UK Covid-19 vaccinations: Latest figures
Door-to-door testing for the South African variant of coronavirus is to be rolled out across parts of England, after two people with no travel links to the country tested positive for the virus in Surrey.
More than 100 cases linked to the variant, known as 501Y.V2, have been discovered in the UK so far and all have been traced back to South Africa until now.
The development suggests it is spreading among local populations instead of being picked up among travellers to Britain. A similar case of community transmission has also been detected in Ealing, London.
The additional testing will be made available in parts of London, the West Midlands, and the east, southeast and north west of England.
Democrats take first big step to ram through Biden’s $1.9trn Covid relief plan
Meanwhile in the US Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have taken the first massive step towards passing Joe Biden’s $1.9trn Covid relief package on a party-line basis.
Vincent Wood1 February 2021 21:49
Captain Tom joined by family in hospital
Family members of Captain Tom Moore have joined him in hospital, Bedford Hospital has said.
In a statement, released with the agreement of his daughters Hannah Ingram-Moore and Lucy Teixeira, the hospital said: “Bedford Hospital continues to care for Captain Sir Tom Moore.
“At this time members of Captain Tom’s family are with him.
“We respectfully request that media give the family space and privacy and do not contact them directly so they can focus on their father, grandfather and father-in-law.”
Kate Ng1 February 2021 21:20
Everything you need to know about the South African variant
As health officials confirmed that 11 people in England have now been infected with the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa. None of the individuals, nor their close contacts, have had travel links to the country – which makes the news even more worrying.
What do we know about the South African variant of coronavirus?
My colleague Samuel Lovett goes through the facts:
Kate Ng1 February 2021 21:00
Four officers self-isolating after being spat at
Four police officers from the Norfolk Police force are self-isolating after they were spat at by a an they were arresting.
Police said the officers were investigating reports of a motorbike and car being stolen in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Two men were arrested on Sunday in relation to the incident.
19-year-old Jamie Smith, of Devonshire Road, Great Yarmouth, spat at four officers, hitting two, said the force.
He was charged with assaulting a police officer by spitting, theft and motoring offences.
The other man, also 19, was charged with theft, aggravated vehicle taking and dangerous driving.
Both men appeared in a video link to magistrates’ court on Monday. They are due at Crown Court at a later date.
Kate Ng1 February 2021 20:40
EU tightens entry rules for non-EU travellers
The EU has said travellers from outside the bloc will only be allowed in freely from countries with very few Covid-19 cases and almost none of the more transmissible variants.
EU ambassadors agreed the new measure for travel from non-EU countries, including the UK, at a meeting in Brussels, an EU diplomat told Reuters.
Countries within the bloc are encouraged to grant access without restrictions only under the strict criteria. Visitors who would be granted such exemptions would have to come from a country with no more than 25 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over 14 days, an infection rate lower than in all EU countries.
The agreement also recommends that travel curbs be reintroduced for countries where a high incidence of the more transmissible coronavirus variants have been detected.
The bloc has a list of seven countries from which travellers can visit without having to adhere to Covid-related restrictions, including: Australia, China, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.
Kate Ng1 February 2021 20:20
EU could have endangered vaccine supplies to Northern Ireland, health minister warns
The EU could have disrupted supplies of Covid-19 vaccines to Northern Ireland when it enforced the Irish Sea trade disruption last week, the health minister has said.
Th European Commission performed a screeching U-turn on Friday after it attempted to restrict the free flow of vaccine supplies across the Irish border.
Robin Swann said: “This had potentially very real implications for ourselves because we had vaccine actually in transit, and had that article been enforced we may have seen difficulties in the supply and the arrival of vaccines here in Northern Ireland.
Vaccine is not something that should become political,” he added.
More than 246,000 doses have been administered in Northern Ireland.
It comes as first minister Arlene Foster accused Boris Johnson of a “dereliction of duty” over the fiasco, and claimed he is not doing enough to address unionist “anguish” over Irish Sea trade disruption.
She told BBC Radio Ulster: “I have to say directly to the Prime Minister and to the UK Government that it is a dereliction of duty for a prime minister of the United Kingdom to stand by and allow United Kingdom citizens to suffer, and that is what he is allowing to do at present, so therefore action is absolutely needed.”
Kate Ng1 February 2021 20:00
Face masks should be considered for crowded outdoor spaces, say Sage scientists
The government should consider advising people to wear face masks in crowded outdoor spaces, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said.
Face coverings in situations where people are likely to be close together, including outdoor environments like markets and bus shelters, should be most effective at reducing transmission of coronavirus.
Kate Ng1 February 2021 19:40
Isle of Man ends Covid lockdown
The Isle of Man has ceased almost all Covid restrictions – including social distancing and mask-wearing – as community cases of the virus trend at zero.
This makes it the first crown dependency to fully relax all restrictions. It comes after a 25-day “circuit breaker” lockdown was imposed on 7 January following a spike in cases, but the island now sees no community spread of the virus.
Bethany Dawson has more on the story:
Kate Ng1 February 2021 19:20
France: 81-person orgy raided by police for breaking Covid rules
French police shut down a warehouse orgy with at least 81 participants on the outskirts of Paris as it breached coronavirus regulations.
Locals alerted police to a party taking place in Collegien on Friday night. Officers arrived to find 11 people in the car park and were granted legal permission to enter the warehouse, where they found a large number of people engaging in an orgy.
My colleague Liam James reports:
Kate Ng1 February 2021 19:00
EU president Ursula von der Leyen blames deputy for vaccine export U-turn
The president of the European Commission has blamed one of her deputies for last week’s embarrassing U-turn on vaccine export controls that soured relations with Dublin and London.
On Friday, Brussels announced – and quickly scrapped – a controversial plan to put controls on the Irish border to limit the export of Covid-19 vaccines to the UK amid a blazing row over supplies.
A spokesperson for Ursula von der Leyen told reporters on Monday that Commission vice president Valdis Dombrovskis was responsible for the humiliating turn, reports our Policy Correspondent Jon Stone.
Kate Ng1 February 2021 18:45