Coronavirus in UK live blog as it happened: confirmed Covid-19 cases approach 5 million globally

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Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 6:08 pm

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Coronavirus live blog, May 19

Last updated: Tuesday, 19 May, 2020, 14:46

Should two-metre social distancing advice be adjusted?

Sir Iain Duncan Smith has suggested the Government reconsider its current two-metre social distancing rule, claiming Britain to be the only country in Europe to impose such a measure.

The former Conservative Party leader's comments came as he called on Boris Johnson to start getting the economy working again on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The Tory MP said "we're the only country certainly in Europe that I know of" that uses the two-metre rule.

Sir Iain said that unemployment depends "first and foremost (on) how quickly are we able to get the economy moving"?

"I think when it comes to the hospitality sector, I think we do need to look at it very carefully," he said.

"So we do need to look at how they manage that process and give them some flexibility."

Donald Trump's drug admission 'surprising'

Last night, President Donald Trump admitted that he was was controversially taking a malaria drug to protect against coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine is an unproven virus drug which regulators warn may cause heart problems.

"I'm taking it for about a week and a half now and I'm still here, I'm still here," was his surprise announcement.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has said the US President's admission was surprising, but declined to label Trump's admission as irresponsible.

She told BBC Breakfast: "I think it surprised a lot of people last night when President Trump announced this.

"However, that really is a matter between him and his clinician rather than the Government of the UK."

Government increases size of loans available to large businesses

The Government has extended the size of loans available to large businesses who have been impacted by coronavirus.

The Treasury said that firms will now be able to receive up to £200 million from the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), which previously had a maximum pay-out of £50 million.

It said that loans under the expanded scheme will be made available to firms from next week.

John Glen, the economic secretary to the Treasury, said: "We're determined to support businesses of all sizes throughout this crisis and our loans and guarantees have already provided over £32 billion to thousands of firms.

"Today we're increasing the maximum loan to £200 million to make sure companies get the help they need."

Donald Trump 'making it up as he goes along'

Former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King has commented on US President Donald Trump's admission that he was taking anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

Sir David told Good Morning Britain: "I think he speaks from the top of his head and every word he says should be ignored in terms of advice.

"I'm sorry but this is not the pronouncements of a person who is listening to the scientists. He is making it up as he goes along."

Take up a new hobby during lockdown

It's Mental Health Awareness Week, so here are some suggestions of new activities to try, to alleviate the added pressures of continued lockdown:

UK death toll passes 44,000

According to the latest available data, the number of deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK has passed 44,000.

The total includes new figures published on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics.

So far, 42,883 deaths have been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.

A further 1,211 Covid-19 positive hospital patients died between May 9 and May 17 in England, according to figures published on Monday by NHS England.

Ttogether with the total figure of 42,883 registered deaths, that indicates the overall death toll for the UK is now over 44,000.

South Korean care homes have 'not had a single Covid-19 death'

Care homes in South Korea - regarded as something of a success story in its tackling of coronavirus - have not had a single death from Covid-19.

That's according to Adelina Comas-Herrera, assistant professorial research fellow at London School of Economics.

Speaking to the Health and Social Care Committee, she said: "Anybody with suspected Covid was immediately isolated and if they tested positive were removed into quarantine centres, and/or hospitals. Not a single person has died with Covid in a South Korean care home.

“That's just an example of how quickly they acted to make sure that there wasn't any possibility of transmission within the care home.”

Billions likely to be lost in tourism as a result of coronavirus

Patricia Yates, acting chief executive officer at Visit Britain, has said a £15 billion drop on projected earnings from inbound tourism in 2020 is likely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

She told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee: "Every time we do the modelling the figures get worse. We were looking at the beginning of this year at about £26.6 billion coming from inbound tourism, we reckon a £15 billion drop on that.

"For domestic, an industry that's normally worth about £80 billion, a £22 billion drop on that.

"That's actually before we've factored in the quarantine because we don't clearly quite know what the measures are going to look like."

She said domestic tourism this summer could pick up the slack, but a "lack of confidence" among people around travelling is a concern.

She said: "I think the worrying thing we see is the lack of confidence in the British public about travelling."

"There's a real job to be done there in convincing people."

'No evidence' of Chinese origin story conspiracy theory

Professor David Robertson has told the House of Lords Science and Technology committee there is not enough evidence to back up the conspiracy theory that Covid-19 was created in a laboratory in Wuhan.

Asked whether a Covid-19 sample found in a Wuhan lab, thought to be about 40 to 50 years old, could have been behind the initial outbreak, the head of viral genomics and bioinformatics at the University of Glasgow added: "No, absolutely not.

"That's partly what has driven some of these conspiracy theories, is what is the chance they would have this virus in the labs that is close? And actually, even though it is close in sequence, it is not close in time. "

Prof Robertson added: "There is really no evidence for this. We can all enjoy a conspiracy theory but you need to have evidence."

Covid-19 will eventually become a 'normal' virus

Professor David Robertson is continuing his time with the House of Lords Science and Technology committee, where he has said Covid-19 is a successful virus that will not be eradicated.

He said: "It is so transmissible, it's so successful, we're so susceptible, that actually it's a little bit of a red herring to worry about it getting worse, because it couldn't be much worse at the moment in terms of the numbers of cases."

He added: "This virus is infecting so many people with asymptomatic to mild symptoms that it's almost uncontrollable.

"I think we have to be clear that we're not going to be able to eradicate this virus.

"It's going to settle into the human population and in several years it will become a normal virus."

Pubs could “hopefully” reopen during July

Environment Secretary George Eustice has said he is hopeful pubs will be safe to reopen to customers in July, providing scientific evidence supports it.

Mr Eustice told MPs that the government is already working with the hospitality and pub sector to identify what and how social distancing measures could be implemented.

He said” As the Prime Minister has outlined, we intend that the hospitality sector, including pubs, would be able to tentatively start gradually opening hopefully during the month of July - subject to the epidemiology supporting such a move”.

His comments came as Tory David Johnston (Wantage) said pubs operating as takeaways “is not a substitute for being open properly”.

Churches need to prepare for online presence post-lockdown

The Church of England will need to prepare for a “significant” online presence following the UK lockdown after a spike in interest, MPs have been told.

Conservative Andrew Selous, the Church of England's representative in the Commons, said five million people listened to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter Day sermon, while the Amazon Alexa church app has had a 70 per cent usage increase in the last month.

Polling suggests one in four adults have remotely joined a religious service during lockdown, with a third of 16 to 30 year-olds taking part.

As a result, Mr Selous said the church will need to keep up “a significant online presence well after lockdown has finished”.

Banks are helping vulnerable customers

This is how banks are helping vulnerable customers across the UK during the coronavirus lockdown:

29 more coronavirus deaths recorded in Scotland

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that 29 more coronavirus deaths have been recorded in Scotland.

These figures take the total number of deaths in Scotland to 2,134.

There are 1,447 patients in hospital with confirmed or suspected coronavirus, up 20 from 1,427 on Monday (18 May).

Of these, 59 people are in intensive care, marking a fall of four.

Sturgeon pledges £33 million to help get people back to work

Scotland’s First Minister has pledged £33 million to go towards helping people return to work once lockdown eases.

Nicola Sturgeon said a rise in unemployment underlines the need to restart the economy as quickly as is safely possible, after stating the current restrictions are creating an “economic emergency”.

Most of the money will go to Fair Start Scotland and will be used to support young people, disabled people and lone parents.

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