Nicola Sturgeon reveals the UK will EXTEND the lockdown on Thursday: Scottish First Minister says restrictions ‘unlikely to be lifted’ any time soon – as she once again gazumps Dominic Raab to leak announcement first
- Nicola Sturgeon appears to have preempted government decision on lockdown
- She said a UK review of lockdown ‘not likely to result in restrictions being lifted’
- UK government is due to decide whether to continue lockdown by Thursday
- Cabinet divided over the timing of easing lockdown between early and late May
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak concerned economy will crash by a third this quarter
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Nicola Sturgeon today appeared to confirm that the UK will be staying in a state of coronavirus lockdown for the foreseeable future as she said: ‘We must stick with it.’
The UK government is due to make a decision on whether to extend social distancing restrictions beyond an initial period of three weeks by the end of Thursday.
But the Scottish First Minister seemed to let slip at a press conference this afternoon that lockdown will definitely be continuing.
She said: ‘There is of course due to be a review of these restrictions this week. I want to today be very clear so that nobody is under any illusion.
‘That review is not likely to result in these restrictions being lifted in the very near future.
‘There are early optimistic signs that the steps we are taking are working but until we know more and have solid evidence we must stick with it.’
It is not the first time Ms Sturgeon has made a move before ministers in Westminster during the current crisis, with the SNP leader having also got in first on announcing a ban on large events and the closure of schools.
Her comments risk infuriating stand-in PM Dominic Raab who is expected to be grilled on the issue at a press conference this evening.
It came as the Cabinet hoped that Boris Johnson will return to make the crunch coronavirus lockdown decision amid warnings UK GDP is set to crash by 30 per cent this quarter because of the ongoing disruption.
Divisions have emerged in the PM’s top team over how soon the draconian curbs should be eased as they lay waste to the economy.
Government sources said there is ‘zero’ chance of the restrictions being lifted following the formal review this week – but some ministers want to start moving into a new phase early next month, while others favour delaying weeks longer.
The implications of the timing has been cast into sharp relief with Chancellor Rishi Sunak warning that UK plc could shrink by 25-30 per cent in the coming months, costing millions of jobs.
However, much is likely to hang on the situation in Italy and Spain, which appear to be past the peaks of their outbreaks and are tentatively starting to loosen their lockdowns.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today suggested the UK’s coronavirus lockdown will continue
The Cabinet is hoping Boris Johnson (pictured delivering a heartfelt thanks to the NHS yesterday) will return to take crunch coronavirus lockdown decisions
The implications of the timing has been cast into sharp relief with Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured in Whitehall last week) warning that UK plc could shrink by 25-30 per cent in the coming months
Deliveries of PPE from China ‘faulty and wrongly labelled’
Delivering lifesaving protective gear to frontline health staff has become ‘hand to mouth’, an NHS leader has revealed.
The Government is airlifting in crates from China on a daily basis but some are being removed from planes before take-off by officials who want to test them. Other boxes are reaching the UK only for NHS officials to discover that they have been wrongly labelled.
Rather than containing much needed protective gowns, they are filled with masks. Even worse, much of the kit from China – the world’s main supplier – is unusable because it fails UK safety checks.
The astonishing revelations come from Chris Hopson of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, ambulance services and mental health trusts. He said: ‘It’s all been a bit hand to mouth.
‘The heart of the problem is that getting that stock that was ordered weeks ago from China is proving somewhat erratic.’ He said China was the only country with access to the right materials and manufacturing capacity to produce protective equipment.
More than 30 NHS staff are believed to have died from coronavirus and campaigners say some of the deaths were a direct result of a lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE.
Mr Johnson is recovering from coronavirus at Chequers after admitting that his fate could have gone ‘either way’.
The Prime Minister spent a week in St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, including three nights in intensive care, but left yesterday to be reunited with pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds – who has also recovered from the virus.
He is now convalescing at the country residence in Buckinghamshire after doctors ordered the Tory leader to rest.
Number 10 has confirmed that the PM will ‘not be returning to work immediately’ following his discharge.
He tested negative for coronavirus before he was discharged, and is now likely to have a degree of immunity.
But Cabinet sources told the Telegraph Mr Johnson should sign off on the major moves on lockdown. ‘The Prime Minister has to take that decision. Any lockdown will have huge implications, and the PM will be responsible for it, so he’s got to be the the one taking that decision,’ they said.
A senior Tory MP added: ‘It should absolutely be Boris. He’s the captain of the ship. It has to be someone who has the confidence of the nation.’
Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke told MailOnline those demanding Mr Johnson sets a timetable for coming back needed to ‘grow up’, and it was in everyone’s interests that he is ‘firing on all cylinders’ when he does return.
‘I am just concerned that the PM takes the time he needs to recover,’ he said.
‘At the end of the day we now know he has been very, very seriously ill. He said himself it could have gone one way or the other.
‘He doesn’t need to rush back. He has got the entire support of the country behind him. People recognise how serious it was, how hard he was working.’
The Conservative Party vice-chairman added that Mr Johnson should be taking it easy for ‘at least a couple of weeks’.
‘I think politicians who say ‘what’s going on’ – almost pushing the pressure for him to come back – need to grow up a bit because the public want him to make a full recovery,’ Mr Shelbrooke added.
‘I don’t want to see him rush back into things. I want to make sure he’s OK.’
Another MP told MailOnline there would need to be consideration over whether he is in condition to make the biggest decisions for the country.
‘There is a concern about that and I think that he has got to listen to medical advice. But subject to him listening to that medical advice I am pretty sure he will want to be the one to make that decision,’ they said.
‘Every report I have read from survivors indicates that it knocks them about tremendously so he does have to watch his own health.’
They added: ‘Irrespective of what the medics say he will probably want to be involved in that decision and to give the sign off on it. I think he understands the buck stops with him.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking at the Downing Street briefing yesterday, said there was no advice on how long Mr Johnson should rest before returning to work.
‘That will be a clinical decision for his doctors to take with him,’ he said.
‘The Government is operating perfectly efficiently within the strategy that he set out.’
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is ‘deputising’ for the PM as the government faces another crucial week.
In an emotional speech posted on social media following his hospital release, Mr Johnson admitted his condition ‘could have gone either way’ and thanked NHS staff for saving his life.
Former Tory communications chief Ms Symonds joined in praising the ‘incredible’ staff who treated her husband-to-be, tweeting that she would ‘never, ever be able to repay you’.
Mr Johnson called the NHS ‘unconquerable’ after seeing first-hand how it was dealing with the pandemic and heralded the ‘personal courage’ of everyone from doctors to cooks at St Thomas’.
He added: ‘We will win because our NHS is the beating heart of this country.
‘It is the best of this country. It is unconquerable. It is powered by love.’
His comments came as it was confirmed the number of those who had died in UK hospitals after contracting Covid-19 had breached the 10,000 mark.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the UK looked set to have ‘one of the worst, if not the worst’ death rate in Europe.
The PM is recuperating from coronavirus at Chequers with pregnant partner Carrie Symonds
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking at the Downing Street briefing yesterday, said there was no advice on how long Mr Johnson should rest before returning to work
The formal review of the strict social distancing measures is due, required under emergency powers legislation, is set to be reviewed by ministers on Thursday.
Downing Street has said it will only look to lift restrictions once science and medical advisers recommend doing so.
But pressure is mounting to change tack soon, reported that Mr Sunak is estimating a massive impact on the economy.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) think-tank last week suggested 25 per cent of the UK economy could be lost by the summer due to the current controls.
According to the Times, Mr Sunak has told colleagues the consequences could be even worse with GDP falling by a third in the second quarter.
Mr Sunak is said to be among a group of Cabinet ‘hawks’ – also including education secretary Gavin Williamson and Home Secretary Priti Patel – who want the lockdown eased more quickly. However, other ‘doves’ such as Mr Hancock and Michael Gove are apparently cautioning against lifting the restrictions too early.
A Government source said there was no ‘table-thumping’ going on, but added of Mr Williamson: ‘He’s Education Secretary – he’d, of course, prefer schools to be open. But it’s not his choice. He is worried about all children and how they are going to do. There is no replacement for children going along to classes under the supervision of teachers who know them.
‘However, schools will only be opened when it is safe to do so.’
Mr Hancock last night announced a new NHS coronavirus app that the Government hopes will help stem the spread of the virus by helping people to self-isolate before they start showing symptoms, as the Government looks to find a way out of the lockdown.
He said: ‘If you become unwell with the symptoms of coronavirus you can securely tell this new NHS app and the app will then send an alert anonymously to other app users that you’ve been in significant contact with over the past few days.’
Opposition parties, including Labour and the Liberal Democrats, have called for parliamentary scrutiny of the data use.
On Sunday the Department of Health said, as of 5pm on Saturday, a total of 10,612 patients had died in UK hospitals after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 737 from 9,875 the day before.
Europe goes back to work: Millions of Spaniards are allowed to resume their jobs after industrial lockdown is lifted
Europe is beginning its return to work today as factories and construction sites re-open in Spain while Italy takes its first steps towards easing the lockdown.
Police were handing out masks on Spanish metro trains today as some ‘non-essential’ workers were allowed to resume their activities after a two-week ban.
Italy will allow bookshops, stationery shops and stores selling children’s clothes to re-open tomorrow in the first loosening of Europe’s longest lockdown, although most restrictions have been extended until May.
Meanwhile in Denmark, schools and daycare centres will re-open on Wednesday, allowing some parents to return to work.
Passengers keep their distance riding the metro in Madrid as non-essential workers are allowed back to work today
Spain is lifting its ban on non-essential business despite concerns from some regional leaders and trade unions.
The ban was stricter than in Britain, where people can still go to work if they cannot work from home during the lockdown.
The people returning today include sanitary, security and telecommunications workers, customs officials and those involved in gas and electricity supplies.
They and their companies will have to adhere to strict regulations to make sure they don’t get infected by the virus.
Non-essential workers had been sent home on March 30 but the Spanish government has not extended the measure despite a surge in new deaths yesterday.
Another 619 deaths were announced on Sunday, 109 more than on Saturday, putting an end to three days of declining deaths.
It brought the country’s coronavirus death toll to 16,972, the third-highest in the world after the United States and Italy.
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