All adults will be vaccinated by autumn, says Matt Hancock
The UK government is facing calls for a “total clampdown” on social interaction to bring down coronavirus infection rates, with nurseries and places of worship closed this month.
Anthony Costello, a professor of global health at UCL and former WHO official, warned that the country was in a “national crisis” and needed to introduce a stricter lockdown to prevent deaths and the possibility of further damaging virus mutations.
“We should have no nurseries open, no synagogues, no churches, no mosques. We should have compulsory masks, two-metre distancing,” Mr Costello told the Sunday Mirror.
As the UK’s mass vaccination campaign continues to rollout, Professor Whitty said that the only way to prevent avoidable deaths was for the public to stay home wherever possible.
Lib Dems question Hancock’s claims on teacher safety
Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Daisy Cooper has questioned Matt Hancock’s assertion that teachers are “no more at risk” of catching Covid than other groups during the second wave of infections.
“Pupils, parents and teachers will be hugely frustrated by these mixed messages on schools,” Ms Cooper said.
“They deserve to know why the health secretary is saying that teachers are no more at risk of catching Covid whilst just a few days ago, the prime minister said that schools are vectors of transmission.
“Schools have been trying for months to get this vital information and have been blocked at every turn.
“The government needs to come clean and publish the figures.”
Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 12:58
Exclusive: Covid crisis will force councils to make ‘deep cuts’ to services
Councils across England will be forced to make unprecedented cuts to services in the coming years due to multi-million-pound black holes in their funding, according to figures from the Local Government Association.
Data showed that councils would be forced to find £1.1bn in 2020-21, with the figure potentially rising to £2.2bn due to the continued impact of the pandemic.
Our reporter, Jane Dalton, has the full story below:
Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 12:48
Coronavirus not showing signs of ‘abating’ in Scotland, minister says
Coronavirus has not shown much sign of “abating” in Scotland yet, the country’s deputy first minister has said.
John Swinney warned that the nation was facing “a very alarming situation” with the virus as he refused to rule out tougher restrictions on Sunday.
Manufacturing, construction work and professional sports have been allowed to continue during Scotland’s current lockdown, but were not allowed in the first wave in March.
“I don’t think I’m revealing a state secret when I say that the debate within cabinet was not whether we were going too far but whether we were going far enough,” Mr Swinney told Politics Scotland.
Despite the new measures put in place, he added: “[The virus] doesn’t show much sign of abating to any extent.
“We’re seeing case numbers which are hovering around 2,000 per day… so we’ve got an accelerating situation on our hands and we have to constantly review whether more restrictions are required.
“We remain open to considering further restrictions if they are necessary.”
Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 12:31
Majority in Japan want Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled or delayed, survey finds
About 80 per cent of people in Japan have said that this year’s Tokyo Olympics should be either cancelled or delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a poll by the local Kyodo News agency has found.
The survey found 35.3 per cent of respondents wanted the Games to be cancelled and 44.8 per cent favoured another delay.
The event is currently scheduled to be held from 23 July to 8 August in the Japanese capital.
Prime minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency for the greater Tokyo region on Thursday and could extend the measure to other areas as the country struggles to contain a surge in infections.
Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 12:16
Government rolls out rapid Covid testing programme despite criticism
The government is set to roll out asymptomatic testing across the whole of England in a bid to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus, despite concerns surrounding the accuracy of the tests.
Local authorities have been told to specifically target people who are unable to work from home during the current lockdown with tests which can return results within 30 minutes.
Our reporter, Samuel Lovett, has the full story below:
Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 11:58
Ambulance services facing ‘unprecedented pressure’ due to Covid surge
Ambulance services are under “unprecedented pressure” with handover delays at a scale never seen before, a leading paramedic has said.
Tracy Nicholls, chief executive of the College of Paramedics, said some ambulance crews had reported waiting up to nine hours to transfer a patient to hospital staff in areas where there is increased pressure on NHS services.
“We are very used to seeing ambulance services take some strain over the winter months due to the normal pressures we would see any particular year,” Ms Nichollas told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
“But this year particularly has seen incredible pressure because of the clinical presentation of the patients our members are seeing. They are sicker.”
Her comments can be found below:
Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 11:40
UK needs strategy beyond vaccines for pandemic, public health expert warns
There is currently “no clear strategy” in the UK beyond “reactive lockdowns” for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, a public health expert has warned.
Professor Devi Sridhar, chairwoman of public health at Edinburgh University, said governments needed to be more proactive, stressing that vaccines alone could not be considered a strategy.
“I think the larger issue here is the UK has no clear strategy beyond reactive lockdowns whenever hospitals are under pressure,” Ms Sridhar told Times Radio.
“People have been in lockdown for almost a year and I think it is unrealistic for people to continue to distance and avoid mixing for months and months when it’s part of what makes us human.”
She added that while the vaccines were a “bright spot” in the pandemic, there were still questions about how it would impact prevalence of the virus and whether it would cut transmission.
“For me, the vaccine is definitely there, we have to continue rollout, keep saving lives through protecting vulnerable people with that,” Ms Sridhar said.
“But it’s not a strategy in and of itself, and relying on it alone is highly, highly risky, especially with all the new variants and mutations. We need to have a plan and the vaccine supports that plan but it’s just your plan.”
Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 11:23
Information to date on vaccine success against new variants ‘very encouraging’
Professor Peter Horby has said that the information to date on the success of vaccines against new variants is “very encouraging”.
He told the BBC: “So far, the data we have is encouraging that the vaccines still work just as well [against new variants].
“We need more data but so far it’s very encouraging.”
He added that it was possible that Covid-19 could become an “endemic virus” in the UK that causes “seasonal pressures and some excess deaths” but not the widespread disruption seen over the past 12 months.
Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 10:59
Scientific adviser says life will not return to normal after most vulnerable vaccinated
Government scientific adviser Professor Peter Horby has said that life will not necessarily return to normal even after vaccinating the most vulnerable parts of the population this winter.
“I don’t think it [the first phase of the vaccination rollout] will return us to normal,” Professor Horby told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“There will still be a large number of people being infected, and although the absolute risks of someone under the age of 80 dying or ending up in hospital are low, with a large number of infections that still translates into a lot of people and so we’re going to have to manage the virus, with social distancing measures as well as vaccination for the coming months.”
When asked about the likelihood of social distancing measures being in place next winter, he added: “I think that’s likely. I think it very much depends on how well we can scale up the vaccine programme and how quickly we can get it out to a substantial proportion of the population.”
Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 10:47
Starmer suggests nurseries should be closed to slow virus spread
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has warned that current lockdown restrictions may not be tough enough and suggested that nurseries “probably should be closed” to reduce infection rates.
“I think there is a case for looking at nursery schools, we’re talking to the scientists about that,” Sir Keir told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
“I think people are surprised that primary schools were closed but nurseries aren’t.”
He added: “I think they probably should be closed, I do want to talk to the scientists about that.”
Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 10:31