Tuesday briefing: ‘Move hard and fast’

Top story: ‘Exponential’ rise pushes cases to nearly 400,000

Hello and welcome to this Tuesday briefing, with me Alison Rourke.

Boris Johnson is expected to lay out new rules today to tackle the “exponential” rise in coronavirus cases, as total infections are set to pass 400,000 in the next few hours. A curfew will mean pubs, bars and restaurants in England will close at 10pm from Thursday and police will have the power to issue £1,000 fines and make arrests to enforce two-metre social distancing. Nicola Sturgeon is also expected to announce new measures for Scotland after a Cobra meeting this morning. Health officials told No 10 to “move hard and fast” and that the second wave could last up to six months. The PM will address parliament and then likely the nation later in the day on the new measures that are are softer than what had been mooted in recent weeks, perhaps because of worries about the potential economic impact of going further. You can read how the plan was reached; its likely impact on affected venues; why scientists are at loggerheads over which restrictions are most effective; the full extent of the level-four restrictions announced on Monday; and how having flu and Covid-19 together significantly increases your risk of death. Also, Suzanne Moore’s take on why, unlike Brexit, which divided the country into two camps, coronavirus has split Britain into many tribes (“are you a false positive, a graph fetishist or an existentialist?”). Wednesday will mark six months since the first lockdown began.

In the US, Donald Trump falsely told an election rally that Covid-19 affects “virtually” no young people, as deaths in the country neared 200,000. You can stay up to date with our global blog.

‘Take another look at Labour’ – Keir Starmer will appeal directly to “red wall” voters who abandoned the party last year to reconsider Labour, telling them his party loves Britain and is under new leadership. Starmer will deliver his speech in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, with the online event replacing Labour’s annual conference. He will also emphasise the change in the party under his leadership: “To those who have turned away from Labour, I say this: we hear you,” he will say. “I ask you: take another look at Labour. We’re under new leadership.”

Racism at school – Almost a third of children have heard racist comments at school, according to research by an anti-bullying campaign that suggests they are most likely to have experienced racism by about the age of 13. The findings, commissioned by The Diana Award, a youth charity, came as children across the UK settled into an uncertain school year. More than a third said they were more worried than usual about returning to class. The survey found that children living in more diverse areas were far more likely to have heard racism, ranging from four in 10 of those living in London to about one in seven of those living in Northern Ireland.

Brexit – Theresa May has used a Commons speech to launch a blistering attack on the government’s plan to give itself powers to renege on the special arrangements for Northern Ireland in the Brexit deal. She described the plans as “reckless” and “irresponsible” and said they “risked the integrity of the United Kingdom”, as they would not only tarnish Britain’s reputation globally as an upholder of the law but could contribute to a reunited Ireland. She said: “I cannot emphasise enough how concerned I am [that] the Conservative government is willing to go back on its word to break an international agreement signed in good faith, and to break international law.” Columnist Polly Toynbee says Starmer’s greatest challenge will be to defeat the Tories on patriotism.

‘Lookism’ – Older women are subject to different standards than male colleagues at the BBC, even on radio, the broadcaster Libby Purves has said. The corporation has a problem with older women because they are under more pressure to appear attractive and youthful, Purves, who presented Radio 4’s Midweek from 1983 until it was dropped in 2017, wrote in an opinion piece for Radio Times. While a number of older male broadcasters, including Melvyn Bragg, David Attenborough and John Humphrys, held high-ranking positions well into their 70s, female presenters struggle to match them: “Sue Barker has been binned from A Question of Sport after 23 years. She is 64. More willingly, Jenni Murray and Jane Garvey depart from Woman’s Hour, aged 70 and 56. They are replaced by Emma Barnett, a mere 35. What is this? Does the BBC have a problem with older women? Are we written off as old trouts while men become revered elders, sacred patriarchs, silver foxes?”

National Trust – Research commissioned by the National Trust has revealed 93 properties and places that have a link to colonialism and slavery. They include Winston Churchill’s country estate Chartwell, because of his political roles and opposition to self-governance in India, Lundy island in Devon, where convicts were forced into unpaid labour, and Hare Hill in Cheshire, whose owner bought and sold slaves on a huge scale. The report lists 29 places, including Clandon Park in Surrey, that have links to successful compensation claims for slave ownership following abolition. Tarnya Cooper, the trust’s curatorial and collections director, said the report was just the beginning of work to understand the links with colonialism and begin to “integrate that into our narrative. It is also to raise awareness about the complexity of history in relation to place.”

Today in Focus podcast: The fight over dyslexia

The question of who gets diagnosed with dyslexia and who then receives support was one of many questions that Guardian journalist Sirin Kale found herself examining when she began a year-long investigation into the condition. But what surprised her most was how fiery the conversation around this condition had become, with some asking whether the term dyslexia should even exist.

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Sirin Kale discusses her year-long investigation into dyslexia

Today in Focus

The fight over dislexia

Lunchtime read: Ron Howard on wildfires, Covid and acting

Rebuilding Paradise – a film about the devastation of the town of the same name in the California wildfires of 2018 – had a personal connection for its director, Ron Howard: his mother-in-law had lived there. The devastating blaze killed 85 people and Howard looks at what happened next. “We wanted to see what it means to keep going when the direction of one’s life has been completely devastated and all your goals are gone,” Howard tells Hadley Freeman. The lockdown has in part been dominated by work – with his wife and daughter infected with Covid, he spent two weeks sleeping in his editing office. Howard famously started out as a child actor aged five, something that has helped him draw out the best performances on screen of other young actors. “I grew up as a child actor, been working all my life, and I love it. But it does create a kind of bubble. So I look for projects that lead me to life experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise had – and on my own I’m an introverted, risk-averse individual. But, when there’s a story to be told, it gets me out of the house, talking to people, learning things. And then I just go,” he says.

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Ron Howard’s new documentary is about the fires that destroyed the California town of Paradise.


The Tour de France peloton woke up with a hangover on Monday, with the Arkea-Samsic team under preliminary investigation for suspicion of doping practices after the team’s hotel in Méribel was searched by public health officers last Wednesday. Manchester City started their Premier League season with a victory by resisting a late Wolves fightback to win 3-1 at Molineux. Sheffield United’s John Lundstram had a penalty saved by the debutant Emiliano Martínez after the Blades had John Egan sent off, and Ezri Konsa’s header then gave Aston Villa a 1-0 win. The government is set to pause its plans for the partial return of fans to all sports stadiums on 1 October because of the rapid spike in Covid-19 cases, the Guardian understands. England’s return to international women’s cricket after a six-month absence proved a memorable one, as they took up where they had left off in the World Twenty20 and thrashed West Indies by 47 runs at Derby. After 14 years of trying, Sale could finally savour the rarefied taste of silverware again after edging a close-fought Premiership Rugby Cup final against Harlequins, winning 27-19. And Novak Djokovic, who beat Diego Schwartzman, 7-5, 6-3, in Rome to win a record 36th ATP Masters title, heads to Paris as worried as everyone else in the game that at least two players trying to qualify for the French Open have tested positive for Covid-19.


Investors will be anxiously awaiting the opening of share markets after London suffered its worst losses in more than three months on Monday, amid fears a second wave of Covid-19 could force harsh lockdown measures. The FTSE 100 closed more than 3.4% down at 5,804 points on a day of sharp falls in equities in both Europe and North America. Markets in the rest of Europe were also affected by the pessimistic mood on Monday, with Frankfurt’s DAX index slumping by 4.4%. Many investors are worried that rising Covid cases in Europe and ebbing enthusiasm for fiscal stimulus in the United States, as election campaigning dominates politics, could dent the global recovery from the pandemic.

The papers

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Guardian front page 22 September 2020

The front pages are entirely focussed on Covid today. The Guardian’s headline is “Pubs and restaurants face 10pm closing time as Covid fears grow”. It’s echoed in the Times: “New 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants”, and ditto for the i: “10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants to tackle virus surge”. The FT has: “Johnson cracks down on pubs in push to contain spread of Covid”. The Telegraph says: “The second shutdown begins”. The Daily Mail splashes with “UK slammed into reverse” and the Express focusses on the PM, including with a large photo: “Boris: only a united front will halt virus”. The Mirror’s headline is “New virus restrictions: Hitting Home”.

Correction: In yesterday’s Morning Briefing, because of an editing error, we mistakenly referred to the content of Prof Devi Sridhar’s article as “his main advice” when it should have read “her main advice”.

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