Watch live: Boris Johnson holds coronavirus briefing
Travel corridors, which allowed transport between the UK and foreign countries without requiring any quarantine time, have been scrapped outright – the prime minister has announced.
Unveiling the the policy shift in a press conference, Boris Johnson said it would be a temporary move, aligned with the delayed “test-before-travel” scheme.
The PM also confirmed almost one in 20 of the UK population – more than 3.2 million people – have now been vaccinated against coronavirus since the rollout of the jab began.
Meanwhile France is banning the use of rapid Covid-19 tests for non-EU travellers, prompting fears there will be a return to the chaos seen at the borders before Christmas. Travellers will require a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old to enter France, the same system the UK is introducing from Monday.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said he believed there would be an exemption for lorry drivers to continue receiving the 30-minute tests – which are less accurate than the PCR test – but admitted that was only “for the time being”.
Agreement to have firefighters assist NHS and care sector scrapped
A groundbreaking agreement enabling firefighters to help the NHS and care sector respond to the coronavirus crisis has been scrapped, according to union officials.
Negotiations over health and safety measures for firefighters carrying out Covid-19 duties were suddenly ended, said the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
General secretary Matt Wrack said: “This irresponsible move from fire and rescue service employers threatens to endanger the lives of firefighters, their families, and the public.
“The FBU has consistently worked with employers and fire chiefs in good faith to enable firefighters to safely take on new work to help their communities through this pandemic.
“Rather than support firefighters’ life-saving work, employers have walked away from the very agreement which enabled it.
“By removing national safety standards, they are exposing staff and services to a deadly disease – all apparently to make a political attack on a trade union simply because we are trying to ensure work is safe.
“Firefighters carrying out Covid-19 duties have undoubtedly saved lives and we are proud to have helped them do it safely.
“We deeply regret that employers have scrapped this crucial agreement and urge them to reintroduce vital national safety protections and resume talks.”
Vincent Wood15 January 2021 19:07
Government action ‘has come too late’
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon accused the Government of “closing the door after the horse has bolted” after Boris Johnson scrapped the UK’s travel corridors.
Mr McMahon said: “On international travel throughout this crisis the Government has lurched from one crisis and rushed announcement to another.
“Unfortunately this announcement was inevitable. However, it is closing the door after the horse has bolted and comes too late to have stopped the arrival of the worrying Brazilian and South African strains of the virus.
“The Government urgently needs to put in place a forward looking strategy testing on borders and wider controls, while also delivering on the long promised sector specific support for those industries who will be so hard hit by this news.”
Vincent Wood15 January 2021 18:53
Labour welcomes shift on travel – but criticises government’s pace
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has welcomed the decision to suspend travel corridors but criticised the Government for being slow to act.
“I think many people will say ‘Why on earth didn’t this happen before?’ Many countries have taken this step before we did. Right step, but slow again,” he said.
“We are still in a very serious situation, the infection rates are going up, the NHS is really struggling. Therefore everybody has to comply with the Government guidance.”
Sir Keir called for greater Government support for the aviation sector following the latest restrictions.
“They have been hit time and time again. They were promised support months ago but that package hasn’t been put in place. The Government now needs to urgently address that.”
Vincent Wood15 January 2021 18:28
Covid global death toll tops two million, Johns Hopkins data shows
Two million people have now died worldwide with coronavirus, figures show.
Vincent Wood15 January 2021 18:03
Peak of new Covid variant infection ‘passed’ in some parts but death toll spike ‘still to come,’ says Whitty
The new variant of coronavirus has had its peak of infection in some parts of England, Chris Whitty has said – though he warned the number of deaths is likely to increase yet.
Vincent Wood15 January 2021 17:51
‘At this crucial stage what we can’t have is new variants with unknown qualities coming in from abroad’
Asked why the border controls were only being introduced now, the Prime Minister said: “What we’re doing now is taking steps that you’d expect to protect against the new variants because the situation now is we have a very high rate of domestic infection in the UK combined with a massive vaccination programme.
“There’s going to come a point we hope in the next few weeks and months when the vaccination programme will really start to take an effect and that effect will be that so many people are vaccinated you do start to see a decline in the death rate and that will be incredibly important and encouraging when it happens.”
Mr Johnson went on: “At this crucial stage what we can’t have is new variants with unknown qualities coming in from abroad and that’s why we’ve set up the system to stop arrivals from places where there are new variants of concern and set up the extra tough measures that I’ve outlined.”
Vincent Wood15 January 2021 17:41
Travel corridors axed completely
All the remaining “travel corridors,” which allow travellers arriving in the UK to avoid self-isolation, have been scrapped.
Vincent Wood15 January 2021 17:17
1 in 20 now vaccinated across UK, says Boris Johnson as 3.2m get jab
Almost one in 20 of the UK population – more than 3.2 million people – have now been vaccinated against coronavirus, prime minister Boris Johnson has said.
Vincent Wood15 January 2021 17:10
Boris Johnson begins press conference
Boris Johnson is leaving today’s press conference – you can watch the whole thing live by clicking on the link below, meanwhile we will be covering the big announcements on here.
Vincent Wood15 January 2021 17:05
1,280 deaths recorded in latest government update
The Government said a further 1,280 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, bringing the UK total to 87,295.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 102,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
The Government also said that, as of 9am on Friday, there had been a further 55,761 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 3,316,019.
Vincent Wood15 January 2021 17:03