Matt Hancock says he has already booked a holiday to Cornwall
Lockdown restrictions must remain in place until the “incredibly high” coronavirus transmission rate falls, a government scientific adviser has said.
The director of the Wellcome Trust, Sir Jeremy Farrar, suggested that cases must be brought down to the “single thousands” and urged against setting arbitrary dates for easing measures.
Meanwhile, bleak new data shows the extent of the damage Covid has had on England’s disabled population. Of the country’s 50,888 deaths involving the virus from January to November 2020, just over 30,000 were disabled people – 59.5 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The ONS also found that the risk of death from Covid-19 was more than three times greater for severely-disabled people than the rest of the population, prompting disability charities across the UK to demand an urgent government review of the situation.
It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock denied there is confusion around whether Britons will be able to book their summer holidays. Mr Hancock, who has already booked a break in Cornwall, urged people to be “patient” over the prospect of getting away.
Boris Johnson wants a summer holiday ‘just like everybody else’
Boris Johnson has not booked a summer holiday but “like everybody else” the PM is “keen to have a break”, a Downing Street spokesman has said.
He told reporters the government is doing “everything” it can to “make sure people can have a holiday this summer” but that “we are unfortunately not in a position to set out more detail at the moment”.
“The prime minister said yesterday it is too early for people to be certain about what we will be able to do this summer,” the aide said on Thursday.
“And again I would point to the roadmap that we will publish the week after next that will provide more detail in terms of the easements that we are looking to introduce, but again that will be based on the review we undertake next week.”
Sam Hancock11 February 2021 13:13
No 10 backtracks on advice over taking children to parks
Downing Street has rejected previous government advice that playgrounds should primarily be used by children without access to outdoor space at home, while urging parents to consider going to parks for “exercise purposes” only.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said on Thursday it is “reasonable for any families to take their children to the park and to use playgrounds” after a previous statement issued by the Cabinet Office disclosed different advice.
In that address, a government spokeswoman had said: “Playgrounds are primarily for use by children who do not have access to private outdoor space, and while parents, guardians or carers are allowed to take children to a playground for exercise, they must not socialise with other people while there.”
No 10 added people can take children to playgrounds for the purpose of exercise but not “for the sole purpose of socialising”.
The PM’s official spokesman said: “We recognise there may be more that one child or family at a playground playing but where that’s the case people should try to keep the two-metre rule.
“Obviously we accept that’s not possible for children but we’re asking for adults to maintain the two-metre rule when they are in those sorts of circumstances.”
He added: “People can, and it’s perfectly reasonable, as the health secretary set out, for them to take children to playgrounds or parks for the purposes of exercise but we’re asking people not to do so for the sole purpose of socialising.”
Sam Hancock11 February 2021 13:01
More than 1m people received first jabs in Scotland
Scotland has vaccinated 1,048,747 people against Covid-19, according to the latest figures. An increase of 63,178 since yesterday, which is the highest daily total of vaccinations administered in the country.
Nicola Sturgeon called it a “highly significant” milestone.
“When you think about the truly dreadful weather most of the country is experiencing right now, which means that many of those administering and receiving the jag will have had to brave extreme elements, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to describe this as a heroic achievement,” the first minister said.
“The fact that more than one million people have now received the first dose of the vaccine is highly significant.
“It means we have now vaccinated more than 23 per cent of the adult population and most of them are in the groups who are most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill and dying form Covid.
“It gives us real hope that even if the vaccine doesn’t have an immediate impact on transmission, we will see it start to reduce serious illness and death.”
Sam Hancock11 February 2021 12:49
Six in 10 Covid deaths last year were disabled people, data shows
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that of England’s 50,888 deaths involving coronavirus from January to November 2020, just over 30,000 were disabled people – 59.5 per cent. That equals six in 10 deaths.
Disabled people made up only 17.2 per cent of England’s population, indicating that they have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic.
Top disability charities from around the UK have called on the government to address the situation urgently as a result.
My colleague Adam Forrest reports:
Sam Hancock11 February 2021 12:23
Covid means social care reforms must happen ‘now’, Hancock tells MPs
Matt Hancock told the Commons on Thursday that the government’s proposed social care reforms will “make the system work for those who work in the system”.
Making a statement on the future of health and social care, the health secretary said: “At its heart, this White Paper enables greater integration, reduces bureaucracy and supports the way that the NHS and social care work when they work at their best together.
“It strengthens accountability to this House and, crucially, it takes the lessons we have learnt in this pandemic of how the system can rise to meet huge challenges and frames a legislative basis to support that effort.
“My job as health secretary is to make the system work for those who work in the system – to free up, to empower, to harness the mission-driven capability of ‘team health and care’ – and the goal of this White Paper is to allow that to happen.”
He added “there is no better time than now” to carry out the reform, as coronavirus continues to rip its way through almost all aspects of the social care system.
Answering critics who have asked “why now”, Mr Hancock told the Commons: “The response to Covid-19 has, in my view, accelerated the pace of collaboration across health and social care, showing what we can do when we work together flexibly, adopting new technology focused on the needs of the patient and setting aside bureaucratic rules.”
“The pandemic has made the changes in this White Paper more not less urgent, and it is our role in parliament to make the legislative changes that are needed,” he added.
Sam Hancock11 February 2021 12:11
Ireland to keep Covid lockdown rules in place until at least Easter
Ireland’s Covid-19 restrictions are likely to remain in place until at least Easter, premier Michael Martin has warned, Matt Mathers reports.
The Republic is currently under Level 5 regulations, meaning people should only leave their homes for essential purposes such as work and exercise.
Samuel Osborne11 February 2021 11:40
Matt Hancock denies sending ‘mixed messages’ around summer holidays
Matt Hancock has denied claims the government has sowed confusion over whether people can expect a summer holiday in 2021, Adam Forrest reports.
The health secretary – who has already booked his own break in Cornwall – said it was too still early to say if people could get away, urging the public to be “patient”.
Samuel Osborne11 February 2021 11:19
AstraZeneca to rollout vaccine effective against new variants from autumn
Coronavirus vaccine developer AstraZeneca has confirmed it is on track to roll out a Covid-19 vaccine that is effective against new variants from the autumn.
Bosses at the drugs giant, which is working with Oxford University on the vaccines, said they would start clinical trials for the next generation of the jab in the spring, with plans to go into mass production in six to nine months’ time.
On unveiling AstraZeneca’s annual results, chief executive Pascal Soriot said the UK should start seeing a decline in hospital admissions from the disease “very soon” thanks to the Government’s rapid vaccination programme, with hopes for it to start having a marked impact from March.
AstraZeneca said it is set to deliver 100 million doses of its current vaccine globally in February, doubling to 200 million a month by April.
Mr Soriot said: “100 million doses in February means 100 million vaccinations, which means hundreds of thousands of severe infections avoided and it also means thousands of deaths that are avoided.”
“We’re going to save thousands of lives and that’s why we come to work every day as individuals,” he added.
Samuel Osborne11 February 2021 10:53
Number waiting for hospital treatment at highest since August 2007
A total of 4.52 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of December 2020, the highest number since records began in August 2007.
Also figures from NHS England show the number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England stood at 224,205 in December 2020 – the highest number for any calendar month since April 2008.
One year earlier, in December 2019, the number having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at just 1,467.
Samuel Osborne11 February 2021 10:33
Hotel quarantine to cost £2,400 for two and room-service alcohol available
As the government prepares to take bookings from the first applicants for hotel quarantine, The Independent has obtained more details of how the scheme will work, travel correspondent Simon Calder reports.
After the government published two conflicting versions of the cost, it has now emerged that the £1,750 price for individual travellers first announced by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, will apply.
But a second person sharing a room will pay £650, making the total £2,400 for two. The rate for children is £325.
Samuel Osborne11 February 2021 10:13