The Government have outlined their plans to quarantine people that enter the UK for 14 days as they face growing pressure over their handling of the pandemic. Labour have strongly criticised the Government for not having control of the virus response. In the Guardian Sir Keir Starmer has told the PM to get a grip or face a second wave of the virus. He stated that by easing lockdown restrictions this week, the Government was offering an “exit” with “no strategy.”
On the Today Programme Labour Shadow Cabinet Member Rachel Reeves has urged the Government to get an effective Test and Trace system in place. Health Minister Edward Argar committed the Government to publishing Test & Trace data on a weekly basis, he did not indicate when that might start. Dido Harding, the chair of NHS Improvement, was slammed by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt when she couldn't say how many Covid-19 tests are being completed within 24 hours because the data quality had not been validated.
The Government is shaking up their pandemic response. The Telegraph reports that the PM is streamlining the Government's entire approach to the pandemic, so it is overseen by two central committees, covering strategy and operational delivery giving him direct oversight. Health Minister Edward Argar told Sky News this was "internal machinery of Government changes", about "how we might deliver on Government strategy going forward". But he stressed: "The Prime Minister is the head of this Government. The Prime Minister has always been in charge."
The health minister was unable to name a single country in Europe with a higher coronavirus infection rate than the UK, despite being asked three times. Following the Public Health England (PHE) report that confirmed that BAME people are dying disproportionately from COVID-19, pressure is mounting for MPs to hold a public enquiry.
The BEIS Select Committee have launched an inquiry into the options to boost UK growth post pandemic. Meanwhile the Governor of the Bank of England has reportedly told bank Chief Executives to accelerate planning for the UK ending the transition period at the end of the year without an agreement with the EU. The PM pledged to guarantee an apprenticeship for every young person as part of the Government’s response to the crisis.
At the Daily Briefing
The Prime Minister led the daily press conference with Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government and Chris Whitty the Chief Medical Officer for England. He started with a rundown of the daily coronavirus figures. He then outlined the steps the Government are taking going forward:
- The Government have set up NHS Test and Trace to control the virus spread.
- Will replace national lockdowns with individual isolation and local action where necessary. The system relies on everyone playing their part with people taking a test if they have symptoms. There is plenty of capacity so go online and order a test if you have symptoms.
- Need you to isolate yourself if you are told by a test and tracer to do so.
- From Monday will introduce measures about the border, at the start they introduced enhanced monitoring of passengers from at risk countries, but once the virus took off in the UK it made little difference to the virus in the UK so this was stopped.
- Now there is a risk of importing cases because the UK total is going down. Passengers will have to isolate for 14 days. Are some exemptions for a limited number of people for those who provide essential services.
- Will explore international corridors with those countries with a low rate of inflection.
- Need effective international action to combat the disease, if it spreads in developing countries it could lead to future outbreaks in the UK.
- UK to open the global vaccine summit tomorrow to help combat the virus, will vaccinate 300 million children in poorer countries.
- Fighting an invisible enemy and nobody is safe until we are all safe.
- As weather gets worse don’t meet indoors with other households. This could reverse the progress made.
Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Advisor
- 279,856 people have tested positive.
- 171,829 tests carried out yesterday.
- The number of coronavirus patients in hospital is down 16% on last week.
- 1,871 new cases detected today. True number including not detected could be up to 8,000.
- The r rate is relatively close to 1. Very little room for manoeuvre.
- 431 estimated admissions with COVID-19 in England yesterday.
- 9% of mechanically ventilated patients have COVID.
- 39,728 total Covid deaths with a positive test.
- 359 daily Covid deaths with a confirmed test.
The panel received questions on childcare, the killing of Mr Floyd in America by Police, whether people should book holidays or cancel those already booked given the restrictions. The PM stated he was sickened by what happened to Mr Floyd but while people have the right to protest they should do so peacefully and with social distancing. The PM recognised the childcare difficulties people face and said he wanted employers to be reasonable.
The PM was asked if he would guarantee new jobs or help with training for those who would lose their jobs and he said yes. In dealing with that the Government will be as interventionist as the UK Government has been during the lockdown, investing in infrastructure and the economy. For young people it is vital that we guarantee apprenticeships for them.
On China the PM stated that the UK Government wanted solutions on technology that protected UK security. He declared himself a Sinophile and anti-xenophobia. He wants a good working relationship with China.
Mr Whitty confirmed that the alert levels were mapping out those areas where transmission is higher, as we move in to a low rate of incidence nationwide the authorities can detect local hotspots. This is an infection that we will have to live alongside for many months, perhaps longer, we have a multi-layered defence and will need to move cautiously.
- Have to isolate those who have the virus or might have but can be transmitted before people develop symptoms.
- Household of infected most likely to get it so they must self isolate.
- Test and trace needed for those at risk more widely.
- Washing hands and social distancing through the 2 metre rule.
- Face masks/coverings also part of this.
- Made small changes on schools but not as much in terms of people meeting in enclosed spaces with people not in their household.
- Shielding of those of people with the greatest risk – so the rules around meeting other people outdoors which is a small risk.
Small adjustments being made now does not mean lockdown is over.
Prime Minister’s Questions
Sir Keir Starmer asked who had been in direct control of the pandemic response until now and why the PM had not commented on the killing of George Floyd in the United States. The PM responded that people have a right to protest lawfully and what happened to Mr Floyd was inexcusable. Sir Keir said he had written to the PM to offer support on getting children back to school but not received an answer. The PM said he had rung regarding that letter, Sir Keir stated he would put the letter in the public domain. Sir Keir stated that the test, track and trace system that had been promised by 1 June but it was not fully rolled out.
Sir Keir said that the UK Statistics Authority had said the UK Government’s use of statistics had “fallen well short of expectations” and that they had written to the Health Secretary. The PM stated that by the end of May 100,000 tests a day were being conducted. The PM was asked about the alert level and the R rate, he said these questions had been answered. Sir Keir condemned the recent MP voting practices and asked if the hybrid Parliament should resume. The PM stated it was not unreasonable to ask Parliamentarians to “do their job.” The PM stated that changes would be made for groups of MPs – later it was confirmed that MPs that were shielding or over 70 can vote by proxy.
Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt asked how many tests were being turned around within 24 hours and if this figure would be published regularly. The PM stated that 90% of tests were being turned around in 48 hours. By the end of June all tests bar those done by post would be turned around in 24 hours. The SNP leader asked if the UK would suspend the export of riot gear to the United States following recent disturbances, the PM replied he would look at the matter and follow the consolidated guidance on exports.
The PM confirmed he was committed to levelling up the regions in answer to a question by Conservative MP Paul Howell. Labour MP Dr Alan Whitehead asked why the UK Government were only just introducing quarantine rules, the PM said they were vital to keep the infection rate down. Treasury Select Committee Chair Mel Stride asked if the Prime Minister had spoken with the Chancellor about including self-employment income received by way of dividends in the calculation of furlough support. Responding, the PM said HMRC would be forced to rely on information they could not verify.
Labour MP Maria Eagle asked for a promise that City Councils would be reimbursed for COVID-19 costs. The PM said funding had been provided to councils. Conservative MP Rob Butler asked if the PM would give councils the ability to give un-allocated funds to businesses in need. The PM responded he was looking into council allocations. The PM pledged to look in to whether to extend the furlough scheme for aviation.
Labour MP Paul Blomfield asked about recourse to public funds for immigrants, the PM said the policy was long standing and not a blanket one. In answer to a question by Liberal Democrat Tim Farron about support for the leisure and tourism industries the PM confirmed the Government would be bringing forward several packages but would not extend some of the existing schemes.
Statement on the new Quarantine rules by the Home Secretary
Today the Home Secretary Priti Patel addressed MPs on the new Quarantine rules for visitors to the UK. She stated that pandemics have no boundaries. Some had criticised the Government for not bringing in the measures earlier but now was the right time to protect against a re-emergence of the virus. The 14-day quarantine period will apply to all passengers and no air bridges will be
The Home Secretary stated the measures were temporary and arrivals must isolate for 14 days. There are a limited number of exceptions to allow for essential supplies and services to avoid disruption. Passengers will have to fill out a contact locator form before travelling to the UK. There will be spot checks at the border with £100 fines for non-compliance.
Public Health England will undertake checks and inform the Police where necessary. There will be a £1,000 fine for people who break quarantine. There will be regular reviews, the first of which will take place on 28 June 2020. The Home Secretary says tomorrow she and the Transport Secretary are hosting a roundtable to help "form a long-term plan" for the industry. The Home Secretary promised to provide the Health Committee with the scientific evidence on which the decision is based.
The Foreign Office is currently advising against all but essential travel abroad. There "has been engagement" with embassies to explain the measures and international corridors are being considered. Also, writing for the Telegraph, the Home Secretary insisted travel restrictions are vital to prevent a second wave of coronavirus. She wrote "We owe it to the victims of Covid-19 to impose quarantine."
Education Select Committee Covid-19 Inquiry Evidence
There was wide acceptance among those giving evidence that disadvantaged children were falling further behind due to the pandemic closing schools.
- David Laws (Executive Chairman, Education Policy Institute) stated that disadvantaged youngsters are less able to cope with the home learning environment. Children in persistently disadvantaged homes are more likely now than any other time in the last two decades to fall behind.
- Anne Longfield OBE (Children’s Commissioner) estimated the costs of a catch-up programme at £1.2 Billion.
Treasury Select Committee Covid-19 Inquiry Evidence
Three former British chancellors have warned that the UK could face levels of unemployment not seen since the 1980s. Lord Alistair Darling, George Osborne, and Philip Hammond all raised the alarm.
- George Osborne stated about the furlough scheme that “trapping people on a scheme that is generous to them in the short term but actually prevents them re-entering the labour force to get the new job they need is potentially very damaging.” He said that “we have to be honest and say quite a lot of those businesses will not come back.”
- Mr Osborne stated that the history on recovery from pandemics was they were quicker than recovery from financial crisis,
- Mr Osborne said the crisis had reminded people of the power of Government. There will be a sense that if you want the protection of the state, you will have to pay your tax, either as an individual or a company. Left and right can agree on this.
- Alistair Darling stated “if I was in the treasury I would be planning for several options. A time-limited VAT reduction would stimulate the economy as we did when I was Chancellor.”
- Philip Hammond stated that the clear objective of the UK Treasury should be to raise UK productivity.
All three former chancellors said the UK government should launch large scale re-training programmes for the thousands of people likely to lose their jobs.
UK Government/Quango and Devolved Administrations Announcements
- PM Article: Writing in The Times, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that Britain will change its immigration rules and offer millions of Hong Kong Chinese "a route to citizenship" if China imposes new security laws.
- UK Insolvency Service: Has released Guidance on Furlough and redundancy, what to do if your employer is insolvent.
- HM Revenue & Customs: Issued guidance on How to treat certain expenses and benefits provided to employees during coronavirus (COVID-19)
- HM Revenue & Customs: Has launched an open consultation on Draft legislation: Taxation of coronavirus (COVID-19) support payments, the consultation closes on the 12 June.
- The Charity Commission: Published guidance on Reporting serious incidents to the Charity Commission during the coronavirus pandemic
- Home Office and UK Visas and Immigration: Guidance has been issued on Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors.
- Migration Advisory Committee: Has launched an open consultation on Shortage occupation list: call for evidence. It closes on 24 June 2020.
- Department of Health and Social Care: Has released guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and privacy information, it details the privacy notice on COVID-19 virus testing for critical workers and their household members who are self-isolating because they're showing symptoms.
- The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee: Has launched a new super inquiry on Post-Pandemic Economic Growth. This will look at the options available to Government to secure our economic recovery from the impact of Covid-19, covering investment, industrial strategy, jobs, skills, exports and sustainable growth. The closing date for submissions is the 15th July.
- MHCLG: Released statistics on Coronavirus (COVID-19) rough sleeper accommodation survey data: May 2020.
- Department of Transport: Have released statistics on transport use during the Coronavirus epidemic.
- Public Health England: Released data on National COVID-19 surveillance reports, including weekly summary of findings monitored through various COVID-19 surveillance systems.
- Public Health England: Released data on the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and risk in the UK
- Innovate UK: Has provided an update on the support available to businesses from Innovate UK.
- Northern Ireland Assembly: Has passed a motion calling on the UK Government to seek an extension to the Brexit transition period in the wake of problems presented by COVID-19.