As English schools reopen for the autumn, relief and pleasure are mixed with apprehension and anger. Given the government’s shabby record on shepherding schools through the pandemic, it could be no other way. Even now, with a new term under way, confusion surrounds the question of whether younger teenagers are to be vaccinated. The health secretary, Sajid Javid, and his counterparts in the devolved administrations, are seeking advice from the chief medical officers, which could override last week’s decision by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation not to support a full rollout.

The catch-up budget for England, of £50 per year per pupil, is so small as to be an insult (by contrast, the Education Policy Institute pointed out, the US government has committed to spending an additional £1,600 per pupil, and the Netherlands £2,500). This decision led Sir Kevan Collins to resign as catch-up tsar four months after being appointed. Sir Kevan thought he had secured a commitment to a £15bn package, only to be offered £1.4bn instead.

Recent figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies serve to underline the severity of the government’s neglect.


Companies across the UK are offering perks to lure their staff back into the office after nearly 18 months of working from their kitchen tables, ranging from free meals and ice-cream to cash bonuses.

The professional services firm PwC’s 22,000 UK workforce are being offered one of the most lucrative incentives, each receiving an extra £1,000 this month, as they switchto a hybrid working environment where they will spend two to three days in the office a week.

While the payout is not conditional on whether they stop working from home, it was suggested to staff that they could use it to cover newly incurred commuting expenses.

“How you spend it is up to you,” an internal PwC memo said. “You may wish to spend it on socialising with friends and colleagues, it may help with commuting costs or – perhaps reigniting a gym membership or a new bike to commute. However you choose to spend it, we hope it will go some way to helping everyone adjust over the next few months.”

Britain to set aside £5.4bn to help NHS


UK reports 41,192 new cases and 45 further deaths


Prof Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist from Imperial College, London whose initial modelling was pivotal in Britain’s coronavirus response, has said he would not be surprised if the Chief Medical Officers in the UK decide to go ahead with vaccinating healthy 12-15 year olds, despite the recent advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that the margin of benefit on health grounds alone is too small to support vaccination of the entire age group.

Speaking at an online event hosted by the Institute for Government, Ferguson
said it was an enormously difficult decision adding there are arguments on both sides of the debate. Among them he noted that vaccinating younger people would drive down transmission and therefore help protect the vulnerable.

“So long as you’re convinced that there is some individual level benefit, then I think it’s valid to call in the population benefits,” he said.

Ferguson said he understood that the JCVI had been relatively conservative in their advice because of the small risk of a condition call myocarditis that appears to be linked to certain Covid jabs.

“I think the committee had some particular concerns about long term follow up data in terms of myocarditis associated with vaccination, and so took quite a conservative position, almost akin to a kind of medical regulator – which isn’t quite its role,” he said, adding The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has licensed certain vaccines for use in children over 12.

Ferguson said that despite the JCVI’s position, vaccinations of older children may yet go ahead. “It wouldn’t surprise me that the chief medical officers taking in account these other factors, decide to go forward with vaccination,” he said.

Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo

Italian life expectancy fell by 1.2 years in 2020 due to Covid-19, dropping to 82, according to the National Statistics Agency (ISTAT).

Life expectancy was 79.7 years for men and 84.4 for women last year.

Italy ranks second – behind only Japan – in terms of having the greatest share of older people, with an estimated 168.7 people over 65 for every 100 young people.

Last year, life expectancy was 79.7 years for men and 84.4 for women.

According to ISTAT the drop was more evident in the areas worst hit by the pandemic. In the provinces of Bergamo, Cremona and Lodi, life expectancy fell by between 4.3 and 4.5 years for men.

Last week, Italy’s PM announced his government could make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory soon, sparking a row in the country that has seen a recent rise in protests and violence from antivaxxers.

During a press conference on Thursday, Draghi said all Italians, eligible for age, could soon be obliged to get a shot, as soon as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gives its conditional approval for the four vaccines.

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