HERE'S everything you need to know about the Covid pandemic: 

  • The Government said a further nine people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 127,748. Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 153,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. The Government also said that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 3,180 lab-confirmed cases in the UK. It brings the total to 4,470,297.
  • Boris Johnson believed coronavirus was like “swine flu” and people died unnecessarily because of Government failings during the pandemic, Dominic Cummings has told MPs. The Prime Minister’s former aide apologised to the public, saying that ministers, officials and advisers had fallen “disastrously short” of the standards they should expect in a crisis. Mr Cummings said the Prime Minister was more concerned about the impact on the economy than the need to curb the spread of coronavirus in the weeks leading up to the first lockdown. And he was scathing about the response of the Department of Health and Social Care, claiming Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been fired. These are just some of the damning revelations made by Mr Cummings during an evidence session to a Commons committee looking at the handling of the pandemic. Find more stories on The Northern Echo's homepage.
  • Unions piled pressure on the Government following the claims by Dominic Cummings, with one official saying the Health Secretary should be sacked unless he answers questions about his capacity to handle the job. Unite and the GMB reacted with anger to the former adviser’s revelations, and stepped up calls for an urgent public inquiry into the handling of the crisis.
  • Downing Street has admitted that communications on local guidance for coronavirus hotspots caused “confusion”. The admission comes after the Government said on Tuesday it would be updating guidance to make it clear that lockdown measures are not being imposed for eight areas considered to be hotspots for the Indian variant of Covid-19 in England. The Department of Health and Social Care said it would instead be issuing advice to people living in Burnley, Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside after ministers were accused of bringing in rules on socialising and travelling “by stealth”.
  • A four-nation coronavirus recovery summit has been postponed because the Scottish and Welsh governments need “more time to prepare”, Downing Street has said. Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford had written to the Prime Minister calling for the talks planned for Thursday to be a “meaningful discussion with substantive outcomes”. The first ministers of Scotland and Wales asked Boris Johnson for more clarity and substance around the proposals. Downing Street said Thursday’s summit has been cancelled but will be rescheduled “as soon as possible”, though no date has been set.
  • There are “few, if any” Covid-19 hospital admissions among care home residents, one hospital leader has said. In one hospital, 70 per cent of admissions are among under-45s, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said. Mr Hopson said the number of people being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 is “ticking up” in some regions, but the rise is small compared with the peak seen in January. Because of the younger age profile of those admitted, there is less pressure on critical care units – which were almost overwhelmed during earlier waves of the crisis, he added.
  • Marks & Spencer is set to close more stores after plunging to a hefty loss for the past year after being hit hard by high street lockdowns. The retailer said it is targeting 30 more closures in the “next phase” of its long-term transformation plan. It has already closed or relocated 59 stores but said it is accelerating changes to its portfolio of shops following the impact of the pandemic. The 30 planned closures will be part of a shake-up of around 110 stores, with the majority of these sites set for relocation. M&S said the impact of the pandemic has provided it with a strong opportunity to purchase new locations, with the group currently targeting six new stores in former Debenhams units.