PM announces four-week delay to Covid lockdown easing in England

Boris Johnson says more time needed to tackle Delta variant but signals he will not tolerate further suspension

Boris Johnson has halted the final easing of lockdown restrictions in England and ordered a four-week delay to speed up the vaccination programme, but signalled afterwards he would not tolerate any further suspension.

The prime minister said 19 July was a “terminus date” and that all restrictions on social contact could be lifted, barring the emergence of a gamechanging new variant.

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Father of missing girl killed her to silence sexual abuse claims, court told

Parents of Bernadette Walker, 17, from Peterborough, told police she had run away, says prosecutor

A teenager who disappeared last summer and whose body has never been found was murdered by her father to silence her claims he sexually abused her, a court has heard.

Bernadette Walker, a 17-year-old photography student from Peterborough, was last seen alive on 18 July last year when her father, Scott Walker, 51, collected her from his parents’ house where she had spent the night.

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UK weather: hottest day of year so far as temperature hits 28.6C

Measurement at Heathrow airport in west London beats previous high of 28.2C set earlier in June

The UK recorded its hottest day of the year so far as temperatures soared to 28.6C (83.84F) in London following a weekend of high temperatures and sunshine across the country.

The temperature reached 28.8C (83.48F) at Heathrow airport in west London on Monday, following the previous high for 2021 of 28.2C recorded in Northolt, north-west London, on 2 June, the Met Office said.

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Men who helped Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan admit their role

Michael and Peter Taylor tell Tokyo court of their part in spiriting away executive in musical instrument case

Two Americans charged with helping former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn flee Japan while he was facing accusations of financial misconduct have told a court that they took part in a scheme for him to escape the country.

Statements by Michael Taylor and his son, Peter, on the opening day of their trial in Tokyo suggested the pair don’t plan to fight charges of assisting a criminal, which carry a possible penalty of up to three years in prison.

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Public inquiry opens into Met police killing of unarmed Jermaine Baker

Bug picked up occupants of car in which Baker was shot saying they did not have a real gun, inquiry told

A public inquiry into the death of an unarmed man shot by a Metropolitan police marksman during a foiled prison break has heard that a bug in the getaway car picked up the occupants saying they did not have a real gun.

The opening day of the hearing on Monday also heard that Jermaine Baker may have been asleep shortly before armed police descended on the car and he was shot.

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Betting firms won £1.3m in stolen money from gambling addict

Andy May convicted of fraud in case that highlights need for industry reform, say campaigners

Betting firms won £1.3m in stolen money from a gambling addict without establishing where the funds came from, it has emerged, reigniting concern about whether firms do sufficient due diligence on punters who lose large sums.

Andy May, 44, was sentenced at Norwich crown court on Monday to four years for fraud after admitting siphoning funds from the clothing company where he was a senior manager earning more than £50,000 a year.

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Vladimir Putin refuses to guarantee Navalny will survive prison

In US TV interview, Russian leader deflects allegations over cyber-attacks and human rights

Vladimir Putin has refused to give any guarantee that the opposition leader Alexei Navalny will get out of prison alive, saying his continued detention was not his decision and noting the poor state of medical care in Russian jails.

In an extended and testy interview with NBC News before Putin’s Geneva summit with Joe Biden, the Russian president deflected a string of allegations about his government’s role in cyber-attacks on the west. He also fended off questions about his government’s human rights record by making counter-allegations against the US.

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Wembley park stabbings: boyfriend screamed when he found sisters’ bodies

Partner of Nicole Smallman breaks down as he tells Old Bailey of search for her and her sister Bibaa Henry

The boyfriend of one of two sisters stabbed to death in a park has described the horrifying moment he found their lifeless bodies in bushes.

Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, were allegedly attacked by Danyal Hussein, 19, who is said to have believed he had made a blood pact with a demon to win the lottery.

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Neo-Nazi ex-Ukip member jailed for 18 years for terror offences

Dean Morrice described by judge as ‘dangerous neo-Nazi’ who pumped out racist propaganda online

A former Ukip member who posted violent racist, antisemitic and Islamophobic propaganda online and collected the means for making bombs has been jailed for 18 years.

Dean Morrice had ball bearings, pipes and instructions for an improvised explosive device (IED) by the time his home was raided last year, and the judge at Kingston crown court said it was “fortunate” that police arrested him when they did.

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GB News launch gains more viewers than BBC or Sky news channels

‘Proud to be British’ new channel has backers including US Discovery and a Dubai-based fund

The launch of GB News was watched by more people than both the BBC News channel and Sky News despite several technical glitches on opening night, according to data released on Monday.

The television news channel, which claims to “lend an ear to some of Britain’s marginalised and overlooked voices”, launched at 8pm on Sunday with a mission statement delivered to camera by its chairman, Andrew Neil.

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Antony Gormley hopes Crosby statues last 1,000 years after reset

Artist personally oversaw rescue operation for his ‘industrial fossils’ after several toppled into the mud

Antony Gormley says he hopes his “iron men” on a Merseyside beach will still exist in at least 1,000 years as “industrial fossils”, after helping to excavate 10 that had been subsumed by Irish Sea mud.

One hundred cast-iron statues modelled on Gormley were installed in 2005 at Crosby beach, spread across 3km (2 miles) of the foreshore and stretching almost 1km out to sea.

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England’s Covid lockdown lifting: is a four-week delay enough?

Analysis: Even a short pause is expected to reduce the number of people going to hospital as more people are vaccinated

The roadmap out of lockdown – England’s strategy to return to a life more normal – was heavy on dates from the start. The first three steps, in March, April and May, passed so smoothly that a crucial point was easily forgotten: reopening rested on data, not dates, at least that was what scientific advisers hoped. Well, now the data has spoken.

England is not in lockdown today. Children are back at school. Cafes, restaurants and pubs are open. People can mix indoors, albeit in small numbers. Thousands can watch football matches. As the country moved from one step to another, more contact between people was expected to fuel cases, hospitalisations and even deaths. To keep them to a minimum, we have the vaccination programme.

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Delta variant of Covid spreading rapidly and detected in 74 countries

Concerns over impact on poorer countries, while richer governments try different containment measures

The Delta variant of Covid-19, first identified in India, has been detected in 74 countries and continues to spread rapidly amid fears that it is poised to become the dominant strain worldwide.

Outbreaks of the Delta variant have been confirmed in China, the US, Africa, Scandinavia and Pacific rim countries. Scientists report that it appears to be more transmissible, as well as to cause more serious illness.

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Delta variant Covid symptoms ‘include headaches, sore throat and runny nose’

Researchers warn that UK’s most widely established variant may be mistaken for milder illness

Headaches, a sore throat and a runny nose are the most common symptoms associated with the UK’s most widely established Covid variant, researchers have said.

The data, collected as part of the app-based Zoe Covid symptom study, suggests that the Delta variant first detected in India feels like a “bad cold”, according to Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, who is leading the work.

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Rishi Sunak rejects calls by businesses for furlough extension

Failure to maintain Covid support measures will push firms into bankruptcy, says Labour

Rishi Sunak has rejected business demands for an extension of the furlough scheme and business rates relief, despite a four-week delay in the easing of Covid-19 restrictions previously set for 21 June.

Business leaders and Labour said failure to maintain emergency economic support measures in line with public health restrictions would push struggling businesses into bankruptcy and risk thousands of jobs.

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Bard day’s work: what I learned from eavesdropping on RSC rehearsals

The Royal Shakespeare Company is letting the public watch the usually secret processes towards performance – from clapping games to verse sessions

The creative process normally takes place behind closed doors. But the RSC has boldly upended that idea by streaming its Open Rehearsal Project for Henry VI Part One. What this means, in practice, is that cameras are admitted for three sessions each day. At 10am we watch a half-hour company warm-up. From noon, for 90 minutes, we get to see either a class (movement, combat, verse-speaking) or the rehearsal of a scene. Then at 6pm we eavesdrop on a green-room chat, in which company members mull over progress so far. After dipping in and out for the first fortnight – and there’s still more than a week to go before a streamed performance on 23 June – I’m intrigued by how much I’ve learned.

But are open rehearsals a good idea? There was a pivotal moment when Gregory Doran – who shares direction of the project with Owen Horsley – quoted a letter he’d received from an actor who said “the rehearsal room is sacrosanct – actors must not be exposed like this”. I spoke to a veteran actor who said she too was horrified by the idea of the public witnessing the trial and error that takes place in a rehearsal room.

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Johnson maxes out his credit with Tory MPs: ‘It’s 19 July and I really mean it this time’

Fresh from his Cornish beach minibreak, PM returns to face Covid reality – and his furious backbenchers

It hardly came as a massive shock. Indeed, given the surge in coronavirus cases over the past few weeks, the surprise would have been if Boris Johnson had chosen to relax all remaining lockdown restrictions in England on 21 June. But it was unquestionably a disappointment – to the prime minister as well as several million others. Boris likes to be the feel-good man: taking on the role of the sensible purveyor of bad news rather cramps his style.

So it was a somewhat subdued Johnson – it didn’t help that he was still coming down from his G7 Cornwall high – who entered the Downing Street briefing room, flanked by Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance. There was a time in the early days of the pandemic when the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser were ingenues who, unknowingly, frequently allowed themselves to be used as human shields for government incompetence. Now they have both wised up and their presence was as much to make sure Boris didn’t have a last-minute change of heart as to do the heavy lifting of explaining the science and epidemiology.

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BBC’s review of Martin Bashir rehiring is another gift to its enemies

Analysis: The investigation of a questionable 2016 appointment raises yet more questions

If the BBC were the England football team, it would surely be known for own goals rather than missed penalties. Its review of the rehiring of Martin Bashir is another opportunity for fans to wonder why they keep offering up such gifts to the enemy.

Just three weeks after the devastating Dyson report into Bashir’s use of fake documents to secure an interview with Princess Diana in 1995, the BBC’s internal investigation cleared the corporation and its existing executives of any wrongdoing when it rehired him to report on religion some 20 years later.

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Dr Christian Jessen on how we made TV’s Embarrassing Bodies

‘We were a lifesaver for people with things – such as wonky boobs – that the NHS might only consider cosmetic’

I had done some TV before and a friend told me about a fly on the wall series that needed a male doctor. I thought: “What have I got to lose?” Originally, though, the show was called Embarrassing Illnesses, but after pressure from us doctors, the producers changed it. We shouldn’t be calling illnesses embarrassing.

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‘I don’t feel any the wiser’: uncertainty as wedding Covid rules eased

In theory, couples in England can invite full guest list from 21 June – but it is not so straightforward

After months of having to choose just 30 close relatives and friends to celebrate their nuptials with, couples in England will in theory be allowed to invite their full guest list from 21 June.

But the rules are not so straightforward: commercial venues will need to carry out a risk assessment beforehand, and the maximum number of guests will be dictated by how many socially distanced tables of six they have the space to seat. Dancing and singing are banned, unless you are in a private garden, and no more than six guests are permitted in private homes.

The news brings to an end an anxious few days for many couples planning weddings, even if for many the rule change will not enable them to throw the parties they had hoped for.

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Virtual intimacy: is the era of actual sexual contact under threat?

A survey shows that nearly half of young, single Americans haven’t had any physical intimacy with anyone since the pandemic started, and two thirds are planning on sticking with virtual intimacy post-Covid

Name: Virtual intimacy.

Age: As old as the telephone, or possibly even the postage stamp.

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Expect China to be furious at being cast as a threat to the west

Analysis: Political divergences within Nato’s 30 members – from the US to North Macedonia – may well threaten ambitions for its strategy on China

When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) was established on 4 April 1949, its mission was to counterbalance armies from the Soviet Union that were stationed in central and eastern Europe after the conclusion of the second world war.

After Emmanuel Macron, the current leader of one of its founding members, France, called it “brain-dead” in 2019, some analysts said the alliance will have to look for a new unifying mission to keep itself relevant in the new age of great power competition between the US and China.

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What went wrong with the Covid-19 response in the US? – podcast

Author and journalist Lawrence Wright has been writing about pandemics for decades. So when Covid-19 struck the US, he was ideally placed to report on the political response

At the beginning of 2020 the author Lawrence Wright published a novel in which he imagined a deadly virus outbreak that swept the globe. He couldn’t have predicted that as that book hit the shops real life was eerily mimicking his plot. As a reporter for the New Yorker, Wright had been reporting on pandemics for decades and was ideally placed to chart the spread of Covid-19.

He tells Anushka Asthana that what unfolded was to become America’s deadliest year, with half a million people lost to the virus. Inside the White House, there were experts desperately trying to influence the president to change course on key decisions. But the story of the initial Covid response, argues Wright, was one of a significant political failure.

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If British people understood taxes better, perhaps we would vote for them to be fairer | Polly Toynbee

A new website aims to explain the complex UK tax system, and is revealing the huge inequalities embedded within it

Tax is the social contract that binds citizens together. Tax is not a “burden”, but the price we pay for civilisation. Vaccines are just the latest reminder of the good that taxes do. But what if most people – even those who think themselves well-informed – know little of the tax they pay, where it goes or how fairly it falls? Democracy depends on citizens understanding what they vote for; ignorance breeds dangerous misconceptions.

TaxLab, an information service unveiled by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, is a wonder of elegant clarity, its impartial explainers revealing what everyone should know: and it’s guaranteed to surprise most people. Two years in construction, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Friends Provident Foundation funded it to create a better-informed electorate. A mouse-click shows that people in Britain pay less tax (in 2019 figures), at 33% of GDP, than the EU average of 39%, while in Denmark it’s 46%. Put in your pay and TaxLab shows exactly where you stand in the income pecking order: people wildly miscalculate, both rich and poor, placing themselves too near the middle. Young people are generous to older people, but if they understood the tax biases benefiting retired people they might be more likely to vote.

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Hospitality firms urgently need clarity from Sunak about £2.5bn of unpaid rent

Giving landlords and tenants six months to work out a deal on arrears could stop an wave of bankruptcies in the sector

If it really is a case of “one more heave” on vaccinations before restrictions on the hospitality sector can be eased, what’s the best way to ensure the country’s pubs, restaurants and nightclubs survive to take a shot at recovery?

The two most important measures may be these. First, an extension of six months to the ban on landlords evicting tenants. Second, a government-backed framework for the two sides to share the accumulated pain of unpaid rents.

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The rush to ‘go electric’ comes with a hidden cost: destructive lithium mining | Thea Riofrancos

As the world moves towards electric cars and renewable grids, demand for lithium is wreaking havoc in northern Chile

The Atacama salt flat is a majestic, high-altitude expanse of gradations of white and grey, peppered with red lagoons and ringed by towering volcanoes. It took me a moment to get my bearings on my first visit, standing on this windswept plateau of 3,000 sq km (1,200 sq miles). A vertiginous drive had taken me and two other researchers through a sandstorm, a rainstorm and the peaks and valleys of this mountainous region of northern Chile. The sun bore down on us intensely – the Atacama desert boasts the Earth’s highest levels of solar radiation, and only parts of Antarctica are drier.

I had come to the salt flat to research an emerging environmental dilemma. In order to stave off the worst of the accelerating climate crisis, we need to rapidly reduce carbon emissions. To do so, energy systems around the world must transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Lithium batteries play a key role in this transition: they power electric vehicles and store energy on renewable grids, helping to cut emissions from transportation and energy sectors. Underneath the Atacama salt flat lies most of the world’s lithium reserves; Chile currently supplies almost a quarter of the global market. But extracting lithium from this unique landscape comes at a grave environmental and social cost.

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Peonies envy: do I really love blowsy flowers or has Instagram destroyed my ability to think?

Millions of posts suggest that everyone loves big, bright blooms. So I guess I do too

On an enforced mid-walk pause as the elderly dog licks a lamppost in confusion, my husband’s eyes alight on the nearest garden. “Ugh,” he says. “That’s ugly.” A thrill of delicious horror runs through me: he is pointing at a peony. A bubblegum-pink one, sure, but a peony: it’s like saying you hate puppies, or your mum.

“You hate those?” I ask him, scandalised. “But … they’re peonies!”
He shrugs.

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The Northern Ireland protocol isn’t perfect – but the UK and EU can make it work | David Phinnemore

The wrangling over the agreement will end if both sides honour their commitment to pragmatism

Brexit, by definition, was always going to be disruptive. And the harder the Brexit, the greater the disruption.

Leaving a customs union and a single market, even if you subsequently secure a free trade agreement, means the reintroduction of customs formalities, regulatory checks and other non-tariff barriers. And if you agree with the European Union that part of the state will de facto remain in the EU’s customs territory and its internal market for goods, those frictions will be within the UK.

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