October 27, 2020

Coronavirus briefing: Questions over testing pledge and grim global statistics

Testing times
Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s pledge to ensure 100,000 people a day are tested for coronavirus by the end of the month might have sounded significant but it has raised questions about how the government will meet the target. Labour says details are scant. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth wants to know how many of the 100,000 would be blood tests, and what role testing would play in the government’s lockdown “exit strategy”.

Academics warn testing is not a “magic bullet” and caution against creating a “false sense of security” with talk of “immunity certificates” when the science is unproven. Health correspondent Nick Triggle assesses the government’s performance against its pledges on testing, protective equipment for NHS staff and provision of ventilators for seriously ill patients.

Meanwhile, the battle to preserve the health of the economy continues, with the government revamping its emergency loans scheme to make it easier for struggling businesses to access funds and bailing out the bus industry to keep routes open.

For a second week, the nation honoured its key workers with applause on Thursday evening. One of them, Dr John Wright of Bradford Royal Infirmary, writes for us about the pressure NHS staff feel now they are dealing with multiple patient deaths.

Grim statistics
As our live page notes, the US and Spain have recorded new highs for daily deaths of patients with Covid-19. To get an idea of the pressures medical teams are under, watch American nurse Tre Kwon’s powerful account of cutting short her maternity leave to return to the frontline, and see the conditions in an intensive care unit in the Spanish region of Catalonia.

More than a million cases have now been confirmed worldwide, with nearly 53,000 people dying and more than 210,000 having recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, in the US. We look at the handful of countries yet to declare a positive case, and the steps they are taking to try to stay virus-free.

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