CASE SAYS CUMMINGS NOT IN THE CLEAR  IN CHATTY RAT ROW

The Telegraph reports that Dominic Cummings has not been cleared in the “chatty rat” leak inquiry, Britain’s top civil servant is expected to make clear on Monday as Number 10 fights back against his claims. Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, will be grilled by MPs about a string of allegations made by Mr Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, in a blog post. A Cabinet Office source said that, if asked, Mr Case will undercut two core claims made by Mr Cummings in his 1,000-word blog on Friday night. Mr Case’s office argues that the inquiry into who leaked plans for a second national lockdown in October is ongoing and nobody has been exonerated. That counters Mr Cummings’ claim that he was cleared by Mr Case of being the source – described as the “chatty rat” – who told reporters about the imminent lockdown. “His position will be that the inquiry is still open. With the inquiry still open, it would be wrong to say that anyone is absolutely in the clear,” a Cabinet Office source said. Mr Case is also expected to say publicly that Mr Johnson has not interfered in the inquiry, despite Mr Cummings claiming that the Prime Minister had considered doing just that.

BREXIT FISHERMEN TURN AGAINST BORIS

The Express reports BREXIT fishermen have turned against Boris Johnson over the Prime Minister’s trade deal, with many vowing not to vote for the Conservatives on May 6. Under the trade deal secured by Boris Johnson in December, the EU was allowed to keep 75 percent of the value of the fish it now catches in UK waters, with 25 percent being returned to British fishermen over the transition period. From 2026, Britain will be able to cut quotas or exclude boats in a zone of 6-12 nautical miles. It is also believed UK boats will have access to an extra £145million of fishing quota every year by this period. But Mr Johnson is facing a crisis after Cornish fishermen turn against the Conservative Party ahead of the local elections next month.  One fisherman, Michael Bosustow, said: “We are dying out here – we are all getting older and there aren’t enough youngsters following us.  We could have got more fish and created a better future for the youngsters.”

BOFFINS SAY SOCIAL DISTANCING SHOULD GO IN JUNE

The Telegraph reports that social distancing should be abolished in June to allow people “to take back control of their own lives”, a letter signed by 22 leading scientists and academics says. The open letter states that “a good society cannot be created by obsessive focus on a single cause of ill-health” and calls for all restrictions to be lifted on June 21 – the final date in Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.

SIR ISAAC NEWTON MAY HAVE BENEFITED FROM COLONIAL ERA ACTIVITY

The Telegraph reports that  Sir Isaac Newton has been labelled as a potential beneficiary of “colonial-era activity” in draft plans to “decolonise” the engineering curriculum at Sheffield University. Students learning about the mathematician and scientist’s three laws of motion, the core of modern physics, could see changes in their teaching to explain the “global origins and historical context” of his theories, documents suggest. The plans form part of the engineering faculty’s efforts to “challenge long-standing conscious and unconscious biases” among students to tackle “Eurocentric” and “white saviour” approaches to science and maths, and promote “inclusive design”.

BORIS TO BLAME FOR COVID DEATH TOTAL SAYS CUMMINGS

The Times reports that  Dominic Cummings is preparing a dossier of evidence that will attempt to blame Boris Johnson personally for the tens of thousands of deaths during the second wave of the pandemic. The Prime Minister’s former chief adviser is expected to use his select committee appearance before MPs next month to criticise his former boss for failures that have given Britain one of the worst death tolls in Europe. Last night, Cummings launched a fresh attack on the Prime Minister, suggesting the government had been too slow to shut the borders when the pandemic began. The former No 10 aide, who is seeking an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the response to the pandemic, appeared to criticise ministers for failing to introduce travel bans for more than nine months.

JABS FOR PEOPLE IN THEIR 30’s VERY SOON

The Mail reports that Britons in their 30s are set to be invited for Covid vaccines within days with officials close to securing tens of millions of Pfizer jabs. The new order of 40 million roughly doubles the UK’s original order and will arrive in time for a third booster dose to be given to elderly people in the autumn. If the negotiations are finalised, the extra stock could also be used for people in their twenties who will be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine. By the end of this week, people in their thirties will start to be invited for their vaccine appointments, according to The Sunday Times. It had previously been projected that the age group would have to wait until the second half of May but the rollout is running ahead of schedule. More than half of the population in the UK have now received their first dose, of which 12 million people have received their second.

BILL GATES SAYS BACK TO NORMAL IN 2022

The Mail reports that Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has expressed confidence that the world will be ‘completely back to normal’ by the end of 2022.  The Microsoft founder said he expected Covid infection levels to be reduced to ‘very small numbers’ by the end of next year as vaccines became increasingly available around the world. He said within ‘the next three or four months’ the US and other developed countries will start to have excess vaccines they can share with the developing world. Gates added that British voters should be ‘very proud’ of the role their country had played in supporting Gavi – the international vaccine alliance.

CONCERN OVER THE USE OF RAPID COVID TESTS

The Independent reports that the UK’s healthcare regulator has expressed concern to the government that its multi billion-pound mass testing programme is “a stretch” of the authorised use of rapid tests, the Guardian has learned. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the lateral flow devices to be used to find coronavirus cases but not to act as a “green light” for people who test negative to enjoy greater freedoms. The regulator is concerned that people who test negative will be given false reassurance by their result and will let down their guard if they believe they are Covid-free. There is very little data to show how well the Innova lateral flow devices detect the virus when used as a self-test by someone who has no symptoms. They are being used by millions of people a week in England under the government’s universal testing programme.

BORDER BETWEEN SCOTLAND AND ENGLAND LIKELY

The Independent reports that an independent Scotland would likely need a trade border with England, Nicola Sturgeon has conceded ahead of next month’s Scottish Parliament elections. The Scottish First minister, who polls say is heading for another majority, said she would do what she could to “keep trade flowing easily across the border”. But she warned that there would be challenges for cross-border businesses “because of the absurdity of Brexit and the Tory Brexit obsession”. And in an article published over the weekend Ms Sturgeon warned that it would be undemocratic for Boris Johnson to block another plebiscite if the Scottish Parliament carried a majority for independence.  “If there is a majority in the Scottish Parliament after this election for an independence referendum then Scotland must have the chance to put the recovery into Scotland’s hands,” she wrote in the Observer newspaper.

LABOUR TO BRING BACK MOTORWAY HARD SHOULDERS

The Independent reports that  the scrapped hard shoulder of smart motorways would be reinstated on “day one” of a Labour government, the party’s shadow transport secretary has said.  Some 204 miles of M-roads where the emergency lane has been replaced with a live traffic carriageway would be instantly turned back again, Jim McMahon has told The Independent. “We are clear,” he said. “On day one of a Labour government, the call will be made to Highways England and we will tell them to put a Red X on that lane, stop traffic using it straight away, and make it a hard shoulder again. On day one.”

MET POLICE ANGER AT DEMO VIOLENCE

The Independent reports that tensions are running high within the Metropolitan Police after another anti-lockdown protest descended into scenes of violence, with eight officers injured. Ken Marsh, the chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers in the force, said he would be raising the matter of the protest with senior management with “utmost urgency”. Demonstrators hurled bottles as officers attempted to disperse the crowds in Hyde Park on Saturday evening after a rally against restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Met said two officers were taken to hospital, although their injuries are not believed to be serious. The protest, which also took in Oxford Street, came almost two weeks after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. The Met said five people were arrested for offences including assault on police and public order offences.

AND FINALLY

The Sun reports Wembley Stadium hosted 8,000 football fans in the biggest UK Covid test event yet. The Spurs against Manchester City match kicked off at 4.30pm for the Carabao Cup final. All in attendance had to take a lateral flow coronavirus test at a designated site – not at home – 24 hours beforehand. They were also required to send off for a PCR Covid-19 test to take again within five days. Supporters under 18 were banned, and the clinically extremely vulnerable and pregnant women were also not welcome. The game formed part of the government’s Covid pilot event research, testing how to safely get life back to ‘normal’. It comes as government scientists said masks could be gone this summer, with face coverings being optional.

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