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)

Coronavirus live blog, May 18

Last updated: Monday, 18 May, 2020, 17:58

21,000 contact tracers recruited in England

More than 21,000 contact tracers have been recruited in England to help manually trace the contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.

The total includes 7,500 health care workers who will help to provide call handlers with expert clinical advice.

The team will be vital in helping to track down people who have been in contact with anyone displaying symptoms.

People who lose their sense of smell or taste should self-isolate

Government in “closing stages” of buying antibody tests

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the government is now in the “closing stages” of negotiations to buy new coronavirus antibody tests.

A new test developed by Swedish pharmaceutical company Roche was approved for use by Public Health England last week.

The blood test has an accuracy of 100 per cent and is designed to determine if a person has been exposed to the virus.

Mr Hancock said: “We are in the closing stages of commercial negotiations to make sure that those tests are widely available.”

Social distancing still key to slowing infections

Despite lockdown restrictions slowly being eased across the UK, social distancing guidelines are still very much in force to help avoid a second peak of infections.

These are the groups most at risk of suffering severe symptoms if the virus is contracted:

Shielding remains necessary until 30 June

The Health Secretary has said that shielding those who are vulnerable to the virus still remains “necessary”.

Despite the slight easing of lockdown restrictions, protections for people who are shielding will continue to apply until 30 June, Matt Hancock confirmed.

UK coronavirus death toll climbs by 160

The Department for Health and Social Care has released the latest daily figures for coronavirus deaths in the UK, announcing a further 160 people have died.

The latest daily figures bring the total deaths in the UK to 34,769.

WHO will carry out a Covid-19 review at 'appropriate time'

The World Health Organization (WHO) will launch an independent evaluation of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic "at the earliest appropriate moment".

The review will aim to improve pandemic response and preparedness around the world.

'We must prepare for a second wave' says deputy chief medical officer

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England has said it is only “proper” to prepare for a second wave of coronavirus cases.

Speaking at this evening's daily government briefing, Van-Tam said the UK will “only be out of this” when a vaccine is made available. In the meantime, the public must be ready to adjust their lifestyles for “months or years" to come.

'Vast majority' of coronavirus cases in children are 'very mild'

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has said children seem to be affected “very mildly” by Covid-19, and that kids are not high-output transmitters of coronavirus, in the way they are with flu.

Answering a question from the media at this evening's daily government briefing, the deputy chief medical officer for England revealed that current research suggests the infection rate may be slightly lower for young children.

Government contact tracing app 'coming soon'

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says the government is making “good progress” with its coronavirus contact tracing app.

He assured members of the press that the app would be rolled out “in the coming weeks”, but could not be more specific about a launch date.

It is currently unclear whether the app will be made available to the public before schools are reopened.

No plans to stop NHS surcharge for migrant care workers

Dominic Raab says there are currently no plans to make migrant care workers exempt from paying the NHS surcharge, despite their contribution to the health service.

Health workers have been made exempt from paying the extra charge to use NHS services, but not carers.

Raab said the situation is constantly under review.

Northern Ireland to allow small outdoor gatherings of 6 people

Outdoor gatherings of up to six people who do not share a household will be allowed as of tomorrow (Tue 18 May) in Northern Ireland.

The devolved government also announced that golf can now be played, and so-called ‘drive-in’ leisure events and religious services are allowed to recommence - provided attendees stay in their vehicles in order to maintain social distancing.

These events can include film screenings, concerts, and live theatre performances.

This concludes today's live blog.

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