Coronavirus UK live: Rishi Sunak to announce tapering of furlough scheme

ONS survey finds increasing fears about safety at work

The Office for National Statistics has just released its weekly look at the social impacts of coronavirus in Britain.

The results are taken from a sample of 1,028 adults (with a 51% response rate) conducted between 21 and 24 May, compared to a similar survey taken on 14 to 17 May.

We’ll have a more detailed take shortly, but at first glance these seem to be the most interesting findings:

  • One in five people (20%) say they are concerned about health and safety at work, up from 11% in the previous week.
  • People continue to be worried about the future and feelings of boredom have increased this week, with 62% of respondents saying they feel bored compared to 51% last week.
  • An increasing number of people are worried about their mental health: 29% said the pandemic was making their mental health worse this week, up from 26% last week. Similarly, 29% of people said they were “spending too much time alone” this week, compared to 23% last week.
  • Around one in five adults (19%) said they had self-isolated in the past seven days, a similar figure to last week (20%) but the lowest since the ONS started conducting the survey.
  • Almost one in three adults (29%) have worn a face covering in the past week, mostly for shopping but also for exercise.
  • Just under one in three adults (29%) felt unsafe or very unsafe outside of their home, which has decreased from 41% last week.
  • More people are leaving their homes. This is unsurprising given the more relaxed restrictions in England, but the proportion of people who have not left their home at all in the past week dropped from 14% to 11%.

Updated

At this brief interregnum, I’ve been asked to flag a special event we’re holding next Wednesday on the Dominic Cummings story. Details and tickets below:

Guardian Newsroom: The Dominic Cummings story

On Wednesday 3 June we’re holding a live-streamed event exploring the ongoing story of Dominic Cummings’ lockdown-defying road trip and the government’s handling of the ensuing fallout. With deputy national news editor, Archie Bland, and Observer chief leader writer Sonia Sodha.

Book tickets here

Wales’ first minister to announce new “stay local” rules

Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford is holding a press conference at 12.30pm on his government’s new “stay local” guidance. We will bring you that live but here’s a flavour of what Drakeford has been saying this morning.

The new rules in Wales will mean that people must not travel more than five miles to meet others. Two households will be able to meet outside from next week.

Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford outside the Welsh Government Building in Cardiff

Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford outside the Welsh Government Building in Cardiff Photograph: Ben Evans/Huw Evans/REX/Shutterstock

Drakeford said he acknowledged that this would seem “unfair” to people in Wales, given the more relaxed restrictions in England, but that he did not want people spreading the virus from one community to another.

“We have parts of Wales where there has been very little coronavirus and the last thing we want is for people to be travelling to those areas and taking the virus with them,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

He added:


“It’s a sacrifice for those people whose family live further than five miles away, I understand that, and we’ll review this again in three weeks’ time. But for now, stay local, keep Wales safe. Those are the key messages that we’re giving people in Wales.”

On BBC Breakfast, Drakeford was asked why the Welsh Government was not following the same measures as announced by the UK Government, given the R value is similar in England and Wales.

“Well I could put it the other way to you – why aren’t they following what’s been done in other parts of the United Kingdom?” he said. “England isn’t a template for the rest of the UK to follow.


“I think we are still moving in the same direction across the United Kingdom – we’re all moving cautiously, we’re all lifting lockdown – but we’re applying it in our own contexts.”

Drakeford said pilots of Wales’ track and trace system, which have been running for the past two weeks, indicate that each person with a positive test has around four or five contacts that need to be followed up.

Test and trace scheme could leave care homes short of staff, says Care England

Prof Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, has said testing in care homes needs to be prioritised, and expressed fears that the test and trace scheme could result in many members of staff having to self-isolate.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Green said testing in care homes was “an enormous task” and that it was a not a “one-time activity” – there needed to be a rolling programme of testing for residents as well as staff.

He said:


We have got to get on top of it and we’ve got to also prioritise care homes because of course it’s care homes where the most vulnerable people live, so I really want to see testing ramped up.

I want to see also some really clear policy on how we both test, but also track and trace, because I have real concerns that the tracking and tracing programme – unless we get proper guidance for care homes – will produce many staff having to self-isolate and that will again exacerbate the problems in care homes.

But I think we’ve got to get testing and it’s got to be regular and it’s got to be something that is continuous, and until we get that we won’t get on top of this pandemic.

Updated

One of the standout moments of yesterday’s Downing Street briefing was Boris Johnson twice stopping his two most senior scientific advisors, Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, from answering questions about Dominic Cummings. Johnson said he wanted to protect them from “any political questions”.

However, Prof Stephen Reicher, a member of the Sage subcommittee advising the government on behavioural science, says that asking whether the Cummings affair has impacted public trust in the government was, in fact, a scientific question and could reasonably be posed to the government’s advisers:

Stephen Reicher
(@ReicherStephen)

Did the Cummings affair impact trust in Government?’. That IS a question of science.

Of behavioural science.

Polling data gives a clear answer.

Yes. It did.

Should Cummings resign for undermining trust and hence the response to Covid-19?

That is a political question. https://t.co/u9rXqdPA8m

May 29, 2020

Reicher, of the University of St Andrews, said he believes the saga “will undermine leadership at a time when we desperately need good leadership”.

Stephen Reicher
(@ReicherStephen)

Cummings may stay, but he stays at a cost:

to trust in Government

to the influence of Government.

It will undermine leadership at a time when we desperatley need good leadership.

And if the PM thinks that is a price worth paying, it diminishes him still further as a leader.

May 28, 2020

Updated

George Eustice’s interview with Nick Robinson on BBC Radio 4 Today was beset with technical difficulties but here’s a run through.

On Dominic Cummings, he said the prime minister’s aide had given a “very fair and detailed” explanation and that “it’s been dealt with and we need to move on”. He said he had received “probably over a hundred” emails from constituents about Cummings’ behaviour.

Asked whether the government was easing lockdown measures too early, the environment secretary said they were being very “cautious” and lifting restrictions “tentatively” in the knowledge that transmission rates outdoors are “very, very low”.

He was questioned about Boris Johnson telling people in England they can have BBQs with up to six people from Monday. Was it practical to expect people to gather in their friends’ or families’ gardens for BBQs and expect them to fully clean the bathroom once they have been to the toilet, especially after a couple of drinks?

Eustice said:


That’s absolutely a fair point and we just need people to be pragmatic and sensible in their approach to this. We recognise that people want to see friends and family again – that’s why we said they can come together in environments if there’s no more than six of them.

“But look, it’s up to you, somebody wants to go in to use a toilet or whatever, then they’re going to do that and they just need to take precautions – use hand sanitiser, wash things down and be cautious.

Updated

The environment secretary, George Eustice, has said he does not know how many people were contacted as part of the new NHS test and trace scheme on Thursday.

He told BBC Breakfast: “I don’t know that figure, I don’t have that figure to hand.”

Asked about the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser not being permitted to answer questions about Dominic Cummings during the Downing Street press briefing on Thursday, Eustice said:


I think all the prime minister was really trying to do is to protect people who are there to give a scientific opinion and a medical opinion from what has been a bit of a political row over the last week where they need not get involved.

Updated

Attorney general should apologise for Cummings tweet, say Labour

The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, has called on the attorney general, Suella Braverman, to apologise for intervening in the Dominic Cummings case.

Asked whether Cummings broke the law during his trip to Durham during lockdown, Thomas-Symonds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The guidelines that were set up, he broke them.” He added:


Look I can’t comment precisely on the communication between the attorney general and Durham police but what I can say for certain is this: the attorney general was wrong to be out making public statements about an individual case before even the police had made a public statement, and particularly given her role as superintendent of the Crown Prosecution Service.

She shouldn’t have been commenting on an individual case in those circumstances, that is to misunderstand the role of the attorney general – to give unvarnished advice to government without fear or favour – and at the bare minimum she should apologise for that.

It follows Braverman’s tweet on 23 May: “Protecting one’s family is what any good parent does. The 10DowningStreet statement clarifies the situation and it is wholly inappropriate to politicise it.”

As the government’s chief legal adviser, part of the attorney general’s role is to oversee the CPS which could have been asked to review Cummings’ case had it been requested to do so. Her tweet, therefore, could be perceived as placing prosecutors under undue influence over any decision they had to make.

Britain’s attorney general Suella Braverman arriving in Downing Street recently.

Britain’s attorney general Suella Braverman arriving in Downing Street recently. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Updated

The row over Dominic Cummingslockdown trips is continuing, despite Boris Johnson saying at the daily Downing Street briefing last night that he intended to “draw a line” under the saga.

Ninety-nine of his own MPs have now called for Cummings to be sacked, demanded an apology or otherwise criticised his conduct. The Daily Mail reports today that Cummings is considering quitting No 10 later this year now that the UK is finally cutting ties with the EU.

Most of today’s front pages carry the news that friends and family in England will be able to meet outdoors in groups of six from Monday. From today people from two different households in Scotland can meet outdoors, two metres apart, after 66 days of full lockdown.

Coronavirus UK live: Rishi Sunak to announce tapering of furlough scheme 1Helena Wilkinson
(@BBCHelena)

Friday’s Guardian: PM stands by adviser after police say he may have breached rules #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/jwWxvIvL2x

May 28, 2020

Coronavirus UK live: Rishi Sunak to announce tapering of furlough scheme 2Helena Wilkinson
(@BBCHelena)

Friday’s Daily Mirror: FAMILIES REUNITED #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/xzlnGqGtP6

May 28, 2020

Coronavirus UK live: Rishi Sunak to announce tapering of furlough scheme 3Helena Wilkinson
(@BBCHelena)

Friday’s Daily Mail: It’s happy Monday! #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/61AxAAd5hW

May 28, 2020

Coronavirus UK live: Rishi Sunak to announce tapering of furlough scheme 4Helena Wilkinson
(@BBCHelena)

Friday’s Sun: Back of the net! #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/fPbn6oWjnh

May 28, 2020

Updated

Please do to get in touch with me to share news tips or suggestions about our future coverage. We hugely value your contributions. You can find me below:

Twitter: @JoshHalliday (DMs open)

Email: josh.halliday@theguardian.com

Updated

The environment secretary, George Eustice, is fielding questions on behalf of the government this morning.

As the Dominic Cummings row enters its seventh day, Eustice tells Sky News he doesn’t think the controversy “should affect at all people’s approach” to the lockdown

SkyNews
(@SkyNews)

‘I don’t think what Dominic Cummings did should affect people’s approach to the lockdown.’

George Eustice says people need to ‘exercise judgement’ as the govt eases lockdown restrictions in England.

Get the latest on the lockdown: https://t.co/hf8V1MkJma #Breakfast pic.twitter.com/mgt86VKgAw

May 29, 2020

Asked about the furlough scheme, Eustice said the Treasury could not subsidise people’s wages “indefinitely”. He added:


Now I don’t know what Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, will say later in terms of self-employed and the furlough scheme for them, but I think there is a general overarching message here that we’ve had a very generous furlough scheme in place to help people through these extraordinary times and to ensure that businesses’ overheads could be covered.

Eustice also confirmed that pubs with beer gardens are likely to be the first venues in the hospitality sector to reopen. Alas, he did not set a date.

Updated

Welcome

Good morning and welcome to the Guardian’s UK liveblog on the coronavirus pandemic. This is Josh Halliday in Manchester to steer you through the news.

Later today the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will announce that employers will have to pay a fifth of the wages of furloughed staff, and national insurance and pension contributions, from August as the state subsidy scheme is wound down.

Employers have furloughed 8.4 million workers and claimed up to 80% of their wages, to a maximum £2,500 a month. Figures earlier this week revealed that the cost has reached £15bn while a separate scheme to support self-employed workers has cost almost £7bn.

Leading our site this morning is Robert Booth’s exclusive report that officials at Public Health England proposed a radical lockdown of care homes last month to stem surging deaths – but it was rejected by the government.

The officials submitted an 11-point plan proposing a “further lockdown of care homes” on 28 April, which included staff moving in for four weeks and deploying NHS Nightingale hospitals. However, neither of the proposals were included in a subsequent action plan announced by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, last week.

Updated

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