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Day 67: Key points from today's conference

Posted on May 2020 By Aaron Liffen

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Today's government coronavirus conference was led by ​Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who was joined by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, and Prof John Newton, who co-ordinates the national testing effort. It comes on a day where details on the deal made by the government to acquire antibody tests, which say if someone has already had coronavirus, were announced.

Hancock announces there were 128,340 more tests carried out yesterday. A further 2,615 people have tested positive. 9,543 people are in hospital with the virus - a 14% fall from the same time last week. Sadly 338 more people have died - taking the total across all settings to 36,042.

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

  • Hancock begins by saying this Mental Health Awareness Week that the coronavirus crisis has created a lot of stress - time away from loved ones and events in the diary that can no longer take place. 

  • Hancock confirms as has been done at every news conference this week the UK is at level four on the coronavirus alert scale and that because infection numbers are coming down the country can "start moving to level three".

  • Hancock announces a new swab test - which tells a person if they have coronavirus - is being trialled that gives a result in as quickly as 20 minutes, rather than several days. 

  • Confirming the news reported earlier that contracts have been agreed for a Roche antibody test - which tells someone if they have had the virus - Hancock says 10 million tests will be available in the next few months. They will be available from "next week", he adds.

  • Prof Whitty takes over - he says the ONS survey monitoring how many people have had COVID-19 estimated around 137,000 people in the community had COVID-19 between 4-17 May.

  • Hancock says the government is doing "everything we can to get a vaccine" and one will only be recommended if it's safe. If people are asked to vaccinate then "they absolutely should" as it will only be on the basis of "clinical advice". 

  • Hancock says he appreciates all those through Ramadan who have followed social distancing, and they have done "so much" so says thank you.  "I appreciate many people won't be able to celebrate in the normal way... I hope that people can enjoy Eid celebrations but I know they'll be different from usual."

  • Health secretary says there is a "need to reform social care" and the crisis has "demonstrated the need" to bring health and social care closer together. 

  • Hancock says the test and trace system is "on track for delivery" by 1 June and we've "hit the deadlines" by hiring 24,000 people to staff it. The app tested on the Isle of Wight is working, he says. Prof John Newton says someone who tests positive using this system will be asked to self-isolate and those close to them will be informed.

  • Prof Newton adds the WHO-approved contact tracing system is "completely independent of the proximity app" and just "layered on top of" the other process. "It's perfectly okay, in fact possibly advantageous to introduce the one before the other."

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