26 May 2020


Daily COVID-19 figures update

The number of globally recorded cases of COVID-19 is now over 5.49m. Over 346,000 people have died and over 1.23m have now recovered. The UK has confirmed over 262,000 cases and 36,996 mortalities. The number of global cases can be followed here, and the number of UK cases can be followed here. Live news updates can be found on the BBC website.

The latest from Downing Street

The chief advisor to the UK Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings, took the unusual step yesterday of reading a prepared statement to the media about questions over whether he broke lockdown rules. Mr Cummings said he believed he had acted "reasonably" and legally when he drove 260 miles from home in March. His statement on overshadowed the Prime Minister’s new plans to reopen all non-essential shops in England from 15 June. However, the move is "contingent on progress in the fight against coronavirus", and retailers will have to adhere to new guidelines to protect shoppers and workers, the PM added. Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June. It comes as Professor Tim Spector, who is leading the UK's largest COVID-19 tracking project, said that the Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool's Champions League match against Atletico Madrid "caused increased suffering and death" by being allowed to go ahead. Meanwhile, a poll carried out by BBC Scotland asked people how they feel various political figures have handled the pandemic.

Scotland’s Transport Transition Plan

Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, will publish the Transport Transition Plan which is due to be launched at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, on Tuesday. The move comes ahead of the expected implementation of phase one of the Scottish Government's route map out of lockdown later this week. The main focus will be an acceleration of the test, trace, isolate strategy. The Scottish Government has promised that 2,000 contact tracers will be available by the end of the month, but does not believe all of them will be needed immediately. As the contact tracing service is established, workplaces and schools will also begin the slow process of reopening. Ms Sturgeon will explain how public transport will change to operate safely in line with this gradual return.

WHO halts hydroxychloroquine trial

Hydroxychloroquine trials in several countries are being "temporarily" suspended as a precaution, according to the WHO. The malaria drug has been touted as a potential treatment for COVID-19, however a recent medical study suggested that the drug could increase the risk of patients dying from the disease. The Lancet study said there were no benefits to treating COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine, and that taking it might even increase the number of deaths among those in hospital with the disease. The WHO, which is running clinical trials of various drugs to assess which might be beneficial in treating the disease, has previously raised concerns over reports of individuals self-medicating and causing themselves serious harm. US president Donald Trump last week claimed that he was using the drug to "ward off" coronavirus.

Dementia and COVID-19

People with a genetic mutation that increases the risk of dementia also have a greater chance of having severe COVID-19, researchers have revealed. The study is the latest to suggest genetics may play a role in why some people are more vulnerable to the coronavirus than others, and could help explain why people with dementia have been hard hit: dementia is one of the most common underlying health conditions among those who have died from COVID-19 in England and Wales. "It is not just age: this is an example of a specific gene variant causing vulnerability in some people," said David Melzer, a professor of epidemiology and public health at Exeter University and a co-author of the study.

German infection rate drops

Germany recorded a decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases and the infection rate dropped further below the key threshold of 1.0. There were 272 new cases in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning, bringing the total to 180,600, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That compares with 342 infections the previous day and almost 7,000 at the peak of the outbreak in late March. The reproduction factor of the coronavirus, known as R-naught, dropped to 0.83 on Monday from 0.94 the day before, according to the latest estimate from the Robert Koch Institute. Like most of Europe, Germany is in the process of easing lockdown restrictions - and the state of Thuringia, which had only a few infections, is thinking about lifting them all. German Bundesliga football matches resumed behind closed doors on Saturday 16 May - the first big European league to do so. And shops of all sizes are now allowed to reopen in Germany, with extra hygiene and social distancing measures. German border controls were eased on 15 May with Austria, France and Switzerland and will be lifted on 15 June.