Covid-19: Brazil ‘variant of concern’ detected in UK

Getty Images A coronavirus “variant of concern” first detected in Brazil has now been found in the UK. Three cases have been detected in England and separately three in Scotland. In England, officials are still trying to track down one of those who tested positive for the new variant. Meanwhile the three Scottish residents had flown to Scotland from Brazil via Paris and London, the Scottish government said. Experts believe this variant (P1), first detected in travellers to Japan from Manaus in northern Brazil in January, could be more contagious. How worrying is the Brazil coronavirus variant? In England, the first two cases were from the same household in South Gloucestershire, with a history of travel to Brazil, but the

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Covid: Rishi Sunak pledges support in ‘remaining stages’ of crisis

PA Media Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said he is preparing a Budget that “provides support for people… through the remaining stages of this crisis”. He said providing help as restrictions eased was “right” but added he wanted to “level with people” about the “shock to the economy” caused by Covid. He dismissed claims he had told MPs he wanted to raise taxes now so he could cut them ahead of the next election. This comes as the government announced £5bn to help high street businesses. Meanwhile Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds accused the chancellor of being “focused on politics” over protecting the economy. Budget 2021: The challenge facing Sunak What is the Budget and when will it happen? Will the

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Coronation Street star Johnny Briggs dies aged 85

Actor Johnny Briggs, who played Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street for 30 years, has died aged 85. In a statement his family said he had died peacefully after “a long illness, with family by his side”. They asked for privacy to grieve and “remember the wonderful times we had with him”. The actor was made an MBE in the New Year’s Honours in 2006, the year his character was killed off from the ITV soap. Born on 5 September 1935 in Battersea, in south-west London, Briggs was evacuated to the countryside during World War II before embarking on a career in show business back in London at the age of 12. After a break for two years of service in

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Covid-19: Free rapid testing for pupils’ families in England

PA Media Free Covid tests will be offered to the families of all pupils in England under plans to reopen schools from 8 March. Rapid test kits will be provided twice a week to pupils and anyone in their household or support bubble regardless of whether they have symptoms. They will also be available to adults who work with schools, such as bus drivers and after-school club leaders. Meanwhile, nearly two million people aged 60 to 63 in England are being invited to book their vaccine. From Monday, people in that age bracket will start receiving letters explaining how to book a jab through the national booking service, NHS England said. Nearly 20 million people in the UK have now

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Covid-19: £5bn fund for High Streets and rapid tests for pupils’ families in England

Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Sunday. We’ll have another update for you tomorrow morning. 1. £5bn fund for the High Street to ‘get the tills ringing again’ A £5bn cash grant scheme will be announced in Wednesday’s Budget to help shops and other businesses in England recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said. His hope is that the grants, worth up to £18,000 per firm, will help “get the tills ringing again” when lockdown eases in England in April. Businesses have broadly welcomed the payment, but some groups say it needs to go further. Ahead of the Budget, what is the challenge facing the chancellor? Getty Images 2. Free

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New York Governor Cuomo faces fresh claims of sexual harassment

Getty Images A second former aide has come forward with accusations of sexual harassment against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Charlotte Bennett, a health policy adviser to Mr Cuomo until November, told The New York Times that he had harassed her last year. Mr Cuomo has denied any inappropriate behaviour and ordered an independent inquiry into the allegations. Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, has previously accused the governor of sexually harassing her. Mr Cuomo, 63, who has been governor for more than a decade, has found himself under pressure on several fronts in recent weeks. Harassment allegations pile pressure on Cuomo NY governor: My ‘mistake’ hiding care home deaths Longing for the return of the New York moment He is

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Budget 2021: £5bn fund to help High Street recover from Covid

Getty Images A new £5bn cash grant scheme for High Street businesses aims to “get the tills ringing again”, Rishi Sunak says. Ahead of Wednesday’s Budget, the chancellor said the grants, worth up to £18,000 per firm, will help shops and pubs reopen as England eases lockdown. The one-off payment has been broadly welcomed by businesses, but some groups have said it does not go far enough. Mr Sunak has warned public finances face a challenge due to the pandemic amid “enormous strains”. The chancellor said earlier this weekend he wanted to “level with people about the challenge”, but added: “I will do whatever it takes to protect the British people through this crisis and I remain committed to that.”

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Covid-19: People aged 60 to 63 in England to get jab invites from Monday

Reuters Nearly two million people aged 60 to 63 in England are now officially being invited to book a coronavirus vaccine. From Monday, people in that age bracket will start receiving letters explaining how to book a jab through the national booking service, NHS England said. Nearly 20 million people in the UK have now received their first dose, with the government aiming to offer a first jab to all adults by the end of July. Meanwhile, families with school children will receive rapid home tests. Households with will be able to screen themselves for coronavirus twice a week at home with rapid tests under a scheme to help England’s schools and colleges reopen on 8 March. The tests, which

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Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine: FDA approves single-shot jab

Getty Images US regulators have formally approved the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, the third jab to be authorised in the country. The vaccine is set to be a cost-effective alternative to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and can be stored in a refrigerator instead of a freezer. Trials found it prevented serious illness but was 66% effective overall when moderate cases were included. The vaccine is made by the Belgian firm Janssen. The company has agreed to provide the US with 100 million doses by the end of June. The first doses could be available to the US public as early as next week. The UK, EU and Canada have also ordered doses, and 500 million doses have

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Covid vaccine: Germany urged to back AstraZeneca jab for over-65s

Reuters A senior German immunologist has urged his country to change its mind and start allowing over-65s to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. In a BBC interview, Carsten Watzl, head of the German Society for Immunology, predicted regulators would have to reverse their decision to not recommend the jab for older people. He urged Angela Merkel to have the vaccine live on TV to prove it is safe. Germany’s vaccine commission is currently reviewing its recommendation. Prof Watzl’s call comes after recent studies in Scotland showed the AstraZeneca jab to be effective among the elderly. Germany is one of several EU states that have expressed doubts over the efficacy of the vaccine in older people. The country is currently struggling to

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