Morning briefing: Britain takes first steps to lift lockdown

Good morning.

Britons will be allowed to go outside as often as they like for exercise from Monday as the government takes its first steps towards lifting the coronavirus lockdown. According to reports in the papers, some outdoor businesses such as garden centres could reopen and outdoor workplaces, such as construction sites, could restart. Some rules will be tightened – face masks may be required on public transport, and the Financial Times reports that border controls could become stricter, with a 14-day quarantine for new arrivals extending to British citizens. The government’s “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives” slogan will be dropped for one slightly less cautious: “Stay safe, save lives”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a cabinet meeting today to discuss the plans, and will announce them on Sunday

The government will lift lockdown in stages between now and the autumn, the reports say. In late May or early June, primary schools will begin to reopen, while people from two households could begin meeting up in social “bubbles”, an idea First Minister Nicola Sturgeon floated for Scotland yesterday. From the end of June, secondary schools will return alongside some outdoor sports and cafés, while pubs and restaurants will open their doors around the end of August. From October, all remaining parts of the economy could restart, depending on how the virus is progressing, while football fans could return to matches.

In other news, coronavirus testing has been suspended in some parts of London because of a shortage of the necessary chemicals. The Independent reports the suspension covers south London hospitals and GP practices serving 3.5 million people, while NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said other hospitals were at risk of running out of the reagents too. The news comes after the government again missed its 100,000 daily test target, with the number of tests carried out dipping below 70,000.

And remember that flight from Turkey carrying 400,000 protective gowns that was delayed, delayed and delayed again? Every single one of the gowns has failed safety checks, the government has confirmed.

Global updates:

New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was considering reducing the country’s coronavirus restrictions to “Level 2” as early as next Wednesday, which would allow people to gather in groups of up to 100. Businesses, restaurants and schools would reopen.

Poland: The coalition government has pushed back Sunday’s presidential election. The ruling Law & Justice party wanted the vote to go ahead, but it was crowded out by coalition partner Agreement and opposition parties. The earliest the vote will take place is next month.

India: The first of 60 repatriation flights will land in India today. In total, as many as 200,000 Indians stranded overseas are set to return home – the biggest repatriation effort in decades.

Brazil: Brazil reported 615 deaths on Wednesday, the highest daily death toll anywhere in the southern hemisphere since the start of the pandemic. The country’s death toll now tops 8,500.

Pakistan: Pakistan recorded 40 deaths in a single day, its highest total yet. The total number of infections has reached 22,000. Railway services are due to resume on Sunday, 10 May.

Bangladesh: Daily infections spiked to a record 790, bringing the country’s total above 11,000.


Read more on the New Statesman:

On Covid-19, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings are trapped with few stories left to sell

The Conservatives’ threat to cut the furlough scheme shows the logic of austerity endures

Why can’t we focus during this pandemic?

Why 200,000 tests per day is a meaningless political goal

Capitalism after coronavirus

What the Spanish Flu pandemic teaches us today

To achieve a new settlement, the Conservatives must champion the empowering state

Chefs to guide you through lockdown

 
 
 
 

Academics are mapping the legacy of slavery in Britain’s cities

A detail of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership map showing central Bristol. Image: LBS/UCL.

For 125 years, a statue of the 17th century slave-trader Edward Colston stood in the centre of Bristol, ostensibly to commemorate the philanthropy he’d used his blood money to fund. Then, on 7 June, Black Lives Matter protesters pulled it down and threw it into the harbour

The incident has served to shine a light on the benefits Bristol and other British cities reaped from the Atlantic slave trade. Grand houses and public buildings in London, Liverpool, Glasgow and beyond were also funded by the profits made from ferrying enslaved Africans across the ocean. But because the horrors of that trade happened elsewhere, the role it played in building modern Britain is not something we tend to discuss.

Now a team at University College London is trying to change that. The Legacies of British Slave-Ownership project is mapping every British address linked to a slave-owner. In all, its database contains 5,229 addresses, linked to 5,586 individuals (some addresses are linked to more than one slave owner; some slave owners had more than one home). 

The map is not exact. Streets have often been renumbered; for some individuals, only a city is known, not necessarily an address; and at time of writing, only around 60% of known addresses (3,294 out of 5,229) have been added to the map. But by showing how many addresses it has recorded in each area, it gives some sense of which bits of the UK benefited most from the slave trade; the blue pins, meanwhile, reflect individual addresses, which you can click for more details.

The map shows, for example, that although it’s Glasgow that’s been noisily grappling with this history of late, there were probably actually more slave owners in neighbouring Edinburgh, the centre of Scottish political and financial power.

Liverpool, as an Atlantic port, benefited far more from the trade than any other northern English city.

But the numbers were higher in Bristol and Bath; and much, much higher in and around London.

 

Other major UK cities – Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle – barely appear. Which is not to say they didn’t also benefit from the Triangular Trade (with its iron and weaponry industries, Professor David Dabydeen of Warwick University said in 2007, “Birmingham armed the slave trade”) – merely that they benefited in a less direct way.

The LBS map, researcher Rachel Lang explained via email, is “a never-ending task – we’re always adding new people to the database and finding out more about them”. Nonetheless, “The map shows broadly what we expected to find... We haven’t focused on specific areas of Britain so I think the addresses we’ve mapped so far are broadly representative.” 

The large number in London, she says, reflect its importance as a financial centre. Where more specific addresses are available, “you can see patterns that reflect the broader social geography”. The high numbers of slave-owners in Bloomsbury, for example, reflects merchants’ desire for property convenient to the City of London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the district was being developed. Meanwhile, “there are widows and spinsters with slave property living in suburbs and outlying villages such as Chelsea and Hampstead. Country villas surround London.” 


“What we perhaps didn’t expect to see was that no areas are entirely without slave owners,” Lang adds. “They are everywhere from the Orkney Islands to Penzance. It also revealed clusters in unexpected places – around Inverness and Cromarty, for example, and the Isle of Wight.” No area of Britain was entirely free of links to the slave trade.

 You can explore the map here.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

All images courtesy of LBS/UCL