Coronavirus briefing: Questions over testing pledge and grim global statistics

By Andy McFarlane
BBC News

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A person is tested at a drive-through coronavirus testing site at Chessington World of Adventures, in Greater LondonImage source, PA Media

Testing times

Health Secretary Matt Hancock's pledge to ensure 100,000 people a day are tested for coronavirus by the end of the month might have sounded significant but it has raised questions about how the government will meet the target. Labour says details are scant. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth wants to know how many of the 100,000 would be blood tests, and what role testing would play in the government's lockdown "exit strategy".

Academics warn testing is not a "magic bullet" and caution against creating a "false sense of security" with talk of "immunity certificates" when the science is unproven. Health correspondent Nick Triggle assesses the government's performance against its pledges on testing, protective equipment for NHS staff and provision of ventilators for seriously ill patients.

Meanwhile, the battle to preserve the health of the economy continues, with the government revamping its emergency loans scheme to make it easier for struggling businesses to access funds and bailing out the bus industry to keep routes open.

For a second week, the nation honoured its key workers with applause on Thursday evening. One of them, Dr John Wright of Bradford Royal Infirmary, writes for us about the pressure NHS staff feel now they are dealing with multiple patient deaths.

Grim statistics

As our live page notes, the US and Spain have recorded new highs for daily deaths of patients with Covid-19. To get an idea of the pressures medical teams are under, watch American nurse Tre Kwon's powerful account of cutting short her maternity leave to return to the frontline, and see the conditions in an intensive care unit in the Spanish region of Catalonia.

More than a million cases have now been confirmed worldwide, with nearly 53,000 people dying and more than 210,000 having recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, in the US. We look at the handful of countries yet to declare a positive case, and the steps they are taking to try to stay virus-free.

Questions and answers

If you're confused about the kind of shopping classed as "essential", you're not alone, as reporter Cherry Wilson discovered. In our latest explainers, we examine what it means - in practical terms - to be furloughed, and answer your questions about the outbreak, on subjects such as whether you can walk the dog or what policies exist on birthing partners.

Remember, there's lots of information and advice on our dedicated page.

What does 'from Russia with love' really mean?

By BBC News Russian, Moscow

Russia's latest gesture in the coronavirus crisis came in the form of medical supplies arriving in New York - part of an operation dubbed "from Russia with love" by the Kremlin. In late March a similar cargo was flown to Italy - the worst-hit country in the crisis - along with 100 Russian military medics.

Russian media speak of widespread gratitude for this generosity, but how much of that is fact, how much fiction? US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the US had paid for the Russian supplies, and that "we have to work together to defeat #COVID19". The Russian foreign ministry says the US paid for half of the supplies, and the other half was donated by Russia.

One thing not to miss today

Image source, Getty Images

Listen up

Science in Action, on the World Service, examines whether lessons from west Africa's Ebola crisis can help in the current situation. Meanwhile, the Coronavirus Newscast assesses the government's chances of meeting its latest pledge to test 100,000 people a day by the end of April.

What the papers say

Coronavirus testing continues to dominate front pages. Every NHS worker forced to self-isolate has been promised a test by the end of April, notes the Times. Mr Hancock has staked the government's reputation on the commitment to test 100,000 people per day by then, which is four times more than health chiefs previously said was possible, according to the Daily Telegraph. However, the Guardian warns the so-called "immunity passports" and antibody tests the government is relying on remain unproven. And the Sun pictures an empty testing site in Surrey, while reporting that swabs are being sent to Germany for analysis. Things have gone from "bad to wurst", suggests its headline.

From elsewhere

Need something different?

Peer into the past via newly discovered "forbidden footage" of the UK's World War Two codebreakers relaxing. Cameras were banned from the site of their secret operations in Buckinghamshire, and the film was anonymously donated to the Bletchley Park Trust. You can test your knowledge of events over the past seven days with our quiz of the week's news or - if sport is your thing - visit at 20:00 GMT to take part in the inaugural Quarantine Quiz. If you simply fancy wrapping yourself in the warm fuzz of nostalgia, delve into the BBC Archive to relive the time Blue Peter's Shep the dog met R2D2, of Star Wars fame, 42 years ago today.