Coronavirus 1) Johnson announces that lockdown will be lifted on July 4th

“Boris Johnson hailed the beginning of the end of Britain’s “national hibernation” on Tuesday as he announced the biggest return of freedoms since lockdown began. The Prime Minister said families and friends will be able to mingle indoors and even go on holiday together from July 4, when pubs and restaurants will also reopen and the two metre rule will be reduced to one metre. But Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, warned that many of new social distancing measures will have to remain in place “until this time next year” because a coronavirus vaccine is still a long way off. Mr Johnson announced that domestic tourism will be up and running again with hotels, guest houses and campsites allowed to open on July 4, along with hairdressers, cinemas and almost every type of tourist attraction. However gyms, swimming pools, nightclubs, indoor sports facilities and concert venues were among the losers which still have no date for reopening.” – Daily Telegraph



Coronavirus 2) Warnings of a second wave

“Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to determine whether the UK is properly prepared for the “real risk” of a second wave of coronavirus. In an open letter published in the British Medical Journal, ministers were warned that urgent action would be needed to prevent further loss of life. The presidents of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Nursing, Physicians, and GPs all signed the letter….Both the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and the chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty stressed Mr Johnson’s plan was not “risk-free”.” – BBC

Coronavirus 3) Pledge to fully reopen schools in September faces union resistance

“All children returning to school in September is “pure fantasy”, headteachers have said, warning that there will not be enough space in classrooms even with the new “one metre plus” rule. Unions told ministers that reducing social distancing from two metres to “one-metre plus” is not a “magic bullet”, urging them to come up with a strategy to reopen schools that is “based in reality”. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, on Tuesday announced that the public will be expected to observe “one-metre plus” from July 4. Mr Johnson told the Commons that formal childcare will restart over the summer, and that primary and secondary schools will reopen in September with “full attendance”. He added: “And those children who can already go to school should do so because it is safe.” However, he offered no new guidance on schools, which remain closed to most pupils despite the change from the two-metre rule.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Opening the pubs but not schools just doesn’t add up – David Blunkett, The Sun
  • SAGE has “concerns” – The Times
  • Welsh schools reopening – BBC

>Today: Ed McGuinness on Local Government: We need more innovation to reopen schools

Coronavirus 4) Swimmers and cricketers object to continued ban

“Ministers were challenged to explain last night why pubs were safer than chlorinated swimming pools as sporting bodies left out of the lockdown-easing lashed out at the government. Many sporting activities, such as recreational cricket, football and rugby remain banned. Swimming pools, gyms and sports centres will not reopen on July 4. Leaders of those sports questioned the rationale behind the continuing restrictions when many other indoor leisure activities were allowed to restart. Michael Vaughan, the former England cricket captain, said the decision to maintain the restrictions was “utter nonsense” and suggested amateur cricket should defy the lockdown.” – The Times

  • The shops that won’t be reopening – BBC

Coronavirus 5) Daily press conference scrapped

“The daily Downing Street press conference on coronavirus has been stopped, the government has announced. Boris Johnson led the final regular briefing, flanked by chief advisers Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance. From now on televised briefings will be given on an “ad hoc” basis to “coincide with significant announcements,” Downing Street said. It comes as the PM announced an easing of the lockdown in England. There have been 92 briefings, and two national addresses by the prime minister. Leading the final briefing, Mr Johnson thanked Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick for their “heroic work in presenting information to the public so clearly and so powerfully”.” – BBC

>Yesterday: WATCH: The Prime Minister fronts the last of the daily series of press conferences

Coronavirus 6): “Disturbing surge” in US cases

“America’s top infectious disease expert has told lawmakers that the US is seeing a “disturbing surge” in coronavirus infections in some states. A panel of health officials, including Dr Anthony Fauci, said the next few days will be crucial to stem the new outbreaks. Cases are climbing rapidly across a number of US states. The four top experts also testified they were never told by President Donald Trump to “slow down” testing. Their comments come after Mr Trump told a weekend rally in Oklahoma that he had asked his team to do less testing to help keep official case counts down. “To my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing,” Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified to a congressional committee investigating the US response to the pandemic.” – BBC

Coronavirus 7) Funding to rehouse rough sleepers when hotels reopen

“An extra £85m has been announced by the Treasury to provide emergency accommodation for 5,400 rough sleepers who have been placed in hotels in England for the duration of the pandemic, avoiding them having to return to the streets when the hotels reopen to the public this summer. The extra money will allow councils to rehouse rough sleepers in student accommodation and to find alternative spaces elsewhere until more permanent housing is found. Dame Louise Casey, the chair of the Covid-19 rough sleeping taskforce, said she was extremely relieved the extra money had been allocated, allowing charities and councils longer to work to find long-term housing for those rough sleepers who have been staying in Ibis, Holiday Inn and Travelodge hotels at the government’s expense since the end of March.” – The Guardian

  • Finding a long-term solution is harder – Robert Wright, Financial Times

Coronavirus 8) Call for Scotland to ditch the two metre rule too

“One third of hotels in Scotland say they will not reopen in mid-July when the country’s tourism and hospitality sector is earmarked to resume trading as a result of the two metre distancing rule. Many hospitality firms even warn they will be economically unsustainable if the restriction remains in place in Scotland, according to a survey conducted by industry bosses north of the border.” – The Scotsman

Coronavirus 9) Cameron: A new international body is needed

“You don’t know what is coming; you need to constantly scan the horizon. That’s why after the Ebola crisis I also established a specialist unit in the Cabinet Office to survey the world continuously for viruses heading our way. I believe our energy should now go into forming something at an international level that can do a similar job, and do it fast. In this interconnected, digital world we don’t need some massive new agency. But, given the gaps we can see in the current provision, we know that such an organisation needs to be open, global, science-led, independent, non-political and totally focused on the job in hand: working out where and when and how the next dangerous virus could hit us.” – David Cameron, The Times

Other coronavirus comment:

  • Liberation is at hand – Leader, The Sun
  • The return of hospitality may yet save the summer – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Who wants to live in this new normal? – Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph
  • Whatever lies ahead, a national lockdown cannot be repeated – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Give me back the ‘old normal’ before lockdown took away our freedoms – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph
  • Business didn’t get us into this mess, but with the right reforms it can get us out of it – Sajid Javid, City AM

Patel promises to implement Windrush recommendations in full…

“The recommendations of a review into the Windrush scandal will be implemented in full, Home Secretary Priti Patel has said. The report criticised the Home Office after those who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries were wrongly told they were in Britain illegally. Mrs Patel also acknowledged that compensation payments to those who had suffered had been “far too slow”. Labour accused the government of being ‘too slow to right the wrongs’.” – BBC

…and vows to end deportation delays

“Priti Patel is planning to crack down on abuses in the asylum system as part of an overhaul of immigration rules intended to make it easier to remove illegal migrants and offenders who have completed their prison sentences. The home secretary wants to stop asylum applicants stringing out claims with last-minute appeals. She also wants to see prompt removal of criminals sentenced to 12 months or more, but has admitted that this will be a big challenge.” – The Times

MPs reject debates on harassment cases

“MPs have voted down controversial proposals introduced by the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, that would have allowed them to debate complaints about serious bullying and harassment. In an open letter seen by the Guardian, past and present parliamentary staff, union leaders, MPs and women’s groups had accused Rees-Mogg of undermining a new independent system designed to prevent bullying and sexual harassment in parliament, by allowing MPs to debate serious sanctions made by a new independent expert panel (IEP). But on Tuesday evening, an amendment tabled by Labour MP Chris Bryant, which ruled out debating complaints against MPs in the chamber, passed by five votes – to the delight of parliamentary staffers and campaigners.” – The Guardian

Jenrick had house extension approved despite objections

“The housing secretary had an extension to his £2.6 million Westminster townhouse approved by Conservative councillors despite officials objecting to the scheme three times, The Times can reveal. Robert Jenrick, 38, and his wife, 47, purchased the five-bedroom house in October 2013, a few weeks before he was selected as the Conservative candidate in Newark. The couple submitted plans to turn a first-floor roof terrace into an extra room as part of renovations costing £830,000, but the scheme was twice rejected by a planning officer who concluded it would damage the character and appearance of the building and conservation area.” – The Times

  • Commons bid to force him to release documents about his decision to green-light Tory donor’s £1billion property development – Daily Mail

>Today: Profile: Robert Jenrick, who rose without trace until he hit two bumps in the road

Those on low incomes more likely to vote Conservative than Labour

“More poorer Brits voted Tory than Labour for the first time to help deliver Boris Johnson’s 2019 election landslide. A study of the December poll has shown the Conservatives established a 15-point lead over the Opposition among those on low incomes. It even revealed the Tories were more popular with those struggling to make ends meet than they were among wealthier voters. A report for the anti-poverty Joseph Rowntree Foundation says:  “The Tories are no longer the party of the rich, while Labour is no longer the party of the poor”. It examined the British Election Study and found 45.4 per cent of low-income voters backed the Tories, with 30.6 per cent backing Labour.” – The Sun

Shrimsley: Tories should not be distracted by culture wars

“Against a serious opposition, it is competence not cultural clashes that will decide the government’s fate. Identity politics might take you to power, but competence keeps you there. In the weeks since he fell ill with Covid-19, Mr Johnson has squandered the public’s goodwill. Since the furore over his chief aide Dominic Cummings’s lockdown breach, he has alienated his own MPs with all-too visible contempt. A bunker mentality infuses his operation and his cabinet comprises too many ciphers.” – Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times

  • “Racist” plane banner isn’t a crime – Daily Mail
  • MP’s assistant who tried to save Reading victims – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Columnist Daniel Hannan: The police. Not institutionally racist, but institutionally woke.

News in brief

  • The limits of Covid death statistics – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • Was the two-metre rule one big lie? – Timandra Harkness, Unherd
  • Would a second term for Trump endanger the United States? – Daniel Johnson, The Article
  • Getting people back to work – John Redwood
  • White Saviour Syndrome won’t save black lives – John Lloyd, CapX