The UK has ordered thousands of ventilators to help the NHS cope with coronavirus, and more than a thousand people have died in the US.
The latest official figures show:
- At least 9,529 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK
- 521 people are now confirmed to have died, after both Scotland and Northern Ireland announced three further fatalities each on Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, another six people in Wales have died. Some 107 more people died in England.
According to a global tally updated by John Hopkins University, the number of cases has grown to more than 472,000 worldwide, with the death toll surpassing 21,000.
Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus today:
Government announces coronavirus grants for the self-employed
Self-employed people losing work over coronavirus will be handed emergency government grants worth 80% of their average income up to £2,500-a-month, Rishi Sunak has said.
The payments will be based on a self-employed person’s profits over the last one to three years and will be open to anyone with trading profits of up to £50,000.
However, the self-employed could be without support for another two months, with the money not due to arrive until the start of June.
Sunak said the scheme would be open for at least the next three months and that he would extend it, if necessary.
The UK missed out on the EU ventilator scheme because of an email mix-up
A government spokesperson blamed an “initial communication problem” for the UK missing the deadline to join four joint procurement schemes for equipment to tackle coronavirus.
A spokesperson said: “Owing to an initial communication problem, the UK did not receive an invitation in time to join in four joint procurements in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“As the [European] Commission has confirmed, we are eligible to participate in joint procurements during the transition period, following our departure from the EU earlier this year.
“As those four initial procurement schemes had already gone out to tender we were unable to take part in these, but we will consider participating in future procurement schemes on the basis of public health requirements at the time.”
Downing Street said on Thursday that 8,000 additional ventilators had been ordered by the government to boost the stock of 8,000 already available to the health service.
You can now be arrested for breaking lockdown rules
People who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules can now be arrested as part of new powers announced by the Home Office.
Officers can also tell them to go home or leave an area, and can ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking the law.
People who refuse to comply could be issued with a £60 fixed penalty notice, which drops down to £30 if it’s paid within two weeks.
Meanwhile, second-time offenders could be issued a fixed penalty notice of £120, doubling on each further repeat offence.
Those who do not pay the penalty can be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.
“All our frontline services really are the best of us and are doing an incredible job to stop this terrible virus from spreading.
“That’s why I’m giving the police these new enforcement powers – to protect the public and keep people safe.”
Second prisoner dies after contracting coronavirus
A second serving UK prisoner has died after contracting coronavirus, a Prison Service spokesperson has said.
The 66-year-old man, who was serving at HMP Manchester, died in hospital on March 26.
He had been receiving end-of-life care for an underlying condition before he tested positive for Covid-19.
It comes after an 84-year-old man who was an inmate at HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire died in hospital on March 22 after contracting coronavirus.
At least seven women's prisons have reportedly seen cases of the virus, HuffPost UK revealed on Wednesday, with inmates warning of horrific sanitary conditions.
One prisoner at HMP Downview in Surrey said the system had “completely broken down," with a lack of testing despite inmates allegedly displaying symptoms.
New field hospitals could be set up in Manchester and Birmingham
Downing Street has indicated that additional coronavirus field hospitals are being considered around the UK.
The PM’s official spokesperson said 500 of the additional 4,000 beds created in the NHS Nightingale Hospital being set up in London’s Excel centre will be available for use next week.
Asked if convention centres in Birmingham and Manchester are also being considered, he said: “The current focus is on getting the Excel centre up and running as the NHS Nightingale Hospital.
“But NHS England is actively preparing for a number of scenarios as the outbreak continues and is working with clinicians and teams of military planners around the country.”
Pressed on whether this does mean more across the country, he said: “As I say, we are working with local health services all around the country.”
More than 650 new deaths in Spain as toll surpasses 4,000
More than 600 people have died in Spain in the past 24 hours after contracting coronavirus, health officials have confirmed.
The country registered 655 fatalities in total, down from more than 700 on Wednesday.
The death toll from the pandemic in the country has now surpassed 4,000.
The overall number of coronavirus cases soared to 56,188 from 47,610 on Wednesday. The number of reported deaths from the virus rose to 4,089 from 3,434 on Wednesday, the ministry said.
UK orders 10,000 ventilators from Dyson
The government has ordered 10,000 ventilators from vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson to tackle the coronavirus crisis, the company’s billionaire founder has announced.
Some 30,000 ventilators have been ordered from a selection of British manufacturers, including Airbus, with production due to be given the green light next week, the Guardian reported.
In an email to staff, Sir James Dyson said his eponymous company has designed the “CoVent” at the request of Boris Johnson, and promised to donate 5,000 to the international relief effort. A thousand ventilators are believed to have already been pledged to the UK effort.
A team of engineers had been working on the design since receiving a call from the PM 10 days ago, Dyson said.
He added: “We have received an initial order of 10,000 units from the UK government, which we will supply on an open-book basis.
“We are also looking at ways of making it available internationally.”
Antibody tests won’t be available ‘within days’ as suggested
Coronavirus tests will not be available ‘within days’ as was previously suggested, England’s chief medical officer has stated.
Professor Chris Whitty, who is advising Boris Johnson’s government on tackling the disease, said the crucial tests would first be for “critical uses”, such as working out whether NHS staff and frontline key workers are immune.
Before that stage, doctors and scientists must actually work out wether the 3.5m antibody tests bought by the government even work, Whitty stressed.
It comes after Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England, raised hopes at a Commons committee hearing by suggesting the mass of tests would be available for sale on sites like Amazon as early as next week.
“I do not think, and I want to be clear, that this is something will suddenly be ordering on the internet next week,” Whitty said, appearing alongside the prime minister at a press conference in Downing Street.
The news comes as Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College scientist whose research precipitated tougher government measures last week said that the virus death toll could now end up being “substantially lower” than the predicted 20,000, The Times reported.
Ferguson told MPs: “It [the deaths of those who would have died anyway due to underlying conditions] might be as much as half or two thirds of the deaths we see, because these are people at the end of their lives or who have underlying conditions.”
Earlier in the day:
- The Wetherspoon pub chain has announced it will pay all 43,000 of its staff for hours worked last week, after the company’s chairman Tim Martin came under fierce attack for sending workers home.
- More than 1,000 people have now died in the US after contracting coronavirus, as the country braces for hospitals to be overwhelmed by new cases.