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18th June 2020

Science Coronavirus: Evening update as report finds ethnic minorities are at greater risk

Science Coronavirus: Evening update as report finds ethnic minorities are at greater risk


Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus outbreak this Tuesday evening. We’ll have another update for you on Wednesday morning.

Science 1. Being from an ethnic minority is a risk factor

People from ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of dying from coronavirus than white British people, a much-anticipated report by Public Health England says.

It shows age remains the biggest risk factor, while being male is another, as is living in a city.

But the impact of Covid-19 is also “disproportionate” for people from Asian, Caribbean and black ethnicities and it’s unclear why – or what can be done about it.

The government is stressing it is taking the report’s findings seriously and asked equalities minister Kemi Badenoch to continue working on the issue alongside PHE. “Black lives matter,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the daily government briefing.

In the meantime, he says those in at risk groups should “stringently” follow social distancing and hand-washing advice.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

A large proportion of NHS doctors are from an ethnic minority background

Science 2. More controversy over testing figures

There’s more criticism of the way the government has been handling its testing data – this time from the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority.

Sir David Norgrove has sent Mr Hancock a strongly-worded letter, in which he says the presentation of figures appears to be aimed at showing “the largest possible number of tests, even at the expense of understanding”.

The government has not so far explained how many home test kits sent out to the public have actually been returned. Figures for the number of people tested as opposed to the number of tests carried out are not currently available.

There has been a dramatic increase in laboratory capacity to process tests which has helped make testing more widely available, says our health editor, Hugh Pym, but the message from the statistics watchdog is that public confidence will be undermined if the numbers are not transparent.

Are the figures on testing misleading? Read more from BBC Reality Check here.

Science 3. Weekly deaths at lowest rate since March

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed there were 2,872 deaths linked to coronavirus registered in the UK in the week ending 22 May – the lowest weekly figure since March.

Overall, there have been 190,000 deaths during the pandemic – nearly 62,000 above what would be expected for the time of year – and 48,106 where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate.

Back at the start of the UK lockdown, government scientific advisers said 20,000 deaths from the virus would be a “good” outcome. The UK passed that milestone back in April.

Meanwhile, the latest government figures report that 39,369 people with coronavirus have died in the UK, across all settings, with an increase of 324 deaths on Monday’s figures.

Science 5. Desperate for a dip?

Tensions are continuing in some coastal areas struggling to cope with large numbers of visitors heading to beaches in the sunny weather. It doesn’t help that swimming pools are still not able to open, despite the easing of some other lockdown restrictions. Swimming organisations are drawing up plans for what new rules pools might have to bring in when they do eventually reopen – including asking swimmers to arrive “beach ready” in their costumes instead of using changing rooms.

Meanwhile, many have been trying to cool off at home instead. People spending more time at home, combined with the record-breaking run of dry and sunny weather is causing a surge in demand for water and something of a double-whammy for the UK’s water companies.

They are asking us to be careful how much we use, avoid hosepipes and sprinklers and not to fill paddling pools.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Science 5. Recorded for posterity

Empty streets, home-made haircuts and a giant NHS thank you cut into a field are among 200 images chosen by Historic England to best reflect the nation’s experience of lockdown.

The organisation received more than 3,000 responses to its appeal for the public to photograph their experiences for inclusion in its archive – the first time it had made such a call since World War Two.

Image copyright
Rory Milner

Image caption

Rory Milner decided to merge the need for an overdue haircut and the want for a fun family activity in his picture in Chatham, Kent

Get a longer coronavirus briefing from the BBC in your inbox, each weekday morning, by signing up here.

Science And don’t forget…

… you can find out everything you need to know about social distancing and the two-metre rule with this explainer from our science editor, David Shukman.

Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page and get the latest in our live page.

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