Boris Johnson has announced a ‘roadmap’ to loosen restrictions slowly in England. Pray for the schools which will be opening on 8 March. Cases of infection were highest among children when schools fully reopened in September 2020. Ask God to give teachers wisdom as they prepare return strategies; pray for pupils’ protection and parents’ peace of mind. Researchers agree that outdoor gatherings have a low impact on transmission, so by the end of March outdoor gatherings - including some sports - will be allowed. But despite being considered low-risk, the virus is still able to spread outdoors. Pray for people to remember the risks and keep to social distancing in outside gatherings. Finally, contacts between people are more dangerous indoors as particles in the air are replaced less slowly with clean air. Pray for the retail outlets due to open in April to devise wise ‘crowd control’ and hygiene measures that minimise transmission. Pray also for Church leaders as they make the many different church venues safe. See

The Prime Minister has announced an extra £400m to help children in England catch up on lost learning caused by the pandemic. Secondary schools will be asked to run classes in the summer holidays in an ‘extensive programme’ backed by a total of £700m in funding. Teachers will be given the ‘tools and resources they need to support their pupils’ and it will also provide children with the ‘opportunities they deserve to learn and fulfil their potential’. The package will include an expansion of one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes, support for the development of children in early years, and summer catch-up classes for those who need it the most. Education secretary Gavin Williamson said, ‘We're looking at a whole range of different actions. We want to give schools external resources to take action immediately - this is an immediate response to give children that extra boost.’

The Commission for Countering Extremism has called on the Government to close a loophole that has allowed individuals to spread extremist ideologies and views online without any repercussions or fear of prosecution. The commission’s recommendation was made after a legal review into the adequacy of existing legislation to combat the issue of hateful extremism was conducted by Sir Mark Rowley, a retired senior police officer in charge of UK Counter Terrorism policing. ‘Extremist groups whether neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, Islamist or others are able to operate lawfully, freely and with impunity,’ lead commissioner Sara Khan warned. Without action from the Government, hateful extremists will continue to be able to create ‘a climate conducive to hate crime, terrorism or other violence and will be able to attempt to prod and even destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of our democratic society’. See

Many are saying Holyrood faces a ‘crisis of credibility’ over its inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond, now that his written evidence submitted to the inquiry has been redacted at the request of the Crown Office. In another development, MSPs on the inquiry committee have asked the Crown Office to hand over all correspondence between Peter Murrell, chief executive officer of the SNP and Ms Sturgeon's husband; Liz Lloyd, Nicola Sturgeon's chief of staff; Sue Ruddick, chief operating officer for the SNP; and Ian McCann, SNP compliance officer. Mr Salmond claims the documents being requested will show he was the victim of a high-level plot. Ms Sturgeon, who has emphatically denied there was any such plotting against her former boss, is scheduled to appear before MSPs next week. She described suggestions that the Crown Office's intervention was politically influenced as ‘downright wrong’.

Since 1 January, the European Union has stopped British fishermen from selling oysters, scallops, clams, cockles and mussels, known as live bivalve molluscs (LBM), that are caught in so-called ‘Class B’ waters. The government says it is seeking an ‘urgent resolution’, while the European Commission said that the ban, on health grounds, applies to all third countries and ‘is not a surprise’ to the UK. Meanwhile Cornish shellfish workers are at risk of losing their homes because of the overnight ban on exporting their product to the EU. 65-year-old Tim Heard, who has been catching oysters for fifty years, is just one of the many who have seen their income completely stop.The environment department said, ‘It is unacceptable that the European Commission has changed its position regarding the export of live bivalve molluscs from Class B waters. There is no scientific or technical justification for this, and it is already impacting businesses on both sides of the Channel’.

Princess Shamsa disappeared from a street in Cambridge in 2000 and has not been seen in public since. Now the police have received a letter relating to the disappearance of the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Dubai's ruler, and calling for the police to reinvestigate the twenty-year-old case. Her sister, Princess Latifa, says Shamsa has been held captive in a ‘villa jail’ in Dubai since an attempt to flee in 2018. But a family statement released through the UAE embassy in London downplayed allegations of mistreatment, and said she was being cared for at home. The police said that ‘aspects’ of their 2001 investigation - which found insufficient evidence to take any action - will be revisited, but insisted the investigation was no longer active.

On 21 February WHO confirmed that Russian authorities had reported what is believed to be ‘human infection with avian influenza H5N8’. A WHO Europe spokesperson said. ‘If confirmed, this would be the first time H5N8 has infected people,’. The reported cases were seven workers exposed to bird flocks, according to preliminary information. The statement added, ‘No onward human to human transmission was reported.’

Customs authorities in Germany and Belgium have seized a record amount of cocaine - over 23 tonnes - destined for the Netherlands. German officials said the cocaine had a street value of billions of euros. In 2019 the chairman of the Netherlands police union said, ‘We definitely have the characteristics of a narco-state. We're not Mexico. We don't have 14,400 murders. But if you look at the infrastructure, the big money earned by organised crime, the parallel economy, yes, we have a narco-state’. A 28-year-old man suspected of involvement in the cocaine trafficking was arrested on 24 February in the Netherlands. In 2020, 102 tonnes of cocaine heading for Europe was intercepted. Pray for the capture of powerful drug-trafficking gangs from Brazil and Paraguay who are running many of the smuggling operations to ports in Europe.

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