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UK coronavirus live: Johnson U-turns on masks as experts fear up to 120,000 Covid-19 winter deaths

Retailers and police must both play a role in enforcing the use of face coverings by shoppers in England, a Cabinet minister has said after officers warned the law would be unenforceable.

The environment secretary, George Eustice, also defended the government’s U-turn on making face coverings compulsory, saying its approach had been “evolving” and noting that it advised the public to wear them in crowded places in May to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The rules on English shops will come into force on 24 July, over a month after face coverings became a requirement on public transport in England on 15 June. Anyone who disregards the rule for shops can be fined up to £100 by the police, reduced to £50 if they pay within 14 days.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, will officially announce the measures in the Commons on Tuesday afternoon.

Black workers’ deaths are going “unmeasured and unmanaged” in the pandemic according to Unison, Scotland’s largest union.

The claim is made in response the National Records of Scotland (NRS) analysis of Covid-19 deaths by ethnic group, and signals continuing frustration about data recording on the impact of coronavirus on BAME communities.

As in England and Wales, NRS found a heightened Covid-19 risk for Asian and Chinese communities. However, NRS were unable to make any finding in relation to Black, African or African-Carribean people in Scotland due to weaknesses in data recording.

The Unison analysis argues:


The inability of Scottish public records to expose discrimination was well known before the pandemic and the desire to seek a Scottish slant on a known, global phenomena only served to delay action on equality and wider public health.

National organiser Peter Hunter told the Guardian:


One of things the pandemic has taught us is that bad jobs kill. It may be that, once infected, black workers are more likely to have adverse health outcomes but they are also in positions where they are more at risk.

Unison is calling on all organisations, including private contractors delivering public services, to be compelled to publish coronavirus race equality plans as a matter of urgency and longer term wants the Scottish government to address the issue of poor quality data on Scotland’s BAME communities. Last week the Guardian reported on similar calls about data on the Irish community in Scotland.

Doctors in France have reported what they believe to be the first proven case of Covid-19 being passed on from a pregnant woman to her baby in the womb.

The newborn boy developed inflammation in the brain within days of being born, a condition brought on after the virus crossed the placenta and established an infection prior to birth. He has since made a good recovery.

The case study, published in Nature Communications, follows the birth of a number of babies with Covid-19 who doctors suspect contracted the virus in the womb. Until now, they have not been able to rule out the possibility that the babies were infected during or soon after delivery.

“Unfortunately there is no doubt about the transmission in this case,” said Daniele De Luca, medical director of paediatrics and neonatal critical care at the Antoine Béclère hospital in Paris.

The British economy returned to growth more slowly than expected in May as coronavirus lockdown restrictions were gradually relaxed after the sharpest plunge on record a month earlier.

The Office for National Statistics said gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.8% in May as the economy staged a modest recovery from April, when GDP crashed by a fifth during the first full month of lockdown.

After the biggest collapse in activity since records began, economists had expected some recovery in activity in May as the government eased restrictions on movement. However, the bounce back was weaker than growth of 5.5% forecast by City economists.

The Office for Budget Responsibility doesn’t believe a V-shaped recovery is likely.

Its new central forecast is that the UK economy won’t return to its pre-crisis levels until the end of 2022. In other words, it would take more than two years to recover the output lost in March and April.

But the OBR also says the pace of the recovery is “highly uncertain”.

It depends on several factors: the amount of scarring suffered by the economy, such as unemployment; whether (and when) effective vaccines and other treatments to crush Covid-19 are developed; how fast the lockdown is lifted; and whether government action to protect the economy works.

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