Public health officials in charge of defending the country from a major pandemic never drew up plans for mass community testing despite warnings from the World Health Organization, The Telegraph can disclose. Emergency planners “did not discuss” the need for community testing because they wrongly believed a new strain of influenza would be the next outbreak to strike the UK, a senior Government adviser revealed. Instead, ministers, along with officials from Public Health England, the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health, decided against planning for mass testing despite an official warning from the WHO that it would slow the spread of disease.
An NHS hospital in Cambridge has become the first in the UK to use coronavirus testing machines that give results in an hour-and-a-half. Ten portable devices, called Samba Two, were this week deployed at the 1,000-bed Addenbrooke’s Hospital to test staff and patients. The machines have shown to be almost 99 per cent accurate at analysing swabs and give a result in just 90 minutes, compared to current PCR tests which take up to two days. Once nasal and throat swabs have been collected from patients, the samples are loaded into the devices, which look for tiny traces of the virus in their DNA.
A UK coronavirus test centre sat empty today — as NHS trusts send hundreds of staff swabs to Germany because the results come back twice as fast. Just 75 workers were tested at drive-through centre Chessington World of Adventures, which shut for lunch. Public Health England (PHE) facilities can take up to four days to test samples, say sources. But German labs are flying in and processing swabs on the same day. NHS staff then get their results just two days later. Total UK daily testing for the virus was 10,657 on Wednesday. It will be weeks before we hit the 25,000 mark promised by the PM.
Tokyo-based Fujifilm claims it has developed a new test for the deadly coronavirus, which will give results in just two hours. The test, which will be available to buy from April 15 was developed by Fujifilm Wako Pure Chemical Corp. The SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR Detection kit will be able to deliver results for the virus that causes Covid-19 faster than existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which presently take four to six hours, the company said.
Every NHS worker forced to self-isolate has been promised a coronavirus test by the end of the month as the health secretary set a new target of 100,000 tests a day. Matt Hancock responded to public anger over the lack of testing with a five-point plan in what aides acknowledge is a significant gamble. The plan includes the use of commercial labs and confirmed that an immunity test was being used to carry out an “opinion poll” of how many people had been infected.
Hundreds of NHS workers’ coronavirus swabs have reportedly been flown to Germany because the results are coming back in half the time. Samples passed to Public Health England are believed to be taking up to four days to process but those on the Continent can come back in just two. Northampton General Hospital is understood to have exported 400 samples to Eurofins Biomnis on Monday and had the results on Wednesday. Northamptonshire Healthcare and Kettering General Hospital were also said to have been asked to join the scheme.
Downing Street has refused to rule out tightening the lockdown even further if people start flouting restrictions. Data shows that the majority of Brits are complying with the demand to stay at home unless strictly necessary with public transport usage right down and the streets largely empty. But car traffic rose for the first time in two weeks in yesterday’s figures, leading health figures to voice their “concern”. Police have been accused of being too heavy handed in some interventions and have been told to take a “consistent” approach. Public Health England’s Medical Director Professor Paul Cosford warned that the lockdown is “nowhere near” ending yet with cases expected to keep rising for up to two to three weeks.
The coronavirus death toll in Britain leapt by 569 yesterday, the second consecutive record rise. There have been 2,921 deaths after a diagnosis of Covid-19 in UK hospitals. The total number of deaths is 24 per cent higher than yesterday. The vast majority of deaths remain in people with pre-existing conditions. Of the 561 deaths announced in English hospitals yesterday, only 44 had no known underlying health conditions. The virus continues to be most fatal for older people. NHS England data shows three fatalities have been under 19, 22 were aged between 20-39 and 192 among the 40-59 age group. There have been 1,067 deaths among 60-79 year-olds and 1,411 who were over 80.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the world has passed the one million threshold. The count from the Johns Hopkins University’s website represents confirmed cases but the true number is believed to be much higher. Nearly 51,500 people have died from after testing positive for Covid-19. In the UK, as of 9am on Thursday morning, a total of 33,718 people have tested positive – and 2,921 have died. The latest figures come as new guidance for doctors warned Covid-19 patients could have their treatment withdrawn and offered to others more likely to survive the virus.
While the UK is working on building field hospitals in convention centres across the UK to deal with an increasing number of patients, emergency coronavirus measures are also taking into account the projected rise in deaths with the founding of temporary morgues. A temporary morgue is being built in the London borough of Newham which will “act as a holding point” before burial or cremation, in anticipation of a surge in deaths in the capital. Rokhsana Fiaz, the mayor of Newham, said in comments reported by the Evening Standard: “We know that the number of deaths will rise.
Matt Hancock has written off more than £13 billion of historical NHS debt in the latest move by government to put the fight against the virus on to future balance sheets. The health secretary said the “landmark step” would give NHS trusts the confidence to do what was needed “without worrying” about adding to their debts. The move comes at a cost of £13.4 billion. In forgiving hospitals debts Mr Hancock is loading it on to the Department of Health’s balance sheet rather than drawing on Treasury cash. Of all the NHS trusts 107 have debts that average £100 million, often incurred as a result of capital investment or shortfalls in revenue.
The government will write off £13.4bn of NHS debt to allow the health service to focus on the response to coronavirus crisis, the health secretary has said. Matt Hancock announced plans to wipe out historic debts to let hospital trusts channel their resources into battling the outbreak, rather than balancing the books. In his first public appearance after self-isolating for seven days, Mr Hancock also paid an emotional tribute to NHS staff who have lost their lives, including doctors who had come to work in the British health service and “paid the ultimate price”.
Health secretary Matt Hancock has written off £13.4bn of historic NHS debt to help the health service fight coronavirus. The money is intended to help NHS trusts focus on tackling coronavirus rather than servicing loans from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The figure owed ballooned as NHS trusts became reliant on interest-bearing loans to cover deficits in day-to-day budgets, with interest payments alone skyrocketing to £292m last year, Health Service Journal has reported. Some 107 trusts have an average of £100m revenue debt each. The two trusts with the highest figures reach a combined total of over £1bn.
Frontline staff at Morrisons have been told to expect a £1,000 windfall after the company pledged to triple their annual bonuses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Employees working in Morrisons supermarkets across the UK will be paid a 6 per cent increase on their earnings over the next 12 months, managers said on Thursday. The announcement comes after Ocado, Aldi, Sainsbury’s and Tesco all promised similar measures. Morrisons said that the bonus will represents an extra £1,050 for full-time employees and will also be paid to staff who are off sick or self-isolating.
Two more Nightingale hospitals will be opened in Bristol and Harrogate, NHS England has announced. The news of another 1,500 extra beds to help deal with the coronavirus crisis comes on the same day that the first new hospital is due to open in London. The new 4,000-bed facility at the ExCel Centre in the capital’s Docklands has been built in less than a fortnight as hospitals up their critical care capacity to deal with Covid-19.
The Queen has thanked Armed Forces personnel working tirelessly to build London’s new NHS Nightingale Hospital. The monarchy’s official Twitter account paid tribute to the military who have been on 15-hour shifts as they transform the ExCel convention centre into a 4,000 bed hospital for coronavirus patients. ‘Thank you to all those working hard to complete @NightingaleLDN Hospital, which will open this week to support patients with coronavirus,’ Buckingham Palace said. Up to 200 personnel, including infantry from the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment and Gurkhas, have been assisting contractors and NHS staff with its construction.
The newly converted NHS hospital for coronavirus patients will be officially opened on Friday by the Prince of Wales, even though he will be hundreds of miles away. NHS Nightingale, inside the huge ExCel Conference Centre in East London, will provide an initial 500 beds to relieve pressure on the NHS. Prince Charles will do the opening via video link, as he is recovering from his coronavirus diagnosis on the Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire. It’s the first time a member of the Royal Family has performed an opening ceremony like this remotely.
Britons who have already have fought off the coronavirus could be given ‘immunity wristbands’, ministers last night confirmed. Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted Number 10 was looking at the move at a Downing Street press conference tonight. He told last night’s Question Time on BBC1: ‘When the science is good enough, we are looking at introducing something like an immunity certificate or a wristband that says “I’ve had it and I’m immune and I can’t pass it on and I’m highly unlikely to catch it”.’ German scientists have already announced they will roll out the certificates, to try and ease the country out of its draconian lockdown.
People who test positive for coronavirus antibodies will be given “immunity certificates” to allow them to leave lockdown and return to normal life, health secretary Matt Hancock has announced. The move, already planned in Germany, will be implemented if hoped-for antibody tests – showing a person was infected, but is now healthy – become available on a mass scale. Mr Hancock cautioned that the antibody tests may not be introduced for some time, as none has yet obtained approval from Public Health England by meeting required accuracy levels.
No 10 is facing fresh questions over its coronavirus testing plan, as it emerged that the government is hoping to exit the lockdown through controversial “immunity passports” and antibody tests that are still not proven to work. In the face of intense criticism, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, on Thursday admitted for the first time that mistakes had been made. “There will be criticisms made, and some of them will be justified,” he told the daily press briefing. Hancock revealed that certificates to prove someone is immune to the virus could allow some of the population to go back to work, as he made a new pledge to complete 100,000 tests a day in England by the end of the month.
Clap for carers
A sickly-looking Boris Johnson took to his doorstep on Thursday evening amid his coronavirus quarantine in Downing Street to applaud NHS staff and other key workers such as supermarket employees and delivery drivers up and down the country. Stepping out in a suit, the Prime Minister made sure he showed his support after he himself was forced to self-isolate after he tested positive for the coronavirus last Friday. Downing Street on Thursday said he would be coming out of self-isolation on Friday. But aides also last night said that the Prime Minister would be following guidelines put in place by Public Health England, and would remain in self-isolation if he still has a temperature.
BRITS loudly applauded their NHS heroes this evening for putting their lives on the line to fight coronavirus. Millions of people came to their front doors and onto balconies to proudly clap for those on the frontline – as the quarantined Prime Minister joined the salute. Mr Johnson was pictured clapping the medics as he continues to self isolate and Prince William and Kate Middleton sent a message of support. The PM told those gathered outside: “I am not allowed out really, I am just standing here.”
There are fears the mass gathering of more than 250,000 people during the Cheltenham Festival last month helped spread the disease widely across the country as famous faces and members of the public who attended have tested positive. The comedian Lee Mack spent two days at the pinnacle of the jump racing season before testing positive for Covid-19, with a friend saying he believed he caught it off his driver when travelling to the event. Andrew Parker Bowles, the former husband of the Duchess of Cornwall, has also caught the coronavirus and said he thinks he “probably got it on the Wednesday or Friday I attended Cheltenham”.
If you don’t know by now that all professional sport in this country has been cancelled, then we both admire and fear you. The Grand National, as surely everyone knows, has been one of the events to go. The much-loved Aintree horse race was due to be run this Saturday April 4th but it is no longer on with the country in lockdown over corona virus. However, where there is a will there is a way, especially if there are opportunities to gamble on sport involved, and instead racing has cooked up a Virtual Grand National. Virtual racing is not a new thing – some of the country’s best and brightest can be seen following it in betting shops on any day of the week.
Forty runners and riders will line up tomorrow for the biggest and most anticipated race of the jumps season – but, with horseracing shut down, the venue will be cyberspace, not Aintree. Using state-of-the-art computer-generated imagery, complex mathematical algorithms and a detailed analysis of racing form, boffins and racing experts have been working round the clock to deliver the Virtual Grand National. Inspired Entertainment, the company which delivers virtual reality racing for Britain’s betting shops, is behind the project and has compiled a list of runners from the original entries headed by favourite Tiger Roll, who should have been staging an historic bid to become the first horse to win the world’s most watched steeplechase for the third year running.
When the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of Wimbledon it looked like game, set and match against the All England Club. Not quite. It turns out that the club has insurance that covers infectious diseases and is in the process of putting together a claim potentially in excess of £100 million. The club’s foresight is in contrast to the French Open’s lack of similar preparations. The French Tennis Federation admitted that its desperation to reschedule the tournament from May to September was because it was about to lose £230 million.
MINISTERS secretly planned to send up to 2,000 cons to Butlin’s to ease the jails crisis caused by the coronavirus. The lags — all classed low-risk — would have been switched to the holiday camp in Skegness. Hush-hush talks were held last Friday between Butlin’s executives and a private firm acting on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. And they discussed handing the seaside holiday company — forced to shut down its resorts because of the outbreak — around £10million in taxpayers’ cash to seal the deal. But senior government officials are understood to have vetoed the move in the past 24 hours.
Scammers are targeting people with texts pretending to be from the UK government telling victims they have been ‘fined’ for going out too much or too far during the coronavirus lockdown. The malicious message then goes on to try and trick recipients into handing over their bank details to the real senders using links to non-governmental websites. According to UK cyber-crime reporting centre Action Fraud, the number of coronavirus-related scams has increased by 400 per cent in March. Since February, the centre has logged 305 reports from victims of such crimes, with loses that total almost £970,000.
The European Union police agency Europol has released a report claiming that criminals are adapting and taking advantage of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak through cybercrime, fraud, and counterfeit medical goods. The agency stated in their March 2020 report that criminals across Europe were using the virus outbreak to carry out phishing email campaigns in order to install malicious software on victims looking for information on medical supplies and coronavirus. Europol also warned of a heightened risk for child abuse online stating: “This is consistent with postings in dedicated forums and boards by offenders welcoming opportunities to engage with children whom they expect to be more vulnerable due to isolation, less supervision, and greater online exposure.”
Drivers who use their cars to make non-essential journeys during the coronavirus lockdown could be voiding their insurance, a leading motoring lawyer has warned. Despite the widespread travel restrictions currently in place, the latest data suggests traffic is beginning to increase again, as motorists tire of being stuck at home. Police have also been forced to warn people against using their cars to drive to beauty spots in order to take their permitted daily exercise. Critics of the current road restrictions insist that driving from A to B in a car does not risk spreading the Covid-19 virus.