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Back To Work
Boris Johnson shifted the message today, asking people to “go back to work if you can”. A notable change from the previous ask that the public work from home where possible.
The prime minister, answering questions from the public via video from a desk in Downing Street, he said: “I think everybody has sort of taken the ‘stay at home if you can’ – I think we should now say, well, ‘go back to work if you can’. Because I think it’s very important that people should try to lead their lives more normally.”
As Paul pointed out in yesterday’s edition of the Waugh Zone, the government’s main concern now appears to be that the public remain too scared to return to town centres, offices and shops.
Johnson also dropped a strong hint that tougher laws are coming on face coverings. The PM, who has not been seen in public wearing a face covering himself, said “we need to be stricter” on insisting coverings are worn in “confined places”.
“We are looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops, for instance, where there is a risk of transmission,” he said.
Explaining the change in approach, Johnson added the “balance of scientific opinion seems to have shifted more in favour of them”. But he said he did not want to “get to world” where people would be told to wear a face covering “all the time everywhere”.
The PM also appeared to trail a U-turn on Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G network. “We have to protect our critical national infrastructure,” he said. An announcement to parliament is expected soon.
Today’s “People’sPMQs”, unlike the previous editions in which Johnson was breezily able to answer the questions he liked, was essentially an expanded version of the public questions at the daily No.10 press conference. Just without the journalists.
And the PM did manage to avoid tricky subjects such as: why did he claim “nobody knew” coronavirus could be transmitted asymptomatically when Sage said in January there was evidence? Why did he miss the self-imposed target of all test results being returned within 24-hours? Why will NHS staff have to pay for parking at hospitals? Why Chris Grayling?
Johnson promised that No.10 coronavirus press conferences would be held when the government had “something really important to say”. But so far it looks to be when it has something good to say.
There have been three briefings since the daily events were brought to a close. One for the education secretary to announce the plan to get all children back into education, one for the culture secretary to announce the reopening of culture, and one for the prime minister to announce the reopening of pubs.
A press conference was not called when Leicester, a city of over 300,000 people, was put back into lockdown.
Matt Hancock did, to be fair, take questions in the Commons chamber on the decision. But it’s worth noting in under two week’s time parliament will rise for the summer recess. MPs will be unable to drag ministers to the chamber for all of August. And given the two-week lag on infection data, it’s next month when the impact of the latest unlocking could become clear.
Quote Of The Day
“Some people have enjoyed lockdown.”
– Boris Johnson while taking questions from the public.
The World Health Organisation has updated its guidelines on how the coronavirus is transmitted, stating that the likelihood that the virus can go airborne, particularly in enclosed spaces like restaurants and gyms, “cannot be ruled out.”
Rishi Sunak is the most popular chancellor since Gordon Brown in 2005, according to a YouGov poll.
Nicola Sturgeon has warned easing lockdown restrictions must not lead to Scots letting down their guard, as she revealed the highest number of new cases of the virus for three weeks.
Pubs, cafes and restaurants can reopen indoors in Wales from 3 August, as long as cases continue to fall.
The coronavirus R number has risen in England, with the government data stating that it could now be as high as 1.
What I’m Reading
How “Starship Troopers” Aligns with Our Moment of American Defeat – The New Yorker
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.