Coronavirus

The killer virus continues to dominate the news.  The Times says the parties are at odds with each other.

Pressure is growing on the government to publish the model guiding its response to the coronavirus  as cross-party consensus on handling of the outbreak frays.
Scientists have demanded that the government “urgently and openly share the scientific evidence, data and models it is using” to allow independent experts to scrutinise the findings that have led Britain to make choices different from those made by many other countries.
In a letter to The Times, public health experts including Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, say: “This transparency is essential to retain the scientific community, healthcare community, and the public’s understanding, co-operation and trust.”

In an exclusive report, the Mail claims those likely to die of the virus may not be treated.

Hospitals could stop treating the most severely ill coronavirus victims if the outbreak escalates.
Patients with a poor prognosis may even be taken off ventilators in favour of those with better survival chances.
Intensive care experts are drafting new triage guidelines ahead of an expected surge in urgent cases.
Hospitals are rapidly increasing their intensive care capacity and doctors say wards already look like ‘war zones’ as they fill up with patients.

No elections this year, reports the Independent.

The local and mayoral elections in May have been shelved because of the coronavirus – and for a full year, rather than for the expected six months.
The government has bowed to pressure from the Electoral Commission, which warned that there were “real risks” to going ahead for campaigners and voters.
Downing Street did not provide an immediate statement to explain why it had opted for a 12-month postponement, the longest in peacetime, also delaying the police and crime commissioner elections.

BBC News also has the story.

Local and mayoral elections in England will be postponed for a year to May 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Downing Street said it would be impractical to hold the elections as planned, as they would come during the peak of the spread of the virus.
Polls were due in 118 English councils, the London Assembly and for seven English regional mayors.
Voting was also due to take place for the London mayor and police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.

Mass gatherings could be banned, says the Mail.

All mass gatherings and sports events are set to be banned from next weekend, it can be revealed.
In a major escalation of the coronavirus crisis, ministers are preparing to introduce emergency legislation early next week to allow this.
The unprecedented move puts key summer events such as the Glastonbury Festival, VE Day commemorations, Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon tennis championships, the Grand National and Royal Ascot under threat.
It comes after sports bodies confirmed the postponement of the London Marathon, the suspension of Premier League football matches and the cancellation of the England cricket team’s Sri Lanka tour.

The Sun outlines the government’s plans to fight the virus.

ALL mass gatherings are due to be axed by next weekend to help public services fight coronavirus.
Boris Johnson has decided on the move after a host of cancellations — from the London marathon to the Premier League, sources said.
The PM also wants a lot more businesses to move towards “widespread working from home”.
Mr Johnson is working with the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser on plans to “stop various types of public event”.
It would ease the pressure on ambulances and the police.
The Government has yet to decide the size of events to be banned.

The Telegraph says the government has changed its advice.

Sporting events, concerts and other “mass gatherings” will be cancelled from next week after Boris Johnson performed an about-turn over the Government’s handling of coronavirus.
The Prime Minister decided to ban major events just 24 hours after insisting he would not be following Scotland’s lead in outlawing crowds of more than 500 people.
It came after the Premier League had taken matters into its own hands by announcing the suspension of the football season until next month and the London Marathon was postponed until October by its organisers.
As the number of confirmed UK coronavirus cases leapt from 590 to 798, Whitehall sources admitted the situation was now “accelerating very quickly”, prompting Mr Johnson’s change of heart over a crowd ban.

But schools will stay open, reports the Mail.

Schools are staying open so parents don’t have to take time off to look after their children, the Education Secretary said yesterday.
Gavin Williamson said he was ‘particularly mindful’ of increasing strain on the workforce of public services such as the NHS.
Meanwhile a new package of powers set to be unveiled next week could force schools to stay open during the crisis, The Times reports.
The Education Secretary will host a  coronavirus  summit on Monday in which plans may be made to give free food to the poorest pupils and allow schoolchildren to sit exams at home. Mr Williamson will meet union leaders and school bosses to thrash out responses to worst-case scenarios.

And the Morning Star reports a call for cash so that children won’t go hungry.

THE government faced calls today to make cash available to low-income families so their children can be fed if schools close during the coronavirus pandemic.
As the threat of school closures looms, eighteen charities and academics wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick seeking clarification on measures to ensure children eligible for free school meals do not go hungry.

Emergency plans are expected to be announced next week, says BBC News.

The government is drawing up emergency plans to avoid disruption in England’s prisons, with unions saying prison officers face “unprecedented” challenges.
Prison staff will be offered bonuses to cover shortages – and staff could be redeployed to cover front-line services.
A number of inmates died during unrest at several Italian prisons last week after visits were suspended.
The Prison Officers Association has compared conditions in England’s prisons to those found on cruise ships and the Prison Governors Association has said cases of the virus are inevitable.

And the police could be granted additional powers, reports the Times.

Police will be able to detain infected people and schools could be forced to stay open under a package of powers being announced next week to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Emergency laws to help to limit the spread of the virus will be introduced after the number of people infected in Britain rose by 200 in 24 hours to 798. The measures, seen by The Times, will also let councils lower standards in care homes to deal with staff shortages.

But the WHO isn’t happy with the plans, says the Mail.

The World Health Organisation has slammed Boris Johnson’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying every country should find and test every possible case.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister announced only the most seriously ill will be tested with others who notice symptoms encouraged to self-isolate for 14 days.
But on Friday, the WHO’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: ‘You can’t fight a virus if you don’t know where it is.

There’s hope for a vaccine in the Daily Star.

A team of British scientists have said a vaccine for the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus is on the verge of being developed.
The researchers said they have successfully trialled the vaccine in mice and are hopeful that it could be ready for human trials by June.
Senior researcher Dr Paul McKay of Imperial College London told the Express: “I’ve got results from a month after I injected (the mice) and the vaccine works really, really well.”
The team, led by Mucosal Infection and Immunity head Dr Robin Shattock, are currently working with scientists in Paris to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness in monkeys.

Wales could be hit hard, reports the Mail.

Up to 20,000 people in Wales could die amid the coronavirus outbreak in a worst-case scenario, the country’s health minister has said.
Vaughan Gething laid bare the scale of the challenge the Welsh NHS is facing in a press conference in which he also announced non-urgent surgical procedures and outpatient appointments would be suspended.
Mr Gething gave the worst-case figures while responding to criticism about his repeated refusal to ask the Welsh Rugby Union to postpone Wales’s Guinness Six Nations clash against Scotland in Cardiff on Saturday, following the union’s own decision to do so 24 hours before kick-off.

Trade talks

Away from the virus, the Sun reports a Barnier climbdown.

BRUSSELS’ demands on fishing have been watered down in a major concession to Boris Johnson ahead of next week’s trade talks.
Michel Barnier published the EU’s draft version of a Free Trade Agreement with Britain, including its position on access to waters.
The dossier says the UK and EU should look only to “respect existing fishing activities” rather than uphold the status quo as previously sought.
And it includes plans for annual negotiations on quotas based on scientific advice rather than historical patterns — a key demand tabled by the Prime Minister.
The move comes after EU officials warned member states they would have to accept a compromise on fishing or risk the entire deal.
Access to UK waters is a key demand for nine nations, including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany.

BBC News says the plan will be presented to the UK next week.

The EU has drafted a post-Brexit trade deal proposal, covering areas such as security, foreign policy and fisheries.
The 441-page draft legal text, seen by the BBC, was sent to the 27 EU states on Thursday night, ahead of being presented to the UK next week.
But the BBC’s Adam Fleming said much of the draft will be rejected by the UK because of references to EU law.
The two negotiating teams were due to meet in London for talks, but that has been cancelled due to coronavirus.
A joint statement from the UK and EU said they were “exploring alternative ways to continue discussions”, such as video conferencing.

The Guardian claims the bloc’s demands will include details on state subsidies.

Britain will have to guarantee “uniform implementation” of Brussels’s state subsidy rules while the European court of justice will hand down rulings to British courts, under the EU’s vision of the future relationship with the UK.
A 441-page treaty draft, obtained by the Guardian, spells out in full legal text for the first time the demands that Brussels will make of David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, in the next round of talks.
The document, which is yet to be shared with Boris Johnson’s government, highlights the distance between the two sides across a host of issues, including on the so-called level playing field conditions for British and EU businesses and rules on state aid.
Across the board, the EU envisages a close relationship in light of the close economic and security ties of today, including an insistence that the definition of terrorism used by both sides should be based on a current directive as a price for cooperation.

But the deal could restrict our ability to make our own laws on workers’ rights, says the Independent.

Future British governments could be unable to repeal new laws on workers’ rights, the environment, and health and safety, under the terms of the EU’s proposed Brexit trade deal.
A leaked draft of the agreement drawn up by the European Commission and seen by The Independent insists that “future levels of protection” brought in by both sides must be maintained as a condition of UK access to European markets.
The plan goes further than a simple “non-regression” pledge to maintain existing rules at the point of Brexit, and means any future UK government that brings in new social rights could see its changes become untouchable, as long as they are endorsed and matched by Brussels.

And the virus pandemic will not delay negotiations, reports the Guardian.

Boris Johnson is adamant the Brexit transition period will close at the end of December, despite the risk of the Covid-19 crisis disrupting negotiations, his spokesman has said.
Face-to-face talks which were to take place in London next week had been called off as a result of the outbreak, with officials exploring possible alternatives, such as video-conferencing.
When Johnson’s spokesman was asked whether the status quo transition period might need to be extended as a result, he said simply: “No”, then added: “In UK law, a request for an extension is not possible”.
When the government passed the EU withdrawal agreement in December, it added a commitment that the transition period would not be lengthened.
Pressed on whether that meant the government was prepared to leave without a trade deal if the negotiations were interrupted by virus prevention measures, the spokesman said: “It will be possible to do the trade talks.

Fox News also reports Boris’ determination to carry on.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday ruled out delaying Brexit because of the coronavirus pandemic, reiterating that the U.K. would finalize its departure from the European Union with or without a formal trade agreement by the end of the year.
“In U.K. law, a request for an extension is not possible,” a spokesman for Johnson told The Guardian.
Britain formally left the European Union at the end of January, more than three years after Brits voted to leave the bloc in 2016. But with that formal departure, the U.K. entered a transition period until the end of the year during which it tries to thrash out a free trade agreement with the E.U.

EU

Meanwhile, the bloc continues to look after its own, says the Express.

FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron has said the European Union and Schengen area should tighten their borders over the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Macron has proposed the enhanced border checks as the virus continues to spread across the globe. The news comes as the French leader also closed all schools to deal with the outbreak. France currently has 2,876 cases of the coronavirus.
61 people are also reported to have died in the country.

Free movement?  Not when coronavirus is about says ITV News.

The European Union has urged member states to implement health screening at their borders in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Increasing concern about the spread of Covid-19 has tested one of the core principles of the EU – freedom of movement – with countries bordering Italy restricting traffic from outside.
Several other EU nations have also brought in restrictions which go beyond travellers from Italy, which has seen the most virus cases and deaths outside China.

Breitbart reports potential murder charges.

Italian authorities warned that people showing signs of coronavirus and who refuse to self-quarantine could face murder charges if they fatally infect another person.
Italians who demonstrate symptoms associated with COVID-19, such as fever, cough, or other signs of the illness, and refuse to isolate themselves from the community, risk being prosecuted for causing injury.
If as a result of a person breaking quarantine, an elderly or at-risk person becomes infected with the virus and dies, the spreader of the virus could face charges of intentional murder with a minimum sentence of 21 years in prison, according to the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Scotland

The Express reports on Wee Burney’s constant demands.

NICOLA STURGEON’S reputation will be tarnished because of her constant demands for a second referendum on Scottish independence, a Conservative MP has warned, as pressure grows on her to resign over her Government’s performance in Scotland.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is continuing her relentless push for Scottish independence, demanding the UK Government transfer the relevant powers to Holyrood to hold a second referendum in 2020. These calls have become louder following Brexit on January 31, with the SNP leader claiming the UK’s departure from the European Union has happened against the will of the Scottish people. Scotland voted by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent in 2014 to remain part of Britain, and a year later voted by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent to remain in the EU during the Brexit referendum.

Illegal migration

The Times reports a claims that illegal migrants are not being removed.

Efforts to stop illegal immigration have been abandoned, it was claimed yesterday, after removals more than halved in the past decade.
In the past year there was a 20 per cent fall in the number of voluntary and enforced removals of illegal migrants and failed asylum seekers to their home countries.
Immigration sources suggested that the impact of the 2018 Windrush scandal had led to a reluctance to take removal action, with some enforcement staff unsure what support there was for action.

Planning

Planning laws could be relaxed, says the Sun.

BRITS will be able to build extra storeys and rooms onto their homes without any planning permission in a major overhaul of red tape unveiled yesterday.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick revealed he is drawing up a regulations bonfire in a bid to finally deliver the 300,000 new homes a year needed to solve the housing crisis.
A new planning blueprint will also boost councils’ power to use compulsory purchase orders to seize land that developers have failed to build on.
Mr Jenrick told MPs yesterday that “home ownership seems like a dream out of reach” for too many still.
He added: “The simple truth is too many will be priced out if we don’t build more homes.
“To achieve the government is prepared to take bold action.
“We must think boldly and creatively about the planning system to make it fit for the future.”

Rail travel

Will we be able to travel by rail cheaper?  The Times wonders.

The rollout of cheaper train fares is at risk because of a Whitehall row over the biggest shake-up of the railways in 25 years, The Times has learnt.
A review of the rail industry has been delayed after a clash between the Treasury and the Department for Transport (DfT) over the cost of reforms.
The analysis, led by Keith Williams, the former chairman of British Airways, had been due for release as a white paper last autumn, but ministers will now only promise that it will be published by the end of July.

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