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UK coronavirus live: Matt Hancock defends easing lockdown as R number shown to be close to 1

Evening summary

  • The UK’s R rate is still dangerously close to one, having risen in the past week to between 0.7 and 1, bringing lockdown-easing moves into question. An R value above 1 means the epidemic will start to grow exponentially again, which wold result in a second wave of cases. The latest data from Sage is based on the levels of transmission from two to three weeks ago, calling into question whether England should be easing its lockdown restrictions just yet.
  • More than a quarter of all care home deaths in England and Wales since the beginning of the crisis involved Covid-19, data from the ONS revealed. In the period from 2 March to 1 May, there were 45,899 registered deaths of care home residents in England and Wales, 12,526 (27.3%) of which involved the virus.
  • All care home residents and staff in England will be tested for Covid-19 by early June, the health secretary announced. It came as Matt Hancock outlined plans for a £600m funding boost for the social care sector, after the government came under fierce criticism this week for acting too slowly to contain the spread of the virus in care homes.
  • The Welsh government published its roadmap for easing the lockdown in Wales, keeping the ‘stay home’ message in place for another two weeks. The traffic light system will move from lockdown into the “first cautious step” of the red zone, then the amber zone, and finally the green zone. The traffic light categories will apply to different aspects of daily life and activities, which may well happen at different rates.
  • Schools in Wales will not fully reopen before September, Mark Drakeford confirmed. But he said the ambition remained for some cohorts of children to return to school before the summer holidays.
  • Transport for London is to raise the congestion charge by 30% to secure a £1.6bn government bailout after it took a 90% hit to its revenue due to the pandemic. The capital’s congestion charge of £11.50 will be reimposed from Monday, as will the separate £12.50 charge imposed on vehicles with high emissions entering central London. This will rise to £15 from 22 June, with enforcement extended from weekdays to the whole week and for longer hours. Free travel for under-18s will also be temporarily suspended, so too for people over 60 or with a disability during peak hours.
  • “Very little progress” has been made in the latest round of Brexit talks, the UK’s chief negotiator said. David Frost said the EU’s demands on a level playing field for trade was “the major obstacle”.
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That’s it from the UK today. 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.


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