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Coronavirus 1) Johnson eyes Easter self-catering escape

“Ministers are examining plans that would allow people to go away for self-catering breaks as soon as the Easter holidays after Boris Johnson said he expected coronavirus rates to fall sharply in a matter of weeks. The Times has been told that under one ambitious timeline being considered by the government, families who live in the same household could be allowed to go on breaks together from April. However, there are also concerns that letting people travel to self-catered accommodation too soon would lead to “big movements” across the country and could increase the rate of infection.” – The Times

  • UK reaches milestone of offering first Covid vaccinations to 15 million people – The Guardian
  • Grandparents able to reunite with grandchildren in March under lighter lockdown proposal – Daily Telegraph
  • Vaccines are working as over-80s deaths drop twice as quickly as under-65s – Daily Telegraph
  • London faces long slump, warns West End chief, Russell Lynch – Daily Telegraph
  • Major Israeli study finds Pfizer jab 94 per cent effective in ‘real world’ use – Daily Telegraph
  • Unions pour cold water on plan to reopen classrooms on March 8 and say ‘phased return’ to school should remain an option – Daily Mail

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Coronavirus 2) Steve Baker: Ministers must never again be free to impose crippling restrictions without proper scrutiny

“Just like Coronavirus itself, lockdowns and restrictions cause immense damage. Food insecurity has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic, half of us have put on weight, one in three people are drinking more, children’s educational prospects have been damaged, perhaps irrevocably, and many of the limited company directors, freelancers and the self-employed who were excluded from Government support have suffered untold harm. Using World Bank figures, the measures we have taken to slow the spread of the disease since March 2020 have cost the UK £280bn – the equivalent of £4,112 per person. And most concerningly of all, one in five adults has contemplated self-harm or suicide during lockdown. As we reclaim our lives from 8 March, today’s cross-party Treasury Committee report recommends crucial steps for handling any future pandemic.” – Daily Telegraph

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Coronavirus 3) Raab rules out MPs’ ‘arbitrary’ April deadline to remove all Covid restrictions

“The foreign secretary has rejected an “arbitrary” demand from lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs for all coronavirus restrictions to be lifted by the end of April amid cabinet tensions. More than 60 MPs in the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) have sought to increase pressure on Boris Johnson by insisting that he commit to a firm timetable for ending controls. In a letter to the prime minister they said that schools “must” return on March 8 as planned, with pubs and restaurants opening in a “commercially viable manner” from Easter. With the top nine priority groups due to have received the vaccine by the end of April, they said that that should be the end of lockdown.” – The Times

  • Vaccine passports to go to the shops could happen, says the Foreign Secretary – The Times

Coronavirus 4) England hotel quarantine begins for arrivals from high-risk countries

“All UK nationals or residents arriving back in England from high-risk countries will begin checking into government-designated accommodation on Monday as the hotel quarantine regime to prevent the spread of new coronavirus cases begins. People returning to England from 33 “red list” countries – comprised of hotspots with Covid-19 variants in circulation – will be required to quarantine in hotels for 10 days. Anyone who has been in one of the high-risk destinations will have to enter England through a designated port and have pre-booked a quarantine package to stay at one of the government’s managed quarantine facilities. The government has struck deals with 16 hotels so far, providing 4,963 rooms, and a further 58,000 rooms are on standby, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Sunday.” – The Guardian

  • ‘Red list’ travellers free to mix with passengers on planes and at airports – The Times

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Coronavirus 5) MPs demand Treasury ends ‘unfair exclusions’ blocking millions from income support

“MPs have slammed the Treasury for its “unfair” exclusion of millions of workers from coronavirus support schemes and put pressure on the Chancellor to overhaul the rules. The Government has “wrongly” ignored gaps in support according to the Treasury Committee, an influential group of cross-party MPs, which said there is little justification for not having addressed the issue over the past 11 months. ExcludedUK, a campaign group, has estimated three million workers have fallen through the cracks, receiving little to no money from the furlough programme or self-employment income support scheme since the pandemic began.” – Daily Telegraph

Don’t airbrush British history, government tells heritage groups

“Ministers have summoned 25 of the country’s leading heritage bodies to a “defend our history” summit amid concern that a “noisy minority of activists” are trying to “do Britain down”. The National Trust, Historic England and the British Museum are among the institutions called to a meeting with Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, this week. They will be warned against attempts to rewrite or airbrush the country’s history. Dowden will urge them to adopt a “retain and explain” approach to controversial artefacts, rather than remove items linked to empire or slavery. They will also be reminded that public funds must not be used for political purposes after it emerged that the National Trust’s “colonial countryside” project to examine links between its stately homes and Britain’s imperial past was funded with £160,000 of taxpayer and lottery money.” – The Times

Northern England needs own big bang to pay back Brexit voters, ministers told

“Conservative and Brexit voters in the north of England should be repaid with a “Northern Big Bang” built round private investment, a think tank has said. The report, A Northern Big Bang, which is due to be published today, notes how London and the southeast have dominated investment and attention over recent years. The northern economy is three quarters the size of England’s average, measured by gross value added per capita, and has some of the least productive areas in Europe. The pandemic has only widened the gap, with evidence suggesting that the effects of Covid-19 are causing more damage to local economies in areas already struggling.” – The Times

Conversations with Biden have been good, says Johnson

“Boris Johnson has said that he has formed a “good relationship” with President Biden, but called Donald Trump’s impeachment trial a “kerfuffle”. In an interview with the American CBS television network, the prime minister said that UK and US thinking had been coming together on a range of issues in recent weeks. Biden has described Johnson previously as a “Trump clone”, but they have common ground over climate change, Iran and the Nato alliance. “The American constitution is strong and robust,” Johnson said. “I’m very delighted to have a good relationship with the White House. I’ve had some good conversations already with President Biden — fantastic conversations about the way he sees things.” – The Times

Trump acquitted of impeachment and declares: I’ll be back

“Donald Trump was acquitted on Saturday night of inciting insurrection at the end of his second impeachment trial. A two-thirds majority of the 100 US senators – 67 – was required for a conviction, and Democrats fell short of reaching that bar. In total, 57 senators voted to convict, and 43 voted not guilty. The court formally acquitted Mr Trump over his actions on January 6, when he told supporters to “fight like hell” before the US Capitol was invaded by a marauding mob. All 50 Democrat senators voted to convict. They were joined by seven of the 50 Republicans including Mitt Romney, the Utah senator.” – Daily Telegraph

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