Social distancing

A fairly alarming message is coming out of the Telegraph.

Social distancing measures may need to remain in place “indefinitely”, government experts believe under plans being drawn up in Whitehall which could see Britain  begin to emerge from lockdown next month.
Officials are considering a plan to lift the lockdown “in reverse” with schools the first to open potentially from the beginning of June, followed by all shops but larger social gatherings delayed until last. The elderly and vulnerable would be asked to stay at home for longer.
However, it is understood that Britons will be asked to consider whether social interactions – such as going to an office or visiting relatives – are necessary as part of a plan to live with the virus for many months, or even years. It is hoped that a plan to encourage social distancing to become voluntary will help a second wave emerging.
The public has already restricted movement and interactions by more than had been forecast with fewer people going out to work than experts had anticipated.

iNews has a more positive report.

Social distancing measures appear to be working better than experts “dared to hope” in limiting the spread of coronavirus, but Britain will have to wait several more weeks for a decision on easing the lockdown, a Government adviser has said.
Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London, pointed to evidence that millions of people were obeying the instruction to stay at home as he struck the cautiously optimistic note.
Ministers look certain to confirm the lockdown next week despite suggestions that the rise in new cases is beginning to flatten out. They need to be convinced that the epidemic has peaked before beginning to ease the restrictions.
Although sources insist that no decisions are imminent, ministers are considering reopening schools as the first step to easing the lockdown.

The Mail says the restrictions could stay in place for more than a year.

Normal life will stay on hold until a virus vaccine becomes available in about 18 months, officials said last night.
Advice to work from home and stay in for seven days if you have symptoms will probably still be in place next year.
Ministers want to lift the most restrictive parts of the lockdown, including school and shop closures, within weeks.
But senior Government sources say the only true ‘exit strategy’ is a vaccine or a cure. Until then, the UK will have to adjust to a ‘new normal’.


The Times reports a survey on people’s concerns.

The public are “very, very worried” about coronavirus and do not support measures to ease the lockdown, ministers have been told.
Research carried out into attitudes towards the government’s social restrictions suggests there is no pressure to relax them and many people are in favour of further limits.
New polling suggests that nine in ten people are leaving their house no more than once a day and washing their hands 12 times a day.
Senior officials in Whitehall have been closely monitoring the public response to the restrictions so far, before a decision next week on whether they should be extended.

But the Independent says it could be lifted in parts.

The UK’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions will likely be lifted for certain age groups and areas of the country first, one of the top scientists advising the government has said.
Speaking on Friday morning Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London said that “measures will be targeted probably by age, by geography”.
It comes after a new report from behavioural scientists at Warwick University which said that about four million people between the ages of 20 and 30 should have restrictions lifted as the first stage of easing the lockdown.
“I think there are lots of ideas worth exploring. That’s what is happening right now,” Professor Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.


The number of deaths might just be levelling out, reports the Times.

The number of hospital cases of coronavirus have dipped for the first time, with the deputy chief medical officer saying that “the curve is bending”, despite a further 980 deaths being reported in the UK yesterday.
The figure — surpassed in Europe only by France — takes the UK total to 8,958, but Jonathan Van Tam said there were signs that social distancing was beginning to pay off with the outbreak reaching a plateau. Hospital cases are starting to show the effect of social-distancing measures, given that it takes about two weeks from infection to needing a bed, while deaths do not come until some days later.

Is this the end of the beginning?  The Independent reports:

Statistics on coronavirus infections and deaths are starting to show the first signs that lockdown restrictions are “beginning to pay off”, one of the UK’s most senior medics has said.
But Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, warned that the UK remains in a “dangerous phase” of the outbreak and there was no room yet for relaxation of social distancing rules.
However, speaking alongside health secretary Matt Hancock at the latest daily press conference in Downing Street, he suggested that – despite record numbers of deaths announced earlier in the day – the UK might be past the worst of the pandemic within a matter of weeks.

The Mirror also has the story.

Coronavirus infections are levelling off as Britain is finally starting to flatten the curve.
New infections have slowed and Government officials are now confident lockdown is working – but needs to continue to avoid collapsing the NHS.
Sources say they now believe Brits with Covid-19 are infecting on average less than one person each.
This is the crucial reproduction number (R0) threshold which, if maintained, would see the outbreak slowly die out.
New daily confirmed cases fell to 4,344 yesterday down from 5,492 the previous day.
This had been falling with 3,634 on Tuesday, 3,802 on Monday, down from the peak of 5,903 on Sunday.

More are dying here than in Spain or Italy, says the Mirror.

Coronavirus has wreaked its grimmest day yet on the UK after the number of daily deaths passed the peaks in Spain and Italy for the first time.
Some 8,958 people died in the UK after testing positive for Covid-19 as of 5pm yesterday – a rise of 980 on the day before.
The daily rise of 980 outstrips the UK’s previous biggest jump of 938.
And for the first time it means the UK has recorded more new deaths in one day than Italy and Spain did at their peak.
Italy recorded 971 new deaths on March 28 while Spain recorded 950 on April 3, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

And the Mail reports almost a thousand deaths.

Britain suffered another grim day in its coronavirus crisis today as officials recorded another 980 deaths in the home nations, taking the UK’s spiralling victim count to 8,958.
A further 5,706 people have been diagnosed with the disease in the past 24 hours, meaning a total of 70,783 have now tested positive. Officials managed a record 19,116 tests yesterday, a marked increase in its daily effort from 10,713 yesterday.
A total of 980 deaths makes today the worst day on record for hospitals in any country in Europe, with the previous high 950 in Spain on April 3.

But a sunny Easter weekend could entice people out, says ITV News.

Ministers are appealing to the public to stay at home over Easter after the UK recorded its highest daily death toll from coronavirus since the outbreak began.
With the Government under pressure to set out an exit strategy from the lockdown, officials said it was “premature” to start thinking about easing the restrictions.
The latest figures from the Department of Health and Social Care showed that as of Thursday there were 8,958 hospital deaths from the disease – an increase of 980 on the previous day.
At the daily No 10 press briefing on Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted the NHS had the capacity to cope with the rising numbers of cases.

Deaths in the community are not being tallied, says the Guardian.

The new shadow social care minister has called on the government to include fatalities from Covid-19 outside hospitals in its daily death toll, after the Guardian revealed that hundreds of people had died from the virus in care homes and not yet been counted.
In a letter to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, Liz Kendall, who ran for the Labour leadership in 2015, said she had serious concerns that deaths of people in care homes were not being reported “in a timely manner”.
The Guardian reported on Thursday that the industry body Care England estimated that the coronavirus death toll in care homes was likely to be close to 1,000, despite the only available official figure being dramatically lower.
Unlike hospital deaths, statistics for coronavirus fatalities in the community are only released weekly.


The Health Secretary has promised a test for all NHS workers, says the Times.

Any NHS worker who is self-isolating will now be able to get a coronavirus test, the health secretary has said.
Matt Hancock said that there was enough testing capacity to promise checks to all health service staff who needed them as well as to key social care workers in areas with a high number of cases.
Most recent figures show that 19,116 daily tests are being carried out across Britain but the government is increasingly optimistic about hitting a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month. Testing is regarded as crucial to ensure that doctors and nurses are not stuck at home needlessly if they or a family member have a cough or fever.

Laboratories are stepping up, reports ITV News.

Coronavirus testing labs across the UK are shifting from manual to mechanised testing in a bid to increase capacity.
ITV News has been given access inside one of the ‘megalab’ facilities which is vital to the UK fightback against Covid-19.
The samples arrive at 6am, with each swab a suspected case of coronavirus.
This is the first of the government’s Lighthouse labs, staffed by an army of trained volunteers.
Until now each swab is processed manually but in order to reach the Government’s target of 100,000 tests a day, the lab must become a megalab.

The Independent says numbers are not rising fast enough.

Attempts to boost the number of ventilators and coronavirus tests have stalled, new figures show – even as the UK threatens to overtake Italy’s worst daily death toll.
Just 16,094 tests were carried out on Tuesday, including 3,680 on NHS staff and their families, around the same figure as on Sunday and far short of the pledge of 100,000 in just three weeks’ time.
And the NHS still has only 11,500 ventilators, including 1.500 “on order”, Downing Street said – way below the 18,000 Matt Hancock said were needed for the coronavirus peak.
However, a No 10 spokesman dismissed suggestions of problems looming, insisting: “The target remains very firmly to achieve 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.”


There is confusion over whether or not there is enough personal protective equipment.  The Mail says:

NHS medics fighting on the frontline of the coronavirus  pandemic are being force to cut up plastic curtains and use them as gowns, it has been claimed.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock had previously said that 742 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) had been delivered during the outbreak, but staff at hospitals across the UK have been left with inadequate resources.
Hospital staff up and down the country have been forced to raid supplies for old theatre scrubs, reusing them day after day.
On Friday London hospitals were told they would not be expecting gown deliveries for the next few weeks after Mr Hancock said medics need to use the same PPE between patients.

BBC News says there’s not enough.

A doctors’ union has said many of its members are still not getting the protective equipment they need to treat patients with coronavirus.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said doctors were putting their lives at risk.
On Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was enough kit for everyone and unveiled a plan for addressing shortages.
The UK recorded 980 hospital deaths on Thursday, bringing the total to 8,958.


When will there be a vaccine?  The Times says the autumn.

A vaccine against coronavirus could be ready as soon as September, the British scientist leading one of the world’s most advanced efforts has said.
Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, told The Times she was “80 per cent confident” that the vaccine being developed by her team would work, with human trials due to begin in the next fortnight.
The government signalled that it would be willing to fund the manufacture of millions of doses in advance if results looked promising. This would allow it to be available immediately to the public if it were proven to work.

And the Mail claims the virus is not mutating as fast.

Health experts say the new coronavirus is mutating at a slower rate than several other respiratory viruses, particularly the flu.
The virus has already mutated close to 10 times, leading many to fear that an even deadlier strain is around the corner.
However, scientists say that the mutations don’t vary much from the virus that originated in Wuhan, China, nor are they more severe.
This means that once a vaccine is readily available, it would provide protection against both the original virus and mutations – and for several years.
The new virus – also known as SARS-CoV-2 – is an RNA virus, which means it has RNA as its genetic material.

The Sun says a vaccine could take some time to come.

BRITS will live with coronavirus restrictions until a vaccine is developed which could take ‘around 18 months’, according to reports.
More severe restrictions will be gradually phased out but some, such as remote working and isolating if you have symptoms of the virus, will remain in some form next year.
Scientists say the discovery of a vaccine is the only genuine “exit strategy” from the virus, meaning the country will have to adjust to a ‘new normal’, the Daily Mail reported.


Churchmen are suggesting a revolt, reports the Telegraph.

It is a time of new beginnings, celebration, and it marks the most important day in the Christian calendar.  Yet as a nation on lockdown prepares to mark Easter Sunday amid unprecedented church closures, a rift has emerged between members of the clergy over whether or not churches should open their doors tomorrow.
Revolt is brewing in response to new guidance issued this week by the Archbishop of Canterbury, warning clergy that they cannot enter churches for solo prayer nor to film a service – despite provisions for this in the government’s lockdown rules.
Those who breach the rules claim they have been threatened with disciplinary action. However rebellious vicars have vowed to defy the edict.


It seems that black and ethnic people are more susceptible to the virus, says the Guardian.

The head of the British Medical Association has called on the government to urgently investigate if and why black, Asian and minority ethnic people are more vulnerable to Covid-19, after the first 10 doctors in the UK named as having died from the virus were all BAME.
Those doctors have ancestry in regions including Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Even allowing for the overrepresentation of BAME staff in the NHS – they comprise 44% of medical staff compared with 14% of the population of England and Wales – the fact that they were all from ethnic minorities was “extremely disturbing and worrying”, the BMA chair said.
“At face value, it seems hard to see how this can be random – to have the first 10 doctors of all being of BAME background,” Dr Chaand Nagpaul said.


Over on the continent, the block is working on financial relief says BBC News.

EU finance ministers have agreed a €500bn (£430bn; $540bn) rescue package for European countries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The chairman of the Eurogroup, Mário Centeno, announced the deal, reached after marathon discussions in Brussels.
It comes as Spain’s prime minister said the country was close to passing the worst of its coronavirus outbreak.
Spain has Europe’s highest number of confirmed cases, with 152,446. More than 15,000 people have died.

But the Italian prime minister suggests it could be every country for itself, says Breitbart.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte floated the idea of all of Europe doing “things on their own” due to the European Union’s poor response to Italy’s tragic experience with the Chinese coronavirus.
“We do not expect Germany and Holland to pay our debts, but the fiscal policy rules must be loosened, otherwise we will have to write off Europe, and everyone will do things on their own,” said Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte in a recent interview with the German newspaper, Bild on Eurobonds, according to a report  by La Repubblica.

Conspiracy theories

Where did the virus come from?  The Times reports a theory.

Prominent British academics have been sharing conspiracy theories about the coronavirus online, The Times can disclose.
They included suggestions from other social media users that Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist, and the World Economic Forum (WEF) that meets in Davos may be involved in plots to exploit the illness and speculation that it was a biological weapon.
The academics include Tim Hayward, a professor of environmental political theory at the University of Edinburgh, and Piers Robinson, co-founder of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies (OPS), which uses the University of Bristol as an address.

Dust cloud

The Star claims dust could exacerbate breathing problems.

Vulnerable people will need to take extra care this weekend as the southern part of the UK will be hit by a huge dust cloud, it has been warned.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has advised those with breathing problems such as asthma to be careful as a large cloud of pollution will blow in.
When coupled with the risk of catching the coronavirus, which has proved fatal for hundreds of Brits with respiratory problems, staying inside this weekend is advised for the vulnerable.
Low winds from continental Europe have pushed agricultural ammonia, particulates from fires and industry pollution towards the British Isles, reports Mirror Online.
From later today the cloud of pollution will cover southern England and parts of Wales, and is expected to hang over the Isles until Sunday.

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