UK unemployment jumped by 50,000 to 1.35 million in the three months to March as the labour market was hit by the coronavirus lockdown, new Office for National Statistics figures have revealed.
Early estimates for April 2020 indicate the number of paid employees fell by 1.6 per cent compared to March, as firms began to feel a greater impact from the lockdown.
Donald Trump has revealed he is taking malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to protect against Covid-19, despite warnings from his own government that it should only be administered for the new coronavirus in a hospital or research setting due to potentially fatal side effects.
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The US president has also threatened to permanently stop funding for the World Health Organisation (WHO) if it does not commit to improvements within 30 days, after accusing it of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the outbreak.
It comes as WHO has bowed to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent investigation into its management of the international response to the coronavirus.
Lockdown changes for remote communities?
Asked whether lockdown could be lifted entirely in remote island or isolated communities which do not have any recorded cases of Covid-19, Professor Dame Angela McLean said: “I can tell you for sure location is a huge focus of ours at the moment.
“Islands are a very special case which is, of course, particularly interesting… the spread of the infection across the country is really quite diverse, quite heterogeneous and that does, of course, raise interesting questions.”
Schools reopening ‘not politically motivated’
George Eustice denied that the government had “put science to one side” to push for the reopening of schools on 1 June.
He said: “We do believe it is important that initially we get the year ones and Year sixs back into a school environment to help prepare them for the move up to secondary school, in the case of the latter, and to also help settle in the younger children in the former.
“We do believe that other countries, like Denmark, have demonstrated how it is possible in fact to bring schools back into opening, albeit in a socially distanced way, albeit with fewer pupils initially and staggering the times that year groups arrive and so on.
“Other countries have demonstrated ways that this can be done. I think it is important we learn from those other countries and that’s exactly what we are trying to do.”
Lack of testing capacity ‘affected scientific advice’
Pressed on the decision in March to ‘scale back’ testing in March and focus on patients in hospital, Angela McLean said that testing capacity played a part in the scientific advice being given to ministers.
At that time the World Health Organisation was urging all countries to test, trace and track.
“The advice that we gave certainly took account of what testing was available,” Ms McLean said.
“It was the best thing to do with the tests that we had. We could not have people in hospital with Covid symptoms not knowing whether or not they had Covid.”
Mr Eustice said the decision was made to prioritise tests on the NHS. He doesn’t address the issue of whether attempts were being made to increase capacity at that time.
He said: “I think it’s the case that early on in this epidemic, clearly there was a priority to make sure that people showing symptoms who worked in the NHS because of their close proximity with patients had those tests so there was priority given to those.
“But we are now in the position where we’re able to offer testing to anybody over the age of five with symptoms and that’s going to be quite crucial to developing our track and trace capabilities in the months ahead.”
Pick for Britain website crashes
The government has issued a plea to furloughed workers to help with harvesting crops – but its new recruitment website quickly ran into technical difficulties.
As George Eustice called for workers to take up fruit picking as a second job, visitors to the site were met with the message: “This service is unavailable”.
Asked about testing, Angela McLean said it was “the right thing to do” to focus on coronavirus testing for people in hospital earlier in the outbreak.
Mr Eustice admits the UK did not have as much capacity for testing as Germany from the start but has since built it up.
In response to a question about support for people who cannot return to work yet (hospitality, airlines etc), Mr Eustice says the Treasury is looking at how its furlough scheme and other assistance can “evolve” in response.
Deaths ‘consistently falling’ across hospitals, care homes and the community
Here’s an explanation of the different figures on deaths with Covid-19.
Regional variation in hospital patients with coronavirus
While London’s figures have fallen sharply, other areas are decreasing more slowly- albeit from a lower peak.
Chart of daily deaths
Here’s confirmation of the latest figures on coronavirus deaths – which shows yesterday’s figure was the highest in a week.
Changes in Transport use
Here’s the government slide showing the changes in different kinds of transport use – goods vehicles are returning to normal levels while car use is slowly increasing.
Pick for Britain
George Eustice calls for people to take on an extra job by joining the Pick for Britain campaign.
“Every year large numbers of people come from countries such as Romania or Bulgaria to take part in the harvest, harvesting crops such as strawberries and salads and vegetable,” he said.
“We estimate that probably only about a third of the people that would normally come are already here, and small numbers may continue to travel. But one thing is clear and that is that this year we will need to rely on British workers to lend a hand to help bring that harvest home.”
Here’s details of how you can get involved.
Environment secretary calls on furloughed workers to pick for Britain
Less than 100,000 tests carried out yesterday
In the 24-hour period up to 9am on Tuesday, 89,784 tests were carried out or dispatched, with a total of 2,412 positive results.
Overall a total of 2,772,552 tests have been carried out, and 248,818 cases have been confirmed positive.
Breaking – UK death toll rises by 545 to 35,341
Eustice to lead public briefing at 5pm
Environment secretary George Eustice is heading up the daily briefing today.
He is joined by the Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser Angela McLean.
MPs demand privacy law before NHS app launches
Former deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman, who chairs Westminster’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, said she was “at a loss” why ministers had so far failed to bring legislation forward to address concerns about the new tracing system.
Wales considering changes to coronavirus restrictions outdoors
Health minister Vaughan Gething has said the Welsh government’s review of lockdown rules next week will consider evidence about the lower risk of being infected outside.
It follows a report from the government’s Technical Advisory Cell that the virus is “very likely to decay very quickly (a few minutes) in air and on surfaces when exposed to sunlight.”
Mr Gething told the daily press briefing: “This is the developing evidence that we are receiving and, obviously, we are reviewing our rules on lockdown every three weeks as we’re required by the law that’s been introduced.
“And so we need to think about what that then means, not just about being outside, but who you’re outside with, and the level of contact you have.”
Northern Ireland now allows gatherings of up to six people outdoors, while in England people are allowed to meet up with one other person from another household.
Wales reported a further 17 deaths today, taking the total to 1,224. The number of confirmed cases grew by 166 to 12,570.
Commons staff resisting Rees-Mogg drive to force MPs back to Westminster
A revolt by parliamentary staff could kill off Jacob Rees-Mogg’s plans for an early return of MPs to Westminster, amid warnings that he risks creating a pool of hundreds of coronavirus “super-spreaders” in the House of Commons, political editor Andrew Woodcock writes.
Mr Rees-Mogg is pressing for a move away from virtual sessions as early as next month, and today accused Labour of opposing the full re-opening of Parliament in a bid to “stymie” the government’s legislative agenda.
But Labour MPs retorted that Rees-Mogg only wants MPs back in the hope that baying ranks of Tories on the backbenchers will bolster a “floundering” Boris Johnson at prime minister’s questions.
Church access ‘will have to be supervised’
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has said access to buildings will have to be supervised “for the foreseeable future” once restrictions are lifted.
Places of worship are scheduled to open on 4 July at the earliest under step three of the Government’s coronavirus recovery strategy.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, suggested different sections of buildings could be open on different days to enable cleaning to take place.
Speaking during a Zoom panel briefing hosted by the Religion Media Centre, the cardinal said: “I think one thing is very clear, access to a church in the foreseeable future will be supervised, so it’s not as if the church doors will be flung open and say ‘come in when you want’.
“There will have to be people there, the whole process will have to be supervised.”
He added: “Each day a different section of the church might be made available, it doesn’t have to be the whole church, the whole time.”
Global experts tell MPs how they avoided UK’s care home crisis
MPs have been told how countries such as South Korea and Hong Kong acted swiftly to prevent care home deaths from coronavirus as UK experts warned nursing homes were still facing testing delays, a shortage of kit and a lack of funding, health correspondent Shaun Lintern reports.
Members of the Commons health and social care committee were told there had been no deaths in care homes in South Korea or Hong Kong while in Germany the number of deaths has been limited to 3,000 compared with more than 12,500 in the UK.
Experts said this was in large part due to each country reacting quickly to the emergence of the virus and taking tougher steps sooner to isolate cases and protect care homes from becoming infected.