Covid UK news live: Latest death toll and vaccine updates

Matt Hancock says ‘end in sight’ for coronavirus restrictions

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said it is “too early” for people to think about summer holiday plans.

He told BBC Breakfast the “right thing to do now is to continue with our vaccination drive” as he warned there was still “a long way to go” in another interview with Sky News.

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.

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Further 234,851 first vaccine doses given

A total of 6,405,554 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between 8 December and 25 January, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 236,177 on the previous day’s figures.

Of this number, 5,962,544 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 234,851 on the previous day’s figures, while 443,010 were the second dose, an increase of 1,326.

Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 14:19

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Priti Patel blames ‘compliance checks’ for busy queues at Heathrow

Home secretary Priti Patel has said “compliance checks” are to blame for busy queues at Heathrow Airport.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, raised concerns over images of crowds at Heathrow Airport last week.

“Is it true that for months people had been waiting for hours in those queues in unsafe circumstances and is it true that the Border Force lifted some of the checks that she just said were being applied to 100 per cent of passengers because those queues were unsafe,” she asked.

Ms Patel responded: “The fact of the matter is those queues materialised because of the compliance checks that Border Force had put in place.

“I do want to emphasise, and I’d like to thank Heathrow Airport because (Ms Cooper) will also be aware that colleagues in Border Force work with the airport operators in terms of social distancing measures at the airport.

“That is a joint piece of work that takes place and all airports take responsibility for their work in how they manage their own flows and Border Force in particular are there to enforce the checks and as they are doing now achieving 100 per cent coverage.”

Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 14:16

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Predictions of more suicides ‘seem’ to not be happening, says NHS boss

Predictions that the coronavirus pandemic could have led to a rise in suicides seem not to have come true in the UK and other countries, the boss of NHS England has said.

Sir Simon Stevens told the Health and Social Care Committee: “Fortunately the predictions some had that the pandemic might lead to an increase in deaths by suicide seem not to be happening in most countries, including this one.”

But he warned: “We’ve got to take a very hard look at the exacerbated mental health needs that have arisen through the pandemic” and that problems have increased elsewhere.

“In other areas such as young people’s mental health services and eating disorders, urgent referrals really are going up very very sharply,” he added.

Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 14:05

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PM to lead Downing Street press conference

Prime minister Boris Johnson will lead a televised Downing Street press conference at 5pm, Number 10 has said.

He will be joined by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens.

Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 13:56

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Unused Nightingale hospital opens as mass vaccination centre

A Nightingale Hospital which did not treat a single coronavirus patient has opened as a mass vaccination centre.

Last April the NHS Nightingale Hospital North East, on the outskirts of Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, near the city’s Nissan factory, was transformed from an empty industrial unit into a 460-bed unit in case hospitals in the region were swamped with Covid patients.

The brand new unit, which has good road links to much of the northeast of England, opened to the public on Tuesday with the expectation it will be able to offer thousands of jabs per day when it is up to speed.

Professor Neil Watson, chief operating officer for the vaccine programme in the northeast, said the new unit could cover a wide geographical area.

Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 13:51

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Police catch 20 people attending baby shower

Two men are facing Covid fines after police caught 20 people attending a baby shower in east London.

Officers had gone to a private address in Hornchurch shortly after 6pm on Sunday, where they found 20 guests from a number of different households.

Those attending ranged in age from young children, to teenagers, to people in their late 40s.

Police said it quickly became apparent the gathering was “not spontaneous” after officers clocked gifts and balloons 

The organisers – two men aged 22 and 44 – were reported for £200 fines and others involved were advised and left the premises, police said.

Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 13:37

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Moderna vaccine doses can be spaced up to six weeks but pregnant women should avoid jab, says WHO

Moderna’s Covid vaccine can be given in two doses as much as six weeks apart – but pregnant women should avoid the jab, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.  

The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation, known as Sage, recommended the jab be given at an interval of 28 days but said that could be extended by a further two weeks under exceptional circumstances.

Tom Batchelor has the full story below:

Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 13:15

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Teachers, police and people with learning disabilities ‘should be considered for next round of vaccines’

Teachers, police and people with learning disabilities will need to be considered for the next round of Covid-19 vaccinations, NHS England chief executive has said.

Sir Simon Stevens said: “Our current proposition that once we have offered a vaccination to everyone aged 70 and above, and the clinically extremely vulnerable, then the next group of people would be people in their 60s and 50s, but there will also be a legitimate discussion in my view that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will have to advise on as to whether or not there are certain other groups who should receive that priority.

“People with learning disabilities and autism, certain key public service workers, teachers, the police, they will have to be factored in that post-February 15 prioritisation decision.”

Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 12:55

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Imperial College shelves Covid vaccine to focus on new variants

Scientists at Imperial College London have announced they will not be proceeding with large-scale testing of their Covid-19 vaccine due to the rapid approval of other jabs within the UK.

Professor Robin Shattock said his team would instead be using the RNA technology behind the vaccine to target new and emerging coronavirus variants that have been identified across the world.

Samuel Lovett has more details on this below:

Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 12:40

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‘Possible’ coronavirus could become ‘much more treatable’ over coming months

It is “possible” coronavirus will become a “much more treatable disease” over the next six to 18 months, NHS England’s chief executive has said.

Sir Simon Stevens told the Health and Social Care Committee: “I think a lot of us in the health service are increasingly hopeful that the second half of the year and beyond we will also see more therapeutics and more treatments for coronavirus.”

He added: “There are a number of others (treatments) in the pipeline and I think it is possible that over the course of the next six to 18 months coronavirus also becomes a much more treatable disease with antivirals and other therapies, which alongside the vaccination programme, holds out the hope of a return to a much more normal future.”

Chiara Giordano26 January 2021 12:25