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New target to jab over-50s, carers, and Brits with underlying conditions by April

“Britain will today move on to the next phase of its vaccination programme – targeting all over 50s, those who are more vulnerable, and carers, by the end of April. Boris Johnson officially announced the start of the next phase as Health Secretary Matt Hancock vowed there was “no rest for the wicked” and said letters had already been sent out to millions more people. One million over 65s are first on the list, alongside those with underlying health conditions. The Sun revealed last week that those over 65 would be getting their letters from this week… And at the same time the second jabs for those who have got their first vaccines will also take place.” – The Sun

  • Prime Minister targets million jabs a day to make this lockdown the last… – Daily Express
  • …but Syms, Clifton-Brown, and Davies amongst MPs who say he’s ‘moving the goalposts’ – Daily Mail
  • Roadmap out of lockdown will be ‘data, not date’ driven, says vaccines minister – Daily Telegraph
  • Vaccines are already reducing virus deaths, hospital admissions and transmission – The Sun
  • Why a few side effects after your Covid jab ‘are actually a good thing’ – Daily Mail
  • WHO Covid expert backs UK vaccine and testing plan to lift lockdown – Daily Telegraph
  • Why the three biggest vaccine makers failed on Covid-19 – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The relaxation of lockdown. Coming soon. Usual terms and conditions apply.

Quarantine ‘red list’ will get longer before it gets shorter, airports told

“The “red list” of countries from which Britons returning are required to quarantine in hotels will get longer before it gets shorter, airports have been warned by Government as the first arrivals went through the new border checks on Monday. A limited number of passengers entered the UK from the 33 “red list” countries after a surge in travel over the weekend by people seeking to beat the deadline which would have meant a £1,750 bill for hotel quarantine. But airports have been told to prepare for countries to be added to the list, which currently primarily consists of nations in southern Africa and south America. An analysis by The Telegraph shows there are 33 more countries with the South African or Brazilian Covid variants, with at least four reporting more than 30 cases.” – Daily Telegraph

  • First quarantine passengers arrive at British airport hotels – FT
  • Brits who’ve received Covid vaccine may be ‘fast-tracked’ for holidays in Spain – The Sun
  • Tiny numbers taken to quarantine hotels as travellers evade Scotland’s stricter rules – Daily Telegraph

UK looks at rapid testing to allow return of mass gatherings

“The UK is considering rapid coronavirus testing for the entertainment industry to allow mass gatherings to resume later this year in situations where social distancing is impractical or uneconomical. Government officials confirmed that plans were being drawn up for rapid testing to be rolled out once most of the economy had reopened. “Quick turnround testing is part of a plan to get mass gatherings back,” one insider said. Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson said that so-called “vaccination passports” could be introduced for international travel, but would be unlikely to be required for domestic pursuits, such as dining out… The prime minister added that rapid testing, along with mass vaccination, would be examined for “those bits that are the toughest nuts to crack”, namely venues that the government failed to reopen last year, such as nightclubs and some theatres.” – FT

  • Johnson dampens hopes of Easter re-opening… – Daily Telegraph
  • …but to ‘ditch stay at home message in weeks’ – The Sun

Comment:

  • Covid may be here to stay but let’s make sure lockdown isn’t – Dr Liam Fox MP, The Sun

>Today: Ryan Bourne’s column: The lifting of lockdown. Yes to prudence but no to pessimism. The projections of these gloomy scientists seem absurd.

Johnson does not rule out staggered return to school in England

“Boris Johnson has refused to rule out different year groups of pupils returning to English schools in a staggered process, as the prime minister argued that any reopening from lockdown should be “cautious but irreversible”. Speaking to reporters on a visit to a coronavirus vaccination centre in south-east London, Johnson said that while the process of fully reopening schools in England would begin on 8 March, it remained to be seen how fast this would happen. “No decisions have been taken on that sort of detail yet,” he said when asked whether secondary pupils could return later than primary pupils. “Though clearly schools on 8 March has for a long time been a priority of the government and of families up and down the country.” Asked about his words, Johnson’s spokesperson echoed the cautious approach, saying only that it was “our intention to start getting kids back to school from 8 March”.” – The Guardian

  • Schools not driving Covid and keeping them closed is damaging children, reports show – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Proposed free speech law will make English universities liable for breaches – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Squeezed middle are key to political victory – Stephen Bush, The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Protecting free speech. University legislation will help. But ministers need to speak out more.

Military overhaul puts four light infantry battalions in danger

“Four battalions face being disbanded and hundreds of soldiers moved into other regiments under plans being considered by ministers. Senior officers have given warning that light infantry battalions are facing the axe as part of a “redesign” of the service which will result in greater investment in technology. Sources working on the integrated review said that officials in the Ministry of Defence deemed it “highly likely” that four battalions would go. It is understood that those under consideration include 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, 1st or 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, 1st or 2nd Battalion, The Rifles and either 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment or 2nd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment.” – The Times

Gove ‘sent into battle with EU’ as new Brexit role announced

“Michael Gove has been announced as Britain’s representative on the post-Brexit Partnership Council with the European Union. The Cabinet Office minister will go head-to-head with Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic to manage our future relationship with the bloc. The pair are already co-chairs of the Brexit Joint Committee, tasked with implementing the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement… Mr Gove and his Brussels counterpart have been at the centre of the row over the Northern Ireland border tensions. Last week the men held crisis talks amid growing anger over the post-Brexit border plans for the region.” – Daily Express

  • Ireland seeks ‘pragmatic’ approach to Brexit border protocol – FT
  • Alliance proposal for ports would ‘chain UK to EU rules’ – Daily Express
  • Penrose calls for post-Brexit reforms of UK competition law – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Covid has damaged our small businesses, now Brexit might finish them off – John Harris, The Guardian

>Today: John Penrose MP in Comment: We can cut costs while maintaining standards to deliver better regulation

Von der Leyen’s vaccine disaster has ruined UK ties, says senior MEP

“Europe’s most prominent federalist has accused Ursula von der Leyen of overseeing a “diplomatic disaster” that has wrecked relations between the EU and Britain. Guy Verhofstadt, the senior liberal MEP and former Belgian prime minister, attacked the European Commission president for making the EU’s vaccines “fiasco” worse with panicked measures. Proposals personally driven by the leader of the European Commission to reintroduce a hard Irish border as part of export restrictions last month have, he said, poisoned relations with Britain and undermined years of work. “The use of the Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol has been a diplomatic disaster that destroyed in a few seconds the seriousness of the negotiations with the UK conducted by Michel Barnier for more than three years,” said Verhofstadt, who was the European parliament’s former Brexit negotiator.” – The Times

  • EU vaccine rollout has been ‘a fiasco’ says former Belgian prime minister – Daily Mail

Visa offer to Hong Kongers fails to help thousands wanting to flee

“When protests erupted last year in Hong Kong against increasingly repressive Chinese rule, Wing felt compelled to join in — organising events near her office. Last month, scared by stories of police brutality against demonstration veterans, Wing — who gave only her Cantonese-language name to avoid recriminations — joined thousands of others who had fled to the UK. “I came here because I was afraid of what might happen after the national security law,” Wing said, referring to draconian new legislation that outlaws many forms of protest. Most arrivals have taken advantage of a UK government offer made last year of a favourable path to citizenship for the 3m residents of the territory who hold or are eligible for British National Overseas (BNO) passports.” – FT

>Yesterday: Philip Mitchell and Chris Goddard in Comment: 2020 was a reality check on China. Trade offers opportunities for the UK to assert its values.

Cummings’ role in contract award a ‘concern’, court told

“The role played by Boris Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings in the award of a £540,000 government contract to a company run by “friends” caused “significant concern” and “consternation” among civil servants, the High Court heard on Monday. The Good Law Project, a campaign group, has brought a legal challenge against the Cabinet Office over its award of a government contract to Public First, a policy and research company run by James Frayne and Rachel Wolf, in March 2020.  The couple have links to Cummings, who served as the UK prime minister’s chief adviser until he was ousted in a shake up of Number 10 last year. Frayne and Cummings both worked for Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister when he was education secretary and Wolf co-wrote the Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto.” – FT

  • Adviser ‘helped friends win £500,000 contract’ – The Times

Charles Moore: For a glimpse of Scotland’s future, just look at Catalonia

“The latest situation in Catalonia should echo for all those concerned about Scotland. In regional elections on Sunday, pro-independence Catalan parties got more than half of the votes for the first time. On the other hand, those parties also lost votes compared with previous results because the turnout – at 53 per cent – was so low. The only parties actually to gain votes were two anti-independence ones–the Socialist Party (which currently leads the national government of Spain) and the Right-wing party Vox. The Socialists are now the biggest single party in Catalonia. Both sides claim victory, dubiously. The Scottish situation is different, in part. The SNP is the only nationalist party and therefore much stronger than any in Catalonia. The division of votes on the pro and anti sides, however, is very similar.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Tory MP is under new investigation by the UK’s anti-corruption watchdog – Business Insider
  • Timothy’s call for an English Parliament is built on magical thinking – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • A ‘policy blitz’ won’t cure Labour’s pains – John Ashmore, CapX
  • What Starmer can learn from Miliband’s mug – Steven Fielding, The Spectator
  • Johnson needs a Night of the Long Knives to reshape his Cabinet – Bruce Anderson, Reaction