AN EXTRA 1.7million Brits have been added to the list of people asked to shield after new modelling identified additional risk factors.
New data from Oxford University shows people from minority backgrounds, lower income households and those who are overweight died at disproportionate rates during the first wave of coronavirus.
800,000 of those who fall into the new shielding categories but have not yet been vaccinated will now be fast-tracked to get them their jabs as soon as possible in order to make their shielding experience a short one.
The 1.7 million people will also be made a priority for supermarket deliveries and statutory sick pay, it was revealed today.
Meanwhile Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today announced that some children will be returning to schools as early as next week.
She confirmed plans to get more kids back into the classrooms in the coming days, but stopped short of revealing a full plan for easing lockdown measures in Scotland.
Sturgeon said 100% normality is not yet possible – and warned that even a slight easing of restrictions could see cases soar again.
Pre-school kids and a limited number of older kids will be able to return from Monday, 22 February – two weeks before they start back in England.
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STURGEON: SCOTLAND LOCKDOWN TO CONTINUE – BUT SOME PUPILS TO RETURN TO CLASS
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed next week’s return to school for some youngsters is to go ahead – but warned Scots not to see the move as a return to normality.
Primary school children between the ages of four and eight will be back in their classrooms from Monday, along with some senior students needing to do practical work for qualifications – with the First Minister promising a £100 million package to help “accelerate school recovery”.
Senior pupils will also need to stick to two-metre social distancing within schools and on school buses, while Covid-19 testing will be made available to them and teachers.
Local authorities and schools will receive an additional £40 million to help them make theses changes, as part of the wider £100 million package.
But Ms Sturgeon stressed the need to “properly assess” the impact of the start of the phased return to schools meant it was “unlikely” that any more youngsters would get to go back before March 15.
BORIS JOHNSON TWEETS IN SUPPORT OF OUSTED MYANMAR LEADER
The Prime Minister has labelled the latest charges against the ousted Myanmar leader as “fabricated” and vowed to hold those behind the country’s military coup “to account”.
Boris Johnson tweeted: “New charges against Aung San Suu Kyi fabricated by the Myanmar military are a clear violation of her human rights.
“We stand with the people of Myanmar and will ensure those responsible for this coup are held to account.”
STURGEON GIVES GUARANTEE TO SCOTS AS SHE HAILS ‘EXCEPTIONAL’ VACCINE SCHEME
Everyone given their first dose of coronavirus vaccine so far will be able to get their second dose within the next 12 weeks, Nicola Sturgeon has guaranteed.
With concerns having been raised about a dip in vaccine supplies, the First Minister was pressed to confirm whether those who have already had their first jag would be able to have the second dose within the necessary time frame.
Scottish Labour acting leader Jackie Baillie raised the issue with Ms Sturgeon, saying: “Can she guarantee that everyone due their second dose of the vaccine will get it within the 12 week time frame?”
Ms Sturgeon told her “yes”- as she hailed the efforts of all those who have been involved in the vaccine rollout as “beyond exceptional”.
More than a quarter of Scots (28%) have now been given at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the First Minister said.
GOVERNMENT MUST ENSURE REOPENED SCHOOLS REMAIN OPEN, SAYS LABOUR
The Government needs to ensure that once schools reopen their doors that they remain open, Labour’s education spokesman has said.
Aodhan O Riordain said any decision on the resumption of classes for pupils needed to take account of the Covid-19 situation.
He made the remarks after reports said Education Minister Norma Foley had told her Cabinet colleagues on Tuesday that she intends to reopen schools on a phased basis from next month.
She was due to update ministers on the progress of talks with teaching unions about this year’s Leaving Certificate.
The Government had hoped it would be able to announce details on Tuesday of a final plan for this year’s Leaving Cert exams and a reopening date for schools, but it was not possible with talks ongoing with the unions.
BORIS JOHNSON ANALYSING DATA THIS WEEK TO DECIDE HOW LOCKDOWN WILL BE EASED
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants the current national lockdown to be the last – and for the unlocking to be “irreversible” – ahead of the publication of his “road map” on Monday.
Mr Johnson will analyse data this week on coronavirus case numbers, hospital admissions, deaths and the impact of the vaccine rollout as he prepares his plan to reduce restrictions.
IN OTHER NEWS:
- Separate ONS data show the number of weekly registered deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales has fallen for the first time since Christmas.
- But figures also show that more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths occurred each day for 23 days in a row in the UK in January.
- Scientists have identified another new variant of coronavirus which has potentially concerning mutations. Public Health England has identified 38 cases of “variant under investigation” known as B.1.525.
- First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that some pupils in Scotland will return to school from February 22 but the stay-at-home lockdown order will continue until at least the beginning of March and possibly longer.
MUSICIANS LOSING SUMMER BOOKINGS DUE TO CHALLENGES OF TOURING INSIDE EU
Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said UK artists are already losing summer bookings due to the challenges of touring inside the EU.
However, she said the freeze on travel and live performances due to the Covid-19 pandemic offers a “window” in which to resolve the issue.
Ms Annetts told MPs: “Since we moved post-Brexit, so post the transition period, I think the adverse impact of Brexit to the creative industries and in particular the freelance community has become even more stark.
“I have been inundated with personal testimony from musicians as to the work that they have lost or are going to lose now in Europe as a result of the new visa and work permit arrangements.
“Some of them are really quite heart-rending, with musicians saying they are thinking of giving up being a musician altogether.”
GOVERNMENT DID NOT REJECT POST-BREXIT VISA OFFER OVER ‘IDEOLOGICAL ISSUE’
Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage has said the Government did not reject the European Union’s post-Brexit visa offer over just an “ideological issue”.
Ms Dinenage told MPs at a one-off session of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee they are “barking up the wrong tree” and that the UK took a “common-sense position” during negotiations.
The UK’s post-Brexit travel rules, which came into force at the beginning of the year, do not guarantee visa-free travel for musicians in the bloc and a working group featuring some 15 representatives of the creative industries has been set up to investigate.
Ms Dinenage told the committee: “I think you are barking up the wrong tree when you think this is some kind of ideological issue on behalf of the Home Office. I think the Home Office would have been very interested in the visa proposals that the EU were putting forward if they were firm guarantees, if they were actually binding, which they weren’t, if they actually delivered what we needed, if they didn’t ask in exchange for us to sign up to something that any other G7, any other big nation, has signed up for with the EU.
“It is not an ideological thing; it is a common-sense position.”
EU ADDS COVID VARIANT CLAUSES TO JAB CONTRACTS
The EU is adding clauses to contracts with Covid vaccine developers which would allow it to gain access to tweaked shots capable of tackling new variants, sources told Reuters.
It comes as health experts have raised concerns over new strains of the bug, and warned booster jabs could be needed in the Autumn or next year.
One official said the clauses mean that the bloc can purchase upgraded vaccines instead of ones proven to be less effective against new strains.
TEACHERS MAY NOT BE BUMPED UP VACCINE LIST
Teachers may not get bumped up the Covid vaccine priority list in the next phase of the programme.
Instead, the rollout may focus on age and ethnicity as the most important factors, reports claim.
A source on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and immunisation (JCVI), which advises the government on the rollout, told the Telegraph was a prominent factor after age.
They said: “The mortality figures for people from South Asian backgrounds are particularly worrying.
“Once we get down to those in their 50s, we want to be reaching out especially to these ethnic minority groups.”
DON’T MIX AT SCHOOL GATES, STURGEON WARNS
Parents have been urged not to socialise at school gates for fear of spreading coronavirus.
Speaking to MSPs in Holyrood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the return to schools for some pupils from Monday must only be treated as “a return to education for children only, and not as a return to greater normality for the rest of us”.
She said: “If we all do that, then I am hopeful that this return to school will be consistent with our continued progress in suppressing the virus.”
GOVT DID NOT REJECT POST-BREXIT VISA OFFER OVER ‘IDEOLOGICAL ISSUE’
The Government did not reject the European Union’s post-Brexit visa offer over an “ideological issue”, Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage has said.
Ms Dinenage told MPs they are “barking up the wrong tree” and that the UK took a “common-sense position” during negotiations.
She appeared in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in a one-off session about the Government’s handling of talks with the EU over the issue.
Ms Dinenage told the committee: “I think the Home Office would have been very interested in the visa proposals that the EU were putting forward if they were firm guarantees, if they were actually binding, which they weren’t.
“If they actually delivered what we needed, if they didn’t ask in exchange for us to sign up to something that any other G7, any other big nation, has signed up for with the EU.”
FIRST ‘ECO-HOMES’ TO BE BUILT BY APRIL
The UK’s first eco-homes fuelled entirely with clean hydrogen will be built in Gateshead by April, ministers have revealed.
The state-of-the-art technology, part funded by the Government, can be used for heating and cooking, and doesn’t produce any nasty carbon emissions.
The PM wants hydrogen to be a key part of the nation’s climate goals, and hopes to develop a whole hydrogen town by the end of the decade.
Most homes are part heated and fueled with gas, which is responsible for over 30 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions.
OVER 13.5 MILLION PEOPLE JABBED IN SIX WEEKS
A total of 13,575,245 Covid-19 vaccinations took place in England between December 8 and February 15, according to provisional NHS England data.
This includes first and second doses, which is a rise of 221,614 on the previous day’s figures.
4 TRAVELLERS FINED £10K FOR NOT DECLARING THEY WERE IN ‘RED LIST’ COUNTRY
Four passengers were fined £10,000 each after failing to declare they had arrived in the UK from a “red list” country, police said.
West Midlands Police said the offenders were caught after landing at Birmingham Airport on Monday, the first day that tougher border rules were implemented.
Travellers arriving in England who have been in a country at high risk of coronavirus variants in the past 10 days must declare this on a form and isolate in a hotel for at least 11 nights at at an initial cost of £1,750.
STURGEON HAILS ‘GOOD NEWS’ ON COVID INFECTIONS
Lockdown in Scotland has been working, Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs.
When the new stay at home order was put in place in early January, average daily case numbers were 2,300 and have fallen to 810.
The First Minister said: “As a result, we are now seeing fewer Covid patients in hospital and intensive care – although our health service remains under severe pressure.
“Test positivity has also declined significantly – from around 11% at the start of January, to around 6% now.
“All of this – together with our progress on vaccination – is extremely good news.”
SOME SCOTTISH PUPILS TO RETURN NEXT MONDAY
Some pupils in Scotland will return to schools from February 22, Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs.
The move will see all kids in P1 to P3 and those at pre-school return.
However, the the stay at home lockdown order will continue until at least the beginning of March and possibly longer.
GOVT GIVES OUT NEARLY 70,000 LAPTOPS FOR CHILDREN
Nearly 69,000 additional laptops and tablets have been delivered or dispatched by the Government to help children with remote learning in the past week.
New figures from the Department for Education suggest that 493,324 devices have been sent to councils, academy trusts, schools and colleges across England since the lockdown began on January 4.
This is an extra 68,896 devices compared to the same time last week.
A total of 1,055,745 laptops and tablets have been delivered or dispatched to support pupils to access remote education since the start of the pandemic.
HIKES TO INCOME TAX AND VAT LIKELY POST-PANDEMIC, THINK TANK SAYS
Rises to national insurance, income tax and VAT could be required to help balance the Government’s books, the head of an influential think tank has said.
Paul Johnson, the chief executive of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), argued that changes to smaller taxes could help push down the deficit.
But the IFS estimates that around £60 billion might be needed to be raised through taxes in the coming years to help the economy recover from the pandemic.
“If we’re really looking at these amounts of money – that it is hard to see how we do that without looking at the big taxes,” Mr Johnson said.
REYNOLDS: ‘WE NEED TO REPLACE UNIVERSAL CREDIT’
Mr Reynolds added that it was time for the government to find a new benefits system in place of Universal Credit.
He said: “We need to replace Universal Credit – these features always drive the kind of consequences you will see today.
“We need a system which supports people being able to move into work and that means a complete change of policy, not tinkering with it.”
LABOUR MP CALLS FOR OVERHAUL OF BENEFITS SYSTEM
A senior Labour MP has called for an overhaul of the benefits system and said returning to normal after the pandemic is “not good enough”.
Jonathan Reynolds, shadow work and pensions secretary, told Sky News that poverty had “got a lot worse since 2010”.
He added: “Before this pandemic occurred, the UK was a country with rising poverty levels, rising inequality.
“When the Government talks about returning to normal – well, normal is not good enough.”
SCOT LABOUR LEADER CANDIDATE SAYS PARTY MUST ACCEPT CASE FOR INDYREF2
A candidate for the Scottish Labour leadership has said support for independence could increase if the party refuses to acknowledge the case for another referendum.
Monica Lennon, who is backed by the Labour left, suggested that voters could desert the party if they fail to back another vote.
She told the Guardian: “If people in Scotland through the ballot box express that they want a referendum, it would be foolish and undemocratic to ignore that.
“It would be irresponsible for anyone to race ahead and force a referendum to happen this year while we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.
“But for those people who want to hide behind Boris Johnson [by rejecting one], then I would say that would be a disaster for Scottish Labour and actually that itself puts the union at risk.”
BBC DJ JO WHILEY DISTRAUGHT AFTER SHE’S OFFERED JAB BEFORE DISABLED SISTER IN CARE HOME
BBC Radio 2 DJ Jo Whiley has told of her anguish after she was offered a coronavirus jab before her disabled sister stuck in a care home.
She described “living through a nightmare” after being kept apart from her younger sister Frances, who has the rare Cri du Chat genetic syndrome.
Whiley would give her vaccine up “in a heartbeat” to her sister or one of the other care home patients after the residency went on lockdown after a covid outbreak.
“I can’t tell you how frustrating it is and how horrendous it is. It is the stuff of nightmares at the moment. I feel like I am living through a nightmare,” she said.
“All weekend it has been awful – really, really difficult. It has been hard for my parents, it has been hard for everyone in the care home, and it continues.”
VACCINE TRIUMPH AS OVER 80S MOST LIKELY TO BE IMMUNE
It seems the vaccine rollout could be a success, as over-80s are now the age group most likely to test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
The data from testing by the Office for National Statistics used blood tests to test different age groups signs of immunity against the virus.
The blood samples show that over-80s are the group showing the most antibodies, suggesting the vaccine is doing its job.
DR FAUCI WINS $1 MILLION PRIZE
Dr Anthony Fauci has been awarded the $1 million Dan David Prize for “defending science” and pioneering vaccine development.
The Israel-based Foundation congratulated Fauci for courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging Covid crisis” and praised him for “speaking truth to power in a highly charged political environment.”
The 80-year-old chief medical advisor, a key figure in the US coronavirus response, was also chosen thanks to his lifelong mission into HIV research and AIDS relief.
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