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Coronavirus: Scientists to review impact of lockdown measures

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Scientific advisers for the government will meet later to review the impact of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown measures.

The evaluation will be passed to the government – but ministers have said it is unlikely restrictions will change.

Meanwhile, the government confirmed there have been virus outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes in England.

The UK’s chief medical adviser said he would like “much more extensive testing” in homes due to the “large numbers of vulnerable people” there.

Prof Chris Whitty told the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Monday that 92 homes in the UK reported outbreaks in one day.

The Department of Health and Social Care later confirmed 2,099 care homes in England have so far faced outbreaks of the virus.

The figures prompted the charity, Age UK, to claim coronavirus is “running wild” in care homes for the elderly.

Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director, said more testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) was needed across the care home sector.

She joined industry leaders from Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer’s Society in writing a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding a care package to support social care through the pandemic.

‘Airbrushing older people out’

The Department of Health’s official death toll for the UK rose to 11,329 on Monday – up by 717 in a day.

But the figures have been criticised for only covering hospital patients who have tested positive for the virus. The numbers do not take into account people who die in care homes, or elsewhere in the community, or who have not been tested for the virus.

“The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter,” Ms Abrahams said.

The Labour Party has called on the government to publish daily figures of deaths in care homes to highlight the “true scale” of the spread of the virus, which causes the Covid-19 disease.

The latest care homes to confirm residents have died with symptoms of the virus include a home in Drumchapel, Glasgow, a specialist dementia home in Selston, Nottinghamshire, and a home in County Durham where 13 residents have died.

The BBC’s science editor David Shukman said the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) meeting on Tuesday will evaluate various ways coronavirus is unfolding in the UK.

It will look at hospital admissions, the approach to testing, data on intensive care capacity and deaths, the effectiveness of lockdown tactics, and whether or not the public should be advised to wear face masks outdoors.

So far the UK has advised against the use of face masks by the general public. There are concerns wearing one can give people a false sense of security, leading to them becoming lax with other preventative measures such as hand washing.

But the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the guidance was subject to an ongoing review.

The World Health Organization said it remains the case that medical masks should be reserved for healthcare workers, not the general public.

Meanwhile, the government has defended itself after reports it missed three chances to bulk-buy personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers treating virus patients.

Health workers in 25 EU countries are set to receive the first deliveries of kit worth £1.3bn in the coming days, according to the Guardian.

The paper reports the UK missed three opportunities to join the scheme and has not taken part in talks on future purchases.

A Department of Health spokesperson said it would “consider participating in future EU joint procurement schemes on the basis of public health requirements at the time”.

“We will continue to work with European countries and others in order to make sure that we can increase the capacity within the NHS,” they said.

In other developments:

  • Gym and leisure centre bosses say urgent action is needed to safeguard exercise venues, as unscrupulous landlords use a loophole to threaten eviction over non-payment of rent during the coronavirus crisis
  • Chief executive of the Co-op, Steve Murrells, has said he is donating a fifth of his wages over the next three months to launch a fund for food banks and other community causes during the pandemic
  • Retail giant Next will begin selling online again on Tuesday after pausing operations for two weeks while measures were introduced to keep warehouse staff safely. Measures include that workers will wear tabards displaying the message “stay 2m apart”

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