UK coronavirus live: about 560,000 people in England had Covid between 17 and 23 October, estimates show

Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, said “some if not all” of the region of 2.8 million people would need to enter further restrictions imminently but that nothing had yet been confirmed.

He said he was not explicitly calling for a national lockdown but that “all areas of the country are now moving fast” with rising infection rates “so we have to think about the policy response to that”.

The gap between the worst and least-affected parts of the country was narrowing, he said, and that in the West Midlands some boroughs had now leapfrogged Birmingham’s infection rate.

He added: “That is evidence that delay in the best areas is actually counter-productive.

“So whether it be a national four-week lockdown, I do not know. What I do know is that the message is very clear: we have to take further action to turn this tide sooner rather than later”.

Dr Lola Abudu, Public Health England’s West Midlands director for health and wellbeing, said national measures were likely to be more effective than local ones:

“The numbers are not going in the right direction. In terms of having an intervention that is effective, it does need to be something that everybody across the population is doing

“National colleagues and local colleagues will have to come to a view but it may well be that we will be back in a situation where more restrictive measures need to be taken.”

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The body representing England’s directors of public health has issued a stinging criticism of the government’s £12bn test and trace system, calling for a major overhaul and that major improvements were “beyond urgent”.

The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) said the current performance of NHS Test and Trace was “unacceptable” and that it was “neither ‘fully operational’ or ‘world-beating’.”

It added: “Given the shortcomings of the current Test and Trace Service, now is the time for a serious conversation about a more human and local system that is closely rooted in the daily lives of people and communities”.

The ADPH represents public health chiefs in local authorities across England who have been calling for months for greater local control of the contact tracing system.
It said there was a “concerning lack of public health expertise” at all levels of the system and that “public trust has been hugely compromised” by its performance.

While there had been improvements in data flow to councils, the ADPH said the information from the national system was “too often delayed, inaccurate or incomplete”

Raising serious concerns with all areas of the system, the body proposed a series of urgent fixes as well as “a more ambitious overhaul” of the programme that would, it said, be needed for “a considerable period, potentially years”.

It added: “The structure of the Test and Trace Service is opaque, and it is unclear where responsibility lies for different functions. As a result, it is challenging to direct requests or concerns to the right part of the system, or engage constructively in finding solutions, and responses are often slow or formulaic.”

Older school pupils should wear face coverings in classrooms in areas of Scotland that are in levels 3 and 4, new Scottish government advice says. This will apply to young people across central Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, where level 3 comes into force on Monday.

Speaking about the guidance at the daily briefing, the education secretary, John Swinney, said the decision had been made to include secondary pupils in years 4-6 because there was evidence that suggested there is a slightly higher infection and transmission risk for pupils around the ages of 15 to 17.

The updated guidance also states that, across all levels and across Scotland, face coverings should be worn by adults at all times when they cannot keep 2 metres from other adults and children. Face coverings should also be worn by parents at school drop-off and pick-up.

Swinney reiterated advice to young people not to go guising – the Scottish tradition at Halloween of going door-to-door in costume, trading songs, poems and tricks for treats – telling children: “Don’t take risks for the sake of one night.”

The Guardian

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