Newslinks for Saturday 28th March 2020

Virus strikes at heart of Downing Street

“The three men leading the nation’s fight against coronavirus have all gone into self-isolation after the disease reached the heart of government. Boris Johnson will work alone at No 11 Downing Street for the next week and will hold meetings by video link after contracting the virus, the first leader of a G7 nation to do so. He is suffering from mild symptoms. Carrie Symonds, Mr Johnson’s pregnant fiancée, is not staying in Downing Street and is understood to be self-isolating in their south London flat. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, was also diagnosed with the disease while Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, has gone into isolation after displaying symptoms. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, said last night that the rate of infection was doubling every three to four days.” – The Times

Comment
>Yesterday:

Lockdown ‘on course to reduce total death rate’

“Britain is on course for an estimated 5,700 deaths from coronavirus, far lower than originally predicted, experts believe. The country will avoid the 260,000 fatalities once feared if it keeps on the same path seen in China, statisticians at Imperial College London have calculated. They emphasised that this did not imply that the fears of mass deaths were alarmist, but that the government strategy was working. “Our work shows that social distancing is working against Covid-19 as an effective parachute across multiple countries,” Tom Pike, of Imperial College, said. “That’s no reason for us to cut away our parachutes when we’re still way above the ground.” – The Times

  • Deaths rise by 181 as confirmed cases near 15,000 – The Guardian
  • Police face battle to prevent people leaving their homes – The Times
  • I stopped a family of six out shopping in Morrisons – The Times
  • Mail workers at risk over key worker row – Daily Telegraph
  • Birmingham airport could become mortuary for 12,000 – Daily Mail
  • Workers unable to take holidays can carry over leave for two years – The Times
  • Housing market on hold – Daily Telegraph
  • Virgin Atlantic set to ask for state aid – FT
  • Assemblies online, mentors and hymns as teachers get learning – The Times
  • Cocktails, choirs and knitting by video call – The Times
  • Latest advice – HM Government
Comment
>Today:

Ministers under fire over ventilator delays

“Boris Johnson’s government came under fire on Friday for missing opportunities to acquire more medical ventilators through equipment suppliers and the EU, even as the British prime minister himself tested positive for coronavirus. The number of people in the UK testing positive rose by 2,885 to 14,579 while the number of deaths climbed by 181 to 759. Ministers say 8,000 ventilators under order should be available for NH use over the next few weeks. The British health service already has access to more than 8,000 ventilators and a total of 30,000 are required. Several companies have complained that offers were not taken up to provide some of the additional machines needed to save the lives of people with acute respiratory difficulties caused by Covid-19.” – FT

Britons warned even stricter measures planned

“Boris Johnson’s advisers have warned even stricter social distancing measures could be introduced after Britain’s coronavirus death toll surged by 181 yesterday. Government advisers have said more stringent rules may be rolled out next month if the number of cases continues to rise. The Prime Minister could decide to mirror the measures introduced in Spain and Italy, where officials have banned exercise outside and introduced fines of up to €3,000 (£2,690) for anyone found breaching the rules.” – Daily Express

Bailout for self‑employed ‘excludes 2 million people’

“The chancellor’s £10 billion coronavirus bailout for the self-employed has been criticised as unfair after it emerged that up to two million people could miss out. Rishi Sunak said on Thursday that self-employed workers would be able to claim a government grant of 80 per cent of their profits up to a maximum of £2,500 a month to cope with the effect of the virus on their livelihoods. The scheme will be open to those with trading profits of up to £50,000 a year and those who earn the “majority” of their income from self-employment. As the details emerged, however, it became clear that a growing number of workers would miss out on the scheme. Some analysts suggested that the number could be as high as two million, or 35 per cent, of the 5.75 million people registered as self-employed.” – The Times

  • Davis slams Sunak’s ‘tax raid’ on self-employed – Daily Mail
  • Sunak adds extra £60bn public spending to fight virus – FT
>Yesterday:

Government could buy stake in struggling airlines

“The government is ruling nothing out as it tries to save UK airlines struggling to cope with a collapse in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. Transport secretary Grant Shapps told MPs in a meeting on Friday that the Government could buy shares in UK airlines. A Transport Select Committee was held behind closed doors and via Skype on Friday, where Labour MP Ruth Cadbury asked the Cabinet minister whether the Government would consider taking a stake in UK airlines that faced collapse. The description of Mr Shapps’s response states: ‘The Secretary of State said that everything was on the table. ‘The department had to try to save the aviation sector and to protect the consumer and the taxpayer.” – Daily Mail

Parris: Magic money tree will cost the Tories dear

“There’s much to be said for clapping our hands for the NHS but once we’ve said it, doubts persist that will not be dispelled by any act of collective secular worship. Last week on this page I raised the biggest question of all: might crashing our economy turn out to have inflicted more harm than the virus? Now for some more modest questions. But before raising what to some ears may sound like quibbles, I should make something clear. In this health crisis, nobody is obviously right or obviously wrong and nobody’s stupid. Because nobody really knows. The anxious thoughtfulness with which politicians, scientists and civil servants are taking difficult decisions is beyond doubt.” – The Times

Bailout proves my public spending plans were right, says Corbyn

“Jeremy Corbyn has claimed that the government bailout to tackle the pandemic proves he was “absolutely right” about increasing public spending. The Labour leader, who is standing down next week after losing two general elections, suggested that his plans for an expansion in the state had been adopted by Boris Johnson. The crisis had shown the Conservatives “that they have to spend money to invest in the state, as we have always said as a party”. It is an echo of his claim that he had “won the argument” after the December election in which Labour suffered its worst result since 1935. The new Labour leader will be named a week today. Sir Keir Starmer is viewed as the frontrunner to beat Rebecca Long Bailey and Lisa Nandy.” – The Times

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