Vaccine “could be ready by September”

“A vaccine against coronavirus could be ready as soon as September, the British scientist leading one of the world’s most advanced efforts has said. Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, told The Times she was “80 per cent confident” that the vaccine being developed by her team would work, with human trials due to begin in the next fortnight. The government signalled that it would be willing to fund the manufacture of millions of doses in advance if results looked promising. This would allow it to be available immediately to the public if it were proven to work. With ministers struggling to find a strategy to exit the lockdown, long-term hopes of a return to normality rely on a vaccine. Even if measures to stop the spread of coronavirus are eased in the coming weeks, officials are expecting that without a vaccine some element of social distancing, such as shielding of the vulnerable or working from home, would remain in place for a long time.” – The Times

  • Death toll is flattening, experts believe – The Times
  • 980 dead is worst daily UK fatality total yet – The Guardian
  • US death toll passes 2,000 in a single day – BBC
  • Ministers braced for the economy to slump by more than 14 per cent in the next three months – Daily Telegraph
  • Latest advice – HM Government


>Yesterday: WATCH: Today’s press conference. Hancock announces the biggest rise in the death toll to date.

PM “taking short walks” as he continues to improve

“Boris Johnson is taking short walks between periods of rest as part of the care he is receiving for coronavirus. The prime minister has also thanked the team looking after him for the “incredible care” he has received, a Downing Street spokesman said. Mr Johnson was taken to hospital on Sunday – 10 days after testing positive. Earlier on Friday, his father said Mr Johnson “must rest up” after he was moved from intensive care.” – BBC

  • Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds sent letters and baby scans to him in intensive care – The Sun
  • PM “doing puzzles and watching films such as Withnail and I and the Lord of the Rings trilogy while resting” – The Times
  • He’s warned not to rush his return – Daily Express
  • Did Johnson fall victim to the No10 ‘machismo culture’? – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: WATCH: Johnson latest update. He has “been able to do short walks”.

Hancock promises tests for all self-isolating NHS workers

“Any NHS worker who is self-isolating will now be able to get a coronavirus test, the health secretary has said. Matt Hancock said that there was enough testing capacity to promise checks to all health service staff who needed them as well as to key social care workers in areas with a high number of cases. Most recent figures show that 19,116 daily tests are being carried out across Britain but the government is increasingly optimistic about hitting a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month. Testing is regarded as crucial to ensure that doctors and nurses are not stuck at home needlessly if they or a family member have a cough or fever. Initial figures suggested that up to four in five of those self-isolating did not have coronavirus when tested.” – The Times

  • Britain buys three million packs of paracetamol from India after panic-buyers strip shop shelves – The Sun

Doctors lives “at risk” over PPE shortages

“A doctors’ union has said many of its members are still not getting the protective equipment they need to treat patients with coronavirus. The British Medical Association (BMA) said doctors were putting their lives at risk. On Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was enough kit for everyone and unveiled a plan for addressing shortages. The UK recorded 980 hospital deaths on Thursday, bringing the total to 8,958. That death toll, which does not include those who died in care homes or the community, has exceeded the worst daily figures seen in Italy and Spain.” – BBC

  • Medics forced to cut up plastc curtains – Daily Mail
  • NHS volunteer scheme taking time to get up to speed – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Victoria Borwick on Comment: Ministers must act to stop vulnerable people falling through the gap of the Covid-19 safety net

Social distancing may be needed “for months or even years”

“Social distancing measures may need to remain in place “indefinitely”, government experts believe under plans being drawn up in Whitehall which could see Britain begin to emerge from lockdown next month. Officials are considering a plan to lift the lockdown “in reverse” with schools the first to open potentially from the beginning of June, followed by all shops but larger social gatherings delayed until last. The elderly and vulnerable would be asked to stay at home for longer. However, it is understood that Britons will be asked to consider whether social interactions – such as going to an office or visiting relatives – are necessary as part of a plan to live with the virus for many months, or even years. It is hoped that a plan to encourage social distancing to become voluntary will help a second wave emerging.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Normal life “on hold for a year” – Daily Mail
  • Public supports the restrictions – The Times

Police urged to avoid being “heavy-handed”

“Police forces across the country used a range of tactics to keep people off the streets, away from beaches and out of parks yesterday, including monitoring shopping aisles and launching boat patrols off the south coast. Downing Street has warned the police against “heavy-handed” lockdown tactics after one officer tweeted that they were policing supermarkets for people with “non-essential” items. The message came as a video showed an officer in South Yorkshire rebuking a family for letting their young children play on the front lawn.” – The Times

  • Overzealous police chiefs need to take a step back and apply common sense – Leader, The Sun

Further allegations that Jenrick broke lockdown rules

“A Cabinet minister accused of breaking coronavirus lockdown rules was under pressure to resign on Friday night after his “family home” defence was thrown into serious doubt. Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, insisted he had not defied a ban on travelling to second homes when he drove 150 miles to his mansion in Herefordshire because he considered it to be his family’s main residence. However, The Telegraph can disclose that Mr Jenrick’s primary home is in fact a townhouse in central London, where his wife works and his three children go to school. A neighbour who lives close to the manor house described his “family home” claim as “total codswallop”. Senior MPs called for the 38-year-old to consider his position, given his high-profile role in Downing Street’s campaign to keep the British public inside during the outbreak, including the ban on travelling to second homes.” – Daily Telegraph

  • May obeys social distancing rules as she queues at her local Waitrose – The Sun

Denmark to allow schools to reopen

“Denmark is being cited as a possible model for the rest of Europe after it announced a gradual relaxation of its lockdown. The Danish government plans to reopen day care centres and primary schools on April 15 after seeing the number of coronavirus-related hospital admissions and deaths stabilise. All remaining restrictions, including the closure of bars, restaurants, hairdressing salons and shopping centres, as well as gatherings of more than ten people, will stay in place until at least May 10, while a ban on larger gatherings will remain in force until August.” – The Times

  • Why we must (cautiously and safely) get kids back to school as soon as we can – Professor Russell Viner, The Sun

Lockdown in Wales “could be tightened further”

“The coronavirus lockdown rules could be tightened further, the first minister has warned. Mark Drakeford said he hoped to avoid further restrictions, saying the current measures are already “onerous”. Further measures could include preventing people from leaving their homes to exercise, the first minister said at the daily Welsh Government press conference. He urged people to stay at home over the Easter weekend.” – BBC

  • Sturgeon warns virus could spread “out of control” if Scots flout lockdown – The Scotsman
  • Northern Ireland figures were inaccurate – Belfast Telegraph

Parris: We say everything will change but it won’t

“In truth, and though it may not feel like that just at present, Covid-19 is a modest wobble when set against the great lurches of history. Its most serious effect will not be the actual virus (which, if we ever calm down, will be seen to have been damaging but less than catastrophic) but our decision to trash our economies in order to flatten but lengthen, perhaps indefinitely, its impact. I hope we don’t turn out to have increased the final death-count by extending the pandemic. Socially and culturally the lasting legacies will surely be insignificant. Clap together as we may, we are not learning deep lessons in community spirit, or in “all pulling together”. We intone such pieties but the reality is that by far the greatest burden is falling on poorer people in more menial jobs.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

  • 5.6 million could be left out of work – The Sun

Moore: The Queen offers ultimate Christian leadership

“It is certainly hard to know how best Christian leadership can be given at this time, though Boris Johnson – by accident of his illness and by his cheerfulness – has embodied the ancient Judaeo-Christian idea of leading through suffering…The Queen gently establishes her authority to help. I first spoke to you 80 years ago, she says, when we were at war, and I was a girl. She was speaking then to comfort children evacuated from their homes. Today, in a different way, there is again “a painful sense of separation”. Now that she is an old lady who has seen it all, she can comfort us, with modest confidence: “We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again”. All shall be well.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • Empty pews – Leader, The Times
  • As deaths mount, so do questions – Leader, The Guardian
  • The Van Eycks’ vision of Easter offers us all a moment to pause – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Churches are closed but they can’t lock down our hope this Easter – Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: LISTEN: Music for Good Friday: Tenebrae Factae Sunt

Shadow Chancellor calls for delay to avoid “chaotic no deal” with the EU

“The last thing UK business needs in the current economic climate is a “chaotic exit” from EU trading rules, Labour’s new shadow chancellor has warned. Anneliese Dodds urged ministers not to put “ideology over national interest”. The UK has left the EU but has given itself until 31 December to negotiate a trade deal, until which time most EU rules will still apply. New Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said it was “a mistake” to put that date into legislation. Downing Street has insisted the Brexit timetable remains unchanged.” – BBC

News in brief

  • There is such a thing as society, but is up to each of us to save one another – Daniel Johnson, The Article
  • Why isn’t No. 10 cracking down on overzealous police? –  Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • EU regulations interfere everywhere. They’re even forcing garden centres to throw away plants – Emily Carver, Free Market Conservatives
  • Nicky Gumbel’s Confessions – Unherd
  • Review the data – John Redwood