THE Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said a ” zero Covid ” strategy was not possible.
“Our focus needs to be on reducing the levels we have here . That is the key point, to keep things under control,” he told the science and technology committee.
“As levels come down test, trace and isolate becomes increasingly important, cluster identification – making sure we understand where there are outbreaks and how to deal with them – and of course the vaccine is going to make a huge difference to all of this,” Vallance added.
“I do not think that zero Covid is possible. I think there’s nothing to suggest that this virus will go away, at least any time soon.
“It’s going to be there, circulating. It may be a winter virus that comes back over winters with increasing infection rates during that period.”
Earlier England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty that despite the success of the vaccine rollout, enough virus will remain in circulation this year to cause a rise on cases and deaths.
He said this was due to the numbers of people refusing or unable to take the vaccine as well as the rare few for whom the vaccine does not work.
“Even if you have a relatively small proportion of people still remaining vulnerable, that still equates to a very large number” at risk he said .
“All the modelling suggests at some point we will get a surge in the virus . We hope it doesn’t happen soon – it might happen later in the summer if we open up gradually, or if there is a seasonal effect it might happen over the next autumn and winter,” he added.
“But all the modelling suggests there is going to be a further surge, and when it happens it will find the people who have not been vaccinated or where the vaccine has not worked. Some of them will be hospitalised and sadly some of them will die.”
“That is just the reality of the situation,” Whitty said, adding that the vaccine will see the cases to death “go right down, but not right down to zero”.
Follow our UK politics live blog below for the very latest news and updates…
Katie Davis 9th Mar 2021, 17:13
INTERNATIONAL BORDERS NEED TO REOPEN 'AT SOME POINT'
A global screening programme to detect Covid-19 variants could help release international travel, with borders having to open "at some point", the Government's chief scientific adviser has said.
Sir Patrick Vallance suggested to MPs that worldwide progress in vaccinating against Covid-19 could also be key to unlocking international travel.
He said that "inevitably at some point travel will reopen" and "as more countries become vaccinated and as we get the ability to understand how much transmission is reduced by vaccination, it makes freer movement across countries much more possible again".
This might involve "certification or whatever" but travel has to reopen in a safe way, possibly with a global screening programme to help detect variants, he told the Commons Science and Technology Committee.
May 17 has been pencilled in by the Government as the earliest date for the resumption of international travel.
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 16:58
POSSIBLE NEW CASE OF BRAZILIAN P1 COVID-19 VARIANT IDENTIFIED IN SCOTLAND
A possible case of a new strain of coronavirus has been identified in Scotland – though Nicola Sturgeon stressed this was not linked to three earlier cases of the so-called P1 strain on the virus.
The First Minister was also clear that there was “no indication of onward community transmission of this variant”.
As a result she said the authorities “currently have no reason to believe that this case presents any risk to the wider community”.
Further tests are being done to confirm the genomic sequencing of the case.
But concerns have already been raised that the P1 strain of the virus, first detected in the Brazilian city of Manaus, could be more contagious than the current dominant strain, with uncertainty also about how it responds to vaccines.
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 16:52
COVID NEWS ROUND UP: THE LATEST
- Chris Whitty warns easing lockdown will trigger third Covid wave that 'finds those not vaccinated'
- Even border controls 'Won’t stop spread of new Covid variants completely', warns Vallance
- NHS to start sending texts inviting people for Covid jabs to speed up vaccine rollout
- Covid deaths in over-80s plummet 80% since January peak amid vaccine rollout
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 16:45
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 16:39
NEARLY 22.6 MILLION BRITS HAVE RECEIVED FIRST COVID-19 VACCINE DOSE
A total of 22,592,528 Britons have received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to official data released on Tuesday.
The data also showed a further 5,766 cases and 231 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 16:28
UK CRUISES COULD RESUME IN MAY – MINISTER
Cruise lines could be permitted to resume domestic voyages from May 17, a group of MPs has been told.
The All Party Parliamentary Maritime and Ports Group said maritime minister Robert Courts made the announcement at its meeting on Monday night.
Under Boris Johnson’s road map for easing coronavirus restrictions in England, May 17 is the earliest date that international travel could resume.
The Government has advised UK holidaymakers to avoid cruises since July 9 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis.
P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow commented: “We are delighted that the Government has acknowledged that UK domestic cruise holidays can begin from May 17. Whilst it will take some weeks after this date for us to restart our operations, we are very much looking forward to welcoming guests onboard this summer.”
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 16:19
LABOUR LEADER KEIR STARMER SAYS PM HAS ‘HALVED’ NHS PAY RISE OFFER PROPOSED BEFORE PANDEMIC
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Today the head of the NHS confirmed that health workers were to be offered a 2.1% pay rise before the pandemic.
“So why has Boris Johnson halved his offer after a year where NHS workers have put their lives on the line for our country?”
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 16:00
CORONAVIRUS VARIANTS EXPLAINED
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 15:46
NURSES IN WELL-PAID, SOUGHT-AFTER JOBS, TORY PEER SAYS IN DEFENCE OF WAGE RISE
Nurses are well paid and have secure jobs while millions have been left out of work because of the coronavirus crisis, a health minister has said as he defended a 1% wage rise for NHS staff in England.
While acknowledging it was a “challenging” profession, Tory frontbencher Lord Bethell said it was also an attractive one that “a long queue of people” wished to take up.
The Conservative peer made his strident comments as he faced criticism at Westminster over the proposed 1% pay rise for health service workers, with some likening the Government to a Far East sweatshop.
Lord Bethell paid tribute to NHS staff, but said: “The evidence to the pay review body is clear – affordability is a key challenge for the whole country.
“The truth is nursing is a challenging job, but it is a job that many people want to take up. There is a long queue of people who want these positions because they are rewarding in many different ways.”
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 15:37
HEADS RECEIVING THREATENING LETTERS FROM PARENTS OPPOSED TO FACE MASKS
School leaders are receiving “threatening letters” from parents who do not want their children to wear face coverings in classrooms, MPs have heard.
Schools minister Nick Gibb urged families to allow children to wear face masks in secondary schools when they return amid reports of opposition.
David Johnston, Conservative MP for Wantage, said headteachers had told him some parents are issuing “a notice of liability” about the Department for Education’s (DfE) face mask guidance.
Addressing the education select committee on face masks, Mr Johnston said: “When a headteacher decides that actually they do need them, based on the DfE guidance, they’re getting quite challenging, some might say threatening, letters from certain parents who disagree with the stance, ordering them to desist.”
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 15:24
STURGEON CONDEMNS RANGERS FC (CONTINUED)
The first minister continued: “Let me be clear, in making these comments, I don’t care about the colour of the shirts.
“I said some harsh things about Celtic’s decisions at the start of this year.
“And as far as I am concerned in this case, Rangers Football Club did not do nearly enough to help avoid this situation arising at the weekend.
“The fact is that elite sport is being allowed to continue just now so that fans – deprived of so much else in life right now – can continue to watch and support their teams.”
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 15:19
STURGEON: RANGERS DID NOT DO ENOUGH TO PREVENT MASS TITLE CELEBRATIONS
Nicola Sturgeon has said Rangers “did not do nearly enough” to help avoid fans celebrating after their league victory.
Fans congregated in George Square and outside Ibrox Stadium after their side took their first top-flight title in 10 years.
On Tuesday, the First Minister told Holyrood told MSPs she shared the “anger” over the “disgraceful” behaviour and that she would be speaking with Police Scotland’s Chief Constable (Iain Livingstone) later that day to avoid a similar situation in future.
She said: “However, no one should doubt the deeply invidious situation that behaviour like this puts the police in as they discharge their responsibility to protect public order and safety.
“We will also be having further discussions this week with the football authorities and with certain football clubs who, in my view, need to show much more leadership.”
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 15:12
WHITTY WARNS AGAINST SHORTENING TIMETABLE FOR LIFTING RESTRICTIONS
England’s chief medical officer has said he would “strongly advise” against any move to shorten the timetable for easing lockdown restrictions.
Professor Chris Whitty said there were still risks to reopening society and the UK will experience another surge of cases at some point, potentially in late summer or through the autumn and winter.
Speaking to the Commons Science and Technology Committee alongside the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, Prof Whitty said the measures pencilled in for May 17, when indoor mixing of up to six people could be allowed, involved “significant risks”.
He told MPs he would “strongly advise” against any attempt to “concertina” the five-week interval between steps, saying the April 12 measures are “a very big block”, with shops and outdoor hospitality due to open.
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 15:06
STURGEON: SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT WILL NOT HESITATE TO EASE RESTRICTIONS EARLY IF DATA SUPPORTS IT
The Scottish Government “will not hesitate” to ease restrictions earlier if data supports it, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister told MSPs on Tuesday: “If the data allows us to relax more restrictions more quickly than we have previously indicated, we will not hesitate to do so.
“I’m well aware of just how difficult continued restrictions are – and I know that they get harder rather than easier to bear, as time goes on.
“I also know – because I feel this too – that the progress on vaccination makes us even more impatient to reach the end of this ordeal as quickly as possible.
“But I am certain that easing restrictions too quickly would be a mistake that we would regret.”
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 15:01
SCOTLAND: STURGEON SAYS FOUR PEOPLE FROM TWO HOUSEHOLDS CAN MEET OUTDOORS FROM FRIDAY
Scots will be able to meet in bigger groups from Friday, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister said four people from two households will now be able to meet outdoors from Friday.
For children aged between 12 and 17, outdoor meetings will also be limited to four people, but these can be from up to four households.
The First Minister also said that while travel restrictions cannot be lifted for adults, they will be eased slightly for children taking part in sport where their club may be “a bit outside” their council area.
Outdoor, non-contact sports for adults in groups of up to 15 will also be able to start again from Friday, Ms Sturgeon said.
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 14:53
NICOLA STURGEON SAYS ALMOST 40% OF SCOTLAND’S ADULT POPULATION HAS HAD FIRST COVID VACCINE DOSE
Almost 40% of Scotland’s adult population has received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister told MSPs that “good progress” was being made with the vaccination programme, which has inoculated almost 1.8 million people.
Ms Sturgeon said: “There is already strong evidence that the vaccination programme has significantly reduced deaths in care homes.
“Studies are also showing that vaccination – as well as reducing illness and death – can significantly reduce transmission of the virus.
“We, therefore, have increasing confidence that as more and more people acquire some protection through vaccination, we will be able to ease restrictions while still keeping the R number below 1.”
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 14:42
VIDEO: COVID-19 DEATHS LOWEST IN 5 MONTHS AS PM REFUSES TO ACCELERATE LOCKDOWN EASING
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 14:32
GOVERNMENT URGED TO PUBLISH OUTSTANDING CONTRACTS AMID ‘CORRUPTION’ ACCUSATION
The Government has been urged to publish outstanding Covid contracts by the end of the week after being accused of “corruption”.
Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves called on ministers to publish the 100 outstanding contracts by Friday as Labour former minister Chris Bryant said he suspected wrongdoing in the awarding of agreements during the pandemic.
Asking an urgent question on the matter, Ms Reeves told the Commons: “The Good Law Project took the Government to court and on February 19, the High Court ruled that the Government had acted unlawfully, saying, and I quote: ‘The public were entitled to see who this money was going to and what it was being spent on and how the contracts were awarded.’
“Three days later, on February 22 in this House, the Prime Minister said, and I quote again: ‘The contracts are there on the record for everybody to see.’ But they’re not. A judge confirmed through a court order last Friday that 100 contracts are still to be published.
“So will (health minister Edward Argar) now take this opportunity to apologise for that statement and to put the record straight? And will the Government now finally agree to publish all 100 outstanding contracts by the end of this week?”
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 14:20
CHANCELLOR UNDER FIRE OVER 1% PAY RISE OFFER TO NHS WORKERS
Chancellor Rishi Sunak was accused of believing “nurses are worth less now” than before the Covid-19 pandemic, amid pressure for NHS workers to receive a 15% pay rise.
The Government has proposed giving some NHS staff in England a 1% pay rise, despite an expectation from health bosses that it would be 2.1%.
Speaking in the Commons, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said: “We need a straight answer now from the Chancellor. Why do the Conservatives believe our nurses are worth less now than they were before the pandemic?”
Mr Sunak replied: “With regard to public sector pay, we set out a policy in November, but given the situation we were taking a more targeted approach to public sector pay – to balance fairness and to protect as many jobs as possible.
“(Ms Dodds) will know that the NHS was exempted from that policy and NHS workers will receive a pay rise next year.”
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 14:09
WHAT ARE THE COVID-19 VARIANTS AND WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 13:59
‘URGENT NEED’ TO GIVE HOSPITALS CERTAINTY OVER COVID COSTS SAYS NHS ENGLAND CHIEF
Hospitals have an “urgent need” to be given certainty over future Covid costs, the head of the NHS in England has said.
Sir Simon Stevens told MPs on the Health and Social Care Select Committee he has an “expectation” that the NHS will be given more money to cope with the bill for caring for people with Covid-19.
Meanwhile, he said cancer care is a “top priority” for the NHS.
Money for the 2021/22 financial year will come from the NHS long-term funding settlement, with additional funding allocated in the November Spending Review to catch up on the backlog of care that has arisen as a result of Covid.
The chief executive of NHS England said the health service has also been provided with the extra costs of looking after Covid-19 patients.
Joseph Gamp 9th Mar 2021, 13:46
SCHOOLS MINISTER URGES PARENTS TO ALLOW CHILDREN TO WEAR FACE MASKS
The schools minister has urged parents to allow their children to wear face coverings in secondary school classrooms amid reports of opposition.
Nick Gibb, Schools Standards Minister, told the Education Select Committee: “I would say to parents you should allow your child to wear a face mask in the classroom because it protects the other children in the classroom, and also actually may well prevent your child from having to self isolate because somebody near them has tested positive for Covid.”
His comments came after David Johnston, Conservative MP for Wantage, said headteachers had told him that some parents are issuing “a notice of liability” about the Department for Education’s (DfE) face mask guidance and parents have called on schools not to require that pupils wear face coverings.
Mr Johnston said: “When a headteacher decides that actually they do need them, based on the DfE guidance, they’re getting quite challenging, some might say threatening, letters from certain parents who disagree with the stance ordering them to desist.”
Chiara Fiorillo 9th Mar 2021, 13:19
RACHEL REEVES SAYS COVID-19 CONTRACTS WERE HANDED OUT TO ‘FRIENDS AND DONORS’
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said that contracts were handed out to “friends and donors” of the Conservative Party without any transparency.
Asking an urgent question on the Government’s publication of Covid-19 contracts, she said: “This question and the answers to it really matter because our frontline workers were not adequately protected with the high-quality PPE that they needed during the course of this pandemic.
“And it matters because it is essential that taxpayers’ money is spent effectively and fairly, not handed out to those who happen to have close links with the party of government.
“The Government ran down the PPE stockpile ahead of this pandemic and it came back to haunt us when we need it most. Contracts were handed out, many to friends and donors of the Conservative Party, without any transparency.”
Chiara Fiorillo 9th Mar 2021, 13:03
SUNAK FACES CALLS TO GIVE NHS WORKERS 15% PAY RISE
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has faced calls to give NHS workers a 15% pay rise to make up for a “decade of lost pay”.
Labour MP Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) told the Commons: “NHS workers have seen their pay fall by more than 10% in real terms in the past decade.
“So instead of handing out fortunes to mates and donors, will the Chancellor heed the calls of trade unions and NHS staff and give them the pay rise they deserve – that’s 15% to make up for a decade of lost pay?”
Chiara Fiorillo 9th Mar 2021, 12:51
RISHI SUNAK DEFENDS GOVERNMENT’S HANDLING OF PANDEMIC
Chancellor Rishi Sunak defended the Government’s handling of the pandemic, telling MPs “at all steps in this crisis we have indeed taken the advice of our scientific advisers”.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) said: “A Sage adviser is reported to have said ‘I thought the Chancellor was in charge. He was the main person who was responsible for the second wave’.
“Does the Chancellor accept that his refusal to follow the science by pitting public health against the economy led to worse outcomes for both?”
Responding Mr Sunak said: “I’d urge (her) to be a little bit careful about what she reads in the newspaper. At all steps in this crisis we have indeed taken the advice of our scientific advisers.
“If we go back to September which I think she’s referring to, at that time as she knows from the Sage minutes herself which are published rather than unsourced quotes in newspapers, that the evidence was finely balanced and there were many things for ministers to consider and the consideration at that point was that the tiered system was working and deserved to be given a chance.”
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