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Now for 200,000 tests a day as jubilant Hancock hits his target

“Britain could carry out 200,000 tests a day within a fortnight, officials believe, after a last-minute surge took the government above its target of 100,000. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, praised “one of the greatest national mobilisations that we’ve seen” as he said 122,347 tests were carried out on Thursday. Officials working on the programme spoke of an “end-of-term feeling” after a last-minute rush to post out 27,479 home testing kits and swab thousands of asymptomatic staff in dozens of NHS hospitals. Labour attacked the government for counting these home tests towards the target on the day they had been sent out. Professor John Newton, the testing chief, insisted that on the advice of statisticians “any tests which go outside the control programme, they’re counted when they leave the programme” and always had been.” – The Times

  • Government is facing claims of fiddling the figures – Daily Mail
  • Virtual city built in an Oxford University lab shows how the tracing app could work – The Times

More:

  • Two-metre rule could be be reviewed, raising hope of relaxed restrictions – Daily Telegraph
  • UK offices set to remain closed for months – FT
  • Patients are to be treated with the blood plasma of virus survivors as part of trial – Daily Mail

Editorial:

>Today: ToryDiary: The Health Secretary’s friends will portray him as the greatest Tory target deliverer since Macmillan

>Yesterday:

Prime Minister seeks more sophisticated slogan to exit lockdown…

“After successfully scaring Britons into staying indoors during the lockdown, Boris Johnson’s government is set to launch a more sophisticated messaging strategy for the next stage of its fight against coronavirus. The bluntness of Downing Street’s key slogan to date reflects the strictness of the shutdown: “Stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS”. But the next phase is more complex and requires a more nuanced message that may emphasise getting the country working again. “We were telling everyone we’re all in this together and everyone was really being asked to do the same thing,” said one government official. “Now we’re going to be saying different things, to different people, at different times.” Gradually easing the lockdown also requires a communications strategy that can convince Britons it is safe to leave their homes, given the high level of compliance.” – FT

  • He ‘wants Brits back at work from May 26’ if cases are low enough – The Sun
  • Staggered lunch breaks and no more rush hour – Daily Telegraph
  • Commuters face fever test before leaving home to ease lockdown – The Times

More:

  • Businessman launches legal challenge to coronavirus restrictions – Daily Mail
  • CPS will review every charge under coronavirus law – The Times

Johnson:

  • Prime Minister easing himself back into the driving seat – The Times
  • Run for Heroes founder given special ‘Boris Johnson award’ – Daily Express

>Today: Book Reviews: How Johnson’s editorship of The Spectator delayed his ascent, but perhaps also educated him

…as Government mulls fines for non-compliance

“Schools will only reopen when it’s safe, Matt Hancock said tonight – but he didn’t rule out fining parents who refuse to send their kids in after lockdown ends. The Health Secretary stressed that the disease was not giving kids bad symptoms like it had done for adults. But he dodged a direct question on whether this would mean parents would be fined for keeping them at home. Andrew, from Leeds, asked him at the beginning of the coronavirus press conference at No10: “When lockdown measures are lifted, will there be fines if parents keep kids off school? “And how will you make sure the public is confident it’s safe?” Mr Hancock reassured Andrew that schools will only be allowed to re-open when it is “safe” to do so. But he did not directly address the question of whether concerned parents may be fined for keeping their kids at home over coronavirus fears.” – The Sun

  • Government must lead on reopening schools, says union boss – The Guardian
  • ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’: the slogan that was ‘too successful’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Two-thirds of Brits fear going to sports games or concerts even if lockdown lifted – The Sun

Editorial:

  • We must get back to work if infection rates stay low – The Sun
  • Even in a pandemic, politicians must decide – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Face masks: Is Johnson hostage to peer pressure?

Sturgeon attacks Johnson’s claim that Britain has ‘passed the peak’

“Nicola Sturgeon has criticised Boris Johnson’s declaration the UK is past the coronavirus peak by arguing it sends the wrong message to the public that the “danger point” is behind them. The Scottish First Minister repeatedly refused to endorse his claim and argued it could hamper efforts to convince the public they must stick with the restrictions. She said the UK is “not past the danger point of this virus running out of control yet”, but the Prime Minister’s message implies it is. Dr Gregor Smith, Scotland’s interim chief medical officer, also undermined Mr Johnson’s declaration by stating it was too early to tell whether the peak has been passed or not. Although they said there were “encouraging” signs of progress, they warned this would quickly be reversed if the public does not stick diligently this weekend to the lockdown restrictions.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scottish islands resist being made UK’s lockdown exit guinea pig – FT

More:

  • SNP leader launches ‘investigation’ into all Scottish care homes – Daily Express

Hunt calls for pay boost for NHS and social care staff

“NHS and care workers could get a pay boost from the Government after the coronavirus crisis, Jeremy Hunt has said. The former Health Secretary said the crisis had brought home how incredibly important the extraordinary work of social care staff was. Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4: “I think if there’s one thing that this terrible crisis that has brought home to us it is the importance of the social care sector. The vulnerability of the 410,000 people who live in our care homes and the crucial work done by the people who care for them. […] I will certainly be asking for a proper settlement for the social care sector because I think we all recognise that’s something that needs to happen.” … Boris Johnson promised last night austerity and cuts to public services would not be the strategy the Government takes to deal with the growing national debt.” – The Sun

  • Experts’ opinions on why the UK has been hit so hard by the Covid-19 virus – Daily Telegraph
  • How poor planning left the UK without enough PPE – FT

Comment:

  • Care homes are paying the price for incomplete Covid-19 strategy – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • Don’t let faith in the NHS blind us to its faults – Clare Foges, The Times
  • We French love our health service, but it’s not a national religion – Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Farmers fearful after challenges mobilising ‘land army’

“The peak harvesting season is still several weeks away, which may account for the poor conversion rate of applications into accepted jobs. As many as 80,000 seasonal workers need to be found annually. Only a third of them have arrived from overseas this year, according to George Eustice, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs. However, university students like Joe and furloughed workers have complained that there are no practical offers of work available or that the application process, which can involve sending in videos of yourself answering interview questions, are needlessly complicated. Farmers on the other hand have shared their fears that they will suffer devastating financial losses this harvest due to the lack of high quality workers. Some say British workers, despite their enthusiasm to enlist in a modern Land Army, do not share the experience and work ethic of eastern European labourers, who are said to work at triple the pace of new recruits.” – The Times

Matthew Parris: Save our pubs from their final last orders

“Don’t imagine that when this lockdown ends the lights will come on and 10,000 bolts will be shot back in a kind of glorious nationwide opening-time, as we pubgoers flood back in through the doors. The pub business is always a fight for survival. More than almost any other, this sector is an island where only the profitable middle is much above sea level. Swathes around the edge would sink beneath the waves in any economic storm, and Covid-19 is a hurricane. When the sun finally comes out, thousands of beer gardens won’t be back in business to greet it. All I’m asking is that we try to limit the damage. Pubs feel they’re at the very back of the queue for the lifting of lockdown, and an utterly fragmented business needs a supportive arm from government.” – The Times

Trump continues to put spotlight on Chinese lab…

“President Trump set himself at odds with American and western intelligence agencies yesterday with a claim that he had seen evidence that Covid-19 was created in a Chinese laboratory. Mr Trump told a White House press briefing he had seen evidence that the coronavirus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), but declined to disclose what material he was referring to. Only hours earlier the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that the US intelligence community concurred “with the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified”. The US agencies, which are under political pressure to examine China’s handling of the crisis, confirmed that they were investigating “whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan”.” – The Times

  • The inside story of the Wuhan virus laboratory – Daily Telegraph
  • Fifteen-page ‘Five Eyes’ report is basis for claims – Daily Mail
  • Bombshell spy dossier reveals how China lied to the world – The Sun

Comment:

  • Why are we hesitating to demand an international inquiry into China? – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • We need to make China pay for coronavirus… and we need to walk away – Douglas Murray, The Sun
  • Trump is handling coronavirus so badly, he almost makes Johnson look good – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Dr Caroline Johnson MP in Comment: Ministers must commit to Britain’s global role this World Immunisation Week

…as Government prepares for US trade talks

“Ministers are to start trade deal talks with the US next week, The Sun can reveal. Downing Street has issued the order to commence the formal negotiation despite the coronavirus pandemic still raging in both countries. The talks will be carried out between London and Washington DC via teleconference for as long as the travel lockdown lasts… Beginning on Wednesday, it is due to last for two weeks. The White House has been pressing to start the talks for months while the UK was dragging its feet. Donald Trump is desperate to do a deal by the Autumn ahead of the November presidential election. But until now, No10 has moved at a slower pace, with Boris Johnson fearing a simultaneous Transatlantic negotiation would complicate talks with the EU for a trade deal by the end of this year.” – The Sun

  • Johnson promises to ‘drive a hard bargain’ – Daily Mail

Labour faces ‘untold’ costs after leak

“The Labour Party has admitted it does not know the potentially catastrophic costs that could arise from lawsuits and fines after a report compiled by allies of Jeremy Corbyn was leaked. The 860-page document, which was leaked days after Sir Keir Starmer became leader, concluded that factional infighting had prevented the party from handling allegations of antisemitism effectively. It gave the names of whistleblowers and former party staff. An independent inquiry led by Martin Forde, QC, an adviser to the Windrush Compensation Programme, will look at the allegations in the report and how it was written and leaked. Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, told a meeting of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee’s audit committee earlier this week that she had no estimate of what the leak could cost the party.” – The Times

  • Party appoints panel to investigate leaked report on staff – The Guardian
  • Starmer faces ‘war’ with Corbyn-supporting Momentum – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Khan’s shift in stance over coronavirus suggests he is politicising pandemic – Camilla Tominey, Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • What do past pandemics tell us about Covid’s future? – Kristian Niemietz, CapX
  • A conflict of visions between epidemiologists – Peter Hurst, UnHerd
  • How global shortage and bureaucratic screw ups left us short of PPE – Joseph Rachman, Reaction
  • ‘Social distance shaming’ is getting nasty – Roger Lewis, The Spectator
  • What is ‘Tory Socialism’? – Capel Lofft, The Tory Socialist

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