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Coronavirus - 14th February 2021


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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 10:59

Summary for Sunday, 14th February 2021

  • All coronavirus legal restrictions must be permanently lifted by the end of April, say a group of Tory backbench MPs
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says there will be no "an arbitrary commitment" to reopen without reviewing the impact of the virus on hospital admissions
  • The children's commissioner says one in six children "will never catch up" lost school days
  • Auckland in New Zealand is to go into lockdown after the discovery of three new local cases of Covid-19
  • The ban on evictions in England is to be extended until the end of March
  • People aged 65 to 69 in England are among those being invited to book their Covid-19 jab from Monday
  • Britain's Got Talent judge Amanda Holden has said she is "devastated" at breaking lockdown rules
  • South Africa says on Monday it will reopen 20 of its land border crossings
  • Latest figures indicate 116,908. people have died with the virus in the UK

Good morning and welcome

Welcome to today's live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s what you need to know so far:

Coming up on Sunday’s political shows

This morning's political programmes are getting under way, starting now with an appearance by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
Also on the programme we will hear from:

  • Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford
  • Epidemiologist Prof Tim Spector
  • Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield
  • and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson

Then the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme will start at 09:00 GMT with guests including:

  • Dominic Raab
  • Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth
  • Leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price
  • and the World Health Organization’s technical lead on Covid-19 Maria Van Kerkhove


The Guardian
Here is a summary of recent events around the world:

  • Lockdown measures will be introduced across Auckland from midnight on Sunday , while restrictions will also be increased elsewhere in New Zealand, after three local cases were reported over the weekend.
  • Germany has tightened border restrictions, banning travel from Czech border regions and Austria’s Tyrol after a rise in contagious strains.
  • The European Union’s health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the bloc will fast-track approvals of coronavirus vaccines adapted to combat mutations.
  • Australia is expecting 80,000 vaccine doses to arrive in the country before the end of the week. Health minister Greg Hunt said Australia’s vaccine campaign will commence late in February.
  • China accused the US of damaging the World Health Organization in recent years, after the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, cited “deep concerns” about the way the findings of the WHO’s investigation into the origins of Covid-19 were communicated.

Saudi Arabia extends restrictions for a further 20 days

Saudi Arabia has extended by 20 days restrictions on entertainment activities, gatherings and dine-in restaurant services to curb the spread of coronavirus, state news agency SPA said on Sunday, citing an interior ministry statement.
The announcement extends a set of measures brought in 10 days ago. The restrictions, which come into effect from 10pm local time on Sunday evening, could be extended again, the ministry statement said.

Germany reports 6,114 new Covid cases and 218 deaths

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 6,114 to 2,334,561, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose by 218 to 64,960, the tally showed.

New Zealand announces snap lockdown over Auckland cases

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is addressing media in Wellington, following the discovery of three positive community cases in Auckland.
She said New Zealanders had been able to enjoy more freedom than in many other countries around the world, but that “with Covid raging outside our borders and new more transmissible strains of Covid 19 we have had to make both continual improvements to strengthening our border while continuing to plan and prepare for managing any potential resurgence”.
Ardern said there was a need “to go hard and early” and take a cautious approach.
As of 11.59pm tonight Sunday, Auckland will move to level 3 for three days. The rest of New Zealand will move to level 2 for the same period, she said.
In Auckland, this means people should stay home, and work from home if possible. Schools will be open for the children of essential workers.

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 11:09

Remove all lockdown laws by May, demand Tory MPs

Mr Raab is speaking on Sky's Sophy Ridge after a group of 63 Tory MPs demanded that all coronavirus restrictions in England be lifted by the end of April.
The lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group (CRG) has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to say there will be no justification for Covid laws once the nine priority groups have been vaccinated.
On Saturday, Mr Johnson said he was "optimistic" about forthcoming plans for a "cautious" easing of England's lockdown – expected to begin with the reopening of schools from 8 March.
In a letter to the PM, the CRG said the vaccine rollout meant the prime minister had to set out a plan for "a return to normal life" from that date.
"All restrictions remaining after 8 March should be proportionate to the ever-increasing number of people we have protected,” the group said - adding that the burden of proof should be on ministers to show restrictions are necessary.
They called for pubs and restaurants to open by Easter in a "Covid-secure" and "commercially viable" way, saying two-thirds of the people in the nine priority groups should have had a first vaccine dose by then.
So far 14.5 million people in the top four priority groups have had at least one dose of the vaccine – with Covid jabs set to be extended to the over-65s from Monday.
These top four priority groups account for about 88% of the deaths and 55% of the patients in hospital with Covid-19, the CRG said.
The "tremendous pace" of vaccination makes it harder to justify Covid restrictions, the CRG letter said – but scientists have urged the government to reopen carefully, saying that there is still potential for another surge in cases.

What the UK papers say

Several claim to know how and when the lockdown in England will be eased with the Sunday Telegraph's headline predicting "Picnics and coffee in the park from March 8" and The Mail on Sunday's declaring "Back in the pub garden for Easter!"
The Mail claims the hospitality industry is likely to be allowed to reopen on 30 or 31 March for outdoor drinking or dining
"Back to school in three weeks" is the Sunday Times headline. It says all pupils will return to classes on 8 March . But the paper quotes the leader of one of the largest academy chains saying bringing all pupils back on the same day would be "impossible".
According to the Sun on Sunday, Boris Johnson will announce today that the government has reached its target of offering a jab to the top four priority groups , a day ahead of schedule.
The successful vaccination drive is a "striking achievement", in the words of the Observer. But the paper says one of the key figures behind the UK's vaccination effort - Prof Sarah Gilbert, who led the team developing the Oxford jab - has criticised the UK's pandemic plan.
Meanwhile, television presenter, Amanda Holden, has been reported to police after breaking lockdown rules by travelling more than 200 miles to see her parents in Cornwall.
Read more.

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 11:20

New Zealand's biggest city enters lockdown

Let's briefly turn our attention to New Zealand - where the country's biggest city, Auckland, is in lockdown after three new cases of Covid-19 were discovered.
New Zealand has won widespread praise for its handling of the pandemic, and has gone months without any recorded community transmission.
A mother, father and daughter from South Auckland tested positive.
PM Jacinda Ardern said the country was taking a "hard and early" approach to the cases. The measures will last three days and require residents to stay at home.
New Zealand, with a population of five million, has recorded just over 2,300 cases of Covid and 25 deaths.
It closed its borders entirely to almost all non-citizens or residents early on in the pandemic , aiming to eliminate the virus.
Read more here.

Expert: 'Less fearmongery' when reporting Covid statistics

Epidemiology expert Tim Spector told Sky News he no longer watches government briefings because the media tended to focus too much on the number of daily deaths, which he deemed "very misleading".
"On a normal day in February, 1500 people would die – mostly of heart disease, cancer, strokes, or flu," said Professor Spector, who argued for more context when reporting Covid infection and death figures.
"A lot of people are petrified... they won’t come out of their homes again unless we put these stats in perspective."
"I would like to see less fearmongery and more a general picture."
Covid-19 cases have dropped by 80% since the start of January and hospital admissions have reduced by 60% - with a 50% decrease in people in hospital with the virus, the epidemiologist told Sky's Sophy Ridge.
He said single jabs of Covid-19 vaccinations are providing 67% protection against infection, according to data from the Covid Symptom Study App.

:Left Quotes: Coronavirus - 14th February 2021 Kitkat14 - agree (Hear Hear, Mr. Spector!)

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 11:29

WHO investigator: 'We saw a great deal of data'

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The team of experts spent several weeks in China

The World Health Organization (WHO) team spent several weeks in the country, but on Saturday one of its members said China refused to hand over key data.
Microbiologist Dominic Dwyer said the team had requested the raw data of 174 early cases but were only given a summary.
But now another member of the team, Professor John Watson, has said Prof Dwyer's account does not "characterise the mission as a whole".
"There was a lot of sharing of raw data in the various areas we were looking at," he told the BBC on Sunday.
"We saw a very great deal specifically about those 174 cases," he added. "There were restrictions in what we were able to do, [but] that would have been the case if we were there or in another country."
"There is more data that we would like the opportunity to see and it would be easier if we had that," he continued. "But this is really just the start of the process."

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 11:33

Reaction to Amanda Holden's lockdown rule breach

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Amanda Holden appeared in photos to mark her 50th birthday on the morning before visiting her parents

As we reported earlier, Britain's Got Talent judge Amanda Holden has said she is "devastated" at breaking lockdown rules by travelling to see her parents in Cornwall .
She made the trip of more than 200 miles after receiving a "distressing" phone call from her father, her agent said in a statement.
Travel is banned except for essential journeys under coronavirus regulations.
Holden's agent said "on balance" the TV star and radio host felt the round-trip from London to Cornwall was necessary to deal with an issue at her parents' home.
Many people online have backed Holden's actions.
Political journalist and commentator Isabel Oakeshott said the trip "endangered precisely nobody and presumably brought them [her parents] great comfort".
"In so many ways, corona has stripped away our humanity. That's the sickness we should fear," she tweeted .
But others were less sympathetic.
Caroline Bonwitt tweeted : "If she wants to defend her actions, she’s needs to say what the emergency was. But as the parents have neighbours, surely someone local could have helped them?"
And Keith Colclough said in another tweet that "she should know by now celebrities are being held to a much higher account for these sorts of law breaks".

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 11:39

Polish mink farm strain can spread to humans

Adam Easton - Warsaw Correspondent
A strain of coronavirus detected at a mink fur farm in Poland can spread to humans, the country's ministry of agriculture has confirmed.
It said the virus samples discovered there did not contain the mutation found in Denmark or the genetic characteristics typical of the UK, South African or Brazilian variants.
The news has raised fears of a widespread cull. Poland has one of the world's biggest mink farming industries with more than 350 farms.
The authorities said that all of the nearly 6,000 mink at the farm in Kartuzy where the virus was found would be slaughtered.
Outbreaks in Denmark - which is the world's largest producer of mink fur - led the government there to order a cull of some 17m animals last year.

Germany partially closes borders with Czech Republic

Germany has partially closed its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol over a troubling surge in coronavirus mutations, drawing a swift rebuke from the European Union.
A thousand police officers have been mobilised to ensure strict border checks, which recall the much-criticised early days of the pandemic when EU countries hastily closed their frontiers to each other.
At the Kiefersfelden crossing in southern Bavaria, officers in yellow high-visibility vests and wearing balaclavas to stave off the chill in -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), meticulously stopped each vehicle coming from Austria.
Under the new rules, in place until February 17, only Germans or non-German residents are allowed to enter, and they must provide a recent negative coronavirus test.
Some exceptions are allowed for essential workers in sectors such as health and transport, as well as for urgent humanitarian reasons, the interior ministry has said.

Thailand defends its decision not to join WHO vaccine programme

The Thai government has defended its decision not to join the WHO-sponsored coronavirus vaccine programme, saying that to do so would risk the country paying more for the shots and facing uncertainty about delivery times.
The government has been criticised by opposition politicians and protesters for lacking transparency and being too slow in procuring vaccines. While the country of 66 million people has had low numbers of cases and deaths, it is dealing with a second wave of infections.
A government spokesman, Anucha Buraphachaisri, responded to media reports that Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country to skip the WHO’s Covax scheme by saying that as a middle-income country Thailand is not eligible for free or cheap vaccines under the programme.
“Buying vaccines directly from the manufacturers is an appropriate choice … as it’s more flexible,” Anucha said.
“If Thailand wants to join the Covax programme, it will have to pay for vaccines itself with a high budget and there is also a risk,”

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 14:28

Five ways to avoid lockdown eye strain

By David Brown

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Millions of people are using screens more than ever before. Many who are working or studying from home are staring at laptops and other devices all day.
Most schoolchildren currently have no other way of accessing classes.
For some, the new ways of working are taking a toll on their eyes. Itchiness, blurry vision and headaches - or eye strain - are among the common problems.
Commuting, or the walk home from school, gave people time to relax their eyes without them realising it. Now, for millions of people, that's gone too.
Eyesight experts say people with persistent problems should visit an optician, which remain open in lockdown.
Alternatively, for some simple things that many of us can do to keep our eyes healthy, read here .

'Baker Boys' spend lockdown baking for hospital staff

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Harry Dawson (left) and Jon Haslett are childhood friends and were working in hotels in Bath before the pandemic

Two bakers have been donating the cakes they make to local hospital staff and the homeless during lockdown.
Jon Haslett, 27 and Harry Dawson, 25, were working at hotels in Bath before the pandemic but with "no work to do" they have "got into baking" instead.
The childhood friends live together in supported accommodation and decided to offer pieces of cake to the community.
Jon's mother Carrie Haslett said: "The response was phenomenal. I'm thrilled to bits for them. They deserve this."
Dubbed the "Batheaston Baker Boys" the duo have received praise for their efforts from healthcare staff, a homeless shelter and local businesses.
Harry, who has cerebral palsy, and Jon who is autistic, learned their skills at Foxes Academy in Minehead before moving to Bath.

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 14:33

Israel and Cyprus agree travel deal for vaccinated citizens

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Many nations are seeking to revive their tourism industries

Israel and Cyprus have agreed a deal to allow coronavirus-vaccinated citizens to travel between the two countries without limitations once flights resume.
"Let me say how pleased I am with the recent understandings that will allow the renewal of flights between Israel and Cyprus and call on more countries to adopt the [approach]," Israel's President Reuven Rivlin said earlier today.
He described the arrangement that would allow vaccinated people to travel freely as a "green pass".
Israel reached a similar agreement with Greece last week. The nations are seeking to revive their tourism industries - which have been severely hampered by the pandemic - in time for summer.

'Half my world came crashing down'

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A teenager whose father was in critical care for 54 days with coronavirus said it felt like "half my world came crashing down" when he became ill.
Dan Ridlington, 42, missed his daughter Ashleigh's 16th birthday after being placed into a coma at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge.
He was eventually well enough to leave hospital but has since faced a slow recovery.
Ashleigh said it was a "really scary" time.
The college student, from Luton, said before her father became ill with Covid she "had a bad attitude towards it" and did not understand how serious it was.
"The moment I realised it was really hard was when it hit my dad," she said.
Ashleigh told the BBC about her experience as BBC Local Radio unveiled a campaign to raise awareness about children's mental health during the pandemic.

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 14:37

Why are ministers being cautious on lifting lockdown?

Nick Eardley - Political correspondent
Boris Johnson will spend the next few days looking at data on the spread of coronavirus and the success of the vaccine rollout, before deciding how quickly to reopen society.
We know roughly what the order will be: schools; followed by outdoor mixing; non-essential shops; then hospitality.
Some Conservative MPs – who have been close to the prime minister in recent years – are urging Johnson to move fairly quickly and lift all restrictions by May, when the government plans to have give a first dose to everyone over 50.
But Downing Street has been stung in the past after moving too quickly and having to reimpose restrictions in a matter of weeks.
That’s why ministers are being cautious at the moment – and why the foreign secretary said it would be wrong to set an arbitrary date.

Breaking News 

UK hits 15 million first doses of a Covid vaccine

At least 15m people in UK have had their first coronavirus jab, Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawai says.
The government said it would offer at least one vaccine dose to everyone in the top four priority groups in the UK by 15 February. That is:

  • anyone 70 and over
  • the clinically extremely vulnerable
  • health/care staff
  • and eligible care home residents

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) estimates there are about 15 million people in these four groups.
But, as far as we know, the government never explicitly put a 15 million figure on its promise.
The government is only supplying regular data about the number of people vaccinated, so there is no breakdown of how many people in the top four priority groups have been offered a vaccine or how many have rejected an offer of a vaccine.

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 14:45

Czech governors ask for new state of emergency

Tensions are rising in the Czech Republic after the government lost a parliamentary vote on Thursday to extend a state of emergency, leading to the end of shop closures and curfews from tomorrow and eliminating its main tool against a raging coronavirus pandemic.
But after fresh talks, all governors have agreed they will ask for a state of emergency, according to the governor of the Moravia-Silesia region, Ivo Vondrack.
“It is the only way to deal with the crisis in our country at the moment,” he tweeted.
Parliamentarians had rejected the pleas of prime minister Andrej Babiš to extend the powers beyond today despite his warnings of a healthcare collapse as infections spread.
Babiš’s minority government said it would be unable to extend nationwide limits on movement, including a night-time curfew and public gathering ban, and the closure of retail stores and services. Pubs and restaurants could stay closed while some other measures could remain under different legislation.
The country of 10.7 million has been in various levels of lockdown almost continuously since October.

Around 3,000 GPs and nurses to receive their first vaccine today in Ireland

In Ireland around 3,000 GPs and nurses will be receiving their first Covid-19 vaccine today, though concerns remain about the potential impact of travel on the state’s attempts to contain the spread of new variants.
An infectious diseases consultant, Dr Cliona Ní Cheallaigh, told RTE this morning that Ireland could not afford to have people travelling in and out of the country at the current rate.
Investment was needed in public health teams to carry out work such as contact tracing, who she said needed to become “like SWAT teams”.

Guinea records first Ebola deaths since 2016

The Guinean government has officially declared a new Ebola outbreak after cases detected in the south-east of the west African nation were confirmed to be positive for the virus, the health ministry said on Sunday.
“Very early this morning, the Conakry laboratory confirmed the presence of the Ebola virus,” Sakoba Keita, the head of Guinea’s health agency, said after an emergency meeting. He called it an “epidemic situation”.
It is the first known resurgence of the virus in West Africa since the 2013-16 epidemic that started in Guinea and killed more than 11,300 in the region.
A World Health Organization representative said it would rapidly send assistance.

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 20:33

UK 'not out of the woods' despite vaccine success

Analysis -Nick Triggle,Health Correspondent
It is undeniable the vaccine programme has overall been a success - only Israel and the United Arab Emirates have done more jabs per head of the population.
But, as well as pushing ahead with the under-70s, we mustn't forget those not yet vaccinated in the most vulnerable groups.
There have been reports of housebound patients still waiting for their jab . And some have questioned whether enough has been done to reach out to those who have concerns about vaccination, and have not taken up the offer.
The fear is that vaccination uptake may be lowest in some of the most vulnerable communities - and that risks widening health inequalities.
There are still a lot of vulnerable at risk - and, with the numbers in hospital still above the peak in the first wave, the NHS isn't yet out of the woods.

Breaking News 

10,972 new cases reported in past 24 hours

A further 258 people in the UK have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test, while 10,972 new cases were also reported.
Fewer deaths tend to be reported on Sundays, due to a reporting lag over the weekend.

Run Eat Out to Help Out again, says Deliveroo

Takeaway firm Deliveroo and 300 restaurant groups are urging the government to run Eat Out to Help Out once again when restaurants are allowed to reopen.
They said the discount scheme, which encouraged people to eat out with discounts of up to £10 per diner in August 2020, would boost demand for ailing restaurants.
They also said other urgent support was needed to stop "viable" hospitality firms failing - and called on the government to extend the VAT reduction on restaurant food until at least the end of 2021.
In a letter to the prime minister, Deliveroo and partners, including Itsu and Pizza Hut, said many restaurants were "under immense financial pressure".
"Even when they are able to reopen to customers, restrictions around mixing of households and social distancing measures mean that a return to trading at full capacity will remain dependent on the successful vaccine rollout," the letter stated.
They said the Eat Out to Help Out scheme had helped restaurants "survive" in 2020 and should be run again "when it is safe to do so".
Read more.

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 20:36

Vaccines up, cases down but hospitals remain busy

Sunday's daily coronavirus figures show 15,062,189 people have now received an initial dose of the vaccine - after 505,362 first jabs were given out on Saturday.
537,715 people have received their second inoculation.
So far the vaccination programme has been aimed at the top four priority groups , including NHS frontline staff, care home residents and workers, over-70s, and people deemed clinically extremely vulnerable.
From Monday, the vaccine rollout is being expanded to include over-65s and others considered clinically vulnerable
The latest government data also reveals that a further 258 people in the UK have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test, taking the UK death toll to 117,166.
More than 23,000 patients with coronavirus are in hospital, with nearly 3,000 on mechanical ventilators.

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 20:44

The latest global headlines

It's been a busy day with updates from around the world - so here's a reminder of the key global developments:

  • New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered the country's biggest city, Auckland, to go into lockdown after three new cases of Covid-19 were discovered there. The country has won widespread praised for its response to the pandemic
  • In Europe, Germany partially closed its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria's Tyrol region. It said both places were now classed as coronavirus "mutation areas"
  • Lebanon kicked-off its vaccination programme, with medical workers and those aged over 75 the first to receive a jab. Rwanda also began vaccinating high-risk groups
  • Japan approved its first vaccine, clearing the way for its inoculation programme to begin. It is expected to provide the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to thousands of medical workers from as early as Wednesday
  • And a member of the team investigating the origins of the pandemic said "a great deal of data" was provided to them by China. Professor John Watson told the BBC that criticism over what information was handed over did not "characterise the mission as a whole"

Closing quarantine loophole 'critical' says Scottish government

Scotland's transport secretary has said it is "absolutely critical" the UK closes a loophole as new quarantine regulations are set to come into force.
From 04:00 GMT on Monday all international arrivals in Scotland must self-isolate in hotels for 10 days.
But in England the rules only apply to arrivals from 33 "red list" countries .
The different approaches being taken by the UK and Scottish governments have raised concerns that people arriving at English airports and ferry terminals will then travel on to Scotland.
Michael Matheson has asked for Scotland-bound travellers arriving at English airports to be offered quarantine facilities in England but said "as yet, we are still waiting for the UK government to give us agreement on that".
Passengers required to self-isolate in hotels will have to pay the £1,750 cost of their managed quarantine, which could encourage people to avoid this by choosing English airports - even if Scotland is their final destination.
The Scottish Conservatives accused Scottish ministers of "stoking a row" to distract attention from the "mess" they had made of their own quarantine plans.
Labour, meanwhile, said the Scottish government was "clueless" about how it would make the new rules work.
Read more.

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Post by Kitkat Sun Feb 14 2021, 20:50

'Big ask' for NI secondary schools to open on 8 March

It would be a "big ask" to reopen secondary schools in Northern Ireland on 8 March, the chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) in NI has said.
But Dr Tom Black said he was hopeful primary schools could reopen then.
The executive has agreed that schools in Northern Ireland will remain closed at least until 8 March .
"Opening schools has an increase of between 0.3 and 0.6 in the R number, so we couldn't do that at the moment," said Dr Black, speaking on BBC NI's Sunday Politics programme.
He said the reopening of primary schools was more likely because "we know the transmission infection in younger children is much lower".
Stormont ministers will meet on Thursday to discuss whether to extend NI's current lockdown beyond 5 March or begin the process of lifting restrictions from then.
Read more.

What has happened in the UK today?

Goodbye - and thanks for joining us

And with that round-up, it’s goodbye from us.
Today’s live page has been the work of:
Julian Joyce, Victoria Lindrea, Vanessa Barford, Ella Wills and Gareth Evans.
We’ll be back with more on Monday – we hope you can join us then.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 14:15