“Audacious” testing target reached on 30 April

COVID-19 UPDATE: Friday 1 May 2020

Health secretary, Matt Hancock, opened today’s press briefing. He was joined by Professor John Newton, head of the coronavirus testing programme, and Stephen Powis, national medical director for England.

  • Government has beaten its 100,000 daily testing target. Yesterday’s total exceeded 122,000
  • Number of coronavirus deaths on a downward trend

Number of deaths declines – we have begun to get on top of the virus

Stephen Powis said that while the number of deaths is down, "the compliance with social distancing is the key thing". He was pleased to report that 84% of adults say they have not left their homes in the past seven days except for the permitted reasons.

On global deaths, he reiterated a point made in previous briefings, that it will be "a number of months before we can see the true comparison of countries".

The data show that new cases have increased but "this should be seen in context that we have increased the number of tests". "Overall the number is relatively stable," he concluded.

Update on testing – in summary

Matt Hancock said: "over the entire testing programme we have done over a million tests - 1,023,824".

John Newton confirmed that, of the 122,347 tests deployed yesterday, 27,497 of them were kits delivered to people’s homes, and 12,872 tests were delivered through the satellite process – outside the programme. He added that meeting the target was an “extraordinary achievement”, but it is “only the start” and there will have to be an “element of consolidation to move to a sustainable footing”.

Where are we with lockdown?

A member of the public asked about re-opening schools and if there will be fines for people who are too anxious to send their children back. Without answering the question on fines, Matt Hancock said that the government will only open schools "when it is safe to do so".

Stephen Powis said this “this virus affects children much less than it does the elderly and older adults". He conceded that there have been "some very rare reports of complications in children" which are being investigated, “but the overall message is for children it is a mild disease.”

When he was asked if over-70s face extended social distancing, Matt Hancock replied that some of this group will have underlying conditions "who we have been in contact in who we are asking to shield to ensure they have as little contact as possible for their own health reasons."

Stephen Powis added that if over-70s are fit and healthy, that will be factored into government advice when measures are relaxed.

Is coronavirus really indiscriminate?

Matt Hancock said that government is looking into the effects of coronavirus on different groups. He added that they have known from the start that older people are adversely effected by the virus, and that it now appears to hit men, people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and obese people, badly.

One journalist asked if this would inform the way in which nurses from black and minority ethnic backgrounds would be supported in the NHS. Matt Hancock said: "The way the nurses have risen to this challenge has been admirable,” and added that the government is helping nurses with mental health issues and is committed to increase the number of nurses working in the NHS.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that the virus impacts some demographic groups more than others.

In the most deprived parts of England, deaths from Covid-19 are 55.1 per 100,000 people. This is more than double the rate of 25.3 deaths per 100,000 in the least deprived areas.