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Boris Johnson has returned to take charge of the government’s response to coronavirus, two weeks after being discharge from hospital, as MPs call for urgent action on the alarming rise in domestic violence.
According to the latest figures:
- The deaths of a further 350 patients in England, Scotland and Wales who had tested positive for coronavirus have been recorded in 24 hours, bringing the total to at least 21,082. Northern Ireland has yet to report its own figures.
- The number of people who had tested positive in the UK as of 9am on Sunday has reached 152,840.
Here’s the latest:
Nationwide minute’s silence planned for key workers killed in pandemic
The nation is expected to fall silent tomorrow in tribute to key workers who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.
Boris Johnson, who battled the illness himself, including a spell in intensive care, will be among those observing the minute’s silence on Tuesday at 11am.
Government workers will be asked to take part and the PM’s official spokesperson said it is hoped others will participate “nationwide”.
The Unison union, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Nursing launched a campaign last week for the nation to take a moment to honour frontline staff who have died during the Covid-19 crisis.
Between them, the organisations represent more than a million NHS and public service workers including porters, refuse collectors and care staff.
Fertility patients get extra two years to freeze embryos
Ministers do not want patients to be “unfairly caught out” after procedures were paused earlier this month due to Covid-19.
Current storage limits are 10 years, at which point people must decide if they want to undergo fertility treatment, or have their frozen eggs, sperm and embryos destroyed.
These time limits will be extended to give time for treatments to resume, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
But many women are still facing an anxious wait to fulfil their pregnancy dreams after their fertility treatments were put on hold due to the outbreak.
PM warns of ‘new wave of death’ if lockdown measures eased too early
Boris Johnson has used his first public appearance since recovering from Covid-19 to warn that lifting the coronavirus lockdown too soon would risk “a new wave of death and disease”.
Speaking in Downing Street on Monday morning hours after his return to work, the prime minister said the UK was “beginning to turn the tide” against the virus.
But he said this was “the moment of maximum risk” and not the time “to go easy” on social distancing as it would “throw away all the effort and sacrifice of the British people” and risk a second peak
Johnson resumed full-time duties at the head of the government today, three weeks after he was admitted to hospital with severe Covid-19 symptoms.
He arrived back in No.10 on Sunday evening to a growing clamour from senior Tories to begin lifting the lockdown. There is mounting concern at the damage it is causing to the economy.
Johnson has less then two weeks before the next major decision point comes up with the next three-week review of the lockdown restrictions due on May 7.
Dominic Raab, who had been standing in for the PM, said the government was doing its “homework” in preparation for when the rules could be eased.
It is thought that amongst the first could be a re-opening of schools, although the foreign secretary said that would be “inconceivable” without some further measures in place.
Ministers are also thought to be considering allowing some non-essential businesses to open such as garden centres and car showrooms, provided social-distancing could be maintained.
Raab also indicated that officials were looking at possible checks at air and sea ports with passengers arriving in the UK required to quarantine for 14 days.
Such a measure could form part of the next stage of the government’s response – the so-called “test, track and trace” strategy designed to further suppress the spread of the disease by isolating new cases.
However, scientific and medical experts have indicated the current infection rate will have to come down further before such tactics can be effective.
Home testing kits run out just over an hour
Home coronavirus testing kits had completely run out bu 9.10am on Monday, according to the government’s website.
The government was forced to apologise on Friday after the kits ran out in minutes on the day of the site’s launch, with the site closing down to prevent new users from attempting to access tests.
Similar shortages were seen over the weekend as the home tests – 5,000 of which become available at 8am – ran out in less than two hours, although some slots for drive-through testing remained available later in the morning.
UN poverty expert slams UK’s ‘utterly hypocritical’ virus response
Philip Alston, the United Nations’ poverty expert, has fiercely criticised the UK’s response to coronavirus as “utterly hypocritical” after years of cuts to public services.
Alston, who has previously attacked the government’s implementation of austerity measures, told the Guardian: “my thoughts of course hark back to the sense of how utterly hypocritical it is now to abandon ‘austerity’ with such alacrity, after all the harm and misery caused to individuals and the fatal weakening of the community’s capacity to cope and respond over the past 10 years.
“And of course, many of the worst and most damaging aspects of ‘austerity’ cannot and will not be undone. The damage caused to community cohesion and to the social infrastructure are likely to prove permanent.”
He added that around the world “the most vulnerable have been short-changed or excluded” by responses to the virus, which has now claimed more than 20,000 lives in the UK and 200,000 globally.
Alongside a warning that the crisis could force half a billion people into poverty, Alston said some policies had reflected a philosophy of “social Darwinism... that prioritises the economic interests of the wealthiest while doing little for those who are hard at work providing essential services or unable to support themselves.”
Calls for urgent action on domestic violence as helpline calls surge by almost 50%
The Commons home affairs committee warned that without urgent action “we will be dealing with serious consequences for a generation”.
Calls to Refuge increased by 49% in the week leading up to April 15 compared to the average prior to the pandemic, the committee found.
And visits to the charity’s website trebled in March compared with the same month last year in a worrying sign that the lockdown could be trapping victims and leading to more abuse.
The Men’s Advice Line meanwhile saw a 16.6% increase in calls and research by Counting Dead Women has calculated that at least 16 domestic abuse killings took place between March 23 and April 12, double that of an average 21 day period in the previous decade.
Committee chair Yvette Cooper said: “Staying at home is an important part of the strategy to prevent coronavirus from spreading and save lives, but for some people home isn’t safe.
“Urgent action is needed to protect victims and prevent perpetrators from exploiting the lockdown to increase abuse.
“There are already alarming signs of the rise in domestic abuse.”
New Zealand prepares to loosen lockdown having ‘won battle’ against spread of virus
New Zealand has “avoided the worst” of Covid-19, prime minister Jacinda Ardern had said, and has succeeded in halting the “widespread, undetected community transmission” of the virus.
The nation is now preparing to ease stringent level-four lockdown measures, which will lift at 11.59pm on Monday night after more than a month of businesses and schools remaining closed.
In a media briefing, she said: “There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle. But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.”
The move to level three will see restaurants and schools allowed to reopen their doors, albeit on a much smaller scale.
“We are opening up the economy, but we’re not opening up people’s social lives,” Ardern said.
New Zealand has reported 1,122 cases of Covid-19, with 19 deaths. The daily rate of new infections has remained under 1% for the past two weeks.
Many businesses, as well as parliament and the courts, began preparations over the weekend to restart operations this week while maintaining ongoing social distancing rules.
Eateries announced contactless delivery plans, retail stores showcased their latest collections online for home delivery and office towers posted social distancing rules in elevators and public areas.
Still, Ardern stressed that public gatherings remain banned and asked people to remain in their “bubble”.
All post sent from today will be stamped to honour Captain Tom’s 100th birthday
All post sent from Monday will be stamped to celebrate the upcoming 100th birthday of NHS fundraiser Captain Tom Moore.
The Royal Mail postmark, which will be applied to all stamped post between April 26 and May 1, reads: “Happy 100th Birthday Captain Thomas Moore NHS fundraising hero 30th April 2020.”
The Second World War veteran has raised more than £28 million for the NHS by walking laps of his garden in Bedfordshire ahead of his milestone birthday.
His original target of £1,000 was broken in 24 hours, and he extended his challenge to 200 laps after he completed the first 100 14 days ahead of schedule.
The postal recognition comes after Royal Mail had to adapt its sorting machines in the South Midlands Mail Centre to re-route all post to Captain Tom into a dedicated collection box.
A spokesman said staff had already processed more than 100,000 cards using this new process and were expecting thousands more in the run-up to his birthday.
David Gold, director of public affairs and policy at Royal Mail, said: “What Captain Thomas Moore has achieved is truly phenomenal, and this is reflected in the affection shown for him across the world.
“As Royal Mail works to keep the country connected during these challenging times, we are honoured to issue a special postmark in celebration of his 100th birthday.
“We continued to deliver the many tens of thousands of birthday cards from well-wishers across the UK and abroad as people look to show their gratitude for all he has achieved on a more personal level.
“We would like to extend our own best wishes and congratulations to him from everyone at Royal Mail.”