And so it begins…
One-size-fits-all approach to jobs is failing – minister
Shadow Welsh Secretary Nia Griffith called on ministers to accept that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to the jobs crisis is “simply not working”.
She told Welsh Secretary Simon Hart: “There is now barely a month to go before his Government’s job protection schemes end, leaving thousands of self-employed people and others at risk of unemployment. And it’s not just Labour saying that – businesses, trade unions and the Treasury Select Committee have all sounded the alarm.
“So will the Government accept that a one-size-fits-all approach to this jobs crisis is simply not working? Will he now come forward with some concrete proposals and a real plan to safeguard jobs for people right across Wales?”
Mr Hart responded: “A third of the workforce of Wales has been supported by the UK Government during the pandemic. It’s gone further and deeper than any other government pretty well in the world.
“VAT deferrals, mortgage holidays, rental support, increases to Universal Credit, the relaxation of minimum income, VAT reduction. This is not a one-size-fits-all arrangement, this is a whole package of measures which are designed to help as many people as possible stay in work and get back to work just as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
Spotted: The PM heads to today’s session in the Commons
This will come as a major blow to the capital’s hospitality sector…
With the epidemic expected to hit the city with far greater force in coming weeks, Professor Kevin Fenton, London director of Public Health England, made clear that more restrictions may be imposed, including some possibly across the capital, to avoid a more stringent lockdown.
In an exclusive interview with the Evening Standard, he also issued an urgent appeal to Londoners, hailing them for their “phenomenal” efforts in crushing the first wave and urging them to “do it again” now.
More from BA’s chief executive:
On the issue of coronavirus testing at airports as a way of reducing quarantine requirements, Alex Cruz said: “It is incredibly important that we reach a testing regime of some sort as quickly as possible, so that we can reduce that quarantine time to the minimum possible.
“We are making a suggestion that we actually run a test between London and New York, so we can give authorities on both sides of the Atlantic an opportunity to test different ways in which a particular testing regime would actually work.
“This is imperative, so that we can drive the confidence of travellers so we can get business going again.”
He went on: “We’re sitting here, we’re ready to go.
“We need some testing regime that will minimise the quarantine process so again we can get people travelling.
“With the current quarantine process of two weeks, unfortunately we are not having sufficient travellers wanting to do either business or wanting to go on holiday.”
The airline is suffering the ‘worst crisis’ in its history:
Spotted: Health Secretary Matt Hancock outside Number 10 ahead of today’s session in the Commons
Russia is to supply India with 100 million doses of its Sputnik-V vaccine against Covid-19 once it receives regulatory approval in the country.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said it had agreed to cooperate on clinical trials and the distribution of the vaccine with the India’s Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories.
Here’s a round-up of this morning’s media round with Robert Buckland:
One of the UK’s biggest package holiday operators has agreed to pay out all refunds to customers who saw their trips cancelled due to coronavirus.
Tui vowed to make the payments by the end of the month – after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) revealed it had received thousands of complaints from passengers claiming travel firms were withholding their cash.
The competition watchdog pointed out that consumer protection law requires refunds within 14 days. Lockdown in the UK was first announced in March.
Companies have struggled to return cash to customers, with many spending the money to cover overheads and pay down loans in a debt-heavy sector.
The CMA said Tui’s UK division has engaged constructively throughout the investigation.
It added: “While the vast majority of people have already received their refunds or rebooked during the CMA’s investigation, any outstanding refund requests for people who had their package holiday cancelled as a result of coronavirus (Covid-19) will be paid by 30 September 2020.”
During the height of the pandemic, the CMA revealed four out of five complaints it received related to cancelled holidays and trips – with many complaining that travel firms were automatically offering vouchers instead of cash.
It said on the Tui decision: “It is important they (customers) know they are entitled to a cash refund as an alternative.”
Its commitments apply to all of Tui UK’s different businesses that offer package holidays, including First Choice, First Choice Holidays, Marella Cruises, Crystal Ski, Crystal, Tui Scene, Tui Lakes & Mountains and Skytours, the CMA added.
A glimmer of hope for jobseekers here:
A man who applied for more than 200 jobs has secured a new role after finding a creative way to stand out from the crowd.
Richard Stevens, 54, from Hertfordshire, was made redundant last year after three decades working in the medical devices sector.
After weeks of fruitless job hunting, he wanted to encourage interviewers to look beyond the qualifications on his CV.
Testing crisis could shut schools, heads warn
Boris Johnson must “take charge” of delays in obtaining Covid-19 tests to ensure schools remain open, organisations representing headteachers and governors have said.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), school leaders’ union NAHT and the National Governance Association have written to the Prime Minister to express concern about difficulties with the testing system.
The letter warns of a “deep sense of foreboding about the potential for the system to become ever-more riddled with delays as more cases emerge”.
“This would be increasingly disruptive to children’s education and make staffing unsustainable,” it adds.
ASCL said it has received 264 emails on the test and trace system from schools and colleges which said they had symptomatic staff and/or pupils who were struggling to access tests.
The letter says: “Schools are left in a position of either leaving close contacts of the infected person in school while they wait for guidance, or making a public health call themselves and deciding on who to send home.”
It adds: “Our purpose in writing is to implore you to personally take charge of this situation in the interests of keeping our schools and colleges open, and protecting pupils and staff.”
Testing is logistical nightmare, Lab worker suggests
Dr Mike Skinner, who volunteered to work in a Lighthouse Laboratory dealing with Covid-19 tests, said half the work was involved in sorting the logistics of handling the samples.
The reader in virology at Imperial College London told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the lab, when the testing was upscaled back in March, you really had to get all kinds of sample kits from lots of different producers, there were lots of difficulties in that.
“We had to put half of our staff into handling issues with barcoding, leaks – we actually had to remove the swabs from the tubes so they didn’t gum-up some of the robots down the line.”
He added: “It really is very much about logistics.”
Christmas won’t be cancelled, minister insists
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland denied that the “rule of six” would effectively cancel Christmas, following criticisms from a source close to the Archbishop of Canterbury about the social restrictions imposed this week to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Cabinet minister said: “Archbishop Justin (Welby) makes an important contribution to this debate and he is right to point to the huge spiritual and social significance of Christmas.
“I don’t think any of us in Government want to be Oliver Cromwell-esque about this – we want to see families celebrate Christmas in a safe and happy way and we want to see our churches and indeed our other places of worship joining in that celebration.”
Mr Buckland added: “We are not going to cancel Christmas but the ‘rule of six’ is something that is clear and important and I do think we’ve committed to that and we need to stick to it.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on ministers to stop controlling people’s freedoms from Westminster, saying instead they should “only do centrally what must be done centrally”.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said the Government had “determined the daily details of our lives” during the coronavirus lockdown in a way “few of us have experienced”, as he argued instead for localism.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph alongside Bishop of London Dame Sarah Mullally, the archbishop said: “It makes sense to look instinctively for central direction in such an acute crisis, and we’re indebted to the roles many played in doing so, especially those who organised the NHS to cope with the increased demand.
“Within the Church there are lessons to be learnt about the role and importance of central guidance and its crucial interplay with government rules that exist for the benefit of all.
“But with a vaccine still far from certain, infection rates rising and winter on the horizon, the new normal of living with Covid-19 will only be sustainable – or even endurable – if we challenge our addiction to centralisation and go back to an age-old principle: only do centrally what must be done centrally.”
The Telegraph quoted a source close to Mr Welby as saying he was “deeply concerned about Christmas and the impact of the ‘rule of six’ on the vulnerable, the needy, the poor and the elderly”.
“He is concerned about families being kept apart and the knock-on effect that has, particularly on people who are on their own,” the source said.
The “rule of six” – banning gatherings of more than six people indoors and outdoors – came into force on Monday.
This graphic shows the spread of the pandemic since the start of the year:
This graphic shows how cases have begun to creep up in the UK since May: