Coronavirus: Gatherings ban, vaccine trial halted and student struggles

Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Wednesday morning. We’ll have another update for you at 18:00 BST.

1. ‘Safe six’

Social gatherings of more than six people are to be banned in England in an effort to curb a steep rise in coronavirus cases. The ban will come in from Monday and be backed by law. There are exceptions – schools, workplaces, organised sports among them. We’ll get more detail later, but here’s what we know so far. Ministers and health advisers believe the country is at a critical moment and the average rate of new infections is now four times higher than it was in mid-July. However, here are five important reasons why it’s not quite as simple as that.

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Case numbers are rising, but there hasn’t – yet at least – been a corresponding rise in hospital admissions

2. Vaccine trial paused

The outcome of coronavirus vaccine trials is being closely watched around the world and hopes for the one being conducted by Oxford University and AstraZeneca are high. However, it’s been temporarily halted worldwide after a volunteer taking part in the UK fell ill. BBC medical editor Fergus Walsh says such events are routine and it’s thought the trial could resume within days. How close are we to having a vaccine? And when we do have one, how will we deliver it to seven billion people?

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This is the second time the Oxford trial has been put on hold

3. Mask row

A man with chronic asthma says he was “ambushed” into wearing a face covering on an EasyJet flight, despite carrying an exemption card. One of its pilots was filmed threatening to remove the passenger. EasyJet has apologised, but charities say there are other stories of people with respiratory conditions being turned away from shops and public transport. Elsewhere this morning, find out why British Airways is in a stand-off with some of its customers over refunds.

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Media captionFootage shows the EasyJet pilot refusing to accept Nick’s medical exemption card

4. Students struggling

Young people at university rely heavily on part-time work – commonly in hospitality or retail – to make ends meet while studying. But concerns are being raised about how many will manage this year given the struggles those sectors are facing and the job cuts they’re experiencing. Website Save the Student is encouraging those affected to investigate other options such as scholarships, grants and bursaries.

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Ellen Walsh

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Solent University student Ellen Walsh says she’s finding it hard to pay her bills

5. Making art from plants during lockdown

To help maintain his wellbeing during the coronavirus lockdown, photographer Tim Boddy turned to a natural process to create beautiful prints of flowers and leaves. Known as anthotypes, it uses a technique that dates back to the mid-1800s. See the results of his work.

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Tim Boddy

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Tim Boddy created 147 anthotype plant prints during lockdown

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And don’t forget…

Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

Plus, remember the R number? Expect to hear much more about it in the coming days as the government tries to control the spike in cases. Here’s a reminder of what it’s all about.

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