FOUR STEPS  TO CERTAINTY  SAYS BORIS

The Mail reports: Boris Johnson defied huge pressure from Tories and business and  unveiled an ultra-cautious roadmap out of lockdown by June – with schools reopening in a fortnight but little else set to change for months. Announcing his long-awaited four-phase exit strategy, the PM stated that Covid zero was not possible, but made clear he was prioritising certainty over urgency in returning the country back towards normality.  He confirmed that all schools in England will reopen from March 8. But secondary pupils will need to wear masks in class for weeks  after the move.The only other relaxation to come at the same time as schools return is permission to meet socially with one friend or family member in the park for a coffee or a picnic. The next stage of loosening will not be until March 29, when the formal Stay at Home edict is finally dropped in favour of  Stay Local , and the Rule of Six makes a comeback. But shops, hairdressers and pubs must remain closed until April 12 at the earliest – the same time gyms can get back up and running – regardless of mounting fears about the economic meltdown. Even at that point pints and meals can only be consumed outdoors.

 

EXPERTS PREDICT AT LEAST 30.000 MORE DEATHS

The Mirror reports: The Prime Minister  Boris Johnson will urge England to comply with a gradual easing of the rules as the vaccine rolls out and his scientific advisors are clear that this isn’t the end of our nation’s Covid story. In papers released today, the experts predict at least 30,000 more Covid deaths between now and summer 2022 – and many, many more than that if things go wrong. Scientists from Warwick University and Imperial College London modelled six different speeds out of lockdown and looked at how they would affect hospitalisations and deaths. In papers handed to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), a SAGE subgroup, they make clear all six scenarios cause a third wave of some kind – it’s just a question of how big.The SAGE papers also warn how vulnerable the population will be even after a vaccine has been rolled out.And they make clear we will need some measures like mask-wearing and hand-washing to remain in the long term.

 

NO JAB NO JOB IN NHS SAYS WHITTY

From the Daily Mail: A Covid jab could become compulsory for  NHSworkers and care home staff, as England’s chief medical officer says they have a professional responsibility to get vaccinated. Speaking on Monday Professor Chris Whitty  said he expects doctors and care workers to take the vaccine voluntarily. The comments are the first from a government official to indicate that vaccinations could become compulsory for those caring for the vulnerable.

 

BRIEFINGS AGAINST CARRIE SYMONDS DISTASTEFUL

The Evening Standard reports that the row over  Carrie Symonds influence in Downing Street deepened today as a Tory MP described briefings against her as distasteful. Laura Trott , MP for Sevenoaks, defended the Prime Minister’s fiancée when asked about briefing wars that are again engulfing No 10.Ms Trott, who worked in the No 10 Policy Unit during David Cameron’s premiership, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “I used to work with Carrie, she’s an incredibly talented and able person and I think there should be some consideration given… about whether some of these things would be said about a man. It’s very distasteful and I think it’s incredibly unnecessary.”

 

DOWNING STREET DEFENDING FREE SPEECH

The Times writes: Downing Street has vowed to be robust in defending free speech and journalism when the culture secretary meets Facebook executives to discuss the social media network’s news ban in Australia . A spokesman for Boris Johnson said that he was obviously concerned by Facebook’s news ban in reaction to an Australian law that would force the tech giant to compensate publishers for use of their articles.

 

I’M STILL IN CHARGE SAYS TRUMP

From the Guardian: Former President Donald Trump will reportedly tell the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida this week he is Republicans’ presumptive 2024 nominee for president. Trump  will address CPAC on Sunday, his subject the future of the party he took over in the 2016 primary then led from the White House through four tumultuous years. On Monday, citing anonymous sources, the news site Axios reported his plan to assume the mantle of challenger to Joe Biden – or another Democrat, should the 78-year-old president decide not to run for a second term. An unnamed longtime adviser was quoted as saying Trump’s speech to the rightwing event will be a show of force with the message: “I may not have Twitter or the Oval Office, but I’m still in charge.”

 

BRUTAL WINTER STORM BATTERS PARTS OF THE US

The SUN reports that NiagaraFalls froze over yesterday as a brutal storm continues to batter swathes of the US.Ice formed at the top of the famous waterfall after temperatures fell to -19C (-2F) in Niagara, New York State.It comes after  President Joe Biden  declared a major disaster in Texas- where at least 30 deaths have occurred. He previously declared a state of emergency in Oklahoma and Louisiana. Millions of Americans have been thrust into third-world conditions amid widespread power outages and contaminated tap water. At least 69 people have died of carbon monoxide poisoning, hypothermia, car crashes, house fires, and drownings, among other tragedies related to the freak weather in Texas and neighbouring states.

 

UK ECONOMY SET TO LOSE £18 BILLION

The Daily Mail reports that the  UK economy is set to lose £18billion if restrictions on international travel aren’t lifted before summer, according to research by an aviation group. The all party group on the future of aviation conducted a study which found that a lack of international tourists would cause a loss of £7.5billion to shops, restaurants, hotels and tourist destinations. Outbound travel is expected to be hit with losses of £10.5billion if travel restrictions remain in place and keep passenger numbers at low levels. The Conservative MP who chairs the group, Henry Smith, told  the Telegraph: ‘Our aviation, travel and tourism industries have faced the hardest twelve months in their history and have been devastated by a collapse in passenger numbers and delays to the promised recovery package. These figures lay bare the brutal reality that without further financial support and a clear pathway out of the restrictions, these industries who are already running on empty will be left in a battle for survival.’

 

RECORD SURGE IN MIGRANTS CROSSING CHANNEL

From the Telegraph: more than 170 migrants attempted to cross the Channel today with nearly 50 reaching the UK on one of the busiest days of the year so far. Forty-nine migrants were detained at Dover after crossing the Channel in small boats but 126 were intercepted by the French including 30 who were rescued after their vessel’s engine failed. It means that crossings this year are continuing at the record levels of 2020 despite the intensified crackdown in France, backed by an extra £28 million by the UK Government to put more police patrols on the beaches and increase surveillance  by CCTV and drones. A lull in bad weather and warmer temperatures saw four boats make the crossings through the night. They were mainly African in origin and included at least one teenager. Border force and French security services have been forced to take on a surge in migrants seeking to cross the Channel in the past six weeks.

 

EU BOATS TO FISH IN IOM WATERS

The Express reports that  the Isle of Man has secured an agreement with the European Union allowing bloc boats to plunder waters around the coast of the British Crown Dependency. It has emerged the Isle of Man which is not part of the UK but often aligns policies and agreements, have had individual discussions with Brussels counterparts regarding fishing. The move has been branded petty and indefensible by UK Environment Secretary George Eustice. Speaking in the Tynwald, the IOM Chief Minister said the EU had demanded access to Manx waters stressing without access for bloc vessels, there would be difficulty exporting island goods. If we had refused access to this limited number of EU vessels and as a result had not secured the goods part of the deal,  Manx-caught products would have been subject to tariffs when sold into Europe. At the same time, the Isle of Man will not be affected by a ban on live shellfish arriving from the UK.

 

AND FINALLY

From The Express: THE cost of owning a dog has skyrocketed as  lockdown has been an incredibly lonely time for plenty of people and this has caused an increase in the demand for puppies. For some breeds, costs have almost trebled in price to £4000 since 2019. Research from Burgess Pet Care has revealed that cocker spaniels are the most popular breed of dog purchased since the first lockdown. In second place comes miniature dachshunds, followed by springer spaniels, French bulldogs and cockapoos. Golden retrievers, border collies, Labradors, border terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers also made the list. This comes as reports of dog thefts across the country are becoming more and more frequent due to their increased demand and monetary value. Since the beginning of lockdown, dog thefts have risen by 170 percent as criminals take the opportunity to snatch and resell dogs to make some cash.

 

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