Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Saturday morning. We’ll have another update for you tomorrow.
1. Sue Gray won’t wait for police probe
Sue Gray is set to deliver her report on alleged lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street to Boris Johnson without waiting for the police investigation to conclude, the BBC has been told. The senior civil servant is expected to submit her report to No 10 shortly – though no exact date has been given. It comes after the Metropolitan Police – which launched its own probe into the gatherings – requested that Ms Gray’s report make “minimal reference” to the events the force is examining “to avoid any prejudice” to its investigation. BBC political correspondent Iain Watson says he’s been told Ms Gray is working to redraft parts of her report to address police concerns, but wants to avoid redacting large sections of text in case it looks like a “Whitehall whitewash”.
Some people with long Covid – a host of symptoms that persist for weeks after catching coronavirus – may have hidden lung damage, a small UK pilot study suggests. Scientists used a novel xenon gas scan method to pick up lung abnormalities not found by routine scans. They focused on 11 people who had not required hospital care when they first caught Covid but experienced long-lasting breathlessness after their initial infection. Researchers say the findings shed some light on why breathlessness is so common in long Covid – though the reasons for feeling short of breath are often many and complex. The paper is a pre-print and has not yet been through the formal process of peer review. A larger, more detailed study is under way to confirm the results.
3. NHS staff seek jobs over border to avoid jab
Some unvaccinated NHS staff in England say they are looking for jobs across the borders, where vaccination is not mandatory. In England, staff who have face-to-face contact with patients will have to have had two jabs by 1 April. In Scotland and Wales there are no plans to make jabs compulsory for NHS staff. Northern Ireland is holding a public consultation on the issue. But Chloe, a 25-year-old dentist therapist in Plymouth says she doesn’t want the vaccine and is looking to go to work in Wales. Maria, an unvaccinated midwife in London, says she is “strongly opposed” to mandatory jabs and that relocating was a sacrifice she was willing to make.
4. Posts claiming just 17,000 died of Covid ‘factually incorrect’
A misleading claim that “only” 17,000 people in England and Wales had died of Covid went viral on social media. The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) stepped in to correct the false figure, which was arrived at by removing from ONS data anyone with a pre-existing health condition. The false claim discounts the deaths of people like Ian Fowler – a 56-year-old type 2 diabetic – who died with Covid in April 2020. His son Matt says it was the virus, and not diabetes that killed him. He calls social media posts that underplay the UK death toll “deeply offensive”.
5. Joni Mitchell wants songs off Spotify in Covid row
Canadian singer Joni Mitchell has joined Neil Young in asking for her music to be taken off Spotify over Covid misinformation concerns. In a post on her official website on Friday, Mitchell said: “Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives.” On Monday, Young said the streaming platform had to choose either him or the podcaster Joe Rogan. Rogan has been accused of spreading false information about Covid, but has said previously he is “not an anti-vax person”, and that he thinks vaccines are safe and encourages many people to get them. Mitchell and Young – who have been friends for years – are both survivors of polio having contracted the disease in the early 1950s, not long before a vaccine became available.
And there’s more…
While uncertainty surrounds Ms Gray’s report into parties at Downing Street and Whitehall during the pandemic – what exactly is her inquiry looking at? And for more stories, information, advice and guides, read our coronavirus page.
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