Early evening summary

  • Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said there were some worrying signs that people are taking their foot off the brake at exactly the wrong time, imploring people during the press briefing not to “wreck this” (See 5.18pm).
  • The government said a further 345 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, recording 8,523 more cases (See 4.19pm).
  • Unions representing police, prison officers and teachers have expressed dismay at the decision to base the next stage of the coronavirus vaccination programme purely on age (See 3.19pm).
  • The UK R number has not changed since last week and is still between 0.6 and 0.9, according to the latest government figures (See 1.38pm).
  • New Covid-19 cases continued to fall across the UK in the week ending 19 February, ONS figures indicate (See 1.27pm).

That’s all from me for today. But our coverage continues on our global coronavirus live blog. It’s here:


Julian Knight, the chairman of the DCMS committee, has called on the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to announce additional support for festivals as part of the budget next week

The senior Conservative MP said the sector needed “more than a road map” if the summer circuit of events was to go ahead (see earlier post).

The Treasury, as PA Media reports, has previously dismissed calls to extend an underwriting scheme offered to other creative industries including film and TV.

Knight said:

The Treasury rejected our earlier call for a government-backed insurance scheme that would have provided a safety net for festivals to go ahead, saying the time was not right. While we’ve seen welcome news for fans that the Reading and Leeds festivals will happen, the rest of the sector needs more than a road map to give them the confidence it takes to get events under way. For some, like Glastonbury, it’s already too late. We’re calling on the chancellor to review that decision now that the government has a better sense of the road to recovery.


These figures have been reported by PA Media:

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England stood at 11,781 as of 8am on 26 February, according to the latest figures from NHS England.

This is a week-on-week drop of 22% from the 15,018 coronavirus patients in hospital in England on 19 February and the lowest number since 8 November when there were 11,680.

All regions are continuing to see a week-on-week fall in the number of Covid-19 patients.

The figures are: London 2,253 patients (down 26% week-on-week); Midlands 2,648 patients (down 17%); north-west England 1,724 patients (down 22%); north-east England/Yorkshire 1,800 patients (down 18%); south-east England 1,548 patients (down 24%); eastern England 1,239 patients (down 19%); and south-west England 569 patients (down 31%).


During the press conference, Matt Hancock also said:

We are looking at a system of NHS reserves and the idea is that you have people who are committed to supporting the NHS through voluntary action, who have the training, for instance, and are on a specific reserves programme. We are piloting that right now but that is exactly the kind of thing the ‘jabs army’ might be called upon to do in the future in a broader sense because we’ve just seen the unbelievable support volunteers can give to the NHS when there is a big job to do.


In a separate section, Prof Van-Tam said the ONS data suggested restaurant and catering managers had the highest risk of death, followed by professions including metal working and machine operatives, chefs and taxi drivers.


Jonathan Van-Tam was also asked whether he would be “comfortable” with the “eat out to help out’ scheme returning this spring or summer.

He replied that when people eat together, “of course, it is likely there will be some transmission”.

But, he added, “who pays the bill, or how much of the bill you have to pay for yourself” was a question for politicians.


In the media question section, Talk Radio’s Charlotte Ivers asked about vaccine passports and if they would ever be needed for pubs or football grounds.

Hancock said there would be some areas where certification would be needed, for example if another country said travellers needed to have had a vaccine before entering.

The wider questions had been put into a review to be led by Michael Gove, he said, adding he could not be more specific at this time. “It’s right that we take our time to think about this,” he added.


Hancock ends the press conference by saying “this is on all of us” and that “every single person needs to stick to the rules”, as he warns “we are not there yet”.


Jim Scott from the Northern Echo asks why some people in the north are still having to travel long distances to get their dose, and if this is a sign the vaccination strategy was designed for the south.

Hancock says the vaccination programme has been “equal and fair UK wide”, adding: “there has been a lower amount of supply across the whole UK in the last week or so. You would have seen in the last 48 hours that has picked up again ... so that supply is coming back. We all know it is lumpy and comes up and down ... we are going to have a bumper March.”

“The good news is that these challenges are faced equally throughout the whole of the UK.”


Jonathan Reilly from the Sun asks if masks are necessary for school children as young as five to wear (citing reports), to which Dr Susan Hopkins says: “the consensus view is very strongly to not advise school children at primary school age to wear face coverings”, due to the associated practical difficulties, as well as the importance of them being able to see facial expressions to help develop their language and communications skills.


C4’s Liz Bates asks about the prospect of local lockdowns as curbs ease:

Hancock said: “These regional disparities are smaller than we saw in the autumn. We don’t rule out taking local action in an individual area if we see a spike ... but the goal is for us all to come out together. What I want to stress is that this data shows how important it is that we all stick at it.”

Dr Susan Hopkins, a senior medical adviser at Public Health England, says they think some of the difference in infection rates relates to different types of jobs between areas.


The BBC’s Hugh Pym asks for a response to teachers who argue they should get vaccine priority to “help reduce absences and disruption in classrooms”.

The government looked at all these different considerations, including the prioritisation of jobs, Hancock says. “But the overall view we came to was the right thing to do, the moral thing to do, is to make sure we save the most lives and the JCVI looked at the clinical evidence and how quickly, operationally we can jab everybody.”


Hancock is now taking questions from the media.


Jonathan Van-Tam urges public 'do not wreck this' amid signs people are relaxing too early

Jonathan Van-Tam says that with about 40m vaccine doses still to be given in the UK, “there is still a long way to go,” adding that his email inbox “has been besieged with people writing in with people saying I have had the vaccine and essentially can i start breaking the rules”.

The answer to that is no, he says, as the country is not yet “in the right place”.

There are some worrying signs that people are taking their foot off the brake at exactly the wrong time, he says, imploring people not to “wreck this”.

“It’s exactly like being up 3-0 in a game and thinking: ‘we can’t possibly lose this now’. But how many times have you seen the other side take it 4-3. Do not wreck this now, it is too early to relax.”

Press conference slide.
Presser slides


“It is better news in some places than it is in others and this is not a battle that we have won yet,” Van-Tam says.

Going through the slides, he says “in some parts of the UK case rates are changing, albeit slowly, but in the wrong direction. This is not a good sign and reinforces the fact that, I am afraid, this battle at the moment is not won.”

He says there are still quite a few areas of the UK that are “burning quite hot” in terms of coronavirus infection rates, and these hotspots are concentrated in the Midlands and from the east to the west coast.

He says there are also hotspots in Scotland and Northern Ireland.


Hancock says: “Our moral duty is to put saving lives first ... we will get jabs into arms as quickly as we can in a clinically recommended order.” He has now passed onto Jonathan Van-Tam.


As of this morning, 19 million people in the country have had a vaccine, which includes more than half a million doses that were given yesterday, Hancock says.

He says 10 more large vaccination centres are being made operational this week.

94% of adults have said they have either received the jab or intend to do so, ONS data shows, Hancock adds.


Hancock starts by saying the data shows that “we are moving in the right direction”. He says the number of cases is now down to 1 in every 145 people and that the rate of decline is continuing but the pace of it is slowing.

The rate of hospital admissions shows a fall of 40% over the last fortnight but the number of people in hospital is still “far too high”. The good news is the link between cases, hospital admissions and deaths is “now breaking thanks to the vaccination programme”.

The UK chief medical officers agree with the UK moving down to alert level 4 from level 5. One in five local authority areas have recorded a rise in cases over the last week.

“This stark picture shows that this is not over yet. the stay at home rules are still in place for a reason,” Hancock adds.


Matt Hancock to hold Covid press briefing

Matt Hancock is about to start today’s press conference.

He is joined today by England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam and Dr Susan Hopkins, senior medical adviser at Public Health England.

You can also watch the press conference in our live feed at the top of this blog.

Boris Johnson’s decision to include dates in his proposed roadmap out of the third lockdown in England is a “dangerous strategy” that risks undermining adherence to Covid-19 rules, behavioural scientists have said.

The prime minister’s message that government policy around reopening would be guided by “data, not dates” could be overshadowed by the use of dates in the roadmap, said Stephen Reicher, a professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of SPI-B, the behavioural science subgroup of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

“Data not dates has turned into dates not data,” said Reicher, who added that the choice of Midsummer Day for a possible return to normality was “incredibly powerful symbolic messaging”. “Because, whatever you say, once you announce clear dates you create facts on the ground which alter the reality, and create a situation [where] it’s very difficult to shift from those dates,” he said.

More on this story here:


Concern among scientists that those vaccinated could flout Covid restrictions before they are lifted

Behavioural scientists advising the government have warned that without a clear communication campaign, the rollout of vaccines may lead people to flout Covid restrictions before they are lifted.

The researchers fear adherence to the guidelines could fall among vaccinated groups, but also among those who believe there is no longer a major risk to older and more vulnerable people, as the vaccination programme proceeds.

The warning appears in a document released on Friday from the behavioural science subgroup of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which stresses that the introduction of immunity certificates could complicate messaging and exacerbate community tensions as the country emerges from lockdown.

In the paper, dated 10 February, the scientists describe how perceptions of the threat from Covid may differ as vaccination targets are reached, with some people no longer feeling they should have restrictions imposed on them. “Grievances could be amplified if those vaccinated are provided with some sort of certification, enabling them to escape local restrictions,” they note.

The document states the importance of managing expectations for the year ahead. An ONS Opinion and Lifestyle survey found that 17% of adults expected life to return to normal in six months or less, a scenario described as “optimistic” given the latest modelling, even without the emergence of new variants that may call for “sudden, strict reimposition of measures”.

“Setting realistic expectations as to the likely duration of, pattern of and reason for continuing or suddenly imposed restrictions may help people to plan, improve their understanding of the efficacy of interventions and improve the perceived legitimacy of interventions,” the document adds.

Another Sage document released on Friday describes the latest projections for the epidemic. Written by outbreak modellers advising Sage, the report anticipates hospital admissions in England falling below 500 per day, and deaths below 200 per day, by mid-March, figures last seen in October. On Friday, the UK recorded a further 345 Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test, 300 of which were in England.


UK records 8,523 more cases and 345 further deaths

The latest Covid figures for the UK have now been uploaded onto the government’s dashboard.

Here are the key statistics:

  • The UK has recorded 345 further deaths. That is slightly up from yesterday, which was 323. The total number of deaths for the past seven days is down 31.3% on the total for the previous week.
  • The UK has recorded 8,523 more cases. That is a drop from yesterday (9,985) and is the fifth day this year the reported total has been below 10,000. New cases are down 16.8% from last week.


Sainsbury’s and Argos workers are to receive a third pandemic bonus and a pay increase of more than 2% to match the real living wage outside London, as supermarket sales continue to boom during the high street lockdown.

Minimum hourly pay for Argos workers outside London will rise from £9.00 to £9.50 from March, and from £9.30 to £9.50 for Sainsbury’s staff. Pay for Sainsbury’s staff in central London will rise from £9.90 to £10.10, still short of the independently calculated living wage of £10.85.

Sainsbury’s, which has owned Argos since 2016, said staff working in stores, call centres and its delivery network would also be given a bonus worth 3% of pay, or about £530 for a full-time worker, after two bonus payments last year.

The bonuses come after a demanding year for supermarket staff, with stores much busier than usual because cafes, restaurants and many takeaways have been closed.

Read more on this story here:

A further 307 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, NHS England said on Friday.

This brings the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 82,717.

Patients were aged between 34 and 100. All except nine, aged between 60 and 94, had known underlying health conditions.

A total of 16,785,841 Covid-19 vaccinations took place in England between 8 December and 25 February, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 448,280 on the previous day’s figures.

Of this number, 16,227,104 were the first dose of a vaccine, a rise of 432,112 on the previous day, while 558,737 were a second dose, an increase of 16,168.


Health Secretary Matt Hancock will lead today’s press conference, Downing Street has confirmed.

He will be joined by England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam and Dr Susan Hopkins, senior medical adviser at Public Health England.

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Police, prison and teaching unions criticise decision to stick with age-based vaccine list

Unions representing police, prison officers and teachers have expressed dismay at the decision to base the next stage of the coronavirus vaccination programme purely on age, with no account taken for people’s profession.

The recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), endorsed by the government, means people over 40 will be the next group to be prioritised once those in phase 1 of the rollout, aimed at older and more vulnerable people, have been offered at least one dose of the vaccine.

Vaccination will then proceed down the age groups, with those aged 30-39 next in line, followed by everyone aged 18-29. The timetable is to complete phase 1 by the end of April, with all adults offered at least one dose by the end of July.

Read the full story by my colleagues Linda Geddes and Peter Walker:


Festival organisers are calling for government-backed insurance in case events have to be cancelled last minute, ahead of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget announcement next week.

Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said: “Insurance is more critical than ever and it is something we have been pushing for as a sector for many months. We welcome the roadmap, but the 2021 festival season is not guaranteed. There is still a chance of cancellations.”

He said it was an “enormous risk” for independent businesses to go forward without insurance, as the cost of staging an event was about £6m. “There are essential costs to be met for it to get signed off. It is not just about artist or production deposits, where there may be flexibility, but there are essential costs like medical provision,” he said.

It comes as festival organisers are enjoying record ticket sales after the government’s announcement of its roadmap out of lockdown in England, as punters prepare to “make up for lost time” despite uncertainty over what state support exists if last-minute cancellations have to take place.

Monday’s announcement triggered a 600% rise in traffic to Ticketmaster this week, said the managing director of the site’s UK wing, Andrew Parsons, and there was no sign of it slowing down.

Sacha Lord, the co-founder of Parklife festival and the Warehouse Project, and night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester said: “Let’s follow in the footsteps of other countries, where there is an insurance indemnity policy. We are not expecting a free handout and we will pay a small percentage of the turnover figure. Putting a festival on is hard without insurance in place, that is why Glastonbury cancelled.”

Lord said he was expecting news on insurance at Rishi Sunak’s next budget on 3 March. “This coming Wednesday is the most critical day of my 26-year career. For those who work behind the scenes, it will be make or break. They need hope.”

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A leading blood cancer charity has said it is “hard to accept” that those who live with clinically extremely vulnerable people will not be prioritised in the next phase of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

There are 230,000 people with blood cancer in the UK who are in the “clinically extremely vulnerable” group, and blood cancer increases your risk from Covid by more than almost any other health condition.

Many of them are anxious about their household members bringing the virus into the home, and so vaccinating the people they live with is important for protecting them, the charity said.

Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said:

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) previously included household members of the clinically extremely vulnerable in its priority list, and when it removed them it said it would consider them again if it became clear that the vaccines affect transmission. Its latest guidance argues that despite encouraging signs, the evidence on this is still limited.

We find this hard to accept. It directly contradicts Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, who this week said there is now ‘strong evidence’ the Pfizer vaccine prevents infection.

It also flies in the face of comments by Profs Chris Whitty, Jonathan Van-Tam, and Patrick Vallance, all of who have stood at Downing Street press conferences over the last few weeks and said they are almost certain the vaccines affect transmission.

Given the views of all these experts, how can it possibly be right that a person in their 20s who lives with someone with leukaemia might have to wait until July before they get a vaccine?

She added that it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that by refusing to act in the absence of absolute certainty about transmission, the JCVI have “made a bad decision that will needlessly put the lives of people with blood cancer at risk”.


UK's R number remains below 1

The R number across the UK has not changed since last week and is still between 0.6 and 0.9, according to the latest government figures.

The R value – the coronavirus reproduction number – represents the average number of people each person with Covid-19 goes on to infect.

A figure below 1 implies the epidemic is shrinking.

An R number between 0.6 and 0.9 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between six and nine further people.

The lower end of the UK’s coronavirus R estimate is 0.6 – which is the lowest R range seen since the government first started publishing the figures in May 2020.

Cases of coronavirus continued to fall across the UK

New cases of coronavirus continued to fall across the UK in the week ending 19 February, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Based on swab tests in the community – so excluding places such as hospitals, care homes and prisons – the ONS estimate 373,700 people in England had Covid over the seven day period, or about one in 145 people. That is down from the previous week when the estimate stood at 481,000 people, or one in 115, and the lowest since 2 to 8 October, when one in 160 were estimated to have the disease.

Similar declines were seen around the UK where the proportion of people estimated to be infected in the week ending 19 February stood at one in 225 in Scotland, one in 205 in Wales and one in 195 in Northern Ireland.

In England, the percentage of people testing positive for the virus, and cases of the more transmissible “Kent variant”, have fallen in all regions apart from Yorkshire and the Humber where the trends are flat, suggesting the lockdown is not having the same impact on the epidemic there as it is elsewhere.

The highest rates of infection were estimated to be in the North West with one in 110 infected during the week studied, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber with one in 120 infected. In London, the rate stood at one in 125 with the lowest infections in the South West at one in 240.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Sage put the latest UK reproduction number, R, at between 0.6 and 0.9 – the same range as last week, adding that the number of new infections was shrinking at 2-6% every day, a slight slowing on last week’s rate of 3-6%.


Downing Street has defended the decision not to prioritise key workers such as police officers in the next phase of the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

A No 10 spokesman said:

The JCVI have advised that even in the under-50s, age remains the biggest single factor determining mortality and hospitalisations, so it is therefore right that we accept their advice to continue to prioritise by age as this will protect the most people and have the biggest impact on reducing NHS pressures.

They are also clear that giving priority to certain professions would not be as effective or as fast in reducing deaths and hospitalisations as protection of those at higher risk of serious disease.

Prioritisation by age will also protect individuals working in jobs with potentially higher risk of exposure with the most vulnerable in those occupations vaccinated first.

You can read more on this story here:


Festival organisers are enjoying record ticket sales after the government’s announcement of its roadmap out of lockdown, despite uncertainty over what state support exists if last-minute cancellations have to take place.

“Lots of our members have seen sale spikes since Monday, which has generated lots of consumer confidence,” said Paul Reed, the chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals. “There is a huge appetite for live experiences and I don’t think that is surprising. It’s about communal experiences, being outdoors in groups.”

Despite the excitement, however, organisers are concerned about the potential of last-minute cancellations, as the coming months are filled with uncertainty. They are calling for a government-backed insurance scheme so that if they have to change plans, they will not lose all their investment.

Read the full story here:


Downing Street has said suggestions that Uefa is considering holding the European Championships entirely in England following its successful vaccination drive are “speculation”.

A spokesman for the prime minister told reporters:

This is just speculation. How the tournament will be hosted is a matter for Uefa.

As they stated yesterday, they remain committed to the current format of the tournament.

We are focused on the matches we are scheduled to host in the UK, including seven at Wembley and matches also being hosted at Hampden Park in Glasgow.


Public Health Wales said a total of 902,334 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had now been given, an increase of 13,064 from the previous day.

The agency said 80,062 second doses had also been given, an increase of 10,211, PA Media reports.

In total, 91% of over-80s in Wales have received their first dose, along with 93.2% of those aged 75-79 and 92.7% of those aged 70-74.

For care homes, 85.8% of residents and 83% of staff have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Public Health Wales said 87% of people in the clinically extremely vulnerable category had received their first dose.

There have been a further 308 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 203,108.


One in 145 people in England had Covid last week as cases fall further

About one in 145 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between February 13 and 19, according to new estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is down from about one in 115 people for the period February 6-12, PA news reports.

It is the lowest figure since October 2-8, when the estimate also stood at one in 160 people.


Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair for JCVI, said he was concerned about groups of people not taking up the offer to be vaccinated.

He told the Downing Street press conference about the next phase of the rollout:

We are certainly concerned about groups of people who are not taking up the offer of vaccination because vaccination is the way to be protected against severe Covid.

So the JCVI has looked at the information on vaccination uptake and coverage, and we are in regular contact with the Department of Health as well as NHS England to ask them to keep close attention to these groups and do everything possible to increase uptake.

When asked about whether the priorities of the vaccination programme will continue to be reviewed, he added:

We will be reviewing the priorities all the way down, even as we are doing so now.

You are absolutely right as we move down the age groups the risk of severe disease will be lower and lower, and so we will be checking to make sure it is still the right thing to do to offer all these people a vaccine.


The national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales has called the decision not to prioritise officers in the next phase of the coronavirus vaccination programme a “deep and damaging betrayal” which “will not be forgotten”.

John Apter told the PA news agency:

There’s real palpable anger from all levels within policing about how we have been completely disregarded and ignored in this phase.

What is expected of policing does put them at risk, it does put them at risk of transmitting this virus.

They’re being spat at, coughed at, rolling around on the ground with people, working in hospital environments, going into people’s homes, they can’t mitigate the risk of the virus.

All of that means absolutely nothing. This is a very deep and damaging betrayal and it will not be forgotten.

School leaders 'disappointed' teachers won't be prioritised for the vaccine

School leaders are not happy with the JCVI decision not to target teachers and other school staff in the next wave of vaccinations in England.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said his members were “disappointed” by the news:

The government needs to make a policy decision on this matter having insisted that education is a national priority and having announced a ‘big bang’ return to the classroom in England. It must now back that up by providing a clear direction that education staff will be prioritised in the next phase of the programme.

This is important not only in reassuring staff who it expects to work in busy and crowded environments, but also in terms of minimising disruption to education caused by staff absence as a result of Covid.

The announcement follows the Department for Education’s admission that neither Covid tests nor mask-wearing among secondary school pupils will be compulsory when pupils return from 8 March.

And it follows the most recent ONS data showing that teachers were at greater risk of testing positive for Covid than most other occupations, contrary to assurances from the government.


The decision not to prioritise all people with asthma, who are not already in group four and six, “ignores the evidence”, the UK’s leading asthma and lung charities has said.

Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said the decision to continue with the age-based approach to phase 2 of the vaccine rollout would leave many people with asthma left feeling “anxious and angry”.

She said:

The decision not to prioritise all people with asthma, who are not already in group four and six, ignores the evidence that they are more at risk of going to hospital with Covid and more at risk from long Covid.

There are thousands of people with asthma who will rightly feel anxious, angry and ignored by government.

We have been urging the government to ensure everyone with asthma is prioritised in the next vaccine roll out and more than 18,000 people with asthma have signed our petition in support of this.

The government must reconsider this decision which is unacceptable and could put people with asthma at risk.


Nurses Elspeth Huber and Rebecca Lock from Hannage Brook Medical Centre talk to the patient before administering the Covid-19 vaccine during home visits to the most vulnerable people.
Nurses Elspeth Huber and Rebecca Lock from Hannage Brook Medical Centre talk to a patient before administering the Covid-19 vaccine during home visits to the most vulnerable people. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters


Manchester Pride will be going ahead with an in-person event this year, its organisers have confirmed.

The annual LGBT+ festival, which is held over the August bank holiday and involves a concert and a parade through the streets of Manchester, is one of the biggest Pride events in the UK.

The charity behind Manchester Pride said there are plans to switch to a socially-distanced and digital back-up event if an in-person festival is not possible.

Mark Fletcher, chief executive of Manchester Pride, said:

Our team has been working incredibly hard behind the scenes on a range of plans for this celebration of LGBTQ+ life in Greater Manchester.

We can’t predict the future and we know that we could find ourselves in a situation in the coming months where we are unable to deliver an in-person festival.

Should this be the case, we are prepared and we will revert to our secondary plans that would see us host an exciting, innovative celebration incorporating socially distanced events and digital elements.


Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said opting to keep with an age-based priority system for phase two of the vaccine programme meant it would be simpler to administer.

He told a Downing Street press briefing:

Operationally, we know that age is a very easy and simple way to structure a vaccine programme.

When we consider occupational groups, there are occupations where the risk of exposure to the virus might be higher.

If we look at who is at risk of severe disease, ie being hospitalised or sadly dying from Covid-19, even within occupational groups, it is those people who are older who are more at risk compared to younger individuals.

In the instance of phase two, it is the people who are aged 40-49 who are at higher risk compared to younger individuals.

Professor Wei Shen Lim (Chair of JCVI) following a meeting with Boris Johnson in December.
Prof Wei Shen Lim (Chair of JCVI) following a meeting with Boris Johnson in December. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA


People aged 40-49 top next group for vaccines but teachers and police will not be prioritised

People aged 40-49 will be prioritised next for the Covid-19 vaccine, it has been announced.

Scientific advisers said sticking with an age-based approach would “provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time”.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) made the announcement after considering whether groups such as teachers and police officers should be vaccinated next.

It said that targeting occupational groups would be “more complex to deliver and may slow down the vaccine programme” which would leave some more vulnerable people at higher risk of going unvaccinated for longer.

The committee therefore concluded that the most effective way to prevent death and hospital admission was to carry on prioritising people by age.

It said modelling studies for phase 2 of the vaccination programme also indicated that the speed of vaccine deployment was the most important factor in helping prevent severe illness and death.

This means that in phase 2, priority will be given in the following order:
- All those aged 40-49
- All those aged 30-39
- All those aged 18-29

These groups will be vaccinated once all those in phase 1 (the over-50s and most vulnerable) have received a jab.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair for JCVI, said:

Vaccinations stop people from dying and the current strategy is to prioritise those who are more likely to have severe outcomes and die from Covid-19.

The evidence is clear that the risk of hospitalisation and death increases with age.

The vaccination programme is a huge success and continuing the age-based rollout will provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time, including to those in occupations at a higher risk of exposure.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England (PHE), said it was crucial that those at higher risk – including men and BAME communities – were encouraged to take the vaccine, and that local health systems were fully engaged and reaching out to underserved communities to ensure they could access the vaccine.

A statement from the JCVI said it strongly advised people to “promptly take up the offer of vaccination when they are offered”.


There are plenty of times when the government acts unlawfully, the justice secretary has admitted, but “getting something wrong is not the same as deliberately flouting the law”.

What matters, said Robert Buckland, is that the government doesn’t break the same law twice.

Last week, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, was found by a high court judge to have acted unlawfully by failing to publish multibillion-pound Covid-19 government contracts within the 30-day period required by law.

The judge, Mr Justice Chamberlain, ruled the failure to do so breached the “vital public function” of transparency over how “vast quantities” of taxpayers’ money was spent.

But Buckland has now said that the key thing is that Hancock got something wrong rather than deliberately breaching the law.

Read the full story here:

A woman who was among the first people to check into a quarantine hotel has said she is looking forward to seeing her husband after months apart.

Eritza East, 37, from Southampton, who was with her three children, said she had a double room at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow airport.

A guest leaves the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, near Heathrow Airport, London, after completing their 10-day stay at the Government-designated quarantine hotel.
A guest leaves the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, near Heathrow Airport, London, after completing their 10-day stay at the Government-designated quarantine hotel. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

She said:

It was not ideal, but it wasn’t terrible, I’ve been in much worse accommodation.

The accommodation was really big and the beds were really comfy, the only problem was the food wasn’t always kid-friendly.

Other than that, the security was really nice and very supportive.

She added: “I’m looking forward to seeing my husband, I haven’t seen him in seven months.”


The rights of children and vulnerable people in police custody are being put at risk during the pandemic by problems with the remote provision of legal advice, according to a report by charities in England and Wales.

While suspects here normally have a right to a lawyer being present during police interviews, research shows that legal support was provided remotely to children and vulnerable adults in more than half of 4,700 police station interviews during a snapshot period last year.

Charities say the potential for miscarriages of justices is being stored up as a result of issues such as confusion among interviewees who sometimes felt pressured to agree to getting advice remotely. They say consent was sometimes ignored or not sought.

Some solicitors refused to attend in person even though the child or mentally vulnerable client was accused of a serious crime such as attempted murder or rape.

The findings come in a report by three charities – Fair Trials, Transform Justice and the National Appropriate Adult Network – which are calling for an end to remote legal assistance in police custody. (Read on )

Nearly 95% of adults happy to get Covid jab

Positive attitudes towards the coronavirus vaccine have increased, with nearly 95% of adults saying they have either received the jab or would be likely to have it if offered, new data shows.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, published on Friday, show 94% of adults surveyed between February 17 and 21 reported they had now either received the vaccine or would be very or fairly likely to have it if offered, PA news reports.

This is up from 91% the previous week and has risen from early December 2020 when around eight in 10 (78%) adults indicated they would be likely to accept the vaccine if offered it.

Of the adults who said they would be unlikely to have the vaccine or had decided not to have it, the most common reasons were being worried about long-term impacts on their health (43%), being concerned about the side effects (37%) and waiting to see how well it worked (34%).


A British man has been sentenced to two weeks in jail and fined just over £540 for breaking a coronavirus quarantine order in Singapore to visit his fiancee.

Nigel Skea, 52, from Southampton, is the first Briton to be jailed for flouting coronavirus rules in the city-state, Associated Press reports.

Skea left his room at the Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore on three occasions last September, according to charge sheets. He was not wearing a mask. On one occasion, he climbed an emergency stairwell and entered a room that his Singaporean fiancee had booked. They spent nine hours together.

Skea, who pleaded guilty to two charges of flouting the rules, arrived at the state courts on Friday with Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai, whom he has since married. Eyamalai pleaded guilty to one charge of aiding Skea. She was sentenced to a week in jail.

The district judge, Jasvender Kaur, said the sentences were designed to send a “clear message” that restrictions should be followed.

For those who haven’t seen, the Queen has encouraged people to “think about other people rather than themselves” and get the Covid-19 jab in a video call with health officials leading the deployment of the vaccine across the UK.

You can read the full story here:

The justice secretary has rejected suggestions that the Queen was interfering in politics by encouraging people to have a coronavirus vaccination.

Robert Buckland told ITV’s Good Morning Britain:

As is so often the case in our history, the Queen can, just with a few words, encapsulate the mood of the nation.

I think we can trust the Queen to get it right. An issue like the vaccine and indeed the Covid pandemic goes beyond politics.

Messages of unity are very much part of what the Queen is all about. She has got it right for nearly 70 years. She continues not to put a foot wrong.

Queen Elizabeth speaks via video call to health leaders delivering the COVID-19 vaccine across the UK
Queen Elizabeth speaks via video call to health leaders delivering the COVID-19 vaccine across the UK Photograph: Buckingham Palace/Reuters

He earlier told LBC that anything the Queen says has “immense power”.

He added:

She was implying that it was not only good for our own health but that it was also an altruistic act, and that in doing so we all collectively enhance the safety of others.

The message of encouragement, information, support for people who have never had a vaccine before is hugely important.


Keeping windows open more effective than asking children to wear masks, scientist says

Keeping windows open and improving ventilation in schools would be a much more effective at reducing coronavirus transmission than asking young children to wear face masks, a government scientific adviser has said.

Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he is “not a fan” of asking young children to wear masks, and there are better strategies for managing the virus.

It came after some schools said pupils must wear face coverings at all times, except during sports lessons or when eating or drinking.

But Semple, speaking in a personal capacity, said:

Primary school children are the lowest risk both to themselves and to society. There is really good data coming out ... that shows that children are half as likely to acquire the virus to a third as likely to acquire the virus.

When it comes to transmitting, they are probably half as likely to transmit it as adults. That risk actually gets smaller as you go into younger age groups.

So I am not a great fan of young children wearing face masks.

He said he agrees that young children will find it difficult to wear the masks properly.

He added:

If I had to invest in a single activity to improve the environment both for the children and the adults, I’d be looking at improving the ventilation, unsealing windows that have been painted shut and kept shut for energy-saving reasons ... improving air exchanges.

That would be a much more effective way to reduce transmission in schools.

He also said the data shows that teachers working in schools “are no more at risk than people in general society going about their daily living and normal working environment”.


Justice secretary refuses to rule out prospect of prisoners and staff being vaccinated en masse

Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, has refused to rule out the prospect of prison inmates and staff being vaccinated en masse in the next phase of the rollout of the coronavirus jab.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is due to publish its recommendations on who should get the vaccine once the rollout to the first nine priority groups – including the over-50s – is complete, PA news reports.

While Buckland said prisoners will not be prioritised over other groups, he also emphasised the need for speed and for protecting prison staff.

“Prisoners will not be getting priority. At the moment they are vaccinated in accordance with the current guidelines, in accordance with what is happening in the community,” he told LBC.

He added:

What is clear is that the need for speed is everything here. I will be supporting anything that gives us speed and maximises the impact that it has.

Prisons are a closed environment, like care homes. I have got to think about the welfare of staff. I am particularly anxious to make sure that prison staff get the vaccine.

I very much hope the JCVI will reinforce that message and allow ministers to make that informed decision as soon as possible.



Yohannes Lowe (now), Nicola Slawson and Sarah Marsh (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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