The Breakfast Briefing: Boris throws protective ring around top scientists PLUS Jacob Rees-Mogg accused of flicking ‘multiple v-signs’
Boris Johnson last night announced the latest easing of lockdown rules
Your essential guide to what’s moving this morning from the PoliticsHome team
For the first time in almost a week the headlines are dominated by something other than Dominic Cummings' travel itinerary after Boris Johnson told a welcome nation that they would finally be allowed to meet up with their pals under the latest stage of the lockdown easing plans.
Speaking at the Downing Street briefing last night, the PM said that a falling number of coronavirus cases meant "cautious" steps, including the reopening of schools and non-essential shops, could take place from the beginning of next week, while for the first time in months families and friends would not be limited to one-to-one gatherings.
The announcement that up to six people can spend time together - provided they are outdoors and socially distanced - will allow grandparents to finally see their grandchildren, while the restrictions on hosting meet ups in gardens and other private outdoor spaces have also been scrapped.
The PM could not escape the inevitable questions over his controversial aide
But the PM could not escape the inevitable questions over his controversial aide after Durham Police concluded he "might" have breached the lockdown rules during his much lampooned trip to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.
Insisting the public wanted to "move on" from the row, Mr Johnson took the unusual step of gagging chief medical adviser Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance at yesterday's briefing, saying it was "unfair and unnecessary" to drag the pair into a political scrap.
But the Government will be hoping the thought of socially-distanced BBQs and picnics will take the sting out of an expected announcement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the furlough job retention scheme is going to be tightened from August.
Mr Sunak is gearing up to announce that the scheme, which currently pays 80% of a furloughed workers salary up to £2,500 a month, will be scaled back to 60%, while employers will also lose their exemptions from having to pay national insurance and workplace pension contributions.
But the news has prompted concern from a cross-party group of 100 MPs who have written to the Chancellor warning him that removing support too quickly from self-employed workers could leave them without a much needed financial lifeline while the job market remains frozen due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the care home crisis rumbles on after new details emerged which cast doubt on the insistence from Matt Hancock that he had thrown a "protective ring" around the sector.
Labour have taken aim at ministers following reports that as many as 1,800 bed in care homes had been blocked-booked for recovering coronavirus patients being discharged from hospitals, despite fears that placing sick patients in the homes had contributed to the spread of virus among residents.
And in a further blow, ministers have also been accused of ignoring a series of "high impact" recommendations from public health officials for curbing the spread of the illness among residents, including suggestions to quarantine patients in "temporary accommodation" and allow care staff to move into homes for the duration of the pandemic to limit the risk of transmission.
That's not to mention the blazing row over Jacob Rees-Mogg's plans to reopen the Commons from next week. Writing for The House Live this morning, former minister Rob Halfon, who has a disability, says the proposals will leave shielding and ill MPs as little more than "eunuchs" and accuses ministers of offering "multiple v-signs" to parliamentary colleagues in difficulty. Another quiet one, then.
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