Covid UK news Live – Vaccine CHAOS fears as govt split on NHS coronavirus jab timeline and lockdown could last months

A MAJOR government split on the coronavirus vaccine timeline appears to be developing.

With the country plunged into national lockdown for the foreseeable, the massive vaccine rollout appears to be the only way for the country to return to some semblance of normality.

But the scale of the rollout, which requires 13 million jabs to be given in less than seven weeks, has left many questioning whether the government is once again promising more than it can deliver.

Earlier this week Boris Johnson suggested that the current lockdown may begin to ease in mid-February if vaccinations are carried out fast enough.

But ministers including Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock added caution to that timeline, admitting that mid February was hugely ambitious and suggesting lockdown could easily continue into March.

Follow the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis in our live blog below.

  • Dan Keane

    'VERY LITTLE DATA' TO BACK 12-WEEK DELAY FOR SECOND PFIZER JAB – WHO

    The second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine should only be delayed for up to six weeks, global health leaders have said.

    World Health Organisation (WHO) experts met to discuss policy recommendations for the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Tuesday.

    Experts in the UK have said that the second jab can be delayed for up to 12 weeks in a bid to get more people vaccinated sooner.

    But global health experts said there is "very little data" to underpin this recommendation.

  • Dan Keane

    THREE REGIONS SEE DEATHS INCREASE, ONS STATS SHOW

    Three regions of England recorded an increase in registered Covid-19 deaths in the week to December 25, the ONS said.

    However, the number of registrations across England will have been impacted by the Christmas Day bank holiday.

    In Eastern England, 301 deaths were registered in the week to December 25, up from 237 in the previous week and the highest since the week to May 15.

    London had 299 Covid-19 deaths, up from 241 and also the highest since the week to May 15.

    North-east England had 180 deaths, up from 143 and the highest since a recent peak of 220 in the week to November 27.

  • Dan Keane

    IRELAND SEES SURGE IN HOSPITALISATIONS

    Across the sea, Ireland is also seeing a huge surge in coronavirus cases, with hospitalisations surpassing the peak of the first wave.

    The previous highest number of patients with the virus in hospital was 881 on April 15.

    The head of Ireland's Health Service Executive Paul Reid tweeted: "With 921 people in hospital, we've now exceeded the peak level of the 1st wave (881). 75 in ICU. Healthy people are getting very sick."

    It comes after reports the more virulent UK variant was found in around 25% of cases in Ireland, up from 10% previously.

  • Dan Keane

    BRITS WHO HAD COVID 'PROBABLY IMMUNE' TO NEW VARIANT

    Those who have already had Covid are "probably immune" to the new mutant strain, the Government's Chief Scientific Officer has said.

    The variant, which emerged in Kent in September, is understood to be up to 74 per cent more infectious than the strain that was dominant last year.

    Speaking at Downing Street last night, Sir Patrick Vallance said it appeared people who had been previously affected still had protection.

    He said: "What we know is that the 22 changes in the genetic code made the virus more transmissible, but as far as we can see it doesn't make it hidden from the immune system so if you had an infection before, the evidence is that you probably neutralise this virus as well.

    "The expectation is the same for the vaccine."

  • Dan Keane

    COVID CRISIS DEEPENS AT MAN CITY

    Manchester City FC have confirmed two more players and another member of staff have tested positive for Covid-19, in another blow for the Premier League giant.

    Goalkeeper Scott Carson and 18-year-old midfielder Cole Palmer are the latest players affected by the recent outbreak at the club and will now isolate.

    City were without six other players for their Premier League victory at Chelsea last Sunday following positive tests.

  • Dan Keane

    BRITS FACE POLICE CHECKS IF SPOTTED AWAY FROM HOME DURING LOCKDOWN

    People could be stopped by police to explain why they are away from home during the latest coronavirus lockdown, senior officers have warned.

    The Metropolitan Police said the public should expect officers to be more "inquisitive" about why they are "out and about" during lockdown.

    Londoners breaching Covid legislation "are increasingly likely to face fines", the force said in a statement, adding: "Londoners can expect officers to be more inquisitive as to why they see them out and about.

    "Where officers identify people without a lawful reason to be away from home they can expect officers to move more quickly to enforcement."

  • Dan Keane

    NEARLY 3,000 COVID DEATHS IN WEEK UP TO CHRISTMAS

    A total of 2,912 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending December 25 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

    This is down slightly from 2,986 deaths in the week to December 18.

    However, the ONS said that the number of registrations will have been affected by the Christmas Day bank holiday.

    A quarter (25.3%) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to December 25 mentioned the virus on the death certificate.

  • Dan Keane

    2 MILLION JABS A WEEK 'POSSIBLE'

    Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he believed it was possible for the UK to administer two million doses of vaccine a week.

    "I really do think this is possible," he told BBC Breakfast, adding that it would take a "huge amount of organisation and is a massive logistic exercise".

    He added: "I think we just all need a real 'can do' attitude both in primary care in hospitals and in these mass vaccination centres which the Government is planning.

    "I don't think it's going to be easy, I don't think it's going to be straightforward in any way at all, but it is possible."

  • Dan Keane

    BORDER TESTING 'POINTLESS', SAYS VACCINE MINISTER

    In a heated debate with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi defended the decision not to test people at UK airports.

    Asked why the policy has never been used, Mr Zahawi said: "The answer is you don't take a test on the border because it's pointless."

    Mr Zahawi added: "If you ask the scientists – Chris Whitty and Jonathan Van-Tam – that test at the border is near pointless because that person may be showing no symptoms, may test negative and two days later be positive."

  • Dan Keane

    MPS TO VOTE ON LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS

    MPs will return to Westminster today to vote on England's national lockdown as the stringent restrictions entered into force overnight.

    The Commons has been recalled from its Christmas recess for the second time, to debate and retrospectively vote on the measures announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.

    Boris Johnson will update MPs on the new controls – which include the closure of schools to most pupils and a return to the stay at home order – before a vote due in the evening.

    The measures are expected to pass with ease, with Labour set to support the motion.

    Credit: © 2020 Joshua Bratt

     

  • Dan Keane

    PANDEMIC WILL BE 'A LONG HAUL'

    Asked about Professor Chris Whitty's comments that restrictions may be needed next winter, Prof. Graham Medley said: "We're in for a long haul, we still (have) a long way to go in this epidemic.

    "Vaccination is a way out, but I think he's right to raise that possibility that there could be – next winter or even the winter after – the possibility that we will see a resurgence of Covid to such an extent that Government again has to take measures to prevent another large outbreak.

    "But let's get there. We're very hopeful now that this virus is seasonal so that it will reduce once the spring and summer comes, and then that gives us an additional chance to be able to prepare and in particular to get vaccination done for everybody."

  • Dan Keane

    UK COULD EMERGE FROM LOCKDOWN IN MID-FEBRUARY

    Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a member of SAGE, claims the UK could emerge from lockdown in mid-February.

    Speaking in a personal capacity, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think it's possible, I mean that's obviously a Government decision what they decided to do at what point.

    "But it really depends upon what happens over the next five weeks in terms of the infection rates, it's much like in March and April.

    "We know more now but nonetheless we're still looking at the the epidemic increasing and looking for that peak and hoping it happens soon."

  • Dan Keane

    'HELP US'

    Dr Kevin Fong, consultant anaesthetist and national clinical adviser to NHS England's emergency preparedness resilience and response team for Covid-19, was asked if NHS services could be overwhelmed.

    He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that alert level five "by definition means that there is a risk in the next 21 days of services being overwhelmed".

    He added: "I think what we've got coming up now are the most dangerous four to six weeks of the whole pandemic and we need this last push to get us through, and we need everybody's help… to help choke off the supply of these cases coming through.

    "We need the public to help us, we're out there to help you. We need you to help us."

    He said "the whole country is busy at the moment – don't let anyone tell you otherwise, we're running super hot."

  • Dan Keane

    RUSSIA RISE

    Russia HAS reported 24,217 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, including 5,142 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 3,308,601.

    Authorities said 445 people had died, taking the country's official death toll to 59,951. 

  • Dan Keane

    'BIG INCREASE' IN JABS FROM NEXT WEEK

    Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said there will be a "big increase" in the numbers of coronavirus jabs being delivered from next week.

    It comes as the government set a target of 2 million vaccinations per week in a bid to lift restrictions in the Spring.

    "It is an ambitious plan. The Prime Minister is right to set an ambitious target. The NHS has a very clear plan and I am confident that we can meet it," Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast.

    "You will see from Monday a significant increase from the 1.3 million that we have done from December 8."

  • Dan Keane

    RETURN TO NORMAL LIFE IS 'POLITICAL DECISION'

    Asked about the prospect that some measures could be needed next winter to control the virus, Mr Zahawi told Sky News: "I think, as Chris Whitty also said, this will be a political decision when we get to that point of infection between where community transmission is really impacted by the vaccination programme.

    "Then the decision for Government, for us, is to say 'well you know when is it right to begin to lift some of the non-pharmaceutical interventions that we're having to make' – like the current lockdown that we are in.

    "There will come a moment when we see where we can basically manage this virus and be able to bring it back under control. And that is a decision for the Government."

  • Dan Keane

    VACCINATION CENTRES 'IMMINENT' IN UK

    National vaccination centres will start to be seen "imminently", deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said.

    Setting out the different routes of vaccination, he told Sky News: "What we did was stand up the hospital first, because when you have a novel vaccine, you want to make sure that as you increase the numbers of people being vaccinated you do it in a careful way where we can observe people.

    "The regulator has a what is called a "yellow card system" so that we see how people are reacting to the vaccine, in a very safe way.

    "And then we go to GPs – GPs are the most effective way of getting into, say, for example, care homes.

    "Then into national vaccination centres, which you will see imminently."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    VIRAL LOAD

    Two million extra coronavirus jabs are expected to hit vaccination centres in days as booster shots are fast-tracked to get Brits immunised.

    The most vulnerable will get the jabs in the coming weeks after No 10 prioritised the first injection.

    Those receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech require two doses to achieve 95 per cent efficacy.

    However, the decision has been made to prioritise more people to receive their first vaccination.

    The second, booster shot, will then wait a little longer as the country's medics battle to make sure the top four most vulnerable groups in the UK by February.

    The huge undertaking would mean millions of people getting vaccinated per week – with current numbers in the hundreds-of-thousands.

  • Hana Carter

    1.2 MILLION BRITS INFECTED

    Nearly 1.2 million Brits are infected with Covid, Boris Johnson warned yesterday.

    Official data shows one in 50 people in England has the killer virus — and 26,467 are being treated for it in hospital.

    But, in a positive step, the PM said 1.3 million Brits have already been vaccinated — ­including a quarter of all over-80s.

    He also revealed the first mass vaccination centres will open next week as part of a Covid jab blitz.

  • Hana Carter

     

  • Hana Carter

    RISHI DISHES OUT £9,000 GRANTS FOR STRUGGLING BUSINESSES

    Rishi Sunak has unveiled one-off grants of up to £9,000 for struggling firms to help them get through to spring.

    The Treasury revealed a fresh £4.6billion package to help retail, hospitality and leisure sector businesses cope with the seven-week shut-down.

    The extra cash help – which is on top of existing £3,000 grants – aims to help firms make it through until the spring, when restrictions will be lifted after the vaccine is rolled out.

    600,000 firms are expected to be helped with the fresh offer, the Treasury said, with help available across the UK.

  • Hana Carter

    EMILY ATACK SPLITS FROM BOYFRIEND AFTER LOCKDOWN PRESSURE

    Emily Atack’s career has gone from strength to strength in the past few months but the same can’t be said for her love life.

    The actress-turned-comic has unfortunately split from her boyfriend Charlie Edwards after Covid restrictions put pressure on their romance.

    Emily found it difficult to get together with the tattooed model after the Government imposed strict rules about meeting up with other households. The situation was made worse due to her hectic work schedule.

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    MCDONALD'S TO CLOSE FOR TAKEAWAYS

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    CHINESE PROVINCE IN 'WARTIME' LOCKDOWN

  • Hana Carter

    ZARA HOLLAND FACES JAIL FOR BREAKING COVID RULES

    Zara Holland looked glum as she soaked up the sun from her hotel balcony ahead of tomorrow's court appearance, where she could face a year in jail after breaching Barbados' coronavirus laws.

    The 25-year-old star seemed forlorn as she was seen for the first time since her arrest – gazing out to the ocean from behind the railings of the Hilton Barbados Resort.

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