Coronavirus briefing: UK testing criticised and Trump warns of 'painful weeks'

By Victoria King
BBC News

  • Published

If you want to get this briefing by email, sign up here

UK testing in the spotlight

Image source, Reuters

Criticism has been mounting in the UK over a lack of testing for frontline NHS staff. Up to a quarter of doctors and a fifth of nurses are off work because they are having to self-isolate - either because they are showing symptoms or a member of their household is. Many could return to work if tested and cleared of having the virus. The British Medical Association said the government had been promising a mass roll-out for more than two weeks but was yet to deliver.

Senior minister Michael Gove admitted on Tuesday the UK had to go "further, faster" to increase testing. Health Secretary Matt Hancock - who has coronavirus himself - is urging hospitals to do much more, using any spare laboratory space. Why can't the UK test as much as other countries like Germany? Read our explanation.

The UK death toll rose by 381 on Tuesday to 1,789, including a 13-year-old boy from south London. Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab's family said he had no underlying health conditions and they were "beyond devastated".

Elsewhere, research suggests nearly a fifth of all small and medium-sized businesses in the UK could run out of the cash they need to survive in the next four weeks, despite unprecedented government support (explained in detail here).

We've been hearing personal stories of those affected throughout this crisis. Here, meet the "minimum wage heroes" - the low paid on the frontline of the NHS, supermarkets and other workplaces. Meanwhile, the BBC's George Alagiah discusses the experience of living with cancer and coronavirus.

'Matter of life and death'

The outbreak is the biggest global challenge since World War Two, according to the Secretary General of the United Nations. António Guterres warned it could bring a recession "that probably has no parallel in the recent past".

US President Donald Trump has certainly shifted his language in line with that stark assessment. The BBC's Anthony Zurcher says at his most recent press conference, there was none of the sugar-coating of days gone by - just the cold, hard reality of the facts on the ground. Mr Trump said Americans must follow social distancing restrictions, calling it "a matter of life and death", but even with strict measures, the White House is projecting that between 100,000 and 240,000 citizens will die.

Elsewhere in the world, Spain, France and Italy each saw more than 800 deaths on Tuesday. In India, engineers are racing to build a low-cost ventilator to save Covid-19 patients. And in the Middle East, there are warnings that the outbreak is a ticking time-bomb for the unstable region.

Countries are setting up hospitals in ships, stadiums and parks, and introducing all sorts of measures to limit the spread of coronavirus. Here we look at some of the more unusual.

Follow the latest developments around the world via our live page.

Science and technology

The disease is driving forward innovation and research at a pace. Scientists in London think a loss of smell or taste may be a sign that you have it. Our online health editor Michelle Roberts looks more closely, while here's a reminder of the other, better-known symptoms to look out for. Labs around the world are also working to produce a vaccine for coronavirus. Find out how close one might be. In other developments, 3-D printers are being pressed into service to create face shields for the NHS, and an app is being considered to trace virus cases and ultimately allow lockdowns to be eased.

How the crisis is affecting young people's mental health

By Vibeke Venema, BBC Stories

Naomi, a final-year psychology student from Cardiff, says her anxiety has increased hugely due to the coronavirus. Her finals were cancelled, and although the lectures and exams have moved online, the loss of routine and uncertainty have affected her. The things she used to do to manage her anxiety, such as going out of the house to study in the library, are no longer an option, so she has had to develop new coping strategies. She finds that keeping a journal helps, using prompts like: What's making me feel this way? What am I grateful for today?

One thing not to miss today

Image source, Nikki Dennett-Thorpe

Listen up

In the first in a series of special episodes of BBC Radio 5 Live's Fit and Fearless podcast, Tally, Zanna and Vic talk about keeping fit at home. And in the latest Coronavirus Newscast, the team discusses police powers and how Asian communities in the UK are responding to the crisis.

What the papers say

Anger over delays in virus testing make several front pages. "Fix testing fiasco now" is the Daily Mail's take on the issue. The paper says the "shambles" is the government's greatest misstep in its handling of the crisis. The Financial Times says Michael Gove blamed difficulty securing the chemicals needed to make sure the tests are reliable. According to the Times, Boris Johnson has now personally taken charge of efforts to source those reagents. Elsewhere, Britain's care homes are in danger of being "overwhelmed" by coronavirus, with staff warning they are at "breaking point", the Guardian says. The front page of the Sun issues a rallying cry, picturing soldiers helping to set up a makeshift hospital with 4,000 beds. The paper declares this to be a "war we can win". The Daily Express, too, tries to be upbeat, quoting a "top medic" on "green shoots" in the UK's situation.

From elsewhere

Need something different?

Meet the man who designs the world's water parks - and find out how he made the leap from an auditing firm to a job of childhood dreams. Go behind the scenes of the BBC's surprise hit The Repair Shop. The 1980s is inspiring pop music once again - and influencing artists who weren't even born then. And finally, artist David Hockney shares some soothing images of spring exclusively with the BBC.