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15 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Morning briefing: Doctors gagged over face masks

By Samuel Horti

Good morning.

NHS managers have tried to stop doctors speaking out about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals, the BBC reports. At one trust, a newsletter sent to staff said they should avoid “commenting on political issues, such as PPE” – another trust put up posters in staff areas that said hospital workers should not make “[ublic appeals for equipment”. One doctor who posted about shortages online told Newsnight that they were hauled in front of a panel of senior managers. “They kept on feeding me what felt like government type of lines, saying ‘this hospital has never had PPE shortages’, which I know to be factually untrue. And that essentially I should stop causing a fuss.”

The UK’s second-largest teachers union has threatened local authorities with legal action if staff are forced to return to schools on 1 June. The NASUWT, which has 300,000 members, claimed that government guidance for schools was not stringent enough, and said that teachers have a legal right to refuse to return unless they are given the same protections as other frontline workers. Union leaders are meeting government scientific advisers later today to discuss its concerns, particularly over PPE and social distancing in the classroom.

Finally, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing a “much more interventionist drive” to reduce obesity in the UK, the Times reports. Evidence has suggested obesity might be linked to worse Covid-19 outcomes, and Johnson is convinced the reason he ended up in intensive care was his own weight.  The PM believes the pandemic is the ideal time for a new campaign on obesity, exercise, and cycling to work, the report says.

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Global updates:

Africa: Nearly 250 million people in 47 African nations will catch coronavirus over the next year, and up to 190,000 people will die, according to a World Health Organisation projection. The forecast, which omitted five countries, will have a lower death rate than in Europe or North America, the research said.

China: China marked one month without reporting any coronavirus deaths. Four new cases were reported today, all within the north-eastern province of Jilin, where some lockdown measures have been reintroduced.

Mexico: Mexico reported a record number of cases in a 24-hour period yesterday, with 257 deaths and 2,409 infections. It brings the total number of cases to nearly 43,000.

Brazil: Brazil passed 200,000 confirmed cases last night, giving it the sixth highest case load in the world. It has reported 14,000 deaths.

Bangladesh: A Rohingya man became the first person to test positive in the country’s huge refugee camp that is home to nearly one million people. The Rohingya have gathered there after fleeing Myanmar.

Europe: The European Commission has halted the delivery of 10 million face masks from China after some were found to be faulty. Meanwhile, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania today open their borders to one another, but anyone crossing over must quarantine on arrival.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Why ancient pandemics may hold the key to our future survival

Why the much-discussed “R” is not the magic number

It’s time to have a grown-up conversation about schools reopening

What Hannah Arendt can teach us about work in the time of Covid-19

Rutger Bregman: “It’s a wonderful time to be a social democrat”