By Arj Singh
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A four-nation approach?
So far the UK has moved in lockstep in its response to coronavirus.
Despite the virus spreading in London faster and more widely than other parts of the UK, Boris Johnson defied expectations by locking down the entire country rather than just the capital.
Two-and-a-half weeks later, the prime minister is in intensive care with Covid-19, but his condition is gladly improving and he is “sitting up in bed” and engaging positively with medics.
However, he may not be so positive when he finds out Wales has unilaterally announced an extension of the lockdown which more or less expires on Monday after three weeks.
Downing Street was said to be angry about similar pre-emptive moves by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon to effectively shut down mass gatherings earlier in the crisis, but soon the rest of the UK adopted similar measures.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, delivering another assured performance at the daily Downing Street briefing, was at pains to stress that no decision will be made on the lockdown until the government has evidence and data from its Sage group of scientific advisers, which will only be available next week.
But with the UK at or approaching the peak, and various senior medical and science officials stressing we need to get past that before even thinking about relaxing the current measures, an extension seems inevitable.
One of Sunak’s answers in this regard was telling, given the heavy briefing about disquiet in the Treasury over the long-term economic and knock-on health impacts of the lockdown.
Asked whether the government must make a trade-off between protecting health and jobs, the chancellor refused to bite, insisting “our priority is to protect people’s lives, their health and wellbeing” while highlighting the measures he has put in place to protect jobs.
Given ministers like Michael Gove and Grant Shapps have openly spoken about the tricky balancing act of protecting people from Covid-19 while ensuring the economy does not collapse, could Sunak have been keeping his powder dry for debates in the week ahead?
In any case, first secretary of state Dominic Raab will chair a Cobra meeting tomorrow, involving the leaders of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to discuss how to approach next week’s lockdown review.
It seems like then we will get the first clues of what the coming weeks hold.
Quote Of The Day
“This will have a significant impact on our economy – and not in an abstract way. It will have an impact on people’s jobs and their livelihoods.”
– Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The number of people who have died in hospital in the UK after contracting coronavirus has risen by 938 in 24 hours. The youngest victim in England was just 22, with the oldest aged 103. Of the 46 who had no underlying health conditions, the youngest was 35.
Boris Johnson has been “sitting up in bed” and engaging with medics while he is treated for coronavirus, the chancellor has confirmed. News has just broken that the prime minister’s will spend a third night in intensive care.
Charities struggling to survive while playing a crucial role in the coronavirus battle will get a £750m boost from the government, Rishi Sunak has announced.
Lorry driver Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to the manslaughter of 39 people who were found dead in a refrigerated truck in Essex last October.
Bernie Sanders ended his bid for the White House on Wednesday, effectively handing the Democratic nomination to former US vice president Joe Biden and ending hopes that a progressive challenger would take on Donald Trump in November.
What I’m Reading
The coronavirus crisis could end in one of these four ways | The Guardian