Published:

Two million Oxford jabs will be made every week…

“Two million doses of the Oxford vaccine are due to be supplied each week by the middle of this month as pressure builds on the government to speed up immunisations. Concerns are growing over the rate achieved so far and the NHS is having to cope with record numbers of hospital admissions driven by a new, more transmissible strain of the coronavirus. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said on Wednesday that only 530,000 doses of the Oxford vaccine would be ready on Monday, despite original plans to have a stockpile of 30 million by the autumn. A key member of the Oxford-Astrazeneca team told The Times that they expected two million doses to be ready each week in just over a fortnight.” – The Times

  • Firms hit back at ministers over shortage claims – Daily Telegraph
  • Britain ‘pays price’ for running down vaccine factories – The Times
  • Johnson calls on Sun readers to join ‘Jabs Army’ – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: 2021 and the race to normality. Post-vaccine hospitalisation and transmission data are key to reopening the economy.

…and doctors threaten to ‘defy ministers’ and give second doses of Pfizer one to elderly patients…

“Doctors say they will defy Government orders to give a second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to elderly patients who were promised one when they got their first jabs. A row has broken out over ministers’ decision to ration vaccine supplies to get single doses to as many people as they can in a scramble to stem the tide of Covid deaths. Officials, warning that supply shortages could last until spring, have said patients who already had one dose of the vaccine should have their second one – which they were told they’d get three weeks later – postponed for up to 12 weeks. But doctors have revolted and said they won’t deny vulnerable patients the vaccines they promised them amid concerns the jabs won’t work as well with just one dose.” – Daily Mail

  • Retired medics trying to help vaccination drive say offers being ignored – Daily Telegraph
  • Ministers urged to strip away red tape to hit UK vaccine rollout target – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Is this another fiasco in the making? – David Rose, Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • Response to our Jabs Army campaign has been overwhelming, sign up now – The Sun

…and debate rages over wisdom of Britain’s new ‘single jab’ strategy

“Scientists across the world were locked in fierce debate on Friday over the wisdom or otherwise of the UK switching to a single dose strategy for Covid-19 vaccines. White coats were flapping on social media after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published its rationale for the move on Thursday night. “The advice… is aimed at maximising protection in the population”, said the JVCI. “Given the high level of protection afforded by the first dose, models suggest that initially vaccinating a greater number of people with a single dose will prevent more deaths and hospitalisations than vaccinating a smaller number of people with two doses”. The move to prioritise first jabs of the vaccines was initially proposed by former prime minister Tony Blair. There is little doubt it is an innovation, though some prefer the word gamble.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Extend Covid measures or households face ‘cliff edges’, says Labour – The Guardian

More:

  • Variant spread rapidly in England even during lockdown, study finds – FT
  • Sturgeon urged to focus solely on Covid after kicking off 2021 independence campaign – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘We have taken a great step towards eradicating Covid, but it’s a first step’ – Interview, The Times

>Yesterday: Robert Sutton in Comment: The protection of civil liberties must be placed at the heart of a reformed Public Health Act

‘Slow-motion crash’ halts routine surgery in hospitals stretched by Covid

“The majority of London hospitals have had to cancel the bulk of planned operations to handle the surge in Covid-19 patients. Of 39 NHS hospital trusts in the capital, 29 have said that they are pausing almost all forms of operations and procedures, except for cancer treatment and emergencies. Other NHS trusts outside London have had to postpone non-urgent procedures owing to their toll of coronavirus patients. Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said that the growing strain on hospitals since the end of the last lockdown had been “like watching a car crash in slow motion”… The NHS has said that London’s Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre is ready to admit patients after being “reactivated” because of the rise in Covid-19 patients. NHS England said it was important that all patients should still attend for surgery or a procedure if they have been instructed to do so.” – The Times

  • Doctor warns Covid intensive care patients are ‘competing for ventilators’ – Daily Mail
  • Key London hospital preparing for Covid-only care as cases surge – The Guardian
  • Number of heart attack patients admitted to intensive care plunges – Daily Telegraph
  • NHS staff fear speaking out over crisis in English hospitals – The Guardian
  • UK announces another 53,285 coronavirus cases and 613 deaths  – Daily Mail

Williamson forced into new U-turn on school closures

“The education secretary was forced last night into another U-turn on school closures. Only two days after announcing plans to keep open many primary schools in London despite surging coronavirus case numbers, Gavin Williamson backtracked yesterday and announced that all London primaries would remain closed after the Christmas break. The announcement blindsided Downing Street, which had insisted yesterday morning that there would be no review of the policy until mid-January. It will increase pressure on Mr Williamson, whose handling of the Covid-19 crisis in schools has infuriated Tory MPs. A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said, however, that the decision had not been made unilaterally but by working closely with Public Health England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS.” – The Times

  • Teachers demand that all schools stay closed – Daily Telegraph
  • Schools U-turn and rising Covid cases crush hopes of new year easing – The Guardian

‘So far so good’ on Brexit day one as border posts await tougher tests

“The UK’s first full day in 47 years outside the EU’s single market and customs union was marked on Friday by a smooth flow of traffic through ports on both sides of the channel, as many hauliers delayed shipments to let new customs requirements bed down. Operations were largely calm despite some evident confusion outside the Port of Dover where police officers turned away large numbers of drivers who had not yet fulfilled the requirement — separate from the customs process — of producing a negative Covid-19 test before travelling to France. Some drivers there expressed frustration at the new customs bureaucracy. The post-Brexit trade deal agreed by Boris Johnson with Brussels on Christmas Eve guarantees tariff and quota free trading arrangements with the UK’s biggest export partner but the agreement will still usher in a wave of new red tape and bureaucracy for companies doing business with the EU.” – FT

  • Border chaos fails to materialise – The Sun
  • Hauliers to avoid Channel for a fortnight amid Brexit paperwork fears – The Times
  • UK and EU attempt to ease Brexit paperwork burden – FT
  • Dover residents furious over building of Brexit lorry park – The Guardian

More:

  • Johnson immediately bans pulse fishing in UK waters – Daily Express

>Yesterday:

Andrew Neil: The road to a post-Brexit boom

“Our economic prospects are better than conventional wisdom would have us believe. We have, at the 11th hour, our Brexit deal. It is not a great deal but it is better than no deal. It removes great uncertainties and allows us to find our post-Brexit footing without tariffs and quotas. It will increase confidence and we will quickly discover in 2021 that British shares and sterling have been somewhat undervalued in 2020. The ability of the British economy to bounce back — to display all the animal spirits of a dynamic market economy — should not be underestimated. It demonstrated that in the summer with a huge spurt in growth, curtailed only when the Government resorted to further lockdowns in the autumn.” – Daily Mail

  • With Brexit ‘done’, Britain must rebuild trust in Europe – Camilla Cavendish, FT
  • Rejoining seems like a hopelessly lost cause, but so did leaving – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

>Today: Mario Laghos in Comment: Johnson must chuck free market ideology and double down on levelling up Britain

Patel looks to cut jail term needed for deportation

“Foreign criminals given six-month prison sentences could be subject to deportation for the first time under plans being considered by the home secretary. Priti Patel is looking at making it easier to remove offenders who are given short sentences, a change that would undo legislation introduced by the last Labour government. Under the terms of the UK Borders Act, passed in 2007, offenders must be jailed for a minimum of 12 months to be deported. A proposal to halve that limit could form part of a sovereign borders bill that is expected to be published shortly. The plan is among several options being examined by the Home Office to make the removal of foreign offenders easier.” – The Times

Mayors 1) Khan defends London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks after being accused of politicising event

“Sadiq Khan has defended London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display after he was accused of politicising the event by including references to the Black Lives Matters movement. The fireworks were executed over the Thames and including tributes to the NHS and notable figures from the year of Covid-19, however the London mayor’s event was accused of being too “woke”… As coloured lights shone at various points up the Thames, leading to more fireworks above Wembley Stadium, the Black Lives Matter movement was also recognised. Viewers saw its clenched-fist symbol, which became recognised worldwide amid the protests which followed the death of Minnesota man George Floyd in police custody in May.” – Daily Telegraph

  • London Assembly members slam £1.5million light show – Daily Mail
  • Half of Britons feel the BBC does not share their values – The Times

Mayors 2) Anderson withdraws from elections

“The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has said he will not be seeking re-election after police extended his bail as part of a corruption inquiry. Anderson, who was praised by the government for his handling of the city’s Covid crisis, said he had decided to step back from his role leading Liverpool city council and would not stand in May’s delayed mayoral election. He insisted the police investigation “will confirm I have done nothing wrong, and my name and reputation will be exonerated”. However he accepted his presence would be a distraction from “the positives of our city”, which he said he had always put first during his 22-year political career. Anderson was arrested at the start of December on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation as part of an investigation into building and development contracts awarded in Liverpool.” – The Guardian