Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow, joining the blog.
We are about to get the latest weekly death figures from the Office for National Statistics. Unlike the daily figures produced by the Department for Health and Social Care, these figures include care home deaths.
Nick Stripe, head of the health analysis and life events division at the ONS, posted this on Twitter about the release yesterday.
Hopes in Scotland for new anti-viral drug
Scientists hope to begin clinical tests of a new anti-viral drug which has had positive results in laboratory tests against Covid-19.
Pneumagen, a University of St Andrews spin-out company, carried out three separate in-vitro studies into preventing coronavirus infections, reports the Press Association.
The successful studies involved both treating infection and blocking new infections.
Chief executive Douglas Thomson said:
Today’s positive results from in-vitro studies of our mCBMs against coronaviruses show that glycan binding has the potential to prevent and treat infection.
“This further supports the value of our universal therapeutic modality to block access to lung cells of Sars-CoV-2, as well as other viruses, that cause respiratory tract infections, providing the potential for a pan-viral respiratory product.
Our goal is now to rapidly begin clinical testing for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19.
We’ve reported this morning that at least 15m more cases of domestic violence are predicted this year as a result of pandemic restrictions, according to new data.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has also calculated that tens of millions of women will not be able to access modern contraceptives this year, and millions more girls will undergo female genital mutilation or be married off by 2030.
Discussing the domestic abuse bill, which is to have its second reading in the Commons on Tuesday, Victoria Atkins told BBC Breakfast said it would introduce new powers, protective orders, and change various measures in courts to help protect victims.
What we’ve done in terms of our response to the Covid-19 crisis is that we have been listening to charities delivering these services on the frontline.
In response to the huge increase in calls to helplines and engagement with web services, the government has announced a further £2m to bolster services. She added:
In addition, today we are very conscious of the impact this may be having on children living in abusive households, so we have announced a £3m fund today to help those charities … to ensure that the children receive the immediate care they need.
If you, or someone you know, need help escaping domestic violence, the NHS lists the following help lines:
- Women can call the freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge on 0808 2000 247 at any time, day or night. The staff will offer confidential, non-judgmental information and support.
- Men can call Men’s Life Advice on 0808 8010 327 (Monday and Wednesday, 9am to 8pm, and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 9am to 5pm) for non-judgemntal information and support.
- Men can also call ManKind on 0182 3334 244 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm)
- If you identify as LGBTQ+ you can call Galop on 0800 999 5428 for emotional and practical support.
- Anyone can call Karma Nirvana on 0800 5999 247 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) about forced marriage and “honour” crimes. You can also call 020 7008 0151 to speak to the government’s Forced Marriage Unit.
Hancock was asked by LBC host Nick Ferrari whether he accepted that mistakes were made in the provision of PPE. He replied:
Well, there are things that we’ve changed as we’ve gone through, both because we’ve learnt more things about the virus, also because things didn’t work out as we expected.
Pushed, he added:
A huge amount of people are doing everything they can and have done since the start of this crisis, and of course this is a very, very complicated logistical effort but I don’t want to play down the enormous efforts of many thousands of people.
Asked whether it had been right to allow the Cheltenham Festival to go ahead, Hancock said there would be a review.
Hancock defended the decision to let the racing event go ahead in March, and said:
We followed the scientific advice, we were guided by that science. I think broadly we took the right measures at the right time. We were ahead of many other countries in Europe in terms of when we took the measures.
Hancock said that people in care homes who go to hospital for non-Covid reasons will not be discharged until they are known not to have the virus, after one caller – Victor, from Loughton, Essex, who runs a care home – said 12 of his residents died when someone with Covid-19 was moved in.
I’m not going to say, you know, it’s a matter for the care home; it’s actually a matter for all of us, and exactly as Victor says, because you know, when this horrible disease gets into a care home, some of the people who are most vulnerable to it live in care homes.
One thing that we’ve done is introduced testing for everybody leaving hospital going to care homes to avoid the situation that Victor talks about.
He also addressed Victor’s concerns about PPE in private care homes and said:
The responsibility sits on my shoulders.Because of the need to increase the amount of PPE, we’ve stepped up and put in place extra processes and allow the access to the NHS PPE distribution and expanded that to care homes.
Hancock refuses to apologise to son of doctor who died after highlighting PPE shortage
Matt Hancock is having a difficult morning. When he began to take questions from members of the public on the Nick Ferrari show on LBC, he was confronted by Intisar Chowdhury, the son of Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury who we heard earlier on Today. (See 7.49am.)
Challenging Hancock, Chowdhury asked why his father’s letter to the prime minister which appealed for more PPE was ignored. He said:
When he was unwell he wrote an open letter to the prime minister appealing for more PPE for NHS frontline workers. It was a request that was ignored. Two weeks later he passed away and since then over 100 NHS and social care workers have passed away from contracting the virus.
Do you regret not taking my dad’s concerns, my 11-year-old sister’s dad’s concerns, and my mother’s husband’s concerns seriously enough for my dad that we’ve all lost?
The health secretary replied:
Intisar, I’m really sorry about your dad’s death and I have seen the comments you’ve made and what you’ve said in public, and I think it’s very brave of you to be speaking out in public.
We took very, very seriously what your father said and we’ve been working around the clock to ensure that there’s enough protective equipment. In the case of anybody who works in the NHS or in social care [who] has died from coronavirus, we look into it in each case to find out the reasons why they might have caught it and what lessons we can learn.
Asked to response to what Hancock said, Chowdhury replied:
Mr Hancock, the public is not expecting the public to handle this perfectly. None of us are expecting perfection. We are expecting progression. We just want you to openly acknowledge there have been mistakes in handling the virus, especially for me and so many families that have really lost loved ones as a result of the virus and probably as a result of government not handling it seriously. Openly acknowledging a mistake is not an admission of guilt. It is genuinely just making you seem more human. So could you please do that for me later today, at the press conference today, maybe a public apology.
In response Hancock said:
It is very important that we are constantly learning about how to do these things better, and listening to the voices on the frontline is a very, very important part of how we improve.
Here is a link to a video of the exchange.
Matt Hancock’s defence of the government’s handling of PPE this morning comes after it emerged that key items of personal protective equipment (PPE) were not included in the government’s pandemic stockpile when coronavirus reached the UK, an investigation has found.
BBC Panorama reported that gowns, visors, swabs and body bags were left out of the stockpile when it was set up in 2009. Some of the items are now in short supply.
The full story is here:
A chartered flight carrying 200,000 fluid-resistant gowns is expected to arrive in Wales from Cambodia and China today, reports the South Wales Guardian.
Today’s flight has been arranged through Welsh contacts and is the first of two due to arrive this week, which will replenish vital supplies of gowns for the NHS and social care staff in Wales.
In total, 660,000 gowns will be flown in to Cardiff airport on the flights, from Phnom Penh, in Cambodia and Hangzhou, in China.
The first minister, Mark Drakeford, said:
Since the start of the pandemic, we have been working very hard to make sure we continue to get the right supply of PPE for Wales.
Coronavirus has put supplies under pressure around the world. Today’s flight is the result of a lot of hard work behind the scenes to secure new supplies of gowns for our frontline workers.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said the government has distributed more than a billion items of PPE.
Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC, he said:
People need to have the PPE according to the guidelines, the guidelines do say that in some cases PPE can safely be reused and that’s a good thing because PPE is in global short supply.
When asked if he would wear re-used PPE that was originally designed as single-use on future visits to hospitals, Hancock said:
If that is what is clinically advised, then yes of course. What we’ve managed to do during this crisis is improve ways that kit like that can be sterilised and then safely re-used and that’s work that has been ongoing.
Online grocery sales are expected to grow by around a third during 2020, due to the “seismic impact” that Covid-19 is having on people’s shopping habits, PA Media reports.
The online grocery market is forecast to grow by 33% in 2020 to reach an estimated value of £16.8bn, up from £12.7bn in 2019, market research agency Mintel said.
The big jump follows four years in a row of slowing growth. In 2019, growth fell to a historic low of just 2.9%. Mintel estimates the market will be worth £17.9bn by 2024, growing by 41% over the five-year period.
Nick Carroll, associate director of retail research at Mintel, said:
Covid-19 has had a seismic impact on Britain’s grocery sector. [T]he impact will last beyond the crisis. Shopper numbers in the online grocery market have plateaued in recent years as retailers struggled to get new customers to try these services. The outbreak is bringing a new audience to online grocery, and this should boost the market long term with strong growth forecast through to 2024.
Son of doctor killed by Covid-19 says government should apologise
The son of a doctor who died of coronavirus after warning Boris Johnson about a lack of protective equipment has spoken powerfully on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.
Intisar Chowdhury, the 18-year-old son of Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a consultant urologist at Homerton hospital in east London who died after contracting Covid-19, called on the government to apologise to all the families of healthcare workers who had died during the pandemic. He said:
I definitely do want a public apology because I feel like the government response in not only handling the PPE crisis but the whole crisis wasn’t the best.
I think that we could forgive that as a country, as it’s such an unprecedented thing it’s hard to know what the right thing is to do, but they need to be able to hold themselves accountable for that, make an apology for that, learn from that and then move on so we can trust them more.
The 18-year-old’s father urged the prime minister to ensure every NHS worker was protected in a direct plea on Facebook last month shortly after being taken ill with Covid-19. Following the 53-year-old’s death on 8 April, his son said he was glad that the issue was now getting the attention it needed.
But asked about the government announcement of £60,000 for every family of a healthcare worker who has died as a result of the disease, he said:
It’s a step in the right direction, but if I’m being honest rather than the £60k for my family I would rather the efforts go into giving more PPE to NHS, because I have family friends and cousins that work in hospitals and they are still having to reuse their equipment and clearly they do not have the adequate equipment right now.
The money itself doesn’t really cover up the fact that the government hasn’t really made a public apology yet. They have a press conference every single day where they have an opportunity to own up to their mistakes and you know what as citizens none of us are expecting perfection from the government we are just expecting progression.
Good morning if you are joining us in the UK, I’m Alexandra Topping and I’ll be starting the UK coronavirus liveblog this morning.
Here are a roundup of today’s key stories
- The UK’s coronavirus frontline has switched from hospitals to care homes, according to sector leaders who have dismissed Boris Johnson’s claim that the virus has been “wrestled to the floor” as premature.
- A minute’s silence will be held across the UK later to commemorate the key workers who have died with coronavirus. Prime minister Boris Johnson, who returned to work on Monday, will join the tribute, which starts at 11am.
- Grieving families of NHS and social care workers who died after contracting coronavirus in the course of their duties will be entitled to a £60,000 payment, ministers announced on Monday as the reported death toll for frontline workers rose to 134.
- Ministers have held a series of high-level meetings with trades unions and business leaders amid fears that millions of people will be too fearful to return to work as pressure intensifies on the government to publish a path out of the national lockdown.
- The first minister of Wales has said he is ready to move the country out of lockdown earlier than the rest of the UK as he demands more contact from ministers at Westminster.