WE’RE GOING TO SPEND SPEND SPEND
The Daily Mail reports: Good news! Britain’s economy will bounce back like a coiled spring once liberated from lockdown, a Bank of England boss says today. In an exclusive article for the Daily Mail, chief economist Andy Haldane insists the public are ‘desperate to get their lives back’. He believes a decisive corner has been turned ‘thanks to the Covid-19 vaccine rollout – and families are ready to fuel a rapid return to prosperity with a multi-billion pound spending spree.His views are likely to be seized upon by those calling on ministers to ease restrictions as soon as possible. Mr Haldane predicts that by the end of June households will have amassed accidental savings adding up to a colossal £250billion. He believes they will spend a big chunk on socialising after being ‘bottled in’ for months, unable to enjoy holidays or meals out. With millions of the most vulnerable already vaccinated, Mr Haldane says the chance of death or hospitalisation due to Covid-19 has already probably halved.
BBC WORLD SERVICE BANNED
The Express reports: The BBC has been banned from broadcasting in China, the country’s ruling Communist Party TV watchdog has announced. BBC World News was pulled off air amid a row over the broadcaster’s coverage of Uighur Muslim “re-education camps” in Xinjiang province. China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) said the channel was found to have seriously violated regulations on radio and television management and on overseas satellite television channel management in its China-related reports. And an editorial on the China Global Television Network (CGTN) website said, The organisation’s ideological, biased and agenda-driven reporting is no longer worth a credible news organisation’s status. In recent months, the BBC has gone on a spree to spread explicit falsehood about China’s policy in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
MISSPOKE CAUSES BACKTRACK AND CHAOS
The Express reports: Downing Street has backtracked on Boris Johnson’s pledge to outline his roadmap out of lockdown on February 22 – risking throwing the opening of schools on March 8 into chaos. Last week the Prime Minister said he would outline his roadmap on February 22. However, his official spokesman today implied Mr Johnson misspoke and would only commit to the plan being published at some point during that week.Teachers have been promised two weeks notice before children are sent back to the classroom, meaning if the roadmap is not outlined on February 22, the reopening of schools may also be delayed.
SUPPORT FOR SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE DIVES FOUR POINTS
The Daily Mail reports that Nicola Sturgeon’s drive to split the UK was dealt a major blow today as a poll showed support slumping amid SNP infighting and slow vaccine rollout. Research by Savanta ComRes found backing for independence has slumped four points over the past month – although it still stands at 53 per cent. The shift came after Ms Sturgeon faced heavy criticism over the vaccine rollout being slower in Scotland than England, and the SNP plunged into full scale civil war. The First Minister has been engaged in a bitter clash with predecessor Alex Salmond over claims she misled the Scottish Parliament and courts over when she knew about harassment allegations against him – on which he was later found not guilty.
A MASK IS NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS
The Daily Mail writes that furious Tory MPs fumed that the UK’s hugely successful Covid vaccine roll-out will be pointless if it doesn’t unlock Britain from brutal lockdown curbs. Prominent SAGE scientists have called for longer restrictions to drive cases down further and No10’s top scientific advisers warned infections must plummet to fewer than 10,000 cases before Boris Johnson should start easing the measures, or they claim the country risks allowing new mutant variants to spawn. Tory MP Marcus Fysh told MailOnline SAGE’s demands were highly unrealistic and warned ministers must stick to the hospitalisation and deaths criteria to dictate their lockdown-easing plans ‘in order to preserve the confidence that people have in the process’.
STARMER CALLS FOR TOUGHER QUARANTINE
From the London Evening Standard: as an estimated 10,000 travellers arriving in the UK from higher-risk countries every day will avoid hotel quarantine, the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for the requirements in England to match those planned for Scotland, which will require all international arrivals to self-isolate in hotels. He also demanded that the Government publishes daily data showing how many passengers are entering the UK from different countries. He said: ‘The Government’s failure to secure our borders risks jeopardising the fight against Covid-19.’ The analysis is based on the number of people travelling from countries where the South African or Brazilian coronavirus variants are circulating but which are not on the Government’s red list. This includes locations such as France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS FACE LONG WAIT FOR NHS TREATMENT
The Times reports that hundreds of thousands of people are waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment in England, the highest level in more than a decade. New figures from NHS England show that in December 224,205 people had been waiting more than 52 weeks — the highest number for any calendar month since April 2008. One year earlier, in December 2019, the figure was just 1,467. The figures also show that 4.52 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of December, the highest number since records began in August 2007. The number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was also down a quarter in December compared with a year earlier.
HANCOCK TAKES CONTROL OF NHS
The Guardian reports that Matt Hancock has laid out his plan for a wholesale reorganisation of the NHS in England which will centralise power in ministerial hands. The plan has broad Tory support but Labour questioned the timing of the move, with the health service still reeling from coronavirus. Announcing the blueprint – which undoes much of the last structural change in NHS England brought in under David Cameron – the health secretary told MPs that it was intended to better integrate health and social care and do away with irksome bureaucracy. Saying the plans had been worked out with NHS staff and local authorities, Hancock was nonetheless open about the newly top-down approach to managing the health system. “Medical matters are matters for ministers,” Hancock told MPs. “NHS England will have a clinical and day-to-day operational independence, but the secretary of state will be empowered to set direction for the NHS and intervene where necessary.”
MILLIONS SHOWING SIGNS OF FINANCIAL VULNERABILITY
The Guardian reports that more than a quarter of adults in the UK have been left financially vulnerable as the fallout from Covid-19 drives more people into debt, according to the UK’s financial regulator. The Financial Conduct Authority said there were now 27.7 million adults in the UK who showed characteristics of vulnerability – such as poor health, low financial resilience or recent negative events in their lives – that put them at greater risk of financial harm. It said this figure had increased 15% compared with pre-pandemic levels, as the crisis forced millions of people to cut back on essentials, take on debt or turn to a food bank to make ends meet.The research showed a dramatic surge in the number of people who were struggling with low financial resilience – defined as over-indebtedness, low levels of savings or low and erratic earnings, reaching 14.2 million in October, a rise from 10.7 million before the pandemic.
CITY OF LONDON WARNED BY COMMUNITIES SECRETARY
The Telegraph reports: the Government has warned the City of London it risks damaging its rich history by removing statues of prominent historical figures associated with the slave trade. Ahead of a private meeting of councillors on Thursday to discuss the move, Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, has written to the Lord Mayor William Russell and senior officials urging them to reconsider. In his letter Mr Jenrick said the announcement had attracted national scrutiny and controversy, adding that it was in the City’s own interests that heritage and tradition are given robust protection. Whitehall sources added that Mr Jenrick was not defending controversial figures, but the need to explain rather than erase monuments which related to British history. However, in an apparent show of defiance, a spokesman for City of London Corporation said it believed the decision was the correct response with a working group now due to consider where the statues should be re-sited.
YOU TUBE STAR FACES VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE
From the Daily Mail: a mayor who took part in a now infamous parish council meeting is facing a vote of no-confidence amid claims he brought the authority into ‘disrepute’. Millions of people watched clips of Handforth Parish Council’s Zoom meeting as it descended into a chaotic trail of disorder, power grabs and insults. It turned host Jackie Weaver into an overnight sensation, earning her plaudits for the way she handled her fellow parishioners. But now Cheshire East Council mayor Barry Burkhill is facing a vote of no-confidence amid claims he ‘made no attempt to intervene as participants were bullied’.
The Independent writes: Perhaps as an indication of our often gloomy and stressful times a picture of a purple daisy is receiving up to 100 million hits every day, prompting an investigation into the ongoing mystery by the website hosting it. The royalty-free photo is one of millions of images available on Wikimedia Commons, but is accounting for around 20 percent of all traffic generated by the online database. It is a relatively innocuous image of an aster variety of flower taken in Florence Nightingale Park in The Hague in 2004, but on 29 June last year it saw a sudden and sustained surge in online hits. Over the last month it has averaged 90 million hits per day. The mysterious – and resource draining – activity led to an investigation being launched by the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organisation that oversees Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.