Live updates: PM gives speech about education as part of ‘levelling up’ agenda; backlash from council leaders in north east England over new restrictions
A restaurant employee in Northern Ireland caused the business to briefly close and triggered a Covid-19 alert after falsely claiming to have the virus so he could get off work.
Moira Pizzeria in County Down apologised to customers and said it had been misled. In a Facebook post it said:
It turns out that the staff member claimed to have had a positive test as he had other plans for the weekend. This is deeply embarrassing and has caused a great detail of distress for our staff and customers.
As a business we tried to act responsibly, we closed and went public straight away for the protection of our staff and customers. It is only right that we share this new information for the same reason regardless of the cost to ourselves or our reputation.
The employee no longer works at the restaurant and none of his colleagues have tested positive or displayed symptoms, said the post. Customers posted mostly supportive messages. The Guardian has contacted Moira Pizzeria for additional details.
In an interview with BBC News Martin Gannon, the leader of Gateshead council, went beyond what he told the Today programme about the government’s handling of the latest restrictions being “a bit chaotic”. (See 9.15am.) He said they should not have been necessary. The national lockdown earlier this year got the virus under control. But the government then refused to give councils what they needed to do contact tracing locally, he said.
We could have controlled [the virus]. We have the expertise here. We have the pathology labs and the technology. We have the resources, we have the people there able to do the work. All we needed was the reagents and the kits supplied to us, rather than being sent away to national contractors. God only knows what they are doing with them.
So it’s been the government’s failure, in terms of test, trace and trace, which is getting us to this place, which means we’re now back in a situation where the virus is out of control. And, frankly, that makes me absolutely furious.
Gannon said he and other council leaders in the north east of England had repeatedly been asking central government for the ability to carry out contact tracing locally. The private contractors running NHS Test and Trace for the government “haven’t go the foggiest idea what they’re doing”, he said.
As an example, he said that recently a mobile testing centre was sent to Gateshead that in theory could carry out 400 tests per day. But it was only doing 60 tests per day, because the national laboratories could not handle any more. He said there was a regional pathology centre only a mile away which would have been able to handle the tests if the local authorities had been in charge instead.
The Office for National Statistics has published its weekly death figures for England and Wales. Here are the key points.
In an interview with the BBC this morning Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle city council, expanded on the criticisms of the government’s handling of the lockdown announcement that he made last night. (See 9.15am.)
The problem that we’ve got is not just that the secretary of state has made an announcement without any kind of understanding about the impact on affected businesses, and the potential for job losses. But also, by doing it in a very knee-jerk way, it means that we haven’t got the right communication messages in place locally, and as a result confusion and chaos spreads which actually undermines the very messages that we are trying to get across to the public.
David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation special envoy on coronavirus, told the Today programme this morning that governments would not defeat coronavirus just by imposing every stricter rules. What mattered was getting people to comply with social distancing voluntarily, he said.
This war, and I think it’s reasonable to call it a war, against this virus, which is going to go on for the foreseeable future, is not going to be won by creating tougher and tougher rules that attempt to control people’s behaviour.
The only way that we will come out ahead of this virus is if we’re all able to do the right thing in the right place at the right time because we choose to do it.
I think we will get the point, I just hope that it doesn’t require a lot more people to end up in hospital and dying for us all to get the point, that all of us, all of us, have to be rigorous about physical distance, wearing masks, hygiene, isolating when we’re sick and protecting those who are most vulnerable.
Gillian Keegan, an education minister, was doing the morning broadcast round for the government this morning, talking about the skills announcement, but she came a cropper on the Today programme when the presenter, Mishal Husein, asked if people in the areas of the north east affected by the new restrictions would be able to meet people from another household in a pub garden. Keegan replied:
I’m sorry I can’t clarify that. I don’t know the answer to that question but I’m sure they can find out the answer to that question.
Pressed on how people are meant to keep up to date with the latest restrictions when ministers cannot, she said:
I’m sorry I can’t answer that question. I’m sure there are many people who could. I don’t represent the north east.
It speaks volumes that even the government’s own ministers don’t know what’s going on. This will do little to inspire public confidence in the north east and across the country.
The government press release issued last night implies that the ban on “inter-household mixing” (as they call it) only applies to indoor settings (which would mean meeting in a pub garden would be okay), but I will seek some clarification.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, has also been speaking out about the way the government is imposing local coronavirus restrictions. In a tweet, he says it is unfair that Bolton’s pubs are closed, while pubs are open in areas with higher Covid rates.
This is the problem with local restrictions.Once they’re in, they tend to stay in.And the longer they’re in, the more the anomalies/injustices grow.Either Ministers close hospitality in places with high cases with compensation. Or let Bolton’s open today.It’s that simple. https://t.co/yvmladLlEo
Good morning. Boris Johnson is giving a major speech this morning and it’s a rare example of prime ministerial intervention not mainly focused on coronavirus. He is speaking about post-18 education, and he will say he’s “transforming the foundations of the skills system so that everyone has the chance to train and retrain”. It is the part of the “levelling up” agenda he wanted to be focusing on if it had not been for coronavirus.
But he will be taking questions, and it won’t be long before he gets dragged back to Covid. This morning he is facing a strong backlash from council leaders in the north east over the way the new restrictions there were announced yesterday.
My statement tonight on the way that further restrictions for the North East have been announced today – no local involvement or warning, and no sign of the business support we desperately need to protect as many jobs as possible. pic.twitter.com/ta29YUkWS0
And this is what Martin Gannon, the Labour leader of Gateshead council, told the Today programme this morning.
It was announced in the House of Commons and we were not told beforehand that announcement was going to be made. However, we had had discussions last week that led us to believe that this was going to happen. We just weren’t pre-warned that it was actually going to happen. It didn’t help.
I got inundated with telephone calls and emails last night from people asking, ‘Can we do this, can we do that?’ and actually I didn’t have the precise wording of the regulations in front of us.
So it is a bit chaotic the way these things happen, Nick [Forbes] was quite right to be annoyed about that.
9.30am: The Commons health committee takes evidence from Prof Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, the chief midwifery officer for NHS England, and others on the safety of maternity services in England.
11am: The former MI6 chief Sir John Scarlett speaks at a RUSI event on EU-UK security and intelligence co-operation after Brexit.
Morning: Boris Johnson gives a speech on adult skills. As my colleague Simon Murphy reports, he will announce that adults without A-levels are to be offered a free college course.
After 12.30pm: Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, gives a statement to MPs on the return of students to university.
3pm: Lord Heseltine, the former Conservative deputy PM, gives evidence to a Lords committee on employment and the coronavirus crisis.
Politics Live has been doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog for some time and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, like the PM’s speech, and where they seem more important and interesting, they will take precedence.
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News – UK coronavirus news: Johnson faces backlash over ‘chaotic’ announcement of latest local lockdown