Health

Britain announces 118 coronavirus deaths – a 30% drop since last Sunday


Britain has announced a further 118 coronavirus deaths, a 30 per cent drop since last Sunday’s 170, taking the total to 36,793. 

The daily death figure, revealed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the daily press briefing this evening, is the lowest since the lockdown was put into force on March 23.    

Mr Johnson confirmed he is preparing to loosen the lockdown further on June 1, and schools would need to open in a matter of days. The promise of garden parties and the opening of car dealers and market stalls are expected to be revealed in the coming days. 

But Government’s scientific advisers on Friday said the R number, which reflects how the virus is spreading, is still edging near a dangerous level. It must stay below 1 to avoid cases snowballing, and is currently between 0.7 and 1 across the UK. 

It comes as Mr Johnson gave a public show of support for his senior adviser Dominic Cummings, who has been accused of breaking coronavirus lockdown rules three times. 

Nine Tory MPs have called for the PM’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings to quit today – but Mr Johnson refused to sack him, saying Mr Cummings acted ‘responsibly and legally and with integrity’.

As the R rate falls, more businesses will be able to reopen, Boris Johnson explained on May 10. We currently in step 1. The opening of schools and shops will occur in step 2 on June 1 and hospitality businesses will start opening up on July 4, if R continues to decrease

As the R rate falls, more businesses will be able to reopen, Boris Johnson explained on May 10. We currently in step 1. The opening of schools and shops will occur in step 2 on June 1 and hospitality businesses will start opening up on July 4, if R continues to decrease

The Department of Health death toll rose by 118 today which includes people who have died in hospitals, care homes and the community with a positive COVID-19 test result. 

The daily death toll today follows a drop of almost 37 per cent was recorded last Sunday, May 17, and is the lowest since March 23, when Britons were placed under strict lockdown measures. 

There are also 11 per cent less people in hospitals with COVID-19 than a week ago, Mr Johnson said, contributing to a sustained decline in hospital admissions over recent weeks.  

A total of 259,559 people have now been officially diagnosed with COVID-19, with at least three million tests carried out so far.

But the true size of the outbreak is estimated to have seen around 5million infected, based on a death rate of 1.04 per cent estimated by Stanford University in California.

Today’s death count includes nine people in Scotland, seven in Wales and one in Northern Ireland – each country individually reported new deaths.

NHS England today announced a further 147 new deaths of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in England hospitals which include those which have happened in the past few days. 

Adding hospital deaths to those announced by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would have taken the daily death count to 164 – which was reported earlier today. 

The refined total from DHSC – which should be reported at 2pm but is often delayed until the briefing – is lower because some hospital deaths reported by NHS England have already been included in the ‘all settings’ count from DHSC.  

DHSC collects figures from various sources to provide a rapid view of how the pandemic is evolving, and overlapping data is omitted. The figures are subject to change and sometimes the DHSC total is lower than that by NHS England.

NHS hospital data from today also included deaths that were suspected COVID-19, but did not have a test result come back – which the DHSC would not include in its total death count.

LOCKDOWN WAS A ‘WASTE OF TIME AND COULD KILL MORE THAN IT SAVED’

The coronavirus lockdown could have caused more deaths than it saved, a Nobel laureate scientist has claimed.

Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor who correctly predicted the initial scale of the pandemic, suggested the decision to keep people indoors was motivated by ‘panic’ rather than the best science.

Professor Levitt also said the modelling that caused the government to bring in the lockdown – carried out by Professor Neil Ferguson – over-estimated the death toll by ’10 or 12 times’.

Prof Levitt told The Telegraph: ‘I think lockdown saved no lives. I think it may have cost lives. It will have saved a few road accident lives, things like that, but social damage – domestic abuse, divorces, alcoholism – has been extreme.

‘And then you have those who were not treated for other conditions.’

Professor Levitt, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2013 for the ‘development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems’, has said for two months that most experts predictions about coronavirus are wrong.

He also believes that the Government should encourage Britons to wear masks and find other ways to continue working while socially distancing instead.

Prof Ferguson’s modelling, on the other hand, estimated up to 500,000 deaths would occur without social distancing measures.

Prof Levitt added: ‘For reasons that were not clear to me, I think the leaders panicked and the people panicked. There was a huge lack of discussion.’

The 73-year-old Nobel prize winner in not an epidemiologist, but he assessed the outbreak in China at the start of the crisis and made alternative predictions based on his own calculations.

Although Professor Levitt does acknowledge that lockdowns can be effective, he describes them as ‘medieval’ and thinks epidemiologists exaggerate their claims so that people are more likely to listen to them.

His comments come as other scientists working in the same field also reported that they couldn’t verify Prof Ferguson’s work.

Today an analysis showed that London’s excess deaths have almost doubled from March 6 to May 8 – a period of time considered to be the coronavirus crisis in the UK. 

‘Excess deaths’ which were not caused by the coronavirus – but other problems such as lack of healthcare – have risen during the pandemic. 

The excess death rate paints a clearer picture of how the coronavirus crisis has impacted countries because it encompasses all the fatalities the coronavirus has contributed to.

Britain has suffered some 55,000 ‘excess deaths’ – the number of deaths above what would be expected for the time of year – in 2020, up nearly 70 per cent compared to the five-year average by May 8. 

Figures from the Office for National Statistics, looked at by The Sunday Telegraph, show three regions which have recorded excess death more than 50 per cent higher since the start of March. 

London has been the hardest hit with more than 9,000 excess deaths from March 6 to May 8 – a 92 per cent rise from what would otherwise be expected. 

Some 1,600 of those have not been directly caused by COVID-19. 

The North West is closest behind, with almost 7,360 excess deaths between March and now, 52 per cent higher than what would be expected. Almost 1,700 of the excess deaths were not related to COVID-19.

The West Midlands has had 6,193 excess deaths, which is 58 per cent higher than what would be expected for that time of year. Some 1,730 are unexplained and not caused by COVID-19.  

The excess death toll captures deaths that may have resulted from a lack of access to healthcare, as doctors have warned the public are avoiding A&E in order to protect the NHS.

Conditions like stroke and heart attack need immediate medical treatment, but there are indications people are delaying presentation at hospitals.

It also includes suicides, which are feared to rise as a knock-on effect of people’s mental health worsening during the lockdown, or moving forward due to financial worries.

It comes as a Nobel laureate scientist claimed the coronavirus lockdown could have caused more deaths than it saved.

Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor who correctly predicted the initial scale of the pandemic, suggested the decision to keep people indoors was motivated by ‘panic’ rather than the best science.

Professor Levitt also said the modelling that caused the government to bring in the lockdown – carried out by Professor Neil Ferguson – over-estimated the death toll by ’10 or 12 times’. 

He told The Telegraph: ‘I think lockdown saved no lives. I think it may have cost lives. It will have saved a few road accident lives, things like that, but social damage – domestic abuse, divorces, alcoholism – has been extreme.

‘And then you have those who were not treated for other conditions.’

His claims echo those in a JP Morgan report that said lockdowns failed to alter the course of the pandemic but have instead ‘destroyed millions of livelihoods’. 

Author Marko Kolanovic, a trained physicist and a strategist for JP Morgan, said governments had been spooked by ‘flawed scientific papers’ into imposing lockdowns which were ‘inefficient or late’ and had little effect.

He said falling infection rates since lockdowns were lifted suggest that the virus ‘likely has its own dynamics’ which are ‘unrelated to often inconsistent lockdown measures’.  

Mr Johnson is keen to ease out of lockdown so that life can return to some form of normality as the UK spends the 62nd day in lockdown.

He confirmed this evening the phased reopening of schools was ‘crucial’ for children and would be going ahead on June 1 – despite ongoing criticism from teaching unions.

‘Today, I can announce it is our intention to go ahead with that as planned on June 1, a week on Monday,’ Mr Johnson said.

‘We then intend from June 15 for secondary schools to provide some contact for year 10 and year 12 students to help them to prepare for exams next year, with up to a quarter of these students in at any point.

‘The education of children is crucial for their welfare, for their long-term future and for social justice. In line with the approach being taken in many other countries, we want to start getting our children back into the classroom in a way that is as manageable and as safe as possible.’ 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing to make a decision on whether to loosen the lockdown further on June 1, with the promise of garden parties on the horizon. He is picturing during 'Clap For Our Carers' on May 21

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing to make a decision on whether to loosen the lockdown further on June 1, with the promise of garden parties on the horizon. He is picturing during ‘Clap For Our Carers’ on May 21 

From June 1 it is expected that car dealerships, local markets and garden parties will be permitted. But you will still be unable to go to the hairdresser, the pub or a nightclub

From June 1 it is expected that car dealerships, local markets and garden parties will be permitted. But you will still be unable to go to the hairdresser, the pub or a nightclub

The current lockdown rules the Prime Minister spoke about on May 10. There are expected to be further changes on June 1, when schools and shops reopen, and on July 4 when some hospitality businesses could get permission to trade

The current lockdown rules the Prime Minister spoke about on May 10. There are expected to be further changes on June 1, when schools and shops reopen, and on July 4 when some hospitality businesses could get permission to trade

OXFORD VACCINE TRIAL ONLY HAS ‘50% CHANCE OF SUCCESS’ 

A much-anticipated coronavirus vaccine trial only has a 50 per cent chance of success, the professor leading the project has warned.

High hopes have been pinned on the vaccine from Oxford University, with a deal for 30million doses by September already in place.

But Professor Adrian Hill said the upcoming trial of 10,000 Britons may flop and produce ‘no result’ because the virus is vanishing in the UK.

Normally in large-scale trials, participants will be given the vaccine and mingle among society to see if the jab is effective at preventing them picking up the virus – in this case SARS-CoV-2.  

But the virus is circulating at low levels. Around 0.25 per cent of the population is currently infected and this will drop further if lockdown continues to work.

Volunteers will find it difficult to catch SARS-CoV-2, meaning scientists can’t prove whether the vaccine actually makes any difference. 

The fear has also been expressed by Imperial College London researchers, Britain’s second vaccine contender which is not yet in clinical trials. 

The Oxford jab, previously called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, has been in clinical trials on humans since April 23 to prove it is safe and the team say it is progressing well.  

The jab is now called AZD1222 since a partnership was pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca was secured in order to produce billions of doses. 

Just days ago, AstraZeneca announced it had the capacity to make one billion doses of Oxford University’s promising jab.

Britain has agreed to pay for up to 100million ‘as early as possible’ – with ministers hoping for a third of those to be ready for September if proven effective.

At that point, people would be allowed to go back to work and businesses given the green light to reopen and start rebuilding the economy.

AstraZeneca has also announced a deal with the US to produce 400million doses of the vaccine – which is still not proven.  

Professor Adrian Hill, the director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University, told the Telegraph the rapid disappearance of the virus itself in the UK has thrown doubt on the team’s ability to meet the deadline in four months’ time.

If Covid-19 is not spreading in the community, volunteers will find it difficult to catch, meaning scientists can’t prove whether the vaccine actually makes any difference. 

Some 10,000 people are being recruited to test the jab over the coming weeks.

Phases II and III involve vastly increasing the number of volunteers while expanding the age range to include elderly people, who are most at-risk of falling seriously ill with the infection.

But Professor Hill said he expected fewer than 50 of those to catch the virus. The results could be deemed useless if fewer than 20 test positive. 

‘We said earlier in the year that there was an 80 per cent chance of developing an effective vaccine by September,’ he told the paper.

‘But at the moment, there’s a 50 per cent chance that we get no result at all.

‘We’re in the bizarre position of wanting Covid to stay, at least for a little while. But cases are declining.’

The dilemma has led scientists to consider purposely infecting volunteers with the virus to see if the vaccine protects them.

It would speed up vaccine development and save lives – but would be difficult to push through on ethical grounds. 

Market stalls, garden parties and car dealerships are among the next wave of activities set to be given the green light by June 1. 

A selection of open-air businesses and events are planned to be opened up from next month, with a return for National Trust parks also on the agenda, providing indoor attractions remain shut.

The proposals are set to be revealed when the PM hosts the Downing Street press conference on Thursday, after meeting with ministers at a cabinet meeting earlier in the week on Tuesday. 

A senior Government source told The Sun: ‘It is clear from the scientific evidence that the rate of infection is much less likely outdoors. The combination of fresh air and sunshine are bad for the virus but they make it safer for everyone.

‘So we are looking at opening up the outdoors. But all done in slow steps.

‘Social distancing must continue and if there’s the slightest hint of the infection rate rising again, or people hanging around in large groups, the PM will call a halt.’

Despite concerns, some non-essential shops could be given the go-ahead to reopen as well, as the PM tries to salvage something for families to enjoy this summer.    

But with highs of 77F (25C) and 79F (26C) expected in the south east and London tomorrow, the public are largely taking it upon themselves to get outdoors rather than stay inside.

UK beauty spots could be set to see a repeat of Wednesday’s scenes, when 80F temperatures saw clashes between locals and sun-seeking tourists on the hottest day of the year so far.  

Amid the bank holiday sunshine, Downing Street has been busy today batting off claims senior aide Dominic Cummings broke lockdown rules three times. 

Fury has rippled through Britain after the news broke yesterday he had twice travelled 270 miles from London to Durham while the public were told to stay at home for lockdown, and once left the home rather than self isolating – a breach of three rules. 

The Downing Street adviser was rocked by fresh claims of flouting the strict national guidelines from two more witnesses, which whipped up a further frenzy for him to be sacked. 

But at the briefing today, Mr Johnson opened with his support for Mr Cummings, saying: ‘I have had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings and I have concluded that in travelling to find the right kind of childcare, at the moment when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus – and when he had no alternative – I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent. And I do not mark him down for that.’

The PM had mounted a determined defence of his controversial lieutenant since the allegations came to light, telling allies, ‘It’s not like he was visiting a lover’ – a reference to Professor Neil Ferguson who stepped down from his scientific advisor role after seeing his mistress during lockdown. 

Other senior ministers including Matt Hancock and Michael Gove have rallied around the Machiavellian figure, insisting he acted as a concerned parent and broke no rules.

On Saturday, Mr Cummings with the support of the Government said he acted ‘reasonably and legally’ in response to the original claims that he drove 260 miles from London to County Durham with his wife, who had coronavirus symptoms, because they wanted to ensure family were able to care for their four-year-old son should they get very sick.

There have never been mentions of childcare in the Government’s published guidance on lockdown rules, but those leading the Downing Street briefing yesterday tried to defend the actions of Mr Cummings by suggesting the rules could be bent if there was ‘an extreme risk to life’.  

But as Mr Cummings arrived in Westminster this lunchtime, fuelling speculation he would resign, the first cracks in Tory unity appeared.

Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister and a senior hardline Brexiteer like Mr Cummings, broke cover to demand the Prime Minister ‘take back control’ of events squirming from his grasp.

Mr Baker told Sky News that Mr Cummings’ career had always ‘created an awful lot of collateral damage’, including the Brexit campaign, adding: ‘He is not always right and he certainly isn’t indispensable’.

‘If he doesn’t resign, we’ll just keep burning through Boris’s political capital at a rate we can ill afford in the midst of this crisis,’ he said.

‘It is very clear that Dominic travelled when everybody else understood Dominic’s slogans to mean ”stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives”.

‘And I think mums and dads who very much care about their children and who have been forgoing the childcare of their extended family will wonder why he has been allowed to do this.

‘I really just don’t see, as we approach the Prime Minister (appearing) at the liaison committee on Wednesday, how this is going to go away unless Dominic goes.’ 

A number of Conservative MPs have called for the PM's senior adviser Dominic Cummings to quit amid claims he broke coronavirus lockdown rules three times

A number of Conservative MPs have called for the PM’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings to quit amid claims he broke coronavirus lockdown rules three times

He arrived in Westminster this lunchtime as the first cracks in Tory unity appeared over revelations he twice travelled 270 miles from London to Durham while the public were told to stay at home

He arrived in Westminster this lunchtime as the first cracks in Tory unity appeared over revelations he twice travelled 270 miles from London to Durham while the public were told to stay at home

Mr Cumming's movements that suggest he has broken lockdown more than once

Mr Cumming’s movements that suggest he has broken lockdown more than once 

Timeline of Cummings’ lockdown row 

March 23: As the coronavirus crisis escalates, the UK is placed into lockdown with strict limitations on travel.

The Government guidelines state: ‘You should not be visiting family members who do not live in your home.’

Those in a household with symptoms must ‘stay at home and not leave the house’ for up to 14 days. 

March 27: Both Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock test positive for coronavirus, while chief medical officer Chris Whitty says he has symptoms of the disease and is self-isolating.

March 30: Downing Street confirms Mr Cummings is suffering from coronavirus symptoms and is self-isolating.

March 31: Durham police are ‘made aware of reports that an individual had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city’.

The force said officers ‘made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house.

‘In line with national policing guidance, officers explained to the family the arrangements around self-isolation guidelines and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.’

April 5: An unnamed neighbour tells the Mirror and the Guardian Mr Cummings was seen in his parents’ garden.

‘I got the shock of my life as I looked over to the gates and saw him,’ they said. 

March 30 – April 6: The period Mr Cummings’ wife Mary Wakefield describes the family’s battle with coronavirus in the April 25 issue of the Spectator.

She makes no mention of the trip to Durham and describes the challenges of caring for their son while suffering the symptoms of Covid-19.

She says their small son nursed Mr Cummings with Ribena. 

April 12: Robert Lees, a retired chemistry teacher, claims to have seen Mr Cummings 30 miles away from his parents home in Barnard Castle. 

April 14: Mr Cummings returns to work for the first time since news he was suffering from Coronavirus emerged.

Questions are raised about his adherence to social distancing advice as he is photographed walking down Downing Street with fellow aide Cleo Watson.

April 19: A passer-by claims to have spotted Mr Cummings and his family admiring bluebells with his wife, back in Durham.

May 22: News breaks in the Mirror and the Guardian of Mr Cummings’ trip to Durham.

May 23: Downing Street stands by the PM’s chief aide, saying in a statement: ‘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.’ 

That evening, a joint Sunday Mirror and Observer investigation reveals the two new eyewitness claims. 

Simon Hoare, the Tory North Dorset MP and Northern Ireland Select Committee chairman later added his voice to the call, tweeting: ‘With the damage Mr Cummings is doing to the Government’s reputation he must consider his position. 

‘Lockdown has had its challenges for everyone. It’s his cavalier ”I don’t care; I’m cleverer than you” tone that infuriates people. He is now wounding the PM/Govt & I don’t like that.’

Damian Collins, the former culture committee chairman, also went public this morning, tweeting: ‘Dominic Cummings has a track record of believing that the rules don’t apply to him and treating the scrutiny that should come to anyone in a position of authority with contempt. The government would be better without him.’

And Sir Roger Gale, the North Thanet MP, said: ‘While as a father and as a grandfather I fully appreciate Mr Cummings’ desire to protect his child, there cannot be one law for the Prime Minister’s staff and another for everyone else. He has sent out completely the wrong message and his position is no longer tenable.’

Meanwhile former immigration minister Caroline Nokes tweeted: ‘I made my views clear to my whip yesterday. 

‘There cannot be one rule for most of us and wriggle room for others. My inbox is rammed with very angry constituents and I do not blame them. They have made difficult sacrifices over the course of the last weeks weeks.’

This lunchtime Robert Halfon the former skills minister and another select committee chairman, apologised for tweeting in support of Mr Cummings yesterday.

Writing on Facebook the Harlow MP said: ‘I regret writing the tweet yesterday in the way I did about the Number 10 political adviser and his movements. I am really sorry for it. 

‘I do not support, or condone anyone who has broken the law or regulations. Anyone who has done so should face the consequences.’

He added: ‘If it is true as reported in today’s Sunday newspapers that there have been breaches of the regulations by this individual, then without doubt action should be taken by the appropriate authorities. No one – whoever they are – should be above the regulations or the rule of law.’

Downing Street the allegations – brought to light by the Sunday Mirror and Observe  – were ‘false’, and and cabinet minister Grant Shapps told the Sophy Ridge show Mr Cummings will not quit. 

In other developments today:

  • A study by Imperial College London estimates coronavirus infections rocketed from 200,000 to 1.5million in the nine days before the lockdown when the Government dithered over what to do;  
  • Professor Adrian Hill, part of Oxford University vaccine team, said there was only a 50 per cent chance the trial would be successful, and the upcoming trial of 10,000 Britons may flop and produce ‘no result’ because the virus is vanishing in the UK; 
  • It emerged that travel firms are already planning to exploit a loophole in the 14-day quarantine period by flying holidaymakers into UK via Dublin (which is exempt from new isolation rules); 
  • 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.



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