MORE police are set to be hitting the streets to enforce Covid-19 restrictions, as experts call for a three metre distance rule.
The warning came from Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday who told people to obey lockdown rules or face further measures within days.
Ms Patel said blame for a crackdown would lie solely with a minority of people who she accused of putting the health of the nation at risk with “endless egregious breaches”.
Speaking at a No10 press conference, Ms Patel said: “If you do not play your part, our selfless police officers will enforce the regulations and I will back them to do so.”
She revealed that almost 45,000 fixed penalty notices had been issued across the UK during the pandemic but warned that the police were going to get tougher.
The Home Secretary was backed by the chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, Martin Hewitt, who warned there would now be more bobbies on the beat.
He told the press conference: “At this critical time, we will have more dedicated police officers out on dedicated patrols to take action against the small few who are letting us all down.”
Follow the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis in our live blog below.
TRUMP ‘TO DUMP COVID SECRET INTELLIGENCE BOMBSHELL’
Donald Trump could declassify bombshell secret intelligence about the outbreak of Covid-19 linking it to a Wuhan research lab as one of his last acts as President.
Ministers are on “red alert” for a major intervention from the outgoing US government within days that claims the origin of the outbreak was a Chinese science facility.
They believe the US State Department could reveal evidence of the deadly bug escaping from the lab and even its scientists links to the Chinese Army.
On Monday the White House enigmatically warned: “The world cannot continue to pay heavy prices for its naiveté and complicity in Beijing’s irresponsible and harmful practices – whether it is ending the rule of law in Hong Kong or not cooperating with health officials on the pandemic.
“The United States is examining further options to respond.”
STRICTER ROUND-THE-CLOCK LOCKDOWN ON THE CARDS
Stricter round-the-clock lockdown enforcement is on the cards if people continue to sneak out, sidestep police and flout Covid rules.
She told people to obey lockdown rules or face further measures within days.
Ms Patel said blame for a crackdown would lie solely with a minority of people who she accused of putting the health of the nation at risk with “endless egregious breaches”.
She added that discussions were ongoing within No10 about tougher restrictions.
She said: “These issues are live in government. The rules are always under review.”
ANGELA MERKEL BLAMES ‘BRIT VIRUS’ FOR GERMAN LOCKDOWN
Angela Merkel has blamed the “British virus” for a new lockdown in Germany amid fears the mutant Covid strain cause deaths to increase ten-fold in the country.
The Chancellor is now considering shutting the country down until Easter as cases and deaths soar.
It comes as the mutant variant – believed to be up to 70 per cent more infectious – continues to spread rapidly throughout the UK.
Ms Merkel now fears the same could happen in Germany, with devastating consequences.
SOUTH AFRICAN STRAIN DETECTED IN UK
Dozens of cases of the mutant South African Covid strain have been detected in the UK, research suggests.
Analysis of nearly 15,000 British samples revealed that 30 were a genetic match for the new, faster-spreading virus.
Officials have so far confirmed only two cases of the variant in late December – both contacts of people who had travelled to South Africa.
Scientists fear the current Covid vaccines will be less effective against the more contagious bug.
The new strain contains mutations including N501Y – an alteration in the spike protein of the virus, which is a target for vaccines.
BORIS BLASTS ‘DEMENTED’ CHINESE MEDICINE BELIEFS
Boris Johnson has blasted the “demented” beliefs of Chinese medicine for causing the coronavirus crisis.
In the thinly veiled attack, Mr Johnson told the One Planet Summit yesterday: “One final thought, don’t forget that the coronavirus pandemic was the product of an imbalance in man’s relationship with the natural world.
“Like the original plague which struck the Greeks I seem to remember in book one of the Iliad, it is a zoonotic disease.
“It originates from bats or pangolins, from the demented belief that if you grind up the scales of a pangolin you will somehow become more potent or whatever it is people believe, it originates from this collision between mankind and the natural world and we’ve got to stop it.”
UK LEADING LIGHT IN VACCINATIONS
Britain has become Europe’s leading light in the effort to vaccinate against coronavirus.
Latest figures reveal the UK has given 10 times more jabs than many of its European neighbours after the government kick-started Covid vaccinations last month.
More than 2.6 million people – almost four per cent of the UK population – had received a jab as of yesterday.
A huge NHS operation has seen seven mass vaccination hubs open across the country this week, supported by hundreds more GP surgeries, hospital hubs and pharmacy-led sites.
VIRGIN ATLANTIC AND NEW LOOK JOIN OUR JABS ARMY
Our jabs Army numbers swelled to an incredible 35,000 last night as yet more firms backed our appeal.
New Look, which has around 10,000 employees, said yesterday that it was “delighted” to back the Jabs Army campaign and will be encouraging colleagues to take part in the vaccination rollout.
Nigel Oddy, CEO of New Look, said: “We want to do our bit in the fight against the virus through this huge vaccination effort by giving back to the communities where we trade and helping to return the country to normality as quickly as possible.”
PATEL HINTED POLICE COULD BE NEXT IN LINE FOR VIRUS
Today, the Home Secretary stressed: “A minority of people are putting the health of the nation at risk by not following the rules.
“If you do not play your part, our selfless police officers… will enforce the regulations, and I will back them to do so”.
“These issues are live within Government – we are constantly looking at where we are,” she added.
She also hinted that police could be next in line for the vaccination after the first phase one has been rolled out – alongside teachers.
And she stressed that the lockdown rules were strict and clear enough – despite calls for them to be more specific after the PM went on a seven mile bike ride.
POLICE CHIEF BLASTS ‘STUBBORN MINORITY’
The Home Secretary appeared tonight alongside Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs Council, as well as Dr Vin Diwakar, Regional Medical Director for London.
Mr Hewitt said: “At this critical time, we will have more dedicated police officers out on dedicated patrols to take action against the small few who are letting us all down.”
He blasted a “stubborn minority” of people who were refusing to abide by the rules and stressed Britain was at the “most dangerous stage” of the pandemic now.
He warned: “With the virus spreading so rapidly through contact with others, we should all be asking ourselves if our reason to leave home is truly essential.”
MORE POLICE ON THE STREETS SAYS PATEL
More police will be deployed onto the streets to fine Covid flouters in the coming days as Priti Patel blasted a “minority putting the nation at risk”.
The Home Secretary issued a stark warning for everyone to play their part and behave responsibly to help push cases down – or ministers may impose even stricter lockdown rules.
Brits were told to all act as if they had Covid and follow the rules to protect the NHS and save lives – as deaths reached 1,243 on the second deadliest day ever.
Police chiefs revealed examples of “dangerous, selfish and totally irresponsible” breaches of the rules – including a boat party where people paid £30 to attend, a mini-bus of people from Cheltenham who went for a walk in Wales, and a £10,000 fine for a party that organisers called a “business event”.
COVID DEATHS JUMP ON SECOND DEADLIEST DAY EVER
Covid deaths today jumped by 1,243 on the second deadliest day ever but cases have fallen.
The total number of people who have died from the disease now stands at 83,203 as a mutant strain continues to rampage across the country.
The total number of infections is now 3,164,051 after 45,533 more tested positive.
This is lower than yesterday when 46,169 more cases were reported.
There is usually a lag in the figures over the weekend before they rise again on a Tuesday.
SHOP WORKERS CONSIDERED IN PHASE TWO OF VACCINE ROLLOUT
Shop workers may be among those to receive a coronavirus vaccine in the second phase of the rollout, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
Under the first phase, now underway, priority is being given to the elderly, vulnerable people, and frontline medical staff.
Hancock has previously said the government hopes to vaccine the 13.9million highest-priority people by mid-February.
Speaking in the Commons today, he said the government was looking “very carefully” at which professions should be “prioritised in phase two of the prioritisation programme”.
“We will look at teachers and police, but also we will look at shop workers and we will make those decisions based on the data,” he said.
LONG COVID ‘NEEDS TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY’
Young people who think they are “invincible” when it comes to Covid-19 have been urged to take the virus seriously by those suffering from long Covid.
Speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus, Dr Nathalie MacDermott said employers need to understand that long Covid is a “genuine condition” and that people may need to be off work for a significant period of time.
She added: “And I think we need better recognition in the public, particularly the younger public who think that they’re invincible.
“I’m 38 and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to walk properly without crutches again. Will this continue to get worse? Will I end up in a wheelchair?”
PETER ANDRE’S WIFE HITS OUT AT CELEBS GOING ABROAD
Peter Andre’s wife Emily has slammed Zara Holland’s Barbados coronavirus crime as Pete continues to battle the illness at home.
Zara, 25, was taken to court and fined after she and her Covid+ boyfriend Elliott Love were caught trying to flee the holiday destination as they broke strict quarantine laws.
The mother-of-two said: “So many celebrities have been criticised for travelling abroad during lockdown.
“We don’t know the circumstances and some of them could be working, but I think if they are breaking the rules then they shouldn’t be putting it on social media when we’re all stuck in lockdown back home!
“Former Love Island star Zara Holland was lucky to only receive a £4,417 fine after breaching quarantine rules in Barbados.
“You have to put the health of other people first and to try and leave Barbados after her boyfriend tested positive wasn’t the right thing to do.”
THIRD US LAWMAKER TESTS POSITIVE AFTER CAPITOL RIOTS
A third member of the US congress has tested positive for coronavirus following the riots at the Capitol building last week, ABC News.
Democrat Brad Schneider, who represents Illinois, said in a statement: “Unfortunately, I received a positive COVID-19 test this morning following being tested yesterday on the advice of the House Attending Physician.”
He also said that, during the siege, he had had to shelter with several Republican colleagues who “adamantly refused to wear a mask” while confined in a room within dozens of other people.
He said he felt “angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff”.
Congresswomen Pramila Jayapal and Bonnie Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, have both also tested positive.
QUARTER OF COVID ADMISSIONS IN ENGLAND UNDER 55
A quarter of all coronavirus admissions in England are under 55, the head of NHS England has said.
Appearing before the public accounts committee on Monday, Sir Simon Stevens discussed the pressure on hospitals caused by the virus, which he said is now spreading “out of control”.
“In London perhaps one in 30 people has the coronavirus, in parts of London it may be twice that number,” he said.
“In Merseyside in just the last week there has been a further 50% increase in the number of Covid hospitalisations.
“It’s worth remembering that this affects all ages. A quarter of the Covid admissions to hospital right now are for people aged under 55.”
TRANSPORT WORKERS CALL FOR BETTER PROTECTION
Staff on London’s transport services are calling for better protection from the coronavirus, the BBC reports.
Fifty-seven staff from the network – including 42 on London’s buses, eight on the tubes and rail, three office staff, and four from partner bodies – have died since the start of the pandemic.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has called for all vulnerable workers to be sent home and for higher-quality PPE to be made available.
Representing the union, Mick Cash said: “The only way we can get through the pandemic to the other side of a vaccinated and safe London is if transport staff are adequately protected.”
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association has also said essential transport workers should be given a vaccine.
ASDA TO TURN AWAY CUSTOMERS WITHOUT MASKS
Asda has said it will begin refusing customers entry to its stores if they are not wearing a mask.
It becomes the latest in a string of supermarkets – including Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – to impose the measures.
Asda said an exemption would apply for customers with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask.
A statement read: “If a customer has forgotten their face covering, we will continue to offer them one free of charge.
“But should a customer refuse to wear a covering without a valid medical reason and be in any way challenging to our colleagues about doing so – our security colleagues will refuse their entry.”
EXERCISE RULES NEED CLARIFYING, SAY POLICE LEADERS
Police leaders have called for the clarification of “woolly” lockdown rules governing the distance people can travel from their homes to exercise.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was seen on Sunday riding his bike in the Olympic Park, Stratford, seven miles from Downing Street.
Government guidance currently tells the public to only exercise in their local area, but there is no maximum distance set by law.
Brian Booth, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said: “The guidance is that you should be local in your own community near where you live but people are far exceeding that.
“Officers have no power in law to deal with it, so it is a bit of a nonsense really. The guidance is people’s moral judgement, should they be doing it, but with regard to policing it – it’s impossible.”
WHO EXPERTS TO VISIT WUHAN FIRST IN VIRUS PROBE
Scientists from the World Health Organisation investigating the origins of the coronavirus in China will begin their visit in the city of Wuhan, China has said.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the team are due to arrive in the city on Thursday.
The coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan late last year, and has been traced to a market selling wild animals in the city.
It comes after WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week criticised China for taking to long to grant investigators entry to the country.
JOHN LEWIS SUSPENDS CLICK AND COLLECT DUE TO COVID
Retailer John Lewis have confirmed it would temporarily suspend click & collect services based within its department stores in a bid to discourage non essential travel.
The department stores’ in-home services and installations teams will also only carry out a significantly reduced range of activities in customers’ homes, pausing services which are not essential to the health and wellbeing of customers and their families.
The partnership’s Waitrose supermarket chain has also followed rivals in making the wearing of face coverings by customers mandatory.
An A&E nurse has tested positive for coronavirus a month after having his first vaccine dose, and just days after his second dose was cancelled.
David Longden, 43, is at least the second healthcare worker to fall ill with the disease after having being given one dose of the Pfizer jab.
Other junior NHS staff members have reported getting the virus after receiving the jab, according to Professor Tim Spector, who heads up the ZOE Symptom Tracker App study.
Originally patients were to be given their second dose 21 days after the first, giving them the optimal level of protection.
The change was made in order to speed up the roll-out during the most serious point of the pandemic, spread doses across a larger population, and therefore save more lives.
Read more HERE.
ASDA SAYS CUSTOMERS MUST WEAR FACE MASKS WHEN ENTERING STORES
ASDA has said that customers who refuse to wear a face mask without a valid medical reason will be denied entry to its stores.
The supermarket giant followed Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons in making the policy change, which comes after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
In a statement, an Asda spokesperson said: “If a customer has forgotten their face covering, we will continue to offer them one free of charge – but should a customer refuse to wear a covering without a valid medical reason and be in any way challenging to our colleagues about doing so – our security colleagues will refuse their entry.”
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