UK coronavirus measures ‘making a difference’

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Police officers from North Yorkshire Police stop motorists in cars to check that their travel is “essential”

People are heeding the advice to stay at home to keep pressure off the NHS, and there are early signs that it is working, says the UK’s chief scientific advisor.

Sir Patrick Vallance told a news conference that social distancing measures are “making a difference”.

Transmission of coronavirus in the community is thought be decreasing which could mean fewer infections.

Hospital admission data suggests cases are not rising as fast as feared.

There are currently 9,000 people in hospitals in England with coronavirus, up from 6,000 on Friday.

Sir Patrick said: “That’s gone up pretty much the same amount each day for the last few days.

“That shows that it’s going up not in an increasing amount but in a constant amount which may suggest that we’re already beginning to see some effect through.”

The total number of people who have died with the virus in the UK reached 1,408, as measured before 17:00 BST on Sunday.

The deaths include a further 159 people in England, six in Scotland, 14 in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.

Among them was 55-year-old ear, nose and throat consultant Amged El-Hawrani who died at Queen’s Hospital Burton.

Last week, an organ transplant consultant died after testing positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced measures to help Britons stranded abroad.

Return to work

Some 20,000 former NHS staff have returned to work to help deal with the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, adding the country would get through the crisis “together”.

Around one in four doctors are off work at the moment either with symptoms or isolating because family members have symptoms, the head of the Royal College of Physicians estimated.

The prime minister – who became the first world leader to announce he had the virus – has continued to lead the country’s response to the pandemic, carrying out meetings over video link while self-isolating in his Downing Street flat.

On Monday, a No 10 source confirmed Dominic Cummings, his chief adviser, has developed symptoms of the virus and was self-isolating at home.

Meanwhile, the SEC in Glasgow is to be turned into a temporary NHS hospital, set to be operational within a fortnight and with 300 beds.

In other developments:

  • Pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson hopes to start coronavirus vaccine trials in humans by September
  • The Prince of Wales is now out of self-isolation, following his diagnosis of coronavirus
  • Northern Ireland has become the first country in the UK to order the early release of prisoners due to the virus. Up to 200 inmates nearing the end of their sentences will be let out. The Scottish government is considering similar measures, while in England and Wales a range of options, including early release and the transfer of prisoners to other sites, is being explored
  • Two repatriation flights rescuing British nationals who were stranded in Peru have landed at Heathrow Airport
  • A breathing aid that can help keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care has been created in under a week by University College London engineers working alongside clinicians and Mercedes Formula One
  • Police in Scotland issued 25 fines over the weekend to people breaking the coronavirus restrictions, such as businesses that were still open. The force also said it received a significant number of calls including from people reporting others who were breaking rules
  • Airline EasyJet has grounded its entire fleet of aircraft due to the pandemic
  • The boss of the UK’s largest regional airline, Loganair, has said his firm plans to ask for government help to get through the pandemic
  • Meanwhile, thousands of EasyJet and Virgin staff, are being offered work in the new NHS Nightingale Hospital, which is being set up at the ExCel Centre in east London. The chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, said around 100 cabin crew have expressed an interest
  • The UK’s main internet providers have agreed to remove data caps on fixed-line broadband during the coronavirus pandemic
  • A rapid response unit within the Cabinet Office is working with social media firms to remove misinformation about coronavirus
  • Convenience stores selling Easter eggs are facing interference from “heavy-handed” officials suggesting chocolate eggs are non-essential, a trade body says
  • In South Korea, there are calls to deport a British man in his 30s, who broke quarantine guidelines and may have spread the virus while travelling through the country. Instead of spending 14 days in self-isolation after arriving, he visited four different cities and later tested positive

Mr Johnson said the public appeared to be obeying the restrictions set out by government to slow the spread of the virus, adding that train use was down 95% and bus use down 75%.

Image copyright
HM Government

Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London and author of a report into the pandemic, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there were “some early signs of slowing in some indicators” in the UK.

“If we look at the number of new hospital admissions per day for instance, that does appear to be slowing down a little bit now. It’s not yet plateaued, so the numbers can be increasing each day, but the rate of increase has slowed.”

Asked how many people may have been infected in the UK, Prof Ferguson said it varied across the country.

“[In] Central London it could be as many as 3% to 5% of the population has been infected, maybe more in individual hotspots. In the country as a whole, the UK, maybe 2% or 3%.”