- Here are the headlines on Monday, March 1
Hunt for mystery person with Brazilian variant
A hunt is under way to locate one of the first people in the UK believed to have contracted the Manaus variant of coronavirus, a new strain that may spread more rapidly and respond less well to existing vaccines.
Public Health England (PHE) said yesterday that six cases of the concerning P.1 variant first detected in the Brazilian city have been confirmed in Britain, three in England and three in Scotland.
Two were confirmed in South Gloucestershire but the third English case has not been located and could be anywhere in the nation, with PHE saying the person did not complete their test registration card so their contact details are absent. Anyone who took a test on February 12 or 13 and has not received a result is being asked to come forward immediately.
Surge testing to start in South Gloucestershire
Surge testing will take place in South Gloucestershire after cases of the Manaus variant of coronavirus were discovered.
Residents who live in five postcode areas, who are aged over 16 and do not have symptoms of Covid-19, have been invited for testing.
People who travel into the areas – BS32 0, BS32 8, BS32 9, BS34 5 and BS34 6 – for work or to visit someone they are in a support bubble with are also able to have a test.
More than 20m people in UK vaccinated
More than 20m people in the UK have now been given their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the government has said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on social media that it was a ‘huge national achievement’ and praised the NHS staff, volunteers and armed forces for their work in the vaccine rollout.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said vaccinating more than 20m people was a ‘magnificent achievement for the country’.
Sunak indicates support will continue but does not rule out tax rises
Rishi Sunak has indicated he will extend emergency support packages as the coronavirus lockdown is unwound, and did not rule out first raising taxes before cutting them ahead of the next election.
The Chancellor insisted ahead of Wednesday’s Budget that he is in favour of low taxes but said he needs to repair the public finances from the ‘enormous shock’ of the pandemic with an ‘honest and fair’ plan.
He said he does not ‘recognise’ suggestions he told MPs in private that he would raise taxes now before cutting them in a pre-election Budget and said it would be ‘brave’ to predict the situation in three years’ time.
Insolvency Service payouts hit 10-year high
The Insolvency Service paid out £453.4m in missing wages and benefits to workers for firms that went bust last year, according to new data.
The payments made by the agency, which is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, were at the highest levels in a decade although the various company lifelines provided by the Chancellor meant the number of firms going insolvent fell.
A total of £297.5m was paid out in redundancy pay, whilst £93.3m was for months that would have been earned working a notice period.
Edinburgh Airport to trial pre-departure rapid testing
Edinburgh airport is to trial pre-departure rapid Covid-19 testing.
The airport will work in partnership with PocDoc and BioSure to deliver the rapid testing, which gives results within 15 minutes.
The week-long trial is set to be part of the recovery plan for the aviation industry, and will start from today.
Rail fares increased across Britain despite low demand for travel
Rail passengers in England and Wales have been hit by above inflation fare rises despite the collapse in demand.
Ticket prices have increased by around 2.6 per cent. The figure represents the Retail Prices Index measure of inflation from July 2020, plus one percentage point.
Demand for rail travel has plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic, with passenger numbers currently down 85 per cent on normal levels. Network Rail boss Sir Peter Hendy said last week that the volume of journeys by commuters may only recover to 60 per cent of what it was before the outbreak.
Call to make financial incentives available to drivers buying used electric cars
Incentives for buying electric cars should be extended to second-hand purchases, according to a new report.
Halfords made the recommendation as it warned the cost of new battery-powered cars is too high for many motorists despite government grants of up to £3,000.
The most basic new EVs (electric vehicles) start at around £18,000 whereas an average non-luxury model costs nearly £30,000, the motoring products and services provider said. It called for grants or loans to be made available for drivers across the UK looking to buy used EVs.
Insurance and pension giant Aviva targets net-zero emissions by 2040
One of the UK’s biggest investors has committed to slash its net emissions to zero by 2040, a decade ahead of the government’s target for the UK.
Aviva said it plans to become net zero in less than two decades, a move that is likely to put pressure on the companies that it invests in to change their practices.
The insurer manages around half a trillion pounds worth of assets including billions belonging to British pensions savers.
Almost 12,000 licensed premises closed for good since start of 2020
Almost 12,000 licensed premises have shut down since the start of last year, according to fresh data highlighting the dramatic impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector.
New data tracking more than 100,000 UK pubs, bars and restaurants licensed to serve alcohol showed that more than one venue had shut every hour in the 13 months from the start of 2020 to January 31.
The latest market recovery monitor from CGA and AlixPartners revealed that 11,894 venues have shut their doors for good over the period.
Lockdown support by Big Issue to its vendors tops £1m
The Big Issue has given more than £1m of support to its vendors, who have been hit by the economic lockdown.
Around 2,110 people who sell the magazine have shared £1,062,000 since the beginning of the pandemic, it was announced.
Big Issue vendors are self-employed, buying magazines for £1.50 before selling them on for £3, so they are not eligible for furlough and cannot work from home.
Dry and bright
The BBC says it will be dry across the UK but with low cloud and fog persisting for parts of central and eastern England and east Wales. Elsewhere, early mist and fog will clear leaving a good deal of sunshine. Light winds.
Clear spells for Scotland, south-west England and Northern Ireland this evening. Low cloud and fog will become widespread tonight. However, parts of north-west Scotland and south Wales may stay clear.
Tomorrow, mist, fog and low cloud will break up to reveal some sunshine, especially over western parts. However, it will remain grey in the east. A chance of showery rain for the far south-west later.
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