Coronavirus 1) Schools to shut from Friday as crisis grows

“Schools across the UK will close from Friday as the government ramps up efforts to curtail the spread of coronavirus. Announcing the decision Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said there would be exceptions for children of “key workers” in the National Health Service and police, delivery drivers and for vulnerable pupils. Nurseries and private schools would follow the guidance, he said. Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing simultaneously to Mr Williamson’s announcement, prime minister Boris Johnson said schools were being closed to exert “further downward pressure” on the “upward curve” of the disease’s spread. As part of the move, GCSE and A-level exams will not take place as planned in May and June.” – FT

  • Emergency grades to replace tests under first nationwide closure in history – The Times
  • Closures to remain for ‘quite a considerable time’, Williamson warns – Daily Express
  • Kids on free meals ‘will’ get help if schools shut – The Sun
  • ‘Boris is a legend to all kids for life!’ – Daily Mail
  • Latest advice – HM Government


Coronavirus 2) Jenrick takes the lead on planning for ‘lockdown’ of London

“Boris Johnson has asked government departments to draw up plans for a lockdown of London to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The Cabinet Office has written to departments asking for recommendations about restrictions, how they could be implemented and how to ensure “compliance”. The measures, which are being described as a “shielding plan for London”, could be introduced as soon as next week and see businesses closed and restrictions placed on travel. Robert Jenrick, the housing minister, is taking the lead on the policy. Under new emergency powers the government will be able to “close premises” and “restrict or prohibit events and gatherings” including halting cars, buses, trains and planes.” – The Times

  • Around a third of English cases identified in Greater London – Daily Express
  • ‘Superspreader city’ – Daily Mail
  • Up to 40 London Underground stations to shut from today – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson: ‘We will rule nothing out’ – The Sun
  • ‘Only one person allowed to leave home at a time’ – FT
  • Plans will enforce the closure of restaurants, bars, pubs and cinemas – Daily Telegraph
  • Khan savaged over ‘false’ claim London Tube ‘completely safe’ – Daily Express


  • Government has 24 hours to save Britain’s pubs, industry warns – The Sun
  • Curbs on social life ‘could be relaxed by early summer’ – The Times

>Today: Shaun Bailey in Local Government: Our communities are capable of greatness when we pull together

Coronavirus 3) Wallace announces new military force to aid in emergency

“Ten thousand troops are on standby to combat coronavirus with plans to run hotels as hospitals and man roadblocks if required. The new Covid Support Force, made up of Regular and Reserve units, could be doubled to 20,000 if necessary, the Defence Secretary has announced. Although no requests have so far been made from other Whitehall departments, the MoD says it is ready to backfill police in counter-terrorism tasks as well as routine duties such as roadblocks… The Telegraph understands soldiers and local authorities are also being prepared to work with people suffering emotional distress during self-isolation, amid official concern over the mental toll it could take on those already facing challenging circumstances.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Army gets ready to drive oxygen tankers to hospitals – The Times
  • Troops could set up makeshift hospitals in vacant hotels – FT
  • Soldiers ‘ready to set up emergency morgues’ – Daily Express
  • UK death toll hits 104, with confirmed cases up to 2,226 – The Sun
  • Daily fatality rate doubles – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 4) Government announces three-month freeze on evictions

“The government has announced a three-month ban on evictions in an effort to protect renters during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Landlords will be prevented from initiating court proceedings to evict tenants from social or private rented accommodation. The measure forms part of emergency legislation to fight the virus. The government had faced criticism for announcing a three-month mortgage holiday for homeowners on Tuesday, without equivalent measures for renters. The payment holiday will be extended to people with buy-to-let mortgages whose tenants are affected by the virus, the government said yesterday. The relief period will last three months but could be extended. When it ends landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, the government said.” – The Times

  • Ministers promise more help for workers and renters – FT
  • Crisis ‘could cost 25m jobs’ if workers are left unprotected – The Times
  • Government ‘considers universal basic income’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Controversial IR35 tax reforms postponed for a year – FT


  • Sunak’s plan under fire as pound crashes to 35-year low – Daily Telegraph
  • Prince William launches the National Emergency Trust’s appeal – Daily Mail
  • Shapps discusses rescue package with UK airlines – The Guardian
  • ECB to launch €750bn bond-buying programme – FT

>Today: Asheem Singh in Comment: Coming as a consequence of the virus. The new aim of Economic Security – over and above poverty, inequality or GDP


Coronavirus 5) Allister Heath: Coronavirus is leading Great Britain towards economic Armageddon

“This recession is due to a unique supply-side and liquidity shock caused by the Government’s – entirely right and proper – decision to shut down much of the economy to reduce social contact and save tens or hundreds of thousands of lives. The parallel with a defensive, total war is stark: if the recession is allowed to run its course, huge swathes of Britain’s physical, financial and human capital could be destroyed, for almost random reasons. Ordinary economic cycles can have a rejuvenating effect: they trigger creative destruction which shuts down bad investments, liquidates inefficient firms and reallocates resources to growth industries. Lehman Brothers deserved to go bust. But not this time: there is nothing cleansing about this recession. There is nothing creative about the nihilistic destruction it is wreaking.” – Daily Telegraph

  • This crisis is a boon for big government – Gerard Baker, The Times
  • Johnson says it’s war, but his response is laughably inadequate – Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian
  • UBI is an affordable and feasible response to coronavirus – Daniel Susskind, FT
  • Our mean welfare system is failing to deliver – Jenni Russell, The Times
  • Whatever the virus kills, it won’t be globalism – David Aaronovitch, The Times


  • At war, Britons can be trusted to do the right thing – Robert Tombs, Daily Telegraph
  • We mustn’t allow officialdom to steal everyday liberties – Tim Worstall, The Times
  • Defeating Covid-19 could need a wartime coalition government – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • This country has gone through far worse – Virginia Blackburn, Daily Express
  • Johnson is having to play catch-up – Rod Liddle, The Sun
  • Coronavirus hasn’t killed online dating – quite the opposite – Poorna Bell, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The prospect seems remote. But is National Government on its way?

>Yesterday: Ryan Bourne’s column: The upside-world of virus economics. And why we free marketeers must adapt our usual ways of thinking.

Coronavirus 6) UK to increase COVID-19 testing to 25,000 a day

“Boris Johnson has said he hopes to ramp up coronavirus testing in the UK to 25,000 a day within a month. Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, the prime minister said the number of tests would be increased so that frontline National Health Service workers in particular could be screened for the disease. “We are prioritising NHS staff for the obvious reason that we want them to be able to look after everybody else with confidence that they are not transmitting the disease,” Mr Johnson said during a session of prime minister’s questions. The government is hoping to increase the number of tests being done to 25,000 a day within four weeks, while the goal for next week is to reach 10,000 a day. About 7,500 tests are being done each day in the UK, with the majority carried out on people who have been hospitalised for serious conditions.” – FT

  • We’re close to test that reveals who’s immune, says Johnson – The Times
  • Doctors fear they will die on front line without hazmats suits – The Sun
  • British scientists say clinical tests of a possible treatment will begin next week – Daily Mail


  • China reports no new local cases as more countries tighten borders – FT
  • Putin being protected ‘around the clock’ – Daily Mail
  • ‘War leader’ Trump to treat coronavirus on 1,000-room hospital ships – The Times
  • Australia closes the border: Non-residents are banned from entering – Daily Mail


  • How sick we can’t test nurses and doctors – Ian Birrell, Daily Mail


Coronavirus 7) Labour MPs alarmed at Covid-19 laws being passed without vote

“Labour MPs have expressed concern at the possibility of sweeping emergency powers to tackle coronavirus being put into force for two years without a Commons vote, with some saying such measures should face regular review. The comments will place pressure on the Labour leadership over how to respond to emergency legislation, amid speculation that the party will allow it to pass in the Commons without any vote being held. The legislation had been expected to be tabled on Thursday, but is now believed to be due on Monday. The laws, some details of which were announced on Tuesday evening, include medical-related measures such as allowing recently retired or nearly qualified nurses, midwives or paramedics to work in the NHS, with protection given against negligence claims.” – The Guardian

  • Sturgeon blames crisis after dropping independence referendum call – Daily Telegraph
  • BBC announces coronavirus ‘wartime mode’ revamp – Daily Mail

Grimstone named UK investment minister

“Gerry Grimstone, who has held senior positions at Barclays bank and fund manager Standard Life Aberdeen, has been appointed the UK’s investment minister ahead of a crucial period where the government will need to sell the country outside the EU. The role replaces the trade minister position that had been held by Ian Livingston, former BT boss, and media executive Rona Fairhead. His remit will be to encourage investment into the UK from overseas institutions and sovereign wealth funds, and opening up new markets for trade. Sir Gerry, one of the City’s best-known figures, will also help push the government’s agenda around “levelling up” the UK regions by bringing investment from overseas into key infrastructure projects that will probably cost tens of billions over the next decade.” – FT

Troubles veteran accuses ministers of letting him down again

“An army veteran facing prosecution over a fatal shooting in the Troubles said he had been let down by the government after it unveiled limited measures to stop vexatious claims against former soldiers. Dennis Hutchings, 79, who was in the Life Guards Regiment, is due to stand trial over the death of a man in Co Tyrone in 1974. He criticised legislation introduced in the Commons yesterday that will stop unfair prosecutions of former soldiers over actions in overseas operations but does not cover domestic territories, such as Northern Ireland… Ministers have announced a “triple lock” including a presumption against criminal prosecution five years after an alleged crime. This can be overridden only with compelling new evidence and the attorney-general must consent.” – The Times

  •  Ulster veterans set to get legal guarantee they won’t face any more court witch-hunts – The Sun
  • Ex-servicemen to be told ‘within months’ whether they face historic prosecutions – Daily Telegraph

Home Office ‘ignorance’ led to Windrush scandal, says report

“The Home Office’s treatment of immigrants who arrived from the Caribbean on the Windrush was “consistent” with “some elements” of the definition of institutional racism, a review has found. The Times has been told that the report, which is being published today, concludes that the Home Office demonstrated “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness”. Wendy Williams, one of Her Majesty’s inspectors of constabulary, stops short of making a “definitive” finding that the department was institutionally racist over the way it dealt with those who came from the West Indies after the Second World War to help to rebuild the country. Her report says that “successive governments” tightened immigration controls with a “disregard” for the Windrush generation. Ministers and officials failed to heed warning signs and were too slow to act.” – The Times

Salmond trial: accuser ‘kept quiet at meeting about sex allegation’

“One of the complainants in the Alex Salmond trial attended a meeting with his former chief of staff and Nicola Sturgeon to discuss allegations of sexual misconduct against the former first minister, a court has been told. Geoff Aberdein, who worked closely with Mr Salmond, told the High Court in Edinburgh about a meeting two years ago at Ms Sturgeon’s office in the Scottish parliament, when the woman had not made him aware of any alleged assault by the former SNP leader. Mr Aberdein said that he had had two meetings with the woman and at the second she told him there were two retrospective complaints about Mr Salmond. Gordon Jackson, QC, for the defence, said: “Was there ever at any time from her the slightest hint that she was making a complaint about Alex Salmond’s behaviour?” Mr Aberdein said: “Never.”” – The Times

  • Sturgeon met accuser in March 2018 – FT

News in Brief:

  • Why developing an antibody test is almost as important as finding a vaccine – Jack Dickens, Reaction
  • The hardships ahead will be like nothing we have ever known – Matt Ridley, The Spectator
  • Will Covid-19 reawaken civil society? – Mary Harrington, UnHerd
  • Online and distance learning aren’t solutions for shut schools – Antonia Stephens, The Critic
  • What do the public really think about coronavirus? – Matt Singh, CapX