Testing 1) PM to “take control”

“Boris Johnson has taken charge of efforts to source chemicals needed for coronavirus tests as the government admitted that they were being delivered too slowly for frontline NHS staff. Hospitals will be told today to test as many of their workers as possible amid frustration in government that laboratory capacity was being wasted because the health service was not ordering enough tests. However, NHS chiefs are pressing ministers to know when they will be able to use a super-lab for testing key workers, which was opened last week but has still not finished a trial period…Anthony Costello, a former director of the World Health Organisation, said that resources were not being properly used and Britain could have levels of testing comparable to Germany — 70,000 a day — if they were.” – The Times

  • Hospitals urged to use lab space to test NHS staff – BBC
  • UK medicines watchdog warns over unsafe coronavirus tests – Financial Times
  • Levido hired to revamp communications strategy – The Guardian
  • Public Health England “ignored offers of help” – Daily Telegraph
  • Latest advice – H.M. Government



Testing 2) Gove pledges to go “further, faster” on testing

“The UK must go “further, faster” to ramp up its testing capacity for coronavirus, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said. The government has set a target of carrying out 25,000 tests a day – but that will not be met until the end of April. Mr Gove said there was a global shortage of the chemicals needed to test patients. More than 8,000 patients were tested on Monday. Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Mr Gove said: “More NHS staff are returning to the front line, and more testing is taking place to help those self-isolating come back, and to protect those working so hard in our hospitals and in social care. “But while the rate of testing is increasing, we must go further, faster.” He added that a “critical constraint” on the ability to increase testing capacity was the availability of the chemicals needed to test patients.” – BBC

  • First ‘Formula One’ ventilators ready for NHS use at weekend – The Times

>Yesterday: WATCH: “This weekend, the first thousands of new ventilator devices will roll off the production line”, says Gove.

Testing 3) Daily Mail denounces “shambles”

“By a country mile, the greatest misstep has been the shambles over mass testing. If Britain is to emerge from this nightmare (relatively) quickly, it is vital we ramp up an expansive screening programme. The failure to order enough testing kits is simply unforgiveable. Let’s not beat about the bush: It has left the NHS with one hand tied behind its back. Early last month, ministers said 10,000 a day would be checked, rising swiftly to 25,000. In fact, the figure stands at a paltry 8,000. One in five doctors and nurses must sit idle because they or a family member have displayed symptoms – even if they’re fit as a fiddle. Mr Johnson says he is exasperated. Welcome to how the nation feels! No10 blames a global shortage of kits. Yet it is wilfully perverse that a Southampton-based company is churning out lorry-loads of swabs and shipping them around the world, including to India and the Middle East, while the UK Government dithers.” – Leader, Daily Mail

Other comment

  • Many questions remain unanswered over the Government’s handling of this crisis – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Mass coronavirus testing must be our national strategy to go back to the normality we crave – Leader, The Sun
  • The UK has been too slow on mass testing – Anthony Costello, Daily Telegraph
  • The sooner we can all be tested, the faster this hell will be over – Tim Newark, Daily Express
  • How to ramp up Covid-19 mass testing immediately in the UK – Julian Peto, Financial Times
  • Tories can turn this disaster into Britain’s finest hour – Leo  Mckinstry, The Sun
  • When did we become a country so happy to surrender its liberties? – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph
  • We must now treat China like a hostile state – Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph
  • Policing by consent – Leader, The Times
  • Will the coronavirus crisis rehabilitate the banks? – Big Read, Financial Times
  • Social distancing needs to be reasonable – Ann Widdecombe, Daily Express
  • Police must not treat the British people as fools – David Blunkett, Daily Mail

Sunak “considering” new measures to help charities

“Charities will be given a lifeline by the Government amid warnings they face a £4 billion black hole because of the coronavirus crisis. The first aid charity St John Ambulance Association, helping the NHS cope with coronavirus cases, said it could go bust in August unless it receives state aid. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has spent the past few days considering proposals to support the voluntary sector. Additional backing is expected to be announced later this week, although Government sources have said it is likely to come in the shape of “regulatory measures that make a difference” rather than a cash bailout. One option under consideration is relaxing the rules for charities when it comes to the Government’s furlough scheme, which will subsidise 80 per cent of wages for workers who would otherwise have been laid off.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Children’s Society reveals it is losing £1m a month during coronavirus lockdown – The Sun
  • Without aid, charities will not be there when we need them – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Charities are in crisis. A Government bailout is urgent – but they must not forget small players.

Patel extends visas for doctors, nurses and paramedics

“Visas for overseas doctors, nurses and paramedics will be extended for an extra year, Priti Patel announced. Anyone whose documents were meant to expire before 1 October 2020 will now get an extra 12 months added to their stay for free so they can continue their brave fight against coronavirus. International student nurses and doctors will be allowed to work extra hours too to help the NHS cope with the virus outbreak, the Home Office said. And overseas nurses given more time to pass their skills equivalency tests. It will apply to around 2,800 migrant doctors, nurses and paramedics, employed by the NHS at the moment and doing vital work to protect the country and save lives.” – The Sun

“Green shoots” of recovery – but the death toll rises by 381 in one day

“There are ‘green shoots’ signs that the rate at which people are becoming infected with Covid-19 is slowing, NHS England’s medical director has said. Professor Stephen Powis said the next few weeks ‘will be critical’ to see how the UK epidemic would pan out but there were signs of a plateau in the infection rate….Prof Powis told reporters at the daily Westminster press briefing: ‘We have had a rise in the number of new UK cases but recently there is a little bit of plateau….A total of 1,789 patients have now died overall in UK hospitals as of 5pm on Monday, the Department of Health said, up by 381 from 1,408 the day before.” – Daily Mail

  • Deaths at home or in care homes are not being counted in NHS daily updates, the Office for National Statistics says – The Times
  • 13-year-old boy among the victims – BBC
  • Risk was “deemed moderate by scientists” just five weeks ago – The Times
  • The metaphors mounted – Quentin Letts, The Times

New NHS app to help end the lockdown

“The NHS is preparing to release an app that alerts users if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, in a move that could pave the way towards the end of the lockdown. The opt-in programme is likely to be rolled out as the current restrictions on movement are lifted – and, if successful at limiting the spread of the virus, could prevent the need for further clampdowns. Experts are now expecting the British epidemic to peak around Easter, before a steady decline.” – Daily Telegraph

  • On-off lockdowns could prevent a second coronavirus wave – The Times
  • Care home staff ‘at breaking point’ – The Guardian
  • More than 80 per cent are following the guidelines – Daily Telegraph
  • Police forces at odds over enforcement methods – The Times
  • Only shop once a week suggests Shapps – The Sun
  • A fifth of smaller UK firms ‘will run out of cash’ – BBC

Scotland to suspend jury trials for up to 18 months

“Lawyers have attacked plans to suspend jury trials for up to 18 months in Scotland to cope with the coronavirus crisis as a “knee-jerk reaction instigated by panic”. The Scottish government is pushing through a swathe of emergency powers to help the criminal justice system and public adapt to the pandemic in a bill expected to be approved by Holyrood on Wednesday in a single day. The bill would prevent landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent; empower Holyrood to allow the release of prison inmates nearing the end of their sentences, and allow children with mental illnesses to be detained for up to four days without a sheriff’s approval, instead of three days at present.” – The Guardian

Trump warns Americans to prepare for “two painful weeks”

“President Trump warned Americans to brace for a “very, very painful two weeks” as coronavirus deaths continued to surge. After abandoning his plan to have the country “opened up and raring to go” by Easter, the president yesterday said the next fortnight would be critical for slowing the virus’s spread. “When you see the kind of death that’s been caused by this invisible enemy, it’s incredible,” he told the daily virus briefing yesterday…The president is considering ordering Americans to wear masks in public as his chief pandemic expert warned that coronavirus will return in the autumn. The US overtook China yesterday with more than 3,700 deaths.” – The Times

Finkelstein: Party members aren’t fit to pick their leader

“There are two reasons why MPs are better at choosing leaders. First, they actually know a bit about the candidates. They understand who they are, appreciate their character flaws, and have seen them perform at close quarters. Or in Jeremy Corbyn’s case, realised the reason why most of them hadn’t met him in more than 20 years in the Commons was that he was often in the other voting lobby, opposing Labour governments, or attending a demo somewhere. Second, and critically, MPs represent voters and want to continue doing so. They try to pick leaders who might please their constituents, not just someone who suits them ideologically. Party members just vote to please themselves. Give the vote back to the MPs. The membership ballot was an idea of its time. Time’s up.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

News in brief

  • Has the government overreacted to the Coronavirus Crisis? – Toby Young, The Critic
  • Will coronavirus mean we finally begin to appreciate farmers? – Jamie Blackett, The Spectator
  • After the pandemic, we must ask what the state is for – Helen Dale, CapX
  • Key questions on testing have not been answered – Tom Peck, Independent
  • The WHO has failed us again – Ian Birrell, Unherd