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UK Covid live: Sturgeon sets out timetable for easing of restrictions up to April UK Covid live: Sturgeon sets out timetable for easing of restrictions up to April
(32 minutes later)
Scottish first minister says the information about the impact of the vaccination programme is ‘extremely encouraging’Scottish first minister says the information about the impact of the vaccination programme is ‘extremely encouraging’
Rachel Clarke, the palliative care doctor and author, has described Matt Hancock’s claim this morning that there was never a national shortage of PPE last year (see 11.26am) as a “lie”.
PA Media has also pointed out in its news report that there is ample evidence to show that what Hancock said was wrong. PA says:
From Newsnight’s Lewis Goodall, on the differences between the Scottish and UK governments’ approaches to lockdown easing
Boris Johnson has described the threat climate change poses to global security as of “paramount importance”. Speaking at the start of a virtual United Nations security council session on climate change, he said:
Johnson also introduced a video message from Sir David Attenborough, a man he described as having “devoted much of his life to chronicling the threats to all forms of life on our fragile blue planet”.
Public Health Wales said a total of 869,653 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had now been given, an increase of 7,405 from the previous day, PA Media reports. PA says:
The Scottish parliament is redacting one of Alex Salmond’s submissions about “malicious” attempts by former colleagues to banish him from public life after legal warnings from the Crown Office, my colleagues Severin Carrell and Libby Brooks report.
Public Health Wales has recorded 317 further coronavirus cases and four further deaths.
A week ago today the equivalent figures were 275 new cases and eight deaths.
More than 170,000 people have now signed a parliamentary epetition saying the government should not allow vaccine passports. It says:More than 170,000 people have now signed a parliamentary epetition saying the government should not allow vaccine passports. It says:
Epetition that attract more than 100,000 names are considered for debate in the Commons. Epetitions that attract more than 100,000 names are considered for debate by MPs.
In the Scottish parliament Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, was asked by Willie Rennie, the Scottish Lib Dem leader, and Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green co-leader, about “vaccine passports”. Although they both raised similar concerns, she sounded mildly more supportive of the principle than Boris Johnson did when he spoke about them earlier. (See 1.11pm.)In the Scottish parliament Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, was asked by Willie Rennie, the Scottish Lib Dem leader, and Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green co-leader, about “vaccine passports”. Although they both raised similar concerns, she sounded mildly more supportive of the principle than Boris Johnson did when he spoke about them earlier. (See 1.11pm.)
Replying to Rennie, who said he was worried that support for “vaccine passports” was “gaining traction”, Sturgeon said she would not support their use for access to public services. But she went on to say that people should not close their minds to the idea completely.Replying to Rennie, who said he was worried that support for “vaccine passports” was “gaining traction”, Sturgeon said she would not support their use for access to public services. But she went on to say that people should not close their minds to the idea completely.
And when Harvie suggested that “vaccine passports” could make social inequality “even worse”, and make people’s civil rights dependent on their medical history, Sturgeon said she would “never support something that deepened social inequalities, or put barriers in the way of people accessing public services”. But she said these questions illustrated why a debate was needed. She added:And when Harvie suggested that “vaccine passports” could make social inequality “even worse”, and make people’s civil rights dependent on their medical history, Sturgeon said she would “never support something that deepened social inequalities, or put barriers in the way of people accessing public services”. But she said these questions illustrated why a debate was needed. She added:
Here is the Scottish government’s 93-page Covid strategic framework update (pdf).Here is the Scottish government’s 93-page Covid strategic framework update (pdf).
This chart, from the Scottish government’s Covid “strategic framework update” (pdf), summarises the plans announced by Nicola Sturgeon.This chart, from the Scottish government’s Covid “strategic framework update” (pdf), summarises the plans announced by Nicola Sturgeon.
Turning to what will happen between now and April, Sturgeon says the first step came with the partial reopening of schools yesterday.Turning to what will happen between now and April, Sturgeon says the first step came with the partial reopening of schools yesterday.
Restrictions on care home visiting will start to ease from early March, she says.Restrictions on care home visiting will start to ease from early March, she says.
The next phase of easing could start from 15 March, she says.The next phase of easing could start from 15 March, she says.
She says that will involve the next phase of school return – with the rest of primary school years going back, and getting more senior secondary school pupils into class for at least some of the time. She says non-contact outdoors sport should be allowed then for 12- to 17-year-olds. And the limit on outdoor mixing will be relaxed, so that four people from two households can meet - not just two people from two households, as now.She says that will involve the next phase of school return – with the rest of primary school years going back, and getting more senior secondary school pupils into class for at least some of the time. She says non-contact outdoors sport should be allowed then for 12- to 17-year-olds. And the limit on outdoor mixing will be relaxed, so that four people from two households can meet - not just two people from two households, as now.
Sturgeon says the next phase could start from 5 April.Sturgeon says the next phase could start from 5 April.
In this phase the rest of pupils could go back, she says. She says communal worship could be allowed to start. And the rules on outdoor mixing could be further relaxed, so that six people from two households can meet.In this phase the rest of pupils could go back, she says. She says communal worship could be allowed to start. And the rules on outdoor mixing could be further relaxed, so that six people from two households can meet.
And retail will start to open up in this phase she says, with the extension of essential retail being expanded, and the restrictions on click and collect being lifted.And retail will start to open up in this phase she says, with the extension of essential retail being expanded, and the restrictions on click and collect being lifted.
Sturgeon says the next phase could start from 26 April, when hopefully all of Scotland might move to level 3 restrictions, although possibly with some changes.Sturgeon says the next phase could start from 26 April, when hopefully all of Scotland might move to level 3 restrictions, although possibly with some changes.
But this is provisional, she stresses.But this is provisional, she stresses.
Sturgeon says today’s report will be followed by a document in mid-March giving more detail of lockdown easing.Sturgeon says today’s report will be followed by a document in mid-March giving more detail of lockdown easing.
She also says that, although she is setting out plans today, “in the coming weeks, if the data allows and positive trends continue, we will seek to accelerate the easing of restrictions”.She also says that, although she is setting out plans today, “in the coming weeks, if the data allows and positive trends continue, we will seek to accelerate the easing of restrictions”.
She says Scotland will return to the level system from the last week of April.She says Scotland will return to the level system from the last week of April.
From the last week of April there will be a “phased but significant re-opening of the economy, including non essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers”, she says.From the last week of April there will be a “phased but significant re-opening of the economy, including non essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers”, she says.
Sturgeon says there are some signs that the decline in case numbers is slowing down.Sturgeon says there are some signs that the decline in case numbers is slowing down.
And R, the reproduction number, is not far below 1. That means “we have quite limited scope at this stage for easing restrictions”, she says.And R, the reproduction number, is not far below 1. That means “we have quite limited scope at this stage for easing restrictions”, she says.
Sturgeon says the information about the impact of the vaccination programme is “extremely encouraging”.Sturgeon says the information about the impact of the vaccination programme is “extremely encouraging”.
But she says the government still has to proceed cautiously.But she says the government still has to proceed cautiously.
Sturgeon says almost a third of Scottish adults have now received their first dose of vaccine.Sturgeon says almost a third of Scottish adults have now received their first dose of vaccine.
She says the government expects to have offered a first dose to everyone on the JCVI’s priority list - all over-50s, and people with underlying health conditions - by mid-April.She says the government expects to have offered a first dose to everyone on the JCVI’s priority list - all over-50s, and people with underlying health conditions - by mid-April.
And she says she expects to offer a first dose to every adult in Scotland by the end of July - not by September, as originally planned.And she says she expects to offer a first dose to every adult in Scotland by the end of July - not by September, as originally planned.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, says she will set out an indicative timeframe for cautiously easing lockdown.
She starts with the statistics. There have been 56 further deaths, she says. There are 1,076 Covid patients in hospital - 65 fewer than yesterday. And there have been 655 further cases.
Journalists have learned a bit more about the government’s thinking about “vaccine passports”. Boris Johnson expressed some of his own concerns in an interview earlier. (See 1.11pm.) Officials have not been saying any more in public, but reporters are being advised that ministers are not keen on a system where a decision about whether or not someone was allowed to do something would be based solely on whether or not they had had a vaccine.
Instead, there is much more interest in whether information about vaccinations could be combined with information about test results in enabling venues or services to be opened up for people.
But there is no fixed plan yet, we’re told. It will be a genuinely open review.
Ministers also accept that businesses can already decide to refuse people access for various reasons. One function of the review may be to establish the extent to which employers and businesses can and cannot take into account vaccination status when deciding whether to employ people, or serve them as customers. There are already laws in place, but lawyers have argued that they would probably need to be tested in court to determine how they would apply to vaccine documents.
Sky’s Sam Coates has posted on Twitter the full clip from Boris Johnson this morning talking about journalism. It was “a great profession”, Johnson said. But he went on:
Johnson was talking about journalists criticising politicians, because he went on to say that, having felt guilty about criticising politicians, he thought he would try politics himself.
But, as LBC’s James O’Brien argues, this comment may have been an admission that Johnson’s own career as a columnist involved multiple instances of Johnson being offensive about people - often whole cities, nationalities or minority groups.
PA Media has filed the full quotes from Boris Johnson’s broadcast interview this morning during his visit to a school in Lewisham. Here are the key points.
Johnson expressed reservations about the principle of “vaccine passports” being used to limit what people can do. Yesterday he announced a review of how “Covid status certificates” might be used, but in his interview he stressed that “deep and complex” issues were raised by this idea. He also said, if these documents were introduced, they should not be “discriminatory” against people who cannot get vaccinated. He said:
Johnson did not say what the review was likely to conclude. But he certainly did not sound like a passionate enthusiast for using “vaccine passports” in a domestic context, and (as one would expect, knowing his background) he sounded as he were closer to the libertarian end of the spectrum on this issue.
Johnson said Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, would lead the review. He said:
In December last year Gove told the BBC that the government had no plans for so-called vaccine passports.
Johnson said that “vaccine passports” would become normal for international travel. He said:
Johnson said he was “very optimistic” that all restrictions would be lifted on 21 June, the “not before” date set out in the roadmap for the final stage of lockdown exit. He said:
He said the thought the roadmap struck the right balance between opening up quickly and being cautious. He said:
He said a problem with journalism was that journalists were “always criticising”, rather than actually doing things. This is from Sky’s Sam Coates, who interviewed him.
This is a long-standing view of Johnson’s; explaining his decision to quit journalism for politics, he is reputed to have said that “no one ever puts up statues of journalists”. (This might explain why Johnson is keen on a new law to stop people taking down statues. It is also not entirely true. In London, near Fleet Street, there is a fine statue of the 18th century journalist and MP John Wilkes, with an excellent talking commentary from Jeremy Paxman.)
The latest universal credit statistic report, released this morning by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), shows that around 446 people were still making new claims for universal credit every hour in the first week of 2021, and a total of 4.5 million people have made a claim for the benefit since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in the UK in March 2020.
It comes as many people who claimed universal credit for the first time during the pandemic were unable to put aside enough cash to save £10 a month, eat healthily or regularly, or pay bills because the benefit payment was too inadequate, a recent study found.
Thomas Lawson, chief executive at Turn2us, a national charity providing practical help to people who are struggling financially, said the figures highlighted the need for the £20 universal credit uplift announced last year to be extended. He said:
The DWP report also shows that 620,000 families with children have started claiming universal credit since the start of the pandemic – a 51% increase.
Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save the Children, said:
The UK should opt for an elimination policy, aiming to have zero Coronavirus cases in communities, experts from Australia and NewZealand have warned.
The government’s current strategy is to get infections below 10,000 as Boris Johnson announced his road-map out of lockdown on Monday. But experts in countries where they have reduced cases dramatically, have argued that the approach should be one of stamping out the virus entirely.
Speaking at a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus (APPG), leading epidemiologist Prof Catherine Bennett said in Australia and New Zealand “eliminating [the virus] was the idea”.
Prof Michael Baker, acting head of the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said a key factor was how the problem was “conceptualised” early on – with people treating it like influenza and thinking about herd immunity.
He said New Zealand was going to do the same as the UK until it saw the strict Chinese lockdown, where it was treated the same way as a Sars virus and then changed tack.
In interviews this morning Matt Hancock, the health secretary, claimed that the UK never had a national shortage of PPE last year. Asked about the court ruling last week saying that he unlawfully failed to publish PPE contracts on time, he repeated the argument that it was right for his officials to focus more at the time on acquiring PPE than in complying with the disclosure timetable. He told the Today programme:
But at another point in the same interview Hancock did say “obviously there was a massive shortage of a huge amount of items” last year and that the demand for PPE rose tenfold. He seemed to be making a distinction between global and local shortages, which he accepted did occur, and a national shortage, which he claims did not occur.
Rosena Allin-Khan, a shadow health minister, said it was “an insult” for Hancock to claim there was no shortage of PPE. She said:
A report by the National Audit Office on PPE procurement last year said that, although the government deserved some credit for “building at pace a new international supply chain and distribution network”, it took “a long time for it to receive the large volumes of PPE ordered”. The NAO also said: “There were further difficulties with distribution to providers and many front-line workers reported experiencing shortages of PPE as a result.”
More than a third of claims made since universal credit was introduced have been made during the coronavirus pandemic, PA Media is reporting. PA says:
Asked about vaccine passports, Johnson says this is a difficult issue. There are deep and complex issues to explore, he says, including ethical issues.
He says the government cannot be discriminatory. And there may be medical reasons why people cannot get vaccinated, which would mean they cannot get “vaccine passports”.
But he says there is time for his review to consider all the issues.
Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, will lead it.
Johnson says he knows libertarians would object. But other people are pushing for these measures, he says.
He says he thinks they will be used for international travel.