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Coronavirus 1) Johnson to decide today if whole of England to be put into full lockdown

“Boris Johnson will decide today whether to introduce stricter coronavirus restrictions as he faces calls from Labour to bring in a national lockdown. The Prime Minister warned yesterday that curbs were ‘probably about to get tougher’ as Government sources said more areas of England could be plunged into Tier Four in days. Under the strict measures, already in place across three-quarters of the country, only essential shops such as supermarkets are allowed to open and people are meant to stay at home. Mr Johnson said he was also considering further closures of schools. Cabinet sources said they expected the Government’s ‘Covid-O’ committee, which makes decisions on lockdown restrictions, would meet today to decide on the next steps to take.” – Daily Mail

  • Starmer calls for immediate lockdown in England as Covid cases soar – The Guardian
  • England could be back in lockdown by the middle of the month – Daily Telegraph
  • PM expected to make an assessment of the latest infection numbers by Wednesday – The Times
  • EU’s coronavirus vaccination strategy in chaos as supplies run short – The Times
  • Soaring number of patients left waiting outside hospitals in ambulances – Daily Telegraph
Explainer:
  • What Tier 5 restrictions could include, and who it might affect – Daily Telegraph
  • Options for a tougher lockdown – The Times
>Today:
>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 2) Forces make biggest effort in peacetime to fight virus

“The armed forces are conducting their biggest home operation in peacetime in support of the Covid-19 response, as the first Oxford vaccines are set to be administered. More than 5,000 personnel are assisting with testing, cross-channel logistics and vaccine deliveries, military chiefs said, as a “quick vaccine task force” is set up to support the NHS. Today Britain will become the first country in the world to use the Oxford vaccine outside clinical trials. At least 530,000 doses are ready, and the government has pledged that tens of millions more will be available over the course of the winter. There are 730 vaccination sites already in place across the country, set up to distribute the Pfizer vaccine. To coincide with the arrival of the Oxford vaccine more than 250 additional sites are expected to open this week.” – The Times

  • Ivermectin: Tests show cheap drug may reduce Covid-19 death toll – The Times
  • Health chiefs in Israel say two million people will have received Covid jab by end of January with up to one million already given first dose of vaccine – Daily Mail
  • NHS denies report it hasn’t committed to delivering two million COVID-19 jabs a week, Reuters Staff – Reuters
  • South African coronavirus mutation may beat jabs, says member of the Oxford vaccine team, adding “It’s going to be fine” – The Times
  • Biological weapons lab leaked coronavirus, claims US official – The Times
Analysis:
  • How will the Covid-19 vaccine programme work? – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Primary schools poised to defy government by staying closed

“Primary schools across England announced plans for unilateral closures yesterday as teachers, councils and public health experts staged a revolt against the government. Schools around the country began contacting families to say that they were going to stay closed for health reasons, except for the children of key workers and vulnerable families. Ian Ward, the leader of Birmingham city council, the largest local authority in the country, told head teachers they should carry out a risk assessment and that, if it was shown that it was not safe to open schools, the council would back them. He said cases among five to nine-year-olds in the city had nearly doubled during December.” – The Times

  • Authorities in Essex and Brighton have told primaries to stay closed amid concern over the rising number of coronavirus cases – Daily Telegraph
  • Teaching unions calls for face-to-face classes in Wales to be delayed for at least two weeks – Wales Online
>Yesterday:

PM prepares ‘global Britain’ relaunch in wake of Brexit

“Boris Johnson has called 2021 a “hugely important year for global Britain”, as he attempts to move on from the bitter introspection of Brexit to an expansive new agenda as host of both the G7 and UN COP26 climate change summit. Mr Johnson hopes to grasp this serendipitous opportunity to stage two high profile global events in one year, not just to promote global co-operation but to burnish his own reputation at home and abroad. It will not be easy: Britain has spent the past five years talking to itself. But Tom Tugendhat, Tory chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, reckons that Mr Johnson can do it: “He genuinely is a political alchemist.” Those skills will come in handy if Mr Johnson is to turn the legacy of half a decade of diplomatic base metal into a shining example of global statecraft by the end of 2021.” – FT

Clare Foges: Johnson should offer magnanimity in victory

“Passing out in front of the telly having had a few shandies? No such New Year’s Eve for Lord Adonis, who just hours before the bongs tweeted: “The campaign for Britain to rejoin Europe starts at midnight.” On New Year’s Day Lord Heseltine was on the airwaves arguing that “it is up to us who believe in a closely knit relationship with Europe to use the same determination Brexiteers did to disrupt the European partnership . . . The battle starts again”. To which 99 per cent of us Brexit-sick souls can only respond by whispering “already?” I admire the noble lords’ energy. I sympathise with their wish that we were still in the EU. But for the sake of this nation’s unity and sanity we need to move on. To do so it is not only trenchant Remainers who must change their tune, but the government and its Brexit cheerleaders too.” – The Times

£100 million Brexit boost to revive UK fishing fleet

“Ministers are preparing the details of a £100 million package to rebuild Britain’s fishing fleet, enabling it to take on new quotas as they are relinquished by the European Union. The scheme is being put together after it was promised last month to counter criticism by fishermen that the government had sold out the industry to get its Brexit trade deal over the line. It is expected to allow British crews to expand their fleet during a five-and-a-half-year transition period to catch species that have traditionally been the preserve of the French and Dutch. It will also be used to boost the processing industry to ensure that there is the capacity to land the extra catch.” – The Times

Wait 40 years for another Scottish independence vote, says PM

“A 40-year gap should be left between constitutional referendums, Boris Johnson said yesterday as he again rejected demands for another vote on Scottish independence. The prime minister compared the wait between ballots on joining and leaving the European Union with the 2014 decision on Scotland’s future. With polls showing the Scottish National Party on course for a majority in Scottish parliamentary elections in May as well as a sustained preference for independence, pressure is building to put the question to the vote again. Constitutional issues are reserved to Westminster and Mr Johnson, a leading figure in the Vote Leave campaign in 2016 that led to Brexit, has repeatedly said that he will not countenance another vote while he is prime minister.” – The Times

>Today:

Javid reportedly set for new Cabinet role helping to lead Britain’s recovery from coronavirus pandemic

“Sajid Javid is preparing to make a Cabinet comeback to help lead the recovery from the pandemic. Boris Johnson will reshuffle his top team as Britain gets ready to host a United Nations climate change conference later this year. The Prime Minister has agreed to make Business Secretary Alok Sharma full-time president of the Cop26 summit, the Mail can reveal. Mr Javid, 51, who resigned as Chancellor last February following a clash with Boris Johnson’s then chief adviser Dominic Cummings, is in the running to replace Mr Sharma at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It would mark a return to the department he used to run after five years away for Mr Javid, who was said by colleagues to refer to himself in the third person as The Saj, but he denies this.” – Daily Mail

Labour’s Allin-Khan issues apology after tweets suggesting vaccines minister Zahawi jumped the queue for jabs

“A Labour frontbencher today issued a grovelling apology after falsely suggesting vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi jumped the queue for jabs. Shadow health minister Rosena Allin-Khan said it had been ‘inappropriate and wrong’ to raise ‘unsubstantiated’ claims about her political opponent on Twitter. The apology came in the early hours of the morning after she tweeted at 11.31pm last night saying she had heard ‘rumours’ that Mr Zahawi and his family had been vaccinated in Wandsworth. ‘Nadhim, can you please tell us if it is true?’ she wrote. ‘ I really hope it is not unless you meet the necessary criteria.’ However, by 1.08am the Labour MP, an A&E doctor, completely retracted the claims.” – Daily Mail

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