Covid winter plan reveals Britain could be plunged back into national lockdown to protect NHS

  • Covid winter plan: what it could mean for you
  • Tory MPs threatened to quit over National Insurance rise
  • Patrick O’Flynn: Stop talking down Britain’s vaccine achievement
  • Iain Dale: The Brexiteer case for a Scottish referendum
  • Coronavirus latest news: ‘Not sensible’ to rule out restrictions now, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has outlined Britain’s winter Covid plan to the public, as the document published today revealed that Britain could be plunged back into lockdown to protect the NHS.

The 32-page document published this afternoon sets out a “Plan A” for managing the virus over the next seven months, which centres on the rollout of a booster jab programme for all over-50s.

It also sets out a “Plan B” blueprint if Covid threatens to overwhelm the health service, including the possibility of legally mandating the wearing of masks, introducing vaccine passports at a range of indoor venues and asking people to work from home once again.

Beyond the outlined contingency plans, the document signalled that a fourth lockdown remains a possibility.

The Government is “committed to taking whatever action is necessary to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed”, but “more harmful economic and social restrictions” would only be considered as a “last resort”, it said.

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03:39 PM

And that’s it for another day…

Downing Street is doggedly fighting back criticism from Tory backbenchers yet again. 

Firstly, in the Commons, where MPs are debating the Health and Social Care Bill – a move that has been criticised for being rushed through. The whips have likely seen off much of the rebellion, but it is likely to leave a bad taste in many mouths.

Then there is the Plan B, which retains many of the powers that Conservatives (and increasingly, Lib Dems) fear most – vaccine passports, mandatory masks, school closures and the threat of future lockdowns. 

As usual Boris Johnson was the more positive voice between Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty, but the latter two gave stark enough warnings that are worth reading below. 

With nearly 2,000 votes, our readers are leaning towards optimism, with 65 per cent saying the booster programme will keep the country open. 

For more of today’s news, carry on reading below.

03:16 PM

Rock solid: CMO backs vaccine passports as tool to encourage take-up

Boris Johnson is then asked about vaccine passports for pubs, which he says he was never a fan of. 

But there are some venues – those with “big, closely packed crowds” – where they might be appropriate. 

It would be “sensible not to rule that out,” he adds. 

Prof Chris Whitty says “nobody would doubt that you are safer” if everyone in the environment is vaccinated.

So anything that encourages people to get vaccinated is “rock solid”, he adds. 

03:14 PM

Working from home advice will remain under Plan B

The trio are also asked about why working from home isn’t a firmer recommendation, while Boris Johnson is asked about the reshuffle rumours again. 

Boris Johnson says working in an office is good, but if it is needed working from home will be reintroduced under Plan B. 

Sir Patrick Vallance says it is about “contact patterns”, so it is useful when there are high rates. 

Mr Johnson doesn’t even engage with the reshuffle question. 

03:12 PM

Don’t give vaccine conspiracies ‘credence’, says CMO

The next question is about claims made by singer Nicki Minaj that the Covid vaccine is linked to impotence.

Prof Chris Whitty sighs and says some conspiracies are harmful and dangerous – but they are untrue. He also lightly chastises the journalist for raising, saying that gives them “credence”. 

The CMO says there are people “going around trying to discourage people” from having the jab. “They know they are peddling untruths but they still do it, and they should be ashamed.”

Mr Johnson says he isn’t familiar with the work of Nicky Minaj “but I prefer to listen to Nicki Kanani”, one of the medical experts that has appeared with him. 

Here is the offending message. 

My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied

— Nicki Minaj (@NICKIMINAJ) September 13, 2021

03:09 PM

Boris Johnson: Vaccine passports would have been ‘life-saver’ last year

Boris Johnson is asked if he was serious about his threat to use vaccine passports. 

The Prime Minister says they “would have been a total game-changer- a life-saver” last year, and remain “an important part of our repertoire”. 

He adds: “We reserve the right to come back to you and say we think they are going to be necessary and I think the public can see that. But at present we don’t think it’s necessary to proceed on that basis… you have got to be mindful that this disease does have a way of changing and moving.”

He adds that Plan B and Plan A is less important than “fixing the gap” among unvaccinated people. 

03:06 PM

Delta variant alone could prompt Plan B, warns CMO

The next question is about the threat of new variants on the chances of restrictions and whether being told to “consider” wearing face masks is enough. 

Prof Chris Whitty says the Delta variant is “a very bad variant” and could lead to a situation where Plan B could be triggered on its own. 

“Were there to be a variant that was both transmissible and escape from the vaccines, that would put us in a new situation,” he adds. But the current expectation is that it will be the Delta variant. 

On masks, he says it helps protect other people in crowded spaces, and says it is a recommendation – but a “courtesy” if people are uncomfortable.

03:01 PM

CMO defends booster programme as ‘sensible third way’

Prof Chris Whitty says if everyone was acting as they were pre-pandemic, cases would be much higher than they are now. 

“It’s not that we are not taking measures, and lots of people are taking some or a lot of measures… in addition to being vaccinated,” he adds. 

The CMO says “everyone agrees” that vaccines should be sent to other countries as it is both a moral and practical imperative. 

But there is some waning of immunity that means a third dose is sensible. 

“The UK is taking a sensible, third, middle way,” he adds. 

02:59 PM

Plan A is ‘right balance’ currently, says Boris Johnson

The next question is why measures aren’t being taken now given where cases are, with a second question about why we are going ahead with the booster programme instead of sending doses to poorer countries. 

Boris Johnson says the vaccines have made a “huge difference” and everybody is being advised to be “sensible and responsible”.

Plan A includes “continue to wear a face covering in crowded places with people you don’t know” among others. It is “the right balance”, given where we are now, he adds. 

There are five million more people who could get a vaccine and haven’t, he adds. 

02:56 PM

Sorry about the technical difficulties

We are working hard to get our video feed back up and running – in the meantime, you can read all the key information in the blog…

02:55 PM

Restrictions must be ‘earlier and harder than you want’, says CSA

Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, says the most significant improvement would be for everyone to get vaccinated who has not done so far. 

But he says the current immunity has helped keep pressure down so far. 

The things to look at will be hospitalisations, the relationship between hospitalisations and cases and moving “earlier than you think you want to, harder than you think you want to”. 

02:53 PM

Plan B options won’t ‘necessarily be used at the same time’

The first question from journalists is about what threshold must be passed in order for extra restrictions to be imposed. 

Boris Johnson says “just bare in mind what we are trying to prevent – the overwhelming of the NHS”. 

There are “all sorts of data” that will be consulted, but officials are “confident we can continue with Plan A” for now. 

He notes there are “all sorts of things in the locker” which would not necessarily be used at the same time. 

02:51 PM

Boris Johnson defends record on deaths

Boris Johnson then turns to questions from the public, which is about prior suggestions that 20,000 deaths would be a good outcome. 

The Prime Minister says every death is a tragedy, and that the vaccine has saved many lives, which is why getting a jab is “absolutely crucial”. 

The next question is about travel restrictions. Mr Johnson says he understands the frustration but they help to prevent new variants entering the UK. 

It is “reasonable” to do that to protect the rest of the country, but more will be announced shortly. 

02:48 PM

Cases ‘far higher’ than this time last year

© Provided by The Telegraph 2021 v 2020

Prof Chris Whitty then compares the current rates of cases, noting that at this time last year “we were only beginning to get the take-off” that led to a massive peak. 

This year, we are entering the winter period with far higher cases. 

This is possible because of vaccination but “it wouldn’t take many doubling times to get into trouble,” he says. 

“You don’t need a medical degree to know that autumn and winter is when we are disadvantaged.”

02:46 PM

‘Stark difference’ in mortality rates among vaccinated, says Chris Whitty

© Provided by The Telegraph Cases vaccinated vs unvaccinated

The number of people coming to emergency care within 28 days of a positive test has a “very substantially” difference between those who have been vaccinated and those who are not. 

Someone who is not vaccinated in their 30s has the same level of risk as someone in their 70s who is,says Prof Chris Whitty. 

The CMO says it is very frustrating to see people who haven’t got around to getting vaccinated being wheeled into ICU.

The figures are “very starkly different” for mortality rates, he adds. 

© Provided by The Telegraph Mortality rates vaccinated v unvaccinated

02:44 PM

Covid deaths ‘not trivial’, but ‘significantly lower’ than in previous peaks: Prof Chris Whitty

© Provided by The Telegraph Case rates

Prof Chris Whitty then turns to the slides, saying there has been a “gradual drifting up” of cases and hospitalisations. 

The latter is nowhere near previous peaks “but there is a general upwards trend”, the CMO notes. 

© Provided by The Telegraph Hospitalisations

However the number of people dying is “significantly lower” than in previous peaks.

“These numbers are not trivial, by any means,” he adds, again saying the figures are drifting up. 

02:42 PM

UK can begin ‘motoring ahead’ with booster programme

The Prime Minister says the UK will now begin “motoring ahead” with the booster programme, building “even higher walls of vaccine protection”. 

Boris Johnson says doses will be sent to the devolved administration. 

“Covid is still out there,” he adds, but stresses he is confident about the prospects for recovery. 

02:40 PM

Boris Johnson: It’s ‘not sensible’ to rule out restrictions now 

Boris Johnson then goes through the Plan B, which includes vaccine passports, noting that several venues have already used it voluntarily. 

“It is just not sensible to rule this option out now, when it might make the difference between keeping venues open or not.”

Wearing face masks or working from home again will reflect the fact that “smaller changes can make a bigger difference”, now that the vaccine has made “such a difference to our lives”. 

02:38 PM

Boris Johnson: We are sticking with our strategy

Boris Johnson has started setting out his plan for the coming winter, urging people to cast their minds back to last year. 

In one way, he says it is “more challenging” because we have higher daily cases. 

But in other “crucial” respects, the country is “incomparably better placed to fight the disease” because of the high vaccination rate. He urges people to get both jabs if they haven’t. 

“That is why we are now sticking with our strategy – we will continue to offer testing, to urge everyone to be sensible, be responsible, wash your hands, use ventilation, consider wearing face covering in crowded places, stay at home if you feel unwell…”

He says the country should “continue to be very proud” that the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is “the workhorse” of this. 

02:27 PM

Watch again: Sajid Javid details winter Covid plan B 

02:26 PM

NHS Providers backs ‘sensible’ plan ahead of ‘daunting’ winter

The Government’s plans to control the spread of coronavirus in the coming months have been welcomed as “sensible and proportionate”.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The situation in the NHS is far from ‘normal’ and we expect this autumn and winter to be busier than ever for the health service.”

She praised the “pragmatic approach”, which includes mandatory masks, saying it may prove “vital” in the coming months. 

“The array of challenges facing the NHS as we head into autumn and winter is daunting,” she added. 

“Trusts are grappling with record waiting lists across hospital, mental health and community services. Bed capacity is lower because of continuing enhanced infection control measures. Staffing levels and burnout continue to be a critical concern for many trusts.”

02:19 PM

Health and social care plan will not choke off recovery, says Treasury minister

The health and social care levy will not “risk choking off” the economic recovery from the pandemic, a Treasury minister has insisted, as MPs debate legislation. 

John Baron, the Conservative MP for Basildon and Billericay, praised ministers for trying to “grasp this nettle”, but said many backbenchers were concerned about the “haste” the bill was being pushed through. .

“Does my right honourable friend think it’s a good idea to raise taxes, on jobs effectively, and risk choking off an economic recovery, before we’ve even got to know the details when it comes to the social care reforms?” he asked. 

But Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, rejected his, saying the plan had been “discussed at length” last week and emphasised the impact it would have on the NHS “so that it can recover from the pandemic”.

He added: “Senior NHS leaders have made clear that without additional financial support we will not properly be able to address the significant backlog in the National Health Service.” 

02:13 PM

Plan B not ‘overly prescriptive’ on triggers for lockdown, says No 10 

The Government will not be “overly prescriptive” when it comes to triggers for any of Plan B measures, Downing Street has said. 

Speaking to journalists as MPs were being briefed, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said there was no metric for triggering restrictions including another lockdown. 

“As we did with the road map, we never looked to one single metric to decide when to act,” he said. “It is important to take a holistic approach and consider a range of data.

Hospital rates, the ratio of cases to hospitalisations, and the trajectory of new cases would be considerations, alongside vaccine effectiveness, but ministers would not be “overly prescriptive”, he added. 

02:09 PM

Keir Starmer thanks shadow minister as she steps down from Labour frontbench

Thank you Marsha for your service and work highlighting the disproportionate impact Covid has had on Black, Asian, minority ethnic and disabled people. You’ve laid the foundations for a new Labour Race Equality Act to tackle structural inequalities which have existed for too long https://t.co/IWHlrxIc4r

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) September 14, 2021

See 3pm for more

02:05 PM

Office working could lead to ‘rapid increase’ in hospitalisations

A return to office working could lead to a “rapid increase” in hospital cases, Government scientists in the Spi-M-O group have warned. 

SPI-M-O said the early use of measures to control spread, which could include continued homeworking, cut the need for tougher measures later on.

“There is a clear consensus that continued high levels of homeworking has played a very important role in preventing sustained epidemic growth in recent months,” it added. “It is highly likely that a significant decrease in homeworking in the next few months would result in a rapid increase in hospital admissions.

“As well as encouraging homeworking, more light-touch measures could include clear messaging that recommends people act cautiously, more widespread testing, a return to requiring all contacts of cases to isolate, and more mask-wearing.”

The document also suggested that a peak of infections may occur in October to December instead of August to October.

02:00 PM

Labour frontbencher quits to focus on constituency

© Heathcliff O’Malley Marsha de Cordova (C) has quit the Labour frontbenches – Heathcliff O’Malley

Marsha de Cordova has quit her role in Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet to “focus more of my time” on her marginal constituency.

The Labour MP said: “It has been an immense privilege to serve as the shadow women and equalities secretary for the past 17 months.

“It therefore comes with much sadness that I am resigning with immediate effect.

“Having only been elected in 2017 for the historically marginal constituency of Battersea, I would like to focus more of my time and efforts on the people of Battersea.

“I will continue to support Keir Starmer from the backbenches.”

01:53 PM

Government ‘flip-flopped’ on vaccine passports 10 times in a year

The Government has “flip-flopped” on vaccine passports 10 times in less than a year, the Liberal Democrats have claimed, as they call on ministers to rule out “the illiberal, anti-business” measure.  

While kept in reserve, if vaccine passports are deployed under the “Plan B”, they would apply to all nightclubs, indoor settings with 500 or more people, outdoor settings with 1000 or more people, and anywhere with 10,000 people or more.

Speaking after today’s debate Alistair Carmichael, the party’s home affairs spokesman, said: ““It is time for the Conservatives to end their chaotic flip-flopping and rule out these illiberal, unworkable vaccine passports once and for all. 

“For months ministers have chosen weasel words over meaningful action, needlessly creating chaos and confusion among businesses by threatening to introduce these passports. 

“After 10 U-turns in one year, the Government must come to their senses and scrap this unnecessary measure.” 

01:46 PM

Scotland’s booster programme to begin on Monday

Booster vaccines will begin being offered in Scotland from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister told MSPs: “Booster vaccines will be offered to all adults over 50, to frontline health and care workers, and to younger adults with certain health conditions, to younger adults with health conditions that put them at higher risk, and adult household contacts of people with suppressed immune systems.

“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has also advised that there should be an interval of at least six months between a second dose and a booster dose.”

Health workers will be able to book their boosters from September 20, along with care home residents and those in receipt of regular flu jabs, while those over 70 or at high risk will be contacted by their GP soon, the First Minister said.

01:44 PM

Face masks in Scottish schools to continue for another month

© PA Face masks remain despite being deeply unpopular – PA

Secondary school pupils in Scotland will have to wear face coverings indoors until the October holidays, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister told MSPs: “Given the high levels of infection still being experienced, the advisory sub-group has advised that this requirement should remain in place until the October holidays, and be reviewed again then.

“I know how unpopular this is with many pupils and I understand why.

“But, for now, it remains a prudent and necessary precaution.”

01:32 PM

CBI: Government must leave ‘no stone unturned’ to avoid lockdowns

The Government should “leave no stone unturned” in efforts to keep the economy open through the winter, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said.

CBI chief policy director Matthew Fell said: “For the winter Plan A to be a success, the Government needs to learn the lessons of the summer to ensure people are confident in living with virus.

“Key to this will be boosting the confidence of workers to go to work; of customers to go to shops; and of businesses to stay open. Business is clear that the Government must leave no stone unturned in its efforts to keep the economy open.”

Any Plan B would require “clear forward guidance” so that businesses could “maximise their ability to plan with certainty,” he added. “Transparency about how and when those decisions will be made is essential.”

01:29 PM

Chopper’s Politics: The devil is in the detail

Today’s Chopper’s Politics Newsletter:

Q: How many over-65s will be helped with their social care bills by Boris Johnson’s manifesto-busting tax rise?

A: Just 80,000 people. Tory MPs are now asking whether another way could be found to help them.

Read: https://t.co/l4vlpnRQMC

— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) September 14, 2021

01:25 PM

Boris Johnson thanked ministers for response after mother Charlotte dies

© Getty Boris Johnson with his mother Charlotte and daughter Lara back in 2014 – Getty

Boris Johnson mentioned the passing of his mother and the support he had received during the meeting of his Cabinet on Tuesday.

Charlotte Johnson Wahl died at the age of 79 on Monday at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. 

Downing Street, in a readout of the Cabinet meeting, said: “The Prime Minister opened Cabinet by thanking colleagues for their messages of condolence following the death of his mother.”

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, paid tribute to the artist while updating MPs on the Government’s plans for dealing with coronavirus this winter. This was echoed by his shadow, Jonathan Ashworth, and many others. 

01:19 PM

‘League table of shame’: UK has delivered just 7pc of Covid jabs promised to Covax

The UK has delivered less than seven per cent of the vaccines it has promised to donate to developing countries, coming near the bottom in what critics are calling a “league table of shame”.

Data compiled by Our World in Data, a research hub based at the University of Oxford, show the world’s major economies have promised to donate many more doses of vaccine to poor countries than they have delivered.

The UK is the second biggest pledger of vaccines to Covax after the United States, promising 80 million doses to Covax. But is towards the bottom of the league table when it comes to delivery. So far it has only delivered 5.1 million doses, just 6.38 per cent of what it has promised.

Read more here.

01:00 PM

Have your say: Will there be another lockdown this year?

Boris Johnson is due to set out his Covid winter plan at 3:30pm, vowing (but notably, not guaranteeing) to avoid any more lockdowns. 

But will he succeed? Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, this morning insisted the booster campaign would speed the “transition from pandemic to endemic status” – but even he could not confirm that this would happen before Christmas. 

Scientists are warning of tough months ahead, with at least one suggesting that opening up fully in the summer 

Has enough been done to prevent future lockdowns, or are we heading for another one? Have your say in the poll below. 

12:58 PM

The Commons debate is over… 

… but online, it’s just beginning.

How it started vs How its going pic.twitter.com/pi3gTNdhU5

— Jonathan Ashworth (@JonAshworth) September 14, 2021

12:52 PM

Health Secretary condemns abuse towards GPs

Sajid Javid has “wholeheartedly condemned” the abuse GPs have faced in recent weeks, and urged vulnerable people having trouble contacting their doctor’s surgery to “consult ministers”.

Andrew Selous, Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire, called on the Health Secretary to condemn such attacks and asked what should happen if vulnerable people are unable to get through. 

Mr Javid replied: “I absolutely would join him in condemning anyone who gives abuse to our fantastic GPs up and down the country, and if someone cannot get through to their GP the answer is they should try certainly with the clinical commissioning group.

“If for any reason that doesn’t work then please come across to the department and consult ministers.”

12:49 PM

Universal vaccine will be developed next year at the earliest

Tom Hunt, the Conservative MP for Ipswich, asks what progress is being made on the universal vaccine to avoid variants. 

Sajid Javid says it is “reasonable to assume that as some point in the future – perhaps as early as next year” that multi-variant vaccines will be developed. 

But we are “not there yet”, he adds. 

12:45 PM

Watch again: Children aged 12-15 can get vaccine without parental consent, says vaccines minister

12:42 PM

Care home residents will be able to see loved ones over winter, says minister

Simon Clarke, the MP for Middlesbrough, asks about care homes residents and for reassurance that people will be able to see their loved ones during the coming months. 

Sajid Javid says he can “give that commitment”, and that care home residents will be “an absolute priority” for the booster vaccine programme. 

12:40 PM

Sajid Javid dodges question about the end of emergency powers

Steve Baker, the MP for Wycombe, notes the many powers that are being held in reserve and asks when they will be “dealt with, so we can have the certainty” that it is being dealt with like the flu. 

Sajid Javid says the Plan A measures that have been set out “are the right measures, and the kind of things that need to be done as we live with Covid-19”. 

But he doesn’t respond to the question. 

12:38 PM

Sajid Javid challenged over ‘Plan B’ for vaccine passports

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, notes that pages 23-24 of the plan put forward sets out where vaccine passports could be used. 

It “specifies that as part of Plan B, the Government will introduce vaccine passports for all nightclubs, indoor settings of 050 people of more – which would presumably include this Chamber of 650 people – outdoor settings of 1,000 or more, or anywhere… where there are 10,000 people.” 

He asks why they are part of Plan B if the evidence is not there, and asks for assurance that this will not be brought forward without a vote. 

Sajid Javid says the “huge progress”made by vaccines means “we don’t need” vaccine passports. 

“While we keep other measures in reserve, what matters is what we are actually doing and if we keep making progress as we are doing, we won’t need them.”

12:32 PM

Health Secretary told to scrap Public Health Act

© AFP Sajid Javid answering questions in the Commons today – AFP

Sir Desmond Swayne says Sajid Javid will retain “all the powers” of the Public Health Act that was used to “take away our liberties without Parliamentary prior authority”. 

He asks for a new Public Health Act. 

The Health Secretary says all acts are under review at all times. 

12:31 PM

Government on guard against ‘vaccine-escape variant’

Greg Clark, the chairman of the science and technology committee, says that more people are likely to be infected by vaccinations will keep them from serious disease. 

He asks for confirmation that an increased transmission will not be among triggers for any future restrictions. 

Sajid Javid says the importance of “being on guard against future variants… let’s say a vaccine-escape variant”. 

He says in that situation “the Government would have to take further action”, although not what that action would be. 

12:28 PM

Non-Covid deaths must be ‘top of mind too’, says Sajid Javid

Dame Angela Eagle asks what level of deaths the Government will accept before “they think of taking measures to try and prevent the ongoing spread”. 

Sajid Javid says Covid is “not completely preventable”, but vaccines are making a difference. 

“No level of deaths I would describe as acceptable, the job of a government is to keep that to an absolute minimum – but not just Covid deaths,” he adds.

“We also have to be alive to the deaths from cancer, heart disease and things… many people were suffering in other ways, we have to keep that at the top of our mind too.”

12:25 PM

No clarity over whether testing in schools will be dropped

Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, says that regular asymptomatic testing in schools will continue in the coming months. 

He says he thought there was a review of tests on children without symptoms, and asks if that will still go ahead. The Forest of Dean MP urges the Government to drop it as “good for their education and good for their mental health”. 

Sajid Javid tells the Commons it will continue for “this month”, and he is not aware of any decision that has been taken thereafter.

12:21 PM

Valneva jab ‘would not get MHRA approval’, Sajid Javid says 

Hannah Bardell, the MP for Livingston, asks about the Valneva contract being pulled “with very little notice or consultation”. 

The constituency MP says there is little clarity about why and says it is a “shocking way” to treat a company seeking to help the country, as she asks him to reverse “this disastrous decision”. 

Sajid Javid says he doesn’t agree. “There are commercial reasons we have cancelled the contact, but it was also clear to us that the vaccine in question would not get approval by the MHRA here in the UK.”

The Livingston site is “very important” and the Government “will be looking further to see what more we can do,” he adds. 

12:19 PM

Future decisions ‘should come before the House’, says Sajid Javid

David Davis, the former minister, says the Coronavirus Act was special not so much for its powers but because the Government did not have to seek MP approval for any implementation. 

“That is one of the reasons for the poor quality of decisions taken in last year,” he says. 

He asks for an undertaking that any powers – including “vaccine certification if the Government is so unwise as to pursue that course” – will come before the House first. 

Sajid Javid says the Government “should be working with the House”, adding that “any significant measures should, of course, come before the House”. 

12:15 PM

Health Secretary dodges call for ‘cast-iron guarantee’ that schools will stay open

© Provided by The Telegraph The question, from a Lib Dem MP, prompted cheers from the Tory benches

Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, says it is “all very well” to say the power to close schools will be expired. 

She says it “makes a great headline” but notes that power was never actually utilised to do so. She asks for a “cast-iron guarantee” that schools will not be closed this winter – to a cheer from Sir Desmond Swayne. 

Sajid Javid says “we will be confident that our children will not have to again through the kind of disruption they have see in the last couple of years”.

But he dodges an explicit guarantee. 

12:11 PM

Minister grilled over ‘vexed issue of parental consent’ for teen vaccines

Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons’ education committee, asks about “this vexed issue of parental consent” when it comes to vaccines for younger teenagers. 

He asks what legal basis the decision to allow children to override their parents has been based on, noting the original ruling was based on a more narrow set of circumstances. He argues there has to be parental consent to ensure confidence in the system. 

Sajid Javid says the approach has been used since the 1980s, and will be “no different to the current processes”.

He reiterates that where there is a difference of opinion, consensus will be sought and “in rare circumstances” it would be determined whether the child was competent to make that decision, which is usually based on age.  

12:08 PM

Travel changes will be announced ‘very soon’, Health Secretary promises

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922, says he welcomes the “rethink” not to mandate vaccine passports, adding that he hopes it “presages a move to trusting people more to make decisions for themselves”. 

He adds that there is evidence that people returning from green list countries had a lower level of Covid than people who stay here. He asks if that is a “very powerful case” for ending the day two PCR test. 

Sajid Javid says this is the reason why travel rules have been kept under review. He notes the set of changes that will be made “very soon”, and repeats that Grant Shapps will be making an announcement “as soon as he possibly can”. 

12:05 PM

Health Secretary: End to Universal Credit uplift will go ahead

The SNP’s MP for Linlithgow, Martyn Day, asks why the Government is cancelling support ahead of the autumn. 

He also asks about the Valneva contract, which was cancelled yesterday. 

Sajid Javid defends the end to the “temporary” Universal Credit uplift, saying it is “the right time to do it”, but stresses there will be support for those who isolate. 

On Valneva, he says he has been in touch with the health minister in Scotland and he is “fully aware of the situation”, but cannot comment further.

12:01 PM

Government committed to ‘parity of esteem’ on mental health

Jeremy Hunt, the chairman of the Commons’ health committee, says it is “almost as if the Government is listening” with the announcement on booster jabs. 

He asks if the backlog to mental health will be treated as seriously as the backlog to physical health because “parity of esteem is supported on both sides of the House”, and indeed legislated for. 

Sajid Javid says he is “absolutely right” to raise this issue and the Government is committed to parity of esteem.

The new funding “absolutely includes mental health”, he adds. 

11:58 AM

Plan B will be triggered if there are ‘unsustainable’ pressures on NHS

Sajid Javid says it is “absolutely right” to have a contingency plan, which will be triggered if there are “unsustainable” pressures on the NHS, such as hospital capacity. 

“Of course, we would come to the House at the time and make the appropriate response,” he says. 

The Health Secretary stresses the importance of vaccines once again in preventing serious illness and death. 

11:53 AM

Labour: If lockdown is last resort, what is the first?

Jonathan Ashworth says a lockdown might be a last resort, but asks what the first resort will be to avoid that. 

The shadow health secretary asks for confirmation that there will be no regional lockdowns, and asks what is being done to boost vaccine take-up in areas such as his own constituency where it has been relatively low. 

The Labour frontbencher asks “what campaign is he going to run” to booster rates among younger people in particular.

11:50 AM

Sajid Javid unveils Covid winter ‘plan B’

Sajid Javid says this is his “plan A” but the Government has prepared a “plan B”. 

That includes legally mandating face masks in some settings, and holding the power to mandate Covid vaccine passports “in reserve”. There is more sustained jeering from MPs at this. 

The Government will also ask people to work from home if needed “for a limited time”. 

This outcome is not one that anyone wants but one that must be prepared for. 

11:48 AM

New travel framework to be published, says Sajid Javid

The fourth component of the Government’s winter plan is to “maintain strong defences at the border”, says Sajid Javid.

He is looking into what action he can take on “abuses” in the market for tests. 

The Health Secretary confirms there will be a new framework for travel, which will be published. Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, will set out more details soon, Mr Javid says. 

11:46 AM

MPs jeer as Health Secretary confirms face masks will be encouraged

Sajid Javid says the third component of his plan is to protect the NHS, pointing to the £1bn that has been invested to solve the pandemic backlog, among other funding. 

He also highlights the mandatory vaccination for social care workers and warns it is “highly likely that frontline NHS staff and those working in wider social care settings” will have to do likewise, to protect those most at risk. 

People will be encouraged to take steps to keep seasonal illnesses at bay, with the largest ever flu vaccination campaign taking place this year. 

MPs jeers as he says that people will be encouraged to meet outdoors, or wear face masks in crowded places.

11:44 AM

Testing and tracing to remain ‘vital’ for winter defence

The Health Secretary then turns to the next “vital defence”, which is testing, with PCR tests remaining freely available to those who have symptoms or who come into contact with a positive case over autumn and winter. 

Regular asymptomatic testing will also continue with a focus on those who are not fully vaccinated. 

Contact tracing will also continue via NHS Test and Trace. 

Sajid Javid says the Government will “keep offering practical and financial support” to those who need assistance while isolating. 

11:39 AM

Winter plan will avoid ‘stringent social and economic restriction’, says Health Secretary

Sajid Javid says his plan – which will avoid the need for “stringent social and economic restrictions” – has five pillars. 

The first is vaccines and other pharmaceutical protections, the Health Secretary says, noting the impact the jab has had on severe disease. But almost six million people are unvaccinated, which makes a large hole “in our collective defences”. 

The Government has also been preparing for booster jabs, as outlined by Jonathan Van-Tam and others today, which will prioritise the over-50s.

This will be bolstered by vaccines for 12-to-15 year olds, which Mr Javid says will begin as soon as possible. 

11:37 AM

Sajid Javid: UK has made ‘determined steps forward’ in fight against Covid

MPs have offered their condolences to the Prime Minister after his mother passed away yesterday, as Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, begins his statement on the Covid winter plan. 

He notes that the Government has been “working hard to strengthen our defences” ahead of the colder months, expanding testing and researching long Covid, alongside the vaccine programme. 

That has allowed “some determined steps forward”, with deaths “mercifully low”. 

But autumn and winter are “favourable conditions” for the virus, and others, with children back at school and people likely to spend more time indoors. 

11:33 AM

A taste of Labour’s position towards the Covid winter plan

Sajid Javid is yet to set out a single detail of the Covid winter plan – but already Labour MPs are criticising it. 

Health Secretary about to announce winter Covid plans.

Labour called for mask wearing to remain, for workers to continue to be able to work from home, and improved ventilation to keep infections low.

Why didn’t the government keep these public health measures in place?

— Bill Esterson (@Bill_Esterson) September 14, 2021

11:26 AM

Labour attacks Government for ‘kicking can down the road’ over border checks

Labour has attacked the Government for “kicking the can down the road again”, after Lord Frost confirmed a delay to new post-Brexit border checks. 

Baroness Jenny Chapman, shadow Cabinet Office minister, said ministers had no “workable, sustainable answer to tackling delays and red tape at the border”. 

She added: “We cannot have another year of stop-gap solutions, meaningless deadlines, and threats of even greater disruption and economic damage. 

“If the Government wants to sort this issue out once and for all, they should do what the Labour Party and businesses across the country have been telling them for months: get round a table and negotiate a veterinary agreement.”

See 10:38am and 10:11am for more. 

11:19 AM

Government plans record-breaking booster programme to avoid winter lockdowns

The Government is to embark on a record-breaking Covid booster programme, in a new race against time to avoid future lockdowns. 

Boris Johnson’s winter plan announcement is expected to confirm a widespread acceleration of the vaccine programme, ahead of what is widely acknowledged will be a challenging winter with flu and other respiratory diseases exacerbating the pressure on the NHS.

The Covid winter plan also will keep restrictions, including future lockdowns, in reserve. 

Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said planning for the third round of vaccinations for the over-50s was “well under way”, stressing that immunisations would be “the primary way we manage this”. 

Ministers were hoping “to break the record we set in the first vaccination programme,” Mr Zahawi told Sky News. 

“Lockdowns will be an absolutely last resort,” he added. “As we embark on the winter months, the virus has an in-built advantage whether it be flu or Covid. It would be foolhardy to suggest this thing has already transitioned from pandemic to endemic, so we have to have contingency planning.”

11:07 AM

Government to retain 32 Nightingale courts to ease case backlog

The Government has said it will keep 32 Nightingale courts open until the end of next March to help ease the backlog in cases.

Justice minister Chris Philp told the Commons: “I’m pleased to tell the House there are currently 47 Nightingale courtrooms in operation, of which 28 are used for crown court purposes, and we are in the process of extending the operation of 32 of those until the end of March, which I am sure colleagues across the House will welcome.

“In addition to that, we are in the process of reopening 60 existing courtrooms in the crown court estate which had been closed due to social distancing. Over half of those have been reopened already.

“When all of that has been done we expect to have around about 500 crown courtrooms available, well over half will be capable of accommodating jury trials.” 

11:03 AM

Covid and flu jabs ‘can now start’, says Jonathan Van-Tam

Deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has said patients over 50 can begin receiving flu and booster coronavirus jabs simultaneously, subject to supply and practical restraints.

He told a Downing Street briefing: “Double jabs can start now, subject to the availability of both products.

“The MHRA has looked at the data from the trials on giving flu in one arm and Covid in the other at the same time and the antibody response to both of those vaccines is not impaired by doing so, and the tolerability of doing that at the same time is also fine.

“I would add that there is a practical reality to add on top, which is for the NHS to consider in more detail and it may not always be the case that it is possible to co-administer those two vaccines in every single patient.

“Sometimes it will be possible and we should gain efficiencies by doing that where we can.”

He added that since the waiting and observation period surrounding the administration of coronavirus vaccines is a longer process than for flu jabs, “meshing those two together in practical terms won’t always be straight-forward”.

10:49 AM

JCVI boss: Booster jab plan ‘does not imply’ rolling six-month programme

The launch of an autumn booster programme “does not imply” that there will be a rolling six-month operation, the head of the JCVI has said. 

Prof Wei Shen Lim told a press conference that the advice was just “for today, and to protect us from coming winter” during this “very active phase” of the pandemic. 

“We will offer further advice when we come to a more steady state, he added. 

“It also does not imply that everybody under the age of 50 will necessarily need booster dose,” he added, noting that younger people “tend to generate very good immune responses”. 

Thirdly, it does not imply that “other vaccine programmes are no longer important”, particularly the annual flu jab.

10:44 AM

No rush: Booster jabs should be in same order as first two doses

Vaccine effectiveness decreases slightly over time, from just over 90 per cent to just under, the head of the JCVI has said. 

The most marked decrease is in the oldest people and those with underlying health conditions, Prof Wei Shen Lim said. 

Those most at risk “through the winter” should be offered a booster jab – including over-50s, frontline healthcare workers and those with underlying health conditions. 

The JCVI recommends “a six-month lower limit”, Prof Lim added, saying people should not “rush” to get one before they need it.

The “sweet spot” is no earlier than six months and should ensure protection is highest during the coldest months. 

10:38 AM

Safe for people to receive Covid and flu jabs at the same time, says MHRA head

Giving the Covid booster jab alongside the flu jab is safe, and does not affect the immune response to either, Dr June Raine has said. 

The head of the MHRA said this means the two can be given out at the same time. 

Three vaccines have been approved as safe and effective as boosters – AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – but experts have decided to opt for Pfizer as a preference after studies showed it is well tolerated and works well as a booster.

The Pfizer jab as a booster can be given to people who had two doses of AstraZeneca previously.

10:33 AM

Booster vaccines for over-50s to smooth ‘bumpy’ winter

© AFP Professor Wei Shen Lim (L), Britain’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam (C) and MHRA boss Dr June Raine – AFP

Booster vaccines will be offered to people aged 50 and over, those in care homes and frontline health and social care workers, the Government has announced.

Introducing the press conference, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said current estimates are that vaccines have averted 24m Covid cases in the UK, and 112,000 deaths so far. 

“But we also know that this pandemic is still active. We are not past the pandemic, we are in an active phase still.

“We know that this winter could quite possibly be bumpy at times and we know that other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV are highly likely to make their returns.”

10:30 AM

What’s on the agenda today?

It’s shaping up to be a very busy day, with several competing announcements and news lines on the horizon – here is what to expect. 

In just a couple of minutes, we are expecting a press conference from Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, in which we are likely to hear the confirmation of plans for the autumn booster plan. 

Meanwhile, in the Commons… 

11:30am: Justice questions

12:30pm: Sajid Javid will give a statement on the Government’s Covid winter plan

2pm: Maria Miller, the former culture secretary, introduces a 10-minute rule motion on non-disclosure agreements

After that: MPs will debate the Health and Social Care Levy Bill  

4pm: Boris Johnson will hold a press conference about his Covid winter plan

10:16 AM

Vaccine passports had to be rejected after Scots Tories opposed SNP

The “writing was on the wall” for vaccine passports when Scottish Conservatives were opposing the SNP Government’s plans, a Conservative MP has said. 

Certification is “a rather daft idea”, Craig McKinlay told Sky News, adding he “wasn’t at all surprised” by the weekend’s U-turn. 

Instead of using a stick to boost uptake, he said the facts should be sufficient to persuade even those who have fallen into a “bad crowd of anti-vaxxers”, the South Thanet MP added, noting that “tens of millions” of people had received the jab world-wide, with reactions very rare. 

“I am completely opposed to vaccination passports,” he added. 

10:10 AM

Tory MP: Boris Johnson’s ‘libertarian values’ will return in Covid winter plan

Boris Johnson’s old “libertarian values” will stage come-back as the Prime Minister sets out his Covid winter plan, a Conservative MP has said. 

Craig McKinlay, the MP for Thanet, told Sky News that people would be expected to take a common sense approach to safety with the vaccination programme well advanced, and noting that wearing a face mask “can’t do any harm”.

He added: “Obvious, sadly, that having a bit of distance, keeping away from each other will stop some of this infection, but we have got to live with this.

“I think some of those libertarian values we know the Prime Minister very well for will come back to the fore.”

09:57 AM

Boris Bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland ‘dead – at least for now’

Boris Johnson’s plans to build a tunnel or bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland appear to have been scrapped. 

The so-called Boris Bridge has been jettisoned by the Treasury as the Chancellor looks to turn off the taps ahead of next month’s Budget, the Financial Times reports.  

A Government official told the paper the link – proposed between Portpatrick and Larne – was “dead – at least for now”. Estimates have put the cost at around £15bn, although Michael Matheson, Scotland’s transport secretary, said it could cost as much as £33 billion.

A Government spokesman did not deny that the plans had been shelved, but said: “Boosting connectivity across the UK and improving transport infrastructure are at the heart of our levelling up agenda.”

Sir Peter Hendy will publish the final recommendations of his union connectivity review “ahead of the spending review, where we will consider and confirm funding plans for delivering improved connectivity between all parts of the UK,” the spokesman added. 

09:43 AM

Isolating Vladimir Putin ‘absolutely healthy’, says Kremlin

© Pool Sputnik Kremlin Putin his feet up: The Russian President is having to self-isolate – Pool Sputnik Kremlin

Vladimir Putin is “absolutely healthy” , as he is forced into self-isolation after coming into contact with people who were infected with Covid, the Kremlin has said. 

The Russian President is having to self-isolate after coronavirus cases were detected in his inner circle.

“The president is absolutely healthy,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He added that the Russian leader had taken a coronavirus test, without specifying the result.

09:38 AM

‘Rug has been pulled’ from under manufacturers over delay to post-Brexit border changes

The “rug has been pulled” from under food and drinks manufacturers, by the delay to new post-Brexit border controls, the trade body has said. 

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “This move penalises those who followed Government advice and rewards those who ignored it. As recently as yesterday, officials assured us that import checks would be implemented as planned.

“The repeated failure to implement full UK border controls on EU import… undermines trust and confidence among businesses. Worse, it actually helps the UK’s competitors.”

Mr Wright called for Government support to help businesses prepare for these new deadline, saying: “Industry has invested three times in preparing, only to have wasted this money despite assurances from Government there would be no delay.”

09:30 AM

Unions have ‘obligation’ to stand with Labour, Sir Keir Starmer tells TUC

© PA Sir Keir Starmer’s relationships with several unions has come under strain – PA

Sir Keir Starmer has told unions they have an “obligation” to stand with Labour if they are to defeat the Conservatives in the next election, as he battles to retain their support. 

Speaking after an astonishing attack from Len McCluskey (see 9:26am), Sir Keir told the Trade Union Congress conference “Labour is standing shoulder to shoulder with the unions” on workers’ rights.  

But he added: “The uncomfortable truth is that until we have a Labour government our demands for change will be frustrated.”

He added: “The Labour Party will always stand with the trade unions. And… we will always need the trade unions to stand with us.

“We have an obligation to unite and work together. If we do we can take on this right-wing Government, win the next general election, and deliver the transformational change working people so desperately need.”

09:24 AM

Labour would bolster sick pay, Sir Keir Starmer says

© PA Sir Keir Starmer greeted by TUC deputy general secretary, Paul Nowak this morning – PA

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to increase sick pay as part of a package to boost workers’ rights if his party was in power.

He told the TUC congress: “Labour would immediately increase the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour. For a carer on the minimum wage that’s an immediate pay rise of £2,500 a year.”

Sir Keir added: “A job you can raise a family on must offer a solid foundation on which you can build your life, not worrying about how many hours you’ll be given the next week or how you’ll pay the bills if you fall ill.

“Labour’s new deal will provide that security by ensuring basic rights for all workers from day one in the job: including holiday pay; protection from unfair dismissal; and guaranteed sick pay.

“We have one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe. That’s not good enough, so as well as guaranteeing sick pay Labour’s new deal will increase it as well.”

09:11 AM

Government delays post-Brexit border checks 

The Government has pushed back the introduction of post-Brexit checks on goods by a further three months, taking it into the start of next year. 

In a written ministerial statement Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, blamed the pandemic, which “has had longer-lasting impacts on businesses, both in the UK and in the European Union, than many observers expected”. 

He added: “There are also pressures on global supply chains, caused by a wide range of factors including the pandemic and the increased costs of global freight transport. These pressures are being especially felt in the agrifood sector.”

As a result, the requirement for pre-notification of agri-food imports will be introduced on 1 January 2022 as opposed to 1 October 2021, along with the new requirements for export health certificates.

The requirement for phytosanitary certificates and physical checks on SPS goods, and the requirement for safety and security declarations on imports, has been pushed back from January to July 2022.   

08:56 AM

ONS: Weekly Covid deaths fall one per cent

A total of 659 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending September 3 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is down one per cent on the previous week, although the ONS said the number was affected by the bank holiday on August 30, when register offices were likely to be closed.

Around one in 13 (7.5 per cent) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to September 3 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

08:48 AM

In pictures: Ministers arrive in Downing Street for Covid winter plan briefing 

© AFP Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, will likely brief his colleagues ahead of his statement to the Commons this afternoon – AFP
© Provided by The Telegraph Will schools close again? Gavin Williamson, the beleaguered Education Secretary, is under pressure to keep them open – AFP

08:39 AM

Have your say: Will there be another lockdown this year?

Boris Johnson is due to set out his Covid winter plan today, vowing (but notably, not guaranteeing) to avoid any more lockdowns. 

But will he succeed? Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, this morning insisted the booster campaign would speed the “transition from pandemic to endemic status” – but even he could not confirm that this would happen before Christmas. 

Scientists are warning of tough months ahead, with at least one suggesting that opening up fully in the summer 

Has enough been done to prevent future lockdowns, or are we heading for another one? Have your say in the poll below. 

08:31 AM

UK faces ‘rough winter’, warns Sage scientist

The UK faces a “rough winter” due to the combination of coronavirus, flu and other respiratory conditions that will make a comeback, a Sage scientist has warned. 

Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, told BBC Breakfast face masks and other interventions may be resurrected as “some degree of regional common sense approach”. 

He added: “Now that we’re opening up society, we’ve got to… live with not just Covid but the flu will come back, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) bronchiolitis will come back, so I think we’re going to have a bit of a rough winter.”

Asked how Christmas might compare to last year, he said: “I really don’t know… but I can predict that the NHS is going to have a really tough time and it wouldn’t surprise me if local directors of public health may be suggesting use of face masks in shops and on public transport.” 

08:26 AM

Sir Keir Starmer ‘not a man of his word’, claims Len McCluskey

© PA Sir Keir Starmer arrives at the TUC congress in London where he will deliver a speech today – PA

Sir Keir Starmer is “not a man of his word” and risks being seen as someone who cannot be trusted by the wider public, Len McCluskey has said. 

The former Unite general secretary has launched a blistering attack on the Labour leader, writing in the Guardian that his tenure has been “a tale of opportunities wasted”, in which he has “squandered the goodwill that greeted his arrival” by waging an “internal war” against the left of the party.  

Mr McCluskey particularly attacked Sir Keir’s ” destructive decision” to suspend Jeremy Corbyn last October, which he described as “a bad dream”. Despite claims to the contrary, the Labour leader personally pulled the trigger and “reneged on our deal” to reinstate him, the ex-union boss alleged. 

“That was when I lost my personal relationship with Starmer. I could no longer trust him. He was not a man of his word,” Mr McCluskey wrote. 

“Starmer’s response to his party’s poor position has been as wrongheaded as it is dishonourable… If he is not careful, he risks becoming fixed in the public’s mind as someone who can’t be trusted.”    

08:15 AM

Boris Johnson’s mother dies aged 79

© Getty Boris Johnson with his sister Rachel and mother Charlotte Johnson Wahl – Getty

Boris Johnson is mourning the loss of his mother, Charlotte, after she died at the age of 79.

Charlotte Johnson Wahl, a professional painter, died “suddenly and peacefully” at a London hospital on Monday, the family said.

The Prime Minister has described her as the “supreme authority” in his family and has credited her with instilling in him the equal value of every human life.

Mrs Johnson-Wahl, meanwhile, described her eldest son as “soft-hearted” in 2015 and in 2008 said she felt “protective of him” as he tackled ever greater professional challenges.

Read more here.

08:06 AM

Lockdowns cannot be ruled out, says Labour MP

A Labour MP has said future lockdowns cannot be “entirely” ruled out,  but said the Government is “right” to pursue a booster vaccine programme.

Pat McFadden, shadow economic secretary to the Treasury, told Sky News: “Nobody wants to go back to lockdowns after the experience of the last 18 months. We’ve been in and out of this three times now and nobody wants to see a fourth.

“You can’t rule it out entirely because, as the old cliche goes, prediction is a dangerous game, especially when it is about the future.

“One thing we do know is that winter is always a tough time for the NHS, so I think it is time to reboot the vaccine effort – we have fallen behind some other countries. 

“We’re expecting an announcement on booster jabs today – that’s right.”

07:58 AM

Another Christmas lockdown? Minister won’t rule it out…

A winter lockdown would be an “absolutely last resort”, the vaccines minister has said – but he could not rule out the possibility that Christmas could be cancelled again. 

Speaking to Sky News, Nadhim Zahawi stressed that the “massive booster campaign” would protect the most vulnerable from infection. 

But asked whether he could guarantee families could spend Christmas together, the Conservative MP said: “The important thing to remember is that, as we embark on the winter months, viruses have an inbuilt advantage, whether it be flu or the Covid virus.

“As Chris Whitty set out yesterday, it would be foolhardy to think this thing has already transitioned from pandemic to endemic.

“The direction we’re taking – a massive booster campaign, a varied surveillance system, a really fit for purpose test and trace system – that is where we think we will be able to end up… but of course, we have to have contingency planning.”

07:46 AM

Booster programme will be ‘final piece of the jigsaw’, says minister

The booster programme will be the “final piece of the jigsaw” in dealing with the pandemic, Nadhim Zahawi has said. 

The vaccines minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The JCVI recommended in the interim advice that we look at boosting the most vulnerable to Covid and of course flu as well. 

“Where possible we will try and co-administer, with one caveat – with flu, GPs and pharmacies, which are the backbone of the vaccination programme, can rapidly vaccinate lots of people.

“If we are using the mNRA vaccines, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna, there is a 15-minute observation period for the Covid boost. But, wherever possible, we will try and co-administer.

“This is probably the last piece of the jigsaw to allow us to transition this virus from pandemic to endemic and I hope by next year we will be in a position to deal with this virus with an annual inoculation programme as we do flu.”

07:38 AM

Teachers threatened with legal action if they advise pupils on vaccine

Teachers have been threatened with legal action if they advise pupils on the Covid vaccine, a union leader has said. 

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary for the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), said that it was important that it was trained medical professionals and not teachers or school leaders who advised parents and pupils. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:  “This advice and encouragement or whatever it’s to be has to come through the health service and the professionals that are trained and have the technical ability to give the advice for young people and their parents to make the decisions that will be necessary.

“If it’s done like that, hopefully we can avoid any unpleasantness in schools, but I have to say, members have received letters already from pressure groups threatening legal action against them as school leaders and teachers.”

07:37 AM

‘Grade of competency’ to judge if children can override parents on Covid vaccine

Children will be given a “grade of competency” based on age when considering whether to override their parents’ lack of consent on receiving the Covid vaccine, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has said.

Professor Anthony Harnden told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he “wouldn’t feel comfortable” allowing a 12 year-old to take up their offer of a jab if their parents had refused consent, noting that “the law clearly states that the child and parent should try to come to an agreed conclusion”.

If an agreement cannot be reached “the clinician involved in administering the vaccine needs to be absolutely sure that the child is competent to make that decision”, he added. 

“There will be a grade of competency from the age of 16 downwards, so 14 to 15-year-olds may be deemed competent to make that decision on their own, it’s less likely that a 12 or 13-year-old will be deemed competent.”

07:32 AM

CMOs considered wider factors on teen vaccines than we did, says JCVI boss

There is a “marginal health benefit” to children being vaccinated against coronavirus, but that doesn’t factor in wider issues, the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said. 

Professor Anthony Harnden told the BBC Today Programme that the JCVI had considered the clinical perspect, which showed a marginal benefit “because the risks of Covid to well young children is very small indeed, but the benefits of the vaccine are very small”.

He added: “We felt that on balance that we couldn’t give advice based on the health benefits alone.

“But the CMOs have re-looked at this, and they’ve looked at a much wider thing about educational factors which were much outside our remit – such as school infection control, social isolation, school closures – and they felt that on balance there was more of a benefit in offering the vaccination.”

07:28 AM

Looming risk of lockdowns is because ministers didn’t ‘heed scientists’ advice’

Ministers failing to heed advice has pushed up the prospect of winter lockdowns, a Government scientist has warned. 

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of Nervtag, told Sky News that current figures made it clear “we’re not out of the woods and it doesn’t bode well for going into winter at all.”

Prof Gupta noted that “many scientists including myself” had warned that restrictions should be lifted more slowly ahead of July 19, because it would have a knock-on effect later in the year.

“In other words we wouldn’t get away with this as a country moving into winter’. 

“And what we’re seeing now is really the result of that advice not being heeded and now we’re in a position where we’re talking about lockdowns again,” he noted. “With the correct planning, this could have been avoided.”

07:22 AM

Children must meet clinician before overiding parents on Covid vaccine, says minister

Children will only be able to override their parents on the Covid vaccine following a meeting with a clinician, Nadhim Zahawi has said. 

The vaccines minister told Sky News children would be given a leaflet and parents would receive information before being given a consent form. 

“On the very rare occasion where there is a difference of opinion between the parent and the 12-15 year-old, where the parent for example doesn’t want to give consent but the 12-15 year-old wants to have the vaccine, then the first step is the clinician will bring the parent and the child together to see whether they can reach consent,” he said. 

“If that is not possible, then if the child is deemed to be competent… then the child can have the vaccine.

“But these are very rare occasions.”

07:20 AM

Minister: Children will get Covid vaccine from next week

Children aged 12-15 will be able to get their first shot of coronavirus vaccine from next week, Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed.

The vaccines minister told BBC Breakfast: “The NHS has been making plans that will hopefully be able to see the first vaccinations take place after consent, because obviously you need the information and the letters to go out and to receive that consent, by the 22nd of this month.”

Asked when the booster programme would start to be administered, Mr Zahawi said the Prime Minister and Health Secretary Sajid Javid would be setting out more details later on Tuesday.

07:19 AM

No ‘difference of opinion’ on teen vaccines, minister insists

A minister ha insisted there is no difference of opinion between the JVCI and chief medical officers, after the latter approved the use of Covid vaccines in children as young as 12. 

Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation “fell on the side that is marginally more beneficial to vaccinate children than not” before asking the four CMOs to consider “the wider impact” including mental health and disruption to education. 

“All four CMOs were unanimous,” he added. 

“It’s not a difference of opinion, it’s beyond their remit – the JCVI,” he told BBC Breakfast. 

Mr Zahawi was responding to questions about this tweet, from Marcus Fysh, calling for Prof Chris Whitty to resign. 

Sorry to have to say it but the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty does not deserve the confidence of the country in deciding to vaccinate teenagers without good clinical reason. He should resign.

— Marcus Fysh MP (@MarcusFysh) September 13, 2021

07:13 AM

 Minister ‘cautiously optimistic’ that England will avoid need for lockdowns this winter

A minister has said he is “cautiously optimistic” that England will get through the winter without the need for another lockdown. 

Asked how confident he was that we would get through winter without lockdowns, Nadhim Zahawi told Times Radio he was “cautiously optimistic but we have to remain vigilant”.

“I am confident that we will… be able to transition this virus from pandemic to endemic status but we are constantly aware of how unpredictable this virus has been,” the vaccines minister added. 

07:01 AM

Tory MPs threatened to quit over National Insurance rise

At least three rebel Conservative MPs threatened to resign from the Government over the decision to hike National Insurance to pay for social care, The Telegraph can reveal.

The Government whips’ office was forced to telephone furious Red Wall MPs and parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs) over the weekend to threaten their political careers, after they said they would rebel against the Government in Tuesday’s National Insurance vote.

Dozens of Conservatives could abstain or vote against Mr Johnson on Tuesday’s bill, which will increase National Insurance payments for both employees and firms by 1.25 percentage points.

Downing Street was on Monday night accused of trying to “rush through” the bill in an attempt to head off a more significant rebellion, while other MPs complained the Tory whips’ office was using “hardcore bullying” tactics to keep members in line.

07:01 AM

Good Morning

It’s shaping up to be a busy – albeit soggy – day in Westminster, with two major statements on the Government’s Covid winter plan, and a lengthy debate before MPs vote on the Health and Social Care Levy Bill.

Here is today’s front page.

📰The front page of tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph:

‘Parents told to get their children vaccinated’#TomorrowsPapersToday

Sign up for the Front Page newsletterhttps://t.co/x8AV4Oomry pic.twitter.com/gv0DO1zYjc

— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) September 13, 2021

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