Hancock pledges 100,000 virus tests a day…

“Every NHS worker forced to self-isolate has been promised a coronavirus test by the end of the month as the health secretary set a new target of 100,000 tests a day. Matt Hancock responded to public anger over the lack of testing with a five-point plan in what aides acknowledge is a significant gamble. The plan includes the use of commercial labs and confirmed that an immunity test was being used to carry out an “opinion poll” of how many people had been infected. Companies have responded with scepticism after Mr Hancock promised, in effect, to create a British diagnostics industry from scratch in the coming weeks. An industry source said that at a meeting with Mr Hancock “no specific dates or numbers were sought or promised”.” – The Times

  • Government is ‘looking at’ introducing immunity passports, Health Secretary confirms – Daily Telegraph
  • Hancock’s ‘five pillars’ to shore up defences against invisible enemy… – The Times
  • …but can they solve the crisis? – FT
  • NHS call on PM to ensure test centres are conveniently located – The Guardian
  • 100,000 tests a day promised as ministers seek an end to coronavirus lockdown – Daily Telegraph
  • Latest advice – HM Government


  • Hancock’s promise is welcome but delivery is now essential – The Times
  • At last, Britain has a strategy for testing. Why did it take so long? – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Brandon Lewis MP in Comment: In Northern Ireland, people are pulling together in amazing ways to combat the virus

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Hancock’s back – and he sets out his five-pillar anti-virus plan at today’s Government press conference

…as press continue to expose poor preparations

“Public health officials in charge of defending the country from a major pandemic never drew up plans for mass community testing despite warnings from the World Health Organization, The Telegraph can disclose. Emergency planners “did not discuss” the need for community testing because they wrongly believed a new strain of influenza would be the next outbreak to strike the UK, a senior Government adviser revealed. Instead, ministers, along with officials from Public Health England, the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health, decided against planning for mass testing despite an official warning from the WHO that it would slow the spread of disease. “That may have been a mistake,” said Prof Graham Medley, Chairman of  the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), the official committee advising the Government on infectious diseases, including coronavirus.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scientists ready to do more coronavirus tests kept waiting by health officials – The Times
  • Officials ‘ignored warnings from WHO to prepare for mass testing in case of a major pandemic as far back as 2005’ – Daily Mail
  • UK coronavirus test centre sits empty as NHS trusts send swabs to Germany – The Sun
  • Government has bought no Covid-19 home testing kits despite claim millions had been purchased – Daily Telegraph
  • With Johnson under fire, blame game begins over virus crisis – FT
  • More than half of Brits criticise slow response as critcism mounts – Daily Express


Jeremy Warner: Health bureaucrats have led us towards ruin

“The problem in Britain can therefore be laid squarely at the door of confused political direction, managerial incompetence, and logistical inadequacy. It is striking that whereas the UK’s privately managed food supply chains have been able to rapidly adapt to the new reality, such that empty supermarket shelves were really only a week long problem, publicly managed healthcare has been scandalously late in rising to the challenge of mass testing, leaving destruction of the economy as the only apparent alternative to a potentially very high Covid-19 death toll. So when we bang our pots and pans, and cheer our heroic front-line NHS staff and care workers, it’s worth remembering that it needn’t have been like this; like the rest of us, they have been failed by the system.” – Daily Telegraph

  • No 10 needs to look beyond the lockdown – Iain Martin, The Times
  • To Swedes, it’s the rest of the world engaging in a reckless experiment – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Excess death’ figures cannot be sugar-coated – Chris Giles, FT
  • Blaming Labour won’t work this time, the Tories will have to own this crisis – Larry Elliott, The Guardian
  • Scale of the economic wipe-out from Covid-19 is truly horrifying – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • This is the time to build a better, fairer world – Ed Conway, The Times


  • As we face the gravest crisis in a century, Public Health England’s failings are hideously exposed – The Sun

>Yesterday: Sir John Redwood MP in Comment: The Government should prepare for a return to normal work for people not in the vulnerable categories

Hancock wipes £13 billion of NHS debt to bolster hospitals

“Matt Hancock has written off more than £13 billion of historical NHS debt in the latest move by government to put the fight against the virus on to future balance sheets. The health secretary said the “landmark step” would give NHS trusts the confidence to do what was needed “without worrying” about adding to their debts. The move comes at a cost of £13.4 billion. In forgiving hospitals debts Mr Hancock is loading it on to the Department of Health’s balance sheet rather than drawing on Treasury cash. Of all the NHS trusts 107 have debts that average £100 million, often incurred as a result of capital investment or shortfalls in revenue. The two largest debtors owe a total of £1 billion.” – The Times

  • Nightingale Hospital expects mortality rate of one in five despite taking fittest coronavirus patients – Daily Telegraph
  • Death toll in UK nears 3,000 amid record daily rise – The Times
  • One in 15 people in London may be infected by coronavirus – FT


  • Hancock demands Premier League stars ‘take a pay cut’ and do their bit over coronavirus… – The Sun
  • …and Linekar hits back at ‘judgemental pile-on’ – Daily Mail

>Today: MPs Etc.: Coronavirus Count

Lord Ashcroft: Recognise the courage of those at forefront of battle against coronavirus

“As our medical teams and others risk their own lives to treat tens of thousands of Covid-19 sufferers, we once again need to respond in terms of finding an appropriate way of rewarding exceptional service and, in some cases, outstanding bravery. Indeed working in the face of a lethal virus, in cases without sufficient protection, is nothing but exemplary courage. It is clear that the Government is already addressing this question and so it should. Yes, of course we have our Honours System whereby twice a year the Queen, in her New Year and Birthday Honours, announces a long lists of graded awards for public service. However, the current medical emergency, which has led to the “lockdown” of our country, requires a new approach… I would like to see the Government create a new medal, perhaps one called the “Covid-19 Medal”, which is awarded to all those people who have worked full-time, or even part-time, to help beat the virus and to save lives.” – Daily Mirror

Chancellor orders banks to help more businesses

“The chancellor has ordered banks to grant emergency loans for more businesses after fewer than 1,000 were approved out of 130,000 enquiries. Rishi Sunak announced last night that he was banning lenders from demanding personal guarantees from borrowers for all loans under £250,000. Several banks had asked directors to put their homes or savings up as collateral and charged interest rates of up to 30 per cent. The chancellor also extended the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme so that larger companies could take advantage of it. It had provided government-backed loans of up to £5 million to companies with annual sales of up to £45 million, but Mr Sunak will enlarge it for loans of up to £25 million to firms with annual turnovers of between £45 million and £500 million.” – The Times

  • Banks hit back at wave of criticism over lifeline business loans – Daily Telegraph
  • UK banks resisted BoE calls for dividend cuts – FT
  • Mortgage holidays for one million homeowners as banks approve breaks – Daily Mail


  • Millions of Brits have already signed up for job retention scheme – The Sun
  • We’ve been betrayed, say the small firms fighting for survival – The Times
  • Emergency loans unveiled for ‘squeezed middle’ companies – FT
  • Bus companies handed £400million bailout to keep services running – The Sun


  • The chancellor should urgently expand government backing – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Sunak soars to our highest-ever standing in this month’s Cabinet League Table

>Yesterday: John O’Connell in Comment: Divert the aid budget; freeze council tax; suspend Sunday trading restrictions. Three policies for this testing time.

Hague says Johnson should involve Labour leader in tactics

“William Hague has urged Boris Johnson to brief the new Labour leader on his coronavirus strategy to limit pressure on the government. The former Conservative leader told The Times’s Red Box podcast that the opposition was “owed explanations” but was also less likely to attack the government if it understood the challenges being faced. Sir Keir Starmer is expected to be named as Jeremy Corbyn’s successor tomorrow morning when the result of the four-month contest is revealed. Mr Johnson remained in self-isolation last night after contracting coronavirus a week ago. Downing Street said that he has “mild” symptoms but would not say whether he will leave isolation today. Lord Hague of Richmond said that, assuming Sir Keir becomes opposition leader, Mr Johnson should “call him in”.” – The Times

  • Corbyn warns successor against joining ‘unity government’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Labour urges UK government to publish findings of 2016 pandemic drill – The Guardian
  • Ex-MP launches scathing attack on ‘selfish’ outgoing leader – Daily Express

Global coronavirus cases hit one million as half the world now on lockdown

“The coronavirus pandemic has reached a grim milestone with the number of people infected worldwide soaring past one million. Covid-19 has also killed more than 51,000 across 183 countries despite half of the world’s population being under some form of lockdown. After the first case appearing in a ‘wet market’ in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the deadly disease has expanded exponentially across the globe. As well as the spiralling death toll, the killer bug has shattered the world economy, forcing governments to financially help citizens told to stay at home as they battle the pandemic and soaring unemployment. This week, the World Health Organisation said it was concerned about the “near exponential” growth in the number of cases, with 183 countries affected.” – The Sun

  • China puts 640,000 in lockdown over new coronavirus outbreak – The Times
  • Virus-hit cruise ships dock in Florida as yet more wait at sea – The Guardian
  • Hidden victims may add 6,000 to Italy death toll – The Times


  • Despots will use the crisis to kill democracy – Philip Collins, The Times


Starmer in front as voting ends to be party leader

“Party bosses will announce tomorrow who has won the race to take over from the hard- Left socialist. Sir Keir Starmer is the strong favourite to see off the challenge of Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy. In a video message to his supporters, released as ballots closed at noon yesterday, the Shadow Brexit Secretary said: “With the campaigns that Rebecca and Lisa have run, and that we’ve run, I think we’ve demonstrated to our party, to our movement, and hopefully to the country that real good can come out of this election.” Ms Nandy also released a video thanking supporters, saying: “We have shown Labour to be a party that has both humility and self-confidence.”” – Daily Express

  • Next Labour leader should back sweeping electoral reforms, Greens say – The Guardian

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Which Starmer will we get as Labour’s new leader this weekend? Radical Starmer? Or Safety First Starmer?

News in Brief:

  • How to scale up Britain’s coronavirus testing – Matthew Lesh, The Critic
  • The private sector must be allowed to help fight coronavirus – Morgan Schondelmeier, 1828
  • The shame of elite football clubs asking for a state handout – Alex Massie, CapX
  • The last thing Labour needs is ‘unity’ – Stephen Pollard, UnHerd
  • The looming collapse of the Eurozone – Tuomos Malinen, Reaction