On Monday night the Government announced that some non-essential shops could begin reopening on 15th June. However this was somewhat overshadowed by the Prime Minister’s Chief Advisor Dominic Cummings, who delivered a statement in the Rose Garden of N.10 about his trip to Durham during the peak of the Coronavirus crisis, the intense media focus and subsequent pressure on the Government has not gone away.
The Prime Minister twice backed Mr Cummings over the weekend. Today, during the Number 10 press briefing the Prime Ministers’ spokesman said “from the prime minister’s point of view, he has set out that he believes Dominic Cummings acted reasonably, legally and with integrity and with care for his family and for others.” Other Cabinet Ministers have also expressed their support, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock.
However, The Times is reporting that 32 MPs have called for Mr Cummings to resign with one Minister saying that the Conservative are in “big trouble” and people’s trust and confidence is “draining away before our eyes”. This morning the Minister for Scotland, Douglas Ross resigned stating “I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together… I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior advisor to the Government was right”.
The leader of the Conservative Scottish Party, Jackson Carlaw told the BBC that he has made his views clear to Downing Street and believes that Dominic Cummings should now consider his position.
Throughout the crisis Boris Johnson has had favourable poll ratings. However, Savanta ComRes has published polling today which shows that the government’s approval rating is now at -2%, dropping 16 points in one day, while the Prime Minister’s own approval is now also below zero (-1%), having dropped 20 points since the end of last week.
YouGov has found that 59% of Britons think Dominic Cummings should resign from his role as Boris Johnson’s senior adviser following questions about his conduct during lockdown (this is an increase of 7% since May 23rd). 27% of those surveyed believe Cummings should not resign while 14% answered “don’t know”. The data showed 52% of those surveyed who voted Leave at the 2016 EU referendum want Mr Cummings to resign, with 38% answering “should not resign” and 10% answering “don’t know”.
Easing of the Lockdown
On Monday night the Prime Minister announced that non-essential retail stores could reopen on 15th June. However, social distancing will have to be followed, and it is likely that several new procedures will have to be put in place to allow these shops to safely reopen.
The guidance states that customers should avoid handling products whilst browsing and the number of people visiting a store/ shopping centre should be regulated. Fitting rooms should be closed wherever possible and procedures to ensure clothes that have been returned are not immediately put back on the shop floor to the shop floor. Stores will also have to implement stricter cleaning regimes. Shops that can open include car dealerships, fashion shops, indoor and outdoor markets, galleries and betting shops. However, dentists, opticians and hairdressers are not included.
Commenting on the plan this morning on BBC Breakfast, Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said: “It’s also the case that we need to ensure that some of the shopping habits people may have grown used to in the pre-Covid days are habits that we exercise a degree of restraint on. So when it comes to touching and testing goods, when it comes to trying on clothing, when it comes to trying make-up and so on, that all of us exercise restraint in not doing that and recognising that as these stores reopen, it is a new normal, but it will allow us to ensure there are a wider range of goods and will also ensure the economy can return to a new normal, that is absolutely vital for people’s jobs.”
Michael Gove hinted that socialising in limited numbers in gardens or parks could soon be allowed.
ONS data published this morning shows:
- There were 42,173 deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales up to May 15 (and which were registered up to May 23), according to the ONS.
- This compares with 31,944 deaths of people testing positive for Covid-19 reported by the Department for Health and Social Care
- PA reports this is because the ONS figures include all mentions of Covid-19 on a death certificate, including suspected Covid-19, and are based on the date that deaths occurred. The Department of Health figures are based on when deaths were reported where the deceased has tested positive for Covid-19.
- In the week ending May 15, 14,573 deaths were registered in England and Wales -- 4,385 more than average for that week and a deterioration on the 3,081 excess deaths recorded in the previous week.
- London has nearly twice as many home-workers compared to the East of England and East Midlands (60% compared to 33%).
Summary of the Press Conference
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
- Increase of 2,004 cases since yesterday, with 134 people dying.
- For the first time since 18th March there were no deaths recorded in Northern Ireland.
- ONS statistics show the lowest number of deaths for six weeks.
- We are past the peak the number of deaths is falling and we must keep our resolve.
- Thanked everybody over the bank holiday who stuck with the social distancing rules
- 8,802 people are in hospital, including 98 NHS colleagues.
- We have been working hard to build our supplies of PPE. We have now signed contracts to manufacture 2 billion pieces of PPE here in the UK. Around the world we have signed 100s of contracts, including a deal to receive over 3bn gloves. We are not just keeping up with demand but are able to replenish our stockpiles.
- Leading the world in clinical trials, the recovery trial is the world’s largest trial – the NHS gives us some of the best data, today we are beginning a new trial of an anti-viral drug, which could shorten recovery time by 4 days. This is probably the biggest step forward for the treatment of coronavirus since the pandemic began.
- A member of the public asked whether the Government would review penalty charges for people who travelled with children during the Coronavirus pandemic, Matt Hancock said he would take this question away and look at it.
- A member of the public asked why we can’t visit another household, when people can go back to school and visit shops. Matt Hancock said I understand the question, we are looking at how we can make this happen in a safe way.
- When asked if Dominic Cummings should resign following pressure from Conservative MPs, he said what he did was within the guidelines, I can understand why reasonable people can take a different view but my judgement which is the same as the Prime Ministers is that he acted within the guidance. If you are unable to look after a small child that is an exceptional circumstance.
- He also confirmed that in future we will have local lockdowns if needed.
Professor John Newton, responsible for Track and Trace
- Small trend upward for car, light good vehicles and heavy good vehicles which we expect
- Public transport is flat.
- 7 day rolling average trend showing positive coronavirus results going down.
- England has had 471 admissions to hospital, down from 639 since 17th May and the lowest number since they started collecting this data. In ICU wards 11% of beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients, a downwards trend.
- We had a much larger peak in London, North West and Midlands but across the country we are seeing a decline.
- People are still dying, 134 deaths yesterday. This is a relatively low figure compared to previous days but there is always a bank holiday affect. The 7-day rolling average does show a decline.
- Up to 15th May the ONS reported a total of 45,231 deaths, compared to 33,998 by DHSC.
- The number of deaths in hospitals and care homes are declining.
- When responding to the questions about seeing family, he said that the highest risk of transmission is in households, but the gradual increase in social contact is what will get us all back to normal but everything we do has risk attached. It is incredibly important that as a nation we keep our resolve and people should act responsibly.
- HM Treasury have opened applications for the Coronavirus sick pay scheme, this will allow small businesses and employers across the UK, who have paid statutory sick pay to staff taking coronavirus-related leave, to claim back the money.
- The UK Government has committed up to £23m in extra funding to support the Welsh Government during the coronavirus pandemic
- Across all settings, the number of confirmed reported deaths in the UK has risen to 37,048, the Department of Health and Social care said. That is an increase of 134.
- There have been zero new reported deaths from Coronavirus in Northern Ireland today.
- There have been eight deaths reported in Wales today.
- At her daily press conference, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that from Thursday if people develop Coronavirus symptoms, they must book a test immediately and isolate themselves. If the test is positive, they will then hear from a tracer who will ask them about recent contacts in the community. Sturgeon emphasised that people’s data would be secure and only available to NHS Scotland.
- Tests on coronavirus-infected health workers in two French hospitals show that 98 per cent of them maintained strong immunity a month later, a finding that will help ease concerns that Covid-19 immunity is not durable.
- The UK will provide the anti-viral drug remdesivir to some Covid-19 patients after clinical trials found that it could shorten the recovery period by four days. The government said it was working the manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, to test the drug on an unspecified number of patients for whom it could provide the greatest benefit.