Britain today announced 121 more coronavirus deaths across all settings, taking the official death toll to 36,914 as sun-worshippers descended on
Britain today announced 121 more coronavirus deaths across all settings, taking the official death toll to 36,914 as sun-worshippers descended on parks and beaches today.
It marks the lowest Monday death toll since lockdown was enforced on March 23 (74 deaths). For comparison, 160 fatalities were announced last Monday and 118 were recorded yesterday.
But death numbers released on Sundays and Mondays are usually smaller due to a delay in processing fatalities over the weekend.
Department of Health chiefs also announced 1,625 more Covid-19 cases, the first time the UK has recorded fewer than 2,000 positive tests in a day in almost nine weeks.
In other developments to Britain’s coronavirus crisis today:
- Dominic Cummings insisted he does not regret driving 260 miles to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown as he claimed ‘I behaved reasonably and legally’ amid growing calls for the PM’s top aide to be sacked;
- Britons descended on parks and beaches amid an expected 79F heatwave as they declared, ‘If Dominic Cummings can break the rules, we can too’;
- An NHS hospital in the Somerset seaside hotspot of Weston-super-Mare was forced to stop taking new patients due to a high number of coronavirus cases;
- Newsreader Simon McCoy slammed his BBC colleague Gary Lineker for abusing his position after the Match of the Day host accused the Prime Minister of lying;
- Schools face a long journey before they are able to return to normal, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said as he insisted classes must restart on June 1.
Beach-goers enjoy the sunshine as they sunbathe on the beach and play in the sea at a packed beach today in Southend, Essex
The figures published today by NHS England show April 8 continues to have the highest number for the most hospital deaths on a single day, with a current total of 891.
Of the 59 new deaths recorded in England’s hospitals, 47 occurred over the weekend. Five took place on Friday, while the remaining seven victims succumbed to the disease between May 16 and 21.
It comes as Dominic Cummings will this afternoon make a public statement to directly address claims he broke lockdown rules by travelling to Durham, Downing Street confirmed.
Mr Cummings is expected to take questions about his conduct which has plunged the government into a state of crisis and has prompted calls for a formal investigation.
The intervention came after one of the government’s scientific advisers warned the ‘debacle’ over the lockdown journey had ‘fatally undermined’ the nation’s fight against coronavirus.
Professor Stephen Reicher, who is a member of the Government’s advisory group on behavioural science which feeds into SAGE, said the result of ‘undermining adherence to the rules’ will be that ‘more people are going to die’.
Mr Johnson is facing a furious backlash from ministers, Tory MPs and even bishops after he yesterday attempted to mount an extraordinary defence of Mr Cummings, staking his reputation on trying to protect his aide.
At a dramatic Downing Street press conference last night, the PM claimed Mr Cummings had acted ‘responsibly, legally and with integrity’ while making a controversial 260-mile trip from London to Durham during lockdown.
Mr Johnson insisted Mr Cummings had ‘followed the instincts of every father’ by driving to his parents’ farm after his wife developed symptoms of coronavirus. The PM’s defence of his aide prompted fury among Britons.
Sun-worshippers descended on parks and beaches today for the Bank Holiday amid an expected 79F heatwave, which could see parts of the country basked in temperatures hotter than Athens, Nice and Barcelona.
Friends Amy Louise Thomas, 20 and Elli Wilson, 20, enjoying the hot bank holiday weather on Formby beach in Merseyside this morning
Crowds formed outside the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park, as beaches in Sussex, Essex and Dorset quickly filled up with visitors looking to enjoy the dry and sunny conditions forecast to last the whole day.
People in England are now allowed to travel for day trips but must stay at least six feet away from people who are not from their household, something that could be impossible in crowded areas.
In other developments today, an NHS hospital in the Somerset seaside hotspot of Weston-super-Mare was forced to stop taking new patients due to ‘a high number’ of coronavirus cases.
Weston General Hospital dramatically announced this morning it could not take any more admissions, including into A&E.
Health chiefs do not know why the hospital has had an influx of Covid-19 cases, with bosses warning all hospitals have ‘frequent’ changes in admissions.
But questions were today asked over whether the blame may lie on crowds who have flocked to the town to enjoy the sun since lockdown was slightly eased.
Thousands of people travelled to the South West and other coastal areas as soon as the government allowed nationwide travel again on May 13.
Weston-super-Mare’s mayor even admitted ‘you can’t rule it out’, when questioned if scores of Britons on the beach were to blame for the surge in cases.
It is not the first time hospitals have been overwhelmed amid the coronavirus crisis, which began to spiral out of control in mid-March.
One NHS hospital in London was forced to declare a ‘critical incident’ early on in the crisis, after running out of intensive care beds.
Other hospitals in the capital have allegedly had to turn away coronavirus patients because they were running out of beds, according to staff.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson today admitted that schools face a ‘long journey’ before they are able to return to normal, and he insisted classes must restart on June 1 for the mental health of children.
He acknowledged there would be ‘initial nervousness’ from parents about releasing their children from the months’ long shutdown. But he said that on top of missing classes they were also missing ‘social interaction’ with their friends.
His emotional pitch to parents came after Boris Johnson has suggested non-essential shops could soon reopen and family ‘bubbles’ be extended in a further easing of lockdown measures this week.
Draconian measures put in place on March 23 to limit the spread of coronavirus were relaxed two weeks ago to allow households to meet one person from another in an outdoor space, so long as they remain two metres apart.
Doctors warned today spread of the virus in hospitals may be fuelled by high ‘false negative’ test results. Three in 10 negative coronavirus tests may be wrong, The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) has said. Pictured: A home-testing kit sent from PHE
Britons were also permitted to partake in unlimited exercise, use outdoor sports courts and facilities and visit garden centres while pubs, restaurants and bars stay shut.
But the Prime Minister last night suggested measures could be eased again, after he claimed in the daily Downing Street news conference Britain was ‘in a position to move to Step two’ of his roadmap to recovery.
Mr Williamson repeated the Government’s mantra of creating a ‘protective bubble’ around returning pupils when he appeared on BBC Breakfast.
He added: ‘Without the benefit of going to school they are really missing out, not just educationally. I’m sure we have seen it with our own children, they have spent so much time away from children of their own age, having those elements of social interaction.’
There are almost 260,000 positive test results of COVID-19 so far. But there are bound to be millions more Britons who have had the virus but never been tested.
Doctors warned today spread of the virus in hospitals may be fuelled by high ‘false negative’ test results.
Three in 10 negative coronavirus tests may be wrong, The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) has said, which means between two and three people who have Covid-19 may test negative.
This is dangerous because it means the patients may go outside and spread the virus to others, under the belief they are free of the infection, and hospital staff may return to work thinking they are virus-free.
The HCSA, which represents thousands of frontline medics, said there is a ‘shroud of secrecy’ over how accurate the swab tests are and called for an end to the ‘wall of silence’ on testing accuracy from Public Health England (PHE).
PHE has never disclosed how accurate its antigen testing is, despite publishing public papers on the accuracy of antibody tests.
In a letter to Duncan Selbie, the chief executive of PHE, Dr Paul Donaldson, general secretary of the HCSA, expressed his ‘deep concern and frustration’ at the ‘systematic lack of information’ over the reliability its tests.
He said: ‘A wall of silence seems to have been erected around the issue, with only the occasional claim or hint emerging regarding the testing regime.
‘Separately, statements by PHE officials and others place the incidence of false negatives somewhere between 20 and 30 per cent.
‘If confirmed, this is a worryingly high rate that raises the prospect of many infected individuals, possibly without symptoms, being passed fit to return to healthcare settings where they will transmit Sars-CoV-2 to colleagues and patients.
‘If the chance of false negative results is as high as reported then in our view, without repeat PCR testing to confirm a negative result, staff should not be told to return to a clinical setting where they would risk passing SARS-CoV-2 to vulnerable patients and fellow staff.
‘This could become a particularly acute issue as the NHS plans to significantly increase its non-Covid work and wider lockdown measures are eased.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned hospital acquired COVID-19 has caused an ‘epidemic’ of deaths during the pandemic.
NHS bosses say up to a fifth of Covid-19 patients in several hospitals have contracted the disease while already being treated there for another illness.
PHE uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are a form of antigen tests conducted to see if someone has the virus, SARS-CoV-2, at any given time.
These viral RNA tests use samples taken from a suspected patient’s throat, mouth or nose with a swab.
The accuracy of viral RNA swabs depends almost entirely on the quality of sampling and when the sample is taken in the course of disease, which will vary greatly, experts say.
Research by the University of Bristol found between two per cent and 29 per cent of COVID-19 tests produced false negatives.
And a review of five studies, by Public Health Madrid, found Covid-19 swabbing produced false negative results the first time round 29 per cent of the time.
Experts say false negatives will be a result of incorrect swabbing because there will be variances in how medics – and those taking a test at home – do it.
The preferred way – and most accurate, doctors say – is for trained medics to take a nasopharyngeal swab because it collects the most concentrated sample.
But the test is so uncomfortable it’s been described like ‘being stabbed in the brain’. It can cause people to gag and suffer nosebleeds.
Photos of drive through centres show healthcare workers opting for the less invasive option of a nose or throat sample.
Following the letter, Dr Nick Phin, PHE’s incident director, said: ‘The testing system is built on strong foundations using latest scientific evidence and advice.
‘The different tests in use have been assessed as performing to manufacturers’ specifications.’