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Coronavirus news: Sport to return and groups of six can meet to exercise together says government, despite warnings on lockdown easing

Follow here for the latest updates on the pandemic

Andy Gregory,Peter Stubley
Saturday 30 May 2020 23:59 BST
Coronavirus: UK death toll reaches 38,376

Elite sport can return behind closed doors from 1 June, the government announced as it eased coronavirus restrictions to allow groups of up to six people to exercise together outdoors.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden described the move as “a significant moment” despite warnings from scientific advisers that Covid-19 “is spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England” with an estimated 8,000 infections per day.

With the new NHS test and trace system still “untested”, Professor John Edmunds accused ministers of making a “risky” and political decision, saying “Westminster clearly made a decision that this is the sort of level of incidence that they’re willing to tolerate”, despite it being “significantly higher” than similar European nations.

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Good morning, we'll be using this blog to follow the latest developments of the coronavirus pandemic.

Andy Gregory30 May 2020 08:57

Two Sage advisers warn against lifting English lockdown

England's lockdown will ease slightly on Monday, with groups of up to six people allowed to meet outside and primary schools re-opening to certain year groups.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and formerly of the WHO, said he agreed with his colleague John Edmunds that "Covid-19 is spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England."

"TTI (test, trace, isolate) has to be in place, fully working, capable dealing any surge immediately, locally responsive, rapid results & infection rates have to be lower. And trusted," he said on Twitter.

John Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said on Friday that "we are taking some risk here" with an "untested" test and trace system, describing it as a political decision.

"The government here in Westminster clearly made a decision that this is the sort of level of incidence that they're willing to tolerate, the level of incidence here in the UK is significantly higher than similar countries around Europe," he told the BBC.

Andy Gregory30 May 2020 09:01

Sage adviser warns lifting lockdown will keep new infections at 8,000 per day

 Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has voiced concern about the lifting of lockdown measures.

He told Sky News: "I think it's risky for a couple of reasons.

"One, I think the reproduction number is only just below one and so there's not a lot of room for manoeuvre and so small changes can put that reproduction number up above one."

He added: "I think the other more important thing is that we still have a lot of cases here in this country. The numbers of infections that we have is about 8,000 new infections every day in England alone."

 He said that judging the impact of lifting restrictions is "a little bit of an educated guess", adding: "We think that we might be able to hold the reproduction number at about one, we hope."

But holding the reproduction number of one would "mean that the incident stays at about this level, and about this level is 8,000 infections, new infections every day in England alone".

Andy Gregory30 May 2020 09:04

Government and police urge public to follow current rules as warm weather forecast

Downing Street has warned the public that meet-ups remain prohibited until after the weekend.

The Lake District National Park Authority has urged people to "show care and consideration for everyone who lives and works" in the area, while Dorset Police has told people to "go home or elsewhere" if an area looks too busy.

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: "I know we are going into another weekend where the weather looks fantastic and beautiful, and that will bring many temptations for us to go outside and perhaps meet with friends and loved ones that we haven't seen for some time, and perhaps gather in large groups, but, quite simply the rules and regulations will not allow that this weekend."

Our home affairs correspondent Lizzie Dearden has more details:

Andy Gregory30 May 2020 09:06

Angela Merkel 'will not attend G7' if Trump goes ahead with it, unless coronavirus spread changes by June

After canceling the Group of Seven summit, originally scheduled for June 10-12 at Camp David, Donald Trump said a week ago that he was again considering hosting an in-person meeting of world leaders because it would be a "great sign to all" of things returning to normal during the pandemic.

Immediately after that announcement, Germany's Angela Merkel suggested she had not yet made up her mind on whether to attend in person or by video conference, but her spokesperson told the dpa news agency she has now made a decision.

"As of today, given the overall pandemic situation, she cannot commit to participating in person," he said, adding that she chancellor would continue to monitor the coronavirus situation in case things change.

Andy Gregory30 May 2020 09:15

Third Sage member warns too soon to lift lockdown

Professor Peter Horby, chair of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) and a Sage member, said Britain could not afford to lose control of the virus.

"We really can't go back to a situation where we've got the numbers of cases and deaths we've had in the past," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, adding that a test, trace and isolate system needed to be in place. "As we know, it's not yet fully operational so that is where the risk lies," he said.

Echoing Professor John Edmunds' warning, he added: "You know, we have still got 8,000 cases a day. We have been very successful in bringing it down, decreasing the numbers because of the social distancing.

"But, you will have heard that the R level is between 0.7 and 0.9, so it's only a bit below one, so, we have got very little headroom, actually. And, it's really important that we use that headroom very wisely and we don't lose control again."

Andy Gregory30 May 2020 09:20

Trump says US is terminating relationship with World Health Organisation

Donald Trump said the United States is severing all ties with the World Health Organisation and announced other steps intended to punish that group and China for what he dubbed a “cover up” of the coronavirus outbreak on Chinese soil, John T Bennett reports.

But he abruptly ended what he dubbed a press conference before he could face questions about the killing of a black man in Minnesota by a white police officer.

“The world deserves answers,” the president said about WHO and Chinese officials’ actions when the Covid-19 virus went public in China – then infected millions across the world.

He blamed Chinese officials for, in his words, having “pressured the World Health Organisation to mislead the world” about the virus.

 “Countless lives have been taken” by Covid-19 and it spawned “profound economic hardship”, Mr Trump said, claiming that Chinese officials have “violated” their promises, which he contended “cannot be swept aside”.

“China’s cover up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread throughout the world,” he said. “Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organisation.”

Andy Gregory30 May 2020 09:32

Our political correspondent Lizzy Buchan has more on the three scientific advisers who have broken rank to warn against lifting lockdown measures on Monday, which they say risks a second wave of the virus.

Andy Gregory30 May 2020 09:40

Both Professor Peter Horby and Professor John Edmunds of Sage have said there are currently around 8,000 new transmissions of the virus every day in England.

The figure is from the ONS, who have been testing a random sample of households, and is nearly four times greater than the 2,095 new cases identified by the Department of Health on Thursday.

On the same day, Germany registered 741 new infections. Italy identified 593 new cases, while France's new infections were in the low hundreds - although the true number may also be significantly higher in these countries.

Scientists have previously indicated the number of new transmissions would ideally be in the low hundreds before lockdown measures are lifted.

Andy Gregory30 May 2020 09:56

Analysis: Why it might not matter if the government ends lockdown

Mobility data from Apple has revealed that the coronavirus outbreak was already having a significant impact on people's behaviour long before the government imposed lockdown restrictions, Anthony Cuthbertson reported on 15 May.

In the weeks before the UK entered lockdown on 23 March, companies began to introduce measures like working from home in order to help contain the spread of the virus.

This trend, combined with people's own changing attitudes toward social events and large gatherings, resulted in travel dropping by more than 50 per cent before the lockdown began, according to requests made on Apple Maps for car and public transport directions.

Many activities and behaviours that were considered normal before coronavirus also remain taboo regardless of the government's guidelines.

Andy Gregory30 May 2020 10:07

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