UK Coronavirus news live: Latest updates and deaths as antibody test approved for use | The Independent
Thursday 14 May 2020 13:35
A new test which could help determine if people have developed immunity to coronavirus has been approved for use in the UK, health leaders have said.
Public Health England (PHE) said scientific experts had last week carried out an evaluation of a new antibody blood test developed by a Swiss pharmaceutical company. The examination found Roche’s serology test was “highly specific” and had an accuracy of 100 per cent. The UK Coronavirus Testing Programme said it was a “very positive development”.
This come as the European Medicines Agency said that a vaccine for Covid-19 could be approved in about a year’s time in an “optimistic” scenario. “For vaccines, since the development has to start from scratch … we might look from an optimistic side in a year from now, so beginning of 2021,” said Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of vaccines.
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Scotland launches service to help Scots in midst of ‘economic uncertainty’
Nicola Sturgeon said a new telephone and online service had been launched to help Scots in the midst of the “economic uncertainty” caused by coronavirus.
She said Covid-19 had caused “very many people to worry about future job prospects”, as she spoke about the new services being provided by Skills Development Scotland.
“The phone line and web resources will provide people with access to a range of services that SDS has available,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“This will help individuals who are thinking about future job and career options, for example if you are currently on furlough, if you have been made redundant and are seeking employment, or if you are a school pupil or parent or carer who is thinking right now about what you might want to do after school.”
Keep a diary to help trace Covid-19 contacts, peer suggests
People have been urged to keep a diary of who they meet so that if they fall ill with Covid-19 it will be easier to trace contacts.
The idea came from Tory Baroness Rawlings in a Lords question time session taken virtually online.
It was endorsed by Health minister Lord Bethell who said personal tracing had a “powerful role” to play in isolating those with coronavirus.
Lady Rawlings, a former nurse and ex-chairman of King’s College, London, said testing and tracking were vital towards the lifting of restrictions.
Quarter of a million free food parcels sent out across Scotland, says Sturgeon
Some 250,000 free food parcels had been sent out to people in Scotland who are deemed to be most vulnerable to Covid-19 and who are shielding, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
Ms Sturgeon sought to reassure this group, telling them they would “not be forgotten about as we think about our next steps in tackling this virus and how we adapt to living with a new normal where this virus will be present for a long time”.
She stated: “We will set out steps over the days and weeks to come over how we do emerge from the lockdown, but I don’t want anybody in the shielding group to think you are being left behind.”
The airline industry has been turned inside out and overhauled as authorities work to contain the spread of Covid-19. Travellers arriving into new countries pose a significant risk – but what exactly is being done to ensure that these people are kept safe while in transit. Similarly, what procedures and measures have been introduced for when they arrive at their destinations?
Journalist and photographer Laurel Chor has some of the answers. She’s been tweeting about her experiences after flying from Paris to Hong Kong, via London.
Check out her Twitter thread below:
‘The first steps to reawaken our economy will be done in a slow and gradual way’
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government is “increasingly confident” that Ireland will be able to move to phase one of its coronavirus lockdown measures on Monday.
“We are seeing what we can achieve when we put the needs of the many above the needs of the few,” he told the Dail.
“The first steps to reawaken our economy will be done in a slow and gradual way.
“As we are seeing around the world, it is not a straight path. Sometimes progress is halted and there are setbacks.
“Whilst every death is of concern, in the last seven days we’ve seen the lowest daily number of deaths and cases since March.”
The official council for the French language has ruled the Covid-19 acronym is feminine, reports Zoe Tidman.
The Académie Française has said la Covid-19 is the correct way to refer to the virus, despite many people saying le Covid-19 over the course of the pandemic.
The body, whose members are known as “the immortals” and which advises on all matters related to the French language, said acronyms take the gender of the key word of the abbreviated phrase.
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It will take months for NHS services to resume, health experts warn
It will be months before the NHS is able to fully restart services in the face of Covid-19, health leaders have warned.
Experts from the Health Foundation, the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust will tell MPs on Thursday of the significant challenges facing the health service as it tries to create a “new normal”.
A separate report from NHS Providers, which represents NHS organisations, warns there are challenges to ramping up care for people with non-Covid conditions while still caring for Covid patients.
(Clinical staff wear PPE as they care for a patient at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge)
The organisations also said more personal protective equipment (PPE) will be needed as non-Covid services resume, more space must be allocated so patients and staff can socially distance, and there is a need for greater levels of testing.
These factors, together with the extra time needed for cleaning equipment and facilities, will “severely limit capacity for many months until the infection has been brought under control in the community,” they said.
The groups warned that the pandemic has exposed “pre-existing weaknesses”, most obviously a long-term under-investment in health and care services and a “precarious” social care system.
Slovakia allows travellers to self-isolate at home after quarantine centres criticised
The Slovak government has approved legislation that will allow people returning from abroad to self-isolate at home so long as they use a mobile app that will check on them, rather than be forced into quarantine in state-run facilities.
The compulsory quarantine, one of a series of measures taken by Slovakia to curb the spread of the coronavirus, has been criticised by Slovaks living abroad as well as by the state ombudswoman, who has said it potentially breaches basic human rights.
Health minister Marek Krajci said the launch of the application allowing a “smart” quarantine could be launched next Monday after it is approved by parliament.
“This smart solution will allow returnees to self-isolate at home if they agree to install the application after crossing the border,” he said.
Details on how the app will work are expected to be announced on Monday but one of the options is that it would use face-identification technology.
Lloyd’s of London has said the insurance industry could lose a record £166bn globally this year due to claims related to the coronavirus pandemic as events and holidays are cancelled and companies go out of business.
Lloyd’s said that once the full scale and impact of the coronavirus pandemic is fully understood, the cost to insurers is likely to be “far in excess” of historical events like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 9/11 terror attacks.
Lloyd’s own members are set to pay out up to £3.5bn this year. Losses could widen further if lockdown measures are extended into the next quarter, making the bill for Covid-19 bigger than the 9-11 terrorist attacks and all the devastating Caribbean hurricanes of 2017 combined, Lloyd’s warned on Thursday.
UK quarantine plans and minister comments hurting travel recovery, says industry chief
British government quarantine plans and a minister’s comments that international holidays were not likely this year are hampering any travel recovery, the CEO of British Airways parent company IAG has said.
Airlines have been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic and are making thousands of job cuts to try to survive. They had been hoping for a recovery to begin in July, but William Walsh said the British government was damaging the chances of this.
“The Prime Minister’s decision to quarantine people arriving in the UK, by air, and the Health Secretary’s comments that it was unlikely that ‘big, lavish international holidays’ were going to be possible this summer, have seriously set back recovery plans for our industry,” Mr Walsh said in a letter to parliament’s transport committee on Thursday.
Vietnam battles to save life of British pilot and prevent first Covid-19 death
Vietnam has mounted an all-out effort to save the life of its most critically ill coronavirus patient, a British pilot who works for Vietnam Airlines.
Little expense has been spared to try save the life of the 43-year-old man, identified only as “Patient 91”, who caught the virus at a bar in the southern business hub of Ho Chi Minh City in mid-March, state media reported.
More than 4,000 people connected to the cluster were tested, with 18 of them found to be infected with the coronavirus. While most have recovered, the British pilot is on life support and his condition has deteriorated significantly.
On Tuesday, the health ministry held a meeting with experts from top hospitals and decided that the only way to save the man’s life was a lung transplant.
The patient has just 10 per cent of his lung capacity left and has been on life support for more than 30 days, according to the Vietnam National Coordinating Centre for Human Organ Transplantation.
Authorities have spent more than 5 billion dong (£163,000) trying to save him, the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.
Through aggressive testing and a mass, centralised quarantine programme, the Southeast Asian country has kept its tally of coronavirus cases to just 288 and has reported no deaths.
Spain’s daily coronavirus death toll rose on Thursday above 200 for the first time since 8 May, the health ministry has reported.
A total of 217 people reportedly died overnight, bringing the country’s overall death toll to 27,321. The number of confirmed infections has risen to 229,540.
In Germany, the reported death toll rose by 89 to 7,723, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 933 on Thursday, a similar number to Wednesday, to stand at 172,239.
France to invest 1.3 billion euros in tourism sector
The French government has unveiled a 1.3 billion euros investment plan for the country’s tourism sector, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“What is good for the tourism industry, is often good for the whole of France,” said Prime minister Edouard Philippe.
Nearly 90 million foreign tourists visited France in 2018, making it the most visited country in the world, according to government data. Tourism accounts for about 7 per cent of France’s 2.3 trillion euro economy.
Police are examining CCTV footage of a man who coughed and spat at a railway ticket office worker two weeks before she died of Covid-19, reports Peter Stubley.
The suspect, described by one witness as around 50 years old and smartly dressed, claimed to be infected with the coronavirus when he confronted Belly Mujinga and a colleague at Victoria station on 21 March.
Ms Mujinga was admitted to hospital on 2 April and died three days later after testing positive for the disease.
On Wednesday night her employers Govia Thamslink Railway (GTR) confirmed it had passed video of the incident to police.
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Tube demand up 10% on Thursday compared with last week
There was a 10 per cent increase in London Underground journeys early on Thursday compared with the same period last week, Transport for London (TfL) has said.
Demand between 5am to 6am was up compared with last week but down from Wednesday.
People in England are being urged to return to work but avoid public transport.
Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said he would be prepared to board a packed bus or train to commute to work as the coronavirus lockdown is eased, although he acknowledged overcrowding was a problem.
The communities secretary told BBC Radio 5 Live: “You should be taking precautions like social distancing if you can – I appreciate that isn’t always possible and some of the scenes… show buses and Tubes too full to be able to sit two metres apart and that’s a problem.
“That’s one of the reasons why we are trying to encourage as many people as can to drive to work – if they have a car – or to walk or cycle.”
Hungary could end emergency powers in late June – PM aide
Hungary’s government could end emergency powers obtained to fight the coronavirus pandemic in late June, depending on the evolution of the pandemic, Prime minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.
Gergely Gulyas also told an online press briefing earlier that the government was considering an easing of restrictions in Budapest from next week due to a decline in infections.
Pandemic could help put Scotland on ‘open road’ to independent, claims SNP MP
The “incompetence” of the UK Government in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic will leave the road to Scottish independence open, a senior SNP politician has said.
Kenny MacAskill, a former Holyrood justice secretary who is now an MP, claimed Prime minister Boris Johnson has been shown to be “utterly hapless”.
He contrasted this with what he said was a “virtually flawless” performance of Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Ms Sturgeon has sought to keep party politics out of her handling of the pandemic, but Mr MacAskill argued the virus outbreak could further the cause of independence.
It comes amid differences in the handling of Covid-19 north and south of the border, with Mr Johnson easing restrictions in England and ditching the core “stay at home” message – which has remained in place in Scotland.
Results from human vaccine trial could be available in June, expert says
Results of a human trial of a coronavirus vaccine could be available by the middle of June, an expert has said.
Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said “several hundred” people have been vaccinated and the challenge now is to be able to manufacture at scale once it is approved by the regulators.
At the end of April a team of researchers at Oxford started testing a Covid-19 vaccine in human volunteers.
Around 1,110 are expected to take part in the trial, half receiving the vaccine candidate and the other half (the control group) receiving a widely available meningitis vaccine.
Prof Bell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We also want to make sure that the rest of the world will be ready to make this vaccine at scale so that it gets to populations in developing countries, for example, where the need is very great.
“We really need a partner to do that and that partner has a big job in the UK because our manufacturing capacity in the UK for vaccines isn’t where it needs to be, and so we are going to work together with AstraZeneca to improve that considerably.”
Uber will require its drivers to wear face masks – and will use new technology to confirm that they are complying, reports Adam Smith.
“Our new technology will verify if the driver is wearing a mask by asking them to take a selfie. After we verify the driver is covering their face, we’ll let the rider know via an in-app message” the company said in a blog post.
Unlike it’s other facial recognition software the “Real-Time ID Check”, which the company says “protects riders from unverified drivers, and also prevents fraud by ensuring drivers’ accounts are not compromised”, this technology only identifies the mask rather than the driver’s face or other biometric information.
Read more below:
Refugees test positive for Covid-19 on Greek island
Two refugees have tested positive for Covid-19 on the Greek island of Lesvos, local authorities have said.
The island is home to the sprawling Moria camp, where up to 19,000 asylum seekers currently live in overcrowded and squalid conditions.
Arrivals to Lesvos – one of the first European destinations for refugees fleeing war and impoverishment in the Middle East – are being placed into quarantine and tested by the National Public Health Organisation (EODY).
Although health officials were able to intercept the two refugees on this occasion, therefore preventing them from reaching Moria, concern has been raised over the continuing risk of infection that the island’s population is facing.
(Conditions in Moria are cramped and ripe for the rapid transmission of Covid-19)
Humanitarian group the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has called for Moria and other camps across Greece to be decongested.
“Tens of thousands of people across the Greek islands are at risk of exposure to the virus, including older people, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses,” said IRC Greece director Dimitra Kalogeropoulou.
“Refugees living in camps have limited ways of protecting themselves from the coronavirus; if it does reach the camps, the severe overcrowding and absence of proper sanitation mean that it will spread rapidly.
“It is essential that the camps are decongested, those most at risk are evacuated and sanitation facilities cover needs. While we welcome the transfers out of Moria that have already happened, quarantine areas should be set up on all islands, as well as health structures for both refugees and locals, to protect everyone from Covid-19.”
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