Brexit

Express
THE “BULLYING” European Union will cave to the UK’s demands for a comprehensive post-Brexit free trade deal, with the creaking eurozone on the verge of collapse from the trillions of pounds being spent on the coronavirus crisis, voters in an Express.co.uk poll have claimed. Boris Johnson has until June 30 to extend the transition period but is gallantly refusing to do so beyond the end of this year, despite the COVID-19 outbreak inflicting chaos on the bloc and Brexit talks virtually grounding to a halt. There is now mounting pressure on European Union leaders to agree a comprehensive free trade agreement over the coming months – with the prospect of a no deal growing ever stronger. Fears are also growing among politicians in Europe believe failing to reach an agreement would be disastrous for the EU, with the bloc already heading for financial turmoil. The coronavirus pandemic continuing to sweep through Europe has further intensified concerns over the eurozone, which was already under huge strain even before the deadly virus hit.

Guardian
Brexit talks on the future relationship between the UK and the EU resumed this week after a six-week interruption caused by coronavirus. Over five days and 40 video sessions, 10 negotiating teams were expected to provide an urgent “refocus” before the 30 June deadline for both sides to formally agree to extend the transition period if the UK asks for one. Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator, will host a press conference at noon on Friday in Brussels to give updates, but his team were told on Monday that Boris Johnson was not budging on the issue of the extensions.

Covid spread

Telegraph
Across the globe, debate is raging about the best way to tackle the spread of coronavirus, with countries adopting radically different approaches in the fight against the disease. But one Israeli professor claims that all efforts will lead to the same result, because the disease is self-limiting, and largely vanishes after 70 days, with or without any interventions. Prof Isaac Ben-Israel, head of the Security Studies program at Tel Aviv University and the chairman of the National Council for Research and Development, claims that his analysis proves Covid-19 peaks at 40 days before rapidly declining.  Major General Ben-Israel, who was also head of the Analysis and Assessment Division of the Israeli Air Force Intelligence Directorate and former chief Cybernetics adviser to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claims shutting down major economies is having devastating consequences for little gain.

Boris

Telegraph
Boris Johnson is planning to return to No 10 as early as Monday to take back control of the coronavirus crisis amid Cabinet concerns the lockdown has gone too far. The Prime Minister has told aides to schedule catch-up meetings with individual Cabinet ministers next week to get fully up to speed. He will return at a critical time, with the country more than a month into lockdown, and ministers are relying on him to inject fresh impetus into plans for an exit strategy. Senior Cabinet ministers are concerned that a prolonged shutdown will lead to tens of thousands of companies collapsing and inflict irreparable damage to the economy.

Mail
Boris Johnson is reportedly planning to return to work on Monday to take control of the coronavirus crisis – as Donald Trump says the recovering Prime Minister sounded ‘incredible’ in his call to the White House. The Prime Minister has been recovering at his countryside retreat in Chequers after being discharged from hospital earlier this month. Mr Johnson – who spent three days in the ICU and seven in hospital – has told his aides to set up meetings with cabinet ministers next week to get him up to speed, as reported by The Telegraph.

Star
Boris Johnson is planning to get back to work as early as Monday after battling from the life-threatening coronavirus, reports claim. The Prime Minister is said to have discussed potential catch-up meetings with Cabinet ministers and aides.  His return would see him taking back control of the coronavirus crisis which has placed the UK on a strict lockdown since last month. It has been reported ministers are relying on him to direct an exit strategy as the end of lockdown remains in questions and a topic of debate. This week Boris Johnson told colleagues that lifting the UK’s coronavirus lockdown too early could result in a deadly “second wave” of the disease, insiders claim.

Vaccine

Telegraph
Matt Hancock has insisted Britons must be first in the queue for any UK-developed coronavirus vaccine amid a growing row in the Government over the issue. Downing Street and its scientific advisers are refusing to make any promises over the UK distribution of a British-made vaccine, partly to hedge their bets in case another country produces one first. But the Health Secretary is determined that British taxpayers – who are funding two UK vaccine programmes at a cost of £42 million – should be the first to see the benefit if either of the projects is successful. A Department of Health and Social Care source said: “Matt is the UK Health Secretary, and his job is to protect the UK health service and the UK population.

Mail
Volunteers for an experimental coronavirus vaccine trial have received their first doses as scientists desperately try to fight the illness which has now claimed the lives of 18,738 in the UK.  Scientists at the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, have begun the first human trial in Europe by administering the trial injections, which were developed in under three months, to more than 800 volunteers on Thursday. And Health Secretary Matt Hancock has insisted that Britons will be first in the queue for any successful UK-developed vaccine from the £42 million programmes.

Morning Star
NEARLY 2,000 people from more than 40 countries have registered to take part in a controversial human trial to speed up development of a coronavirus vaccine, science journal Nature reported today. The exercise, known as a “human-challenge trial,” would see healthy young volunteers deliberately infected with the virus. This would allow faster progress than typical vaccine trials, which take longer because they involve thousands of people receiving a vaccine or placebo and researchers then tracking those who become infected.

Times
The first British human trial of a coronavirus vaccine began as two volunteers were injected in Oxford yesterday. Elisa Granato, a microbiologist, was the first to take part in the potentially groundbreaking study, followed by Edward O’Neill, a cancer researcher. Scientists administered the first dose of a potential vaccine to one of them, while the other was given a meningitis vaccine used for comparison in the trial. Ms Granato, who turned 32 yesterday, said that she was “excited” to support the advance of science.

Guido
Dr Emily Cousens, a lecturer at Oxford and LSE, has today stolen the OpEd spotlight today with a piece in the Huffington Post, which prays that Oxford does not win the race to develop a vaccine for her fear that “it will be used as it has been in the past, to fulfil its political, patriotic function as proof of British excellence.” Cousens is studying for a PhD in gender studies sat Oxford Brookes, so she knows what she’s talking about… Emily predicts that, while Britain was too late when it came to stockpiling PPE, we won’t be caught out again and a vaccine, should we create one, “and it will be Britons who are prioritised for protection.” Emily goes on to imagine that, “If there is enough vaccine to go round, the UK will be the world’s saviour.

Lockdown

Mail
Guernsey is already on its way out of coronavirus lockdown as gardeners, mechanics, estate agents and builders can return to work from Saturday – while in Britain huge queues formed up outside B&Q stores and Five Guys burger restaurants yesterday, despite the ongoing lockdown.  Some businesses on the Channel Island – which is a self-governing British Crown dependency – have been told they may start fully or partially operating again from Saturday. They include gardening, building and other trades with no household contact, building wholesale and supply and vehicle servicing, maintenance and repairs.

Sun
MINISTERS fear hairdressers will have to remain shut for six more months, turning Britain into a nation of long-haired scruffs. Government scientists working on the coronavirus lockdown have found no safe way for salons to reopen, The Sun can reveal. The experts think it is impossible to carry out haircuts without increasing the risk of spreading the virus. Senior government figures expect that leaves them with no choice but to order them to remain shut for as long as epidemic is still going, which is projected to be throughout the summer. Beauticians and nail salons are also expected to be issued with the same grim verdict to stay closed.

Independent
Ministers have finally revealed a long-demanded “exit strategy” from the coronavirus  lockdown with a plan to recruit an army of 18,000 people to trace and isolate infected people – allowing restrictions to be eased, they hope. Five weeks after the World Health Organisation urged all nations to “test, test, test” – a plea rejected by the UK at the time – it was announced that the mass contact tracing programme would begin “in a matter of weeks”. For the first time, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, drew a direct connection between community testing and hopes that the shutdown of the economy and society can be softened in the months to come.

iNews
Ministers are facing increasing calls to ease the lockdown amid fears of irrecoverable damage to some ­businesses and long-term harm to the economy. With the next review of the lockdown not due for another two weeks and the government insisting five tests must be met before life can start to return to normal, senior Tory MPs have been calling for ­restrictions in some sectors to be lifted earlier. But the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, urged the nation to “maintain our resolve” and said that it would be a “mistake” to ease off too early in case it led to a second peak of coronavirus and caused even more damage to the economy.

Testing

Independent
Essential workers and their families will be able to book a coronavirus test on the government website from Friday, as ministers scramble to reach their target of 100,000 tests per day in seven days’ time. Expanding the criteria of those who can be tested for covid-19, Matt Hancock said all vital workers will be able to book an appointment, with the ultimate goal of providing tests to “everyone” in the country who could “benefit from a test”. It comes as the government faces escalating criticism over the number of daily tests conducted across the country – with just 23,000 swabs taken in the last 24 hours, despite a capacity now exceeding 50,000 tests per day.

Mirror
Ten million people will be eligible for Covid-19 tests if they need them from tomorrow (Friday), the government has pledged. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said any “essential worker” in England will be able to get tests by booking online – and so will members of their household. Downing Street tonight claimed the pledge meant testing is now open to around 10million people in England in total. Mr Hancock claimed the pledge was “all part of getting Britain back on her feet”.

BBC News
Up to 10 million key workers and their households can now book a coronavirus test online or through their employer. The move allows all essential workers in England to register for tests on the government’s website, if they or a family member have virus symptoms. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the expanded testing programme was “part of getting Britain back on her feet”. But the government remains some way short of its target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of this month.

ITV News
A new test is being developed which could detect whether people who have had coronavirus are still infectious. Scientists are creating a test to detect how much active virus an infected person is harbouring – known as viral load. Unlike current tests, which do not separately measure the non-infectious and the active parts of the virus, the team is refining a test which could tell users not only whether they are carrying active virus, but also how much. This could help healthcare workers and others know when they are safe to return to work.

iNews
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the UK cannot rely on apps to track the spread of Covid-19, and pointed to the low death rates in countries such as Korea and Germany to show the necessity of increasing testing for coronavirus and contact tracing. Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston on Wednesday night, the MP said the UK should not follow the same path of Singapore, where, despite a “high-tech population”, only 20 percent of people have downloaded a contact tracing application.

Contact tracing

Telegraph
Countries around the world are rushing to launch contact tracing apps to identify who an infected person has had contact with, as part of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  The UK Government has announced the infrastructure was being put in place so that contact tracing could be rolled out on a large scale. “As we look ahead, this is critical to keep the virus under control,” he said on Thursday. Mr Hancock said a new NHS contact tracing app was undergoing testing.

Telegraph
The Government’s strategy for mass contact tracing is facing questions after scientists suggested the UK needed to recruit up to five times more people than planned. Ministers announced on Thursday that 18,000 contact tracers including 3,000 health professionals would be deployed to suppress the spread of coronavirus by tracing anybody suspected of having contracted the disease. But leading scientists said the UK would need to recruit an army of as many as 100,000 contact tracers for the approach to be effective. Public health chiefs suggested the contact tracing programme might last until 2024 and beyond.

Screening

Mail
The boss of Heathrow is urging ministers to introduce mass screening at airports, the Daily Mail can reveal.  In a major intervention, chief executive John Holland-Kaye is writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to demand stringent regulations to combat coronavirus.  The airport’s bosses want an internationally agreed standard of measures, which could include temperature checks, antibody tests and a requirement that all passengers carry health passports proving they are medically fit.

Social care

Times
Staff at care homes, GP surgeries and hospices will have to wait at least a month for government-supplied personal protective equipment, prompting criticism that they are being treated as second-class citizens. An online portal allowing primary and social care providers to order PPE, which had been due to start operating early this month, is now not expected to be in full operation for another five weeks, The Times can reveal. Police forces have also been told to expect no deliveries of PPE for community use to local “resilience forums” — an alliance of blue light services, NHS and local authorities that respond to emergencies — until the end of May.

EU

Mail
The coronavirus pandemic is causing an ‘unprecedented’ collapse in the eurozone  economy, a closely-watched indicator revealed today.  The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) released by analysis firm IHS Markit showed the ‘steepest falls in business activity and employment ever recorded’ during April because of the economic standstill caused by the virus.  The PMI figure dived to a record low of 13.5 in April, from a previous all-time low of 29.7 in March. Anything below 50 signals a contraction.

PPE

Guido
Remember Julie Heselwood, the Labour Party councillor who promoted a crass conspiracy theory about the Prime Minister’s battle with coronavirus? She has subsequently lost her job as “deputy executive member for learning, skills and employment”. It seems her apology did not do the trick. Although she remains a councillor… Another Labour Party activist who appears to remain in post, however, is Kate Sheehan – a Rochford and Southend CLP vice chair and nurse who deleted all her tweets after multiple media outlets picked up on her tweet about not having enough PPE, while she was donating other PPE elsewhere.

Telegraph
Two doctors are launching legal action against the Government’s guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals during the coronavirus outbreak. Meenal Viz and Nishant Joshi, a husband and wife expecting a child, have been exposed to patients with Covid-19 and are concerned that current PPE guidance and availability are inadequate to protect them from infection. Dr Viz is a clinical fellow in medicine and Dr Joshi is a GP trainee. Both are employed by the NHS. “We are incredibly concerned at the ever-growing numbers of healthcare workers who are becoming seriously unwell and dying due to Covid-19,” they said in a statement issued by law firm Bindmans.

Breitbart
A senior official at NHS Supply Chain has accused some National Health Service trusts of hoarding personal protective equipment (PPE). Meanwhile, military sources have condemned the socialised health service’s “appalling” distribution network. Speaking to customers of the organisation that acquires materials for the NHS, Rachel Repper said that some trusts failing to return delivery cages “indicates that there is stockpiling going on locally because that is where product is being held… within hospital estates”.

Land army

Times
An online service to mobilise a “land army” of farm workers was launched by the government yesterday as it was revealed that experienced Romanian staff are training some of the British recruits. “Pick for Britain” aims to help recruit the 80,000 seasonal fruit and vegetable pickers that farmers say are needed for the harvest, without whom crops will be left to rot. Some British workers say they have struggled to find suitable picking jobs and claimed that farmers and employment agencies are favouring experienced migrants who traditionally fill the roles.

ITV News
There can be few more screeching handbrake career turns than going from the glamour of working on a fashion shoot in Sydney to picking vegetables in a windswept field in Essex. Robyn Philip is part of a new ‘land army’ of key workers: essential to keeping our food supply chain going as it faces its biggest test since World War Two. I meet her as she comes back to her caravan, after a morning picking asparagus. “I think I’d like to look back on this time thinking I’d done something for the community rather than sit at home waiting for jobs to come back”, she says.

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