/UK coronavirus live: government to publish daily care home deaths as hospital toll rises to 21,678 – as it happened

UK coronavirus live: government to publish daily care home deaths as hospital toll rises to 21,678 – as it happened

2.19pm EDT14:19

Evening summary

  • Almost a quarter of coronavirus deaths in England and Wales were in care homes, the latest weekly figures from the ONS revealed, with more than 4,300 deaths recorded in a fortnight. This marks a sharp rise from the official death toll up to 10 April, which was 1,043. From Wednesday, the government will publish daily figures for the number of coronavirus deaths in care homes and the community. This follows complaints for many weeks that by only publishing hospital deaths, figures could be underestimating the true number of deaths by as much as half, according to some estimates.
  • The Scottish government published new guidance recommending the public should wear face coverings in “limited circumstances” where it was not always possible to remain two metres apart, for instance in supermarkets and on public transport. The UK government said it was still considering advice submitted on this issue submitted by Sage last week, which maintained there is “weak” evidence of face masks having a “small” protective effect. The most important thing to maintain is physical distancing, it added.
  • British Airways is set to make up to 12,000 workers redundant as the airline’s parent company revealed its revenue had plunged 13% in the first quarter of 2020. Announcing the cuts, IAG said it expected recovery to 2019 passenger levels to take several years.
  • Eligibility for free coronavirus tests has been extended to NHS patients and staff who do not have symptoms, and care home residents and staff who do not have symptoms (those who do have symptoms qualify for tests already). Anyone over 65 with symptoms and anybody who needs to leave home to go to work who has symptoms, as well as members of their family, will also be eligible.
  • And the former prime minister Theresa May urged ministers to consider the impact of lockdown for domestic abuse and mental health, as well as the economy, when deciding how quickly to lift restrictions. Speaking in a debate on the domestic abuse bill, she said there was “clear” evidence that domestic abuse was increasing during lockdown because perpetrators have greater freedom to act and victims find it harder to leave.

That’s it from us today on the UK side, thanks to all of you for following along and to everybody who got in touch with tips and suggestions. If you would like to continue following the Guardian’s coverage of the pandemic, head over to our global live blog for the worldwide picture.

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1.44pm EDT13:44

Matt Hancock’s press conference – Summary

Here are the main points from Matt Hancock’s press conference.

  • Hancock, the health secretary, said that from tomorrow the government will start publishing daily figures for the number of coronavirus deaths in care homes and other non-hospital settings. Until now it has only published daily figures for hospital deaths. This has led to complaints that the headline figures are giving a misleading impression, because there are claims that they understate the true level of coronavirus deaths by as much as half. (See 3.34pm.) Hancock said the new figures would “help inform the judgments that we make as we work to keep people safe”.
  • He announced a significant increase in the number of people eligible for free coronavirus tests. Residents and staff in care homes, and patients and staff in NHS hospitals, who don’t have symptoms would be eligible, he said. (If they do have symptoms, they are already eligible.) And he said that people over 65 with symptoms, or people who need to travel for work and have symptoms, would be eligible too. He said that the government was able to do this because it now had the capacity to carry out more than 70,000 tests a day. The full details of the new eligibility rules are here.
  • He complained that a reporter who asked him to apologise for not doing enough to protect people in care homes was being unreasonable. When it was put to him that he might take the opportunity to apologise, Hancock replied:

The thing is, I think that’s unreasonable as a question, actually.

Hancock insisted that he had been focused on problems in care homes from the start.

  • He defended his decision not to ban visitors to care homes earlier. He said:

The critical thing is that in a care home having visitors also has a positive impact both against the loneliness of the residents but also on their longevity and their mental health. So these are difficult judgments and there are no easy recommendations to make.

We were guided by that clinical advice and when it was necessary to make that change, which is quite a firm change, then we did so.

I saw two of the things you referred to. I’m not sure they were a fair and objective journalistic assessment of the situation but what we do have is constant focus on the realities of getting PPE to the frontline.

  • Prof Dame Angela McLean, the government’s deputy chief scientific advisor, said ministers have been told there is “weak” evidence of a “small” beneficial effect from face masks. She said this advice had been passed on to ministers, who are still deciding whether to change the official advice to the public.
  • The government published a chart that appears to show the UK performing worse than other European countries on coronavirus deaths. That is because it includes all coronavirus deaths for the UK. But the chart itself stresses that the data does not always include like-for-like comparisons because different countries count in different ways. Here is the chart.
Global deaths comparison

Global deaths comparison Photograph: No 10

1.33pm EDT13:33

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 within prisons continues to rise, a daily update by the Ministry of Justice shows.

As at 5pm on Monday, there were 332 prisoners who had tested positive for the virus across 69 prisons, an increase of 2% in 24 hours. The number of prison staff infected rose by 7% to 317 workers in the same period.

Analysis by Public Health England published late on Monday revealed that there were nearly 1,800 possible cases of the virus among the prisoner population. 15 inmates have died directly or indirectly from Covid-19.

There are 81,500 prisoners across 117 jails in England and Wales, and around 33,000 staff working in 104 public sector prisons.

The new modelling from PHE shows that reducing the prison population by 5,000 could be effective in limiting the spread of the virus, the MoJ said, with the number of inmates already reduced by 3,000 over a seven-week period.

Testing for prisoners has been “limited but variable” but staff testing has been made available with more than 1,000 referred in the past fortnight.

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12.42pm EDT12:42

Ministers have been told there is “weak” evidence for face masks having “small” protective effect, deputy science chief says

12.38pm EDT12:38

British Airways to make up to 12,000 workers redundant

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Hancock says asking him to apologise for care home record is unreasonable

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Hancock announces expansion of eligibility for coronavirus testing

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