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Lockdown ‘could leave more than two million unemployed’, warns watchdog…

“Britain should prepare for tough times ahead, the chancellor warned yesterday as the financial watchdog predicted that the lockdown could leave more than two million people unemployed and shrink the economy by 35 per cent. In a bleak forecast, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), said that net public-sector borrowing would reach £273 billion, the largest single-year deficit since the Second World War. However, economists suggested that the damage could be even worse. They said the OBR’s prediction that the economy would bounce back quickly as soon as restrictions were lifted, resulting in an annual reduction in GDP of up to 13 per cent, was too optimistic.” – The Times

  • ‘Biggest economic shock in 300 years’ if lockdown extends to summer – Daily Telegraph
  • Pressure mounts on government after catastrophic economic forecast – The Sun
  • Sunak ‘Chancellor open to boosting SME bailout scheme’… – FT
  • …and expects economy to ‘recover quickly’ – The Times
  • Lloyds refusing loans to firms ‘backed by the Government’ – The Sun

Comment:

  • OBR’s dire projections are still too optimistic – Tim Wallace, Daily Telegraph
  • Let’s get back to work before Britain goes under – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Economy heads for hell in a handcart amid lockdown dithering – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Ryan Bourne’s column: What is the Government using the shutdown for?

>Yesterday:

…as Starmer urges ministers to publish their exit strategy…

“Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has urged the Government to publish its exit strategy from the Covid-19 lockdown this week. In a letter to Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson, Sir Keir confirmed that Labour would support the Government if, as is expected, it extends the lockdown later this week… Sir Keir warned the ‘silent pressures’ on communities across the UK ‘cannot be underestimated’, and said that to maintain morale and hope ‘people need a sense of what comes next’. He urged Mr Raab to commit to setting out the criteria the Government will use to inform how and when it intends to ease the lockdown; to publish the exit strategy now or in the coming week; and to outline the sectors and core public services that are most likely to see restrictions eased.” – Daily Mail

  • Government extends restrictions until at least May – FT
  • Sunak worried people have over-interpreted lockdown rules – Daily Mail
  • Coronavirus response ‘beset by mixed messages and u-turns’ – The Guardian

More:

  • Testing ‘too slow’, Vallance admits – The Times
  • Adviser calls for sunbathing to be permitted – The Sun

>Today: Daniel Hannan’s column: The abuse, outrage and viciousness is hurled overwhelmingly at those of us who back ending the lockdown

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: We need the Commons back urgently – and if that means a Virtual Parliament, then so be it.

…and Downing Street faces calls to ‘lift secrecy’ over advisers

“No 10 is facing growing calls to end the secrecy around the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), which provides the prime minister with evidence about the coronavirus response and how the UK’s lockdown is working. The group of scientists, which is meeting this week to review lockdown measures, does not disclose its membership beyond that it is chaired by Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific officer, and attended by Prof Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England. It published a selection of key papers relating to evidence for the lockdown and physical distancing measures on 26 March – but these are at least a month out of date. No 10 said on Tuesday it was not aware of any plans by Sage to publish more papers or minutes relating to its advice.” – The Guardian

  • Calls for names of scientists shaping UK strategy to be made public – Daily Telegraph
  • The battle at the heart of British science over Coronavirus – FT

Comment:

  • Two-thirds of Britons think the Government is doing a good job – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: James Frayne’s column: Public opinion on the lockdown is a rapidly ticking timebomb

Care home testing to be expanded amid ‘hundreds of deaths’

“All care home residents and social care staff with Covid-19 symptoms will be tested as capacity increases, the government will announce today. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said he was “determined to ensure that everyone who needs a coronavirus test should be able to have access to one”. Under the present system, the first five symptomatic residents are tested to confirm an outbreak. Mr Hancock said this would be expanded to all residents with symptoms and all new residents discharged from hospital into care. Every social care worker who needed a test would also have one, he added.” – The Times

  • GPs claim residents dying of Covid-19 aren’t being so recorded – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Unfolding horror’ that could lead to tens of thousands of forgotten victims – Daily Mail
  • Hancock promises action – Daily Express
  • Ten days of dither which left care homes exposed – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Worst week for deaths in England and Wales since records began – FT
  • Coronavirus linked to 1 in 5 of all deaths in England and Wales – The Sun
  • Scotland and Wales concerned over reports England is prioritised for PPE – The Guardian
  • Update: 93,783 cases, 12,107 deaths – Daily Mail

>Today:

Ian Birrell: A callous betrayal of our most vulnerable

Shield“Behind the daily tally of cold statistics lies the agony of bereaved families and shocked tears of distraught carers, many risking their own lives to save others. Yet the devastation of this unfolding national tragedy is also painfully predictable. It shames those politicians spouting platitudes at daily briefings who, with fatal consequences, have failed to protect some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. This scandal goes deep into the bedrock of our society. For, beyond the deaths and suffering on the forgotten frontline, the virus has ruthlessly exposed the appalling iniquities that must be confronted once we emerge from the darkness of pandemic.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Death rates shouldn’t be used to make political points. And can’t be truthfully. Here’s why.

Ministers accused of setting ventilator specs unsuitable for coronavirus patients

“The minimum specification for the UK’s homegrown hospital ventilator programme will not produce machines suitable for treating coronavirus patients, the head of the largest organisation for critical care medical professionals has said. Alison Pittard, the dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, the professional body for intensive care practitioners, said the government’s request for ventilators that would – at a minimum – stabilise patients “for a few hours” was not in line with what was requested by medical experts last month. Dr Pittard, who was among a group of medical experts who advised on minimum specifications for ventilators in early March, said the professionals had asked for devices that would work for the duration of a Covid-19 patient’s stay in intensive care.” – FT

  • At least ten designs waiting for approval – The Times
  • GlaxoSmithKline in deal with rival Sanofi to make coronavirus vaccine – The Times

>Today: MPs Etc.: Coronavirus Count

>Yesterday:

Tugendhat and senior Tory MPs accuse China of a coronavirus ‘cover-up’

“Senior Tory MPs have demanded an international investigation into the origins and development of the coronavirus outbreak as they accused China of a ‘cover-up’. Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said a global probe is needed because ‘false data from Beijing is undermining our ability to respond’. His call was backed by Defence Select Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood who said the investigation needed to establish the ‘patient zero’ and ‘ground zero’ of the outbreak. He suggested the Chinese government had attempted to ‘hide the outbreak from the world’ as he warned Beijing it ‘must change’ so that the world is better prepared if another virus strikes.” – Daily Mail

  • We can’t rely on China if it won’t play by our rules, warns Hague – The Times

Comment:

  • World must act now on wildlife markets – William Hague, Daily Telegraph
  • What might the world look like after Covid-19? – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

Trump halts World Health Organisation

“President Trump has halted US funding of the World Health Organisation, accusing the agency of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the initial outbreak of coronavirus in China. The president said that the UN agency “willingly took China’s assurances at face value” about the transmission of the virus and “pushed China’s misinformation.” He added: “So much death has been caused by their mistakes… The outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death and certainly very little death by comparison. This would have saved thousands of lives and avoided worldwide economic damage.” … The announcement in the rose garden of the White House did not come as a total surprise.” – The Times

  • Gates says US decision to freeze WHO funding is ‘dangerous’ – FT
  • Cuomo warns Trump is ‘spoiling for fight’ over coronavirus authority – Daily Express
  • State Department warned over Wuhan disease lab in 2018 – Daily Mail

Analysis:

  • The cold political calculation behind this move – Ben Riley-Smith, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Lord Ashcroft in International: Trump stands a better chance of re-election in November than you may think

Antisemitism inquiry ‘must come before Labour officials hired’

“Labour MPs have warned against appointing any senior party officials before the publication of an inquiry into a leaked internal report into antisemitism in Labour. The report alleged that hostility to Jeremy Corbyn had hampered efforts to tackle the problem. In a sign of continued anger over an issue that threatens to disrupt Keir Starmer’s attempts to reunite the party, MPs also said the inquiry should report to Labour’s national executive committee, not to Starmer’s office. One said that any party officials who were implicated should be suspended while the inquiry took place. Thirty MPs from Labour’s socialist Campaign Group released a joint statement Monday evening calling for an inquiry into the report, which they said “contains revelations of senior officials undermining the 2017 general election campaign and suggests there are cases to answer on bullying, harassment, sexism and racism”.” – The Guardian

HMRC task forces crank up battle against tax evaders

“The UK’s tax authority has quietly ratcheted up tackling tax evasion, launching hundreds of task forces in the past decade to target undeclared earnings in industries such as adult entertainment, construction, dog breeding and double-glazing. The number of task forces within HM Revenue & Customs has ballooned to 209 since May 2011 when the first team was introduced, it revealed in response to a freedom of information request. HMRC refused to divulge the full list of what the task forces focus on, saying it would affect the department’s future enforcement ability. It has, however, suspended their activities during the coronavirus crisis, describing it as a “sensible and pragmatic response that is in the best interests of the UK”.” – FT

  • Met police lose two thirds of finance officers as fraud soars – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Don’t put too much faith in Covid-19 metrics – Tom Chivers, UnHerd
  • Free markets and global trade will be the key to economic recovery – Matt Kilcoyne, Reaction
  • We need a plan to get Britain back in business – Brooks Newmark, CapX
  • Macron has lost the coronavirus war – Jonathan Miller, The Spectator
  • On schools policy, Starmer is no heir to Blair – Graham Stewart, The Critic

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