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Journalists to get access to coronavirus testing, says Hancock

Matt HancockMinisters have confirmed that journalists will be able get access to free coronavirus testing as the government seeks to ensure key workers can return to their roles.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that key workers and members of their household can book tests online if they are showing symptoms of the virus.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Mr Hancock confirmed that the list of essential workers covered by the new scheme includes ‘journalists and broadcasters covering coronavirus or providing public service broadcasting’.

Mr Hancock, pictured, said the government has introduced 90 mobile testing units which key workers can book to visit if they are showing symptoms, or opt for a home-collection testing kit service, with testing capacity now expanded to 50,000 patients a day.

The Health Secretary said key workers can now go online to book a test rather than the previous system of going via their employers to book testing.

In a statement on the website he said, “We are making it easier, faster and simpler for any essential worker in England who needs a test to get a test.

“Any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment on themselves directly.

“This all applies for people in essential workers’ households who need a test too. It’s all part of getting Britain back on her feet.”

The Society of Editors and other industry bodies have campaigned for the government to recognise the role of the media in keeping the nation informed during the pandemic and as such for journalists to be treated as key workers.

Concerns have been raised about secrecy at inquests after coroners staged a number of hearings behind closed door doors due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The Society of Editors has commended action taken by the Press Association to reverse a decision by the Gwent senior coroner to stage inquests in private during the coronavirus emergency lockdown.

It says it is appalled at suggestions made by Senior Coroner Caroline Saunders, that PA Media were not showing sufficient respect for grieving families by insisting open justice prevailed.

Now it is to write to the Chief Coroner to seek assurances hearings will continue to be held in public.

Executive director Ian Murray said: “It is precisely during times of crisis such as the one we are experiencing now that liberal, democratic societies must preserve those freedoms that protect them no matter how inconvenient.

“An investigation into the death of a citizen must never be held in secret or we face fundamental dangers as a society.

“I am delighted that swift action by the Press Association has resulted in the reversal of what may be an illegal act, but for PA to then be accused of showing little respect for relatives of the dead is an appalling reaction from the coroner’s office in Gwent.”

Under UK law the public can only be excluded from inquests if the coroner considers it would be in the interests of national security to do so.

Since the Covid-19 lockdown measures were brought into place, however, the coroner for Gwent had been holding inquests in private and releasing conclusions afterwards.

In a letter to Ms Saunders, PA’s legal editor Mike Dodd said he was particularly troubled that an inquest into the death of a 13-year-old Carson Price found unconscious in a park after taking ecstasy was held in private.

He wrote: “The public interest in open justice and proper reporting of inquests has to be considered – and is arguably even more important during the current crisis – and cannot simply be discarded for reasons of administrative convenience.”

Ms Saunders responded:  “I do not need a lecture about the principle of open justice.”

She added: “Your allegation that the reasons for changing the ways that inquests are currently being heard in Gwent is due to the ‘difficulties caused to Coroner Service’ or for ‘administrative convenience’ is frankly offensive. The reason was to avoid families waiting even longer and to reduce the waiting list for new inquests.”

Three senior JPIMedia editors in Yorkshire have published a joint editorial urging readers to help them commermorate those who lose their lives to Coronavirus.

The full-page editorial appeared in titles across the company’s Yorkshire stable, signed by editors James Mitchinson (Yorkshire Post), Laura Collins (Yorkshire Evening Post) and Jean MacQuarrie (Yorkshire Weeklies).

More than 700 people in Yorkshire had died from coronavirus at the time of the Easter weekend and the trio of editors have urged readers to help them remember those who have lost their lives in the region.

It is thought to be the first time all of JPIMedia’s Yorkshire titles — which also include publications such as the Wakefield Express, Harrogate Advertiser, Scarborough News and Halifax Courier — have carried the same editorial.

It read: “We believe the people — their families and their friends behind the numbers — are infinitely more important than the statistics that so dominate the headlines.

“As editors of Yorkshire’s most trusted news outlets–with almost three quarters of a century of service to the communities we serve between us — we want you to know that we regard it as our duty to record the lives of those who perish, for time immemorial.

“By capturing your memories we hope to allow those affected by the loss of loved ones to this cruellest of diseases to record for posterity the love, affection and high esteem in which so many of those lost to coronavirus are held.

“We do hope that in offering ourselves to help with telling their stories that it will help in some small way with the grieving process, allowing others to share in your pride for your loved ones and to feel a little of the joy they brought to you and those around them.

“Equally, we hope that in time the celebratory portraits of those lost will serve as a reminder to future generations as to the catastrophic consequences that can, have and will continue to arise out of any contemplation of complacency when it comes to public health.

“Those who inherit Yorkshire from us must not look back at only numbers but at the names and faces of those who fall.”

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