Friday, 22 May 2020

Britain announces 351 more Covid-19 deaths taking official number of victims to 36,393

Britain today announced 351 more coronavirus deaths, taking the official number of victims to 36,393 - as Government scientists warned the reproductive rate is still teetering on the brink of spiraling back out of control. 

Experts sitting on Number 10's SAGE panel today revealed the crucial R-value - the average number of people that will contract COVID-19 from an infected person - was still between 0.7 and 1 for the second week in a row across the UK.

Officials must keep the number below 1 otherwise the outbreak will start to grow exponentially again and threaten a second epidemic. However, the latest data is three weeks out of date due to a lag in the government's mathematical modelling. 

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. 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 capital was formerly the UK's coronavirus epicentre and at least two million people are thought to have been infected there, according to estimates. But experts say around 15 per cent of Londoners have now had the disease already and have built up immunity, which makes it harder for the virus to spread.   

Today's death toll is marginally lower than the 363 recorded yesterday, the lowest figure on a Thursday since March 26 (103). Of the new deaths, 172 were in hospitals in England, while Scotland recorded 24, Wales seven and Northern Ireland three, in all settings.  

The remaining deaths are thought to have occurred in care homes and in the wider community in England. Department of Health figures also showed that 3,287 more Britons had tested positive for the disease. 

In other developments to Britain's coronavirus crisis today:

  • A Nobel Prize-winning scientist tore into Boris Johnson's lack of political leadership over coronavirus that has left the UK on the 'back foot' and 'firefighting through successive crises';
  • Thousands of lives could have been saved from Covid-19 if Britain's lockdown was imposed just one week earlier, a government scientific adviser claimed;
  • JD Wetherspoon revealed its £11million masterplan to reopen its 875 pubs as soon as the Government gives them the nod in July;
  • So-called coronavirus 'immunity certificates' that could allow Brits to return to work have come a step closer after ministers announced mass antibody tests are being deployed;
  • Australia is pushing to be the first country exempted from the UK's 14-day coronavirus quarantine - as arrivals face 'spot checks' on homes and £1,000 fines for breaking the rules.

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