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04 May 2020


The Health Secretary Matt Hancock today revealed a contact tracing app which will be piloted from tomorrow on the Isle of Wight. The app will use Bluetooth to log a phone’s proximity to other phones that are also using the app, allowing the user to build up a log of proximity information. If a user of the app registers themselves as being infected, others who have come in to contact with the user will be notified via the app and sent advice accordingly. The plan is to roll the app out to the rest of the country following the controlled pilot.

There has been mounting speculation about when the Government will outline a strategy to exit the lockdown. The Government has a legal obligation to review the lockdown measures on Thursday, but Downing Street sources are reported to have said that Johnson will address the nation this coming Sunday with regard to the exit strategy. The Financial Times has reported that seven draft papers for seven different parts of the economy have been drawn up by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and distributed privately to industry leaders which detail guidelines for the reopening of businesses.

Draft guidelines have been leaked onto the Buzzfeed News website. The leaked draft guidelines include requirements for businesses to encourage employees to work from home if possible, to maintain social distances of two metres between employees and consider using PPE wherever the 2-metre rule cannot be observed. The documents go on to say that congestion should be reduced in offices through measures such as staggered shifts and improve hygiene and sanitation. The leaked draft guideline are listed here on their website.

The leaked draft guidelines come on the same day that it was announced that the London NHS Nightingale hospital is being put on standby due to it expecting no new coronavirus admissions. The number of people dying in hospital with Covid-19 has risen by 204 in England today, the lowest daily increase since 30 March.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove yesterday dismissed any suggestions that the route back to normal working and socialising will be a straight forward one, stating that the public will have to live with “some degree of constraint” until a vaccine is found. Indeed, it was only yesterday that the Prime Minister recounted having to require “litres and litres of oxygen” whilst struggling with coronavirus in intensive care.

Coronavirus Press Conference summary

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary

  • There are currently 3,413 spare critical beds in the UK.
  • 1,291,591 coronavirus tests have now been carried out, with 85,186 of these taking place yesterday.
  • 13,258 people are currently in hospital with coronavirus.
  • 28,734 people have died in all settings from coronavirus, increase of 288 on yesterday. This is lower than at any point since the end of March, although figures tend to be lower of the weekend and so this may rise again.
  • We are now at 108,000 testing capacity and ready to begin the next stage of tracking and tracing to hunt down and isolated the virus, taking a targeted approach to the lockdown whilst containing the disease.
  • A contact tracing app has already been tested at an RAF base.
  • From tomorrow the app will be piloted on the Isle of Wight, starting with health professionals.
  • The fact that it is an island is good for controlled conditions.
  • From Thursday each Isle of Wight household will receive information on the trial and be asked to install the app.
  • It will log the distance to other phones using the app nearby. This log of proximity information will be secure.
  • People with the app will then notify the NHS via the app that they have coronavirus, with others who have come into close proximity then being notified.
  • A test ordering function will be built into the app.
  • Through embracing this app on the Isle of Wight, lives will be saved.
  • The trial does not mean the end of social distancing. This will only be done once the five tests are met.

 Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer

  • We are in a good position on NHS capacity.
  • We are past the peak of the virus.
  • We need to keep a close eye on declining infections.
  • There are continuing challenges on PPE and it is a priority to get this right. We are in a good position on testing.
  • Based on Apple mobility trends, the public continue to observe instructions in the UK on driving, walking and public transport.
  • There is another lab opening next week to process tests.
  • The number of new cases per day need to come down further.
  • In almost all areas there are steady and consistent declines in people in hospital with coronavirus.
  • All four nations have plenty of ICU capacity.
  • There is a slow but consistent decline in coronavirus deaths in all settings.

John Newton, National Testing Co-Ordinator

  • BAME groups have the worst outcomes from coronavirus but it is unclear how much of that is due to underlying health issues and age patterns. This is being investigated (echoed by Jonathan Van-Tam).

Government Activity

  • The Government has provided UK universities with an advance of £2.6bn in tuition fees to stop them from easing their financial problems by engaging in “predatory” student admission pricing practices. A £100m advance for research funding will also be provided pending the outcome of a ministerial task force review.
  • The Telegraph has reported that the first primary school children are set to return to school on June 1. The Guardian has followed this up and suggested that children due to enter year 7 in September will be back at school first.
  • Conor Burns, a Minister in the Department for International Trade, has today resigned following accusations that he attempted to intimidate a member of the public over a financial dispute with his father. Mr Burns faces a seven day suspension from the House of Commons for using his position as an MP to make threats about private family matters.
  • Over the weekend, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government set up a discretionary fund to accommodate small businesses which were previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme. The additional fund is aimed at small business with ongoing fixed property-related costs.
  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has set up a specialist taskforce to lead the next phase of the Government’s support for rough sleepers during the pandemic. The taskforce will be spearheaded by Dame Louise Casey.
  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has announced £76m of extra funding to support abuse victims.
  • The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has launched a £14m support fund for zoos and aquariums to ensure that costs relating to animal health are met.
  • The UK’s Paymaster General has written to the EU to repeat the Government’s rejection from the EU to establish an embassy in Northern Ireland. She stated that the UK could not accept a permanent EU presence there.
  • The Government has released a list of the individuals that sit on its Covid-19 advisory committees, including SAGE.
  • HMRC have confirmed that people who can’t work their normal hours because of coronavirus will still receive their usual tax credits.
  • 6.3m employees are now confirmed to be using the Government’s Furlough scheme.

Parliamentary Activity

  • Business Secretary Alok Sharma answered several questions in the House of Commons chamber today. During the oral questions session, he confirmed that over £4.7bn of loans have been issued under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Ed Miliband asked his first question as the new Shadow Business Secretary on risk assessments for workers returning to work being published; Alok Sharma told Mr Miliband that he would welcome collaboration on this issue.