Coronavirus in UK live blog as it happened: 759 more deaths recorded as UK warned social distancing is "vital" until vaccine

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Street art dedicated to the NHS at a skate park in Milton Keynes (Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Coronavirus live blog, April 22

Last updated: Wednesday, 22 April, 2020, 17:57

New Covid-19 testing lab opens in Glasgow

A new coronavirus testing facility has opened today in Glasgow, with hopes it will be able to carry out tens of thousands of tests per day.

The Lighthouse Lab is hosted by the University of Glasgow at its Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus and officially started testing samples this week.

It is part of a network of other diagnostic testing facilities, including sites in Milton Keynes and Alderley Park in Cheshire, and is funded by the UK government.

The newly operational lab will test samples from regional test centres where NHS staff and front-line workers with suspected Covid-19 infections are tested, with the aim of processing thousands per day.

Tesco to start testing workers for coronavirus

Tesco is to start testing its shop workers for coronavirus this week as the government boosts its testing efforts.

Chief executive Dave Lewis said the supermarket will begin trialing testing for its workers in one region of the UK.

It is understood the voluntary testing will be available for around 200 staff, but added that it will only be “for critical workers currently experiencing symptoms, or for those with symptoms who are living with critical workers”.

The supermarket said that around 41,000 of its staff are absent each day, with the figure steadily falling, and it has recruited 50,000 temporary workers to help keep operations running.

UK deaths linked to Covid-19 rises above 18,000

The number of deaths in the UK linked to coronavirus currently stands at 18,100, as 759 more deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours, according to Public Health.

The Department of Health and Social Care revealed there are now 133,495 confirmed cases of the virus in the country.

A statement from the government department said: "As of 9am 22 April, 559,935 tests have concluded, with 22,814 tests on 21 April.

"411,192 people have been tested of which 133,495 tested positive.

"As of 5pm on 21 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 18,100 have sadly died."

Raab: “Second spike” in coronavirus would trigger second lockdown

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has warned that a “second spike” in coronavirus cases would trigger a second lockdown, prolonging the current economic difficulties in the UK.

Speaking at Downing Street’s daily press conference, Mr Raab said: “We are making progress through the peak of this virus but we're not out of the woods yet, as Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) advised last week.

"That's why the measures we introduced must remain in place for the time being.

"The greatest risk for us now, if we eased up on our social distancing rules too soon, is that we would risk a second spike in the virus with all the threats to life that would bring and then the risk of a second lockdown which would prolong the economic pain we are all going through."

Mr Raab added that testing will play an important role in the next phase of handling the crisis.

UK shouldn’t expect a sudden decline in deaths

The government’s chief medical advisor has said the number of deaths in the UK is now “flattening off”, while the number of people in hospital beds is “improving”.

The news comes after 759 more deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the current death toll to 18,100.

Professor Chris Whitty warned that despite the number of deaths starting to slow, based on other countries the UK should not expect a “sudden” decline in numbers.

Antibody test not yet good enough

Professor Chris Whitty has said the government does not yet have an antibody test that is as good as they want.

However, it is hoped it will soon have a test which will show what proportion of people have had the virus, including people of different ages and in different parts of the country.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs today the expansion of testing capacity in the UK “was ahead of plans” and the government is working on the development of a contact tracing app, which is in trials.

He said: "That way we can control this virus, with fewer of the very extraordinary social distancing measures that have been in place."

UK still has “a long way to go” before having a vaccine

Professor Chris Whitty has said there is still a long way to go before the UK gets a vaccine, or a drug, to control the spread of the virus.

Whitty stressed the importance of relying on social distancing measures until a vaccine is available, stating that such restrictions are “vital”.

He is hopeful that the government will get vaccines with “proof of concept” within a year.

The Foreign Secretary also added that the government is putting a huge effort into tracking and tracing the virus.

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