Coronavirus in UK live blog as it happened: Northern Ireland to allow small groups to meet outdoors

Follow the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in our live blog below

We will be providing live updates until 6pm this evening.

Medical staff transfer a patient along a corridor at the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital (Photo: HANNAH MCKAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Coronavirus live blog, May 18

Key Events

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Scotland lockdown could be eased from end of May

The First Minister said lockdown in Scotland could be eased by the end of the month if progress against the virus continues.

Scots could soon be allowed to meet up with someone from another household, visit garden centres and participate in some sports.

A “route map” for a potential easing of restrictions will be published on Thursday (21 May), with any changes to be made after the next review date on 28 May.

She said: “Within a few days of that, we will aim to allow, for example, more outdoor activity such as being able to sit in the park, meet up outdoors with someone from another household as long as you stay socially distant, some limited outdoor sporting activities like golf and fishing, the opening of garden centres and recycling facilities, and the resumption of some outdoor work."

Ryanair condemns 14-day quarantine plans

The boss of Ryanair has hit out at government plans to impose a 14-day quarantine on international travellers arriving in the UK, labelling the suggestion as “idiotic” and “unimplementable”.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary claimed the proposals have no medical or scientific basis, and argued face masks should be used instead as this would “eliminate” the risk of further spread.

A date for when such quarantine measures will be brought in has not yet been confirmed, but any changes will be subject to a rolling review every three weeks to ensure they remain effective and necessary.

The news comes after Ryanair announced it will operate nearly 1,000 flights per day from 1 July, subject to European countries lifting flight restrictions, and airports implementing effective public health measures.

122 hospital deaths announced by NHS England

NHS England has announced another 122 deaths from coronavirus.

The latest figures bring the total number of confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in hospitals in England to 24,739.

The news comes after a further two deaths were announced in Scotland, four more deaths were reported in Wales, and another six were reported in Northern Ireland.

The total figure across the whole of the UK is to be announced later, with this including deaths in care homes and the community.

Premier League players to start training from Tuesday

Football players in Premier League clubs will be allowed to start training again from Tuesday (19 May),

Clubs have voted to allow players to return to training in small groups, with social distancing guidelines in place, and all contact banned.

Since the league was suspended in March, players have only been allowed to train individually.

The Premier League is aiming to restart on 12 June, although some clubs are pushing for a later date to allow players to regain their fitness.

Anyone aged over five in UK eligible for testing

Everyone who is over the age of five in England with coronavirus symptoms is now eligible for testing, the Health Secretary has said.

This applies to the whole of the UK, with the move agreed by Matt Hancock and his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

21,000 contact tracers recruited in England

More than 21,000 contact tracers have been recruited in England to help manually trace the contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.

The total includes 7,500 health care workers who will help to provide call handlers with expert clinical advice.

The team will be vital in helping to track down people who have been in contact with anyone displaying symptoms.

People who lose their sense of smell or taste should self-isolate

Government in “closing stages” of buying antibody tests

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the government is now in the “closing stages” of negotiations to buy new coronavirus antibody tests.

A new test developed by Swedish pharmaceutical company Roche was approved for use by Public Health England last week.

The blood test has an accuracy of 100 per cent and is designed to determine if a person has been exposed to the virus.

Mr Hancock said: “We are in the closing stages of commercial negotiations to make sure that those tests are widely available.”

Social distancing still key to slowing infections

Despite lockdown restrictions slowly being eased across the UK, social distancing guidelines are still very much in force to help avoid a second peak of infections.

These are the groups most at risk of suffering severe symptoms if the virus is contracted:

Shielding remains necessary until 30 June

The Health Secretary has said that shielding those who are vulnerable to the virus still remains “necessary”.

Despite the slight easing of lockdown restrictions, protections for people who are shielding will continue to apply until 30 June, Matt Hancock confirmed.

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