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More than 3 million Covid vaccines administered in England in five weeks

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/covid-vaccine-england-3-million-b899932.html

More than 3 million Covid vaccines administered in England in five weeks
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ore than 3 million people in England were vaccinated against coronavirus in just over a month, new figures show.

A total of 3,189,674 Covid-19 jabs were administered in the country between December 8 and January 14, according to provisional NHS England data released on Friday.

This includes first and second doses.

It marks a rise of 279,647 on Thursday’s figures, meaning almost 280,000 people were inoculated against the disease in 24 hours.

Of the latest total, 2,769,164 were first doses of the vaccine – a rise of 274,793 on Thursday’s count, while 420,510 were second doses – an increase of 4,854.

The figures come as the Government prepares to rapidly scale up its mass-vaccination programme – administering as many as half a million jabs from next week, according to reports.

Ministers are confident that the UK will have enough doses to hit Boris Johnson’s target of inoculating the 15 million most vulnerable Britons by February 15.

A senior Whitehall source told The Times that the pace of the scale-up could mean that all 32 million over-50s receive their first vaccine dose by mid to late March.

Boris Johnson: Top four priority groups will receive Covid vaccine by February 15th

The postitive developments come after the Government was sharply criticised over the distribution of vaccines across the country.

A total of 447,329 doses were administered in the Midlands between December 8 and January 10, with 387,647 people receiving at least one injection.

But London had delivered just 237,524 doses, sparking “huge concern” from mayor Sadiq Khan.

The NHS England figures for the month indicated that about half of people aged 80 and over in north-east England and Yorkshire had received their first dose.

By contrast just three in 10 people aged 80 and over in eastern England had received their first jab, with a similar proportion in London.

Downing Street defended the operation, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman telling reporters: “We’ve rolled out the vaccination programme across the country and we’ve ensured that every area receives a fair share of the vaccinations and we will continue to do that.

“You will continue to see the vaccination programme accelerate through this month and throughout February and the PM’s been clear that we will ensure there is a vaccine centre close to everybody by the end of the month.”

The North East and Yorkshire was just behind the Midlands in terms of doses administered, with 433,045.

Mr Khan responded to the discrepencies by saying: “I am hugely concerned that Londoners have received only a 10th of the vaccines that have been given across the country.

“The situation in London is critical with rates of the virus extremely high, which is why it’s so important that vulnerable Londoners are given access to the vaccine as soon as possible.”

High street pharmacies start vaccines as UK records worst day of Covid deaths

A spokesman for the NHS in London said: “We have more than 100 vaccination sites up and running across London, including the NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre in the ExCeL London, and more are opening all the time.

“London is getting its fair share of vaccine supply for the priority groups we have to vaccinate by mid-February.”

Mr Johnson has previously acknowledged that while parts of the country were doing “incredibly well” in vaccinating people it was “less good” in other areas.

Up to January 10, 1,036,605 people aged 80 or over had received a first dose, as had 960,699 under-80s.

Separate figures from NHS England show nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of first doses in England up to January 7 went to people aged 49 and under.

Just over half (53 per cent) went to people aged 80 and over.

Some 12 per cent went to people aged 50-59, six per cent to those aged 60-69, and six per cent to those aged 70-79.

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Yukon man shares delight in Covid vaccine by bhangra dancing on frozen lake in Canada

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/canada-yukon-man-covid-vaccine-bhangra-dancing-lake-b921962.html

Yukon man shares delight in Covid vaccine by bhangra dancing on frozen lake in Canada
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dancer from Canada went viral after he celebrated receiving a coronavirus vaccine by bhangra dancing on a frozen lake.

Gurdeep Pandher moved to the Yukon in northwest Canada 10 years ago and lives in a wilderness cabin just outside of Whitehorse.

The city is the first capital in Canada to offer vaccines to everyone aged 18 and older.

In an uplifting video, Mr Pandher spread joy through the traditional Indian dance.

The 43-year-old was given his first vaccine dose on Monday, which he said “went wonderfully”.

“It was easy I did not even feel it, and even after the vaccine, I felt okay,” he told the PA news agency.

“You know sometimes we see in social media, or other platforms, people are concerned about the vaccine. but I did not feel anything like that. And then I went to a frozen lake in the Yukon to dance bhangra.

“It was an awesome experience, just to celebrate it and share the joy with the world.”

Despite the cold surroundings in Yukon, Mr Pandher said the high energy movements kept him warm.

He has been sharing videos of himself dancing around the frozen Yukon to try and bring hope and happiness during the pandemic.

“I understand that it’s not easy to be positive these days when we have a lot of pressures we have this global pandemic going on,” he said.

<p>Gurdeep Pandher received his first dose of a Covid jab on Monday</p>

Gurdeep Pandher received his first dose of a Covid jab on Monday

/ PA

“It is not easy, and people have really been suffering, but I feel that still, we can find joy if we want to if we think that tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, things will be better things.

“We are going through a long dark night but there will be a beautiful sunrise eventually, that hope can bring the joy, and just looking forward to that beautiful sunrise can create positivity and it’s important to be positive. It doesn’t matter how tough, or hard our life is.”

Additional reporting by PA Media.

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Rishi Sunak dismisses claims Budget snubbed public sector workers as unions slam ‘insulting’ pay freeze

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/rishi-sunak-budget-public-sector-pay-b922042.html

Rishi Sunak dismisses claims Budget snubbed public sector workers as unions slam ‘insulting’ pay freeze

The Chancellor said that while there had been a “pause” in public-sector pay increases outside the NHS, the majority in the public sector would still see their pay increase next year.

Speaking at a post-Budget Downing Street press conference, Mr Sunak defended the move after union leaders said his silence on pay for public sector workers was “deafening” and dismissed his Budget as “an insult” for not pledging pay rises.

 Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds a press conference after delivering his Budget
Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds a press conference after delivering his Budget / Getty Images

Mr Sunak said: “Given that and given the very obviously difficult fiscal situation that we face, I thought for those reasons, and also to try to protect those public-sector jobs, it was reasonable to take a more targeted approach to public-sector pay this year.”

But Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said the Chancellor’s Budget on Wednesday was an “insult” to public sector workers.

“When it comes down to it, the big ‘love-in’ and ‘immense praise’ has amounted to nothing for the workers that carried us through the pandemic. Nor has he changed the super-spreader policy of poverty sick pay that prevents people from self-isolating.

“This Budget is an insult to the millions of NHS, schools, care, local government workers who have seen us through this crisis.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “After a year of key workers going above and beyond, it’s an insult that the Chancellor announced no new support for our hard-pressed NHS or public services and no guarantee of a decent pay rise for all our public sector key workers.”

Budget round-up: The key points

The Chancellor said the measures he had announced were benefiting people in “every corner” of the country, referring to the sites for the eight freeports in England which were revealed as part of the Budget.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “In this time of crisis, workers and communities are desperate for action on a scale that meets this enormous moment and takes us to a fairer future.

“Instead, the Chancellor plundered his back catalogue to pull out a sketchy policy, a return of freeports, a failed experiment of the last decades where the only winners are tax avoiders and bad bosses.

“Freeports are sinkholes, draining decent jobs and wages away from our communities.”

Meanwhile Dame Donna Kinnair, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The fact the Chancellor has not set aside money in this Budget for a significant pay rise for nursing staff is a worrying sign of his intention to give a very low pay award this summer.

“Nursing staff are worse off than they were a decade ago. If that pay rise is low, it won’t be enough to stave off a potential exodus of exhausted NHS nursing staff at the end of the pandemic – and NHS services will find safe patient care even harder to deliver.”

Rishi Sunak poses with the Budget Box

/ AFP via Getty Images

Mr Sunak’s admitted to eye-watering borrowing of nearly £600 billion over just two years. In a Budget shaped by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chancellor gave away another £65 billion in lifelines to struggling companies, hospitality venues and workers.

But he also answered the burning question of how and when the massive sums spent will start to be repaid. “It is going to be the work of many governments, over many decades, to pay it back,” answered the Chancellor.

His second Budget package gave with one hand – extending the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, along with furloughing and the stamp duty holiday – all funded with borrowing of £600 billion over two years.

He shocked business leaders with a jump in Corporation Tax from 19p to 25p in the Pound in 2023, raising a projected £16 billion a year from profits and killing off the notion of Brexit Britain as a low-tax Singapore-style offshore haven.

Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak announced rise in income and corporate tax

For ordinary taxpayers, Mr Sunak announced a four-year freeze in the tax-free personal allowance and the 40p higher rate tax threshold, which will suck millions of people into paying more tax.

To comply with the Conservative election manifesto, there will be no hike in tax rates and a one-off rise in the thresholds this year.

The Chancellor was given a warm but quiet cheer from Tory MPs when he rose in a Commons after delivering the Budget. He pledged: “We will continue doing whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses through this moment of crisis.

“Second, once we are on the way to recovery, we will need to begin fixing the public finances – and I want to be honest today about our plans to do that. And, third, in today’s Budget we begin the work of building our future economy.”

But in his response, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused him of just “a quick-fix, papering over the cracks”.

Sir Keir went on: “The party opposite spent a decade weakening the foundations of our economy, now they pretend they can rebuild it.”

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Duke of Edinburgh is ‘slightly improving’ in hospital, Camilla says

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/prince-philip-duke-improving-hospital-camilla-b921980.html

Duke of Edinburgh is ‘slightly improving’ in hospital, Camilla says
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he Duke of Edinburgh is “slightly improving” but he “hurts at moments”, the Duchess of Cornwall has said.

On a visit to south London, Camilla said of her 99-year-old father-in-law: “We keep our fingers crossed.”

Philip, the nation’s longest-serving consort, has spent 15 nights in hospital – his longest ever stay.

He is undergoing testing for a pre-existing heart condition and treatment for an infection after being moved by ambulance to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London on Monday.

The hospital move heightened concerns for the duke, who will turn 100 in June.

Camilla’s comments were reported by broadcasters covering her engagement on Wednesday morning at a community vaccination centre in Croydon.

Philip was said to be “comfortable” after his arrival at St Bartholomew’s, with Buckingham Palace saying “doctors will continue to treat him for an infection, as well as undertake testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition”.

The Palace added that the duke was responding to treatment, but was expected to remain in hospital until at least the end of the week.

<p>The Duchess of Cornwall speaks with staff during a visit to the Community Vaccination Centre at St Paul's Church in Croydon</p>

The Duchess of Cornwall speaks with staff during a visit to the Community Vaccination Centre at St Paul’s Church in Croydon

/ Getty Images

He was initially admitted to the private King Edward VII’s Hospital on February 16 as a precautionary measure after feeling unwell.

Four days later, he was visited by his eldest son the Prince of Wales, who made a 200-mile round trip and stayed for around 30 minutes.

Philip has spent most of lockdown residing at Windsor Castle with the Queen for their safety, alongside a reduced household of staff dubbed HMS Bubble.

The Queen and the duke, who have been married for 73 years, received their first Covid-19 jabs in January.

Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cornwall said she suffered no side effects from her Covid-19 jab, and it was painless even though she dislikes needles.

Camilla, who had her first coronavirus jab last month, like the Prince of Wales, spoke to NHS staff, administrators and volunteer marshals, and met members of the public receiving their injections.

The duchess, who was wearing a medical face mask and a pink tweed Anna Valentine coat, chatted to Dr Agnelo Fernandes, a GP leading the vaccination process, about her own vaccination.

“No side effects and it didn’t hurt and I’m not a lover of needles,” Camilla remarked.

She joked to staff: “Have you had anyone sitting down and then legging it out of the room yet? No? Good.”

The duchess asked: “Are you having a lot of numbers coming in? What are your main problems?”

Told misinformation was an obstacle, Camilla replied: “Social media is an issue, isn’t it?

“The misinformation put out there – it just helps talking to your friends and colleagues about how easy it was.

“It may encourage them. It’s good to see the community leading by example.”

“We have a high degree of hesitancy as well. But despite that we have been doing really well.”

He said they were dealing with a rate of about 30% of people who did not want to take the vaccine.

“We are working on different ways of combating this, with community leaders and faith leaders, giving them information to make an informed choice,” Dr Fernandes added.

“There is so much disinformation and conspiracy theories. I am on several BAME groups and what is out there, particularly on social media, is just shocking.”

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What did Rishi Sunak say in his Budget 2021? Key points explained

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/budget-rishi-sunak-chancellor-key-points-b921991.html

What did Rishi Sunak say in his Budget 2021? Key points explained
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ishi Sunak has set out plans to freeze income tax thresholds and increase corporation tax as he begins the process of repairing the nation’s finances following the coronavirus crisis.

The Chancellor also used his Budget to set out a £65 billion spending package this year and next year to support the economy as it recovers from the pandemic.

Here are the key points from his 51-minute House of Commons address:

The economy

– The Chancellor said coronavirus has caused one of the “largest, most comprehensive and sustained economic shocks this country has ever faced”.

– Borrowing is forecast to be £234 billion next year – 10.3% of gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the size of the economy – but will fall to 4.5% of GDP in 2022-23, 3.5% in 2023-24, then 2.9% and 2.8% in the following two years.

– The measures to support the economy amounted to £65 billion over this year and next, taking the total Government support to £407 billion over that period, Mr Sunak said.

<p> Rates of income tax, national insurance and VAT kept at the same level but personal tax thresholds will be frozen from April 2026.</p>

Rates of income tax, national insurance and VAT kept at the same level but personal tax thresholds will be frozen from April 2026.

/ PRU/AFP via Getty Images

Coronavirus support

– The furlough scheme will be extended to the end of September, as will support for the self-employed.

– The Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown.

– A new restart grant will start in April to help businesses reopen, with £5 billion of funding.

– The Chancellor confirmed an additional £1.6 billion for the coronavirus vaccine rollout and to “improve future preparedness”.

– The business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will continue until the end of June, and will be discounted by two thirds for the remaining nine months of the year.

– The 5% reduced rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector will be extended for six months to the end of September, with an interim rate of 12.5% for another six months after that.

– The stamp duty cut will continue until the end of June, with the nil rate band set at £250,000 – double its standard level – until the end of September.

A new restart grant will start in April to help businesses reopen, with £5 billion of funding.

/ AFP via Getty Images

Taxation

– The rate of corporation tax, paid on company profits, will increase to 25% in April 2023 – but small businesses with profits of £50,000 or less will continue to be taxed at 19%.

– There will be a “super deduction” for companies when they invest, reducing their tax bill by 130% of the cost for the next two years.

– Rates of income tax, national insurance and VAT kept at the same level but personal tax thresholds will be frozen from April 2026.

Other announcements

– The minimum wage will increase to £8.91 an hour from April.

– On apprenticeships, the Government is to double the incentive payments given to businesses to £3,000 for all new hires, of any age.

– All alcohol duties are frozen for the second year in a row and the planned increase in fuel duty is also cancelled.

– A “mortgage guarantee” was announced, with lenders who provide mortgages to homebuyers who can only afford a 5% deposit benefitting from a Government guarantee on those mortgages.

– The UK Infrastructure Bank will be located in Leeds, while the Treasury is to establish a new economic campus in Darlington, the Chancellor revealed.

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Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak announces income and corporation tax hikes amid record borrowing of nearly £600bn

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/rishi-sunak-budget-2021-latest-news-updates-reaction-b921967.html

Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak announces income and corporation tax hikes amid record borrowing of nearly £600bn
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ishi Sunak announced tax raids on families and big business today – after admitting to eye-watering borrowing of nearly £600 billion over just two years.

But he also answered the burning question of how and when the massive sums spent will start to be repaid. “It is going to be the work of many governments, over many decades, to pay it back,” answered the Chancellor.

His second Budget package gave with one hand – extending the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, along with furloughing and the stamp duty holiday – all funded with eye-watering borrowing of £600 billion over two years.

But then it started clawing back money with the other hand, shocking business leaders with a jump in Corporation Tax from 19p to 25p in the Pound in 2023, raising a projected £16 billion a year from profits and killing off the notion of Brexit Britain as a low-tax Singapore-style offshore haven.

For ordinary taxpayers, Mr Sunak took a more stealthy approach to increasing his tax take, announcing a four-year freeze in the tax-free personal allowance and the 40p higher rate tax threshold, which will suck millions of people into paying more tax.  To comply with the Conservative election manifesto, there will be no hike in tax rates and a one-off rise in the thresholds this year.

The Chancellor was given a warm but quiet cheer from Tory MPs when he rose in a Commons that was relatively quiet due to social distancing.

He pledged: “We will continue doing whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses through this moment of crisis.

“Second, once we are on the way to recovery, we will need to begin fixing the public finances – and I want to be honest today about our plans to do that.

“And, third, in today’s Budget we begin the work of building our future economy.”

Mr Sunak’s announcements were overshadowed and shaped by new figures spelling out the jaw-dropping cost to Covid-19 to the public finances.

The Government will borrow £355 billion this year and £243 billion next year, and Mr Sunak warned it will take “decades” to repay.

Overall British taxation levels will rise to the highest levels seen since Roy Jenkins was Chancellor of a Labour government in the 1960s.

“The amount we’ve borrowed is only comparable with the amount we borrowed during the two world wars,” he said. “It is going to be the work of many governments, over many decades, to pay it back.”

The Government has spent an astonishing £352 billion on help so far, rising to £407 billion after the new measures, he said.

“Coronavirus has caused one of the largest, most comprehensive and sustained economic shocks this country has ever faced,” he told MPs.

“And, by any objective analysis, this Government has delivered one of the largest, most comprehensive and sustained responses this country has ever seen.”

Sunak: Stamp duty cut to continue until end of June

* Help for families and firms:  Mr Sunak began his speech by drawing attention to the Covid rescue measures. “I said I would do whatever it takes; I have done; and I will do,” he said. He then extended the stamp duty holiday as well as furloughing and the £20 Universal Credit boost until the end of September, meaning help will continue after the June 21 date when the economy is due to reopen in the roadmap.  He also revealed extra help for 600,000 self-employed people, who will get grants of up to £7,500.

* Income tax:  Direct taxation will rise in a series of stealth taxes, starting with a freeze on thresholds at which people start paying the basic and higher rates of income tax. These will rise to £12,570 and £50,270, but then stay at that level until 2026.  It means millions will pay more tax without rates having to go up. “We are not hiding it,” said Mr Sunak, who called it “progressive and fair”.  In another stealth raid, he froze inheritance tax thresholds and the pensions lifetime allowance, meaning people who save more could be liable to penal charges.

* Corporation tax: The hike in corporation tax, paid on the profits of major firms, was a surprise as most experts had expected a gradual rise.  Small businesses will be exempt from it. One top economist expressed shock at the “risky” scale of the corporation rise hike, from 19p to 25p.  “That’s a huge increase in rate of corporation tax,” tweeted Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. “Right at top end of expectations. Extraordinary reversal of longstanding policy. Risky.”

Keir Starmer: ‘I’m sure this Budget will look better on Instagram’

*  Investment:  A series of incentives for investment were promised to sweeten the tax pill for business.  More generous tax relief will go to firms that invest in new plant, in what the Chancellor called a “pro-business tax regime”, He told MPs: “While many businesses are struggling, others have been able to build up significant cash reserves. We need to unlock that investment, we need an investment-led recovery.”  Under a “super deduction”, for the next two years companies can reduce their tax bill by investing. The OBR believed it could boost business investment by 10 per cent, or around £20 billion extra per year, Mr Sunak said.

* Freeports:  Eight new English Freeports, which will boost jobs with tax advantages, will be based in East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe & Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside.

* £5 billion restart fund for cash grants of up to £18,000 for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses.

* Extension of the Film & TV Production Restart scheme in the UK, with an additional £300 million to support theatres, museums and other cultural organisations to re-open.

* Extension to the VAT cut to five per cent for hospitality, accommodation and attractions across the UK until the end of September, followed by a 12.5 per cent rate for a further six months until 31 March 2022.

* Business rate holidays at 100 per cent for eligible firms in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors continue until June and then being scaled back for those that can re-open.

* In a landmark reform, Mr Sunak also announced that the Bank of England would be given a new role in ensuring the UK meets the “net zero” target by 2050.

Having unveiled a string of measures, the Chancellor added:  “Underpinning all of this will be an updated monetary policy remit for the Bank of England. It reaffirms their 2% inflation target. But now, it will also reflect the importance of environmental sustainability and the transition to net zero.”

Britain is hosting the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow in the autumn, amid warnings that the world is running out of time to tackle global warming

750,000 eligible businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will benefit from business rates relief.

Chancellor confirms extension of furlough scheme

* Extending the apprenticeship hiring scheme to September 2021, with an increase of payment to £3,000

* An extra £19 million to tackle domestic abuse in England and Wales, with more support for homeless women and a programme to deter re-offending.

Spelling out his vision of the future, Mr Sunak rhapsodised to MPs: “I see innovative, fast-growing businesses hiring local people into decent, well-paid, green jobs. I see people designing, manufacturing and exporting incredible new products and services. I see people putting down roots in places they are proud to call home. I see a people optimistic and ambitious for their future. That, Madam Deputy Speaker, is the future economy of this country.”

Forecasts by the OBR show the economy will grow more slowly this year than hoped – but then bounce back in 2022 with bumper growth of over seven per cent.

Mr Sunak released a picture of himself raising his scarlet box with Treasury ministers socially distanced down the staircase at No 11.

After his speech, he was due to hold a rare Budget Day news conference at 10 Downing Street, before being grilled again by Conservative MPs in private.

Earlier the Chancellor briefed the full Cabinet on his package, which he called “Protecting the jobs and livelihoods of the British people”.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Chancellor said that, while we face challenging times, we will rise to that challenge and we can be optimistic about the recovery.

“He said the Budget will begin the work of building our future economy.”

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