Leicester Faces Further Lockdown
What’s the latest?
The government has recommended that coronavirus lockdown measures remain in force in Leicester for a further two weeks after the city reported a spike in new infections. A new report from Public Health England has said pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers in Leicester should remain closed for an extra fortnight after the rest of England reopens on 4th July. Non-essential shops in the city will also close from today and local schools will shut for most pupils from Thursday. Those living in Leicester are being told to "stay at home as much as they can" and non-essential travel in and out of the city should be avoided. According to Leicester City council, 944 virus cases have been reported in the area in the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, in Wales, pupils have begun returning to school for the first time since March. Schools in Wales have remained open throughout lockdown, but only for the children of key workers and pupils classed as vulnerable. Pupils returning on Monday were greeted by hand sanitiser stations, staggered start times and smaller class sizes – with desks spaced out in line with social distancing. It is hoped children will be able to use the next three weeks to “check in, catch up and prepare” ahead of the start of the next academic year. In Scotland, non-essential retailers were allowed to open their doors on Monday, along with some workplaces such as factories. It is the first time many outlets have opened to customers since lockdown was imposed in March.
How is the crisis impacting the economy?
In a live interview on Monday, the prime minister admitted the country had been through a “profound shock” and said it was time for a “Rooseveltian approach to the UK” – referencing the former US president’s programme of public works following the Great Depression in the 1930s. His comments came as the government prepared to launch ‘Project Speed’, a new taskforce designed to accelerate the delivery of major infrastructure projects in the UK. “We really want to build back better, to do things differently, to invest in infrastructure, transport, broadband – you name it,” Boris Johnson said.
Meanwhile, the Resolution Foundation has called on the government to continue the coronavirus job retention scheme for workers in the hardest-hit sectors of the economy. The thinktank said the scheme should be turned into a job protection system until at least the end of next year, supporting those in the hospitality, retail, arts and leisure industries who are more than twice as likely to face changes to their employment than other sectors. The foundation’s statement came as Labour, unions and business leaders urged the chancellor to use next month’s Treasury update to extend government support and ward off the risk of a surge in unemployment.
And what are the international developments?
Half a million deaths from Covid-19 have now been recorded globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. Experts have warned the true death toll and number of cases is likely to be far higher due to delays and suspected underreporting, as well as variation in testing rates and cause of death definitions. The US continues to report the highest volume of cases in the world, with more than 2.5m infections recorded so far. In Texas, where one of the country’s shortest lockdowns was imposed, the state governor said the outbreak had taken a “swift and very dangerous turn”. More than 5,000 new cases are now being recorded in the state each day, up from around 2,000 a day two weeks ago.
Meanwhile in China, a strict lockdown has been reinstated in Anxin, Hebei province, after a cluster of infections was reported. On Sunday, Chinese officials said the county, which is home to around 400,000 people, would be “fully enclosed and controlled”. Only essential workers are permitted to leave home and one member of a household can shop for necessities each day. Chinese health authorities are said to be taking even small outbreaks very seriously in a bid to avoid a second wave of infections. Elsewhere, a testing blitz has been carried out in the suburbs of Melbourne in Australia’s Victoria state after officials recorded its highest daily jump in domestic cases so far. More than 15,000 local tests were conducted in the 24 hours to Monday morning and at least 75 positive results were returned.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson warns that parents may be fined if they do not send their children back to school after their expected reopening in September. Speaking to LBC on Monday, Williamson said children in England would need to return in the autumn unless there’s a “very good reason” or a “local lockdown”. Williamson confirmed fines would be imposed if parents refuse. The education secretary has also addressed whether social distancing will remain when pupils return, saying safety was "not about one metre [or] about two metres," but based on “reducing the number of transmission points” within schools for virus infections.
Meanwhile, the prime minister has dedicated a £1bn fund for the completion of 50 major school construction projects in England. A further £560m has been set aside for repairs to crumbling school buildings. Launched on Monday, the programme aims to tackle dilapidated and ageing buildings as well as extending schools to accommodate a greater number of pupils. The 50 projects will be identified later this year, with work on selected schools commencing from September 2021. Boris Johnson said the investment would make England’s schools “fit for the future”. Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL headteachers' union, said the funding was “desperately needed and long overdue”.
In other news
MINISTER PUTS BRAKES ON HOLIDAY PLANS
The home secretary has dashed holidaymakers’ hopes of booking foreign breaks after warning it will take some time to agree “air bridges” with other countries. Travel firms reported a surge in demand over the weekend following the news that agreements may allow British tourists to visit selected destinations without having to quarantine from 6th July. However, Priti Patel has told Sky News: “These measures won’t come in overnight. They will take time because some of this will be down to negotiation [and] discussion with certain countries.” The home secretary said there would be an announcement about possible air bridges in the next few days and urged the public to listen to the advice of ministers on which countries the UK is set to be opening up with.
DEADLY RAID ON PAKISTAN STOCK EXCHANGE
Four gunmen have struck the Pakistani stock exchange in Karachi, killing a policeman and two guards and wounding several others. Staff sheltered in locked offices and many were evacuated after the gunmen launched a grenade attack at the main entrance before opening fire. Police say the assailants were shot dead by guards before they could enter the building and trading reportedly continued without interruption. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), an insurgency group which has demanded a separate homeland for ethnic Balochs in Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack. The BLA is one of several armed separatist groups in Balochistan province and has launched previous attacks in Pakistan.
THOUSANDS CAUGHT SPEEDING DURING LOCKDOWN
New figures from the Metropolitan police show the number of motorists caught speeding in London surged 71% during the coronavirus lockdown. Officers issued 3,282 Traffic Offence Reports to motorists suspected of speeding during April, up from 1,922 during the same month last year. A further 14,736 drivers were caught by roadside cameras. Kent and Derbyshire's forces also saw a year-on-year rise in speeding offences, increasing 53% and 41% respectively. Met detective superintendent Andy Cox said some of those caught speeding told police "we thought you'd be busy dealing with Covid". "Maybe some people [tried to take] advantage because congestion was less and thought they'd get away with it," he added.
BEYONCÉ URGES US TO VOTE
Beyoncé has urged US voters to head to the polls in the upcoming presidential election. Accepting the humanitarian award at the BET Awards on Sunday, the singer dedicated the prize to Black Lives Matter protesters and encouraged viewers to get out and vote in local elections, primaries and the presidential election later this year. The BET Awards celebrate black artists and sportspeople, with Beyoncé’s award presented by Michelle Obama, who praised the star for her commitment to the black community. The singer urged viewers to help “dismantle a racist and unequal system” by voting, saying: “We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does.”
WEB SHOPPERS FACE DELIVERY LEVY
Online shoppers could be set to face a compulsory delivery charge as part of efforts to reduce congestion and emissions produced by delivery vehicles. According to reports in the Times, the government is considering a “mandatory charge” – similar to that imposed on plastic bags – for all online deliveries. A report from scientific advisers at the Department for Transport said the use of free and next-day delivery deals had led to “unnecessary over-ordering” and compulsory charges may be needed to “encourage more sustainable behaviour”. The department said it would be considering the report’s conclusions and potentially launching a public consultation on the proposals.
The number of items of clothing expected to be donated to charity shops after two in five Brits reported having a wardrobe clear-out during lockdown. According to a survey from sustainability charity Wrap, almost half of respondents said they would be donating unwanted clothes to charity collections or shops, which began reopening earlier this month. Wrap director Peter Maddox said the charity sector was preparing for an “unprecedented volume” of donations. He has urged the public not to dump items outside charity shops and to check whether stores are open before turning up.