Coronavirus 1) Test and Trace teams to knock on front doors

“Britons who fail to answer calls from the NHS Test and Trace service may now face a knock on the door after staff only reached half of at-risk people on the phone. In a dramatic bid to improve the beleaguered scheme, the Government’s army of call centre contract tracers will be slashed by a third – from 18,000 to 12,000 – with much greater use made of local public health teams. Council employees in at-risk areas could end up knocking on the doors of people who have been exposed to the virus but who don’t answer the phone calls or emails of Test and Trace. The national operation is still failing to find half of close contacts of infected people, well below the 80 per cent minimum threshold needed to keep a lid on local outbreaks.” – Daily Mail

  • Callers reaching just one contact a month – Daily Telegraph
  • Drive-by jabs for winter flu to prevent double whammy – The Times
  • Testing is essential to restoring confidence – Leader, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The latest developments in contact tracing – and why the Government is not alone in having problems with its system

Coronavirus 2) More than 10.5 million Eat out to help out: meals claimed in first week

“Diners used the “eat out to help out” scheme more than 10.5 million times in its first week, the Treasury has said. Under the scheme, which is intended to boost the struggling hospitality sector, the government pays for 50% of a meal eaten at a cafe, restaurant or pub on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. The discount, which is due to run through August, is capped at £10. Treasury estimates put the average claim at close to £5, making the cost of the policy around £50m so far.” – BBC

  • Stamp Duty cut triggers bidding wars – The Times

>Yesterday: Andrew Griffith on Comment: Suspending Air Passenger Duty could give the aviation industry the lifeline it needs

Coronavirus 3) Sturgeon apologises over exam grades

“The school girl who led the campaign in Glasgow about the Scottish Qualification Authority’s (SQA) results has responded to Nicola Sturgeon’s apology. Erin Bleakley, 17, organised the protest in George Square where she called for the SQA to reevaluate the 124,564 grades that were lowered. The First Minister admitted today that ministers put concerns about “the overall system” ahead of individual pupils. Ms Bleakley said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s response was nice to hear, they admitted that there was a fault in the system but now it’s a case of following through with this and seeing how effective they will be in fixing the fault.” The 17-year-old has criticised the appeals process but said if things are sorted correctly young people would be relieved.” – The Herald

  • Swinney will set out his plans – BBC
  • Former head of Ofsted says it’s “a mess” – The Guardian
  • UK universities urged to be “flexible” – Financial Times
  • PM understands “anxiety” – BBC

Coronavirus 4) Blair: The UK was too slow to act

“We should know that eradication is not possible. Containment is. But the only route to that is mass testing of the population to pick up the asymptomatic cases, which appear to be nearly half of the total. Otherwise, we risk resurgence or return to lockdown. The UK was too slow at the onset of this crisis. But, given its nature that was excusable. A similar error at this stage is not excusable. It is clear what must be done. But the UK’s challenge pales into insignificance beside the dilemma facing developing countries. And if the developing world fails, the consequence will reverberate around the world.” – Tony Blair, Financial Times

Coronavirus 5) Older pupils “transmit virus as easily as adults”

“Secondary school pupils are likely to transmit coronavirus as easily as adults, according to official research used by ministers to argue that it is safe for all children to return to class next month. Scientists at Public Health England (PHE) believe that tougher rules are likely to be needed for older children, despite finding that primary pupils do not seem to pass the virus to each other. Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said yesterday that a study being conducted by PHE of thousands of pupils who returned to schools in June showed that there was little risk in government plans for all children to be back in the classroom for the new academic year next month. However, The Times understands that researchers working on the study are unhappy with the way ministers have used the findings, which have not been fully analysed. The preliminary results do suggest that primary schools pose little danger, with only six positive tests out of 9,000 tested so far.” – The Times

  • Experts say children hardly raise ‘R’ rate – The Sun
  • Local lockdowns won’t force schools to close – Daily Mail
  • Plan for one-way corridors and staggered starts – The Times
  • Chris Whitty asked to publish evidence – Daily Telegraph
  • Class struggle – Leader, The Times

>Today: Chris McGovern on Local Government: The teaching unions must stop playing truant with the truth

Coronavirus 6) Employment falls by 220,000

“Employment in the UK fell by the largest amount in over a decade between April and June, official figures show. Employment decreased by 220,000 on the quarter, said the Office for National Statistics. This was the largest quarterly decrease since May to July 2009, during the depths of the last financial crisis. Unemployment has not surged as much as feared, because large numbers of firms have put employees on the government-backed furlough scheme.” – BBC

Migrant boats face Border Force blockade off the French coast

“British ships could be deployed to block small boats trying to enter the UK’s waters under plans to stem the number of migrants crossing the Channel. Ministers are considering using 42m-long Border Force cutters to stop boats from reaching Britain’s territorial waters. The French authorities would then be contacted to intercept them, with a focus on intelligence sharing. The government has moved away from a more aggressive Australian-style “push-back” approach, which would have involved Royal Navy and Border Force vessels intercepting boats as they left French waters.” – The Times

  • PM considers law change – BBC
  • Patel issues ultimatum to French officials – Daily Mail
  • Britain and France must work together to tackle the shameless evil trafficking – Leader, The Sun
  • Bumper number arrive – Daily Telegraph

Johnson defends the Union, ahead of Scottish holiday

“Boris Johnson has launched a tubthumping defence of the “magical” United Kingdom ahead of his camping staycation north of the border. The Prime Minister branded the Union between Scotland and England “the greatest political partnership the world has ever seen”.And taking aim at Nationalists critics and Nicola Sturgeon, he said the UK is “admired and loved around the world”. As the SNP soar in the polls ahead of crunch Scottish Parliament elections next year that could pave the way to another referendum on Scottish independence, Mr Johnson warned it would be “such a shame to lose the power, the magic, of that union”.” – The Sun

  • PM blocks plan to invite Sturgeon to cabinet meetings – Financial Times
  • The UK is nearing breaking point and the Unionists must fight back – William Hague, Daily Telegraph

Macron “could scupper” UK trade deal with the EU

“Emmanuel Macron could scupper a last-minute trade deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union over access to UK fishing waters, officials on both sides fear. Sources claim that the French president could “scupper an agreement” at the last minute if he believes that a deal does not go in his favour. It comes amid the latest talks reaching a stalemate with Fishing Waters and “the level playing field” being controversial points of contention. It comes as President Macron’s ratings have started to suffer with the next Presidential election less than two years away. French officials claim that Macron could think there are “votes to be had in standing up to the British” in a bid to save his mandate.” – Daily Express

Pro democracy media tycoon arrested in Hong Kong

“Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai was arrested in a raid on his newspaper office today under the city’s draconian new security law. Lai, 71, was led away in handcuffs and arrested along with six others on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces – one of the new offences under the law – and fraud. The editor of Lai’s Apple Daily paper said its journalists would not be intimidated by the raid after staff posted a live-stream of dozens of police on their premises. However, the Committee to Protect Journalists said the raid ‘bears out the worst fears that the law would be used to suppress critical pro-democracy opinion and restrict press freedom’.” – Daily Mail

  • Why have UK universities sold out to China? – Peter Wilby, The Guardian

>Today: Matt Kilcoyne on Comment: Anti-democratic China is testing the West’s resolve, and it’s CANZUK that has risen to the occasion

Shots fired outside White House

“US President Donald Trump was abruptly led out of a news briefing by a Secret Service agent, after shots were fired outside the White House. The agent walked on stage as Mr Trump was speaking and whispered in his ear. Mr Trump was heard to say “Oh!” and “What’s happening”, as he left the room. The White House was placed on lockdown during Monday’s incident. The president returned nine minutes later to say the situation was under control and a man had been shot.” – BBC

Second night of clashes in Belarus election

“Police in Belarus’s capital Minsk have fired rubber bullets for a second night to quash protests following Sunday’s disputed presidential elections. Officials say one demonstrator died when an explosive device went off in his hands – the first confirmed casualty since the clashes began. Autocratic President Alexander Lukashenko won 80% of the vote. His main rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya refused to accept the results, saying she was the real winner. A lack of scrutiny – no observers were present – has led to allegations of widespread vote-rigging in the poll.” – BBC

  • Opposition leader Tikhanovskaya ‘safe’ in Lithuania – BBC
  • Rigged – Leader, The Times
  • Is this the end for Europe’s last dictator? – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Lukashenko loses his grip – Leader, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Daniel Hamilton on Comment: Why I see hopeful signs for democratic transition in Belarus

Lebanon government resigns as anger mounts

“Lebanon’s government resigned on Monday as the prime minister blamed “political corruption” for a massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed more than 160 people and devastated the capital. “I discovered that the system of corruption is bigger than the state,” Hassan Diab, prime minister, said in an address, blaming resistance by entrenched political elites for his lack of reforms. His resignation came amid intensifying anger among Lebanese people towards their leaders, whom many blamed for last week’s blast.” – Financial Times

News in brief

  • The BBC’s attack on our elderly is unacceptable – Calvin Robinson, Free Market Conservatives
  • Priming the Pump for a UK-US Free Trade Agreement – Peter Allgeier, Global Vision
  • How many years of life did lockdown save – or destroy? – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • The hypocrisy of ‘devocrats’ like Sturgeon imperils the UK economy – Matt Smith, CapX
  • Levelling up needs the schools back – John Redwood