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Covid-19 update: Boris ‘in good spirits’ – but still in ICU

Covid-19 update: Boris ‘in good spirits’ – but still in ICU
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The Spectator brings you the latest insight, news and research from the front line. Sign up here to receive this briefing daily by email, and stay abreast of developments both at home and abroad:

  • No. 10 says the PM is ‘good spirits’ in the Intensive Care Unit of St Thomas’ Hospital in London. He is receiving standard oxygen treatment but is not on a ventilator. Isabel Hardman has the latest.
  • Donald Trump has asked two pharmaceutical companies in London developing potential Covid-19 therapies to offer assistance to the PM.
  • A new report from University College London finds the school closures ‘do not appear to have a significant effect’ on the spread of Covid-19.
  • A father is facing a fine of up to £960 after his son continued to flout the new lockdown legislation, according to West Midlands police.
  • Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is self-isolating, as a member of his family is showing Covid-19 symptoms.

Boris ‘in good spirits’ – but still in ICU

At 5 p.m. yesterday, Boris Johnson was talking about government affairs from his hospital bed. By 7 p.m. he was admitted into intensive care. There he remains, receiving oxygen treatment for his Covid-19 symptoms, though he has not yet needed a ventilator: word is that yesterday he needed four litres of oxygen, far less than a typical Covid-19 patient at the start of ICU treatment. He is not expected back at work in the next fortnight.

So who’s in charge? When it emerged that the de facto deputy Dominic Raab hadn’t spoken to Johnson since Saturday, it became obvious that things weren’t right. Today, the PM instructed his de facto deputy Dominic Raab to ‘assume responsibilities where appropriate’, while No. 10 confirmed that if the Foreign Secretary falls ill, it’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak who should step in. But these instructions are far from comprehensive. Boris governed with No. 10, the Treasury and the Cabinet Office as a triumvirate: this points to Michael Gove, who’s now self-isolating.

In words
He is, of course, our nation’s leader, and we’re all rooting for him, we want him to come through this, because we want him back, fit and healthy, leading the fight against this awful, awful virus.

Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health & Social Care Secretary

I also want to send best wishes to a very good friend of mine and a friend to our nation, prime minister, Boris Johnson. We’re very saddened to hear that he was taken into intensive care this afternoon, a little while ago, and Americans are all praying for his recovery. He’s been a really good friend, he’s been really something very special. Strong, resolute, doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up.

Donald Trump, President of the United States

Closing schools has no ‘significant effect’ on Covid-19

As Denmark prepares to reopen kindergartens and primary schools after the Easter break, a study from University College London questions to what extent school closures in the UK have stopped the spread of Covid-19. The research published by The Lancet says school closure has no ‘significant effect’ on slowing viruses like this, lowering the death rate between 2 per cent and 4 per cent. Analysis: As Fraser Nelson notes in the Telegraph, the knock-on effects of closing schools are huge. Wealthier families can access remote learning and online tutors, while resources for children in poorer, single-parent households are few and far between. School closures are usually recommended in outbreaks where children are unusually affected. It’s harder to argue for school closures in response to a virus where children are largely unaffected.

Global news

  • The death toll in Spain has fallen for the fourth day in a row, amid hopes that the country has passed the peak of the virus.
  • France has seen its highest daily death toll so far, up 10 per cent to 833. The US total death toll has exceeded 10,000.
  • The Czech Republic’s Deputy Health Minister is now opposing lockdown, in defiance of his government’s policy.
  • Denmark has announced it will reopen primary schools next week, though social distancing will still take place inside.
  • China and Russia have closed their land border after 59 Chinese citizens tested positive for coronavirus on returning from Vladivostok.

Covid-19 in data

How many people have died from Covid-19? The phrase is often heard on the news, but wrongly: official data stresses these are deaths with Covid-19. It has been estimated that two-third of ‘Covid-19 deaths’ would have happened anyway. Dr John Lee has written in The Spectator about the potential for confusion.

We do have weekly data, but there’s a ten-day lag. Today’s ONS figures show 11,141 deaths in England & Wales, of which 539 (4.8 per cent) were linked to Covid-19. Overall, deaths were 1,011 above what you’d expect for this particular week in the year.

Research

Can Covid-19 be detected (or spread) through sewage?

A team for the Dutch National Institute of Public Health have analysed samples of wastewater from Schiphol Airport outside Amsterdam and also from the town of Tilburg. Both were found to contain the virus. This suggests that ‘wastewater could be a sensitive surveillance system and early-warning tool, as was previously shown for poliovirus’. And could this be spreading Covid-19? It’s ‘not yet clear,’ the report says. But there was a case in America where Covid-19 was contracted by an isolated patient (The Lancet).

Coronomics

  • Both TSB and Lloyds banks are to introduce a free £500 overdraft after the FCA proposed a temporary zero-interest buffer. Barclays, HSBC and Santander have already introduced it.
  • Halifax’s housing price index shows little budge between February and March this year. But that’s unsurprising, given that the government has frozen the housing market.
  • Dairy farmers have asked the government for financial help, due to a drop in demand from cafes and restaurants.
  • Cancer Research, which funds around half of all research into the illness, has said it is cutting back on funding as ‘we expect our income to fall by at least 20 to 25 per cent’.

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