Here’s a round up of the main developments today:
The government’s key advisers say social distancing should remain for some time
Both Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty have cast doubt on the prime minister’s plan of a November return to normality, by making it clear they think social distancing should remain in place for some time. Both advisers warned there was a high risk of a second wave this winter and suggested some lockdown measures may have to be reimposed.
UK death toll increases by 114
The number of hospital deaths from coronavirus increased by 114 to 45,119. There were no new deaths in Scotland or Northern Ireland and one more in Wales. The number of infections increased by 687.
Boris Johnson unveils plan to return England ‘to normality’ by Christmas
Boris Johnson revealed steps to encourage people back to work in England and sweeping measures that will allow ministers to issue stay-at-home orders to tackle coronavirus outbreaks. Johnson said that from Saturday local authorities would have new powers to close specific premises, shut outdoor spaces and cancel events. He also set out plans for central government to intervene in local areas by issuing “stay-at-home” orders, limit the numbers at gatherings beyond national rules and restrict transport.
Employers to decide on whether staff should return to offices
Johnson appeared to tone down an expected call for employees to return to offices. Instead it will be up to employers to discuss with workers whether it is safe to return from 1 August.
Bowling, skating rinks and casinos and live performances to restart
Most remaining leisure settings, including bowling, skating rinks, casinos and close-contact services such as beauticians will be allowed to reopen from 1 August. But nightclubs and soft play areas will stay closed. Indoor performances to live audiences will also restart in August, subject to pilots. Larger gatherings in sports stadiums will also be piloted with a view to reopening in the autumn. Wedding receptions for up to 30 people will also be allowed.
Testing to increase and NHS to get extra funds
Coronavirus testing will be boosted to increase capacity to “at least” half a million a day – 3.5m a week – by the end of October. The NHS will get an extra £3bn to help it prepare for a possible second coronavirus wave which could be “more virulent”.
Capt Tom Moore has been knighted
Capt Tom Moore has been knighted by the Queen in recognition of his outstanding achievement of raising almost £33m for the NHS. The Queen personally praised the 100-year-old veteran, telling him: “Thank you so much, an amazing amount of money you raised.” Afterwards Sir Tom said: “Never ever did I imagine that I should get so close to the Queen and have such a kind message from her.”
Top civil servant overseeing care homes in England steps aside
The top civil servant with responsibility for care homes in England has stepped aside, sparking fresh concern about an absence of government leadership in a sector that has recorded 21,600 deaths from Covid-19 – almost 40% of all UK fatalities from the virus. Rosamond Roughton, the director general for adult social care at the Department for Health and Social Care, “is now on a career break”, according to Whitehall sources.
Hancock orders review into PHE coronavirus death statistics
Matt Hancock has ordered an urgent review of how Public Health England compiles its daily count of Covid-19 deaths, amid concerns they are exaggerated. A study by Oxford University pointed out the PHE figures record deaths of anyone who has previously tested positive for coronavirus. But experts point out that the PHE’s daily figures underestimate the true picture. They say figures from the Office for National Statistics, which record deaths that mention Covid-19 on death certificates are higher than PHE’s count.
Andrew Lansley accuses Johnson of blaming the NHS for Covid-19 failings
The Conservative former health secretary has criticised the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and accused it of trying to blame the NHS for its own failings. Lansley made clear that delays in instigating the lockdown, ordering personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff and increasing testing were made by ministers, not health service bosses.