Published:

Johnson to launch ‘war on fat’ after coronavirus scare

“Boris Johnson is preparing a “much more interventionist” drive to tackle obesity as part of the fight against coronavirus after his spell in hospital with the disease. The prime minister told senior ministers and advisers, “I’ve changed my mind on this” and that he was drawing up a new strategy. Research has found that being obese doubles the risk of needing hospital treatment for coronavirus. About one in three British adults is clinically obese, classified as those with a body mass index (BMI) above 30. It is one of the highest rates in the western world. Mr Johnson is understood to be convinced that the reason he ended up in intensive care was because of his weight, which was 17 and a half stone before he was admitted to hospital.” – The Times

  • Diabetes sufferers account for quarter of hospital coronavirus deaths – The Times
  • Johnson has been left ‘obsessed’ with getting the nation on bicycles – Daily Mail

More:

  • ONS survey estimates 148,000 coronavirus cases – The Times
  • London has just 24 new coronavirus cases a day – Daily Telegraph
  • Models behind coronavirus plans mostly ‘educated guesses’ – The Times
  • A north-south divide and a worse over-75 death rate than first estimated – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Johnson launches a new battle of the bulge – James Forsyth, The Times
  • How long until Johnson’s vote-winning optimism collides with reality? – Andy Beckett, The Guardian

>Today: James Cullimore in Comment: To halt the perilous trend of diseases like the Covid-19, we will need to heal our relationship with nature

Inquiry over Covid-19 patients sent to care homes

“The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is considering whether human rights laws were breached by hospitals discharging older patients into care homes, The Telegraph understands. Shortly after the lockdown began on March 23, Government guidelines encouraged care homes to accept discharged patients if they were asymptomatic, without testing. The guidance was abolished last month – but care providers warned that it was too late and “the damage was already done”. According to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, deaths in care homes made up 40.4 per cent of overall coronavirus fatalities across England and Wales in the week to May 1. In total, there were 8,312 coronavirus-related deaths in care homes in England and Wales – but care providers have warned that the true figure is far higher.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Care homes told they were safe as coronavirus ran rampant – The Times
  • UK care providers call for direct payment of bailout funding – FT

Comment:

  • Better care for the elderly begins at home – Philip Collins, The Times

>Today: MPs Etc.: Coronavirus Count

Transport 1) Downing Street bails out Transport for London to stop Khan’s bus and tube shutdown

“London’s transport system was handed a £1.6 billion government bailout last night after the capital’s mayor threatened to cut bus and Tube services. Downing Street announced that Transport for London (TfL) would receive a £1.1 billion grant and a further £505 million loan after claims that it was close to running out of cash. Sadiq Khan had demanded £2 billion. The mayor of London was told that the money would come with “many strings attached”, including a guarantee that transport services would be running at 100 per cent capacity as soon as possible. The Tube, bus and overground networks in the capital will also be forced to carry the government’s official coronavirus public health warnings – rather than alternative messaging championed by the mayor – and more money will have to be invested in walking and cycling.” – The Times

  • Jenrick claims he would go on packed bus or tube despite horror scenes in London – Daily Express
  • Government mulls free parking to keep workers off public transport – Daily Telegraph
  • Bailey accuses the Mayor of failing the Capital – Daily Express

Analysis:

  • Khan may find trouble down the line – Christopher Hope, Daily Telegraph

Transport 2) Shapps announces £2 billion for roads and rail and vows to strip away ‘bind weed’ that slows building

“Grant Shapps announced today a £2billion spending boost to revamp Britain’s roads and railways. He vowed to strip away the “bind weeds” of bureaucracy which make British infrastructure projects some of the slowest and most expensive in Europe. Mr Shapps said today: “I can announce nearly £2billion to upgrade our roads and our railways, to put our transport infrastructure in the best possible shape and to get our economy growing.” The package includes £1.7 billion for local roads to make them smoother and safer – particularly as more Brits get on their bikes and in their cars to avoid overloading public transport and helping spread coronavirus. Government guidance has told people to avoid public transport as much as they possibly can and Mr Shapps said it was Brits’ “civic duty” to find other ways to travel.” – The Sun

  • Reservations-only rail plan for social distancing – The Times
  • A huge push for cycling to work – FT

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Shapps says it is a “civic duty” to avoid public transport whenever possible.

Tory MPs urge Johnson to foil Treasury tax rise plan…

“Boris Johnson is expected to come under pressure from Conservative MPs on Friday not to hike taxes to pay for the coronavirus crisis and to lift the lockdown as soon as possible. The Prime Minister will make history by taking questions at what is thought to be the first-ever “virtual” meeting of 250 backbench Tory MPs in the party’s 1922 committee at 1pm on Friday. Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 chairman, will oversee the meeting and call questions from a prepared list of MPs who are in their offices or at home. The 1922 committee has chosen to use Microsoft Teams software rather than Zoom on security grounds and because it is able to accommodate twice as many MPs. Several senior Tories have said MPs will be urging Mr Johnson not to go ahead with tax increases and a pay freeze for public sector workers to cover the cost of the coronavirus bailout.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Increases would risk post-Covid ‘bounce back’, he’s warned – The Sun

More:

  • How we will pay for the pandemic measures – FT
  • Covid borrowing to hit £300bn as pressure rises on pensions triple lock – Daily Telegraph
  • Treasury eyes lifting loan caps for ‘squeezed middle’ companies – FT

>Yesterday:

…as one million self-employed Brits apply for new coronavirus wage bailout scheme in just 48 hours

“One million desperate self-employed Brits have asked for a wages bailout in the last 48 hours, The Sun can reveal. A total of 440,000 of the nation’s strivers swamped HMRC’s online portal when the new scheme opened on Wednesday, the Treasury said. The Sun can reveal the extraordinary take up was even faster today, with more than 500,000 applying. Revenue bosses are braced for a similar tidal wave to apply on day three of the scheme tomorrow. Applications were staggered so the site wouldn’t crash, with a third eligible for it able to apply each day. The flood means a total of 8.5 million laid up workers are now getting emergency pay from the state – more than one in four of the UK’s 33m-strong workforce. Seven and a half million employees are already claiming pay via the earlier furlough scheme.” – The Sun

  • Sunak cultivates his brand while Johnson fights claims of chaos – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: This really is the time to let the deficit grow big enough to look after itself

Healthcare workers first in line for coronavirus antibody tests

“Frontline healthcare workers will be the first of hundreds of thousands of people in Britain to be given a “game-changing” test to see if they have had Covid-19, ministers have announced. The government is in negotiations with the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche after Public Health England authorised its Covid antibody test for commercial use. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said that eventually hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of the tests would be made available nationally to provide the first clear evidence of the prevalence of Covid 19 in the community. However, Downing Street cautioned that “immunity certificates” were some way off. “We have talked about, in the future, the potential for some kind of health certificate related to whether or not you have antibodies,” a spokesman said.” – The Times

  • Second test approved by officials – Daily Mail

More:

  • Admissions in England hit historic low – FT
  • Hospitals face capacity squeeze while waiting lists surge to 8 million – The Times

Comment:

  • Antibody tests will show the limits of lockdown – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph
  • Goodhart’s law comes back to haunt the UK’s Covid strategy – Chris Giles, FT

Editorial:

  • Tests must be rolled out fast – The Sun

Williamson demands unions ‘do their duty’ as they threaten to sue if staff are put at risk

“Gavin Williamson has demanded teachers “do their duty” and return to work next month as a union threatened to SUE headteachers if staff are not safe. A row has erupted between hardline union chiefs and the government over their decision to reopen schools from June 1 amid fears young children could spark a deadly second wave of coronavirus. The Education Secretary tonight insisted kids need to start returning to the classroom in the “interests of their welfare and education”… But NASUWT – the UK’s second largest teachers’ union – has now threatened to sue if teachers are “expected to go into a school that is not safe”. The union, which represents around 300,000 members, has warned teachers will legally be able to refuse returning to the classroom if they do not get the same level of protection as other frontline staff.” – The Sun

  • Teachers can legally refuse to return over health risk, says union – The Guardian
  • Khan will ‘resist’ plans to open schools – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The teaching unions are wrong to campaign against reopening schools

Gavin Williamson: For sake of all pupils, unions must do duty

“Rarely do I find myself nodding along in agreement with past Labour ministers but when I heard former Labour education secretary David Blunkett on the radio this week saying why it’s important to get the most disadvantaged children back into schools as soon as we can, I thought he was making very good sense. As Education Secretary, I pay attention when experts give me advice – I’d get into hot water very quickly if I didn’t. If, based on the latest scientific advice, we can get a limited number of children back to school, then I believe it’s my duty to do all I can to get them back there because being in school with a teacher is the best way to learn. Of course safety comes first but we must also be aware of the potential damage to a child’s education from not getting them back in the classroom.” – Daily Mail

  • Children must return to school or an entire generation will suffer – Rachel de Souza, Daily Telegraph
  • Corbynite teachers’ union leader who says the first word she learned was ‘strike’ – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • Unions are damaging the interests of children – The Times

>Yesterday: Sunder Katwala in Comment: Strengthening social capital in more deprived areas during the age of Coronavirus

SNP is ‘using lockdown to plot break-up of Union’, warns Jack

“Scottish nationalists with “too much time on their hands” are playing politics with coronavirus by drawing up plans to break up Britain during lockdown, a cabinet minister has said. Alister Jack, the secretary of state for Scotland, said that any preparation for how the country emerges from the pandemic should focus on the economy rather than constitutional issues. The Times revealed on Wednesday that senior figures in the SNP were drawing up policy proposals for a second referendum on independence. John Lamont, the Conservative MP, asked Mr Jack yesterday for reassurance that the Scotland Office would tell Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, that her sole focus “should be on tackling this pandemic and not focusing on independence”.” – The Times

  • Welsh leader savaged by BBC over failure to meet ‘tiny’ test target – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: As predicted, the ‘four nations’ approach to Covid-19 is falling apart

MPs and peers call for legal requirement to delete UK contact-tracing data

“The government must legally swear to delete all the data it captures using the NHS Covid-19 contact-tracing app, a committee of MPs and peers has urged. The joint committee on human rights (JCHR) has taken the unusual step of producing a draft bill for the government to pass as soon as possible that would prevent the government from using the information gathered for any other purpose than fighting Covid-19, and require it to delete all the data after the pandemic ends. The impending release of Apple and Google software for building decentralised contact-tracing apps will put more pressure on the government, which took the controversial decision to forge its own path and build a centralised app, in part because it was concerned that the Apple/Google system would not be ready in time.” – The Guardian

Government drawing up plans to slash taxes on American food imports…

“Plans are being drawn up to slash taxes on American food imports. Trade Secretary Liz Truss is said to be working on a “big concession package” for Washington. The move would mean lower prices for consumers — but there are fears cheap imports will cripple UK farm businesses and lower standards. Ms Truss promised she would be “cautious”. The first round of talks with the US ends on Friday. Following the reports in the Financial Times Ms Truss promised UK farmers that she will be “extremely cautious to ensure any ‘opening up’ does not cause an unwanted downturn for domestic producers”… But she nor No10 denied the reports that they were planning to slash tariffs on US agricultural imports incentivise the Americans to strike a deal, instead simply insisting that all imports will have to meet strict UK food and animal welfare standards.” – The Sun

  • Fox says deal will send ‘positive signal to the world’ – Daily Express

Comment:

  • A US trade deal will benefit UK farmers – Liz Truss MP, Farmers Weekly

…as Gove pens angry letter warning EU ‘seriously risks’ breaching divorce deal

“The European Union is at “serious risk” of finding itself in breach of the Brexit divorce deal, Michael Gove today claimed. The Cabinet Office minister issued a warning shot to Brussels amid fears that the bloc’s member states have not done enough to protect the rights of UK citizens living in their countries. Downing Street is concerned there is “widespread” disregard for the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement that say people should be allowed to remain in either the UK or EU after Brexit. Spain, France, Hungary, Slovenia, Cyprus, Austria and the Czech Republic have all been flagged as problematic countries for Britons hoping to apply for settled status before the post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.” – Daily Express

  • Brussels tells UK it must honour EU free-movement rules – FT
  • France exempted from 14-day isolation rules – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Stephen Booth’s column: On the Northern Ireland Protocol, the UK’s negotiating hand is stronger than people think

Tories seek return of all MPs to Westminster ‘for Prime Minister’s sake’

“Senior Conservatives have called for all MPs to be allowed to return to the House of Commons as they become concerned Boris Johnson is struggling in the deserted chamber in his encounters with new Labour leader Keir Starmer. The opposition party leader has been praised for his forensic performances in his first four weekly exchanges at prime minister’s questions. The former director of public prosecutions has focused on scrutinising the detail of the government’s response to coronavirus. Referring to Mr Johnson, a parliamentary sketch writer in the usually Tory-supporting Daily Telegraph said Sir Keir had used this week’s PMQs to “take him apart like a Duplo train set”. The House of Commons is currently sitting in a hybrid arrangement because of coronavirus, with up to 50 MPs present in the chamber – the maximum allowed to maintain a two-metre separation – and 120 dialling in through Zoom.” – FT

>Yesterday:

News in Brief:

  • Covid-19 has exposed what devolution has cost Northern Ireland – Owen Polley, CapX
  • The Covid-19 class war – James Bloodworth, UnHerd
  • Time to re-open schools – Alka Seghal Cuthbert, Reaction
  • A US-UK trade deal could be just the tonic we need – Ben Bradley MP, 1828
  • Why conservatives should respect the emerging consensus on ‘drugs’ – Henry Hill, The Mallard

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