Covid-19 Update Tuesday 26/05/20
In spite of the lengthy press conference given by Dominic Cummings yesterday in which he explained his actions regarding his apparent breaches of lockdown, it seems as though the matter has not been put to rest as the government might have hoped. Opposition leaders in Westminster have called for the prime minister to sack his top aide. It isn’t simply the opposition however – many conservatives are also concerned that keeping Dominic Cummings risks undermining the government, with over 30 MPs so far having suggested that he should not continue in his role. The leader of the Scottish conservatives, Jackson Carlaw MSP, says that Dominic Cummings has become a “distraction” and the former Tory Attorney General Jeremy Wright has called for the advisor to resign. Meanwhile, junior conservative minister Douglas Ross has resigned over Dominic Cummings’ actions.
Nonetheless, most Cabinet ministers continue to support the prime ministers’ adviser. They have defended Dominic Cummings, his actions and his performance at the press conference. Some people are suggesting that this situation has fast deteriorated into a witch hunt driven by historic critics of Dominic Cummings, as he has been unpopular amongst many people for some time. Whether a fan or foe of Dominic Cummings, the way in which the situation has been handled might be having more of a detriment than first thought: opinion poll ratings for the prime minister have dropped 20 points in 4 days. Though the situation is causing rifts throughout the political landscape of the country, the prime minister remains firm that he will retain his top aide, raising questions about why Boris Johnson feels as though Dominic Cummings is so valuable. If one man is worth all of this trouble, he must be indispensable.
Matt Hancock used today’s daily Downing Street press conference to update the public about PPE and treatments. He announced a new trial to assess the effects of remdesivir on select NHS COVID-19 patients. Remdesivir is an antiviral medication which had an inhibitory effect on other coronaviruses, including Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS). Across the globe, many trials examining the efficacy of remdesivir are in progress. The question and answer portion of the briefing was dominated by enquiries about the Dominic Cummings controversy. Unlike usual, this uncomfortable session saw most journalists not having a chance to ask follow-up questions, perhaps in an effort to avoid further scrutiny.
Main Updates from Tuesday 26/05/20
- Spain has declared 10 days f mourning. Starting tomorrow, flags will be flown at half-mast across the country’s public buildings and on Spanish naval vessels.
- The trading floor on the New York Stock Exchange has been reopened after 2 months – traders have to wear masks and remain 6 feet apart when on the floor.
- Supercar maker McLaren is to cut 1200 jobs.
- Unlike the government’s daily death figure, which only considers a death in which the person had actually tested positive for COVID-19, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are calculated on the basis of death registrations. In these cases, the person had not necessarily been tested for Covid-19, but their death certificate will mention the virus, due to the presence of symptoms. Today, whilst government reported a total of 37,048 deaths due to the coronavirus, the ONS has reported 53,960 excess deaths in England and Wales from the start of the outbreak to May 15. Excess deaths are calculated by measuring the additional deaths in a given time period (in this case, the length of the pandemic) compared to the number usually expected (generally a 5-year average).
- Retailers have expressed concerns about how they will cope with stringent new restrictions upon reopening.
- John Lewis has said it will begin reopening its department stores in a phased manner starting June 15 in England, in line with government measures. All retailers that will be allowed to reopen must follow government guidance, such as one-way systems and limitations on the number of customers allowed on premises at any one time.
Updated COVID-19 Numbers
In the UK, there have been 134 deaths since yesterday. This means, that of those that have tested positive for Covid-19, there have been 37,048 deaths in the UK (2273 in Scotland).
Another reminder that the figure is an under-report due to a reporting delay – as deaths can take up to 10 days to report, we are likely underestimating the steepness of the curve each day (i.e. on 30th March, NHS England reported 159 deaths in the 24 hours to 5pm on Sunday 29th March; however, this number was revised up to 463 5 days later and could still be updated again). Note – the government are now reporting death figures of those that have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community, though the reported deaths still only include those who had tested positive for the virus. The numbers WILL be an underestimate.
When comparing countries, it is important to remember huge differences in population and demographics.
Further, daily counts are volatile, so need some smoothing to see any real underlying trends. World in Data uses a rolling 7-day average and looks at deaths per million for accuracy: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/daily-covid-deaths-per-million-7-day-average