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Plan to keep facemasks if infections go on rising

“Facemasks and work from home guidance could remain in place after June 21 under government plans to “prioritise” the end of social distancing if the Indian variant continues to surge, The Times has been told. Ministers are increasingly concerned that the variant’s spread could undermine plans to lift all restrictions next month. They are discussing contingency plans that could mean only a partial end to the lockdown. The Treasury is prioritising the end of the “one metre plus” distancing rule and the “rule of six” indoors, which is viewed as crucial to supporting hospitality and retail and helping the economy to recover. Ministers also want to end rules that limit mass gatherings so that festivals, concerts and sporting events can go ahead.” – The Times

  • End of lockdown could be ‘moved’ beyond June 21 – The Sun
  • Expert who helped change Covid policy in first wave warns over risk of easing – The Guardian
  • MPs warn of ‘another lost summer’ for festivals unless Covid safety net introduced – Daily Express

Johnson will be forced to decide on child Covid vaccinations

“Medical advisers will next month insist that Boris Johnson makes a political decision on whether to vaccinate children and will not offer a firm recommendation, The Telegraph understands. In a break from previous practice, the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) is expected to set out “options and consequences” rather than taking a stance on the controversial issue. It comes as the European Medical Agency recommended Pfizer vaccines for children as young as 12, causing deep divisions. Germany’s national regulator insisted more data is needed before it can be sure the move is safe for children. A coalition of doctors, MPs, parents and celebrities has already started a campaign to exclude under-18s from the UK’s vaccine rollout with a letter to Mr Johnson urging him not to put children in “unnecessary danger”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Vaccines rollout sees Prime Minister ride high in Mail poll – Daily Mail
  • UK approves use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine – FT

More:

  • New study backs claims virus is man-made – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Chris Green MP in Comment: The narrative for vaccinating children and Covid passports is getting stronger. We need to stop and think.

Pressure grows on Health Secretary over Covid policy for care homes

“Matt Hancock is facing further pressure over the measures put in place to protect care homes early in the coronavirus pandemic following allegations from Dominic Cummings that he misled the prime minister over the issue. A woman whose father died of Covid in a care home that admitted an infected hospital patient is demanding that the health secretary release crucial internal documents about his risk assessment before thousands of people were discharged into care homes without tests. The move is part of a potentially explosive high court case against Hancock, the NHS Commissioning Board and Public Health England scheduled for a three-day trial in October. It is likely to shed new light on this week’s claim and counter-claim between the prime minister’s former chief adviser and Hancock over care homes policy in the first weeks of the pandemic.” – The Guardian

  • What really happened in Number Ten when the crisis blew up? – Daily Mail
  • Cummings ‘has documents showing Hancock was summoned’ to Downing Street – The Sun
  • Johnson breathes a sigh of relief but Cummings is playing a long game – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Questioning Hancock. How far will Clark and Hunt go?

Charles Moore: Wuhan puts paid to Cummings’ idea of how to manage a public health crisis

“My own view about Mr Cummings’s testimony is that he made some very pertinent points about how British government and officialdom do not work, but also broke trust and unfairly accused individuals who could not answer back. But it is not relevant for the purposes of this article whether Mr Cummings was right to speak as he did. The point is that he could, and that the press and the public could study what he said, debate it and throw it all back at elected politicians. Although many of the matters Mr Cummings raised were seriously important, they matter much less than what happened in Wuhan. China’s behaviour has brought death, disease, misery and impoverishment and has reduced freedom everywhere. Yet its actions cannot be discussed in public in China at all.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The patience of voters will snap in the end – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • No, Britain didn’t come bottom of the class – Niall Ferguson, Daily Mail
  • If Cummings’ assault on Johnson fails, he will have only himself to blame – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Cummings is behaving like a woman or man scorned. But you can’t dismiss all that he says.

Johnson did not break ministerial code over No11 flat refurb, official probe finds…

“Boris Johnson has been cleared over his No11 flat refurb – as an official report said he didn’t break the ministerial code in the “cash for curtains” row. But the probe from a top Whitehall sleazebuster found that the Cabinet Office, Tory Party and a peer had helped stump up the cash for his Downing Street renovation – and the PM only settled the bill in full in March. For weeks the PM has been dogged over who paid the costs of a lavish revamp of the No11 digs he shares with Carrie Symonds and one-year-old son Wilfred. Lord Christopher Geidt, a former aide to the Queen, today released the long-awaited register of members interests about the PM’s Downing Street decorations. But the independent adviser concluded that there was nothing to suggest the PM had acted improperly or broken the code – effectively clearing him of wrongdoing.” – The Sun

  • Report says he acted ‘unwisely’ – FT
  • Prime Minister unaware Tory donor paid part of flat refurbishment bill – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

…and Hancock committed ‘minor breach of ministerial rules’ over NHS contract

“Matt Hancock committed a “minor” breach of ministerial rules but acted with “integrity”, an investigation has found. The Health Secretary failed to declare that a family firm he held shares in won an NHS contract. But he did not know about the deal and the failure was in “no way deliberate”. Lord Geidt, the PM’s adviser on standards, said the “technical breach” should not “impugn his good character”. Mr Hancock declared in the MPs’ register of interests in March that he owns 20 percent of shares in Topwood. The firm specialises in secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents. It won a place on a framework to supply the English NHS Shared Business Services in 2019, as well as contracts with the NHS in Wales, after Mr Hancock was given his Cabinet brief in 2018.” – Daily Express

Foreign Affairs 1) Johnson raises ‘significant concerns’ on Orban’s human rights record

“Downing Street attempted to defuse the controversy over Boris Johnson’s decision to host a meeting with Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban on Friday, insisting he voiced “significant concerns” over his counterpart’s record on human rights.  In a statement issued after the talks, Downing Street said Johnson expressed his concerns surrounding Orban’s record on issues such as “gender equality, LGBT rights and media freedom”. “The leaders also discussed a number of foreign policy issues including Russia, Belarus and China,” Number 10 added. “The prime minister encouraged Hungary to use their influence to promote democracy and stability.” In recent years, Orban, who is regarded a rightwing populist and an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, has become a controversial figure on the international stage.” – FT

  • Backlash grows against Olympics as Japan extends state of emergency – The Times

Comment:

  • Orban’s visit illustrates UK’s post-Brexit balancing act – Timothy Garton Ash, FT

Foreign Affairs 2) Frost puts foot down over first ministers’ ‘private chats’ with the EU

“Lord Frost has put his foot down and warned devolved nations not to approach the EU in private without consulting with the UK Government. In a letter to the Scottish and Welsh Government, he said Cardiff and Edinburgh should keep the UK involved in all contact the devolved Governments have with EU institutions. Lord Frost said they should keep the “UK Government informed” about the “content” of all meetings senior officials and ministers have with the European Commission and other EU institutions. He said this was because the UK needed to conduct its “international affairs” effectively with Brussels and made clear he didn’t want secret back door contact. SNP-led Scottish Government ministers have previously written to the European Commission and had regular talks with officials in Brussels amid crunch trade talks between Lord Frost and Michel Barnier.” – Daily Express

  • UK told to back off as desperate Sturgeon tries to keep Scotland in Brussels scheme – Daily Express

More Union:

  • Brussels warns of souring relations with UK over Northern Ireland – FT
  • Only a fifth of English voters oppose Scottish independence, poll reveals – Daily Telegraph
  • Foster: ‘If the union is to succeed, we need to be a bigger tent’ – FT

Schools must act now to tackle spike in ‘abhorrent’ anti-Semitic incidents, Williamson says

“Schools must act now to counter a spike in “abhorrent” anti-Semitic incidents which has emerged as the Israel-Palestine conflict flared up, the Education Secretary has warned. In a letter to head teachers and school leaders, Gavin Williamson warned that in some schools an “atmosphere of intimidation or fear” was at risk of emerging. He said that both Jewish students and teachers had been targeted with anti-Semitic bullying, stressing such behaviour was a form of racism and had “no part” in British schools. In one part of Mr Williamson’s letter he demanded that schools not use materials from organisations which “publicly reject Israel’s right to exist”. In another he stressed that where older students were engaging in political activity they must do so “sensitively” and not in a way that disrupts the classroom.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Longer school hours won’t plug Covid learning gaps, says Cambridge academic – The Guardian
  • Children born in the summer are being ‘unfairly labelled’ as having special educational needs – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Why educational snobbery is good for society – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

Sadiq Khan costs taxpayers £10m in row over Thames tunnel contract

“Sadiq Khan has been forced to pay more than £10m of taxpayer cash to a consortium of builders to settle a long-running row over a flagship road tunnel under the Thames. Transport for London – chaired by Mr Khan, the city’s mayor – has struck a deal with the Silver Thames Connect group following accusations of a botched procurement process for the Silvertown Tunnel in east London. Sources said that TfL has agreed to pay more than £10m of public funds to the consortium, which includes the companies Hochtief, Dragados and Iridium Concesiones de Infraestructuras, after it launched a legal challenge when the contract was awarded to a rival. The revelations come as talks between Mr Khan and Whitehall go down to the wire over a fresh bailout for the capital’s transport authority.” – Daily Telegraph

  • TFL close to striking £1bn rescue deal with government – FT

News in Brief:

  • SNP’s worst-of-both-worlds plan to decriminalise drugs – Henry Hill, CapX
  • The myth of American mass shootings – Kat Rosenfield, UnHerd
  • The BBC cannot survive many more scandals – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator