Top story: ‘Difficult but important decisions’
Good morning and welcome to the top stories on this last day of June.
All non-essential shops in Leicester will be closed from this morning, and schools will close from Thursday (apart from for vulnerable children and those of essential workers) in the first local lockdown in England. Addressing the Commons at around 9pm last night, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, described the “difficult but important decisions” to reimpose measures on the city, which has seen nearly 950 new infections in a fortnight: “Given the growing outbreak in Leicester, we cannot recommend that the easing of the national lockdown, set to take place on 4 July,” he said. Hancock said this meant people should “stay home as much as you can” and avoid all non-essential travel to, from and within the city. Overnight Leicester council’s website said it was awaiting confirmation of all areas that would be affected, but Hancock said it would apply to the surrounding areas of the city, including Oadby, a town three miles south, and the villages of Glenfield and Birstall, three miles north. The changes will be reviewed in two weeks. The details of what’s being imposed are here.
Leicester’s lockdown comes ahead of Boris Johnson’s speech in the West Midlands today, in which he will promise a “New Deal” for Britain in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The PM will highlight projects worth £5bn, which he will “accelerate”, including improvements to schools and hospitals, and “shovel ready” schemes. But critics will likely highlight there is no new money in the announcement. Downing Street insists the speech is not part of a relaunch after a number of bruising weeks for the government, but No 10 is keen to restore its grip on the news agenda with upbeat messaging about the future. Environmental experts have expressed dismay with the “New Deal” and the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Patrick Wintour, says having adored Churchill, Johnson is now flirting with former US president Franklin D Roosevelt, whose economic programme of the 1930s bore the same name.
In other coronavirus news, the chancellor is expanding a £500m fund for UK startups hit by the pandemic, to ensure firms that shifted their headquarters abroad can still access the scheme. All children in England will be expected to go back to school in September on a full timetable, with secondary pupils kept in “Covid-secure” year groups to limit transmission of the virus, according to leaked guidance. Nicola Sturgeon has said she cannot rule out introducing quarantining or screening for travellers coming from England if infection rates rise south of the border. The lockdown has been devastating for mental health in the UK and the worst could be yet to come, according to the charity Mind, which says the government must take urgent action to prevent an even bigger crisis in future.
There’s more in our Coronavirus Extra section further down … and here’s where you can find all our coverage of the outbreak – from breaking news to factchecks and advice.
Hong Kong new security laws – Beijing has passed a sweeping national security law that critics fear will crush political freedoms in Hong Kong and pave the way for China to cement its control over the semi-autonomous territory. The standing committee of the National People’s Congress approved measures that will criminalise secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Rape cases – The Crown Prosecution Service secretly dropped “weak” cases, according to rights groups. They include cases where a woman was held at knifepoint, a film of an attack was found on a suspect’s phone and an alleged perpetrator admitted the offence in text messages. The details will be submitted to an ongoing government review of how rape is treated throughout the criminal justice system. They include statements from dozens of rape victims whose cases were not prosecuted and an account by a CPS whistleblower.
Child’s play – Children whose fathers spend time playing with them at a very early age may find it easier to control their behaviour and emotions, which has a beneficial impact as they get older and start school, according to a new study. Research carried out by Cambridge University’s faculty of education and the LEGO Foundation looked at how mothers and fathers play with children aged 0 to 3 years and how it affects child development. While there are many similarities, it found that fathers tend to engage in more physical play like tickling, chasing and piggy-back rides, which researchers claim appears to help children to learn to control their feelings.
‘Wonderful works’ – Paintings that show the first gay kiss in British theatre history and an extravagant drag ball have been acquired for the nation in lieu of inheritance tax. Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex has announced it is now the owner of five paintings by Leonard Rosoman from the 1960s. “They are really wonderful works,” said the gallery’s director, Simon Martin. The paintings shine light on a stage production that was a fascinating chapter in LGBTQ+ history, and one that helped pave the way for the abolition of theatre censorship.
The World Health Organization is planning to send a team to China to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. Its chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Monday that the pandemic was far from over and that he feared “the worst is still to come” unless divisions over the virus are replaced with international unity.
In the US, Arizona has reimposed lockdown restrictions, following in the footsteps of Texas, Florida and California, and Broadway shows will not return this year, according to the industry’s trade association.
Sirin Kale looks at the shocking return of rave parties, in breach of lockdown laws. And today’s Long Read looks at one UK hospital cleaner’s remarkable journey through the pandemic, and the fight for a better deal for NHS workers.
Today in Focus podcast: Lockdown easing: why the UK is better prepared for a second wave
This Saturday, lockdown measures in England will ease further, with people able to get a pint in a pub, have a haircut and see another household indoors. The Guardian’s heath editor, Sarah Boseley, looks at whether another lifting of restrictions might result in a second wave, and if it does, why we are better prepared this time round.
Lunchtime read: Istanbul’s mosque-turned-museum at the heart of an ideological battle
Ayasofya has been Istanbul’s crowning architectural treasure for many hundreds of years, and is now once again at the centre of controversy. Converted from a mosque to a museum by the Turkish Republic’s secular founder, Mustafa Kamal Atatürk, a decision will be made this week on the building’s final status and is expected to be fully restored to its Muslim heritage. As Bethan McKernan writes from Istanbul, the move would be the boldest message to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s detractors both at home and abroad that his country has decisively turned away from its alliances with the west in pursuit of a greater Neo-Ottoman destiny.
Racial bias is a clear and significant problem in English football commentary, according to a groundbreaking study. Ben Stokes is preparing to step up as England captain for the first Test against West Indies next week and he believes this honour has come about after responding to the notorious Bristol incident of 2017 with sheer hard work. The England and Wales Cricket Board has given a green light for the return of professional domestic cricket but it is not entirely clear where this green light leads. Burnley moved up to eighth in the Premier League after Ben Mee’s header gave them a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace. The Derby and former Liverpool defender Andre Wisdom is in hospital after being stabbed and robbed during a street attack. And the Watford forward Andre Gray has apologised after a breach of lockdown rules led to him being dropped at the weekend.
More than 300,000 planned new homes may remain on the drawing board over the next five years, deepening the UK’s housing crisis, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, new research predicts. Stalled construction and the recession will slash the number of new homes being built, with 85,000 predicted to be lost this financial year, according to a study by the property agency Savills with the housing charity Shelter. Construction of the cheapest social housing could fall to a “catastrophic” low of 4,300 units annually – the smallest number since the second world war. Shelter said this would not even be enough to clear the waiting list for a social home in Wakefield, never mind the rest of the country. The pound is buying $1.23 and €1.09.
We don’t usually cover regional papers in this roundup, but I thought it was worth mentioning the front of the Leicester Mercury, which splashes with “City returns to full lockdown” with a “closed” sign stamped over a picture of empty streets. The Guardian has “Leicester first to go back into lockdown”, but saves its splash for: “First Churchill, now Roosevelt: Johnson promises ‘UK New Deal’”. The Times has “Shops close again as Leicester is hit by first local lockdown”, but also keeps its splash for “‘New Deal’ spending spree to boost Britain’s recovery”. The Telegraph’s main headline is: “Leicester put back in lockdown as virus surges”. The FT writes: “Turning back: Leicester faces local lockdown”, but its main splash is “Wall Street banks bag bonanza fees as pandemic debt sales soar”. The Mirror describes Leicester’s “coronavirus blow” with: “First local lockdown”. The Mail has “First UK city put back into lockdown”. The Express leads on the “£5bn ‘New Deal’ to kick start Britain”.
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