Contact tracing jobs almost filled, Gove claims

“Only 800 more people need to be recruited to meet a target of 18,000 contact tracers by the end of the week, Michael Gove has said. A full national launch of the “test, track and isolate” system is promised by the beginning of next month. The system, backed by a mobile phone app being tested on the Isle of Wight, is seen as crucial to ensuring the epidemic does not restart and for relaxations to the lockdown. On Friday, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, said only 1,500 people had been recruited but yesterday Mr Gove updated the figure to 17,200.” – The Times

  • Contact-tracing applicants wrongly told hiring paused – The Guardian
  • UK ‘on course’ to launch contact tracing by end of May – FT
  • Scottish lockdown exit ‘in jeopardy’ due to lack of tracing staff – Daily Telegraph
  • Contact tracing to be piloted in Fife – The Courier

Risk of virus spreading in schools ‘extremely low’

“Coronavirus does not spread widely in schools, according to a major study which is being considered by government advisers. The research looked at 18 infected teachers and students in 15 schools, and found that despite them coming into contact with 863 people at the schools, only two were infected. It comes as the Government is locked in a battle with teaching unions over plans for primary school children in reception, years 1 and 6 in England to return from June 1. Union bosses have insisted classrooms will not be safe and have ordered their members not to “engage” with the plans, while some Labour councils have also said that they will refuse to reopen schools.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Academies warn of irreparable harm if schools remain closed – The Times
  • Keeping schools closed ‘will widen inequalities – The Guardian
  • Extra police put on duty to keep rail travellers apart – The Times
  • Trains back to 70% capacity – Daily Mail
  • Army of transport police to be deployed – Daily Telegraph
  • Heathrow flights set to take off in weeks – The Times

Firms slash entry-level jobs by almost quarter

“School leavers and graduates hoping to enter the labour market in Britain this year will struggle to find employment as firms slash entry-level jobs by nearly a quarter owing to the coronavirus crisis, a report warns. All types of entry-level roles have been reduced this year by 23%, said the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), with the “volatile” jobs market forecast to shrink further as 15% of employers expect to scale back recruitment further in 2021. The latest findings appear to reflect concerns that the pandemic is likely to hit the job prospects of young people the hardest. Employers are seeking 32% fewer entrants on apprentice or school leaver programmes than originally planned for this year, according to the ISE report, while graduate jobs have been cut by 12%.” – The Guardian

  • More than fifth of employers plan redundancies – FT
  • Six million fear losing jobs – The Guardian
  • Economic bounce-back not likely this year, says OBR – Daily Telegraph

UK wants 30m doses of vaccine in four months

“As many as 30 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine could be made for Britain by September under a deal between Oxford University and the drugmaker Astrazeneca. Ministers announced the target as they pledged £65.5 million in additional funding for the Oxford vaccine project. A second potential British vaccine, being developed at Imperial College London, will receive £18.5 million. The Oxford team’s global licensing agreement with Astrazeneca, which is based in Cambridge, would cover the commercialisation and manufacturing of the jab, which still needs to pass safety and efficacy tests.” – The Times

  • ‘Vaccine by September’ – Daily Mail
  • Europe ‘must fear second wave’ – Daily Mail
  • Half of doctors fear for their health – The Times
  • Over three-quarters of BAME medics fear getting virus – The Guardian
  • Britain backs international inquiry – The Times
  • Up to 20% of hospital patients in England got virus while in for another illness – The Guardian

Holiday hopes scuppered by tough quarantine plans

“Lorry drivers will make up the bulk of those exempted from quarantine rules being finalised today in a blow to the airline and tourism industries. The requirement for arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days will apply regardless of their mode of travel as ministers all but abandon efforts to exempt travellers from France. Boris Johnson held open the possibility that different rules would be applied to those arriving via the Channel tunnel or on cross-Channel ferries last weekend after a call with President Macron of France. No 10 said that arrivals from France would be exempt “at this stage” and that the countries were working on reciprocal measures.” – The Times

Ellwood urges Sedwill to quit role and focus on virus

“Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, urges Boris Johnson today to overhaul the government machine to meet multiple threats posed by the virus. Theresa May agreed to allow Sir Mark to remain the UK’s national security adviser when she appointed him to succeed Lord Heywood as cabinet secretary in 2018. The dual role, controversial at the time, was supposed to be temporary. When Mr Johnson succeeded Mrs May in July last year he decided to keep the cabinet secretary in place and allow him to maintain the security role, but relations with Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s most senior adviser, were tested over a series of clashes with special advisers.” – The Times

Rudd says decisions better with more women at top

“Amber Rudd has claimed that the Government would be making “better decisions” if more women were in senior positions. The former Home Secretary said it was not a matter of “optics”, but an issue of “good government”. She said: “We hear a lot from Number 10, and particularly from Dominic Cummings in the past, about wanting to make sure that we have a diverse talent at the top of government. “Well, I would start by making sure there are some women at the top. “The most senior posts are generally held by men and I really think the Prime Minister needs to do something about that.” Her comments come amid concerns that all the main decisions on coronavirus are being made by an all-male “quad” of ministers – Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Dominic Raab.” – Daily Telegraph

Brussels ‘ready to back down’ on fishing rights

“The European Union is ready to back down from its hard line on fishing rights next month once Europe’s leaders get involved in post-Brexit trade negotiations, according to senior sources in Brussels. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has struggled to gain “attention” from European capitals during the coronavirus crisis on the need to shift from what he has conceded is a “maximalist” mandate on fisheries demanded by France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Meanwhile David Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, has suffered from Downing Street’s focus on the virus as he searches for “trade-offs” on key trade and economy areas.” – The Times

  • Frost reports that ‘Barnier losing the argument’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Government prepares to publish draft treaty – The Guardian
  • Brexit talks head for reckoning on state aid – FT

Labour split over school return

“Senior Labour backbenchers have expressed frustration at the party’s reluctance to rally behind the teaching unions as Angela Rayner refused to rule out primary schools reopening from June 1. While several teaching unions and Labour-run councils have objected outright to the Government’s timetable, Sir Keir Starmer has refused to follow suit due to growing concern that schools closures are hitting poorer students hardest. Instead, Labour frontbenchers are calling on ministers to provide the evidence and support necessary to convince union leaders and local authorities that the proposals are safe and workable. They include Ms Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, who on Sunday appeared reluctant to endorse the decision by Liverpool City Council and Hartlepool to defy the Government’s plans for a phased return of primary aged pupils.” – Daily Telegraph

Obama and Trump clash again over handling of crisis

“Barack Obama was “grossly incompetent”, President Trump snapped at reporters yesterday after his predecessor launched a public attack on the government’s response to the coronavirus. Mr Obama, who has until now largely maintained his silence on his successor, said the pandemic had “fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing” in a speech to graduating students of historically black universities and colleges, which was broadcast online. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge,” he said. His remarks appeared to refer to the sometimes chaotic briefings by Mr Trump and the frequent criticism that the White House has retreated from a leadership role in the pandemic, leaving decisions to state governors.” – The Times

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