Blustering Boris Johnson urges Britons to ‘flatten the second hump of the camel’


Desperate Boris Johnson was accused of ‘thrashing about’ today as he pleaded for Britons to ‘save Christmas’ by obeying his ‘Rule of Six’ – warning that lockdown will only get stricter if the country does not ‘flatten the hump of the camel’.

The PM faced a welter of criticism as begged the public to keep faith with his draconian rules despite the testing system descending into a shambles, with fears schools and offices will have to shut because people with mild symptoms cannot prove they are negative. 

Amid bitter clashes between experts over the best way to respond to the rise in Covid cases, the North East is the latest area facing new curbs, including forcing pubs to shut at 10pm and a ban on households socialising with anyone else.

In London, public health chiefs have warned of looming curfews, while ministers have hinted that the edict for everyone to work from home could be reinstated soon if infections do not come back under control.

The new rules for the North East are expected to come into force just after midnight after a dramatic rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the area. Extraordinarily, the Department of Health is believed to have ordered mobile testing vans to leave County Durham just last week as the problems spiralled. 

Meanwhile, testing tsar Baroness Dido Harding is facing a roasting from MPs amid accusations that she is presiding over ‘chaos’ and lacks any experience in public health. 

The gathering disaster has sent the PM’s ratings plunging to new lows, with a poll today showing approval for the government’s handling of the crisis has gone from minus 18 to minus 31 over the past week. 

In an interview with The Sun trying to justify his agenda, Mr Johnson emphasised that social restrictions, localised lockdowns, and a ‘ramped up’ testing were being used in a bid to prevent a second wave.

He warned: ‘The only way to make sure the country is able to enjoy Christmas is to be tough now.’  

In other coronavirus developments:

  • Ministers have tried to play down claims that chief medical officer Chris Whitty is pushing for a two-week national lockdown, with suggestions the true number of cases might be as high as 38,000 a day;
  • Some 10million people will be under local lockdown measures by tomorrow as the North East is added to the list; 
  • Boris johnson’s approval ratings over the coronavirus crisis have hit a new low at net minus 33, according to a YouGov poll; 
  • The proportion of the public travelling to their workplace has reached 62 per cent, despite hints from ministers that an edict to work from home might be needed in future; 
  • Covid-19 cases are soaring among middle-aged people in England and have risen by upwards of 90 per cent in a fortnight as the outbreak continues to grow, official figures show.
  • The boss of British Airways defended his decision to cut up to 12,000 jobs and said the pandemic has left the national carrier ‘fighting for survival’
  • One hospital in Manchester accounted for a third of all Covid-19 deaths in England last week, it was revealed amid fears the life-threatening disease is spreading between wards.  

Boris Johnson said new rules could be imposed on the country if people don’t obey the new ‘rule of six’ and halt the pandemic in its tracks.

The UK has announced a further 14 Covid-19 deaths in the preliminary count, although the final figure can sometimes differ

The UK has announced a further 14 Covid-19 deaths in the preliminary count, although the final figure can sometimes differ

The proportion of results coming back positive has stayed relatively low since June - although in April most of the people being tested were already in hospital whereas more than 200,000 tests a day are now being carried out, many in the community among people with relatively mild symptoms

The proportion of results coming back positive has stayed relatively low since June – although in April most of the people being tested were already in hospital whereas more than 200,000 tests a day are now being carried out, many in the community among people with relatively mild symptoms

Public Health England (PHE) data reveals 23.4 cases are now diagnosed for every 100,000 people aged between 40 and 49 — up from 12.4 at the end of August. And coronavirus infection rates have nearly doubled in just a week for people in their fifties, jumping from 10.9 to 20

Public Health England (PHE) data reveals 23.4 cases are now diagnosed for every 100,000 people aged between 40 and 49 — up from 12.4 at the end of August. And coronavirus infection rates have nearly doubled in just a week for people in their fifties, jumping from 10.9 to 20

Professor Chris Whitty ‘wants a new two-week national lockdown and true UK cases are as high as 38,000-a-day’ 

Professor Chris Whitty is pushing for a new two-week national lockdown amid concerns the true number of coronavirus cases is far higher than being reported, a former World Health Organisation expert claims.

Anthony Costello, who sits on the independent SAGE panel, made the statement on Twitter on Wednesday evening, adding that daily infections could be as high as 38,000.

It comes after Boris Johnson insisted he was doing ‘everything in my power’ to avoid plunging the country back into blanket restrictions, voicing fears that we could not ‘afford’ it.

But he acknowledged he could not dismiss the possibility, conceding there is ‘not enough’ capacity for screening and pleaded for people only to get checked if they have symptoms.

According to Mr Costello, the Prime Minister has been told by his Chief Medical Officer that such a move may be needed to stop the recent rise in infections.

He wrote: ‘I’m hearing from a well-connected person that government now thinks, in absence of testing, there are 38,000 infections per day. Chris Whitty is advising PM for a two week national lockdown.’

Although cases have been surging over 3,000 a day, it was initially among younger people, who are less likely to be badly affected. 

But now Covid-19 cases are soaring among middle-aged people in England and have risen by upwards of 90 per cent in a fortnight as the outbreak continues to grow.

The PM claimed the chart of infections is starting to resemble a camel’s back, so ministers are implementing new measures to ensure the virus doesn’t ‘rip’ through the country. 

Mr Johnson said: ‘All this is to say that: Christmas we want to protect, and we want everyone to have a fantastic Christmas.

‘But the only way to make sure the country is able to enjoy Christmas is to be tough now. So if we can grip it now, stop the surge, arrest the spike, stop the second hump of the dromedary, flatten the second hump.

‘Dromedary or camel? I can’t remember if it is a dromedary or a camel that has two humps? Umm. Please check.

‘Anyway a double hump. So that is what we need to do!’

There were claims today that chief medical officer Chris Whitty has been urging an immediate two-week national lockdown, and the true number of daily cases could be 38,000.  

But Professor Carl Heneghan of Oxford University dismissed the idea that the disease was ‘out of control’ again.

‘Most of the problems here occurred if you look at the data, after the Bank Holiday Monday, from about the 2nd of September onwards,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘You can argue here that one of the issues here that happened was significant people met over that weekend, and then we’ve had a bit of a surge.

‘But the language of ‘out of control, we need more testing, this is terrible’ needs to be dialled back. Look, we have problems, significant problems, but we also have shifting policy every day now.

‘I think what we’ve got a huge problem here, we are losing the trust of the population… This is a huge moment right now, and what we have to do is slow down our thinking, pause and start to be more analytical about the steps we take.

‘We rush in, like with the test and trace programme, it is falling over.’

But Dr Adam Kucharski, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the lack of testing meant ‘blunt tools’ were needed to control the outbreak.

‘I think we are getting to the point where potentially we are losing our ability to accurately track the virus,’ he told Today.

‘That means that we could have a situation where it is getting into risk groups, we start to see more cases appear and we don’t have good warning of that.

Is Britain REALLY suffering from a ‘second hump’ of Covid-19?

Boris Johnson today urged the nation to be tough to ‘flatten the second hump’ in Covid-19 cases, saying it is the only way to save Christmas.

But top experts have insisted the current spike in cases is nowhere near the scale of what was seen during the darkest days of the crisis in March and April, with one telling MailOnline: ‘We are not near the stage of the peak.’

However, they say the spike in infections — which have doubled in a fortnight — is ‘troubling’. Hospital admissions and the number of infected patients on ventilators have also risen sharply in the past week.

Britain yesterday recorded nearly 4,000 new Covid-19 cases for the first time since May 8, bolstering fears that the nation is in the midst of a dreaded second wave.

Government graphs now clearly show a resurgence of the disease, with cases getting closer to the levels seen in the UK’s first battle with the life-threatening disease.

More than 6,000 infections were announced on the worst days in April.

But the daily cases then can’t be compared to the cases now, experts say, because hardly any testing was being done and the numbers then did not reflect the reality.

In the spring, officials would test just 15,000 Britons each day and swabs were restricted to the most severely-ill.

Since then health chiefs have ramped up testing to carry out around 200,000 swabs every day, theoretically allowing anyone with symptoms — not just society’s most vulnerable — to get tested.

There are now dozens of negative cases for every positive one, showing that large proportions of people who think they have Covid-19 actually don’t – the opposite was true in the first wave when most people who were tested did have it.

‘It also affects our ability to have more targeted, nuanced measures. If we lose the ability to track the virus it ends up that more blunt tools will be deployed. That is what we saw earlier in the year.’

Health Minister Edward Argar played down the idea of a two-week national lockdown.

‘It is not something I have seen within the department,’ he told Sky News.

‘The Prime Minister has been very clear on this. He doesn’t want to see another national lockdown. He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work.’

Mr Argar said the North East was now seeing a spike in cases similar to that in the North West.

‘In the North East we are seeing a spike in infections. It is exactly what we have seen in the North West. We monitor that rate. Where we need to, we step in and take action,’ he said.

Mr Argar said that in the North West, the rise had been driven in part by people not adhering to the social distancing requirements – and blamed pubs.

‘Obviously a nighttime economy will fuel that with people having been out late into the evening.’

Kevan Jones, Labour MP for Durham North – one of the areas set to be plunged into lockdown – told MailOnline the government had ‘totally lost control’ and was ‘thrashing around’.

He said the Department of Health had moved mobile testing sites out of Country Durham just last week, with no explanation.

‘It’s an absolute mess. I’ve got people who can’t get results or tests. I’ve got someone who lives just outside Durham and was given the nearest test as Aberdeen airport.’

Mr Jones said the claim from ministers that the ‘worried well’ were breaking the system was nonsense.

‘It’s not the worried well. I’ve even got NHS workers who can’t get tests. They have just lost control.’

‘You don’t need the restrictions if you get test and trading done.’

‘Hancock is completely out of his depth.’

‘It’s going to be over by Christmas? It’s just rubbish. They haven’t got a clue.’ 

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said ‘additional, temporary’ measures are being planned to prevent another full lockdown. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to make a formal announcement this morning.

The restrictions will reportedly apply to Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, County Durham and Sunderland – which have all seen rises in cases, according to the latest weekly rates.

The lockdown measure will include a 10pm curfew on pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises and people will be banned from socialising with anyone outside their household, as reported by ChronicleLive.

Other possible restrictions include people being told not to go on holiday with different households and spectators advised not to attend sporting venues.

Care home visits could be restricted to essential visitors, and people will be advised to avoid public transport at peak times except for essential journeys, and to avoid car-shares.

People queue at a test centre following an outbreak of the coronavirus  in Southend-on-sea, Essex, on Wednesday

People queue at a test centre following an outbreak of the coronavirus  in Southend-on-sea, Essex, on Wednesday 

Curfews, pub closures and small gatherings only: how the UK could throttle second wave

Britain could follow the example of Belgium in taking steps to throttle the rising number of coronavirus cases.

Brussels was able to curtail a second wave of coronavirus by limiting the number of people who could socialise together and imposing a nationwide curfew. 

The European country experienced a resurgence of the virus in mid-July that was comparable to the UK’s current trajectory.

On July 29, officials there brought in new rules reduced the number of people who could socialise together from 15 to five and introduced a 10pm curfew on the entire population.

Coronavirus infections started to rise in Belgium in mid-July, with the weekly case rate going over 35 per 100,000 by August- the level currently being felt in Britain – and daily infections breaching 1,000. The numbers have fallen over recent weeks, with only 194 new cases reported on September 1.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is among those who have praised the actions of the Belgian Government to  tackle the outbreak.

Last week he said Belgium was a ‘clear indication that if you act rapidly and decisively when these changes are happening, there is a reasonable or good chance of bringing the rates back down under control.’ 

Such a move would allow people to go still go to work and school but would place curbs on nightlife, which could place high pressure on the hospitality industry, with pubs and restaurants forced to close early. 

Mr Forbes tweeted: ‘Some additional, temporary restrictions are being planned to prevent another full lockdown.’

The most recent figures show Newcastle to have recorded a sharp increase in its weekly rate, up from 51.2 to 64.1, with 194 new cases in the seven days to September 13. 

On a more national scale, business leaders claimed employers will be left with no choice but to send staff to work from home due to the shortage of Covid-19 tests.

Such a move would put a sizeable dent in the little progress that has been made to boost the economy since certain restrictions were eased.

Testing tsar Dido Harding is facing a grilling from MPs today with the system teetering on the verge of collapse.

The Tory peer is set to give evidence to politicians amid anger that coronavirus screening has turned into a ‘chaotic disaster’, with thousands of people struggling to get checked even though a rise in cases was predictable.

In a sign of the shambles engulfing the arrangements, the government has even stopped publishing figures on its total capacity for the past week – with claims that labs have been exaggerating how many samples they can process.

There are fears that the country could be plunged into a ‘lockdown by default’ because people with mild symptoms cannot prove they are negative and have to stay in quarantine.

Experts say that perhaps half a million people a day will develop Covid-like symptoms at this time of year, even in a normal times. Hundreds of schools are already believed to be partly or fully closed due to pupils and teachers having to self-isolate. 

Politicians have questioned why Lady Harding was appointed.

Mr Jones said she had ‘no experience’ and the responsibility should be given to local officials who had a background dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as TB.

‘It comes back to the fact she’s got no experience in public health. Local directors of public health, they know how to do test and trace. It’s what they do,’ he said. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has written to Mr Hancock calling for action on the coronavirus testing ‘chaos and confusion’.

The Labour mayor told London Assembly Members: ‘This is a critical moment in the fight against Covid-19. Many Londoners are being told there are no testing sites available in London.

‘The delays are preventing frontline workers from being able to do their jobs, and children are being kept away from their classrooms unnecessarily.

Covid testing chief Dido Harding faces grilling from MPs as system teeters on the verge of collapse 

Testing tsar Dido Harding is facing a grilling from MPs today with the system teetering on the verge of collapse.

The Tory peer is set to give evidence to politicians amid anger that coronavirus screening has turned into a ‘chaotic disaster’, with thousands of people struggling to get checked even though a rise in cases was predictable.

In a sign of the shambles engulfing the arrangements, the government has even stopped publishing figures on its total capacity – with claims that labs have been exaggerating how many samples they can process.

There are fears that the country could be plunged into a ‘lockdown by default’ because people with mild symptoms cannot prove they are negative and have to stay in quarantine.

Experts say that perhaps half a million people a day will develop Covid-like symptoms at this time of year, even in a normal times. Hundreds of schools are already believed to be partly or fully closed due to pupils and teachers having to self-isolate. 

Politicians have questioned why Lady Harding was appointed, amid a public furore over the national shortage of Covid tests.

‘This failure is putting lives and livelihoods in jeopardy. We’ve known for months now that come the autumn demand for testing would increase. This crunch point should have been foreseen, and then avoided.

‘And unless the Government massively ramps up testing capacity in London we’ll be back to where we started: trying to halt the spread of the virus in the dark.

‘Nothing is more important than a fully functioning test, trace and isolate system if we are to prevent a devastating second wave, and time is fast running out. ‘

A fortnight would be needed to determine whether Mr Johnson’s new rule of banning gatherings of seven or more people had successfully reduced infections, senior government sources told the Telegraph, adding that further lockdown measures may be required if not.

Official messaging of ‘go to work if you can’, repeated by the Prime Minister in recent weeks, appears to have been dropped, while No10 has also insisted there is no ‘back to work’ campaign being driven in the same way other key advice is being communicated with the public.

However, telling workers to stop going back to their desks would inflict further woe on pubs, cafes and restaurants which have already struggled during the pandemic and are only recently reaping the benefits of more footfall and schemes such as Eat Out to Help Out.

Matthew Fell, the UK chief policy director of the CBI, said: ‘If we are to successfully encourage more people into their workplace safely, then the test and trace system will be a key component.’

Adam Marshall, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, added: ‘A truly comprehensive test and trace programme is essential if the UK is to manage the virus without further lockdowns, which will cripple businesses. Continuing delays and a shortage of tests saps business, staff and consumer confidence at a fragile moment for the economy.’

Meanwhile, a public health chief has suggested curfews could be imposed in London to help fight a potential second wave.

Professor Kevin Fenton, London director of Public Health England, highlighted an influx of around half a million students to the capital from across the UK and around the world as a potential hazard for increased infections.

The London director of Public Health England also warned the city’s testing capacity was struggling to cope with demand, as resources are piled in to help hotspot areas,

About 500,000 students are coming to London from around the country and world for the start of term which is likely to increase infections.

He told the Evening Standard: ‘Before we get to that stage [of a full lockdown] there are many other things that you can do in order to help to reduce the risk of transmission and contain your outbreak.

More than half of workers expect NEVER to return to a five-day working week in the office, survey finds 

More than half of workers have said they never expect to return to a five-day working week in the office, a new survey by broadband provider TalkTalk has found.

A new report called ‘Lockdown Lessons’ also found that 58% of people in employment said they felt more productive as a result of working from home.

Bosses also agreed, with 30% of business leaders saying the changes had seen a boost in productivity and 35% said the moves had seen more collaboration.

The new working arrangements for millions of office workers also found that with the commute being removed, many are turning to learning a new skill or hobby, the survey found.

Around 40% said they had watched an online educational video during lockdown and 16% enrolled in an online learning course.

In other areas, nearly one-in-four work-from-home staff started learning a new language, with a similar number also learning new cooking methods. Around 15% said they researched baking and 13% learned about gardening.

TalkTalk added that internet usage during lockdown increased 40% year-on-year and has remained at high levels, despite the relaxation of rules and the reopening of pubs and restaurants. Uploads have also increased significantly, the data found.

The company is hoping the increase in work-from-home staff will lead to demand for more reliable internet and has launched a business-quality broadband service for companies willing to install faster connections in workers’ homes.

But less than half – 40% – of business leaders said they have provided financial support to employees for phone or home broadband bills and only one in four have invested in mental health and wellbeing apps for staff.

The survey also found that 62% of bosses believe they can save money to spend on upgrading home working due to less work trip costs and 45% said company entertainment spend is also expected to fall.

‘In some areas which have seen resurgence there have been limits placed on the amount of time you can spend socialising. In some it might be local curfews so you’re not out drinking until the wee hours of the morning.

‘By limiting that you also limit the amount of time people are spending in close contact with others.’

His comments come as a survey found more than half of workers have said they never expect to return to a five-day working week in the office.

A new report called ‘Lockdown Lessons’ also found that 58% of people in employment said they felt more productive as a result of working from home.

Bosses also agreed, with 30 per cent of business leaders saying the changes had seen a boost in productivity and 35 per cent said the moves had seen more collaboration.

Tristia Harrison, chief executive at TalkTalk, who compiled the research, said: ‘Lockdown Britain has seen a boost in skills and productivity for home workers, with unexpected lessons for how we emerge from the pandemic.

‘As people have been working from home, they’ve also been learning: from new languages, to cooking, to IT skills. With flexible working we’re becoming so much more productive it seems that Britain is now getting five days’ work done in four, which is encouraging as we build back from the crisis.’

Catherine Barnard, from consultancy Working The Future, which analysed the data for TalkTalk, said: ‘A future where a four-day work week is the norm could be a lot closer than people think.

‘If someone can do their work in four days rather than five as a result of flexible working hours, it stands to reason that they can use the fifth day to further improve skills that complement their role. The challenge is to pivot from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to employment.’ 

Mr Johnson made a spirited defence on the new ‘rule of six’ which bans on groups of more than six people from meeting to help prevent the spread of the pandemic.

He said:  ‘I know that a lot of people feel that it’s excessive and heavy-handed . . . but unfortunately the disease has not gone away.

‘There are places in Europe which I will not name, such is my reputation for diplomacy, where we’ve come down one hump of the camel and we are approaching the next.’ 

Mr Johnson he was keen not to implement another full nationwide lockdown that ‘stops business from functioning.’  

The PM was also at pains to tell Britons that he doesn’t want to impose further restrictions.

He added: ‘We don’t want to go there. We want this package to work.

‘We are urging people to be cautious. We want people to be disciplined to get the R down.’ 

The Red Lion pub in Westminster, just yards from the Houses of Parliament, was surrounded by drinkers last night despite the introduction of the Rule of Six on Monday.

The Red Lion pub in Westminster, just yards from the Houses of Parliament, was surrounded by drinkers last night despite the introduction of the Rule of Six on Monday.

The ‘Rule of Six’ imposed by Boris Johnson on Monday makes it illegal to have larger gatherings, although in Scotland and Wales children under 12 do not need to be counted in the numbers. 

Ministers have suggested they are following the example of Belgium, where a surge appears to have been tackled using tight limits on gatherings and curfews. 

A senior member of the government told ITV’s Robert Peston that there was ‘no possibility of us waiting for the death rate to rise before we act’.

They added that the government will reassess whether the Rule of Six has been enough to control the situation in fortnight – but there is a widespread view that schools should not be shut again.

A leading scientific advisor reportedly said: ‘I think that if we want to keep schools open, we probably have to give serious consideration to a wide range of other measures to stop a major second wave.

‘And we have to think about doing that right now – which we are starting to do.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was forced to miss Prime Minister’s Questions because of a delay in receiving a coronavirus test result for one of his children, his deputy said.

Angela Rayner, standing in for Sir Keir at the despatch box on Wednesday lunchtime, told Boris Johnson that she had a message from ‘a man called Keir’.

She told the Commons: ‘Keir wasn’t able to go to work today and his children couldn’t go to school because his family had to wait for their coronavirus test results despite the Prime Minister’s promise of results within 24 hours.

‘Keir was able to do the right thing and self-isolate and work from home, but other people aren’t in this position – many of them are the very people getting us through this crisis.’

Mr Johnson said he understood a negative test had been returned for Sir Keir’s child, adding: ‘I don’t know why he is not here.’

The Labour leader was advised to self-isolate on Monday while awaiting the result of a test for a member of his household who showed possible symptoms of Covid-19.

Less than half an hour before PMQs was due to begin, Sir Keir said he was ‘very pleased and relieved that the test result for one of my children came back negative this morning’.

A decision had been made on Tuesday for his deputy, Ms Rayner, to take his place at the question session.

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