8.46am BST
08:46

More than 40,000 calls have been made to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline since the start of the lockdown, and demand is rising as restrictions ease, according to the charity that runs it.

Refuge’s telephone helpline, which ordinarily logs around 270 calls and contacts from women, friends and family members needing support every day, saw an increase of 77% during June.

The first week in July saw a 54% rise in women needing emergency accommodation when compared with the last week in June – the highest number of women needing emergency accommodation during the lockdown period, the Press Association reports.

During June, 73% of calls to the helpline were from survivors of domestic abuse, and 40% of these callers were provided with information on issues such as child contact and housing rights.
Refuge said 17% of callers were supported to make safety plans and 15% were looking for emergency accommodation indicating they needed to leave their homes urgently.

During the same month, Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline website, where women experiencing domestic abuse can access support if they are unable to call, saw an increase of more than 800% compared with pre-lockdown statistics.

8.37am BST
08:37

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he did not think Boris Johnson’s message about Scotland’s dependence on the Union during coronavirus would be well received during his visit.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said:

I think he’s going to find that this message is going to go down particularly badly in Scotland.

Is he really saying that any other small nation in Europe and any other part of the world doesn’t have the capability to deal with the Covid crisis?

I think the days of telling Scotland that we are either too wee, too poor or too stupid really is over.

I think what we’ve demonstrated over the past two months in the areas of devolved responsibility and of public health is that the leadership that has been shown by our first m minister (Nicola Sturgeon) is in sharp contrast with the bluster we have seen from Boris Johnson.”

8.31am BST
08:31

The response to the coronavirus pandemic has shown the “sheer might” of the UK union, Boris Johnson has said ahead of his visit to Scotland today.

The visit is ahead of the one year anniversary of his first day in Downing Street on Friday.

He will say that being part of the UK saved 900,000 Scottish jobs during the pandemic, according to the BBC, which reported Inverness MP Drew Hendry of the SNP as saying Scotland could flourish as an independent country.

Downing Street said that during his visit – his first to Scotland since the general election in December – the prime minister will meet with businesses hit by the pandemic, those working in green energy, and military personnel to thank them for their efforts in the response to coronavirus.

There are no plans to meet with first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Writing in The Times (paywall) , Johnson said the lockdown could have “spelled disaster” for Scotland, “an economic tsunami that washed away hundreds of thousands of Scottish jobs and saw countless businesses lost forever below the waves”.

But the story was very different to what it might have been, he added.

And it’s happened because, for all the uncertainty and doubt and horror that has accompanied coronavirus, there has always been one thing of which we could be sure: that Scotland would not be forced to face this crisis alone. Because Scotland is an integral part of the UK.”

He continued:

The past six months have shown exactly why the historic and heartfelt bond that ties the four nations of our country together is so important and the sheer might of our Union has been proven once again.”

7.57am BST
07:57

Confusion over whether customers will have to wear face coverings in takeaways and sandwich shops in England must be cleared up, opposition MPs have told the Press Association.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on July 14 that wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets will be compulsory from Friday July 24, with anyone failing to comply facing a fine of up to 100.

But the new regulations will only be published today, less than 24 hours before they come into effect, and ministers were accused of not providing enough clarity.

The criticism came after days of mixed messages with Hancock and Boris Johnson’s official spokesman contradicting each other on the matter. Clarity was needed on , for example , on mask wearing in takeaways such as sandwich shops which also have table service.

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Munira Wilson said that with just a day to go to the new rules being enforced, the Government was in a mess.

She told the PA news agency:

People need a Government that can offer genuine reassurances and steer the country to safety.

After all, clear communication is critical in a public health crisis. Instead, this confusion on guidance shows Ministers simply could not organise a bun fight in a bakery.

All this stinks of ministers making it up as they go along instead of listening to the experts.

The Government must urgently provide the clarity businesses need to operate and people need to feel safe.”

7.25am BST
07:25

There was an “astonishing” failure by government to plan for the economic impact of a possible flu-like pandemic, parliament’s financial watchdog has said.

MPs on the cross-party public accounts committee concluded that government schemes were drawn up “on the hoof” in mid-March by Rishi Sunak’s Treasury, weeks after the first case of coronavirus was detected in the UK. The delay risked leaving sectors of the UK economy behind, according to a report published on Thursday.

MPs questioned why there was no economic equivalent to Exercise Cygnus, the 2016 simulation of an international flu outbreak that involved 950 emergency planning officials.

Key government ministries such as the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [BEIS] were not made aware that Cygnus had taken place and so had little idea of the possible impact of a major outbreak, the report said.

Meg Hillier, the chair of the committee, said members were shocked to discover from senior civil servants that pandemic planning had been treated solely as a health issue, with no planning for the economic impact.

“The economic strategy was of necessity rushed and reactive, initially a one-size-fits-all response that’s leaving people – and whole sectors of the economy – behind,” she said. “A competent government does not run a country on the hoof, and it will not steer us through this global health and economic crisis that way.

You can read the Guardian’s report here

7.25am BST
07:25

Good morning. This is Caroline Davies and I will be running the live blog for the next few hours.

Some of the main stories so far today.

The government’s flagship test-and-trace system is failing to contact thousands of people in areas with the highest infection rates in England, raising further questions about the £10bn programme described by Boris Johnson as “world-beating” . Local leaders and directors of public health are demanding more control over the tracing operation amid concerns that their ability to contain the virus is being put at risk.

Julian Lewis, the new chair of parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC), has demanded that ministers prevent Dominic Cummings and other special advisers from politicising its future inquiries. The independent MP told a Commons debate on the Russia report on Wednesday that he had been warned by a journalist that “some people within government” had tried to sack the committee’s civil service secretariat and “make political appointments” instead.

Britain’s universities rely too heavily on tuition fees from Chinese students, according to a Conservative-backed thinktank that wants the government to replace them with increased funding for domestic students taking “high value” degrees. The report by Onward, a thinktank supported by Tory MPs and donors, claims there are “well-founded fears” that China’s Communist party and its satellites have sought to undermine academic freedom and research on UK campuses, at the same time as lucrative international student fees have distorted the priorities of universities.

Labour’s decision to pay a six-figure libel settlement to ex-staffers who claimed the party was failing to deal with antisemitism has plunged the party back into civil war, with Jeremy Corbyn publicly condemning his successor’s decision to settle the case. Corbyn’s statement caused astonishment among the litigants in the libel action, with the Panorama journalist John Ware confirming to the Guardian that he was “consulting his lawyers” and raising the prospect of another costly court battle over Labour and antisemitism.

Downing Street sources have denied Brexit negotiations between the UK and European Union have broken down, but admit they are at an impasse. After two full days of talks in London, No 10 officials described the current state of play as neither a “breakthrough nor a breakdown”. The latest round is expected to end on Thursday without advancing on a deal.

You can contact me on caroline.davies@theguardian.com



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