Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Friday 24 Apr 2020
Hancock promises tests for all key workers
Testing for coronavirus is to be made available to all essential workers and their families in England, with appointments to be booked from today on the UK government website, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced. The expansion of the programme, previously only available to healthcare workers, comes as ministers scramble to reach their target of 100,000 daily tests by the end of April.
British submarine crew filmed partying during lockdown
A Royal Navy investigation has been launched in response to a video posted on social media showing the crew of a nuclear-powered attack submarine partying during the coronavirus lockdown. The captain of HMS Trenchant, based at Devonport in Plymouth, is understood to have gone ahead with the “rave-themed barbecue” despite being advised it might be inappropriate, and has now been sent home on leave. The crew had been required to stay in isolation together on the sub after returning from a patrol lasting several weeks.
Trump’s disinfectant theory stuns experts
Donald Trump appears to have suggested that surface disinfectants or light might be injected into human bodies to kill the coronavirus. Speaking yesterday at his daily White House briefing, the US president said: “The disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way we could do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning?” Bill Bryan, who leads the Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology division, later clarified that the theory wasn’t plausible.
Ramadan begins amid calls for some Muslims to forgo fasting
As millions of Muslims begin Ramadan, the Muslim Council of Britain has published guidance saying that healthcare workers caring for Covid-19 patients are exempt from fasting, in order to avoid the “real risk of dehydration and making clinical errors due to wearing PPE [personal protective equipment] and long shifts”. Going without food and drink during daylight hours in Islam’s holiest month is one of the five pillars of Islam, but it is only obligatory for adults who can do so safely.
US House passes $484bn stimulus package as unemployment climbs
The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a $484bn coronavirus relief package for small businesses and hospitals, pushing the country’s total spending response to the crisis to almost $3tn. The move is the latest of four attempts to bolster an economy in freefall. Only hours before the stimulus bill was passed, the US Labor Department announced that 4.4 million Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total claims for the past five weeks to more than 26 million.
Nursing homes linked to half of Europe’s Covid-19 deaths, says WHO
Residents in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes account for up to half of coronavirus-related deaths in Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, told a news conference that a “deeply concerning picture” was emerging of the impact of the pandemic on some of the continent’s most vulnerable populations, adding: “This is an unimaginable human tragedy.”
Yemen ceasefire ends as coronavirus looms
The two-week ceasefire declared by the Saudi Arabian-led coalition waging war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen has expired without a truce being agreed. The resumption of violence comes as the threat of the new coronavirus hovers over the war-ravaged country, and as cuts in US aid begin to jeopardise the UN’s efforts to assist millions of citizens. Although only one Covid-19 infection has been confirmed officially in Yemen, reports are emerging that Houthi rebels are concealing further cases in order to avoid discouraging new recruits.
UK doctors bring legal action against government over lack of PPE
Two NHS doctors have brought a legal action against the UK government over what they say is a lack of protective kit and unclear guidance on when and how it should be used. In a statement released by their legal representatives, husband and wife Meenal Viz and Nishant Joshi - who are expecting a child - said: “It is the government’s duty to protect its healthcare workers, and there is great anxiety amongst staff with regards to safety protocols that seem to change without rhyme or reason.”
The Big Night In raises more than £27m
The stars of TV shows including Doctor Who, The Vicar of Dibley and Miranda sent messages of thanks last night to coronavirus front-line workers during BBC One charity special The Big Night In. Almost £27.4m was donated during the three-hour event, with the government promising to double the total. The fundraiser included a surprise sketch featuring Prince William and Stephen Fry, who enacted a spoof Zoom call.
Briefing: does nicotine protect against coronavirus?
Coronavirus patients and frontline medics are to be given nicotine patches in clinical trials to see whether smoking may cut the risk of contracting the Covid-19 coronavirus.
The move comes after a newly published French study found that the proportion of smokers who tested positive for the infection was much lower than that in the general population.