Britain faces a three-month lockdown "halfway house" after Easter, with a full reopening delayed until all over-50s have had their second dose of the vaccine, The Telegraph understands. Ministers are considering proposals to begin reopening swathes of the economy in April under similar restrictions to those in place over the summer, with “rule of six” and social distancing measures in force in pubs and restaurants. A return to full normality will be delayed for at least 12 to 14 weeks to allow for all over-50s to have their second dose of the vaccine, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Ministers are keen to reopen hospitality venues in some capacity before the G7 summit in the second week of June, when the UK will host world leaders in Carbis Bay, Cornwall. National measures will be eased in advance of the summit, allowing pubs, restaurants and tourism to begin to trade again. Boris Johnson has previously suggested that England will return to the geographic tier system after the lockdown ends, but sources suggested the tiers may apply to the whole country rather than to specific areas. “The appetite for regional tiers will only come if you have large swathes of the country that are significantly lower in case numbers and new variant case numbers and hospitalisations,” a source said. Officials are understood to be planning the reopening of schools first, followed by an increase in personal freedoms, allowing meetings of friends and family outdoors, before hospitality opens with social distancing measures in place. The plans could see a full reopening of the economy under “normal” rules by the first week of July, after the over-50s have had a second dose of the vaccine. Downing Street distanced itself from the proposals on Sunday night. A No10 spokesman said: "It's not a timetable under discussion". News of the strategy came as Matt Hancock warned it would be a “long, long, long” time before cases numbers are low enough for the lockdown to be fully relaxed. Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, the Health Secretary said there was “early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down”, but cautioned that any further new variants could throw the timetable for the easing of restrictions. "The new variant I really worry about is the one that is out there that hasn't been spotted," he said. Yesterday’s statistics reported 30,004 new coronavirus infections in the UK. The seven-day rolling total fell by 22 per cent compared to last week. The Health Secretary’s refusal to commit publicly to a strategy for easing lockdown added to the frustration of Tory backbenchers, who are calling for measures to be loosened as the vaccination programme protects those most vulnerable to the disease. Steve Baker, deputy chair of the Coronavirus Recovery Group, said the lockdown was causing “untold damage to people’s health, livelihoods and prospects”. “It’s not enough to expect public compliance with prolonged severe measures, without giving some hope, and showing some optimism and light at the end of this very dark tunnel,” he said. Another MP bemoaned the pessimistic tone of the Prime Minister during Friday’s press conference, where he announced that the Kent strain was more deadly than the original form of Covid. “Where was Mr Optimism on Friday?” the MP asked. “He looked gutted. It was like a hostage situation.” Yesterday Mr Hancock said scientists are still unsure exactly how much more deadly the Kent variant is. Sir Patrick Vallance has indicated it may kill 30 per cent more people, but stressed that the data currently available is patchy at best. Hospitality bosses cautiously welcomed the prospect of reopening under “halfway house” restrictions from April. Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “We understand that restrictions might need to be in place for quite a period of time after we reopen. “In that case, given that would have a significant impact on business viability and jobs within the sector, we would want to work with the Government to support us through that reopening and recovery period as we transition out of restrictions. “Key to that would be extending the business rates holiday and the VAT cut.”
Nicola Sturgeon has refused to confirm that she would quit as First Minister if it is found that she deliberately lied to Holyrood over the Alex Salmond affair, as she accused her predecessor of spreading “false conspiracy theories” about her. The First Minister insisted she had not misled the Scottish Parliament about her handling of sexual harassment complaints against Mr Salmond, as two inquiries examining her conduct, which her opponents believe could see her forced from office, gather pace. In a submission to an investigation into whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, Mr Salmond said statements which Ms Sturgeon made to Holyrood about when she first became aware of complaints against him were “simply untrue”.
Israel is banning all passenger flights in and out of the country to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and prevent variants from getting a foothold among its population. The announcement came as Israeli police clashed in a number of cities with ultra-Orthodox protesters who are resisting the coronavirus safety rules, Associated Press reported. Authorities are struggling to enforce COVID-19 requirements, including social distancing, in ultra-Orthodox communities throughout the country, contributing to one of the world's highest rates of infection.
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Australia’s state by state Covid restrictions and coronavirus lockdown rules explainedThe number of new coronavirus cases in Australia has been dropping, but states remain on high alert for the UK variant of Covid-19, so what restrictions are still in place? Do I have to wear a mask and where can and can’t I go in Australia? Untangle Australia’s Covid-19 laws and guidelines with our guide * Follow the latest Australia news live blog * NSW hotspots list; QLD hotspots list; NSW Covid cases map * Download the free Guardian app
Boris Johnson faces a major Tory revolt this week over plans to allow children to be used as spies by state agencies against their parents. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, and David Davis, former Brexit secretary, are among Tory MPs backing rebel proposals to restrict the use of children as spies when the Covert Human Intelligence Source (CHIS) bill returns to the Commons. Mr Davis told The Telegraph the Government faces a major backlash if it pushed ahead with the plans. “Everyone I have spoken to has been horrified by it when it has been explained to them,” he said. “It will allow 16 and 17-year-olds to spy on their parents. It also authorises them to commit crimes as well, so it needs to be extremely tightly controlled and those controls need to be greater than what the Government is proposing.” Mr Duncan Smith said: “Once you start taking action like this to put spies in people’s homes whatever the purpose, this does have complications. It is very important for Government to recognise that this is not something that should be easily done in a democratic state.” The Government was defeated on its plans in the Lords by 339 to 254 votes earlier this month but now plans to try to overturn the peers’ amendment this week in the Commons when the CHIS bill returns to be considered by MPs. Even if the Government wins, it is likely to lead to a major Commons versus Lords 'ping-pong' battle because of the scale of opposition in the upper house which was led by Lord Young, a former Tory chief whip and cabinet minister. Opponents comprised 13 Tories, including former Cabinet ministers Lord Randall, Lord Garnier, a former solicitor general, and Baroness Warsi, as well as 79 crossbenchers, four bishops, the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats. Among the crossbenchers opposed was former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler, former independent reviewer of terrorism laws Lord Anderson, former national security adviser Lord Ricketts, Lord Janvrin, the Queen’s former private secretary, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, and ex-permanent secretaries and ambassadors. The Government’s CHIS bill allows children to be used as undercover spies by more than 20 state agencies. Covert child agents can break the law if it means they will be able to glean information that could prevent or detect crime, protect public health, safety, or national security or help collect taxes, says the guidance, quietly laid by the Government this month. Older children aged 16 and 17 could even be recruited to spy on their parents if they were suspected of being involved in crime or terrorism. However, the guidance said child spies should only be recruited or deployed in “exceptional circumstances,” with their handlers required to give “primary consideration” to the need to “safeguard and promote the best interests of the juvenile". Critics said the Government’s safeguards did not go far enough and in the Lords passed the amendment which would prevent their deployment if there was a risk of "any foreseeable harm". The Government plans to overturn the amendment this week, because it claims the restrictions it imposes could backfire by making it more difficult even to extricate children from county lines gangs. “We must make sure that we get the safeguards right, otherwise we risk making the capability unworkable which would put children at further risk,” said a Government source. Labour MP Stella Creasy, who has led the parliamentary campaign against the plan, said: “If your 16 or 17-year-old child was arrested for shoplifting, the police would have tell you and ensure an appropriate adult was there when you spoke to them. “But here they are creating a loophole to recruit child spies without any such protection. The Government faces strong opposition in the Lords and in the Commons too and must urgently rethink their plans.”
When their beloved cocker spaniel, Lupo, died last month, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were heartbroken. But their grief was tempered by the arrival of a new puppy, with whom the whole family is said to be “besotted.” The new cocker spaniel, whose name has not yet been revealed, was given to the family by the Duchess’s brother, James Middleton, before Lupo died. And ensuring it remains a family affair, the puppy is Lupo’s niece. Mr Middleton, 33, bred his first litter of puppies from his dog Ella in 2011. He kept one, called Luna, but gave her brother Lupo to the Duchess in early 2012 after the Duke deployed for six weeks to the Falkland Islands while serving as an RAF search and rescue pilot. Last summer, Mr Middleton, who at the time was staying with his parents at their Berkshire home, bred another litter of six puppies with Luna as their mother. The Cambridges, along with their children Prince George, seven, Princess Charlotte, five, and Prince Louis, two, are said to have had the pick of the litter.
Erdogan issues orders for the recovery of kidnapped Turkish crew members
The acrimonious split within Republican ranks widened over the weekend as Donald Trump made his foray back into politics, backing the re-election of a hard-line supporter as chair of the party in Arizona. His wholehearted support for Kelli Ward was seen by allies as the former president firing a warning shot across the bows of any Republican senators considering backing his impeachment.
‘The new variant I really worry about is the one that’s out there but hasn’t been spotted’
The number receiving the first dose of the vaccine across the UK has passed 5.8 million.
Jacinda Ardern’s health officials desperately trying to find anyone exposed to the woman at about 30 locations since she was released from Government-run quarantine system last year
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced the establishment of its embassy in Tel Aviv as the US national security advisor announced that America hopes to build “on the success of Israel’s normalisation agreements” under the Biden administration. The UAE cabinet decision to approve establishing the embassy comes after they signed the Abraham Accords in September, becoming the first Gulf state to establish a full diplomatic relationship with Israel. No further details about the embassy were given in UAE media. While Israel’s government recognises Jerusalem as its capital, the international community does not, with Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Most countries base their embassies in Tel Aviv. Before the deal, Israel only had peace deals with only two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan - where it has fortified embassies. Most Arab countries had previously refrained from recognising Israel, believing that recognition should only be granted if serious concessions are made in the Palestinian peace process. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco later agreed to follow in the UAE’s footsteps and normalise ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.
Former NYC mayor laments being ‘portrayed as some kind of money-grubbing ambulance chaser’
An unfortunate motorist had an embarrassing fail moment as he attempted to charge through a ford in his Jaguar F-Pace. Despite appearances, the large SUV was outmatched by the deep water.
A new poll says 49 per cent of people in Scotland back independence compared with 44 per cent against
‘The Diamond’ gained revenge for his brutal defeat by the same opponent in 2014, producing a barrage of heavy punches to force a surprise stoppage in round two of the eagerly-anticipated rematch on the UFC’s Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. With nearly 2,000 socially-distanced fans watching on at the brand new Etihad Arena, Poirier wore down McGregor with some painful calf kicks and absorbed everything the powerful Irishman had to throw at him before unleashing a volley of thundering strikes. McGregor was initially disorientated by a stunning right hook from his lightweight rival, who did not let up as he forced ‘The Notorious’ - fighting for the first time since destroying veteran Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone inside 40 seconds 12 months ago - to the mat and the referee rightly intervened with just over two-and-a-half minutes on the clock in round two.
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The health secretary warned the NHS is still under pressure from high COVID infection rates.
In the flurry of excitement in London today animals at ZSL London Zoo enjoyed a change of scenery as the capital had its first snowfall of the year. Despite being closed to the public as part of the January lockdown, keepers are continuing to care for the 18,000 animals at the world-famous zoo: footage taken by the dedicated team shows Humboldt penguins waddling in the drift on Penguin Beach, Western Lowland gorillas Mjukuu, Effie, Gernot and Alika exploring the white stuff in Gorilla Kingdom, and two young otter pups born last year excitedly experiencing the snpw for the first time.