Coronavirus in UK live blog as it happened: Northern Ireland to allow small groups to meet outdoors

Follow the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in our live blog below

Monday, 18th May 2020, 6:07 pm

We will be providing live updates until 6pm this evening.

Medical staff transfer a patient along a corridor at the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital (Photo: HANNAH MCKAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Medical staff transfer a patient along a corridor at the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital (Photo: HANNAH MCKAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Coronavirus live blog, May 18

Last updated: Monday, 18 May, 2020, 15:46

Government making 'good progress' in getting thePremier League back

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said the Government is making "good progress" in getting the Premier League back.

Dowden said he was aiming for a mid-June return for the league, following “constructive discussions” with the FA, the EFL and the Premier League, but reitereate that public safety was the “number one test”.

He told Sky News he was hoping for “some more free-to-air matches… because that would be helpful in terms of discouraging people from leaving their homes."

School leaders' union wants more clarification on schools reopening

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, has said teachers wanted more clarification on whether schools are centres of transmission, “specifically around the transmission from children to adults.”

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's been asserted by the Government publicly over the weekend - that there isn't the level of risk that we fear.

"However, we haven't yet seen the scientific underpin of that. There's been some commentary and I want to invite the Government today to write to me so that I can talk to the 31,000 school leaders that we represent, particularly in the primary sector, and say this is why the Government has made that assessment."

Rail network 'relying on people to be sensible' to enforce social distancing

Network Rail chief executive Sir Peter Hendy has told BBC Breakfast that face coverings are not mandatory for passengers but "we are all very keen in the rail industry" for people to wear them.

Hendy was asked how social distancing will be enforced on the railway, and said: "Passengers are sensible. This is a national crisis of unprecedented proportions.

"We are relying on people to be sensible. We are doing our best too.

"We want people to stay apart if they humanly can and if they can't, then a face covering is a quite sensible thing to do for the brief moments when you might be getting on or off a train or moving through a station."

On what measures would be taken to try to keep passengers and staff safe if stations became overcrowded, Sir Peter told BBC Breakfast: "We have processes to close stations if they become too full.

"My railway colleagues have rehearsed those processes on the national railway network if that becomes necessary."

He said passengers should consider whether they actually need to travel.

Vaccine early next year 'most optimistic estimation'

Professor Robin Shattock, head of mucosal infection and immunity at Imperial College London, has said he think a vaccine is not likely to be widely available until next year.

He told Today: "I think we have a very high chance of seeing a number of vaccines that work because we know a lot about this target and I think there's good scientific rationale to say it's not such a hard target as others.

“My gut feeling is that we will start to see a number of candidates coming through with good evidence early towards next year - possibly something this year - but they won't be readily available for wide scale use into the beginning of next year as the kind of most optimistic estimation.”

Quarantine rules for people travelling to the UK will be enforced by law

The Culture Secretary has suggested quarantine rules for people travelling to the UK will be enforced by law.

Oliver Dowden told Today: "We would look at the relevant enforcement mechanisms just as we have done with other measures.

"So for example, the measures that we took when we introduced the so-called lockdown - those were underpinned by regulations which had consequences in law, and I'm sure we'll do the same thing."

He said there would be "very limited" exemptions to the rules.

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week

Here are some tips on how to manage your wellbeing under lockdown:

Things you can do under lockdown

It's Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. With lockdown measures in place, many people are finding themselves with a lot more time on their hands.

Here are some fun ways to pass the time, while keeping your mental health in check:

Loss of taste or smell added to the NHS' official coronavirus symptoms list

A loss or changed sense of taste or smell are to be added to the NHS coronavirus symptoms list, weeks after experts first raised concerns that Covid-19 cases are being missed.

Anyone suffering loss of taste or smell - or a noticeable change - should now self-isolate for seven days to reduce the risk of spreading the infection, England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, told reporters.

In a joint statement the UK's chief medical officers said: "From today, all individuals should self-isolate if they develop a new continuous cough or fever or anosmia.

"Anosmia is the loss or a change in your normal sense of smell. It can also affect your sense of taste as the two are closely linked.

"The individual's household should also self-isolate for 14 days as per the current guidelines and the individual should stay at home for seven days, or longer if they still have symptoms other than cough or loss of sense of smell or taste."

Scottish death toll increases by two

2,105 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up by two from 2,103 on Sunday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Speaking at the latest Scottish Government coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the First Minister said there are 1,427 patients in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, up 119 from 1,308 on Sunday.

She issued a note of caution over the death figures, saying although deaths can be registered at the weekend, registrations tend to be lower.

The First Minister also said there would now be an expansion in testing, saying that anyone over the age of five with any of the symptoms would be able to have a test booked.

While key workers will be prioritised, Ms Sturgeon said the tests can be booked online.

The First Minister said a "route map" will be published on Thursday for the paths out of lockdown in Scotland.

“Within two weeks, my hope is that we will be taking some concrete steps on the journey back to normality,” she said.

Travel restrictions still in force

UK nationals are currently banned from all but essential travel and borders still remain closed between many countries.

If you have a holiday booked, here's some advice on how to get your money back in the event of a cancellation.

Scotland lockdown could be eased from end of May

The First Minister said lockdown in Scotland could be eased by the end of the month if progress against the virus continues.

Scots could soon be allowed to meet up with someone from another household, visit garden centres and participate in some sports.

A “route map” for a potential easing of restrictions will be published on Thursday (21 May), with any changes to be made after the next review date on 28 May.

She said: “Within a few days of that, we will aim to allow, for example, more outdoor activity such as being able to sit in the park, meet up outdoors with someone from another household as long as you stay socially distant, some limited outdoor sporting activities like golf and fishing, the opening of garden centres and recycling facilities, and the resumption of some outdoor work."

Ryanair condemns 14-day quarantine plans

The boss of Ryanair has hit out at government plans to impose a 14-day quarantine on international travellers arriving in the UK, labelling the suggestion as “idiotic” and “unimplementable”.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary claimed the proposals have no medical or scientific basis, and argued face masks should be used instead as this would “eliminate” the risk of further spread.

A date for when such quarantine measures will be brought in has not yet been confirmed, but any changes will be subject to a rolling review every three weeks to ensure they remain effective and necessary.

The news comes after Ryanair announced it will operate nearly 1,000 flights per day from 1 July, subject to European countries lifting flight restrictions, and airports implementing effective public health measures.

122 hospital deaths announced by NHS England

NHS England has announced another 122 deaths from coronavirus.

The latest figures bring the total number of confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in hospitals in England to 24,739.

The news comes after a further two deaths were announced in Scotland, four more deaths were reported in Wales, and another six were reported in Northern Ireland.

The total figure across the whole of the UK is to be announced later, with this including deaths in care homes and the community.

Premier League players to start training from Tuesday

Football players in Premier League clubs will be allowed to start training again from Tuesday (19 May),

Clubs have voted to allow players to return to training in small groups, with social distancing guidelines in place, and all contact banned.

Since the league was suspended in March, players have only been allowed to train individually.

The Premier League is aiming to restart on 12 June, although some clubs are pushing for a later date to allow players to regain their fitness.

Anyone aged over five in UK eligible for testing

Everyone who is over the age of five in England with coronavirus symptoms is now eligible for testing, the Health Secretary has said.

This applies to the whole of the UK, with the move agreed by Matt Hancock and his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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