UK coronavirus live: George Eustice urges furloughed workers to pick fruit; death toll rises by 545

  • UK Covid-19 death toll riseS by 545 to 35,341, according to latest figures

Speaking at Downing Street’s daily press conference, the environment secretary, George Eustice, urged Britons to apply for jobs as fruit pickers to compensate for the fact that only a third of the eastern Europeans who normally come to the UK to do this work are expected to arrive.

Giving evidence to the Lords economic affairs committee earlier today, the chancellor said that by the end of the year he expected the percentage of the population in unemployment to be in double figures. It is not obvious that there will be an immediate bounce back, he added.

“We are likely to face a severe recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen, and of course that will have an impact on employment,” he said.

  • Number of people claiming unemployment benefits surged in April as lockdown hit economy, figures show

The UK claimant count jumped by 69% during the month, as 856,000 more people received universal credit and jobseeker’s allowance benefits in April. That lifted the claimant count to nearly 2.1 million people, from 1.24 million in March. In the south-west, the claimant count almost doubled during the month.

Meanwhile, more than 2m households have applied for universal credit, the UK’s main social security benefit, since the coronavirus lockdown started to hit the economy in mid-March, according to the latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Nick Stripe, the head of the health analysis and life events division at the ONS, told the BBC the total number of excess deaths in the UK – the number above what might be expected at this time of year, judged by a five-year average – was just under 55,000 by early May.

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Scientists, and ministers, have repeatedly said that the excess death figures will ultimately prove the most reliable guide as to how badly the UK has been hit by coronavirus.

Half a dozen people from three Premier League football clubs have tested positive for Covid-19 in two days. With hopes of top-flight football resuming next month, the Premier League announced six players or staff returned positive results in its first two days of testing.

Facing an urgent question from the shadow minister for social care, Liz Kendall, Hancock defended the government’s approach, saying deaths in care homes were falling.

Kendall highlighted that more than 23,000 more people had died in care homes in the first four months of this year compared with last, accusing ministers of being “too slow” to tackle the impact of the virus in social care.

  • Commons science and technology committee criticises government for ‘inadequate’ coronavirus testing capacity throughout pandemic

The group of MPs identified several lessons to learn from the UK’s handling of the outbreak, and criticised a lack of transparency over some crucial decision-making. They called on the government to “urgently” build up capacity for contact tracing, a key tactic in helping ease existing lockdown measures.


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