End of lockdown?
The NHS is preparing to release an app that alerts users if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, in a move that could pave the way towards the end of the lockdown. The opt-in programme is likely to be rolled out as the current restrictions on movement are lifted – and, if successful at limiting the spread of the virus, could prevent the need for further clampdowns. Experts are now expecting the British epidemic to peak around Easter, before a steady decline. At the Government’s daily press briefing, Prof Stephen Powis, Medical Director of NHS England, said “green shoots” were emerging after new cases began to plateau. But he warned the death toll would continue to rise in the next fortnight. “So green shoots, but only green shoots, and we must not be complacent and we must not take our foot off the pedal,” he said.
The government is set to introduce an app that will tell users when they have come in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. In the next few weeks Britons will be invited to download the app that sends alerts when a user has been exposed to someone with Covid-19. The app’s development was led by NHSX, the innovation unit of the NHS, which enlisted experts from outside and inside government to make it work and abide by strict EU privacy rules. The app uses short-range Bluetooth signals from a user’s smartphone to store a list of all the other app users they have come in close proximity to over the past few days.
The global coronavirus lockdown is a ‘misguided social experiment’ which threatens to do far more long term damage than the disease itself. We need to get back to work. So argue two professors — one of public affairs, the other of economics — in a trenchant editorial for Jerusalem Post. They claim: Citizens of many countries throughout the world have recently become human subjects in a grand social science experiment that is being conducted without our informed consent. The unintended consequences of current lockdown policies may include a surge in domestic violence and suicide and a ‘self-inflicted economic and psychological depression, hoisted upon us by an unholy triumvirate of public health officials, the media and politicians.’
Boris Johnson has taken charge of efforts to source chemicals needed for coronavirus tests as the government admitted that they were being delivered too slowly for frontline NHS staff. Hospitals will be told today to test as many of their workers as possible amid frustration in government that laboratory capacity was being wasted because the health service was not ordering enough tests. However, NHS chiefs are pressing ministers to know when they will be able to use a super-lab for testing key workers, which was opened last week but has still not finished a trial period.
Hospitals have today been ordered to use any spare lab space to test self-isolating NHS staff for coronavirus as ministers were accused of losing their grip on the crisis. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has intervened to end the embarrassing situation where thousands of tests have been unused and a vast NHS swabbing station also stood deserted yesterday. Huge numbers of doctors, nurses and other crucial NHS staff are at home self-isolating but most have not been tested for coronavirus. The failure is causing growing anger because many could return to work if cleared of having the virus.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove has admitted the UK needs to go “further and faster” on testing NHS staff for coronavirus, amid a growing backlash over the failure to meet the target of 10,000 tests a day. Mr Gove revealed that just 8,240 people were tested on Monday – days after he incorrectly claimed that the 10,000 milestone had been met by the end of last week. The UK still lags well behind countries like Germany, where 70,000 are being tested every day. In an apparent sign of frustration at the failure to use the UK’s full capacity, which now stands at 12,700 a day, ministers and Public Health England have ordered NHS trusts to ensure that any tests not needed for patients should be used on staff.
Ministers have been forced into a crisis rethink of the way coronavirus tests are bought after it emerged the NHS in England and Wales were competing over testing. In Wales, the devolved government’s health minister Vaughan Gething declared he was “very disappointed” with a manufacturer, understood to be Roche, which had been due to supply up to 5,000 COVID-19 tests a day in Wales. Whitehall sources said that the company appeared to want to prioritise the bigger of two orders – one requested by the NHS in England – leading the firm to cancel the order with Wales to the fury of the Cardiff administration.
All organ donors are now being tested for coronavirus with transplants from infected patients being stopped to minimise risk. The NHS are preventing some life-saving organs from being transplanted to recipients to stop the spread of the virus. Donations are not known to transmit the killer bug, but transplant recipients are immuno-suppressed to prevent organ rejection. NHS Blood and Transplant said hospitals are having their capacity to carry out donations and transplants affected under the strain of coronavirus. Professor John Forsythe, Medical Director for Organ Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: ‘As the situation with COVID-19 is ever changing across the country, so is the picture regarding donation and transplantation.
Soldiers helping to build the Nightingale hospital in London have compared the coronavirus crisis to the Battle of the Somme as the 4,000-bed NHS unit at the ExCeL centre is set to accept its first patients today. Colonel Ashleigh Boreham, who has carried out two tours of Iraq and one of Afghanistan, said it was the biggest mission of his career. As commanding officer of 256 City of London Field Hospital, he is in charge of military personnel working on the NHS facility. Built in around ten days, it will have 4,000 beds for coronavirus patients when it opens this week. Similar hospitals are being installed in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow to ease pressure on existing sites.
More than 16,000 members of staff could be needed to run London’s new NHS Nightingale Hospital to treat coronavirus patients should it reach full capacity. The new 4,000-bed temporary facility at the ExCel convention centre in east London is due to open this week despite building work only starting last Wednesday. Split into more than 80 wards containing 42 beds each, the Nightingale will become one of the biggest hospitals in the world, according to its chief operating officer Natalie Forrest. The facility will be used to treat Covid-19 patients who have been transferred from other intensive care units (ICU) across London. Speaking to visiting reporters, Ms Forrest said a “scary” number of staff would be needed to run the facility at full capacity and appealed for volunteers to come forward.
A GULF War hero who has joined the NHS frontline in the war on the coronavirus has dubbed the killer bug “an enemy you can’t see”. Colonel Ashleigh Boreham, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is leading the construction of the first NHS Nightingale unit — a huge temporary hospital in East London. His team of soldiers are turning the ExCel convention centre into a 4,000-bed Covid-19 treatment facility, which will be the UK’s biggest — and larger than any regular hospital. And Col Boreham, who has served the Army since 1992, is confident of winning the fight against the virus. He said: “It’s the biggest job I’ve ever done. But you know what? I’ve spent 27 years on a journey to this moment. This enemy is different to what we’re used to dealing with. This is a threat you can’t see.
New UK-built ventilators to treat coronavirus patients will be available for use in the NHS from next week, Michael Gove has announced. Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, the cabinet office minister said the first of thousands of new machines will be rolled out on to the front line within days to cope with the spread of the virus. There are around 8,000 ventilators deployed in the NHS currently but Mr Gove acknowledged that many more would be needed ahead of the expected peak of the outbreak in April. The UK is also buying more ventilators from abroad “including from EU nations”, Mr Gove said, following a row over the government’s failure to join an EU procurement scheme to source the vital medical kit. Mr Gove said: “Before the epidemic struck we had very little domestic manufacturer of ventilators.
The UK government has ordered more ventilators than the total number it says it needs to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, after unveiling an order for 15,000 new machines on Monday. Ventilator Challenge UK – a consortium of engineering firms including Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems as well as a series of Formula One motor racing teams – has secured an order for 10,000 of two types of machine currently produced by Smiths Medical of Luton and an Oxfordshire-based firm called Penlon. The consortium, which is helping the firms ramp up its standard production rates, said it would begin making the order this week. A “reservation order” for a further 5,000 machines has also been placed with Smiths, while the Cabinet Office said that there are 8,000 ventilators currently in the NHS with a further 8,000 already on order from overseas.
Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove announced that the first of thousands of new ventilators will be rolling off of production lines this weekend and will be sent to NHS hospitals next week. The National Health Service has only 8,000 ventilators and needs some 30,000 more. The British government has secured orders for 61,000 ventilators as an “insurance policy”, according to a report in The Guardian, of which 30,000 will be brand new. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster led the daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday and said that the British government is buying more ventilators from abroad, including from the European Union. Aware of the massive shortfall, Mr Gove said that that is “also why we are developing new sources of supply at home”.
The first batch of British-made ventilators to treat coronavirus patients will be rolled out to the NHS next week, Michael Gove has said. Thousands of them are going into production to bolster the 8,000 already deployed in hospitals, the Cabinet Office minister announced. Lots of countries are trying to source the essential machines, which provide oxygen for people suffering lung failure in severe COVID-19 cases. Mr Gove reassured the public that ventilators have been bought in from abroad to tackle the pandemic and that the first wave manufactured in the UK will roll off the production line by the end of this weekend.
As new cases of Covid-19 are being confirmed daily across Britain, people are on high alert for any changes in health that could be signs of the infection. The most common symptoms of the novel coronavirus are fever, tiredness and a dry cough, according to the World Health Organisation. Some patients also have a sore throat, running or blocked nose, muscle aches and pains or a stomach upset. Some experts are now warning that a complete loss of taste or smell occurs in some people who have tested positive for the virus, and a recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology suggests that diarrhoea occurs in roughly half of cases.
LOSING your sense of taste and smell could be a sign you caught coronavirus just HOURS earlier, doctors believe. An increasing number of people are reporting the loss of the two senses, despite it not being a main symptom recognised by the NHS. New evidence gathered by ENT UK, the body representing ear, nose and throat doctors, said it could be one of the first signs you have Covid-19. The NHS and Government currently advises Brits watch out for a new, continuous cough and/or a high temperature. If you develop either, the advise is to stay at home and self-isolate for at least seven days – until you recover.
Losing your sense of taste and smell may be the most reliable symptom of coronavirus, research suggests. A study which involved more than 500 Britons who tested positive for the virus found that almost 60 per cent had lost those senses, compared with just 32 per cent who reported suffering from a fever. Currently, people in the UK are instructed to self-isolate only if they have a persistent cough, a high temperature, or both. But the study by King’s College London found that 59 per cent those who tested positive for Covid-19 lost their sense of taste or smell, compared with 19 per cent of those who tested negative. A similar proportion – 58 per cent – of those who tested positive had said they were suffering from a persistent cough.
Italian politicians took out a full-page advertisement in one of Germany’s most prestigious newspapers on Tuesday as they urged parsimonious northern Europe to do more to help the south through the coronavirus crisis, amid an increasingly bitter rift within the EU. MPs and mayors from across the Italian political spectrum implored Germany for help and lashed out at the Netherlands in the pages of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s leading conservative daily. They urged Berlin to drop its opposition to a proposed EU scheme to issue so-called “coronabonds” to raise funds to fight the crisis. They accused the Netherlands, which has led opposition to the scheme, of operating as a tax haven and diverting revenue from other member states.
The European Parliament’s largest party grouping is pressuring the UK to extend the Brexit transition period because of the coronavirus pandemic. The UK left the EU on January 31st, 2020, but remains in a transition period until December 31st, 2020. During this time, the UK abides by the bloc’s rules on issues such as trade and free movement whilst London and Brussels negotiate a future deal. While the EU permits for the transition to be extended for up to two years, the British Parliament passed the Brexit bill earlier this year which enshrines the exit date in law. If a deal is not struck, then the two parties will trade on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms. With both the UK and EU under lockdown during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, in-person Brexit talks have been put on hold.
Hungary’s emergency law that enables the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, to rule by decree without time limits is incompatible with being in the EU, the European parliament’s liberal group said on Tuesday. Passing measures ostensibly to tackle coronavirus, the Hungarian parliament on Monday voted to give Orbán the power to rule by decree with no clear end-date. The law also introduces jail terms for spreading disinformation about the virus, raising fears it could be used to neuter critics of the government’s approach. Sophie in’t Veld, a Dutch liberal MEP, who chairs the European parliament’s rule of law group, said: “Viktor Orbán has completed his project of killing democracy and the rule of law in Hungary. Clearly, the actions of the Hungarian government are incompatible with EU membership.”
Are you worried that your alcohol consumption is creeping up during the coronavirus lockdown? Well, you’re not alone. It probably says a lot about this nation’s method for dealing with the current situation that the Great British Off License has been deemed an essential business. We may not be drinking to excess, but with everyone stuck at home, it seems the lure of a cheeky glass of wine or beer is hitting many of us earlier – and harder – each day than normal. At what price? Of course, we’ve all heard the usual (scientifically-backed) stories about the damage booze does; you don’t need me to repeat them here. But beyond that, there’s a new worry that’s being articulated among the nation’s wine-o-clockers: does alcohol weaken the immune system? That question is a rising search term on Google at the moment, and you can see why.
Chief constables began to turn on each other yesterday about how to enforce the coronavirus lockdown as police forces continued to take drastically different approaches. Peter Goodman, the chief constable of Derbyshire, criticised other forces for using “more draconian” measures than his own, which had deployed drones to discourage walkers from going to the Peak District. Derbyshire’s tactics were attacked by the former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption. Mr Goodman said that some forces were using “roadblocks” to enforce the lockdown, which he would not do. Cheshire police defended officers who issued summonses to six people in Warrington last weekend, saying that those involved “refused to acknowledge the severity of the situation”, and Dorset police told the public they could not go surfing for their
Some police forces may have gone too far in enforcing the UK’s nationwide lockdown, a senior Conservative minister has admitted, following criticism of alleged overreach by officers. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said British police had done a good job in general during the coronavirus crisis so far but acknowledged there might have been individual instances of officers pushing too hard to enforce social distancing measures. “The police are doing a difficult job and they are doing it well,” Mr Shapps told Sky News on Tuesday. “I am sure there are individual examples where perhaps you look at it and think that is perhaps a bit further than they should have gone.”
Police forces have been warned about not overreaching their authority while enforcing Britain’s coronavirus lockdown. According to reports in The Guardian, police chiefs are drawing up new guidance for forces to follow after a number of forced publicised that they were punishing people for things which aren’t actually against the rules. But this claim was later denied by the National Police Chiefs Council. Government sources told the Mirror that guidance issued to all forces would be “made very clear” with clarifications in the coming days. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted there were “teething problems” but claimed it was simply “the police trying to work out which is the most effective approach”.