Good morning. Last night No 10 sent out a short press release with the title “CSA and CMO to give coronavirus data briefing.” In Whitehall it is often the case that the blander the title, the more significant the announcement, and today’s should be very important indeed. CSA is the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and CMO is the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty (also the UK government’s chief medical adviser), and they are going to tell the nation how serious they think the risk is from the recent rise in coronavirus cases.
According to the news release, Whitty will say:
The trend in UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic.
We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.
Whitty and Vallance are speaking ahead of an announcement expected soon, possibly tomorrow, about further measures being imposed to counter the spread of coronavirus. But Boris Johnson will not be joining them, and it appears that, although ministers have been discussing what new measures might be imposed – nationally as well as locally – no final decisions have yet been taken.
How bad could it get? The Times splash (paywall) today, attributing its information to an unnamed senior government figure, starts: “Britain faces a further six months of ‘very difficult’ lockdown restrictions, Downing Street has warned.” No 10 has been playing this down, but it’s worth remembering that right at the start of the first lockdown government scientists were stressing that it was unlikely to be a one-off. This is what SPI-M-O, the scientific pandemic influenza group on modelling, a sub-committee of the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), said in a statement (pdf) on 16 March, the day soft lockdown measures were announced:
It was agreed that a policy of alternating between periods of more and less strict social distancing measures could plausibly be effective at keeping the number of critical care cases within capacity. These would need to be in place for at least most of a year. Under such as policy, at least half of the year would be spent under the stricter social distancing measures.
The Imperial College paper (pdf) published the same day (the one that persuaded Johnson to commit to the lockdown) included this graph showing one possible scenario for the future involving restrictions being imposed, then lifted, then imposed again (as cases increased), running until the end of 2021.
Here is the agenda for the day.
10.35am: Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, delivers a speech to Labour’s online conference. As my colleague Heather Stewart reports, Dodds will accuse the Conservatives of wasting billions of pounds of public money through botched outsourcing and poorly-designed job schemes.
11am: Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, hold a briefing.
12pm: Downing Street is due to hold its lobby briefing.
12.15pm: The Scottish government is due to hold its daily coronavirus briefing.
3.30pm: Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is expected to give a Commons statement on coronavirus.
4pm: Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, delivers a speech to Labour’s online conference.
After 4.30pm: MPs debate amendments to the internal market bill.
Politics Live has been doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog for some time and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and where they seem more important and interesting, they will take precedence.
Here is our global coronavirus live blog.
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