BORIS Johnson has extended England’s lockdown for another three more weeks until at least March 8.
The PM said today schools will not be able to open after February half term – and he hopes they would be able to go back by March 8.
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He’s giving an update on the latest covid stats – after the UK past the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths last night.
And he reassured MPs that both vaccines remain effective against the new variant in the South East.
6.8million people have now been vaccinated – 13 per cent of the entire adult population.
First doses have been given to four out of five over 80s – and three in four elderly care home residents.
He stressed: “We are on track to achieve our goal by mid February”.
Speaking at PMQs he said: “I grieve every death.
“I and the Government take full rsponsibility for all the actions I have taken, we have taken in this pandemic.
“There will be a time to reflect and prepare. I don’t believe this is now.
“What the country wants is for us to come together, work to keep the virus under control as we are, and continue to rollout the fastest vaccination programme in Europe.”
SCHOOL’S STILL OUT
And he’s said he will give an update on schools too, telling Sir Keir Starmer: “I will be making a statement to the House shortly on what more we propose to do with the reopening of schools.”
Gavin Williamson has promised at least two weeks’ notice before opening.
They have said schools will be the first to reopen – but haven’t given any specific dates yet.
The Education Secretary was unable to guarantee schools would definitely open before Easter – and could only say he “hopes” they will do.
It came as:
- Priti Patel is expected to set out plans for quarantine hotels today – forcing anyone travelling back from hotspots to stay in a hotel for ten days
- But only high-risk countries and those with new variants are expected to be on the list – giving hopes to summer hols in Europe
- Boris Johnson is set to reveal a route out of lockdown in February
- Parents are facing a “real danger” kids could be learning from home until the summer
- The PM said he was “deeply sorry” for the more than 100,000 deaths from coronavirus in the UK
- The EU row over vaccines deepened last night as Hungary broke out to try and grab its own supplies from the UK and Russia
- Labour called for keyworkers to get vaccines sooner – in the first phase of the vulnerable persons rollout – after the first four groups have been done
Boris told the nation this lunchtime that the UK is on target to deliver vaccines to the most vulnerable Brits by the middle of February as is the Government’s goal.
But he admitted that “perpetual lockdown is no answer” as his own MPs press him for a way out of the repeated shutdowns.
He added that he “hope to be in the next few weeks setting out in much more detail how this country can exit now from this pandemic”.
BUMPED UP THE LIST
It came as Labour officially demanded that keyworkers – including teachers and police – get the vaccine ahead of the over 60s.
Sir Keir Starmer said that after the most vulnerable people are vaccinated by the middle of February, the 10 million keyworkers must be next on the list.
It goes against the advice from the Government’s scientific experts, who have already set out a priority list of nine groups to get the jab first.
The Labour boss said today: “Does he agree with me that once the first four categories of the most vulnerable have been vaccinated by mid-February, he should bring forward the vaccination of key workers and use the window of the February half-term to vaccinate all teachers and all school staff?”
The PM said any vulnerable teachers would already get the jab, and that others would get it as soon as possible.
He added: “We all want to open schools.”
‘OUT OF THEIR DEPTH’
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted the Government took coronavirus “extremely seriously” throughout – as he defended the response to the pandemic this morning.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The Prime Minister that I have watched throughout this crisis has approached this with huge seriousness.
“He is someone who himself came close to death as a result of the virus and that had a huge and lasting impact on him and his family, as you would expect.”
But GMB presenter Piers Morgan got into a heated debate, and told Mr Jenrick “some of your colleagues… they’re useless” and “completely out of their depth”.
The Cabinet minister replied: “We are all working under immense strain, but that is no excuse, we all have to make sure that we are making the best possible decisions that we can with the information that is available to us.”
Meanwhile, Brits’ summer holidays to sunshine destinations were handed a glimmer of hope as ministers opted to impose strict hotel quarantine only on high-risk destinations.
The new measures, imposed to stop the spread of potential vaccine-busting Covid mutations, are set to be introduced on nations where new strains have emerged.
Priti Patel will reveal the details in full to the House of Commons this afternoon.
It means strict isolation rules, which will see returning passengers fork out around £1,500 for a ten-day stay in a hotel, will only apply to countries already on a travel ban list.
It’s understood it will include South Africa and Brazil where new strains have emerged, alongside Portugal, and the Cape Verde Islands.
And it has been suggested it could even go as far as Dubai – dealing a blow to influencers by adding UAE to a list of up to 30 “high risk” countries.
Labour’s Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Shadow Home Secretary said the plan “is leaving gaping holes in our nation’s defences against different strains of the virus emerging around the world.”
He added: “The proposals are half-baked, slow at being implemented and risk being ineffective at this crucial moment in our race to get Britain vaccinated.
“Labour is calling for a comprehensive hotel quarantine for all arrivals to secure us against new strains.”