Dominic Raab has cast doubt on whether the coronavirus lockdown will be reviewed next week, amid growing questions over who is going to make key decisions while the Prime Minister remains in intensive care. The Foreign Secretary, who is to deputise for Boris Johnson in key meetings, refused to confirm whether a decision on easing the restrictions would be taken on Easter Monday, in line with Mr Johnson’s timetable, instead saying “we’re not at that stage yet”. Mr Raab was asked repeatedly whether he had the power to make decisions in Mr Johnson’s absence as confusion grew over the constitutional position.
The Government’s scientific adviser has said it is “possible” the UK is starting to see the “beginning of change” in terms of the number of coronavirus cases levelling out. Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the Covid-19 data suggests the country could be on the brink of “flattening the curve” which would mean cases of the virus could begin to drop in coming days. But he warned the country would not know for sure whether social distancing had worked “for a week or so” and the measures should continue for now.
The government will not be lifting the coronavirus lockdown imminently – meaning it will stretch beyond the initial three week period, it has been confirmed. This evening Dominic Raab – who is deputising for Boris Johnson while the PM is in intensive care – said the worst thing the country could do would be to “take its foot off the pedal”. He said it is too early to consider lifting the restrictions – which state Brits can only leave their homes for essential trips and exercise. When the lockdown was announced on March 23, Mr Johnson said the unprecedented measure would be reviewed after three weeks – meaning it could have been lifted at the start of next week.
Britain’s battle against coronavirus “could be moving in the right direction” but ministers will not even consider lifting the lockdown until at least next week, it was reported yesterday. Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, said there were signs that the number of new cases of the virus were starting to level off but that he could not be certain of the trend for another week. Boris Johnson remained in intensive care as Downing Street was cautiously optimistic about his recovery and he continued to breathe without assistance.
THE coronavirus killed a Brit every two minutes today — but new infections fell to their lowest level this month. But despite evidence the lockdown is working it won’t be lifted just yet, the Government’s top scientist warned. Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said that a slight drop in the number of new infections shows that the UK may see the curve start to flatten. However, he said that while the number of new cases “could be moving in the right direction” it would not be clear “for a week or so”. During the Downing Street daily briefing today, he said: “It’s possible that we’re beginning to see the beginning of change in terms of the curve flattening a little bit.
The UK’s top scientist today offered the public a glimmer of hope that the strict coronavirus shutdown is having an effect after official statistics revealed the number of new coronavirus cases diagnosed in the past 24 hours – 3,634 – was the lowest for a week. Sir Patrick Vallance said that the sharp fall in newly diagnosed cases, from a peak of 5,903 on Sunday, suggested that efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ were starting to bear fruit. But both the chief scientific adviser and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is standing in for the Prime Minister, urged caution, suggesting it will be another week before experts know for sure whether the battle is being won, and said everyone must continue to follow rules on staying at home and social distancing.
It was another grim day of coronavirus figures across Europe. But after weeks of lockdowns and social distancing, experts are seeing some glimmers of hope. “The data coming out of Europe is encouraging,” Johns Hopkins University expert Crystal Watson told Fox News, “It’s a little early to say they’re out of the woods yet, but the trend is good. And it’s showing that staying home, taking these social distance measures, is useful.” For example, Spain’s daily death toll Tuesday was still a horrendous 637. But that was “only” a 5.7 percent proportional increase. Half of what it was last week.
Boris Johnson faces between one and two months off work even if he makes a full recovery, scientists warned ahead of the coronavirus -stricken premier’s third night in hospital. Experts said a ‘period of inactivity’ in intensive care would result in the Prime Minister suffering a significant loss of muscle mass and strength. They forecast Mr Johnson would be physically drained from fighting the virus, for which he has received oxygen in St Thomas’ Hospital in central London. Survivors who have been discharged from critical care also braced Mr Johnson for weeks of bed-rest to recuperate from the energy-sapping disease, drawing on their own ‘horrendous’ experiences of the road to recovery.
DOWNING Street’s hopes were rising last night that Boris Johnson had overcome the worst of his coronavirus struggle as it was reported his fever was easing at last. The PM, 55, was hailed as a “fighter” as he spent a second night in intensive care and the Queen led the world in sending him messages of support. He remained in a stable condition throughout the day and was “in good spirits” after doctors quickly halted his deterioration with oxygen on Monday night. Despite initial fears, doctors at London’s St Thomas’ Hospital decided there was no need to put him on a ventilator and sedate him.
Moments before eight o’clock last Thursday night Boris Johnson emerged onto his doorstep in Downing Street and stood for just over a minute applauding NHS staff in the frontline fight against coronavirus. It was the first time he had been seen in public since he had entered self-isolation six days earlier. He was clearly suffering. The prime minister knew how closely the footage would be scrutinised but his fixed smile was more of a grimace.
Today (Tuesday) has been Britain’s darkest day yet in its coronavirus crisis with 786 more fatalities confirmed in the past 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 6,159 victims. A 23-year-old who had no other known health problems was among those who have died, as well as hundreds of others aged up to 102. In total, 29 people did not have any long-term illnesses before they caught COVID-19. However, in a confusing situation, there have actually been 854 deaths reported today. Because of different time frames used in counting methods across the UK, NHS England confirmed 758 people have died in its hospitals, with authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland announcing a further 96 between them.
The true number of coronavirus victims in England could be 80 per cent higher than official figures show because of a lag in the way deaths are recorded. By March 27, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had declared just 926 COVID-19 fatalities in hospitals around the country. This was 78 per cent lower than the 1,649 deaths recorded by NHS England during the same time frame. If the ratio has followed the same trajectory since then, England’s true death toll may be around 8,800, instead of the official 4,897. This is because it can takes days – or in some cases weeks – for a coronavirus death to be reported, recorded and fed back into the Government’s overall tally.
Britain could see as many as 66,000 COVID-19 deaths during the first wave of the current pandemic, new research showed Tuesday, making the outbreak there by far the deadliest in Europe. Modelling conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine showed that approximately 151,680 people were likely to die from the virus across the continent. While the novel coronavirus emerged in China and was initially focussed in east Asia, the World Health Organization now says the pandemic is centred in western Europe, with Spain, Italy and France experiencing devastating death tolls.
Cambridge University has set up a coronavirus testing laboratory to help meet the Government’s 100,000-a-day target. The facility at the university’s Anne McLaren laboratory is a ‘joint collaboration’ with pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline as part of a ‘national effort’ to increase testing capacity. Scientists will process tests and work to identify alternate chemical reagents to the ones currently being used, which are in short supply. The Government has promised to hit 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday insisted ‘good progress’ was being made.
Dominic Raab has insisted the government’s commitment to deliver 100,000 coronavirus tests a day within weeks still stands despite a series of setbacks. Officials admitted earlier this week that none of the new antibody tests ordered by the government were sensitive enough to use. Ministers had hoped they would allow experts to test for the presence of the disease in the past, alongside tests that show whether or not someone is currently suffering from Covid-19. Mr Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson while the prime minister is in hospital battling coronavirus, also said more than 14,000 tests were carried out on Monday, down from more than 16,000 on Sunday, which he said showed “progress”.
Shutting schools has little impact on stopping the spread of coronavirus, a new study has claimed. The team at University College London (UCL) said data on the benefit of school closures during the ongoing pandemic is limited but the impact is likely to be small. However, Professor Neil Ferguson, whose scientific modelling has informed government thinking, insists school closures play an important role in controlling the spread of the deadly virus. Schools are in their third week of lockdown, but can still be open to look after the children of key workers.
Rishi Sunak has been named as Boris Johnson’s second “designated successor” amid claims that Michael Gove was overlooked due to question marks over his loyalty. With Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab continuing to deputise for the Prime Minister, Downing Street on Tuesday confirmed that the Chancellor would step in should he also become incapacitated. However, despite facing calls to set out a clear chain of command, Mr Johnson’s spokesman refused to expand further, stating only that there was a list of ministers waiting in the wings.
Downing Street scrambled to ease fears over a power vacuum at the heart of government today with Boris Johnson in intensive care battling coronavirus. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been officially ‘deputised’ by the PM to fill in while he tries to recover from the potentially deadly disease. However, there are doubts about how long Whitehall can function without an active PM, especially with claims of tensions between ministers. Mr Johnson has not resigned and so continues to be the formal leader of the government, but doctors have warned he faces a long recovery process.
Senior cabinet ministers are facing questions about who is making the big decisions in government while Boris Johnson battles coronavirus in intensive care. After England’s chief medical officer suggested mistakes had been made in the UK’s approach to testing, a strategy for increasing the number of COVID-19 tests is a key issue confronting the cabinet in the prime minister’s absence. But the biggest dilemma for ministers is how and when to end the coronavirus lockdown.
Rishi Sunak will take over prime ministerial duties if Dominic Raab is struck down by coronavirus while Boris Johnson is incapacitated, No 10 has revealed. The order of so-called ‘designated survivor’ was revealed as Downing Street described Mr Johnson as “stable” and “in good spirits” – also disclosing he does not have pneumonia and has still not required a ventilator. The spokesman declined to say whether he was able to sit up, or talk to anyone, but revealed he has still not spoken directly to Mr Raab, despite asking him to stand in “wherever necessary”.
The first patients have arrived at London‘s new Nightingale Hospital tonight as it officially joins the nation’s battle against coronavirus. Professor Richard Schilling, a consultant cardiologist, tweeted a photo with his colleagues tonight. He wrote: ‘@NightingaleLDN is now open to help London. Here is the first team coming on duty.’ It comes after Dominic Raab, standing in for Boris Johnson who is in intensive care with the disease, confirmed Tuesday was Britain’s deadliest day so far with another 854 fatalities, taking the total to 6,227.
The NHS Nightingale Hospital, built in just nine days in response to the coronavirus crisis, has opened to its first patients. The facility, on the site of the ExCeL Centre in the Docklands in east London, has capacity for between 4,000 and 5,000 beds. And today it admitted its first wave of patients. NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has called its construction “nothing short of extraordinary”. He added: “Now we are gearing up to repeat that feat at another four sites across the country to add to the surge capacity in current NHS hospitals.”
THE first coronavirus patients have arrived at the new 4,000-bed Nightingale Hospital tonight. London’s ExCel Centre has been transformed into a huge field hospital as cases and deaths in the capital continue to rise. The hospital, built in just over a week, will initially take on 500 coronavirus patients who are being transferred from other intensive care units in the capital. Richard Schilling, a professor or cardiology, tweeted: “The amazing team at the Nightingale Hospital received their first patient with the professionalism of a hospital in existence for two decades, not two weeks. Very proud to be part of it.”
A coronavirus treatment that has already been approved in the UK has helped patients recover within three days. Convalescent plasma therapy involves giving people a dose of blood donated by Covid-19 survivors, which contains the antibodies their immune system needs to fight off the virus. The technique was first introduced a century ago during the Spanish flu pandemic, and is already being used in China, Italy and the US. Dr Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organisation ‘s health emergencies program, has labelled the potentially lifesaving treatment a “very important area to pursue”.
Thousands of prisoners set to be released early because of the Covid-19 crisis will not be tagged and curfewed for up to 36 hours after leaving jail. Offenders are to be freed to their homes or other accommodation such as hostels but for most there will be a delay in fitting tags to track their location, The Times has learnt. Ministers have announced that up to 4,000 offenders who have less than two months of their sentence left to serve will be eligible for early release to help to tackle the spread of coronavirus in jails in England and Wales. Prison governors said yesterday that official advice said 15,000 inmates would have to be released to safeguard other prisoners and staff.
The Government is believed to have been urged to let 15,000 prisoners out of Britain’s jails after nine inmates died across seven different sites. Three were inmates at HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire, with others being held at Birmingham, Manchester, Altcourse in Merseyside, Belmarsh in South East London, Whatton in Nottinghamshire and a female prisoner at Low Newton, County Durham. Some 107 prisoners had tested positive for coronavirus in 38 jails as of 5pm on Sunday. There are 19 prison staff in 12 jails who have contracted the virus as well as four prison escort and custody services staff.
Brexit trade talks have stalled, with negotiators yet to agree a timetable for videoconferencing to replace meetings disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic. A spokesperson for the EU Commission’s negotiating team said on Tuesday that, Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator, would talk to his UK counterpart David Frost next week “to try and reach agreement on a timetable for the next steps in order to move the negotiations forward”. Discussions last week and this week have been limited to “technical” contact between the two sides, the spokesperson said – with no real negotiation taking place despite major distances between both sides.
Post-Brexit trade talks are continuing with the EU “in these difficult times”, according to the UK’s chief negotiator. David Frost said he and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, would decide a timetable for further discussions in April and May. Opposition parties have called for a delay to the December deadline for reaching an agreement in light of the coronavirus outbreak. But No 10 has consistently said it will stick to the timetable. Earlier, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove wrote to the Commons Select Committee on the future relationship with the EU, saying the structure of negotiations was “likely to change to reflect the current situation” and they were “exploring flexibility”.
Fresh doubts have been raised over Britain’s chances of clinching a rapid post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping Europe. The Government insists that agreement can be struck within months and that the UK will leave the transition period on 31 December. However, Michael Gove has acknowledged that the crisis has thrown planned trade talks into disarray. The second of five planned rounds of negotiations – intended for the week beginning 18 March – was cancelled “in light of the latest coronavirus developments”, Mr Gove told MPs on the Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union.
Britain remains in touch with the European Union over negotiations for a trade deal and will share further legal texts with the bloc shortly, the country’s Brexit negotiator David Frost said on Tuesday. Britain wants to agree a free trade agreement with the EU by the end of this year but formal negotiations have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in hospital with the virus, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier tested positive and Frost was also in self-isolation with a suspected case. “UK-EU contacts have been continuing in these difficult times.