Coronavirus latest news: Keep staying home for now, Britons urged by new Government campaign

Dominic Penna
·65 min read

A new Government campaign has launched urging Britons to stay home for the time being while vaccines are rolled out and full lockdown restrictions remain.

The campaign, which will air for the first time on ITV this evening, will feature prominently across television, radio and social media.

Viewers are told that "every sacrifice, every day at home, every covered face - everything we're doing is helping stop the spread of Covid-19. Let's keep going."

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: “I know it’s been a long year but we can’t let up now. Everything we’re doing is bringing us one step closer to beating this virus.

“The vaccine roll out is going extremely well and is saving lives - but it is not the only way we will reduce infection rates and be able to get back to normality."

Professor Chris Whitty said: "Vaccines give clear hope for the future, but for now we must all continue to play our part in protecting the NHS and saving lives."

​​Follow the latest updates below.

06:52 PM

How lockdown emptied the world's most popular tourist destinations

It’s hard to fathom that, just over a year ago, we would stand elbow-to-elbow with our fellow humans, without a second thought as to whether they might infect us with a highly contagious disease called Covid-19, writes Greg Dickinson.

Every February, revellers would take to the streets in Venice, wearing masks for fun, rather than to prevent infection.

Syrian dancer and choreographer Yara al-Hasbani performs a dance on the empty Trocadero square in front of the Eiffel tower - Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP
Syrian dancer and choreographer Yara al-Hasbani performs a dance on the empty Trocadero square in front of the Eiffel tower - Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP

In spring, thousands of marathon runners would trample the streets in London, while on Easter Sundays the Pope would address the masses in St Peter’s Square. Gathering was something we enjoyed doing, rather a lot.

In this series of photographs, we look at how, over 12 months, the pandemic has transformed some of the world’s busiest sights.

To not only remind us of what we have lost but also of what we can look forward to once the world returns to normal, whenever that might be.

06:45 PM

Hospital which received £230k from Captain Sir Tom Moore fundrasier names new ward after war hero

A Hospital which received £230k from Captain Sir Tom Moore’s fundraiser has named a new ward after the war hero.

North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust (North Mid) in north London, which was badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, has paid tribute to Captain Sir Tom by naming their new 20-bed ward after the Army Veteran.

The ‘Captain Sir Tom Moore’s Centenary Ward’ will be located next to the hospital’s Pymmes building and will be used to care for patients recovering from surgery.

North Mid received £230,000 of funding thanks to the veteran, who sadly died at Bedford Hospital on February 2 after testing positive for Covid-19.

The ward, which opened last week, was set to be called ‘The Centenary Ward’ as the hospital celebrates its 100th birthday this year but following the NHS hero’s death, Maria Kane, Chief Executive of North Middlesex University Hospital said she was inundated with staff emailing her asking to name it after Captain Sir Tom.

Jessica Carpani and Lizzie Roberts have the story.

06:34 PM

Covid tests should be enforced by parents, says Gavin Williamson

Gavin Williamson has said that parents of secondary school pupils should enforce them taking two coronavirus tests a week to prevent the spread of infection in the classroom, Tony Diver reports.

The Education Secretary said the Government would "hope that parents would be there to support their children" in taking two tests a week, which will be conducted at home.

Schools will return on March 8, but secondary schools and colleges will be phased back in to allow for testing facilities to be set up.

Secondary school pupils will be supervised for the first two weeks, then take tests at home.

06:24 PM

Second phase of Covid vaccine roll-out should be decided by age, adviser says

Vaccine distribution in the second phase should be decided by age because prioritising teaching or other occupations would slow down the rollout, a leading government adviser has said.

Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chairman of the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI), said there "isn't a strong scientific argument" to immunise teachers, telling MPs on the science and technology committee that workers in meat processing factories would have a better case to jump the queue.

Prof Harnden said deviating from the age-based approach at all could lead to "harm" by slowing down the overall number of doses administered each day.

The committee has submitted its recommendations to ministers, who are expected to make a final decision on the second stage of the rollout in the coming days.

All adults aged 50 and above, as well as patients of all ages over 16 with underlying health conditions, are expected to have been offered a first vaccine dose by the end of April.

Henry Bodkin has the story.

06:14 PM

Stay at home for now, Britons urged by new campaign

A new Government campaign has launched urging Britons to stay home for the time being while vaccines are rolled out and full lockdown restrictions remain.

The campaign, which will air for the first time on ITV this evening, will feature prominently across television, radio and social media.

Viewers are told that "every sacrifice, every day at home, every covered face - everything we're doing is helping stop the spread of Covid-19. Let's keep going."

Stay Home_Lets Keep Going_video calls.png - News Scans
Stay Home_Lets Keep Going_video calls.png - News Scans
Britons are urged to keep staying at home in a new campaign. This poster reads: 'every foggy lens is making a difference', and features a man with steamed up glasses wearing a face mask - News Scans
Britons are urged to keep staying at home in a new campaign. This poster reads: 'every foggy lens is making a difference', and features a man with steamed up glasses wearing a face mask - News Scans

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: “I know it’s been a long year but we can’t let up now. Everything we’re doing is bringing us one step closer to beating this virus.

“The vaccine roll out is going extremely well and is saving lives - but it is not the only way we will reduce infection rates and be able to get back to normality."

Professor Chris Whitty said: "Vaccines give clear hope for the future, but for now we must all continue to play our part in protecting the NHS and saving lives."

06:02 PM

Israel deploys vaccine diplomacy to strengthen ties with countries that back Jerusalem as capital

Israel is to donate nearly 100,000 surplus doses of Covid-19 vaccine to nearly 20 countries, apparently as a reward for diplomatic support in its ongoing bid to have Jerusalem recognised as its capital by the international community, David G Rose reports.

The Czech Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Hungary — which have either opened diplomatic missions in Jerusalem or pledged to do so — are reportedly soon to receive up to 5,000 doses each from Israel's excess stock of the Moderna vaccine.

Israel’s government regards all of Jerusalem as its capital. However, most countries base their diplomats elsewhere because the claim is not recognised by the United Nations. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

Local media reports also suggested Italy, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda would be among the countries to receive donations of between 1,000 and 5,000 free jabs. All have warm relations with the Middle Eastern country or have recently renewed diplomatic ties.

Read the full story here.

05:42 PM

Gavin Williamson: 'We know that children need to be in school'

Summing up, Gavin Williamson says: "Children need to be back in school at the right time for their development, and that's March 8.

"We know that children need to be in school, not just for their education but their mental health and their development.

"And that is why our focus is making sure that they are back into school on March 8, and it is something that I know so many teachers are very keen to see because they want to be welcoming their children as well."

Britain's Education Secretary Gavin Williamson holds a virtual news conference at 10 Downing Street - John Sibley/Reuters
Britain's Education Secretary Gavin Williamson holds a virtual news conference at 10 Downing Street - John Sibley/Reuters

05:35 PM

Gavin Williamson: 'We never want to see' children out of school

Camilla Tuner asks Gavin Williamson if he will acknowledge that the Government's policies have played a role in the deterioration of children's mental health.

The Education Secretary responds:

What the Government has done is we've got one of the most impressive vaccine roll-outs of any industrial country anywhere in the world, by taking the big decisions that the Prime Minister had to take early last year. This has created a very clear pathway as to how we rebound out of this.

I always want to see children in all schools all the time. I see the value they get, and the pleasure they get, but we know there have been children not in school, and it's something we never want to see.

And obviously children do lose out as a result of that and that's why we've got the £700 million package today which we're rolling out to schools to support them, and we're looking at solutions to support a child and help a child really succeed in the future.

05:33 PM

Gavin Williamson: 'We will not be timid' in education reform

Our Education Secretary Camilla Turner asks Gavin Williamson how revolutionary he is prepared to be in his education plans, and whether he believes the Covid generation's life chances are as good as those of other generations.

She asks Jenny Harries what assessment has been made of wider damage to children's development by not being able to see their friends or grandparents.

"We always need to have children at the heart of everything we do," Mr Williamson says. "Every change made to our school system has got to be focused on driving change and improvement. And there's a number of areas that we need to be looking at. One of those is making sure we're always driving up the quality of teaching, making sure children are getting the very best teaching.

"The second is looking at the time children are learning, and targeting children in the best possible way. It would be wrong of me to try and preempt what (education recovery tsar) Sir Kevan Collins is going to come forward with. But that will be based directly on the evidence and what works.

"I am absolutely certain we are going to do everything we can do for all of our children to make sure they're not set back by this pandemic, that their life chances are not stinted. We are not going to be timid in our aspirations for them and the actions we will have to take to deliver for them."

Dame Jenny Harries says that missing education has negative physical and mental health impacts on children, and there are many figures in children's lives who are particularly important who they have not been able to see.

She says she is sure that the vaccine roll-out is going to be "very positive" in line with the roadmap.

05:21 PM

Gavin Williamson rules out longer school days

Gavin Williamson says that "schools have always delivered for all children, all across the country".

Pressed on summer holidays, Mr Williamson says "we want schools to be putting on great activities" based around education and well-being in the six-week period.

"We would hope that schools are offering time in schools for children and that's why we've put the funding there."

He says that lengthening school days is not part of the Government's plan, "but we are wanting to see a step change in what we can deliver in terms of our schools."

05:17 PM

Dame Jenny Harries: 'As autumn comes in, we may be looking at' return of regulations

Dame Jenny Harries tells the Downing Street briefing that doing things outside is "ever so much safer" than doing things inside, and fresh air and ventilation reduce the density of the virus.

"Outdoors is not so much of an issue and you'll see that coming through in the roadmap," she says.

"We have to look at the data and check where we are. As we get into the autumn, when winter comes in and we spend more time inside, we may be looking at it. But it's quite possible that we would not need to be wearing masks [over summer] and PPE is very much for clinical use."

She says that the summer period is "much safer, with less for regulations" but that "doesn't rule it out" going into winter.

05:14 PM

Roadmap out of lockdown: No plans to bring dates forward, says Williamson

Asked if the roadmap out of lockdown will be accelerated, Gavin Williamson says there is "no plan whatsoever to be moving ahead of the dates that have already been given".

"We want to give the public and businesses the assurances of these dates, but there are certainly no plans to move anything forwards."

Dame Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, says that the dates have been put in place for a reason.

05:12 PM

Gavin Williamson: 'It is time for children to be back in school'

"The return to school is what we have been looking forward to," Mr Williamson says.

"It is time for children to be back in school, learning and playing with their friends, but we must also look to the future.

"No child should have their prospects blighted by the pandemic and I am determined that this is not going to happen."

The Department for Education will set out its plans for grading tomorrow, "putting its trust firmly in the hands of teachers", the Education Secretary says.

"I think the whole nation has never valued schools and education as much as it does today, and I think we will all be willing for the safe return of our children back into school on March 8."

05:10 PM

Covid tests in school 'critical to break the chains of transmission'

Gavin Williamson refers back to Professor Chris Whitty's comments that the risk to school children from coronavirus is very low.

He says that the asymptomatic testing regime at secondary school students and for school staff "will be critical to break the chains of transmission" of coronavirus.

Secondary schools, colleges and universities will all see face masks mandated "to reduce transmission - the risk to children themselves is incredibly low", Mr Williamson says.

He describes face coverings as "a temporary measure which will be in place until Easter", when there will be a review.

05:08 PM

Gavin Williamson sets out support as schools reopen

"Despite everyone's best efforts, many children are going to need longer term support if they're to make the educational progress that they need," the Education Secretary says.

He confirms a £302 million Recovery Premium for state primary and secondary schools, building on the pupil premium "to further support pupils who need it most".

Gavin Williamson - News Grabs
Gavin Williamson - News Grabs

An extended tutoring programme will be funded to the tune of more than £200 million.

Funding will also be allocated to support language development in early years children, while £200 million is to be given to secondary schools for summer schools.

This will take the form of blocks of tutoring tailored to the needs of individual children.

05:05 PM

Schools reopening is enabled by Covid data, says Gavin Williamson

The full return of schools and colleges from March 8 is driven by the data, Gavin Williamson says.

"Primary school pupils will return on that day, while secondary school pupils and college students will be able to stagger their returns that week to ensure that all of their students are offered Covid tests.

"Wraparound childcare for primary and secondary pupils will also resume from March 8."

He says that the timings of a full return to university will be reviewed by the end of the Easter holidays.

05:03 PM

Gavin Williamson briefing underway

Gavin Williamson describes the Prime Minister's roadmap as "the news we've all been waiting for".

"We can now plan for the return of all pupils to schools and colleges as part of a route map for leaving lockdown," Mr Williamson says.

He thanks school staff and childcare workers for "going above and beyond" to enable remote learning for most children, and in-person learning for the majority of pupils.

Addressing schoolchildren, Mr Williamson says: "I know it hasn't been easy, but you have done so much to adapt.

"We are continuing to support schools, colleges and teachers with extra help to boost children's learning."

04:44 PM

India sees biggest increase in Covid cases since September peak

India is witnessing a spike in Covid infections, the most sustained surge in cases since the pandemic peaked in September last year.

India has recorded 13,742 new cases and 104 fresh deaths in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said on Wednesday. In the past week, the number of cases has risen by an average of 1,800 a day.

India had been witnessing a decrease in cases earlier this year with some predicting an end to the pandemic and pointing to megacities such as Delhi reaching herd immunity.

However, in recent days those predictions have looked premature. The states of Maharashtra in the west, whose capital is Mumbai, and Kerala in the south are now the epicentres of the pandemic, accounting for 75 per cent of active cases.

Fans react as they wait to enter the newly named Narendra Modi Stadium in India  - Amit Dave/Reuters
Fans react as they wait to enter the newly named Narendra Modi Stadium in India - Amit Dave/Reuters

The government has warned 10 states, where there has been a rise in daily cases alongside a drop in Covid-19 testing, that slacking off on restrictions and surveillance measures will escalate the crisis.

In Mumbai and the state of Maharashtra all religious, social and political gatherings have been banned.

The reasons behind the surge are still unclear and experts have been dispatched to investigate. Health officials in the worst-hit states have also been asked to speed up vaccination campaigns, increase PCR testing and carry out contact-tracing of all positive cases.

Samaan Lateef has more detail on this story.

04:37 PM

Six reasons the economy may take longer to bounce back than hoped

Don’t worry too much about the Government’s ultra cautious approach to lifting lockdown restrictions, or even Nicola Sturgeon’s ever more, deliberately separatist, demanding set of criteria for Scotland, writes Jeremy Warner.

For many of us, this is frustrating, and for some firms in the hospitality, travel, entertainment and retail sectors, it may well prove terminal. It also begs the question of why bother with an expedited vaccine programme if it fails to give respite from a half closed economy.

It is indeed a good question. Yet fortunately, the economy as a whole is proving a remarkably adaptive beast, and certainly rather more resilient to the latest round of containment measures, now nearly two months old, than might have been expected. Some natural immunity to lockdown strategies seems to have been acquired.

The economy may well be a ‘coiled spring’, but the Chancellor faces some big unknowns that could yet derail the recovery.

Read Jeremy's full piece here.

04:15 PM

Safety and efficacy of Johnson & Johnson vaccine confirmed by FDA

The one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine completely prevented hospital admissions and deaths in a large clinical trial, a review by America's Food and Drug Administration has found.

The Johnson & Johnson was found to be more than 85 per cent effective in preventing severe illness, a figure which fell to 66 per cent when moderate cases of the virus were included.

Vaccine efficacy was found to be similar across the US, Brazil and South Africa. All seven of the deaths in the vaccine trial were among participants who had received a placebo.

The vaccines approved by UK authorities to date all require two injections to generate the full immune response – making the logistics of distribution of the J&J vaccine simpler.

04:04 PM

Further 442 deaths and under 10,000 cases confirmed

442 more deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test have been confirmed across all settings in the UK.

Deaths have fallen by 31 per cent in the last seven days, Department for Health figures show.

9,938 people tested positive for coronavirus yesterday, representing a 14.7 per cent week-on-week decline in infection rates. 594,629 virus tests were carried out.

A total of 326,692 Britons received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine yesterday, taking the total number of first doses to 18.24 million.

26,317 people received their second dose of the vaccine, the highest figure so far.

03:52 PM

'Proof of Covid immunity could ease the transition to full freedom'

For all the heated discussion about precisely what should be relaxed in March or early April, it is clear from the modelling done by Sage and others that the tricky part of the roadmap for lifting the Covid lockdown actually comes at the end, writes Andrew Lilico.

When we take the final step of removing all remaining restrictions this summer, all models show an exit wave of hospitalisations and deaths.

Though such deaths would clearly be tragedies for all concerned, the numbers forecast are relatively modest – rather less than the respiratory disease deaths in any normal-to-bad winter season.

The more problematic element is the amount of hospitalisations, which, even with the numbers of us that have already had the disease and our highly successful vaccination programme, could result in the NHS being swamped temporarily in some scenarios.

One idea is, for a few months, to use “passports” for access to higher-risk events once these are permitted in the final stages of lockdown release. These might be large stadium events, nightclubs or theatres.

Read Andrew's full piece here.

03:49 PM

Pfizer vaccines held back: Downing Street dodges question

Downing Street has refused to confirm whether just the Pfizer vaccine has been held back for second doses.

"We don't discuss supply and logistic information, but as I say, we will make sure that everybody is able to have their second dose within the 12 weeks," the Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing.

"While at the same time, we'll continue to roll out the first dose to more and more people.

"You will see fluctuations in the number that we can provide daily, but overall you will continue to see us vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people each day."

Cat Neilan has more from the lobby.

03:36 PM

Rail commuters could stick to car post-lockdown, prompting calls for fare reform

One in seven rail commuters could stick to the car post-pandemic, train bosses fear as they renewed calls for simpler fares.

The Rail Delivery Group, the body which represents train operators, surveyed 3,000 people and found that 15 per cent of former rail commuters plan to switch to the car after the lockdown is eased.

It said this could lead to 175,000 extra cars taking to the road during morning rush hour and that regulations need to be updated to reflect the changing nature of people’s working lives.

Separate research carried out by Jacobs, on behalf of the RDG, suggested that the average number of days employees work from home each week will grow from 0.5 to 2.6 following the pandemic.

In a blog post, chief executive Jacqueline Starr, wrote: “As we emerge from lockdown, updated regulations must enable train operators to give people what they want - a radically simplified system of products based on easier fares with offers tailored to suit different needs. The alternative could mean gridlock on the roads.”

Sam Meadows has the story.

03:30 PM

Scotland's tourism and hospitality industries 'left in limbo' over Nicola Sturgeon's lockdown plan

Scotland's crisis-hit tourism and hospitality firms have been left in "limbo" and unable to take bookings thanks to Nicola Sturgeon's failure to provide a detailed lockdown exit plan, furious industry leaders have said.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) said Boris Johnson's blueprint had led to a "huge spike in bookings from England for foreign travel" in the summer but Scottish hoteliers and accommodation providers cannot compete as they do not know if they will be open.

Stephen Montgomery of the Scottish Hospitality Group and a hotelier  - Stuart Nicol
Stephen Montgomery of the Scottish Hospitality Group and a hotelier - Stuart Nicol

This was echoed by the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), which said the First Minister had "completely failed" to provide clarity and firms were having to turn down bookings from south of the Border while their English competitors were inundated with queries.

Paul Waterson, of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said a late spring reopening would “sadly be too late for many and for those who do survive there remain serious challenges ahead”.

Simon Johnson has the story.

03:24 PM

Covid lockdown roadmap: key dates revealed for easing restrictions in England

Boris Johnson has announced a gradual roadmap for reopening that will see Covid-19 restrictions eased over four steps spread across at least four months.

The plans are an attempt to kick-start the British economy and ease the societal pressures of lockdown without triggering a dangerous resurgence of the virus.

The roadmap will be underpinned by four key “tests” that are linked to data, which will act like a checklist that must be met before moving onto the next step of reopening.

The four tests are: the vaccine rollout is going as planned; vaccines are effective in bringing down deaths and hospitalisations; case numbers are not rising so fast that the NHS risks being overwhelmed; new variants do not create unforeseen risks.

Our Political Editor Ben Riley-Smith has more.

03:19 PM

Wales Covid vaccine roll-out will aim for end of July

Vaughan Gething has said that Wales will aim to offer coronavirus vaccinations to its entire adult population by the end of July.

The Welsh health minister said the pledge depended on supply after Boris Johnson also promised that all adults in the UK would be offered a jab no later than July 31.

"I can today confirm that we will offer the vaccine to all eligible adults in Wales by July 31, as long as supply matches our ability to deliver and our ambition," Mr Gething said.

More than 878,000 people in Wales have now had their first dose of the vaccine, he added, which makes up almost 28 per cent of the population.

03:02 PM

First quarter of 2021 will be 'considerably more negative than expected', says Bailey

Andrew Bailey has told the Treasury Select Committee that the first quarter of this year will be "considerably more negative than expected".

He added that the memorandum of understanding the UK is expected to sign with the EU next month "is not going to lead automatically to equivalence".

Follow all of the latest business news live.

02:58 PM

Gavin Williamson press conference at 5pm

Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, will lead this afternoon's Downing Street press conference at 5pm.

It comes after the full return of in-person teaching and learning in schools on March 8 was confirmed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap on Monday.

02:53 PM

Revealed: The plan to extend and stagger stamp duty holiday by three months

The Government is expected to announce an extension to the stamp duty holiday as the industry rallies behind a staggered three-month drop-off, writes Will Kirkman.

The Times newspaper said it has been told that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will use his Budget next week to move the deadline to the end of June.

A spokesman for The Treasury said they could not speculate on tax ahead of fiscal events.

Rightmove, the property website, estimated if the stamp duty holiday was extended until the end of June, an additional 300,000 sales in England could benefit. This would mean that buyers could save £1.75bn in tax, with 80pc of these sales paying no stamp duty at all.

If the holiday is not extended, 100,000 buyers who agreed a purchase last year will lose out on the tax savings, according to Rightmove.

Tom Bill, of estate agency Knight Frank, said: “An extension is inherently fair because it addresses the fact parts of the conveyancing system have become overwhelmed, which has jeopardised completion dates."

Read more: Why Sunak must avoid a blanket extension

02:38 PM

Charities welcome invites for people with learning disabilities to get vaccinated

Charities have welcomed the news that GPs will invite adults on the learning difficulties register to get a vaccine.

Jackie O'Sullivan, executive director of communication, advocacy and activism at learning disability charity Mencap, said:

This is a hugely welcome announcement, and fantastic news for people with a learning disability. Now everyone on the GP Learning Disability Register can get access to the Covid vaccine.

It's now crucially important that everyone with a learning disability checks that they are on the register and asks to go on it if they are not.

James Taylor, executive director of strategy, impact and social change at disability equality charity Scope, said:

This will come as a huge relief to many disabled people and their families.

Disabled people have been forgotten throughout the pandemic, and sadly many have already lost their lives. Almost two thirds of all those who’ve died from coronavirus were disabled.

This must be the start of an ongoing process to prioritise all disabled people who are shielding, regardless of age or condition. The government still needs to make sure nobody slips through the net.

02:26 PM

England coronavirus deaths rise by 302 in hospitals

A further 302 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, the NHS has confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 82,156.

Patients were aged between 32 and 103. All except 14 of the patients, who were aged between 32 and 91, had known underlying health conditions. The deaths took place between October 21 and February 23.

Fifty-two further deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

The UK's most up-to-date caseload and death toll across all settings will be confirmed by the Department for Health later today.

02:23 PM

Heathrow Airport issues going concern warning after £2bn loss

Heathrow plunged £2bn into the red last year after passenger numbers fell to levels not seen in nearly half a century, leading to the airport issuing a warning about its future, Simon Foy reports.

The UK's biggest transport hub reported a pre-tax loss of £2.01bn for its full-year compared to a £546m profit a year earlier. Revenues plunged 62pc to £1.18bn, with passenger numbers collapsing 73pc to 22.1 million.

The dire results led the airport to issue a going concern warning, saying the "existence of a material uncertainty... could cast significant doubt upon the group and the company's ability to continue as a going concern".

The aviation industry's crucial summer season remains in doubt as governments throughout Europe tighten their borders amid fears that the spread of new Covid variants could derail vaccine efforts.

While the UK's inoculation programme continues apace and there is still hope vaccinated Britons could travel abroad, the EU's rollout is being severely hampered by limited supply of vaccines.

Read the full story here.

02:11 PM

End of lockdown will see a nervous waiting game for the Government

For all the modelling that has been done, we are – to an extent – 'flying blind' until the impact of each roadmap step is apparent, writes Laura Donnelly.

On March 8, millions of parents around the country could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief. But as children of all ages pour back into schools, the Government and its scientists begin a nervous waiting game.

Papers drawn up by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) warn that opening schools could see the Covid 'R' rate rise by as much as 50 per cent – an unsettling prospect. However, the papers note that the increase could also be a far more manageable 10 per cent.

It is those uncertainty levels and the desire, as one Whitehall source puts it, to make sure "we never do this again" that are driving the caution in Government thinking.

Just before Boris Johnson announced the reopening roadmap, Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, put it bluntly when he said: "You really don't know what effect these unlocking measures will have until you've done them."

02:04 PM

Why can't we come out of lockdown sooner? The arguments from both sides

Boris Johnson has announced the Government’s plan for the end of lockdown, setting out a gradual easing of restrictions that will see the country return to normal by June 21 at the earliest.

But the ink on the Government’s roadmap was barely dry before there were calls for the plan to be sped up, from Tory and Labour MPs alike.

Mark Harper MP in conversation with the Telegraph - David Rose
Mark Harper MP in conversation with the Telegraph - David Rose

After Mr Johnson’s statement announcing the plans, he faced a litany of questions from irate backbenchers who wanted to know why their constituency’s pubs/restaurants/theme parks could not be opened sooner.

There is an organised force on the Tory benches for this argument in the Coronavirus Recovery Group (CRG), a sizable caucus of MPs who have questioned the evidence for continued lockdowns and called for the publication of criteria for our release.

Tony Diver has more on the pressure on the Prime Minister to speed up our freedoms.

01:47 PM

Reading and Leeds festivals to go ahead this summer, organisers confirm

The Reading and Leeds music festivals are to take place this summer, organisers have announced on the festival's official Twitter account.

The twin events are scheduled to run from 27-29 August. The Government's roadmap out of lockdown includes plans to remove all legal limits on social contact by 21 June.

Twenty One Pilots fans enjoy the band's performance on the main stage at Leeds Festival  - Katja Orgin/Redferns
Twenty One Pilots fans enjoy the band's performance on the main stage at Leeds Festival - Katja Orgin/Redferns

Alongside the announcement, the festival organisers posted the lineup for the twin events, which includes big names such as Lewis Capaldi and Post Malone.

India McTaggart has the story.

01:38 PM

Anti-vax movement threatens to derail jab campaigns in Africa

Fake news and conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines are flourishing in Africa as a second wave of infections hits the continent hard and immunisation campaigns struggle to take off.

Fake news circulating on social media include claims that two children died in Guinea after being vaccinated against Covid-19; an Indian company supplied South Africa with an ineffective Covid-19 vaccine that was near its expiry date; and former US president Barack Obama warned Africans not to get vaccinated.

Health officials across Africa are concerned this "infodemic" could further complicate lagging vaccine campaigns on a continent that has historically been pro-vaccines.

"It is a huge concern and something that needs to be very strongly addressed so people understand the facts," Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization's director for Africa, told reporters earlier this month.

Anna Pujol-Mazzini has more here.

01:27 PM

Covax vaccine scheme: Dominic Raab welcomes 'huge step forward' in scheme

Dominic Raab has welcomed the first delivery of coronavirus vaccines through the Covax scheme, which took place in Ghana this morning.

“Today’s roll-out of vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable countries is a huge step forward in ending this pandemic," the Foreign Secretary said.

“As one of the biggest donors to Covax the UK is ensuring that more than one billion vaccine doses will be sent to 92 countries so that no one is left behind in this global fight.

“We will only save lives and reduce the risk of future infections if we prevent the virus spreading in the world’s developing countries.”

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01:16 PM

All adults with learning disabilities prioritised for Covid vaccine after Jo Whiley campaign

At least 150,000 more people with learning disabilities will be prioritised for a Covid vaccine following Jo Whiley’s campaign, Henry Bodkin reports.

The BBC DJ declared Monday a “seismic day” after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended that all patients on the GP Learning Disability Register should be called forward.

Jo Whiley and sister Frances  - William Penrice/Features Scans
Jo Whiley and sister Frances - William Penrice/Features Scans

Until now, only those with severe and profound learning disabilities have been prioritised for a Covid jab.

Ms Whiley, 55, sparked a public outcry after revealing that she had been offered the vaccine while her sister Frances Whiley, who has the genetic disorder Cri Du Chat syndrome and learning difficulties, had not.

Last week the 53-year-old tested positive for Covid, in what the Radio 2 presenter described as “the stuff of nightmares”.

Read the full story here.

01:07 PM

EU is 'catching up' with UK on coronavirus vaccinations, says Ursula von der Leyen

The European Union is catching up with Britain on coronavirus vaccinations, Ursula von der Leyen said, as she branded the British strategy of delaying the second dose as too risky.

The president of the European Commission responded to criticism that the EU vaccination roll out was too slow by pointing out that 130 countries in the world had had no jabs at all.

Mrs von der Leyen said more than twice the number of Italians than Britons had had both jabs and the EU as a whole had given out more first doses.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen pictured a press conference - Thierry Monasse/Getty Images
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen pictured a press conference - Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

“We're catching up. Britain has administered 17 million first doses. There are 27 million in the EU. In Italy, with a population similar to that of Great Britain, twice as many citizens received full vaccination protection with the second dose as in the UK,” she said.

She told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper, “I think it's risky to simply postpone the second vaccination. We should adhere to the specifications that the manufacturers determined in their extensive clinical tests.”

A single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine prevents two-thirds of Covid transmissions, according to data released at the start of this month.

James Crisp has the full story.

01:00 PM

Red list quarantine should apply to Channel migrants, say Tory MPs

Channel migrants should face "red list" quarantine, Tory MPs have said amid fears that high Covid rates in northern France could be carried into the UK.

As more than 100 migrants reached the UK in two days, the MPs urged the Home Office to tighten quarantine restrictions on them to match the "enforced" self-isolation imposed on arrivals from the 33 "red list" countries linked to the new South African and Brazil variant.

Covid rates in northern France are up to 15 times those in Dover, while there is concern that without knowing the routes that migrants, including Africans, took to reach the UK, it raises the risk of new variants entering Britain. Migrants are currently housed in hotels in and around Dover.

Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover, said: "I would like to see a compulsory period of quarantine in order to reduce the transmission risk when the countries of origin cannot be properly identified and confirmed."

Charles Hymas and Anna Pujol-Mazzini have the full story.

12:55 PM

Face it, we're worried about wearing masks in the classroom

Last summer, the idea of schoolchildren having to wear face masks in their classrooms still seemed fairly far-fetched. “That’s clearly nonsensical,” said Boris Johnson on August 26, a week before the start of the autumn term, when asked about the issue.

“You can’t teach with face coverings and you can’t expect people to learn with face coverings.”

Now, the 'ridiculous' has become reality. In October, the Scottish government told schools in hotspot areas to consider masks in the classroom. Then, in January, the Northern Irish government followed suit.

Secondary school pupils will have to wear face coverings "for a limited period" from March 8 - Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Secondary school pupils will have to wear face coverings "for a limited period" from March 8 - Jane Barlow/PA Wire

And on Monday, in the Government’s new roadmap out of lockdown, secondary schools in England were told that pupils should wear face coverings “for a limited period” from March 8 in “all indoor environments – including classrooms – unless two metre social distancing can be maintained”.

Here, pupils, parents and teachers share their concerns.

12:42 PM

Summer holidays: 'Far too early' to book, says Priti Patel

It is "far too early" for Britons to think about booking summer holidays despite Boris Johnson's exit strategy, the Home Secretary has said.

"It is too early and we have to look at the data at every single stage and the roadmap outlined by the Prime Minister makes that abundantly clear," Priti Patel told the home affairs select committee.

Ms Patel stressed the importance of adhering to the current restrictions amid the ongoing vaccine roll-out.

12:32 PM

Tanzanian president softens stance on Covid-19 as he urges citizens to wear masks

Tanzania’s president John Magufuli has urged citizens to take precautions against Covid-19 and wear masks, signalling a partial U-turn on his previous denial of the existence of the virus.

Mr Magufuli's comments came hours after the World Health Organization director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, renewed calls for the country to share its virus data, saying the situation was very concerning.

Speaking at St Peter’s Parish in Dar es Salaam, Mr Magufuli, who nine months earlier declared Tanzania Covid-19 free, said that citizens should listen to the advice of health experts and wear face masks, but only those locally-made. Masks coming from abroad could not be trusted, he said.

Tanzania officially stopped registering the number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus in May 2020, after President Magufuli alleged that the national laboratory was returning false positives. At the time, the country had registered 509 cases and 21 deaths.

Read the full story here.

12:21 PM

Boris Johnson: New outbreaks 'will be kept local and under control'

Boris Johnson says that "when there is a local outbreak, we will keep it local and under control" through surge testing, especially if new variants emerge.

Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, thanks the Prime Minister for ensuring the change in advice around vaccinating those with learning difficulties.

12:16 PM

Boris Johnson: 'We'll do far more' than Labour would during Covid recovery

£15 billion has been taken out of council budgets in the last decade, Sir Keir Starmer says.

"The Government spent a decade weakening the foundations of our economy and our country. We have the worst death toll and recession of any European country. Next week's Budget is a chance to choose a different path."

He asks Boris Johnson to give key workers a pay rise and support 100,000 new start-up businesses.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons - House of Commons/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons - House of Commons/PA Wire

"If he only waits till next week, we'll do far more than that paltry agenda then he set out," Mr Johnson says. "It is quite something to see the way the Right Honourable Member weaves hither and yon.

"He would have stayed in the European Medicines Agency which would have made the vaccine roll-out impossible."

The Prime Minister concludes his exchange with Sir Keir by saying the Conservatives will take the UK forward in a "cautious, but irreversible" manner.

12:11 PM

Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson clash over council tax

Sir Keir asks Boris Johnson to pledge that "now is not the time for tax rises for families or for businesses".

"It's preposterous for him to talk about tax rises when he stood on a manifesto only a year ago to put up taxes by the biggest amount in the history of this country," Mr Johnson replies, attacking Labour's record on the economy.

"Councils up and down the country are being forced to decide now whether to put council tax up," Sir Keir says. "They've been starved of funding for a decade and Labour and Conservative councils are in the same position."

He says that Tory-run Hillingdon, Boris Johnson's own constituency, is voting to increase council tax by 4.8 per cent.

Mr Johnson points out that Hillingdon Council "has been running lower council taxes" than most Labour local authorities. He says Sadiq Khan is putting up council tax by 10 per cent, in contrast to his own cuts in council tax.

12:08 PM

Boris Johnson: Government supporting 'poorest and neediest' most throughout the pandemic

Sir Keir Starmer repeats his call for a £500 self-isolation payment to be made to "everyone who needs it", in light of three in 10 people not self-isolating when they are supposed to.

"He knows very well that those who are asked to self-isolate already have the £500 Test and Trace support payment," Boris Johnson responds. "He also knows that the eligibility criteria are being extended to allow parents and guardians who are staying off work to receive a payment provided they meet the criteria."

Sir Keir cites remarks from Baroness Dido Harding that people are scared to come forward for a Covid test. He asks why, after "the billions the Government has thrown around, the low-paid are at the bottom of the Government's priorities".

Mr Johnson says that the £280bn package of support prioritises "the poorest and the neediest, and that is quite right".

12:06 PM

Sir Keir Starmer: 'Misinformation' about virus a threat going forward

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomes the principles of Boris Johnson's "cautious but irreversible" roadmap out of lockdown.

Sir Keir asks whether Mr Johnson agrees one of the "main dangers" going forward is misinformation about the virus, citing comments that the roadmap was the product of "dodgy assumptions" and overly cautious.

Boris Johnson says he is glad to have Labour's support, and the data supporting the roadmap has been made available to the Commons.

Sir Keir notes that the Prime Minister did not answer the question on the comments he mentioned, and says that they were all made by Conservative MPs in the Covid Recovery Group.

12:01 PM

Working from home: Lloyds to axe office space as most staff wish to work remotely

Britain's biggest high-street bank Lloyds Banking Group has unveiled plans to axe 20pc of office space after most of its staff said they wanted to continue working from home, a further blow to city centres after rivals made similar announcements.

The bank said it planned to cut 20pc of office space by 2023, slashing 8pc this year, in proposals that will come as a blow to Boris Johnson's plans to get city centres roaring back into life when lockdown ends. It will also cause concern in the Treasury, where the hope is that a return to the office will restore economic stability.

The decision comes after 77pc of staff said they would like to work from home three or more days a week in the future, although flexibility will differ by team.

Lloyds is the third bank this week to shut the door on office space as Covid ushers in a new era of flexible working. HSBC yesterday unveiled plans to slash 8.6m sq ft of office space worldwide, equivalent to 112 football pitches, while Metro Bank boss Daniel Frumkin said staff may end up working in branches instead of offices as people opt to work more flexibly.

Lloyds laid out its plans alongside a set of full-year results that showed a 72pc plunge in profits for 2020, from £4.4bn to £1.2bn.

Our Banking Editor Lucy Burton has the story.

11:56 AM

Prime Minister's Questions live: Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer face off

In a few minutes Boris Johnson will face off against Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister's Questions.

Watch live above, and follow for text updates as the session unfolds.

11:47 AM

Jo Whiley 'so happy' as GPs told to invite adults on learning disabilities register to get vaccine

GPs have been told to invite adults on the learning disabilities register to get a coronavirus vaccine.

While people with profound learning difficulties have always been on the priority list, updated advice means that GPS will now be able to invite people with profound learning difficulties forward in order to receive jabs.

Care minister Helen Whately said: "Following the JCVI’s updated advice and to make this process simpler and faster, we will be inviting everyone for vaccination who is on their GP’s learning disability register.

"This will mean those who are at a higher risk from the virus can get the protection they need."

Jo Whiley, the BBC Radio 2 DJ whose sister Frances has a learning disability and recently contracted coronavirus, said that she was "so happy" for people who had been "living in fear" amid higher death rates among those with learning disabilities.

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11:29 AM

Boris Johnson: 'No doubt' schools reopening is best for pupils

Schools reopening on March 8 is "no doubt" the best outcome for children, Boris Johnson has said.

The Prime Minister was speaking on a visit to Sedgehill Academy in Lewisham ahead of the full return of in-person teaching and learning next month.

"It's absolutely obvious to me that they are really, really keen to get back," he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Sedgehill School in south east London and takes part in an online class - Jack Hill/WPA Pool/Getty Images
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Sedgehill School in south east London and takes part in an online class - Jack Hill/WPA Pool/Getty Images

"The teachers and all the pupils I have talked to are very keen to get back on March 8 when schools come back as they will.

"There's going to be an awful lot of testing as well - that's absolutely vital. But we've got no doubt that being in school is the best place for young people and for kids to be."

11:21 AM

The impact a year of lockdowns has had on our immunity

As the numbers of the vaccinated swell, and release from our pandemic incarceration inches closer, you may be starting to wonder how you’ll fare when out and about again, writes Rosa Silverman.

Not only in a social sense – will we remember how to conduct real life group chats after months without them? – but also in terms of physical health.

By the time life creeps back to normal, it will have been more than a year since we started social distancing, hand-sanitising and manically disinfecting everything in sight. Many months have already passed since we began wearing face masks.

Face masks and social distancing have made up the 'new normal' for the best part of a year - Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP
Face masks and social distancing have made up the 'new normal' for the best part of a year - Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

What effect, if any, will all this extra protection from germs have had on our immune systems? Will we find ourselves picking up every bug going, having fallen out of practice at fighting off infection?

The “hygiene hypothesis” posits that excessively clean homes and buildings in the developed world can hamper children’s immune responses as the lack of exposure to germs means they don’t get a chance to learn how to mount a defence against viruses and bacteria.

Read more: Will our immune systems have forgotten how to fight infection?

11:15 AM

Chinese vaccine arrives in Bangkok as part of first shipment to Thailand

Thailand received the first 200,000 doses of a Chinese vaccine today, and it is expected to start vaccinating frontline medical workers this week. Louise Watt reports.

The country’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, greeted the plane carrying Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac as it arrived at Bangkok’s main airport from China. He is expected to be one of the first to be vaccinated, although local media reported the 67-year-old would receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was also due to arrive today.

Thailand gave approval for emergency use authorisation of the CoronaVac vaccine on Monday. So far, Thailand has secured two million doses of the vaccine from Sinovac, and 61 million doses from AstraZeneca.

Prayuth Chan-Ocha, Thailand's prime minister, second left, next to an Envirotainer AB refrigerated shipping container with the first shipment of Sinovac Biotech Ltd. coronavirus vaccine as it is unloaded from a Thai Airways cargo flight at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, - Andre Malerba/Bloomberg
Prayuth Chan-Ocha, Thailand's prime minister, second left, next to an Envirotainer AB refrigerated shipping container with the first shipment of Sinovac Biotech Ltd. coronavirus vaccine as it is unloaded from a Thai Airways cargo flight at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, - Andre Malerba/Bloomberg

While the country has been spared the high number of cases seen elsewhere, the government has been accused of being too slow to secure vaccines.

Neighbouring Malaysia kicked off its immunisation campaign on Wednesday, with its prime minister the first to receive a jab.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a clinic in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, as part of government efforts to reassure the public of its safety.

11:09 AM

New wave of £7,500 grants for self-employed – but scheme may be scrapped as restrictions end

Millions of self-employed workers are due to be offered grants of up to £7,500 in next week's Budget, but the Chancellor is considering dropping the scheme from May.

The Telegraph understands that people who meet the criteria can claim 80 per cent of average monthly profits up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

The terms for the fourth round of grants, run through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), are yet to be announced but have been pencilled in by the Treasury.

 File photo dated 25/11/2020 of Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor - Yui Mok/PA Wire
File photo dated 25/11/2020 of Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor - Yui Mok/PA Wire

The grants will cover February, March and April. The move reflects the fact that many self-run businesses will have to remain shut during that period.

However, the grant scheme could be ditched or drastically scaled back from May, given that lockdown restrictions are due to be fully lifted by late June.

Our Political Editor Ben Riley-Smith has the full story.

11:00 AM

GPs told to invite those with learning difficulties to get jab

Minister for Care, Helen Whately said: "I have heard first-hand how tough this pandemic has been for people with learning disabilities and their families. We are determined those more at risk from Covid should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

"Following the JCVI’s updated advice and to make this process simpler and faster, we will be inviting everyone for vaccination who is on their GP’s learning disability register.

"This will mean those who are at a higher risk from the virus can get the protection they need."

10:46 AM

Jonathan Van-Tam admits 'slowdown' in vaccines

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam acknowledged there had been a "slowdown" in the rate of vaccinations, but insisted he was confident that the Government's targets could be met.

He told Sky News: "There are always going to be supply fluctuations. These are new vaccines, by and large the manufacturers have not made them or anything like them before.

"The process of making a vaccine is one where, basically, you set the equipment up and leave it all to do its thing - a bit like beer-making really.

"What you get at the end is not something that you can say is identical every time in terms of the yield, the amount of doses you can then make from that batch."

It would take "a few months" before the manufacturers can get into a steady routine, he said, and there were also "global supply constraints".

10:45 AM

NHS waiting lists 'absolutely massive problem'

Waiting lists are now an "absolutely massive problem", the president of the Royal College of Surgeons has said.

Professor Neil Mortensen said 4.52 million people are now on the list, with 224,000 of those waiting longer than 52 weeks, and "a big plan" will be needed to help tackle the issue.

Surgeons face a lack of access to theatres, and the staff who work there, including anaesthetists, are very tired.

Prof Mortensen told Times Radio: "I think surgeons are very prepared to be flexible. I think there needs to be more operating time. There needs to be more opening hours for surgery and surgery hubs.

"We have already done well with remote outpatient appoints, with patients not having to come to hospital for assessment and follow-up, but staff are tired and need a pause, particularly for surgery we need the help of our friendly anaesthetists."

10:40 AM

Poll: Telegraph readers want quicker route out of lockdown

Earlier this morning we asked you, the Telegraph reader, if we should accelerate the roadmap out of lockdown.

Two thirds of the respondents (more than 1,500 in two hours) agreed that we have suffered enough and that if the data allows, society should be reopened earlier than June 21.

You can still have your say here:

10:32 AM

Global cases drop by 20pc in a week

The number of deaths globally has fallen by 20 per cent and the number of cases by 11 per cent over the last week, the World Health Organization has reported.

Anne Gulland reports, WHO's weekly update shows there were 66,000 deaths reported in the last week and 2.4 million cases.

This is the sixth consecutive week cases have fallen and the third consecutive week for deaths.

The biggest fall in cases and deaths have been in the WHO region of the Americas, which saw a 19 per cent and 23 per cent drop respectively.

In Europe the number of cases fell by seven per cent and deaths by 19 per cent.

This brings the total number of people infected with the disease to 110.7million and 2.4 million deaths.

10:27 AM

First Covax delivery arrives in Ghana in 'momentous moment' for global vaccine roll out

Ghana received the first delivery of coronavirus vaccines through the Covax scheme on Wednesday morning, a major landmark in efforts to accelerate immunisation campaigns in poorer countries.

A flight carrying 600,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India landed in Ghana’s capital city, Accra, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The vaccines are the first to be distributed in an initial tranche of deliveries to low and middle income countries through Covax, a scheme led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (Cepi) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

To date just 10 countries have administered roughly 75 per cent of all vaccinations, according to the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, who labelled global rollout as “wildly uneven and unfair” during the UN security council last week.

The arrival of vaccines in Ghana will offer a glimmer of hope that this disparity may soon be rebalanced.

Sarah Newey has more details here.

10:20 AM

Masks in classrooms reviewed over Easter

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the policy of secondary school pupils in England having to wear masks in classrooms will be reviewed over Easter.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We're reviewing that at the Easter holidays to see if that has had a positive impact, and the impact that Public Health England would feel is right, or whether it's going to continue to be necessary."

But he did not rule out that the policy could be in place until June 21, the final date in the plan to ease the lockdown.

10:03 AM

Tackling NHS waiting list will take 'many years'

It is "going to take many years for us to realistically get back on top" of tackling waiting lists, which are now longer than they have been for about 20 years, according to NHS Confederation chief executive Danny Mortimer.

He told Times Radio that, once the impacts of the spike of the virus in January and February are understood, waiting lists are "still going to be significantly higher than we have seen for a very, very long time".

He suggested that honesty from both politicians and the NHS with the public about the scale of the task and how long it will take will be "really, really important".

Efforts will be needed to "explain as clearly as we can what is going to happen and what sort of choices are being made and sadly how long it is going to take for us to get back to where we desperately want to be", Mr Mortimer said.

"We do need that investment in facilities, investment in people, and we also need to understand that there are competing pressures because of the virus, because of the impact we have seen on people's mental health that we are going to have to deal with for the longer term.

"There is also the continued reality of the vaccination programme as well - all of those things need investment from the Government."

09:47 AM

Government advisers looking at vaccine passports, says JVT

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said the Government is looking at the issue of vaccine passports but he thinks there are "plausible arguments for and plausible arguments against".

The deputy chief medical officer told ITV's Good Morning Britain it is not appropriate for him to give his personal views, but the Government has to balance really difficult decisions, adding that we have "never lived in a society here, where we force medical treatments upon people".

Asked if he has ever thought about going into politics like his grandfather, Prof Van-Tam said he has not.

"I guess I reflect on my grandfather... I think that he must have given me something in terms of maybe my ability to kind of operate in that interface between science, medicine and politics, which is a very difficult interface," he said.

"But have I ever been tempted to go on the other side into the political arena? Absolutely not."

09:26 AM

Healthcare workers have professional responsibility to get jab, says JVT

Asked how he feels about people working in the NHS or in care homes who are refusing to have the vaccine, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the vast majority are getting a jab.

But the deputy chief medical officer added: "I agree with Professor (Chris) Whitty in that I think healthcare workers have always had a professional responsibility to take steps themselves to prevent them from being in a position where they could harm patients through infectious diseases they might have.

"That's been a very clear position on hepatitis B vaccine and performing invasive procedures, particularly surgery, for decades and decades.

"And so I think that's the professional standard that everybody ought to adhere to.

"Now, the other way of framing this is saying, if you're a consumer of healthcare, if you're a patient or a relative, would you prefer a healthcare worker to attend you or your relative if they have been vaccinated against Covid, or would you not really mind either way?"

09:18 AM

Unwise words: 13 promises that weren't kept

The Government has made plenty of promises during the pandemic. And, safe to say, not all of them have come to fruition.

Here is the timeline:

  1. March 19: Boris Johnson said the UK “can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks... I'm absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing”.

  2. March 23: Boris Johnson pledged to “look again in three weeks, and relax [restrictions] if the evidence shows we are able to.”

  3. July 17: The PM expressed hope of a “significant return to normality” and the end of social distancing as early as November.

  4. July 19: Boris Johnson ruled out a second lockdown in an interview with the Telegraph, comparing the option to a “nuclear deterrent”.

  5. August 29: There were plans to "make sure that people can have as much freedom to enjoy Christmas as possible", Matt Hancock said.

  6. September 9: Boris Johnson said he hoped that even sectors like theatre could "have life much closer to normal" within months

  7. October 2: “We’ll do everything we can to make sure that Christmas for everybody is as normal as possible,” Boris Johnson told ITV.

  8. November 5: Boris Johnson said if people followed lockdown measures, there would be "as normal a Christmas as possible."

  9. November 24: Boris Johnson confirmed that Britons would be able to form a "Christmas bubble" of no more than three households.

  10. December 16: Johnson said it would be “frankly inhuman and against the instincts of many people” to "cancel Christmas".

  11. December 16: Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said "we can meet up in the spring - Easter can be the new Christmas for some people".

  12. December 19: Christmas was cancelled for millions in London and the South-East after 'Tier 4' stay-at-home rules are announced.

  13. January 22: George Eustice, the environment secretary, told Sky News life will be "much closer to normal" as soon as "late spring".

09:10 AM

'No evidence at all of any issues in relation to planning a family or fertility'

Asked whether women wishing to become pregnant could safely have a Covid vaccine, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said there is a lot of "nonsense out there about fertility".

The deputy chief medical officer told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "There's just no evidence at all that there are any issues in relation to planning a family, or fertility.

"So if you're in a risk condition and you're called, then my advice would be to get on and take the vaccine."

He said there is currently no extensive data about the use of the vaccine in women who are already pregnant but that does not mean it is unsafe.

He said those at high risk from Covid could die from the virus and so it is sensible to have discussions with their doctor about the jab.

09:06 AM

Jonathan Van-Tam backs schools reopening

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said he backed schools reopening even though there will be occasions "where infection is brought into the household".

He told Good Morning Britain: "We just know that is a fact and most scientists have said very clearly that reopening schools has an effect on R (reproduction number).

"But, as we're kind of opening schools in this direction, we are pressing down on the virus in the opposite direction. More and more of our priority cohorts are being vaccinated... and the uptake has been absolutely astonishing, significantly over 90% in all of the groups so far."

He said "we are in a different space now, and I say we've got to do it (reopen schools)".

He added: "I say we've absolutely got to, because of the welfare of children - mental, educational, physical, the whole spread of child welfare - depends upon them going back to school. And I think we are in a much more optimistic place now because of the quite stunning effects, so far, of the vaccine programme."

08:58 AM

'I don't mind. Everyone calls me JVT', says Jonathan Van-Tam

England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has said he does not mind being called 'JVT' by Government ministers.

He told Good Morning Britain: "I don't mind... in actual fact, behind the scenes, everyone calls me JVT.

"It is just what I'm known as within the whole Government ecosystem, but really going years before that, that's kind of professionally how I've been referred to, and it's absolutely fine."

On the issue of whether vaccines would work against all variants, he said there was good evidence they worked against the dominant strains in the UK, including the Kent strain.

He added: "Do we have direct data that they're going to work against (South) Africa or Brazil? No we don't. We have some evidence from the clinical trials for some of the vaccines, but until really these vaccines come up against those new variants in large scale, we'll have to wait for those answers. But I still think they're going to reduce the likelihood of having severe disease."

08:56 AM

Williamson suggests he would accept vaccine passports

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson suggested he would accept a vaccine passport to get back into theatres, restaurants and cinemas.

He told LBC: "I think I would probably do pretty much sort of anything to be able to enjoy all those lovely things.

"I think the idea of going to a restaurant with your family or going to the theatre is something we all really want to see."

Asked if the passports will become a reality, he said: "Michael Gove is being charged with actually looking at this. There are many challenges with this and it's really important to look right across the spectrum, at both the benefits it would bring but also some of the challenges it could bring."

08:50 AM

Washington mourns 500,000 dead in US

Lawmakers hold a moment of silence during a candelight ceremony on Capitol Hill in honor of the 500,000 people who lost their lives to Covid-19 - Brendan Smialowski/AFP
Lawmakers hold a moment of silence during a candelight ceremony on Capitol Hill in honor of the 500,000 people who lost their lives to Covid-19 - Brendan Smialowski/AFP
The American flag flies at half mast - Al Drago/Getty
The American flag flies at half mast - Al Drago/Getty
Members of Congress observe a moment of silence on the steps of the US Capitol - Al Drago/Getty
Members of Congress observe a moment of silence on the steps of the US Capitol - Al Drago/Getty

08:46 AM

There is no vaccine supply issue, insists minister

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said there are no vaccine supply issues after the number of first doses fell to below 200,000 for two days in a row.

He told LBC: "No problem in the supply chain.

"There will always be some days where it dips lower

"I have every confidence it will rebounding back very shortly."

08:30 AM

Update on grades expected 'in coming days'

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said more detail on how pupils will be graded this year will be announced in the coming days.

He told BBC Breakfast: "We're going to be literally in the next few days outlining the more granular detail of exactly what that looks like.

"As we've said many times before we're not going to be running exams this year, it's going to be based on teacher judgment."

08:20 AM

Education Secretary defends school funding

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson defended the level of funding being given to schools to help students catch up on missed classroom time.

He told BBC Breakfast: "What it does do is it gives schools the extra resource to be able to give extra pay for teachers to do overtime, support staff to do overtime, to help them assist with children to do that extra learning, that extra bit of education, that extra support that goes the extra mile and helps children to be able to bounce back from this pandemic."

08:14 AM

Poll: Should lockdown roadmap be accelerated?

As our front page suggests today - Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown could be accelerated if real world data on the effect of vaccines is better than expected, according to Government sources.

So, what would you do?

07:55 AM

Teachers to run 'summer school camps' in £700m catch-up plan

Secondary schools are to be given funding to run summer schools under plans to help children in England catch up on lost learning due to the coronavirus.

The Prime Minister has pledged an extra £400 million of funding - on top of the £300 million announced in January - as part of its education recovery plan following months of school closures.

Summer classes will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, such as incoming Year 7 pupils, while one-to-one and small group tutoring schemes will be expanded.

The Government considered a variety of options as part of its catch-up plans - including extended school days and shorter summer holidays - but neither proposal was included in the details to be set out on Wednesday.

07:39 AM

Four in 10 students to return to university from Mar 8

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said around 40% of university students will be able to return for face-to-face teaching from March 8.

He told Sky News: "From March 8 you'll be seeing all practical students being able to return, that's roughly 40% of all students studying at university. So a very significant increase.

"I equally recognise that there's many more students that are not covered in that so that's why as part of the next stage there is a review about when we can bring students back into university at the earliest possible moment. This is the right time to do so."

07:30 AM

Lengthening school day not ruled out

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson did not rule out that a proposal of lengthening the school day is under consideration to help pupils catch up from the coronavirus disruption.

He told Sky News: "We'll be looking at how we can boost and support children in a whole range of different manners.

"But it's not just about time in school, it's about supporting teachers in terms of the quality of teaching and how we can help them."

07:16 AM

Today's front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, Feb 24.


05:30 AM

'Bumper weeks' ahead despite fall in supply of Covid vaccines

Matt Hancock has acknowledged a fall in the supply of coronavirus vaccines over recent days but promised "bumper weeks" in March.

The Health Secretary blamed delivery schedules after the number of daily doses administered on Monday fell significantly week-on-week for the fifth day running.

Only 192,341 first doses were administered on the day, 30 per cent down on the week before. The number on Sunday was down 40 per cent week-on-week, Saturday 26 per cent, Friday 32 per cent and Thursday 10 per cent.

The timetable of vaccine delivery to frontline centres has meant rates have tended to drop regularly each Monday before building up steadily throughout the week. However, the figures for the last week show sustained decline that goes beyond daily fluctuations.

Read the full story.

04:04 AM

The economy may take a long time to bounce back

Assuming the road map outlined by the Prime Minister on Monday is stuck to, it is no longer unrealistic to think that GDP might be back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, Jeremy Warner says.

This has in turn given the Government a degree of comfort that it can continue with social distancing measures for longer without inflicting permanent damage on the economy.

Those at the Treasury urging faster removal of the restrictions, including up until relatively recently, the Chancellor himself, have for now been silenced.

Read more: Jeremy Warner: Six reasons the economy may take longer to bounce back than hoped

03:35 AM

Why lockdown could end early

Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown could be accelerated if real world data on the effect of vaccines is better than expected, Government sources have told The Telegraph.

On Monday, Mr Johnson set out a four-step plan that would see all restrictions lifted by June 21, but emphasised that the dates attached to the lifting of measures were the earliest possible on which they could be eased.

However, The Telegraph has been told by others in the Government that better than anticipated data about the vaccine could allow some of the roadmap timings to be reviewed.

A senior government source said that if the positive results from an early Public Health Scotland study on vaccines were replicated in England "that would change the calculations" on the timings.

Read more: Covid lockdown roadmap: key dates revealed for easing restrictions in England

03:07 AM

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