21.05.2022

Government working on new tiered system post lockdown

Even if the lockdown is lifted before Christmas, the country could still be subject to a tougher tiered system, the effectiveness of which the government is currently reviewing.

As the UK government decides whether or not to extend a national lockdown beyond 2 December, the country has recorded another fresh spike in new coronavirus cases and the highest number of new deaths related to Covid-19 since 12 May.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson’s government will consider a temporary cut to the foreign aid budget to help repair the UK’s public finances during the pandemic.

Here’s all the coronavirus news you might have missed overnight:

UK records 598 deaths

The UK government has announced 598 new deaths from coronavirus over the latest 24-hour period, raising the total number of fatalities in the UK to 52,745.

This is the highest daily increase since 12 May, when 614 new deaths were recorded.

Separate figures from the country’s statistics agencies show the UK has now had 68,000 deaths involving coronavirus, taking into account data on deaths in recent days as well as death certificates where Covid-19 has been mentioned.

As of Tuesday’s figures, a further 20,051 Covid-19 infections had also been confirmed across the UK, which means that there have now been 1,410,732 cases since the pandemic started.

What could a new tiered system in England look like?

The government has said it will wait until next week to decide how to end the current lockdown amid a warning that a tougher tiered system will be needed to bring down Covid-19 infections.

Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, hinted on Tuesday that there could be a need for further coronavirus controls when the lockdown in England is lifted on 2 December.

A day earlier, Susan Hopkins, a director of Public Health England (PHE) and chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace, said ministers would have to look at “strengthening” the tiered system.

Tier 1 restrictions that covered huge parts of England had “very little effect”, she said, adding that even tier 2 only worked in some areas.

‘Inadequate’ tier system must be revised before England exits lockdown

The existing tiered system of Covid-19 restrictions is “inadequate” and must be urgently revised before England exits lockdown, leading medics have said.

The British Medical Association (BMA) claimed the previous system was “inconsistent” and did not contain the spread of the virus before the country was plunged into a second nationwide lockdown.

It warned the NHS will struggle to cope with caring for even the most critically ill patients if the government does not learn from its “mistakes” and ensure a coherent plan is in place.

The BMA has drawn up a blueprint of what they think the new system should look like, which includes “triggers” whereby different areas would move up and down different tiers.

Leading Chinese vaccine induces ‘robust’ immune response

A leading coronavirus vaccine developed by the Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac has shown to be capable of triggering a “robust” immune response in healthy people, according to a preliminary study.

The candidate, called CoronaVac, appears to be safe and well-tolerated, researchers said, adding that the most common reported side effect was pain at the injection site.

Antibody levels induced by the vaccine were lower than those seen in people who have been infected by and recovered from Covid-19, but scientists believe it will still be able to provide protection from the virus.

The new findings come from a phase-two trial that involved more than 700 healthy volunteers aged 18-59 years recruited in China between 16 April and 5 May.

UK scraps quarantine rules for non-UK poultry workers

The UK has cast aside its coronavirus quarantine rules for foreign poultry workers ahead of a Christmas rush on turkeys, allowing non-UK residents to travel into the country for labour – but barring them from interacting with the rest of society.

The government effectively banned all but the most essential travel under its second national lockdown rules while forcing most of those who do cross the border to self-isolate for two weeks.

However, despite a number of localised outbreaks across the country and the continent in meat packing plants, ministers have waived such restrictions when it comes to poultry farm workers ahead of Christmas.

The new policy, which came into force from 4am on 17 November, will mean those responsible for packing turkey and chicken meat will no longer be stopped from working for the two weeks after they arrive in Britain.

US jewellery designer paid Spanish businessman £21m of taxpayers’ money to secure NHS PPE

A US jewellery designer paid a Spanish businessman £21m of UK taxpayers’ money to secure protective clothing for NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new legal filing.

US court documents say Florida-based jewellery designer Michael Saiger used his “significant experience” of working with manufacturers and distributors in China to secure “a number of lucrative contracts” with the UK government to supply protective gowns and gloves to the NHS.

Mr Saiger then enlisted Spanish businessman Gabriel Gonzalez Andersson to help with the “procurement, logistics, due diligence, product sourcing and quality control” of the PPE.

Mr Andersson, who owns a company named Glezco, “did very well under this arrangement”, according to court documents, and was paid more than $28m (£21m) for the completion of two contracts.

Hundreds of firms fast-tracked for lucrative Covid contracts after tips from ministers and MPs

Hundreds of firms were fast-tracked for lucrative potential Covid-19 contracts after tips from ministers and MPs as £18bn was handed out under emergency rules, a damning report reveals today.

The way procurement and transparency rules were ripped up in the scramble for equipment – with some deals secured by Conservative allies – is sharply criticised by the spending watchdog.

Its report confirms a secret “high-priority lane” for favoured firms, with at least 144 put forward from ministers’ private offices as MPs suggested “a possible manufacturer in their constituency”.

The source of more than half of the 493 recommendations has not been identified, of which 47 secured deals – and just 55 per cent of the 1,644 contracts worth more than £25,000 awarded up to the end of July have been published.

Brexit to blow £50bn hole in UK’s economic recovery from coronavirus pandemic

Brexit could cut tens of billions of pounds from economic growth next year, hampering the UK’s recovery from the deepest downturn on record, according to a report.

The end of the coronavirus pandemic is likely to mark the beginning of a “new way of living and a new approach to life”, economists at KPMG forecast.

But they warn that adjusting to this new reality will be made harder by uncertainty and frictions at the border with the UK’s biggest trading partner.

Manufacturing sectors hardest hit by Brexit, including textiles, chemicals and electrical goods, could see output remain as much as 12 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year, KPMG said.

Bottlenecks in supply chains, border delays, additional paperwork and falling investment were all flagged as potential causes of falling production.

Boris Johnson could cut foreign aid spending to pay for Covid crisis

Boris Johnson’s government will consider a temporary cut to the foreign aid budget to help repair the UK’s public finances during the pandemic, communities secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed.

The minister did not deny reports discussions had been held between the prime minister and the chancellor about slashing the proportion of national income spent on aid from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent – despite the commitment being enshrined in law.

“The chancellor will have to think very carefully about whether this is something that he wants to deploy at this unique time,” Mr Jenrick told LBC.

“We have a great reputation for the work… so we wouldn’t want to compromise that in the long term. But I think there’s a legitimate choice for the UK as to whether in the immediate situation we find ourselves in, we want to consider our options.”

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