Thursday briefing: Two jabs to beat quarantine

·8-min read
<span>Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA</span>
Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Top story: Hancock said to be open to travel proposal

Hello, Warren Murray here giving you the green light to proceed.

British travellers who have had their two Covid vaccine doses could be allowed quarantine-free entry into England as the government grapples with allowing more trips abroad while trying to stop variants getting in. Only a handful of countries feature on Britain’s isolation-free green list, with 50 on the red list (arrivals must stay in a quarantine hotel for 14 days), and confusion over whether people should go to places including Portugal that are on the amber list. The Guardian has been told that ministers are contemplating loosening travel restrictions for the amber list to let anyone who has had both shots escape quarantine. Those not fully inoculated would still face the same restrictions currently in force.

The suggestion that travellers could face more incentive to get jabbed also has prompted speculation about the future of the traffic light system, and, if it does remain in place, how likely it is that travellers will be allowed to visit red list countries for the rest of 2021. Meanwhile the Commons vote to delay step four of England’s roadmap out of lockdown has focused attention on when and how the country can draw a line under social distancing and, in the words of the prime minister, “learn to live with the virus”. Ian Sample, the Guardian’s science editor, asks experts just what living with the virus might look like. Further Covid developments at our live blog.

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Stormont crisis averted – Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government looks to be back on track after Sinn Féin last night agreed to nominate Michelle O’Neill as deputy first minister. O’Neill’s position automatically became vacant when Arlene Foster, the former Democratic Unionist leader, resigned as first minister. In return for Westminster backing legislative protection of the Irish language, Sinn Féin has again designated O’Neill to be the deputy, while Paul Givan from the DUP succeeds Foster as first minister.

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Step forward in space, backward in Hong Kong – China has launched its first crewed space mission since 2016 and the first to its new Tiangong space station. At the same time, authorities in Hong Kong acting under a Beijing-imposed national security law have arrested the editor-in-chief of the freewheeling Apple Daily newspaper on suspicion of endangering national security by colluding with foreigners.

Four other directors were also arrested and its owner, Jimmy Lai, was already in jail.

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Presidents on neutral territory – Joe Biden’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva carried a few warnings but also a note of solace in terms of a shared desire to avoid a nuclear conflict. Julian Borger writes: “In the post cold war years, Russia has shrunk to an economic minnow, but it still has the biggest nuclear arsenal in the world, with more than 6,250 warheads (compared with the US total of 5,550) according to the Federation of American Scientists. Over the past four years, the impetus towards nuclear disarmament has halted and threatens to go into reverse, with both the US and Russia pressing ahead with hugely expensive modernisation programmes for their arsenals.

“It was significant that a joint statement by Biden and Putin after Wednesday’s meeting reaffirmed the historic declaration by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’. There will also be discussions on establishing limits on cyber warfare. Biden said he conveyed the message that the US would respond to any further cyber aggression emanating from Russia, but was unclear on what the response would be.”

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Air pollution blights schooling – About 3.4 million British children in more than a quarter of schools from nursery upwards are exposed to dangerous small-particle air pollution worse than the WHO limit, campaigners have said. The PM2.5 particles can pass into the bloodstream and have been linked to asthma, obesity and mental disorders. Defra, the environment department, said emissions of fine particulates had fallen by 11% but “we know there is more to do”. A consultation on new targets for PM2.5 and other pollutants would launch early next year, Defra said.

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Avian tree-planters – Perhaps the jays of Cambridgeshire have heard you should plant trees to make up for your air miles. The birds account for more than half the new trees growing in two fields that have been “passively rewilding” since as far back as 1961. One field dubbed the “old wilderness” has become a haven of 390 trees per hectare, of which 52% are oaks.

Dr Richard Broughton of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology said: “Many people don’t like jays. Traditionally they have been seen as a pest. But jays and possibly grey squirrels planted more than half the trees in these sites. The jays and the thrushes basically engineered these new woodlands.”

Today in Focus podcast: Is there anybody out there?

A hotly anticipated US government report on decades of mysterious sightings of UFOs is due for release this month. The Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt and former Ministry of Defence employee Nick Pope investigate.

Lunchtime read: Inside the mind of a murderer

“When I was called in to assess Seb, I needed to understand why he had committed such a horrendous crime. But first I had to get him to talk …” Prof Taj Nathan on the power and limits of forensic psychiatry.

General view of a prison interior
General view of a prison interior

Sport

Robert Page praised Gareth Bale’s character after the Wales captain recovered from a penalty miss to help put his country on the verge of qualifying for the knockout stages of Euro 2020. Two goals from Manuel Locatelli and a third from Ciro Immobile against Switzerland sent Italy through, while a goal in first-half stoppage time by Aleksei Miranchuk got Russia’s campaign back on track as they beat Finland 1-0. Harry Maguire has declared himself fit and available for England’s match against Scotland, while Marcus Rashford says he is relishing the opportunity to line up against his Manchester United teammate and friend Scott McTominay on Friday.

On the first day of the Test against India, Heather Knight fell agonisingly short of becoming the first Englishwoman to score a Test century since she herself achieved the feat in 2013. Rory McIlroy is bullish about his chances of ending his seven‑year major hoodoo when the 121st US Open shoves off on Thursday morning. Eddie Jones has held Cristiano Ronaldo up as the example to follow for England’s bright young things as the head coach sets about unearthing players capable of taking leading roles at the 2023 Rugby World Cup. And Andy Murray, who took the first tentative steps of his comeback by defeating Benoît Paire at the Queen’s Club to reach the second round, has been announced as one of the initial recipients of a Wimbledon wildcard.

Business

Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street lower after the Federal Reserve indicated it might ease off economic stimulus earlier than previously thought. Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul fell while Shanghai gained. Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Jakarta were down while Bangkok advanced. The FTSE is expected to open lower, while the pound is worth $1.399 or €1.166 this morning.

The papers

Just as he will have wanted, there is no shortage of coverage for Dominic Cummings’s latest unloading on the prime minister and the government. “Hopeless” – that’s the Mirror, on what Cummings said, about what Boris Johnson said, about Matt Hancock, the health secretary. Or as the Star puts it: “Hopeless bloke said hopeless bloke is hopeless, says hopeless bloke”. “Nuclear Dom” says the Metro – and just to prove they haven’t used that one before, they display a tear-out of a previous front page with the headline “Dom-shell”. The Times says Hancock is “to be cleared” of the lying that Cummings alleges, with inquisitor Jeremy Hunt saying the former adviser has failed to prove his claims.

The Express tries to pull a sly one with the headline “Sorry Dom, we’ve got bigger fish to fry” – pretending it is above it all, but then decorating the page with pictures of the protagonists and text containing the main revelations. The Guardian leads on Cummings as well, while also covering the presidents’ summit in Geneva with “Biden warns Putin on Russian cyber-attacks”. The Financial Times has some other strong words from that meeting: “Biden warns Putin of ‘devastating’ repercussions if Navalny dies in jail”.

The Telegraph has “Return of holidays if you are vaccinated” – a good scoop for that paper, followed up by us here. The Daily Mail says ministers also have “Shock plans to work from home for ever” under which employees would be given the right by default. The i has “Vaccine hubs in schools if children are offered jabs” – plans are being drawn up by the government, it says, citing a Whitehall source.

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