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North-east England had highest Covid-19 mortality rate during May – ONS

North-east England had the highest coronavirus mortality rate of all regions in England during May, the ONS figures show, while London recorded one of the lowest.

There were an estimated 33.1 deaths involving Covid-19 per 100,000 population in north-east England across the month, compared with 15.7 per 100,000 in London.

London had recorded the highest rate in both March and April, with rates of 27.8 deaths per 100,000 population and 94.1 deaths per 100,000 respectively.

South-west England had the lowest mortality rate overall during each of the last three months.

The figures are based on all deaths that occurred in March, April and May 2020 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, and which had been registered by June 6.


A man cleans a window of the Top Shop store in Belfast, after all shopping centres and retailers were given the green light to reopen in Northern Ireland.



Coronavirus mortality rates fell by more than half in all but two regions in England and Wales between April and May, figures show.

After increasing between March and April, age-standardised mortality rates fell in all regions by more than 50% except the North East and Yorkshire & The Humber, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The greatest decrease was in London, where the mortality rate fell by 83.3%.


Uber has announced that it will make face coverings mandatory for drivers and passengers across the UK from Monday.

The minicab app firm’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood, said:

For months we’ve been urging people to stay home, for their safety and the safety of drivers who make essential trips.

Now, as cities begin to reopen and people start moving again, we’re taking measures to help everyone stay safe and healthy every time they use Uber.

We’ve introduced measures to ensure that every driver can access the PPE (personal protective equipment) they need for free to help keep them safe when driving with Uber, and, from Monday, we will require anyone using the Uber app in the UK to wear a face covering.


Health Minister Edward Argar told the Today programme:

It is the human contact. It is the tracing that’s been done … that is the core part of making this programme work.

So, the app has the potential, in the future, to be another step forward.

But, it isn’t the vital part of it.

The vital part of it is this human tracing that we have already got running.


Health Minister says NHS app is “complex piece of technology” and is still being trialled on Isle of Wight

Asked about the development of the coronavirus tracking and tracing app, Health Minister Edward Argar told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, it’s still being trialled on the Isle of Wight.

“It’s a complex piece of technology, and we continue to develop it and work to refine it.

“But, actually, as Dido Harding, who heads up the test, track and trace programme, has said, in a sense, the app is the cherry on the cake for this programme.”


Health minister claims third of people were not successfully contacted through Track and Trace system because they “simply didn’t feel like answering the phone”

Health minister Edward Argar has said one third of people who tested positive for coronavirus and were transferred to the NHS Test and Trace app were not successfully contacted because they “simply didn’t feel like answering the phone”.

In the first week of the app being in use, 8,117 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England had their case transferred to the NHS system.

Of these, 5,407 (67%) were reached, while 2,710 (33%) did not provide information about their contacts or could not be reached.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Friday, Mr Argar said: “Some people won’t necessarily have answered their phone, you and I know what it’s like if you have flu for example, and Covid-19 is a much much nastier disease than that, you sometimes simply don’t feel like answering the phone or responding to much at all.”

“This is the first week of this new scheme and I think it has started off very, very well,” he added.

Mr Argar said the Government will “continue to chase up those who didn’t respond”.


Opposition leaders start to react to economic damage

Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the statistics confirm we face “the most serious economic challenge in generations”. 


Health Minister compares UK economic crash to other western European counries: 

Health minister Edward Argar has claimed the “significant contraction” in the UK economy announced on Friday is “comparable” with other western European economies.

This comes despite the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) projection on Thursday that the UK economy will be the worst hit by the pandemic.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Argar said: “We’re in roughly the same place as comparable western European economies like France, Spain and Italy, but it’s clearly a very significant contraction of our economy.”

He added the Government’s furlough scheme is “one of the most generous and, I believe, effective schemes of financial support for individuals and businesses in the world”.

Mr Argar said reopening businesses would help boost the economy in the coming weeks and the two-metre rule will be “under constant review” as the hospitality sector resurfaces.


Airlines announce legal action against the Government’s “flawed” 14-day quarantine

British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair announced they have launched legal action against the Government’s “flawed” 14-day quarantine policy, claiming it will “have a devastating effect on British tourism and the wider economy, and destroy thousands of jobs”.

They said in a joint statement:

The airlines have asked for their judicial review to be heard as soon as possible.

The airlines have not yet seen any evidence on how and when proposed ‘air bridges’ between the UK and other countries will be implemented.

Instead, they want the Government to readopt its previous quarantine policy introduced on March 10, where quarantine is limited to passengers from ‘high-risk’ countries.

This would be the most practical and effective solution and enables civil servants to focus on other, more significant issues arising from the pandemic while bringing the UK in line with much of Europe which is opening its borders mid-June.

The airlines’ legal challenge against the current quarantine period is based on, among others, (i) the fact this quarantine, by criminal law, is more stringent than the guidelines applied to people who actually have Covid-19, (ii) there was no consultation and no scientific evidence provided for such a severe policy (iii) that, for example, if you are a French or German worker commuting weekly to the UK you will be exempted, and (iv) the UK Government is banning people travelling to and from countries with lower infection rates than the UK.


Boris Johnson facing fresh criticism:

PM faces questions over claim care homes were an ‘afterthought’

Boris Johnson is facing renewed questions over his efforts to protect vulnerable care home residents after Labour claimed the sector was an “afterthought” in the fight against coronavirus.

Whitehall’s spending watchdog confirmed on Friday that 25,000 hospital patients were discharged into care homes in England at the height of the pandemic without all being tested for Covid-19.


Lawyer for group calling for Covid-19 inquiry says it needs to happen asap

Lawyer for the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK group Elkan Abrahamson said a limited independent inquiry was needed as soon as possible, stating:

In this case, if it does take a long time more lives will be lost.

That is the difference between this situation and other situations where inquests, or inquiries, take place.

It’s a continuing crisis and we think we can make a difference.


Shadow Chancellor says Government needs to “get a grip” on test and track system:

Ms Dodds said the Government needs to “get a grip” on the coronavirus test track and trace system because “it is holding us back economically as well as in health terms”.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said:

We have to get that test, track and isolate system working properly.

If we don’t have it functioning as well as in other nations, then we risk seeing additional lockdowns and much slower reopening than would otherwise occur.

And, of course, we risk seeing much lower consumer confidence, and that’s critically important now that we push demand up.

The shadow chancellor also criticised the Government’s “one size fits all” approach to financing different sectors during lockdown for having a potentially “long-term scarring impact on our economy”.

She added the Government needs a “long-term strategy” beyond the furlough scheme and said different sectors should be eased off the scheme at different rates.


Founder of group calling for public inquiry says dad’s death could have been prevented:

The founder of a group calling for an immediate public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus outbreak has said his father’s death could have been prevented in the pandemic.

Matt Fowler, of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK group, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

I absolutely believe that my dad’s death could have been prevented if things were handled in a different manner.

He was only 56, so he has gone way, way before his time.

Asked whether different Government decisions could have saved the life of his father, Mr Fowler said: “Absolutely.”

Mr Fowler said legal action was justified to try and force an immediate probe, stating: “If my actions can save one life, it may seem inconsequential to the people at large, but that person’s family, that person can be their entire world.”


Health Minister says Government wants to avoid a second and potentially more devastating second wave. 

Edward Argar said reopening the economy is a a balance and it is a “tough one”

He said the government is “trying to make sure we do not see that devastating second wave which would have an even bigger impact on our economy.”

“We have got to do it very carefully and very cautiously,” he said. 


Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has warned the UK economy is shrinking at a faster rate than those of other developed countries.

The UK economy contracted as gross domestic product (GDP) plunged by 20.4% in April – the first full month of lockdown – the Office for National Statistics announced on Friday.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Ms Dodds said: “What particularly concerns me is that actually we’re not just looking at one month of economic damage.

“There was a report that came out a couple of days ago from the OECD and it suggested that the drop in GDP for this year for the UK would actually be worse than for every other industrialised nation.

“So we’re in a very, very difficult situation as a country and we will need strong action to help us climb out of this as quickly as possible.”


Health Minister – Two-metre rule is the “right approach”

Edward Argar has told Sky News that the two-metre social distancing rule is still “the right approach” but the Government continues to be “reviewed” by the Government. 

At the moment the advise is the two-metres makes a difference

The science will guide us. 

We want to strike the right balance between reopening businesses and protecting us. 

On whether the science on the two-metre rule will change, he said: 

Every week we learn more about the science and how that works. We are all learning in real time. 


The fall in GDP due to the coronavirus lockdown is “unprecedented”, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has said

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

Well, 20% is really unprecedented.

Actually, if you take March and April together the fall was 25%. So in two months the economy shrank by a quarter.

The biggest fall we have seen before was just over 2% – so, it’s ten times the size of the largest fall we have seen before the coronavirus.

Virtually every sector has been shrinking.


Health minister – Government has to strike a balance between reopening the economy and doing it safely. 

He said: 

There will be business owners who put their heart and soul into their business and will be concerned about about this.

But we have got to balance it with public health and saving lives. 

It is a difficult balance to strike between reopening the economy and doing it in a safe way. 


Health Minister Edward Argar has said it is clearly a significant contraction in the economy. 

He told Sky News it put us in roughly the same place as “other competent countries” like France, Spain and Italy. 

Sky News