Seven in 10 say people should be able to REFUSE to go back to work

Coronaphobic Britain: Seven in 10 say people should be able to REFUSE to go back to work even when lockdown eases – and 63% insist parents should NOT be fined if they keep children off school

  • Boris Johnson will unveil the UK’s coronavirus exit strategy with ‘easements’ to lockdown on Sunday night  
  • Poll for MailOnline finds public resistance could be one of main obstacles to getting country up and running 
  • Nearly two-thirds believe that ending lockdown too early is a bigger concern then immediate GDP meltdown 
  • The easing of measures is expected to follow a five-step roadmap with lockdown lifted entirely in the Autumn 
  • Monday is expected see garden centres reopen and workers return to businesses that have remained open 
  • However, plans may change if the UK is hit with a deadly second wave of the virus after restrictions are eased 
  • UK official death toll now over 30,000 – highest in Europe – but trends suggest that number could be higher
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Coronaphobia could end up thwarting Boris Johnson’s efforts to ease lockdown – as a poll today suggested the public fears the virus far more than immediate economic meltdown.

Exclusive research for MailOnline shows 62 per cent are more worried about the effects of the draconian curbs ending too early, while 38 per cent say their main concern is the havoc they are wreaking on the economy now. 

Around seven in 10 believe bus and train drivers, teachers, and medical staff should have the right to refuse to go back to work, even if the government says it is safe.

Some 60 per cent say the state should keep covering a proportion of people’s wages even if in theory they should be able to resume their jobs.

Nearly half say they could even support strike action if people are ordered to get back to work.

Two third also reject the idea that parents who refuse to send their children to school over coronavirus fears should face truancy fines. 

The extraordinary findings, in new polling by Redfield and Wilton Strategies, comes as Boris Johnson prepares to take the first steps towards loosening the restrictions.

The shape of the ‘new reality’ Britons face is starting to emerge, with the ‘stay at home’ mantra expected to be ditched, curbs on outdoor activities eased and businesses encouraged to find ways to get back up and running amid social distancing rules.  

But Mr Johnson is due to announce an ‘exit strategy’ on Sunday laying out immediate ‘easements’ to the misery of combating the deadly disease.

The gravity of the situation the UK faces was underlined today as the Bank of England warned GDP will plunge nearly 30 per cent over the first half of this year, and unemployment could hit 9 per cent.

The overall 14 per cent slump estimated for 2020 would wipe around £300billion off output and represent the worst recession for more than 300 years. Extraordinarily, former chancellor Alistair Darling warned this morning that the Bank might have been too optimistic. 

In other breakneck developments in the coronavirus crisis today:

  • The UK today announced a further 539 coronavirus victims, as the official death toll rose to 30,615; 
  • The PM will address the nation to announce plans for the next phase of lockdown at 7pm on Sunday night;
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the Downing Street briefing tonight that the approach will involve setting ‘milestones’ when measures can be eased;  
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £32million funding injection so doctors and chemists can stay open over the May bank holiday tomorrow; 
  • Ministers are facing demands to get a refund on PPE equipment they boasted about sourcing from Turkey after it emerged it has failed safety standards; 
  • Ministers have blamed the dramatic fall in daily tests from 122,000 to 69,000 on a ‘technical issue’, despite complaints that the figures were manipulated to make it look as it Matt Hancock’s target was hit last week; 
  • Being obese may double the risk of needing hospital treatment for the coronavirus, according to a major study. 

In a poll for MailOnline, nearly two thirds rejected the idea that parents who refuse to send their children to school over coronavirus fears should face truancy fines

More than three quarters said they would be behind bus drivers who made the ‘personal decision’ to stay off because of safety fears, with just 16 per cent saying they would not support them

Exclusive research for MailOnline shows 62 per cent are more worried about the effects of the draconian curbs ending too early, while 38 per cent say their main concern is the havoc they are wreaking on the economy now

Six in 10 thought the government should continue to subsidise some of the wages of workers who declined to go back, against just 24 per cent who said they would not favour such a move

Boris Johnson made his return to PMQs in the House of Commons on Wednesday after a six week absence. He conceded that the UK’s coronavirus death toll is ‘appalling’ but is set to push ahead with the easing of lockdown restrictions

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took an axe to the UK’s united front on coronavirus as she insisted there can be no loosening at all for at least another week – and suggested it will be largely unchanged in Scotland for the rest of the month

A Cabinet minister blamed a massive slump in coronavirus testing in the last few days on ‘a bit of an issue at the labs’ today amid mounting criticism of falling numbers.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said ‘a technical issue’ was behind a 43 per cent fall in completed daily tests between last Thursday and yesterday.

His comments came after it was revealed last night that 69,463 took place in the 24 hours to 9am that day, raising concerns over the progress of the testing regime.

The figure is just 57 per cent of the 122,327 tests that Matt Hancock boasted had been carried out on Thursday to meet his pledge of 100,000 tests conducted per day by the end of April. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned this morning that the lockdown should not be lifted until ‘many, many more tests’ could be done.

Mr Lewis told Sky News today: ‘There has been a bit of an issue at the labs, there’s been a technical issue. 

‘That’s not surprising with a completely new test and a new diagnostics system we’ve put in place. 

‘But that technical issue is now dealt with so we’ll see that capacity and demand levels coming up.

‘But the capacity has remained over demand and above 100,000.’

Ministers have hailed increased testing as vital for allowing the lockdown to be eased from next week and kick-start the economy. 

While the capacity for testing remains above 100,000 per day there is mounting pressure on the disparity between the capacity and the number actually completed.

Dominic Raab tonight announced there is ‘no change’ to lockdown rules yet – but confirmed Boris Johnson will unveil the country’s exit strategy on Sunday.

The Foreign Secretary said the restrictions will not be loosened yet, and urged Britons not to take advantage of sunny weather forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend.

But he risked confusing the situation by saying the PM will spell out ‘milestones’ that will permit moves to loosen the draconian curbs in an address to the nation on Sunday.  

He told the daily Downing Street press briefing that initial changes will be ‘modest’ and ‘incremental’ – and could be reversed if the disease starts to flare up again. 

‘The virus is not beaten yet, it remains deadly and infectious,’ Mr Raab said.  ‘This weekend the Prime Minister will set out the next steps which we can responsibly take over the following weeks, guided by the scientific advice and mindful – as we said right from the word go – of taking the right decisions at the right time.

‘Now we can start setting out how we will live and work whilst maintaining the necessary social distancing rules, we can also be clear about those measures which are still necessary to prevent a second peak.’  

Mr Raab said the rate of infection – the R value – was between 0.5 and 0.9 and the number of new coronavirus cases and daily death toll were both ‘steadily falling’. 

Earlier, Nicola Sturgeon laid into Mr Johnson over plans to loosen the shackles, warning that ditching ‘stay at home’ guidance at this point would be ‘catastrophic’. 

The First Minister took an axe to the UK’s united front on coronavirus as she insisted there can be no loosening at all for at least another week – and suggesting it will be largely unchanged in Scotland for the rest of the month. 

The PM is expected to set out the next phase of the response to the crisis in an address to the nation on Sunday night. He said yesterday that ‘easements’ will be outlined to the restrictions.  

Meanwhile, Labour’s  Keir Starmer has suggested lockdown must stay in place until testing capacity is much higher – after daily numbers slumped below 100,000 again. He said a track and trace regime was critical for controlling the outbreak, and ‘if that’s going to happen the planning needs to go in now because we need many many more tests than we’ve got already’.

The stay at home message will be replaced with a ‘be careful when you’re out’ mantra, according to one Cabinet minister, who added that the easing of lockdown will be based on how much each step of the plan affects the rate of infection – or R. 

Sunak hands GPs and chemists £32m to open on Bank Holiday 

Rishi Sunak is handing £32million to GPs and chemists to ensure they open on bank holiday tomorrow. 

The Chancellor, himself the son of a doctor and pharmacist, has announced that practices will be reimbursed for treating it as a normal working day.

Community pharmacies will be directed to open from 2-5pm. 

Mr Sunak said: ‘Growing up, working in my parent’s pharmacy in school holidays, I saw how much the local community depended on them in times of need.

‘GPs and pharmacies are providing a vital service to patients across the country during this unprecedented outbreak – which is why we ensuring they can remain open on the Bank Holiday.

‘I want to thank doctors and pharmacists for all their hard work fighting coronavirus – we are so grateful to them.’ 

The government is thought to have drawn up a draft 50-page blueprint to gradually ease lockown in staggered steps between now and October. 

This blueprint is expected to lead to a five step roadmap to see Britain leave lockdown completely by Autumn – but an ’emergency brake’ could be applied if a second wave of the deadly virus arrives.

But Ms Sturgeon insisted she would ‘not be pressurised’ into lifting measures prematurely, and would act in the best interests of Scotland. 

Ms Sturgeon said: ‘The decisions we take now are a matter of life and death and that is why they weigh so heavily.’

She said lockdown restrictions will not be formally reviewed again for three weeks, although she stressed changes were possible before then.

She suggested no changes at all will be possible for at least another week. 

‘In particular I want to see what our estimates of cases and the R number look like a week from now,’ she said.     

She said ‘media reports’ over the easing of lockdown measures have not been discussed with the Scottish Government but a call with the devolved nations will take place later today.

‘I will not be pressured into lifting measures prematurely,’ she said, adding that she strongly believes that to drop the ‘clear, well understood’ stay at home message could be a ‘potentially catastrophic mistake’.  

In a round of interview this morning, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis frantically tried to play down expectations on the scale of the easing, saying ‘although we believe we are through the peak of this virus we are very cautious to ensure that we don’t get a second peak’. 

UK faces worst recession in 300 years, warns Bank of England 

UK GDP will slump by 14 per cent this year as coronavirus inflicts the worst recession for three centuries, the Bank of England warned today.

In a grim assessment, the Bank said the economy could shrink by nearly 30 per cent in the first half of this year before recovering some ground.

But the impact of the deadly disease will continue to be felt long afterwards. Unemployment could hit 9 per cent before falling back again. 

The overall 14 per cent fall in output estimated for 2020 would be the biggest recession for more than 300 years. 

The Bank says it believes there was a 3 per cent contraction in the first quarter, and sees GDP plummeting by an incredible 25 per cent in the current three month period, before finally clawing back some ground. 

Announcing that interest rates have been kept on hold at a record low of 0.1 per cent, Governor Andrew Bailey said it was acting to ease the effects as much as possible and tried to strike a more optimistic tone by saying there would be limited economic ‘scarring’.  

But in another bleak sign this morning, former Chancellor Alistair Darling warned that the Bank might be too optimistic about the prospects for a quick recovery. 

The poll, carried out online yesterday as part of the Global Health and Governance Opinion project, suggests public resistance will be a major obstacle for the government in the coming weeks and months.

Some 62 per cent said they were most worried about the lockdown being relaxed ‘too quickly’, while 38 per cent said their biggest concern was about the economic impact of the curbs lasting ‘too much longer’. 

Even if the government loosened lockdown in line with scientific advice, there was strong support for workers being able to refuse to go back.

More than three quarters said they would be behind bus drivers who made the ‘personal decision’ to stay off because of safety fears, with just 16 per cent saying they would not support them.

The poll found the same for train and Tube drivers by a margin of 69 per cent to 22 per cent, while for teachers it was 71 per cent to 21 per cent. The figure for both doctors and nurses was 73 per cent to 19 per cent.

Six in 10 thought the government should continue to subsidise some of the wages of workers who declined to go back, against just 24 per cent who said they would not favour such a move.

The public was more split over whether people should go on strike if they are told to resume work, with 45 per saying they would endorse the step and 38 per cent against.

Nearly two-third said parents fearing coronavirus should not be punished for refusing to send their children to school when they reopen, against 26 per cent who thought truancy fines would be fair. 

Boris Johnson will not announce the ‘exit strategy’ – which is expected to include a five-point plan for easing lockdown – until Sunday

The Prime Minister will host a Cobra emergency meeting with leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on Sunday in the hope of agreeing a UK-wide approach. 

He is pushing ahead despite admitting the UK’s official death toll, which surpassed 30,000 yesterday and is the worst in Europe, is ‘appalling’.   

Mr Johnson said in the Commons yesterday: ‘We have to be sure the data is going to support our ability to do this. 

‘That data is coming in continuously over the next few days. We want, if we possibly can, to get going with some of these measures on Monday.

‘It would be a good thing if the people had an idea of what’s coming the following day, that’s why Sunday, the weekend, is the best time to do it.’   

The Bank of England today warned that GDP will slump by 14 per cent this year as coronavirus inflicts the worst recession for three centuries.

In a grim assessment, the Bank said the economy could shrink by nearly 30 per cent in the first half of this year before recovering some ground.

But the impact of the deadly disease will continue to be felt long afterwards. Unemployment could hit 9 per cent before falling back again. 

The overall 14 per cent fall in output estimated for 2020 would be the biggest recession for more than 300 years. 

The Bank says it believes there was a 3 per cent contraction in the first quarter, and sees GDP plummeting by an incredible 25 per cent in the current three month period, before finally clawing back some ground. 

Announcing that interest rates have been kept on hold at a record low of 0.1 per cent, Governor Andrew Bailey said it was acting to ease the effects as much as possible and tried to strike a more optimistic tone by saying there would be limited economic ‘scarring’.  

The Bank of England today estimated a 14 per cent fall in GDP for 2020 – which would be the biggest recession for 300 years

Unemployment could hit 9 per cent before falling back again, according to the Bank of England

In its latest assessment, the Bank said the economy will shrink by nearly 30 per cent in the first half of this year before recovering some ground

But in another bleak sign this morning, former Chancellor Alistair Darling warned that the Bank might be too optimistic about the prospects for a quick recovery. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord Darling said: ‘I think the Government has to be flexible about the furlough plan because if you’re going to get people to go back to work I think it is highly unlikely they are all going to go back to work on day one.

‘We need to have flexibility so people can go onto short-time work and be gradually reintroduced to their jobs.

‘But can I also make another point which I think is important – I hope like everybody else that many jobs come back and people go back to work, but I think we must plan on the basis that some jobs will not come back, at least they won’t come back at anything like an acceptable rate.

‘And that means the Government has also got to announce a plan for jobs.’ 

Lord Darling added: ‘What I do think is the Government’s furlough scheme was a very good scheme, it was just what was needed, but it needs to be adapted now.

‘But we have to accept the fact that it will take time for people to go back to work and the economy is not just going to open up like that.

‘I have my doubts about what the Bank of England are saying today about that – it is going to take time.’

In a round of interviews this morning, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the figures showed the UK faced a ‘very difficult time’. 

‘This is going to be a very difficult time for our country, it is a difficult time for countries around the world,’ he said.

‘And that is why it is important that, as we start to look at what the other side of the virus might be, one of the key things for us will be looking at how we can safely ensure that people can start to get back to work so that our economy will have a chance to blossom and grow again in the future and as quickly as possible once we’re the other side of this virus.’ 

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