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15 April 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Government and policy update

By Samuel Horti

All care home staff and residents with symptoms of Covid-19 will be tested for coronavirus, the government has pledged. Currently, only the first five residents in a care home with symptoms are tested, but the Health Secretary Matt Hancock promised to expand tests to anyone with symptoms, including new residents being discharged from hospital into care. Testing will be coordinated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which will offer tests to care home providers by the end of the week. Hancock will reveal more details of the scheme on Thursday. It follows criticism from care home leaders that the government is underestimating deaths of elderly people, as they warned coronavirus may already be in 50 per cent of nursing homes.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has called on the government to immediately publish its plan for leaving lockdown. He made the demand in a letter to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson as he recovers from Covid-19. In his letter, Starmer said he would support the government’s extension of the lockdown, expected to be announced tomorrow, but said: “The question for Thursday therefore is no longer about whether the lockdown should be extended, but about what the government’s position is on how and when it can be eased in due course and on what criteria that decision will be taken.”

The House of Commons will hold Prime Minister’s Questions and hear both urgent questions and statements via video link when MPs return from recess on 21 April, according to plans outlined by the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. In a letter to MPs, Hoyle said plans for a virtual parliament were “progressing well”, but that there would be bumps “along the way”. The House of Commons Commission will discuss the plans at a meeting on Thursday.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is open to expanding the government’s emergency loan scheme for small businesses, according to a report in the Financial Times. The chancellor said he will keep the scheme, which provides interest-free loans up to £5m, “under review” and that he would look to other countries to see if the government could “learn and improve”. The news comes as a British Chambers of Commerce survey suggests that two-thirds of small companies have furloughed staff in response to coronavirus.

Global updates:

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US: President Donald Trump has suspended US funding to the World Health Organisation over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He accused the organisation of spreading “disinformation” about the virus. “The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable,” he told a White House news conference on Tuesday. This is despite the WHO declaring a global health emergency at the end of January – a month later, Trump was still calling the pandemic a “hoax”.

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel will chair a meeting with the nation’s 16 states to discuss whether to ease coronavirus restrictions, which will expire on Sunday. Singapore: All Singaporeans must now wear a face mask if they leave their home. Anyone caught without a mask faces a fine of 300 Singapore dollars (£168), and repeat offenders could be prosecuted.

New Zealand: Ministers, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, have vowed to take a 20 per cent pay cut in solidarity with frontline workers facing financial hardship because of coronavirus. The cut will reduce Ardern’s salary by NZ$47,104 (£22,577).

Japan: Japan’s coronavirus death toll could reach 400,000 if the country does not take measures to slow the spread of the virus, according to a health ministry projection reported by local media.

Australia: A 35-year-old Perth man became the first Australian to be jailed for breaking emergency coronavirus laws. The man was arrested more than a week ago after sneaking out of his hotel room.

Read more on the New Statesman:

Here’s the lockdown question the government should be asking

Why Ireland is enduring far fewer coronavirus deaths than the UK

How sick pay for workers could help prevent deaths in care homes

The Eamonn Holmes 5G debacle shows the danger of failing to apologise