"We Will Keep People Home By Law, If Necessary" - UK Unveils New "Test & Trace" Plan To Fight COVID-19: Live Updates

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 01:33 PM


  • New York reports ~100 deaths
  • Brazil reports more daily deaths than US
  • UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock unveils "test & trace"
  • Italy reports another 117 deaths
  • Disney to reopen "the Magic Kingdom"
  • Dr. Fauci says images of MDW partiers are 'troubling'
  • Germany returns chloroquine donated by Bayer
  • India cases top 150k
  • France discontinues use of hydroxychloroquine
  • Japan, EU push new stimulus
  • New Chinese study confirms COVID uses same 'strategy' as HIV to cripple immune system
  • Wuhan finds 200 'asymptomatic' cases after testing millions
  • ECB's Lagarde said eurozone economy could take 12% hit due to virus
  • WHO reiterates warnings about premature reopening

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Update (1355ET): New York State has seen cases continue to fall, and reported just over 100 deaths over the last 24 hours.

  •  NEW YORK REPORTS 364,965 VIRUS CASES, UP FROM 363,836 || CASES RISE 0.3% VS. 7-DAY AVG. 0.4%

Gov Cuomo used today's briefing to bash the Trump administration for not funneling enough cash to his state.

In a story that caught our eye from earlier, South Africa's ban on sales of tobacco and alcohol as part of its lockdown measures has created a burgeoning, according to the Associated Press.

A soccer mom in one of Cape Town’s posh suburbs drops off a cardboard box of blankets to a neighbor. Inside the box are several bottles of red wine.

In Johannesburg’s Alexandra township, two men in face masks greet each other on a sunny street. One has surreptitiously sold the other a pack of cigarettes.

A bootlegging culture has sprung up across South Africa in response to the government’s nearly 8-week-old ban on the sale of tobacco and alcohol, part of its strict lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

"They’ve banned the sale of cigarettes but we’re still able to buy them,” said street vendor Mluleki Mbhele. "We buy cigarettes in the streets in the black market. The officials know about it because they themselves continue to smoke."

Critics describe the prohibitions imposed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as puritanical, hypocritical and unrealistic. Around the world, only Panama and Sri Lanka are reported to be prohibiting the sale of liquor during the pandemic, while India and Thailand temporarily banned it.

South African government officials say the number of admissions to hospital emergency rooms from alcohol-related crimes and vehicle accidents have been reduced significantly. Supporters of the ban on cigarette sales say smoking weakens the respiratory system, which is attacked by the virus.

South Africa has the continent’s highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases with over 24,000. The virus has spread relatively slowly across Africa, whose 54 countries with a population of 1.3 billion have reported a total of over 115,000 cases.

As Latin America steals the crown of lockdown epicenter from the US, a new COVID-19 model shared by WaPo predicts the death toll in Brazil could surpass 125,000 by early August. In Chile, despite a strict lockdown in the capital of Santiago, officials said 95% of ICU beds have been filled. Brazil has reported 24,125 deaths so far, and on Wednesday, the Brazilian Health Ministry reported 1,039 deaths, larger than the daily total from the US.

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Update (1310ET): As expected, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock unveiled HMG's new plan for guiding the country back to some degree of normalcy. It will rely heavily on the NHS and a new legion of contact tracers, and a new "test and trace" regimen that will take full advantage of the surveillance apps and methodologies that have been developed in the pursuit of contact tracing, a controversial technique that has nevertheless been touted as the answer for preventing the second wave.

Beginning Thursday, across the UK, anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms should report themselves to NHS specialists to get a test. When patients test positive, the NHS will deploy the contact tracing experts to reach out to anyone who has been in close contact with the patient, and ask them to isolate for 14 days.

"As we move to the next stage of our fight against coronavirus, we will be able to replace national lockdowns with individual isolation and, if necessary, local action where there are outbreaks," Hancock said.

However, Hancock warned that if the initial voluntary system is not respected, the government will not hesitate to sic the police on anyone who doesn't comply, since the very fate of the nation may be at stake.

"NHS Test and Trace will be vital to stopping the spread of the virus. It is how we will be able to protect our friends and family from infection, and protect our NHS".

"This new system will help us keep this virus under control while carefully and safely lifting the lockdown nationally."

Afterward, the NHS executive chairwoman of the Test and Trace effort Baroness Dido Harding outlined how the new system would work:

"I want you to feel safe and confident to play an active part in NHS Test and Trace, for you, your loved ones and our country. We do need you to follow the following three steps," she said.

Here are the main steps for the public as she explained them, according to the Telegraph.

  • "Step one - if you have one or more of the symptoms of coronavirus, a fever, a new, continuous cough or loss of your sense of taste or smell, you must immediately self-isolate.
  • "Step two - you should then book a test on the site, or if you don't have internet access, by dialling 119. Do not leave home for any other reason. If you test positive, you will then be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service within 24 hours. All contact tracers have been undergoing training and induction before the beginning of this week and before they start work.
  • "Step three - NHS Test and Trace will help you establish who you've been in close contact with and so who you might have infected and will gather their contact details. This could include members of your household, or someone you've been in two metres of for more than 15 minutes."

As the Q&A continued, Hancock and the assembled officials clarified that the new guidance doesn't call for varying the lockdown by age. And as the new targeted program begins, the UK has already hired an army of 25,000 contact tracers ready to start hunting the virus, the Baroness added.

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Update (1210ET): Italy has broken a two-day streak of reporting fewer than 100 new deaths. Italy's Civil Protection Service reported on Wednesday that 117 new deaths had been confirmed in the prior 24 hours, compared with 78 on Tuesday.

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Update (1100ET): As the British public slowly accept that Dominic Cummings won't be resigning from PM Johnson's government any time soon, the latest data are showing that the UK has continued to report hundreds of deaths per day, even as Italy and Spain - which have populations that are moderately smaller.

Today's number: 412.

During Wednesday's press briefing, PM Johnson told the public that he would make a decision "tomorrow" on

And earlier on Wednesday, the EU's chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier (a name we haven't seen in print for some time, thanks, in part, to the virus) offered Johnson's government an unexpected olive branch: A one- or two-year extension of the Brexit process to allow his government to invest all its energies into fighting the virus, and cleaning up the economic mess afterward.

Will Johnson take it? His detractors are ready to pounce if he refuses.

In other news, Disney announced Wednesday that it plans to reopen its flagship "Disney World" theme park in Orlando, Fla. on July 11. Unfortunately, visitors to "The Magic Kingdom" - as it's known to the American public - won't be magically whisked back to a time before corona: Safety protocols for visitors will include strict limits on the number of attendees (a 50% of max capacity will likely be enforced), requirements for facemasks, temperature checks and other safety measures, according to a presentation delivered to a Florida state task force, as reported by USAToday.

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Update (1000ET): As the media continues to hammer President Trump for refusing to wear a mask, Dr. Fauci told CNN that he wears a mask while out in public to set an example. Asked about images from around the country showing MDW partiers ignoring social distancing restrictions, Dr. Fauci said he found these stories "troubling". We don't need to accept that a second wave is "inevitable", he said.

Germany's health ministry on Wednesday announced plans to return thousands of chloroquine tablets donated by Bayer in mid-April following "findings" that the drug is not only ineffective at treating the coronavirus, but dangerous for human consumption, even as some researchers insist that a related drug - hydroxychloroquine - can be effective at treating COVID-19 patients if combined with zinc or a Z-Pak.

* * *

California Gov. Gavin Newsom's decision to allow retailers across the state to reopen (along with barbershops and salons in most counties) helped galvanize investors' hopes for a "V-shaped" rebound in the US, setting US equities on the path to opening with strong gains for a second straight day on Wednesday, even after the death toll in the US surpassed 100k late Tuesday.

A few days ago, authorities in Wuhan claimed that they had tested more than 7 million people, part of an effort to quash a 'second wave' of the virus. Overnight, Chinese business news org Caixin reported that roughly 200 patients tested positive for the virus, all of whom were considered "asymptomatic".

PM Narendra Modi's heavy-handed response to the coronavirus outbreak has been credited with preventing a destabilizing outbreak in the world's second-largest country by population. Although many Indians remain leery of the world outside their front door, infection numbers have continued to rise at a steady clip. On Wednesday, Indian public health authorities confirmed another 6,387 new infections and 170 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, bringing India's total to 151,767 confirmed infections, and 4,337 deaths, according to Nikkei.

France's health ministry said Wednesday it would discontinue the use of hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 patients, and in all clinical trials, while health officials in India expanded the use of the controversial drug, which was famously touted by President Trump, who also claimed to be taking the medication as a kind of prophylactic. France's decision is notable because Didier Raoult, a virologist based in Marseille, has repeatedly championed its efficacy if taken alongside zinc or a powerful antibiotic like a Z-Pak.

Across Asia and Europe, new measures to offset the tremendous cost of the outbreak were introduced on Wednesday, with the Japanese cabinet approving another 6% of GDP in stimulus spending, just one month after approving  a first supplementary budget. Combined with the prior package, PM Shinzo Abe said that Japan will have pumped the equivalent of 40% of its GDP in stimulus spending into its economy. “With the largest policy package in the world, the Japanese economy will hold fast against this once in a hundred year crisis,” Abe said.

Just when we believed 'coronabonds' were as good as dead, the European Commission is reportedly planning to borrow as much as €750 billion to dole out to the hardest-hit countries, according to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. As was widely reported in March and April, an alliance of wealthy northern states led Germany and the Netherlands seemed to have put the issue to rest, as they insisted that Italy and Spain can always submit to the European Stability Mechanism (and the punishing austerity it would almost certainly prescribe) if they needed emergency financing. Von der Leyen is expected to lay out the details of the new coronavirus relief fund on Wednesday afternoon in Europe.

Watch von der Leyen live:

Regardless of how the EU responds, ECB Chief Christine Lagarde, one of the most vocal advocates for "coronabonds" and a strong fiscal stimulus to revive Europe's moribund economy, said Wednesday that the eurozone economy could shrink by as much as 12% this year as the "sudden stop" caused by the pandemic is expected to lead to a prolonged recession that's even deeper than the post-GFC period.

Authorities in Wuhan found more than 200 asymptomatic cases of the new coronavirus since launching an ambitious plan earlier this month to test the city’s entire population, according to municipal health officials.

On May 11, health authorities in the central Chinese metropolis, where the deadly virus was first detected, ordered municipal districts to start conducting nucleic acid tests on all residents. As of Saturday, the city had carried out 6.68 million tests and discovered 206 asymptomatic cases across more than 10 districts, according to notices from the municipal health commission. About 11 million people live in Wuhan.

With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil expected to cross the 400k-threshold on Wednesday, prosecutors in President Jair Bolsonaro's Brazil authorized the arrest of the conservative governor of Rio de Janeiro state on suspicion of corruption, Reuters reports. The arrest follows a falling-out between the governor and Bolsonaro over the latter's handling of the outbreak.

As the number of newly confirmed cases in the US tumbled to its lowest level since March on Tuesday, the World Health Organization reiterated warnings about the dangers of scaling back coronavirus restrictions too quickly, arguing that a "premature" push to return to normalcy could unleash a brutal 'second wave'.

“We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now that it’s going to keep going down,” Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies program, told reporters during a briefing.

Despite a flurry of research over the past few months, scientists concede that nobody really knows anything for certain about SARS-CoV-2. In the US, at least, the initial justification for the lockdown was to flatten the curve so hospitals aren't overwhelmed. Data overwhelmingly suggests that the US accomplished this weeks ago. But the WHO's Dr. Mike Ryan insisted that the virus could pop back up "at any time".

Before we go, we'd like to remind readers that, back on Feb. 1, Zero Hedge highlighted some non-peer-reviewed research claiming that the virus's genome appeared to contain 'HIV-like insertions' that helped stoke suspicions about the possibility that the virus was an artificially created bioweapon.

We were widely pilloried for sharing this research at the time. But now, roughly four months later, another study appears to have replicated these findings.

Let's all remember what the NYT's Nick Kristof wrote about the importance of humility.