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Coronavirus 1) Oxford jab does reduce spread

“The Oxford vaccine provides about 75 per cent protection against Covid and significantly reduces its spread after only one jab, suggests a new study that has raised hopes over the lifting of lockdown. The single dose eliminates severe illness among those who contract the virus, according to the results, which have been taken as a vindication of Britain’s strategy. It also appears to have a “substantial” effect on transmission of the virus. Ministers regard this as a hopeful sign that mass vaccination can speed the lifting of restrictions because not only are people less likely to become ill once they have had the vaccine, they are also less likely to get infected and pass on the virus.” – The Times

  • People who refuse a coronavirus vaccine are delaying the end of lockdown, Hancock suggests – The Times
  • Russia offers to boost rival vaccines as Sputnik V jab shows 90% efficacy in trial – The Times
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  • A year of Covid: what have we learnt? – The Times
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Coronavirus 2) Emergency testing in Bristol and Liverpool as Covid variant spreads

“Surge testing has been ordered in Bristol and Liverpool as a mutation that makes coronavirus more resistant to the immune system spreads. Clusters have been found in both cities of homegrown cases involving the E484K mutation, which is thought to damp the effectiveness of vaccines. Health chiefs fear that the change has an evolutionary advantage. This is the same mutation found in the South African variant that prompted a scramble to test tens of thousands of people in eight areas on Monday. However, the latest cases are thought to have resulted from a mutation in Britain.” – The Times

  • How Hancock’s obsession with Matt Damon film drove UK’s vaccine strategy – The Guardian
  • Covid ‘slowly killing democracy’ – The Times
  • NHS bosses should expand the UK’s official Covid symptom list to include a runny nose, sore throat and headache, GPs say – Daily Mai
  • MPs call for Covid ban on care home visits in England to be made illegal – The Guardian
  • Video appears to show Chris Whitty being verbally abused in street – The Guardian
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Coronavirus 3) Quarantine hotel plans delayed by logistical snags

“Boris Johnson’s plans for hotel quarantine will not be implemented for another fortnight as the government seeks to overcome “significant logistical challenges”. Ministers are expected to delay the start of mandatory hotel quarantine until February 15. The delay, which was first reported by Times Radio, is a result of the government attempting to ensure food, medical care and surge-testing facilities are in place for the hotels. The government expects that the number of people who are quarantined in hotels is likely to be fewer than a thousand a day after Johnson announced that it will apply only to 30 high-risk countries.” – The Times

Coronavirus 4) Schools in Scotland will go back two weeks earlier

“Nicola Sturgeon gave Scottish schools the green light to start reopening after half term next month as she suggested the country could start exiting lockdown at the start of March. Primary, nursery and some secondary pupils will head back to class from February 22 – a full fortnight before they are due to return in England – if the coronavirus rate is low enough, the First Minister told Holyrood today. She also confirmed that she was introducing a blanket requirement for international arrivals to Scotland to go into hotel quarantine for a fortnight, making her border rules tougher than those introduced by Boris Johnson.” – Daily Mail

  • William Wragg, the chairman of Parliament’s public administration committee, asks: “Now that Scotland has indicated that schools are likely to return from February 22, I’m wondering what’s holding us back from opening them up in England too – Daily Telegraph
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MPs urge Sunak cut to stamp duty and council tax on ‘red wall’ homes

“A group of Tory MPs in once-safe Labour seats are urging Rishi Sunak to overhaul England’s property tax system, cutting bills for thousands of people in the north and Midlands while hitting homeowners in London. Under the plans stamp duty and council tax would be scrapped and replaced by a single annual property tax based on the value of a house. Tory supporters of the scheme claim that nearly all households in so-called red wall seats that the Conservatives won at the last election would be better off, with savings of about £660 a year. However, homeowners in London and the southeast, would see their bills rise by up to £1,200 a year.” – The Times

  • Northern Tory MPs ‘vent anger’ over potential fuel duty hike – Daily Mail
  • Extend furlough or risk mass unemployment, industry and unions warn Sunak – The Guardian

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The EU 1) Crisis talks with EU after loyalist threats at Northern Irish ports

“Michael Gove will demand today that Brussels take urgent action to relax post-Brexit trade rules between Britain and Northern Ireland because the situation is endangering the peace process. The Cabinet Office minister is expected to tell Maros Sefcovic, his EU counterpart, that the rules do not work and that unionists oppose them. Tension has risen in the province after the European Commission threatened last Friday to renege on elements of the withdrawal agreement. Its officials, who wanted to prevent coronavirus vaccines from being exported to the UK, backed down after an outcry.” – The Times

  • “Recent EU moves have undermined the Protocol & understandably provoked concern”, Johnson Tweets
  • Bees blocked by Brexit as millions could be seized and burned – Daily Telegraph

The EU 2) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Furious Germany will not forget vaccine disaster when Brussels seeks more bailout money

“The EU’s vaccine disaster is not enough in itself to crystallise Germany’s mounting exasperation with Brussels and the European Institutions.  But it vastly complicates the next big test of the Brussels regime: how to prevent another lost decade and a sovereign debt crisis in the Club Med bloc, and who will pay for the rescue. No such thing as euroscepticism exists in the Federal Republic. At least not in the way it is understood in its various forms in the UK, the Netherlands, the Nordics, Eastern Europe, France, Italy, or (spasmodically) Ireland. But the scale of this error has left its mark on the German collective mind.” – Daily Telegraph

Cladding bailout worth billions on the table to avert rebellion

“Ministers are considering a bailout package potentially worth billions of pounds for leaseholders affected by the cladding scandal. Christopher Pincher, the housing minister, promised a solution “very shortly”. He said during a debate on Monday that it was “wrong and unjust” that leaseholders should bear the costs of removing combustible cladding. Last week Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, met the MP in whose London constituency the Grenfell fire occurred. Felicity Buchan, the Conservative MP for Kensington, said that she was delighted the chancellor took time to listen to her arguments for a “substantial” package of support. “We need a comprehensive and speedy solution to the leaseholder situation,” she said.” – The Times

Internet casinos face curbs on addictive slot machines

“Internet casinos will be forced to introduce measures to protect players in a crackdown on some of the most addictive aspects of online slot machines. The Gambling Commission announced plans yesterday to limit the speed of the games, stop sounds and images that suggest a win when the user has lost, and end auto-play settings, which allows gamblers to set the slot to spin automatically multiple times. Operators must also clearly display the player’s total losses or wins and time played during any session. Casino games have soared in popularity during the pandemic as the closure of bookmakers and the cancellation of sporting events have resulted in gamblers turning to online betting in record numbers.” – The Times

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Love the Union Jack, respect British veterans and dress smartly: Labour’s secret battle plan for wannabe MPs to retake the Red Wall is leaked

“Labour must brandish the Union Jack and dress smartly if it is to win back the trust of voters lost during the Corbyn years, a leaked strategy document argues. The presentation suggests the party must also praise military veterans if it is to retake the ‘red wall’ seats which turned to Boris Johnson in 2019. Researchers found that voters could not decide what or who Labour stands for. And while voters saw Sir Keir Starmer as the party’s biggest asset, they were concerned about him ‘sitting on the fence’. Presenting the strategy last month, Labour’s head of research said voters were confused about ‘what we stand for, and what our purpose is, but also who we represent’.” – Daily Mail

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Navalny: 1,000 arrested after protests over jailing of Russian opposition leader

“A Moscow court has sentenced Alexei Navalny to two years and eight months in a prison colony in a landmark decision for Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on the country’s leading opposition figure. The move triggered marches in Moscow and the arrest of more than 1,000 protesters. Navalny, who has accused the Russian president and his allies of stealing billions, was jailed for violating parole from a 2014 sentence for embezzlement in a case he has said was politically motivated. After the verdict, several hundred Navalny supporters marched in central Moscow. Videos by local media or shared on social media showed police in body armour hitting protesters with staves.” – The Guardian

Capt Sir Tom Moore dies at 100 after testing positive for Covid

“The Queen has led tributes to Capt Sir Tom Moore, the second world war veteran who raised almost £39m for NHS charities during the first coronavirus lockdown in spring 2020, who has died aged 100 after testing positive for coronavirus. In a statement, his daughters, Hannah Ingram-Moore and Lucy Teixeira, said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear father, Capt Sir Tom Moore. We are so grateful that we were with him during the last hours of his life; Hannah, Benjie and Georgia by his bedside and Lucy on FaceTime. “We spent hours chatting to him, reminiscing about our childhood and our wonderful mother. We shared laughter and tears together.”” – The Guardian

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