The UK's "forbiddingly high" infection rate may keep the country in lockdown for longer than planned, Boris Johnson has suggested, as he faced calls from his party to set out a road map to freedom.
The Prime Minister sounded downbeat at a press conference on Friday afternoon, as he promised restrictions would only be eased when it was safe to do so.
As a caucus of frustrated Tories called for restrictions to be eased as more people are vaccinated, Mr Johnson warned: "We want to do everything we can to open up, but only safely, only cautiously."
"That doesn't mean I'm not optimistic about the rollout of the vaccine...but at this stage you've really got to be very cautious indeed."
The latest vaccination data shows 5.4 million people have now had the jab, putting the UK on course to meet its mid-February target of 15 million.
The latest evidence shows the new variant, which is responsible for the high case numbers, may also be more deadly.
The Government's Nervtag committee saw data from various university trials, which suggested the Kent variant killed as many as 30 per cent more people.
Boris Johnson: We will only open up when it is safe to do so
Boris Johnson says "we will have to live with coronavirus for a long while to come" but it is an "open question" how long measures will be in place to restrict public life.
"We will look at things continuously," he says.
"Obviously we want to do everything we can to open up, but only safely, only cautiously."
"That doesn't mean I'm not optimistic about the rollout of the vaccine...but at this stage you've really got to be very cautious indeed.
"The first thing we want to open if we make any progress will be schools."
Sir Patrick Vallance says "we have more vaccines than we could ever have dreamt of" including "ones that we can alter if we need to".
"There is a very different outlook as we move through the year," he said, but urged against "getting hooked up on one specific date".
No clarity yet on whether vaccine works on South African variant, says Vallance
The Telegraph's Gordon Rayner asks about a video circulating online that shows Matt Hancock telling travel agents that the vaccine may not work against the South Africa variant.
Mr Johnson says the Government stopped people entering the UK from December 24, and anyone arriving from anywhere else has to show a negative test result and passenger locator report.
He does not address the question about the South Africa variant and the vaccine.
Sir Patrick Vallance says there are "difficult laboratory studies" on the effectiveness of the vaccine and it isn't fair to extrapolate based on the result of one study - as Matt Hancock did.
He says "it is the case that both the South African and other variants have more differences in shape" but says "we don't know".
New variant does not have higher viral load - Sir Patrick Vallance
Sir Patrick Vallance is asked why scientists think that the new variant spreads more.
He says experts do not believe there is a higher viral load - that people transmit more of it when they breathe - than in the original variant.
The new variant may find it more easy to get into cells than the old variant, he says.
Rate of infection is 'forbiddingly high', warns PM
Boris Johnson warned that the rate of infection is "forbiddingly high", as he suggested restrictions may not be eased on February 15 as planned.
"It remains our intention to look at where we are on the 15th if we can get that JCVI first cohort done," he said.
"We will look at the state of the pandemic, look at where we are and make an assessment. We make an assessment every day on where we are.
"But currently the rate of infection is forbiddingly high, and I think we have to be realistic about that."
Death and hospitalisations will continue for some time, say advisers
Hugh Pym asks Boris Johnson whether the daily reported death toll would rise for longer and fall more slowly than expected, since the new variant is more deadly.
Mr Johnson says the "big surge" the UK saw in the Christmas period was "still going on as a result of the new variant".
He reiterates that the death toll will remain high while the lag in hospitalisations takes place. Prof Chris Whitty says the rate of decrease in case numbers will be "slow from a high base", and more people may die as a result of the new variant but the shape of the curve will remain the same.
Sir Patrick Vallance casts doubt on "preliminary" information from Israel that suggested the Pfizer vaccine may not be as effective as the clinical trial data suggested.
He says the Government is in conversation with Israeli researchers and more evidence is expected in the next few weeks.
Everyone in UK will receive two jabs, says Whitty
Prof Chris Whitty says everyone will still need to have two vaccines, but the Government is vaccinating people with one jab first to increase the number of people who receive one in the riskiest period.
"The great majority of the protection is given by the first vaccine, but the second vaccine tops that up," he says.
He adds that the length of protection may be different between the two vaccines but the Government is confident that having a longer gap between the first and second will protect more people.
Vaccine works on new variant, says Chief Scientific Adviser
Sir Patrick adds that there is increasing evidence that the UK variant (which he has just revealed is more deadly) will be susceptible to the vaccine.
People who have received the vaccine appear to be immune to the new variant, and people who have previously been infected with the original variant appear to be immune to the new variant, he says.
"So there's good news on the vaccine," he says.
Patrick Vallance: Kent Covid variant up to 30 per cent more deadly
Sir Patrick Vallance says he will now discuss variants of coronavirus.
He begins by saying the Kent variant is between 30 and 70 per cent more transmissable, and does not discriminate by age.
He then adds that the UK variant looks to be more deadly, based on preliminary data.
"There is evidence that there is an increased risk for people who have the new variant, compared to the old variant," he says,
Sir Patrick stresses that the data is "uncertain", but suggests that for a man in his 60s, the risk of death with the new variant is 13 in 1000 rather than 10 in 1000.
Hospital numbers and deaths still high, Prof Whitty warns
Prof Whitty says the number of people in hospital with Covid is still very high and it will take "some weeks" before the numbers fall to a manageable level.
Prof Whitty says the number of people dying is still climbing, and is now over 1000 people per day on average.
"It will probably go up over the next week because there is a delay in people going into hospital," he says.
Case numbers 'turning the corner', says Prof Whitty
Chris Whitty begins by showing a graph of the number of people testing positive for the virus.
"We are turning the corner on that and the number of people testing positive has gone down, but it has gone down from an exceptionally high level," he says.
'Unprecedented' vaccine programme has jabbed 5.4m, says PM
Boris Johnson said there is an "unprecedented" effort to get people vaccinated.
5.4 million people have now received their first dose of the vaccine, with 400,000 new doses in the last 24 hours, Mr Johnson said.
"I know everyone across the country is grateful for the logistical skill of the British Army," he says.
He adds that the UK's vaccine target of 15m people by February 15 is "stretching" but the Government is on target.
Boris Johnson: New variant may be more deadly
Boris Johnson begins the press conference by warning of the deadliness of the new variant.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic we have tried to update you as soon as possible on the latest scientific data," he says.
"There is some evidence the new variant...may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.
"It is largely the impact of this new variant that means the NHS is under so much intense pressure."
He then gives update on the daily figures:
40,261 new cases have been reported
38,562 people are now in hospital, which is 78 per cent higher than the first peak in April
Further 1,401 deaths
Boris Johnson to speak live at 5pm
The Prime Minister will deliver today's press conference from Downing Street at 5pm.
Mr Johnson will be joined by Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, and Prof Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer.
Watch the live stream at the top of this blog.
5.3 million people have now been vaccinated, latest data shows
Government data up to January 21 shows 5,849,899 jabs have now been given in the UK.
5,383,103 were first doses - a rise of 409,855 on the previous day's figures.
Some 466,796 were second doses, an increase of 2,760 on figures released the previous day.
The seven-day rolling average of first doses given in the UK is now 306,880.
Based on the latest figures, an average of 400,704 first doses of vaccine would be needed each day in order to meet the Government's target of 15 million first doses by February 15.
Vaccine numbers low in some of Britain's worst-hit areas
The proportion of people who have been vaccinated is lowest in some of the worst-hit areas, data shows.
In East London, where almost 60 people per 1000 have the virus, less than 4 per cent have received the jab.
New variant is 30 per cent more deadly - Prof Neil Ferguson
The new variant of coronavirus is 30 per cent more deadly than the first version, a top Government adviser has claimed.
Prof Neil Ferguson, who sits on the Government's Nervtag advisory committee, said the latest evidence from university reseachers suggests around 30 per cent more people die of the new variant of Covid - but the data is patchy.
"It is a realistic possibility that the new UK variant increases the risk of death, but there is considerable remaining uncertainty. Four groups - Imperial, LSHTM, PHE and Exeter - have looked at the relationship between people testing positive for the variant vs old strains and the risk of death," he told ITV.
"That suggests a 1.3-fold increased risk of death. So for 60 year-olds, 13 in 1000 might die compared with 10 in 1000 for old strains.
"The big caveat is that we only know which strain people were infected with for about 8 per cent of deaths.
"Only about 25 per cent of people who eventually die from Covid get a pillar 2 test before they are hospitalised (at which point they get a pillar 1 test, but pillar 1 tests don’t tell us which strain they were infected with).
"And we can onlydistinguish the new variant from the old variant for about 1/3 of pillar 2 tests. All that said, the signal is there and is consistent across different age groups, regions and ethnicities."
More funding for flooded areas, says Environment Secretary
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, said the Government was looking at providing more funding to areas which suffered frequent floods.
He said: "The investments that we've made over the last five years have given a lot of protection to a lot of homes, including here in Northwich.
"During Storm Christoph we've protected around 27,000 homes through the investments we've made over the last decade or so.
"We're making more investments in the future and one of the things we're certainly looking at is with additional capital money, some £5.2 billion, is putting additional weighting in for frequently flooded communities.
"The communities that don't just get flooded once in every 15 or 20 years, those that get flooded sometimes three or four times in a decade, we want them to be able to get access to more funds to improve the schemes in those towns."
Watch: Antony Fauci 'liberated' by Trump departure
Across the pond, Dr Anthony Fauci has said it is "liberating" to be able to let the science speak without fearing "repercussions" as new US president Joe Biden launched a Covid-19 strategy.
Watch a clip of Dr Fauci below.
Boris's Brexit deal a boon for Nissan, says boss
The Brexit trade deal is a positive development that could turbocharge sales for Nissan and transform the British car industry, according to a top executive at the Japanese carmarker.
In comments that mark a change of tone following years of speculation it could close its Sunderland plant, chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta said that Boris Johnson's deal has prevented major turmoil - and dismissed disruption in the ports as "peanuts".
Covid is forcing the company to pause some production in Sunderland from Friday. However, the plant could nearly double production from its pre-Covid levels of 320,000 to 350,000 cars a year if there is enough demand in future, Mr Gupta said, with the firm expected to win market share from imported rival marques as their sales dip amid increased red tape.
'Mother of all arguments' approaching on lockdown restrictions, says Sage prof
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a Sage academic, has predicted the "mother of all arguments" among politicians next month as some politicians call for the lockdown to be eased.
The University of Cambridge academic told BBC News: "The one thing I can be absolutely confident about is that by this time next month there is going to be the mother of all arguments.
"Because it's quite feasible that deaths will have come down considerably, infections should have come down considerably, hospitalisations and ICU will still be under a lot of pressure.
"There will be enormous pressure to loosen things up.
"Loosening it up will inevitably lead to an increase in cases, a resurgence of the pandemic among younger groups and we can see then that does seep through into hospitalisations.
"So, there's going to be a real battle going on."
From some corners of the Tory party, it feels like that battle has already begun.
Ministers must set out 'milestones' to end of lockdown - CRG MP
The Government should set out milestones to end the lockdown, starting with the pressures on hospitals, a member of the Covid Recovery Group has said.
"I think restrictions can begin to be eased once a level of vaccination has been reached across vulnerable groups and pressures have eased considerably on hospitals," the MP told the Telegraph Live Blog.
"It is for the government to set out those milestones as soon as possible."
Latest weekly figures for the reproduction number (R) and growth rate of coronavirus (#COVID19)
Statistics for England as of 22 January
▶️ R Number: 0.8 to 1
▶️ Growth rate: -4% to 0%
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) January 22, 2021
Further 993 Covid deaths in English hospitals
A further 993 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in English hospitals, taking the total number to 65,104.
Patients were aged between 23 and 102 years old. All except 47, aged 32 to 96 years old, had known underlying health conditions. The date of death ranges from 12 December to 21 January 2021.
Their families have been informed.
London was the worst-affected region, with 233 deaths registered, followed by the East of England, with 195, and the South East, with 156.
There were 144 deaths registered in the Midlands, 107 in the North East & Yorkshire, 94 in the North West and 64 in the South West.
Give local authorities 'discretion' on Covid support scheme, says director of public health
The Government should give local authorities "discretion" over how to make the existing support scheme for people isolating work better, the director of public health for Gateshead has said.
Alice Wiseman told the The World at On the scheme had been “very challenging to administer” and that “the majority of people who have applied for that have not been successful”.
The council had expected 200-250 applicants and received nearly 3000, but 88 per cent of those applications were unsuccessful, she said.
"There is a need to maybe think about how we can target that locally," she said. "I would ask for some local discretion in how that payments made so that we can make sure that it reaches those people in those communities who need it most
"I can work from home, so for me that's unnecessary. But for somebody else who's maybe self employed and reliant on a single income coming into a family will need potentially a bit more than that."
Welsh Tories leader to remain in post after alleged alcohol breach
The Welsh Conservatives leader Paul Davies will continue in his post after he admitted drinking alcohol with colleagues in the Senedd's tea room.
Mr Davies, chief whip Darren Millar and the party's chief of staff Paul Smith are said to have drank wine with Labour's Alun Davies on December 8 - four days after a ban on the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol on licensed premises came into force in Wales.
But Janet Finch-Saunders MS, chair of the Welsh Conservative Group, said: "The Welsh Conservative group met today to discuss events involving three members of the group on December 8.
"The group extended its unanimous support for Paul Davies to continue in his post as leader of the group."
Priti Patel pays tribute to police officer who died after Covid-positive test
Home Secretary Priti Patel has paid tribute to Pc Michael Warren after his death.
The 37-year-old police officer was attached to the Met's Territorial Support Group (TSG) but had been shielding after being deemed vulnerable to coronavirus. He died on Tuesday morning.
My thoughts and prayers go out to PC Warren’s family, friends and colleagues in the Met at this incredibly difficult time.
PC Warren was a truly dedicated officer who went above and beyond to support his team and served the communities of London with unwavering commitment. https://t.co/f01tQ7MCfj
— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) January 22, 2021
He is believed to be the first serving Met officer to have died after being diagnosed with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
London and East of England have lowest R-rate while rates in North West rise
ONS data might have shown that case rates are highest in London - but the capital has one of the lowest R-rates, suggesting the infection rate is (finally) in decline.
The data published by Sage just moments ago show that the R-rate in the UK and England has dropped to below one for the first time in weeks, standing at 0.8-1.0.
The East of England has the lowest rate in the country, estimated to be 0.6 - 0.9, although London is not far behind with 0.7-0.9.
However in the North West the R-rates is estimated to be 0.9 - 1.2.
Scientists advising the Government said that all regions of England have seen decreases in the R number and growth rate estimates compared with last week, and R is below or around 1 in every region.
However, they warned that despite the reductions, case levels "remain dangerously high and we must remain vigilant to keep this virus under control, to protect the NHS and save lives".
Boris Johnson must set out lockdown exit strategy or people will 'rise up', warns senior Tory
Boris Johnson must set out an exit strategy from lockdown or risk people starting to "rise up and bring it down", a senior Tory has warned.
Sir Desmond Swayne, the MP for New Forest West, told Talk Radio that the "goalposts keep moving" as to when restrictions will be lifted.
He said: "We have to focus on hospital admissions and keep that focus rigorous...[or] at some stage people have got to rise up and bring it down."
Yesterday the Covid Recovery Group called for an exit strategy, after the Prime Minister refused to say whether restrictions would be lifted by the summer, having originally ear-marked mid-February. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, also dampened hopes of foreign summer holidays.
This morning George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, told Sky News that he was hopeful by "late spring/early summer it will be possible to return to life much closer to normal", adding that "it won't be normal, but we will start to come out of lockdown and return to life as we once knew it."
Lobby latest: Global demand for vaccine is reason for secrecy, says No 10
Downing Street has cited a global demand for vaccines as a reason why the figures for the supply of coronavirus jabs is not being published.
Asked why the Government is not giving numbers on supply, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "There's clearly a huge demand for vaccines around the world so we're not going to be commenting on vaccine supply and delivery schedules."
Pressed on how global demand is a justification for not publishing figures, he said: "I haven't got any more to add on this.
"We have said we won't be getting into the detail of supplies and deliveries."
Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance to join Prime Minister for press conference
England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and the UK's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance will appear alongside the Prime Minister at a press conference this evening.
Boris Johnson will be speaking from Downing Street at 5pm.
Lobby latest: Downing Street dodges questions about vaccine supply redistribution
Downing Street has declined to deny suggestions that vaccines will be moved away from some regions in order to boost those that have made less progress in the rollout.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi previously denied that vaccines would be moved from Yorkshire and the North East to help other regions in England.
However this morning Nikki Kanani, a medical director of primary care for NHS England, told Radio 4's Today programme that supplies could be redirected from northern England where priority cohorts have received their jabs quicker than other parts of the country (see 9:35am).
Asked to repeat the denial, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I'm simplifying pointing out the fact that we'll continue to prioritise the over-80s and will ensure the areas that need more in order to increase those percentages can receive it, while ensuring that we provide vaccine doses to all areas of the country."
He added: "I would point to what Matt Hancock said yesterday where he said we have got to make sure vaccination is fair across the UK and some parts of the country, including parts of the North East and Yorkshire, have gone fast early on.
"He also said why we're putting more vaccine into areas that haven't made as much progress, so everyone in the top four groups can receive the offer of a vaccine by February 15."
Tories should not 'carry on as though nothing happened' after Covid rule breach, says Mark Drakeford
Conservative politicians who allegedly drank wine on the Senedd estate days after a pub alcohol ban "should not simply have carried on as though nothing at all had happened", Mark Drakeford has said.
The First Minister said he "immediately made the decision" to suspend Labour MS Alun Davies from the Senedd group after hearing of the allegations.
Welsh Conservatives leader Paul Davies, chief whip Darren Millar and the party's chief of staff Paul Smith are also said to have been involved in the incident on December 8.
"It's not for me to make decisions about members of the Conservative Party but from the fact that I suspended the Labour member, you can take it that I believe that other people in the same position should not simply have carried on as though nothing at all had happened," Mr Drakeford said.
"What needs to happen now is that the investigation needs to be concluded. It needs to be concluded thoroughly but I do believe it needs to be concluded as swiftly as it can as well."
Lobby latest: Prime Minister's spokesman swerves questions over low Covid test take-up
Number 10 has failed to acknowledge data suggesting just 17 per cent of people with symptoms are coming forward for a test.
Asked about reports of Government polling suggesting that compliance with self-isolation rules is low, the Prime Minister's spokesman insisted the "vast majority of the public continue to abide by the rules and do isolate when they are asked".
Pressed on the Cabinet Office data, he said: "I would point to the number of tests that are being conducted every day. You will see those figures are high and have been for some time.
"It remains the case that the vast majority of those who are symptomatic do get a (test), and again I would point to the stats that are published. We are testing more people than ever before."
He added: "People are coming forward for tests and the vast majority continue to abide by the rules."
Lobby latest: Downing Street rules out 'cash for Covid' payment
Downing Street has denied that the Government is preparing to pay everyone in England £500 if they test positive for coronavirus in an effort to increase the number of people abiding by quarantine rules.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters: "There are no plans to introduce an extra £500 payment.
"We already offer a £500 payment to support those on low incomes who cannot work from home.
"We've given local authorities £70 million for the scheme and they are able to provide extra payments on top of those £500 if they think it necessary.
"That £500 is on top of any other benefits and statutory sick pay that people are eligible for."
The spokesman, asked about the Department of Health and Social Care document the universal payment suggestion was allegedly made in, said he would not comment on a leaked paper.
'Highly likely' that teachers have higher Covid case rate, report suggests
Absence rates for primary school teachers with Covid-19 were six times higher in England than for children in the same settings, an analysis suggests.
Teacher absences due to a confirmed case of coronavirus were up to three times higher in secondary schools than those of pupils, according to research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank.
It is "highly likely" that more teachers had a confirmed case of Covid-19 during the autumn term than the wider adult population, but more government data is needed to confirm this, the report says.
Approximately 0.5% to 0.9% of primary teachers in England were absent due to a confirmed Covid-19 case during the autumn term, compared with 0.05% to 0.15% of primary pupils, the analysis finds.
About 0.6% to 1% of secondary teachers were absent compared with 0.2% to 0.3% for secondary pupils.
One in 35 people infected with Covid in London: ONS
London has the highest rate of infection for any region in England, according to ONS estimates.
Around one in 35 people in private households in London had Covid-19 between January 10 and 16, the data shows.
The ONS estimates that around one in 40 people in north-east England had Covid-19 during this period, with one in 50 in north-west England and the West Midlands.
The other estimates are one in 55 people in south-east England, one in 60 in the East Midlands, one in 75 in eastern England, one in 80 in south-west England and one in 85 in Yorkshire and the Humber.
Wales on target to hit mid-February vaccination aim, says Mark Drakeford
Mark Drakeford has said Wales is on target to vaccinate the four most vulnerable groups by mid-February, as he hails the nation's progress in the programme.
A total of 212,317 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been given, an increase of 21,882 on the previous day's figure. In total, 30.2 per cent of those aged over 80 have received their first dose of the vaccine, along with 59.9 per cent of care home residents and 69.8 per cent of care home staff.
This was helping in the "pathway from the current crisis", he said during his regular press conference.
Cases are also falling in all areas of Wales, with the case rate dropping from more than 650 before Christmas to 270 now - almost 100 lower than last week.
However, rates are still high which shows that people must still follow the rules, the First Minister said.
Have your say: Are you planning a summer holiday?
Priti Patel was unequivocal last night when she told the country that it was "far too early" for people to contemplate foreign summer holidays.
Her position was backed by George Eustice this morning, although he said that he was hopeful eventually people would be able to go on their "much-missed holidays".
But with cases falling, vaccinations climbing and after so many of us scrapped our annual pilgrimage to warmer climes last year, the temptation to get away is stronger than ever.
So are you planning a foreign trip for 2021? Have your say in the poll below.
Good news: Infection rates fall across UK
The numbers of people infected with coronavirus appears to be falling week-on-week.
An estimated one in 55 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between January 10 and 16 2021, the Office for National Statistics said - the equivalent of 1.02 million people, or 1.88 per cent of the population.
That compares with an estimated one in 50 people, or 1.12 million, for the period December 27 2020 to January 2 2021.
Yesterday the Imperial College's React report suggested that lockdown was not bringing infections down, however during the Downing Street press conference last night, NHS medical director Dr Vin Diwakar said he was seeing a "glimmer of light" in case reductions.
Chancellor must focus on 'people, not numbers', say Lib Dems
The Chancellor must "worry about people, not numbers", the Liberal Democrats have said, after the UK's borrowing reached £34.1bn in December, the highest figure for that month on record.
Christine Jardine, the party's Treasury spokesperson, said while the figures "lay bare the exceptional challenges we face this winter", the Government "must not leave anyone behind".
She added: "While the vaccine offers hope we cannot lose sight of the fact that millions of people are still struggling to stay afloat.
"Furlough must be extended, the three million excluded from all Covid support brought under the Government's umbrella and struggling small businesses given immediate relief if we are to avoid thousands of closures.
"Right now, the Chancellor needs to worry about people not numbers and fulfil the pledge to do whatever it takes in the March Budget."
Will the UK meet its mid-February vaccine target?
Several counties in England are close to giving all over 80s their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, new data shows, paving the way for more people on the Government's priority list to begin receiving their jabs.
Ministers have set February 15 as the target date to have vaccinated all people in its top four priority groups.
Wedding in Stamford Hill was latest in a series of 'unacceptable' breaches - mayor
The mayor of Hackney in north London has said the Stamford Hill school where Covid-19 regulations were breached with a wedding celebration had previously been used for similar events during the pandemic.
Police broke up a wedding with around 400 guests at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls' School in Egerton Road, on Thursday night (see 10:42am).
Speaking to BBC News, mayor Philip Glanville said: "It's a deeply disturbing incident at a time when in Hackney we have seen the largest number of deaths reported since last April.
"Unfortunately, similar events have taken place even at this venue before and we need to be really clear how unacceptable it is."
Don't rely on your neighbour being jabbed, say scientists
Scientists are urging people not to "rely on the fact that your neighbours have been vaccinated" as they warned it is "pretty much impossible" for the UK to reach herd immunity against Covid-19.
Professor Paul Hunter and his colleague Alastair Grant, from the University of East Anglia, have warned that herd immunity cannot be achieved either through natural infection or the programme using the Pfizer/BioNTech and Astra Zeneca vaccines.
Prof Hunter told Radio 4's Today programme that vaccines would allow a return to near-normal life for large parts of society but those who refuse a jab will not be protected by herd immunity.
He said: "The rolling out the vaccine is going to make a huge difference and going to enable us to relax many of the restrictions that we're under at the moment and, certainly as we're moving into spring when the better weather comes along, that'll considerably help.
Matthew Lynn: Closing the borders might work for Australia, but it won't work for us
We should suspend flights, brick up the Channel Tunnel, and turn back the ferries. We should enforce quarantine rules. And we should put strict track and trace restrictions on anyone - assuming anyone at all gets through all that - that makes it into the country.
With deaths from Covid hitting scary new daily peaks, and with new variants of the virus emerging in counties such as South Africa and Brazil, the clamour is growing to seal ourselves off from the rest of the world.
The trouble is, it simply is not possible for one of the most open and international economies in the world to close its borders.
It might work for Australia and New Zealand but, argues Matthew Lynn, it will not work for us.
European Council chief demands Alexei Navalny's release in call with Vladimir Putin
European Council chief Charles Michel has demanded the "immediate release" of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny during a call with President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
The EU had already condemned an attempt to assassinate Navalny and his arrest on his return to Russia after treatment, but Michel has now expressed "grave concerns" directly to Putin.
He told the Kremlin chief that he would launch a "strategic debate" on EU-Russia relations when he convenes a summit of all 27 EU leaders in March.
"The President of the European Council informed President Putin of the grave concern in the EU and its Member States over recent developments and called to fully and unconditionally respect Alexei Navalny's rights," Michel's office said.
"Charles Michel stated that the EU is united in its call on Russia to swiftly release Mr Navalny and proceed with the investigation into the assassination attempt on him, in full transparency and without further delay."
Double-dip recession 'on the cards', economist warns
A double-dip recession is "on the cards" after the UK's private sector saw activity plunge this month due to the latest set of lockdown restrictions, according to new data.
The closely watched IHS Markit/CIPS Flash UK Composite PMI report showed a reading of 40.6 so far in January. Anything below 50 is seen as a decline in activity. It is significantly below the expectations of analysts, who predicted a reading of 46.1 for the month.
"A steep slump in business activity in January puts the locked down UK economy on course to contract sharply in the first quarter of 2021, meaning a double-dip recession is on the cards," said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.
Glastonbury's cancellation 'reflects the sad fact' that social distancing won't be lifted by June
The decision to cancel the Glastonbury Festival again "reflects the sad fact" that social distancing measures are unlikely to be lifted in time, a Government spokeswoman has said.
Organisers Michael and Emily Eavis announced yesterday that the festival, which is normally held in June, has been cancelled for the second year in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A Government spokeswoman said: "We are in regular dialogue with public health experts to agree a realistic return date for festivals and other large events.
"Once we are confident we have this, we will be working with organisers to unlock the barriers they face to restarting - including challenges getting insurance.
"Yesterday's decision by the festival organisers reflects the sad fact that the public health outlook did not make it likely 200,000 people could be together without social distancing measures in just a few months' time.
"We are continuing to help festivals with the £1.5 billion Culture Recovery Fund, with many already receiving this support."
Police break up wedding party with 400 people in London
A wedding attended by around 400 people at a north London school has been broken up by police less than a day after the Home Secretary announced fines of £800 to those attending house parties.
Around 400 people had gathered for a wedding in Egerton Road, Stamford Hill, the Metropolitan Police said.
Many of the guests fled as officers arrived but the force said the organiser will be reported for consideration of a £10,000 fine, while five others were handed £200 fixed penalty notices.
Detective Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett said: "This was a completely unacceptable breach of the law, which is very clearly in place to save lives and protect the NHS.
"An NHS that is under considerable pressure at a time when Covid-19 has killed nearly 100,000 people.
"This is a deadly and very dangerous disease. We can all see that and we must act responsibly."
Change candidacy rules for May local elections to avoid spreading Covid, Government urged
Peers are calling on the Government to ditch a requirement for local election candidates to collect physical signatures to get on the ballot, to avoid spreading coronavirus.
Cross-party members of the House of Lords have written to Lord True, minister for constitutional policy, calling for exemptions to the usual nominations process ahead of the town hall polls on May 6.
Conservative Lord Hayward, Labour peer Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, and Lib Dem Lord Rennard led the petition, saying the nomination rules cut across the Government’s emphasis on refraining from meeting others and maintaining social distancing.
The peers point out that in the last local elections in Liverpool, 132 candidates from registered parties required 10 signatures each. If a similar number of candidates stand in the city this year, the peers predict it “will require visits to households (probably around 700-800) each of which will be breaking the accepted ‘rules’ on ‘bubbles’”.
City of London to remove two statues with links to slave trade
The City of London is to remove the statues of two politicians with links to the slave trade from their plinths in Guildhall.
The statue of William Beckford, a two-time Lord Mayor of London in the late 1700s, who accrued wealth from plantations in Jamaica and held African slaves, will be removed and replaced with a new artwork.
Meanwhile the statue of Sir John Cass, a 17th and 18th Century MP who was a major figure in the Royal African Company, will be returned to its owner, the Sir John Cass Foundation, the corporation said.
The decision was made by a taskforce set up by the corporation following nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. Further statues could be removed and road names with links to the slave trade changes.
A spokeswoman called the move "an important milestone" in moving towards an "inclusive and diverse City".
Boris Johnson under pressure over border closures
Ministers are trying to force Boris Johnson into closing Britain's borders to foreigners amid a growing Cabinet row over how to prevent new Covid variants spreading to the UK.
The option of banning all non-British travellers from entering the country had previously been turned down by the Prime Minister – but the issue is back on the agenda for a meeting of the Cabinet's Covid operations committee within days.
Whitehall insiders admitted that "parts of Government are pushing the idea" again after new data suggested infections rose in the second week of January despite the ongoing lockdown.
Read the full story here.
Chancellor urged to act to save pubs from permanent closures
The Chancellor has been called on to extend VAT discounts as part of a series of measures to help pubs survive the lockdown.
Figures out this morning show 9,930 pubs closed permanently last year, while 3,955 opened - a net loss of nearly 6,000.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin, told Sky News: "We desperately need some very important messages to come out from the Government in and around the economy and budget.
"We need an extension of the business rates (holiday). We need an extension of the VAT discounts and we desperately need a support package to come out to support those brewers through this moment in time.
"The easiest way to do that and the fastest way to do that is to support that with a duty cut."
Have your say: Are you planning a summer holiday?
Priti Patel was unequivocal last night when she told the country that it was "far too early" for people to contemplate foreign summer holidays.
Her position was backed by George Eustice this morning, although he said that he was hopeful eventually people would be able to go on their "much-missed holidays".
But after so many of us scrapped our annual pilgrimage to warmer climes last year, the temptation to get away is stronger than ever.
So are you planning a foreign trip for 2021? Have your say in the poll below.
Pubs will not survive closures until May without more support, says trade body
Pubs will not be able to survive if closures continue until May without further Government support, a trade body has warned.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, told Sky News the industry had received "a substantial package" so far but it was "simply untenable" to suggest hospitality last until early summer without more.
"There will be no pubs that will be able to survive that period of time without substantial enhanced packages of support from the Government," she added.
"We need to work with the Government on getting a plan for us to reopen and trading viably if we're going to see the great British pub survive."
Yesterday Government adviser Dr Marc Baguelin warned against reopening hospitality before May, saying it would lead to “another wave of some extent”.
Labour politician claims Yorkshire is being 'penalised' as vaccine supplies redirected
A Labour politician has attacked plans to redirect vaccine supplies to parts of the country that have been lagging behind, claiming they are being "penalised" for their success.
Nikki Kanani, a medical director of primary care for NHS England, said it was important "equal access" to vaccines was available across the country.
She told Radio 4's Today programme that supplies could be redirected from northern England where priority cohorts have received their jabs quicker than other parts of the country.
When news of the plan surfaced last night, Martin Gannon, the Labour leader of Gateshead Council, told colleagues he was "doing everything I can to control my temper" as they discussed the claims.
Speaking at a meeting of the full council, he said: "We have, clearly, the very best public health network in the entire country. I would be furious, I think we all should be in the region, if we are being penalised for being the best."
Less than a fifth of Covid-positive people are isolating, Government scientist suggests
Less than a fifth of people with symptoms are self-isolating for the full 10 days as instructed, a Government adviser has suggested.
Professor Susan Michie, of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the 'cash for Covid' payment under consideration would go some way to address the fact "you have 82 per cent of people with symptoms wandering around the community", adding: "It is very very difficult to bring this level down.
"The question is, how does one get enough funds to compensate people for lost wages, especially for people in the gig economy and (the) precarious economy quickly and without complicated forms?"
The one-off £500 payment would not be enough "to pay the rent, to pay all the bills and put food on the table" for those who couldn't work or claim sick pay while isolating.
"There is a particular group of people who would need more from that £500 but at least the Government is recognising this is a key weakness in the whole pandemic strategy."
Fraser Nelson: Vaccines may bring freedom at home but usher in Fortress Britain
Australia is now replacing South Korea as the poster child of how to handle a pandemic. There have been fewer than 1,000 coronavirus deaths there, far less economic disruption and its secret, according to the country’s new Westminster admirers, is the Alcatraz-like border policy.
Australia decided early on that most of its Covid cases were imported – so it stopped almost all arrivals. Britain thought about doing the same, but decided against it. A decision that Boris Johnson now regrets.
Having argued in March that it would be pointless, now a new argument is in circulation.
But, warns Fraser Nelson, it might result in life being more like Fortress Britain than the Global Britain that we had been told to expect after Brexit.
Boris Johnson to give Downing Street press conference
Boris Johnson is to give a Downing Street press conference this evening, Number 10 as confirmed.
The Prime Minister will speak from 5pm.
Government action prevented 26,000 homes being flooded, claims minister
Government action has prevented around 26,000 homes from being flooded, the Environment Secretary has claimed.
George Eustice told BBC Breakfast that so far around 70 homes had been flooded as a result of Storm Christoph, which is "a real tragedy". But some £2.5 billion has been spent on flood defences over the last five years.
He added: "It is incredibly disruptive when people have their homes flooded but around 26,000 homes have been protected from the various flood defence assets we have had in place.
"We have got 600 people on the ground putting up temporary barriers, using pumps in areas of Manchester where there were particular flood challenges."
He added: "We are particularly monitoring the situation in Yorkshire as the water moves through those river systems and, of course, preparing as well for next week where later next week more rain is expected."
Minister plays down prospect of travel ban or quarantine hotels
A minister has played down suggestions that a full-blown travel ban, or quarantine hotel s, will be coming in imminently.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme both policies had been discussed last week, but "the judgement was for now is that the right thing to do was to require pre-travel testing and quarantine for everyone on arrival, and then for them to be able to exit earlier if they do second test at five day interval".
This would help prevent other variants being imported into the country, which ministers are trying to avoid because of the fear it will pose "challenges to the efficacy of the vaccine".
He added: "We have toughened restrictions but I don't think at the moment an outright ban would be the right thing to do."
Cash for Covid considered as part of lockdown exit strategy, says minister
The 'cash for Covid' one-off payment is being considered to boost compliance once the country leaves full lockdown and returns to a tiered system, George Eustice has said.
The Environment Secretary told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are currently in a full lockdown. Everybody should be staying at home and generally they are. And we are starting to see the prevalence of the virus going down as you would expect."
The £500 policy was being considered as "as we emerge from lockdown and go into new phase, how do you ensure people who need to isolate do so," he added.
"There were problems in the previous tier systems with a lack of compliance here, people being reluctant to self-isolate."
Nissan decision 'great vote of confidence' in the UK, says Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has hailed the decision by by car manufacturer Nissan to continue investing in the UK as "a great vote of confidence".
The Japanese car maker has committed to keeping its Sunderland plant open as a result of the trade deal reached between the UK and the EU.
It said it will move additional battery production close to the plant where it has 6,000 direct employees and supports nearly 70,000 jobs in the supply chain.
The Prime Minister tweeted that it was "fantastic news for the brilliant @Nissan workforce in Sunderland and electric vehicle manufacturing in this country."
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 22, 2021
Post-Brexit trade disruption caused by 'structural problem' with deal, says Arlene Foster
Disruption in trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is a "structural problem" caused by the protocol, Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster said.
Hauliers have faced problems transporting stock to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK and pet owners face unnecessary veterinary procedures if they want to bring their animals across the Irish Sea.
Ministers including Michael Gove have insisted this is down to teething problems, which will be resolved as businesses and officials get used to the new way of working.
But the DUP leader told the BBC's Radio 4: "It is most definitely a structural problem in the Northern Ireland protocol. We warned about that last year when people voted to bring in the protocol, that there would be difficulties moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland."
Chancellor reiterates pledge to tackle public finances as borrowing reaches record high
The Chancellor has reiterated his commitment to return public finances to "a more sustainable footing" after borrowing reached an all-time high of £2.13 trillion.
Government borrowing hit £34.1 billion in December, from £31.6 billion a month earlier, the Office for National Statistics said this morning.
Since April, public bodies have borrowed £270.8 billion, pushing the UK's debt to 99.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), the highest level since 1962.
Rishi Sunak said: “Since the start of the pandemic we’ve invested over £280bn to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK, and support our economy and public services.
“This has clearly been the fiscally responsible thing to do. But, as I’ve said before, once our economy begins to recover, we should look to return the public finances to a more sustainable footing.”
Cash for Covid payment is being considered, minister confirms
A new £500 payment for people quarantining after testing positive for coronavirus is under review, a Cabinet minister has said.
Health officials are drawing up the proposals amid concern that just one in six people with symptoms are coming forward for tests because some fear a positive result and self-isolation would cost them too much, the Telegraph reported this morning.
Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News: "We do need people, if they are asked to self-isolate because they have been contacted through our Test and Trace, we do need them to self-isolate.
"And, obviously, we always review the reasons why they might not."
On the suggested payment, Mr Eustice added: "No decisions have been made on this but this is a dynamic, fast-moving situation with the pandemic.
"We are always keeping multiple policies under review.
"We have had a targeted £500 payment already for those who are on benefits to help them with the costs of staying at home when they are unable to work."
Minister resists lockdown timeline amid backbench demands for exit strategy
The Environment Secretary has refused to give any clear indication of when lockdown will end, amid renewed calls from backbenchers for an exit strategy.
Yesterday Boris Johnson refused to say if summer was the new deadline, having originally ear-marked mid-February as the point at which restrictions could be lifted.
George Eustice said his Cabinet colleague Matt Hancock had reviewed and extended restrictions for at least two weeks, but gave no indication of any timeframe for them being lifted.
"This will go on for as long as it needs to," he told Sky News. "We are not going to come out of it until it is safe to do so, but it will require further progress in the vaccine."
Asked about the prospect of foreign summer holidays, he said: "No one can quite see where we will be by the summer [but] there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Ministers consider £500 payment for positive Covid test
Ministers are considering paying £500 to everyone who tests positive for Covid under plans that would cost the state almost £2 billion a month.
Health officials are understood to have drawn up the proposals amid concern that just one in six people with symptoms are coming forward for tests because some fear a positive result and self-isolation would cost them too much.
Under the current system, only those on a low income who cannot work from home and are eligible for benefits are entitled to a "support payment" of £500.
But ministers are considering replacing that system with a universal payment, meaning anyone who had a positive test could claim the funds. The move has been costed at up to £453 million a week if there were 60,000 cases a day – 12 times the cost of the current approach.