Covid UK news – You CAN socialise with friends after March lockdown eases and schools reopen, coronavirus report claims

Covid UK news – You CAN socialise with friends after March lockdown eases and schools reopen, coronavirus report claims

02/05/2021

SOCIALISING with friends outdoors will be among the first things to come back once lockdown is eased next month, a new report claims.

Children are expected to make a return to the classroom from March 8, the government is expected to announce at its next lockdown review.

But extra measures including people meeting with friends outdoors, local elections being held and the opening of retail and hospitality will follow, according to a report in The Times today.

Outdoor activities such as golf and tennis are likely to be introduced first, followed by limited outdoor social gatherings within a matter of weeks.

Outside markets are likely to be allowed to open before high street shops, and al-fresco dining before eating indoors. Government sources said that the plans were tentative, and that only the date for the earliest return of pupils had been agreed, The Times reported.

Follow the live blog below for the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis…

  • Imogen Braddick

    OFFICIAL COVID R RATE FALLS BELOW 1

    The UK's official coronavirus R rate has fallen to 1 – and could be as low as 0.6 in London, official government data has revealed.

    The R rate – which represents the number of people an infected person will pass Covid onto – is now between 0.7 and 1.0, Sage said today.

    This is a drop from last week's figures which said the R rate was between 0.7 and 1.1 across the whole of the UK.

    For England, the range has fallen from 0.7 – 1.0 last week to 0.7 – 0.9 today.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    UK HAS DOSES OF 'TWEAKED' VACCINE IF NEEDED FOR FIGHTING STRAINS

    The UK has ordered 50 million doses of new tweaked vaccines that will work to tackle new Covid strains.

    Manufacturers are on standby to make the jabs, to be delivered later this year, should they be needed, the Government said.

    It puts the UK in good stead to battle any new and dangerous coronavirus variants that emerge.

    Although the vaccines being deployed now work against strains circulating, it's expected they could become less effective in the future.

    In total, the UK now has a category of 407 million doses of Covid vaccines, the majority of which were bought last year in the hope at least one vaccine candidate would be proven to work.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    OXFORD VACCINE WORKS AGAINST KENT STRAIN

    The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine does work against the Kent mutant strain, researchers have announced today.

    Scientists who worked on the jab say it has a similar efficacy against the variant as with the original strain.

    Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity, and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said: "Data from our trials of the ChAdOx1 vaccine in the United Kingdom indicate that the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus.

    "But also protects against the novel variant, B.1.1.7, which caused the surge in disease from the end of 2020 across the UK."

  • Claudia Aoraha

    EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF HAIL'S RUSSIAN JAB

    The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Friday hailed the success of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, and said he hoped it could be certified for use in the bloc.

    Borrell was in Moscow for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on what was the first visit of a senior EU envoy to Russia since 2017.

    "It's good news for the whole of mankind because it means we will have more tools to fight the pandemic," Borrell told journalists after the talks.

    He said he hoped the European Medicines Agency would certify the vaccine for use in EU member states.

    Borrell added that another source of supplies would be welcome as the EU is "facing a shortage of vaccines".

  • Claudia Aoraha

    HALF OF UK ADULTS TO BE VACCINATED BY APRIL

    Half of UK adults will have been jabbed by the end of April, ministers boasted today.

    Thirty-two million jabs for the over 50s and the vulnerable had been promised by the "Spring" – but the Cabinet Office confirmed today that means “by May”.

    The admission came as they confirmed local elections would take place that month despite some Covid restrictions likely to be in place.

    They said: “The UK’s vaccination programme is planned to have reached all nine priority cohorts by May, meaning that the Government can commit to go ahead with these polls with confidence.”

    JCVI priority groups 1-9 are estimated to cover around 27 million people in England and 32 million people across the UK.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    143 BRITS DIED AFTER GETTING JAB

    More than 140 Brits died shortly after having their Covid jab, the medicines watchdog said today.

    But the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency insisted the vaccines are “safe” and didn't play a role in the 143 deaths.

    Officials say the majority of reported fatalities were in elderly people or people with underlying illness.

    Investigators said there is no suggestion the jab played a role in the deaths.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    GET TESTED FOR NEW MUTATION, SAYS DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH

    Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health and wellbeing at Lancashire County Council, said: "If you live in Preston or West Lancashire and you're feeling under the weather, please get a Covid test.

    "It doesn't matter if you don't have the three classic symptoms of a fever, loss of taste or smell, or a cough – even a headache could be an indication you may have this mutation.

    "Understandably, some residents may be concerned but all viruses mutate over time so this should not cause any further alarm.

    "Alongside our partners, please rest assured that we are monitoring the situation closely.

    "It is important to stress that there is currently no evidence that this mutation alone causes more severe illness or is more transmissible.

    "The best way to control the spread is for everyone to continue to abide by the lockdown rules and following the simple steps of washing your hands, using a face covering and making space from each other.

    "While Covid has been here for a while now, these new variants remind us that we all need to keep doing what we can to stay safe and avoid spreading Covid to each other."

  • Claudia Aoraha

    GET A COVID TEST IF YOU HAVE A RUNNY NOSE

    A million people in the North West of England have been told to get a Covid test – if they have a runny nose.

    Health officials are urging residents in Liverpool, Preston and Lancashire, to get tested for a much wider range of coronavirus symptoms.

    It comes amid reports that more than 100 cases of a mutated strain of the virus have been detected in the region.

    The Government's emergency virus group, Nervtag, is expected to classify new strains emerging in Liverpool and Bristol today, according to the i.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    NO SUBSTANTIAL MEAL NEEDED WITH BOOZE

    Rules forcing pubs to serve a "substantial meal" with booze are set to be scrapped when the lockdown is next eased, it emerged today.

    Boris Johnson wants to ditch the complicated red tape, which proved virtually unenforceable and left punters and landlords alike confused.

    The news comes with the PM due to set out a roadmap for lifting restrictions, which is set to start with reopening schools on March 8.

    Limits on socialising and playing sports outdoors will be next in line and could be eased just a few weeks after that, according to The Times.

    Last year the rules around pubs caused chaos as ministers struggled to clearly define what constituted a substantial meal.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    COUNTRIES ON UK'S RED LIST

  • Claudia Aoraha

    COVID JAB ROLLOUT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BREXIT, SAYS STURGEON

    Eurofan Nicola Sturgeon was ridiculed last night after insisting that Brexit had nothing to do with the UK’s soaring vaccine rollout.

    Despite bungling by Brussels meaning the EU27 are struggling to jab their citizens, the SNP boss – who wants to re-join the bloc – said it was “too simplistic” to suggest leaving the EU has made the UK more nimble.

    The First Minister’s remarks came amid anger over low vaccination rates in the European Union and claims Brussels bureaucracy has stifled the buy-up of jabs.

    Last July, the SNP said the UK’s refusal to join the EU scheme as “idiotic”, “all about Brexit”, and would “cost lives”.

    But the UK – which went its own way on procurement – is now way ahead of the bloc.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    HOW FAR CAN I TRAVEL TO EXERCISE?

    Boris Johnson has advised for people to limit the time they spend exercising outdoors.

    The official guidance states that exercise should be done locally wherever possible – preferably in your neighbourhood.

    But you can travel to exercise if needed.

    This means if you must travel to access an open space, you can do so, within reason.

    As far as travelling to beauty spots goes, you should not do it unless one is very close to your home.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    CZECH REPUBLIC TIGHTENS COVID RULES

    The Czech Republic is further tightening entry rules in an effort to limit the growing spread of highly contagious variants of the coronavirus.

    Travelers from high-risk countries have to present a negative PCR test on arrival that is not older than 72 hours and must go into quarantine for at least five days before another PCR test. They also have to fill in an online form before their trip and wear a respirator for the first 10 days of their visits.

    High-risk countries include Britain, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Baltics states and most other countries outside the EU.

    Those traveling from less risky countries are asked to present a fast antigen test on arrival.

    The measure becomes effective on Friday. The Czech Republic has already banned all tourist trips.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    'IT TAKES TIME TO PREPARE QUARANTINE HOTELS' SAYS EXPERT

    Meher Nawab, chief executive of London Hotel Group, said it would take time and "due diligence" to prepare hotels to receive quarantining travellers.

    "In our set procedures, which the virologists have set, we're not allowed to let the customers leave the room, they are completely self-isolating in the room, they are provided three meals a day," he told BBC Breakfast.

    "There is a lot of training to go into this, a lot of health protocols as well, and actually the insurance has to be approved."

    "If you want to do something properly, and the amount of due diligence and protocol that has to go into place, it takes a long time."

  • Claudia Aoraha

    TRAVEL PASSPORTS: THE LATEST

    Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said it would be up to countries where holidaymakers are arriving to decide on travel passports.

    "The border measures of other countries and what they require of people coming to their countries will be up to them," he told Sky News.

    "Receiving countries will set their own border measures and it will be up to those countries to define what they require travellers to have.

    "At the moment, most countries, including our own, require a negative test result.

    "And we'll have to see what countries, what the international community, put in place once vaccines around the world are as effectively distributed, as they are here in the UK."

  • Claudia Aoraha

    AVOID A 'YO-YO SITUATION'

    Dr Mike Tildesley, a professor of infectious disease modelling at the University of Warwick, told Times Radio said it was important "to avoid a yo-yo situation where we unwrap things too rapidly, we get a resurgence and we have to lock down again".

    Pressed on whether outdoor socialising next month seems reasonable, he said: "I would say next month our real focus should be getting our children into school, and that should be the really key thing that's top of the agenda."

    But he said "a little bit more mixing outdoors" might be reasonable but would need "very clear messaging from the Government".

  • Claudia Aoraha

    HOTEL QUARANTINE NEEDED 'IMMEDIATELY'

    Dr Mike Tildesley said hotel quarantine policies should come in immediately when there was a need.

    He told Times Radio: "As with any control policy, as soon as you realise you might need to do this you need to introduce it immediately, which is why any delay, as we saw perhaps with the South African variant and delays to bans there, leads to the possibility of the virus getting in and circulating more widely.

    "It's important that we do isolate people coming in to reduce the risk of variants coming from other countries, but also we are getting homegrown new variants here and that's not going to help that."

  • Ben Hill

    QUARANTINE OPPOSITION

    Paul Charles, a travel consultant who runs the Quash Quarantine campaign, said that quarantining travellers in hotels was not the "panacea for stopping Covid entering the UK".

    Mr Charles said certain chains were concerned about their brand reputation being "tarnished" if hotels admitted Covid-positive guests and questioned the exit plan for "unwinding" hotel quarantines.

    "Governments use these blunt tools and put these measures in place relatively quickly, although this has been very slow, but they have a habit of leaving them in place longer than is necessary," he told Today.

    "It would be much better for the anticipated five million pound up front cost to be spent on investing in testing at arrivals and departures at Britain's airports.

    "That would have more impact."

  • Ben Hill

    FOUR DEAD

    Three patients and a doctor were killed ‘when oxygen equipment exploded’ at a Covid-19 hospital in Ukraine.

    Medic Dr Olha Hliva, 26, died alongside female patients aged 91,76 and 64 in the intensive care inferno in Zaporizhzhia.

    Eight survived the blaze including a male nurse and doctor who suffered burns.

    The condition of several patients who suffered from burns or smoke had “deteriorated”, according to latest reports.

    Patients in the unit were all on ventilators.

  • Ben Hill

    AUS OPEN ON TRACK

    An Australian Open testing blitz has revealed no new coronavirus cases, organisers said Friday, putting preparations for the Grand Slam tournament back on track after a Covid scare.

    Preparations for the year's opening tennis Grand Slam were thrown into disarray when a worker at one of the designated tournament hotels became infected with the virus.

    Some 507 players and officials were ordered to be tested and isolate until they received their result, with six warm-up tournaments suspended on Thursday.

    But they were all cleared on Friday as the tournaments resumed at Melbourne Park.

  • Patrick Knox

    MEXICO REPORTS 1,682 NEW VIRUS DEATHS

    Its health ministry last night reported 1,682 new confirmed deaths from Covid-19, bringing the total in the country to 162,922.

  • Patrick Knox

    CALL TO REOPEN HAIRDRESSERS AND SALONS TO BOOST NATION’S MENTAL HEALTH

    Whitehall insiders want Boris Johnson to commit to reopening the beauty industry, alongside non-essential shops, a few weeks later.

    One government insider told The Sun: “It wouldn’t just boost the economy, it would help people’s mental health too.

    “People are getting fed up at not being able to go for a haircut. It is about improving how people feel about themselves.

    “It would be good for the high street, of course. But it will also be good for people’s wellbeing.”

  • Patrick Knox

    COVID RATES AND INPATIENTS FALL ACROSS ALL REGIONS

  • Patrick Knox

    ANTI-VACCINE RABBI DISMISSED BY JEWISH ORGANIZATION

    A prominent Jewish organization is cutting ties with a longtime Massachusetts rabbi for actively promoting anti-vaccine views and strident opposition to public health efforts to rein in the coronavirus pandemic.

    Central Massachusetts Chabad said Thursday it dismissed Rabbi Michoel Green as a representative of the organization, which oversees Jewish community centers in the region, on Jan. 27.

    Green has run the Chabad house in Westborough, which is a suburb of Worcester, New England's second-largest city, for nearly 20 years.

    Rabbi Mendel Fogelman, director of the Central Massachusetts Chabad, said in a statement that Green has been warned multiple times that his activities and statements are contrary to the organisations mission and a direct conflict with his appointment.

  • Sarah Grealish

    MIXING BY MARCH

    PEOPLE should be able to visit their friends and families at home from next month, a leading expert has said.

    Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the rate of the fall in Covid cases made him optimistic for March.

    Asked about when people could start to see friends and family, Prof Hunter replied: "Personally I believe we should be able to start doing that probably not long after (schools reopen) – if I had to bet on a time, I'd say some time in March certainly."

    On being allowed back into restaurants, he added: "I think that will be probably around the same time, maybe April. But again, it just depends what happens with the epidemic between now and then."

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