Brexit

Barnier has told the UK it must submit to his demands or extend the transition period, reports Breitbart.

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator says the British government “cannot” refuse to extend the Brexit-in-name-only “transition” period if it will not submit to the bloc’s demands in the current negotiations.
Michel Barnier, a former French foreign minister, has expressed his irritation that the United Kingdom, which formally left the EU in January but remains subject to its law, its judges, and its Free Movement migration regime while the 2020 “transition period” negotiations are conducted, is — for now — refusing to extend it.
“The United Kingdom cannot impose this very short calendar for negotiations and at the same time not move, not progress on certain subjects that are important for the European Union,” he said.
Implicit in the Frenchman’s statement is an assumption not only that the 2020 negotiations must end in a “future partnership” being agreed, but that this “future partnership” must satisfy the EU’s demands — which he said centred on a so-called “level playing field”, and, according to Bloomberg, “the governance of the future partnership, judicial co-operation, and access to fishing waters.”
In practical terms, this appears to mean the British agreeing not to make its tax regime or regulatory environment more competitive than the EU’s, letting the EU’s judges adjudicate the “partnership”, agreeing to remain subject to the European Court of Human Rights in perpetuity, and allowing EU vessels to continue taking a majority of the fish in Britain’s territorial waters at the expense of the much-abused British fishing industry.
“The EU will not agree to any future economic partnership that does not include a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution on fisheries,” Barnier insisted.

And a Merkel ally has tied the Covid pandemic to an extension, says the Guardian.

Boris Johnson must extend the UK’s transition out of the EU for up to two years to avoid compounding the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic with a hugely disruptive and disorderly Brexit, according to a close ally of Angela Merkel.
In an interview with the Observer, Norbert Röttgen, chair of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, said it was now impossible to see how the UK and other EU countries could agree even a minimal outline free trade agreement this year because the talks were so behind schedule.
As a result, he could not see any sensible option other than for the UK to extend the transition period – which is due to end on 31 December unless the UK asks for a two-year prolongation by 30 June – to avoid even more damage to the British and European economies.

Lockdown

Back home, with the PM about to return to work, he’s facing pressure to bring us out of lockdown, says the Times.

A pincer movement of Conservative Party donors, cabinet ministers and senior Tory backbenchers is putting Boris Johnson under concerted pressure to ease the lockdown.
The prime minister is expected to return to work this week to face the strongest challenge yet to lift the social restrictions imposed on the public almost five weeks ago.

Anti-lockdown protests have started, reports the Telegraph.

An anti-lockdown protest led by Jeremy Corbyn’s brother was broken up by police on Saturday after some activists breached social distancing guidelines.
Piers Corbyn led a rally in Glastonbury, Somerset, against the Government’s coronavirus lockdown, which he said was causing more people to die.
A video posted online shows Mr Corbyn, the 73-year-old brother of the former Labour leader, giving a speech.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Corbyn said: “We want to end the lockdown to get the NHS back to doing its job of helping the most vulnerable people who are locked up in care homes or staying at home going mad.

Perhaps it’s just we elderly who must continue under house arrest, says the Times.

The official word is “shielding”, but the over-70s have harsher words to describe the prospect of a prolonged “grey lockdown”: illiberal, immoral and un-British.
Revolt is in the air as the government ponders whether to order older people to stay indoors while easing restrictions on the rest of society.
Baby-boomers, who refuse to be lumped in with the care home generation, have already begun their fightback in parliament, and this weekend some of their best-known voices joined the resistance.

Second wave

And if we don’t do as we’re told, the Telegraph has suggested there will be more infections.

Britain’s public health sector has told the Government that the emergency £3.2 billion support package for local authorities may not be enough to avoid an “uncontrollable” second wave of coronavirus.
A letter sent to Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, and Professor John Newton, the official in charge of testing, also suggests a national “one-size-fits-all” strategy cannot beat lockdown.
Maggie Rae, the president of the Faculty of Public Health, and David McCoy, professor of Global Public Health at Queen Mary University, are among 20 experts calling for more powers regionally to put local teams “at the heart” of the response.

Drugs

The virus has led to a potential shortage of treatments, reports the Times.

Intensive care units across the country are running out of essentials, including anaesthetics and drugs for anxiety and blood pressure, after a “tripling of demand” sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.
Doctors said they were being forced to use alternatives to their “drug of choice”, affecting the quality of care being provided to Covid-19 patients. They also warned that some second-choice drugs might be triggering dangerous side effects such as minor heart attacks.
The government is rushing to shore up supplies of vital medicines and on Thursday banned 33 drugs from export.

Travel

At last there are plans for travellers’ quarantine, says the Telegraph.

Passengers arriving at British airports and ports will be placed in quarantine for up to a fortnight, under plans for the “second phase” of the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials are drawing up a scheme that mirrors the 14-day “stay home” notices currently issued to Singaporean citizens returning to their country from abroad. It could be rolled out as early as next month, and include large fines for those who fail to remain at the address given to authorities as their place of isolation.

The Mail also carries the report.

Everyone entering the UK will be forced to quarantine for a fortnight under plans being drawn up by the Government. The move follows growing pressure for tighter border controls during the coronavirus crisis and would include UK citizens returning from abroad.
Airport bosses have complained that the failure to limit arrivals and check passengers has made a mockery of the lockdown.
The Mail on Sunday understands that the plan – similar to one operated by Singapore – was agreed during a meeting of Ministers and officials on Wednesday.

Sky News says the plans are being considered.

The idea of screening arrivals at UK airports for coronavirus will be kept “under review”, the transport secretary has said.
Grant Shapps was responding to concerns raised that, despite strict rules on the movement of people within the UK, there are no limitations on passengers arriving from outside.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Grant Shapps said: “As we come out of any of this and into the next phase at a future point, we will continue to keep the excellent medical and scientific advice we receive under review to say whether those procedures at airports should change.”

The Sun says the plans could be in place next month.

PASSENGERS arriving at British airports will face two weeks in quarantine under the government’s latest plans to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The restrictions, which could be imposed as early as next month, are aimed at preventing a second wave of infections as other countries end lockdowns and allow travel again.
The plans are being overseen by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to stop passengers bringing the virus into the UK from abroad.
They will come into forced when the government launches its “track and trace” strategy to identify and isolate cases of the virus in the UK.
They would apply to British citizens and those from abroad.

Testing

The government has promised more home testing kits, says the Telegraph.

Everyone who comes into contact with a potential Covid-19 sufferer will be able to order home swab testing kits via a new NHS app as the Government eases lockdown, The Telegraph understands.
The technology should eventually allow symptomless workers to return to their jobs quicker because they will be able to identify whether the virus is present within days of being identified as a risk by contact tracing.
Advanced testing is being carried out on the “NHS CV19 app”, which works by using Bluetooth signals to log when smartphone owners are close to each other, at a Royal Air Force base in North Yorkshire.

The Sun has an exclusive report that laboratories can’t cope.

STAFF carrying out coronavirus tests have been told to knock off early on some days because labs cannot handle the workload, a whisteblower claims.
They are told to cap the number of samples taken at 250, despite the urgent demand to monitor frontline workers. And they reach that limit by 2pm or 3pm, the insider says.
Many tests have to be sent to Northern Ireland for analysis — with some even going by ferry.
The insider at the drive-through centre in Greenwich, South East London, said: “There are 20 to 30 of us working here at any one time. We’re all incredibly frustrated that at times we’re not doing anything.
“Several days over the last week we’ve been told to cap it at doing no more than 250 tests a day. But we could do double that.

The military is being brought in to help, says BBC News.

The military is to begin testing essential workers around the UK for coronavirus in mobile units which will operate in “hard to reach” areas.
At least 96 new pop-up facilities, which will travel to care homes, police and fire stations, prisons and benefits centres, are due to be running by May.
It comes as the government looks to reach its target of carrying out 100,000 tests per day by Thursday.
Meanwhile, the PM will return to work in Downing Street on Monday morning.
It is just over two weeks since Boris Johnson was released from hospital, where he was treated in intensive care for coronavirus.

ITV News also has the story.

The military is to begin operating mobile coronavirus testing units which will travel to care homes, police stations and prisons across the UK.
The new units will test essential workers and vulnerable people in areas where there is “significant” demand, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
The mobile facilities can be set up in less than 20 minutes and allow for hundreds of people to be tested each day.

And tests for immunity are also being planned, says the Mail.

Ministers have ordered production of up to 50 million new immunity tests as part of what experts hope will be a ‘game-changing’ development in the battle against Covid-19.
A breakthrough by a team of top British scientists means that, by June, people could be able to reliably test whether they have developed immunity to the virus – and then be allowed to return to work and socialise as normal.
The dramatic news comes as Boris Johnson prepares to go back to work in  Downing Street tomorrow, having told aides that he is ‘raring to go’ in the fight against the virus which nearly killed him.

The Sun says the plans are ‘game-changing’.

THE GOVERNMENT has ordered 50million new coronavirus immunity tests that are hoped to be a “game-changing” development in the fight against the pandemic.
It is hoped the breakthrough by a team of British scientists will allow people to work out if they are safe from the virus when the pinprick tests are rolled out in June.
Brits will be able to take the test and work out if they are allowed to return to socialising and working as they did before the coronavirus lockdown, reports the Mail on Sunday.

Care homes

Those caring for the elderly are still having problems, says the Mail.

Care home bosses have blamed the sector’s soaring death toll on government guidance telling hospitals to discharge elderly residents to free up beds.
The chilling warning came in the wake of a government document which advises hospitals, ‘to free up NHS capacity via rapid discharge into the community and reducing planned care.’
The plan, drafted on March 17, told NHS hospitals that ‘timely discharge’ was important – and told care homes to accept patients who had not even been tested for coronavirus.
It has since been updated saying the policy ‘will move’ to patients being tested prior to admission to care homes.
But residents coming from their own homes do not have to be tested prior to admission.

Immunity

But if you get it once, are you immune?  The Mail reports:

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that there was currently ‘no evidence’ that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second coronavirus infection.
In a statement, the United Nations agency warned against issuing ‘immunity passports’ or ‘risk-free certificates’ to people who have been infected, saying the practice may actually increase the risk of spread as they may ignore standard advice.
Until now the antibody tests had been considered the key to letting countries out of lockdown, allowing officials to get a clearer picture of the true size of the coronavirus outbreak.

There is no evidence, says the Star.

“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.”
In a scientific brief, the United Nations warned governments against issuing the “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to people who have been infected as their accuracy could not be guaranteed.
The practice could actually increase the risks of continued spread as people who have recovered may ignore advice about taking standard precautions against the virus, it said.
Chile said last week it would begin handing out “health passports” to people deemed to have recovered from the illness.

Social distancing

The advice to keep six feet apart was fairly arbitrary, says the Mail.

Social distancing orders for people to keep two metres apart to stop the spread of coronavirus is not based on any scientific research, a government adviser has warned.
Robert Dingwall, from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said the rule was ‘conjured up out of nowhere’.
The sociology professor at Nottingham Trent University said scientific evidence supports a one-metre gap, but the two-metre advice was a ‘rule of thumb’.

Masks

Perhaps we should all wear face coverings, reports the Telegraph.

All essential workers, including shopkeepers, should be given protective masks, the British Medical Association said, as the leading doctors’ union joined calls for ministers to ask members of the public to wear face coverings outside of their homes.
In a significant intervention in the public debate on masks, the BMA cited “emerging evidence” that covering mouths and noses “may help” to control the spread of Covid-19 and therefore save lives.
Chaand Nagpaul, the GP who chairs the BMA’s council, said the union had come to the conclusion that all essential workers outside of the NHS should now be given masks or “suitable face coverings”. They include “transport workers, shopkeepers, carers or supermarket staff who cannot social distance”, Dr Nagpaul said.

China

Several stories about China are emerging.  The Sun has a story about research.

CHINA has been accused of trying to steal coronavirus research from US labs, hospitals and pharmaceutical firms, an investigation reveals.
And it appears the regime’s game plan is to beat the rest of the world in producing the first vaccine against the bug – which has killed more than 200,000 people since spreading exponentially from Wuhan.
The claim comes as Beijing unsuccessfully sought to block a European Union report alleging that it was spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak.
CNN spoke to cybersecurity experts about a spike in attacks on American government agencies and medical institutions involved in the fight against the new virus.

Breitbart claims a damning report was softened by the EU.

The European Union rewrote and softened a report that detailed the coronavirus disinformation campaign carried out by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after receiving pressure from apparatchiks in Beijing.
The initial version of the report from the European External Action Service (EEAS) pointed to Chinese propaganda, such as blaming the United States for spreading the Wuhan virus, accusing France of responding too slowly to the pandemic, and claims that French officials had used racial slurs about the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom — claims denied by France.
“China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image,” the initial report stated, according to the New York Times.
Before the report was released, however, officials from the communist-run country began pressuring the European Union — and the bloc ultimately bowed to the pressure, removing any reference to the “global disinformation campaign” carried out by China as well as the diplomatic spat between the CCP and France.

Fox News says pressure was exerted.

European Union officials softened a report on disinformation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in response to pressure from China, according to reports.
Both The New York Times and South China Morning Post claimed to have obtained original versions of the report, which each publication cited as more damning than the document published on Friday. The document was supposedly altered following pressure from China over possible “repercussions” against its trade partners.
The European External Action Service (EEAS) subsequently denied editing any portion of the report in response to political pressure, expressing disappointment in the report by the Times.
The UK’s Daily Telegraph reported that China originally attempted to block the report before the EU instead “rearranged or removed” some of the criticism aimed at the Chinese government.
The published report makes note of several efforts by China to spread disinformation, particularly a “coordinated push by official Chinese sources to deflect any blame for the outbreak of the pandemic.”

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