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UK Covid live: Hancock's claim there was no national shortage of PPE last year branded 'an insult' by Labour UK Covid live: Hancock's claim there was no national shortage of PPE last year branded 'an insult' by Labour
(32 minutes later)
In interviews this morning the health secretary claimed that the UK never had a national shortage of PPE last yearIn interviews this morning the health secretary claimed that the UK never had a national shortage of PPE last year
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 UC 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 UC 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 UC uplift announced last year to be extended. He said:
The DWP report also shows that 620,000 families with children have started claiming UC 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: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.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: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.”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: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.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”.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.But he says there is time for his review to consider all the issues.
Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, will lead it.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.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.He says he thinks they will be used for international travel.
Sky News is broadcasting an interview with Boris Johnson, who is visiting a school.Sky News is broadcasting an interview with Boris Johnson, who is visiting a school.
Q: Your roadmap envisages quite a rapid jump, from semi-lockdown to thousands of people being allowed at events just five weeks later. Are you going too fast?Q: Your roadmap envisages quite a rapid jump, from semi-lockdown to thousands of people being allowed at events just five weeks later. Are you going too fast?
Johnson says some people say the government is going too fast, and some thing it is going too slow. He says he thinks he is being prudent.Johnson says some people say the government is going too fast, and some thing it is going too slow. He says he thinks he is being prudent.
But he thinks the country will be able to open up from 21 June in a way that people did not expect.But he thinks the country will be able to open up from 21 June in a way that people did not expect.
Q: The deputy chief medical officer in Wales has expressed doubts about that deadline. How confident are you it can be met?Q: The deputy chief medical officer in Wales has expressed doubts about that deadline. How confident are you it can be met?
Johnson says he is “hopeful”. He says science has provided a shield for the population.Johnson says he is “hopeful”. He says science has provided a shield for the population.
In interviews this morning, when asked when people in England would be able to hug friends and family, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said he hoped that would be possible from 17 May.In interviews this morning, when asked when people in England would be able to hug friends and family, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said he hoped that would be possible from 17 May.
Asked to explain the timing, he said:Asked to explain the timing, he said:
The deputy chief medical officer for Wales, Chris Jones, has expressed concern and scepticism over the UK government’s 21 June target to lift all limits on socialising in England.The deputy chief medical officer for Wales, Chris Jones, has expressed concern and scepticism over the UK government’s 21 June target to lift all limits on socialising in England.
Asked on BBC Radio Wales about the excitement in England the announcement of the date had caused, Jones said:Asked on BBC Radio Wales about the excitement in England the announcement of the date had caused, Jones said:
He said he would be “very surprised” if all limits on socialising could be lifted in Wales by 21 June. He went on:He said he would be “very surprised” if all limits on socialising could be lifted in Wales by 21 June. He went on:
More travel companies have followed easyJet (see 9.44am) in reporting a surge in demand for foreign holidays, PA Media reports. PA says:More travel companies have followed easyJet (see 9.44am) in reporting a surge in demand for foreign holidays, PA Media reports. PA says:
Wales had effectively stopped recording excess deaths by early February, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. But in the week ending Friday 12 February deaths in all regions of England were still well above the five-year average for this time of year, and overall deaths in England and Wales were running at 28.8%.Wales had effectively stopped recording excess deaths by early February, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. But in the week ending Friday 12 February deaths in all regions of England were still well above the five-year average for this time of year, and overall deaths in England and Wales were running at 28.8%.
Of the 15,354 deaths in England and Wales in the week ending 12 February, 37.1% involved Covid (in that it was mentioned on the death certificate).Of the 15,354 deaths in England and Wales in the week ending 12 February, 37.1% involved Covid (in that it was mentioned on the death certificate).
This chart illustrates the trend with excess deaths.This chart illustrates the trend with excess deaths.
And here are the regional figures.And here are the regional figures.
Although the latest weekly deaths figure for Wales is above the five-year average, the ONS says it is “within the range of 2015 to 2019 deaths for week 6” (ie, for this time of the year).Although the latest weekly deaths figure for Wales is above the five-year average, the ONS says it is “within the range of 2015 to 2019 deaths for week 6” (ie, for this time of the year).
Dr Mike Tildesley, reader in mathematical modelling of infectious diseases at the University of Warwick and member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M - effectively a subcommittee Sage), told the Today programme this morning he was worried that Covid could persist in poorer communities. Asked if it could remain a “disease of the deprived”, he said:Dr Mike Tildesley, reader in mathematical modelling of infectious diseases at the University of Warwick and member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M - effectively a subcommittee Sage), told the Today programme this morning he was worried that Covid could persist in poorer communities. Asked if it could remain a “disease of the deprived”, he said:
EasyJet says it experienced a surge in bookings after the PM said yesterday that foreign holidays might be permitted from 17 May. As PA Media reports, in the hours after the 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 Luton-based firm’s holiday division saw an even larger rise, with demand up seven-fold.EasyJet says it experienced a surge in bookings after the PM said yesterday that foreign holidays might be permitted from 17 May. As PA Media reports, in the hours after the 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 Luton-based firm’s holiday division saw an even larger rise, with demand up seven-fold.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said:EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said:
The UK unemployment rate rose to 5.1% in the final quarter of last year, according to figures out this morning. My colleague Graeme Wearden has the details, with reaction and analysis, on his business live blog.The UK unemployment rate rose to 5.1% in the final quarter of last year, according to figures out this morning. My colleague Graeme Wearden has the details, with reaction and analysis, on his business live blog.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has said that everyone needs to play their part in order to meet the targets set for easing lockdown in England with the aim to move to “personal responsibility” rather than having social distancing laws “that get in the way of normal life”, my colleague Sarah Marsh reports.Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has said that everyone needs to play their part in order to meet the targets set for easing lockdown in England with the aim to move to “personal responsibility” rather than having social distancing laws “that get in the way of normal life”, my colleague Sarah Marsh reports.
Good morning. Snap polls aren’t a perfect way of measuring public opinion - they involve people being asked about events that have only just happened, many respondents will not have read beyond a headline, and no one will have had time to mull it over properly - but they are better than nothing, and, on Covid at least, certainly a more reliable guide than newspaper front pages. (Many newspapers suggest Britain is clamouring to end the lockdown, when in fact the survey evidence suggests the opposite is the case.)Good morning. Snap polls aren’t a perfect way of measuring public opinion - they involve people being asked about events that have only just happened, many respondents will not have read beyond a headline, and no one will have had time to mull it over properly - but they are better than nothing, and, on Covid at least, certainly a more reliable guide than newspaper front pages. (Many newspapers suggest Britain is clamouring to end the lockdown, when in fact the survey evidence suggests the opposite is the case.)
And so there is good news for Boris Johnson this morning. There have been two snap polls about the roadmap for lifting lockdown in England he announced yesterday, and they both suggest that voters are in favour.And so there is good news for Boris Johnson this morning. There have been two snap polls about the roadmap for lifting lockdown in England he announced yesterday, and they both suggest that voters are in favour.
According to a YouGov poll, the number of people who think the PM has got “the balance about right” outnumbers the combined total of those who think he is relaxing the rules too slowly and those who think he is relaxing too fast (a bigger group).According to a YouGov poll, the number of people who think the PM has got “the balance about right” outnumbers the combined total of those who think he is relaxing the rules too slowly and those who think he is relaxing too fast (a bigger group).
This is from the YouGov write-up of the findings.This is from the YouGov write-up of the findings.
And Savanta ComRes has a snap poll suggesting a majority of voters are satisfied with the PM’s roadmap.And Savanta ComRes has a snap poll suggesting a majority of voters are satisfied with the PM’s roadmap.
The poll also suggests 31% of voters think the plan is “about right”. There are more people who think it is either “cautious” (30%) or “very cautious” (15%), but respondents may have regarded these as good qualities. Only 19% said they regarded the plans as reckless.The poll also suggests 31% of voters think the plan is “about right”. There are more people who think it is either “cautious” (30%) or “very cautious” (15%), but respondents may have regarded these as good qualities. Only 19% said they regarded the plans as reckless.
Here is the agenda for the day.Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS publishes its weekly death figures for England and Wales.9.30am: The ONS publishes its weekly death figures for England and Wales.
9.30am: The DWP publishes its quarterly universal credit figures.9.30am: The DWP publishes its quarterly universal credit figures.
10.45am: George Eustice, the environment secretary, speaks at the National Farmers Union conference. Sir Keir Starmer is speaking at the same event at 12.30pm, and Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, is on at 2pm.10.45am: George Eustice, the environment secretary, speaks at the National Farmers Union conference. Sir Keir Starmer is speaking at the same event at 12.30pm, and Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, is on at 2pm.
11.30am: Matt Hancock, the health secretary, takes questions in the Commons.11.30am: Matt Hancock, the health secretary, takes questions in the Commons.
12pm: Downing Street holds its daily lobby briefing.12pm: Downing Street holds its daily lobby briefing.
After 2pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, makes a statement to the Scottish parliament about Scotland’s plan for lifting lockdown.After 2pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, makes a statement to the Scottish parliament about Scotland’s plan for lifting lockdown.
Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.
Here is our global coronavirus live blog.Here is our global coronavirus live blog.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.