Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Friday 1 May 2020

1

Johnson: UK is past coronavirus peak

Boris Johnson said yesterday that the UK was “past the peak” of the coronavirus outbreak and is “on the downward slope”. In his first appearance at Downing Street’s daily briefing since being hospitalised with Covid-19 in early April, the prime minister defended his government’s response to the pandemic, saying that, “broadly speaking, we did the right thing at the right time”. He also promised that information about the government’s lockdown exit plan would be released next week.

2

Trump suggests Covid-19 was created in Chinese lab

US President Donald Trump yesterday said he has seen evidence that the coronavirus was made in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak. The claim appears to contradict his own intelligence officials, who hours earlier has said they believed the virus “was not man-made or genetically modified”. Pressed by a White House reporter to explain what evidence he had seen, Trump responded: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”

3

Sudan bans female genital mutilation

Sudan’s government has banned female genital mutilation, a year after coming to power following the overthrow of dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The move represents a profound shift for the Northeast African country, where an estimated nine in ten women have been subjected to mutilation of their external genitalia, according to the United Nations. “The law will help protect girls from this barbaric practice,” said a spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund. “Now there are consequences.”

4

UK ‘unlikely to meet 100,000 daily tests deadline’

Boris Johnson yesterday admitted that his government was almost 20,000 short of its target of carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April. Latest figures show that a total of 81,611 coronavirus tests were carried out on Wednesday, up by 30,000 on the previous 24 hours - but it will not be clear whether ministers have met their goal until later today. Conceding that the deadline was likely to be missed, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “Even if we don’t hit it, we will in the next few days. I think it was right to set an ambitious target... the direction of travel is the most important thing.”

5

Russian prime minister tests positive for Covid-19

Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has announced that he has contracted Covid-19. “The tests I submitted for coronavirus came back positive,” he said in a televised video call with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. Mishustin has been leading his country’s response to the pandemic, but will now temporarily exempt himself from his duties.

6

Captain Tom Moore turns 100

The appeal by NHS fundraiser Captain Tom Moore topped £32m yesterday as he celebrated his 100th birthday. The war veteran was treated to an RAF fly-past, a letter from the Queen, a recorded message from Boris Johnson, a promotion to honorary colonel, and more than 150,000 birthday cards from the public, in honour of his efforts to raise funds for the health service by walking laps of the garden at his Bedfordshire home.

7

SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics to aid Nasa with Moon landing

Nasa has announced that the US space agency will work alongside three companies to develop human landing systems for a mission to the Moon. A ten-month contract worth a total of $967m has been awarded to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Alabama-based tech firm Dynetics. The aim is to pick a final design by next February, as Nasa strives to meet Donald Trump’s target of landing Americans on the Moon by 2024.

8

UK factory output set to halve, warns trade body

UK factory output risks falling by more than half during the current quarter, as 80% of manufacturers report a collapse in orders as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a leading trade body has warned. Make UK said a survey of 297 members conducted in the week to 27 April showed that more than three-quarters had already suffered a drop in sales.

9

Greggs postpones reopenings for fear of rush on baked goods

Bakery chain Greggs has stepped back from a tentative plan to reopen 20 of its shops next week, amid fears that an “excessive numbers of customers” may storm in. The company wanted to test its ability to maintain social distancing rules at 20 of its more than 2,050 UK outlets, but an overly enthusiastic response on social media gave rise to concerns. “We will now initially operate these trials behind closed doors in order to effectively test our new operational safety measures,” said a spokesperson said yesterday.

10

Briefing: is lower air pollution under lockdown saving lives?

Improvements in air quality during coronavirus lockdowns have resulted in 11,000 fewer deaths across Europe over the past month, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) say the effects of the significant reduction in air travel and road traffic are comparable to “everyone in Europe stopping smoking for a month”. 

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