Johnson’s new Jerusalem: tax cuts and help for homebuyers

“Boris Johnson has promised to build a “new Jerusalem” out of the wreckage of the Covid crisis and said that returning to the status quo isn’t good enough. The prime minister pledged to create the conditions for the private sector to flourish and said that relying on “Uncle Sugar the taxpayer” was the wrong approach. He said that the Conservatives could make Britain “the greatest place on Earth”, adding that “even in the darkest moments we can see the bright future ahead”. Mr Johnson’s tone was in stark contrast to that of Rishi Sunak. On Monday, the chancellor warned that tax rises will be needed and refused to rule out breaching the Conservatives’ triple lock manifesto pledge, which rules out increasing VAT, income tax or national insurance.”” – The Times

  • PM hints at new ‘magic of averages’ social care system – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson’s wind farm claims don’t add up, say scientists – The Times
  • The green revolution explained – The Times

Quentin Letts: Heavens, at times the PM sounded almost Tory

“Search for the hero inside: that must be what Boris Johnson’s fitness guy shouts when torturing him with burpees and the plank. In a pumpy speech to the virtual Tory conference, the PM rubbished the idea that Covid had crocked him. “This is self-evident drivel, seditious propaganda!” he boomed. He challenged doubters to any athletic contest they wanted — “arm-wrestle, leg-wrestle, Cumberland wrestle, sprint-off, you name it”. He had lost almost two stone and “I am going to continue that diet because you’ve got to search for the hero inside yourself”. Cumberland wrestling was new to me so I looked online. Two blokes grab hold of one another and slowly go round in circles until one of them lands on his backside.” – The Times


Coronavirus 1) Soaring rate leaves Britain on lockdown alert…

“Surging coronavirus infection rates have put Britain on the brink of tougher lockdown measures, overshadowing Boris Johnson’s attempt yesterday to focus on life after the pandemic. The government’s scientific advisers called for “urgent and drastic action” after cases doubled in 11 days to 14,542 and deaths doubled to 76 in the same period. Hospital admissions in England jumped by a quarter in one day and ministers are scrambling to find a way to bring down cases in the northwest amid concerns about the ability of the health service to cope over winter in infection hotspots. Rates in Manchester have doubled in a week to more than 500 cases per 100,000 people. Liverpool and Newcastle are close behind with rates increasing by more than 50 per cent in seven days.” – The Times

  • Covid deaths per week rise by 50 per cent – The Times
  • Proportion of people dying from Covid-19 compared with the number of patients in hospital with the disease is significantly lower than in initial wave of Covid-19 – The i Paper
  • Manchester universities to switch to online learning – The Times
  • Sunak scrambles to put together a local bailout package for businesses facing ruin – The Sun

Coronavirus 2) … as the Cabinet’s split over tougher lockdown measures

“A Cabinet row has thrown a major overhaul of local lockdown rules into disarray as the leaders of the worst-affected cities warned that the current measures are “not working”. A “traffic light” system of different levels of restrictions was due to be announced on Wednesday – but an intervention by Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is threatening to delay the plans. The row erupted as Boris Johnson faces a growing Conservative backlash over his handling of the coronavirus crisis, with critics arguing that lockdown measures such as the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants are damaging the economy and could even be increasing infections.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Lift coronavirus curbs and go for herd immunity, urges coalition of scientists – The Times
  • Scotland’s pubs and bars braced for closure – Daily Telegraph
  • Italy to make masks compulsory outside – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Nearly 6,000 Covid-positive people yet to be traced in testing fiasco

“Almost 6,000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have yet to be traced following the testing fiasco which saw 16,000 cases “lost” in the system. Call handlers are still trying to reach thousands of positive cases – some of whom received their test results nearly two weeks ago – to obtain contact details of those they may have exposed to the virus. On Tuesday night Labour urged ministers to “get a grip” on the Test and Trace service, as Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, admitted health officials still do not know how many contacts they need to track down.” – Daily Telegraph

  • NHS labs hit by shortage of vital kit and chemicals for Covid tests – FT
  • UK to buy one million antibody home tests despite accuracy concerns – The Guardian

Coronavirus 4) ‘All clear’ Covid passports aim to let air travellers bypass quarantine

“The world’s first coronavirus passport is being launched on Wednesday to enable people to travel without having to quarantine. Passengers using two of the world’s biggest airlines – United Airlines and Cathay Pacific – and travelling through London Heathrow will be the first to test the technology, which is backed by the US government. The volunteer passengers will upload their coronavirus test results from a validated laboratory onto a digital health passport up to 72 hours before departure. The airlines, and airport and border officials, will be able to scan the digital data on the pass to see if a person is free of the virus.” – Daily Telegraph

  • No Covid testing decision for arrivals before November, UK to announce – The Guardian

Coronavirus 5) Taxpayers face £26bn bill from Bounce Back loan fraudsters

“Rishi Sunak’s flagship coronavirus rescue loan scheme could cost taxpayers £26bn after being exploited by fraudsters and companies on the brink of going bust, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned. The hugely popular Bounce Back loans programme has so far doled out £38bn to 1.2m small businesses, much more than originally anticipated – but there are rising concerns it is being targeted by criminals and unsustainable companies in a massive debt binge. In a report published on Wednesday, the NAO said up to 60pc of borrowers may fail to pay back what they owe. This could equal taxpayer losses of between £15bn and £26bn, enough to run the Department for Transport for more than a year.” – Daily Telegraph

Beijing abuses push Raab towards Olympics boycott

“Britain could boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 in response to mounting evidence of human rights abuses, the foreign secretary said yesterday. Dominic Raab said there was “evidence of serious and egregious human rights violations, gross human rights violations” against the Uighur Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang province. More than one million Uighurs are believed to be held there in re-education camps. Mr Raab also warned that British judges continuing to serve on Hong Kong’s highest court risked giving “a veneer of legitimacy” to the city state’s judicial system after Beijing’s imposition of a draconian national security law. On Monday it was revealed that the second most senior judge on the Supreme Court had accepted an appointment to sit on Hong Kong’s final court of appeal.” – The Times

Up to 30,000 affordable houses to be scrapped under Tory planning reforms

“Close to half of affordable homes in some of the most expensive areas of England will not be built if ministers proceed with planning reforms, analysis by councils suggests. The government’s proposal to scrap the duty of developers, to build affordable housing on sites for up to 40 or 50 homes, would have led to 30,000 of such homes going undelivered over the last five years, according to the Local Government Association (LGA). Some areas likely to be most affected are the least affordable and under greatest housing pressure, the cross-party grouping said. Elmbridge in Surrey, where the average house price is over £760,000, has 486 affordable homes either built under construction or with planning permission over the past five years. This would be reduced to 271 if the proposed 40 or 50-unit threshold is introduced, the LGA said.” – The Guardian

Scores of surgeries close as 350,000 patients lose their GP

“Around 350,000 patients have lost their GP following the closure of almost 100 surgeries in the last year, research suggests. Around one in five closures were due to branches merging with others nearby, but many were due to practices closing altogether. Data obtained by Pulse magazine under Freedom of Information laws shows that 99 GP surgeries closed across the UK in 2019. This was down from 138 the year before, but up on the 18 closures recorded in 2013 by Pulse, a monthly news magazine distributed to GPs. The magazine estimates that 350,000 patients were forced to move to a new surgery.” – Daily Telegraph

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