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Covid news — live: R rate below 1 for first time since July as hotel quarantine fresh air rule ‘very risky’

Covid restrictions likely to continue ‘for some time’, says scientific adviser

People over the age of 65 are set to be invited to receive their first coronavirus vaccine dose from next week, according to reports.

Earlier this week, prime minister Boris Johnson urged UK residents in priority groups who had not yet taken up the offer to receive a first dose of the vaccine to “come forward”.

Meanwhile in Wales, first minister Mark Drakeford has said the country could be in a position to ease some Covid-19 restrictions in the hospitality and tourism industries by Easter.

The first minister said reopening remained a “very big if” due to uncertainties surrounding new variants but the number of new infections reported in Wales is on a downward curve.

Mr Drakeford’s comments came as the Office for National Statistics’ weekly survey found that infection levels fell in the week ending 6 February in all of the UK nations compared to the week before it.

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Forces chief warns of nationalism ‘like the 1930s’ in wake of Covid

Britain’s military chief has warned the coronavirus pandemic has led to “nationalist barriers” reminiscent of those raised in the 1930s in the lead-up to the Second World War.

Speaking in an interview with The Telegraph, General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defence Staff, warned that the pandemic could present “security challenges” similar to those faced during the 1930s.

Chantal Da Silva has more details:

Chiara Giordano12 February 2021 15:10
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Father says ‘ridiculous’ border rules could stop him returning to family

A father has hit out at “ridiculous” border rules which could prevent him from returning to his family.

David Taylor, 41, normally splits his time equally in three week blocks working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and being with his wife and their two children in northeast England.

Mr Taylor told the PA news agency: “It’s ridiculous. It’s putting a lot of pressure on my family because I’m away for longer.

“The kids don’t get to see me.”

Chiara Giordano12 February 2021 14:55
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People booking holidays in Wales should do so ‘knowing uncertain world we are living in’

First minister Mark Drakeford said people potentially booking a holiday in Wales should do it “knowing the uncertain world we are living in”.

“There are no guarantees in this, nobody can offer them a guarantee,” he told a press conference in Cardiff.

“I hear everything that the tourism industry says to us in Wales and want to recognise how important the Easter period is to them.

“I’m trying to give an indication today that if everything continues to improve, we will do what we can to respond to their wish to be able to resume trading again over the Easter period.

“Nobody should think for a moment that that will mean a wholesale reopening of that industry, and anybody who is booking ahead needs to do so in the full knowledge that the improvements that we are seeing at the moment, nobody can guarantee that things will continue in that way.”

Chiara Giordano12 February 2021 14:40
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Further 407 people die with Covid in hospital in England

A further 407 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 78,152, NHS England has confirmed.

Patients were aged between 25 and 101. All except 17, aged between 25 and 97, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between December 9 and February 11, with the majority being on or after 6 February.

There were 34 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

Chiara Giordano12 February 2021 14:26
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Chiara Giordano12 February 2021 13:54
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Lockdown driver who got suck in mud after ‘feeding ducks’ fined £200

A driver claiming to have travelled 25 miles in lockdown to “feed the ducks” before getting their car stuck in the mud has been fined.

West Mercia Police issued the £200 fixed penalty notice in Telford, Shropshire, this week.

The force posted a photograph on Facebook of the Audi hatchback with its front tyres bogged down in muddy ground and dirt spattered up the wheel arch.

Chiara Giordano12 February 2021 13:30
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Priti Patel claims hotel quarantine scheme cannot be brought in overnight – even though Australia did just that

As “maintenance issues” continue to hamper the introduction of the hotel quarantine scheme, the home secretary has claimed that such an isolation plan could not be brought in overnight – even though that was exactly what Australia did in March 2020.

From Monday 15 February, arrivals to the UK from 33 “red list” countries – regarded as presenting a high risk of new variants of coronavirus – will be required to go into an 11-night hotel quarantine.

The scheme was first trailed by ministers four weeks ago, and officially announced in late January. But prospective arrivals seeking to book the mandatory “quarantine package” have been unable to do so as the booking site is down, 24 hours after it was supposed to go live.

Read the full report by Simon Calder here:

Clea Skopeliti12 February 2021 13:18
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Online quarantine hotel booking system remains out of action, with less than three days to go

A No 10 spokesman blamed unspecified “technical issues” for the failure of the website, which was intended to go live on Thursday.

A message on the official government page setting out requirements for travellers arriving from 33 “red list” countries said only: “Due to a minor technical issue, the link to the booking portal in this guidance will not be available until later today. Please return to this page later if you wish to make a booking.”

Andrew Woodcock reports:

Clea Skopeliti12 February 2021 13:12
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Travel industry hits out at ‘clueless’ launch for hotel quarantine scheme

Senior travel industry figures have criticised the government for the bungled roll-out of the hotel quarantine programme.

From Monday 15 February, arrivals from 33 “red list” countries – regarded as presenting a high risk of new variants of coronavirus – will be required to go into an 11-night hotel quarantine.

A third London airport, City, has only 10 international flights a week – of which only two are from a key European hub, Frankfurt.

Simon Calder reports:

Clea Skopeliti12 February 2021 13:03
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London’s infection rate falls, but continues to be highest in England

London continues to have the highest proportion of people likely to test positive for coronavirus in any region of England, with around one in 60 people in private households estimated to have had Covid-19 between 31 January and 6 February.

This is down from an estimated one in 45 for the period 24 January to 30 January.

The Office for National Statistics’ COVID-19 Infection Survey also found:

  • Infection levels were estimated at one in 70 people in eastern England, the East Midlands, north-west England and the West Midlands
  • In Yorkshire and the Humber, the figure was one in 95
  • In northeast and southwest England, it was one in 100
  • In southeast England, it was one in 105

Clea Skopeliti12 February 2021 12:47