Today's Covid update includes revelations that the private laboratory under investigation for potentially issuing thousands of false negative Covid tests was not fully accredited to perform the work.

The UK government has also been ordered that it must reveal which companies were given "VIP" access to multimillion-pound contracts for the supply of PPE in the early months of the Covid pandemic.

And a new Delta variant has been detected in the UK, with scientists warning it could be more infectious than its descendant.

In North East Covid news, infection rates across the region are increasing with North Tyneside seeing the biggest spike in new cases.

Here are the coronavirus headlines for Tuesday, October 19.

Go here for the latest coronavirus updates and breaking Covid-19 news

Coronavirus infection rates in the North East rising as UK sees biggest daily increase since July

The UK has seen its highest spike in coronavirus rates since July - and the North East is no different.

Thousands of new cases of Covid-19 have been detected across the region according to Public Health England figures.

Each local authority area saw a rise in case rates for the seven days to October 12, which is the latest date where the data is complete.

In the same period, the North East as a whole saw its rate hit 425.2 cases per 100,000 people, resulting in the highest figures since July 26.

The highest infection rate in the area is in North Tyneside - which has also seen the biggest spike in cases.

People living across the borough reported 1,231 positive cases, which equates to a rate of 589.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Some areas of the North East, such as Newcastle and South Tyneside, have only experienced small upticks in case numbers.

But in both places there were still hundreds of new cases, and rates of more than 300 per 100,000 people.

UK lab investigated for false negative Covid tests is not fully accredited

The private laboratory that is under investigation for potentially issuing more than 40,000 false negative Covid tests was not fully accredited to perform the work.

Contrary to assurances made by health officials, the UK's independent accreditation service, Ukas, told the Guardian on Monday that neither Immensa Health Clinics Ltd nor its sister company, Dante Labs, had ever been accredited by the service.

It added that the service had informed the Department of Health that statements suggesting otherwise were incorrect.

Announcing the investigation into Immensa on Friday, Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said the lab was "accredited to all of the appropriate standards".

And on Monday a government spokesperson said: "The lab was fully accredited by the UK's independent accreditation service before being appointed."

But Ukas said neither Immensa Health Clinics nor Dante Labs had ever been awarded Ukas accreditation, which is intended to ensure labs meet minimum quality standards.

Companies require the certification, or must be in the process of applying for it, if they wish to provide Covid testing.

Government ordered to reveal firms awarded Covid contracts

The UK government has been ordered to reveal which companies were given "VIP" access to multimillion-pound contracts for the supply of PPE in the early months of the Covid pandemic.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has previously refused to disclose the names of 47 companies that had contracts awarded through the privileged, fast-track process allocated to firms with political connections, the Guardian reports.

But the information commissioner says the Department of Health has breached FoI Act by failing to disclose names and has now ruled that the contracts must be revealed.

A new Delta variant reaches the UK which may be more infectious than the last

A descendant of the Delta variant has been detected in the UK, with scientists warning it could be more infectious than its descendant.

Virologists who follow the genetic evolution of Delta have only recently discovered the Delta descendant, AY.4.2, which seems to be 10%-15% more transmissible than the original variant.

AY.4.2 currently accounts for almost 10% of UK cases. However, it is not believed to be responsible for the high numbers of cases currently witnessed in the UK.

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