Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Friday 22 May 2020
Government plans two new coronavirus tests
The government has announced trials for a new coronavirus test which would produce results within 20 minutes. Meanwhile, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the UK has made a deal to receive up to 10m antibody tests, a different type of procedure which detects whether someone has previously had the virus. Boris Johnson says antibody testing would be “a game changer”.
Johnson orders end to reliance on China for vital imports
Boris Johnson has launched a plan codenamed Project Defend to end Britain’s reliance on China for vital medical supplies and other strategic imports in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. After it was revealed that the UK is strategically dependent on China for 71 critical goods categories, officials have been asked to identify the country’s key economic vulnerabilities to potentially hostile foreign governments.
Government U-turn on NHS charges after uproar
NHS staff and care workers from overseas will no longer have to pay an extra charge towards the health service after a public outcry. A spokesman said Boris Johnson had asked the Home Office and Department for Health to exempt NHS and care workers “as soon as possible”. Labour leader Keir Starmer described the move as “a victory for common decency”.
Death rates in England now at average winter levels
Deaths rates in England have fallen to the same level as in an average winter, the chief medical officer has said. Revealing that the number of Covid-19 related deaths has fallen sharply since a peak last month, Professor Chris Whitty said: “We are essentially having a winter… in terms of mortality, but in late spring and early summer.”
Donald Trump refuses to wear a face mask at car plant
Donald Trump was described as a “petulant child” after he defied requests from company executives to wear a face mask during a visit to a Michigan Ford plant. Standing alongside Ford executives who were wearing masks, Trump told the media: “I had one on before. I wore one in the back area. I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”
DIY dentistry on the rise as practices remain closed
DIY extractions and other Victorian methods of home dentistry are on the rise because practices remain closed, says the British Dental Association. After all routine dental appointments were cancelled on 25 March because of the coronavirus, desperate members of the public have pulled out their own teeth using pliers and other implements.
Starmer says mental health faces ‘hidden coronavirus cost’
Keir Starmer says mental health services must be boosted to help the UK respond to “the hidden cost” of the coronavirus pandemic. Writing for The Independent, the Labour leader said “long-term effects” will be felt by key workers on the frontline of the battle against Covid-19 in hospitals and care homes, the bereaved and those forced by lockdown to live in isolation.
China’s plans for new Hong Kong laws sparks outcry
China’s proposal for new national security laws for Hong Kong would force the territory to speed through legislation that would bar subversion, separatism and other acts against the central government. Opponents say Beijing’s efforts to impose a national security law is a move to fully take control of the territory. The US has threatened to intervene.
Third man charged over murder of Ahmaud Arbery
A man who filmed the shooting of an unarmed black man in the US state of Georgia has been charged with murder. William Bryan Jr is also accused of a criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was shot dead during a confrontation with a father and son in Brunswick on 23 February.
Riverbank birds ingest hundreds of plastic fragments each day
Birds on riverbanks are ingesting plastic at the rate of hundreds of tiny fragments a day in what scientists say is the first clear evidence that plastic pollutants in rivers are moving up the food chain. “These iconic birds, the dippers, are ingesting hundreds of pieces of plastic every day,” said Prof Steve Ormerod of Cardiff University’s Water Research Institute.