Matt Hancock defends 1% pay rise for NHS staff
In a sign that a Conservative rebellion over the government’s 1 per cent pay rise recommendation may be brewing, MP Dr Dan Poulter called for a rethink on the proposal.
Dr Poulter, who has been assisting on the NHS frontline during the pandemic, said it was “very valid” for ministers to turn their attention to paying back the £400bn borrowed during the coronavirus crisis – but that it was the “wrong time to be making this decision”.
The government, meanwhile, has finally revealed details of the new “Declaration to Travel” – less than 60 hours before an unprecedented exit permit will be required from outbound travellers.
From Monday, anyone who enters “a port of departure to travel internationally” in England without a completed form will be committing a criminal offence – even if they are legally entitled to travel.
That’s it for our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic today. Thanks for reading.
Peter Stubley6 March 2021 21:14
Sydney Mardi Gras goes ahead despite Covid
Sydney’s annual iconic Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras went ahead today, only in a different format due to coronavirus restrictions.
It was being held at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where people can socially distance in their seats rather than on the traditional route down Oxford Street.
Up to 23,000 spectators will be allowed in the stands while the performers will be on the pitch.
Organizers say this year’s parade will move away from the traditional large floats and instead focus on the outlandish pageantry of costumes, puppetry and props. Face masks will be mandatory for participants and there will be temperature checks and screening at entry points.
Meanwhile, LGBTQI rights protesters have been given the green light to march down Oxford Street in a separate event before the parade. Health officials in New South Wales state agreed to make an exception to the 500-person limit on public gatherings after organizers agreed to enhanced contact-tracing processes.
The marchers are protesting social issues including transphobia, the mandatory detention of asylum-seekers and the criminalization of sex work.
Peter Stubley6 March 2021 21:12
Police clear sunbathers in Paris
French police cleared the banks of the River Seine in central Paris over concerns people were getting too close together and not respecting coronavirus social distancing rules.
Hundreds of people were asked to leave the area – popular for strolling and picnicking on sunny days – and police officers closed the riverbanks for the rest of the day.
“Social distancing rules are not being respected,” police called out through a megaphone.
The government has resisted putting the capital and its surrounding area back under lockdown despite a rise in coronavirus cases and growing numbers of patients in the capital’s intensive care units.
The country reported 23,306 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, just slightly down from 23,507 on Friday. There were 170 new deaths, taking the total to 88,444.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex pledged to accelerate the vaccine rollout, including at weekends, in two dozen high-risk zones to stave off further restrictions after criticism over the country’s slow vaccination progress. As of Saturday, 3.581 million people have received a first jab in France.
Peter Stubley6 March 2021 20:33
Dalai Lama gets Covid jab
The Dalai Lama, the 85-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader, has been given the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine at a hospital in the north Indian hill town of Dharmsala.
After receiving the injection, he urged people to come forward, be brave and get vaccinated. “In order to prevent some serious problems, this injection is very, very helpful,” he said.
Dr G.D. Gupta of Zonal Hospital, where the shot was administered, told reporters that the Dalai Lama was observed for 30 minutes afterward. “He offered to come to the hospital like a common man to get himself vaccinated,” he said.
Ten other people who live in the Dalai Lama’s residence were also vaccinated. All eleven received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by India’s Serum Institute.
India has confirmed more than 11 million cases of the coronavirus and over 157,000 deaths. The country, which has the second-highest caseload in the world behind the US, rolled out its vaccination drive in January, starting with health care and front-line workers.
Peter Stubley6 March 2021 20:06
Newspaper deletes article comparing Covid lockdown to Anne Frank hiding from Nazis
A Canadian newspaper has deleted an article that compared living through the coronavirus pandemic to Anne Frank’s two years in hiding from the Nazis.
The Globe and Mail published the opinion piece by a contributor titled “Lessons in living from Anne Frank” on Wednesday.
Peter Stubley6 March 2021 19:42
Laurence Fox in running for London mayor
Actor-turned-activist Laurence Fox has announced he is standing for London mayor.
The leader of the “anti-woke” Reclaim Party said he would campaign for the lifting of lockdown restrictions immediately instead of waiting until June.
He also claimed he wanted to “speak up for those who are being dominated into silence” as he launched an attack on what he described as “extreme political correctness”.
Peter Stubley6 March 2021 19:17
Six million ‘hidden’ patients could flood NHS waiting lists
As many as 6 million “hidden” patients could join the queue for NHS treatment in the coming months, swelling official waiting lists to records not seen for more than a decade, health chiefs have warned.
In the wake of a Budget that offered no new investment for the health service ministers must level with the public that previous guarantees on waiting times are now impossible to meet, the head of the NHS Confederation has said.
In an interview with The Independent, Danny Mortimer said some patients should expect to wait many months, or possibly even beyond a year, for their treatment.
Peter Stubley6 March 2021 18:52
Senate passes Biden’s Covid relief bill
Applause broke out in the US Senate on Saturday afternoon as senators voted 50-49 to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion (£1.3 trillion) Covid relief package.
Not one Republican senator voted for the sweeping package, which provides direct payments to the majority of Americans and funding for states to distribute Covid-19 vaccines and ramp up testing for the coronavirus.
But Democrats remained unified in their support for the bill after the White House brokered a deal with centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that made relief payments and further economic aid more targeted than previous plans passed under former President Donald Trump.
Peter Stubley6 March 2021 18:19
Nurses could leave NHS over pay row, union warns
Large numbers of nurses who already feel undervalued could leave the profession in the wake of the escalating row over pay, it has been warned.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) suggested hard-working staff would feel that after a year spent in difficult conditions fighting coronavirus it was time to “move on”.
Ministers have been accused of snatching a 2.1 per cent pay rise, promised prior to the pandemic, from NHS workers.
Peter Stubley6 March 2021 17:33
Pubs inundated with beer garden reservations as drinkers eye end of lockdown
Pubs across England are already being inundated with drinkers wanting to book beer garden space for their big April reopening, industry insiders say.
One bar in Leeds, the Water Lane Boathouse, has reported taking 700 reservations in the space of just five hours this week.
Our north of England correspondent Colin Drury has more details:
Chiara Giordano6 March 2021 17:04