Top story: ‘Something’s got to change’ to slow spread
Hello, I’m Warren Murray and here is how things stand.
Overnight the world has reached 20 million recorded coronavirus infections after cases doubled in just six weeks. Deaths have increased from more than 4,000 globally, at the time of the WHO declaration of a pandemic, to more than 730,000 now. The United States accounts for a quarter of the global case total and one in five deaths worldwide. It is the worst-affected country with one in every 65 Americans having tested positive and one in 2,000 having died from Covid-19.
Meanwhile the rise above 1,000 daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK breaches the ceiling that the government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre said was acceptable in May, it has emerged. The number of tested and confirmed cases rose to 1,062 in 24 hours at the weekend. This was “unacceptable, ineffective and dangerous,” said Prof Gabriel Scally, a Royal Society of Medicine officeholder and member of Independent Sage. “Something’s got to change, otherwise we are really in for an extraordinarily difficult time,” he said. We are bringing you further coronavirus developments at our global live blog.
White House shooting scare – Donald Trump was escorted from the White House briefing room during a security alert overnight. A suspect described as armed was shot outside the White House perimeter fence by secret service agents and taken to hospital. The service confirmed there had been an “officer involved shooting at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Ave”. It said a man was shot after telling an officer he had a weapon, then crouching as if he was about to fire. Trump continued his coronavirus briefing afterwards.
‘Recipe for disaster’– Ministers are under pressure over the botched handling of English A-level results after Scotland announced a review of grades and major research showed high-achieving pupils from poorer backgrounds are likely to be hardest hit. The universities minister is asking vice-chancellors to be lenient with their offers and keep places open for pupils pursuing appeals, amid fears that results will not truly reflect pupils’ abilities. In England about 250,000 pupils are due to receive their A-level results on Thursday following the cancellation of exams due to coronavirus. Results were worked out using a school’s recent exam history and each pupil’s exam results, as well as grades submitted by teachers.
Students awaiting their A-level results in England have told of their anxieties, amid reports that the grades estimated for them could be reduced. We spoke with some of them. “If it’s based on an algorithm rather than individual students’ attainment, that’s a recipe for disaster,” said Sophie, 18, from Sutton. Ryan, 18, from Wokingham, said: “The system shows a flagrant disregard for the professional opinion of teachers as the exam boards can simply change the grade against the will of the teacher, who knows the students and their past, present and future ability.”
‘Genuine, sincere and honest’ – It has emerged that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the Belarus opposition leader battling to dislodge the despotic Alexander Lukashenko from the presidency, spent part of her youth in rural Ireland as one of the “Chernobyl children”. Henry Deane, 72, and his wife, Marian, accommodated Tikhanovskaya at their home in Roscrea, County Tipperary. “As a kid she was clearly intelligent,” said Henry Deane. “Children at that time would not speak openly about the political situation in Belarus. But Svyeta was open … people were disenfranchised and they knew the voting was rigged.” Later, as an adult she “poured her life into looking after her son and daughter. She just wanted to be voted in so she could release political prisoners, which is noble of her, and please God it works.”
At least one person has been killed and dozens injured in clashes between riot police and protesters in Belarus in another night of protests against Lukashenko, who claimed victory in an election viewed as massively rigged. Tikhanovskaya said she considered herself the winner, not Lukashenko. “The authorities should think about how to peacefully hand over power to us,” she said.
‘Disaster is result of corruption’ – Lebanon’s government has resigned a week after the explosion in Beirut port. The prime minister, Hassan Diab, said: “A political class is using all their dirty tricks to prevent real change. This disaster is the result of chronic corruption. The corruption network is bigger than the state.” Current ministers – including those who have resigned – are set to assume a caretaker role but a push is under way for more than a third of sitting MPs to quit parliament, which would force new parliamentary elections. The death toll from the blasts has risen to 200, according to Beirut’s governor, with up to 6,000 more wounded. Security forces have again fired teargas at protesters who neared Beirut’s parliament square, where large numbers of soldiers and police have remained behind iron gates and barricades.
Customers ‘blamed for being scammed’ – Victims of bank transfer scams are being treated unfairly with the number of people reimbursed by their bank “woefully low”, according to Which?. It is pressing for a voluntary code supposed to protect consumers to be made mandatory. In July the Guardian featured the case of a woman who lost more than £300,000 though she eventually received all her money back. Most of the big high street banks signed up to a voluntary code in May 2019 that requires them to reimburse victims of such “authorised push payment” (APP) scams unless the customer is “grossly negligent” or ignores the bank’s warnings. But Which? says banks are “regularly blaming customers for missing warnings or not doing enough to realise they were being scammed”.
Today in Focus podcast: Blast triggers political earthquake
It is a week since that devastating explosion rocked Beirut, killing more than 200 people. After the government resigned, Bethan McKernan and Martin Chulov report on what comes next for the Lebanese people.
Lunchtime read: Lost to late lockdown?
On the day the WHO declared a pandemic, 52,000 fans – including 3,000 from Spain – piled into Anfield to watch the Reds play Atlético. Weeks later, the city was a Covid-19 hotspot. The family of one victim – Richie Mawson, a beloved dad and Liverpool fan – explain why they need answers.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær expressed delight after Manchester United, propelled by Anthony Martial, reached the Europa League semi-finals, knocking out FC Copenhagen in extra time via a Bruno Fernandes penalty. The Exeter chairman, Tony Rowe, has warned that some Premiership clubs may go bust if crowds are not allowed into stadiums before next year. Collin Morikawa has grand plans and said “it doesn’t stop here” after his maiden major win in the US PGA at Harding Park.
The two favourites, Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan, are fighting to stay in the World Snooker Championship as they trail Kyren Wilson and Mark Williams respectively. Manchester City have announced the signing of the USA international and World Cup winner Sam Mewis. And Donald Trump has tweeted his support for college football players pushing for the opportunity to compete this season despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shares have advanced in Asia, extending another rally that took the S&P 500 to within striking distance of its all-time high set in February. The FTSE is trending towards adding 40-50 points this morning. In the UK, sunny weather and the reopening of non-essential shops have fuelled an increase in consumer spending close to pre-pandemic levels, according to the British Retail Consortium and KPMG. The deepest recession in a century is expected to be confirmed on Wednesday but those retail figures indicate that a recovery is under way via the consumer, with total sales increasing by 3.2% in July compared with the same month a year ago. The pound is worth $1.308 and €1.113 at time of writing.
The Mail and the Telegraph are on the same theme this morning: “Now test and trace team will knock on your door” says the former; the latter has “Contact tracers to knock on doors”. If the Mirror had its way they wouldn’t get the chance: “Sack track & trace failures” – it says Serco should be axed from running the “shambolic” system.
The Express has “Over-55s frozen out of home loans market” saying those retiring at that age under 2015 reforms can’t get any kind of mortgage to suit their needs. The Metro goes hyper-local at Morrisons in Peckham, south London, with “Anti-mask mob mock shoppers”. The Times says “Older pupils spread virus like adults” and as fraughtness continues over the return to the classroom the i has “Scared of school: poll reveals fears of parents”.
The Guardian splashes with “Ministers face mounting anger over A-level results ‘injustice’” and the top story in the FT is “Beijing strikes back against US curbs with sanctions on senators”.
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