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Coronavirus 1) Ministers consider tightening lockdown rules on exercise and face masks

“Tighter coronavirus restrictions are being considered by ministers, The Telegraph understands, amid concerns the latest lockdown is not being followed strictly enough. Rules banning people from different households who are not in a support bubble from exercising together are under discussion, in a move which would bring the restrictions more closely in line with the first lockdown in March. The introduction of rules on face coverings in offices is also being mooted in Government circles, as some businesses are feared to have become lax. Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a meeting with Cabinet colleagues on Sunday evening at which they discussed whether the current lockdown rules were working to reduce spiralling coronavirus cases at a sufficient rate. Earlier, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, chaired an emergency ‘Covid O’ committee which examined ways in which the lockdown could be “improved”, including stricter new measures and initiatives to boost adherence.” – Daily Telegraph

  • NHS bosses criticise private hospitals for continuing with non-urgent operations – The Times
  • Test and trace needs radical overhaul to prevent further Covid surges in England – The Guardian
  • Bending Covid lockdown rules could be fatal, public warned – The Times
  • Army of volunteers prepares to take on Covid-19 across Britain – The Times
  • Police driving ambulances amid delay in 999 response – The Times
  • China fights new Covid outbreak near Beijing – The Times
  • 1,877 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Scotland – The Scotsman
  • 45 more deaths in Wales and 1,660 new cases – Wales Online
  • 17 further deaths and 1,112 new cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland – Belfast Telegraph

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Coronavirus 2) Hancock says every adult to be offered a Covid-19 vaccine by autumn

“Every adult will be offered a vaccine by autumn, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, promised yesterday, on the eve of the first mass vaccination centres opening their doors this morning. Boris Johnson will visit a site in the southwest of as it begins to inoculate people over 80 and health and social care staff. Mr Hancock claimed that the inoculation programme was on track to meet its first target by February 15. However, in London nurses offered the vaccine to friends before it spoiled when patients missed appointments. Writing in The Times Red Box Mr Hancock and Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of Astrazeneca, wrote that it was “important to remember that the manufacture of vaccines is a biologic process that is subject to variability”.” – The Times Red Box

Coronavirus 3) Hancock and Pascal Soriot: Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine encapsulates what global Britain can achieve

“We have always known that Britain is a land of ingenuity, but the past few weeks have showcased it to the world. The UK was the first country to deploy a clinically authorised vaccine for coronavirus. We have also developed our very own vaccine here in the UK, thanks to a successful partnership working together day and night between academia, industry, the government, our world class regulator and of course our NHS. This Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine has provided the single best piece of news from the pandemic so far, allowing us to accelerate our vaccine programme, which we know will save lives and provides the long-term solution to this pandemic.” – The Times

Coronavirus 4) Germany accused of breaching EU rules by purchasing supplies of vaccine unilaterally

“Germany has come in for criticism over a bilateral vaccine deal with Pfizer/Biontech to secure an extra 30 million doses of its vaccine at a time when talks between Brussels and the pharma firms were still ongoing. Berlin ordered the extra doses of the vaccine back in September at a time when it was trumpeting the virtues of a common EU purchasing strategy during its role as rotating president of the European Union. German Health Minister Jens Spahn confirmed last week that he had purchased an extra 30 million doses of the vaccine in a separate bilateral agreement with the company. The terms of the EU’s vaccine strategy, published in June, state that the 27 member states agree “not to launch their own procedures for advance purchase of that vaccine with the same manufacturers.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Germany ponders its future without ‘Mutti’ Merkel – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 5) High turnout leaves schools struggling in lockdown

“Demand for school places has forced almost half of head teachers in England to create priority lists for children of key workers, a survey suggests. Schools remain open to vulnerable children and those of critical workers but a large number qualify, including some in food production, local government, communications and finance. Matt Hancock yesterday urged key workers not to send their children to school if they could manage at home. The health secretary told Sky News: “If you’re a key worker and your partner doesn’t work then you shouldn’t be sending your children to school. That’s clear in the guidance. I understand that more people are sending their children to school than they did last time. But we really do need everybody who works in the NHS where at all possible to be able to make it to work.”” – The Times

  • Give A-level and GCSE grades early to avoid repeat of chaos, heads urge – The Times

Starmer rules out major changes to Brexit deal…

“A Labour government would improve on “bits” of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal but would not attempt any “major renegotiation” with the EU, Sir Keir Starmer has said. The Labour leader maintained that the deal was “thin” and left gaps for the creative and services sector, but said there was “no scope” for a completely new agreement. “Whether we like it or not, that is going to be the treaty that an incoming Labour government inherits and has to make work,” he said, suggesting that his party would negotiate additional agreements with the European Commission. “I think pretending to the British public that somehow after four years’ negotiation the treaty that has just been secured is going to be up for grabs and that the EU are going to start saying ‘let’s start all over again’, that is not realistic,” he said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • … and ditches EU free movement pledge as a lost cause – The Times
  • Labour facing another split over police immunity in ‘spy cops’ bill – The Guardian

Johnson under pressure from top Tories to take stronger stand against China…

“Senior Conservatives are gearing up for a renewed push to force Boris Johnson to take a tougher stance against China. Lord Hague of Richmond is among those endorsing research that he says details evidence of human rights abuses in the country. In a report being published on Wednesday, the Conservative Human Rights Commission accuses the Chinese regime of torture, slave labour, surveillance, forced televised confessions and arbitrary disappearances and detention, most notably in relation to minorities such as the Uighurs.” – The Times

… as defence chief warns attacks online could lead to real war

“Covert warfare by Russia and China, including cyberhacking and disinformation, risks an “uncontrollable state of all-out war”, the head of the armed forces has warned. General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said clandestine activity by hostile states did not reach the threshold for war but could quickly “light a fuse” if it were misunderstood or escalated. “And, of course, if you look back over history, it’s those moments of miscalculation which often precipitate what ends up being an uncontrollable state of war. And that’s the bit that we really, really have to watch.” In a new podcast General Carter and other military and security figures sound the alarm about the risk of interference by hostile states leading to conflict.” – The Times

Patel wants police to explain unpopular decisions

“The home secretary is preparing to force police chiefs and police and crime commissioners to do more to explain controversial operational decisions. This month Priti Patel will publish the recommendations of a review into PCCs, which were introduced by David Cameron in 2012 to make the police more accountable. The recommendations include drawing “brighter” lines on what constitutes operational independence and moving to first past the post for PCC elections after the next polls in May. Allies of the home secretary denied that she intended to use the review as a power grab or to limit police chiefs’ independence after a series of controversies including the policing of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.” – The Times

Sturgeon to fight ‘nonsense’ Salmond claims as pressure mounts for probe to examine lying allegations

“Nicola Sturgeon is preparing to refute “absolute nonsense” claims from Alex Salmond, her deputy has said, as a war between the two most important figures in the modern history of the Scottish independence movement intensified. John Swinney, the deputy first minister who served as Mr Salmond’s finance secretary for seven years, said on Sunday he was “very confident” that Ms Sturgeon would be able to dispel “bombshell” claims made by her predecessor about her handling of sexual harassment claims against him. In leaked evidence to an inquiry into whether the current First Minister broke the ministerial code, Mr Salmond accused her of repeatedly lying to the Scottish Parliament about the affair. If the claim is substantiated, Ms Sturgeon will be expected to resign.” – Daily Telegraph

The US 1) Trump’s social media ban prompts questions over regulation

“The decision by social media giants to ban President Trump raises a “very big question” over how they are regulated, Matt Hancock has said. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram blocked Mr Trump’s accounts after his supporters stormed the US Capitol last week. Mr Hancock, the health secretary and a former culture secretary, said yesterday that the move showed they were “taking editorial decisions”. Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News, he added: “And that is a very big question because then it raises questions about their editorial judgments and the way that they’re regulated. It is obviously one for the culture secretary, but as a former culture secretary I think it does lead to very interesting questions about the role of social media and the role of the social media companies in the decisions, in the editorial decisions that they take.”” – The Times

The US 2) Democrats could delay sending impeachment proceedings to Senate to free up Biden agenda

“The US Democrats could delay an impeachment trial of Donald Trump until after Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office, a top official said, freeing up the incoming president to pursue his early agenda.  James Clyburn, House Majority Whip, said that the House would take up articles of impeachment against Mr Trump this week, but that they would likely not send them to the Senate for several months. The third-ranking  House Democrat said this would allow senators to concentrate on approving Biden administration appointments and tackle legislative priorities such as a second coronavirus relief package. “Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running,” Mr Clyburn told CNN, adding that Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker who controls the timetable of proceedings, was in agreement.” – Daily Telegraph

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