Lockdown

Guido
This week the Government will respond to mounting pressure to reveal how the lockdown will be wound down. Talks with the Labour Party are due in the next couple of days, and the public can expect an announcement of sorts by the end of the week. In yesterday’s Downing Street address, the Prime Minister said: “The government will be saying much more about [winding down the lockdown] in the coming days and I want to serve notice now that these decisions will be taken with the maximum possible transparency.” Senior figures had previously taken great pains to not reveal wind down thinking in order to not ‘complicate communications’. It appears the Government has now decided that the public is grown up enough to hear a plan…

Mail
Ministers are facing accusations of watering down the criteria required for easing the lockdown, fanning speculation of an imminent loosening of restrictions. The last of five tests which have to be met before social distancing measures can be reviewed was yesterday tweaked by the government. It had ruled out lifting the lockdown unless officials were ‘confident that any adjustment to current measures will not risk a second peak of infections’. But at yesterday’s Downing Street press briefing the wording had been subtly altered so the new benchmark was to avoid a second peak of infections ‘that overwhelms the NHS’.

Telegraph
The Government relaxed its key rule for easing the lockdown on Tuesday amid increasing signs that Boris Johnson is preparing to refine restrictions within days.  Five tests which must be met before the lockdown can be altered were set out earlier this month.  The first four have either been met or are close to being met. The fifth hurdle, which ministers have always said is the most important, was described on official Government documents on Monday as a confidence that “any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections”.

Sun
DOWNING Street tonight was forced to deny it had shifted its five tests for tweaking the coronavirus lockdown – after the press conference slides changed overnight. No10 claimed that there were “no changes” to the aims that Britain has to meet before it can start to think about easing off on any measures. But slides put out at the same time as the No10 press conference today showed slightly different wording to the day before.

Children

Sun
THESE photos show the first-known case of a child suffering from a mysterious new coronavirus-related condition. Doctors have warned of a rise in children reportedly in intensive care in the UK with an inflammatory syndrome that attacks blood vessels in the heart. NHS England has compared the features of the unidentified life-threatening condition to toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease in an urgent alert this week. But it appears medics in the US may have identified the first case in a six-month-old girl earlier this month.

Mail
A furious row has broken out between Great Ormond Street paediatricians and the NHS after an alert was dispatched to GPs linking a deadly inflammatory disease to the coronavirus.  Experts from the Kawasaki Disease Foundation, among them paediatricians from Great Ormond Street Hospital, spoke of their ‘anger’ that the NHS saw fit to send its alert without gathering further evidence on the mystery inflammatory disease it linked to COVID-19.

Care homes

Telegraph
Care home and community deaths from coronavirus are now as high as in hospitals, with the outbreak yet to peak in residential facilities, top statisticians have warned. Experts have called for staff at Nightingale hospitals, which have treated only a handful of patients, to be redeployed to care homes as new data suggests the sector is suffering 400 deaths a day from Covid-19. NHS data indicates a slow but steady decrease in hospital deaths, following a peak on April 8. However, Tuesday’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures reveal that deaths from all causes doubled in care homes in the two weeks up to April 17, up to 7,316 a week.

Mirror
The Government will release daily updates on the number of deaths from coronavirus in care homes and in the community. The move follows criticism that only deaths in hospitals are being released every day with the care home figures only revealed weekly by the Office for National Statistics. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “From tomorrow we’ll be publishing not just the number of deaths in hospital each day but the number of deaths in care homes and the community too.”

Sun
THE coronavirus death toll in care homes is far higher than previously thought, shock figures show. The homes are the new battleground as the number of residents dying from the bug has continued to accelerate while hospital figures have dropped. By April 17, it had hit 3,096 — almost triple the 1,043 total announced the week before, with 2,000 new fatalities in a week. A further 1,247 died from Covid-19 the following week, bringing the total to 4,343 up to April 24, the latest Care Quality Commission figures for England show.

Times
Deaths from coronavirus in care homes could soon exceed those in hospitals as campaigners say that residents are being treated as second-class citizens. New figures showed that in the week up to April 17 mortality from all causes in care homes totalled 7,316, triple that recorded at the end of last month. Experts warned that deaths there may not yet have peaked. Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician from Cambridge University, said that even as cases fell nationally outbreaks were still a huge problem in care homes.

Huffington Post
When the nation stood at 11am for a minute’s silence to honour all the NHS and care workers who have died in the Covid-19 pandemic, it felt like a tragic but important counterpoint to the Thursday night claps for essential staff on the frontline in this battle.‌ But just an hour and a half earlier, yet more sombre news of the wider death toll emerged in the latest Office for National Statistics. The grim rise in deaths in care homes was shocking, with more than 2,000 in the week ending 17 April, double the previous week.

Cancer deaths

Mail
The coronavirus crisis in the UK could result in 18,000 more cancer deaths in the next year, researchers have warned. Cancer treatment has been put on hold to make room for thousands of patients who are hospitalised with the killer virus. And urgent GP referrals for diagnoses have dropped as experts fear people are not coming forward with cancer symptoms.  The number of deaths in newly diagnosed cancer cases is predicted to rise by a fifth in England alone as a result.  Scientists fear at least 6,270 extra people will die from a new case of cancer.

Sun
PEOPLE worried they might have cancer are being urged to seek help — as experts warn that deaths from the disease may rise by 18,000. Scientists from University College London predict fatalities will leap by 20 per cent over the next 12 months as people avoid medical services during the coronavirus outbreak. NHS research shows the crisis is making half of sick Brits think twice before getting checked. One in ten are so worried about Covid-19’s impact, they wouldn’t even see their GP if they had a new lump or mole — both common signs of cancer.

Testing

Mail
Matt Hancock today announced coronavirus testing eligibility is being extended to include all over-65s and workers who cannot work from home – but only if they have symptoms.  All asymptomatic staff and patients at hospitals and care homes will also now be able to get checked.  The Health Secretary said opening up the testing regime to more people has been made possible by a dramatic increase in capacity.  The UK now has the ability to test more than 73,000 people every day with the government claiming it is ‘on track’ to hit Mr Hancock’s target of getting to 100,000 daily checks by the end of tomorrow.

Sky News
Over-65s and those who need to leave their homes for work will now be able to get tested for coronavirus, as the government expands the number of people who are eligible. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the move as he strives to meet the government’s target of reaching 100,000 COVID-19 tests per day by Friday. From Wednesday, all those aged over 65 and those who have to leave their homes in order to do their jobs, who have coronavirus symptoms, will be able to get a COVID-19 test.

BBC News
Coronavirus testing is available for millions more people in England from today after the government loosened rules on who can apply. Testing was expanded last week to all key workers in England and their households. Now, all care home residents and staff, people over 65 and those who must leave home to work are entitled to a test. No 10 aims to hit its target of 100,000 tests per day by Thursday, with just over 43,000 taking place as of Monday. It comes as the government prepares to publish for the first time up to date figures for all coronavirus deaths, both in hospitals and care homes.

iNews
Everyone over 65 and all workers who cannot stay at home are now eligible for a coronavirus test as the Government battles to push up testing numbers. Matt Hancock announced another expansion of testing as part of efforts to reach 100,000 tests a day by his self-imposed deadline of Thursday. All NHS staff and people who live or work in a care home can now get a Covid-19 test, even if they do not show symptoms of the illness. Doctors are worried that asymptomatic carriers could be spreading the virus undetected, leading to a soaring death toll in the care sector.

Independent
Anyone over 65-years-old with symptoms of Covid-19 will be able to get tested for the virus as the government ramps up its testing programme, Matt Hancock has announced. The health secretary told the daily Downing Street press conference that older people and their families would now be eligible for testing, as well as people who leave their homes to work who have coronavirus symptoms. Care home residents and staff will also be able to access tests – even if they do not have symptoms, as well as asymptomatic NHS patients and staff, Mr Hancock said.

Ventilators

Reuters
Britain said on Tuesday it would end support for four projects designed to boost the number of ventilators available in the battle against coronavirus, as it backs eleven other devices. “This selection criteria… takes into account projections for ventilator demand, the availability of other devices which already have regulatory approval, the performance and clinical usefulness of each device and the progress to date on each device’s overall development,” the government said. There are nearly 11,000 of the mechanical breathing apparatus available to the publicly-funded health service with a consortium of firms including McLaren, Airbus and Ford working to fulfill a government order.

Prisons

Mirror
The UK’s justice system faces unprecedented court backlogs and prisoner numbers after the coronavirus crisis, a new report has warned. It comes as new figures show the number of coronavirus cases in prisons could be six times higher than the official published figure. New figures from Public Health England found 1,783 “possible/probable” cases on top of the 304 confirmed infections in prisons across England and Wales. By 2023/24, the prison population could rise to 95,000, its highest level ever, the Institute for Government has warned.

Contact tracing

Guardian
Ministers must relinquish their top-down control of the coronavirus epidemic after the lockdown to allow millions of people potentially infected with Covid-19 to be traced and supported by local teams in their own communities, say experts. Urgent discussions have begun between central government, local authorities and public health officials about the 18,000-strong army promised on Friday by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to help trace the contacts of people who test positive or have symptoms of the coronavirus.

Sun
BRITAIN is edging towards easing lockdown with real life testing of the NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app starting next week. Ministers hope the pioneering tech will help the UK beat the bug and “return to normality”. Experts predict high uptake will ensure fresh outbreaks are quickly snuffed out, preventing a second deadly peak. A trial of the voluntary app – provisionally called “NHS – Covid-19” – will begin on the Isle of Wight from Monday. Scientists are testing the tech on the island in a bid to “iron out any bugs” in the system, ahead of an expected national roll-out in mid-May.

Reuters
A contact-tracing app designed to let people know if they have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 could be rolled out widely in Britain in two to three weeks, a senior official said on Tuesday. Matthew Gould, chief executive of the National Health Service’s technology group NHSX, told a parliamentary committee that the app, which will notify contacts if a person tests positive for COVID-19, would first be tested locally. The app, and a wider testing and tracking programme, is seen as key to help easing social distancing restrictions in Britain, which have all but shut the economy and stopped people going about their daily lives.

Times
Contact tracing to control the spread of coronavirus will be in place within three weeks, the health secretary pledged yesterday as he offered tests to anyone aged above 65 who has symptoms. Matt Hancock made care home residents and anyone who cannot work from home eligible for coronavirus tests as part of a final scramble to hit a daily target of 100,000 by tomorrow. He said that Britain had capacity for 73,400 tests but carried out only 43,563 despite a heavily oversubscribed self-referral website launched at the end of last week.

Face masks

Guardian
Ministers are split over whether to change government advice on wearing face masks, with Matt Hancock, the health secretary, stressing that the evidence for them was weak despite Scotland’s decision to recommend cloth coverings in some public places. Hancock expressed his scepticism about changing the UK-wide advice in the daily No 10 press conference on Tuesday, emphasising that physical distancing was a much greater priority. However, Whitehall sources said the discussion on the issue was still live among ministers, even though the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) presented its verdict on the issue to the cabinet almost a week ago, which is understood to have advised there was little evidence masks reduce the spread of infection in the community.

Mirror
Ministers are expected to make a decision shortly on whether people should wear masks or face coverings in public, on public transport or at work. Experts are ‘finalising’ advice to ministers, Number 10 said yesterday. The SAGE advisory group met on Tuesday to discuss whether to change the UK’s guidance on the general public wearing masks, and are meeting again today. It follows reports that experts were recommending face coverings – such as cloth masks or scarves – could stop people with the disease but without symptoms from passing it on to others.

Reuters
British scientists advising the government have concluded that wearing a face mask has a small effect on stopping a coronavirus carrier from infecting someone else, and the evidence is weak, Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser Angela McLean said on Tuesday. “There is weak evidence of a small effect in which a face mask can prevent a source of infection going from somebody who is infected to the people around them,” she said.

Domestic abuse

Guardian
MPs are to try to outlaw the courtroom murder defence of “rough sex gone wrong” during parliamentary debates on the domestic abuse bill, as cases of domestic violence soar during the coronavirus lockdown. The repeatedly delayed legislation came before MPs on Tuesday amid calls for a specific ban on “non-fatal strangulation”, and threats of legal action over the provision of accommodation for domestic abuse survivors during the pandemic. The government has promised to look at what has been called the “fifty shades” defence to murder during sex, but has not yet announced any detailed legislative wording to introduce a ban.

Guardian
Refuges providing sanctuary to victims of domestic violence are running out of space, with many full or effectively closed amid an “epidemic inside this pandemic”, the victims’ commissioner has told MPs. A “perfect storm” of problems is in danger of overwhelming support services for those trying to escape violent and abusive partners, Dame Vera Baird QC warned members of the House of Commons justice select committee. She also said on Tuesday there was evidence of a newer trend, of older children – principally teenagers – attacking their parents amid frustration about being unable to go outside.

Huffington Post
Ministers have asked the chancellor for £70m to help domestic abuse victims during the coronavirus crisis, HuffPost UK can reveal. The requests from three different Whitehall departments, which are being considered by the Treasury, would help fund refuges, community services and victims of child sexual abuse. It comes after MPs pleaded for emergency funding amid “alarming” signs of a rise in domestic abuse during the lockdown. Calls to domestic violence charity Refuge increased by 49% in the week leading up to April 15 compared to the average prior to the pandemic, sparking fears that victims were being trapped with their abusers in the lockdown.

HS2

Times
HS2 could face a further delay after a judge demanded clarity over plans to build tunnels into central London amid claims they risk causing “catastrophic” damage to homes. The High Court has ordered bosses behind the high-speed line to provide reassurance that existing proposals for the route into Euston are safe. HS2 Ltd — the government-owned company leading the £106 billion project — has been given a week to deliver updated plans to Hero Granger-Taylor, a homeowner who tried to block the proposal on safety grounds.

China

Guido
The Chinese Communist Party is threatening a boycott of imports of Australian wine and beef if the country pushes ahead with an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Australia’s proposed inquiry was proposed by Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party Government and is supported by the Labor Party opposition. When interviewed in The Australian Financial Review, the Chinese Ambassador to Australia “refused to accept that the virus had started in a Wuhan wet market”, called Australia’s push for an inquiry into it “dangerous”, and claimed that “the Chinese public is frustrated, dismayed and disappointed with what Australia is doing now”.

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