UK coronavirus live: Children to go back to school on March 8 as over 65s set to receive jabs from Monday

Boris Johnson is expected to announce the measure this week along with the very slight relaxation of rules for adults, The Times reports. Two people from different households meeting outside may be able to sit on a park bench or have a picnic next month. This is a change from the current rules which state people can only meet for exercise while standing up.

Mr Johnson’s expected announcement goes against the advice of some scientists who have urged a more cautious approach. It comes as over 65s are set to be offered a coronavirus vaccine from Monday as the rollout enters a new phase.

Key Points

  • All schoolchildren are expected to return to the classroom on March 8 after months of home-learning.
  • Over 65s will be offered a coronavirus vaccine from Monday as the rollout enters a new phase.

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All restrictions must be lifted by end of April, Boris Johnson told

Lockdown-sceptic Tories have piled pressure on Boris Johnson, calling on him to commit to a timetable for lifting coronavirus restrictions with a complete end to controls by the end of April. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the leaders of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) said the “tremendous pace” of the vaccination rollout meant restrictions in England should begin easing from early March.

They said ministers must produce a cost-benefit analysis to justify any controls that remain in place after that date, with a “road-map” stating when they would be removed. The letter was organised by the CRG chair and deputy chair, Mark Harper and Steve Baker, and was said to have the backing of 63 Conservative MPs in all.

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Vaccine: 1.2 million letters sent to the next group of clinically vulnerable and 65-69 year olds

NHS England has begun sending out letters to 1.2 million of the next group of clinically vulnerable and the 65 to 69 year-olds inviting them to book an appointment as the next phase of the vaccine rollout begins. Almost 1.2 million letters were due to land on doorsteps by yesterday (Saturday) asking people to log on to the national booking service with another 1.2 million due to arrive this week.

Those who receive a letter can choose from more than 100 large scale vaccination centres or almost 200 pharmacy services. Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive said: “After a strong start the NHS vaccination programme, the biggest and fastest in Europe, is entering a new phase tomorrow. “Thanks to the hard work of staff the NHS has protected more than 12 million of the most vulnerable people against Covid people in a matter of weeks.

“This is an exciting moment as we now move on to those aged 65 and over and the clinically vulnerable as part of our plan to vaccinate as many people as possible who can benefit from it. “However, if you have already been offered a jab but have not taken it up it is not too late. Please come forward and help us to help you.”

Vaccines are currently being administered at over 1,500 sites across the country including mosques and museums to rugby grounds and cathedrals.

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Boris Johnson ‘optimistic’ about plans to ease lockdown rules

During a visit to a vaccine manufacturing facility in Teesside on Saturday, Boris Johnson said he was “optimistic” he could announce plans for a “cautious” easing of the rules when he sets out his “road-map” out of lockdown on February 22. However, he said ministers would have to look at the data “very, very hard” before making any decisions as they did not want to be forced into a “reverse ferret” if the disease started to spread again. In contrast, in a letter sent by the Covid Recovery Group (CRG)  to Mr Johnson, they said the Government’s “national priority” of re-opening schools in England by March 8 “must” be achieved.

By Easter, they said pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues should be able to open in a way that is Covid-secure but still allows them to operate “in a commercially viable manner”. And by the end of April – when all the Government’s top nine priority groups, including all over 50s, should have been offered a vaccine, they say there will be “no justification” for any legislative restrictions to remain. “Covid is a serious disease and we must control it.

However, just like Covid, lockdowns and restrictions cause immense social and health damage and have a huge impact on people’s livelihoods,” the letter said. “The vaccine gives us immunity from Covid but it must also give us permanent immunity from Covid-related lockdowns and restrictions.” The letter points out that by March 8 the Government’s top four priority groups -which account for 88% of deaths and 55% of hospitalisations – will have had their first dose of the vaccine at least three weeks earlier allowing time for protection to kick in.

“All restrictions remaining after March 8 should be proportionate to the ever-increasing number of people we have protected,” it says. “The burden is on ministers to demonstrate the evidence of effectiveness and proportionality with a cost-benefit analysis for each restriction, and a roadmap for when they will be removed.” Downing Street refused to be drawn on reports suggesting that restrictions on meeting friends in a park could be among the first to be lifted once schools are back.

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Tony Blair reiterates calls for a global coronavirus vaccine passport scheme

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair reiterated his calls for a global coronavirus vaccine passport scheme, saying that we should “plan for an agreed passport now.”

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Blair said: “I have looked at this from every angle and come to this conclusion: there is no prospect of a return to anything like normal without enabling people to show their Covid status, whether that means they have been vaccinated or recently tested. “We have the technology which allows us to do this securely and effectively. The need is obvious.

The world is moving in this direction. We should plan for an agreed ‘passport’ now. The arguments against it really don’t add up.”

“We need a system of verification that is simple, for example a QR code shown on a mobile. Or a valid paper certificate – one that minimises the possibility of fraud. We need something which is easily checked against an agreed set of standards.”

Mr Blair added that proof of vaccination is not ‘completely new’ and neither is it meant to be discriminatory. “This is not about discrimination, or hostility towards those not vaccinated or tested. It is a completely understandable desire to know whether those we mix with might be carrying the disease.

“It is not as if proof of vaccination is completely new. Many countries already require travellers to show such proof for yellow fever and other diseases.” He added that the government will have to lead on this and it should not be left to GPs to issue certificates as they “already have quite enough on their plate.”

It comes as tech companies iProov and Mvine have received a GBP75,000 investment from Innovate UK for a system which would enable people administering a vaccine to create a certificate on the cloud, according to The Times. The recipient of the vaccine would upload a picture of themselves to the certificate, which would then be used as verification that they had been vaccinated. In a press release last month, iProov said they aim to complete two trials by 31 March 2021, giving “Directors of Public Health across the country the confidence to deploy the passport at scale to benefit their local areas. ”

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New Zealand city going into 3-day lockdown

New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, will go into a three-day lockdown beginning just before midnight on Sunday following the discovery of three coronavirus cases in the community, AP reports.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the news after a meeting with other top lawmakers in the Cabinet. She said they decided to take a ‘cautious’ approach until they find out more about the unexplained covid-19 cases, including whether the infections are of the more contagious variants. The lockdown is the first in New Zealand in six months. “I’m asking New Zealanders to continue to be strong and to be kind,” Ardern said at a press conference. “I know we all feel the same way when this happens.

We all get that sense of ‘Not again.’ But remember, we have been here before and that means we know how to get out of this again, and that is together.” With a population of 5 million, New Zealand has reported a total of just over 2,300 cases and 25 deaths since the pandemic started.

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Japan approves Pfizer vaccine

Japan’s Health Ministry says it has approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for use, reports Reuters

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Russia reports 14,185 new COVID-19 cases, 430 deaths in past 24 hours

Russia reported 14,185 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, including 1,559 in Moscow, taking the national infection tally to 4,071,883 since the pandemic began, Reuters reports. Authorities said 430 people had died of the disease in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 80,126.

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Dominic Raab ‘confident’ Government will meet 15 million vaccine target

Dominic Raab says he’s ‘confident’ the Government will meet the target to vaccinate 15 million people across the top four priority groups by tomorrow.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson set the February 15 deadline back in December, and latest figures showed the number of vaccines given nearing the 15 million target, with official numbers expected later today. Mr Raab told Sky News: “there’s been huge progress made and we’re confident we’re on track to do so. We will get the final data later on today and tomorrow and it’ll be a really important milestone.”

“That’s the top four priority groups offered the first dose and its the first milestone towards the wider plan to get 99 per cent of those at risk of dying vaccinated with the first dose by the end of April and every adult offered a first dose by the autumn.” He added that it’s only the first step and it’s going well but ‘we’ve got to keep it up’

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Foreign secretary on the opening of all schools on March 8: ‘We will need to wait’

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said ‘we will need to wait’ in relation to the question of all schools re-opening on March 8. The Sunday Times reports today that the prime minister, Boris Johnson, will announce next week that schoolchildren in England will return to the classroom on March 8 under plans to start lifting the lockdown.

While Mr Raab said the aim remains to get schools reopened on March 8, whether it is some schools or all schools depends on the evaluation of the data the Government has received.

He added that the Prime Minister will provide more insight on February 22.

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