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Unclear whether Johnson is well enough to attend PMQs today…

“Dominic Raab is expected to deputise for Boris Johnson at the dispatch box again on Wednesday amid claims that he is still not well enough to attend Prime Minister’s Questions. Despite returning to work on Monday, Mr Johnson is said to still be recovering from his illness, with Parliamentary sources claiming they have been told he will miss his first opportunity to take on Sir Keir Starmer since leaving hospital. While a final decision is not expected to be taken until Wednesday morning, a senior official said: “The deputy will be doing it tomorrow, unless Boris changes his mind. He is still not well enough.” A second insider added that Downing Street was “keeping options open” in case Mr Johnson felt well enough in the morning to attend.” – Daily Telegraph

  • … but he’ll hold private talks with Starmer – Daily Express
  • PM “briefing” to be held tomorrow or Friday – The Sun
  • Keir Starmer to pressure Government for exit plan – FT

PM expected to set out easing plans “in the coming days”

“It won’t be the beginning of the end but it might be the end of the beginning. In the coming days Boris Johnson is expected to start setting out the government’s plan to ease Britain’s coronavirus restrictions while trying to ensure that whatever is done does not allow the virus to take hold again. The government appears to have amended one of its key tests that must be met before lockdown is lifted. It had set out five rules, one of which was that ministers must be “confident that any adjustment to current measures will not risk a second peak in infections”. A briefing yesterday lowered the benchmark to say the aim was to avoid a second wave that “overwhelms the NHS”. The four other tests have either been met or are close to being met.” The Times

  • Theresa May urges Johnson to assess impact of lockdown on domestic abuse – Daily Telegraph
  • Covid-19 crisis may lead to 20,000 more cancer deaths – Daily Telegraph
  • British Airways to cut more than 12,000 jobs – Daily Telegraph
  • France and Spain to ease lockdowns – FT
  • European economic activity shows early signs of post-lockdown rise – FT
  • Pubs could limit Brits to three pints, says Government advisor – The Sun
  • Public against swift reopening, suggests poll – The Times
>Today:

Contact-tracing app trial starts next week – on the Isle of Wight

“BRITAIN is edging towards easing lockdown with real life testing of the NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app starting next week. Ministers hope the pioneering tech will help the UK beat the bug and “return to normality”. Experts predict high uptake will ensure fresh outbreaks are quickly snuffed out, preventing a second deadly peak. A trial of the voluntary app – provisionally called “NHS – Covid-19” – will begin on the Isle of Wight from Monday. Scientists are testing the tech on the island in a bid to “iron out any bugs” in the system, ahead of an expected national roll-out in mid-May.” – The Sun

Comment:
  • The NHS contact-tracing app could be key to easing lockdown measures safely – The Sun

Allison Pearson: Emotionally drained and scared to death, we are yearning for the things that make life worth living

“How much more of this can we bear? Day and night, the TV news brings us stories of Covid-19 victims in an endless funeral cortege of heartbreak and loss. The low point came last week when the BBC interviewed Zoe Davis about her twin sisters, Katy and Emma, 37, who had died within three days of each other. It was a devastating story and the poor woman was beside herself. Her grief still raw, she was shaking as she cried: “They were angels on earth and now they’re angels in heaven.” The reporter was careful to tell us that Zoe wanted to pay tribute to her sisters. As if that was an excuse for exploiting her tragedy. Clearly, she was not in any fit state to be paraded on national television. I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer who found it far too distressing to watch.” – Daily Telegraph

Hancock 1) Care home fatalities to be included in daily coronavirus death tolls

“The death toll from coronavirus in care homes will be announced daily from Wednesday after figures revealed a sharp rise of more than 4,300 deaths in a fortnight in England and Wales and care operators said they were at the centre of the crisis. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said care deaths would now be tracked in the same way as hospital fatalities “to keep the focus on what is happening in care homes” and allow policy to be changed swiftly if needed. Until now, data has been published weekly and a week out of date. But Hancock declined to apologise to bereaved families for failing to protect their loved ones, amid widely reported shortages of personal protective equipment and testing in care homes.” – The Guardian

  • Care home deaths from coronavirus show no signs of slowing – Daily Telegraph

Hancock 2) Testing to be expanded to over-65s – as Government races to hit 100,000 a day target

“Matt Hancock today announced coronavirus testing eligibility is being extended to include all over-65s and workers who cannot work from home – but only if they have symptoms. All asymptomatic staff and patients at hospitals and care homes will also now be able to get checked. The Health Secretary said opening up the testing regime to more people has been made possible by a dramatic increase in capacity. The UK now has the ability to test more than 73,000 people every day with the government claiming it is ‘on track’ to hit Mr Hancock’s target of getting to 100,000 daily checks by the end of tomorrow.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday:

Hancock 3) No regional differences in how quickly lockdown ends

“Matt Hancock today all but snuffed out speculation that some regions could enjoy a loosening of lockdown restrictions ahead of others, insisting ‘we’re all in this together’. The Health Secretary said curbs would almost certainly be lifted across the country in harmony. Coronavirus has not spread evenly across Britain and the hardest hit areas have suffered quadruple the amount of cases than regions which appear to have dodged a major outbreak. London has experienced the highest number of infections with 23,979 confirmed cases, while the South West of the country has had 5,986. Mr Hancock said this afternoon: ‘So that is a question that we’re looking at. There was a big benefit as we brought in the lockdown measures with the whole country moving together.” – Daily Mail

Hancock 4) First drug for Coronavirus is ready to enter “a new early-phase clinical trial”

“Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed today that one of six drugs being trialled to tackle coronavirus in the UK is being tested on patients. Though the Department of Health didn’t name the drug being pushed to the second phase of testing, they did reveal that compounds Bemcetinib, MEDI3506 and Acalabrutinib are being looked at to treat the virus. Bemcetinib is an experimental cancer drug currently undergoing trials, while MEDI3506 is used against both solid and blood cancers. Meanwhile, Acalabrutinib is a medication used to treat a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma known as mantle cell lymphoma.” – Daily Mail

Gove 1) Britain begins “domestic effort” to stockpile face masks

“Britain is to build a stockpile of masks for people to wear while shopping and on public transport, it was announced yesterday. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, revealed the move after Nicola Sturgeon pre-empted what is expected to be UK-wide guidance. The Scottish first minister confirmed that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had concluded that covering the face with a scarf or other cloth mask would probably help to slow transmission in confined spaces as she recommended that people wear them “as a precautionary measure”.” – The Times

Comment:

Gove 2) Public should avoid UK tourism hotspots for “some time to come”

“British holidaymakers hoping to visit UK tourism hotspots such as seaside towns were warned today they will be unable to do so ‘for some time to come’. Many workers with pre-booked annual leave who had been hoping to travel abroad this spring or summer will now be turning their sights to a holiday in Britain. But Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told MPs that ‘at the moment and for some time to come’ people should not travel to visit popular resorts such as Cornwall. Residents of many beauty spots including Cornwall and Snowdonia have also made it clear that they do not want tourist visitors while coronavirus is still a danger – erecting home made signs urging non-locals to go home.” – Daily Mail

Sunak 1) Treasury plots furlough “extension plan”

“Workers in the parts of the economy worst affected by coronavirus could be furloughed for longer than others under Treasury plans to gradually remove taxpayer wage support. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, briefed Boris Johnson on the state of the economy at a meeting in Downing Street yesterday, more than a month after the country was put into lockdown. The Treasury has been modelling a “wide range of scenarios” for easing the restrictions, scoring each against how effective they are in preventing further long-term damage to the economy. The chancellor’s allies insist he did not attempt to lobby the prime minister during their 45-minute session but instead gave an overview of the effect of the social-distancing measures according to the latest internal assessments.” – The Times

Sunak 2) Senior bankers complain about Sunak’s lending limit

“Senior bankers were left in the dark by chancellor Rishi Sunak’s last-minute decision to offer loans of up to £50,000 to Britain’s smallest businesses to help them through the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Sunak on Monday afternoon unveiled plans for the government to fully guarantee so-called bounce back loans of up to £50,000 to the UK’s micro-companies, which will be administered by commercial banks. But senior bankers said they were not told the chancellor had set the lending limit at £50,000, and had worked over the weekend on the basis that the ceiling would be £25,000.” – FT

  • Small business owners say that Chancellor has “abandoned them” – The Sun
>Yesterday:

Priti Patel cleared of bullying charges

“Priti Patel has been cleared of bullying members of her staff after an official investigation by the Cabinet Secretary. The review, ordered by Boris Johnson, is believed to have found “no evidence” to support allegations that she bullied staff at the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department for International Trade or that she breached the ministerial code by doing so. The report by Sir Mark Sedwill was completed within the last week and has been presented to Mr Johnson on his return to Downing Street on Monday after his recovery from coronavirus. “They have looked at all the claims and found nothing,” said a Whitehall source. “They trawled through lots of material but found no evidence.”” – Daily Telegraph

Foreign Office officials “failed to inform” police that Harry Dunn’s alleged killer would return to US

“Foreign Office officials failed to inform Northamptonshire police that Harry Dunn’s alleged killer would be returning to the US after the crash in which he died, it has been claimed. Anne Sacoolas was granted diplomatic immunity and fled Britain nearly three weeks after the car she was driving allegedly collided with 19-year-old Harry’s motorbike outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27. When the Foreign Office was told she would be returning to the US – despite being under investigation in relation to the crash – its officials didn’t pass the information on to Northamptonshire Police whose responsibility it was to establish whether she had diplomatic immunity.” – Daily Mail

HS2 facing more delays

“HS2 could face a further delay after a judge demanded clarity over plans to build tunnels into central London amid claims they risk causing “catastrophic” damage to homes. The High Court has ordered bosses behind the high-speed line to provide reassurance that existing proposals for the route into Euston are safe. HS2 Ltd — the government-owned company leading the £106 billion project — has been given a week to deliver updated plans to Hero Granger-Taylor, a homeowner who tried to block the proposal on safety grounds. Lawyers acting for Mr Granger-Taylor, said yesterday that it was “highly feasible” that the plan would be thrown out by the court.” – The Times

Queen will address nation on VE anniversary

“The Queen will address the nation on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, with the public invited to join a country-wide singalong of “We’ll Meet Again” outside their front doors. Plans for commemorations on Friday, May 8th, modified to suit a nation in lockdown, will see the Queen once again deliver a special television message to mark the historic moment. The Prince of Wales will read an extract from the diary of George VI, written on May 8, 1945, marking the declaration of victory in Europe and describing the Royal Family’s appearances on the Buckingham Palace balcony. On that day, as the young Princess Elizabeth, the Queen slipped out of the palace to join the crowds dancing in the streets of London in joyous celebration of the end of the Second World War.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief:

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