Boris Johnson Returns to Work as Business Demands Lockdown Clarity

Boris Johnson returns to work for the first time in a fortnight with one key item at the top of his in-tray: when will he let Britain do so?

The prime minister will chair the government’s Monday morning meeting to coordinate efforts to tackle the virus. He spent the last two weeks recuperating at Chequers, his grace-and-favor countryside house, after contracting Covid-19 himself and spending three nights in intensive care.

With the nation recording its lowest daily death toll since March and lockdowns being partially lifted on the European continent, Johnson is facing increasing pressure to explain how his administration will move Britain onto the next phase.

Businesses are “clamoring” for information, the Institute of Directors said. A survey of more than 1,000 business leaders showed fewer than one in four were optimistic for their prospects over the next 12 months.

How and When

Six business leaders, including Conservative Party billionaire donors Michael Spencer and Peter Hargreaves, have written to the government asking them to ease restrictions, according to theSunday Times. Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer wrote to Johnson calling for an “exit strategy,” while his party’s senior spokeswoman Rachel Reeves told theBBC the public should be treated as adults.

“We should really begin to offer a narrative of how and when it’s going to stop,” Spencer told the newspaper. Three unidentified Cabinet ministers told the paper they questioned how much more voters would stand.

  • Johnson Faces Pressure to Set Out Path to Lifting Virus Lockdown
  • Europe Makes Tentative Moves to Reopen as New Deaths Ease

The Daily Telegraph reported Monday the premier could ease the lockdown as early as this week. Citing unidentified allies of the prime minister, the paper pointed to May 7 as a possible date. Johnson’s office rejected the report.

On Sunday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who’s been deputizing for Johnson while the premier was out of action, rejected the calls for an early easing of the lockdown, tellingSky News the outbreak was still at a “delicate and dangerous” stage. On Sunday, the U.K. reported 413 hospital deaths from the previous day, taking the tally to almost 21,000, the fifth highest in the world. More than 150,000 people have tested positive for the virus.

In a series of television interviews on Sunday, Raab wouldn’t be drawn on how and when the U.K. would scale back restrictions. “Until we can be confident — based on the scientific advice — that we are making sure-footed steps going forward that protect life, but also preserve our way of life, frankly it is not responsible to start speculating,” he told Sky.

Domestic Violence

It’s not just the economic impact that Johnson needs to weigh. The cross-party Home Affairs committee called for action against rising cases of domestic abuse, citing “higher levels of violence and coercive control.” Pressure groupCounting Dead Women calculated that between March 23, when the lockdown began, and April 12, there were at least 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children, according to the report.

In the daily televised news briefing on Sunday, Environment Secretary George Eustice said workers are taking advantage of the government’s furlough program — where up to 80% of their salary is paid by the taxpayer — will be asked to take second jobs in the agricultural sector to help farmers bring in the harvest, as migrant numbers are down.

Meanwhile, second home owners in Wales could be ordered to leave their properties under measures being considered by the Welsh Government, the nation’s First Minister Mark Drakeford said. Doctors in rural areas, where there are fewer health resources, appealed for second home owners to stay in their primary residence.

“If we are going to get to that position, we have got to do it and be confident that the law is secure under our feet,” Drakeford told BBC Wales on Sunday.

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