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Furlough extended as calls grow for quicker reopening
Rishi Sunak will announce that the furlough scheme will continue until the autumn, even as data shows that efforts to counter Covid are exceeding expectations. Unveiling his Budget today, the Chancellor will pave the way for tens of billions in extra spending by extending furlough and the Universal Credit uplift until the end of September and confirming further sizeable grants for the self-employed. This is despite new analysis showing that the decline in coronavirus deaths in England is around three weeks ahead of the central modelling estimates, fuelling calls for a quicker reopening. All will be revealed when Mr Sunak delivers his Budget speech at about 12.45pm. You can follow it here and read what we know so far about his package of measures, as well as the four major tax levers he could pull – and how much they would cost you.
Mr Sunak's face was a "complete picture of shock" when Boris Johnson offered him the job of Chancellor in February last year, according to the Treasury's glitzy video trailer for the Budget. Imagine his expression had he known that, in a matter of weeks, he would be on the way to racking up the UK's biggest-ever peacetime deficit. Russell Lynch analyses the big question Mr Sunak must answer. Philip Johnston asks whether the Chancellor can save the nation's finances without ending his career and Stephen Doig picks apart Mr Sunak's shrewdly designed style.
Sturgeon urged to resign as Salmond evidence backed
Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls to resign after two witnesses in the Alex Salmond scandal corroborated his version of key events and provided damning evidence she repeatedly misled parliament. In a potentially devastating development for the First Minister, ahead of her appearance before a Holyrood inquiry this morning, a pair of former special advisers contradicted her claims about two meetings in 2018. In a third devastating blow to the First Minister last night, her government finally published emails showing it continued a legal fight with Mr Salmond despite its lawyers advising it was likely to lose. Read on for details.
Meghan accused of 'bullying' her staff at the Palace
The Duchess of Sussex faced several bullying complaints from members of her staff during her time as a working royal, it was claimed last night, as tensions between the couple and Buckingham Palace deepened. She was reportedly accused of driving two personal assistants out of the household and undermining the confidence of a third employee. A spokesman for the Sussexes said the Duchess "is saddened by this latest attack on her character". It also emerged Meghan wore earrings during a royal tour which were a gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia who is accused of ordering the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. As the Oprah interview edges closer, Allison Pearson argues Prince Harry is dishonouring his grandparents at the worst time.
At a glance: More coronavirus headlines
'100pc open' | Texas governor ends lockdown and mask mandate
Testing consent | Schools accused of 'blackmailing' parents
Covid generation | Children 'will feel glad to have lived through it'
Cathedral choirs | Roadmap fails to clarify when singing can return
Also in the news: Today's other headlines
US sanctions on Russia | The United States has imposed sanctions on the director of Russia's FSB security agency after concluding it carried out the poisoning attack on Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny. Alexander Bortnikov, who has led the KGB's successor since 2008, was one of seven senior Russian officials targeted. Read on for details.
'Significant falling out' | Navy 'sidelines' Royal Marines chief
Hiding sympathies | Greenslade attacked alleged IRA rape victim
Court martial | Major general 'lied to claim £50k school fees'
Trans inmates | Female prisoners 'at greater risk of sexual assault'
British explorer | First to travel to Earth's four furthest extremes
Around the world: Schoolgirls recount kidnap ordeal
Hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls have been released days after gunmen stormed a village in the night and took them from their boarding school. All 279 girls - students aged 12 to 17 at the Government Girls' Secondary School in the town of Jangebe - were freed, the governor of the northwestern Zamfara state said. Read the girls’ harrowing accounts of their ordeal. View our gallery of more striking world pictures of the day.
Comment and analysis
Richard Kemp | Greenslade's distorted view of Troubles is shameful
Michael Deacon | Why Hancock's the man to make the young take jab
Allison Pearson | At last! A Supreme Court ruling Britons can cheer
Melanie McDonagh | Cancelling Dr Seuss is absurd
Reader letters | Church buildings must close or worshippers will pay
You've got this: Getting you through lockdown
Are you a Soanie too? | Carrie Symonds and the rise of the 'Soane' ranger
Post-pandemic partywear | 15 Milan Fashion Week looks you'll want to try next season
Slowing down her 'fitness age' | How does Tess Daly look this good at 51?
Business and money briefing
London shares reform | Britain should use its newfound Brexit freedom to turbocharge the City after Brexit, according to the author of a landmark review into stock market rules. Read on for details.
Post-Brexit | German exports to UK fell 30pc in January
Investment tip | Good hygiene gives this firm a healthy lead
21 wins in a row | The thing about this Manchester City team at the moment is that every few weeks another player seems to be spurred on to new heights. For a good while, it was Ilkay Gundogan and, before him, Kevin De Bruyne. Then Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva took over. Last night, it was the turn of Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus to step it up another notch as City eventually thrashed Wolves.
James Corrigan | Why I won't watch Cheltenham or Aintree this year
Women's Rugby | World Cup to be postponed until 2022
And finally... for this morning's downtime
BBC Three returns | The BBC is to reinstate BBC Three as a TV channel, six years after scrapping it, in the broadcaster's latest attempt to woo young viewers. Yet Michael Hogan argues that a TV channel for people who don't watch TV is a baffling waste of money.