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Watchdog looks into £220,000 public funding for Johnson Partygate defence

Exclusive: Director at NAO, which hasn’t launched a formal inquiry, plans to speak to Cabinet Office about legal costs over former PM’s denials in Commons

Officials at the government’s spending watchdog are examining the controversial decision to provide £220,000 of taxpayers’ money to fund Boris Johnson’s legal defence for the inquiry into his Partygate denials.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has yet to decide whether to mount a formal investigation, but one of its directors is planning to speak to the Cabinet Office about it.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

Boris Johnson: anyone who thinks I covered up parties is out of their mind

Former PM tells Nadine Dorries talkshow the idea he was knowingly going to rule-breaking parties is ‘for the birds’

Boris Johnson has said anyone who suspects he knowingly covered up lockdown parties in No 10 is “out of their mind”.

The former prime minister said the claim was “strictly for the birds”, despite being under investigation for allegedly lying to parliament over lockdown breaches.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

Biden to end Covid-19 emergency but may declare reproductive health crisis – live

White House announces extraordinary pandemic measures to lapse on 11 May, a move Republicans had called for

Good morning, US politics blog readers. It’s been three years since Covid-19 broke out across the United States and the government took extraordinary measures to stop it from spreading. Now, it appears one of those steps is coming to an end, with the White House announcing it will allow the national emergencies declared to fight the pandemic to lapse on 11 May, a statement it made in response to Republican legislation to force their hand on the matter. Much has changed in the country since the anxious early days of Covid-19, including the end of the nationwide right to abortion, and there are reports that Joe Biden is also considering declaring a separate public health emergency aimed at ensuring access to reproductive healthcare.

Here’s what we can expect to happen in the world of politics today:

It’s day two of Biden’s infrastructure blitz, with the president traveling to New York City to promote his 2021 overhaul of the country’s public works, and attend a Democratic National Committee reception. He was doing much the same in Baltimore yesterday.

The House of Representatives convenes at 10am to consider the GOP’s bills to force an end to the Covid-19 national emergencies. The Senate convenes at the same time, where lawmakers will be making speeches and generally getting their ducks in a row to start the chamber’s work.

Donald Trump sued journalist Bob Woodward and his publishers for releasing recordings of their interviews. The former president is seeking just a hair under $50m.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

Matt Hancock says he did not ‘primarily’ go on I’m a Celebrity for the money

Ex-health secretary defends appearance on TV show and denies he broke law by embracing aide during lockdown

Matt Hancock has said he did not “primarily” go on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! for his £320,000 fee, adding that his £10,000 charitable donation was a “decent sum” after his appearance on the reality show.

The former health secretary also repeatedly denied he had broken the law in his embrace with his now girlfriend Gina Coladangelo during Covid restrictions. The Good Morning Britain interviewer Susanna Reid said he had broken the law on gatherings that had to be reasonably necessary for work.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

China claims Covid wave is ‘coming to an end’ as tourism and factory activity rebound

Government figures, which cannot be verified, showed big rises in travel and hospitality activity during lunar new year compared to the same time last year

China’s wave of Covid is “coming to an end”, health officials have claimed, saying there had been no sign of a new surge from the lunar new year holiday period, despite a big increase in travel compared to last year.

Government figures released on Tuesday showed big rises in tourism and hospitality activity compared to the same time last year. Factory activity has also rebounded for the first time in four months, an early sign of economic return after the country reported its slowest growth in about half a century during strict Covid controls.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

Biden will announce end of national and public health Covid emergencies in May

The move to end the declarations comes as House Republicans are set to pass a resolution to demand their immediate scrapping

Joe Biden informed Congress on Monday that he will end the twin national emergencies for addressing Covid-19 on 11 May, as most of the world has returned closer to normalcy nearly three years after they were first declared.

The move to end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response to treat the virus as an endemic threat to public health that can be managed through agencies’ normal authorities.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

‘Debilitating’ effects of pandemic linger on for Britain’s young

Exclusive: from physical and mental and health to education and careers, two studies detail ways in which young still suffer

Young people have been “disastrously” affected by the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, according to two pieces of research that show happiness and confidence has plunged to an all-time low.

Both studies detail the wide-ranging ways in which young people continue to suffer. The hardships include poorer mental and physical health, as well as extensive learning loss that experts say will undoubtedly affect their futures.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

‘We’re on permanent catch-up’: how Covid has changed young Britons’ lives

Young people across the UK reflect on how the pandemic affected them – and continues to shape their futures

In the next phase of the Guardian’s Covid Generation series, young people from across the UK continue to analyse how the pandemic is still affecting their lives and their plans for the future, 18 months after the end of the third national lockdown.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

‘It was all for nothing’: Chinese count cost of Xi’s snap decision to let Covid rip

After three years of lockdowns, the country was ill prepared for its abrupt ‘freedom’. Now, with some estimating 1m deaths, public anger is growing

When Sunny* thinks back to March last year, she laughs ruefully at the ordeal. The 19-year-old Shanghai student spent that month locked in her dormitory, unable to shop for essentials or wash clothes, even banned from showering for two weeks over Covid fears. In April, the entire city locked down.

It was the beginning of the chaos of 2022, as local Chinese authorities desperately tried to follow President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid decree while facing the most virulent strain of the virus yet: Omicron. “Everyone was panicking, no one was ready,” she tells the Observer.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

Absence from work at record high as Americans feel strain from Covid

More than a million people have called out sick for the past three years, and CDC says long Covid probably a contributor too

For many Americans it feels like everyone is out sick right now. But there is a good reason: work absences from illness are at an all-time annual high in the US and show few signs of relenting. And it’s not just acute illness and caregiving duties keeping workers away.

About 1.5 million Americans missed work because of sickness in December. Each month, more than a million people have called out sick for the past three years. About 7% of Americans currently have long Covid, which can affect productivity and ability to work, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts