Coronavirus UK latest as government ‘may miss’ testing target

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Latest breaking coronavirus news and updates this Thursday as chief executive of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has told Sky News it should know if a potential COVID-19 vaccine it is working on with a team of scientists from the University of Oxford works "by June to July".

The government may miss its 100,000 daily testing target a minister has admitted.

It came as NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and NHS trusts in England, described the target as a "red herring" which has distracted attention from failings in the long-term Covid-19 strategy.

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NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson added that as many as 120,000 tests would be needed daily for NHS workers once the UK comes out of lockdown, to stave off a second wave of the virus.

Virtual proceedings and smaller juries may be necessary if jury trials are able to resume post-lockdown, the Lord Chief Justice has said.

Captain Tom Moore, the incredible war veteran who has raised over £29m for the NHS, turns 100-years-old today. and he has been made an honorary colonel.

Sainsbury's warned of a coronavirus hit of more than £500 million to the current year's profits as it said social distancing measures together with falls in clothing and fuel sales would offset surging grocery trade.

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A drug used to treat Ebola patients has shown "very promising" early results in a trial of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus, scientists said.

Liverpool Council is facing a £44m cliff edge due to the cost of the coronavirus crisis and a smaller-than-expected grant from the government, it has emerged.

The council faces £78m in increased costs and loss of income because of Covid-19 this financial year.

But it has only received £34m from government in two tranches, with the second lower than the first.

The Prince of Wales has said Covid-19 "threatens to run riot and wreak utter havoc" in vulnerable populations across the globe.

Captain Tom Moore is celebrating his 100th birthday at home with his family after a whirlwind few weeks in which he has been elevated to national hero status and raised almost £30 million for the NHS.

The news comes as UK deaths crossed the 26,000 mark – 3,811 more than had previously been estimated.

This is because the figures now take into account deaths in care homes and the wider community as well as hospitals.

Hospitals across the Liverpool City Region recorded 11 new coronavirus deaths in the Wednesday NHS update.

In total, 311 people have now died in the city's hospitals.

Wirral's main Trust, which includes Arrowe Park Hospital, also recorded three further coronavirus deaths, taking its total to 161.

Just one further death was recorded across Southport and Ormskirk's hospitals, making up a total of 111.

And in Halton and Warrington's hospitals, there have now been 80 deaths in total after a rise of one yesterday.

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Coronavirus latest

  • Anger at groups of boys on bikes
  • Tips to re-open
  • UK coronavirus deaths pass 26,000
  • Merseyside silent for key workers
  • Tributes to those lost
  • Check coronavirus cases where you live
  • Show your support to NHS Heroes
  • All our coronavirus stories in one place

Key Events

  • Scientists may know if UK vaccine works as early as June or July

KEY EVENT

Scientists may know if UK vaccine works as early as June or July

Chief executive of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has told Sky News it should know if a potential COVID-19 vaccine it is working on with a team of scientists from the University of Oxford works "by June to July".

Ben Turner-LE

Swastikas sprayed on signs urging people to stay at home

Police were "horrified" to find swastikas sprayed on signs urging people to stay at home and protect the NHS during the coronavirus outbreak.

A number of yellow "car park closed" signs along the coast between Seaton Sluice and Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, were attacked overnight by vandals.

At least five locations over two miles were attacked, including a sign saying "Car park closed, stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives".

Council teams were sent out to clean off the swastikas.

A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: "Whilst on patrol in the Blyth Road, Whitley Bay area, one of our special constables was horrified to come across two swastikas spray painted on to car park closure signs at the car park approaching St Mary's Lighthouse."

The force urged anyone with information to send details to the Report an Incident section of the Northumbria Police website.

Ben Turner-LE

Minister admits government may miss 100,000 daily testing target

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has admitted the Government may not meet its goal of 100,000 daily coronavirus tests but praised colleague Matt Hancock for being "bold" in setting the target.

Mr Buckland said the Government was "well on its way" to hitting the number but the Health Secretary deserved praise "even if the target isn't met today".

It came as NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and NHS trusts in England, described the target as a "red herring" which has distracted attention from failings in the long-term Covid-19 strategy.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson added that as many as 120,000 tests would be needed daily for NHS workers once the UK comes out of lockdown, to stave off a second wave of the virus.

With just over 52,000 tests carried out on Tuesday, the Government must make up a huge gap to achieve the goal before Friday.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Buckland acknowledged the target could be missed, adding: "Even if it isn't met, we're well on our way to ramping this up and 100,000 is an important milestone, but frankly we need more.

"Yes, 52,000 isn't 100,000, I know that… but we are straining every sinew to get there.

"If he (Matt Hancock) hadn't set a target he would have been criticised for being unambitious. I think now is the time in respect of this to be bold… being brave is something we should acknowledge even if the target isn't met today."

Mr Hopson said NHS staff and patients would need to be tested regularly to control the spread of the virus once lockdown measures are eased.

With 800,000 people working for the NHS, Mr Hopson said there would need to be between 110,00 and 120,000 tests a day for them to be tested once a week.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he added: "There are still health and care workers showing symptoms who are not able to get tests because we are still struggling with capacity and some of the testing centres are too far away."

Mr Hopson urged the Government to update its coronavirus strategy and to make good its promise to increase testing capacity.

In a report released on Tuesday, NHS Providers said the English health and care system "started from a poor position" as Covid-19 tightened its grip on Europe, and consistently struggled to demonstrate a "clear, effective and well communicated strategy", with a lack of clarity on who would be tested, when, how, and with what frequency.

Mr Hopson said: "The focus on 'are we are going to perform 100,000 tests a day' is really a red herring because all it does is measure how many tests get performed today.

"What we need to know is what are we going to do in terms of the testing regime over the next six, eight, 10, 12 weeks as we come out of lockdown."

He pointed to mass testing capabilities in Germany and South Korea, saying: "If you look at the international experience, having the right testing regime is absolutely crucial in conquering this virus.

"We are in a new phase, we are about to try and exit lockdown. If we are going to control the spread of the virus it's really important we test all staff and patients regularly in healthcare settings.

"What we are missing is we haven't got the strategy in terms of what the next phase looks like."

Ben Turner-LE

Teenager's song is top of the shops

A teenager's song to thank NHS staff has hit the right note with the Co-op and is on the playlist of the retailer's in-store radio across the UK.

Harry Arkley, who is 17 next week, said he was "stunned and surprised" to hear that the Co-op will play his tribute track in up to 2,600 stores every morning during time dedicated to the NHS, carers and the vulnerable.

Our Song For The NHS is the first song written by Harry, from Winchester, Hampshire, and was recorded at home on his phone.

He said: "I just felt moved to write a song that reflected the massive support for the NHS and other key workers who really are local heroes, keeping people going with their amazing attitude and tenacity at this difficult time."

The Co-op has donated airtime to a new charity TV ad to fight hunger by promoting the work of charity FareShare, and its stores are selling copies of The Big Issue after the magazine stopped being sold on the streets because of the current crisis.

Ben Turner-LE

Virtual court cases approved

Virtual proceedings and smaller juries may be necessary if jury trials are able to resume post-lockdown, the Lord Chief Justice has said.

Lord Burnett said "radical measures" would need to be looked at but he would support moves to ensure trials were carried out safely.

Jury trials in England and Wales were put on hold on March 23 as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme Lord Burnett said: "There is blue-sky thinking going on at the moment.

"It is going to be necessary to look at more radical measures to enable jury trials to continue.

"I would support a move in those circumstances to reduce the number of jurors needed for a trial. Plainly it would be easier to ensure a safe trial for everybody with social distancing and other precautions if the number of people involved in a trial was reduced by a few."

It has been suggested that proceedings will need to recommence in some form to tackle the increasing backlog of cases – believed to be around 37,000.

A working group chaired by High Court judge Mr Justice Edis is looking at measures that could be taken amid calls from lawyers for "clean, hygienic and safe" courtrooms.

"The use of big venues, all of this I can assure you is already being thought about," continued Lord Burnett.

"You can't have juries sitting together cheek by jowl, you can't have them expectorating towards each other in a tiny jury box."

Ordinarily 12 jurors sit in trials in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 15 in Scotland.

Others have said there could be advantages to measures such as virtual trials for victims giving evidence.

"They don't have to come to court, they don't have to face the pomp of it, when they're not sure what's going on," Dame Vera Baird QC told the BBC.

"They might run into the defendant, the defendant's brother might deliberately bump into them.

"If you can go to remote evidence somewhere in a suburban house… and give your evidence there and be cross-examined across a television link from a relatively comfortable place… then that can add a great deal of confidence to people coming forward."

Ben Turner-LE

Captain Tom made a colonel on his 100th birthday

Captain Tom Moore, the incredible war veteran who has raised over £29m for the NHS, turns 100-years-old today.

He was born in Keighley, West Yorkshire on 30 April 1920 and served with the 8th Battalion The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment in the Second World War.

To mark his centenary, he has been appointed as honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.

He has called it "one of the proudest moments" of his life.

The appointment was made by Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith and it has been approved by the Queen.

It is just one of the many birthday honours that Captain Tom has been in receipt of, with thousands of birthday cards – including the customary one from the Queen – pouring in.

A Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flypast of a Spitfire and a Hurricane has been arranged for his birthday and he's also gotten his very own painted postbox, in his village of Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire.

The postbox has been painted 'nhs blue' and decorated with a gold balloon, in a tribute to his extraordinary fundraising efforts.

At 99-years-old, Captain Tom set about to raise £1,000 for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden, never dreaming he'd end up raising almost £30m.

His inspirational achievement captured the entire nation, so it comes as no surprise that he has even received personalised birthday well-wishes from other members of the Royal household, with Charles and Camilla writing to him.

Ahead of next weeks VE Day celebrations, the Colonel – as he is now entitled to be addressed – was presented with a replacement Second World War Defence Medal.

But it was his Pride of Britain award that Captain Tom referred to as "number one", he told the Mirror: "I've had lots of fabulous things but this is number one."

He has thanked everyone who has sent him cards and well wishes, asking for people to "please stay home, stay safe" as he will be doing with his daughter, Hannah.

Ben Turner-LE

Sainsbury's warns of a coronavirus hit of more than £500 million

Sainsbury's warned of a coronavirus hit of more than £500 million to the current year's profits as it said social distancing measures together with falls in clothing and fuel sales would offset surging grocery trade.

The retail giant said the impact of Covid-19 is expected to leave underlying pre-tax profits broadly flat for the year to March 2021, despite £450 million in business rates relief.

It has scrapped its final shareholder dividend and said decisions on further payouts would be deferred until later in the financial year – a decision which comes after rival Tesco faced criticism for paying out £635 million.

Sainsbury's full-year results showed a 2% fall in underlying pre-tax profits to £586 million for the year to March 7.

On a statutory basis, pre-tax profits rose to £255 million from £202 million the previous year.

Ben Turner-LE

Ebola drug shows 'very encouraging results' in coronavirus patients

An antiviral drug previously used to treat ebola has shown "very encouraging results" at cutting recovery times for coronavirus patients, according to a scientist leading the trials.

Abdel Babiker, professor of epidemiology and medical statistics at UCL, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "These are very encouraging results from the first large-scale randomised trial to report on any treatment of Covid-19."

He said the group of hospitalised adults with advanced coronavirus who received Remdesivir recovered "much faster" than the group that received a placebo.

Ben Turner-LE

Brooklyn – police called after bodies found in trucks

Police were called to a Brooklyn neighbourhood on Wednesday after a funeral home overwhelmed by the coronavirus resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks, officials said.

Investigators who responded to a 911 call from a passerby who complained about the smell, found that the home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, according to a law enforcement official.

No criminal charges were brought and the official, who was not authorised to speak publicly about the investigation, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The Andrew T Cleckley Funeral Home was cited for failing to control the odours.

The home was able to obtain a larger, refrigerated truck later in the day, the official said.

Workers suited up in protective gear could be seen in the afternoon transferring bodies into the refrigerated truck.

A person who answered the phone at the funeral home hung up without speaking. Subsequent calls went to voicemail, which was full.

New York City funeral homes have struggled as at least 18,000 people have died in the city since late March.

The city set up temporary morgues.

Hospitals used refrigerated tractor trailers to cart away multiple bodies at a time, sometimes loading them in public view on the sidewalk.

Crematoriums have been backed up.

Funeral directors across the city have pleaded for help as they have run out of space.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams went to the scene on Wednesday evening.

He told the Daily News, "While this situation is under investigation, we should not have what we have right now, with trucks lining the streets filled with bodies."

Ben Turner-LE

Dozens of bodies found in trucks in New York

Police found dozens of bodies being stored in unrefrigerated trucks outside a Brooklyn funeral home and lying on the facility’s floor Wednesday – reports the New York Post.

Between 40 to 60 bodies were discovered either stacked up in U-Haul box trucks outside Andrew Cleckley Funeral Services in Flatlands or on the building’s floor, after neighbors reported a foul odor around the property, sources said.

The corpses were stacked on top of each other in the trucks. Fluid leaking from inside created a terrible smell and caused neighboring store owners to call the police, according to sources.

It comes as official figures show 23,474 coronavirus deaths in New York, as well as 306,158 cases in the state.

Ben Turner-LE

"Work place by work place" easing of lockdown

Boris Johnson will chair Cabinet as the Government hits its deadline date for carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April.

The Prime Minister will take charge of a remote meeting of his top team following battling the disease, and a day after he became a father again.

The meeting comes as Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said easing lockdown would not be a "flick of the switch moment".

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is also gathering on Thursday before Mr Johnson fronts the daily Downing Street press conference once again.

SAGE is looking at a selection of options for easing restrictions while still keeping the reproduction rate of the coronavirus – the number of new cases linked to a single individual – below one in order to stop it spreading exponentially.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma was reported to be set to put forward plans for an eventual "work place by work place" easing of lockdown in the coming days.

A Business Department spokesman said: "The Government has already set out five clear tests to consider before making any adjustment to its approach. It is only right the we work together with industry and unions to ensure workplaces are safe for both those in work now and for those going back to work as government measures develop."

Public Health England (PHE) announced a total of 26,097 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community in the UK after contracting Covid-19.

It is the first time data on the number of deaths in care homes and the wider community has been included in the Government's daily updates.

The total reached by the new method of reporting is around 17% higher than previous data showed and includes an additional 3,811 deaths recorded since the start of the outbreak.

Of these, around 70% were outside hospital settings and around 30% were in hospital.

The change in measurement means the UK death toll is now the third highest in the world, behind the US and Italy, based on data from Johns Hopkins University.

The US has reported 58,355 deaths and Italy 27,359.

Liverpool council facing bankruptcy due to pandemic

Liverpool Council could face bankruptcy and is considering imposing emergency spending controls after the government failed to offer anywhere near enough support during the coronavirus crisis.

The city council is now facing a financial cliff edge of £44m because of extra spending to support residents through the crisis and a loss of income.

The pandemic is costing the local authority £78m in increased costs and loss of income but has only received £34m from government.

Read more about the situation here.

Food deliveries in your area during lockdown

Many restaurants and shops have introduced protective measures to maximise chances of keeping customers and staff safe while the pandemic continues.

Keep up to date with deliveries in your area to ensure you don’t miss out on a much-needed slot using our interactive tool.

Coronavirus checks for key workers

Merseyside key workers will be offered more opportunities to take a coronavirus test in the coming days.

The Ministry of Defence working with Wirral Council and Wirral CCG are offering coronavirus testing to “specific key workers and other individuals” with symptoms of the virus.

Tests will operate strictly by appointment only, and be available to all essential workers as defined by the Government including NHS and social care workers with symptoms.

Find out more about how to get one here.

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