Published:

Downing Street ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the Prime Minister’s condition…

“Britain’s battle against coronavirus “could be moving in the right direction” but ministers will not even consider lifting the lockdown until at least next week, it was reported yesterday. Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, said there were signs that the number of new cases of the virus were starting to level off but that he could not be certain of the trend for another week. Boris Johnson remained in intensive care as Downing Street was cautiously optimistic about his recovery and he continued to breathe without assistance. Dominic Raab, standing in for the prime minister, said he was confident that he would “pull through” because he was a “fighter”.” – The Times

  • Treatment being overseen by UK’s leading lung doctor – Daily Telegraph
  • Days of whispers and worrying ended in dash to hospital – The Times
  • Shock within Westminster at rapid deterioration – FT
  • Recuperation could take months – Daily Mail
  • How intensive care works – The Guardian
  • Queen offers Symonds a message of support… – The Times
  • …as supporters come out to ‘clap for Boris’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Johnson’s illness is a message about the true nature of coronavirus – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • The Boris I know – Guto Harri, The Times

>Yesterday:

…as Gove self-isolates…

“Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is isolating at home after a member of his family began to display symptoms of coronavirus. The senior Tory is understood to be feeling well and will continue to work from home as normal, as ministers scramble to steady the ship after Boris Johnson was admitted to intensive care on Monday night. Mr Gove, who is tasked with leading Whitehall’s response to the crisis, tweeted: “Many thanks for kind messages. In accordance with the guidance, I am isolating at home after a member of my family started to display mild symptoms of coronavirus on Sunday. “I have not displayed any symptoms and am continuing to work as normal.” It comes after the prime minister was transferred to the intensive care unit at St Thomas’ Hospital in London as a precaution following a deterioration in his condition.” – The Independent

>Today: Dr Luke Evans MP’s column: It feels here that this week is the lull coming before the storm that you hope will never arrive

…amidst concerns of ‘vacuum’ in Government decision-making

“Dominic Raab has cast doubt on whether the coronavirus lockdown will be reviewed next week, amid growing questions over who is going to make key decisions while the Prime Minister remains in intensive care. The Foreign Secretary, who is to deputise for Boris Johnson in key meetings, refused to confirm whether a decision on easing the restrictions would be taken on Easter Monday, in line with Mr Johnson’s timetable, instead saying “we’re not at that stage yet”. Mr Raab was asked repeatedly whether he had the power to make decisions in Mr Johnson’s absence as confusion grew over the constitutional position. He said only that he had taken clear instructions from the Prime Minister and that the Cabinet was aware of the plan for tackling coronavirus.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Raab ‘struggles to say who is in charge’ – The Times
  • Foreign Secretary steps into the constitutional breach – FT
  • Stand-in needs cabinet OK for big decisions – The Guardian

Lord Norton: History shows that a government can continue without its leader

“If a Prime Minister is temporarily unavailable for whatever reason, it is up to the premier to designate who should stand him for him.  There is no formal position that determines who fulfils this role. Holding the title of Deputy Prime Minister does not mean that one automatically stands in for the PM in the latter’s absence. Whereas Deputy Prime Minister is a title and not a salaried ministerial post, First Secretary of State is a formal position denoting seniority among Secretaries of State. However, it confers no status beyond that… If a Prime Minister is not able to remain in post until a successor is elected, is there provision for an acting Prime Minister?  There is a precedent in that in 1834 the Duke of Wellington served briefly as such until Peel could return from Rome.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The machinery will tick on, but Johnson’s absence will be felt – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph
  • Coronavirus is creating a hole at the heart of government – Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian
  • With an untested Cabinet, we need the Prime Minister more than ever – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Ministers must unite for the huge task that lies ahead – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson’s illness makes government unity vital – FT
  • Raab will need the Cabinet’s full cooperation – The Times

Policy 1) Help us find new antibody test for coronavirus, ministers tell industry

“Ministers are preparing to issue a rallying cry to British industry to build a home antibody test that would help exit the lockdown, The Times has learnt. Biotech companies will be asked to work together to produce a finger-prick testing kit accurate enough to be sent to millions of homes in an echo of the effort by manufacturing companies to build more ventilators. Antibody tests that identify people who have recovered from coronavirus are regarded as a key long-term route out of the restrictions. The Times revealed this week that none of the products ordered and evaluated by the government had proven good enough to use in mass testing.” – The Times

  • Britain should have moved faster on testing, concedes Whitty – The Sun
  • UK looks to learn from German mass tests in quest to end lockdown – FT
  • PHE ‘hampering’ test development by refusing to share samples – Daily Mail
  • Army could step in to help with testing – The Sun

>Today: MPs Etc.: Coronavirus Count

Policy 2) Take-up of furlough support far exceeds expectations

“Around half of Britain’s companies are expecting to furlough most of their staff at a cost of up to £40billion to the Treasury. The Government initially thought around 10% of companies would take up the job retention scheme, but around a fifth of smaller firms plan to furlough all of their staff and 50% are taking up the scheme for some of their employees, the BBC reports. With businesses struggling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, the Government introduced a grant to pay 80% of staff wages. The Resolution Foundation believes between 8million and 11million staff could furloughed, which would cost the government between £30bn and £40bn, the BBC reports… A report by The Corporate Finance Network of accountants working with nearly 13,000 businesses predicts that 18% of all struggling small companies will not be able to survive the next month due to the UK lockdown.” – Daily Mail

  • Economy will struggle to escape coronacoma – Robert Colvile, The Times

Policy 3) Schools may be first to open when lockdown eases

“Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, said that the decision would be taken collectively. Options include enhanced shielding of the most vulnerable groups and reopening schools. Downing Street believes that there is little public pressure for easing the restrictions as the crisis nears its peak. It also fears that the public will not accept restrictions being lifted from different parts of Britain or for different sectors of the economy. Nevertheless some cabinet ministers believe that there is a growing case for reopening schools in a fortnight, after the Easter holidays. A study by University College London found that school closures had a relatively small impact on the spread of coronavirus and should be weighed against the economic and social costs.” – The Times

  • Study suggests harm to children from closures has outweighed benefits to public health – The Sun
  • UK death toll at 6,159 after largest daily increase – The Times
  • Latest advice – HM Government

Comment:

>Today:

Trump threatens to freeze funding for WHO

“President Donald Trump threatened to freeze funding for the World Health Organization as he accused the body of withholding information about coronavirus in Wuhan and being “wrong” about the outbreak in China. Mr Trump said the WHO had “missed the call” when it came to the early detection of the virus in Wuhan and called the organisation very “China-centric”. He also blasted WHO for what he said was criticism of his decision in January to ban flights from China to the US… Mr Trump said he would put a “very powerful hold” on the funding. But when pressed on whether the US should withhold funds during the pandemic, the president softened his threat — one of the many examples of the president contradicting himself during the same press conference.” – FT

  • President blasts ‘China-centric’ body for ‘faulty’ coronavirus advice – The Sun
  • Trump says outbreak is ‘under control’ after warning of two million fatalities – The Times
  • US sends 200 ventilators to the UK – Daily Mail

More:

  • EU science chief resigns with blast at coronavirus response – FT
  • France suffers world’s highest daily coronavirus death toll of 1,417 – The Sun
  • Japan declares state of emergency – The Times
  • South Korean economy suffering ‘tsunami-like’ impact – FT
  • China lifts Wuhan lockdown after 76 days – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Are we witnessing end of the American era? – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

Starmer praised by Jewish groups for anti-Semitism pledge…

“Britain’s Jewish community leaders have praised Keir Starmer for having “achieved” more in four days than his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn was able to in four years, after Labour’s newly elected leader pledged to root out anti-Semitism from the party’s ranks.  Sir Keir vowed on Tuesday to set up a new independent complaints procedure to respond to allegations of anti-Semitism, as well as a new training regime for all party staff. He also called for all pending cases to be “on my desk at the end of the week”. Mr Corbyn was dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism in the party’s ranks, with nine Labour MPs quitting in protest over how the leadership handled the allegations of abuse.” – FT

  • Councillor expelled for saying Johnson ‘deserves’ coronavirus – Daily Express

Editorial:

  • Labour can now be the serious opposition that this country needs – The Times

…as he opposes another Scottish independence referendum

“Nicola Sturgeon’s hopes of holding a second Scottish independence referendum have been dashed by the new Labour leader, as Keir Starmer rules out holding another vote. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has long been campaigning for a second Scottish independence referendum and claims her party’s landslide election win in Scotland last December gives a renewed mandate for another vote. But Boris Johnson is steadfast in his opposition to another poll, and has repeatedly ruled out approving a second referendum. Now, it appears new Labour leader Keir Starmer is also against Scotland holding another poll. Ian Murray, Labour’s newly appointed shadow Scotland secretary, has revealed Sir Keir opposes a second independence referendum.” – Daily Express

  • Starmer planning ‘devolution revolution’ – Daily Record

News in Brief:

  • Raab can’t take the biggest decision of all – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Coronavirus is a wake-up call: devolution isn’t working – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Britain’s flexible constitution will help us through this crisis – John Oxley, Reaction
  • How our Queen brings us hope – Helen Thompson, UnHerd
  • Will Starmer get a chance at a first impression? – Anthony Broxton, The Critic

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