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Live Reporting

Emma Owen

All times stated are UK

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  1. Spain pays tribute, cases rise and Russia denies hacking

    Director general of the WHO Tedros Adhanom (L) attend the State tribute to the victims of the coronavirus at the Royal Palace  in Madrid, Spain
    Image caption: A vigil to those who died with Covid-19 was held in Spain

    We're pausing our coverage now. So, in case you missed them, here are some of the main developments from around the world today:

    • In the US, the total number of coronavirus infections recorded rose to 3.4 million, while deaths grew to more than 137,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University
    • More than 100 prominent figures including Nobel laureates have signed an open letter calling for volunteers to be exposed to the coronavirus after receiving a vaccine
    • Spain's King Felipe led a state memorial event for the more than 28,000 people who have died with Covid-19 in the country
    • Later on on Thursday, Spain reported 580 new coronavirus infections, its biggest daily increase in more than two months
    • Japan recorded more than 600 confirmed cases of the virus on Thursday, the highest one-day increase in three months
    • The number of coronavirus-related deaths jumped by 156 in Florida, the US state’s largest single-day increase since the pandemic began
    • In France, Prime Minister Jean Castex said it will be compulsory to wear a face mask in enclosed indoor spaces from next week
    • Russia rejected claims by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) that it was behind an attempt to hack information relating to Covid-19 vaccine development
  2. UK news round-up

    Leicester in lockdown
    Image caption: The Leicester lockdown was announced on 29 June

    We're coming to the end of our live coverage for the day - here's a recap of some of today's biggest UK stories.

  3. Spain reports biggest daily rise in two months

    Spain has reported 580 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the biggest daily increase in cases nationwide for more than two months.

    Most of the new cases detected on Wednesday were in the northern regions of Aragon and Catalonia, where outbreaks have led to the localised renewal of lockdown restrictions.

    In the Lleida area of Catalonia, some 160,000 people have been ordered to quarantine at home as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

    The government of Aragon, meanwhile, said it would limit travel in and out of Zaragoza, the capital of the region.

    The resurgence of cases in Catalonia and Aragon has raised fears of a second spike in infections in Spain, which has already been ravaged by the pandemic. More than 250,000 infections and 28,000 deaths have been recorded in total.

    Fernando Simón, director of Spain’s Center for Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, said the increase in infections was “worrying”.

    He attributed the rise, in part, to the relaxation of social distancing restrictions.

    Women walk at Punta Ballena street in Magaluf, Calvia
    Image caption: Tourists have been returning to Spain since the nationwide lockdown was lifted
  4. Leicester mayor hits out at 'political' decision to continue lockdown

    Leicester in lockdown

    Leicester’s mayor has responded to the partial easing of lockdown restrictions by accusing the government of attempting to penalise the city’s businesses and residents.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons some restrictions would be lifted from 24 July "but not all" following a prolonged lockdown.

    The city has remained under strict measures from 29 June after a spike in cases.

    Restrictions on schools and nurseries will be lifted but bars remain closed as virus rates "still remain well above the national average".

    Commenting to media gathered at Leicester’s City Hall, Sir Peter Soulsby said: “They have chosen to focus on the city geographical area – effectively the area of the county that votes Labour, and that’s just scandalous."

    Hancock said the restrictions were "vital for the health of everyone in Leicester and the rest of the country".

    He said they would be reviewed in two weeks.

  5. Analysis: Curious timing of Russia meddling claims

    Laura Kuenssberg

    Political editor


    When you have picked your jaw up from the floor after the revelations hackers working for the Russian state are believed to have been trying to steal research into a vaccine that could combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus, it's worth knowing that attempts at interference do not stop there.

    Those actions - described as "despicable" by the government - are believed to have targeted, not just UK scientists, but those from Canada and the US as well.

    And it's clear, even from the rather technical public statements from security leaders, that the UK government believes the Kremlin itself was involved.

    This is not a group of hackers working out of their parents' garage. The group thought to be responsible - APT29 - is one of those previously linked to hacks on the US Democrats in 2016.

    And the UK government is confident the attacks were known about at the highest level of the Russian state.

    Ministers also chose today, though, to confirm already widely held suspicions that Russian "actors" separately tried to interfere in the UK election last year.

    Read more of Laura's analysis, here.

  6. From chariot races to opera: Rome reinvents ancient arena

    Opera singers perform during a rehearsal of Giuseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto" ahead of Rome Opera House's summer performances at Circus Maximus
    Image caption: The venue will host a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto

    An ancient chariot-racing arena in Rome has been repurposed as an opera house, with the venue kitted out to host its first socially distanced event during the pandemic.

    The 2,800-year-old Circus Maximus has been retrofitted to make it coronavirus-safe for the Rome Opera House’s performance on Thursday.

    The opera’s production of 19th-century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto will mark the venue’s reopening.

    General view of the seating area and the stage at Circus Maximus for socially distanced Rome Opera House
    Image caption: The stage at Circus Maximus has been expanded to accommodate social distancing

    The outdoor venue’s stage has been expanded to allow for social distancing and the audience will be required to wear face masks and have temperature checks before entering.

    "The Circus Maximus is transformed from a circus to a theatre, an opera house in this case," the technical director of Rome's Opera House, Francesco Arena, told Reuters news agency.

    "It is returning in a way to its origins and its function as a show venue."

    Theatres were among the first public venues to close during the pandemic in Italy, which was one of the worst-affected countries in Europe.

    Workers build a seating area for socially distanced Rome Opera House's summer performances at Circus Maximus
    Image caption: Workers have spent weeks repurposing the venue
  7. When exactly did the lockdown start in the UK?

    Reality Check

    As we reported earlier Health Secretary Matt Hancock was challenged in the Commons by his opposite number in Labour Jonathan Ashworth over comments from the Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance.

    Sir Patrick had said that the government’s advisory group Sage had recommended in the middle of March (he thought this was either 18 March or 16 March) that the “remainder” of measures to fight coronavirus should be introduced "as soon as possible".

    So when exactly did the lockdown start in the UK?

    Mr Hancock said: “The 16 March is the day when I came to this house and said that all unnecessary social contact should cease - that is precisely when the lockdown was started.”

    The beginning of lockdown has usually been dated to the evening of 23 March when Boris Johnson addressed the nation and people were told to avoid leaving home and all non-essential shops were closed.

    In fact, Mr Hancock has previously said that is when lockdown began.

    In a debate in the Commons on 2 June, he noted that daily death figures were “lower than at any time since lockdown began on 23 March”.

  8. Japan sees highest one-day increase in three months

    People wear their masks in Tokyo during rush hour

    Japan recorded more than 600 confirmed cases of the virus on Thursday, the highest one-day increase in three months, according to local news.

    Despite the increase, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan had 19,000 hospital beds and plenty of medical supplies to cope with the outbreak.

    Tokyo accounts for 286 of those cases, a new record for the city. On Wednesday, the Tokyo Metropolitan government announced it was raising its Covid-19 alert status to red, its highest level.

    Japan’s government has announced a subsidised domestic tourism scheme to help boost the tourism economy. From July 22, tourists will see their travel subsidised by up to 50%. However with the rise in cases, people living in Tokyo and those holidaying there will be exempt from the campaign.

    Local governments are concerned that an influx of visitors from large cities could lead to a spike in cases, the Japan Times reports.

  9. Pelosi mocks Trump's response and other US developments

    Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
    Image caption: Nancy Pelosi compared President Trump to "a man who refuses to ask for directions"

    With infections on the rise nationwide, the US is struggling to get to grips with the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some of the main talking points from the US on Thursday:

    • Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ridiculed US President Donald Trump over his response to the pandemic, comparing him to a “man who refuses to ask for directions”. “All of the answers are there. The scientists have the answers,” Ms Pelosi said. “And yet the President continues to go down the wrong path.”
    • President Trump has also drawn criticism for the disappearance of some data from the website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data was reported missing on Thursday after the Trump administration said it would shift hospital statistics to another government department. “You cannot hide facts,” top Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted, taking aim at President Trump.
    • Officials from states where social distancing has not been strictly enforced have also received criticism for their handling of the pandemic. Florida, now the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, reported a further 156 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, another record daily rise.
    • Meanwhile, restrictions on non-essential travel across US land borders with Canada and Mexico were extended on Thursday to 20 August.
  10. Florida reports another record daily death toll

    Health care workers direct a driver to be tested for Covid-19 in Miami Gardens, Florida
    Image caption: Florida has become the epicentre of the outbreak in the US

    The number of coronavirus-related deaths has jumped by 156 in Florida, the US state’s largest single-day increase since the pandemic began.

    Thursday’s increase broke the previous daily record of 132 deaths reported on Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, a further 13,965 coronavirus infections were reported in Florida over the past 24 hours, more than some countries have confirmed in total throughout the pandemic.

    With no social-distancing requirements in place, Florida has become the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the US after seeing a recent surge in cases.

    The southern state, which began lifting coronavirus restrictions in May, has proved vulnerable to the disease due to tourism and an elderly population.

    Read our analysis on why Florida has been so badly affected by Covid-19.

  11. UK lockdown started when social contact ended - Hancock

    Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth also asked Matt Hancock about UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance's comments to MPs earlier.

    Sir Patrick told the Science and Technology Committe that Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) had advised the government to implement lockdown measures "as soon as possible" on 16 March.

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK lockdown on 23 March,

    Ashworth asks why it took seven days for the government to implement a lockdown after Sage made the recommendation.

    Hancock responded by claiming 16 March was when lockdown began.

    He said: "Of course, the 16th of March is the day when I came to this house and said that all unnecessary social contact should cease.

    "That is, precisely, when the lockdown was started," he said.

  12. Hancock agrees to publish 'lessons learned' statement

    As events in the Commons wind down, the health secretary is asked if he'll publish a written statement before MPs' summer break next week on "lessons learned" from the UK's response so far.

    Hancock replies that he'd be happy to do that.

    PM Boris Johnson has also promised a future independent inquiry will be held into the government's response.

  13. How is contact tracing going in England?

    Reality Check

    Chart showing percentage of contacts traced

    Jonathan Ashworth also took the opportunity to ask Mr Hancock about contact tracing in England.

    “Only 71% of people are being contacted. And not the 80% that we were promised,” he said.

    He was referring to the figures for the proportion of people identified as being close contacts of somebody with coronavirus who have been contacted.

    Sage, which advises the government, has said that at least 80% of contacts would need to isolate for the test and trace system to be effective.

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pointed out in parliament yesterday that that figure has fallen every week.

    The first figures we had were for the period 28 May to 10 June, when it was 90.6%. It had indeed fallen every week since then until the figure of 70.8% for 25 June to 1 July.

    We had fresh figures today - the decline was halted in the latest figures for 2 to 8 July, with a figure of 71.1%. But that’s still well below 80%.

  14. Families 'left out of pocket because of continued lockdown'

    Jonathan Ashworth

    Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth says the continued lockdown coincides with the traditional Leicester Fortnight - the two weeks in July where schools break up earlier than others across the country.

    Ashworth said it was a time when many families had booked holidays, but they would not be able to go because of the restrictions.

    He said many holiday companies were refusing to reimburse families and asked the health secretary if he could guarantee they would not be left out of pocket.

    Matt Hancock said he would urge holiday companies to reimburse people who had booked holidays with them.

  15. Hancock: No cases in some areas previously locked down

    Hancock says the decision to shrink the Leicester lockdown area was made following a "reasonable recommendation" from the leader of Leicestershire County Council.

    He says some areas outside the city included in the original lockdown zone had since shown no cases.

    He says that he offered the Labour mayor of Leicester the chance to change his proposed changes to restrictions inside the city itself, but he declined.

  16. 'Degree of dismay' over lockdown decision - Labour

    Jonathan Ashworth

    Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said there would be a "degree of dismay" in Leicester around the partial easing of lockdown in the city.

    Hancock told MPs that pubs and restaurants will stay closed.

    "There are many businesses who were preparing to open their doors for the beginning of July who still cannot open their doors and they will want to know whether they will get any specific extra support."

  17. Infection rate in Leicester 'well above national average'

    Matt Hancock

    Hancock says the seven day infection rate in Leicester has fallen from 135 cases per 100,000 people to 119 per 100,000.

    Justifying the latest tweaks the lockdown, he says this shows progress has been made but the infection rate is still "well above" the national average.

  18. Leicester lockdown zone to shrink

    Hancock says the new restrictions will now only apply to the city of Leicester itself, as well as the suburbs of Oadby and Wigston.

    He says guidance against meeting in larger groups and against "non-essential" travel will remain in place.

    The measures will be reviewed in a fortnight, he adds.

  19. BreakingLeicester lockdown to be partially relaxed

    The local lockdown in Leicester will be partially relaxed, including for schools and early years childcare, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs.

    Hancock says schools and nurseries can reopen in Leicester from 24 July.

    He says the city council will also be able to take a “targeted approach” to closing non-essential shops, replacing the blanket ban.

    But he says pubs and restaurants - which have reopened in the rest of England - will stay closed.

  20. Hancock updates MPs on Leicester lockdown

    UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock is now giving his statement to MPs, updating them on the situation in Leicester.

    A prolonged lockdown for the city was announced on 29 June after a spike in Covid-19 cases, with non-essential shops and schools closed.