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Dexamethasone is the first drug anywhere in the world that’s been found to reduce mortality from covid-19.

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Latest coronavirus news as of 5 pm on 16 June

First drug found to save lives in covid-19 patients

A widely available drug called dexamethasone reduces the risk of dying from covid-19 by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those receiving oxygen, according to preliminary results from a randomised clinical trial in the UK. Dexamethasone is a steroid that is used to reduce inflammation in various conditions, including skin diseases, allergies and asthma. It is one of a range of drugs being tested as a covid-19 treatment as part of the RECOVERY trial, which has enrolled more than 11,500 patients across 175 NHS hospitals. Dexamethasone is the first drug anywhere in the world that’s been found to reduce mortality from covid-19. 

In the trial, 2104 covid-19 patients were randomly selected to receive dexamethasone and 4321 received standard care. The preliminary results suggest that treatment with dexamethasone could save one life for every eight patients receiving ventilation, and one for every 25 requiring oxygen. Researchers suggest the drug could have saved up to 5000 lives in the UK if it had been used to treat patients from the start of the pandemic, the BBC reports. Dexamethasone should only be taken if prescribed by a doctor. 

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Other coronavirus news

27 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in China’s capital Beijing today, bringing the total in the past five days to more than 100 in what is the city’s first major coronavirus outbreak since April. Chinese authorities are restricting travel out of the city and have imposed additional lockdowns in some residential areas. More than 30,000 restaurants in Beijing have been disinfected and Chen Bei, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing municipal government, told journalists today that kindergartens, primary schools and high schools will shut from tomorrow.

Public Health England says racism and structural disadvantage need to be considered more in investigations of why black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups are disproportionately at risk of covid-19. Their latest report, published today, highlights several potentially contributing factors that weren’t accounted for in their earlier review published at the start of June. These factors include historic racism and poorer experiences of healthcare, which the report says could make BAME individuals less likely to seek care when needed, as well as occupational risks or pre-existing health conditions. The new report recommends collecting more data on ethnicity, particularly on death certificates. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday revoked its emergency approval of the anti-malarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treating covid-19. The drugs haven’t been shown to be effective against covid-19 and some studies have linked their use to heart complications in covid-19 patients. US president Donald Trump, who previously said he was taking the drug, criticised the FDA decision yesterday, telling journalists “I took it and I felt good about taking it. I don’t know if it had any impact, but it certainly didn’t hurt me.” 

New Zealand’s has confirmed its first new coronavirus cases in 24 days: two people who travelled there from the UK, under special permission to visit a terminally ill relative. New Zealand today suspended compassionate exemptions to their quarantine rules as a result. Last week New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern declared the country coronavirus-free and almost all domestic restrictions were lifted.

Coronavirus deaths

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The worldwide death toll has passed 437,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 8 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Global cases pass 8 million: The coronavirus’s spread continues as the world approaches the grim threshold of half a million confirmed deaths, with 437,000 reported as of 16 June. However, researchers warn that this is still only the start of the pandemic.

Essential information about coronavirus

What is covid-19?

What are the worst symptoms and how deadly is covid-19?

You could be spreading the coronavirus without realising you’ve got it

What does evidence say about schools reopening?

What does the latest research suggest about the coronavirus in pregnancy?

What to read, watch and listen to about coronavirus

Covid-19 Fact Checkers, a podcast from Vice, pairs up young people with experts who can answer their questions relating to the pandemic. A recent episode focused on why people in the UK from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are being disproportionately affected by covid-19.

Can You Save The World? is a coronavirus social distancing game, where the player travels through a city and gains points for saving lives by practising social distancing correctly and collecting masks. 

What coronavirus looks like in every country on Earth is a 28-minute film from Channel 4 News showing what daily life looks like in every country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it and ways to manage its mental health toll.

Coronavirus: The science of a pandemic: As the death toll from covid-19 rises, discover how researchers around the world are racing to understand the virus and prevent future outbreaks in our free online panel discussion.

A day in the life of coronavirus Britain is an uplifting Channel 4 documentary shot over 24 hours which shows how the citizens of Britain are coping under lockdown.

New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week – from technology and space, to health and the environment.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how diseases spread and why they stop.

Coronavirus trajectory tracker explained, a video by John Burn-Murdoch for the Financial Times, uses data visualisation to explain the daily graphs that show how coronavirus cases and deaths are growing around the world.

Contagion: The BBC Four Pandemic is a sober documentary about the progression of a hypothetical pandemic which the BBC simulated in 2017. Fronted by science journalist and TV presenter Hannah Fry, and made with the support of some of the country’s best epidemiologists and mathematical modelers, it’s very relevant to today’s covid-19 pandemic.

Previous updates

 

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Residents undergo coronavirus tests at a stadium in Xicheng district, Beijing, on 14 June 2020.

Du Yang/China News Service via Getty Images

15 June

New coronavirus outbreak linked to market in Beijing

36 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in China’s capital Beijing today, bringing the total for the past four days to 79. Lockdown restrictions in Beijing were eased in May, and the city had reported no new confirmed cases – except for citizens returning from other countries – for 55 days before the new cases were detected. The new cluster of cases are thought to be linked to the city’s largest seafood and vegetable market, which has now been closed. Chinese authorities are warning citizens against travel to the capital and some lockdown restrictions have been reimposed in parts of the city. 

Other coronavirus news

A study suggesting that reducing physical distancing from two metres to one metre only minimally increases coronavirus infection risk from 1.3 to 2.6 per cent is being criticised by scientists. The study, which was funded by the World Health Organization (WHO), didn’t consider how long people were exposed for and may have oversimplified the way infection risk changes with increasing physical distance, public health and statistics researchers told The Guardian.

The UK government will review the current two-metre social distancing recommendation in coming weeks, a spokesperson for UK prime minister Boris Johnson told journalists today. The government’s chief medical adviser Chris Whitty previously said the two-metre rule would carry on for as long as the epidemic continues. 

Self-reported anxiety levels in the UK have fallen slightly after they went up following the introduction of lockdown in March, although reported anxiety levels are still higher than this time last year, according to a survey of 6430 people aged 16 and over by the Office for National Statistics. 37 per cent of people reported experiencing high levels of anxiety between 30 April and 10 May. This is compared to 50 per cent of people between 20 and 30 March, the period of time when the UK’s lockdown was introduced, and 19 per cent in the last three months of 2019.

Alabama, Florida and South Carolina reported record numbers of daily new coronavirus cases on 13 June for the third day running. On the same day, Oklahoma reported its highest number of coronavirus cases for the second day in a row. Daily new cases are also rising in Louisiana. More than a dozen US states have seen a surge in covid-19 cases in recent weeks

The ban against travel to the US from the UK is unlikely to be lifted in the next few months, US government health adviser Anthony Fauci told The Telegraph in an interview last month. He warned UK travellers not to plan summer trips to the US this year and said the travel ban may need to stay in place until a coronavirus vaccine is available. UK travellers hoping to visit other parts of Europe this year also face a variety of restrictions and quarantine measures.

Coronavirus deaths

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The worldwide death toll has passed 434,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 7.9 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Worldwide cases approach 8 million: The coronavirus’s spread continues as the world rapidly approaches the grim threshold of half a million confirmed deaths, with 434,000 reported as of 15 June. However, researchers warn that this is still only the start of the pandemic.

Resuming international travel: Much of the world is starting to open up again, with many countries easing or planning to ease coronavirus travel restrictions. But would-be travellers face an uncertain and fast-changing situation.

Fighting multiple epidemics: A new outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease has emerged in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), more than 1200 kilometres to the west of an earlier outbreak that has been spreading in the country since 2018. At the same time, the DRC is contending with the world’s largest measles outbreak and the spread of the coronavirus.

Views From The Barbican Estate towards Wembley, Brent

12 June

Covid-19 death rates twice as high in England’s most deprived areas

The most deprived areas in England and Wales have been hit twice as hard by the coronavirus outbreak compared to the wealthiest areas, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests. After adjusting for differences in age, there were 128 deaths involving covid-19 per 100,000 people in the most deprived areas of England in March, April and May, compared to 60 deaths per 100,000 in the nation’s least deprived areas. In Wales, during the same time period, the death rate in the most deprived areas was 110 per 100,000 people compared to 58 per 100,000 people in the least deprived parts of the nation.

The estimated number of people who had coronavirus in England is continuing to fall, according to provisional results from a random swab testing survey by the ONS. The survey estimates that there were 33,000 infections outside of hospitals and care homes in England between 25 May and 7 June, down from 53,000 the previous week. 

Other coronavirus news

Three major airlines, British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet, have launched a legal challenge against the UK government’s coronavirus quarantine rules, which they claim will devastate tourism and the economy. The new rules, which came into effect on 8 June, require passengers arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Hospital morgues in India have reached capacity, with some bodies now being kept on thick ice slabs as summer temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius. There have been more than 8400 deaths from covid-19 recorded in India so far. To date, over 290,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the country. India has now overtaken the UK to become the nation with the fourth-highest number of confirmed cases worldwide, after the US, Brazil and Russia. 

Millions more children are at risk of being pushed into child labour due to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, the United Nations children’s agency Unicef warned in a report released today. The crisis could also force children who are already working to put in longer hours under worsening conditions, says the report.

Coronavirus deaths

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The worldwide death toll has passed 422,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 7.5 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus spread in England: The south west of England has the highest rate of coronavirus spread in the UK, with an “R number” estimated to be in the range of 0.8 to 1.1. 

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A medical worker at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, UK.

Neil Hall/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

11 June

Covid-19 causes huge disruption to NHS cancer care, surgeries and A&E 

The National Health Service in England has revealed how much the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted its services. The number of people in England being assessed by a cancer specialist fell 60 per cent in April to 79,500, compared to nearly 200,000 in the same month last year. The number of people treated for cancer dropped to 10,800 in April, 20 per cent fewer than 2019. NHS England said the falls are partly due to people not seeking medical treatment due to concern over covid-19, but hospitals also had to delay or stop some treatments following a surge of coronavirus cases. To make up for this, NHS England has set up “covid-free” wings in some hospitals and “chemo-buses” which can travel to patients to provide chemotherapy. 

The number of routine operations, which includes hip and knee replacements, cataracts and hernia surgeries, fell to 41,000 in April, down from 280,000 in the same month last year. Data from accident and emergency services show 1.26 million people sought treatment in May, well below the 2 million in May 2019.

Other coronavirus news

England’s coronavirus contact tracing scheme was unable to reach a third of the people who tested positive for the virus in its first week of operation, new figures have revealed. The first statistics for the NHS Test and Trace system, released today, show it was able to contact 5407 of 8117 people who tested positive between 28 May and 3 June, and was unable to contact the remaining 33 per cent. The people who did respond disclosed an average of around six close contacts, or 31,794 in total, and the contact tracers managed to reach around 85 per cent of these.

Ashish Jha, the head of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, said that the total death toll in the US could pass 200,000 by September even if the number of new daily deaths remains flat. “And that’s just through September. The pandemic won’t be over in September,” he told CNN. More than 113,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US so far.

The coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating” in African countries, World Health Organization Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti has said. Community transmission is occurring in more than half of Africa’s 54 countries, and cases have doubled from 100,000 to 200,000 in the last 18 days, compared to the 98 days it took to reach 100,000 cases. African countries have reported a total of 5000 deaths to date, with 10 countries, including South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria, accounting for three quarters of the total cases.

The launch of the NHSX covid-19 contact tracing app across the rest of England has been delayed further after the app’s developers had difficulty getting Bluetooth radio technology to measure distances effectively. An early version of the app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight and a second version was due to be tested on Tuesday, but this has now been postponed. The NHSX software differs from contact tracing app technology based on a framework developed by Apple and Google that is being used in many other countries. The BBC reports that ministers in the UK are now considering adopting this approach instead. 

Coronavirus deaths

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The worldwide death toll has passed 417,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 7.4 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

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10 June

Coronavirus was introduced to the UK by travellers from mostly Spain, France and Italy

The coronavirus was introduced and spread throughout the UK by 1356 people who travelled here mostly from European countries, according to a preliminary study by researchers in the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed. The researchers analysed genetic sequences from 20,000 coronavirus cases in the UK and used this to build a family tree. This revealed the lineage of the different infections and allowed the team to trace their origins. They estimate that 34 per cent of these original coronavirus cases were people who arrived in the UK from Spain, 29 per cent from France and 14 per cent from Italy. The researchers estimate that most introductions of the virus to the UK happened in March.

Other coronavirus developments

The number of people on waiting lists for NHS treatment in England could more than double to 9.8 million by the end of the year, according to a letter sent to UK prime minister Boris Johnson today from the NHS Confederation, a membership body that represents people who commission or provide NHS services. Before the pandemic, 4.4 million people were waiting for treatments, such as hernia repair, cataract removal or hip or knee replacement.

Schools in England will struggle to reopen in September, said Michael Wilshaw, the former head of Ofsted, a government body responsible for inspecting schools. He said, “If you’re going to insist on social distancing and a maximum of 15 in a class, we will need double the amount of space, we will need double the amount of teachers and we’ve got to make sure we have that.”

24 per cent of people in the UK said they were experiencing at least one mental health problem in April this year, according to a survey by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank. This is more than double the predicted level compared to pre-pandemic data collected between 2017 and 2019. Women and young people reported the largest declines in their mental health, according to the IFS. 

Use of face coverings by the public, when combined with physical distancing or periods of lockdown, may provide an acceptable way of reopening economic activity while managing the spread of coronavirus, suggests a modelling study published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A

Coronavirus deaths

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The worldwide death toll has passed 412,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 7.2 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

New centre of the pandemic: Coronavirus cases are rising sharply in South America, made worse by inequality, reports Luke Taylor from Bogotá, Colombia.

Coronavirus and diet: Plenty of diets offer to boost your immune system to help protect you from covid-19, but there isn’t any evidence they are true, writes James Wong.

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World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

9 June

Highest daily jump in worldwide coronavirus cases so far

The highest daily increase in worldwide coronavirus cases yet was recorded on Sunday, with 136,000 new cases confirmed, World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists yesterday. “Although the situation in Europe is improving, globally it is worsening,” he said. Almost 75 per cent of the cases confirmed on 7 June were from only 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia, The Guardian reports.

Other coronavirus developments

Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, was today criticised by doctors and infectious disease researchers for saying on Monday that it is “very rare” for people to have the coronavirus without symptoms. Van Kerkhove clarified her statement today, during a live Q&A on social media, saying that “anywhere between 6 and 41 per cent of the population may be infected but not have symptoms.”

Primary school pupils in England will no longer be expected to return to school before the end of the summer term, the UK government has said. Primary schools in England reopened on 1 June to reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils and the government’s original plan was for all remaining pupils to return for the last month of term before the summer holidays start on 22 July. Head teachers previously warned that it wouldn’t be possible for school pupils to practice social distancing in classrooms.

A Public Health England coronavirus testing survey is to track the prevalence of coronavirus among those who do return to school and investigate how much children spread the virus. Teachers and pupils in up to 100 schools will soon receive coronavirus swab and antibody tests.

Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificates for 44,869 people in England and Wales between the weeks ending 27 March and 29 May, data from the Office for National Statistics reveals. The number of deaths recorded as involving covid-19 in the week ending 29 May was 1822, down from the most recent peak of 8758 in the week ending 17 April.  The total number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 29 May was 9824, which is 20 per cent higher than would be expected based on the five-year average.

Coronavirus deaths

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The worldwide death toll has passed 407,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 7.1 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Covid-19 in pregnancy: 56 per cent of pregnant women with covid-19 are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, a study has revealed.

Shielding vulnerable people: On 31 May, the UK government announced that so-called shielders in England and Wales could now leave their homes. But what is the evidence behind the idea of shielding vulnerable people, and is it really safe for this to now stop?

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An empty Champs-Élysées in Paris, France during the country’s lockdown.

Hollandse Hoogte/ANP/PA Images

8 June

Lockdowns prevented at least 3.1 million covid-19 deaths in Europe

An estimated 3.1 million deaths due to covid-19 were prevented by lockdowns and other coronavirus social distancing measures across 11 countries in Europe including the UK, according to a modelling study published in Nature. 470,000 deaths were averted in the UK alone, the researchers who did the study told the Guardian

The team analysed data on reported coronavirus deaths from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, up until 4 May. They concluded that for all 11 countries, interventions were effective enough to drive the R number – a measure of how quickly the virus is spreading – to below 1. The researchers also estimate that the lockdown introduced in the UK on 23 March reduced the country’s R number from 3.8 to 0.63 between the end of March and the start of May. Overall, the study estimates that between 12 and 15 million people across all 11 countries had the coronavirus by 4 May, about 3 to 4 per cent of their combined populations.

In the US, an estimated 60 million coronavirus infections were prevented by stay-at-home orders and other coronavirus restrictions, according to a seperate modelling study. It estimated that 530 million infections were prevented across the US, China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and France, with 285 million estimated to have been prevented in China alone.

Other coronavirus developments

New Zealand has no active coronavirus cases as of today and almost all coronavirus restrictions in the country will be lifted from Tuesday. Contact tracing will continue to be important as new cases may still emerge, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern told journalists today.

400,000 people are expected to return to work in New York City today in construction, manufacturing and retail. About 500 new confirmed coronavirus cases are reported daily in the city, down from a peak of almost 19,000 daily cases in the first two weeks of April. State and city officials say the number is low enough for contact tracers to be able to track every person who has been in contact with people confirmed to have coronavirus.  

People should wear face coverings in public settings including supermarkets, offices, schools, on public transport and at any social or mass gatherings, according to an update of World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on 5 June. The WHO also recommends that people wear face coverings if they are living in cramped conditions, particularly in refugee camps and slums.

Coronavirus deaths

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The worldwide death toll has passed 409,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 7 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Lack of UK testing data: The UK government will not say when it will resume reporting the number of people outside of hospitals and care homes being tested for covid-19, after more than a fortnight of suspending publication because of double-counting.

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Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

5 June

Estimated covid-19 infections have fallen in England

The estimated number of people who have had covid-19 in England has fallen in May, according to provisional results from a random swab testing survey by the Office for National Statistics. In the last two weeks of May, only 1 in 1000, or 0.1 per cent of people in England, were estimated to have had covid-19 between 26 April and 8 May that number was almost 2.5 times higher. The survey, which didn’t include people in hospitals or care homes and was conducted before additional restrictions were eased in England on 1 June, also found that people who worked outside the home had 3.5 times higher estimated covid-19 rates than those who worked from home. 

Other coronavirus developments

The R number for the UK remains at the same level as last week, between 0.7 and 0.9. According to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the figure is slightly higher in England – between 0.7 and 1. It is expected that any impact of recent lockdown relaxation will start to be seen on the R, a measure of how quickly the virus is spreading, in the coming week.

A British Heart Foundation survey of people in the UK with heart and circulatory diseases found that half of them say they have found it harder to get medical treatment since the coronavirus pandemic began. 48 per cent of those people cited a lack of available in-person appointments and 41 per cent said they’d had to postpone or cancel a planned test, surgery or procedure. Individuals’ concerns about covid-19’s impact on the health service also played a role – 42 per cent of those surveyed said they didn’t want to put extra pressure on the NHS, and 27 per cent said they were concerned about the risk of getting covid-19 by going to a hospital or clinic. The poll surveyed 11,300 adults between 5 and 13 May, 1484 of whom have or have previously had a heart or circulatory condition.

The Lancet retracted a study that found the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine may be harmful in covid-19 patients, after three of the authors said they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.” The data originated from US-based health analytics company Surgisphere and came under scrutiny earlier this week.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for face coverings to be worn in all areas where social distancing isn’t possible. This follows the government’s announcement yesterday that face coverings will be mandatory on public transport in England from 15 June. THE BMA also suggested that the public should adopt face coverings now, rather than wait until the measures become compulsory. 

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 391,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 6.6 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Social bubbles: Socialising indoors with more than one household in social ‘bubbles’ during the covid-19 crisis looks unlikely to be allowed any time soon in the UK, judging from the government’s scientific advisers and new modelling.

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PARIS – arc de triomphe and an empty champs elysees An empty paris, people are only allowed on the street for 1 hour a day and 1 kilometer from their house to do their shopping. France will extend the nationwide closure introduced to curb the spread of the new coronavirus for a second time, meaning it will go beyond April 15, French President Emmanuel Macron speaks for the third Monday evening (8:02 p.m.) turn the population towards the fight against the new coronavirus. According to French media, he does not provide relief to the population, but will come up with more measures and will considerably extend the lockdown. Macron believes that the time has come to relax measures, as the virus is not getting much weaker and he fears the worst is yet to come.

Hollandse Hoogte/ANP/PA Images

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Half of people say their sleep has been disturbed since the start of the pandemic

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Latest coronavirus news as of 5 pm on 4 June

People in the UK are sleeping less well under lockdown

60 per cent of people in the UK say they’ve experienced worse sleep since the lockdown was announced on 23 March, according to a survey conducted by researchers at King’s College London and Ipsos MORI. Half of people surveyed said their sleep has been more disturbed than usual and 39 per cent said they have slept fewer hours per night on average. 29 per cent of people said they have slept for longer but feel less rested than usual. People who said they find coronavirus stressful or they are facing financial difficulties due to coronavirus disruptions were more likely to report experiencing worse sleep. Younger people were more likely to report sleep changes than older people, and 38 per cent of people surveyed reported having more vivid dreams than usual. The poll surveyed 2254 people in the UK aged 16 to 75 between 20 and 22 May.

Other coronavirus developments

UK transport minister Grant Shapps announced today that face coverings will become compulsory on public transport in England from 15 June. There will be some exemptions, for example for people with breathing difficulties.

Trials investigating the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for covid-19 have been restarted by the World Health Organization (WHO). The trials were suspended based on a study that used data from US-based health analytics company Surgisphere, which is now being questioned.

UK business minister Alok Sharma is self-isolating at home and has been tested for coronavirus after he fell ill in parliament yesterday. Some MPs had previously raised safety concerns about the return to in-person voting in parliament on Tuesday. Today, MPs were granted an emergency debate over the decision to end virtual voting, which will take place on Monday. 

At least 80 million children under the age of one are estimated to be missing out on routine vaccinations because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from the WHO and other non-governmental organisations. Many of these children live in South East Asia and Africa. Countries including Nepal, Cambodia and Ethiopia are currently experiencing outbreaks of preventable deadly diseases, including measles, cholera and yellow fever.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 386,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 6.5 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus and carbon dioxide levels: Lockdowns and economic slowdowns during the coronavirus pandemic have had no visible impact on the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, according to new data which shows levels of the greenhouse gas hit record highs last month. 

Measuring social distancing: As lockdowns lift and restrictions begin to ease around the world, a range of quirky ways of judging a 2 metre social distance are being suggested.

 

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A government and NHS Test and Trace advert on a billboard in London.

REUTERS/Hannah McKay

3 June

NHS Test and Trace system not tracing enough contacts of coronavirus cases

The NHS Test and Trace system, which is designed to identify people who might have been exposed to people who have tested positive for coronavirus, only reached 38 per cent of known contacts of people diagnosed with coronavirus, according to leaked data obtained by Channel 4 News. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the government’s official advisory group for the pandemic, say the system needs to reach 80 per cent to be effective. Out of 4634 contacts provided to NHS Test and Trace by people who were confirmed to have coronavirus between 28 and 31 May, only 1749 were contacted.

Other coronavirus developments

The World Health Organization and several countries changed their policies on covid-19 treatments on the basis of data from a study in the Lancet which is now being questioned, a Guardian investigation has revealed. The data used in the study were provided by US-based health analytics company Surgisphere, and suggested that the anti-malarials hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine could increase the risk of death in covid-19 patients, which led to the suspension of clinical trials investigating whether these drugs could be used to treat covid-19. But the Lancet has released an “expression of concern” about the validity of the data, a step sometimes made before a study is retracted. There are also concerns about a separate New England Journal of Medicine study that also used data provided by Surgisphere.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson told MPs today that the government’s current alert level for coronavirus, a system designed to inform people about the severity of the pandemic, “does allow” easing of restrictions. This contradicts the government’s own guidance, which under the current alert level of 4, says current restrictions must remain. The Times reported yesterday that Johnson hoped to reduce the virus alert level from 4 to 3 to justify the easing of restrictions this week, but the change was prevented by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England.

Removing coronavirus restrictions too quickly and having to reintroduce lockdowns will be worse for the global economy than gradually easing restrictions, according to a modelling study published in Nature Human Behaviour today. The study modelled three different scenarios for lifting lockdowns, including one in which restrictions are relaxed gradually over 12 months and two where all restrictions are lifted immediately but then reintroduced within one year. The researchers found that the impact of supply-chain losses on global GDP in the scenario with gradual easing was projected to be about 10 to 20 per cent lower than in the scenarios with recurrent lockdowns.

Black people received a disproportionately high number of fines for lockdown breaches in London according to Metropolitan police figures. Of the 973 fines issued between 27 March and 14 May, black people received 26 per cent despite only making up 12 per cent of London’s population.

Coronavirus deaths

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The worldwide death toll has passed 381,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 6.4 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Why are UK deaths so high?: The UK has the highest number of absolute excess deaths in the week ending 20 March of any country in Europe. Why have there been so many coronavirus deaths in the UK?

Coronavirus vaccine: 124 coronavirus vaccines are currently in development, 10 of which are already being tested in people. But will any of them work?

Essential information about coronavirus

What is covid-19?

What are the worst symptoms and how deadly is covid-19?

You could be spreading the coronavirus without realising you’ve got it

What does evidence say about schools reopening?

What does the latest research suggest about the coronavirus in pregnancy?

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People who were 80 or older when hospitalised with coronavirus were 70 times more likely to die than those under 40

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2 June

Covid-19 death for severe cases is 70 times higher in people over 80

People over 80 in England who are hospitalised with covid-19 are 70 times more likely to die compared to people under 40, according to a report from Public Health England. According to the report, the probability of death is about three times higher for people aged 40 to 49, nine times higher among those aged 50 to 59, 27 times higher for those in their 60s and 50 times higher for those in their 70s. However, these probabilities were calculated from cases where people had severe enough symptoms to get tested for covid-19. The analysis did not take milder cases into account.

The data also shows that black people are between two and three times more likely to be diagnosed with coronavirus than white people, and death rates from covid-19 are highest among people from black and Asian ethnic groups. People of Bangladeshi ethnicity had the highest risk of death of any ethnic group, around twice the risk compared to white people. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between a 10 and 50 per cent higher risk than white people. 

The analysis didn’t take people’s occupation or pre-existing health conditions into account, which may go some way to explain the differences in infection and death rate between ethnic groups. However, other studies suggest these factors don’t fully explain the disparity.

Other coronavirus developments

Keeping two metres away from other people is much more effective at limiting the transmission of coronavirus than one metre, with the risk halving for every additional half metre of distance up to three metres, according to a review of 172 studies published in The Lancet. Wearing a face covering and eye protection can also significantly reduce the spread of the virus.

There were 56,308 more deaths in England and Wales between 27 March and 22 May than would normally be expected, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The UK government’s presentation of coronavirus testing numbers is misleading, unclear and difficult to understand, David Norgrove, the head of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote in a letter to health minister Matt Hancock today. Norgrove said the way the government presented the numbers seemed to be designed to show “the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding.”

UK government press briefings on the coronavirus crisis will no longer take place at weekends, and prime minister Boris Johnson is now set to lead the televised press conferences once a week.

China took more than a week to release the sequenced genome of the coronavirus, according to recordings of World Health Organization meetings in the week of 6 January obtained by the Associated Press. Chinese authorities also delayed the release of diagnostic tests and other data about patients which was needed to evaluate the coronavirus epidemic.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 376,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 6.3 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

UK contact tracing plans criticised: The UK government has been criticised for lifting some coronavirus lockdown restrictions without contact tracing measures fully in place to deal with any resulting covid-19 outbreaks.

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Furniture store Ikea in Belfast opened for the first time since the lockdown began today.

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1 June

Restrictions eased in England despite warnings from public health directors

The NHS Test and Trace programme is not robust enough to support the UK government’s easing of coronavirus restrictions and prevent a resurgence of virus cases, according to an article published yesterday by the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), a body that represents public health directors, specialists who oversee public health activities in UK local authorities. The ADPH says restrictions should not be eased because the daily death toll is not consistently falling, particularly in care homes. They also say that easing restrictions too quickly will make it hard to calculate the R number for the disease, a measure of how fast coronavirus infections are spreading.

The easing of restrictions in England from today includes people being allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six, while maintaining a two metre distance between people from different households, as well as the reopening of car showrooms and outdoor markets.

Pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in England were allowed to return to school today, but 46 per cent of parents and carers may have kept their children at home, a survey of primary school leaders by the National Foundation for Educational Research suggests.

Other coronavirus developments

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world has passed 6.2 million, and more than 373,000 people are confirmed to have died from the disease.

The UK government has not released data about how many people are tested for coronavirus since 22 May. The official numbers, which say there were 115,275 tests performed on 30 May with a capacity for 205,634 tests, also “double count” by including nasal swabs and saliva tests on the same person.

Only 197 cases of influenza virus were confirmed in Australia this May, compared to 30,567 in the same month last year, according to Australia’s Department of Health. This huge decrease in flu cases may be due to social distancing measures introduced to limit the spread of coronavirus. Australia’s flu season usually peaks during its winter months, from June to August.

There is only one person with active covid-19 in New Zealand, according to the latest figures from New Zealand’s health ministry.

Coronavirus numbers

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Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

UK contact tracing plans criticised: The UK government has been criticised for lifting some coronavirus lockdown restrictions without contact tracing measures fully in place to deal with any resulting covid-19 outbreaks.

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29 May

14 per cent of people in the UK said they have had friends or family visit them at home, according to a survey conducted between 20 and 22 May by researchers at King’s College London and Ipsos MORI. Only 5 per cent of people reported having broken lockdown restrictions in this way in a similar survey done between 1 and 3 April.

The poll surveyed 2254 people in the UK aged 16 to 75. Of these, 92 per cent of people said they are maintaining a two metre distance from other people in public spaces in accordance with government guidelines and 38 per cent are wearing a face mask or covering outside. 

The survey found that 40 per cent of people think they will catch the coronavirus by the end of the year. 35 per cent of people said they had delayed seeking medical advice or treatment for non-coronavirus conditions and 17 per cent said they’d had to delay or cancel treatment due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. Almost half of those surveyed – 48 per cent – reported feeling more anxious and depressed than usual.

Other coronavirus developments

The UK government’s coronavirus alert level remains at 4, which corresponds to high or rising virus transmission, a Downing Street spokesperson told journalists today. Further easing of restrictions in England is set to begin on Monday, despite the government’s own guidelines suggesting that an alert level of 4 warrants continuation of “current social distancing measures and restrictions.” There were 1887 positive tests for coronavirus in the UK on 27 May.

More than 200 schools which had reopened in South Korea on Wednesday were forced to close again today due to a new outbreak of coronavirus. The country reported 79 new cases on Thursday, the highest number in two months.

Brazil reported a new daily record of 26,417 confirmed new coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to the country’s health ministry. There have been more than 438,000 coronavirus cases confirmed in Brazil so far, the second-highest number of any country, after the US.

The covid-19 death toll for Moscow, Russia, has been revised from 639 to 1561. The revised figure includes 169 cases where tests had initially been negative but where post-mortem examinations confirmed coronavirus as the cause of death. It also includes more than 700 people who died of other causes that were made worse by a confirmed coronavirus infection.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 361,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 5.8 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus in the brain: From loss of smell to stroke, people with covid-19 are reporting strange neurological issues that challenge our understanding of the disease – and how to treat it.

How to lower your coronavirus risk: The coronavirus is still circulating yet many countries are taking steps to relax restrictions. If you have been asked to return to work or send your children back to school, how can you minimise the risk of infection to yourself and your family?

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Executive Chair of NHS Test and Trace, Baroness Dido Harding in No 10 Downing Street.

Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street

28 May

England’s test and trace system won’t be fully operational until end of June

England’s test and trace system, which is designed to identify people who might have been exposed to people who have tested positive for coronavirus, won’t be fully operational until the end of June, Dido Harding, who is leading the NHS Test and Trace scheme, told MPs today. UK prime minister Boris Johnson said last week that the system would be in place and able to track 10,000 people a day using text, phone and email by 1 June. Harding also described the NHS covid-19 contact tracing app, which was meant to launch on 15 May but was delayed until 1 June, as “the cherry on the cake rather than the cake itself.”

In England, people will be allowed to meet in public places and private gardens in groups of up to six starting on Monday, and in Scotland, groups of up to eight people from two different households will be allowed to meet outdoors from tomorrow. Northern Ireland allowed groups of up to six people to meet outside from 18 May. People from different households will still be required to keep a distance of two metres.

Other coronavirus developments

There have been more than 100,000 deaths from covid-19 in the US since the outbreak began, according to Johns Hopkins University, the largest number of any country. The number of daily new confirmed cases has been rising over the last week in 18 states, including California, Florida and Louisiana. In New York, the country’s worst-hit state with more than 369,000 cases in total, the number of daily new cases has fallen to around 1,200, down from a peak in early April of over 10,000 a day.

An analysis by the Financial Times suggests the UK had the second highest rate of coronavirus deaths among 19 countries with comparable data. The UK registered 59,537 more deaths than would normally be expected to occur since the week ending 20 March, a death rate of 891 per million people, higher than Italy and the US, and second only to Spain. The FT analysis also found a link between countries that locked down earlier in their outbreaks and lower death tolls.

Boris Johnson’s senior aide Dominic Cummings might have breached the UK’s coronavirus restrictions when he drove to Barnard Castle in April, but the incident does not warrant further action, Durham police said in a statement today.

An estimated 133,000 people in England outside hospitals and care homes had covid-19 between 11 and 24 May, according to results from a random swab testing survey in England by the Office for National Statistics. The figure is down slightly from 148,000 between 27 April and 10 May.

UK health minister Matt Hancock responded today to a letter from the UK Statistics Authority to clarify that the government’s target of 200,000 coronavirus tests per day by Sunday doesn’t refer to the number of tests actually performed. Instead it refers to the testing capacity.

The number of passengers arriving in the UK by plane in April was 99 per cent lower than it was in the same month last year, according to a Home Office report published today. 112,300 passengers arrived in the UK by air in April this year, down from about 3.8 million in March and 7.1 million in January. 

Coronavirus numbers

graph of coronavirus deaths

The worldwide death toll has passed 356,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 5.7 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.


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