The Government has signed new deals with German and French firms whose vaccine efforts are yielding “promising” results. This is in addition to the 100 million doses of vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and by Imperial College London.
The move comes as the Phase I findings from Oxford’s vaccine trial are set to be published, and a new protein treatment developed by researchers in Southampton has been found to “significantly reduce” Covid-19 symptoms – offering a fresh beacon of hope.
In other developments, the Department of Health has admitted that England’s NHS Test and Trace scheme breached a key data protection law, and a court case begins today to decide whether thousands of businesses should receive insurance payouts for damage caused to them by the pandemic.
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Marks & Spencer has seen its share price fall after reports that the high street giant is to axe hundreds of jobs.
The retailer is set to announce redundancy plans for hundreds of employees within days as part of a major restructure, according to Sky News.
It comes after a bloodbath on the high street in the face of coronavirus, with the likes of John Lewis, Boots and Debenhams announcing thousands of job cuts.
Total job losses across the company could potentially reach several thousand when existing restructuring plans are taken into account, sources told the broadcaster.
In May, chief executive Steve Rowe said the company would be accelerating parts of its transformation plan with a programme dubbed “Never the Same Again”.
M&S told investors that “central support costs and headcount will be examined at all levels” as part of the plan.
The retailer’s food stores continued to trade throughout the lockdown period, but trading in other part of its business, such as clothing, was significantly reduced.
It has also now reopened 118 of its cafes and said last week that it will pass VAT reductions on to its customers.
Mr Rowe warned at the latest update that some customer habits have “changed forever” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
An M&S spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on speculation and, if and when we have an announcement to make, our colleagues will be the first to know.”
Shares in the company dropped by 1.7% to 97.1p in early trading this morning.
Another set of job casualties:
The Tower of London’s historic Beefeater guards are facing job cuts after visitor revenue plummeted during lockdown.
A voluntary redundancy scheme has opened for the 37 Yeoman Warders and a compulsory scheme will likely follow, Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), which runs the Tower, said.
It is believed to be the first time they have been axed since 1485, when they were established under the reign of Henry VII.
The pandemic has forced the temporary closure of HRP’s six sites, including Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, which all rely heavily on visitor income.
Make way, Remdesivir, there’s another beacon of hope in town:
A “groundbreaking” new coronavirus treatment dramatically reduces the number of patients suffering severe symptoms, according to preliminary trial results.
The treatment, developed by Southampton-based biotech Synairgen, uses a protein called interferon beta which the body produces when it contracts a viral infection.
Covid-19 patients inhale the protein into the lungs using a nebuliser, with the aim of stimulating an immune response.
Initial findings, published today, suggest the treatment cuts the chances of a hospitalised coronavirus patient developing severe symptoms of the disease by 79 per cent.
The Health Secretary has also hyped up the Government’s new vaccine deals.
Matt Hancock tweeted: “Britain has now secured early access to 90 million potential #coronavirus vaccine doses. I want to thank all involved who’ve achieved this.
“Members of the public have a vital role to play. I urge everyone who can to back the national effort & sign up to the NHS COVID-19 vaccine research registry to help find a vaccine as soon as possible.”
Tough times over in Europe:
A marathon European Union meeting broke up after all-night talks over an unprecedented 1.85 trillion Euro (£1.68 trillion) budget and coronavirus recovery fund.
The summit of the 27 EU leaders began on Friday and was scheduled to end on Saturday. Instead, deep ideological differences between leaders forced the talks into Sunday and then through the night to Monday morning.
The weary leaders were scheduled to resume the meeting on Monday afternoon.
Schools must prepare for local lockdowns – minister
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said schools need to prepare for the possibility of local lockdowns in the wake of coronavirus.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have been clear to schools that they have to plan for a scenario where they are in a situation where we see local lockdowns, and how we have that continuity of education that flows all the way through.”
Different vaccines could be needed for different groups, specialist suggests
Referring to the Government’s various vaccine deals, Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What we are doing is identifying the most promising vaccines across the different categories, or different types of vaccine, so that we can be sure that we do have a vaccine in case one of those actually proves to be both safe and effective.
“It’s unlikely to be a single vaccine for everybody.
“We may well need different vaccines for different groups of people.”
And Business Secretary Alok Sharma wrote: “I am delighted to announce a new partnership with some of the world’s foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies.”
Downing Street has vaunted its new early access procurement of 90 million vaccine doses.
No 10 just tweeted:
The test and trace scheme is coming under increasing scrutiny amid privacy concerns:
ngland’s NHS Test and Trace scheme has broken a key data protection law, privacy campaigners have said.
The Open Rights Group (ORG) say the programme has been unlawful since it started on May 28 because it was launched without an assessment of its impact on privacy.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) argues there is no evidence data has been used in an unlawful manner.
However, the DHSC conceded that it had not conducted a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) – a requirement under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for projects processing personal data, the ORG told the BBC.
Schools to decide how to spend ‘catch-up’ funding
Schools will be able to decide how to spend new Government coronavirus “catch-up” funding, the Education Secretary has said.
Gavin Williamson told BBC Breakfast on Monday that the money equates to an extra £80,000 per secondary school and £16,000 for an “average, small” primary school.
He said: “How the schools spend that money is very much up to their discretion. But we have set out guidance as to how best to spend (it).”
Mr Williamson added: “In terms of Covid catch-up it’s about making sure teachers have ability to do an assessment of the children on where they have fallen behind, what they have missed out on, how we get the right types of interventions.”
He said schools will be able to “lay on” extra support outside of normal hours to give “special catch-up” sessions to children.
Education Secretary volunteers to be vaccine guinea pig
Gavin Williamson said he would “absolutely” take part in a coronavirus vaccine trial.
Mr Williamson told BBC Breakfast that 500,000 people would be needed to take part in clinical trials during the winter months.
It comes as the Government announced it had signed new deals which will provide more than 90 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine.
Asked if a vaccine would be ready by winter, Mr Williamson said: “The whole purpose is that they will be getting trialled out.
“Half a million people will be having the trials of these vaccines and it will be something that comes after winter.”
Asked if he would take part in a trial, Mr Williamson said: “Absolutely. As you are probably aware politicians tend to meet lots of people, so it would be a sensible thing to do.”
A quarter of childcare providers will be out of business by 2021 – Labour
Labour’s shadow education secretary said one in four childcare providers believe they will not be in business by the end of the year.
Kate Green told BBC Breakfast that the prospect of providers going out of business was “really worrying” for parents who need to find childcare when they return to work.
She said: “The problem for childcare providers is that lack of capacity means a lack of income and some of them are becoming financially unviable.
“So the consequence of less demand is that it’s possible, and indeed the childcare providers are saying this, that some of them will go out of business altogether.
“One in four think they may not still be around within the year, and that’s really worrying when parents need to find childcare places so they can go back to work and know that their children are being looked after safely.”
Parents aren’t being given enough time to arrange childcare, Labour warns
Labour’s shadow education secretary has said parents need more time to plan childcare arrangements ahead of their return to work.
Kate Green told BBC Breakfast that the Government had not given parents enough “notice” to put childcare arrangements in place during the school holidays.
She said: “I think they (parents) need, first and foremost, time to plan.
“Plan to put childcare in place because many parents of course will have been furloughed and at home looking after their children and so may have cancelled their own childcare arrangements.”
She added: “I think the problem we have got is that the Government is making grand announcements at very short notice and not really giving businesses or schools and childcare providers or families proper advance notice so they can put their necessary arrangements in place.”
Here’s more on the Government’s new vaccine deals:
A cluster of coronavirus infections has been confirmed at an NHS Test and Trace call centre in North Lanarkshire.
Measures have been brought in by the region’s health board to try and suppress the outbreak, which flared up at the Sitel site in Motherwell.
NHS Lanarkshire said it had been notified about “potentially linked cases” of Covid-19 infections in the area on Sunday.
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