Thursday, 4 Mar 2021

Covid UK news LIVE – Lockdown LIFTED in March once all over 70s get vaccine as coronavirus jab rollout reaches millions

LOCKDOWN will be "gradually lifted" in March once all over 70s have received the coronavirus vaccine, the government hopes.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi struck an optimistic tone about the prospects of easing lockdown from early March this morning, revealing that vaccine rollout remains on course for a mid-March lockdown easing.

It follows the hopeful news that people over 70 will begin getting a vaccine this week.

Mr Zahawi said today the Government was on track to meet the mid-February target to vaccinate 13 million of the most vulnerable Brits and lockdown could start to be eased a few weeks after that.

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

  • John Hall


    Home Secretary Priti Patel suggested tougher action would be taken against lockdown sceptic protesters.

    Speaking outside St Thomas's Hospital in central London, the scene of an anti-lockdown protest on New Year's Eve, she called for people to take responsibility for their actions.

    Asked whether there would be tougher enforcement to target protesters she told the PA news agency: "Absolutely, without hesitation. When you look at the pressures on the NHS – and we have been saying this for too long, quite frankly – the public need to take responsibility, act conscientiously, wear their masks, wear face coverings, follow the rules, follow the regulations.

    "I can't emphasise that enough.

    "The police will not hesitate, they are doing a fantastic job in terms of stopping the spread of the virus, making sure people comply, enforcing the coronavirus regulations but helping the NHS in particular save lives and to protect the NHS."

  • John Hall


    Matt Hancock will address the nation in a press conference at 5pm this evening as over Brits over the age of 70 are set to start getting the vaccine this week.

    It comes after the Health Secretary announced more than 50 per cent of over 80s have been given a jab.

    Mr Hancock said today: "More than half of all over-80s have had their #coronavirus jab, so I’m really pleased we can now offer jabs to the over 70s & the clinically extremely vulnerable.

    "Total focus on getting all the most vulnerable groups jabbed by 15 February."

    And ministers have promised every adult will be given a vaccine by September – though this could come as soon as June.

  • John Hall


    The British Medical Association tweeted: "Extremely concerned the Welsh Government is spacing out the Pfizer vaccine to make it last until the next delivery.

    "If Pfizer vaccines are available, second does must be given within the maximum 42 day timeline and all remaining vaccinations for staff must be accelerated."

    Plaid's health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said: "Welsh Government must give an update on vaccines made available for Wales – of each type – plus numbers vaccinated in Wales compared to England, using the different types of vaccine, and on the projected supply of vaccines in the weeks to come. Why are we rationing here?

    "Transparency is crucial at this stage so that progress can be measured, and that both governments can be held accountable and questioned on progress where needed."

  • John Hall


    First Minister Mark Drakeford has praised health workers for helping with the vaccine rollout.

    He said: "We've had a fantastic response from our GP community right across Wales.

    "We're going to use our dentists and our community pharmacists to go on increasing the volume of vaccination.

    "At the moment, the thing that is limiting us is just volume of supply. We could vaccinate more people than we've got vaccine.

    "But we also know that that, too, is going to increase rapidly over the coming weeks."

  • John Hall


    First Minister Mark Drakeford has defended the slower rollout of the vaccination programme in Wales – saying the Pfizer vaccine could not be used all at once.

    The Welsh Government has faced criticism in the past week for vaccinating fewer people in proportion to its population than the other home nations.

    Statistically, Wales is behind the other nations of the UK in delivering the first dose of the vaccine per 100,000.

    As of last week, 3,215 had received it in Wales, compared to 3,514 in Scotland, 4,005 in England and 4,828 in Northern Ireland.

    Mr Drakeford dismissed the statistics as "very marginal differences", and went on to explain that supplies of the Pfizer vaccine had to last until the beginning of February and would not be used all at once.

    "There will be no point and certainly it will be logistically very damaging to try to use all of that in the first week and then to have all our vaccinators standing around with nothing to do with for another month," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

  • John Hall


    Vaccines Minister Nadim Zahawi has insited schools will be one of the first places to reopen.

    Asked if schools could reopen in March, he said: "I'm saying to you that there are lots of uncertainties, we still don't know what the impact of the vaccines are on transmission.

    "But they are top of our list in terms of wanting them to reopen as soon as practically possible, with a combination of testing and of course, vaccination as well."

  • John Hall


    The Covid-19 mass vaccine programme will not have an impact on hospital admissions or death rates until "well into February," the national medical director for the NHS in England said.

    Professor Stephen Powis told Good Morning Britain infection rates in London had "slowed down" but there was "less of a slowdown" in the rest of the country.

    But he suggested there were "early signs" that the lockdown had begun to take effect, although added this will take a week or two to "feed through into hospital admissions, and to begin to take pressure off hospitals".

    "For the next few weeks and into February, it's really important that everybody sticks to those social distancing guidelines," he said.

    "The vaccine programme gives us hope, but it's not going to impact on deaths or hospital admissions until well into February."

  • John Hall


    Mercury from the teeth of thousands of extra bodies cremated during the Covid-19 pandemic could be poisoning the air.

    The Government fears toxic fumes from the teeth may be poisoning people and the environment.

    A £500,000 contract has now been awarded by Whitehall to investigate the problem.

    Emergency laws passed to tackle the pandemic saw crematoria fires burning around the clock to cope with nearly 85,000 extra deaths.

    But the amount of deadly mercury pumped into the atmosphere has soared since February – from victims' teeth.

    The toxic metal, which can cause birth defects, kidney disease and MS, is commonly used by dentists in fillings.

    Now the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has handed researchers £564,000 to assess the danger.

  • John Hall


    A group of seven people have been caught travelling to rent a house and have a 'celebration'.

    It has been revealed that Falmouth Police fined the Covid rule breakers £1,400.

    Chief Inspector Ian Thompson said the breach of restrictions was "totally unacceptable" and that officers will continue to enforce regulations.

    "Falmouth Police today issued £1400 of fines to 7 people who chose to travel to Cornwall, rent a house & have a celebration.

    "Totally unacceptable.

    "Devon and Cornwall Police will continue to enforce the COVID regulations to keep our communities safe."

  • John Hall


    Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said vaccine supply "remains challenging" and is the limiting factor in the rollout of coronavirus jabs.

    He told BBC Breakfast: "We now have built a deployment infrastructure that can deploy as much vaccine as it comes through.

    "And so it's the vaccine supply – which remains lumpy, it remains challenging, you may have read over the weekend probably some of the challenges around Pfizer and of course Oxford/AstraZeneca – but I'm confident we can meet our target mid-Feb, (for) those top four cohorts."

  • John Hall


    Expanding the vaccination programme means that an additional five million people will now be eligible for a Covid-19 jab, Professor Stephen Powis said.

    The national medical director for the NHS in England told Good Morning Britain more vaccination centres were coming online every week.

    "We are now able to expand the vaccination programme beyond those top two priority groups – that's the care home residents, care home staff, the hospital staff and the over-80s – down to the over-70s," he said.

    "So that brings around another five million or so people into the prioritisation groups for Covid vaccination.

    "From today those over 70 years old will be invited in to our vaccination centres."

  • John Hall


    Covid vaccines will be offered to millions of over 70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable from this week as the Government expands the rollout amid a border crackdown to keep out new strains.

    More than 3.8 million people in the UK – including over-80s, care home residents, and NHS and social care staff – have already received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but from Monday it will be rolled out to the next two priority groups.

    The Government said it would remain the priority to vaccinate those in the first two groups, but that sites which have enough supply and capacity to vaccinate more people will be allowed to offer jabs to the next cohorts.

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