Vaccine news latest – EU's covid jab crisis branded a 'fiasco' by top Brexit basher Guy Verhofstadt as UK roars ahead

THE EU's former chief Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt has slammed Europe's vaccine crisis as a "fiasco".

Writing on Twitter Verhofstadt said that if you "If you believe in Europe, if you love Europe, it’s your duty to be the most vocal critic" before questioning why there is a vaccine shortage in every single EU country.

Setting out his plan to "fix" the problem, Verhofstadt appeared to lay the blame squarely at EU chief Ursula Von Der Leyen, tagging his message on Twitter with the words "Von der Leyen's fiasco".

The news comes as the World Health Organisation's special envoy backed Boris Johnson's plan to use rapid testing to reopen UK venues.

Dr David Nabarro told GMB viewers this morning that rapid testing could play a key role in getting nightclubs, theatres and music venues to reopen.

“The secret to getting life back to some degree of normality for most of us is going to be the availability of really reliable, super-quick tests… That will make movement so, so much easier,” he said.

Dr Nabarro went on to say that vaccine certificates may be required not just for international holidays but for any “activities where you’re actually going into a different jurisdiction”.

But he added that for those simply moving around inside the UK it will be all about rapid tests.

Follow our live blog below for the very latest UK politics news

  • Olivia Burke

    VACCINE TRIUMPH AS OVER 80S MOST LIKELY TO BE IMMUNE

    It seems the vaccine rollout could be a success, as over-80s are now the age group most likely to test positive for coronavirus antibodies.

    The data from testing by the Office for National Statistics used blood tests to test different age groups signs of immunity against the virus.

    The blood samples show that over-80s are the group showing the most antibodies, suggesting the vaccine is doing its job.

  • Olivia Burke

    DR FAUCI WINS $1 MILLION PRIZE

    Dr Anthony Fauci has been awarded the $1 million Dan David Prize for “defending science” and pioneering vaccine development.

    The Israel-based Foundation congratulated Fauci for courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging Covid crisis” and praised him for “speaking truth to power in a highly charged political environment.”

    The 80-year-old chief medical advisor, a key figure in the US coronavirus response, was also chosen thanks to his lifelong mission into HIV research and AIDS relief.

  • Dan Keane

    SCHOOL ATTENDANCE RISES

    The proportion of primary school pupils in England being taught on-site has risen in a week to nearly a quarter, Government data shows.

    Overall, 16% of state school pupils were in class on February 11 – the same as the week before, according to figures from the Department for Education.

    But almost one in four (24%) of primary school pupils were on-site last week during the lockdown, which is a rise on the week before (23%), while 5% of secondary school students were in class – the same as on February 4.

    Approximately 894,000 children of key workers were in attendance last week, slightly down from 895,000 the week before.

  • Dan Keane

    SCOTTISH GOVT PROBE AFTER US TRAVELLER WRONGFULLY QUARANTINED

    The Scottish Government is investigating after US travellers were mistakenly made to quarantine in a hotel despite a loophole in the rules.

    Chun Wong and his daughter Kiernan, eight, arrived at Edinburgh airport on Monday via a connecting flight in Dublin and were set to spend 10 days self-isolating in a nearby hotel.

    However, Mr Wong was contacted by officials later to tell him he did not need to abide by the rules.

    A Scottish Government spokesman said the incident is being investigated.

  • Dan Keane

    TOTAL ALCOHOL SALES DROP IN EARLY PANDEMIC AS OFF-SALES TOTALS SOAR ALMOST 30%

    Sales of alcohol per adult dropped by 6% in the early part of lockdown, a new study has shown.

    Research by Public Health Scotland and the University of Glasgow found the drop in Scotland as well as England and Wales between mid-March and July 11 last year.

    Compared to what would be expected, had physical distancing measures not been put in place, the volume of pure alcohol bought by people in Great Britain dropped by 6%.

    A significant spike in off-sales – 28% in Scotland and 29% in England and Wales – was not enough to offset the drop caused by the onset of the pandemic.

  • Dan Keane

    STURGEON EXPECTED TO UNVEIL SCHOOLS REOPENING PLAN

    Nicola Sturgeon is expected to unveil a plan for the reopening of schools this afternoon at a coronavirus press briefing.

    The First Minister will address Holyrood this afternoon to confirm whether or not classrooms will open on February 22, as had previously been planned.

    Ms Sturgeon said yesterday that she was “very, very, very keen to go ahead" with the reopening following a dramatic fall in cases in Scotland.

  • Dan Keane

    BRITS TO WAIT UNTIL SEPTEMBER FOR REOPENING OF GIGS

    BRITS will have to wait until at least September before they can flock back to nightclubs, gigs, cinemas, and theatres, a minister suggested today.

    Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi hinted venues that will need to mass test visitors won't be allowed to reopen until almost all the population is vaccinated.

    And he said when that is done it will combine with testing technology, which is "getting better and better", to help unlock all the economy.

    Thousands of clubs and theatres across Britain have been unable to reopen since last March, and many are facing financial ruin.

  • Dan Keane

    ZAHAWI APOLOGISES FOR JAB CONFUSION

    The vaccines minister has apologised for "any confusion" over when asthma sufferers can expect to be offered a coronavirus jab.

    Mr Zahawi told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "In category four, those with serious, extremely vulnerable cases of asthma would have been given the first dose in category four.

    "Now in category six, if they have oral steroids, then they are in category six.

    "The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation looked at the evidence and that's what we are guided by.

    "I apologise if there was any confusion, I certainly don't want to have any confusion at all."

  • Dan Keane

    WILLIAMSON LAUNCHES PLAN TO 'PROTECT FREE SPEECH' AT UNIS

    Gavin Williamson has launched a plan to "protect free speech" on university campuses.

    The Education Secretary today announced a number of proposals aimed at bolstering academic freedom in England, including the appointment of a "free speech champion" to look into instances of 'no-platforming'.

    The Office for Students (OfS) regulator will also be able to impose fines on institutions should they breach the conditions.

    Mr Williamson, who has faced criticism for his handling of exams and the reopening of schools during the pandemic, said he was "deeply worried" about the "chilling effect on campuses of unacceptable silencing and censoring".

  • Dan Keane

    'SPREAD DEVOLUTION TO SAVE UNION', URGES TORY PEER

    A Tory peer has called for an enhanced devolution council to counter the growth of Scottish nationalism.

    Lord Dunlop, who was a Scotland Office minister from 2015 until 2017, writes in The Times that "the UK must continue to look and feel like a shared endeavour".

    He added: "Growing regional economies in England will provide growing markets for Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland businesses.

    "If we are able to create alternative regional magnets for economic activity to match the power of London and the southeast then we all benefit."

  • Dan Keane

    UK NEEDS COMPETITION RULES FOR THE DIGITAL AGE, SAYS MP

    A Tory MP has called for a new Competition Act to make the UK's competition law fit to serve in the digital age.

    John Penrose, MP for Weston, Worle and the Villages, said that new regulations could "update and modernise our institutions for the new digital economy".

    His report, published on Tuesday, also recommended that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should work out a way that lets customers easily compare the "price" of free online services.

    Many digital companies, such as Google and Facebook, do not charge customers for many of their services. Instead they harvest customers' data, giving them insights which allows adverts to be targeted with precision.

    The "CMA must consider how to improve transparency of the price consumers are paying through their data for digital goods and services, so they can make informed choices about whether each one represents good value or not, and whether they wish to switch to others which might be better," the report said.

  • Dan Keane

    LGBT VETERANS CAN APPLY TO RECLAIM LOST MEDALS, SAYS MOD

    Former military members who were dismissed from service because of their sexuality are now able to reclaim lost medals.

    The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it wanted to address a "historical wrong" with the launch of the scheme.

    Gay people were not allowed to serve in the military until a rule change in 2000.

  • Dan Keane

    EU COUNCIL PRESIDENT WELCOMES PANDEMIC TREATY

    European Council President Charles Michel has welcomed the support of Boris Johnson to work together on a pandemic treaty.

    "I welcome the support of Boris Johnson to work together on a pandemic treaty in order to improve global preparedness, resilience and recovery", Michel said in a tweet.

    Johnson said earlier he would be keen to agree a global treaty on pandemics where countries agreed to share data, amid British and U.S. concern over access given to a World Health Organisation (WHO) mission to China.

  • Dan Keane

    CHANCELLOR SHOULD PHASE OUT FURLOUGH GRADUALLY, SAYS IFS

    Lower-income households are facing a higher risk of unemployment this year as the furlough scheme ends, experts have warned.

    The group has "dissaved" as higher-income earners managed to build up an extra £125 billion worth of savings while being stuck at home.

    Ahead of next month's budget, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Citi Research said that it was vital to ensure that the furlough scheme and other Government support is unwound gently, rather than coming to a halt.

    "Any significant continuation of the furlough scheme must be limited and carefully targeted," the IFS said.

  • Dan Keane

    UNCERTAINTY OVER EMPLOYER'S VACCINATION DECLARATION

    Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi declined to say whether employers can legally require staff to disclose whether they have received a coronavirus vaccine.

    He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The vaccination is not mandatory.

    "Employers have been talking to us, they are concerned about their duty of care for the residents, the elderly residents, especially if the virus mutates. At the moment, the dominant virus in the UK, the vaccines work well against the dominant virus."

    Pressed again if employers can require employees to disclose their vaccination record, he said: "At the moment, the vaccination programme is non-mandatory."

  • Dan Keane

    SEASIDE TOWNS 'AT RISK OF LOSING HIGH STREETS'

    Seaside towns are at risk of losing their high streets for good due to the Covid pandemic, research reveals.

    They rely on travel, leisure and hospitality — which have all been hit badly by lockdown closures.

    Analysis by the Labour Party highlighted 20 tourist destinations in England where high streets are in danger. Their list includes Blackpool, Brighton, Southend-on-Sea in Essex, Torbay in Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and the Isle of Wight.

    Labour warned that cash reserves are drying up and debts are building as several government support schemes including furlough and extra grants are set to come to an end within weeks.

  • Dan Keane

    POST-BREXIT VISA RULES ARE 'HURDLE' FOR ARTISTS, PM WARNED

    Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart and Dame Julie Walters have joined some of the biggest names in British theatre to urge Boris Johnson to secure visa-free EU travel for artists.

    In a letter from the Equity union, the new rules are described as a "towering hurdle" for the industry.

    "Before, we were able to travel to Europe visa-free. Now we have to pay hundreds of pounds, fill in form after form and spend weeks waiting for approval – just so we can do our jobs," the letter states.

    More than 280,000 people have signed a petition calling for a cultural work permit deal to be reached between the Government and EU.

    The issue was raised during the Brexit negotiations, but the British government insisted that the EU "rejected proposals" made on visa-free travel for artists.

  • Dan Keane

    'FOCUS ON JOB SUPPORT', THINK TANK TELLS SUNAK

    A leading think tank has warned Rishi Sunak that he may have to raise an extra £60 million in taxes to foot the bill for the pandemic.

    The Institute for Fiscal Studies said more tax revenue would be needed to tackle Britain's mounting debt – but warned the Chancellor to focus on job support in his March 8 budget.

    "For now, Mr Sunak needs to focus on support and recovery. A reckoning in the form of big future tax rises is highly likely, but not as yet inevitable," IFS Director Paul Johnson said.

  • Abe Hawken

    'NO STONE UNTURNED'

    Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has vowed to “leave no stone unturned” until British dual nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran are freed.

    Mr Raab made the comments as he joined more than 55 countries in committing to enhance international cooperation to end the “cruel” practice of arbitrary detention.

    He said the practice violates the human rights of individuals and undermines trust in institutions “that keep our societies safe and open”.

  • Abe Hawken

    'HOPEFUL'

    Boris Johnson has said he is “hopeful” coronavirus restrictions can be cautiously eased in the coming weeks, with vaccines providing “grounds for confidence”.

    The Prime Minister said he wanted the current national lockdown to be the last – and for the unlocking to be “irreversible” – ahead of the publication of his road map next week.

    Mr Johnson will analyse data this week on coronavirus case numbers, hospital admissions, deaths and the impact of the vaccine rollout as he prepares his plan to reduce restrictions.

  • Abe Hawken

    'HOLLOWED OUT'

    Tourist hotspots reliant on the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors are in danger of seeing their high streets “hollowed out” if coronavirus support is scaled back, Labour has warned.

    Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband has urged ministers to extend the current tax relief available to avoid England’s third lockdown from creating a host of ghost towns.

    The party is warning of devastation in areas such as the Isles of Scilly, where Labour calculates that as much as 44% of businesses rely on visitor, retail and hospitality trade.

  • Joseph Gamp

    PM 'HOPEFUL' CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS CAN BE CAUTIOUSLY EASED

    Boris Johnson has said he is "hopeful" coronavirus restrictions can be cautiously eased in the coming weeks, with vaccines providing "grounds for confidence".

    The Prime Minister said he wanted the current national lockdown to be the last – and for the unlocking to be "irreversible" – ahead of the publication of his road map next week.

    Mr Johnson will analyse data this week on coronavirus case numbers, hospital admissions, deaths and the impact of the vaccine rollout as he prepares his plan to reduce restrictions.

    Preliminary data comparing elderly people who have received the vaccine with those who have not is starting to show it is cutting hospital admissions and deaths, according to The Times.

    The paper said ministers have already been given data showing vaccines are cutting illness by about two thirds, while a separate study suggests jabs are reducing transmission.

  • Joseph Gamp

    HIGH STREETS AT RISK OF BEING 'HOLLOWED OUT' WITHOUT CONTINUED SUPPORT – LABOUR

    Tourist hotspots reliant on the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors are in danger of seeing their high streets "hollowed out" if coronavirus support is scaled back, Labour has warned.

    Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband has urged ministers to extend the current tax relief available to avoid England's third lockdown from creating a host of ghost towns.

    The party is warning of devastation in areas such as the Isles of Scilly, where Labour calculates that as much as 44% of businesses rely on visitor, retail and hospitality trade.

    According to Labour analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, a fifth of businesses are in the same position across the rest of Cornwall, in Devon's Torbay and in the Isle of Wight, while 17% of those in Brighton and Blackpool are also retail, tourism or hospitality reliant.

    Labour is urging the Government to confirm it will extend the 100% business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for at least another six months.

  • Joseph Gamp

    PROTOCOL CHALLENGES A 'TWO WAY STREET', SAYS EU COMMISSION VICE PRESIDENT

    Efforts to address problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol should be a two-way street, the European Commission vice-president said.

    Maros Sefcovic said the EU is "always ready to deliver" on its commitments surrounding the post-Brexit arrangements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

    DUP East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell reiterated the need for the Government to take direct and meaningful action to "restore" Northern Ireland's place in the UK internal market following disruption of supplies.

    Mr Sefcovic told Euronews the EU is "always ready to deliver" on its commitments but the UK must realise the effort is a "two-way street".

    "I believe if the UK used all the flexibilities which we already agreed upon in December, then also the implementation of the protocol would be much easier."

  • Joseph Gamp

    CHANCELLOR SHOULD PHASE OUT FURLOUGH GRADUALLY, SAYS IFS

    Lower-income households are facing a higher risk of unemployment this year, as "deferred" company failures line up as the furlough scheme ends, experts will warn on Tuesday.

    The group has "dissaved" as their higher-income counterparts managed to build up an extra £125 billion worth of savings while being stuck at home, with little to spend the money on.

    Ahead of next month's budget, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Citi Research said that it was vital to ensure that the furlough scheme and other Government support is unwound gently, rather than coming to an abrupt halt.

    However, they also said that the economy will not be able to adjust properly as long as the furlough scheme is still in place.

    It should be "phased out as soon as conditions allow", the researchers said. However, the £20 a week increase that people on Universal Credit have been handed could stay, they argued.

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