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Day 42: Key points from today's conference

Posted on April 2020 By Aaron Liffen

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Today's daily news conference today was led by Environment Secretary George Eustice, who has previously updated us on food supplies to supermarkets during the pandemic. He was joined by NHS England's national medical director Prof Stephen Powis, who also attended yesterday's briefing.

Eustice starts by confirming that as of today 669,850 tests for COVID-19 have been carried out in the UK - including 29,058 tests yesterday.  The number of people who tested positive is now 152,840 people - an increase of 4,463 compared to the day before. Sadly 20,732 people have now dies - an increase of 413 fatalities since yesterday. 

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

  • ​The environment secretary says food availability is now "back to normal" levels and it's important that customers "respect" measures rolled out by supermarkets to ensure social distancing in their stores. He adds that 500,000 food parcels have now been delivered to the shielded group of people - who have a particular illness. 

  • Charities can now make direct call outs on the Good Samaritan app for people to deliver food to those not covered in that particular group, such as people with a specific disability. 

  • Delivery slots have risen from 2.1 million to 2.6m and "over the next couple of weeks" that will grow to 2.9m.

  • There are "encouraging signs of progress" says Eustice. However before it's safe to adjust any lockdown rules the government's five tests must be met, he adds, confirming they include making sure the NHS can cope, daily deaths falling sustainably, infection rate decreasing and no risk of a second peak.

  • Powis adds the lockdown is having an effect on the number of new cases of COVID-10 - they are now "a fairly stable number".

  • Eustice is asked next about the government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). He says it is an "unusual" committee because it's convened in emergencies and the people on it will change depending on the need or threat.  He adds it's important "we protect their security" so the names are not published - but minutes and deliberations are published.

  • We are all delighted that he's going to be back at the helm and returning to work tomorrow," says Eustice.  He hints that if an exit strategy were released it will come when the lockdown review point is reached on Thursday 7 May - "that would be the right moment" he says, adding it's "very important that we don't do this prematurely and risk a second peak".

  • ​Eustice says the "international food supply trade continues to work well" and trade with Europe "continues to flow normally". He estimates only about one third of the migrant labour that would be coming to work in the UK in agriculture to harvest is coming - and they are likely already here.

  • On contact tracing, Prof Powis says it will be at its most effective when the infection rate is as low as possible. He says contact tracing is a "tried and tested" way of managing outbreaks but the lower the number of cases, the easier it is to do.

  • Testing has now risen to 50,000 a day. He says that "significant numbers" of people in care homes are obtaining tests.

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