19th April 2020 – United Kingdom
# Cases $
Source: Public Health England and news reports. (Public Health England Web Site)
*=Interim Figures / Key: UK USA Other
** A new process for collecting numbers of recovered patients is in development: the figure shown is for 22/03/2020. The figure shown is an estimate based on a three week recovery time line.
$ Cases now include Pillar 2 cases as of 11th April 2020
More information coming soon.
22:40 White House Press Briefing
US President Donald Trump will take the podium shortly for his daily coronavirus briefing. The president in recent days has been engaged in tug-of-war with governors over who has the authority to reopen states after virus shut downs. Yesterday, he said that a number of states have announced “concrete steps to begin a safe, gradual and phased opening”, though some governors have warned against the lifting of restrictions until more testing is available.
Donald Trump begins his daily coronavirus briefing by announcing continued negotiations with Democrats on an additional stimulus package. “We’re getting close to a deal,” Trump says. “We’re going to see what exactly does take place,” suggesting more details could be announced tomorrow. Trump says his administration is looking to provide more aid for rural hospitals. “A lot of good things are happening,” he says.
Trump says that 4.18 million Americans have been tested for the coronavirus, adding that testing is expanding “rapidly” and by “millions and millions of people”. “No country is close to us,” in testing, he claims. The president holds up a swab that he says can be used for testing, comparing it to a Q-tip. “We have ordered a lot of them,” the president says, announcing he will evoke the US defence production act to make sure more swabs are available. “Swabs are easy, ventilators are hard,” he adds, before calling the US “the king of ventilators”.
President Trump thanks New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for his work amid the virus outbreak. “We’re building hospitals,” Trump, a Republican, says. “He’s worked very well with us.” “Frankly, the governor of Michigan was very good with us on beds,” Trump says of Governor Gretchen Whitmer in regards to supplying hospital beds for patients. The remarks mark a change in tone for the president who has traded barbs with governors over their virus response. Trump plays a video clip of Cuomo praising the White House. “I just think it’s so good because it’s bipartisan,” he says.
At the briefing, Trump also stressed that the coronavirus outbreak had shown that it was vital to bring “supply chains” and production back to the US – and not rely on imports in times of crisis. On Iran, the US president said he was willing to provide aid to Tehran to tackle the coronavirus, if the government of the Middle Eastern nation asked for it. In 2018, Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and later reinstated American sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and other key sectors of the country’s economy.
22:14 UK plans plasma trial
The UK is gearing up to use the blood of coronavirus survivors to treat people who are ill in hospital with the disease. NHS Blood and Transplant has started approaching some people who have recovered from Covid-19 to donate their blood so they can begin a trial to assess the treatment. The hope is that the antibodies they have built up will help to clear the virus in others. Scientists have welcomed the plan – and University Hospital of Wales has already announced a trial. But some researchers have warned the UK has moved too slowly compared with other countries. In the US, a national plasma project – involving 1,500 hospitals – has already started. Scientists still need to assess how effective the therapy is. But with no current treatments for Covid-19, the hope is it could help until a vaccine is found.
21:58 Police halt ‘Guinness-on-wheels’ service
It’s been a difficult time for the hospitality sector, including pubs and bars. Belfast establishment Hatfield House thought it had shown some initiative with a Guinness-on-wheels service, which was proving popular. Mobile bar staff had been pouring drinks out of refitted vans into plastic glasses while wearing latex gloves. The drinks were then left on the doorstep with no contact with customers.
But in a Facebook post a spokesperson for the pub said police want them to shut down the venture because it breaches licensing legislation. Belfast District Commander Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts said: “PSNI is aware of employees from licensed premises dispensing alcohol at various locations in Belfast from an adapted vehicle. “Yesterday [Saturday] officers on patrol in south Belfast spoke with a number of individuals and files are now being prepared for submission to the Public Prosecution Service in relation to potential breaches of the Licensing (NI) Order 1996.”
21:48 US death toll surpasses 41,000
The number of coronavirus-related deaths in the US has now surpassed 41,000, according to Johns Hopkins. The US university – which has been tracking the outbreak since shortly after it erupted in China late last year – says there are now more than 746,000 confirmed infections across America, with the New York state being the worst-hit. On Sunday, protesters took to the streets in states across the US, demanding that governors reopen economies shut by the pandemic.
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20:49 ‘Goodfellas’ mob boss released from prison over virus fears
The Bonanno family crime boss who inspired Martin Scorsese’s film Goodfellas has won an early release from a Missouri prison over concerns about coronavirus. Vincent Asaro, 85, was serving an eight year sentence after pleading guilty in 2017 to ordering associates to torch the car of a person who cut him off at a traffic stop.
A federal judge ordered Asaro’s early release this week saying that the mobster – who suffered a stroke last year – said in her ruling that if Asaro were to contract the virus “given his age and current state, it is not unlikely that the consequences would be dire”.
Asaro was found not guilty in the 2015 trial over the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist at JFK Airport in New York, where masked robbers made off with more than $5m in cash and $1m in jewelry – depicted in Scorsese’s film.
19:42 ‘Staff infected’ in Afghan presidential palace
Dozens of workers at Afghanistan’s presidential palace have tested positive for coronavirus, according to media reports. Twenty cases were initially reported, but on Sunday the New York Times said the number had risen to 40.
The Afghan government has not commented and there’s no suggestion that President Ashraf Ghani – who reportedly lost part of his stomach to cancer in the 1990s – has been infected. There have been fewer than 1,000 confirmed cases of the virus in Afghanistan and 33 people have died. But the true number could be much higher as the country has limited access to testing and the health system has suffered under decades of conflict.
There are also fears that the virus could have spread after more than 150,000 Afghans returned from virus-stricken Iran during March, while tens of thousands of others returned from Pakistan.
19:17 First patients released from London’s Nightingale Hospital
The NHS Nightingale Hospital in London, the 4000-bed emergency hospital set up to treat those suffering from coronavirus, discharged its first patients on Sunday evening. The field hospital, set up in east London’s converted ExCel centre, took in its first patients on 7 April, four days after it opened. Health Secretary Matt Hancock sent his congratulations, praising the “brilliant team” working at the hospital on Twitter.
18:18 New York governor urges caution as state infections slow
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said his state is “past the high point” of the virus outbreak but he urged caution as the death toll rose. “Whether or not the descent continues depends on what we do,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing. “This is only halftime in this entire situation.” “The outbreak is slowing, not growing,” he said. But, he added, “We have a very small margin of error here.” New York recorded 507 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, continuing its downward trend. It’s good news, Cuomo said, “only compared to the terrible news we were living with: the constant increase”. “We still have more to do,” the governor said. And for local officials facing pressure over shuttering of schools, parks and businesses, he said, “Blame me.”
18:04 New York couples can now tie the knot over Zoom
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an order allowing virtual weddings as in-person weddings are cancelled amid social distancing restrictions. “There’s now no excuse when the question comes up for marriage. No excuse,” Cuomo joked at his daily briefing on Saturday. “You can do it by Zoom. Yes or no.” Couples in New York will be able to apply for marriage licenses online, with clerks conducting the ceremonies virtually. Cuomo’s announcement follows the news that New York State – epicentre of the US outbreak – will extend its lockdown measures until 15 May. Similar measures have been introduced in the US state of Colorado, where couples are allowed to apply for marriages online.
17:33 Pandemic forces US bomb memorial online
On 19 April 1995 a bomb attack killed 168 people in Oklahoma City. Every year survivors and loved ones usually gather at the memorial site to pay tribute and pledge never to forget. But this year, because of coronavirus, the 25th anniversary plans had to change dramatically. A special pre-recorded remembrance ceremony was shown at 09:00 local time (14:00 GMT) online and on local television instead. Those watching were encouraged to use the hashtag #WeRemember to feel connected. The recording included 168 seconds of silence and each of the victims’ names was also read aloud. “We gather virtually, not coming physically together, so hopefully lives may be saved,” Reverend Michael B Curry said. “We gather virtually so that our health may be preserved and the health of others – even people we don’t know.” “We gather virtually as an act of love,” he added. You can read more about the attack here:
16:00 UK Press Briefing
Gavin Williamson begins the briefing by saying: “On any normal Sunday afternoon, many of you would have been out with family and friends enjoying the sunshine. “And tomorrow, many children would be going to school after a two week break.” “But these are not normal times and we are asking you to stay at home. The education secretary thanks people for “all the sacrifices you have made and continued to make”, saying it is the “surest way to protect the NHS and save lives”. He confirms the total number of deaths of those in the UK hospitalised with coronavirus has reached 16,060. “We musn’t forget behind every single statistic there is a heartbreaking story,” he adds.
Gavin Williamson says “everyone has their part to play” in tackling the outbreak, and flags the “heroic” work of the NHS. But he also wants to thank nurseries, schools, colleges and children’s services for their “vital role”. The education secretary says: “I know you are anxious to know when we are going to relax restrictions. “Of course I want nothing more than to see schools back, to get them back to normal, to make sure children are sat around learning and experiencing the joy of learning at school. “But I can’t give you a date.” He repeats the five tests set out by the government before they can relax the restrictions. They include death and infection rates going down, to be sure testing and PPE is being managed, and to make sure any changes will not risk a second peak. Williamson says they will work with the sector on how to re-open schools “when the time is right”. But the “first priority has always been protecting the children and young people, but particularly vulnerable people”. He confirms no one will have to leave care “during this difficult time”, and is working with Childline and NSPCC for help.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries says people should congratulate ourselves on maintaining social distancing measures by not using public transport in the UK. Tube travel is down by 95% She acknowledged a “little blip” over Easter but said the country was now back to “normal pandemic level”.
The education secretary praises all those making resources available to teach at home, including the Oak Academy and the BBC. Gavin Williamson says he recognises “all the challenges that families will be facing at the moment”, saying the government is “determined to help parents helping their children learn from home”. He says the government is ordering laptops to help children sitting key exams, as well as for those who need to keep in touch with social workers and care givers. And he promises free 4G routers for disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers who are preparing for exams. “We are also working with major telecommunications providers to exempt certain resources from data charges,” he adds. Williamson applauds “the remarkable way our education community has responded to this outbreak”. And he gives special thanks to young people watching. “I know you will be missing your friends, teacher and lessons, but you are such an important part of this fight too,” he says.
The press are now asking questions. The BBC’s Hugh Pym asks about reports that stocks of PPE – such as gowns and masks – were run down ahead of the outbreak of coronavrius. Gavin Williamson says there has been an “enormous effort” to find PPE “right around the globe” – and they have been working hard “from the first moment”. Dr Jenny Harries says there needs to be “an adult conversation” about PPE. “The UK has been an intentional exemplar in preparedness,” she adds. Dr Harries says there has been a “huge demand on our supply”. But she adds: “Rather than lumping all of the PPE together, we just need to think carefully through what has been achieved and the challenges.”
The deputy chief medical officer acknowledges the differences in collecting data around the world. She calls the UK hospital data “very robust”. She adds that deaths in the community are now being recorded, as well as people who die with coronavirus in hospital.
Dan Hewitt from ITV asks about the shortage of personal protective equipment, which means some doctors and nurses are having to re-use PPE. Dr Harries says some PPE is single use “but not all”. Detailed guidance is available for clinicians, she says. She calls the situation “complex” and acknowledges the shortage globally. The deputy chief medical officer says each group requiring PPE is being prioritised according to their need but it is not always possible to predict accurately who will need what when.
Responding to criticism that Prime Minister Boris Johnson missed five emergency cabinet meetings, Williamson says Johnson has been leading from the front since the scope of the challenge became clear. “This is a whole government effort. We are doing everything that is required, everything that is needed.”
Asked about the gap in survival rates at hospitals across countries and the best practice for the National Health Service, Dr Jenny Harries says professional groups are looking for the most effective ways to treat patients. “At this stage it is quite difficult to tease out practices,” she says. “But as we go forward in coming months and years… there will be a whole number of research papers looking at and comparing to see what elements of practice have worked.” There is then another question on PPE – asking whether those going into work will get the equipment they need to stay safe. Gavin Williamson says earlier in the outbreak, the debate was about ventilators, but there was a “national effort” to find more. “What you are seeing in terms of PPE is also a national effort,” he adds.
Up to 40% of students have no computer at home or have a difficult environment to work in. How can the government prevent them falling behind while schools are closed? Mr Williamson says the government is helping disadvantaged children “to really succeed” and will do “absolutely everything” to stop them falling behind during the coronavirus crisis.
Responding to criticism of the UK’s lack of testing, Dr Jenny Harries says the focus is currently on managing the condition of people who are sick. On comparisons with Germany – which has far greater testing and far fewer deaths – she says it is “very important that we learn from other countries” but stresses that the UK and Germany are “still at different phases”.
The next reporter asks Education Secretary Gavin Williamson if the UK government is looking at measures by countries like Denmark that have started re-opening schools. He says: “Absolutely… and we will look closely how that works, how that goes and lessons that can be learnt.” Dr Jenny Harries is then asked why the figure of deaths in the UK is higher than in many other countries. She says there is a “difficulty understanding the differentiation”. While Germany stands out now, Dr Harries adds: “We need to be very clear and need to look back in 12 or 20 months’ time” to get the full picture. She says the media has focused on counting deaths in the UK but the “most useful statistic” is comparing the number of deaths in the same season in previous years to the death toll during the coronavirus outbreak. “It is difficult to draw direct comparisons with other countries,” she adds. “That is not an excuse but a fact.”
Dr Harries refuses to comment on speculation that the UK may have passed the peak. She says a drop in fatalities is “very good news” but we should not jump to conclusions. Sunday’s figure of 596 new deaths could go up again, she notes. However, she says, case numbers are down by 30% on average from figures 8-10 days ago. “Things are heading in the right direction,” she says.
The education secretary insists that a delayed shipment of 400,000 protective gowns from Turkey will arrive on Monday. “We want to make sure there is a continuous supply,” he says, adding that “every effort of the government” is going into making sure that front-line medical staff have the equipment “they expect and need”.
Williamson says it is “vital to get distribution right on PPE”. The care sector is “critical” in the response to the crisis, Harries adds, and broader systems have been developed to ensure PPE equipment will reach even the smallest care homes. She says two further “drops” of equipment are planned for the care sector next week.
Gavin Williamson is asked whether teachers should have PPE while they are still working in schools for children of key workers and those in care. The education secretary says the government has worked “very closely” with the sector in issuing advice and their safety is “absolutely paramount”. When it comes to when schools will be open again, Williamson again won’t give a date – but he says teachers, parents and children will have “proper notice so they are able to prepare”.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson put it bluntly – he can’t tell parents, pupils and teachers when schools will re-open. There’s been a lot of speculation that this could be one of the first steps the government takes on the path back to normal life. But ministers say it’s still too soon to say when that could happen. There are many options to consider, including whether younger pupils and those with exams next year could return to the classroom first. The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 is plateauing or falling in most areas. But ministers are waiting for more scientific data before acting. Other countries are starting to lift restrictions and the UK will be watching and learning from their experiences. For now, they don’t want to dilute the message that staying at home and social distancing must continue.
14:29 UK deaths pass 16,000
The number of covid-19 patients who died in UK hospitals has risen to 16,060 as of 17:00 BST on Saturday, the Department of Health and Social Care say. That is an increase of 596 in 24 hours – down from the previous daily death toll of 888. As of 09:00 BST on Sunday, 482,063 tests have been conducted, with 21,626 tests carried out on Saturday. A total of 372,967 people have been tested of which 120,067 tested positive.
14:00 Matt Damon spending lockdown in Ireland
Lockdown in the Irish village of Dalkey, an affluent suburb of Dublin, has taken an unexpected turn since residents discovered that they currently number actor Matt Damon. The Bourne Identity star was in the Republic of Ireland to film The Last Duel, to be directed by Ridley Scott, and has been pictured on social media in Dalkey during the restrictions. His presence has prompted a journalist from the New York Times to ask people in Dalkey what it’s like to have the actor as a neighbour during the pandemic.
“Anyone living in Dalkey has a right to their privacy. Leave him alone, jesus, he’s only human,” said one response on Facebook. Damon starred in the 2011 film Contagion – about the spread of a virus transmitted by respiratory droplets – along with Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle and Laurence Fishburne. In March, the stars of the film released public service announcements urging the public to social-distance and wash their hands.
13:52 Fake mourners arrested for flouting Kenyan travel ban
The group pretended to be going to a burialImage caption: The group pretended to be going to a burial
Police in Kenya implementing coronavirus restrictions have arrested four people who disguised themselves as mourners taking a body for burial. They had left the capital, Nairobi, and travelled 370km (about 230 miles) west with an empty coffin in the vehicle before being intercepted, the health minister said on Saturday.
Nearly two weeks ago, travel in and out of Nairobi was restricted, along with another three regions considered to be coronavirus hot spots. The group of fake mourners had managed to pass through several checkpoints before suspicious officers in Homa Bay County opened the coffin, Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said. The driver later tested positive for Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus. His three passengers have now been put into quarantine.
The minister said officials were investigating various schemes allegedly being used to circumvent the travel ban, including reports that people had been bribing police at roadblocks. The East African nation has recorded 262 cases of Covid-19, including 12 deaths.
13:42 UK supermarket chain cancels orders with clothing suppliers
A quarter of orders with clothing suppliers are being cancelled by supermarket chain Asda because of a drop in demand. Asda has also told suppliers that it will only pay for part of such cancelled orders – a move which has angered suppliers, according to the Sunday Times, A spokesperson for the supermarket said Covid-19 had “had a significant impact” on the fashion industry. Asda told the BBC that suppliers would be paid 30% of the order value for those that had not yet been finished, and half for those that had. That rises to 60% for manufacturers based in Bangladesh. The chain has seen a surge in demand for groceries in the UK as consumers are staying at home amid lockdown measures.
13:12 Attenborough: Humans ‘certainly’ victims of their own success
Sir David Attenborough has agreed that humans are victims of their own success, as he faced questions about the coronavirus pandemic. In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, the environmentalist and veteran TV broadcaster said: “Anybody who knows anything about keeping animals of any kind, the more dense population you keep, the quicker the disease will spread. “And there’s never been a denser population of human species until this moment.” When asked whether humans were victims of their own success, he replied: “Certainly.”
13:03 Sixty ventilators between 11m people
With barely 60 ventilators for 11 million people, Haiti is the most vulnerable nation in the Americas to coronavirus. The reality inside Haiti’s intensive care units is even bleaker than that number – taken from a 2019 study – suggests. According to Stephan Dragon, a respiratory therapist in the capital, Port-au-Prince, the true number of ventilators is actually closer to 40, and maybe 20 of those are not working. So far, this impoverished nation has only registered three deaths and 40 confirmed cases but many more cases may be going unreported, especially in remote areas. It is 10 years since Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake. More than 200,000 people died and a million people were left homeless.
12:53 UK-bound shipment of protective gear delayed
A consignment of personal protective equipment (PPE) is not expected to arrive in the UK today after all. The government had said on Saturday that 84 tonnes of PPE, including 400,000 gowns, would arrive in the UK from Turkey today, following concerns that hospitals would run out of protective garments this weekend. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick had described the extra resources as “very significant”. The UK Foreign Office said they were working to ensure the PPE from Turkey was delivered “as soon as possible”.
12:42 Brazilians protest against lockdown measures
It’s not just in the US that some people are protesting against the impact of lockdown measures. Hundreds of people took to the streets of Brazil’s largest cities on Saturday to demand an end to the restrictions, which are also opposed by President Jair Bolsonaro. The demonstrators rode cars and other vehicles through Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia against lockdown rules put in place by Brazilian states. Bolsonaro has previously called coronavirus “a little flu” and recently fired his health minister, who had urged people to observe social distancing and stay indoors. The country has the largest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Latin America, with almost 37,000 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 2,000 people have died.
12:32 Putin says virus under control in Easter message
Millions of Orthodox believers in Russia are celebrating Easter with churches closed and services broadcast on TV and online in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In Moscow the main Easter vigil was held with no congregation. The patriarch told those following at homes that this was to protect them from a “terrible illness”.
President Vladimir Putin, who normally attends Mass with the Patriarch, sent a video message to the nation instead. He assured people that things were “fully under control” and said Russia would come through the “trial” it had been sent. But the country announced another surge in new cases on Sunday, taking the total infected so far close to 43,000. With more than 100,000 tests done each day, the number of cases detected here is growing and fast. Most are still in and around Moscow but the virus is increasingly spreading in the regions. Despite all this, some parishes do seem to have defied the lockdown to attend services in places.
12:12 Why the Danes are easing their lockdown
While countries around the world are trying to prepare a lockdown exit strategy, Denmark is one of the first European nations to have already started lifting restrictions. Primary schools and nurseries are already open, and small businesses, including hairdressers and beauty clinics, are allowed to open from Monday. Danish ambassador to the UK Lars Thuesen told Sky: “All our key indicators are pointing in the right direction. “If we look at the number of people in hospital, the number of people in intensive care, the number of patients on ventilators, these numbers have been stable or have been coming down the last two weeks or so. “So we’re definitely not out of the woods yet but we are moving in the right direction. And we can’t stay in a lockdown forever.”
12:01 US lockdown protests continue
There have been a number of demonstrations across US states in recent days. Some activists believe restrictions to stop coronavirus have gone too far and are calling for them to be relaxed. Many worry the gatherings could spread Covid-19 further, with 39,000 deaths and 735,000 cases recorded throughout the US. President Donald Trump has also become involved in the growing row. He was accused of promoting the protests on Friday, when he posted a series of tweets encouraging people to “liberate” a number of states.
11:51 ‘It’s not a given that we will make a vaccine’
Sunday morning brings with it a flurry of political interviews and expert commentary. Let’s loop back to some of the key speakers from this morning’s political shows. Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he thought the UK was past the peak of the “first wave” of the virus but warned that if lockdown measures were lifted too soon the virus could come back in a few weeks. The infectious diseases expert was hopeful the restrictions could be eased within about three or four weeks if the number of infections dropped “dramatically”. He told Sky he was “optimistic” about finding a vaccine for Covid-19 but acknowledged: “The truth is we don’t have another vaccine for any other human coronavirus.” He added: “It’s not a given that we will make a vaccine.”
11:16 Taiwan to test hundreds after navy cases
Taiwan has quarantined some 700 navy officers, servicemen and cadets for testing after 24 members of their mission tested positive for Covid-19. Taiwan’s Health Minister, Chen Shih-chung, said 22 new daily cases had been confirmed, including 21 in the military. The cases were found on one of three ships in a fleet that visited the small Pacific island of Palau last month, according to officials. The mission returned on Wednesday to a ceremony where President Tsai Ing-wen was present but, according to her office, she only waved at the sailors from the shore. The latest confirmed cases bring the total on the island to 420, with six deaths.
11:06 UK minister: ‘All governments make mistakes’
Senior UK minister Michael Gove has conceded that the government made mistakes in its handling of the coronavirus. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “All governments make mistakes, including our own. We seek to learn and to improve every day. “It is the case, I’m sure, at some point in the future, that there will be an opportunity for us to look back, to reflect and to learn some profound lessons.” His comments come following accusations that the UK government was slow to act in preparing for the health crisis.
10:56 Spain’s death toll slows
Spain’s death toll from the Covid-19 outbreak rose by 410 on Sunday, down from 565 on Saturday, the health ministry said, bringing the total to 20,453 deaths in one of the world’s hardest-hit countries. The number of overall coronavirus cases rose to 195,944 on Sunday from 191,726 on Saturday, it added.
10:36 ‘Balanced judgement’ when UK will end lockdown
The UK government wants to make sure it makes a “balanced judgement” about which lockdown measures can be relaxed and when, a senior minister has said. Michael Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “We want to make sure that we make a balanced judgement about which restrictions can be relaxed at what time.” He dismissed reports that schools would return on 11 May but added that the hospitality sector would be among the last to see restrictions lifted.
We reported earlier that the government had been criticised for missing a number of opportunities to reduce the impact of coronavirus. Addressing the reports, Mr Gove said it was “grotesque” to portray Prime Minister Boris Johnson “as though not caring about this”. The Sunday Times reports that the PM missed five meetings of the emergency Cobra committee – something Mr Gove shook off, saying it was normal for the nation’s leader not to attend every meeting.
10:26 Higher levels of debt is a ‘price we have to pay’
The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is “very bad” and everyone will have to pay a price to combat the crisis, says the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of mostly developed countries. Angel Gurria stressed that the lockdowns implemented globally would be hard on people but he said governments’ main duty was “to protect”. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “We’re all going to end up with higher levels of debt for government, higher levels of debt for corporations, maybe even higher levels of debt for households, but that is the price we’re all going to have to pay in order to deal with the crisis itself and also, hopefully, to avoid a second wave.”
10:15 Saudi clerics: Don’t gather for prayer during Ramadan
Saudi Arabia’s top religious body has urged Muslims around the world not to congregate for prayer during the holy month of Ramadan in order to curb the spread of coronavirus. The Council of Senior Scholars said Muslims should “avoid gatherings, because they are the main cause of the spread of infection”, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reports. Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia has closed its mosques, including the world’s holiest – the Grand Mosque in Mecca – as part of measures to try to stop people catching the virus. Meanwhile the Supreme Leader of Shia-ruled Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said Muslims are not required to fast during Ramadan – one of its obligations – if doing so poses a threat to their health.
10:05 Vaccine clinical trials to start within days
Scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine in Britain hope to start clinical trials towards the end of next week, the leader of the team has told the BBC. Professor Sarah Gilbert, from Oxford University, said nobody had been immunised yet but her team had been given permission to start recruiting volunteers and hoped to start trials within the next few days. She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “We are waiting for the final safety tests to be done on the vaccine and the final approvals to be given.” She would not be drawn on who would receive any future vaccine first, adding: “We want to make it available across the world and we want to be able to make it available at a price that everybody can afford.” Prof Gilbert added that researchers needed support from the UK government to help accelerate manufacturing.
09:55 Orthodox Christians mark Easter
The world’s Orthodox Christians are marking their holiest festival in a very different way this year. Most worshipers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa were urged not to attend Easter services because of the risk of spreading coronavirus. Some were able to follow by watching television or online broadcasts.
09:35 UK doctors ‘extremely worried’ they are not protected
Doctors are “extremely worried” that they are not adequately protected, the chairman of the British Medical Association has said. Dr Chaand Nagpaul said doctors and other healthcare workers were treating colleagues in intensive care on ventilators and seeing them die. “This is extremely emotionally taxing and it’s showing its toll on the healthcare workforce,” he told Sky. He added: “At the beginning of the pandemic we were assured that we had sufficient stockpiles… and we believed that we were well catered for.” He said the government had been warned last weekend that there were “critically low shortages of full-length gowns”.
The government has been criticised over a lack of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. Healthcare workers have been advised to re-use gowns or wear different kit if stocks in England run low, raising concerns the new guidance could put hospital staff and patients at risk.
09:25 Spanish children to ‘get some fresh air’
Because of strict measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, Spanish children have been kept at home since 14 March. Now Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said he plans to relax the rule later this month so they can “get some fresh air”. It comes after Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau – herself a mother – pleaded with the government to change their stance.
09:15 UK government under fire for ‘missed opportunities’
The UK government has been accused of missing a number of opportunities to lessen the impact of the coronavirus. The Sunday Times reports that Boris Johnson missed five meetings of the emergency Cobra committee as the health crisis was looming and the government is accused of losing weeks in the fight against Covid-19. The government is facing criticism over its preparedness for the crisis, over testing, the timing of the lockdown and personal protective equipment.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told Sky there were aspects of the newspaper report that were “slightly off”, and would not be drawn on accusations that the UK sent 266,000 pieces of protective equipment to China. Shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, was damning of the senior minister’s comments. Mr Ashworth told Sky: “Michael Gove’s line that one or two aspects of this story are off beam is possibly the weakest rebuttal of a detailed expose in British political history.”
08:50 UK not thinking of lifting restrictions yet – Gove
Michael Gove has said that reports the UK is looking to gradually lift some lockdown restrictions, such as re-opening schools and allowing some small social gatherings, are “not correct”. “It would be wrong to get ahead of ourselves here,” the senior minister told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, insisting the country must maintain the current measures until death rates begin to fall. He said the facts and advice were “clear” that we should not be lifting the restrictions yet.
08:41 ‘No decision’ to reopen UK schools
UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said that “no decision” has been made as to when schools might reopen. The minister tweeted on Sunday morning: “I can reassure schools and parents that they will only reopen when the scientific advice indicates it is the right time to do so.” Schools across the UK were closed last month to all pupils except the children of key workers, such as doctors, nurses and delivery drivers, some vulnerable children and those with more serious special educational needs.
08:11 UK care home deaths ‘far higher’ than official figures
New data has added to growing evidence that the number of deaths linked to coronavirus in UK care homes may be far higher than those recorded so far. The National Care Forum (NCF) estimates that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all residential and nursing homes. Its report comes amid calls for accurate data on virus-linked deaths. Only 217 such care home deaths have been officially recorded in England and Wales up to 3 April. Separately, analysis from Care England, which represents large care home providers in England, claims that there have been 7,500 more deaths in care home – from all causes – in the last two weeks than would be expected at this time of year.
Sources: Various news sources including but not limited to BBC News, Fox News, CNN.