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Day 40: Key points from today's conference

Posted on April 2020 By Aaron Liffen

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Today's daily coronavirus conference was led by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, making his first appearance for the UK government. He was joined by a now familiar face in Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer.

There have been a further 684 coronavirus-related deaths in UK hospitals, the Department of Health has said, taking the total number of Covid-19 patients to have died in UK hospitals to 19,506.

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

  • Shapps: As of today, 612,031 tests have been carried out in the K. 143,464 people have tested positive. 17,049 people are currently in hospital with COVID-19 - down 10% on the same day last week.

  • By respecting social distancing measures, the whole country is winning against the virus. New package of measures will see transport boosting response. Increase safe flow of goods into country - deal with French and Irish commits us to keeping lines open for things like medicines and food.

  • Shapps: Protecting ferry services to support freight. Making sure airlinks to Belfast and London/Derry continue for critical workers. 26 different freight routes between Britain, France and other European countries are being protected.

  • Drones will be trialled to deliver medical supplies. Trial to begin next week to carry supplies to St Mary's Hospital on Isle Of Wight.

  • Shapps pays tribute to transport workers "who go above and beyond" to keep vital transport networks running. Each and every one of us depends on the transport network they provide, he says.

  • New cases: Number has risen, represents an epidemic curve "of a type", she says. Curve is flattening, she says, but with increased number of tests available (orange) will expect to see increase in cases. There is a slight difference with official numbers, as they are not confirmed until all paperwork is completed, Harries says.

  • Shapps: The website didn't crash. The slots were simply taken up. 10.72 million people and their families are eligible to use the site. 16,000 were booked during the first period of the site being online. The site is back up now.

  • Shapps: The demand is there (for testing). We'll have that 100,000 tests a day ambition met. Devolved administrations want to join in using that testing website too. 46,000 people visited the portal today, he adds.

  • Shapps: The country has done incredibly well in adhering to social distancing and there's a danger as we go into a sunny weekend that people think the peak is over. It isn't over,. We're on we hope a downward trend but it's by no means established.

  • Harries: It is critical we maintain social distancing requirements. It's a science-led approach but that includes behavioural science. It can be difficult to get the balance right.

  • Question for Shapps: £10.5m to keep essential ferries running between some isles. But what about others? Dover, for instance. He says 26 freight routes between the UK and Europe are being secured as well. 

  • Harries: There are periods when elements of (airport) screening can be reassuring and helpful. If you have a country with a very high rate of illness, an exit screening programme can be very helpful. Early on we quarantined those coming from Wuhan. However once the disease spreads further, that becomes less useful. There are important considerations and I know the government is looking at them.

  • Shapps By the end of next week we're aiming to increase the number of drive-through test sites. There is a small trial at the moment of home tests being picked up  by courier. Hope to expand that as well.

  • Harries speaks about the tests: It would be a wasted test if people take one of those and find it's negative. We want to encourage those with symptoms to take the tests. If the symptoms are negative then it does mean those people can be back at work.

  • Harries: If you're symptomatic and are a critical worker, you should be at home - not at work.

  • Testing - not an easy task to do yourself - are you confident they're reliable? What's the failure rate? Harries: Quite difficult to put a number on failure element. I can assure you we have run tests in parallel - having trained and untrained worker taking tests - they're remarkably comparable. We wouldn't be launching something if it wasn't.

  • Question: What about Trump's message about injecting disinfectant to cure COVID-19? Harries doesn't criticise Trump's words directly but addresses "anybody who suggested injecting anything into their bodies".

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