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Coronavirus 1) Passport trials ‘to begin at UK events within weeks’

“Covid passports are set to be trialled at events in Britain within weeks, The Telegraph can reveal, as the Government pushes ahead with the idea despite a growing rebellion by MPs. New details of around a dozen pilot schemes for safely opening large events will be announced in the coming days, with plans to trial Covid certification checks. The FA Cup final, an FA Cup semi-final, the League Cup final and the World Snooker Championship are taking part, with the Brit Awards also in discussions. People going to the events will be asked to take a Covid test to gain entry and another after attendance so that any spreading of the virus can be monitored. Government scientists are closely involved in designing the pilots and will watch everything from crowd flows to ventilation systems to learn lessons about running large events.” – Daily Telegraph

  • 40 rebel Tories including six ex-Cabinet ministers join forces with opposition MPs in bid to block ‘divisive and discriminatory’ vaccine passports – Daily Mail
  • Senior Tories join Corbyn to oppose Covid passports ahead of trials – The Guardian
  • Johnson to unveil vaccine passport trial ‘starting next month’ in theatres and stadiums before being rolled out to restaurants and pubs – as 72 MPs brand the move ‘divisive and discriminatory’ – Daily Mail
  • New Test and Trace rules will force every pub-goer to sign in when venues reopen – but are blasted by trade bodies – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 2) Fraser Nelson: Starmer is acting like a Tory superfan, robbing Britain of a real Opposition

“Early on in lockdown, No 10 officials began to notice something suspicious. Keir Starmer would start to call for minor changes in policy – which just happened to coincide with what ministers had already decided to do. If they agreed something on a Monday and planned to announce it on a Friday, Starmer would pop up to demand it on a Wednesday. He seemed to have an inside source, which is not unusual. But what was strange was to see how Starmer defines the job of Opposition. Rather than expose flaws in Government thinking, Starmer has behaved like a Tory superfan – trying to work out where Boris Johnson will go next, then rushing to get there before anyone else. On the big issues, he has been more factotum than foe.” – Daily Telegraph

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Coronavirus 3) UK Covid infections among lowest in Europe as second jabs surge

“Coronavirus infections in Britain are lower than in all the main EU nations as the number of second vaccine doses administered reached a record high. The UK has lower daily infection rates than 26 of the 27 member states, despite being the worst hit in January. Seventy-nine cases per million people were recorded on Wednesday. Only Portugal, which recorded 41, had fewer. Hungary, the worst-affected nation in the bloc, had a daily rate of 868 cases per million. The weekly infection rate in France is about eight times higher than in the UK as a sharp rise in cases pushes intensive care units to breaking point. President Macron has blamed the “British variant” for the surge and announced a third national lockdown, which is due to start at midnight tonight.” – The Times

  • Coronavirus cases fall further despite return to school – The Times
  • More than one million Britons have long Covid – The Times
  • Chris Whitty says Britain will treat Covid ‘like the flu’ in future but warns we will be vulnerable to the disease for another two years and says a vaccine-resistant variant will emerge – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • No 10 is being far too timid about releasing lockdown – Telegraph View

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Coronavirus 4) Vaccination hotspots to host British tourists first

“The United States, Maldives, Israel and Malta could become the first overseas destinations to be opened up for British holidaymakers this summer under plans to prioritise countries with high coronavirus vaccination rates. Ministers discussed a new traffic-light scheme last night for resuming international travel in advance of an announcement by Boris Johnson on Monday when he will set out how the system will work. Countries will be graded red, amber or green. Travel to and from red-list countries will be banned, while people returning from amber countries will have to quarantine for up to ten days. Those returning from green-listed destinations will be exempt from quarantine.” – The Times

  • Johnson will warn that June could be the earliest that borders can open – The Sun

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Coronavirus 5) Delayed inoculations are Macron’s Waterloo, says Le Pen

“President Macron has been pilloried after ordering a third national lockdown, with Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, saying he had met his Waterloo in the delayed vaccination campaign. As France braced itself for the extension of restrictions beyond Paris and the regions for a month, the president’s opponents rounded on him for resisting a full lockdown in January. Media commentators and parties of the right and left said that Macron had failed as a high-handed, solitary leader who did not listen to experts.” – The Times

  • British taxpayers funded EU factory at heart of vaccine row – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • EU vaccine ­rollout is a shambles but it should not stop immunised Brits travelling – The Sun

Covid around the world:

  • Thousands dead and a country in turmoil: Brazil’s countdown to Covid catastrophe – Daily Telegraph
  • Belgian mounted police trample park revellers with their horses and use water cannons in violent clashes – Daily Mail
  • Spanish resorts in revolt over masks on beach law – The Times

Experts thanked in controversial race report say they weren’t consulted about contents

“Academics and activists thanked for their help in the Government’s controversial race report have claimed they were never consulted about its contents and gave their input unwittingly. On Wednesday, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities published its report, which concluded that Britain is no longer a place “where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”. The landmark 250-page report sparked a furious backlash from Labour MPs, charities and academics, who accused the Government of “keeping us debating about the existence of racism rather than doing anything about it”. It has since emerged that a number of individuals thanked for their input have claimed they were unaware that they were contributing to the final report.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Crown Estate among public bodies to take ‘useless’ bias training – The Times
  • Race review chief Tony Sewell compared to Joseph Goebbels in social media abuse – The Times
  • Pupils who staged mass protest over ‘racist’ Union Flag at London school need to be taught a lesson about its history, say Tory MPs – Daily Mail

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James Forsyth: Tories will lose unless they build more homes

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,” declared Samuel Johnson. But even the greatest enthusiast for life would struggle to summon up much excitement about next month’s mayoral election in the capital. The field is depressingly low calibre. There are a record number of candidates but most of the 20 are cranks or gadflies. Take your pick between the banker-turned-YouTube oddball Brian Rose and Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers, a conspiracy theorist even by family standards. Shaun Bailey isn’t a crank but, as the Tory candidate and main challenger, he is a disappointment. He has twice failed to get elected to parliament and it shows. His campaign has struggled to get off the ground, thanks in part to his inability to raise meaningful amounts of money. He is limping towards the finishing line.” – The Times

Salmond’s new Alba Party will not win a single Holyrood seat, poll suggests

“Alex Salmond’s hopes of staging a political comeback in the Holyrood election suffered a major blow last night after a poll suggested his new Alba Party will not win a single seat. Mr Salmond has claimed the party, launched last Friday, could form a pro-independence “super-majority” with the SNP after May’s Holyrood election but the survey found only three per cent of Scots plan to vote for it. Prof Sir John Curtice, Britain’s most eminent psephologist, said the findings indicated that at best Mr Salmond may “just” get a seat in the North East of Scotland but none of the other Alba candidates would win election. The Survation poll for DC Thomson also said that 71 per cent of Scots view Mr Salmond unfavourably, by far the worst rating for any mainstream UK political leader.” – Daily Telegraph

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French trawlers ‘decimating’ stock of Jersey scallops

“French fishermen have been accused of “decimating” the Jersey coastline as they increase dredging before the post-Brexit amnesty ends at the end of this month. French boats spotted off the island’s coast this week are destroying the seabed with unsustainable “industrial fishing methods”, according to Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association. Thompson said that the boats, some of which were 65ft long, were taking tonnes of scallops off the seabed. “The heavy gear used by those big powerful boats just wrecks the ground, there’s no two ways about it,” he said. “That’s industrial fishing and it’s unsustainable fishing. Those are the scallop stocks that our fishermen will rely on for the future and they are being absolutely decimated.” A post-Brexit amnesty was agreed with France in January, allowing French boats that were able to fish in the island’s territorial waters before Brexit to continue doing so until the end of this month.” – The Times

Blair: Putting me in No 10 was like letting a fan take over Manchester United

“Tony Blair did not enjoy his time as prime minister because of the huge responsibility and massive scrutiny, he has said. The former Labour leader claimed that his appointment was like a Manchester United fan being put in charge of the club because he had no practical experience of running a government department when he entered No 10. On a BBC Radio 4 programme exploring how the responsibilities of prime ministers have changed over 300 years, Blair said: “I don’t think I did enjoy the job because the responsibility is so huge. Every day you’re making decisions and every day you’re under massive scrutiny, as is your family . . . the paradox is that you start at your most popular and least capable and you end at your least popular and most capable.”” – The Times

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