BORIS JOHNSON could ease lockdown measures in tonight's review, if the five key tests are met.
The Prime Minister hopes to allow more freedoms as Brits look to return to some normalcy during the coronavirus pandemic.
The test and trace system was launched today, which will help to provide more information on how the killer bug is spreading, especially as the restrictions are easing.
Yet, the total death toll from the coronavirus in the UK reached 37,460 on Wednesday after a further 412 deaths were recorded.
Meanwhile, tonight's Clap for the Carers could be its last as the current lockdown measures are reviewed – with them possibly being eased further.
Follow our coronavirus live blog for all the latest news and updates…
DEBENHAMS CUTS JOBS BEFORE REOPENING STORES
Debenhams is set to axe hundreds of jobs from head office as the department store, which is currently in administration, plans to reopen 90 stores on June 15.
A total of 120 returning following rent negotiations, the company has confirmed.
A spokesman said: “In the context of a retail industry undergoing profound change, the management team is working on the future shape of the group, with a view to seeking an exit from administration as a going concern.
“With a leaner and more flexible operating model, Debenhams will have the ability to adapt to what are likely to be fundamental shifts in the future trading environment.”
APRIL WAS DEADLIEST MONTH EVER IN THE UK
Last month was the deadliest month since records began after more than 88,000 people died across England and Wales.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in April last year, 44,123 people died.
In April 2020, 27,764 people across England and Wales had Covid-19 listed as their official cause of death, but it could be higher as patients may have had their deaths inaccurately recorded.
SCOTLAND EASES LOCKDOWN MEASURES
Nicola Sturgeon has eased lockdown measures but people are being told not to travel more than five miles from home.
The First Minister said people should try to avoid beauty spots and change plans if they arrive in a busy area.
The First Minister said those shielding from the virus at home will be given guidelines in the coming weeks so they can safely and “gradually start to live a less restricted life.”
As from tomorrow, Scots will be allowed to meet with others from different households in small groups so long as they are socially distanced – a maximum of eight people.
On the virus, Sturgeon said that a downward trend was “sustained and unmistakable”.
The transmission rate, known as the R number, remains between 0.7 and 1, although the First Minister said she could not be clear how low.
HOME LEARNING PUPILS COULD LOSE OUT AS SCHOOLMATES HEAD BACK
Reopening primary schools to some year groups next week could have a “detrimental impact” on home learning for pupils who are still at home, the leader of the head teachers' union has warned.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said fewer teachers will be available to support children with remote learning if pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are taught in smaller groups from next week.
NAHT is concerned that the quality of remote learning on offer for the year groups that will not be returning to school in the summer term may suffer amid a wider reopening of schools in England.
The Government's guidance says primary school classes should normally be split in half, with no more than 15 pupils per group and one teacher, and children should be kept in the same groups all day.
Mr Whiteman told the PA news agency: “Splitting classes in order to reduce the risk of transmission requires twice the number of staff, leaving fewer teachers to support those other children still at home.
“I worry that an unintended consequence will be a detrimental impact on home learning. I know the profession will continue to do all that it can, there are no easy answers.”
HANCOCK SPARKS HOPE FOR HOLS IN JULY
Matt Hancock has lifted hopes for Brits desperate to go abroad this summer.
The Health Secretary said today he was more “optimistic” than previously about the prospect of the nation taking a well-deserved foreign trip.
Asked directly about whether Brits would be able to book a flight and get away from July onwards, he replied: “You know, I absolutely wouldn't rule it out.
CANCER, TRANSPLANT PATIENTS AND ASTHMA SUFFERERS DROPPED FROM SHIELDING LIST
Cancer sufferers, transplant patients as well as people with severe asthma have been dropped from the government’s shielding list .
The Shielded Patients List (SPL) was put in place to help the most vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic, but some people have now been informed that they are no longer on the list.
Some were upset by the news, sent via text message and expressed they would like to hear the advice from a doctor.
The messages were sent out last Friday and charities have now complained to the Department of Health and Social Care.
TUI CANCELS HOLIDAYS UNTIL END OF JUNE
Tui has extended the suspension of holidays for UK customers until at least the end of June due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
The UK's biggest tour operator had previously cancelled all trips up to June 11.
It has also suspended its Marella Cruises sailings up to July 30.
Tui said in a statement that it has extended the suspension of holidays “due to the ongoing travel restrictions”.
A 14-day quarantine for international arrivals is due to begin in the UK on June 8.
DONKEY SANCTUARY INUNDATED DURING LOCKDOWN
An under-pressure donkey sanctuary has been inundated with abandoned animals due to the coronavirus emergency.
In the last month, the Donegal Donkey Sanctuary has taken in 22 donkeys – some handed over by owners no longer able to keep them and others left abandoned in various locations across Ireland.
The facility, which is owned and run by the Curran family, is dealing with the influx of new residents at a time when revenues have been slashed due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
SUPERDUG PULLS HOME TESTING KITS
Superdrug have pulled coronavirus home testing kits from their shelves over false negative fears.
Labs have been told to stop processing the tests, as well as other commercial antibody kits, that tell whether you've already been exposed to Covid-19 through a finger-prick blood sampling.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which governs the rules over medicines used in the UK, has said Brits should ignore any result they get from the private kits.
Graeme Tunbridge, director of devices at the MHRA, said: “We are asking all providers of laboratory-based Covid-19 antibody testing services using capillary blood collected by a finger prick to temporarily stop providing this service until home collection of this sample type has been properly validated for use with these laboratory tests.”
He added: “Use of unvalidated sample types may lead to unreliable results.”
BORIS JOHNSON COULD EASE LOCKDOWN TODAY
The PM could be set to ease lockdown TODAY – but only as long as the five key requirements are met.
Boris Johnson and his top team will get expert advice from the Government's scientists today to check if it's safe to start easing the measures.
Matt Hancock said today on the idea that people may be able to meet up with family soon: “I hope we will be able to make some further progress but I don't want to prejudge the formal decision we are taking late today on that.
“Today I have to formally review the rules on lockdown, you will be hearing later about that.”
OVERSEAS VISITORS TO THE UK DOWN BY OVER 90 PER CENT
The numbers of air travellers to the UKfell “sharply” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, dropping to some 112,300 arrivals in April.
This is 99% lower than the number of air passengers coming to the country in April 2019, provisional advance passenger information (API) data showed.
While the reduction in air travel was “most marked”, over this period the number of passengers arriving by sea was 97% fewer and by rail was 98% fewer than the same time previous year, according to the report.
PRET A MANGER TO OPEN 200 MORE STORES
Sandwich and coffee chain Pret A Manger will reopen more than 200 sites for takeaway and delivery from June 1, meaning over 300 shops will be back online after the coronavirus lockdown.
Shops will reopen for the first time in towns and cities including Bath, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Exeter and Liverpool, the company said.
All Prets were initially shut, including for delivery and takeaway, with bosses saying they wanted to protect staff.
TONIGHT’S 8PM CLAP SHOULD BE THE LAST ONE, SAYS ORGANISER
The 10th weekly Clap for Carers event may be the last, after the woman behind the idea said she will no longer take part.
Millions of people across the UK have lined their thresholds, gathered – while socially distancing – on pavements, and stood in their gardens at 8pm every Thursday to demonstrate their support for care staff and frontline workers.
But the ritual has been criticised by some for becoming “politicised”, while others, including NHS staff, have said some people who take part in the clap then wilfully ignore the plea to stay at home and avoid gatherings in an effort to ease the strain on the healthcare system.
The woman behind the clap, Annemarie Plas, 36, said she has no problem with people continuing to gather at 8pm each week to clap, but said she will not be among those taking part in future.
She added: “To have the most impact I think it is good to stop it at its peak.
“Without getting too political, I share some of the opinions that some people have about it becoming politicised.
“I think the narrative is starting to change and I don't want the clap to be negative.”
MINISTER WARNS ‘MOST SCHOOLS WON’T RETURN THIS ACADEMIC YEAR’
A government minister has warned the majority of schools likely won’t return before September.
In September, the new academic year starts meaning kids will have missed out on over an entire term of classroom time.
Nick Gibb, minister for schools, admitted that it was “difficult to say” whether all children between 4 and 11 would head back to school before the summer holidays.
He added “remote education” is likely to continue “for the majority of pupils and young people probably until the end of the summer term”.
MATT HANCOCK SAYS CONTACT TRACING IS ‘SAFEST POSSIBLE WAY’ TO EASE LOCKDOWN
The health secretary has said the new test and trace system is the “safest possible way” to get out of lockdown.
Speaking BBC Radio 4’s Today he said: “Frankly, this is about how, as a country, we get out of this lockdown in the safest possible way, short of having a vaccine or an effective treatment, which obviously we're working on but we don't yet have.”
He added that it is in “the whole community's interest” that people follow instructions from the NHS.
BRIT SHOPPERS DITCH CASH
Shoppers in the UK have ditched cash throughout the pandemic – instead opting to pay with card.
New data from PayPoint shows a 60 per cent reduction in cash withdrawals at their machines.
“It is likely consumers' cash usage habits will fundamentally change,” a spokesperson for PayPoint said.
MCDONALD'S LOVERS TRAVEL 250 MILES TO DRIVE-THRU
Two burger-loving pals craving McDonald’s took a 250 mile round trip just to get their paws on the fast food.
Ryan Hall and Paisley Hamilton, both 23, spent £27 on petrol for the epic trip, and faced a 30-car queue when they arrived.
Ryan, who drove his Fiat 500 from Hull to Peterborough, told The Sun: “We didn’t really think it through. Our 15-minute meal ended up taking us nearly seven hours.
“It was definitely a ‘F*** it’ moment which actually ended up costing me a lot of money. But I’d do it all again. It was so worth it.”
The pair, from Hull took the trip to trip to Peterborough – their nearest open drive thru and feasted on a large Chicken McNugget meal, large Big Mac meal, two Cokes, two double cheeseburgers, a McChicken sandwich, regular cheeseburger and a Filet-O-Fish in the car park – then drove home.
HANCOCK CRACKS DOWN ON NHS SCAMMERS
The health secretary today dished out useful advice against NHS scammers as the government’s new track and trace app is launched.
Pushed on people's concerns about fraudulent NHS calls, Mr Hancock told LBC: “If anybody calls they will be calling from the number 03000135000, if you get a text it will come from NHS and they will never ask you for any form of payment or purchase or details of your bank account, and also you will then be given, if you're online, a QR code to be able to confirm those details online.
PM SAYS HE’S LOOKING AT ‘AIR BRIDGES’ WITH OTHER COUNTRIES
The Prime Minister has sparked hopes of a summer holiday for Brits this year as he said he’s looking at “air bridges” with other countries.
He today confirmed that his ministers are looking into exemptions between other countries with low infection levels – possibly by the end of June.
He said: “We will have to agree them with the other counties concerned, and we will also have to make progress on fighting the disease,” he replied.
“We will have to have evidence that the other countries are at least in as a good a position as we are.”
Air bridges will only be considered with countries which have low rates of infection too, he hinted.
QUARTER OF FIRMS CAN’T TOP UP FURLOUGHED STAFF’S SALARIES
A quarter of firms say they cannot afford to top-up furloughed workers’ salaries – in a chilling sign of how many more jobs could be lost this summer.
A survey of almost 700 company directors found that about half of those using the scheme said they could provide 20 per cent or more towards furloughed workers' full-time salaries between August and October.
NO SNOGGING ON EASTENDERS
The Sun exclusively revealed today two characters are set to have an affair – but won’t be able to kiss due to social distancing measures.
A source said: “Scriptwriters have been working on an explosive affair storyline but now they’ve got to work around social distancing.
“Any sexy scenes between the characters have been binned.”
TWO METRE RULE COULD BE EASED WHEN PUBS REOPEN
Boris Johnson made the exciting announcement pubs, bars and restaurants could be open again soon.
He also suggested the 2m rule may be relaxed.
Mr Johnson said: “My own hope is that as we make progress in getting the virus down, we will be able to reduce that distance, which I think will be particularly valuable in transport and clearly the hospitality sector.”
However, No10 aides insisted the decision on when pubs could reopen was not dependent on two metres being relaxed.
It was also made clear neither decision will come next week in time for Step 2 of the unlockdown plan and boozers must prove they are secure from transmission first.
CINEWORLD PLANS TO REOPEN CINEMAS FROM JULY
Cineworld cinemas across the UK will reopen from July the company announced today.
The plans are subject to government guidance, but the company announced measures would be in place “to ensure a safe and enjoyable cinema experience for its employees and customers”.
The chain has been closed since March.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he believes “the vast majority of people” will self-isolate voluntarily under the new NHS Test and Trace system.
Asked what people should do if they have childcare issues but are told to self-isolate, Mr Hancock told Sky News: “Well, of course, it is very important that childcare is taken into account. I understand that as well as anybody, so yes it is very important that people deal with childcare and do that in a reasonable way.”
Pushed on whether you would still need to stay at home, he added: “That is what you will be instructed to do, yes, and you should follow those instructions because that is in the best interest of everybody.”
Asked how the system could be made mandatory in future, Mr Hancock said: “There are powers that we took through Parliament at the start of the crisis in the Coronavirus Act to be able to mandate this but I'd far rather not….”
He added that it would be “far better if we didn't have to make it mandatory”.
The world's most vulnerable communities will “never recover” from the coronavirus crisis, a British charity report has claimed.
After studying 13 countries in Africa and Asia, the charity Street Child said one third of people surveyed were unable to take the most basic measures to guard against Covid-19, including washing their hands.
More than half of the children in the survey have been unable to take part in learning activities during the pandemic, the group said, while more than half of people surveyed were fearful of hunger and starvation due to rising food prices and their loss of income.
Street Child's CEO Tom Dannatt said in a statement the results of the survey “clearly demonstrate Covid-19 is having a devastating impact on the world's most vulnerable communities”.
“With schools closed, a lack of access to basic prevention measures such as soap and water, and a very real risk of extreme hunger and even starvation, children and families are in the midst of a crisis that many will never recover from,” he said.
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