NEWS
29/04/2020 08:36 BST | Updated 29/04/2020 19:21 BST

Nine Things You Need To Know About Coronavirus Today

A further 631 deaths have been confirmed in England, Scotland and Wales. Here's the latest.

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The government has expanded coronavirus testing to all care home residents and staff in England after it was revealed that there were more than 4,000 deaths in care homes related to Covid-19 in just two weeks.

According to the latest figures: 

  • Coronavirus has been linked to 26,097 deaths in the UK to date, figures published for the first time today reveal. The new death toll was released by Public Health England and was correct as of 5pm on Tuesday, the government said.

  • As of 9am April 29, 632,794 people have been tested of which 165,221 tested positive.

Here’s the latest: 

Wetherspoon’s Plans To Reopen Pubs ‘In Or Around June’

Wetherspoon’s is starting to plan for a reopening of its pubs and hotels “in or around June”, the company has announced.

The planned move is likely to be met with resistance from the government, which has already said pubs will be among the last businesses to open once the lockdown is lifted.

The chain’s boss, Tim Martin, has been highly critical of the coronavirus lockdown, saying last month it was “over the top” to shut pubs to fight the pandemic.

When the lockdown was announced, he was branded “absolutely outrageous” by his own staff after initially refusing to carry on paying them until the government promised to start its furlough scheme.

In a video message to staff, Martin also suggested they could find employment at supermarkets while the chain’s pubs remain shut.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
 

Schools to reopen in ‘phased manner’

Schools will reopen in a “phased manner” when the coronavirus lockdown is eased, Gavin Williamson has said. 

The education secretary refused to confirm a date, but told MPs schools in England would not open their doors during the summer holidays. 

Speaking before the Commons’ education committee, he said ministers would base their decision on advice from scientists, adding: “I do expect schools to be opened in a phased manner. I also intend to be giving schools as much notice as possible.”

Schools, colleges and nurseries across the UK closed their doors to the majority of pupils, apart from the children of key workers and vulnerable youngsters, more than five weeks ago.

Williamson said: “We recognise that the idea of schools all returning on day one with the full complement of pupils is not realistic or practical.”

Immigrant NHS staff get visas extended – but care workers left out

Immigrant NHS midwives, radiographers and other health professionals will have their visas automatically extended for a year to help the fight against coronavirus, the home secretary has announced.

The move by Priti Patel extends the scheme announced last month to give NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics automatic visa extensions to ensure the health service is at full capacity.

Social care staff employed by the NHS in “defined occupations” will also have their visas extended.

But Patel did not extend visas for the vast majority of care workers who work outside the NHS, arguing the “disparate” nature of the field presents a “unique challenge” in determining people’s immigration status, while promising to keep the situation “under review”.

There was also no visa extension for porters, cleaners, students and agency staff working for the NHS.

In total approximately 3,000 vital health and care workers and their families will benefit from the extension.

Elsewhere, all care home residents and staff in England are now eligible for coronavirus testing, Matt Hancock announced as part of plans to roll out testing to millions more people.

Covid-19 tests will also be offered to all those aged 65 and over and workers who have to leave home to do their jobs and their households from Wednesday.

P&O plans to cut workers’ pay despite taking government furlough cash

Ferry company P&O is attempting to cut essential workers’ pay despite handing shareholders huge dividends and cashing in on the government’s emergency coronavirus wages scheme. 

The firm’s owner – Dubai-based DP World, which operates the Dover to Calais route – has also asked for a government bailout to keep operating, while P&O has used UK funds to furlough some 1,400 workers. 

Gareth Fuller - PA Images via Getty Images

Now the company has told stevedores and other key workers, who are transporting food and medical supplies into the UK during the lockdown, that they may have to take a 20% cut in pay and benefits. 

A document from P&O’s management seen by HuffPost UK and sent to the GMB union, which represents staff at Dover, tells staff the company is looking to cut £142m of staffing costs by 20% – around £28m.

It says: “This must be found from wage costs, our operating model and the terms and conditions of employment.” 

Frank Macklin, regional organiser for the union, accused the firm of seizing on the crisis to make “opportunistic” cutbacks.

Spain unveils four stage plan to return to new normal ‘by the end of June’ 

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A woman and her son wear face masks as they walk on a beach in Badalona, near Barcelona

Spain has announced a four-phase plan to lift its lockdown – one of the toughest in Europe – and return to a new normal by the end of June. 

Prime minister Pedro Sanchez announced the news as the daily Covid-19 death toll fell to 301 – less than a third of the record high of 950 in early April, Reuters reported. 

The scheme to lift lockdown will begin on May 4, Sanchez said. 

During the initial phase, hairdressers and other businesses that operate by appointment will open, while restaurants will be able to offer takeaway services.

In the next stage, envisaged to begin on May 11 for most of Spain, bars will reopen their terraces but will be limited to a third of their capacity.

From this point, healthy people with no underlying medical conditions will be allowed to socialise together in small groups, while family members will be permitted to attend funerals.

How Spain moves through the stages will depend on how the rate of infection changes, the number of intensive care beds available and how the public complies with social distancing rules, Sanchez said. 

Remote working will be recommended where possible until the last phase of the plan towards the end of June, when beaches would also be able to reopen with the support of local authorities.

‘Almost 18,000 extra people could die from cancer because of coronavirus impact’ – new study 

boonchai wedmakawand via Getty Images
Empty hospital room with bed

Almost 18,000 more people could die from cancer over the next year in England due to the impact of Covid-19, according to new research. 

Delays in diagnosing new cancers and getting treatment for those who already have the disease could significantly impact survival, a new study from University College London and DATA-CAN, the Health Data Research Hub for Cancer, suggested. 

Experts looked at real-time weekly hospital data for urgent cancer referrals and chemotherapy attendances during the coronavirus epidemic and found that the majority of patients with cancer or suspected cancer are not accessing health services.

When looking specifically at England and Northern Ireland, they found an average reduction in attendance for chemotherapy of 60% and a 76% average drop in cancer referrals for early diagnosis.

This was across three trusts in England – Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the Royal Free in London and University College London Hospitals – and all five health trusts in Northern Ireland.

When looking specifically at England and analysing data from more than 3.5 million patients, experts estimated that pre-Covid-19, about 31,354 newly diagnosed cancer patients would die within a year in England.

But as a result of coronavirus, they found there could be at least 6,270 extra deaths in newly diagnosed cancer patients – a rise of a fifth.

When all people currently living with cancer are included, the figure jumps to 17,915 excess deaths.

Professor Mark Lawler, scientific lead at DATA-CAN, said: “We believe countries need to rapidly understand how the emergency is affecting cancer outcomes, otherwise we risk adding cancer and other underlying health conditions to the escalating death toll of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The study comes as England’s top cancer doctor urged people to get checked if they are worried about any symptoms.

Mike Pence refuses to wear face mask during clinic tour 

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Vice President Mike Pence as he toured the facilities supporting COVID-19 research and treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota

US vice president Mike Pence chose not to wear a face mask during a tour of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, an apparent violation of the world-renowned medical centre’s policy requiring them.

Video feeds show Pence did not wear a mask when he met a Mayo employee who has recovered from Covid-19 and is now donating plasma, even though all other people in the room appeared to be wearing one.

He was also without a mask when he visited a lab where Mayo conducts coronavirus tests.

Pence was also the only participant not to wear a mask during a round-table discussion on Mayo’s coronavirus testing and research programmes. 

Mayo tweeted that it had informed the vice president of its mask policy before his arrival, but the tweet was later removed.

But Pence said he had decided not to wear a mask because he was being tested frequently for the virus. 

“As vice president of the United States I’m tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis, and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus,” he said. 

“And since I don’t have the coronavirus, I thought it’d be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible healthcare personnel, and look them in the eye and say ‘Thank you’.”

Health workers stand up to anti-lockdown protesters in North Carolina 

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Counter-protesters during a Reopen NC rally in downtown Raleigh (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

Health care workers in North Carolina have held a counter-demonstration against protesters demanding that the state is re-opened amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

About a dozen nurses, doctors and other health care workers, wearing scrubs and masks, stood outside the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh with their arms crossed.

Some carried signs reading “Stay Home For ME” and “I Can’t Believe I Have to Show Up Here Too.”

They stood in a formation that allowed them to practice social distancing. 

Across the street, hundreds of ‘ReOpen NC’ protesters crowded together for the third time in as many weeks, once again demanding that governor Roy Cooper reopen the state’s economy during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Cooper announced last week that the state’s stay-at-home order had been extended into May. 

These protesters carried signs promoting debunked conspiracy theories about coronavirus, which has already infected over 1 million people and killed over 57,000 in the U.S. alone

There have been over 9,500 reported cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, according to state health officials, resulting in over 340 deaths. 

One of ReOpen NC’s lead organizers, Audrey Whitlock, revealed this week that she had tested positive for the coronavirus

The protesters also heckled and harassed the health care workers ― front-line workers in the fight against both COVID-19 and a right-wing campaign to downplay the dangers of the virus ― who remained silent and stoic.  

The UK – which has seen most of the public comply with lockdown rules – has not seen the same kind of protests. Read more here. 

BAME community groups struggle to stay afloat amid the coronavirus 

Vital voluntary groups that provide a lifeline for vulnerable people are battling for cash and resources while the largely Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities they serve are disproportionately hit by the coronavirus crisis.

It is virtually impossible to fundraise but demand is soaring for the services of groups such as the Sickle Cell Society and Southall Black Sisters.

The coronavirus outbreak is already claiming BAME lives at a rate that far outstrips their proportion of the British population. Figures released by NHS England show Black people accounted for 5.8% of coronavirus deaths in England up to April 17, compared with 3.5% of the population.

Jabeer Butt OBE, chief exec of the Race Equality Foundation, told HuffPost UK BAME voluntary sector organisations were “often the most trusted and valued” services for their users – but were being hampered in their efforts to help during this latest crisis.

“From the evidence that we have been able to gather,” he said, “the already fragile black and minority ethnic-led voluntary sector has attempted to transform their offer of support, but are constrained by limited resources and a lack of digital infrastructure.” Read more about it here.