- Here are the headlines on Saturday, March 6
Hancock hails ‘encouraging’ data
The average daily number of Covid cases, hospital admissions and deaths are the lowest they have been since the autumn, according to the Health Secretary.
Matt Hancock painted a positive picture revealing the average number of cases – 6,685 per day – are at their lowest rate since late September. Yesterday, 5,947 further cases were confirmed.
The Health Secretary said the decrease meant the government could continue with its plan of easing the lockdown – with schools returning on Monday, and all restrictions possibly scrapped by June 21 thanks to the ‘protection that comes from vaccines and regular testing’.
Deaths from Covid-19 in the UK ‘fall 41 per cent in a week’
Deaths from coronavirus have fallen by 41 per cent in the course of a week, while hospital admissions have seen their fastest ever fall, the Health Secretary has said.
Matt Hancock told a Downing Street briefing UK deaths are continuing to drop as the vaccination programme is rolled out across the country.
He said the ‘number of deaths from Covid are declining steeply’ and the decline was accelerating, with the number of deaths each day now halving every 11 days, compared to every 19 days last month. Data shows the seven-day rolling average for UK deaths within 28 days of a positive test, by date of death, fell from 424 on February 17 to 248 on February 24.
Optimistic of staying ahead of virus
A scientist heading the body tracking new variants of coronavirus said she was ‘optimistic’ about the UK ‘staying ahead’ of the virus’ developments via adapted vaccines.
Professor Sharon Peacock, head of the Covid-19 Genomics UK, told The Times new variants were ‘very unlikely to send us back to square one’.
It comes as the mystery sixth case of the Manaus variant of coronavirus was confirmed as having been tracked down and identified to Croydon in south London. Officials had been hunting for the unknown individual after cases of the variant of concern were detected in the UK.
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All businesses in England are now able to sign up to receive free rapid coronavirus tests under the government’s workplace testing programme.
From today, businesses of all sizes, including those with fewer than 50 employees, can register to order lateral flow tests for their workers, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
The department said that rapid Covid-19 testing, where results can be returned in under 30 minutes, would help people testing positive to ‘isolate immediately’ as well as ‘breaking chains of transmission’.
Downing Street spends £2.6m on refurbs for press briefings
Downing Street has spent more than £2.6m on renovations in order to hold White House-style press briefings.
Labour questioned the Prime Minister’s priorities for shelling out millions on ‘vanity projects’ while ‘picking the pockets’ of NHS workers, amid growing anger at the government proposing a pay rise for health staff of one per cent.
Three out of four people ‘willing to carry jab proof to travel’
Three out of four people (75 per cent) would be willing to carry proof they have been vaccinated if it meant they could travel, a new survey suggests.
The poll indicated that acceptance is highest among people aged over 65 (89 per cent), who have been offered Covid-19 jabs ahead of most younger people.
The figure falls to 67 per cent for 18-24-year-olds, but London City Airport, which commissioned the research, believes it will rise as vaccines are rolled out further.
Business rates relief cap puts stores at risk
Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has said the Chancellor’s new business rates holiday is ‘near worthless’ for larger firms.
The Sports Direct and House of Fraser owner said that the £2m cap on the amount of relief a company can claim means it will have to review all its stores to find any that might no longer be viable.
On Wednesday the Chancellor extended the holiday on business rates until the end of June. The chancellor said that for the rest of the financial year after June rates would remain discounted by two thirds, up to a value of £2m.
Contactless payment increase ‘could see rise in crime’
Increasing the contactless payment spending limit could fuel a rise in thefts and fraud, consumer and banking figures have warned.
The amount that can be spent on contactless cards is more than doubling from £45 to £100. Eight out of 10 UK adults used contactless payments in 2019, and the rise on limits will mean millions of payments will now be made simpler, the government said.
Gareth Shaw, head of money at consumer research and advice body Which?, said: ‘The risk of falling victim to contactless card fraud is currently low, but there is potential for thefts to rise if criminals take advantage of the increased spending limit to maximise the amount they can steal.’
Home repossessions allowed from April
Home repossessions may take place from April but only as a last resort, the City regulator has said.
A ban is in place on home repossessions except in exceptional circumstances until April 1. The Financial Conduct Authority has published updated draft guidance for firms from April.
Firms will only be able to enforce repossessions if they act in line with the guidance and should treat customers fairly.
FTSE 100 drops to loss
The FTSE 100 tipped into the red at the end of a turbulent session despite a rebound from strong US jobs figures.
UK oil, mining and banking stocks had a solid session, keeping the index afloat for most of the day before weaker sentiment elsewhere in Europe weighed on London traders.
London’s top flight closed 20.36 points, or 0.31 per cent, lower at 6,630.52 yesterday. The German Dax decreased by one per cent and the French Cac moved 0.82 per cent lower.
VW teases Project Trinity as new flagship electric vehicle
Volkswagen has released its first design preview for Project Trinity, which will spearhead its electric vehicle program and become the firm’s flagship model.
The Trinity will have Level 2 autonomous driving capabilities when it goes on sale, with the ability to upgrade to Level 4. The firm is also promising to set ‘new standards in range, charging speed and digitalisation’, saying it is targeting ‘charging as fast as refuelling’.
Key to the announcement, though, appears to be related to a shift towards making a ‘software-based product’. VW says this can help lower the entry barriers to the product, but more interestingly, says vehicles can be updated at any time to include new functions. It is scheduled to go on sale in 2026.
Dry but colder
Dry for many today, with just a few showers in the far north, turning wintry on high ground, says the BBC. Patchy cloud will linger across much of the country, with the occasional brighter spell. A chilly day.
Tonight, most of the UK will see patchy cloud persisting. Showers will continue in the far north, turning heavy in places and wintry on high ground. Further south, it will remain dry. Light winds.
Tomorrow, England and Wales will remain dry and settled with bright spells between patches of cloud. Showers will become more widespread in Scotland, with some reaching Northern Ireland at times.
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