LOCKDOWN rules could be lifted BEFORE June 21 if the UK keeps hitting vaccine targets and deaths continue to fall, Jacob Rees Mogg has appeared to suggest.
On Monday Boris Johnson unveiled a four-step roadmap to freedom, outlining exactly what aspects of daily life could resume and when – with June 21 outlined as the date all restrictions could be lifted.
The Prime Minister insisted any easing would be based on data not dates, however, and said a minimum five week gap between each step would be required to monitor the impact it has had on hospitalisations and deaths.
But Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg last night said there could be room for ‘flexibility’ on the June 21 date if the government keeps ‘smashing’ vaccine targets, according to the Mail.
The risk of schools returning sparking a dramatic rise in infections is believed to be the main reason Boris has adopted a more cautious approach to lockdown easing than many Conservative backbenchers would like.
But if, for example, the return of schools doesn’t lead to the feared surge, Rees-Mogg’s comments appear to suggest there is a possibility the UK could return to normality even earlier than currently planned.
Follow our live blog below for the very latest on the UK ‘s path out of lockdown…
ONE-DOSE VACCINE DEEMED SAFE AND EFFECTIVE
Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine has been deemed both safe and effective by the US FDA.
The US Food and Drug Administration has said the jab is able to completely prevent hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19, the Independent reported.
In a critical step that could allow it to be approved in the US, the FDA endorsed the jab on Wednesday for emergency use authorisation.
A FDA independent advisory committee would now hold an all-day meeting on Friday to review the clinical data and make a determination on if the vaccine should receive emergency authorisation to have its release fast-tracked.
STURGEON’S ROADMAP SLAMMED
Nicola Sturgeon has been forced to admit she can’t say when lockdown will end in Scotland – as her vague roadmap was slammed by business chiefs.
The First Minister revealed the early part of her blueprint for lifting restrictions, but was criticised for refusing to look beyond the end of April.
She insisted that she would be “making it up” if she gave a specific date when lockdown will end – despite the fact Boris Johnson has said England will be free of restrictions as early as June 21.
Speaking at a Coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh today, she said: “If I was to give you a fixed, hard and fast date right now, I would pretty much be making it up and I don’t think that’s the approach I should take with you.
“I’m not ruling out any specific dates, I want it to be as soon as possible and we have every reason to be hopeful that come the summer life will be much, much, much better than it is just now.”
MERKEL BEGS GERMANS TO TAKE OXFORD COVID VACCINE
Angela Merkel has begged Germans to take the Oxford Covid vaccine as the country battles a devastating third wave of the pandemic.
The German chancellor warned the country cannot afford “ups and downs” amid refusals of the Oxford vaccine rollout, as its biggest newspaper has praised the UK’s approach.
Merkel’s message comes after German authorities recommended the Oxford jab should not be used on people aged 65 or above, because of a lack of data.
But she told MPs last night: “We are now in the third wave. We cannot afford ups and downs.”
STAGGERED START FOR STUDENTS TO ALLOW FOR TESTING
Secondary school kids won’t all be able to go back on the dot on March 8 as they have to be tested first, Gavin Williamson confirmed today.
The Education Secretary stressed that schools could have a few days to get all their children back in as they would need to organise dishing out the tests.
Secondary school kids are to be tested twice a week under fresh plans to get children back in the classroom from March 8 – with the first two done in schools.
They must be done at least three days apart, meaning millions may not be going back until the week after.
As officials said earlier this week, kids will be allowed a staggered return in order to sort out the system.
NO DELAYS TO SECOND DOSE DESPITE DIP RATE
Everyone will get their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine within 12 weeks despite a dip rate in supply, the government has said.
Boris Johnson’s spokesperson was asked today whether holding back doses for people to get their second jab, was part of the reason for a dip in the number of vaccinations given out in recent days.
“We have been clear that we will make sure that everybody has their second dose within the 12-week period,” they told a Westminster briefing.
“We have been clear that we will make sure that everybody has their second dose within the 12-week period,” they told a Westminster briefing.”
“We said that since we changed the dosing regime, so of course we will make sure that we have that second dose available.”
AROUND 99% OF UK ARRIVALS SKIP HOTEL QUARANTINE
Approximately 99 per cent of daily arrivals in the UK are not going to hotel quarantine, MPs have been told.
Border Force general Paul Lincoln has told the Border Force director general, Paul Lincoln, that there were around 14,000 to 15,000 people arriving in the UK through all ports each day, according to reports from the Guardian.
But of these, only around 150 a day were going into mandatory hotel quarantine.
British and Irish nationals or UK residents arriving from a list of 33 countries were required to book a 10-day quarantine package costing £1,750 per adult.
HIGH-LEVEL COVID RULES TO REMAIN UNTIL AT LEAST APRIL 5: TAOISEACH
A delay in the delivery of the AstraZeneca jab will not impact Ireland’s plans to ramp up its vaccination programme, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheal Martin announced new plans for the programme with the aim to have administered first doses to 80% of adults by the end of June.
It came as he announced Level 5 restrictions will remain in place until April 5 at last, although a phased reopening of schools will start from next week.
Prior to Mr Martin’s address to the nation, AstraZeneca said it will deliver half of the expected delivery of vaccine doses to the EU in the second quarter of the year.
The Taoiseach said this announcement has been factored in to the forecasts in his speech
FARMERS THANKED FOR FILLING SHELVES POST-BREXIT
Boris Johnson has thanked farmers for keeping the UK’s supermarket shelves stocked and delivery boxes filled during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Post-Brexit, he added, freed from the “shackles” of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, “I hope that this can be the moment when we start to realise the many opportunities we now have, not just for the benefit of our fantastic farmers, for all of you, but for our entire country.”
In a video message the PM also told the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) annual conference there were opportunities to make farming more profitable, productive, sustainable and resilient.
TORY LOCKDOWN-SCEPTIC: SERIOUS QUESTIONS OVER ROAD MAP
Mark Harper, leader of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) made up of Conservative MPs, has complained about “dodgy data” being used to inform the Prime Minister’s thinking on how fast coronavirus restrictions can be lifted.
In a six-part thread posted on Twitter, the former chief whip said the modelling from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (SPI-M-O) had been more cautious than the reality.
Mr Harper said the modelling had predicted Covid-19 vaccines would reduce the risk of infection by 48 per cent and 60 per cent with the first and second doses respectively but Public Health England data suggested it was more like 57-70 per cent after one dose and 85 per cent after two.
Similarly, he said Public Health Scotland evidence showed that one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab offered 85 per cent protection against being admitted to hospital or dying from coronavirus, while the Oxford/AstraZeneca afforded 94 per cent protection — well above SPI-M-O’s 70 per cent reduction assumption.
SECONDARY SCHOOLS TO DELIVER SUMMER PROVISION
They will be asked to deliver summer schools as part of the Government’s multimillion-pound catch-up programme for children in England who have faced disruption due to Covid-19.
Boris Johnson has announced an extra £400 million of funding – on top of the £300 million pledged in January – to help pupils make up lost learning time following months of school closures.
As part of the recovery package, summer provision will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, such as incoming Year 7 pupils, whilst one-to-one and small group tutoring schemes will be expanded.
The programme includes a one-off £302 million “Recovery Premium” for primary and secondary schools to support disadvantaged pupils – which could include running additional clubs and activities in the summer, or opting for evidence-based approaches to help children from September.
CORONAVIRUS-SCEPTIC FORMER CZECH PRESIDENT CATCHES COVID
Former Czech president Vaclav Klaus, who has recently made a splash by publicly defying government restrictions to stem the Covid-19 spread, has caught the disease, his spokesman said Tuesday.
“He wasn’t feeling well and he tested positive for Covid this afternoon,” Petr Macinka, spokesman for the Vaclav Klaus Institute think tank, told AFP.
“He underwent a scan and left for treatment at home,” he added.
The Czech Republic currently has the highest per capita infection rate in the world and is second after neighbouring Slovakia for deaths, according to an AFP tally.
A former liberal economist and staunchly eurosceptic Czech prime minister, Klaus served as president in 2003-2013 after succeeding the late Czech anti-Communist hero and former dissident playwright Vaclav Havel.
MP SNUBBED FOR BEING CASUALLY DRESSED AT VIRTUAL COMMONS
An MP was snubbed from making a virtual contribution to Parliament after being judged to be dressed too casually.
Conservative Jonathan Gullis had been set to address the Commons from home during a debate on support for businesses and individuals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the Stoke-on-Trent North MP was skipped on the order paper by Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing after appearing without adhering to the proper dress code.
Mr Gullis was able to make his virtual contribution to Parliament after sourcing a jacket to wear.
During the debate, Mr Gullis appeared on screen with Dame Eleanor telling the Commons: “We now go to… we now go… no, I don’t think we do go to Stoke-on-Trent, the honourable gentleman (Mr Gullis) has to be dressed as if he were here in the chamber.
AIRLINES SLASH PRICES TO LURE BRITS ABROAD
Brits are snapping up flights which are three times lower than the average 2019 price.
Travel firms are reporting a surge in booking for foreign holidays, after Boris Johnson said there was “every chance” breaks abroad can go ahead this summer.
Skyscanner, the flight booking website, said some prices were three times lower than two years ago, the Daily Mail reported.
It found the price of flights to southern Europe was down 82 per cent, with flights to Italy in August at £24 per adult on average compared with £131 this time last year.
Israel’s Prime Minister tweeted his excitement over being a world leader in the race to vaccinate.
“We are the first country in the world that is reviving itself thanks to the millions of vaccines we brought in,” he said.
“Vaccinated? Get the Green Pass and get back to life.”
Mask-wearing and social distancing was still in force, and a cap on numbers had been imposed in places of worship.
The government planned to open the economy more widely next month.
WHERE ARE VACCINE CERTIFICATES CURRENTLY IN USE?
Vaccine certificates are currently in use in Israel, where people with the so-called “green pass” have access to gyms, hotels and theatres.
According to Reuters reports, Israel opened sections of its economy on Sunday, including malls and leisure facilities, NBC News reported.
The government has said the start of a return to routine was enabled by Covid-19 vaccines, which have now been administered to almost half of the population.
While shops had been opened to all, but access to gyms, hotels and theatres was limited to people with a “green pass”, those who have had both doses of the vaccine more than a week prior, or those who had recovered from the disease with presumed immunity.
IDEA OF VACCINE CERTIFICATES GAINING TRACTION
The government is weighing up the potential usefulness of vaccine certificates in England and how they could help to reopen sectors of society.
Ministers are preparing to launch a review into whether the documents will be introduced, the Guardian reported.
If they were adopted, they could be used to enable access to international travel and in domestic settings like theatres and restaurants.
If adopted, the documents could be displayed using an existing smartphone app: either the myGP app, which is run by the NHS, or the NHS Covid-19 app.
‘NO PROBLEMS’ WITH VACCINE SUPPLY
The Education Secretary has said there is ‘no problems’ with the Covid-19 vaccine supply, amid concerns about falling numbers of jabs.
Gavin Williamson said it was no cause for concern that vaccine numbers have been below 200,000 per day for the last four days, down from around 400,000 daily jabs last week.
“There are no problems in terms of flow of vaccines,” Mr Williamson explained when pressed on the issue by LBC’s Nick Ferrari.
“I can understand that people will raise concerns, but there isn’t concerns that they should have,” he continued.
“The fact that we have this brilliant procurement exercise, in terms of being able to guarantee supply of vaccines, there will always be some days where it dips lower.”
SURGE IN OVER 50S BOOKING HOLS
Holiday firms in the South West have reportedly seen a spike in bookings from older people planning getaways after receiving their jabs.
The UK’s largest tour operator, TUI, told ITV half of bookings so far this year have been made by over-50s.
Portishead travel agent Miles Morgan said destinations like Spain and Greece were proving particularly popular, as were cruise ships.
He said: “There seems to be an awful lot of confidence in people booking cruises. You might have seen SAGA announce that you need to have a vaccination to go on their cruises.
“I think that has probably given a lot of older people a reassurance when booking.”
UK THINKTANK CALLS FOR DOOR-TO-DOOR COVID JABS
Race equality thinktank Runnymede Trust is calling for door to door vaccinations to tackle vaccine disparities.
Ministers are being urged to offer vaccines door to door for Brits in hard-to-reach, deprived and minority ethnic communities, amid fears that Covid-19 could become a disease of poverty.
Speaking to the Guardian, Dr Halima Begum, the chief executive of the Runnymede Trust thinktank, said if people were not able or willing to go to GP surgeries, hospitals or vaccination centres, members of the NHS vaccine army should go to them.
Experts have said the stark disparity in vaccine uptake in pockets of the country risked leading to the “vaccine-rich” being protected while the virus continued to circulate in disadvantaged areas.
UK COVID VACCINATIONS FALL BY A THIRD
The number of Covid-19 vaccinations administered in the UK has reportedly fallen by a third in the last week.
Minister have warned of a short-term dip in supply, coupled with stockpiling to ensure people get second doses within the recommended 12-week limit, the Guardian reported.
Latest data showed 192,341 people received a first jab on Monday – the second-lowest daily total since 17 January.
The number of people in Britain who have had an initial Covid vaccination now sits at 17.9 million.
TWO AUSTRALIANS INJECTED INCORRECTLY
Two elderly Australians have received incorrect coronavirus vaccine doses.
The two patients, aged 88 and 94, were given four times the recommended dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Australia’s Health Minister, Greg Hunt, said the human error was a reminder of safeguards during the rollout:
“I think it’s very important that we are upfront. The safeguards that were put in place immediately kicked into action, a nurse on the scene identified the fact that a higher than prescribed amount of the dose was given to two patients.”
“Both patients are being monitored and both patients are showing no signs, at all, of an adverse reaction.”
BORIS’S BARNET GETS CHOP
BORIS Johnson lost his patience with his flowing locks getting a haircut from fiancée Carrie Symonds.
The PM’s unruly blonde barnet had been starting to look a little dishevelled as he visited a school in south east London yesterday.
Read the full story here:
BANK HOLIDAY CALL
BORIS Johnson is facing calls to give the nation a bank holiday to celebrate the end of Covid restrictions, which are pencilled in for June 21.
A social media campaign was launched after the Prime Minister’s road map announcement.
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey backed the demands, and called on Boris to use the day to commemorate the efforts of the NHS and carers.
NORTHERN ‘Red Wall’ seats are being walloped by the highest council tax rates in the country, new research reveals.
Boris Johnson risks seeing his levelling-up agenda flop unless he reforms the “loopy and lopsided” tax, campaigners have warned.
Brits living in battleground seats – including newly Tory Burnley, Blackpool South and Redcar – pay the most as a proportion of their house value.
JOHNSON REFUSES TO GUARANTEE LOCKDOWN WILL BE ‘IRREVERSIBLE’
The Prime Minister can’t guarantee the lockdown will be “irreversible”, but he said “intention is that it should be and that’s why we’re going in the way that we are”.
He continued: “A lot of people will say why don’t you go faster, or see if you can bring some of this earlier if things are going well and there are signs that the disease is continuing to retreat.
“The answer to that, you’ve got to listen to what Chris and Patrick were saying about the need for an interval between the relaxations, and the need to look at the data and see what’s happened.
“This variant is capable of spreading really very fast when you unlock. We saw that at the end of last year, we’ve seen how fast it can take off.
“That’s why we’ve got to look at the way the vaccinations are going, the way the data is looking, and then proceed cautiously, but I certainly hope irreversibly.”