Man in eighties is second person to die of coronavirus in Britain

“He died on Thursday while being treated at Milton Keynes University Hospital for underlying health conditions. He tested positive for Covid-19 shortly before his death after a review by doctors in intensive care. It is not known whether the man had been abroad recently. Last night a spokesman for Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “His family has been informed and our thoughts and condolences are with them at what is undoubtedly a distressing time.” Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, confirmed that work was under way to isolate all patients and staff who had been in contact with the man. The hospital insisted that all services were running normally. On Thursday evening a woman in her seventies died a day after having Covid-19 diagnosed while at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. She also had underlying health conditions and officials said that she had been “in and out of hospital for non-coronavirus reasons”. – The Times

  • Coronavirus grandad returned from cruise days before death – The Sun
  • Thousands stranded on cruise ship after 21 cases confirmed – The Guardian
  • Supermarkets accuse Hancock of lying about food supply deal – The Times
  • Two baggage handlers test positive for virus – The Sun
  • PM pumps £46m into vaccine – The Sun
  • US death toll hits 17 – The Sun
  • Virus has infected every area of economy – The Times
  • Coronavirus poses ‘most serious threat to public health since Spanish flu pandemic’ – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Coronavirus will peak at Easter, but it may be back in November’ – The Times
  • Councils order flat pack mortuaries – The Times
  • Major new text alert system could be key to slowing down spread of coronavirus – Daily Telegraph
  • Hospitality operators warn that virus could decimate the sector – FT
  • Where in the UK have cases of coronavirus been detected – and how many are there? – Daily Telegraph
  • Latest advice – HM Government

Tampon tax ‘to be scrapped in Budget’

“The government is poised to scrap VAT on women’s sanitary products in next week’s budget after previously blaming EU law for its inability to remove the charge. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is expected to lift the so-called tampon tax, which has long been the target of campaigners, at the start of next year. A 5 per cent VAT rate is applied to tampons and other sanitary products, while staples including most food, books and children’s clothing are exempt. Brussels has also made reforms allowing EU members to scrap VAT on sanitary products from 2022. In response to campaigning, supermarkets including Tesco and Waitrose have stopped charging VAT on sanitary items, covering the cost themselves. The government estimates that scrapping the tax will save the average woman about £40 over her lifetime. The change will knock about 7p off a pack of 20 tampons and 5p off a pack of 12 sanitary pads.” – The Times

  • And ‘tampon tax to go’ in Budget as Britain freed from EU rules – Daily Telegraph
  • Pension boost for high earners as Sunak ‘set to tackle taper ‘issue’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Chancellor ‘to ease pension tax relief curbs to aid NHS’ – FT
  • Sunak ‘pledges £9m to tackle fly-tipping’ – Daily Mail
  • Osborne’s ‘arbitrary’ stamp duty charge on second homes nets £6.6bn – The Times
  • Ministers sent back to school to learn how to deliver major infrastructure projects – Daily Telegraph
  • Cummings isn’t the only power behind the No 10 throne – The Times

Huawei deal under new scrutiny as Tory rebellion gathers pace

“The rebellion against Boris Johnson’s decision to allow Huawei to build part of Britain’s 5G network grew more serious yesterday as the Commons defence committee opened an inquiry into the Chinese tech company. Mr Johnson is facing the first significant test of his authority since his election triumph in December. The inquiry comes as rebel Tories join opposition parties to demand firmer action to limit Huawei’s market share. The inquiry will look into security of the provider’s equipment and the effects on British alliances with allies such as the US. Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP and defence committee chairman, said that although 5G was “an exciting opportunity for the UK to strengthen its digital infrastructure, it is critical that we have a full understanding of the security implications. Once introduced, 5G will fast become an unextractable, indispensable part of our infrastructure as a country. It is paramount that, as we negotiate this new technology, we ask the uncomfortable questions about the possibility of abuse by foreign parties.” – The Times

Hancock appeals to all MPs and peers to solve social care crisis

“Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has written to all MPs and peers in a bid to secure an all-party agreement to solve the social care crisis. “We do not need another commission – we need action now, finally, to seek a solution that can support future generations,” he said in the letter on Friday. Mr Hancock said the aim was to deliver a scheme that meant no-one was forced to sell their home to pay for care or were hit by “unpredictably large costs” for which it was hard to plan. However, he acknowledged that the number of reports suggesting different approaches showed how difficult it was to reach agreement. “We know that this will not be easy,” he said. And he warned it would need to be financially sustainable and consider the impact on taxpayers against competing demands from other public services.” – Daily Telegraph


Moore: The row over Patel is about who is in charge: government or bureaucracy?

“The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is the greatest Thatcher admirer in the present Cabinet. She will be nurturing similar feelings today. A woman outsider trying to bring about serious change in matters such as post-Brexit immigration, and to see through roughly a third of the legislation coming before Parliament this year, she is facing obstruction from officials. Indeed, her situation is worse than Mrs Thatcher’s, because she is also facing character assassination. From the day Ms Patel announced her points-based immigration system three weeks ago, she has been the target of anonymous denunciations in the media. She is alleged to be a shouting, swearing bully.” – Daily Telegraph


Parris: Our Afghanistan heroes died for nothing

“In any competition to find the most absurd statement to which the largest number of eminent individuals are prepared to put their name, I’ve now seen the winning entry. A story in this newspaper on Thursday was headlined “Taliban deal must honour fallen troops, Johnson told”. It accompanied a letter signed by a whole cartload of military, ex-military and parliamentary eminences, led by General Lord Richards of Herstmonceux. Reading the names and ranks, you could almost hear the chink of gongs and the swish of ermine. And this was their argument: that because some 500 British troops were killed in Afghanistan and some 4,500 wounded, the West must not quit. The signatories were reacting to news that the Americans have reached an agreement with the Afghan Taliban that involves an effective ceasefire and US military withdrawal.” – The Times

Free speech row at Oxford University after Rudd talk cancelled

“A free speech row has broken out at Oxford after the university attacked the decision by a women’s group to cancel a speech by the former home secretary Amber Rudd at the last minute. The university authorities intervened after the UNWomen Oxford society called Rudd, who resigned from the cabinet over the Windrush scandal, to withdraw an invitation to her half an hour before she was due to speak on Thursday. The former MP was pictured with the organiser, Felicity Graham, in an empty auditorium. Rudd said on Friday morning that the decision was “badly judged” and “rude” and urged students who opposed her politics to “stop hiding and start engaging”. The university said it strongly disapproved of the decision to disinvite her, tweeting that it is “committed to freedom of speech and opposes no-platforming”. The row over the decision – which drew in students, politicians and Rudd’s family on Friday – is the latest incident in the long-running discussion about freedom of speech at universities.” – The Guardian

  • Student group cancels Rudd talk – The Times

Labour to investigate after activists brand deputy leadership candidate a ‘Mossad agent’

“Ian Murray, the MP for Edinburgh South, has reported a torrent of abuse directed at him after he emailed Labour Party members last month asking for their support. In his message, Mr Murray, a Labour moderate backed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said he was proud to have received the endorsement of the Jewish Labour Movement and intended to “tackle the stain of anti-Semitism”. However, his comments provoked a series of highly abusive responses, including claims that “Jews thought they owned the Labour Party” and that he was working on behalf of the Israeli intelligence agency. In one message, passed to the Huffington Post, a respondent said: “It is a pity that the Jews thought they owned the Labour Party… they are showing, like yourself, where your true loyalties like…firmly in the CIA-Mossad HQ in Tel Aviv.” Another stated: “The right-wing Blairite faction along with the Israeli Lobby put paid to any chance of a socialist Labour Party taking office.” Hitting back on Friday, Mr Murray said that the “sickening” messages demonstrated that “anti-Semitism is still a major problem in the Labour Party”. – Daily Telegraph

Merkel sparks political crisis ‘motivated by fear’

“Angela Merkel is facing a political crisis in Germany as her Christian Democratic Union Party have haemorrhaged votes – now one party insider tells that the German Chancellor is embroiled in an unprecedented position of turmoil. This is because, while continuing her role as Chancellor, Angela Merkel has quit as leader of her CDU party as she prepares to depart politics for good in 2021. But, many have called for her to leave her post as Germany’s head of state immediately as rivals deride her “lack of leadership” and describe her presence as a “blockage in the party”. In an attempt to secure her legacy, the German Chancellor hoped that key ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer would continue in her role as leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union Party. But, she instead stepped down earlier last month opening up the party’s leadership bid to those taking a more reformist approach.” – Daily Express

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