Morning briefing: Accurate Covid antibody test on horizon

Good morning.

Public Health England has approved the UK’s first coronavirus antibody test kit. Antibody tests will be crucial in determining who has previously had the virus, and up until now, the government had not found a reliable kit. Now, ministers are negotiating with the Swiss company Roche to buy millions of units and potentially roll them out nationwide, the Telegraph reports.

The test is lab-based, not the pregnancy test-style home test kit that Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously said would be a “gamechanger” – but it is highly accurate, and could be a step on the road towards accurate home testing. However, we still do not know for certain that antibodies provide immunity to Covid-19. The approval of the test kits makes that tranche of research all the more urgent.

Meanwhile, health experts have warned that restarting NHS services could take months, and could potentially be a bigger challenge than tackling the first wave of the virus. Later today, health think tanks the Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and King’s Fund will give evidence to a committee of MPs, and ahead of the meeting they warned about the impact of exhausted staff, the lack of personal protective equipment and difficulties managing the risk of infections, which will “severely limit capacity for many months”. They will be joined by Chris Hopson of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, who warned overnight that “expectations are already way ahead of reality”, and that the first wave of the virus was “just the first few laps of what we know will be a marathon”.

Lastly, the Guardian reports that social care directors in England warned ministers about the dangers of a pandemic to the care home sector in 2018. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Service, a representative body, warned that “demand for personal protective equipment could rapidly outstrip supply” and called for better infection control protocols. “We are not aware of whether government departments picked up on any of the recommendations set out,” it told the paper.

Global updates:

Europe: The European Parliament will today meet to discuss Hungary’s new coronavirus laws, including one that gives Prime Minister Viktor Orbán power to rule indefinitely by decree. Orbán will not attend the EU meeting.

Russia: Moscow officials said that the deaths of most coronavirus patients are due to other causes. The city attributes less than 40 per cent of coronavirus patient deaths to Covid-19, they said. Russia has the world’s second-highest number of confirmed cases but has recorded just 2,212 coronavirus-related deaths.

Japan: Japan is today expected to lift a state of emergency in 39 of its 47 prefectures.

New Zealand: Finance minister Grant Robertson has announced a NZ$50bn (£26.7bn) fund to reduce unemployment to pre-coronavirus levels within two years. The fund equates to around 17 per cent of national GDP. He called it “the most significant financial commitment in modern history”.

US: President Donald Trump has criticised Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease experts, for warning reopening state economies too early could cause a second spike of infections. Fauci’s comments were “not acceptable”, Trump said, adding that Fauci wanted “to play all sides of the equation”.

Australia: Australians lost nearly 600,000 jobs in April, but official unemployment figures only rose by one percentage point, to 6.2 per cent, because many people left the work force entirely.

China: The city of Wuhan has begun its campaign to test every resident in the city, following a small flare up of infections.

World: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that coronavirus “may never go away”. “It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities,” said Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief.

Read more on the New Statesman:

As we pass the pandemic’s peak, the NHS needs to adjust to life in the shadow of Covid-19

As lockdown is loosened, those with the least are being asked to bear the greatest risk

Dreaming of Covid-19

The problem with our response to Covid-19 wasn’t that we didn’t have a plan – it was the opposite

Why everyone should watch the BBC’s Covid-19 special Hospital

Pandemics and the politics of time

How plagues change the world

For one in ten of people, returning to work could be particularly dangerous

 
 
 
 

CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit citymonitor.ai going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.


As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

To our readers, on behalf of the City Monitor team, thank you from all of us for being such loyal CityMetric fans. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.