The Prime Minister has taken back control at the helm of government and is giving directions to ministers from Chequers in an attempt to lead the UK out of the coronavirus crisis.
Boris Johnson, who is currently recovering from coronavirus at the country retreat, has his sights set on returning to running the country full time before May 11 when the extended lockdown is due to end.
He has been issuing orders to First Secretary of State Dominic Raab, who is deputising for him in public, as well as senior Downing Street advisors through a series of calls and sources have now claimed that ‘they wouldn’t be surprised’ if the Prime Minister was back at the helm in the next few days.
His government ministers have faced criticism for their decisions in his absence, with the main concern being a lack of personal protective equipment for those working on the frontline of the virus.
Mr Johnson also had a three-hour meeting with the Foreign Secretary on Friday along with Chief Adviser Dominic Cummings and Communication Director Lee Cain, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
A spokesman for Number 10 said: ‘The Prime Minister has been at the helm of the response to this, providing leadership during this hugely challenging period for the whole nation.’
As Mr Johnson prepares to return to the helm, it was also revealed that a ‘traffic light’ masterplan has been drawn up by officials, with three phases being introduced that will ease Britons out of lockdown.
It has three phases ‘red’ being a partial lift, where some small business may open, ‘amber’ would see some freedoms being extended, while ‘green’ would see events like weddings being able to go ahead.
It comes after a further 888 coronavirus deaths were announced in the UK on Saturday, bringing the total to 15,464.
Boris Johnson, who is currently recovering from coronavirus at the country retreat, has told Downing Street senior advisors that he could return as early as next week
In other developments:
- Private hospitals could be taken over by the NHS in fight against coronavirus at the cost of hundreds of millions
- Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick pledges extra £1.6bn to plug councils funding gap and says local parks must stay open for families without gardens
- NHS staff say faith in Health Secretary Matt Hancock is ‘draining away’ due to lack of personal protective equipment
- Prince Harry praises British public’s response to coronavirus pandemic and ‘selfless’ Captain Tom
- Gardening centres could open almost immediately as industry faces £1.6 billion loss amid coronavirus crisis
- Another 15 NHS heroes die in the battle against coronavirus including a mother who’s nurse partner is also battling for his life
- A new traffic like scheme is said to have been devised which will have a phased return to normal life for Britons
It is not yet known when the Prime Minister will return fully to his duties but a source told the Sun: ’It wouldn’t surprise me if he was back before the end of next week. Everyone knows he is the key to selling the end of the lockdown to voters.
‘This is the biggest decision he will ever take and he knows the implications are vast for millions of families. There is no way he will be on the sidelines.’
But this paints a different picture of the PM to the one depicted in the Sunday Times in the run-up to the outbreak.
The newspaper reported that Mr Johnson did not attend a raft of Cobra meetings and claimed the Government missed a series of opportunities to try and lessen the impact of the outbreak in February and March drew a pointed response from Downing Street.
The paper quoted a senior advisor to Downing Street, who was not named, saying: ‘There’s no way you’re at war if your PM isn’t there.
‘And what you learn about Boris was he didn’t chair any meetings. He liked his country breaks. He didn’t work weekends.
‘It was like working for an old-fashioned chief executive in a local authority 20 years ago. There was a real sense that he didn’t do urgent crisis planning. It was exactly like people feared he would be.’
A source also told The Sun that they ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if the Prime Minister was ‘back before the end of next week’.
‘Everyone knows he is the key to selling the end of the lockdown to voters. This is the biggest decision he will ever take and he knows the implications are vast for millions of families.
‘There is no way he will be on the sidelines.’
The Government is now implementing a series of major changes including the appointment of former Olympics Chief Lord Deighton (left), who has been tasked with leading a specialised task force to produce the necessary PPE for distribution around the country. Michael Gove (right) is also in the process of setting up a new unit to advise senior ministers on the widespread impacts of lockdown to help guide an eventual exit strategy
Boris Johnson has been in contact with his private office at Downing Street while he continues to recuperate at Chequers
Mr Johnson is recovering at Chequers
Boris Johnson has been in contact with ministers while he continues ‘resting and recuperating’ from coronavirus at his country residence of Chequers.
Mr Johnson was released from St Thomas’ Hospital in London last weekend following treatment in intensive care as his symptoms worsened after being admitted.
Asked about how Mr Johnson is, Mr Jenrick said this afternoon: ‘He’s resting and recuperating at Chequers. He’s taking his doctor’s advice.
‘He has had some contact with ministers, but mostly with his private office here at Downing Street and that’s absolutely right.
‘We all wish him well and hope that he takes the time to get better as quickly as he possibly can in the interim.’
It follows reports that Mr Johnson has spoken to his deputy Dominic Raab by phone as he recovers from the virus.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: ‘The Government has been working day and night to battle against coronavirus, delivering a strategy designed at all times to protect our NHS and save lives.
‘Guided by medical and scientific expertise, we have implemented specific measures to reduce the spread of the virus at the time they will be most effective.
‘Our response has ensured that the NHS has been given all the support in needs to ensure everyone requiring treatment has received it, as well as providing protection to businesses and reassurance to workers.’
The Government has faced sustained criticism over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic with particular focus on the national shortage of personal protective equipment needed by frontline staff.
But it is now implementing a series of major changes including the appointment of former Olympics Chief Lord Deighton, who has been tasked with leading a specialised task force to produce the necessary PPE for distribution around the country.
The Prime Minister previously described Lord Deighton as being a ‘superb’ executive after he helped deliver the 2012 Olympics while Mr Johnson was London mayor.
Speaking about his appointment, Lord Deighton said: ‘Countries around the world face unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment and this necessitates an equally unprecedented domestic manufacturing response.
‘This effort calls for exceptional teamwork and I am confident that we, together, will rise to this challenge.’
Michael Gove is also in the process of setting up a new unit to advise senior ministers on the widespread economic and social impacts of lockdown to help guide an eventual exit strategy.
It comes after a grand coalition of the country’s most senior political and business figures called on the Government to lift the shutters from Britain’s deserted high streets and map a route out of the crippling Covid-19 lockdown.
Former Cabinet Ministers David Davis and Iain Duncan Smith have joined forces with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and City bosses to warn the lack of a clear exit strategy could wreak lasting damage on the UK economy.
Officials are currently drawing up a three-stage ‘traffic light’ plan which would see some businesses such as DIY stores and garden centres reopen, and some children return to school, as early as the week beginning May 11.
The Prime Minister is said to be issuing orders to First Secretary of State Dominic Raab, who is deputising for him in public, as well as senior aides through a series of calls
Parks MUST stay open, funerals can go ahead with close family and cemeteries will also stay open, says Robert Jenrick
St James’s Park, central London
Councils have been ordered by the Government to keep parks open after some closed their gates in recent weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told the Downing Street daily press conference how he had ‘made it clear’ that green spaces should not be shut.
He also confirmed that funerals can still go ahead – and asked councils to keep cemeteries open to allow families to grieve for their loved ones.
However he warned that people must abide by social distancing rules, and not congregate in parks – but they must be accessible for ‘the health of the nation’.
Mr Jenrick said the lockdown measures in place since March 23 were harder for those without gardens and that ‘people need parks’.
In response to claims of a power vacuum, No 10 said that a ‘quad’ of key ministers – Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove – met every weekday at 6pm to decide strategy.
Yesterday, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told the daily press conference that the Prime Minister Mr Johnson was ‘resting and recuperating at Chequers’ and ‘taking his doctor’s advice’.
Mr Jenrick added: ‘He has had some contact with ministers but mostly with his private office here at Downing Street.’
The deaths of a further 888 people were announced in the UK yesterday, bringing the total to 15,464, but the number of hospital patients with the virus fell by 952 to 17,759, raising hopes that infection rates have reached a plateau.
Under the first, ‘red’, phase of the ‘traffic light’ plan, businesses such as garden centres and hairdressers could reopen, subject to strict social distancing arrangements.
Around a fifth of children would also go back to school as part of a phased return.
Although officials are divided over whether to give priority based on year groups, the occupation of parents or by region.
The ‘amber’ phase – probably in June or July – would see restaurants open on condition that tables were far enough apart. Most children and office workers would also leave isolation.
The timing of the ‘green’ phase – a full return to normality including pubs opening and large events – would depend on the development of widespread testing for Covid-19 and consistently low levels of infections and deaths.
Conservative MP David Davis during a second reading of the Coronavirus Bill in the House of Commons. He has joined forces with Sir Keir Starmer and City bosses to warn the lack of a clear exit strategy could wreak lasting economic damage
Boris Johnson’s coronavirus journey
At the beginning of last month Boris Johnson appeared on day time TV shaking hands with This Morning presenters before attending various events.
Here is how the last month has played out for the Prime Minister.
March 3: Tells a press conference he was at a hospital where coronavirus patients were being treated and was shaking hands
March 5: Appears on This Morning and shakes hands with presenters
March 6: Meets scientists and Welsh MPs
March 8: Surveys flood defences in the Worcestershire town of Bewdley
March 9: Meets and shakes hands with Anthony Joshua at an event
March 10: Tells Brits to stop shaking hands
March 11: Talks about social distancing
March 12: Mr Johnson says preventing mass gatherings is not an effective way to tackle coronavirus
March 16: He advises against mass gatherings in policy U-turn – effectively cancelling all sport and other events
March 17: Talks about importance of social distancing at briefing with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance
March 18: Speaks at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons and says all schools will be closed
March 19: Says UK can ‘turn the tide’ in fight against coronavirus within 12 weeks
March 20: Closes pubs, restaurants and theatres
March 21: Daily coronavirus update in the Cabinet Room
March 22: Media briefing with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries
March 23: Orders a UK-wide lockdown with people told to stay at home in a special televised address
March 24: Hosts weekly Cabinet Room meeting remotely
March 25: Speaks at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons and speaks to Queen Elizabeth II by telephone
March 26: Holds a video call to other G20 leaders and later joins in with a national applause for NHS staff
March 27: Reveals he has tested positive for Covid-19
April 2: PM comes out of self isolation
April 3: Urges people to stay at home
April 5: He is admitted to hospital as a precautionary step
April 6: Moved to intensive care
April 9: Leaves intensive care but has to move to a ward to be monitored
April 12: Mr Johnson leaves hospital
April 14: Source says PM has been ‘banned from riding his motorbike’ and is enjoying bird watching
April 16: Melania Trump calls Carrie Symonds as Mr Johnson recovers
April 17: Doctors urge him to ‘take it easy’ as it’s revealed he is keen to get back to work
April 18: Is in contact with minister and his private office in Downing Street
The elderly and vulnerable would remain ‘shielded’ until a vaccine is available, possibly for up to 18 months from now.
The emergence of the scheme comes as ministers continue to be at loggerheads over when children should be able to get back to school.
Friends of Education Secretary Gavin Williamson are privately arguing that pupils should begin returning from May 11 – but that idea is meeting stiff resistance from lockdown ‘doves’ who want any return delayed until June.
The Mail On Sunday revealed that both sides agree that any return must be phased, with potentially only 20 per cent of classes being allowed back to begin with.
Sources close to Mr Williamson last night denied he was arguing for a particular date, insisting no timetable had been set out.
The row emerged as the Education Secretary unveiled a multi-million-pound plan to distribute 200,000 free laptops and tablets to help vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils, including those who receive support from a social worker and those who have spent time in care.
Schools and colleges, which will distribute the laptops, will be able to keep them after they have reopened.
In addition, 4G routers will be provided to make sure disadvantaged secondary school pupils can access the internet even if there is no wifi at home.
And telecoms giants will not charge families any data fees to access selected educational resources.
From tomorrow, a new Government-backed ‘Oak National Academy’ – which has been created by 40 teachers from some of the leading schools across England – will begin work to offer 180 video lessons a week in subjects including maths, art and languages, for children in reception classes through to Year 10.
Mr Williamson said: ‘Schools will remain closed until the scientific advice changes, which is why we need to support the incredible work teachers are already doing to ensure children continue to receive the education they deserve and need.’
But to the frustration of ‘hawks’ led by Mr Sunak, Cabinet ‘doves’ headed by Mr Hancock are reluctant to signal an end to lockdown while infection rates are still high.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday today, former Brexit Secretary Mr Davis says it is ‘now essential we take the brakes off the economy’.
His remarks follow dire predictions that the UK economy could contract by as much as a third if the full lockdown lasts three months, leading to soaring unemployment and bankruptcies. Mr Davis’s views were echoed by ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith who urged Ministers to stop ‘patronising’ the public and explain their plans to restart the economy and that ‘there is life after lockdown.’
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – also writing in this newspaper – says: ‘Now is not the time to lift restrictions. But we do need to have clarity about what is going to happen next.’ The politicians were joined by retail bosses including Julian Dunkerton, the founder of clothing label Superdry, and economist Gerard Lyons, who said: ‘After the current three-week extension, there should be a gradual unlocking of the economy’.
Professor Karol Sikora, a health expert on a panel convened by this newspaper to discuss how to best end the lockdown, said the first restrictions could be relaxed as early as a week tomorrow, if the signs are right.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘At all times we have been guided by scientific advice. The current advice is that relaxing any measures could risk damage to public health, our economy, and the sacrifices we have all made. Only when the evidence suggests it is safe to do so will we adjust these measures.’
Labour leader Sir Starmer and his wife Victoria take part in the national ‘Clap our Carers’ campaign to show thanks for the work of Britain’s NHS workers and frontline medical staff around the country as they battle the coronavirus pandemic
People shopping at The Range in Plymouth. Under the first, ‘red’, phase of the ‘traffic light’ plan, businesses such as garden centres and hairdressers could reopen, subject to strict social distancing arrangements
400,000 gowns are set to arrive from Turkey but Robert Jenrick accepts government must do more after furious NHS says faith in Matt Hancock is ‘draining away’ after they were told to RE-USE protective equipment
A ‘very large consignment’ of PPE – including 400,000 gowns – will arrive in the UK from Turkey tomorrow, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced, after NHS staff were told to reuse protective equipment amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at the daily government briefing on the pandemic, Mr Jenrick said 84 tonnes of PPE will be flown over from Turkey on Sunday to help NHS staff battling the crisis.
It comes after some union leaders warned that faith in Health Secretary Matt Hancock is ‘draining away’ amid the PPE scandal – with some hospitals fearing that PPE supplies would run out by the end of the weekend.
Though promising to address shortages today, Mr Jenrick admitted that demand is ‘very high’ with supplies of some equipment, including gowns and certain types of masks, being low.
It has also been suggested that the 400,000 gowns from Turkey would only last three days, with Mr Jenrick acknowledging the ‘challenges’ of providing PPE.
RAF and Turkish Air Force personnel unloading personal protection equipment (PPE) from a Turkish airforce A400M aircraft on April 10, after it arrived at RAF Brize Norton from Etimesgut military airport in Ankara
It comes after some union leaders warned that faith in Health Secretary Matt Hancock is ‘draining away’ amid the PPE scandal, with NHS staff told to reuse equpiment
He said at the briefing: ’Today I can report that a very large consignment of PPE is due to arrive in the UK tomorrow from Turkey, which amounts to 84 tonnes of PPE and will include for example, 400,000 gowns – so a very significant additional shipment.
‘But demand is also very high. We are working with British manufacturers to ensure that they can make a contribution, and you’ve heard of some of the more prominent ones like Burberry and Barbour but there are many SMEs as well being involved in that.
‘My department is also involved in trying to ensure that the supplies that we have get out, not just to the NHS, critical though that is, but also to social care, often to smaller establishments like care homes, all across the country.
‘There’s over 50,000 healthcare settings like that in the country, and we’re using local resilience forums, backed by almost 200 military planners to do the logistical task of taking the stocks that we do have, and getting them to the front line, but I completely accept that this is extremely challenging.
‘Supply in some areas, particularly gowns and certain types of masks and aprons, is in short supply at the moment, and that must be an extremely anxious time for people working on the front line, but they should be assured that we are doing everything we can to correct this issue, and to get them the equipment that they need.’
How our Corona Cabinet say we can get the UK moving
By Nick Craven, Holly Bancroft and Helen Cahill for the Mail on Sunday
Garden centres and DIY stores should the first businesses to reopen fully as the lockdown is relaxed, according to a panel of distinguished experts.
Home improvement, decorating and gardening could help revive the economy and give families a much-needed boost as they emerge from the restrictions which have had a devastating financial impact, the Mail on Sunday panel said.
The experts – drawn from the fields of public health, medicine, retail, economics and psychology – said the Government should plan a staged sequence of ending the lockdown.
Professor Karol Sikora (left) is one of the world’s leading cancer specialists and a former director of the WHO Cancer Programme. He is chief medical officer of Rutherford Health and Professor of Medicine at the University of Buckingham. Richard Hyman (right) is an independent retail consultant with more than 35 years’ experience providing insight and analysis. He founded the retail analysis firm Verdict and has worked as a strategic adviser to consultancy Deloitt
That would see the businesses that posed the least risk to health reopen first, with social distancing remaining and the effects on public health being carefully monitored.
Allowing the public to visit DIY and garden centres freely would be followed by rebooting small-scale manufacturing and most high street shops as long as coronavirus infections were clearly on the wane and sufficient testing was in place.
The experts said the criteria for which sectors of the economy to unlock first should be based on types of activity, rather than relaxing the rules by focusing on particular age groups or geographical areas.
They also called for the public to be allowed to travel without restrictions to parks and green spaces as long as they observe social distancing and stay two metres apart.
In a wide-ranging discussion on video conferencing platform Zoom, the MoS lockdown forum heard:
- The Government should spell out a clear strategy for ending the lockdown to the public as soon as possible, according to economist Gerard Lyons.
- The first phase of releasing the lockdown restrictions could occur as early as tomorrow week, if cases in the UK are falling sharply and there has been no second wave of infections seen from lockdowns being relaxed in countries such as Austria, cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora said.
- Psychologist Dr Kimberly Dienes spoke of the profound effect the lockdown has had on many people by removing their control, and warned that people will be anxious on health and social grounds as they emerge from it.
- Business psychologist Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos stressed the importance of kick-starting the economy – ‘or we might not have enough funds to support the medics’.
- Retail consultant Richard Hyman said supermarkets should be the model for other businesses to follow in ensuring social distancing.
- Public health expert Dr Bharat Pankhania said he saw nothing wrong in people driving to parks or beauty spots for exercise, if they observed strict social distancing.
Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos (left) is one of the UK’s leading consumer and business psychologist and works at University College London. Dr Tsivrikos advises businesses and governments on consumer behaviour. Dr Bharat Pankhania (right) is Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School. He is a public health expert with more than 20 years’ experience in communicable disease control and infectious disease management
Economist Mr Lyons wanted to see a ‘gradual unlocking of the economy’ in three phases.
But he stressed that the Government must give people a clear blueprint of the strategy in advance, ‘because once you start to unlock, the natural tendency is for people to experiment’.
‘The trigger should still be a medical one, based on the infection rate. We also need to take testing into account, along with changes in behaviour and social distancing, and we also need to enforce behavioural changes such as wearing masks. If behaviours go back to what they were before the crisis, that risks the virus re-emerging.
‘Garden centres are interesting because in terms of health and wellbeing, and in terms of spending time at home, one would think DIY activities and garden centres should be more accessible.’
Professor Sikora, who has warned of up to 60,000 unnecessary deaths among cancer patients if the NHS isn’t able to resume normal, non-coronavirus treatments, was the keenest panel member to get Britain moving.
He said: ‘I would move to the first phase by April 27, provided there was no second wave in Austria, control measures were in place and the number of cases and deaths has sharply dropped. I would then move to the second stage with small manufacturing etc on May 11, and a much fuller resumption of economic activity by May 25.
Dr Dienes, who has conducted psychological studies of people experiencing lockdown, left her colleagues in no doubt about the effects of isolation. ‘Their reaction has really been one of a loss of motivation, a loss of self-worth in a lot of ways. Many people reported depression and anxiety as a result of the lockdown.’
And she warned that while some people might want to ‘run to the beaches’ when the measures ended, two things will happen: ‘People will want to engage more but they will also have health anxiety and social anxiety about engaging with the outside world again.’
Dr Tsivrikos said the Government’s strategy on public communication ‘has been a disaster’.
Gerard Lyons (left) is chief economist at Netwealth and senior fellow at the Policy Exchange. He advised Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor, and was in the running to replace Mark Carney as Bank of England Governor. Dr Kimberly Dienes (right) is a lecturer in clinical and health psychology at the University of Manchester with interests in social, biological and psychological stress processes. She has studied the experiences of people in social isolation
‘I think what we have done so far is to simply scare people and that can only work up to a point. What is a saving grace is that we are actually globally experiencing this – people have been obedient because they have seen other people do it.’
Mr Hyman said the way supermarket bosses had dealt with social distancing should be the model for others. ‘What most of the big food stores are doing is limiting the number of people going in at any one time, and they are ensuring it’s one person at a time, so group shopping is outlawed. It has become a functional activity.
‘Common sense suggests areas like DIY and garden centres are probably the way to start.’
Dr Pankhania said: ‘You either get infected from human beings or from a place where other humans congregate – so from some kind of contaminated surface. If you can mitigate [the risk of infection] by social distancing, masks and gloves, then a lot of things become possible, provided also that cases and deaths are falling sharply, there is enough testing being carried out and adequate PPE is available.’
But he also warned of the dangers of a second wave of infections if the relaxation was carried out too fast. ‘We do not know that you become immune after you have been infected and recover, so people should assume they are still at risk.’
When this is over, we must give our most vulnerable the dignity they deserve – AND reward the heroes who give them such devoted care
By Sir Keir Starmer for the Mail on Sunday
Two weeks ago, when I was elected Labour leader, I made a promise to the British people that under my leadership my party will act in the national interest, help steer us through these difficult times and strive for the good of our country. I meant it.
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Prime Minister gives Cabinet directions from Chequers in attempt to get a grip on the coronavirus crisis – and could be back in Downing St next week - after criticism over lack of PPE and growing calls for a clear exit from lockdown have 5350 words, post on www.dailymail.co.uk at April 18, 2020. This is cached page on ReZone. If you want remove this page, please contact us.