NHS to face ‘worst weeks of pandemic’, Whitty warns

Ministers are said to be discussing tighter lockdown rules to stop people meeting outdoors and to make mask-wearing in shops a legal requirement.

The current lockdown restrictions in England could be brought closer to those applied during the first national shutdown in March, according to reports.

The proposals for tougher measures include removing the exception that allows two people from different households to exercise together outdoors, while mask-wearing could be enforced more widely, including in offices and queues.

During a visit to a vaccine centre at  Ashton Gate stadium, in Bristol, on Monday Boris Johnson told reporters that about two million people had so far been vaccinated with around 2.4 million jabs across the UK.

On Monday, seven mass vaccination sites – capable of delivering thousands of Covid-19 jabs each week – opened across England.

England’s chief medical officer has warned the coming weeks are going “to be the worst weeks” of the coronavirus pandemic for the NHS.

Professor Chris Whitty said that while 18,000 people were in hospital with Covid-19 during the April peak last year, on Sunday there were more than 30,000 beds occupied by patients with the disease.

He said the pandemic was now “everybody’s problem” as he urged people to “double down” and stop any “unnecessary contacts”.

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1610375805Borough Market becomes first outdoor space in UK to legally enforce face masks

Borough Market in southeast London has become the first outdoor space in the UK to legally enforce the wearing of face masks.

From Monday, customers and vendors at the popular food and drink market will face a £50 fine if they do not wear a face covering in and around the stalls.

The rule can be enforced thanks to the market’s own set of bylaws passed in parliament, which date back to before the Victorian era and have been updated to reflect the pandemic.

Kate Howell, director of development at the central London venue, said: “I think we just have to be responsible.”

Ms Howell told the PA news agency: “We’re open as an essential retailer but we want to keep it safe for everybody.”

Chiara Giordano11 January 2021 14:36

1610375164PM warns against ‘false complacency’ at ‘very perilous moment’

Boris Johnson warned the public against “false complacency” because the vaccine is being administered, said rules need to be enforced in supermarkets and that people must “avoid mingling too much” after getting takeaway drinks.

The PM told reporters: “I think what (Professor) Chris Whitty had to say this morning was absolutely right. This is a very perilous moment because everybody can sense that the vaccine is coming in and they can see that the UK is vaccinating large numbers of those that need it most.

“My worry is, and Chris’s worry is, that this is the moment when that degree of false confidence, false complacency, and that when you look at what has happened in the NHS that complacency is not merited.

“More important than us just pushing out new rules, people have got to follow the guidance.”

Chiara Giordano11 January 2021 14:26

1610374724Tougher lockdown measures might be needed despite 2m receiving vaccine, says PM

Boris Johnson has warned tougher lockdown measures may be required if people do not follow the rules, as he stressed “now is the moment for maximum vigilance” amid increasing transmissions.

Refresh this breaking news story for more updates on this as the prime minister visits   Bristol today:

Chiara Giordano11 January 2021 14:18

1610374465No one will be more than 10 miles from vaccination centre, say PM

Boris Johnson has insisted “no-one is going to be more than 10 miles from a vaccination centre”.

On a visit to Bristol, he added the government was “ramping up” the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine to care homes.

Chiara Giordano11 January 2021 14:14

1610372821Two million people vaccinated across UK

Boris Johnson has said about two million people have been vaccinated with around 2.4 million jabs across the UK.

During a visit to a vaccine centre in Ashton Gate stadium, Bristol, the prime minister told reporters: “As I speak to you today we’ve done about two million people, maybe a bit more.

“We’re at about 2.4 million jabs all in across the whole of the UK.”

Reacting to the PM’s comments, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi tweeted: “2.4 million!”

Chiara Giordano11 January 2021 13:47

1610372150Sturgeon warns Scots to ‘stick to rules’ and ‘stay at home’

Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland is now in the “most perilous and serious position since the start of the pandemic”, urging people to stay at home, saying: “At the moment we are in a really dangerous situation.”

She said: “I hope we will see case numbers stabilise in the days to come but that will only be possible and, if we achieve it, will only be sustainable if we all stay at home.”

There are now more people in hospital, in Scotland, than at any time since the pandemic started, she told MSPs on Monday afternoon. 

“That is putting our health service under strain,” the country’s first minister said. “Our current case numbers mean this pressure will continue in the weeks to come.”

She warned people to “stick to the rules” and only leave home for essential purposes, outlining clear that exercise was not “going for a day trip with other people to the beach or to a park”.

She added: “I know that sounds harsh but it is really important that all of us right now stay at home as much as we possibly can.”

Sam Hancock11 January 2021 13:35

1610371550Difficulties getting contraception during Covid led to thousands of abortions

Sexual health clinics have been forced to shut or run reduced services while staff are transferred to work with Covid patients or have to self-isolate – with the profound disruption leaving many women unable to access their usual methods of contraception.

Many women are struggling to get the most effective long-acting contraceptive choices of a coil or an implant due to these requiring face-to-face appointments which have largely been suspended as consultations are carried out remotely via phone or video call to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Our women’s correspondent Maya Oppenheim reports:

Sam Hancock11 January 2021 13:25

1610370929Hancock: ‘What matters is we try to be as straightforward as we can’

Health secretary Matt Hancock declined to say whether the government will be holding daily press conferences to boost public compliance with lockdown restrictions as in the March lockdown.

Speaking at Epsom racecourse in Surrey, which is one of the seven mass vaccination sites to open on Monday, Mr Hancock said: “What matters in terms of communications is we just try to be as straightforward as we possibly can be about the facts on the ground, you know, the fact that the NHS is under significant pressure and what people have to do to play their part in getting this under control.

“So, that’s obviously a decision for communications colleagues at Number 10, exactly the frequency of the press conferences.”

He added: “My view is the most important thing is to be out and about answering the questions trying to explain what everybody needs to do because we are all in this together.”

Sam Hancock11 January 2021 13:15

1610370209Sir Richard Branson’s mother dies of coronavirus

Sir Richard Branson has paid tribute to his mother Eve, who has died from Covid-19 aged 96.

The Virgin boss revealed the news on Twitter and also shared a blog post in her memory.

He wrote: “I’m sorry to share that, sadly like a lot of people’s relatives and friends right now, my mum Eve has also passed away from Covid. She held on for one last victory, managing to fight off the virus, but had expended all of her energy in the process.

One of my wonderful sisters, Vanessa, and nephew Louis were with her until the end, as were the wonderful nurses who she entertained with tales from her life and much laughter over glasses of whisky. Rather than mourn her loss, I want to celebrate her wonderful life, her tremendous spirit, the joy she brought to so many, and the love she gave us all.

Mum was 96-years-old, but had the same enthusiasm and energy she had when I was a boy. As for so many of us in these days of Covid, it feels so strange that the person who has always been there for us, with such zest for life, is gone.

My sisters Lindy and Vanessa and I were so lucky to grow up with mum and dad as our parents, instilling values that have lasted a lifetime. They taught us the importance of hard work, of not taking yourself too seriously, of treating people how you wish to be treated, of entrepreneurship, and so much more. They showed us how family is the most important thing in the world, and surrounded us with love and encouragement.”

He remembered Eve as a “force of nature”, saying she had “lived many remarkable lives”. The businessman also said he “owed his career” to her and recounted her many charity ventures, including what he described as “one of mum’s most brilliant legacies is The Eve Branson Foundation…”.

Additional reporting by PA

Sam Hancock11 January 2021 13:03

1610370029Police used as ‘scapegoats for poor law writing’ during pandemic, says chairman

A West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman has said police officers are “being made scapegoats for poor policy and law writing” during the coronavirus crisis, and urged that rules about where exercise can be taken should be made clear in law.

Brian Booth said: “Walking a tightrope between maintaining public confidence and upholding the law is not made easy with poor guidance.

“At the end of the first lockdown, I highlighted the difficulties officers were facing when it came down to trying to help police the pandemic with such woolly laws – roll on six months and we are still in the same position.”

He said the government must make rules “clear for the public”. For example, he said, “if it is desired that exercise be limited to local then clearly state in law what local is. Do not insert it into guidance that has no legal standing”.

“The NHS is in crisis, my colleagues have a part to play in protecting the NHS and upholding law. Please have a review of what you expect and don’t keep leaving my colleagues hung out to dry,” he added. 

Sam Hancock11 January 2021 13:00

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