PLANS to give £500 to anybody testing positive for coronavirus have sparked a furious backlash.
Government polling found just 17 per cent of those with coronavirus symptoms are getting a test, with ministers fearing many are avoiding coming forward because they cannot afford time off work.
It is understood Matt Hancock's Department of Health is pushing for the cash payouts in the hope it will increase the number of covid sufferers coming forward - but the move has sparked widespread anger.
Not only is the policy expected to cost the UK half a billion every week, it also appears to caught Downing Street off guard as they warned it risked creating "perverse incentives" for catching coronavirus,
The plan simply is "not going to happen", Treasury officials told the Daily Mail, with one quoted as saying: "Just bonkers. The whole country will suddenly develop a dry cough".
Follow the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis in our live blog below.
FESTIVAL SEASON 'STILL POSSIBLE DESPITE THE CANCELLATION OF GLASTONBURY'
A festival season is "still possible" this year despite the cancellation of Glastonbury, according to the chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals.
Paul Reed told BBC Breakfast that if the Government ensures organisers of music events can access insurance there is hope that smaller festivals can still go ahead.
On Thursday, Glastonbury organisers Michael and Emily Eavis announced that the festival has been cancelled for the second year in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Reed said: "I will say about Glastonbury that it is a different beast to most festivals and most likely ran out of time due to the size and complexity of the event.
"For most festivals the cut-off point is more likely the end of March."
He said we are at a "serious point in the pandemic and festivals only want to return when it is safe to do so".
GOVERNMENT BORROWING SOARED NEARLY SIXFOLD TO £34.1BN IN DECEMBER
Government borrowing reached £34.1 billion last month, bringing the country's debt to a new all-time high, official figures show.
Public sector bodies borrowed 2.5 billion more in December than they had a month earlier, and £28.2 billion more than the same period last year, a nearly six-fold increase.
November had been the third-highest month for Government borrowing since records began in 1993, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.
December's figure has now overtaken this, to make last month the third-highest on record, the ONS said.
It means that the public sector has now borrowed £270.8 billion since the beginning of the financial year in April. This is £212.7 billion more than in the same period a year earlier.
Even in the financial year starting 2009, in the wake of the economic crash, borrowing only hit £158 billion.
GET A ROOM
MPs are to discuss whether all arrivals entering the UK should be forced to quarantine at a hotel at their own expense, with talks to begin on Monday.
The new restrictions follow huge crowds and queues at Heathrow Airport this week due to the now-mandatory negative Covid test to enter the country.
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both support further travel restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but the Treasury and Department for Transport are reportedly pushing back against it, according to the Mail Online.
The new plans, similar to Australia and New Zealand, would force all arrivals to quarantine at a hotel near the airport, spending 10 days there at their cost.
A source said Government officials were "engaging" hotel groups on the possibility of using them to quarantine new arrivals.
A mum suffering from a severe mouth abscess accidentally killed herself by overdosing on painkillers after refusing to go the dentist over Covid fears.
Alexandria Pierce-Baddeley, 29, was worried about getting the virus because of her previous medical conditions - so she instead treated the painful abscess herself with beta blockers, turmeric paste and white wine.
She was found dead on her bed at home in Winsford, Cheshire on May 1 by her mum after she inadvertently took a fatal level of Proponal tablets mixed with large quantity of alcohol.
It was revealed during her final hours the teaching assistant had texted a photograph of her medication to her ex-boyfriend saying: '' In 20 minutes I won't be able to move.''
Police investigated the death as a possible suicide - but the theory was later ruled out.
TRAGIC COVID COP
A Met Police officer has died of Covid-19 despite shielding at home.
PC Michael Warren, 37, tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week and leaves behind his partner, daughter, eight, and five-year-old son.
The dad-of-two who was part of the Met’s Territorial Support Group died on Tuesday morning.
He was classified as vulnerable during the pandemic and had been shielding at home.
BORDER OF NOTICE
Britain's borders could be shut completely to overseas travel under draconian plans being considered by ministers to keep out mutant Coronavirus strains.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said harsher measures at the frontiers, which would lock out all non-Brits, are "under review".
He said there is concern within Government about the number of variations of the virus developing around the world that could prove to be vaccine-resistant.
Pressed on whether a full border closure was possible, he replied: "We always keep these things under review and it’s been considered.
"There is concern at the moment about the number of mutant strains that there are.
"So different strains of this coronavirus are cropping up in other countries, concerns that there’s a risk that one day there will be a strain that might be able to evade the vaccine."
SERVING MET POLICE OFFICER DIES AFTER TESTING POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
A serving Metropolitan Police officer has died after testing positive for Covid-19, the force has announced.
Pc Michael Warren, 37, joined the Met in 2005 and had served as a Territorial Support Group (TSG) officer for the last four years.
Pc Warren was classed as "vulnerable" and had been shielding at home, working remotely to help his team, the Met said.
He died on Tuesday morning after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier this week, leaving his parents Pauline and Alan, his partner Vicky and his daughter Eden, eight, and son Joseph, five.
Pc Warren is believed to be the first serving Met officer to have died after being diagnosed with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said earlier this week that three other colleagues, including a police community support officer, have also died.
Met Taskforce Chief Superintendent Karen Findlay said: "Mike was a lovely, genuine and hard-working police officer.
RETAIL SALES IN 2020 FALL AT FASTEST LEVEL IN 23 YEARS - ONS
UK retail sales volumes increased in December as stores were allowed to reopen briefly, following the end of the second national lockdown in England, new figures show.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales volumes rose 0.3% last month compared with November.
The year-on-year growth rate in the volume of retail sales increased by 2.9% when compared with December 2019.
However, the ONS said estimates of quantity bought in 2020 fell by 1.9% in the largest year-on-year fall since records began in 1997.
Food stores bucked the trend of 2020 with growth of 4.3%, as shoppers continued heading to supermarkets, which remained open as "essential" retailers throughout restrictions.
Many also benefitted from the closure of the hospitality sector, with upticks in alcohol sales.
POLICE FEDERATION CHAIRMAN 'PLEADS' TO PRIORITISE POLICE OFFICERS FOR VACCINATIONS
Police Federation of England and Wales chairman John Apter said he is "pleading" with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to prioritise police officers for coronavirus vaccinations.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mr Apter said: "Let me just put this into context: this is not about elbowing our way to the front of the queue.
"The most vulnerable in society must be vaccinated, and colleagues from the NHS, but my colleagues are vulnerable. They can't mitigate this virus, they are not immune from this virus.
"Tragically, in this last week alone, we've lost colleagues to this virus. Police officers are up close and personal with people, they have to go hands-on, they have to make arrests.
"I am pleading with the vaccination committee to look at my colleagues, as well as teachers and firefighters ... my colleagues are at risk.
"Also we're having more and more of them who are off sick through Covid, or they're having to self-isolate, so there's fewer of them available to deal with the pressures that we have so it is a real, real issue for us."
‘Super Covid’ strains in the US could increase infection rates to such a degree that even vaccinating all Americans won’t stop the coronavirus, a new study warns.
Highly infectious variants detected in the US, factored in with the efficacy of vaccines, result in a reproduction rate above zero that means every Covid-19 case will lead to another, according to a University of East Anglia analysis.
The pandemic would be “stable” if the virus reproduction rate was at one, and waning if the figure fell below zero, The Daily Mail reported on Thursday.
Given Pfizer’s vaccine is 95 percent effective, more than 80 percent of the population would need to take the jab to drive the reproduction figure of a Covid-19 variant below zero, researchers claim.
The study concludes that the Pfizer vaccine and the 94 percent effective Moderna shot would not push the reproduction number to zero.
British tourists won’t be allowed to holiday in Spain until the end of summer, when the majority of the population has been vaccinated, the Prime Minister has declared.
The news comes as the Spanish Health Ministry reported 41,576 new coronavirus cases, the highest number registered in a 24-hour period since the virus first broke out.
Speaking at the 113th meeting of the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organisation held in Madrid yesterday, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said “Only mass vaccination will open the way to the normality we want.”
Once 70 per cent of Spain’s population had been vaccinated, Mr Sanchez said the country would “progressively” prepare to welcome international tourists.
The Tokyo Olympics will be CANCELLED, according to reports.
The Times quotes a senior member from the ruling Japanese government who says the aim is now to secure the next available Games in 2032.
The coronavirus pandemic already forced the event back a year, but the unnamed official believes Tokyo 2021 is also doomed.
According to the report, the aim now is to 'find a face-saving way of announcing the cancellation' that allows the capital to host at a later date.
The source is quoted as saying: “No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it’s too difficult.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
POLICE SLAM PARTY-GOERS FOR BEING 'SELFISH'
Police chief Martin Hewitt said those people organising parties were "selfishly putting lies at risk" and police would no longer "waste time trying to reason with them".
He said at Thursday's No10 press conference: "We have repeatedly made it clear that house parties and other large gatherings shouldn't be happening.
"They're dangerous, irresponsible and totally unacceptable and I hope that the likelihood of an increased fine acts as a disincentive for those people who are thinking of attending or organising such events."
GHOULS BREAK COVID RULES TO TAKE SICK SELFIES
North Wales Police have slammed ghouls who broke Covid travel rules and drove for miles to gawp and take sick selfies amid the floods chaos which has driven terrified families from their homes.
Houses have been evacuated and people have been sheltering in emergency rest centres after a storm-swollen river burst its banks in Ruthin.
Police and other emergency workers were 'appalled' to see people arriving in cars and taking out camera phones.
Some were even grinning as they took sick selfies with the flashing blue light chaos in the background.
A police spokesman said "Regrettably, people who do not live locally are driving to the area to 'see the floods'.
"Not only is this in contravention of the Covid travel restrictions, it is putting lives at risk.
"Emergency services are currently extremely busy trying to keep the public safe across the region.
"Please do not stretch our resources by adding to the problem."
DEBT CRISIS FOR CASH-STRAPPED BRITS DURING PANDEMIC
More than eight million Brits have been forced to borrow cash because of the Covid crisis, shock figures reveal.
Self-employed workers have been hit hardest by the pandemic, the Office for National Statistics said.
At the end of June last year, 5.6million people — 10.8 per cent of adults in the UK — were having to borrow to get by.
Six months later, at the end of December, this had soared to 8.4million, or 17.4 per cent of the adult population.
BRITS BANNED FROM SPAIN TILL END OF SUMMER
British tourists are banned from holidaying in Spain until the end of summer - when most of the population has been vaccinated, the country's Prime Minister has announced.
Once 70 per cent of Spain’s population had been vaccinated, Pedro Sanchez said the country would “progressively” welcome international visitors.
With Spain one of the leading countries in Europe in the jab rollout, it was expected the vaccination target would be met by the end of the 2021 summer season, Euro Weekly News reported.
The Spanish Health Ministry reported 41,576 new coronavirus cases, the highest number registered in a 24-hour period since the virus first broke out.
£500 CASH INJECTION TO ENCOURAGE MORE COVID TESTS
Everyone in England with coronavirus could soon be given £500 by the government as it ramps up plans to get more people tested.
The proposed cash injections would cost up to £453million a week, but ministers hope it would encourage more people to get swabbed for the bug.
It comes after a government polling found just 17 per cent of people with coronavirus symptoms are coming forward for a test.
Ministers fear the low turn out is down to people knowing they will not be able to work if they test positive, reports The Guardian.
As it stands, only those on a low income who cannot work from home and receive one of seven means-tested benefits are eligible for the current £500 test-and-trace support payment (TTSP).
CONFUSION OVER SCHOOLS REOPENING IN ENGLAND
Downing Street on Thursday refused to commit to reopening England's schools by Easter, after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he "certainly hoped" that would be the case.
The Prime Minister, when asked whether the lockdown would continue until the summer, said it was "too early to say when we'll be able to lift some of the restrictions".
He also pointed out that there were "unquestionably going to be a tough few weeks ahead".
JAB PRIDE AT MASS INOCULATION CENTRE
Delighted Jabs Army volunteer Rajan Bindra’s elderly mum was one of the first to have the vaccine at Britain’s latest mass inoculation centre.
Rajan, 44, was on car park duty at Salt Hill Activity Centre in Slough, Berks, which yesterday became the country’s 17th mass jab hub.
He said: “I was really proud that my 80-year-old mum Surindira was one of the first people to get their vaccine here.
“It’s been amazing to meet the people who haven’t been out of their homes and the difference it makes for them.
"It’s very rewarding being here despite the cold. Those of us who are already volunteering can’t wait to come back.”
DR FAUCI FEARED REPERCUSSIONS OVER COVID FROM TRUMP
Dr Anthony Fauci has taken a thinly veiled swipe at Donald Trump during his first Covid press briefing alongside President Joe Biden.
America’s top infectious disease expert said: "One of the things that was very clear... when I was with the president… is that… we're going be completely transparent, open, and honest."
“If things go wrong, not point fingers, but correct them,” he added.
“Everything we do will be based on science and evidence. I mean that was literally a conversation I had 15 minutes ago with the president. And he has said that multiple times."
PRITI PATEL REFUSES TO RULE OUT STRICTER MEASURES
Brits will be fined £800 for their first offence, rising to £1,600 for their second, £3,200 for their third, up to a maximum of £6,400 if they are caught at four or more house parties.
The new, tougher fines were unveiled at Thursday's No10 press conference by Home Secretary Priti Patel.
She announced the tough crackdown on ravers holding banned parties during England's third lockdown.
NEW DRUG SLASHES RISK OF COVID IN CARE HOMES BY 80%
A preventative drug could cut the risk of care home residents catching Covid by 80 per cent, according to a new study.
The US research found using bamlanivimab helped stop the disease getting worse for already infected seniors.
Developed by Eli Lilly, the drug - which works to stop the virus from being able to infect human cells - reduced patients picking up the bug and later ending up in hospital.
Of the 299 residents who initially tested negative, only four who hadn’t been given the preventative drug later died from coronavirus.
And out of 41 elderly people who tested positive for Covid and then received a shot of bamlanivimab, there were no deaths reported.
TANZANIA AND DRC ADDED TO BAN LIST AS UK ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK SOUTH AFRICA VARIANT
Arrivals from Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo are banned as the UK tries to prevent the South African Covid-19 variant from taking hold.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the ban on entering the country from the two African nations, which will not apply to returning British and Irish nationals and those with residency rights, will come into force from 4am on Friday.
The decision comes after UK's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned this week that coronavirus variants were a "real issue of concern", due to suggestions the vaccines currently being rolled out may be less effective against the South African variant, known as 501Y.V2.
Since December 23, entry has been banned for people arriving from South Africa, apart from British nationals or residents who have been subject to an isolation period.
On January 9, the same rules were applied to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola, as well as Seychelles and Mauritius.
'TOO EARLY' TO TALK ABOUT LIFTING RESTRICTIONS: PM
Boris Johnson today warned it was "too early" to say whether coronavirus restrictions are to be lifted before spring or even summer.
The PM was asked by a reporter today whether the country was “looking at summer rather than spring” for restrictions to be eased.
And he replied: "I think it's too early to say when we'll be able to lift some of some of the restrictions.
"What we're seeing in [data from a recent] survey, the contagiousness of the new variant that we saw arrive just before Christmas. There's no doubt it does spread very fast indeed."
He said there would "unquestionably will be a tough few weeks ahead".