Scotland's lockdown extended by a fortnight

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Cat Neilan
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Nicola Sturgeon said she still hoped a "phased" reopening of schools could begin by mid-February - Reuters
Nicola Sturgeon said she still hoped a "phased" reopening of schools could begin by mid-February - Reuters

Scotland is to remain in lockdown until at least the middle of February, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The delay in lifting restrictions will also see schools - which were meant to reopen on February 1 - remain closed until mid-February.

Despite the a fall in cases, the risks of community transmission of Covid-19 had forced the Cabinet to delay the opening.

She said: "That means that the lockdown restrictions - including the strict stay-at-home requirement - will remain in place across mainland Scotland and some island communities until at least the middle of February."

Ms Sturgeon said: "The Cabinet decided today that - except for vulnerable and key worker children - school and nursery premises will remain closed until mid-February."

The situation will be reviewed on February 2, the First Minister said, adding: "If it is at all possible, as I very much hope it will be, to begin even a phased return to in-school learning in mid-February, we will."

Follow the latest updates below.

04:05 PM

And that's it for another day....

We leave as MPs continue to debate the Lords amendment on genocide, with a smattering of Tory MPs already indicating they will rebel against the Government on the Trade Bill because of their concerns over the Uighur abuses in Xinjiang.

It is just as well he went for some rugby practice at the weekend because Matt Hancock is having to self-isolate again. The Health Secretary used his quarantine as an opportunity to remind people how important it is to follow the rules, even with more than four million people vaccinated.

The need for Number 10's new campaign to encourage those who have had the vaccine to stick to the rules is perhaps reinforced by the results from today's poll, which shows a higher drop off in compliance than Sage estimates.

With more than 1,160 responses, 27 per cent of people admitted they will "slacken off a bit", while a further 24 per cent said they are planning to see and hug their loved ones. Just 49 per cent will stick to the rules until we are told otherwise.

That's it for today - read below for the rest of the day's news.

03:58 PM

Pressure grows on Boris Johnson to agree plan to start easing lockdown restrictions by March 8

Boris Johnson faces growing pressure from Tory MPs to set out an exit strategy from lockdown based on vaccine rollout forecasts and using March 8 as the target date to start easing the restrictions.

Conservatives in the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group (CRG) highlighted scientific suggestions that the most vulnerable Britons will achieve a significant level of immunity from the virus three weeks after receiving their first dose of the jab.

Since the Government has pledged to vaccinate the 14 million most vulnerable Britons by February 15, ministers should prepare to ease the rules three weeks later on March 8, the MPs said.

Read the full story here.

03:56 PM

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Angela Merkel’s disastrous legacy is Brexit and a broken EU

Angela Merkel is more responsible for Brexit than any other political figure in Europe, on either side of the Channel.

She bears the greatest responsibility for the ‘Japanisation’ and austerity bias of monetary union. She exalts the German mercantilist trade surpluses that render the whole euro project ultimately unworkable.

We all feel fond of Mutti as she winds down her 16-year reign and ushers in her chosen successor: Armin Laschet, the "continuity candidate" and folksy operator who narrowly won the Christian Democratic leadership contest over the weekend.

The Chancellor is immensely popular. The low-key style of the vicar’s daughter has caught the German mood. She is one of the few European leaders still trusted over the handling of the pandemic. It is hard to think of any figure in Berlin better able to mask German hegemony and throw a reassuring comfort blanket over Europe.

But, argues Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, given the blizzard of superlatives over recent days - bordering on hagiography - some dissent is in order.

03:48 PM

Brandon Lewis is like 'the emperor with no clothes' on Brexit trade claims, says DUP

Brandon Lewis is acting like "the emperor with no clothes" by claiming Brexit is not affecting trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, a DUP minister has said.

This morning (7:55am and 9:57am) the Northern Ireland Secretary said supermarket supply lines were "in good fettle", arguing that disruption was "nothing to do" with Brexit, but because of pre-Christmas Covid chaos at Dover.

But Northern Irish agriculture minister Edwin Poots told the Stormont Assembly: "Brandon Lewis is clearly going about like the emperor with no clothes; however, it is not a small boy who is pointing it out, but the entire crowd.

"He really needs to reflect on that. It is not a good policy to go about saying something that is blatantly not the case.

"We know what the problems are and where they emanate from, and we know that those issues need to be dealt with."

03:34 PM

Wales' 'age structure' being addressed in vaccine supply, says Mark Drakeford

Wales' older demographics are being taken into account when it comes to vaccine supplies, the First Minister has told the Senedd.

Mark Drakeford told the Welsh Parliament he had "discussed that very issue" with his counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove last Wednesday.

"We explored it with the most senior civil servant who is responsible for securing and dispersing supplies of vaccines across the United Kingdom," he said.

"The point about our age structure was recognised in that conversation and actions are being taken to make sure that it is taken into account in the supplies of vaccine, which will ramp up here in Wales and across the whole of the United Kingdom."

Asked a similar question about the apparent patchiness of vaccine deployment around England, Downing Street said there had been "equal access to supply" but did not comment whether that related to per capita of the target group (1:08pm).

03:19 PM

China's persecution of Uighurs 'has all the hallmarks of genocide', says former Tory leader

The persecution of Uighur Muslims in China "has all the hallmarks of a genocide" but a UK court should make that call, former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said.

Speaking to his amendment, he told the Commons: "It allows the UK courts to determine, given that there is a trade arrangement being negotiated or taking place, on a preliminary basis, whether genocide has occurred in the country that we are supposing to strike a trade arrangement with."

On the persecution of Uighur Muslims in China, he said: "These are people at the moment, and there are others as well, that have been pushed into slave Labour, have forced sterilisation on them, their population has shrunk by some 85% and they are exporting trade goods used by slave labour.

"And it's quite clear to me, but I'm not able to say so, that this has all the hallmarks of a genocide. I'm not able to say so because at the end of the day we all agree that the courts have to make the decision, it is not for individual politicians to do so."

He added: "Why would we be doing a trade deal with a country that is guilty of genocide?"

03:06 PM

Mark Drakeford accused of 'go-slow' attitude towards Covid vaccines

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives has accused Mark Drakeford of a "go-slow" approach to Covid vaccinations.

Paul Davies told the Welsh Parliament: "The Welsh Government's slow progress in vaccinating people just increases people's frustration and anger at a time when the Welsh Government should be providing them with hope and doing everything possible to expedite its vaccine delivery."

But the First Minister replied: "The policy of the Welsh Government is to vaccinate as many people in Wales as quickly and as safely as possible. That is how we have had 162,000 people vaccinated already here in Wales. That is why the pace of vaccination will accelerate again this week."

Despite yesterday having suggested the Government was rationing doses to make them last longer, Mr Drakeford said the "rate-limiting" factor in vaccination in Wales was the rate of supply of the vaccine.

A further 80,00 doses of the Oxford vaccine would be available this week, "and we will use all of them, and we will use every drop of the Pfizer vaccine as well before the next delivery of that vaccine arrives," he added.

02:52 PM

Nicola Sturgeon: 80pc of Scotland's care home residents have had first jab

Eighty percent of care home residents in Scotland have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Three million people in Scotland, the majority of the adult population, will have received their first dose of the vaccine by early May, the First Minister told MSPs.

"That means that in around three months' time, around three million people in total will have received at least the first dose of the vaccine - this is, of course, the majority of the adult population and includes everyone over the age of 50, and many younger people with an underlying health condition," she said.

"The rest of the adult population will follow after that just as quickly as supplies allow."

02:39 PM

Handing courts right to revoke trade deal over genocide 'not the right way forward', says minister

Allowing the High Court to revoke a trade deal if genocide is found to be taking place in a country would "not be the right way forward", a trade minister has said.

Greg Hands told MPs: "The UK has long supported the promotion of our values globally. We are clear that more trade does not have to come at the expense of human rights."

But he was challenged by Sammy Wilson, the DUPs MP for East Antrim, about using this as a moment to demonstrate the UK's post-Brexit future as a "global leader".

Replying, Mr Hands stressed "the importance attached by the Government to the underlying issue of allegations of genocide and human rights abuses.

"However, there is... quite rightly the Government gives significant attention to how that process would work.

"The Lord Alton amendment, with the automatic revocation by a high court of an international trade agreement that has been negotiated between governments and approved by Parliament would not be the right way forward."

02:35 PM

Minister promises 'further discussions' over genocide in future trade deals

Trade minister Greg Hands has promised "further discussions" with Conservative MPs regarding their concerns over genocide when developing trade deals, in a bid to avoid a rebellion today.

Backbenchers are threatening to back a Lords amendment that would force the Government to withdraw from any free trade agreement with any country which the High Court rules is committing genocide.

However a compromise amendment they believe would win support from ministers.

In response to Iain Duncan Smith raising this compromise, Mr Hands said: "I listen to what he says, and I note what he says and what I will say is the Government is open for further discussions on these matters."

Mr Hands stressed that human rights "should not be traded away somehow", noting concerns over Beijing's treatment of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang province.

02:30 PM

Minister begins genocide debate by clashing with Iain Duncan Smith

A minister has started a potentially bruising debate by telling senior Tories he has not read a compromise amendment tabled several days ago.

Ministers are seeking to reverse cross-party amendments to the Trade Bill made by the Lords, which would force the Government to withdraw from any free trade agreement with any country which the High Court rules is committing genocide.

Former ministers Nus Ghani and Iain Duncan Smith have tabled an amendment which they believe eases Government concerns, including about the role of the courts in trade deals.

But asked about it today trade minister Greg Hands told Ms Ghani he would "have to have a look" at a later date, adding: "My role here is to speak about the amendment that is in front of us from the Lords in the name of Lord Alton."

Mr Duncan Smith intervened: "Actually I gave that amendment to the Foreign Secretary and his team on Wednesday last week, it is on the order paper today. With respect, it's not a case of will he have a look at it, he must have a view about it surely because it's there."

02:24 PM

Have your say: Will you follow the rules after being vaccinated?

Matt Hancock's enforced return to quarantine might be a frustration to him but it comes at a helpful time for the Government.

Ministers are looking to hammer home the message that getting the vaccine does not give recipients carte blanche to ignore social distancing and other restrictions, with one expert this morning even warning people off hugging their own children (still).

But with 29 per cent of people saying they will bend the rules after getting the jab, and 11 per cent saying they would go further, post-vaccine compliance is the new issue dominating Whitehall.

So will you carry on following the rules after getting a vaccine? Have your say in the poll below.

02:23 PM

Nearly 171,000 vaccines given out in England yesterday

Nearly 171,000 Covid vaccinations took place across England yesterday, pushing the total well above four million - however the daily target is yet to be reached.

Some 4,118,342 vaccinations have been given between December 8 and January 18, according to provisional NHS England data, a rise of 170,900 on Monday's figures.

Of this number, 3,687,206 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 167,150, while 431,136 were the second dose, an increase of 3,750.

02:16 PM

Further 842 Covid deaths registered in English hospitals

A further 842 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 62,295, NHS England said on Tuesday.

Patients were aged between 28 and 104. All except 35, aged between 54 and 94, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between December 4 and January 18, with the majority being on or after January 11.

There were 37 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

The South East was the worst-hit region, with 176 deaths registered, followed by the Midlands with 154 and the North East & Yorkshire, with 124.

There were 121 deaths in London, 118 in the East of England, 103 deaths in the North West and 46 deaths in the South West.

02:11 PM

Alicia Kearns announces safe arrival of second child

The MP for Rutland and Melton has announced the safe arrival of her second child.

Alicia Kearns gave little away about the new addition to her family.

But she told her followers: While my family and I take some time to welcome our new arrival, my phenomenal team will continue to support constituents by email and phone and I will be in daily contact with them to help residents."

01:55 PM

Parler comes back online with help from Russians

So-called free speech platform Parler has returned to the internet with the help of DDoS Guard, a Russian-owned technology company which has in the past been linked to the Palestinian group Hamas.

Although only a rudimentary version of the social media site is now live, CEO John Matze told Fox News he expects the full platform to be back by the end of the month.

On Monday, he posted: "Our return is inevitable due to hard work, and persistence against all odds."

Ostracised from the mainstream internet after its connection to the Washington D.C. riots on January 6, the platform spent one week offline after being forced to search for less discerning internet infrastructure companies that will not retract their services if they disapprove of Parler's content.

Read the full details here.

01:41 PM

Lobby latest: Government will not support genocide amendment, says No 10

The Government has a "proud record" standing up for human rights in China, Downing Street has insisted, ahead of a potentially bruising debate on the Trade Bill amendment to outlaw trade deals with countries that are committing genocide.

A number of senior Tory MPs plan to support a move to outlaw trade deals with countries that are committing genocide, led by former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Nus Ghani.

They are concerned about China's treatment of its Uighur minority, with Ms Ghani saying "Britain must be on the right side of history."

But the Prime Minister's press secretary Allegra Stratton said: "We recognise the strength of feeling but the Government doesn't support the amendment."

The amendment "aims to address significant human rights concerns in China, but it's the case that we don't have a free trade agreement with China and we are not currently negotiating one".

01:23 PM

Lobby latest: No Cobra called to deal with Storm Christoph floods

No Cobra emergency committee has been convened to address Storm Christoph, as South Yorkshire declares major incident.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters: "If there are any plans for a Cobra we will obviously set them out in the usual way.

"But the National Flood Response Centre has been stood up and is coordinating the cross-agency and Government operations on this.

"The important message whilst the alerts are in place is that we urge everybody to follow the Environment Agency's advice and check their flood risk and sign up to alerts."

Read the latest on Storm Christoph here.

A child cycles along the flooded road by the side of the River Great Ouse after it was closed  - Getty
A child cycles along the flooded road by the side of the River Great Ouse after it was closed - Getty

01:18 PM

Lobby latest: No gap for Boris Johnson to nap, says press secretary

Downing Street has rejected a suggestion Boris Johnson has been sneaking an afternoon "power nap".

The Prime Minister's press secretary Allegra Stratton told reporters: "The Prime Minister does not have a nap. These reports are untrue."

This morning The Times reported that it was "not be entirely uncommon" for Boris Johnson "to shut the door and have a kip for half an hour or so - a power executive business nap to get him ready for the rest of the day".

But Ms Stratton said: "He does not have a nap during the day when he is in Downing Street... his day is jam-packed from early in the morning through to late at night."

Boris Johnson's press secretary said "his day is jam-packed from early in the morning through to late at night." - AP
Boris Johnson's press secretary said "his day is jam-packed from early in the morning through to late at night." - AP

01:12 PM

Lobby latest: Vaccination rollout remains 'key' to freedom, Boris Johnson tells ministers

Boris Johnson has told senior ministers that the vaccination programme remains the key to relieving the NHS and easing the lockdown, No 10 said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said a virtual meeting of the Cabinet received an update on the health service's capacity from NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.

The spokesman added: "The Prime Minister opened Cabinet with an update on the current Covid situation, noting that although we're beginning to see a decline in infection rates the situation remains very serious and it remains as important as ever for people to follow the guidance to continue to suppress the spread of the virus.

"The Prime Minister set out that the successful delivery of the Government's vaccination plan was the key to help reduce the pressure on the NHS and reopen our economy and society."

01:11 PM

Lobby latest: Matt Hancock will not jump the queue for vaccine, says Number 10

Downing Street has rejected George Osborne's suggestion that Matt Hancock should receive a vaccine early because he is leading the response to the pandemic, after the Health Secretary went into self-isolation over a close contact.

The former chancellor this morning said it was "peculiar" that he had not received it yet, despite NHS staff being prioritised.

Asked about this the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The PM and the rest of the Cabinet will take the vaccine when it's their turn to do so based on the priority lists that have been published.

"We don't think it's right that the PM or other members of Cabinet take the vaccine in place of somebody who is at higher clinical risk."

He added that Mr Hancock was following the rules and exercising when the Cabinet minister was seen in a park in London over the weekend.

Matt Hancock is now self-isolating until Sunday - Greg Brennan
Matt Hancock is now self-isolating until Sunday - Greg Brennan

01:08 PM

Lobby latest: Downing Street dodges questions about patchy vaccine rollout

Downing Street has repeatedly been unable to explain why some regions are lagging behind others in the delivery of coronavirus vaccines.

During a back-and-forth with journalists today, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said "it is supply that is the limiting factor at present" in the roll-out.

But asked why the Midlands has vaccinated nearly 80 per cent more people than London, he had no answer. He also dodged questions about whether it was to do with the deployment of the vaccine, or whether areas were being given supplies on a per capita basis.

The spokesman said all areas had "equal access to supply", although noted "we will put more supply into areas that have more to do".

Pressed then if it is a logistical or administrative issue in poorly performing areas, he said: "I can only echo what Matt Hancock has said in that we will ensure that we provide more supply and support to those areas that have more to do. But again there are some areas that have made significant progress and have gone faster."

01:03 PM

Russia will not listen to 'strong words' until 'dirty money' networks disrupted, claims Labour

Russia will not take seriously British warnings over the detention of Kremlin critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny until action is implemented to disrupt "dirty money" networks, Labour has said.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told the Commons the Foreign Secretary's "strong words... won't be taken seriously by Moscow until the UK takes action to disrupt the networks of dirty money on which this regime depends."

Dominic Raab said he was "absolutely appalled" by the "politically-motivated" detention of Mr Navalny, adding: "It's a Kafkaesque situation, frankly, when instead of dealing with and supporting the victim of this Novichok poisoning, he has been arrested."

He stressed that sanctions had been imposed on six individuals so far, " and we're leading efforts in the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), which is the real action that will send a message to Russia."

12:42 PM

Russell Lynch: Stamp duty should be scrapped – and the whole property system reformed

In 1909, Winston Churchill – then a Liberal serving in Herbert Asquith’s Cabinet – had this to say on the subject of property and land:

"Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains – and all the while the landlord sits still."Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived."

Russell Lynch suggests Boris Johnson should take heed of the sentiment as the Government begins to plot its way out of the fiscal mire left by Covid-19.

12:37 PM

Joe Biden 'good news' for tackling climate change, says Cop26 minister

Joe Biden will be "good news" for tackling climate change, Alok Sharma, who is heading up crucial international talks in Glasgow, has said.

Mr Sharma, who has left his role as Business Secretary to be full time president of the UN Cop26 summit taking place in November, said he welcomed the commitments President-elect Joe Biden has made on climate.

"A Biden presidency is good news in terms of tackling climate change, I very much welcome the commitments the president-elect has already made in terms of rejoining the Paris Agreement and putting the US on the path to net zero by 2050," he added.

He told MPs on the parliamentary Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: "I'm very positive about the commitments made during the presidential election and we are looking forward to working closely with the new administration."

12:36 PM

Dominic Raab welcomes Joe Biden's hints at a return to Iran agreement

Dominic Raab has welcomed suggestions that Joe Biden plans to bring the US back into the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

The Foreign Secretary told the Commons that the Government was "very concerned about Iran's continued systemic non-compliance with its nuclear commitments" since Donald Trump pulled out of the multilateral agreement.

He added: "It is welcome that president-elect Biden and the new administration has talked about coming back into the JCPOA, enhancing and strengthening it, and it'll be one of the early topics of conversation that we have with the new administration."

Foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat asked what the UK and allies could do to "make sure we stop this malevolent dictatorship expanding its evil reach any further".

Mr Raab said: "There is a window of opportunity between now and the Iranian presidential elections in early June, to try and make some progress, some definitive progress and I think against that timeframe we ought to be able to focus minds."

12:11 PM

UK Government 'not lukewarm' over Joe Biden's victory, says Dominic Raab

The Foreign Secretary has said he "looks forward to working with the new administration" and said the UK Government was "not lukewarm" to Joe Biden's victory.

Challenged over whether the Government regretted "cosying up to Trump", Dominic Raab told the Commons: "We made clear that the scenes by a small but ugly minority in Washington were disgraceful.

"We also made clear we had the full confidence in the system of checks and balances in the US to provide a definitive result and a smooth transition and we look forward to working with the new administration."

Asked if the Government was taking steps to "mend that sense that our Government was lukewarm around the election time and failed to uphold that sense of democracy", Mr Raab replied: "The UK was not lukewarm and she must have missed the Prime Minister's statement where he was very clear."

Dominic Raab (left) rejected suggestions the UK Government had got too 'cozy' with Donald Trump - AP
Dominic Raab (left) rejected suggestions the UK Government had got too 'cozy' with Donald Trump - AP

11:48 AM

Tom Harris: Universal Credit is leaving the Tories stuck between a rock and a hard place

You may welcome the fact or you may be appalled by it, but the rather miserly levels of benefits handed out to the less well-off in the UK has never been the cause of the downfall of any government.

An immediate and radical change in political fortunes is not what Keir Starmer expected from yesterday's vote on Universal Credit, of course.

The Labour leader simply wants to add to “the narrative” that we are governed by an incompetent bunch of privileged wealthy people with no instinctive sympathy for the less well off, to whose circumstances the likes of Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson simply cannot relate.

As Tom Harris argues, politics in the third decade of the 21st century demands that our elected representatives respond appropriately to the Twitter mob, and when it is wound up about one issue or another, MPs had better watch out.

Saint Keir: Labour leader visits a food bank distribution centre in St Margaret The Queen church in Streatham - Reuters
Saint Keir: Labour leader visits a food bank distribution centre in St Margaret The Queen church in Streatham - Reuters

11:43 AM

US can 'outcompete' China while repairing rifts with allies, Anthony Blinken will say

The incoming secretary of state will vow that the United States will "outcompete" a rising China while rebuilding fractured alliances, marking a shift from Donald Trump's "America First" approach.

Ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration tomorrow Antony Blinken is expected to use his confirmation hearing to stress that the US must show "humility" as it repairs rifts with Western allies caused by the outgoing administration.

"We can outcompete China... [but] not one of the big challenges we face can be met by one country acting alone - even one as powerful as the US," Mr Blinken will tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"We can revitalize our core alliances - force multipliers of our influence around the world. Together, we are far better positioned to counter threats posed by Russia, Iran, and North Korea and to stand up for democracy and human rights."

Antony Blinken will stress the US as a force for good, alongside renewed "humility" - AP
Antony Blinken will stress the US as a force for good, alongside renewed "humility" - AP

11:18 AM

Government may take regional approach to reopening schools, warns deputy CMO

The Government may take a regional approach to reopening schools in England, deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries has suggested.

Speaking to the education select committee, Dr Harries said it was "likely" that there would be "some sort of regional separation of interventions".

She added: "On the broad epidemiology it is highly likely that when we come out of this national lockdown we will not have consistent patterns of infection in our communities across the country.

"And therefore, as we had prior to the national lockdown, it may well be possible that we need to have some differential application."

School-age children were not "a significant driver" of transmission, she added.

11:15 AM

'Peculiarly British trait' not to have vaccinated Health Secretary, says George Osborne

Former chancellor George Osborne has queried why "we can’t spare a single dose" of the vaccine for Matt Hancock, who is having to self-isolate again.

The Health Secretary announced this morning that he had been "pinged" by NHS Test and Trace and would be quarantining until Sunday as a result.

His former colleague said it was "a peculiarly British trait" that he had not been vaccinated, despite "rightly" ensuring other frontline workers were being immunised.

It's worth noting that in the US, several politicians - even very young ones like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - have had the jab.

However, it would not have any bearing on Mr Hancock's freedom.

10:59 AM

Kremlin 'cannot and are not' listening to UK's calls to free Alexei Navalny

The Kremlin has dismissed Western demands to free top opposition politician Alexei Navalny and said his calls to stage mass protests were troubling.

Yesterday Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, and his shadow Lisa Nandy, were among several leading figures to demand his immediate release.

"We hear these statements. We cannot and are not going to take these statements into account," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalist today.

The Kremlin was "troubled" by Mr Navalny's calls to stage "illegal" protests after he was ordered jailed for 30 days on Monday, he added.

In a video posted after an hour-long ad hoc hearing, Mr Navalny told his supporters: "Don't be afraid, take to the streets. Don't go out for me, go out for yourself and your future."

10:51 AM

Analysis: Why the second Covid wave is nothing like the first

On Jan 13, Dr Yvonne Doyle, the medical director at Public Health England (PHE) issued an alarming statement claiming that Britain had reported the highest number of coronavirus deaths on a single day since the pandemic began.

She also alleged that there have now been more deaths in the second wave than the first.

Both these statements were "technically" true. On that day, 1,564 people were added to official mortality figures, the highest number ever, while the 44,198 "second wave" coronavirus deaths passed the 40,563 recorded up to August 31.

Yet dig a little deeper and the narrative that the second wave is more deadly than the first begins to unravel.

Clearly, we are having a deadly second wave, and thousands more people are dying than would be expected ordinarily at this time of year. But it is not the tens of thousands more PHE would have you believe.

10:36 AM

Have your say: Will you follow the rules after being vaccinated?

Matt Hancock's enforced return to quarantine might be a frustration to him but it comes at a helpful time for the Government.

Ministers are looking to hammer home the message that getting the vaccine does not give recipients carte blanche to ignore social distancing and other restrictions, with one expert this morning even warning people off hugging their own children (still).

But with 29 per cent of people saying they will bend the rules after getting the jab, and 11 per cent saying they would go further, post-vaccine compliance is the new issue dominating Whitehall.

So will you carry on following the rules after getting a vaccine? Have your say in the poll below.

10:28 AM

William Hague: Joe Biden's historic challenge is to restate the case for freedom

Even in the best of times, the inaugural address of a president of the United States cannot be an easy one to prepare.

It must contain new material while being based on campaign pledges that are already well-known; excite supporters while holding out reconciliation with opponents; combine determination with readiness to compromise; be addressed to Americans while still being of interest to the rest of the world; and set out specific plans while simultaneously summing up the whole purpose of the new presidency.

Just to make it nearly impossible, all this has to be condensed into no more than 20 minutes because the live audience is outside in the freezing cold.

As William Hague sets out in his column today, we must hope that Joe Biden, who has long experience of American diplomacy and the great reach of its soft power, uses his speech tomorrow to reinforce the idea and inspiration of freedom.

Biden needs it to heal divisions and show that he is not just about wearing masks and introducing more taxes and regulations. - AFP
Biden needs it to heal divisions and show that he is not just about wearing masks and introducing more taxes and regulations. - AFP

10:16 AM

When did Matt Hancock come into contact with a Covid-positive pal?

Matt Hancock is having to self isolate after coming into close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus - but when did that take place?

The timescale is not completely clear but his statement suggests his contact with the individual was on Wednesday or Thursday.

The Health Secretary was alerted by the NHS app on Monday evening, having earlier led a Downing Street press conference alongside Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England's medical director, and Dr SusanHopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace.

Mr Hancock, who was seen playing rugby in a park with his sons this weekend, must quarantine for six days, despite having tested positive for Covid-19 in March.

Matt Hancock and his two sons went to a park across the street from his London home to play rugby - Greg Brennan
Matt Hancock and his two sons went to a park across the street from his London home to play rugby - Greg Brennan

09:59 AM

One in eight people in England had Covid by December: ONS

An estimated one in eight people in England had had Covid-19 by December last year, up from one in 11 in November, new figures show.

Antibody data on infection in private households suggests that one in 10 in Wales had also been infected by December, alongside one in 13 in Northern Ireland and one in 11 in Scotland.

The figures come from the Office for National Statistic's Covid-19 Infection Survey in partnership with the University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Public Health England and Wellcome Trust.

Last week, the Medical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics Unit Covid-19 Working Group at Cambridge University said it believed 30 per cent of the London population was infected, followed by 26 per cent in the North West and 21 per cent in the North East.

This dropped to 13 per cent in the South East and eight per cent in the South West.

09:57 AM

Empty shelves 'nothing to do' with Brexit, claims Northern Ireland Secretary

Brandon Lewis has doubled-down on his claims that the empty shelves seen in Northern Ireland were caused by Covid, saying they have "nothing to do" with Brexit.

The Northern Ireland Secretary insisted that "supermarket supply lines at the moment are in good fettle" and there was no reason for lorries to return empty from Great Britain due to excessive paperwork.

Mr Lewis told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Even on foodstuffs, there's no reason for that to be the case."

He added: "That's actually something we've seen across other parts of the UK as well, nothing to do with leaving the EU, nothing to do with the Northern Irish protocol but actually to do with some of the challenges we saw with Covid at the Port of Dover just before Christmas and the impact that had on supply lines coming through."

He made a similar claim earlier this morning (7:55am).

09:48 AM

Letters: A resounding yes to vaccinating older people faster by working round the clock

For several days before Boris Johnson confirmed a pilot scheme for 24/7 vaccine centres, ministers were downplaying the demand for such a service.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, have repeatedly stressed that round-the-clock vaccinations were not required and would not solve the thorny issue of getting maximum "jabs in arms" by the mid-February target.

The chief problem, they suggested, was that older people would not want to make those late-night journeys, preferring instead the 8am to 8pm option.

However that is not the case, if the Telegraph's inbox is anything to go by.

Mary Heaword, 99, gives the thumbs up after receiving the Covid-19 vaccination in Wembley - PA
Mary Heaword, 99, gives the thumbs up after receiving the Covid-19 vaccination in Wembley - PA

09:33 AM

Fears over patchy vaccine rollout prompts minister to urge focus on 'people at top of list'

A Cabinet minister has urged those involved in the vaccination programme to focus on "people at top of list", amid rising fears about a postcode lottery.

Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, stressed that the "vast majority" of the over-80s and care home residents should be vaccinated before areas move on to lower priority groups.

It comes after his Cabinet colleague Therese Coffey told constituents "something is not quite right" after it emerged that over-70s were being contacted for an appointment ahead of some over-80s and even over-90-year olds.

Mr Lewis told Sky News: "Different local areas will look at their local needs and how they're moving through that and the decisions they make, but we're supplying everybody on an equal basis to ensure that people across the country get the vaccinations in good time.

"We're very clear that the areas should be going through and treating the people and only moving on to the second cohort when the vast majority of the first cohort have been vaccinated."

However it was right to create a "bit of an overlap" in order to avoid a risk of a "gap and a pause" when completing the most vulnerable categories, he said.

09:29 AM

Matt Hancock to self-isolate (again)

Matt Hancock is having to self-isolate, and "not leaving the house at all until Sunday" after being "pinged" by NHS Test & Trace.

The Health Secretary, who has previously caught coronavirus, said staying at home was "perhaps the most important part" of all the social distancing measures.

He urged people in a similar position to "follow these rules, like I am going to".

09:19 AM

Northern Ireland Secretary ducks more questions over UK's death rate

Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis has again insisted it is not possible to make direct international comparisons on death rates after statistics suggested the UK has the worst per capita average.

The Northern Ireland Secretary told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "You can't do a direct comparison of that type with this virus in terms of death rates."

Different countries are at different stages of the outbreak and there is a lag in recording deaths, he added

Earlier today (8:21am), he said such comparisons were "not really appropriate or entirely accurate".

09:15 AM

GP forced to limit vaccine rollout as supply dries up

There is further evidence that the Government's patchy vaccination rollout is causing a postcode lottery as to when people get the jab.

Dr David Holwell, a GP based in West Sussex, told BBC Breakfast that his surgery was being "limited" by supply levels at nearly a tenth of what they had been delivering.

The GP said: "We were doing an average of about 2,000 vaccines a week, then last week we got 300 and this week we will get 800, so it's disappointing.

"We just want to keep on vaccinating, we have got to a great point, we have certainly started to eat into the sub-80s patients.

"But we are limited by the vaccination supply."

09:11 AM

Police 'can't and won't' patrol supermarkets to enforce face mask rules, says Met Police chief

Police officers "can't and won't" patrol supermarkets to ensure people are wearing face masks, the Met Police Commissioner has said, pushing the responsibility for enforcement back onto shopworkers.

Asked about people refusing to wear face masks in shops, Dame Cressida Dick said staff should call police if someone is "very rude or violent".

But she added: "We can't patrol and we won't be patrolling all supermarkets - that will be impossible and not appropriate.

"I think there is a responsibility on stores and store owners and store managers. I don't under-estimate that on occasion it can be a difficult job."

Dame Cressida Dick: "There is a responsibility on stores and store owners and store managers" - Getty
Dame Cressida Dick: "There is a responsibility on stores and store owners and store managers" - Getty

09:08 AM

Call police if neighbours 'persistently' break rules, says Met Police chief

Londoners should call the police if their neighbours "persistently" break Covid-19 rules, Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has said.

She told LBC radio: "The last thing I'm going to say on national radio is everyone should be shopping everybody. I don't think that.

"What I do think is, if you do have concerns that somebody is persistently not complying with the restrictions, with the regulations, then, yeah, you should talk to us.

"If you feel comfortable to do so, then talk to us."

Dame Cressida said the force is receiving "hundreds of calls a day" from concerned people, with fines handed out to those who are "completely reckless", having house parties or keeping a restaurant, pub or cafe open.

09:06 AM

Wales' health minister insists 'we're not holding any vaccine back'

Wales's health minister has insisted there is an "increasing urgency and an increasing pace of delivery" of vaccinations in the country.

Yesterday the government came under fire for its "truly bewildering" policy of delaying the coronavirus vaccine rollout, with the British Medical Association (BMA) and Number 10 leading the criticism.

Vaughan Gething told BBC 5 Live: "The First Minister [Mark Drakeford] clarified those comments and made it clear that we're not holding any vaccine back. Our challenge has always been having enough infrastructure to deliver the Pfizer jab without wasting it.

"On wastage rates in Wales, we've got a really good story to tell. Less than one per cent of that vaccine is not being delivered, that's a very, very high level of efficiency.

"So we're able to roll out the vaccine in a way that we can deliver more and more of it. This week, we'll deliver even more of our Pfizer vaccine than last week.

"Of course, every UK nation has stocks of the Pfizer vaccine that they're keeping in freezer facilities because we all received the last delivery of Pfizer about a month ago, so we're all working through that as quickly as we can."

08:29 AM

Boris Johnson unveils £23m compensation for fishing's Brexit woes

Boris Johnson has unveiled a £23 million fund to compensate the fishing industry for losses caused by Brexit red tape as Scottish seafood hauliers descended on Downing Street to protest.

The Prime Minister confirmed that any business experiencing difficulty exporting to the EU "through no fault of their own" would be compensated.

However, he insisted the pandemic was responsible for some of the losses, citing reduced demand for Scottish seafood from restaurants on the Continent that have been forced to shut.

His announcement came as more than 20 lorries drove up Whitehall, the majority from seafood exporters in Scotland, complaining they were being "tied in knots with paperwork" by the Brexit fishing deal.

08:27 AM

An 'overlap' in vaccinations is better than 'pausing' between cohorts, says minister

An "overlap" in which younger people are vaccinated before older groups have been completed is better than the alternative, Brandon Lewis has said.

Following concerns about a number of 80 and 90-year-olds not getting appointments before those in their 70s, the Northern Ireland Secretary stressed that those involved in the programme "should be getting through the majority of the first cohort before they move on to the second cohort, but there will be an overlap".

He told LBC: "The reality is as you're moving through these, as you start to bring the second cohort in, there will be a bit of an overlap, so while they're still finishing cohort one some people from the second cohort will be having their vaccines and being contacted.

"That's understandable because the other alternative is you get through cohort one and you pause before you can start getting cohort two in and that would be wrong."

He added: "In order to keep things flowing and moving we will see some overlap, but areas should be getting through the majority of cohort one before they start moving to cohort two."

08:21 AM

'Not appropriate to compare': Britain tops world for per capita Covid deaths

A Cabinet minister has stressed it is "not really appropriate or entirely accurate to compare" figures across the world, after it emerged that Britain has the worst per capita daily coronavirus death rate.

The figures, collated by an Oxford University research platform, showed an average of 935 daily deaths over the last week - the equivalent of more than 16 people in every million dying each day with Covid.

The UK overtook the Czech Republic, which had the highest death rate on January 11 at 16.3.

But Brandon Lewis told Sky News this was not comparing apples with apples because "we are at different points in the cycle".

He added: "We are not through this virus and every single death… is one to many. It is an utter tragedy, something none of us want to see.

"It’s why it is so important we follow those restrictions that are in place. We have a view of the end - but we are still in early January. We need to hold our nerve and follow the guidelines."

08:17 AM

Don't hug your family after the jab, warns expert

People have been told not to hug their children after getting the vaccine, as an expert stresses the importance of "staying on their guard" for the time being.

Professor Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it took "several weeks" before the jab resulted in immunisation.

She added: "It's really important that people stay on their guard even if they've had that first vaccination. If people do relax what they're doing then it reduces the benefits of the vaccination."

Responding to the Telegraph's article this morning, Prof Lord continued: "That's the worrying thing about the idea of a [Covid immunity] passport.

"People might think it's a passport to freedom and even those who haven't been vaccinated will see those changing their behaviours and think, 'Well why should I bother if no one else is either?'

"That's the real worry we've got at the moment."

08:11 AM

Too early to say when lockdown will be lifted, says Northern Ireland Secretary

The Northern Ireland Secretary has said it is "too early" to outline how the national lockdown will be eased in England.

Brandon Lewis told BBC Breakfast: "I'm afraid it's still a bit early to outline that at the moment. The Prime Minister said when we put these restrictions in place that we'd have a review point in mid-February, we're still some weeks away even from that review point.

"I think we've got to wait until we get to that point and see where we're at, see how the vaccine programme is rolling out, see how the restrictions have worked and then we can look at what the next steps are.

"But whether that's in February or whether we move forward in March it's just too early now in relatively early January to give an outline to that."

Brandon Lewis walks from Downing Street  - Julian Simmonds
Brandon Lewis walks from Downing Street - Julian Simmonds

08:08 AM

Minister defends messaging over when lockdown will end

A Cabinet minister has defended the vague and contradictory messaging around when restrictions will be lifted - but gave no indication of when that might be.

Last week Matt Hancock rejected suggestions restrictions could be lifted from March 8 - a date that backbenchers have identified as coming a suitable period of time after the mid-February vaccination target.

However Dominic Raab subsequently indicated early March could see a relaxation of measures, while Boris Johnson has repeatedly highlighted the mid-February review as a possible moment of change.

While he confirmed the review is due to take place in mid-February, Brandon Lewis stressed it is "dangerous to get too far ahead of ourselves".

He told Sky News: "We have got this review point in mid-February. We could be in a very different place by early March, but we are still in early January...

"Right now in early January I can’t say what the situation will be in three, four, let alone six, eight weeks."

08:05 AM

Government to 'build up communication' over post-vaccine compliance

The Government is mulling a new campaign to encourage those who have had the vaccine to continue following the rules, Brandon Lewis has suggested.

His comments come after the Telegraph revealed this morning that scientists are concerned that those who receive jabs are likely to relax their attitude towards social distancing and lockdown rules. Sage estimates that 29 per cent of people will adhere to restrictions less strictly once they have had a vaccine, while 11 per cent will "probably no longer follow the rules".

Asked about this, the Northern Ireland Secretary told Sky News: "We will be making sure we build up that programme of communication - once you have the jab you still have to follow restrictions"

07:55 AM

Empty shelves in Northern Ireland due to Covid, not Brexit, claims minister

Empty shelves in Northern Ireland are due to coronavirus issues and not because of Brexit, a Cabinet minister has insisted.

Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, told Sky News: "The flow of food and goods linked to the EU and the Northern Ireland Protocol has been good actually.

"Where we've seen some images of empty shelves in Northern Ireland - although let's be clear we've seen them across the UK recently - has been linked to Covid and some of the challenges we've had at Dover due to Covid just before Christmas and the flow through the supply line of that rather than through the protocol.

"Supermarkets we've been talking to regularly have good flows of supply and that's important to Northern Ireland, being an integral part of the United Kingdom."

Yesterday Boris Johnson blamed the fishing industry's woes on restaurants on the continent being shut because of Covid.

Empty shelves in Northern Ireland on 14 January caused by pre-Christmas Covid chaos, minister claims - Getty
Empty shelves in Northern Ireland on 14 January caused by pre-Christmas Covid chaos, minister claims - Getty

07:39 AM

Sturgeon under pressure over 400,000 unused vaccine doses

Nicola Sturgeon is facing mounting anger over Scotland's slow vaccine roll-out after it emerged her government has more than 400,000 unused doses and England's deployment was almost twice as fast last weekend.

The First Minister on Monday disclosed that 264,991 people north of the Border have been given their first dose but The Telegraph understands her government has now been handed more than 700,000 doses from the UK's supplies.

A daily average of 13,383 Scots were vaccinated with their first dose between Friday and Sunday, but this represented a drop on the average of around 16,000 recorded in previous days.

A yawning gap started to open up with England, where 750,892 people were vaccinated for the first time over the same period, meaning its roll-out was almost twice as fast taking into account its larger population size.