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Third Covid vaccine for over-50s before winter

“A third jab is to be offered to everyone over 50 in the autumn in an attempt to eradicate the threat from Covid-19 entirely by Christmas, The Times has been told. Trials of two options are under way, supervised by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England. The first involves vaccines specifically modified to tackle new variants. The second is for a third shot of one of the three versions already in use: Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca or Moderna. While the approved vaccines successfully tackle the Kent variant, the amount of protection they offer against others, such as that from South Africa, is weaker. The Times has been told that early findings from the trials have raised government hopes that the two approaches will be able to nullify any threat from new and existing variants.” – The Times

  • Third wave in summer will be just a ripple, scientists predict – The Times
  • Covid vaccine passport may not be ready as travel restarts – The Times
  • Holidaymakers could need paper Covid vaccine certificates – Daily Telegraph
  • UK records four Covid deaths: Fatalities stay in single figures for second day running for first time since September as MPs and businesses demand Johnson lifts lockdown quicker – Daily Mail
  • Britain doesn’t need domestic Covid vaccine passports because uptake is so high and forcing people to produce a certificate could lead to less people getting a jab, SAGE psychologist warns – Daily Mail

Analysis:

  • How the UK’s Covid reopening has proved Imperial’s pessimistic modelling wrong – Daily Telegraph

Covid in India:

  • Modi under pressure as cases hit 20 million – The Times

Ann Widdecombe: Why make us wait till flaming June if Covid is already in retreat?

“On May 2, 14 deaths for any reason within 28 days of a positive Covid test were reported. Out of a population of 65 million, a little over 2,000 new cases were reported. The numbers in hospital with coronavirus are at their lowest level since September. In short the enemy is in full retreat. So why on earth is the Government still insisting we cower in funk holes instead of opening up the economy and getting Britain moving? Why should we wait nearly another fortnight before allowing pubs and restaurants to function normally? Those crucial days will make a difference between survival and collapse for some businesses and between employment or the dole for many employees. What is so magical about June 21 that we must wait till then to live normally?” – Daily Express

Super Thursday 1) Hartlepool by-election: Labour left says Starmer should quit if more of red wall falls

“Sir Keir Starmer should “consider his position” and stand aside within a few months if he fails to make progress in red wall areas, MPs on the Labour left have warned. The party leader is under increasing pressure to demonstrate he can improve its fortunes before what is expected to be a disastrous set of local elections tomorrow. Allies of Jeremy Corbyn have urged him to set himself a deadline for making headway in areas lost to the Conservatives in 2019, or step down to avoid handing Boris Johnson another five-year term. “Keir should consider his position a year out to the next general election,” one MP allied with Corbyn said.” – The Times

  • ‘Only four-in-ten previous Labour voters will back the party in Hartlepool by-election’ poll finds – as Starmer pleads for more time as leader – Daily Mail
  • Labour mayor scandal leads to apathy in Liverpool – The Times
  • Scrap Thames tunnel or lose our support, activists tell Khan – The Guardian

Analysis:

  • Elections 2021: what’s at stake and who will win on Super Thursday? – The Times
  • Labour must take advantage of changing demographics – The Guardian
  • Britain’s Super Thursday elections: The essential guide – Politico

Comment:

Sketch:

  • Starmer’s cogs whirred lifelessly, spewing out dense proposals: Henry Deedes watches the Labour leader as he faces his first audition with the electorate – Daily Mail
  • Quentin Letts: Burning desire to grill Sir Keir for breakfast – The Times

>Today:

Super Thursday 2) Scottish party leaders clash with Sturgeon for her focus on independence rather than recovery from coronavirus if SNP wins majority tomorrow

“Nicola Sturgeon last night faced a backlash over her never-ending focus on independence despite the prospect of a gruelling coronavirus recovery. In the final televised debate of the election campaign, opposition leaders warned of the threat of five more years of arguments on splitting up the United Kingdom if there is a pro-independence majority after tomorrow’s election. The First Minister was warned by the Conservatives leader Douglas Ross that she could not properly conduct a referendum campaign while being in charge of the recovery from coronavirus. ‘Nicola Sturgeon has been clear. If she gets a majority, she’ll take her eye off the ball for Scotland’s recovery, for rebuilding this country from this pandemic and seek to hold another independence referendum,’ he said.” – Daily Mail

  • Sturgeon’s target of winning an SNP majority in Thursday’s Holyrood election is on a “knife edge”, Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, has said – Daily Telegraph

Johnson’s flat: cabinet chief Simon Case kept in dark over refurb work

“Boris Johnson did not tell his most senior civil servant about plans for a charity to take charge of refurbishing his Downing Street flat, leaving the mandarin to find out from newspaper reports, The Times has learnt. Simon Case was appointed cabinet secretary in September, but only became aware of the idea for a trust in late February after the first press story appeared about the prime minister’s difficulty funding the redecoration. Case is now playing a leading role in trying to handle the fallout from the refurbishment, which Johnson has since paid for himself. The Cabinet Office is thought to have initially footed the bill.” – The Times

  • Ministers filmed to stop leaking of Queen’s Speech – The Times
  • Downing Street silent on claims that Tory donors were asked to fund a nanny for Johnson’s son as Labour accuses the Prime Minister of trying to ‘fund his lifestyle through secret payments’ – Daily Mail

International Relations 1) Britain and India agree deal to fight people smuggling

“British officers will be embedded in Indian police forces to help break up people-smuggling gangs as part of a deal struck between the two countries to crack down on illegal immigration. The deal came as part of a wider “2030 road map” to boost co-operation on crime, trade, health, climate change, immigration, education, science and defence between the UK and India. Boris Johnson hailed it as a “quantum leap” after a virtual meeting yesterday with Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister. The agreement also pledged to begin negotiations over a post-Brexit free trade deal in the autumn. As part of the immigration package, 18 to 30-year olds will be allowed to live in each other’s countries for two years, similar to an arrangement the UK has with Australia and New Zealand. However, the scheme struck with India will be less generous, as numbers will be capped at 3,000 per year.” – The Times

International Relations 2) France threatens to turn off Jersey’s lights in post-Brexit fishing row

“France is threatening to plunge Jersey into darkness in an escalating dispute over fishing rights after Brexit. Annick Girardin, minister for the sea, warned yesterday that France could cut the power supply to the Channel island after denouncing what she said was a breach of the Brexit agreement allowing French trawlers to continue fishing in British waters. Giradin said 41 French boats had been given licences to fish off Jersey, but with limits on the zones in which they could work and the number of days per year they are allowed to remain in those waters. She told the French parliament she was “revolted” by the British restrictions, which she claimed contravened the deal signed by Boris Johnson.” – The Times

International Relations 3) Britain and US must unite to tackle China, Antony Blinken says

“The alignment of British and US foreign policy will be critical in addressing the challenges faced by the rise of China, Antony Blinken, President Biden’s secretary of state, said after his first meeting with Boris Johnson. The pair met in Downing Street on the second day of Mr Blinken’s visit to London to attend the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting before a full summit in Cornwall in June. “He and the prime minister discussed the UK’s ambition for our G7 presidency and the close alignment between UK and US foreign policy,” the Downing Street spokeswoman said. “They agreed that UK-US co-operation will be instrumental in achieving progress on tackling Covid, protecting the environment and other international priorities. They also welcomed wider work the UK and US are doing in areas such as trade and defence.” – The Times

  • Raab welcomes G7 foreign ministers to London for first face-to-face talks in two years as they discuss ‘rising threats’ from China and Russia – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Antony Blinken’s visit to Britain: A Return to Multilateralism – Times Leader

Joe McCann killing: Collapse of ‘farcical’ Paras trial prompts calls to protect Troubles veterans

“A landmark case against two former paratroopers collapsed yesterday because of a lack of fresh evidence, strengthening calls for new laws to protect Northern Ireland veterans. Soldier A and Soldier C were acquitted of the murder of Joe McCann, an Official IRA commander, in 1972 — the bloodiest year of the Troubles during which more than 450 people were killed. The trial collapsed at Laganside court in Belfast after the prosecution confirmed they would not be appealing against a ruling by the judge that previous evidence was inadmissible. Johnny Mercer, the former veterans minister who quit over the government’s treatment of investigations into the Troubles, said the handling of the case had been “farcical”.” – The Times

Comment:

Policy 1) Environment ministry has no plan to meet target for lower emissions

“The environment secretary George Eustice is under pressure from Downing Street after a leaked memo revealed that his department still had no plan to meet its carbon emissions targets. All ministers have been told by Boris Johnson to develop workable strategies to cut emissions in their sectors as part of his roadmap to net zero by 2050. However, an internal memo revealed that, despite being responsible for a tenth of the total UK emissions, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had yet to agree policies that can deliver this. Eustice is also facing criticism from environmental groups who believe he is watering down commitments made by Michael Gove to use Brexit to reform farming and combat climate change.” – The Times

Policy 2) PM’s preferred social care reforms would ‘disproportionately benefit the wealthy’, internal modelling suggests

“Boris Johnson’s preferred option for fixing Britain’s social care system could “disproportionately” benefit the wealthy, it has been claimed, as a Whitehall row over how to fund the reforms threatens further delays. The Telegraph has been told that senior Conservative MPs and Treasury officials have raised alarm that the long-awaited reforms risk skewing state support towards those in the South of England. There are also concerns that large regional variations in property prices mean that the preferred option would still force people in areas such as the “Red Wall” to sell their homes to pay for their care, in turn breaking a central Conservative manifesto pledge.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief: