NUMBER 10 EXPLAINS THE ‘STAY ALERT’ MOTTO
The Government has sought to explain exactly what it means with its new ‘Stay Alert’ slogan.
The Prime Minister has been forced to defend his ‘exit plan’ amid a backlash over getting rid of the powerful ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ mantra for the less straightforward one.
Downing Street issued an explanation which reads:
We can help control the virus if we all Stay Alert:
Stay Alert by staying at home as much as possible
Stay Alert by working from home if you can
Stay Alert by limiting contact with other people
Stay Alert by keeping distance if you go out. (2 metres apart where possible)
Stay Alert by washing your hands regularly
-And if you or anyone in your household has symptoms, you all need to self-isolate.
Boris Johnson urged the country to go back to work tonight as he finally set out his tentative three-stage ‘exit plan’ from coronavirus lockdown – with schools potentially reopening from next month.
In a TV address to the nation from Downing Street as the UK’s united front threatens to crumble, the PM paid tribute to the ‘sacrifice’ of Britons in reining in the killer disease, and insisted the government’s top priority is to ensure those efforts are not ‘thrown away’.
But while he stressed the need for caution, Mr Johnson delivered a striking message about ‘colossal’ impact on our ‘way of life’ and the importance of getting the economy up and running, amid fears that the draconian restrictions are causing the worst recession in 300 years.
From tomorrow anyone who cannot work from home – even if they are not carrying out an essential function – is being ‘actively encouraged’ to return to their duties. Mr Johnson said they should try not to use public transport, and safety guidance had been developed for businesses, but in a clear signal he said: ‘Work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home.’
Mr Johnson insisted the wider lockdown will remain in place, including ‘social distancing’ rules for people to be two metres apart where possible, and fines will even be increased – with details to be fleshed out to Parliament tomorrow. He said the critical R number is currently estimated at between 0.5 and 1, and the ‘brakes’ could be put on if the situation deteriorates in areas.
However, he said sunbathing and unlimited outdoor exercise – even if it is not local to your home – will be permitted from Wednesday. Sports such as tennis and golf can happen, albeit only within your own household.
And his ‘road map’ makes clear that as long as the battle against the disease is succeeding, primary schools could start opening from the beginning of next month, with reception, Year 1 and Year 6 the first to go back.
‘Our ambition is that secondary pupils facing exams next year will get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays,’ Mr Johnson said.
A DefCon-style system is being introduced to describe the country’s outbreak condition, with the UK currently being at the second most serious rating of four.
More shops could reopen in June – and Mr Johnson even suggested that some parts of the hospitality industry could be making a comeback by July.
The premier insisted that the steps were all ‘conditional’ on the outbreak remaining under control and there were ‘big Ifs’ about what can happen. ‘It depends on all of us – the entire country – to follow the advice, to observe social distancing, and to keep that R down,’ he said.
But the moves go much further than those in the rest of the UK, as the united stance looks to be crumbling. Nicola Sturgeon joined Wales and Northern Ireland in condemning Mr Johnson’s decision to ditch the powerful ‘stay at home’ mantra this afternoon. The First Minister said the new ‘stay alert’ version – which even has a green rather than a red border design – was ‘vague’ and raised the risk that ‘people will die unnecessarily’. None of the rest of the UK will be using the new slogan.
Wales has already flatly dismissed the idea of schools coming back next month, and Ms Sturgeon has suggested there is little prospect of the returning north of the border until August.
Boris Johnson is scrambling to defend the decision to ditch the blanket ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ slogan, amid furious opposition from Nicola Sturgeon
Boris Johnson reasserts himself as PM of the UK as he rebukes Nicola Sturgeon over lockdown criticism
Boris Johnson tonight reasserted his authority as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as he set out a lockdown exit strategy and rebuked Nicola Sturgeon.
The First Minister of Scotland had earlier launched a furious attack on Mr Johnson for dropping the ‘stay at home’ lockdown mantra as she insisted she will keep using it for Scotland.
She complained that she had not been informed the slogan was being replaced before it was briefed out to the media.
Addressing a briefing in Edinburgh after attending Cobra, she said she had demanded that the Westminster government does not deploy the new guidance in Scotland.
But Mr Johnson tonight made clear in his address to the nation that he is making decisions for all four of the Home Nations.
He said he wanted to provide the UK with ‘the first sketch of a road map for reopening society’ to give people a ‘sense of the way ahead’.
He then said: ‘I have consulted across the political spectrum, across all four nations of the UK, and though different parts of the country are experiencing the pandemic at different rates and though it is right to be flexible in our response I believe that as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, there is a strong resolve to defeat this together.
‘And today a general consensus on what we could do. And I stress could. Because although we have a plan, it is a conditional plan.’
In the crucial speech, Mr Johnson said: ‘It is thanks to your effort and sacrifice in stopping the spread of this disease that the death rate is coming down and hospital admissions are coming down.
‘Thanks to you we have protected our NHS and saved many thousands of lives.’
Mr Johnson warned that ‘now is not the time’ to lift the lockdown entirely, saying: ‘We must stay alert. We must continue to control the virus and save lives.’
‘We must continue to control the virus and save lives,’ he said.
‘And yet we must also recognise that this campaign against the virus has come at colossal cost to our way of life.
‘We can see it all around us in the shuttered shops and abandoned businesses and darkened pubs and restaurants.
‘And there are millions of people who are both fearful of this terrible disease, and at the same time also fearful of what this long period of enforced inactivity will do to their livelihoods and their mental and physical wellbeing.
‘To their futures and the futures of their children. So I want to provide tonight – for you – the shape of a plan to address both fears.
‘Both to beat the virus and provide the first sketch of a road map for reopening society.
He went on: ‘From this Wednesday we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise.’
‘You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household.’
He added: ‘You must obey the rules on social distancing and to enforce those rules we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them.’
Mr Johnson said guidance will be issued to show how workplaces can become ‘Covid Secure’, amid threats from unions that staff will simply refuse to go back if their health and safety is not protected.
‘The first step is a change of emphasis that we hope that people will act on this week,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must.
‘We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.
‘And we want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.
‘So work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home.’
Mr Johnson sought to play down the splits within the UK, after the backlash from Ms Sturgeon, and her Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster.
‘I have consulted across the political spectrum, across all four nations of the UK,’ he said. ‘And though different parts of the country are experiencing the pandemic at different rates.
‘And though it is right to be flexible in our response, I believe that as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, there is a strong resolve to defeat this together.
He said at the Cobra meeting today there was a ‘general consensus on what we could do’.
‘And I stress could,’ he said. ‘Because although we have a plan, it is a conditional plan.’
Nicola Sturgeon’s backdrop delivered a less than subtle message at her briefing in Edinburgh after Cobra this afternoon. The Scottish First Minister said the new advice was ‘vague and imprecise, adding: ‘I don’t know what ”stay alert” means.’
Nicola Sturgeon tweeted this morning that she had still not been formally told the PM was changing the ‘stay at home’ mantra – and made clear she has no intention of doing so
The PM has dropped the ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ slogan in favour of a ‘stay alert’ version – which notably has green edging instead of red
PM vows to ‘rapidly reverse’ care home outbreaks
Boris Johnson tonight vowed to ‘reverse rapidly’ the coronavirus outbreaks raging in Britain’s care homes.
In his address to the nation this evening, the Prime Minister said there is ‘much more work to be done’ in tackling the ‘awful epidemics’ in both care homes and in the NHS.
The virus has devastated homes for the elderly, with experts warning cases are pushing up the UK’s average transmission rate and are providing one of the biggest barriers to lifting the lockdown.
The government has come under increasing pressure for its handling of the care home crisis, which has cost the lives of thousands of elderly residents.
In his speech tonight, the Prime Minister acknowledged the horrific impact of the virus on care homes and said: ‘We must reverse rapidly the awful epidemics in care homes and in the NHS, and though the numbers are coming down sharply now, there is plainly much more to be done.’
Ahead of his address to the nation, Ms Sturgeon condemned ditching the mantra that has brought the country to an effective standstill since March 23.
The First Minister said she had not been informed about the change, and insisted the simple guidance would remain in force in Scotland whatever the PM says. Her Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster also indicated they will keep telling people to stay at home.
Addressing a briefing in Edinburgh after attending Cobra this afternoon, Ms Sturgeon said the new catchphrase was ‘vague and imprecise, adding: ‘I don’t know what ”stay alert” means.’
She warned that ‘people will die unnecessarily’ if progress against the disease is ‘squandered’ by ‘easing up too soon or by sending mixed messages that result in people thinking it is OK to ease up now’.
One of the government’s own advisers, behavioural expert Professor Susan Michie, joined the criticism saying the shift risked ‘undermining the good work over the last few weeks’.
In the face of the anger, Mr Johnson posted a fuller version spelling out that people are still being urged to ‘stay at home where possible’ and ‘stay alert’ when they do go out.
Meanwhile, there is anger among some senior ministers that parts of Mr Johnson’s speech were pre-recorded, before the full Cabinet and Cobra considered the issues today. Government sources insisted other elements will be filmed after the measures have been considered.
Earlier, the premier tried to play down expectations for his statement, telling the Sun on Sunday that mountaineers know that coming down from the peak is ‘the most dangerous bit’, as it is easy to ‘run too fast, lose control and stumble’.
The first steps towards easing the curbs strangling the economy are set to be very tentative, after ministers were told that 18,000 new infections are still being recorded every day – far above the target of 4,000 for a wide-scale loosening. Scientists have warned 100,000 Britons could die by the end of the year if he gets it wrong.
A DefCon-style five stage system will be introduced to describe the country’s outbreak condition, with the UK currently being at the second most serious rating of four – meaning most of the lockdown must be maintained.
With evidence increasingly suggesting the virus spreads far less readily in the open air, the once-a-day limit on outdoor exercise will be dropped.
The focus will also shift to getting businesses up and running where possible, with detailed guidance for firms on how they should operate, and garden centres allowed to open from Wednesday where two-metre ‘social distancing’ rules can be put in place. Travellers and shoppers could be urged to wear face coverings, as has already happened in Scotland.
Breaches of the more nuanced rules could be enforced with harsher fines, amid complaints from police that the enforcement so far has been ‘wishy washy. Plans are being drawn up to use ‘peer pressure’ to get people to self-isolate, as those who test positive will be told to get in touch with anyone they might have infected.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News this morning that the announcements will be ‘cautious’ and there will be no ‘grand reopening’ of the economy, but the premier will lay out a plan that ‘encourages people to go to work’. He insisted ‘stay at home’ will still be an important part of the government’s approach – and suggested controls could be targeted at specific neighbourhoods in future.
How the government’s DefCon style five stage alert system for the UK’s coronavirus outbreak could work
On another pivotal day in the all-consuming crisis:
- The UK has recorded a further 269 coronavirus deaths across all settings, taking the total to 31,855;
- The new ‘stay alert’ guidance has been designed with green edging – a striking contrast to the red colour scheme for the ‘stay home’ version;
- Mr Johnson is expected to confirm that garden centres will be allowed to open from Wednesday and publish guidance for safer working in offices – but tougher fines of up to £3,000 for breaches of the rules;
- Airports and travel companies reacted with fury to plans to impose two weeks’ quarantine on anyone arriving in the country, including UK citizens returning from holiday;
- The UK death toll rose by 346 to 31,587, including more than 200 healthcare workers. Globally there have been almost 4million cases with more than 276,000 lives lost so far;
- Ministers voiced suspicion that political opponents and union barons were colluding to block schools reopening until pay demands were met, in a group they described as ‘The Blob’;
- A poll has found Britons believe the government has handled the crisis worse than other major countries apart from the US;
- Mr Jenrick revealed that 40 per cent of Isle of Wight residents, around 50,000 people, have downloaded the NHS coronavirus tracking app in the first week;
- Statistician Professor David Speigelhalter has branded the government’s use of figures ’embarrassing’, saying test numbers were being misrepresented and the public was not being treated with ‘respect’.
China’s Xi Jinping ‘personally asked WHO to hold back information about human-to-human transmission and delayed the global response by four to six WEEKS’
A bombshell report claims Chinese President Xi Jinping personally asked World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom to ‘delay a global warning’ about the threat of COVID-19 during a conversation back in January.
Germany’s Der Spiegel published the allegations this weekend, citing intelligence from the country’s Federal Intelligence Service, known as the ‘Bundesnachrichtendienst’ (BND).
According to the BND: ‘On January 21, China’s leader Xi Jinping asked WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to hold back information about a human-to-human transmission and to delay a pandemic warning.
‘The BND estimates that China’s information policy lost four to six weeks to fight the virus worldwide’.
The WHO released a statement shortly after the publication of the shock claims, calling them ‘unfounded and untrue’.
‘Dr Tedros and President Xi did not speak on January 21 and they have never spoken by phone. Such inaccurate reports distract and detract from WHO’s and the world’s efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic,’ the statement read.
It continued: ‘China confirmed human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus on January 20 [prior to the alleged phone conversation].
‘The WHO publicly declared on January 22 that ‘data collected … suggests that human-to-human transmission is taking place in Wuhan.”
Mr Johnson has tried to play down expectations for the speech, telling the Sun on Sunday the ‘descent’ from a mountain was always the riskiest bit.
‘That’s when you’re liable to be overconfident and make mistakes,’ he said.
‘You have very few options on the climb up — but it’s on the descent you have to make sure you don’t run too fast, lose control and stumble.’
He tweeted an image of the full advice this afternoon, saying: ‘Everyone has a role to play in helping to control the virus by staying alert and following the rules. This is how we can continue to save lives as we start to recover from coronavirus.’
The full guidance says: ‘We can help control the virus if we all Stay Alert: by staying at home as much as possible; by working from home if you can; by limiting contact with other people; by keeping distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible); by washing your hands regularly.’
But the updated slogan has already attracted a backlash for being much too soft to guard against a deadly and very contagious disease.
Ms Sturgeon has previously warned that ditching the clear and simple advice will be ‘potentially catastrophic’.
She tweeted this morning that she had still not been formally told the PM was changing the mantra. ‘It is of course for him to decide what’s most appropriate for England, but given the critical point we are at in tackling the virus, #StayHomeSaveLives remains my clear message to Scotland at this stage,’ she said.
She added pointedly: ‘STAY HOME. PROTECT THE NHS. SAVE LIVES.’
At a briefing in Edinburgh this afternoon she complained that she did not really understand the new mantra in England.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster said the province will stick with the ‘stay home, save lives’ message.
Speaking to BBC Northern Ireland radio on Sunday, she said: ‘On the whole, the message is to stay at home. We will say we are not deviating from the message at this time.’
Prof Michie said the new slogan was ‘a long way from’ being clear and consistent. ‘Dropping the ‘stay at home’ message from the main slogan in favour of generalised alertness may be taken as a green light by many to not stay at home and begin socialising with friends and other activities that increase the risk of transmission,’ the UCL scientist said.
‘This could potentially undermine the good work over the last few weeks that has seen impressively sustained high levels of adherence by the public in what for many are very challenging situations.’
Union chiefs have also threatened that members will be told not return to work unless it is safe to do so, while many Labour figures have criticised the government for its change of policy.
Mr Jenrick shrugged off criticism that the message is confusing, saying: ‘Stay alert will mean stay alert by staying home as much as possible.’
‘But stay alert when you do go out by maintaining social distancing, washing your hands, respecting others in the workplace and the other settings that you will go to,’ ,’ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
Mr Jenrick told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday it was the right time to ‘update and broaden’ the message to the public.
‘I think that’s what the public want and that they will be able to understand this message, which is that we should be staying home as much as possible but when we do go to work and go about our business we need to remain vigilant, we need to stay alert,’ he said.
‘And that means things like respecting others, remaining two meters apart, washing your hands, following the social distancing guidelines because the virus continues to be prevalent, too many people are still dying of this and we’re going to have to live with it for a long time.’
Pressed if there is a danger the message is too woolly, Mr Jenrick said: ‘Well I hope not. ‘We need to have a broader message because we want to slowly and cautiously restart the economy and the country.’
Mr Jenrick went on: ‘We’re not going to take risks with the public. I understand people are anxious about the future but we want now to have a message which encourages people to go to work.
‘Staying home will still be an important part of the message but you will be able to go to work and you will in time be able to do some other activities that you’re not able to do today.’
Mr Jenrick said measures could be strengthened or relaxed locally to control the virus.
Matt Hancock ‘told PM to ”give me a break” over criticism of response
Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged Boris Johnson to ‘give me a break’ in a furious bust-up over the coronavirus crisis.
Pressure intensified on Mr Hancock over his handling of the crisis last night after more than 25 million goggles were found to offer frontline NHS workers inadequate defence against the deadly virus.
The latest in a string of embarrassing Government failures over Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) came as senior sources suggested to The Mail on Sunday that Mr Hancock was now living ‘on borrowed time’ in the Cabinet.
One source claimed Boris Johnson had raised questions with Mr Hancock about his department’s grip on the crisis, only for the Minister to plead: ‘That’s not fair – give me a break.’
The 25.6 million pairs of Tiger Eye goggles bought for the NHS are not fit for purpose, according to the British Standards Institute: 15.9 million of them have already been distributed, with hospitals now being told to withdraw the remaining 9.7 million from use.
‘The evidence behind it will also be able to inform what we do at a local level and if we see there are outbreaks in particular localities, neighbourhoods, schools, towns, then we may be able to take particular measures in those places as we build up a more sophisticated and longer-term response to controlling the virus.’
There were signs early last week that the government was putting together major moves towards easing the lockdown.
However, the ambitions have been scaled back, with Mr Johnson his most senior ministers – Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock – having thrashed out a limited strategy on Wednesday night, fearing that the country’s infection rate is still too high.
The real figure is reported to be around 14,000 people a day, while the government’s target is said to be around 4,000, according to the Sunday Times.
It has emerged the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) received warnings that there could be 100,00 deaths by the end of the year if measures are relaxed too far and too fast.
A study by experts from the London School of Tropical Hygiene and College London modelled different approaches to ‘evaluate which were viable and which were not’ and reportedly concluded there was ‘very limited room for manoeuvre’.
Policies such as allowing more than one household to mix in social ‘bubbles’, and reopening schools for more pupils have been put on hold.
A No 10 source said that Mr Johnson, who is facing calls from Tory MPs to steer Britain clear of an economic recession, is ‘proceeding with maximum caution and maximum conditionality’ (pictured, people by Tower Bridge, London)
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick shrugged off criticism that the new message is confusing, saying: ‘Stay alert will mean stay alert by staying home as much as possible.’
Ministers’ claims on testing and death toll are ’embarrassing’, says eminent statistician
Prof David Spiegelhalter said the public was not being treated with ‘respect’ because the government was not laying out figures in a ‘trustworthy’ way
Ministers’ claims on coronavirus testing and the death toll are ’embarrassing’, an eminent statistician said today.
Prof David Spiegelhalter said the public was not being treated with ‘respect’ because the government was not laying out figures in a ‘trustworthy’ way.
The expert has been cited by Boris Johnson and other senior figures for his doubts about making international comparisons of death rates – but recently told them to stop claiming his views in support, as broad trends can be identified between countries.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Prof Spiegelhalter said he watched the most recent daily Downing Street press briefing and ‘found it completely embarrassing’.
‘We got lots of big numbers, precise numbers of tests done… well that’s not how many were done yesterday, it includes tests that were posted out,’ he said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
‘We are told 31,587 people have died – no they haven’t, it is far more than that.
‘So I think this is not trustworthy communication of statistics, and it is such a missed opportunity. There is a public out there who are broadly very supportive of the measures, they are hungry for details, for facts, for genuine information. And yet they get fed what I call number theatre, which seems to be coordinated much more by a No10 communications team rather than genuinely trying to inform people about what is going on.
‘I just wish that the data was being brought together and presented by people who really know its strengths and limitations and could treat the audience with some respect.’
‘The view is that the public will forgive us for mistakes made when going into the lockdown but they won’t forgive us for mistakes made coming out of it,’ an official told the Sunday Times.
Evidence of ‘coronaphobia’ among the public will have played a role in the decisions, with a poll for the Sun on Sunday showing 90 per cent of Britons oppose lifting restrictions this week.
Even so, the tweaks being unveiled by Mr Johnson are set to provoke splits in the UK’s approach, with each nation having devolved powers.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford made clear his concerns about the ‘stay at home’ slogan being dropped this morning. He said he would be telling people in the principality that ‘if you are not out of your house for an essential purpose… staying at home remains the best way you can prtect yourself and others’.
Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said she had ‘no idea’ what the new guidance meant.
‘That is not a change that we would agree with. I think the First Minister was really clear last week that the ”stay at home” message was the right message and if I’m perfectly frank, I have no idea what ‘stay alert’ actually means,’ she told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland.
She added: ‘We’re asking the public to do a very great deal here and the least we can do is be consistent and clear in the message that we’re sending and stay at home is the right message.’
Professor Peter Horby, chair of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the PM must be ‘incredibly cautious’.
‘We have to be clear that this is not like a storm where we batten down the hatches and then it passes by and we walk out into the sunshine and it’s gone,’ he said.
‘It’s still out there. Most of us have not had this virus. So if we get this wrong it will very quickly increase across the population and we will be back in a situation of crisis.’So we have to be incredibly cautious about relaxing the measures.’
Mr Johnson will also announce a five-tier warning system, administered by a Joint Biosecurity Centre, to monitor the virus risk around the country and encourage public adherence to the new measures.
The alerts will range from Level One (green) to Level Five (red), with Britain currently on Level Four.
It will be administered by a Joint Biosecurity Centre, which will be responsible for detecting local spikes of Covid-19 so ministers can increase restrictions where necessary to help reduce the infection rates.
Andy Burnham, the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, tweeted that it ‘feels to me like a mistake to me to drop the clear’ stay at home message.
Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said: ‘The messaging from this Government throughout this crisis has been a total joke, but their new slogan takes it to a new level. Stay alert? It’s a deadly virus not a zebra crossing.’
However, there was praise for the new message from the Bruges Group think tank. It tweeted: ‘The Government’s new slogan is good.
‘Green replaces red for a calmer feel. ‘Stay Alert’ replaces ‘Stay Home’ and underlines individual responsibility. ‘Control the Virus’ is a positive message.
‘It’s within our power to achieve.’
Mr Johnson is expected to announce tomorrow that England is on the verge of moving down to Level Three from its Level Four grading, in a sign that there is no significant increase in the Covid-19 infection rate.
A No 10 source said that Mr Johnson, who is facing growing calls from Tory MPs to steer Britain clear of a severe economic recession, is ‘proceeding with maximum caution and maximum conditionality’.
The government’s road map for bringing the country out of lockdown will be published in a 50-page document tomorrow. It is understood that MPs will be briefed on the so-called ‘exit strategy’.
The PM is also expected to say that social distancing rules will save livelihoods as well as lives. The change in messaging reflects concerns that Britain faces an economic contraction not felt in 300 years.
Matt Hancock (right ) has asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) to ‘give him a break’ after a recent bust-up between the pair over the Health Secretary’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak
An Opinium poll released today suggests the public thinks the UK’s response has been worse than other major countries – apart from the US
‘School prefect Hancock is living on borrowed time’ after clashes with Michael Gove, Rishi Sunak AND PM
Matt Hancock is living on ‘borrowed time’ as Health Secretary following clashes with the three most powerful members of the Government over the Covid crisis, the Mail on Sunday has been told.
Mr Hancock is understood to have pleaded ‘give me a break’ when Boris Johnson reprimanded him over the virus testing programme – leading to open questioning within Downing Street over Mr Hancock’s long-term political future. His run-in with Mr Johnson follows battles with both Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove over the best strategy for managing the pandemic.
Shortly after Mr Johnson returned to work at No 10, he and Mr Johnson had a tense exchange about the the Health Department’s ‘grip’ on the crisis, during which Mr Hancock said to the PM, in what has been described as a ‘petulant’ tone: ‘That’s not fair – give me a break.’
He is also being blamed in some government quarters – or scapegoated, according to his allies – for not moving quickly enough to do more to protect care homes.
Whitehall officials knew as early as the first week of March that the projected death rate among the over-90s was expected to be as high as 50 per cent.
His broadcast will be his second national address of the crisis, and the first since he was hospitalised. Beforehand his televised address, he will chair a Cobra meeting with leaders of the devolved administrations and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The change in messaging comes as the Johnson government’s united front cracks under the pressures of handling the coronavirus crisis, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock now at blows with the PM, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Mr Hancock urged the PM to ‘give me a break’ in a bust-up raising questions over the Minister’s Cabinet future.
Mr Hancock’s spokesman said Ministers were ‘furious’ about the mistake with the goggles, which they said had been ordered by Labour in 2009.
A Health Department source dubbed them ‘Gordon’s goggles’ and added they were bought against 2001 standards of protection which were superseded by the time they were purchased. ‘Even a decade on, we are still having to clear up Labour’s mess’, they added.
The latest PPE fiasco will be damaging to the Health Secretary, coming days after it emerged that surgical gowns ordered from Turkey and flown into the UK amid great fanfare did not all meet British safety standards.
A source said tensions had run high in the run-up to the deadline for hitting the 100,00 tests a day target, but said ‘the PM was full of praise for his performance’.
A No 10 source said: ‘This is a critical moment so, having assessed the evidence carefully, the Prime Minister will ask for the public resolve as we continue to do whatever is needed to defeat this devastating virus.’
Yesterday Mr Johnson begged the British public to stay indoors during the last days of full lockdown.
Taking to Twitter, the PM told his followers: ‘Thank you for all you are doing to protect our NHS and save lives. This bank holiday weekend, please stay at home, so we don’t undo everything we’ve done so far.’
Yet people still poured into the nation’s beauty spots to soak up some bank holiday sunshine – including the PM who this morning strolled through St James’s Park, where he was accosted by a finger-jabbing passer-by.
A member of the public stopped to give British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a talking to as he took a morning walk through St James’s Park in London yesterday. He was carrying a reusable Costa coffee cup
Mr Johnson warned Britons that venturing out over the bank holiday weekend could ‘undo everything that’s been done so far’
Visitors walk through a busy Broadway Market in London despite Mr Johnson urging Britons to stay at home this weekend
Parliament Square in Westminster witnessed huge crowds of cyclists as people enjoyed the hottest day of the year so far
A further 346 coronavirus deaths were announced on Saturday, bringing the country’s official death toll to 31,587
Ministers fear that ‘The Blob’ – made up of political opponents, union barons and local government administrations – is colluding to sabotage the reopening of schools
Ministers believe ‘The Blob’ – an army made up of political opponents and union barons – is colluding to politicise the coronavirus outbreak.
The accusation comes amid outrage over a threat by unions to block schools reopening unless their demands for extra money are met by Whitehall.
Last night the news sparked a furious backlash from academic experts and MPs.
And inside Downing Street there is mounting concern that Labour under Keir Starmer working with the party’s union allies and the devolved administrations, are co-ordinating their response to lifting the lockdown.
It compounded existing accusations that the government has been sending mixed messages following a flurry of reports it is preparing to ditch its ‘stay at home’ slogan in the Sunday broadcast.
And further casting a cloud of a confusion, a second tweet from the official Downing Street account said: ‘If you are leaving the house this weekend you need to keep two metres apart from others.’
Mr Johnson was pictured swigging from a reusable Costa coffee cup on his daily walk through the park.
As he marched to work, Mr Johnson was confronted by a man who appeared give him a piece of his mind, pointing a finger at the startled PM as a smiling woman looked on. It is unclear what the man said and MailOnline has contacted No 10 for comment.
Thousands of Britons joined Mr Johnson in hitting the country’s green spaces, but unlike the premier some were pictured sprawled out in groups sunbathing on what is expected to be the hottest day of the year so far.
Police in Brighton stopped cars on the A23 to prevent sun-worshipping covidiots away from the seaside, with locals cheering as tourists were turned away.
And the Coastguard said that on Friday it had the highest number of call-outs since lockdown began, with 97 incidents, 54 per cent more than the average of 63 recorded for the previous month.
Residents jog and walk along the the Regents canal in London, where hundreds of people were out getting their exercise
Cyclists were out in their droves on the Mall in London amid signs some lockdown restrictions could be softened
Cyclists queuing at traffic lights entering Parliament Square as thousands of Britons enjoyed the sweltering temperatures
Visitors enjoying views of the skyscrapers in the City of London from a closed off viewing area in Greenwich Park, London
Travellers to UK face two weeks in self-isolation
From June, all arrivals in the UK – including returning Britons – will be quarantined for 14 days and face £1,000 fines or deportation if they fail to do so.
The announcement of the new travel measures comes seven weeks into the nation-wide coronavirus lockdown.
Government officials are working to avoid a second wave of the bug, which has killed more than 31,000 people in the UK alone.
The regulations mean Britons hoping for a week in the sun in the summer months will have to book three-weeks off work to ensure they can isolate on their return.
Key workers and travellers from Ireland will be exempt from the quarantine, MailOnline understands.
Travellers will have to fill in a digital form giving the address of where they will be in quarantine. This will then be checked at airports, ports and Eurostar stations, although it is not clear which agency will provide staff to do this or on what database the forms will be stored on.
The scheme will be enforced by spot checks on the addresses but ministers have not said whether this will involve the police, Border Force or NHS.
Although the rule-breaking signals compliance with lockdown is fraying, Mr Johnson has told Cabinet he will be proceeding with ‘maximum caution’ in order to avoid a second wave of deadly infections.
Transport unions have threatened to derail any move to get too many people back onto trains and buses as chiefs have said they ‘will not compromise on the health, safety and livelihoods of our members’.
Teaching unions have sounded a similar warning relating to the phased return of schools.
Ministers have been urging the UK to stick with social distancing rules this weekend despite the sunny weather and to wait for the PM to set out his plan tomorrow. Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘Thank you for all you are doing to protect our NHS and save lives. This bank holiday weekend, please stay at home, so we don’t undo everything that’s been done so far.’
The PM also acknowledged the strain the lockdown has put on people’s mental health as he said it ‘has been a difficult time for many’. He told anyone who is struggling that ‘there is help available’.
Ministers are thought to want to start sending primary schoolchildren back to classrooms in June. However, unions have said they will not sign off on the plans until a test and tracing system is fully operational.
The return of schools and childcare services will be key to restoring much of the economy because many workers with children will be unable to go back to work until education settings are up and running.
MoS LAUNCHES £3MILLION FUND TO HELP SMALL FIRMS BEAT THE VIRUS
The Mail on Sunday today launches a £3 million support package to help small firms battle the coronavirus crisis.
The owner of the MoS, Daily Mail, Metro and the i is giving away £3,000 of advertising in its newspapers – and on Mail Online and metro.co.uk – to 1,000 small businesses.
The groundbreaking giveaway, launched in collaboration with the Federation of Small Businesses, will open for applications from Wednesday at grants.fsb.org.uk.
It is The Mail on Sunday’s way of doing our bit to help firms that provide incomes for more than 17 million people and comes hot on the heels of the hugely successful Mail Force initiative.
That charity, set up by MoS owner Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) and its partners, has already raised over £6 million to fly in millions of items of vital protective equipment for NHS staff and care workers.
Today, a survey by accountancy software giant Sage finds one in three firms expect sales to be 50 per cent lower after lockdown is eased. Separate research from legal firm Buckworths found a quarter of small firms do not think the Government’s existing support measures will be enough for them to survive.
Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘Our members will be hugely grateful to The Mail on Sunday for this generous support. It’s fantastic.
‘The pandemic is likely to have an impact on businesses for months – if not years – to come and they’ll need a lot of help to get back on their feet. It won’t be enough to rely on word of mouth to attract new customers.
‘We urge every eligible member to apply for this advertising giveaway.
Police hit out at ‘wishy-washy’ government lockdown messages after sun-worshippers pack out parks and beaches on ‘hottest day of the year so far’
Police today lashed out at ‘wishy-washy’ enforcement of social distancing rules after sun-worshipping ‘covidiots’ packed out parks and beaches on the hottest day of the year so far.
The Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF) complained the Government is sending out mixed messages after people basked in sunshine yesterday, when temperatures hit 26C (78.8F) on the south coast, making it hotter than Ibiza and St Tropez.
Chair Ken Marsh told BBC Radio 4 that authorities ‘needed to be firmer right from the beginning’.
He said: ‘It’s been quite wishy-washy how we’ve gone about it.
‘Had we been very stringent from the off – it is painful, but it’s not overly painful in terms of what you’re actually being asked to do – then I think we would have a better result now.’
Hackney police says it is ‘fighting a losing battle’ as hundreds of people flock to London parks, including London Fields (pictured), to eat pizza, drink wine and eat ice cream on Saturday
Hundreds flocked to London Fields where Hackney police said they were powerless to stop those out enjoying the sun from drinking and eating pizza.
In scenes replicated around the country, the Coastguard said that on Friday it had the highest number of call-outs since lockdown began, with 97 incidents, 54 per cent more than the average of 63 for the month.
Traffic police in Brighton were stopping cars at the end of the A23 which leads to the south coast seaside mecca and officers have fined visitors trying to visit for the bank holiday.
Hackney Police tweeted a picture of London Fields adding: ‘Sadly we’re fighting a losing battle in the parks today. Literally hundreds of people sitting having pizza, beers, wines.
‘As always a big thank you to those that are observing the guidelines.’
Health officials have said they fear Britons are starting to get complacent about the Covid-19 lockdown after traffic and mobile phone data revealed more people are on the roads and looking for directions.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said on Saturday that ‘there was a little bit of concern’ after the unseasonably warm weather drew big crowds to public spaces.
A police checkpoint turns away cars trying to get into Brighton as bored families break coronavirus lockdown rules
Covidiots flock to Burgess Park in South London, ignoring social distancing advice and packing out pathways and benches
Families with young children queue for ice cream near Greenwich Park in London on Saturday as the ice cream seller dons a face mask despite customers lining up shoulder-to-shoulder
Police officers on patrol in a South London park are exasperated as they ask sunbathers and people enjoying picnics to leave
An ice cream seller takes orders from behind a plastic screen while wearing a face mask as crowds line up behind customers
Police had to clear beaches at Southend-on-Sea, Essex, after sun-seekers flocked to the coast to enjoy the warm water
A man is stopped by police officers on the beach in Essex after ignoring the government’s guidelines to stay at home
Lockdown flouters are removed from the beach in Southend-on-Sea after ignoring the government’s advice to stay indoors
Hundreds of people flocked to the Essex seaside town in groups clearly flouting the government’s lockdown guidance