Boris Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus and Birmingham airport has been confirmed as a temporary mortuary, as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to grow.
The latest official figures show:
- At least 14,579 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK.
- 759 people are now confirmed to have died across Britain and Northern Ireland as of 5pm on Thursday – an increase of 181 since 24 hours earlier.
- Eight more people have died in Scotland, it was announced on Friday, bringing the total in the country to 33. Three more people have also died in Northern Ireland (total 13), six in Wales (total 34) and eight in Scotland (total 33).
According to the John Hopkins University, which has been keeping a running total, there are now more than 530,000 confirmed cases worldwide.
Here’s the latest:
Birmingham Airport confirmed as temporary mortuary for 1,500 bodies
Work is underway to turn a hangar at Birmingham Airport into a mortuary which could initially accommodate 1,500 bodies.
West Midlands Police have confirmed that preparations had begun at the site, and said bodies would be treated with “utmost dignity and respect at all times”.
The facility could be expanded if it reached capacity, officials have confirmed.
The site mortuary could accommodate all deaths across the West Midlands, not just those related to coronavirus, and regional mortuaries may close due to the demands of staffing the huge facility.
Senior Birmingham Coroner Louise Hunt said: “We understand that it is a very difficult time for everyone and we will do all that we can to make sure bereaved families understand what is happening to their loved ones and to release them for funeral as soon as we can.”
Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock both test positive for virus
The prime minister has tested positive for coronavirus, it was revealed on Friday.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “After experiencing mild symptoms yesterday, the prime minister was tested for coronavirus on the personal advice of England’s chief medical officer, professor Chris Whitty.
“The test was carried out in No.10 by NHS staff and the result of the test was positive.
“In keeping with the guidance, the prime minister is self-isolating in Downing Street.
“He is continuing to lead the government’s response to coronavirus.”
It emerged later on Friday that health secretary Matt Hancock had also tested positive for the virus, experiencing mild symptoms and professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, is self-isolating after experiencing symptoms.
Italy’s daily death toll rising again
Italy has reported 919 new deaths due to coronavirus, the highest daily rise since the outbreak began on February 21, despite hopes the disease’s spread was slowing. The total death toll now stands at 9,134.
Prior to Friday’s figure, the largest daily toll was registered on March 21, when 793 people died.
The 919 people who died over the last 24 hours compares with 712 deaths on Thursday, 683 on Wednesday, 743 on Tuesday and 602 on Monday.
The total number of confirmed cases rose to 86,498 from a previous 80,539, taking Italy’s total past that of China, where the coronavirus epidemic emerged at the end of last year.
The United States already surpassed China’s tally of cases on Thursday.
More than 700,000 people volunteer to help NHS
The number of NHS volunteers has reached the 700,000 mark, Downing Street has confirmed.
The government target currently stands at 750,000 after the overwhelming public response saw the initial 250,000 target smashed within just 24 hours.
No.10 confirmed on Friday that 702,000 volunteers have so far signed up to deliver food and medicines, and perform other supportive tasks, for the 1.4m vulnerable people isolated at home due to coronavirus.
All homeless people should be housed by the weekend, government reportedly says
The government has asked local authorities in England to house all rough sleepers and those in hostels and night shelters by the weekend, the charity Crisis said.
The letter to homelessness managers and rough sleeping co-ordinators in every local authority is quoted by the charity as saying: “As you know, this is a public health emergency.
“We are all redoubling our efforts to do what we possibly can at this stage to ensure that everybody is inside and safe by this weekend, and we stand with you in this.
“These are unusual times so I’m asking for an unusual effort. Many areas of the country have already been able to ‘safe harbour’ their people which is incredible. What we need to do now though is work out how we can get ‘everyone in’.”
The charity said the letter was sent by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Firefighters to retrieve bodies, drive ambulances, and deliver food
Firefighters will be able to deliver food and medicine, drive ambulances, and retrieve bodies in order to help the country tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
The fire service will continue responding to emergencies such as fires and road accidents, but under an agreement between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), fire chiefs, and Fire and Rescue Employers, will now provide additional services specifically connected to Covid-19.
There are around 48,000 firefighters and emergency control staff in the UK.
Matt Wrack, the FBU’s general secretary, said the country faced ” a public health crisis unparalleled in our lifetimes”.
He added: “Firefighters are fantastic at teamwork, are experienced in driving emergency vehicles and, as a service rooted in the community, may be best placed to deliver essential items to the most vulnerable.
“Many fear the loss of life in this outbreak could be overwhelming– and firefighters, who often handle terrible situations and incidents, are ready to step in to assist with body retrieval.”
Land Army-style ‘Pick for Britain’ campaign reportedly planned
A Land Army-style ‘Pick for Britain’ campaign is reportedly set to be launched by the government to prevent the UK’s crops from rotting in the fields.
There is currently a drastic shortage in the number of seasonal workers coming to the UK from eastern Europe to carry out the work due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
A nationwide push is expected to be launched within weeks calling for anyone from students to laid-off hospitality workers to pick fruit and vegetables “in the national interest”, The Daily Telegraph reports.
The news comes after ministers were urged by farmers to consider deploying Army reservists to undertake the task.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is also thought to be in discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions over the idea of directing job seekers towards seasonal work.
The campaign would carry echoes of the Dig for Victory movement and the Women’s Land Army, the two major national programmes launched during World War II to keep the nation fed.
The farming industry is hoping to emulate the success of the call for people to help the NHS, which has elicited more than 600,000 volunteers.
US now leads global cases
According to a running count by Johns Hopkins University, the number of people infected in the US had reached almost 86,000 as of Friday morning.
In comparison, China – the original epicentre of the outbreak – currently has 81,782, and Italy has 80,589.
Italy has the most confirmed deaths of any country with more than 8,000. More than 1,000 people have died in the US.
The global number of confirmed cases has now surpassed 530,000.
Police using drones to enforce lockdown
Police have defended the use of drones in order to enforce lockdown rules, as members of the public reportedly continue to drive to rural areas such as the Peak District in order to exercise.
Derbyshire Police on Thursday shared footage on Twitter of a drone following members of the public as they walk dogs, park their cars, and watch a sunset at Curbar Edge, reminding viewers that only “essential” travel should be carried out.
Police have said people should not be driving anywhere to exercise, but the Cabinet Office told the Guardian that guidelines did not prohibit driving somewhere for exercise or dog walking.
Meanwhile in North Yorkshire, police said they were planning to put roadblock in place in order to ensure drivers did not flout guidelines.
“Officers will be stopping vehicles and asking motorists where they are going, why they are going there, and reminding them of the message to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” the force said in a statement.
The Guardian reported that these checkpoints would be unannounced and could pop up anywhere across the county.
New rules on protective kit for health workers to be introduced
New rules on personal protective equipment (PPE) are expected to be revealed within two days, amid calls for clearer guidance for frontline workers.
Currently, health authorities of the UK say that PPE, including gloves and gowns, should only be worn if patients are displaying symptoms or have been diagnosed, the BBC reports.
But the NHS Confederation has said staff feel “at risk” of contracting the virus unless they wear PPE for all patients.
Documents also show NHS Supply Chain “hasn’t been able to manage” sufficient delivery of vital items, such as masks.
Appearing on BBC Question Time Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of medical journal The Lancet described the current situation as “a national scandal”.
He said: “We wasted February when we could have acted. Time where we could have ramped up testing, time when we could have got personal protective equipment ready and disseminated, we didn’t do it.
“I’m hearing not just that PPE isn’t available, it’s the wrong kind of PPE. What we have isn’t even WHO standard.
“We’re putting our health workers, who we’ve just all clapped here, in the front lines without the armour they need to defend themselves.”
On Sunday the chairman of the Doctor’s Association said NHS staff felt as though they had been treated like “cannon fodder’ after treating patients without appropriate protective clothing.
Infographic supplied by Statista.