Ministers are expected to delay making an announcement on how and when to lift the lockdown, concerned about arriving at a decision while Boris Johnson remains in intensive care. The Government is understood to be working on a plan to extend the measures until next month as the rising death toll means scientific advisers are still unsure when the peak will be. The UK daily death toll was 938 on Wednesday, the highest so far, bringing the total to 7,097. But ministers were said to be reluctant about making an important decision on such a key matter with the Prime Minister spending a fourth night in hospital, and a third in intensive care.
MINISTERS are preparing to extend the lockdown into May after warning that relaxing it too soon will kill thousands more. Stand-in leader Dominic Raab will discuss the strict measures when he chairs a Cobra meeting tomorrow (Thursday). Advisers insist the virus outbreak’s peak could still be ten days away — on April 18. Before falling ill, PM Boris Johnson pledged to review lockdown on Easter Monday, April 13 — three weeks after it began on March 23. But Downing Street is seriously concerned that people may defy the advice and head out to enjoy 24C (75F) bank holiday sunshine. Mr Raab will tomorrow give a firm indication that Brits can expect to be locked down for weeks longer and will again urge them to stay indoors as much as possible.
Dominic Raab is expected to signal that stringent lockdown measures must remain in place beyond next week, in the first key government decision to be taken while the prime minister remains in intensive care. The death toll from coronavirus is continuing to rise daily, with 938 UK fatalities announced on Wednesday – close to the highest daily figures reported in Italy and Spain. Medical experts are not expecting the peak to come for more than week. With the long Easter weekend looming, ministers are concerned that any suggestion of an imminent loosening of restrictions could result in an immediate change in the public’s behaviour. The Guardian has learned that at least five police chief constables want the government to consider toughening coronavirus lockdown restrictions amid concerns that a growing minority will flout the rules over the bank holiday.
The virus lockdown is set to extend into May after the daily death toll surged to almost 1,000 in a day. Rishi Sunak confirmed last night that a planned review of the emergency measures will take place next week. But, in a clear sign the restrictions will remain, the Chancellor said: ‘The priority is to stop the spread of the virus – and the best way to do that is to stay at home.’ One Government source said there was ‘no prospect’ of any easing of the lockdown next week. Another said: ‘Look at the death toll. That puts the question of whether we’ll be lifting restrictions into context.’
Senior ministers are gathering for a “lockdown summit” that is expected to result in restrictions on movement being extended until May at the earliest. Ahead of the COBRA meeting, hopes of an end to the shutdown of pubs, restaurants, shops and other businesses were all but dashed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and other senior politicians. Some ministers believe a decision to lift the ban will not be taken until the prime minister returns to work – and as this could be several weeks away, there is no end to the COVID-19 lockdown in sight. Government medical and scientific advisers are still unsure when there will be a peak in the number of people falling ill with the coronavirus, and in the number of fatalities.
Britain is to be told to prepare for at least another three weeks in lockdown today as ministers urge the public not to put at risk gains in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. Political leaders from across Britain will unite to launch a Stay at Home This Easter campaign immediately after a Cobra meeting to review the social distancing measures imposed on March 23. The meeting will be attended by Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, the other leaders of the devolved administrations and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, who said yesterday that the end of the lockdown was “nowhere near”.
Lockdown may be lifted when Covid-19 cases consistently fall below 50 a day, a global health expert has said. Britain appears to be heading towards a peak, after which the number of deaths would start to decline, and ministers’ minds are now turning towards an exit strategy. The government said modelling is due next week which will show new trajectories for the virus, but public health officials say the curve now appears to be flattening. Until now it is unclear how low the rate of cases would need to get in countries before the lifting of restrictions would be considered.
The UK’s coronavirus outbreak is slowing, Government experts say – despite the death toll jumping by a record high of 938, overtaking Italy’s worst-ever day (919) during the COVID-19 crisis. Number 10’s deputy chief scientific adviser Professor Angela McLean reassured Britons that the outbreak was not ‘out of control’, pointing to the figures showing the deceleration of hospital admissions and cases and calling it ‘good news’. The numbers suggest the lockdown is working, with the drop in hospital admissions for the virus expected to lead to reduced death tolls in the next week or two.
A total of 938 people have died from coronavirus in the UK in the past 24 hours, the Department of Health has said, bringing the total number of deaths to 7,097. There were also 5,492 new cases recorded, bringing the total number of UK cases to 60,733. Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed at the daily coronavirus press briefing that the prime minister remained in intensive care but his condition was “improving”. The 938 people who died of Covid-19 is the highest single day death toll recorded for the UK so far and experts believe the situation is still likely to worsen before it gets better.
The government’s top scientific adviser has said the UK could be seeing the “beginning of change” in the number of new cases of coronavirus. Sir Patrick Vallance struck a cautiously optimistic note as he outlined new figures, saying there had not been the “acceleration” in the number of cases that ministers had feared. New UK cases of coronavirus fell slightly to 3,634 on Tuesday, from 3,802 the previous day and 5,903 on Sunday. With the peak of the outbreak is expected to come within days, the government postponed a review into whether the lockdown would be lifted, which was originally set to take place after three weeks.
Tens of thousands of terrified dementia patients risk being ‘abandoned to coronavirus’ due to the crisis in care homes. The Alzheimer’s Society said at least half of care homes were reporting cases of the virus and dozens of residents had died since the outbreak began. But the Government has failed to roll out tests to homes, with elderly residents fearing they have been ‘forgotten’ and are being condemned to death. More than 400,000 people in the UK live in care homes, two thirds of whom have dementia.
FIFTEEN pensioners have died at a single care home hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Public Health England was called in to Castletroy Residential Home at Luton, Beds, after the high number of virus-related symptoms became apparent. Five residents were confirmed as victims while another ten remained suspected victims. No further cases were confirmed by testing at the home — but bosses said social distancing would remain in place. The only other residents who will be tested will be those requiring hospital care. Cllr Hazel Simmons, leader of Luton Council, said: “We are all so desperately sad to hear about the tragic situation at Castletroy Residential and Nursing Home.
Recovered coronavirus patients can have very low levels of antibodies in their system, researchers have found, in a discovery which could hamper the development of immunity tests. A team from Fudan University in China analysed blood from 175 patients discharged from the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre and found that nearly a third had surprisingly few antibodies. In 10 patients, antibodies could not be detected at all, which could also place them at greater risk of a secondary infection, the researchers warned. “Whether these patients were at high risk of rebound or reinfection should be explored in further studies,” the authors wrote in an article on the preprint website Medrxiv.org, an online platform for early research which has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Britain said on Wednesday it aimed to roll-out millions of coronavirus tests in months after criticism that it had moved too slowly on the issue, adding that a partnership with private firms would help it hit 100,000 tests a day by the end of April. The move came after England’s Chief Medical Officer conceded on Tuesday that there were lessons to learn from Germany and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab testing said there was “more work to do” on testing. A British official on Wednesday also said that the government was looking to get its money back after ordering antibody tests which didn’t work.
Tests for coronavirus could soon be given to care home workers and prison officers, with capacity about to increase “very substantially”, MPs have been told. John Newton, the government’s testing expert, told a select committee hearing that “we’re not far off offering tests to all NHS staff that need them”. “I think the real priority is to get the test out to other core services,” he said, suggesting that care home staff and care workers who visit elderly or vulnerable people in their homes would be the next to benefit.
NHS laboratories are planning to carry out tens of thousands of antibody tests every day to tell staff and patients whether they have recovered from coronavirus. Britain’s top laboratory doctor is co-ordinating efforts to use existing machines to run highly accurate tests checking whether people have had the virus with the hope of reaching 90,000 a day in the next couple of months. The use of NHS labs could help to plug the gap caused by the failure of home testing kits and discussions are now under way to decide who will have priority for checks.
A large-scale search and rescue operation is under way off the coast of East Sussex. Coastguard, lifeboats and rescue teams are being assisted by police and Border Force. The nature of the incident is not known, though it comes amid a surge in attempts by migrants to cross the dangerous waters of the English Channel. Tuesday marked the fifth consecutive day that migrants have been stopped while attempting to cross. This increase of migration has been prompted by the improving weather and desire to escape migrant camps in France which have been infected by the coronavirus.
Heathrow Airport has sparked fury after announcing it will keep one of its runways open amid the coronavirus pandemic. Furious passengers returning to the UK bemoaned the lack of checks and advice upon landing as the spread of the killer bug – that has infected more than one million and killed 53,000 – intensifies. The London hub will operate its landings and takeoffs from one strip from Monday April 6 to ‘increase resilience and safety for staff, passengers and cargo’. The airport has two runways and will alternate which one they keep open on a weekly basis.
The UK’s airlines could save tens of millions of pounds a month after European governments took steps to allow them to defer payments for using UK and European airspace for 14 months. The new measures, which were agreed by air traffic body Eurocontrol’s member states, will cover the period between February and May 2020. In total, the measures are expected to save European airlines up to €1.1bn (£970m) in payments that were due to be made to air traffic controllers. In February alone, the UK’s ten biggest airlines were due to pay £47.2m for flights in European airspace.
Britain can cope with social distancing for humans. But for its cats? That’s quite another thing. When the British Veterinary Association (BVA) appeared to suggest yesterday that Britain’s ten million cats should join their owners in lockdown, it was not well received. Instead it set off a chain of events that began with the crashing of the BVA’s website, followed by a “clarification” from its president, and eventually resulted in the invocation of the highest feline authority in the land: Larry the Downing Street cat. There is growing evidence that cats can catch coronavirus. Scattered accounts of pets with the disease, as well as a tiger in a New York zoo, suggest that it can jump the species barrier from humans.
Schools across the UK will not reopen after the Easter holidays, after national governments insisted they would only do so when scientific advice said it was safe to proceed. Teaching unions said their members were alarmed by a newspaper report that schools could reopen after the holidays and a review from University College London that cast doubt on the effectiveness of school closures in limiting the spread of disease. But Whitehall sources said no date had been set to reopen schools in England, and that a date would only emerge once scientific advice concluded it was safe for them to do so. The Welsh government also rejected any suggestion that reopening was imminent, with a spokesperson saying: “The Welsh education minister does not plan to reopen schools more generally in the immediate period following Monday 20 April.
Schools could re-open after the Easter holidays if current lockdown measures continue to work, a minister has reportedly said. Last month it was announced all schools were to close in a bid to stop the spread of the virus. Key workers, such as NHS staff, supermarket workers and pharmacists were permitted to send their children to school. Now, a Minister has suggested schools could reopen sooner than expected – if the lockdown measures currently in place start to trigger a flattening of the curve when it comes to the number of infections.
Premier League footballers took en masse to social media on Wednesday night to launch their own charity fund to aid the battle against coronavirus. In an extraordinary and coordinated move, scores of top-flight players posted messages on Twitter and Instagram pledging their support for the #PlayersTogether initiative, which is expected to raise millions of pounds for the NHS and charities battling the crisis. The initiative involves a partnership with NHS Charities Together – which coordinates more than 150 charities – and is designed to ensure funds can be distributed “quickly and efficiently to where they are needed most”, not least the NHS front line.
Boris Johnson’s plan to seal a deal with Brussels on the future relationship with the UK by the end of December has been described as “fantasy land” by EU officials, as a leaked letter revealed the scale of the bloc’s inability to function during the coronavirus pandemic. The European council headquarters, where member states’ positions are coordinated, is only able to hold one daily video conference due to a lack of facilities. The capacity to carry out work is 25% of what it would usually be. The leaked letter from Michael Clauss, the German ambassador to the EU, to his political bosses in Berlin said a range of issues not key to rebuilding from the pandemic would need to be sidelined as a result.
The president of the European Union’s ERC scientific research council has resigned after three months in the job with an attack on the EU’s scientific governance and political operations. Mauro Ferrari said he had lost faith in the system after he failed to set up a special programme to fight coronavirus. But the research council said later his resignation followed a written, unanimous vote of no confidence. It said it regretted Prof Ferrari’s comments. “Since his appointment, Professor Ferrari displayed a lack of engagement with the ERC, failing to participate in many important meetings, spending extensive time in the USA and failing to defend the ERC’s programme and mission when representing the ERC,” it said in a statement.
The chief of the European Union’s top science organization resigned Tuesday at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, saying he “lost faith” in the EU’s response to the crisis. Professor Mauro Ferrari, president of the European Research Council (ERC), claimed red tape and internal politics hindered his ability to take swift and comprehensive action against the pandemic. He was only three months into his four-year term before resigning. Prior to leading the organization, Ferrari was best known as a pioneering scientist in the field of nanomedicine who worked for decades in the U.S. Ferrari’s resignation was announced in a statement he released to the Financial Times.
For the last decade Germany and the northern creditor bloc have done just enough in each euro crisis to avert a collective revolt by Club Med debtors. Action was always too late – and too little to overcome the Original Sin of the EMU construction – but nevertheless sufficient to head off financial Götterdämmerung. The euro remained an orphan currency with no fiscal sibling. The European Central Bank was each time left to do the dirty work and find plausible ways to skirt the EU treaty law. Pandemonia has brought matters to a head.
ONE measure of the stability of the capitalist system is the profitability of its banks. This is so important a priority for our ruling class that it rescued them with unimaginable mountains of cash — our cash — in the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis. Even so banks remains a weak link. For banks across the Eurozone, according to figures from the European Central Bank, the average return on equity fell over the past year from 6.2 per cent to 5.2 per cent. In the dominant EU economic power German banks had a return of 0.08 per cent.