Hancock to launch “track and trace” programme today

“On Monday Matt Hancock, the health secretary, will announce that 141,000 residents of the Isle of Wight will become the first people in the country to test the new NHS Coronavirus detector app. Two to three weeks later we are all going to be asked to download it. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said there would then be “a huge national effort” to encourage everyone to use it, suggesting that the government would frame downloading it as a duty to the NHS. Furthermore, all travellers arriving in Britain will be required to download the app before being allowed in, he suggested.” – The Times

  • Private call centres to run contact-tracing system – The Times
  • Covid-19 tracking app must satisfy human rights and data laws – The Guardian
  • Daily number of coronavirus tests drops by over 40,000 – The Guardian

Johnson 1) “Fear of never seeing his new son” gave PM strength to beat Coronavirus

“BORIS Johnson has told how the fear of never seeing his new son gave him the strength to beat coronavirus. The PM said it fuelled a determination to banish all negative thoughts during even his darkest moments in intensive care. He added: “I just refused to let myself think down those lines.” Boris revealed that as he lay wired up to monitors in St Thomas’ Hospital he focused on only “positive thoughts” about pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds, the coming birth and seeing his other children and the rest of his family again. But asked if he had ever feared he might not live to see his new son Wilfred, he said: “Well, yes, of course. We’ve all got a lot to live for, a lot to do, and I won’t hide it from you, I was thinking about that, yes.”” – The Sun

Johnson 2) Only a vaccine “will defeat” the disease, Johnson expected to say…

“Only a mass-produced vaccine will defeat the coronavirus, Boris Johnson will say today as he delays a plan to ease the lockdown amid fears of moving too fast. The prime minister is to tell an international conference, which is being held via video link, that it is “humanity against the virus”. He will describe the hunt for a vaccine as the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes. Mr Johnson is now not expected to set out a “comprehensive plan” for reopening workplaces and schools until Sunday, giving himself more time to examine crucial data from a new study of how the virus is spreading.” – The Times

  • PM to ask world leaders to commit £6.6bn to research – The Sun
  • England’s excess death rate among highest in Europe – Daily Telegraph
  • North West overtakes London for hospital cases – The Sun

…as draft rules laid out for UK workplaces to ease lockdown

“Hot desking will be curtailed, staff canteens will stay closed and lifts kept half-empty in workplaces across the country under Boris Johnson’s plan to ease the lockdown in the coming weeks. The proposals are among a list of guidelines in seven documents drawn up by the business department (BEIS) after consultation with executives, trade bodies and unions. Companies will be expected to ensure staggered shifts and keep employees apart — both while at work and during breaks — with 2-metre distancing enforced by floor tape. Staff will be told to avoid sharing pens under the draft proposals, and steer clear of face-to-face meetings.” – FT

  • Working hours will be staggered and one-way systems imposed on commuters to avoid rush-hour crushes – The Times
  • Year six primary school pupils may be allowed to return June 1 – The Guardian
  • 1.7 million pupils are allowed to return to school next week – Daily Mail
  • Lockdown could be eased in a localised manner, says Gove – The Sun
  • Baroness Altmann warns of “social unrest” among over-70s – Daily Telegraph
  • Relaxed restrictions will be “impossible to police”, warn chiefs – The Times
  • Shops expected to install portable sinks – Daily Telegraph
  • Companies ramp up orders for kit to protect workers – FT
  • Rush of patent applications during lockdown – Daily Telegraph
  • Coronavirus infection risk for children low – The Times
  • Tory MPs expected to raise concerns about Britons’ freedoms – Daily Telegraph

Steve Baker: Boris Johnson must end the absurd, dystopian and tyrannical lockdown

“On March 23, as we debated the Coronavirus Act, Boris Johnson told the nation in a statement, “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.” On March 24, the Government texted the nation, “new rules in force now: you must stay at home.” Immediately, the police in various places began enforcing them. A barbecue was turned over by police in the West Midlands. Officers in Crewe stopped cars to ascertain whether they were making essential journeys. British Transport Police stopped and questioned people on trains in and around London, asking their reasons for travel. But there was no new law in force until 1pm on March 26.” – Daily Telegraph

New coronavirus antibody test approved for use in the UK

“A new coronavirus antibody test has been approved for use in the UK and may be widely available on the NHS by mid-May. Roche, the Swiss company, has announced that its Covid-19 antibody test has been approved for markets accepting the CE mark, including the UK. The serology test supports the detection of antibodies in patients who have been exposed to the virus, which could indicate if a person has immunity. It could also help to identify people who have been infected but did not display any symptoms. It is being independently evaluated by Public Health England and initial results are expected by the end of this week. Roche is in discussion with the NHS and the government about a phased roll-out of the test from later this month. The company aims to provide hundreds of thousands of antibody tests to the UK per week.” – The Times

  • Company will be able to provide more than 25 million tests per month  from June – Daily Telegraph
  • Immunity passports “possible in months” – The Guardian

Ministers 1) Shapps considers whether to quarantine flyers

“Ministers are “actively looking” at quarantining passengers who fly into British airports after travel restrictions are lifted to prevent a second wave of coronavirus cases. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said that the social distancing “sacrifices” made by Britons must be “matched by anybody who comes to this country”. The 15,000 people who arrive every day are not being held in isolation for two weeks, in contrast to procedures in other countries such as France, Australia and Singapore. They are instead handed information leaflets about the virus and are instructed what to do if they develop symptoms. Three of Britain’s biggest airports announced that they would introduce new rules this week requiring travellers to wear masks and gloves when they fly.” – The Times

  • Social distancing at airports would require kilometre-long queues, says Heathrow boss – Daily Telegraph

Ministers 2) Some were “fully aware” of China cover up

“Ministers were made “fully aware” by intelligence agencies that China had covered up the true scale of the Covid-19 outbreak, it was claimed on Sunday night, raising questions over Britain’s decision to delay the lockdown. The Government in Westminster was told “not to believe Beijing’s claims” from the outset and to treat the information coming out of China with scepticism, The Telegraph understands. A senior, former MI6 official said the intelligence agencies knew what was “really happening” in China and passed that information to ministers.” – Daily Mail

  • Leaked dossier accuses China of endangering foreign countries – The Times

Ministers 3) Pressure grows on Sunak to extend furlough scheme

“CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak is under pressure to extend the Government’s furlough scheme – or see millions lose their jobs within weeks. Industry and manufacturing think tanks have warned of “cliff edge” unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression if the Government fails to give employers further support. The furlough scheme, which is set to end in June, sees the Government pay 80 per cent of the wages of employees unable to work because of the coronavirus crisis – up to the value of £2,500.” – The Sun


Ministers 4) Students will have to pay full tuition fees

“Students will have to pay full tuition fees of £9,250 this autumn even if universities cannot open and courses are taught online, ministers have said. The government has rejected calls for a financial bailout from vice-chancellors to help them to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Universities had asked for £2.2 billion extra in research funding to make up for the predicted fall in overseas students in the next academic year. After weeks of wrangling across departments, the government says that universities will instead receive an additional £100 million for research. The £2.6 billion from tuition fees from UK students will be paid to universities upfront in the autumn, rather than in four blocks throughout the year.” – The Times

  • A quarter of A-level students not being given work by teachers – The Times

Ministers 5) Dowden warns over BBC bias

“The government has told the BBC not to risk public confidence in its reporting after last week’s Panorama included interviews with medical staff without making clear their political links. Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, wrote to Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the BBC’s director-general, saying it had to “uphold the highest standards in relation to integrity and impartiality”. In his letter, parts of which were published by The Mail on Sunday, Mr Dowden said he was aware of complaints to the regulator Ofcom about the “disproportionate” number of political activists who were interviewed. In the programme, medics were critical of the government’s response to the pandemic, particularly relating to the availability of personal protective equipment. It later emerged that several had political affiliations. One had even appeared in a party political broadcast for Labour last year.” – The Times

Nightingale Hospital could be “moved into hibernation”

“One of the five temporary Nightingale hospitals could be mothballed within days under plans ministers will consider this week. The health centre was built in nine days to expand the NHS’s intensive care capacity to handle an expected surge in coronavirus cases. The facility at the ExCel Centre in east London, which opened on April 3, has the capacity for 4,000 beds. But it faces closure after remaining largely empty, with just 51 patients treated in its first three weeks.” – Daily Mail

  • Care homes account for almost half of all coronavirus deaths in European countries – The Times

Dunn lawyers accuse Foreign Office of “cover-up”

“Lawyers representing the family of 19-year-old motorcyclist Harry Dunn are poised to receive a series of crucial documents which they believe will help their legal case to expose a “scandalous cover-up” by the Foreign Office. The development comes after documents showed that a senior Foreign Office diplomat had sent a text message to a US Embassy counterpart saying they should “feel able” to put suspect Anne Sacoolas on the next flight back to the States. Dunn died in August last year when his motorcycle collided with a car driven by Sacoolas, the wife of a US intelligence officer stationed at a US base at RAF Croughton, Northamptonshire.” – The Guardian

Brexit: UK will train up 50,000 people for customs forms

“Ministers are stepping up co-operation with business to train up to 50,000 people who will be needed to fill in customs forms for post-Brexit trade with the EU through the creation of a special academy. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove revealed plans for the “customs agent academy”, as UK companies prepare for a more complex trading relationship with the EU after the Brexit transition period that is currently scheduled to end on December 31. Mr Gove said the government was talking to the freight-forwarding industry about the private sector academy, which has been earmarked for a location in Kent, while government officials said other training agencies could be set up elsewhere.” – FT

News in brief: