Published:

Coronavirus 1) Fresh hope for June 21 as deaths fall to zero

“The UK reported no new coronavirus deaths yesterday for the first time since the pandemic began, raising hope that the remaining restrictions in England may still be lifted this month. While the fatalities figure may nudge upwards in the coming weeks, especially because of reporting delays over the bank holiday weekend, ministers hailed it as a significant milestone. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said: “The whole country will be so glad there were no Covid-related deaths recorded yesterday. The vaccines are clearly working — protecting you, those around you and your loved ones.” Although he cautioned that Britain had not “beaten this virus yet”, it will intensify pressure on Boris Johnson to push ahead with the final stage of the road map to reopening on June 21.” – The Times

  • Vaccines keeping Covid patients out of intensive care, say NHS chiefs – Daily Telegraph
  • Every British adult will be able to get vaccinated within weeks – as country records zero Covid deaths for the first time in 447 days giving further hope the jabs are working despite 30 percent rise in cases – Daily Mail
  • Hancock orders officials to draw-up detailed timeline of decisions made around care homes during pandemic in a bid to rebut claims made by Cummings – Daily Mail
  • Lockdown easing paused for millions as rules are relaxed in Glasgow – BBC
  • UK set to buy new Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine designed to protect against South African variant of Covid-19 – The i Paper
  • UK rights watchdog endorses compulsory Covid jabs for care home staff – The Guardian

Analysis:

  • Why can’t scientists agree on when to lift all Covid restrictions? The Times
  • The hawks and the doves: scientists divided over lifting of lockdown – The Times
  • UK Covid dashboard showing ‘zero deaths’ but also flashing warning signals – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Paralysed by paranoia: Zero deaths from Covid… while cancer fatalities are expected to soar. On this watershed day, leading economist Mark Littlewood despairs of politicians who are still in thrall to the doom-mongers – Daily Mail
  • Renaming Covid variants after letters of the Greek alphabet spells W-O-K-E but it will be music to the ears of the Chinese government who are desperate to cover up where it all started, Dan Wootton – Daily Mail
  • We patients protected the NHS – now it’s blaming us for its own failings, Allison Pearson – Daily Telegraph
  • Scientists urging caution on Boris are pursuing zero Covid by stealth, Philip Johnston – Daily Telegraph
  • For pubs, let this be the last order to reopen, Matthew Parris – The Times
  • Year of Covid has made eating problems soar, Alice Thomson – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Testing system ‘carnage’ could keep foreign holidays on hold

“Holidaymakers face missing out on summer breaks as testing laboratories struggle to return results on time, Which? has warned. The private testing system is already being pushed to the brink of collapse even though Britons are only allowed to travel to a tiny number of countries, the consumer group said. Which? said it would be “carnage” when more countries are added to the green list, as anticipated this month. Rory Boland, travel editor of Which?, said: “The best-case scenario is that you’ve booked a package holiday and the test is booked with the tour operator. That way if you don’t get the result back they will allow you to move the departure. But that’s not a given and will be no consolation to people who have fixed dates. The private testing system is already struggling, it will be carnage when people start travelling again.” It comes as pressure is mounting on ministers to cap the price of the PCR tests needed to fly to the destinations, and exempt them from VAT.” – The Times

  • Johnson wants Biden to open American travel corridor – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Johnson accused of failing pupils with ‘cheap’ schools boost

“Boris Johnson was accused of having “let down” England’s children last night by only endorsing a small fraction of a £15 billion plan to rescue them from months of disrupted teaching. The announcement today of £1.4 billion of funding for free tuition and teacher training falls far short of the boost that Sir Kevan Collins, the government’s education recovery commissioner, told ministers was required. Collins’s recommendation that the school day be extended by half an hour, revealed in The Times this week, has been moved into a “next stage” review which will report by the end of the year. Education leaders responded with derision to the announcement. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union the NAHT, said: “It’s a damp squib — some focus in a couple of the right areas is simply not enough. The funding announced to back these plans is paltry . . . education recovery cannot be done on the cheap.”” – The Times

  • Pupils to be offered 100m hours of tuition in Covid catch-up plan – The Guardian

Comment:

Ann Widdecombe: Boris’ weak Covid wargame is recipe for disaster

“BORIS has made many mistakes in handling this pandemic, engaging in flip-flop, contradictory rules and the paralysis of fear but the greatest error of all can be held neither to his account nor to that of his government: the utter lack of effective preparation for an emergency of this nature and scale. Boris had been PM only for a few months when Covid struck the world, but what the heck were his predecessors doing? Government is supposed to prepare for worst-case scenarios in everything from war itself to terrorism, raging fires, severe floods, plagues, serious interruption of trade, prolonged strikes and anything else the human imagination can conjure up including contact from outer space. Its first duty is the protection of its citizens and they may need it as far afield as Gibraltar or the Falklands.” – Daily Express

Starmer sheds tears in Piers Morgan interview

“Sir Keir Starmer opened up about his troubled relationship with his “difficult” father in an emotional television interview with Piers Morgan broadcast last night. The Labour leader revealed the only time his father had told him he was proud of him was after he passed the 11-plus exam to gain entry to Reigate Grammar School. “He had real difficulty expressing his emotions,” he recounted. “He came up to my bedroom — ‘I’m proud of you’ — left. That’s the way he was.” In the interview for ITV’s Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, Starmer described his father, who died in 2018, as distant. “He was not emotional, he was a difficult man. He didn’t much like company, he didn’t go to the pub, or to restaurants.”” – The Times

  • ‘I’d knock Boris Johnson over on a football pitch’ says Starmer – as he tells Piers Morgan how he is ‘brimming with manly passion’ – Daily Mail

Sketch:

>Today:

Patel to make foreign health workers pay full price for visa

“Citizens of many European countries could lose the discount on their visa fee under Home Office plans. Priti Patel is considering withdrawing the UK from part of the European Social Charter that gives citizens of 26 countries a £55 discount on application fees for most worker visas. The workers who receive discounts include those in the healthcare and charity sectors, entrepreneurs and seasonal workers such as fruit pickers. In addition employers are exempt from a £199 fee usually paid as part of their sponsorship of foreign workers. Signatories to the Council of Europe’s Social Charter of 1961 are mostly, but not exclusively, EU member states. Non-EU signatories include Turkey and North Macedonia. The Council of Europe was created after the war and is distinct from the EU.” – The Times

Why the pandemic could bar thousands of people from renting in the future

“Hundreds of thousands of tenants will struggle to rent another home because of damage to their credit scores created during the pandemic, campaigners have warned. The National Residential Landlords Association, a trade body, warned that 210,000 tenants faced “severe difficulties” renting in the future because of damage to their credit scores over the past 14 months. It found in a survey that a quarter of tenants who had built up arrears since the first lockdown said their landlord had sought a court order against them. Successful court orders damage a tenant’s credit score, making it harder to rent again. Ben Beadle, of the NRLA, said: “Many tenants face the prospect of losing their home needlessly as landlords struggle to shoulder the cost of arrears.” Evictions using bailiffs resumed this week when the Government’s ban, which has been in place throughout the crisis in a bid to stay an impending wave of homelessness, came to an end.” – Daily Telegraph

Birmingham clean air zone charges delayed because public unaware of them

“Plans to charge drivers £8 to enter a clean air zone in Birmingham city centre have been put back by two weeks because too few knew about it. Enforcement of the scheme, which targets high-polluting vehicles, was due to begin yesterday, but has been delayed until June 14 after a city councillor said “not everybody in the city, despite all our extensive conversations, is aware of this particular project”. Waseem Zaffar, the council cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “Whilst we have agreed on a two-week soft launch period where people won’t have to pay, I would encourage everyone to use this time to check their vehicles, familiarise themselves with the process and check out the support that is still available through the Brum Breathes website.” The scheme had been due to begin last year but was postponed because of the pandemic. Zaffar told Birmingham Live: “In the first two weeks we won’t be seeking payment.”” – The Times

>Yesterday:

Journalists asked to share stories of abuse in government safety drive

“Journalists are being encouraged to share their experiences of being threatened, abused and intimidated as part of a government drive to protect their safety. The Home Office said the call for evidence would help to better understand the scale of the problem, the criminal justice system’s response to it and the impact that such incidents have on the industry. The National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists in the UK was formed after the government received reports of journalists facing abuse and attacks while going about their daily work – including being “punched, threatened with knives, forcibly detained, and subjected to rape and death threats” – and hopes to implement measures to tackle the problem. The Home Office has pledged more training for police officers and said it would seek commitments from social media companies and prosecutors to take tougher action against perpetrators.” – The Guardian

News in brief: