UK moves to ease lockdown, London mayor moves to investigate Covid-19 inequalities

Schools and shops are beginning to open their doors here in the UK, amidst concerns that the government is easing lockdown too early. Outdoor markets and car showrooms are allowed to re-open from today, while classrooms are reopening for children in reception, year 1 and year 6.

However, as many as a million children – half of those due to return – are expected to stay home due to safety concerns from both parents and schools. And overnight, the Association of Directors of Public Heath cast doubt on the government’s claims that the UK was meeting the five tests for easing lockdown. “Over the weekend we have seen signs that the public is no longer keeping as strictly to social distancing as it was,” it said in a statement. “A relentless effort to regain and rebuild public confidence and trust following recent events is essential.”

Meanwhile, London mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people who work for the city’s government will be offered risk assessments in an effort to tackle the health inequalities thrown up by the Covid-19 crisis.

The service – which will be open to staff of the Greater London Authority, Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade, among others – will consider the physical and mental health needs of all vulnerable staff workers.

The disproportionate impact the panedemic has had on ethnic minority communities has been a topic of concern to the mayor for some time. In a column for the Guardian in April, he noted that, despite making up just 14% of the UK population, BAME patients made up a third of critical covid cases. He called on the government to investigate, and asked the  Equality and Human Rights Commission to do the same the following month.

Today’s statement from City Hall notes that, according to the Office for National Statistics figures, black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die from coronavirus than white men and women, after taking into account age and socio-demographic factors. And a study by City Hall’s Intelligence Unit shows that London’s highest covd-19 death rate is in the east London borough of Newham, “where 82 per cent of the population are BAME, one in three is in insecure employment and there are high levels of deprivation, obesity and diabetes”.

More from City Hall here.


 

29 May 2020 10:43 AM

Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.


 

28 May 2020 11:12 PM

Epidemiologist update: South America is the new epicenter of Covid-19

An update from GlobalData Epidemiologist Nanthida Nanthavong:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 5,716,000 with over 356,000 deaths and 2,367,000 recoveries.

South America has emerged as the new epicenter of the pandemic, currently representing 30% of the global daily incidence. Brazil, Peru, and Chile continue to show concerning incidence trends. Mexico has also reported its highest daily total to date as the epidemic accelerates in the country.

South Africa has reported its lowest daily incidence since May 12th. However, the country still has the highest number of cumulative cases and the second highest daily incidence in Africa.

27 May 2020 11:11 PM

What we're reading: A novel plan to salvage summer tourism

Travel plans: Cyprus announced an unusual idea to salvage tourism this summer: The BBC reports that the government will pay for accommodations and food for anyone who tests positive for coronavirus after travelling there.

Rental crisis: Renters in the US are more likely to have lower in comes and work the kinds of jobs that evaporated when the coronavirus hit, and that, The New York Times reports, is setting the stage for an eviction crisis.

Location, location: The opening of coronavirus testing facilities is yet another chance to see how resources are unevenly distributed in American cities. NPR crunched the data in Texas cities and found that black and Latino neighbourhoods have fewer testing site than whiter and wealthier neighbourhoods, showing another gap in efforts to contain an outbreak.

27 May 2020 10:51 PM

Epidemiologist update: Covid-19 death toll passes 350,000 worldwide

An update from GlobalData Senior Epidemiologist Nanthida Nanthavong:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have surpassed 5,609,000 with over 350,000 deaths and 2,287,000 recoveries.

The US continues to have the highest number of cases, followed by Brazil then Russia. Incidence rates in Brazil are also second to the US, but may surpass the US if the current incidence trend continues in Brazil. Russia has reported a steady number of new daily cases for the past week. The Moscow region accounts for the majority of cases in Russia.

Daily incidence rates in India have continued to increase as the country reported four of its highest daily incidence totals over the last few days.

South Africa has the highest daily incidence and highest number of cumulative cases in Africa. South Africa has also reported its two highest daily incidence totals over the last few days.

27 May 2020 12:55 PM

Liverpool looks to move hospitality industry outdoors

One of the industries that’s taken the most immediate hit from the Covid crisis is hospitality. Bars and restaurants have been closed for the duration of the lockdown; even once it eases, the need for social distancing will reduce the number of punters they can serve at any one time.

There’s not much that can be done about the former problem, but one city, at least, is taking steps to tackle the latter. On Monday Joe Anderson, the mayor of Liverpool, announced a £450,000 project to redesign streets and enable businesses to create covered seating areas outside. 

The goal is a streetscape that looks more like many continental European cities, where cafes spill out of their premises into the surrounding streets. So a restaurant that finds, post-lockdown, that it now needs to keep tables 2 metres or more apart will be able to make up for some of the lost capacity by expanding its footprint.

Liverpool council is working with designers, the Chamber of Commerce and the Liverpool BID Company, another business group, on the project. Details of the criteria for the fund are being finalised, reports the Liverpool Echo, “and the process for being part of the pilot project will be announced in mid-June, once the phased reopening of retail in the city has begun and the impact been assessed”. If all goes well, lockdown restrictions on bars and restaurants are expected to begin easing in early July.

There are unanswered questions about how all this will work – whether it will require pedestrianisation or other changes to street design, for example, or to local planning restrictions – and it’s not clear how far that £450,000 will actually stretch. But this is nonetheless a lovely example of solving a problem while actually making a city better. 

Something similar is happening across the North Sea, incidentally, where the Dutch city of Rotterdam is allowing all businesses to convert parking spaces to retail space without a permit, and even offering them a loan of some free decking with which to do it. More here, albeit in Dutch.


 

26 May 2020 11:34 PM

What we're reading: Another challenge is on the way for US disaster planning

Another disaster: The world is still in the midst of disaster planning for Covid-19, but another disaster awaits for much of North America: Hurricane season. The Atlantic reports on how the pandemic is forcing emergency managers to rethink disaster planning from the ground up to prevent one crisis from worsening another.

What’s in store: The post-Covid retail store could look a lot like supermarkets do today. The Guardian writes that when stores reopen, changing rooms will likely stay closed, merchandise will harder to touch, and floors could have directions telling people which way they can walk.

Always on call: Social life is playing out over video chat these days, but those virtual check-ins could be making people lonelier too. Vox reports on the psychological effects of this social distancing mechanism and how it could feed people’s sense of anxiety and isolation.

26 May 2020 11:13 PM

Epidemiologist update: Brazil could pass US in new daily Covid-19 cases

An update from GlobalData Epidemiologist Nanthida Nanthavong:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reach over 5,518,000 with over 346,700 deaths and 2,232,000 recoveries.

In the US, there are over 1,662,000 cases and over 98,000 deaths. However, Covid-19 deaths in the US are on the decline.

Brazil’s daily incidence is reported to be second only to the US and may become number one globally if the increasing incidence trend continues. Daily incidence rates also continue to rise in Peru and Chile, putting these three South American countries in the top six countries in terms of daily incidence rates.

In Japan, the state of emergency has lifted and marks the official end of the restrictions. The prime minister ended the state of emergency after a month and a half. Japan currently has over 16,500 cases and over 800 deaths.

26 May 2020 12:52 PM

So what was actually in Grant Shapps’ latest transport masterplan?

Poor Grant Shapps. This weekend, the UK’s transport secretary unveiled a fairly extensive package of measures intended to make sure Britons can keep moving about during the Covid-19 crisis. On Saturday, he fronted the government’s daily afternoon press briefing; on Sunday, he did the rounds of the morning political shows. 

And were those nasty mean journalists interested in his plans for bicycle repair vouchers, or the doubling of the A66? No they were not: all they wanted to ask about was reports that the Prime Minister’s senior advisor Dominic Cummings had breached the lockdown he himself had helped draw up. The rotten lot.

This is, from some perspectives a shame, because some of the plans aren’t bad. Here’s a quick run down. 

  • The government is releasing a total of £283m to increase frequencies on bus (£254m) and light rail (£29m) networks, enabling more people to travel while maintaining social distancing. 

  • It’s deploying 3,400 people – British Transport Police officers; staff from train operators and Network Rail – to stations, to advise passengers on how to travel safely.

  • It’s promising to amend planning laws to enable councils to reallocate road space and create emergency cycle lanes, using a £225m pot of funding announced earlier this month. 

  • It’s also spending £25m on half a million £50 bike repair vouchers, and £2.5m on adding 1,180 bike parking spaces at 30 railway stations.

All this sounds lovely, but announcements of this sort tend to throw up a few questions, and this is no exception. The UK is home to over 2,500 railway stations, which must raise doubts about whether a few extra bike parking spaces at 30 of them is going to be enough to spark a cycling revolution. And councillors say that £225m for new cycle lanes has been slow to materialise in council bank accounts.

As to the money for public transport: that £29m will be shared between tram networks in five English conurbations (Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, Tyne & Wear, Nottingham, Sheffield). Just under £6m each doesn’t sound like the big bucks.

Then there’s the fact that all of these pots of money are dwarfed by the £1bn the government is planning to spend on turning the A66 Transpennine route across the north of England, from Workington to Middlesbrough, into a dual carriageway. Which puts the money allocated to cycling into perspective.

That said, it is refreshing to see the government taking an interest in cycling at all. Also, Grant Shapps genuinely tried to distract the nation from a huge political scandal by talking about bike repair vouchers, and you’ve got to give him credit for that.

More details of the plan on gov.uk here.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

22 May 2020 09:28 PM

What we're reading: Understanding how the coronavirus spreads in public spaces

Risk assessment: It’s a holiday weekend in the US and UK, and where the weather is nice, people will surely want to go out. Vox has a handy chart for understanding the risks of coronavirus in different settings.

Covid-proofing: Social distancing has proven to be an effective way to slow the coronavirus, but it’s an emergency method that can’t stay in place forever. In order to get the economy going again, offices, restaurants and entertainment venues will need a dramatic overhaul. The Atlantic shares ideas to make that happen.

Vacation ghost town: With no indication of when people can safely travel again, resort towns are bracing for a summer unlike any other. CityLab reports that this weekend is the start of a critical period for vacation hotspots, but residents and businesses there expect tough times ahead.

22 May 2020 09:01 PM

Epidemiologist update: New cases surge in Brazil, India and Indonesia

An update from GlobalData Senior Epidemiologist Bishal Bhandari:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 5,110,000, with over 333,000 deaths and 1,950,000 recoveries.

Cases have been rising sharply in Latin America with Peru, Mexico, and Chile each continuing to experience a record number of daily cases or deaths. Meanwhile, Brazil is set to overtake Russia with the second most number of cases in the world after the US. Cases in India are rising at the fastest pace in Asia with a record number of daily new cases.

Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, is reporting sharp rise in new cases and will be the one to watch in the near future. Indonesia is struggling to keep the spread of infection under reasonable control compared to neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

22 May 2020 12:37 PM

How are other UK cities responding to the crisis?

This blog has reported extensively on “Streetspace”, London’s plan to reallocate road space from cars to pedestrians and cyclists. But, even though you wouldn’t always know it from the media, there are other cities in the UK. What are they doing to handle the crisis?

Here are three examples.

Birmingham City Council’s emergency transport plan suggests turning parts of main roads into cycling or bus lanes, and turning on-street parking into space for pedestrians. It’s also looking at turning parts of wider, quieter pavements into cycle lanes.

In addition, the council is hoping to identify two parts of the city to pilot “active, low traffic neighbourhood” schemes, and limit private car access to “transform” the city centre.

The council’s cabinet member for transport has also written to the government requesting the authority to introduce 20mph speed limits on all but main roads.

Bristol is planning to totally pedestrianise its historic Old City, in the area around St Nicholas Markets. The plans, mapped by the Bristol Cable here, will connect up several other already pedestrianised areas.

In addition, the city is planning to wide pavements in suburban shopping districts such as Clifton and Bedminster, and to close Bristol Bridge to private cars.

Glasgow has created a new east-west cycle route along the Broomielaw, on the north bank of the River Clyde. Not everyone in the city is a bike fan, though: residents of its affluent West End have literally phoned the police about cyclists who are using the pavement.

Before the crisis began, Glasgow was actually planning to extend opening hours for outdoor seating at the bars and restaurants of the city centre – exactly the sort of thing many other cities are considering introducing to enable such businesses to reopen safely as lockdown eases. Alas, the plans have been delayed by the fact that lockdown is preventing the city council from meeting to sign the plans off.

There are many more cities than this out there, of course, so this is probably a theme we’ll be coming back to. Feel free to drop me a line with tips.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.


 

22 May 2020 10:43 AM

UK borrowing in April as high as entire last financial year

UK government borrowing hit record levels last month because of measures to tackle the coronavirus crisis, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Borrowing for the month of April hit £62.1bn, the ONS estimated – the most in any month since records began in 1993, and nearly six times the amount of borrowing in April 2019.

It’s almost as much as the UK borrowed in the entirety of the last financial year.

And the data may not capture the full extent of government borrowing: the ONS said that “the effects of Covid-19 are not fully captured in this release”.


 

22 May 2020 09:35 AM

Morning briefing: UK government ponders immunity certificates

Good morning.

The Times splashes on the news that ministers are, once again, considering handing immunity certificates to people that have antibodies to coronavirus to exempt them from social distancing rules. Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed “systems of certification” were being worked on for those that have recovered from the virus.

The news comes after he revealed mass antibody testing would begin next week, beginning with key workers. The science remains a sticking point – we do not yet know for sure that those with antibodies are immune to a second infection. The paper also reports that anyone that has come into close contact with a coronavirus-positive person will be asked to isolate for two weeks, regardless of whether they have symptoms, as part of the government’s contact tracing scheme that’s due before 1 June.

Another group who will be told to self-isolate for 14 days are those arriving in the UK, under plans that will be revealed by Home Secretary Priti Patel later today. Any passengers coming in by plane, ferry or train will have to provide an address where they will quarantine – otherwise, the government will arrange a place for them to stay. Police will carry out spot checks at residences, and anyone flouting the rules faces a minimum £1,000 fine. People from the common travel area, which includes Ireland, are exempt, as are certain professions such as freight drivers and some doctors. Ministers were previously considering an exemption for France, but the idea has been abandoned.

The rules are expected to come into effect next month. Professor John Edmunds, a member of the group of scientists advising government, this morning suggested the measures were over the top: he said that because the UK’s incidence of coronavirus remains relatively high, travellers are “unlikely to cause much of a problem”.

Lastly, two intriguing testing stories broke overnight. First, the Guardian reported that a coronavirus “spit test”, which involves spitting into a tube rather than a throat swab, will be trialled on 5,000 police and army staff because of concerns over the accuracy of swabbing. Experts have long-pushed the government to consider the tests because they are far easier to administer.

Second, the Telegraph reports that the government has double-counted tens of thousands of coronavirus tests – a story confirmed by the Department of Health. Testing numbers have been consistently higher than the number of people testing, and one of the reasons is tests that involve both a saliva sample and a nasal swab are being counted twice.

Global updates:

China: China will not set a GDP goal at this year’s annual Two Sessions law-making event – the first time it has failed to do so since it began publishing such targets in 1990.

Australia: Australia has called for an exemption from the UK’s upcoming two-week quarantine for incoming visitors. Under government plans, only people from the common travel area, which includes Ireland, are exempt.

Brazil: The coronavirus crisis shows no signs of abating in Brazil, which yesterday reported a record one-day death toll of 1,188, taking the total number of deaths above 20,000.

Indonesia: Indonesia recorded 973 new infections yesterday, its biggest one-day rise.

US: Around 2.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, taking the total since the pandemic took hold to just under 39 million.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Despite 50,000 excess deaths, Britain’s most vulnerable areas remain at risk from Covid-19

Secret data and the future of public health: why the NHS has turned to Palantir

The case for Commonwealth: what happens when natural disaster follows disease?

Why has Kerala been so successful in tackling the coronavirus?


 

21 May 2020 02:42 PM

Case numbers in decline in Europe and North America

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 5,000,000, with over 328,000 deaths and 1,900,000 recoveries.

In Europe and North America, the daily confirmed cases continue to decrease in majority of the countries. In Latin America, Peru, Mexico, and Chile each continues to experience a record number of daily cases or death. Peru has second most number of cases after Brazil in Latin America. Cases in India are increasing at the fastest pace in Asia with a 30% increase in cases since last week.

After facing the brunt of COVID-19 in the UK, London has reported steep decline in daily new cases, with no new cases reported in the last 24 hours. This is a positive development, but it remains to be seen if this decline in new cases will continue in the near future.

Bishal Bhandari, PhD, Senior Epidemiologist, GlobalData.

21 May 2020 12:27 PM

Lockdown has massively reduced London’s air pollution

This is not unexpected, but is cheery nonetheless: lockdown has meant a radical improvement in London’s air quality. 

According to figures released by the City of London Corporation – the baffling body which, among other things, is the municipal council for the British capital’s historic business district – nitrogen dioxide levels in the area have reduced around 35% since the beginning of lockdown. Here’s a graph:

Pollution levels at Upper Thames Street. Image: Corporation of London.

All this is probably connected to the fact that around half of London’s air pollution comes from road transport. That’s a particular problem in the City, where a combination of tall buildings and narrow streets makes it difficult for the resulting pollutants to escape. It feels like a marker of the seachange the crisis has meant in London’s transport policy that the press release announcing all this includes the sentence, “Nearly half of car trips made by Londoners before the coronavirus lockdown could be cycled in around ten minutes.”

While we’re on this topic, press-coverage loving sat nav app Waze has released figures showing that, since lockdown began, the UK has seen a 70% fall in kilometres driven on the levels recorded in mid-February. (Technically, it just shows a 70% fall in the kilometres for which drivers are using Waze, but it’s probably reasonable to assume that’s the same thing.)

The company released this graph, showing changes in driving levels across some of England’s major cities:

Image: Waze.

What is going on with Liverpool in early March I have no idea.

Here’s one more, showing the same figures at a national level:

Image: Waze.

You can see that the UK and US were slower to lockdown. Also, strangely, that Waze users in those countries, especially the US, are more likely to drive on the weekend.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.


 

21 May 2020 10:21 AM

Welsh government reported to human rights watchdog over care home testing

The Welsh government has been reported to the human rights watchdog by the national older people’s commissioner over its delays to expand testing in care homes.

Helena Herklots, appointed by the government in 2018, said she had “serious concerns” that older people’s right to life had been breached by the government’s failure to ensure testing was in place “as quickly as it needed to be for every resident and every member of staff”.

“I’m extremely disappointed and saddened that the Welsh government hasn’t moved quickly on this,” she said. “That is why I believe the Equality and Human Rights Commission needs to investigate how older people have been treated throughout this pandemic.”

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething defended the government’s decision not to test asymptomatic people earlier in the pandemic because evidence suggested there “wasn’t a value” in testing them.

“What I do accept is that in some parts of Wales there are some examples of where some care homes were wrongly refused tests,” he told the BBC. “It took much longer than I would want to see my very clear policy choice implemented.”


 

21 May 2020 08:53 AM

Morning briefing: Antibody tests fo NHS workers next week

Good morning.

The government will today announce that NHS and social care staff are to be offered coronavirus antibodies tests as early as next week, according to the Guardian. Hundreds of thousands of workers will be offered the test, which requires a blood sample and is carried out in a laboratory. Staff in closest contact with Covid-19, such as those in intensive care, will be given priority. The test will determine whether the person had coronavirus in the past.

But scientists do not know definitively whether the presence of antibodies provides immunity against a second infection, or if it does provide immunity, how long it will last. Scientists will monitor the results of the tests to see whether those with antibodies catch the virus again. The move brings the prospect of mass antibody testing closer, but the government is still yet to approve a finger-prick home test kit, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously said would be a “gamechanger”.

The National Audit Office (NAO) today revealed that ministers have overruled their most senior civil servants on spending decisions 11 times since the start of pandemic. On each occasion, ministers forced through spending pledges despite being challenged by their permanent secretaries and without usual value-for-money checks. Only 75 such decisions have been taken over the past 30 years, according to the Institute for Government. The NAO found that the government has pledged more than £124bn in extra spending to tackle the pandemic, higher than the £123bn forecast last week by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Lastly, the NHS Confederation, which represents healthcare leaders, has warned that the government is running out of time to introduce a track and trace strategy if it wants to avoid a second spike of infections. It said that lockdown measures should not be further eased until a plan was in place. “We are 10 weeks into the pandemic and developing a strategy with a well worked through local base should have been in place much sooner,” said Niall Dickson, chief executive. “If we do not rapidly instigate the right system, involving the right people, then the ramifications for the NHS, including its staff and its patients, could be severe.” The government has said a tracing system will be ready by 1 June – but without a crucial NHS app, which is still being trialled on the Isle of Wight.

Global updates:

World: The number of worldwide Covid-19 cases rose 106,000 yesterday – the biggest increase yet over a 24-hour period, as the World Health Organisation warned that the virus was beginning to spread rapidly in poorer nations. The number of global confirmed cases has reached five million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

US: The reopening of businesses in Connecticut, Kentucky and Alaska mean that all 50 states have begun easing lockdown measures to some degree.

Japan: Japan will lift its state of emergency in Osaka and two other prefectures where infection rates have slowed.

Mexico: Mexico recorded 424 coronavirus-related deaths yesterday, its highest single-day tally. The previous record was 353 deaths on 12 May.

Greece: Greece will reopen for tourists on 15 June, when seasonal hotels will be allowed to open, the government has said. International flights will be welcomed from 1 July.

India: Domestic flights will begin running again in India on Monday, 25 May. The government has said that it will not be viable to keep middle seats empty.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Too little, too late, too flawed: the BMJ’s indictment of the government’s response to Covid-19

The tragedy of Tye Green Lodge care home is a parable of government neglect

The Great Moving Left Show: How the pandemic could transform British politics

Why now, more than ever, we should bask in the glory of wasting time

I wistfully remember my last meal out pre-lockdown – at a Greek restaurant full of interesting wine

20 May 2020 10:48 PM

What we're reading: Are you missing that commute yet?

Hit the road: The idea that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone might be true of commuting, too. The BBC reports that even though people generally hate traveling to and from work, the bookends to a workday serve a useful purpose that we might actually be missing now.

Now they’re gone: It wasn’t long ago that cities feared the effects of mass tourism. Now those places look very different, and many fear what the loss of tourists will mean for their economies. The New York Times talked to residents of 11 cities that had been overrun by tourism to find out what their cities are like today.

So low: Singapore has been an unusual part of the Covid-19 story since it began, maintaining a notably low fatality rate compared to other nations. That result is part policy and part luck, Vox explains – and the reasons why should inform policymakers everywhere.

20 May 2020 10:08 PM

Epidemiologist update: Latin America posts new highs for daily cases

An update from GlobalData Senior Epidemiologist Bishal Bhandari:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 4,900,000, with over 323,000 deaths and 1,690,000 recoveries.

Brazil accounts for most of the daily confirmed cases in Latin America. However, Peru, Mexico, and Chile are countries to watch as they each experience a record number of daily cases. Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and Chile have each set a record highs of new daily cases. In Europe and North America, the daily confirmed cases continue to decrease in a majority of the countries.

It has been accepted that children are not the group most at risk from Covid-19. However, as schools have started to reopen in Europe, it remains unclear whether they can transmit the infection even if they are asymptomatic.

20 May 2020 02:37 PM

Chart: Global economy to shrink by 1.9% in 2020, with Western Europe down by up to 10%

The global economy is now expected to shrink by 1.9% in 2020, according to experts from GlobalData.

Western Europe and the US are still expected to bear the brunt, with Italy’s GDP forecast to contract by 10% over the year.

France’s GDP is predicted to shrink by 8.6%, the UK’s by 8.2%, Spain’s by 7.9% and Germany’s by 6.6%.

Those forecasts are slightly worse than GlobalData was forecasting a week ago.

The US’s estimate has been revised upwards, however, with the country seeing a steady decline in Covid-19 cases and deaths.

GlobalData now predicts the US economy will shrink by 5.0% across 2020, slightly less than the 5.3% predicted a week ago.

Latin American countries, where the numbers of Covid-19 cases are now surging, are also expecting an economic downturn. Mexico’s economy is expected to contract by 7.0% in 2020, Peru’s by 4.1% and Brazil’s by 4.0%.

China and India are among the few countries predicted to still see economic growth this year.

Covid-19 macroeconomic dashboard

We are using exclusive dynamic figures provided by GlobalData analysts to track key economic indicators in major world economies hit by Covid-19. Deaths from the virus are plotted alongside the indexed performance of each country's major stock exchange and the number of "active jobs" – jobs open for applications across all major industries. Figures are tracked daily from 1 March 2020.

Covid-19 macroeconomic dashboard

20 May 2020 01:05 PM

UK house prices were booming – until the pandemic kicked in

Here’s one for fans of getting angry about meaningless statistics: until just before this whole pandemic thing kicked in, UK house prices were looking really perky. 

In the year to March, the average sale price of a UK property increased by 2.1%, up from 2% the previous month, new data from the Office for National Statistics shows. In London, house prices were up 4.7% – the largest annual increase recorded in the capital since December 2016. The same figure stands at 2.2% England-wide, 1.1% in Wales, 1.5% in Scotland, and 3.8% in Northern Ireland.

However, before you get too excited/infuriated about all this [delete to taste and/or housing status], two warnings. One is that the average price actually fell from February to March. Only by 0.2 per cent, but nonetheless – that suggests the boom may have been wearing off even before lockdown began.

The other is that all this data is meaningless because the pandemic is going to hit the housing market the same as it’s hit everything else. The unemployment rate is through the roof, consumption has collapsed, and there’s no end in sight – so what the housing market was doing before lockdown kicked in feels quaintly irrelevant. Yahoo Finance UK has covered this story as “London house prices increase at fastest rate since 2016”, a headline that has the virtue of being technically true, while also feeling a lot like celebrating a record-breaking 99 years of peace in Europe immediately after Archduke Franz Ferdinand got shot. 

So – prices may well be about to crash. That’s great news for buyers, right?

For some, sure: those with decent incomes and a deposit that wasn’t quite big enough before may find they can clean up. For many people, however, things may not change that much, because their own incomes are likely to take a hit and banks may be less keen to lend. 

Or to put it another way – even if housing gets cheaper, that won’t necessarily make ownership more affordable.

Incidentally, property website Rightmove suggested earlier that banks should consider accepting lower deposits if they want to prevent the market from crashing. That feels a lot like it’s hoping other businesses will take more risk so that it doesn’t have to, but I guess it’s worth a shot.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.


 

20 May 2020 09:20 AM

Morning briefing: Ministers under pressure over track and trace

Good morning.

The government is coming under mounting pressure to roll out a track and trace system that, clearly, isn’t yet fit for purpose. The Guardian reports that the system, which will involve more than 20,000 contact tracers as well as an NHS app, will not be ready until June; Health Secretary Matt Hancock initially said it would go live in mid-May. Multiple government scientific advisers warned last night that schools should not open until an effective system is in place and working well.

With the first primary schools set to open on 1 June, ministers are up against it. Even disregarding the timing, the usefulness of the system itself is in question. One government scientific adviser told Sky News that the system might not be fast enough, while the BBC reported GCHQ was looking into security measures with the app. One contact tracer summed up the state of the system while telling the Guardian about the training they’d received. "We had a chat [box] where we could ask him questions, but the first hour and a half of the training was just people writing, ‘I can’t hear anything’."

Even leaving track and trace aside, more and more councils are saying they intend to keep schools closed for the start of next month. The BBC says at least 11 councils have expressed opposition to the date – the Guardian reckons it’s 18, representing 1,500 primary schools. However, opposition from the British Medical Association appears to be softening. The organisation said schools can reopen on 1 June if it is "safe to do so", and that there is "growing evidence that the risk to individual children from Covid-19 is extremely small". Meanwhile, Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), admitted her union’s opposition to the 1 June opening was a “negotiating position”.

Lastly, a BBC Radio 4 documentary has told of the pressure care home managers came under to accept patients from hospitals who were potentially carrying Covid-19. A 2 April government directive called for a national effort to clear hospital beds, while two local councils wrote to care homes suggesting that extra funding was conditional on them taking patients from wards. Susan Mckinney, who runs 14 care homes in the north-east, recalled: "We had an incident on 10 April where twice we rang the hospital saying ‘we can’t accept this person back, we need them tested, we need a negative test so we know what we’re dealing with,’" she said. "They turned up at the door in an ambulance and refused to go away. There was a sort of stand-off at the door of the home… We were threatened with the police if we did not let this person in."

Global updates:

World: The pandemic could undo three years of alleviating inequality and push 60 million people below the poverty line, the head of the World Bank has warned.

US: President Donald Trump said that having the highest number of coronavirus cases worldwide was a "badge of honour" because it showed the US had the best testing system. He also called a US study showing that hydroxychloroquine had limited effectiveness against coronavirus a "Trump enemy statement" after he revealed he was taking the drug as a precaution.

Brazil: Brazil recorded its highest daily rise in both deaths and cases. It reported 17,408 new cases and 1,179 deaths in a 24-hour period, taking the official death toll to 17,971.

India: India recorded its biggest one-day spike in infections, with 5,200 new cases. It has begun to ease what was one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

Singapore: A man has been sentenced to death via a Zoom call for his role in a drug deal – the first case where capital punishment has been delivered via a remote, virtual hearing. The country also set out a phased approach to ending its partial lockdown from 1 June.

New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged employers to consider a four-day working week to allow people to travel the country and achieve a better work-life balance.

Fiji: Fiji has asked to be included in the travel "bubble" between New Zealand and Australia, which is allowing free movement between the two countries.

South Korea: High schools in South Korea reopened today. It marks the beginning of a phased reopening of the country’s school system.

Netherlands: Bars and restaurants will reopen on 1 June provided customer numbers are limited and people follow social distancing measures, the government said.

Canada: Canada and the US have extended their border closure for non-essential travel until 21 June.


Read more on the New Statesman:

Reopening schools is a question of logistics, not of risks

Why the Covid-19 crisis will force the UK to rewrite the economic rulebook

Coronavirus is introducing the pitfalls of Universal Credit to many new claimants

Senior but still citizens: we should not disregard the contribution of elderly in this pandemic

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer stood up to Trump. Can she stand up to her own people?

20 May 2020 12:26 AM

What we're reading: A complication from fewer road deaths

An unexpected consequence: The good news is that there are fewer collisions and fewer road deaths due to coronavirus lockdowns. The bad news, Kaiser Health News reports, is the effect that’s having on the supply chain for organ donations.

Gotta go: Restrooms pose a major barrier to reopening businesses, and many won’t look like they did before the pandemic. The Washington Post talked to store and restaurant owners who are working to reduce the number of touched surfaces as well as the number of people who spend time in these typically tight quarters.

The new economy: The New York Times reports on an economic story playing out for the second time in about a decade: Young people are entering a job market in crisis, and the effects could stay with them throughout their career.

19 May 2020 06:59 PM

Epidemiologist update: Cases surge in Africa, but WHO predicts lower death rate

An update from GlobalData Senior Epidemiologist Bishal Bhandari:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 4,810,000, with over 319,000 deaths and 1,790,000 recoveries.

In Europe, the daily confirmed cases continue to decrease in most countries except Russia, which continues to experience an increase in cases. Brazil and the US account for most of the reported daily confirmed cases on their continents. 

There are ​approximately 85,000 confirmed cases and 3,000 Covid-19 deaths in Africa. Until recently, a low death toll had raised hopes that Africa may be spared the worst of this pandemic. ​A WHO model estimated that although cases might rise exponentially to at least a quarter of a billion people infected in Africa this year, countries in Africa will have fewer deaths than Europe and the US because of its younger population ​and lower comorbidity prevalence such as diabetes. ​However, the current reported death toll likely does not accurately reflect the true extent of the outbreak's impact in Africa due to testing limitations.

19 May 2020 03:59 PM

Nearly 40,000 coronavirus deaths in England and Wales, ONS says

Around 50,000 more people than expected have died in England and Wales since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

New figures put out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this morning show an estimated 49,647 “excess” deaths occurred from 14 March to 8 May, with 39,071 of those attributed to Covid-19.

The good news is that the number of weekly deaths, both caused by the virus and overall, is now at its lowest since the start of April.

While all regions in England and Wales saw a decrease in deaths attributed to Covid-19, the North West overtook London for the first time as the epicentre of the outbreak with 597 deaths in the week to 8 May.

The number of people dying in care homes has also been falling for two consecutive weeks, with 1,666 coronavirus-related deaths recorded in the first week of May compared to 2,423 during the previous week.

However, the share of care home deaths that were attributed to Covid-19 has seen a small bump, with 39% of deaths now linked to the disease.

The UK as a whole has recorded around 55,000 excess deaths, ONS statistician Nick Stripe told the BBC.

–Nicu Calcea

19 May 2020 01:46 PM

New app encourages Londoners to pay more attention to trees on their daily walk

The big news in the UK today is that we’re starting to get a sense of quite how much damage the pandemic has already done to the economy. Figures released by the Department of Work & Pensions this morning show that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits leapt by 69.1% in April – the largest jump ever recorded – taking the claimant rate to the highest level seen since 1996. 

Meanwhile, the Resolution Foundation says we’re experiencing a “u-shaped living standards crisis”, in which older and younger workers are likely to be hardest hit. New research from the thinktank found that just over a third of 18-24 year olds, and just under that proportion of workers in their early 60s, are now receiving less pay than they did at the start of the year. That compares to less than a quarter of workers aged 35-49.

All this is terribly depressing, of course, so let’s talk about something else. One of the cheerier corners of my Twitter feed for the last couple of days has concerned TreeTalk, a sort of website/app/augmented reality thing which aims to get Londoners interested in the greenery outside their window. Here’s the blurb:

The Coronavirus has changed our lifestyles. More people are now staying at home and taking their exercise close to where they live.

At TreeTalk, we encourage Londoners to look more closely at their streets and to explore, discover and identify the trees most local to them.

Have you ever wondered what that tree outside of your window is? Or the tree that flowers once a year at the bottom of your road? Now is your chance to find out by creating a walk above or exploring our map!

Don’t be put off by the marketing speak, because the results are rather wonderful. For a start, TreeTalk offers a clickable map of all London’s trees, which will tell you about those on your street...

...and which, as a bonus, offers some insight into which boroughs aren’t that keen on open data:

Poor show, Hackney.

The really cool feature, though, is that you can put in any London address, and the site will automatically generate a walk for you, complete with information about the trees you’ll pass on your way. Here’s its suggested walk around the New Statesman’s offices:

The accompany commentary provides a helpful guide to no fewer than 20 different types of tree that walk would take you past, as well as the addresses of assorted pubs and cafes you could stop off at on the way if only they weren’t all closed due to coronavirus.

The whole thing is a lovely way of changing the way we relate to the city around us, and also of livening up your daily walk. Worth checking out.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.


 

19 May 2020 12:31 PM

Unemployment claims rise by 69%, highest rate on record

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits has increased to 2.1 million in April 2020 – up 856,500 in a month, and the highest level since 1996.

The figures, released this morning by the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), shows that the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance or searching for work under Universal Credit rules has increased by 69.1% in just one month. This is the largest jump the DWP has ever recorded.

Rural and tourist areas have been hardest hit – with unemployment triple or quadruple what it was a year ago in some parts of Cumbria, Devon and Snowdonia.

The region with the largest increase in unemployment claims was the South West, where the numbers almost doubled. Meanwhile, the West Midlands saw the smallest increase of 50.9%.

A breakdown of the figures by parliamentary constituency showed the claimant count stood at 1,690 in Westmorland and Lonsdale in Cumbria – up 312% compared to the 410 it stood at in April last year.

East Devon was up 265%, Dwyfor Meirionnydd in Snowdonia up 259% and Central Devon up 249% on a year-on-year basis.

Around 1.5m people claimed Universal Credit between 13 March and 9 April alone, over six times more than last year.

This figure doesn’t reflect just unemployment — some self-employed and furloughed employees could also claim Universal Credit.

Hiring has also suffered from the coronavirus lockdown. The number of vacancies available has gone from around 865,000 in April 2019 to only 351,000 this year, meaning those without a job will find it even more difficult to find one.

19 May 2020 10:51 AM

Where are Covid-19 deaths still rising?

Western Europe and America might have passed the peak – but many countries around the world are still very much fighting a rising tide of Covid 19.

Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Peru, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia have all seen daily death figures rise, when calculated as a seven-day rolling average.

The rise in South America and elsewhere means that global figures are only going down slightly week-on-week, despite big falls in Europe.

In the last seven days, 32,151 people died after being tested positive for the disease, according to the latest data from John's Hopkins University.

That compares to 34,793 over the previous week.

At least 318,481 people have now died from the disease worldwide.

Covid-19 daily report

19 May 2020 08:55 AM

Morning briefing: Council rebels against government schools plan

Good morning.

The Labour-run council in Bury has become the first local authority in England to declare that primary schools in its area will not open on 1 June, regardless of government guidance. Other local leaders across the north have criticised the government’s plan, including in Liverpool and Hartlepool, but Bury’s combative stance is the strongest yet.

“We recognise the importance of schools re-opening, not only in terms of education, but for social and emotional reasons, especially for the most vulnerable children… But this needs to be done with the safety of school communities at front and centre,” the council said. The leader of the Tory group in Bury says the move is a political ploy – but with opposition from both unions and local authorities mounting, the government will have to respond if it wants schools across the country to fall in line.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics released this morning showed that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits soared by 856,000 in April to just under 2.1 million. It’s the single biggest monthly jump on record, and means the claimant count is now at its highest level since 1996. Official unemployment figures for January to March showed a more modest increase of 50,000, to 1.35 million, but only cover the first week of lockdown.

The government is in “active discussions” to create so-called “air bridges” with other countries that would allow free travel back and forth over the summer, possibly without any quarantine period. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the government was considering the reciprocal measure with countries that have a low viral reproduction rate.

Finally, the Guardian reports that vulnerable workers will not be exempt from the scaling back of the government’s furlough grant scheme from August. Chancellor Rishi Sunak favours a universal approach to paring back the scheme, rather than creating specific rules for different sectors of the economy, the paper reports.

Tune into the New Statesman’s live blog at 10:30am for rolling coverage of the health and social care select committee, where leaders from the care sector will be giving evidence on the management of the coronavirus outbreak.

Global updates:

US: President Donald Trump threatened to permanently cut funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO) unless the United Nations body makes major reforms and shows independence from China within 30 days. Trump also said that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that is unproven against Covid-19 and may cause heart problems, as a precaution.

Taiwan: Taipei yesterday pulled the country’s bid to become a member of the WHO, saying a two-day convention of the body’s assembly should be used to debate the pandemic response. It will table its bid at a later date.

New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is considering giving New Zealanders an extra public holiday to boost domestic tourism. "My message to Kiwis is, come and experience your own backyard,” she said.

Brazil: Brazil has overtaken the UK in coronavirus cases, with more than 255,000 confirmed infections. It now has the third highest case load in the world, behind Russia and the US.

Europe: French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have joined forces to call for a €500bn (£448bn) fund for European Union countries hardest hit by Covid-19. The European Commission would borrow money from the markets and hand out cash as grants, gradually repaying debt from the EU’s budget, they said. It marks a change of heart for Merkel, who previously opposed the idea of shared European debt.

Turkey: Turkey will impose a four-day lockdown starting on Saturday, covering the Islamic religious holiday Eid al-Fitr, during which large groups typically gather. It’s the country’s most severe restrictions since the start of the pandemic.

Read more on the New Statesman:

The government is taking a necessary gamble on the Oxford vaccine

Coronavirus makes the Immigration Bill look like an even worse idea

Why Covid-19 should change the conversation on migrant workers

18 May 2020 11:15 PM

What we're reading: Measuring the effect of lockdown orders

What worked: A new study shows that lockdown orders successfully slowed the spread of Covid-19, and longer periods of time had greater effect, Vox reports. That leaves a big question: What happens next?

Commuter anxiety:  London commuters say they’re seeing an uptick in the number of people on transit, but a worryingly small number wearing facemasks and keeping appropriate distance, The Guardian reports.  

Roaring back: “In some ways, it still feels like a virtual experience.” That’s how a barre instructor describes the reopening of businesses in Hong Kong, where daily life is getting back up to speed as governments and health officials around the world watch to see what happens, The Washington Post reports.

18 May 2020 04:44 PM

Epidemiologist update: More than 4.7 million confirmed Covid-19 cases

An update from GlobalData Senior Epidemiologist Bishal Bhandari:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 4,720,000, with over 316,000 deaths and 1,750,000 recoveries.

North and South America continue to see a rise in daily confirmed cases whereas in Europe, the daily confirmed cases continue to decrease in most countries. Russia continues to experience a surge in cases, ranking second in the world behind the US. India, the second most populous country in the world, has seen rise in daily confirmed cases, which has prompted it to extend the lockdown by two weeks.

This pandemic has also hit indigenous populations in Brazil, raising concerns about how quickly the disease had spread through remote vulnerable communities with poor access to healthcare facilities.

18 May 2020 03:44 PM

UK cities are awakening as lockdown is eased

Saturday saw a surge in walking and driving in the UK after the government eased lockdown restrictions.

The new rules – combined with warm spring weather – saw movement rates rise to 60% of pre-Covid-19 levels.

That compares to near 30% towards the end of March.

Numbers have been edging up since then – with the Bank Holiday weekend on May 8-10 showing an increase in walking in particular, ahead of the lockdown restrictions being partially lifted. 

Since Wednesday, people have been allowed unlimited exercise and can drive to other destinations in England such as beaches or parks.

Data from Apple Maps shows easing the restrictions had a clear and immediate effect.

The chart below shows how many requests for directions were made in the UK each day up to May 16. Data for May 11-12 is not available.

Public transport activity has registered only a slight increase and is now at around 20% of pre-coronavirus levels.

UK drivers made 25% more requests for driving directions from Wednesday to Saturday last week compared to the week before, and 70% more than the same days of the week the lockdown started.

Despite the easing of the lockdown, the UK government recommends people should continue working from home and avoiding public transport whenever possible.

–Nicu Calcea

18 May 2020 02:03 PM

Covid-19 cities and regions: North West England close to overtaking London as national "epicentre"

The number of new daily Covid-19 cases had continued to drop in the most affected regions in Europe and America, with most new cases recorded in Mexico and some South American countries.

Illinois has overtaken Massachusetts as the third most affected region in the US, with the number of daily new cases there quickly approaching those in New York.

In the UK, where restrictions were slightly eased on May 13, the north west of England has now recorded 23,610 cases of Covid-19 and is set to overtake London as the epicentre of the outbreak.

Lombardy, the most affected region of Italy, has seen more modest decreases in the number of new cases compared to the rest of the country. Italy’s shops and cafes have reopened on Monday after 10 weeks of lockdown.

Madrid has also seen a slight uptick in the proportion of Spain’s new Covid-19 cases.

Monitoring the cities at the heart of the Covid-19 outbreak

Cities – with their high population density, young and mobile demographics, and developed public transport systems – are particularly susceptible to rapidly-spreading viral outbreak. Here we drill down into subnational Covid-19 figures to show which areas are seeing disproportionate numbers of Covid-19 cases.

While different countries count at different administrative levels, the pattern is clear: London and Madrid are "regions" in their own right, while New York State includes New York City and Lombardy covers Milan. This chart is currently being updated weekly with the latest figures – although some countries have a slight delay in publishing the very latest case numbers by region or state.

Covid-19 regional comparison chart

18 May 2020 12:40 PM

Transport for London unveils new cycling route map

Three things happened this weekend, each marking another step on the road towards London’s transformation into a cyclists’ paradise*. 

Firstly, on Friday mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London announced plans to restrict large chunks of central London to private cars. The main streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Old Street and Holborn, and Euston and Waterloo will each be restricted to buses, pedestrians and cyclists (plus emergency services and the disabled). The transport authority is looking at introducing similar restrictions on Waterloo and London Bridges, too. The Guardian has a map of the proposed changes.

This, a press release claims, will “transform parts of central London into one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world”. That feels to me like over-stating things a little, but it’s a big deal nonetheless. The changes should take about six weeks to implement.

Secondly, a group of NHS staff have launched a campaign group to pressure local authorities to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The group – “Key Workers Need Streetspace” – offers template letters, through which hospital bosses can pressure councils inot making streets safer and healthier. 

Such campaign groups have historically often come under fire from the pro-car lobby, not least London’s black cab drivers. Given the current public support for medical staff, it will be interesting to see how said lobby response to this one.

Lastly, TfL has belatedly released a map of its new cycling routes. It is not frankly the greatest map I have ever seen – it’s so busy it’s quite difficult to read, and it’s the electronic equivalent of attacking a streetmap with a highlighter pen. Nonetheless, it gives some sense of the transport authority’s evolving ambition. 

Here’s the central London section. Existing routes are in green, new ones in purple:

 

You can see the whole thing here. But it does not, as some Twitter users point out, include the new routes mentioned above. 

Incidentally, an ICM poll has found that 17% of British commuters are more likely to cycle to work following the Covid-19 pandemic. The poll, it seems worth noting, was commissioned by a Scottish bike manufacturer, Shand Cycles. 

*Terms and conditions apply.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

18 May 2020 10:09 AM

Global deaths continue to fall – but rise in parts of Latin America

The daily rate of deaths attributed Covid-19 has continued to fall.

Most counties worldwide – including the US and the UK – are now on a downward trajectory of new deaths.

On the other hand, some Latin American countries are struggling to control the outbreak, with Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Ecuador all seeing the number of deaths rise, when looking at a rolling average.

At least 315,185 people have died from Covid-19.

Covid-19 daily report

18 May 2020 09:24 AM

Morning briefing: Could the UK be close to world’s first vaccine?

Good morning.

Nearly half the UK public could have a vaccine available to them by September, the government said over the weekend. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said that a new partnership between Oxford University researchers and the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca meant that 30 million doses could be produced by September, if – and it’s a big if – trials prove successful. Vaccines would be available to the UK public first before being sold to developing nations “at the lowest possible cost”. The news came as the government announced an extra £84m for researchers at both Oxford University, who are furthest along with their vaccine trials, and Imperial College London.

It’s less good news on the government’s contract tracing system: Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s pledge to have the “whole thing up and running by the middle of this month” is slowly disintegrating. The Guardian reports today that people who applied to become contact tracers were told recruitment was on hold “while the government considers an alternative” to the NHS contact tracing app. The government had said it would recruit 18,000 contact tracers by today, 18 May, and over the weekend, Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove said just over 17,000 had been signed up. The programme would be operational by the end of the month, he said.

Lastly, Britain’s train operators have begun ramping up their services in anticipation of more people returning to work. Network Rail is adding around 3,000 more trains per day, but social distancing will keep capacity below 13 per cent of normal level. One-way systems are in place in stations, some seats on trains will be taped off, and extra security staff will help with crowd control. Some operators are only allowing people to board if they have a reservation, and Avanti West Coast said it will not allow carriages to become more than a third full. The government last week encouraged people to return to work if they couldn’t work from home, but warned against the use of public transport unless absolutely necessary.

Global updates:

US: Unemployment could reach 25 per cent in the US and GDP could drop by more than 30 per cent in the second quarter of the year, the chair of the Federal Reserve has warned.

Japan: Japan has entered recession for the first time since 2015. GDP fell an annualised 3.4 per cent in the first three months of the year. GDP is expected to shrink by an annualised 20 per cent or more during the second quarter of the year.

Italy: Most businesses in Italy, including bars, will reopen today for the first time in two months. Over the weekend, the country recorded its lowest number of new daily cases since March, with 145 infections.

Spain: Spain recorded 87 new cases of coronavirus yesterday, the lowest number in two months. People living outside of Madrid and Barcelona are now free to meet in groups of up to ten.

India: India recorded its highest daily rise in infections, with 5,242 new cases. It comes as the country has extended its lockdown but began to ease some restrictions across the country, allowing some non-essential shops and businesses to reopen. The total number of cases is now above 96,000, with around 56,000 active infections.

China: Pollution in China is now higher than at this point last year, after it dropped considerably during the coronavirus lockdown, the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air has found. It said the rebound was likely due to a restart of industrial activity.

Cambodia: Cambodia’s last remaining Covid-19 patient has now been treated and released from hospital, leaving the country officially virus-free.

Brazil: The mayor of São Paulo has warned the city’s health system is on the verge of collapse. Hospitals are at around 90 per cent capacity and could run out of space in two weeks, he said.

Taiwan: Members of the World Health Organisation assembly will vote today on whether to include Taiwan, which has been barred from the group since 2017 because of opposition from China.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Covid-19 might prove a “Goldilocks crisis” forcing the world to confront its problems

Should I return to work at school?

“F**k the nation’s morale”: Premier League return plans expose its detachment from reality

“It’s a grief process for us all”: How to care for a mourning nation

What Hannah Arendt can teach us about work in the time of Covid-19

15 May 2020 09:46 PM

What we're reading: Domestic violence hotlines see a spike in calls

Calls for help: With people stuck at home, calls to domestic violence hotlines are spiking in some cities – and even where they aren’t, officials fear there’s a crisis that’s going unreported, The New York Times writes. Chicago recently partnered with Airbnb to provide housing for victims who need to escape violent situations.

Wrongful convictions: Police and prosecutors in the UK say emergency laws and increased pressure led to wrongful convictions, The Guardian reports. As rules ease up this weekend, questions remain about how they will be enforced and what role police can play.

On the rails: New York City stands apart from most US cities for its reliance on public transit. There’s simply no way it can accommodate its residents becoming car commuters, the city council’s deputy leader for policy writes in CityLab – but there are ways to prepare transit for serving people safely now and in the future.

15 May 2020 08:32 PM

Epidemiologist update: Europe continues decline in new cases while the Americas continue to rise

An update from GlobalData Managing Epidemiologist Natasha Karim:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 4,444,000, with over 302,000 deaths and 1,588,000 recoveries.

In Europe, the daily confirmed cases continue to decrease, while Latin America and North America continue to see a rise in daily cases. In Asia, daily cases continue to decrease in the majority of countries, while Russia continues to experience a surge in cases, ranking second in the world behind the US. 

In Bangladesh, the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in crowded refugee camps. Approximately 1 million refugees have taken shelter, raising concerns about how quickly the disease can spread through vulnerable communities.

15 May 2020 01:29 PM

Seven thoughts on TfL’s bail out from national government

A political earthquake hit the British capital last night. Transport for London (TfL), a public agency, found itself just hours away from running out of money, and was forced to beg national government for a £2bn bail out. 

The government agreed – but on much harsher terms than TfL wanted, offering £1.1bn in cash and £505m in loans. And since the government is in the hands of the Conservative party, while the chair of TfL is London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, some observers have noticed a distinct whiff of political self-interest about the whole deal. 

So what does it all mean? Here are seven thoughts.

1. Something like this was probably inevitable

TfL has not received any operating grant from central government since 2018 – the result of a 2015 agreement between then Tory chancellor George Osborne and then Tory mayor Boris Johnson (now the, er, Prime Minister) that London’s transport network should be self-funding. That means that all the money required to keep the tubes, buses and so forth moving comes from fares: a situation unique in Britain, and probably in Europe, too.

But with the entire city in lockdown and people being advised not to use public transport, fares have collapsed – by 90%, according to TfL spokespeople. This was obviously unsustainable, even before the government began encouraging people back to work once again. So: it’s hard to see how the agency could have avoided asking for a bail out.

2. Not all of the conditions attached to the deal are terrible

Okay, the money isn’t what TfL wanted. But the promise to restore services frequencies to normal levels “as soon as possible” seems reasonable enough. Similarly, barring Freedom Pass holders – that is, retirement-age Londoners, who get free travel – from using peak hours services, seems to be a sensible measure. It not only means better demand management; it also reduces the chances that vulnerable transport users end up on the most crowded, and so potentially infectious, services.

Even the pledge to increase bus and tube fares by 1% above inflation next year – arguably in breach of Sadiq Khan’s 2016 election pledge to freeze them for his first term, and not to raise them faster than the cost of living in his second – is probably a sensible enough response to TfL’s current financial crisis. But...

3. Other elements of the bail out look like a power grab

Another condition of the deal is that government officials will sit on TfL board meetings, and that the agency will send regular financial reports to the national Department for Transport. That feels like a step back in terms of financial and operational independence. 

What’s more, the government is insisting that TfL will run public information ads using its own “Stay Alert” formulation, rather than Khan’s favoured “Stay at Home” ones. This may seem – is – petty, but national government has come under fire for the lack of clarity of its messaging: this neutralises a covert attack on it.

More philosophically, whoever holds the purse strings holds the power. Scrapping the operational grant radically reduced central government’s influence over how the mayor runs TfL. This bail out increases it once again.

4. It’s almost certainly politically motivated

Bbefore it was delayed by coronavirus, Khan was almost certainly on course to win this year’s mayoral election, and must still be considered the favourite when it (probably) finally happens next year. 

There are many reasons for this: incumbency advantage; the weakness of the Tory candidate Shaun Bailey; the fact London is overwhelmingly a liberal pro-Remain city, at a time when the Tory party has been overwhelmingly illiberal and pro-Brexit. Nonetheless, however unfair it is (a bail out was, remember, inevitable), “Khan wrecked TfL’s finances and came cap in hand to the Treasury” might just be an effective attack line on a popular Labour politician.

5. Khan set himself up for this

The mayor’s signature pledge before the 2016 election was to freeze fares. This was understandably popular – but it also risked undermining TfL’s finances further at the exact moment central government had decided to withdraw its grant. Rachel Holdsworth, then a senior editor at Londonist, argued as much on CityMetric way back in November 2015.

Khan’s partisans will say that the lack of fare rises (which has cost it £640m over four years) is nothing in comparison to the loss of the central grant (£700m a year) or the collapse in fares caused by Covid-19 (£600m a month). They’re right. Nonetheless, however unfairly, the freeze has made it possible to paint Khan as profligate.


6. But it’s not clear it’ll work

All that said – if Khan is savvy, he might be able to turn this to his advantage. The fares freeze was probably going to go at some point – now he can blame the pandemic or the Tory government for something that would have happened anyway, and for passing the cost of the pandemic onto Londoners. 

And if the cost of central government support is more central government oversight, then at least it means the return of central government support. Khan may be able to spin this. 

7. This is a sticking plaster

The bail out is worth just over £1.6bn. Spokespeople for the mayor’s office say that it currently costs £600m a month to keep TfL services running. So by my count, if nothing changes, this money will be enough to help TfL survive to somewhere around early August.

Maybe passenger numbers will be rising by then. Very possibly they won’t. I doubt this will be the last bail out TfL needs.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

15 May 2020 01:12 PM

Coronavirus involved in more than a quarter of care home residents’ deaths

Nearly 46,000 residents of care homes in England and Wales lost their lives between the start of the coronavirus pandemic and 1 May.

More than a quarter of the deaths, or 12,526, are known to have involved Covid-19, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today.

The ONS recorded a total of 45,899 deaths among care home residents between March 2 and May 1 – more than twice as many as the 22,573 who died during the same period in 2019.

It means that even after the 12,536 known Covid-19 cases are accounted for, there have still been 10,790 “extra”, unexplained deaths. Those are likely to be directly or indirectly related to the virus, too.

Around three in four care home residents’ deaths involving Covid-19 between March and May this year occurred in care homes (72.2%) with almost all of the remaining cases occurring in hospitals (27.5%).

The ONS analysis shows that Covid-19 was the leading cause of death for male care home residents, being responsible for 30.3% of their deaths. That only includes cases where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate — again, the true number of cases where the virus played some role could be far higher.

Covid-19 was also the second leading cause of death in female care home residents, after dementia and Alzheimer’s, accounting for at least 23.5% of deaths.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s were the conditions most commonly associated with Covid-19 deaths, being present in 42.5% of Covid-19 deaths aming care home residents.

15 May 2020 11:00 AM

World passes 300,000 coronavirus deaths

At least 302,418 people have died from Covid-19 so far, according to the latest statistics published by Johns Hopkins University.

The figures are likely to be an undercount, as do not include people who have died without being tested for the disease.

The grim milestone means that the epidemic has now overtaken the 1812 Russian typhus outbreak and the 1812–1819 Ottoman plague in terms of the raw number of people killed.

Deaths appear to be falling in the UK, though the US and Italy have both seen a slight uptick in the number of people killed over the last two days.

Covid-19 daily report

15 May 2020 09:22 AM

Morning briefing: NHS bosses gag doctors over PPE

Good morning.

NHS managers have tried to stop doctors speaking out about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals, the BBC reports. At one trust, a newsletter sent to staff said they should avoid "commenting on political issues, such as PPE” – another trust put up posters in staff areas that said hospital workers should not make "[ublic appeals for equipment". One doctor who posted about shortages online told Newsnight that they were hauled in front of a panel of senior managers. "They kept on feeding me what felt like government type of lines, saying 'this hospital has never had PPE shortages', which I know to be factually untrue. And that essentially I should stop causing a fuss.”

The UK’s second-largest teachers union has threatened local authorities with legal action if staff are forced to return to schools on 1 June. The NASUWT, which has 300,000 members, claimed that government guidance for schools was not stringent enough, and said that teachers have a legal right to refuse to return unless they are given the same protections as other frontline workers. Union leaders are meeting government scientific advisers later today to discuss its concerns, particularly over PPE and social distancing in the classroom.

Finally, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing a “much more interventionist drive” to reduce obesity in the UK, the Times reports. Evidence has suggested obesity might be linked to worse Covid-19 outcomes, and Johnson is convinced the reason he ended up in intensive care was his own weight.  The PM believes the pandemic is the ideal time for a new campaign on obesity, exercise, and cycling to work, the report says.

Global updates:

Africa: Nearly 250 million people in 47 African nations will catch coronavirus over the next year, and up to 190,000 people will die, according to a World Health Organisation projection. The forecast, which omitted five countries, will have a lower death rate than in Europe or North America, the research said.

China: China marked one month without reporting any coronavirus deaths. Four new cases were reported today, all within the north-eastern province of Jilin, where some lockdown measures have been reintroduced.

Mexico: Mexico reported a record number of cases in a 24-hour period yesterday, with 257 deaths and 2,409 infections. It brings the total number of cases to nearly 43,000.

Brazil: Brazil passed 200,000 confirmed cases last night, giving it the sixth highest case load in the world. It has reported 14,000 deaths.

Bangladesh: A Rohingya man became the first person to test positive in the country’s huge refugee camp that is home to nearly one million people. The Rohingya have gathered there after fleeing Myanmar.

Europe: The European Commission has halted the delivery of 10 million face masks from China after some were found to be faulty. Meanwhile, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania today open their borders to one another, but anyone crossing over must quarantine on arrival.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Why ancient pandemics may hold the key to our future survival

Why the much-discussed “R” is not the magic number

It’s time to have a grown-up conversation about schools reopening

What Hannah Arendt can teach us about work in the time of Covid-19

Rutger Bregman: “It’s a wonderful time to be a social democrat”

14 May 2020 10:42 PM

What we're reading: Can Wuhan test all 11 million residents?

Testing time: With a reemergence of the coronavirus, Wuhan, China, announced its plans to test each of its 11 million residents in less than two weeks. That’s unlikely, given current rates of testing, The New York Times reports, but the scale of the response is still something governments everywhere will be watching.

Dining out: One big question restaurants face is how to operate while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Eater reports on Berkeley, California’s hope of adopting an idea from Vilnius, Lithuania: Turn the streets into dining rooms.

Name and shame: If you see people gathering, or not wearing masks, or otherwise breaking social distancing rules, what’s the right way to respond? Vox talked to a philosophy professor who explains why scolding people doesn’t get the bests results.

14 May 2020 07:13 PM

Epidemiologist update: Brazil passes France in total cases; Chile's capital on total lockdown

An update from GlobalData Managing Epidemiologist Natasha Karim:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 4,364,000, with over 297,000 deaths and 1,560,000 recoveries.

In Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and Chile will be countries to watch as each continues to experience a record number of daily cases or deaths. To date, the daily mortality reached all-time highs in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. Additionally, Brazil set a record high with 11,385 new daily cases, and surpassing France’s total cases. In Chile, a significant spike of more than 60% increase in daily new cases triggered a total lockdown of the nation’s capital.

In China, Wuhan launched its mass testing drive in response to a resurgence of cases observed over the weekend. While some residents are supportive of this initiative, others are concerned over further spreading the infection while waiting in long lines. 

14 May 2020 05:44 PM

Crime in London is at a record low while reports of anti-social behaviour surge

London is seeing its lowest level of crime for at least the last four years as lockdown creates fewer opportunities for burglars, thieves and muggers.

New figures show April had the lowest total number of recorded offences since comparable monthly data was first published in May 2016.

Some of the drops have been huge. Theft from the person was down by 86% compared to April 2019, while robbery dropped by 70% and shoplifting by 54%. Fewer open shops  and fewer potential victims on the streets  have meant less opportunity and therefore much less acquisitive crime.

Burglaries are down by 42%, which also stands to reason. If everyone is at home, burglary becomes far riskier.

Violent crimes with injury  crucially, not including domestic abuse  are down by 41%.

Just as significant are the crimes that have not dropped dramatically.

Reports of common assault fell by only 5% in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

The Metropolitan Police say that common assaults tend to occur when people are known to each other – including domestic assaults.

And though recorded crime is down, police are still being kept busy.

Calls reporting anti-social behaviour  which aren’t counted as crimes  have hit a record high.

There were 69,931 such calls in London in April, roughly one every 40 seconds.

That is three times more than the 21,724 recorded in April 2019, and a record high. 

Lockdown provides the most likely explanation: what counts as “anti-social behaviour” now, when most people are supposed to be at home or keeping a safe distance from others, is very different to pre-epidemic days.

When we look at individual boroughs we find Tower Hamlets had the most “excess” anti-social behaviour calls (2,603) compared to the level we’d expect in an average April.

That was followed by Hackney (2,452), Newham (2,412) and Haringey (2,366).

–Michael Goodier

14 May 2020 02:58 PM

Charts: Decline in jobs market appears to be slowing

The coronavirus crash in the jobs market appears to be starting to taper off in several badly hit industries.

Figures from data analytics firm GlobalData shows that while the jobs market has contracted since 1 March, in recent weeks the number of available jobs remained flat in the hardest hit sectors.

All of the sectors tracked have seen jobs shrink – but some have escaped more lightly than others.

The statistics show that the number of travel and tourism jobs available for application has fallen to a fifth of what it was on 1 March.

However jobs in the oil and gas industry have dropped just over 30% compared to 1 March.

Tracking the economic sectors hit hardest by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Covid-19 has had a major, ongoing economic impact across the globe, but that impact is not uniform across different industries. While some economic sectors have seen business rapidly decline, others have – to date – been more stable. Some have even seen an increase in demand.

This chart aims to give a broad overview of which sectors are suffering the most since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. It uses exclusive dynamic intelligence provided by GlobalData to track the number of jobs open for applications, across the world, across 19 economic sectors. The summary chart shows the six which have seen the biggest percentage drop in these "active" jobs.

Economic sector impact chart

14 May 2020 12:58 PM

In the UK, Londoners are by far the least likely to have gardens

The Office for National Statistics has released some fascinating data showing the percentage of households in every district in Britain who have access to a private outdoor space. (An earlier version of this piece said gardens, but it’s possible these figures include balconies and so forth too.)

My colleague Michael has already written up the headline findings, noting that ethnic minorities and manual workers were less likely to have private outdoor space than the rest of the population. He also noted that Londoners were the most likely to be living without private outdoor space: 21% of households in the capital don’t have gardens, compared to between 7% and 13% elsewhere in the other nations and regions of the UK.  

But this, if anything, understates quite what an outlier the capital is. In the median local authority, 90.4% of households have gardens: in half the councils in Great Britain, more households have access to gardens; in half of them, fewer do. Literally every London borough has more homes without gardens than that. (The closest to the average is Havering, where 89.7% of households have gardens.) 

The nine councils in which fewest households have gardens are all in London. In five London boroughs – Tower Hamlets, Camden, Westminster, Southwark, Hackney and Islington – that number is under 70%. In the City of London it’s just 7%, though given that this is the City of London we’re talking about it’s almost surprising it’s that high. (Honestly, where are all the houses with gardens hiding in Europe’s biggest financial district?)

The New Statesman’s head of data David Ottwell has turned the data into this map:

That white space in and around central London might offer some insight into why, despite lockdown, the capital’s parks have remained quite so crowded recently: 44% of Londoners live within five minutes of a park,

Two other interesting things I’ve spotted this morning. Firstly, London’s first major new cycle path is open – it’s not, as TfL suggested last week, along Euston Road, but along Park Lane. (The latter has fewer junctions, and so may have been less of a technical challenge to construct.) Here are some pictures, courtesy of the capital’s walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman:

 

 

Secondly, some cheery traffic stats. Not a single person has been fatally struck by a car in New York City for a record 58 days. In London, meanwhile, there has not been a single such incident in the whole of May. Every cloud, eh?

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

14 May 2020 11:57 AM

Number of patients waiting 6+ weeks for a diagnostic test triples

The number of people waiting six or more weeks for a diagnostic test in England almost tripled in March 2020 alone as Covid-19 saw hospital postpone “non-urgent” treatment.

New figures from NHS England show that, by the end of March, 85,446 patients had been waiting six or more weeks for diagnostic tests and procedures – up from 29,832 in February and 26,483 in March 2019.

The data covers a series of 15 different medical procedures including MRIs, heart tests, colonoscopies and gastroscopies. 

While the total number of people waiting for tests actually fell in March, the percentage waiting for more than six weeks shot up above 10%.

The tests with the highest increases in the share of patients waiting for them were bone density scans, non-obstetric ultrasounds, and hearing tests.

The NHS Improvement Plan, put into motion in 2004, set a milestone that no one should wait for more than six weeks for a diagnostic test by March 2008. The number waiting for more than six weeks is the highest since then.

 

14 May 2020 11:25 AM

One in eight UK homes have no garden – with ethnic minorities and manual workers the worst affected

Black people are almost four times as likely as white people to have no access to gardens, patios or balconies.

That’s according to new data released by the ONS out today, which shows that one in eight homes in Britain has no garden.

Access to outdoor space – which studies have shown can benefit mental health – has become even more crucial during lockdown, as people have been forced to remain at home.

However, the new data shows there are large regional and demographic differences across Britain when it comes to accessing outdoor space.

Some 37% of black people have no access to outdoor space at home, compared to just 10% of white people.

And the ONS found that people in “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed were almost three times as likely to have no garden compared to those in managerial, administrative, or professional jobs.

Londoners also lose out: more than a fifth (21%) of homes in the capital have no access to a private or shared garden.

The gardens that do exist in London are also the smallest in the country – 197m2 on average, compared to 332m2 across Britain as a whole.

However, those in the capital are most likely to have a park nearby – with 44% of Londoners living within a five-minute walk of a park, compared to 28% of people across Britain.


 

14 May 2020 10:46 AM

Global death total set to top 300,000

The number of deaths from Covid-19 around the world rose to by 5,255 yesterday to a total of 297,197.

There have been 33,342 deaths over the last seven days - down slightly from 36,166 the previous week.

Covid-19 daily report

 

14 May 2020 09:34 AM

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

13 May 2020 10:18 PM

What we're reading: Two ways hotels can respond to the crisis

Pool time: The EU’s guidance for safe summer tourism and activity includes asking hotel guests to reserve time at pools and gyms, and retaining guests’ address records to aid contact tracing, The Guardian reports. European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager says the proposal is the best way to avoid a summer that’s “completely lost” for the tourism industry.

Finding room: Cities everywhere are trying to figure out vacant hotel rooms can be used to provide shelter to the homeless during the pandemic. Curbed reports that Los Angeles might be edging toward a new plan: Require hotels to lend rooms if they’ve used public money or lands to be built.

A lesson in leadership: Slovakia has done a lot right in response to the coronavirus, and its flattened curve reflects that. One thing that stands out in particular, The Atlantic writes, is how its leaders actively demonstrate best practices for public health, including wearing masks when they make public appearances.

13 May 2020 05:08 PM

Epidemiologist update: New clusters emerge in regions that were seeing success

An update from GlobalData Managing Epidemiologist Natasha Karim:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 4,278,000, with over 292,000 deaths and 1,502,000 recoveries.

As nations continue to gradually lift lockdown measures, new clusters emerge in regions once commended for their mitigation efforts, including South Korea, Singapore, and Wuhan, China. In South Korea, more than 100 new cases were reported over the weekend in a popular Seoul nightlife district; in Wuhan, six new cases were confirmed over the weekend after more than a month, prompting the city to order testing for all residents; and in Singapore, more than 23,000 cases were linked to migrant worker dormitories at the end of April.

Brazil continues to experience a surge in confirmed cases; with 178,214 cases, the country surpassed Germany's 173,289 cases, and draws closer to the 178,349 cases in France. Additionally, Brazil records its highest death toll to date with 881 confirmed deaths.

13 May 2020 12:29 PM

UK transport secretary says he’d steer clear of public transport

Another day, another bunch of news footage of people cramming themselves onto London’s public transport network in the middle of a pandemic. This time it’s the buses that are getting all the attention thanks to this tweet from Sky News.

Sights such as these have led Grant Shapps to tell BBC Breakfast that he wouldn’t personally risk getting on a crowded bus or tube in the current climate. "People should try to avoid that," the transport secretary said. "There are a lot of extra staff marshallers being organised at train stations and bus interchanges to try to advise people to avoid going on that route.”

Obviously it’s part of Shapps’ job right now to communicate that public should keep public transport usage to a minimum. But for many people, it’s not clear they have a choice. The government has suggested that certain businesses start reopening, and public transport is the main way Londoners get to work. So many of those returning to work this week will have to take tube or bus – and not every boss in the land is going to be understanding about their staff’s desire to avoid peaks hours services. Most of those crowding onto public transport are not doing so entirely of their own free will.

“We are asking people to be very sensible and not flood back to public transport,” Shapps told Sky News. “Even with all the trains and buses back to running when they are, there will not be enough space. One in 10 people will be able to travel without overcrowding." But it’s very far from clear that asking nicely is going to solve this one. More from the Guardian here.

13 May 2020 10:50 AM

Global deaths continue to fall

Daily new deaths from Covid-19 continue to fall in most countries with the largest outbreaks. 

Worldwide, the US is continuing to see the highest number of new deaths from Covid-19, followed by the UK – however in both countries the figure is falling.

Brazil is currently seeing the most rapid spread of the disease, with 808 new deaths yesterday, up from 571 the week before.

Although the raw number of deaths in many countries rose yesterday compared to Monday, that is likely to do with the "weekend effect" – a lag in data collection over the weekend.
At least 291,942 people have now died from the disease worldwide.

Covid-19 daily report


 

13 May 2020 09:40 AM

Morning briefing: Tax hikes to foot UK’s coronavirus bill?

Good morning.

A leaked Treasury document suggests Chancellor Rishi Sunak may need to hike income tax, freeze public pay or end the pension triple-lock to foot the bill for the coronavirus pandemic. The document, obtained by the Telegraph, predicts the UK’s budget deficit will reach £337bn in 2020 – the March Budget predicted a £55bn deficit. Tax rises and spending cuts that raise up to £30bn could be required to fund the increased debt, and may be announced within weeks, the document says. In the worst-case scenario, the deficit will reach £516bn this year, requiring £90bn in cuts and tax rises, while the Treasury’s most “optimistic” scenario forecasts a £209bn deficit.

The news comes as the government officially lifts lockdown measures for the first time. From today, people can exercise outdoors as much as they want and meet a friend in the park, while those that cannot work from home are encouraged to resume their commute, avoiding public transport when possible. Scientists at University College London have said 8 million people with underlying health issues should be exempt from the government’s back-to-work plans to avoid a deadly second spike of infections. In a new study published in the Lancet, they said people with conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart problems – about a fifth of the working population – should stay home.

One set of businesses allowed to reopen today are estate agents, a move designed to kickstart the stalled housing market. Removal firms and conveyancers can return to business, show homes can open and councils can restart construction in residential areas in staggered shifts. Anyone buying a house can now view properties again, creating a bizarre situation whereby people can visit a strangers’ home, but not see their family. It is estimated that 450,000 buyers and renters have moving plans on hold.


Global updates:

Mexico: Mexico recorded 353 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, the largest daily rise in the country by far. The number is nearly 100 more than its previous record, seen last week.

New Zealand: New Zealand will today move into a “level two” alert from level three, allowing retail stores, restaurants, cinemas and public spaces to reopen. Mass gatherings are limited to 100 people. Funerals were supposed to be restricted to 10 people, but the government has amended its rules so that 50 mourners can gather.

Singapore: Singapore will test all 323,00 migrant workers living in cramped dormitories for coronavirus, authorities have announced. Infection numbers have spiked among the workers, fuelling a second wave of infections in the country.

Brazil: The country has recorded its highest daily death toll to date, with 881 new deaths. Infection numbers have now passed 177,000.

China: The city of Wuhan will test all of its 11 million residents, local media has reported.

India: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a $270bn economic stimulus package for workers and small businesses, worth about 10 per cent of national GDP.

Europe: An uneven economic recovery from the pandemic would be an “existential threat” to the European Union, the bloc’s economic commissioner has said.

Read more on the New Statesman:

The 2 per cent fall in UK GDP shows why radical economic policy is needed

Rishi Sunak has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – but it can’t last forever

It’s achieving growth, not paying off the debt, that will be difficult after Covid-19

Covid-19 has exposed the limits of the politics of individualism

Why Poland’s “ghost election” sends a warning about its democracy

12 May 2020 09:59 PM

What we're reading: The office hours that could fight infection

The new work week: Returning to the office will be a challenge everywhere, but Fast Company writes about a schedule that could get people back together without new outbreaks: Four days in the office, followed by 10 days out.

Retail returns: As department stores attempt to get back in business, Covid-related changes are sure to come. The New York Times reports on the ways large stores will be different, including more visible cleaning efforts, contactless payments, and taking a step back from hospitality services.

Lasting effects: Seemingly everything is changing right now, and it’s hard to process what coronavirus consequences are here to stay. Vox has a good roundup of the health, economic, and social effects that could linger for years.

12 May 2020 04:45 PM

Epidemiologist update: Russia climbs to second highest number of cases

An update from GlobalData Epidemiologist Natasha Karim:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 4,194,000, with over 286,000 deaths and 1,464,000 recoveries.

Russia now leads the Eurasian region with over 232,000 confirmed cases, ranking second highest in the world following the US. Of the top 10 most affected countries outside of the US and Russia, the majority are experiencing a decrease in daily cases, with the exception of Brazil and Iran, with over 169,000 and 109,000 cases, respectively.

Meanwhile, India eases lockdown restrictions by restarting its train network, one of the world’s largest in the world, despite rising infections. While passengers will wear masks, the sheer number of passengers and tight quarters is concerning; more than 54,000 people have made reservations.

12 May 2020 02:53 PM

Economic forecast: Western GDP decline estimates revised downward

The GDP growth forecast for European countries and the US have been revised downwards yet again, with estimates for France seeing the biggest drop.

Italy remains the country likely to take the biggest hit, according to this week’s GlobalData forecasts, with the country’s economy expected to shrink by 9.4% during 2020.

France is now expected to see a 8.4% shrinkage of GDP over the year, compared to last week’s estimate of 7.4%.

The UK economy is expected to shrink by 7.6% this year, Germany’s by 6.7% and that of the US by 5.3%.

Both China and India continue to register modest estimated positive growths of 0.8% and 1% respectively.

Stock markets have seen some positive growth from last week in all markets except India.

Covid-19 macroeconomic dashboard

We are using exclusive dynamic figures provided by GlobalData analysts to track key economic indicators in major world economies hit by Covid-19. Deaths from the virus are plotted alongside the indexed performance of each country's major stock exchange and the number of "active jobs" – jobs open for applications across all major industries. Figures are tracked daily from 1 March 2020.

Covid-19 macroeconomic dashboard

12 May 2020 12:08 PM

US now double the deaths of UK, Spain and France combined

The number of Covid-19 cases continues to fall with the number of deaths seeing an expected post-weekend slight uptick on Monday, our coronavirus tracker shows.

The total number of cases is now at 4,117,502, with the number of confirmed Covid-19 deaths now at 286,330.

The US continues to have the biggest share of those, recording 1,156 deaths yesterday. That’s double the number of deaths in the UK, Spain and France combined.

The mortality rate in all the countries in our tracker is generally trending downwards. However, as lockdowns are eased in some capacity across the world, some fear we could see the numbers climb back up.

Covid-19 daily report

12 May 2020 11:04 AM

UK government releases Covid-19 'safer travel guidance' for public transport users

Great news, commuters: the UK government has released its guidance for how to use public transport safely in the age of covid-19. 

As is often the way with official government documents, the guidance is much shorter than it looks: it frequently repeats itself, as it offers basically the same set of suggestions for when using each different mode of transport. Much of the advice for how to behave in a taxi, it turns out, can also apply on a train.

The document begins by asking you to consider whether your journey is really necessary, and suggesting you walk or cycle if you can. A fair chunk of the suggestions that follow fall under the heading of “helpful, but essentially common sense”: if you can, travel at off-peak times; buy tickets electronically or using contactless payments to avoid contact; where possible, wear face coverings (this won’t protect you, the guidance admits, but could protect others from your germs).

Others, though, sound more like wishful thinking.

“Taking a less busy route and reducing the number of changes (for example between bus and train) will help you keep your distance from others.” 

I’m sure that’s true – but the least busy route is not necessarily the one involving fewest changes, so the two halves of this sentence may contradict one another. And anyway, if less busy routes were available surely most people will take them already? “Take the least unpleasant route to work,” is not helpful advice.

This line has a similar problem: 

“Try to start or end your journey using a station or mode of transport you know to be quieter or more direct. For instance, walk the first or last mile of your journey, or alight at an earlier station, where this is possible.”

Nice idea, but simply put, not everyone will have the option. Then there’s this piece of genius:

“Wait for the next service if you cannot safely keep your distance on board a train, bus or coach.” 

Can we really feel confident that the next service will be quieter? Even though, on Saturday, transport secretary Grant Shapps said that the UK’s transport network would be operating at 10% of capacity?

That feels unlikely to me. In fact, elsewhere, the guidance all but admits as much...

“Some routes may be busier than usual due to social distancing measures or changes to previous timetables or schedules. Keep your distance from people outside your household. Public Health England recommends keeping a distance of 2 metres, where possible.”

That “where possible” is doing a lot of heavy lifting.

At any rate: it is probably better that the government issues guidance than that it doesn’t. But I’m not sure how useful any of this really is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.


 

12 May 2020 10:23 AM

England and Wales have passed deaths peak, ONS figures show

There were over 46,500 more deaths than expected since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in March and up to 1 May, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

Only 33,400 of these deaths (72%) were officially attributed to Covid-19. That leaves some 13,237 deaths unaccounted for.

These “unexplained” deaths could partially be a result of undercounting the true Covid-19 mortality as well as unrelated deaths caused by limited access to healthcare services during the lockdown.

Almost 18,000 people died in England and Wales over the week to 1 May alone – compared to the 10,000 average for the same week in the previous five years.

The figures are based on a count of weekly deaths in England and Wales by the date when those deaths were registered. An additional, provisional figure released by the ONS shows the number of deaths that actually occurred up to 1 May linked to Covid-19 was at least 35,044.

The good news is we’re seeing the number of deaths – both attributed to Covid-19 and “unexplained” – significantly drop for the first time since the start of the outbreak.

The chart below shows the number of weekly deaths at the end of April has shrinked compared to the previous weeks. However, it is still much higher than the expected mortality rate for this time of year.


 

12 May 2020 09:32 AM

Morning briefing: Rishi Sunak extends and amends UK furlough scheme

Good morning.

Today, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to extend the government’s furlough scheme until the end of September. From July, workers will only receive 60 per cent of their wages from the scheme, rather than the current 80 per cent, according to reports. Employees will be able to work part-time, with the government topping up their salary.

Sunak, due to speak in the House of Commons at 12:30pm, has previously said the scheme is economically unsustainable in its current form, but Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner warned that the government might “pull the rug from underneath people’s feet” by reducing payments too early, causing more damage in the long-term. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for his part, pledged yesterday that the government would continue to support the “lowest-paid people in our society”. More than six million people from 800,000 companies are currently getting paid through the scheme. 

Last night, the government published Covid-19 guidance for businesses, which includes instructions for employees to take “all reasonable steps” to help people work from home, and to carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment in consultation with employees or trade unions. All businesses with over 50 employers are expected to publish their assessment online. Companies should redesign workplaces so that workers can stay two metres apart, erecting barriers in shared spaces and staggering start times to minimise contact.

The Trade Unions Congress, which has repeatedly criticised the government in recent days, called the guidance “a step in the right direction”. But with the government telling employees to return to work tomorrow if they cannot work from home, businesses have been left with little time to make their workplaces safe.

Finally, Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning refused to say whether people have a legal right to refuse to go to work if they do not feel safe. Instead, he called for a “collaborative effort” between workers and employers. Asked a second time, he said: “Well, employment law has not changed, but that isn’t the point. The point is that businesses and employees should be working together to make the best of a very difficult situation.” The government’s calls for voluntary collaboration will leave many workers worried; yesterday, Johnson said he was “sure employers will agree” that people can stay home if they cannot arrange childcare.


Global updates:

China: China has reported no new domestic cases in a 24-hour period. It follows two days of new double-digit infections, including in Wuhan, which had fuelled fears of a second spike of infections.

US: Dr Anthony Fauci, a leading figure in the country’s coronavirus task force, will today warn the senate that reopening the economy early risks “needless suffering and deaths”, according to the New York Times. President Donald Trump has complained that states are lifting restrictions too slowly, and yesterday said the US had “prevailed” over the virus. The number of deaths passed 80,000.

Russia: President Vladimir Putin has eased lockdown restrictions by sending some sectors back to work, even as Russia recorded a record number of new coronavirus cases.

Germany: New cases jumped to 933 on Tuesday, up from 357 on Monday. It’s not clear whether the rise is due to the country easing lockdown, or to a delay in reporting figures from the weekend.    

Australia: Australian GDP will shrink more than 10 per cent in the three months to June, treasurer Josh Frydenberg has forecast, while unemployment will double to 10 per cent.

Singapore: Some businesses, including hairdressers, cake shops and laundry services, will reopen for the first time today. Both staff and customers will have to check in and out using a government app to allow for contact tracing.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Boris Johnson’s irresponsible government is rapidly losing authority

Boris Johnson’s Covid-19 threat alert system is a parody of mathematical precision

Yanis Varoufakis: Covid-19 has “turbocharged” the EU’s failures

The government’s “Stay Alert” slogan is working too hard

Is coronavirus leading to a rise in eco-fascism?

Despite the spin, little has changed over England’s lockdown

Read More

11 May 2020 10:18 PM

What we're reading: 'Open the streets'

Going out: As calls grow to turn street space into pedestrian space, The Atlantic issues a challenge: “Open the streets. Open at least half of them. … Do it now.”

Back to school: The UK is preparing to send children back to school, and it can look to a handful of countries in Europe and Asia that have already done so. Many questions remain about the virus and its effects on children, the New York Times reports, meaning reopening schools is still something of a gamble.

Paying up: American renters, by and large, paid their rents in April and May. That’s unexpected and welcome news for landlords, CityLab reports, but it raises another question: How long will that last?

11 May 2020 05:37 PM

Epidemiologist update: Russia passes Italy and UK in confirmed cases

An update from GlobalData Epidemiologist Natasha Karim:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 4,118,000, with over 283,000 deaths and 1,420,000 recoveries.

Several European countries enter their first week of eased lockdown restrictions, ranging from re-opening restaurants, bars, and salons to partially re-opening schools. While the daily confirmed cases are decreasing in most European countries, there is still concern over a second wave of cases. In Germany, where lockdown measures were gradually reduced at the end of April, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an increase in the infection rate, or the estimated number of people a patient infects. While there is a degree of uncertainty in the implications, this will be a country to watch as lockdown measures continue to lift around the world.

Meanwhile, Russia officially surpassed the number of confirmed cases in both Italy and the UK, with approximately 221,000 cases to the UK’s 220,000 and Italy’s 210,000 cases. This development comes in response to Russia reporting its highest daily increase to date with 11,656 new infections, making it the third most burdened country in the world, after the US and Spain.

11 May 2020 03:08 PM

Restrictions are being lifted as cases fall in major cities

The number of new daily Covid-19 cases continues to drop in major cities and regions in Europe and the US as Wuhan records first new cases since the end of the lockdown.

The US reported relatively stable numbers of new cases throughout last week but economic reopening in several states could push the numbers back up. There are also reports of an outbreak inside Donald Trump’s White House as some staff went into isolation.

The UK saw some of the smallest daily increases in new cases since March. Britain is also set to slowly ease restrictions as the official government guidance was changed from "stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives" to "stay alert, control the virus, save lives".

Spain is loosening lockdown rules as well, mostly in rural areas that were less affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Italy, which has the third highest death toll at 30,000, saw numbers continue to fall over the last week.

Elsewhere in China, authorities have reported new coronavirus clusters in Wuhan, where the outbreak first originated. These are the first new confirmed cases since lockdown was ended in April.

Monitoring the cities at the heart of the Covid-19 outbreak

Cities – with their high population density, young and mobile demographics, and developed public transport systems – are particularly susceptible to rapidly-spreading viral outbreak. Here we drill down into subnational Covid-19 figures to show which areas are seeing disproportionate numbers of Covid-19 cases.

While different countries count at different administrative levels, the pattern is clear: London and Madrid are "regions" in their own right, while New York State includes New York City and Lombardy covers Milan. This chart is currently being updated weekly with the latest figures – although some countries have a slight delay in publishing the very latest case numbers by region or state.

Covid-19 regional comparison chart

–Nicu Calcea

11 May 2020 12:55 PM

Can you really get to work without using public transport? Commuters in most of England already do

One of the most contentious things about Britain’s current lockdown status – or at least, one of the ones which has caused the most spluttering on Twitter, which is not quite the same thing – concerns the question of commuting. Consider this extract from Boris Johnson’s address to the nation last night:

“We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.

“And we want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.”

This led to a certain amount of disquiet on social media. How would it be possible, many government critics wondered, to get to work if you were avoiding public transport? Actually, cheerleaders for the government replied, most people don’t use public transport to get to work, and (I’m paraphrasing, but not by much) the belief that they do is a sign of how Britain’s London-centric media class is out of touch with real blah blah blah.

On this one, as it happens, the government’s cheerleaders have a point. It’s not quite true to say that only people in and around London rely on public transport to get to work. But they are massively more likely to.

This graphic from consultancy CBRE contrasts workers’ usual method of commuting in London, to that in the rest of England:

Perhaps surprisingly, similar proportions of the population walk (9-10%) or cycle (4-5%) in both samples. But twice as many take a bus or coach in London (15% vs 7%), and nearly four times as many take the train (38% vs 10%), compared to the rest of the country. On the other side of the equation, at 67%, the percentage who drive is more than twice as high in England as a whole than in London, where it’s just 30%.

This should be no surprise. Between tube, trains and buses, London has a comprehensive, and generally (no, really) pretty good public transport network. Most cities in England do not. And so, in much of the country, people who don’t live within a mile or two of their office will opt to drive.  

These charts from the Centre for Cities, based on 2011 census data and looking at England’s core cities, make the same point. On public transport use London is way out ahead:

On car use, it’s way behind:

So in much of the country, the idea of commuting to work without setting foot on public transport makes sense. It’s London that’s the outlier.

That said, in London, the Prime Minister’s advice is confusing, because the capital is hugely dependent on public transport. Large numbers of Londoners don’t just choose to take public transport to work: they don’t own a car and so don’t have a choice. The result is footage like this:

In what one suspects to be related news, Transport for London has just advised passengers to wear masks.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.


 

11 May 2020 11:49 AM

People in care work and lower skilled occupations more likely to die from Covid-19

People working in social care have been dying at a higher rate from covid-19 than those in other jobs – along with security guards, taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs, and shop workers.

New figures released today by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) show for the first time the hardest hit occupations by the virus.

They showed that men were more likely to die than women, with 9.9 in every 100,000 men succumbing to the virus, compared to 5.2 women.

However those rates change massively when looking at certain jobs.

Care workers have been significantly affected, with men and women both almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than average.

Looking at men, those working in the lowest skilled occupations – who are unable to work from home – have also been more likely to die.


Male security guards were almost five times as likely to die than average; male taxi drivers and chauffeurs were almost four times as likely; and male bus drivers were almost three times as likely.

Male chefs were almost four times as likely to die from the disease, while shop assistants were twice as likely.

Conversely, those in professional and technical occupations were less likely to die than average.

The ONS said that the data does not conclusively prove that occupational difference has led to an increased rate of death, as other factors such as ethnic group or geographical location are also likely to play a part.

However it does suggest that exposure is a factor, with road transport drivers – and in particular taxi drivers – being among the most affected groups of men.

Some 76 taxi drivers have died of Covid-19 up to 20 April.

On the other hand, healthcare workers – including doctors and nurses – did not have a significantly higher rate of deaths than the general population.

11 May 2020 10:10 AM

Covid-19 deaths continue to fall

The number of Covid-19 deaths has continued to fall, with all of the countries with the highest death tolls seeing a general downwards trajectory when looking at a rolling average of deaths.

The figures today are likely to be skewed downwards by the “weekend effect” – so daily progress might seem better than it is.

The US continues to record the most deaths in the world, recording 731 yesterday – more than double the UK which saw 268.

However both countries seem to be on a slow downwards trajectory.

Covid-19 daily report

11 May 2020 09:32 AM

Morning briefing: England and other UK nations begin to diverge

Good morning.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has encouraged people who cannot work from home, including those in construction, to commute to their jobs once more, avoiding public transport wherever possible. In a speech yesterday he announced that, from Wednesday, people will be allowed to exercise outdoors an unlimited number of times, sit in parks, and play sports such as golf with household members. (This morning, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has clarified that the advice on working only applies from Wednesday, too.) 

Primary schools and some non-essential shops could reopen as early as 1 June, and both cafés and restaurants with outdoor space could reopen in July. Downing Street will publish a 50-page document with more detail at 2pm today before Johnson faces MPs in the House of Commons at 3:30pm. The government is expected to announce that people can meet up with one person from another household, providing social distancing measures are followed.

The plan has faced criticism both from trade unions and from other parts of the UK. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland will loosen rules on going outdoors this week, but they are beginning to diverge from England. Johnson’s decision to drop the “Stay at Home” slogan for the less specific “Stay Alert” has not been copied in the devolved administrations, with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling the new message “vague and imprecise”. No sunbathing, picnics or barbecues will be allowed in Scotland, she said, in contrast to England.

The Trades Union Congress said Johnson’s plea for a return to work was a “recipe for chaos”. “The government still hasn’t published guidance on how workers will be kept safe. So how can the prime minister – with 12 hours’ notice – tell people they should be going back to sites and factories?” asked general secretary Frances O’Grady.

Meanwhile, scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have found evidence that some strains of the virus are mutating, calling it an “early warning” for those hoping to create vaccines. The analysis found that, while most coronavirus genomes around the world are stable, some are not. “Even if these mutations are not important for vaccines, other mutations might be and we need to maintain our surveillance so we are not caught out by deploying a vaccine that only works against some strains,” said Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious diseases.

Global updates:

NZ: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has further eased coronavirus restrictions. Parties, weddings, stag dos and funerals will be allowed, but will be capped at ten people. The country reported three new cases.

France: Clothes shops, bookshops, hair salons and florists will reopen today, and primary schools will restart classes with limited pupil numbers.

South Korea: South Korea reported 35 new cases, with 29 linked to one man visiting clubs and bars in Seoul. More than 1,500 people who possibly encountered the man have been alerted. It marks the biggest daily rise in cases for a month.

China: Authorities tightened measures in the city of Shulan, in Jilin province near the Russian border, after a small outbreak of new cases; 17 new cases were reported nationwide, the highest in nearly two weeks.

Spain: Regions comprising half of the country’s population – and excluding Barcelona and Madrid – will be able to meet with family or friends in groups of up to ten people from today. Outdoor spaces in bars and restaurants can reopen with limited capacity.

US: Some of the country’s top health officials, including Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are now in quarantine after coming into contact with a White House staffer with coronavirus.

India: India will reopen its train network from tomorrow, even as new infections rise. Yesterday, the country reported more than 67,000 new cases and 2,200 deaths.

Australia: States are lifting lockdown restrictions this week following the publication of a new government plan for the next few months. Victoria is now allowing five people to travel between homes, and for groups of up to ten people to meet outdoors. New South Wales will adopt the same measures on Friday.

Netherlands: Primary schools will partially reopen today. Libraries, physiotherapists, driving schools and hairdressers will also reopen.

Switzerland: Primary and middle schools will reopen with limited class sizes today, while restaurants, bookshops and museums will also reopen with some restrictions.

Bangladesh: The country reported its highest number of daily infections (884) and deaths (14), as its number of cases passed 14,000.

Sri Lanka: Lockdown will be eased today, with government and private businesses reopening with limited staff numbers. The country has reported 863 cases.


Read more on the New Statesman:

British politics and Covid-19 is about to become a big argument about social class

Labour’s policy on renters and Covid-19 is one pledge too long

Exclusive: Video shows key UK official in 2016 anticipating “a pandemic that killed a lot of people”

The clamour to “reopen” the US could cause more damage than it prevents

How public figures are spending the Covid-19 lockdown

08 May 2020 09:40 PM

What we're reading: Helping people stuck at home with their abusers

Unsafe space: Many people are currently stuck at home with their abusers. The Atlantic reports on the ways that quarantine can keep victims from seeking help, and how some aid groups are trying to meet this new challenge.

Take it away: UK Environment Minister George Eustice said drive-through restaurants “made for social distancing,” and said he is talking to some chains about reopening even when they weren’t asked to close, The Guardian reports.

A grim forecast: Devastating US job loss numbers in April show that workers in almost every industry are vulnerable to the coronavirus economy, The New York Times reports, and a quick recovery isn’t as likely as many seem to think.  

 

08 May 2020 07:11 PM

Epidemiologist update: UK reports notably low recovery rate

An update from GlobalData Epidemiologist Bahram Hassanpourfard:

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 3,834,000, with over 269,000 deaths and 1,278,000 recoveries.

While the daily confirmed cases and deaths are decreasing in most European countries, the UK experienced a noticible increase in daily new cases on 6 May. While the number of daily confirmed death is still decreasing in the UK, the total recovered cases in the UK is very low at about 960 cases. Compared to the global recovery rate of 32%, UK's rate of 0.46% is concerning and shows that UK still has far to go until full recovery. Germany, a country frequently used as a model for Covid-19 response in Europe, also reported spikes in new cases of more than 1,000 on Wednesday and Thursday. 

Other countries including Russia, Brazil, India, Egypt and Mexico are still experiencing a rise in confirmed cases. There are indications of a slow shift of the pandemic toward African countries. Although compared with the US and Europe, the confirmed case numbers are not significantly high.

08 May 2020 03:19 PM

World cities show signs of life as lockdown restrictions eased

Road traffic and public transport use in Berlin, Rome, Milan and Madrid have picked up as governments in Continental Europe eased lockdown restrictions this week.

All four cities showed a definite uptick in mobility – although movement in Milan and Rome remains at roughly 10^ of the levels seen before Covid-19 struck.

That may well reflect some confusion and compromises in new rules introduced in Italy, which mean most shops will remain closed for another fortnight and people are only permitted to visit family and those with whom they have a “stable and enduring” link.

Road congestion and public transport use in Berlin rose above 20% of pre-lockdown levels this week; Madrid saw public transport use double.

Among countries where strict lockdowns remain in place, London saw public transport use creep above 10% of pre-lockdown levels – a result, perhaps, of somewhat confusing messages about how and when the Westminster government plans to ease current restrictions, as well as anecdotally-reported “lockdown fatigue” as bright spring weather tests people's resolve.

 

The Covid-19 lockdown: tracking if, when and where the world starts moving again

This graphic is fed by three key sources. We use Citymapper's mobility index to monitor public transport use, TomTom's live traffic index to measure road use, and summary data from FlightRadar24 to count the total number of commercial flights each day.

City transport index chart


 

08 May 2020 03:07 PM

One in three care homes in England have had Covid-19 cases

One in three care homes in England has now been infected with Covid-19 – with that figure rising to 100% in one London borough.

Every one of the 11 homes in Camden has now reported at least one case of the disease, according to updated figures released by Public Health England.

Across the country as a whole, 686 homes reported their first outbreak in the week ending 3 May.

It takes the total number of English care homes to have suffered at least one infection to 5,117 out of a total of 15,514 - or 33.0%.

The figures suggest the number of care homes reporting cases for the first time has slowed slightly over the past few weeks.

Some 856 homes reported their first outbreak in the week ending 26 April, 973 in the week ending 19 April, and 1,016 in the week ending 12 April.


However Public Health England only counts the first outbreak in a home - so there is no way of knowing whether care homes that reported their first outbreaks in early April, or even March, have seen more cases since then.

A geographic breakdown of the data shows there are now 52 local authorities in England where at least half of local care homes have had Covid-19 cases.

After Camden (100%) come two other London boroughs (Hammersmith & Fulham, and Kensington & Chelsea). Ipswich (71%) and West Oxfordshire (70%) are next – with both showing big increases in the last week.

Among major English cities, 60% of care homes in Sheffield have had at least one outbreak, as have 56% of homes in Newcastle, 55% of homes in Liverpool, and 50% of homes in Leeds.

08 May 2020 11:37 AM

UK rail industry preparing for increase in services

The UK off work today – even more so than we've all been of late – taking a holiday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. So the news here is relatively quiet. 

But a couple of developments do seem worth noting. Firstly, the BBC reports that Britain's rail services are to be increased, in order to ensure the network can cope when people return to work. 

During lockdown, only around 50% of timetabled services have been running. But on Monday 18 May this will rise to around 70% - the maximum level of service rail operators can provide given staff availability. 

The increase in services is likely to be more visible on commuter routes than intercity ones. But how soon the people of Britain will be using them still remains to be seen, because earlier today a cabinet minister seemed to pour water on the widespread reports that lockdown would begin to be lifted next week.


“People should not expect big changes from the prime minister on Sunday,” said culture secretary Oliver Dowden, referring to the speech in which Boris Johnson is expected to announce the loosening of certain restrictions. “But what they should expect, and this is what people have been asking for some time, tell us where we're going. Give us a road map ahead.”

How this caution fits with the newspaper front pages using words like “rejoice”, to communicate that Britain would soon start to reopen – stories so widespread that it looks a lot like they were briefed by someone in government – is not currently clear.

07 May 2020 07:25 PM

What we're reading: How will offices be changed by the pandemic?

A very different office: Your workplace probably won't look or feel the same by the time you're able to return to it. The Chicago Tribune writes about the changes coming for the function and design of offices, forecasting "a sharp contrast from the collaborative work spaces and amenity filled workplaces" that were common before the pandemic.

Restaurant watch: Restaurants have played an unmistakeable role in the revitalization of US urban areas, providing anchors for jobs, tourism, and local lifestyle. But they were also among the hardest hit businesses as soon as the coronavirus swept in, and The New York Times reports their struggles could spell disaster for small cities where food culture has become its own economic force.

Boom time for bikes: Bike sales are up across the UK, and so is bike maintenance business, the BBC reports. That should be welcome news for local efforts to add and expand cycling lanes while car traffic is down and roads are relatively clear.

07 May 2020 06:16 PM

Epidemiologist update: Iran sees cases surge after lifting restrictions

An update from GlobalData Epidemiologist Bahram Hassanpourfard:

With 87,941 new confirmed cases reported on 6 May, the total confirmed cases has passed 3,775,000 globally. About 75% of the total confirmed cases belong to the US and Europe. The global count of total deaths is 264,437 and the total recovered is 1,254,744 (about 33% of total confirmed cases).

Following the consistent reduction of daily confirmed cases in Europe, governments have lifted restrictions even further. However, concerns remain about seeing additional surges due to removing the restriction too early. Other parts of the world are also lifting restrictions, but have already observed surges. For instance, following a month of reduction in daily confirmed cases, Iranian officials allowed gatherings in many regions. Only few days later, starting on 1 May, the daily new confirmed cases increased significantly and the country has now passed 101,000 total confirmed cases.  

Daily confirmed cases in Russia, Mexico, and Brazil are still rising. Brazil in particular reported 10,503 new confirmed cases yesterday, nearly twice of that reported the day before. Dense, high-population urban areas like São Paulo are areas to monitor.

07 May 2020 05:30 PM

Sidewalk Labs pulls the plug on Toronto smart city development

The Toronto waterfront won’t be transformed into a Google-affiliated smart city after all.

Sidewalk Labs, the urban innovations unit within Google’s parent company Alphabet, announced Thursday that it is pulling the plug on its plans to redevelop a long-neglected section of Toronto’s Inner Harbour.

“[A]s unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan,” Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff wrote in a statement.

The Quayside plan was conceived as a model smart city, starting with a 12-acre development of mid-rise apartments and neighbourhood amenities that combined cutting-edge technology and data operations with leading ideas in urban design and sustainability.

The project has long drawn scrutiny from privacy advocates, however, who raised concerns over a streetscape laden with sensors – fears that only intensified as the public learned of data breach after data breach in Silicon Valley.

Former BlackBerry CEO Jim Balsillie was among the project’s detractors, telling the Associated Press on Thursday that “Sidewalk Toronto will go down in history as one of the more disturbing planned experiments in surveillance capitalism”.

Doctoroff says Sidewalk Labs will continue its work imagining the future of cities, citing the company’s ongoing projects in mobility, infrastructure, health care, and mass timber construction.

–Adam Sneed

07 May 2020 01:34 PM

Euston Road cycle lane features in London’s streets overhaul plan

The Euston Road is, in normal times, horrible: the closest thing central London has to a motorway, a traffic-choked six lane highway skirting the northern edge of the city centre. But these aren’t normal times, the pandemic and the lockdown mean that traffic has fallen to levels last seen in the early 1970s, and cities are rethinking their transport systems and use of space. 

So this morning Transport for London (TfL) announced that the Euston Road was to get a cycle lane. The agency said that its modelling suggested that the crisis could lead to a ten-fold increase in kilometers cycled, and five-fold one in walking, as commuters return to work but prefer to avoid over-crowded spaces like public transport. So the centrepiece of its “Streetspace” plan will be “the rapid construction of a strategic cycling network” using “temporary materials”. At a guess, this means using plastic wands to carve out chunks of existing road space, rather than fully separated space.


Euston Road – which parallels the northern side of the London Underground’s Circle Line – is the only brand new route listed in the press release. But Park Lane – another urban motorway – could follow suit, and delivery of already planned cycleway schemes, between Brentford and Kensington, and Greenwich and Tower Hill, will be accelerated. More details of these and other proposed schemes here.

All this, of course, is exactly the sort of reallocation of space from cars to bikes and pedestrians, that Will Norman, the mayor’s walking and cycling commissioner, has been hoping to achieve anyway. And once new cycle routes exist, the path of least resistance may turn out to be to leave them as they are. As the release notes: “The temporary schemes will be reviewed by TfL – and could become permanent.” 

So perhaps the Euston Road cycle path will become an established part of the London streetscape – though how much fun it’ll be to cycle in a place with that much air pollution remains to be seen. 

07 May 2020 12:15 PM

One in four “surviving” businesses say turnover down by half

Nearly a quarter of surviving UK businesses have seen turnover drop by more than 50% as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.

Some 23.4% of firms across all industries reported a drop in turnover of more than half – with a further 20.4% saying it had dropped between 20% and 50%, and 13.7% saying it had dropped by up to 20%. Hotels and restaurants, arts businesses and construction firms have reported the hardest hits.

Some 57.0% of businesses in accommodation and food services said turnover was down by more than half in the two weeks to April 19.


The same was true of 50.9% of businesses in arts, entertainment and recreation and 45.4% of businesses in construction.

The figures – from a business impact survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics – do not include businesses which have permanently or temporarily closed as a result of the virus.

According to the latest figures, 22.8% of companies across all industries have temporarily ceased trading. That is down slightly on the figure of 24.3% recorded a fortnight ago.

07 May 2020 10:20 AM

America records highest daily Covid-19 deaths since April

The US has recorded its highest level of Covid-19 deaths for more than a fortnight.

Some 2,367 new deaths were recorded in America yesterday - the most in a single 24-hour period since April 21.

Globally there were 6,592 deaths yesterday, taking the weekly total to 36,166 – down from 40,724 the week before.

Covid-19 daily report


 

07 May 2020 09:19 AM

Morning briefing: Britain takes first steps to lift lockdown

Good morning.

Britons will be allowed to go outside as often as they like for exercise from Monday as the government takes its first steps towards lifting the coronavirus lockdown. According to reports in the papers, some outdoor businesses such as garden centres could reopen and outdoor workplaces, such as construction sites, could restart. Some rules will be tightened – face masks may be required on public transport, and the Financial Times reports that border controls could become stricter, with a 14-day quarantine for new arrivals extending to British citizens. The government’s “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” slogan will be dropped for one slightly less cautious: “Stay safe, save lives”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a cabinet meeting today to discuss the plans, and will announce them on Sunday

The government will lift lockdown in stages between now and the autumn, the reports say. In late May or early June, primary schools will begin to reopen, while people from two households could begin meeting up in social “bubbles”, an idea First Minister Nicola Sturgeon floated for Scotland yesterday. From the end of June, secondary schools will return alongside some outdoor sports and cafés, while pubs and restaurants will open their doors around the end of August. From October, all remaining parts of the economy could restart, depending on how the virus is progressing, while football fans could return to matches.

In other news, coronavirus testing has been suspended in some parts of London because of a shortage of the necessary chemicals. The Independent reports the suspension covers south London hospitals and GP practices serving 3.5 million people, while NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said other hospitals were at risk of running out of the reagents too. The news comes after the government again missed its 100,000 daily test target, with the number of tests carried out dipping below 70,000.

And remember that flight from Turkey carrying 400,000 protective gowns that was delayed, delayed and delayed again? Every single one of the gowns has failed safety checks, the government has confirmed.

Global updates:

New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was considering reducing the country’s coronavirus restrictions to “Level 2” as early as next Wednesday, which would allow people to gather in groups of up to 100. Businesses, restaurants and schools would reopen.

Poland: The coalition government has pushed back Sunday’s presidential election. The ruling Law & Justice party wanted the vote to go ahead, but it was crowded out by coalition partner Agreement and opposition parties. The earliest the vote will take place is next month.

India: The first of 60 repatriation flights will land in India today. In total, as many as 200,000 Indians stranded overseas are set to return home – the biggest repatriation effort in decades.

Brazil: Brazil reported 615 deaths on Wednesday, the highest daily death toll anywhere in the southern hemisphere since the start of the pandemic. The country’s death toll now tops 8,500.

Pakistan: Pakistan recorded 40 deaths in a single day, its highest total yet. The total number of infections has reached 22,000. Railway services are due to resume on Sunday, 10 May.

Bangladesh: Daily infections spiked to a record 790, bringing the country’s total above 11,000.


Read more on the New Statesman:

On Covid-19, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings are trapped with few stories left to sell

The Conservatives’ threat to cut the furlough scheme shows the logic of austerity endures

Why can’t we focus during this pandemic?

Why 200,000 tests per day is a meaningless political goal

Capitalism after coronavirus

What the Spanish Flu pandemic teaches us today

To achieve a new settlement, the Conservatives must champion the empowering state

Chefs to guide you through lockdown

06 May 2020 10:48 PM

What we're reading: Which businesses are safer to open?

Super-spreaders: If you want businesses to reopen, it’s important to know which ones pose especially high risks of spreading the coronavirus. Writing in the New York Times, professors from the University of Chicago share their research into the ways people visit different businesses, and why a florist, for example, might be able to open sooner than a bookstore.

Making space: Even in a seemingly built-out city, there are several ways for cities to squeeze in a little more space for recreation. CityLab shares five ideas for repurposing common urban amenities, from graveyards to school campuses.

Word on the street: A street photographer in New York City interviewed his neighbours through their respective windows, gathering their experiences and anxieties of a life in quarantine. The resulting short documentary is, as The New Yorker calls it, “a quiet, contemplative look at the inner life of isolation.”

06 May 2020 04:52 PM

Germany says people from two households can now meet in public

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to a further easing of lockdown measures with the heads of the country’s 16 states, meaning two families can now meet in public or visit each other.

Current social distancing measures, which require people to keep 1.5 metres apart, will remain in place until at least 5 June. But people in residential care homes will be allowed to accept one specified visitor, and large shops can reopen provided people wear masks inside, Merkel said in a press conference announcing the new measures.

Since 22 March, a maximum of two people have been able to meet up – now, the limit is two households.

Merkel has also agreed an “emergency break” with heads of states that will see restrictions reinstated if new infections rise above 50 people per 100,000 population.

States will be able to decide how to reopen cinemas, restaurants and theatres.

The Bundesliga football league can also restart later this month, Merkel said, which would make it the first major football league to hold matches since the pandemic began.

06 May 2020 04:44 PM

Epidemiologist update: Fatality rates vary greatly by country

An update from GlobalData Epidemiologist Bahram Hassanpourfard:

The total confirmed cases of Covid-19 are 3,682,968 in the world while the case fatality rate stays at 7%, with the total deaths of 257,906. (Case fatality rate is defined as the proportion of confirmed Covid-19 cases that resulted in deaths.) The positive trend of daily recovered cases has stopped since 1 May. However, this reduction has not changed the total recovered rate significantly. The fall of daily confirmed cases continues in the US and Europe.

Among the top 10 most affected countries, the Covid-19 case fatality rate varies greatly. The UK has the highest rate at 15%. Russia has the lowest rate at around 1%. The case fatality rate in Russia may increase soon following the recent rise in confirmed cases. Russia, similar to Germany, has one of the highest number of hospital beds and nurses in the world, which indicates the ability of the country to control the pandemic. However, death reporting is not uniform across countries, and reporting accuracy also varies, therefore, reported deaths data may not accurately reflect the true burden of the outbreak. 

06 May 2020 03:07 PM

Crime in Northern Ireland falls by one-third during lockdown

The number of crimes recorded in Northern Ireland has fallen by nearly a third in the five weeks starting 23 March – giving us a first glimpse of how the Covid-19 lockdown has affected crime in the UK.

The figures, released today by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, shows that all major types of crime have seen a downward progression since the beginning of the lockdown.

Sexual offences in particular were down by nearly half (48.8%) compared to the same period last year, with robberies down by 43.9%. Drug offences were down 39.3% and burglaries by 39.0% as people spend more time in their homes.

Northern Ireland is the first to release records of crime activity that cover a significant time period since social distancing measures were introduced in the UK.

Data regarding crime levels for England, Scotland and Wales is only available up to the end of March 2020 so cannot reliably be used to track trends.

The figures for Northern Ireland are for recorded crimes – by definition, crimes that do not get reported to the police will not feature in the statistics.

— Nicu Calcea

06 May 2020 02:31 PM

Chart: Covid-19 deaths in stable decline in global hotspots; US remains stubbornly high

The US continues to stand out as the one major Covid-19 hotspot that can't definitively claim to be well on the way to winning the fight against the first wave of the virus.

Our chart plots confirmed deaths from Covid-19 as a three-day rolling average to help smooth out quirks in the daily totals.

The US totals have been falling on a week-on-week basis but remain stubbornly high.

By contrast, Italy, Spain and France are seeing deaths at well under a third of "peak" rates, with Italy in particular showing consistent percentage drops.

The global chart remains largely a product of the charts of the USA, UK, France, Italy and Spain, who together have been responsible for nearly three-quarters of deaths worldwide.

Covid-19 daily death totals: are we "flattening the curve"?

While every nation is giving regular updates on deaths linked to the virus, it can be difficult to interpret this data. Daily death totals are volatile and can fluctuate rapidly from day to day; countries can change the time they report, or their methodology, leading to sudden and abrupt change.

Each day is plotted against the average number of new deaths reported over the previous three days. The percentage increases (or decreases) are plotted separately.

The charts cover the countries with the highest number of deaths overall, excluding China, where daily confirmed deaths have slowed to a trickle, and Iran, where the data may not be reliable. The charts start at the point each country passed 1,000 Covid-19 deaths in total.

Covid-19 average daily deaths chart

06 May 2020 12:50 PM

Heathrow to pilot temperature scanners

London's Heathrow Airport is planning to introduce temperature scanners as part of the UK's lockdown exit plan.

Heathrow – the second busiest international airport in the world – will test a combination of heat-seeking technology and facial recognition cameras, in order to identify passengers showing symptoms of coronavirus, the Times reports.

The technology will be trialed at Terminal 2 over the next fortnight, before a wider rollout.

The paper also reports that the UK has drawn up a three-stage plan to ease lockdown. The first phase will see small shops and outdoor workplaces reopen, with larger shopping centres and more workplaces to follow in the second. Pubs, restaurants and other leisure venues will be the last to open.


 

06 May 2020 10:48 AM

UK overtakes Italy in daily deaths count

The UK has now overtaken Italy according to the government’s daily tally of Covid-19 deaths to become the worst hit place in Europe, with 29,501 dead.

Yesterday it was reported that the UK had the highest number of deaths in Europe when looking at its registrations on death certificates – a slower method of counting which is different to the daily figures released by the government.

However, the UK has now overtaken Italy using the daily metric – which looks only at deaths where people have tested positive for the disease, and is therefore more comparable to Italy’s daily figures (which also include deaths in the community).

Worldwide, at least 257,239 people have died.

However that grim figure still undercounts the true human cost of the virus – which is better measured using excess deaths – comparing the number of dead people to the usual figure at this time of year.

Covid-19 daily report


 

06 May 2020 09:51 AM

Morning briefing: UK must “wean off” government grants

Good morning.

Ministers’ plans to wind down the grant scheme for furloughed workers are taking shape: the Treasury is considering lowering the 80 per cent wage subsidy to 60 per cent, reducing the maximum payment one person can receive from £2,500 a month, or allowing furloughed staff to work part-time with a smaller subsidy. “We’ve got to wean off it,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last night. The scheme will run in its current form until 30 June. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to provide more detail on the plans on Sunday, giving larger businesses enough time to, if necessary, hold a statutory 45-day consultation before making redundancies at the beginning of July. The Times also reports that ministers might bar self-employed workers with profits of more than £30,000 from claiming government grants – currently, the bar is £50,000.

Scientists from Edinburgh University have proposed that Britain could leave lockdown by easing restrictions on more than half the population while strengthening protection for vulnerable groups. The “segmenting and shielding” plan, which suggests the elderly and vulnerable only see carers and family members, is under consideration by ministers.

Meanwhile, the Resolution Foundation think tank has warned that UK youth unemployment could top 1 million within a year unless ministers offer job guarantees or incentives for graduates and school leavers to continue their education. A lack of jobs for the “corona class of 2020” could see the number of unemployed people under 25 balloon by 600,000, it said.

Finally, as we reported on this blog last night, the scientist whose modelling led to the UK’s lockdown, Professor Neil Ferguson, has resigned from his position within the government’s scientific advisory group (Sage), after a Daily Telegraph investigation found he had at least twice been visited at his home by a woman with whom he was in a romantic relationship, and who lived elsewhere.

Global updates:

South Korea: The country has moved out of lockdown into an “everyday quarantine”, where people are asked to follow a detailed set of non-binding guidelines for every aspect of their lives, including eating in restaurants and taking public transport.

US: The White House has confirmed it will wind down its coronavirus task force, despite the fact more than 1,000 people are dying from the virus every day across the country. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said the economy must reopen soon, even if some people were “affected badly”.

Brazil: Brazil recorded 600 deaths in a 24-hour period, far higher than its previous recorded (474), as São Luís became the first major city in the country to enter lockdown.

Germany: The heads of German states can decide when to reopen universities, restaurants, bars, hotels and other businesses, and how to limit contact between people, according to a draft government agreement. Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with leaders from 16 states today to finalise the plans, which will see lockdown measures reintroduced if the number of new infections reaches more than 50 per 100,000 inhabitants over a seven-day period.

Italy: Italy’s latest daily tally of new infections stood at 1,075, the lowest in two months.

Spain: More than 70 per cent of new infections in Spain are among medical staff, the health ministry has said.

China: Schools in Wuhan reopened for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and Disneyland announced its Shanghai park will reopen on 11 May under “enhanced health and safety measures”.


Read more on the New Statesman:

How the UK overtook Italy to become the country with the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe

Why the UK’s lockdown rules are too vague and risky

What does Neil Ferguson’s resignation mean?

The economy needs real reform to recover from Covid-19

05 May 2020 10:40 PM

What we're reading: Is remote work here to stay?

Here to stay?: As people and employers get used to working from home, many wonder if the remote lifestyle can last beyond the pandemic, the New York Times reports. That could bring about lifestyle changes that change the urban landscape, from commuting patterns to public health – but only for some workers.

Tourism fallout: Airbnb is laying off a quarter of its staff – about 1,900 jobs – as it expects to bring in less than half of the revenue it did last year, Business Insider reports. The company will focus on home sharing while scaling back other travel and media operations.

Conservation collapse: When normal tourism stopped, so did ecotourism. Organisations that depend on travelers to fund their conservation efforts are warning of resurgent threats like poaching and deforestation, The Guardian reports.

05 May 2020 03:51 PM

Epidemiologist update: 3.6 million confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide

An update from GlobalData Director of Epidemiology Kasey Fu:

Currently, there are over 3,600,106 confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported in 189 countries. About 60% of the total confirmed cases globally were reported by the US, the UK, Germany, Spain, France and Italy. A total of 1,173,147 cases had recovered and 251,898 cases had died of Covid-19.

The reduction of COVID-19 cases in European countries continues. For the UK, after the last week's rise, there has been a significant reduction in the number of daily confirmed cases and deaths.

Brazil, Russia and Mexico appear to not have reached their transmission peaks. Yesterday, India reported 3,932 new confirmed cases and 175 new deaths, which indicates a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases. At the same time, India reached a new peak of 1,072 recovered. India has a large population living in dense urban areas, which makes it difficult to control the pandemic. There are concerns about how the Indian government is managing the pandemic response. 

More on CityMetric: Slums are becoming a focal point of the Covid-19 outbreak

05 May 2020 02:43 PM

Chart: Western economies expected to shrink 6 to 9 percent

The economic forecasts for the biggest Western nations affected by Covid-19 have been revised downward once again – with the UK seeing a particularly steep drop-off.

Italy’s GDP is expected to drop by more than 9.3% in 2020, according to the latest forecasts from GlobalData.

France’s GDP is set to drop by 7.3% during the year, the UK’s by 7.0% and Germany’s by 6.3%.

The UK saw the biggest downward revision from last week, when its economy was expected to shrink by just 5.4% in 2020.

The news came on the day the UK registered the highest known Covid-19 death toll in Europe.

The US economy is now expected to shrink by 5.2%. Japan’s is expected to shrink by 4.3%, slightly less than the 4.4% forecast last week.

Stock markets have generally remained stable across all markets in our tracker.

Covid-19 macroeconomic dashboard

We are using exclusive dynamic figures provided by GlobalData analysts to track key economic indicators in major world economies hit by Covid-19. Deaths from the virus are plotted alongside the indexed performance of each country's major stock exchange and the number of "active jobs" – jobs open for applications across all major industries. Figures are tracked daily from 1 March 2020.

Covid-19 macroeconomic dashboard

05 May 2020 01:56 PM

UK traffic falls to early 1970s levels

It isn’t your imagination, cyclists: there really are vastly fewer cars on the roads than normal.

Figures from the UK government, based on readings at 275 sites around the country, show that motorised traffic still stands at only around 35-45% of normal levels. That, according to Edmund King, president of the AA, means that traffic levels are “now akin to those in the early 1970s” – a time when the number of vehicles licensed to use Britain’s roads stood at around 13.5 million, only a third of the 38.9 million today. More retro road analysis from the BBC here.

Meanwhile in London, the mayor’s office is moving to take advantage of the sudden decline in traffic, by drawing up plans for wider pavements and new cycle lanes. 

Will Norman, the capital’s walking and cycling commissioner, has been enthusiastically tweeting examples of space being reclaimed from cars from across the capital. He explained the thinking behind the mayor’s “Streetspace Plan” in an article for BikeBiz.com on Friday.


 

05 May 2020 11:41 AM

Nearly 40,000 more dead than normal since start of Covid-19 outbreak, ONS says

England and Wales have recorded 38,554 more deaths than usual between the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in March and 24 April, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

Of those, only 71% were officially attributed to Covid-19 – leaving some 11,260 deaths unaccounted for. 

Some of these “unexplained” deaths may be a direct result of the coronavirus while others may be due to limited access to healthcare during the pandemic.

The figures are based on weekly monitoring of deaths from all causes. We can compare this with the average number of deaths seen during comparable weeks over the last five years.

In the week to 24 April alone, a total of 21,997 people died in England and Wales – more than twice the average of 10,458 deaths seen during the same week in previous years. It brings the total number of excess deaths since March to nearly 40,000.

That implies that the “official” Covid-19 death totals are a significant underestimate of the true toll.

Government figures showed a total of 22,173 deaths in England and Wales up to 24 April. This number comes from the Department of Health & Social Care and, until recently, only included hospital patients that have tested positive for Covid-19.

Separate figures published by the ONS count all deaths in all settings where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. These showed 27,365 deaths up to 24 April.

Even those figures seem to be significantly understating the total number of deaths being caused by the virus, either directly or indirectly.

The chart below shows that the number of weekly deaths from all causes was generally in line with expectations before the start of the coronavirus outbreak in March.

The number of deaths recorded each week has more than doubled since then.

Today’s figures do however show the number of excess deaths, and the number of total deaths from all causes, both fell slightly in the week to 24 April compared to the previous week. That suggests the peak number of fatalities may have passed towards the end of last month.


 

05 May 2020 11:06 AM

Daily death tolls drop in US and UK, global deaths down week on week

The number of people dying from Covid-19 rose again yesterday, following a dip in reporting over the weekend.

Some 4,067 people died, with Italy and France seeing their numbers rise compared to Sunday.

However, the number of new deaths continued to remain below the figures seen this time last week, with both the US and UK seeing numbers decline compared to Sunday.

At least 251,537 people have now died across the world from the virus.

Confirmed cases rose by 76,326.

Covid-19 daily report


 

05 May 2020 09:16 AM

Morning briefing: UK’s furlough could soon cost as much as NHS

Good morning.

The government could soon be spending as much on the wages of furloughed employees as it does on the NHS, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said last night, warning: “Clearly that is not a sustainable situation”. HMRC figures released yesterday showed 6.3 million workers, almost a quarter of all PAYE employees, have been put on a government scheme that pays furloughed staff 80 per cent of their wages up to £2,500 a month. The cost to the Treasury is £8bn and rising. Sunak promised there would be “no cliff-edge” for the funding, and that he was “figuring out the most effective way to wind down the scheme and to ease people back into work in a measured way”. He faces pressure from both sides: on one, businesses warning that they cannot cope without government support; on the other, senior Conservatives worried by the growing toll of the lockdown on the nation’s finances.

Speaking of: Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, has said the government’s upcoming review of lockdown measures should focus on “removing restrictions and removing the arbitrary rules and limitations on freedom as quickly as possible”. He said that “in some instances, it may be that the public have been a little bit too willing to stay at home”, adding that employers are “struggling to fulfil orders because it is difficult to get employees back from furlough”. Charles Walker, vice-chair of the committee, said businesses faced a “bleak” future. “We need to have a frank, open and honest debate about the ethics of trading lives tomorrow to save lives today,” he said.

Meanwhile, it emerged that fewer than 300 of the 18.1 million people who entered the UK between 1 January and the start of lockdown were quarantined. Passengers on three flights from Wuhan, China, and one from Tokyo, Japan, which was carrying passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, were the only people taken to government isolation facilities. Labour MP and member of the home affairs select committee Stephen Doughty, who obtained the figures, said the data “beggars belief”.

Global updates:

Ireland: People can now exercise within five kilometres from their home and people over 70 are allowed to venture outside, so long as they follow social distancing rules. Other lockdown measures remain in place until 18 May, when some shops will reopen.

US: The government has said it wants to borrow $3tn (£2.4tn) in the second quarter of the year, more than five times the current quarterly borrowing record, set at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

India: India reported 3,900 new cases in 24 hours, the biggest daily rise since the pandemic began. The rise could be due to increased testing. The release of the figures coincided with an easing of lockdown restrictions, which has allowed some shops to reopen.

Australia and New Zealand: The two countries officially confirmed plans for a shared “safe travel zone”. Such a zone “would be mutually beneficial, assisting our trade and economic recovery, helping kick-start the tourism and transport sectors, enhancing sporting contacts, and reuniting families and friends”, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a joint statement.

Nigeria: Restrictions were lifted yesterday in the capital Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city. Markets, stores, shopping malls and construction sites were allowed to reopen.

Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says citizens can now “leave the house, wherever you want”, after people were previously restricted to travelling 100 metres from their front door. Israelis are now allowed to gather outdoors in groups of up to 20.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Why Boris Johnson should now admit his government’s failures over coronavirus

Top economists warn the UK not to repeat austerity after the Covid-19 crisis

This is the longest I have gone without being touched. My body is starting to feel like a stranger

04 May 2020 10:56 PM

What we're reading: Can tourism come back in a 'bubble'?

Travel bubble: Australia and New Zealand are considering forming a “travel bubble” that would allow their residents to travel between the two countries, The Washington Post reports. It’s a novel idea that could inform how cities and countries return to some semblance of normalcy.

Home-buying goes virtual: Virtual open houses are gaining ground in lockdown, CityLab reports, as realtors try to keep the housing market moving. But there are still many more steps to closing a deal that are harder to take online.

Seizing an opportunity: In the race to address an emergency, progressives in California secured victories toward housing the homeless, releasing prisoners, and getting school children connected to technology. The New York Times reports on how these causes, long popular among America’s urban progressives, could fare after the emergency subsides.

04 May 2020 05:57 PM

Epidemiologist update: One-third of confirmed cases have recovered

An update from GlobalData Epidemiologist Bahram Hassanpourfard:

T​he total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 passed 3,529,408 globally, and daily confirmed recoveries reached a new peak of 65,151 on 1 May. The global mortality rate of Covid-19 is now over 7%, with the total death count at 248,025. Since the outbreak, over a third of confirmed Covid-19 cases have recovered.

Spain, Italy, France and Germany, along with many other European countries, eased up restrictions further. However, the UK experienced an increase in daily confirmed cases on 30 April and 1 May, which might be a sign that the country is not ready to reduce the restrictions.

The US appears to have passed the transmission peak, though more time is needed to monitor the situation, especially with parts of the country reopening. For Russia, the daily confirmed cases has been increasing sharply over the past week. Iran’s confirmed cases show a slight increase, which might be as a result of the government’s decision to open up public places in certain regions of the country.

 

04 May 2020 02:19 PM

NHS moves to wind up London’s Nightingale Hospital

The temporary Nightingale Hospital, opened last month in east London’s ExCeL exhibition centre, is being “stood down”.

The BBC reports that the 4,000 bed field hospital, opened on 3 April to provide extra capacity for the capital’s health service, is currently treating just 20 patients. Once they’ve been discharged, staff and some equipment will be redistributed to other hospitals.

In a briefing sent to staff, its chief executive Charles Knight confirmed that the success of the lockdown meant that “we have not had to expand the Nightingale’s capacity beyond the first ward”. However, the hospital will remain “on standby”, and could re-open at a later date.

In less cheery news, the Guardian has a feature this morning on how, a few miles west of the Nightingale, the East London Mosque has transformed some railway arches into a morgue capable of holding dozens of corpses if required. The in-house mortuary at the mosque has space for just four. In normal times, that would be sufficient.

You can read more here.

04 May 2020 02:04 PM

Covid-19 cases falling fast in Europe, US is catching up

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases is falling in major cities across the world, with countries in Europe registering the biggest changes in daily new cases.

Our tracker – which shows new daily cases by region in the countries with the most Covid-19 deaths – shows generally stable decreases over the past week. In the UK, the number of new cases has dropped by more than half compared to the previous week except in Scotland, where things haven’t changed significantly. Italy and Spain have been registering a generally stable fall in the number of cases for nearly a month.

The US is still behind the “curve” compared to Europe, but the number of new cases has been dropping over the past week, especially in New York.

 

Monitoring the cities at the heart of the Covid-19 outbreak

 

Cities – with their high population density, young and mobile demographics, and developed public transport systems – are particularly susceptible to rapidly-spreading viral outbreak. Here we drill down into subnational Covid-19 figures to show which areas are seeing disproportionate numbers of Covid-19 cases.

While different countries count at different administrative levels, the pattern is clear: London and Madrid are "regions" in their own right, while New York State includes New York City and Lombardy covers Milan. This chart is currently being updated weekly with the latest figures – although some countries have a slight delay in publishing the very latest case numbers by region or state.

Covid-19 regional comparison chart


 

04 May 2020 10:07 AM

Deaths drop as Spain and Italy ease restrictions

Global deaths from Covid-19 continue to drop slowly as mainland Europe begins edging out of lockdown.

There have been 37,570 deaths recorded over the past week – down from 38,769 in the week before.

Italy, Spain and France all recorded fewer than 200 new deaths yesterday. Those figures must be treated with some caution as weekend reporting has typically been lower than weekday reporting.

The general downward trend remains apparent, however, in all three countries. Italy and Spain in particular appear well past peak levels of cases and deaths, and governments in both have begun loosening their strict lockdowns. Spain allowed outdoor exercise from Saturday while Italy is doing the same from today.

The US remains the only country consistent recording four-figure daily death totals.

Covid-19 daily report

04 May 2020 09:55 AM

Morning briefing: Staggered shifts and commuting by bike

Good morning.

Business should stagger shift times, minimise the number of staff using equipment, reduce hot-desking and ask employees to work from home wherever possible, according to a draft plan for easing the lockdown seen by the BBC. Where keeping two metres between workers proves impossible, companies should consider physical screens between staff, personal protective equipment and extra hygiene measures, the document says. Over the weekend, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said people would be encouraged to travel to work by bicycle, and that hand sanitiser could be provided at transport hubs. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to lay out more detailed plans for leaving lockdown on Sunday.

Today, Johnson will co-host a virtual conference of world leaders, sans US President Donald Trump, and will urge countries to work together to develop a vaccine, insisting that it is “the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes” and that a vaccine is the only way to protect global populations from the virus. The Coronavirus Global Response International Pledging Conference aims to raise £7bn to develop vaccines, treatments and tests for Covid-19.

Meanwhile, good news in the hunt for a viable antibody test: the Mail reports that medical giant Roche Diagnostics has created a test it claims is nearly 100 per cent accurate. The company is in talks with the NHS and tests could be rolled out across the UK within two weeks, according to the report. Separately, Edinburgh scientists working for screening company Quotient say they have developed a similarly accurate test, and have called for talks with both the NHS and government to ensure the UK doesn’t miss out. The company is based in Switzerland.

Global updates:

Italy: An easing of lockdown measures today means millions of Italians will return to work. Around the country, restaurants are reopening for takeaway service and people are being allowed to move more freely within their region, including visiting relatives.

New Zealand: New Zealand has recorded no new infections in a 24-hour period for the first time since 16 March. No deaths were recorded either, keeping the total at 20. The country has begun to ease lockdown measures, which were imposed earlier than in many other places.


Australia: Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he held “good discussions” with the New Zealand government about reopening travel between the two countries, which he said would happen before other forms of international travel.

US: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has, in comments that contradict one another, said there is “enormous evidence” that coronavirus was man-made in a Chinese laboratory, and that he agreed with a US intelligence analysis that the virus was neither man-made nor genetically modified.

France: France will not quarantine people travelling to the country from the EU or Schengen area, it said yesterday. On Saturday, it said travellers entering France as the lockdown eased would have to remain in isolation for two weeks.

Thailand: Thailand has further eased its lockdown measures, allowing restaurants to serve dine-in customers again. Food stalls can reopen, and shops can sell alcohol for drinking at home.

Malaysia: Most businesses in the country will be allowed to reopen today as the government tries to restart an ailing economy.

South Korea: The country will relax social distancing measures further on 6 May, allowing gatherings and events for the first time.

Japan: Some parks, museums and other public spaces could reopen soon in certain regions, a minister said. The government is also expected to extend the nationwide state of emergency to 31 May today.

Singapore: Lockdown restrictions will be eased from 12 May, allowing some food outlets and manufacturing firms to reopen.

Read more on the New Statesman:

England’s other Covid-19 epicentres

How the non-return of the Premier League could expose the UK’s coronavirus failings to voters

How coronavirus is spreading through UK prisons

Households unable to afford food up by 81 per cent in just two weeks

01 May 2020 10:26 PM

What we're reading: A glimpse into a post-lockdown city

What lies ahead: As Wuhan, China, eases its restrictions, The Atlantic got a glimpse of a city that's figuring out what lies ahead: "Life returns in dribs and drabs, and the new normal is not the old normal."

Waste not: The CDC is considering the possibility of monitoring wastewater in the U.S. to detect outbreaks of Covid-19. Politico reports that the coronavirus appears in human waste days before most people show signs of infection, meaning officials could watch the sewers for signals to tighten lockdown orders and prepare hospitals.

The show goes on: The pandemic has shuttered movie theatres around the world, but not in Sweden, The Guardian reports. With new sanitizing and social distancing rules, plus an adapted business model, one theatre chain has kept operating, and even become Europe's biggest source of box office revenue.

01 May 2020 07:19 PM

The risk of a second wave could change the way we live for years to come

Pandemics of respiratory disease tend to come in waves, as the 1918 flu pandemic shows. After a relatively mild first wave, the illness receded before returning with renewed force in a new, mutated form – and it’s this second wave that accounted for most of the 50 million deaths.

Experts say the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus is unlikely to follow the same pattern, largely because it's not as prone to mutation. But as Laura Spinney, author of Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World, writes in the New Statesman today, governments still need to be vigilant, and measures to prevent a resurgence of the virus could change society for years to come.

She examines the key areas for the next phase of the global response, and discusses how they will impact our lives.

Read the full article here.

01 May 2020 06:00 PM

Epidemiologist update: More than 1 million Covid-19 recoveries worldwide

An update from GlobalData Senior Epidemiologist Ana Fernandez-Menjivar:

Comoros is the most recent country to report a case of Covid-19, making Lesotho the only African country to report no cases.

To date 3,276,373 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported across 189 countries. The number of total recovered cases has surpassed 1 million, and 38,487 newly recovered cases have been reported since yesterday. Global active cases have declined by 12,843 cases to 2,017,846 cases since yesterday.

The US, UK and Italy are the top three countries with the most active cases reported (853,066 cases, 144,778 cases, and 101,551 cases, respectively). Comoros, Mauritania, Suriname and Western Sahara are the countries that have reported the least number of active cases, only one in each nation. In the last two weeks, global total confirmed cases have increased from 2,120,824 on 16 April to 3,276,373 as of 1 May.

01 May 2020 02:37 PM

Berlin starts to move again amid signs of 'lockdown fatigue' elsewhere

Our weekly mobility chart shows a clear trend: Some world cities are seeing increased movement even before lockdown restrictions are eased.

Berlin has seen the biggest increase in both public transport activity and in traffic congestion over the last fortnight.

Schools, museums, galleries, zoos, playgrounds and churches are expected to reopen in Germany on Monday for the first time since the lockdown started. Some shops have already re-opened ahead of the lockdown lift.

Chancellor Angela Merkel – who is riding a wave of popularity on the back of her country’s relative success in controlling the outbreak – has stressed that social distancing must continue, and that the restrictions would return in the event of a second wave.

Madrid, London and Moscow are also seeing small bumps in activity – although the change is slight and could be due to changes in local circumstances rather than a sign people are flouting rules.

International travel is, however, still stagnant. Ryanair and British Airways have both recently announced they are cutting jobs due to low sales, with Ryanair expecting passenger numbers to stay under pre-coronavirus crisis levels at least until summer 2022.

The Covid-19 lockdown: Tracking if, when and where the world starts moving again

Restrictions on international and national travel to slow the spread of the virus caused a dramatic fall in global traffic by road, sky and sea. But the picture is not uniform across the world. Some cities in the Far East have avoided a total lockdown and as such have been seeing patterns which are a little closer to the norm.

In order to track the latest situation, this graphic is fed by three key sources. We use Citymapper's mobility index to monitor public transport use, TomTom's live traffic index to measure road use, and summary data from FlightRadar24 to count the total number of commercial flights each day.

City transport index chart


 

01 May 2020 01:18 PM

Covid-19 disproportionately affects the most deprived, new analysis shows

Despite coronavirus being commonly referenced as “the great equalizer”, new data has today confirmed it has disproportionately affected poorer neighbourhoods.

The most deprived areas of England registered 55.1 deaths linked to Covid-19 per 100,000 people up to April 17, the figures show. The least deprived had a rate less than half of that, at 25.3 deaths per 100,000.

These numbers – released tpday, by the Office for National Statistics  give the most detailed picture yet of the places that have been hit hardest by the virus.

They look at the number of deaths in each “middle super output area” neighbourhoods of around 8,000-9,000 people spread across the country.

These deaths can then be compared with separate figures showing how deprived, or not, those neighbourhoods are.

Those deprivation scores, updated by statisticians every three years, are calculated using a broad range of indicators  not just income and employment rates, but also things like local education levels, crime rates, access to housing and the state of the living environment.

The pattern is clear when we split the neighbourhoods into 10 equal sized groups, where “1” is the most deprived and “10” the least deprived.

Another way of showing the trend is by plotting every neighbourhood on a graph. Here the horizontal axis shows how deprived an area is: the further it is to the right, the more deprived it is. The vertical axis is the percentage of deaths between March 1 and April 17 that were due to Covid-19.

The blue line indicates that neighbourhoods towards the more deprived end are generally higher up in terms of the percentage of deaths that were due to Covid-19.

There are a couple of important caveats to the data. One is that people in poorer areas have always been more likely to die, of all causes. So in a sense it isn’t surprising that Covid-19 should hit them particularly hard. There has always been a death gap between the rich and poor; the signs are, however, that Covid-19 has made it wider.

As Nick Stripe, Head of Health Analysis for the ONS, said:  “People living in more deprived areas have experienced Covid-19 mortality rates more than double those living in less deprived areas. General mortality rates are normally higher in more deprived areas, but so far Covid-19 appears to be taking them higher still.”

The second point is that correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation: being poor doesn’t directly cause you to die of Covid-19, or make you more likely to catch it. Rather there are likely to be other factors which contribute to both poverty and to susceptibility to disease.

For example, it may well be the case that coronavirus spreads in areas where people tend to be closer to each other, such as cities, and the most deprived areas are generally in urban environments.

The new data also breaks down England by the type of place in which each neighbourhood is. This reveals that 64 out of every 100,000 people in major cities died due to Covid-19 up to April 17. Living in a major city is therefore even more of a risk than living in one of the poorest 10% of neighbourhoods.

More sparsely-populated areas saw a much lower mortality rate, with rural hamlets and isolated dwellings registering nine deaths for every 100,000 people.

London skews the statistics by a large margin: the 11 local authorities with the highest mortality rates were all London boroughs.

It is clear, however, that coronavirus can no longer be thought of as affecting everyone equally.


 

01 May 2020 11:45 AM

Coronavirus deaths down as Europe stems the tide

The number of new Covid-19 related deaths dropped below 300 in Spain, Italy and France yesterday.

The UK - which previously only counted deaths in hospital in its figures, but is now including care homes and other settings - saw 676.

The US saw more than 2,000 new deaths for the third day in a row.

Globally there have been 233,388 deaths, with 39,711 of those in the last week. That compares with 42,892 deaths the week before.

Covid-19 daily report

01 May 2020 10:40 AM

Morning briefing: 100,000 test target within UK government’s grasp

Good morning.

The government appears confident it will fulfil its pledge to test 100,000 people daily before the end of April – a target that previously appeared to be slipping away. Last night, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was “likely” the government would hit the target, while Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I think we will have either met it or be very close.” In some respects, the actual figure is arbitrary – NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, called it a “red herring” this week – but the ramping up of testing numbers will be seen as a success story for the government. At last count, the UK had tested nearly 82,000 people, up from 52,000 the previous day. We await figures from yesterday, the last day of April.

Meanwhile, hospital bosses are in two minds about guidance from NHS England to treat black, Asian and minority ethnic staff as “potentially greater risk” and consider moving them out of frontline positions. Several analyses have shown people from ethnic minority backgrounds are at an increased risk of dying from Covid-19. Hospital officials, however, are worried that they do not have enough staff to reassign ethnic minority workers. “Hospital bosses are very worried about this very high death rate among BAME staff. But it’s not obvious exactly what we can do. If you have a high proportion of BAME workers, how do you provide normal care if a substantial number of them move away from their usual roles? It’s difficult,” one official told the Guardian.

Lastly, care homes could be the “epicentres of transmission back into society”, a senior NHS England director has warned. According to the Independent, Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s senior incident director for coronavirus, told a private online briefing for NHS bosses that there had been a “shift in the recognition” of the extent to which coronavirus is spreading between patients and staff, and that care homes would be “feeding the endemic problem that we will have going forward.”

Global updates:

US: President Donald Trump claimed he was “confident” the coronavirus had originated in a lab in Wuhan based on evidence he’d seen, contradicting US security services, who yesterday claimed the virus was “not manmade or genetically modified”.

South Africa: South Africa has eased one of the world's strictest lockdowns, which banned jogging, dog-walking, and alcohol sales. From today, some industries will begin to reopen, but masks and social distancing will remain mandatory. The country will implement an overnight curfew.

Malaysia: Businesses in Malaysia will be allowed to reopen on 4 May, except for those that usually involve large gatherings of employees.

Australia: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated social distancing measures could be eased on 8 May, earlier than planned. The government was due to make a decision about lifting measures on 11 May, but Morrison said Australians had “earned an early mark”. Individual states and territories have already begun lifting some lockdown rules.

Indonesia: Cases passed 10,000, making Indonesia the second-worst hit country in south-east Asia.

Singapore: Singapore has housed some of its migrant workers who have recovered from Covid-19 onboard two cruise ships. Migrant workers have been the group worst hit by the coronavirus within the nation.

Russia: Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has tested positive for Covid-19, and will now self-isolate. The country yesterday reported 7,933 new cases of the coronavirus, a record daily rise.

Philippines: Provinces that have a lower number of coronavirus cases have begun easing lockdown measures today, amid fears that a lack of testing has masked the true scale of the crisis in the country.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Why the UK’s cultural divide is forcing Labour to be cautious over the Tories and coronavirus

“I’ve never been afraid for my own life before”: inside New York medics’ struggle against Covid-19

Death and mourning in the age of coronavirus

Read More

30 April 2020 10:28 PM

What we're reading: Social distancing on the Underground

At capacity: A report by the London Strategic Coordination Group says social distancing guidelines would reduce the Tube’s capacity to 15% of normal levels, and reduce buses to 12%, the BBC reports. The briefing also says such distancing rules would rapidly overwhelm the Tube and any authorities brought in to enforce compliance.

Up in the air: There has been a major drop in air travel, but crowded passenger jets are still taking flight. The US Transportation Security Administration is still screening about 100,000 passengers daily, and Vox reports that passengers are still boarding full planes, many without masks.

Encouraging signs: Denmark and the Czech Republic say they have not seen a surge in new coronavirus cases after easing up on lockdown orders, The Guardian reports. Germany announced it will take its own small steps to reopen some public spaces in the coming days.

30 April 2020 07:01 PM

Epidemiologist update: Spain and US post the most recovered cases

An update from GlobalData Senior Epidemiologist Ana Fernandez-Menjivar:

The number of countries reporting cases of Covid-19 has increased from 187 to 188 since yesterday. To date there have been 228,229 reported deaths due to coronavirus. The number of total recovered cases is now 986,062 globally.

Spain has reported the highest number of recovered cases with a total of 132,929 cases. The US follows Spain with 124,023 recovered cases reported. The top five countries with most recovered cases are Spain, the US, Germany, China, and Iran.

The number of active cases reported globally is nearly 2 million. The US has reported 855,466 active cases, making up 43% of all reported active cases globally. In Europe, the UK has reported the highest number of active cases at 139,418 cases, approximately 7% of the global total. While Russia has the highest number of active cases in Asia (93,806 cases, ~5% of global total). In South America, Brazil leads the count of active cases with 40,040 cases reported representing 2% of the global total of active cases.

30 April 2020 05:45 PM

UN housing rapporteur: Eviction bans aren't good enough

For the past six years, Leilani Farha has urged governments around the world to recognize housing as a human right.

But today marks the end of her term as the UN's special rapporteur for the right to housing – at a time when adequate shelter is as important as ever.

"[B]ecause we had a failure of governments to implement the right to housing, we now have very exposed societies to a deadly virus," Farha tells the New Statesman's Samir Jeraj.

Farha spoke about the wave of no-eviction policies cropping up during the pandemic, and why they don't do enough to protect people who may be sick, out of work, or out of money for the foreseeable future.

Read more from the New Statesman: Stay-at-home orders have exposed just how poor housing is, says Leilani Farha

30 April 2020 05:16 PM

Are people beginning to flout the UK's lockdown?

Are Britons flouting the lockdown? A new survey from the UK's Office for National Statistics, published today, has raised suspicions that some might be. The results suggest a slight increase in movement around the country, and a slight fraying of what we might call “community spirit”.

The number of people saying they had worked from home in the last week fell from 49.2% between 3 and 13 April to 44.6% between 9 and 20 April. That may partly reflect changes in individual company policy rather than people’s attitudes to lockdown, with some high-profile stores, for example, beginning to re-open branches.

The proportion saying they “strongly agreed” that community members would support them during the outbreak fell from 33.6% to 30.9%, while the number who hadn’t checked on neighbours in the past week rose from 26% to 34.5%.

People also seem to be slightly more optimistic about the future: 19.2% now expect their lives to be back to normal in three months or less, up from 17.6%. The proportion saying they expect the general economic situation in the UK to “get a lot worse” over the next year has dropped from 57% to 52.7%.

The words “slight” and “slightly” appear three times in the sentences above – and that’s not an accident. These are not big shifts; they don’t change the overall picture, and in some cases the level of change is smaller than the confidence interval. In other words, some of the changes might tell us little more than that, ideally, we’d have a bigger sample size. Nonetheless, there does seem to be some small movement, and in a consistent direction.

The key question the survey asks – if we are interested in whether the lockdown is fraying – is whether people have only left their home for permitted reasons. This was true of 85.4% of people between 3 and 13 April, and 83.5% between 9 and 20 April. That suggests “frayed” is pushing it, but it’s still something the government will want to watch closely.

30 April 2020 02:31 PM

New unemployment claims in the US reach 30 million in six weeks

The number of newly unemployed people in the US has jumped by more than 30 million over the past six weeks, new figures reveal.

The Labor Department stats show 18.6% of the US workforce has now filed for unemployment, and experts predict it could rise further to 20%.

Last week saw 3.8 million more people file for unemployment benefits, adding to the more than 26 million people that had done so since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

The pace of the layoffs seems to be slowing: the peak of job losses was during the week ending 28 March, where more than 6.8 million people filed for unemployment.

30 April 2020 12:13 PM

Lunchtime update: European cities planning new cycle lanes

A pair of European countries have unveiled a range of pro-cycling policies, both to enable commuters to avoid public transport during the pandemic, and to help reduce traffic for the long term.

The French government has unveiled funding of €20m (£17m; $22m), to create new cycle lanes. It’s also offering citizens a €50 voucher to fund bike repairs. 

The Belgian capital Brussels, meanwhile, is planning to create 40km of new cycle lanes in the city centre. More from the BBC here.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency has said that lockdowns will mean that global emissions fall by a record breaking 8%. And a study from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air has found that improved air quality over the past month has led to 11,000 fewer deaths across Europe, The Guardian reports.

30 April 2020 11:58 AM

Automotive jobs slump as world economy takes a further Covid-19 hit

Jobs available in the automative industry dropped sharply last week as the world economy continued to toil under the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our job tracker – powered by intelligence from GlobalData - looks at open positions across the world in a range of industries. The number of "active" jobs each day are indexed against the situation on March 1, shortly before the pandemic was declared by the WHO. Only the food service, power and pharmaceutical industries have seen a rise in active jobs since then.

On 17 April, jobs in the automotive industry were down 65.2% compared to 1 March. By 24 April, they had fallen to 51.9% of 1 March levels – the biggest negative week-on-week change in any sector.

Travel and tourism remains the worst hit industry over the course of the pandemic, with active jobs at just 28.4% of the levels seen on 1 March. The next worst-hit sectors – medical, insurance, mining and oil and gas – saw further week-on-week drops in job activity, too.

Tracking the economic sectors hit hardest by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Covid-19 has had a major, ongoing economic impact across the globe; but that impact is not uniform across different industries. While some economic sectors have seen business rapidly decline, others have been more stable. Some have even seen an increase in demand.

This chart aims to give a broad overview of which sectors are suffering the most since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. It uses exclusive dynamic intelligence provided by GlobalData to track the number of jobs open for applications, across the world, across 19 economic sectors. The summary chart shows the six which have seen the biggest percentage drop in these "active" jobs.

Economic sector impact chart

 

30 April 2020 10:21 AM

Morning briefing: “Granular detail” promised for sector-by-sector business plans

Good morning.

Boris Johnson will today chair a cabinet meeting to discuss the next steps during lockdown, and will this afternoon appear at his first daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing. Don’t expect fireworks: No 10 has briefed that Johnson will stay on message, reiterate the five tests the UK must pass before restrictions are eased, and warn of the danger of lifting measures too early.

But behind the scenes, preparations for post-lockdown life are accelerating: the Financial Times reports that ministers are drawing up industry-by-industry plans for how businesses can get back up and running, and that Business Secretary Alok Sharma will produce 10 papers setting out new industry rules in “granular detail” by the weekend. He is expected to advise businesses to restrict access to communal spaces, ensure staff wash their hands and use hand sanitiser, and allow office staff to continue to work from home.

One thing Boris Johnson will no doubt be asked about at this afternoon’s press conference is the government’s pledge to test 100,000 people a day by the end of the month (ie, today) – and ministers are finally admitting the target looks out of reach. Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said this morning that “it’s probable we won’t” hit the target, even though Professor John Newton, who is co-ordinating the government’s testing programme, said yesterday that he remained confident of fulfilling the pledge. At last count, 52,000 people were tested in a 24-hour period, although the figure appears to include nearly 20,000 retests. Testing capacity sits at 73,000 a day.

Global updates:

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel will today meet with state leaders to discuss the next steps for lifting the lockdown, including rules on religious services resuming. Germany’s viral reproduction rate – the number of people someone who catches coronavirus goes on to the infect – has crept back up to one. Any higher, and Germany may need to reinstate lockdown measures it previously eased.

France: The French economy shrank by 5.8 per cent in the first three months of 2020, the worst contraction since the Second World War. It follows a 0.1 per cent drop in GDP in the last quarter of 2019 and means that France – with two consecutive quarters of negative growth – is now officially in recession.

South Korea: The country recorded no new domestic cases in 24 hours. It is the first time that has happened since the virus peaked at the end of February.

US: President Donald Trump has accused China of doing “anything they can” to make him lose the 2020 presidential election, and said the coronavirus had “upset very badly” the prospect of a US trade deal with China.

Ireland: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar looks set to extend Ireland’s lockdown beyond 5 May, after he said that the rise in new cases, deaths, and hospital admissions was still too high to begin relaxing restrictions.

Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to extend the country’s state of emergency for another month.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Can Boris Johnson resolve the conflict between lockdown hawks and doves as the economic crisis deepens?

Up to one in 17 care home residents may have died since the Covid-19 outbreak started. Why?

Covid-19 has caused a major spike in anti-Chinese and anti-Semitic hate speech

Americans are drinking bleach because of Trump – and still Republicans stand by him

Politicians must do more than simply listen to expert advice – they need to challenge it

How coronavirus turned medical research into a free-for-all

30 April 2020 10:19 AM

UK on course for highest European death toll, US figures rise again

The UK is on course for the highest death toll in Europe after it changed the way it recorded its daily figures yesterday.

The change has led to a global jump in deaths of 10,485 overnight – with a sizable chunk of those (4,421) from the UK.

Statistics for the UK now include a total of those who have died after being confirmed positive for Covid-19 in care homes and the wider community – in line with many other European countries such as France and Italy.

It is unclear whether the totals for the US and Spain include these figures.

What is clear from the figures is that even if the US has passed its peak – and that in itself might not be certain – getting the daily death toll down will be a much more difficult job. Deaths there rose by 2,612 yesterday – the highest for some time.

Covid-19 daily report/

29 April 2020 08:59 PM

What we're reading: Paris stands firm on car restrictions

Eyes on the road: Mayor Anne Hidalgo says a flood of cars returning to Paris is “out of the question” when the city begins easing lockdown on 11 May. CityLab writes that Hidalgo is emphasising the importance of reducing pollution during a pandemic characterised by respiratory illness.

Apps abound: Contact-tracing apps have popped up quickly during the pandemic, promising a way to alert people when they’ve been around someone who came down with Covid-19. It’s an ambitious idea, but one that comes with privacy concerns and logistical hurdles, the New York Times reports.

Layoffs loom: City and state employees in the US are bracing for mass layoffs and furloughs unless the federal government provides aid soon. The Washington Post reports that up to 1 million public-sector workers could go without pay, leaving critical services understaffed at a time when they’re badly needed.

29 April 2020 06:55 PM

UK on track to record the most Covid-19 deaths in Europe

The UK is on track to record the most Covid-19 deaths in Europe.

The statistics now include a total of those who have died after being confirmed positive for Covid-19 in care homes and the wider community. Previously the total announced at Downing Street briefings only included deaths in hospitals.

It brings the total number of deaths in the UK to 26,097.

That figure still only includes those tested for the virus, so the true total is likely to be even higher.

The new methodology means the UK is now known to have almost as many Covid-19 deaths as Italy, which always counted care homes in its figures.

29 April 2020 06:35 PM

US apartment buildings see a dip in April rent payments

Multifamily apartment buildings in the US have reported a slight decline in April rent payments compared to this time last year.

A weekly survey from the National Multifamily Housing Council found that 91.5% of renters in professionally managed apartments had paid some or all of their rent by 26 April. (The survey does not include subsidised or public housing, and does not distinguish between full or partial payments.)

That statistic for April – the first full month of lockdown in many American cities – is down compared to the first 26 days of March, when 94.6% of renter households had made rent payments. It’s down slightly more from the same time period last year, when 95.6% of renter households had made a payment.

The group’s first April survey reported a much greater lag behind last month: Just 69% of renters had made a payment by 5 April, compared to 82% in the first five days of March. Still, advocates fear a prolonged health and economic emergency could exacerbate the US’s eviction crisis that existed even before the coronavirus.

More from CityMetric:

Americans are still being evicted during the coronavirus pandemic

For renters, an affordable housing crisis was already raging. Then coronavirus hit

29 April 2020 05:40 PM

Efforts arise to support street vendors during lockdown

When people stopped walking the streets, street vendors' business evaporated. But in several cities, efforts have arisen to help these workers, who are often informally employed and left out of government support, Jennifer Hattam reports.

In New York City, the Street Vendor Project’s crowd-funding campaign has raised more than $70,000 in under a month. The group is also working to get some of New York’s 20,000 street vendors included in municipal contracts to deliver food to people left homebound by the pandemic.

A similar effort is underway in the UK, where the Nationwide Caterers Association is connecting food truck operators and other mobile vendors with gigs feeding essential workers, including healthcare staff at the NHS. And in Barcelona, members of a migrant street vendors union are being employed by a food bank to deliver groceries to needy families.

Read more in Jennifer’s story: As the world stays home, street vendors fight to survive

29 April 2020 04:29 PM

Epidemiologist update: US has one-third of all reported cases globally

An update from Global Data Senior Epidemiologist Ana Fernandez-Menjivar:

Globally, over 3 million confirmed cases have been reported. The US is leading in number of confirmed cases at over 1 million, contributing to approximately 32% of total cases reported globally. Spain follows the US with approximately 232,128 cases (~7% of total confirmed cases reported globally). Italy comes third reporting 201,505 confirmed cases, approximately 6% of global cases.

To date, 187 countries have been affected by the spread of Covid-19 and the number of new countries has not changed in the last two weeks. The five countries with the most reported cases of Covid-19 are the US, Spain, Italy, France and the UK. Together, they make up approximately 57% of Covid-19 cases reported globally. In the Middle East, Turkey has reported the highest number of confirmed cases at 114,653, while Russia leads the count in Asia with 99,399 cases reported. In South America, Brazil and Peru have reported the most cases at 73,235 cases and 31,190 cases, respectively.

29 April 2020 04:16 PM

One in three English care homes have suffered an outbreak of Covid-19

Nearly one in three care homes across England have seen outbreaks of Covid-19, new figures revealed today.

The data - published by Public Health England - found that 4,516 of the country’s 15,517 care homes had seen at least one case.

The biggest concentration of outbreaks appeared to be in central London. Almost all care homes in Camden, Hammersmith and Tower Hamlets reported residents contracting Covid-19.

The North East of England is also experiencing a high number of infections, with 39% of care homes suffering from an outbreak.

 

Sixty-two of Sheffield’s 116 care homes have reported infections among their residents, or 53%.

Meanwhile Rayleigh and Rochford are the only parts of mainland England to have had no known outbreaks in their care homes.

Covid-19 is most lethal to those of an older age. The median age of English patients confirmed with the virus has been 60. The estimated rate of death by a team of UK researchers to be 0.66% overall, but near 8% for those over the age of 80.

New figures from the Care Quality Commission reveal the death toll from Covid-19 in care homes to be rapidly increasing. From April 10-24, care homes across England and Wales saw 4,343 Covid-19 related deaths, up from 1,043 as of April 10.

It is not yet known whether the care homes in the new data have recovered from their outbreaks.

– Ben Walker

29 April 2020 12:55 PM

London’s minicab drivers beg TfL for help

London’s minicab drivers have demanded that the city’s transport authorities (TfL) offer advice and assistance on how to protecting themselves from covid-19.

London’s iconic black cabs have screens to separate them from their passengers, which can reduce the chance of infection. But minicab drivers, who use regular cars, have no such defences. Earlier today their umbrella group, the United Private Hire Drivers Association, called on TfL to help. 

“If we cannot mitigate the risk, if it’s not possible and the science doesn’t permit it, we need to be told that as well,” said spokesman James Farrar. More from the BBC here.

So far, six such drivers are thought to have died from the disease. The story of one – Bangalore-born Rajesh Jayaseelan – went viral earlier this week, after it emerged that the 44 year old’s landlord had evicted him even before his diagnosis, for fear he would bring the disease into the house.

London is not the only city whose cab drivers have been hit by the crisis. On Saturday, the New York Times reported that the city’s taxi drivers were struggling after ride numbers had dropped by nearly 91 per cent. More here.

29 April 2020 12:06 PM

Chart: How the path “down” is bringing more deaths than the path “up”

Two things are clear from our latest charts plotting the rise and fall of Covid-19 deaths across the world.

The first is that countries like Italy and Spain are in a different phase of virus control to the UK and, in particular, the US. Italy has been showing a stable decline in daily deaths for more than a month; Spain, for nearly a month. Deaths in the UK are also in decline, even if the figures have been more erratic. More data is needed before we can say the same about the US with absolutely certainty.

The second is that the path down from the peak is a long and slow one. Our chart looks at a three-day rolling average of daily death counts to smooth out "noise" caused by unusually low or high reporting on individual days. At the peak of its Covid-19 outbreak, Italy recorded an average of 855 deaths in the three days to March 30.

A month on and that three-day average still stands at 325. Or to put it in more stark terms: up to March 30, 11,591 people had died from Covid-19. Since then there have been 15,768 more deaths in Italy, and we are not yet two-thirds of the way down from the peak. Many more deaths will, sadly, follow; other countries can expect to tread a similarly grim path.

Covid-19 daily death totals: plotting the path down

While every nation is giving regular updates on deaths linked to the virus, it can be difficult to interpret this data. Daily death totals are volatile and can fluctuate rapidly from day to day; countries can change the time they report, or their methodology, leading to sudden and abrupt change.

In the charts below we smooth out the data by using a rolling three-day average of deaths. Each day is plotted against the average number of new deaths reported over the previous three days. The percentage increases (or decreases) are plotted separately.

The charts cover the countries with the highest number of deaths overall, excluding China - where daily confirm deaths have slowed to a trickle - and Iran, where the data may not be reliable. The charts start at the point each country passed 1,000 Covid-19 deaths in total.

Covid-19 average daily deaths chart

29 April 2020 09:43 AM

Daily deaths up – but trend still downwards

Daily deaths from Covid-19 rose in the US, Italy and the UK yesterday – but all three countries now appear to be on a downward trend overall.

The US recorded 2,096 new virus-related deaths – more than one in three of the 5,986 deaths seen worldwide and up from 1,378 the day before. Some of that may be due to slower reporting after the weekend and the US daily deaths figure was still lower than those being seen at the end of last week.

Hospital deaths in the UK were up from 363 on April 27 to 588 on April 28. Again that is most likely to represent a lag in reporting rather than a new wave of cases, since the numbers are still down on the same days last week.  

Recorded deaths in Italy rose from 333 on April 27 to 382 on April 28.

The US and four countries in Europe – Italy, Spain, France and the UK – account for nearly three-quarters of the 217,153 reported Covid-19 deaths worldwide since the start of the outbreak.

Covid-19 daily report

29 April 2020 08:45 AM

Morning briefing: UK building a stockpile of face masks

UK: Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has confirmed the UK is accumulating a stockpile of non-medical face masks that would "limit the droplets that each of us might be responsible for". The “domestic effort” comes despite the government continuing to hold off on advising people to use face masks in public. The Scottish government yesterday recommended people wear face coverings – such as a scarf – when on public transport and in shops where social distancing is difficult. Whitehall sources told the Telegraph that the UK government wanted to wait until it had a sufficient stockpile before it changed its advice on wearing masks.

US: The number of US coronavirus cases has passed one million, meaning the country now accounts for around a third of all cases, and deaths have passed 58,000 – more than the number of US soldiers that died in the Vietnam War. President Donald Trump said the country would conduct five million coronavirus tests a day, and ordered meat processing factories to stay open, designating them as “critical infrastructure”.

Russia: President Vladimir Putin extended Russia’s lockdown until May 11, warning that the country had not yet reached its peak of infections and that there was a “long and difficult path ahead”.

Germany: The viral reproduction rate in Germany – the number of people an infected person goes on to infect – has jumped back up to 1. If it continues to rise, the country may have to reinstate lockdown measures that have been lifted.

China: Officials warned the country’s relationship with Australia may be damaged “beyond repair” after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended calls for an investigation into the origins of coronavirus.

Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the Tokyo Olympic Games, which were due to be held this year but have been suspended until 2021, may have to be pushed back again unless the pandemic is contained.

Read more from the New Statesman:

Society might forget coronavirus sooner than you think

Opposition parties fear lack of scrutiny in digital parliament

Can the NHS stop the rise in non-coronavirus deaths?

28 April 2020 10:36 PM

For the homeless, vacant hotels pose their own risks during quarantine

Hotel rooms are sitting empty around the world right now, while millions of people experiencing homelessness are unable to safely isolate themselves from others.

As officials and advocates consider ways to help unsheltered people protect themselves from the coronavirus, CityMetric’s Jake Blumgart reports that it’s not as simple as pairing a person with an empty hotel room. For one thing, it’d cost a lot of money that cities don’t have. For another, the people who may get the rooms could have their own reasons for not wanting to stay in them.

“These new hotels they’ve got, a lot of people are sceptical and scared about going up there”, says Latanya Wilson, an unhoused resident of San Francisco. “What I've been hearing, once you get up there you can’t go anywhere. … If people are infected, they are treating them like segregation, and they gotta stay in there all day. No one really wants to come around them because they got the virus”.

Depending on the place, hotels can have strict security and a complex array of rules, from banning pets to only allowing people to leave for 20-minute increments each day. Marshall fears those kinds of restrictions may keep homeless residents out of the hotels, even if they test positive.

Read Jake’s piece about the hurdles of housing the homeless: Why US cities haven't just given every homeless person a hotel room during the pandemic

28 April 2020 07:16 PM

What we're reading: Carbon emissions continue, and retail's post-Covid reality

Still emitting: This year could see the biggest decrease in carbon emissions ever recorded, with one forecast estimating a 5% drop from 2019 levels. With an unprecedented slowdown in global travel and transportation, Grist asks: Where is the other 95% of emissions coming from?

Travel forecast: Boeing's CEO told shareholders Monday that the company expects it will take "two to three years" for air travel to return to 2019 levels, and that commercial airlines will have different needs at that point, the Seattle Times reports.

One-two punch: Covid-19 sparked an unemployment crisis in cities around the world, but in Houston, Texas, that's not the only global force killing jobs. The New York Times reports on how the pandemic and volatile oil markets are hitting the self-proclaimed energy capital of the world.

What's in store: The coronavirus is accelerating a dramatic upheaval in the retail sector. The Atlantic speculates that this will usher in an age of monotony in the urban landscape, with post-pandemic cities dominated by the chain stores and restaurants that are able to survive the economic fallout.

 

28 April 2020 07:12 PM

French PM's post-lockdown plan requires face masks on public transport

Shops and markets will reopen when France leaves lockdown on 11 May, but restaurants and bars will not, accordring to plans put forward by French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe. Face masks will also become compulsory on all public transport.

French nursery schools and primary schools will reopen with limited class sizes when lockdown ends on 11 May, followed by some secondary schools on 18 May. Masks will be compulsory in all schools except nursery schools.

Retailers that reopen will be able to require customers to wear a mask on their premises, he said. 

After 11 May, the country will enter a monitoring phase until 2 June, with different rules for each region of France. Areas with most new cases will have the tightest restrictions. “Our national strategy has to be adapted to different circumstances,” Philippe said. “So, we have to live with virus, to end the lockdown progressively and adapt to circumstances; these are the three elements of our strategy.”

The lockdown will only end if the number of new daily infections drops below 3,000 by 11 May, he said. 

The French National Assembly will now debate the plans. 

Philippe also announced a government ambition to test 700,000 people a week for coronavirus, including everyone that has come into contact with an infected person.

28 April 2020 06:46 PM

Epidemiologist update: Brazil becomes a hotspot

An update from Global Data Senior Epidemiologist Ana Fernandez-Menjivar:

Globally, there have been 3,061,521 cases of Covid-19 reported. 

The US, Spain and Italy are the three countries with the most reported cases. Brazil has the largest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 (66,501 cases) in South America, and is among the top 10 countries with the highest total confirmed deaths (4,603 deaths). Local transmission in Brazil has been traced to travel to Italy. While there has been no nationwide lockdown, local authorities in the states of Santa Catarina and Sao Paulo (now the epicenter of the outbreak in Brazil) have established social distancing measures to curb the spread of the disease. 

Countries worldwide are in various stages of lockdown and opening up. An important step in easing social distancing measures will be increasing testing to get an accurate idea of the gap between official figures and the actual spread of the virus.

28 April 2020 05:52 PM

Outlook for 2020 worsens across major European economies

Global economic forecasts for major western nations hit by Covid-19 have been revised downwards again – with Italy now set to see its GDP drop by more than 8% during the year.

The latest figures from GlobalData suggest the UK's economy will shrink by 5.4%, France's by 6.0% and Germany's by 5.2%. All three of those forecasts are worse than similar figures produced the previous week.

Japan has seen an even sharper dip in its economic prospects after a rise in Covid-19 cases saw prime minister Shinzo Abe declare a national state of emergency. GlobalData now predict negative GDP growth of 4.4% for Japan across 2020 – down from a predicted 3.2% the previous week.

Overall, the global economy is now expected to shrink by 2.2% in 2020 – a slight improvement on the 2.3% predicted the previous week. That is mainly down to relative success in containing major coronavirus outbreaks to Europe, North America and parts of Asia - so far.

Major stock markets indices in the UK, France, Germany and Italy were stable this week but remain at below 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

Covid-19 macroeconomic dashboard

We are using exclusive dynamic figures provided by GlobalData analysts to track key economic indicators in major world economies hit by Covid-19. Deaths from the virus are plotted alongside the indexed performance of each country's major stock exchange and the number of "active jobs" - jobs open for applications across all major industries. Figures are tracked daily from the March 1, 2020.

Covid-19 macroeconomic dashboard

28 April 2020 10:30 AM

England and Wales see 27,000 excess deaths since start of Covid-19 pandemic

England and Wales have seen 27,000 more deaths than expected since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

New figures from the UK's Office for National Statistics show there were more than twice as many deaths in the week ending 17 April than would have been expected in an average year.

A total of 22,351 people died during the week – more than twice the 10,497 seen across the previous five years. Those 11,854 excess deaths are the highest recorded in a single week and take the total since the start of March to 27,015.

Only 19,093 of the 27,015 excess deaths have been officially attributed to Covid-19. That leaves a gap of 7,922 deaths which are officially “unexplained” but are likely to be associated with the virus – either as a direct cause, or because the lockdown has restricted access to other forms of health and social care.

Of the “official” Covid-19-related deaths, 8,758 of these deaths were registered in the week to 17 April alone – the last week for which data is available.

That still leaves a large proportion of the 11,854 excess deaths during the week unexplained.

The chart below shows the number of weekly deaths during January to early March was fairly close to expected, if a bit lower.

Starting on the week ending 27 March however, the total number of deaths, both attributed to coronavirus and not, skyrocketed to more than double the expected level.

How do we measure Covid-19 deaths?

The exact number of deaths caused by Covid-19 is difficult to pinpoint.

The numbers in the chart above come from an ONS report that counts the number of death certificates released weekly in England and Wales where Covid-19 was mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, even in combination with other health conditions. The ONS data also includes deaths that occurred outside hospitals, such as in care homes.

The ONS also releases the daily number of Covid-19 deaths based on the actual date of death, rather than when the death was registered. This has the advantage of showing a more accurate picture at the expense of taking longer to record.

In addition, the Department of Health and Social Care also releases numbers for Covid-19 deaths on GOV.UK. These figures are updated daily and are based on the number of deaths in hospitals that are officially attributed to Covid-19.

While the ONS figures catch far more Covid-19 deaths, they don’t capture all the excess deaths we are seeing – suggesting we still don’t have the full picture of how, where, and why Covid-19 is killing people.

The reason we use the weekly ONS data based on the number of death certificates that mention Covid-19 is because it is the only count that allows us to put the number of deaths linked to coronavirus in the context of overall deaths and the numbers of deaths from previous years.

28 April 2020 08:34 AM

Covid-19 daily report: Number of cases passes 3 million worldwide

There were 69,401 new Covid-19 cases confirmed yesterday, bringing the global total to 3,041,764.

Our daily coronavirus dashboard shows that the number of new cases is in stable decline across the world.

There was a slight uptick in the number of new deaths in all countries in our dashboard except the UK, most likely owing to the fact some hospitals do not report deaths that happened over the weekend until the following week.

Nevertheless, all major countries – including the US, which has taken longer to pass its peak – have seen their numbers decrease by considerable margins compared to last week.

Covid-19 daily report

28 April 2020 07:27 AM

Morning briefing: PPE blunders laid bare

Good morning. Here is the latest Covid-19 news from around the world today.

UK: A BBC Panorama investigation has revealed the government failed to buy vital items of personal protective equipment despite being warned to do so by advisers. A PPE stockpile set up in 2009 contained no protective gowns, visors, swabs or body bags when Covid-19 reached the UK, the investigation found.

Meanwhile, ministers have drawn up plans for commuters to wear face coverings on public transport and for masks to be worn in shops, with unions concerned millions of workers are afraid of returning to work.

Germany: The coronavirus infection rate is beginning to rise again, officials warned, following the easing of some lockdown measures last week. Small shops were allowed to reopen and some students returned to class. The “R” value – the number of people someone who catches the virus goes on to infect – has crept up to one after initially falling, they said.

US: President Donald Trump has again attacked China over its handling of the crisis, claiming the coronavirus “could have been stopped at the source”. “We’re doing very serious investigations,” he said, and suggested he would seek damages for the US.

France: Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will today put his plans for leaving lockdown before parliament. He is expected to specify which businesses can reopen first, and to announce that facial coverings will be compulsory on public transport.

New Zealand: The country has partially lifted lockdown measures, and officials say 75% of the economy is now operational. One million people have returned to work, and restaurants are now open for takeaway meals.

Austria: Gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed from the end of April, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said this morning.

Argentina: The country’s lockdown has been extended until 10 May, but one-hour outings within a five-block radius of homes will be allowed, except in Buenos Aires, the Greater Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Santa Fe. Buenos Aires officials say current lockdown measures will likely last until at least the end of May in the city.

Read more on the New Statesman

The coronavirus crisis has exposed Boris Johnson’s cabinet as the weakest in living memory

Will the economic argument over Covid-19 end the same way as the financial crisis?

How coronavirus is leading to a religious revival

What I got wrong about Keir Starmer and coronavirus

Rishi Sunak doubles down on his coronavirus loans – and gears up to argue for austerity