UK lockdown roadmap LIVE – Matt Hancock defends PPE contracts as Keir Starmer defies unions on March 8 school reopening

LABOUR leader Keir Starmer has backed Boris Johnson's plan to get kids back to school on March 8.

The Prime Minister is preparing a major school safety campaign this week to convince parents children are safe, despite nine teaching unions saying they want a staggered return. 

Speaking on Sunday morning, Sir Keir told Sky News: "Ideally, I'd like to see all schools back open on 8th March and all children back in school on March 8.

"I've been worried through the pandemic, a number of people have, about the impact that being out of school has on particularly vulnerable children and the attainment gap is getting bigger, so ideally March 8.

"We'll have to see obviously where the data is, see where the science is, but that's what we should be working towards.

"If that means more testing, if that means Nightingale classrooms, if it means other measures, let's do that because I want to get our kids back into school.

Brits are expected to be updated on the 'roadmap' out of lockdown as Mr Johnson is set to make an announcement from Downing Street at 7pm tomorrow.

Follow our live blog below for the very latest UK politics news

  • Joseph Gamp

    POST-BREXIT PLAN TO AVOID MOTOR INSURANCE FOR RIDE-ON LAWNMOWERS AND QUAD BIKES

    Vehicles such as ride-on lawnmowers and mobility scooters will not require motor insurance in Britain under a Government plan to ignore an item of EU legislation.

    Boris Johnson has previously described the extension of compulsory motor insurance to a wider range of vehicles on private land as "insane".

    The Vnuk law comes from a 2014 ruling by the European Court of Justice and is named after a Slovenian man knocked off his ladder by a tractor trailer on a farm.

    Other vehicles which could have required motor insurance in Britain due to the decision include golf buggies and quad bikes.

    Work to implement Vnuk in Britain has been ongoing for several years – including a public consultation in 2016 – but no timetable had been set.

  • Joseph Gamp

    HANCOCK REJECTS CALLS FOR TEACHERS TO HAVE VACCINE PRIORITY

    Matt Hancock has again rejected calls for teachers to be given priority for a Covid jab before schools return.

    Boris Johnson is tomorrow expected to announce schools will reopen from March 8 after kids were forced to study from home during the third national lockdown.

    But the Health Secretary today said there were no plans for teachers to receive a Covid vaccination before going back to class.

    He told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “We’ve asked the expert group, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, what order we should vaccinate in, broadly in order to reduce the number of deaths as fast as possible.

    “They set out the priority groups one to nine, which includes those who are clinically most vulnerable and their carers, and includes the over-50s, going down the age range.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    LOCAL LOCKDOWN MEASURES RECCOMENDED

    The Government will have to leave room for “highly local” interventions when it implements its road map out of lockdown, a statistician has argued.

    Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, of the statistical laboratory at Cambridge University, suggested future measures could become “much more focused and targeted” as officials focused on outbreaks in particular areas.

    Speaking to Times Radio on Sunday, Sir David said recent coronavirus data indicating drops in hospital admissions, death rates and cases across the country was “very encouraging”.

    However, he said there were areas with still “quite a lot of cases” and “really quite substantial numbers”, adding: “These are pockets around the country.”

    Sir David, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said some “scattered” areas were seeing above 200 new cases per 100,000 per week, which was “of concern”.

  • Joseph Gamp

    PM TO SET OUT 'CAUTIOUS' ROAD MAP FOR EASING CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS – HANCOCK

    Boris Johnson will set out a "cautious" plan to relax coronavirus restrictions when he unveils his road map out of lockdown, the Health Secretary has said, despite an accelerated target to offer vaccines to all adults by the end of July.

    The Prime Minister will outline his blueprint for easing the stringent measures in England to Parliament on Monday, amid a clamour of warnings from scientists to act gradually and calls from some Tory MPs to lift all legal restrictions by May.

    Matt Hancock insisted that, despite the success of the vaccine rollout so far, and the "understandable" urge to return to normal life, the Government's goal is to take a "cautious but irreversible approach".

    In a series of broadcast interviews on Sunday morning, he said there will be "weeks between the steps" so ministers can "watch carefully" the impact of each relaxation of the restrictions.

    Mr Hancock said that one in three adults in the UK has now received a coronavirus vaccine, and that the Government is confident it has the supplies to meet the July 31 target and to vaccinate all adults over 50, and higher risk groups, by April 15.

  • Joseph Gamp

    ONE THIRD OF UK ADULT POPULATION RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE JAB

    A third (33.4%) of the UK adult population has now been given the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, latest figures show.

    Government data up to February 20 shows that of the 18,197,269 jabs given in the UK so far, 17,582,121 were first doses – a rise of 334,679 on the previous day.

    Some 615,148 were second doses, an increase of 10,263 on figures released the previous day.

  • Joseph Gamp

    LABOUR LEADER REFRAINS FROM CALLING FOR MATT HANCOCK RESIGNATION

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer did not call for Matt Hancock's resignation following a court ruling that he acted unlawfully over coronavirus contracts.

    The High Court ruled the Government unlawfully failed to publish details of billions of pounds' worth of public contracts.

    Sir Keir told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "I don't want to call for him to resign. I do think he is wrong about the contracts – there have been problems with the contracts, on transparency, on who the contracts have gone to.

    "There's been a lot of wasted money and I think that is a real cause for concern.

    "But, at the moment, at this stage of the pandemic, I want all Government ministers working really hard to get us through."

  • Joseph Gamp

    STARMER CALLS FOR ALL PUPILS TO BE BACK IN ENGLAND'S SCHOOLS ON MARCH 8

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has rejected pressure from unions to call for a phased return of schools, arguing that "ideally" all children should be back in England's classrooms on March 8.

    Sir Keir told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "Ideally, I'd like to see all schools back open on 8th March and all children back in school on March 8.

    "I've been worried through the pandemic, a number of people have, about the impact that being out of school has on particularly vulnerable children and the attainment gap is getting bigger, so ideally March 8.

    "We'll have to see obviously where the data is, see where the science is, but that's what we should be working towards.

    "If that means more testing, if that means Nightingale classrooms, if it means other measures, let's do that because I want to get our kids back into school."

  • Joseph Gamp

    GOVERNMENT SHOULD DEAL WITH NI PROTOCOL, DUP LEADER SAYS

    DUP leader Arlene Foster has urged the Government to deal with the "rupturing" of the east-west relationship caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

    On Monday a debate at Westminster triggered by her party's e-petition will ask the Government to take action to replace this "flawed and deeply damaging" Protocol.

    The DUP has vowed to overthrow the post-Brexit trade mechanism which has disrupted trade from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland.

    Mrs Foster said: "There is no question of the public anger towards the Protocol. The petition demonstrated that.

    "Brussels and London must work for a permanent solution. Temporary measures will not work.The Protocol is flawed and has ruptured the east-west strand of the Belfast Agreement."

  • Joseph Gamp

    BORIS JOHNSON PLEDGES ALL ADULTS TO BE OFFERED COVID VACCINE BY JULY 31

    Boris Johnson pledges all adults to be offered Covid vaccine by July 31

  • Joseph Gamp

    ROGER TAYLOR DESCRIBES BREXIT DEAL AS 'DREADFUL RETROGRADE STEP' FOR MUSICIANS

    Roger Taylor has described new obstacles posed by Brexit on musicians' ability to tour in Europe as "a dreadful retrograde step".

    The Queen drummer is one of more than 100 musicians who have accused the Government of "shamefully failing" the country's performers with its Brexit deal.

    He was one of the signatories of a letter, organised by the Liberal Democrats and published in The Times last month, which said the lack of a special arrangement for musicians to tour without visas "will tip many performers over the edge".

    It was also signed by Sir Elton John, Ed Sheeran, Sting, Bob Geldof and The Who's Roger Daltrey.

    Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend, Taylor said: "Borders are a dreadful invention of mankind, and so we are just putting up another one, and I think it's a dreadful retrograde step."

  • Joseph Gamp

    BORIS JOHNSON TO ADDRESS THE NATION AT 7PM TOMORROW

    Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of senior ministers on Sunday, known as the “Covid S” committee, to finalise his lockdown roadmap before it is signed off by the Cabinet on Monday.

    He will then unveil the plans to MPs in the Commons later that afternoon and is expected to lead a Downing Street press conference on Monday evening.

    Mr Johnson will first speak to MPs in the House of Commons at 3.30pm tomorrow to explain his approach.

    He will later address the nation at 7pm during a Downing Street press conference.

  • Joseph Gamp

    DUP MEMBERS ENGAGE LEGAL COUNSEL AHEAD OF POTENTIAL NI PROTOCOL COURT CHALLENGE

    A group of DUP members have engaged senior legal counsel to prepare for a series of challenges against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

    The PA news agency understands that a senior DUP member, supported by a number of others in the party, have sought the legal opinion of constitutional law experts ahead of several potential High Court challenges in both Belfast and London against the Government over post-Brexit Irish Sea trading arrangements.

    The move comes amid ongoing unionist and loyalist anger at new regulatory and customs processes required to bring goods into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

    A party source involved in the initiative told PA that preparatory work on a "series of very significant legal challenges" is at an "advance staged".

    "No stone will be left unturned in the pursuit of justice for the people of the Union," the source said.

  • Joseph Gamp

    TONY BLAIR GETS VACCINATED

    Former prime minister Tony Blair has received his Covid vaccine.

    The former Labour leader was pictured getting the jab at Lord cricket ground in London on Saturday morning.

    A tweet read: "Big thank you to the NHS, the wonderful people who staffed the Lords cricket ground facility – brilliantly organised.

    "Made me proud of our country -Tony Blair."

  • Joseph Gamp

    RESIGN TRENDS ON TWITTER AMID CALLS FOR MATT HANCOCK TO QUIT

    Social media users are calling for Matt Hancock to resign after a court ruled his decision to withhold the publishing of Government contracts during the pandemic as "unlawful".

    A judge ruled the health secretary had "breached his legal obligation" by not publishing details within 30 days of contracts being signed. But Mr Hancock said his team had been focused on sourcing PPE and said his decision was "the right thing to do".

    He told the BBC his team "spent all of their time buying life-saving equipment, even if the paperwork was a little bit late".

    But one of the MPs who brought the case to court – the Green Party's Caroline Lucas – said Mr Hancock's response made her angry.

    She tweeted: "How dare Hancock suggest he broke [the] law to prevent shortages of PPE on the frontline? Health workers died for lack of [the] right PPE at [the] right time because of incompetence, cronyism and waste – does he think our memories are so short?"

  • Hana Carter

    DUP LEADER LAUNCHES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST NORTHERN IRELAND PROTOCOL

    DUP leader Arlene Foster and senior party MPs are launching legal action challenging the Northern Ireland Protocol.

    They will be joining other unionists from across the UK in judicial review proceedings unless alternative post-Brexit trade arrangements are put in place which secure their consent.

    DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, the party's Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and chief whip Sammy Wilson are backing Mrs Foster's action in response to disruption of business through Irish Sea ports.

    A separate group of DUP members has also engaged senior legal counsel to prepare for a series of challenges to the protocol.

    Mrs Foster said: "Fundamental to the Act of Union is unfettered trade throughout the UK.

    "At the core of the Belfast Agreement was the principle of consent yet the Northern Ireland Protocol has driven a coach and horses through both the Act of Union and the Belfast Agreement."

    The move comes amid ongoing unionist and loyalist anger at new regulatory and customs processes required to bring goods into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

  • Hana Carter

    WHAT COULD BORIS JOHNSON’S FEB 22 ROADMAP INCLUDE?

    Boris Johnson is set to reveal his roadmap out of lockdown on February 22.

    While there have been no official statements on what the Prime Minister has in mind reports have speculated what Johnson may announce.

    Brits have been in lockdown since the start of January with the Prime Minister confirming he would be outlining the roadmap out of the strict rules on February 22.

    The R rate fell for the sixth week in a row and could be as low as 0.6 in some areas.

    This is a key figure for the government and if it remains low in England and Covid infections stay at an “acceptable level”, the PM is expected to green light an easing of restrictions.

    Read more here.

  • Hana Carter

    HANCOCK REJECTS CALLS FOR TEACHERS TO HAVE VACCINE PRIORITY

    Matt Hancock has again rejected calls for teachers to be given priority for a Covid jab before schools return.

    Boris Johnson is tomorrow expected to announce schools will reopen from March 8 after kids were forced to study from home during the third national lockdown.

    But the Health Secretary today said there were no plans for teachers to receive a Covid vaccination before going back to class.

    He told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "We've asked the expert group, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, what order we should vaccinate in, broadly in order to reduce the number of deaths as fast as possible.

    "They set out the priority groups one to nine, which includes those who are clinically most vulnerable and their carers, and includes the over-50s, going down the age range."

  • Hana Carter

    UK MINISTERS PLEDGE MORE SUPPORT FOR FISHING INDUSTRY

    The fishing industry will be able to draw on more support as it deals with post-Brexit export issues and the impact of coronavirus, UK ministers say.

    Cash grants are being made available for more fishing businesses as criteria for a support fund are being expanded.

    These will draw on a £23 million fund announced in January to help seafood exporters who were struggling to get produce to their usual markets in the EU.

    The fishing industry has also been hit by a drop in demand from the hospitality sector.

    A new UK-wide scheme, similar to last year's Fisheries Response Fund, will open in early March.

    Earlier this month, a taskforce made up of the UK Government, the Scottish Government and the seafood industry met to discuss the way forward.

    Environment Secretary George Eustice said: "Our fishermen are at the heart of many of our coastal communities and we recognise the impact of coronavirus and the end of the transition period on them.

  • Hana Carter

    GOVERNMENT SHOULD DEAL WITH NI PROTOCOL, DUP LEADER SAYS

    DUP leader Arlene Foster has urged the Government to deal with the "rupturing" of the east-west relationship caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

    On Monday a debate at Westminster triggered by her party's e-petition will ask the Government to take action to replace this "flawed and deeply damaging" Protocol.

    The DUP has vowed to overthrow the post-Brexit trade mechanism which has disrupted trade from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland.

    Mrs Foster said: "There is no question of the public anger towards the Protocol. The petition demonstrated that.

    "Brussels and London must work for a permanent solution. Temporary measures will not work.

    "The Protocol is flawed and has ruptured the east-west strand of the Belfast Agreement."

  • Hana Carter

    LOCAL LOCKDOWN MEASURES RECCOMENDED

    The Government will have to leave room for "highly local" interventions when it implements its road map out of lockdown, a statistician has argued.

    Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, of the statistical laboratory at Cambridge University, suggested future measures could become "much more focused and targeted" as officials focused on outbreaks in particular areas.

    Speaking to Times Radio on Sunday, Sir David said recent coronavirus data indicating drops in hospital admissions, death rates and cases across the country was "very encouraging".

    However, he said there were areas with still "quite a lot of cases" and "really quite substantial numbers", adding: "These are pockets around the country."

    Sir David, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said some "scattered" areas were seeing above 200 new cases per 100,000 per week, which was "of concern".

  • Britta Zeltmann

    SCHOOL'S IN SESSION

    Boris Johnson’s hopes of getting all school kids back in classrooms on 8 March was handed a huge boost today after Labour boss Sir Keir Starmer defied his union paymasters to back the plan. 

    Speaking on Sunday morning, Sir Keir told Sky News: "Ideally, I'd like to see all schools back open on March 8 and all children back in school on March 8.

    "I've been worried through the pandemic, a number of people have, about the impact that being out of school has on particularly vulnerable children and the attainment gap is getting bigger, so ideally March 8."

    It flew in the face of nine teaching unions who say they want a staggered return and sparked fury among left-wingers in the Labour party. 

    Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said on Sunday morning that Labour should “listen to the unions.”

  • Britta Zeltmann

    WHEN WILL BORIS ADDRESS THE NATION?

    Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of senior ministers on Sunday, known as the "Covid S" committee, to finalise his lockdown roadmap before it is signed off by the Cabinet on Monday.

    He will then unveil the plans to MPs in the Commons later that afternoon and is expected to lead a Downing Street press conference on Monday evening.

    Mr Johnson will first speak to MPs in the House of Commons at 3.30pm tomorrow to explain his approach.

    He will later address the nation at 7pm during a Downing Street press conference.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'FAIRLY CAUTIOUS APPROACH'

    Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said all legal restrictions put in place in response to the pandemic should be lifted by the end of April.

    The leader of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic backbenchers, told the BBC that such a plan represents "a fairly cautious approach" because it would mean the top nine priority groups will have received a first dose of vaccine.

    He said: "If we are going to say we are so worried about a future variant that might not be susceptible to the vaccine, that's a recipe for never unlocking our economy and our society, and I don't think that's really an acceptable proposition."

    Mr Harper added that he hoped the Prime Minister's road map "will be something that I and my colleagues can support".

  • Hana Carter

    CAUTIOUS WELCOME FOR PLANS TO ALLOW HAND-HOLDING DURING CARE HOME VISITS

    Plans for visits to care homes allowing hand-holding have been given a cautious welcome by organisations in the sector.

    There have been calls for clarification on the details of the new arrangements, and a warning that staff resources will be key to implementing them.

    Care home residents will be allowed to hold hands with a regular indoor visitor from March 8 under the Government’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions in England.

    Visitors will be required to take a coronavirus lateral flow test – which gives quick results – before entry and personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn.

    Residents will be asked not to hug or kiss their relatives, and guidance for care homes is expected to be published in the next fortnight.

  • Hana Carter

    PRIORITY FOR KEYWORKERS

    Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The success so far of the vaccination rollout shows the true value of our incredible health service, and my thanks goes out to our NHS staff, armed forces and volunteers working hard to make this happen.

    “Ensuring people are vaccinated as quickly as possible is the right thing to do. All adults getting a first dose by July is welcome, though if supplies increase this could be achieved earlier.

    “We now urgently need Government to set out how they will prioritise those outside of the first nine groups – it’s perfectly reasonable for teachers, police officers and other key workers who haven’t been able to stay at home in the lockdown to ask when their turn will be.

    “If Government aren’t going to prioritise by occupation in the next phase they need to set out why."

Source: Read Full Article