Brexit

The situation in Northern Ireland is highlighted in the (pro-EU) Independent.

The British government agreed last year to the EU setting up an office in Northern Ireland, before changing its mind and acting like it had never done so, it has emerged.
The revelation is the latest twist in a row over whether there should be a European Commission presence in Belfast after the Brexit transition period ends.
The EU says it needs an office in the city to help monitor the UK’s implementation of the withdrawal agreement – under which Boris Johnson agreed to impose unprecedented customs checks on trade between different parts of the UK.

Michael Gove is being tough, reports BBC News.

The leaders of four political parties in Northern Ireland which supported Britain staying in the EU have been told any permanent EU presence in Northern Ireland is unnecessary.
Michael Gove responded to a letter from the four parties on behalf of the prime minister.
Earlier in the week he told MPs the EU did not need a “mini embassy” in Belfast after the Brexit transition period. His letter re-iterates that position.

But still the Irish border is in the news, reports the Guardian.

The Irish border question threatens to derail Brexit talks again as the depth of the row over the EU’s desire to have an office in Belfast is revealed.
The UK’s paymaster general, Penny Mordaunt, has written to the EU to firmly reject a repeated request for an office in Northern Ireland: “The UK cannot agree to the permanent EU presence based in Belfast,” she wrote.
Mordaunt was responding to a second request this year from the EU for permission to open an office in Belfast on the grounds it was needed to oversee the implementation of new customs and regulatory checks that will apply to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland from next year.

But a more positive report in the Evening Standard says UK-US talks will take place soon.

The UK will begin the first round of post-Brexit trade deal talks with the US this week.
It comes as the Government seeks to strike an “ambitious” relationship which “opens up new opportunities” to UK businesses.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and US trade representative Robert Lighthizer will launch the negotiations via video call on Tuesday due the coronavirus lockdown measures.
Around 100 negotiators on each side will take part in the talks, the first round of which are set to last for a fortnight.

Huffington Post seems to think the more it reports there’ll be a Brexit extension, the more likely it’ll happen.

A six-month extension to the UK’s Brexit transition period is now “inevitable” because of the need to prioritise the fight against coronavirus, former Tory cabinet minister Sir David Lidington has warned.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The Week In Westminster, Theresa May’s former deputy said that the British public would not find it unreasonable to allow a short delay to give more time to hammer out a comprehensive new deal with the EU.
And he suggested that the UK’s ability to import crucial protective equipment for NHS and social care staff would be damaged if there was a ‘no-deal’ outcome after the end of the year.

Electoral Commission

Following the exoneration of Arron Banks, the Express reports a call for an inquiry.

PRESSURE is mounting for a Parliamentary inquiry into the Electoral Commission after it was forced to admit that Arron Banks, the founder of Leave.EU, was innocent of the allegations it had made against him.
Writing for the Sunday Express today, Mr Banks has revealed that he has written to the chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sports select committee Julian Knight to demand an inquiry into the controversial watchdog. The billionaire businessman has been backed by senior Tory MPs who have called for the Electoral Commission to be scrapped and replaced.

Lockdown exit

Back to the story of the moment and the Telegraph reports a ray of hope.

Although there remains considerable uncertainty over exactly how the new coronavirus is spread, there is now much more evidence available to ministers than when lockdown was imposed five weeks ago.
Two findings, repeated in multiple studies, give some cause for optimism.
First, the virus does not in any meaningful sense appear to be airborne. It can be projected through the air for several meters through coughs and spittal but it does not appear to float in tiny particles in the atmosphere for long.

The Mail reports that ministers are considering how to ease the lockdown.

Ministers are preparing to lift restrictions on outdoor activities such as picnics as the first stage in relaxing the lockdown rules.
The Mail on Sunday understands the plans – likely to be introduced later this month if coronavirus infection rates continue to fall – will mean people can exercise several times each day and drive to the countryside and other outdoor spaces for walks and picnics.
However, they will only be allowed to do so with members of their household and must stay at least two metres (6ft 6in) away from other groups.

The Sun says we could be on the brink of starting to enjoy the summer.

BRITS may be able to enjoy the outdoors more freely soon, as ministers prepare to lift certain restrictions.
Sunbathing in the park, picnics and driving to the countryside will all be on the cards as part of the Government’s first stage to ease lockdown measures, it has been reported.
The Government has still not given a date for when the lockdown will be lifted.

Social contact

But social distancing may have to stay, says the Telegraph.

Social contacts outside of home, work and school may have to be limited to fewer than 10 a day, even if widespread testing and contact tracing is introduced as part of an exit strategy.
New modelling shows the scope for loosening Britain’s lockdown measures is extremely limited if the reproduction number of the virus (R) is to be kept under one and a second peak of disease avoided.
Two separate studies published last week by British academics draw the same basic conclusion: R can only be kept below one if the number of social contacts we have outside our homes remains tightly constrained until a vaccine becomes available.

The ‘SAGE’ group will advise, says the Independent.

A potential exit strategy from the UK’s coronavirus lockdown could see the two-metre social distancing rule relaxed, as ministers have asked the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) to further probe the need for such a measure.
Questions over the two-metre rule have been raised by numerous ministers, The Daily Telegraph reported, amid discussions about whether such distancing is an effective tool in fighting the spread of coronavirus, and how and when to safely bring the country out of the lockdown.

Elderly

Studies are showing that some groups are affected differently to others.  The Times reports on we over-70s.

Lockdown should be eased for the healthy over-70s because keeping them inside is damaging their mental health, senior doctors warned Boris Johnson last night.
The British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of GPs intervened to say that age alone should not determine people’s ability to go about their daily lives when the government begins easing the lockdown restrictions.

Obesity

Buzz Feed reports on those who are obese.

UK government scientists are urgently investigating whether people living with obesity may be disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, after emerging data from intensive care units suggested a stronger link than previously thought, BuzzFeed News can reveal.
Senior ministers have privately raised fears that Britain’s obesity rate, which is higher than most other developed countries, could be a factor in its comparatively higher death toll.
Current NHS advice states that people who are very obese — with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above — “may be at high risk” from COVID-19, but they are not in the “very high risk” category that requires “shielding” at home at all times.

Male

And if you’re a chap, that could also count against you, says the Sun.

MOST Covid-19 patients in critical care are men, new data reveals.
Seventy per cent of those needing the highest level of medical help are male, according to data from 286 NHS ­critical care units.
The survey of 7,542 critically ill patients with the virus was done by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre.
Researchers found that 5,389 of the patients were men compared to 2,149 women.
Its report also found 51 per cent of men with the virus died in critical care, compared to 43 per cent of women.

Vaccine

There’s still a lot of work going on to find a vaccine, says the Mail.

England’s deputy Chief Medical Officer has said that recovered coronavirus patients appear to have Covid-specific antibodies for months.
Dr Jenny Harries said a ‘very large percentage of patients who have otherwise been pretty well do actually have a pretty good response’.
The senior Government medical adviser also said there were ‘some signs’ that younger children are potentially less likely to transmit coronavirus.
Speaking at the No10 coronavirus press conference tonight, Dr Harries said: ‘I think we are also starting to see with some very small pieces of evidence now from people in this country who have had Covid-19 and who have tested positive.

Care homes

Are care homes really suffering badly?  The Mail wants to sell more papers so it has found a report that says they are.

The true scale of the coronavirus crisis ‘burning through’ care homes may never be known, according to one of the industry’s most senior figures.
Professor Martin Green, the head of Care England, condemned the Government’s pandemic strategy and said the sector could still be months from a peak in cases.
In a scathing attack, he said: ‘There is no form of tracking mechanism and unless we have testing, it will not be clear who has died of Covid-19 and who hasn’t.’

Psychological impact

It is being realised that staying at home is affecting our mental health, the Telegraph says.

Social isolation is as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, an academic advising the Government on lockdown has warned.
As the nation remains cut off from family and friends, fears are growing over the physical and psychological impact of stringent social distancing measures.
Studies have found that being isolated can increase your risk of death by up to 30 per cent, similar to the impacts of obesity or smoking.

ITV News has a lighter report on the same subject.

Are you tired of virtual chat and find yourself guzzling snacks and alcohol while fixating on grim death tolls?
You are not alone in this “new bizarre, crazy world” where primitive instincts can ride roughshod over reason, says consultant psychiatrist Mark Salter.
Mr Salter, from Hackney, east London, shares some survival tips in a BlueJeans online chat with lawyer Jill Greenfield, from Fieldfisher.
He said: “First of all you have to start with the fact we are looking at human beings who have brains, who have lives, who have minds.
“The brain or the mind is something that, by and large, likes stability and predictability.

Treatment

Take a pill and avoid Covid, says the Mail.

A tiny British company could beat the world’s pharmaceutical giants in the race to defeat Covid-19 after developing a one-a-day pill that is as convenient as aspirin.
Thousands of scientists at the world’s drug giants are battling to find ways of combating coronavirus, but experts at BerGenBio, a British-Norwegian company with just 38 staff, believe they have found the key.
Their bemcentinib drug, originally developed for cancer, defends against coronavirus by stopping it from entering cells and preventing it ‘switching off’ one of the body’s most important antiviral defence mechanisms.

Education

There’s good news about schools, reports the Telegraph.

Primary schools are due to reopen as soon as June 1, as part of Boris Johnson’s blueprint for gradually “unlocking” Britain, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
The Prime Minister is expected to unveil the Government’s “roadmap” out of the coronavirus lockdown in an address to the nation next Sunday, after ministers take stock of a study showing the rate of the virus’s transmission in the UK.
One of the plans being discussed to help to reopen workplaces across the country is to ask companies to routinely test asymptomatic staff as part of a national effort to track the disease and isolate those who could be infectious.

And the Sun says education will be a top priority.

SCHOOLKIDS will be a top priority as the Government draws up a secret “roadmap” to ease Britain out of lockdown.
They believe getting them back into the classrooms is the key to getting the nation moving again.
And primary schools are expected to be on the agenda when Boris Johnson unveils his timetable for lifting the restrictions next week.
The PM has been encouraged by evidence under-13s are much less vulnerable to coronavirus infection than adults.

Boris

The PM has written for the Sun about his hospitalisation.

BORIS Johnson has revealed that doctors prepared to announce his death as he battled coronavirus.
The PM told The Sun on Sunday he was given “litres and litres of oxygen” to keep him alive.
He added: “It was a tough old moment, I won’t deny it. They had a strategy to deal with a ‘death of Stalin’-type scenario.
“I was not in particularly brilliant shape and I was aware there were contingency plans in place.
“The doctors had all sorts of arrangements for what to do if things went badly wrong.

ITV News has picked up the story.

Boris Johnson has revealed that doctors prepared to announce his death as he was treated for coronavirus in hospital last month.
The Prime Minister spent three nights in intensive care at St Thomas’ in London with the disease, where he said medics gave him “litres and litres of oxygen”.
He described it as a “tough old moment”, telling the Sun On Sunday: “They had a strategy to deal with a ‘death of Stalin’-type scenario.
“I was not in particularly brilliant shape and I was aware there were contingency plans in place.

And the Mail said his death notice was prepared.

Boris Johnson has revealed that doctors prepared to announce his death in case he lost his coronavirus battle.
The Prime Minister, 55, has admitted he was ‘not in particularly brilliant shape’ while battling the disease at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London last month.
He said he was given ‘litres and litres’ of oxygen as medics battled to keep him alive in intensive care.
Mr Johnson told The Sun On Sunday: ‘It was a tough old moment, I won’t deny it. They had a strategy to deal with a ‘death of Stalin’-type scenario.

China

The spotlight is beginning to turn to the source of the outbreak, says the Mail.

Pictures which appear to show slack safety standards at the Chinese laboratory at the centre of international sus­picion over Covid-19 have been systematically deleted from its website – as Donald Trump continues to ramp up the pressure on Beijing over its potential role in the outbreak.
During the past month, Wuhan’s Institute of Virology has removed photographs of scientists working in its laboratories and edited out references to visits by US diplomats who subsequently raised the alarm about the laboratory’s work on bats.

Did a top scientist try to defect?  The Mail reports:

China’s infamous ‘bat woman’ coronavirus scientist has denied reports circulating on social media that she attempted to defect from the Chinese regime.
Rumors had begun to spread across social media over the past 48 hours that Shi Zhengli had escaped from China, and brought hundreds of confidential documents to the U.S. embassy in Paris.
Shi, a renowned researcher of bat-derived coronaviruses, wrote on WeChat, a Chinese messaging service, on Saturday that she and her family had never fled the country and had no intention to do so.

The Sun also suggests she was going to bring ‘secret files’.

CHINA’s “Bat Woman” coronavirus scientist has denied trying to “defect with secret files”.
Virologist Shi Zhengli is one of the world’s top coronavirus researchers – and was reportedly silenced after she unravelled the Covid-19 gene.
Rumours spread across social media over the last 48 hours claiming she and her family had escaped from China, bringing hundreds of confidential documents to the US embassy in Paris.
But Shi, a renowned researcher of bat coronaviruses, has assured friends and family everything is OK.

And the Mail claims the country put out false reports and ‘disappeared’ people.

China lied about the human-to-human transmission of coronavirus, made whistle-blowers disappear and refused to help nations develop a vaccine, a leaked intelligence dossier reveals.
The 15-page document drawn up by the Five Eyes security alliance brands Beijing’s secrecy over the pandemic an ‘assault on international transparency’ and points to cover-up tactics deployed by the regime.
It claims that the Chinese government silenced its most vocal critics and scrubbed any online scepticism about its handling of the health emergency from the internet.

The government says that will be looked into later, reports Reuters.

Considering China’s actions regarding the novel coronavirus crisis is something that the United Kingdom will look at later but the focus right now is dealing with the immediate impact of the outbreak, a British minister said on Saturday.
Asked by a reporter about the possibility of investigating China and even claiming reparations from the People’s Republic, housing minister Robert Jenrick said: “There will come a time when we will want to analyse the origins of the virus in detail and consider the actions of other countries but that’s not now.”

VE Day anniversary

Victory in Europe WILL be celebrated on Friday but not quite so enthusiastically, says the Mail.

It is far from an ideal way to mark such a momentous occasion.
But in the true wartime spirit of ‘make do and mend’, Britons will come together on Friday to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day on television, online and in their own living rooms.
The high point will be the Queen’s recorded message on BBC1 at 9pm, the same time as her father, George VI, gave a radio address from Buckingham Palace three-quarters of a century ago marking Victory in Europe.

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