The UK’s equality watchdog is launching an inquiry into the “long-standing structural racial inequality” thrown into the spotlight by the pandemic. The Equality and Human Rights Commission said analysis and evidence-based guidance is needed to tackle entrenched racism and Covid-19 death rates among BAME groups. It comes after Public Health England’s review came under criticism for not explaining the reasons for already known disparities in health outcomes and not making recommendations for tackling them.
The R value in England has risen to between 0.7 and 1. The latest data suggests the north-west and south-west are areas of concern, and Matt Hancock confirmed the R was higher in those regions than the rest of the country. National easing of lockdown measures would go ahead, he said, with a focus on localised lockdowns to address flare-ups.
All hospital staff, patients and visitors in England must wear face coverings from 15 June. Hospital staff will be required to wear type one or type two surgical masks at all times, while patients and visitors will need to wear face coverings, the health secretary said.
The UK’s death toll passed the grim milestone of 40,000. The DHSC confirmed a rise of 357 deaths, bringing the total of reported deaths following a positive test to 40,261.
That’s it for today from the UK. If you’d like to continue following the Guardian’s coverage of the pandemic, head over to the global live blog for the worldwide picture.
at 2.04pm EDT
The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 within the prison estate continues to rise, Ministry of Justice figures show, as the total population dropped below 80,000 for the first time in 12 years.
As at 5pm on Thursday, 482 prisoners had tested positive for the coronavirus across 79 prisons, an increase of less than 1% in 24 hours.
There 947 infected prison staff across 105 prisons, an increase of less than 0.5% in the same period.
There are around 79,800 prisoners across 117 prisons in England and Wales, and around 33,000 staff working in public sector prisons.The population was last below 80,000 in January 2008.
The total has come down from around 83,000 at the start of the crisis due to scheduled releases and reduced numbers coming into prisons via the courts, as well as processing prisoners held on remand.
At least 23 prisoners and nine staff are known to have died, as well as one prison escort driver and one NHS trust employee working in a secure training centre.
at 2.04pm EDT
Here is the moment Matt Hancock urged Britons to avoid large protests over the weekend “for the safety of your loved ones”.
The health secretary said he understood why people are appalled at the death of George Floyd but warned that coronavirus remains a “real threat” in the UK as lockdown easing measures come into effect.
Matt Hancock urges Brits to avoid weekend protests due to coronavirus risk – video
Tory MP attended lockdown barbecue with journalists
The Tory MP leading efforts to promote the Covid-19 contact-tracing app trial on the Isle of Wight appears to have broken lockdown rules at a barbecue also attended by the chairman of the Brexit party and political journalists, Simon Murphy and Peter Walker report.
Bob Seely went to the gathering at a time when the guidance stated you could only meet one other person and strictly ruled out groups mixing from different households or people visiting and entering another person’s home, including in gardens.
A man wearing a protective face mask on a bus in central Manchester. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
And that’s the end of the press conference.
It remains unclear why the health secretary led this one alone.
at 12.55pm EDT
Q. BAME communities are disappointed with PHE’s review because it’s content was nothing new. Why were there no explanations for the disproportionate impact on, or mitigations for protecting, BAME lives?
Hancock says socioeconomic factors including the increased risks of customer-focused occupations need to be addressed.
The government will do the “next step” to address the issues following the PHE review, he says.
Q. Structural issues of racism and discrimination increase risks to health. Why wasn’t this included in PHE’s review, as Michael Gove promised?
Hancock says the government will be rigorous in trying to understand the reasons why and answer these questions.
at 1.04pm EDT
Q. Isn’t 4 July an unrealistic target for reopening hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, given the rates of infection and the R value?
Hancock says people shouldn’t seize on one report, but should look at all the reports in the round, which Sage has done.
Q. Would you be expecting the police to break up demonstrations of seven or more people this weekend?
That is very much an operational matter for the police.
at 1.05pm EDT
Q. Is there a different R value in the community compared with hospitals and care homes?
Hancock says of course there is a higher incidence amongst health and social care staff, but it’s not rising as a proportion.
But the measures you must take in health and social care settings are different to get transmission down, he adds.
Q. Why have you only made face masks compulsory for hospital staff now, was it because of a lack of PPE before?
Hancock says the change is about face masks for staff and face coverings for patients.
at 1.05pm EDT
Q. When will there be guidance on how a regional lockdown will work in practice?
Q. Are you speaking to regional mayors and local authorities about protecting their populations and enforcing local lockdowns?
Hancock says there is engagement through test-and-trace with regional and devolved leaders.
Q. At what point [re the R number] do you put the brakes on easing measures?
Hancock says Sage’s assessment is that the overall UK R is between 0.7 and 0.9.
Hancock confirms R is closer to 1 in north-west and south-west England
Q. Studies suggest the R value could be above 1 in some areas, such as Liverpool and Manchester, and is rising due to increased mixing between households. Should people still exercise all the new freedoms or extra caution?
Hancock says everybody should exercise caution.
They’re moving towards a more local, as opposed to national, approach to lockdown, he adds.
Sage says the R is between 0.7 and 0.9, higher in the south-west and north-west of England, but remains below 1, he says.
The focus is on localised lockdowns, he says.
Q. Is the infrastructure in place to enact a local lockdown should one happen tomorrow?
Hancock says yes, as in Weston-super-Mare.
at 1.07pm EDT
Q. What are the chances of a no-deal Brexit, given Michel Barnier said trade talks aren’t progressing well?
Hancock says he hopes not because the UK’s position is very reasonable.
Any agreement must reflect that the UK is an independent sovereign state, he says.
They will work hard to bring the vision based within the political declaration to the final agreement, he says.
at 1.07pm EDT
Q. The chief scientific adviser once said keeping deaths below 20,000 would be a good outcome. How do you assess the outcome of more than 40,000 deaths?
Hancock says this is a time of sorrow for us all.
His heart goes out to all the families whose lives will never be the same again.
We need to keep the R value below 1, he says.
Q. Is the R value being around 1 in the south-west and north-west of concern and might there be a case for more regional restrictions?
Hancock says this is right and Sage advises R is below 1 in all regions.
However, local lockdowns in the event of flare-ups will be important.
The joint biosecurity centre is looking into areas where there have been flare-ups, he adds, to deal with the sources of outbreaks.
at 1.08pm EDT
Q. When will UK zoos be able to reopen?
Hancock says this is close to his heart because he comes from Chester and knows Chester Zoo “extremely well”.
But they must be reopened in a safe way, he adds.
He is taking questions from members of the public now.
Q. How do you square the Bank of England’s £1.8bn bailout scheme for airlines with your promises of a “green transport revolution”?
Hancock says greenhouse gas levels have fallen sharply due to lower numbers of flights during lockdown.
Net zero emissions remains an important goal, he says.
But we do need an airline industry and a long-term trajectory to getting to net zero, he adds.
Protect yourself and loved ones by not protesting this weekend, says Hancock
Ahead of further protests this weekend, Hancock says he understands why people are deeply appalled and upset.
But, we still face a real threat from coronavirus, he says, so it is vital to protect yourselves and your families this weekend.
He says, for the safety of your loved ones, do not attend large gatherings, including demonstrations, of more than six people this weekend.