UK Covid-19 vaccinations: Latest figures
Everyone in England will be offered free rapid coronavirus tests twice a week from Friday, as part of a plan to help stop fresh outbreaks of the virus and enable authorities to identify and control new variants.
People will be able to obtain a 30-minute lateral flow test through a home ordering service, workplace or school testing programme, or by collecting one at a local test site.
Boris Johnson said of the scheme: “As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our road map cautiously easing restrictions under way, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.”
It comes as the prime minister is due to announce more details about Covid status certificates – which are aimed at helping mass events resume – as well as the government’s approach for lifting restrictions on holidays abroad.
Ministers made clear that the ban on foreign travel from England will not be lifted before 17 May. Downing Street also confirmed that a risk-based “traffic light” system will be put in place with red, amber and green ratings for countries around the world.
Scotland’s Covid rules eased as hairdressers and garden centres reopen
Scotland moved another step closer to returning to normal life on Monday as Covid-19 restrictions were further eased to allow hairdressers, homeware shops and garden centres to reopen following months of shutdown.
Non-essential click-and-collect services also resumed business after the devolved government said the latest data “shows continue suppression of Covid-19”, and the country’s “stay at home” order was replaced with a new “stay local” rule on Friday.
My colleague Matt Mathers reports:
Kate Ng5 April 2021 09:30
Labour has ‘many reservations’ over vaccine passports
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said Labour had “many reservations” about the use of vaccine passports in the UK.
The senior Opposition MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I have reservations, the Labour Party has reservations around the introduction of vaccine passports.
“We have an amazing take-up of the vaccine, it is being rolled out incredibly successfully by the NHS – it is not totally clear to me that we need a sledgehammer to crack a nut here.
“The big priority has got to be ensuring that everybody is vaccinated so we can get back as quickly as possible to the things we love doing, whether that is going to the pub, the restaurant, the football match or the concert.
“The priority should be ensuring that the vaccine is rolled out, that we have a Test and Trace (system) that works properly but the Government does not have a great track record in introducing new IT systems and what we don’t want to see is more taxpayers’ money wasted, more bureaucracy and red tape for businesses who have already gone through an incredibly tough year.
“So we will see what the Government bring forward and their rationale for it – we’ll keep an open mind but at the moment we have many reservations around what the Government looks like it might be suggesting.”
Kate Ng5 April 2021 09:16
‘Unpalatable’ things necessary, says minister defending vaccine passports
Health minister Edward Argar has denied that the government had changed its mind on the use of so-called vaccine passports.
Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi previously called them discriminatory. However, the government announced over the weekend that the concept will be tested in a series of pilot events.
Asked on BBC Breakfast whether the Government had changed its mind, Mr Argar said: “I don’t think it is that at all.
“What we are seeing here is that there are a number of things we’ve had to do as a country and individuals over the past year that I don’t think any of us would choose to do or want to do but the nature of this disease has meant we’ve had to do some fairly unpalatable things that we would not have chosen to do.
“And in this context, and I don’t want to pre-empt the review that (Cabinet Office minister) Michael Gove is undertaking, but he has been clear that if you look at for example other countries like Israel, which have had a high level of vaccination and are beginning to see how they can open up their economy and country faster – I think they have something called ‘green passes’ – I think it is right that we look at this and see if there is a way that, while balancing all of those practical, ethical and fairness considerations, is there a way this could, in the short-term, speed-up our reopening of the country and getting back to doing the things we love?
“I don’t think anyone would wish to do it but I think it is right that it is looked at as: ‘Can this help us go a little bit faster and get our country back to normal?”’
Kate Ng5 April 2021 08:57
Vaccine passports and testing could allow people to travel again, says Tui boss
Andrew Flintham, managing director for Tui UK and Ireland, said vaccine passports and testing were both ways of allowing people to travel.
Asked on BBC Breakfast if travellers will need to have had a test or a vaccine, he said: “We will obviously take our lead from the Government in terms of the travel regulations or the travel certification.
“Our position is we want it to be as wide as possible, so the idea of a vaccine passport is great, but it’s only one way of getting to be able to travel.
“So free, ideally free, or cheap testing that is freely available is another major way of getting people moving and also being able to certify that people have actually had the disease and have recovered, therefore they have created these antibodies.”
Kate Ng5 April 2021 08:46
Boris Johnson to unveil ‘traffic light system’ for foreign holidays from 17 May
Boris Johnson is set to outline a traffic light system central to the government’s plan to open up foreign travel while preventing Covid variants finding their way into the UK.
Ministers have said the current lockdown ban on international travel will remain until at least 17 May, with the government’s global travel task force due to report on recommendations for next steps on 12 April.
But today the PM is expected to set out a system under which countries are assessed across a range of factors and assigned one of three risk ratings.
Read more about it in Vincent Wood’s report:
Kate Ng5 April 2021 08:45
Everyone in England to be offered two rapid Covid tests a week in bid to stop new outbreaks
Everyone in England will be able to take a free rapid Covid test twice a week, under a new testing regime launching on Friday.
The government says the tests, which will be available to everyone regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, will “stop outbreaks in their tracks” as the vaccine rollout continues.
Our Policy Correspondent Jon Stone has further details:
Kate Ng5 April 2021 08:42
Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s liveblog following the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic.
Kate Ng5 April 2021 08:40