Top story: Morrisons and Sainsbury’s to enforce face coverings
Morning everyone. This is Martin Farrer bringing you the best stories from home and around the world this Tuesday morning.
The row over fresh Covid-19 restrictions appears set to escalate after police chiefs said they would not enforce the wearing of masks in supermarkets, a measure being weighed by ministers scrambling to bring down the number of people being infected with the disease. The government in England is also considering a ban on people walking or exercising with anyone from outside their household, which would leave supermarkets as one of the very few places where people could come into contact with others. Morrison and Sainsbury’s both said they would enforce the wearing of masks in their supermarkets and would post security guards at shop entrances to challenge any customers not wearing a mask or shopping in groups. But despite heavy hints from health secretary Matt Hancock, senior police said they would not be able to help enforce the policy because the rules were too vague and they did not have enough officers. It came as Hancock hailed the opening of mass vaccination centres and the NHS confirmed that 2.3m doses had been administered. One-quarter of hospital admissions were people under 55, latest figures revealed.
Boris Johnson is under pressure for appearing to bend the rules on exercise by riding his bike around Olympic Park, seven miles from Downing Street. No 10 denied the prime minister had broken any rules but he was criticised for not leading by example amid continued concern about how compliance is waning in the third national lockdown. WHO scientists who arrive in China on Thursday to investigate the root of the virus have insisted that their purpose is not to find blame. Prof Fabian Leendertz, a German epidemiologist, said: “This is not about finding China guilty or saying ‘it started here, give or take three metres.’ This is about reducing the risk.” In Malaysia the government has declared a Covid state of emergency amid political turmoil. Catch up with all the overnight developments from around the world at our live blog here.
Trump impeachment – Donald Trump is facing a historic second impeachment after Democrats in the US House of Representatives charged him with “incitement of insurrection” as his presidency moved towards a chaotic finale in the wake of the Capitol Hill riot. As the acting homeland security chief, Chad Wolf, resigned from the Trump administration, the president was once again charged with meeting the impeachment requirement of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for inflaming the deadly riot last week. He was impeached by the House in 2019 but was not convicted by the Senate and the necessary two-thirds backing seems again to be a tall order. Security was being stepped up in Washington ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguaration next week as the FBI warned of another march on the Capitol by pro-Trump rightwing groups. Two Capitol police officers have been suspended for their behaviour during the riot. Facebook is targeting the phrase “stop the steal” on its site and says the ban on Trump’s account could be permanent.
‘Nature under siege’ – Insect populations are falling at “frightening” rates that are destroying “the tapestry of life”, according to a new volume of scientific studies. Insects, by far the most varied and abundant animals on Earth, face multiple, overlapping threats including the destruction of habitats for farming, urbanisation, pesticides and light pollution. “Nature is under siege,” the lead analysis says.
Shop drop – Retailers in the UK saw the biggest decline in sales in 25 years last year as the closure of non-essential shops during lockdowns outweighed the online spending boom fuelled by Covid-19. Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) today show that total sales fell by 0.3% last year from the level in 2019 – the worst performance since records began in 1995. Online sales and food sales did well but could not make up for the huge drop in spending on non-food items in physical shops, which was down 24%. The retailers that did best were Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and B&M, while among the worst hit were Greggs and M&S.
Ireland abuse report – The grim findings of a report into decades-long abuse in Ireland’s mother and baby homes will be shared with survivors of the system on Tuesday. The five-year investigation was prompted by the discovery of a mass grave of babies and children, and has uncovered appalling death rates and callousness in religious institutions that doubled as orphanages and adoption agencies. The taoiseach, Michéal Martin, will give a formal state apology on Wednesday. Martin, who has read the report, reportedly found the contents shocking and difficult to read.
Welcome to Brexit – Brexit means Brexit, as the phrase went, but it appears that Brexit also means that your ham sandwiches will be confiscated on entry to Europe. Dutch television showed footage yesterday of customs officers confiscating the offending snack from drivers arriving by ferry from the UK under post-Brexit rules banning personal imports of meat and dairy products into the EU. A bemused driver with several sandwiches wrapped in tin foil asked if he could give up the ham but keep the bread only to be told: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”
Today in Focus podcast
This week a team of international experts from the WHO will arrive in China to investigate the origins of Covid-19. A year into the pandemic, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley looks at what questions still need to be answered.
Lunchtime read: The people who love living in the past
“I shut the door and I’m in 1936.” So says Aaron Whiteside from Blackpool who has turned his home into a homage to a decade to the extent that it “looks like an old lady’s house”. The stained glass restorer is not alone, however, and our writer Sirin Kale talks to four other Britons whose homes area portal to the past. They include Emma Preston, whose house in Bolton is “mid-century American ranch style, with a tiki influence”, and Estelle Bilson from Manchester whose prized possession is a Marcel Breuer long chair.
Premiership Rugby has announced a two-week break in a move that risks the anger of clubs that wanted to play rearranged league fixtures instead and threatens to disrupt Eddie Jones’s Six Nations plans. Manchester United will host the Premier League champions Liverpool in the FA Cup fourth round with the contest taking place a week after Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side take on Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday. The 20-year-old Leeds-born Francesca Jones secured the first grand slam-qualifying win of her career by defeating Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-3, 6-2 to reach the Australian Open second qualifying round in Dubai. Denis Kudla has been rushed into quarantine at the Australian Open qualifying event in Doha after testing positive for Covid-19. A mid-race incident leading to angry words between jockeys is believed to be at the heart of an investigation by racing’s ruling body referred to by Bryony Frost on Monday.
Shares in Twitter dropped sharply after it permanently suspended Donald Trump following the attack on the US Capitol last week. The social media company lost $5bn in market value in Wall Street trading yesterday as investors took fright at potential tougher future regulation for the site. Rishi Sunak has warned that Britain’s economy will worsen before the coronavirus vaccine helps to improve the outlook for jobs and growth. The FTSE 100 is set to inch up slightly this morning while the pound will buy you $1.353 and €1.113.
Boris Johnson comes in for some stick about his bike ride around Olympic Park with the Mirror’s splash head reading “Just get a grip” above a story bemoaning his perceived bending of the rules. The Star also weighs in by depicting the prime minister as a clown on a unicycle with the headline “Honk honk”. The Guardian also features a picture a of Johnson on his bike but the main story is “Police defy ministers as clamour grows for new Covid restrictions”. The Mail is also concerned about the introduction of tighter curbs, asking “Are we heading for the 3m rule?”.
Other titles try to put a more positive spin on things with the Express saying “‘Great British summer’ on way… let’s not blow it!” and the Sun focusing on the mass rollout of vaccines. “On the march” its splash says. The Telegraph says “Pressure on NHS for Covid vaccinations round the clock” while the i also goes with that line: “24/7 plan to meet target on vaccines”. Covid also leads in Scotland where the Scotsman says “Half a million face weeks of waiting over vaccine delay” and the National has “Royals ignore Scots govt appeal to scrap trip”. The FT again looks to events in the US for its lead with “Merkel attacks Twitter’s ban on Trump as breach of free speech”.
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