Brussels has warned Britain it risks costly lawsuits in the European Court of Justice if it fails to extend coronavirus quarantine measures to all EU citizens. Britain is considering exempting France from rules to make people self isolate 14 days upon arrival, but the European Commission said the offer should be extended to any of the other 26 EU member states with a similar coronavirus risk profile. Leading Euroseptics on Wednesday urged the Government to ignore the threat, and called upon it to act ruthlessly in the national interest. Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said, “So what? We make the judgement about what works for the greater safety of people in the UK not them.”
Ireland may force people to isolate for 14 days after arriving in the country as part of tougher coronavirus measures, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said. The new legally-enforceable system would replace the current system where a 14-day quarantine is only advised. It comes after Boris Johnson announced similar rules for the UK, expected to come into force next month. ‘We may need to tighten it up a bit because at the moment it is advisory, it is not enforceable by the law,’ Varadkar told Today FM radio. Restrictions on entering Ireland would need to be in place ‘at least until we have some kind of international agreement’ on air travel, Varadkar said.
LORD ADONIS has sparked fury on social media after suggesting the UK should have no hesitation in extending the post-Brexit transition period with the European Union. In a post on Twitter, Lord Adonis indicated the whole nation wanted the UK to extend the negotiating period beyond December 31 – however, the ardent Remainer was quickly reminded that this was not the case by furious Brexiteers. The Labour Life Peer wrote on Twitter: “The Brexit transition period should obviously be extended. No-one serious thinks otherwise.”
The government has privately conceded there will be post-Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, months after Boris Johnson insisted there would be no such trade barriers. In a letter to the executive office in Stormont the government confirmed there would be border control posts in three ports, Belfast, Warrenpoint and Larne. Declan Kearney, one of the two junior ministers in the executive office, the regional equivalent of the Cabinet Office in London, confirmed the details at a select committee session in Belfast on Wednesday.
THE government admitted to Express.co.uk there will be checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea after Brexit, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson claiming last year that this would not be the case. The revelation came in a letter by the government to Stormont – the parliament buildings in Northern Ireland – that said there would be border control points in three NI ports, the Guardian has said. These ports are said to be at Belfast, Warrenpoint, and Larne.
EU diplomats have dismissed Michael Gove’s suggestion that Brussels and the UK could negotiate a trade deal with tariffs on goods in six months, saying it “will never happen”. Giving evidence to the House of Lords EU committee last week, Gove said the government could “modify our ask” by giving up on a “zero-tariff, zero-quota” trade deal in order to keep the UK free from a duty to adhere to European standards on workers’ rights, environmental protection and state aid. Saying the UK might “end up like Canada”, which signed a trade deal with the EU including some tariffs and quotas on agricultural goods, Gove said: “We will regret that, we will think that it is a missed opportunity, but if that is the price that we have to pay then there we go.”
THE EUROPEAN UNION is facing tension between countries as states are said to be stealing PPE and ventilators from each other, according to George Galloway. EU member states faced a shortage of medical supplies at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic as George Galloway has exposed the infighting inside the bloc over the past few months. He launched a scathing attack on the EU for leaving countries without PPE and explained they are far from a union. The former Labour MP accused Brussels leadership of a catastrophe with no intention of sharing the financial burden.
Tourists can expect to find robots patrolling and policing their holiday destinations to enforce social distancing rules under EU plans to save the summer break. As well as mobile apps to track or trace infections, European Commission proposals for tourism envisage “artificial intelligence and robotics [to] underpin public health measures”. Robots or drones will be used in places such as airports or crowded restaurants in resorts to make sure people keep at least 1.5m apart and could be equipped with “infrared cameras measuring temperature at a distance”.
ROBOTS are set to patrol tourist hotspots checking people are obeying social distancing rules under Brussels’ blueprint for the holidays of the future. The EU Commission released a plan to get travel up and running across the continent yesterday that will see a radical overhaul of summer breaks. Under it artificial intelligence may be deployed for crowd control, disinfecting public spaces, and to run smart booking systems. Economy chief Paolo Gentiloni vowed: “Our message is we will have a tourist season this summer even if it’s with security measures and limitations.”
Germany is planning to ease border controls with some European neighbors beginning this weekend as the European Union seeks to open tourism in regions hard-hit by the coronavirus. All border crossings with France, Switzerland and Austria will be opened Saturday and authorities will carry out checks randomly, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday. During the height of the lockdown, only select border points remained open with restrictions. Germany imposed checks on its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark on March 16 and people “without a valid reason to travel” haven’t been allowed to cross.
The European Commission will unveil a roadmap to revive the hard-hit travel and tourism industry this summer offering guidance on reopening national borders, compensating cancelled flights, and ensuring social distancing at holiday resorts. The advice, which comes as European countries slowly ease their coronavirus lockdown restrictions, could salvage some of the summer season. Entitled ‘Europe needs a rest’, the guidance attempts to balance the economic benefits from restoring transport across the European Union with the risks in a potential resurgence of virus cases.
Spain is considering becoming the first country in Europe to make the wearing of facemasks in public places mandatory, even though their effectiveness in containing the pandemic has been questioned throughout the continent. Madrid has asked regional leaders for their opinion about whether masks should be made obligatory for all people in public places, including streets, or whether they should merely be recommended. “If it is decided to make it compulsory, there are many other factors that will have to be assessed,” Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s emergency health response, said yesterday.
Boris Johnson was last night warned against raising taxes to pay for the coronavirus bailout debts, as senior Conservatives said it would only prolong the pain from any impending recession. Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday warned the country ‘will face a significant recession this year’ after much of the economy was shut down in a bid to control coronavirus. And leaked Treasury documents yesterday put the cost of coronavirus to the UK economy at around £300bn this year, sparking fears taxes would have to rise and the triple-lock on pensions could be axed to foot the bill.
RISHI Sunak yesterday braced Britain for a “significant recession”, but it has emerged hard-working frontline heroes won’t be paying for it. After the coronavirus pandemic struck, national economic growth slumped by a massive 5.8 per cent in just March alone, it was revealed today. The collapse is the largest ever monthly slump on record. The Treasury has predicted that the pandemic will cost the exchequer £300 billion this year. It could require income-tax rises, a two-year public pay freeze and an end to the triple lock on state pensions.
In the first three months of 2020, the British economy contracted at the fastest rate since the 2008 financial collapse, despite coronavirus lockdown measures only being implemented in the final week of March. The first quarter of the year saw a 2 per cent fall in GDP in the UK, the worst fall since the final quarter of 2008. The decline was driven in large part by March, which alone saw a record 5.8 per cent drop in GDP. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the economy saw “widespread” declines in the service, manufacturing and construction industries, with the service sector falling by 1.9 per cent, production by 2.1 per cent, and construction by 2.6 per cent.
The return of commuters to work is likely to trigger a fresh Covid-19 epidemic, says new research that warns ministers have underestimated the danger. The study from at the University of Sussex calculates the sharp drop in travel was the main reason coronavirus was brought under control – and, therefore, more transport use carries a large risk of a second spike in infections. The warning comes amid scenes of packed Tube trains and buses in London after Boris Johnson “actively encouraged” more staff to return to workplaces, even before new guidance was released.
Stock markets tumbled on Wednesday on fears about a second wave of coronavirus infections and warnings about the severity of the recession. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that the US faces a “significantly worse” recession than any downturn since World War Two. Wall Street posted a second straight day of steep declines. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 516.81 points, or 2.17 per cent, to 23,247.97.
It will be months before the NHS is able to fully restart services in the face of Covid-19, health leaders have warned. Experts from the Health Foundation, the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust will tell MPs on Thursday of the significant challenges facing the health service as it tries to create a “new normal”. It comes as NHS waiting list data is due to be published which is expected to show the number of people waiting for treatment has swollen during the pandemic.
Dozens of NHS staff were allowed to keep working in the health service despite testing positive for coronavirus during a scientific trial, it has emerged. Since the end of March, a team from Barts Health NHS Trust, University College London and Queen Mary University of London has carried out weekly tests on 400 doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to learn more about the virus and calculate the number of asymptomatic carriers. During that time, 44 members of NHS staff tested positive, yet none were told they had the virus and they have still not been informed.
A COMMON antidepressant could help to ease the symptoms of coronavirus, scientists say.Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in the US are examining the effectiveness of fluvoxamine against Covid-19. Fluvoxamine belongs to a group of medicines called SSRI antidepressants and it is normally prescribed for either the treatment of depression or for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, the researchers believe the drug may help to prevent “cytokine storms” – which is where the immune system goes into overdrive and floods the body with immune cell mediators called cytokines in response to Covid-19.
A coronavirus antibody test kit has been approved by Public Health England (PHE), The Telegraph has learned, in a breakthrough that could be key to easing the UK’s lockdown restrictions. The Telegraph understands that the Department of Health is in negotiations with the Swiss healthcare company Roche to buy millions of the kits. The accuracy of the test was given approval by experts at PHE’s Porton Down facility last week. On Wednesday night, Roche said it stood ready to provide hundreds of thousands of laboratory-based tests to the NHS each week.
A new test to determine whether people have ever been infected with coronavirus is 100% accurate, public health leaders have said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously called antibody testing a “game-changer” as it may reveal how many people have had Covid-19 without any symptoms and so may be immune. Any reliable test may help speed up measures to ease the lockdown because people could go back to work confident they were not likely to get it again. Public Health England (PHE) said last week scientific experts at its Porton Down facility had carried out an independent evaluation of a new antibody blood test developed by a Swiss pharmaceutical company.
Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG (ROG.S) said on Wednesday it was in talks with the UK government to roll out its coronavirus antibody test kits in the country after Public Health England (PHE) found them reliable. PHE, which conducted an independent evaluation of Roche’s antibody test last week, said it found Roche’s assay has a specificity of 100%. “This is a very positive development because such a highly specific anti-body test is a very reliable marker of past infection,” UK’s coronavirus testing programme coordinator John Newton said. “This in turn may indicate some immunity to future infection although the extent to which the presence of anti-bodies indicates immunity remains unclear,” Newton added.
A test to tell whether someone has had Covid-19 has passed Public Health England checks in a long-awaited development that Boris Johnson previously said would be a “game-changer”. The blood test detects antibodies in patients who have been exposed to the virus, even if they never developed symptoms. The approval paves the way for it to be used as part of a mass NHS antibody testing programme. This will allow officials to gauge how extensively the virus has spread and could give those who test positive more freedom under mooted plans for “immunity passports”.
A new coronavirus antibody test which could prove vital to easing lockdown restrictions has been found to be 100 per cent accurate and is now approved for public use in the UK, public health bosses said last night. The test, which Boris Johnson previously called a ‘game-changer’, will identity all those who have had Covid-19, people who could be immune from re-catching for up to three years. The Government was yesterday in talks with Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant behind the test, to buy millions of the kits. Public Health England (PHE) announced scientific experts had carried out an independent evaluation of the antibody blood test at its Porton Down facility, and found its results to be ‘highly specific’, identifying every sample from someone who had previously tested positive for coronavirus.
Britain’s most senior officer cast doubt yesterday on whether the police would enforce rules requiring travellers into Britain to self-isolate for two weeks. Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, said “the public need us to do policing” and that there were other officials who could carry out enforcement. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, confirmed that the quarantine system was likely to be introduced in a little more than two weeks, despite a backlash from the aviation and holiday industry. Sources have suggested that police, Border Force officials and local authorities could conduct spot checks at the addresses of quarantined travellers, punishing breaches with fines of up to £1,000 or deportation.
Police in England have no powers to enforce the six-foot social distancing rule because it has not been written into law, senior officers have admitted. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit our shores, the government had advised the public to stay two metres apart wherever possible. But nearly two months since the country was plunged into lockdown, police reveal they cannot enforce it. Fresh guidelines issued by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council urges officers to only enforce what is written in law, adding that ‘Government guidance is not enforceable, for example two-metre distancing, avoiding public transport or the wearing of face coverings in enclosed spaces’.
Teachers are at greater risk of contracting coronavirus from their colleagues than from schoolchildren, the government’s chief pandemic modeller has suggested. Professor Graham Medley, who oversees the mathematical models relied upon by ministers, said evidence showed teachers returning to work would be more in danger in the staff room than the classroom. It comes after education unions urged the government to “step back” from its plan to partially reopen schools in England from June 1 over fears that staff could be put at risk.
Plans to reopen primary schools in England do not have adequate safety measures and need to be halted, warns an alliance of school teachers’ unions. A joint education union statement called on the government to “step back” from a 1 June start date. In the House of Commons, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson warned against “scaremongering” over safety. But his department’s chief scientific adviser cast doubt on suggestions the virus spreads less among children. Mr Williamson, facing questions from MPs on reopening schools, rejected fears over safety and said it was the most disadvantaged who were losing out from schools being closed.
Reopening primary schools in England from the start of next month could fuel the spread of coronavirus, one of the government’s scientific advisers has admitted. Osama Rahman, chief scientific adviser to the Department for Education (DfE), appeared to undermine the government’s case for reopening schools when he gave evidence to the Commons science and technology committee on Wednesday. Questioned by MPs, he admitted that a wider reopening of schools could bring together “hundreds of potential vectors” that could lead to the spread of the virus. He also said there was a “low degree of confidence” in studies suggesting children transmit Covid-19 any less than adults.
Boris Johnson’s plans to reopen schools were in chaos last night after the Department for Education’s top scientist admitted they had ‘not done any modelling’ on virus transmission in classes. Osama Rahman also admitted that the decision to reopen has been taken by the Cabinet not the department, adding the current advice is a ‘draft’ and ‘will be developed’. Mr Rahman’s testimony will provide ammunition to teaching unions, the majority of which have already rejected the Government’s June 1 starting date. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson dismissed concerns as ‘scaremongering’.