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Boris Johnson has led his first Downing Street press conference since returning to work, and scientists in the US have unveiled the first drug “proven” to block Covid-19.
According to the latest figures:
- The number of people who have died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus has risen to 26,711 – an increase of 674 over 24 hours.
- As of 9am 30 April, there have been 901,905 tests with 687,369 people have been tested of which 171,253 tested positive.
Here’s the latest:
UK ‘past the peak’ of coronavirus outbreak
Boris Johnson has confirmed the UK is “past the peak” of the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking in Downing Street, the PM said: “I can confirm today that for the first time we are past the peak of this disease.
“We are past the peak and on the downward slope. And we have so many reasons to be hopeful for the long term.”
The government will next week reveal plans for lifting the lockdown, he said, adding the crisis was “as though we have been going through some huge Alpine tunnel.
“And we can now see the sunlight and the pasture ahead of us.”
He went on to say the country must try to avoid “lasting economic damage” and that he would soon begin easing restrictions.
Face coverings ‘useful’ for protecting against Covid-19, says PM
The PM also hinted he will advise people to wear them, as he said they may give people “confidence” to go back to work.
It came as Johnson confirmed the UK was “past the peak” of the outbreak and that he would next week set out a “road map” to ending the lockdown.
Asked about the face coverings at Thursday’s Downing Street briefing on Covid-19, Johnson said: “What I think Sage [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] is saying, and what I certainly agree with, is that – as part of coming out of the lockdown – I do think that face coverings will be useful both for epidemiological reasons but also for giving people confidence they can go back to work.”
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam had previously poured cold water on the notion of people wearing masks, saying there was “no evidence that general wearing of face masks by the public who are well affects the spread of the disease in our society”.
1,800 jobs set to be lost as Oasis and Warehouse collapse
More than 1,800 jobs are set to be lost at Oasis and Warehouse as administrators said they were unable to rescue the company behind the brands.
Lockdown has had a disastrous impact on a number of well-known high street brands, with giants such as Debenhams also entering administration for the second time this year earlier in April.
Oasis and Warehouse went into administration earlier this month, with 200 workers were made redundant on Deloitte Wednesday, April 22.
The retailer was owned by Kaupthing, the failed Icelandic bank, and its own administrators had tried to sell Oasis Warehouse three years ago, but this was later abandoned.
Speaking at earlier in April Rob Harding, joint administrator at Deloitte, said: “Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on the entire retail industry and not least the Oasis Warehouse group.
“Despite management’s best efforts over recent weeks, and significant interest from potential buyers, it has not been possible to save the business in its current form.”
Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca partnered with Oxford University to distribute Covid-19 vaccine
The University of Oxford has partnered with pharmaceutical giant AstraZenenca for the potential development, manufacture and large-scale distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine candidate that is currently being trialled in the UK.
The agreement was announced on Thursday, with the details set to be finalised in the coming weeks.
The move will allow for rapid vaccination around the world if the jab proves to be effective, the university said.
Human trials of the vaccine developed by the university’s Jenner Institute began last week, with hundreds of people volunteering to be part of the study, which received £20m in government funding.
Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, described the partnership with AstraZeneca as a “major force in the struggle against pandemics” for the foreseeable future.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Bell said he hoped that some results from a human trial of the vaccine would be available by the middle of June.
Both partners have agreed to operate on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic, the university said, with only the costs of production and distribution being covered.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot told Today there was an agreement between companies within the pharmaceutical industry to help one another with production, and that the intention is to supply the vaccine free of charge during the pandemic.
Concerns about the affordability and eventual availability of a vaccine have previously been raised by leading charities such as MSF and Global Justice Now, who have called on the government to apply conditions to the funding given to pharmaceutical companies throughout the pandemic and regulations to be introduced to prevent monopolies from forming.
US scientists unveil first effective drug to treat coronavirus
Scientists in the US unveiled the first effective treatment against coronavirus on Wednesday, hailing the discovery as a major medical advance amid the nation’s huge death toll.
The nation’s government has said it is working to make the experimental antiviral medication remdesivir – which has previously been used in the fight against Ebola – available to patients as quickly as possible.
“What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious-disease expert. “This will be the standard of care.”
The US currently has by far the highest recorded number of confirmed cases and Covid-related deaths in the world.
More than 61,000 have died across the country, and health officials announced earlier this week that more than a million people had tested positive.
Abdel Babiker, professor of epidemiology and medical statistics at UCL, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “These are very encouraging results from the first large-scale randomised trial to report on any treatment of Covid-19.”
He said the group of adults admitted to hospital with advanced coronavirus who received remdesivir recovered “much faster” than the group that received a placebo.
Preliminary results also suggested a survival benefit, with a lower mortality rate of 8% for the group receiving the drug, compared with 11.6% for the placebo group, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) said.
BAME NHS workers should be risk-assessed, NHS England says
NHS workers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds should be “risk-assessed” over concerns they could be at greater risk of coronavirus, new guidance suggests.
A letter from NHS England urges health trusts to make “appropriate arrangements”, which could include moving those from ethnic minority backgrounds away from the front line to non-patient facing roles.
The official guidance says UK data is showing these workers are being “disproportionately affected by Covid-19”.
Data from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre has suggested 34.5% of critically ill Covid-19 patients have BAME backgrounds.
This is despite just 10.8% of the population being black or Asian, according to the 2011 census.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said Public Health England had been asked by the Department for Health and Social Care to look into the issue.
He added: “In advance of their report and guidance, on a precautionary basis we recommend employers should risk assess staff at a potentially greater risk and make appropriate arrangements accordingly.”
It could mean BAME health workers being relocated to different roles within the NHS or ensuring they are adequately fitted with personal protective equipment (PPE).
The department of health and social care announced on April 16 that a review would take place to look into why BAME people were being affected disproportionately.
No new domestic cases reported in South Korea for the first time since nation’s virus peak
South Korea has reported no new domestic coronavirus cases for the first time since February, the peak of the nation’s battle with Covid-19.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said on Thursday that they had seen just four new infections – all imported – taking the national tally to 10,765. The death toll rose by one to 247, while 9,059 have been discharged.
Of the total, 1,065 were imported cases, while more than 90% were Koreans, according to a KCDC statement.
The health authorities also concluded no local transmission occurred from a parliamentary election this month, where authorities took safety measures, including requiring voters to wear masks and plastic gloves when casting ballots.
“Twenty-nine million voters participated in the April 15 parliamentary election... Not one case related to the election has been reported during the 14 days of incubation period,” Yoon Tae-ho, director general for public health policy, told a briefing.
Yoon thanked staff and voters, who disinfected polling stations across the country and maintained a distance of one metre between each other.
After grappling with the first major outbreak outside China, South Korea has largely managed to bring the outbreak under control without major disruptions with a massive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing.
Captain Tom given colonel title to mark 100th birthday
Captain Tom Moore, who has raised £30m for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden, has been made an honorary colonel to mark his centenary celebrations.
Chief of the general staff general Sir Mark Carleton-Smith made the appointment, which has been approved by the queen, in order to inspire the next generation of soldiers.
The war veteran has received more than 140,000 cards ahead of is big day on Thursday, which will also be celebrated with a Battle of Britain memorial flight flypast of a Spitfire and a Hurricane
Royal Mail has painted a postbox in Moore’s village NHS blue in tribute to his fundraising efforts.
The postbox, in Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire, has been decorated with a golden balloon.
He has also been honoured with a Royal Mail postmark, with all stamped post until Friday marked “Happy 100th Birthday Captain Thomas Moore NHS fundraising hero 30th April 2020.”
Moore will not be leaving his house at all on Thursday and has asked that people stay at home and wish him a happy birthday from afar.
“It is quite extraordinary that I am turning 100,” he said.
“It is even more extraordinary that I am doing so with this many well-wishers and I am in awe at the response my walking has had.
“To everyone who has donated, sent birthday cards and messages, sincerely thank you. Please stay home, stay safe.
“Tomorrow will be a good day.”