Johnson is back – and “keen to modify” lockdown rules…

“Boris Johnson arrived back at Number 10 last night to resume charge of Britain’s fight against coronavirus and plan for a loosening of lockdown. The Prime Minister will chair the daily 9.15am pandemic ‘war cabinet’ before hosting a second strategy meeting in the evening to sketch out the baby steps for easing restrictions. Allies last night claimed he is keen to ‘modify’ certain social distancing curbs if the scientific guidance affords him the wriggle room. Mr Johnson was whisked through the rear entrance of Downing Street at around 6.30 yesterday evening without fanfare, travelling in a humble Volkswagen people carrier rather than his ministerial Jaguar and police motorcade.” – Daily Mail

  • Ministers draw up guidelines for businesses to return – The Times
  • … and are planning to “override restrictions preventing builders from carrying out loud work on Sundays” – The Sun
  • “There is no doubt that the lockdown will be changed in some form . . . there’s a universal feeling it’s coming” – FT
  • Beaches and parks “packed” on Sunday – Daily Telegraph
  • Extended social distancing will be “catastrophic” for hospitality, warn industry chiefs – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister likely to do press briefings “before the end of the week” – The Times
  • UK tourism hotspots could be hit worse by lockdown – The Guardian
  • Airbus is “bleeding cash”, says CEO – FT
  • PM urged “to deliver a personal message that the war is being won” – The Sun
  • Italians handed timetable of how lockdown will be eased – The Times
  • Allies hint lockdown changes could come in before May 7 deadline – Daily Telegraph

> Yesterday:

… As Raab rejects donors’ calls for restrictions to be eased

“Dominic Raab stood firm against Conservative donors’ demands for the government to ease the lockdown yesterday, insisting that Britain was still at a “delicate and dangerous stage” of the coronavirus outbreak. The foreign secretary and first secretary of state dismissed critics’ calls for more details about how restrictions might eventually be lifted, calling them “irresponsible”. Discussions have started in Whitehall about how to get Britain back to work and officials increasingly expect some aspect of the shutdown to be eased on May 7, the end of the latest three-week period of restrictions.” – The Times

  • … and says it’s “inconceivable” for schools to operate normally – Daily Telegraph
  • Lifting lockdown would see more than 100,000 die, warns Professor Neil Ferguson – Daily Telegraph
  • Vaccine may not be ready this year, says Raab – The Times

Max Hastings: We need to toughen up for the pain ahead

“Sentimentality, blame-gaming and poor risk assessment are among Britain’s favourite self-indulgences, and all have lately been on display. In the face of a worldwide figure of 200,000 deaths, and a British one of more than 20,000, what minister could fail to embrace the mantra of safety first? Who dares to say that the toll is, in truth, small as a proportion of the population? This is a horrible and frightening disease, as some of its surviving victims testify in harrowing detail. But it is killing far fewer people than many countries lose annually to famine and natural disasters. Last year Americans used firearms to kill 15,292 of their own countrymen, together with an even larger number of shooting suicides.” – The Times

Uncertainty over whether Government will hit 100,000 testing target

“Matt Hancock was accused by a senior minister of doing ‘too little, too late’ to achieve his target of carrying out 100,000 Covid-19 daily tests as officials claimed they had simply run out of key workers with symptoms to test. The latest figures show the Government carried out almost 30,000 tests for the virus – the highest total so far in a day – but that remains more than 70,000 shy of the number pledged by Mr Hancock by the end of the month.” – Daily Telegraph

> Today:

> Yesterday:

Department of Health sources reject claims that 50 million antibody tests have been ordered

“Hopes for the discovery of a ‘game changing’ immunity test for Covid-19 were dealt a new blow on Sunday when the Government was forced to deny claims it had ordered up to 50 million home testing kits. Scientists are racing to manufacture an antibody test that can tell people whether they have had the virus and built up a possible immunity. But so far none of the available tests on the market have passed a Government validation panel set up at Oxford University. In the latest blow, Department of Health sources dismissed a report on Sunday that 50 million antibody tests had been ordered by ministers at a cost of as little as £10 each.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The WHO calls into question “immunity passports” – FT
  • Doctors warn against coronavirus symptom apps – The Times

> Today:

Inmates to create PPE

“PRISONERS will make life-saving scrubs and visors for NHS heroes battling the coronavirus pandemic. Inmates will start work this week as the UK scrambles to get enough supplies amid a global run on stocks. Inmates will produce 5,000 scrub tops and bottoms for medics and face visors to be used on Covid-19 wards. Lags at eight jails including Swansea, Channings Wood in Devon, Wakefield, and Risley in Warrington are taking part in the drive. Inmates will be paid their usual weekly wage of around £12.50 for the work they do.” – The Sun

  • Medics face “dilemma” as unions warn them not to resuscitate patients without full PPE – The Sun
  • Health leaders urge PPE tsar to be honest about shortages – The Times
  • Give masks to shop keepers and bus drivers, plead doctors – The Times
  • Businesses cashing in on PPE shortage – The Sun

Self-employed could get emergency cash payments before June…

“The self-employed could be handed emergency cash payments sooner than first expected following the smooth launch of a taxpayer-funded furlough scheme. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor has vowed to support contractors with a scheme that will pay 80pc of their profits up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. Freelancers were shocked after he said this help would not arrive until the beginning of June, much later than a similar package to protect the wages of furloughed workers which will make its first payments this week.” – Daily Telegraph

  • …as Chancellor’s constituency is one of the “hardest hit” from job losses – The Sun

Travellers arriving in UK face quarantine for 14 days

“Passengers arriving in Britain may have to face two weeks in quarantine as a minister said that international travel could become a “more significant part” of managing the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme, which would apply to Britons returning home as well as foreign citizens entering the country, would be part of the second phase of the government’s response to Covid-19, which could be introduced as soon as next month. Travellers would face stiff fines if they failed to remain at the address provided to authorities as their place of isolation, it is understood.” – The Times

  • Cabinet “at loggerheads” on tougher border controls – FT

Eustice encourages British workers to take on fruit-picking jobs

“British workers furloughed during the coronavirus crisis will be encouraged to take a second job picking fruit and vegetables, the Environment Secretary said yesterday. George Eustice said that although the international food chain was continuing to ‘work well’, he expected there to be a need to recruit staff in the UK to harvest crops at the start of summer. He told yesterday’s press conference: ‘We estimate that probably only about a third of the migrant labour that would normally come to the UK is here, and was probably here before lockdown.'” – Daily Mail

  • Estimated that 60,000 fruit and vegetable pickers are needed – The Sun

MPs demand cross-government action plan on how to tackle domestic abuse

“MPs have demanded an urgent cross-government action plan on how to tackle increasing levels of domestic abuse under the lockdown, warning that without intervention, “society will be dealing with the devastating consequences for a generation”. In a report published on Monday, the home affairs select committee calls for a raft of measures from the government, including an emergency package of funding for support services for domestic abuse victims and vulnerable children.” – The Guardian

PM to lead Brexit talks

“Boris Johnson is to take personal charge of Brexit negotiations on his return to work as he attempts to put pressure on European Union leaders to shift red lines on fisheries and regulatory alignment. The prime minister will be advised by David Frost, his chief negotiator, that after deadlocked talks last week it is time to inject fresh “political impetus” into the process before June. Details of the new strategy have not yet been worked out in Downing Street but they are expected to focus on finding new ways to “inject energy” and to “short circuit” rigid formal negotiations that are running out of time.” – The Times

  • Brussels tells EU states to reject UK request to remain part of Lugano convention – FT
  • Talks “on course to fail”, Johnson warned – The Guardian
  • China pressures EU to change dossier – The Times

Britain should consider reintroducing national service, says government-commissioned report

“Some young men felt that it was the making of them. Others waved National Service a less than fond farewell when it marched off into the history books. But there may be a way back for the idea that every man and, in the modern era, woman owes a debt of service to their country best repaid by pulling on a uniform. Despite Britain boasting a highly regarded professional army, the prospect of a return to compulsory square-bashing to turn civilians into something approaching soldiers has been raised as fresh thinking is applied to the role of the armed services. The country should consider reintroducing national service to boost public understanding of defence, a government-commissioned report has said.” – The Times

Kim Jong-un is “alive and well”, according to official

“THE mystery surrounding the health of Kim Jong-un took a new twist today after neighbouring South Korea insisted the missing despot is “alive and well.” President Moon Jae-in’s foreign policy advisor poured cold water on reports Kim had died by claiming he is actually staying at his holiday palace on the North Korean coast. “Our government position is firm…..Kim Jong-un is alive and well, ” Chung-in Moon told Fox News.” – The Sun

News in brief: