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Day 38: Key points from today's conference

Posted on April 2020 By Aaron Liffen

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Today's government coronavirus briefing was led by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was joined by the UK government’s chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty. Also joinging them for the first time was Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter, the UK’s most senior military officer.

A total of 18,100 people hospitalised with coronavirus have now died in the UK, up 759 from yesterday’s total. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted a target for 100,000 daily tests by the end of this month would be met.

New figures suggest coronavirus deaths in care homes in England could have doubled in five days. A delayed delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE) from Turkey has arrived in the UK and is being inspected

Key points to take away from today's speech are:

  • Dominic Raab: "We are making progress through the peak of this virus - but we're not out of the woods yet." He says lockdown must remain "for the time being" because otherwise there could be a second spike in the virus and a second lockdown.

  • The crisis has "shone a light on the best amongst us", Raab says, such as the weekly clap for carers events. With Sir Nick Carter, chief of defence staff, he says he should point out the massive effort of the armed forces in building Nightingale hospitals and delivering PPE.

  • Death toll reaches 18,000 Raab announces

  • Sir Nick says the delegation of armed forces personnel makes them much more flexible and able to adapt to local needs.  He says their help for the NHS to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) has been "the single greatest logistical challenge I have come across". The forces are involved in testing, designing the systems and staffing some of the test centres.

  • Sir Nick says despite all the work the armed forces are doing to help internally during the COVID-19 crisis, they're still involved in defending the UK with the nuclear deterrent and on essential operations overseas in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa.

  • Talking through the slides that are released daily on stats like transport change, new UK cases and global death comparisons, Prof Whitty says the number of daily deaths in the UK has "flattened off" over the last week.

  • Raab says the dates for lifting the lockdown "are not something I recognise" and "it would be a mistake to take our eye off the ball now". "I'm telling you that is not a government timetable." 

  • When asked if the call for people to still seek medical help even if they have non-coronavirus symptoms is light at the end of the tunnel?

    Raab says there is a "glimmer" of light but "we're not there yet".  On PPE, Witty says "we are tight at different times on different items of PPE" and that the armed forces has been "so critical" to reduce shortages.  He says we're not yet at the point that "we're no longer able to cope with it" but that to promise in a few days this will be sorted "would be a mistake". 

  • ​Prof Whitty says that he hopes "shortly" tests will soon be available "that will have at least a ranging shot to show what proportion of people in different age groups have had this virus". He adds the government is "hoping we will be able to do so in the pretty near future".

  • Prof Whitty gives a frank assessment of how long the UK will be dealing with the virus.  "This disease is not going to be eradicated, it is not going to disappear - we have to accept we are going to be with it globally for the foreseeable future," he explains. "If people are hoping it's suddenly going to move from where we are now in lockdown suddenly into everything's gone that is a wholly unrealistic expectation. "We're going to have to do a lot of things for a long period of time."

  • ​Raab and Prof Whitty gives another straight forward warning to people not to expect a vaccine any time soon.  "A vaccine is not going to come in any time particularly soon to allow us to ease out of the current social distancing measures into a transition" the foreign secretary. The probability of having those by the end of the year are "incredibly small" he says.  "We'll have to rely on social measures - it's going to take a long time."

A further 763 people have died with coronavirus across UK hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus as of 17:00 BST on Tuesday, government figures show.

It takes the total number to 18,100. These figures do not include deaths in the community, in places such as care homes.

To read a brief summary of last night's points and important measures click here.