Coronavirus 1) Local elections postponed for a year

“Local and mayoral elections in England will be postponed for a year to May 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Downing Street said it would be impractical to hold the elections as planned, as they would come during the peak of the spread of the virus. Polls were due in 118 English councils, the London Assembly and for seven English regional mayors. Voting was also due to take place for the London mayor and police and crime commissioners in England and Wales. It comes after the Electoral Commission said on Thursday the elections should be delayed until the autumn to “mitigate” the impact of the virus.” – BBC

  • Vulnerable adults in social care to get better protection under new coronavirus guidance – The Sun
  • “Most frail may not get critical care” to focus on those with better survival chances – Daily Mail
  • Lib Dems back delay – The Guardian
  • Khan abandons fares freeze – Financial Times
  • Latest advice – HM Government

>Today: MPsETC: Coronavirus Count


Coronavirus 2) Parliament closed to visitors

“MPs demanded Parliament shuts its doors to its 20,000 daily visitors after a dozen went into isolation. They say the number passing through is accelerating the spread of the virus, endangering ministers, MPs and staff.A security official said they had let in tourists with Italian passports onto the Parliamentary estate as recently as this week. A Labour source said barring visitors from entering Parliament would avoid having to shut the Palace being shut down altogether. MPs are keen to avoid Parliament being closed completely because it would look like they are being given special treatment, the source said. And MPs fear that closing down Parliament altogether would send a signal to the rest of the country.” – The Sun

  • Business as usual for self-isolating MPs – BBC

Coronavirus 3) Trump declares a state of emergency

“President Donald Trump’s travel ban on 26 European nations has come into force in the US, as part of a contingency plan to tackle the coronavirus crisis. It affects countries that are members of the Schengen border-free travel area and excludes the UK, the Republic of Ireland and returning US citizens. Mr Trump also declared a national emergency, freeing up to $50bn (£40bn) in relief funds. There are nearly 2,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the US, and 43 deaths.” – BBC

Coronavirus 4) Forsyth: Government strategy is to spread out the NHS caseload

“More and more countries are taking a different approach from us to coronavirus. The UK is not going into lockdown or for dramatic social distancing measures that many other nations are putting their faith in. Why? Because the government thinks that this virus cannot be stopped. As one of those at the heart of the government’s efforts explains: “A lot of the international response is, how do we stop coronavirus? But that cannot happen: It is a global pandemic. What we are saying is, we can’t stop it; but we can mitigate it and save as many people as possible.”…The UK strategy is designed to spread out the caseload and ensure that coronavirus doesn’t return this winter when the NHS would be least able to cope.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

  • Hospitals set to postpone operations as NHS braces for coronavirus – Financial Times

Coronavirus 5) Mass gatherings “to be banned from next week”

“Sporting events, concerts and other “mass gatherings” will be cancelled from next week after Boris Johnson performed an about-turn over the Government’s handling of coronavirus. The Prime Minister decided to ban major events just 24 hours after insisting he would not be following Scotland’s lead in outlawing crowds of more than 500 people. It came after the Premier League had taken matters into its own hands by announcing the suspension of the football season until next month and the London Marathon was postponed until October by its organisers. As the number of confirmed UK coronavirus cases leapt from 590 to 798, Whitehall sources admitted the situation was now “accelerating very quickly”, prompting Mr Johnson’s change of heart over a crowd ban. It means iconic events such as Wimbledon, Glastonbury Festival, Royal Ascot, the Grand National and the Boat Race could all be axed, while new laws will allow the Government to pay out compensation.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 6) Bridgen in dispute with Dorries

“The MP Andrew Bridgen has waded into an online row between his wife and the health minister Nadine Dorries over how the latter dealt with her coronavirus diagnosis. Bridgen has a cold and a cough and claims he sat next to Dorries, who has been diagnosed with the illness, in a tearoom in Westminster. Nevena Bridgen, an opera singer, claimed online on Friday morning that Dorries had jeopardised her family’s health by not mentioning him to Public Health England (PHE) staff who were tracing people with whom she had had contact before her diagnosis. In response, Dorries said she had not been sitting anywhere near Bridgen but had advised him that if he was worried he should call 111. Bridgen told the Guardian: “I can assure you that Nadine Dorries came and sat next to me at the end of my table. I wonder why she would now deny this? My wife is an opera singer; she really is a prima donna whereas Nadine only acts like a prima donna.” – The Guardian

Coronavirus 7) Police “to be given power to detain victims”

“Police will be able to detain infected people and schools could be forced to stay open under a package of powers being announced next week to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Emergency laws to help to limit the spread of the virus will be introduced after the number of people infected in Britain rose by 200 in 24 hours to 798. The measures, seen by The Times, will also let councils lower standards in care homes to deal with staff shortages. The legislation, which ministers intend to push through parliament in two weeks, will equip the government to deal with the disease. Ministers believe that the virus will infect the majority of the population, and the laws will stay in place for two years.” – The Times

  • Emergency plan for prisons – BBC
  • Armed soldiers could be deployed to guard Number 10 and Parliament if coronavirus hits police – Daily Telegraph
  • Whitty and Vallance – the quiet heroes standing up in our time of crisis – Harry Mount, Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 8) Evans-Pritchard: We need a ‘G20 moment’ to cope with the financial turmoil

“But is a G20 moment possible under a dysfunctional ‘America First’ White House at war with the world? The Saudis chair the G20 at the moment and they are in an oil war with Russia. Only Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron have both the clout and the diplomatic lines open to most capitals. They could join forces and pull off a diplomatic coup.” – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Johnson’s extra virus mission. To help “save the world”.

Other comment

  • Britain is right to keep calm and carry on – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • There are alarming signs that international co-operation is breaking down – Leader, The Times
  • Britain’s counter-virus strategy is a gamble – Leader, Financial Times
  • The Government wants us to get ill – but not too ill – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • 10 ways to stay sane at home if you’re stuck at home – Sarah Vine, Daily Mail

EU retreats on fishing demands

“Brussels’ demands on fishing have been watered down in a major concession to Boris Johnson ahead of next week’s trade talks. Michel Barnier published the EU’s draft version of a Free Trade Agreement with Britain, including its position on access to waters.The dossier says the UK and EU should look only to “respect existing fishing activities” rather than uphold the status quo as previously sought. And it includes plans for annual negotiations on quotas based on scientific advice rather than historical patterns — a key demand tabled by the Prime Minister. The move comes after EU officials warned member states they would have to accept a compromise on fishing or risk the entire deal. Access to UK waters is a key demand for nine nations, including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany.” – The Sun

Fox wins apology from Equity

“Equity apologised to Laurence Fox on Friday and agreed an out of court settlement for calling him a ‘disgrace’ following his Question Time interview back in January. But the UK actors union’s apology has sparked conflict within the organisation and the whole of the Race Equality Committee have resigned…The committee said that ‘all members of Equity’s recently renamed Race Equality Committee (formerly the Equity Minority Ethnic Members Committee) feel we have no choice but to resign as committee members’.” – Daily Mail

Foster criticised over “cash-for-ash” scandal

“Arlene Foster has insisted she will remain as Northern Ireland’s first minister after she and senior party advisers were strongly criticised for their roles in the “cash-for-ash” scandal that toppled the executive in 2017 and left the region rudderless for years. Mrs Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist party, told the Irish broadcaster RTE that criticism in the report of retired judge Patrick Coghlin was not a resignation issue, saying she would push to rebuild confidence in the executive as it grappled with coronavirus and Brexit. “I’m going to continue on in the job for as long as the party has confidence in me. There’s a huge job of work to be done,” she said.” – Financial Times

Murray: Operation Midland was a national disgrace. We need to hold firm in the face of moral panics

“The release this week of a report into lessons unlearned by the Metropolitan Police Service is a deeply disturbing moment. The report was commissioned in October by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. It constitutes the third inquiry into the Met’s handling (known as Operation Midland) of the clearly fictitious claims made about a murderous ring of paedophiles in high positions in public life. An earlier investigation into police actions was carried out by retired High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques and delivered in 2016. This latest report is into whether the police had learned any lessons from the damning conclusions of that report. Its findings are dire.” – Douglas Murray, Daily Telegraph

  • Inquiry into Carl Beech paedophile ring fiasco delayed ‘to help Tom Watson get his peerage’ – Daily Telegraph

Parris: Tories will miss Corbyn when he’s gone

“Will “Keep Sir Keir Starmer out” do the trick? Labour’s grisly process for electing a leader grinds on, drained now of even the excitement of uncertainty. It’s looking so likely Sir Keir will win that one can only cringe at the timidity of a man too afraid to take his leftist enemies on until he’s over the line. Then, as cries of “betrayal” from Labour members who were never going to vote for him anyway ring in his ears, he may rue his bid to be all things to all men when he could have won boldly with an honestly centrist pitch, and claimed a decisive victory for a vision of the Labour Party as well as for an individual. So, yes, he looks a bit dreary. But crazy? Dim? Doctrinaire? Rabid Marxist ideologue and class warrior? For the moment, coronavirus has provided our prime minister with something scary to stand up to. Boris Johnson is defining himself rather successfully against a virus. But the pandemic will pass. To adapt Cavafy, what’s going to happen to the Tories without barbarians? Corbyn was a kind of solution.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

News in brief

  • Momentum misled activists into breaking electoral law – Wolves of Westminster
  • Johnson is following science in his coronavirus response – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • Our definition of poverty is misleading and inaccurate – it’s time for a change – Madsen Pirie, Free Market Conservatives
  • Ashworth goes on the attack – Independent
  • Labour’s response to the Budget shows the party’s irrelevance – Emma Burnell, The Article