Coronavirus live news: UK variant hits New Zealand as hotel quarantine begins in England

Australia suspends quarantine-free travel with New Zealand; Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine gives 94% protection; US daily Covid cases drop below 100,000

  • England hotel quarantine begins for arrivals from high-risk countries
  • Daily new Covid cases in US dip below 100,000 for first time in months
  • England ministers flatly reject Tory demands to end Covid controls by May
  • Vaccine hesitancy among England health workers ‘may undermine rollout’
  • See all our coronavirus coverage

In England, Middlesbrough council withheld potentially embarrassing details of how – against the advice of its own public health expert – it ordered £24,000 worth of Covid tests that it could not use, emails reveal.

The independent mayor of Middlesbrough, Andy Preston, spent £24,000 on pinprick antibody tests, disregarding concerns voiced by the region’s director of public health, according to documents released under Freedom of Information laws:

Related: Middlesborough council withheld details of outlay on unusable Covid tests

The UK’s equality watchdog is facing demands to investigate claims that ministers have sidelined key gender laws in their response to the Covid pandemic.

In the wake of a damning report from MPs that said the UK risked turning back the clock on gender equality, a coalition of organisations including the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Amnesty International, Save the Children and the Fawcett Society have accused the government of taking decisions that are deepening inequalities.

Related: EHRC urged to investigate ministers for ‘equality failures’ in Covid response

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