Hancock vows to ‘reopen the NHS’

“The NHS will reopen “within very short order” for routine care, the health secretary said yesterday amid warnings that 60,000 cancer patients could die through lack of treatment or diagnosis. Matt Hancock told the Commons that the coronavirus peak had been reached and that hospitals again had the capacity to attend to victims of cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Routine surgery would resume shortly, with the NHS having 10,000 free beds and with the outbreak no longer worsening, he said. Yesterday 759 further coronavirus deaths were reported in hospitals, taking the total to 18,100. Mr Hancock declared victory in the battle to stop the health service being overwhelmed.” – The Times

  • Patients who feel unwell with a non-coronavirus illness urged to seek medical help – Daily Mail


  • Health Secretary says it’s ‘mission critical’ to protect care homes – Daily Express
  • ‘Empty’ Nightingale hospitals could be used to treat non-coronavirus patients – Daily Mail
  • Doctors told not to use Zoom for video calls with patients – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Dr Luke Evans MP’s column: The virus, its aftermath – and why we need a mature, open discussion about helping the dying through their final days

Raab admits failing to get tests where they are needed

“Logistical failings are hampering the government’s pledge to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day, Dominic Raab said yesterday. The foreign secretary’s admission came as health officials announced a nationwide “Covid-19 census” to track the spread of the disease. Twenty-five thousand people in England are to be invited to take part in the first wave of the scheme in the coming days with the first results due in early May. Eventually up to 300,000 people will be expected to take part in the next year. Officials said that those chosen will form a representative sample of the UK population by age and geography. Initially they will take swab tests to see if they have the disease, and when reliable antibody tests become available some will be tested to see if they have had the disease in the past.” – The Times

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Raab – “Even in our darkest moments, the crisis has also shone a light on the best amongst us”.

Social distancing could last all year, warns Whitty…

“Britain will face “very socially disruptive” lockdown measures for the rest of the year, the chief medical adviser has warned. Chris Whitty said that social distancing would have to remain until a vaccine or effective drugs were in place. He said the chances of that happening this year were “incredibly small” and that until then restrictions would have to remain to stop the spread of coronavirus. Those who thought that lockdown restrictions would be lifted entirely were being “wholly unrealistic”, he said as he warned that the disease would be here for the “foreseeable future”… He said that keeping the rate transmission below one, meaning one person infects on average less than one other person, is the “minimum ask”. He said ministers would face a “trade-off” as they chose which restrictions to lift.” – The Times

  • Quest for accurate antibody tests in fight against Covid-19 – FT
  • The ‘second wave’, and what it means for an exit strategy – Daily Telegraph
  • Army of thousands to help trace coronavirus victims – The Times
  • Experts divided over reopening schools – FT

>Today: MPs Etc.: Coronavirus Count

…as Brits face being asked to wear masks in public…

“The British public are to be told to wear face masks at work and on public transport after scientists told the Government they could help stop the spread of coronavirus. Experts have passed on research showing that coverings could help to stop “asymptomatic people” – those who are infected but not showing symptoms – from passing on the disease. The guidance is set to say that those who can’t stay more than 2m apart at work and on buses and trains should wear a cloth face mask, such as a homemade mask, scarf or other non-surgical covering to help slow the spread of the virus. Experts from SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) met yesterday to consider key evidence.” – The Sun

  • Yet face masks will not be compulsory, public expected to be told… – Daily Telegraph
  • …or will they face strict new guidelines? – Daily Express


  • What the UK needs to do before leaving lockdown – FT
  • We must deploy whatever weapons we have to slow coronavirus – The Sun
  • Few paths which don’t entail significant risk – The Times

>Yesterday: Robert Halfon MP’s column: If we stay in this shutdown beyond the end of May, it won’t be a threat to our liberty, but the safeguarding of our lives 

…and senior Tories warn about the economic consequences

“Senior Tory MPs warned the government yesterday that its “safety-first” approach to coronavirus was putting tens of thousands of businesses at risk of going under. Growing numbers of Conservative backbenchers are becoming nervous that the impact of the lockdown on the economy could be devastating. Boris Johnson has made it clear that it will not be lifted unless several conditions are met, including a steady drop in the number of deaths and infections. His priority is to avoid a second wave of the pandemic. The government’s warnings have not been enough to quell increasing disquiet in the party. The MPs who run the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers held a private meeting at which they unanimously expressed deep concern.” – The Times

  • Raab dismisses call for exit strategy – Daily Mail
  • Midlands and the North West will be hit hardest by economic fallout – The Sun
  • Universities’ plea for £2bn bailout falls on deaf ears in Treasury – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: Responding to the challenge of two million unemployed people – and maybe more

>Yesterday: Mark Harper in Comment: We can’t continue the current lockdown while waiting for a vaccine – and need a recovery plan to get out of it.

David Aaronovitch: We will be free to enjoying the Roaring Twenties

“In 1918, American cinemas and theatres were closed in flu-hit cities and towns, and mass events were banned. Masks were worn. And, given that the transmission from person to person of the flu was well understood even then, there must have been a reluctance to press up too closely against other bodies. Yet not only did the closest form of mass entertainment — cinema — survive, it thrived. Within a matter of months huge picture palaces seating 1,200 people were being constructed. By 1930, in a US population of 123 million, weekly movie attendance was 90 million… My reasoned hope is that the same will happen this time. That the lid put on our collective lives will come flying off as younger generations of play-goers, cinephiles, festival fans, art-lovers and their heroes, together, turn the world upside down again. Get ready for the Roaring 2020s.” – The Times

  • One simple number can solve Johnson’s lockdown dilemma – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Iain Duncan Smith in Comment: Here’s to a quiet success in the struggle against the virus – the resilience and robustness of Universal Credit

PPE 1) Ministers missed European PPE ‘because officials didn’t tell them’

“Britain failed to take part in an EU-wide procurement programme to buy personal protective equipment after officials failed to alert ministers to the offer. Civil servants at the Department of Health and Social Care attended four meetings of the EU’s health security committee in the first three months of the year at which joint procurement of ventilators and PPE was discussed. The government suggested last month that “a communication problem” with the EU had meant that Britain did not receive an invitation to join the scheme before the cut-off. However, senior government figures admit privately that the communication problem was not between Britain and the EU but within the health department. “It was a problem at our end,” a source said.” – The Times

  • Brussels says UK was fully aware of procurement plans – FT


  • Row grows as firms say Government ignored offers to supply gowns and masks – Daily Telegraph
  • Armed Forces chief says PPE is the biggest logistical operation he has ever tackled – Daily Mail


  • What the EU procurement furore tells us about Johnson’s real priorities – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Anand Menon and Jonathan Portes in Comment: On balance, the pandemic strengthens the case for extending the Brexit transition

PPE 2) Department of Health ‘strongly advised’ Downing Street not to publicise shipment

“The Department of Health warned Downing Street not to publicise a PPE shipment in case there were problems, it was reported. An RAF plane sent to pick up the 84-tonne consignment of personal protective equipment from Turkey arrived back in the UK on Wednesday morning. The Government has faced intense criticism over shortages of PPE for medical staff battling the coronavirus pandemic. Ministers raised hopes by promising 400,000 badly needed surgical gowns would arrive from Turkey on Sunday but they failed to arrive that day. A source told The Guardian Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s cabinet colleague Robert Jenrick was “strongly advised” not to mention the consignment in case there were problems.” – The Sun

  • Turkish government steps in to fulfil UK order – FT
  • Health bosses accuse hospitals of stashing extra PPE supplies – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Over a billion PPE items isn’t “shambolic”. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer was right. We need a more adult conversation about PPE.

Conservatives ‘call for reset of China relations’

“Senior Conservatives have called on the government to adopt a tougher stance towards China, citing growing concerns about Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. China hawks in the parliamentary party seized on comments at the end of last week by Dominic Raab, who is deputising for the prime minister while Boris Johnson recovers from being hospitalised by coronavirus. The foreign secretary warned that Britain could not return to “business as usual” with a country that the Tory party has spent most of the last decade tapping up for inward investment… Senior Tory MPs and peers, from both wings of the party, including Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, and former leader Iain Duncan Smith, have told the Financial Times the government must now look to “reorientate” Sino-British relations.” – FT

  • Swedes hailed in the US for keeping their economy alive – The Times
  • Japanese voluntary social distancing plea failing to achieve target – FT
  • Trump ‘tantrum’ over second-wave warnings – Daily Mail


Starmer presses Raab over deaths at PMQs

“Dominic Raab has admitted the government does not know how many care home staff have died from Covid-19 in the first virtual prime minister’s questions. The first secretary of state, who is deputising for Boris Johnson while the prime minister recovers from the virus, was questioned by the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, who accused the government of being far slower than other EU countries on testing and said its personal protective equipment strategy was not working. Asked how many NHS and care staff had died from the virus, Raab said: “On the latest figures, my understanding is 69 people have died within the NHS of coronavirus and I don’t have the precise figure for care homes – they are more difficult to establish in relation to care home workers as opposed to care home residents.” – The Guardian


Welsh minister’s mic mistake broadcasts sweary rant to assembly

“Wales’s health minister, Vaughan Gething, has learned the hard way about one of the risks of videoconferencing after he accidentally broadcast a sweary rant about one of his colleagues during a virtual session of Welsh assembly. Having apparently left his microphone live after addressing the assembly, the minister could be heard loudly decrying his fellow Labour assembly member Jenny Rathbone. “What the fuck is the matter with her?” he said, before complaining about Rathbone’s questions in an earlier part of the session, which was held via Zoom. Elin Jones, the assembly’s llywydd – equivalent to speaker – attempted to rescue the situation as Gething continued his rant… Assembly members on the call could be seen reacting with shock and laughter. Afterwards, the opposition party Plaid Cymru called for Gething to resign.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • The PPE supply chain isn’t working, it’s time to send in the generals – Ian Acheson, CapX
  • If we want to party after Covid-19, we need to liberalise London’s nightlife – Jethro Elsden, 1828
  • Did anyone predict coronavirus? – Tom Chivers, UnHerd
  • The contenders, and challenges, in the race to cure Covid – Matt Ridley, The Spectator
  • It’s time for Britain to get back into the space race – Christopher Howarth, The Critic