- Here are the headlines on Friday, March 5
Scientists track new Covid variant
The emergence of another new coronavirus strain is being tracked by scientists as efforts to increase targeted testing and suppress the spread of variants of concern are expanded.
Public Health England revealed yesterday that 16 cases of the variant, referred to as VUI-202102/04, were identified through genomic horizon scanning on February 15.
The variant, which is understood to have originated in the UK, was designated a ‘variant under investigation’ by PHE nine days later. All people who have tested positive for the variant, and their contacts, have been traced and advised to isolate.
Surge testing for two more areas
Surge testing will be deployed in targeted areas of north-west London and north-east England where the South African variant of coronavirus has been found.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said yesterday that additional testing and genomic sequencing will be rolled out in the North Wembley area of Brent in the capital and the TS19 postcode area in Stockton-on-Tees, in County Durham, as part of efforts to suppress the spread of the variant.
Cyprus to welcome vaccinated British tourists from May 1
Cyprus said it will open its borders to vaccinated Britons from the beginning of May – although UK government restrictions on foreign travel will still be in force.
Nearly a million people in the UK have received two doses of a Covid-19 jab, and the Cypriot government said those who had both jabs could travel without restrictions from May 1.
However, the date Cyprus has set to open its borders to Britons is still more than two weeks before the earliest people in England will be able to leave the country for holidays.
Online retail sales hit new record
Online retail sales soared to a new record high in February but this failed to offset another dire month for shops as they remained closed during lockdown, new figures show.
The latest BDO high street sales tracker revealed combined in-store and online like-for-like sales fell 3.1 per cent in February in the second worst month since last August.
Strong online demand for fashion and homewares helped soften the blow as swathes of the high street remained shut, sending internet sales surging by a record 167.3 per cent.
Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo arrives
Porsche has revealed a more practical version of its Taycan EV – the Taycan Cross Turismo.
Fitted as standard with a 93.4kWh battery, the Taycan 4 Cross Turismo brings 375bhp to the table, though this can be boosted temporarily to 469bhp which will allow it to go from 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 137mph.
All cars boast the same three-chamber air suspension which features on the standard Taycan, though this can be extended further through the off-road design package that increases ground clearance by an extra 10mm – a total of 30mm over the saloon. A special Gravel Mode can be selected in the car too, which optimises the chassis, throttle and traction systems to give the driver more assistance when travelling over difficult terrain.
Private electric vehicles up 53 per cent in a year
The number of privately-owned purely electric vehicles on UK roads has increased by 53 per cent in just 12 months, according to new analysis.
Some 86,130 of the vehicles were licensed as of the end of September last year, compared with 56,393 at the same point in 2019.
Four of the 10 local authority areas with the largest number of privately licensed battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are in London, led by Barnet with 1,235. Wiltshire has the second highest number (1,075 vehicles), followed by Westminster in central London (919), Cornwall (899), and Camden, north London (781).
Demand for beach destinations pushes prices up
Seaside accommodation prices have risen by an average of 35 per cent this summer compared with last year, according to analysis.
A study by consumer group Which? indicated that prices have been hiked in 10 of the UK’s most visited beach destinations, including St Ives, Whitby, Llandudno and Brighton.
People in England could be permitted to stay in self-contained accommodation such as holiday lets from April 12 under Boris Johnson’s road map for easing lockdown restrictions.
UK extends grace period for parcels crossing Irish Sea
The UK has confirmed it is extending the Irish Sea border grace period for parcels.
The British Government has defended its unilateral decision to continue the post-Brexit measures until October as the minimum step necessary. Brussels has warned it will launch legal action ‘very soon’ following the move.
The first of the light-touch regulation schemes on goods from the rest of the UK transiting to Northern Ireland was due to expire at the end of March. Supermarkets would have had to produce export health certificates for all shipments of animal products since Northern Ireland is part of the EU’s single market.
Painful trading in Asia weighs on London equity markets
London’s markets drifted lower as weak sentiment in Asia hit early trading yesterday.
It came after a strong start to the week which had seen the FTSE buoyed by the extension of furlough and other financial support measures from the Chancellor’s Budget.
The FTSE 100 closed 24.59 points, or 0.37 per cent, lower at 6,650.88. The German Dax decreased by 0.19 per cent and the French Cac moved 0.01 per cent higher.
Lenders stop £1.6bn in bounce back loan fraud
British lenders have prevented nearly £1.6bn in fraudulent claims against the government-backed bounce back loan schemes, recently released figures show.
The British Business Bank, which administers the scheme for the Treasury, said that 43,958 attempted loans had been blocked because they were suspected to be fraudulent claims.
It is a small part of the nearly £46bn which has so far been lent under the programme, which was set up to support mainly small businesses through the Covid-19 crisis.
Rightmove’s busiest day ever during Budget
Property website Rightmove recorded its busiest day ever during Wednesday’s Budget.
Visits to the website surpassed nine million for the first time as a stamp duty extension was confirmed and information about a new five per cent deposit mortgage scheme was set out by the government.
Inquiries to estate agents were 82 per cent higher than on the same day in 2020, Rightmove said.
Apple’s App Store under investigation by UK competition watchdog
The UK competition watchdog has launched an investigation into Apple over complaints that its terms and conditions for app developers are unfair and anti-competitive.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will look into concerns that Apple uses its dominant position over the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK.
The CMA will seek to establish if Apple has acted unfairly and as a result users have had less choice or have had to pay higher prices for apps and additional content.
Dy, settled but cold
A chilly but dry day today, with patchy cloud and bright spells, says the BBC. The best of the brightness will be in Scotland and to the southeast. A few light wintry showers are likely in eastern areas of the UK.
Patchy cloud will linger over the UK tonight, but southern areas of England will turn clearer. Largely dry, but with the odd light wintry shower in the east. A cold night, with light winds for many.
Tomorrow will see dry conditions continue for most, with just a few showers in the far north. Patchy cloud will linger across the country, with the occasional brighter spell. Remaining chilly.
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