Politics latest news: Don't make us toughen lockdown rules, minister warns public amid compliance concerns




  • In World
  • 2021-01-11 00:33:12Z
  • By The Telegraph
  • Ministers consider tightening lockdown rules

  • The tougher rules the PM could enforce to reduce infections

  • Coronavirus latest news: Vaccine centres set to run 24 hours a day as seven new sites open

  • ​Sturgeon's row with Salmond heats up

  • Sir Keir Starmer rules out major changes to Brexit deal​

A minister has warned members of the public to follow existing lockdown rules, or face tougher measures, amid concerns that people are not taking the current wave of coronavirus seriously. 

This weekend saw scenes of people socialising in parks and other outdoor spaces across the country, despite rules only allowing for one-to-one mixing during exercise. Boris Johnson held a meeting with Cabinet colleagues on Sunday evening to discuss stricter new measures and initiatives to boost adherence.

Nadhim Zahawi told the Today programme they were reluctant to go any further, but that additional restrictions might be required if compliance did not improve, saying the pictures had "worried" him. He also pointed to compliance in supermarkets, where people must wear face masks and follow a one-way route, as an area of concern. 

"We don't want to toughen measures - lockdown is tough, the schools are shut - but this virus loves social interactions," he said. "We are reviewing all the restrictions."

He told Sky News: "Our plea is to everyone - these rules are not boundaries to be pushed against, they are to bring the virus under control and reduce pressure on the NHS and save lives. Just think that every social interaction you could have could be an instant of transmission."

Read the latest updates below

09:58 AM

Health minister urges recent Covid sufferers to give blood

Health minister Lord Bethell has called on people who have recently had Covid to give blood, saying it could help to save lives. 

"To put it bluntly, we're particularly looking for people who've had it heavily, because you've got the most antibodies," he said. 

"Your blood could save a life."

09:43 AM

Rishi Sunak to give economic update as Commons return

MPs are returning to Westminster today, as recess formally comes to an end.

Last Wednesday, they were recalled for an extra session in order to sign off the emergency legislation enabling the current lockdown. 

The Commons will reopen with MHCLG quetsions. Chancellor Rishi Sunak will then give an economic update, according to the Labour whips' office.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi set out the latest on the Government's Covid response, following his broadcast round this morning. 

09:39 AM

Have your say: Have you broken the rules during lockdown three?

The message from Downing Street this morning was clear: if people don't want tougher restrictions imposed, everyone needs to follow the ones that are already in place - or better yet, don't leave your house. 

One of the main areas of "concern" raised by both vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi and CMO Professor Chris Whitty is the use of face masks, particularly in supermarkets, as well as following other rules such as the one-way routes and queueing outside when premises are at capacity. But they also said the pictures of people socialising in parks this weekend were worrying. 

The roads and parks are undeniably busier than they were during March, but are people actually breaking the rules, or just sticking to what we've been told? 

Have your say in the poll below:

09:26 AM

ICYMI: The weekend wrap

Had a break from the news this weekend? With all the grim headlines out there right now, who can blame you. 

Here's a selection of the biggest stories from the last couple of days so you are all caught up:

  • Algorithm used to set vaccine priority order missed key vulnerable groups

  • Government accused of misleading public about lateral flow tests

  • Kwasi Kwarteng becomes first black Conservative Secretary of State

  • Trump's Twitter ban raises questions about regulation of social media giants, says Matt Hancock

  • Sir Keir Starmer rules out major changes to Brexit deal

  • Nicola Sturgeon to fight 'nonsense' Salmond claims as pressure mounts

09:17 AM

No guarantees on support bubble exemption remaining, minister admits

A Government minister has been unable to guarantee that the exemption for support bubbles will continue, if the virus continues to spread. 

Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for vaccine deployment, told ITV's Good Morning Britain they wanted "to keep that exemption in place", stressing that compliance with existing rules such as wearing face masks in supermarkets and meeting in parks for "exercise and exercise only" were the priority.

"These aren't boundaries we can push against," he added. 

But asked twice if he could guarantee support bubbles would remain, he said: "The exemption is in place for two people to walk, to exercise together. We don't want to go tougher - but we review everything."

Challenged about whether the "reality" was that he could not say, Mr Zahawi said: "That's exactly - you're right.

"We've got to review everything while we bring this new variant under control."

09:05 AM

The tighter rules Boris Johnson could enforce to reduce infections

Boris Johnson is facing growing pressure to toughen the lockdown rules, as scientists and MPs warn the current regime may not succeed in reducing case rates fast enough.

This morning vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said rules were being reviewed, but stressed the Government did not want to make them any tougher than they currently are, urging people to act within the existing measures. 

But a range of options remain open to the Government, and some are under active discussion on Whitehall.

Find out which levers they might pull here. 

Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks during a press conference in 10 Downing Street - AP
Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks during a press conference in 10 Downing Street - AP  

09:02 AM

Controversial social media platform Parler forced offline

The conservative social network Parler has been forced offine, after Amazon warned the company would lose access to its servers for its failure to properly police violent content.

The platform surged in popularity last week after Twitter banned outgoing president Donald Trump for his role in inciting a riot at the US Capitol last week.

Google removed Parler from its app store on Friday, followed by Apple on Saturday. Amazon then confirmed it would suspend the platform from its cloud hosting services for allowing "threats of violence."

In a series of posts on Parler on Saturday, CEO John Matze accused the tech giants of a "war on free speech."

"They will NOT win! We are the worlds last hope for free speech and free information," he said.

08:55 AM

Prof Whitty: 'Hopefully' life will get back to normal 'at some point'

Professor Chris Whitty said "hopefully" life will go back to normal "at some point",  saying restrictions will be lifted "stage by stage". 

He told BBC Breakfast it would take "rather long period of time, but months not years" for the vaccine to be rolled out sufficiently to " reduce the risk for the whole society".

"We will begin stage by stage; over the next period, people will be able to have the restrictions lifted and it won't happen in one go. And at a certain point, hopefully, we'll get back to a life that is basically exactly the same as it was before.

"However, we're quite a long way away from that at the moment," he added. "We really would like people to concentrate on the period now, fully accepting that we all want life to get back to normal and life will get back to normal, but it will actually get back to normal more quickly if we can get on top of this early now.

"If you get invited for a vaccination, please take up that offer. That's the way you will get on top of this epidemic. And, by stages, get back to the life that we all want to lead."

08:49 AM

Keep your distance if you have to leave home, says CMO

People should "keep their distance" and only leave their homes if absolutely necessary as the UK reaches the "worst point of this epidemic", Professor Chris Whitty has said. 

He told the Today programme: "The new variant undoubtedly makes every situation slightly more dangerous than it was in the previous situation because the current variant is transmitted exactly the same way, but the probability of transmission with any interaction has now gone up with this new variant."

Transmission remains "much lower" outside than indoors, but people should still "keep their distance", he said. 

"The two things which are absolutely universally true are that indoors is worse than outdoors, and secondly, that the longer the contact, the greater the risk of transmission."

Asked if people should wear masks outdoors, he said: "I think that the much more important thing is that people should not be leaving their home unless they absolutely have to. And where they do, try and keep their distance from people.

"That is much more important. I think if people minimise their contacts, stay at home unless they absolutely have to, and keep a distance from people outdoors, the risk is still low."

Police detain several anti lockdown protestors in Brockwell Park, Herne Hill - Getty
Police detain several anti lockdown protestors in Brockwell Park, Herne Hill - Getty  

08:33 AM

Next few weeks are 'most dangerous time', says Prof Chris Whitty

This is the "most dangerous time" in the pandemic, with the NHS nearing capacity, Professor Chris Whitty has said. 

England's chief medical officer told BBC Breakfast: "I think everybody accepts that this is the most dangerous time we've really had in terms of numbers into the NHS at this point in time.

"Politicians from every political party, leaders from every nation, are looking at this incredibly seriously at the moment and all of the rest of us have to as well."

He added: "In a sense tinkering with the rules may be useful, but the far more important thing is that everybody abides by the spirit of the rules that are there at the moment.

"Everybody knows what they need to do. And I think that's the key thing - minimise the number of contacts."

08:29 AM

Have minimum possible contact to avoid rules being toughened, says Prof Whitty

People should not look to maximise what they can do within the current rules, if we are to avoid restrictions being toughened, Professor Chris Whitty has said. 

"Ministers are always looking at whether they should adjust restrictions in either direction but at this moment, obviously, definitely not relaxing them," he told BBC Breakfast. 

"The most important thing is that people take the current rules very, very seriously and do the minimum contacts they can.

"The most important thing now is for people to actually say 'look, these are the rules, they're really clear and we shouldn't do anything that's outside them, but we should actually, even within them, we should be doing our level best to minimise the amount of unnecessary contact with people who are not from our house'.

"I can't emphasise that enough. When you think about the pressures there are on the NHS at the moment, that is the thing that all of us can do to help relieve the pressures over the next few weeks."

08:27 AM

People are fed up and flouting rules, says deputy chief constable

People are getting "fed up" of lockdown restrictions and compliance from the public has dipped, the deputy chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police has said.

"What's happening is people are beginning to flout the rules, they are beginning to think 'how can I get away with the rules?',"  Paul Netherton told BBC Breakfast.

When asked whether it was harder to get people to comply with rules in the current lockdown compared to previous ones, he said: "Yes, I think people are beginning to get fed up with it.

"I can understand that but we have to be firm, we have to save lives, we have to make sure people are keeping apart, isolating and staying at home."

08:25 AM

Lockdown could last until 'some time in the spring, says CMO

Professor Chris Whitty suggested that measures could be needed until "some time in the spring" to stem the spread of the virus.

"We've got to make this sustainable because we got to be able to maintain this for several more weeks now," England's chief medical officer told BBC Breakfast.

"We're really going to have to do a significant action for all of us for several more weeks until probably some time in the spring for very much of what we have to do.

"So, we do obviously need to be able to do essential work which they can't do from home. We fully accept that that's necessary to keep society going because you've got to be able to do it over a period of time.

"So, the three things that people can leave home for are essential work where they can't do it from home, when they are doing exercise - which is very important for people's physical health, their mental health - and for essential things like shopping or medical intervention."

08:23 AM

'Individual choices' more important than rules, says CMO

People have been urged to take responsibility for reducing the spread of coronavirus, with Professor Chris Whitty saying that "people's individual choices" is the priority.

England's chief medical officer has been touring the studios this morning, as part of the Government's initiative to boost compliance. 

Challenged as to why there are fewer rules now than in March, he told the Today programme: "Most people would accept there are quite a lot of regulations at the moment. But the most important thing is actually people's individual choices.

"If they choose only to leave home if they have to... if they absolutely keep their distance and follow all those rules it will bring this down."

He added: "Individual choices matter more than rules at this stage... Instead of saying 'it's all about them' - actually its all about us." 

He urged people to consider their own actions "rather than saying it is someone else's problem".

08:17 AM

Review lockdown measures, police commissioner says

Derbyshire's Police and Crime Commissioner has called for a review of the national lockdown in England, with far more traffic and activity than in March.

Hardyal Dhindsa said that "in the main" people were being "very compliant" and the number of penalties being handed out "small".

He told BBC Breakfast: "The problem is how are the lockdown rules and regulations in place, and the review of them is something that needs to be looked at.

"This lockdown is not the same as the lockdown that happened in March. If you look at traffic on our roads it's still quite high, because people are still going to work.

"The activity on your roads and in our spaces is much more than the lockdown we had in March."

08:13 AM

Don't push the boundaries on lockdown rules, says minister

People are following lockdown rules with "higher compliance" than the second lockdown in November but there are still concerns about compliance, the vaccines minister has said. 

"Where I am concerned - we don't want to introduce tougher measures, we've already locked down pretty severely," Nadhim Zahawi told Times Radio.

"The one message is that this virus loves social interaction. We are all very sociable animals ... (but) we've got to continue to be vigilant.

"It is those social interactions that are helping the virus that we need to avoid.

"These rules are not boundaries to be pushed at, they are rules to help all of us bring down the death rate, bring down the pressure on the NHS and help us, help me, keep vaccinating so that we can actually get ahead of the virus."

Crowds in Clapham Common, south London, this weekend - AFP
Crowds in Clapham Common, south London, this weekend - AFP  

08:10 AM

Target focusing on people 'offered' a vaccine because it's not mandatory, explains minister

The Government is using of the phrase "offered a vaccine" for its target because they will not be made compulsory, the minister in charge of deployment has said.

"You don't want to have to go down the route of mandating vaccines because that would be completely wrong, we don't have those sorts of values in the UK," Nadhim Zahawi told Times Radio.

"We want them to see the value ... to themselves and to the community. This is the greatest invention known to humankind.

"But the moment you say it is mandatory there will be those that say 'well, I don't want to be vaccinated', hence why we have used the word offered."

Mr Zahawi added that vaccination data published by the Government would be the number of people "actually vaccinated".

"The needle is ready to jab in the vaccination site that individual if they come forward," he said.

08:08 AM

Vaccine rollout will 'quickly move' to frontline workers after vulnerable, says minister

Police officers, teachers and other critical workers will be in the "highest category of phase two" of the vaccine rollout, after the most vulnerable people have been immunised, the vaccines minister has said.

Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News that while the programme is prioritising those most vulnerable at death from coronavirus, it will "quickly" move onto frontline workers from mid-February. 

He added: "Some police officers, of course, and teachers will actually get the vaccine (in phase one) because they are in those categories, but we will very quickly move onto those other critical workers in the economy and, of course, those who are doing an incredible job, like our policemen and women in protecting us and enforcing the rules at the moment, will also be in that highest category of phase two."

08:06 AM

Minister: Judge us by number of people vaccinated, not offered a vaccine

The most vulnerable 15 million people in the country will be told a vaccine is "ready" for them by mid-February, the vaccines minister has said.

There has been some confusion over the Government's use of the phrase "being offered" a vaccine in its target, however Nadhim Zahawi insisted this was not a way of getting around the tough deadline. 

He told Sky News: "The top four categories, actually, for the UK is 15 million people, in England it's about 12 million people, so we will have offered a vaccination to all of those people."

Pressed on the difference between being offered a jab and being vaccinated, he said: "When you offer a vaccination it doesn't mean a Royal Mail letter, it means the vaccine and the needle and the jab are ready for you.

"What you will see us publishing is the total numbers of people being vaccinated, not being offered a vaccine, and that's the number to hold us to account to."

07:53 AM

Ministers consider tightening lockdown rules

​Tighter coronavirus restrictions are being considered by ministers, The Telegraph understands, amid concerns the latest lockdown is not being followed strictly enough.

Rules banning people from different households who are not in a support bubble from exercising together are under discussion, in a move which would bring the restrictions more closely in line with the first lockdown in March.

The introduction of rules on face coverings in offices is also being mooted in Government circles, as some businesses are feared to have become lax.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a meeting with Cabinet colleagues on Sunday evening at which they discussed whether the current lockdown rules were working to reduce spiralling coronavirus cases at a sufficient rate.

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