Over-70s and extremely vulnerable people in England will begin to receive invitations for Covid-19 jabs today as the UK closes all travel corridors in a border crackdown fuelled by concern over new variants of the virus.
The vaccine will be offered to the next priority groups in what Boris Johnson called a “significant milestone” in the UK’s rollout. The government said the earlier targeted groups — including over-80s, care home residents and NHS staff — will remain priority but vaccination sites with adequate supply will be allowed to offer jabs to the next set.
The vaccine rollout is being expanded as a ban on quarantine-free travel into the UK comes into force in an attempt to keep out new variants such as those discovered in Brazil and South Africa. The new rules are set to be in place until at least 15 February and require anyone heading to the UK from overseas to provide a negative Covid test before departure.
Vaccine priority for exposed workers?
Nadhim Zahawi said he thinks those who are exposed to the virus through work should be prioritised in the second phase of the vaccine rollout.
“When we enter phase two, we will work with the Joint Committee [on Vaccination and Immunisation] to look at the priority,” he told Good Morning Britain.
“My instinct is that anyone who, through no fault of their own, has to come into contact with the virus in much greater volume and probability should be protected – teachers, policemen and women, shop workers, all those who need that additional protection.
“Now, some of them will be captured in the top nine categories anyway if they are clinically vulnerable, for example, or in that age group of the over-50s which are in category nine, effectively.
“But phase two — of course we’ll be guided by the [Joint Committee] — but my instinct is that if you work in a job, a shop worker, policemen or women, any other profession which brings you into contact with the virus unfairly, then I think you should be prioritised.”
Liam James18 January 2021 09:23
Passengers with negative Covid tests turned away from UK-bound flight | Exclusive
As the UK’s test-before-travel scheme took effect, passengers have been turned away from a transatlantic flight because the airline did not regard their negative Covid tests as sufficiently high standard, travel correspondent Simon Calder reports.
Hannah Holland, a 23-year-old British woman from Sheffield, was booked to travel on American Airlines (AA) from Philadelphia via Chicago’s O’Hare airport to London Heathrow.
It was the first departure of flight AA86 for which passengers were required to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before being allowed on board.
Read the full report here:
Liam James18 January 2021 09:12
No lockdown easing before March, minister suggests
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, suggested the easing of lockdown restrictions will not begin before March.
He said there were a number of things that stand in the way of “reopening the economy” and reiterated a remark from deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam saying we do not yet know the “impact of the vaccine on transmission rates”.
Any reopening will be gradual, Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast, and “probably” will employ the tier system but should not be expected to begin until “two to three weeks after the middle of February” by when the government aims to have vaccinated the top four priority groups.
Liam James18 January 2021 08:58
Vaccine will not impact death rate or hospital admissions for some time, says NHS boss
The vaccination programme will not impact death rates or hospital admissions until “well into February”, NHS England’s national medical director said.
Infection rates in London had slowed but the rest of the country has not seen as significant a slowdown since the new lockdown came into effect, Professor Stephen Powis told Good Morning Britain.
But he suggested there were “early signs” the lockdown had begun to take effect, though he added it will be a week or two before this begins to take pressure off hospitals.
“For the next few weeks and into February, it’s really important that everybody sticks to those social distancing guidelines,” he said.
“The vaccine programme gives us hope, but it’s not going to impact on deaths or hospital admissions until well into February.”
Liam James18 January 2021 08:47
Toughest travel rules in a lifetime take effect for UK arrivals
The toughest travel rules in a lifetime for arrivals into the UK have now come into effect.
Anyone hoping to travel to the UK from a foreign country (except Ireland), by air, rail or sea must present a negative Covid test taken within the past three days.
Our resident travel expert Simon Calder explains the new rules:
Liam James18 January 2021 08:35
Pilot for 24-hour vaccinations by end of January, says minister
Nadhim Zahawi, the government’s vaccines minister, said 24-hour vaccinations will be piloted in London hospitals by the end of January.
Appearing on Sky News just now, he said: “We are going to pilot the 24-hour vaccination, the NHS is going to pilot that in hospitals in London and we will look at how we expand that.”
Pressed for when the pilots will start, he said: “By the end of January, absolutely.”
But he said the 8am-8pm vaccination works “much more conveniently” for the over-80s while later hours become more convenient younger groups.
Liam James18 January 2021 08:23
UK closes all travel corridors
The UK closed all travel corridors today meaning anyone heading to the UK from overseas will need to provide a negative coronavirus test taken within the past three days before departure.
Those who are permitted to reach the UK must quarantine on arrival for 10 days.
The tough border rules came into force at 4am today and are set to stay in place until at least 15 February. Last Friday, a ban on travellers from South Africa and Portugal was implemented in an attempt to shield the UK from new variants of the virus, including one identified in Brazil.
Liam James18 January 2021 08:11
Covid vaccinations to begin for over-70s and extremely vulnerable
Over-70s and extremely vulnerable people will begin receiving invitations for coronavirus jabs this week in what Boris Johnson called a “significant milestone” in the UK’s vaccination programme.
Covid-19 vaccines will be rolled out to the third and fourth priority groups from today at vaccination sites with the necessary capacity.
The government said it would continue to prioritise the first two priority groups — care home residents and their carers, and over-80s, frontline health and social care workers – which have received 3.8 million jabs so far.
My colleague Conrad Duncan has the full story:
Liam James18 January 2021 07:59
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of pandemic news today.
Liam James18 January 2021 07:56