Covid lockdown LIVE – 1.7 MILLION added to shielding and vaccine priority list as Scotland gets kids in school next week

AN EXTRA 1.7million Brits have been added to the list of people asked to shield after new modelling identified additional risk factors.

New data from Oxford University shows people from minority backgrounds, lower income households and those who are overweight died at disproportionate rates during the first wave of coronavirus.

800,000 of those who fall into the new shielding categories but have not yet been vaccinated will now be fast-tracked to get them their jabs as soon as possible in order to make their shielding experience a short one.

The 1.7 million people will also be made a priority for supermarket deliveries and statutory sick pay, it was revealed today.

Meanwhile Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today announced that some children will be returning to schools as early as next week.

She confirmed plans to get more kids back into the classrooms in the coming days, but stopped short of revealing a full plan for easing lockdown measures in Scotland.

Sturgeon said 100% normality is not yet possible – and warned that even a slight easing of restrictions could see cases soar again.

Pre-school kids and a limited number of older kids will be able to return from Monday, 22 February – two weeks before they start back in England.

Follow our live blog below for the very latest UK politics news

  • Dan Keane

    TEACHERS MAY NOT BE BUMPED UP VACCINE LIST

    Teachers may not get bumped up the Covid vaccine priority list in the next phase of the programme.

    Instead, the rollout may focus on age and ethnicity as the most important factors, reports claim.

    A source on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and immunisation (JCVI), which advises the government on the rollout, told the Telegraph was a prominent factor after age.

    They said: "The mortality figures for people from South Asian backgrounds are particularly worrying. 

    “Once we get down to those in their 50s, we want to be reaching out especially to these ethnic minority groups."

  • Dan Keane

    DON'T MIX AT SCHOOL GATES, STURGEON WARNS

    Parents have been urged not to socialise at school gates for fear of spreading coronavirus.

    Speaking to MSPs in Holyrood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the return to schools for some pupils from Monday must only be treated as "a return to education for children only, and not as a return to greater normality for the rest of us".

    She said: "If we all do that, then I am hopeful that this return to school will be consistent with our continued progress in suppressing the virus."

  • Dan Keane

    GOVT DID NOT REJECT POST-BREXIT VISA OFFER OVER 'IDEOLOGICAL ISSUE'

    The Government did not reject the European Union's post-Brexit visa offer over an "ideological issue", Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage has said.

    Ms Dinenage told MPs they are "barking up the wrong tree" and that the UK took a "common-sense position" during negotiations.

    She appeared in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in a one-off session about the Government's handling of talks with the EU over the issue.

    Ms Dinenage told the committee: "I think the Home Office would have been very interested in the visa proposals that the EU were putting forward if they were firm guarantees, if they were actually binding, which they weren't.

    "If they actually delivered what we needed, if they didn't ask in exchange for us to sign up to something that any other G7, any other big nation, has signed up for with the EU."

  • Dan Keane

    FIRST 'ECO-HOMES' TO BE BUILT BY APRIL

    The UK's first eco-homes fuelled entirely with clean hydrogen will be built in Gateshead by April, ministers have revealed.

    The state-of-the-art technology, part funded by the Government, can be used for heating and cooking, and doesn't produce any nasty carbon emissions.

    The PM wants hydrogen to be a key part of the nation's climate goals, and hopes to develop a whole hydrogen town by the end of the decade.

    Most homes are part heated and fueled with gas, which is responsible for over 30 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions.

  • Dan Keane

    OVER 13.5 MILLION PEOPLE JABBED IN SIX WEEKS

    A total of 13,575,245 Covid-19 vaccinations took place in England between December 8 and February 15, according to provisional NHS England data.

    This includes first and second doses, which is a rise of 221,614 on the previous day's figures.

  • Dan Keane

    4 TRAVELLERS FINED £10K FOR NOT DECLARING THEY WERE IN 'RED LIST' COUNTRY

    Four passengers were fined £10,000 each after failing to declare they had arrived in the UK from a "red list" country, police said.

    West Midlands Police said the offenders were caught after landing at Birmingham Airport on Monday, the first day that tougher border rules were implemented.

    Travellers arriving in England who have been in a country at high risk of coronavirus variants in the past 10 days must declare this on a form and isolate in a hotel for at least 11 nights at at an initial cost of £1,750.

  • Dan Keane

    STURGEON HAILS 'GOOD NEWS' ON COVID INFECTIONS

    Lockdown in Scotland has been working, Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs.

    When the new stay at home order was put in place in early January, average daily case numbers were 2,300 and have fallen to 810.

    The First Minister said: "As a result, we are now seeing fewer Covid patients in hospital and intensive care – although our health service remains under severe pressure.

    "Test positivity has also declined significantly – from around 11% at the start of January, to around 6% now.

    "All of this – together with our progress on vaccination – is extremely good news."

  • Dan Keane

    SOME SCOTTISH PUPILS TO RETURN NEXT MONDAY

    Some pupils in Scotland will return to schools from February 22, Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs.

    The move will see all kids in P1 to P3 and those at pre-school return.

    However, the the stay at home lockdown order will continue until at least the beginning of March and possibly longer.

  • Dan Keane

    GOVT GIVES OUT NEARLY 70,000 LAPTOPS FOR CHILDREN

    Nearly 69,000 additional laptops and tablets have been delivered or dispatched by the Government to help children with remote learning in the past week.

    New figures from the Department for Education suggest that 493,324 devices have been sent to councils, academy trusts, schools and colleges across England since the lockdown began on January 4.

    This is an extra 68,896 devices compared to the same time last week.

    A total of 1,055,745 laptops and tablets have been delivered or dispatched to support pupils to access remote education since the start of the pandemic.

  • Dan Keane

    HIKES TO INCOME TAX AND VAT LIKELY POST-PANDEMIC, THINK TANK SAYS

    Rises to national insurance, income tax and VAT could be required to help balance the Government's books, the head of an influential think tank has said.

    Paul Johnson, the chief executive of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), argued that changes to smaller taxes could help push down the deficit. 

    But the IFS estimates that around £60 billion might be needed to be raised through taxes in the coming years to help the economy recover from the pandemic.

    "If we're really looking at these amounts of money – that it is hard to see how we do that without looking at the big taxes," Mr Johnson said.

  • Dan Keane

    REYNOLDS: ‘WE NEED TO REPLACE UNIVERSAL CREDIT’

    Mr Reynolds added that it was time for the government to find a new benefits system in place of Universal Credit.

    He said: “We need to replace Universal Credit – these features always drive the kind of consequences you will see today.

    “We need a system which supports people being able to move into work and that means a complete change of policy, not tinkering with it.” 

  • Dan Keane

    LABOUR MP CALLS FOR OVERHAUL OF BENEFITS SYSTEM

    A senior Labour MP has called for an overhaul of the benefits system and said returning to normal after the pandemic is “not good enough”. 

    Jonathan Reynolds, shadow work and pensions secretary, told Sky News that poverty had “got a lot worse since 2010”.

    He added: “Before this pandemic occurred, the UK was a country with rising poverty levels, rising inequality. 

    “When the Government talks about returning to normal – well, normal is not good enough.”

  • Dan Keane

    SCOT LABOUR LEADER CANDIDATE SAYS PARTY MUST ACCEPT CASE FOR INDYREF2

    A candidate for the Scottish Labour leadership has said support for independence could increase if the party refuses to acknowledge the case for another referendum.

    Monica Lennon, who is backed by the Labour left, suggested that voters could desert the party if they fail to back another vote. 

    She told the Guardian: “If people in Scotland through the ballot box express that they want a referendum, it would be foolish and undemocratic to ignore that.

    “It would be irresponsible for anyone to race ahead and force a referendum to happen this year while we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.

    “But for those people who want to hide behind Boris Johnson [by rejecting one], then I would say that would be a disaster for Scottish Labour and actually that itself puts the union at risk.”

  • Olivia Burke

    BBC DJ JO WHILEY DISTRAUGHT AFTER SHE'S OFFERED JAB BEFORE DISABLED SISTER IN CARE HOME

    BBC Radio 2 DJ Jo Whiley has told of her anguish after she was offered acoronavirus jab before her disabled sister stuck in a care home.

    She described "living through a nightmare" after being kept apart from her younger sister Frances, who has the rare Cri du Chat genetic syndrome.

    Whiley would give her vaccine up "in a heartbeat" to her sister or one of the other care home patients after the residency went on lockdown after a covid outbreak.

    “I can’t tell you how frustrating it is and how horrendous it is. It is the stuff of nightmares at the moment. I feel like I am living through a nightmare," she said.

    "All weekend it has been awful – really, really difficult. It has been hard for my parents, it has been hard for everyone in the care home, and it continues."

  • Olivia Burke

    VACCINE TRIUMPH AS OVER 80S MOST LIKELY TO BE IMMUNE

    It seems the vaccine rollout could be a success, as over-80s are now the age group most likely to test positive for coronavirus antibodies.

    The data from testing by the Office for National Statistics used blood tests to test different age groups signs of immunity against the virus.

    The blood samples show that over-80s are the group showing the most antibodies, suggesting the vaccine is doing its job.

  • Olivia Burke

    DR FAUCI WINS $1 MILLION PRIZE

    Dr Anthony Fauci has been awarded the $1 million Dan David Prize for “defending science” and pioneering vaccine development.

    The Israel-based Foundation congratulated Fauci for courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging Covid crisis” and praised him for “speaking truth to power in a highly charged political environment.”

    The 80-year-old chief medical advisor, a key figure in the US coronavirus response, was also chosen thanks to his lifelong mission into HIV research and AIDS relief.

  • Dan Keane

    SCHOOL ATTENDANCE RISES

    The proportion of primary school pupils in England being taught on-site has risen in a week to nearly a quarter, Government data shows.

    Overall, 16% of state school pupils were in class on February 11 – the same as the week before, according to figures from the Department for Education.

    But almost one in four (24%) of primary school pupils were on-site last week during the lockdown, which is a rise on the week before (23%), while 5% of secondary school students were in class – the same as on February 4.

    Approximately 894,000 children of key workers were in attendance last week, slightly down from 895,000 the week before.

  • Dan Keane

    SCOTTISH GOVT PROBE AFTER US TRAVELLER WRONGFULLY QUARANTINED

    The Scottish Government is investigating after US travellers were mistakenly made to quarantine in a hotel despite a loophole in the rules.

    Chun Wong and his daughter Kiernan, eight, arrived at Edinburgh airport on Monday via a connecting flight in Dublin and were set to spend 10 days self-isolating in a nearby hotel.

    However, Mr Wong was contacted by officials later to tell him he did not need to abide by the rules.

    A Scottish Government spokesman said the incident is being investigated.

  • Dan Keane

    TOTAL ALCOHOL SALES DROP IN EARLY PANDEMIC AS OFF-SALES TOTALS SOAR ALMOST 30%

    Sales of alcohol per adult dropped by 6% in the early part of lockdown, a new study has shown.

    Research by Public Health Scotland and the University of Glasgow found the drop in Scotland as well as England and Wales between mid-March and July 11 last year.

    Compared to what would be expected, had physical distancing measures not been put in place, the volume of pure alcohol bought by people in Great Britain dropped by 6%.

    A significant spike in off-sales – 28% in Scotland and 29% in England and Wales – was not enough to offset the drop caused by the onset of the pandemic.

  • Dan Keane

    STURGEON EXPECTED TO UNVEIL SCHOOLS REOPENING PLAN

    Nicola Sturgeon is expected to unveil a plan for the reopening of schools this afternoon at a coronavirus press briefing.

    The First Minister will address Holyrood this afternoon to confirm whether or not classrooms will open on February 22, as had previously been planned.

    Ms Sturgeon said yesterday that she was “very, very, very keen to go ahead" with the reopening following a dramatic fall in cases in Scotland.

  • Dan Keane

    BRITS TO WAIT UNTIL SEPTEMBER FOR REOPENING OF GIGS

    BRITS will have to wait until at least September before they can flock back to nightclubs, gigs, cinemas, and theatres, a minister suggested today.

    Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi hinted venues that will need to mass test visitors won't be allowed to reopen until almost all the population is vaccinated.

    And he said when that is done it will combine with testing technology, which is "getting better and better", to help unlock all the economy.

    Thousands of clubs and theatres across Britain have been unable to reopen since last March, and many are facing financial ruin.

  • Dan Keane

    ZAHAWI APOLOGISES FOR JAB CONFUSION

    The vaccines minister has apologised for "any confusion" over when asthma sufferers can expect to be offered a coronavirus jab.

    Mr Zahawi told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "In category four, those with serious, extremely vulnerable cases of asthma would have been given the first dose in category four.

    "Now in category six, if they have oral steroids, then they are in category six.

    "The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation looked at the evidence and that's what we are guided by.

    "I apologise if there was any confusion, I certainly don't want to have any confusion at all."

  • Dan Keane

    WILLIAMSON LAUNCHES PLAN TO 'PROTECT FREE SPEECH' AT UNIS

    Gavin Williamson has launched a plan to "protect free speech" on university campuses.

    The Education Secretary today announced a number of proposals aimed at bolstering academic freedom in England, including the appointment of a "free speech champion" to look into instances of 'no-platforming'.

    The Office for Students (OfS) regulator will also be able to impose fines on institutions should they breach the conditions.

    Mr Williamson, who has faced criticism for his handling of exams and the reopening of schools during the pandemic, said he was "deeply worried" about the "chilling effect on campuses of unacceptable silencing and censoring".

  • Dan Keane

    'SPREAD DEVOLUTION TO SAVE UNION', URGES TORY PEER

    A Tory peer has called for an enhanced devolution council to counter the growth of Scottish nationalism.

    Lord Dunlop, who was a Scotland Office minister from 2015 until 2017, writes in The Times that "the UK must continue to look and feel like a shared endeavour".

    He added: "Growing regional economies in England will provide growing markets for Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland businesses.

    "If we are able to create alternative regional magnets for economic activity to match the power of London and the southeast then we all benefit."

  • Dan Keane

    UK NEEDS COMPETITION RULES FOR THE DIGITAL AGE, SAYS MP

    A Tory MP has called for a new Competition Act to make the UK's competition law fit to serve in the digital age.

    John Penrose, MP for Weston, Worle and the Villages, said that new regulations could "update and modernise our institutions for the new digital economy".

    His report, published on Tuesday, also recommended that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should work out a way that lets customers easily compare the "price" of free online services.

    Many digital companies, such as Google and Facebook, do not charge customers for many of their services. Instead they harvest customers' data, giving them insights which allows adverts to be targeted with precision.

    The "CMA must consider how to improve transparency of the price consumers are paying through their data for digital goods and services, so they can make informed choices about whether each one represents good value or not, and whether they wish to switch to others which might be better," the report said.

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