People aged 65 and over to be offered their first Covid jab from today

England enters FIFTH phase of vaccine rollout: People aged 65 and over will be offered their first Covid jab from today – after UK hits 15M jabs landmark

  • With 15million people receiving first dose of Covid jab, the next phase begins
  • Care home residents and staff, over 70s, frontline NHS staff offered jab so far
  • Now people aged 65 and over, and those with serious health conditions are next
  • Plans to ease lockdown boosted by figures showing dramatic vaccine impact
  • Prime Minister said number of new cases already dropped ‘very considerably’ 
  • It is thought this could mean the re-opening of High Street shops with weeks

Britain’s Covid vaccine roll-out is today set to enter its fifth phase – with more than 15million people receiving their first dose of the jab so far – as ministers discuss plans to lead the country out of lockdown.

In another big step towards a return to normality, people aged 65 and over and younger people in at-risk groups will now be offered the Covid jab. 

It comes after the prime minister revealed that millions of people from Britain’s most vulnerable groups had now been offered the coronavirus vaccine. 

All elderly care home residents and their carers, everyone over 70, all frontline health and social care workers. and everyone with a condition that makes them extremely vulnerable to the virus have now been offered the vaccine.

In total, more than 15 million people in the UK have had their first dose since the roll-out began more than two months ago with 91-year-old Margaret Keenan.

Almost 1.2 million letters are due to have landed on the doorsteps of over-65s and the clinically vulnerable over the weekend, asking people to log onto the national booking service, NHS England has said. 

A further 1.2 million are due to arrive this week, with those to receive a letter able to choose from more than 100 vaccination hubs or almost 200 pharmacy services. 

Last night, Mr Johnson described the country’s rollout – the third best in the world in terms of vaccination rate – as an ‘extraordinary feat’.

He also said that the country can go forward ‘with great confidence’. 

In a further boost to millions of beleaguered Britons, ministers are set to discuss plans to allow for shops to re-open, families to be re-united and self-catering staycations to be given the go ahead if Covid-19 infection rates continue to plummet amid the vaccine rollout.

A woman receives the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at an NHS vaccination centre in Ealing, West London as the Government meets its target of delivering 15 million jabs

The Prime Minister said the number of new cases has already dropped ‘very considerably’ preparing the way for lockdown measures to be relaxed

What are the UK priority groups for vaccinations? 

1. Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults

2. All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers

3. All those 75 years of age and over

4. All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (not including pregnant women and those under 16 years of age)

5. All those 65 years of age and over

6. Adults aged 16 to 65 years in an at-risk group 

7. All those 60 years of age and over

8. All those 55 years of age and over

9. All those 50 years of age and over

10. Rest of the population

Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having as Boris Johnson last night confirmed the country had hit its target of 15 million vaccinations ahead of schedule.

The Prime Minister said the number of new cases has already dropped ‘very considerably’ preparing the way for lockdown measures to be relaxed.

It is thought that this could mean the re-opening of High Street shops within weeks as well as the easing of restrictions on outdoor exercise and socialising.

Ministers are also said to be considering plans to allow for families of a single household to travel across the UK for an Easter holiday in self-catered accommodation.

It has led to growing hope that families will be able to meet outside by Easter as early as next month to allow children to reunite with their grandparents.

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out yet another ambitious goal as he aims to roll out 32 million jabs to all those at risk in just 10 weeks. 

After the over-65s and 16-64s with underlying health conditions – two groups which together contain more than 10 million people – the Government aims to vaccinate the 55-60s and then the over 50s by the end of April.

The remaining adult population, around 21million people, will then be offered their jabs by autumn. 

Boris Johnson said last week that it was too early to book holidays as he urged people to wait until the government had issued a ‘road map’ out of lockdown.

But there is now renewed optimism sparked by the UK achieving its landmark target of vaccinating 15 million a day early – hailed by the Prime Minister as an ‘extraordinary feat’.

Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having (packed high street pictured during December last year before the latest lockdown was imposed)

Boris Johnson had previously urged people to wait until the government had issued a ‘road map’ out of lockdown (empty high street pictured in March last year)

Health conditions that make patients in Priority Group Six eligible for a vaccine 

A blood cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)

Diabetes

Dementia

A heart problem

A chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis, emphysema or severe asthma

A kidney disease

A liver disease

Lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as HIV infection, steroid medication, chemotherapy or radiotherapy)

Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or psoriasis (who may require long term immunosuppressive treatments)

Have had an organ transplant

Had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

A neurological or muscle wasting condition

A severe or profound learning disability

A problem with your spleen, example sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed

Are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above)

Are severely mentally ill

He said jabs have been offered to everyone considered to be in the top four priority groups in England – the over 70s, care home residents and staff, healthcare workers and those who have been shielding. 

It is thought that due to the vaccine rollout success ministers are currently looking at plans that would allow families that live in the same household to go away for self-catered staycations as soon as the Easter holidays.

This has raised fears that letting people travel long distances to their destinations could lead to ‘big movements’ across the UK – potentially leading to a spike in coronavirus cases once again.

But the Prime Minister said: ‘Thanks to the efforts of the British people, the lockdown, plus possibly the effect of the vaccine, we’re going to see the rates coming down more sharply.

‘They’re falling at the moment, we want to be in a position where we can begin to open up.’ 

In the interview with US television network CBS, Mr Johnson continued: ‘What people want to see is clarity about the way forward, and taking steps to unlock, which you don’t then have to reverse.’ 

The latest developments could also see the easing of restrictions on outdoor exercise and socialising as early as next month with the return of one-to-one outdoor sports such as golf and tennis.

It is thought that this will be followed by the re-opening of non-essential retailers with pubs and restaurants being allowed to serve people outdoors later in April. 

Indoor hospitality would not return until May with the possibility of delay until August. 

The pace at which restrictions are eased will depend on the ongoing scientific advice but ministers are also considering plans to allow grandparents to reunite with their grandchildren outdoors from next month. 

Schools are set to be the first to return with people also allowed to meet friends and family outdoors on a one-to-one basis. 

Ministers are also said to be considering plans to allow for families of a single household to travel across the UK for an Easter holiday in self-catered accommodation (holidaymakers at Lyme Regis, Dorset, pictured previously)

The pace at which restrictions are eased will depend on the ongoing scientific advice but ministers are also considering plans to allow grandparents to reunite with their grandchildren outdoors next month (stock image)

Downing Street slapped down Dominic Raab yesterday after he suggested vaccine passports could be required before going into shops and restaurants.

The Foreign Secretary said the Government was considering their use at a ‘domestic or local level’.

The comments came as a surprise as ministers have repeatedly ruled out the use of vaccine passports in the UK.

Officials are working on plans to use documentation that proves someone has had the jab for international travel. Asked if it could be required to enter supermarkets, Mr Raab told LBC radio: ‘It’s something that hasn’t been ruled out. It’s under consideration.

‘But of course you’ve got to make it workable… when I’ve looked at this, whether it’s on an international, domestic or local level, you’ve got to know the document being presented is something you can rely on.’

Last night a No 10 source said the Government was not considering vaccine passports for domestic use.

Former prime minister Tony Blair yesterday said the UK should create a global Covid vaccination passport scheme before hosting the G7 summit in June.

He wrote in the Mail on Sunday: ‘The need is obvious. The world is moving in this direction.’

A government source told The Telegraph that there could be an exemption to the one-to-one outdoor meeting rule for children: ‘If grandparents had had the vaccine, that would be likely to be okay.  

‘Given that people will have immunity, that would be a fair assumption, but nothing has been decided.’       

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out yet another ambitious goal as he aims to roll out 32 million jabs to all those at risk by April. 

The Prime Minister will publish a detailed roadmap setting out his plan for lifting the national lockdown in England next Monday, starting on March 8 with the return of schools and allowing people to meet one friend for coffee on a park bench.

The blueprint will avoid setting hard-and-fast dates for subsequent stages, but will lay out the sequence in which restrictions will be lifted.

In other developments:

  • The UK recorded 10,972 new Covid-19 cases and another 258 deaths, down 30 per cent from the previous week’s total of 373 and the lowest number since Boxing Day;
  • A travel industry campaign group, called Save Our Summer, has demanded international travel is allowed to resume from May 1;
  • Pub bosses dismissed proposals to allow customers in beer gardens only as ‘laughable’ and called on ministers to let them fully reopen their doors in April;
  • There were fears of chaotic scenes at airports as Britain’s new hotel quarantine scheme for travellers came into force today;
  • MPs demanded ministers publish an assessment of the economic impact of different routes out of lockdown;
  • Downing Street slapped down Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab after he suggested people could have to show vaccine passports before being allowed into shops and restaurants.

No 10 officials are working on three different plans for unlocking based on the health data – optimistic, moderate, and gloomy. The speed restrictions are lifted will depend on infection rates, hospital admissions and deaths. 

Landlords demand to be allowed to reopen their doors from early April 

Pub bosses yesterday demanded the return of inside drinking in April – and called plans to only reopen beer gardens ‘laughable’.

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of the Young’s pubs chain, said wet weather would make the outdoors-only idea unworkable and a partial reopening would not be viable for many landlords.

His comments came after a bust-up between pub groups and the Government saw companies pull out of regular business roundtables in frustration.

Ministers are said to be considering plans to allow hospitality firms to serve customers outside by Easter, which falls on the weekend of April 2, with a full reopening not expected until May at the earliest.

This has infuriated industry leaders, who yesterday backed demands by Tory MPs for lockdown restrictions to be fully lifted by the end of April, when most over-50s are expected to have been vaccinated.

Mr Dardis yesterday said: ‘There is talk about opening pub gardens but I’m afraid that is just nonsense. It is a ridiculous idea that you can just open up in outside spaces. This is the United Kingdom. Yes, of course, you occasionally get a half-decent spring and a good summer but it is mostly wet and cold. So what would be the point?

 ‘It demonstrates that certain people in government have lost touch with the public on this and just do not understand.’

He said Young’s, which has more than 200 pubs mostly in the South East, was losing £5million a month even after receiving state support such as business rates relief.

Mr Dardis, 61, added: ‘Every pub company in the land is burning through millions and millions of pounds every month we are closed – and most cannot afford to keep going for much longer.

Ministers are waiting to receive figures this week showing the effect the vaccine is having on transmission. A leading epidemiologist yesterday said early indications show a single vaccine dose offers protection from the virus after three weeks for 67 per cent of those inoculated. 

Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, who runs the Zoe Covid-19 surveillance app, said if the results from 50,000 people are replicated amongst the wider population we will ‘have really knocked this virus on the head’.

Yesterday Mr Raab rejected what he described as an ‘arbitrary’ demand from some Tory backbenchers for a lifting of all restrictions in England by the end of April. 

More than 60 MPs in the Covid Recovery Group backed a letter to the PM that said schools ‘must’ return on March 8 as planned with pubs and restaurants opening in a ‘commercially viable manner’ from Easter.

Mr Raab, however, said while ministers wanted to lift controls as quickly as possible, it was essential to ensure the disease was under control first.

Tom Ironside, of the British Retail Consortium, said last night: ‘As soon as the Government announce retail can reopen, shops will be ready to do so safely.’ 

It comes as pub bosses yesterday demanded the return of inside drinking in April – and called plans to only reopen beer gardens ‘laughable’.

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of the Young’s pubs chain, said wet weather would make the outdoors-only idea unworkable and a partial reopening would not be viable for many landlords.

His comments came after a bust-up between pub groups and the Government saw companies pull out of regular business roundtables in frustration.

Ministers are said to be considering plans to allow hospitality firms to serve customers outside by Easter, which falls on the weekend of April 2, with a full reopening not expected until May at the earliest.

This has infuriated industry leaders, who yesterday backed demands by Tory MPs for lockdown restrictions to be fully lifted by the end of April, when most over-50s are expected to have been vaccinated.

Mr Dardis yesterday said: ‘There is talk about opening pub gardens but I’m afraid that is just nonsense. It is a ridiculous idea that you can just open up in outside spaces. This is the United Kingdom. Yes, of course, you occasionally get a half-decent spring and a good summer but it is mostly wet and cold. So what would be the point?

‘It demonstrates that certain people in government have lost touch with the public on this and just do not understand.’ 

Pub bosses yesterday demanded the return of inside drinking in April – and called plans to only reopen beer gardens ‘laughable’

Patrick Dardis, chief executive of the Young’s pubs chain, said wet weather would make the outdoors-only idea unworkable and a partial reopening would not be viable for many landlords. People are seen outside a pub in the rain in Windsor hours before Tier 3 restrictions came in last year

Ministers are said to be considering plans to allow hospitality firms to serve customers outside by Easter, which falls on the weekend of April 2, with a full reopening not expected until May at the earliest. People are seen going for a drink in Dundee, Scotland when coronavirus restrictions were eased last July

Unions pour cold water on plan to reopen classrooms on March 8

Teaching unions cast doubt yesterday on ambitious plans to get all pupils back into school on March 8.

Downing Street hopes that all primary and secondary children in England can return to classrooms three weeks today as long as Covid rates continue to decline.

But unions were sceptical and asked why ministers have abandoned the idea of a ‘phased’ return of year groups which was used last year.

Geoff Barton, leader of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘There is no point in bringing all children back at once if this causes a spike in coronavirus infection rates which forces another lockdown. It is vital all options are kept open.’

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said the Government must show decisions ‘are led by the scientific evidence and advice’. 

He also called for ‘evidence of sustained’ cuts to the R rate, nationally, regionally and locally.

Steve Chalke, who runs the Oasis academies trust , described No 10’s timetable as ‘impossible’. He told The Sunday Times: ‘We should be driven by scientific data, not dates.’

In a blog last week, the Department for Education appeared to be trying to dampen expectations, saying: ‘We hope to be able to start welcoming back more pupils from 8 March at the earliest.

‘It is important to reiterate that we do not see this as a ‘return to school’ but more of an expansion of the numbers of pupils already in school.’ 

He said Young’s, which has more than 200 pubs mostly in the South East, was losing £5million a month even after receiving state support such as business rates relief.

Mr Dardis, 61, added: ‘Every pub company in the land is burning through millions and millions of pounds every month we are closed – and most cannot afford to keep going for much longer. 

‘On what basis are they making these rules? It is just laughable – as was the 10pm curfew, as was the nonsense about what a ‘substantial meal’ was. When pubs opened last summer more than £500million was spent [making them Covid-safe]. But there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the infection rate grew as a consequence of pubs being open.’

Mr Dardis has written to Boris Johnson criticising the Government’s ‘obvious lack of interest and respect’ towards the sector and argued that pubs should reopen in April.

Tim Martin, chairman of pubs giant JD Wetherspoon, also criticised the beer gardens proposal yesterday.

He said: ‘These decisions are made by ministers with no experience of business, or empathy for business.

‘In my 41 years in business, it’s the least consultative and most authoritarian government I’ve experienced.’

Food delivery firm Deliveroo and 300 restaurant groups also called on the Government to help the hospitality industry yesterday and suggested that Chancellor Rishi Sunak should revive the Eat Out to Help Out scheme when they are allowed to reopen.

However, scientists have continued to urge caution over the easing of restrictions when Mr Johnson reveals his ‘road map’ out of lockdown for England next week. 

Dr Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, said calls to reopen pubs in April were premature.

He said: ‘What the executives of pubs need to know is that failure to get it right equals back to square one. And back to square one equals much more pain economically, much more hardship.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘We are deeply disappointed that some pub leaders have decided to step back from meetings with ministers. As we plan our way out of restrictions, we will continue to engage relentlessly with the hospitality sector, as we have done throughout this pandemic.’

Warnings of FIVE-HOUR airport border queues with NO segregation between passengers from ‘red list’ and safe countries 

Travellers may have be forced to wait in ‘totally unacceptable’ queues for up to five hours and will be free to mix with passengers from ‘red list’ countries as the Government’s quarantine hotel system comes into force today. 

Heathrow Airport warned of long queues at Border Control and said there were no protocols in place to segregate passengers from the 33 high-risk countries from  others despite the stringent quarantine measures being introduced.

It is feared the safety of up to 8,000 passengers a day could be compromised as airport staff carry out extra checks on those entering the country. 

Yesterday union bosses warned the new system, which will see all passengers from the ‘red list’ countries having to quarantine for ten days in a hotel, will not be enough to stop the mutant variants from spreading. 

Travellers may have be forced to queue for up to five hours as the Government’s quarantine hotels comes into force today. Pictured: Passengers arrive at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport

Passengers wear face masks as they queue at the UK’s Border Control in Heathrow Airport 

Travellers wait in queues as they prepare to check in at Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport this month 

Officials estimate that checks carried out to identify if a traveller has arrived from one of the Government’s ‘red list’ zones could double the standard time taken to 15 minutes per arrival, The Times reports   

A Heathrow spokesman told The Times: ‘Our key concern remains the ability of Border Force to cope. 

‘Queues at the border in recent days of almost five hours are totally unacceptable.

‘Ministers need to ensure there is adequate resource and effective processes at the border to avoid compromising the safety of passengers and those working at the airport, which could necessitate the suspension of some arriving flights.’ 

Yesterday frantic travellers made a desperate dash to return to the UK before the stringent rules came into force.  

Stephanie Lvovich, 50, and her daughter Ava, 13, who flew into Heathrow Airport from Dubai, told The Sun: ‘We booked a flight as soon as we heard about the hotel quarantine.’

Meanwhile Tom Weston, 24, who arrived from Doha, Qatar, told the paper: ‘I’ve been very keen to get in. I wouldn’t cope well with two weeks in a hotel . . . and the expense.’ 

From today, passengers arriving from the 33 ‘red list’ countries will be forced to quarantine in one of the Government’s designated hotels for 10 days (11 nights).

All guests will have to pay an individual fee of £1,750 and will have to eat airline-style food left at their door, change their own sheets and towels and be accompanied by security if they want fresh air or a cigarette outside.  

Ahead of the new rules being introduced, Meher Nawab, chief executive of the London Hotel Group, warned that many airport hotels rely on central air flow systems.

Pointing to Australia’s system – which is currently under review amid an outbreak linked to quarantine hotels – he warned such systems could increase the risk of the virus spreading between guests and hotel staff.

Mr Nawab also warned that airport hotels often use central air conditioning systems – rather than individual units – and sometimes have windows that cannot be opened.  

Union chiefs have warned that the quarantine measures will not be enough to prevent Covid variants spreading. Pictured: Passengers walk through Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport

A plane flies over the Renaissance Hotel near Heathrow Airport as it prepares to welcome travellers from the 33 ‘red list’ countries

Union chiefs meanwhile warned that the quarantine measures were not enough to prevent Covid variants spreading in the UK. 

The GMB union, which represents hotel security and staff, also raised concerns about its members interacting with arrivals from ‘red listed’ countries which are included in the quarantine hotel scheme. 

Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, told The Observer: ‘If you’ve got people getting off planes from the red list countries, then being crammed into areas with passengers who aren’t going into quarantine – and staff as well – you’ve failed at the first hurdle.

‘Our members working at, the ground staff, security staff, have been raising concerns about this for two weeks now. Heathrow just isn’t safe at the moment.’

Despite the rising criticism Matt Hancock said: ‘As this deadly virus evolves, so must our defences.

‘The rules coming into force today will bolster the quarantine system and provide another layer of security against new variants at the border.’ 

This month analysis carried out by the World Health Organisation found dozens of countries where the highly-infectious South African and Brazilian variants had been found were not on the list.

They included Austria, Denmark, France, Greece, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and the United States.

Labour Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds reacted with fury at the news, branding the Government’s quarantine measures ‘dangerously inadequate’. 

While former Labour leader Ed Miliband told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘At the moment the government is proposing a quarantine system that covers just five per cent of arrivals that happen each day in the UK.

‘That is not an effective quarantine system.’ 

It came as Jeane Freeman, the Scottish health secretary, said UK ministers’ refusal to help track arrivals who cross from England into Scotland was ‘deeply disappointing’.

Ms Freeman said she would go ahead with plans for checks at the border in Scotland after no agreement was reached in talks last Thursday. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also warned that police in Scotland could be asked to ‘do more than they’re doing right now’ to make sure travellers were not trying to cross the border. 

Speaking at a coronavirus briefing, Ms Freeman said: ‘It’s deeply disappointing that as part of a family of equals, one partner isn’t prepared to help the other partner enforce the policy that they think is the right policy for the people they represent.

‘The discussions will continue, because we are, as we have always been, keen where we can to reach a four-nation approach to deal with a virus that doesn’t respect boundaries and borders.

‘But in the meantime, we will work through what the options are to mitigate where the UK government stance creates a loophole.

‘We can’t have people coming in, getting on public transport, coming to Scotland and we don’t know about that and they are not required to quarantine in way that we can’t manage so we have to consider what our options are about that land border.’  

 

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