LOCKDOWN rules could be lifted BEFORE June 21 if the UK keeps hitting vaccine targets and deaths continue to fall, Jacob Rees Mogg has appeared to suggest.
On Monday Boris Johnson unveiled a four-step roadmap to freedom, outlining exactly what aspects of daily life could resume and when – with June 21 outlined as the date all restrictions could be lifted.
The Prime Minister insisted any easing would be based on data not dates, however, and said a minimum five week gap between each step would be required to monitor the impact it has had on hospitalisations and deaths.
But Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg last night said there could be room for ‘flexibility’ on the June 21 date if the government keeps ‘smashing’ vaccine targets, according to the Mail.
The risk of schools returning sparking a dramatic rise in infections is believed to be the main reason Boris has adopted a more cautious approach to lockdown easing than many Conservative backbenchers would like.
But if, for example, the return of schools doesn’t lead to the feared surge, Rees-Mogg’s comments appear to suggest there is a possibility the UK could return to normality even earlier than currently planned.
Follow our live blog below for the very latest on the UK ‘s path out of lockdown…
RECAP – WHAT DID GAVIN WILLIAMSON SAY AT THE PRESS BRIEFING?
Gavin Williamson revealed at tonight’s press conference that 18.2million people have now had the Covid vaccine across the UK as the rollout continues to go from strength to strength.
He also insisted tonight that lockdown easing won’t be sped up despite demands from Tory MPs.
The Education Secretary outlined again the plan to get kids back into school, with plans for kids to wear masks in the classroom and to have tests twice a week from now on.
And he will confirm plans for kids to get their grades from their teachers this year tomorrow.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, Mr Williamson hinted schools could lengthen the day or shorten the summer break to give disadvantaged kids more time to catch up on learning lost to the lockdown.
WILL IT BE FULL TEACHER ASSESSMENT FOR EXAMS AND HOW WILL THE APPEAL PROCESS WORK?
Mr Williamson said that he would be putting his trust in teachers this year.
“There’s going to be no algorithms whatsoever,” he said.
He added that there will be a very clear and robust appeals mechanism will be announced to the House of Commons tomorrow.
ARE SCHOOL DAYS EXTENDED THIS AND WILL SUMMER HOLIDAYS BE CUT SHORT?
Mr Williamson said that he hopes that schools would hold activities during the summer holidays which they can drawn down from the £200million fund.
The Education Secretary said that school days would not be extended.
FACE MASK MEASURE TO BE REVIEWED AT EASTER
Mr Williamson confirmed that secondary school pupils would wear face masks while at school with the measure going under review at Easter.
TOMORROW SECRETARY WILL LOOK AT HOW STUDENTS ARE TO BE GRADED
Although the Secretary was unable to announce how students are to be graded he said: “We are putting our trust firmly in the hands of teachers”.
Mr Williamson said that a £302million recovery plan will be introduced which will support schools through tutoring and will fund maths and English support for pupils.
SECRETARY THANKED TEACHERS, LEADERS, SUPPORT STAFF & CHILDCARE WORKERS
“I want to say once again, a massive thank you to our incredible teachers, leaders, support staff and childcare workers,” Gavin Williamson said.
“You have been going above and beyond to keep schools and colleges open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers and to keep the remainder of young people learning when they’re at home.”
EDUCATION SECRETARY SAYS DATA MEANS WE CAN PROCEED WITH SCHOOL RETURN
Gavin Williamson says the latest coronavirus data means that “we are able to proceed with the full return of schools and colleges” on March 8.
GAVIN WILLIAMSON NOW LIVE
UK’S COVID-RELATED DEATH TOLL SHOWS SHARP DROP
The UK’s coronavirus hospital death toll has risen by 364 – marking a significant drop from a one week ago.
England recorded a further 302 deaths today, while Wales recorded 13, Scotland, 47, and Northern Ireland, two.
The total was 42 per cent lower than the 622 recorded by this measure seven days ago.
STURGEON LASHES OUT AT BORIS’ ‘MADE UP’ LOCKDOWN END DATE
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has lashed out at Boris Johnson’s ‘made up’ June 21 lockdown end date.
Sturgeon addressed the PM’s target date as she took her daily briefing after unveiling her own rival ‘roadmap’.
Her blueprint, which was even more cautious in key respects than in England, has sparked anger due to its failure to give any key dates beyond April.
Sturgeon has promised to give another update in mid-March.
ONE-DOSE VACCINE DEEMED SAFE AND EFFECTIVE
Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine has been deemed both safe and effective by the US FDA.
The US Food and Drug Administration has said the jab is able to completely prevent hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19, the Independent reported.
In a critical step that could allow it to be approved in the US, the FDA endorsed the jab on Wednesday for emergency use authorisation.
A FDA independent advisory committee would now hold an all-day meeting on Friday to review the clinical data and make a determination on if the vaccine should receive emergency authorisation to have its release fast-tracked.
STURGEON’S ROADMAP SLAMMED
Nicola Sturgeon has been forced to admit she can’t say when lockdown will end in Scotland – as her vague roadmap was slammed by business chiefs.
The First Minister revealed the early part of her blueprint for lifting restrictions, but was criticised for refusing to look beyond the end of April.
She insisted that she would be “making it up” if she gave a specific date when lockdown will end – despite the fact Boris Johnson has said England will be free of restrictions as early as June 21.
Speaking at a Coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh today, she said: “If I was to give you a fixed, hard and fast date right now, I would pretty much be making it up and I don’t think that’s the approach I should take with you.
“I’m not ruling out any specific dates, I want it to be as soon as possible and we have every reason to be hopeful that come the summer life will be much, much, much better than it is just now.”
MERKEL BEGS GERMANS TO TAKE OXFORD COVID VACCINE
Angela Merkel has begged Germans to take the Oxford Covid vaccine as the country battles a devastating third wave of the pandemic.
The German chancellor warned the country cannot afford “ups and downs” amid refusals of the Oxford vaccine rollout, as its biggest newspaper has praised the UK’s approach.
Merkel’s message comes after German authorities recommended the Oxford jab should not be used on people aged 65 or above, because of a lack of data.
But she told MPs last night: “We are now in the third wave. We cannot afford ups and downs.”
STAGGERED START FOR STUDENTS TO ALLOW FOR TESTING
Secondary school kids won’t all be able to go back on the dot on March 8 as they have to be tested first, Gavin Williamson confirmed today.
The Education Secretary stressed that schools could have a few days to get all their children back in as they would need to organise dishing out the tests.
Secondary school kids are to be tested twice a week under fresh plans to get children back in the classroom from March 8 – with the first two done in schools.
They must be done at least three days apart, meaning millions may not be going back until the week after.
As officials said earlier this week, kids will be allowed a staggered return in order to sort out the system.
NO DELAYS TO SECOND DOSE DESPITE DIP RATE
Everyone will get their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine within 12 weeks despite a dip rate in supply, the government has said.
Boris Johnson’s spokesperson was asked today whether holding back doses for people to get their second jab, was part of the reason for a dip in the number of vaccinations given out in recent days.
“We have been clear that we will make sure that everybody has their second dose within the 12-week period,” they told a Westminster briefing.
“We have been clear that we will make sure that everybody has their second dose within the 12-week period,” they told a Westminster briefing.”
“We said that since we changed the dosing regime, so of course we will make sure that we have that second dose available.”
AROUND 99% OF UK ARRIVALS SKIP HOTEL QUARANTINE
Approximately 99 per cent of daily arrivals in the UK are not going to hotel quarantine, MPs have been told.
Border Force general Paul Lincoln has told the Border Force director general, Paul Lincoln, that there were around 14,000 to 15,000 people arriving in the UK through all ports each day, according to reports from the Guardian.
But of these, only around 150 a day were going into mandatory hotel quarantine.
British and Irish nationals or UK residents arriving from a list of 33 countries were required to book a 10-day quarantine package costing £1,750 per adult.
HIGH-LEVEL COVID RULES TO REMAIN UNTIL AT LEAST APRIL 5: TAOISEACH
A delay in the delivery of the AstraZeneca jab will not impact Ireland’s plans to ramp up its vaccination programme, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheal Martin announced new plans for the programme with the aim to have administered first doses to 80% of adults by the end of June.
It came as he announced Level 5 restrictions will remain in place until April 5 at last, although a phased reopening of schools will start from next week.
Prior to Mr Martin’s address to the nation, AstraZeneca said it will deliver half of the expected delivery of vaccine doses to the EU in the second quarter of the year.
The Taoiseach said this announcement has been factored in to the forecasts in his speech
FARMERS THANKED FOR FILLING SHELVES POST-BREXIT
Boris Johnson has thanked farmers for keeping the UK’s supermarket shelves stocked and delivery boxes filled during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Post-Brexit, he added, freed from the “shackles” of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, “I hope that this can be the moment when we start to realise the many opportunities we now have, not just for the benefit of our fantastic farmers, for all of you, but for our entire country.”
In a video message the PM also told the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) annual conference there were opportunities to make farming more profitable, productive, sustainable and resilient.
TORY LOCKDOWN-SCEPTIC: SERIOUS QUESTIONS OVER ROAD MAP
Mark Harper, leader of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) made up of Conservative MPs, has complained about “dodgy data” being used to inform the Prime Minister’s thinking on how fast coronavirus restrictions can be lifted.
In a six-part thread posted on Twitter, the former chief whip said the modelling from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (SPI-M-O) had been more cautious than the reality.
Mr Harper said the modelling had predicted Covid-19 vaccines would reduce the risk of infection by 48 per cent and 60 per cent with the first and second doses respectively but Public Health England data suggested it was more like 57-70 per cent after one dose and 85 per cent after two.
Similarly, he said Public Health Scotland evidence showed that one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab offered 85 per cent protection against being admitted to hospital or dying from coronavirus, while the Oxford/AstraZeneca afforded 94 per cent protection — well above SPI-M-O’s 70 per cent reduction assumption.
SECONDARY SCHOOLS TO DELIVER SUMMER PROVISION
They will be asked to deliver summer schools as part of the Government’s multimillion-pound catch-up programme for children in England who have faced disruption due to Covid-19.
Boris Johnson has announced an extra £400 million of funding – on top of the £300 million pledged in January – to help pupils make up lost learning time following months of school closures.
As part of the recovery package, summer provision will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, such as incoming Year 7 pupils, whilst one-to-one and small group tutoring schemes will be expanded.
The programme includes a one-off £302 million “Recovery Premium” for primary and secondary schools to support disadvantaged pupils – which could include running additional clubs and activities in the summer, or opting for evidence-based approaches to help children from September.
CORONAVIRUS-SCEPTIC FORMER CZECH PRESIDENT CATCHES COVID
Former Czech president Vaclav Klaus, who has recently made a splash by publicly defying government restrictions to stem the Covid-19 spread, has caught the disease, his spokesman said Tuesday.
“He wasn’t feeling well and he tested positive for Covid this afternoon,” Petr Macinka, spokesman for the Vaclav Klaus Institute think tank, told AFP.
“He underwent a scan and left for treatment at home,” he added.
The Czech Republic currently has the highest per capita infection rate in the world and is second after neighbouring Slovakia for deaths, according to an AFP tally.
A former liberal economist and staunchly eurosceptic Czech prime minister, Klaus served as president in 2003-2013 after succeeding the late Czech anti-Communist hero and former dissident playwright Vaclav Havel.
MP SNUBBED FOR BEING CASUALLY DRESSED AT VIRTUAL COMMONS
An MP was snubbed from making a virtual contribution to Parliament after being judged to be dressed too casually.
Conservative Jonathan Gullis had been set to address the Commons from home during a debate on support for businesses and individuals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the Stoke-on-Trent North MP was skipped on the order paper by Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing after appearing without adhering to the proper dress code.
Mr Gullis was able to make his virtual contribution to Parliament after sourcing a jacket to wear.
During the debate, Mr Gullis appeared on screen with Dame Eleanor telling the Commons: “We now go to… we now go… no, I don’t think we do go to Stoke-on-Trent, the honourable gentleman (Mr Gullis) has to be dressed as if he were here in the chamber.
AIRLINES SLASH PRICES TO LURE BRITS ABROAD
Brits are snapping up flights which are three times lower than the average 2019 price.
Travel firms are reporting a surge in booking for foreign holidays, after Boris Johnson said there was “every chance” breaks abroad can go ahead this summer.
Skyscanner, the flight booking website, said some prices were three times lower than two years ago, the Daily Mail reported.
It found the price of flights to southern Europe was down 82 per cent, with flights to Italy in August at £24 per adult on average compared with £131 this time last year.
Israel’s Prime Minister tweeted his excitement over being a world leader in the race to vaccinate.
“We are the first country in the world that is reviving itself thanks to the millions of vaccines we brought in,” he said.
“Vaccinated? Get the Green Pass and get back to life.”
Mask-wearing and social distancing was still in force, and a cap on numbers had been imposed in places of worship.
The government planned to open the economy more widely next month.
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