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COVID-19: 2.6 million jabs given to 2.3 million people – but UK is warned vaccine ‘not a free pass’ to ignore rules | Politics News

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COVID-19: 2.6 million jabs given to 2.3 million people - but UK is warned vaccine 'not a free pass' to ignore rules | Politics News

More than 2.6 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been given to almost 2.3 million people, the health secretary has said, as an NHS boss warned the jab is “not a free pass” to ignore national guidance.

Matt Hancock told a Downing Street news conference that the government was on track to achieve its pledge of offering a vaccine to the top four priority groups by the middle of February, a total of nearly 15 million Britons.

“We are on track to meet that target – it’s not going to be easy, but we are going to get there,” he said, describing vaccines as the “fastest route to safely lifting restrictions”.

New figures show a total of 2,286,572 people have been given a first vaccine dose – 1,959,151 in England, 163,377 in Scotland, 86,039 in Wales and 78,005 in Northern Ireland.

A total of 388,677 second doses have been administered.

The four priority groups are: care home residents and staff; all those aged 80 and over and frontline health and social care workers; people aged 75 and over; everyone aged 70 and over and individuals classed as extremely vulnerable.

Mr Hancock said people in these groups account for 88% of COVID deaths, adding that two fifths of over 80s and “almost a quarter of older care home residents” have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The health secretary was speaking amid continued speculation about whether England’s third lockdown could be strengthened.

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PM: ‘Now is the moment for maximum vigilance’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the government “may have to do more” if ministers feel the rules “are not being properly observed”.

Asked whether this was a possibility, Mr Hancock said people should be focusing on sticking to the current rules “as they are”.

“The NHS, more than ever before, needs everybody to be doing something right now – and that something is to follow the rules,” he said.

“I know there has been speculation about more restrictions, and we don’t rule out taking further action if it is needed, but it is your actions now that can make a difference.

“Stay at home, and please reduce all social contact that is not absolutely strictly necessary. That’s what is needed: act like you have the virus.”

Ministers are understood to be considering how to achieve greater enforcement of social distancing and mask-wearing in supermarkets.

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The health secretary said the new “highly contagious” coronavirus variant first identified in the UK was “putting the NHS under very significant pressure”, with 32,294 people currently in hospital with the virus across the UK, up 22% on this time last week.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said there are now 13,000 more COVID patients in hospital than there were on Christmas Day.

He described the vaccines as the “best line of defence we have”, adding that they would lead to a gradual drop in people in hospital.

“But we are not going to see it now,” he said. “We are not going to see it next week or the week after.

“It won’t be until we get to February that we are going to see the early signs of that.

“The vaccination programme gives hope but to battle the virus today, we have to comply with the guidelines today.”

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‘Rules are not boundaries to be pushed against’

Professor Powis said the health service was “in a sprint” to reach the top four priority groups by the middle of next month, followed by the remaining vulnerable groups by April, and engaged in a final push to offer a jab to all adults over 18 by the autumn.

Appearing before MPs earlier, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the aim was to offer a jab to everyone over the age of 50 by the end of April.

The government’s UK COVID-19 Vaccines Delivery Plan says there will be more than 2,700 vaccination sites across the UK, with everyone in England within 10 miles of one by the end of January.

For those in remote rural areas, the vaccine will be taken to them by mobile teams.

The Department of Health said there will be capacity to deliver “at least” two million jabs per week in England by the end of this month, with staff and residents in care homes offered a vaccine before February.

Workers “delivering key public services”, likely to be a reference to teachers, transport workers and first responders, could be included in the second phase of the vaccine rollout, the plan states.

A workforce of more than 80,000 health workers could be involved in the vaccine plan, the Department of Health added, along with over 200,000 community volunteers who have come forward to help with non-clinical aspects of the programme.

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Felicity-May Harvey: Family pay tribute to baby girl after murder arrest | UK News

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Felicity-May Harvey: Family pay tribute to baby girl after murder arrest | UK News

The family of a two-week-old girl who died in hospital say she “melted the hearts of everyone who met her” after a man was arrested on suspicion of her murder.

Felicity-May Harvey, from Heywood, Greater Manchester, died in hospital on 11 January.

Three days earlier, medics at the hospital called police to report their concern for her.

A 24-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and has since been released on bail pending further inquiries, Greater Manchester Police said.

In a tribute released on Saturday, the little girl’s family said: “Our hearts are broken after losing our precious baby girl, Felicity-May.

“She was a gorgeous baby and always so alert, looking around with her big blue eyes.

“She was absolutely beautiful and incredibly brave and she melted the hearts of everyone who met her.

“What made her extra special was her cleft lip and palate and despite the challenges of this she was the most happy and content little girl.

“She was and always will be loved by her mum, sisters and family and there is a huge void in all our hearts and lives now that she has been taken from us.

“She was our special star, and it is not fair that she shone brightly for only a short time. When we look up at the sky, we will look through the clouds and know that the brightest star shining is our Felicity-May.

“Rest in peace baby girl. Sleep tight. Until we meet again, our precious angel.”

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Laurence Fox criticised after showing off mask exemption badge ‘he bought online’ | Ents & Arts News

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Laurence Fox and Billie Piper

Actor Laurence Fox has been criticised after posting a photo of himself wearing a mask exemption badge which he says he bought online.

The 42-year-old has been a vocal critic of the government’s coronavirus face covering rulings and social distancing regulations.

Along with a selfie showing him wearing his new purchase, Fox wrote: “After a long period of consultation with myself, an extended review period and proper due diligence conducted with myself, I’ve received the badge that I ordered from Amazon. Thank you for being there for me.”

The blue and yellow laminated badge, worn on a green lanyard, reads: “I am exempt from wearing a face covering”.

Smaller print below also reads: “Be kind. Keep your distance. Thank you for understanding”.

Fox signed off his post with the hashtag “anxiety”.

A pack of two similar badges with two lanyards costs around £7.99 on Amazon.

Some social media users questioned his decision as Fox did not say whether he had bought the badge due to a medical condition.

One person wrote: “Not sure at all why you (are) taking this stance Laurence but I think it’s disappointing.

“Let’s all get with the programme and not undermine the best efforts of the (government) and our people for doing the right thing. Try sending the right message out.”

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Fox was previously married to actress Billie Piper

However others backed up Fox’s stance, pointing out that face coverings do not have to be worn by everyone.

Face masks must be worn in the majority of indoor settings and on public transport, unless you are exempt or have a reasonable excuse.

Those who are exempt from wearing a face covering include children under 11, those with a physical or mental impairment which stops them from using a mask and those who need to communicate with someone who relies on lip reading.

People not wearing a mask do not need to show any form of evidence by law, but the government says they may “feel more comfortable” showing proof exemption. It also says a home-made sign is an acceptable exemption card.

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Earlier this month, Fox criticised the government for shutting schools, and in November he ignored lockdown rules by throwing a dinner party.

The controversial actor has recently entered the world of politics himself, launching the Reclaim political party late last year after raising large sums from ex-Tory donors.

He says the party will “fight the culture wars” and “reclaim” British values.

Fox is the ex-husband of actress Billie Piper, and the son of actor James Fox and part of the Fox acting dynasty along with his brother, Jack, and cousins, Emilia and Freddie.

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COVID-19: UK records 1,295 more deaths and another 41,346 cases | UK News

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COVID-19: UK records 1,295 more deaths and another 41,346 cases | UK News

The UK has recorded another 1,295 coronavirus deaths and a further 41,346 infections, latest government figures show.

It brings the number of deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test to 88,590.

A total of 3,357,361 cases have now been recorded.

The latest daily death figure is the UK’s third-highest of the pandemic, although the figures are based on the dates when deaths were reported and not when they occurred.

The chart above shows deaths by the date they happened throughout the pandemic.

On Friday, 1,280 coronavirus-related deaths were recorded along with 55,761 new cases.

The government also revealed the latest number of COVID-19 vaccinations, with a total of 3,559,179 people given their first jab across the UK.

Despite the promise of the vaccines, the sharp rise in cases and deaths has prompted officials to take restrictions further by ending the travel corridor system.

People travelling from some countries with low coronavirus case rates had been allowed to enter the UK without self-isolating, but all foreign travellers will have to quarantine for 10 days from Monday – or receive a negative test at least five days after landing.

All flights from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde have been banned following the emergence of two new coronavirus variants from Brazil that have worried authorities.

Eight cases of the first variant have already been discovered in the UK, while leading epidemiologist Professor John Edmunds has warned the second is already likely to be circulating – although it has not been detected so far.

There are concerns the second variant could be more transmissible and reinfect those who have already had COVID-19, but this is not yet known.

There have been some signs of a small reduction in COVID-19 cases in parts of the UK over recent days, although infections remain high at around 40,000 per day and some local areas are still seeing rises.

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