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Coronavirus UK: Boris Johnson admits death toll is ‘appalling’

Boris Johnson today admitted the UK’s coronavirus death toll is ‘appalling’ as he said he hopes to be able to start easing lockdown rules on Monday. 

Mr Johnson returned to the House of Commons for PMQs at lunchtime for the first time since his recovery from the disease as he and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had their debut clash. 

In a series of bruising exchanges Sir Keir accused his counterpart of botching the UK’s response to the outbreak.

He said only last week the government had boasted other countries were looking at the ‘apparent success’ of Downing Street’s approach to tackling the virus. 

But with the official death toll now almost at 30,000 and worse than any other country in Europe, Sir Keir asked Mr Johnson: ‘How on earth did it come to this?’ 

Mr Johnson tried to deflect the criticism as he insisted now is not the time for international comparisons due to differences in the way countries compile their statistics. 

Doctors today called for a public inquiry into the UK government’s handling of the crisis to determine why Britain has been worst hit in Europe. 

Despite the grim death toll Mr Johnson announced he is planning to begin lifting lockdown at the start of next week – if the latest scientific data shows the spread of the disease is sufficiently under control.

The Prime Minister is expected to renew social distancing measures on Thursday before then using an address to the nation on Sunday night to set out his lockdown exit strategy. 

Mr Johnson said the Sunday address would prepare people for potential changes on Monday.    

Boris Johnson today conceded at PMQs that the UK’s coronavirus death toll is ‘appalling’

Mr Johnson and Sir Keir faced-off surrounded by empty benches in the usually packed chamber, in their first PMQs since the PM recovered from coronavirus

Mr Johnson and Sir Keir faced-off surrounded by empty benches in the usually packed chamber, in their first PMQs since the PM recovered from coronavirus

The PM was put under pressure by Sir Keir Starmer as the pair clashed for the first time at PMQs

The PM was put under pressure by Sir Keir Starmer as the pair clashed for the first time at PMQs

Downing Street's latest statistics suggest the UK's coronavirus death toll is now the highest in Europe

Downing Street’s latest statistics suggest the UK’s coronavirus death toll is now the highest in Europe

When the number of COVID-19 patients dying was at its highest in hospitals, around April 8, it was still relatively low in care homes, which then surged in the days and weeks following

When the number of COVID-19 patients dying was at its highest in hospitals, around April 8, it was still relatively low in care homes, which then surged in the days and weeks following

The UK now has more confirmed COVID-19 deaths - according to backdated statistics from the Office for National Statistics, National Records Scotland, and Northern Ireland's NISRA - than any other country in Europe

The UK now has more confirmed COVID-19 deaths – according to backdated statistics from the Office for National Statistics, National Records Scotland, and Northern Ireland’s NISRA – than any other country in Europe

Boris Johnson dodges whether Rishi Sunak will cut furlough wage support to 60 per cent

Workers need to be freed from furlough to go back to work safely ‘and to earn their pay packets,’ Boris Johnson said today amid furore over plans to cut furlough payments.

The Prime Minister spoke out following reports Chancellor  Rishi Sunak will set out next week how he intends to ‘wind down’ the government’s coronavirus furlough scheme amid fears within Whitehall that the nation is becoming ‘addicted’ to state help.

The Chancellor is widely expected to start to reduce the scale of the scheme from July after it emerged it has a current monthly cost of approximately £8 billion, covering more than six million workers.

The Prime Minister was pressed on the scheme at Prime Minister’s Questions today by shadow health minister Justin Madders, who said it would be ‘an obscenity, either through employers decision or government inaction, if those people whose jobs we have been trying to save ended up redundant anyway.’

Mr Johnson replied: ‘The furlough scheme has been one of the outstanding provisions that this government has been able to put in.

It’s given huge numbers of people – more than six million people in this country the security they need.

‘Obviously what we want is to make sure that people continue to feel security, but at the same time what we also want is to enable people safely and securely to go back to work and to earn their pay packets as they want to do.’ 

When and how to ease the current draconian lockdown measures has dominated Westminster for weeks as ministers try to figure out how to get Britain back to work.

Referring to his planned address on Sunday, Mr Johnson told MPs at PMQs: ‘I just want to explain to the House as a courtesy why it is happening on a Sunday.

‘The reason for that is very simple, that we have to be sure that the data is going to support our ability to do this.

‘But that data is coming in continuously over the next few days. We will want if we possibly can to get going with some of these measures on Monday.

‘I think it would be a good thing if people had an idea of what is coming the following day, that is why I think Sunday, the weekend, is the best time to do it.’   

His comments came after it was claimed that a ban on exercising more than once a day outside will be one of the first rules to be lifted. 

Relaxing rules around outdoor activities is expected to be one of the PM’s first moves because experts believe coronavirus is less likely to spread outside than it is inside. 

The Mail today revealed that a selection of activities will be given the green light to reopen within weeks. 

Golf, tennis and angling are on a draft list of sports which will be allowed to resume from a date in June if they can be shown to be done safely. 

Mr Johnson last appeared in front of MPs on March 25 when the UK’s lockdown was just two days old. 

He spent much of the six weeks since then recovering from his own battle with coronavirus before formally returning to work last week. 

Workers could be asked to spend four days in the office and then 10 days working from home

Britons could spend four days working in the office and the next ten working from home in radical new plans put to the government today. 

Businesses are being urged to follow the drastic model which would split the population into two groups and follow a ‘four days on, ten days off’ cyclical strategy. 

The strategy would kick-start the economy while avoiding a second peak of COVID-19 infections, according to the report conducted by Imperial College Professor Keith Willison and published by the Adam Smith Institute.

The research paper suggests dividing the population into two groups of households, each working or attending school Monday to Thursday, then entering a 10 day period off.  

Each group works or attends school while the other group is off, and individuals in the two groups do not interact with each other. 

Saturday and Sunday weekends would no longer apply, with two-day weekends changing according to the rotation.  

He had been due to attend PMQs last Wednesday but stand-in Dominic Raab continued to face Sir Keir because of the birth of Mr Johnson’s son Wilfred.

Sir Keir welcomed Mr Johnson back to the chamber before tearing into his handling of the coronavirus crisis. 

‘Can I welcome the Prime Minister back to his place and say that it is good to see him back in Parliament,’ he said.

‘Although I have done this privately, can I congratulate him publicly with Carrie on the birth of their son. 

‘When the Prime Minister returned to work a week ago Monday he said that many people were looking at the apparent success of the government’s approach. 

‘But yesterday we learned tragically that at least 29,427 people in the UK have now lost their lives to this dreadful virus. 

‘That is now the highest number in Europe. It is the second highest in the world. 

‘That is not success, or apparent success, so can the Prime Minister tell us how on earth did it come to this?’  

Mr Johnson replied: ‘First, of course, every death is a tragedy and he is right to draw attention to the appalling statistics not just in this country but of course around the world. 

‘I think I would echo really in answer to his question what we have heard from Professor David Spiegelhalter and others that at this stage I don’t think that international comparisons and the data is yet there to draw the conclusions that we want. 

‘What I can tell him is that at every stage as we took the decisions that we did we were governed by one overriding principle and aim and that was to save lives and to protect our NHS. 

Ban on exercising more than once a day likely to be lifted in first wave of lockdown easing

A ban on exercising more than once a day outside could be one of the first lockdown measures lifted by Boris Johnson, with golf courses, tennis clubs and fishing lakes allowed to reopen next month. 

The Prime Minister is expected to renew social distancing rules on Thursday before using an address to the nation on Sunday to set out his lockdown exit strategy. 

Relaxing rules around outdoor activities is expected to be one of the PM’s first moves because experts believe coronavirus is less likely to spread outside than it is inside. 

The Mail can reveal today that a selection of activities will be given the green light to reopen within weeks. 

Golf, tennis and angling are on a draft list of sports which will be allowed to resume from a date in June if they can be shown to be done safely. 

‘I believe that of course there will be a time to look at what decisions we took and whether we could have taken different decisions. 

‘But I have absolutely no doubt that what the people of this country want us to do now is as I said just now, to suppress this disease, to keep suppressing this disease and to begin the work of getting our country’s economy back on its feet.’ 

There are growing fears among some Tory MPs about how the next few months could play out given the current state of the coronavirus crisis and the scale of the death toll.

Some believe Sir Keir could be well suited to scrutinising Mr Johnson and the government’s response to the outbreak given the former’s previous roll as the director of public prosecutions. 

One worried Tory MP told Politico: ‘We are in a completely different world now, in terms of the opposition as well as the virus.

‘Starmer is a prosecuting lawyer, and it is going to be the case for the prosecution every week, with Boris as the accused.’

The government is under growing pressure to agree to an inquiry into coronavirus in the UK.  

Official Department of Health data published yesterday showed 29,427 people had died – but those numbers only include people who have tested positive for the virus.   

Different detailed statistics also published yesterday suggested that more than 30,000 Britons had died of COVID-19 by April 24 – almost two weeks ago – and the number of victims continues to rise. 

Trends suggest more than 40,000 people may actually have died with the illness, the same number of civilians who were killed over seven months during the Blitz in World War Two.  

The president of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association has now said there should be an investigation into the Government’s performance.

Dr Claudia Paoloni said questions must be asked about how quickly Downing Street reacted to the threat, whether lockdown came early enough and why the testing and tracing attempt has been ‘inadequate’.

She told The Guardian: ‘There will have to be a full investigation of the handling of the COVID response in due course – a public inquiry – to understand why we are experiencing such large numbers in comparison to the rest of Europe. ‘ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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