Hancock ‘confident’ of meeting 100,000 daily coronavirus testing target

“Matt Hancock is “quite confident” he can meet his 100,000 tests a day target, allies said on Thursday night, as the number carried out surged to 81,611. The Health Secretary on Friday faces a “nail-biting finish”, according to an official, to see whether he delivered on his promise to boost testing by the end of April. Boris Johnson on Thursday announced the daily figure had risen by nearly 30,000 in 24 hours. Capacity is now at nearly 90,000 a day, a government source said. Another source said he would find out the “magic number” of how many tests were carried out on April 30 by Friday afternoon. Thursday’s official tally marked a significant jump from the 52,429 of the day before. Nearly 20,000 more daily tests need to be conducted to meet the end of April target, a commitment made by Matt Hancock after the government faced heavy criticism for being too slow on testing.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Surge in testing gives Health Secretary hope of hitting target – The Times
  • UK carries out 81,600 tests as deadline looms – The Guardian
  • Expert complains about the ‘PR stunt’ number – Daily Mail


  • Hancock warned he must triple size of contact tracing force – The Sun



Britain is ‘past the peak’, says Johnson…

“Britain is past the peak of its coronavirus epidemic and on the “downward slope”, Boris Johnson said last night as he promised to publish a roadmap out of the lockdown next week. The “comprehensive plan” would address how to get the economy moving again, how people could safely commute and work and how children could return to school, he said. The prime minister said that the government would recommend face-coverings, partly to give people confidence to go back to work. He also denied that he would seek to repair the damage to public finances with another dose of austerity. In his first appearance at the daily Downing Street briefing since recovering from Covid-19, Mr Johnson, who was occasionally breathless, said that the nation had avoided a catastrophic first phase of the epidemic, adding: “We have so many reasons to be hopeful for the long term.”” – The Times

  • He pledges to reveal the roadmap out of coronavirus lockdown… – Daily Telegraph
  • …but it will ‘continue for months’ – The Sun
  • NHS chiefs set out plans for post-crisis return to normality – FT
  • Johnson confirms public will be asked to wear face masks – The Sun
  • Starmer ‘takes credit for Government’s decision’ – Daily Express
  • UK announces 674 more coronavirus deaths – Daily Mail


  • He has offered some indications that selected restrictions may soon be lifted – The Times


…but care home deaths ‘could be four times higher than official figures suggest’

“Care home deaths could be four times worse than official figures suggest, with new analysis showing that more than 17,000 deaths in homes across the UK are linked to coronavirus. At Wednesday’s Downing Street briefing, the Government unveiled its improved daily reporting system, which includes clinically confirmed virus deaths in care homes and the community as well as hospitals, for the first time. The additional 3,811 deaths confirmed between March 2 and April 28 meant the total UK coronavirus death toll stood at 26,711 on Thursday. It follows the publication of Care Quality Commission (CQC) figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday, which showed that as of April 24, 4,343 care home residents in England had either died of confirmed or suspected coronavirus.” – Daily Telegraph

  • German coronavirus infections cause alarm to ministers – Daily Telegraph
  • Government won’t risk second spike of infections – The Times
  • Whitty warns of winter wave… – Daily Telegraph
  • …and says eradicating coronavirus is ‘technically impossible’ – Daily Mail


  • NHS will have ‘first dibs’ on vaccine being tried at Oxford – The Times


Fraser Nelson: Forget the ‘R rate’ – this crisis will be decided by politics, not science

“There are still too many uncertainties, so everything is a gamble. As the Prime Minister will know, the decision is – and can only be – political. His political problem is that Britain might soon end up the worst-hit country in Europe. The government’s new upgraded figure for Covid deaths – 26,711 – might still be an underestimate. A forthcoming study from Jamie Jenkins, who used to run health analysis for the ONS, puts the figure over 45,000. When lockdown was first announced, ministers used to say the measure of their success would lie in international comparisons. They don’t say that any more. The Prime Minister’s other problem is one of national confidence.” – Daily Telegraph

  • It’s time to think about freedom again – Dan Wootton, The Sun
  • Politics misses the plotting and gossip of shady corridors – Sebastian Payne, FT
  • Horrendous death toll tells the real shameful story – Piers Morgan, Daily Mail
  • A cavalier Tory leader and a botched pandemic response? It must be 1957 – Andy Beckett, The Guardian

Treasury considers furlough support for part-time workers

“The Treasury is in talks with business groups to allow companies to claim support from its “furlough” scheme for staff returning to work part-time under plans for a gradual reopening of the economy in the coming months. Under the £40bn “job retention scheme” the government covers 80 per cent of the wages of workers who are staying at home and not working at all, up to a cap of £2,500 a month. Manufacturers, in particular, would struggle to return factories to full capacity immediately and would need the “flexibility” to slowly ramp up production with workers doing rotating shifts, according to Make UK, the trade body. Many companies want their workers to be able to return to work in reduced shift patterns to maintain skills levels in the workplace.” – FT

  • Bankers win assurances on rules for UK bounce back loans – FT

>Yesterday: Jethro Elsden in Comment: We will need radical Thatcherite supply-side economic reform to get us out of this mess

Ally of Cummings at key Sage coronavirus meeting

“A senior executive from a technology company brought in by the government to tackle coronavirus was invited to attend a meeting of independent scientists advising Downing Street. In an article for The Times today Marc Warner, who runs the artificial intelligence company Faculty, disclosed that he had taken part in a critical meeting of the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) days before the lockdown. Mr Warner’s brother Ben worked with Dominic Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign in 2016 and the Conservative general election campaign last year as a data scientist. Since then he has been brought in to No 10 to advise the government on data issues and also attended the March 18 Sage meeting with Mr Cummings.” – The Times

  • Chief adviser’s critics are simply deluded – Philip Collins, The Times

>Today: Emma Mi and Ella Mi in Comment: We’re acute unit doctors. Here’s why we believe that individual action, not government, is key to beating the virus.

Knight attacks ‘arrogant’ tech giants snub as they MPs’ questions on coronavirus conspiracies

“MPs have lambasted representatives from three of the biggest tech companies for failing to answer questions about how they are tackling misinformation on coronavirus. Managers from Google, Twitter and Facebook were told during a remote select committee hearing that they were evading questions and appeared to have arrived with little preparation. Julian Knight, chairman of the sub-committee on online harms and disinformation, said: “We will be writing to all the organisations with a series of questions and frankly we will be expressing our displeasure at the quality of answers [and] a lack of answers that we have received.” “We just ended up being told nothing. I can’t think of a time when we were given an actual answer in the entire hour,” he told The Times later.” – The Times

Patten urges UK to investigate origins of coronavirus in China

There is an “overwhelming case” to send a multilateral mission to Wuhan to investigate the coronavirus’s origins and spread, the former British governor to Hong Kong has told Dominic Raab. Chris Patten wrote to the foreign secretary this week to raise his concern about “two issues that will affect us and the rest of the world for some time to come”: the Chinese government’s initial cover-up of the outbreak, and how it has apparently taken advantage of the pandemic to “turn the screws on Hong Kong”. Patten told Raab he was concerned to see China’s ambassador to the UK engaging in “wolf diplomacy” by denying there had been a cover-up about the origins and early spread of the virus and implying that “respected politicians” in the UK and abroad were “peddling lies and disinformation”.” – The Guardian

  • ‘Sophisticated’ hacker targeting Tugendhat – Daily Mail
  • Trump claims he has seen evidence Covid-19 came from Wuhan lab – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Dean Godson in Comment: How the Conservatives divide on policy towards China

Transport Secretary ‘promised EasyJet not to levy green taxes’

“The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, promised EasyJet that green taxes would not be levied on airlines six months before the company was given a £600m coronavirus crisis loan with no environmental conditions attached, newly released documents show. Direct lobbying against environmental taxes by Britain’s biggest airline are revealed in Freedom of Information Act responses obtained by Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigations unit. Evidence of the lobbying came as airlines across Europe were set to receive more than €26bn (£22.7bn) in taxpayers’ money for coronavirus bailouts with no binding environmental conditions attached, according to data compiled by Transport & Environment, Carbon Market Watch and Greenpeace.” – The Guardian

Downing Street presses for Brexit head to head

“Downing Street is pushing for one to one talks between Michel Barnier and David Frost, the EU and UK’s chief Brexit negotiators, in an attempt to break their impasse. In a plan to repeat the intensive and secret negotiations that led to a breakthrough over the Irish backstop last year, senior government figures are urging the EU to open a parallel line of communication to the formal negotiating rounds. They said that unless the EU were prepared to change its approach to the talks that aim to bind the UK into future rules and regulations then a deal would not be possible. “If they [the EU] continue to insist on their position on a so-called level playing field and on continuing the common fisheries policy, for example, we are never going to accept that,” a UK source close to the negotiating team said.” – The Times


  • British lawyer sues EU over her removal from its court due to Brexit – The Guardian


  • We can’t afford to stay in EU’s halfway house – Iain Martin, The Times

Can the Tory ‘red wall’ mayor, Street, help transform the UK?

“If everything had gone to plan, Andy Street would now be rounding off an election campaign in which victory would cement his position as England’s pre-eminent Conservative outside Westminster. A few final days on the trail, and then the former managing director of John Lewis would be set for another four years as mayor of the West Midlands region and of one of the nation’s largest cities – Birmingham. Such is his status that Street’s fate would have been the measure of whether things had gone well for the Conservatives in the local elections that were set to be held on May 7. He is not only the flag-bearer for the Tories but for a long-running – though very much unfinished – experiment with directly elected mayors that is slowly changing the way England is governed.” – FT

Labour should not shy away from patriotism, says Starmer…

“Labour must wholeheartedly embrace patriotism to win back support, the new leader Keir Starmer has said as he faced ex-Labour voters as part of a virtual tour of the country. He said the Labour movement and patriotism were “two sides of the same coin” and the party should not shy away from displaying national pride. During a video call with people in Bury, there was criticism from one ex-voter who said he had been made to feel his support for the monarchy, Brexit and even waving the union jack was tantamount to racist behaviour. Starmer said: “I’m really proud of my country and I wouldn’t be leader of the Labour party if I wasn’t patriotic,” adding that he has felt this even more strongly during the Covid-19 response.” – The Guardian

…Jewish groups say he’s too soft on MPs, including Abbott, who met expelled activists

“Jewish groups have accused Sir Keir Starmer of breaking his promise after he declined to suspend two Labour MPs who participated in an online meeting with expelled party activists. Diane Abbott, the former shadow home secretary, and Bell Ribeiro-Addy joined a Zoom call on Wednesday night with former Labour members who were removed from the party under Jeremy Corbyn. Those on the call included Jackie Walker, who was expelled last year over remarks on antisemitism, and Tony Greenstein, who was expelled in 2018 for abusive behaviour. During the leadership contest, Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner signed a pledge promising to suspend MPs or activists “who support, campaign or provide a platform for people who have been suspended or expelled in the wake of antisemitic incidents”.” – The Times

  •  Lefties turn on leader as new Labour crisis erupts – Daily Express


  • The new Labour leader has made a mistake – The Times

News in Brief:

  • How and when will the Prime Minister modify the lockdown? – Robert Peston, ITV
  • Why Britain must tread carefully with contact-tracing apps – Mark Johnson, 1828
  • Macron is experiencing the calm before the storm – Gavin Mortimer, The Spectator
  • Does fortune favour Boris? – Douglas Murray, UnHerd
  • The inside story of Britain’s far right – Helen Dale, CapX