Brexit

Cummings returns, reports the Express.

DOMINIC Cummings played a key role in ruling out a Brexit extension this week and is preparing the UK for a no-deal Brexit, a government source has claimed.
The top adviser to the Prime Minister returned to his post this week – having recently placed himself into self-isolation after reporting symptoms of COVID-19 -to offer advice to the government. And a Number 10 source has said Mr Cummings’ return has made a palpable difference. The government was recently pressed to extend the Brexit Transition Period, which is fast approaching on December 31.
Mr Johnson vowed to make attempts to strike a deal with the European Union by the deadline date, but said he was prepared to leave without a trade deal altogether.
However, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic across the globe has shifted focus away from politics, with many calling for the government to extend the deadline.
Downing Street has said the government is immovable on this issue, and will refuse to extend the Transition Period even if the European bloc requested to do so.

And if the government gives in to EU demands, will they include more money to fight the virus?  The Telegraph reports:

Downing Street’s refusal to extend the Brexit transition period is partly based on a concern that the EU will demand “massive” payments to help deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, The Telegraph has been told.
A source close to the negotiations said that paying into an increased EU budget was “clearly not in the national interest”, adding: “We need to spend money on our own needs in our own way.”
The Telegraph also understands that No 10 is refusing to publish detailed proposals on fishing rights in a future trade agreement because UK negotiators believe there is currently “no common basis for discussion”. The UK side insists that Brussels is effectively insisting on replicating the existing Common Fisheries Policy.

Boris

The Prime Minister has started his return to work reports the Telegraph.

Boris Johnson has begun giving directions to his Government from Chequers, as Downing Street attempts to grip the coronavirus crisis, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
The Prime Minister issued orders to Dominic Raab, his deputy, and senior aides, in a series of calls last week, followed by a three hour meeting with the Foreign Secretary and staff on Friday.
Mr Johnson’s intervention comes as he recovers from coronavirus at Chequers before making a decision about when to return to work.
It followed sustained criticism of aspects of the Government’s handling of the pandemic, including a national shortage of key personal protective equipment (PPE) used by NHS staff.

The Mail also reports Boris’ return.

The Prime Minister has taken back control at the helm of government and is giving directions to ministers from Chequers in an attempt to lead the UK out of the coronavirus crisis.
Boris Johnson, who is currently recovering from coronavirus at the country retreat, has his sights on returning before May 11 when the extended lockdown is due to end.
He has been issuing orders to First Secretary of State Dominic Raab, who is deputising for him in public, as well as senior aides through a series of calls.

Lockdown

In an exclusive report, the Sun reports on a master plan to get out of lockdown.

A SECRET “traffic light” masterplan to ease Britain out of lockdown in three stages has been drawn up by government scientists.
The first steps towards normal life could begin within the next four weeks if infection rates begin to fall.
Ministers have refused to discuss publicly when and how they aim to end the £2.5billion-a-day lockdown, entering its fourth week on Monday.
They fear doing so would send out the message that the crisis is over and wreck all the hard-won gains. But they are privately considering slowly easing off the brake.
In the “red” phase, people will still be banned from many things they did before the outbreak, but a number of non-essential shops and businesses would re-open.
On “amber”, caution would still be required despite much more economic activity being unlocked.
This would be followed by the green light for much of normal life to resume — but with measures still in place to avoid infection.

PPE

There’s still a question over the supply of personal protective equipment, says the Times.

Hospital staff and care workers are “terrified” that they may be infecting patients and vulnerable care home residents with the coronavirus because they are having to work without sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).
Britain faces a cross-contamination crisis, they warned, after medics were ordered to treat Covid-19 patients without waterproof full-length gowns if supplies ran out.
At least 50 NHS workers have died after contracting the virus.

The Mail reports a shipment arriving today.

A ‘very large consignment’ of PPE – including 400,000 gowns – will arrive in the UK from Turkey today, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced at Saturday’s government briefing, after NHS staff were told to reuse protective equipment amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Jenrick said 84 tonnes of PPE will be flown over from Turkey on Sunday to help NHS staff battling the crisis.
It comes after some union leaders warned that faith in Health Secretary Matt Hancock is ‘draining away’ amid the PPE scandal – with some hospitals fearing that PPE supplies would run out by the end of the weekend.
Though promising to address shortages, Mr Jenrick admitted that demand is ‘very high’ with supplies of some equipment, including gowns and certain types of masks, being low.

Care homes

Problems of staff in care homes are highlighted in the Times.

One in four carers are unable to work, leading to fears that the sector is on the brink of breaking down, according to a survey by the research group Skills for Care.
The most common reason was self-isolation with virus symptoms or because of living with someone with the symptoms. Some carers were trapped by childcare.
The survey of 211 adult social care providers, a sector that includes carers offering home help to the elderly and those working in residential homes, found that a third of those who responded said they needed more staff.

Vaccine

Scientists are working on a vaccine, says the Mail.

coronavirus vaccine could be ready by autumn, an Oxford University professor has said.
Sir John Bell said trials could be finished by mid-August but warned the real challenge would be manufacturing ‘many billions of doses’.
He also revealed the prestigious institution started human trials with a candidate vaccine this week.
There have been conflicting reports over when a vaccine will be ready, with No 10’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance saying one was not around the corner.
But he said the industry has ‘stepped up’ to the challenge as the crisis in Britain appears to slow, despite another 847 new deaths announced yesterday.

And ITV News says trials could be done by the summer.

A key adviser to the Government on coronavirus has said trials for a vaccine for the disease could be completed by mid-August.
Human testing of a potential vaccine is due to begin within the next week at Oxford University.
Asked about the possibility of a vaccine being produced by the autumn, Professor Sir John Bell, a member of the Government’s vaccine task force and an adviser on life sciences, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The real question is will it have efficacy?
“Will it protect people, and that has not been tested and it will only be tested once you have vaccinated a significant number of people and exposed them to the virus and counted how many people have got the virus in that population.

Deaths

The death toll is still climbing, says the Mail.

Britain’s coronavirus daily death toll today rose by 5 per cent to 888 on the fourth worst day of the pandemic so far – dashing hopes that the country’s fatality curve may be flattening after days of uncertainty.
The total death toll is now 15,464 but it is feared there are thousands more due to a delay in recording hospital fatalities and the failure to include those in care homes.
Officials said 357,023 people have now been tested for the infection out of a total of 460,437 tests carried out. Some 114,217 of these people have tested positive.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the total number of cases has risen by 5,526 on the previous day – and some 21,389 tests were carried out yesterday.
Today’s daily death toll is the worst in a week since 917 on April 11, and the fourth worst figure so far – after 980 on April 10, 938 on April 8 and the figure on April 11.

The Sun points out that more than 15,000 people have died.

THE UK’s coronavirus death toll today passed 15,000 as 888 people died in a single day with 114,217 infected. 
The sobering figure is one of the biggest daily jumps as the country desperately tries to tackle the deadly bug that has killed 15,464.
In just 24 hours, 784 deaths in England were confirmed, including patients between 26 and 100-years-old, bringing the total to 13,918.
Among those who died after catching the disease was a 44-year-old with no underlying health conditions.
Scotland’s death toll rose to 893 – rising by 56 – while Wales recorded 28 new deaths bringing their total to 534.

Prisons

‘Administrative errors’ have caused the wrong release of prisoners, says Sky News.

A programme to free prisoners early to help jails cope with coronavirus has been paused after six inmates were released by mistake.
The offenders were candidates for early release but were let out too soon after an “administrative error”.
After the error was spotted, they all “returned compliantly to prison”, a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokeswoman said.
“We have strengthened the administrative processes around the scheme to make sure this does not happen again,” she added.

And the plans to release more prisoners have stalled, says ITV News.

A programme to free prisoners early to help jails cope with coronavirus has been paused after six inmates were released by mistake.
The low-risk offenders were candidates for early release but were let out too soon after an “administrative error”, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.
After the flaw was spotted, they all “returned compliantly to prison”, a spokeswoman added.
The Government early release scheme, designed to avoid thousands of often cell-sharing inmates becoming infected, was paused on Thursday and is due to resume next week.

Immunity

Can you catch it twice?  The Mail reports.

There is no evidence to support the belief that people who have recovered from coronavirus will not catch it again, the World Health Organisation has said.
WHO chiefs have warned world leaders against investing too heavily in the tests to show if a person has already had the virus, because they do not guarantee immunity.
The UK Government has bought 3.5million serology tests, measuring antibodies in blood plasma, but they are not definitive in proving if someone has had the virus.
Many tests being developed are pin prick blood checks similar to widely used instant HIV tests and measure raised levels of the antibodies the body uses to fight the virus.

Private hospitals

Millions of pounds spent on requisitioning private hospital beds may have been wasted, says the Mail.

Private hospitals taken over by the NHS at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to fight the coronavirus pandemic are ‘sinfully empty’, medics have told The Mail on Sunday.
Senior clinicians at private hospitals claim hundreds of the country’s best doctors have been left ‘twiddling their thumbs’ during the outbreak – putting people’s health at risk from other illnesses and postponed operations.
Last month, 8,000 beds in private hospitals across the country were taken under public control. NHS England said 20,000 fully qualified staff in the hospitals, including 700 doctors, were needed to battle Covid-19.
But on Saturday night, one London-based consultant orthopaedic surgeon said: ‘What we are seeing at the moment is a sinful and shocking mass of empty private hospitals and empty beds.

Schools

Pupils’ return to education is being planned, says the Times.

Senior ministers have drawn up a three-phase plan to lift the coronavirus lockdown that would see schools reopen as early as May 11.
Under “traffic light” proposals to be presented to Boris Johnson when he returns to work, schools would reopen in three weeks’ time, with pupils of different age groups taught for only part of the week or every other week to aid social distancing.
The first pupils invited back would include primary school children and those in years 10 and 12 who are due to sit GCSEs and A-levels next year.

Herd immunity

A secret exercise a few years ago has given some interesting results, says the Telegraph.

A ‘herd immunity’ strategy was baked into Britain’s official pandemic plans, while South East Asian nations always intended to contain a new virus, analysis by the Telegraph has shown.
Britain assumed a deadly virus would cripple the NHS and kill up 750,000 people during a secret cross-government exercise held in 2016 to test preparedness for an outbreak, officials have admitted.
The assumption a new virus could not be contained is also explicitly stated in the governments pandemic strategy documents.

Fake news

A story put out by the BBC was fake, reports the Mail.

As the familiar pips signalled the opening of Radio 4’s Today programme at dawn on Friday, the main story on the bulletin was astonishing: ‘The boss of an NHS trust has asked the BBC to put him in touch with a fashion company making protective gowns because he fears he is about to run out.’
Over on BBC TV’s Breakfast, the same story led its bulletins too. This time a ‘major NHS trust’ had ‘contacted the BBC’.
For hours, the chilling warning from this leading NHS figure was plastered across the BBC website and repeated every half-hour on the airwaves. But then it simply disappeared.
By Friday evening, the BBC would be forced into a humiliating climbdown, ‘clarifying’ that their anonymous NHS trust boss was no such thing. The story was a fabrication.

Immigration

While the majority of us are in lockdown, there are still some who are not, says the Times.

At least 550 migrants have illegally crossed the Channel in small boats since the coronavirus lockdowns began in Britain and France.
The people smuggling continues amid fears of a Covid-19 outbreak at camps in Calais and Dunkirk. Nine migrants with symptoms have been removed from the camps in the past week, British charity workers say. But the UK government is not routinely testing new arrivals.
“On a purely statistical basis, someone has to have brought it over,” said Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union (ISU), which represents border staff.

The Guardian reports a call to suspend immigration checks.

MPs have urged the government to suspend NHS  charges and immigration checks during the coronavirus crisis, and have warned that undocumented migrants are dying at home because they are afraid to seek medical care.
A letter to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, signed by 60 MPs warns that the government’s efforts to respond to the pandemic are being undermined by the legacy of its hostile environment policies.
The letter cites the case of a Filipino man, known only as Elvis, who died on 8 April while self-isolating at home with Covid-19 symptoms. He did not seek care “fearing that he would be charged thousands of pounds for his treatment, or that he would face immigration enforcement if he tried to access care”, the letter said.

And Huffington Post reports a call to stop a Parliamentary debate.

The government is facing calls to pull a debate on a controversial immigration bill from its agenda, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, over fears it will pass without proper scrutiny as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The Liberal Democrats have raised concerns about the scheduling of the “extremely damaging and controversial” bill which, if passed, would end the current right to free movement under EU law.
It was confirmed on Sunday, April 12, that parliament would return on April 21 following demands from the opposition that MPs be recalled to scrutinise the government’s efforts on coronavirus.
With social distancing measures set to remain in place for weeks, it is not yet clear what form parliament will take, but last week commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg’s team said technological solutions were being prepared to ensure MPs can scrutinise the government as it responds to the pandemic.

Travel

There is no screening of incoming travellers, claims Breitbart.

Despite introducing severe lockdown on its own residents, the UK government has not enacted any incoming travel restrictions, leaving over 100,000 arrivals a week free to enter the country unscreened, the health secretary revealed.
Asked by UK television host — and self-proclaimed “friend” of U.S. President Donald Trump — Piers Morgan on how many people were being tested for coronavirus as they stepped off international flights arriving in the nation’s airports, health secretary Matt Hancock revealed there was no routine testing at Britain’s air borders going on at all.

But bus travel will be free in London, claims the Mirror.

Buses in London will be made free as part of a plan to protect drivers from coronavirus.
Passengers have been told to use the middle doors of buses, rather than the front door near where the driver sits.
And Transport for London said customers “will not be required to touch in” with their payment card or device from Monday.
It comes after London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced on Monday that 21 transport workers, including 15 bus workers, have died in the capital after testing positive for Covid-19.

The travel industry, which was badly hit by the pandemic, may get a lifeline, says the Telegraph.

Ministers are preparing to throw a £4bn lifeline to the travel industry amid widespread public anger  over ­unpaid refunds and fears for hundreds of thousands jobs.
Under plans being discussed with desperate industry bosses, taxpayers will guarantee refunds to customers whose holiday plans have been ruined by the coronavirus pandemic.
Senior industry figures said that the proposals were this weekend being ­finalised by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, alongside Business Minister Alok Sharma, after Andy ­Cohen, the head of travel industry lifeboat Atol, gave the plans his blessing.

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