The government missed the opportunity for university labs to help increase the testing of NHS staff for Covid-19, according to a leading UK scientist.
Ali Tavassoli, a professor of chemical biology at Southampton University, said he was surprised the government had not asked university labs to help test frontline health and social care workers:
I was surprised that right from the start when this [pandemic] started kicking off that that capacity wasn’t called in. Look, there’s people and instruments at universities. This is war – let’s deploy it.
Tavassoli suggested the government may not have done this because the tests need to be standardised to rule out false positives and false negatives, and not all university labs could automatically do the two-step testing process currently carried out in the approved labs.
He said, given notice, university labs could have adapted their testing regimes to comply with the approved tests. But the opportunity to do this had passed because universities were now closed and lab teams had dispersed. Tavassoli added:
I do understand the government’s position. They can’t just suddenly stop and change everything. But the reason we’re struggling now is this resource wasn’t deployed a month ago. If they’d started things going then it would be a lot better.
Universities could have been involved with more complex tests and to simplify and optimise existing tests and develop new tests. But all of that relies on reagents. And the supply chain is now shut down pretty much [and] universities are closed.
He said the government last week requested that university scientists volunteer in the designated testing labs and that this would improve the situation.
A British woman battling coronavirus has thanked Guatemalans for their support after her Instagram profile “exploded” with messages of love and support after she was featured on local media.
Jaia, 26, has spent the last week in hospital in the Central American country after falling ill with the disease and has posted daily health updates on her Instagram for her worried friends and family.
The British national, who has been on a round-the-world trip since November, is a high-risk patient with a number of immunological conditions. She told the Guardian that although her Covid-19 symptoms were improving, the illness had left her feeling weak and she was struggling with pain from other conditions.
Jaia, who did not want to provide her last name, is receiving help from the Foreign Office after the owner of the accommodation she was
renting asked her not to return. There are no flights back to the UK from Guatemala, where there are currently 36 confirmed cases of
Police in Scotland issued more than 140 fines in the first week of the lockdown, including a number imposed on partygoers who refused to break up a house party, the chief constable has disclosed.
Iain Livingstone told BBC Radio Scotland the 140 fixed penalty notices of £60, or £30 if paid within 28 days, was quite a low number given Scotland’s population.
He said: “We’ve had to use the powers very infrequently. The level of cooperation and support from the public in terms of social distancing has been vast, overwhelming. Everybody is stepping up and doing their duty.”
The chief constable urged the public to maintain their “discipline” in observing the lockdown and social distancing, with Easter weekend and better spring and summer weather approaching, particularly in the absence of a coronavirus vaccine.
“I don’t think there has been so many people flouting the laws. If you take the country as a whole it has actually been a tiny minority. My expectation is that the level of support and cooperation that we have seen from the people of Scotland will continue.
“At the moment, because of the absence of a vaccine, because of the absence of any intervention other than social distancing to try to restrict the spread, it is absolutely crucial that everybody does their duty to their fellow citizens and maintains the social distancing discipline that they have showed.”
Asked about Scottish Police Federation concerns about the powers police have in Scotland to deal with people who coughed or spat at officers, claiming to have the virus, Livingstone said the force would “make sure the full weight of the criminal justice system is brought to bear” on anyone who assaults a police officer or emergency services worker by coughing or spitting at them. “Somebody who assaults a police officer will be arrested, make no mistake,” he said.
I will shortly be handing over to my colleague Lucy Campbell who will be running the live blog for most of the day. Please do share any final thoughts with me, or any news tips.