Covid UK news LIVE – Even TOUGHER coronavirus lockdown needed or the NHS will be overwhelmed within 3 weeks, govt fears

THE government is considering even tougher lockdown restrictions as experts fear the NHS could be overwhelmed in just three weeks. 

Top scientists are concerned the current restrictions are not working – and that Brits still aren’t taking lockdown measures seriously enough to stop the spread. 

A ban on exercising with one person outside of your household and wearing face coverings in offices are among the rules which could be reviewed as infections continue to spiral.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned: “Earlier this week, the UK’s four chief medical officers and the NHS medical director recommended raising the national alert level to the maximum of level 5 for the first time. 

“This means that, without further action, there is a material risk of our healthcare services being overwhelmed within 21 days.”

A further 563 deaths in the UK have been reported today -taking the overall the total to 81,431.

The number of daily cases of people who tested positive for coronavirus increased by 54,950.

The NHS has also revealed it is currently operating at 50% higher patient capacity than it was during the peak of the first wave of coronavirus last summer.

Follow the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis in our live blog below.

  • Christy Cooney

    HEATHROW LOST 58MILLION PASSENGERS IN 2020

    Heathrow Airport saw 58million fewer passengers passing through its terminals in 2020.

    Just 22.1million people came through the airport, a fall off 72.7percent on the previous year.

    Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the current situation was "not sustainable".

    "The aviation industry is the cornerstone of the UK economy but is fighting for survival," he said.

    "We need a road map out of this lockdown."

  • Christy Cooney

    US NEARS 23 MILLION CASES

    The number of people diagnosed with coronavirus in the US since the start of the pandemic is nearing 23million.

    The figure currently stands at 22,917,334, and is rising by around 250,000 per day.

    The cases account for just over one quarter of the global total.

    Around 3,300 deaths are being recorded each day, with the overall toll currently at 383,275.

  • Christy Cooney

    THIS WINTER IN 'DIFFERENT LEAGUE FOR NHS', SAYS WHITTY

    This winter is in a "completely differently league" for the NHS, Professor Chris Whitty has said.

    Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Whitty, the government's chief medical advisor, said: "At this point in time we're at the worst point in the epidemic for for the UK.

    "Anyone who talks to a doctor or a nurse, working in the NHS, anybody who actually reads any newspaper, they will know this is a really serious problem – this is not a typical winter.

    "Every winter there are problems. This is in a completely different league."

  • Christy Cooney

    ONE IN FIVE IN ENGLAND HAVE HAD COVID, MODELLING SUGGESTS

    One in five people in England may have already been infected with Covid-19, new modelling suggests.

    The figure would be around five times higher than the number of cases confirmed in officials data, the Guardian reports.

    The analysis, done by healthcare consultancy group Edge Health, estimated that, as of January 3, up to 12.4million people – 22 percent of England's population – could have been infected.

    By the same date, the test and trace scheme had recorded 2.4million confirmed cases.

  • Christy Cooney

    FIRST JAB DELIVERED AT EPSOM

    The first coronavirus jab has been delivered at Surrey's Epsom racecourse, one of seven mass vaccination centres opening across England today.

    The first person to receive a vaccine at the iconic ground was 88-year-old Moira Edwards from Cobham.

    She said she thought it was "extremely" important to get the vaccine.

    "Having this vaccine makes it a step closer to being with my family again and giving them a big hug," she said.

  • Christy Cooney

    POLICE OFFICERS AND TEACHERS 'TO BE IN PHASE TWO OF VACCINE ROLLOUT'

    Police officers and teachers will be among those offered the coronavirus vaccine in the second phase of its rollout, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has suggested.

    The first phase of the rollout is currently being delivered to those who are most clinically vulnerable – such as the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions – as well as frontline health workers.

    Discussing the next phase on Sky News, Zahawi said:  "Some police officers, of course, and teachers will actually get the vaccine [in phase one] because they are in those categories.

    "But we will very quickly move onto those other critical workers in the economy.

    "And, of course, those who are doing an incredible job, like our policemen and women in protecting us and enforcing the rules at the moment, will also be in that highest category of phase two."

  • Alex Winter

    'IT'LL GET WORSR BEFORE IT GETS BETTER'

    Doctors have warned that pressure on the NHS could get worse in the coming weeks, as figures for cases, hospital admissions and deaths hit record highs.

    The Government has doubled down on its "stay at home" message by launching a new advert, fronted by England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, urging everyone in England to "act like you've got" coronavirus.

    But scientists estimate there are currently more than 100,000 new infections per day and possibly higher than 150,000 which they believe puts the current number of daily cases at a higher level than ever before during the pandemic.

    They believe the current lockdown may lead to a plateau of cases of coronavirus across the UK – rather than the dramatic cut seen following the March and April lockdown.

    Dr Simon Walsh, deputy chair of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, told BBC Breakfast on Friday: "I'm afraid all of us who are working on the front line believe, and this is based on the evidence, that it is going to get worse before it gets better."

  • Alex Winter

    FRENCH PRESIDENT'S WIFE HAD VIRUS AT CHRISTMAS

    Brigitte Macron, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, caught the coronavirus over Christmas, her office confirmed at the weekend.

    Macron, 67, tested positive on December 24.

    She presented only light symptoms and was negative six days later, said her office.

    President Macron went into isolation for a week after having tested positive himself on December 17.

  • Alex Winter

    SCOTLAND COULD SEE TOUGHER RESTRICTIONS

    Coronavirus does not show much sign of "abating" in Scotland, the Deputy First Minister has said, as he refused to rule out tougher restrictions.

    Scotland is facing "a very alarming situation" with the virus, according to John Swinney.

    Professional sport, along with manufacturing and construction work have been allowed to continue in this lockdown, whereas they were not in the first wave in March.

    Mr Swinney told Politics Scotland: "I don't think I'm revealing a state secret when I say that the debate within cabinet was not whether we were going too far, but whether we were going far enough."

  • Alex Winter

    LINE OF DUTY

    Long supermarket queues are set to make a return as stores are told they must limit customers.

    Experts fear shops are becoming 'hotspots' for the virus.

    And a result, local councils will be told to cap the numbers allowed inside at any one time.

    Here's what you need to know.

    Long delays are set to return to supermarkets over fears stores are becoming 'hotspots'

    Image: EPA

  • Alex Winter

    'TOTAL CLAMPDOWN NEEDED TO TACKLE SURGING COVID RATES'

    More on that last blog post now.

    Scientists have already warned that the current lockdown measures do not go far enough to stop cases exploding.

    Many are instead calling for a "total clampdown".

    They believe nurseries should be closed, as well as places of worship, with it made compulsory to wear face masks in public.

    GMB's Dr Hilary this morning said he doesn't believe the restrictions go far enough and more needs to be done.

    Asked if only critical workers should be allowed to leave their homes to go to work, he said: "I think we're at that stage now."

  • Alex Winter

    BORIS EYES TIGHTER RESTRICTIONS

    The big story of the day is that the Government is considering tightening Covid restrictions over concerns lockdown isn't being properly followed.

    A ban on exercising with one person outside of your household and wearing face coverings in offices are among the rules which could be reviewed as infections continue to spiral.

    There are reports even support bubbles could be stopped amid surging cases – while people could be told they can only leave their homes once a week.

    Here's everything you need to know.

  • Alex Winter

    SUPER-HUBS OPEN ACROSS THE COUNTRY TODAY

     Matt Hancock will today set out the Government's new plan for delivering vaccines, which it is hailing as the "keystone of our exit out of the pandemic".

    Several mass injection centres will open today amid dire warnings in all four nations over high levels of infection and struggling hospital systems.

    The seven super-hubs are based at Ashton Gate football stadium in Bristol, Epsom racecourse in Surrey, the Excel Centre in London, Newcastle's Centre for Life, the Manchester Tennis and Football Centre, Robertson House in Stevenage and Birmingham's Millennium Point.

    These centres will be joined later this week by hundreds more GP-led and hospital services along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total of sites to around 1,200.

    The Government has set a target of having 15 million people vaccinated by mid-February, with every adult in the UK vaccinated by autumn.

  • Catriona Graffius

    ALL ADULTS WILL BE OFFERED COVID BY AUTUMN

    All adults will be offered a Covid vaccine by the autumn, the Health Secretary vowed yesterday.

    Matt Hancock said around two million Brits have already received their first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

    They include more than a third of the over-80s population — just over a million.

    And today, 600,000 more from that age group will receive letters inviting them to make appointments at one of the seven mass vaccination centres opening across England.

     

  • Catriona Graffius

    JABS ARMY BOOST

    More big firms have joined our Jabs Army drive — with tens of thousands of volunteers helping vaccinate the nation.

    Amazon, Virgin and Merlin are the latest on board, and are urging staff to sign up.

    Retail giant Amazon is asking its 40,000 UK staff to join and tech firm Virgin Media encouraged 12,000 workers to follow suit.

    Theme park giant Merlin and its 10,000 employees are also backing the rollout, taking potential recruits to 62,000 in one day.

    They join the likes of BT, Sky, BA, John Lewis, Waitrose, Santander, Tui and Capita who are already behind our campaign.

  • Catriona Graffius

    PRITI PATEL DEFENDS POLICE OVER TOUGH LOCKDOWN ENFORCEMENT

    Home Secretary Priti Patel defended police amid concern over strong enforcement of lockdown.

    Two women said they were surrounded and fined £200 each for driving five miles to walk in a park.

    And MPs complained after relatives of IRA victims got fixed penalty notices for attending a memorial event.

    But Ms Patel said: “Enforcing these rules saves lives. It is as simple as that.

    "Officers will continue to engage with the public across the country and will not hesitate to take action when necessary.”

  • Catriona Graffius

    SCIENTISTS CALL FOR TOUGHER RESTRICTIONS IN ‘TOTAL CLAMPDOWN’

    Nurseries could close and face masks could be made compulsory under tougher lockdown rules.

    Health experts are calling for the drastic new rules to stop the spread of Covid with more than 80,000 deaths recorded and more than 3million cases.

    Scientists believe current lockdown measures do not go far enough to stop cases exploding and are instead calling for a “total clampdown”.

    They believe nurseries should be closed as well as places of worship with it made compulsory to wear face masks in public.

  • Catriona Graffius

    TEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL LOSES CANCER BATTLE AFTER COVID STOPPED HER FROM FLYING ABROAD FOR LIFE SAVING TREATMENT

    A ten-year-old girl has died after she was robbed of the chance of life-saving cancer treatment abroad because of the pandemic.

    Eva Williams, of Wrexham, North Wales, had been all set to fly to New York in April last year for medical trials but travel restrictions were introduced.

    Her family raised more than £300,000 in the hope of getting her private treatment in the United States.

    But her devastated dad Paul Slapa, 35, has now revealed his "most caring and loving" daughter tragically passed away on Friday.

    Eva had been suffering from a rare high-grade diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma brain tumour.

  • Catriona Graffius

    COVID RULE-BREAKERS RESCUED FROM MOUNTAIN

    Four people had to be rescued from snow bound hills after they became too exhausted while searching for a plane crash site. 

    A rescue team had to save the group, from Manchester, who broke Covid-19 rules to find the spot in Derbyshire where a B-29 crashed during the 1940s.

    The group from Manchester had become lost on Saturday afternoon while trekking for five hours in deep snow to locate the crash site near Bleaklow Moor. 

    With temperatures falling to -12C, one member had become exhausted and could not continue on. 

    In a Facebook post, the mountain rescue team said: "The four people had driven from Manchester breaking the Covid-19 rules, not just that but also putting their lives at risk."

  • Catriona Graffius

     28,000 VOLUNTEERS JOINED JABS ARMY TO HELP END PANDEMIC

    The fightback against the pandemic is well and truly underway – and you can be part of it too.

    A staggering 28,000 Sun readers have already joined our Jabs Army to beat the coronavirus once and for all by signing up as steward volunteers at NHS vaccination hubs across the UK.

    The stewards form a key part of the Covid-19 vaccination team by making sure the centres run smoothly and safely.

    So far, 1.5million Brits have been vaccinated as part of ambitious plans to give out 200,000 doses a day by next week.

  • Catriona Graffius

    …CONTINUED

    A Downing Street source insisted the focus was on enforcing the current regime.

    But they also want to “making sure people aren’t using their own creativeness to interpret the rules how they want to”.

    Scientists have already warned that the current measures do not go far enough to stop cases exploding and are instead calling for a "total clampdown".

    They believe nurseries should be closed as well as places of worship with it made compulsory to wear face masks in public.

  • Catriona Graffius

    MINISTERS CONSIDER TIGHTER COVID RESTRICTIONS

    Tighter Covid restrictions are being considered by ministers – following concerns that the lockdown isn't being followed as strictly as it should be.

    A ban on exercising with one person outside of your household and wearing face coverings in offices are among the rules which are being considered as infections continue to spiral.

    The Government fear that people have become too lax and restrictions may need to move more closely in line with the first lockdown in March.

    A source told the Telegraph that the rule allowing two people to mix during exercise is "being used as an excuse for people to go for a coffee in the park with their friend," adding “It may be we tighten up on things like that.”

    Boris Johnson held a meeting with Cabinet this evening – discussing whether the current lockdown rules are working at a suitable rate.

  • Catriona Graffius

    WHEN WILL PUBS AND BARS OPEN AGAIN?

    Pubs and bars will reopen when the Government deems it is safe to do so.

    In previous lockdowns, this has been when the R rate has lessened significantly across the country, and when the NHS is not at risk of being overwhelmed by Covid patients.

    However, it was revealed today that pubs and bars will be one of the last businesses to reopen, with ministers looking at the bank holiday on May 3 as a possible date.

    A source told The Sunday Times: “The May Day bank holiday is more likely the moment you see pubs reopening.”

    Experts believe people are less likely to social distance once they've had a drink, and therefore want to approach reopening pubs very carefully.

  • Catriona Graffius

    OUTSTANDING COURT CASES RISE DUE TO COVID

    Outstanding court cases due to Covid has risen to 53,000 with the caseload in the magistrates court now above 400,000 – a 40 per cent hike since last year.

    The delay in court proceedings due to the pandemic means defendants, victims, and witnesses could wait up to four years from the time of an alleged offence to the case reaching crown court trial, The Guardian reports.

    Lawyers are now are calling for more covid-safe emergency courts to tackle the problem of justice being postponed.

    The Ministry of Justice has created more than 30 emergency, Nightingale courtrooms and installed plexiglass screens in a further 400.

  • Catriona Graffius

    DR HILARY HAILS LIFE-SAVING ARTHRITIS DRUGS

    Dr Hilary Jones has hailed two life-saving arthritis drugs that can slash the risk of death from Covid by nearly a quarter. 

    The GP said the drugs – tocilizumab and sarilumab – have also been shown to cut the time spent in intensive care by up to 10 days.

    Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Dr Hilary said: "These two medications are already being used for patients with rheumatoid arthritis -where you've got unwanted inflammation – have shown to be helpful to people who are seriously ill from Covid, in intensive care, who are already on oxygen and steroid therapy, dexamethesone.

    "So in those patients, if you treat 12 of them with these medications, tocilizumab and sarilumab – the 'mab' being monoclonal antibody type of medication – you save one life for every 12 patients you treat.

    "Compare that to statins, which millions of people are on, you’ve got to treat 100 people to save two lives."

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