Parliament

The Guardian reports calls for Parliament to be recalled.

The government faces a chorus of cross-party calls on Sunday for the urgent recall of parliament in “virtual” form as MPs and peers demand the right to hold ministers to account over the escalating coronavirus crisis.
The demands from leaders of all main opposition parties, as well as senior Tories, came after the death toll from Covid-19 in the UK approached 10,000. Deaths from the virus rose by 917 on Saturday compared with Friday to a total of 9,875.
Fronting the daily Covid-19 briefing for the first time, the home secretary, Priti Patel, said the figures showed the “devastating impact of this virus”.
Although there was a slight drop in numbers between Friday and Saturday, experts warned that the coming week could see a significant jump.
“This is Easter weekend, and that will have affected numbers of reports of deaths,” said David Spielgelhalter, a Cambridge University statistician.
“I would expect there will be a catch-up this week and a massive spike in numbers of daily deaths being reported on Wednesday or Thursday. Only in the following days will we see if we are reaching a plateau in deaths.”
In her first-ever Easter audio message to the nation, the Queen on Saturday urged people to have hope and look forward to better times, with the words: “We know that coronavirus will not overcome us.”

Sky News says the Labour leader is making the demands.

Sir Keir Starmer has demanded urgent talks to ensure parliament returns after the Easter break so ministers can face questions over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new Labour leader said the Commons must be open for business after recess officially ends on 21 April – even if it means MPs asking questions over webcams.
In a letter to Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sir Keir said the UK was facing a “national crisis” over COVID-19  and decisions taken by the government should be “challenged and subject to scrutiny”.
He wrote: “If parliament is not sitting or functioning effectively that cannot happen.
“I accept that it is difficult for parliament to return to business as usual at the moment, but there are clear examples around the world of parliaments operating effectively by using new technologies and different models.”
Sir Keir, who will appear on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme from 8.30am, said Labour supported many of the measures implemented by the government but set out a list of questions that “need to be answered”.
He called for clarity over an exit strategy from the lockdown imposed on the UK, along with answers over the “ramping up of testing” for coronavirus and the supply of personal protective equipment for frontline NHS staff.

PPE

On the coronavirus front, the Telegraph is claiming there’s still a shortage of personal protective equipment.

Britain is facing a shortage of the gowns required to protect medical staff against coronavirus as the death toll among NHS staff continues to rise.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock paid tribute to 19 healthcare workers who died after contracting coronavirus, after he came under fire for the failure to provide sufficient equipment.
One of the medical workers included a consultant who had appealed to the Prime Minister about a lack of personal protective equipment days before he was admitted to hospital.
The figure later rose, after it emerged that two porters who worked at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford had died, along with a nurse from Cardiff and two others from Worcestershire and London.

Treatment

A drug used to treat malaria could help hit the virus, says the Telegraph.

Coronavirus patients in NHS hospitals have begun receiving a controversial anti-malarial drug, as leaks reveal fear among staff that global stocks will run out.
Barts in London and the Royal Devon and Exeter are among trusts now handing out hydroxychloroquine, described by Donald Trump as a “gamechanger”, in a bid to keep seriously ill Covid-19 patients alive.
The medication has been incorporated into the Chinese guidance for the management of the virus. However, the NHS has so far “strongly discouraged” use of the drug other than in the hospital trials because evidence of usefulness is so limited. It comes amid a furious row in the US, provoked by the President’s enthusiastic backing of the off-licensed drug.
Meanwhile, a rupture in the French medical community emerged in recent days as a leading cardiologist accused Hydroxychloroquine of damaging the hearts of 54 coronavirus patients, four of whom died, while Emmanuel Macron appeared to endorse a virologist who claimed a related medication, chloroquine, was a breakthrough.
Hydroxychloroquine is a synthetic compound created 75 years ago to replace quinine, derived from a chichona tree, as a malaria treatment. Medics have subsequently used it against chronic inflammatory diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Testing

Testing could be better and faster, says the Telegraph.

It was a phone call between Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, and executives at AstraZeneca that might yet prove a turning point in Britain’s coronavirus testing crisis.
Offers of simplifying the process and “doing things faster” were tabled by the pharmaceutical giant, which believes it can already test in batches at least three times bigger than other Government centres.
“Ultimately if the country wants to get to 150,000 or 200,000 (tests a day), we want to be able to get there as well,” says Sir Menelas Pangalos, the company’s executive vice president.
However, voicing strong opposition to what he describes as a “wild-west” culture of false dawns, he added: “Right now, baby steps, before we can run.” Initial Government reticence to support from the private sector has evaporated since Matt Hancock set the daunting target of increasing testing to 100,000 a day by the end of the month.
As a result, a refit has taken place at breakneck speed inside Cambridge Biomedical Campus’s Anne McLaren Laboratory where more than 60 experts from AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and the university are now aiming to provide up to a third of the Government’s tests.

But the tests are not getting through to front-line NHS staff, reports the Sun.

NHS heroes are still being tested for corona­virus at a snail’s pace at shambolic drive-through centres.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove pledged to speed up the process when The Sun on Sunday exposed red tape hold-ups at a test site a week ago.
But our investigators have found nurses and carers are still being turned away by centre jobsworths sticking to strict appointment-only rules.
And Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s pledge of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April looked doomed with a current daily rate of 18,000, just 7,000 more than a week earlier.
Experts say Britain will remain on crippling lockdown until testing can be ramped up to protect NHS staff and allow virus-free people to move around freely.
But our team saw testing at a virtual standstill at “tumbleweed” centres across Britain.

Lockdown

Could the lockdown hurt more than the virus?  The Telegraph reports a German doctor’s comments.

A leading German epidemiologist who predicted the coronavirus crisis in Europe is now calling for governments to end the lockdown.
Prof Alexander Kekulé warned the virus was about to engulf Europe and publicly urged Angela Merkel’s government to start screening international travellers as early as January.
But he now believes the lockdown is in danger of going on too long and causing more damage than the virus, and has drawn up a plan for how it can be safely lifted.
“It’s impossible to wait for a vaccine,” Prof Kekulé told The Telegraph. “The quickest we could have a vaccine ready is in six months. Based on experience, I’d say the reality is closer to a year. We can’t stay under lockdown for six months to a year. If we did that our society and our culture would be ruined.”
Prof Kekulé, the head of microbiology at Halle University, has been the Cassandra of Germany’s coronavirus crisis. As early as January 22, he called for travellers to be tested for the virus at airports and borders.

And the Sun claims the government is under pressure on the subject.

THE Government is facing demands to reveal its coronavirus exit strategy as countries across Europe begin to plan life after lockdown.
Experts believe the UK is still several weeks from loosening controls but say the country is in dire need of knowing there is a plan.
Here we look at how nations across the continent are coming out of lockdown . . .

BBC News asks the questions.

When can I see my family? Have friends round? Have a night out? A holiday? Or even go back to work? When can children go back to school?
Lockdowns have been essential for containing the spread of coronavirus, but they are causing huge disruption, and distress, to lives around the world.
So when can they be lifted?
There are big decisions for governments to make – when to act, which restrictions to lift, how to contain the virus instead and how to balance saving lives today with long-term damage to society.
This is going to be a long journey – don’t think it will all be over in a few weeks.

It could be a long time yet, reports the Star.

One of the country’s top medics has suggested the coronavirus lockdown may not be completely lifted until a cure is found.
NHS England medical director Stephen Powis was quizzed over whether some restrictions might still be needed 18 months from now.
He said: “So this was never going to be a sprint over a few weeks, this is going to be a longer race. It is going to be a marathon.
“The job of scientists and doctors is to provide the Government with the best possible strategies to ­manage this virus over the months to come, and probably over longer than months.
“Vaccines take months to develop, we need to make sure that they are safe and effective, and then of course they need to be manufactured and deployed. Vaccines are not the only part of an exit strategy.”

Crime

Some crime is falling while elsewhere it is flourishing, says the Mail.

Crime has fallen by 21 per cent, senior officials claimed, while conmen and paedophiles are accused of adapting to exploit the coronavirus crisis by defrauding the public and grooming children online.
Priti Patel’s first No10 coronavirus press briefing comes as the Government slapped down zealous police chiefs this week who threatened to take tougher action against suspected rule-breakers.
The Home Secretary revealed that fraudsters have exploited the pandemic to con Britons out of £1.8million. She also warned of paedophiles scouring the Internet for children working and socialising online.

Yahoo News also reports the figures.

Crime has dropped by more than 20 per cent during the UK coronavirus outbreak, police have revealed.
But the head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said officers had also issued more than 1,000 fines for breaking lockdown restrictions.
“Initial figures from all forces show a 21 per cent fall in overall crime across the last four weeks compared to the same period last year,” Martin Hewitt told Downing Street’s daily press conference on Saturday.
“That drop, combined with the commitment of our over 200,000 officers and staff across the UK, and the fantastic response from our volunteer special constables … means that we are in a strong position.”
Mr Hewitt appealed for people to continue reporting crime and emergencies, repeating Priti Patel’s call for domestic abuse victims to seek help.

Vaccine

A vaccine could be ready in a few months, says the Times.

Compared with the pharmaceutical giants that dominate global drug manufacture, the Oxford research laboratory named after the 18th-century Gloucestershire physician who created the world’s first vaccine appears a minnow.
Yet it was Oxford University’s world-renowned Edward Jenner Institute for Vaccine Research that sounded the most optimistic note last week while mega-corporations such as Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer were warning of long and difficult development and testing processes ahead.
The Oxford team’s claim yesterday that a vaccine might be ready by September raised eyebrows among many virologists and researchers wary of overpromising a reliable solution to the coronavirus crisis.

Breitbart is less optimistic.

A vaccine for the deadly Chinese coronavirus could be at least five months away.
Professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford Sarah Gilbert has been working seven days a week with her team to develop a vaccine for the new pathogen that came out of China in December.
Hoping to start human trials within the next fortnight, Prof Gilbert is cautious but said she is “80 per cent confident” it would work.
The vaccinologist told The Times in an article published  on Saturday: “I think there’s a high chance that it will work based on other things that we have done with this type of vaccine.”
“It’s not just a hunch, and as every week goes by, we have more data to look at… I would go for 80 per cent, that’s my personal view,” Prof Gilbert added.
The Oxford scientist’s revelations come as University of Southampton researchers discovered that coronavirus is not as well-shielded from the immune system as other viruses, making it potentially easier to develop a vaccine against it.

Churches

On some churches’ most holy day of the year, the religions are looking for ways to help their flock, says the Telegraph.

Easter is normally a time when the musical calendar of churches and cathedrals rises to a spectacular and moving climax. Even in modest parish churches the choir pulls out all the stops to perform one of the great masterworks of the Easter repertoire like Tallis’s Lamentations. Cathedrals with their bigger resources can go further, putting on performances of Bach’s great Passions, or Handel’s Messiah. The thousands of enthusiastic amateur singers in the congregations can join in with the great Easter Hymns like Christ is Risen and Thine be the Glory.
This year it’s different. Churches and cathedrals will be silent over the Easter weekend, the organs unplayed, the choirs stood down. The buildings are not just empty but locked, since churches of all denominations decided to follow government advice and close their buildings to worship.
But that doesn’t mean music-making and the worship it embellishes have come to a dead-halt. They’ve simply been reinvented, online. It is astonishing to see just how fast these ancient institutions have used new technology to cope with an extraordinarily difficult situation – which as the Dean of Worcestor Cathedral Peter Atkinson explains is made worse by financial pressures.

Care homes

Elderly people are being discriminated against, claims the Mail.

Coronavirus deaths in care homes are going unreported, say funeral directors as up to 1,000 UK residents have died amid claims ‘ageist’ GPs are refusing to visit pensioners or send them to hospital.
At least four homes within Brighton and Hove have been struck by coronavirus, which is increasingly fatal to the elderly or people with underlying health conditions.
NHS data published daily, which counts the death toll by hospital trusts, does not include deaths in care homes.
It comes amid claims elderly care home residents are being left to die from coronavirus by ‘ageist’ GPs.

Fisheries

In the North Sea, it seems EU fishermen are taking advantage, says the Telegraph.

Five European Union supertrawlers are fishing in British waters despite the coronavirus lockdown threatening a UK industry already struggling to cope with the collapse in the seafood market.
Three huge ships from Holland and two from France were tracked fishing off the coast of Scotland where they are netting tonnes of fish.
Greenpeace, which monitors the movements of these vast so-called fishing factories, said the vessels set off after Britain imposed its lockdown.
The arrival of the five boats, all over 260ft, represents a marked increase in such ships operating in UK waters compared to a year ago, a Greenpeace spokesman said.
The UK fishing industry, worth £989 million a year, is reliant heavily on exports, with 70 per cent of its annual catch destined for Europe and Asia.
However, the coronavirus crisis has hit the hospitality trade hard, in turn delivering a devastating blow to the worldwide sale of fish, particularly shellfish.

Brexit

And in a subject near to the hearts of many of us, the pro-EU Independent is reporting demands for an extension of talks.

A significant majority of voters want Boris Johnson to extend trade talks with the EU, which have been interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.
Some 47 per cent of those questioned by BMG for The Independent said the prime minister should ditch his 31 December deadline to complete talks or walk out of the EU without a trade deal, against just 23 per cent who said he should stick to his timetable. Another 21 per cent said they neither opposed nor supported a delay and 8 per cent did not know.
And there was growing support for rejoining the EU, with 49 per cent saying they want the UK to seek renewed membership less than three months after it left on 31 January, compared to 51 per cent who want to stay out.
At least one planned round of talks between UK negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier has been cancelled because of the outbreak, which saw both men infected with Covid-19.

The Sun claims the results of an exclusive poll on Brexit.

BRITAIN wants a pay-as-you-go Brexit as fears grow a trade deal is now impossible before December’s deadline.
Ministers have refused to extend the transition period by two years and want month-by-month membership until an agreement has been reached.
It would avoid paying billions to stay in the single market and keeping the UK tied to European law until the end of 2022. PM Boris Johnson had it written into law that Britain would leave after December 31, with or without a deal.
A source said: “We’re determined to keep our promise.
“There is no way we will commit to a long extension. But in case extra time is needed, we’ve offered to renew the period for a month at a time until the deal is signed and sealed.”
With Europe in lockdown, EU chiefs say thinking a deal can be done is “fantasy land”.
The HQ where officials co- ordinate negotiations is doing only a quarter of normal work.

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