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Politicians urge public to stay at home this Easter

“Britain is to be told to prepare for at least another three weeks in lockdown today as ministers urge the public not to put at risk gains in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. Political leaders from across Britain will unite to launch a Stay at Home This Easter campaign immediately after a Cobra meeting to review the social distancing measures imposed on March 23. The meeting will be attended by Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, the other leaders of the devolved administrations and Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, who said yesterday that the end of the lockdown was “nowhere near”. Senior officials said that yesterday’s highest daily death toll of 938 underlined the need to renew a sense of national mission before the Easter weekend, during which there could be record high temperatures. “We need to be relentless,” a source said.” – The Times

  • Covid-19 lockdown could be extended until May – Daily Telegraph
  • Police chiefs call for rules to be tightened – The Guardian
  • Virus peak ‘still ten days away’ – The Sun
  • Ministers discuss relaxing work restrictions and reopening schools after Easter… – FT
  • …but Downing Street moves to shut down suggestions – The Sun

Comment:

  • When will lockdown ease? That depends which minister you ask – Katy Balls, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • When it comes to ending lockdown we must follow Germany’s example – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Don’t judge the young for sitting in parks. Consider the housing crisis.

Johnson ‘improving’ and ‘sitting up in bed’, Chancellor says

“Boris Johnson’s condition is “improving”, with the UK prime minister now “sitting up in bed” in intensive care and engaging positively with hospital staff, the chancellor said on Wednesday. Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Rishi Sunak said that despite this progress, Mr Johnson would remain in intensive care. “The prime minister is not only my colleague and my boss but also my friend, and my thoughts are with him and his family,” he added. Earlier in the day, Mr Johnson’s spokesperson said he was “responding to treatment” and remained “clinically stable”. He is also in “good spirits during his treatment for persistent coronavirus symptoms at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, Downing Street said. He was receiving “standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other assistance”.” – FT

  • Recovery could last until the summer, experts warn – The Sun
  • Labour councillor sacked over Johnson comments – Daily Mail

>Today:

>Yesterday:

Allister Heath: Only one question matters to the Cabinet now: what would Boris do?

“Johnson’s worldview, instincts and personality make him the best possible leader to battle the coronavirus crisis, and his presence at the top of the (digital) Cabinet table is sorely missed. The Government’s performance these past 10 days would have been significantly improved had he – and his adviser Dominic Cummings, also badly affected but now recovering – been in full control. It is imperative, therefore, that Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Johnson, begins every meeting with a simple question to the rest of the Cabinet: What would the boss be doing in our place? How would he be imposing his will on Whitehall? How can we try to do as he would?” – Daily Telegraph

  • Confined to a bed, Johnson is our everyman – Jenni Russell, The Times
  • Crisis has transformed our view of what’s important – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian
  • Raab is off to a rocky start, but we must will him on – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Matt Gillow and Jack Powell in Comment: Our liberties need championing more than ever in a post-Coronavirus world

Chancellor announces millions for charities as donations dry up…

“Struggling charities are to get a £750 million bailout after a collapse in voluntary income and huge demand for their help during the pandemic. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, announced £370 million for small local charities that support vulnerable people, to be distributed through the National Lottery Communities Fund and similar bodies. Another £360 million will be given directly to larger charities providing essential services during the pandemic, including hospices. The remainder, £20 million, will be given to St John Ambulance, Citizen’s Advice and charities supporting vulnerable children, victims of domestic abuse and disabled people.” – The Times

  • He admits £750 million package won’t save them all – Daily Telegraph

…as ‘two million people lose their jobs’ in record plunge

“Up to two million workers have lost their jobs already as the coronavirus crisis strikes the biggest blow to British employment on record, experts have said. It means Covid-19 has wiped out the past five years of employment growth in a matter of weeks as companies scramble to sack staff during the lockdown, despite unprecedented support from taxpayers. The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) said the loss of between 1.5 million and 2 million jobs comes on top of those workers who have been furloughed by bosses who would have let them go but are instead using a state-funded scheme to keep them on payroll. It is more than twice as big a crunch as during the financial crisis, when employment fell by a peak of 740,000. The drop amounts to a cut of around 5pc of those in work.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sunak told £40bn bailout leaves businesses ‘out in the cold’ – The Times
  • Lockdown bill could be four times higher than expected – Daily Telegraph
  • HMRC chief warns job retention scheme a target for organised crime – FT

Comment:

  • Sunak should take a share of blame for Tesco dividend anger – Nils Pratley, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • Cost makes delivering a credible exit strategy all the more urgent – The Times

>Today: Sir John Redwood MP in Comment: The Government should support businesses through lockdown. But ensure a return to normality too.

Patel accused of avoiding MPs’ scrutiny during national crisis

“The home secretary, Priti Patel, has been accused by an influential group of MPs of avoiding scrutiny at a time of national emergency, a tranche of correspondence has revealed. Yvette Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, has written to Patel six times – most recently in a letter issued on Wednesday – in an attempt to fix a date for the home secretary to give evidence in public to the committee, but a date for a hearing has not been confirmed. After repeatedly ignoring correspondence from Cooper, Patel replied to the committee chair on Tuesday telling her she was “disappointed at the increasingly adversarial tone of our exchanges” and declining an invitation to give evidence remotely on 15 April. She reluctantly agreed to appear before the MPs at the end of the month, but did not set a date.” – The Guardian

NHS bosses tell Health Secretary coronavirus testing targets are ‘jam tomorrow’

“The Health Secretary’s promise to dramatically ramp up coronavirus tests to 100,000 a day has been thrown into doubt after NHS leaders told him their testing targets were “jam tomorrow”. Health bosses told Matt Hancock on Wednesday that they would not be able to ramp up testing to the required levels without significant help from private and academic laboratories. Ministers insisted they were on track to hit Mr Hancock’s ambitious target as they unveiled major partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and universities to plug the gap in testing. The Government has faced heavy criticism in recent weeks as Britain’s mass testing programme continues to lag far behind other nations including Germany and South Korea.” – Daily Telegraph

  • NHS labs will help boost virus antibody tests to 90,000 a day – The Times
  • Care homes and prisons are next to receive coronavirus test kits – The Times

More:

  • Official charts so UK curve is flattening – Daily Mail
  • Nurses still being forced to share PPE, MPs told – The Sun
  • Hundreds of deaths unreported in early stage of outbreak – The Times

Comment:

  • Covid-19 has exposed the folly of a one-size-fits-all health service – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph

>Today: MPs Etc.: Coronavirus Count

>Yesterday: Dr Luke Evans MP’s column: It feels here that this week is the lull coming before the storm that you hope will never arrive

MPs given extra £10,000 each for home working expenses

“MPs have been offered an extra £10,000 each to support them while they work from home during the coronavirus pandemic. The extra budget can be used to buy equipment such as laptops and printers for MPs and their staff, or to cover additional electricity, heating and phone bills. The money, which comes on top of the existing office budget of about £26,000 a year per MP, will be available until March. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), the expenses regulator, also relaxed rules on the evidence MPs must provide and suspended the 90-day window for claims. The credit limit on MPs’ payment cards has been increased to £10,000, and they can now spend up to £5,000 in a single transaction.” – The Times

Bishop bans clergy from bedsides of the sick and dying

“Members of the Church of England clergy who have volunteered their services as hospital chaplains during the crisis have been told that they will not be allowed to minister to any sick or dying patients at the bedside, even when wearing protective equipment, because of the risk of spreading the infection. In a letter sent to all bishops and those involved in chaplaincy provision, the Right Rev Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, under whose authority the new Nightingale Hospital in east London falls, wrote of the need to maintain “extremely strict discipline regarding contact”. He said that volunteer chaplains would be banned from going on wards or near patients, including those not displaying symptoms of Covid-19.” – The Times

  • Clergy must be free to minister to the sick in this crisis – Marcus Walker, The Times

WHO hits back after Trump criticism as US deaths soar to record high

“The head of the World Health Organisation gave a strident defence of his agency’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, in response to US President Donald Trump’s criticism and suggestions that Washington could review its funding for the agency. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for unity and a halt to “politicisation” of the global health crisis, specifically urging China and the United States to show “honest leadership”. Mr Tedros said he expected US funding to continue with traditional bipartisan support. America’s death toll has increased by 1,973 in the past 24 hours, a new record.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Trump risks more body bags, says health chief – The Times

More:

  • EU leaders lock horns over rescue package – Daily Express
  • Millions of French tune in to Queen for comfort amid crisis – The Times
  • New Zealand declares victory over coronavirus – Daily Mail

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: Orbán’s emergency power grab is shocking. But it shows how isolated he has become

>Yesterday: Ben Roback’s column: How coronavirus is dramatically reshaping the presidential race

MPs launch inquiry into potential Chinese asset stripping of UK firms

“An emergency Commons inquiry into potential Chinese asset-stripping of UK hi-tech firms has been launched following an aborted Chinese boardroom takeover of Imagination Technologies, a Hertfordshire-based chip designer at the cutting edge of AI and communications technology. The inquiry by the foreign affairs select committee is going ahead even though the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, stepped in to delay the boardroom takeover due to take place at a meeting on Tuesday. The episode highlights the growing wariness about Chinese business investment in the UK, partly in the wake of Chinese handling of the coronavirus outbreak… The company’s chief executive, Ron Black, appointed two years ago, tendered his resignation earlier this week and complained in a letter that China Reform’s promises to be a passive investor had not been kept.” – The Guardian

Carlaw attacks Sturgeon’s record on education

“The leader of the Scottish Conservative Party has unleashed a scathing attack on Nicola Sturgeon’s education record during her time as Scotland’s First Minister. Jackson Carlaw told Express.co.uk that Scotland’s education system was once the envy of the world. Mr Carlaw stated that Scotland are now ranked outside the top 30 nations in the world for core subjects such as maths and science. The Scottish Conservative Party leader warned Ms Sturgeon that her time was up as Scotland’s First Minister… During the same interview with Express.co.uk, Mr Carlaw stated that the SNP want Brexit to fail so that they can gain support for another referendum on Scottish independence.” – Daily Express

>Today: Megan Gallacher in Local Government: As we fight the biggest battle of our adult lives, compassion has prevailed in North Lanarkshire

News in Brief:

  • How to find a safe way out of the coronavirus lockdown – Professor Karol Sikora, The Spectator
  • We’ve cosied up to China for too long – Nick Timothy, UnHerd
  • The WHO faces an existential question: reform or wither away – Annabel Denham, CapX
  • Lloyds bank blasted by top accountant over emergency loan scheme – Maggie Pagano, Reaction
  • Clap for NHS workers, but first set them free – Arthur Hurnell, 1828

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