Covid: Emergency powers extended and passports ‘only when all offered jab’
Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Thursday evening. We’ll have another update for you tomorrow morning.
1. Coronavirus emergency powers extended
MPs have voted to extend emergency coronavirus powers for another six months. They backed Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s call to renew “essential” emergency rules to deal with the pandemic as England moves out of lockdown. Some Conservatives voted against the measures, saying they were “out of step” with the roadmap for lifting restrictions. Ministers have said the powers will stay in place “only as long as necessary”. MPs voted by 484 to 76 to extend the powers until the end of September, as well as voting on England’s roadmap out of lockdown and the continuation of virtual proceedings in the Commons.
2. Vaccine passports ‘only possible after all offered jab’
It might only be possible to introduce a vaccine passport scheme once all adults have been offered a jab, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested. He said that there were “moral complexities” that had to be addressed before any decisions were made. There will be an update on the idea in April, with a review following in June. Any such passport could reflect a negative test result, as well as whether someone has been vaccinated or been shown to have immunity. None of this will apply from 12 April as venues will only be opening outdoors on that day, Mr Johnson said. Publicans have cast doubt on a suggestion from Mr Johnson that pub-goers might have to prove their vaccination status when venues reopen fully.
3. EU urges unity as leaders meet for vaccine summit
European countries must not turn on each other amid growing tensions over Covid vaccine supplies, the president of the EU Parliament has said. EU leaders are holding virtual talks to discuss supplies and improving distribution across the bloc’s 27 member states, with some countries complaining that doses have not been distributed fairly. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that the summit would “ensure that Europeans get their fair share of vaccines”. Some EU states, led by Austria, are calling for a revision in the bloc’s distribution method after failing to obtain enough doses earlier this year.
4. Lockdown ‘made son’s mental health battle harder’
A father whose son took his own life during lockdown after struggling with depression says the restrictions “imposed new pressures on him”. Ross McCarthy, who had a three-year-old son and a fiancée, died in late February aged 31. His father Mike, a former BBC and Sky News journalist, said Ross had suffered with mental health issues for a decade and has called for more support for men. Mr McCarthy, a former reporter and presenter from Sheffield, said: “Covid didn’t kill him, but it was another weight on the burden he felt he was already carrying.” He described Ross as a keen sportsman and a “great son who has left a massive void in our lives”. The government said it was committed to supporting UK mental health services.
5. Locked down with mum and dad
For many families, a year of coronavirus restrictions has meant quality time has consisted of not much more than Zoom quiz nights. But others have found themselves suddenly thrown together again, long after children had left home. A study by the University of Southampton has found that job loss, returning from university and not wanting to live alone have prompted many young people to return to their family homes to ride out the pandemic.