THE UK’S ‘irreversible’ lockdown easing can only take place if cases fall by another 93%, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.

Desperate to avoid plunging the UK back into yet another crippling lockdown, the PM this week insisted that a cautious lifting of restrictions is needed to avoid hospitals becoming overwhelmed with covid patients.

But NHS chief Chris Hopson has now written to Boris Johnson urging him to “resist pressure to loosen restrictions” before it is safe to do so, adding that cases need to drop below 50,000 before lockdown can be eased at all. 

As there are currently 695,400 active Covid cases in England, that accounts to a staggering fall of 93% before anything changes, according to Hopson.

“I think there is a pretty clear view is that number needs to come down to around 50,000,” he said, adding that we are still “some way away” from that.

Among the first measures expected to be eased are the rules preventing Brits from leaving their homes more than once a day for exercise.

As part of the lockdown eas outdoor sporting activities such as tennis and golf are expected to be back before April as the Government hopes it will encourage Brits who’ve been cooped up indoors all winter to get fit again.

Boris will formally announce his lockdown roadmap Monday February 22, outlining the exact timeline and conditions for Britain to slowly return to normal – including the return of children to schools and pubs reopening.

He is also expected to ditch the Government’s ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS’ slogan for a new message that urges a slow and cautious return to some normality following the worst period of covid deaths we’ve seen.

Follow the live blog below for the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis…

  • COVID ‘PERFECT STORM’ LED TO HIGH RATES IN POOREST COMMUNITIES – REPORT

    England’s most deprived communities were hit by a “perfect storm” of wage, housing and testing-and-trace issues that led to high coronavirus rates, according to reports of an unpublished government analysis.

    The Guardian newspaper said it had seen a report by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) which concluded people in poorer areas were less likely to be able to self-isolate due to being unable to afford lost income.

    The study found that in Blackburn-with-Darwen and Leicester, areas badly affected by the pandemic, more people had been rejected than accepted when they sought financial help to self-isolate, increasing the likelihood they could not follow self-isolation rules.

  • 21% OF COVID PATIENTS WITH DIABETES ‘DIE WITHIN 28 DAYS OF HOSPITAL ADMISSION’

    One in five diabetes patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 die within 28 days, research suggests.

    Results from an ongoing study by the University of Nantes in France also showed that one in eight diabetes patients admitted to hospital with coronavirus were still in hospital 28 days after they first arrived.

    Diabetes UK said understanding which people with the condition are at a higher risk if they are admitted to hospital with Covid-19 will help to improve care and save lives.

    The findings show that within 28 days of being in hospital 577 of the 2,796 patients studied (21%) had died, while almost 50% (1,404) had been discharged from hospital, with a typical stay of nine days.

  • UNDER PRESSURE, BRAZIL HEALTH MINISTER PROMISES MORE COVID VACCINE SHOTS

    Pressured by state governors over a shortage of coronavirus vaccine, Brazil’s health minister on Wednesday promised to mobilize 11.3 million shots by the end of the month but included doses the delivery of which has yet to be confirmed.

    With vaccination campaigns halted in recent days in major cities like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador due to a lack of shots, Minister Eduardo Pazuello is facing increasing criticism from governors and mayors over the inoculation program.

    After Pazuello met with governors on Wednesday afternoon, the ministry issued a statement saying 11.3 million doses would be made available in February.

    That figure includes 9.3 million doses secured by the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo through its partnership with China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, plus 2 million doses of the vaccine made by Britain’s AstraZeneca Plc, according to the statement.

  • SPRAY OF SUNSHINE

    Former Page 3 girl Danni Wells gets sandy on the beach before showing true grit by fighting Covid with her own spray business.

    Danni, 34, stripped down to a black bikini on the shore but has to cover up for her war on the pandemic after starting a fogging machines firm.

    She and her brother set up The Coventry Disinfecting Company to zap offices and other buildings with antiviral disinfectant mist. She told The Sun: “I enjoy it, I like getting my hands dirty and doing a bit of graft.

    “Dad spotted the machines online and I thought there was a gap in the market for that sort of thing, so my brother and I got one each and set up The Coventry Disinfecting Company.”

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  • JUSTICE SECRETARY SUGGESTS BOSSES MAY BE ABLE TO REQUIRE NEW STAFF TO HAVE JABS

    Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has suggested that employers may be able to draw up contracts requiring new staff members to have coronavirus vaccines.

    The Cabinet minister said on Wednesday that it is unlikely that bosses could legally require staff to receive a jab under existing agreements, but suggested it could be tested in court.

    Pimlico Plumbers and Barchester Healthcare, one of the UK’s largest care home groups, are among those who said they will not hire new staff who have refused jabs on non-medical grounds.

    Downing Street has said it would be “discriminatory” to force someone to have a coronavirus vaccine in order to keep their job.

    But Mr Buckland told ITV’s Peston: “I think it would depend very much on the terms of employment and the particular contract. Generally speaking I’d be surprised if there were contracts of employment existing now that did make that approach lawful. I think frankly the issue would have to be tested. I can see that in particular work environments the desirability of having a vaccine is going to be higher than in others.”

  • ‘SUCH LOVELY PARENTS’

    A BBC reporter has paid a heartbreaking tribute to her parents who died of Covid.

    Cathy Killick’s mum and dad died within six weeks of each other after catching coronavirus.

    The BBC Look North journalist’s dad Ted Killick, a former Army gunner who had dementia, died on December 2 in the couple’s care home in Leeds, West Yorkshire, aged 87.

    Her mum, Elizabeth, an ex-primary school teacher who had Parkinson’s, caught the virus in hospital after suffering a stroke two days before her husband’s funeral. Elizabeth died at home on January 12 after being discharged to be cared for by her family when it was clear she wouldn’t recover.

  • NETANYAHU SAYS HE SPOKE TO BIDEN ABOUT COVID & IRAN

    U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone on Wednesday after a month of silence that raised concerns in Israel about a frostier relationship between the two allies.

    Netanyahu’s office was first to announce the conversation Wednesday night, releasing a photo of a smiling prime minister holding a phone to his ear. The statement said the conversation was warm and friendly and lasted about an hour.

    We had a good conversation, Biden said during a brief exchange with reporters before the start of an Oval Office meeting with labor leaders.

    The office of the prime minister, who is facing a tough fight ahead of the March 23 election, was more descriptive.

  • LEO VARADKAR: EASING OF VIRUS RESTRICTIONS NEXT MONTH WILL BE EXTREMELY LIMITED

    The easing of coronavirus restrictions next month will be extremely limited, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said.

    He expected schools to be reopened in a phased manner and predicted assessments would be taken every two to three weeks.

    The Enterprise Minister said Covid numbers were falling but not as fast as they had been and the country was still above the peak of the first wave.

    The Tanaiste acknowledged the need for more detailed information for those in line for vaccines and said that will be put in place.

  • COVID PARKING SPAT

    This is the sickening a moment a foul-mouthed yob spat at a parking warden while claiming ‘I have corona’.

    Graham Swinbourne, 39, was recorded on the warden’s bodycam during the ‘disgusting’ attack in Gravesend, Kent.

    He confronted the victim after spotting his vehicle was being issued with a ticket in July last year.

    After repeatedly swearing at the warden and attempting to block his view of the registration plate, Swinbourne then spat at the officer and claimed to be infected with Covid.

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  • EXPLAINER – WHO IS ON THE NEW SHIELDING LIST?

    The new shielding model has calculated things such as ethnicity, deprivation (by postcode) and weight.

    It also looks at age, underlying health issues and prescribed medications.

    Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said it considered a “combination of factors”.

    He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme that the new shielding plans could “more or less order people in the population according to their level of risk”.

  • DUCHESS OF CORNWALL ‘LEAPT FOR JOY’ WHEN RECEIVING COVID-19 JAB

    The Duchess of Cornwall said she “leapt for joy” when receiving her Covid-19 jab and told hospital patients waiting for the vaccine that “it doesn’t hurt”.

    Camilla joined her husband the Prince of Wales on a visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on Wednesday to learn about coronavirus vaccine trials.

    The royal couple met clinical trial volunteers, as well as healthcare staff receiving their inoculations, in their first joint official public event for two months.

    Clarence House confirmed last week that Charles, 72, and Camilla, 73, have had their first Covid-19 vaccinations, with the pair offering reassurance to patients during their hospital tour.

  • MEXICO URGES RICH COUNTRIES TO STOP ‘HOARDING’ COVID-19 VACCINES

    Mexico on Wednesday made a plea at the U.N. Security Council for countries to stop hoarding vaccines against COVID-19 as poorer ones fall behind in the race to vaccinate their citizens.

    Three quarters of the first doses have been applied to citizens in only ten countries that account for 60% of global gross domestic product (GDP), Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said, while in more than 100 countries no vaccines have been applied at all.

    “We urge countries to avoid hoarding vaccines and accelerate the first stages of COVAX deliveries, to give priority to countries with fewer resources,” Ebrard said before the council, which Mexico is currently a member of.

  • SLIGHT HITCH

    The fall in Covid cases has started to stall in some parts of the UK, data suggests, amid the Government’s assessment of when to lift the lockdown.

    Scientists called the trend a “hitch” after seeing a decline in cases for five weeks running.

    In a worrying twist, infections may even be on the rise in some areas.

    The data comes from the ZOE Covid Symptom study app with Kings College London (KCL).

    Millions of Brits report to the app if they suffer symptoms of the virus, as well as if they have had a test or a vaccine.

  • IRELAND COVID DEATH RATE

    An additional 57 deaths with Covid-19 have been notified to health authorities in Ireland.

    The median age of those who died was 82 and the age range was 52-99, NPHET said.

    As of midnight on Tuesday, the health system has been notified of 650 more confirmed cases.

  • CYPRUS ADOPTS COLOUR-CODING FOR MARCH OPENING OF AIRPORTS

    Cyprus plans to reopen its airports with a colour-coded health risk assessment from March 1, applicable to travellers from its main tourism markets and the European Union, authorities said on Wednesday.

    The Mediterranean island has adopted a traffic light system for EU member states and third countries such as Britain, Russia and Israel, among its main feeder markets.

    The transport ministry said it was extending until March 31 the mandatory seven-day quarantine of arrivals from the United Kingdom at a facility under the supervision of health authorities.

    That practice has been in place for British arrivals since December.

  • SIDE EFFECT

    Covid-19 can cause gangrene as the virus forces the body to attack itself, experts have revealed.

    Researchers say the body’s immune system is responsible for the “long-term and bizarre” symptoms among severe Covid patients.

    Most people who catch the virus will have symptoms such as a new persistent cough, a loss of taste and smell (anosmia) and a high temperature.

    If you have any of these symptoms then you should get a test and isolate

  • EXPLAINER – WHAT IS A VACCINE PASSPORT?

    A vaccine passport would be an app or document proving the passenger has received a coronavirus vaccine.

    Other versions of a vaccine passport proposed by some governments across the globe would include an option which states that you have had a negative Covid test 72 hours prior to travel.

    The World Economic Forum and the Commons Project Foundation, a Swiss nonprofit group, are currently testing a version called CommonPass.

    This would allow travellers to access their testing or vaccine information with a smart phone which would then display a QR code which local authorities in your destination of choice would scan on your arrival.

  • WHAT ARE VACCINE PASSPORTS AND WILL I NEED ONE FOR MY HOLIDAY?

    In the UK, the government is considering the vaccine passports for pubs and restaurants.

    They could even be needed to go to the cinema and theatre under plans being pushed by some ministers to help get “dying” businesses open again faster.

    Whitehall officials have been drawing up plans to use vaccine passports to let Brits jet off abroad for their summer holidays.

    And Boris Johnson hinted they could be used to unlock all sorts of activities forbidden by Covid restrictions.

  • HUMAN CHALLENGE TRIAL

    Young healthy adults in the UK are being invited to take part in a study that involves deliberately infecting them with coronavirus in a safe and controlled environment.

    The aim of the human challenge trial is to establish the smallest amount of virus needed to cause infection.

    The study will recruit up to 90 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 with no previous history or symptoms of Covid-19, no underlying health conditions and no known adverse risk factors for Covid-19 such as diabetes or being overweight.

    Volunteers will receive around £4,500 to participate in the study which will involve some 17 days of quarantine and follow-ups over 12 months.

  • JABS UP

    A total of 15,940,972 Brits have now received their first dose of the Covid vaccine, while 558,577 have been given their second.

    Yesterday, 364,865 people received their first dose.

    Another 12,412 received their second.

  • VIRUS TOLL

    New Covid deaths in the UK have fallen by more than a quarter in a week with 738 more fatalities reported today.

    Daily infections have also dropped by 24 per cent week-on-week with 12,718 new cases bringing the total number to 4,071,185.

    The total number of deaths now stands at 118,933.

  • GWYNETH PALTROW: COVID LEFT ME WITH FATIGUE AND BRAIN FOG

    Gwyneth Paltrow has revealed she had Covid-19, which left her with “long-tail fatigue and brain fog”.

    The actress and wellness guru wrote on her website Goop: “I had Covid-19 early on, and it left me with some long-tail fatigue and brain fog.

    “In January, I had some tests done that showed really high levels of inflammation in my body.

    “So I turned to one of the smartest experts I know in this space, the functional medicine practitioner Dr Will Cole.

    “After he saw all my labs, he explained that this was a case where the road to healing was going to be longer than usual.”

  • KNOW THE SIGNS

    Four common Covid symptoms must be added to the official list after millions of cases were missed, experts have warned.

    Sore throat, headache, fatigue and diarrhoea should be considered as main virus symptoms – on top of the classic persistent cough, fever and loss of smell or taste.

    Scientists think this would help pick up about a third more cases of the bug, according to data gathered from the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app.

    Read more here.

  • HALF TERM WARNING

    Police are reminding parents to keep their kids at home during the half-term break.

    Northamptonshire Police said it regularly gets reports of young people breaching lockdown rules by gathering in large groups.

    Inspector Scott Little, who leads the Corby and Kettering Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We know it’s half term and young people will be desperate for a taste of freedom, but times are not normal so they cannot socialise as they would like to.

    “It’s tough for everyone right now, but the expectation is that children remain at home during the holidays, and only exercise within lockdown rules. We don’t want groups congregating in parks and skate parks so we are reminding parents that in certain circumstances they can be given a ticket for their child breaching Covid-19 legislation.”

  • VACCINE PROOF COULD BE ‘HORRENDOUS’ FOR GPS

    A senior doctor has warned it could prove “horrendous” for GPs if they were tasked with providing proof of Covid vaccination for patients looking to travel abroad.

    On Monday, Boris Johnson suggested doctors may be asked to produce proof of vaccination for those going overseas, in a similar way to other jabs like that for yellow fever.

    But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association, told the BBC’s World at One programme: “It would be horrendous if GP practices had to be spending their time dealing with queries for certificates for patients.

    “That would be, in fact, taking us away from looking after patients, taking our staff away from taking phone calls – that would be horrendous.”



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