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Coronavirus live blog, May 21
Last updated: Thursday, 21 May, 2020, 18:07
Lib Dem peer agrees to return furlough money
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Christopher Fox has admitted making an "error of judgment" after furloughing himself while continuing to claim a three-figure daily allowance for his work in Parliament.
He decided to furlough himself as the owner and sole employee of Vulpes Advisory, a communications and consultancy company, but continued to pick-up his daily £162 allowance for carrying out his work virtually as a peer in the House of Lords.
But Lord Fox has now confirmed he will repay the money he received during his time on furlough.
Boris Johnson in U-turn over NHS surcharge
Sir Keir responds to U-turn
Leader of the Opposition has welcomed the U-turn.
The Labour leader raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
Matt Hancock is set to hold today’s daily press briefing at 5pm.
He will be joined by Professor John Newton
Matt Hancock is speaking now.
Noting that it is Mental Health Awareness Week he says it is normal to feel “low, anxious and unhappy now”. He says if you need it, “please seek help”.
The Health Secretary announces that we are not yet in a position where we can say that those who test positive in antibody tests are immune from coronavirus. He says the insight these tests provide will be crucial.
He says around 17% of people in London and 5% or higher in the rest of the country have tested positive for coronavirus. This is based on a sample.
More antibody tests needed. UK have signed contracts to supply 10 million tests. These will be rolled out in a phased way, first to care workers.
“Understanding an enemy is fundamental to defeating it."
Professor Chris Whitty is talking through the daily slides.
Overall number of new admissions has been steadily decreasing since early April.
R number remains below 1.
The trio are now taking questions (Hancock and Whitty are joined by Professor John Newton).
A member of the public asks for advice on how the Muslim community should practice their faith on Eid.
Matt Hancock thanks the community and he says he appreciates that many won’t be able to celebrate in a normal way.
Professor Whitty says the clear answer for all faiths is adapt your celebrations around current social distancing rules. They remain the same for every community. Must do this to protect whole community.
Next a member of the public asks if a vaccine will be mandatory.
Hancock says we will only recommend the vaccine if it is safe. He says people absolutely should take vaccine but question of whether it is mandatory is someway off being discussed.
Whitty says that vaccine could only be used on those most vulnerable. In that case the person receiving the vaccine would only be harming themselves by rejecting vaccine.
Next the trio are asked if the government changed his mind over NHS surcharge or if he was merely afraid of losing a vote.
Hancock said the PM has asked for the surcharge to be removed as soon as possible. “Prime Minister has clearly himself been a beneficiary of carers abroad”. Purpose of the surcharge is a fair one, but those who work for the NHS are already making that contribution already.
Hancock is then asked if there will be a cap on care home costs for individuals who are sometimes forced to sell their home. He says manifesto clearly states that individuals shouldn’t be put in that position.
Hancock is asked what happened in the last 24 hours that changed PM’s mind about surcharge.
He says PM was talking about surcharge in general yesterday, not specific to NHS staff.