by a GP outside of an NHS-approved vaccination site.

    "While there is no reason to suggest that people vaccinated at this site are at any increased risk, we are acting on advice from Public Health England and contacting them to offer an additional vaccination as a precaution."

  10. What is the NHS Covid Pass and how can I get one?

    UK clubbers return to the dance floor as nightclub Circus hosts the first dance event, which will welcome 6,000 clubbers to the city's Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse

    Copyright: Getty Images

    Covid passports have been in the news over the past week. It's because the government announced it is planning to make it a requirement for people to have proof they are fully vaccinated if they want to go to nightclubs or some other large, crowded venues in England.

    The rule is expected to come into force at the end of September.

    People can show it has been at least two weeks since their second dose - meaning they are fully vaccinated - using the NHS Covid Pass.

    The pass can also be used to show:

    • if you've had a negative PCR or lateral flow test result in the past 48 hours - and have reported it on the NHS website (this pass lasts for 48 hours after the result)
    • if you have had a positive PCR test result within the past six months, and have finished self-isolating (this pass lasts for 180 days after the result)

    People in England can request a Covid pass via the NHS website or, if you are registered with a GP, the NHS app (not the NHS Covid-19 app, which is used for contact tracing).

    You can read more about Covid passes here.

  11. 'Mistake' to use Covid passports incentive for vaccine

    The World at One

    BBC Radio 4

    A man being vaccinated

    Copyright: Getty Images

    A scientist who sits on a sub-group of the Sage says he does not believe Covid passports would encourage more young people to be vaccinated.

    From the end of September the government plans to require proof of full vaccination to attend nightclubs and other large, crowded venues in England.

    Prof Robert West tells BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "Using a sort of stick approach as opposed to a carrot and stick approach I think is a mistake."

    The professor - who sits on the behavioural science panel - says: "By and large, if we want to get people to do things, it is far better to get them on board with the idea of doing it rather than getting them to do it simply because they felt they have to, because when you do that you start to create resentment, to create inequities and people start to game the system."

    West adds: “There is a concern that people are not coming forward to be vaccinated, and unfortunately I suspect this may be a side effect of the sort of rhetoric going around which is kind of like normalising the virus and saying, 'well it’s not as serious as all that'.

    "And so I think we do really need to step up the campaign to explain to people how important it is for them to be vaccinated."

  12. Face mask use drops among young people - survey

    Young people wearing face masks

    Copyright: Getty Images

    The use of face masks among young people has fallen since restrictions were eased in England on 19 July, a new poll suggests.

    The YouGov survey found 46% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they wore a face mask in a public place in the last two weeks, compared to 58% on 16 July and 64% on 2 June.

    Meanwhile, the survey of 1,742 British adults, which was carried out between 21-22 July, found other age groups were still wearing face coverings at around the same rate.

    Some 69% of all Britons say they wore a face mask in the last two weeks, compared to 71% on 16 July and 73% on 2 June.

    Since 19 July, face masks have no longer been legally required in England, although government guidance says it "expects and recommends" people to wear them in crowded areas like public transport. Some transport providers, including Transport for London, still require passengers to wear face coverings to travel.

    Meanwhile, the proportion of Britons thinking the government is handling Covid-19 well fell from 41% just before 19 July to 34% afterwards.

  13. China outbreak in Nanjing spreads to two other provinces

    Kerry Allen

    BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

    People line up at a makeshift nucleic acid testing site outside a shopping mall in Jiangning district, following new cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China

    Copyright: Reuters

    There are concerns today in China that an outbreak, beginning at
    an airport last week, may have spread to other parts of the country.

    Last week, a number of airport workers tested positive at the
    Nanjing Lukou International Airport, prompting flight cancellations
    and delays.

    In the last 24 hours, 39 people have tested positive for Covid-19
    with symptoms in the eastern city of Nanjing. A further eight are asymptomatic.

    In total, 88 people have now tested positive in Nanjing. And
    today, there are also reports on asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 in southern Guangdong province and eastern Anhui province.
    Both patients had recently returned from Nanjing.

    Nanjing’s health commission has said that the majority of cases in
    the city are exhibiting mild symptoms thanks to most patients being vaccinated.

    Nanjing is now attempting to prevent further transmission by
    conducting a massive testing drive and inspection points have been set up along the motorways to test people
    before they leave the city.

    Much of Nanjing – a city with a population of 9.3 million – is
    now under lockdown.

  14. Teen who helped save charity after lockdown leaves PM 'in awe'

    Oliver Voysey

    Copyright: Calvert Trust

    Image caption: Oliver Voysey is a regular visitor to the Lake District Calvert Trust

    A 13-year-old boy has received an award from the prime minister after raising £250,000 to save a charity that almost closed permanently because of Covid restrictions.

    The Lake District Calvert Trust - which provides outdoor adventure holidays for disabled adults and children - says it faced its "darkest hour" last year, when it lost £1m in revenue due to lockdown. The charity feared it may not reopen.

    Oliver Voysey, who is a regular visitor to the centre, completed a series of themed challenges in the run up to his 13th birthday, such as walking on a treadmill for 13 minutes.

    Oliver suffered a brain injury when he was two days old, and has sight loss, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and learning difficulties.

    He's now been given the Prime Minister's Points of Light award, with Boris Johnson saying he was "lost in awe hearing about your phenomenal fundraising appeal to help the activity centre you love".

    The centre raised a further £500,000 through an additional appeal and reopened last month.

    Read more here.

  15. No vaccine target missed, says Sturgeon after criticism over second jab deadline

    First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon receiving her second dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

    Copyright: PA Media

    There's a disagreement in Scotland over a pledge by the government to get people aged 40-49 fully vaccinated.

    Last month, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish parliament that "by July 26, we expect to have given second doses to all 40- to 49-year-olds".

    That deadline was today - but figures show almost a quarter of that age group still have not had two doses.

    Opposition parties have criticised the Scottish government over not meeting the pledge.

    But Sturgeon has responded, telling the PA news agency that the government's target was to offer first doses, not provide them, by 26 July.

    "I think it's important we deal in facts and not in childish politics, which at this time is not what we should be doing," she said during a visit on Monday.

    "No vaccination target has been missed and that's not an opinion, that's a fact.

    "What we set ourselves the target of was offering, by now, the first dose of the vaccine to every adult, everybody over the age of 18, and two doses to the over 40 age group.

    "Those targets have been met, everybody in those age groups had those offers and appointments. Uptake rates are very high by the standards of any previous vaccination programme."

    Scotland also announced 1,000 new coronavirus cases and no further deaths. There were 475 people in hospital with Covid on Sunday, the figures showed.

  16. Could Covid vaccine be taken as a pill?

    Maddy Savage

    BBC News, Stockholm

    Ingemo Andersson with Iconovo's vaccine inhaler

    Copyright: BBC

    Image caption: Ingemo Andersson with Iconovo's vaccine inhaler

    Right now, protection against Covid-19 comes via an injection. But in future, those vaccines could come from inhalers or even pills.

    Swedish chemist Ingemo Andersson and her team hope a thin, plastic inhaler, half the size of a matchbox, could play a big role in the fight against coronavirus, allowing people to take powdered versions of future vaccines at home.

    "It's easy and it's really cheap to produce," says Johan Waborg, chief executive of Iconovo, a firm which usually makes inhalers for patients with asthma.

    "You just remove a little plastic slip and then the vaccine inhaler is activated and you just put it in your mouth, take a deep breath and inhale."

    It is collaborating with an immunology research start-up in Stockholm, ISR, which has developed a dry-powder vaccine against Covid-19.

    It uses manufactured Covid-19 virus proteins (unlike Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca which use RNA or DNA that code for these proteins), and can withstand temperatures of up to 40C.

    Read more here.

  17. Lockdown weight gain averaging half a stone - survey

    A bowl of chips and other healthy food

    Copyright: Getty Images

    A new survey suggests more than 40% of adults in England have gained weight during the pandemic - with the average gain being half a stone (just over 3kg).

    Public Health England (PHE) surveyed 5,000 people and said the Covid lockdowns and disrupted daily routines have made it challenging for people to eat healthily and keep fit.

    Snacking and comfort eating were given as the main contributor by about half of those who said they were fatter.

    PHE is now recommending a summer fitness drive.

    "We know how hard it can be to lose weight and keep it off - so, we are providing a range of support options to help motivate people and help them maintain a healthy weight," it said, as it launched its Better Health campaign with the NHS.

    Read the full story here.

  18. No 10 does not rule out compulsory vaccination for students

    Students on campus

    Copyright: Getty Images

    More from Downing Street, where the prime minister's spokesman did not deny reports that students would need to be fully vaccinated to attend university lectures.

    "You have heard what the PM has said before, specifically that the pandemic is not over," he says. "We are still looking at the scope for vaccination certifications."

    Asked if there was concern about take-up of the vaccines in younger age groups, the spokesman says: "I think you continue to see more and more young people coming forward to receive the vaccine, both in terms of first doses and now second doses.

    "Of course, we want to see more people come forward to receive it.

    "We would like to see everybody who is invited to come forward and receive the vaccination to do so. That's the message we continue to try and give to young people."

  19. Analysis

    Morrisons to join daily testing scheme

    Emma Simpson

    Business correspondent

    Morrisons

    Copyright: PA Media

    As we heard earlier, the government says 500 testing sites will be operating for critical workers by the end of this week so staff can avoid self-isolation after being in contact with a positive case.

    Morrisons supermarket has said three of its largest depots will be included in the initial 15 priority testing sites.

    They’re now in the process of contacting staff who have been double-vaccinated and pinged by the NHS Covid app to see if they would like to move to a daily testing regime. The scheme is voluntary.

    Testing on site is not expected to begin today, but Morrisons says it's ready to start. They haven’t named which sites will be taking part.

  20. Why are cases falling in the UK?

    People wearing protective face masks walk along a platform on the London Underground, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain

    Copyright: Reuters

    Most remaining coronavirus rules were relaxed in the UK exactly a week ago - but the government figures show the number of daily cases has been falling. Why is that?

    We don't know for sure, but some reasons have been suggested:

    • A football-related bounce? One suggestion is that people gathering to watch football matches could have driven new cases up and, now the Euros is over, that has stopped. In Scotland, cases started falling earlier than in England and there is some evidence the drop may have been triggered by the football team's exit from the Euro 2020 tournament - although the downward trend has continued since then
    • Fewer people taking Covid tests? The stats show the number of people being tested has fallen over the past fortnight. Scientists say that could explain some of the drop in reported case numbers - but it's very unlikely to be the only factor
    • The hot temperatures? Better weather over the past fortnight across much of the country may also have helped as more socialising took place outside

    But we won't know if there's been any rise in new cases linked to the reopening in England on 19 July for some days to come.

    In other countries, such as the Netherlands and Spain, the reopening of nightclubs has been followed by a sharp rise in infections. Some scientists say the impact of unlocking in England is extremely hard to predict but could be offset by schools closing closing for the summer holidays.

    Read more here.

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