People returning to England from certain high-risk countries will be required to spend 10 days in a designated hotel such as the Novotel at Heathrow.
People returning to England from certain high-risk countries will be required to spend 10 days in a designated hotel such as the Novotel at Heathrow. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

Monday briefing: Tory lockdown row as quarantine begins

People returning to England from certain high-risk countries will be required to spend 10 days in a designated hotel such as the Novotel at Heathrow. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

No 10 tries to stand firm on restrictions amid clamour for relaxation … Aung San Suu Kyi remanded again in Myanmar … BBC’s festival of comedy

Last modified on Mon 15 Feb 2021 09.36 EST

Top story: Hotel isolation begins for ‘red-list’ arrivals

Morning everyone. My name is Martin Farrer and these are the top stories this morning.

Demands for a swift schedule to take England out of lockdown seem set to increase today despite Downing Street’s attempts to push back against Conservative MPs who want all restrictions lifted by the start of May. Ministers hailed meeting the government’s first major vaccination target, and said any hastiness in reopening could risk undoing the progress made in combating the pandemic. But there were reports last night that there could be a general relaxation of some rules on 8 March, such as allowing two people from different households to sit together in parks, and even allowing pub beer gardens to open for Easter at the beginning of April. The first travellers arriving in England from a “red list” of 33 countries will be required to check into government-designated accommodation from today for a 10-day quarantine. It comes as the government reconsiders introducing vaccine passports for travellers.

Boris Johnson has told US television how he did not realise quite how ill he was after he contracted Covid last year. The UK variant of Covid-19 has infected three people in Auckland, plunging New Zealand’s biggest city into a three-day lockdown to try to halt the spread. Follow all the overnight developments in the pandemic at our live blog.

Scan plea – A CT scan can catch 70% of lung cancers at an early stage, according to an NHS study, in what experts have called a “major breakthrough” for treatment of Britain’s deadliest form of the disease. Thousands of lives could be saved if more people were screened before the condition by enabling lung tumours to be removed before they grow unnoticed. The study recommends routine scanning of smokers and ex-smokers in order to cut the annual death toll from lung cancer, which is 35,100, or 96 a day.

Myanmar anger – Aung San Suu Kyi has been remanded for another two days as demonstrators again took to the streets of Myanmar to protest against her arrest after the military takeover two weeks ago. Supporters hoped that the country’s de facto leader would be released today when her detention period was due to expire. But in a move likely to spur further street protests, she was remanded until Wednesday. It follows the restoration of internet coverage in the country after it was shut down as the military deployed armoured vehicles and teargas to disperse protesters in cities such as Yangon, Myitkyina and Sittwe. The regime is also facing a growing strike by government workers which has already crippled the aviation industry.

BBC ‘oblivion’ – The writer Russell T Davies says the BBC is heading for “oblivion” despite the current golden age of television drama. Davies, who is behind hits such as the revived Doctor Who, Queer as Folk and Years and Years, suggested broadcasters faced an existential threat from streaming services. Davies has criticised the government for slashing funding to the BBC and treating it with contempt. Meanwhile, the BBC will try to lift the nation’s Covid gloom by launching a three-week comedy season called The Festival of Funny featuring stars including John Cleese, Jo Brand and Eddie Izzard.

Carbon ‘fairytale’ – Bill Gates says that the goal of achieving carbon neutrality within a decade is a “fairytale” that is on a level with saying vaccines don’t work. The billionaire founder of Microsoft has spoken out as he publishes a new book on how to tackle the climate crisis. In an interview with the Guardian, he argues there is no time to restructure the global energy industry in 10 years, and says the biggest single contribution individuals can make is to educate themselves.

Northern light – Voters in northern England who turned Tory to help Boris Johnson win the last election should be repaid with billions of pounds of private investment in an “economic big bang” akin to the Thatcherite deregulation of the City in the 1980s. Citing the Nissan factory in Sunderland as one of the most successful examples of regeneration, a report from the rightwing Centre for Policy Studies thinktank says the region can become the home of the “green industrial revolution”.

Photograph: Misan Harriman/The Duke and Duchess of Sussex ©/AFP/Getty Images

Sussex sibling – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced the impending arrival of their second child by sharing a black and white picture of themselves with Harry resting his hand on Meghan’s head as she lies cradling her bump. A spokesperson said the couple were “overjoyed” to be expecting their second child, who is likely to grow up in America after the couple stepped down from royal duties.

Today in Focus podcast

Channel 4/HBO Max’s new drama It’s a Sin follows a group of friends living through the 1980s Aids crisis. Anushka Asthana talks to Leigh Chislett, a nurse who worked on an HIV ward during the crisis, about living in London as a young gay man and the horrific impact Aids had on the gay community.

Lunchtime read: Kim Novak on Vertigo, depression and Sinatra

Kim Novak
Photograph: Matej Divizna/Getty Images

Kim Novak’s role in Vertigo made her one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and was courted by many leading men, including Frank Sinatra with whom she had a relationship. But, as she tells Simon Hattenstone, she quit to become a painter after becoming disillusioned with Hollywood (“they think they want you, but really they want what they want you to be”) and her struggles with depression.


England are facing a heavy defeat to India in the second Test after being bowled out for 134 on day two in Chennai, as accusations of an unfit pitch swirled around the social media bear pit. The England flanker Jack Willis is set for another long-term lay-off after sustaining a sickening knee injury against Italy, prompting calls for a crackdown on the kind of “crocodile roll” clearout to which he fell victim. Tries from Charles Ollivon and Damian Penaud secured back-to-back Six Nations victories for France with a 15-13 win over Ireland. In the Premier League, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was in lethal form as Arsenal saw off Leeds with a thrilling 4-2 win, Bruno Fernandes was on target as Manchester United were held 1-1 by a dogged West Brom, and Josh Maja struck both goals in Fulham’s emphatic 2-0 win over Everton. Two goals from the in-form Fran Kirby helped Chelsea extend their lead at the top of the Women’s Super League to five points with a dominant 5-0 defeat of Bristol City.

Novak Djokovic says he could potentially “cause more damage” to his body by continuing to compete at the Australian Open following the abdominal injury he sustained during his third-round match against Taylor Fritz. Andy Murray, the top seed, lost in straight sets against Illya Marchenko in the final of the ATP Challenger Tour tournament in Biella. The Daytona 500 got off to a rough start when Aric Almirola turned into pole-winner Alex Bowman and started a 16-car pile-up on the 15th lap. And two-time former UK champion Doug Mountjoy has died at the age of 78, World Snooker has announced.


The cost of detached houses in the UK has risen sharply during the pandemic – three times faster than the increase in the price of flats – as working from home boosted the popularity of bigger homes, Halifax says today. Buyers paid an average price of £486,595 for a detached property in December – 10% more than in December 2019. The pound has continued its good run overnight with a 0.4% rise to $1.389, and it’s also up against the euro at €1.145. The FTSE100 is expected to lift 0.6% this morning.

The papers

Guardian front page, Monday 15 February 2021
Photograph: The Guardian

The prospect of some relaxation of lockdown rules in England leads the front pages of many papers with the Telegraph spelling out what it might mean for one demographic: “Meet grandchildren outdoors in March”, its splash headline says. The Times goes with “Johnson eyes Easter escape”, the Mirror has “The road to freedom” and the Mail has “Now it’s ready, steady shop!”. The Guardian leads with “No 10 resists Tory demands for end to lockdown by May” but the Express focuses on the new vaccine targets – “Hancock: now let’s hit 32m jabs target” – as does the i with “Over-65s next for vaccines after 15 million target reached”. The Scotsman has “Scottish government anger at UK quarantine loophole”. The impending royal birth has inspired one of the Star’s new Private Eye-style headlines – “Publicity-shy woman tells 7.67bn people: I’m pregnant” – but the Sun plays it straight: “Harry & Meg baby no 2”. The FT looks across the Atlantic for its top story: “Republican rifts laid bare after Senate clears Trump”.

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