Published:

Coronavirus 1) Johnson pins hopes on mass Covid testing…

“Everyone in England should be tested twice a week for coronavirus so that “we can get back to seeing the people we love”, Boris Johnson will say today. Rapid tests that indicate whether individuals have the virus within 30 minutes will be available to every adult twice a week, regardless of whether they have symptoms or have been vaccinated. The increased testing, which begins this Friday but has been practised by older children since they returned to school last month, will “help prevent outbreaks and help us reclaim a more normal way of life”, the government said. The tests will not be compulsory. They will also assist attempts to act quickly against variants of concern as officials are more likely to spot new clusters of cases early. The government said that rapid testing, which has also been used for frontline health workers and care home staff and residents, had already identified more than 120,000 cases that would not otherwise have been known.” – The Times

  • Public will be urged to take Covid test twice a week as lockdown rules ease – Daily Telegraph
  • Thousands of foreign tourists let in as Britons are ordered not to travel – The Times
  • Tour operators fear last-minute rules will cause holiday chaos – The Times
  • Johnson plans four-year reading catch-up for 200,000 pupils – The Times

Analysis:

Comment:

Coronavirus 2) …and he will declare passports crucial as high streets reopen

“Boris Johnson will announce today that shops, pub gardens and restaurants in England can reopen next week, with domestic vaccination passports set to be identified as the key to unlocking the rest of the economy. The prime minister will confirm his plan to proceed with the next phase of his road map next Monday, with all remaining non-essential shops, hairdressers and gyms permitted to open again. Restaurants and pubs will be able to serve food and drink outdoors. Johnson will also give a “direction of travel” update on the government’s intentions for domestic certification, of which Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, is conducting a review. Amid reports that the government has ruled out a certification system for pubs and other hospitality venues, it remains on the table in his review.” – The Times

  • Pubs, hairdressers and foreign holidays are next steps in the roadmap – Daily Telegraph
  • NHS too incompetent to handle Covid vaccine passport data, says David Davis – The Times
  • Johnson could lose key vote on vaccine passports after Gove promised critical MPs they will get their say over Covid plan – Daily Mail

>Today in Comment:

Coronavirus 3) Graham Brady – Vaccine passports show the state is reaching too far into our lives

“It’s a truism that in Iraq, we planned brilliantly to win the war but failed to plan for the reconstruction of civil society afterwards. As we stagger out of the gun smoke of Covid, we mustn’t make the same mistake. The announcements from No 10 on Monday will begin to show the British people whether their government wants the experience of the last year to change the way that we live our lives for good or to see life return to normal. Will we return to a world in which you don’t have to be wealthy to visit family living overseas? Will the pre-Covid norms prevail? Most notably, the common law tradition that we are free to do something unless there is a law that forbids it. This foundation stone of British liberty was casually tossed aside under lockdown laws that made it an offence to leave your home unless it was for a reason that was deemed acceptable by Matt Hancock. Chris Whitty’s acceptance that lockdown should not be repeated and instead we should learn to live alongside Covid in a largely vaccinated world, as we do with the ‘flu, augurs well but policy has to match the words.”” – Daily Telegraph

Controversial issues must not be ‘closed down’, says union in wake of Batley school Mohammed row

“Controversial topics must be debated and not “closed down” in classrooms, a teachers’ union boss has said, in response to a row about a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed being shown in a west Yorkshire school. Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of NASUWT, added that teachers should not be subject to threats for doing their jobs, following a teacher at Batley Grammar School receiving death threats after he showed a cartoon of Mohammed to pupils. Last month three teachers were suspended from Batley after a teacher, who was not named by the school, showed a Mohammed cartoon from the Charlie Hebdo magazine, prompting protests outside the school. When asked about the incident on Sunday during NASUWT’s virtual conference, Dr Roach said of classrooms: “Whether it’s PSHE [Personal, social, health and economic education], sexual relationships education, teaching citizenship and civics, it is a space where controversial issues will be discussed.” – Daily Telegraph

Nick Timothy: In the heat of the culture wars we have lost our moral compass

“One of the sickest aspects of Britain’s culture war is that the Left accuses the Right of starting each battle. Yet the reality is that from cancel culture to the denigration of British history, from gender fluidity to the racialisation of almost everything, it is always the Left firing the first shots. “But what about flags?” scoff Left-wing culture warriors. “You can’t see ministers these days without a Union Flag behind them.” But this only proves the point. The Tories have realised that flying the flag sends their opponents into paroxysms of fury, and this suits Conservative electoral objectives. Yet recall pictures of past Labour leaders with the flag, like Attlee and Wilson, and you see that it is the Left that has changed, not the Conservatives and not the country. It is weird that national symbols, traditions and institutions should provoke indignation and outrage.” – Daily Telegraph

More comment:

>Today:

Civil Service strikes deal for ‘hybrid’ offices across the UK

“Civil servants will be able to drop into “hybrid” office spaces across the country after the Government signed a deal with one of the world’s biggest flexible working companies. The agreement with IWG will provide private office space in 10 cities and will also allow some officials to use any of the office giant’s sites. Whitehall sources said the deal included the Department for Work and Pensions and its new temporary job centres. Government staff involved in the scheme will be able to access its network of co-working spaces as bosses increasingly bet on hybrid working where time is split between home and the office. It comes as the Government promises to move more civil service jobs out of London as part of its plans to “level up” the country. IWG, meanwhile, is pitching its flexible space as a middle ground between homeworking and fixed offices.” – Daily Telegraph

Britain on the offensive in race with China for crucial rare-earth minerals

“The UK is in a global race to secure the rare-earth elements that are crucial for fighter jets, wind turbines and electric cars amid fears that China could weaponise its monopoly of them. Security agencies are concerned that there will be increased competition for scarce natural resources and that Beijing’s control of supplies could be used as leverage in any disputes. China dominates the world’s production of rare-earth elements, described as “industrial gold” because they are vital to the defence and technology industries and yet are difficult to extract and process. The majority of rare-earth elements used by UK industries have been processed in China, according to experts, who warned that this reliance could make national security supply chains and the economy vulnerable.” – The Times

>Today:

Home radiators ‘will have to be 10 degrees cooler for Britain to reach climate targets’

“Radiators would have to run 10 degrees cooler under changes to homes needed for Britain to hit net zero, the public has been warned. The Government has said it wants 600,000 heat pumps replacing gas boilers every year by 2028 to help decarbonise the country’s home heating, which accounts for 10 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. But MPs and experts have warned that without a massive programme to address the UK’s draughty homes and scale up engineering skills, people could be left in the cold by the technology, which works by drawing in heat from the air or ground outside. While gas boiler heating systems can pump 60C water into a home’s radiators, the Climate Change Committee, which advises the Government, assumes heat pumps will operate at 50C. To keep homes warm, that may require bigger radiators, underfloor heating and improved insulation, with full modifications estimated to cost on average £18,000.” – Daily Telegraph

Sunak under pressure over Greensill links to Covid loans

“Rishi Sunak is under pressure to explain why a doomed finance business connected to David Cameron was chosen to hand out pandemic loans when it was exempt from safeguards imposed on banks. Greensill, where the former prime minister had share options, was the only non-bank approved to administer the scheme in June last year. The business has gone into administration leaving the taxpayer potentially liable for hundreds of millions in loans. The Treasury has admitted that Greensill was exempt from the capital adequacy and stress tests that would safeguard the public from risk when using other lenders. The business outsourced most of its regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) by using a loophole that allows a commercial lender to operate as an “appointed representative” to a third party.” – The Times

Comment:

Gender pay gap widens despite year of furlough

“The gender pay gap has widened over the past year despite the furlough scheme flattering the performance of some sectors, analysis by The Times suggests. The latest figures show that a woman earns 89p for every £1 a man earns on average. The pay gap widened to 11.1 per cent in 2021, up from 10.6 per cent last year, 9.5 per cent in 2019 and 9.3 per cent in 2018. This year, 38 per cent of organisations included in the research, ranging from private companies to charities and government bodies, had a larger median pay gap than last year. The figures cannot be directly compared with last year because the number of submissions has fallen drastically. In total, 1,722 companies reported before the original deadline of yesterday. The government suspended enforcement of gender pay gap reporting last year because of the pandemic.” – The Times

Jamie Oliver attacks Johnson over plan to allow junk food adverts online

“Boris Johnson has been told by Jamie Oliver, doctors and health charities that abandoning plans to ban online adverts for junk food will “significantly undermine” his promise to fight obesity. Last year the government announced plans to ban online and television adverts for foods high in sugar, salt or fat before the 9pm watershed to make the nation fitter and healthier. The approach was part of an anti-obesity drive led by Johnson after the coronavirus put him in intensive care. Since recovering he has tried to lose weight by hiring a personal trainer and is also said to have gone on a fasting diet. However, he is now expected to abandon the online ban on junk food advertising after research suggested that it would lead to children consuming only 1,124 fewer calories a year and would cost businesses hundreds of millions of pounds.” – The Times

News in brief: