An extension to Britain’s Brexit transition period is “inevitable”, David Lidington has claimed, as the first round of remote trade deal negotiations begin in London and Brussels. Teams of European Union and British officials will today start work via video conferencing on four days of talks focused on trade in goods, “level playing field” rules on regulatory alignment and fisheries. However no talks are planned on extending the transition period for Britain to remain in the EU’s customs union and single market after David Frost, the prime minister’s chief negotiator, said the government was still aiming to get a trade deal by the end of the year.
DOWNING Street slapped down demands for an extension to the Brexit transition period as the latest round of talks with Brussels opened. Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost and EU counterpart Michel Barnier resumed discussions by video call as they raced to strike an agreement before the December 31 deadline. Scotland’s government seized on the meeting to call for the transition to be extended by two years to take account of the coronavirus crisis. But No 10 insisted Holyrood had been consulted all the way through the Brexit process and said it was a “matter of UK law” that current arrangements terminate at the end of the year.
The United Kingdom would be on the hook for a major bill to subsidise the European Union’s coronavirus crisis spending, should the government agree to another extension to the Brexit transition period. The British government will reportedly reject the calls to extend the Brexit deadline again amidst the Chinese coronavirus crisis, as it fears the EU would demand the UK make “massive” payments into the bloc’s pandemic response.
The European Commission is under fire after its coronavirus emergency relief fund gave Hungary more than double the amount of EU money than Italy, which is the worst hit country in Europe. Italy received €2.3bn (£2 bn) from the €37bn Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative but Hungary, which has a sixth of the population of Italy, got €5.6bn (just under £4.9bn). An estimated 172 people have died from the virus in Hungary compared to a staggering 23,660 victims in Italy.
GERMANY’S Christian Democratic Union leader Friedrich Merz has attacked coronavirus crisis-hit Italy’s Eurobonds demands, leading one German politician to suggest “the EU can fall apart because of this”. Mr Merz, who is considered most likely to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He made the serious allegations against Giuseppe Conte’s government on Twitter on Sunday sparking a backlash. Mr Merz said Italy, hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, wanted to use the pandemic for its own purposes.
The pandemic has peaked and draconian measures are now unnecessary, a leading scientist claimed yesterday. Carl Heneghan, director of the centre for evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, said that the impact of the lockdown was “going to outweigh the damaging effect of coronavirus”. His assessment adds to pressure on the government to set out how it will ease the lockdown after the coronavirus death toll fell to its lowest level for a fortnight.
Boris Johnson today moved to snuff out Cabinet pressure for an early easing of lockdown, making clear that a second peak in the coronavirus outbreak is the biggest threat to the country. The PM has intervened from his recuperation at Chequers to warn there must not be any let-up in the draconian curbs until scientists are sure the disease will not flare up again. Mr Johnson has told First Secretary Dominic Raab and senior aides that ‘moving too quickly’ would be the worst outcome for both the economy and public health.
Boris Johnson is cautious about lifting lockdown measures too early over fears it could spark a second wave of the virus, it has been reported. While he has not yet officially returned to work, the Prime Minister reportedly held a two-hour meeting with senior aides and his deputy, Dominic Raab, at Chequers on Friday. According to the Times, Mr Johnson said lifting the restrictions too soon could result in a second peak in infections – which could lead to a second lockdown.
Boris Johnson has urged caution over relaxing the UK-wide coronavirus lockdown prematurely due to fears of a second damaging wave of infections. The prime minister, who is still recuperating from Covid-19 at his countryside Chequers residence, made the intervention in a meeting with senior aides on Friday. Mr Johnson was joined by the foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who has been deputising at No 10 in the prime minister’s absence, and his influential adviser Dominic Cummings.
Any relaxation of lockdown measures could trigger an exponential rise in coronavirus cases, government scientific advisers have warned ministers amid a cabinet split about how quickly to ease restrictions. With Boris Johnson still recuperating at Chequers, his senior ministers have been at loggerheads over whether the public health and economic impact of the lockdown will soon begin to rival the consequences of the virus itself. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, and Liz Truss, the trade secretary, are known to be among those raising concerns about the impact of a lengthy shutdown on the economy.
BRITAIN will have to live with many of the coronavirus restrictions throughout 2020 as ministers adopt a “suck it and see” strategy to slowly see what works. Instead of any clean end to lockdown, senior government figures tonight braced the nation to expect a very long path out of it through the summer and deep into the autumn. It emerged this evening that Downing Street has even banned the term ‘exit’ from its own lockdown planning.
Britain must prepare for a second wave of Covid-19, a leading scientist working on a vaccine has said. Robin Shattock of Imperial College said that a second wave is highly probable in the UK when social distancing is eventually relaxed. However, the resurgence of the virus may not follow the pattern that emergency plans drawn up for influenza would have anticipated.
Easing the coronavirus lockdown too quickly could lead to a second peak in the outbreak, Downing Street has said. Asked about reports that Boris Johnson favours a cautious approach to lifting restrictions introduced to halt the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, his spokesman said: “The big concern is a second peak.”
Every day the number of Covid-19 deaths reported from hospitals across the UK make headlines. But every time they are underestimates of the true death toll, just a snapshot of what is happening in wards across the country. For a better estimate of the scale of the pandemic in the UK, the total number of deaths, including those not linked to coronavirus, hold some clues. Thousands of excess deaths are now being reported across the country, leading to the highest weekly death toll since records began.
Experts have admitted that the true number of deaths from coronavirus in the UK remains unclear, as official statistics on patients dying in hospitals dipped to their lowest for two weeks. Describing the fall as “encouraging”, Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, appeared to signal increasing official confidence that the outbreak has passed its peak and will soon allow a shift in the government’s approach, as he told the daily Downing Street press conference that the UK can now look forward to the “next stage” of the battle against Covid-19.
The UK has today announced 449 more coronavirus deaths – the fewest for a fortnight – taking Britain’s total death toll to 16,509. England declared 429 deaths and a further 20 were confirmed across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And 4,676 more people have tested positive for the virus, taking the total number of patients to 124,743. The day’s death toll is a fall on the 596 fatalities announced yesterday, Sunday, and half as many as the day before that (888). It is the lowest number for a fortnight, since April 6 when 439 victims were confirmed.
Hundreds of the most severely ill NHS patients will be given an arthritis drug as British researchers expand the world’s largest trial of potential Covid-19 treatments. The Recovery trial has already recruited about 6,000 NHS patients in five weeks, making it the biggest high-quality study to look at whether existing medicines can be repurposed. Almost every acute care NHS trust in the country is taking part. “It’s critical that we continue to recruit large numbers,” Martin Landray, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford, said.
Dozens of hospitals in Australia and New Zealand will trial a HIV treatment and an anti-malarial touted by US President Donald Trump on patients infected with Covid-19. The AustralaSian Covid-19 Trial (ASCOT) has begun treating patients infected with the virus at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, ASCOT leader Stephen Tong from the RMH and Doherty Institute told reporters. The trial plans to recruit about 2,000 patients from more than 70 Australian hospitals and from 12 hospitals in New Zealand, prof Tong said.
BLOOD from coronavirus survivors will be used to treat critical patients across UK hospitals, it has emerged. NHS Blood and Transplant are collecting donated plasma from people who’ve had Covid-19. Medics are hopeful it could improve an infected patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival. Plasma is thought to be rich in antibodies, produced by the immune system while fighting the infection. An NHS spokeswoman said: “NHS Blood and Transplant is preparing to collect Covid-19 convalescent plasma from people who have recovered from this illness.
Millions of pieces of vital protective equipment are being shipped from British warehouses to Germany, Spain and Italy despite severe shortages in this country, The Telegraph can disclose. Lorries are being packed with masks, respirators and other PPE kit before heading back to supply hospitals in the EU, it has emerged. On Monday night, UK firms said they had “no choice” but to keep selling the lifesaving gear abroad because their offers of help had been repeatedly ignored by the Government.
A British supplier of protective health equipment was forced to sell millions of life-saving items overseas after attempts to equip the NHS were met with an ‘impenetrable wall of bureaucracy’. The company said Britain’s procurement system was ‘unresponsive at best or incompetent at worst’ and delays were putting lives at risk. The embarrassing revelations will raise questions about why the Government did not replenish PPE stockpiles and build up more supplies in March as the country entered the crisis.
A shipment of vital protective equipment from Turkey for NHS staff had not been formally secured when the government announced on Saturday that it would arrive the next day, The Times has learnt. Last night it was still unclear when the consignment would reach the UK, as NHS chiefs reported that hospitals were re-using disposable gowns up to three times after stocks ran worryingly low. UK businesses said they were making ad hoc deals to supply local hospitals as they failed to get a government response on offers to help the national supply chain, or clear guidance as to what was needed.
Ministers have been warned by NHS bosses that advising people to wear facemasks to slow the spread of coronavirus risks jeopardising critical supplies to the health service. Government scientists will examine the evidence about masks today before making a formal recommendation on whether the public should wear them. The World Health Organisation is understood to be ready to issue fresh guidance on wearing masks in shops, on public transport and in other crowded spaces as part of measures to exit the lockdown.
The NHS’s supply of face masks could be jeopardised if the Government begins advising the public to wear them, hospital bosses have warned. Scientific advisers for the government are carrying out a review of the use of face masks, despite the World Health Organization (WHO) saying there is no evidence to support their use by the general population. The government is coming under mounting criticism over its failure to ensure NHS staff treating coronavirus patients have the protective equipment they need.
An Oxford scientists leading Britain’s coronavirus vaccine race has urged the Government to help produce millions of doses before it has proven to be effective. Professor Sarah Gilbert said her team needed help manufacturing the jabs, warning the UK did not have the facilities to do it alone. The Government’s scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance has said ramping up production capacity will be ‘challenging’. He has cautioned people not to rely on a vaccine as an end game for the coronavirus pandemic because vaccines are a ‘long shot’.
The Health Secretary’s promise that 100,000 people a day would be tested for coronavirus has been criticised as “arbitrary” and “irrational” by Downing Street sources. In a sign that senior Whitehall figures are distancing themselves from the target – due to be met by the end of April – a Number 10 insider said Matt Hancock’s pledge threatens to “come back and bite him”. The latest official figures show that just 19,316 tests were carried out in the 24 hours to 9am on Monday, while the most recent total testing capacity dropped by 2,000 to 36,000.
CORONAVIRUS testing sites across the UK are sitting empty, despite the Government’s pledge to hit 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month. Images from yesterday show empty testing centres in Gateshead and Plymouth as sources inside number ten claimed the pledge from the Health Secretary was ‘irrational’. The car park at Chessington World of Adventures, where NHS, fire, police, prison staff and their families are meant to be getting tested didn’t see many cars until the afternoon before going quiet again.
The Government is still well short of delivering on its promise to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month after the latest figures showed just over 21,000 were undertaken. Downing Street said it has the capacity to administer 38,000 tests in a day, but a lack of take-up by the NHS has meant the thousands of tests are not being taken advantage of. Testing capacity dipped in the past 24 hours to 36,000 due to commercial laboratories implementing new processes, as doubts continue to grow over the Government’s ability to hit its testing target in just 10 days.
England’s deputy chief medical officer has been heavily criticised for defending the government’s failure to boost coronavirus testing – with some independent experts calling for the medical team advising Downing Street to consider resigning. Although Boris Johnson and his ministers have absorbed most of the attacks for the sluggish increase in testing, Dr Jenny Harries was denounced for claiming a larger number of tests would not necessarily have reduced the UK’s death toll.
CORONAVIRUS can be transmitted on your shoes, experts are warning. Researchers have found that the deadly virus can be “tracked all over the floor” by infected patients and medical staff. And doctors are now urging people to take their shoes off immediately when they get home and only wear one pair outside. Chinese researchers made the discovery after tracking the viral “distribution” in hospital wards in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic. A team, led by Dr Zhen-Dong Guo, of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing, collected swab samples from potentially contaminated objects in the ICU and general ward from February 19 to March 2.
A union boss has set out five conditions for schools to reopen, as he says teachers should not be expected to “undertake cleaning tasks”. The list of demands must be “fully addressed” before ministers ease restrictions on school closures, according to Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT). In a letter to the education secretary, seen by The Telegraph, the union says that the Government’s decisions on the reopening of schools must take into account teachers’ concerns.
The rest of the country has already had to grapple with the questions of fashion and interior design that plague anyone trying to hold a meeting via video conferencing. Now MPs face tough decisions about what to wear and where to sit when dialling into the new virtual House of Commons from their constituencies this week. Keeping a watchful eye to ensure that standards are maintained is Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, who has made it clear that he wants no waving of papers, no silly noises and definitely no pink shorts.
Proposals for a “virtual parliament” during the coronavirus outbreak will cost nearly £370,000 a month to implement, according to the Commons authorities. MPs are expected to approve a motion to allow digital Commons sittings when they return to Westminster on Tuesday amid concern over lack of parliamentary scrutiny of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak. Under a so-called hybrid model, up to 120 of the 650 MPs will be able to tune in to question sessions and statements using video-conferencing, while some 50 MPs will be allowed to sit in the Commons chamber.
THE Labour Party could be plunged into financial ruin with more than a dozen people preparing to take legal action against the opposition after they were named in a bombshell 860-page report. Claims that could be submitted to the Labour Party as soon as next week include those covering the Data Protection Act, invasion of privacy and libel, The Guardian has reported. The party, individuals and some media commentators are all reported to be the subject of legal complaints as a result of the document’s release and remarks made about its contents.
Left-wing author Leo Panitch’s digital launch of his new book “Search for Socialism” at the weekend featured luminaries of the Labour party’s new hard-left faction; John McDonnell, Zarah Sultana, Corbyn’s former adviser Andrew Murray and former head of strategic comms, James Schneider. Guido joined the Zoom… John McDonnell had a lot to say on the recent leadership election result, describing the election of Sir Keir – whom he identifies as “a lawyer, white, middle–class, in a suit” – as “defeatism” on the part of the membership, and the result of the working classes’ ‘forelock-tugging’ mentality to the middle class, akin to the election of Tony Blair.