health

Over 70s, NHS staff among 13 million who will get Covid jab by mid-February to ease lockdown, vows Boris


THE most vulnerable Brits will be vaccinated against Covid by mid-February, Boris Johnson said tonight – as he announced a third national lockdown.

All those over the age of 70, NHS staff and care home residents are among the 13.9 million who will be offered the jab in the next six weeks, the PM said.

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The most vulnerable Brits will be vaccinated against Covid by mid-February

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The most vulnerable Brits will be vaccinated against Covid by mid-FebruaryCredit: AFP or licensors

Once those at greatest risk have had their first dose of the Covid jab, ministers can plan to release the country from lockdown, he added.

Speaking at a live televised address from Downing Street tonight, Mr Johnson told Brits: “I can share with you tonight, the NHS’s realistic expectations for the vaccination programme in the coming weeks.

“By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

“That means vaccinating all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, everyone over 70, all frontline health and social care workers and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.”

Resurrecting the ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives slogan’, the Prime Minister also told the nation:

  • People can only meet up for outside exercise with one other person from another household
  • All outdoor team sports are banned except for elite sportsmen and kids still at school
  • Playgrounds will remain open but outdoor gyms, tennis courts and golf courses will be closed once again
  • Schools are set to stay shut across the nation until at least February half-term
  • Nurseries, childcare centres and special schools will remain open
  • Students will not be able to return to university and will be told to study remotely from their current residency until at least the middle of next month. 
  • GCSEs, A-Levels and some other exams are set to be cancelled – with further announcements due to come
  • Pubs, restaurants, bars and most venues were already ordered to shut in every part of England apart from the Isles of Scilly last week and will remain closed for at least another month
  • In a further blow to the battered industry, the new nationwide curbs will ban takeaway pints being served amid fears over punters clustering outside pubs. Food and non-alcohol takeaways will continue to be permitted
  • In a boost for lonely Brits, support bubbles will remain in place – allowing single households to mix indoors with one other household

Mr Johnson added: “If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus.

“Of course, that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we have endured for so long.”

With every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people

Boris JohnsonPrime Minister

He added: “The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe we are entering the last phase of the struggle.

“With every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people.

“Thanks to the miracle of science, not only is the end in sight, but we know exactly how we will get there.

“But for now, I’m afraid once again you must stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.” 

The Prime Minister speaking to the nation tonight in a live televised address

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The Prime Minister speaking to the nation tonight in a live televised addressCredit: AP:Associated Press

Lockdown at a glance

  • From tonight, stay at home until mid-February (all of England)
  • Law to come in when regulations will be laid tomorrow
  • All schools shut until Feb half term
  • Nurseries and special schools to stay open
  • Kids continue to see both parents if they are divorced
  • All shielders should stay home as in Tier 4 
  • Non essential retail to shut if they haven’t already
  • No takeaway alcohol
  • Police can fine people up to £200 for breaking rules as before – or £10,000 to businesses and for hosing gatherings
  • Weddings can take place as per Tier 4 – only if people are dying – and only funerals in small numbers
  • Students must not return to university until middle of Feb and stay put if they can
  • Outdoor sports venues to close but playgrounds remain open
  • People can ONLY exercise with 1 other person – no meeting them on bench for a cuppa
  • Support and childcare bubbles to continue
  • Only travel abroad if it’s essential
  • School meal vouchers will continue in some form but Gov ironing out details
  • Kids’ sport cancelled unless through school
The prioritisation list for the vaccines

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The prioritisation list for the vaccines

It comes after Mr Johnson pledged to vaccinate tens of millions within three months after calls for the programme to be drastically ramped up.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine roll out was set in motion today, with 5,000 troops brought in to help.

Brian Pinker, 82, a dialysis patient who describes himself as “Oxford born and bred”, received the jab at Oxford University Hospital at 7.30am.

It’s the second jab in the UK’s armour against the deadly disease, with the roll out of the first jab from Pfizer/BioNTech starting December 8.

A vaccine is the only route out of the hellish pandemic that taken over our lives for nine months now.

But getting it into the arms of the population will take months – possibly years – even if one million are vaccinated each week, and so officials have pleaded with Britons to stick to the Covid-19 restrictions.

So far, one million people have received one dose of a vaccine, according to the Government dashboard, despite the NHS vaccine programme starting a month ago.

Nevertheless, it’s a huge step forward in the fight against Covid-19, with the Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailing the Oxford jab a “big British success story, starting today”.

Brian Pinker, 82, a dialysis patient who describes himself as "Oxford born and bred", received the jab at Oxford University Hospital at 7.30am

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Brian Pinker, 82, a dialysis patient who describes himself as “Oxford born and bred”, received the jab at Oxford University Hospital at 7.30amCredit: Reuters
Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG) who helped create the Oxford vaccine, was given the jab this morning

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Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG) who helped create the Oxford vaccine, was given the jab this morningCredit: Reuters
Music teacher and dad-of-three Trevor Cowlett, 88, was among the first in line for the Oxford jab today

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Music teacher and dad-of-three Trevor Cowlett, 88, was among the first in line for the Oxford jab todayCredit: Reuters

Mr Hancock and chief of NHS England Stephen Powis ensured the NHS was capable of delivering two million jabs a week.

But they blamed “manufacturing” and “supply” issues for a slow roll-out.

A dire 530,000 doses were available from Monday, despite 100 million doses being bought by the UK Government last year.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said tens of millions more are to be delivered in the coming weeks and months once batches have been quality checked.

DEVOLVED NATIONS

England is the last of the four nations to go into lockdown, with Northern Ireland and Wales shut down after Christmas.

Nicola Sturgeon earlier announced a full lockdown in Scotlandto last all of January, starting from midnight tonight.

It comes amid the dangerous and rapid spread of the new virus variant, which ministers were first alerted to on December 11.

Thousands of people are becoming infected each day after mingling at Christmas, with the addition of the mutated strain which can spread faster and easier.

Mr Hancock said in a round of interviews this morning the virus was “much, much harder” to control, and that it only takes a small amount of the new strain to cause infection.

This afternoon the Covid-19 alert level was raised to five for the first time – the highest setting, Government sources said.

This means the NHS is at risk of being “overwhelmed”, with nurses and doctors already stretched thin and breaching staff to patient ratios.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director for Public Health England (PHE), said: “The continuous rise in cases and deaths should be a bitter warning for us all. We must not forget the basics – the lives of our friends and family depend on it.

“Keep your distance from others, wash your hands and wear a mask. This virus will transmit wherever you let your guard down.”

The speed at which the UK can come out of lockdowns will largely depend on how quickly vaccines can be deployed. The graph shows at the current speed, not even the most vulnerable will be vaccinated by April 2022

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The speed at which the UK can come out of lockdowns will largely depend on how quickly vaccines can be deployed. The graph shows at the current speed, not even the most vulnerable will be vaccinated by April 2022

Amid record high case rates, parents have faced chaos as many primary schools have defied the government’s orders to reopen after the holidays.

SAGE warned ministers on December 22 that schools must be closed to contain the rampant new strain, which is believed to infect children more easily than the original strain.

It does not appear to cause more severe disease. However, the problem lies with children bringing the virus into their family homes.

And education unions have urged the Government to “pause” a return to the classroom due to the “serious risk” of staff falling ill.

Mr Johnson – who has insisted keeping schools open is a top priority – said “the risk to kids is very, very small” and “the risk to teachers is no greater than it is to anyone else”.

Scientists have forecast that total shutdowns that leave schools open are not enough to bring the R rate below one – which is crucial for shrinking the outbreak.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt called for immediate action to close schools today.

He also said it was necessary to shut borders and ban household mixing, saying the situation was “off-the-scale worse” than previous winter crises faced by the NHS.

“In the face of exponential growth even waiting an extra day causes many avoidable deaths so these plans must now be urgently accelerated,” he said.

RECORD HIGH CASES

The latest grim tally for coronavirus infections revealed 58,784 new cases have been diagnosed in 24 hours – 42 per cent higher than last Monday, which was a bank holiday.

It’s the highest ever increase in one day, and the seventh day running cases have surpassed 50,000.

However, the figures are not possible to compare to the spring when there was significantly less testing.

 

It’s now clear from hospital data that there are more Covid-19 patients in NHS hospitals than ever before, including in the spring.

The latest data show a 41 per cent rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus patients in hospital in England between Christmas Day and January 3, figures which have caused alarm in Whitehall and the health service.

Experts today said the rise in infections couldn’t be solely put down to the new variant, but highlighted that the NHS is currently “at breaking point”.

Dr Tom Wingfield, Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Physician at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said the spread of the virus had been “damaging before the new variants”.

A No 10 spokesman said earlier today: “The spread of the new variant of Covid-19 has led to rapidly escalating case numbers across the country.

“The Prime Minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives.”

Another 407 deaths were reported in the UK today, however fatalities were not reported by Scotland on Monday.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate show there have now been 91,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

82-year-old man is first person to get dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine





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