NEWS
04/05/2020 07:44 BST | Updated 04/05/2020 14:27 BST

Nine Things You Need To Know About Coronavirus Today

Britain has recorded its lowest increase to the Covid-19 death toll in weeks, and London's Nightingale hospital is be mothballed. Here's the latest.

Get the latest on coronavirus. Sign up to the Daily Brief for news, explainers, how-tos, opinion and more.

The UK is entering its seventh week of lockdown, with 186,599 officially confirmed cases of Covid-19 so far. 

According to the latest figures:

  • At least 28,675 people had died in UK hospitals with coronavirus as of 2pm on Monday.  In England, 204 more deaths were reported, along with 14 in Wales, six in Northern Ireland and five in Scotland.
  • As of May 3, more than 180,000 people had tested positive for Covid-19.
  • Almost 106,000 tests for coronavirus were carried on May 1

Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus today.

Nightingale hospital to be mothballed

The temporary London Nightingale hospital is to be mothballed after demand for intensive care beds in the capital fell.

But it will remain on “standby” in case of a second coronavirus peak.

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson confirmed the news on Monday.

“It is not likely that, in the coming days, we will need to be admitting patients to NHS Nightingale London while coronavirus in the capital remains under control,” the spokesperson said.

“That is obviously a very positive thing. We are grateful to everyone in London for following the government’s advice.

“What the Nightingale will be is effectively placed on standby so it is ready to receive patients if it is required, but we are not expecting that will be the case.”

It comes as the UK records its lowest daily increase to the coronavirus hospital death toll since March: 229, with the majority (204) in England.

SAGE membership list made public

A partial list of the membership of the scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE) has been published by the government.

Ministers also issued an updated “explainer” on the group that is helping to shape the government response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Two members asked that their names were not released, but among those listed are chief scientists Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance; Dr David Halpern, from the Cabinet Office’s behavioural insights team; Public Health England medical director Yvonne Doyle; and a range of experts from health bodies and universities across the UK. 

The list’s publication follows controversy around the attendance of SAGE by Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings. The PM’s top aide was said to have been an “active participant” in meetings about coronavirus.

But No 10 denied Cummings was ever a member of the committee and insisted he did not influence any of its advice.

Recovery hospital to be named after pioneering nurse

England’s first community hospital to care for people recovering from Covid-19 will be named in honour of the pioneering nurse Mary Seacole, the NHS has announced.

The NHS Seacole Centre will be based at the NHS Headley Court Hospital in Leatherhead, Surrey, and has up to 300 inpatient beds.

It is hoped the hospital will free up capacity in other nearby hospitals for non-Covid patients and the urgent care of people with coronavirus.

Seacole was a Jamaican-born nurse who was refused formal permission by the UK War Office to help alongside Florence Nightingale’s more well-known mercy mission in the Crimea.

She funded her own trip instead and established a hospital to provide support for officers wounded in the Crimean War.

She also visited the battlefield to nurse the wounded and became known as Mother Seacole.

Last month, a petition to name the Birmingham NEC Nightingale hospital after Seacole attracted almost 15,000 signatures.

Activist Patrick Vernon, who launched the petition, said: “It would reflect the diversity of our country and the NHS.”

No new cases in New Zealand for first time 

New Zealand reported no new cases of coronavirus on Monday for the first time since the outbreak began in mid-March.

Ashley Bloomfield, director general of health, said the news, which comes less than a week after New Zealand began to ease lockdown measures, was “symbolic of the effort everyone has put in”.

There are currently 1,487 confirmed cases in the country.

“I’m pleased to say there are no additional deaths to report,” he told a press conference in Wellington.

Video available: No new virus cases reported in New Zealand

Trump ‘confident of vaccine by end of the year’

US President Donald Trump has told a town hall meeting that he thinks a coronavirus vaccine will be developed “by the end of this year”.

Trump also said during the event sponsored by Fox News Channel that his government was putting its “full power and might” behind remdesivir, a drug that has shown early promise as a treatment for the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

In response to a question from a Nebraska man who has recovered from Covid-19, Trump said: “We think we are going to have a vaccine by the end of this year.”

US health experts have repeatedly said a vaccine is probably a year to 18 months away, though the White House coronavirus task force’s doctor Anthony Fauci said late last month that a vaccine could conceivably be in wide distribution as early as January.

During Monday’s town hall from the Lincoln Memorial, the president also increased his projection for the total US death total to 80,000 or 90,000 — up by more than 20,000 fatalities from what he had suggested just a few weeks ago — and struck a note of urgency over the economy, declaring “we have to reopen our country”.

He said: “We have to get it back open safely but as quickly as possible.” 

JIM WATSON via Getty Images
US President Donald Trump during a commercial break of a Fox News virtual town hall "America Together: Returning to Work," event.

Possible post-lockdown workplace rules revealed

A draft government plan to ease restrictions and allow people to return to work has been seen by the BBC

The report floats reduced hot-desking and alternatives to social distancing where it is not possible – including enhanced hygiene practices and protective screening – among the measures to help employers function again.

It also urges workplaces to minimise numbers of people using equipment, stagger shift times and maximise home-working.

The prime minister will reveal his “roadmap” out of lockdown on Sunday, the broadcaster says.

But Boris Johnson warned that lifting lockdown restrictions too soon would be “the worst thing we could do”.

In a video message on Twitter, the PM said it was important to meet the five tests set by the government before easing the lockdown.

“We will only be able to move onto the second phase of this conflict if our five tests have been met,” he said.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said a “range of methods”, including the use of PPE, could allow people to be less than two metres apart for periods.

He told BBC Breakfast: “I think there are lots of ways, there’s PPE, there’s use of time.
“You could be closer than two metres but not for long at all. There are a range of ways to do this.

“And if it’s very vital you work next to each other then potentially things like shields that you see in supermarkets, or indeed PPE, is a way forward.”

Meanwhile, health visitors say they fear the UK will have a much higher rate of “invisible children” when the country finally emerges from lockdown, as they are currently unable to carry out face-to-face checks with families.

PA
The UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

 

‘Accurate’ antibody test developed

A new “fast and accurate” coronavirus antibody test has been developed by scientists in Edinburgh, although the company fears the NHS could miss out amid interest in Europe for the machines.

Researchers for blood-screening company Quotient have developed a new test for whether people are immune to Covid-19 by spotting whether a person has developed antibodies to the disease.

Each serological screening machine has capacity for up to 3,000 tests a day and produces results in 35 minutes with 99.8% accuracy, the firm said.

The company behind the new tests says it has 12 screening machines available, with a further 20 expected to be ready by the end of the year, but it has already had talks with interested parties across Europe.

However, with the new test developed by scientists in Edinburgh, the company is calling for the UK and Scottish governments to begin talks so that the NHS might be able to benefit.

Tech firms are also in talks with ministers about developing ‘immunity passports’, potentially using facial recognition technology, for those who have had the virus, allowing them to safely return to work.

SOPA Images via Getty Images
A medical worker wearing a protective suit seals a bag containing a swab sample 

Social distancing ‘would create kilometre-long queues’ at Heathrow

Implementing social distancing at airports would require kilometre-long queues for each jumbo jet, according to the chief executive of Heathrow.

John Holland-Kaye warned the nation’s major international airports do not have enough space for social distancing to be a solution for safe travel post-lockdown.

He wrote in Monday’s Daily Telegraph: “Forget social distancing – it won’t work in aviation or any other form of public transport, and the problem is not the plane, it is the lack of space in the airport.

“Just one jumbo jet would require a queue a kilometre long.”

Holland-Kaye also called on the prime minister to quickly find a “common international standard” of alternative solutions that could be installed in time for summer.

Mandatory health checks for passengers, increased levels of hygiene and compulsory facemasks are among the options floated by Holland-Kaye in order to open the nation’s airports as soon as possible and avoid “massive job losses in our sector… (and) many other sectors that depend on us”.

“The prime minister has talked about restarting the engines of the British economy. We are ready to play our part, but first we need his help to restart the engines of the British aviation fleet,” he wrote.

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images
People queue outside the departures area at Heathrow on Friday, May 1.

More than 300,000 quit smoking

More than 300,000 Britons have quit smoking during the coronavirus crisis as evidence mounts that the habit leaves them more vulnerable to Covid-19, a survey suggests.

A further 550,000 Britons have tried to quit, while 2.4 million have cut down, according to the joint study by the UK arm of YouGov’s international Covid-19 tracker in conjunction with anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

The survey, of 1,004 people, suggested 2% of smokers had now quit due to Covid-19 concerns.

In addition, 8% of smokers said they were trying to quit, 36% said they had cut down, and 27% said they were now more likely to quit.

A quarter of ex-smokers said they were now less likely to resume smoking, although 4% say the pandemic had made them more likely to relapse.

The figures were welcomed by several health and anti-smoking bodies in a statement issued by the #QuitforCOVID Twitter campaign.