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Chris Whitty thwarted Boris Johnson's wish to downgrade threat level

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty thwarted Boris Johnson’s wish to downgrade UK’s coronavirus threat level from four to three amid fears the science does NOT support easing of the lockdown

  • The Prime Minister had intended to reduce the coronavirus alert level as lockdown restrictions eased Monday
  • However, he was thwarted and it has now emerged Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty refused to lower level 
  • Fears government is ignoring science after the PM said alert level would need to go down before any easing 
  • Alert level remains at four – which the government previously said would mean restrictions remain in place 
  • But England saw raft of social distancing measures eased yesterday, including some schools being reopened 

Boris Johnson’s hopes of downgrading the coronavirus alert level from four to three last week were thwarted by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, it has emerged. 

The prime minister had wanted to reduce the five-stage alert level after announcing the partial easing of lockdown restrictions, which came into force yesterday.  

However, the threat level has stayed at four, after Professor Whitty insisted it couldn’t be lowered despite plans to relax rules. 

This has led to fears that the government is ignoring the science as it moves to ease restrictions, after Mr Johnson said in his roadmap, published on May 11, that the alert level would have to be downgraded before any relaxation of lockdown.

Mr Johnson instead said the level was ‘moving towards three’, as a raft of restrictions in England were eased on Monday. Primary schools were reopened for reception, year one and year six, outdoor markets were reopened, along with car showrooms, while horse racing became the first sport to resume, though without spectators. 

People in the vulnerable ‘shielding’ group who have until now been advised to stay indoors are also now allowed to go outside for a walk. 

Also as of yesterday, groups of up to six people are allowed to meet outside and even in private gardens.

The government has yet to explain exactly what data leads to a change in alert level, or whether benchmarks like daily infections and deaths are considered.   

However, the alert level remains at four – which the Government previously said would mean restrictions remain in place – despite the lockdown being eased. 

Downing Street said yesterday that Professor Whitty and the Joint Biosecurity Centre – the body tasked with assessing the Covid-19 alert level – had recently discussed the coronavirus alert level. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that Professor Whitty and the centre ‘worked together on this last week’. 

However, an official accused the government of ‘wrecking’ the centre’s credibility by partially lifting lockdown measures this week without JBC saying that the alert level had decreased. 

The official told the Times: ‘The JBC, like JTAC (Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre), is designed to remove critical national security decision-making from the political arena. JBC’s value and credibility has fallen at the first hurdle.’

Later on Monday evening, Health Secretary Matt Hancock added to the confusion after admitting that the Joint Biosecurity Centre was not yet up and running. 

Responding to a question about potential local lockdowns in future, Mr Hancock said: ‘The Joint Biosecurity Centre’s role is a national one to provide the advice and the information that would then be acted on locally.

‘So the way to think of it is that the Joint Biosecurity Centre has the information, it advises the CMOs of the UK, who in turn give advice to ministers and to local public health bodies through PHE.

‘So that architecture is now established. The JBC still formally needs to come into existence, but we are putting in place all of those data flows to augment the already significant work that Public Health England do in this space.’

Directly asked about whether the Joint Biosecurity Centre exists, Mr Hancock said: ‘Yes. We’re getting it stood up, making sure that all the information flows come to it so it’s able to analyse them and to make sure that it gets set up correctly. All that work’s being done, being done as we speak.’

Pressed on whether it exists yet, Mr Hancock replied: ‘Well, it’s being formulated at the moment, it’s being pulled together, yeah.’ 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said earlier on Monday: ‘In terms of the changes I think we were always clear that we would need to be meeting our five tests and I believe that we are.

‘In terms of the alert level it’s moving down from four to three. We’ve obviously been in the process of setting up the new centre and making it fully operational, and I think we’re only now getting to that point.’ 

In other developments to Britain’s coronavirus crisis today: 

  • Some of the 2million pupils returning to primary school were turned away because headteachers ‘weren’t ready’ for them;
  • Britons were allowed to meet their friends for socially distant fun and games for the first time since March 23, with the easing of lockdown rules;  
  • IKEA shoppers at one store formed a giant three hour queue as the DIY furniture giant reopened 19 furniture sites across England;
  • NHS Covid-19 contact tracers said the system is ‘obviously not ready’ and admitted they have nothing to do all day – despite being paid up to £27-an-hour;
  • The Government’s plan to allow more than 2million vulnerable people outside lacks any scientific rationale and amounts to a PR stunt, an expert warned.

Despite the easing of lockdown restrictions from yesterday, the COVID-19 alert level remains at four and has not been reduced to three

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty reportedly blocked the Prime Minister’s hopes of reducing the alert level ahead of the easing of restrictions

The prime minister had wanted to reduce the five-stage alert level after announcing the partial easing of lockdown restrictions, which came into force yesterday

It comes as it was revealed that coronavirus infection rates in the north of England are now nearly twice as high as those in London, according to new research.

Using figures from the Covid Symptom Study, which uses an app that has been downloaded by 3.7million people to track coronavirus infections, Kings College London researchers were able to estimate infection rates across the country. 

They found that the mid point of infections in London is 124 per million people, while in the North West it is 215 per million and in the North East and Yorkshire it is 225 per million, laying bare the regional differences in the spread of coronavirus. 

The data shows that London, the South East and the South West are believed to now have the lowest infection rates in the UK. 

On the other hand, Wales and Northern Ireland are believed to have the highest figures – possibly as high as 768 per million people a day. 

The research also revealed that the UK’s daily infection rate could be as high as 11,300, far above Public Health England’s figure of 1,936. 

The study – run alongside health science company ZOE – does however suggest that the number of daily infections is falling, down 17 per cent since last week.

Number 10 yesterday hit back at warnings from experts that easing the lockdown will cause a spike in Covid-19 cases, claiming the crucial coronavirus R-rate will stay below one if Brits continue to adhere to the strict social distancing guidelines designed to halt the outbreak.

Downing Street said the scientific consensus is that it is ‘unlikely’ that the relaxation of guidelines in England will push the R rate – the number of people an infected patient passes the virus on to – past one, despite it already being between 0.7 and 0.9 and dangerously close to the threshold. 

Tories and top scientists have voiced alarm about the consequences of the tweaks in England – which include six people from different households being able to meet up in public places or gardens, primary schools starting to return, and more shops opening.  

Health chiefs today announced 111 more Britons have died after testing positive for coronavirus – the lowest daily toll since Boris Johnson imposed the lockdown on March 23. But death numbers released on Sundays and Mondays are always significantly smaller due to a delay in processing fatalities over the weekend.  

Shock new data has laid bare the coronavirus regional divide in Britain, with the north of England having almost twice the infection rate of London

The data shows that London, the South East and the South West are believed to now have the lowest infection rates in the UK. A group of young people walk past a pub open for takeaways on Holland Park Avenue in west London

Wales and Northern Ireland are believed to have the highest figures – possibly as high as 768 per million people a day. Pictured are people cooling down in the water at Helen’s Bay, on the shores of Belfast Lough

Scientists who analysed the statistics revealed 12 NHS hospital trusts in England (9.2 per cent) have recorded no coronavirus deaths in the past week, as well as 65 (49.6 per cent) who have registered none in the past 48 hours

Department of Health figures show the official number of Covid-19 victims has actually risen to 39,045, a jump of 556 on yesterday’s tally of 38,489. The extra 445 are because of a new reporting process.  

Additional 445 deaths added to the UK’s total from new reporting process 

An additional 445 people who died with Covid-19 have been added to the UK total following the introduction of a new reporting process.

The new cumulative total of 39,045 deaths, announced on June 1, now includes cases identified under ‘Pillar 2’ of the Government’s testing strategy. 

– Which deaths are included in the new reporting process?

The additional deaths are linked to cases identified through testing carried out by commercial partners, rather than testing that has been done in NHS and Public Health England (PHE) laboratories.

These tests would have been undertaken in care homes or in the community, rather than in a hospital setting, and are available for the wider population, as opposed to just key workers.

– Who were the additional 445 deaths?

Public Health England (PHE) said ‘nearly all’ of the 445 deaths, which date back to April 26, were care home residents.

The deaths were previously categorised as ‘probable’ coronavirus cases, but have now been redefined as ‘confirmed’ cases, PHE said.

They occurred over a month-long period and do not represent a new ‘surge’ in the number of deaths, PHE added.

Instead, the 445 deaths were added to the historic data retrospectively.

– Why was this data not published sooner?

PHE said collating data from across the various sources is ‘technically difficult and challenging’, adding it is not possible to get daily death counts from every care home and residence in the country.

It said the data quality from Pillar 2 testing had improved sufficiently to allow it to trace individual deaths and integrate them into routine reporting.

– How does PHE record the number of deaths?

The number of people who have died with coronavirus is reported daily by the Government using PHE data.

PHE combines data from four different sources: Deaths occurring in hospitals, deaths notified to PHE health protection teams, laboratory test reports linked to deaths from electronic hospital records and

Office for National Statistics (ONS) death registrations which can be linked to laboratory-confirmed positive tests.

The data, which goes back to March 2, does not include deaths in people where Covid-19 was suspected, but a laboratory test was not carried out.

It comes as separate figures revealed today – the first day of England’s lockdown being eased – that almost half of NHS hospital trusts in England have reported no new fatalities in the past 48 hours. Two experts who analysed the statistics also revealed 12 trusts in England (9.2 per cent) have recorded no coronavirus deaths in the past week. 

In tonight’s Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock also revealed 1,570 more Brits have tested positive for the infection – the lowest number since the end of March. And he presented data that showed 479 patients were admitted to hospital with England on May 30, down 20 per cent in a week.

Beaches and parks were swamped today, with thousands of Brits taking advantage of the scorching weather on the first day of lockdown being eased since the draconian measures were introduced 10 weeks ago. Local public health directors today revealed they fear ministers have lifted too many restrictions, too quickly.

Hitting back at the claims, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘We have worked to gradually and safely ease the lockdown measures, the consensus from the scientists is if test and trace is up and running and the public follow the social distancing guidance then it’s unlikely the measures will push the R above one.’

The reproduction rate – which the government has put at the heart of its plans to ease Britain out of lockdown – denotes the number of other people an infected patient will pass the sickness on to and it must stay at one or below or Britain will face another crisis. 

However, the way the R is calculated means it is out of date, and the latest calculation is based on data from around three weeks ago – before the lockdown loosened. Government advisers last week claimed the R range had dropped to 0.7-0.9, down from 0.7-1.

Number 10’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned that the numbers are ‘not coming down fast’ in a downbeat update at Friday’s Downing Street press conference, and said the rate may be ‘very close’ to one in some areas.  

The UK’s deaths include 96 in England, nine in Scotland, five in Wales and one in Northern Ireland. Yesterday officials announced 113 more Covid-19 deaths, which was also the lowest daily toll since lockdown began on March 23 (74).

Individual authorities have different cut-off points for records to be submitted, meaning the tallies added up for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland often don’t match the final breakdown given by the DH. 

NHS England recorded 108 more patients had died in hospitals. 

Wales posted five new deaths across all settings, while Scotland and Northern Ireland registered one each. 

Processes for recording people’s deaths are known for slowing down and even stopping at the weekends and on bank holidays, meaning there is a dip every Monday – or Tuesday if it follows a bank holiday – followed by surges on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

It comes as two experts today crunched the numbers reported by NHS England, and found that almost half of trusts – 65, or 49.6 per cent – have recorded no deaths in the past 48 hours.

Professor Carl Heneghan and Dr Jason Oke, from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, said: ‘Today’s reported figure is 108 deaths in hospitals in England: 79 (73 per cent) of these were in the last week.’ 

And they added that 12 trusts had registered no Covid-19 deaths in the past week.

These were: Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust (FT), Gateshead Health NHS FT, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS FT, North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS FT, North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust, Oxford University Hospitals NHS FT, Poole Hospital NHS FT, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS FT, Taunton and Somerset NHS FT, The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS FT, Weston Area Health NHS Trust and Whittington Health NHS Trust.   

For comparison, that rate has barely changed since the academics began to analyse the figures on May 21. And the number of trusts not recording a death for 48 hours is the second-highest since the data collection began, down from 52.7 per cent yesterday. 

In tonight’s Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured alongside testing coordinator Professor John Newton) also revealed 1,570 more Brits have tested positive for the infection – the lowest number since the end of March

Restrictions across the country lifted today as outdoor markets reopened along with car showrooms. Horse racing also resumed at Newcastle Racecourse but there will be no spectators present at the venue as mass gatherings remain banned. And vulnerable people who have until now been advised to stay indoors due to the coronavirus pandemic will be permitted to go outside.

WHERE ARE THE 65 TRUSTS THAT HAVE RECORDED NO DEATHS IN THE LAST 48 HOURS? 

  • AIREDALE NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • ALDER HEY CHILDREN’S NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • ASHFORD AND ST PETER’S HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • BIRMINGHAM COMMUNITY HEALTHCARE NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • BOLTON NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • CHELSEA AND WESTMINSTER HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • DARTFORD AND GRAVESHAM NHS TRUST
  • DONCASTER AND BASSETLAW TEACHING HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • DORSET COUNTY HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • EAST CHESHIRE NHS TRUST
  • EAST LANCASHIRE HOSPITALS NHS TRUST
  • EAST SUSSEX HEALTHCARE NHS TRUST
  • FRIMLEY HEALTH NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • GATESHEAD HEALTH NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • GEORGE ELIOT HOSPITAL NHS TRUST
  • GLOUCESTERSHIRE HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • GUY’S AND ST THOMAS’ NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • HARROGATE AND DISTRICT NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • HOMERTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • IMPERIAL COLLEGE HEALTHCARE NHS TRUST
  • ISLE OF WIGHT NHS TRUST
  • JAMES PAGET UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • MEDWAY NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • MILTON KEYNES UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • NORFOLK AND NORWICH UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • NORTH BRISTOL NHS TRUST
  • NORTH CUMBRIA INTEGRATED CARE NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • NORTH MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL NHS TRUST
  • NORTHERN DEVON HEALTHCARE NHS TRUST
  • OXFORD UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • POOLE HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • PORTSMOUTH HOSPITALS NHS TRUST
  • ROYAL CORNWALL HOSPITALS NHS TRUST
  • ROYAL DEVON AND EXETER NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • ROYAL FREE LONDON NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • ROYAL SURREY COUNTY HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • ROYAL UNITED HOSPITALS BATH NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • SALFORD ROYAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • SANDWELL AND WEST BIRMINGHAM HOSPITALS NHS TRUST
  • SOUTH TEES HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • SOUTH WARWICKSHIRE NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • SOUTHPORT AND ORMSKIRK HOSPITAL NHS TRUST
  • ST GEORGE’S UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • ST HELENS AND KNOWSLEY TEACHING HOSPITALS NHS TRUST
  • TAUNTON AND SOMERSET NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • THE DUDLEY GROUP NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • THE HILLINGDON HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • THE PRINCESS ALEXANDRA HOSPITAL NHS TRUST
  • THE QUEEN ELIZABETH HOSPITAL, KING’S LYNN, NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • THE ROYAL BOURNEMOUTH AND CHRISTCHURCH HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • THE ROYAL WOLVERHAMPTON NHS TRUST
  • TORBAY AND SOUTH DEVON NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL SOUTHAMPTON NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS COVENTRY AND WARWICKSHIRE NHS TRUST
  • UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS OF LEICESTER NHS TRUST
  • UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS PLYMOUTH NHS TRUST
  • WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
  • WESTON AREA HEALTH NHS TRUST
  • WHITTINGTON HEALTH NHS TRUST
  • WORCESTERSHIRE ACUTE HOSPITALS NHS TRUST
  • WYE VALLEY NHS TRUST
  • YEOVIL DISTRICT HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

It comes as up to two million pupils were due to return to primary school today. But it was revealed this morning that some were turned away because headteachers ‘weren’t ready’ for them. 

Up to 1,500 primary schools in England are estimated to be defying the Government’s controversial plan to get all reception, year 1 and year 6 children back in the classroom from June 1.

Teachers have admitted they were ‘anxious’ to work and unions demanded the date be pushed back to June 15 at the earliest, amid fears the virus is still spreading at high levels.

Parents have revealed many schools will remain closed for at least another week or more, while some have not yet set a date at all.

At least two dozen councils have refused to reopen their schools or left it up to headteachers, who are trying to find ways to ensure social distancing and have enough teachers to teach ‘bubbles’ of up to ten children. 

MailOnline revealed there was confusion at several schools across London, with some parents arriving with their children only to be informed they couldn’t come in and had to go home again.  

In other developments, ministers are desperately trying to quell a backlash over easing lockdown today despite the coronavirus alert level not having been reduced.

With beaches and parks again swamped as people take advantage of scorching weather, Business Secretary Alok Sharma was forced to deny there is a ‘dash’ to get the country back up and running.

He insisted the new contact tracing system means measures can be tightened again in specific areas if there is a flare up.  

But Downing Street was forced to admit the alert level has still not been reduced from level four to three, even though the guidance suggested easing of lockdown is not possible until it was reduced.

Tories and top scientists have voiced alarm about the consequences of the tweaks in England – which include six people from different households being able to meet up in public places or gardens.

There are concerns it will be impossible to put the ‘genie back in the bottle’ if cases increase, with one MP telling MailOnline the government had gone from ‘baby steps to giant steps’ with nothing in between. 

The Government has frantically urged Britons to act ‘sensibly’ as they enjoy a host of new freedoms, following crowded scenes across the country yesterday before the overhaul officially came into force. 

It came as Ikea stores across Britain today were seeing giant queues form outside, with customers forming three-hour queues as lockdown restrictions were eased.

The car park at Ikea in Wembley, north London, which was until recently a coronavirus test centre, was full of cars this morning as the store opened for business for the first time since the lockdown was imposed.

Aerial photos show hundreds of customers queuing around the block in the stifling heat to get into the shops in Nottingham, Reading and Essex, as the Government urged the country to act ‘sensibly’ amid restrictions being eased.

Massive lines of people could also be seen snaking around the car parks at the Swedish furniture giant’s branches in Wednesbury, West Midlands.

Some eager shoppers had been queuing from as early as 5.30am – over four hours before the store was due to open at 10am today.

Huge traffic jams were also reported in and around the areas as people flocked to their local branch following Boris Johnson’s further easing of lockdown restrictions.

It comes after doctors in Italy today claimed the coronavirus has weakened and become a shadow of the disease that rapidly spread around the world.

Italian medics say the infection – which has killed 370,000 worldwide – is much less lethal than it was and ‘no longer clinically exists’.

Patients are showing much smaller amounts of the virus in their system, compared to samples taken during the peak of the crisis in March and April, they said.

Infections and deaths caused by Covid-19 have been falling in Italy for weeks. It was, at one point, the centre of Europe’s escalating outbreak.

Scientific theory suggests viruses may become weaker over time in a bid to survive – if they kill or cripple all their human hosts they will run out of road.

But virologists have today cast doubt on the Italian doctors’ claims, saying there is no evidence the virus is losing potency anywhere. One called them ‘bulls***’.

Viruses known to have mutated in this way, such as HIV and the common cold, have been around for decades and thousands of years, respectively, while the coronavirus was only spotted in humans in December last year.

Another scientist said it was possible that the coronavirus would mutate in this way but it was dangerous to assume it was happening simply from swab samples.

People fill up the beach at Westbay in Dorset today as they take advantage of relaxation of the lockdown rules

Children  in Year 1 have their own desks in the modern Harris Academy Primary School in south London. Many headteachers with older schools say they don’t have the space

Essex: People queuing today at the Ikea store in Lakeside, Thurrock, which has reopened as part of a wider easing of lockdown restrictions in England

Bring your own CHAIRS for BBQs, NO paddling pools and sex with someone from another house is BANNED: Government issues detailed instructions on new lockdown rules to try to clear up mass confusion 

Who can be in my group of six?

What is still banned? 

  • Visiting friends and family inside their homes
  • Staying stay overnight away from your own home, except for in a limited set of circumstances, such as for work purposes
  • Exercising in an indoor sports court, gym or leisure centre, or swimming in a public pool
  • Using an outdoor gym or playground
  • Gathering outdoors in a group of more than six (excluding members of your own household)

Anyone you like, although the usual rules about isolation if you have symptoms apply. Social distancing from people not within your own household remains the key. 

So you can share a picnic rug in the park with anyone you live with, but anyone else still has to stay two metres (six feet six inches) away.

And the other key point is that this gathering has to be outdoors. You can have the gathering inside someones’ garden, yard or roof terrace, in the street, in the park, in an empty car park. But you cannot have it in inside a house or flat or any other building.

The other point to note is that the rules on six only apply to more than one family group. They also point out: ‘There is no limit to the size of a gathering in an outdoor space if you are all members of the same household.’ 

Can we go inside at all?

You can pass through a house or flat in order to access the garden or terrace, if there is no other way to access them.

And in good news for people with small children or those wanting to enjoy a few beers with friends, you are allowed in to use the toilet.

The guidance notes:  ‘Avoid touching surfaces and if you use the toilet wash your hands thoroughly, wipe down surfaces, use separate or paper towels and wash or dispose of them safely after use.

‘If you no longer want to remain outdoors, you should go home.

‘Don’t go into garages, sheds or cabins – these are all indoor areas and where the risk of transmission is higher.’

Can we have a barbecue and how will it work?  

eople should not pass food or drinks to those not within their family groups and you should bring your own plates and utensils

Barbecues and other al fresco eating like picnics are allowed, but with strict measures in place to avoid contamination.

You should bring your own garden chairs if possible, and if you cannot thoroughly clean the ones you sit on. 

The advice is to ‘stay alert’. People should not pass food or drinks to those not within their family groups and you should bring your own plates and utensils. And you should wash your hands frequently.

And in bad news for the hosts, it adds: ‘If you are in someone else’s garden, you must not go inside to help the host carry the food out or to help with the washing up.’

What else can we do? Can we get the paddling pool out for the kids? 

Paddling pools should not be shared by people who are not within the same family group. And the bad news extends to the mega rich who have swimming pools, the rules are the same for them. 

I don’t have a garden, can we all meet up somewhere else?  

he rules allow separate family groups to travel to another location, as long as there is no overnight stay involved – so camping and weekends away are still banned

Yes, the rules allow separate family groups to travel to another location, as long as there is no overnight stay involved – so camping and weekends away are still banned.

The guidance states: ‘You can travel to outdoor open space irrespective of distance, as long as you can return the same night and do not put others at risk because of services you may need in the time you are away.’

This includes ‘National Parks or beaches’ although it warns that some remain clised – like Durdle Door in Dorset which was swamped with people at the weekend.

It also recommends you avoid public transport where possible, suggesting cycling or walking where possible. 

So no overnight trips allowed? 

Not for leisure, no. Holidays and visits to a second home are not allowed. The only exception is work travel.

The guidance states: ‘Premises such as hotels and bed and breakfasts will remain closed, except where providing accommodation for specific reasons set out in law, such as for critical workers where required for a reason relating to their work.

‘Hotels are also available to host those self-isolating after arriving in the UK (where no other accommodation is available).’

But I don’t live with my partner, and I haven’t seen them in months… 

Bad luck. The rules clearly state that conjugal visits are not allowed. In one of the more controversial moves, Boris Johnson’s Government has brought in a sex ban.

The guidance states: ‘Close contact with people from other households means a much higher risk of transmission, and according to the scientific advice, we cannot safely allow people to see people they don’t live with indoors without the risk that the virus will spread. 

‘We recognise how difficult this is for people – particularly those who live alone and we are keeping this under constant review.’

The rules created a lot of amusement – or horror – on social media, with legal blogger and writer the Secret Barrister pointing out (above)  the guidance only applied to sex indoors.

But there is some confusion over how well the rule can be enforced.

Downing Street helpfully confirmed today that police will not be allowed to enter the homes of people they suspect are breaching the rule, with the Prime Minister’s spokesman saying: ‘The police will do as they have since the beginning of the health regulations being in place, by exercising their common sense and engaging with the public and only issuing fixed penalty notices when they believe it’s a last resort. 

‘The police do not have the power to enter people’s homes under the regulations … they cannot enter your home unless they expect serious criminal activity is taking place there’.

Can I take my mind off this with sports? 

Solo sports like tennis and golf are allowed in groups of up to six, with social distancing maintained and no sharing of equipment

The rules could also be seen to apply to other spots like kayaking or paddle-boarding where people keep their distance

Yes, sports are permitted under the same gathering rules.

Solo sports like tennis and golf are allowed in groups of up to six, with social distancing maintained and no sharing of equipment.

This includes doubles tennis ‘as long as you remain two metres apart as far as possible’.

And training for team sports like football, rugby and hockey are also allowed.

The guidance notes: ‘People who play team sports can meet to train together and do things like conditioning or fitness sessions but they must be in separate groups of no more than six and must be two metres apart at all times. 

‘While groups could practice ball skills like passing and kicking, equipment sharing should be kept to a minimum and strong hand hygiene practices should be in place before and after.  

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Tory MPs revolt over Boris Johnson’s plans to drag them back to Parliament to vote – The Sun

BORIS Johnson is facing a revolt from his own MPs over plans to drag them all back to Parliament to vote.

Members are set to vote today on the new plans which could see them snake around the estate in a kilometre long socially distant queue, but many Tory backbenchers are considering voting against the proposals.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg tabled a motion on Monday preventing the resumption of virtual voting, which allowed MPs to have their say from afar during the pandemic.

If the House approves the plan today MPs may have to form kilometre-long queues in order to obey social distancing rules when voting – despite the Lords planning a move to digital only hearings.

Mr Rees-Mogg argued that democracy would "once again flourish", having been "curtailed under the hybrid halfway house" which allowed MPs to take part in debates and vote remotely while up to 50 were in the chamber. And he insisted that the Government is working to establish how shielding MPs could continue to take part.

Senior Tories including Robert Halfon, the chair of the Commons education committee, who is currently shielding, have called for virtual proceedings to continue for those who need them.

Dame Margaret Hodge, the 75-year-old Labour MP, said she is "furious" that she was being "denied the right to vote" on Tuesday because she is deemed vulnerable.

She accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of being on a "mission to end" digital voting, tweeting: "This damaging move will limit accountability & create a toothless Parliament. It means MPs in the 'vulnerable' category will be rendered voiceless & it will completely distort votes."

The Government's motion requires voting to take place in person at the Palace of Westminster and that MPs must follow Public Health England guidance.

Jamie Stone, a Lib Dem MP also said: “I’m a carer for my wife. You’re asking me to choose between the health of my family and abiding by your poxy stubbornness. I choose to fulfil my duties as a husband and family man.”

The plans have been branded as "beyond a farce" by the Electoral Reform Society, who said: "If this goes ahead, it is beyond a farce. It is unacceptable when there is currently a safe, secure and speedy option for voting available: remote/digital voting. MPs have already used it, and it works."

"Since some MPs are shielding and are not safe to travel in person, these plans – if confirmed – pose a real threat for democratic representation and political equality."

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will set out the exact mechanics of the vote with an emphasis on avoiding narrow spaces in Parliament. He has described a single file of MPs snaking through Parliament as a "supermarket queue" that will lead through the centre of the chamber and to the dispatch box.

Mr Rees-Mogg defended the plan and said: "The virtual Parliament brought us through the peak of the pandemic but it is no longer necessary to make the compromises it demanded. We can do so much better. In the chamber frontbenchers will have to keep on their toes as interventions are once again made possible."

"This exceptional aspect of British democracy, curtailed under the hybrid halfway house, can once again flourish. For those MPs with underlying health conditions who have been told to shield or are receiving specific Government advice about their health, the Government is working with the House authorities to see how they can continue to contribute to proceedings within the House."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman added that MPs who need to shield "should continue to do so" and said that informal arrangements such as pairing would be in place to allow this.

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Boris Johnson faces Cabinet revolt for backing scandal-hit Dominic Cummings over his lockdown breach – The Sun

 

BORIS Johnson is facing a full-blown Cabinet revolt for sticking by embattled top aide Dominic Cummings over his lockdown breach.

The PM said he had cleared his most senior adviser of any wrongdoing and branded his actions “sensible and defensible”.

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Mr Cummings is accused of ignoring strict government advice by driving his virus-stricken wife from London to self-isolate at his family farm near Durham.

He spent five hours holed up in No10 on Sunday, fuelling speculation he was about to quit.

But Boris emerged to tell the nation he was standing by his man, who he said he was only trying to protect his four-year-old son.

Hosting a tense daily No10 briefing, Boris dismissed growing calls for an official inquiry.

Instead he insisted Mr Cummings had acted “responsibly, legally and with integrity”, and “stuck to the rules”.

Real people are furious, because they have been doing the right thing and isolating.

The PM added: “He followed the instinct of every father and every parent, and I do not mark him down for that.”

But that enraged some Cabinet ministers, who are aligning with Tory MPs to demand that Mr Cummings is sacked.

One Cabinet minister said: “Cummings is going to burn us all. He cannot stay.

“There has to be some contrition from Boris too or he will spend the next ten weeks having to answer questions about it all. This is not a bubble story.

@Real people are furious, because they have been doing the right thing and isolating.”




A second minister added: “The test is simple: Is retaining Cummings a sign of strength or weakness? It’s increasingly looking like the latter.”

It came as:

  • TEN Tory MPs went public will calls for Mr Cummings to be sacked, with many more privately furious at the row.
  • THE PM announced primary schools will reopen on June 1 in a move critics said was a “dead cat” strategy to deflect from the crisis.
  • BORIS refused to launch an investigation into Mr Cummings’ behaviour.
  • SCOTLAND leader Nicola Sturgeon demanded the controversial aide be sacked, and Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer said he’d “insulted” the sacrifices of the British public.


Protesters gathered at Mr Cummings’ London home on Sunday night. Campaigners Led By Donkeys sent a van with a video message slamming the aide and PM. Earlier cops dispersed crowds at 3pm and knocked on the door, with no answer.

Mr Cummings admits making a 260-mile trip to County Durham last month after wife Mary fell ill with Covid symptoms. But he furiously denies breaching the lockdown which he helped mastermind — saying he made the trip over childcare concerns.

He has refused to answer claims he was spotted 30 miles from Durham at Barnard Castle on April 12 — another apparent breach of the rules not to take unnecessary journeys.

He denies claims he made a second trip to Durham on April 19, five days after returning to work in No10. A couple insist they saw him admiring bluebells at a beauty spot.

We are f****** livid. We cannot understand why the PM didn’t launch an inquiry to get to the facts.

MPs accused Boris of hypocrisy, making the government look arrogant and elitist, and seriously undermining the lockdown message. One grandee, who has been very supportive of the premiership to now, told The Sun: “It’s Boris’s ‘Nothing has changed’ moment. My emails are exploding with rage.”

A Tory MP in a northern constituency said colleagues there were fuming at No10. They told The Sun: “We are f****** livid. We cannot understand why the PM didn’t launch an inquiry to get to the facts.”

Another Tory added: “Are we putting Dom Cummings before the R rate? It looks like it”.

Another said: “I can only think Boris is just dependent on him, like a battery in a Duracell bunny. If we don’t sort this the public will turn against us in a big way.”


At Sunday's press conference, Boris refused to say if he knew about Mr Cummings 264-mile trip or if he’d sanctioned it.

He also refused to answer whether ordinary Brits could leave their main residence for elsewhere if they had childcare concerns.

The PM did hint that there were some special circumstances that influenced Mr Cummings’ decision, but “for medical reasons I don’t want to go into it”.

But Stephen Reicher, a government adviser on behavioural science, blasted: “In a few short minutes Boris Johnson has trashed all advice we have given on how to build trust and secure adherence to the measures.”

Earlier MP Steve Baker savaged Mr Cummings in an online article and TV interview.

He has broken the advice very clearly – how can I look my constituents in the eye? He is unrepentant.

He fumed: “It is very clear that Dominic travelled when everybody else understood Dominic’s slogans to mean ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives’.

“And I think mums and dads who very much care about their children, and who have been forgoing the childcare of their extended family, will wonder why he has been allowed to do this.”

Former minister Caroline Nokes warned there “cannot be one rule for most of us and wriggle room for others”.

Peter Bone MP raged: “He has broken the advice very clearly – how can I look my constituents in the eye? He is unrepentant.”

Sir Keir added: “This was a test of the Prime Minister and he has failed it. It is an insult to sacrifices made by the British people. The public will be forgiven for thinking there is one rule for the Prime Minister’s closest adviser and another for the British people.

“The Prime Minister’s actions have undermined confidence in his own public health message at this crucial time.”

The PM is due to announce further lockdown easing this week. But Tory politicians warned hopes are fading of getting the nation to stick to rules that Boris’s own aide appears to have broken.

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Boris Johnson to break China’s monopoly over UK’s 5G network in wake of coronavirus pandemic – The Sun

BORIS Johnson is poised to slash China’s stranglehold over Britain’s 5G network in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The PM has ordered aides to draw up plans to scale back Huawei’s foothold in infrastructure to zero before the next election.

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He believes the pandemic should be a global wake-up call over the dangers of China’s spreading world influence.

And he wants the UK to be much less reliant on the communist state for goods and technology over the next four to five years.

Mr Johnson has demanded a more arms-length relationship with China as he prepares to visit the US for the G7 summit – his first trip abroad since the crisis began.

He will ramp up trade talks with US President Donald Trump as Brexit negotiations with the EU have become increasingly fractious.

A re-think of the Huawei comes amid a mounting backlash from Tory MPs in the wake of the pandemic which began in the Wuhan.

Former Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who voted against government plans to let Huawei into the UK network, warned China had too many allegations on its chargesheet.

He is among 186 politicians from 23 countries who ahve signed a statement blasting Beijing’s unilateral introduction of national security laws in Hong Kong in “flagrant breach” of the British handover of the territory in 1997.

Writing in The Sun on Sunday today, he adds: “China is at a crossroads and needs to decide whether it wants to genuinely become a partner in the global community or take a path to becoming a pariah state. That choice is in their hands. Our national security lies in ours.”

Dr Fox accused China of covering up the initial scale of the outbreak and hampering attempts by leading world scientists to investigate its cause.

A cyber attack which exposed the data of around nine million easyJet customers has been also linked to Beijing.

And there is mounting suspicion over Beijing’s attempts to cash in on the impact of the pandemic on the rest of the world.

Tory MPs have warned the “rushed” deal had left Britain “friendless” after members of the Five Eyes alliance raised fears over spying.

Mr Johnson is said to have had “serious concerns” about the 5G deal struck by Theresa May, but which he signed off in January.

An insider said: “The coronavirus crisis has changed everything. The PM thinks it’s time to exercise some serious social distancing from China.

“He wants to maintain a relationship with China but not on such a grand scale where it has such a large part to play in our infrastructure.

“He wants a plan to reduce Huawei involvement worked out as quickly as possible.

'HIGH-RISK VENDOR'

“He has listened to the concerns of his own MPs and is convinced something must be done.”

President Trump has been highly critical of the UK’s decision to allow Huawei to build 35 per cent of its network, despite spy chiefs branding the telecoms giant a “high-risk vendor”.

He threatened to restrict Britain’s access to Five Eyes intelligence which is gathered and shared by the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, following an “apoplectic” phone call with the Prime Minister over the deal in February.

Before the lockdown, 36 Tories rebelled against the government on a Huawei-amendment.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith tabled a rebel amendment supported by ex-ministers David Davis, Damian Green and Owen Paterson, calling on the Government to eliminate all Huawei technology from the UK’s mobile phone networks by the end of 2022.

He was just 13 MPs short of the number needed to block the Telecommunications Security Bill.

Last night, Sir Iain said: “This will be the start of a complete and thorough review of our dangerous dependency on China.”

Tory MP Bob Seely, who sits on the Commons foreign affairs committee, applauded the move and urged ministers to declare: “No way, Huawei.”

He said: “This is potentially very good news indeed and shows that there is a significant re-evaluation of our relationship with China.

“The evidence is now overwhelming that we need a root and branch reform of our attitude toward China.

“Huawei must stop trying to dig its way into the UK network as it has been doing.

"British telecoms firms now need clear guidance so we can build an advanced comms future without high risk, high-tech from authoritarian states.

“I think it would have been very difficult to get Government legislation through Parliament if Huawei were to be part of the UK’s 5G network.

“Huawei is part and parcel of the Chinese state. It is a high risk vendor in the UK’s infrastructure. There should be no place for it in the UK.

“Huawei in our 5G network is bad for data privacy, bad for our security, bad for human rights. I’m glad the Government may now be thinking, ‘no way Huawei’.”

Downing Street declined to comment yesterday.

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TOM BOWER: Boris Johnson will fight to the end for Dominic Cummings

TOM BOWER: Why Boris Johnson will fight to the end for maverick Dominic Cummings

The tumbril is ready and the guillotine is glistening for Dominic Cummings. 

The Left cannot wait for their hate figure – and most dangerous enemy – to be thrown into a cart and led off for a public execution.

It is no coincidence that news of Cummings’s ‘lockdown bust’ was broken by two Labour-supporting newspapers: the tabloid Mirror, which has described him as the PM’s ‘posh weirdo misfit adviser’, and the self-righteous Guardian, whose high priestess Polly Toynbee calls him ‘Downing Street’s dark lord’.

For Cummings represents the biggest threat to public sector incompetence, and to the cosy Whitehall Civil Service establishment, that has been a dead weight on Britain’s development for years and which has let us down so badly during the pandemic crisis.

The Left cannot wait for Dominic Cummings, their hate figure – and most dangerous enemy – to be thrown into a cart and led off for a public execution, writes TOM BOWER

The truth is that defending this monolith – which Cummings called ‘the Blob’ in specific reference to the education Establishment because of its resistance to change – is a religion for the Labour Party and trade unions. 

His removal would ring-fence the cosy, well-paid, gold-plated pension culture of those who run Britain.

Yet for Boris Johnson, this country’s prosperity depends on his chief adviser’s genius for creative destruction. That is why Johnson will fight to save Cummings.

For his part, Cummings could argue that, as a man who prides himself on breaking rules, he was merely acting in character in breaking lockdown guidelines. 

But, in fact, he could explain that, as the deputy chief medical officer made clear, family support could be sought in ‘exceptional circumstances’ if parents were too unwell to look after a child.

The pandemic, and the subsequent economic rescue emergency, means Britain needs Cummings’s skills more than ever.

To him, nothing cannot be reformed or is immune from the axe.

Before the virus, his first target had been the Ministry of Defence. Over-staffed with unsackable officials, he felt it was wasting billions of pounds on unusable equipment.

Now, with experts saying it could take five years or more to repair our economy, everything is on the table.

It is no coincidence that news of Cummings’s ‘lockdown bust’ was broken by two Labour-supporting newspapers

Without doubt, the incompetent executives running Public Health England and the Department of Health are in Cummings’s gun-sights.

However, as well as his enemies on the Left, there are many Tories who would stand and cheer along the route to his execution.

Among other unpleasantries, Tory MPs have called the 48-year-old ‘an unelected foul-mouthed oaf throwing his weight around’, a ‘political anarchist’ and an ‘aggressive bully’.

Undaunted, Cummings sees these as badges of honour. He revels in his public image and in being seemingly engaged in perpetual warfare with colleagues. 

He enjoys shocking people with his attire of scruffy jeans and trainers. 

He relishes telling of his wrecking ball approach to policy. 

Typical was earlier this year when, in a blog, he wrote about the ‘super-talented weirdos’ he wanted to recruit as young Downing Street staff.

For Boris Johnson, this country’s prosperity depends on his chief adviser’s genius for creative destruction. That is why Johnson will fight to save Cummings

He said: ‘What SW1 needs is not more drivel about ‘identity’ and ‘diversity’ from Oxbridge humanities graduates but more genuine cognitive diversity. 

We need some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought themselves out of an appalling hell hole…’

The son of oil rig project manager brought up in Durham, it is ironic that Cummings himself studied a ‘humanities’ subject (history) at Oxford.

He first emerged as a public figure during the Brexit campaign, coming up with the winning slogan Take Back Control.

However, equally significant was his talent for alienating those he sought to influence. 

His abrasive personality deterred many veteran Tory Brexiteers from joining Vote Leave’s campaign, among them Iain Duncan Smith, who fought the battle independently.

Previously, Cummings had been hired by Michael Gove when he was Shadow Education Minister – helping challenge the Left-wing educational establishment which they felt were using schools for social engineering rather than teaching excellence.

Previously, Cummings had been hired by Michael Gove when he was Shadow Education Minister

When Gove became Education Secretary, the pair ran the department as an autonomous wing of the Government, re-designing curriculums, planning more academies and setting up free schools.

Daily exposure to incompetent and lazy civil servants turned Cummings into an excoriating critic of Whitehall’s sclerotic management and ‘dodgy accountancy’.

It was inevitable he would make one enemy too many. In this case it happened to be the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who called Cummings a ‘career psychopath’ and he was fired.

Cummings’s appointment as Johnson’s key No 10 official, despite having undermined his bid for the Tory leadership in 2016 by treacherously backing Gove’s candidacy, surprised many Tories. 

To them, Cummings – infamous as bombastic, volatile, aggressive and a depressive – was a huge risk.

But for Johnson, ambitious to use Brexit to revolutionise and modernise Britain, having a rule-breaker on board was vital.

Johnson’s initial offers to Cummings to join him in Downing Street were rejected. 

So Johnson cycled across Islington in North London to Cummings’s home to hear what he described as a list of ‘terrorist demands’.

Johnson quickly conceded and once he became PM, made Cummings his key staffer.

Ever the strategist, Cummings placed himself in the corner of the hall in No 10 so he would be filmed by the cameras as Boris Johnson made his triumphant first entry after seeing the Queen.

As Cummings intended, many Tory Brexiteers were horrified. ‘If we’d known that Cummings would come,’ said Bill Cash, ‘it would have caused a lot of angst. I was against Vote Leave because of Cummings.’

Cummings’s appointment as Johnson’s key No 10 official, despite having undermined his bid for the Tory leadership in 2016 by treacherously backing Gove’s candidacy, surprised many Tories

Cummings took aim at Whitehall’s senior officials who he believed lacked the skills to run a modern government. 

The Civil Service, headed by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, was staffed, he had long thought, by incompetents unable to manage, procure equipment or implement good policies.

Next, he demanded personal loyalty from every political assistant. ‘If you don’t like how I run things,’ he shouted at one meeting, ‘there’s the door. F*** off!’

Some were sacked. One was Sonia Khan, a Treasury media adviser, who was escorted by armed police from Downing Street after a confrontation with Cummings over her contact with those close to the former chancellor Philip Hammond.

Cummings’s priority was to Get Brexit Done. Britain, as his boss pledged, would be out of the EU by October 31, 2019. ‘Nothing will stand in the way of that,’ Cummings vowed.

In the crash-and-burn tactics devised by him, the No 10 svengali was happy to see a political and constitutional crisis if it achieved a disorderly Brexit, and then hold a General Election to win a Tory majority under the banner of ‘People v Parliament’.

What followed was Cummings’s high-risk strategy of Johnson controversially proroguing Parliament, 21 Tory MPs losing the whip and others in open conflict with Downing Street.

Characteristically, Cummings said the Tories’ 80-strong Commons majority meant there was ‘little need to worry about short-term unpopularity while trying to make rapid progress with long-term problems’

When Tory MP Greg Clark, a Remainer, called Cummings to discuss a truce, he was told: ‘When are you f****** MPs going to realise, we are leaving on 31 October? We are going to purge you!’

With Cummings urging Johnson ‘Hold your nerve’, the tactics paid off. Britain left the EU – and the Tories won their biggest Commons majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1983.

Characteristically, Cummings said the Tories’ 80-strong Commons majority meant there was ‘little need to worry about short-term unpopularity while trying to make rapid progress with long-term problems’.

Loyalty to his close allies has become one of Boris Johnson’s hallmarks. As London Mayor, he regretted bowing to the Leftist mob and agreeing to the resignation of key staff.

He will fight to the end for Dominic Cummings because without him, he fears his ambitions will evaporate.

Tom Bower’s biography of Boris Johnson will be published in October.

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Boris on brink of Huawei climbdown as spy chiefs reveal new fears

Boris Johnson is on the brink of climbdown over his decision to allow Huawei to help build Britain’s 5G network over new security fears

  • The climbdown comes after a growing rebellion on the Tory backbenches
  • UK currently plans to use Huawei kit in 35 per cent of Britain’s 5G network
  • The company’s link to Chinese government led to concerns from spy agencies
  • US has banned American intellectual property from using Huawei equipment 

Boris Johnson is to ‘look again’ at his decision to allow controversial Chinese tech giant Huawei to build more than a third of Britain’s superfast 5G broadband network, amid fresh concerns by spy agencies.

The climbdown comes after a growing rebellion on the Tory backbenches, with Downing Street privately conceding they cannot get the plan through the Commons despite their large majority.

New US sanctions imposed on the firm – which is closely linked to the Chinese Communist Party – outlaw any American intellectual property from being used in the production of Huawei equipment, resulting in fresh security fears.

Chips currently manufactured for use in Huawei products use American technology, and Britain’s spies have warned No 10 that future Chinese alternatives cannot be trusted, scuppering plans to use their kit in 35 per cent of Britain’s new 5G network.

A Whitehall source said: ‘We think the new sanctions slapped on Huawei by the US basically mean that no US intellectual property can be used in the manufacture of Huawei’s chips.

‘This means the bits of kit they get from Taiwan and elsewhere, which we think are full of good US stuff, will be cut off from them from the autumn. They’re likely to turn to cheaper, less secure, local stuff instead. There’s next to no chance we could say it’s safe enough to use in 5G. It changes the calculation completely.’

Pictured: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson applauds outside 10 Downing Street during the Clap for Carers campaign in support of the NHS

Last Tuesday, Mr Johnson held a rare meeting of his National Security Council – the first since February – to discuss the reliance of British supply chains on foreign states amid a growing backlash against the Chinese government.

In March, The Mail on Sunday revealed that Downing Street believed China would face ‘a reckoning’ for its handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, with a vast number of Conservative MPs now openly calling for a reset in relations with Beijing.

Huawei, which has been accused by the US of espionage and being in hock to the Chinese Communist Party, was granted permission by Mr Johnson in January to supply equipment for the ‘non-core’ elements of a future broadband infrastructure. However, the decision requires parliamentary approval. Uniting both wings of the Conservative Party, the growing rebellion against Huawei has intensified in the fall-out from Covid-19 and China’s initial handling of the outbreak of the pandemic.

Pictured: Huawei staff members wearing face masks at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong province

There was also international outcry over Mr Johnson’s decision, with Donald Trump threatening to ban Britain from intelligence sharing if they let the firm in. Last night, a No 10 source said: ‘The world is a very different place from January and the PM knows we have to look at this again.’

Huawei has hit back, arguing any U-turn would not make sense. Vice-president Victor Zhang, insisted: ‘As a private company, 100 per cent owned by employees, which has operated in the UK for 20 years, our priority has been to help mobile and broadband companies keep Britain connected, which is more vital than ever in this health crisis.’

But the No 10 rethink has delighted Tory MPs, with Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, warning that any continuing relationship with Huawei would be ‘extremely problematic’ because the company is ‘actually owned by the Chinese Communist Party’.

Patten heads Hong Kong protest 

Scores of British politicians have signed an international statement calling for a tougher global stance against China’s threat to pass new laws clamping down on residents of Hong Kong.

Led by the former Governor of Hong Kong, Lord Patten, and the former Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, 194 parliamentarians in 23 countries have declared that Hong Kong’s independent status is ‘hanging by a thread’.

The globally co-ordinated statement reads: ‘We write to express grave concerns about the unilateral introduction of national security legislation by Beijing in Hong Kong.

‘This is a comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law, and fundamental freedoms. The integrity of one-country, two-systems hangs by a thread…

‘Sympathetic governments must unite to say that this flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration cannot be tolerated.’

Lord Patten said: ‘The statement shows growing and widespread international outrage at the decision by the Chinese government to unilaterally impose national security legislation in Hong Kong. The breadth of support, which spans all political parties and four continents, reflects both the severity of the situation and ongoing unified international support for the principle of one-country, two-systems.’

Sir Malcolm told the MoS: ‘The people of Hong Kong need and deserve our support.’

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DAN HODGES: Boris Johnson is right – it's time to put trust in sense

DAN HODGES: Boris Johnson is right – it’s time to put our trust in the common sense of the British people

It’s not going to work,’ the exasperated Minister said, abandoning his defence of the Government’s roll-out of its lockdown exit strategy. 

A second Minister agreed. ‘Boris is doing his best. But the No 10 comms team live in a different world. They’ve lost the room.’ Even a new, ultra-loyal ‘Red-Wall’ Tory MP couldn’t hide his concern.

‘The public mood is moving against us. My Facebook page hasn’t been this negative since I was elected. Coming out of lockdown was never going to be easy – but I’m worried if we don’t act quickly and give a comprehensive explanation, the message is going to get lost.’

In truth the message was lost long before Boris presented what he cautiously called his ‘first sketch of a roadmap for reopening society’. 

A series of chaotic pre-briefings and reverses meant, by the time the PM delivered a perfectly competent address, his words had been lost in a clamour for detail and clarity.

Boris Johnson is pictured during his address to the nation from No10 Downing Street

When they came, the result was only more confusion. We could all now picnic, so long as we kept two metres from any stranger. But not in the presence of more than one person we actually knew. 

We could now visit parents. But only at the sacred distance of two metres. And one at a time. With a ten-minute gap. Our children were to be allowed to return to nursery. 

But only if they could be made to respect social distancing, stuck to a one-way system and made sure not to share their pens. 

Anyone who couldn’t work from home had to return. But not by public transport. To set foot on a Tube, bus or train would be nothing less than a dereliction of ‘civic duty’.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, last week was the moment the Government attempted to shelter the nation from Covid-19 by ushering it through the gates of Hades. 

As one No 10 adviser told me: ‘I’m going to try and explain what the strategy has been, but you’re going to have to bear with me, because I’m basically making this up as we go along.’

First there is the fundamental dichotomy of a government attempting to give clear guidance to a nation that essentially wants to hear two different messages. 

The message Ministers will protect us all from the virus. And the message they will simultaneously allow us all to go back to our normal lives.

As one official explained: ‘Take the issue of schools. All our private polling was showing people wanted the schools to go back. So we started briefing we were going to allow the schools back.

‘And suddenly the private polling showed people were getting scared at the idea of having to send their children back to school.’

Prime Minister Mr Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds during the a national clap for carers to show thanks for the work of Britain’s NHS

Then there’s the concept of ‘following the science’. Ministers are haunted by the knowledge that in most previous pandemics the second wave proved far deadlier than the first. Hence the need for what’s been called a ‘step-by-step approach’ to ending lockdown.

But each delicate pigeon step, when taken in isolation, seems irrational to those of us yearning to run. ‘The idea was we’d open up gradually,’ said a Minister, so the thinking was, ‘Right, we’ve said you can’t see anyone outside your immediate family. 

‘So first we’ll say, “OK, now you can meet one person.” Then we’ll expand it to two. Then four, and so on. But when you actually say only one it’s like, “Well, I’ve got two parents. Or the three grandkids” and the whole thing just looks mad.’

And there’s a third problem. A number of Ministers believe Boris and his No 10 advisers are now excessively in thrall to the ‘R Number’, basically the rate at which the virus is spreading through the population. 

As one said: ‘We’ve got this new alert system based on it. And that’s now the only metric we’re going to use to decide on how we end lockdown. 

‘Not mortality rates or hospital capacity or the economic cost or the impact on mental health or anything else. Just this new whizzy R Number.’

Forget the snappy scientific jargon. And the charts, the graphs and the new slogan urging us all to ‘Stay Alert’. The reality is the Government’s initial attempt to ease us out of lockdown has backfired. And it’s backfired for one simple reason – Boris and his Ministers are trying to achieve the impossible.

In 2020, in one of the world’s most mature liberal democracies, the State is actually attempting to stipulate – literally to within a matter of feet and metres – the proximity within which its citizens can interact. 

It is effectively attempting to eradicate from our society the flu, a virus that has been ever-present since around 410BC, and doing so without a vaccine or cure or any significant form of natural immunity. 

And it is attempting to stipulate who we can all meet, where we can meet them, how long we can meet them for, what we can do while we’re in their presence, how our meeting must be recorded and how the recording must be shared with the Government and others in the interests of health and safety.

This is an untenable position for a Government elected on a pledge to set Britain free. And for a Prime Minister defined above all else by his boundless can-do optimism.

The NHS Nightingale Hospital in London was placed on standby because it stopped taking in new patients  

The cold reality is we face a binary proposition. We either have lockdown and mandatory social distancing. Or we have an end to lockdown and mandatory social distancing. 

But what we cannot have is what is currently being proposed, which is the halfway house of a state-imposed ‘lock-in’. A situation where rather than be isolated on our homes, we attempt to isolate ourselves in our places of work.

Just think of your own average workday. Your journey in. Your work environment. Your lunch break. Your journey home.

Think about how practical it would be to go through all this and never stray within two metres of another human being. 

It’s so fantastically impractical, anyone who even stops to consider the idea for even half a minute can see the unsustainability of it.

It’s time for Boris and his Ministers to invert the telescope.

Customers sitting outside Cafe & Konditorei Rothe in Schwerin, Germany, all wore straw hats with two swimming pool noddles taped to the top as the cafe makes sure they do not flout social distancing

Until now we have been thinking about how we can hide away from the virus. Now we have to start thinking about how we can live alongside coronavirus.

If it means massive investment in a raft of new Nightingale hospitals, so be it. Distribution of a national supply of effective PPE to every citizen. A 500,000 daily test network. 

A state-of-the-art – with appropriate privacy guarantees – tracking and tracing network. Resources should be no barrier to these practical safeguards.

But we also have to go further, and shift responsibility for the fight against Covid-19 out of the hands of Ministers, and into the hands of the British people. 

And as Boris himself said, let common sense prevail – over who we want to meet, when and where we want to meet them, and how much risk we wish to accept.

Because if we don’t, the British people are going to seize that responsibility anyway. As one senior Tory said to me: ‘The big mistake everyone is making is thinking lockdown has worked because Ministers advocated it.

‘It worked because people thought it was the sensible thing to do. And now that view’s changing. 

On Thursday evening my high street was as busy as it’s ever been. So I spoke to my local police chief, and he said, “We’ve basically given up.” ’

The Government’s lockdown of Britain has broadly been successful. 

But the launch of its strategy to exit lockdown has not. Boris has momentarily and uncharacteristically lost the room. He must act quickly and decisively to recapture it. 

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Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer in huge row over whether catching virus in care homes was ‘unlikely’ – The Sun


BORIS Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer are in a furious row today about guidance which warned the risk of coronavirus in care homes was “unlikely”.

Labour accused the PM of misleading MPs today when Boris denied it was in official Government documents.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates


Mr Johnson denied the guidance had downplayed the risk of COVID-19 in care homes in Prime Minister's Questions today.

Sir Keir told MPs that guidance that was in place until March 13 said: "It remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home will become infected.”

He asked: “Does the Prime Minister accept that the Government was too slow to protect people in care homes?”

The Prime Minister responded: “No Mr Speaker it wasn’t true that the advice said that, and actually we brought the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown.”

"What we’ve seen is a concerted action plan to tackle what has unquestionably been an appalling epidemic in care homes."

He added: "Yes it is absolutely true that the number of casualties has been too high but I can tell the House, as I told (Sir Keir) last week and indeed this week, the number of outbreaks is down and the number of fatalities in care homes is now well down."

The official guidance on the Government's website, which was first published on February 25, read: "This guidance is intended for the current position in the UK where there is currently no transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

"It is therefore very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected. This is the latest information and will be updated shortly."

It was withdrawn on March 13.

The PM also pledged an extra £600 million to fighting coronavirus in care homes and controlling new infections.

Care home advice

February 25:

Government advice said it was "unlikely" people would catch coronavirus in care homes because at the time it was published "the current position in the UK where there is currently no transmission of COVID-19 in the community".

March 13 

Advice withdrawn

April 2

Government guidance told hospitals to monitor admission of people into care homes but said they did not require a negative coronavirus test to get care

Care homes told to limit visitors to residents

April 15

Social care action plan announced to allow everyone in care homes to get tested for coronavirus

Sir Keir wrote to the Prime Minister demanding a retraction of his claims the guidance did not say that.

He wrote: "At this time of national crisis, it is more important than ever that Government ministers are accurate in the information they give.

"Given this, I expect you (Mr Johnson) to come to the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity to correct the record and to recognise that this was official Government guidance regarding care homes."

A spokesman for No10 said:"What the leader of the opposition has done is inaccurately and selectively quote from the PHE guidance… he didn't acknowledge the guidance would be updated."

"He concedes he did not accurately quote from the PHE guidance, so no (the PM will not correct the record)."

10,000 unexplained deaths

Sir Keir also slammed the PM for 10,000 "unexplained" excess deaths in care homes which were not labelled as COVID-19 last month, demanding details on how those people died.

He said: “I want to probe the figures the Prime Minister has given us a little bit further.

“The ONS records the average number of deaths in care homes each month. For the last five years, the average for April has been just over 8,000.

“This year, the number of deaths in care homes in April was a staggering 26,000. That’s three times the average, 18,000 additional deaths this April.

“Using the Government’s figures, only 8,000 are recorded as Covid-19 deaths, that leaves 10,000 additional and unexplained care home deaths this April.

“Now I know the Government must have looked into this, so can the Prime Minister give us the Government’s views on these unexplained deaths?”

'Known' coronavirus cases sent into care homes

Sir Keir Starmer quoted a cardiologist who said: "We discharged known, suspected and unknown cases into care homes which were unprepared with no formal warning that patients were infected, no testing was available, and no (personal protective equipment)… we actively seeded this into the very population that is the most vulnerable."

In guidance published April 2, hospitals were told to "clarify with care homes the COVID-19 status of an individual and any COVID-19 symptoms" when transferring patients from hospitals to care homes.

But it said: "Negative tests are not required prior to transfers".

Mr Johnson said: "since the care homes action plan began we are seeing an appreciable and substantial reduction not just in the number of outbreaks, but also in the number of deaths."

But the same week the care home action plan was published on April 15, over 7,000 people died from coronavirus in care homes, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

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Sir Keir Starmer accuses Boris Johnson of a coronavirus cover-up

Sir Keir Starmer accuses Boris Johnson of a coronavirus cover-up by ditching international death comparisons as UK becomes worst hit country in Europe with 32,692 dead

  • Downing Street regularly published global death comparison slide for 7 weeks
  • But Number 10 now appears to have stopped publishing the comparison data
  • Sir Keir Starmer claimed Boris Johnson had made the move due to UK death toll
  • UK now appears to be the worst affected nation in Europe with 32,692 deaths
  • Mr Johnson insisted it is ‘premature’ to make global death toll comparisons 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Sir Keir Starmer today accused Boris Johnson of a coronavirus cover-up after Downing Street stopped publishing an international death toll comparison. 

The global death toll comparison graph has been a fixture of the daily Number 10 press conference during the outbreak. 

But the slide was not released yesterday and Sir Keir claimed at PMQs that the data is now being withheld because it shows the UK is the worst affected nation in Europe.  

Mr Johnson hit back and said it was ‘premature’ to make such comparisons as he labelled coronavirus a ‘once in a century epidemic’. 

But the Prime Minister’s defence was labelled ‘baffling’ by the Labour leader as he pointed out that the Government has repeatedly published the graph comparing the UK to the likes of the US, Italy and Spain during the crisis. 

Sir Keir Starmer today demanded to know why the UK Government has stopped publishing a graph comparing the coronavirus death toll in different countries

Boris Johnson said it was ‘premature’ to make such comparisons but Sir Keir claimed the graph had been ditched because the UK is now the worst hit country in Europe

Speaking in the House of Commons, Sir Keir said: ‘Yesterday the overall figures given by the Government at the press conference for those who have died from Covid-19 was 32,692 – each one a tragedy. 

‘For many weeks the Government has compared the UK number against other countries. 

‘Last week I showed the Prime Minister his own slide, showing that the UK now has the highest death total in Europe and second highest in the world. 

‘A version of this slide has been shown at the Number 10 press conference every day since the 30th of March. That is seven weeks. 

‘Yesterday the Government stopped publishing the international comparisons and the slide has gone. Why?’ 

Mr Johnson replied: ‘As he knows very well, the UK has been going through an unprecedented, once in a century epidemic and he seeks to make comparisons with other countries which I am advised are premature because the correct and final way of making these comparisons will be when we have all the excess death totals for all the relevant countries. 

‘We do not yet have that data. I am not going to try to pretend to the House that the figures when they are finally confirmed are anything other than stark and deeply, deeply horrifying. 

‘This has been an appalling epidemic. What I can tell the House is we are getting those numbers down: The numbers of deaths are coming down, the numbers of hospital admissions are coming down.’

The Prime Minister added: ‘As for the international comparisons that he seeks to draw now, I think he will have to contain his impatience.’ 

The global death comparison graph has been a fixture of Number 10 coronavirus press conferences but the data is no longer being published by the Government 

Sir Keir warned that dropping the international comparisons risked the UK failing to learn the lessons of other countries as he suggested the graph had been scrapped for other reasons.  

The Labour leader said: ‘I am baffled. It is not me seeking to draw the comparisons: These are the Government slides that have been used for seven weeks to reassure the public. 

‘The problem with the Prime Minister’s answer is it is pretty obvious that for seven weeks when we weren’t the highest number in Europe they were used for comparison purposes, as soon as we hit that unenviable place they have been dropped.’ 

He added: ‘Dropping the comparisons means dropping the learning and that is the real risk.’

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Boris Johnson reasserts authority as PM as he rebukes Nicola Sturgeon

Boris Johnson tries to reassert his authority as Prime Minister of the entire United Kingdom as he sets out lockdown exit plan and rebukes Nicola Sturgeon for repeated criticism of government strategy

  • Boris Johnson tonight unveiled lockdown exit strategy in address to the nation
  • PM set out plan to reopen UK economy in phases – but only if virus battle allows  
  • The PM confirmed ‘stay at home’ mantra is being ditched for ‘stay alert’ slogan
  • Nicola Sturgeon condemned the move saying old advice will remain in Scotland 
  • Tories have accused SNP of trying to exploit the crisis to fuel separatist desires
  • PM rebuked Ms Sturgeon and said he is ‘Prime Minister of the United Kingdom’
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Boris Johnson tonight tried to reassert his authority as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as he set out his 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 she had not been informed the slogan was being replaced with ‘stay alert’ 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 ultimately it is his decision how the four home nations respond to the crisis as he formally announced the new slogan. 

He 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.’    

Ms Sturgeon had delivered a brutal swipe at the PM earlier as she warned ‘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’. 

She said the message north of the border was ‘stay at home, full stop’. 

Meanwhile, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he would be telling people that ‘if you are not out of your house for an essential purpose… staying at home remains the best way you can protect yourself and others’. Northern Ireland will also not use the new Westminster information campaign. 

But Mr Johnson made specific reference to the UK as he ended his address to the nation by saying: ‘And though the UK will be changed by this experience, I believe we can be stronger and better than ever before.

‘More resilient, more innovative, more economically dynamic, but also more generous and more sharing. But for now we must stay alert, control the virus and save lives.’ 

The open row came as senior Tories accused the SNP of exploiting the crisis in a ‘tasteless’ bid to fuel its independence campaign.   

Boris Johnson this evening set out his lockdown exit strategy as he delivered a rebuke to Nicola Sturgeon 

After almost two months of lockdown, Boris Johnson has set out what he called ‘the first sketch of a road map for reopening society’.

Here are the key points: 

From Monday, people who cannot work from home are being actively encouraged to go to work instead of being told to only go if they must.

But they should avoid public transport if at all possible.

From Wednesday, people are being encouraged to take unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise and even play sports, but only with members of their household.

Visiting and sunbathing in local parks will also be allowed as will driving to other destinations.

But social distancing rules will still have to be obeyed with bigger fines for those who break them.

Primary schools may begin to reopen by June 1 at the earliest along with the phased reopening of shops.

But secondary schools are not expected to reopen before the summer holidays. 

Some pubs, restaurants, hotels and other public places could begin to reopen in July at the earliest ‘if and only if the numbers support it’.

A new Covid Alert System is being set up determined mainly by the reinfection rate and the number of cases.

The alert levels will be one to five and the higher the level, the tougher social distancing measures will have to be. 

The PM said the UK had been in Level Four but ‘we are now in a position to begin to move in steps to Level Three’.

Level one would mean coronavirus is no longer around while Level Five would be the NHS being overwhelmed by a fresh outbreak. 

Ms Sturgeon said Scots will now be free to exercise outdoors more than once a day. 

But she insisted the next steps in lockdown must be ‘very cautious and very careful’.

‘We mustn’t squander our progress by easing up too soon or by sending mixed messages that result in people thinking it is OK to ease up now,’ she said.

‘Let me be very blunt about the consequences if we were to do that. People will die unnecessarily. And instead of being able to loosen restrictions hopeful in the near future we will be faced instead with having to tighten them.’

Earlier, Housing Secretary Robert 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.’ 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said today that the advice will ‘broaden out’ but ‘stay at home’ will continue to be a key element

Scots can exercise more than once a day 

Scots will be allowed to take exercise more than once a day from tomorrow, Nicola Sturgeon has announced – but they still cannot sunbathe. 

The First Minister revealed the move as she took the daily briefing in Edinburgh this afternoon. 

‘From tomorrow, that once a day limit will be removed,’ she said. 

‘If you want to go for a walk more often, or to go for a run and also a walk later on in the day then you can now do so.’ 

The First Minister added that the extension did not apply to those who have symptoms or are living with someone who is showing symptoms, or those who are in the shielding group. 

Ms Sturgeon said it was to be used for exercise only and should not be used for ‘sunbathing, picnics or barbecues’. 

She added: ‘The fact that you’re allowed to exercise more than once is definitely not a license to start meeting up in groups at the park or at the beach. 

‘Doing that really does risk spreading this 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.

Even so, the tweaks unveiled by Mr Johnson are set to provoke splits in the UK’s approach, with each nation having devolved powers.    

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.’  

Vaughan Gething, health minister for Wales, said there had not been any agreement or discussion of the UK Government’s new ‘stay alert’ slogan with the other nations. 

‘I’ve seen the media briefings and changed message for England. There has not been a 4 nations agreement or discussion on this,’ Mr Gething tweeted. 

‘The @WelshGovernment message has not changed. Stay at home and if you do go out observe the social distancing rules. #StayHomeSaveLives’. 

Along with the new mantra, Mr Johnson used the TV address to the nation at 7pm to announce a DefCon-style five stage alert system to describe the country’s outbreak condition.

The UK is currently 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 has been dropped.

The focus has now shifted 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.  

Breaches of the more nuanced rules will be enforced with harsher fines, amid complaints from police that the enforcement so far has been ‘wishy washy’. 

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

Mr Johnson (pictured in Westminster last week) will use a TV address to the nation at 7pm to announce a DefCon-style five stage alert system to describe the country’s outbreak condition

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said the SNP was using the ‘most inappropriate of circumstances’ to debate Scottish independence while Covid-19 continues to claim lives. 

Mr Carlaw said: ‘There will always be the odd Nationalist willing to push the independence argument even under the most inappropriate of circumstances. 

‘A considerable number of very senior SNP politicians are using the Covid-19 crisis to push their selfish separatist agenda.

‘It’s tasteless, inconsiderate and extremely ill-judged.

‘Nicola Sturgeon must be embarrassed by these interventions. She should order a stop to them right away.’   

The Tories said the SNP’s Joanna Cherry, MP for Edinburgh South West, said last week that the virus could provide the opportunity for a ‘major rethink’ on independence strategy.  

They also highlighted Stirling MP Alyn Smith, who told The National newspaper that SNP members should establish ‘what the Covid-19 outbreak means for independence’, adding that ‘the case for independence in Europe is stronger than ever’. 

MP Pete Wishart tweeted that ‘indy will take off again’, while his colleague Angus MacNeil stated it would be ‘naïve’ for the SNP to stop campaigning on separation.

At Holyrood, SNP backbencher James Dornan said ‘imagine what we could achieve’ if Scotland was independent by the next time a global health emergency occurs.  

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