Top story: PM to address Commons and nation
Good morning and welcome to this Monday briefing with me, Alison Rourke.
Downing Street says the country is at a “critical juncture” in managing Covid-19 as Boris Johnson prepares to lay out a new three-tier alert system for England. After a Cobra meeting this morning which will determine the final plan, Johnson will address parliament and then appear on TV tonight alongside the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty. “This is a critical juncture and it is absolutely vital that everyone follows the clear guidance we have set out to help contain the virus,” a spokesman for No 10 said. The plan is expected to include areas with relatively low infection levels being placed in what is being described as tier 1, where only national restrictions such as the rule of six, the 10pm curfew on restaurants and pubs, and existing rules on masks and social distancing will apply. The next tier is likely to include bans on home visits and indoor socialising with other households in bars or restaurants. In areas under the toughest tier 3 restrictions – including Merseyside, Manchester and Newcastle – bars and pubs are expected to be forced to close. Late last night, the metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region and six other local leaders said in a statement their area was expected to face the toughest restrictions. Restaurants in tier 3 councils were expected to be allowed to stay open until 10pm, but casinos, gyms and betting shops will have to close. However, government sources have reportedly disputed that restaurants would be allowed to remain open in Liverpool, and claimed that “nothing has been agreed” until this morning. You can read the details of the tiers here. The plans will be debated on Tuesday, and could be implemented as soon as Wednesday, sources said. Business leaders are preparing to mount a legal challenge to the changes, which they say have “decimated the hospitality industry”. It comes as a survey by the Sustainable Restaurant Association showed 76% of respondents said they would revert to their previous habits of dining out up to four times a month, once restrictions allowed.
‘Immune’ – Donald Trump has said he no longer has Covid ahead of his planned return to the campaign trail today in Florida. He will also hold rallies in key swing states, including Pennsylvania and Iowa, on Tuesday and Wednesday. The president touted his health on Fox News yesterday: “Once you’ve recovered, you’re immune. I am immune … maybe for a short time, maybe for a long time. The president is in very good shape,” he said. Twitter later flagged one of his tweets in which he claimed he was immune. It came amid a row over a Trump campaign advert featuring Dr Anthony Fauci, in which Fauci said “I can’t imagine that … anyone could be doing more”, in reference to Trump’s response to Covid. Fauci said his words had been taken out of context and without his permission, prompting Trump to retort on Twitter: “They are indeed Dr Fauci’s own words.” A majority of Americans do not approve of the president’s handling of the crisis, according to several recent polls. You can stay up to date on this story and on all the global coronavirus developments on our live blog.
School meals – There’s been a surge in the number of children registering for school meals, with an estimated 1 million pupils recently signing up for the first time, food poverty campaigners say. Analysis by the Food Foundation thinktank, released as part of footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end child food poverty, estimates that as many as 900,000 more children have sought free school meals, on top of the 1.4 million who were already claiming, as the Covid-19 crisis plays havoc with family incomes.
Scotland – The son of a banker shot dead on the doorstep of their family home nearly 16 years ago has spoken out for the first time, saying he and his family deserve justice and closure from the unsolved murder. Andrew Wilson, 20, has no memories of his father, Alistair, apart from seeing him at the age of four lying dying on the doorstep of their home in Nairn in the Highlands. “Someone came to our family home on a Sunday evening while my dad was reading my brother and me bedtime stories after our bath,” he said. “The next thing I know I am looking at my dad lying in our doorway covered in blood.” No one has been arrested in connection with the case, which remains under investigation.
Lord Janner – Three weeks of partially closed hearings into the way police, prosecutors, local government and the Labour party dealt with child sexual abuse allegations involving the late MP will start on Monday. In order to protect the identities of those who allege they were assaulted by the former Leicester West MP, most of the evidence sessions will not be live-streamed to the public. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is already carrying out all of its work remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. Short summaries of the hearings will be published.
‘Zombie apocalypse movie’ – A Canadian man held arbitrarily in China was astonished to learn of the scale of the Covid pandemic, his wife said on Sunday. Michael Kovrig said he was “relieved” to get outside news via a virtual diplomatic visit and after months of “extreme isolation”. On Saturday, Canada announced its first contact with him since January. Kovrig and another Canadian, Michael Spavor, have been imprisoned for nearly two years and are facing espionage charges, in what has been seen in some Western capitals as retaliation for the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and daughter of its founder. In a statement, Kovrig’s wife said he was “astonished to learn about the details of the Covid-19 pandemic and remarked that it all sounded like some ‘zombie apocalypse movie’”.
Today in Focus podcast: who is US supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett?
Today is the start of the confirmation process for Amy Coney Barrett, a deeply conservative judge who is Donald Trump’s pick for supreme court judge. Guardian US investigative journalist Stephanie Kirchgaessner has been looking at her career and personal life, including membership to the secretive Catholic group People of Praise, and discusses what her appointment would mean for the US.
Lunchtime read: Piers Morgan: ‘What does Trump smell like?’
Piers Morgan talks to Simon Hattenstone about falling out with Donald Trump, why he’s waging a war on “woke” (“Wokery has been hijacked by extremely illiberal people bordering on fascist – ironically given how much they hate fascism.”), Meghan Markle and his new book Wake Up: Why the World Has Gone Nuts. Hattenstone writes that Morgan may have a planet-sized ego, but unlike Trump (who unfollowed Morgan on Twitter after a piece he wrote in the Mail on Sunday headlined “Shut the f**k up President Trump”), he is not a pathological narcissist. And that is what makes Morgan fascinating: he is self-aware. Morgan says he finds the tone on Twitter upsetting, but declines to get off it: “My problem is I like combative debate with people and I like going after people and I like people coming after me. I thrive off that.” He says he invites people with views he can’t stand on to Good Morning Britain so he can annihilate them. And finally, what does Trump smell like?: “Quite expensive aftershave and not overly done … and a whiff of hairspray.”
Gareth Southgate said his young England side showed they are capable of matching the best in the world after they moved top of their Nations League group thanks to a resilient 2-1 win against Belgium. Novak Djokovic drove Rafael Nadal to almost unprecedented heights of excellence but was powerless to stop his old rival winning his 13th French Open and the 20th major he needed to match the record of their absent friend, Roger Federer. LeBron James posted his 11th career NBA finals triple-double as the LA Lakers doused the Miami Heat to win the team’s first title since 2010, when Kobe Bryant claimed his fifth and final title. Victory at the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in Germany on Sunday means Hamilton has equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 race wins, an achievement that would not even have registered as fantasy when Hamilton began his career in 2007. Shane Sutton, the former technical director of British Cycling, threatened to “finish” Team Sky and the British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman after a series of whistleblowing allegations, Freeman has claimed. Goals from Maren Mjelde, Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby gave Chelsea a 3-1 win over Manchester City but the visitors were angered by the awarding of the penalty against Ellen White for the opener. And Jimmy Gopperth has backed his Wasps teammates to learn the lessons of their defeat the last time they reached the Premiership final.
Britain’s rental market has diverged since reopening after the Covid-19 lockdown, with the number of homes in affluent areas being let increasing, while activity in deprived neighbourhoods has sharply dropped. Research by Hamptons International showed that in 10% of the wealthiest neighbourhoods, the number of homes let between May and September was up by 1.3% on last year. Meanwhile, new instructions rose by 4%. In contrast, in the bottom 10% instructions fell by 17.7% over the year, and the number of homes let was down by 14.8%.
The pound is buying €1.10 and $1.30
Unsurprisingly Covid dominates the front pages. The Guardian leads with “UK at ‘critical point’ ahead of new Covid restrictions”. The Times has Covid tiers split national in three”. The Telegraph splashes on “Johnson calls last orders for the North”. The Express has: “Millions face drastic new shutdown to save the NHS”. The Mail targets the PM with: “No more pain and damage, prime minister”, while the Mirror has a one-word headline: “Petrified”, reporting that 85% of people “fear for jobs and the economy ahead of new rules”. The i leads with “Travel ban ahead for areas in lockdown”. The FT meanwhile splashes with “Brussels draws up digital hit list to curb market power of Big Tech”.
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