While much of the focus this morning has been on the alleged terror attack that left three people dead in Reading on Saturday, the UK appears to be at a crucial juncture in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Later today, Boris Johnson will meet members of the government’s Covid-19 strategy committee to discuss the reopening of the hospitality sector – including pubs, restaurants and hairdressers – on 4 July. The prime minister will also decide whether to reduce the 2-metre social distancing rule in England.
All the noises from government point towards these changes for England being announced tomorrow.
James Brokenshire, the security minister, did not demur from that direction of travel in his interviews this morning.
When asked if the 2-metre distancing rule was going to be reduced in England, he told BBC Breakfast:
There has been a great deal of work that’s been taking place at pace over the last number of days, informed by the science, informed by experience from around the world as well, as to how we can appropriately look at easements and appropriately also reflect on the two-metre rule as well.
He added the international experience and understanding of the virus had evolved in recent weeks and the decision would be informed by “the best, most up-to-date science” and medical experience.
Brokenshire was later asked for his response after it was reported the “R” number in Germany had risen over the weekend. He said:
It is concerning to see the situation in Germany and it’s why we are informed in our actions by experience from around the world, why the chief scientific officer, the chief medical officer, speak to their counterparts in different parts of the world to ensure that we are applying the best learning and the best experience in informing our next steps.
James Brokenshire told BBC Breakfast there was no indication of a change to the UK’s threat level.
The security minister said the investigation was ongoing but that police had indicated they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the attack.
“This is very live, there are devices in terms of the phones and all those sorts of things. They’ll be interrogating, following through on the different statements, the searches that continue and it is absolutely right that they do follow it through in that way,” he said.
Brokenshire said he was unable to go into detail about the suspect and what was known about him due to the ongoing investigation. He added:
What I would say is that the police and security services obviously deal with thousands of leads, that they have difficult challenges that they have in terms of prioritisation of resource, but I can assure that if there are lessons to be learned, there are policies that needs to be changed, if we need to do things differently, absolutely that is what we will do.
James Brokenshire, the security minister, has paid tribute to first responders and members of the public after Saturday’s attack in Reading. A police officer is said to have tackled the suspected attacker to the ground while bystanders attempted to give CPR before paramedics arrived.
Brokenshire told BBC Breakfast:
I want to pay tribute to the work of our emergency services, the police, all of those first responders who dealt with this appalling evil and callous act, but also those members of the public as well who supported the police, bravely dealt with those issues on the ground.
Our thoughts, our hearts go out to all of those this morning who have lost loved ones, who are mourning or have been affected by this appalling incident.
Police face ‘wicked problem’ monitoring 40,000 potential terror suspects – ex-Met chief
Police and security services face a “wicked problem” deciding which of the 40,000 people known to them could launch a terror attack, a former head of UK counter-terrorism has said.
Sir Mark Rowley, former assistant commissioner for specialist operations in the Metropolitan police, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What you end up with operationally is about, I think, about 3,000 people under investigation at one stage. But there is 40,000 people … whose names have touched the system.
And in that 40,000 are lots of volatile people who dip in and out of interests in extreme ideology, and to spot one of those who is going to go from a casual interest into a determined attacker, which can happen in a matter of days, is the most wicked problem that the services face.
The security minister James Brokenshire has said the public should be “alert but not alarmed” after the alleged terror attack in Reading on Saturday.
Appearing on Sky News, Brokenshire said:
There is no thing as absolute security but I think that I should stress the fact that this country has some of the world-leading approaches to dealing with terrorism [and] that our police and security services are well supported.
Brokenshire said the government had increased the funding of counter-terrorism policing by an extra £90m over the course of this financial year, taking it up to over £900m. He added:
The point is that these cases are complex. We know that a threat is out there. That is why we must remain vigilant. As the head of counter-terrorism policing yesterday, the public should be alert but not alarmed. We obviously need to go about our lives. We cannot allow those who would use fear or violence to divide us to succeed and that is why we will carry on. we will do our part in government to challenge and see that our systems are as rigorous and robust as we can make them. We will not allow those who seek to use fear or terror to succeed.
Good morning and welcome to our UK liveblog.
Police are investigating the background of Khairi Saadallah, the 25-year-old Libyan refugee held over the alleged terror attack that left a teacher and two others dead in Reading on Saturday night. It has emerged that Saadallah was on the radar of MI5 in the middle of last year.
On coronavirus, Boris Johnson will discuss reopening the hospitality sector and loosening the 2-metre social-distancing rule in England with his top cabinet colleagues and scientists.
Customers in England may be asked to check in as they arrive at pubs and restaurants under plans for reopening the hospitality sector that will be confirmed to MPs tomorrow by the prime minister.
Decisions on relaxing the 2-metre distancing rule and reopening hospitality on 4 July are expected to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of the government’s Covid-19 committee today.