NEWS
25/04/2020 09:58 BST | Updated 25/04/2020 21:52 BST

Six Things You Need To Know About Coronavirus Today

Questions have been raised after it was revealed Dominic Cummings attended Sage meetings, and home tests for key workers have once again run out within minutes.

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

More than 20,000 people have now died across the UK after contracting coronavirus. 

According to the latest figures:

  • A further 813 UK hospital deaths of patients who had tested positive for coronavirus have been recorded in 24 hours, bringing the total to 20, 303. 
  • The number of people who have tested positive in the UK has reached 148,377.

Here’s the latest:  

Budget airline Wizz Air announces plans to resume flights from May 1 

NurPhoto via Getty Images
The airline said social distancing measures would be in place on board. 

Low-cost airline Wizz Air has announced plans to resume flights from Luton Airport on May 1.

The airline said it would implement measures to ensure social distancing is maintained, as well as enhancing cleanliness on board.

Destinations will include Budapest, Lisbon and Tenerife.

Owain Jones, managing director of Wizz Air UK, said: “As we restart selected Luton flights to provide an essential service to passengers who need to travel, our primary concern is the health, safety and well-being of our customers and crew.

“The protective measures that we are implementing will ensure the most sanitary conditions possible.

“We encourage our customers to watch our new video on how to stay safe when travelling, as well as for more details on our new health and safety measures.” 

The PM’s top advisor attended meetings of government’s key scientific group 

Yui Mok - PA Images via Getty Images
Dominic Cummings arriving at Downing Street. 

Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings attended meetings of the senior scientists advising the government on the coronavirus outbreak, Downing Street has confirmed. 

Cummings was among 23 attendees at a key meeting of the secretive Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on March 23 – the day the PM announced the nationwide lockdown, according to the Guardian.

The paper reported that the advisor is part of the group itself, calling into question the true independence of the government’s advice. No. 10 have denied that Cummings is a member of the group – branding the reports “factually wrong and damaging to sensible public debate” – but admitted he had attended meetings. 

Ben Warner, a data scientist who worked with Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum, was also said to have been present.

A former government chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, said he was “shocked” to find that there were political advisers involved in Sage meetings.

“If you are giving science advice, your advice should be free of any political bias. That is just so critically important,” he told the Guardian.

“Sage provides independent scientific advice to the Government. Political advisers have no role in this,” a spokesperson for No. 10 added. 

“The scientists on Sage are among the most eminent in their fields. It is factually wrong and damaging to sensible public debate to imply their advice is affected by government advisers listening to discussions.”

The spokesman said Cummings and Warner had been seeking to better understand the scientific debate around coronavirus, as well as the limits as to how science and data could assist Government decision-making.

“Occasionally they ask questions or offer help when scientists mention problems in Whitehall,” the spokesman said

The government has never released a list of Sage members or attendees – although individual members can disclose they are part of the group.

Drones to be used to transfer medical supplies to the Isle of Wight 

PA
Windracer undated handout photo of their Ultra UAV aircraft drone.

Drones capable of carrying 100kg loads more than 1,000km are to be used to ensure the Isle of Wight’s hospital can maintain essential medical supplies in the fight against Covid-19.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the plan on Friday to fast-track the launch of drone trials between the mainland and St Mary’s Hospital in Newport to ensure the island is fully equipped.

Ferry services between Portsmouth and Southampton to the island have been massively reduced amid a big fall in passenger traffic, prompting the back-up supply plan.

The trial, the first of its kind in the UK, will involve a double-engine, fixed-winged Windracers Ultra UAV aircraft drone with a carrying capacity of up to 220lb (100kg) in a space the size of an estate car boot.

Maggie Oldham, chief executive of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, said “Providing NHS services on an island comes with a number of challenges, so it is fantastic to see the progress being made to support health care on the Isle of Wight through the use of new and innovative technology.

“This work has the potential to significantly improve services for our local community by reducing waiting times for test results and speeding up the transfer of important, possibly life-saving medication.” 

Test slots for key workers run out in an hour after site reopens 

Andrew Milligan - PA Images via Getty Images

Coronavirus tests for key workers were again unavailable through the government booking website less than an hour after it reopened.

The BBC reported on Saturday morning that home testing kits had run out fewer than 15 minutes after the site reopened. Five-thousand home testing kits are made available each day. 

Drive-through tests were also fully booked in England within the space of an hour, although some remained in Scotland at the time of reporting. 

HuffPost UK reported on Friday that the government’s site had been closed within minutes of its first launch after thousands of people applied for home test kits.

As scores of people logged on to apply for a test, a message informed them: “Currently, only drive-through tests are available.”

But then, just minutes later, it appeared that nobody was able to book a test at all, as the site told them: “Coronavirus test: applications closed.”

Hancock admitted on Friday’s BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that the government had only finished coding the website on Thursday.

WHO warns against immunity passports

FABRICE COFFRINI via Getty Images
The World Health Organisation have warned that there's not yet any reliable evidence of immunity.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned against the idea of “immunity passports” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It said there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected against a second infection.

The concept of “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” has been floated as a way of allowing people protected against reinfection to return to work.

But the Geneva-based UN health agency said in a scientific brief published on Saturday that more research is needed.

It said that “at this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’.”

It argued that people who assume they are immune to reinfection may ignore public health advice, and that such certificates could raise the risks of continued virus transmission.

The WHO added that tests for antibodies of the new coronavirus also “need further validation to determine their accuracy and reliability”.

UK troops to be given insect repellant to protect against Covid-19 

WPA Pool via Getty Images
Troops are also reportedly being given disinfectant to spray themselves with after coming into contact with an infected person. 

British troops are to be given insect repellant to protect them from being infected with Covid-19, it has been revealed. 

Sky News reported on Friday evening that Citriodiol – thought to kill types of coronaviruses – had been ordered by the military in a bid to protect those called in to support the front line against the virus. 

A source told the broadcaster that the use of the product was optional, and did not replace hand washing, social distancing measures, or personal protective equipment. 

It was also revealed that troops were to be given disinfectant to spray themselves with if they come into contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19. 

Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of Citriodiol, with the Guardian reporting that Public Health England had confirmed the product was not included in any official guidance to protect against the virus. 

The paper also reported that WHO stated there was no evidence the virus could be transmitted by mosquitoes, rendering an insect repellant ineffective.

Premier League considering June return behind closed doors 

PAUL ELLIS via Getty Images
Stadiums across the country have already been shuttered for six weeks. 

The Premier League is reportedly considering a return to action in June, with discussions ongoing with K rights holders about how best to broadcast the season’s remaining fixtures as the campaign edges closer to a return behind closed doors,

It is six weeks since the English top-flight was suspended in a bid to curb the coronavirus outbreak and talks continue as to when, and if, play can resume.

A government spokesman said: “Ministers continue to work with sports governing bodies on how live sporting events can resume in the future. This can only happen once we have passed the five tests for easing social distancing measures.”

Of the 92 games remaining this season, 47 are already set to be aired between Sky Sports and BT Sport under existing contracts.

As for the remaining 45 fixtures, PA understands the Premier League is in discussions with those broadcasters along with fellow UK package holders BBC and Amazon about a reasonable and proportional position on how those matches might be broadcast.