Coronavirus 1) Johnson ‘begins top secret planning to ease UK lockdown at Easter’

“Boris Johnson has begun top secret planning for millions to meet loved ones this Easter – but cracked the whip amid lagging vaccine numbers. The Sun has learnt Cabinet Office civil servants have begun building a detailed “unlocking framework” to gradually ease Covid restrictions area by area. Although publicly Ministers say it’s too soon to say when freedoms can be restored, the PM has tasked No10 officials with building the plans with his eye on early April mingling joy for millions – even if for many its only outside. Amid mounting backbench pressure to set out a route out of lockdown, a senior Government source told The Sun: “It’s way too soon to start talking about when, but the work is being done quietly on the how.”” – The Sun

  • Public against rush to reopen after Covid lockdown, say ministers – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Fears over vaccine supplies as rate drops

“Ministers are increasingly concerned about the pace of the coronavirus vaccine rollout after a reduction in the supply of Pfizer-Biontech jabs. The number of people receiving their first dose on Monday fell for the third day in a row to 204,076 from a high of 324,000 on Friday. Pfizer said supplies of vaccine would be lower this month and next as it was upgrading its factory in Belgium before increasing production in March. A government source said that the supply had become “very constrained” with ministers concerned about meeting the target to vaccinate 15 million people in the four most vulnerable groups by mid-February. “It’s going to be very, very tight,” the source said.” – The Times

  • NHS under fire as elderly sent to distant coronavirus vaccination centres – The Times
  • Coronavirus vaccine passports will leave bosses on shaky legal ground – The Times
  • Widespread coronavirus vaccination risks ‘day before Armistice’ wave of infections, experts warn – The Times
  • No10 hires PR firm to boost Covid vaccine uptake among BAME groups – Daily Mail
  • Germans are told to wear better masks – The Times
  • Maskless chats indoors spread coronavirus more than coughing – The Times
  • Will we need more Covid vaccinations in the autumn? – The Times
  • Vaccine nationalism helps no one – The Times

Tory rebels nearly scupper China trade deal

“A backbench rebellion by Tory MPs over China’s persecution of the Uighur people has narrowly failed to stop the government signing a trade deal with Beijing. The former cabinet ministers David Davis and Damian Green were among 33 Conservatives who backed an amendment that would have meant trade deals were automatically revoked if partner countries were found guilty of genocide by the High Court. In total, 319 MPs sided with the government and 308 voted against. Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary who has visited genocide sites in Rwanda, abstained as a matter of conscience. He told The Times that he felt “very strongly” about the issue.” – The Times



America 1) Biden inauguration: Democrat to be sworn in as Trump leaves office

“Joe Biden is to be sworn in as US president, taking the helm of a nation wracked by political division, economic anguish and an unrelenting pandemic. Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will take the oath of office alongside him in Washington DC, which has been fortified amid fears of civil unrest. Some 25,000 troops will guard the inauguration ceremony after a deadly riot at the Capitol earlier this month. Donald Trump will leave the White House for the last time, bound for Florida. He will not be attending the inauguration ceremony. Mr Biden will be sworn in as 46th president of the United States by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts shortly before midday (17:00 GMT) on Wednesday outside the US Capitol.” – BBC


America 2) Trump vows ‘we’ve only just begun’ before leaving Washington…

“President Trump called on Americans to “pray for the success” of Joe Biden’s administration in a farewell address in which he refused to mention his successor by name or retract claims of election fraud. Mr Trump, who has not been seen in public for a week, issued a video message vowing that his “Make America Great Again” movement was “only just beginning” as he prepared to leave Washington this morning before Mr Biden’s inauguration. The outgoing Republican president defiantly insisted that “we did what we came here to do and so much more” in an indication that he may be thinking again about running in 2024. He may not have that choice, however. After he became the first president to be impeached twice, the prospect of his disqualification from public office increased when the most senior Republican in Congress, Mitch McConnell, accused him of provoking the mob that stormed the Capitol.” – The Times

  • … as he pardons Steve Bannon, among 143 people who received clemency – The Guardian

America 3) May – Britain threatened to break the law. We abandoned our global moral leadership… we did not raise our credibility in the eyes of the world

“This week America inaugurates a new president, and the free world gains a new leader. In Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, I believe Britain has partners for positive action to make our world a safer place. The US and the UK share enduring values: respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom of speech and thought, representative democracy, equality and the rule of law. These values have shaped our societies. In the past, we have had common cause to defend them. Today, those values are under threat once again – and once again, the UK has a responsibility to play its part in defending them. The threat does not just come from countries which reject our democratic values – nations like China, which continues to persecute the Uighur people and infringe the rights of people in Hong Kong, or Russia, where opposition leader Alexei Navalny recently survived poisoning only to face imprisonment. On January 6, those values came under attack in that bastion of democracy the United States Capitol.” – Daily Mail

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Policing 1) £148m to target county lines drug gangs and treat addiction

“Police have shut down more than 550 county lines and arrested nearly 3,500 people connected with the drug dealing gangs in just over a year. The Home Office revealed the crackdown as it announced a £148 million package to cut crime and tackle issues around illegal drugs. It also gives more resources to police to tackle organised urban criminal gangs, which take over provincial drug markets, often exploiting young and vulnerable people. The county line is the mobile phone line used to take drugs orders. The government said that a £25 million programme in place since November 2019 had resulted in more than 3,400 arrests, more than 550 lines closed and more than 770 vulnerable people protected. Drugs with a street value of £9 million, as well £1.5 million in cash, had been seized.” – The Times

Policing 2) Patel: People are dying – so I am pulling together a system-wide approach to the impact of illegal drugs

“As Home Secretary, I am determined to cut crime and restore confidence in our criminal justice system. People must be able to live their lives knowing their family, community and country is safe. To do this, right across Government we must help those who are addicted to drugs while we also tackle drug misuse. Drugs ruin lives and devastate families while drug-related crime can plague communities. Behind every illicit deal there is a trail of violence and exploitation. Meanwhile, criminal gangs enrich themselves, profiting from human misery. That is why, today, I am announcing a £148 million funding package, to pull together a system-wide approach to the impact of illegal drugs. This includes £40m of new money to continue tackling county lines and drugs supply.” – Daily Telegraph

Shapps’ smart motorway roll-out criticised for being too slow

“Only 37 miles of smart motorway have been fitted with vital technology used to detect broken-down vehicles, prompting more concerns over safety. The radar system, which can spot stationary cars in 20 seconds, has been installed on four of the 24 sections of English motorway with no hard shoulder. Transport Focus, the roads watchdog, has said that drivers feel safer with a hard shoulder. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, demanded the rapid introduction of the technology in March last year as part of a sweeping review of smart motorways designed to improve safety… Sir Mike Penning, the Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead and a former roads minister, called for faster roll-out.” – The Times


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