- To prevent new variants arriving in the country, all travel corridors will be closed from 4am on Monday. All arrivals will need a negative Covid test and must quarantine for 10 days upon arrival.
- The vaccine is ‘steadily protecting those most at risk’, Boris Johnson said. Almost 45% of over-80s and 45% of care home residents have been vaccinated.
- The spread of the virus is ‘slowing right down’ in most parts of the UK, Chris Whitty said, but warned hospitalisations and deaths would likely continue to rise into next week.
- There are early signs the restrictions are working, with the R number estimated to have narrowed to between 1.2 and 1.3, compared to 1 and 1.4 last week. In London, where tougher restrictions came in earlier, the R number is lower, estimated - based on data up until 11 January - to be between 0.9 and 1.2, compared with 1.1 and 1.4 the previous week.
- The UK government said a further 1,280 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, bringing the official total to 87,295. The government also said that, as of 9am on Friday, there had been a further 55,761 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 3,316,019. You can view the data dashboard here. Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 102,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
- Wales will introduce new Covid risk assessments for workplaces, shops and supermarkets amid concerns some businesses are not taking restrictions seriously enough. All retailers will be required by law to put in place measures such as limiting the number of customers, while workplaces are to be obliged to carry out Covid assessments taking into account the new more easily transmissible variant.
- Wales also introduced mandatory testing for international arrivals. Passengers planning to travel into Wales from abroad will have to prove they have tested negative for coronavirus before their departure from 4am on 18 January.
- The new Brazilian variant of concern has not yet been detected in the UK, Prof Wendy Barclay, G2P-UK lead and head of department of infectious disease and chair in influenza virology at Imperial College London, said.
- It comes as Britain’s ban on the arrivals of travellers from South American countries and Portugal came into effect at 4am on Friday morning, to limit the spread of a concerning new variant.
- The Supreme Court “substantially allowed” an appeal brought by the FCA in a landmark £1.2bn legal battle over businesses’ ability to claim on insurance for coronavirus-related disruption.
- The UK economy is edging towards a double-dip recession as GDP fell 2.6%. Official figures confirmed a renewed slump in November fuelled by the second national coronavirus lockdown in England.
That’s all from me for today. You can continue to follow our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic over on the global live blog, where the news has just broken that a tragic global milestone has been reached. More than two million lives across the world have now been lost to Covid-19.
My colleague Mattha Busby has this very sobering reminder: It took eight months to hit 1 million dead. It took less than four months after that to reach the next million.
Q. What are you doing to smooth the process of deliveries to GPs that are being delayed and cancelled?
Q. What are you doing to ensure practices can start administering the vaccine to their own patients?
Johnson says there’s an integrated system where if people don’t come to get vaccinated, there are other ways of reaching out to them, eg army, pharmacies, local councils.
Whitty says a massive thank you to colleagues in general practice.
And the press conference is over.
'We hope to have vaccinated care homes by end of month,' Johnson says
Q. What are you doing to help speed up vaccine rollout in care homes?
Q. Will the target of vaccinating all the over-80s be hit sooner rather than later?
Q. How soon before we know what effect the vaccines will have on transmission rates?
Johnson says there is clearly a problem in care homes again, so care home workers and residents are being prioritised.
They hope to have completed vaccinating all care homes by the end of the month, he says.
Vallance says the vaccines are good at reducing deaths, severe disease, hospitalisations and symptomatic disease, but it’s more difficult to get info on transmission, but this will come as it is rolled out.
He doubts it will be complete suppression of transmission; it doesn’t meant you won’t catch it and pass it on – it means you’re protected against severe disease.
This is why we shouldn’t go mad when everyone’s vaccinated, he says.
Q. Are you intending to reopen society once the over 50s are vaccinated and will this be safe for the population?
Q. What is the government’s plan for excess vaccines and how they should be used?
Q. Why isn’t the government’s education campaign focusing on the risk of being in unventilated indoor places?
Johnson says it will be a process and needs to focus on getting the most vulnerable immunised and then the rest of the population. There’s a debate to be had, he adds.
Whitty says there’s an issue with shelf-life and heavy concentration of people at greatest risk to try to limit wastage.
Vallance says it’s indoors where the biggest risk of transmission occurs, hence why mixing indoors and being in crowded situations must be avoided.
Simple things like opening windows matter, he says.
Q. How many doses of the vaccine are available now and how many will be in February?
Q. Do you still think things will be back to normal by Easter or are we now looking at the summer?
Q. Has Sage looked at the problem of workplace transmission and does more need to be done to protect people going to work?
Johnson says we depend on manufacturing processes, testing and approvals that need to be done.
The aim is for 12 million people in England to be offered a first vaccine dose by 15 February, he says.
Whitty says generally things could very likely have improved by the spring.
With everybody working together, we can beat the virus, and increasingly the vaccine will take the heavy lifting, he says.
It won’t be all over in the spring, but we expect things to be substantially better, he says, with deaths down and the NHS not under pressure.
Vallance says Sage has produced papers on workplace safety and how to optimise conditions to reduce the spread of the virus.
Johnson reminds people the virus is also transmitted by handling and touching things touched by somebody who has been infected, which is why hand-washing is key.
Q. Why are you only now putting in proper controls at the border?
Q. Do you think the Brazilian variant is here already or have we done enough to stop it?
Johnson says they’re taking steps to prevent importing new variants from areas of concern at this crucial stage.
Vallance says the virus is changing all the time and there are new variants all over the world, not just areas of concern.
The concerning Brazilian variant hasn’t yet been detected in the UK as far as he’s aware, he says.
To the media now.
Q. Was enough done by the government to prepare the NHS for the second wave?
Q. When do you expect the peak of pressure on the NHS to be and how might that vary around the country?
Q. How do you see the trajectory of cases going from now?
Johnson says ICU capacity has not yet been overwhelmed in the way feared.
There are tentative early signs that pressure might be easing in London now, but far too early to be confident, he adds.
Whitty says they expect the peak of infections has already happened in some parts of the country, especially London and the south-east.
For parts of the country that went into lockdown later, the peak will be later, he says.
The peak of hospitalisations and deaths will both come later in the future, he says.
The peaks are expected over the next week to 10 days for most places in terms of people in hospital, he says.
Vallance says this is not a natural peak; it’s only coming down because of the measures in place; it’s a suppressed peak that we need to keep on top of.
Q. What will the death and infection rates have to be for the government to lift lockdown restrictions?
Johnson says they want to be at a stage where the most vulnerable groups are vaccinated by 15 February, then it depends on the effectiveness of the rollout and where the disease is in terms of new variants.
Younger people are ending up in hospital now too, so we can’t relax restrictions too soon, he says, the disease has to be under control.
Whitty says we can’t move from lockdown to nothing; it will be walking backwards by degrees depending on what works, he says.
Indirect effects could contribute to putting the NHS under pressure, which need to be reduced as well as the direct effects, he says.
Questions from the public now.
Q. What are your plans to contain are future highly transmissible variant that may require adjustments to the vaccines?
Vallance says the screening programme is comprehensive for picking up new variants in the genome.
It looks as though this variant will be susceptible to the immune response either from previous infection or the vaccines, he says.
The mRNA vaccines are quite easy to adjust, he says, potentially within weeks.
It’s likely the vaccine will protect against the UK variant and to a possibly different degree the other one, he says.
Whitty says this is an international problem - a problem anywhere is a problem everywhere with a virus like this.
We should be doing everything to support everybody internationally, he says.
The number of deaths is rising steadily, which will continue next week, he says.
The results of everyone’s actions will reduce the pressure on the NHS and reduce the number of deaths, he says.
The impact of reducing deaths of the vaccination programme will come first, he says, while the impact on reducing hospitalisations will take longer due to younger people being in hospitals in addition to older citizens.
I’m afraid in the next week we do anticipate the number of people in the NHS and the number of deaths will continue to rise as the effects of what everyone has done take a while to feed through.
The number of hospitalisations lags behind infections, so the number of people entering hospital is still rising in much of the country and the number of people in hospital is still rising in all parts of the country, he says.
We have “well exceeded” the first peak of 12 April, he says.
If you have any serious medical problems, eg heart attack, stroke, you should be going to hospital, he says.
Number of hospitalisations will continue to rise into next week, he says.
Chris Whitty is speaking now.
The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 is still “extremely high”, he says.
But there is now some levelling off everywhere, he says, including the areas which entered lockdown more recently.
Johnson says 3.2m people have been vaccinated
Boris Johnson says 3.2 million people have now been vaccinated, he says.
Almost 45% of over-80s are now vaccinated and almost 40% of care home residents, he says.
He praises some areas where 90% of over-80s have been vaccinated.