Published:

Tory sceptics push for faster coronavirus vaccine roll-out… but agree to lockdown

“Tory lockdown-sceptics are poised to back the government’s new restrictions today but are piling pressure on ministers to increase the pace of their vaccination programme. The Covid Recovery Group (CRG), which was formed to resist lockdown measures, is preparing to vote in favour of them in the Commons today after a meeting last night. “There’s no choice this time,” one of its members said. However, there is widespread anger on the back benches with Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, after the announcement that schools were to close, which came on the day that many pupils returned to class from the Christmas holidays… Boris Johnson said in his televised address on Monday that “it is not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal”.” – The Times

  • Johnson urged to focus on jabs programme – Daily Telegraph
  • He will face MPs ahead of retrospective vote on England’s third national shutdown – Daily Mail
  • Prime Minister under pressure to axe his lockdown ban on kids playing team sports – The Sun
  • Britain’s 10 million key workers still have to get around – Daily Telegraph
  • Can the Prime Minister really get us out of lockdown by Spring? – Daily Mail

>Yesterday:

Restrictions might be needed next winter if vaccine drive doesn’t suppress enough infections, warns Whitty

“Britain may have to endure coronavirus restrictions next winter because coronavirus ‘benefits’ from cooler months, Chris Whitty has suggested. Official for National Statistics figures show an estimated 1.1 million people in private households in England had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2 – equivalent to around 2.06% of the population. Professor Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said it was ‘really quite a large number indeed’, warning people to take the government’s stay at home message seriously, owing to the new variant as well as winter. He said the risk level will gradually decrease over time with measures being ‘lifted by degrees, possibly at different rates in different parts of the country, we’ll have to see’.” – Daily Mail

  • YouTube lifts suspension of talkRADIO in Covid row – The Times
  • UK’s private healthcare groups hope for virus bounce – FT
  • Tory chief resigns after insulting people in A&E – The Sun
  • ‘Devastating’ risk as cancer operations are delayed due to Covid – The Times

Millions more coronavirus vaccines on way, Johnson says

“Millions more coronavirus jabs will reach vaccination centres within days, The Times has been told, as Boris Johnson announced that almost a quarter of the over-80s had been given a dose. Two million doses of the Pfizer jab held back for booster shots will be distributed this week and next after the strategy shifted to prioritising as many people as possible for a first injection. The prime minister promised he was “using every second of this lockdown” to protect the elderly and vulnerable as he came under intense pressure to accelerate the vaccination programme to end restrictions sooner. Britain has more than five million finished doses awaiting distribution or final safety checks and health chiefs insist that both can be speeded up by next week.” – The Times

  • Johnson reveals 1.3m have had Covid vaccine including quarter of all over 80s – The Sun
  • Public Health England will not deliver Covid vaccines on Sundays – Daily Telegraph
  • Rollback: Hancock ‘downplays target of vaccinating 13m by February’ – The Sun
  • Pharmacies’ offer to give Covid jabs ‘snubbed by ministers’… – Daily Telegraph
  • …but one insists they won’t be excluded – Daily Telegraph
  • One in every 50 people in England has coronavirus, says Johnson – FT

More:

  • How Israel has left the world behind in the vaccine race – Daily Mail
  • Sturgeon urged to be transparent about Covid vaccine roll-out after timetable slip – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • The military should be drafted in – David Blunkett, Daily Mail

Editorial:

>Today: Ryan Bourne’s column: Ministers must speed up the pace of vaccination. Here are some ways of doing so.

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: A timetable for vaccinating the most vulnerable by mid-February. The Prime Minister’s statement – full text.

Sunak announces new £4.6bn support package for UK business

“Rishi Sunak has announced a £4.6bn fresh financial support package for struggling UK companies a day after the government imposed its toughest Covid-19 restrictions since last spring. The chancellor said the Treasury would provide £4bn of one-off “top-up grants” for an estimated 600,000 retail, hospitality and leisure companies, which can each claim up to £9,000. There will also be a new £594m discretionary fund made available for councils to support other businesses that are not eligible for those grants but are affected by the restrictions. Yet business leaders raised concerns that even this extra support would not be enough to save tens of thousands of companies from collapse.” – FT

  • It is branded a ‘sticking plaster’ – The Times
  • Chancellor reveals extra £9k grants in £4.6billion boost for firms to get through to spring – The Sun

More:

  • UK Government’s £375m for Scottish lockdown is ‘not new’, SNP claims – The Scotsman

>Today: Daniel Hannan’s column: Britain is skint – so we should use our post-EU freedom to grow ourselves out of this mess.

>Yesterday:

Sturgeon ‘must abandon plan to publish Independence Referendum Bill’ and focus on Covid

“Nicola Sturgeon must abandon her plan to publish an independence referendum Bill before May’s Holyrood election as Scotland tackles the mutant strain of Covid, Douglas Ross has demanded. The Scottish Tory leader said the First Minister’s plan to publish draft legislation for another separation vote was “more absurd than ever” as Covid cases surge to a new high. He argued it would be “irresponsible in the extreme” to divert civil servants to working on the Bill when their attention should be focused on vaccine delivery, education and protecting jobs. His call was echoed by Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, who said her independence campaign should be “locked down” with the rest of the country.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Stricter international border controls during lockdown under ‘urgent’ discussion, says First Minister – The Sun

More:

>Today: ToryDiary: Happy centenary, Northern Ireland. Let’s plan for a second one.

>Yesterday: Dan Boucher in Comment: Welsh Labour has been given twenty-four years to transform the economy – and failed

Williamson urged to quit as GCSEs and A-levels cancelled…

“Retired teachers and Ofsted inspectors should check pupils’ GCSE and A-level work to ensure the right grades are given this summer, the chairman of the education select committee says. An algorithm used to moderate grades given by teachers after exams were cancelled last year led to a results debacle and government U-turn. After Michael Gove confirmed yesterday that the pandemic had also put paid to this summer’s exams, Robert Halfon said that assessors should check teachers’ work to avoid a similar fiasco… Headteachers and education experts have criticised the decision to cancel this summer’s GCSEs and A-level exams as families were left in the dark about what would replace them.” – The Times

  • England’s schools in disarray after government’s exam U-turn – FT
  • Government says BTECs can be cancelled… just hours before pupils are due to sit first exams – Daily Mail

More:

  • Why aren’t schools providing more online live lessons? – Wales Online
  • Northern Ireland transfer tests cancelled and schools ‘closed to mid-term’ – Belfast Telegraph

>Today: Chris McGovern in Local Government: School closures are a victory for the unions. What can be done to help the children catch up?

…as Starmer demands parents who have to teach kids at home get furloughed

“Mums and dads and dads forced to stay home to teach their kids in the lockdown should get furlough cash, Sir Keir Starmer has demanded. The Labour leader said stressed-out parents who have to cut their working hours because the schools are closed should get a bailout. He said he “absolutely” backs the demand, which has been put forward by trade unions… He piled into the campaign after TUC boss Frances O’Grady called for the working parents bailout after Boris Johnson plunged England into lockdown 3… All schools across England have been closed to most pupils until at least the February half term – and maybe longer. Only vulnerable kids or the offspring of key workers are allowed to attend regular classes. It means millions of parents are stuck at home desperately trying to home school their children with the help of online classes.” – The Sun

  • Ministers under pressure over help for students during lockdown – FT

Sarah Vine: No one gets a second childhood. Why must they pay the price for the virus?

“It is clear to me, and to other parents like me, that our children are fast becoming third-class citizens. Their education, their rights, future and wellbeing – not to mention their mental health – during this pandemic have been treated as if secondary to everyone else’s. That’s not just my opinion. It is a fact, borne out by the actions of teaching unions whose principal aim is not the welfare of children, but the desire to make political capital out of the pandemic — and by a Labour Party with the same selfish, short-sighted agenda, as well as a Government burdened with impossible choices. At every stage, it seems, children have been an afterthought. The priority has been protecting the elderly and the vulnerable from the worst effects of the disease, and it is right that those who suffer most should be the ones to whom we afford the greatest protection.” – Daily Mail

  • The answer to the exams dilemma? Extend the school year by a term – Martin Stephen, Daily Telegraph
  • Hardline voices given undue prominence in schools debate – Martyn McLaughlin, The Scotsman

Editorial:

  • The cancellation of GCSEs and A-levels risks another wasted year for Britain’s children – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Retreat of the UK coronavirus lockdown skeptics – Charlie Cooper and Emilio Casalicchio, Politico
  • Worth a shot: how we can really speed up Covid vaccinations – Morgan Schondelmeier, CapX
  • Inside the Covid ward – Jane Smith, UnHerd
  • What Johnson told the ’22 – David Scullion, The Critic
  • Williamson is the least convincing Education Secretary ever – Melanie McDonagh, The Spectator