Coronavirus latest news: Downing Street supports Dominic Cummings as Opposition demands inquiry

Dominic Cummings last night told 10 Downing Street that new claims he made a second trip to his family in Durham during the lockdown were “totally false”.

The denial came after Friday’s revelation that he had gone to stay with his extended family at the height of the lockdown, after he and his wife had fallen ill with coronavirus and were seeking help to look after their son.

Senior Downing Street sources made clear that Mr Cummings would continue with his usual job.

Opposition parties demanded an urgent inquiry and said his actions had undermined the Government’s message.

Several Conservative MPs are expected to call for Mr Cummings to resign.

Follow the latest updates below. 

Auto update

9:18AM

Steve Baker: ‘No one is indispensable – Dominic should go’

Tory MP Steve Baker, speaking on the Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, argued that it was time for Dominic Cummings to go.

“If he doesn’t resign, we’ll just keep burning through Boris’s political capital at a rate we can ill afford in the midst of this crisis,” he said.

“It is very clear that Dominic travelled when everybody else understood Dominic’s slogans to mean ‘stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives’.

“And I think mums and dads who very much care about their children and who have been forgoing the childcare of their extended family will wonder why he has been allowed to do this.

“I really just don’t see, as we approach the Prime Minister (appearing) at the liaison committee on Wednesday, how this is going to go away unless Dominic goes.”

“Dominic’s tactics are out of place and he should go – he has ended up not abiding by the spirit of the slogans he enforced on the country.”

9:15AM

It is ‘critical’ that parents believe that schools are safe, warns former Ofsted chief inspector

Speaking on Sky’s Sophie Ridge On Sunday programme, former Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw  said that it was now time to reopen schools, however he warned that it was “critical” that parents were confident in the safety of doing so. 

He said: “It is all right opening up schools but if parents lack that confidence they are not going to send (children) in.

“It seems to me that the Government have got a real part to play here making sure that parents have the evidence.”

He also argued that local authorities should be given the responsibility of policing safety standards once schools reopen, commenting:

“The Government really should have spent that last three months preparing the ground well, holding meetings with the parent and teacher associations to make sure all the facts are there.

“Transparency is absolutely critical and families who don’t necessarily read all the research from the research bodies need something to go on to make that balanced judgment, and I am not sure they have received that.”

9:05AM

Labour: If everyone had followed Dominic Cummings’ example, the transmission rate would have remained high

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sky News, Labour MP Sarah  Jones argued that if everyone in the UK had followed Mr Cummings’ example and broke lockdown rules for personal reasons, the transmission rate of coronavirus would not have been lowered. She argued: 

“If everybody had decided to break the rules then we wouldn’t have brought this infection rate down.

“And when we heard the Prime Minister, we heard him say ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ – he didn’t say ‘or drive 260 miles to Durham if you think that’s the right thing to do’.

“That wasn’t what we heard and that wasn’t what was said and that wasn’t what everybody else did, and that’s why we need answers.”

8:55AM

People are justified in feeling ‘angry’ about Dominic Cummings’ breach of lockdown rules, argues Labour MP 

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sky News this morning, Shadow Policing Minister, Sarah Jones argued that in light of revelation that Dominic Cummings broke lockdown rules to visit his family in Durham, many were ‘feeling rightly angry’. She said: 

I think what we’ve heard in the last 24 hours suggests some quite serious allegations against the Prime Minister’s chief advisor and I think people are feeling rightly angry. 

Millions of people have put their lives on hold and made huge sacrifices to obey the rules during this period and we have seen the heartbreak of people not being able to attend funerals of loved ones not being able to see their family members as they die. 

And I think people are rightly feeling is it one rule for us and one rule for the people at the top.

And I think there are questions to ask, both in terms of what Dominic Cummings did, but also in terms of the response that we saw yesterday, where we seemed to get this rowing back of the rules from minister after minister suggesting that nothing had been done incorrectly.” 

8:42AM

Dominic Cummings ‘must go’ says Conservative MP Steve Baker

Conservative MP Steve Baker has argued that Dominic Cummings  should leave his position as chief advisor. 

Mr Baker, a prominent member of the 1922 Committee, argued on Twitter that it was ‘intolerable’ that the government had lost ‘so much political capital’ over  the course of the pandemic.

Writing for The Critic Magazine, Mr Baker argued that allegations of a further breach in the Sunday papers were a “disaster”.

He added: “Dominic Cummings must go before he does any more harm to the UK, the Government, the Prime Minister, our institutions or the Conservative Party.”

“Time is up. It is time for Dom to resign so Boris can govern within the conventions and norms which will see us through.”

8:35AM

China confirms three new coronavirus cases 

China recorded three new COVID-19 cases on May 23, following the first day with no new cases since the outbreak began, the National Health Commission said in a statement on Sunday.

Last Friday was the first time China had seen no daily rise in the number of cases since the pandemic began in Wuhan last year. 

The country’s official death toll stands at 4,634, while the number of confirmed cases has now reached 82,974. 

8:32AM

25,000 contact tracers recruited ahead of test-and-trace launch

25,000 contact tracers have been recruited ahead of the launch of a new test-and-trace system, the Government has said.

The technology, which involves tracing and advising people who may have come into close contact with someone testing positive for the virus, is scheduled to launch at the end of this week. 

The Government has been aiming for human contact tracers to be in place for June 1 – the earliest date for opening schools and non-essential shops in England.

The public will be asked to work closely with the newly-recruited contact tracers, who will run a national virtual call centre operation, the Government said.

8:30AM

Good morning

If you’re just joining us on the live blog, good morning.

Here is today’s front page.

7:59AM

Oxford University vaccine trial has only 50pc chance of success

It began in January as a “little lab project” after a curious new disease emerged in China.

Little more than four months later, the eyes of the nation – and perhaps the world – are firmly upon Professor Adrian Hill and his team at Oxford University.

The stakes could hardly be higher. If proven effective, the ZD1222 vaccine would allow people to leave their homes, go back to work, and rebuild the economy.

But Professor Hill, director of the university’s Jenner Institute, revealed that his team now faces a major problem, throwing a September deadline into doubt.

In short, their adversary is disappearing so rapidly in the UK that the next phase of trials has only a 50 per cent chance of success.

Read the full story

7:40AM

More small-scale outbreaks in South Korea

South Korea has reported 25 additional cases over a 24-hour period, amid a continuation of small-scale outbreaks in the country.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the additional figures released Sunday took the country’s total to 11,190 with 266 deaths. The agency says 10,213 of them have recovered and been released from quarantine.

It says 17 of the 25 new patients were locally infected while the rest eight came from overseas.

7:28AM

Claims pandemic originated in  Wuhan lab ‘pure fabrication’

Claims promoted by the Trump administration that the global coronavirus pandemic originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the central Chinese city are a “pure fabrication”, the institute’s director said.

Wang Yanyi was quoted by state media Sunday as saying the institute did not have “any knowledge before that nor had we ever met, researched or kept the virus . We didn’t even know about the existence of the virus, so how could it be leaked from our lab when we didn’t have it?”

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have repeatedly said they suspect the virus that was first detected in Wuhan was somehow released from the laboratory.

Read the full story

6:41AM

Calls for churches to open next month

Father Richard Carter live streams a Eucharist service from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London

Father Richard Carter live streams a Eucharist service from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London

Credit:
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Boris Johnson has been urged by a group of Conservative MPs to allow churches to open for prayer, weddings and funerals as soon as next month.

The 20 MPs questioned why shoppers can go to a “busy supermarket” to buy food and drinks but worshippers in need of spiritual sustenance cannot currently pray in a largely empty church.

Read more: MPs write to Boris Johnson urging him to allow churches to reopen

6:01AM

Social distancing could take MPs hours to vote

MPs could have to spend hours queuing to vote physically in the House of Commons when they return to work after their Whitsun break early next month because of social distancing during the Covid-19 crisis, secret trials have found.

Read more: Socially distancing MPs will take hours to vote physically

5:28AM

Plans to isolate new arrivals to the UK

A traveller wears a face mask as a precaution upon arrival at Heathrow on Friday

A traveller wears a face mask as a precaution upon arrival at Heathrow on Friday

Credit:
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP

From June 8, all new arrivals in the United Kingdom will have to self-isolate for two weeks.

This will include Britons returning from other countries, in addition to new arrivals from other countries.

The measures will give police the power to carry out spot checks at the homes of international arrivals, and impose fines of £1,000 for breaking the self-isolation rules.

Read more: Do I need to self-quarantine for 14 days after travel?

5:02AM

Councils ‘will have to justify their actions’

Councils could be told to explain publicly their reasons for not allowing primary schools to open next week amid Government concerns that as few as a quarter will restart classes.

Government officials are hoping that regional school commissioners will be able to exert some pressure on local authorities to encourage primary schools to reopen on June 1.

There has been private frustration in Whitehall that more than 50 councils expect their schools to stay closed, despite being given detailed guidance about a safe return.

Read more: Councils must ‘justify their actions’ if they refuse to reopen primary schools

4:21AM

Numbers suggest New York is making progress

A pedestrian wears a mask while walking along Seventh Avenue in Times Square, New York

A pedestrian wears a mask while walking along Seventh Avenue in Times Square, New York

Credit:
Frank Franklin II/AP

The number of deaths in New York state caused by coronavirus in the past 24 hours is 84, the lowest one-day total since late March, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

“The news is good news,” Mr Cuomo said in his daily televised briefing.

Hospitalisations, intubations and new infections were all in decline.

“In my head, I was always looking to get under 100,” Mr Cuomo said.

“It doesn’t do good for any of those 84 families that are feeling the pain.

“But for me it’s just a sign we are making real progress.”

The toll is the lowest since March 24. At the pandemic’s peak in New York in early April, state officials were reporting up to 800 deaths per day, and daily tolls repeatedly surpassed 1,000 when probable cases were included.

3:54AM

‘I think lockdown saved no lives’

Lockdown caused more deaths than it saved, a Nobel laureate scientist said as he predicted the UK would emerge from Covid-19 within weeks.

Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor who correctly predicted the initial trajectory of the pandemic, sent messages to Professor Neil Ferguson in March telling the influential government advisor he had over-estimated the potential death toll by “10 or 12 times”.

The Imperial College professor’s modelling, a major factor in the Government’s apparent abandoning of a so-called herd-immunity policy, was part of an unnecessary “panic virus” that spread among global political leaders, Prof Levitt now tells The Telegraph.

Read more: Lockdown saved no lives and may have cost them, Nobel Prize winner believes

3:40AM

Outbreak at pasta factory

A pasta company in Washington state has announced there was a coronavirus outbreak at its Spokane factory.

It comes as the state prepares to reopen parts of its economy after lockdown.

The Spokesman-Review reported that Philadelphia Macaroni Company said on Friday that 72 workers were tested for Covid-19 and 24 were positive.

Health officials said there was an increase in Spokane County, with 31 new positive cases between Thursday and Friday.

Company officials said that all of the factory employees had since been tested and the facility was disinfected.

The company is working with the Spokane Regional Health District to conduct contact tracing and determine further prevention measures.

Earlier this month, protestors took to the streets to complain about coronavirus restrictions forcing people to stay home.

A demonstration in front of the county courthouse in Spokane, Washington, on May 1

A demonstration in front of the county courthouse in Spokane, Washington, on May 1

Credit:
YOUNG KWAK/REUTERS

2:44AM

France ready to return to church

French churches are preparing to hold their first Sunday masses in more than two months after the government bowed to a ruling that they should be reopened – provided proper precautions are taken.

Priests, pastors, rabbis and imams will have to ensure that the correct safety measures are in force.

Worshippers will have to wear masks, there will have to be disinfectant gel on hand and the seating will need to be organised to ensure people keep a safe distance from each other.

Parishioners attend a Saturday mass at the Saint Jean-Baptiste church in Neuilly-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris

Parishioners attend a Saturday mass at the Saint Jean-Baptiste church in Neuilly-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris

Credit:
STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP

2:17AM

The pandemic around the world…

  • The pandemic has killed 342,061 people worldwide, the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University show. There have been 5,288,392 reported cases in 188 countries. The top three highest number of cases are in the United States, which has 1,622,447; Brazil, 347,398; and Russia,335,882.
  • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has announced that its top-flight football league La Liga can resume from June 8, more than two months after the virus halted the season. He has also offered a boost for Spain‘s tourism industry, with overseas visitors allowed to return to Spain from July.
  • The towering Greek temple complex at Paestum, on the south coast, is the first Italian archaeological site to reopen to the public. Pompeii, south of Naples, will be accessible on Tuesday. The Vatican Museums are set to reopen on June 1 by reservation.
  • Four EU countries dubbing themselves the “frugal four” have presented their own proposal for post-coronavirus economic recovery. Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden want emergency help for badly affected countries to take the form of one-off loans that must be agreed within two years.
  • India will organise special trains to get at least 3.6 million migrant workers stranded by the lockdown back home. India has 131,423 reported cases and 3,868 deaths.
  • As Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr today – marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan – Afghanistan has announced a “strict lockdown”.
  • In Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation, the government has banned traditional travel across the country, and many residents are turning to smugglers and false certificates to join their loved ones.
  • Mexican health authorities registered 3,329 new cases and 190 new deaths, bringing the total number to 65,856 cases and 7,179 deaths. 
1:52AM

Millions of Australians continue to access app

Six million Australians have downloaded a mobile phone app that helps health authorities trace coronavirus infections, officials said today.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the CovidSafe app is playing a strong role in Australia‘s response to the pandemic and several countries have expressed interest in learning from its positive impacts.

If a user is diagnosed, the app works to identify other users who have been in close proximity for 15 minutes or more in the previous three weeks.

The government has said at least 40 per cent of Australia’s 26 million people need to use the app for it to be effective. There are approximately 17 million mobile phones in Australia.

1:25AM

‘They were not simply names on a list. They were us.’

The New York Times has devoted today’s entire front page to a long list of names of people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.

The names and brief descriptions culled from obituaries from around the country fill six columns under the headline “US deaths near 100,000, an incalculable loss”. It then explains: “They were not simply names on a list. They were us.”

The all-text list takes the place of the usual articles, photographs and graphics in an effort to convey the vastness and variety of lives lost, according to Simone Landon, assistant editor of the graphics desk. 

A tally kept by Johns Hopkins University says more than 96,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the United States.

Tom Bodkin, chief creative officer of The Times, said he did not remember any front pages without images, although there had been pages with only graphics, during his 40 years at the newspaper.

1:12AM

Brazil struggles to control case numbers

Brazil’s coronavirus curve steepened further a day after it overtook Russia to become the country with the second-highest number of cases.

The Latin American nation added 16,508 cases on Saturday and said the death toll rose by 965.

Brazil now has 347,398 confirmed cases – trailing only the US globally – from 330,890 on Friday.

Its death toll has risen to 22,013.

As the country shatters records and the contamination curve fails to flatten, President Jair Bolsonaro remains adamant about his crusade to reopen commerce and the economy, and to tout the malaria and lupus drug chloroquine even though there isn’t sufficient scientific proof to back it up for Covid-19.

His stance has proved too much – two health ministers have resigned amid the pandemic. The ministry is currently being run provisionally by an army general.

1:04AM

Will rule’s ‘exceptional circumstances’ protect chief aide?

Dominic Cummings has come under fire for his actions during lockdown

Dominic Cummings has come under fire for his actions during lockdown

Credit:
Alberto Pezzali/AP

When the Prime Minister announced Britain was going into lockdown two months ago he gave the apparently unequivocal instruction that we must all “stay at home”.

Within 24 hours, the deputy chief medical officer for England outlined possible exceptions to that rule, including how ill parents with a small child created “exceptional circumstances”.

Now, after it has emerged Dominic Cummings and his wife travelled 260 miles with their son to stay at a home near his extended family in Durham – despite having coronavirus symptoms – allies of Boris Johnson’s special advisor are highlighting that advice to justify his trip.

Read more: Did Dominic Cummings actually break any lockdown rules?

12:57AM

Experts to consider if diabetics need more protection

Diabetics could be forced to shield at home against Covid-19 following a review by government scientists after it emerged people with diabetes are at significantly greater risk of dying if they catch the virus.

Almost one in three deaths from coronavirus in hospital had diabetes.

Most diabetics are currently classed as “clinically vulnerable” rather than the “clinically extremely vulnerable” – the worst affected group of people who received letters from their doctors telling them they must stay at home under almost all circumstances.

However, scientists will consider whether they need more protection.

Read more: Diabetics may be forced to self-isolate at home after lockdown is lifted

11:36PM

Today’s top stories

This article was originally published on this site.

This article was originally published on this site