Boris Johnson has set out the roadmap easing lockdown over the next few months, including a £3bn plan to get the NHS “battle ready” for winter.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that instead of the Government advising that people work from home where possible, it will be up to individual businesses to decide in consultation with staff from August 1.
He has previously signalled a shift back towards going into offices where possible, in a bid to shore up the economy with city centres still resembling ghost towns many months into lockdown. However yesterday Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, said there was no need to change the official advice.
Mr Johnson also unveiled new powers for local authorities to be able to respond to localised surges in cases, as part of the “whack-a-mole” strategy to avoid another national lockdown being imposed.
When it comes to family and friends, Mr Johnson added that it was his “strong and sincere hope” that a “more significant return to normality” will be allowed from November, “possibly in time for Christmas”
Follow the latest updates below.
Boris Johnson: Christmas key for families – and economy
Boris Johnson is asked about his goal of reaching normality by November.
He says “Christmas is a very important time for families”,as well as the economy, noting that many different kinds of sectors are reliant on this time of year, as well as many people “on modest incomes”.
The Prime Minister repeats that he is “hoping for the best, but planing for the worst”. He points to parts of the world where the virus is still rising, saying “we have a panoply” of measures to prevent that.
“But in the end the real secret is in the commons sense of the people”.
Too early to say if antibody test is game-changer, says Dido Harding
Boris Johnson is asked a question but the connection is weak – which he notes is somewhat proving his point that there are “limits” to technology.
He says there is “no substitute” to face to face meetings.
Dido Harding says antibody tests are still being rolled out to NHS workers, but at this stage it’s not clear whether antibodies give you immunity.
“We are learning all the time… but at this stage it is too early to say it is or isn’t a game changer,” she adds.
They are hoping it will be a “silver bullet” but they don’t know yet.
Government should not decide whether people work from home, says Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is challenged again over the change of advice, which comes after Sir Patrick Vallance said there was no need.
The Prime Minister says it will be safe if employers have taken steps to ensure it is Covid-secure.
“Whether people should go into work, whether they need to go into work, is not something the Government can decide,” he adds.
“We have learned all sorts of lessons in the last few months about the wonders of Zoom, and muting and un-muting… but in the end face-to-face conversations are important.”
And “they should use public transport” if they need, he adds.
Boris Johnson: We take expert advice seriously – but decisions taken by politicians
Asked if Sir Patrick Vallance and Sir Chris Whitty are not appearing with him because they disagree with the Government’s new guidance, Boris Johnson says the chiefs briefed the Cabinet earlier today on these plans.
They “give us advice, which we of course take very very seriously, but in the end decisions are taken by the elected politicians”.
He says people should “understand the balance of what we are saying”.
Boris Johnson says he ‘agrees’ with Sir Patrick Vallance on working from home
Turning to questions from journalists, Boris Johnson says “it is not for Government to decide how employers should run their companies”.
He adds:” If employers think it would be more productive for employees to come to the office…. there should be discussions… and people should take a decision.
“We want to encourage people to think it is safe to come into work.”
Mr Johnson says he agrees with Sir Patrick Vallance adding: “if the place of work is safe, then people should come in that is what the decision is.
“If people are very productive at home… new patterns of work have been emerging.
“But where employers think it is time to get people back, we certainly want to be seeing people come back to the civil service here in London… then that is what they should be doing.”
Boris Johnson: Grandparents ‘ok’ to help with childcare
The next question is about childcare, and Boris Johnson says people “would be OK” if grandparents fall within the social bubble.
“Clearly looking through to the spring, the long-term impacts that social distancing will have on many impacts of the economy… it may conceivable be possible to move away from the social distancing measures,” he says.
“But on your childcare, you are going to be OK.”
Boris Johnson urges people to rely on ‘the basics’ of handwashing
Turning to question from the public, Boris Johnson is asked what people can do to prepare for the winter.
He reminds people of “the basics” including hand washing, which have been “so powerful” in getting the disease down.
We now have some extra powers at our disposal, he adds, including the vastly improved test capacity and treatments.
“But the single most powerful thing we can all do is follow that basic guidance,” he adds.
Dido Harding says if in doubt, get a test. “If you come to one of our face-to-face testing centres, you will get results back the next day,” she adds.
PM: Hoping for the best, planning for the worst
Boris Johnson says he will “not hesitate at any stage to put on the brakes”, remaining people that the roadmap has been conditional since May, and continues to be so.
He says he is “hoping for the best, but planning for the worst”.
PM targets Christmas for end to friends and family restrictions
From the start of August other services including “close contact” work like beauticians will be able to reopen – but not nightclubs, he says.
Wedding receptions for up to 30 people can also take place, as long as they are in “a Covid-secure way”.
Boris Johnson says from October, “audiences in stadia”, conferences and other events will be able to restart, subject to successful pilots he says.
When it comes to family and friends, Mr Johnson says is his “strong and sincere hope” that a “more significant return to normality” will be allowed from November, “possibly in time for Christmas”.
Back to work advice to change from August 1, says Prime Minister
Boris Johnson says that while the Government should plan for the worst it should also “hope for the best”.
He says the timetable is “conditional, contingent” on people acting responsibility and relies on “our continued success in controlling the virus”.
The Prime Minister says from today anybody can use public transport.
From 25 July gyms, pools and other facilities will reopen.
From 1 August, the advice on going to work will be updated.
Employers will be given “more discretion” he says. That could mean continuing to work from home, he says. “Or it could mean making work places safe by following Covid-secure guidelines.”
NHS to get extra £3bn to prepare for winter, says Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson then turns to testing, saying antigen capacity has passed 200,000 a day, and that we are carrying out more tests per capita than countries including Spain and Germany.
Anyone anywhere in the UK with symptoms can get a test without delay, he says.
“As we approach winter we will need to go further, not least as many more people will show Covid-like symptoms as a result of seasonal illnesses and therefore require a test,” he adds.
Mr Johnson said antigen coronavirus testing capacity would be expanded to 500,000 per day, or 3.5 million per week, by the end of October.
But this is not the only challenge winter will bring. It is possible the virus will be “more virulent in the winter months”, which is why the Government is taking steps to prepare the NHS.
He confirms an additional £3bn to help prepare the service for the winter season, saying “We are planning for the worst”.
Local authorities to get powers to impose lockdowns, Boris Johnson says
Boris Johnson cites instances of successful local lockdowns including Leicester and Kirklees.
The approach varies in different parts of the UK, he says.
The Prime Minstier says from tomorrow local authorities will have new powers to close specific premises, shut outdoor spaces and cancel local events.
This will enable them to act more quickly in instances where “speed is paramount”.
On top of this, next week more information will be published setting out how central Government will be able to intervene at a local level, including “local stay at home orders”, he says.
Boris Johnson: National lockdown to be replaced by targeted, local action
Boris Johnson begins the press conference by praising the “steady progress” made in fighting coronavirus, with the R-rate staying between 0.7 and 0.9.
The latest ONS data shows case rates are stable and low, he says, with death rates falling.
The Prime Minister pays tribute to frontline workers and the sacrifices made by “you, the British people”.
He says the UK Government is still aiming to get back to normal, but the approach is changing.
While initially “a national lockdown was the right thing to do”, now “targeted, local action” is better.
Number of people who wear face masks increases
The number of people wearing face coverings and happy to do so in future is on the rise, ONS figures suggest.
In the last week of June 61 per cent of adults who left their homes wore a face covering – up from 52 per cent the previous week.
A similar proportion – 62 per cent – said they were either very or fairly likely to wear one in the next seven days, irrespective of whether they had worn one previously.
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, wore a face mask in public for the first time on Friday, before the Government confirmed that they would be made mandatory for shops from July 24.
Michael Gove had appeared to contradict the official message by saying they shouldn’t be made mandatory, and appearing without one, before eventually falling in line.
Have your say on: Working from home
The Prime Minister’s press conference is coming up, but it’s still not clear whether he will stick to his guns and shift the emphasis from “work from home if you can” to “get back to the office where possible”.
That has certainly been the hints from Downing Street in recent days – but Sir Patrick Vallance made clear he disagreed yesterday.
This morning James Brokenshire appeared to strike balance between the two, suggesting the decision should be taken between staff and their employers.
But what do you think? Have your say in the poll below.
Friday Q&A: Select committees have come into their own under lockdown, says Simon Hoare
The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee chair and North Dorset MP Simon Hoare.
Do you think scrutiny can be properly carried out virtually? Leaving the lockdown aside, do you think Number 10 is allowing sufficient scrutiny?
I actually think scrutiny has been very effective in lockdown. The select committees (I’m fortunate enough to Chair Northern Ireland Affairs) have really come into their own and from my perspective the remoteness of virtual meetings have concentrated the minds of both questioner and witness.
The Liaison Committee, on which I sit, had the Prime Minister for 90 minutes and I think he needed a cup of tea (if not something stronger) afterwards.
Organisations have, over the years spent a lot of money on IT and finally it has come into its own allowing us to continue to do our jobs and to hold the Executive to account.
Friday Q&A: Hybrid parliament allowed MPs to be more effective, says Simon Hoare
The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee chair and North Dorset MP Simon Hoare.
What has it been like to participate in the hybrid parliament? Should MPs have to vote in person?
The hybrid parliament worked really well. It respected the requirements and commitments of MPs. Why it could not have been left to continue to work as it was is beyond me. I really did not like the language of ‘we must get back to Westminster to do our work’.
I don’t know what they had been doing but every MP I have spoken to was working harder than ever and finding it far more effective to be in their constituencies than in SW1.
As soon as we can get back to normal then I do think that MPs should vote in person as it does provide the opportunity to buttonhole a Minister to press a constituency issue or case. Politics is a team sport so it’s important to see your other team mates.
That said, I do hope we can widen the criteria for proxy voting beyond maternity/paternity leave when normality returns.
Technology can support permanent absent voting and I’m sure it will come in at some point in the future.
Matt Hancock orders urgent review into ‘exaggerated’ death data by PHE
Matt Hancock has ordered an urgent review into the Public Health England has been collating data, after it emerged it has been counting people in Covid-19 fatality figures even if they recovered from the virus and went on to die of natural causes.
University of Oxford professors said PHE was “over-exaggerating” England’s death tally by including anyone who has ever tested positive for Covid-19 and then dies subsequently, regardless of the cause.
“PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the Covid test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community,” they said. “By this PHE definition, no-one with Covid in England is allowed to ever recover from their illness.
Their recommendation is a cut-off point after 21 days. That already exists in Scotland, although it is after 28 days.
The Health Secretary is understood to have ordered the review with ministers confused as to why hospital deaths are falling but community deaths remain stubbornly high.
A Government source said: “It’s possible someone tested positive in February, got hit by a bus in July, and was counted.”
Response to Russia attack ‘under review’, says security minister
The Government will keep its response to the Russian attack on vaccine research centres “under review”, the security minister said today, as he confirmed it was “an ongoing incident”.
James Brokenshire told Sky News there was “no evidence of damage or harm” as a result of the hack but said it was “still completely unacceptable” for Russian actors to have penetrated the UK’s systems in this way, at a time when international partners should be “pulling together” to stop coronavirus.
Mr Brokenshire said insisted the UK was “one of the best protected countries” against these kinds of attacks, but said the Government was hoping to encourage people to “raise their guard” by “taking some very simple steps in terms of their own systems.”
The minister then told BBC Breakfast there was “no evidence” Russia had succeeded in stealing any information from pharmaceutical companies developing a Covid-19 vaccine in a series of co-ordinated cyber attacks.
“Obviously we know these groups have been able to penetrate systems and to look around and assess what information is there,” he added. “This is an ongoing incident, which is why we have put this alert out there, why there is mitigation that has been put in place.”
The separate allegation of Russian interference with the December general election is not being attributed to the Russian state, but rather “actors”.
There is an “ongoing criminal investigation” into how a document relating to a planned UK-US trade deal was obtained and leaked online.
Britain will pay a high price for the Government’s lockdown confusion
How many people would you have to pass in a supermarket to run a serious risk of bumping into someone with Covid? It depends where you are in the country but the best estimate is about 4,000. So yes, there is still a risk – but it’s a manageable one.
As Fraser Nelson sets out contradiction and confusion has marked every stage of this crisis. It’s time for the Prime Minister to get his message straight.
Friday Q&A: I hope lockdown hasn’t killed off entrepreneurial drive, says Simon Hoare MP
The Telegraph’s Politics Live talks to Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee chair and North Dorset MP Simon Hoare.
How is your constituency faring under lockdown?
North Dorset is incredibly rural with a large dairy sector. So, the early stage of lockdown saw a lot of work with DEFRA and the NFU establishing a dairy support fund.
It is also a constituency of micro and small businesses. The furlough scheme was brilliant if you were a PAYE 9-5 employee. Economic shutdown has thrown into sharp relief the complex mosaic of employment across North Dorset, with people working from home, working as a part freelancer / part company director etc.
I just hope that the entrepreneurial drive is not lost in North Dorset or across the country as a whole.
What has been amazing is seeing local government really come into its own. Dorset went unitary last year and it has made a real difference just dealing with one Council and getting quick responses and actions.
Our town and parish councils have been amazing as has been the army of volunteers, our very own ‘little platoons’ who have helped, shopped, chatted, supported etc to keep people going in our wide spread sparsely populated area.
I think the self-sufficiency and community focus, that I believe is very much the golden thread in our rural tapestry, has shone through and there’s a real opportunity to harness a new generation of volunteers and community activists that will really see communities flourish in ‘peacetime’.
Friday Q&A: Lockdown has been strange – but family time has been lovely, says Simon Hoare MP
How are you finding lockdown personally – are you getting to spend quality time with family or are you sick of them all? What are you doing to keep sane?
To say lockdown has been strange would be an understatement. It has been incredibly busy trying to support constituents, help them and answer their questions and my Parliamentary team has been fantastic.
I have been at home with Kate, my wife, and our three girls plus two dogs. I don’t think we have spent this much time together ever and I must confess it has been lovely. I’ve even enjoyed the home schooling element but it has served to remind me how much I hate maths and why algebra remains an unintelligible language to me.
My youngest daughter Laura (7 going on 17) has also taught me all sorts of things my phone can do which previously I had no idea about!
To keep sane, I garden with the expert oversight of my eldest daughter Imogen (and the garden has never looked better), read avidly and I have become slightly hooked on eBay as well as my youngest daughter Jessica’s homebaking.
I’ve started to sculpt the outline of a political biography as well but something tells me that is as far as it will get.
The Telegraph weekly news quiz: Have you been paying attention?
In the week that Downing Street tightened its rules on face masks, it’s time test your knowledge on the last seven days of current affairs.
Can you get full marks – or do you need to a catch-up premium?
Have your say on: Getting back to work
We are expecting to hear from the Prime Minister at 11am this morning, where he will set out the next steps for easing lockdown and the future roadmap taking us into autumn and winter.
It’s a daunting task, particularly following the publication of a report this week estimating a further 120,000 deaths under a “reasonable worst-case scenario”.
Boris Johnson has already hinted that he wants to flip “work from home if you can” to “go to work if you can” – with one eye clearly on the devastation lockdown is causing our city centres. But Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday cautioned against such a move. James Brokenshire, the security minister, this morning said it would be down to employers to decide.
But what do you think? Have your say in the poll below:
Labour demands review of Chancellor’s ‘poorly targeted’ furlough bonus
In further evidence of the topsy-turvy land that politics has become Labour is calling for the UK’s public spending watchdog to review the Chancellor ‘s furlough bonus scheme amid claims it won’t provide value for money.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson has written to Comptroller and Auditor General Gareth Davies, raising questions about the costs involved in the recovery project which will pay employers £1,000 for every worker they take off furlough and keep on the books until January.
Rishi Sunak had to provide a ministerial direction to push the scheme through after HM Revenue & Customs’ first permanent secretary Jim Harra said there was “uncertainty around the value for money of this proposal”.
Ms Phillipson said she feared the Government was “handing over billions to businesses that were already planning to bring their workers back from furlough”.
She added: “Labour accepts that no scheme can be perfect, but a poorly targeted and wasteful scheme is a missed opportunity. That’s why the NAO should investigate.
In her letter to the National Audit Office boss, she added: “It is exactly because we support the stated policy rationale of providing support and incentives to firms to keep employees during a period of continued uncertainty, that we believe a more targeted approach is required…
“Our concern is that this blanket approach is both ineffective, because in too many firms the extra money will not change business decision-making, and is inefficient, because the money could be being allocated in a way that better supported the sectors facing the greatest challenges in the months ahead.”
What’s on the agenda today?
There’s plenty on the agenda for Friday, kicking off with the weekly figures on coronavirus and social impacts being published by the ONS at 9:30am.
The focus of the day will be the Prime Minister’s press conference at 11am, in which he is expected to announce a £3bn bung for the NHS to prepare for whatever coronavirus brings this winter. He is also expected to set out a plan for easing the lockdown further, potentially putting him at odds with the Government advisers.
He is also expected to unveil new powers for councils to act quickly if cases start to surge.
Then at 11:30 the independent Sage group will hold their regular press conference, which is likely to respond to these measures. At 3pm, Sir Patrick Vallance returns alongside Professor Chris Whitty, with the pair giving evidence to the Lords Science and Technology Committee.
Employers to decide if people should return to workplaces, minister says
James Brokenshire has said it will be down to employers and their staff to decide whether workers should return to the office, ahead of a press conference from the Prime Minister this morning.
Boris Johnson is expected to set out the next steps of the recovery roadmap this morning, as the Government seeks to boost the economy after many months of enforced closure.
However there is some confusion over whether office workers should be told to return to their workplaces, after Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs yesterday there was no need to change current advice, which stipulates that people should work from home if they can.
Security minister James Brokenshire told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The advice actually says that employers should decide in consultation with their employees whether it’s viable for them to continue working from home.
“But, if they do, then obviously this needs to be based on risk assessment, public health guidance, and ensuring that it’s a Covid-safe space for them to do so.”
Pressed on whether people should return to workplaces if they can, Mr Brokenshire said: “It’s for employers to make that assessment.”
City centres will ‘not go back to what they were’ after coroanvirus, Ken Clarke warns
The country’s towns and city centres will not “go back to what they were” after the coronavirus-induced lockdown has come to an end, former chancellor Ken Clarke has said.
The long-time minister told the Today programme predicted unemployment will reach three million by the end of the year in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we are going to see the loss, the very sad loss, of a lot of businesses, particularly small, medium-sized businesses.
“There are sectors of the economy, the old economy, that are not going to recover.
“Our city centres are not going to go back to what they were. And these are all dreadful things.”
‘No change to emphasis’ on back to work, says minister
The Prime Minister is expected to set out further changes to the lockdown today, and Number 10 has been hinting all week that he will flip the emphasis from people working from home if they can to getting them back to offices.
Boris Johnson is due to give a press conference at 11am this morning, which will include new guidance on home working, as well as unveiling new powers for councils to shut down businesses if local cases start to surge.
But Sir Patrick Vallance yesterday said there was “absolutely no need” to change the the guidance for people who have been able to work from home.
This morning, james Brokenshire signalled a change in tone from Downing Street, telling Sky News: “If people can return to office environment or place of work, that’s a matter for employers and employees” .
He added: “I don’t think there is any change of emphasis on that way.”
Mr Brokenshire also claimed there had been “consistency in that advice”.
Minister says he ‘supports’ chief whip over move to expel Julian Lewis
The chief whip was right to expel Julian Lewis from the Conservative parliamentary party, security minister James Brokenshire has said.
Dr Lewis was sacked late on Wednesday after he worked with opposition MPs to secure the chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee, snatching it from Number 10’s preferred candidate Chris Grayling.
The matter has been criticised as proof that Downing Street was trying to influence what is meant to be an independent process, with the committee – a key body in terms of scrutiny – intended to be impartial.
While Mr Brokenshire would not comment specifically on the row, he stressed the importance of the ISC being able to carry out its work.
“Obviously decisions in terms of how the committee selects it chair – it is for the committee. But obviously party managers will make separate decisions.
“The chief whip that makes the decision around this has taken the whip away from [Dr Lewis] and I support the chief whip in his decision making.”
Russian government ‘hypocritical’ over cyber attacks, claims security minister
The Kremlin is being “hypocritical” in claiming it supports responsible behaviour online while “supporting” cyber attacks like the one carried out on vaccine research centres, the security minister has claimed.
James Brokenshire told the Today programme that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre was “95 per cent satisfied” that the attack was carried out by the Russian state.
He said: “We have to be very careful in terms of calling these things out, ensuring we can have that confidence in attribution.”
The group called Dukes or Cozy Bear was actually “Russian intelligence agencies”, he said.
“The Russian government is hypocritical in claiming to support responsible behaviour in cyber space while secretly supporting” this kind of activity.
PM to announce £3bn for NHS to fight coronavirus this winter
Boris Johnson will announce an extra £3 billion to keep Nightingale hospitals open until March next year, amid fears of a second wave of Covid-19 this winter.
The Prime Minister will Friday set out the funding boost to make the health service “battle ready” for the winter.
The announcement will come amid warnings of a further 120,000 deaths in hospitals if the virus rebounds later this year.
Downing Street said the extra money will allow hospitals to boost capacity in the health service while also allowing routine treatments and procedures to continue.