Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government can typically find a safe space in the digital and print editions of many of the most popular British newspapers.
But some of the UK government’s biggest cheerleaders are now tearing into it over its response to the coronavirus pandemic, slamming confusing and conflicting messaging from senior members of Johnson’s cabinet.
In the crosshairs: The government’s daily press conferences and the lack of a clearly articulated plan for boosting coronavirus testing capabilities. Only 2,000 frontline health care workers have so far been tested.
While the daily Downing Street briefings were initially conducted with reporters in person, they’ve been held virtually for more than a week because of strict social-distancing rules. Reporters have to take part via video chat, making it harder for them to interrupt or challenge government ministers with followup questions.
Most striking is ferocious criticism from The Telegraph, a supporter of the Conservative Party, Johnson’s former employer and the one newspaper he could normally rely on to boost his government no matter the situation.
Telegraph political columnist Michael Deacon has turned his fire on the ministers now routinely handling the press conferences since Johnson was forced into self isolation last Friday after he tested positive for coronavirus. Deacon’s column on Wednesday called the briefings “pathetic” and “a complete waste of time.”
“People need clarity and candor. This evening, all they got was 24 minutes of the most pitiful, dispiriting waffle,” he wrote of the most recent press conference, lead by Business Secretary Alok Sharma.
The front page of Thursday’s Telegraph was no kinder. Under a banner headline “Questions without answers” atop of a photo of Sharma, the Telegraph excoriated the government for being “unable to answer basic questions” about increasing testing capabilities.
Citing former health ministers and medical experts calling the government’s handling “ridiculous,” the paper said the government was releasing scant details on a five-point plan to tackle the testing crisis.
Andrew Neil, chairman of the Spectator, another Conservative-leaning publication, called the press conference on Wednesday “particularly uninformative,” with “far too much waffle and obfuscation.”
The Daily Mail, also a Conservative-booster, lambasted the government in its own blaring cover story, saying “Mail demands ministers FIX TESTING FIASCO NOW.”
“By a country mile, the greatest misstep of this government in cracking the virus has been the shambles over mass testing,” the paper’s editorial board wrote. “Mr. Johnson says he is exasperated by the slow progress. Welcome to how the rest of the nation feels!”
Opposition party officials have even taken to citing the Mail, not a typical ally, in a clear sign the government’s communication strategy is failing.
Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s top spokesperson on legal affairs, called for the government to be more transparent and clear in its communications.
“What the Daily Mail is now calling the testing scandal or shambles is an example of a lack of both clarity of what the plan is and how it is going to be executed,” she told BBC radio.
U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.
NHS VOLUNTEERS TO START BEGIN WORK TUESDAY
Hundreds of thousands of NHS Volunteer Responders will tomorrow be able to ‘report for duty’ to relieve pressure on the NHS.
Thousands of volunteers will be sent tasks Tuesday via an app, the tasks are posted by health professionals, pharmacists and local authorities.
Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive at Royal Voluntary Service said:
“During the coming weeks and months they will be called upon to help those who are vulnerable and at risk who are self-isolating for their own protection. Not only will this help to relieve pressure on the NHS – but it will also save lives.”
Volunteers will be carrying out tasks to aid 2.5 million at risk people by;
· delivering medicines from pharmacies
· driving patients to appointments
· bringing them home from hospital
· making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home
· transporting medical supplies and equipment for the NHS
The Duchess of Cornwall, President of the Royal Voluntary Service thanked the 750,000 people who signed up to volunteer;
“As the proud President of the Royal Voluntary Service, I wanted to send my warmest thanks to all the NHS Volunteer Responders who have come forward in unprecedented numbers to offer help to the NHS..”
She also thanked NHS workers;
“Everyone working in the NHS is under unimaginable pressure day and night in this crisis. I feel sure that the presence of so many wonderful volunteers will encourage, as well as support, them. I salute each one of you – and thank you with all my heart.”
The Duchess of Cornwall also did a ‘check in and chat’ call with Doris Winfiele, 85 from Hertfordshire. Doris who lives alone and has been self-isolating for the last two weeks said:
“Having a chat with HRH The Duchess of Cornwall meant the world to me. I’ve been incredibly lonely over the last couple of weeks and it was wonderful to talk to her. We talked about life in isolation and shared hobbies, she was very interested in my family and how I was coping without them. It’s really cheered me up!”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson in intensive care
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for tests, Downing Street has said.
Prime Minister Johnson has had coronavirus for ten days and continued to have persistent symptoms, including a high temperature.
A Downing Street spokesperson said:
“On the advice of his doctor, the Prime Minister has tonight been admitted to hospital for tests.
“This is a precautionary step, as the Prime Minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus ten days after testing positive for the virus.
“The Prime Minister thanks NHS staff for all of their incredible hard work and urges the public to continue to follow the Government’s advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
Buckingham Palace says the Queen is being ‘kept informed’ by No10 on the Prime Minister’s condition.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock
https://twitter.com/MattHancock/status/1247259244182806528?s=20Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Labour Leader Keir Starmer
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon
Mayor Of London Sadiq Khan
Ivanka Trump, Daughter Of President Trump
My thoughts and prayers are with @BorisJohnson and his family.— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) April 6, 2020
Godspeed Mr. Prime Minister!
Former Prime Minister Theresea May
My thoughts and prayers are with @BorisJohnson and his family as he continues to receive treatment in hospital.— Theresa May (@theresa_may) April 6, 2020
This horrific virus does not discriminate. Anyone can get it. Anyone can spread it. Please #StayHomeSaveLives
Former Prime Minister David Cameron
President of France Emmanuel Macron
Leader Of The Brexit Party Nigel Farage