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UK Doctors condemn secrecy over false negative Covid-19 tests
Doctors’ leaders have condemned ministers and Public Health England (PHE) for throwing a “shroud of secrecy” over how many coronavirus tests on NHS staff and patients produce wrong results.
The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) has demanded an end to “evasion” and the “wall of silence” around how many swab tests result in false negative readings.
The tests, in which samples are taken from someone’s throat and nose, are vital in controlling the spread of Covid-19 in hospitals because they are used to check whether NHS personnel and inpatients have the virus and might unwittingly pass it on.
A top White House official on Sunday likened China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak to the Soviet Union’s cover-up of the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, Reuters reports.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien said Beijing knew what was happening with the virus, which originated in Wuhan, from November but lied to the World Health Organization and prevented outside experts from accessing information.
“They unleashed a virus on the world that’s destroyed trillions of dollars in American economic wealth that we’re having to spend to keep our economy alive, to keep Americans afloat during this virus,” O’Brien said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
France has lowest daily rise in new coronavirus cases and deaths since lockdown
French authorities reported the smallest daily rise in new coronavirus cases and deaths on Sunday since before a lockdown began on 17 March, raising hopes that the worst of the epidemic is over in France.
Parisians ride their bikes along the Seine river in Paris, Sunday, 24 May 2020, as France gradually lifts its lockdown. Photograph: François Mori/AP
The number of confirmed cases rose by 115 to 144,921, health ministry data showed, and the death toll increased by 35 to 28,367 – an increase of just 0.1% for both tallies.
The weekend totals for new cases and deaths were also both the lowest since France began easing its strict coronavirus restrictions on 11 May.
Epidemiologist Laurent Toubiana, director of the IRSAN health data institute, suggested the worst of the epidemic had passed and said the coronavirus may not come back, unlike previous pandemics such as the 1918 Spanish flu.
“If we do not see a quick resurgence of the epidemic, we might get a break for a few weeks,” he said on BFM TV.
Despite the easing of restrictions, social distancing rules remain in place in France and Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne told France Inter radio the government did not want people to travel abroad this summer.
She also said Paris parks must remain closed for now as the capital is still a “red zone” for circulation of the coronavirus.
Hi, Helen Sullivan joining you on the blog now. I’ll be bringing you the latest updates from around the world.
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The Daily Mail – usually one of Boris Johnson’s supporters in the press – has called on the prime minister to sack Dominic Cummings, trailing its headline with the following:
In the clearest way, Dominic Cummings has violated the spirit and letter of the lockdown. Boris Johnson says he ‘totally gets’ how the public feels about this. Clearly he totally doesn’t. Neither man has displayed a scintilla of contrition for this breach of trust. Do they think we are fools? For the good of the government and the nation, Mr Cummings must resign. Or the prime minister must sack him. No ifs. No buts.
US bars travellers who have been in Brazil in last two weeks
The White House has announced it is prohibiting foreigners from traveling to the US if they had been in Brazil in the last two weeks, two days after the South American nation became the world No. 2 hot spot for coronavirus cases.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the new restrictions would help ensure foreign nationals do not bring additional infections to the US, but would not apply to the flow of commerce between the new countries.
Brazil became the No. 2 hot spot for cases on Friday, second only to the US. Brazil has recorded over 347,000 infections, while the US has over 1.6 million.
The decision follows comments by the national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, to CBS.
“We hope that’ll be temporary, but because of the situation in Brazil, we’re going to take every step necessary to protect the American people,” O’Brien said.
UK front pages, Monday 25 May
It’s safe to say Dominic Cummings has received a rather… mixed reception across tomorrow’s front pages.
In the US, discrepancies in how different states are reporting testing and infection figures is causing “frustration and confusion”, AP reports.
Elected officials, businesses and others are depending on coronavirus testing and infection-rate data as states reopen so that they will know if a second wave of contagion is coming and whether another round of stay-at-home orders or closings might be needed.
But states are reporting those figures in different ways, and that can lead to frustration and confusion about what the numbers mean.
In some places, there have been data gaps that leave local leaders wondering whether they should loosen or tighten restrictions. In others, officials are accused of spinning the numbers to make their states look better and justify reopening.
In a continuing theme for the outbreak in the United States, a lack of federal leadership persists. Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been lumping together tests that measure different things.
Such errors render the CDC numbers about how many Americans are infected uninterpretable, creating a misleading picture for people trying to make decisions based on the data, said Ashish Jha, director of Harvards Global Health Institute.
“It is incumbent on health departments and the CDC to make sure they’re presenting information thats accurate. And if they cant get it, then don’t show the data at all,” Jha said. “Faulty data is much, much worse than no data.”
“Eid is not Eid with the atmosphere of coronavirus – people feel a sense of fear,” worshipper Akram Taher said in Gaza.
Muslims around the world have been marking a sombre Eid al-Fitr, as coronavirus lockdowns worldwide restrict celebrations.
Mass prayer gatherings have been banned in many countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Syria.
Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, began a five-day round-the-clock curfew from Saturday after infections more than quadrupled since the start of Ramadan to over 72,000 – the highest in the Gulf.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire to mark Eid al-Fitr in a surprise move following months of bloody fighting with Afghan forces after the signing of a landmark agreement with the United States.
In Somalia, at least five people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a blast during Eid festivities, police said.
New York recorded 109 deaths from Covid-19 over the last 24 hours, which represents a slight increase on the previous day.
State governor Andrew Cuomo called on New Yorkers to remain vigilant. “What do we really think, this is the last time we are going to have a public health emergency?” Cuomo said. “Let’s make sure we are better for what we have gone through.”
Over on the UK side, the Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr and Paul Lewis tally the dissenting advisors:
India resumes domestic flights despite record spike in new cases
Domestic flights will resume across India on Monday, the federal civil aviation minister has said, despite a 24-hour record increase in new cases on Sunday.
The announcement follows a day of “hard negotiations”, the minister said, after some states sought to limit the number of flights.
Flights will restart under an easing of restrictions, despite the 6,767 new cases that brought India’s total to over 131,000.
Airlines are preparing to resume about a third of their domestic flight operations from Monday, even without clarity over what quarantine rules may apply to passengers.
The western state of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu in the south and West Bengal in the east – business hubs and home to India’s busiest airports – had said they were not prepared to open for flights as coronavirus cases rose, state government officials said.
Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu agreed to operate limited flights from Monday, while southern state of Andhra Pradesh would allow flights from Tuesday, India’s civil aviation minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, said on Twitter.
“It has been a long day of hard negotiations with various state government to recommence civil aviation operations in the country … Domestic flights will recommence across the country from tomorrow,” he said.
West Bengal urged the central government to postpone the resumption of passenger flights to Kolkata as it focuses on rescue work after Cyclone Amphan hit the city.
Limited aviation operations in West Bengal will commence from Thursday, Puri said.
India’s federal structure gives its 28 states flexibility to set their own rules, complicating government efforts to kickstart the economy.
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Chile’s healthcare system is “very close to the limit,” President Sebastian Pinera has said, following a rapid rise in infections in recent days that has brought the country’s total close to 70,000.
The Ministry of Health reported 3,709 new cases in the last day, bringing the total to 69,102. The death toll is at 718.
A city worker, dressed in protective gear, delivers a box of food during a mandatory quarantine ordered by the government amid the new coronavirus pandemic in Santiago, Friday, May 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix) Photograph: Esteban Félix/AP
“We are very close to the limit because we have had a very large increase in the needs and demands for medical care, and for intensive care unit beds and ventilators,” Pinera said during a visit to a hospital in Santiago, which has the highest concentration of cases.
Dominic Cummings reported to police over lockdown breach
Here’s the latest sticky development to the Dominic Cummings story.
Dominic Cummings is facing a possible police investigation under health laws over a claim that he breached self-isolation rules in north-east England, after a weekend of mounting pressure on the prime minister to sack his chief adviser.
Retired chemistry teacher Robin Lees has made a complaint to the police after reporting that he saw Cummings and his family on 12 April walking in the town of Barnard Castle before getting into a car, a joint investigation by the Guardian and Mirror can reveal.
(For those who’ve missed an episode or two in the saga, here’s a run-through of the chief advisor’s movements.)
Up to speed? Read Matthew Weaver and Vikram Dodd’s report on the latest.
More details on South Africa’s plans for easing the lockdown easing have just come through.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has said the controversial ban on the sale of alcohol would be lifted for home consumption when the country moves into level three of a five-tier coronavirus lockdown next month.
South Africans were prohibited from buying alcohol and cigarettes when the country locked down at the end of March, in an attempt to prevent a surge in violence and ease pressure on hospitals’ emergency wards.
The ban on alcohol sales for home consumption will be lifted in June. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images
Alcohol will be sold for home consumption under strict conditions, on certain days and within limited hours.
The ban on tobacco products, however, will remain in place “due to the health risks associated with smoking”, the president said.