The Spectator

Covid-19 update: Will Boris take paternity leave?

Covid-19 update: Will Boris take paternity leave?
Temperature checks and social distancing measures are put in place as more than 50,000 students in Hong Kong sit the Diploma of Secondary Education examination. (Photo: Getty Images)
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News and analysis 

  • Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds have announced the arrival of a baby boy, born this morning in a London hospital. James Forsyth has the details below.
  • Cancer operations will take place at new ‘Covid-19-free’ hubs. The collapse in cancer care since the lockdown could lead to 18,000 more cancer deaths, according to new research. Analysis below.
  • Millions more people can now apply for a coronavirus test. The government loosened rules to include over-65s, essential workers and care home residents.
  • Hopes for a successful Covid-19 vaccine have been raised by a study showing that the virus’s mutations are, so far, minor.
  • The government has eased its fifth rule for lifting the lockdown. The criterion is now to avoid a second peak that could overwhelm the NHS.
  • The number of people to be classed as ‘vulnerable’ to Covid-19 will increase by 500,000.
  • Environment Secretary George Eustice has said that the UK may be on course for the worst death toll in Europe.
  • The Queen will give her second televised address during the pandemic on 8 May. The monarch will commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

Will Boris take paternity leave?

by James Forsyth

Earlier this month Boris Johnson was in hospital fighting for his life. This morning he was there for the arrival of new life: his partner Carrie Symonds gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

David Cameron took paternity leave when his daughter Florence was born in 2010 and Tony Blair took a ‘paternity holiday’ when his son Leo arrived in 2000. But the timing of this birth, in the middle of a national crisis, undoubtedly complicates the question of Prime Ministerial paternity leave. This is particularly the case given that Boris’s rapid return to Downing Street post-hospitalisation was driven, in part, by frustration that things weren’t happening at what he thought was the necessary pace in his absence. There’s a feeling that only Prime Ministerial pressure can drive some things through the system.

With testing and tracing needing to be increased significantly in the coming weeks and more PPE procured if the UK is to begin seriously easing the lockdown, I suspect that Boris will conclude that now is not the moment to take his paternity leave.

Read his blog on Coffee House.

In words
There is likely to be a tsunami of complaints, of police reports, as soon as lockdown is over.

Dame Vera Baird QC, the victims' commissioner, speaking to the Justice Committee yesterday.

Many countries are starting to come around to the Swedish way. They are opening schools, trying to find an exit strategy. It comes back to sustainability. We need to have measures in place that we can keep on doing over the longer term, not just for a few months or several weeks.

Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell to USA Today.

Cornwall is beautiful, visiting it is a pleasure – but at the moment, and for some time to come, don’t (visit).

Michael Gove telling MPs Brits should not make any holiday plans this summer.

We want people to come to Greece this summer.

– Greek tourism minister Harry Theoharis on Radio 4 this morning. Tourism accounts for 20 per cent of Greece’s economy.

In pictures

Temperature checks and social distancing measures are put in place as more than 50,000 students in Hong Kong sit the Diploma of Secondary Education examination. (Photo: Getty Images)
Global news

  • Children under the age of ten in Switzerland are now permitted to hug their grandparents.
  • Next year’s Oscars will allow streamed films to be eligible for awards for the first time. The move is a result of the pandemic’s effect on global cinema attendances.
  • Angela Merkel has warned that a second shutdown in Germany is unavoidable if infections rise. The country has extended its travel ban to 14 June. Katy Balls has more on Coffee House.
  • China has accused Australia of ‘petty tricks’ after the government proposed an independent inquiry into Beijing’s handling of coronavirus.
  • Face masks will be compulsory in schools and on public transport when France eases its lockdown on 11 May. The country’s top two professional football leagues have also been cancelled.
  • Donald Trump has ordered US meat processing plants to stay open to protect the country’s food supply.
  • Medical professionals in France and Germany are posting naked photos online to protest a lack of PPE. Vladimir Putin has admitted that Russia also faces a PPE shortage.
  • Poland will reopen hotels and shopping centres on 4 May. The country is considering reopening schools on 6 May.

NHS establishes ‘virus-free’ hubs

More than 20 ‘virus-free’ hubs are being set up around England to treat cancer patients in need of urgent care, as thousands have gone without surgery or even diagnosis due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Cancer referrals are estimated to have dropped by 70 per cent, as nearly all medical capacity has been diverted to Covid-19 patients and people have avoided hospitals and medical centres in fear of catching the virus. But as Fraser Nelson notes in his blog for Coffee House, a pandemic claims lives in two ways: directly, through those it infects, and indirectly as others who need healthcare either do not seek it or are denied it. While yesterday’s ONS data led with the spike in Covid-19-related deaths, especially in care homes, the number of excess deaths without Covid-19 has spiked too.

These new hubs may be the first step to getting patients back in the door; but it’s not just cancer patients that will face worsening outcomes if not treated soon. Unless the government plans to start creating hubs for every serious condition, the balance between Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 treatment will need to be struck, and soon.


Ipsos MORI asked: Do you agree or disagree – we should restart the economy and allow businesses to open even if the virus is not fully contained.

Podcast: Is lockdown fatigue taking over?

On this week’s episode of Coronomics: stories from countries turned upside down, Kate Andrews speaks to our panel – based in New York City, Rome and Hong Kong – about Italy’s route to freedom, Boris’s return to work, intergenerational tensions in New York, and Hong Kong’s non-Covid-19 patients.

Research: Covid-19 antibodies

Does having Covid-19 once make you immune? Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has spoken about a binary divide between those who (like him) have had the virus and are protected, and those who are not. But an article in the Lancet warns that the science is not as clear-cut. ‘Caution is needed because total measurable antibody is not precisely the same as protective, virus-neutralising antibody. Furthermore, studies in Covid-19 show that 10 to 20 per cent of symptomatically infected people have little or no detectable antibody.’ This research follows on from similar warnings from the World Health Organisation that people who have been infected with the virus or test positive for antibodies may still not be immune.


  • BA is to cut 12,000 jobs due to the collapse in global air travel. In Stockholm, SAS is looking at 5,000 redundancies.
  • 11.3 million people in France are now at least partially unemployed.
  • Around 373,000 property sales worth £82 billion are on holdin the UK due to the pandemic, according to Zoopla.
  • HSBC has put 35,000 redundancies on hold while the outbreak lasts. Meanwhile, Barclays Q1 profits fell by 38% compared with the same period in 2019.
  • Volkswagen’s deliveries fell 23% in Q1, with profits down 81%. Volvo has cut 1,300 jobs in Sweden.
  • Retail store Next reported a drop in sales of 41% in Q1. Meanwhile total retail sales in Spain fell by 15% in March, the largest decline since records began in 2001.

More from The Spectator

In data: the rise of non-Covid deathsFraser Nelson

Germany offers a worrying lesson in lifting the lockdownConstantin Eckner

Why the furlough scheme needs to be redesignedRobert Peston

The world puts an * next to ChinaMichael Austin

Do face masks work? A note on the evidenceDr John Lee