US doctors have expressed caution over the UK’s dexamethasone “breakthrough”, calling for the full results of the trial to be published and warning of potential side effects. Meanwhile, Germany’s health ministry declined to comment on the Recovery Trial study, but a spokesperson said there was no need to stockpile the drug.
Elsewhere, China has cancelled hundreds of flights to and from Beijing because of the capital’s new Covid-19 outbreak, linked to a wholesale food market. The city reported 31 new infections on Wednesday, up from 27 the day before.
And in New Zealand, the military has been tasked with overseeing the country’s border quarantine after two people infected with coronavirus were released early. Jacinda Ardern said the pair’s release on compassionate grounds was “unacceptable”. They had flown from London to visit a dying relative and authorities are now trying to trace more than 300 people they may have come into contact with.
Video: Matt Hancock breaks social distancing rules in Commons
Caught on camera.
Sweden to relax some travel curbs
Sweden will remove its advice against non-essential travel to 10 European countries effective from June 30 , its foreign ministry has said.
The countries are Greece, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, France, Iceland, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
“For other countries, the advice still applies. Countries outside the EU and Schengen will be extended to 31 August,” foreign minister Ann Linde told journalists.
Global cases see record daily rise
A record number of new coronavirus cases were recorded globally on Tuesday, amid concerns of a second wave of outbreaks in several countries around the world, writes Anthony Cuthbertson.
Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University revealed more than 139,000 new Covid-19 cases on 16 June, with the majority of new cases coming from Brazil, the US, India and Russia.
The figure is more than 1,000 cases greater than the previous high, which was recorded on 11 June.
PM’s spokesperson still can’t say when NHSX app will be ready
Downing Street has been unable to say when the vaunted but much-delayed NHSX contact-tracing smartphone app will be ready for widespread use.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, initially said it would be ready in May.
“I don’t have a date,” the PM’s official spokesperson said, when asked when the app would be available to the public.
Asked what was causing the delay, the spokesperson said: “I’ve not got any update.”
No 10 committed to pension triple lock despite coronavirus
Downing Street has played down reports that the triple-lock on pensions could be abolished as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
A Number 10 source told Press Association: “These are unique and challenging economic circumstances and we cannot hide from that.
“As you know, decisions on tax and pension policy are set out at Budget by the chancellor but there are no plans to abolish the triple lock and we will always stand by pensioners.”
Asked if it could be suspended for a year or two, the source said: “I’m not going to speculate on what inflation might be in future.”
Test NHS staff twice a week, top doctor urges
NHS employees should be tested for coronavirus twice a week to help reassure patients that staff are not infected, a leading surgeon has said, writes Adam Forrest.
Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said it was necessary to increase staff testing to encourage people who have stayed away from hospitals during the pandemic that it was safe to return.
Sturgeon pledge on schools
Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to “move heaven and Earth” to get schools running as normally possible by the time they are due to return in August.
Speaking at first minister’s questions on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon committed to provide the cash needed by councils to ensure social distancing measures can be applied in schools.
Her comments come just hours after she said that, should the suppression of the virus continue over the summer as it is currently, then schools could return “nearer normality” on August 11.
Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw responded: “France, Germany, Denmark and Ireland are moving heaven and Earth, this government is not.”
US still in first wave of virus, Fauci says
Anthony Fauci, the Trump administration’s top infectious disease expert, has warned Americans against complacency as new Covid-19 cases spike in multiple US states where lockdown measures have been eased, writes Gino Spocchia.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director argued on Tuesday that it was too soon to label new Covid-19 cases as a so-called “second wave”.
“When I look at the TV and I see pictures of people congregating at bars when the location they are indicates they shouldn’t be doing that, that’s very risky,” Dr. Fauci told The Daily Beast.
NI police ombudsman to probe fines handed out at BLM protests
The police ombudsman is investigating how the PSNI has enforced coronavirus regulations at large public gatherings.
There were a number of complaints to the watchdog about fines issued to people who attended Black Lives Matter protests in Belfast and Londonderry on Saturday, 6 June.
Complainants claimed police had not done enough to enforce the same regulations during large gatherings on beaches and also at the Protect Our Statues gathering at Belfast City Hall on 13 June.
Marie Anderson said her investigation would focus on the police policy, how it was being communicated to rank-and-file officers, and how it was being implemented.
Ms Anderson’s office added that the legality of the fixed penalty notices is a matter for the courts.
The Northern Ireland Policing Board is also examining the complaints, and has agreed to liaise with the ombudsman’s office.
UK figures update
A further 10 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 in Wales, Public Health Wales said, taking the total number of deaths to 1,466. The total number of cases there increased by 53 to 14,922.
In Northern Ireland one further death with coronavirus has been has been recorded. The region’s Department of Health said the total was now 543. There were eight new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total to 4,862.
Nurse who died after giving birth felt too ‘helpless’ to stop working
A nurse who died of coronavirus days after she gave birth by emergency caesarean section to a baby girl felt too “helpless” to ask her employers if she could stop working, her husband has said, writes Kate Ng.
Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong succumbed to Covid-19 in April just a week after she was admitted to hospital with the infection and days after her daughter was delivered.
Her husband, Ernest Boateng, revealed in an interview with the BBC that the 28-year-old nurse felt she could not ask to stop working despite being heavily pregnant, even when she was warned by a union representative that it was not safe.
Children’s doctors call on Johnson to prioritise schools
More than 1,500 paediatricians have urged Boris Johnson to make the reopening of schools a priority or “risk scarring the life chances of a generation of young people”.
The physicians signed a letter from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health asking for authorities in England and Northern Ireland to follow Wales and Scotland in laying out detailed plans for getting children back to classrooms.
It reads: “The brunt of the impact of Covid-19 is and will continue to be borne by children and families who have the fewest resources and need the most support.”
Earlier today at prime minister’s questions, Mr Johnson repeatedly challenged his opponent Sir Keir Starmer to say whether he believed it was safe for children to return to school – in a reversal of the normal order of PMQs and a sign of how charged the issue has become.
Unions have also been doing battle with Conservative MPs as they warn that some schools may not be ready to fully reopen in September. You can read about that here.
Catch up on today’s PMQs clash below:
Beijing flights cancelled amid new outbreak
More than 60 per cent of commercial flights in and out of Beijing have been cancelled because of the city’s new coronavirus outbreak.
New cases have been linked to a wholesale food market.
On Wednesday, the Chinese capital reported 31 new infections, up from 27 the day before.
The website of the Communist Party’s mouthpiece Global Times said that as of 9am, a total of 1,255 flights to and from the capital’s two major airports had been scrapped.
Sporting events are being cancelled and attractions like museums are being capped at 30 per cent capacity.
You can read our previous story about the situation in Beijing below:
Schools may be unable to reopen fully in September, unions warn
Union leaders have warned that all schools may not be able to fully reopen in September under the government’s current social distancing rules, writes Lizzy Buchan.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, raised doubts over whether all children could go back to the classroom in the autumn due to concern over shortages of space and teaching staff needed to meet coronavirus safety standards.
At a fiery hearing of the Commons Education Committee, Tory MPs clashed with leaders of four major teaching unions over what one Conservative branded a “disgraceful political campaign” to prevent schools from reopening.
Sweden’s death toll passes 5,000
Coronavirus deaths in Sweden from have passed 5,000, the country’s public health agency has said.
The official figure is 5,041, up from 4,939 on Tuesday.
Sweden has taken a less stringent approach to tackling Covid-19 than its Nordic neighbours, allowing most schools, shops and restaurants to remain open.
The government has relied on voluntary measures such as social distancing and good hygiene.
What is dexamethasone, how does it work and when will it be used?
Our video team explains.
Health secretary says 240,000 doses of dexamethasone ‘in stock and on order’
Matt Hancock said that 240,000 doses of the drug dexamethasone are “in stock and on order”.
He said: “It is not by any means a cure but it is the best news we have had.”
Speaking in the Commons, he added: “Seven other drugs are currently being trialled as part of the Recovery Trial and a further nine further drugs are in live clinical trials as part of the Accord Programme which is looking at early-stage treatments.”
Mr Hancock said 592,204 people as of Tuesday have now had an antibody test on the NHS.
Scotland’s coronavirus death toll increases by nine
A total of 2,462 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up by nine from 2,453 on Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon said.
The figures are lower than the 4,070 deaths given earlier by the National Records of Scotland as they do not include suspected and probable coronavirus infections.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said 18,066 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 21 from 18,045 the previous day.
There are 965 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a decrease of 21.
Of these patients, 24 were in intensive care, an increase of five.
Mink at Danish farm to be culled after contracting virus
Mink at a farm in Denmark were found to be infected with the new coronavirus and the whole stock now has to be culled, Danish authorities said on Wednesday.
The outbreak is the first in Denmark, the world’s largest producer of mink skins, but comes shortly after the virus was detected at 13 mink farms in the Netherlands where roughly 570,000 minks have been ordered culled.
“The government has decided, on a precautionary principle, that the infected mink stock will be culled to minimise the risk of potential spread of the disease,” said the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration in a statement.
Mink at the Danish farm were tested after a person affiliated with the farm tested positive with Covid-19.
The outbreaks on the Dutch mink farms are thought to have originated from their human handlers and then spread among the animals.
Russia reportedly already using dexamethasone treatment
Russia already uses dexamethasone to treat patients with the novel coronavirus, but does not view it as a panacea against Covid-19, the RIA news agency cited Russian health ministry official Sergei Avdeev as saying.
Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid, has become the first drug shown to be able to save the lives of critically ill coronavirus patients in what scientists said is a major breakthrough in the coronavirus pandemic.