Sunday newspaper round-up: New Covid strains, Lockdown measures, Google

(Sharecast News) – Britain will be able to vaccinate the entire nation against dangerous new Covid strains within four months after a £158m super-factory opens later this year, The Telegraph can disclose. Dr Matthew Duchars, chief executive of the Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (VMIC), revealed the Oxfordshire facility will be capable of producing 70m doses of an emergency vaccine manufactured entirely on British soil. – Sunday Telegraph
Analysts are involved in an urgent effort to gauge the impact of Britain’s mass Covid-19 vaccine campaign and to pinpoint dates when lockdown measures can be eased. More than 3 million people – most of them elderly or vulnerable individuals or health workers – have already been given jabs. Now researchers are trying to establish when the first fruits of the mass vaccination programme may be seen as the government heads towards its target of immunising more than 13 million people by 15 February. – Guardian

Britain’s market watchdog is examining plans to block Google for two years or more from rolling out new privacy features on its Chrome internet browser. The Competition and Markets Authority is weighing up proposals to put the update on ice over fears that it could crush advertising revenues at smaller rivals. The regulator has already launched an investigation into the technology after campaigners warned it could harm other websites by robbing them of the data they need for advertising. – Mail on Sunday

Deliveroo has received a £130m cash injection which values the takeaway app at more than £5bn as it prepares to capitalise on its pandemic growth with a blockbuster stock market float. The funding round, led by existing investors Durable Capital Partners and Fidelity, lifts the total private backing for Deliveroo to more than £1.2bn. The company, led by co-founder Will Shu, said it will spend the cash developing more “dark kitchen” sites, which make meals for takeaway only, and expanding its “on demand” groceries business. – Sunday Telegraph

Banks will charge businesses up to 35 per cent interest on Rishi Sunak’s emergency Covid loans within weeks, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Data seen by this newspaper shows lenders have used the Chancellor’s flagship £19billion loan fund to saddle businesses with ‘usurious’ rates, which come into effect this spring. Banks have issued £35 million of loans at rates of more than 14.99 per cent – even 34.9 per cent in one case – to firms shuttered by the pandemic, Treasury documents show. – Mail on Sunday

The Treasury has said it has ‘no plans’ to lower VAT on energy bills, despite promises to scrap the tax after Brexit. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove pledged to scrap the duty during the EU referendum campaign. They said the Government was barred from lowering the tax because of EU rules. Writing in The Sun in 2016, Johnson said: ‘Fuel bills will be lower for everyone. As long as we are in the EU, we are not allowed to cut this tax. – Mail on Sunday

Former housing secretary Sajid Javid has called for an investigation by the monopolies watchdog into the “increasingly concentrated” housebuilding industry, over concerns that a lack of competition is causing shortages. Mr Javid, who also served as chancellor, said: “It may be time for the competition authorities to look more closely at an industry that has become increasingly concentrated over recent years, dominated by just a few large ­operators.” He added that the UK was “suffering from a fundamental housing shortage”. – Sunday Telegraph

Joe Biden will begin his term in the White House with a ten-day blitz of executive orders, using presidential decrees to create a sense of momentum without needing to appeal to a closely divided Congress. On his first day alone Mr Biden, 78, will rescind restrictions on travel from majority-Muslim countries, rejoin the Paris climate accord, limit evictions and student loan payments, make mask-wearing compulsory on government property, and order officials to begin the work of reuniting families separated by the Trump administration as they attempted to cross the border into the US. – Sunday Times

Rishi Sunak is planning to begin raising taxes in March’s budget to plug the black hole in the national finances as officials model a long-term plan to replace both council tax and stamp duty with a national property tax. Following talks with Boris Johnson over the past week, the chancellor is expected to use the budget on March 3 to announce an extension of government support, including the furlough and business loan schemes. Contrary to some reports, he is also considering an extension to stamp duty cuts and an increase in benefits. – Sunday Times

A leading Donald Trump ally and Republican donor has been photographed entering the White House to see the president with a sheaf of papers that appeared to refer to “martial law”, triggering speculation that, only days before Joe Biden is due to be sworn in, murky discussions about stopping the inauguration are not over. The idea that Trump, at this late stage, could still seek to remain in power may seem farcical – and his visitor, Mike Lindell, is a clownish figure known as the “MyPillow guy” for appearing in advertisements for his sleep products. – Sunday Times

Four months ago, Alasdair Hughson issued a stark warning about the impact of Brexit on Scotland’s seafood industry. Like some latter-day Nostradamus, the director of Keltic Seafare – a Dingwall-based live shellfish producer – told The Scotsman a sudden increase in bureaucracy after January 1 would make it nigh-on impossible for businesses like his to trade in Europe. “Have my worst fears been realised? Aye, you could say that. We have been talking about this for a long time, but nobody listened,” he says. Now – just a fortnight after the UK left the EU – he is sitting with two tonnes of live langoustines in a tank and no idea if will be able to get them to the continent. – Scotsman

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