Coronavirus

Sun
THE coronavirus death toll in the UK has risen to six as a man in his early 80s has died after contracting Covid-19. NHS England confirmed today that the patient died at Watford general hospital. It comes after England’s deputy chief medical officer warned the UK will see ‘many thousands of people’ contract coronavirus.

Telegraph
Public health officials were yesterday seeking to trace anyone in contact with Nadine Dorries after it emerged the health minister had contracted coronavirus. Boris Johnson, who was with her at a Downing Street event to mark International Women’s Day, and her boss Health Secretary Matt Hancock may have to be tested if they display symptoms. Ms Dorries, who met hundreds of people as part of her duties, became ill last Friday but was not confirmed with the virus until yesterday evening.  She has been working in Parliament and the Department of Health and Social Care for the past week and on Thursday attended the Downing Street event with the Prime Minister. Experts believe people infected with the virus can carry it for up to five days before symptoms emerge. Ms Dorries, 62, started feeling ill on Friday as she was signing a statutory instrument that declared coronavirus to be a “notifiable disease”, enabling companies to obtain insurance cover.

Mail
Health minister Nadine Dorries has been diagnosed with coronavirus. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, who has met hundreds of people in Parliament over the past week and attended a reception at No 10 with Boris Johnson, fell ill last Friday. She also held a surgery on Saturday for 50 of her constituents. Tests confirmed last night that the 62-year-old had the virus and she is now in isolation and said to be recovering. Officials are tracing everyone she has been in contact with since contracting the virus, including MPs. As a former nurse, Mrs Dorries has played a key role in drawing up plans to tackle the virus.  She met hundreds of people last week, including a large number of MPs, and attended a conference outside Westminster.

Guardian
The health minister Nadine Dorries has become the first MP to be diagnosed with coronavirus, prompting concerns about the potential spread of the illness at Westminster and even at Downing Street, where she attended a reception last week. The Department of Health and Social Care DHSC confirmed that Dorries, the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire since 2005 and a bestselling author of fiction, had tested positive for the infection. The identity of the individual who infected her is unknown. Focus will now fall on tracking down and testing the potentially hundreds of people Dorries will have been in contact with in the past week, both in parliament and at the health department.  She also attended a Downing Street reception last week for International Women’s Day where the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, were among guests present.

Times
A health minister who has met hundreds of people in parliament in the past week and attended a reception at No 10 with Boris Johnson has had coronavirus diagnosed, The Times can reveal. Nadine Dorries, who played a role in drawing up legislation to tackle the virus, fell ill on Friday last week and her diagnosis was confirmed yesterday evening. She is now in isolation and understood to be recovering. The identity of the individual who infected Ms Dorries is unknown but the minister has been working in parliament and the Department of Health and Social Care for the past week. Officials are identifying all those with whom she has been in contact since contracting the virus, including MPs.

Sun
A UK health minister who mingled with hundreds of people last week is the first MP to have contracted coronavirus. Nadine Dorries attended a reception at Downing Street with Boris Johnson on Thursday and fell ill on Friday. She is self-isolating after her diagnosis was confirmed last night. Dorries, the minister for patient safety, had played a leading role in drawing up legislation to tackle the deadly virus that has killed six Brits. Now health officials are scrambling to trace the hundreds of people she came into contact with in the past week including MPs, civil servants and constituents. The department for health said she first had symptoms last Thursday – the same day she was at a No 10 reception to mark International Women’s Day, attended by Boris and his pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds. Despite feeling ill, Ms Dorries, 62, went ahead with a surgery in her Mid Bedfordshire constituency on Saturday which was attended by 50 people.

Mail
Health officials are racing to track down hundreds of vulnerable patients treated by a surgeon with coronavirus who failed to isolate after a trip to virus-hit Italy.  The senior surgeon at Liverpool’s Aintree University Hospital caught the killer disease on a family skiing holiday in northern Italy, at the centre of Europe’s virus outbreak, and went back to work as normal last week.  The father operated on scores of people and mingled with staff for days while harbouring the fiercely contagious illness. Sources say he was finally sent home after a week by hospital bosses who are now scrambling to track down patients and staff who came into contact with him.

Sun
A TOP British surgeon who has tested positive for coronavirus may have infected hundreds of vulnerable patients as he failed to self-isolate after contracting the killer bug on holiday in Italy. The senior surgeon at Liverpool’s Aintree University Hospital returned from a family skiing trip in northern Italy last week. The dad, who operates on anyone with a range of conditions from cancer to sinus disease, did not self-isolate and carried on with his work as usual. He continued to treat scores of patients while carrying the bug. It comes as a sixth person died in Britain after contracting COVID-19. The death of the patient – a grandad in his 80s – came as the UK infection rate spiked today to 373.

Mirror
GP and outpatient appointments will be held digitally where possible “with immediate effect” amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Health Secretary has said. Matt Hancock said a current “digital-first” rollout will be extended across the country wherever “clinically and practically possible”.  He told MPs: “We’re taking steps of course to improve access by making sure people can access primary care in the best possible way. “And I can be clear to the House today that we will take a digital-first approach to accessing primary care and outpatient appointments. “So that wherever clinically and practically possible, people can access and should access primary care through phones and digital means.

Guido
As the number of deaths from Coronavirus rises to six, and confirmed cases hits 373, pro-EU pressure group Best for Britain has lept on the virus’s domination of the news to use it as a data-gathering and fund-raising exercise. Stay classy, gentlemen… An email sent to their mailing list asks Remainers, “With coronavirus spreading, can our NHS survive without them?” before asking them to sign a petition to stand up for immigrants and standing up for the NHS, with 12,639 having taken up the offer so far.  The pressure group – founded by Gina Miller’s – also found space in the email to stick in two big red ‘donate’ buttons… Best for Britain aren’t the only ones piggybacking off Coronavirus; today Labour Peer Baroness Smith of Basildon argued that because of COVID-19, “It may be difficult to do all the [future relationship] negotiations in the time they want.”

Brexit

Yahoo News
John Bercow has mocked Boris Johnson and his army of “eager beaver” Tory MPs, saying “they are wrong” if they think they will achieve a “strong Brexit”. The former Commons speaker used a keynote speech in Westminster on Tuesday afternoon to attack the administrations of Johnson and Theresa May, while also defending Remainer MPs who challenged the fraught Brexit process in Parliament. Bercow, who opened his slot at the Parliament and Brexit conference by parodying his own famous shout of “ordaaair”, was accused in his final years in the speaker’s chair of siding with Remainer MPs. On Tuesday, he conceded the prospects of “parliamentary assertiveness” are now much less great because of Johnson’s majority won in December’s election.

Breitbart
A spokesman for Prime Minister Johnson said that the UK has “made up its mind” over what it wants from a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, the remarks coming after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that Britain must choose either close alignment to the EU or lose access to the Single Market. On Monday, the chief of the EU’s powerful executive arm had said that if the UK wants frictionless, tariff-free trade it must “play by the rules” on matters including accepting European court decisions; ‘level playing field’ regulations on labour rights, environmental rules, tax, and state aid ( i.e., subsidies given by the government to British industries); and continuous access of Britain’s fishing waters to EU fishermen. “So it will be important that the UK makes up its mind — the closer they want to have access to the single market, the more they have to play by the rules that are the rules of the Single Market,” Mrs von der Leyen said. “The UK has made up its mind very decisively,” the prime minster’s official spokesman said, “and has been very clear about what it wants from its future relationship with the EU.”

Express
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has admitted the bloc is scrambling to put together a legal text in advance of next week’s crunch talks after it was revealed UK negotiators were ahead of the game. Meanwhile UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a stern response to Ursula von der Leyen after the EU Commission President ordered the UK to “make up its mind” on what it wants from Brexit talks. Speaking at the European Parliament after a meeting with MPs, Mr Barnier was questioned about the UK’s plans to present a draft treaty text. In a strong hint the EU would do likewise, he said: ““It’s always useful, in this very short time, to work on legal text – on both sides. On both sides, on both sides.”

Migrants

Times
President Erdogan has vowed to keep letting migrants cross into Europe, piling pressure on EU leaders to give Turkey more money to stem the tide. “We are not thinking of closing these gates,” he told reporters on his plane back to Turkey from an acrimonious meeting with the presidents of the European Commission and European Council on Monday night. “Our proposal to Greece is to open the gates.” Tens of thousands of migrants have flocked to Greece after Turkey announced last week that it would no longer prevent refugees from leaving under a 2016 agreement with Brussels. Greek soldiers have since clashed with migrants on the border, using tear gas and water cannons to deter them.

Morning Star
CAMPAIGNERS are demanding that the British government follow the example of other EU countries and urgently take in child refugees suffering in deplorable conditions in Greek camps. Last night, Germany, Portugal, France, Luxembourg and Finland agreed to receive 1,500 unaccompanied child minors in response to a plea from the EU to member states. It follows a severe deterioration of the situation in Greece’s refugee camps, which are facing unprecedented overcrowding and escalating violence. Safe Passage — a group that works with child refugees in Europe — urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson today to heed the calls of the EU and Greek authorities.

Budget

Mail
Rishi Sunak will today pledge billions to shore up the economy during the coronavirus outbreak. The Chancellor, whose first Budget has had to be rewritten as the deadly virus spreads, will unveil a string of measures to try to save solid businesses from bankruptcy. He will also announce a massive £600billion boost for infrastructure. Treble the typical level of spending, the cash will be splurged on roads, rail, housing and broadband over five years. Treasury experts say it is the biggest wave of public investment since the 1950s. A manifesto pledge to increase the threshold for paying national insurance will be honoured, giving 30million workers an immediate tax cut of £100.

BBC News
The government will promise to raise infrastructure spending to its highest in decades in Wednesday’s Budget. It will pledge to triple the average net investment made over the last 40 years into rail and road, affordable housing, broadband and research. The Treasury told the BBC it would lead to the “highest levels [of investment] in real terms since 1955” – more than £600bn over the five-year Parliament. Chancellor Rishi Sunak will present the Budget less than a month into the job. It comes as the government faces calls for increased investment in a number of sectors to help tackle the coronavrius outbreak.

iNews
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will pledge billions of pounds for dealing with the coronavirus outbreak – and will boost spending on Britain’s infrastructure to its highest level for half a century. Preparations for the Budget have been thrown into turmoil by the steady advance of the virus, but Mr Sunak will also insist the Government remains committed to pumping huge sums into roads, rail, housebuilding and improving broadband. The NHS will receive emergency cash help, some of which will be used to pay medics temporarily brought out of retirement, amid warnings hospitals could struggle to cope with a surge in new coronavirus patients over the next few weeks.

Sun
RISHI Sunak will today unleash the biggest state building splurge in 65 years in a bid to rebuild left behind Britain. The Chancellor will dole out an eye-watering extra £100bn on new roads, railways, housing, broadband, and research. The vast array of nationwide projects will start delivering on the PM’s election promise to level up struggling parts of the country, he will tell MPs. Mr Sunak’s spending spree takes the Government’s infrastructure investment total to £600billion between now and 2025. It was last night dubbed by the Treasury as “the most ambitious investment in infrastructure and innovation ever”, and pushes public investment to its highest levels in real terms since 1955. At the same time, the Chancellor will unveil a major overhaul of Treasury rules on government spending. New rules will ensure money is spent where it has the greatest impact on levelling up, rather than just on where it is the most profitable, such as the South East.

Mail
Rishi Sunak will use his first Budget today to turn on the Treasury’s spending taps and pledge to invest ‘hundreds of billions of pounds’ on improving the UK’s critical infrastructure. The new Chancellor will announce plans to invest ‘record amounts’ in the nation’s roads, railways, broadband, housing and research and unveil a multibillion-pound drive to ‘eradicate the scourge’ of potholes throughout the country. Mr Sunak will pledge to spend £2.5billion on repairing 50million potholes over the next five years. Drivers have been annoyed in recent years about disruptive works caused by building cycle and bus lanes while roads has worsened.

Independent
Chancellor
 Rishi Sunak will announce £2.5 billion to fix up to 50 million potholes in his budget on Wednesday. The spending was welcomed by local councils, who said they were mending holes in the road at a rate of one every 17 seconds. But Labour said the government was offering to “patch up problems they have created” through underfunding of public infrastructure over the past decade. The £2.5 billion package will be spread over the next five years and is intended to supply funds to fix 10 million potholes each year. Mr Sunak said it would help speed journeys and reduce a problem which results in a car-repair call-out roughly once an hour across the UK. Some 90 per cent of all motoring insurance claims related to pothole damage, costing drivers an average of £230 to fix, said the Treasury.

Times
The chancellor will announce plans today to fill up to 50 million potholes as part of a drive to “level up” Britain. Rishi Sunak will say that £2.5 billion will be invested in local roads during the next five years to carry out repairs over hundreds of miles. The cash is part of a spree that will take public investment to levels not seen since Margaret Thatcher came to power. The budget will lay out plans for £600 billion on capital projects over five years, £100 billion more than forecast.  Mr Sunak will promise to triple the average net investment made over the past 40 years in a budget overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis. Efforts to nurse the economy through the next few months

BBC

Times
Ministers have rejected proposals to establish an independent commission to determine BBC funding, as they push ahead with plans to negotiate directly. The idea of appointing a panel to review its future role had won support in Westminster after complaints about the secrecy that surrounded previous licence fee settlements. Establishing a “BBC funding commission” to lead the next licence fee settlement process, starting in 2022, was proposed by the House of Lords’ communications committee in November to improve transparency. The body would consult on the BBC’s role and functions before making a recommendation to the secretary of state.

Mini forest

Mail
The UK is to get its first ‘tiny forest’ on a plot the size of a tennis court to deliver benefits to urban communities and wildlife. Around 600 native trees will be planted in Witney, Oxfordshire, in a small, fast-growing and dense forest that mimics native woodland. Tiny forests are designed to fit into a small area – around 200 square metres or roughly the size of a tennis court – to make them suitable for urban areas short on space. It is hoped that the UK’s first tiny forest will be the first of many to help tackle issues facing urban areas, such as flooding and heatwaves.

Times
An area of woodland the size of a tennis court will be planted this weekend in what a charity hopes will be the first of 100 “Tiny Forests” created in urban areas over the next three years. Some 600 native trees including oak, birch, elder, crab apple and blackthorn, will be planted by volunteers on Saturday in Witney, Oxfordshire. Earthwatch Europe, the environmental charity behind the project, said it would attract more than 500 species of animals and plants, improve air quality by removing dust, help reduce flood risk and create a space in which people could “connect to nature”.

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