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Two helpings of Priti Patel is pretty much no help at all | John Crace

The home secretary’s diversionary tactic of semi-coherent rambling was put into service on a day of 1,290 Covid deaths

Boris Johnson spoils us. Up until last week, the home secretary had been kept away from the Downing Street press conferences since a disastrous appearance last May. Now we get Priti Patel twice in two weeks. But then the prime minister didn’t have a lot of choice, given that he clearly didn’t fancy taking Thursday night’s himself. Matt Hancock is self-isolating, Dominic Raab appears to have taken a vow of silence, and Gavin Williamson had all but handed in his resignation letter during a car crash series of interviews during the morning media round.

Then perhaps Patel wasn’t such a bad choice after all. Not because she had anything very important to say, but precisely because she didn’t. Few politicians match her ability to fill dead air with a series of disconnected sentences that leave most people none the wiser by the time she comes to a stop. Ideal for a press briefing with minimal news content that has to be extended to 40 minutes to keep up appearances.

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Ministers could pay £500 to everyone with Covid in England

Exclusive: universal payment is ‘preferred position’ of DHSC in bid to help people self-isolate

Ministers are considering paying £500 to everyone in England who tests positive for Covid-19, in a dramatic overhaul of the self-isolation support scheme, the Guardian can reveal.

The proposed change is thought necessary because government polling found only 17% of people with symptoms are coming forward to get a test for fear a positive result could stop them from working.

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Covid quarantine: Home Office considered electronic tags for travellers

Exclusive: policy paper includes option of ‘tagging’ arrivals to track them during quarantine period

A mandatory requirement that electronic tags be worn by international arrivals for up to 10 days to ensure they abided by Covid-19 quarantine restrictions was an option explored by the Home Office under controversial plans, the Guardian has learned.

The details, understood to have been included in a draft “borders enforcement” policy paper produced by Priti Patel’s department, have emerged as the UK government’s Covid-O committee is preparing to meet on Friday to discuss implementing further travel restrictions. Australia-style quarantine hotels for arrivals or an extension of travel bans are under consideration by ministers.

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It’s a sweet relief to be vaccinated – but it’s not a return to normality | Polly Toynbee

As older people relish being vaccinated, the UK government’s messaging risks being confusing and contradictory

Age brings few benefits, as far as I can see: not wisdom, not virtue, nor serenity. But what a bonus to find yourself among the ranks of septuagenarians lining up for the Covid-19 vaccine. This gift of life arrives via an automated NHS text message, amid the hospital horror-show of the TV news. Whoops of relief spread among senior friends who are due for the jab shortly: how sublimely lucky, how good to be old, as the angel of death passes over.

“Cry freedom!” said the health secretary, Matt Hancock, wooing Spectator-reading libertarians with a promise of imminent release from lockdown, once society’s most vulnerable people have been vaccinated. He’s overpromising yet again, and it’s not the official message: even Boris Johnson has managed to warn that there will be no “open sesame with a big bang”. The message for vaccinated people is to change nothing: stay home, mask up, no travel, no indoor meetings beyond your household, obey lockdown rules. No one can be 100% sure you might not still contract it, or more likely, you might not still unknowingly spread it. So there will be no oldies’ raves, at which they flaunt their privileged vaccine freedom.

Related: The UK has record death tolls, yet still the government has no clear Covid strategy | Helen Ward

Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist

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‘Freedom’: UK Covid patient returns home after 306 days in hospital

Geoffrey Woolf was admitted in March and his three sons were called in to say their goodbyes

A retired lawyer who survived Covid-19 after contracting the virus in the early weeks of the pandemic made an emotional return home today after spending 306 days in hospital.

Geoffrey Woolf, 74, who was rushed to hospital last March after collapsing over breakfast, is believed to have spent one of the longest periods in hospital of any Covid patient before being discharged.

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