- Here are the headlines on Saturday, March 20
UK on verge of passing 50% of adults vaccinated
The UK is on the verge of reaching the major milestone of giving more than half of the adult population their first dose of coronavirus vaccine.
Government data up to March 18 suggests that 49.9 per cent of the population aged 18 and over have received a first dose, with an estimated 73,000 more jabs needed to pass the halfway mark.
A total of 22,337,590 people had been given a first jab. It comes as prime minister Boris Johnson received his first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine yesterday.
Merkel looks to impose restrictions again in Germany
Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany will have to apply an ‘emergency brake’ to reverse some recent relaxations of pandemic restrictions as coronavirus infections accelerate.
Germany’s national disease control centre says new infections are growing exponentially as the more contagious Covid-19 variant first detected in Britain has become dominant in the country.
It comes after France reinstated a lockdown yesterday and Italy introduced similar measures. Rising cases across the Continent are worrying UK leaders as newspapers report this weekend they could ‘threaten summer holidays’.
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Caution the watchword as First Minister plots lockdown exit
The Welsh government is to adopt a more cautious approach in leaving the Covid-19 lockdown due to the emergence of the highly-infectious Kent variant of the virus.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said gyms and leisure centres, outdoor attractions, outdoor hospitality, weddings and organised indoor and outdoor activities could be allowed to resume from April 22 if virus rates remain stable and vaccination numbers continue to rise.
From Monday non-essential retail and garden centres will reopen. And then on March 27 the stay local requirement will be lifted as self-contained accommodation will be allowed to resume business, libraries will reopen and organised outdoor children’s activities resume.
AstraZeneca jab rollout to resume in Ireland today
The resumption of the rollout of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine will restart in Ireland today.
The announcement came last night after the state’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn recommended the use of the jab.
His decision came following the green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and Ireland’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).
Army to establish new Special Operations Brigade
The British Army is to establish a new Special Operations Brigade to carry out missions in ‘high threat’ environments overseas, the Ministry of Defence has announced.
Under the plans, four infantry battalions will be absorbed into a new Ranger Regiment enabling them to undertake roles traditionally carried out by Special Forces – the SAS and SBS.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said they would be at the forefront of a more ‘active and engaged’ armed forces.
Motorists could face £3 charge to cross Hammersmith Bridge
Motorists could be charged to cross London’s Hammersmith Bridge to help pay for its repair.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council said its ‘radical plans’ would see the bridge potentially reopen for pedestrians and cyclists next summer, and motor vehicles two months later.
The 134-year-old west London bridge has been closed to traffic since April 2019 when cracks appeared in its pedestals. The council said ‘early assessments’ indicate motorists would pay an average of £3 to drive across the bridge.
Goldman Sachs bankers condemn 98-hour working week
First-year banking analysts at Goldman Sachs have said they have worked an average of 98 hours each week so far this year as they called for a new cap on their arduous workload.
In a set of slides seen by the PA news agency, the junior bankers warn they could quit their roles if the situation does not improve.
The internal survey among 13 first-year analysts shows they worked a mean of 98 hours a week since January and slept five hours a night. They want the company to introduce a cap of 80 hours’ work each week.
Cornwall overtakes London as most searched-for place to live
Cornwall has overtaken London as the most searched-for location on a property website.
Rightmove said there were more than five million searches for properties in Cornwall in February alone.
Searches for the village of Stithians in Cornwall were up by 224 per cent compared with a year ago, while searches for Polperro, also in Cornwall increased by 203 per cent.
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It features a review of our Daksh Gupta and Robert Forrester interview, road tests of the Audi E-Tron, BMW M3 and Ford Mach-E, news round-ups and some columnists’ rants.
Wetherspoon chalks up loss as pubs remain closed
Pub chain Wetherspoon registered a heavy drop in its sales and sustained heavy losses in its last six-month period.
Revenue dropped by nearly 54 per cent to £431m in the half year to the end of January.
Meanwhile, the firm swung to a £52.8m pre-tax loss, from a £51.6m profit a year earlier.
Treasury banks £1.1bn in latest NatWest share sale
The government has sold part of its stake in NatWest, formerly RBS, for £1.1bn.
Ministers signed off the sale on Thursday for 190.5p a share, as part of a commitment to return the bank to the private sector by 2025.
The deal sees NatWest buy back 591m shares from the government, leaving the taxpayer with a stake of 59.8 per cent compared with 61.7 per cent previously. The government’s current stake is worth £13bn at current share prices.
Global equity markets close in red
Global markets closed the session lower after sell-offs in the US and Asia started Friday trading on the back foot.
The FTSE 100 dropped to its lowest level in almost a fortnight as weak sentiment was compounded by the Federal Reserve decision not to extend the supplementary leverage ratio – a mechanism that requires US banks to hold less capital reserves so they can free up cash to inject into the economy with loans.
London’s top flight closed 70.97 points, or 1.05 per cent, lower at 6,708.71 yesterday. The German Dax decreased by 1.05 per cent and the French Cac moved 1.07 per cent lower.
Pagani Huayra R arrives as track-only supercar
Pagani has unveiled an extreme version of its Huayra supercar – the Huayra R.
Limited to just 30 examples – with each costing around £2.3m plus taxes – the Huayra R is restricted to track use only, much like the Zonda R which came before it.
Utilising a naturally-aspirated 6.0-litre V12, it sends power to the rear wheels through a six-speed sequential ‘dog ring’ gearbox. Thanks to a carbon fibre monocoque, the R isn’t just stiffer than the road car but lighter too, weighing in at just 1,050kg dry.
Dry and calm
The BBC says it will be mostly cloudy today with some sunshine in the north-east of Britain. Northern Scotland will see wind and rain push in from the northwest. There may also be drizzle at times elsewhere in the UK.
Tonight, it will remain mostly cloudy across the UK, although there will be a few clear breaks in central and southern Scotland, and northern England. A little drizzle is possible.
Tomorrow will be largely dry and settled. The north will be cloudy at times while the south may see some lengthy sunny spells. Feeling cooler along the North Sea coast. Gentle northerly winds.
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