COVID-19: More than 1,300 people given positive coronavirus result in error by NHS Test and Trace due to chemicals issue | UK News



More than 1,300 people were incorrectly told they had coronavirus after a lab error at NHS Test and Trace.

The department of health and social care said 1,311 people who were tested between 19 November and 23 November were wrongly told they had tested positive.

The issue was apparently down to an problem with a batch of testing chemicals, and the results were subsequently voided.

A DHSC spokesman said: “Swift action is being taken to notify those affected and they are being asked to take another test, and to continue to self-isolate if they have symptoms.

“This laboratory error was an isolated incident and is being fully investigated to ensure this does not happen again.”

A total of 1,283 cases were removed from the government’s COVID dashboard on Friday as they had been reported in error.

As of 9am on Friday, government figures showed that 16,022 more people had tested positive for coronavirus in the UK – bringing the total to 1,589,301.

The troubled Test and Trace service has so far been given funding worth around £22 billion this financial year – around a fifth the annual budget of the NHS.

Boris Johnson has admitted there have been “teething problems” with NHS Test and Trace, but insisted it was value for money.



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One in eight Covid-19 cases were recorded in the WRONG location due to Test & Trace blunder


Around 12 per cent of Covid-19 cases were recorded in the wrong location due to a Test and Trace blunder which mistakenly listed students’ positive tests at their parental homes, it emerged today.  

The error, which spanned the six weeks before Britain was plunged under a three-tier lockdown system, left several university cities unaware of the scale of the pandemic in their area, the Telegraph reported. 

Students were erroneously reported to live in their home towns when they tested positive for the virus rather than being away at university.    

Updated figures now show student hubs Newcastle, Nottingham and Manchester all had a higher case rate than Liverpool when it was placed under Tier 3 restrictions last month.

In Newcastle, between October 5 and 11, it was initially believed there had been 1,416 confirmed cases of coronavirus. This number has now jumped by 48 per cent to 2,104.

Around 12 per cent of Covid-19 cases were recorded in the wrong location due to a Test and Trace blunder which mistakenly listed students’ positive test results at their parental homes

Updated figures now show student hubs Newcastle (pictured), Nottingham and Manchester all had a higher case rate than Liverpool when it was placed under Tier 3 restrictions last month

Updated figures now show student hubs Newcastle (pictured), Nottingham and Manchester all had a higher case rate than Liverpool when it was placed under Tier 3 restrictions last month

Nottingham’s figure of 3,091 increased by 30 per cent to 4,049. The city’s case rate thus soared from 929 infections per 100,000 people to 1,216.  

The blunder, which has since been corrected by Public Health England, was a consequence of test results being linked to a student’s GP records, which often automatically connected the case to a parent’s address. 

Following the address reallocation on Monday, areas such as Richmondshire in North Yorkshire saw 12 per cent of its total recorded cases disappear from its tally.

Around 30 further local authorities saw a fall in total Covid-19 cases of more than five per cent.

Regionally, the North West saw an increase of 1,935 cases following the correction while cases in East Anglia fell by 2,208. The South East saw the largest reduction, with 2,344 overall cases removed from its tally, 

Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at PHE, told the Telegraph: ‘We have updated the way we record the location of people who test positive for coronavirus to prioritise addresses given at point of testing, rather than details registered on the NHS database.

Students were erroneously reported to live in their home towns when they tested positive for the virus rather than being away at university. Pictured: Newcastle earlier this month

Students were erroneously reported to live in their home towns when they tested positive for the virus rather than being away at university. Pictured: Newcastle earlier this month

The blunder, which has since been corrected by Public Health England, was a consequence of test results being linked to a student's GP records, which often automatically connected the case to a parent's address

The blunder, which has since been corrected by Public Health England, was a consequence of test results being linked to a student’s GP records, which often automatically connected the case to a parent’s address

‘This better reflects the distribution of positive cases in recent weeks and months, particularly among younger people of university age who may not have yet registered with a GP at their term-time address. 

‘This has not affected any decision about local and national restrictions, which take into account a wider range of evidence.’

PHE added it had considered whether the corrected data would have impacted decisions made about local and national restrictions earlier in the year.

It was concluded that ‘recording location based on the NHS database has not affected any such decisions which take into account a wider range of evidence.’

News of the blunder came as Britain recorded 1.7 per cent fewer coronavirus cases compared to last week in yet another indication the UK’s second wave is slowing.

The Government announced 20,051 new lab-confirmed Covid cases in the UK yesterday, down from the 20,412 infections confirmed last Tuesday. 

The figure is also a fall from the 21,363 cases confirmed on Monday, with the total number of infections in the UK now at 1,410,732 since the start of the pandemic.  

The Department of Health announced a further 598 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday – up 12.4 per cent from the same point last week, when 532 deaths were recorded.

How could the new Tiers look? 

Ministers insist no final decisions have been made on the Tier system after December 2, but there have been hints at the kind of measures it could feature.

It also seems clear that in future the rules will be applied on a wider regional basis, rather than to specific towns and cities. 

TIER 1 

The Rule of Six looks set to continue, and the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants would still apply.

However, there is speculation that households could be restricted from meeting in homes after health chiefs said the base level was proving ineffective.

TIER 2

Tier 2 previously involved all the curbs in the first level, plus a ban on mixing with other households in any indoor setting – including pubs and restaurants.

TIER 3

Tier 3 is the highest set of restrictions currently available in the system

There is a ban on socialising indoors and in private gardens. Pubs and bars must shut unless they are able to operate as eateries. 

There are restrictions on staying overnight in other parts of the country unless it is for essential work.

TIER 4?

Ministers have been hinting at another bracket of restrictions above the existing highest level – as is already the case in Scotland.

There are suggestions it could ’embed’ some of the bolt-ons to the Tier 3 restrictions already being deployed in some areas.

For example, Nottinghamshire has imposed a ban on alcohol sales after 9pm, while other areas have shut gyms and leisure centres.

The latest death toll is the highest recorded in Britain since May 12, when 614 deaths were confirmed. The latest death figure brings the UK total to 52,745.

However, separate data from the UK’s statistic agencies suggest there have been more than 68,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

These include deaths where the virus has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days. 

Meanwhile, figures released by the Office for National Statistics today showed the number of people dying with Covid-19 rose by 40 per cent in the first week of November – when the virus was to blame for one in every six deaths in England and Wales.

The latest data comes amid fears that England could be headed for Christmas under a brutal four-Tier system when lockdown ends next month – with the prospect of tougher limits on mixing indoors and alcohol sales.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick today delivered a strong hint that the levels of local restrictions will be bolstered even if the national curbs are lifted as scheduled on December 2. 

Mr Jenrick has suggested some extra measures taken in Nottinghamshire – such as a bar on alcohol sales after 9pm – could be ’embedded’ into any upcoming Covid-19 arrangements.  

The Housing Secretary added no decision had been taken on whether to tighten the lowest Tier One after health chiefs branded it ineffective. This could potentially mean families being prevented from gathering indoors over the festive season.

Pressed on the issue in the Commons this afternoon, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to kill off the idea, saying it was ‘too early to do the analysis’. ‘We will remain vigilant,’ he told MPs.

In a round of interviews, Mr Jenrick also signalled regions, rather than individual towns and cities, will be subject to the same Tiers to make them more ‘consistent’. 

He added there will not be any ‘definitive’ decision on the shape of the rules post-December 2 until the end of this month. 

Mr Jenrick even refused to confirm that the blanket lockdown will end on that date, merely saying the ‘hope and expectation’ was that it would.  



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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson admits to ‘frustrations’ over test and trace and says system can ‘improve’ | Politics News



Boris Johnson has confessed to “frustrations” at the test and trace system and admitted there is need to “improve” the programme.

Latest figures show that less than 60% of close contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus in England are being reached.

Meanwhile, just 15% of people tested for COVID-19 in England at an in-person site are receiving their result within 24 hours.

Challenged about the performance of the test and trace system at a Downing Street news conference, the prime minister said: “I share people’s frustrations and I understand totally why we do need to see faster turnaround times and we need to improve it.

“We need to make sure that people who do get a positive test self-isolate – that’s absolutely crucial if this thing is going to work in the way that it can.”

Mr Johnson previously promised a “world-beating” national test and trace scheme.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, also admitted there was “room for improvement” in the test and trace scheme.

“The testing system has ramped up the numbers they’re able to do quite effectively, but it’s really important to concentrate on numbers of contacts, isolation as quickly as you can, and getting things back as quickly as you can ideally to get the whole process done within 48 hours,” he said.

“It’s very clear there’s room for improvement on all of that and therefore that would be diminishing the effectiveness of this.”

However, Sir Patrick cautioned that the “effectiveness” of test and trace was less when there are higher numbers of coronavirus infections.



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Crucial week for Victorian virus fight as Melbourne nears lockdown ease; Scramble to trace NSW cabbie’s movements; Fresh vaccine hope after $6m in funding announced


Metropolitan Melbourne could be just days away from a further easing of Australia’s harshest lockdown measures, as Victoria’s daily coronavirus cases continue to drop.

If Victoria’s average daily cases stay below 50 until September 28, Melbourne will enter ‘Step Two’ of Premier Daniel Andrews’ plan to bring the state out of lockdown, meaning hundreds of thousands of people will be allowed back to work.

Victoria recorded just 14 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, marking the lowest overnight rise in three months.

An additional five people have died, taking the state’s death toll to 762, while metropolitan Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average has dropped to 36.2.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaks at the daily briefing on September 20, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Source: Getty)



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Test and Trace gets worse… AGAIN: Record-low 72.6% of infected patients were reached


The Government’s Test and Trace system is getting worse as figures today revealed that call handlers reached a record-low of just 72.6 per cent of infected patients last week.

It’s the fifth week in a row the number of Covid-19 cases who have been tracked has fallen, dropping from the best performance of 82.8 per cent in the week ending July 22.

Scientists have repeatedly warned at least 80 per cent of coronavirus patients must be contacted and interviewed in order for the system — which Boris Johnson has called ‘world-beating’ — to work effectively. 

Department of Health data released today also showed a third of people who tested positive for the coronavirus and referred to the system were not reached within 24 hours. 

It’s crucial for the system to work rapidly, so that close contacts of Covid-19 cases who may unknowingly have the virus are tracked down and told to self isolate before they can spread the infection further. 

It comes as Matt Hancock today defended his plan to pay people on low incomes £13 a day to self-isolate, even though critics said the payments would not be enough to stop people going to work.

The Government’s Test and Trace system is getting worse as figures today revealed that call handlers reached a record-low of just 72.6 per cent of infected patients last week

The figures today also add to evidence that Britain’s outbreak is not spiralling out of control as feared, with the number of positive cases dropping almost nine per cent in a week. 

HANCOCK DEFENDS HIS PLAN TO PAY £13 A DAY TO BRITONS SELF-ISOLATING

Matt Hancock today launched a furious defence of his plan to pay people on low incomes £13 a day to self-isolate as critics said the payments would not be enough to stop people going to work.

From September 1 people who receive Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit who are required to self-isolate, who are unable to work from home and who are in Covid-19 hotspots will benefit from the new payment scheme.

Eligible people who test positive for the virus will receive £130 for their 10-day period of self-isolation while other members of their household, who under current rules must isolate for 14 days, will get £182.

The scheme will initially be trialled in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham – areas which are currently subject to local lockdown measures.

The Government hopes the payments will boost compliance with requests from NHS Test and Trace for people to stay at home, with Mr Hancock pointing out the money will be ‘in addition’ to other benefits.

But critics believe the payments are far too small and many people will still feel that they cannot afford to stay at home.

A total of 6,115 people were diagnosed between August 13 and 19, down from 6,656 the week before. 

This represents 1.4 and 1.5 per cent of all tests taken, respectively, proving that cases have not fallen just as a result of less testing.

Of those cases, 72.6 per cent were reached by call handlers. In comparison, the rate was 79 per cent the week before. Data also shows it is even worse than the 73.4 per cent recorded in the first week of the scheme. 

Of those who were contacted, only 69.7 per cent were reached within 24 hours. Five per cent weren’t tracked down for at least three days.

Some 75.9 per cent gave at least one phone number of a close contact, a figure that has dropped every week since mid-July. 

But in positive developments, 75.5 per cent of close contacts were reached, up from 71.6 per cent in the previous week.

But it’s still a dramatically lower number than the 91.1 per cent of cases who were reached in the first week of launching, on May 28.

Experts suspect that people do not pick up the phone to contact tracers because it is an unrecognised number. 

Head of the NHS Test and Trace Baroness Dido Harding, said England ‘now has the capacity to test for coronavirus and trace contacts on an unprecedented scale’.

She said today: ‘This week marks a milestone for NHS Test and Trace, which has now been in operation for more than three months.

‘The statistics published today show every week we consistently reach the majority of people testing positive and their contacts, and have now reached almost 300,000 people who may have unknowingly passed the virus on. 

‘We will continue to build the service further to reach more and more people and to scale up our testing capacity.

‘I urge everyone to use NHS Test and Trace to help everyone get back to a more normal way of life.’ 

The proportion of recent close contacts handled by call centres that were contacted

The proportion of recent close contacts handled by call centres that were contacted

More people are being referred to the NHS tracing system reflecting an increase in cases

More people are being referred to the NHS tracing system reflecting an increase in cases

Testing turnaround times have also dipped since the record high at the start of July. But they are starting to improve for home test kits and satellite centres

Testing turnaround times have also dipped since the record high at the start of July. But they are starting to improve for home test kits and satellite centres

FLU JABS ARE AT A LOW AMID FEARS OF INFLUENZA AND COVID-19 COINCIDING THIS WINTER

The number of vulnerable people getting free flu jabs in England is at an eight-year low, raising fears of an outbreak coinciding with a second wave of coronavirus

Last winter just 45 per cent of people under 65 with serious health conditions, who are offered the vaccine for free on the NHS, received the jab.

This has tumbled from a peak of 52.3 per cent in the winter of 2013 and is the worst uptake since Public Health England’s records began in 2012. 

This year the Government is organising the biggest ever flu vaccination programme for the UK, pledging to offer them to 30million people, including everyone over the age of 50 and 11-year-olds.

Officials hope that covering more of the at-risk groups with a flu jab will mean fewer people get seriously ill with the winter virus, which will relieve pressure on hospitals that are expected to face a resurgence of Covid-19 cases. 

But getting vaccinated against the flu is not compulsory and more than half of vulnerable adults currently do not take up the offer.

Coverage is better among the elderly, around three-quarters of whom get the vaccine, but the NHS also recommends it for pregnant women, diabetics, those with serious illnesses like heart disease, children and severely overweight people.

Thousands of people end up in hospital every year because of bad cases of flu, which can progress to pneumonia and kill people who already have weak immune systems.

In a bid to avoid this, and to protect the NHS while it prepares to deal with a second wave of coronavirus, the UK Government is this year hoping to scale up its flu jab programme to include a staggering 30million people – almost half the population.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has boasted officials ‘have bought more flu vaccine than ever before’.

But for the drive to work it will rely on people agreeing to be vaccinated and going to get it done at their local doctor’s surgery.

Experts say that low uptake may in part be due to people not taking seriously the flu viruses, which circulate every winter and is mild for many people.

‘People think the flu is not that bad… even for people who are in the risk groups,’ Dr Tonia Thomas, of Oxford University’s Vaccine Knowledge Trust, told the BBC

‘They are leading healthy lives in terms of day-to-day living. I have spoken to patients who say they forgot they are in a risk group.

‘It is only when they contract an infection that they realise their body responds differently to other people’s.’

Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘The latest test and trace figures show a yo-yo effect with vital improvements in some areas balanced out by steps back in others.’

Local health protection teams showed to have a higher success rate than the centralised system once again, proving that a ‘boots on ground’ approach is more effective for contact tracing.

Some 95.6 per cent of close contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to August 19, compared to 61.6 per cent of cases handled by call centres.

Various local authority councils took matters into their own hands and launched local contact-tracing operations to supplement the national system, before ministers offered local systems extra resources to strengthen their response.

The figures also show test turnaround times between 13 and 19 August have fallen.

Just one fifth of tests from all test sites were received within 24 hours of a test being taken. 

The number of people who got their result returned in 24 hours after visiting a regional testing site — mostly drive-throughs — was the worst yet.

Almost two-thirds (63.5 per cent) were still waiting for their result after 24 hours, up from 42.2 per cent the week before and 8 per cent in the week ending July 1.

But at last, the 24-hour target was improved for satellite test centres — places like hospitals and care homes that urgently need results — and home kits after weeks of dismal figures.

But still only 5.9 and 6.4 per cent of people in those testing categories got their result back in 24 hours. 

The PM had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of 100 per cent of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.

Experts say getting test results fast and carrying out contact tracing immediately is vital to stopping the spread of coronavirus because there is only a short window to alert people that they are at risk of infecting others without yet knowing they’re ill.

But those who take a home test kit now have to wait 71 hours on average to find out if they have Covid-19. 

The average amount of time it takes for test results to come back from all routes has increased, apart from those done at satellite test centres. 

Fears of a second wave have grown over the past month, with official data showing the average number of daily cases has doubled since mid-July. Growing outbreaks in Europe have also spooked ministers.

But the Department of Health figures and separate data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which tracks the size of the outbreak through swab tests of thousands of people, suggest that the number of cases is shrinking.

Last week it claimed 2,400 people are catching the virus in England each day, down 37 per cent on the week before.

Statisticians claimed the outbreak has ‘levelled off’. For comparison, the ONS estimated that around 4,200 people were getting infected each day at the end of July. 

However, a senior government source told journalists last Friday that data on growth rates and R values suggest cases are ‘trending upwards, very gently’.   

The official said: ‘We are not seeing fast increase here, but I do think we are on a positive slope and its gently increasing.’

SAGE warned the reproduction rate — the average number of people each coronavirus patient infects — could now be above the dreaded level of one. 

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) estimates the R value is now between 0.9 and 1.1. Experts say the R needs to stay below one or Governments risk losing control of the epidemic and the virus could start to spread exponentially again.

But the estimate is based on three week old data due to the lag in time between Covid-19 patients falling ill and appearing in the statistics, meaning it does not paint a real-time picture of the UK’s current epidemic. 

And it can be skewed upwards by local clusters of infections, which has been seen in swathes of the North West of England. 

The Office for National Statistics estimates 2,400 people are contracting the disease every day, down 37 per cent from the 3,800 the previous week

The Office for National Statistics estimates 2,400 people are contracting the disease every day, down 37 per cent from the 3,800 the previous week



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Reopening schools without better test and trace ‘threatens second wave twice as big as first’



Latin America broke through 5 million confirmed cases  on Monday, a Reuters tally showed, underscoring that the region is the area of the world hardest hit by the pandemic.

The coronavirus was initially slower to reach Latin America – home to about 640 million people – than much of the world. But health experts say it has been hard to control the virus due to the region’s poverty and densely packed cities.

The more than 10,000 new cases reported by Colombia’s health ministry on Monday pushed the region past the 5 million mark, a day after the Andean nation reported a record 11,470 cases.

Latin America has now topped 200,000 deaths. Brazil’s total approached 96,000 on Monday and Mexico surpassed 48,000. The two countries have the world’s second and third highest death tolls, after the US.

North America is the region with the second highest number of cases, with 4.8 million infections, according to a Reuters tally, followed by Europe and Asia, which have around 3 million infections each.





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Crikey Worm: Without a trace


Good morning, early birds. Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s team allegedly had just 14 contact tracers by the time COVID-19 took hold in Australia in March, and several schools will reportedly be closed in Sydney due to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases. It’s the news you need to know, with Chris Woods.

(Image: AAP/Daniel Pockett)

SYSTEMIC ISSUES

A Nine investigation has found that Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s team had just 14 contact tracers by the time COVID-19 took hold in Australia in March, despite the state government being given warnings by top bureaucrats dating back as far as May 2019 that the “public health unit was the worst resourced in the country”.

Meanwhile, 7.30 reports that a contract between the Victorian government and a security company hired for hotel quarantine has been slammed for making it the company’s responsibility to ensure guards undertook specialised infection control training and wore personal protective equipment.

Elsewhere, the Herald Sun ($) reports that Heritage Care, the operator of Epping Gardens — where two residents have died and 86 are infected — refused days of requests from health officials seeking to take control in order to keep healthy residents apart from the sick, with Austin health staff eventually forced to request federal ­intervention.

Finally, The Australian ($) reports that testing levels at Australia’s new ground zero — Brimbank, near Melbourne Airport, where active cases for the first time have surged through 600 — have fallen well behind rates at other local government areas i.e. 20,000 fewer tests than Casey, which has less than a third the total cases.

PS: In one of the most actively upsetting policy decisions yet, the US Republican party has proposed a $7 billion-plus weapons program form part of the latest $1 trillion recovery package. America’s death toll is currently approaching 150,000, and unemployment has hit roughly 20% across New York and Los Angeles.

SCHOOL’S OUT FOR (SOME OF) SYDNEY

According to the ABC, several government and Catholic schools, as well as a preschool, will be closed in Sydney due to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases; these include Fort Street High School in Sydney’s inner west, Mary Immaculate Primary School in Bossley Park, Freeman Catholic College in Bonnyrig Heights, and EverLearn preschool at Prestons in Sydney’s south-west.

The news comes as Queensland prepares to shut its border to all of Greater Sydney from 1am on Saturday — an announcement that hasn’t gone down great with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian — after which arrivals into Queensland will be forced into hotel quarantine at their own expense.

That decision came after Queensland recorded a third case after two 19-year-old women who had travelled from Victoria (via NSW) tested positive yesterday. Queensland Health have also called on anyone who interacted with the pair’s itinerary across Logan and Brisbane on July 21-28 to immediately self-quarantine and contact 13 HEALTH.

A SAD OFF AIR

The dual advertising downturn and general recession has once again hit rural journalism, with the ABC reporting that just over a dozen regional Nine journalists are expected to lose their jobs.

From August 10 the network will cut in half an hour-long regional news bulletin airing in Queensland, southern New South Wales and Victoria, while the ABC understands Nine’s Shepparton and Dubbo bureaus will close.

PS: In a much more immediate impact of COVID-19 on the media, ABC Breakfast’s presenting team will self-isolate this morning as their Melbourne floor manager, whose wife tested positive, awaits results.

BILOELA FAMILY DETENTION CONTINUES

According to 9News, Priya Murugappan, former Biloela resident and two-year government detainee, has been forcibly removed from a Western Australian hospital by at least 10 Border Force guards. Her husband Nades claims he lost contact with her mid-phone call before she was able to contact her lawyer, while advocates have since reported her arrival on Christmas Island.

The news comes as Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge, with some help from The Courier-Mail ($), slams protesters in Brisbane for “costing taxpayers millions of dollars” in security guards at the Kangaroo Point refugee detention facility. His point, considering that overall money would be saved were the government to free the people they have detained for months following evacuations from Manus Island, may not be the silver bullet Tudge thinks it is.

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

Finally, a coalition of former emergency leaders, climate scientists, doctors and community members named Emergency Leaders for Climate Action has launched a landmark Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan report.

As the ABC notes, the report includes more than 165 recommendations including that the federal government impose a levy on the fossil fuel industry for a climate disaster fund to help pay for the impact of natural disasters.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

I also think that as a Jewish person, like I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life. You know, they never tell you, that oh by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was — just sitting there, ‘oh the fucking door’s open’.

Seth Rogen

A day after the Democratic National Committee overwhelmingly voted to support further annexations of Palestine, the Superbad and Knocked Up star officially demonstrates more compassion for the country than either American political party.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Third Aboriginal death in WA custody in two months as man dies in Roebourne prison

Clive Palmer ‘highly likely’ to win WA coronavirus border closure legal fight, Prime Minister warns

Super grab pours $42bn into offset accounts ($)

National cabinet deliberations may not be exempt from FOI, legal advice says

Conspiracy theorist Eve Black dramatically arrested after viral attempt to cross Metro Melbourne checkpoint ($)

‘Shared decision making with First Nations people’ at heart of Closing the Gap agreement

Labor adviser Marcus Ganley ‘quit after sex claim’ ($)

Gas prices will need to stay low to compete with alternatives on renewable grid, operator says

Mask-shunning Republican congressman tests positive for COVID-19: report

Teenagers among first arrested under new Hong Kong national security law

THE COMMENTARIAT

The verdict from bushfire experts: there’s no sidestepping climateGreg Mullins (Sydney Morning Herald): “A week before Christmas last year, five of my fellow veteran fire and emergency chiefs and I held a press conference as fires ravaged Australia’s east coast. Appalled by the utter lack of leadership from Canberra in supporting bushfire response efforts, we took matters into our own hands.”

We don’t want a Morrison-Andrews tango — we need lives saved ($) — Niki Savva (The Australian): “Here is a not so bold prediction: there is not a single person alive today who will be around when the last cent of the national debt, expected to grow to more than $1 trillion, is paid off. There is not a politician today, or an established political party, with the desire, the will or the intent to tackle the Everest of debt that the Morrison government has amassed in the blink of an eye. Voters don’t care and the politicians won’t dare.”

Bill Barr’s unconstitutional campaign to reelect the PresidentDonald Ayer, former Deputy Attorney General under George H. W. Bush (The Atlantic): “Throughout his first year in office, Bill Barr worked overtime to advance the personal and political interests of President Donald Trump, and to alter the structure of American government to confer virtually autocratic powers on the president, in accordance with views that Barr has held for several decades.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Scott Morrison is expected to announce the revamped Closing the Gap targets for Indigenous well-being.

  • The parliamentary COVID-19 inquiry will hear from Treasury, ATO, DSS, and Services Australia.

Australia

  • Author and historian Thomas Frank will discuss The war on populism and the fight for democracy, and his new book People without Power with ALP National President Wayne Swan and Executive Director of the Australia Institute Ben Oquist as part of the Economics of a Pandemic webinar series.

Peter Fray

It’s back! Join today and save up to 50% on a year of Crikey.

Don’t miss out this time around. Join today and get a year of Crikey for as little as $99.

We’re still pinching ourselves at the incredible response to our first ever choose-what-you-pay subscription drive.

Some of our readers told us they missed out on the chance to choose what they pay, so we thought we’d do it all over again – but only till midnight this Friday.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

Join today





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Serbian president refutes allegations about ‘Russian trace’ in Belgrade protests – World


BELGRADE, July 13./TASS/. President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic has dismissed as baseless reports by certain Serbian media outlets about an alleged ‘Russian trace’ in Belgrade protests.

“I have no proof of this whatsoever,” Vucic told TV Pink on Sunday when asked about Russia’s possible role in the protests. Commenting on the cancellation of a meeting with the Russian Ambassador to Serbia scheduled for July 8, the president said it had been cancelled for technical reasons. “For technical reasons, I am meeting with the Russian ambassador tomorrow,” President Vucic said.

The president said, however, that he was “equally unhappy” about the activity of certain US, German and Russia media, since he saw no difference between them.

Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry slammed as fake news the reports about the “Russian trace” behind unrest in Belgrade.

“Certain online media outlets released reports on alleged ‘Russian trace’ behind the unrest in Belgrade on July 7-8,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

“Apparently, the authors of that fake news are trying to keep up with well-known conspiracy stereotypes of their sponsors who seem to be seeing ‘the hand of Moscow’ everywhere. That low-profile paid news pursues the sole goal of casting a shadow on the Russian-Serbian partnership,” the ministry added.

On Tuesday, President Aleksandar Vucic announced the curfew would be re-imposed in Belgrade from Friday evening until Monday morning to combat a spike in coronavirus cases. Serbians did not support their leader’s decision and took to the streets without waiting for the end of his address. After far-right groups had joined the peaceful protesters, the rally against the curfew spilled into an attempted storm of the building of Serbia’s parliament. Clashes erupted between the police and protesters and continued into Wednesday.

The Serbian national television reported that nationals of Israel and Kyrgyzstan were detained on Thursday for taking part in the riots. The Alo daily said that the riots were joined by mercenaries from the US private military company Blackwater, who were the Serbs who had earlier fought for the Ukrainian army in eastern Ukraine.



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UK coronavirus LIVE: NHS Test and Trace figures to be revealed as Government faces mounting criticism



Latest World UPDATE:

Governments and businesses are ramping up precautions after the number of coronavirus cases surged in various parts of the world.

– Indonesia was expected to pass the 50,000 mark for confirmed infections on Thursday.

– In Melbourne, health workers planned to go door to door to test more than 100,000 residents in a coronavirus hotspot that threatens to undo the nation’s success in battling the virus.

– India reported a record high 16,922 cases on Thursday, taking the national total to 473,105, with nearly 15,000 deaths.

– In China, an outbreak in Beijing appeared to have been brought under control.

– South Korea was still struggling to quell an outbreak there, reporting 28 new cases on Thursday, mostly associated with nightlife, churches, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sales.

– American hospital administrators and health experts warned on Wednesday that politicians and a public tired of being cooped up are letting a disaster unfold.

– The virus has been blamed for over 120,000 US deaths — the highest toll in the world — and more than 2.3 million confirmed infections nationwide. On Wednesday, the widely cited University of Washington computer model of the outbreak projected nearly 180,000 deaths by October 1.



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The NHS Test and Trace system, explained



A total of 8,117 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England had their case transferred to the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing system during the period May 28 to June 3.

Of this total, 5,407 (67 per cent) were reached and asked to provide details of recent contacts, while 2,710 (33 per cent) could not be reached. 

When those who tested positive were contacted they passed over 31,794 contacts to the NHS Test and Trace team, 26,985 (85 per cent) of whom were reached and advised to self-isolate.

Baroness Dido Harding, the head of the test and trace programme, admitted on June 11 it was not yet at the “gold standard” but said it was now a “functioning service”. 85 per cent of total contacts identified in the first week agreed to self-isolate, she said.

Mr Hancock added that Test and Trace is the Government’s “radar” to see how the virus is spreading, and that people who test positive must work with NHS Test and Trace to “break the chain of transmission”. 

“I would go so far as to say participation in NHS Test and Trace is your civic duty,” he said.

The system still has spare capacity but it will get better, and it will soon be world-class, he said.

The NHS contact tracing app, currently being trialled on the Isle of Wight, will also form part of the new Test and Trace strategy in the coming weeks.

But Baronness Harding said she was unable to give a date for when the app will be rolled out nationally.

Mr Hancock said the app would be used when the time is right, but he wanted to make sure the Track and Trace system worked with human beings before introducing a technological element (the app).

But what is the new strategy and how will it work?

1. Self-isolate and test

Anyone with symptoms including a persistent cough or temperature must self-isolate for at least seven days.

Anyone else in your household should self-isolate for 14 days from when you started having symptoms, as studies have shown people can be asymptomatic for up to two weeks.

Mr Hancock said it is “your civic duty” to isolate and follow the rules of the Test and Trace strategy.

“This will be voluntary at first because we trust everyone to do the right thing, but we will make it mandatory if that’s what it takes,” Mr Hancock added. 

“If we don’t collectively make this work, the only way forward is to keep the lockdown. The more people who follow the instructions, the safer we can be and the faster we can lift the lockdown.”

If you are experiencing symptoms you must request a test as soon as possible via nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119. 

The capacity for testing will be scaled up, the Health Secretary said, after the launch of the online portal for key workers to order tests in April saw all 5,000 tests booked within two minutes. 

Mr Hancock previously aimed for 100,000 tests to be carried out a day in the UK, but this capacity will be expanded to 200,000 per day. 

The increase in testing capacity includes 50 drive-through locations and 100 mobile testing units, the government announced.

Testing will also now be available for children under five, in a bid to help the reopening of schools in England from June 1. 

A former director of the World Health Organisation has also called for GPs to be drafted in to help lead the NHS test and trace system, with testing hubs at local surgeries.

 



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