Coronavirus UK news updates LIVE – Lockdown lift 'IRREVERSIBLE', Boris reveals, plus pubs won't need vaccine passport

Coronavirus UK news updates LIVE – Lockdown lift 'IRREVERSIBLE', Boris reveals, plus pubs won't need vaccine passport

ANY lifting of lockdown over the coming months will be irreversible, Boris Johnson has revealed.

Desperate to avoid plunging the UK back into yet another crippling lockdown, the PM insists that a cautious lifting of restrictions is needed to avoid hospitals becoming overwhelmed with covid patients again.

Speaking of lockdown measures easing, Boris said "what we wanted to see is progress that is cautious but irreversible and I think that’s what the public and people up and down the country will want to see".

The news comes at Matt Hancock revealed Britain's pubs will reopen without vaccine passport rules.

The Health Secretary confirmed that vaccine passports are currently not being considered for use in domestic settings such as pubs, shops and live events once the coronavirus lockdown eventually lifts.

His comments came after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab sparked concern that vaccine passports may be required inside the UK, as well as to allow those who've already been vaccinated to take foreign holidays.

The news comes as Boris Johnson is expected to announce the reopening of schools and resumption of sitting on park benches with a single friend as he appears at a press conference this evening.

The Prime Minister will speak at 5pm tonight and you can watch his statement here, live on this page, as well following our live blog below

Restrictions for adults will only be slightly relaxed in March with Brits being allowed to sit down outdoors with one friend or family member.

At the end of next month, social distancing rules are expected to be eased further with outdoor sports like golf and tennis for two people from different households being allowed.

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

  • Dan Keane

    SCHOOLS DO NOT PLAY SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN SPREADING COVID, STUDY CLAIMS

    Schools do not play a significant role in driving the spread of Covid-19 in the community, a study suggests.

    Cases among teachers fell during the November lockdown – when schools in England remained open – particularly in regions with the toughest restrictions, according to epidemiologists at the University of Warwick.

    Researchers say there is no significant evidence to suggest that children attending class, particularly in primary schools, is a major driver of outbreaks in the community in England.

    In December, the data indicates a large rise in the number of absences due to confirmed infection in secondary schools in the South East and London, but such rises were not observed in other regions or in primary schools.

    It comes as Boris Johnson faces mounting pressure to open schools on the March 8 deadline – though scientists are optimistic that the UK has "headroom" to do so following a fall in cases.

  • Dan Keane

    WALES 'HOPEFUL' OF OPENING PRIMARY SCHOOLS BY END OF FEB

    The "majority of headroom" in Wales will be used to ensure that schools will reopen for children aged seven and under from February 22, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said.

    "We're looking to see if there are other small things we can do and the reason we're saying small things is we're trying to manage people's expectations," Mr Gething told a press conference in Cardiff.

    "We're not suddenly going to have a wide-scale opening of all the measures and lots of mixing between different households."

  • Dan Keane

    NO 10 COY ON LOCKDOWN ROADMAP

    Downing Street declined to comment on what Boris Johnson's road map out of restrictions may feature, including when asked if he could rule out easing all restrictions by the end of April.

    Asked about the timetable called for by the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown-sceptics, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I can't pre-empt what's going to be in the road map or the details of the review this week.

    "It will be the review this week that informs the decisions we make and what is contained in the road map on Monday, I can't pre-empt that."

  • Dan Keane

    DOWNING ST DOESN'T RULE OUT PHASED SCHOOLS RETURN

    Downing Street has said the intention is to "start getting" pupils back to school on March 8, but was not ruling out that they could be sent back in stages.

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "It's our intention to start getting kids back to school from March 8."

    Pressed if all students would be back on that date, he said: "It's important that we undertake the review this week, we always said that we'd carry out the review this week and we would set out all the details in the road map on Monday.

    "I'm not obviously going to pre-empt what's going to be in the road map on Monday but again it remains our priority to get kids back to school and we always said we want that to start from March 8 if the science and evidence allows."

  • Dan Keane

    STURGEON SAYS UPTAKE OF JAB HAS 'SURPASSED EXPECTATION'

    Nicola Sturgeon said levels of uptake of the vaccine had so far been "significantly beyond" the target of 80% set out in the deployment plan.

    The SNP leader said "pretty much everybody" living in care homes for older people had been given their first injection, with this also applying to "close to 100%" of the estimated number of people aged over 80 and living in the community.

    Meanwhile, more than 99% of those aged 75 to 79 have had their first injection, along with 85% of those aged 70 to 74 – with Ms Sturgeon saying many in this group are "maybe getting vaccinated today".

  • Dan Keane

    LEAFY VILLAGED ROCKED BY 500% SPIKE IN COVID CASES

    Locals living in a picture postcard village were gobsmacked after it was rocked by a 440 per cent spike in coronavirus cases in one week.

    The worrying rise in cases in South Cave, near Hull, East Yorks, has left residents puzzled.

    Official government figures on Saturday showed cases has risen by 440 per cent, Hull Daily Mail reported.

    It means South Cave – which has a population of just 5,000 – now has the worst Covid-19 infection rate for the whole of Yorkshire.

    Read our full story here.

  • Dan Keane

    ONE IN FOUR IN WALES HAVE RECEIVED JAB

    The equivalent of one in four people in Wales have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said.

    Mr Gething told a press conference in Cardiff that take-up of the vaccine in the first four priority groups in Wales had been "incredibly high".

    He said people in priority groups five to nine in Wales should be offered a vaccine by the end of April.

  • Dan Keane

    BORIS TO LEAD DOWNING STREET BRIEFING LATER

    The Prime Minister is set to address the nation from Downing Street this evening.

    The briefing is expected to begin at 5pm, and you can follow all the latest here.

  • Dan Keane

    SCOTLAND SEES CASES RISE BY 559

    Scotland has recorded 559 positive coronavirus tests in the past 24 hours, Nicola Sturgeon said.

    No deaths have been recorded in the last 24 hours, she added, meaning the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is 6,715.

  • John Hall

    FOURTH MEMBER OF WELSH AMBULANCE SERVICE DIES WITH COVID

    A fourth member of the Welsh Ambulance Service has died after battling coronavirus.

    Kevin Hughes, 41, from Valley, Anglesey, worked on the ICT service desk based at St Asaph.

    He died at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, on Sunday morning after fighting coronavirus for several weeks.

    Mr Hughes, a keen Liverpool FC fan, had worked as an ICT service desk analyst since May 2017.

  • John Hall

    BORIS URGES VULNERABLE BRITS TO COME FORWARD FOR JAB

    Boris Johnson urged people who should have had a coronavirus jab to come forward and make sure they receive a vaccine.

    The Prime Minister said: "The numbers are very good for the over 80s, for the over 70s, and I think the 75-79 group you're looking at 99% that have been done.

    "But there are some people who are still to come forward and I really do urge people to come forward.

    "These jabs, these vaccines are safe, they are efficacious, they will help protect you against disease and against death and they're a wonderful thing to have – they help protect you, your family, your neighbours."

  • Dan Keane

    WALES REPORTS 363 FURTHER CASES

    There have been a further 363 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 199,518.

    Public Health Wales reported another 16 deaths, taking the total in the country since the start of the pandemic to 5,137.

  • John Hall

    NO PLANS FOR 'VACCINE PASSPORTS' AT THE PUB

    Boris Johnson said he has no plans to introduce so-called vaccine passports for activities like going to the pub.

    Speaking to the media from south London, the PM said: "I think inevitably there will be great interest in ideas like can you show that you had a vaccination against Covid in the way that you sometimes have to show you have had a vaccination against Yellow Fever or other diseases in order to travel somewhere.

    "I think that is going to be very much in the mix down the road, I think that is going to happen.

    "What I don't think we will have in this country is – as it were – vaccination passports to allow you to go to, say, the pub or something like that."

  • John Hall

    BORIS: LIFTING LOCKDOWN WILL BE 'CAUTIOUS'

    Boris Johnson has said that his plan to lift lockdown would be cautious but irreversible.

    The PM told reporters today: "We've got to be very prudent and what we want to see is progress that is cautious, but irreversible.

    "If we possibly can, we'll be setting out dates.

    "If because of the rate of infection, we have to push something off a little bit to the right – delay it for a little bit – we won't hesitate to do that."

  • John Hall

    UNION URGES TEACHERS TO STRIKE

    Unions have urged teachers to strike if they don't get pay rises before pupils go back to class on March 8.

    National Education Union (NEU) chiefs have told members to prepare for industrial action if their demands aren't met.

    And bosses say now is the time to "leverage" support for key workers to target MPs with a "Twitter storm" – and "name and shame" those who won't support their demands, the Telegraph reports.

    After months of school closures, it's feared the plot could cause more misery for youngsters and their parents.

  • John Hall

    EU LIKELY TO APPROVE JOHNSON & JOHNSON JAB

    The EU is likely to approve the highly effective Johnson & Johnson jab for use across the bloc soon, French vaccination chief Alan Fischer has said.

    Mr Fischer told French BFM television that the vaccine could be rolled out in France's vaccination campaign by April.

    The bloc has already approved vaccines produced by Oxford/Astrazeneca, Pfizer and Moderna.

  • John Hall

    COVID CASES DROP IN NEARLY 95% OF THE UK

    Coronavirus case rates have fallen across nearly 95% of local authorities in the UK, new figures show.

    Of the 380 local authorities areas across the country, only 6% have seen a week-on-week increase in case rates compared with 93% where the rates have fallen.

    The highest case rate in the UK was in Corby, Northamptonshire, with 277 new cases recorded in the seven days to February 10 – the equivalent of 383.6 cases per 100,000 people.

  • John Hall

    FIRST GUESTS ARRIVE AT QUARANTINE HOTELS

    The first guests have checked into quarantine hotels as tougher rules for international arrivals come into force today.

    UK and Irish nationals and UK residents returning to England from 33 "red list" countries, hotspots with Covid-19 variants in circulation, are required to quarantine in hotels for 11 nights.

    A handful of people pulled up to the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, near Heathrow airport, shortly before 9am.

    One woman, who had flown in from Zambia, said: "I'm not happy, but you have to do it."

  • John Hall

    SRAELI STUDY CONFIRMS VACCINE EFFICACY

    A large-scale Israeli has underlined the efficacy of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in preventing symptomatic Covid infections.

    Clalit, the largest of Israels four health care providers, released a study that compared infections in 600,000 Israelis who had received the vaccine compared to 600,000 who were not inoculated.

    The study found a 94% drop in symptomatic infections and a 92% drop in serious cases of the disease among those vaccinated. 

    It said the efficacy of the vaccine is preserved in every age group, particularly a week after the second dose of the vaccine.

    Israel is currently immunising its population faster than any other country, and scientists across the world are closely monitoring the jab's effects on transmission and hospitalisations.

  • John Hall

    'SOME WAY TO GO' BEFORE LOCKDOWN IS EASED

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said there is "some way to go" before lockdown is eased.

    Asked about easing restrictions, he told BBC Breakfast: "We are taking those decisions this week.

    "We will be looking at the data, looking at the success of the vaccine rollout and how far that has reached and its impact in terms of protecting people, looking at the number of cases and critically, looking at the number of people who are in hospital and the number of deaths – those two factors are vital."

  • John Hall

    PROF FERGUSON 'HOPES' THIS WILL BE LAST LOCKDOWN

    Asked if this could be the last lockdown, Professor Neil Ferguson said he "very much" hopes so, adding that more information is needed about how effective vaccines are going to be.

    The scientist told Good Morning Britain: "We have results from scientific studies, clinical trials, but the real world is a different thing and so, again as the Government has said, we need to see how much protection vaccinated people have.

    "We need to see how quickly death rates come down before we can be completely confident about going that next step and really reopening."

  • John Hall

    PROF NEIL FERGUSON 'ENCOURAGED' BY GOVT STRATEGY

    Professor Neil Ferguson said he is "encouraged" by the Government's "cautious strategy" during the current lockdown.

    The scientist said he has also felt "very surprised and encouraged by how quickly case numbers have been coming down in recent weeks".

    He told Good Morning Britain: "All the Government messaging is that they will take it one step at a time.

    "The thing we don't want to repeat is what has happened on previous occasions – namely relaxing too fast."

  • John Hall

    WHO 'EXPECT' VACCINE PASSPORTS TO BE ISSUED IN FUTURE

    The World Health Organisation special envoy for the Covid-19 response has said he expects "some sort" of vaccine passport will be introduced in future.

    Dr David Nabarro said: "I am absolutely certain in the next few months we will get a lot of movement and what are the conditions around which people are easily able to move from place to place, so some sort of vaccine certificate no doubt will be important."

    The concept of 'vaccine passports' has previously been dismissed by government ministers as "discriminatory", though transport secretary Grant Shapps has suggested that such a document could be useful for those wanting to travel safely.

  • John Hall

    MPS CALL FOR COVID SAFE WEDDINGS TO REOPEN

    Senior Tory backbenchers have urged Boris Johnson to allow Covid-safe weddings to resume from March 8 before permitting unrestricted ceremonies from May 1.

    Thirteen MPs, including 1922 committee chairman Sir Graham Brady, have backed a campaign seeking to pressure the PM as he prepares to unveil a roadmap out of lockdown.

    Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said: "Vaccinating the top nine risk groups will prevent around 99% of deaths from Covid and around 80% of hospital admissions.

    "That should be a huge moment for the UK to hold its head up high, for couples to walk down the aisle, and for families up and down the country to reunite, to celebrate and to plan their futures."

  • John Hall

    QUARANTINE HOTELS 'WORKING SMOOTHLY'

    Britain's new hotel quarantine system for arrivals from 33 "red list" countries appears to be working smoothly a few hours after it was introduced, Matt Hancock has said.

    "As of 6.30am, when I got my latest update, this is working smoothly, we've been working with the airports and with the border force to make sure everybody knows the process," Hancock told Times Radio.

    "It does appear to be going smoothly this morning."

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