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Coronavirus 1) Teenagers aged 16 and 17 to be offered vaccine within days in drive to stop Covid spread before new school year

“Youngsters aged 16 and 17 will get the green light for Covid jabs within days. The news comes as a study found having two vaccine doses makes people at least half as likely to catch it. But Brits also face an “unpredictable epidemic” of the norovirus winter vomiting bug from next month that could spread in combination with the coronavirus. With most people washing their hands more, wearing masks and staying at home, there has been a drop in colds, flu and other seasonal illnesses spreading. So the experts fear Britain is ripe for an unusually large outbreak because the “transmission dynamics” have changed. They view September and October as a “particularly risky point” and flagged the grim norovirus as a particular cause for concern. And the vaccines plan for 16 and 17-year-olds comes amid growing fears of a fresh wave of Covid cases when kids go back to school and the weather gets worse.” – The Sun

  • Double jabbed Brits three times less likely to catch Covid than unvaccinated, study finds – The Sun

Coronavirus 2) Spain escapes UK’s travel red list as Beta variant fails to take hold

“Spain will not be placed on the travel “red list”, because of a significant fall in cases and concerns that there are not enough hotel rooms to quarantine holidaymakers returning to England. Ministers will announce tomorrow that Spain will remain on the amber list, enabling those who are fully vaccinated to continue to enjoy a quarantine-free return. The ten-day quarantine for fully vaccinated holidaymakers returning from France will be removed. The country was put on an “amber-plus” list last month in response to concerns about the Beta variant, which ministers believe may be more resistant to vaccines, leading to a diplomatic backlash and a cabinet split. However, 0.4 per cent of cases in France are now attributed to the Beta variant. Scientists had been concerned about the spread of the Beta variant in Spain, although it now accounts for 0.5 per cent of cases there.” – The Times

  • Shapps ‘was architect’ of amber watchlist he later opposed – The Times
  • 10-day isolation could be slashed in half as studies show Covid patients are barely infectious after five days of symptoms – Daily Mail
  • No Covid jab, no entry for New York bars, restaurants and gyms – The Times

Analysis:

  • Covid cases are no longer rising exponentially, so lockdowns should be behind us – The Times
  • What is the traffic light system? The latest travel rules explained – The Times

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Coronavirus 3) Work with me on booster vaccines, Johnson urges Sturgeon

“Boris Johnson has asked Nicola Sturgeon to “work closely” with him on delivering vaccine boosters as he snubbed her invitation for a meeting. The prime minister arrives in Scotland today for a visit that is part of efforts by ministers to appear more regularly north of the border. The first minister wrote to Johnson inviting him to Bute House, her official residence in Edinburgh, for what would have been their first face-to-face meeting since the start of the pandemic. Senior Conservatives dismissed it as a cynical move because the SNP leader knew the itinerary planned by No 10 would not allow space for a last-minute meeting to be added. In a letter sent to Sturgeon last night, Johnson in effect rejected the offer but said he was still “keen to arrange an in-person meeting with you and the other first ministers” to build on the “constructive discussions we had earlier this summer”. He said the shared priority of recovering from the pandemic would be the main topic of any future talks.” – The Times

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Coronavirus 4) Government’s ‘refusal’ to make contingency plans led to exams chaos, report finds

“The “refusal” to make contingency plans for 2021 exams was the “most unforgivable” aspect of the Government’s mishandling of schools during the pandemic, a report has said. Ministers did not learn lessons about school closures and exams following the first lockdown, which led to a case of “pause, rewind, repeat”, a paper by the Institute for Government (IfG) found. Researchers described the first lockdown as “easily the most disruptive period in children’s education since at least the start of the Second World War”. The report said: “Its most important conclusion is that the most unforgivable aspect of what happened is not just the failure to make contingency plans in the summer of 2020 but the refusal to do so – when it was already obvious that fresh school closures might well be needed, and that exams might have to be cancelled again.” – Daily Telegraph

Javid orders review into controversial guidance that could see male-born sex offenders who identify as women on female-only NHS wards

“Sajid Javid last night ordered a review into guidance that could see male-born sex offenders who identify as women allowed on female-only NHS wards. Hospital trusts in Devon, Oxford and Nottinghamshire tell staff criminal history should be part of a risk assessment when placing trans women on female-only wards. But they do not say a criminal history should prevent the patients from being admitted and NHS trusts advise that patients should be admitted based on the gender with which they identify. Some trusts have called those who are uncomfortable with the idea transphobic, likened them to racists in official guidelines and asked staff to report them to the police for hate crimes.” – Daily Mail

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Civil Service 1) Civil servants may return to office for only two days a week

“The vast majority of Whitehall civil servants will not return full-time to the office under plans that would cap some at two days a week. Flexible working is likely to become permanent in the service, with plans being drawn up that would mean many staff spend most of their time at home. Despite ministers’ praise for the office, civil servants are not being ordered back to their desks as officials plan a “30/70 model” for many jobs. Government departments are being left to decide whether staff return to the office, in contrast to last summer’s drive to get civil servants back at their desks. Officials said numbers in Whitehall would increase only “gradually and cautiously” after a minister said yesterday that only about a quarter of staff were in the Department for Education on any given day. At the same time the Cabinet Office is planning new guidance for departments on how to make hybrid working effective in the longer term.” – The Times

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Civil Service 2) MoD worker who left files at bus stop was set to be ambassador

“A senior civil servant who lost sensitive Ministry of Defence documents at a bus stop has been identified for the first time amid questions over how he kept his job. Angus Lapsley was on secondment to the MoD from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office at the time of the incident in Kent in June, which resulted in his security clearance being suspended. He is now back at the Foreign Office after an investigation found “no evidence of espionage” in the misplacement of the documents and concluded that it was a mistake. He was in line to be appointed the UK’s ambassador to Nato. Government sources said that the appointment was now unlikely, but that there was a chance for him to be “rehabilitated”. One figure said that concerns had been raised in the MoD over his continued employment given the serious nature of the mistake.” – The Times

Edward Lucas: It’s time the West woke up to the fact Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is a tyrant who makes even Vladimir Putin look tame

“As Boris Johnson and the elegant figure of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya sat down for a private meeting in Downing Street yesterday, they were full of praise for each other. The Prime Minister told the exiled Belarusian opposition leader that the British were ‘very much in support’ of her and her country’s democratic movement. She, meanwhile, expressed gratitude that ‘one of the most powerful countries in the world is supporting Belarus’. Warm words – but empty ones. For nothing could better symbolise the utter contempt in which Belarus’s long-reigning dictator Alexander Lukashenko holds the West – and any moves towards freedom in his country – than the fact that just hours before this warm exchange, the head of a non-profit organisation that helps Belarusians flee persecution was found dead in a park in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital.” – Daily Mail

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Britons travelling to the EU will need to pay €7 tax to Brussels from next year, officials confirm

“British tourists wanting to holiday in the likes of France, Greece and Spain, will have to pay a €7 (£6) charge from next year, EU officials confirmed last night. Brussels is working up plans to introduce the new travel system which will see non-EU citizens from 62 countries – including Britain – ordered to pay to enter the border-free Schengen zone. Officials say the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will allow the EU to pre-screen the information of travellers, including criminal records. The scheme will be similar to the US’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) system – which allows citizens from 39 countries a 90-day visa-free stay. However the EU’s version will be valid for up to three years – and will count for multiple entries. It is being brought in, in part, to avoid the need for more complex visas – though travellers who need visas to enter the EU will still require them. Plans were first suggested in 2016, prior to Brexit.” – Daily Mail

Macron accused of stonewalling plans for Anglo-French summit

“President Macron has been accused of stonewalling plans for an Anglo-French summit amid a “toxic” diplomatic relationship between London and Paris. Diplomats have been attempting to arrange a high-level meeting between Boris Johnson and the French president for months in an effort to reset the so-called “entente cordiale”. But amid recriminations on both sides the French are understood to be refusing to agree a date for the summit, with one source saying the relationship was “appalling”. “The government has reached out to try to arrange a summit but the French aren’t interested,” said one senior diplomatic source. “They’ve simply said there’s no point.” A senior government source said there was a view that “elements of the French system are basically crossing the street to pick a fight every day”.” – The Times

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