8.34am BST08:34

More from the UK, where the Covid-19 situation is rapidly deteriorating. Britons have been urged to take heed of the “stark warning” of cases rising to their highest level yet as the chancellor set out a multibillion-pound support package in a bid to save jobs.

A total of 6,634 new cases were recorded on Thursday – the largest daily count since the beginning of the pandemic.

It came as chancellor Rishi Sunak said the virus’s resurgence poses a threat to the UK’s “fragile” economic recovery.

The rise in cases is a “clear” signal, Public Health England’s Professor Yvonne Doyle said, as she insisted people must follow the stricter measures announced this week in order to help control the virus.

Testing capacity has expanded significantly since the outbreak began meaning more cases will be detected, but Prof Doyle said the latest figure was “a stark warning for us all”.

She added:

The signals are clear. Positivity rates are rising across all age groups and we’re continuing to see spikes in rates of admission to hospital and critical care.

“We must all follow the new measures that have been brought in to help control the virus and download the new NHS Covid-19 App which is the fastest way of knowing when you’re at risk.”

The app, which launched in England and Wales on Thursday, had been downloaded more than one million times by Android users by that evening according to the Google Play Store – a figure likely to be higher when iPhone downloads are included.

8.20am BST08:20

North Korea has said it is “sorry” for shooting dead a missing South Korean to prevent the spread of coronavirus, amid growing backlash.

North Korea’s United Front Department, in charge of cross-border ties, sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office a day after Seoul officials said North Korean soldiers killed a South Korean before dousing his body in oil and setting it on fire.

The rare message came as Moon faced intense political fallout over the incident, which coincided with a renewed push for policy to engage Pyongyang.

A South Korean military official gives a briefing on North Korea’s shooting of a South Korean at the National Assembly in Seoul on Thursday. Photograph: Ha Sa-hun/AP

The letter cited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as saying he was “sorry” that the incident disappointed the South Korean public and should not have happened, Moon’s security adviser Suh Hoon said.

The soldiers fired more than 10 shots at the man, a South Korean fisheries official who went missing this week, after he did not reveal his identity and tried to flee, Suh said, citing the letter.

But the letter said they burned a floatation device he was using, according to their anti-virus manuals, and not his body.

“The troops could not locate the unidentified trespasser during a search after firing the shots, and burned the device under national emergency disease prevention measures,” Suh told a briefing, referring to the letter.

The shooting shocked many South Koreans and triggered a fierce backlash from opposition lawmakers, prompting Moon to issue an unusually stringent response calling it “unpardonable.”

8.03am BST08:03

Russia has agreed to supply up to 35 million doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine to Uzbekistan.

The deal with pharmaceutical company Laxisam is one of several agreed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund in recent weeks to supply the vaccine, which is currently being tested in a large-scale trial in Moscow.

It has also made supply deals with Kazakhstan, India, Mexico and two Brazilian states.

7.47am BST07:47

The Czech Republic’s daily coronavirus caseload rose to 2,913 on Thursday, the second highest figure on record.

Data from the health ministry shows the total number of infections now stands at 58,374 in the country of 10.7 million people, which has been experiencing a surge in infections in recent weeks after a relaxation of lockdown measures in the summer.

7.20am BST07:20

UK debt soars over pandemic costs

The UK government borrowed £35.9bn in August in an effort to tackle the economic fallout from Covid-19, official figures show.

It means the national debt hit a record £2.024 trillion at the end of August – £249.5bn more than the same time last year – according to the Office for National Statistics, pushing borrowing up to 101.9% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Public sector net debt was £2,023.9 billion at the end of August 2020, 101.9% of GDP, £249.5 billion more than at the same point last year https://t.co/4OWYxcUcS8 pic.twitter.com/Qed3wtQUk5

September 25, 2020

In July, the UK’s debt passed £2 trillion for the first time in history as the government threw billions at offsetting the economic chaos caused by lockdown measures.

at 7.24am BST

7.15am BST07:15

European governments will pay claims above an agreed limit against AstraZeneca over side-effects from its potential Covid-19 vaccine, under different terms to a deal struck with Sanofi, an EU official has told Reuters.

The deals reflect different strategies by two of the world’s top drugmakers for protecting themselves as a debate rages about liabilities for vaccines aimed at ending the pandemic.

AstraZeneca has secured the European Union’s backing in a confidential agreement which reflects the lower price sought by the British drugmaker, the official said.

“If a company asks for a higher price we don’t give the same conditions,” said the official, who was involved in the talks but declined to be identified as the contracts are confidential.

Unexpected side-effects after a drug has regulatory approval are rare, but the speed at which a vaccine is being pursued increases the risks of unforeseen conditions.

The deal with AstraZeneca, which shifts some of the risks involved in the roll-out of a vaccine to taxpayers, was struck in August and its liability clauses have not previously been reported.

Under the deal, AstraZeneca would only pay legal costs up to a certain threshold, the official said, declining to elaborate on how the costs would be shared with individual European governments or the cap.

The financial shield would cover both legal costs and potential compensation, which is rarer but potentially a much bigger outlay in the event of something going wrong.

In return for the higher price paid for its vaccine, French drugmaker Sanofi, which is working with GlaxoSmithKline as a partner, did not get any liability waiver.

Spokespeople for AstraZeneca, Sanofi and the European Commission declined to comment on the specifics of the deals.

7.05am BST07:05


Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.
The virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus had made it more lethal or changed its effects.
India’s coronavirus case tally surged to 5.82 million after it recorded 86,052 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Friday.India has regularly been confirming daily case numbers above 80,000 since late August, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 1,141 people died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the ministry said, taking mortalities to 92,290, which is a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.
Brazil cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event.Rio’s authorities are yet to announce a decision about the carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to the Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it was uncertain when large public events could resume.
In Europe, the pandemic is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, the European Union warned, as governments reimpose drastic measures. New infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”. The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.
Israel further toughened its lockdown measures on Thursday after existing restrictions failed to bring down the infection rate. The country has 212,115 cases out of a population of just under 9 million: roughly equivalent to one case per 23 people.The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.
France set a new record for daily new cases. Health authorities reported 16,096 new confirmed cases on Thursday, a significant increase on the previous record of 13,498 and setting a fourth all-time high of daily additional infections in eight days.

Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, Victoria, looks set to ease restrictions over the weekend. The two-week average of new infections in Melbourne dropped below 26, well below the 30-50 level which the state has set as a precondition to relax its strict curbs.

6.51am BST06:51

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today.

Now, as you all know, it is my duty and honour to bring you the very latest in coronavirus news. But if you’ll allow it, here is a non-pandemic piece about sisters, a pair of stolen boots and very Scottish chins:

I’m not sure that I’ll ever feel completely Australian. But I know that I only began to feel settled here when my sister visited. She is where I am from, she fastens the compass needle to the compass. In my old-new boots, I feel like she is where I am always going, too.

at 7.01am BST

6.39am BST06:39

In June Boris Johnson told the country it was our patriotic duty to go to the pub and spread the coronavirus: that having been an effective message, the government is now mandating the early closure of pubs and restaurants in what is being called a “curfew”, as though it were the public and not the government who were a bunch of unruly children.

“Curfew” is a contraction of the original French couvre-feu, meaning literally “cover the fire”. In medieval Europe, it was common for a bell to be rung at a certain hour in the evening (often eight o’clock) indicating that all fires must be covered or put out, in order to prevent domestic fires from accidentally burning down whole villages or towns.

The term was subsequently borrowed to refer to a restriction on citizens’ movements after dark, but the traditional “ringing of curfew” by church bells persisted long after its original purpose, as in Grey’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”: “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day.” Now it is tolling the knell of parting beer. One may doubt, though, that these curfews will suffice to put out the fire of the resurgent pandemic:

6.27am BST06:27

South Korea to tighten social distancing curbs during two holiday weeks

South Korea on Friday said it would impose tighter restrictions during the Chuseok autumn holiday weeks when people traditionally reunite with families, flagging the risks of new clusters of coronavirus infections.

The new curbs apply to at least 11 high-risk facilities in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, including nightclubs and bars.

Those restrictions are on top of the current so-called phase two social distancing, which limits indoor gatherings to 50 people and outdoor gatherings to 100, and bans spectators from sporting events.

The new measures will be in place from 28 September to 11 October. Korea’s Hangul holiday, which memorialises when King Sejong introduced the language’s unique characters, is on 9 October.

Health workers disinfect streets near Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, which is at the centre of a recent resurgence of the coronavirus, ahead of the Chuseok holiday, which falls on 1 October, in Seoul, South Korea, 24 September 2020. Photograph: YONHAP/EPA

Asia’s fourth-largest economy managed to contain the virus and avoid a full lockdown this year, but infections at a church and political rally in August sparked the country’s largest outbreak.

It peaked at more than 440 new cases at the end of August, and despite a steady decline since then, officials say they fear the holiday, which runs from 30 September to 2 October, may lead to another spike.

“We are at an important crossroads that will decide whether we will be able to return to the phase one social distancing policy or revisit another Covid-19 outbreak,* Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing.

Park urged residents to hold online visits during the holiday and outsource the tidying of ancestors’ graves, one of the main Chuseok traditions.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 114 new coronavirus cases as of midnight Thursday, bringing the country’s total to 23,455, with 395 deaths.

6.12am BST06:12

In strictly non-pandemic news:

A landmine detection rat has been awarded a gold medal for his “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty”.

Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, has discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance in Cambodia since he was trained by charity APOPO. He is the charity’s most successful Hero Rat, having cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land – the equivalent of 20 football pitches.

Helen Sullivan

0mg a picture of a rat wearing the medal he got for bravery
https://t.co/6TGRCEHGdE pic.twitter.com/tXqrtWUmhf

September 25, 2020

Magawa has been formally recognised for his work and been presented with a miniature PDSA Gold Medal, the animal equivalent of the George Cross. He is the first rat in the charity’s 77-year history to receive such an award:

6.02am BST06:02

As the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide looked set to pass a million within days, Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade for the first time in a century because of Brazil’s continued vulnerability in the pandemic.

The global death toll passed 980,000 on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. With the number of deaths confirmed daily averaging more than 5,000, it looks likely the toll will pass 1 million within days. There are 32m cases worldwide.

Coronavirus live news: France sees record new cases; virus may be becoming more contagiousRead more

Earlier in the week, death toll in the United States, which has suffered more coronavirus-related deaths than any other country, passed 200,000. The number of cases is nearing 7m.

Brazil, which has the second-worst death toll worldwide with 139,000, and the third-most cases, with 4.6m, cancelled its carnival parade, which usually takes place in February, for the first time in 100 years. Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible to safely hold the traditional event:

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