⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃
Lockdown easing to allow groups of six to meet: Groups of up to six people from different households will be able to meet outside in England from Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced. They can meet in gardens – in addition to parks – as long as households keep two metres apart. Johnson said people should try to avoid seeing people from too many households in quick succession to help avoid the risk of transmission from lots of different families. Barbecues will be allowed, the prime minister confirmed, providing people are scrupulous about washing their hands, maintaining good hygiene and social distancing. Johnson stressed that the changes were small tentative steps forward and health experts warned the situation remained finely balanced with new cases declining, but not very quickly. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the party supports the gradual easing of some lockdown restrictions if it is safe.
Cummings may have breached lockdown rules, police say: Government advisor Dominic Cummings’ family trip to Barnard Castle potentially broke lockdown rules and would have led to police telling him to turn around had he been stopped, Durham police have concluded. After examining the circumstances surrounding Cummings’ journey to the tourist spot on 12 April with his wife and son, Durham Constabulary said in a statement that police view this incident as minor since there was no apparent breach of social distancing. No further police action will be taken against Cummings, and police said they did not deem him to have committed an offense by driving some 260 miles from London to Durham to relocate his family while they were self-isolating. But the announcement from police Thursday has delivered another twist in a scandal which has threatened to derail the government’s response to the pandemic.
theguardian.com, cnn.com, politico.eu
Test and trace system kicks off: Thousands of contact tracers are making their first phone calls to track down people who will be told to self-isolate under new test and trace schemes being launched in England and Scotland. Tracers will text, email or call people who test positive with coronavirus and ask who they have had contact with. Any of those contacts deemed at risk of infection will be told to isolate for 14 days, even if they are not sick. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was confident that the vast majority of people would participate in the voluntary system. During an interview on Sky News, Hancock laughed off the suggestion the government’s new test and trace system was brought forward to distract from the controversy over Dominic Cummings lockdown drive to Durham. “You can’t accuse me both of rushing and of there being a delay,” he said, laughing vigorously and shaking his head.
Furlough scheme: Chancellor Sunak to taper furlough scheme, forcing employers to pay 20% of wages theguardian.com
Commons: MPs to decide new method of voting in person bbc.com
Abortion: MPs bring bill to ban late abortions for cleft lip, cleft palate and clubfoot theguardian.com
COP26 UN summit: New date agreed for UN climate summit in Glasgow bbc.com
⊂ POLITJOBS UNITED KINGDOM ⊃
Association of Directors of Children’s Services seeks Policy Officer *** The Royal Society seeks Senior Policy Adviser (Education) *** ITV Cymru Wales seeks Public Affairs Manager *** Independent Age seeks Public Affairs Officer *** Dogs Trust seeks European Policy Advisor (Publish your job ad)
⊂ EUROPE ⊃
EU wants to advance green agenda with economic stimulus plan: The EU Commission has pledged to attach climate conditions to its new 750 billion economic recovery fund to save Europe’s coronavirus-battered economies. The Commission proposal earmarks 25% of the budget for climate-related spending. All money from the recovery fund, including cash not going to green projects, must meet climate conditions. “If the plans do not conform with that, they will not get financial support from the European Union,” EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said on Thursday. “There’s one thing I have to acknowledge, that in some areas of the transition the use of natural gas will probably be necessary to shift away from coal to sustainable energy.” Most EU member states have reacted positively to the EU recovery fund. Belgian finance minister Alexander De Croo spoke of a historic plan, which would strike the right balance between solidarity and responsibility. Portugal welcomed the Commission’s proposal as an ambitious response to the coronavirus challenge. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the proposal was a good starting point. However, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lövfen sharply criticised the plan, saying it could lead to wrong incentives, an inefficient allocation of resources and a significant increase in Sweden’s contribution to the EU. The German parliament has voted in favour of the EU plan but called for the implementation of safeguards.
reuters.com, euractiv.com, sueddeutsche.de
EU launches new fundraising for coronavirus vaccine: The EU Commission launched a new global fundraising campaign on Thursday to finance the development and worldwide distribution of testing, vaccines and treatments against Covid-19. The new initiative is meant to raise tens of billions of dollars with private and public donations. It follows another EU-led global campaign for the same goal which in less than a month has raised nearly $11 billion, more than half of it from EU nations and institutions. “No one is safe until we are all safe,” EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said, launching the new initiative, which will end with a pledging summit on 27 June. The EU Commission also announced on Thursday that it wants to set up a permanent reserve of essential drugs and medical equipment to address shortages that have dogged the EU for years and worsened throughout the pandemic.
European deaths spike linked to Covid-19: Europe has witnessed more than 159,000 excess deaths since early March, the director of the World Health Organisation’s Europe office has said. Dr Hans Kluge said these were deaths above and beyond what the WHO would have expected normally at this time of the year. Based on case information reported to WHO, 94% of all Covid-19 deaths were in persons aged 60 years and above, and 59% of all those who died were men. 97% of all deaths were among those with at least one underlying condition, according to information available, with cardiovascular disease the leading comorbidity.
Europeans are both optimists and pessimists: In general, a majority of Europeans have a positive view of the future for themselves, but a less positive view of their country’s future, according to a poll carried out by the King Baudouin Foundation on behalf of the Bertelsmann Stiftung. This is what researchers call the optimism bias, when a person believes they are less likely than others to experience a negative event. The higher the education level, the more the person was optimistic about their personal future and pessimistic for the country.
AI&I vTalk with Luciano Floridi: The development of a corona tracing app is shaping the public debate. Aside from data protection, complex ethical questions arise from the use of such an app. On May 12th from 5 pm Luciano Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and Information Ethics at the University of Oxford, will speak about the trust of European citizens in the use of mobile tracing apps and the ethical principles of government, business and science in the second edition of the AI&I vTalk.
People interested in participating in the discussion and asking questions to Professor Floridi are invited to visit the Vodafone Institute’s YouTube channel.
Brexit: No agreement between EU and UK in sight deutschlandfunk.de
Syria: EU sanctions against Assad regime extended by one year consilium.europa.eu
Euro zone sentiment rebounds less than expected in May reuters.com
EU Solidarity Fund: Austria, Italy, Portugal, Spain receive €279m after natural disasters europarl.europa.eu
United States: Trump signs executive order targeting social media companies; George Floyd protest in Minneapolis turns deadly cnn.com; nbcnews.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
“Perhaps the United Kingdom has come to the conclusion that there’s not going to be a deal. I hope not because we want a deal, but speed is of the essence because time is short.”
EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan has said the EU was willing to move in negotiations on future EU-UK relations, but Britain must make a bigger effort to do the same in talks next week.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
France to lift most coronavirus restrictions: French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the country would further ease lockdown measures from 2 June as most of France enters a “green zone” with fewer cases of coronavirus. Paris and its surrounding region have a higher level of pressure in hospitals and will have a more gradual reopening. Cafes, bars and restaurants across the country will be allowed to reopen indoor seating. In Paris, premises will only be allowed to open outdoor terraces, as is also the case for the overseas territories Mayotte and French Guiana. Parks and public gardens will reopen this weekend, and museums, historical monuments and beaches will reopen as of Tuesday, although gatherings of more than ten people remain prohibited. All schools will also progressively reopen from Tuesday. French unemployment claims jumped 22% in April, with 843,000 more people seeking work.
euronews.com, politico.eu (Lockdown); nbcnewyork.com (Unemployment)
Austria still sees Italy as a hotspot: Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober is still critical of opening the country’s border with Italy. Anschober said Italy was currently still a hotspot for the coronavirus, even though in some regions the situation had improved and there was a great commitment. He reiterated that he was a supporter of freedom of movement but Austria must still be prudent with Italy.
Mayor warns Florence is facing financial collapse: According to the mayor of Florence, art cities in Italy are on the brink of financial ruin because of the coronavirus pandemic and urgently need help. In an interview with the “Corriere della Sera” newspaper, Dario Nardella said he was planning a worldwide tour to raise funds for the arts. The first stop would be China, he said. The country had showed the most solidarity with Florence and quickly donated masks. New York, Los Angeles, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India and London, Berlin and Paris would be next. The investment bank Morgan Stanley and some Russian entrepreneurs have already made contributions.
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Romania to further ease lockdown restrictions: Romania will reopen outdoor cafes and restaurants and allow international road and rail travel from 1 June, after a two-month lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak, President Klaus Iohannis said on Thursday. From Monday, outdoor cafes will open with social distancing guidelines and a maximum of four people per table. Romanians will be able to travel between cities without restrictions and outdoor events with up to 500 people will be allowed. Non-contact outdoor sporting events can be held without an audience.
Reopening schools in Denmark and Finland did not worsen outbreak: Sending children back to schools and day care centres in Denmark, the first country in Europe to do so, did not lead to an increase in coronavirus infections, according to official data. Following a one-month lockdown, Denmark allowed children between two to 12 years back in day cares and schools on 15 April. Based on five weeks’ worth of data, health authorities are now for the first time saying the move did not make the virus proliferate. In Finland, a top official announced similar findings on Wednesday, saying nothing so far suggested the coronavirus had spread faster since schools reopened in mid-May.
Hungary to end state of emergency: As promised, the Hungarian government submitted two draft bills to end the state of emergency and terminate its controversial powers. In a separate legislative proposal, the government put forward transitional rules that three civil rights organisations said would enable the government to rule by decree for another indefinite time period, this time without the minimum constitutional guarantees.
Germany supports struggling restaurants by slashing their VAT; Government summons Russian ambassador over parliament hacking attack nytimes.com; dw.com
Spain says it will do all it can to reverse Nissan closure, workers protest uk.reuters.com
Poland surprises with third rate cut to fight virus fallout bloomberg.com
Lithuania and Estonia want to act differently in case of second coronavirus wave handelsblatt.com
Croatia completely opens borders to nationals of ten countries croatiaweek.com
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
Bitkom sucht Referent europäische Digitalpolitik (w/m) *** Int. Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory seeks Innovation Project Manager *** Int. Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory seeks Project Assistant for EU Funded Projects *** PwC seeks Public Affairs Senior Manager Belgium *** Johnson & Johnson seeks Policy Assistant, Government Affairs & Policy EMEA *** Public Policy Manager, Connectivity *** Ryanair offers Public Affairs internship
politjobs.eu, politjobs.eu/submit (Inserat schalten)
⊂ MALFUNCTION ⊃
Museum exhibit on protective masks: The Czech National Museum is opening an exhibition of face masks worn to protect against coronavirus infections. The exhibit was selected from hundreds of masks sent in by the public. They include folk motifs, fun designs, and the national flag. From masks designed by fashion designers to pieces created by hobbyists, from masks made of wedding dress fabric to versions with practical fasteners – everything will be represented.