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Lockdown easing could start in early March, vaccines minister says

There’s been an update on when lockdown might be lifted

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Peter McDermott / Geograph & BBCBreakfast / Twitter

Nadhim Zahawi has suggested a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions won’t begin before early March. 

Vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast this morning: “If we take the mid-February target, two weeks after that you get your protection, pretty much, for the Pfizer/BioNTech, three weeks for the Oxford/AstraZeneca, you are protected.

“One of the things we don’t know yet, and the deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam is on record as saying ‘look give me a couple of months and I’ll tell you’, is the impact of the vaccine on transmission rates ie on infecting people.

“So there are a number of caveats that stand in the way of us reopening the economy.

“It will be gradual, it will be probably through the tiered system but you’re looking at that sort of period, two to three weeks after the middle of February, after we’ve protected the top four cohorts.”

The lockdown is set to be reviewed by the government on February 22nd with legislation possibly running until March 31st. 

Chief Executive of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens has warned that the NHS has been left in the most precarious position after the second spike in Covid.

Speaking on the vaccine, he said: “The facts are very clear and I’m not going to sugar coat them. Hospitals are under extreme pressure and staff are under extreme pressure.

“Since Christmas Day we’ve seen another 15,000 increase in the inpatients in hospitals across England. That’s the equivalent of filling 30 hospitals full of coronavirus patients and, staggeringly, every 30 seconds across England another patient is being admitted to hospital with coronavirus.”

Peter McDermott / Geograph

Latest figures suggest that the third lockdown is having the desired effect, with the number of cases in the week to Sunday January 17th down 22.5% from the previous week.

However, deaths and hospital admissions remain extremely high and experts have stressed the importance of sticking to lockdown restrictions. 

Stevens added that the appearance of virus mutations is one of the factors that will determine when lockdown restrictions can be lifted. 

He said: “It’s not going to be the case that on Valentine’s Day, or on February 15th, with one bound we are free. But equally, I don’t think that we will be having to wait until the autumn. I think somewhere between those two.

“Subject of course to this uncertainty about new variants of the coronavirus. And it will be very important that we don’t see those taking off in a way that undermines the effectiveness of vaccines that we currently have.”

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Around 20 people involved in mass brawl ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens

The violence spilled out into the street

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Magnus D / Flickr

A large group of people were involved in a mass fight ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens last night.

Around 20 people were caught up in the large brawl on Monday evening, and according to reports some were armed with knives.

The fight took place outside Morrisons on the end of Oldham Street, and happened around 9:30pm.

Witnesses reported seeing some of the suspects carrying knives, although police didn’t recover any from the scene, and busses were forced to stop as the violence spread out onto the road.

Peter McDermott / Geograph

Someone who witnessed the fight said on Twitter: “Piccadilly gardens is the roughest place on earth… a lovely night out helping ruined by a group of young kids kicking each others faces in”.

Officers responded to the incident, but no arrests were made or serious injuries reported.

This incident was the third of serious violence in just a few days.

Saturday afternoon saw another incident outside Morrisons in Piccadilly Gardens, in which a man was slashed in the face.

And on Sunday a brawl involving two tables at Barca bar in Castlefield happened, with some involved arming themselves with weapons like bar furniture and a baseball bat.

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Leading scientists call for end of face masks and social distancing by June

Do you agree?

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Leading scientists have written to the UK government calling for social distancing and face masks to be scrapped from June.

In total 22 scientists have signed the communication, saying that these measures should finish on June 22nd – the same date limits on social contact are set to be scrapped in England.

One of the scientists who has added their name to the letter is Dr Roland Salmon, the former director of the communicable disease centre in Wales.

Nickolay Romensky/Flickr

Dr Salmon told BBC Radio Wales: “I am not venting my frustration but I do think some dialogue is well overdue.

“I have always felt that there has been little credible evidence benefit for many of the measures that we take.”

According to him, the letter was written to encourage the government to focus on protecting vulnerable people rather than the masses as we move forward.

Dr Salmon said we need to deal with the ‘here and now’ when asked about the threat of variants, going on to add that the vaccine has shown it helps prevent severe disease and death.

He added: “We can’t stop living forever while we wait for things to happen”.

Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

Scientists who’ve signed the letter include Prof Robert Dingwall from Nottingham Trent University, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG). 

There’s also Prof Anthony Brookes, a geneticist and health data scientist at the University of Leicester, and Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University.

The letter reads: “We are being told simultaneously that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true.

“We need to give more weight to the data on the actual success of the vaccines and less to theoretical risks of vaccine escape and/or surge in a largely vaccinated population.”



It continues: “Covid-19 no longer requires exceptional measures of control in everyday life, especially where there have been no evaluations and little credible evidence of benefit.

“Measures to reduce or discourage social interaction are extremely damaging to the mental health of citizens; to the education of children and young people; to people with disabilities; to new entrants to the workforce; and to the spontaneous personal connections from which innovation and enterprise emerge.”

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Boris Johnson is regarded as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters

It follows weeks of allegations against the PM

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No10 / Flickr

According to a new poll Boris Johnson is seen as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters in Britain, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer seen as more trustworthy.

The poll from Ipsos MORI was shared by the Evening Standard, and comes after weeks of leaks and allegations about sleaze aimed at the prime minister.

The research found that Mr Johnson is trusted by just 35% of voters and deemed untrustworthy by 59%, while Sir Keir is seen as trustworthy by 42% and is untrusted by 41%.

No10 / Flickr

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: “On honesty Boris Johnson is clearly trumped by Keir Starmer, so this is an area of potential risk for him. 

“However, his own supporters still trust him, and the public overall have never seen it as one of his strongest attributes … and as previous leaders such as Tony Blair have shown, you don’t have to be ahead on trust to win elections. 

“The key question is whether and if these stories continue and start to change the public’s overall view on him as PM.”

No10 / Flickr

The poll was taken following weeks of reports about murky donations being used to refurbish the prime minister’s flat, as well as disclosures about covert lobbying.

However, it was undertaken before the most recent allegations that Mr Johnson said he’d rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than have another lockdown, so those reports won’t have been taken into consideration by those polled.

Despite all the recent controversy, the prime minister and government’s net satisfaction hasn’t changed much since March, with both Mr Johnson (44 satisfied/50 dissatisfied) and Sir Keir (36/46) having net negative ratings.

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1090 adults across the UK by telephone from April 16th to the 22nd – you can find full details here.

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