THE UK will scrap social distancing laws and move towards “personal responsibility” for covid safety, Matt Hancock said today.
“What we want to do is get rid of the social distancing-type laws that get in the way of normal life and move to personal responsibility, rather than laws dictating how all of us live our daily lives,” the Health Secretary told Times Radio.
“But, it is also clear that eradication is unfortunately not possible… so we are going to have to learn to live with it. In the same way that for instance we live with flu – but we don’t let flu get in the way of living our lives.
“But we do vaccinate against it every year – in the case of flu we vaccinate those who are most vulnerable – and so I expect to have that vaccination programme as a regular feature of future life,” he added.
The news comes after Boris Johnson was warned the consequences of lifting lockdown too quickly would lead to 91,000 extra covid deaths,
The advice, from the Government’s SAGE advisers, forcing him to make tweaks to the roadmap plan he unveiled yesterday.
As a result, Brits will be able to meet in a rule of six outdoors at Easter, with non-essential shops still closed until later in April and some limits in place on the size of gatherings for four months until June 21.
Follow our live blog below for the very latest on the UK ‘s path out of lockdown…
JOBLESS RATE HITS 5.1% BUT DATA SHOWS ‘EARLY SIGNS’ OF STABILITY
The number of workers on UK payrolls has fallen by nearly 730,000 since the start of the pandemic and the jobless rate has surged to its highest level since 2016.
But official figures reveal “early signs” of a stabilising jobs market, says the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It said the number of payrolled workers rose by 83,000 between January and February in the second small monthly increase in a row.
The rate of unemployment has also now hit 5.1 per cent between October and December – up from five per cent in the previous quarter.
Unemployment stood at 1.7 million between October and December, up 454,000 over the year, marking the biggest annual increase since the financial crisis.
PM SAYS LOCKDOWN ROAD MAP WILL BRING ‘INCOMPARABLY BETTER’ LIVES
Spring and summer in England will usher in changes to make our lives “incomparably better”, says Boris Johnson after setting out a plan to fully ease the lockdown by June 21.
The Prime Minister defended his “cautious but also irreversible” approach to relaxing restrictions with a four-step plan on Monday, arguing against “buccaneering” with people’s lives.
Despite billing his plans as a “one-way road to freedom”, he admitted he cannot guarantee that the vaccination programme will prevent restrictions from ever returning.
His tentative schedule for easing restrictions will be followed this afternoon by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon detailing her own plan for easing Scotland’s lockdown.
‘DODGY DATA’ BLAMED FOR DELAYED LIFTING OF LOCKDOWN
The delay on lifting lockdown restrictions in England has been driven by “dodgy” data models, the leader of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Conservatives has claimed.
Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper accused the Government of understating the effectiveness of the Covid-19 jab and assuming a low uptake of those willing to have it.
He claimed the Government had made “dodgy assumptions” and said the delay in easing the majority of lockdown measures will have “real consequences” for people’s jobs and livelihoods.
Mr Harper also told LBC on Tuesday: “The Government seems to have looked at some models with dodgy assumptions and have effectively delayed opening the country by two months.”
But the Prime Minister said on Monday the government had to take into account that a “significant minority” of people would refuse a vaccine or not been given sufficient protection, which could allow the disease to “rip through those groups”.
MATT HANCOCK: ALL ADULTS OFFERED COVID JABS BY JULY 31
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the UK is on target to offer Covid jabs to all adults by July 31.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We want to see that vaccine uptake go as high as possible.
“But it’s absolutely on all of us to come forward and get the vaccine. It’s the right thing to do.
“I want to obviously offer the vaccine to all adults by the end of July, that’s the target that we think that we can meet, and all over-50s by April 15, and we have been able to bring that forward.
“But we are also, alongside that, working incredibly hard to encourage people to take it if they are unsure.”
SPORTS DIRECT OWNER EXPECTS TO TAKE £100M COVID HIT
Sports Direct owner Frasers Group has said it could take a hit in excess of £100million due to Covid restrictions on non-essential retailers reopening stores lasting until April 12.
The company said the continued shutdown is likely to hit its accounts, with impairments to freehold properties, other property, plant and equipment and right of use assets.
In a statement to the stock exchange, it said: “Given the length of this current lockdown, potential systemic changes to consumer behaviour, and the risk of further restrictions in future, we believe this non-cash impairment could be in excess of £100 million.”
SOCIAL DISTANCING LAWS TO BE DROPPED
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the UK will eventually move to “personal responsibility” rather than being governed by social distancing laws in the future.
“What we want to do is get rid of the social distancing-type laws that get in the way of normal life and move to personal responsibility, rather than laws dictating how all of us live our daily lives,” he told Times Radio.
“But, it is also clear that eradication is unfortunately not possible with this disease, so we are going to have to learn to live with it.
“In the same way that for instance we live with flu – but we don’t let flu get in the way of living our lives.
“But we do vaccinate against it every year – in the case of flu we vaccinate those who are most vulnerable – and so I expect to have that vaccination programme as a regular feature of future life.”
SURGE IN HOLIDAY BOOKINGS FOLLOWING ROAD MAP TO END LOCKDOWN
Airlines and travel firms are experiencing a surge in demand following Boris Johnson’s road map for how coronavirus restrictions will be eased.
All going well, foreign holidays could be permitted from May 17.
Hours after his announcement, easyJet said bookings by UK customers for the summer season were more than four times higher compared with the same period during the previous week.
The most popular destinations for this summer are beach resorts including Malaga, Alicante and Palma in Spain, Faro in Portugal and the Greek island of Crete.
August is the most booked month, followed by July and September.
WALK TO FREEDOM
BORIS Johnson set England on a snail-paced return to freedom with Covid restrictions not fully lifted until June 21 at the very earliest.
The PM dismayed many hoping for a return to more normal life, including his own Tory MPs, with an ultra-cautious reopening blueprint.
At a press conference last night he insisted the extraordinarliy successful vaccines program would throw a “shield” round the entire population.
PM UNVEILS PLAN
SHOPS, pubs, beauty salons and hairdressers will return from April 12 – and the PM will FINALLY reveal whether the nation can book a foreign summer holiday.
The PM told MPs in the House of Commons his “cautious but irreversible” plan today to get the country back to normal after the “extraordinary” success of Britain’s speedy vaccine rollout.
RISHI SUNAK is set to extend furlough until at least July, The Sun can reveal.
The Chancellor will cough up mega bucks at next week’s Budget to throw a lifeline to workers whose businesses are forced to stay closed.
oris Johnson has today vowed to do whatever is necessary to make sure Brits are kept away from the dole queue.
INTEGRATED MENTAL HEALTH AND HOUSING SUPPORT ‘COULD SAVE NEARLY £1BN PER YEAR’
Almost £1 billion could be saved per year if integrated mental health and supported housing systems were in place across England, according to a report.
A report commissioned for the housing and support services provider Look Ahead estimates £950 million could be saved per year if integrated systems currently used in parts of London and the South East were scaled up.
Economics consultancy Europe Economics, which wrote the report, found that the models used by 167 individuals supported by Look Ahead Care and Support saved £5 million a year compared to hospital-based mental health care.
These include the integration of Crisis and Recovery Houses – community alternatives to in-patient psychiatric treatment; rehabilitation services providing accommodation and support to develop mental health stability and daily living skills, and support to help people adapt to community living from secure in-patient settings.
This money could be redirected to other public health needs, the report says, as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
FIRST MINISTER TO OUTLINE SCOTLAND’S ROUTE MAP OUT OF LOCKDOWN
Nicola Sturgeon is to set out the Scottish Government’s route map out of the current national lockdown.
The First Minister will set out the revised strategic framework on Tuesday afternoon and outline how the country will gradually emerge from restrictions.
Immediate priorities will be the return of young people to education, sports activities for young people and limited social interaction for adults, the Scottish Government said.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We know we cannot continue in lockdown indefinitely and we must plan a gradual phased return to as much normality as possible.
“The restrictions we have put in place are difficult for individuals, families and businesses across Scotland, but they are working – case numbers have decreased, the numbers of people in hospital and needing intensive care are coming down and we are now seeing fewer vulnerable people dying from this horrible illness.
“This means we can begin to consider how, carefully and gradually, we can return to some normality in Scotland.
LABOUR CRITICISES SIX MONTHS’ REPRIEVE FOR COMPANIES ON GENDER PAY GAP REPORTING
The Labour Party has criticised the decision to delay enforcement action against companies that fail to report their gender pay gap by this year’s deadline.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it will not begin enforcement proceedings against companies until six months after the deadline of April 4, the Guardian newspaper reported.
The news was welcomed by the Government’s Equality Hub, which described the move to delay enforcement until October 4 as “the correct decision”.
However, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha De Cordova disagreed with the decision and pushed for the Government to reinstate gender pay gap reporting sooner.
The legal requirement for businesses with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay gaps was suspended last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
JOHNSON SAYS ‘SEASONS OF HOPE’ ARE APPROACHING AS HE SETS OUT LOCKDOWN ROAD MAP
Boris Johnson has said England is approaching “seasons of hope” that will usher in changes making lives “incomparably better” as he set out a plan to ease the lockdown by June 21.
The Prime Minister defended his “cautious but also irreversible” approach to relaxing restrictions with a four-step plan on Monday, arguing he will not be “buccaneering” with people’s lives.
But despite billing his plans as a “one way road to freedom”, he admitted he could not guarantee that restrictions will not have to return, as he aims for the impact of the vaccination programme replacing the need for lockdown measures.
He accepted that scientific modelling suggested that lifting measures will increase Covid-19 cases and ultimately deaths, but insisted the restrictions could not continue indefinitely.
And he acknowledged that there are ethical issues around vaccine certificates, after launching a review to determine whether they could be used by venues or firms.
PM WARNS CLIMATE CHANGE POSES GRAVE THREAT TO GLOBAL PEACE AND SECURITY
Climate change is a grave threat to global peace and security, Boris Johnson has warned ahead of a United Nations Security Council session on the issue.
The Prime Minister, who is chairing the session on Tuesday, said a warming planet is driving insecurity, “from the communities uprooted by extreme weather and hunger, to warlords capitalising on the scramble for resources”.
He called for action to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change and cutting global emissions to “net zero” – which requires huge cuts to greenhouse gases and any remaining pollution to be offset through measures such as planting trees – to protect prosperity and security.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) session on climate and security will hear from Sir David Attenborough, who will say that if the world acts to bring down emissions with “sufficient vigour” it may avoid runaway climate change.
The UN’s Cop26 climate summit being hosted by the UK in November in Glasgow could be the last opportunity to make the necessary step-change, the naturalist and broadcaster will warn the 15-member council in a video message
BORIS JOHNSON REFUSES TO GUARANTEE LOCKDOWN WILL BE ‘IRREVERSIBLE’
The Prime Minister can’t guarantee that the lockdown will be “irreversible”, However he said “intention is that it should be and that’s why we’re going in the way that we are”.
He continued: “A lot of people will say why don’t you go faster, or see if you can bring some of this earlier if things are going well and there are signs that the disease is continuing to retreat.
“The answer to that, you’ve got to listen to what Chris and Patrick were saying about the need for an interval between the relaxations, and the need to look at the data and see what’s happened.
“This variant is capable of spreading really very fast when you unlock. We saw that at the end of last year, we’ve seen how fast it can take off.
“That’s why we’ve got to look at the way the vaccinations are going, the way the data is looking, and then proceed cautiously, but I certainly hope irreversibly.”
CHRIS WHITTY WARNS OF ‘RAPID SURGE IN INFECTIONS’ IF PEOPLE RELAX TOO EARLY
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty urged the public to stick to the rules as lockdown is eased, warning of a “very rapid surge in infection” if they relax too early.
He said there are still “very significant” numbers of people with coronavirus every day and many people still in hospital with the disease, but said now is the point for a “steady, risk-based, data-driven opening up”.
Professor Whitty added that coronavirus was “likely to be a problem” during the winter months “for the next few winters”.
The Government launched a review looking at the use of “Covid status” certificates, which could be used by people to demonstrate they had received a jab or a negative coronavirus test in order to enter venues, or allow firms to reduce restrictions as a result of the status of their customers.
Mr Johnson said there are “clearly some quite complex issues, some ethical issues” including discrimination surrounding them, but added: “There may well be a role for certification but we just need to get it right.”
MINISTERS TO REVIEW WHETHER ‘DISCRIMINATORY’ VACCINE PASSPORTS SHOULD BE ALLOWED
There will be a review into whether vaccine passports could be deployed as part of the road map for releasing the lockdown, the Prime Minister has confirmed.
Boris Johnson said the Government wanted to determine whether offering “Covid status certificates” could help venues to open again.
Senior ministers have frequently appeared to dismiss the idea of introducing vaccine passports in the UK.
Nadhim Zahawi, the Government’s vaccines minister, labelled them “discriminatory” as ministers looked to persuade the public to take up the offer of a jab without the threat of being barred from entering hospitality or other venues if they do not get inoculated against Covid-19.
But the Prime Minister on Monday confirmed that a study into the use of vaccine and testing certificates will be one of four reviews conducted as part of easing the current restrictions.
LOVE ISLAND’S DR ALEX GEORGE HAILS ‘REAL GLIMMER OF HOPE’ OFFERED BY ROAD MAP
Former Love Island contestant and Government adviser Dr Alex George has hailed news that coronavirus restrictions could finally be lifted by June 21 as “a real glimmer of hope”.
The A&E doctor, who appeared on the ITV reality programme in 2018, was appointed as a youth mental health ambassador earlier this year.
He described the four-stage plan, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, as “a real glimmer of hope”.
He wrote on Instagram: “WE HAVE A DATE FOR THE DIARY. All going well we could see an end to restrictions on the 21st of June. This is SUCH good news and a real glimmer of hope.
“Let’s use this motivation to keep going, look after ourselves, protect the NHS and move forward with a clear goal in sight.”
TORY MP CALLS FOR ALL MINISTERS TO RETURN TO COMMONS ASAP
Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) called for all MPs to return to the Commons as soon as possible.
He told the House: “Now I would like to just finish with the fact that we are asking teachers on 8 March to return to their places of work and to teach children.
“I think we could serve a very good example by doing the same.”
Mr Mangnall added that he is “one of the handful of MPs who have not used the virtual system in any way – I have not used a proxy vote, I have not used the virtual system”.
He continued: “We need to hold the Government to account on all manner of things and it will do us justice if we can actually decide to have proper debate.”
PM SAYS ‘CITIES WILL BOUNCE BACK ONCE ROADMAP IS DELIVERED’
Mr Johnson told tonight’s Downing Street press conference: “It may be that there’s opportunities for more residential accommodation in high streets, in town centres which have been changing the way they work for a long time.
“But I don’t believe this is going to mean a fundamental change to the way that life in our bigger cities works.
“The more people can see each other and talk on mobile devices, the more they want to see each other face-to-face for whatever reason. And I’m sure that will come back and I think London, and our great cities, will be full of buzz and life again provided people have confidence to come back into them.
“It’s all going to be about confidence which is going to come from the continuing success of the vaccination programme.
It’s become something like flu which we’re going to have to manage and live with, and then you’ll really see life coming back to normal again. Our great cities will bounce back once we’ve got this roadmap delivered.”
CHRIS WHITTY EXPLAINS WHAT NEW STUDIES SAY ABOUT EFFECTIVENESS OF COVID VACCINES
TEAROOM HONOUR FOR PARLIAMENTARY WORKER WHO DIED AFTER CONTRACTING COVID-19
A tearoom for MPs is expected to be renamed in honour of a parliamentary worker who died after contracting Covid-19.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle led tributes to Julia Clifford, commonly known on the parliamentary estate as Julie, who died last week having getting the virus after “bravely fighting cancer”. He told MPs he has asked the House authorities to consider renaming the Members’ Tea Room in her honour.
MPs heard Ms Clifford, 54, joined the Commons in October 1985 and was a “very hard-working and popular member” of the parliamentary family who “always had a smile and time for everybody”.
Sir Lindsay added: “She will be greatly missed and in her honour I have asked the House authorities to consider renaming the Members’ Tea Room to Julie’s Tea Room.
“Our condolences go to her husband John and to her sons, Ben and Jack and the rest of the family.”
STEVE BAKER SAYS ‘MODELLING, NOT DATA’ DRIVING GOVERNMENT DECISIONS
Conservative former minister Steve Baker said that it seems to be “modelling, not data” driving the Government’s decisions.
He told MPs: “We asked the Government for a road to recovery starting on March 8 and I’m very pleased that the Government has now set it out, but today’s pace of change will be a hammer blow for aviation, for pubs, for restaurants, hotels, gyms and pools, the arts and the establishment.
“Once again, it seems to be modelling, not data, which is driving the Government’s decisions. Now time and again we’ve seen that modelling used for serious Covid decisions has been taken apart retrospectively.
“One of the four models used by the Government to illustrate the need for the second national lockdown predicted a thousand deaths on November 1, the day after it was presented to the public when the actual death number was just over 200 on November 1.”