Eight Things You Need To Know About Coronavirus Today

The UK is 'at the peak' of the crisis, and MPs are urging the government to make sure BAME people are not unfairly targeted by police during lockdown.

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The state of Missouri is suing the Chinese government, an RAF plane loaded with PPE has finally returned to the UK from Turkey, and temperatures of 24C are expected in UK in the coming days.

According to the latest figures:

  • The number of people who have died in hospitals in the UK has risen by 759 in 24 hours, bringing the total to 18,100.
  • The number of people who have tested positive in the UK reached 133,495.
  • 22,814 tests were carried out on Tuesday, with the government under pressure to reach its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April.
Statista

Here are the latest developments on Covid-19:

Chris Whitty: ‘Return to normal life in 2020 is wholly unrealistic’

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty during a media briefing in Downing Street
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty during a media briefing in Downing Street
PA Video - PA Images via Getty Images

Chris Whitty said the chances of either a vaccine or effective treatment being available in this “calendar year” were “incredibly small”.

And so the government’s effort must be focused on keeping the infection, or R, rate below one so that each person infected with Covid-19 passes it on to less than one other person on average.

A failure to do this could see the NHS overwhelmed and so there is only a “narrow” range of options available to ministers when considering how to ease the current lockdown, which will be reviewed again on May 7.

These include measures to balance Covid-19 deaths against deaths from other causes because the NHS is focusing on the virus, as well as analysing whether lockdowns can damage people’s mental and physical health, and whether the economic impact can also shorten lives.

Whitty told the daily Downing Street briefing: “This disease is not going to be eradicated, it is not going to disappear.

“We have to accept that we are working with a disease that we are going to be with globally for the foreseeable future.”

He added: “If people are hoping it’s going to suddenly move from where we are now in lockdown suddenly into everything’s gone, that is a wholly unrealistic expectation.

“We are going to have to do a lot of things for really quite a long period of time, the question is what is the best package.”

Tesco to start testing shop workers for coronavirus

Customers queuing two metres apart outside the Tesco Express store on Tottenham Court Road, London
Customers queuing two metres apart outside the Tesco Express store on Tottenham Court Road, London
EMPICS Entertainment

Tesco has said its shop workers will start receiving coronavirus tests this week as the government ramps up its testing efforts.

In a letter to customers, chief executive Dave Lewis said Tesco will begin to trial testing for its workers in one region of the UK.

It is understood the voluntary testing will be available for around 200 staff and comes after talks between supermarket bosses and the government.

The supermarket added that the testing will only be “for critical workers currently experiencing symptoms or for those with symptoms who are living with critical workers”.

Tesco said that around 41,000 of its staff are absent each day, with the figure steadily falling.

It said it has recruited 50,000 temporary workers to plug the gap and keep operations running in recent weeks.

UK ‘at the peak’ of outbreak, says Matt Hancock

Health secretary Matt Hancock said today the UK was “at the peak” of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Speaking in the Commons during PMQs on Wednesday, he added: “I just want to thank everyone from across the country for their steadfast commitment in following the rules, including in this House.”

If Hancock is correct, then cases of coronavirus can be expected to keep dropping, although deaths – which lag behind new infections as it takes time for people to get progressively sicker after infection – may still rise.

Reaching the peak is a milestone in the fight against the pandemic but is far from the end of the crisis.

Hancock went on to say the “test, track and trace” approach is a “critical” part of keeping the spread of the virus low, which in turn will allow the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Labour accuses government of ignoring British companies offering PPE

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaking during PMQs
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaking during PMQs
PA

Keir Starmer has said a “pattern” of government mistakes in dealing with the coronavirus is emerging, as Labour claimed 36 British companies who offered to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) had been ignored.

In his first PMQs as Labour leader Starmer said “something is going wrong” with the UK’s handling of the crisis.

Starmer was facing Dominc Raab, who is standing in for Boris Johnson while the prime minister recovers from Covid-19.

Labour said the firms who had “not received a reply” from the government included Issa Exchange Ltd in Birmingham, which had offered a quarter of a million aprons and masks; Network Medical Products in Ripon, which says it can provide 100,000 face visors a week; and CQM Learning, which says it can provide 8,000 face shields a day.

Starmer said: “A pattern is emerging here. We were slow into lockdown. Slow on testing. Slow on PPE. And now slow to take up these offers from British firms.”

Starmer also backed calls for the government to formally recommend people wear face masks on transport and in workplaces where social distancing is difficult.

Masks wouldn’t stop wearers catching the virus, but could help those who have the disease and are “asymptomatic” from spreading it to others. Several countries including Germany are advising the public to wear masks.

Health secretary Matt Hancock will meet ministers on Thursday to decide whether to make the recommendation.

Police must not unfairly target ethnic minorities during lockdown, MPs warn

Priti Patel has been warned by MPs that police must not repeat the “problems of stop and search” by unfairly targeting ethnic minorities while enforcing the coronavirus lockdown.

In a letter to the home secretary seen by HuffPost UK, the cross-party group said while the emergency powers handed to police were “clearly necessary” to prevent the spread of the virus, civil liberties must not be “curtailed more than necessary”.

Last week police in England revealed they had issued 3,203 fines against people for breaching lockdown measures between March 27 and April 13.

Men were overwhelmingly the worst offenders, accounting for 82% of cases.

The majority (60%) of offenders identified as white, 23% did not identify their ethnicity, 10% were Asian, 4% were Black and 2% were mixed race.

NHS staff recalled after coronavirus tests deemed ‘not up to scratch’

Some NHS staff already tested for coronavirus may have been given inaccurate results, social care minister Helen Whately has admitted.

She told Sky News those workers were being offered another Covid-19 test after their initial tests were decided to be “not up to scratch”.

Whately said: “My understanding from the clinical advisers is some of the early tests were evaluated and the evaluation was actually they weren’t effective enough.

“This is a normal process when you are using a test for an illness – which, as we know, is a new illness, and we’re learning all the time.

“Those who were tested with the test that we think is not up to scratch have been written to, to let them know, and they will be offered another test.”

Earlier on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, she defended the government’s efforts to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and care workers.

She said the government had been contacted by more than 8,000 potential suppliers and that ministers are concentrating on those with established supply chains.

“What the team is doing (...) is moving quickest on those who have the largest scale that they can supply because we need billions of items of PPE,” she said.

RAF plane loaded with PPE finally lands in UK

An RAF plane, believed to be carrying a delayed consignment of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff, has landed in the UK.

Flight tracker RadarBox showed the Airbus A400-M registered ZM416 depart Istanbul and land just after 3.30am on Wednesday at RAF Brize Norton, PA Media reports.

The plane had been dispatched from the Oxfordshire base, where two other planes are on stand-by to pick up further kit from Turkey, late on Monday.

It is not known if the consignment, which was ordered on Thursday and originally due to arrive on Sunday, includes 400,000 badly-needed surgical gowns.

The government has come in for mounting criticism over its failure to ensure NHS staff treating coronavirus patients have the protective equipment they need.

Missouri becomes first state to sue China over coronavirus outbreak

The US state of Missouri has become the first to sue the Chinese government over its handling of the coronavirus, in a move critics say is yet another attempt to deflect attention from President Trump’s slow response to the crisis which has so far killed 43,000 Americans.

The civil lawsuit, filed in federal court by Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt, alleges negligence, among other claims. The complaint alleges Missouri and its residents have suffered possibly tens of billions of dollars in economic damages and seeks cash compensation.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

“The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease,” Schmitt, a Republican, said in a statement. “They must be held accountable for their actions.”

The lawsuit also accuses the Chinese government of making the pandemic worse by “hoarding” masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

According to lawyers consulted by Reuters, the lawsuits are highly likely to fail.

A legal doctrine called sovereign immunity offers foreign governments broad protection from being sued in US courts, said Tom Ginsburg, a professor of international law at the University of Chicago.

Ginsburg also said he thought the recent flurry of lawsuits against China serve a political end for Republican leaders facing an election in November.

“We are seeing a lot of people on the political right focus on the China issue to cover up for the US government’s own errors,” he said.

Earlier developments:

  • Universities are offering £625 for volunteers to take part in trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine. Volunteers must be aged 16-25 and live in London, the Thames Valley, Bristol and Southampton. More information on the trials and how to apply can be found here.
  • The public’s ability to uphold the lockdown will be tested in coming days, with the UK expected to see temperatures of up to 24C. The country has seen its hottest April in six years.