UK lockdown ‘could go into 2021’, Trump backs ‘open states’
Lockdown measures in the UK will be needed until the end of the year to control coronavirus - until a drug or a vaccine is found, according to Britain's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty.
British politicians will be looking at different scenarios for lifting the strict measures in the coming weeks, but some rules will still be needed for a long time to come, according to The Sun.
The Chief Medical Officer said that some form of the measures will have to be in place for a long period of time to make sure the transmission rate doesn't grow, as the virus could begin spreading again.
In a stark warning to the public of what is to come, he said it is "wholly unrealistic" to think a return to normal life is possible anytime soon, Mr Whitty said in a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday night (local time).
And it comes as scientists have warned that a second wave of coronavirus could come this northern hemisphere winter.
There will be a "series of choices" and ministers will decide a mix of measures to try and ease some rules.
But whatever options they must not see the transmission rate go above one - as the cases could rocket again.
The only "exit" from lockdown will be a vaccine or drugs to treat coronavirus, he said.
And the chances of that happening in the next calendar year is "incredibly small", even as the first human vaccines start tomorrow.
Professor Whitty told Britain: "In the long run, the exit from this is going to one be one of two things … One of which is a highly effective vaccine.
"And/or highly effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease even if they catch it, or which can prevent this disease in vulnerable people.
"I think we should be realistic about that.
"We are going to have to rely on other social measures, which are incredibly disruptive.
"Its going to take a long time. We need to be aware of that."
It could mean that older people may not be able to spend Christmas with their loved ones if the crisis carries on, Dr Hillary warned earlier.
Dr Hilary said there was still a chance that Christmas could be "wonderful", but that it was unlikely that the country would be back to normal.
Protecting the elderly would be likely to be the measure that is kept in place the longest.
US DEATH TOLL LIKELY 'HIGHER' THAN REPORTED
Meanwhile, America's horrific coronavirus infection and death tolls are likely to be much higher than current reports after it was revealed two people who died were infected weeks before the first US death was officially recorded.
Public health detectives believe the discovery - and the fact neither person had travelled - reveals that the virus was already spreading quickly in local communities in America in early February.
That was long before the White House, Congress or state Governors publicly acknowledged the gravity of the situation and enacted strict stay-at-home lockdowns.
California's Santa Clara County announced that two people who died at home on February 6 and 17 tested positive for COVID-19 during their autopsies.
It was previously believed that the first US victim of the virus was a man in Washington state who died on February 29.
Santa Clara officials believe that limited testing has led to an undercount of cases and deaths, a phenomenon that has played out in other municipalities and countries, including New York City.
"As the Medical Examiner-Coroner continues to carefully investigate deaths throughout the county, we anticipate additional deaths from COVID-19 will be identified," the statement said.
Neither of the victims had a travel history, meaning that in all probability they were infected in the community, indicating that the virus was already spreading at that time - a reminder of how swiftly the epidemic has transformed life in the country and around the world.
US STATE OF GEORGIA TO 'OPEN UP' AS PRESSURE MOUNTS IN US
It comes as some American states continue to protest strict lockdown measures.
In the state of Georgia, non-essential businesses, including tattoo parlours, hair salons, movie theatres and bowling alleys, will be authorised to reopen from Friday - despite some health experts saying that this should not happen until June.
In a sign of the incredible internal debate going on in the US about continuing the COVID-19 stay-at-home lockdowns, the Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is making the move despite criticism from black mayors and other doubters.
And Las Vegas is also keen to "get back to normal".
Atlanta's mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is black, said she "will continue to urge Atlanta to stay at home, stay safe and make decisions based on the best interests of their families".
She said: "As a parent, I am concerned. Our numbers are going up. [Mayors] are really at a loss."
The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said Georgia should not be reopening for business until June.
Governor Kemp said: "I don't give a damn about politics right now.
"When we have more people moving around we're probably going to see cases continue to go up. But we're a lot better prepared for that now than a month ago."
The Mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, said it was time to assume everyone had the virus and it was time to reopen the casinos.
"Assume everybody is a carrier," the mayor said. "And then you start from an even slate. And tell the people what to do. And let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they're closed down. It's that simple."
Meanwhile, three US states, including worst-hit New York, are joining forces to create a tracing program that will enable some easing of the coronavirus restrictions that have been extended until mid-May.
New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo said a tracing app would be key to managing the virus while scientists race to find treatments and a vaccine.
Mr Cuomo warned New Yorkers the lockdown in his state was unlikely to end soon.
"This is not going to be over anytime soon, I know people want out, I get it … I also know more people will die if we are not smart," he said.
Meanwhile, the European Commission says it plans to release new rules next month to enable the safe reopening of air travel.
EU transport commissioner Adina Valean said measures being considered included mandating the wearing of face masks as well as the disinfecting of airports and planes.
"All this should be part of those guidelines and probably by mid-May we can put forward this strategy we are working on," Ms Valean said on Twitter.
The airline industry expects middle seats will have to be left vacant when air travel eventually resumes.
And as Europe also slowly emerges from lockdown, France and Holland are to re-open schools after weeks of lockdowns amid the coronavirus crisis.
French primary school pupils will return to school on May 11 for lessons restricted to around 15 children per class.
Youngsters across Holland will also be allowed to return to lessons from May 11 but only on a part-time basis.
Older children in France can return on May 18 if schools have met strict health conditions set out by the state.
MORRISON AND TRUMP TALK ABOUT SUCCESS OF CHINA BAN
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed he has spoken to US President Donald Trump about how successful banning Chinese visitors from Australia was in the early COVID-19 response.
In an interview with Sky News, Mr Morrison criticised the World Health Organisation's response in the early day to the virus, saying that not reforming the WHO and delaying information could lead to "hundreds of thousands" of deaths.
The PM told host Paul Murray he and Mr Trump discussed coronavirus strategies in their phone call on Wednesday which also probed what role misinformation from the World Health Organisation had on the pandemic.
Mr Morrison said that decision to close borders - which went against official WHO advice - "pretty much prevented that first wave" of the killer coronavirus from hitting Australian shores.
"One of the things we discussed in particular was the fact that we both made the decision about the same time to ensure that we blocked off those incoming visitors from China, mainland China," Mr Morrison told Sky News.
"That was quite critical in our story".
The Prime Minister became emotional during the interview and seemed close to tears when he was asked about which social distancing restrictions were the toughest to impose.
"There have been so many hard things," Mr Morrison said.
"That one that really tears me up is how many people have had to deal with loved ones who've passed away and go through funerals with so few people there."
Current restrictions designed to slow the spread of coronavirus prevent more than 10 people from attending a funeral.
Mr Morrison fought back tears while speaking about the human toll of such a drastic measure, describing the scenario as "just horrible".
"We need … Let's look forward to good days, mate. They're going to come. They're going to come."
The Ruby Princess's chief doctor has admitted she was surprised the cruise ship was allowed to dock and disembark passengers in Sydney before testing for the coronavirus had been completed, a move that has been linked to 19 deaths and more than 700 infections.
Speaking on the first day of a special commission of inquiry into Australia's worst coronavirus infection fiasco, Ilse Von Watzdorf said if it had been her decision, she would have waited before - allowing passengers to leave.
Dr Von Watzdorf conceded the cruise ship should have been denied permission to disembark passengers before testing for the deadly pathogen had been completed.
"If it was my decision, I would have perhaps waited," Dr Von Watzdorf said. "I was surprised that we were allowed to do that without waiting for the results to come through."
She also told the inquiry she would have kept the liner's passengers and crew under quarantine until the test results were finalised, given the risks posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
WHO NEEDS MAJOR REFORM, SAYS PM
Mr Morrison told Sky News the World Health Organisation needed to undergo radical reform after failing to provide accurate information in the early days of the coronavirus crisis.
"There are immediately things that can improve," he said.
"One of the things that would have been very helpful to the world was if there wasn't that delay and if there was the ability to get this information very early on that could have alerted the rest of the world to the greater risk that was occurring there.
"It did take a while and I don't make that comment to be critical it's just an observation and I personally think that it would be very helpful, in certain circumstances, and it wouldn't matter if it was in Australia or South America, if it was in South East Asia or Africa or China or anywhere else that if there is a virus of this nature that is believed to be of pandemic potential and very dangerous to the world we need to know what is going on and fast.
"Very fast and if we have that ability that could potentially save thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lives and we need to have that sort of ability."
The head of the World Health Organisation was forced to deny reports that Taiwan told it that coronavirus was transmitting between humans on December 31.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has suggested that some developed countries criticising WHO's handling of the pandemic are doing so because they "got into trouble" because they were unprepared for a public health crisis.
"The first report came from Wuhan - from China itself - so Taiwan was only asking for clarification and as some people were claiming, Taiwan was not reporting human to human transmission," Dr Tedros said.
Mr Morrison's proposal could involve boosting WHO powers to ensure they have the same authority as UN weapons checkers to enter countries and investigate outbreaks.
Mr Morrison said himself and Mr Trump had been able to "share those experiences" as to how each nation has addressed the virus
Mr Morrison said he wanted to see schools open again as soon as possible and that the most emotional part of the pandemic, for him, was the fact that grieving families farewelling their loved ones were restricted to small numbers at funerals.
HOW MORRISON WANTS TO REFORM WHO
Australia wants to give the World Health Organisation the authority of an international "weapons inspector" so experts can immediately enter any country to investigate future pandemics.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has discussed the idea with key allies, including the US, amid fears the world lost valuable time to contain the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak in China.
Bolstering the WHO's authority to intervene in a potential global health crisis earlier is seen by Mr Morrison as the best way to ensure no time is lost responding to future pandemics.
WHO experts were first allowed to conduct a field visit to Wuhan to observe the Chinese Government's response to the new coronavirus on January 20 - a month after the disease was first detected.
Under Australia's proposal, international health officials would be able to gain access to any country without permission, similar to UN weapons inspectors.
The federal government is also seeking a coalition of like-minded countries to back an independent inquiry of the COVID-19 outbreak and response, but will argue the need to improve the capability to deal with future pandemics should be settled now rather than wait years for a review result.
Australia's preference is for the inquiry to take place through an independent mechanism, external to the WHO or other UN bodies.
Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said giving WHO inspectors more power was a "good idea" but warned it would need a "lot of work" to get international agreement.
FEARS VIRUS COULD BE SPREAD IN OTHER WAYS
How much COVID-19 virus gets into your body when you are first infected could determine whether you suffer a severe or a mild infection new research from China suggests.
And almost two in three patients have the virus detected in stool samples which suggests this could be another way the virus is spreading, the researchers have found.
Chinese researchers looked at 96 patients with COVID-19 treated in a hospital designated for virus patients in the Zejiang Province in China between January and March 20.
The study found the virus was present in stool samples for 22 days, much longer than it was found in respiratory samples (18 days).
It also found sicker patients had higher amounts of the virus in their body.
"We found differences in the viral load in patients with different disease severities," the authors said in a report published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
"Those with severe disease showing a significantly higher viral load than those with mild disease, which suggests that viral load can be used to assess prognosis," the researchers said.
Among the patients studied 22 had mild disease and 74 had severe disease, thirty patients with severe disease were admitted to intensive care but none of them died during the study period.
Infectious diseases expert Professor Willem van Schaik from the University of Birmingham told Science Media centre the viral load related to how much virus was transmitted when a person first got infected.
Originally published as UK lockdown 'could go into 2021' as Trump backs 'open states'