Boris Johnson to deliver update on UK coronavirus response

30 April 2020, 11:20

Boris Johnson has returned to work after a battle with Covid-19
Boris Johnson has returned to work after a battle with Covid-19. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson is expected to say it is 'too early' to set out the UK's path out of lockdown later today when he leads the government's daily update on the country's response to the coronavirus.

The Prime Minister is to speak at his first daily press conference since recovering from Covid-19 at 5pm.

The UK's coronavirus death toll from Covid-19 is now the third highest in the world after the US and Italy, and it has left Downing Street is playing down any expectations of an easing of restrictions.

Number 10 said a Cabinet meeting earlier in the day would look at the "response in general" and the "fight against this disease and the steps we are taking to defeat it", but not make any decisions on lockdown measures.

The UK's death toll stood at over 26,000 last night after deaths in care homes and in the community were added to the total of deaths in hospitals.

In further developments today:

- An international clinical trial, co-led by University College London and the UK's Medical Research Council, found the Ebola drug remdesivir speeds up recovery from coronavirus by almost a third.

- The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca joined forces for the large-scale manufacture and distribution of Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine if it is proven to work during clinical trials.

- Supermarket giant Sainsbury's and banking group Lloyds warned of hits to profits from the coronavirus crisis.

- Captain Tom Moore celebrated his 100th birthday at home with his family after a whirlwind few weeks in which he has been elevated to national hero status and raised more than £30 million for the NHS.

Thursday's Cabinet and a gathering of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) come as Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that easing lockdown would not be a "flick of the switch moment".

Sage is looking at a selection of options for easing restrictions while keeping the reproduction rate of the coronavirus - the number of new cases linked to a single individual - below one to stop it spreading exponentially.

Germany saw a rise in that rate after easing its own lockdown.

With some Tory backbenchers pressing for an easing of measures for the sake of the economy, Business Secretary Alok Sharma is set to put forward plans for an eventual "workplace by workplace" approach.

A Business Department spokesman said: "The Government has already set out five clear tests to consider before making any adjustment to its approach.

"It is only right the we work together with industry and unions to ensure workplaces are safe for both those in work now and for those going back to work as Government measures develop."

But Ms Sturgeon said on Wednesday night that she was "far from convinced" measures could be eased on the next review date of May 7.

"People talk about lifting the lockdown, that is not going to be a flick of the switch moment - we're going to have to be very careful, very slow, very gradual.

"I'm far from convinced at this stage that when we get to the next review point on the 7th of May we'll be in a position to lift any of these measures right now, because the margins of manoeuvre that we're operating in right now are very, very, very tight and narrow."

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Her comments came after it was announced that a total of 26,097 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community in the UK after contracting Covid-19.

It is the first time data on the number of deaths in care homes and the wider community has been included in the Government's daily updates.

The total is around 17% higher than previous data showed and includes an additional 3,811 deaths recorded since the start of the outbreak.

Of these, around 70% were outside hospital settings.

The change in measurement means the UK death toll is the third highest in the world, behind the US and Italy, based on data from Johns Hopkins University.

The US had reported 58,355 deaths and Italy 27,359.

The Government pointed out other countries may report figures differently and any lag is unclear, although France and Italy also include deaths in care homes.

Additional reporting by PA