Welcome to the COVID-19 weekly update. Every week we summarise the key events that have happened in the previous week in this pandemic. We will give you a rundown of what’s going on in the UK and the major events globally.
A trial of the test, track and trace scheme will begin on the Isle of Wight this week, where the NHS contact tracing app is already being trialled. The entire track and trace network, requiring 18,000 contact tracing workers, is hoped to be set up by the middle of May.
Hospital admissions are now steadily declining in the UK. A large study is looking at why people from ethnic minority groups are more likely to get coronavirus and why they are more likely to die if they do get it.
On Tuesday the UK became the country with the highest death toll in Europe and the second highest in the world after the USA.
The number of new cases recorded on Tuesday was over 6,000 – the highest number since the outbreak began. However, this could be due to the increased mass testing, with NHS hospital cases continuing to fall.
Boris Johnson pledged on Wednesday to reach 200,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of May. However, Wednesday marked the fourth day in a row that the government fell short of the 100,000 a day end of April target.
The government had not hit that target for 8 consecutive days by the end of the week. The UK became the first country in Europe to hit 30,000 deaths on Wednesday.
Going forward, there will be restrictions at the UK’s borders. It has already been announced that anyone arriving in the UK by air, except from the Republic of Ireland will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Modest changes were announced by the First Minister of Wales on Friday with people allowed to exercise more than once a day and some garden centres allowed to reopen. Environment Secretary George Eustice announced £16 million to provide food for those in need.
The death rate has continued to slowly fall this week. The R rate; the number of people each infected person spreads the virus to on average, is between 0.5 and 0.9 this week, although there will be variation between places.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps pledged £250 million for improvements to cycling and walking infrastructure on Saturday. Pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements, safer junctions and cycle and bus only corridors will be constructed in weeks with the emergency grant.
Seven weeks after the beginning of lockdown, the Prime Minister unveiled a roadmap for easing it on Sunday. The plan is an additional one, which will be based on the now COVID alert system.
This is a scale of 1 to 5 and will be determined by the R rate and the number of coronavirus cases. We have been at level 4 and now, Boris Johnson says, England is in a position to move to level 3.
The lockdown is not simply ending, rather this is just the beginning of a long journey ahead to slowly return to normal.
The first step begins on Monday with those who cannot work from home, such as those in manufacturing or construction, being actively encouraged to go to work.
However, they should avoid public transport if possible and social distancing will be maintained, with workplaces being made ‘COVID-secure’.
From Wednesday unlimited outdoor exercise will be allowed. People will be allowed to sit and sunbathe in local parks and driving to beaches and parks is allowed as long as social distancing is maintained.
Schools will reopen from 1st June at the earliest with primary schools the first to go back, with reception and years 1 and 6 to return first.
It is hoped that pupils with exams next year, years 10 and 12, will have some time with teachers before the summer. The rest of secondary school pupils will not return before the summer holidays.
Parts of the hospitality industry and more shops could reopen by July at the earliest. All steps are dependent on the COVID alert level.
The new slogan, which has not been adopted by Scotland or Wales, is ‘Stay alert, Control the virus, Save lives’.
Countries in Europe continued to lift lockdowns this week with many restrictions being lifted from this Monday. This includes many shops such as hairdressers and bookshops being allowed to reopen in France and most businesses in Belgium.
Primary schools will partially reopen in the Netherlands and Switzerland from Monday. Meetings of more than 5 people are not allowed in Switzerland whereas half of Spain’s population (hard hit areas including Madrid and Barcelona are excluded) will be allowed to gather up to groups of 10.
In Germany, all shops were allowed to reopen and families allowed to meet and eat together in public.
Schools are also reopening with all pupils allowed to return gradually over the course of the summer term. Restrictions are beginning to be eased in restaurants, hotels and football.
However, by the end of the week, the rate of increase of coronavirus cases was up. The R rate is now thought to be around 1.1 in the country.
In Greece, the lockdown in migrant camps has been extended to 21st May. There are around 120,000 asylum-seekers in Greece. The lockdown has been eased in the rest of the country with final year school students to return and some shops allowed to reopen.
The Secretary General of the UN urged countries this week to donate more to a global initiative to research and distribute drugs and a vaccine for coronavirus.
In South Korea there are fears over a second wave of the virus, after a cluster of new cases forced the closure of bars and clubs in Seoul.
All of the news on COVID-19 can seem very doom and gloom, but there are good things happening amongst all of the pandemic chaos. Here are 3 snippets of good news from the last week:
The team from Kenya and the UK believe that the fungus Microsporidia MB, which was discovered on the shores of Lake Victoria, has huge potential to control malaria. They are now investigating how to increase the number of mosquitos carrying this protective bug.
Friday was the anniversary and even though Europe is still on lockdown, the day was celebrated by many in a socially distanced fashion. In her speech, the Queen told the UK that “our streets are not empty, they are filled with love”.
The 2,000 person study was conducted in Finland where the unemployed participants were given a basic income every month, however, it was not enough to live off of. It was done over 2 years and the participants had no obligation to seek a job. Amidst this crisis, Spain is hoping to roll out a basic income scheme to the 1 million poorest residents and Scotland is considering the idea.
Words by: Safiya Zaloum
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