THE UK will scrap social distancing laws and move towards “personal responsibility” for covid safety, Matt Hancock said today.
“What we want to do is get rid of the social distancing-type laws that get in the way of normal life and move to personal responsibility, rather than laws dictating how all of us live our daily lives,” the Health Secretary told Times Radio.
“But, it is also clear that eradication is unfortunately not possible… so we are going to have to learn to live with it. In the same way that for instance we live with flu – but we don’t let flu get in the way of living our lives.
“But we do vaccinate against it every year – in the case of flu we vaccinate those who are most vulnerable – and so I expect to have that vaccination programme as a regular feature of future life,” he added.
The news comes after Boris Johnson was warned the consequences of lifting lockdown too quickly would lead to 91,000 extra covid deaths,
The advice, from the Government’s SAGE advisers, forcing him to make tweaks to the roadmap plan he unveiled yesterday.
As a result, Brits will be able to meet in a rule of six outdoors at Easter, with non-essential shops still closed until later in April and some limits in place on the size of gatherings for four months until June 21.
Follow our live blog below for the very latest on the UK ‘s path out of lockdown…
PIERS MORGAN SLAMS ‘WOEFUL’ MATT HANCOCK
Piers Morgan blasted “patronising” Matt Hancock in a fiery GMB clash today as the Health Secretary demanded thanks for his team’s handling of the pandemic.
The Good Morning Britain host slammed Mr Hancock’s “woeful” management of the Covid crisis, which has killed nearly 140,000 Brits.
Piers grilled Mr Hancock on why he hadn’t apologised after he was found guilty of unlawful conduct over transparency of PPE contracts.
Mr Hancock said: “I think we should be on this programme thanking my team. They work so hard.”
Piers replied: “Let’s just analyse that. You and your team have presided over a woeful handling of this pandemic that has led to us having the worst death toll in Europe, 130,000 people dead.”
Piers Morgan clashed with Health Secretary Matt Hancock on this morning’s GMBCredit: Rex Features
GOVE TO LEAD ON COVID CERTIFICATES
Boris Johnson says senior minister Michael Gove will lead a review to thrash out the “scientific, moral, philosophical, ethical” question of vaccine certificates.
This documentation has been suggested to prove that Brits have received a coronavirus shot, which could facilitate the re-opening of entertainment and hospitality venues.
“There are deep and complex issues that we need to explore, ethical issues about what the role is for government in mandating all people to have such a thing,” the PM said.
“We can’t be discriminatory against people who, for whatever reason, can’t have the vaccine.
“There might be medical reasons why people can’t have a vaccine… some people may genuinely refuse to have one,” he added.
BORIS JOHNSON OPTIMISTIC ABOUT FULLY REOPENING IN JUNE
An upbeat Boris Johnson said today that he was very optimistic that all Covid restrictions in England would end on June 21.
“I’m hopeful, but obviously nothing can be guaranteed… I’m very optimistic that we’ll be able to get there,” Mr Johnson told broadcasters.
On Monday the PM unveiled a map out of lockdown for England that will keep some businesses shuttered until the summer.
He told Brits that caution was necessary to ensure there were no reversals on a “one-way road to freedom”.
PM ADAMANT LOCKDOWN FREEDOM PLAN ‘BALANCED’
Boris Johnson is adamant his road map to ease the third lockdown strikes the right balance in reducing restrictions while observing risks.
At a school in south London the Prime Minister today told reporters: “Some people will say that we’re going to be going too fast, some people will say we’re going too slow.
“I think the balance is right – I think it is a cautious but irreversible approach, which is exactly what people want to see.
“Getting kids back into school – massively important for the country – we need time to assess what that does to the disease, to the prevalence of Covid.
“So we think it’s a sensible approach, a prudent approach, but also as I think people can see it goes on irreversibly and we open up on June 21 in a way that I don’t think people would have really thought possible had it not been for the rollout of the vaccinations.”
Boris Johnson talks to journos at Sedgehill School in Lewisham, south east LondonCredit: PA:Press Association
HOUSE SALES 24.1% HIGHER IN JANUARY
The number of UK house sales was nearly a quarter higher in January than in the same month in 2020, figures from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) show.
Some 121,640 residential property transactions were recorded – marking a 24.1 per cent rise on January 2020 but 2.4 per cent down on December 2020.
Despite recent surges in transactions as buyers rush to meet a stamp duty holiday deadline in March 2021, the market is still playing catch-up compared with previous years.
HMRC said that, looking at the financial year 2020/21 so far, which covers April 2020 to January 2021, transactions were at their lowest since the same period in 2012/13, when the total was 767,420.
The housing market was effectively shut down for a period at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but a temporary stamp duty cut in July – due to end in England and Northern Ireland on March 31 – and the reopening of the market have pushed up demand.
TRAVELLERS MISS FLIGHTS TO UK OVER QUARANTINE WOES… CONTINUED
Passengers who do not arrange a hotel quarantine package prior to arrival in England from red list countries face a penalty of up to £4,000, on top of the quarantine costs.
Those experiencing invoice delays are those who see their initial payment for the hotel declined, or those opting for a Government deferred repayment plan – this means those struggling financially are most affected.
A CTM spokesman told PA: “These bookings need to be approved by the Government before the invoice is issued and as a result, there may be a short delay whilst approval is obtained and an invoice is generated.”
Customers also reported difficulty getting hold of CTM to resolve issues and get an invoice number, with one person saying she was on hold to the company for almost two hours.
Passengers who quarantine at home are required to order Covid tests, to be taken on days two and eight. However, some have said they are experiencing delays receiving these on time.
TRAVELLERS MISS FLIGHTS HOME DUE TO DELAYS IN HOTEL QUARANTINE BOOKING SYSTEM
Passengers on the hotel quarantine scheme said they have been forced to miss flights back to the UK due to delays in the Government’s booking scheme.
One passenger told the PA news agency that the delays had led to them missing two flights back from Ethiopia – a ‘red list’ country.
The hotel quarantine system is automated and run by travel management firm CTM, and passengers are being refused entry on planes without invoice numbers.
While most customers get an invoice immediately after paying £1,750 for a hotel quarantine stay, some said they are experiencing delays receiving that invoice.
Without an invoice number, travellers cannot complete their passenger locator forms, proving they have booked and paid for accommodation.
DELAY HUGGING PALS & FAMILY TILL MAY 17
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today that while it is “some time off”, he hopes that people will be able to hug friends and family from May 17.
When asked about when people could hug their loved ones, he told BBC Radio 4: “Well I hope that will happen from May 17, that you will be able to go and stay away. That is some time off.
“You and I, both of our parents live in Cheshire, and to be able to go and see them and stay overnight – not before May 17.
“So I appreciate that that is some time, but that is the earliest that we thought it was safe to be able to take that step.”
CORONAVIRUS LATEST UK DEATH TOLL – ONS
A total 138,468 people died in the UK by February 12 where Covid-19 was mentioned on their death certificates, the ONS said today.
The daily death toll for the second wave peaked on January 19, when 1,447 fatalities occurred.
During the first wave of the virus the death tally peaked at the slightly higher number of 1,457 on April 8, 2020.
ARLENE FOSTER MAKING UP SCHOOL REOPENING POLICY ‘ON THE HOOF’ – SINN FEIN
Sinn Fein has accused Arlene Foster of making up policy ‘on the hoof’ after the First Minister suggested revisiting Stormont’s decision on schools reopening.
Last Thursday, the Stormont executive announced that some primary school pupils would return to class on March 8, with some older post-primary school children returning on March 22.
But on Monday night, Mrs Foster changed tone, suggesting the decision could be reconsidered – after PM Boris Johnson announced a full return to school in England on March 8.
Sinn Fein’s education spokesman Pat Sheehan accused Mrs Foster of flipping her position in response to Mr Johnson’s move and “hitching the DUP’s wagon to Boris”.
“It’s disappointing that Arlene wants to go and make policy on the hoof in interviews on the TV last night. Nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is that Boris Johnson has decided to make a decision for England,” Mr Sheehan added.
HANCOCK URGES PEOPLE TO GET THE JAB AMID FEARS OF ‘POCKETS OF INFECTION’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has again appealed for Brits to get the coronavirus jab amid warnings that the bug may persist in deprived inner city communities where uptake is low.
The Government has faced criticism from some Tory MPs over the pace of the easing of lockdown rules, which will not see all legal controls removed until June 21 at the earliest.
And chairman of the Covid Recovery Group Mark Harper said that, with uptake of more than 90 per cent among those groups which have been offered the vaccine, the country should not be “held back” by those who refuse it.
But Dr Mike Tildesley, reader in mathematical modelling of infectious diseases at the University of Warwick, told BBC Radio 4 that failure to ensure all communities are protected could lead to a new wave of infections.
“And that actually poses a real risk that we are not capturing currently in those models – if we do get these pockets of infection then it could be that actually we could have a more significant risk.”
DEATH TOLL DROPPING
A total of 5,691 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending February 12 mentioned Covid on the death certificate.
This is according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which said it was the lowest figure since the week ending January 1.
The figure is also down 22 per cent from 7,320 deaths in the week to February 5.
Just over a third (37 per cent) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to February 12 mentioned Covid on the death certificate.
DON’T HUG MOST VULNERABLE BRITS YET
When asked about hugging being allowed from May 17, Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged caution despite the most vulnerable receiving both vaccine doses by this date.
“We know that close contact is how this disease is passed on,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“And so the reason for that timing is, by then, all of the most vulnerable groups will have been able to have two jabs.
“We know from the data that was published yesterday that the first jab is very effective in helping to protect you against catching Covid, or hospitalisation, or of course dying from it.
“But the second jab adds to that protection, adds further. But we do want to be cautious until the most vulnerable groups have been able to have both of those doses,” he said.
JABS WILL BE ‘USELESS’ UNLESS BILLIONS VACCINATED – DOC
All 7.6billion people in the world must be vaccinated for Covid as soon as possible or jabs could be “rendered useless,” a top doctor has warned.
Speaking on BBC Radio, Dr Richard Hatchett warned: “What we know is that clearly the virus is rampant around the world.”
It comes after a worrying report revealed some developing countries would not receive inoculations until 2023.
“We know that we’re in a race with the virus, and that the longer the virus circulates and transmission is high, the more likely we are to see the emergence of mutations that may render our vaccines useless, frankly.
“We need to suppress transmission globally as fast as we can. There are over 100 countries where not a single vaccine dose has been administered yet,” added Dr Hatchett, CEO of Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness.
Vaccinations are being rolled out across the UK – but some countries haven’t seen a single Covid jab, warn expertsCredit: The Press Association
JOBLESS RATE HITS 5.1% BUT DATA SHOWS ‘EARLY SIGNS’ OF STABILITY
The number of workers on UK payrolls has fallen by nearly 730,000 since the start of the pandemic and the jobless rate has surged to its highest level since 2016.
But official figures reveal “early signs” of a stabilising jobs market, says the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It said the number of payrolled workers rose by 83,000 between January and February in the second small monthly increase in a row.
The rate of unemployment has also now hit 5.1 per cent between October and December – up from five per cent in the previous quarter.
Unemployment stood at 1.7 million between October and December, up 454,000 over the year, marking the biggest annual increase since the financial crisis.
PM SAYS LOCKDOWN ROAD MAP WILL BRING ‘INCOMPARABLY BETTER’ LIVES
Spring and summer in England will usher in changes to make our lives “incomparably better”, says Boris Johnson after setting out a plan to fully ease the lockdown by June 21.
The Prime Minister defended his “cautious but also irreversible” approach to relaxing restrictions with a four-step plan on Monday, arguing against “buccaneering” with people’s lives.
Despite billing his plans as a “one-way road to freedom”, he admitted he cannot guarantee that the vaccination programme will prevent restrictions from ever returning.
His tentative schedule for easing restrictions will be followed this afternoon by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon detailing her own plan for easing Scotland’s lockdown.
‘DODGY DATA’ BLAMED FOR DELAYED LIFTING OF LOCKDOWN
The delay on lifting lockdown restrictions in England has been driven by “dodgy” data models, the leader of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Conservatives has claimed.
Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper accused the Government of understating the effectiveness of the Covid-19 jab and assuming a low uptake of those willing to have it.
He claimed the Government had made “dodgy assumptions” and said the delay in easing the majority of lockdown measures will have “real consequences” for people’s jobs and livelihoods.
Mr Harper also told LBC on Tuesday: “The Government seems to have looked at some models with dodgy assumptions and have effectively delayed opening the country by two months.”
But the Prime Minister said on Monday the government had to take into account that a “significant minority” of people would refuse a vaccine or not been given sufficient protection, which could allow the disease to “rip through those groups”.
MATT HANCOCK: ALL ADULTS OFFERED COVID JABS BY JULY 31
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the UK is on target to offer Covid jabs to all adults by July 31.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We want to see that vaccine uptake go as high as possible.
“But it’s absolutely on all of us to come forward and get the vaccine. It’s the right thing to do.
“I want to obviously offer the vaccine to all adults by the end of July, that’s the target that we think that we can meet, and all over-50s by April 15, and we have been able to bring that forward.
“But we are also, alongside that, working incredibly hard to encourage people to take it if they are unsure.”
SPORTS DIRECT OWNER EXPECTS TO TAKE £100M COVID HIT
Sports Direct owner Frasers Group has said it could take a hit in excess of £100million due to Covid restrictions on non-essential retailers reopening stores lasting until April 12.
The company said the continued shutdown is likely to hit its accounts, with impairments to freehold properties, other property, plant and equipment and right of use assets.
In a statement to the stock exchange, it said: “Given the length of this current lockdown, potential systemic changes to consumer behaviour, and the risk of further restrictions in future, we believe this non-cash impairment could be in excess of £100 million.”
SOCIAL DISTANCING LAWS TO BE DROPPED
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the UK will eventually move to “personal responsibility” rather than being governed by social distancing laws in the future.
“What we want to do is get rid of the social distancing-type laws that get in the way of normal life and move to personal responsibility, rather than laws dictating how all of us live our daily lives,” he told Times Radio.
“But, it is also clear that eradication is unfortunately not possible with this disease, so we are going to have to learn to live with it.
“In the same way that for instance we live with flu – but we don’t let flu get in the way of living our lives.
“But we do vaccinate against it every year – in the case of flu we vaccinate those who are most vulnerable – and so I expect to have that vaccination programme as a regular feature of future life.”
SURGE IN HOLIDAY BOOKINGS FOLLOWING ROAD MAP TO END LOCKDOWN
Airlines and travel firms are experiencing a surge in demand following Boris Johnson’s road map for how coronavirus restrictions will be eased.
All going well, foreign holidays could be permitted from May 17.
Hours after his announcement, easyJet said bookings by UK customers for the summer season were more than four times higher compared with the same period during the previous week.
The most popular destinations for this summer are beach resorts including Malaga, Alicante and Palma in Spain, Faro in Portugal and the Greek island of Crete.
August is the most booked month, followed by July and September.
Places like Crete are getting booked for hols alreadyCredit: Getty Images – Getty
WALK TO FREEDOM
BORIS Johnson set England on a snail-paced return to freedom with Covid restrictions not fully lifted until June 21 at the very earliest.
The PM dismayed many hoping for a return to more normal life, including his own Tory MPs, with an ultra-cautious reopening blueprint.
At a press conference last night he insisted the extraordinarliy successful vaccines program would throw a “shield” round the entire population.
PM UNVEILS PLAN
SHOPS, pubs, beauty salons and hairdressers will return from April 12 – and the PM will FINALLY reveal whether the nation can book a foreign summer holiday.
The PM told MPs in the House of Commons his “cautious but irreversible” plan today to get the country back to normal after the “extraordinary” success of Britain’s speedy vaccine rollout.
RISHI SUNAK is set to extend furlough until at least July, The Sun can reveal.
The Chancellor will cough up mega bucks at next week’s Budget to throw a lifeline to workers whose businesses are forced to stay closed.
oris Johnson has today vowed to do whatever is necessary to make sure Brits are kept away from the dole queue.
INTEGRATED MENTAL HEALTH AND HOUSING SUPPORT ‘COULD SAVE NEARLY £1BN PER YEAR’
Almost £1 billion could be saved per year if integrated mental health and supported housing systems were in place across England, according to a report.
A report commissioned for the housing and support services provider Look Ahead estimates £950 million could be saved per year if integrated systems currently used in parts of London and the South East were scaled up.
Economics consultancy Europe Economics, which wrote the report, found that the models used by 167 individuals supported by Look Ahead Care and Support saved £5 million a year compared to hospital-based mental health care.
These include the integration of Crisis and Recovery Houses – community alternatives to in-patient psychiatric treatment; rehabilitation services providing accommodation and support to develop mental health stability and daily living skills, and support to help people adapt to community living from secure in-patient settings.
This money could be redirected to other public health needs, the report says, as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
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