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The global coronavirus death toll has now surpassed 150,000, and serious concerns have been raised after protective equipment guidance for frontline NHS staff was changed.
The latest figures show:
- As of 5pm on Friday 15,464 people had died in UK hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus – an increase of 888 in 24 hours.
- More than 15,000 coronavirus tests were carried out in England, Scotland and Wales on Friday, with more than 5,500 people testing positive.
- In total, 114,217 people have tested positive for coronavirus in those three nations.
Here’s the latest:
Long-serving paramedic dies from Covid-19
A long-serving paramedic has died after contracting coronavirus, North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) said.
The trust’s chief executive Daren Mochrie said: “It is with great sadness that we share the news that North West Ambulance Service has lost a very dear colleague who contracted Covid-19.
“The paramedic, whose family has asked not to be named, sadly passed away yesterday (Friday 17 April) in hospital.
“Our colleague was married with children and had worked for the trust for a considerable number of years.
“On behalf of everyone here at NWAS, including our patients and the communities we serve, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family.”
Mochrie also thanked NHS colleagues for their “professionalism and the compassionate care” they have shown to the late paramedic.
“This will deeply affect many people within the trust and we are supporting our staff during this very sad time,” he said.
“We will not be making any further announcements. This statement is the only information that we will be sharing.”
British Transport Police officer dies after contracting coronavirus
The British Transport Police have confirmed the death of an officer from London who had contracted Covid-19.
Detective constable John Coker, 53, died in hospital on Friday night, several weeks after first falling ill with coronavirus symptoms on March 22.
Chief constable Paul Crowther paid tribute to Coker – who was married with three children – on Saturday morning, writing: “My thoughts are with John’s family, for whom the last three weeks have been incredibly difficult and who will be struggling to deal with this most distressing outcome.
“Local colleagues have been in constant contact with John’s wife and will pass on the heartfelt condolences of us all. BTP will continue that support over the coming days, weeks and months.
“Understandably this is a very difficult time for John’s wife and family and they have asked for privacy. My thoughts are also with the many officers and staff who worked alongside John, as we each come to terms with this truly awful news.
“John has been part of the BTP family for over a decade and became a detective constable within the CID department at Euston where he was much loved and respected by all those he worked with. His colleagues remember a man who was charismatic, kind and thoughtful and took everything in his stride. He will be greatly missed by all in the force.”
Queen cancels gun salutes marking her 94th birthday
The Queen’s 94th birthday on Tuesday will not be marked by gun salutes in what is believed to be a first due to the coronavirus crisis.
A Buckingham Palace source said the Queen’s birthday will not be marked in any special way, adding that any calls with family will be kept private.
The source said: “There will be no gun salutes – Her Majesty was keen that no special measures were put in place to allow gun salutes as she did not feel it appropriate in the current circumstances.”
Vaccine trials could be finished by mid-August, expert says
A key adviser to the government on coronavirus has said trials for a vaccine for the disease could be completed by mid-August.
Professor Sir John Bell, a member of the government’s vaccine task force and adviser on life sciences, said human testing began at Oxford University last Thursday.
Asked about the possibility of a vaccine being produced by the autumn, Bell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The real question is will it have efficacy?
“Will it protect people, and that has not been tested and it will only be tested once you have vaccinated a significant number of people and exposed them to the virus and counted how many people have got the virus in that population.
“So, we won’t even get a signal for that until May.
“But if things go on course and it does have efficacy, then I think it is reasonable to think that they would be able to complete their trial by mid-August.”
Bell said a candidate vaccine was being tested at Oxford.
Medics raise concerns as PPE guidance changed
Unions representing doctors and nurses have said there are “lives on the line” following changes in the guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE).
Dr Rob Harwood, consultants committee chairman at the British Medical Association, told the BBC: “If it’s being proposed that staff reuse equipment, this must be demonstrably driven by science and the best evidence - rather than availability - and it absolutely cannot compromise the protection of healthcare workers.
“Too many healthcare workers have already died. More doctors and their colleagues cannot be expected to put their own lives on the line in a bid to save others, and this new advice means they could be doing just that. It’s not a decision they should have to make.”
The Royal College of Nursing has also said that new guidelines were developed without a full consultation.
Public Health England (PHE) reversed its guidance on Friday evening which stipulated long-sleeved disposable fluid repellent gowns should be worn when treating Covid-19 patients.
If the gowns are not available, clinical staff are now advised to wear “disposable, non-fluid repellent gowns or coveralls” or “washable surgical gowns”, with aprons, and to wash their forearms afterwards.
The updated guidance states that the “reuse of PPE should be implemented until confirmation of adequate re-supply is in place”, and that “some compromise is needed to optimise the supply of PPE in times of extreme shortages”.
At least 50 NHS workers have now died after contracting coronavirus.
Global deaths surpass 150,000
The global death toll for coronavirus has now surpassed 150,000.
More than 2.2m cases of Covid-19 have now been confirmed worldwide, according to a count updated by the John Hopkins University.
The UK has now reported 14,576 deaths – the fourth highest toll in Europe behind Italy, Spain, and France.
The US now has by far the highest death toll worldwide, with more than 37,000 deaths and 710,000 confirmed cases.
Senior Nightingale clinician calls on military veterans to help NHS
A senior clinician at the country’s maiden Nightingale hospital has called for military expertise to help protect the mental health of staff and volunteers at the “exhausting” facility.
Professor James Calder, who had a 14-year military career, said it was crucial to call on veterans who have worked in challenging situations around the globe as the UK rapidly expands its hospital care capacity to deal with the unprecedented challenges of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Calder, 52, from Winchester, added: “Being a clinician it’s been incredibly impressive looking at how a very effective, high quality intensive care unit has been set up in – effectively – a warehouse.
“Somebody said you’re on the train and laying the tracks ahead of you as you are going along – and that’s absolutely right, you just have to make sure the train doesn’t go too quickly and run away with you.”
He said part of the success has been through dedication to staff welfare, many of whom are working “pretty exhausting” 12-hour shifts.
But he said Nightingale workers have borrowed a technique deployed on military operations where staff are paired with a buddy upon arrival for their shift, encouraging them to look out for one another throughout.
He said: “If you have eyes with each other when you first go on a shift, you introduce yourselves, and speak to each other after the shift. If they get upset, have a difficult time with a patient or a death, they sit down and have a cup of tea. It worked very well in the past in the military and it’s working very well here.
“We are using their knowledge over many years working with the military to produce a package that is safe for our staff.”
Prison release scheme paused after six inmates freed too early
A scheme to release some prisoners in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus has been paused after six inmates were reportedly let out too early.
The Prison Service said it was aware of a “small number” of low-risk offenders who had been released prematurely.
Up to 4,000 prisoners in England and Wales were to be temporarily released from jail in an effort to try to control the spread of coronavirus.
Launching the scheme at the start of the month, the Ministry of Justice said the selected low-risk offenders would be electronically tagged and temporarily released on licence in stages, although they could be recalled at the first sign of concern.
But the BBC said the scheme would be temporarily halted after the accidental early release of inmates from two open prisons in Gloucestershire and Derbyshire.
The Prison Service attributed blame to human error and said processes would be changed.
A spokesman said: “We are aware of a small number of low-risk offenders who were released from prison under the temporary early release scheme following an administrative error.
“The men were released too early but were otherwise eligible under the scheme, and returned compliantly to prison when asked to do so.
“We have strengthened the administrative processes around the scheme to make sure this does not happen again.”
Trump claims China ‘must have’ highest death toll
Donald Trump has insisted that China “must have” the world’s highest death toll – despite official statistics showing that the US has seen deaths in a far greater number than any other country.
“When I listen to the press every night saying we have the most [deaths] – we don’t have the most in the world,” Trump told Friday’s White House briefing.
“The most in the world has to be China. It’s a massive country. It’s gone through a tremendous problem with this, a tremendous problem. And they must have the most.”
The full reality is difficult to know. Trump has routinely manipulated numbers and information to paint the US response in a more favourable light, while China has faced allegations of a cover-up with regards to the true scale of the crisis.
It is also certain that deaths from the virus have not been fully reported in either country, with the pandemic is still raging in the US and still being accounted for in China.
On Friday it emerged that Wuhan had revised its death toll with an increase of more than 50% – a development seized upon by Trump. He said: “China has just announced a doubling in the number of their deaths from the Invisible Enemy. It is far higher than that and far higher than the US, not even close!”