Covid-19 vaccine news LIVE – Boris' lockdown roadmap will take till JULY before pubs and restaurants are back to normal

BORIS Johnson's lockdown roadmap means it will be July before pubs and restaurants are able to offer anything like normal service.

The PM warned this weekend that the path out of lockdown would be "cautious but irreversible" and he plans to outline exactly what that may mean during a major roadmap announcement next Monday.

Some of his plans appear to have leaked early, however, with the Daily Mail reporting a month-by-month timeline of gradual lockdown easing.

In March children will return to schools and outdoor sports like tennis will resume, in April non-essential shops will reopen and in May pubs will reopen with no more than two households and rule of six outdoors.

Then in June pubs and restaurants will be allowed to offer rule of six measures indoors before finally, in July, groups of unlimited size are allowed in, albeit with social distancing.

The news comes as an extra 1.7million Brits were added to the list of people asked to shield after new modelling identified additional risk factors.

New data from Oxford University shows people from minority backgrounds, lower income households and those who are overweight died at disproportionate rates during the first wave of coronavirus.

800,000 of those who fall into the new shielding categories but have not yet been vaccinated will now be fast-tracked to get them their jabs as soon as possible in order to make their shielding experience a short one.

Follow our live blog below for the very latest UK politics news

  • Katie Davis

    BORIS TO RECEIVE DOSSIER TOMORROW THAT WILL DECIDE LOCKDOWN FATE

    Boris Johnson will be handed a dossier of data as soon as tomorrow evening that will decide the fate of this year’s summer.

    The Prime Minister is due to receive the latest vaccine analysis by Friday morning that will show for the first time how effective the Oxford jab has been on Brits.

    He will then use that data bundle to finalise his road-map to freedom with a core team of ministers and aides over the weekend.

    The PM warned today the lockdown lifting will "be based firmly on a cautious and prudent approach”.

    Last week’s encouraging data showed just one jab of the Pfizer vaccine provided two-thirds protection against the virus in boosting hopes of a swift return to normality.

  • Katie Davis

    HOSPITALITY LIKELY TO BE AMONG LAST TO 'FULLY REOPEN'

    Boris Johnson today confirmed the lockdown will be lifted in stages, and warned the hospitality industry is likely to be the last to reopen fully.

    Pubs could start letting punters back inside from as early as May after industry insiders said they were hopeful life could be "back to normal" by July.

    Specific details on how the hospitality industry will fully reopen are yet to be decided, with ministers still set to thrash those details out.

    High Street shops could also reopen within weeks with household mixing, including the return of the rule of six, being reintroduced for outdoors contacts.

    But major venues like nightclubs, theatres, and cinemas aren't likely to open until later in the summer at the earliest.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    BORIS: DEVOLUTION 'ABSOLUTELY NOT DISASTER'

    Boris Johnson has said devolution has "absolutely not" been a disaster for the United Kingdom.

    Mr Johnson was speaking from a mass coronavirus vaccination centre at Cwmbran Stadium in South Wales, as part of a series of Covid-19-related visits in the country on Wednesday.

    He was asked if he considered devolution a "disaster", following comments he was reported to have made to Conservative MPs in relation to Scotland.

    Mr Johnson said: "Certainly not overall. Absolutely not. I speak as the proud beneficiary of devolution when I was running London. I was very proud to be doing things that made a real difference for my constituents and my electorate, improving quality of life."

    He added: "I think that devolution can work very well, but it depends very much on what the devolved authorities do."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    JAB TO NORMAL

    Professor Sir John Bell said it was “not plausible” to expect people to live with major restrictions after the vaccine rollout was complete.

    “It’s not plausible to imagine a world where we vaccinate the whole country and everybody believes they are still in a place we were in six months ago, it’s just not reasonable,” he told the Commons Science and Technology Committee.

    The Oxford University professor said: “I think we are going to have to allow people to adapt their behaviours appropriately if they have actually had the vaccine.”

  • Britta Zeltmann

    ISOLATION SUPPORT NEEDED

    Psychologist Dr James Rubin, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said a comprehensive package was needed to support people who receive a positive test and need to isolate.

    He told the Science and Technology Committee that the mass testing pilot in Liverpool showed that a “core barrier” to taking part was “fear that the test result comes back positive”.

    “If people can’t afford to self-isolate, they don’t really have an option,” he said.

    Other issues included “knowledge and motivation”, including understanding why they needed to self-isolate and what it entailed; practical issues such as having enough food and the emotional issues caused by isolation.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    CRYING OUT FOR GUIDANCE

    Scientists have been "crying out" for someone in a position of political power to decide what level of Covid-19 infections are "acceptable", MPs heard.

    "It's one of the things we've cried out for again and again – could somebody in a position of political power tell us what is an acceptable number of infections," Professor Dame Angela McLean, chief scientific adviser at the Ministry of Defence, told the Science and Technology Committee.

    "Maybe this past year, maybe a 2020 where the number of infections and deaths was so high, perhaps nobody would say that.

    "But we do need to decide what level is acceptable and then we can manage lives with that in mind."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    WORKING TOGETHER

    Boris Johnson said the UK Government would continue to have conversations with devolved administrations about how best to exit lockdown.

    Asked whether the four UK nations should ease their restrictions in unison, the Prime Minister said: "We have continuous conversations with Mark Drakeford, with other representatives of devolved administrations, about how to do it, just as we work on the vaccination programme together.

    "We try and make sure we concert our approach and our general messages."

    The PM visits a vaccination centre at Cwmbran Stadium in Cwmbran, south Wales, todayCredit: AFP or licensors
  • Britta Zeltmann

    BORIS: 'WE NEED TO UNLOCK IN STAGES'

    Boris Johnson has said easing England's restrictions would be done in "stages," noting that hospitality was one of the last things to return after the first lockdown.

    The Prime Minister said: "I certainly think that we need to go in stages. We need to go cautiously.

    "You have to remember from last year that we opened up hospitality fully as one of the last things that we did because there is obviously an extra risk of transmission from hospitality."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'CAUTIOUS APPROACH'

    Boris Johnson said easing England's lockdown will be based on a "cautious and prudent approach".

    The Prime Minister was responding to whether he agreed with Professor Dame Angela McLean's comments to the Science and Technology Committee that any unlocking should be based on "data, not dates".

    Speaking at a mass vaccination centre in Cwmbran, south Wales, Mr Johnson said: "I do think that's absolutely right.

    "That's why we'll be setting out what we can on Monday about the way ahead and it'll be based firmly on a cautious and prudent approach to coming out of lockdown in such a way to be irreversible."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    GO GREENER

    Boris Johnson should slash VAT on home insulation and give tax breaks to Brits who buy electric cars, MPs demanded today.

    Ministers must incentivise cash-strapped Brits to build back greener after the Covid crisis, the Environmental Audit Committee said.

    In a string of recommendations, they called on the chancellor to use the upcoming Budget to slash VAT on products which make homes more energy efficient – like double glazing and home insulation.

    And MPs said "tax incentives" should be created to help Brits switch over to pricey electric cars and make them more affordable.

    You can read the full story here.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES 'SHOULD HAVE BEEN RELAXED SOONER'

    Prof. Woolhouse said the Government was slow to reopen schools and outdoor activities in the first lockdown.

    "I think we probably could have considered reopening schools much sooner in the first lockdown," he told the Science and Technology Committee

    "The other thing, quite clearly, is outdoor activities. Again, there was evidence going back to March and April that the virus is not transmitted well outdoors.

    "There's been very, very little evidence that any transmission outdoors is happening in the UK.

    "Those two things, I think, could have been relaxed sooner in the first lockdown."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'VALUE OF LOCKDOWN GOES DOWN AFTER TIME'

    Professor Mark Woolhouse [see previous] told the Science and Technology Committee that the "value of a lockdown goes down with time".

    "It goes down because of a phenomenon called exponential decay," he said.

    "So, if, for example – I'm not suggesting this as a policy – but we had planned a very long lockdown to try and drive incidence as low as possible, and we have a hard time of let's say two weeks which is about where we were in the first lockdown.

    "You get half the public health benefit of that six-month lockdown in the first two weeks.

    "The next two weeks is only half the benefit again and then half the benefit again. So, the actual public health benefit you're getting from lockdown diminishes over time if the R number is constant."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    SCHOOL SURGE 'NOT EXPECTED'

    Professor Woolhouse [see below] said he would not expect a surge in cases when schools reopened.

    "One of the stated reasons for keeping schools closed was to avoid some surge in cases when they open – that's never happened across western Europe," he told the Science and Technology Committee.

    "We know what a surge in cases looks like – we saw it in September and October in the universities, we've never seen that in the schools, and I don't expect to."

    He said that schools do not appear to drive the epidemic but "reflect the epidemic around them".

  • Britta Zeltmann

    DATA POINTS TO 'EARLY UNLOCKING'

    Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said the data is pointing to "earlier unlocking".

    He told the Science and Technology Committee: "I completely agree that we don't want to be overly focused on dates, not at all. We want to be focused on data. But the point I'd make about that is the data are going really well.

    "The vaccination rollout is, I think, exceeding most people's expectations, it's going very well."

    He added: "The transmission blocking potential is key. But so, of course, is its actual ability to protect against death and disease, and to keep people out of hospital, and those numbers are looking really good.

    "My conclusion from that is if you're driven by the data and not by dates, right now, you should be looking at earlier unlocking."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    KIDS AT 'VERY LOW RISK'

    Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said there is a case for saying school kids do not contribute to growing R rates.

    When asked whether schools needed to shut during the current lockdown, he told the Science and Technology Committee: "Children themselves are at very low risk from this infection.

    "We've also got good evidence now that teachers and other school staff are not at any elevated risk from Covid-19 compared with other working professions.

    "So, the discussion is all about the contribution that schools make to the R number.

    "There is a case, certainly for children under 16 up to 15, that having them in school does not make such a big contribution to the R number that we couldn't consider lifting it in the reasonably near future."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'DATA NOT DATES'

    Professor Dame Angela McLean, chief scientific adviser at the Ministry of Defence, has told the Science and Technology Committee the government should focus on "data not dates" when easing the lockdown.

    When asked if the R level needed to be at a certain level before lockdown can be eased, she said: "I think the timing is probably more important, it's how many of the people who are more at risk of – that's a mixture of old people or people with underlying conditions – have been vaccinated before we do more unlocking.

    "The important issue is to really watch very closely what is happening, so that if infections start to increase and that we do everything we can to decide whether it is a good moment to take another step in unlocking.

    "Let's use data, not dates."

    Referring to the Prime Minister's comments that unlocking would be "cautious but irreversible", she added: "I think it has been stated pretty clearly that each step should be irrevocable. That means we have to be extremely careful, before we add another unlocking."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    VACCINE PASSPORTS MIGHT BE NEEDED FOR DYING BUSINESSES

    Vaccine passports could be needed to go to the cinema and theatre under plans being pushed by some ministers to help get "dying" businesses open again faster.

    Boris Johnson is being urged to reconsider his opposition to issuing jabs certificates, which inoculated people would be able to use to get their lives back to normal.

    One senior minister told The Times: "We're talking about industries that are dying here. In terms of getting live music, theatre, and other parts of the entertainment industry back on their feet, it seems an obvious thing to do once the majority of people have been vaccinated."

    Read the full story here.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    COVID CLASH

    Dominic Raab and Kate Garraway were engaged in a fiery on-screen clash this morning as the presenter grilled the foreign secretary on "nonsense" quarantine hotels after he called the GMB host "cynical".

    The row erupted when the GMB host said she wanted Raab to "clarify" his response during a heated exchange over the Government's quarantine hotel policy.

    The interruption from the host saw Dominic Raab snap back "Will you let me answer?"

    The Foreign Secretary then hit back as he said GMB viewers are fed up with the "media" not allowing politicians to give "honest answers."

    Read more here.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    RYANAIR LOSES STATE AID FIGHT

    Ryanair on Wednesday lost its fight against state aid granted to virus-hit rivals Air France and SAS via national schemes after Europe's second-top court backed EU competition regulators who had allowed the support under loosened rules.

    "That aid scheme is appropriate for making good the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and does not constitute discrimination," the Luxembourg-based General Court said, referring to the French scheme.

    It said the Swedish scheme was compatible with EU laws.

    Europe's biggest budget carrier has filed 16 lawsuits against the European Commission for allowing state aid to individual airlines such as Lufthansa, KLM, Austrian Airlines and TAP, as well as national schemes that mainly benefit flag carriers.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    DAFT AS A BRUSH

    Dominic Raab has been mocked by eagle-eyed Sky News viewers who noticed a 'high security' method to stop his interview being interrupted.

    The Foreign Secretary appeared on Sky News this morning as the government prepares to unveil its roadmap out of Covid lockdown.

    But the dad-of-two appeared to have learned the lessons of other presenters and interviewees who have been gatecrashed while appearing on TV during lockdown – propping a broom up against the door.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'NOT AS SIMPLE AS SANCTIONS'

    Britain said it does not shirk its responsibilities in sensitive cases such as the fate of Sheikha Latifa, one of the ruler of Dubai's daughters, who said in a video that she was being held hostage in a villa.

    "It's not as simple as saying 'well we could apply sanctions'. There is a very strict legal threshold," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC radio on Wednesday.

    "When there's a human rights issue or a very sensitive case we do not shirk our responsibilities."

    He added: "So for example, on the Magnitsky sanctions, which I introduced, they can be applied, asset freezes, visa bans, where there is evidence of torture, or forced labour, or an extrajudicial killing of some description.

    "But it's not simply the case that we can willy-nilly, if you like, just slap sanctions on individuals."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'BLENDED LEARNING' IN SCOTLAND POSSIBLE

    There is "every possibility" that secondary schools in Scotland may have to use blended learning when more youngsters are allowed to return to the classroom, the country's Education Secretary has said.

    John Swinney was speaking after it was confirmed a small number of senior students in Scotland will be able to return to high school from Monday, if they need to do so for practical work.

    Children in P1 to P3 and nursery school youngsters are also set to return to class on Monday, on a full-time basis.

    Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday, Mr Swinney said: "The scientific advice I have available to me just now recognises that physical distancing will be required for at least senior phase pupils in our secondary schools."

    Asked about the prospect of blended learning – which would see pupils in class for part of the week and learning remotely for the remainder – he said there is "every possibility, unless that advice changes, that we have to operate on such a model".

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'AMBITIOUS TESTING TARGETS'

    Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that ministers had "ambitious targets", when asked about reports of 400,000 lateral flow tests being posted out to homes per day.

    "We have got ambitious targets in relation to testing which we have met at various points, as well as the vaccine rollout," he told Times Radio Breakfast.

    "And we are absolutely doing everything we can to meet those targets. They are obviously designed to be challenging, because we want to get people out of the current lockdown as soon as possible.

    "The only way to do that is responsibly, safely – that's the way we make it sustainable."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    JOBS BOOST

    Rishi Sunak wants to coax bosses into a hiring spree with his Budget next month.

    He is considering cutting the jobs tax and bringing back a £1,000 bonus for those that unfurlough staff, The Sun can reveal.

    The Chancellor hopes he can wean employers off state support as shops, pubs and other businesses gradually reopen.

    A source said: “The Treasury is keen to support jobs rather than businesses.”

  • Britta Zeltmann

    TESTING PILOTS 'OF VALUE'

    Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that testing pilots such as in Liverpool had shown the "value" of coronavirus testing carried out at scale.

    When asked about a potential programme of mass testing, he told Sky News: "We learnt previously in places like Liverpool and other areas in the north, the value, particularly when you have got a spike, of testing done at scale and at pace, particularly with the new lateral flow testing."

    Mr Raab said that the vaccine rollout, treatments for coronavirus and carrying out lateral flow testing "at scale, at pace" would be "important" when easing the lockdown.

    On lateral flow testing, he added: "So that when you do have upticks of the virus, we can come down on it like a tonne of bricks.

    "It's only one part of the strategic jigsaw, if you like, but make sure we can come down on it like a tonne of bricks."

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