Coronavirus UK news – Boris Johnson insists schools reopen as 530k Oxford Covid vaccine doses ready for Monday rollout

PRIME Minister Boris Johnson has said schools are safe and should reopen.

Johnson told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “What we are doing, clearly, is grappling with a new variant of coronavirus which is surging particularly in London and the South East.

“And that is why we have had to take exceptional measures.”

Boris Johnson said: “there is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe”.

Johnson also told the Andrew Marr show there will be 530,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at around 540 GP vaccination sites and around 101 hospital sites on Monday, “on top of the million or so that have already been vaccinated”.

“There are a few millions more Pfizer (vaccines) still to be used,” he added.

Follow the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis in our live blog below.

  • Jon Rogers

    SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT TO DISCUSS FURTHER COVID MEASURES

    The Scottish Government is to meet on Monday after concerns were raised by how rapidly the new strain of Covid-19 is spreading.

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed she would be recalling Parliament on Monday afternoon, to discuss further measures due to "a rapid increase in Covid cases" causing "very serious concerns".

    The Cabinet is expected to be recalled on Monday morning to discuss any additional measures that may be required to stop the spread of coronavirus.

    In a series of tweets, Ms Sturgeon said: "The rapid increase in Covid cases, driven by the new variant, is of very serious concern.

    "The steep increases and severe NHS pressure being experienced in other parts of the UK is a sign of what may lie ahead. So we must take all steps to slow spread while vaccination progresses.

    "We, like other countries, are in a race between this faster spreading strain of Covid and the vaccination programme.

    "As we work to vaccinate as quickly as possible, we must also do more to slow down the virus – to save lives and help the NHS care for all those who need it."

  • Jon Rogers

    UK SHOULD AIM FOR 5M VACCINATIONS A WEEK – BLAIR

    Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said Britain should be aiming to vaccinate 5milion people a week.

    He told Times Radio:

    "Because of this new variant, we need to change our strategy completely in my view.

    "And the paper we published today shows how we can get up to three million, I think we could get up to three million a week by the end of January, provided that the vaccines are available, and they should be.

    "Not only Pfizer and AstraZeneca but possibly with the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well coming on stream.

    "We should be aiming to get up to three, four, five million a week."

  • Jon Rogers

    KIDS ARE 7 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO SPREAD COVID

    Sage adviser Professor Mark Walport said: "It's transmitted more readily in younger age groups as well. It is going to be very difficult to keep it under control without much tighter social restrictions.

    "We know that a person between 12 and 16 is seven times more likely than others in a household to bring the infection into a household."

    Read more here.

  • Jon Rogers

    TEACHERS SHOULD BE A 'VACCINATION PRIORITY'

    Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, called for teachers to be vaccinated "as a priority", as she said that any school closure should be for "the absolute minimum of time and that time must be used very well".

    She told BBC News Channel: "Schools need to be a priority for children, not only for their education but also for their wellbeing.

    "Schools should be the last to close and the first to open, so it is a serious moment for children.

    "If there have to be closures, we have already seen closures in secondary schools for two weeks, but if there have to be any closures at all it must be for the absolute minimum of time and that time must be used very well.

    "I would like teachers to be offered vaccination as a priority. That is something we haven't heard yet from Government, but it is something that I think is very, very necessary."

  • Jon Rogers

    CIRCUIT-BREAKERS PROVIDE 'TEMPORARY RESPITE'

    Boris Johnson said that circuit-breakers "buy you some temporary respite" from the spread of Covid-19.

    He told the Andrew Marr Show: "If you want to stop coronavirus spreading, then of course it's open to you or to any government to close down the entire economy for the duration.

    "If you look at all these examples of firebreaks or circuit-breakers, all they do is buy you some temporary respite."

  • Jon Rogers

    'LOTS OF REASONS TO BE POSITIVE'

    Boris Johnson said there are "lots of reasons" to be positive about an "otherwise grim new year".

    Asked by the BBC's Andrew Marr if he would carry on as Prime Minister now that the Brexit transition was complete, he said: "Yes."

    Mr Johnson added: "I think you should break out of your characteristic gloom, if I may say so Andrew.

    "Things are very tough, we're going through a very tough period as a country, but I really think people should focus on the amazing fact this country has created a room-temperature vaccine which can be used around the world.

    "And we now have freedoms that we haven't had for 50 years and there are lots of reasons to be very positive about this otherwise grim new year."

  • Jon Rogers

    RESTRICTIONS LIKELY TO GET TOUGHER

    Johnson signalled current anti-Covid measures were likely to get tougher.

    He said: "What we are doing now is using the tiering system, which is a very tough system… and, alas, probably about to get tougher to keep things under control.

    "But, we will review it."

    He added: "And we have the prospect of vaccines coming down the track in their tens of millions.

    "And that, I think, is something that should keep people going in what I predicted, back on your show in in October, will be a very bumpy period right now.

    "It is bumpy and it's going to be bumpy."

  • Jon Rogers

    TOUGHER RESTRICTIONS NEEDED – SAGE ADVISOR

    Sage adviser Sir Mark Walport has warned it was "pretty clear" tougher measures were needed to get the coronavirus under control.

    Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Sir Mark said the focus in the UK should be about “breaking essentially every possible route of transmission we possibly can”. 

  • Jon Rogers

    530,000 COVID VACCINE DOSES READY ON MONDAY

    Boris Johnson told the Andrew Marr show there will be 530,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at around 540 GP vaccination sites and around 101 hospital sites on Monday, "on top of the million or so that have already been vaccinated".

    "There are a few millions more Pfizer (vaccines) still to be used," he added.

    "We are rolling them out as fast as we can. And the issue is not so much one of distribution, and I saw some of your earlier guests sort of saying 'well you know we haven't got enough retired doctors to help administer (them)'."

    Asked about reports of potential volunteers being deterred by additional training and forms about "deradicalisation measures" and "fire drills", Mr Johnson said: "I think it's absurd and I know that the Health Secretary is taking steps to get rid of that pointless bureaucracy."

  • Jon Rogers

    GOVT ASSESSING IF SCHOOLS CAN RE-OPEN ON 18TH

    Asked whether he could guarantee schools will open on January 18, Boris Johnson told the Andrew Marr show: "Well, obviously, we're going to continue to assess the impact of the Tier 4 measures, the Tier 3 measures."

    On whether GCSE and A-Level exams should be cancelled, the Prime Minister said: "We've got to be realistic, we've got to be realistic about the pace of which this new variant has spread… we've got to be realistic about the impact that it's having on our NHS… and we've got to be humble in the face of this virus."

    Mr Johnson indicated tougher restrictions may be introduced, saying: "It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country.

    "I'm fully, fully reconciled to that."

    He added: "There are obviously a range of tougher measures that that we would have to consider… I'm not going to speculate now about what they would be, but I'm sure that all our viewers and our listeners will understand what the sort of things… clearly school closures, which we had to do in March is one of those things."

  • Jon Rogers

    BRITS FACE 'DIFFICULT FEW WEEKS AND MONTHS'

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned Brits they face a "difficult few weeks" until the vaccine becomes fully available.

    He told the BBC: "My message to such councils is that they should be guided by the public health advice, which at the moment is that schools are safe in those areas where we're not being driven by the new variant to close them.

    "That the priority has got to be children's education but obviously we want to work with them. I mean we've got to be humble in the face of the impact of this new variant of the virus.

    "Let's face it, we face a very difficult few weeks and months until the vaccine comes on-stream."

  • Jon Rogers

    UK TO TARGET TENS OF MILLIONS OF VACCINES IN NEXT THREE MONTHS

     Britain will have 530,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine ready to administer on Monday and hopes to provide "tens of millions" of vaccinations over the next three months, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today.

    "We do hope that… we'll be able to do tens of millions in the course of the next three months," he told the BBC.

  • Jon Rogers

    SCHOOLS UNDER CONSTANT REVIEW – JOHNSON

    Asked if primary schools would be closed if the situation did not improve in Tier 4 areas, Mr Johnson said: "We have got to keep things under constant review."

  • Jon Rogers

    JOHNSON: LATERAL FLOW TESTS WILL HELP SCHOOLS RETURN TO NORMAL

    Boris Johnson said he hopes lateral flow tests will help with the return of schools.

    He said: "We're going to work with local authorities, work with schools and those responsible up and down the country.

    "Our advice remains the same, which is that for public health reasons we think in the large majority of the country, large parts of the country, it is sensible to continue to keep schools open, primary schools, as you know secondary schools coming back a bit later.

    "And the second thing is that we are going to be ramping up testing across the whole of the system and I don't think people have focused enough on this, if I may just for a second.

    "One of the things we didn't have when we went into the first lockdown, where we sadly did have to close schools, was we didn't have this huge number of lateral flow tests.

    "We now have hundreds of millions of lateral flow tests which I believe and hope can be used, deployed, particularly in secondary schools to assist the return of schools."

  • Jon Rogers

    COVID RISK TO KIDS 'VERY, VERY SMALL' SAYS JOHNSON

    Mr Johnson said: "We have really fought very hard throughout this pandemic across the country to keep schools open for lots of reasons.

    "Schools are safe. It is very, very important to stress that.

    "The risk to kids, to young people is really very, very small indeed.

    "The risk to staff is very small.

    "I would advise all parents thinking about want to do, look at where your area is, overwhelmingly you'll be in a part of the country where primary schools tomorrow will be open."

  • Jon Rogers

    LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS COULD BE TIGHTENED FURTHER

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the Covid lockdown restrictions could be tightened further.

    Speaking on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show he warned the government might need to consider tightening lockdown restrictions, but declined to give examples of what that might look like. 

  • Jon Rogers

    'SCHOOLS ARE SAFE' – JOHNSON

    Parents should send their children to primary schools that are open in England on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

    Johnson told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show: "Yes, absolutely they should in areas where schools are open.

    "What we are doing, clearly, is grappling with a new variant of coronavirus which is surging particularly in London and the South East.

    "And that is why we have had to take exceptional measures."

    Boris Johnson said "there is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe".

  • Jon Rogers

    SHADOW CULTURE SECRETARY ADMITTED TO HOSPITAL WITH COVID

    Labour MP Jo Stevens has been rushed to hospital suffering with coronavirus.

    The shadow culture secretary, 54, is being treated by medics after falling ill, aides have announced.

    A tweet posted on the politician's account said: "From #TeamJoStevens – Jo has asked us to let you know that she is being treated in hospital for Covid.

    "Thanks for all your good wishes. We will give an update when we can."

  • Jon Rogers

    MANCHESTER MAYOR WARNS OF SCHOOL 'CHAOS'

    The mayor of Manchester has warned schools could be plunged into "chaos" next week due to the government's Covid policy for schools.

    Andy Burnham said: "It will be quite a chaotic situation tomorrow I think given all of the anxieties that people have.

    "I think there are two options in front of the government. One is to give the decision making to councils working with local schools so that decisions can be made on the reality of what's happening in different communities.

    "The other would be to put primary schools and special schools on the same path as secondaries and that would be a slightly delayed opening."

    He added: "What I would say to the Prime Minister… is it has to be one of those options.

    "Local flexibility or a delay to the opening because I think just to plough ahead would cause quite a lot of anxiety amongst people today."

     

  • Jon Rogers

    DON'T FURLOUGH KIDS FOR MONTHS – OFSTED CHIEF

    England's chief schools inspector says kids can't be "furloughed" for months on end as teaching unions lock horns with ministers over restarting lessons after the Christmas break.

    Children are meant to return to class from Monday, but unions are trying to force schools to stay shut – and Sage experts say pupils might not fully return to lessons until February as the mutant Covid strain spreads across the UK.

    Ofsted's chief inspector warned today that youngsters are being failed by yet more closures following the lockdown in spring.

    Amanda Spielman said kids' time outside of class should be kept to the "absolute minimum" as militant unions join forces to keep schools shut.

    Read more here.

  • Jon Rogers

    MAN CITY STAR BROKE COVID RULES WITH NEW YEAR PARTY

    Man City ace Benjamin Mendy hosted a party at his home on New Year’s Eve — just as five teammates were struck down with Covid.

    The star admitted he may have breached rules as pals outside his household attended the bash, which came three days after Covid cases at his club forced their game against Everton to be called off.

    Mendy last night apologised for breaking the Covid rules.

    Mendy said he, his girlfriend, his niece and nephew — who all live with him — attended the bash.

    But he admitted his girlfriend’s pal and her partner were also there, along with a chef. During the party, Mendy tweeted a ­message at 11.23pm urging people to take ­caution. It read: “Happy New Year. Take care of you and yours.”

    Read the full exclusive here.

  • Jon Rogers

    GIVING COVID JABS 12 WEEKS APART WILL 'SAVE MANY LIVES'

    The scientist in charge of the UK's Covid vaccine programme has insisted the change in time between doses is "the way we save lives".

    Professor Jonathan Van-Tam defended the new 12-week wait between jabs, saying it will protect the vulnerable people most at risk from the killer virus.

    He spoke amid the controversy after the delay between vaccine doses was changed from three weeks to 12.

    The scientist, who appears often with the Prime Minister in briefings, told the Mail on Sunday: "Simply put, every time we vaccinate someone a second time, we are not vaccinating someone else for the first time.

    "It means we are missing an opportunity to greatly reduce the chances of the most vulnerable people getting severely ill from Covid-19."

    Read more here.

  • Jon Rogers

    RECORD LEVELS OF COVID CASES SET TO RISE HIGHER – DOC WARNS

    The record levels of coronavirus cases seen this week are "mild" compared with where they are expected to be next week, a top doctor has said.

    Yesterday saw the UK record its largest daily jump in cases since the start of the pandemic, with 57,725 positive tests reported.

    It was the fifth day in a row that the figure had topped 50,000 and brought the total number of positive tests in Britain to 2,599,789.

    Speaking to the BBC, Professor Andrew Goddard, of the Royal College of Physicians, said the current case count was "mild" compared with where it will likely be next week.

    "There's no doubt that Christmas is going to have a big impact," he said.

    "It seems very likely that we are going to see more and more cases, wherever people work in the UK, and we need to be prepared for that."

  • Catriona Graffius

    JET SKI ROMEO FELT LIKE 'CRAPPY JAMES BOND' AS HE GOT LOST ON TERROR RIDE ACROSS IRISH SEA – BUT SAYS 'I DID IT FOR LOVE'

    A jet ski Romeo caged for crossing the Irish Sea to meet his girlfriend on the Isle of Man says he felt like a "crappy James Bond" as he was battered by huge waves.

    Roofer Dale McLaughlan, 28, made the treacherous 4.5-hour trip from Irvine, Scotland to the island earlier this month to see girlfriend Jessica Radcliffe.

    The pair had met just weeks earlier – but smitten Dale forked out £5,500 for a jet ski so he could travel the 27 miles between them.

    Dale told the Sunday Mirror he'd been "crazy" to undertake the whopping trip.

    He said: “As soon as I hit open water I thought ‘Oh my God’. It was like getting a kick in the teeth. It was terrible. It wasn’t fun. I followed the GPS, but after half an hour a massive wave wiped it away. I didn’t have a clue where I was going.”

     

  • Catriona Graffius

    WHEN IS THE NEXT TIER 4 REVIEW

    A review of the Tier 4 measure is expected to take place on January 13 – two weeks after the last review on December 30.

    It's not guaranteed that the affected regions will exit Tier 4 on the review date.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock reviewed the tiered system on December 16 and changes were limited.

    He also reviewed the system on December 23, placing large swathes of the South of England under the toughest restrictions from Boxing Day, December 26.

    And the review on December 30 was even more far-reaching – putting the majority of the country into effective lockdown.

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