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What did Boris Johnson say in his speech and what will the roadmap out of lockdown look like?

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/boris-johnson-speech-time-today-roadmap-lockdown-b920679.html

What did Boris Johnson say in his speech and what will the roadmap out of lockdown look like?

Speaking later at a Downing Street briefing, he said “there is light ahead” as a result of the vaccination programme, adding that it was time for the jabs to start replacing curbs on liberty as a way of protecting against Covid-19.

“We cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that have separated families and loved ones for too long, threatened the livelihoods of millions, kept pupils out of school,” he said.

“Thanks to the vaccinations there is light ahead, leading us to a spring and a summer, which I think will be seasons of hope, looking and feeling incomparably better for us all.”

How did Monday play out?

After looking at data on coronavirus deaths, cases, hospital admissions and the effect of the vaccine rollout over the past week, Boris Johnson convened a virtual meeting of his Cabinet on Monday morning to discuss the road map plan.

The road map, which covers the next four months, is being published on the Government’s website.

What form has the road map taken?

Changes will be rolled out in four steps. Before each new stage, the Government will look at the Covid-related data to assess what impact each easing has had.

Mr Johnson said in his statement to parliament “a wretched year would give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better”.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi had earlier confirmed that there would be no return to regional tiers and all parts of England will relax restrictions at the same pace.

So what will reopen first in England?

Mr Johnson announced that, as an initial part of the first step of easing restrictions, all schools will be open from March 8, while outdoors after-school sports and activities can also restart.

When will we be able to see friends and family again?

Care home residents will be allowed a single visitor, with visitors required to take a lateral flow test and wear personal protective equipment.

How about getting together in groups?

This means groups of a maximum of six people from multiple households can get together outside, with a greater number allowed if the meet-up is between two households only.

The rule change is timed to coincide with the start of school holidays, allowing friends and families greater flexibility to meet outside where the risk of Covid transmission is lower.

Are any other changes expected?

Yes, from March 29, outdoor sports facilities – for example, tennis or basketball courts – will reopen.

What will happen in future steps in the road map?

From April 12 at the earliest, shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions will reopen.

Hospitality venues will be permitted to reopen but for outdoor purposes only, meaning restaurants and pubs will only be able to serve customers outside, where the rule of six or two households will apply.

The requirement for a substantial meal and curfews will both be scrapped, but customers will need to be seated when ordering food or drink.

Self-contained accommodation, such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, will also be able to reopen for overnight stays by households only.

Funerals will be able to continue with up to 30 people, while the number of people who can attend wedding receptions and wakes will rise from the current six to 15.

From May 17 at the earliest, two households or groups of up to six people will be allowed to mix indoors and limited crowds will be allowed at sporting events. Gatherings of more than 30 people in parks and gardens will remain illegal.

Meanwhile, up to six people or a larger group from up to two households could be permitted to meet indoors, but this is subject to review.

Indoor hospitality – inside pubs and restaurants – is set to open up at this point, where the rule of six or two household rule will apply, alongside entertainment venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas.

Larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues, with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full, whichever is lower, will be allowed, while outdoors it will be 4,000 people or half-full, again whichever is lower.

Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals, and other life events will be permitted, such as bar mitzvahs and christenings.

International travel rules will be reviewed on May 17 at the earliest.

From June 21 at the earliest, all remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted, larger events can go ahead and nightclubs could finally reopen. 

So what are the key dates?

March 8: Schools return and socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person permitted.

March 29: School Easter holidays begin, with larger groups of up to six people or two households allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

April 12: Shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens may reopen. Self-contained accommodation, will also be able to reopen for overnight stays by households only.

May 17: Two households or groups of up to six people may be allowed to mix indoors and crowds of up to 10,000 in the largest venues will be allowed at performances and sporting events. This is the earliest date that foreign holidays will be reviewed.

“As soon as possible” and no later than step three, when ministers committed to reviewing social-distancing guidance that has prevented loved ones from hugging for nearly a year.

June 21: When all remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted, larger events can go ahead and nightclubs could finally reopen.

How is the Government reaching its decisions over easing restrictions?

The Government will take into account the success of the vaccines rollout, whether there is evidence they are reducing hospital admissions and deaths, the level of infection rates and the presence of any new Covid variants.

Such data will be examined ahead of each step along the road map before measures are unlocked any further.

Additional reporting by PA Media

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Rishi Sunak’s Budget receives broad welcome from voters despite looming tax rises, snap opinion polls show

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/rishi-sunak-budget-tax-rises-snap-opinion-polls-b922058.html

Rishi Sunak’s Budget receives broad welcome from voters despite looming tax rises, snap opinion polls show

It will take the UK’s tax burden to its highest level since the 1960s, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Despite this, a snap poll by Opinium Research showed that 52 per cent approved of the budget, with only 12 per cent disapproving.

Budget round-up: The key points

A second poll by YouGov showed that 46 per cent supported it, with 11 per cent opposed.

Mr Sunak vowed to build a “fairer and more just” country in the memory of those who lost their lives to coronavirus, after setting out plans to begin repairing the nation’s finances after the pandemic.

The Chancellor used Wednesday’s Budget to extend the furlough scheme and Universal Credit increase as part of a £65 billion lifeline for an economy still battered by the Covid crisis.

Further analysis of the Budget will be published on Thursday, while Mr Sunak will be interviewed on ITV’s The Martin Lewis Money Show Live during a round of broadcast interviews.

The Chancellor paid tribute to “all those who have lost their lives to coronavirus” in a post-Budget press conference at Downing Street on Wednesday evening.

“To the family and friends left behind, your loss – felt most acutely in the quietest of moments – must be overwhelming,” he said.

“But I promise you we will meet this moment with the passion and energy it demands, and we will build a fairer and more just country in their memory. Our recovery begins today.”

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

The Chancellor pledged to be “honest” with the public about the problems the country faces in the wake of the pandemic, first when unveiling the Budget in the Commons and again at the Downing Street press conference.

He told the news briefing: “It is going to take us a long time to fully recover from the damage coronavirus has done to our economy.”

Mr Sunak told MPs the total package of measures to support the economy – including those already announced – amounted to £407 billion, but warned the unprecedented spending could not continue.

The point at which people begin paying income tax will increase by £70 to £12,570 in April, but will be maintained at that level until April 2026, meaning more people will become eligible to pay tax as wages increase.

Rishi Sunak’s budget has the support of voters, snap opinion polls show

/ Getty Images

The 40p rate threshold will increase by £270 to £50,270 and then be frozen, with the measures expected to rake in almost £8.2 billion in 2025-26.

Corporation tax will increase from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in 2023, raising £17.2 billion in 2025-26, although only firms with profits of £250,000 or more will pay the full rate.

The OBR expects the economy to return to its pre-Covid level by the middle of next year, six months earlier than previously forecast as part of a “swifter and more sustained” recovery, largely as a result of the vaccine rollout.

But in five years the economy will still be 3 per cent smaller than it would have been if the pandemic had not struck.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Budget was a “quick fix, papering over the cracks” which “didn’t even attempt to rebuild the foundations of our economy or to secure the country’s long-term prosperity”.

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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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