Top story: School heads damn contact-tracing burden
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British research has found that 96.42% of people develop antibodies within 28 to 34 days of having their first dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines. The success rate rose to 99.08% within seven to 14 days of the second jab. Both vaccines were equally good at triggering the antibodies needed to fight off Covid-19, the researchers from University College London (UCL) found. A separate study has found Covid-19 vaccines tend to alleviate the symptoms of people suffering from “long Covid”. The findings suggest that giving mRNA vaccines, in particular, to long Covid sufferers helps improve their symptoms.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) says schools are “propping up” the national Covid contact tracing system to the tune of hundreds of hours of extra work, despite having no additional funding or staff for the purpose. School leaders have found themselves doing extensive extra hours and on call every weekend and holiday receiving positive results and notifying close contacts who need to self-isolate, the union says. Paul Whiteman, the NAHT general secretary, said the government had spent “billions on a national test and trace system” but “not a penny of that money was given to schools … It has been a full year now and absolutely no effort has been made to release school leaders from this burden, or to give them additional staff or resources to do it.” Read the latest global coronavirus developments at our live blog.
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President stops short of ceasefire demand – Joe Biden has issued a statement for the first time expressing support for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s militant rulers Hamas, after a phone conversation with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The US president stopped short of calling for an immediate halt to the eight days of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages that have killed more than 200 people, the vast majority of them Palestinian. “The president reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks … The president expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed US engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end.”
In today’s Guardian long read, Peter Beinart, editor-at-large of Jewish Currents, makes the case for Palestinian refugees’ right to return – asking why a homeland is seen as an ancient and enduring right for Israelis, but not for Palestinians despite the latter having been comparatively only very recently displaced from it. “If Palestinians have no right to return to their homeland, neither do we.”
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‘Build back better’ lacks a plan – Britain risks mirroring Italy’s experience of flatlined living standards because it is neither used to nor prepared for the challenges posed by the aftermath of Covid-19, Brexit, the net zero transition, automation and a changing population, the Resolution Foundation and the London School of Economics have warned. Launching their Economy 2030 Inquiry, they have said that while the government has committed to “build back better”, “level up” and embrace “global Britain”, neither it nor any major political party has an economic plan for achieving those high-level objectives – which leaves the living standards of individuals and the economy as a whole under threat.
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Fred West: police to dig at cafe – Police will excavate in the cellar of the Clean Plate cafe in Gloucester where missing 15-year-old Mary Bastholm worked and the serial killer Fred West was a customer. They have cited “possible evidence” that a body could be buried there. A TV production company has presented police with a photo of what appeared to be blue material buried in one area of the cellar. Mary was wearing a blue coat when she went missing. She disappeared in 1968, at a time when West was abducting girls in Gloucester.
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We have reached peak peat – Sales of peat compost to gardeners will be banned from 2024, the government has said. Ministers will also give £50m to support the restoration of 35,000 hectares of peatland by 2025, about 1% of the UK’s total. UK peatlands store three times as much carbon as its forests but the majority are degraded and emitting CO2. The International Energy Agency, meanwhile, has warned that exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year and no new coal-fired power stations can be built if the world is to defeat global heating. The IEA has also called for phasing out of new fossil-fuel cars from 2035 and the decarbonisation of global electricity generation by 2040.
Today in Focus podcast: Great reopening under strain
This time last week, most of us were feeling optimistic about the next step in the government’s “irreversible” plan to end lockdown. Then scientists started to warn that the accelerating spread of the “India variant” of coronavirus meant that we should proceed carefully – and even consider slowing down. So can the next stage of the government’s “irreversible” plan go ahead?
Lunchtime read: End this cult of the perfect mother
Worldwide, mothers are overworked, underpaid, often lonely and made to feel guilty about everything from epidurals to bottle feeding. Fixing this is the unfinished work of feminism, argues Eliane Glaser.
Harry Kane has let it be known to Tottenham Hotspur that he wants to leave the club in the summer, after the striker expressed his frustration at the end of last month at a continued inability to achieve his ambition of winning major trophies. Stuart Broad has described his relationship with former England cricket selector Ed Smith as a case of working under somebody who did not rate him and said he would accept missing a Test match this summer provided the reasons are communicated properly. Bristol extended their lead at the top of the Premiership as returning rugby union fans watched Max Malins and Charles Piutau score in their 39-7 bonus point home win over Gloucester. Chelsea manager Emma Hayes must lift her players after their Champions League final defeat, writes Suzanne Wrack, and consider the example set by Barcelona, who suffered a similar humiliation in the 2019 decider.
André Ayew’s goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win for Swansea at Oakwell in the first leg of their Championship play-off semi-final against Barnsley, while Bournemouth have a 1-0 lead over Brentford at the halfway stage thanks to Arnaut Danjuma’s second-half goal at the Vitality Stadium. Peter Sagan delivered a hard-fought victory for Bora-Hansgrohe on stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia as Egan Bernal retained the pink jersey in Foligno. Warrington recovered from 20-0 down to get within two points of Huddersfield but were held off in the closing stages to lose 20-26 in a Super League match at the Halliwell Jones Stadium attended by 4,000 fans. And Bob Baffert has been handed a temporary suspension by the New York Racing Association, meaning the trainer may well miss out on next month’s Belmont Stakes, the final leg of US horse racing’s Triple Crown.
A group calling themselves the Patriotic Millionaires have gathered outside the homes Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, to call for wealthy people to pay more tax. The demonstrations in New York and Washington state targeted the Amazon founder because his company only paid a 9.4% federal income tax rate last year, less than half the statutory 21%. Stock markets are calmer this week and the FTSE100 is seen rising 0.7% this morning. The pound is nudging a five-year high against the dollar at $1.417, and is also looking in good shape for prospective European holidaymakers at €1.165.
The Guardian print edition leads with “Surging new variant puts lockdown end in jeopardy”. The Covid variant first detected in India and known as B.1.617.2 is set to be the dominant strain in the UK within days, experts have said. Its more transmissible nature threatens to reverse moves to relax most lockdown rules on 21 June. The government has faced intense pressure to more fully explain the delay in adding India to the so-called red list of countries. The Express says “So close: Jabs WILL help us ALL beat variant”.
The Mail has “Now vaccine refuseniks threaten freedom” saying Tories won’t accept the “freedom date” of 21 June being put off for the sake of anti-vaxxers. Pun material from an earlier stage of the pandemic gets a reprise today in the Times: “Fears that spread of variant may end in tiers”. The Metro says even sceptics are having the jab, though, because of fears about the Indian variant: “At last, they get the point”.
The Telegraph promises us there will be “Holidays to Europe with a vaccine passport”, while the Financial Times looks much further afield than the continent at the latest post-Brexit stoushing: “Cabinet split by ‘ferocious’ fight over Australia zero-tariff demand”. The Mirror celebrates “Day we were reunited” with pictures of young and old getting back together on Monday.
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