BORIS WORKING TO LEAD NATION OUT OF LOCKDOWN
The Daily Mail reports: Boris Johnson last night revealed he has started work to lead Britain out of lockdown, as Covid cases continue to fall and the number of people vaccinated continues to rise. The Prime Minister announced he was drawing up a blueprint setting out ‘when and how we want to get things open again’ once Covid figures are brought back under control. It comes as it was last night revealed that Britain is on course to vaccinate 30million people by March. More than 6.8million people across the UK have been jabbed so far, with the Government pledging to vaccinate its 15million most vulnerable citizens by February 15.
HEART BREAKING ADDRESS FROM BORIS JOHNSON
From the Express: In an heartbreaking address to the nation the Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night said he took full responsibility for the high number of deaths. Britain has the fifth-highest toll globally and reported a further 1,631 fatalities today. At the start of the pandemic the Government’s chief science adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said 20,000 coronavirus fatalities would “be a good outcome”. Today the official toll surpassed five times that total, with 100,162 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive covid test.
TAX RETURN DEADLINE RELAXED
The Daily Mail reports that the traditional January 31 deadline for tax returns has been relaxed for the first time ever amid fears the pandemic could cause millions to be fined. HMRC will not penalise anyone who files before Feb. 28.
GORDON BROWN BACK
From the Guardian: Gordon Brown has called for emergency measures to support businesses in the budget after new research from the London School of Economics warned almost 1m UK companies were at risk of failure in the next three months.The former prime minister said the report’s finding that one in seven businesses – employing 2.5 million people – might be forced to close by the spring should act as a “clarion call” to Rishi Sunak as he prepares his tax and spending measures for 3rd March. A separate report by the corporate recovery specialists Begbies Traynor found that 620,000 small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) were in “significant financial distress”, putting 2.8m jobs at risk.
THE VIRUS KNOWS NO BORDERS
The Telegraph writes: Boris Johnson has urged the EU not to put “restrictions on the vaccines or their ingredients across borders”, as he warned: “the virus knows no borders”. Yesterday Brussels threatened to block EU vaccine exports to non-EU countries, after AstraZeneca revealed that it would not be able to fulfil its contractual obligations as originally hoped. Earlier Matt Hancock the Health Secretary told a virtual Chatham House event that vaccine nationalism “was not the right approach”, following the EU’s proposal to impose tight controls on the export of Covid-19 vaccines made in the block. Stressing there should be no disruption to the UK’s vaccine supply. He added “Having spoken to the chief executives of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca, I am confident of the supply of vaccines into the UK won’t be disrupted.”
DON’T GET YOUR HAIRCUT
The Guardian writes that the Metropolitan Police says that 31 of its officers broke lockdown rules to have a haircut in a police station while on duty. The Met, Britain’s biggest force, said each officer would face a £200 fixed penalty notice after their trim turned into an embarrassing brush with the law. Under national lockdown rules in England barbers and hairdressers cannot operate because of fears the proximity to their clients could aid the spread of the highly infectious Covid-19 virus.
GERMAN MEDIA REPORTS ON JAB INACCURATE
The Daily Express reports that the German health ministry has insisted that claims made in German media were based on confused analysis of a study into the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca jab. It was reported that doses of the jab given to adults over-65 had been just eight percent effective. German health ministry officials explained that the eight percent actually referred to the number of people in the study aged between 56 and 69 years old.
EU CITIZENS NOW OFFERED FINANCIAL INCENTIVE TO LEAVE THE UK
The Guardian reports that European nationals were added to the voluntary returns scheme, which can include flights and up to £2,000 for resettlement. People working to help vulnerable EU citizens in the UK said the offer of money to return home contradicted the government’s claim that it was doing everything it could to encourage people to register for settled status. U citizens were quietly added to the government voluntary scheme on January 1st 2021 and the deadline for claims is June 30th 2021.
ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS
The Times reports that Italy has 48 hours to find a new government after the prime minister resigned. Giuseppe Conte lost his majority in the senate last week when a small party led by the former premier Matteo Renzi pulled out of his coalition. Accepting his resignation Sergio Mattarella, the president, allowed for two days of talks to find that new majority as Italy struggles with a Covid-19 crisis that has killed more than 85,000 people.
BUILDERS FACE SHORTAGE OF MATERIALS AND RISING PRICES
From The Times: The construction industry is facing a damaging shortage of building materials including roof tiles and timber, one of the leading trade bodies the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) has warned. The supply chain is under pressure from a combination of high demand for materials caused by the booming housing market and disruption caused by Brexit and the pandemic.
EASTER STAYCATION HOLIDAY COSTS SOAR
The Daily Mail reports: Families planning an Easter staycation are facing soaring prices of up to 170 percent for rental cottages with some coming in at three times higher than a fortnight earlier. Center Parcs, Haven and Butlins have all hiked their prices for Easter as they plan to reopen in March despite concerns that the national lockdown will still be in place. Britons desperate for some respite from the coronavirus crisis are looking closer to home as fears mount over the future of foreign holidays this summer.
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[Ed: we’ve had news from Debbie. She is still in hospital and will undergo an operation on her back, either today or tomorrow. Our thoughts are with her, with our best wishes!]