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Lockdown Speculation 1) Government ‘preparing to scrap ‘stay home’ advice’

“Boris Johnson will drop the Government’s “stay home” slogan this weekend as he prepares to ease the coronavirus lockdown on Monday. The Prime Minister will encourage more people to go back to work if they can do so safely, and will tell those using public transport to wear face coverings in crowded spaces. He will also scrap the once-a-day limit on exercising and tell people they can take “unlimited” exercise either on their own or with members of their household. However, he will tell garden centres and other “non-essential” retailers they will have to wait a little longer before they can fully reopen. Schools, which are only teaching the children of key workers, will also remain closed to other pupils for now, but could begin a phased return at the start of June.” – Daily Telegraph

  • ‘Too early’ to say when schools will return but decision due in ‘weeks’, Hancock says – The Sun
  • Downing Street faces infighting ‘shambles’ – Daily Express

Scotland:

  • Sturgeon warns Johnson to ease lockdown slowly… – Daily Telegraph
  • …as she Scottish schools may not reopen until August – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Robert Halfon’s column: Let’s not risk ending lockdown, the virus then claiming yet more victims – and having to impose shutdown all over again

Lockdown Speculation 2) Johnson looks to border checks as price for easing lockdown

“Boris Johnson will map out the UK’s phased exit from lockdown this weekend, with a two-pronged approach that will loosen some measures while tightening others, including tougher border controls. The news came as the UK’s death toll from coronavirus passed 30,000. The Department of Health said 30,076 people had died from coronavirus, an increase of 649. Official figures suggest that the number of deaths is significantly higher. The prime minister on Wednesday said he would set out his strategy for the “second phase” of the UK’s fight against coronavirus in a televised address on Sunday, adding the government would “get going” with some measures to revise the shutdown on Monday.” – FT

  • More than one daily exercise is expected to be among the first freedoms allowed – The Times
  • Gyms ‘ordered to stay shut until autumn at the earliest’ – The Sun

>Yesterday: Dr Luke Evans MP’s column: What we can learn from the good adaptations we’ve had to make during these bad times

Prime Minister promises 200,000 coronavirus tests within weeks…

“Boris Johnson promised that Britain would be able to carry out 200,000 daily tests by the end of the month, even as the number achieved fell to its lowest level in a week. On Tuesday 69,463 tests were done, the third daily fall in a row and barely more than half the 122,347 carried out last Thursday, the day Mr Hancock boasted of hitting his original target of 100,000 tests by the end of April. Officials insisted that numbers had not been artificially inflated last week to hit the target, saying there had been a spike in demand as eligibility was widened to millions more people and demand was now fairly constant at about 80,000 tests a day… Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson set an “ambition” to reach 200,000 tests by the end of the month “and then go even higher”…”. – The Times

  • Pressure on Johnson as daily testing target missed again – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Jenrick says that 69,463 tests were carried out yesterday

…as he clashes with Starmer at PMQs

“In a pre-Covid PMQs a Tory prime minister who was riding high in the opinion polls and who was returning to the House of Commons after an illness that left him in intensive care would have been welcomed by such a wall of noise that it would have been hard for any opposition leader to make much of a mark. But, of course, there is no chance of PMQs resuming its shouting match status any time soon (one of the few benefits of this ghastly crisis) and instead Boris Johnson was left looking exposed and diminished as he faced Keir Starmer for the first time. As had been widely expected, Starmer was impressive – focused, calm, and rational.” – The Guardian

  • Labour leader: ‘The government has been slow in nearly all of the major decisions’ – FT
  • Starmer blames Corbyn for Labour’s election defeat – FT

Comment:

  • Forensic PMQs marked the start of a marathon battle  – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus care home crisis is a bitter regret, admits Johnson…

Shield“Boris Johnson has expressed “bitter regret” at the epidemic of infections in care homes as questions mount over whether a decision to speed hospital discharges helped to start outbreaks. The prime minster was told to “get a grip” as he was pressed by Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, over the latest figures showing that deaths in care homes were still rising. Mr Johnson insisted there had been a “palpable improvement” in the death rate in recent days and said that “tens of thousands of people” had been working to get more personal protective equipment into care homes. He conceded, however, that there was an “epidemic going on in care homes, which is something I bitterly regret”.” – The Times

  • ‘Abandoned’ care homes warn councils of legal action – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • UK’s coronavirus death toll is ‘met with global disbelief’ – The Times
  • Britain becomes first country in Europe to surpass 30,000 coronavirus deaths – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Ten reasons why it’s still too soon to compare international death rates from Covid-19

…as Labour MP sacked by one after ‘speaking out on TV’

“Britain’s youngest MP said last night that she had been sacked from her temporary job as a carer after speaking out about PPE shortages. Nadia Whittome, 24, Labour MP for Nottingham East, had been working at Lark Hill retirement village, which is run by ExtraCare, to help to relieve the strain on the care service. She said, however, that on Tuesday she had been “asked not to return” by ExtraCare, adding that the reason behind the company’s decision to terminate her employment was an interview she had given to the BBC’s Newsnight on April 24 about inadequate supply of PPE… A spokeswoman for the ExtraCare Charitable Trust […] added that reports of a PPE shortage were inaccurate and had caused concern among residents. She also said that the trust had had to invest a significant amount of staff time reassuring its residents.” – The Times

  • PPE flown back from Turkey by the RAF found to be “useless” – Daily Telegraph

NHS considers u-turn on contact-tracing app

“The NHS has tasked a private company to “investigate” if it can switch its contact-tracing app over to the global standard proposed by Apple and Google, it has emerged just days after the UK’s version launched on the Isle of Wight. The Swiss company Zuhlke, which is working on NHS COVID-19 App, has reportedly been told to look into the ‘feasibility’ of moving the app to the ‘decentralised’ model favoured by the tech giants and that more and more European countries are choosing for contract-tracing. The move follows warnings that the UK’s model is not compatible with emerging global standards for such apps and could affect Britons ability to travel abroad in the future. The UK has increasingly become an outlier in choosing to build its own ‘centralised’ version of the app…” – Daily Telegraph

  • App to ask patients for recent contacts – The Times
  • Critical mass of Android users crucial for success – The Guardian

>Yesterday:

Parts of UK economy ‘on life support’ since lockdown

“More than a month into coronavirus lockdown measures large parts of the British economy are now on life support. Nearly one in four UK workers have been furloughed in the past fortnight, with their wages subsidised by the state in an attempt to stop the unfolding economic crisis – already expected to be the deepest recession since 1709 – from getting even worse. So far the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) has protected 6.3m jobs at some 800,000 firms, with a price tag for the exchequer amounting to more than £8bn by 3 May. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, as many as 4m redundancies have been avoided, but the workforce specialists have warned its “all or nothing” format must be reviewed to help furloughed staff back into work.” – The Guardian

  • Britain facing worst recession on record, Bank of England warns – The Sun
  • Crisis will see GDP slump nearly 30 per cent – Daily Mail

More:

  • Charities on the brink after donors ignore appeals and back NHS – The Times
  • UK universities braced for reform when crisis ends – FT

>Yesterday:

Allister Heath: Sunak’s mission is to save us from an Italian-style nightmare

“UK plc faces an existential crisis; millions of jobs are gone, with a new generation about to discover unemployment; and Britain’s economic renaissance that started in 1979 may have finally run its course. Sunak, if he is to succeed, is going to have to become one of history’s great turnaround chancellors, tasked with saving, rather than merely reforming, the economy. His mission is clear: to make sure the UK doesn’t go the way of Italy. It is a wonderful country, but its debt-laden, sclerotic economy has failed to grow meaningfully since the launch of the euro 20 years ago, symbolising the historic failure and decadence of western Europe.” – Daily Telegraph

  • An abrupt end to the UK furlough scheme would be self-defeating – Nils Pratley, The Guardian

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: Why the Government must convert its business Covid-19 support away from debt

Patel is in talks to force France to take back migrants no matter which side of the Channel they are seized on

“Home Secretary Priti Patel is in talks with her French counterpart to force the return of asylum seekers even if they are picked up on the British side of the Channel. Ms Patel is involved in negotiations with her French counterpart Christophe Castaner and has stressed that the threat of being returned no matter where they were caught, will stop the migrants making the dangerous journey. ‘If people know that they can’t get across the Channel, they are less likely to  congregate in the camps so it is a benefit to the French. It’s not just in the interests of the UK,’ a source close to Ms Patel told the Telegraph. The source added that the talks had been ‘very positive’. Ms Patel is also discussing closure of the migrant camps in northern France and strengthening prevention. The vast majority of migrants that have crossed the stretch of water over the past 16 months have not been sent back to France.” – Daily Mail

Brussels and Britain clash over climate conditions in trade deal

“The UK is resisting EU moves to incorporate guarantees on respecting international climate change commitments in a future trade deal, adding to mounting disagreements on both sides over how to forge their post-Brexit relationship. EU officials said the most recent negotiating round with the UK had revealed a clear rift over co-operation in the fight against climate change. The split is emblematic of broader difficulties both sides have identified after two rounds of future relationship talks, with negotiators at odds on the conditions that should be attached to a far-reaching trade deal. While the EU wants to nail down guarantees about shared green ambitions, Britain argues that it should not have to make such legal commitments in exchange for preferential access to the European market.” – FT

  • Coveney fears ‘serious’ consequences as talks near collapse – Daily Express

Stewart pulls out of race to be London mayor ‘because of coronavirus’

“Former Tory minister Rory Stewart has pulled out of the race to be London mayor – saying his bid to run the capital was killed by the coronavirus. The one-time candidate for the Conservative party was standing as an independent, but said he could not count on an army of volunteers to keep working for him after the election was delayed for a year because of the pandemic. In a recent poll, Mr Stewart, 47, was due to come third in the race behind Labour’s Sadiq Khan and Tory Shaun Bailey. Mr Stewart said: “In such a grinding, costly, prolonged campaign the big party machines have the overwhelming advantage.” – The Sun

  • Twenty years on, what has having a mayor done for London? – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • As we lift the lockdown, remember that fortune favours the rave – Henry Hill, CapX
  • The struggle to understand and control the virus – Matt Ridley, The Spectator
  • Code review of Ferguson’s Model – Sue Denim, Lockdown Sceptics
  • Not every death is a tragedy – Mary Harrington, UnHerd
  • “There is no such thing as The Science”: interview with Robert Winston – Rachel Cunliffe, Reaction

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