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Live Reporting

Edited by Claire Heald

All times stated are UK

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  1. This evening's main stories

    Two women wearing masks

    Thanks for joining us today - here's a recap of some of the day's top lines.

    Thursday's live page was edited by Claire Heald and Holly Wallis. It was written by Malu Cursino, Alexandra Fouché, Joshua Nevitt, Mary O'Connor and Lauren Turner. As ever, it's been a team effort with contributions from our colleagues across the BBC.

    • This afternoon's UK government data showed there had been 52,009 new cases of Covid recorded in one day - the highest daily figure since the middle of July
    • Some doctors say they want more restrictions to come in now, to protect the NHS
    • We've been asking for your views too on the possible introduction of Plan B, with readers both for and against - scroll down to read those
    • But Boris Johnson, speaking today, said infections were high but in line with predictions, and urged people to have a third vaccine dose when they become eligible
    • There's been more talk of mask wearing today - both generally, and about the use of coverings in the House of Commons. Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg says the "convivial fraternal spirit" means Conservatives don't wear them - and also that MPs can make their own decisions. But Health Secretary Sajid Javid said yesterday they should wear them, to set an example
    • Other countries in Europe are seeing a rise in cases too - in Poland, there has been double the number of cases compared to a week ago, with the health minister describing it as an explosion
    • And Latvia has become the first European country to bring back a full lockdown, which is in place until 15 November
    • Closer to home, another Covid-19 case has been reported at Strictly Come Dancing - Judi Love and her dance partner Graziano Di Prima will miss this Saturday's show after she tested positive for the virus
  2. What's in the daily stats?

    Philippa Roxby

    Health reporter, BBC News

    Daily case of coronavirus in the UK continue to rise - now going past 50,000 - and hospital admissions are rising closer to 1,000 a day, but daily deaths have fallen slightly.

    The last time we saw that level was in mid-July, a few weeks after the 2m social distancing rule was scrapped and soon after pubs and restaurants reopened in England.

    Cases peaked at that point and then fell steeply without any further restrictions being introduced.

    It's possible that could happen again now, but that's reliant on several things happening.

    The current strategy is to speed up vaccinations - in the form of boosters to the most vulnerable, and first doses to young teens and the five million unvaccinated - to increase protection among the population.

    Free testing is also part of that plan, and one reason why the UK has one of the highest Covid rates in Europe.

    In 10-19 year olds, these have reached a record high and there are concerns that infections could leak into other age groups.

    A change in people's behaviour now could bring cases down and reduce growing pressure on the NHS ahead of winter.

    Scientists say it's difficult to predict what could happen over the next few weeks - but the UK is in a very different place to last autumn, when the Covid vaccination programme hadn't even started yet.

  3. Watch: Sticking to plan on Covid says PM

    Video content

    Video caption: Johnson on Covid lockdown and restrictions in England

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the number of Covid infections in the UK was "high" but in line with predictions.

    Amid speculation of moves to stricter Plan B measures in England to combat rising cases, Boris Johnson appeared to rule this out for now, saying: "We are sticking with our plan."

  4. Have your say: 'We have to get on with life'

    We've also been hearing from people who say the government should not enact stricter Covid measures due to the impact on the economy and mental health.

    Phil Hadley says: "I think we just have to get on with life... we cannot keep shutting the economy down because the NHS is busy, I've had enough of my personal liberties being taken away from me just to protect the NHS, it's supposed to be there for us not the other way around."

    Katie from Southampton says: "Further restrictions, especially further lockdowns will be extraordinarily damaging to society, especially to the mental health of many.

    "Since there is no more that can be done given the success of the vaccination roll out, a further lockdown sets the extremely dangerous precedent that lockdowns will become an unquestionable staple whenever cases of COVID, or any further spreadable disease puts pressure on the NHS."

  5. What's the picture like across the UK?

    File image of medical staff

    In Wales, the NHS has just recorded its worst ever performance figures - with nearly 250,000 people waiting more than nine months for treatment, a 10-fold increase from the start of the pandemic.

    Its chief executive Andrew Goodall says the system is running "at the hottest we've ever seen". There's more on that here.

    And in Northern Ireland, the health service is facing "its worst winter ever". That's the warning from the NI chair of the British Medical Association. Read more here.

    You can see how cases are shifting in Scotland, here.

  6. Have your say: Should we move to Plan B?

    Passengers wear face masks whilst travelling on a bus in London
    Image caption: Passengers wear face masks whilst travelling on a bus in London

    We've been hearing from people about their thoughts on the increase in Covid cases and whether the government should invoke its Plan B measures - including compulsory face coverings in public, Covid passports and advising people to work from home.

    On Wednesday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid ruled it out at this point.

    But some readers think it should happen.

    Matt from Oxford says: "I probably travel into London once a month, and yesterday I saw a marked difference in people's behaviour. No more than 50% of people on the Tube were wearing face masks. Nobody had masks on in the restaurant I ate at, including staff.

    "The scientists say that quite small restrictions (eg masks and vaccine passports) have been shown to keep numbers down, so there seems to be no reason why we aren't doing that, just to make the country a safer place to go about our business..."

    Phyllis Williamson says: "I don’t see the problem with making the wearing of face masks mandatory on public transport and in busy, crowded areas – particularly indoors. It’s not pleasant but we had to do it for months and it didn’t kill us. It actually benefited us.

    "I don’t want to go back to not being able to safely see my family and having to worry about passing something on to them when I did.

  7. Reality Check

    How effective are face coverings?

    Whether or not people should wear face masks has been a hot topic today, as cases rise.

    From 19 July in England, face masks stopped being mandatory in most public places. They are still required in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Lots of studies have shown face coverings can help stop the virus from being passed between people.

    But it’s much harder to prove how much mask wearing reduces the amount of Covid circulating in a whole population.

    That's because it's hard to untangle it from all the other things going on at the same time, like how much people choose to mix with each other.

    You can read more about this and what could be causing the high number of infections currently, here.

  8. How many vaccines have been given in the UK?

    The daily government data also shows how many first and second vaccine doses have been given.

    It shows another 49,080 first doses have been given and 26,365 second doses. It means 45,460,122 people have now had two doses.

    Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said four million third doses, or boosters, had now been given as well.

  9. China Covid outbreak sparks school and travel suspensions

    Kerry Allen

    BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

    A medical worker in a protective suit collects a swab from a resident in in Lanzhou's Chengguan district, Gansu province.
    Image caption: A medical worker collects a swab from a resident in Lanzhou's Chengguan district, Gansu province, on 20 October.

    An outbreak of Covid-19 in China has led to swift restrictions being imposed in multiple Chinese provinces over the last week.

    Since 16 October, cases of Covid-19 linked to travel and tourism in China’s north have reached at least nine provincial-level regions.

    Parts of Inner Mongolia and Gansu province have gone into tight lockdown.

    Many schools have closed in both regions; a school has also closed in China's capital, Beijing.

    Tourist sites have closed in parts of Xi’an – the home of the Terracotta Warriors – and some cities have cancelled large-scale exhibitions and closed venues like cinemas.

    The number of cases in China is still relatively low – only in the double digits – however, it is common for the country to tackle outbreaks by swiftly locking down communities when even one resident tests positive.

    Citywide testing drives are ordered, and people are prohibited from leaving affected areas unless they can show a negative test within days of travel.

    Given many of the affected regions in this latest outbreak are in China’s north, the National Health Commission has urged enhanced measures to ensure that Covid-19 prevention work can be carried out safely.

    It has particularly emphasised protecting female medical workers from the cold in the coming months, and has urged limiting the amount of time people spend outdoors.

    Currently, it is common for large-scale testing drives to take place outside.

  10. Why are UK cases so high?

    As we reported just now, there have been more than 50,000 new Covid cases reported - with the total of 52,009 the highest since 17 July. On that day, there were 54,674 cases.

    It comes as levels have been progressively climbing in the UK. The previous eight days have all seen cases at more than 40,000.

    Cases over the last three months have been roughly the same as they were over a three-month period last winter, meaning we can compare them.

    Between July and October this year, there were just over three million cases, with 79,000 people ending up in hospital.

    Between October and January last year, there were just over 2.7 million cases, but more than 185,000 people needed hospital treatment. This was before vaccines were widely available.

    So why are cases so high - is it the looser rules, waning immunity or to do with issues with the vaccine rollout? We've taken a closer look at some of those questions here.

  11. Hospital declares critical incident as patient numbers up

    Dozens of ambulances
    Image caption: Dozens of ambulances remain outside the emergency department on Thursday afternoon

    A health minister said earlier that the current pressure on the NHS was manageable and sustainable after a doctor's union called for more restrictions to return in England to tackle "unacceptable" Covid case rates.

    Now, the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) has declared a critical incident due to the pressures it is facing.

    The trust reported up to 100 people in the emergency department waiting to be seen on Wednesday, with 25 ambulances waiting to transfer patients.

    It prompted managers to contact staff to ask them to work extra hours to help handle "intense pressures".

    In September, all planned and urgent surgeries were temporarily suspended due to the pressure the hospital is under.

    Routine surgeries remain suspended, with urgent procedures reviewed daily and continuing where possible.

    The trust said on Thursday it was treating 44 patients with Covid-19 - 10 more than the previous week.

    RCHT medical director Dr Allister Grant said there was "unprecedented demand" on the NHS in Cornwall, "more so this week than at any point during the pandemic".

    You can read more here.

  12. BreakingUK records more than 50,000 new daily cases

    The number of new coronavirus cases recorded in the UK has topped 50,000 for the first time since July.

    A total of 52,009 were recorded, according to the government statistics.

    And there have been another 115 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

  13. 'If they're not doing it, why should I?'

    As the debate over masks and face coverings rumbles on, Jacob Rees-Mogg says that Tories don't wear them in the Commons, but he follows Health Secretay Sajid Javid yesterday, saying MPs should, to “set an example”.

    MPs would indeed be effective in that if they did wear masks, Professor Robert West, a health psychologist advising the government as part of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), tells the BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

    He says that for people who have mixed feelings about mask-wearing, seeing MPs without them gives them an excuse to say “if they’re not doing it, why should I do it”.

    Prof West adds that “it’s about leadership” and “it behoves them to do the same thing”.

  14. When will I get a Covid booster jab?

    Jim Reed

    Health reporter, BBC News

    Paul Carter, 75, from Middleton, Leeds was one of the first people to get a Covid booster jab on the high street at the end of September
    Image caption: Paul Carter, 75 and from Leeds, was one of the first to get a Covid booster jab on the high street at end of September

    Covid booster jabs will eventually be available to everyone over 50, younger adults with some chronic health conditions, frontline health and social care staff and adults who share a household with vulnerable people.

    But to be eligible, it has to be 182 days, or roughly six months, since that person received a second vaccine dose.

    In all parts of the UK those eligible should be contacted and invited to book a booster.

    Some care homes may have other arrangements, with elderly residents visited by mobile units.

    In England, the health secretary has said that if you still haven’t been contacted and it is six months plus one extra week after that second dose, then you can now go online or phone 119 and book yourself in without an invite.

    For Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the advice for over 50s and those with underlying health conditions is still to wait to be contacted – either by phone, letter or text.

  15. PM: When you get the call, get the jab

    Boris Johnson

    The UK is in a "much better position" going into autumn and winter than it was 12 months ago - but "we must fortify ourselves further", says PM Boris Johnson.

    Speaking on a visit to Armagh, he says the government is "watching the numbers very carefully every day" - but that the situation is as predicted, so the government is "sticking with our plan".

    Johnson says that now, "the most important thing people can do is just get that booster jab - when you get the call, get the jab".

    It's because of vaccines that we're better off now than this time a year ago, he says, adding: "But we must fortify ourselves further.

    "The numbers are high, we see can see what's happening, we can see the increase, now is the time to get those booster jabs, and to vaccinate the 12-15 year olds as well."

    We've got a story here on the PM's comments if you want to read more.

  16. Watch: 'Tories don't wear masks because of fraternal spirit'

    Video content

    Video caption: Masks in Commons: Jacob Rees-Mogg and Pete Wishart

    Whether MPs, and indeed, the broader public in England should be back wearing masks has been strongly debated today.

    Doctors have called on the government to reimpose some rules in England, including face masks, because of the high number of new daily infections in the UK.

    The rules are different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where face coverings are required in certain places, including on public transport.

    Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg says a "convivial fraternal spirit" means the Conservatives do not need to wear masks in the Commons.

    The Commons leader said those on government benches knew each other, and teased Pete Wishart that he may not want to mix with SNP MPs who sat with him in the Commons.

    The minister says that Tory MPs can make their own choice on face masks.

  17. ‘Explosion’ in Covid infections in Poland

    Adam Easton

    Warsaw Correspondent

    A woman wearing a face mask is seen on 08 October, 2021 in Warsaw, Poland
    Image caption: Mask-wearing is patchy in Poland and vaccination take-up has flat-lined

    The UK is not the only European country seeing a surge in Covid cases. Several countries in Central and Eastern Europe are also experiencing a dramatic rise in infections.

    Here in Poland, we’ve had more than double the amount of cases compared with last week, and Health Minister Adam Niedzielski has called it an “explosion”.

    The number of new daily infections exceeds 5,000 and the amount of people in hospital with Covid is the highest since the start of June.

    Mr Niedzielski said some of the highest infection rates were in regions in eastern Poland with the lowest vaccination take-up.

    Overall, 63% of adults here are fully vaccinated, below the EU average of 74%, and take-up has flat-lined since August. The health minister says he’s instructed police to impose fines on people flouting the rules.

    It’s increasingly common here to see people in shops and on public transport without facemasks.

  18. What's the latest on travel rules?

    People walking along a beach in Ibiza

    The rising number of cases at home is also having an impact outside the country, with Morocco banning direct flights to and from the UK because of the rising number of cases.

    But on the upside, fully vaccinated travellers from 33 countries - including the UK - will now be able to travel to the US from 8 November.

    It's all explained here:

  19. Analysis

    What's the argument for sticking with Plan A?

    Philippa Roxby

    Health reporter, BBC News

    A Covid test centre sign

    As we've been reporting, cases of coronavirus are rising sharply, frontline doctors say they are under huge pressure and some healthcare staff report being burnt out. But the government in England says there's no reason to change tack right now.

    Moving to Plan B on tackling the pandemic would involve relatively small changes to people's lives. It would mean compulsory face masks on public transport and in shops, and/or advice to work from home.

    So what's stopping the move?

    Ministers say the NHS is extremely busy but they don't believe the pressure is unsustainable. There is still headroom and the country is in a much more positive place than it was last autumn.

    Even as cases rise, the Covid vaccination programme is keeping a lid on hospital admissions and deaths - and that's why speeding up access to booster vaccines for the over 50s and jabs for young teens is a priority, as well as targeting the five million people who've so far refused a vaccine.

    This will increase protection for the majority of the population over the next few months.

    And with infections rising, natural immunity from the virus is also helping that process.

    Predicting what will happen to cases is tricky. Cases could still flatten and come down or continue to rise to 100,000 as Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned on Wednesday.

    In many countries in Europe, the picture is much rosier and that's causing some concern in the UK as a whole.

    There is no precise trigger for Plan B - it's a wait-and-see judgement call, and the government in England is still biding its time.

  20. Patients facing nine-hour A&E wait in Newcastle

    Dr Chris Gibbons speaking outside the Royal Victoria Infirmary

    Earlier today, the health minister said the pressure on the NHS from Covid was “manageable” and sustainable. However, Dr Chris Gibbons, clinical director of medicine at Newcastle Hospitals Trust, paints a worrying picture.

    Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) is in a similar situation to other hospitals across the UK. The hospital has seen record numbers of patients coming through its A&E, as well as a rise in patients with Covid and flu.

    The backlog in surgery and treatments due to the pandemic has also significantly contributed to current pressures.

    Dr Gibbons tells the BBC the current number of admissions is higher than “anything we’d see in the worst winters”.

    The current picture at Newcastle’s RVI emergency department is difficult. Dr Gibbons says they are starting most days with patients waiting for beds and the waiting times can be “for eight or nine hours”. In some cases, patients will only be seen “four, five or six hours” after arriving at A&E.

    He says the pressures on emergency care staff are “like nothing we’ve seen before”.