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Prince Charles tests positive for Covid-19 as PM faces calls for more curbs on travel

UK News | Published:

Clarence House said Charles, 71, is self-isolating at home in Scotland with his wife, who does not have the virus.

Coronavirus

The Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus but is displaying only “mild symptoms”.

Clarence House announced the news as NHS England’s medical director said hundreds of thousands of tests for Covid-19 per day could become a reality within weeks.

The Clarence House statement said Charles, 71, was self-isolating at home in Scotland with his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, 72, who does not have the virus.

“He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.

“The Duchess of Cornwall has also been tested but does not have the virus.

“In accordance with Government and medical advice, the Prince and the Duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.

“The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire where they met the criteria required for testing.

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“It is not possible to ascertain from whom the Prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”

The news came as political pressure for more stringent rules on workers mounted  and Parliament was set to adjourn for an early Easter break after emergency legislation to tackle Covid-19 is approved.

The Coronavirus Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent on Wednesday, with a motion tabled for the House of Commons to rise the same day until April 21.

With people filling busy Tube trains on Wednesday morning, Boris Johnson is being asked to ban non-essential construction workers from heading to building sites and help stop the spread of the virus.

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Voices from across the political spectrum have argued for more stringent rules so workers are not placed at risk, and public transport is not overwhelmed.

Mr Johnson, who will appear before MPs on Wednesday for Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, has so far resisted the pressure.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted it is “sensible” for construction workers to keep heading to work if it is “safe to do so” and employers follow Public Health England’s guidance on social distancing.

It comes as Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, said the NHS could start testing hundreds of thousands of people per day for Covid-19 within a matter of weeks.

Prof Powis told LBC: “We want to get hundreds of thousands of tests ramped up in the next few weeks per day.”

Asked to clarify whether he really meant hundreds of thousands of tests per day, Prof Powis said: “That’s what we are aiming for. That is what we want to ramp up to, but remember this is a new virus and we’re starting from scratch.

“The kits which are required to do this testing are being manufactured as we speak. We are getting those into the country, we are ramping it up.

“I am talking of hundreds of thousands of tests.

“All of this is ramping up and increasing as we speak but yes, you heard me correctly, we need to get to hundreds of thousands of tests a day, and we will do that over the course of the next few weeks and we will be making tests available to NHS staff within the next few days.”

Prof Powis also told BBC Breakfast there have been “outbreaks of altruism and people wanting to help”, adding he has been “bowled over” by medics returning to the front line and the response from people signing up to help those in need.

On Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for 250,000 people to sign up as volunteers.

Prof Powis said: “Overnight 170,000 people have signed up – that’s three a minute to help the NHS.

“It’s an absolutely astonishing response.”

But the top medic said people must play their part by adhering to the instructions laid down by the Prime Minister.

“When I see groups of 20 having a BBQ, frankly this putting pressure on our NHS, it is potentially costing lives and it means we need more ventilators,” he said.

“That just has to stop, that behaviour has to stop. You are putting untold pressure on the NHS by that behaviour.”

Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged the Government to help to reduce demand for public transport in London.

He said: “It remains the case that too many of the people using TfL services at the busiest times work in construction.

“I repeat my call on the Government to ban non-safety construction work during this period, as TfL did yesterday.”

Some 500 British Transport Police officers were due on the rail network on Wednesday to remind passengers that only those making essential journeys for work should be using the Tube and trains.

In India, some 1.3 billion people have been ordered to stay at home from Wednesday as part of the world’s biggest lockdown.

The Australian government has also imposed strict domestic and international travel bans, while New Zealand has declared a state of emergency and is preparing to go into lockdown for a month.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government is lifting the tight coronavirus lockdown in Hubei province, where the outbreak first originated.

In the UK, the chairman of the Doctors’ Association UK, Dr Rinesh Parmar, has warned that medics will be forced to leave the profession over a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to safely treat patients during the pandemic.

And some 50 staff were reportedly off sick at a hospital in Essex.

On Tuesday, Mr Hancock announced that an exhibition centre in London will be converted into a new NHS hospital.

He confirmed that a temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale hospital – would be opening at London’s ExCeL centre, with 4,000 beds spread across two wards.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that the number of coronavirus dead in the UK had reached 422 – up from 335 the day before and the largest day-on-day increase in the number of deaths since the outbreak began. Northern Ireland later said there had been a further two deaths in the region.

Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, told Newsnight on Tuesday: “This decision about allowing non-essential work appears to be taken for economic reasons when actually – when you’re in the middle of a global pandemic – health reasons alone really should be guiding all decision making.”

The Government is also under intense pressure to set out a financial support package for self-employed workers – measures senior Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith said were soon to be announced.

HEALTH Coronavirus
New coronavirus cases in the UK (PA Graphics)

“I believe the Government has reached a conclusion about that, the best way to do it is to look back over the average for the year but that does leave out some who haven’t been self-employed for over a year,” he told Newsnight.

Elsewhere, Mr Hancock said 11,788 recently retired NHS staff had responded to the call to return to the service, including 2,660 doctors, more than 2,500 pharmacists and other staff and 6,147 nurses.

Some 5,500 final-year medics and 18,700 final-year student nurses will also “move to the front line” next week.

In other developments, a British patient became the first person to die with Covid-19 in Cape Verde.

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