Boris Johnson will today chair a cabinet meeting to discuss the next steps during lockdown, and will this afternoon appear at his first daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing. Don’t expect fireworks: No 10 has briefed that Johnson will stay on message, reiterate the five tests the UK must pass before restrictions are eased, and warn of the danger of lifting measures too early.
But behind the scenes, preparations for post-lockdown life are accelerating: the Financial Times reports that ministers are drawing up industry-by-industry plans for how businesses can get back up and running, and that Business Secretary Alok Sharma will produce 10 papers setting out new industry rules in “granular detail” by the weekend. He is expected to advise businesses to restrict access to communal spaces, ensure staff wash their hands and use hand sanitiser, and allow office staff to continue to work from home.
One thing Boris Johnson will no doubt be asked about at this afternoon’s press conference is the government’s pledge to test 100,000 people a day by the end of the month (ie, today) – and ministers are finally admitting the target looks out of reach. Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said this morning that “it’s probable we won’t” hit the target, even though Professor John Newton, who is co-ordinating the government’s testing programme, said yesterday that he remained confident of fulfilling the pledge. At last count, 52,000 people were tested in a 24-hour period, although the figure appears to include nearly 20,000 retests. Testing capacity sits at 73,000 a day.
Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel will today meet with state leaders to discuss the next steps for lifting the lockdown, including rules on religious services resuming. Germany’s viral reproduction rate – the number of people someone who catches coronavirus goes on to the infect – has crept back up to one. Any higher, and Germany may need to reinstate lockdown measures it previously eased.
France: The French economy shrank by 5.8 per cent in the first three months of 2020, the worst contraction since the Second World War. It follows a 0.1 per cent drop in GDP in the last quarter of 2019 and means that France – with two consecutive quarters of negative growth – is now officially in recession.
South Korea: The country recorded no new domestic cases in 24 hours. It is the first time that has happened since the virus peaked at the end of February.
US: President Donald Trump has accused China of doing “anything they can” to make him lose the 2020 presidential election, and said the coronavirus had “upset very badly” the prospect of a US trade deal with China.
Ireland: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar looks set to extend Ireland’s lockdown beyond 5 May, after he said that the rise in new cases, deaths, and hospital admissions was still too high to begin relaxing restrictions.
Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to extend the country’s state of emergency for another month.
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