Britain passes Italy to register ‘highest death toll in Europe’

“Britain has become the European nation hit worst by coronavirus, overtaking Italy with a death toll of 29,427. The official number in Italy, where health services at one point looked likely to be overwhelmed, stood at 29,427 last night. The UK death toll is higher whether measured using only those who have died following a positive test for coronavirus, or deaths registered with the virus mentioned on the death certificate. It comes after modelling for The Times based on official death figures suggested that more than 55,000 people have died in the UK as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. By comparing daily Covid-19 hospital deaths to how many excess deaths – the number of weekly deaths minus the five-year average – have happened since the start of the outbreak, it was estimated that 55,700 people have died in the UK because of the outbreak.” – The Times

  • Minister plays down health department data showing country surpassing Italy… – FT
  • …but Government faces call for inquiry – The Guardian


  • Raab warns public to ‘be under no illusion’ about second phase – Daily Telegraph
  • Blanket reopening of schools next month would be ‘far too risky’ – Daily Mail

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

Johnson to face first battle with Starmer at PMQs

“Boris Johnson is set to come under fresh criticism over his handling of the coronavirus crisis when he faces Sir Keir Starmer for the first time during Prime Minister’s Questions today. The Prime Minister will return to the Commons for Westminster’s set-piece event on Wednesday, a day after the UK’s official death toll became the highest in Europe. Labour leader Kier Starmer is expected to question Boris Johnson on the Government’s response to the croronavirus crisis on the return. The Labour leader is expected to pressure Mr Johnson to set out a detailed plan on easing the lockdown. It will be the first time Mr Johnson has taken questions in Parliament since returning to Downing Street after battling coronavirus himself.” – Daily Express

Sunak to cut coronavirus furlough scheme…

“Rishi Sunak is preparing to “wean” businesses and workers off the government’s furloughing scheme by cutting wage subsidies amid concerns that the nation has become “addicted”. The chancellor will announce plans next week to wind down the scheme from July as part of an attempt to get people back to work as the lockdown is eased. He met officials yesterday to discuss the options, which include cutting the 80 per cent wage subsidy and lowering the £2,500 cap on monthly payments. The Treasury is also considering plans to bar self-employed workers with trading profits of more than £30,000 from claiming government grants. At present the threshold is £50,000.” – The Times

  • Furloughed workers face mass job losses as recession takes hold – Daily Telegraph
  • UK grapples with phasing out job furlough scheme – FT


  • Thousands of jobs could be lost forever – Daily Express
  • Coronavirus will spark a youth unemployment crisis that ‘could top one million’ – The Sun
  • Lamont: Public unaware of ‘horrible’ economic damage waiting ‘around the corner’ – Daily Telegraph

…as Starmer calls for revamp

“Keir Starmer has urged the government to revamp its furlough scheme to include part-time work and to allow some sectors to receive support even after its current end-date in June. The Labour leader said ministers should “urgently” adapt the existing programme, which will cost about £40bn, ahead of the easing of Britain’s coronavirus lockdown. Sir Keir, launching his proposals for a “national consensus” on ending the lockdown, said: “Ministers should urgently make the existing furlough more flexible to manage people’s gradual return to full and part-time work.” He told the BBC’s Today programme he was urging chancellor Rishi Sunak to allow companies to keep some workers “semi-furloughed” so they can gradually return to business.” – FT

  • Workplace coronavirus safety rules must be binding, says Labour – The Guardian
  • Frontbenchers told to submit costly policies for scrutiny – Daily Telegraph


  • Weaning businesses off what was supposed to be a temporary fix will require hard choices – The Times

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

Technology 1) Fears grow over contact tracing app’s security and privacy

“As the Government began testing its contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight on Tuesday, concerns were mounting about the way in which it will work and gather information on its users. Britain has gone its own way in launching an app that holds information centrally on users, which NHSX, the health service technology wing, argues will help experts understand – and ultimately stop – the virus’s spread. Ministers are pinning their hopes of ending the lockdown on the app. However, within hours of launching the trial they were told they faced a legal challenge over privacy and security, and warned the app’s core structure could hamper international travel.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scotland will not recommend NHS app until ‘confident that it works’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Nations of UK stay in lockdown lockstep despite devolution – FT
  • The 27-page plan for re-opening Scotland – Daily Mail


  • Covid is ushering in a surveillance state that may never be dismantled – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph
  • Snubbing local expertise in favour of private Covid-19 tracing is a disaster – Donna Hall, The Guardian


Technology 2) State-sponsored hackers ‘trying to steal coronavirus vaccine secrets’

“Britain and the United States issued a joint warning today that rival states are mounting cyberattacks on research institutions linked to the coronavirus response in an attempt to steal secrets, including vaccine work. The joint advisory statement comes days after similar warnings from US intelligence officials about state-backed hackers targeting vaccine laboratories on behalf of governments including China, Russia and Iran. Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre joined the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in warning that state actors “are actively targeting organisations involved in both national and international Covid-19 responses”. “These organisations include healthcare bodies, pharmaceutical companies, academia, medical research organisations and local government,” the statement read.” – The Times

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Raab – “Dangerous and venal” cyber criminals are trying to exploit the coronavirus crisis

Theresa May: Nationalism is no ally in this battle without borders

“Against a backdrop of populist politics in many countries, the search for political solutions to economic and social challenges has become a competition of absolutes. A polarised politics has taken hold. It views the world through a prism of winners and losers and sees compromise and co-operation as signs of weakness. Lost is the idea that countries do better by working together to solve common problems, even if doing so sometimes means an apparent sacrifice of short-term benefit for the greater good. In its place is a cynical calculus: “I’m right and you’re either with me or against me.” This is the world that the pandemic hit.” – The Times

  • We need to start reopening our society, not just the economy – Michael Nazir-Ali, Daily Telegraph
  • Let’s not make the mistakes of 1945 again – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
  • Our reluctance to return to ‘normal’ is exceptional – James Johnson, The Guardian
  • Millenials’ self-indulgence must never be allowed to rear its ugly head again – Olivia Utley, The Sun


  • A process that relies on global co-operation risks becoming dangerously politicised – The Times

Government scientist resigns after breaking lockdown rules to meet his married lover…

“The scientist whose advice prompted Boris Johnson to lock down Britain resigned from his Government advisory position on Tuesday night as The Telegraph can reveal he broke social distancing rules to meet his married lover. Professor Neil Ferguson allowed the woman to visit him at home during the lockdown while lecturing the public on the need for strict social distancing in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The woman lives with her husband and their children in another house. The epidemiologist leads the team at Imperial College London that produced the computer-modelled research that led to the national lockdown, which claimed that more than 500,000 Britons would die without the measures. Prof Ferguson has frequently appeared in the media to support the lockdown and praised the “very intensive social distancing” measures.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Architect of lockdown brought down by failing to obey his own rules – Daily Telegraph

…as Vallance admits regret over UK coronavirus testing shortfall

“Patrick Vallance, Britain’s chief scientific adviser, has expressed regret that Britain did not “ramp” up its testing capacity at an earlier stage of the coronavirus outbreak, failing to follow the lead of South Korea or Germany. Britain was left badly exposed by a lack of testing capacity and ended community testing on March 12 to focus scarce resources on hospitals. Sir Patrick, facing questions from MPs on the Commons health committee, gave the clearest admission to date that this had been a problem. “It’s clear you need lots of testing for this,” he said. Referring to the early stages of the outbreak, he said: “If we had managed to ramp testing capacity quickly, that would have been beneficial. For all sorts of reasons that didn’t happen.”” – FT

  • Government under fire after ‘big influx’ of Covid-19 cases from Europe revealed – The Guardian
  • At least 20,000 people infected with coronavirus arrived in the UK before lockdown – Daily Telegraph
  • No 10 scientific advisers warned of black market in fake coronavirus test results – The Guardian

Tory MPs call for funerals to be held inside churches again

“A group of Tory MPs has urged the Church of England to allow funerals to be held in churches again on a small scale. Former cabinet ministers Liam Fox and Theresa Villiers are among the 36 Tories who have written to bishops to argue the “the wishes of the deceased and bereaved are not being fulfilled with a proper committal in the church of their wish”. Church of England clergy are conducting ceremonies at crematoriums and outside in churchyards but not inside church buildings because of the risks of the spread of coronavirus. The letter from Conservatives, organised by West Dorset MP Chris Loder and signed by 35 colleagues, said: “The grief of bereavement is being translated to trauma in many cases, especially where it is resulting in the tragedy of direct cremation.”” – The Guardian

Truss under increased pressure to rule out chlorinated chicken as US trade talks open

“Liz Truss is coming under increased pressure to rule out chlorinated chicken and maintain high food standards, as trade talks open with the United States. The International Trade Secretary formally opened negotiations with America’s trade representative Robert Lighthizer in a videoconference yesterday, where they committed to uphold “high levels” of environmental protection, health and safety. However, there was no mention of food standards in a joint statement released on Tuesday, amid ongoing concerns that chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef may be included as part of trade any deal. With the first round of negotiations beginning on Wednesday, the farming industry is calling for a cast-iron guarantee from the Government that any food imports will not be produced using methods that would be illegal in the UK.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK and US face hurdles to deliver ‘fast pace’ trade pact – FT


  • Northern Ireland tensions threaten to derail long-term EU-UK deal – FT

Watson ‘admits mistakes’ in Carl Beech case

“Tom Watson has defended his appointment as head of the music industry’s lobbying group as anger over his new role intensified. The former deputy leader of the Labour Party acknowledged yesterday that “mistakes were made” when he supported a fantasist who made false allegations of child sexual abuse against celebrities and politicians. Mr Watson added that he hoped he could convince critics that he could “do a good job”. His appointment as chairman of UK Music has been opposed by the British Phonographic Industry, whose members account for 85 per cent of music sales, and leading industry figures. Critics say that his support for claims made by Carl Beech contributed to a climate in which well-known figures in the music industry were falsely accused of sex offences.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • The folly of opposing patents on a Covid vaccine – Frederik Roeder, CapX
  • Why the NHS contact tracing app could be dead on arrival – James O’Malley, The Spectator
  • The UK’s catalogue of catastrophes, and what to do next – Eamonn Butler, 1828
  • Why we need to take risks over Covid-19 – Timandra Harkness, UnHerd
  • The mythologised history of the Left – David Swift, The Critic