The UK's chief scientific adviser has said that the Government cannot tell the public when lockdown will end - because they don't know. Speaking
The UK’s chief scientific adviser has said that the Government cannot tell the public when lockdown will end – because they don’t know.
Speaking at Downing Street‘s daily virus news conference tonight, Sir Patrick Vallance said that it would be ‘premature’ to put a time frame on the next steps of the fight against coronavirus because cases and deaths must stabilise first.
‘I think its premature to put a time, an absolute time, on how long this goes on for,’ he said.
Sir Patrick said that the first step was to reduce the rate of transmission to ensure the NHS can cope with the amount of Covid-19 cases.
‘We need to do phase one then we need to think about how we release these [measures] in the right way and at the right approach,’ he added.
Sir Patrick also warned admissions will continue to rise for three weeks before slowing.
But he said the number of new hospitalisations was rising gradually, suggesting strict social measures introduced last week were having the ‘desired effect’.
It comes as figures suggest the outbreak in the UK may finally be starting to slow after the daily death toll dropped for the second day in a row, with 180 new fatalities recorded overnight.
Hospital admissions are looking steady a week after the severe restrictions were imposed on the UK – with all regions seeing a steady rise
The NHS is coping despite a surge in coronavirus hospital admissions, according to the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance
The UK’s spiralling coronavirus death toll has jumped to 1,408 after 180 more fatalities were recorded in a single day
Addressing the nation at the briefing, Sir Patrick said: ‘The measures are in place, they are making a difference, they are decreasing the contact which is so important to spread the disease and we’re doing a good job at cutting that down.
‘What you can see is there’s been an increase in the number of cases since the middle of March through to today.
‘We expect that measures that are in place that cause that social distancing, the stay at home message will be reducing the number of cases of transmission in the community and decreasing the number of cases overall.’
Sir Patrick added: ‘Roughly 1,000 a day [admissions]… that’s not an acceleration. It’s quite important, it tells you that actually this is a bit more stable than it has been.
Pictured: A graph showing the change in transport use as the public is encouraged to practise social distancing
‘The measures we are taking will stop the transmission, delay the transmission, reduce the amount of transmission in the community and therefore reduce the number of people who might die from the infection.
‘I want to thank the people in the NHS working extremely hard. What all of us can do is heed the advice and stay at home so we can reduce the number of people who will be seriously ill or die from this infection.’
Sir Patrick said the UK can expect to see cases continue to rise for three weeks before falling.
He added: ‘This is a bit more stable than it has been. I do expect that number to continue.
The UK’s coronavirus deaths are compared to Spain, France, Italy, China, South Korea, Germany and the US in this Public Health England chart
Daily increases in cases appear to be slowing for the first time in the outbreak – but scientists maintain the worst is still to come and say the apparent slowdown should be taken with a pinch of salt
‘I expect people coming every day to be about that, it may go up a little bit. And in two or three weeks you would expect that to stabilise and to start to go down a bit.
‘That is not a rapid acceleration number. It is an important number, it is a difficult number to deal with and it is a number that NHS staff are clearly coping with in terms of what they are doing at the moment.’
As of this afternoon a total of 1,408 people in Britain have died from coronavirus. England recorded 159 new deaths in the last 24 hours, while Wales reported 14, Northern Ireland six and Scotland one.
It marks the first time the daily increase in deaths has fallen for two days straight, dropping from 209 on Sunday and 260 on Saturday – in what was Britain’s darkest day in the crisis yet.
But there are fears of a fresh spike in fatalities tomorrow because officials will count deaths outside of hospitals for the first time.
Until now, the figures have not included people who succumbed to the virus before being admitted to hospital.
Meanwhile the number of confirmed cases in Britain has now soared past 22,000 after 2,619 new positive tests in the last 24 hours – an 8 per cent rise from yesterday’s daily increase of 2,433.
But experts predict the true number to be more than two million because of the Government’s decision to only test patients so ill they are admitted to hospital.
Dominic Raab today unveiled a £75m effort to bring back home stranded Britons stuck abroad due to the coronavirus crisis
Public Health Wales said there were 210 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the country’s total number of confirmed infections to 1,451.
The number of infections north of the Border jumped to 1,536 after 179 people were diagnosed yesterday and Northern Ireland reported 533 confirmed cases following 123 new positive tests.
In England, 22,141 have now tested positive after 2,107 more people were diagnosed overnight.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stood in for the Prime Minister at Downing Street’s daily coronavirus conference tonight while the Prime Minister self-isolates after contracting the virus –
Mr Raab revealed ‘tens of thousands’ of stranded British travellers would be flown home under a £75million new partnership between the Government and airlines.
The Foreign Secretary said the UK government will now step in to provide ‘special charter flights’ from parts of the world where commercial flights are no longer in operation.
The government has struck a partnership deal with British Airways, Easyjet, Jet2 and other airlines to provide the planes for the effort.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus press conference in 10 Downing Street, Mr Raab said: ‘Under the arrangements that we are putting in place we will target flights from a range of priority countries, starting this week.’
However, Mr Raab said in countries where commercial flights are still in operation, the instruction is still for Britons to buy tickets home ‘as soon as possible’.
‘Where commercial routes remain an option, airlines will be responsible for getting passengers home,’ he said.
‘That means offering alternative flights at little to no cost where routes have been cancelled.’
He also told airlines they must allow passengers to change tickets, including between carriers, as he told travellers: ‘For those still in those countries where commercial options are still available, don’t wait, don’t run the risk of getting stranded, the airlines are standing by to help you, please book your tickets as soon as possible.
‘Where commercial flights are no longer running the government will provide the necessary financial support for special charter flights to bring UK nationals back home.
‘Once special charter flights have been arranged we will promote them through the government’s travel advice and by the British embassy or high commission in the relevant country.’
Mr Raab said the £75m being made available by the government will be used to ‘support those flights and the airlines in order to keep the cost down and affordable for those seeking to return to the UK’.
Hundreds of thousands of Britons are stranded abroad and are scrambling to return to the UK, including 6,000 who are marooned in New Zealand with thousands more trapped in Peru.
The government advised against all non-essential foreign travel on March 17 before then urging all UK residents abroad to return home as soon as possible on March 23.
However, many people have found it difficult, if not impossible, to buy commercial plane tickets after widespread flight cancellations while many of those who have found tickets have faced steep prices.
Mr Raab said that a Foreign Office helpline set up to deal with traveller questions normally receives about 1,000 calls a day but last Tuesday the number of calls hit an all time record at 15,000.
He said that as a result the government had increased resources at the call centre to make sure questions got answered as he tried to reassure worried families.
‘For those stranded or for families nervously awaiting news and wanting to see their loved ones return home, we are doing everything we can,’ he said.
‘We have improved our advice and boosted the call centre so travellers get better and swifter information.
‘We have put in place this arrangement with the airlines so that we can reach more British citizens in vulnerable circumstances abroad where commercial flights aren’t running and we are working intensively round the clock with all of our partner countries and governments around the world to keep open the airports, the ports and the flights to bring people home.
‘We have not faced an international challenge quite like this before but together we are going to rise to it and of course here at home we can all support our NHS by continuing to follow the guidance to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives.’
The government’s repatriation efforts will be prioritised to help the most vulnerable passengers get home, with special flights expected to initially focus on areas with the largest numbers of British travellers.
New Zealand has imposed one of the strictest lockdowns of any country to battle the deadly disease, and has grounded international flights, leaving thousands of Brits, including doctors and nurses, desperate to get home.
Mr Raab had already called Winston Peters, New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister, to ask for assistance in getting Brits home.
The Foreign Secretary’s announcement comes after two repatriation flights carrying British passengers from Peru landed at Heathrow Airport.
The British Airways flights left Lima on Sunday and landed in London this morning.
The Foreign Office has not said how many passengers were on board, but said two more flights will leave Peru on Monday, arriving in the UK tomorrow.
The repatriation flights were arranged by the Foreign Office in partnership with British Airways to rescue more than 1,000 stranded Britons.