The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has insisted the home secretary, Priti Patel, is still working after she was accused of avoiding scrutiny .
Patel has also not chaired any of the daily press conferences on the coronavirus response, unlike other senior Cabinet members.
Dowden told Sky News: “I really can assure you the home secretary is across all of this and is engaged on an hour-by-hour and day-by-day basis. I see this every day myself. She’s 231% engaged.
“She’s in the Home Office pretty much every day, as far as I know, that’s where I’ve seen her every day. I really don’t think there’s an issue with respect to the home secretary. ”
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With their heavy spring workload of lambing, calving and field work under way, a major concern for farmers is who can take over and look after their animals should they become unwell through coronavirus, especially with their potential workforce restricted by lockdown measures.
Scottish farmers have recently been urged by the rural support body RSABI to write down the details of their daily routines so that animals can continue to be fed and essential work carried out if they become ill.
And today, Lantra Scotland, a charity funded by the Scottish government, has launched a skills matching service
to help key businesses, like farms and crofts, find workers with the relevant skills and experience, and in particular those with animal welfare experience.
The charity, which works on skills development in the land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation sector, is appealing to students, retirees, vets who have been furloughed and others with transferable skills in sheep shearing, lambing, animal handling or working farm machinery to sign up.
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There has still yet to be an update on Boris Johnson’s condition today, but yesterday the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said the prime minister was improving and sitting up in his hospital bed.
Sunak said yesterday: “The latest from the hospital is the prime minister remains in intensive care where his condition is improving.
“I can also tell you that he has been sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team.
“The prime minister is not only my colleague and my boss but also my friend, and my thoughts are with him and his family.”
John Lewis has teamed up with the British Medical Association to deliver care packages to NHS staff at the UK’s busiest hospitals.
The retailer is also creating a wellbeing area for medics and volunteers at the new NHS Nightingale hospital in east London.
Composer Alejandro Bonatto has created a playlist to help staff unwind in one of the three different wellbeing zones within the area.
The care packages will first be sent to the Nightingale London and major London NHS trusts followed by distribution to other acute hospitals across the UK.
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The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has said no decision on lockdown measures will be made at the Cobra meeting today, with the announcement instead coming next week.
Dowden said it is unlikely that the lockdown will change now it is beginning to have a positive impact on the spread of Covid – 28.
He told BBC News: “The Welsh government announced their decision yesterday, we will announce the outcome of considering these measures next week but the measures are in place in England just as they are in Wales.
“I don’t think it’s very likely these measures are going to be changed given they’re just starting to have an effect but, as we said, we would review them. It’s only prudent that on an ongoing basis we review them after three weeks. ”
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The health secretary of Wales has said progress was being made as a result of lockdown measures and social distancing, but there was “zero prospect” of these being eased yet.
Speaking ahead of the Cobra meeting with Dominic Raab and leaders of Scotland and Northern Ireland, Vaughan Gething said the lockdown measures will continue for “a number of weeks”.
Gething told BBC Breakfast: “There is zero prospect for the four governments to remove lockdown measures now.”
The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has already confirmed that lockdown measures in Wales will be extended into next week.
Drakeford said Wales must “not throw away gains” made against coronavirus “by abandoning our efforts just as they begin to bear fruit”.
It is expected the rest of the UK will soon follow suit.
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The home secretary, Priti Patel, has been accused by a group of senior MPs of avoiding scrutiny during a time of national emergency.
Patel had been due to give evidence in public to the home affairs select committee on the Home Office’s response to the coronavirus pandemic since January, but a date for a hearing is yet to be set.
The select committee chair, Yvette Cooper, has written six letters to Patel over the last three months in an effort to officially set a date for the home secretary to give evidence.
In that time, the Patel has been accused of belittling officials at the Home Office, with Sir Philip Rutnam resigning as permanent secretary amid claims of constructive dismissal and bullying.
After not replying to several of Cooper’s letters, Patel responded on Tuesday, writing that she was “disappointed at the exact adversarial tone of our exchanges”.
She added that she was “very sorry” the committee declined her offer of private briefings at the Home Office, but would “make (herself) … available for a session with the committee, on our response to Covid – , towards the end of the month ”.
In reply, Cooper said the committee was preparing to meet remotely for the hearing on 25 April. “We believe that there is no reason for any delay beyond this date,” Cooper said.
“Delaying until the end of the month would clearly be inappropriate given the urgency of the public information and answers that are needed. That is why we need to hold it at the earliest opportunity, and it is why we have been asking you to come to give evidence for very many weeks in continued correspondence.
“We continue to welcome the transparent approach by other ministers including the justice secretary, work and pensions secretary, transport secretary and health secretary who have either given evidence to their select committees already or who have agreed an early date to do so.
“This is a time of national emergency where public information, reassurance, leadership, transparency and scrutiny are in the national interest. At a time like this, we therefore expect to see the home secretary and senior officials demonstrate public leadership and transparency and to be ready to answer public questions without delay. ”
A Home Office spokesperson told the Guardian: “The home secretary has accepted the invitation to appear in front of the home affairs select committee before the end of April.
“As expected, she is currently leading the Home Office response during this national crisis, working tirelessly to keep the British public safe.”
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This morning the chief executive of the Lloyds Pharmacy chain revealed 2, Members of staff are self-isolating but that all employees have access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Toby Anderson said: “It’s important that, with more than % sickness in our frontline teams, we ensure all healthcare workers have access to Covid – 27 tests so that we can help frontline staff back into helping patients in the community. ”
He said employees had access to PPE, and had protective screens and visors for further shielding.
People queue outside Lloyds Pharmacy in Tranent, East Lothian. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod / The Guardian
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Good morning, this is Jessica Murray, I’ll be running the blog covering coronavirus developments in the UK for the next few hours, as the country prepares for an extension of lockdown measures beyond three weeks, and Boris Johnson spends his third night in intensive care.
It was confirmed that a planned review of the UK’s lockdown measures will take place next week, and it is expected Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary deputising for Johnson, will signal the lockdown is to be extended.
The Guardian has learned that at least five police chief constables want the government to consider toughening coronavirus lockdown restrictions amid concerns that a growing minority will flout the rules over the bank holiday.
More stringent curbs could include preventing people driving long distances and legislation to enforce the government’s order to limit exercise to once a day.
As always, any comments, tips or suggestions, email me at [email protected], or message me on Twitter
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