It has been confirmed by the Prime Minister’s office that the details of the formal decision to extend the lockdown will be announced tomorrow at the daily press conference. Notably, in today’s press conference, the Deputy Chief Scientific Officer Angela McLean said the trajectory of the virus is “flat and no longer rising”.
Following increasing pressure over the number of deaths recorded in care homes, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that care home residents who have been discharged from hospital will be tested before entering their care home, in addition the Government will continue to prioritise PPE drops for care workers, whilst setting up an online delivery system.
The Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer has called on the Government to publish its exit strategy from the lockdown. He has also hosted a call with over 100 local government leaders to discuss the frontline response to the crisis. He tweeted “they need more PPE, they need more testing and they need sight of the Governments exit strategy”. The scrutiny by the opposition has increased today with the Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy questioning the Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland on the pace of the Coronavirus prisoner release scheme. In addition, the Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband has said the Government needs to “move again” to help SMEs after figures released today show only 6,000 Coronavirus assistance loans have been issued.
Separately, David Frost the PM’s Europe Adviser and Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator spoke via video link today and confirmed that talks on the future trading agreement will continue on w/c 20th April, w/c 11th May and w/c 1st June. The Government have ruled out requesting an extension of the transition period.
Summary of the Press Conference
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock
- The spare capacity in critical care has reached a new high 2,657, at no point has the NHS been unable to offer care to anyone suffering during this crisis.
- The number of patients in hospital is 19,529 – 12,868 have sadly died, an increase of 761. We cannot let go of our efforts this shared sacrifice is starting to work – but we will not lift these measures until it is safe to do so.
- We know that the most vulnerable to this disease are in care, we have injected an extra £1.6bn. However, from today we will strengthen the rules so that all care home residents that are discharged from hospital will be tested before going back to their care homes, and over the next three weeks we will continue to prioritise PPE for the care system, whilst we rollout our new online delivery system for social care.
- Today we are introducing a single brand for social care to symbolise the entire sector, a new badge will be produced so that carers can identify themselves. He knows that businesses will want to give the same support to care workers as they have given the NHS.
- Strengthened the national recruitment campaign for social care, Government will pay for the initial induction training. He knows that it is a fulfilling profession and knows that people will answer the call.
- Giving people the right to say goodbye, sadly even in normal times 10,000 people die in care homes a month – wanting to be with someone they love at the end of their life is a deep human instinct, done right it can help those left behind cope and brings comfort to the dying. He has been moved and upset by the stories of people dying alone, especially the 13- year old boy who died. Pleased to say, working with PHE and other bodies we are introducing new procedures to reduce the risk of infection to help wherever possible for people to say goodbye.
- Stopping blanket (do not resuscitate) DNRs
- Personally thanked social workers for their work.
Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Adviser
- We are reaching the peak overall, and that is what the flattening shows. His expectation is that new deaths will go up because they see a dip during the weekend and then an increase after. We do all think that this has flattened out. However more deaths will continue for the moment.
- Can’t say confidently that we are passed the peak.
- At this point in time we do not know where the force of transmission is, the more we know about this (over the next 10 days) the more easy it is for us to judge how we can through to the next stage.
Angela McLean, Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser
- For the last month, all forms of transport have decreased by a third, particularly low on rail.
- Encouraged to see that for the last two weeks they haven’t seen an increase in new cases in hospitals, she sees a “flattened curve”.
- People in hospital beds have decreased by 1% nationally, in London 5% yesterday - once again, the efforts to stay home are working. She said that the trajectory of the virus is “flat and no longer rising”.
- What we really need is to observe new cases as they come into hospital to find out how much impact the current lockdown rules are having.
- The Department for Health and Social Care has announced that they will offer testing for “everyone who needs one” in social care settings. All care home residents and social care staff with coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms will be tested as capacity is built up, the government has announced today. Speaking to Sky News Helen Whately, Care Minister has said that more than 1,000 care workers have been tested for Coronavirus, whilst 2,000 have been referred for testing.
- The Treasury has announced an extension to the Furlough Scheme to qualify and to protect against fraudulent claims, individuals originally had to be employed on February 28 2020. But following a review of the delivery system and to ensure the scheme helps as many people as possible, new guidance published today has confirmed the eligibility date has been extended to March 19 2020 the day before the scheme was announced.
- The Department for Education and Ofqual has published a consultation which seeks views on GCSE and A level grading proposals for 2020
- The Leader of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP has announced plans for a ‘Virtual Parliament’, which would allow MPs to scrutinise the Government whilst remaining socially distant. This would see oral questions, statements and urgent questions taken place via videolink; remote voting, and parliamentary proceedings will be broadcast. More details will be published tomorrow, and MPs will have the final say.
- The Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer has called on the Government to publish its strategy for exiting the coronavirus lockdown this week, saying that the “silent pressures” on communities across the UK “cannot be underestimated.” Responding, the Number 10 Spokesperson said the Government thought it would be a mistake to start having a national conversation about the exit strategy now. It was important to wait until the peak of the epidemic was over. Asked if the government was not publishing its exit strategy because it did not have one yet, the spokesman said that “extensive work” on this issue was taking place in Whitehall.
- New Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband has said that the Government’s business loans are “not good enough” after figures released show that only 6,000 SMEs have received a loan. He said: “The government’s rightly moved once already but it needs to move again.”
- New Shadow Justice Secretary, David Lammy MP has written to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland MP questioning him on the pace and scale of his prisoner release plans. Mr Lammy raised concerns that the number of prisoners released would be a “fraction” of the potential 4,000 eligible. He also raised further questions about the level of PPE sent to prison staff.
- The Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, has written to the President of the European commission Ursula von der Leyen asking her to investigate claims that care home owners in Wales and Scotland are suffering a shortage of PPE because suppliers are prioritising the NHS in England. Number 10 denies that the NHS in England is being prioritised over the other nations.
- Former Chancellor, Sajid Javid MP has told the Today Programme that the Government should be trying to “phase out this lockdown as soon as we possibly can because that will make the biggest immediate difference to the economic pain the country is going through”.