3.21pm BST

John Lewis is reopening its textiles factory in Lancashire, which usually makes curtains, pillows and duvets, to make 8,000 clinical gowns for the NHS to help medical staff caring for coronavirus patients.

The department store’s Herbert Parkinson factory is bringing back 15 expert sewers from furlough, who will use medical-grade fabric to make washable protective gowns for staff at the Northumbria NHS foundation trust which runs at least nine hospitals and other clinical centres in the north-east.

The move comes amid a shortage of protective equipment for NHS workers, and particularly protective gowns made with the non-woven, spun bond, laminate called SMMS, which John Lewis will use.

at 3.21pm BST

3.19pm BST

The eminent barrister and writer Philippe Sands, suggests that the attorney general, Suella Braverman, should intervene to stop Dominic Cummings from attending Sage meetings.

Philippe Sands

Cummings’ attendance at #SAGE meetings exposes UK Government to charge that it has not proceeded diligently on basis of scientific advice, which brings serious legal risks – @attorneygeneral should get him out, now https://t.co/BV1b2Zcr1z @matthew_weaver

April 26, 2020

Braverman, is best known for her passion for Brexit and loyalty to the government, so this seems highly unlikely, but it’s an interesting suggestion.

2.53pm BST

Test rates fall sharply in Wales

Empty drive through testing facility at Cardiff City Stadium a Photograph: No Credit

Testing for coronavirus remains a particular problem in Wales.

A reader, who did not want to be named, emailed a photo of an empty testing centre at Cardiff Stadium at 1.45pm on Sunday.

The reader said:

In general I think we in Wales are being really let down as there is no worthwhile scrutiny – the UK press are ignoring devolution differences.

The Welsh government has scraped a target for 5,000 tests per day blaming problems with obtaining supplies.

And health minister Vaughan Gething claimed the lockdown had been so effective that 5,000 test per day are no longer needed.

Despite daily testing capacity increasing to 1,800, the numbers of completed tests fell from 1,301 on Friday to 775 on Saturday, Public Health Wales said.

The first minister, Mark Drakeford has defended the delay in launching an online system for key workers to book coronavirus tests in Wales.

Speaking to the BBC he said he wanted to ensure the online booking system worked before it was launched.

We have been testing the system over this week and we have been using it already with some workers to make sure it will withstand the pressure it is bound to come under, and we hope to be able to use it more extensively next week.

In England, where you have seen they have used it for the last two days, the system has fallen over within a couple of hours of it being released. That is because of the demand that system came under. We want to try and make sure our system will be robust from the first day.

2.13pm BST

Deaths in English hospitals increase by 336 – the lowest rise in April

NHS England has announced that 336 people have died from coronavirus, taking England’s total to 18,420.

This is the lowest daily rise announced by the NHS England since the end of March. Lower figures tend to be announced on Sundays when there are fewer staff to verify the numbers.

The victims were aged between 28 and 100 years old. Only 22 of the victims had no known underlying health condition.

At the start of the outbreak, deaths were concentrated in London. Now the deaths are more evenly spread across England. The NHS gave this breakdown:

East of England 49
London 64
Midlands 57
North East & Yorkshire 66
North West 46
South East 43
South West 11

at 2.57pm BST

2.03pm BST

Tracey Brown Photograph: Handout

The director of Sense About Science and former chief executive of the Science Council has called on the government to be more open about its scientific advisory group after the Guardian revealed that Dominic Cummings has attended some of its meetings.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, Tracey Brown said “opacity is the problem”. She said: “I think the composition of that committee is something for government to justify and explain and would only make sense if government did start explaining its thinking in how it’s using the output of that committee, what weight it is giving to different advice in looking at the trade-offs that we’ve got to make to work our way through this crisis.

“The focusing on Sage and particular members of Sage – we’re going to see more of this circus, sort of outing of people, the differences in decisions, the differences in advice, differences in views and that kind of thing unless Government works out how to get into a better conversation with the nation.”

1.45pm BST

While former Vote Leave campaigner Ben Warner, has been sitting in on Sage meetings alongside Dominic Cummings, his brother Marc Warner has been given a role in developing the contact tracing app.

Marc, the founder of Faculty. AI, has been recruited to advice the government on the data science, Carole Caldwalladr reminds us.

Marc Warner previously co-authored a paper by Oxford’s Big Data Institute backing the concept.

Carole Cadwalladr

So that’s Ben Warner. Who now either sits ‘on’ SAGE. Or ‘at’ SAGE. Or whatever you want to call it. While his brother now has access to entire our health data & is modelling the pandemic. Alongside Peter Thiel’s Palantir.

April 26, 2020

We should point out that the Scott Trust, the ultimate owner of the Guardian, is the sole investor in GMG Ventures, which is a minority shareholder in Faculty.

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1.41pm BST

People around the UK have come up with inventive ways to take part in the 2.6 Challenge, which involves any activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26, to fundraise or donate to their chosen charity via twopointsixchallenge.co.

People skip, swim and play for the 2.6 charity challenge in the UK – video

1.24pm BST

WHO clarifies ‘immunity passport’ advice

The World Health Organization (WHO) has sought to clarify the advice it published on Saturday about so-called “immunity passports”, which could be issued to people who have recovered from Covid-19 on the assumption that they would be immune to reinfection.

The WHO alarmed some in the scientific community when it said, in a briefing note published on Saturday, that “there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection”.

Late last night, the Geneva-based body walked back its statement, saying: “We expect that most people who are infected with #COVID19 will develop an antibody response that will provide some level of protection.”

Our global coronavirus blog has more:

1.21pm BST

Sage concerns about presence of Cummings

The involvement of the prime minister’s chief political adviser, Dominic Cummings, in meetings of the scientific group advising the UK government’s response to the coronavirus has left other attendees shocked, concerned and worried for the impartiality of advice, the Guardian can reveal.

One attendee of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said they felt Cummings’s interventions had sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be an impartial scientific process.

A second Sage attendee said they were shocked when Cummings first began participating in Sage discussions, in February, because they believed the group should be providing “unadulterated scientific data” without any political input.

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1.19pm BST

The environment secretary, George Eustice, has been lined up to lead today’s Downing Street briefing.

He is expected to be joined by Steven Powis, the medical director of the NHS.

1.04pm BST

Sage concerned about reliability of antibody tests

Key advisers on the on the government’s scientific advisory group have cautioned against too much focus on antibody tests, amid reports that ministers have ordered up to 50m of them.

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a member, said such test would be very useful, but a “distraction” until reliable tests can be found.

Jeremy Farrar

Thank you all replies. In COVID19 reliable,robust rapid test for antibodies would be very useful & science, R&D must continue at pace. But are a distraction until we have one. Focus now must be massive increase testing virus,ELISA for Ab,isolation,contact tracing & clinical care

April 26, 2020

And a new paper by Imperial College London, co-authored by Sage member Prof Neil Ferguson warns that these tests are only 90% reliable or less on rapid diagnostic tests.

It cautions against using antibody tests as the basis for immunity passports.

It says:

Poor specificity will result in non-immune individuals receiving an immunity passport and potentially put at risk. Conversely, poor sensitivity compromises the effectiveness of such a scheme and would result in individuals with acquired immunity ineligible for an immunity passport and uncertain of their infection risk.

12.14pm BST

More than 1,250 British travellers in Bangladesh are to be brought back to the UK after the government chartered a further five repatriation flights amid the coronavirus pandemic, PA Media reports.

Flights from Dhaka to London will take place between 29 April and 7 May and bring the total number of flights from Bangladesh organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to nine.

One of the outbound planes will carry United Nations staff and medical professionals deploying to support the Covid-19 response in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Once completed, the government will have brought back more than 2,100 British travellers from the country in total.

Due to the number of people already registered for a flight via the CTM website, the majority of seats are likely to be allocated to people who are on waiting lists, the FCO added.

Foreign Office minister of state Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon said:

This weekend, a total of 850 British travellers are due to return to the UK from Bangladesh on the first phase of our special chartered flights. I’m pleased we have now announced five additional flights which will enable over 1,000 more Brits to come back home.

Our teams in Bangladesh and the UK continue to work around the clock to support British nationals during this difficult time and get them home safely.

More than 13,200 people have returned to the UK on FCO-chartered flights from 18 different countries or territories. On Thursday, the FCO said more than 3,600 Britons stranded in India would be brought home on 14 flights starting on Tuesday, bringing the total number of repatriation flights from India up to 52.

More than 1,700 Britons have returned from South Africa and over 1,200 people have been flown back from Peru.

at 1.49pm BST

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