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Covid-19: Contracts row, lockdown exit strategy and beating loneliness

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Publishedduration1 hour agoHere are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Wednesday morning. We’ll have another update for you at 18:00 GMT.1. ‘Come clean’ over Covid deals, says watchdogThe National Audit Office, which keeps an eye on public spending, says the government was not transparent in how it selected suppliers for…

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Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Wednesday morning. We’ll have another update for you at 18:00 GMT.

1. ‘Come clean’ over Covid deals, says watchdog

The National Audit Office, which keeps an eye on public spending, says the government was not transparent in how it selected suppliers for £18bn worth of Covid-19 contracts at the start of the pandemic. Firms recommended by MPs, peers and ministers’ offices were given priority and not enough was done to address potential conflicts of interest, the NAO said. The government acknowledged it had procured services with “extreme urgency”, but insisted “robust processes” were in place. It comes after the news that a Spanish businessman received $28m (£21m) of taxpayers’ money for acting as a go-between to secure protective garments for NHS staff.

image copyrightGetty Images

image caption80% of the contracts were for personal protective equipment

2. PMQs, but not as we know it

Later today, Boris Johnson will become the first prime minister in history to face his weekly grilling by MPs via videolink. He’s continuing to self-isolate in Downing Street after coming into contact with an MP who later tested posted for coronavirus. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will be in the Commons chamber as usual. The FDA senior civil servants’ union says the option of remote participation must become the norm for everyone, but that’s something House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has resisted. Read more on the rules around self-isolation.

image copyrightLee Anderson MP/Facebook

image captionBoris Johnson met Tory MP Lee Anderson, who later tested positive for coronavirus, in Downing Street last week

3. Doctors propose lockdown exit strategy

The lifting of restrictions across England must be handled better this time round to avoid a surge in infections, the British Medical Association says. It has published a blueprint for what that could look like, including replacing the “rule of six” with a two-households rule, and banning travel between areas in different tiers – assuming a return to the tier system is on the cards. The government has yet to say if, or how, England will exit on 2 December, but there’s much speculation in Wednesday’s papers about a potential “window of celebration” being granted for Christmas.

media captionCovid tier lockdown: What is the tier lockdown system in England?

4. Fans to return?

The government is exploring the potential for spectators to return to sports venues in some parts of England as early as next month. Sources say Boris Johnson has indicated it is “a personal priority”. Sports had previously been told to brace themselves for the possibility of empty stadiums until April. Meanwhile, some arts venues, such as the O2 and Royal Albert Hall, will be allowed to host audiences of up to 5,000 people next month – a move which has prompted accusations of inconsistency and favouritism.

Thanks to @OliverDowden for today’s invitation. We reiterated the urgency of starting a fan led review now to the Minister and to the football authorities on the call. In addition we lobbied for the return of supporters to stadiums ASAP. Fans need football and football needs fans https://t.co/BXv8udGvwT

— The FSA (@WeAreTheFSA) November 17, 2020

5. Overcoming loneliness

The week after the clocks went back saw Britain’s highest levels of loneliness since the pandemic began, according to Office for National Statistics figures. But there are ideas out there for how to beat those feelings of isolation. Read Shane’s story – he was so lonely he’d begun talking to furniture, but not any more, thanks to the efforts of a small charity and the new friends it has brought. BBC Newsbeat has also spoken to young people about how they’ve tackled it – from finding friends online to bonding over Minecraft.

image copyrightMegan

image captionLil and Megan were linked up by a befriending service

And don’t forget…

Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

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