Politics latest news: Boris Johnson promises lockdown exit plan, but not before Feb 22 - watch live

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Danielle Sheridan
·55 min read
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Boris Johnson has promised MPs he will publish his "plan for taking the country out of lockdown" in the week commencing February 22, as he confirmed schools would be shut until March 8 at the earliest.

The Prime Minister had been under pressure to unveil his exit strategy for lifting restrictions, with MPs in the Covid Recovery Group becoming increasingly vocal in recent days.

But while he stressed that "we do not yet have enough data to know exactly how soon it will be safe to reopen our society and economy", he promised things would be clearer by mid-February, when the four most vulnerable groups are expected to have been vaccinated.

"That plan will, of course, depend on the continued success of our vaccination programme, the capacity of the NHS, and on deaths falling at the pace we would expect as more people are inoculated," he said.

"Our aim will be to set out a gradual and phased approach towards easing the restrictions in a sustainable way, guided by the principles we have observed throughout the pandemic, beginning with the most important principle of all: that re-opening schools must be our national priority and the first sign of normality beginning to return should be pupils going back to their classrooms. "

Follow the latest updates below.

05:44 PM

PM says a "consensus" more of ordered vaccines will work

The PM finishes up the press conference by saying there is a "consensus" that more vaccines which the UK has pre-ordered will work, although this has yet to be proven.

05:39 PM

Demand and Supply

Asked if Mr Johnson has considered export restrictions on supplies of vaccine to the EU, he says he is "very confident" regarding the UK’s contracts and its supply.
He says these are matters for the EU.

He adds that the UK is playing a leading role in vaccinations.

Asked if he agrees with the head of AstraZeneca, who said 30 million people could be vaccinated by the end of February, Mr Johnson declined to confirm those figures, reiterating that he's confident of the UK’s supply.

05:31 PM

'The Government has done its best'

The PM says the Government has faced "brutal and difficult dilemmas, there are no easy answers and very often no good answers at all".

He reiterates the point he made yesterday, which is that "the Government has done its best".

"There will come a time, obviously, for the learning of lessons," he says, as he adds "there will be a full inquiry", cautioning that "I don't believe that time is right now".

05:28 PM

March 8 earliest date to open schools

"Opening schools is a huge priority for all of us," Mr Johnson says, adding "March 8th is the earliest date we might be able to responsibility do that".

He cautions this is on "the condition that things continue to go right".

It will all be kept "under constant review".

05:26 PM

The extent of vaccines on transmission

Professor Van-Tam "vaccines with high levels of effectiveness we're seeing from clinical trials couldn't fail to have some effect on transmission".
He says the question is "to what extent".
"When we have clarity on the extent it will open further questions on the future deployment of vaccines," he says.

05:24 PM

Professor Van-Tam on children and covid-19

He asks the questions and provides the answer in order to create a clear picture:

Do children get covid-19? Yes.

Do they get ill with it? Rarely.

Do they transmit it? Yes, but signal towards upper teenager years.

Do teachers get covid-19? Yes.

Is it clear teachers get covid-19 from children or each other? No, it's not clear.

Could infected children introduce the infection back into their own household? Absolutely yes.

05:20 PM

When will children who are shielding be vaccinated?

Another member of the public asks the above question, keen to know when his daughter, who is vulnerable and has to shield, can return to school.

Professor Van-Tam responds, saying vaccines could be allowed in an off-licence way, although the vaccines have not been authorised for children yet.

Trials are currently underway that are looking into this, he adds.

05:15 PM

Questions from the public

The first question, which is on a lot of people's lips, is about when we will be able to travel freely between different countries again.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam says he is hopeful that soon we will start to see "how our vaccine programme is being effective".
"Over time, more data on hospitalisations and deaths" will be available, he adds.
The main point is that it's essential all countries get vaccinations in order to allow travel to resume one day.

05:12 PM

'A road map for the country'

Mr Johnson says the week beginning 22nd Feb the Government "will set out our plan for reopening schools and gradually the economy and society".

He adds that this will allow us "to get our lives back to as close as normal".

"It's a timetable that will be susceptible to adjustment," he cautions.

Mr Johnson calls it a "road map that we can take together as a country to defeat the virus and begin steadily to reclaim our lives".

05:08 PM

PM delivers press conference to nation

Boris Johnson says we only want to open schools when we can be sure that this won't cause another surge in the disease.

He says the problem is that schools bring many households together, which ultimately drives up the R.

Two things to consider are:

- the Government can be sure the vaccine roll-out continues to be successful

- needs to see impact of vaccines on graphs of mortality

He says the proof will only become visible in the middle of February.

04:26 PM

Nicola Sturgeon urges Boris Johnson to cancel Scotland visit as journey 'not essential'

Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor, writes:

Scotland's First Minister has urged Boris Johnson to cancel his visit to Scotland on Thursday by arguing the trip was not "essential" and could encourage people to break Covid travel restrictions.

Ms Sturgeon insisted the Prime Minister was "not unwelcome" and she was not telling him to "stay away", before making clear she did not think his visit could be justified within the coronavirus rules.

Speaking at her daily Covid briefing, she said "Boris Johnson travelling from London to wherever in Scotland" did not meet the "essential" benchmark needed to carry out such a journey.

Read the full piece here

04:06 PM

'Things change'

Mark Harper chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, has asked how long the new border restrictions will be in place.

He asks if "this a permanent regime with countries being added to and taken off the red list as appropriate?", and adds "if it is not permanent, what is the trigger for removing it in the future?"

Ms Patel replied: "The point being is we know throughout this situation, things change.

"So with that, of course, we keep all our measures under review and alongside that, whether it is changes to travel bans for specific countries, those will always be under review and the Government will not hesitate to take measures when it comes to preventing a new strain from coming to the United Kingdom once that has been identified."

03:43 PM

Sir Graham Brady expresses fears of 'massive haemorrhaging of jobs and prospects' in UK

The chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, tells the Commons he is concerned of the economic damage adding more countries to the red list will do to the UK.

He says: "While we all hope we will discover that the new variants are combatted just as effectively by the vaccines as the existing variants in this country, if it were to be the case that new countries needed to be added to the red list, will she speak urgently to the Chancellor about the support needed by our aviation sector to prevent a massive haemorrhaging of jobs and prospects across much of the country?"

Responding, Ms Patel stressed the importance of the aviation sector and said the Government will continue working with it.

03:23 PM

Priti Patel calls time on influencers

It's been a hot topic for a while; why are so many social media influencers sunning themselves in Dubai? Is posting on social media an 'essential travel purpose'?

Clearly exasperated, Ms Patel tells the Commons: "People should simply not be travelling."

She says Border Force have given her examples of people turning up at St Pancras with their skis.

"That's clearly not acceptable.

"We see plenty of influencers on social media showing off about which parts of the world they are in, mainly in sunny parts of the world."

03:11 PM

'No simple approach'

Ms Patel tells the Commons that the pandemic has proven to be a "deeply, deeply challenging period for our country".

"There is no simple, single binary approach that can be taken," she says.

"It's right we manage risk and do so in this layered approach."

03:06 PM

'Increase of 1,000 police targeted follow up visits a day'

The Home Secretary adds that it is important to recognise that the UK is in "a very different situation to last year, due to the risks of new variants".

Accused by the opposition of not taking a hard enough approach, she adds that the Government has already "implemented numerous measures" and that today's announcement are for "additional levels of protection at our disposal".

She says IS service from tomorrow will be "checking over 5,000 people".

Enhanced police presence at ports, borders and airports

She said there will "be 1,000 targeted follow up visits a day" for those who have been told to self isolate.

02:57 PM

'Holidays are not essential travel'

Ms Patel says people are still not isolating when they need to and presses the point that going on holiday is not an essential reason to travel.

She says from now on people who travel will have to show a declaration as to why they need to leave the UK.

There will be a greater police presence at airports who can issue fines if people found to be flouting rules.

Ms Patel reiterates: "You will face a fine if you don't follow regulations.

"These measures at the border are necessary to protect the public and our world class vaccinations programme."

02:52 PM

The rules

Ms Patel says:

- Police stepped up checks inc physical

- Will refuse entry to non-uk travellers from the red list

- Managed isolation process in hotels for those who cannot refuse entry

She adds that the Department for Health and Social care will deliver more details on this next week

02:50 PM

Priti Patel has started addressing the house

The Home Secretary starts by saying her thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones.

It is clear there are still too many people coming in and out of our country today. She says she is reducing passenger flow, so only a small number of people, for whom it is essential to travel, do so.

02:48 PM

'Extra funding' most important aspect for schools, Robert Halfon says

The Chairman of the Education Select Committee said while he would "obviously love" for schools to open early "the most important thing is extra funding".
Mr Halfon says this includes school meals and an education plan for Covid recovery.

02:24 PM

Boris Johnson chuckles as Peter Bone praises post-Brexit vaccine success

Peter Bone, the Conservative MP for Wellingborough, says the UK has vaccinated 11 per cent, while the EU's "petty politics" means they have only vaccinated two per cent of their population.

He says it is "not just credit to your great leadership, but one of the great advantages of having left the EU."

Boris Johnson laughs, adding that the UK used "speed", saying it would have been a "great pity" if they had followed Labour's advice to stay in the EU's vaccine programme, and "who wanted to get rid of big pharmaceutical companies in a crazed Corbynite agenda".

"I do think we have been able to do things differently, and better... but it is early days," he adds.

02:21 PM

Boris Johnson promises catch-up investment will continue 'until we have made up the ground'

Joy Morrissey, the Conservative MP for Beaconsfield, says young children are struggling, saying "we are storing up a lifetime of problems" by having primary age children at home.

She asks the PM to "have courage" to bring younger children back to school as quickly as possible.

Boris Johnson says he know she speaks for millions of parents, saying he will "do everything we can to plug those gaps".

The investment to support the catch up will go on "not just this year, but next year and throughout this parliament until we have made up the ground".

Schools will be opened "in a way that is cautious and proportionate", he adds.

02:18 PM

Education select committee chairman calls on PM to join 'coalition of the willing'

Robert Halfon, the education select committee chairman, calls on the PM to work with "a coalition of the willing" to get children back in the classroom.

He also asks about funding for children with mental health problems.

Boris Johnson says more than £2bn will go to help 345,000 children.

02:08 PM

Boris Johnson: Vulnerable may be vaccinated in their own home

Jane Stevenson, the Tory MP for Wolverhampton North East, says many of her constituents are worried they will miss out on the vaccine because they can't get to a hub.

Boris Johnson says this is a very important point, and stresses "they need have no anxiety about that" - they will be able to go to GPs or even be vaccinated "in their own home".

02:06 PM

Boris Johnson: I am confident we will meet vaccine target date

Jim Shannon asks if teachers will be a priority for the vaccination, and about the UK's supplies.

Boris Johnson says the most important thing is to get kids back in school.

He says he is "confident we will deliver on the Feb 15 pledge", but doesn't respond to the question.

02:04 PM

Roadmap to be published on Feb 26, Boris Johnson says

Richard Drax asks if the PM agrees that "the lives and livelihoods" now depend on "a more proportionate response" to the pandemic.

Boris Johnson says the MP for South Dorset has long been a campaigner for liberty, but while he shares his "instincts", for now the Government will be "cautious in our approach".

The vaccination programme will continue and on Feb 15 they "will look at where we are", and a roadmap will be set out on February 26.

02:02 PM

Boris Johnson rejects calls to confirm when Covid inquiry will take place

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey notes the UK has the worst per-capita death rate in the world.

He says the Prime Minister was not prepared to launch a Covid inquiry last week but asks if he will "at least tel the country he will launch this inquiry some time this year".

Boris Johnson says the answer is contained in his question, because the country is going through a "very grieveous bout" of Covid, which has led to the death toll.

"The entire British state is working flat out to bring that virus under control.. now is not the right time," he adds.

But "yes of course, there will be time to learn lessons, to reflect and understand," he adds.

01:57 PM

Boris Johnson dodges questions about pre-Budget financial clarity

Ian Blackford says poverty is a growing crisis, and says it can't wait until the Budget. He asks for certainty on furlough, self-employed support schemes and the Universal Credit uplift.

He also asks the Prime Minister to joint the other nations in imposing a blanket quarantine plan.

Boris Johnson says he looks forward to seeing what the devolved nations do.

He stresses the UK-wide support that has been on offer, and that the army has been able to reach people "in remote parts of Scotland" as well as helping with the vaccine rollout.

"I hope he will abandon his narrow nationalist position," he adds.

01:54 PM

Boris Johnson rejects call for 'blanket offer' to cover salaries

Jeremy Hunt says the cases are so high, with a further 30,000 people contracting it every day. He wonders if a "blanket" financial offer to anyone who are asked to self isolate, to cover any salary they lose, saying this "could be cheaper" than any alternatives.

Boris Johnson says he understands the logic, but people should be isolating "on the basis that it is the right thing for themselves, their family and community".

He notes there are "very considerable fines" for those who don't.

01:51 PM

Boris Johnson attacks Sir Keir Starmer's call to vaccinate teachers

Boris Johnson attacks Sir Keir Starmer for hindering the public message, saying he has been "attacking, confusion and trying to sew doubt about what the Government is trying to do".

He says it is a "great pity" that the Labour leader hasn't been more collaborative.

He says schools are safe, but they "bring communities together". They are not any more risky "to those involved in education".

The Prime Minister says Sir Keir's proposal to change the vaccine priority list would see politicians decide which public sector workers deserve it before those who are most likely to die.

"He has to explain which vaccines he would take from which vulnerable groups," he adds.

It would delay schools being reopened and lockdown being lifted, the Prime Minister claims.

01:43 PM

Sir Keir Starmer: Boris Johnson's arguments 'don't wash'

Sir Keir Starmer says the Government "must learn the lessons of last year to make sure the same mistakes are not made again".

He says he "gets" that any government would have struggled with the pandemic, but the UK is the first country in Europe to suffer 100,000 deaths.

Alongside that high death toll, we also have the deepest recession of any major economy, he adds, saying the PM's arguments that he has been trying to balance the risks "doesn't wash".

"The truth is, this was not inevitable," he adds. "It was the result of a huge number of mistakes by the Prime Minister."

Some 20 per cent of deaths are from care home residents, he adds.

01:40 PM

Boris Johnson says country must 'hold our nerve in the end game'

Boris Johnson says a long-term plan will be developed to help students catch up.

It is "disappointing for all of us" that schools cannot open, but as more people are vaccinated "hour by hour" we must "hold our nerve in the end game".

01:39 PM

Boris Johnson: We hope schools can reopen by March 8

Boris Johnson says he knows the worries people have about children's education and mental health.

If the vaccine target is met by mid-February, those groups should have developed immunity by March 8.

"We hope it will then be safe to reopen schools from Monday March 8," he adds.

He confirms that the Government will prolong free school meals arrangements "until they have returned to the classroom".

And there will be a catch-up programme, including £300m of new money, for tutoring, summer schools and a Covid premium.

01:37 PM

Schools will not reopen after February half-term, PM confirms

By mid-Feb we will be "in a better position" to chart a course out of lockdown, says Boris Johnson.

When Parliament returns after February recess, in the week starting 22 Feb, he will publish the results of a review "and our plan for taking the country out of lockdown".

It will depend on the vaccination programme, and "deaths falling at the pace we would expect".

It will be a gradual and phased approach, he says, beginning with schools.

"The first sign of normality should be pupils going back to classrooms," he says.

Two weeks' notice will be given, but "it will nt be possible to open schools immediately after half term", he confirms.

01:34 PM

Data on lockdowns and vaccines still unclear, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson then turns to schools, which have had to be closed to avoid the NHS being overwhelmed, he says.

The R-rate appears to have dropped, but we do not have enough data "to judge the full effect of vaccines in blocking transmission", he says.

Similarly they do not have enough data to know how "quickly the combination of vaccines and lockdown" will ease the pressure.

But we are still in a "perilous situation", he says.

The overall picture should be clearer by mid-February, he adds.

01:32 PM

Boris Johnson confirms quarantine hotels plan

Boris Johnson says the Government has taken action to stop new variants from entering the UK, and stresses that "it is illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes".

This will be enforced at borders, he says.

He announces that all arrivals from high risk countries - including UK nationals- who cannot be refused entry to isolate in "Government provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days, without exception."

He adds that "they will be met at the airport and transported there".

Priti Patel will set out more details, he adds, stressing that a four nations approach will be taken where possible.

01:29 PM

Boris Johnson 'acutely conscious' of working parents' pressure

Boris Johnson says he is "acutely conscious" of the demands that working parents are under at the moment.

He says "too many" are coping with anxiety and grief at the loss of a loved one, repeating his offer of condolences.

He says the bet way to honour their memory is to persevere with the vaccine rollout, with more than 6.8 m people - 13 per cent of the adult population - vaccinated.

Over half of those aged 75-79 have now got a jab, and we are on track to vaccinate the top four categories by mid-Feb, he adds.

01:20 PM

Chopper's Politics: Write off this academic year and start again in September, says top head

Ministers should consider writing off this academic year and ask school children to repeat the schooling from this coming September, a leading headteacher has said.

Katharine Birbalsingh told Chopper's Politics podcast, that learning from a screen was no substitute to teaching in a class with children picking up as little as 20 per cent of what they would normally learn in a classroom in online lessons.

Miss Birbalsingh, the headmistress of Michaela Community School in Wembley, told the podcast: "India has actually said that they're just writing the whole year off and all of the kids in India are going to redo the year.

"And I actually think we are arriving at that point in this country. And it's something we should consider, that all children should redo the year."

Listen to her interview below.

01:07 PM

UK 'appalled' by Alexei Navalny's attention

The UK is "appalled" by the detention of Alexei Navalny and he must be released immediately, a Foreign Office minister has said.

Answering an urgent question, Wendy Morton told MPs: "The UK is appalled by the politically motivated detention of Alexei Navalny on arbitrary charges. As the Foreign Secretary made clear, Mr Navalny is the victim of a despicable crime and we call for his immediate and unconditional release."

She added: "We keep further sanctions designations under constant review, however, it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage on possible future designations as this could undermine their impact.

"We carefully consider all options under the relevant sanctions regimes."

Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale, who tabled the urgent question, said Russian ambassador Andrei Kelin "chose to call me this morning... and he made it absolutely clear to me during that call that the Russians regarded Mr Navalny as a prisoner who had broken his bail conditions and therefore would not be released".

It was "a gross breach of the Convention on Human Rights", he added.

12:54 PM

Have your say: Is the Government to blame for the UK's high death toll?

Boris Johnson last night said he took "full responsibility" for the decisions taken during the pandemic - but insisted he did everything he could to "minimise suffering and the loss of life".

Labour has challenged those claims, listing failings like care homes and PPE shortages, and slow action on borders and lockdowns, among the reasons for the UK's death toll passing 100,000.

But Robert Jenrick this morning insisted other factors - such as the demographics and population density - were at play, while stressing that evidence had "evolved" over time.

So is the Government to blame? Or have ministers been unlucky? Have your say in the poll below.

12:53 PM

Nicola Sturgeon: I will impose blanket quarantine plan if Boris Johnson does not

Nicola Sturgeon has called for a "comprehensive system of supervised quarantine" for travellers arriving in the UK, saying that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan "does not go far enough".

Priti Patel has not yet set out the quarantine hotels plan, although it it expected to be focused on "hotspot" areas rather than be a blanket policy.

Stressing she would not pre-empt the Prime Minister's announcement, Ms Sturgeon said: "I do have a duty at this point to say that I am concerned that the proposal does not go far enough and I've made that point very strongly in the four-nations discussions that we've just had today."

She would be "seeking urgently to persuade them to go much further, and indeed to move to a comprehensive system of supervised quarantine", the First Minister said.

Failing that "we will be considering going further ourselves and we will set out any such additional measures next week."

Scotland will go further if the UK Government does not - Reuters
Scotland will go further if the UK Government does not - Reuters

12:42 PM

PMQs: Government investing 'hugely' in mental health after 'gruelling' period, says Boris Johnson

Paul Bristow, the Tory MP for Peterborough, says his constituents are increasingly concerned about their mental health.

He says he has recently spoken to schoolchildren about how it is affecting them.

Boris Johnson says he knows "the stress that people are under", not just children but also NHS workers.

"It has been really gruelling, the last few weeks and months," he says. The Government is investing "hugely" in mental health, he says.

12:39 PM

PMQs: Tory MP asks for help on fishing export red tape

Sally-Ann Hart, the Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye, asks about a local fisherman who is "burdened with red tape".

She asks what the PM is doing to make exports easier.

Boris Johnson says it has been an issue "in the last few weeks", saying there has "been too much red tape". This is why the £23m fund has been set up to help those affected "through no fault of their own".

But he stresses the longer term opportunities are great.

12:37 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson will set out 'broader roadmap' after schools announcement

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Tory MP for the Cotswolds, says parents need to know when children will go back to school.

He asks if the plan will "deal with how we lift every area out of their tiers, it will deal with the long-term that we are going to have to live with" and that changes "at 24 hours notice" will be avoided.

Boris Johnson says "later on this afternoon" he will set out in more detail "our approach to schools".

He says assuming "we don't find new variants of concern" he will set out "a broader roadmap".

Boris Johnson talks during PMQs
Boris Johnson talks during PMQs

12:34 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson challenged over whisky tariffs

Liberal Democrats MP Christine Jardin asks about the ongoing punitive tariffs imposed in the US, saying the Government has "failed" to get them removed.

She asks for him to take steps in the Budget to support the industry, and to commit to having the tariffs removed.

He says he won't pre-empt the Budget, but notes that Brexit will enable a free trade deal with the US "an obviate tariffs of the kind she mentions", which would not be the case if the Lib Dems had their way and took the UK back into the EU.

12:29 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson hints at new support for self-employed

Conservative MP Peter Aldous asks Boris Johnson to consider following the Northern Ireland's newly self-employed support scheme, which "guards against fraud" to support those who have been excluded.

The Prime Minister says there are some who have been "hard to support in the way we want",. but they are "fewer in number than is sometimes suggested".

But the Chancellor will be "taking up" the ideas he suggests,. who will say more on the Budget on March 3, he adds.

12:25 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson dodges question about pre-Budget 'financial certainty'

Ian Blackford continues on the same attack line, but asks for "financial certainty" ahead of March's Budget.

Boris Johnson says the British army is helping the Scottish Government to roll out the vaccine faster, which is "one f the benefits of the union and the UK".

In terms of financial support, he says no one could deny that the Government has given "unequaled" support and will "continue to put our arms around the people of the UK."

12:23 PM

PMQs: UK death toll affected by poor leadership, says Ian Blackford

Ian Blackford, SNP's Westminster leader, says the Government response has been "defined by a lack of leadership, last-minute U-turns, mixed messaging and devastating policies" SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has claimed.

He said it was "simply not true" that the PM did everything he could to avoid the 100,000 deaths.

He added: "PM since the start of this pandemic you've promised to always follow the advice of scientists. Well this morning scientists have said that this Government is responsible for a legacy of poor decisions during this pandemic. Does the PM still agree with the scientists?"

Boris Johnson replied: "We've throughout followed scientific advice and done everything we can to minimise disease and minimise suffering throughout the country... There are no easy solutions when you're facing dilemmas as tragic as the ones being confronted by countries around the world.

"But I think that everywhere in the UK... can be proud of the efforts that are being made by the NHS, by the Army, by volunteers, by pharmacists to roll out the fastest vaccination in Europe. That is something the Government must do, can do, is doing, and will do."

12:21 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson accuses Labour leader of trying to score 'political points'

Sir Keir Starmer then returns to the death toll, and the recession, saying his biggest concern is that the Prime Minister has not learned the lessons of last year.

He says he worries there will be "more grim milestones".

He adds that he will be speaking to bereaved families today. Last time he asked the PM what he would like to say to them, but "he replied with a prepared gag", which went down badly.

The Labour leader asks again.

Boris Johnson says he is grateful for meeting with families, noting he has done so too. The message is that he "deeply, personally regrets" their suffering and the loss of life, and says the best thing to do is "work together" to bring the virus down.

He says Sir Keir has "never failed" to try and "score political points".

Sir Keir Starmer appearing remotely at PMQs because he is self isolating
Sir Keir Starmer appearing remotely at PMQs because he is self isolating

12:18 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson's answers 'simply not good enough', says Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer says he is "none the wiser" as to what the Prime Minister thinks about vaccinating teachers.

But in the meantime he has a duty to ensure every child can learn from home, he says.

"The Prime Minister was challenged on this last summer, he was challenged on it last autumn, and here we are nearly at the end of January, the best part of a year into this pandemic, and a third of families say they don't have enough laptops or home computers - and over 400,000 children still can't get online at home."

"Does the Prime Minister realise how angry many families are that he still hasn't got to grips with this?"

Boris Johnson says he "fully understands" the frustration of parents having to home school, which is why a million laptops have been provided.

He says he will give a statement "in just a few minutes" about the next steps, and urges the Labour leader to say that schools are safe.

Sir Keir says "when 100,000 people have died, he should take the time to answer the questions".

His "answers are simply not good enough", he adds.

12:14 PM

PMQs: Keir Starmer calls for teachers to be vaccinated to open schools

Sir Ker Starmer says the Home Secretary is "busy telling anybody who will listen" that the Government acted too slowly on borders.

He then turns to schools, saying the "Prime Minister hasn't got a plan".

He asks if once the top four categories have been vaccinated, all teachers and school staff an be vaccinated "in the window" of the half-term.

Boris Johnson says all vulnerable teachers will be vaccinated according to the JCVI priority list.

He adds that "no one has worked harder" than Gavin Williamson to keep schools open.

12:12 PM

PMQs: Keir Starmer accuses Boris Johnson of failing to learn lesson about slow acting

Sir Keir Starmer accuses the Prime Minister of acting slowly repeatedly throughout the pandemic "and I fear he still hasn't learned that lesson".

The latest example is the delay on the borders, despite having known about new variants for many weeks.

"Surely the Prime Minster can see that what is required now s that everybody coming into the country... should be tested and put into a hotel".

Boris Johnson says Labour has repeatedly supported and then attacked Government measures, saying the UK has "one of the toughest" border controls in the world.

He adds: "The Home Secretary will be setting out later today ... even tougher measures for those red list countries where we are particularly concerned about new variants."

12:09 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson pledges exit plan in 'next few weeks'

Sir Keir Starmer sticks with the same line of attack, saying the Prime Minister is "going to have to answer that question eventually" and it should be today.

Boris Johnson says the new virus, and new variant, and "dilemmas as hard and heavy" as have been faced over the last year "there are no easy answers".

The Government will do "everything we can to roll-out the vaccine programme" and vaccinate the most vulnerable groups by mid-February.

In the next few weeks he will "set out in much more detail" the exit plan, he adds.

12:07 PM

PMQs: Keir Starmer asks 'why' UK's death toll is so high

Sir Keir Starmer, who is appearing remotely as he isolates yet again, says he will be lighting a candle tonight as part of a ceremony to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

He says yesterday's "tragic milestone" of 100,000 Covid deaths is more than just a statistic, highlighting the grieving friends and family left behind.

"The question on everyone's lips is why," he adds, asking why the UK's death toll is the highest in Europe.

Boris Johnson says "I mourn every death" and that he and the Government "take full responsibility" for actions taken.

He says there will be a time to learn from those lessons but "I don think that moment is now". The public wants them to "come together and work to keep the virus under control".

12:04 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson pledges to open vaccine hub 'near' Gillingham MP's constituency

Rehman Chisti, Conseative MP for Gillingham and Rainham, angrily demands a vaccination hub in Kent, noting this is where the new variant emerged and led to rapid spread.

The Prime Minister stresses the high number of over-80s that have been vaccinated, and says they are looking at a centre "near him".

12:02 PM

PMQs: Boris Johnson marks Holocaust Memorial Day

Boris Johnson has marked Holocaust Memorial Day by urging all MPs to remember the six million Jewish men, women and children who died, as well as the other victims.

He says his recent meeting with survivors should "inspire us all" never to forget the atrocities, or allow them to be repeated.

11:59 AM

Boris Johnson en route for PMQs

The Prime Minister will make two appearances in the Commons today - including an unscheduled one.

After his regular joust with Sir Keir Starmer, the Prime Minister will return to give an update on Covid, amid growing pressure to set out the Government's plans for schools.

Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street for PMQs - Getty
Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street for PMQs - Getty

11:42 AM

AstraZeneca rejects claims it has pulled out of meeting with EU

AstraZeneca says it has not pulled out of vaccine talks with the European Union and plans to meet with EU officials later Wednesday in Brussels.

The comments came after EU officials said earlier (see 11:07am) that the company had pulled out of the meeting to discuss delayed vaccine commitments to the 27-nation bloc.

"We are meeting with the EU later today," a company spokesman said in a written statement.

Austria's Health Minister Rudolf Anschober had told reporters that the company had postponed negotiations over a shortfall in vaccine deliveries until Thursday

The public dispute between AstraZeneca and the EU has raised concerns about vaccine nationalism, as countries desperate to end the pandemic and return to normalcy jockey to make sure to obtain as many of the precious vaccine shots as possible.

11:40 AM

Jeremy Warner: How dare they accuse AstraZeneca of deliberately dishonouring the EU

Perhaps inevitably, the promise of vaccine salvation is fast turning into a bad case of vaccine wars, with the European Commission threatening to withhold supplies of the Belgium-produced Pfizer/BioNTech jab in response to AstraZeneca’s apparent failure to meet its contractual obligations to the EU on supplies of the British-developed alternative.

The European Commission’s frustrations are understandable, yet its complaint against AstraZeneca is instructed more by the need to find scapegoats for its own failings than any legitimate grievance.

Allegations that AZ is deliberately prioritising UK and US markets are essentially just sour grapes, argues Jeremy Warner.

AZ is a global healthcare company which is not directly beholden to any country or government; it is as much Swedish as British, and ironically it is run by a French national, Pascal Soriot.

The idea that it would deliberately favour one country over another is preposterous.

11:32 AM

Boris Johnson meets Auschwitz survivor and veteran to mark Holocaust Memorial Day

Boris Johnson has met with a Holocaust survivor and a Second World War veteran, as he marks Holocaust Memorial Day.

Renee Salt survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, while Ian Forsyth was one of the first to arrive at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as it was liberated.

The Prime Minister said: “It’s a great privilege to join Ian and Renee on Holocaust Memorial Day, a very important day in the life of our country.

“People get complacent about anti-Semitism. I think in the UK we can get complacent about it and we mustn’t.

“It’s so vital that you both have had the courage to continue to share with everybody, with me and the world, your memories of what took place. We can never forget it.

“Your personal memories have been perhaps the most powerful things I’ve ever heard. What you saw and experienced is horrifying and we must make sure nothing like that happens again.”

11:27 AM

Give councils ability to offer financial incentives for Covid tests, MPs told

Local councils should be able to offer financial incentives to get tested for coronavirus, and have the power to enforce isolation rules, a director of health has told MPs.

Dr Richard Harling, director of health and care from Staffordshire County Council told the Science and Technology Committee: "There has been quite a lot of speculation recently that going to have a test is not something people have an incentive to do. If you test positive you have to isolate which is disruptive to your life."

He said councils should have the ability to offer "financial inducement" to get tested, to "encourage people to come forward if they have symptoms, or even if they don't".

When it comes to enforcing isolation rules, health protection regulations are a "little clumsy and overbearing in terms of being useful", he added.

He said: "We are relying on the police to enforce them, and thinking about sustainability long term, I am not sure we should be tying up police resources in chasing down Covid non-isolators."

11:15 AM

NHS Test and Trace 'not as responsive as we would like', MPs told

NHS Test and Trace is "not as responsive" as hoped, a director of public health has told MPs.

Dr Richard Harling, from Staffordshire County Council, told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee: "The relationship with NHS Test and Trace has improved over the last few months but they are still relatively remote. We don't have well-developed relationships with, for example, a local account manager, which would be someone we can turn to with issues or problems.

"Again if residents raise issues or queries with NHS Test and Trace there is quite a long chain of command for it to go all the way up and then for the answer to come all the way back down.

"It is perhaps not as responsive yet as we would like to see it."

11:07 AM

Vaccine row escalates as AstraZeneca pulls out of EU meeting

Drugs giant AstraZeneca has pulled out of a planned meeting with the EU on Covid-19 vaccine delay.

The European Union has asked AstraZeneca to publish the contract, Reuters is reporting.

It comes after Pascal Soriot, chief executive of the pharma firm, gave an interview saying the EU contract was based on a best-effort clause and did not commit the company to a specific timetable for deliveries. He stressed the delay was because the bloc's orders had been placed three months after the UK's.

The EU official said on Wednesday that details revealed by Soriot on production capacity and best-effort clause were confidential.

"Best effort is a completely standard clause when you are signing a contract with a company for a product that does not yet exist," the official said. "Obviously you cannot put a completely legal obligation" under these conditions.

The official said that best effort meant that the company had to show an "overall" effort to develop and deliver vaccines.

10:54 AM

Have your say: Is the Government to blame for the UK's high death toll?

Boris Johnson last night said he took "full responsibility" for the decisions taken during the pandemic - but insisted he did everything he could to "minimise suffering and the loss of life".

Labour has challenged those claims, listing failings like care homes and PPE shortages, and slow action on borders and lockdowns, among the reasons for the UK's death toll passing 100,000.

But Robert Jenrick this morning insisted other factors - such as the demographics and population density - were at play, while stressing that evidence had "evolved" over time.

So is the Government to blame? Or have ministers been unlucky? Have your say in the poll below.

10:39 AM

MPs mark Holocaust Memorial Day

Members of Parliament are marking Holocaust Memorial Day ahead of the Commons opening this morning.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer - who is still trying to rebuild bridges with the Jewish community - said: "As the Holocaust recedes from living memory, it is more important than ever that we remember on Holocaust Memorial Day."

He added: "It takes more than words for good to triumph over evil, knowledge over ignorance and love over hate: it takes action. This year should give us hope."

Deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing and her colleagues have also marked the occasion, noting: "Together, we must stand against prejudice and hatred in the UK and around the world."

10:30 AM

Boris Johnson to give Covid update as pressure builds on Gavin Williamson to set out schools plan

Gavin Williamson might have avoided the Commons yesterday - for reasons that still remain unclear - but he has been spotted back at work again today.

The Education Secretary is under pressure to get schools reopened, and having promised that teachers and parents would get two-weeks' notice, an announcement is expected shortly.

Earlier this week ministers suggested primary schools would go first, but Boris Johnson last night rejected suggestions there would be a regional reopening, saying he was looking at "a national picture".

Mr Johnson will now make a Commons statement on Covid-19 on Wednesday afternoon, replacing one scheduled to have been made by Health Secretary Matt Hancock at around 1.15pm.

Gavin Williamson: A schools decision is expected to come soon - Shutterstock
Gavin Williamson: A schools decision is expected to come soon - Shutterstock

10:12 AM

Judith Woods: The victims of Covid suffered and died alone. They deserve to be remembered

n pain and fear, they perished. Sedated and ventilated, they slipped away. Gasping, lungs failing, many drew their last breath without a hand to hold or a prayer to console.

The victims of Covid-19 suffered alone. They died alone. And we grieved alone. On a national scale.

The grim new tally of 100,000 deaths from coronavirus is less a milestone to be marked than a tombstone to be mourned.

Like every other country on earth ravaged by coronavirus, here in Britain too many precious lives have been snuffed out and livelihoods destroyed.

But something else, something less tangible has been lost, too, writes Judith Woods. Lockdown has left us feeling isolated, dislocated and in some cases alienated from the communities we live in, the people around us.

09:53 AM

HS2 protesters set up makeshift camp in London

HS2 protestors have set up a makeshift camp in a central London park - despite Priti Patel having warned about tougher action being taken against demonstrations during the lockdown.

A handful of campaigners are on wooden platforms in the trees in Euston Square Gardens, while about a dozen enforcement agents from the National Eviction Team monitor the area from the ground.

The HS2 Rebellion group, which is campaigning against the high-speed railway, said they had dug a 100ft tunnel network in the park, but it cannot be seen as a large wooden structure sits above it.

At least four tents, sitting on wooden platforms, have been erected high up in trees in the park.

Extinction Rebellion activists gesture next to signs at a makeshift camp as part of an HS2 protest - Reuters
Extinction Rebellion activists gesture next to signs at a makeshift camp as part of an HS2 protest - Reuters

09:47 AM

Hospitals told it is 'absolutely essential' to vaccinate vulnerable inpatients

Hospitals should be vaccinating elderly and vulnerable inpatients, a Government immunisation adviser has said, after some NHS trusts refused to administer the Covid-19 jab.

Professor Anthony Harnden, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said it was "absolutely essential" that hospital trusts vaccinated those most at risk of Covid-19 in their care.

A Sky News investigation found evidence of hospitals telling the families of elderly non-Covid patients that they are only vaccinating outpatients, and not those staying overnight.

But Prof Harnden told Sky News: "Clearly, if people are going into hospital they are at increased risk of exposure, so it seems absolutely essential that they're immunised if they're in those groups before they go into hospital, and if they're in hospital that the NHS and that hospital trust make every possible opportunity that they can to immunise them when they're in."

Yesterday vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said there was "no policy from NHS England" to exclude eligible hospital inpatients from getting the vaccine.

09:41 AM

What's on the agenda today?

It's shaping up to be a busy day - here is what is on the agenda:

12pm: Prime Minister's Questions

12:15pm: Nicola Sturgeon and the Welsh government hold their regular coronavirus briefings.

12:40pm: Tory MP Sir Roger Gale has am urgent question on what further sanctions will be imposed on Russia following the arrest of Alexei Navalny

1:20pm: A statement from Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Covid-19

2:25pm: A statement from Home Secretary Priti Patel on new quarantine hotels

Brace for Boris: PMQs will take place from midday - AFP
Brace for Boris: PMQs will take place from midday - AFP

09:31 AM

Government has taken pandemic 'extremely seriously', says minister

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted the Government has taken coronavirus "extremely seriously" throughout the pandemic this morning, after the UK's death toll passed 100,000.

He told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "The Prime Minister that I have watched throughout this crisis has approached this with huge seriousness.

"He is someone who himself came close to death as a result of the virus and that had a huge and lasting impact on him and his family, as you would expect."

Presenter Piers Morgan told Mr Jenrick "some of your colleagues... they're useless" and "completely out of their depth".

The Cabinet minister replied: "We are all working under immense strain, but that is no excuse, we all have to make sure that we are making the best possible decisions that we can with the information that is available to us."

09:22 AM

UK 'head start' on EU means over-50s will be vaccinated by March, AstraZeneca chief says

The UK's "head start" in rolling out vaccines before the European Union means nearly everyone aged over 50 will be inoculated by March, the AstraZeneca chief executive has said.

Pascal Soriot said he believed the UK was on course to administer doses to "maybe 28 or 30 million people" within weeks – nearly half the total population – and would comfortably hit the target of vaccinating the most vulnerable groups by mid-February.

It came amid rising international tension after the EU threatened to block vaccine doses from leaving the Continent without prior approval, leading Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, to accuse Brussels of "protectionism and narrow nationalism".

Read the full story here.

09:17 AM

Tory MP to mark Holocaust Memorial Day through Navalny question

A senior Tory MP is planning to mark international Holocaust Memorial Day by raising questions about Alexei Navalny's imprisonment in the Commons.

The Kremlin critic was arrested last weekend as he returned to Russia for the first time since he was poisoned five months ago.

Sir Roger Gale, who has an urgent question on the matter after PMQs, said: "In spite of the pandemic we need to remember that there are other matters that deserve our urgent attention."

09:03 AM

Boris Johnson to set out lockdown 'roadmap', Robert Jenrick confirms

Boris Johnson will set out a "road map" out of the lockdown, with reopening schools a priority, in the "coming days and weeks", Robert Jenrick has confirmed.

Asked what the plan was, the Communities Secretary told Radio 4's Today programme: "You'll have to wait for the Prime Minister to announce that - he has said that he wants to set out in the coming days and weeks a road map out of the present lockdown to give people greater confidence and certainty."

He added that "education will continue to be our priority".

"Throughout the pandemic we've done everything we can to keep schools open, I continue to think that was the right call."

A return to tiered arrangements would help address the variation in cases across the country as "it's sensible that we target restrictions on those places where the virus is most prevalent".

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson said he would be "looking at the potential of relaxing some measures" before mid-February.

08:49 AM

Watch: 'We didn't have to be in this situation', says shadow home secretary

Labour frontbencher Jon Ashworth has described the UK reaching 100,000 deaths from coronavirus as "horrific" and "horrendous".

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said "we didn't have to be in this situation today".

Care home residents and frontline staff were "left exposed and vulnerable" because of Government decisions, he said.

"I just don't believe that we, the Government - the Prime Minister - did do everything we could."

08:44 AM

'There wasn't a textbook': Minister defends Government's handling of pandemic

Robert Jenrick has insisted the Government did "all we possibly could to shield people and to help the country through this period" as he was challenged over the UK's high death toll.

Asked whether some of the deaths were avoidable, Mr Jenrick told Radio 4's Today programme: "I'm sure that we could or would have done some things differently with the benefit of hindsight, almost certainly.

"But there wasn't a textbook. I was in many of those meetings with the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary and members of the Cabinet and I can give you this assurance, that on each occasion they took the best possible scientific and medical advice, they took their responsibilities extremely seriously.

"We tried to marshal all the resources of the country, the magnificent effort of the NHS, those working in social care, local councils - which are my responsibility - the armed forces and, of course, British science and ingenuity which has come to the rescue so incredibly in the last few weeks and months with the vaccine programme."

08:42 AM

Government's border control reluctance 'ironic' after Brexit, says Labour MP

The Government's reluctance to impose tougher travel restrictions during the pandemic is "ironic" given the Brexit rhetoric about "taking back control of our borders", a Labour frontbencher has said.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government's "response (to the pandemic) was appalling", adding: "I don't accept they did everything they could."

Speaking on Sky News, he urged the Government to "fix the fundamentals", including sick pay, isolation support, test and trace, and a "comprehensive quarantine approach" to border controls.

08:39 AM

High-risk quarantine hotels risks repeating mistakes from March, warns Labour

Imposing quarantine hotels just on the 30 most at-risk countries risks repeating the mistakes made at the start of the pandemic, which allowed the virus to be "seeded" throughout the UK from Europe, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has said.

The Labour frontbencher told the Today programme it was "probably a mistake" and that "wider controls" were needed.

He added: "What we now know is 12 months ago, when the Government for a few weeks quarantined people returning from Wuhan and had restrictions in place for one or two other countries, we actually seeded the virus in this country from a number of European nations where we hadn't put any controls in place and that was why we had such a poor response as a nation because of the failure to put in these border controls 12 months ago."

Priti Patel will be setting out the plans from around 2:25pm - you can watch live here.

08:32 AM

UK's death toll a 'legacy of poor decisions', claims public health professor

The UK's high death toll and current case rate are the "legacy of poor decisions" around easing restrictions and travel, coupled with the new variant, a professor of public health has said.

Linda Bauld, a University of Edinburgh professor told BBC Breakfast that the high daily death toll would "remain for a while at a really high rate".

She added: "Where we are now is a legacy of poor decisions that were taken when we eased restrictions earlier in the year particularly around travel etc and then of course the variant has created extra pressure."

Asked if the lack of better border restrictions had contributed to the current situation, she said: "I think it was a major factor."

But "adopting a model a bit like south-east Asian countries, Australia or New Zealand" - with mandatory quarantine hotels - would help.

"I can see that the UK Government may decide to start with countries where variants are a real concern, but I think going forward we're going to have to apply that more comprehensively," she added.

08:27 AM

UK cannot be 'hermetically sealed', says minister as he defends border controls

The UK cannot be "hermetically sealed", a minister has said as he defends the Government's action on border controls so far.

Robert Jenrick told BBC Breakfast: "We do want to take further action with respect to borders, and the Home Secretary [Priti Patel] will be making statement to commons later today. But we have taken action throughout.

"In the early days of the pandemic we had quarantine and air corridors, and now we are taking further steps which will tighten that."

The reason for acting now - far later than some suggest - is "primarily the emergence of other variants around the world and the success of our vaccine rollout".

He added: "We are not a country that can be hermetically sealed. We are a country that relies on goods flowing in."

08:23 AM

International comparisons 'difficult at present time', claims minister as UK tops per capita deaths

Robert Jenrick has shied away from international comparisons when asked about the UK having the highest per capita death rate, and being fifth in the world in total deaths and cases.

"I think these comparisons are difficult to make at the present time," he told Sky News.

"There will come a time when we can reflect on what has happened, when we can and should learn lessons, but I think it is difficult to do so at this distance."

But he admitted: "No doubt there will be some things that we could have done differently with the benefit of hindsight."

The Cabinet minister also said there were "no easy answers to any of the questions" when asked about the Government's approach to care homes. "We tried to make the best decisions at the time," Mr Jenrick said.

08:21 AM

UK's death doll because Government made 'monumental mistakes', claims Labour

The Government has made "monumental mistakes" in its handling of the pandemic, a Labour frontbencher has claimed.

Jon Ashworth, shadow health secretary, told Radio 4's Today programme the UK's death toll "is horrendous", adding: "We talk about statistics but every individual would have had families, friends, who are grieving and will be grieving particularly today I suspect, and of course within that cohort of people we've lost thousands who were in care homes and I'm afraid were left exposed and unprotected."

He added: "It's just horrendous on every front... I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, I just do not believe that Boris Johnson did everything he could, I just can't accept that.

"We all accept these are challenging times for any government, this is a virus which has swept across the world with speed and severity and it continues to spread ferociously... But monumental mistakes have been made, we have had a litany of errors in the last 12 months, and he didn't have to make these mistakes."

Read more: How we know so much more than when UK's first victim perished

08:18 AM

Criticism of Government over UK's 100,000 death toll "extremely unfair", says minister

Criticism levelled at the Government over the UK's death toll is "extremely unfair", Robert Jenrick has said.

During an interview with Sky News, the minister was given a list of areas where the Government had acted slowly, including on PPE, advising the use of face masks, allowing hospital patients to be discharged to care homes, not shutting borders and acting slowly on lockdowns.

But the Communities Secretary insisted that in some areas, such as wearing face masks, "evidence has changed, opinion has changed, scientific opinion evolves and is refined".

He also stressed that the UK's high death toll was a function of the "particular characteristics of the UK - our population, the population density, our openness, our economy", although he conceded some factors were "how we responded to particular challenges. "

Mr Jenrick added: "I suspect there will be things people will say we did extremely well at."

Asked if he had any regrets, he said: "Of course there are thing which we could have done differently, with the benefit of hindsight."

08:14 AM

Government took 'right decisions at the right time', says ministers

A Cabinet minister has defended the Government for taking the "right decisions at the right time" throughout the pandemic, after the UK's official death toll passed 100,000 yesterday.

Robert Jenrick told Sky News: "We took the decisions that we could at the time on the basis of the information that was available to us.

"And we did everything that we could to protect people's lives and help to weather the storm, and take the country through this very challenging period.

"There is no textbook as to how to respond to a pandemic like this, but we do believe that we took the right decisions at the right time.

"And now our focus is on continuing to help the country through the remaining stages of the pandemic and focus on the vaccine rollout."

08:02 AM

Hotel quarantine for 'hotspots' a mistake, warns Labour

Labour has attacked the Government for focusing hotel quarantines on "hotspots" rather than imposing a blanket restriction.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, will set out further steps to the Commons this afternoon to ensure there is "less flow of individuals" into England to control new strains of coronavirus, her Cabinet colleague Robert Jenrick told Sky News. Rather than a requirement for quarantine hotels on all international arrivals, it is thought it will focus on the 30 “high risk” countries currently covered by a travel ban for foreigners.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told BBC Breakfast: "We should have had comprehensive border controls in for the past year

"Priti Patel and Boris Johnson, they tell us they want to take control of their borders, but the one time it actually mattered, and they needed to take control of our borders to protect us, they failed.

"I would urge the Government to look at a comprehensive policy, not just the hotspots, because remember, there will be areas or countries across the world where there are mutations which haven't been identified yet because they don't have the same level of scientific ability."

His colleague Nick Thomas Symes said the plan was "leaving gaping holes in our nation’s defences".

The shadow home secretary added: ""The proposals are half-baked, slow at being implemented and risk being ineffective at this crucial moment in our race to get Britain vaccinated."

07:39 AM

Rishi Sunak says more Covid support on way - but raises warning over cost

Rishi Sunak has warned Tory MPs that the cost of new coronavirus bailouts they are demanding could reach £30 billion, but insisted some further economic support is on the way.

On Tuesday, the Chancellor urged patience among backbenchers and said the extra help will be unveiled at the Budget on March 3.

Speaking during Treasury Questions in the Commons, he faced calls to approve a variety of fresh measures and extensions to existing schemes to support families and businesses.

Jason McCartney, Conservative MP for Colne Valley, said lockdown restrictions were set to stretch “well into the spring” and encouraged Mr Sunak to offer “certainty” to struggling individuals and firms.