LOCKDOWN lifting could be delayed for months beyond June 21, Rishi Sunak warned today.
Speaking to Sky News during a visit to Teeside, the Chancellor revealed he extended his multi-billion furlough scheme until September because the current lockdown roadmap plan “might change”.
“I wanted people to have the reassurance that we were ‘going long’, beyond the end of the road map, because of course things might change.
“Hopefully that won’t happen, we are making great progress… Things will take a bit of time to get back to the way they were, so I think it is important to provide that extra cushion,” he added.
The news comes despite coronavirus case numbers in the UK being “better than anybody was expecting”.
Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh Uni and a Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group member, said the new data showed Britain should end lockdown early.
“The data are indeed looking better than the models were predicting and – to the best of my knowledge – better than anyone was expecting,” he told The Telegraph.
“If the phrase ‘data-driven not date-driven’ has any meaning, then it must allow for the schedule for relaxing restrictions to be brought forward if the data are better than expected and not just putting the schedule back if the data are worse than expected.”
Although he urged caution on the risks of relaxing measures too soon, Woolhouse said there was “a public health imperative to relax measures as soon as it is safe to do so”.
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SURGE TESTING IN TWO NEW AREAS IN ENGLAND
Surge testing has been deployed to two new areas of England to stop the spread of the South Africa variant of coronavirus.
Residents in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, and Brent, north west London, are urged to take up the offer of a test.
Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help understand Covid-19 variants and their spread within those areas.
A Department of Health statement said: “Working in partnership with the local authorities, additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed to targeted areas within Stockton-on-Tees (TS19) and Brent (North Wembley), where the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found.
NEW CARE HOME GUIDANCE CONFIRMS VISITING IS NOT CONDITIONAL ON BEING VACCINATED
Friends and relatives who provide essential care to care home residents should be allowed to continue visiting if the home has a coronavirus outbreak unless there is a specific reason not to, new guidance says.
Care homes in England should enable every resident to be visited indoors by a “single named visitor” from Monday who will be tested and wear protective equipment.
These visitors will be allowed to hold hands with their friend or relative, but will be asked to minimise physical contact and should not hug or kiss them, to help reduce the chance of spreading Covid-19.
The new visiting guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says visiting is not conditional on the resident or visitor having been vaccinated, but this is “strongly recommended”.
The Government has also said residents with the highest care needs will be able to nominate a visitor to provide essential care or emotional support. This will happen in circumstances where “close contact personal care from a loved one is critical for the resident’s immediate health and wellbeing”.
POLICE AND INTELLIGENCE ‘FOILED THREE TERROR ATTACKS IN PANDEMIC’
Police and UK intelligence services have foiled three terror attacks since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Counter Terrorism Policing disclosed the information as Home Office figures showed the number of arrests for terrorism-related activity fell by 34% in 2020, the lowest level in nine years Despite this, the number of terror plots prevented has risen to 28 since March 2017, police said.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, the senior national coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, said: “These statistics tell me two things.
“Firstly, that despite facing unprecedented challenges brought about by the pandemic, Counter Terrorism Policing continued to keep the public safe by making 185 arrests across more than 800 live investigations, stopping three possible terror attacks in the process.
“And secondly, that while the rest of us have been focused on protecting ourselves and our families from this terrible disease, terrorists have not stopped planning attacks or radicalising vulnerable people online.”
COVID DEATHS PLUNGE BY 26% IN A WEEK WITH 242 FATALITIES AND 6,573 CASES IN PAST 24 HOURS
Covid deaths in Britain have dropped by 26 per cent in a week as a further 242 fatalities were recorded today.
And the total number of infections in Britain has reached 4,201,358 after 6,573 were reported in the last 24 hours.
BREAKING: MARK DRAKEFORD SELF-ISOLATING AS A ‘PRECAUTION’
The Welsh Government said First Minister Mark Drakeford is self-isolating “as a precaution” after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.
Mr Drakeford appeared before the Welsh Affairs Committee on Thursday from an outbuilding at the bottom of his garden, where he lived alone earlier during the pandemic when his wife and mother-in-law were shielding.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister is self-isolating as a precaution after being in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.”
MORE THAN 2.2M JABS GIVEN IN LONDON BETWEEN DECEMBER AND MARCH
NHS England data shows a total of 2,239,161 jabs were given to people in London between December 8 and March 3, including 2,147,388 first doses and 91,773 second doses.
This compares with 3,473,258 first doses and 115,627 second doses given to people in the Midlands, a total of 3,588,885.
The breakdown for the other regions is:
- East of England – 2,096,215 first doses and 83,972 second doses, making 2,180,187 in total
- North East and Yorkshire – 2,738,543 first and 108,779 second doses (2,847,322)
- North West – 2,326,546 first and 85,373 second doses (2,411,919)
- South East – 2,867,324 first and 117,118 second doses (2,984,442)
- South West – 2,047,313 first and 80,982 second doses (2,128,295)
‘I WANT TO BE HOME WITH MY FAMILY’: OIL WORKERS CALL FOR QUARANTINE EXEMPTION
Overseas workers in the oil and gas industry say they have been “completely forgotten about” in the UK’s hotel quarantine rules.
Gary Douglass, a rigging specialist from Sunderland, is among those working offshore in the United Arab Emirates, whose shift pattern of 28 days on, 28 days off means it is now effectively impossible for him to come home and see his family.
“We’ve been completely forgotten about,” he told the PA news agency.
Mr Douglass, 51, was stuck overseas for seven months last year when the UAE closed its borders at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since they reopened he has been able to get home – but only for two weeks out of eight as he is required to quarantine for 10 days when he arrives in the UAE before he is allowed to travel out to the rig.
Now the new rules for arrivals coming into the UK mean he is stuck abroad again as, if he returned home, by the time he finished quarantining he would effectively have to turn around and begin the two-day journey back to Dubai – as well as paying £1,750 every time.
THREE MEN HELD ON SUSPICION OF THEFT OF COVID-19 TESTS MEANT FOR SCHOOLS
Police have arrested three men on suspicion of theft after “boxloads” of coronavirus tests destined for schools were stolen from a lorry.
Essex Police said the lateral flow tests were stolen from Harlow Business Park in the early hours of Tuesday and were meant for secondary schools across the country.
The force said the tests have been recovered.
A 31-year-old from Canvey Island, a 27-year-old from Newham, east London, and a 37-year-old from Dagenham, east London, have been arrested on suspicion of theft.
CASE RATES ARE CONTINUING TO FALL IN ALL REGIONS OF ENGLAND
Covid-19 case rates are continuing to fall in all regions of England, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England.
In the East Midlands, the rate of new cases stood at 120.8 per 100,000 people in the seven days to February 28 – the highest rate of any region, but down from 170.5 the previous week.
Yorkshire & the Humber recorded the second highest rate at 113.6, down from 154.0.
South-west England recorded the lowest rate of 43.2, down from 68.5.
DOWNING STREET URGES BRITS TO RESPECT LOCKDOWN AFTER SURVEY REVEALS HALF OF OVER-80S BROKE RULES AFTER VACCINE
Downing Street urged people to continue to respect the lockdown after an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey suggested more than four in 10 over-80s who received a coronavirus vaccine during the current lockdown appear to have since broken the rules.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s important that people continue to follow the guidelines that are in place.”
Asked if the elderly were behaving irresponsibly, the spokesman said: “We are asking everybody to continue to follow the rules and guidelines.”
MATT HANCOCK MORE OPTIMISTIC THAN EVER FOR ‘GREAT BRITISH SUMMER’
Matt Hancock has said he is more optimistic than ever for a “great British summer”.
The Health Secretary said he is confident that coronavirus restrictions will be lifted to allow leisure travel this summer because of the rollout of coronavirus vaccines. Mr Hancock has already booked a summer holiday in Cornwall.
The Government’s road map for easing England’s lockdown rules includes self-contained accommodation such as holiday lets potentially reopening from April 12, while hotel stays and foreign travel could be permitted from May 17.
On a visit to a laboratory in Glasgow, Mr Hancock said: “I very much hope that as we are able to lift restrictions, then we are all able to travel across the UK.
“I’m confident, because of the vaccine, we will be able to make that progress and then be able to, all of us, to travel freely wherever we are within these islands.
CARE WORKER SUSPENDED FOR ‘PUTTING VULNERABLE PEOPLE AT RISK OF COVID-19’
A care worker put nearly two dozen vulnerable people at risk by carrying out home visits while she was suspected to have Covid-19, a tribunal has heard.
Samantha Gould, who previously worked for 1st Grade Care in Cardiff, attended a number of calls last June despite being told by her GP to self-isolate and arrange a coronavirus test after feeling unwell.
Ms Gould claimed she had been given “a verbal negative Covid test result” before making the visits and said she “kept her distance during calls and had an apron, gloves and mask”.
Social Work Wales imposed an interim 18-month suspension last August over concerns Ms Gould had “showed a reckless disregard for the health and wellbeing of those in her care”.
Ms Gould appealed against her interim suspension last month, telling the Care Standards Tribunal that the ban had been “highly stressful” for her. But, in a ruling published this week, tribunal judge Faridah Eden dismissed Ms Gould’s appeal against her 18-month interim suspension.
JAB QUEUE JUMPERS
THE NHS has slammed “reprehensible” queue jumpers who are claiming to be carers in order to get their Covid vaccine early.
Officials aren’t thoroughly checking the credentials of people when they turn up for their appointments, Brits who have had the jab claim.
NHS bosses say carers and NHS staff must provide proof of their occupation when they go to get vaccinated, such as letter identifying them as a registered carer.
But dozens of Brits who claim to have been jabbed have said there were “no checks” and no need to provide any proof of identity.
ALL VON WRONG
Europeans are losing faith in the EU over its “vaccine bungles” and believe Britain’s doing much better, a bombshell poll has revealed.
Only one in six Germans and a quarter of French people think Brussels has done a good job of handling the jabs rollout.
In contrast the UK is ranked by others as the second best performing country in the world at getting shots into arms.
New research in three continental countries found “Europeans are pointing the finger of blame at the EU” over the fiasco.
CHINA’S ‘HUMILIATING’ ANAL COVID SWABS
CHINA has made “humiliating” anal Covid swabs compulsory for ALL international travellers arriving in the country.
Beijing claims the procedure – which involves a 5cm long saline-soaked swab shoved up a patient’s bum – is more accurate that other on-the-spot virus tests.
Doctors in China have been using the anal test on quarantined patients to check if they are free of the coronavirus.
Li Tongzeng, a respiratory disease medic, told state media that Covid traces stay detectable for longer in poo samples than they do in the nose or throat.
However, the prospect of foreign visitors being swabbed up the bum has sparked controversy.
HOSPITAL INPATIENT NUMBERS DROP
THE NUMBER of Covid hospital inpatients in England has finally dropped to levels seen in May.
Official data shows there are now less than 10,000 people in hospitals across the country with the disease.
On March 3, 9,594 patients were recorded as the second wave continues to tail off.
It’s the lowest since November 1, just before the second national lockdown, when inpatients stood at 9,623.
Coming out of the first wave, the level first dropped below 10,000 on May 10, when 9,893 inpatients were recorded.
DOMINIC RAAB: TEENS RECRUITED TO TERRORIST ORGANISATIONS DURING LOCKDOWN IN “WORRYING” NUMBERS
Teenagers are being recruited to terrorist organisations during lockdown in “worrying” numbers, Dominic Raab has said.
Making a statement in the Commons on the so-called Islamic State (IS), the Foreign Secretary told MPs: “This is a critical moment. Yes, Daesh’s brand has weakened – it remains, nonetheless, globally recognised.”
Mr Raab continued: “In December 2020, the UK Counter-Terrorism Referral Unit saw a 7% rise in the volume of terrorist content online and we can see a worrying rise in the proportion of children and teenagers that are now being arrested for terrorism offences.
“And it was Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of The Met (Metropolitan Police) who described lockdown and the accessibility of terrorist content online as a perfect storm because terrorists have digital access to those who are probably the most susceptible to extremist narratives.
“So we are tackling Daesh’s propaganda head on and I am proud the FCDO leads on this work on behalf of the global coalition.”
LATEST NHS TEST AND TRACE FIGURES RELEASED
Of the 69,129 people transferred to the Test and Trace system in the week to February 24, 88.5% were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.
This is down very slightly from 88.7% in the previous week.
Some 11.1% of people transferred to Test and Trace in the week to February 24 were not reached while a further 0.5% did not provide any communication details.
BACK TO SCHOOL BOOZE-UP: PARENTS REQUEST MONDAY OFF AFTER SIX-IN-TEN PLAN BOOZY SUNDAY TO CELEBRATE BACK TO SCHOOL
SIX-IN-TEN parents are planning back to school booze-up this Sunday night – with one-in-ten requesting a day off work on Monday, when kids go back to school.
A poll of 1,500 parents found that 60 per cent said they were planning on a boozy session at home on Sunday evening to celebrate their children going back to the classrooms.
The remaining 40 per cent said they were spurning booze to ensure they were ‘clear-headed’ and not hungover on the day schools re-open.
A spokesman for health and safety firm Protecting.co.uk said today that around 10 per cent of the parents polled said they had asked for a day off work on Monday (Mar 8).
He said: “Employers have reported a spike in last-minute annual leave requests for back to school Monday, and it seems exhausted parents are behind the increase. Many parents will be getting their first break from homeschooling in months – and some, it seems, are planning to celebrate in style, booking an extra day off work to get rip-roaring drunk.”
OUR IN 10 OVER-80S ‘BREACHED LOCKDOWN RULES’ AFTER VACCINATION, SURVEY SUGGESTS
More than four in 10 over-80s who received a coronavirus vaccine during the current lockdown appear to have since broken the rules by meeting up with someone indoors, figures suggest.
Some 43% of elderly people surveyed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said they had met someone other than a personal care support worker, member of their household or support bubble indoors since being vaccinated.
And 41% of over-80s vaccinated in the previous three weeks said they had done so – “appearing to break lockdown regulations”, according to the ONS.
Under rules introduced in England at the start of January, family or friends cannot meet socially indoors unless they are in the same household or support bubble.
UK MAY BECOME ONE OF THE FASTEST COUNTRIES TO APPROVE JABS FOR COVID VARIANTS
The UK could become one of the fastest countries in the world to approve new Covid-19 vaccines to tackle variants.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will oversee a fast-track approach to approving new jabs, after studies suggested variants may make vaccines less effective.
During a visit to the Glasgow lighthouse lab, Mr Hancock said: “We will have a fast-track approach to safely approving future vaccines that work against a variant of Covid-19.
“The vaccine programme has clearly been a huge UK success story, and part of the reason that we have been able to develop the vaccines so far, so quickly, is because of the MHRA’s rigorous yet flexible approach, which has been based entirely on looking as quickly as possible at the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
“I’m delighted that they’re taking that same principled approach to the approval process for vaccines that may work against variants.”
EU SAYS NO TALKS UNDER WAY TO BUY RUSSIA’S COVID-19 VACCINE
The European Commission said on Thursday that there were no talks under way to buy Russia’s Covid-19 Sputnik V vaccine.
“Currently no talks are ongoing to integrate the Sputnik vaccine in the portfolio,” of Covid-19 shots ordered by the European Union, the spokesman told a news conference
21-POSTIE SALUTE: POST OFFICE VAN CONVOY AT FUNERAL OF BELOVED POSTIE
A CONVOY of 21 Post Office vans travelled the delivery route of beloved postie Paul Dunmill after he died from Covid-19.
The 56-year-old postman – known as ‘Postie Paul’ – died on January 30, with his funeral held in Maidstone last week (Feb 25).
As a tribute to the Mr Dunmill, who had worked for Royal Mail for 40 years – since he was just 16 – posties hopped in their vans to follow a horse-drawn hearse to the crematorium for a final send off.
Bosses at the Communications Union posted a photo of the convoy on Twitter, writing: “One of the most moving and uplifting sights in our union is when postal workers turn out to a funeral of a colleague.
“Paul Dunmill passed away after a battle with Covid. Our thoughts are with Paul’s family and friends. Maidstone will miss you.”
STONE ROSES FRONTMAN PULLS OUT OF FESTIVAL AFTER REFUSING TO ‘ACCEPT VACCINATION PROOF AS A CONDITION OF ENTRY’
Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown has pulled out of a headline show after the singer refused to “accept vaccination proof as a condition of entry”.
The 58-year-old has now been replaced by Manchester-based band James following his departure from the Neighbourhood Weekender festival in September. The Fools Gold singer is known for his outspoken anti-vaccinations views and controversial opinions on the Covid-19 pandemic.
In an Instagram post last year, Brown called out the “medical mafia” after saying that a family member suffered adverse reactions to a series of vaccinations.
Ian took to his Twitter yesterday to confirm he was backing out of the festival in September, posting: “My Saturday night headline show at NBHD Weekender Festival will now not happen!
“I refuse to accept vaccination proof as condition of entry. Refunds are available!”
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