UK to ease lockdown as death toll continues to rise

More than 5.1 million Australians have registered to use the Federal Government's coronavirus-tracing app but health officials have admitted the data is still not being used to track cases of the virus yet.

Government officials behind its creation also confirmed there were ongoing issues with Apple iPhones collecting the required Bluetooth data, that the Government would pay tech giant Amazon $709,000 to host users' information, and that telcos had urgently rolled out changes after it was revealed some users in rural and regional areas could not register to use the app.


Australians are downloading the COVIDSafe app but health authorities are not yet able to access data from it. Picture: AAP
Australians are downloading the COVIDSafe app but health authorities are not yet able to access data from it. Picture: AAP

In the UK, the COVID death tally passed 30,000, the highest in Europe and second only to the US total of more than 70,000 - although the US population is five times that of Britain.

Despite the shocking numbers, UK PM and COVID survivor Boris Johnson plans to begin easing lockdown measures next week.

Spain is going in the other direction - extending its lockdown its lockdown until at least May 23, making it one of the longest locked-down nations in the world.



The majority of people who are still being hospitalised with the coronavirus across the state of New York are staying at home and are not essential workers, new data has revealed.

In a study of some 1,000 new patients admitted to New York hospitals over the last week, 66 per cent were staying at home and 18 per cent had come from nursing homes, meaning they either became infected by going out to get groceries or other essential items, or from seeing people outside of work.


Governor Cuomo said they were clearly becoming infected as a result of personal behaviour, something that can't be controlled by his lockdown, but that it stands because generally the numbers in New York are decreasing whereas cases everywhere else in America are on the rise.

There are now 19,877 deaths in New York state and more than 321,000 cases of the virus. Across America, there have been more than 1 million cases and 72,000 deaths.

Recent data shows that while New York's numbers are decreasing, the rest of America's are on the rise.

Meanwhile President Trump said the coronavirus "attack" is "worse" than the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks.

"We went through the worst attack we've ever had in our country. This is really the worst attack we've ever had. This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center," Mr Trump said.

The US has reported more than 70,000 coronavirus-related deaths, while 2,403 people died at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and 2,977 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

"There's never been an attack like this. And it never should have happened," Mr Trump continued. "It could've been stopped at the source, it should've been stopped at the source. It should've been stopped in China."

When asked if he was accepting the fact that more people would die under a quick reopening, Trump said "it could very well be the case," but "hopefully won't."

Still, the country "won't take" an extended lockdown, the president said. "They won't stand it, it's not sustainable."



The Senate Select Committee into the Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic comes just days before laws are due to be introduced to parliament to protect data collected by the app and introduce $63,000 fines for privacy breaches.

Under questioning, Department of Health Acting Secretary Caroline Edwards said while more than 5.1 million Australians had registered to use COVIDSafe since its April 27 launch, and their Bluetooth information was being recorded, the data was not yet being used by health officials.


The app collects encrypted Bluetooth communications between phones within 1.5m of one another for at least 15 minutes to share that information with health officials if a user is diagnosed with coronavirus.

Ms Edwards said "arrangements" to share the information with state-based coronavirus-tracing teams were underway but had not been finalised.

"We haven't had a transfer of that information to a state or territory government at this point," she said.


Australians are getting back out and about as lockdown measures are eased. Picture: David Swift.
Australians are getting back out and about as lockdown measures are eased. Picture: David Swift.


Digital Transformation Agency chief executive Randall Brugeaud also admitted the app did not work efficiently on Apple iPhones, with Bluetooth records worsening if the app was used in the background of the phone when the screen was locked.

He said the Government was working with Apple on Google to roll out improvements in future, and to issue updates, though the issue may not be addressed until Apple updated its smartphone operating system.

"We will be one of the first adopters of that improved Bluetooth connectivity," he said.

The Senate also heard smartphones with older software could not use the app, though Mr Brugeaud could not name how many were affected, and Telstra had recently made network changes to allow smartphone users in regional and rural areas receive SMS messages over wi-fi so they could register to use COVIDSafe.




A powerful British politician has been seeking support from Australia for a co-ordinated "rethink" by western countries to their "unbalanced relationship" with China after it covered up the coronavirus pandemic.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative Party leader, has been putting in the foundations for a new approach to China after the disaster of COVID-19.

The China hawk, a sceptic, told News Corp Australia he had been talking to Australian politicians about his campaign for a tougher line on the Communist nation.

"There needs to be a complete rethink on our unbalanced relationship with China," he said.

And he said it was inevitable that there would be an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, which Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has demanded.

"I'm sure there will be a full inquiry and there will be a full inquiry into the behaviour of the World Health Organisation in the early months, but that's a matter for the government."

There has been a groundswell of anti-China sentiment in British politics that was building before the coronavirus pandemic.



Many Conservative MPs had been concerned about the UK's decision to allow Huawei build its 5G network, despite assurances from MI5 that it was safe to do so if the work was capped at 35 per cent.

Australia and the United States banned Huawei from building their 5G networks.

A group of British MPs, including Damian Glass, has also started a China Research Group, based on a similar idea to the European Research Group that successfully lobbied for Brexit.

The debate on China comes as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was shaping as best placed to lead any world response to China, because of his personal experience with the illness, his emphatic election win and the United States' closer focus on domestic affairs.

Former opposition leader Alexander Downer, who was also an Australian High Commissioner to the UK, said Britain needed to show leadership on China.

"The British Government should be more proactive, if they were more proactive they would increase the chances of it happening," he said.

"Australia has been proactive," he added, "but even as a former Foreign Minister, even though we may not like to admit it, Britain does enjoy greater standing in the world than Australia."

Britain and Australia were among the leaders in a race for a COVID-19 vaccine.

However, Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab revealed on Wednesday Australian time that they had been under cyber attack as other nations tried to hack vaccine research.

Mr Raab did not mention countries by name, but it was understood that China, Russia and Iran were responsible for attempted hacks on UK science teams' computers.

"We have clear evidence now that these criminal gangs are actively targeting national and international organisations, which are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which I have to say makes them particularly venal and dangerous at this time," he said on Wednesday Australian time.

Originally published as UK to ease lockdown as death toll continues to rise