rime minister Boris Johnson has committed to unveiling his path out of lockdown later this month, as reports suggested pubs could start reopening from April.
Reports this morning suggest ministers are preparing to allow pubs to serve takeaway pints in April before fully reopening in May.
Restrictions such as the 10pm curfew will be scrapped to ease confusion, the Sun reported.
In a video posted on Twitter on Friday, Mr Johnson reiterated his promise to announce a “steady programme for beginning to unlock” on February 22, but warned it was “still early days” and urged the public to continue following lockdown rules.
It comes as it was announced a further 1,014 people have died within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus with a teenager amongst the dead.
Coronavirus: Vaccine chair ‘optimistic’ about over-50s May target
The chairman of the vaccines taskforce has said the UK can meet the target of vaccinating all over-50s by May.
Dr Clive Dix told the BBC’s Today programme the taskforce has met every target set and the UK would be “ahead of the game” in terms of anticipating variants of coronavirus and was making “libraries of future vaccines.”
He added that the UK would not hoard supplies but would distribute them globally, once the UK target is met.
“We will work day and night to ensure we meet whatever the target that’s feasible can be met,” Dr Dix added.
Downing Street has said everyone in the UK aged 50 and over should have been offered a coronavirus vaccine by May.
As of Thursday, the UK had given a first jab to nearly 11 million people and is aiming to reach 15 million vaccinations by 15 February.
Surge testing in the Midlands as South African variant identified
Worcestershire County Council is setting up surge testing in the WR3 postcode after the South African variant of coronavirus was identified in the area.
A mobile testing unit has been set up at The White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath, near Worcester, for adults with no symptoms living within walking distance, while home testing kits are also being made available.
The council said in a statement: “Working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace, every person over the age of 18, living in the WR3 postcode and some WR9 postcodes, is strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test this week, even if they are not showing symptoms.
“To find out if your postcode is included in this testing and for more information please visit the Covid-19 variant pages of the County Council website.”
Dr Kathryn Cobain, director for public health in Worcestershire, said: “I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant
Children’s Commissioner calls for pupils to return to school as soon as possible
Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield has called for children to return to school at the “first opportunity possible”.
She told BBC Breakfast: “What we all realise now is the impact on children of not being in school, both educationally and in terms of their wellbeing is absolutely immense, and one that we hadn’t really anticipated in the first instance but now a year on is very clear to see.”
Asked about the lack of equipment affecting some children’s ability to learn remotely, Ms Longfield said the pandemic had drawn attention to the difficulties vulnerable children face, terming it “a real eye-opener”.
She continued: “At the heart of all this is that children are getting very different experiences and in every likelihood, those children who started behind and most disadvantaged have fallen further behind, we know that now.
“The pressure now on getting that catch-up in place, getting children to the point where they can start to get their confidence back and rebuild really needs to start in huge earnest.
“Which is why I’m really pushing for not only a kind of one year catch-up, but something that will go over the next two to three years to try to get children, as many as possible, not only back to where they should have been but also ahead.”
Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group – made up of lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs, said it would be “almost impossible to justify having any restrictions in place at all” by the time the top nine groups had been inoculated.
The PM faces pressure from Conservative MPs to relax the current lockdown once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated.
Downing Street confirmed on Friday that the vaccine programme planned to reach all those aged 50 and over, as well as adults aged 16-65 in an at-risk group, by May.
Former chief whip Mr Harper has also asked the Prime Minister to consider getting pupils back into classrooms this month rather than delay until his target date of March 8.
The devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland have both announced that some primary schools year groups will return by February 22.
Jeremy Hunt: Nation needs ‘Plan B’ beyond vaccines to continue to tackle pandemic
The nation needs to have a “plan B” to continue to tackle the pandemic, despite the successful vaccine programme which has raised hopes of reopening society, according to former health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
He told BBC Breakfast: “In November and early December we weren’t thinking about this Kent variant that arose and there will be other variants.”
He pointed out that the vaccines minister had said in Parliament that there are 4,000 different mutations around the world, and it may well be that one of those is immune to the vaccines.
Mr Hunt told the programme: “We need to have a plan B that makes sure that having done all of this work with this brilliant vaccine programme, that is by far the most successful anywhere is Europe, that is not then undermined because we suddenly find ourselves subject to a new mutation that is immune to all these vaccines.”
Intensive care consultant: Some ICUs still seeing rise in coronavirus admissions
Intensive care consultant Daniele Bryden said some ICUs in areas of England were seeing a rise in coronavirus-related admissions.
The vice dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “We know that the picture in the rest of the country is actually quite mixed and that there are some parts of the country, like the Midlands, like the North, that have an increase in numbers in some areas.
“And that’s on a background that for many of these parts of the country, they’ve not just gone through the second wave of Covid, they’re actually in their third wave of Covid because many of them had sustained pressure in the autumn coming up to the winter.
“Some units… are not just under considerable pressure but are still seeing a rise in admissions.”
London hospital consulatant: Intensive care units ‘still in the thick of it’
Anthony Gordon, professor of critical care medicine at Imperial College London, said intensive care units were still “in the thick of it” when it came to dealing with Covid-19 cases.
The ICU consultant at St Mary’s Hospital in London, asked whether the vaccine programme provided hope that the end of the pandemic was near, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Yes, I’m hoping that will translate soon.
“I think we’re all hoping that there is relief from all of this, from the lockdowns and so on eventually, but at the moment we are still very much in the thick of it for a little while longer.”
Asked about his own experience, he added: “What I’m seeing is that we’re still extremely busy.
“We’ve expanded into these surge ICUs and they are still fully open and full with patients.
“I think the ever-increasing numbers coming in are starting to plateau – we’re seeing fewer patients coming in now but we’re still full and these patients, once they become ill, stay ill for a long time in the intensive care units, so we’re absolutely full to the rafters still.”
Confusion over vaccine passports
Amid differing reports about when and how the hospitality sector could start up again, there is also confusion over whether the Government would provide “vaccine passports” to allow those who had received both jabs to travel abroad for their holidays in the summer.
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the Government would work with other countries to “help facilitate” coronavirus immunity passports if they are required by destinations abroad.
But both Number 10 and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the concept was not currently being considered, although Mr Hancock said it would be kept “under review”.
‘Ministers preparing to allow pubs to serve takeaway pints in April’
The Sun reported that ministers are preparing to allow pubs to serve takeaway pints in April before fully reopening in May.
Restrictions such as the 10pm curfew will be scrapped to ease confusion, the paper suggested.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph said the prospect of dry pubs was being discussed as an option to allow bars to open their doors in April.
A senior Government source was dismissive about the idea, telling PA news agency: “We are not going to open pubs that can’t sell booze. What would be the point of that?”
PM urges the public to continue following the rules
The Prime Minister has urged the public to continue following the rules despite successes with the vaccine rollout.
Posting a video on Twitter, Boris Johnson said on February 22 he would “set out the beginnings of our roadmap for a way forward for the whole country as the vaccine programme intensifies and, as more and more people acquire immunity, a steady programme for beginning to unlock.”
He added: “I want to stress that it is still early days and we have rates of infection in this country (that are) still very, very high and (have) more people – almost twice as many people – in our hospitals with Covid now than there were back at the peak in April.
“So, do remember how tough it still is, how high that rate of infection is and that we must, must work together to get it down – that’s the fundamental thing to get right. Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”
— to www.standard.co.uk