COVID-19 UPDATE Wednesday 22 April
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab led today’s Downing Street briefing. General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff made his debut at the press conference and was joined by Chris Whitty, chief medical officer.
- No steep reduction in new infections
- Greatest logistical challenge for the head of the UK's armed forces
UK not out of the woods yet
Dominic Raab began by commiserating with every bereaved family. Deaths in hospitals are up by 759 to 18,100 today.
He said there is “no hiding from the tragedy” brought by coronavirus and the UK is “not out of the woods yet”.
There are still “challenges” in many areas, e.g. providing PPE for frontline staff, but the nation has pulled together well.
The foreign secretary paid tribute to the armed forces and thanked them for their assistance in setting up the Nightingale hospitals.
Helping NHS: 'greatest logistical challenge' for army chief
UK armed forces have been mobilised to help distribute PPE to health and social care workers, delivering mobile testing labs and setting up Nightingale hospitals around the country.
With “humility as their watchword, the military has provided support to frontline staff – referred by as “heroic" by Nick Carter.
He said many military experts with varied skills have been supporting local organisations. Their logistics has involved around 50,000 locations.
Nick Carter said that government, NHS and the military are working together on organising testing. They will deliver a "very sophisticated" system to "upscale" mobile testing units – not unlike mobile libraries - and increase the UK’s testing capability.
The government has committed to carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of this month. Today, around 20,000 are being achieved.
Later, Dominic Raab was asked if the armed forces are being underused. Sir Nick Carter added that the army has deployed "all that we need to deploy at this stage".
Care home deaths could double original number
Dominic Raab denied that so many deaths in an elderly and vulnerable population is inevitable. He said that the government is "straining every sinew" avoid these cases.
Chris Whitty added that the number of care home deaths has been "relatively modest" so far. He warned that the mortality rate is likely to be high.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 975 Covid-19 deaths in care homes by 10 April. Today the government said that the number of deaths in the five days following 10 April could be twice that number.