Budget 2021: Five things to look out for

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver his Budget on Wednesday, setting out the government’s tax and spending plans and forecasts for the UK economy. This year the pandemic will take centre stage, as he faces pressure to continue supporting people and businesses suffering financially, while offering a plan to repay the record £270bn borrowed by government since the crisis began. Ahead of the speech, Mr Sunak has already promised more money for UK’s vaccination rollout; a £5bn scheme to help High Street businesses reopen; and a mortgage guarantee scheme to help…

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Covid in Scotland: Tighter rules will be used to decide on levels

The levels system governs rules around travel, retail and hospitality New rules are set to make it harder for areas to drop down to lower tiers of Covid restrictions after lockdown is eased in Scotland. The Scottish government hopes to return to the levels system from late April. But if an area is to see restrictions lifted, the number of positive cases will need to be far lower than when the system operated last year. The government said the more stringent approach was needed because of the new faster-spreading variant…

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PM Narendra Modi gets Covid jab as India scales up vaccination

Indian PM Narendra Modi received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received the coronavirus jab as the country opened its vaccination programme for the wider population. India launched its vaccination drive on 16 January, but it was limited to healthcare workers and frontline staff. Now, people over 60 and those who are between 45 and 59 but have other illnesses can get vaccinated. State-run hospitals will offer free jabs but people can also pay at private facilities to get vaccinated. Mr…

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Covid: Japan asks China to stop anal tests on its citizens

Some Japanese citizens have complained of being made to take the test when they entered China Japan has asked China to stop taking anal swab tests for Covid-19 on its citizens when they enter the country. Some have complained that the procedure caused them “psychological distress”, officials say. China, which has largely brought the virus under control, started carrying out anal swabs in January. Last week, it denied it had required US diplomats to undergo such tests after US media reported some had complained about the procedure. “Some Japanese reported…

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How rape allegations have rocked Australian politics

Brittany Higgins on the first day of her “dream job” working for a federal minister in Australia’s parliament Just a fortnight ago, Australia was shocked by a former political adviser’s allegations that she had been raped in the nation’s Parliament House. Brittany Higgins said she’d been attacked by a male colleague – also an adviser for the ruling Liberal Party – in a government minister’s office in 2019. Her story has triggered a flood of other women to come forward with their own experiences of alleged sexual assault and harassment…

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Nigeria’s school abductions: Why children are being targeted

Two daughters of Humaira Mustapha were kidnapped when gunmen attacked a girls’ school in Zamfara state Since December, more than 600 students have been abducted from schools in north-west Nigeria, highlighting a worrying development in the country’s kidnap-for-ransom crisis. Friday’s kidnapping of 317 students from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara state, was the second mass kidnap from schools in less than 10 days. Twenty-seven boys and their teachers who were taken from a school in Kagara, Niger state on 17 February were released on Saturday. The…

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Fortnite: From piano player to pro gamer – aged just eight

Eight-year-old Joseph Deen from California is the youngest-ever professional Fortnite player The highlight of most children’s eighth birthday is blowing out the candles on their cake. However, for Joseph Deen, it was blowing the ink dry on his freshly-signed contract to be a professional gamer. Joseph is the youngest-ever paid Fortnite player, after signing with Team 33 in December last year. The Californian esports team invited him to their headquarters to give him a $33,000 (£23,600) signing-on bonus, and high-speed computer system. Fortnite is a first-person-style shooting and building game…

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Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis: BBC reporter Girmay Gebru detained by military

is not clear why the BBC’s Girmay Gebru was detained The BBC reporter in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit region of Tigray has been detained by the military. Witnesses say Girmay Gebru, who works for BBC Tigrinya, was taken along with four other people from a café in the regional capital, Mekelle. Mr Girmay is reported to have been taken to a military camp in Mekelle. The BBC is yet to establish the reason for his detention, but has expressed its concern to the Ethiopian authorities. A local journalist, Tamirat Yemane, and two…

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Covid: France approves AstraZeneca vaccine for over-65s

The French government says older people with pre-existing conditions can now get AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, revising its stance on the issue. “People affected by co-morbidities can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, including those aged between 65 and 74,” the health minister said. Last month France approved use of the vaccine for under-65s only, citing lack of data for older people. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is widely used across the UK, but several EU countries are still limiting it to the under-65s, including Germany. The EU drugs regulator has approved it for all…

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Syria war: Tens of thousands of detainees still missing, UN says

UN investigators say the detentions are intended to intimidate and punish perceived opponents Tens of thousands of civilians are still missing after being detained arbitrarily during 10 years of civil war in Syria, UN investigators say. Thousands more have been tortured or killed in custody, according to a new report detailing alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by all parties. Victims and witnesses described “unimaginable suffering”, including the rape of girls and boys as young as 11. The issue is a “national trauma” that must be addressed, the report…

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