17/05/2020 10:26 BST | Updated 17/05/2020 10:45 BST

Coronavirus: More Than 17,000 Contact Tracers Hired By Government, And Four Other Stories You Need To Know

The Philippine's ambassador to the UK has called for more protection for NHS workers, and blood-thinning drugs could 'save lives' of critical patients. Here's the latest.

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More than 17,000 contact tracers have been hired by the government to track the spread of Covid-19, and Johnson has said he understands ‘people will feel frustrated’ with lockdown rules. 

According to the most recent figures, published by the Department of Health and Social Care on Saturday, 34,466 people have now died in the UK after contracting coronavirus and more than 240,000 people have tested positive for the virus. 

Here’s the latest:

More than 17,000 contact tracers recruited by government, Michael Gove reveals



The government has recruited more than 17,000 contact tracers and will introduce a test, track and isolate scheme by the end of May, Michael Gove has said.

The Cabinet Office minister praised the “energetic and determined” health secretary Matt Hancock for coming close to hitting his target to recruit 18,000 tracers by mid-May.

It marks a remarkable turnaround after it emerged that the government had only recruited 1,500 tracers earlier this week.

The tracers are set to play a key role in a mass programme of testing, tracking and isolating people with Covid-19 to combat its spread and give the government space to further lift the lockdown.

PM says he understands ‘people will feel frustrated’ with lockdown rules 


The PM has called for more patience from the nation as it plots a course back to normality, saying he is backing the British public’s fortitude and common sense to help the country recover.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Boris Johnson acknowledged frustrations over government plans for emerging from the coronavirus lockdown.

Restrictions in England have been eased – and the government message softened from “stay at home” to “stay alert” – but Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have not followed suit.

With debate over the reopening of schools and a return to work raging, an Opinium survey released this weekend has shown public dissatisfaction with the government’s response to Covid-19 has overtaken approval for the first time.

Johnson said he can “understand people will feel frustrated with some of the new rules”, but urged Britons to remain patient so the country “does not risk reversing the gains we have so far won in the fight against the virus”.

He wrote: “We are trying to do something that has never had to be done before – moving the country out of a full lockdown, in a way which is safe and does not risk sacrificing all of your hard work.

“I recognise what we are now asking is more complex than simply staying at home, but this is a complex problem and we need to trust in the good sense of the British people.

“If we all stick at it, then we’ll be able, gradually, to get rid of the complexities and the restrictions… but we must move slowly, and at the right time.”

Only 39% of Britons approve of the government’s response – down from 48% a week ago – according to an Opinium survey of 2,005 adults on Wednesday and Thursday.

Philippines’ ambassador to the UK calls for NHS workers to be protected

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At least 173 frontline health and care workers have died after contracting Covid-19. 

The Philippines’ ambassador to the UK has called for key workers to be “properly protected” after it was claimed Filipinos had the highest death rate of staff across the NHS and care services.

By May 16, the PA news agency had verified the deaths of 173 frontline health and care workers with Covid-19.

Of those, 23 – approximately 13% – were of Filipino heritage.

Among those to have lost their lives were two who died this week — Norman Austria, a healthcare assistant at the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton, and Jun Terre, a nurse at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire.

In a message to PA following the deaths, ambassador Antonio Lagdameo said: “I urge the NHS to ensure that those heroes who put their lives on the line for all of us are properly protected and equipped as they do their job.”

Francis Fernando, a nurse and officer for the Filipino Nurses Association UK, said he believes more of his compatriots have died working in the UK health and care system during the crisis than in the Phillippines.

While a lack of reliable data makes it difficult to prove definitively, Fernando believes the community has suffered more deaths in Britain’s health and care sector than any other ethnic group.

Official figures indicate that around 18,500 Filipinos worked in the NHS in England as of March 2019, roughly 1.5% of an estimated 1.2 million total workforce.

The vast majority of those workers were in nursing or clinical support positions, with the Philippines providing more staff in these roles than any other country outside the UK.

Blood-thinning drugs could ‘save lives’ of some Covid-19 patients 

Radoslav Zilinsky via Getty Images
Doctors believe that blood-thinning drugs could save the lives of some Covid-19 patients. 

Some of the UK’s leading doctors have found that blood-thinning drugs could help save the lives of Covid-19 patients. 

According to The Telegraph, specialists in London made the breakthrough discovery after finding that coronavirus had triggered potentially deadly blood clots in every seriously ill patient they tested.

NHS England is reportedly preparing to issue hospitals with new guidance on blood thinning, which could eventually lead to higher doses of the drugs for those in a critical condition. 

Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) sub-group on clinical information, said an “unprecedented amount of collaboration” between scientists had revealed “a really quite extraordinary story about a virus about which we hitherto knew nothing”.

More than 150 patients have been monitored using pioneering scanning technology, with doctors finding that injury to the lungs was “a lot more apparent” among those with coronavirus than it would be among other lung failure patients. 

Dr Brijesh Patel, a senior intensivist at Royal Brompton and Imperial, told The Telegraph: “I think the majority of patients will end up on significant therapeutic doses of blood-thinning agents as we learn more about this disease. If these interventions in the blood are implemented appropriately, they will save lives.”

Patel added: “I think it is important to introduce blood thinning agents that are associated with Covid, but you have to do it in the right way, otherwise you can cause harm.” 

Italian PM says ‘we must accept’ that reopening country could cause new outbreaks 

International travel to and from Italy is set to resume from June 3, as other areas of the nation's economy begin to reopen. 

Italian premier Giuseppe Conte has acknowledged reopening the economy brings a risk of new outbreaks of coronavirus, but said “we must accept it”.

He said the nationwide lockdown that began in early March had brought “the expected results”, putting the country in a position to expand economic activity in the second phase of reopening.

Shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, hairdressers and museums are among the business and cultural activities that can resume from Monday. Gyms and swimming pools can reopen a week after, while travel between regions and into Italy from abroad will be permitted from June 3.

Conte said the country must accept the risks and open before the availability of a vaccine, but added that an extensive monitoring system is in place and the government will intervene to close areas if there are new outbreaks.

Italy is the third worst-affected country in the world, falling behind only the UK and the US in terms of recorded deaths. More than 31,000 people in Italy have died after contracting the virus.