UK PM Defends COVID-19 Contracts After Watchdog Criticism

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during his visit to the Tollgate Medical Centre in Becton, east London on July 24, 2020.. (Photo by Jeremy Selwyn / POOL / AFP)

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday defended his government’s coronavirus response, following claims of rampant cronyism and watchdog criticism that its awarding of lucrative supply contracts lacked transparency.

A probe by state auditors found the UK government has failed to account clearly for all of the £18 billion ($24 billion, 20 billion euros) it has spent on supplies and services linked to the pandemic.

The report by the National Audit Office (NAO) came as the ruling Conservatives also faced mounting attacks from opposition parties for allegedly handing out profitable Covid-19 contracts to well-connected business figures and donors.

“I’m very proud of what has been achieved,” Johnson told lawmakers in response to the criticism, adding his government had “shifted heaven and earth” to source enough personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic.

“We were facing a very difficult situation where across the world there (were) not adequate supplies of PPE.”

However, opposition Labour MP Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said the NAO report’s findings may be just the “tip of the iceberg”.

She called on ministers to “come clean” and publish all information about the contracts they had awarded.

“By not being transparent about when these contracts were awarded and what they were doing, it lays the government open to these accusations,” she told the BBC.

– ‘Audit trail’ –
The NAO discovered that up to July 31, more than 8,600 contracts worth £18 billion in total had been dished out by the government, including £10.5 billion without any competitive process.

Ministers set up a “high priority lane” to favour companies recommended by their departments, civil servants, other MPs and senior staff from the National Health Service (NHS).

“We found inadequate documentation in a number of cases on how the risks of procuring suppliers without competition had been mitigated,” its report said.

Some contracts were awarded retrospectively, after work had already been carried out, and there was “not always a clear audit trail to support key procurement decisions”, it added.

The government was able to invoke emergency powers earlier this year to bypass normal tendering rules that regulate official contracts.

NAO chief Gareth Davies recognised the government faced “exceptional circumstances” when the pandemic took hold and that it faced a struggle to secure supplies of PPE in a strained global marketplace.

But he said it was “essential that decisions are properly documented and made transparent” if the government was to maintain the public trust that taxpayers’ money is being well spent.

“The evidence set out in our report shows that these standards of transparency and documentation were not consistently met in the first phase of the pandemic,” Davies added.

– Unmasking problems –
The NAO found that PestFix, a pest control company, was mistakenly put in the high priority lane and then delivered 600,000 masks which failed to meet the government’s PPE specifications.

Medical gowns it supplied also failed to meet correct standards but the Health and Safety Executive regulator came under “political” pressure to allow their use, the BBC reported this week.

The NAO report listed other companies, including ones engaged in public relations and artificial intelligence, linked to serving ministers that benefited from fast-track contracts.

It did not suggest any impropriety but said the awards lacked transparency.

The findings come after the Sunday Times reported last weekend that the government had awarded £1.5 billion during the first wave of the pandemic to companies linked to the Conservatives.

Meanwhile, a BBC investigation reported this week that a Spanish businessman who acted as a go-between to secure PPE for health staff had been paid £21 million in taxpayers’ money.

Chelsea Cruise As Werner’s Penalty Double Sinks Rennes

 

Frank Lampard praised Jorginho’s professionalism after the Italian gave penalty duties to Timo Werner as Chelsea powered to a 3-0 win against 10-man Rennes in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Werner netted twice from the spot before half-time at Stamford Bridge after Rennes defender Dalbert conceded both penalties.

Dalbert was sent off after the second penalty and Chelsea made the most of their numerical advantage to score again through Tammy Abraham early in the second half.

Werner has taken over from Jorginho as Chelsea’s penalty taker after the midfielder’s recent misses and Lampard was pleased with the way he handled the change.

“It was not an easy decision, because Jorginho has been pretty faultless for us,” Lampard said.

“Timo came in and scored one in our last European game. I had a conversation with Jorginho and his answer was perfect for a professional. He doesn’t care who takes them, he just wants us to score.

“Timo is the taker at the moment, and he took them emphatically, so I’m happy.”

Lampard’s side are top of Group E with seven points after three games and look well set to qualify for the last 16.

Chelsea have started a Champions League campaign with three consecutive clean-sheets in the group stage for the first time since 2009-10.

As well as keeping five successive clean-sheets in all competitions for the first time in 10 years, banishing the defensive problems that ailed them earlier this season, the Blues have scored 10 goals in their last three games.

The combination of a well-drilled defence and a potent attack is a welcome sight for Lampard, who has been working overtime to find the right formula after spending over £200 million ($259 million) on new signings in the close-season.

“Those stats and runs are great, but you cannot come off them at all, so that is why I am pleased we saw it through to the end of the game,” Lampard said.

“We deserved it. We are working as a collective and we have to keep that base.”

Chelsea are unbeaten in seven games in all competitions and Lampard’s only concern was the absence of Kai Havertz, who was left out of the squad after going into self-isolation following a positive coronavirus test.

Penalty controversy

Werner opened the scoring in the 10th minute.

His deft touch induced a rash tackle from Dalbert just inside the area, winning a penalty that the German striker calmly converted.

Dalbert’s disastrous day was complete in the 41st minute when he stuck out a foot to block Abraham’s shot and diverted it onto his arm.

After a video review, the penalty was awarded and Dalbert was dismissed for his second booking.

It was a harsh decision, but Werner lashed the spot-kick high into the roof of the net for his seventh goal of the season.

Werner, a close-season signing from Leipzig, has now been directly involved in 13 goals in his past 14 appearances in the Champions League.

Chelsea went for the kill after half-time and Jorginho’s defence-splitting pass found Abraham, whose shot was blocked by Alfred Gomis.

Abraham got his goal anyway in the 50th minute, meeting Reece James’ cross with a close-range finish for his third goal of the season and his first since September.

Werner nearly notched his hat-trick from James’ cross, but Damien Da Silva cleared away from the striker as he prepared to pull the trigger.

Gomis made a good save to deny Olivier Giroud in the closing stages, but Chelsea had already done enough damage.

Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy, who joined from Rennes in September, was rarely tested against his old club.

Mendy did make one good save to keep out Jeremy Dokumade’s strike in the final moments, giving the Senegal international six clean-sheets in his last six appearances.

UK Says US Ties Will Go ‘From Strength To Strength’ Whoever Wins

File: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Britain on Wednesday insisted its close partnership with the United States was in safe hands whoever comes out on top of the tumultuous presidential election while noting disaccord over the Paris climate pact.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a populist ally of President Donald Trump, stayed up into the night to follow the results coming in, according to a Downing Street spokesman.

But Johnson refused to be drawn in parliament when grilled about the Republican’s premature claim of victory and his intention to ask the Supreme Court to halt the vote counting.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps came closer to breaching UK neutrality over the election, in discussing Britain’s support for action on climate change as it prepares to host a major UN summit next year.

“One can imagine that one of those candidates would be more enthusiastic (on climate policy) as president than the other,” he told ITV News, referring to Democrat Joe Biden.

Former prime minister Theresa May noted that the election dispute coincided with Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord taking effect on Wednesday.

“We will soon know who will be the next US president. But, sadly, today also marks the US leaving the Paris accord — the world’s foremost attempt to build consensus on climate change,” she tweeted.

“Whoever is elected has an immense responsibility to help tackle our planet’s greatest challenge.”

Britain is due next year to convene the UN’s COP 26 climate summit, and Johnson’s spokesman said the government was looking forward to a “successful hosting” of the multinational meeting, which has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Obviously we’ve made clear to the US administration throughout this process that we remain firm supporters of the Paris Agreement,” the spokesman told reporters.

He added that the transatlantic relationship would “go from strength to strength whichever candidate wins the election”.

“Across trade, security, intelligence, defence, innovation and culture, few countries do more together.”

For his part, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “I’m not worried about the relationship.”

“The contours of the opportunities and the risks always shift a little bit, but that needs to be set against the context of this bedrock and this wider set of interests which are so strong,” he told Sky News.

Raab also downplayed concerns expressed by Biden over the UK’s plans for Northern Ireland after its Brexit divorce from the European Union.

Spurs Hit Man Utd For Six, Arsenal Edge Blades

 

Jose Mourinho humiliated his former club Manchester United as Tottenham swept to a stunning 6-1 win at Old Trafford, while Arsenal moved into the Premier League’s top four with a 2-1 victory against Sheffield United on Sunday.

Tottenham boss Mourinho was sacked by United in 2018 after a turbulent reign, but it was his successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was left red-faced after a shambolic display from the hosts.

Despite taking the lead through Bruno Fernandes’ second-minute penalty, United collapsed as they conceded four goals in the first half of a league match for the first time since 1957.

Tanguy Ndombele equalised in the fourth minute after dismal defending from Harry Maguire and South Korea forward Son Heung-min made it two from Harry Kane’s seventh minute quick free-kick.

United were reduced to 10 men when Anthony Martial was harshly sent off in the 28th minute for his reaction to a push from Erik Lamela.

That opened the floodgates as United surrendered, with Kane grabbing Tottenham’s third in the 31st minute after stealing Eric Bailly’s weak pass.

READ ALSO: Tottenham Hit 10-Man Man Utd For Six On Mourinho’s Return

United were in disarray and Serge Aurier crossed for Son’s close-range finish in the 37th minute.

Aurier drilled home in the 51st minute and Kane made it six with a 79th-minute penalty.

It was just the third time United had conceded six goals in the Premier League era started in 1992.

Solskjaer’s team have lost their first two home games for the first time since 1986 and sit just two places above the relegation zone after their heaviest home defeat since Manchester City beat them 6-1 in 2011.

Tottenham are up to fifth place after their second league win this term, ending a run of four games in eight days that included knocking Chelsea, another of Mourinho’s old clubs, out of the League Cup on Tuesday.

– Saka shines –
Arsenal have taken nine points from their opening four games as they look to return to Champions League football for the first time in five years next season.

But the Gunners were fortunate to take all three points at the Emirates as they had an early escape when David Luiz escaped a red card for a pull on Oli Burke.

Mikel Arteta’s men got going after the break and a fine team move opened the scoring on the hour mark when Bukayo Saka headed home Hector Bellerin’s cross at the far post.

Bellerin was the provider again moments later as Nicolas Pepe drove forward to curl the ball in off the far post.

David McGoldrick halved the deficit seven minutes from time with the Blades first league goal of the season, but they remain without a point.

Leicester rocked

Leicester’s perfect start came to a shuddering halt with a 3-0 defeat at home to West Ham, just a week after the Foxes thrashed Manchester City 5-2.

Liverpool can now leapfrog Leicester to move joint top of the table alongside Merseyside rivals Everton if they win at Aston Villa later on Sunday.

West Ham manager David Moyes was again taking charge from home after testing positive for coronavirus.

But just as in a 4-0 win over Wolves last weekend, the Hammers did not miss his presence as goals from Michail Antonio, Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen gave the visitors a full deserved three points.

At St Mary’s, Southampton won their second successive game by seeing off lowly West Brom 2-0.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side dominated throughout but had to wait until the 41st minute to open the scoring when Moussa Djenepo’s clever drag-back eluded Jake Livermore before the winger stroked his finish into the bottom corner.

Oriol Romeu met Stuart Armstrong’s cross with a brilliant volley from the edge of the area in the 69th minute.

Wolves beat Fulham 1-0 at Molineux as Pedro Neto’s 56th minute goal clinched their second league win of the season.

Tottenham Hit 10-Man Man Utd For Six On Mourinho’s Return

 

 

Tottenham cashed in on Anthony Martial’s first-half red card to thrash Manchester United 6-1 as Jose Mourinho enjoyed a dream return to Old Trafford on Sunday.

Son Heung-min and Harry Kane scored twice as Spurs opened up a disorganised United defence at will even before Martial was harshly punished for an off-the-ball clash with Erik Lamela.

Tanguy Ndombele and Serge Aurier were also on target for Tottenham, who showed no ill-effects of a draining week in their fourth match in eight days.

United’s worst home defeat since 2011 will turn the spotlight onto them ahead of the transfer deadline on Monday.

Uruguayan striker Edison Cavani is reportedly set to join the Red Devils, but it is at the other end of the field Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are in desperate need of reinforcements.

Mourinho, who was sacked as United boss in December 2018, has claimed his old club are too often the beneficiaries of dubious penalty decisions. But he could have no complaints when Davinson Sanchez upended Martial inside the area in the first minute.

Bruno Fernandes coolly slotted home the spot-kick to seemingly give the home side the perfect start.

However, within four minutes it was 1-1 as calamitous defending from Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw presented Ndombele with the chance to sweep home an equaliser from close range.

Kane was the provider for all four of Son’s goals in a 5-2 win at Southampton two weeks ago and the two combined to perfection once more as Spurs took the lead three minutes later.

Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were caught ball watching as Kane’s quickly taken free-kick was perfect for the South-Korean to race through and dink the ball over the advancing David De Gea.

The visitors could have had plenty more as a poor touch from Son denied him another one-on-one with De Gea before the Spaniard saved from Aurier.

Any chance of a United revival went with Martial as he was shown a straight red card for raising his hands to Lamela’s face in retaliation to an elbow from the Argentine, which went unpunished from VAR.

Even that decision, though, could not mask a disastrous performance from United, who gifted another goal away within two minutes of losing a man.

Kane intercepted Bailly’s attempt to play out from inside his own box and when the ball broke to Son, he unselfishly squared for Kane to slot into an unguarded net.

Son had been a major injury doubt after suffering a hamstring problem in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle, but he was full of energy as he burst into the box to flick his seventh goal of the season between De Gea’s legs.

Solskjaer introduced holding midfielders Scott McTominay and Fred at half-time in a bid to stem the tide, but United were cut open again when Paul Pogba failed to track Aurier’s run and he fired into the far corner from Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg’s perfect pass.

Pogba was at fault again for the sixth as he dived in on Ben Davies and Kane converted emphatically from the penalty spot.

A second straight home defeat to start the season drops United to just above the relegation zone in 16th, while Tottenham move up to fifth.

Bamford Strikes Late As Leeds Blunt Blades

 

Patrick Bamford scored a dramatic late winner as Premier League new boys Leeds snatched a 1-0 victory at Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United on Sunday.

Marcelo Bielsa’s promoted side earned their second successive league win thanks to Bamford’s header with just two minutes left.

Bamford’s third goal of the season settled a hard-fought clash that was dominated by superb displays from Leeds keeper Illan Meslier and Blades stopper Aaron Ramsdale.

Leeds look well-equipped to enjoy a strong showing in their first season back in the top-flight for 16 years.

On their return to the Premier League, Leeds’ first two games produced 14 goals and they were the first top-flight side to both score and concede seven goals in their first two matches since Liverpool in the 1932-33 season.

But they needed just one goal to earn a valuable victory at Bramall Lane.

“It was a just result. The first half was even. We could have scored, but we could have conceded and the second half was a lot better for us,” said Bielsa, who refused to discuss reports linking Leeds with a move for Norwich midfielder Todd Cantwell.

The Blades have now lost six successive league games dating back to last season and they remain without a league goal this term.

“I’ll be glad to see the back of September. Have we got another game in September? I don’t think we have. So, a fresh start in October at Arsenal!” Blades boss Chris Wilder said.

The bad news kept on coming just before kick-off when Blades defender Jack O’Connell was ruled out for the season with a knee injury.

Leeds made a lively start to the first Yorkshire derby in the Premier League since 2001 as Luke Ayling tested Ramsdale from long range.

The Blades’ lack of confidence was clear and John Lundstram should have ended their barren run when he met Ben Osborn’s cross with a low strike, but Meslier flung himself to his right to make a superb save.

Ramsdale matched Meslier’s impressive stop with a fine save of his own as he kept out a rising drive from Stuart Dallas.

Meslier was unconvincing in Leeds’ first two games this season, but the 20-year-old made another good save to repel George Baldock’s rising drive.

Helder Costa and Bamford had strikes turned away by Ramsdale as the keepers remained on top at both ends.

Even when Dallas managed to get past Ramsdale, Chris Basham was there to clear off the line.

Ian Poveda came on for Leeds and the former Manchester City youngster immediately saw Ramsdale push his shot over.

But Bamford finally broke the deadlock in the 88th minute as he ended Ramsdale’s resistance with a close-range header from Harrison’s cross.

Man City Pounce On Varane Mistakes To Dump Out Real Madrid

 

Manchester City took advantage of two shocking mistakes by Raphael Varane to beat Real Madrid 2-1 in their Champions League last 16-second leg on Friday and advance to the quarter-finals as Pep Guardiola came out on top in his duel with Zinedine Zidane.

The Frenchman had never been knocked out of Europe’s elite club competition as Real coach, leading them to three consecutive victories between 2016 and 2018 in his first spell before returning to the job last year.

But Madrid had been left with a mountain to climb in this tie after throwing away the lead to lose 2-1 in the first leg in Spain in February, before the coronavirus forced the competition into hibernation.

An identical defeat at an empty Etihad Stadium means it is City who advance 4-2 on aggregate.

READ ALSO: Lyon Hold Off Juventus To Reach Champions League Quarter-Finals

Without Sergio Ramos due to suspension, Real were undone by mistakes by their other first-choice centre-back.

Varane was dispossessed inside the box in the ninth minute allowing Raheem Sterling to put City ahead, and his poor headed backpass attempt gifted Gabriel Jesus another goal midway through the second half.

Before that second goal the tie had been in the balance with the in-form Karim Benzema having scored for the visitors just before the half-hour mark.

The circumstances may be highly unusual, but this is still City’s finest Champions League result, their most significant victory in a knock-out tie.

Their best performance in the competition remains a run to the semi-finals in 2016, when they went out rather limply to Real.

Now they should very possibly be considered the favourites to win the competition in Lisbon on August 23.

If they do so, the victory would taste all the sweeter coming so soon after their successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport against a two-year ban from Europe handed down by UEFA for breaches of their Financial Fair Play rules.

They have already qualified for next season’s tournament after coming second in the Premier League but now they can look forward to facing Lyon in the quarter-finals next Saturday at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Real, meanwhile, will get over this.

They have dined out on success in the Champions League in recent years but their main objective after the coronavirus shutdown was to win La Liga and they did that.

Zidane’s team overhauled Barcelona thanks to 10 successive victories after La Liga returned in June but they were not especially prolific in front of goal during that run, despite Benzema’s fine form.

Uphill struggle

It was already going to be an uphill struggle for them in the absence of Ramos, sent off late in the first leg, and their task became even harder after they conceded an early opener.

City’s high pressing paid off as Varane was barged off the ball in his own area by Jesus, who squared for Sterling to roll in.

There was a response from the 13-time European champions, though, with Benzema and Eden Hazard both forcing saves from Ederson before their equaliser on the night arrived in the 28th minute.

A fine move ended with Benzema feeding Rodrygo and the young Brazilian clipping in a cross from the right for the Frenchman, who rose above Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho to head in from the edge of the six-yard box.

It was his 65th goal in the Champions League, putting him one clear of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski on the overall list and behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Raul.

Unfortunately for Real, Benzema was not able to add to that tally and this tie was effectively ended by another Varane blooper.

The Frenchman struggled with an awkward high ball downfield and his header back towards Thibaut Courtois was short, allowing Jesus to prod it beyond the goalkeeper and into the net.

Real will not return to Lisbon, where they won the Champions League in 2014, but the dream remains alive for Guardiola and City.

AFP

Lampard Hails Chelsea’s ‘Character’ After FA Cup Semi-Final Success

Chelsea's English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

Frank Lampard saluted Chelsea’s “character and personality” as they powered into the FA Cup final with a 3-1 win over woeful Manchester United on Sunday.

Lampard’s side were gifted their goals by an error-strewn display from United goalkeeper David De Gea, but Chelsea were deserved winners as they dominated the semi-final from start to finish.

Olivier Giroud opened the scoring late in the first half and Mason Mount got the second after the interval at Wembley.

Harry Maguire’s own goal killed off United before Bruno Fernandes’ late penalty.

After some shaky performances in recent weeks, including a 3-0 hammering at Sheffield United, Lampard was impressed with the spirited way his players out-classed in-form United at Wembley.

“I can’t ask for any more from my players than that. The work ethic and the level of performance. We were on top and when they changed their system we were even better,” Lampard told the BBC.

“Where we are at, it is going to happen that we have some bad displays like against Sheffield United. But to do that against Manchester United, I’m delighted and very proud.

“There was a lot of work done in the last two days to change the system, and you’re only as good as your players in that situation. They deserve a huge amount of credit.

“They should take confidence from that display. We have leaders, you can’t compare across eras but we have leaders in the team. It was a performance full of character and personality.”

Chelsea’s victory moved Lampard a step closer to silverware in his first season in charge of the club where he earned legendary status as a player.

Before their FA Cup final date with London rivals Arsenal on August 1, Chelsea have to focus on qualifying for the Champions League via a top four finish in the Premier League.

They sit third — one point above Leicester and United — with games against Liverpool and Wolves to finish the league season.

“We have finals ahead. Two in the league and then Arsenal,” Lampard said.

“We want to win things, and at the start of the season we wanted to be up there challenging for the top four.

“A lot of people were tipping against us, but quietly I was always hoping.

“I don’t want to put everything on these three games defining everything we’ve done and the progress we’ve made, but of course we want top four, we want trophies and we’re at the business end, so let’s see.”

British Virus Death Toll Now World’s Third-Worst

Britain Flag

 

Britain’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped to 26,097 on Wednesday — the second-highest in Europe behind Italy and third-highest in the world — as the government took into account fatalities outside hospital, including care homes, for the first time.

The increase came after surprise news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had become a father again at age 55, several months earlier than expected, and just weeks after he was taken to hospital with COVID-19.

Downing Street announced that his partner, Carrie Symonds, 32, gave birth to a healthy baby boy, prompting messages of congratulation from across the political spectrum at home and abroad.

The rare good news was soured however by the additional 4,419 deaths in the overall coronavirus death toll, just as Johnson, who returned to work on Monday, is under pressure to ease a month-long lockdown.

Until now, Britain had reported only deaths of people who had tested positive for COVID-19 in hospital but there has been mounting concern about high numbers of unreported victims in the wider community.

On Tuesday, the Office for National Statistics said deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending April 17 were running at roughly double the five-year average and were the highest weekly total since 1993.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Wednesday said there were an additional 3,811 deaths included in the outbreak since the start of March, on top of figures from the last 24 hours.

“They don’t represent a sudden surge in the number of deaths,” he told reporters.

According to an AFP tally from official sources at 1300 GMT on Wednesday, Britain has now leapfrogged the tolls in France and Spain and is the second-worst affected country in Europe, behind Italy’s 27,359 deaths.

The United States has the world’s worst death toll with 58,355.

Second peak

Britain has widened its testing regime for COVID-19 to care homes, the over-65s and people unable to work from home, as part of increased measures to curb the outbreak.

A total of 85 frontline workers in the state-run National Health Service (NHS) have died from the coronavirus, and 23 in social care, according to the government.

There remain questions about the provision of personal protective equipment to medics and others dealing with patients, and the availability of testing.

Raab, who has deputised for Johnson during his illness and recovery, warned the government is not yet ready to ease lockdown restrictions.

“This issue of a second spike and the need to avoid it, it’s not a theoretical risk,” he said.

“Having relaxed restrictions in Germany over the last week, they’ve seen a rise in the transmission rate of coronavirus.

“We’re in a delicate and dangerous moment. We’re coming through the peak, but we’re not there yet.”

‘Relief and joy’

Britain shut non-essential shops and services, and ordered people to stay at home except to shop for groceries and medicines, on March 27.

A review of the measures is expected on May 7, amid dire warnings about the economic impact and indications of frustration at the continued confinement.

Johnson held a lunchtime telephone call with the leader of the main opposition Labour party, Keir Starmer who has called for more clarity on the lockdown exit plan.

Starmer earlier joined well-wishers in congratulating Johnson on becoming a father again, particularly after his recent experience. Symonds also displayed COVID-19 symptoms but was not tested.

“Whatever differences we have in this house, as human beings we all recognise the anxiety the prime minister and Carrie must have gone through in these past few weeks,” he told parliament.

“I really hope this brings them incredible relief and joy.”

Johnson had to spend three nights in intensive care, and later admitted his illness “could have gone either way”.

He was present for the birth at an unnamed NHS hospital in London and would be taking some paternity leave later in the year, his spokesman said.

Johnson has at least five other children, including four with his second wife, Marina Wheeler, from whom he split in 2018.

He also had a daughter as a result of an extra-marital affair while he was mayor of London, according to a 2013 court case.

The news of his youngest child’s birth came as a surprise, as Symonds was not thought to be due for several weeks.

Both she and the baby were said to be doing “very well”.

Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Arsenal's Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham at the Emirates Stadium in London on March 7, 2020. Ian KINGTON / AFP
Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham at the Emirates Stadium in London on March 7, 2020. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the Premier League to announce they will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss future fixtures.

Arsenal have closed their training ground as a result of Arteta’s positive test, with Gunners players and club staff who had recent contact with the Spaniard now forced to self-isolate.

“This is really disappointing but I took the test after feeling poorly,” Arteta said in a statement on Arsenal’s website.

“I will be at work as soon as I’m allowed.”

Arsenal confirmed the shock news just minutes after the Premier League had said all fixtures would go ahead this weekend despite the spread of the global pandemic.

Arsenal, due to play at Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday, said it was “clear we will not be able to play some fixtures on their currently scheduled dates”.

Arsenal’s Premier League match at Manchester City on Wednesday was postponed and several Gunners players went into self-isolation after Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis contracted the virus.

Marinakis, 52, met a number of Arsenal’s players and staff when the Gunners faced Olympiakos in a Europa League tie in February.

“Our London Colney training centre has been closed after head coach Mikel Arteta received a positive Covid-19 result this evening,” the Arsenal statement said.

“Arsenal personnel who had recent close contact with Mikel will now self-isolate in line with Government health guidelines.

“We expect this to be a significant number of people from Colney, including the full first-team squad and coaching staff.”

Arsenal are now trying to trace any other people who may have had contact with Arteta.

 Premier League emergency 

Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham added: “The health of our people and the wider public is our priority and that is where our focus is.

“Our thoughts are with Mikel who is disappointed but in good spirits. We are in active dialogue with all the relevant people to manage this situation appropriately, and we look forward to getting back to training and playing as soon as medical advice allows.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that the government was considering cancelling sporting events in the United Kingdom, but was not ready to do so yet.

But the news of Arteta’s positive test could force the Premier League to cancel English top-flight matches.

“In light of Arsenal’s announcement tonight confirming that their first-team coach Mikel Arteta has tested positive for COVID-19, the Premier League will convene an emergency club meeting tomorrow morning regarding future fixtures,” the Premier League said.

Arsenal are the latest Premier League club to be hit by the virus.

Leicester revealed on Thursday that three of their players have self-isolated after showing signs of the virus.

Manchester City said one unnamed member of their squad, reportedly France defender Benjamin Mendy, is in self-isolation after a family member suffered a respiratory illness.

The relative is being treated in hospital and has undergone tests for the coronavirus, which can cause shortness of breath.

Chelsea reportedly cancelled training on Thursday after a member of staff showed signs of the illness.

AFP

Chelsea Crush Everton To Cement Top Four Place

 

Frank Lampard warned Chelsea not to get complacent after they took control of the race to qualify for the Champions League with a 4-0 demolition of Everton on Sunday.

Lampard’s side won for just the second time in seven league games thanks to goals from Mason Mount, Pedro, Willian and Olivier Giroud in a masterful display at Stamford Bridge.

Fourth-placed Chelsea are in pole position to qualify for the Champions League with nine games to play.

But Lampard doesn’t want his stars to rest on their laurels just yet.

Aware that inconsistency has been the Achilles heel of his promising young team, Lampard said: “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. I’m experienced enough to know we go to Aston Villa next week, they are fighting for their lives and we have to replicate this performance.

“There’s still a long way to go. It’s still close. Even if it looks like a cushion as I sit here now, it doesn’t feel that way.

“It’s in our hands, but I’m certainly not going to jump in and say we are favourites. We have had inconsistency at times this season.”

While Lampard struck a cautious note about Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions, the Blues boss was quick to praise his players for delivering their biggest league win of the season.

It was exactly what Lampard demanded after Chelsea got back on track with their FA Cup fifth round win over Liverpool on Tuesday.

“At home yes, it was our best performance, because of the goals and the clean sheet,” Lampard said.

“In terms of performance we have been close to that a lot. We haven’t got the hard bit, the goals. Today we reached that.

“The finishing, the energy in the team, the speed of the pass, getting after the ball. We saw some really good stuff.

“It’s encouraging. You will always need your squad. We have a lot of injuries. The only way to tackle that is to work hard, play with energy and trust either other.

“I thought the whole attitude and focus of the team felt strong after Liverpool.”

Gilmour shines

Too often this term, Chelsea have dominated possession without killing off defensive opponents at Stamford Bridge.

But they tore into Everton from the start, with Mount and Pedro especially lively as they built on the platform provided by 18-year-old midfielder Billy Gilmour.

Gilmour was making his first Premier League start after a fine display against Liverpool and the Scot did everything Lampard asked of him.

“In the position where he plays, receiving the ball under pressure, he has to show balls. He’s done that, then when he played further up the field later in the game, he immediately took that on as well,” Lampard said.

Everton’s revival under Carlo Ancelotti has hit the buffers, with a run of three games without a win exposing them as frauds in the Champions League battle.

“Everything went wrong. We were too open defensively. We lost a lot of duels and with the ball we did a lot of mistakes,” Ancelotti said.

“It is not difficult to analyse this game. It is the first game when we did not compete. We have to learn from this.”

Defeats against Arsenal and Chelsea, along with a draw against Manchester United, have left Everton to focus on a Europa League berth instead.

“We never said we could qualify for the Champions League, but we can fight for the Europa League,” Ancelotti said.

Asked if he was satisfied with Everton’s commitment, Ancelotti gave a pointed pause before saying: “There are things I can analyse with you, and things I can analyse with my players.”

AFP

‘Welcome To Anfield’, Klopp Warns Atletico

 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp expects a very different atmosphere at Anfield will help turn his side’s Champions League last 16 tie with Atletico Madrid around after a 1-0 first leg defeat in the Spanish capital on Tuesday.

Saul Niguez’s early strike inflicted just Liverpool’s second defeat of the season in all competitions with a senior team.

The holders were frustrated by the hosts’ playacting and Polish referee Szymon Marciniak’s performance as Atletico boss Diego Simeone whipped the Wanda Metropolitano crowd into a frenzy.

“Wow, that’s energy!” Klopp told BT Sport when asked about Simeone’s touchline antics.

“I don’t think I have to do that much to be honest (in the second leg), I hope I can be focused a little bit more on the game.

“Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield! It’s not over yet.”

Klopp replaced Sadio Mane at half-time with the Senegalese at risk of being sent-off as Atletico players surrounded Marciniak demanding a second yellow card for the African player of the year just before the break.

“He was targeted that was clear,” added Klopp.

“Sadio played a really good first half and they only thing they wanted is to make sure he gets a yellow card.

“For me we didn’t lose, it’s only half-time, the score is 1-0 that’s all. But you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere, that was obviously not easy.”

The visitors were also riled by the celebrations of Simeone and some of his players at full-time after they secured a victory that could kickstart at faltering season.

“They’ve celebrated as if they’ve won the tie after the game, so let’s see,” said left-back Andy Robertson.

“We’ve got a couple of weeks, Premier League business to take care of, and then we’re coming back to Anfield.

“We know our fans will be there, we’ll be there, so it’s up to them to come as well.”