The Prime Minister has taken control and instructs Checkers’ ministers to lift the UK out of the coronavirus crisis.
Boris Johnson, who is currently recovering from a retired coronavirus from the country, intends to return before May 11, the date on which the extended lockdown is scheduled to end.
He is believed to have given orders to the First Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, who replaces him in public, as well as to senior assistants through a series of calls.
Friday, Johnson had a three-hour meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs with chief adviser Dominic Cummings and director of communications Lee Cain, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
A number 10 spokesperson said, “The Prime Minister has led the answer to this question, providing leadership during this extremely difficult time for the whole nation. ”
Boris Johnson, who is currently recovering from a retired coronavirus from the country, told aides of Downing Street that he may return next week
It is not yet known when the Prime Minister will resume full office, but a source told The Sun: “It would not surprise me if he was back before the end of next week. Everyone knows that it is the key to selling the end of the foreclosure to voters.
“It is the biggest decision he will ever make and he knows the implications are vast for millions of families. There is no way he is on the sidelines.
But it does paint a different picture of the PM than the one described in the Sunday Times as the epidemic approached.
The newspaper reported that Johnson did not attend a series of Cobra meetings and claimed that the government had missed a series of opportunities to try to reduce the impact of the epidemic in February and March drew a Downing Street’s precise answer.
The newspaper quoted a senior assistant to Downing Street, who was not named, saying, “There is no way you can be at war if your PM is not around.
“And what you learn about Boris is that he has not chaired any meeting. He loved his country vacation. He did not work on weekends.
“It was like working for a former general manager in a local community 20 years ago. There was a real feeling that he had not planned the crisis urgently. It was exactly as people feared.
A Downing Street spokesperson said, “The government has been working around the clock to fight the coronavirus, proposing a strategy designed at all times to protect our NHS and save lives.”
“Guided by medical and scientific expertise, we have put in place specific measures to reduce the spread of the virus when they are most effective.
“Our response assured that the NHS has received all the support necessary to ensure that everyone in need of treatment receives it, as well as to protect businesses and reassure workers.”
The government is currently implementing a series of major changes, including the appointment of former Olympic chief Lord Deighton (left), who has been tasked with leading a task force to produce the PPE required for distribution in the country. Michael Gove (right) is also setting up a new unit to advise senior ministers on the widespread effects of the foreclosure to help guide a possible exit strategy
The government has faced harsh criticism of its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, with particular emphasis on the national shortage of personal protective equipment that front-line workers need.
But it is currently implementing a series of major changes, including the appointment of former Olympic chief Lord Deighton, who has been tasked with leading a task force to produce the PPE required for distribution in the country.
The Prime Minister had previously described Lord Deighton as a “superb” executive after helping organize the 2012 Olympics when Mr. Johnson was mayor of London.
Speaking about his appointment, Lord Deighton said: “Countries around the world are facing an unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment and this requires an equally unprecedented response from the domestic industry.
“This effort requires exceptional teamwork and I am confident that together we will rise to this challenge. “
Michael Gove is also setting up a new unit to advise senior ministers on the widespread economic and social impacts of the foreclosure to help guide a possible exit strategy.
Prime Minister would issue orders to the First Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, who replaces him in public, as well as to his key aides through a series of calls
It comes after a grand coalition of the nation’s highest political and business figures called on the government to lift the shutters off Britain’s deserted streets and chart a route out of the crippling Covid-19 outbreak.
Former Cabinet Ministers David Davis and Iain Duncan Smith have joined forces with Labor Leader Sir Keir Starmer and city bosses to warn that the lack of a clear exit strategy could cause lasting damage to the economy. British economy.
Authorities are currently developing a three-stage “traffic light” plan that would see businesses such as DIY stores and garden centers, and some children would return to school, as early as the week beginning May 11.
There was growing concern that the absence of Boris Johnson from Downing Street would hamper exit plans despite signs that the epidemic had peaked.
In response to claims of a power vacuum, Number 10 said that a “quad” of key ministers – Secretary of Health Matt Hancock, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Minister of Cabinet Michael Gove – met every day of the week at 6 p.m. to decide on the strategy.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said yesterday at the daily press conference that Prime Minister Johnson was “resting and recovering at Checkers” and “following the advice of his doctor.”
Jenrick added, “He has had contact with ministers but most of all with his private office here on Downing Street. “
The death of an additional 888 people was announced yesterday in the UK, bringing the total to 15,464, but the number of hospital patients with the virus has dropped from 952 to 17,759, which suggests that rates of infection have reached a plateau.
As part of the first “red” phase of the “traffic light” plan, companies such as garden centers and hairdressers could reopen, subject to strict social distancing.
About one-fifth of children would also return to school as part of a gradual return, although officials are divided on whether to prioritize based on age groups, parents’ occupation or the region.
The “amber” phase – probably in June or July – would see the restaurants open provided the tables are far enough apart. Most children and office workers would also leave segregation.
The timing of the “green” phase – a complete return to normalcy, including the opening of pubs and major events – would depend on the development of generalized tests for Covid-19 and systematically low levels of infections and deaths. The elderly and vulnerable would remain “protected” until a vaccine is available, perhaps up to 18 months.
Conservative MP David Davis read the Coronavirus bill a second time in the House of Commons. He joined forces with Sir Keir Starmer and city bosses to warn that the lack of a clear exit strategy could cause lasting economic damage
Labor leader Sir Starmer and his wife Victoria take part in the national “Clap our Carers” campaign to thank the work of British NHS workers and front-line medical personnel across the country as they fight the coronavirus pandemic
But to the frustration of the “hawks” led by Mr. Sunak, cabinet “doves” led by Mr. Hancock hesitate to signal the end of the lockdown while infection rates are still high.
In an article in The Mail last Sunday, former Brexit secretary Davis said it was “now essential to hold back the economy.”
His remarks follow dire predictions that the UK economy could contract by up to a third if the complete foreclosure lasted three months, leading to rising unemployment and bankruptcies. Davis’ views were echoed by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who urged ministers to stop “hanging out” with the public and to explain their plans to restart the economy and that “there is life after locking ”.
Meanwhile, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer – also writes in this newspaper – says, “Now is not the time to lift the restrictions. But we need to be clear about what will happen next. Politicians were joined by retail bosses, including clothing brand founder Superdry Julian Dunkerton and economist Gerard Lyons, who said, “After the current three-week extension, it should there will be a gradual unlocking of the economy ”.
People shopping at the range in Plymouth. As part of the first “red” phase of the “traffic light” plan, companies such as garden centers and hairdressers could reopen, subject to strict social distancing
In other developments:
- The government has appointed its Tory counterpart Lord Deighton “Tsar Covid” to address shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS personnel; The ministers announced that 84 tonnes of kits, including 400,000 dresses, will arrive from Turkey today;
- The BBC made a humiliating descent after incorrectly reporting that a desperate NHS Trust boss for PPE had called to request a number from Burberry;
- Local government secretary Robert Jenrick has ordered councils to keep the parks open, with local authorities pledged an additional £ 1.6 billion to help maintain essential services;
- Speaking of Los Angeles, Prince Harry said he was “incredibly proud” of Britain’s response to the pandemic, as gun salutes to mark the Queen’s 94th birthday on Tuesday were canceled;
- The sum raised by the war sponsored by veteran of the war, the captain Tom Moore, exceeded 23.6 million pounds sterling and its version of Never Never Walk Alone is at the top of the charts iTunes. He will open a new hospital this week;
- The ministers faced allegations of “completely empty” private hospital services requisitioned by the NHS;
- US lawyers have filed lawsuits to sue China for compensation for the pandemic, accusing its leaders of neglect and cover-up;
- Photographs from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where the virus first appeared, raised troubling new questions about biosecurity;
- The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that there was “no evidence” that having the virus guaranteed future immunity;
- The number of cases worldwide has approached 2.3 million with nearly 157,000 deaths
Professor Karol Sikora, a health expert on a panel of experts convened by this newspaper to discuss the best way to end the foreclosure, said that the first restrictions could be relaxed as early as a week tomorrow, if signs are correct.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said, “We have always been guided by scientific advice. The current view is that relaxing any measure could harm public health, our economy and the sacrifices we have all made. It is only when the evidence suggests that it is safe to do so that we will adjust these measures.
How MoS ‘Corona Firm Says We Can Move the UK
By Nick Craven, Holly Bancroft and Helen Cahill for Sunday Mail
According to a panel of eminent experts, garden centers and DIY stores should be the first companies to reopen completely while the lock is relaxed.
Home improvement, decor and gardening could help kick-start the economy and give families a much-needed boost as they break out of restrictions that have had a devastating financial impact, the panel said. Mail on Sunday.
Experts – from public health, medicine, retail, economics and psychology – said the government should plan a step-by-step sequence to end the foreclosure.
Professor Karol Sikora (left) is one of the world’s leading cancer specialists and a former director of the WHO cancer program. He is the chief medical officer of Rutherford Health and a professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham. Richard Hyman (right) is an independent retail consultant with more than 35 years of experience in providing information and analysis. He founded the retail analysis company Verdict and worked as a strategic advisor for the consulting firm Deloitt
This would see the companies with the least health risks reopening first, with social distancing and carefully watched effects on public health.
Allowing the public to freely visit DIY and gardening centers would be followed by a restart of small-scale manufacturing and most street shops as long as coronavirus infections were clearly in decline and sufficient tests were in place.
Experts said the criteria for which sectors of the economy to unlock first should be based on types of activity, rather than relaxing the rules by focusing on particular age groups or geographic areas .
They also asked that the public be allowed to travel without restrictions in parks and green spaces as long as they observe a social distance and remain within two meters of each other.
During a large discussion on the Zoom videoconferencing platform, the MoS lock forum heard:
- The government should define a clear strategy to end the public foreclosure as soon as possible, according to economist Gérard Lyons.
- The first phase of the lifting of the blocking restrictions could take place tomorrow week, if the cases in the United Kingdom decrease sharply and there has been no second wave of infections following a loosening of the closings in countries like Austria, said Professor Karol Sikora, cancer specialist. .
- Psychologist Dr. Kimberly Dienes spoke of the profound effect that locking has had on many people by removing their control, and warned that people will be anxious for health and social reasons as they get out.
- Business psychologist Dr. Dimitrios Tsivrikos stressed the importance of reviving the economy – “or we may not have enough funds to support doctors.”
- Retail consultant Richard Hyman said supermarkets should be the model for other businesses to ensure social distancing.
- Public health expert Dr. Bharat Pankhania said that he saw nothing wrong with people going to parks or beauty spots to exercise if they observed strict social distancing.
Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos (left) is one of the UK’s leading consumer and business psychologists and works at University College London. Dr. Tsivrikos advises businesses and governments on consumer behavior. Dr Bharat Pankhania (right) is a clinical lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Exeter. He is a public health expert with over 20 years of experience in communicable disease control and infectious disease management
Economist Mr. Lyons wanted to see a “gradual unlocking of the economy” in three phases.
But he stressed that the government must give people a clear plan of the strategy in advance, “because once you start to unlock, the natural tendency is for people to experiment.”
“The trigger should always be medical, depending on the rate of infection. We must also take into account tests, as well as behavioral changes and social distancing, and we must also apply behavioral changes such as wearing masks. If the behavior returns to what it was before the crisis, it may cause the virus to reappear.
“Garden centers are interesting because in terms of health and well-being, and in terms of time spent at home, one would think that DIY activities and garden centers should be more accessible. “
Professor Sikora, who warned of up to 60,000 unnecessary deaths among cancer patients if the NHS was unable to resume normal treatments without coronavirus, was the member most keen to move the Great -Brittany.
He said: “I would move on to the first phase by April 27, provided there is no second wave in Austria, that control measures are in place and that the number of cases and deaths fell sharply. I would then go to the second step with small manufacturing, etc. on May 11, and a much more complete resumption of economic activity by May 25.
Dr. Dienes, who has conducted psychological studies on people who have been locked out, has left his colleagues in no doubt about the effects of isolation. “Their reaction was really a loss of motivation, a loss of self-esteem in many ways. Many people have reported depression and anxiety as a result of the lockdown. “
And she warned that if some people might want to “run to the beaches” at the end of the measurements, two things will happen: “People will want to get more involved, but they will also have health and social anxiety. to engage again with the outside world. ‘
Dr. Tsivrikos said the government’s public communications strategy “has been a disaster”.
Gerard Lyons (left) is a chief economist at Netwealth and a senior researcher on the Policy Exchange. He advised Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London and was in the running to replace Mark Carney as governor of the Bank of England. Dr Kimberly Dienes (right) is a lecturer in clinical and health psychology at the University of Manchester and is interested in the processes of social, biological and psychological stress. She studied the experiences of people in social isolation
“I think what we have done so far is just to scare people and it can only work to a point. What is a saving grace is that we are experiencing this on a global scale – people have been obedient because they have seen other people do it.
Hyman said the way supermarket bosses treated social distance should be the model for others. “What most large food stores do is limit the number of people who come in at any one time, and they make sure it’s one person at a time, so group shopping is prohibited . It became a functional activity.
“Common sense suggests that areas like DIY and garden centers are probably the way to go.”
Dr. Pankhania said, “You are infected with humans or a place where other humans congregate – so some sort of contaminated surface. If you can mitigate [the risk of infection] through social isolation, masks and gloves, then many things become possible, also on the condition that cases and deaths fall sharply, that there are enough tests carried out and that adequate PPE is available. “
But he also warned of the dangers of a second wave of infections if relaxation was done too quickly. “We do not know that you become immune after being infected and healed, so people should assume that they are still at risk. “
Once this is done, we must give our most vulnerable the dignity they deserve – AND reward the heroes who give them such dedicated care.
By Sir Keir Starmer for Sunday Mail
Two weeks ago, when I was elected leader of the Labor Party, I promised the British people that under my leadership my party would act in the national interest, help us through these difficult times and fight for it. good of our country. That’s what I was trying to say.
The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest challenge we have faced in a generation. It is a health crisis, an economic crisis and – for many – a personal crisis. Behind each death hides a deeply shaken family.
In this time of national crisis, the duty of work – my duty – is to support the national effort to save lives and protect livelihoods.
This is why I supported the government’s decision to introduce the lockdown and why I supported last week’s decision to extend it by three weeks.
Lockdown is extremely difficult for all of us. there is no doubt. But there is a need to defeat the coronavirus and the government can be assured of my support in this regard.
Likewise, my duty is to call the Government when I believe that mistakes are made, when decisions are taken too slowly or when the most vulnerable are not heard. Le but de ce défi n’est pas de marquer des points politiques au sein du parti, mais de s’assurer que les erreurs sont rectifiées et que les progrès sont accélérés.
Dans cet esprit, nous devons tous accepter que des erreurs ont été commises. J’accepte pleinement que tout gouvernement trouve cette situation difficile. Mais le gouvernement a été trop lent pour entrer dans le lock-out. Il a été trop lent pour augmenter le nombre de personnes testées. Il a été trop lent à obtenir du personnel du NHS le matériel essentiel dont il a besoin pour assurer sa sécurité.
We must make sure that these mistakes do not repeat themselves.
Et cette semaine a montré à quel point le gouvernement a été trop lent pour répondre à l’urgence croissante de nos services sociaux.
Nous avons tous entendu les histoires poignantes du virus se propageant dans les maisons de soins, les proches incapables de dire leurs derniers adieux et le personnel mal payé, équipé et protégé pour fournir les soins essentiels. Les ministres ont promis une action – c’est bienvenu – mais elle doit aller plus loin et plus vite.
Tout d’abord, nos soignants doivent être protégés. Nous avons tous été frappés par le service extraordinaire et le dévouement de nos travailleurs clés au cours de cette pandémie. Ce sont les meilleurs d’entre nous. Ce sont des gens qui mettent littéralement leur vie en jeu pour prendre soin de nos proches. Mais un trop grand nombre d’entre eux restent exposés à cause de la pénurie d’équipements de protection individuelle (EPI).
Le gouvernement dit qu’il fait tout ce qu’il peut pour fournir du matériel. Je ne doute pas de sa sincérité. Cependant, il existe un décalage entre les déclarations provenant de Downing Street et les réalités du personnel sur le terrain. Cela doit prendre fin et rapidement.
Deuxièmement, nous avons besoin de plus d’informations. La crise dans nos foyers de soins est restée inouïe pendant trop longtemps, en partie parce que nous ne connaissons pas l’ampleur du problème. C’est pourquoi nous avons un besoin urgent des ministres de publier des chiffres quotidiens sur le nombre de décès dans les maisons de soins. C’est la seule façon de savoir qui a été victime du virus, à quelle vitesse il se propage et l’ampleur de la réponse nécessaire.
Troisièmement, les tests, les tests et plus de tests. L’annonce de Matt Hancock que tous les résidents des maisons de soins et le personnel présentant des symptômes seraient testés est la bienvenue.
Mais beaucoup d’entre nous demanderont pourquoi diable cela n’a-t-il pas été fait plus tôt? Un chef de conseil à qui j’ai parlé la semaine dernière m’a dit que sur ses 5 000 travailleurs sociaux, dix seulement avaient été testés. C’est étonnant.
Comme d’autres pays l’ont prouvé, les tests sont une arme vitale dans notre arsenal pour contenir l’infection et ils seront au cœur de toute stratégie visant à lever le verrouillage.
Les ministres ont promis 25 000 tests par jour à la mi-avril, mais cet objectif n’a pas été atteint. Maintenant, ils en promettent 100 000 d’ici la fin du mois. Il est peu probable qu’ils atteignent cet objectif.
De nombreux foyers de soins se sentent dépassés, en particulier ceux qui ont une épidémie de virus. J’ai parlé à des soignants qui sont préoccupés par la prise en charge des patients atteints de coronavirus qui sont sortis de l’hôpital en raison du risque d’infection. Le gouvernement devrait veiller à ce que là où il y a de la capacité dans les nouveaux hôpitaux du NHS Nightingale, elle soit mise à la disposition de ceux qui en ont le plus besoin, y compris les résidents des maisons de soins.
Enfin, nous avons besoin d’un plan clair pour la suite.
Le verrouillage a été prolongé et je le soutiens. Mais nous devons savoir clairement ce qui va se passer ensuite.
D’autres pays ont commencé à établir une feuille de route pour lever les restrictions dans certains secteurs de l’économie et pour certains services, en particulier les services sociaux, le moment venu. Bien sûr, cela doit être fait de manière prudente et réfléchie, avec à cœur la santé publique, les preuves scientifiques et la sécurité des travailleurs et des familles. But the British government should do the same.
Nous devons également plaider pour une société meilleure et plus juste. Chaque semaine, nous sommes à nos portes pour applaudir nos soignants. Nous le faisons avec fierté, gratitude et un profond sentiment d’unité et d’objectif nationaux.
Mais, lorsque nous passerons à travers cela – et nous passerons à travers cela – nous ne pouvons pas reprendre nos activités comme d’habitude. Pendant trop longtemps, la protection sociale a été négligée. Nos soignants sont partis sous-payés et sous-évalués. Nos proches ont nié la dignité qu’ils méritent à la fin de leur vie.
Nous avons besoin d’un nouveau règlement pour les soins sociaux. Nous ne pouvons pas avoir une autre décennie de cette pensée jugée «trop difficile» pour les politiciens à résoudre.
Nous devons aller de l’avant avec l’ambition et la détermination d’une société meilleure qui place la dignité et le respect au cœur de la façon dont nous prenons soin des plus vulnérables – et de la manière dont nous récompensons correctement nos travailleurs clés et ceux qui travaillent dans nos services publics.
C’est ainsi que nous pouvons rembourser la dette que nous devons à tous ceux qui ont tant sacrifié pendant cette crise. C’est ainsi que nous pouvons reconstruire la société meilleure que le peuple britannique mérite. C’est ce que je suis déterminé à offrir.
Faites fleurir la Grande-Bretagne à nouveau …
Par Helen Cahill, correspondante de la ville pour le Mail on Sunday
Les jardineries britanniques pourraient rouvrir presque immédiatement – avec des règles strictes de distanciation sociale – dans le cadre de propositions examinées par les ministres.
Les entreprises ont averti que 200 millions de livres sterling de plantes saisonnières seront détruites si les centres sont obligés de rester fermés jusqu’en juin.
Cela signifierait une perte globale de 1,6 milliard de livres sterling en raison du verrouillage, de sorte que l’industrie a élaboré un plan de sauvetage qu’elle a envoyé aux autorités il y a deux semaines.
Il détaille comment les 2 000 jardineries du Royaume-Uni pourraient ouvrir leurs portes pour le reste de la saison cruciale du printemps et de l’été sans mettre les clients et le personnel en danger. La période de trois mois entre avril et juin est l’équivalent de Noël pour l’industrie horticole.
Ready to sell: Plants waiting for gardeners at a centre in Essex. Businesses have warned that £200 million-worth of seasonal plants will be destroyed if centres are forced to stay closed until June
Garden centre bosses insist they could shift stock quickly and start paying suppliers if the Government approves the new arrangements, which would allow the public to buy plants, essential gardening equipment and pet care products that are being sold elsewhere in stores that stayed open.
Restaurants, cafes and areas selling non-plant products in the complexes would remain closed.
Under the plans, customers would only be able to use car parks in limited numbers, with an empty space left between each parked vehicle.
Entry to the centres would be strictly controlled, with one-way walking, one customer for every 1,000 sq ft of floor space and tape marks on the floor to enforce social distancing. Perspex screens would protect staff and trolleys would be disinfected regularly.
Sarah Squire, chairman of major chain Squires, said: ‘The timing could not be worse for our sector. It’s all about the spring for us, and if we can catch a little bit of that, it would make a very big difference.
‘We make 40 per cent of our annual takings from the middle of March to the end of June. So you don’t need a degree in economics to know that for the rest of the year it will be difficult for us.
‘You need to make your profits in the spring to carry the business through the rest of the year.’
Simon Burke, chairman of the country’s second-largest garden chain, Blue Diamond, said: ‘If the summer bedding plants aren’t sold between now and the end of June, they are dead.
‘Obviously there is absolutely no room for compromise on safety. But garden centres are large spaces so customers could come in and keep their distance, much more so than they would in an average food store, where the aisles are not very wide.’
Boyd Douglas Davies, president of the Horticultural Trade Association, warned that unless action was taken promptly, millions of plants would be heading towards compost heaps instead of gardens.
He added: ‘This is a quick and easy way for the Government to give something back to the public. If you’re asking them to stay at home for a long time, give them something to do in their garden.’
A sign in front of closed gates at Squire’s Garden Centre in Farnham, Surrey, during the lockdown. Garden centre bosses insist they could shift stock quickly and start paying suppliers if the Government approves the new arrangements (file photo)
The garden centres have missed out on much of the sales they would normally generate from spring plants but bosses are hopeful that they could avoid more serious financial pain if they are allowed to offload stocks of summer plants.
It is thought that independent nurseries that supply the larger stores could be worst hit, as some of them make up to 80 per cent of their yearly sales at this time.
In signs of a Government strategy shift, B&Q has been allowed to open 14 stores to trial new social distancing measures. Since the lockdown, DIY stores have been allowed only to sell items for emergency repairs through click and collect services.
They have been told to narrow their ranges to stop shoppers from buying items that could let them start a home improvement project or any home decoration.
Shoppers order online and drive to stores, where supplies are loaded into the boot of the car by staff.
But industry representatives said the rules should be relaxed so shoppers could start projects without fear of judgment.
Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retail Association, said: ‘We do know from our members who run hardware stores that there has been a huge demand for DIY products, especially paint, and most of them have chosen to stay open.
‘There is a sense that if you are asking people to stay at home and don’t want them to go stir crazy, then they should be allowed to do something in the house whether it’s DIY, painting or gardening.
‘Some of our members are taking to delivering their stock and people are very happy to receive stuff at home. It helps lift the national spirit to have something to do.’
A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said last night that the Government ‘would keep the policy under review and guidance will be updated as required’.
Unlock our garden centres – and feed the nation’s souls!
By Alan Titchmarsh for the Mail on Sunday
Like the majority of the population, I have been hunkered down at home for the past month, determined to do my bit to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Aside from the odd walk for exercise, I have been nowhere, but seldom have I felt more in tune with nature and ‘real life’ thanks to my garden.
Here, in glorious spring weather, among the daffodils and tulips, the cherry blossom and the fresh-mown grass, I can stay sane and reconnect with nature and the wider world, seemingly untouched by the troubles of humanity.
My garden has been my saviour, as it is for so many: a place to unwind and enjoy birdsong and flowers, to retain a sense of perspective and proportion, to grow vegetables and fruit which, we tell ourselves, taste so much better than those bought in the shops.
Gardening – often perceived as a suitable pastime for the old or those incapable of more intellectual pursuits – is rather more than that. It allows us to be interactive naturalists, rather than just spectators.
We sow, we plant, we take cuttings and we grow things – most often for our own delight but almost always with an eye to the wider benefits for birds, bees, butterflies and the secret world of insects upon whom our very survival depends.
My garden has been my saviour, as it is for so many: a place to unwind and enjoy birdsong and flowers, to retain a sense of perspective and proportion, to grow vegetables and fruit which, we tell ourselves, taste so much better than those bought in the shops, writes Alan Titchmarsh, pictured in 2019 (file photo)
In a garden, children have their first contact with nature – a journey of wonder that will lead to a greater understanding of their responsibility for the natural world. For gardeners not only beautify their own patch of earth, they contribute to the ecological value of the wider landscape – all these little patchwork squares, joining up to make an enormous and valuable tapestry.
But gardens need plants, and for the past month – thanks to the closure of garden centres and nurseries – all the plants that have been raised across the UK with a view to supplying a market whose peak activity is between March and May have been unable to leave their growers. They are sitting where they have been raised, going nowhere. We are told they have a value of about £200million and that laid side by side they would cover the City of Liverpool.
There will be those who scoff, claiming that bedding plants are of little significance in the greater scheme of things. They are wrong.
Bedding plants, with their brilliant flowers, raise our spirits as well as feeding butterflies and bees. They let Britain bloom from May to October – half our calendar year. They light up dreary towns and cities when planted on roundabouts and traffic islands, lifting our spirits and supporting a centuries-old tradition which is at the very core of the British psyche.
Right now – with the country confined to its homes and gardens – we have never needed our summer flowers more. But it is not just the annuals, such as tobacco plants and petunias, French marigolds and busy lizzies, that are unavailable to us. We need the longer-lasting perennials, too, and the shrubs and trees that go towards making our gardens the best in the world.
We need seeds and compost, which, along with plants, we are unable to access except from over-stretched mail order companies – bless them – who are struggling to keep up with demand. There are economic implications, too. UK horticulture contributes almost £25billion to the national economy.
You could argue the case similarly for the economic values of the steel industry, for haulage and airlines, for bookshops and clothes shops all affected by lockdown.
But, when lockdown ends, all these industries will still hold their stock. The horticultural industry will not, for its goods are perishable, and in just a few weeks’ time they will have outgrown their containers, be past their sell-by date and have to be dumped.
Plants keep growing, regardless of man’s inconveniences, and by mid-June many growers will have faced such tremendous losses that they will be unable to survive.
Family businesses will fold. Folk who have grown plants for generations will have to find another way of earning a living – not that the basic horticultural wage has ever been a reason to grow plants.
We grow them because we have a feel for them; we enjoy greening up the planet; we regard plants and flowers as food for the soul as well as the body – part of life’s essentials. Gardening is a vocation, not just a job.
Government loans, which might save other industries, would place an unsustainable pressure on growers whose cash flow is such that they will be unable to pay off their debts. When they go out of business – as so many of them will – the plants they supplied will, in future years, have to be imported from Europe – so much for Brexit.
For all these reasons it is time the Government took the sensible step of allowing garden centres and nurseries to re-open and feed the nation’s souls as well as their stomachs. Protocols must be put in place – we have not come this far to throw it all away. But garden centre customers can be regulated in exactly the same way as those in Waitrose or Tesco or Asda or Sainsbury’s – rather easier, I would argue, since at this time of year the plant areas are outdoors, rather than under an air-conditioned roof which, surely, contributes its own hazards.
Plant areas in supermarkets have expanded – sales over the Easter weekend at Waitrose increased by 102 per cent. And yet those who make their entire living by growing or selling plants are not allowed to open their gates.
It is not only a grossly unjust state of affairs, it is a slap in the face for those whose lives are spent greening up Great Britain.
In seeking for a way to ease lock-down and provide an exit strategy, the reopening of garden centres and nurseries (never forget these smaller, family-run outlets) provides the perfect opportunity to lift the spirits of the nation and allow some kind of respite from domestic incarceration without compromising their health any more than a visit to a supermarket.
Social distancing can be maintained – we all know it is vital – but this need present no difficulty if sensible conditions are put in place.
In the quest to maintain the health of the nation, mental health must also be taken into account, and the ability to grow plants in our gardens – especially in the current circumstances – is a valuable engagement with nature that must not be overlooked.
It is high time that, as well as paying lip-service to the importance of mental health, those in power showed a practical commitment to it and recognised the value of gardens and open spaces as having a profound impact on the three areas considered the most vital concerns of society: health, law and order and education. Our gardens impinge on all three and it is high time that this was acknowledged.
If, in assessing the essentials of life, we can think no further than loo rolls and toothpaste then what was once a nation of gardeners will have entirely lost the plot.
We must give small firms a tax holiday for two years
By David Davis for the Mail on Sunday
Assuming that we have this dreadful virus under control, it is now essential we take the brakes off the economy and get as many people as possible back to work.
Starting in three weeks’ time, when this lockdown will be reviewed, we must do all we can to help small businesses get back up and running, as well as letting many more small shops open up again.
We must kill off this virus threat – and move heaven and earth to protect those most at risk – but we must not kill off our economy in the process.
All the data tells us that between 90 per cent and 97 per cent of the deaths have been of people with pre-existing health conditions –from heart disease to diabetes.
There are about two million most at risk from the virus, and many are economically inactive. We must protect them as effectively as we can. For example, the supermarkets and delivery companies must be told that they are the absolute priority.
They must stay self-isolating while the rest of the workforce gets back to work as soon as is practical and safe.
Of course, we cannot go back immediately to the level of economic activity that we had before the virus. But we must start what will be a step-by-step process.
The Government will understandably want to see what happens in the countries where lockdowns are already being relaxed.
The UK will be watching like a hawk to see what happens to the spread of the virus in those countries. There will be a huge amount to learn from the tactics that work – and those that fail.
I can guarantee that, sadly, infection rates in some of those countries will rise. But it’s not simply the infection rate we should look at, it’s the death rate. It is this that we have to keep under control.
It is also what should guide how quickly we can relax our own lockdown and in which areas. However, we also need a longer-term plan on how we recover from the pandemic and rebuild after this extraordinary economic shutdown.
For that, I suggest we need a combination of tax cuts for small businesses and new spending on multiple infrastructure projects designed to get the economy back on its feet – a mixture of US-style Reaganomics and Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s.
Small businesses should effectively not be asked to pay any tax for the next two years as they are vital for our longer-term economic regeneration.
It is the men and women running small businesses who will lead our recovery, not the multinationals and conglomerates.
The idea of more tax cuts may give Chancellor Rishi Sunak a panic attack over his breakfast toast and marmalade. But let’s be honest, we will be paying back the cost of the Government’s massive virus-related aid for probably 50 years.
That is not a cause for panic – the war loans took at least as long and interest rates are lower now. Therefore, we should not worry about tax breaks for small business for a relatively short period.
As well as copying Ronald Reagan’s 1980s tax cuts, we should also look to the massive infrastructure spending of President Roosevelt in his New Deal. Today’s interstate highways, airports and national parks had their origins then.
Our Government must help to refloat the economy by building our infrastructure of tomorrow, be that urban tramways, broadband, or bypasses.
The British economy in 12 months’ time will sadly look very different. The Government’s job will be to re-energise it.
Of course, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – in charge while Boris Johnson is recovering from the virus – and other Ministers are right to say that they must focus all their attention now on curbing the current spread of the virus. I think everyone in the country wishes them the best of luck with that.
But behind the scenes, they must plan now to restart our economy and get the nation back to work – starting in three weeks’ time.