- Here are the headlines on Sunday, March 21
Record day for Covid-19 vaccinations in the UK
A record number of people received their Covid-19 vaccine on Friday – with 711,156 doses administered.
More than half of the UK’s adult population – some 26,853,407 people aged 18 and over – have now received their first jab, government data up to March 19 suggests.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the milestone as a ‘phenomenal achievement’ while the Department of Health and Social Care said it remains ‘on track’ to offer the vaccine to all over-50s by April 15.
Summer holidays unlikely over third wave fears
Experts have warned there could be a third wave of Covid-19 infections in the UK and advised people not to consider overseas holidays when restrictions ease later this year.
Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Spi-M modelling group which advises the government, said there was a danger that new variants could jeopardise the vaccination programme later in the year.
The infectious disease expert Dr Tildesley told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think that international travel this summer is, for the average holidaymaker, sadly I think, extremely unlikely.’
Dozens of arrests at lockdown protest
At least 36 people were arrested at an anti-lockdown protest in central London which saw crowds hurling missiles at police and assaulting officers.
Thousands of people joined yesterday’s demonstration, which travelled from Hyde Park to St Paul’s Cathedral and back to Westminster, ahead of the anniversary of the first UK lockdown which began on March 23 last year.
Among those attending the march were controversial actor Laurence Fox and Piers Corbyn, brother of the former Labour Party leader Jeremy.
Magnitude 7.0 earthquake causes temporary blackouts in Japan
A strong earthquake off northern Japan has shaken buildings in Tokyo and triggered a tsunami advisory for a part of the country’s northern coast.
No major damage was reported, but several people had minor injuries. The US Geological Survey put the strength of the quake at magnitude 7.0 and depth at 33.5 miles.
The quake was centred off the coast of Miyagi prefecture, in the country’s north-east, which was heavily damaged during the huge earthquake and tsunami of 2011 that left more than 18,000 people dead.
High streets and seaside towns to get £56m boost
A new £56m ‘Welcome Back’ fund will help England’s high streets and coastal towns safely reopen as coronavirus restrictions are eased ahead of the summer, the government has announced.
The funding will allow councils to boost the ‘look and feel’ of local areas through improved green spaces, more outdoor seating areas as well as markets and pop-up food stalls.
Among a package of measures unveiled by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, pubs will also be permitted to erect marquees in gardens for the whole summer and caps on private parking fines will also be introduced to clamp down on ‘cowboy parking firms’, and give drivers confidence when visiting towns.
Government borrowing hits February record
The government borrowed another £19.1bn in February as it continues to fund a fight against the Covid-19 pandemic amid the economic toll of lockdown.
It was the most that the public sector has borrowed during any February since records began in 1993, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The debt owed by public sector bodies has now risen by £333bn since April, the first month of full lockdown in the UK.
UK gaming market hit record £7bn in 2020
Video gaming in the UK was boosted by the arrival of a new console generation last year as the market surged to a record £7bn.
Players pushed the sector’s value up 29.9 per cent compared to 2019 with increases across both digital and physical sales, according to a report by gaming industry body Ukie.
Digital sales took the lion’s share totalling £3.9bn.
TfL considering short-term bailout extension
Transport for London is considering a government offer to extend financial support by seven weeks.
The transport body said it is ‘reviewing the proposal’ made by the Department for Transport but continues to seek a long-term deal.
The collapse in passenger numbers during the coronavirus pandemic has decimated TfL’s finances, leading it to require government funding to keep services running. A £1.6bn bailout was agreed in May 2020, followed by a £1.8bn deal in November which expires at the end of March.
Lib Dems call for ‘bold’ £5.5bn tax break for small businesses
Liberal leader Sir Ed Davey is to call for a £5.5bn-a-year tax break for small businesses as he urges the government to put them at the heart of a post-Covid recovery.
In his speech to the party’s online spring conference today, Sir Ed will call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to ‘slash’ national insurance contributions (NICs) for small firms by quadrupling the employment allowance from £4,000 to £16,000.
He will say that the move would mean no small business would have to pay any NICs on their first five employees.
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Holiday money hoarders stash £3.5bn of foreign currency at home
Around 23m adults have leftover holiday money sitting at home, according to estimates.
With holidays having been cancelled or postponed over the past year amid the coronavirus pandemic, men have more foreign cash stashed away at home than women, at an average of £188 compared with £117.
Post Office Travel Money commissioned a survey of 2,000 people which found that more than two in five (42 per cent) have leftover holiday currency, estimated as being as high as £3.5bn, based on an average of £150.
Cloudy but mostly dry
Today will be largely dry across the UK, but it will remain quite cloudy, says the BBC. The best of the sunshine will again be in central and southern Scotland, and northern England.
It will be a chilly night for many as skies look to remain quite clear for much of England, Wales and parts of Scotland. Cloudier for Northern Ireland, and southern and northern Britain. Some showers in the far north.
With high pressure slipping southwards tomorrow it will turn breezier in the north-west of the UK with some light showers pushing in. Dry for much of England and Wales but largely cloudy. Some brief sunshine.
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