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Nicola Sturgeon warns she will ‘not shy away’ from England quarantine

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nicola sturgeon warns she will not shy away from england quarantine

A fresh border row erupted yesterday after Nicola Sturgeon said she would ‘not shy away’ from forcing visitors coming up from England to self-quarantine if any outbreak there were not ‘properly managed’.

In a wide-ranging interview on the BBC, the First Minister claimed support for independence was rising because Scots could see the SNP was ‘getting on with the job of autonomous decision making’.

And she sparked fury after insisting she would not hesitate to force English visitors to self-isolate if she thought it would be good for Scotland’s health.

It follows a week that saw nationalist activists at the A1 Border telling ‘the English’ to stay away.

Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC she would ‘not shy away’ from forcing visitors coming up from England to self-quarantine if any outbreak there were not ‘properly managed’

Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC she would ‘not shy away’ from forcing visitors coming up from England to self-quarantine if any outbreak there were not ‘properly managed’

Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC she would ‘not shy away’ from forcing visitors coming up from England to self-quarantine if any outbreak there were not ‘properly managed’

On Saturday, protesters on a bridge on the M74 near Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, waved blue-and-white as well as black Saltires.

Ms Sturgeon raised the quarantine issue yesterday when she appeared on the Andrew Marr Show.

She has repeatedly refused to rule out forcing those crossing the Border into Scotland to self-isolate on their arrival – prompting a political and business backlash.

Ms Sturgeon, who claimed such a move would not be political, said yesterday she was having a ‘very close look at making sure that we are not seeing the virus come in from other parts of the UK’.

She said: ‘I will take decisions the best I can to protect the health of Scotland and to do that absolutely from a public health perspective.

‘These are not decisions I will take lightly but they’re equally not decisions I will shy away from. We need to be sure that any outbreaks in England have been properly managed, just as England will want to be sure any outbreaks in Scotland are being properly managed.’

Ms Sturgeon has expressed concerns over the approach to tackling Covid-19 in England, and has claimed the prevalence of the virus is five times lower in Scotland – a claim that is disputed.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove hit out at Miss Sturgeon’s threat of ‘erecting a hard Border’ between Scotland and England. 

He told Times Radio: ‘I think it would be difficult to have a situation where people who live and work on either side of the Scotland-England Border were suddenly to find their freedom of movement curtailed. I don’t think the idea of erecting a hard Border between Scotland and England is in any way a good thing.’

The protest on the M74, like the earlier A1 Border gathering, was roundly condemned as trying to intimidate drivers. Critics said the ‘separatist protest’ was ‘in danger of distracting motorists’ and urged witnesses to call the police.

Michael Gove hit out at Miss Sturgeon’s threat of ‘erecting a hard Border’ between Scotland and England

Michael Gove hit out at Miss Sturgeon’s threat of ‘erecting a hard Border’ between Scotland and England

Michael Gove hit out at Miss Sturgeon’s threat of ‘erecting a hard Border’ between Scotland and England

The SNP last night said that the protest had not been organised by the party.

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: ‘Officers attended a short time later and the group were no longer on scene.’

Miss Sturgeon also came under fire yesterday after claiming that not talking about independence had led to a rise in support for it during the pandemic.

A poll last week reported that 54 per cent of Scots currently back separation from the UK.

Miss Sturgeon claimed: ‘At a time when I and the SNP have not been talking about independence all the time but getting on with the job of autonomous decision making and trying to take the right decisions to get the country through a crisis, support for independence appears to have increased.’

The row comes as Professor Rowland Kao, a mathematical biologist at Edinburgh University, warned the Scottish Government not to ‘pat itself on the back’ too much.

He said: ‘The virus took off in London long before anywhere in Scotland and that’s going to make the biggest difference.

‘If lockdown occurs at the same time but you’re at an earlier stage in the epidemic you’re definitely going to have an advantage.’

Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman, said Miss Sturgeon ‘continues to discuss the possibility of quarantining the rest of the UK. The First Minister is most definitely contributing to constitutional game playing in deed if not in word’.

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Boris Johnson unveils huge penalty for those breaking self-isolation rules

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boris johnson unveils huge penalty for those breaking self isolation rules

Covid sufferers could be fined up to £10,000 if they leave their house when they are meant to be self-isolating under draconian new rules being introduced by Boris Johnson.

With his Ministers locked in debate this weekend over whether to introduce a second lockdown that would devastate the economy, the Prime Minister announced that he was creating a new legal duty for people to self-isolate if they test positive for the virus or are told to do so by Test and Trace staff.

Under a ‘carrot and stick’ approach, 4 million people on low incomes who cannot work from home will receive a £500 lump sum if forced to self-isolate. 

Drinkers hit the town ahead of Boris Johnsons plans to close pubs in England. Nottingham was packed with revellers all enjoying a night out on Saturday September 19.

Drinkers hit the town ahead of Boris Johnsons plans to close pubs in England. Nottingham was packed with revellers all enjoying a night out on Saturday September 19.

Drinkers hit the town ahead of Boris Johnsons plans to close pubs in England. Nottingham was packed with revellers all enjoying a night out on Saturday September 19.

Long queues were seen with security having to step in and ask people to space out more due to zero social distancing going on. Police and community protection were doing patrols.

Long queues were seen with security having to step in and ask people to space out more due to zero social distancing going on. Police and community protection were doing patrols.

Long queues were seen with security having to step in and ask people to space out more due to zero social distancing going on. Police and community protection were doing patrols.

Party animals in Nottingham seemed to shake off concerns about the coronavirus and social distancing as they gathered for a night out on Saturday.

Party animals in Nottingham seemed to shake off concerns about the coronavirus and social distancing as they gathered for a night out on Saturday.

Party animals in Nottingham seemed to shake off concerns about the coronavirus and social distancing as they gathered for a night out on Saturday.

Covid sufferers could be fined up to £10,000 if they leave their house when they are meant to be self-isolating under draconian new rules being introduced by Boris Johnson. Pictured: People visit Stables Market in Camden, London, earlier today

Covid sufferers could be fined up to £10,000 if they leave their house when they are meant to be self-isolating under draconian new rules being introduced by Boris Johnson. Pictured: People visit Stables Market in Camden, London, earlier today

Covid sufferers could be fined up to £10,000 if they leave their house when they are meant to be self-isolating under draconian new rules being introduced by Boris Johnson. Pictured: People visit Stables Market in Camden, London, earlier today

The Prime Minister announced that he was creating a new legal duty for people to self-isolate if they test positive for the virus. Pictured: People wandering through Stables Market earlier today

The Prime Minister announced that he was creating a new legal duty for people to self-isolate if they test positive for the virus. Pictured: People wandering through Stables Market earlier today

The Prime Minister announced that he was creating a new legal duty for people to self-isolate if they test positive for the virus. Pictured: People wandering through Stables Market earlier today

A sharp rise in the number of cases over recent weeks has triggered alarm in Downing Street. Pictured: Prime Minister Boris Johnson

A sharp rise in the number of cases over recent weeks has triggered alarm in Downing Street. Pictured: Prime Minister Boris Johnson

A sharp rise in the number of cases over recent weeks has triggered alarm in Downing Street. Pictured: Prime Minister Boris Johnson

But fines for those breaching the rules, which come into effect a week tomorrow, will start at £1,000 – rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders and ‘the most egregious breaches’, which would include business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work.

A sharp rise in the number of cases over recent weeks has triggered alarm in Downing Street, with the Government’s scientific advisers pushing for a ‘circuit breaking’ second lockdown – but Ministers led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak are warning of the devastating economic impact.

A No 10 source admitted last night: ‘It’s not looking good.’

In a carefully choreographed move, the advisers, including Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, are expected to release data showing the rise in cases at a public event tomorrow.

Mr Johnson could then make a televised appearance on Tuesday to set out new measures.

The extent, and the duration, of the new rules are still being discussed by Ministers, but are likely to include a nationwide curfew on pubs and a ban on the mixing of households.

The development came as:

  • The number of daily cases reached 4,422, the highest level since early May, with scientists fearing that infections are growing between two and seven per cent each day, with a national R rate between 1.1 and 1.4;
  • Sources said that Mr Whitty was on ‘resignation watch’ over fears he may quit if Ministers resist his calls for tougher restrictions – but Mr Johnson is said to be in Whitty’s ‘grip’;
  • Supermarkets ran out of online delivery slots as the spectre of a second national lockdown prompted fears of panic buying, as Morrisons introduced limits on the number of shoppers across its 500 supermarkets for the first time since the height of the pandemic in March;
  • Hospitality industry leaders warned they faced ‘economic disaster’ from a second lockdown with one in five of their venues – rising to a third in London – still closed and 900,000 employees on the Treasury furlough scheme which runs out at the end of October;
  • No 10 reacted angrily to a ‘brutal and personal’ report in The Times claiming that Mr Johnson was miserable and short of money;
  • Mr Sunak called for tough measures to balance the Treasury’s books in the wake of the Covid crisis, including a freeze on benefits and public sector pay, as officials mocked Mr Johnson’s ‘Operation Moonshot’ plan for mass testing as ‘Operation Moonf***’;
  • Anti-vaccine protesters clashed with police in London; leading to 32 arrests;
  • A third of the people recorded to have died from Covid in July and August may actually have passed away due to other causes, researchers at Oxford University suggested;
  • The British Medical Association called on the Government to consider further tightening rules about who can meet, in the wake of the rise in daily cases.
33381162 8751339 image a 16 1600547482090

33381162 8751339 image a 16 1600547482090

Under a ‘carrot and stick’ approach, 4 million people on low incomes who cannot work from home will receive a £500 lump sum if forced to self-isolate. Pictured: People sit on a terrace enjoying the weather in London today

Under a ‘carrot and stick’ approach, 4 million people on low incomes who cannot work from home will receive a £500 lump sum if forced to self-isolate. Pictured: People sit on a terrace enjoying the weather in London today

Under a ‘carrot and stick’ approach, 4 million people on low incomes who cannot work from home will receive a £500 lump sum if forced to self-isolate. Pictured: People sit on a terrace enjoying the weather in London today

The Prime Minister said last night: ‘The best way we can fight this virus is by everyone following the rules and self-isolating if they’re at risk of passing on coronavirus. And so nobody underestimates just how important this is, new regulations will mean you are legally obliged to do so if you have the virus or have been asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

‘People who choose to ignore the rules will face significant fines. We need to do all we can to control the spread of this virus, to prevent the most vulnerable people from becoming infected, and to protect the NHS and save lives’.

Under the new rules, Test and Trace call handlers will make regular contact with those self-isolating and will pass on suspicions about those breaking the rules to local authorities and the police. 

But one Government adviser, Professor Robert Dingwall, argued that it would be premature to reintroduce tougher measures, especially as existing rules have become ‘unenforceable’ because people do not buy into the spirit of the restrictions.

Under the new rules, Test and Trace call handlers will make regular contact with those self-isolating and will pass on suspicions about those breaking the rules to local authorities and the police. Pictured: Members of the public sit outside a cafe in southwest London today

Under the new rules, Test and Trace call handlers will make regular contact with those self-isolating and will pass on suspicions about those breaking the rules to local authorities and the police. Pictured: Members of the public sit outside a cafe in southwest London today

Under the new rules, Test and Trace call handlers will make regular contact with those self-isolating and will pass on suspicions about those breaking the rules to local authorities and the police. Pictured: Members of the public sit outside a cafe in southwest London today

People in southwest London made the most of the good weather today to visit cafes and sit outside in the sun

People in southwest London made the most of the good weather today to visit cafes and sit outside in the sun

People in southwest London made the most of the good weather today to visit cafes and sit outside in the sun

‘There is a sense among some of the scientific advisers that the Government is perhaps jumping the gun,’ he said. 

‘It’s a bit premature to say that we’re on this exponential growth curve when we may just be drifting up to a stable situation at a slightly higher level than we were a few weeks ago, which you would expect with the re-opening of the economy.’

Prof Dingwall also asked whether ‘we are drifting towards a situation where people are quite comfortable with the idea that 20,000 people will die every year from Covid as we are comfortable with the idea that 20,000 people will die every year from influenza. And we shrug our shoulders and get on with our lives.

‘We need to be having more of a national conversation that starts from the lives of ordinary people and what is practical to achieve, and what the costs of these measures are.’ 

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Second wave of Covid cases in Europe is not causing deaths to spike

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second wave of covid cases in europe is not causing deaths to spike

A second wave of coronavirus cases in Europe is not causing deaths to spike.

Although cases in Spain have soared to almost 15,000 a day – leading to a new lockdown in parts of Madrid – the number of deaths remains relatively low compared with the peak in spring.

There were 240 deaths in Spain on Thursday – much lower than the 929 daily deaths reached in late March when there were a recorded 9,000 cases a day.

A graph shows how the number of deaths in Spain has not risen with the number of positive cases

A graph shows how the number of deaths in Spain has not risen with the number of positive cases

A graph shows how the number of deaths in Spain has not risen with the number of positive cases

A graph shows how the number of deaths in France has not risen with the number of positive cases

A graph shows how the number of deaths in France has not risen with the number of positive cases

A graph shows how the number of deaths in France has not risen with the number of positive cases

A graph shows how the number of deaths in Sweden has not risen with the number of positive cases

A graph shows how the number of deaths in Sweden has not risen with the number of positive cases

A graph shows how the number of deaths in Sweden has not risen with the number of positive cases

In France, another 13,498 cases were reported yesterday. But the latest 24-hour death toll – 154 on Friday – is much lower than in mid-April when there were 1,400 deaths but 5,500 confirmed cases.

The difference may be explained by an increase in testing in the countries in recent months, but could also be a sign that the virus is mainly infecting younger, healthier people who survive the illness.

Sweden, which did not impose a lockdown, continues to have a significantly lower rate of cases and deaths from Covid-19. 

On Tuesday, Sweden had its lowest number of new cases since March. In April, Covid deaths in a single day in Sweden peaked at 115. Now, some days, that figure is zero.

Reported infections have been climbing steadily across most of Europe over the past two months, with more than half of countries seeing an increase of over ten per cent in the past two weeks.

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Dishy Rishi gets tough: Chancellor plans to FREEZE benefits and state pay

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dishy rishi gets tough chancellor plans to freeze benefits and state pay

Rishi Sunak is considering a freeze on benefits and public sector pay as he tries to get a grip on the spiralling cost of the coronavirus pandemic – and boost his own political ambitions.

With unemployment projected to rise to more than four million as a result of the crisis, the Chancellor has told fellow Ministers that he is deeply concerned about the long-term damage to the Treasury’s balance sheet.

In an attempt to claw back billions of pounds in economic bailouts, Mr Sunak has discussed scrapping inflation-linked increases to both welfare payments and public sector salaries – and is trying to persuade Boris Johnson to rip up the ‘triple lock’ which protects the income of pensioners.

Rishi Sunak is considering a freeze on benefits and public sector pay as he tries to get a grip on the spiralling cost of the coronavirus pandemic – and boost his own political ambitions

Rishi Sunak is considering a freeze on benefits and public sector pay as he tries to get a grip on the spiralling cost of the coronavirus pandemic – and boost his own political ambitions

Rishi Sunak is considering a freeze on benefits and public sector pay as he tries to get a grip on the spiralling cost of the coronavirus pandemic – and boost his own political ambitions

Treasury staff are becoming increasingly outspoken about Downing Street's grip on the Covid crisis, with Boris Johnson's 'Operation Moonshot' plan to mass test ten million people a day by 2021 dismissively referred to in the department as a 'Moonf***' moneypit

Treasury staff are becoming increasingly outspoken about Downing Street's grip on the Covid crisis, with Boris Johnson's 'Operation Moonshot' plan to mass test ten million people a day by 2021 dismissively referred to in the department as a 'Moonf***' moneypit

Treasury staff are becoming increasingly outspoken about Downing Street’s grip on the Covid crisis, with Boris Johnson’s ‘Operation Moonshot’ plan to mass test ten million people a day by 2021 dismissively referred to in the department as a ‘Moonf***’ moneypit

Public sector pay rises 4.5% as private sector salaries fall 

Public sector pay has risen 4.5 per cent on average since the Covid-19 pandemic struck – while millions of private sector staff have seen their earnings tumble.

Official figures showed that, while frontline workers have on average received pay increases this year, weekly earnings in the private sector were 0.9 per cent lower in the May to July period compared with a year earlier.

The average public sector worker is now paid £563 a week – almost £30 more than the £534 received by staff at private firms. The gap was just £6 in November, Office for National Statistics data showed. 

Professor Trevor Williams, an economist at Derby University, said: ‘This is a fairness issue. People working in shops, in delivery services and in utilities are every bit as much essential workers as those in the public sector and they need to be respected. As it is, they are the lowest paid of everyone.’

The Treasury in July announced above-inflation pay rises of 2.5 per cent for both police and prison officers, 3.1 per cent for teachers and 2.8 per cent for doctors.

By contrast, private sector workers were far more likely to have been furloughed than those in the public sector, most of whom remained on full pay regardless of the amount of work done.

Even at its most generous, the Government’s furlough scheme paid only 80 per cent of wages, with employers choosing whether to cover the remaining 20 per cent themselves.

Hardest hit by pay decreases was the construction industry – where earnings fell by 7.5 per cent – followed by retail, hotels and restaurants, where pay declined 3.2 per cent on average.

The figures published by the ONS last week showed that across the whole economy pay excluding bonuses rose at 0.2 per cent annually in the period May to July.

Figures due on Friday will highlight the continuing damage to the public finances from the emergency response to the pandemic. They will cover the state of the Government’s coffers in August and are expected to show further deterioration, according to Dhaval Joshi, chief European strategist at BCA Research.

In July, national debt exceeded £2 trillion for the first time. The total was £227.6 billion higher than at the same point a year earlier.

Higher national debt levels will make it harder for Rishi Sunak to pacify MPs and businesses who want the Chancellor to extend the furlough scheme beyond October for sectors such as aviation and hospitality.

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It comes as Mr Sunak – whose public poll ratings during the pandemic have outstripped his colleagues, including the Prime Minister – has been making increasingly energetic efforts to meet ‘Red Wall’ MPs who entered Parliament in the 2019 Election to set out his political priorities. 

This has led to mutterings on the Tory backbenches about the growing strength – and independence – of Mr Sunak’s operation.

Treasury staff are becoming increasingly outspoken about Downing Street’s grip on the Covid crisis, with Boris Johnson’s ‘Operation Moonshot’ plan to mass test ten million people a day by 2021 dismissively referred to in the department as a ‘Moonf***’ moneypit.

Mr Sunak has been the most hawkish Minister in the Government over the need to reopen the economy as quickly as possible, in the face of opposition from Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Government scientific advisers, led by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.

But the Chancellor has grown concerned that the public perception of ‘Dishy Rishi’ dishing out taxpayers’ money to prop up the economy may earn him popularity in the short term but dent his long-term reputation.

A senior ministerial ally of Mr Sunak told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Rishi has been absolutely adamant in private that he will have to be able to balance the books after this is all finally over.

‘Hospitals and schools will be protected, but something has to give somewhere.’

The freeze on benefits was lifted before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, as Mr Johnson vowed that there would be no return to the austerity of David Cameron’s Government. 

But with unemployment set to rise as high as 4.5 million next year, the Department for Work and Pensions’ £176 billion budget will come under intense pressure. The public sector pay bill is also likely to be hit with a freeze – although with a possible exemption for NHS workers.

Mr Sunak has argued that the ‘triple lock’ – which decrees that the basic state pension has to rise each year in line with the highest of either the growth in prices, the growth in earnings, as measured by the average earnings index in the year to July, or 2.5 per cent – is unaffordable. 

But Mr Johnson has resisted moves to abandon it on the grounds it was a clear commitment in last year’s Election manifesto.

The Chancellor, who at 40 is 16 years younger than the Prime Minister, is regarded by backbenchers as the obvious ‘BUB’ candidate – the next leader if Boris fell under a bus tomorrow – but friends of Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, say they expect him to also run if the leadership fell vacant.

Some MPs believe Mr Johnson might step down by 2023 to give his successor time to settle in to No 10 before the 2024 Election. Suspicions about Mr Sunak’s ambitions have been increased by the amount of time he has devoted to meeting the 2019 intake of new MPs, with some from the Northern ‘Red Wall’ seats being met on multiple occasions.

Last night, a Treasury source said that the department would not be commenting on future tax or spending plans, but insisted the Government would not be returning to the era of austerity.

The source added that the meetings with the new MPs was ‘MP engagement that any Chancellor would do and is typical ahead of a fiscal event’.

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