Boris Johnson’s under-fire chief adviser Dominic Cummings squashed a plan to delay Britain’s true Brexit day which was “all but agreed” while he and the Prime Minister were “laid out on their sickbeds”. Cummings, resented by much of the media establishment and the “deep state” for his role in the Vote Leave campaign and open disdain for journalists and bureaucrats, is currently the subject of a media circus over allegations he broke lockdown rules by travelling from London to Durham so his family could look after his young child if he and his wife were incapacitated by their coronavirus infections. Much to journalists’ chagrin, Boris Johnson has elected to stand by Cummings, saying he acted “responsibly, legally, and with integrity” — causing anti-Cummings commentators such as Piers Morgan of Good Morning Britain to demand that state officials scour his personal data for evidence of potential wrongdoing: Less extensively reported is the fact that, on recovering from the Chinese virus, one of Cummings’ first was to squash a plan “concocted by underlings” while he and the Prime Minister were laid low to delay Britain’s true Brexit day. Technically, the United Kingdom has already left the European Union, but it remains in a so-called “transition period” in which it remains subject to the bloc’s laws, trade policy, judges, and migration regime — effectively EU membership in all but name, but minus representation in EU institutions such as the Commission and the Court of Justice. Remainers had seen the coronavirus as an opportunity to extend this “transition”, currently due to expire in December 2020, and apparently a plan to do so had been “all but agreed at official level” while Johnson and his adviser were out of action.
Boris Johnson faces a backlash from cabinet ministers and senior MPs after insisting that Dominic Cummings acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity” amid claims that he broke coronavirus lockdown rules. The prime minister stepped in personally to take a press conference at No 10 yesterday. He said that Mr Cummings had followed the “instincts of every father” by driving from London to his parents’ home in Durham with his wife and child. After “extensive face-to-face conversations” with Mr Cummings, he concluded that his aide was travelling to find childcare after his wife showed symptoms of Covid-19.
Boris Johnson stepped in to protect Dominic Cummings on Sunday night in a move which caused alarm among some members of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister made an unscheduled appearance at a Downing Street press conference in which he defended his chief adviser against accusations that he breached lockdown rules, insisting he had “acted responsibly and legally and with integrity”. Cabinet colleagues, however, expressed fear that the move risked “seriously undermining” the Government’s lockdown strategy.
Boris Johnson was facing a furious Tory backlash at all levels of his party last night after he attempted to mount an extraordinary defence of Dominic Cummings. At a dramatic press conference in Downing Street, the Prime Minister claimed his chief aide had acted ‘responsibly, legally and with integrity’ while making a controversial 260-mile trip from London to Durham during lockdown. Mr Johnson insisted Mr Cummings had ‘followed the instincts of every father’ by driving to his parents’ farm after his wife developed symptoms of coronavirus.
The Civil Service Twitter account called Boris Johnson an “arrogant, offensive truth-twister” after the press conference during which he defended his chief advisor. A tweet from the account read: “Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth-twisters?” The statement remained up for nine minutes, during which time it received 30,000 retweets. It is not yet clear whether the account was hacked, or whether it was posted by a disgruntled member of the civil service.
An investigation has tonight been launched after an ‘unauthorised’ message was posted on the civil service’s Twitter account which appeared to take a swipe at the UK government. The UK Civil Service Twitter account, which is verified and followed by more than 240,000 people, was used to tweet out the message: ‘Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?’
The civil service prides itself on its non-partisanship and never passing judgment on the government of the day. Since its creation it has been a non-partisan organisation that serves the government regardless of which party is in power. But for 11 minutes yesterday a message appeared on its official Twitter account that was less Yes Minister and much more like The Thick of It. About 20 minutes after Boris Johnson had concluded a daily Downing Street press conference in which he defended Dominic Cummings, his senior adviser who had admitted travelling more than 250 miles to his parents’ home in Durham during the lockdown, the @UKCivil Service account posted: “Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?”
THE UK has been accused of making “fanciful demands” of the European Union during post-Brexit trade talks, in a move described by one political expert as “beyond audacious” and a strategy that could completely derail already-fragile negotiations. Boris Johnson successfully signed a withdrawal agreement with the European Union towards the end of last year, with the inclusion of small amendments to the Irish backstop, an issue that was a thorn in the attempts of predecessor Theresa May to get her deal voted through the UK parliament.
EU nationals in the UK are at risk of being denied full citizenship after the Home Office threw up new barriers, despite ministers insisting “we want you to stay”. Fast-track rules had been expected for the estimated 3.6 million people currently applying to remain in the UK, as many seek the extra security of permanent residency rights. However, under changes slipped out on a Friday earlier this month, some EU nationals have now been told to produce further evidence that they have been living in the UK legally – even after securing so-called “settled status“.
LIZ TRUSS, the International Trade Secretary, has come under fire after she was accused of giving way on key aspects of environmental and animal rights guidelines to reach a trade deal with the US. The National Farmers Union (NFU) has raised concerns that Ms Truss will concede in key issues to reach an agreement with the Trump administration by the end of the year. According to the 2019 Conservative manifesto such guidelines would not be jeopardised.
HOME Secretary Priti Patel is planning on changing international law in the Channel to close a loophole that is allowing hundreds of illegal migrants to cross over from France. Ms Patel has been described as “furious” about the crisis which was highlighted by Nigel Farage last week and has vowed to put a stop to it. Tensions have also been raised with the French over allegations that their authorities are escorting boats of illegal migrants into British waters from camps in northern France. And Mr Farage warned that over the summer the Kent coastline is “facing an invasion” unless swift action is taken.
The leader of Kent County Council, Roger Gough, said that the number of migrants claiming to be unaccompanied minors crossing the English Channel has reached “unsustainable” levels, adding that the county is being “overwhelmed” as illegal boat migration soars. Councillor Gough said that the number of migrants landing in Kent were quickly heading to levels not seen since the 2015 migrant crisis, claiming that 180 alleged minors have been brought ashore at Kent since the beginning of the year — twice as much as were reported during the same time period last year.
Lockdown restrictions will be eased to allow greater “social contact” and the reopening of non-essential shops, Boris Johnson has suggested. The Prime Minister on Sunday night promised to reveal details of less draconian measures – which could include more mixing between households – in the coming days. The rules were relaxed slightly a fortnight ago to allow members of one household to meet a maximum of one person from a different household in a public place, provided they stay two metres apart.
Boris Johnson has suggested non-essential shops could soon reopen and family ‘bubbles’ be extended as he told Britons lockdown measures may be further eased this week. Draconian measures put in place on March 23 to limit the spread of coronavirus were relaxed two weeks ago to allow households to meet one person from another in an outdoor space, so long as they remain two metres apart. Britons were also permitted to partake in unlimited exercise, use outdoor sports courts and facilities and visit garden centres while pubs, restaurants and bars stay shut.
The Government could reopen market stalls, allow garden parties and car showrooms in the next phase of its coronavirus lockdown plan which is likely to be announced Tuesday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to update ministers on Monday about his plans with proposals set to be announced on Tuesday when the PM hosts the Downing Street meeting. He is said to be gearing up to open markets, car showrooms, National Trust sites, some non-essential shops and allow garden parties.
Coronavirus patients can’t infect others after 11 days of being ill even if their test still comes back positive, scientists find. An infected person becomes contagious around two days before symptoms show, researchers from Singapore found. They then remain contagious for between seven and ten days after they start showing signs of the disease – which include having a high temperature and a new and continuous cough. Covid-19 ‘could not be isolated or cultured after day 11’ of the illness, researchers said.
Track & trace
A modified track and trace system to be announced this week will be entirely reliant on the public handing over key personal data to call centre workers, amid warnings it will prompt a slew of phishing scams. The system will not involve the app but will instead require medical professionals to call those tested for coronavirus and ask them to provide the names and contact details of everyone they have spent any time with in previous days. But privacy and data protection experts said it would need the public’s full confidence if they were to be expected to divulge such information to a stranger on the phone, warning that such trust was currently lacking.
The government’s flagship test-and-trace system will launch at the end of this week, just ahead of Boris Johnson’s June deadline. Ministers have recruited 25,000 contact tracers as part of what they say will be the largest virtual call centre operation in the country. But the much lauded NHS app is not expected to be ready in time for the launch. No 10 said last week that the app, which has been trialled on the Isle of Wight, would be ready within weeks.
Primary schools in England will reopen next Monday as part of plans for the next phase of eased lockdown restrictions, Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday. The prime minister said at his Downing Street press conference that primaries would reopen their gates to priority year groups but acknowledged for the first time that some would not. He also set a date of June 15 for secondary schools to host groups of Year 10 and Year 12 pupils to meet subject teachers. He made no mention of the plan for primaries to reopen to all year groups by late June.
THE Prime Minister ordered primary schools to reopen their gates from June 1 in a surprise announcement on Sunday. But critics said the announcement was an attempt to shift the spotlight away from the Dominic Cummings row. Boris Johnson said returning kids to their classrooms is crucial for their “health, welfare and long term future”. But he admitted it may “not be possible” for all to reopen by the start of the month. Secondaries will start reopening a fortnight later, on June 15, so Year 10 and Year 12 can have “some contact” to help prepare for GCSEs and A-levels, he said.
The Prime Minister is sticking to his date for schools opening but acknowledged “it may not be possible” for all of them to do so by June 1. Speaking at the Downing Street press briefing, Boris Johnson said, despite resistance from many councils, the Government planned to push ahead with the opening date. “We said we would begin with early years’ settings and reception, year one, and year six in primary schools,” he said. Mr Johnson said: “Today, I can announce it is our intention to go ahead with that as planned on June 1, a week on Monday.
Schools in Britain will start to reopen on June 1, the government has today announced. In a briefing to the nation this evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said some primary schools will open at the start of next month, with secondary schools to provide ‘some contact’ from 15 June. Reception, year one and year six classes will be the first to return to primary schools on June 1, Mr Johnson confirmed. It comes after weeks of wrangling between the government and teachers’ unions over coronavirus safety concerns.
Boris Johnson is pressing ahead with plans to reopen schools on 1 June but moved to appease councils and teaching unions by acknowledging for the first time that primary schools in England won’t have to reopen to more pupils until they are prepared. The acknowledgment by the prime minister came in his opening statement at the daily Covid-19 press conference on Sunday, in which Johnson said the government wanted primary schools to plan for allowing pupils in reception, year one and year six to return on 1 June.
A major teaching union has warned that Boris Johnson‘s decision to press ahead with a partial reopening of primary schools in England on 1 June is “seriously at odds” with scientific evidence about the risk of coronavirus infection to pupils, teachers and parents sparking a second wave of Covid-19. And a second union said it would not be right for schools – which have been open only to vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers during lockdown – to open more widely at the start of next month. Speaking at the daily Downing Street Covid-19 briefing, the prime minister made clear it was his intention to reopen early-years settings like nurseries as well as the reception and years one and six of primaries from the first Monday in June as he moves the country into step 2 of his exit strategy from lockdown.
Before lockdown, school WhatsApp groups were a slightly bothersome but useful way to remember World Book Day and the after-school cake sale. But in recent weeks, they have become vicious battlegrounds, with parents fighting over whether some children should or should not return to school next month — lobbing verbal missiles at each other as they entrench deeper into their views. “It’s like a civil war has broken out on class WhatsApp groups,” says Caroline*, a mother-of-two from Hertfordshire. “There’s a lot of parent-shaming going on. The parents who can, but aren’t, sending their children back on June 1 are being quite militant.
It is a month since Matt Hancock, the health secretary, pledged that the NHS would open again “within very short order” for routine care. A vast amount of non-coronavirus services were halted in the face of the pandemic. Operating theatres were turned into overspill intensive care units. Other patients were told to keep away from hospitals because of fears of spreading the virus. While some care can be delivered remotely, some cannot. However, restarting services — and dealing with a huge backlog — is proving trickier than stopping them.
Britain could lose almost a third of its care home beds in the next five years because 6,500 properties are “not fit for purpose” and are at risk of closing without new investment, a report has warned. The country faces a “national bed crisis” without a £15 billion upgrade, Knight Frank, the property consultancy says, despite an aging population that suggests demand will rise. Care homes have accounted for a quarter of all deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.
The criminal justice system in England and Wales is facing a backlog of 40,000 criminal cases, which will not be solved even if all crown courts are brought into service under physical distancing rules, the Criminal Bar Association has warned. The scale of the challenge to the justice system posed by the coronavirus pandemic is becoming apparent, as virtual hearings transform business in the higher civil courts but trigger alarms about the fairness of remote proceedings in the family and lower courts.
Elite combat and team sports have been given permission to resume full-contact training for the first time since March, even if they do not have a coronavirus testing process in place. While Premier League footballers have already begun twice-weekly tests for their players and staff, at a cost of £4 million, a similar programme is not a requirement in the new government guidance for elite sports. Step two of the guidance was published at midnight and will allow organised close contact training, such as tackling, one-on-one sparring in combat sports, coaching from inside two metres and certain shared equipment.
Amazon is selling hundreds of products that make bogus claims to shield consumers from 5G mobile signals, despite warnings from watchdogs that there is no evidence such devices work. The retail giant is peddling underwear, stickers, blankets and even a pill that falsely purport to protect users from electromagnetic radiation and 5G. The US Federal Trade Commission has warned there is “no scientific proof that so-called shields significantly reduce exposure from these electromagnetic emissions”.
Boris Johnson is reconsidering his controversial decision to give Huawei access to Britain’s 5G network after fresh security warnings by spy chiefs. Intelligence agencies are reviewing advice given to No 10 amid concerns new US sanctions on the Chinese company could scupper the goal of bringing in the superfast broadband technology nationwide. In January, the cyber wing of GCHQ said the risk associated with letting Huawei into the broadband could be mitigated – but a change of advice could force Mr Johnson to pull plans to use the firm’s kit in 35 per cent of the network.