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.”
Follow the latest updates below.
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.