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Coronavirus 1 ) Autumn jab to ward off mutant strains

“Millions of people are likely to need a third vaccine dose this year as ministers step up plans for booster jabs against new variants of coronavirus. NHS chiefs hope that the extra doses can be given at the same time as winter flu jabs as the government accepts that a top-up campaign increasingly looks necessary. A crucial decision looms about which strain to target after a study of more than 1,500 people found that the Oxford vaccine may not be able to prevent mild and moderate illnesses caused by the South African variant. Scientists said the findings suggested that even if the stopped severe illness it will be unable to prevent transmission of the variant.” – The Times

  • Boost for second dose target as jabs are given at 1,000 a minute – The Times
  • More medical breakthroughs on the way thanks to BioNTech coronavirus vaccine – The Times
  • Slow uptake by minorities forces Covid vaccination centre to close its doors early – The Times
  • Twitter warned on Covid vaccine conspiracy posts – The Times
  • Employers could insist all staff get vaccinated under health and safety law – Daily Telegraph
  • Covid vaccine could be made available in pill form, minister says – Daily Telegraph
  • GCSE pupils hit hardest by anxiety over Covid-19 lockdown – The Times
  • Illegal immigrants will be granted an ‘amnesty’ to come forward for Covid jabs – Daily Mail

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  • Oxford vaccine’s failure to stop mild cases shows we must act fast – The Times

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Coronavirus 2) Zahawi – The emergence of other variants is yet another challenge we are rising to meet

“Earlier this week, we saw one of the greatest milestones in our fightback against this virus, as the number of people who received their first dose ticked over 10 million, and has now surpassed 12 million. We’re now vaccinating at an incredible pace, and during one hour on Saturday we delivered nearly 1,000 jabs a minute across the United Kingdom. The vaccine is our way out of this pandemic, and it is thanks to the hard work of everyone involved that we have vaccinated over 90 per cent of over 75s, and  visited every eligible care home possible with older residents in England. From the moment Covid-19 was identified over a year ago, the global community of researchers, scientists and manufacturers have concentrated all their expertise and their efforts into vaccines and treatments so we can beat this virus.” – Daily Telegraph

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Coronavirus 3) Up to 205,000 passengers from countries with new variant could arrive in UK before hotel quarantine

“Up to 205,000 passengers from countries with confirmed new variant cases are expected to enter the UK before hotel quarantine is enforced, The Telegraph can disclose. Passenger data show that 22,000 Britons will enter from the 33 “red list” countries from which foreign travel is banned in the three weeks between Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, announcing the policy and the first hotels opening on Feb 15. A further 183,600 passengers will have entered the UK from 27 other countries where Brazilian or south African variant cases have been confirmed, including Spain which has imposed border restrictions with Portugal because of its close links with Brazil.” – The Times

  • Enforce quarantine by tracking phones, says Sage – The Times

The Budget 1) Vote on £4bn foreign aid cut ‘is delayed over Tory rebellion fears’ as ministers try to avoid clash with backbenchers ahead of G7 summit

“A vote on cutting foreign aid looks like being delayed by ministers to avoid a clash with Tory backbenchers before the G7 summit. Boris Johnson has vowed to slash £4billion from the aid budget as the Government struggles to fill the black hole in the nation’s finances. He plans to lower the target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on international development to 0.5 per cent. This would reduce the handouts to £10billion for the first time in almost a decade. But Tory rebels have warned the Government it will face a parliamentary showdown with the possibility that the move – which would be a breach of the party’s 2019 election manifesto – could be blocked in both the Commons and the Lords.” – Daily Mail

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The Budget 2) Reform tax so we can compete with Amazon, say retail chains

“The bosses of some of Britain’s biggest retail chains, including Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and Waterstones, have joined forces to call for an overhaul of business rates to help them to compete with online giants such as Amazon. Retailers pay £8 billion a year in business rates, more than any other sector and a quarter of the total rates bill. They argue that rates have grown disproportionately to other taxes and fail to reflect the shift to online shopping or falls in shop rent values. The bosses of 17 retailers, including Ken Murphy of Tesco, Thierry Garnier of Kingfisher, which owns B&Q, David Potts of Morrisons, Roger Burnley of Asda, Peter Pritchard of Pets at Home and James Daunt of Waterstones, said in a letter seen by The Times: “We urge the government to rebalance the tax base to ensure online and bricks and mortar retailers pay a similar proportion of tax…”” – The Times 

The EU 1) Vaccination not a space-race competition, says Von der Leyen

“Ursula von der Leyen has criticised Boris Johnson’s “confrontational” space-race mentality on vaccinations as a senior German minister pointed to Britain’s “endless suffering” to show Europe’s superiority in the fight against the virus. The European Commission president warned an international meeting of students organised by Warwick University that competition over vaccines and vaccination rates resembled the Cold War. “When I was your age the world was still divided into two blocs. The superpowers fought to expand or maintain their sphere of influence. Well, this world is long gone. And yet the old confrontational mindset is back,” she said yesterday.” – The Times

  • Delaying French lockdown risks repeat of British ‘tragedy’, Macron is warned – The Times

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The EU 2) Irish ‘open to extension of Brexit grace period to solve border row’, says foreign minister

“The Irish Government is open to the extension of a grace period for the Northern Ireland Protocol to resolve a row over customs check at the border, the country’s foreign minister has said. Simon Coveney said his Government could accept “modest extensions” to the period but insisted there could be no renegotiation of the terms of the protocol, which governs trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland after the end of the Brexit transition period. Some EU customs checks, which will eventually take place at the Irish Sea border, have been temporarily relaxed to allow for the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Following loyalist threats against port officials in Belfast and Larne, Michael Gove has called on the European Commission to extend the grace period to allow border issues to be resolved.” – Daily Telegraph

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The EU 3) Exports from UK to EU down two thirds since Brexit, say hauliers

“Ministers face calls to intervene to overcome problems at the border after hauliers warned that exports from Britain to the European Union had dropped by more than two thirds. It emerged yesterday that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) had written to Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, urging an “urgent intervention to address the enormous challenges facing critical supply chains” as a result of Britain’s trade deal with the EU. In the letter dated February 1, which was reported by The Observer, Richard Burnett, the RHA chief executive, told Gove that exports last month to the EU had fallen by as much as 68 per cent compared with the same month a year earlier.” – The Times

Far-Left influence on Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion to be probed

“Attempts by far-Left activists to “hijack” movements including Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion are being investigated in a review ordered by Boris Johnson. John Woodcock, the ex-Labour MP who now sits in the House of Lords as Lord Walney, an unaffiliated peer, has been instructed to probe the extreme fringes of the hard-Left and far-Right in the UK. Appointed as the Government’s independent adviser on political violence and disruption, he will report on his findings and offer recommendations to Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, around May. Unveiling his probe in an interview with The Telegraph, he warned that the UK must heed the growth of the far-Right in the US, which culminated in the storming of the Capitol last month.” – Daily Telegraph

HMRC accuses British universities of inadvertently aiding Chinese military

“More than a dozen universities may be inadvertently assisting the Chinese military by sharing research in sensitive areas ranging from hypersonic technology to graphene, a think tank claims. Civitas alleges that 20 British universities have dealings with 29 Chinese universities and nine companies that have military links, including with Chinese weapons conglomerates. The development comes as HM Revenue and Customs is preparing to inform up to 200 British academics that they are being investigated for potential breach of export control rules by sharing highly sensitive information that could help China develop weapons of mass destruction.” – The Times

  • Hundreds of UK academics investigated over weapons links to China – The Times
  • Britain’s enemies are using social media to ‘tear apart the fabric of society’ – Daily Telegraph

Ageing TV licence fee refuseniks leave £117m hole in BBC budget

“Up to 750,000 older people have refused to pay for a television licence after losing their right to a free one, figures suggest. That equates to a £117 million deficit for the BBC, which scrapped free licences for over-75s last August. A refusal to pay the £157.50 annual fee can result in a £1,000 fine and a prison sentence of three to six months. Dennis Reed, director of the pensioner campaign group Silver Voices, said: “There are a hard core who are resisting. The stalling is significant. The over-75s have suddenly been flooded with further reminder letters. “Some had three or four letters in the last couple of weeks reminding them their licences would be cancelled. They are desperate to get people to pay.”” – The Times

Burma protests swell against military coup in direct challenge to army

“Tens of thousands of people across Burma took to the streets to protest against the junta yesterday in a massive surge of opposition to the military coup last week and the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s leader. More than 60,000 demonstrators filled the streets of Rangoon, the country’s largest city, wearing red shirts and waving red flags, the colour of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, (NLD). They headed for the Sule Pagoda at the heart of the city, a rallying point during protests in 1988 and 2007, led by Buddhist monks. The protests were the biggest in the country for a decade.” – The Times

May called husband to warn him she had held hands with Trump

“Theresa May rang her husband Philip to warn him she had held hands with another man before footage of her meeting Donald Trump aired, a BBC documentary has revealed. Aides recall Mrs May getting “stuck” with the US President when he took her hand to walk down a slope during a visit to Washington in 2017. A video of the encounter quickly went viral on social media, and commentators speculated that Mrs May had become close with the US leader, or that Mr Trump had a phobia of slopes and stairs. In an upcoming BBC documentary, Mrs May’s joint chief of staff recalls the Prime Minister’s anxious call to her husband to warn him that she had held hands with another man.” – Daily Telegraph

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