Local coronavirus lockdowns aim to stamp out infection with ‘whack-a-mole tactics’

“The test-and-trace programme will use “whack-a-mole tactics” to crack down on local outbreaks, with councils shutting offices, schools and wider areas where outbreaks flare, the prime minister said yesterday. The programme will not be “world class”, however, until later in the summer and testing needs to get quicker to help the scheme, the government has acknowledged. Boris Johnson promised to get test results back within 24 hours but refused to specify a date, with officials accepting that it would be “very difficult” to get home test kits processed so fast. Baroness Harding of Winscombe, head of the programme, said that the system could provide an “early warning”, with council staff imposing targeted restrictions “to stamp out any infection as it starts to spike”.” – The Times

  • Government confirms its much-delayed ‘test and trace’ scheme will be voluntary – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Liberty of all’ depends on willingness to self-isolate, says Hancock… – The Times
  • …as he dismisses claim that the system has been ‘rushed’ – Daily Express
  • Pubs could reopen next month as Johnson gives hope to Brit boozers – The Sun


  • Contact tracers claim ‘basic systems aren’t ready’ ahead of 9am launch – Daily Telegraph
  • Head of UK ‘test and trace’ system warns won’t be ‘world-class’ at start – FT
  • Government target of 200,000 Covid-19 tests ‘meaningless’ – The Guardian


  • There could be fines for breaking the rules, Johnson confirms – The Sun
  • Police ‘step back’ from action against breaches of lockdown – The Times


  • Contact-tracing could determine whether we get a second wave – Chris Smyth, The Times


  • As long as public compliance is sound, it could be a breakthrough moment – The Times
  • Questions remain over the Prime Minister’s ‘track and trace’ plan – Daily Telegraph


UK suffers highest death rate from coronavirus

“The UK has suffered the highest rate of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic among countries that produce comparable data, according to excess mortality figures. The UK has registered 59,537 more deaths than usual since the week ending March 20, indicating that the virus has directly or indirectly killed 891 people per million. At this stage of the pandemic, that is a higher rate of death than in any country for which high-quality data exist. The absolute number of excess deaths in the UK is also the highest in Europe, and second only to the US in global terms, according to data collected by the Financial Times. The country fares no better on another measure: the percentage increase in deaths compared with normal levels, where the UK once again is the worst hit in Europe and behind only Peru internationally.” – FT

  • Death toll hits 37,460 – The Sun

>Today: MPs Etc.: Coronavirus Count

Cummings 1) Johnson says it is ‘time to move on’ as he rejects inquiry

“Boris Johnson has insisted it was “time to move on” from the Dominic Cummings affair as he refused to bow to demands for a Cabinet Office inquiry into the matter. The Prime Minister told a committee of MPs he had “seen evidence” that proved Mr Cummings was telling the truth about his two-week stay in Durham during lockdown. He refused to apologise for the actions of Mr Cummings, despite 43 Tory MPs calling for him to be sacked – the equivalent of more than half his parliamentary majority. Mr Johnson said he “totally understood” the public’s “indignation” at Mr Cummings’s behaviour but insisted some of what had been reported was “totally false”. Mr Johnson was grilled for 98 minutes by MPs on the Liaison Committee, which is made up of chairmen of other parliamentary committees.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He urges MPs to ‘move on’ as 60 go on the attack – The Times
  • Backlash against aide continues with more Tory MPs seeking his dismissal… – FT
  • …as petition to sack him reaches 898,000 – Daily Express
  • Javid joins the attack – Daily Mail
  • ‘Distraction and dullness to shift attention’ – The Times


>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Johnson at Liaison Committee. Clark raises Cummings without naming him. And poses an important policy question.

Cummings 2) Katy Balls: The Prime Minister has faced down Tory rebellions before, but this one is different

“As someone who worked full time in Downing Street up until last year’s general election when he became an MP, Kruger is well placed to speak for how the government plans to style this out. Since Johnson entered No 10, bringing many Vote Leave staff with him, there has been an effort to centralise power and a shift away from paying much attention to the parliamentary party. Johnson showed with Brexit that he was happy to withdraw the whip from MPs who disagreed with him. Kruger’s suggestion to MPs was that No 10 plans to do the same now. The problem? As Johnson’s government finds its popularity falling amid a growing public backlash, it’s a message that few MPs want to hear right now. And unlike with Brexit, when the voters that the Tories were trying to appeal to in large supported Johnson’s aim (delivering Brexit), this time it’s the wavering MPs who are currently more in tune with public opinion.” – The Guardian

  • The Cummings I’ve known for 30 years is no ‘maverick genius’ – Lebby Eyres, Daily Telegraph
  • Policing by consent has been undermined by the Cummings saga – Nick Thomas-Symonds, Times Red Box


  • The dangerous liaison committee? Not really – Quentin Letts, The Times
  • Johnson is sick of being asked about Cummings… and it shows – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph
  • A  tin of Pedigree Chum attacked by a schnauzer – Henry Deedes, Daily Mail
  • The Prime Minister looked like a blundering schoolboy – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

>Today: Invictus in Comment: The bedwetter Tory MPs who panicked over Cummings need drying out

Cummings 3) BBC admits Newsnight attack on Chief of Staff ‘broke rules’

“Emily Maitlis breached BBC impartiality rules with a Newsnight monologue attacking Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson, the corporation has said. The BBC took the unusual step of rebuking one of its best-known presenters after a stream of complaints about Tuesday night’s programme. It opened with criticism of the prime minister’s “blind loyalty” to his chief adviser. “Dominic Cummings broke the rules. The country can see that, and it’s shocked the government cannot,” Maitlis told viewers of the BBC Two news programme… t was criticised, however, by other MPs and commentators, and privately by BBC staff for appearing to violate rules that forbid news presenters from expressing personal views on contested political topics.” – The Times

  • ‘Furious’ Maitlis fails to present Wednesday’s show – Daily Telegraph
  • Host breaks silence on her BBC show replacement – Daily Express


  • Rant exposes the BBC’s true partisan colours – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph


  • A Newsnight presenter breached the boundary between fact and opinion – The Times

Gibb warns that most schools ‘won’t re-open before September’

“The majority of primary school pupils are not likely to return to class until September as Britain finds its path out of coronavirus lockdown, a minister has warned. Nick Gibb, minister for schools, admitted that it was “difficult to say” whether all children between 4 and 11 would head back to school before the summer holidays. Speaking at the education select committee yesterday, Mr Gibb claimed he could not say “for certain” when schools would reopen until the latest data on the transmission of the virus had been properly scrutinised. He warned that a full reopening of schools was based on a consistent reduction in the R rate – the reproduction number of the virus.” – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: School re-openings. Williamson is making his case without a taranatula perched on his shoulder.

Aid for UK self-employed in doubt despite pledge of ‘parity’ with furloughing

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to wind down a £6.8bn assistance scheme for the self-employed ahead of the scheduled October end date for his furlough programme for employees, in spite of a government pledge that the two groups would enjoy “parity” of support in the coronavirus crisis. HM Revenue & Customs said on Wednesday it had received 2.3m claims under the self-employed income support scheme, at a cost of £6.8bn, but the Treasury is concerned that because of the need to help large numbers of people quickly, the programme is poorly targeted. Mr Sunak also maintains the programme is different in nature to the furlough scheme. The chancellor will announce in the coming days details of exactly how he intends to end the furlough scheme for employees in October.” – FT

  • Treasury pays wages of ten million people – The Times
  • Thousands face redundancy as one-in-four UK firms warn against easing furlough – Daily Mail


  • Johnson promotes adviser to reset frayed relations with business – FT


  • A clean exit from Covid-19 is implausible – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph
  • The stark budgetary decisions faced by the Chancellor – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail


  • Get Britain back on its feet or we face a catastrophic recession – The Sun


Home Office 1) Scores of MPs join tourism chiefs to call for quarantine rethink

“More than 80 British tourism chiefs including the bosses of London’s top five hotels today joined 40 MPs including seven former ministers in urging the Government to abandon its ‘poorly thought out and unworkable’ travel quarantine plan. The new border regime which will, from June 8, require all arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days, has been widely savaged by the aviation and tourism sectors. Critics have said the plan is ‘the very last thing’ the already ‘severely challenged’ industry as the Government comes under increasing pressure to axe it to avoid destroying the peak summer season… And in another significant revolt, a cross-party group of 40 MPs – including former transport secretary Chris Grayling and six other ex-Tory ministers – have joined a taskforce calling for urgent action to rethink the plan.” – Daily Mail

  • McLoughlin and De Bois take on tourism roles – The Guardian

Home Office 2) Patel seeks new powers to turn back migrants off south coast

“Priti Patel is considering the introduction of new powers to turn back migrants off the coast as the number of Channel crossings continues to rise. Sixty migrants were brought ashore yesterday after being intercepted in the Channel in four incidents. Eighty arrived on Tuesday. The arrivals bring to about 1,730 the number arriving this year, compared with 1,890 in the whole of last year. Only 155 have been returned to Europe since January last year. The number of crossings has increased since the lockdown began. Ms Patel, the home secretary, who promised last year to make crossings an “infrequent phenomena” by the spring, has ordered officials to look at existing powers to deal with the problem. She is also preparing to reform the asylum processes, while looking at new laws which will allow UK cutters to turn back vessels.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Johnson may still tough this out, but it looks a long shot – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Why we remember wars but forget plagues – Sean Thomas, UnHerd
  • Health inequalities in the North mean Covid-19 has struck hard – Hannah Davies, Reaction
  • Escaping the dragon: the government’s new approach to China – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • The lockdown’s founding myth – Christopher Snowdon, The Critic