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- Social distancing will likely be needed until a vaccine is available for Covid-19, according to the chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty. He told the daily news briefing he is hopeful for a vaccine within a year but there is a long way to go between having a vaccine and widespread immunity. It would therefore be “wholly unrealistic” to think that restrictions would be relaxed any time soon and some “very socially disruptive” measures would almost certainly have to remain in force for the rest of the year, he said. Whitty added that coronavirus isn’t going to be eradicated, so we must accept we will be working with it globally for the foreseeable future.
- We are at the peak of the outbreak, the health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons. But this was put into further perspective by Chris Whitty at the press briefing, who highlighted that the peak is an “artificial peak” as it is the result of the lockdown. The first secretary of state Dominic Raab also reiterated that the biggest risk is a second spike. This all reinforces that an “exit strategy” from physical distancing measures is proving more and more difficult to devise.
- A contact tracing system will be in place “in a matter of weeks”, Hancock also said. He said the effectiveness of test, track and trace every new case as a method rested on the incidence of transmission in the community.
- The UK’s hospital death toll surpassed 18,000, as a further 759 deaths took the total to 18,100. The ONS said there had also been 1,043 coronavirus-related deaths in care homes in England and Wales by 10 April. In a joint statement with the CQC, the government conceded that the true number “could be double”. Chris Whitty also said he thought the ONS figures were “an underestimate”. Analysis from the Financial Times suggested the real UK death toll could be as high as 41,000.
- The EU denied the UK government’s claim that a mix-up was to blame for its non-involvement in its coronavirus procurement scheme. The European Commission said the UK was well aware of the initiative when it decided not to participate, contradicting the government’s claim that it didn’t get involved because of a “misunderstanding” about eligibility. Facing questions from the Commons foreign affairs committee, Sir Simon McDonald, the head of the Foreign Office, said it was a “political decision”, though he later issued a retraction and said non-involvement had been due to a “communication problem”.
- The Welsh government is to fund free “school meals” for disadvantaged children during the summer holidays. It is the first UK nation to make such a pledge.
- And the London mayor Sadiq Khan urged the government to ban evictions over rent arrears built up as a result of the coronavirus crisis. He also called for an increase in housing benefits and that the government should cover, for the duration of the crisis, any shortfall in payments by private renters.
World has ‘a long way to go’, warns WHO chief. The director general of the World Health Organization says there is still “a long way to go” in tackling the pandemic. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that, while most national epidemics in western Europe appear to have stabilised or are declining, outbreaks appeared to be growing in Africa, Central and South America, and eastern Europe.
Confirmed global death toll nears 180,000. At least 179,778 people are known to have died since the outbreak began and at least 2.5 million have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University. The US has recorded four times more cases than the next worst-hit country, Italy.
US handling of Covid-19 ‘like third world country’, says top economist. Donald Trump’s botched handling of the epidemic has left the US looking like a third world country and on course for a second Great Depression, the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says. In an interview with the Guardian, Stiglitz said millions of Americans were turning to food banks, having to work due to a lack of sick pay and dying because of health inequalities.
Missing Wuhan citizen journalist reappears. A Chinese citizen journalist reappears, having gone missing for almost two months after posting videos from Wuhan during the outbreak. Li Zehua claims he was detained by police and forcibly quarantined. He was one of three Chinese journalists reporting in Wuhan during some of the worst weeks of the epidemic. He was last seen on 26 February after posting a video in which he was chased by a white SUV and an hours-long livestream that ended when several agents entered his apartment.
Singapore records at least 10,000 infections. The number of confirmed cases in Singapore passes 10,000, despite concerted and strenuous attempts to contain the spread of the infection in the city state. The milestone comes after Singapore’s ministry of health reported 1,016 new cases on Wednesday, the third day in a row that the city’s daily tally has exceeded 1,000, bringing the overall total in the city to 10,141.
Refugee camp hit. The first case is recorded at a refugee camp in Lebanon. The outbreak of the virus at crowded and often unhygienic refugee camps has been feared since the start of the crisis.
Spain aims to ease lockdown. Spain announces plans to phase out its lockdown in the second half of May. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, also asks lawmakers to extend the country’s state of emergency until 9 May.
Vaccine trials expand. Germany approves its first human trials for a vaccine. Some 200 healthy people between 18 and 55 will receive several variants of the vaccine candidate.
International updates from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/22/coronavirus-latest-at-a-glance-april-22