Britain announces hundreds more coronavirus deaths

Britain announces 180 more coronavirus deaths including a 12-year-old child – taking official number of victims to 36,573 – but it is the lowest Saturday total since lockdown began

  • NHS England recorded 157 Covid deaths in its hospitals in the last 24 hours 
  • Scotland suffered 16 in all settings, followed by Wales (six) and N. Ireland (one)
  • Preliminary figure – not yet confirmed – is the lowest Saturday since March 21
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Britain today announced 180 more coronavirus deaths, including a 12-year-old with undisclosed underlying health conditions – taking the UK’s total to 36,573.

NHS England recorded 157 Covid fatalities in hospitals in the last 24 hours. Scotland suffered 16 in all settings, followed by Wales (six) and Northern Ireland (one). 

The 12-year-old victim in England becomes the fourth child under the age of 15 to succumb to the virus in Britain.  

Today’s preliminary figure – not yet confirmed by the Department of Health – is the lowest Saturday total since March 21 (56), three days before the UK went into lockdown.

So far no UK-wide death figures have been released by the Department of Health, so today’s figure was calculated using individual reporting from each of the home nations. 

Britain’s true daily death toll will be significantly higher when it is announced by the Government later today because it includes care home deaths in England – where the virus is still running rampant.

Despite today’s low jump in death, Government scientists yesterday warned the reproductive rate is still teetering on the brink of spiraling back out of control.

The R rate denotes the number of other people an infected patient will pass the sickness on to and it must stay at 1 or below or Britain will face another crisis. 

This is the second week in a row the R rate has officially been announced as between 0.7 and 1, meaning every 10 patients infect between seven and 10 others. 

However, the way the R is calculated means it is out of date, and the latest calculation is based on data from around three weeks ago – before the lockdown loosened.  

In other developments to Britain’s coronavirus crisis today:

  • There were calls for Boris Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings to resign today after it emerged he flouted lockdown rules to travel 250miles to his elderly parents’ home;
  • Labour leader Keir Starmer revealed his children have attended school throughout the coronavirus crisis as he called for classes to resume ‘as soon as possible’;
  • Employers were told they will have to pay 25 per cent of wages of furloughed staff from August, raising fears of a wave of redundancies;
  • Boris Johnson will drop drop the ‘track’ in his ‘test, track and trace’ system that is designed to get Britain out lockdown because the NHSX app will not be ready for weeks. 

The R is calculated by working out how fast the virus spreads by comparing data including hospital admissions, the number of patients in intensive care, death statistics and surveys to find out how many people members of the public are coming into contact with.  

The new number does not factor in the slight relaxation of Britain’s lockdown measures, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on May 13.

Mr Johnson has said ministers would reimpose controls if the rate of transmission of the virus started to pick up again. 

London is thought to be leading the way in terms of its R value, with experts from Public Health England and Cambridge University predicting it could be as low as 0.4 in the capital. 

Every infectious disease is given a reproduction number, which is known as R0 – pronounced ‘R nought’ – or simply R.

It is a value that represents how many people one sick person will, on average, infect if the virus is reproducing in its ideal conditions.

The value has been estimated by the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

They assess data from hospitalisations, intensive care demand, deaths and the number of social contacts people have.

Experts use multiple sources to get this information, including NHS hospital admissions, Office for National Statistics and CQC death figures and behavioural contact surveys.  

Using mathematical modelling, they are able to calculate the virus’ spread. 

But a lag in the time it takes for coronavirus patients to fall unwell and die mean the R modelling is always roughly three weeks behind.   

Most epidemiologists – scientists who track disease outbreaks – believe the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, has an R value of around 3.

But some experts analysing outbreaks across the world have estimated it could be closer to the 6.6 mark.

As an outbreak goes on, the R0 may be referred to more accurately as Re or just R, as other factors come into play to influence how well it is able to spread. 

Estimates of the COVID-19 R vary because the true size of the pandemic remains a mystery, and how fast the virus spreads depends on the environment. 

As an outbreak progress the R may simply be referred to as R, which means the effective rate of infection – the nought works on the premise that nobody in the population is protected, which becomes outdated as more people recover. 

But the nationwide reproduction number is being skewed upwards due to outbreaks in care homes and in Northern towns. It has prompted calls for regional easing of lockdown, with London leading the way. 

The drop in daily deaths came as Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings was forced to defend claims he flouted lockdown rules

Mr Cummings insisted he had behaved ‘reasonable and legally’ when he travelled with his wife and son from London to his parents’ Durham farm in March to self-isolate with coronavirus symptoms, despite the government’s own restrictions banning non-essential journeys.

He was spotted by a witness at the gate of the property, with Abba’s Dancing Queen playing loudly.

But challenged by reporters this afternoon whether his actions looked bad, a defiant Mr Cummings said ‘who cares about good looks’.

‘It’s a question of doing the right thing. It’s not about what you guys think.’ He also berated photographers for not following social distancing rules by staying two metres apart.

In a statement earlier, a No10 spokesman said Mr Cummings had not broken any guidelines with the 264-mile trip.

‘Owing to his wife being infected with suspected Coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for,’ the spokesman said.

‘His sister and nieces had volunteered to help so he went to a house near to but separate from his extended family in case their help was needed. His sister shopped for the family and left everything outside.

Although Durham police has confirmed the family was given advice on lockdown rules, the statement added: ‘At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported. His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.’

Amid a concerted Tory effort to shore up the key aide, Cabinet minister Michael Gove, Mr Cummings’ former boss, tweeted: ‘Caring for your wife and child is not a crime.’ Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Chancellor Rishi Sunak also offered backing.

Challenged by reporters at his London home this afternoon whether his actions looked bad, a defiant Dominic Cummings said ‘who cares about good looks’

Dominic Cummings was fighting for his political life today as pressure mounted on Boris Johnson to sack his chief adviser for flouting lockdown rules (duo pictured in September)

Allies pointed to a comment from deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries on March 24, when she was asked what parents should do if both fall ill. ‘A small child is vulnerable. If adults cannot look after the child, that is an exceptional circumstance,’ Dr Harries said.

However, the government guidance said that those self-isolating ‘must stay at home and not leave the house’, as well as ‘staying away’ from vulnerable elderly people. In an account of their ordeal published last month, Mr Cummings’ journalist wife Mary Wakefield also described how he was nursed by their small son with Ribena – suggesting he stayed with them throughout. The PM’s official spokesman told reporters at the time that Mr Cummings was isolating ‘at home’.

The bombshell revelations sparked accusations of hypocrisy with Mr Cummings’ position branded ‘untenable’, and signs of disquiet among Tory MPs.

A Labour Party spokesman said: ‘The lockdown rules were very clear: if you or anyone in your household was suspected of having Covid-19 you must immediately self-isolate and not leave the house. However, the Prime Minister’s Chief Adviser appears to believe that it is one rule for him and another for the British people.

‘This will cause understandable anger for the millions of people who have sacrificed so much during this crisis.

‘We are still unclear who knew about this decision and when, whether this was sanctioned by the Prime Minister and whether Number 10 is now questioning the validity of the statement from Durham Police.’

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford told BBC Radio 4’s Today that there seemed to have been a ‘cover up’ and Mr Cummings ‘should have gone by now’.

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