UK coronavirus live: demand for Covid tests outstripping capacity, MPs told

By Andrew Sparrow


Sir Keir Starmer has indicated he will instruct Richard Leonard to bury the hatchet with Scottish Labour party rebels who tried to unseat him as Scottish leader last weekend during a private meeting in Edinburgh today.

Talking to reporters during his first visit to Scotland as UK party leader, Starmer was asked about Leonard’s threat last week to deselect centrist MSPs who called for him to quit following Scottish Labour collapse in polling support, and also about the Scottish party’s refusal to allow a leadership challenge. Leonard was an ally of Jeremy Corbyn.

Starmer said he had been elected on a platform of reunifying Labour following the Corbyn era. He went on:

That’s why I’m talking to colleagues in Scottish Labour today. What I want to see here in Scotland is our party pull together and to focus on the job in hand, what we need to do between now and May. So that’s why I’m here.

Starmer insisted he had an “excellent working relationship” with Leonard but accepted the party had “a considerable task” regaining trust with voters.

He also dodged a question on the significant tensions Labour faces in Scotland over his stance on Brexit next May. With support for independence now at 54%, the Scottish National party and Scottish Greens will attack Starmer’s position that the EU question is now settled. Asked about that tension, he simply said:

We’ve left the EU and the leave/remain side is over; we’ve left the EU and there isn’t really a case for rejoining. Therefore we’ve got to focus on getting a deal and it’s in our interests to get a deal. No deal would be a catastrophic failure of the negotiations by the prime minister.

Keir Starmer (2nd from left) visiting the University of Edinburgh School of Medicine today.

Keir Starmer (2nd from left) visiting the University of Edinburgh School of Medicine today. Photograph: Jane Barlow/AFP/Getty Images


The coronavirus is evolving slowly, researchers have confirmed, in a report that is a glimmer of good news for vaccine researchers.

The report, released by the Royal Society’s Science in Emergencies Tasking: Covid-19 group, reveals that while the genome of the virus has shown some mutations, these do not appear to be making the virus more dangerous.

Indeed such changes could actually be useful, with the team noting they can be harnessed to probe the spread of Covid-19 in hospitals, schools and other settings.

While the report notes the evolving genome of the virus should be considered when it comes to testing to make sure cases are not missed, it says the changes seen so far mean the virus is unlikely to outflank vaccines currently under development.

“The genome variation seen hitherto is unlikely to enable virus escape from immune responses induced by vaccination or prior infection,” the team write.


Thailand and Singapore added to England's travel corridor list, meaning arrivals exempt from quarantine

Thailand and Singapore are being added to England’s travel corridor, meaning arrivals from the countries will no longer have to quarantine for a fortnight.

Denmark was widely anticipated to be dropped from the list of locations exempted from isolation measures, after worsening Covid-19 rates, but has escaped removal this week.

In other moves announced by transport secretary Grant Shapps, Slovenia and Guadeloupe, a French overseas region consisting of an archipelago of islands in the Caribbean, are being removed from England’s travel corridor after an increase in Covid cases.

The measures will come into force on Saturday at 4am. UK residents made 389,000 visits to Thailand in 2019, according to estimates produced by the Office for National Statistics. Meanwhile, the government says around 450,000 Britons visit Singapore each year.

Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps)

Latest data shows we need to remove SLOVENIA and GUADELOUPE from the Travel Corridor list to keep everyone safe. This means if you arrive in the UK from these destinations after 4am Saturday, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

September 17, 2020
Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps)

Separately, we will be adding SINGAPORE and THAILAND to the Travel Corridor list. Please check before you travel as both countries may have extra requirements before entering.

September 17, 2020


Pedestrians will be given priority over cars at dozens of crossings in London after successful trials of a radical plan to keep the “green man” signal – and a red light for traffic - displayed as a default.

Transport for London said the move, a first for the UK, would help encourage more journeys by foot as travel grows after the pandemic, while improving safety.

The red man signal at pedestrian crossings will only be shown if vehicles are in the vicinity, using technology which has been trialled in eight-month long tests at locations near the Millennium Bridge and the Shard. Another 20 crossings around London boroughs will be re-programmed this month.

The trials showed that it would minimise waiting time for pedestrians and did not significantly affect road traffic flow. TfL said research showed that at normal pedestrian crossings more than 50% of people attempt to cross within five seconds, irrespective of the signal, risking accidents.

As part of broader moves to encourage more walking journeys on everyday trips, TfL and London Living Streets have also launched a new Footways map highlighting “safe and attractive” routes between stations and key locations around the capital.

Commuters in London crossing London Bridge this morning.

Commuters in London crossing London Bridge this morning.
Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters






A ‘Thank You NHS’ Spitfire flying over the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh today during a tour around Scottish hospitals to raise money for NHS Charities Together.
A ‘Thank You NHS’ Spitfire flying over the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh today during a tour around Scottish hospitals to raise money for NHS Charities Together. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA



The Scottish secretary, Alister Jack, has accused Nicola Sturgeon on introducing different coronavirus guidance “for the sake of it”, as well as suggesting that Jeane Freeman, the Scottish government’s health secretary, misled a Commons committee by allegedly claiming in June that she could not recall any communication with him.

After reports of Jack’s accusations at the Scottish affairs committee emerged, Freeman retweeted a transcript of her own evidence to the same committee, in which she clearly states that both were present at a meeting with her UK counterpart, Matt Hancock.

Davie Hutchison (@DavieHutchison)

Except Jeane Freeman actually told the Scottish Affairs Committee that Alister Jack was at the meeting with herself and Matt Hancock in March.

September 17, 2020

Earlier today, Jack told MPs:

We need to stop the confusion. All the administrations in these weekly meetings we have should actually just be grown up, and not be different for the sake of it for whatever agenda they have. It hasn’t brought anyone to a different outcome - the prevalence of the virus is as high in any part of the UK as any other. On average all four nations are experiencing similar problems.



UK records 3,395 more coronavirus cases