Coronavirus news: England facing longer lockdown than rest of UK as government urged to explain why Cummings ‘sat on scientific advisory group’

Jane Dalton, Peter Stubley, Andy Gregory
Johnson records a video message at No 10 on Easter Sunday after being released from hospital, before leaving for Chequers: Getty

Downing Street reacted angrily to criticism over Dominic Cummings’ attendance at key meetings of scientists advising the UK government on the coronavirus lockdown.

​”Public confidence in the media has collapsed during this emergency partly because of ludicrous stories such as this,” said No 10 as it denied the prime minister’s aide had influenced the expert members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

Meanwhile England faces enduring a longer lockdown than the rest of the UK after ministers resisted pressure to follow Wales and Scotland by providing more detailed plans about the easing of restrictions.

At the daily briefing Grant Shapps warned the coronavirus pandemic is not yet past its peak in the UK and asking the public not to “let slip” their social distancing this weekend.

Earlier the government was forced to close its coronavirus test-booking site for key workers within hours of its launch after 5,000 home tests were snapped up within two minutes and 16,000 appointment slots were fully booked.

Making millions of key workers and their families eligible for diagnosis is one of a series of new testing and contact-tracing drives which – ministers hope – could help to ease the lockdown. Wales’s first minister has suggested his country may start to lift restrictions at the end of May, using a “traffic light” system.

Doctors have told The Independent that hospitals are now running out of vital kidney dialysis blood filtering kits, needed to keep up to a third of Covid-19 patients alive. Meanwhile the UK hospital death toll rose to 19,506.