Coronavirus live news: UK infection rate ‘basically flat’, says ONS head; South Africa cases top 350,000

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Beijing to lower emergency response level

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UK infection rate ‘basically flat’, says head of Office of National Statistics

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Amid all the pessimism associated with the pandemic, Greece has sought to inject the mood with a note of optimism holding a concert in support of key workers in Athens’ stunning Roman agora.

In a recital given by the celebrated mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili – performing pro-bono alongside the Greek National Opera- epidemiologists, healthcare workers and the scientific committee that has advised the country’s government were honoured for expertise that is believed to have saved thousands of lives.

Attending the event, the Greek culture minister Lina Mendoni described the tribute as one of “high symbolism after the pandemic.”

“With tonight’s premiere,” she said, “we honour all the scientists, members of the Special Committees and healthcare workers, who through unique investment of their knowledge, experience, time, pain and efforts, played a crucial role in tackling the unprecedented health crisis.”

Televised globally to enhance the GNO’s artistic outreach, the recital kicks off a bonanza of cultural events, including 70 new productions, at 120 archaeological sites this summer.

In a country that has managed to keep infection rates below 4,000 and the death toll at 194, seating was socially distanced and mask wearing was mandatory as attendees entered and exited the magnificent site for the concert.

Since reopening to tourism on July 1stepidemiologists have expressed concern over the significant rise in coronavirus cases witnessed in the country.

Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili (C) performs during a concert organised by the Greek National Opera at the ancient Roman Agora in Athens on July 18, 2020.

Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili (C) performs during a concert organised by the Greek National Opera at the ancient Roman Agora in Athens on July 18, 2020. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

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This is Ben Quinn in London picking up liveblog coverage of global Covid-19 developments as the World Health Organisation reports a record daily increase in global coronavirus cases for second day in a row.

In other developments, European Union leaders have extended their first face to face summit into Sunday after two days of failing to overcome differences over how to respond in a co-ordinated way to the need to revive their coronavirus-hammered economies.

In the US, coronavirus deaths are nearing 140,000 as one of the world’s worst outbreak worsens.

Here in London, Boris Johnson has played down the prospect of a second national coronavirus lockdown, saying he did not want to use it any more than Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent.

A spat between the UK and Russia continues to rumble on with Russia’s ambassador to the UK rejecting claims that his country’s intelligence services tried to steal details of research into coronavirus vaccines.

I’ll be bringing you coverage of the latest from all of the above stories and other developments around the world. I’m on Twitter at @BenQuinn75.

Feel free also to email if you’d like to flag up any news stories that we are missing from around the world.

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Concerns that the wearing of masks could become a new front in a political “culture war” have been eased after evidence emerged that a clear majority of the public back their use in shops and supermarkets.

An Opinium poll for the Observer reveals that 71% of adults in England support making masks mandatory in shops, with only 13% opposed to the move. Support was consistent across parties and age groups. Almost two-thirds of UK adults (64%) said they believed masks were an effective way to contain the spread of Covid-19.

There is also wide acceptance that the value of masks is to protect other people. Most people (54%) say masks are worn mainly to prevent the person wearing it accidentally infecting others, while 30% say they are needed to protect others and prevent others infecting them. Just 8% believe masks are mainly to protect the person wearing them.

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