Brexit

It seems the government’s hardline stance has finally got through to the EU, says the Express.

BRUSSELS bosses appear to have finally accepted Brexit talks will not be derailed by the coronavirus crisis but took a swipe at Britain for leaving the EU and described it as a “gross, historic mistake”.
German MEP David McAllister, Brexit representative for the European Parliament, said the pandemic made the negotiations even more difficult but said Britain was determined to stick to the timeline which would see all ties cut by December 31.
He said: “Whether we will conclude the negotiations this year will be decided in June.
“We still have two more negotiations rounds in May and the beginning of June where we can hopefully make concrete progress.

Breitbart reports the prospect of talks collapsing.

Negotiating sources on both sides of the English Channel have admitted that UK-EU trade talks could collapse in June over fishing and regulations.
The British government revealed in February that if sufficient progress is not made on a trade deal with the EU by June, then London’s negotiators would pull out of talks and the government would spend the rest of the transition period preparing to move the UK onto World Trade Organization (WTO) terms with the bloc.
Following the two parties recommencing negotiations since the coronavirus, one British source told The Times: “If they [the EU] continue to insist on their position on a so-called level playing field and on continuing the common fisheries policy, for example, we are never going to accept that.”

But the bloc is still trying to tell us what to do, says the Independent.

Britain must “immediately” start construction on new customs posts that will be needed to carry out checks on trade with Northern Ireland, the EU has said.
The European Commission says the “urgent” building of the facilities needs to start now to be ready for 1 January, when the Brexit transition period is due to end and new controls begin.
Under the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson, there will be new bureaucracy and checks on trade between different parts of the UK: on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, in both directions.

The Guardian links Brexit to Covid.

Brexit could put at risk the contact tracing of coronavirus patients on the island of Ireland if the UK crashes out of the EU without a trade deal at the end of the year, the health minister in the Northern Ireland assembly has conceded.
Contact tracing in the region is expected to resume next week but may face challenges if the virus, as is probable, continues to threaten communities beyond the 31 December deadline for a Brexit trade deal, local politicians have said.

Lockdown lift

Back to the biggest health story in a long time.  The Telegraph claims an exclusive on social distancing.

The two-metre social distancing rule is being reviewed by the Government in the hope that relaxing the restriction could allow more businesses and schools to reopen, The Daily Telegraph understands.
Ministers have asked the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) to look again at whether people need to stay so far apart, amid growing evidence that coronavirus does not transmit well in the air.
The review is seen as increasingly important in government as the Cabinet prepares to agree the exit strategy from lockdown.

The Star says the evidence was no good.

The government could relax the guideline requiring people to stay two metres apart to prevent the spread of coronavirus, as the advice has “never had much of an evidence base”.
According to reports, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has been asked to review the rule and consider the evidence.
Under UK guidelines, Brits have been advised to stay two metres apart from others despite the World Health Organisation advising just one metre.

Was the lockdown legal?  The Guardian suggests it may be challenged in court.

The government is facing a challenge to the legality of the coronavirus lockdown by a wealthy businessman who fears it will kill more people than it saves.
Simon Dolan, whose Jota Aviation company has been delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS, has put the health secretary on notice that he intends to issue proceedings for a judicial review, unless the government reverses some of the lockdown measures and reinstates freedom of movement.

How will it happen?  The Telegraph has a few ideas.

Workers will be asked to come to the office at different times and stagger their lunch breaks after the coronavirus pandemic has passed, under a blueprint to get the British economy back to work.
The Government has prepared pages of advice for employees in different business sectors to return to work ready to announce next week as the country gears up for a mass return to work.

The Sun claims the PM wants us to get back to with at the end of the month.

BORIS Johnson wants Britain to be back at work from Tuesday, May 26 as long as coronavirus cases are low enough.
Ministers have pencilled in the Tuesday after the second May bank holiday to put the PM’s plan to restart the economy into action.
Boris will unveil his blueprint to take the nation out of its gruelling Covid-19 lockdown next Thursday.
In detailed plans being drawn up across government now, offices, factories and some shops will be given two-and-a-half weeks to install new government social distancing measures, such as perspex screens and gaps between desks.

Testing

The reports that the testing target has been met have led to a further target, says the Times.

Britain could carry out 200,000 tests a day within a fortnight, officials believe, after a last-minute surge took the government above its target of 100,000.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, praised “one of the greatest national mobilisations that we’ve seen” as he said 122,347 tests were carried out on Thursday. Officials working on the programme spoke of an “end-of-term feeling” after a last-minute rush to post out 27,479 home testing kits and swab thousands of asymptomatic staff in dozens of NHS hospitals.

But the figures could have been massaged, says the Guardian.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, was accused of artificially inflating the number of coronavirus tests, as he hailed the rapid expansion that allowed him to reach a self-imposed 100,000-a-day target as a “national achievement”.
It emerged that a third of the 122,347 tests included in the final 24-hour period before the deadline were counted before they had been carried out.
Around 39,000 had been sent out to households and satellite testing locations, with no guarantee of the timescale for their completion, but were still included in the count.

The Mirror also reports the row.

The government claims to have smashed its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day – but a row has erupted over how the tests were counted.
Matt Hancock announced 122,347 tests were provided in the 24 hours to 9am on May 1st.
But tens of thousands of these tests are at-home tests which have been delivered, but haven’t yet been returned.
Announcing the figure, Mr Hancock said: “I knew it was an audacious goal but we needed an audacious goal because testing is so important for getting Britain back on her feet.”

Reuters reports a claim that the way of counting the tests had not changed.

Britain did not change its criteria for recording coronavirus tests to meet its goal to carry out 100,000 tests per day by the end of April, the adviser in charge of the operation said on Friday.
“There’s been no change to the ways tests are counted,” John Newton said at a news conference in Downing Street, although he confirmed that tests which were sent out in the mail were counted when they left the testing programme, not when the results of those tests were in.

Nightingale hospital

Thousands of beds – but no patients.  The emergency hospital may start to be wound down, says the Sun.

LONDON’S NHS Nightingale Hospital is being “wound down” after no new coronavirus patients were admitted in the last week, reports say.
Frontline workers at the field hospital were reportedly told today that a decision on its future would be made within days.
NHS Nightingale was the first facility of its kind constructed to help Britain fight against the pandemic, being built in just nine days and before being opened by health secretary Matt Hancock and Prince Charles on April 3.

Elderly

The Telegraph investigates how countries around the world are treating their older subjects.

With death rates from coronavirus terrifyingly high among the over 60s there are fears that fatalities will escalate when lockdowns are lifted in countries that suffered high infection and mortality rates.
But there is also anxiety that continued isolation for the elderly will lead to a dramatic decline in their mental and physical well being.
A survey by The Telegraph has found that the differences in how countries are grappling with the dilemma is marked.
Some – such as South Korea and Japan – are making little distinction between different age groups after succeeding in keeping deaths low across society.

Deaths

The death toll from – with? – the virus is rising, says the Mail.

The UK has today announced 739 more coronavirus deaths, taking Britain’s official fatality toll to 27,510.
Officials also recorded another 6,000 cases, with 177,000 Britons having now been infected since the crisis began in February – but a lack of testing means potentially millions of cases have been missed.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed the figures, which include fatalities in all settings, in tonight’s Downing Street press conference.
Officials do not provide a daily breakdown of how many COVID-19 deaths occurred in different settings, such as hospitals or care homes.

Do you know how many deaths there have been in your area?  Several papers are running details of a map.  The Mail says:

An interactive map which reveals coronavirus deaths by postcode shows that people living in the poorest parts of England and Wales are dying at more than double the rate of those in affluent areas.
The map, included in the latest Office for National Statistics report, found that the most deprived regions suffered 55 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 25 fatalities in the wealthiest areas.
The report analysed 20,283 virus deaths registered in England and Wales from March 1 to April 17, which means it is two weeks out of date and thousands of fatalities have not been included.

Treatment

A drug currently under testing is promising, says the Mail.

A new antibiotic developed to fight ‘superbug’ lung infections could be used to treat ventilator-associated pneumonia in COVID-19 patients, a study has suggested.
Researchers have shown that the drug can successfully combat potentially fatal lung infections in both mice, as well as human cells grown in the laboratory.
The medication could help to extend the lives of cystic fibrosis sufferers, who are vulnerable to infections that affect their breathing.
It also offers the hope of potentially slashing deaths rates from the coronavirus by stopping secondary infections from colonising a patient’s airways.

And Sky News reports that blood plasma from those who have recovered from the virus could also be used to treat sufferers.

A potential treatment for Covid-19 using plasma from recovered patients is to be trialled by doctors at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital.
The first donations of the plasma have been collected and transfusions will begin in “the coming weeks”, the hospital’s Biomedical Research Centre said in a statement.
It is hoped the potential treatment, known as convalescent plasma, will help patients whose bodies are not producing sufficient antibodies to fight the virus.
The hospital says if the trials prove the treatment to be effective, NHS Blood and Transplant will begin a national programme to deliver up to 10,000 units of convalescent plasma per week to the NHS, enough to treat 5,000 patients each week.

Vitamin D

There are ‘tentative’ suggestions that lack of the sunshine vitamin could make patients more susceptible to the virus, says the Mail.

A preliminary study has found tentative evidence suggesting low levels of vitamin D may make it more likely an individual will die after contracting coronavirus.
The research compared average levels of vitamin D across 20 European countries with COVID-19 infection rate and mortality.
It revealed a convincing correlation where countries with low vitamin D levels were also the countries with highest mortality and COVID-19 infection rates.
The study has not yet been peer-reviewed and scrutinised by other scientists and is unable to prove vitamin D is the reason behind this link.

PPE

There’s a fund to buy NHS staff PPE, reports the Mail.

A new fund that buys protective kit for NHS and care staff soared past £5million last night.
The astonishing total was reached thanks to a surge in donations from generous Daily Mail readers and philanthropists.
In just three days, more than 10,000 of you have pledged money to Mail Force, a charity leading a campaign to bring life-saving kit to workers on the coronavirus front line.

Do masks help?  The Mail reports.

Ministers are facing demands to spell out their advice on face coverings after Boris Johnson said they would be ‘useful’ as lockdown ends.
Nicola Sturgeon has already urged Scots to don home-made masks – but not medical-grade ones – in shops and on public transport.
Labour has also been pushing for the move, with London mayor Sadiq Khan calling for the recommendation.
But the UK government has so far refused to change its position, having previously said it did not advise wearing coverings. Downing Street said that work on then policy is still ongoing – despite scientific advisers having conveyed their verdict to ministers last week.

Business

Away from the Coronavirus, the Telegraph reports a prospective business merger.

The owners of Virgin Media and O2 are in talks to create a combined cable and mobile operator to challenge BT in the booming demand for digital connectivity in the post-pandemic era.
Liberty Global-owned Virgin Media, which runs the UK’s second largest cable network, would enter a 50:50 joint venture with mobile network operator O2, the UK’s second largest consumer mobile phone company owned by Spain’s Telefonica.

Holidays

In an exclusive report, the Sun claims there’s another row brewing.

BRITAIN is set for a bust up with other European countries over plans to scrap the right to cash refunds for delayed and cancelled flights.
Germany and France are leading a group of states who want to suspend EU laws which entitle passengers to demand their money back.
Under their blueprint airlines would be allowed to issue vouchers instead, which could be redeemed for cash if they were unused after a long period.
Berlin is pushing for the scheme to be in force until 2022 to help save carriers from bankruptcy.
Britain would have to apply any changes until the end of this year because we are bound to follow EU law during the transition.

And the Telegraph reports a suggestion that we’ll all want to cruise when the virus is over.

Demand for cruises will bounce back to pre-coronavirus levels within as little as a year, according to the boss of Tui Cruises.
Wybcke Meier told The Telegraph that despite being forced to cancel dozens of cruises, she was positive that the business would rebound quickly.
“We are convinced that in the long-term the demand for premium and luxury cruises will not change,” she said. “We will see the demand for cruises return to pre-crisis level within 12 to 18 months.”

Should we be travelling to and from Europe yet?  One airline is offering tickets says the Mail.

As airline giants easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways remain grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic, the industry’s future looks bleak.
But one budget carrier is now allowing passengers to nip back and forth from eastern European cities for as little as £26.
Wizz Air flyers were able to take to the skies from today but had to don a facemask, sit two metres away from each other and forget about the prospect of in-flight food.

And the Telegraph also has news of air travel.

European airlines have added more than 700,000 seats to their weekly schedules as the aviation industry takes the first small steps towards recovery after the two hardest months in its history.
Wizz Air is poised to restart flights on Friday, Croatia Airlines this week announced plans to resume a handful services from May 11, and new figures released by the aviation analyst OAG have revealed the first green shoots after 10 consecutive weeks of capacity cuts.
According to its data, airlines in Western Europe will offer 1.61m seats this week, up 42.4% on last week, while Eastern European carriers have increased capacity by 29.3% to 1.01m. It offers some hope that, once lockdown restrictions are lifted, Britons willing to travel will have a reasonable number of route options at their disposal.

And a rogue airline boss is making plans, says the Mail.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has today cut up to 3,000 jobs but vowed to refund 25 million out-of-pocket customers – as Heathrow sees a 97 per cent drop in travellers in the last month.
The airline said a stringent restructuring programme will begin in July, with some 3,000 pilot and cabin jobs under threat.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, under-fire Ryanair Chief executive Michael O’Leary said his stricken airline was facing a backlog of 25 million customer refunds.
O’Leary, whose £3million salary was slashed by 50 per cent for April and May, has agreed to extend the pay cut for the remainder of the financial year, to March 2021.

Honey bees

The future of bees, which has been compared to the future of the human race, is examined in the Mail.

Honey bees in the UK are increasingly suffering at the hands of a deadly viral disease that is sweeping England and Wales, according to a new study.
British scientists found colonies of the honey bee that are infected with ‘chronic bee paralysis’ rose nearly 200-fold between 2007 and 2017.
Whole colonies are frequently lost to the disease, which causes abnormal trembling, an inability to fly and a disturbing loss of hair leading to odd shiny abdomens.
The disease is caused by the chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV), and infected bees die within a week, leading to piles of dead honey bees outside hives.

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