MPs return to ‘virtual’ Commons

“The rest of the country has already had to grapple with the questions of fashion and interior design that plague anyone trying to hold a meeting via video conferencing. Now MPs face tough decisions about what to wear and where to sit when dialling into the new virtual House of Commons from their constituencies this week. Keeping a watchful eye to ensure that standards are maintained is Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, who has made it clear that he wants no waving of papers, no silly noises and definitely no pink shorts. Parliament returns from Easter recess today with a motion expected to be passed allowing proceedings to be held online from tomorrow to prevent MPs from having to gather in Westminster.” – The Times


Doubts cast on Hancock tests pledge

“The Health Secretary’s promise that 100,000 people a day would be tested for coronavirus has been criticised as “arbitrary” and “irrational” by Downing Street sources. In a sign that senior Whitehall figures are distancing themselves from the target – due to be met by the end of April – a Number 10 insider said Matt Hancock’s pledge threatens to “come back and bite him”. The latest official figures show that just 19,316 tests were carried out in the 24 hours to 9am on Monday, while the most recent total testing capacity dropped by 2,000 to 36,000. Sources say there is not the demand among NHS workers to meet the 100,000 target, and that widespread testing is most critical earlier in an outbreak and once lockdown measures have been relaxed.” – Daily Telegraph

  • More than 100 health workers give their lives – The Times
  • The charts that show real death toll is much higher than first feared – Daily Telegraph
  • Be ready for second wave, scientist warns – The Times
  • Cabinet split as experts warn: don’t ease lockdown too soon – The Guardian
  • BAME patients face disproportionately high risk of death – Daily Telegraph
  • Hundreds of thousands needing to be shielded not contacted – Daily Telegraph
  • Facemasks for public ‘risk NHS shortage’ – The Times
  • UK announces 449 more deaths – Daily Mail
  • Peak is past and now lockdown worse than virus, expert insists – The Times
  • Lockdown measures infringe human rights, says UK justice secretary – FT
  • Who are the doves and hawks of lockdown policy? – The Guardian

Brits will be forced to live with restrictions throughout 2020

“Britain will have to live with many of the coronavirus restrictions throughout 2020 as ministers adopt a “suck it and see” strategy to slowly see what works. Instead of any clean end to lockdown, senior government figures tonight braced the nation to expect a very long path out of it through the summer and deep into the autumn. It emerged this evening that Downing Street has even banned the term ‘exit’ from its own lockdown planning. No10 officials now refer to what happens after the current three-week extension that ends on May 7 as “next phase”. A “suck it and see” plan is now being drawn up based on scientists’ data crunching to see what restrictions to try easing first.” – The Sun

Government to support the wages of a million people

“Taxpayers will pay the wages of a million people at a cost of more than £1 billion after 144,000 companies hit by coronavirus applied for government support in a single day. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said that employers would receive grants within six days to pay staff who had been furloughed, as the government opened its coronavirus job retention scheme. Experts believe the unprecedented intervention will eventually cost the government more than £40 billion and that 8.3 million people could apply.” – The Times

  • Chancellor rejects calls for state guarantee of loans – The Times
  • Labour calls for end to migrant benefit block during lockdown – The Guardian

Claims about PPE flight unravel as hospitals begin to reuse gowns

“A shipment of vital protective equipment from Turkey for NHS staff had not been formally secured when the government announced on Saturday that it would arrive the next day, The Times has learnt. Last night it was still unclear when the consignment would reach the UK, as NHS chiefs reported that hospitals were re-using disposable gowns up to three times after stocks ran worryingly low. UK businesses said they were making ad hoc deals to supply local hospitals as they failed to get a government response on offers to help the national supply chain, or clear guidance as to what was needed.” – The Times

Millions of pieces of equipment shipped from Britain to Europe

“Lorries are being packed with masks, respirators and other PPE kit before heading back to supply hospitals in the EU, it has emerged. On Monday night, UK firms said they had “no choice” but to keep selling the lifesaving gear abroad because their offers of help had been repeatedly ignored by the Government. It comes as the Government faces growing criticism over the PPE crisis with hospitals close to running out of critical equipment, and doctors forced to choose between exposing themselves to the virus or “letting a patient die on their watch”. On Sunday, 12 million pieces of PPE were delivered to the health care sector, down from 33 million less than a fortnight ago.” – Daily Telegraph

Prime Minister steps up his workload

“Boris Johnson is receiving daily updates from his team as he re-establishes his grip on the coronavirus crisis ahead of an expected return to Downing Street next week. The Prime Minister is also asking for papers to be sent to him on issues unrelated to the virus in the latest sign that he is regaining his strength and energy. He is already calling the shots on overall virus policy, and has made it clear that his priority is to avoid a “second wave” which he believes could be deadlier than the first. Sources close to Mr Johnson have made it clear he will obey doctors’ orders to stay away from Westminster for the rest of this week, leaving his stand-in Dominic Raab to take charge of Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions and a Cabinet meeting later this week.” – Daily Telegraph


Hunt: Wanted – a big hitter to get grip on contact tracing

“As pupils get back to online schooling and businesses worry about April paybills, one question looms large: how do we exit this lockdown? There has been lots of discussion about the need to “test, test, test” but a test is not a cure. We now need to focus on the other part of the Korean formula: sophisticated contact tracing and isolation of those with Covid-19 or who are at risk of catching it. Contact tracing is highly specialised, using technology to trace people who have been in contact with someone who has symptoms of a virus.” – The Times

Virus makes Brexit extension ‘inevitable’, says Lidington

“An extension to Britain’s Brexit transition period is “inevitable”, David Lidington has claimed, as the first round of remote trade deal negotiations begin in London and Brussels. Teams of European Union and British officials will today start work via video conferencing on four days of talks focused on trade in goods, “level playing field” rules on regulatory alignment and fisheries. However, no talks are planned on extending the transition period for Britain to remain in the EU’s customs union and single market after David Frost, the prime minister’s chief negotiator, said the government was still aiming to get a trade deal by the end of the year.” – The Times

  • Scottish government urges two-year Brexit extension – Daily Mail

Ex-civil servant lodges ‘constructive’ dismissal claim against Patel

“Sir Philip Rutnam, the former Home Office Permanent Secretary, has formally begun legal action against Priti Patel claiming “constructive dismissal”. Sir Philip submitted his claim to an employment tribunal on Monday morning following his high-profile decision to resign after accusing Ms Patel of bullying staff and claiming that he was a victim of hostile briefings. Dave Penman, general secretary of the First Division Association (FDA), which is supporting Sir Philip’s claim, said his legal team and the FDA submitted a claim to the employment tribunal “for unfair (constructive) dismissal and whistleblowing against the Home Secretary.” – Daily Telegraph


Branson offers up island for public cash

“Sir Richard Branson has pledged to mortgage his home in the British Virgin Islands tax haven to raise cash as he pleaded with the government to bail out his airline. The billionaire, who has been domiciled in the Caribbean haven for more than a decade, warned that Virgin Atlantic would need a taxpayer loan to stay afloat. “We will do everything we can to keep the airline going but we will need government support to achieve that in the face of the severe uncertainty surrounding travel today,” Sir Richard wrote in an open letter to the airline’s 70,000 staff.” – The Times

Trump “to suspend all immigration to US”

“President Donald Trump said that he planned to temporarily suspend immigration to the United States because of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the US already being the worst-hit country in the world. Mr Trump’s decision to suspend immigration is drawing condemnation from some Democrats, who accused the president of creating a distraction from what they view as a slow and faulty response to the coronavirus. The president said he was taking the action to protect the US workforce. Millions of Americans are suffering unemployment after companies shed employees amid nationwide lockdowns to stop the contagion.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief