Raab points way to ‘light at end of the tunnel’

“Britain was offered “light at the end of the tunnel” at the start of a further three weeks in lockdown with the promise of less social distancing if a five-point test were met. Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson, urged the public to remain patient as he confirmed that the lockdown would remain “at least” until May 7 despite signs that the worst of the pandemic was starting to pass. He said that easing the restrictions now would “risk sacrificing all the progress we have made” and result in a second wave of infections. Urging the public to show patience and stick with the restrictions to stop the spread of the virus, he said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel but we are now at both a delicate and a dangerous stage in this pandemic.”” – The Times

  • How lockdown extension was rubber-stamped – Daily Telegraph
  • Restrictions on’t end until five key targets are hit – The Sun
  • Lockdown could last until June – The Guardian
  • Starmer accuses ministers of failing to make decisions – Daily Mail


  • Millions of Brits could be ‘ordered to wear a mask to work and on public transport’ – The Sun
  • Social distancing ‘likely to go on long after the lockdown’ – The Times


Fraser Nelson: The truth about the Government’s exit strategy is that there isn’t one

“The fear in government is that we will realise, all too late, how much harm that lockdown is doing: and just what is happening to the numerous people who would otherwise be receiving treatment in the NHS. Not just those no longer seeking A&E help or cancer treatment, but those sent to care homes, hurriedly discharged from hospital in the great Covid rush. I mentioned last week that one set of internal government models suggested a figure of 150,000 avoidable non-Covid deaths as a result of the disruption. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has since said that the figure is ‘wrong’ – perhaps so, most models are, but the principle holds good. And, now, hard data is giving renewed cause for concern.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The OBR’s assumption that life will return to normal is optimistic – Chris Giles, FT
  • When lockdown ends Brits will have to embrace a very different way of life – Chris Wootton, The Sun
  • Older generation must give more to the young – Philip Collins, The Times

Government extends loan scheme to allay concerns

“The government has sought to allay growing fears about the impact of a protracted Covid-19 lockdown on the economy by announcing that its loan guarantee scheme will be open to mid-sized firms that were in danger of being left out. On the day that the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, confirmed that the quarantining period would last for at least a further three weeks, the Treasury said it was taking steps to help businesses with annual turnovers of more than £45m – which are stuck in what has become known as the “squeezed middle”. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said that all viable businesses with turnover of £45m-£250m would be able to apply for government-backed loans of up to £25m. Firms with turnover of more than £250m will be allowed borrow up to £50m from lenders.” – The Guardian

  • Two in three brickies to go bust by June – The Sun
  • Lockdown legacy likely to ‘turbo-charge’ UK trends – FT


  • Banks are blaming EU for their loan failures – Ed Conway, The Times

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Scrap IR35, keep entrepreneurs’ relief. And let SMEs lead us from lockdown to recovery


Home tests for Covid-19 delivered by Amazon

“Home coronavirus swab tests delivered by Amazon are being tested as a way out of lockdown amid finger-pointing over who is to blame for unused testing capacity. Almost half of Britain’s capacity is going to waste, with ministers risking a row with the health service by pinning responsibility on a “lack of demand” among frontline workers. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has pledged that 100,000 tests a day would be carried out by the end of the month. The government says that there is capacity to do 35,000 a day but only 18,665 tests were carried out in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday. To boost the numbers the government is looking at testing other key workers such as the police, prison staff and firefighters, as well as studying whether more regular testing for some health staff is needed.” – The Times

  • UK could be testing 20,000 more people every day – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘The sick man of Europe’ – Daily Mail
  • NHS to get 15,000 ventilators after British design approved – The Times


  • We have barely any swabs to test – Gianmarco Raddi, The Guardian

Coronavirus care home crisis is even deeper than feared

“About 5,300 care home residents have died from coronavirus – but the true toll could be even higher as doctors are told they do not have to declare Covid-19 on death certificates, it has been claimed. Shocking figures tonight suggested the number of elderly who have succumbed to the virus in care homes was even higher than the Daily Mail revealed it to be earlier this week. In the first comprehensive survey of the sector experts said 1.4 per cent of older residents in social care have died outside hospital due to confirmed or suspected coronavirus as of April 15. By extrapolation, there have been an estimated 5,300 deaths in total. The figures from healthcare analysts LaingBuisson are based on responses from groups representing 13 per cent of UK care homes.” – Daily Mail

  • Virus may be spreading much faster in care settings than the government suggests – ITV


  • NHS investigation into why BME Britons have been ‘disproportionately’ affected – Daily Mail
  • Critical care warnings as sick but scared patients shun A&E – The Times


  • PHE can’t meet the challenge it faces from coronavirus – Matthew Lesh, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: How Johnson, by at last making National Insurance a reality, could become the second founder of the NHS

China will face ‘hard questions’ over coronavirus pandemic, says Foreign Secretary

“Dominic Raab has warned that Britain cannot maintain “business as usual” with China once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided. The foreign secretary said last night that Beijing had “hard questions” to answer over the virus’s origins and whether it could have been curbed earlier. His intervention came after the Chinese embassy in London claimed this week that Mr Raab had assured Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart, that the pandemic should not be “politicised”. China also claimed that Mr Raab had accepted that the source of coronavirus required further assessment. Last night the foreign secretary clarified that “a very, very deep dive” into the lessons of the outbreak was needed, but insisted that the UK would not “flinch” from the science when concluding where the virus had originated.” – The Times

  • Relations can no longer be ‘business as usual’ – Daily Telegraph
  • We can’t remove Huawei kit until 2023, admits BT – The Times
  • Death toll in Wuhan climbs by over 50 per cent – Daily Mail

>Today: Michael Fabricant MP in Comment: Never mind the WHO – the UN is unfit for purpose. Why we may have to look for a successor.

NHS volunteer army of 750,000 has been given fewer than 20,000 tasks

“An army of 750,000 NHS volunteers recruited to help vulnerable people get through the coronavirus crisis has been given fewer than 20,000 tasks to perform across the country, according to data seen by The Telegraph… Last month, three quarters of a million people signed up in less than a week in response to a call by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, for volunteers to help the 1.5 million people told to stay indoors for at least 12 weeks. Since reporting for duty, however, volunteers have complained of waiting on alert for more than 300 hours with nothing to do. On Thursday night, sources at the Royal Voluntary Service, the charity which runs the scheme on behalf of the NHS, said the operation was “still getting going” and urged healthcare professionals and councils to refer more vulnerable people for help.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Scottish Conservatives put the spotlight on Covid-19’s constitutional consequences

MPs to sit in ‘virtual’ parliament

“The House of Commons will sit virtually for the first time next week after MPs were granted permission to quiz ministers via Zoom during the coronavirus crisis. The main political parties and parliamentary authorities struck an agreement on Thursday to change Commons rules in order to allow a “hybrid” arrangement, which will see 120 MPs participate in proceedings using the video conferencing service. Up to 50 will remain in the chamber, following guidance on social distancing. MPs will still have to approve the rule change in person when they convene on April 21 after the Easter recess, but the vote is expected to pass without opposition. If successful, the plans would allow MPs to participate in the Commons from afar for the first time in parliament’s 700-year history.” – FT

  • Members urged to stay at home next week – The Times

>Yesterday: Meg Russell and Ruth Fox in Comment: How a virtual Parliament should work. Questions – and some answers.

Labour calls for better coronavirus protection for UK armed forces

“The shadow defence secretary called on the government to do “everything it can” to protect the British armed forces from coronavirus – and make public the number of times service personnel have been tested for the disease. John Healey wrote to the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, amid concerns about a lack of transparency with the British military and after serious outbreaks of the respiratory disease on US and French warships. “Coronavirus is showing again how our armed forces help keep us safe. It is vital the government does everything it can to keep them safe too,” the Labour MP wrote in a letter shared with the Guardian. The Labour spokesman asked why the UK “does not publish data on testing of military personnel, whereas other countries such as the US do”, and demanded that Wallace make testing – and its results – widely available.” – The Guardian

  • Nearly one in 10 British military absent from frontline – FT

We won’t extend Brexit, government insists

“The government has ruled out a delay to Brexit and said that it will need “legislative and economic flexibility” to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. “We will not ask to extend the transition period, and if the EU asks we will say no,” the prime minister’s spokesman said yesterday. “Extending the transition would simply prolong the negotiations, prolong business uncertainty, and delay the moment of control of our borders,” he said… The comments came after an appeal from the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, to delay Brexit to avoid adding to the global economic uncertainty. The government’s view is that it will be able to act more freely to support the British economy from the after-effects of the pandemic without having to follow EU rules.” – The Times


  • Macron warns of EU unravelling unless it embraces financial solidarity – FT

>Yesterday: Stephen Booth’s column: The UK and EU should agree a deal this year. The implementation period is the tricky part.

Home office crackdown on EU applicants rejected for right to settle doubles in just a month

“The number of immigrants refused the right to live in the UK by the Home Office after Brexit has doubled in a month after they wrongly or falsely applied to the EU settlement scheme. Home Office figures show that the number rejected increased from 300 in February to 600 last month either because of their criminality or their ineligibility due to their lack of proof of residence or a job in the UK or any family connection to a EU citizen. The 600 is nearly a 100 times the seven rejected during the entire previous ten months since the EU settlement scheme was launched in March last year. The Home Office indicated the surge stemmed from its decision to start refusing “ineligible” applications in February, many of which had been in the system for months and subject to “repeated unsuccessful attempts” to obtain missing evidence or information from the applicant.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Foreign workers are rushed in to save the harvest – The Times
  • Homeless migrants still sleeping rough despite Johnson’s pledge, say charities – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • We’re all guilty of recruiting this virus to our cause – Matthew Parris, The Spectator
  • Bernie’s failure is a lesson for the Left – James Bloodworth, UnHerd
  • We must be realistic about the hit to Britain’s economy – James Heywood, CapX
  • Coronavirus is not a great turning point in human history – Jack Dickens, Reaction
  • The key to entrepreneurship is freedom – Eamonn Butler, 1828