Matt Hancock says ‘end in sight’ for coronavirus restrictions
Boris Johnson is expected to approve plans to force some travellers arriving to the UK to quarantine in hotels to limit the spread of new coronavirus variants.
The prime minister will discuss the proposals with senior ministers on Tuesday before a final decision is made at a meeting of the Covid-O meeting.
Various options are said to be on the table, but Whitehall sources suggested ministers may opt for a more limited system after aviation leaders warned introducing tougher border rules would be “catastrophic” for the industry.
The officials said a less sweeping option would apply only to British residents returning from countries with more contagious variants – such as Brazil, South Africa and Portugal.
It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock warned the NHS is “stretched to the limit” as the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care and on ventilation has reached the highest level of the pandemic so far.
AstraZeneca says claims Oxford vaccine is less effective among elderly are ‘completely incorrect’
Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has said German media reports about its coronavirus vaccine being less effective among the over 65s are “completely incorrect”.
The denial came in response to two articles published in the German papers Handelsblatt and Bild, which both suggested the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab has an efficacy of less than 10 per cent for the elderly.
In the latest development, the German health ministry today said the claims made in the papers were unfounded, according to Politico.
Rory Sullivan has the full story:
Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 10:28
Couple fined for 130-mile round trip in search of Sunday roast
A couple were handed fixed penalty notices (FPN) after they made a 130-mile trip to York from Derbyshire in search of a roast dinner.
According to North Yorkshire Police, the couple told officers that one of their mothers was going to cook them lunch on Sunday, but had “let them down”.
So the pair, in their 20s, decided to drive to York in search of a takeaway roast instead.
Kate Ng has more on this story below:
Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 10:11
Germany backs EU export restrictions on vaccine after supply cuts
Germany’s health minister has come out in support of European Union proposals to introduce restrictions on Covid vaccines as tensions grow with AstraZeneca and Pfizer over sudden supply cuts just a month after the bloc started vaccinating citizens.
“I can understand that there are production problems but then it must affect everyone in the same way,” health minister Jens Spahn told ZDF television.
“This is not about Europe first but about Europe’s fair share,” he said, adding it therefore made sense to have export limits on vaccines.”
AstraZeneca told the 27-country EU it could not meet supply targets for its vaccine up to the end of March – a further blow to the bloc’s pandemic efforts after Pfizer announced a temporary slowdown in supplies in January.
Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 09:58
Four in 10 deaths registered in week ending 15 January involved Covid
Coronavirus accounted for four in 10 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 15 January – the highest proportion recorded during the pandemic, figures show.
A total of 7,245 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 15 January mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is up from 6,057 deaths in the week to 8 January and is the highest weekly figure since the week ending 24 April.
More than a third (40.2 per cent) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to 15 January mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate – the highest proportion recorded since the pandemic began.
Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 09:51
Don’t book holidays yet, minister warns
A government minister has warned British travellers not to book summer holidays.
Asked on Sky News if it was too soon for the public to book holidays, vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi responded: “Absolutely. I think it’s far too early.”
Travel correspondent Simon Calder has more details:
Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 09:42
Hotel sites will be needed ‘across the UK’ to quarantine 15,000 travellers arriving each day
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told PA news agency around 15,000 travellers are arriving in the UK every day.
He said putting all of them in hotels to quarantine would require using sites “across the UK”.
He went on: “They don’t all have to be hotels by airports.
“Obviously they’ve got to make sure that those transfers are secure, and it will be logistically tough, but the airports are very used to dealing with coaching people to hotels in crises or times of bad weather etc.”
Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 09:29
UK ‘may need to go further’ with hotel quarantine plans, says Jeremy Hunt
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said hotel quarantining proposals might need to go further than applying only to those arriving from countries where new variants of Covid-19 have been discovered, such as Brazil and South Africa.
Asked whether only applying the measure to new variant nations would be sufficient, the chairman of the Commons Health Committee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we may need to go further.”
Pressed on whether his comment meant he supported a universal approach to quarantining international arrivals, Mr Hunt added: “I think it is a big logistical exercise to do that and it is not going to be possible to do it overnight anyway.
“But I think the real question is buying us enough time, and we don’t know which countries these variants are arising in. We have much better genomic sequencing in this country than in most other countries – in fact, any other country – so we are better at tracing these things than other places.
“But I think we just have to be very cautious, because if we can get this vaccine distribution up to sufficient levels, we can really cut down the transmission in this country and transform the battle against the virus.
“If we do have to go further, I hope it would only have to be for a temporary period.”
Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 09:09
‘Absolute chaos’ likely if hotel quarantine applies to all arrivals, warns Tory MP
A leading Tory MP has warned of “absolute chaos” were the hotel quarantine policy to apply to all travellers arriving in the UK rather than only those from high-risk areas.
Huw Merriman, who is chair of the Transport Select Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight programme: “We can cause absolute chaos if we put this across the entire globe.
Travel correspondent Simon Calder explains more in this piece:
Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 09:00
Best Western could offer ‘considerably reduced’ prices for quarantining travellers
Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western hotels group, said travellers returning to the UK could expect to pay “considerably reduced” prices for a stay in one of the group’s hotels for their quarantine period – although he did not give a figure.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Naturally, we’d much rather be open and trading at our normal levels, but what we’re doing at the moment is just about covering costs.
“Most hoteliers across the entire country are losing thousands and thousands of pounds every month, so a contract just to stem the losses would be a welcome contract for our hotel, and we stand ready to support the government on that.”
Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 08:52
‘Too early’ to say whether summer holidays will go ahead
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said it is “too early” to know if summer holidays will go ahead.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I would say it is too early to begin to speculate on summer holidays.
“I think the right thing to do now is to continue with our vaccination drive. I think on Saturday we got to half a million first dose jabs in a single day – we continue to make great progress.”
He told Sky News: “At the moment we have reached Base Camp, if I could describe it as that – over 6.5 million people now with the first dose. There is a long way to go.”
‘Too early’ to think about holidays, says vaccine minister
Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 08:45