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NHS staff given ‘flawed test’

“Coronavirus tests given to thousands of NHS staff so they could return to work have been found to be flawed and should no longer be relied on, a leaked document reveals. The memo from Public Health England (PHE), sent earlier this month, warns of “degraded” performance, meaning the results are less reliable than first thought. Almost 100,000 NHS and social care workers and their relatives have now undergone tests in an effort to get as many staff back to the frontline as possible. But the memo, dated April 11, reveals that “discordant results” have been identified in the tests, run by PHE and NHS laboratories, requiring ambiguous samples to be re-checked. It raises the prospect that thousands of NHS nurses and doctors who were told they were free of coronavirus may have been sent back to work while they were contagious.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Mass tests to find infected NHS staff without symptoms – The Times
  • PHE slammed for turning down help of 430 experts to trace who victims mixed with – The Sun
  • Health chiefs have only analysed 5,000 blood samples in Britain – Daily Mail
  • Problems raise serious questions over UK’s coronavirus response – Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Hancock must stop pretending his testing strategy is anything but a fiasco – The Sun

>Today:

Diplomat’s row with Raab over failure to join Brussels coronavirus effort

“Britain’s top diplomat has enraged his boss, Dominic Raab, after he claimed that ministers took a “political decision” not to take part in an EU scheme to buy protective equipment and ventilators. Sir Simon McDonald, the permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, said it was a decision by ministers not to take part in Brussels-led efforts to buy the key medical equipment early in the coronavirus crisis. He later backtracked on the claim and said it was a misunderstanding. The government claimed in late March that invitations from the EU to join the scheme were sent to defunct email addresses in Whitehall, leading to ministers missing a deadline to join its first rounds. The joint procurement was, however, discussed at a series of meetings in Brussels attended by UK officials.” – The Times

  • Hancock also rejects senior official’s ‘political decision’ claim – Daily Telegraph
  • Ministers struggle for control of coronavirus strategy – FT

Military ‘appalled’ by planning fiasco over NHS protective kit

“Military personnel have criticised the NHS for its “appalling” handling of distributing personal protective equipment. The armed forces are helping with the distribution of the equipment and staff have been seconded to help planning across seven hubs. A senior army source lambasted the health service for its logistics for PPE, alleging that masks, aprons, gloves and other items were being assigned to hospitals without regard to relative need, leading to oversupply in some areas and shortages in others. “We know how knackered their [NHS logistics] systems are, but we’ve been surprised we’ve not been called in to help more, and we’ve been surprised by their failure to ration [kit],” the insider said. Hospitals are encouraged to share stocks of PPE with local trusts who are running short.” – The Times

  • RAF plane involved in PPE fiasco arrives back from Turkey – Daily Telegraph
  • Downing Street defends Hancock as blame game starts over PPE shortages – The Guardian
  • 8,000 offers of PPE help made to ministers but some firms ‘have no reply’ – The Sun

More:

  • Understaffed Nightingale hospital rejects dozens of patients – The Times
  • Sturgeon shamed into apology as major failing in Scotland’s largest ICU exposed – Daily Express
  • No evidence of bots impersonating NHS over coronavirus, says Twitter – The Guardian
  • F1 engineers race to the rescue with coronavirus ventilators – The Times

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

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Hancock on EU ventilators. We’re in the scheme – but it’s not delivered any personal protective equipment.

Swayne demands debate on ‘absurd’ lockdown measures…

“An MP has demanded to debate the ‘absurd’ lock down measures as his colleagues ignored pleas to stay away from Parliament upon its reopening. Sir Desmond Swayne, a former Tory minister, was one of about 30 MPs who ignored the Chief Whip’s advice to remain in his New Forest West constituency and attended Parliament yesterday when it reopened after Easter recess. In an address to the Speaker he said there was a “problem” with the Commons Commission’s decision to allow up to 50 MPs into the chamber at a time in order to observe the strict social distancing measures. Sir Desmond said “it would be outrageous” if under the new rules MPs found themselves “unable to bring their concerns to this chamber because there were already a sufficient number of members within it”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Hancock holds out no hope of end as death and infection charts stay obstinately high – Daily Mail
  • Cabinet split into ‘doves and hawks’ on easing restrictions – The Sun
  • Lockdown frustrations may explode into violence, French police fear – The Times

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

…as Bailey warns against easing social distancing too early

“The governor of the Bank of England today issues a stark warning that Britain should be cautious about lifting the coronavirus lockdown too early. In his first interview since taking the top job, Andrew Bailey told the Daily Mail that a premature end to the restrictions could cause a severe loss of confidence and inflict further damage on the economy. ‘I think we have to be careful when thinking about human psychology,’ he said. ‘If we had a lifting and then [lockdown] came back again, I think that would damage people’s confidence very severely.’ The new governor’s stern intervention comes at a time of increasingly heated debate over how soon the lockdown can be lifted. ‘Hawks’ advocating an early easing of restrictions point to the huge costs to the economy of remaining in a deep freeze.” – Daily Mail

  • Infection rate is too low to establish herd immunity to coronavirus – The Times
  • Britain’s islands ready to  become guinea pigs for contact-tracing technology – Daily Telegraph
  • Vaccine trials to start tomorrow – The Times
  • Update: 828 more coronavirus victims pushing death toll to 17,337 – Daily Mail

>Today: 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

Philip Johnston: The Government had a plan to fight this pandemic – but it lost its nerve

“For coronavirus, the Government was following this framework almost to the letter while preparing the country for what would be a difficult period. But that all changed on Mother’s Day when pictures of people out and about led to a clamour for a lockdown that was never planned for. Prof Heneghan says the Government lost its nerve. Concerned that it would be seen to be putting the economy ahead of the NHS, it is now inflicting worse damage on the country than the virus itself. Nor is there any sign of an end. Five benchmarks were announced for relaxing the measures, the fifth of which is to prevent a second wave of infections in the autumn. But this will not be possible without continuing the lockdown until then and further wrecking the economy.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Truth about the virus is better for us than hope – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

>Yesterday: Caroline Elsom in Comment: We calculate the astronomical cost of the virus as double the sum spent each year on healthcare

Sturgeon ‘brutally grilled’ by Carlaw over coronavirus fund allocation

“Nicola Sturgeon faced an intense grilling during First Minister Questions on where the new Scottish coronavirus fund would be allocated to and how decisions would be made. Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw took aim at Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday over allocation of new coronavirus funds. Mr Carlaw demanded the First Minister explain how the funds would be divided up into the Scottish local authorities. He also insisted her Government publish how much each local authority would receive. Ms Sturgeon admitted the decisions had not yet been made but she would update Parliament as soon as possible… Ms Sturgeon added that talks were ongoing with local authorities on how the money could best be used in each area.” – Daily Express

Starmer’s first PMQs to be in front of virtual chamber

“Sir Keir Starmer will take part in his first prime minister’s questions as Labour leader today as MPs try out measures to meet remotely. Sir Keir will put questions to Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, who is deputising for Boris Johnson while he recovers from Covid-19. Mr Raab and Sir Keir will both be in the Commons, although some parliamentary business is set to take place virtually for the first time. Under plans that were approved by MPs yesterday, the first two hours of parliamentary business every day will take place over Zoom. Up to 120 MPs will be able to participate via videolink. A maximum of 50 MPs will be allowed in the Commons chamber at any one time, although the number is expected to be significantly smaller, as they have been urged to stay at home where possible.” – The Times

  • Virtual House of Lords sittings will not be broadcast live – The Guardian

More:

  • Labour make gains in opinion polls after leader’s exit – Daily Express
  • More than 100 UK opposition politicians call for universal basic income after lockdown – FT

Comment:

  • With so many coronavirus deaths, Labour should not be holding back – Alastair Campbell, The Guardian

>Yesterday:

Home Office under fire over visa measures for health workers

“Family members of non-European health workers who become ill or die in the UK’s coronavirus outbreak could face lengthy legal battles to remain in the country or receive any government help, MPs heard on Tuesday. Listening to evidence from two leading immigration barristers, Adrian Berry and Colin Yeo, about health staff’s immigration issues, Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP and chair of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, described the testimony as “very troubling”. The barristers also warned that a government commitment to give National Health Service staff from outside Europe peace of mind during the crisis by automatically renewing expiring visas was too narrow… In recent years the NHS has brought around 8,000 doctors, nurses and paramedics annually into the UK from outside the European Economic Area under the “Tier 2” visa system of work permits for skilled immigrants.” – FT

  • Labour calls for end to migrant benefit block during lockdown – The Guardian

More:

  • Migration Watch urges ban on overseas visitors over 50 – Daily Telegraph
  • Pandemic puts UK immigration policy under pressure – FT
  • Home Office wins case on ‘right to rent’ rule – The Guardian

Northern mayors call for economic rethink after coronavirus

“Political leaders in northern England have urged the government not to return to “business as usual” after the coronavirus lockdown, but to embrace positive changes the measures have led to, such as the drop in UK air pollution. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, and Steve Rotheram, the mayor of Liverpool city region, said building cycling and walking networks in cities and boosting internet connections so that more people could work from home could form part of a strategy to “keep some of the benefits that we’ve been experiencing”. They also suggested a national programme to retrofit homes across the country with renewable energy technology could help to reboot the economy and create thousands of jobs.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • After the crisis, a chance to redefine public health – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Did anyone predict coronavirus? – Tom Chivers, UnHerd
  • The Swedish experiment looks like it’s paying off – Fredrik Erixon, The Spectator
  • The Zoom Parliament is here – but hopefully not to stay – Natascha Engel, The Critic
  • Students deserve their money back – Kieran Neild-Ali, 1828

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