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A resident at a care home in Scarborough - Simon Townsley
A resident at a care home in Scarborough – Simon Townsley
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Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

The families and friends of some care home residents in England will be able to resume visiting their loved ones, the Government has confirmed, months after these were stopped due to the coronavirus crisis.

Until now, visits were limited and dependent both on local infection rates and the individual care home. 

But the Department of Health and Social Care has finally issued long-awaited guidance detailing how visits can resume, once local directors of public health and local authorities decide it is safe to do so. 

Risk assessments will be undergone prior to homes being reopened, and visits that take place will involve face coverings and social distancing measures. Visits should also be limited to a “single constant visitor” per resident where possible.

“We are now able to carefully and safely allow visits to care homes, which will be based on local knowledge and circumstances for each care home,” said Matt Hancock.

“It is really important that we don’t undo all of the hard work of care homes over the last few months while ensuring families and friends can be safely reunited, so we have put in place guidance that protects everyone,” the Health Secretary  added. 

Care homes have been particularly badly hit during the coronavirus pandemic – at least 20,000 residents in England and Wales have died since the outbreak began.

But Lisa Lenton, chair of the Care Providers Alliance, welcomed the latest “overdue guidance”.

“The CPA has been calling for Government guidance for many weeks and released its own visitors protocol last month in its absence,” she said. “People need people and this is such an important step for the wellbeing of individuals and their relatives.”

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Follow the latest updates below.

01:32 PM

10 additional deaths in England

The latest coronavirus data for England has just been published. It shows that a further 10 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in hospital, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in the country to 29,212.

NHS England said that patients were aged between 50 and 97 years old and all had known underlying health conditions.

01:31 PM

EU plan to tackle Covid-19 drug shortages hit by health budget cuts 

Earlier this week the EU agreed a deal on €750 billion coronavirus rescue fund after a marathon summit. But the decision to focus the bloc’s fiscal firepower on economic recovery has forced the EU to sharply scale back plans to address chronic shortages of drugs, including Covid-19 treatments, by bringing back manufacturing capacity from Asia.

As part of a budget deal to relaunch the economy that they agreed early on Tuesday, European Union leaders cut planned healthcare expenditure to 2027 by 80 per cent.

The bloc has for years faced shortages of critical drugs, including vaccines and antibiotics, and now is struggling to buy medicines needed by Covid-19 patients in intensive care units.

To address those problems, its executive commission had proposed creating from scratch a common seven-year health budget worth €9.4 billion.

Shortages have worsened during the Covid-19 crisis, as supply chains were disrupted and drug exporting countries temporarily focused on their domestic markets. The EU is heavily dependent on medicines and medical ingredients from India and China.

However, pressed by the urgent need to relaunch the wider economy, the EU leaders cut the healthcare fund to €1.7 billion. 

01:14 PM

UK news summary

Here’s a quick mid-afternoon update of the key developments in the UK today:

  • Coronavirus deaths in Scotland are at their lowest weekly figure since the pandemic began, according to latest figures. Last week six deaths mentioned Covid-19 on death certificates – the lowest rate since early March. 

  • New ONS figures show that women were spending two-thirds more time per day on childcare duties than men in the early stages of lockdown. And 52 per cent of parents said their children were struggling to continue their education from home between May 7 and June 7. 

  • The Government has said that families and friends of some care home residents will be able to resume visiting their loved ones months after these were stopped due to the coronavirus crisis.

  • The head of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, Kate Bingham, has suggested that a coronavirus vaccine may be rolled out even before it has full authorisation from regulators. Frontline workers, the over-50s, under-50s with co-morbidities and black, Asian, minority ethinic groups are likely to be prioritised when allocating vaccine supplies, she added. 

  • GPs have been warned that flu vaccinations could take up to twice as long to deliver during the coronavirus pandemic due to social distancing and personal protective equipment requirements.

  • The Met police commissioner said that she hopes people will be “shamed” into wearing face masks – and that using the police to enforce the law requiring people to wear coverings in shops should be a “last resort”.

01:01 PM

South Korea: Undiagnosed infections could be 27 times higher in Daegu

A small South Korean survey of people with no history of Covid-19, but living in a city with the most cases, showed that roughly one in 13 had antibodies, indicating the virus may have spread more widely than thought.

The study said based on the survey, roughly 185,290 people could have contracted the virus in Daegu city, which is the country’s fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million.

Daegu city recorded 6,886 coronavirus cases as of June 6.

“It was estimated that the number of undiagnosed missing cases may be 27-fold higher than the number of confirmed cases based on PCR testing in Daegu,” the study said. 

But health authorities urged caution over the study, considering the small specimen size and a use of rapid antibody test kits with 92 per cent specificity.

The outbreak in Daegu earlier this year was largely driven by a spate of infections at the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. Last month the city filed a £66.5 million damages suit against the religious group, which been linked to nearly 62 percent of the 6,900 cases in the Daegu. 

South Korean health officials wearing protective suit and spraying disinfectant in front of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus back in February - Daegu Metropolitan City Namgu/AFP
South Korean health officials wearing protective suit and spraying disinfectant in front of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus back in February – Daegu Metropolitan City Namgu/AFP

12:51 PM

Care home visits can recommence, Matt Hancock announces

Here’s the latest from the UK, where the Government has said that families and friends of some care home residents will be able to resume visiting their loved ones months after these were stopped due to the coronavirus crisis.

Visits will resume in specific care homes once local directors of public health and local authorities decide it is safe to do so, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

Risk assessments will be undergone prior to homes being reopened, and visits that take place will involve face coverings and social distancing measures. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“I know how painful it has been for those in care homes not being able to receive visits from their loved ones throughout this period. We are now able to carefully and safely allow visits to care homes, which will be based on local knowledge and circumstances for each care home.

“It is really important that we don’t undo all of the hard work of care homes over the last few months while ensuring families and friends can be safely reunited, so we have put in place guidance that protects everyone.”

Related: Hope among the horror – what now for care homes abandoned to Covid?

12:45 PM

In pictures: America’s surging pandemic

The US has seen a dramatic resurgence in coroanvirus cases and deaths in the last few weeks, after many States attempted to lift restrictions before they had gained control of the virus. Today, daily deaths have topped 1,000 in the country for the first time in weeks. 

Here are a few snapshots of what’s going on in the US right now:

A mega testing site in Texas:

People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. - Cengiz Yar/Getty Images
People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. – Cengiz Yar/Getty Images

And a mobile testing site in California:

A testing site outside an elementary school in Los Angeles. Last week the city's Mayor said LA was on the brink of a second lockdown as cases continue to rise - ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA-EFE
A testing site outside an elementary school in Los Angeles. Last week the city’s Mayor said LA was on the brink of a second lockdown as cases continue to rise – ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA-EFE

Teachers protest in Florida:

A teacher writes a message on a car during a protest against the reopening of schools - unions are concerned that it is far too soon to go back to school and could put teachers and children at risk
A teacher writes a message on a car during a protest against the reopening of schools – unions are concerned that it is far too soon to go back to school and could put teachers and children at risk

And Trump’s press conference:

And finally, Donald Trump holds a face mask during a press conference yesterday in which the President dramatically shifted his rhetoric on Covid-19 - urging people to wear masks and suggesting the pandemic will get worse before it gets better - AP Photo/Evan Vucci
And finally, Donald Trump holds a face mask during a press conference yesterday in which the President dramatically shifted his rhetoric on Covid-19 – urging people to wear masks and suggesting the pandemic will get worse before it gets better – AP Photo/Evan Vucci

 Also on the US, don’t miss these three must-read articles:

12:24 PM

Vaccine could be rolled out before it gets full authorisation from regulators

While we’re on the subject of vaccines, Sarah Knapton has interviewed the head of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, Kate Bingham, who suggested that a coronavirus vaccine may be rolled out even before it has full authorisation from regulators.

Usually, it can take between 18 and 24 months for the authorisation of a new medicine by the European Medicines Agency, followed by further delay while it is scrutinised by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

But that time frame could be slashed to around 70 days using a fast-track emergency procedure. The vaccine is likely to be given expedited conditional marketing authorisation, like the drug remdesivir, which will need to renewed. 

Mrs Bingham said it may be possible to access the jab far more quickly on compassionate grounds before it is officially authorised.

She told The Telegraph she was “hopeful” that a vaccine would be ready for this year and said vaccine manufacturers were “joined at the hip” with the MHRA to make sure it could be rolled out as quickly as possible if the trials were successful.

She added that, after the vaccine was approved, it would be up to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to decide who gets the first doses. It is likely to be frontline workers, the over-50s, under-50s with co-morbidities and black, Asian, minority ethinic groups. who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, Mrs Bingham added.

Read the full interview here

12:12 PM

Vaccine deals: US signs contract with Pfizer for 100m doses

More news on vaccine deals here. Alex Azar, US Health and Human Services Secretary, has just announced that the federal government has signed a contract with Pfizer Inc for 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, once it is approved.

“We just signed a contract with global pharmaceutical leader Pfizer to produce 100 million doses of vaccine starting in December of this year with an option to buy another half a billion doses,” Azar said on Fox News. “Now those would of course have to be safe and effective.”

Azar added that out of the five vaccine candidates that “prioritize” the United States, three had had good results in the first phase of testing. Those include the Pfizer drug, as well as vaccines being developed by Moderna and Astrazeneca.

Earlier this week the UK also signed a deal with Pfizer to secure 30 million doses of the vaccine the company is developing with BioNTech. 

But all this deal making has intensified concerns about vaccine nationalism – and the potential for nations with fewer resources to miss out on vital medical supplies as wealthy countries have pre-ordered global stock. 

12:04 PM

Updates from Scotland: Weekly coronavirus deaths drop to single figures

Coronavirus deaths in Scotland are at their lowest weekly figure since the pandemic began, according to latest figures.

Between July 13 and 19, there were six deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the lowest rate since the week beginning March 16, when 11 such deaths were registered.

It also marks the 12th weekly reduction in a row, the figures from National Records of Scotland (NRS) show. And deaths involving Covid-19 accounted for less than 1 per cent of all deaths registered between July 13 and 19, down from the peak in week 17 – April 20 to 26 – when Covid-19 deaths accounted for 36 per cent  of the total.

But concerns about the outbreak at an an NHS Test and Trace call centre in North Lanarkshire remain. Nicola Sturgeon revealed today that there are now 20 cases of the disease linked to the site since the outbreak was first identified. 

“Since Sunday an intensive contact tracing operation has been under way,” she said today, adding that all workers have been told to isolate at home for 14 days as well as being tested for the virus.

During her daily press conference, the First Minister also said that 10 new infections have been confirmed in Scotland today and no deaths.

She said that of all those tested yesterday, just 0.3 per cent had Covid-19 – well below the 5 per cent of tests returning as positive that the WHO deems to be sign that an epidemic under control.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, wearing a Tartan face mask - Jeff J Mitchell /PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, wearing a Tartan face mask – Jeff J Mitchell /PA Wire

11:53 AM

Bangladesh: Mass exodus from Dhaka due to the economic impact of Covid-19 

The coronavirus could set into reverse decades of urbanisation in Bangladesh, which is home to more than 160 million people, including between 18 and 20 million of whom live in the capital city of Dhaka. 

This is due to the economic impact of Covid-19, which is forcing Bangladeshis – and others throughout South Asia – to leave cities and seek refuge in villages, Susannah Savage and Tousif Farhad report.

Here’s an extract from the story – which you can read in full here.

When Ajibor Matobbor sent his family back to his ancestral village from Dhaka, he told them it was for a holiday. The lockdown, imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19, had disrupted his clothes selling business. He just needed a few weeks to get back on his feet, he told his family.

After a few weeks he returned to the village, not to collect his family, but to stay. Even as lockdown eased, business did not pick up. Forced to give up his rented van and apartment, he had no choice but to abandon the city and the life he had built there. 

Bahraine Sultan Bahar, president of the Bharatia Parishad or tenants’ association in Dhaka, believes 10s of thousands have left Dhaka in the last few months although the true number is uncertain.

Some of those who have left will come back. But, for others, like Mr Matobbor and his family, a return is uncertain. 

11:40 AM

B&Q owner enjoys DIY boom during lockdown

A DIY boom has boosted the owner of B&Q as customers use lockdown to make home improvements. 

Kingfisher, the FTSE 100 company, reported a 21.8pc jump in like-for-like sales since the beginning of May with online sales running at more than three times the level recorded in the same period last year. 

The figures, which strip out the effect of store openings and closures in the last year, showed that sales accelerated in June even after a boom in May. Sales have continued to surge in July though growth has been slightly slower. 

Michael O’Dwyer has more on this story here.

11:33 AM

Flu vaccinations could take twice as long to deliver amid the pandemic

Matt Hancock said last week that the Government had procured enough vaccine to roll out the “biggest flu vaccination programme in history”, as part of an effort to reduce demand on the NHS over winter. 

But GPs have been warned that flu vaccinations could take up to twice as long to deliver during the coronavirus pandemic due to social distancing and personal protective equipment requirements.

Guidance issued by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) this week has highlighted that primary care providers are likely to be called upon to deliver “emergency vaccination” as a result of the pandemic.

This may include “significantly expanding the seasonal flu vaccination programme” as well as “delivering mass vaccination against Covid-19”, if a vaccine became available.

But the challenges posed by the need for safe social distancing and protective equipment could extend a GP’s seasonal flu vaccination time to up to six minutes, instead of the normal one to three minutes, the RCGP warned.

The guidance warned that, unless the number of vaccinators is increased, this “will have significant implications for the time taken to vaccinate a population”.

11:22 AM

Five lunchtime reads

About to go on your lunch break? Here are five stories you should read while you’re eating your sandwich:

And if you’re interested in politics – my colleague Cat Neilan is live blogging PMQs here. Perhaps predictably, proceedings have so far focused on the Russia report published yesterday.

11:12 AM

Research news: Favipiravir shows promise in late-stage trial

A snippet of news here on a potential treatment. India’s Glenmark Pharmaceuticals has said today that its version of anti-flu drug favipiravir showed promise in a late-stage study of 150 patients with a mild to moderate coronavirus infection.

About 70 per cent of patients being treated by FabiFlu achieved “clinical cure” by the fourth day of the study, compared with about 45 per cent seen in the group treated with standard supportive care, the company said in a statement.

Staying with pharmaceutical news for a moment – Reuters has also reported that one of the leading US firms developing a coronavirus vaccine, Novavax Inc, has awarded executives stock options that could pay out tens of millions of dollars even if its efforts fail.

Novavax CEO Stanley Erck and three other executives would earn the options, worth $101 million at Tuesday’s closing stock price, if the company’s vaccine candidate enters a mid-stage clinical trial – regardless of its eventual success, according to a company filing.

11:01 AM

The pandemic could ‘shake the world order to its foundations’

Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome and a member of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), has published a powerful Twitter thread urging the world not to ignore the long term implications of the pandemic.

Here’s an extract with the key points – the fourth, in particular, feels particularly pertinent given Mike Pompeo’s comments on the WHO yesterday. 

To understand the crisis fully, imagine concentric ripples generated by a stone thrown into a pond. Innermost circle is immediate impact of the virus: fear, illness and death.

The second, larger circle describes Covid-19’s indirect health effects, such as missed cancer screenings. In the 2014 Ebola outbreak, more people died of malaria in west Africa than of the virus itself. It can take years for people to regain trust in health care systems.

The third circle, the social and economic impact of rising joblessness & shrinking economies, is larger still. Like every crisis, pandemic will amplify existing social fractures and inequalities. This will have political consequences. Some governments may fall as result Covid-19.

Leads to 4th & biggest circle-geopolitics. How world powers choose look after themselves vs rest of world will define global politics over decades. Many governments come to face criticism for their perceived/actual failure protect citizens natural response will be blame others.

You can read the full thread by clicking on the extract below:

10:52 AM

Joe Wicks on being the nation’s PE teacher 

As he completes his last online PE lesson before the summer holidays, Joe Wicks talks about to Maria Lally about he wanted to become the nation’s PE teacher:

The last time I spoke to Joe Wicks it was last summer, and he was bouncing happily around his kitchen talking passionately about the school fitness tour he had just completed. He had visited thousands of schools around the UK, leading mini HIIT workouts with hundreds of excited children in playgrounds and sports halls.  

For the last four months, the thought of children even being in a playground or sports hall has seemed like a distant one for many parents, who have been homeschooling their children since March. Which is why Joe’s 9am daily workouts, which ended today, were a lifeline for many.

“When things started to get bad, I had lots of parents asking me how they could keep their children active while they were home schooling, or if they were self-isolating. I started to feel quite emotional,” he says. “So I decided I’d become the PE teacher for the nation and do 30-minute live kids’ workouts every weekday.

Read the full piece here

10:41 AM

Madagascar’s government makes urgent request for support

An interesting update on the situation in Madagascar from Will Brown here:

The Malagasy Health Ministry has sent out an urgent request for support to partner agencies and health institutions as public hospitals fill up with severe cases, according to local media. 

The island nation currently has more than 7,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and has recorded 62 deaths from the virus. However, the real number is probably higher than the official toll because of low testing rates. 

In April, Madagascar’s populist president Andry Rajoelina made international headlines when he started to tout a miracle cure for coronavirus made up of untested herbs and anti-malaria wormwood. 

Madagascar set up a factory to produce and bottle Covid-Organics, as the remedy is known, en masse and distribute it across the island nation. Several consignments of Covid-Organics were also sent to dozens of African countries and the government is experimenting with an injectable form of the cure. 

Mr Rajoelina condemned the many critics of his herbal remedy as anti-African and western-centric. However, earlier this week Nigeria’s national laboratory of announced that it had conducted rigorous tests on the remedy and found it was fake and could not cure Covid-19. 

A patient seriously ill with Covid-19 is being treated at the Andohatapenaka University Hospital in Madagascar - RIJASOLO / AFP
A patient seriously ill with Covid-19 is being treated at the Andohatapenaka University Hospital in Madagascar – RIJASOLO / AFP

10:30 AM

Belgian official urges action to prevent virus ‘avalanche’ 

Belgium is experiencing a dangerous surge in coronavirus cases after relaxing many of its lockdown measures, health officials have said today, warning of a possible second wave epidemic.

The Belgian national security council will meet tomorrow and could decide to postpone the next phase of the country’s staggered return to normal economic and social life.

But already at a public briefing today, officials urged residents to take better care to respect social distancing guidelines and to wash their hands more often.

“It is very important that we work together to halt this snowball effect before it provokes a new avalanche,” said spokesman Boudewijn Catry. “The situation is not without an exit, we can still change the course of events, but we must act fast.”

Belgium suffered one of Europe’s worst per capita outbreaks of coronavirus earlier this year, but along with its neighbours was able to bring it under control.

Now, however, the number of cases is increasing again. There were 184 new infections per day on average last week, up by 98 percent over the previous seven days.

Coronavirus Belgium Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Belgium Spotlight Chart – Cases default

10:20 AM

Quarter of Delhi population has contracted Covid-19, studies show

An interesting report here from Joe Wallen: Around a quarter of the population in New Delhi and Mumbai has already contracted Covid-19, according to new studies, raising hopes the cities could be among the first in the world to develop herd immunity.

Public health experts have long said that the actual prevalence of the virus was much higher than the official rate of one per cent in New Delhi, due to a severe lack of testing.

The Delhi government’s health ministry sampled over 20,000 of its residents at random between June 27 and July 10, with just over 23 per cent found to have Covid-19 antibodies.

In Mumbai, two private labs – Thyrocare and Suburban Diagnostics – collected samples from over 9,500 people at random, discovering that 24 per cent had produced antibodies. The test uses a blood sample to determine whether someone has previously been exposed to Covid-19 and has developed antibodies to fight off the virus.

The results match those in other global megacities that have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart – Cases default

10:12 AM

‘I was in a turbo relationship – and now we’re engaged’

Here’s a heartwarming story for a Wednesday morning. Karen Hodkinson and her boyfriend blended their families together at the start of lockdown and now, their relationship is stronger than ever. 

You can read the full article here – including the proposal story – but below is an extract:

Sixteen weeks of lockdown. Sixteen weeks since we decided to listen to Jenny Harries who told couples who live in separate homes to “test the strength” of their relationship and move in together during the coronavirus outbreak. This way our two households would become one and we would be doing our bit to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

Andy and I had only been together under a year. Both having been widowed we had five children aged between 17 and eight years old between us so blending our families together wasn’t a decision we took lightly, but it was one we felt was right. 

The first three weeks were a baptism of fire. We all stayed home just going out for necessities or exercising. Food shopping was a military operation. Long queues outside the shops meant we had one chance to make sure we had enough food for the week to feed our now family of seven  – which included two vegetarians and two fussy eaters.

10:02 AM

Today in photos

It’s said that a photo tells a thousand words – so here’s a look at the pandemic across the globe, in pictures.

Quito, Ecuador:

A worker wearing biosecurity equipment digs graves for alleged victims of the new coronavirus Covid-19, at the San Diego Cemetery, in Quito - the capital of Ecuador - CRISTINA VEGA RHOR/AFP via Getty Images
A worker wearing biosecurity equipment digs graves for alleged victims of the new coronavirus Covid-19, at the San Diego Cemetery, in Quito – the capital of Ecuador – CRISTINA VEGA RHOR/AFP via Getty Images

 New Delhi, India

An Indian health official uses a swab to collect sample from a child to conduct tests for the Covid-19 at Nehru Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital - Photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)
An Indian health official uses a swab to collect sample from a child to conduct tests for the Covid-19 at Nehru Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital – Photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A couple dressed as astronauts stroll along the beachfront - Elderly and with a chronic lung problem, retired accountant Tercio Galdino Lima, 66, decided to make the overalls and helmet for himself and his wife Alicea Lima, 65, to be able to walk more safely on the streets of Rio during the pandemic - Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A couple dressed as astronauts stroll along the beachfront – Elderly and with a chronic lung problem, retired accountant Tercio Galdino Lima, 66, decided to make the overalls and helmet for himself and his wife Alicea Lima, 65, to be able to walk more safely on the streets of Rio during the pandemic – Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic:

People receive oxygen in the Covid-19 ward of the Moscoso Puello Hospital - the Dominican Republic reports 54,797 infections from Covid-19 and 999 deaths so far - ERIKA SANTELICES//AFP
People receive oxygen in the Covid-19 ward of the Moscoso Puello Hospital – the Dominican Republic reports 54,797 infections from Covid-19 and 999 deaths so far – ERIKA SANTELICES//AFP

09:49 AM

UN warns of alarming rise of hunger in war-torn Yemen 

Yet more stark news from Yemen this morning. A report from several UN agencies has warned that acute food insecurity is forecast to rise sharply in the war-ravaged country as the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges.

The report, which covers only the southern parts of Yemen, forecasts that the number of people “facing high levels of acute food insecurity” will increase from two million in February-April this year to 3.2 million in July-December.

That represents 40 percent of the population in 133 districts in southern Yemen covered by the study, up from 25 percent.

Economic shocks, conflict, floods, desert locusts and now the novel coronavirus were creating a perfect storm for the expected sharp rise in food insecurity, the report said.

The World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners who prepared the report called the increase “alarming”.

Laurent Bukera, WFP country director in Yemen, said that “Yemen is facing a crisis on multiple fronts”.

09:38 AM

Global news summary

Here’s a quick overview of the key international developments to be aware of this morning:

  • The number of active coronavirus infections topped 5,000 in the Czech Republic for the first time after labs reported the highest daily rise in nearly a month, the health ministry has said.

  • Spain has insisted that a resurgence of cases in Catalonia is coming under control, adding that it hopes this means there will be no need for neighbouring France to close the border.

  • In a shift in rhetoric and tone, Donald Trump has encouraged Americans to wear masks if they cannot maintain social distance and warned that the coronavirus pandemic would get worse before it got better.

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he took another coronavirus test and the results were expected today – he is hoping for a negative result two weeks since falling ill.

  • Hong Kong will expand strict new social distancing measures from midnight tonight, mandating face masks in all indoor public areas including malls and markets, as the city reported record daily rise in cases.

  • Residents of Australia’s second most populous city, Melbourne, must wear masks when leaving home from today as the country posted a record rise in virus cases. New South Wales state has been put on “high alert”.

  • And finally, about 2,000 Israelis have rallied outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem as protests mounted against him over his handling of a worsening coronavirus crisis.

Scroll down for more updates – our latest UK summary was at 9:01am. 

09:28 AM

WHO: Europe ‘is not out of the woods yet’

There are worrying coronavirus trends of emerging in southern Europe and the Balkans, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s emergencies programme, has said this morning. 

Asked where the disease is spiraling, he told Newstalk radio station in his native Ireland that “obviously the Americas is clearly still the major hot spot, North, Central and South America, but we have disease beginning to accelerate in Africa.”

But he added that that Europe should not be complacent.

“Even in Europe, while certainly in western Europe the disease has come under control, we still have some worrying trends in southern Europe and the Balkans so we’re not out of the woods just yet in the European environment,” Dr Ryan warned. “It requires sustained vigilance.”

This comes after Greece introduced stricter rules for foreign seasonal workers from countries including Albania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia on Monday due to a spike in cases in the Balkans. Austria has also announced increased controls along the country’s border with the Balkans, after many new infections in Austria were traced back to the region. 

And yesterday, some 350 Serbian doctors signed an open letter demanding the resignation of a government-appointed team fighting the coronavirus spread, describing the health situation in the Balkan state as “catastrophic”.

The letter claimed that the complete lifting of control measures weeks ahead of the June 21 parliamentary election, when mass gatherings without social distancing were allowed, had led to the “loss of control over epidemic situation”.

Dr Mike Ryan - REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
Dr Mike Ryan – REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

09:13 AM

Police will enforce face mask rules in English shops as a ‘last resort’

The Met police commissioner has said this morning that she hopes people will be “shamed” into wearing face masks – and that using the police to enforce the law requiring people to wear coverings in shops should be a “last resort”.

In an interview with LBC today, Cressida Dick said that in London police officers will try to assist shop keepers if they are concerned that people are not wearing masks and “have tried everything else”. 

But she added that “calling the police should be a last resort for dealing with a mask issue”.

This comes after police and crime commissioners for Devon and Cornwall and for Thames Valley have said that, unless incidents turn violent, officers will not attend disputes where shoppers refuse to wear mask. 

Face masks are set to become a compulsory when entering shops on Friday, though there have been hints from ministers that this rule may be further extended in due course.

Cressida Dick said she hoped that the vast majority of people will comply, “and that people who are not complying will be shamed into complying or shamed to leave the store by the store keepers or by other members of the public”.

09:06 AM

Hong Kong reports record daily rise in coronavirus infections

Some more bad news for Hong Kong, where 113 new cases have been reported today – a daily record.

The figure includes 105 cases that were transmitted locally, adding to a slew of new cases which have hit the global financial hub over the past two weeks.

The Health Secretary,  Sophia Chan, said that the city is expanding strict new social distancing measures from midnight tonight, mandating face masks in all indoor public areas including malls and markets. 

Hong Kong's Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan - Anthony WALLACE / AFP
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan – Anthony WALLACE / AFP

08:57 AM

Lockdown: Women bear the brunt of childcare duties

The Office for National Statistics has published new data exploring the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the lives of parents – and many of the findings confirm what women have been saying for months. Here’s the key points:

  • The time use survey, which covers the period from 28 Match to 28 April, found that women were spending two-thirds more time per day on childcare duties than men. While women spent on average 3 hours 18 minutes looking after their children, men spend two hours. 

  • But the difference was exacerbated according to the age of children. Women did 88 per cent more childcare than men for children under five years old – but this fell to 20 per cent more for children aged five to 10 years.

  • Almost nine in ten parents said a child in their household was being home-schooled between May 7 and June 7 – but 52 per cent said their children were struggling to continue their education from home. A lack of motivation was the main reason given. 

ONS has published a useful Twitter thread on these figures – an extract is below:

08:46 AM

Watch: Trump says virus outbreak ‘will get worse before it gets better’ 

In a dramatic U-turn, US President Donald Trump has warned that the coronavirus crisis in America is likely to “get worse before it gets better”.

“Some areas of our country are doing very well,” Mr Trump said at his first formal White House virus briefing since the end of April. “Others are doing less well. It will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better.”

Mr Trump also urged Americans to wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the virus which has left more than 141,000 people dead in the US.

“We are asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask,” he said. “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They will have an effect and we need everything we can get.”

Watch his comments below. And in this analysis, Ben Riley Smith examines the strategy behind Trump’s new rhetoric.  

08:26 AM

Thailand to extend state of emergency despite criticism

Thailand will extend a state of emergency until the end of August, a senior official has said today. 

The announcement comes after nearly two months without local transmission and with many questioning the need to maintain an emergency decree.  Compared with other countries in the region, Thailand has had a relatively small number of cases – just over 3,000 people have tested positive and 58 have died.

“It is still necessary to have the decree because we are opening up the country for more business meetings and tourism to stimulate the economy,” said Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the Thai National Security Council, adding that doctors had requested it be maintained.

The extension comes after political protests took place last week against the government, in defiance of a ban on gatherings.Mr  Somsak, however, said the emergency decree would be used only to contain virus outbreaks and not rallies.

But Thailand will start to allow entry of business executives for trade shows, film makers and medical tourists. Faced with labour shortages in construction and agriculture, te government has also agreed to let in about 120,000 migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos in the next phase of easing coronavirus restrictions.

Anti government protesters gather in front of the Royal Thai Army Headquarters in Bangkok - Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images
Anti government protesters gather in front of the Royal Thai Army Headquarters in Bangkok – Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

08:12 AM

Pandemic prompts surge in child marriage and violence towards girls in Asia 

A stark story from Nicola Smith, our Asia Correspondent, this morning: the pandemic threatens to spark a dramatic surge in violence against young girls in the Asia-Pacific region and could lead to an additional 13 million child marriages worldwide over the next decade.

An alarming new report by Save the Children and Plan International has warned that nearly 10 million children – mostly girls – may never return to school following pandemic lockdowns.

It also highlights the increased threat of online sex abuse and domestic violence due to prolonged confinement at home and rising economic and health pressures.

Over the last 12 months, more than 37{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} of all women in South Asia, 40{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} in South-East Asia and 68{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} in the Pacific experienced sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner, with many countries recording an escalating risk during lockdowns.

Read the full story here

Students wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing at a classroom during the first day of school reopening at a high school in Putrajaya, Malaysia - Vincent Thian/AP
Students wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing at a classroom during the first day of school reopening at a high school in Putrajaya, Malaysia – Vincent Thian/AP

08:01 AM

Today’s top stories

Just joining us? Here’s a quick look at some of this morning’s key headlines:

  • During a visit to the UK Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, has claimed that the World Health Organization was “bought” by China – the latest in a series of attempts by the Trump administration to discredit the UN agency and divert attention from their own failings. 

  • Dr David Nabarro, the UK candidate who ran against Dr Tedros for the role of WHO director-general in 2017, said it was imperative that all countries worked together to fight the “massive global catastrophe” of Covid-19. He said he could not understand why the US was withdrawing its support “just at the time when the world needs it most”.

  • The custom of shaking hands should be ditched permanently and Britain should move to a Japanese-style greeting culture to avoid future pandemics, Prof Baron Piot, a microbiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has suggested. 

  • Regional “air bridges” are being considered by the Government to allow travel to countries such as Portugal and the United States and stop entire nations being subject to UK quarantine rules.  

  • UK cruise operator Cruise and Maritime Voyages has gone into administration, with the “global pandemic of seismic proportions” being blamed for its demise.

We’ll be updating you on this stories and more throughout the morning.

A couple of things to look out for include an ONS data release at 9:30am on coronavirus and home schooling in Britain, PMQs at 12pm and this morning  Sadiq Khan will give evidence to the Commons Transport Committee on the impact of Covid-19. 

07:46 AM

Spain hopes there is no need to close the border with France

Spain’s coronavirus rates have tripled since the lockdown was eased some three weeks ago – in Catalan, up to 96,000 residents in three towns have been advised to stay at home and resident. In Barcelona, residents were advised on Friday to leave their home only for essential trips.

But Spain’s Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto has said this morning that this resurgence in coronavirus cases is coming under control. 

She told the Europa Press news agency that she hoped this meant there would be no need for neighbouring France to close the border: 

“With the latest data we have in Aragon and Catalonia we are a bit more optimistic. Catalonia has already reduced the number of infections over the last three days.

“Let’s hope that with these better data we don’t have to close a border that for us is very important for mobility with our European partners.”

Here’s a look at the trajectory of Spain’s outbreak:

Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart – Cases default

07:34 AM

Supreme Court judge admits breaking lockdown legislation

A former Supreme Court justice has claimed he stopped complying with some aspects of the coronavirus regulations after they became absurd.

Lord Sumption, who has been outspoken in his opposition to stringent lockdown measures, reportedly made the claim during a virtual debate hosted by Prospect Magazine. 

He was said to have described aspects of the rules as a legal but not necessarily moral obligation, adding that, towards the end of lockdown, he had stopped complying with areas of the law. 

The former judge has previously criticised the lockdown legislation for impinging on civil liberties.

07:11 AM

New mutation of Covid-19 ‘spreads faster’

A new mutation of Covid-19 is forming clusters of outbreaks in the UK faster than the original virus which emerged from Wuhan, an expert has warned. 

Professor Nick Loman of the University of Birmingham, who is part of the Covid-19 Genomics Consortium, said the new strand of the virus, known as D614G, is now the most dominant mutation globally.

He said it had helped Covid-19 spread more quickly in cases across the world, but was not associated with any greater risk of death or length of hospital stays.

The professor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are tracking the genome of these cases and we are tracking thousands of mutations, but there is one particular mutation that has been noteworthy for a while, which is called D614G.

“It exists in the spike protein which is a very important way that the coronavirus can enter human cells and we have been noticing in the UK and worldwide that this mutation has been increasing in frequency.

“This mutation was predicted first by computer modelling to have some impact on the structure of that protein and the ability of the virus to bind and enter cells and then quite recently was shown in laboratory experiments to increase the infectivity of cells.

“The test is, does this affect the human population? We’ve got a really interesting dataset in the UK of over 40,000 genomes and we’re now in a position to say, does this mutation have an impact? And it does seem to have an impact, particularly on transmissibility.

“It’s a small impact, we think, and we’re not completely confident about that but we found by testing what happened in the UK, the viruses that contained the G-type of mutation seemed to form clusters of cases faster which ended up being bigger than viruses with the D-mutation.

“We didn’t see any significant association with survival and the length of hospital stays with this mutation – we don’t think this mutation is important in changing virulence, the effect seems to be on transmissibility.”

Professor Loman said he suspected the new mutation would not impact the process of finding a vaccine for Covid-19, adding: “This is the most dominant mutation, it’s about 75{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} of cases. This increase in this mutation is a worldwide phenomenon, the original virus out of Wuhan had the D-type, but the G-type has become much more dominant across the world, including the UK.”

05:55 AM

Global infections surpass 15 million

Global coronavirus infections surged past 15 million on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, with the pandemic gathering pace even as countries remain divided in their response to the crisis.

The total of 15,009,213 cases is at least triple the number of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to World Health Organisation data, while the death toll of more than 616,000 in seven months is close to the upper range of yearly influenza deaths.

The global tally reached the grim new milestone after India, which has the third largest number of infections in the world behind the United States and Brazil, reported almost 40,000 new cases in its daily update.

A worker digs graves for suspected victims of Covid-19, at the San Diego Cemetery, in the Colonial Center in Quito
A worker digs graves for suspected victims of Covid-19, at the San Diego Cemetery, in the Colonial Center in Quito

05:43 AM

‘Undiagnosed infections could be 27 times higher’ in S. Korean city

A small South Korean survey of people with no history of Covid-19, but living in a city with the most cases, showed that roughly one in 13 had antibodies, indicating the virus may have spread more widely than thought.

The study said based on the survey, roughly 185,290 people could have contracted the virus in Daegu city, which is the country’s fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million.

“It was estimated that the number of undiagnosed missing cases may be 27-fold higher than the number of confirmed cases based on PCR testing in Daegu,” the study said.

Daegu city recorded 6,886 cases alone as of June 6, said the study published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science on July 16, but announced by the journal on Tuesday night according to local media.

The study done between May 25 and June 5 followed 198 people in Daegu city who had never been tested and found 15 of them, or 7.6 percent, had antibodies.

That is a much higher infection rate than that found in a survey of more than 3,000 people in South Korea that excluded Daegu, in which only one person showed neutralising antibodies earlier this month.

Read more: How do coronavirus home antibody tests work, and how do I get one?

Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed
Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed

05:30 AM

 Japan launches tourism campaign amid virus surge

Japan on Wednesday kicked off a national travel campaign aimed at reviving its battered tourism industry, but the effort has drawn heavy criticism amid a jump in new cases.

“Go To Travel” – dubbed “Go To Trouble” by some local media – offers subsidies of up to 50 per cent on trips to and from prefectures excluding Tokyo, which was removed from the programme last week after infections surged to new highs.

But many of Japan’s governors wanted the campaign delayed or amended out of fear it would spread the virus to rural areas with low infection numbers, while a Mainichi newspaper poll this week showed 69 per cent of the public wanted the programme cancelled entirely.

The criticism underlines the public’s growing exasperation with what critics say are mixed messages as the government tries to boost the economy while containing the virus.

“There is no change to our stance to cautiously restart economic activity, while asking the public to cooperate in preventing the spread of the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the campaign.

Governor Yuriko Koike, however, urged Tokyo residents to stay home during a four-day weekend beginning Thursday.

Many in the travel industry were frustrated with what they said was a lack of clarity.

Commuters seen near Shinjuku station in Tokyo - Getty
Commuters seen near Shinjuku station in Tokyo – Getty

05:18 AM

What does your face mask choice say about your style?

Now that we’re easing back into our statement earrings, reacquainting ourselves with our handbags and slipping tentatively back into (block) heel, the real accessory story of the summer involves an entirely new category: the It mask, now as essential as key and phone for leaving the house. 

While some have kept theirs classic in black or medical-blue, others have combined function with fashion, opting for bold designs that complement their ensembles and make a fashion statement.

It might sound frivolous to some, but as face masks quickly become the new norm, having them seamlessly blend into your summer wardrobe adds a touch of normality to these uncertain times. Plus, who said they needed to be boring? 

Find out what your face mask choice says about your personal style…

04:15 AM

Nepal ends 120-day lockdown

Nepal’s government has ended a lockdown 120 days after it was imposed to control the spread of coronavirus.

Information Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada said the number of cases was declining in Nepal.

Government and private offices would be fully functional from Wednesday and all private and public vehicles would be allowed back on the streets. All the markets, malls and shops would be also be allowed to open. However, airports and commercial flights would resume only on Aug. 1.

Khatiwada said schools and colleges would remain closed until further notice. Prohibition would continue on large public gatherings, religious functions, parties, gymnasium, zoo and parks.

The lockdown was first imposed in March and it was renewed several times. The country has 17,994 confirmed cases and 40 deaths.

A member of a television crew stands dressed as Hindu god Shiva as Nepalese Hindu devotees sit after offering prayers from outside the closed gate of Pashupatinath temple during the holy month of Shrawan in Kathmandu, Nepal, July 20 - AP
A member of a television crew stands dressed as Hindu god Shiva as Nepalese Hindu devotees sit after offering prayers from outside the closed gate of Pashupatinath temple during the holy month of Shrawan in Kathmandu, Nepal, July 20 – AP

03:19 AM

South Korea reports surge in cases

Just days after South Korean officials hopefully declared the country’s epidemic was coming under control, health authorities reported 63 new cases following a dual rise in local transmissions and imported infections.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said at least 36 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of the country’s 51 million people live.

The KCDC didn’t immediately confirm whether the numbers included a new cluster of infections discovered at a front-line army unit in Pocheon, north of Seoul, where at least 13 troops have reportedly tested positive.

The KCDC said 29 of the new cases were local transmissions and tied the other 34 to international arrivals.

A worker sprays anti-septic solution in an Sejong Culture Center, M-Theatre in Seoul - Getty
A worker sprays anti-septic solution in an Sejong Culture Center, M-Theatre in Seoul – Getty

03:01 AM

Australian state reports record number of new cases

Australia’s second most populous state of Victoria reported on Wednesday two new deaths and logged a record daily increase of 484 new cases compared with 374 cases a day earlier.

Two men in their 90s died overnight from the virus, Premier Daniel Andrews said in a media briefing in Melbourne.

The state recorded its previous one-day high of 428 cases last week.

The Victoria government has asked residents to wear face masks when they step outside their houses or risk fines, and enforced a six-week partial lockdown in the city of Melbourne.

A view of masked statues along Swanston street in Melbourne - JAMES ROSS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A view of masked statues along Swanston street in Melbourne – JAMES ROSS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

02:27 AM

Brief summary of news from around the world

  • Mexico passed the 40,000-death mark on Tuesday and reported near-record levels of newly confirmed cases. 

  • Brazilian authorities say the country’s Sao Paulo state has topped 20,000 death, while the nation as a whole has recorded more than 80,000 fatalities. 

  • The Chinese Super League is poised to kick off on Saturday as planned after all players registered negative for coronavirus as part of a vast testing programme.

  • Residents of Australia‘s second most populous city Melbourne must wear masks when leaving home from Wednesday.

  • In the US, 59 National Football League players in total have tested positive, the players’ union said.  

  • Panama will further reopen its economy next week, adding some sectors in the provinces of Los Santos, Herrera and Cocle that have a low number cases, a health official said. 

  • Brazilian health authorities are starting a three-month test of a coronavirus vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac.

01:36 AM

China reports slight increase in cases

China reported 14 new cases in the mainland for July 21, up from 11 cases a day earlier, the health commission said on Wednesday.

Of the new infections, nine were in the far western region of Xinjiang, according to a statement by the National Health Commission. The other five were imported cases.

China reported 22 new asymptomatic patients, up from six a day earlier.

As of Tuesday, mainland China had 83,707 confirmed  cases, the health authority said and the death toll remained at 4,634.

Employees spray disinfectant in a screening hall at a cinema in preparation for the reopening - China News Service
Employees spray disinfectant in a screening hall at a cinema in preparation for the reopening – China News Service

12:42 AM

Bolivians try chlorine dioxide to treat virus

Bolivians desperate to avoid or cure Covid-19 are ingesting chlorine dioxide, which the senate has approved as a treatment even as the country’s health ministry says people should stay away from it.

Chlorine dioxide is a bleach-like substance that the US Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers can jeopardise health and should not be purchased or drunk as a medical treatment.

But in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba – where the provincial government has approved its use – some shoppers said they believed the substance could help.

“I heard on the news that they were selling chlorine dioxide at the pharmacy. Acquaintances of mine took it, one for prevention and one for healing. It is doing them good,” said Eric Ocanha, outside of a pharmacy.

Others said they were confused about the advice they had been given.

“As always, the authorities say: ‘Consult your doctor.’ Which doctor? The poor do not have a doctor,” said Dionisio Flores.

Bolivia has confirmed 60,991 cases of the coronavirus nationwide, 2,218 of which have been fatal.

Read more: People are injecting themselves with bleach because of fake news, says senior MP

Many people in Bolivia cannot afford medical treatment - BLOOMBERG
Many people in Bolivia cannot afford medical treatment – BLOOMBERG

11:52 PM

Japan approves dexamethasone as a treatment

Japan’s health ministry has approved dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid, as a second treatment of Covid-19 after a trial in Britain showed the drug reduced death rates in hospitalised patients.

The ministry included dexamethasone as an option for treatment along with antiviral drug remdesivir in a recent revision to its handbook. 

In results announced last month, a trial by researchers in the UK showed dexamethasone as the first drug to save lives of patients in what scientists said was a major breakthrough in the pandemic.

Read more: What is dexamethasone, and how can it help treat coronavirus?

11:48 PM

Qatar relaxes restrictions for citizens and permanent residents

Qatar on Wednesday relaxed restrictions allowing citizens and permanent residency holders to travel outside the country and return at any time, and residents outside the country to return starting Aug. 1.

The government communications office (GCO) said arrivals from low-risk countries are required to take a coronavirus test at the airport and sign a formal pledge to adhere to quarantine at home for a week, state news agency (QNA) reported on its twitter account, citing a statement from GCO.

GCO said the list of low-risk countries will be published on the Ministry of Public Health’s website and will be reviewed every two weeks.

Qatar has reported 10,7430 cases so far, with 160 deaths and 10,4191 recovered.

Coronavirus live map cases tracker
Coronavirus live map cases tracker

11:39 PM

Outbreaks in Texas prisons

More than 500 women at a federal medical prison in Texas have tested positive, in one of the largest confirmed outbreaks at a federal prison, the Bureau of Prisons said.

The number of confirmed cases at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth jumped to 510 on Tuesday, just two days after the Bureau of Prisons reported that 200 women there had tested positive.

Only the federal prison in Seagoville, also located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had more infected inmates, with 1,156 cases as of Tuesday.

“We’re like a whole bunch of hamsters in a cage chasing our own tails,” said Carswell inmate Holli Chapman.

Cars snake through a parking lot at the newly opened mega drive-thru coronavirus testing site in El Paso, Texas - Getty
Cars snake through a parking lot at the newly opened mega drive-thru coronavirus testing site in El Paso, Texas – Getty

11:35 PM

Today’s top stories