NHS bosses have warned Boris Johnson that relaxing Covid restrictions over Christmas could lead to cases spiraling out of control yet again.

Under the Government’s plans for a more-normal festive season, families are able to form a ‘bubble’ with two other households between December 23 and 27.

And in November, the Prime Minister pledged that several areas under the Government’s harshest set of lockdown rules will be moved to Tier Two before the end of this week.

But NHS executive Chris Hopson has urged Mr Johnson to exercise ‘extreme caution’ before putting any region into a lower tier as any relaxing of rules ‘will trigger a third wave’.

He instead insisted that areas such as London – which sees 211 cases per 10,000 people each week – should be moved up to Tier Three to get numbers under control. He also said Essex, Kent and Lincolnshire have shown worrying figures.

Mr Hopson – the chief executive of NHS Providers which represents trusts across the country – said the current rise in cases is ‘worrying’, especially as it came towards the end of the England’s second nation-wide lockdown.

The country’s case total soared by 21,502 yesterday – a 38 per cent rise on the 15,539 recorded last Saturday.  Saturday’s death toll of 519 is a 30.7 per cent spike on the 397 fatalities seen on the same day last week.

In other coronavirus developments: 

  • Councils under England’s toughest coronavirus restrictions are to roll out rapid community testing programmes in a bid to cut transmission rates this winter;
  • Doctors administering the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine next week have been told to prioritise elderly patients from ethnic minorities and those who have underlying health conditions if there is high demand for the jab;
  • Nadra Ahmed, chairman of the National Care Association, said as many as 40 per cent of care home staff could choose not to take the coronavirus vaccine as it is rolled out over the coming days; 
  • Demonstrators took to the streets of London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Brighton for anti-lockdown protests yesterday amid the roll-out of Britain’s mass vaccination scheme;
  • Researchers have found that Coronavirus lateral flow tests only pick up 49 per cent of infections because they fail to catch people with low levels of the virus;
  • SAGE, Number 10’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, estimated the R number across Britain to be between 0.9 and 1.0, having risen from 0.8 and 1.0 a week ago.
New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Britain’s high streets (Regent Street, pictured yesterday) have been packed with eager Christmas shoppers as the country’s case-total soars by 21,502 – a 38 per cent rise on last Saturday’s figure

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Eager revellers flocked to the streets of York on Saturday night. A group are pictured enjoying music performed by a live busker

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

A couple are pictured kissing on the streets of York as countless party goers rushed to enjoy a Saturday night out

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

A total of 481,500 patients had coronavirus in the seven days up to December 5, down from 521,300 the week prior (8 per cent), according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

The case rate per 100,000 people in the capital stood at 191.8 on December 6, up from 158.1 the previous week

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Weekly Public Health England data show that many areas in London, East and South East have seen infection rates rise since the lockdown ended and could face Tier Three rules from next week

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Party goers in Christmas hats were seen on the streets of Soho in London. London is in Tier Two meaning alcoholic drinks at bars can be served with substantial meals

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Busy bars and restaurants in London were packed on Saturday night as revellers got into the Christmas spirit

Making London Tier 3 will inflict catastrophic damage, warn Tory MPs

London‘s Tory MPs have urged Boris Johnson not to inflict ‘untold damage’ on the capital by moving it into a tier 3 lockdown this week.

In a letter seen by The Mail on Sunday, the MPs urge the Prime Minister to spare the capital because shutting it down would hurt not just Londoners, but ‘people across the nation’ who depend on the ‘wealth and prosperity generated by our great city’.

A decision on whether to plunge London into the highest lockdown before Christmas was going to the wire this weekend, with a row brewing with Ministers after police and local councils objected to plans to divide London into different tiers. 

With the capital’s businesses saying tier 3 would deliver a £3 billion hit to the economy, Ministers including Michael Gove have suggested that only the outer London boroughs with the highest infection rates should go in to the top tier.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is also understood to be considering splitting the worst-hit parts of the capital off into tier 3 but leaving the majority of the city in tier 2. 

It would mean restaurants and other hospitality businesses in London’s West End could stay open, while those in suburban areas would close.

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In a letter to the PM, seen by The Times, Mr Hopson wrote: ‘We are now seeing a worrying increase in infection rates across a wide range of areas.

‘Trust leaders are worried that if infection rates remain as high as they are at the moment, relaxing the restrictions will trigger a third wave.’

It comes after scientists urged Britons to ‘rethink’ Christmas gatherings that are ‘not worth the risk’.

High streets were packed with eager Christmas shoppers yesterday as Covid-weary spenders give Britain’s hard-hit businesses a £1.7billion boost.

But top scientists have said families should avoid gatherings that could ‘risk infecting the vulnerable and elderly people we love’.

Professor Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, told the Guardian: ‘If people [aren’t] cautious, then we will pay for our Christmas parties with January and February lockdowns.’  

‘With a vaccine just weeks away, why risk infecting vulnerable and elderly people we love?’     

Professor Susan Mitchie, a psychologist at University College London and member of SAGE, added: ‘One has got to respond to the situation as it is, not the situation as we’d like it to be.’ 

And Professor Stephen Reicher, Government advisor in the SAGE sub-group dedicated to ensuring the following of public health measures, warned that a plea by health secretary Matt Hancock to stick to the rules ‘missed the point entirely’.

‘The danger is when you say people can, you imply that it is safe and therefore they should,’ he said.

Professor Reicher added the Government advice should present the choice to meet with loved ones but warn that it is ‘dangerous’ and should only be done if necessary. 

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

NHS executive Chris Hopson (left) has urged to exercise ‘extreme caution’ before putting any region into a lower tier and said any relaxing of rules ‘will trigger a third wave’

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Scientists urged Britons to ‘rethink’ Christmas gatherings that are ‘not worth the risk’ as the country’s case-total soars by 21,502 – a 38 per cent rise on last Saturday’s figure. Pictured: Drinkers gathered in Soho on Saturday night

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

High streets were packed with eager Christmas shoppers yesterday as Covid-weary spenders give Britain’s hard-hit businesses a £1.7billion boost. Pictured: Diners in Soho

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Top scientists have said families should avoid gatherings that could ‘risk infecting the vulnerable and elderly people we love’ – amid fears that Covid cases could spiral out of control yet again. Pictured: Diners in Soho, some wearing Santa hats

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Families across the UK can form a Christmas ‘bubble’ and spend the festive season with no more than three households between December 23 and 27. Pictured: Shoppers out in Regent Street on Saturday

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Experts have warned the Government is sending the ‘wrong message’ by only asking families to ‘follow the rules’, with some suggesting a third wave of infections could be sparked in the new year. Pictured: Shoppers, and a man dressed as Santa Claus, on Regent Street

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Areas such as London (Regent Street on Saturday, pictured), which is in danger of moving into Tier 3, have experienced a surge in infections – with the case rate per 100,000 people at 191.8 on December 6 compared to 158.1 the previous week

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Scientists are urging Britons to ‘rethink’ their Christmas plans, insisting the ‘best thing’ to keep loved ones safe is to ‘not see them.’ Pictured: Christmas shoppers on Regent Street

Covid lateral flow tests only pick up 49 per cent of infections, researchers believe

Coronavirus lateral flow tests only pick up 49 per cent of infections because they fail to catch people with low levels of the virus, researchers have found.

The findings of a pilot of 3,199 people has blown a hole in the Government’s mass testing strategy, which featured plans to hand out millions of 30-minute tests to allow Britons to go back to living life normally, it was revealed yesterday.

The lateral flow test produced by US-based Innova only pick up 48.89 per cent of active infections, according to a University of Liverpool pilot programme.

It contradicts earlier lab tests, which found the test had an overall sensitivity of 76.8 per cent, rising to 95 per cent in individuals with a high viral load. 

The pilot’s results come after an audit by the Mail found four major care home chains and nine councils were refusing to use rapid tests for visitors, which establish whether they can be admitted to premises, due to concerns about their accuracy.    

Last week, following a Daily Mail campaign, the Government promised that millions of the ‘lateral flow tests’ would be rolled out to care homes by the end of next week so residents and families could be reunited.

It said visitors who tested negative for Covid would be allowed to hold loved-ones for the first time in months.

But major providers such as Bupa, MHA, Barchester Care and Anchor Hanover have all refused to trust the results of the tests.

 

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He said: ‘There may be circumstances where there are other factors that make you think it is worth taking that risk – but people have got to do it knowing and being clear about what the risk is,; 

Linda Bauld, of the University of Edinburgh, has also warned that relaxing Covid restrictions for five days over the Christmas period is a ‘mistake’ that will have ‘consequences’.   

She said: ‘I think people have to think very carefully whether they can see loved ones outside, or do it in a very modest way. I’m also concerned about the travel, people going from high to low-prevalence areas.’

She told BBC Breakfast yesterday: ‘I think it’s going to have consequences. I completely understand why governments are doing that. Behaviourally people are fed up. 

‘If you’re meeting people indoors from other households, there’s poor ventilation, maybe older family members are in those bubbles, unfortunately because the virus hasn’t been eliminated… I think that means the Christmas period is a risk. 

‘From a public health perspective, I have to be perfectly honest, I think this is a mistake.’

It comes as Christmas shoppers were warned to be careful as London teetered on the brink of being moved into Tier 3 amid a surge in coronavirus cases. 

Teenagers have been blamed for the huge uptick in cases, prompting a mass testing programme to be rolled out in secondary schools in the worst-hit boroughs.   

London’s case rate per 100,000 people, which rose to 191.8 on December 6, means the capital is ahead of regions such as the West Midlands which are already in Tier 3 restrictions.

The Mayor of London yesterday told Christmas shoppers to keep off public transport and wear face masks at all times as they splurge £1.7billion on the High Street.  

Mr Khan told shoppers to ‘keep a two-metre distance wherever possible’ to stop the capital being plunged into the toughest level of restrictions next week.

In a joint statement with Cllr Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster City Council, he said: ‘We are appealing directly to Londoners – when out shopping it is essential that you follow the rules. 

‘You must wear a face covering in shops and keep a two-metre distance wherever possible. Try to avoid travelling on public transport during rush hour, and walk and cycle where you can. If you have symptoms – don’t take a chance and don’t go out. Self-isolate immediately and get a test.

‘Businesses across London have worked really hard to make their premises Covid-safe – but we must all play our part in following the rules. So this weekend shop safe.’ 

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Christmas shoppers were warned to be careful as London teetered on the brink of being moved into Tier 3 amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Pictured: Christmas shoppers on Regent Street on Saturday

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Crowds of shoppers were seen on Oxford Street, London, yesterday. London is at risk of moving into Tier 3 Coronavirus restrictions before Christmas

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Christmas shoppers walk along Regent Street on December 12. Crowds descended on non-essential stores in the run-up to Christmas

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Mask-wearing shoppers were seen on Oxford Street in London yesterday. London’s case rate per 100,000 people, which rose to 191.8 on December 6, means the capital is ahead of regions such as the West Midlands which are already in Tier 3 restrictions

On Friday, ’s spokesman also urged shoppers to be cautious. 

Asked by MailOnline if shoppers should be careful when out on the High Street, he said ‘absolutely’.  

Britain’s daily coronavirus cases increased by 33 per cent on Friday compared to seven days ago. 

A total of 21,672 new cases were announced, up slightly from 20,964 on Thursday. 

Mr Johnson’s spokesman urged the public to follow the safety guidelines, saying, ‘I think we have been clear throughout the pandemic. 

‘We would urge the public to follow the guidelines in relation to their activity to ensure that we are able to continue to drive down the transmission rate and protect communities.’

However, he stopped short of telling shoppers to avoid busy times. 

‘I wouldn’t get into the discussions around telling people how to shop but I would just reiterate what we would say around ensuring that people follow the guidelines that are in place,’ he said.

Making London Tier 3 will inflict catastrophic damage warn Tory MPs – as Hancock considers SPLITTING the capital to keep West End open while hitting worst-hit areas with tough restrictions 

By Brendan Carlin and Anna Mikhailova For The Mail On Sunday 

London‘s Tory MPs have urged Boris Johnson not to inflict ‘untold damage’ on the capital by moving it into a tier 3 lockdown this week.

In a letter seen by The Mail on Sunday, the MPs urge the Prime Minister to spare the capital because shutting it down would hurt not just Londoners, but ‘people across the nation’ who depend on the ‘wealth and prosperity generated by our great city’.

A decision on whether to plunge London into the highest lockdown before Christmas was going to the wire this weekend, with a row brewing with Ministers after police and local councils objected to plans to divide London into different tiers.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

London ‘s Tory MPs have urged not to inflict ‘untold damage’ on the capital by moving it into a tier 3 lockdown this week 

With the capital’s businesses saying tier 3 would deliver a £3 billion hit to the economy, Ministers including Michael Gove have suggested that only the outer London boroughs with the highest infection rates should go in to the top tier.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is also understood to be considering splitting the worst-hit parts of the capital off into tier 3 but leaving the majority of the city in tier 2. 

It would mean restaurants and other hospitality businesses in London’s West End could stay open, while those in suburban areas would close.

Andrew Bridgen, the North-West Leicestershire Tory MP, revealed Mr Hancock had already told him a more localised approach would be taken in his area.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

November 7: An outbreak in Sheppey East where the cases increased by 144 per cent and saw the Swale area have a rolling rate of 303. HM Prison Swaleside is located near the village of Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

November 21: Infection rates increase to more than 400 cases per 100,000 in The Isle of Sheppey and surrounding areas in Kent 

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

December 5: Areas between south London and Kent see their cases rise in areas such as Dartford and Greenwich

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

London’s Tory MPs have urged not to inflict ‘untold damage’ on the capital by moving it into a tier 3 lockdown this week. Pictured: Christmas shoppers flock to Regent Street in London’s West End on Saturday

His local authority – currently in the same tier 3 high-virus area as the city of Leicester but with lower Covid rates – is likely to be placed in a lower category of controls this week.

Mr Bridgen said he asked Mr Hancock yesterday in a text message what he could do to help and the Health Secretary replied: ‘We are de-linking you from Leicester.’

It came as:

  • The number of daily recorded deaths rose to 519 – up from 397 last Saturday. There were 21,502 new positive cases, an increase of 38 per cent from last Saturday.
  • Scientists urged people to ‘rethink’ Christmas gatherings that are ‘not worth the risk’.
  • London’s Regent Street was packed with Christmas shoppers yesterday as Britons spent an estimated £3 million every minute to give the High Street a boost amid fears of a shortage of toys caused in part by chaos at Britain’s ports.
  • Sixty-seven local authorities in the highest tier 3 level received approval for rapid turnaround lateral flow tests to help them lower infection rates.
  • The US regulator approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine but the European Medicines Agency appeared little closer to giving it the green light.

In a pre-emptive strike ahead of a review of the capital’s restrictions, six senior Conservatives signed the letter, organised by Harrow East MP Bob Blackman, which warned that many London Tory MPs could vote against the Government’s Covid approach when it is reviewed next month if the city is plunged into tier 3.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is understood to be considering splitting the worst-hit parts of the capital off into tier 3 but leaving the majority of the city in tier 2

Separately, Nickie Aiken, the Conservative MP whose constituency includes the West End, said tier 3 would be a ‘disaster’ for London and destroy livelihoods. 

Mr Blackman said last night he supported the proposal to split London into different tiers, adding: ‘The least-affected areas should not be governed by the worst-affected areas.’

He said he would vote against renewing the current anti-Covid regime next month if London was forced into tier 3, and warned that many other London Tory MPs would do the same.

However, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said it would be a ‘mistake’ to put even some London boroughs into tier 3. 

Sir Iain, MP for Chingford and Woodford Green in North-East London, warned that the virus increases in his area were among schoolchildren – not the elderly population more at risk.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Weekly Public Health England data show that many areas in London, East and South East have seen infection rates rise since the lockdown ended and could face Tier Three rules from next week

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

A total of 481,500 patients had coronavirus in the seven days up to December 5, down from 521,300 the week prior (8 per cent), according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Andrew Bridgen, the North-West Leicestershire Tory MP, revealed Mr Hancock had already told him a more localised approach would be taken in his area. Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said it would be a ‘mistake’ to put even some London boroughs into tier 3

And Ms Aiken said the approach of dividing the capital into different restriction zones would be ‘near impossible to police’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma have raised concerns over plunging the capital into tier 3. 

But the police and councils say they are too over-stretched to monitor movements between the tiers, and fear it could cause public order issues.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

MailOnline’s analysis of Government figures show London is now recording more cases per day, for its size, than 27 of 61 authorities currently living under Tier Three curbs, including Nottingham, Leeds, Leicestershire, Bristol, Newcastle and Derby

Ministers will make the decision on Wednesday after studying the latest data, with the changes taking effect on Saturday. They will be reviewed again after a fortnight.

The MPs’ letter highlighted the Government’s own estimate last month that 550,000 jobs would have been at risk if London had been put in tier 3 last month. 

They warned: ‘It would be a false choice to pit lives against livelihoods when it comes to deciding which Covid restrictions should apply in London.

‘We believe the Government can both protect lives and livelihoods with a more measured approach of keeping our capital open while also bearing down on this terrible virus.’

Your essential guide to the vaccine roll-out: Jab venues, how you’ll get your appointment and who gets priority  

Thousands of people across Britain have already had their initial Covid-19 jabs as NHS teams use the first 800,000 doses of the revolutionary vaccine. And with a million more soon to be here, the jab campaign is due to pick up pace fast.

Crucially, GP surgeries are set to begin work as vaccination centres, while ten more hospitals have opened jab clinics. 

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Batches of the vaccine are being distributed according to the size of the local population

HOW YOU WILL GET YOUR APPOINTMENT

DOES IT MATTER WHICH PART OF THE COUNTRY I LIVE IN?

People most at risk will be prioritised, regardless of whether they are in tier 1, 2 or 3.

But there has been an element of a ‘postcode lottery’. The addition of ten more vaccinating hospitals across England – on top of the 50 announced to begin with – was tacit admission by the NHS that certain areas, such as virus blackspots Manchester, Bradford and Medway in Kent, were not getting their due share.

Batches of the vaccine are being distributed according to the size of the local population, so that should mean everyone gets equal access to the available doses. But regional vaccination rates are bound to vary as hospitals will get through their patient lists at differing speeds.

HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE HAD THEIR FIRST DOSE SO FAR?

‘Tens of thousands’ have had it so far, said Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday – but the exact figure has not been disclosed.

DO YOU CALL ANYONE ABOUT GETTING THE JAB?

No. When it’s your turn, you will be contacted by the NHS by phone or letter offering an appointment, which will typically be a couple of days later. There have been reports about people phoning their local hospital and getting a same-day jab. This is strongly discouraged.

SHOULD YOU HAVE THE JAB IF YOU SUFFER ALLERGIES?

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which approved the vaccine, said: ‘Anaphylaxis [a severe allergic reaction] is a known, although very rare, side effect with any vaccine.

‘Most people will not get anaphylaxis and the benefits in protecting people against outweigh the risks.

‘Anyone due to receive their vaccine should continue with their appointment and discuss any questions or medical history of serious allergies with the healthcare professional prior to getting the jab.’

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Margaret Keenan, 90, is the first patient in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry

WHAT IF YOU ARE ILL ON VACCINATION DAY?

Don’t attend the appointment but phone the NHS on the number you were given and rearrange for another day.

ONCE AT THE CLINIC, WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

Similar with any inoculation, you’ll be asked questions about your health. A first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will then be injected in your upper arm. You must then wait 15 minutes before leaving so staff can make sure there is no adverse reaction.

DOES THE VACCINE GIVE PROTECTION STRAIGHT AFTER THE FIRST JAB?

No. Recipients of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab begin to build immunity 12 days after the first dose – but only have full immunity a week after the second dose – ie 28 days after the first jab. You will most likely be given an appointment card with details of when to return for your second, booster dose 21 days later, though paperwork procedures vary between areas. If you can’t make the booster jab appointment, call to rearrange it.

WHAT IF YOU DECLINE THE JAB – BUT THEN CHANGE YOUR MIND?

You should phone the team that offered you the original invitation. They will be happy to reschedule an appointment.

CAN YOU PASS THE VIRUS TO OTHERS EVEN IF YOU’VE HAD THE JAB?

This is a great unknown. Scientists are unsure if the Pfizer vaccine produces so-called ‘sterilising immunity’, as trials did not test this aspect. They only checked if it stopped people from getting ill. Pfizer says that as the vaccine is good at protecting against both serious and mild Covid illness, this ‘suggests there is a chance to protect against infection as well’. But more test results are needed before we know for sure.

WHO GETS PRIORITY FOR JAB? 

Only those in the first two groups of the priority list are due to get the jab this week. The focus is on over-80s in hospital or living in their own homes. Teams will also start visiting care homes in England in a week’s time.

1. Residents in a care home for older adults (estimated total 425,000) and their carers (up to 1.5million)

2. All aged 80 and over (3.3m) and frontline health and social care workers (1.5m)

3. Everyone aged 75 and over (2.2m)

4. All aged 70 and over (3.3m) and those considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable

5. All people aged 65 and over (3.4m)

6. All individuals aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of serious disease and death

7. Everyone aged 60 and over (3.7m)

8. Anybody aged 55 and over (4.3m)

9. All aged 50 and over (4.7m)

THE VULNERABLE Vaccines will also be offered to those aged 16 and over who have conditions such as: blood cancer; diabetes; heart problem; chest complaint or breathing difficulties; kidney disease; liver disease; lowered immunity due to disease or treatment; with organ transplant; having had stroke or a transient ischaemic attack; a neurological or muscle-wasting condition; severe or profound learning disability; Down’s syndrome; problem with spleen or having had spleen removed; seriously overweight; severe mental illness. 

NOW JABS AT GP SURGERIES 

About 280 GP surgeries across England will begin operating as immunisation centres in the coming days with the expected arrival of more than a million extra doses of Pfizer’s vaccine from its Belgian factory. These, on top of the 800,000 already in the country, will allow the NHS to increase the number of appointments in the run-up to Christmas. Vaccine staff will work on Christmas Day. However, it seems that care-home residents – despite being top of the priority list – will have to wait until mobile inoculation teams are ready to make home visits. Health bosses, though, hope vaccinations in care homes will begin in the final few days before the festive break. The logistics are trickier than in GP surgeries because of the fragility of the vaccine phials and the need to keep them at minus 70C (minus 94F) or below, and because the NHS wants to take one step at a time.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

While ‘active consideration’ is being given to vaccinating over-80s in community settings in Northern Ireland, according to the devolved Stormont government, there are no immediate plans for GP surgeries in Scotland, where the earliest roll-out is expected to be in the New Year or early spring. The same applies in Wales. 

Alok Sharma’s vaccine army: How Bomb disposal hero led crack team to make UK first in world to roll out jab after opting out of EU’s slower efforts 

By Glen Owen Political Editor For The Mail On Sunday 

The battle to defuse the biggest public health crisis for a century by rolling out a mass vaccination campaign was entrusted to a crack team of world-class experts led by a decorated Army bomb disposal expert.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Elliott, a former combat and bomb disposal engineer in the first Gulf War, the Balkans and Iraq, was handed operational control of the Vaccine Taskforce in April.

The group, established in Whitehall under the auspices of Business Secretary Alok Sharma, was the brainchild of the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance – who concluded that the massive logistical challenge could not be achieved by the Civil Service.

Instead, an agile team drawn from across the private sector was constructed, dedicated solely to the procurement and roll-out of the vaccine at rapid speed.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Elliott (right), a former combat and bomb disposal engineer, was handed operational control of the Vaccine Taskforce, which was established in Whitehall under the auspices of Alok Sharma (left), in April

Last week’s pictures of 90-year-old Margaret Keenan receiving the first Pfizer Covid vaccine was the triumphant result of the team’s round-the-clock work, with members of the unit sending 3am emails and holding Zoom meetings in their pyjamas as they tried to hammer out deals for the most cutting-edge new vaccines.

The unit, chaired by Kate Bingham, started as a cell of just 20 people – but soon mushroomed into a team of more than 200 employees on secondment from the military and industry, whose experience ranged from the pharmaceutical sector to major infrastructure projects such as the Trident submarine deployment.

The powerful team included Madelaine McTernan, the former managing director of Credit Suisse, Ruth Todd, from the MoD’s Submarine Delivery Agency, and former British ambassador Tim Colley.

The vaccine triumph is also a political success for Mr Sharma –one of the more modest and self-effacing members of the Government – who took the decision to opt out of the EU’s vaccine initiative in July to allow the UK to strike its own deals.

The move sparked outrage from opposition parties, with Lib Dem MP Layla Moran saying that walking away from the scheme would put ‘ideology ahead of public health’, while Labour’s Bell Ribeiro-Addy claimed the Government was ‘putting Brexit ahead of saving lives’.

But Mr Sharma’s decision has been vindicated: while the UK was the first country to grant regulatory approval for the vaccine, the EU’s medicines regulator is not expected to grant approval for Pfizer until late December, with the roll-out across the continent not expected until January at the earliest.

If the UK had joined the EU scheme, the European Commission would have the exclusive right to negotiate with vaccine manufacturers on Britain’s behalf, with the UK having no say in the decisions about which companies to negotiate with, how many doses to buy, the price to be paid or the delivery schedules – and with the approach having to be co-ordinated with all 27 of the EU’s member states.

Mr Sharma was free to ‘bet on every horse in the race’ by striking early deals with different providers, ordering 40 million doses from Pfizer on July 20.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

No pain: Nurse Marta Cravo gives Hunter Davies the vaccine at the Royal Free Hospital on Saturday. A team drawn from across the private sector was constructed, dedicated solely to the rapid procurement and roll-out of the vaccine

This was followed shortly afterwards by 100 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab, which is expected to gain regulatory approval soon. 

Within six months, Lieut Col Elliott’s team had amassed an impressive stockpile of 357 million doses from seven separate vaccine developers – the highest rate in the world on a per capita basis. 

In addition, British businesses stepped in to help manufacture three of the vaccines, with AstraZeneca, Valneva and Novavax operating from sites as far apart as Wrexham and Stirling.

A source close to the project said: ‘Sir Patrick and Alok realised from a very early stage that the Civil Service would not have been up to the challenge.

‘It had to be a nimble unit run by a world-class logistics expert – Nick Elliott – and drawing on the brightest brains across industry. We also needed the independence to cut our own deals free from the interference of Brussels.

‘Imagine if it had been a Civil Service team co-ordinating with the EU. We wouldn’t have got the jabs out for months.’

How Kay Burley was nailed by her own Sky News colleagues: ‘Resentful’ junior producers hired photographers to snap host and then alerted media

By Katie Hind Showbusiness Editor For The Mail On Sunday 

It was an opportunity for revenge on an over-mighty colleague that proved just too good to ignore. 

When a group of resentful junior production staff at Sky News heard star presenter Kay Burley boast about plans for 60th birthday celebrations which would break strict lockdown rules, they didn’t hesitate to pounce – and set in motion a chain of events that would lead to her being banished from the air for six months, her reputation severely tarnished.

As the £600,000-a-year presenter yesterday started an African safari holiday, away from the British spotlight, The Mail on Sunday can reveal the full story of how Burley was the unwitting architect of her own downfall and how she was ambushed in what has been described as the ‘perfect inside-job coup’.

The plot by colleagues – long disgruntled by her imperious ways – began when they overheard her talking in advance about last weekend’s night on the tiles, which culminated in her and three other Sky News journalists partying at her home in Knightsbridge, Central London.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Sky News presenter Kay Burley has agreed to be off air for six months after breaching coronavirus rules. Pictured: Kay Burley hugging and Beth Rigby (center in red) at Ms Burley’s 60th birthday party on Saturday

They secretly recruited a paparazzi photographer to take pictures of Burley breaking lockdown rules and created an encrypted email account to leak the story to the media.

For years, Burley, who turns 60 on Thursday, has been the queen of Sky News, having been part of the team since the channel first broadcast in 1989. Hugely professional and respected by her bosses, she has, however, attracted envy among colleagues. Words such as ‘divisive’ and ‘untouchable’ are used about her – as they so often are about successful people.

And so it was that nine days ago, at Sky’s vast headquarters in Osterley, West London, that Burley was sharing her excitement about her plans to celebrate her birthday, leaving colleagues in no doubt that she would be dining inside a venue with people from outside her own household.

She was overheard explaining that she would be visiting the Century members-only club, a celebrity haunt near Piccadilly Circus, with a group bigger than six. 

‘It was a case of boom, this could really bring her down,’ says a source. ‘They thought, ‘If she gets caught, that would be the end for her.’ ‘

Burley named certain people she had invited, including Beth Rigby, Sky News’s political editor and Burley’s best friend since joining the channel from The Times in 2016. 

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

ESCAPE: Kay Burley’s 60th birthday rule breach was leaked to the media in an email sting by her own Sky TV colleagues. Pictured: Burley in Heathrow Airport, en route to an African safari, on Friday as the shamed £600,000-a-year presenter is pictured flying off into exile

The plotters acted swiftly. Just over 24 hours later, photographers from the top celebrity paparazzi agency Eroteme were in place outside the club, waiting for Burley and her chums.

The group also included Sky’s North of England correspondent Inzamam Rashid and presenter Sam Washington. They spilled out on to the pavement outside the discreet venue, shunning social distancing rules. Some prepared to go home, while others discussed where to continue partying.

Burley, dressed head-to-toe in black, and Rigby were even seen embracing. According to the latter, it was a hug goodbye, for which she subsequently apologised.

While others also left the party, a smaller group reportedly went on to the Soho restaurant Folie (French for ‘madness’, ‘stupidity’ or ‘folly’) whose stylish owner Guillaume Depoix had appeared on Burley’s Sky show earlier in the week.

A hardcore group of four, including Rashid and former Sky News Royal correspondent Paul Harrison, who now works for the controversial Chinese electronics giant Huawei, allegedly went for an after-after-party at Burley’s home.

By early Sunday morning, Burley’s nemeses had been given the incriminating photos they needed.

They set to work with an account they created for the occasion with ProtonMail, which describes itself as the world’s largest secure email service. 

Founded by former researchers at CERN’s large hadron collider, the Swiss-based company uses sophisticated encryption which means emails can’t be shared with third parties and guarantees anonymity to the sender behind the unencrypted email addresses.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

DAMNING: The full, verbatim email, complete with minor grammatical errors, that sealed rule-breaking Burley’s fate

The conspirators emailed The Sun last Sunday – amusingly using kayburley@protonmail.com as their address – with details of the presenter’s ‘crime’ and attached the photos. However, the newspaper decided not to publish the story. The reason for this is not 100 per cent clear.

The Mail on Sunday has since been passed a copy of the email, which said: ‘Kay Burley was bragging about breaking Tier 2 lockdown restrictions for her 60th Birthday party last night.’

It went on to describe the events of the evening, including how the party split into a table of six and a table of four at Century, in an apparent bid to skirt the Rule of Six, and how Depoix ‘broke the law’ to let the group continue their celebrations at his restaurant.

The damning email concluded: ‘Four people then went back to Kay’s Knightsbridge pad. There are pictures.’

Dismayed that The Sun had not taken the bait, the plotters then gave the story to Westminster gossip website Guido Fawkes. The rest of the media duly followed, with the story becoming front-page news on Wednesday.

Burley was swiftly relieved of her duties and taken off air for six months, on full pay, while her Sky bosses were forced to apologise.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Miss Burley (centre, hugging someone) and Miss Rigby (in red) are pictured after dinner at the Century Club on Saturday

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

Inzamam Rashid (centre), Sam Washington (right), and former royal correspondent Paul Harrison (left) also attended

Meanwhile, those behind the operation to take her down are celebrating – albeit at a social distance from each other.

With Burley now in Africa, her friends are determined to find the snitches. ‘There is a hunt for those who did this,’ assured a newsroom source. ‘It was a set-up which not only brought Kay down but badly damaged the station as a whole.

‘It has all been an absolute embarrassment.’

Last night, Tory MP Nickie Aiken – whose Central London constituency includes both Soho and Knightsbridge – criticised the ‘incredibly selfish’ actions of Burley and her colleagues, given that Covid rule-breakers are blamed for rising infection rates that could plunge the capital into the economically ruinous tier 3 next week.

‘Who do these people think they are?’ Ms Aiken told The Mail on Sunday. ‘These Sky presenters need to understand the consequences, and the consequences are people going out of business.’

Bosses at Sky News, including its highly regarded director of content, Cristina Nicolotti Squires, are said to have been furious at the breach.

Meanwhile, editor at large Adam Boulton was public in his disdain for the behaviour, retweeting criticism of Burley, including a comment calling her and other guests at the event ‘morons’.

I’m told that his views of Burley go back decades to the time when they both worked on the ITV breakfast show TV-am. Then, he was the bigwig political editor, and she was the up-and-coming ‘girl’ reporter.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

 

A Sky source added: ‘The network has had a great year – the viewing figures have been good and the team have been commended for doing such a good job of covering coronavirus.

‘Now this happens. It is totally unfair on the rest of the staff.

‘What’s more, they are furious she has been given six months off on full pay. What sort of message does that send?’

Fewer are more angry than Ms Nicolotti Squires, a former executive at rival news organisation ITN, where she edited Channel 5 News. She is said to have a ‘strained relationship’ with Burley.

Others, though, are big fans. Burley is an extraordinary networker, with media executive Rebekah Brooks, and broadcasters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, among her close friends. She is also pals with Frank Lampard and his TV presenter wife Christine, having known the Chelsea manager since he was a teenager. Burley was married to Lampard’s agent Steve Kutner and the couple have a son.

Although her on-screen persona is stern, in private Burley is engaging company. It is little surprise that her guests were reluctant to call it a night when the first part of her birthday celebrations ended.

For a while, I became part of Burley’s gang, after meeting her at various events.

As a member of that circle, I recall being overwhelmed with affectionate compliments and regularly invited to join her nights out with a group of about ten people. 

Paul Harrison was usually there, as were some hunky co-stars she met on Channel 4’s Celebrity Hunted, with whom Burley would freely flirt. We would start at Archer Street cocktail bar in Soho where Burley was guaranteed the best table, and we would finish around the corner in the gay bar Freedom. There, she was well-connected enough to make sure we had the best spot, and copious amounts of alcohol. Either she paid for it or it was given free – I certainly didn’t see a bill at the end of the night.

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

New threat to Christmas break: NHS bosses write to Boris Johnson to warn that easing Covid rules …

FRIENDS: Burley, right, with Sky political editor Beth Rigby, left, Burley’s best friend since joining the channel from The Times in 2016

So what now for Burley?

Following an internal investigation on Thursday, Sky News said that bosses ‘expect all team members to fully comply with the Covid restrictions. All those involved regret the incident and have apologised’.

They added: ‘Following our review of what took place on December 5, we have agreed with Beth Rigby and Inzamam Rashid that they will not be on air for three months, and we have agreed with Kay Burley that she will not be on air for six months.’

Minutes later, Burley confirmed that she would ‘step back from my broadcasting role for a period of reflection’.

She added: ‘It doesn’t matter that I thought I was Covid compliant… the fact is I was wrong, I made a big mistake, and I am sorry. Some dear friends and colleagues – some of the most talented and committed professionals in our business – have been pulled into this episode and I regret this enormously.

‘I was one of the founding presenters on Sky News. No one is prouder of our channel’s reputation, the professionals on our team, and the impact we make. I very much look forward to being able to continue my 32-year career with Sky when I return.’

According to some at the station though, this may not be in the form she is used to. One insider believes she is ‘unlikely’ to get back her breakfast show, which she launched in October last year, when she returns in the spring.

Airing on both Sky One and Sky News, some believe that the ratings have been very poor.

‘There is a feeling of relief and that bosses now have the opportunity to dump the show and put her somewhere else,’ they added.

Others simply believe she will never return now her authority has been undermined. 

One colleague observed: ‘How can hypocrites such as her, or Beth Rigby, ever hold a person in power to account again without being ridiculed?’

Read original article here.