UK death toll nears 40,000 with 176 more fatalities
There were no new cases of Covid-19 confirmed among prisoners in the most recent 24-hour period, the first time figures have flatlined since the lockdown was announced.
As at 5pm on Wednesday, 479 prisoners had tested positive across 79 prisons, marking no change in the previous 24 hours, Ministry of Justice figures show, while the number of infected workers increased by four to 944 across 105 prisons, a rise of less than 0.5%.
The figures are not live cases and include those who have recovered.
There are around 80,000 prisoners across 117 prisons in England and Wales, and around 33,000 staff working in public sector prisons.
At least 23 prisoners and nine staff are known to have died, as well as one prison escort driver and one NHS trust employee working in a secure training centre.
The current regime, under which family visits are banned, time spent out of cells reduced to about 30 minutes a day, prison transfers suspended and new arrivals quarantined for 14 days, has been hailed a success by ministers, as deaths and infection rates behind bars have been significantly lower than expected.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Justice unveiled its plan for recovery within the prison estate, with the potential to restart prison visits in July.
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Whilst others raise concerns about potential confusion over face covering guidance in different parts of the UK, Nicola Sturgeon is reminding Scots that the Scottish government already strongly advises their use on public transport and in shops (whereas, the Shapps announcement for England only applies to public transport).
There is still some uncertainty about passengers on cross-border trains and buses but in reality the difference between the Scottish and English regimes is a fine. It remains to be seen what difference that extra push makes to commuters, many of whom, anecdotal evidence suggests, remain unwilling to wear face coverings for travel.
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Scottish ministers are paving the way for cuts in the size and number of Scotland’s universities and colleges after announcing a review of “future provision and sustainability” due to the coronavirus crisis.
Richard Lochhead, the Scottish education minister, said he had commissioned the Scottish Funding Council to review the funding, provision and delivery of teaching and research across the higher and further education sectors.
He said the SFC, the government agency that funds and polices the country’s colleges and universities, had forecast operating deficits of between £383m and £651m in the next academic year due to the lost income from overseas students, rental and research income and the costs of providing socially-distanced teaching.
University executives had already expected the SFC to review of the affordability and size of Scotland’s higher and further education sectors, before the pandemic shattered their funding model, with guarantees free tuition for Scottish and EU citizens.
The SFC does not fully fund the costs of Scottish and EU places, and expects universities and colleges to cross-subsidise those costs by attracting increasing numbers of overseas and rest of the UK students who are charged full tuition.
That overseas market is expected to collapse because of the coronavirus, while the UK government has announced it plans to cap the number of English students allowed to go to Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish universities. UK ministers have also rejected pleas for a multi-billion pound bail-out of universities, intensifying their financial problems.
Our colleges and universities are showing tremendous adaptability and ingenuity in meeting the challenges of Covid-19, yet we know the financial impact could run to hundreds of millions of pounds in lost income.[I] am clear we will need to shift to meet those challenges, so the Scottish Funding Council will look at how its existing models of funding, governance and delivery can exploit new opportunities and continue to support our world class further and higher education systems.