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888 more people die in UK hospitals as minister says parks must remain open and loved ones can attend funerals

UK government’s housing, communities and local government secretary says parks must be kept open for people’s recreation during coronavirus lockdown. Image: Google Satellite view of Victoria Park in East London.

Sunday Times investigation alleges Prime-Minister Boris Johnson was asleep on the job during five crucial weeks the UK could have planned for pandemic

As Mr Johnson recovers from life-threatening COVID-19 at Chequers the normally Conservative supporting newspaper has made a devastating attack on his leadership and handling of the crisis.

It claims whistle-blowers, scientists and emergency planners say his government ignored dire warnings from scientists.

The paper claims the UK lost ‘a crucial five weeks in the fight to tackle the dangerous threat of coronavirus despite being in a perilously poor state of preparation for a pandemic.’

The paper argues there was complacency at the heart of government in late January and February when it should have been urgently replenishing stockpiles.

Even worse for Mr Johnson and giving succour to the opposition and new leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer, the Sunday Times says the PM did not bother to attend five key government COBRA meetings as the COVID-19 crisis gathered pace.

The charge of incompetence and negligence continues with four bullet points of criticism:

  1. ‘Little progress’ was made in obtaining emergency supplies of masks and gowns in February, with the UK actually sending 279,000 PPE items to China
  2. The country’s last rehearsal for a pandemic was in 2016, and recommendations from that exercise to address a lack of PPE and intensive care ventilators were never implemented
  3. Preparations for a no-deal Brexit ‘sucked all the blood out of pandemic planning’
  4. The British Healthcare Trades Association was ready to help supply PPE in February, but its offer of help was only accepted on 1 April.

Parks to stay open and loved ones to be able to attend funerals

Housing, communities and local government secretary, Robert Jenrick, says councils must keep parks open during the coronavirus lockdown.

Jenrick also said family mourners must be allowed to attend funerals.

He referred to the case of 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, from Brixton, who died after contracting Covid-19.

He said the tragedy was compounded after Ismail’s family could not attend his funeral:

That is not right and it shouldn’t have happened. For clarity, funerals can go ahead with close family present. I’m also asking councils to keep open or indeed to reopen cemeteries and graveyards … for people to make that private visit and seek solace at the grave of someone you’ve loved or to privately lay flowers.

Newspapers report plans to lift the lockdown, but Sunday Times revelations that it failed to heed warnings on the pandemic likely to dominate news agenda.

While the Sunday Telegraph reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has begun issuing orders to ministers as he recovers from coronavirus and has started to ‘take back control,’ the Sunday Times charge of complacency and negligence is likely to dominate media coverage today.

In the Mail on Sunday former cabinet ministers, the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and City bosses are among those asking No10 for clarity over a so-called exit strategy.

The Sunday Mirror’s front page says doctors fear they will run out of oxygen vital in keep critical coronavirus patients alive in intensive care.

Donald Trump attacks China again questioning whether it was a ‘mistake that got out of control’ or a crisis that was started deliberately.

At the daily White House briefing, the US president warned Beijing would face consequences if it was ‘knowingly responsible’ for the spread of COVID-19.

He said:

It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t, and the whole world is suffering from it.

The UK’s culture secretary tells the public ‘buy a paper’ and tells biggest brands to stop ad-blocking online news articles about the pandemic.

Oliver Dowden has written to Britain’s biggest 100 brands, including Amazon, Sky and Tesco telling them to stop blocking their ads appearing next to COVID news articles.

He’s also appealing to the public to continue buying newspapers because so many news publishers face going out of business with dealing news-stand sales and a sharp downturn in advertising income.

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