Is it finally working? UK announces its LOWEST number of coronavirus daily deaths since March 29 with 288 more fatalities – taking Britain's official count to 28,734 as the path towards claiming the worst rate in Europe slows

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  • Today’s official count of 288 was the lowest recorded since March 29 (214)
  • Matt Hancock tonight announced the total number of victims reached 28,734
  • It means Britain’s death toll is Europe’s second worst – behind only Italy (28,884)
  • Separate data shows England has the highest excess death rate across Europe
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
  • Boris Johnson urged Britons not to ‘ease up’ on lockdown measures too early, saying it could ‘allow a second peak of coronavirus’;
  • Nicola Sturgeon gazumped the Prime Minister again by revealing that there won’t be ‘meaningful’ changes to lockdown this week;
  • Ministers revealed they were trying to get Britain ‘as many masks as possible’ as the Government prepares to change its official advice;
  • Britain’s main commuter roads started to jam up again with London seeing another 2 per cent rise in traffic; 
  • London’s NHS Nightingale hospital will be mothballed to new patients and kept as backup in case of a second wave of COVID-19 in Britain;
  • A contact tracing app to track the spread of coronavirus will be trialled on the Isle of Wight before being rolled out more widely later this month; 
  • Heathrow Airport has warned travellers could face queues more than half a mile long to board flights; 
  • Rail unions said it was ‘premature’ to open up the country’s public transport network when the lockdown eases; 
  • Officials caved in to pressure to name the secretive SAGE panel, naming all but two of the scientists who helped shape the UK’s response.
  • More flexibility around the two metre ‘social distancing’ rule as long as firms are taking other steps to protect workers.
  • Installing screens, strict hygiene procedures, and ensuring people are not close together very long are touted as alternative safeguards. 
  • Offices will be ordered to overhaul their rotas, staggering start, finish and break times.
  • Hot desking will need to end and sharing equipment kept to an absolute minimum. 
  • Staff considered vulnerable who cannot work from home should be put in the ‘safest possible roles’. 

Boris Johnson today urged Britons not to 'ease up' on lockdown measures too early

Boris Johnson today urged Britons not to ‘ease up’ on lockdown measures too early

Data shows how the coronavirus death toll in Britain has risen at a much quicker rate than that of Italy - but it has slowed down in the past two days

Data shows how the coronavirus death toll in Britain has risen at a much quicker rate than that of Italy – but it has slowed down in the past two days

It comes after it was revealed that England’s excess death rate amid the pandemic is the worst in Europe, higher than Italy, Spain and France. EuroMOMO assigns a so-called Z-score to all the countries in its database, showing the deviation from a five-year average of deaths. England’s Z-score peaked at 44.1, according to the monitoring project, with Spain in second place at 34.7

More than 4,000 care home residents in England and Wales have died during the pandemic up until April 17, official data shows, 19 per cent of the total on that date. This compares to Germany's 2,401. A third of its total deaths have been in care homes, but that includes prisons and other community settings. Adelina Comas-Herrera, an author of the report, said she expects half of the UK's deaths to have taken place in care homes, suggesting the true death toll could be in the region of 50,0000

More than 4,000 care home residents in England and Wales have died during the pandemic up until April 17, official data shows, 19 per cent of the total on that date. This compares to Germany’s 2,401. A third of its total deaths have been in care homes, but that includes prisons and other community settings. Adelina Comas-Herrera, an author of the report, said she expects half of the UK’s deaths to have taken place in care homes, suggesting the true death toll could be in the region of 50,0000

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today dismissed the prospect of any 'meaningful' change to lockdown this week

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today dismissed the prospect of any ‘meaningful’ change to lockdown this week

The Tube was still busy today despite the strict lockdown rules in force - amid claims from unions that the government wants services back up to at least 85 per cent by May 18

The Tube was still busy today despite the strict lockdown rules in force – amid claims from unions that the government wants services back up to at least 85 per cent by May 18

Britain’s daily coronavirus death toll today rose by 288 – the lowest 24-hour jump since the end of March, as figures show the UK’s crisis is continuing to slow down after peaking in mid-April. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tonight announced the total number of victims had reached 28,734, meaning Britain’s official toll is Europe’s second worst – behind only Italy (28,884). 

But top statisticians say thousands of British care home victims are still being missed in the official count because the figures only include patients who have tested positive in a laboratory.

During the darkest days of Britain’s crisis in mid-April, more than 1,000 deaths were being announced by the Department of Health each day. The UK has not recorded fewer than 200 deaths a day since March 26, three days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed the draconian lockdown.

Setting out Britain’s new test, track and trace programme to curb the outbreak even further, Mr Hancock said it would ‘hunt down and isolate the virus so it is unable to reproduce’.

It would involve an ‘army’ of 18,000 human contact tracers and the new app which is being launched tomorrow as part of a trial in the Isle of Wight.

The developments come after it was revealed that England’s excess death rate amid the pandemic is the worst in Europe, higher than Italy, Spain and France. Data compiled by officials on the continent shows England’s spike in excess deaths has also lasted longer than any of its coronavirus-ravaged neighbours. 

In other developments to the UK’s coronavirus crisis today:

One of the Government’s five tests for adjusting the lockdown is whether there has been ‘a sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths from coronavirus’.

But to see whether this is happening, we need to know precisely when those deaths are taking place.

This information is not included in the running total announced each day by the Government, which is based on when deaths have been reported, not when they actually happened.

To find out when deaths are taking place, we need to look at different statistical sources.

The only source that publishes frequent updates of when coronavirus-related deaths are taking place is NHS England, which releases figures every day for the number of deaths in hospitals in England of patients who have tested positive for Covid-19, together with the date on which the death occurred.

The latest figures from NHS England, covering hospital deaths up to 5pm on May 3, show that since a peak on April 8, the numbers do seem to be trending downwards.

No date since April 16 has seen more than 600 deaths take place, and no date since April 24 has seen more than 400 deaths.

The figures from NHS England are revised every day to incorporate deaths that have taken several days or even weeks to be confirmed.

There is a small chance that revisions made in the next few days could affect those ‘benchmark’ dates of April 16 and April 24, making the trend harder to detect.

But for now, the figures suggest a drop in hospital deaths as the month of April continued.

The next benchmark to look out for will be the point when deaths no longer go above 200 each day.

Remember these figures are only for people dying in hospital in England who have tested positive for Covid-19.

They don’t give a full picture of what is happening elsewhere, particularly in care homes.

But on Tuesday we will get the latest weekly figures for deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales in all settings – inside and outside hospitals – based on death certificates.

This is the widest possible measure of deaths linked to coronavirus, and includes the date on which the deaths occurred.

These figures will enable us to see if the trend suggested by the hospital data in England is reflected across England and Wales as a whole – and provide more evidence as to whether that trend is ‘sustained and consistent’.

But the final count, which should have been released at 2pm, may be lower because of a change in how deaths are recorded in England.

Ministers finally caved in to mounting pressure to include COVID-19 fatalities in care homes in the daily updates last week. 

It came amid fears thousands of victims were being missed because the daily figures only took into account patients who died in hospitals.

Care home deaths make up almost half of all deaths in some neighbouring European countries, according to estimates.

And official data from Scotland suggests around 40 per cent of all victims die in care homes, suggesting Britain’s true death toll could be in the region of 50,000.

Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all now include care home deaths in their daily COVID-19 situation updates, which they announce individually.

But their tallies do not always line-up with the official count provided by DH because of how they are recorded. 

For instance, Scotland’s death toll stands at 1,576 – but the Department of Health had only registered 1,559 fatalities for the country yesterday.

No overall daily update is given by England, with NHS bosses only offering a count of how many patients have died in hospitals.

But because of DH’s new reporting system, some of the deaths NHS England reports each day have already been included in previous tolls.

Officials do not provide an in-depth breakdown to show how many COVID-19 deaths occurred in hospitals compared to care homes and other settings.   

It comes after an EU monitoring project today revealed that England has had the worst excess death rate in Europe during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Excess death rates show how many more people have died than would usually be expected for the time of year. 

The figures are seen as a clue to the number of ‘hidden’ coronavirus deaths, with official figures almost certain to be incomplete.  

Many countries have seen a spike in excess deaths during the pandemic but figures collected by EU-backed database EuroMOMO show England performing worse than any other European country. 

EuroMOMO assigns a so-called Z-score to all the countries in its database, showing the deviation from a five-year average of deaths. 

England’s Z-score peaked at 44.1, according to the monitoring project, with Spain in second place at 34.7. 

The other three UK nations had a far lower Z-score, with Wales peaking at 19.3, Scotland at 17.3 and Northern Ireland at 8.5. 

EuroMOMO does not provide an actual number of excess deaths, but separate figures have shown around 12,000 more deaths than usual in the UK. 

England was also the only monitored nation with a ‘substantial increase’ of excess mortality for the 15-64 age group, preliminary data shows. 

England has had the worst excess death rate in Europe during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an EU monitoring project.

Excess death rates show how many more people have died than would usually be expected for the time of year. 

The figures are seen as a clue to the number of ‘hidden’ coronavirus deaths, with official figures almost certain to be incomplete.  

Many countries have seen a spike in excess deaths during the pandemic but figures collected by EU-backed database EuroMOMO show England performing worse than any other European country. 

EuroMOMO assigns a so-called Z-score to all the countries in its database, showing the deviation from a five-year average of deaths. 

England’s Z-score peaked at 44.1, according to the monitoring project, with Spain in second place at 34.7. 

The other three UK nations had a far lower Z-score, with Wales peaking at 19.3, Scotland at 17.3 and Northern Ireland at 8.5. 

EuroMOMO does not provide an actual number of excess deaths, but separate figures have shown around 12,000 more deaths than usual in the UK. 

England was also the only monitored nation with a ‘substantial increase’ of excess mortality for the 15-64 age group, preliminary data shows. 

Excess fatalities include deaths from other causes which may nonetheless be linked to the pandemic, for example stroke or heart attack victims whose treatment was delayed because of an overburdened health system. 

Epidemiologists say these statistics help to build a more complete picture, because many deaths go unreported when there is an exponential surge in a short period.  

Excess fatalities include deaths from other causes which may nonetheless be linked to the pandemic, for example stroke or heart attack victims whose treatment was delayed because of an overburdened health system. 

Epidemiologists say these statistics help to build a more complete picture, because many deaths go unreported when there is an exponential surge in a short period.  

A report today warned COVID-19 deaths in care homes are not inevitable, amid fears the virus has claimed the lives of thousands of Britain’s most vulnerable.

Researchers at the London School of Economics highlighted exactly where the UK had fallen short of protecting some 400,000 care home residents and staff.

At least 5,000 care home residents are thought to have died from COVID-19. Official data shows care home deaths account for around a third of all fatalities.

The LSE report claimed Number 10 has followed a ‘reactive’ response to the COVID-19 crisis, rather than preventing the outbreak from the outset. 

In some cases, swab tests have been limited to six residents with symptoms per care home, forcing staff to make assumptions on who may have the killer infection.

In contrast, Hong Kong – which took action to prevent a crisis early on – has recorded no official deaths in care homes.

But Adelina Comas-Herrera, an author of the LSE report, said she expects half of the UK’s deaths to have taken place in care homes up until now.

This would suggest the UK’s true death toll is in the region of 50,000, with most of the deaths included in the official toll of 28,000 being in hospitals.

The pattern has been reported in Spain and Italy, where governments were slow to act and were underprepared for the pandemic with low levels of PPE.

In other developments today, the membership of the secretive committee which has been advising the Government on handling coronavirus was finally made public.

The names of those who sit on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had not previously been published on security and independence grounds.

But ministers this morning bowed to mounting pressure and released the names of 50 experts across many fields who have sat in regular crisis meetings. 

It comes amid a row over No10 aide Dominic Cummings and top Google AI expert Demis Hassabis attending meetings. 

Don’t get your hopes up! Nicola Sturgeon gazumps Boris Johnson AGAIN by saying there won’t be ‘meaningful’ changes to lockdown this week – as ministers admit they are stockpiling masks for the public and hint 2 metre distance rule will be eased

A leaked draft has revealed more details of the shape of the next phase of coronavirus curbs – due to be unveiled by Boris Johnson on Sunday. 

Key points include: 

Nicola Sturgeon today dismissed the prospect of any ‘meaningful’ change to lockdown this week – as Boris Johnson pushed back the timing of his exit plan by days. 

The Scottish First Minister declared at a briefing in Edinburgh that the situation is so delicate the curbs cannot be significantly eased.

She also promised to set out her own proposals for how to ease the curbs tomorrow – nearly a week before the PM is expected to unveil his strategy. 

The latest brazen example of Ms Sturgeon gazumping the Westminster government came amid signs the two-metre social distancing rules could be softened to help revive the economy.

The shape of the ‘road map’ has started to emerge, with a leaked draft suggesting it will recognise that keeping gaps between workers is not always possible.

Instead companies will be advised they can take other precautions such as installing screens and imposing strict hygiene procedures.

Meanwhile, offices will be told to overhaul their rotas to minimise risks by staggering arrival, break and departure times, ending hot desking and avoiding sharing equipment.

Ministers confirmed this morning that the government has started stockpiling face masks for public use.   

The PM is expected to unveil the exit strategy in an address to the nation on Sunday, having delayed the announcement by three days as frantic work continues in Whitehall. The law requires that a decision on extending the lockdown measures be taken by Thursday, but ministers could have initial results from a huge surveillance project to assess the prevalence of the disease by the end of the week. 

In a video posted on the Downing Street Twitter feed today, Mr Johnson warned that the ‘worst thing’ the country could do right now is ‘ease up too soon’ while there is still a threat of a ‘second peak’.  

‘We will only be able to move onto the second phase of this conflict if our five tests have been met,’ he said.

The tests are: that the NHS must have sufficient critical care capacity; there must be a sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths; the infection rate must be decreasing to ‘manageable levels’; there must be enough PPE and testing supply; and any adjustments must not lead to a second peak which could overwhelm the health service.

Mr Johnson said: ‘The worst thing we could do now is ease up too soon and allow a second peak of coronavirus.’ 

Ministers have been under massive pressure to set out the way forward, with the draconian current curbs estimated to be costing the country £2billion a day.

The obstacles have been underlined with unions threatening to block plans to get rail services up to 85 per cent of usual levels within a fortnight. Furious Tory MPs accused the RMT of trying to exploit the situation to get more money for their members. 

Downing Street stressed that current guidance was for people to maintain the two metres gap ‘where possible’.   

Ministers are in discussions over coronavirus ‘immunity certificates’ for workers amid rising hopes of an antibody test. 

Paperwork that could show people are clear of the disease and unlikely to get it again could be deployed as part of efforts to get the economy up and running. 

The plans emerged amid suggestions an accurate antibody test could start being rolled out across the UK within a fortnight.

Testing giant Roche Diagnostics says that it has created a kit that is accurate enough to be used at scale – and the firm says it has enough stock to provide hundreds of thousands to the NHS every week.

It comes after weeks of disappointments regarding antibody tests, which are designed to tell someone if they have contracted the virus in the past and indicate whether they may now be immune.

Roche claims its lab-based ‘Elecsys’ test can spot 100 per cent of people who have had the virus – with no ‘false negatives’ at all. The test is important because it gives the clearest possible picture of how widespread the coronavirus is in the UK.

If many more people have had the illness than currently believed, fears of a second peak will diminish.

At her daily briefing in Edinburgh today, Ms Sturgeon said that, although ‘real and significant progress’ was being made, the rate of reproduction of the virus was still too high to alleviate lockdown measures.

She said it is ‘likely’ that lockdown measures will continue without any ‘meaningful’ changes.

‘Although we are making real and significant progress … the numbers still eing infected by the virus and the all-importnat R number remain too high right now to make any meaningful change without risking the virus running out of control again,’ she said.  

Saying she expected to unveil her own exit plan tomorrow, Ms Sturgeon said work would be done to ensure there was alignment with the rest of the UK, but divergence in measures could still be possible. 

The First Minister also outlined the Scottish Government’s test, trace, isolate (TTI) strategy, which she said would aid the easing of the lockdown measures.

Ms Sturgeon said the strategy would only work if the public adheres to it, adding it was not a ‘quick fix or magic solution’ and would need to be done alongside current hygiene guidance.

Ms Sturgeon said moves were being made to deliver a TTI strategy by the end of May, with testing capacity expected to have to rise to 15,500 per day to support the approach.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace hinted that social distancing advice will be fleshed out, telling Sky News that that protective screens and ensuring people were not close together for very long could reduce the need for strict distancing. 

‘You can look at shielding, you can look at how long you stay near people. The two-metre rule reduces the possibility of infection by a certain amount of time,’ he said.

‘If you halve that it still keeps people away from being infected but for a lesser time. The probability of being infected is much less.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today confirmed the government is stockpiling face masks for the public – saying human nature means people will want to wear them. 

Mr Wallace said supplies were being put in place in case the government decides to change its advice – something that has already happened in Scotland. 

Mr Johnson said last week they will be ‘useful’ in the next phase of lockdown but the Westminster guidance has not been updated. 

‘It’s not the amazing thing if you wear a mask that no one’s going to get it but there is obviously this issue about human nature and interactions if you go on public transport and wear a mask will you feel able to go back to work,’ Mr Wallace said.

‘At the same time, to anticipate should different rules be made around masks we’re trying to source as many masks as possible as we speak and have been for the last few weeks.’

‘I think there are options about how we can do it. You can wear PPE, that could be a possibility if you have to be in close proximity or indeed you could find other ways of doing it.’

He pointed towards supermarket workers working behind ‘shields’. 

Mr Wallace also confirmed that the government is stockpiling face masks in case it decides to change its advice – something that has already happened in Scotland. Mr Johnson has said they will be ‘useful’ in the next phase of lockdown but the Westminster guidance has not been updated, 

‘It’s not the amazing thing if you wear a mask that no one’s going to get it but there is obviously this issue about human nature and interactions if you go on public transport and wear a mask will you feel able to go back to work,’ Mr Wallace said.

‘At the same time, to anticipate should different rules be made around masks we’re trying to source as many masks as possible as we speak and have been for the last few weeks.’

Sir Jeremy Farrar, a SAGE member and head of the Wellcome Trust, said there was ‘nothing magical’ about the two metre advice, and it was based on long-standing evidence about how far coughs and sneezes were likely to travel.

‘There is nothing magical about two metres,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘Perhaps more importantly is the time you spend near someone else.’  

The draft guidance, a version of which has been leaked to the BBC and Financial Times.

Rail unions have today been accused of trying to stymie Britain’s recovery while holding the country to ransom after they said it was ‘premature’ to open up the country’s public transport network when the lockdown eases.

RMT’s Assistant General Secretary Mick Lynch said today that ministers want to be running 85%-100% of train and Tube services within a fortnight despite it not being ‘safe’ – days after they demanded a new pay deal for workers during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Lynch also admitted ‘most’ of their members are working despite Mayor of London Sadiq Khan slashing Tube and bus services to 15 per cent and 12 per cent respectively compared with normal levels and closing 40 stations. Yet tens of thousands of key workers are cramming on to buses and trains because they have no choice but to travel to work every day.

Mr Khan has also claims that Transport for London needs four weeks to prepare for lockdown easing – because it has furloughed 7,000 staff and up to a third of workers have been self-isolation through the crisis.

The country’s three biggest rail unions have written to Mr Johnson warning that increasing train services to normal levels from May 18 will be ‘dangerous and lead to the public flouting the rules’.

But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told MailOnline today: ‘This is absolutely typical of the militant transport unions – they are trying to exploit the crisis and hold the Government to ransom for more money.’ 

It suggested vulnerable staff – such as those aged over 70, pregnant, with underlying health conditions or pregnant – should be put in the ‘safest possible roles’.

The guidance is clear that anyone who can work from home should continue to do so – meaning many staff will be out of the office for months to come.  

But the draft does not spell out what action should be taken on PPE – saying merely that more information will follow. Some businesses fear they might be open to legal action from staff if they loosen the rules without clear direction from the government. 

Mr Wallace played down concerns that ‘coronaphobia’ could hamper efforts to get the economy running again, with polls showing significant numbers would be nervous about returning to work.

The Defence Secretary said: ‘I strongly believe the public aren’t stupid. They read advice, they listen to the media.

‘They took on board the Government’s advice… and I think they will be perfectly able to read the Government’s next stage when we get to it.

‘I’m totally confident when it comes to the next step we will all together be able to move forward.’ 

Mr Johnson will describe the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine as the ‘most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes’ later as he calls on nations to ‘pull together’ in response to the pandemic.

The Prime Minister is expected to tell an online pledging conference – co-hosted by the UK and eight other countries and organisations – that the sooner states share their expertise the faster scientists will succeed in defeating the disease.

It comes as Mr Johnson revealed he feared he would not live to see his baby son Wilfred born when he battled Covid-19 in intensive care last month.

The PM will tell the conference, which aims to bring in more than £6.6billion in funding, that the race to develop a vaccine is ‘not a competition between countries but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes’.

Boris Johnson will face a backbench rebellion over his Government’s ‘absurd, dystopian and tyrannical’ coronavirus lockdown today.

Furious Tory MPs including 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady and ex-Brexit ministers David Davis and Steve Baker are preparing to voice anger over the extent of the enforced shut-down. 

They will argue that the economic, social and health costs of the self-imposed paralysis of UK PLC is so great that it must be eased. 

They will use a debate on the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations brought in in March, which gave ministers and police the greatest swathe of restrictive powers ever granted in peacetime.

As well as measures to unclog the stagnant economy there are civil liberties concerns about the new NHS contact tracing app and the way it tracks the public.

Mr Johnson is expected to announce measures to allow the lockdown to be eased in an address to the nation on Sunday, after it is officially extended for three more weeks on Thursday.

But Mr Baker, a former Brexit ‘Spartan’ who is no stranger to going contrary to his front bench, said ‘whatever the necessities, that the rule of law should have been overthrown in this period is extraordinary and deeply troubling,’ in an article for the Daily Telegraph.

‘It’s humanity against the virus – we are in this together and together we will prevail,’ he is expected to say. 

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson faces a backbench rebellion over his Government’s ‘absurd, dystopian and tyrannical’ coronavirus lockdown today.

Furious Tory MPs including 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady and ex-Brexit ministers David Davis and Steve Baker are preparing to voice anger over the extent of the enforced shut-down. 

They will argue that the economic, social and health costs of the self-imposed paralysis of UK PLC is so great that it must be eased. 

They will use a debate on the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations brought in in March, which gave ministers and police the greatest swathe of restrictive powers ever granted in peacetime.

As well as measures to unclog the stagnant economy there are civil liberties concerns about the new NHS contact tracing app and the way it tracks the public.

Mr Johnson is expected to announce measures to allow the lockdown to be eased in an address to the nation on Sunday, after it is officially extended for three more weeks on Thursday.

But Mr Baker, a former Brexit ‘Spartan’ who is no stranger to going contrary to his front bench, said ‘whatever the necessities, that the rule of law should have been overthrown in this period is extraordinary and deeply troubling,’ in an article for the Daily Telegraph.

‘Millions of people in our country have been plunged into idleness at public expense and unemployment, facing financial and psychological hardship on a scale never seen before,’ he added.

”Thousands of people have missed life-prolonging health appointments. Vulnerable people are isolated and domestic violence has soared. Soon will come the full economic impact on all our lives.’

He went on: ‘This is absurd, dystopian and tyrannical. The sooner it is ended, the better.’ 

Mr Johnson today warned that lifting lockdown restrictions too soon would be ‘the worst thing we could do’.

In a video message on Twitter, the Prime Minister said it was important to meet the five tests set by the Government before easing the lockdown. 

Mr Davis, who has a long history of speaking out on civil liberties issues, is preparing to challenge the Government over its new contact tracing app, which is due to start trials on the Isle of Wight this week.










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