LiveCoronavirus in UK live blog: latest as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden holds daily press briefing

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Wednesday, 20th May 2020, 4:15 pm

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A satirical poster from the group Led By Donkeys depicting Boris Johnson as former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain delivering his “Peace for Our Time” speech in Kentish Town, London (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
A satirical poster from the group Led By Donkeys depicting Boris Johnson as former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain delivering his “Peace for Our Time” speech in Kentish Town, London (Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Coronavirus live blog, May 20

Last updated: Wednesday, 20 May, 2020, 16:27

Oliver Dowden is set to take the daily press briefing at 5pm. 

He will be joined by professor Steven Powis. 

Customers could be stopped from drinking at the bar at pubs as part of new proposals aimed at helping hospitality firms reopen on July 4.

Restrictions on the number of children in outdoor playing areas and patrols of smoking areas have also been put forward among potential measures touted to help sites meet coronavirus guidelines.

The leader of Bury Conservative Group has written to the Labour council's leadership to ask them to share evidence to support its decision not to reopen primary schools from June 1.

Councillor Nick Jones said: "At no point, to my knowledge, has there been a resolution of council and/or a briefing to the cabinet (for children and families) to put forward the reasons why schools should remain closed across Bury, Radcliffe, Whitefield, Prestwich, Tottington and Ramsbottom.

"In the absence of such advice, I can only conclude the letter issued to head teachers is clearly politically-motivated and not one which is backed up by scientific or Bury council officer advice."

He added: "The welfare of children and staff should be at the heart of all decisions being taken on this issue, not the political views of the Labour administration in Bury."

Labour said a track-and-trace system should be in place before schools return.

A spokesman for party leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters during a telephone briefing: "What we are calling for is for the Government to try and reach a consensus with teachers' and parents' organisations to drive a way through and find a way to respond to those concerns with practical proposals within the next couple of weeks."

Asked what sort of practical proposals it was looking for, the spokesman added: "The three things we've called for is that, firstly, the Government should publish the scientific advice behind the rationale for the June 1 date to create transparency

"Secondly, we've said the track-and-trace system needs to be in place and, thirdly, what we've said is the Government needs to bring parent groups, teachers and trade unions together to try and find a consensus to raise some of the concerns that have been raised."

SNP Westminster leader concurs with Sir Keir describing the surcharge for immigrant workers as “cruel”. 

He said: "The Home Secretary (Priti Patel) and the Prime Minister seem hell-bent on implementing a purely ideological immigration policy with no basis in fairness or economics. This Government has talked about giving back to our NHS and care staff, well it's time for the Prime Minister to deliver. 

"People migrating to these nations and choosing to work in our NHS and our care sector must have this Government's cruel NHS surcharge removed, and removed immediately. Will the Prime Minister make that pledge today or will he clap on Thursday hoping that no-one really notices that he's giving with one hand and raking it in with the other?" 

Mr Johnson responded: "This is the party that is putting more into the NHS - £34 billion - the biggest investment in modern times and believe me we will continue with that investment."

Sir Keir moves on and says does the Prime Minister think that it’s right that carers who have moved here from abroad should be required to pay a surcharge to use healthcare themselves. 

Mr Johnson says he accepts difficulty facing care workers who have come from abroad and “saved my life”.

He says we must look at reality that NHS needs funding and those contributions raise £900m.

He says it’s very difficult to find alternate sources. 

Sir Keir says he is disappointed because the PM knows how raw this is. He highlights that current surcharge is £400 a year, that bumps up to over £600 a year from October. 

He says for a care worker on the National Living Wage that would require working 70 hours.to pay off the fee. 

He says it is a gross insult to allwho are serving country at its time of need. Says Labour will table and amendment to the bill to exempt NHS and care workers from these bills. 

Mr Johnson said he has given his answer and thinks it is important that we invest in our NHS. He says he wants to see NHS staff paid properly.

The Prime Minister says he hopes leader of opposition will abandon his negative stance. 

Sir Keir retorts 34,000 deaths is negative and of course he is going to ask about that “and quite right to”. 

He says PM is feigning ignorance and there’s no getting away from the fact that there has been no tracing for ten weeks unlike in South Korea and Germany. He says “the PM knows it is vital” and refers to an address to the nation where he said “we can not move forward unless we satisfy the tests” one of which was a world-beating test and trace system. 

Sir Keir said never mind world-beating, “an effective one will do”.

Sir Keir asks can the PM promise that an effective test and trace system will be in place by June 1. 

PM says he has just informed that a test, track and trace sytem will be in place by June 1. There will be 25,000 trackers. 

He reiterates that he hopes the Leader of the Opposition will be more supportive. 

Sir Keir says at yesterday’s briefing Dame Angela McLean said we could take inspiration from Germany and South Korea on testing and tracing. He says the number of covid deaths tands at around 8,000. 

He says that in the UK that despite 2 million tests being carried out there has been no effective tracing in place since March 12 when it was abandoned. “Nearly 10 weeks in acritical period without effective tracing. ” He says that’s a huge hole in our defences.

Prime Minister says he finds the question peculiar and says Leader of Opposition is perfectly aware of tracing stance. 

PM says he is confident that we will have a test and trace operation that will enable us to make progress. That will be in place by the 1st of June. 

Mr Johnson says “he’s simply in ignorance of the facts" because 125,000 care home staff have already been tested.

Mr Johnson says UK is testing more than any other European country. 

Starmer retorts saying the question was “when routine testing would start”. Again refers to Green’s comments that it hasn’t.  He says if Prime Minister is rejecting claims of the Select Committee then that is his own business. 

Hancock is reprimanded or heckling the Leader of the Oppositon. 

Sir Keir says PM missed the point of his question as it was over whether patients were tested before they were returned to care homes. 

He says that’s a very serious question that needs an answer. 

He said heade of Care England was asked when routine testing would start in care homes. He quotes Martin Green, “I think the short answer is that we’ve had the announcement, but what we haven’t had is the delivery and we’re not very clear when that will arrive. ”

Sir Keir says that all those at care homes are to be tested by June 6. He asks “what’s causing the continued delay in routine testing at our care homes?”

Mr Johnson replies saying “he’s right to draw attention to what has happened in our care homes".

The Prime Minister says no one was discharged into a care home this year without the authorisation of a clinician, who have the interest of those patients at heart.

Prime Minister says guidance was changed and since plan was implemented there has been a sharp reduction in care home cases. He says Sir Keir should pay tribute to all those who have helped to fight that epidemic. 

Prime Minister's Questions underway

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now taking questions from Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer. 

Sir Keir says that the Health Secretary said that protective rings were put round care homes from the start of the pandemic, but he says this was contradicted by the head of Care England who said that “we should have been focusing on care homes right from the start”. 

He says government advice in March was “negative tests are not required prior to transfers into care homes”.  

He asks “what’s protective about that?”

McDonalds reopens stores

McDonald's has reopened 33 restaurants for drive-through customers after a successful trial for deliveries.

The sites, primarily in south-east England, opened at 11am on Wednesday and are offering a limited menu with orders capped at £25 per car, the fast food chain said.

Contactless payment is also being encouraged.

Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe temporary release extended

Captain Sir Tom Moore, reflecting on how he walked laps of his garden to raise funds for the NHS, told BBC Breakfast: "I did it with pleasure and without any hardship because, as it got on and on, the funds got better and better and it just went on and on.

"It was absolutely, totally amazing because not only was it in this country but it seemed to go throughout the world.

"We got messages from I don't know how many countries, it must have been something like 100 countries that wanted to have a word with me because of the sum that was being raised.

"It seemed to have raised the spirits of so many different countries, which was absolutely amazing and to me it was delightful."

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