England’s streets lie almost deserted amid Covid-19 lockdown

Matt Hancock was seen ignoring Boris Johnson’s plea for Britons to ‘stay at home this weekend’ as he is filmed enjoying a Saturday walk in a park – as crowds of revellers all over the country flock to England’s beauty spots. 

The Prime Minister yesterday released a video calling on the public to ‘think twice’ before leaving the house as he moved to cool rising optimism that the coronavirus outbreak is starting to ease.

The PM urged everyone to behave as if they have the virus, warning that asymptomatic ‘silent spreaders’ are unwittingly fuelling the crisis and the next person infected ‘could be you’.

But his stark warning did little to put off revellers who flocked to rural spots across the country – including the Health Secretary who was filmed by a passerby casually walking through a park while clutching what appears to be a rugby ball.

In the clip, Mr Hancock – who is not wearing a mask – smiles as a member of the public remarks at how ‘muddy’ he is.  The park is bustling with other people, including children. 

Elsewhere, police were seen breaking up an anti-lockdown protest in Birmingham. Demonstrators were arrested and hauled off by police officers after a crowd gathered to hear a speech.

In Slough, shoppers were seen leaving Poundland without any face coverings – despite social-distancing rules saying they must be worn in stores. 

London’s Victoria Park was jammed with weekend walkers left with few options but to venture to the great outdoors as England’s nation-wide lockdown forces all non-essential shops to close.

Bournemouth’s sea front was jam-packed with people exercising today – while police were seen speaking to revellers relaxing on outdoor benches.  

In other coronavirus news:  

  •  Both Brazilian Covid variants are ‘likely’ already in the UK, expert warns, as aviation bosses warn industry ‘urgently’ needs help to survive;
  • PM suspends ALL travel corridors from 4am Monday and everyone needs negative Covid test for entry;
  • Even Whitty and Vallance sound half-way cheery as Boris says mass compliance with third lockdown has brought COVID outbreak under control;
  • Chancellor WON’T bring in a one-off levy to cover the £280billion spent fighting coronavirus;
  • More than 300,000 Covid jabs are delivered in one day as Government announces nearly one in 20 Britons have now had a vaccine  

Defiant Britons ignored Boris Johnson’s plea to ‘stay at home this weekend’ as vast crowds flocked to the country’s beauty spots and Saturday food shoppers shunned wearing face masks in supermarkets. Bournemouth’s sea front (pictured) was jam-packed with people exercising today – while police were seen speaking to revellers relaxing on outdoor benches

London's Victoria Park was jammed with weekend walkers left with few options but to venture to the great outdoors as England's nation-wide lockdown forces all non-essential shops to close

London’s Victoria Park was jammed with weekend walkers left with few options but to venture to the great outdoors as England’s nation-wide lockdown forces all non-essential shops to close

A Poundland shopper in Slough is seen leaving the store without a face mask. During the first shutdown, supermarkets installed bouncers at store entrances to challenge rule-breakers and created in-store one-way systems to help people socially distance

A Poundland shopper in Slough is seen leaving the store without a face mask. During the first shutdown, supermarkets installed bouncers at store entrances to challenge rule-breakers and created in-store one-way systems to help people socially distance

The Prime Minister yesterday released a video calling on the public to 'think twice' before leaving the house as he moved to cool rising optimism that the coronavirus outbreak is starting to ease and the vaccination drive is making good progress. Pictured: People out in Grenwich today

The Prime Minister yesterday released a video calling on the public to ‘think twice’ before leaving the house as he moved to cool rising optimism that the coronavirus outbreak is starting to ease and the vaccination drive is making good progress. Pictured: People out in Grenwich today

Police officers are seen speaking to people sat on park benches in Bournemouth today. Officers were patrolling the promenade as people headed outdoors for the weekend

Police officers are seen speaking to people sat on park benches in Bournemouth today. Officers were patrolling the promenade as people headed outdoors for the weekend

Britons enjoyed a walk through Victoria Park, east London, today as they enjoyed a breath of fresh air in another lockdown weekend

Britons enjoyed a walk through Victoria Park, east London, today as they enjoyed a breath of fresh air in another lockdown weekend

In Victoria Park, east London, joggers and walkers were seen taking advantage of the mild winter weather in the capital

In Victoria Park, east London, joggers and walkers were seen taking advantage of the mild winter weather in the capital 

And, as cases continue soar well above what was seen in the first wave, the Prime Minister on Friday urged shoppers to only touch what they plan on buying in supermarkets as Covid – including the highly-contagious new mutant strain – can spread via products. 

During the first shutdown, supermarkets installed bouncers at store entrances to challenge rule-breakers and created in-store one-way systems to help people socially distance. 

But security guards began to vanish as the threat posed by Covid-19 waned during the summer, leading to an increasingly ‘lax’ attitude from shoppers who no longer cover their faces.  

Earlier this week, a string of supermarkets including Tesco, Waitrose, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons pledged to get tougher with customers who refuse to wear face coverings by denying them entry to their stores.   

The UK recorded another 1,295 coronavirus deaths and 41,346 new cases on Saturday – as fatalities continue to rise by more than 1,000 for the fifth day in a row.

It’s a 25 percent increase on last Saturday’s deaths and takes Britain’s grim toll to 88,590.

But in a sign that the harsh lockdown measures are taking effect, cases declined by nearly a third on last week’s figure – as the total climbed to more than 3.3 million infections recorded since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile a senior SAGE scientist has claimed that the actual number of Britons catching the disease is closer to 150,000, arguing that the size of this wave is now significantly worse than the first.

Meanwhile, a total of 3,514,385 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between December 8 and January 15, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 324,711 on yesterday’s figures.

Of this number, 3,090,058 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 320,894 on Friday’s figures, while 424,327 were the second dose, an increase of 3,817. 

Mr Johnson has shelved the idea of toughening lockdown for now – after days of swirling rumours that non-essential click and collect and exercising with a friend could be banned in England. 

Mr Johnson told last night’s Downing Street Covid briefing: ‘This disease can be passed on not just by standing too near to someone in a supermarket queue, but also by handling something touched by an infected person.

‘And remember one in three have no symptoms. Washing your hands now is as important as it has ever been.’ 

Shoppers were seen with their noses exposed and their masks only covering half their faces as they left Poundland in Slough

Shoppers were seen with their noses exposed and their masks only covering half their faces as they left Poundland in Slough

Some shoppers were seen leaving Poundland in Slough with no masks on. Some people don't have to wear a mask if they have a valid exemption, such as it causing them severe distress or because of a physical or mental illness, impairment or disability – and they do not have to carry proof

Some shoppers were seen leaving Poundland in Slough with no masks on. Some people don’t have to wear a mask if they have a valid exemption, such as it causing them severe distress or because of a physical or mental illness, impairment or disability – and they do not have to carry proof

Police officers were on patrol in Bournemouth today to ensure visitors were obeying coronavirus social distancing rules

Police officers were on patrol in Bournemouth today to ensure visitors were obeying coronavirus social distancing rules

In Birmingham, police were seen breaking up an anti-lockdown protest in the city centre (one woman being arrested, pictured)

In Birmingham, police were seen breaking up an anti-lockdown protest in the city centre (one woman being arrested, pictured)

In Birmingham, demonstrators were arrested and hauled off by police officers after a crowd gathered to hear a speech

In Birmingham, demonstrators were arrested and hauled off by police officers after a crowd gathered to hear a speech

In Birmingham, police broke up an anti-lockdown protest in the city centre. Officers are seen arresting one man as he lies on the ground

In Birmingham, police broke up an anti-lockdown protest in the city centre. Officers are seen arresting one man as he lies on the ground

In Bournemouth, police officers - all wearing face masks - were seen patrolling the promenade and seafront to make sure visitors were obeying Covid rules

In Bournemouth, police officers – all wearing face masks – were seen patrolling the promenade and seafront to make sure visitors were obeying Covid rules

Police arrest a man in St Martin's Square, Birmingham. A planned anti-lockdown protest is being carried out in the city

Police arrest a man in St Martin’s Square, Birmingham. A planned anti-lockdown protest is being carried out in the city

Police are seen speaking to people in Birmingham as an anti-lockdown protest carries on in the city centre

Police are seen speaking to people in Birmingham as an anti-lockdown protest carries on in the city centre 

One man is seen talking to officers in Birmingham's Victoria Square. An anti-lockdown protest has been going on in the city, but the number of people taking part has been minimal

One man is seen talking to officers in Birmingham’s Victoria Square. An anti-lockdown protest has been going on in the city, but the number of people taking part has been minimal

Britain's streets (London, pictured) were left nearly empty today as Covid-conscious Britons followed Boris Johnson's order to 'stay at home this weekend' amid high Covid figures

Britain’s streets (London, pictured) were left nearly empty today as Covid-conscious Britons followed Boris Johnson’s order to ‘stay at home this weekend’ amid high Covid figures

Mounted police pass luxury shops on New Bond Street in Mayfair on January 16. The PM urged Britons to stay home last night

Mounted police pass luxury shops on New Bond Street in Mayfair on January 16. The PM urged Britons to stay home last night

Leading Friday’s optimistic press conference, Boris Johnson praised the public’s efforts at following lockdown rules and appealed for people not to weaken, saying they must ‘think twice’ before leaving the house. 

‘This is not the time for the slightest relaxation of our national resolve and our individual efforts,’ he said. ‘So please stay at home, please protect the NHS and save lives.’

Professor Whitty said that the NHS is still under ‘extraordinary’ pressure but he believed the peak of infections had already happened in much of the country and hospitalisations could top out in the next week to 10 days in most places.

‘The peak of deaths, I fear, is in the future,’ he said.  ‘The peak of hospitalisations in some parts of the country may be around about now and beginning to come off the very, very top.’

‘Because people are sticking so well to the guidelines we do think the peaks are coming over the next week to 10 days for most places in terms of new people into hospital.’

Sir Patrick also sounded a positive note about the direction of travel, but added that the measures in place were the only thing holding the disease back: ‘Take the lid off now this is going to boil over for sure.’   

SAGE today published its weekly estimates of the R rate across the country and said the rate of spread appears to be coming down in regions that have been in lockdown since they were put in Tier 4 in December - London, the East and the South East

SAGE today published its weekly estimates of the R rate across the country and said the rate of spread appears to be coming down in regions that have been in lockdown since they were put in Tier 4 in December – London, the East and the South East

Where do you have to wear a face covering in England under law?

Here is a list of where face masks must be worn in England. Some of the venues are closed under law: 

  • public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses)
  • taxis and private hire vehicles
  • transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)
  • auction houses
  • premises providing hospitality (bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes), except when seated at a table to eat or drink (see exemptions)
  • post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
  • estate and lettings agents
  • theatres
  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)
  • premises providing veterinary services
  • visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • places of worship
  • funeral service providers (funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels)
  • community centres, youth centres and social clubs
  • exhibition halls and conference centres
  • public areas in hotels and hostels
  • storage and distribution facilities

Earlier this week, the Home Secretary revealed she was backing a tougher police approach to lockdown rules.

Priti Patel said a minority of the public are ‘putting the health of the nation at risk’, adding that officers are moving more quickly to issuing fines where people are clearly breaching coronavirus regulations in a Downing Street press briefing on Tuesday. 

Some people don’t have to wear a mask if they have a valid exemption, such as it causing them severe distress or because of a physical or mental illness, impairment or disability – and they do not have to carry proof.

But concerns are mounting that others are simply breaking the law because they don’t want to wear one – and Ms Patel revealed that nearly 45,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued in the UK since March. 

National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt warned those caught not wearing a mask on a bus or train ‘can expect a fine’ unless they are exempt – and police would no longer ‘waste time’ trying to reason with people such as those who disagree with the rules.

He said: ‘Not wearing a face covering on a bus or a train is dangerous. It risks the lives of other travellers including those critical workers who must continue to use public transport to do their important work.’  

Britain’s most senior police officer, Dame Cressida Dick, said Metropolitan Police officers would be prepared to assist shop staff if customers became ‘obstructive and aggressive’ when told they must wear a face covering.

The Government’s crackdown on rulebreakers this week comes as the NHS battles under immense strain caused by the third wave of Covid cases.

Hospitals have been told to clear as many beds as possible ahead of a potential mass influx of Covid patients.

It was today reported that the vaccine – Britain’s path out of lockdown and back to normailty are being thrown away by GPs, rather than being given to patients as second doses or used on staff.  

Local NHS leaders are said to have issued the vaccine disposal instructions to doctors organising clinics, despite Professor Chris Whitty saying yesterday the UK’s roll-out of vaccinations was being held back by delayed deliveries of the Pfizer jab.

Cubicles erected inside Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, for people to receive an injection of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

Cubicles erected inside Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, for people to receive an injection of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

A health worker prepared the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire today before administering doses to patients

A health worker prepared the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire today before administering doses to patients

Former RAF Flight Sergeant Louis Godwin receives an injection of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral today

Former RAF Flight Sergeant Louis Godwin receives an injection of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral today

This is despite Britain leading the way on the continent with 3.5 million people – one in 20 – already vaccinated, while there are also plans to roll out jabs to those in their 70s – further down the priority list than those aged over 80, care home residents and frontline health and social care workers – as early as next week.

Officials insist the programme could go even faster if there were enough supplies to keep it running at pace.

Scotland brings in further coronavirus measures in response to ‘extremely serious’ situation 

Toughened lockdown restrictions have come into force in Scotland due to a rapidly spreading strain of Covid-19.

In response to what the First Minister called an ‘extremely serious’ situation, further measures have been brought in to stop the spread of coronavirus and limit non-essential contact.

People who live in a Level 4 area – currently all of mainland Scotland – should not leave or remain outside their home, except for essential purposes.

Working from home has become a default position for all businesses through statutory guidance and services, and only those who cannot do their job from home should go into a workplace.

Guidance previously issued to only allow essential work to be undertaken inside people’s homes has also been placed into law.

Ms Sturgeon confirmed coronavirus regulations will change to forbid people from leaving home for anything other than an essential purpose and that police can challenge people for doing something considered not to be essential after they have left the house.

Entering businesses to purchase takeaway food and drinks has also been stopped. Now, premises will need to operate using a hatch or counter at the door. Drinking alcohol in public outdoors has also been banned.

Non-essential click-and-collect services are now prohibited.

Essential services – including clothing and footwear stores, homeware stores, garden centres/plant nurseries, baby equipment shops, electrical goods (including repairs), key cutting and shoe repair shops, and bookstores – can continue to offer click-and-collect services, but must operate with timeslots.

In a statement to Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday: ‘The situation we face in relation to the virus remains extremely serious.

‘We must continue to do everything possible to reduce case numbers – this is essential to relieve the pressure on our NHS and to save lives.

‘Both individually and collectively, these additional measures – in further reducing the interactions that allow the virus to spread – will help our essential efforts to suppress it.

‘At this critical and dangerous moment, please: Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.’

Commenting on the click-and-collect ban for many shops, Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale said: ‘Industry has spent months pleading for greater visibility over potential next steps with Covid restrictions and a more consistent approach.

‘The only constant in recent weeks, however, is a continual chopping and changing of the Covid Strategic Framework, with every twist and turn to Government rules adding fresh complexity and confusion.

‘Food takeaway firms and retailers operating click-and-collect are striving to implement and operationalise these latest Byzantine new restrictions to a ludicrously short timetable, more so given ministers have only just published the regulations and guidance.’

 

Some surgeries are taking a stand against the orders, described as ‘bordering on criminal’, but others fear their supplies will be cancelled if they don’t comply.

Supply chain uncertainty – particularly around the Pfizer jab which needs to be kept at -70C – means GPs are struggling to book the exact number of appointments for clinics and in some cases patients haven’t turned up having been given little time to prepare.

The NHS said there was ‘no reason’ why stocks should be wasted, insisting vaccination sites should make sure a back-up list of patients and staff who can get the jab at short-notice if there are such absences is drawn up.

Dr Robert Morley, the director of professional support at the Birmingham Local Medical Committee said the instructions were being reported by doctors across the country.

He told the Telegraph: ‘This is ridiculous, bordering on the criminal, to actually be wasting vaccines when you have the worst global healthcare crisis for a century.

‘The logical thing to do would be to use [the leftovers] as a second dose for healthcare workers, for example, who may be there in the building.’

‘The logical thing to do would be to use [the leftovers] as a second dose for healthcare workers, for example, who may be there in the building.’ 

The British Medical Association described the reports as ‘extremely concerning, absolutely unacceptable and morally wrong’, warning any wasted dose denies someone the chance to be protected from the virus, and, perhaps ultimately, death.

The crisis in hospitals has also escalated, with bosses told to prepare extra wards and critical care beds over the coming weeks.

While infection numbers are finally beginning to drop, the number of hospitalisations could rise in the next fortnight due to how long it can take people to become seriously ill.  

A total of 3,514,385 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between December 8 and January 15, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 324,711 on Friday’s figures.

Of this number, 3,090,058 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 320,894 on Friday’s figures, while 424,327 were the second dose, an increase of 3,817.

But yesterday it emerged that vaccine manufacturer Pfizer is shrinking and delaying its deliveries to Europe while it expands its factory in Belgium.

The company makes one of just two vaccines that are being given to the public in the UK and confirmed that Britain would be affected in late January and February.

Concerns about vaccine deliveries in the UK swelled this week as the Government repeatedly refused to reveal how many are available and how many more are coming next week.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said that the amount of vaccines available was the ‘limiting’ factor of how fast the country’s roll-out could go.

It comes as the opening of the West Midlands’ second mass vaccination centre at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley is ‘imminent’.

Prof David Loughton, chief executive of Wolverhampton’s hospital trust, said: ‘As far as the Black Country Museum is concerned, it’s opening is fairly imminent, I believe it’s about (January) the 25th.

‘Most importantly, we are in the final stages of identifying a number of other sites and that will be rolled out as quickly as possible.

‘We’re also confident in terms of hitting the (vaccination) targets that we need to hit by the middle of February.’

Dr Peter Ingham, a Sutton Coldfield GP and specialist primary care advisor overseeing Birmingham’s Millennium Point mass vaccination centre, added: ‘We are looking at other sites, I cannot confirm the details of those currently, but we’re looking at another three sites for large vaccination centres to open, imminently.’

Meanwhile, toughened lockdown restrictions have come into force in Scotland due to a rapidly spreading strain of Covid-19.

In response to what the First Minister called an ‘extremely serious’ situation, further measures have been brought in to stop the spread of coronavirus and limit non-essential contact.

People who live in a Level 4 area – currently all of mainland Scotland – should not leave or remain outside their home, except for essential purposes.

Working from home has become a default position for all businesses through statutory guidance and services, and only those who cannot do their job from home should go into a workplace.

Guidance previously issued to only allow essential work to be undertaken inside people’s homes has also been placed into law.

Ms Sturgeon confirmed coronavirus regulations will change to forbid people from leaving home for anything other than an essential purpose and that police can challenge people for doing something considered not to be essential after they have left the house.

Entering businesses to purchase takeaway food and drinks has also been stopped. Now, premises will need to operate using a hatch or counter at the door. Drinking alcohol in public outdoors has also been banned.

Non-essential click-and-collect services are now prohibited.

Essential services – including clothing and footwear stores, homeware stores, garden centres/plant nurseries, baby equipment shops, electrical goods (including repairs), key cutting and shoe repair shops, and bookstores – can continue to offer click-and-collect services, but must operate with timeslots.

In a statement to Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday: ‘The situation we face in relation to the virus remains extremely serious.

‘We must continue to do everything possible to reduce case numbers – this is essential to relieve the pressure on our NHS and to save lives.

‘Both individually and collectively, these additional measures – in further reducing the interactions that allow the virus to spread – will help our essential efforts to suppress it.

‘At this critical and dangerous moment, please: Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.’

Commenting on the click-and-collect ban for many shops, Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale said: ‘Industry has spent months pleading for greater visibility over potential next steps with Covid restrictions and a more consistent approach.

‘The only constant in recent weeks, however, is a continual chopping and changing of the Covid Strategic Framework, with every twist and turn to Government rules adding fresh complexity and confusion.

‘Food takeaway firms and retailers operating click-and-collect are striving to implement and operationalise these latest Byzantine new restrictions to a ludicrously short timetable, more so given ministers have only just published the regulations and guidance.’ 

GPs are being forced to throw away leftover vaccines rather than give patients second doses or use them on staff, medics have revealed

GPs are being forced to throw away leftover vaccines rather than give patients second doses or use them on staff, medics have revealed

Meanwhile, both Brazilian Covid variants are ‘likely’ already in the UK, a Sage expert has warned after Boris Johnson declared that all arrivals to the UK will have to have tested negative for coronavirus from Monday.

Two variants of interest have been identified in South America; the first has a small number of mutations and eight genomically confirmed cases of this variant have been identified in the UK.

The second, which has been detected in Manaus and in travellers arriving in Japan, has not been detected in the UK but was described yesterday by government adviser Prof Wendy Barclay as the ‘variant of concern’.

However, Professor John Edmunds, who works on the Government’s Covid response, said this morning he would be surprised if both strains weren’t already in the UK. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘In terms of the South African one, we had imported cases already by the time we put in additional restrictions for South African travellers.

‘For the Brazilian one… I don’t think there is evidence that we’ve imported cases of the Manaus strain, as far as I’m aware at least, but it is likely that we probably have quite honestly.

‘We are one of the most connected countries in the world so I would find it unusual if we hadn’t imported some cases into the UK.’

BOTH Brazilian Covid variants are ‘likely’ already in the UK, expert warns, as aviation bosses warn industry ‘urgently’ needs help to survive

Both Brazilian Covid variants are ‘likely’ already in the UK, a Sage expert has warned after Boris Johnson declared that all arrivals to the UK will have to have tested negative for coronavirus from Monday.

Two variants of interest have been identified in South America; the first has a small number of mutations and eight genomically confirmed cases of this variant have been identified in the UK.

The second, which has been detected in Manaus and in travellers arriving in Japan, has not been detected in the UK but was described yesterday by government adviser Prof Wendy Barclay as the ‘variant of concern’.

However, Professor John Edmunds, who works on the Government’s Covid response, said this morning he would be surprised if both strains weren’t already in the UK. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘In terms of the South African one, we had imported cases already by the time we put in additional restrictions for South African travellers.

‘For the Brazilian one… I don’t think there is evidence that we’ve imported cases of the Manaus strain, as far as I’m aware at least, but it is likely that we probably have quite honestly.

‘We are one of the most connected countries in the world so I would find it unusual if we hadn’t imported some cases into the UK.’  

Meanwhile, Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, warned there will be many more variants this year, but the current vaccines should protect against the strains circulating in the UK.

‘As we look forward through 2021, we’re going to see lots of new variants and we’re going to have to get used to that,’ he said.

‘But the critical question is whether some of these new variants are adapting because of immunity amongst human populations – whether that is because of infection… or indeed as a result of vaccination.’ 

But he said that new variants were being detected early, and stressed: ‘If indeed we do need to make new vaccines we will be able to stand those up really quickly.’ 

Aviation minister Robert Courts told the same programme the decision to suspend all travel corridors was part of efforts to prevent the spread of exactly this. 

He said allowing people to travel without having to self-isolate was ‘fine back when we were assessing the public health risk from the [original] virus.’

However, he added: ‘We’ve reached the position now where the Joint Biosecurity Centre can’t give live scientific updates to predict which countries or regions may originate new variants.’

It comes as aviation bosses warn the industry ‘urgently’ needs help to survive after the Prime Minister said yesterday that from 4am on Monday all travel corridors will be suspended and anyone coming to the UK must have proof of a negative test in the previous 72 hours.

Even then people will still have to isolate for 10 days – or five if they have another negative result during that period. 

 

Meanwhile, Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, warned there will be many more variants this year, but the current vaccines should protect against the strains circulating in the UK.

‘As we look forward through 2021, we’re going to see lots of new variants and we’re going to have to get used to that,’ he said.

‘But the critical question is whether some of these new variants are adapting because of immunity amongst human populations – whether that is because of infection… or indeed as a result of vaccination.’ 

But he said that new variants were being detected early, and stressed: ‘If indeed we do need to make new vaccines we will be able to stand those up really quickly.’ 

Aviation minister Robert Courts told the same programme the decision to suspend all travel corridors was part of efforts to prevent the spread of exactly this. 

He said allowing people to travel without having to self-isolate was ‘fine back when we were assessing the public health risk from the [original] virus.’

However, he added: ‘We’ve reached the position now where the Joint Biosecurity Centre can’t give live scientific updates to predict which countries or regions may originate new variants.’

It comes as aviation bosses warn the industry ‘urgently’ needs help to survive after the Prime Minister said yesterday that from 4am on Monday all travel corridors will be suspended and anyone coming to the UK must have proof of a negative test in the previous 72 hours.

Even then people will still have to isolate for 10 days – or five if they have another negative result during that period. 

The new regime will be backed by tougher spot checks and will stay in place until at least February 15 as ministers and scientists work out how to manage the threat posed by mutations of the virus.  

Travellers from South America, Portugal, some of central America and South Africa are already barred from coming to the country. 

However, Abta, a trade association of travel agents and tour operators, said the government should provide support ‘as a matter of urgency’ for the jobs and businesses at risk, while the British Airline Pilots’ Association warned the industry would ‘not be there to support the post Covid-19 recovery’ without ‘a clear plan of action and a proper package of support’.

There were also fears from some travel bosses that rarely-used airports might have to be mothballed or given aid to save costs. 

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, told Today: ‘What we’re saying to the government is clearly this is a national health emergency and ministers need to act to keep the public protected, that’s absolutely right, but what we need is a road map out of this, so when the time is right we can remove these restrictions when it’s safe to do so and start to look ahead to the spring and summer.

‘Easter is the date we’ve got in mind as to when we can have an aviation sector again because if we don’t start to bring in revenue to the sector, we’re going to be in a very difficult place indeed.

‘We’ve now had pretty much 12 months without any revenue coming in which is just not sustainable and airlines are effectively staying in business by taking on billions of pounds of debt which will need to be paid back.

‘The government did give a period of grace before the introduction for pre-departure testing which was supposed to come into effect yesterday but has been pushed back to 4am on Monday to allow a few days to get these flights back home.

‘But in terms of the volume of flights airlines are operating we’re talking about less than 10% based on where we would normally be and in terms of long haul flying for places like South America where there are flights a huge number of those are freight only. 

‘Cargo has been the saving grace for the sector over the last 10 months so a number of airlines have increased the number of cargo flights to bring in some much-needed revenue to the sector.’

Mr Courts said the steps had been taken to prevent the variants from arriving and spreading in the UK and that there were now a ‘robust’ set of measures lined up.

Elsewhere, a World Health Organisation spokeswoman said today that public health measures such as social distancing are working to stop the transmission of new strains of coronavirus, but ‘we have to do them better’.

Dr Margaret Harris told the BBC: ‘The thing we’re seeing with quite a few of the different strains that have been identified in different countries is they’re not proving more dangerous in terms of making you sicker, but they are more efficient at transmitting.

‘The public health measures that we know work: the distancing, not gathering in large numbers, understanding who has the virus and who has not, keeping the two apart, all those measures do work.

‘They work over and over again in a number of countries, so we have to do them better.

‘Some of the actions at the borders, like testing people, quarantining people, understanding where they’re coming from, are all part of ensuring who has the virus, who has not and keeping them apart.’ 

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest