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In the news week commencing 17 August 2020

National and local media coverage we've received week commencing 17 August.

Friday 21 August 2020

Coronavirus antibodies tests 'put public at risk' 

The Royal College of Pathologists has written to the health secretary, calling for rules to be tightened on kits sold direct to consumers, the BBC reports. The letter warns they can "mislead the public and put individuals at risk" and calls for urgent action. No antibodies test has been officially approved for at-home use in the UK - but many different types are available. It is still not known whether having antibodies will protect people from a second infection. The doctors say the tests should not be used without "professional back-up", must "give the right result" and be "properly readable". A Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency official said it had "worked collaboratively with cross-government agencies at pace to prevent non-compliant antibody test kits being placed into the UK market". But Royal College of Pathologists president Prof Jo Martin said: "Currently if you buy a test on the internet or you buy it in certain boutiques or shops, we can't guarantee that the quality of that is of an appropriate standard. "We can't guarantee that the result will be easy to interpret or that it will be not misleading.” 


Cap lifted on dentistry courses and students to be offered first choice places 

The government has lifted the cap on medical, dentistry, veterinary and teaching courses, and agreed targeted extra funding. Universities UK said the A-level U-turn still posed "significant challenges" and called for more funding. Universities in England will offer all students with the grades places on their first choice courses, but many will have to start next year. England's Department for Education said all offers to students who met their conditions would be honoured this coming year, wherever possible. Revised A-levels results in England - after the algorithm was scrapped following the downgrading of nearly 40% of grades last week - show 38.1% of results were awarded an A* or A, compared to 25.2% last year. Failures were down, with 0.3% of entries not getting a pass, compared to 2.5% last year. Labour has called for a "cast-iron guarantee" to all students that their offers will be upheld. 


BBC - Students to be offered first choice places, says minister

The Guardian - English universities to honour admission offers 'where possible'

GOV.uk - Action agreed to support students into preferred universities


Dentists raise concerns over PPE a decade out of date 

The Evening Telegraph reports on concerns that PPE is not ‘fit for use’, according to the Scottish Dental Practice Owners Group (SDPO), flagging concerns over patient and staff safety. SDPO said NHS practitioners were advised the Scottish Government would supply the necessary PPE through local health boards. But it said when practices received their supplies, some found the FFP3 masks issued are “significantly beyond their expiry dates, in some cases by almost a decade”. In response, the Scottish Government said “We’ve worked with NHS Scotland procurement teams to ensure a robust and sustainable supply of PPE is available to NHS dental practices including the supply of three million pieces of PPE and 850,000 FFP3 respirators to support Scotland’s dental community. Revalidating stock and extending the shelf-life of masks is standard practice to maintain pandemic stock levels and this was used in relation to FFP3 respirator stocks as announced in March. Any PPE which has been issued to NHS boards for onward distribution to dental practices and may have passed its original expiry date has been re-tested to ensure it remains safe to use.” 


MPs criticise privacy watchdog over NHS test-and-trace data 

A cross-party group of more than 20 MPs has accused the UK’s privacy watchdog of failing to hold the government to account for its failures in the NHS coronavirus test-and-trace programme. The MPs have urged Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, to demand that the government change the programme after it admitted failing to conduct a legally required impact assessment of its privacy implications. In a letter signed by 22 MPs from four parties, the group calls on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to consider fining the government “if it fails to adhere to the standards which the ICO is responsible for upholding”. Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans, one of the letter’s signatories, said: “During the coronavirus pandemic the government has seemingly played fast and loose with data protection measures that keep people safe. The public needs a data regulator with teeth: the ICO must stop sitting on its hands and start using its powers – to assess what needs to change and enforce those changes – to ensure that the government is using people’s data safely and legally.” Clive Lewis, the Labour MP for Norwich South, another signatory, said: “The Johnson government brought this programme forward more quickly than was practical, and we are all paying the consequences. Privacy is fundamental to trust.” The letter, which was signed by MPs from the Liberal Democrats, Labour, Green party and Scottish National Party, was arranged by the Open Rights Group, which successfully forced the government to admit its failure to perform a data protection impact assessment in July. 


The Guardian - MPs criticise privacy watchdog over NHS test-and-trace data


Thursday 20 August 2020

UK to ramp up coronavirus monitoring programme 

The BBC reports that the government plans to carry out more coronavirus tests to get a better idea of the spread of the virus. The Office for National Statistics' Infection Survey will test 150,000 people a fortnight in England by October, up from 28,000 now. As part of the expansion of the programme, data will also be gathered in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The survey will use a representative sample of the general population tested and hopes to provide estimates for the true spread of the virus. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he wanted to see more rapid-turnaround testing for the public. Currently, most tests that are taken have to be sent off to labs to be processed - and so people often wait a day for the results. But the government is assessing the accuracy and effectiveness of new types of tests that can deliver results on the spot. He said this was a "huge priority" for government as it could make it easier to reopen parts of the economy and perhaps reduce the restrictions around quarantining when you come from high-risk areas abroad. But he was unable to give a timeframe for that as the tests have not been proven to work yet. 


Daily Mail - Major ONS coronavirus surveillance scheme to be ramped up as ministers pledge to test 150,000 people every fortnight by October

The Telegraph - Huge expansion of coronavirus testing to bring end to regional lockdowns


Linda Nolan and Bill Turnbull urge public not to delay cancer checks 

Singer Linda Nolan and presenter Bill Turnbull who are among the celebrities with cancer, urging the public not to put off seeking important checks, according. Concerns have been raised that people have delayed coming forward because of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of people getting cancer checks in June dropped sharply compared with the previous year. The pair are taking part in a new campaign. Around 141,600 people were referred for cancer checks in June, compared with almost 200,000 during the same month last year. Nearly half of the public have said they had concerns about seeking help amid the pandemic. One in 10 said they would not contact their GP even if they had a lump or a new mole. 


BBC - Linda Nolan and Bill Turnbull urge public not to delay cancer checks


Three-quarters of coronavirus patients who were admitted to hospital still suffer symptoms three months later, study reveals 

The Daily Mail reports on research from Southmead Hospital in Bristol, showing that almost three-quarters of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital still suffer symptoms three months later. Researchers found that 81 out of 110 patients had breathlessness, fatigue and muscle aches long after their battle with the disease. One in seven survivors had evidence of lung scarring in abnormal chest scans. Matt Hancock has already admitted that he is 'worried' about the long-term impacts plaguing coronavirus 'long-haulers'. The Government has pumped £10million into studies into the long-lasting effects of the disease, which some experts have called 'this generation's polio'.  The new findings are from the North Bristol NHS Trust's Discover project, which is studying the longer-term effects of coronavirus. Dr Rebecca Smith, study co-author, said: 'There's still so much we don't know about the long-term effects of coronavirus. But this study has given us vital new insight into what challenges patients may face in their recovery and will help us prepare for those needs.' The preliminary findings were published on August 14 as a pre-print paper, meaning they have not been looked at by other academics. The research is due to continue at Southmead Hospital, with researchers collaborating with the University of Bristol to look at blood test results, rehabilitation therapies and psychological support. 

 

UK could drop Croatia from travel corridor amid rise in coronavirus cases 

Croatia may be removed from the UK's travel corridor list, with imported COVID-19 infections from the country having been identified, according to The Guardian. Ministers are likely to remove the country from the list after logging a recent surge in coronavirus cases. If the measures are formally signed off, it would mean people arriving from Croatia will have to quarantine for 14 days in Britain. The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, met ministers on Wednesday afternoon to discuss plans. An announcement could come as early as Thursday. If Croatia is removed the change could affect thousands of British holidaymakers in the country at the moment. 


Ethnic minorities feel UK police are racially biased, report says 

The BBC reports on a survey that shows two-thirds of black and minority ethnic people feel there is bias against them within police forces. Four out of five respondents of black and Bangladeshi heritage felt there was bias, and about half of those of Chinese and Indian backgrounds. But the Hope Not Hate research suggests most do not feel the issue is systemic. The National Police Chiefs' Council said it was working "to address racial inequalities in policing". The charity Hope Not Hate surveyed about 1,000 adults in Britain between 3 and 10 July, in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in the US and amid anti-racism protests in the UK. According to the report, some 64% of people of ethnic minority in Britain agreed that the police as a whole were good, and that any issues were down to a few individuals within forces. Black communities were slightly lower (58%) but still a majority. The research said this "suggests a much more nuanced approach than either the blanket praise or condemnation that dominates the public debate". Meanwhile, three-quarters of black people, 71% of Bangladeshi people and 53% of Indian respondents feel they are dealt with more severely in the courts. The research also revealed widespread anger about the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and feelings of political alienation. 

  

Patient in Thailand suing dentist after drill bit left in mouth for more than five years 

The Mirror reports on a story that a patient in Thailand was left suffering in pain for five years, after a drill bit was accidentally left inside her gum during a wisdom tooth extraction at Narathiwat provincial public health office, back in January 2015. The woman said the right part of her face is always in pain and feeling numb, especially her oral cavity. The woman plans to sue the public health office for the negligence of their dentists and violation of consumer rights. 


Wednesday 19 August

PPE costs add to jump in UK inflation in July
Prices started to rise more quickly in July as the UK economy opened up after lockdown and measures to contain the virus added to business costs. When businesses were able to welcome customers back in July many faced higher costs associated with social distancing and enhanced cleaning. Those providing services saw fewer customers.  The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that healthcare costs were 3.2% higher than a year ago, the biggest jump since October 2017. Private healthcare services cost 1% more in July than in June, the ONS said, as physiotherapists and dentists made their workplaces Covid-secure. These businesses have all had to spend money on protective equipment, and introduce physical-distancing measures, so they can work safely. That has pushed up their costs, and some are being passed onto consumers. 

The annual inflation rate rose to 1% in July, up from 0.6% in June, official figures showed. The jump in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) was bigger than expected as firms such as hairdressers and dentists adjusted their practices. Another key factor was the absence of traditional summer sales. The ONS  said clothing and footwear prices were the biggest contributor to the rise. 


Lifting the cap on the numbers studying medicine
BBC reports that the government is "absolutely looking at" lifting the cap on the number of places to study medicine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said. The number of students studying to be doctors is regulated because of the cost and for NHS workforce planning. But after this week's changes to A-level results, universities fear there will not be enough places for all the students with the grades to get in. The body representing universities has called for the cap to be lifted. The number of places to study medicine is the latest issue thrown up by the government's U-turn on Monday to change how exam grades are awarded, following a backlash. The decision to give A-level and GCSE students the grades estimated by their teachers, rather than by an algorithm, means thousands of A-level students may now have the grades to trade up to their first-choice university offers.

The health inequalities agenda should not hollowed out nationally and left to local authorities and the NHS
Commenting on the demise of Public Health England, Linda Bauld, a professor of public health at Edinburgh University, said: “The overwhelming burden of death and disease in this country is not caused by ‘external threats’, as Matt Hancock put it, such as infections and biological weapons. Instead it is caused by chronic diseases: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia and others. A significant proportion of these diseases are preventable and Public Health England plays a central role in that.” She said there was a “real risk” that the plans would threaten this.  Hazel Cheeseman, the director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health, said: “It is absolutely critical that health improvement and health inequalities agenda is not hollowed out nationally and left to local authorities and the NHS.”

While analysts said there was a logic to combining the main organisations involved in the Covid-19 response, many questioned the timing of the announcement, as the health system looks ahead to winter and a possible second wave. Richard Murray, chief executive of the King’s Fund think tank, said: “Public Health England appears to have been found guilty without a trial. It is unclear what problem government are hoping to solve by carving up PHE and redistributing its responsibilities. “Undoubtedly, there are questions to be answered about England’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, but the middle of a pandemic is not the time to dismantle England’s public health agency.”

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust think tank, said the moves could be “a major misstep” and risked “creating a huge distraction for staff who should be dedicating themselves to the next stage of the pandemic”. PHE was “far from perfect”, he said, but “simply dismantling and reconstituting an agency, under the direct control of the same ministers and department as previously, doesn’t seem to hold out much hope of improvement”. 

Nick Ville, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “If the National Institute for Health Protection can deliver on its mission to provide a more agile, alert and joined-up response to protecting our country from infectious diseases and other external health threats, both at scale while making the best use of local expertise, then health leaders will welcome it with open arms. But this has to be more than shifting deckchairs.”


Dido Harding's unstoppable upward rise is an egregious example of the chumocracy at work
Several news outlets speculate on the reasons behind Dido Harding’s meteoric rise in NHS ‘quangos’, culminating in her present role as interim chair of the Institute for Health Protection (IHP), the body set to replace Public Health England. The Telegraph provides the most scathing coverage, with columnist Ross Clarke asking why the government couldn’t find someone better to [temporarily] lead its successor body, the IHP, than the woman who set up the government’s dysfunctional test and trace system? He points out that she has enjoyed endless promotions and fancy new jobs, but why she has been offered them no-one seems to be quite sure. “Harding's career has been dotted with failures, yet she is part of the club, so on she goes,” he said. People in the technology industry had warned that the system was flawed, but Harding ploughed ahead anyway.  In place of the app, Harding was then charged with creating a manual test and trace system, which has proved no less farcical. A report by the Independent Sage Committee last week revealed that between the end of May and the end of July those staff succeeded in contacting 51,524 close contacts of people who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. That is a grand total of one call per month – and there is no guarantee than any of them actually did what they were told and self-isolated for 14 days.

Clarke concludes that Harding’s main qualification for her new role seems to be that she studied PPE at Oxford alongside David Cameron and went on to marry former Conservative MP John Penrose. She is part of a club. While other businesses and organisations have to leap through hoops when they recruit anyone, to make sure they are achieving diversity and are free of unconscious bias, entirely different rules seem to apply to government (and Labour was just as bad in this as are the Conservatives, if not worse) - ministers just pick up the phone and fill important jobs with their chums. 


Tuesday 18 August

Hancock: We will consult widely on how we can embed health improvement across the board… while NIHP will ‘focus, focus, focus on the science’
The government’s new public health agency will protect the public against external threats to the UK, pandemics and infectious diseases, Matt Hancock has pledged. The health and social care secretary made the announcement this morning as he unveiled the National Institute for Health Protection, which is being created following the controversial scrapping of Public Health England (PHE). Speaking at the Policy Exchange thinktank, Hancock said: “To give ourselves the best chance of beating this virus once and for all – and of spotting and being ready to respond to other health threats, now and in the future, we are creating a brand new organisation to provide a new approach to public health protection and resilience.” He said the institute would bring together “the expertise of PHE with the enormous response capabilities of NHS test and trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to put us in the best possible position for the next stage of the fight against Covid-19 and for the long term. Hancock confirmed that Dido Harding, the current boss of NHS test and trace, would lead the new organisation in its first few months.  Critics have questioned her suitability for the role given the test and trace operation’s poor track record in tracking down carriers of coronavirus, getting them tested and disclosing the details of their close contacts.

The health secretary also said he will consult on how health improvement can be embedded in the new system, with obesity linked to an increased risk from coronavirus. He said: "Of course the two are linked, protection and prevention, we've seen how conditions like obesity can increase the risk for those who have coronavirus. We will use this moment to consult widely on how we can embed health improvement more deeply across the board and I'll be saying more on this over the coming weeks. This will in turn allow the National Institute for Health Protection to focus, focus, focus on the science and the scale needed for pandemic response."

For now, PHE will continue its role in combating obesity and running other measures to prevent ill health. A leaked memo seen by the BBC, written by the head of PHE Duncan Selbie to staff, said the aim of the new National Institute for Health Protection was to boost expertise with "much needed new investment". Meanwhile the Telegraph reports that at least 280 specialist public health registrars are urging Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, to delay his reported shake-up until after the winter. They say abolishing Public Health England (PHE) could usher in a second wave of coronavirus.

The new institute will begin work with immediate effect. PHE has come under intense scrutiny of its response to the coronavirus crisis. It has been criticised for the controversial decision in March to halt community testing and tracing of contacts. But its defenders say it is being made a scapegoat for failures elsewhere in the government.

Here is a summary of Matt Hancock’s keynote speech at Policy Exchange’s “The Future of Public Health Event” And the full speech and an accompanying press release will be published on Gov.UK shortly.

The Telegraph - Details still being worked out after Public Health England scrapped, Matt Hancock admits
The Telegraph - Scrapping Public Health England risks second coronavirus wave, doctors warn

Universities admissions chaos predicted as Oxbridge faces having to let down over 1,500 students
The Education Secretary’s U-turn on results left universities scrambling to redraw their admission plans for this year.


EIS union in plea for Nicola Sturgeon to cut school class sizes to halt COVID spread
The Herald reports Scotland's largest teaching union has appealed to Nicola Sturgeon to “do more” to improve safety – pleading for pupils to be socially distanced in schools and face covering to be widely used. Yesterday, the First Minister and Scotland’s National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch, warned that "a number of cases" of Covid-19 had recently emerged of young people and their families flouting quarantine rules after returning home from overseas.

More than 11,000 people in Scotland have signed up for Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials
The Herald reports volunteers are helping speed up efforts to find a safe and effective vaccine in the fight against coronavirus, with more than 100,000 people signed up UK wide. However, researchers are urging more people to sign up, especially those over the age of 65, and those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds

Sweet relief: scientists make milk chocolate with the health benefits of dark 
The Times reports for anybody who has ever wished that milk chocolate be counted as a health food, scientists have good news: they have found a way of enriching it with the potentially beneficial antioxidants usually associated with the bitter dark variety. Dark chocolate has high levels of phenolic compounds, which are said to have anti-inflammatory properties and may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. They are also responsible, however, for a bitter flavour that is missing from the sweeter and more popular milk variety.

Researchers working for the United States government have found a way to combine the benefits of each. They added an extract from peanut skins. This allowed them to raise the antioxidant levels in milk chocolate. The end product tastes just like a traditional American milk chocolate, according to Lisa Dean, a food technologist for the US Agricultural Research Service. The peanut skins would otherwise have been discarded as agricultural waste.

Monday 17 August

PHE had 40% decrease in budget so carving it up will mean too little resource spread even further
Several news outlets report that Matt Hancock is axing Public Health England and will replace it with a new body to deal specifically with a pandemic as early as next month. The Health Secretary will announce this week that the pandemic response work of PHE will be merged with NHS Test and Trace. According to The Sunday Telegraph, the new National Institute for Health Protection will become 'effective' next month though it will take until spring 2021 to totally break up PHE, an executive agency of the Department for Health.  Tory peer Baroness Harding, the ex-TalkTalk boss who currently runs NHS Test and Trace, is being tipped to lead the organisation, the paper said. The move is aimed at bringing together the science expertise at PHE and scale of the NHS Test and Trace operation in one new body, so that the country can be prepared to stop a potential second coronavirus spike this autumn.   The institute's new chief will report to ministers at the Department of Health and to Professor Chris Whitty, England's Chief Medical Officer, in a move which gives political appointees direct control over its response to pandemics. Test and Trace call centres will be wound down over the next few months and replaced by local teams run by councils.  PHE's anti-obesity will also be handed over to local councils and doctors, who are being encouraged to intervene to encourage people to lose weight. The model for the new institute is the Robert Koch Institute in Germany, which published daily situation reports during the COVID outbreak. Meanwhile the Health and Safety Executive, run by Tory MP Sarah Newton, will assist companies in getting more staff back to work.

Chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said 'years of underfunding' for PHE and public health more generally have left the country unprepared to deal with a pandemic. He said unlike other health bodies such as NHS England, PHE - which replaced the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in 2013 under the Conservatives' NHS reorganisation is an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care. He said: 'This gives ministers direct control of its activities. So whilst it might be convenient to seek to blame PHE's leadership team, it is important that the Government reflect on its responsibilities as well.' His comments were echoed by Dr Amitava Banerjee, associate professor at the Institute of Health Informatics, University College London, who said the move is a 'huge concern' in the midst of a global health crisis. He said: 'If PHE has fallen short, responsibility lies firmly with the current Government and health ministers. 'Rather than a rash restructuring, a sensible approach must involve a rapid enquiry to establish lessons learned for future waves and future pandemics.' Professor Dame Til Wykes, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, said merging PHE with a 'failing' Track and Trace service does not provide much confidence for the future. 'PHE has had a 40 per cent decrease in its budget so carving it up will just mean too little resource spread even further,' she said. 'Producing this disruption in the middle of a pandemic is a complete diversion.' Dr Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, poured scorn on suggestions Baroness Harding, the Conservative peer and former TalkTalk telecoms boss who heads Track and Trace, could head up the new body. He said the idea 'makes about as much sense as (chief medical officer) Chris Whitty being appointed the Vodafone head of branding and corporate image'.  And Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association council chairman, said: 'We already have public health expertise in this country which is of the highest quality but despite the hard work of our colleagues in the last six months, substantial budget cuts and fragmentation of these services over years have hampered the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We must absolutely not allow PHE and its staff to shoulder the blame for wider failings and Government decisions. Public Health England should be part of a fully-integrated Public Health and NHS both locally and nationally.


NHS needs thousands of British Asians to join Covid-19 vaccine trials
The Guardian reports the NHS is launching a fresh attempt to recruit tens of thousands of volunteers from British Asian communities to its coronavirus vaccine trials following a “disappointing” uptake in the first phase. The government’s vaccines taskforce announced on Monday that more than 112,000 people had signed up for trials which could begin as soon as next month. However, only 3% of the volunteers were from British Asian backgrounds, said Dr Dinesh Saralaya, one of the directors of the recruitment programme, describing the low uptake as “very worrying”. Saralaya, a consultant respiratory physician, said the researchers needed to do more to reach communities who may not speak English as a first language or watch mainstream television news and may be unaware of the vaccine trials.

The UK government has signed deals for up to 340m doses of six potential coronavirus vaccines, making its stockpile one of the world’s biggest. Members of the public can sign up to take part in clinical trials of the experimental vaccines. Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said he was grateful to the 112,000 volunteers who had signed up so far and urged more people to come forward. He said: “The more people who volunteer to take part, the more likely we find an answer to whether any vaccine is effective. Having 100,000 volunteers in just four weeks shows the selflessness of the public and is testament to the speed of work done by the vaccines taskforce, National Institute for Health Research and others to make signing up possible. I urge people to continue to sign up. It is important that we have people from different backgrounds and ages as volunteers, so that the vaccines that are developed work for everyone.”

A medical school leads drive to eliminate "inherent racism" in the way doctors are trained in the UK
BBC reports University of Bristol Medical School says urgent action is needed to examine why teaching predominantly focuses on how illnesses affect white people above all other sections of the population.  It comes after students pushed for reform, saying gaps in their training left them ill-prepared to treat ethnic minority patients - potentially compromising patient safety. Hundreds of other UK medical students have signed petitions demanding teaching that better reflects the diversity of the country.  The Medical School Council (led by the heads of UK medical schools) and the General Medical Council, say they are putting plans in place to improve the situation. 


Dominic Cummings urged to release data to disprove claim of second lockdown trip
The Guardian reports Dominic Cummings has been asked to hand over mobile phone and vehicle tracking data to disprove claims that he made a second lockdown trip to Durham at the height of the pandemic. The request was made by Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor for north-west England, who is leading a campaign for a full investigation into Cummings’ movements during the lockdown. It was prompted by allegations from Dave and Clare Edwards and two others, who told the Guardian and the Daily Mirror that they had seen someone whom they believed to be Cummings in woods south of Durham on 19 April, days after he returned to London following his now notorious 17-day trip to the north-east. The prime minister’s chief aide has denied making a second visit and says he has phone data to prove he was in London on 19 April. Boris Johnson says he has seen this evidence, but Downing Street has refused to make it available and regards the matter as closed. In separate letters to Cummings and his wife, Mary Wakefield, however, lawyers for Afzal say there is a public interest in settling the matter by verifying the true extent of their lockdown movements including over the weekend of 17-19 April. Explaining the move, Afzal said: “All we ask, on behalf of the law-abiding public, is that Mr Cummings, who has regularly spoken about the importance of data, provide the data that will evidence his whereabouts and prove he was telling the whole truth in the Downing Street garden.