Covid news live: England drops all ‘plan B’ restrictions; Moderna begins trial of Omicron-specific booster shot

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Hong Kong to shorten 21-day quarantine to 14 days for incoming travellers

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Anti-vaxxers making ‘at least $2.5m’ a year from publishing on Substack

A group of vaccine-sceptic writers are generating revenues of at least $2.5m (£1.85m) a year from publishing newsletters for tens of thousands of followers on the online publishing platform Substack, according to new research.

Prominent figures in the anti-vaccine movement including Dr Joseph Mercola and Alex Berenson have large followings on Substack, which has more than 1 million paying subscribers who sign up for individual newsletters from an array of authors who include novelist Salman Rushdie, the writer-musician Patti Smith and former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings.

Mercola, a US alternative medicine doctor and prolific producer of anti-vaccine content, and Alex Berenson, a journalist banned from Twitter last year after questioning the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, are among five vaccine sceptics on the platform who earn themselves and Substack a minimum of $2.5m a year from their newsletters. Under Substack’s business model, writers keep about 90% of the subscription income, with the platform taking 10% and the payment company Stripe charging the writers 3% of their take.

Research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a campaign group, showed that Mercola’s newsletters made a minimum of $1m a year from charging subscribers an annual fee of $50, with Berenson making at least $1.2m from charging people $60. Three other vaccine sceptic newsletters, from the tech entrepreneur Steven Kirsch, virologist Robert Malone and anonymous writer Eugyppius, generate about $300,000 between them.

Read more of Dan Milmo’s report here: Anti-vaxxers making ‘at least $2.5m’ a year from publishing on Substack

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Travel companies are reporting a bounce back in bookings, with easyJet and Saga predicting a summer surge as the impact of Omicron on consumer confidence wanes, and the government’s move to lift testing and travel restrictions pushes capacity back to near pre-pandemic levels.

Easyjet said that it expects Omicron to continue to have an impact over its short-term performance. However, the airline said that customers looked to re-book, rather than cancel, which will help boost its performance.

“We see a strong summer ahead, with pent up demand that will see easyJet returning to near 2019 levels of capacity with UK beach and leisure routes performing particularly well,” said Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet.

Saga, the travel and insurance group specialising in products and holidays for over-50s, said it has seen strong bookings for its cruises in the period from 1 August to 26 January.

The company said that for this 2022/2023 financial year, which runs from 27 January, cruises have a booking load factor of 86% in its first half and 73% for the full year.

“While Omicron has impacted travel bookings through December and January, our outlook for cruises in 2022/2023 and beyond is positive,” said Euan Sutherland, chief executive of Saga.

Read more of Mark Sweney’s report here: UK travel industry forecasts summer boom amid surge in holiday bookings

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Israeli government report: global antisemitism stoked by Covid protesters making Holocaust comparisons

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Russia records over 80,000 new daily Covid cases for the first time

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Staff at Western Pacific branch of WHO accuse top director of racist, unethical and abusive behaviour

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