Boris Johnson told von der Leyen the EU’s planned vaccines blockade could KILL British pensioners

Boris Johnson handed the EU a stark warning that a vaccines blockade of Northern Ireland could kill British pensioners  in ‘spicy’ late-night phone calls with Ursula von der Leyen.   

The Prime Minister told the European Commission president that plans to stop 3.5 million doses from the Pfizer factory in Belgium the UK risked preventing people from receiving the second injection, forcing it into a hurried climbdown. 

While a single vaccination gives some protection from coronavirus, both are needed to achieve the maximum impact and Mr Johnson told Ms von der Leyen the EU’s hardline plan could lead to the deaths of the most vulnerable, including elderly grandparents.

During two phone calls just 30 minutes apart, the Prime Minister made Ms von der Leyen abandon the ‘nuclear option’ of imposing a hard border on Northern Ireland to prevent vaccines reaching the UK.

She immediately capitulated in a tweet sent out shortly before midnight on Friday. 

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss this morning said it was important to ‘resist vaccine nationalism and protectionism’, adding: ‘The Prime Minister has spoken to Ursula von der Leyen. She’s been very clear those contractual supplies won’t be disrupted.’ 

Following the PM’s diplomatic victory, Britain yesterday recorded a daily record for first-dose jabs – 487,756 – to bring the total to almost 8.4 million.   

The astonishing diplomatic drama came as:

  • Figures showed daily positive Covid tests have fallen by 31 per cent in the past week to 23,275, with hospital admissions down by 16 per cent over the same period, and deaths down six per cent to 1,200;
  • German claims that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective in over-65s were rubbished by senior government adviser Professor Andrew Harnden, who said: ‘We are absolutely confident the vaccine is safe and effective’;
  • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer writes in today’s Mail on Sunday in support of the Jabs For Teachers campaign for all school staff to be vaccinated during half-term so pupils can return more quickly – although a major teaching union repeated its opposition to classes reopening;
  • Mr Johnson signalled that he wanted to relax lockdown rules on exercise, but was urged to move quickly by allowing cooped-up children to enjoy half-term sports;
  • Some of the UK’s biggest firms, including John Lewis and Tata, told this newspaper that rapid workplace tests have prevented thousands of sick days and the closure of sites;
  • A major US study found proof that Covid-19 originated in China, undermining Beijing’s claims it may have come from elsewhere.
  • Germany’s government on Sunday threatened legal action against laboratories failing to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the European Union on schedule, amid tension over delays to deliveries from AstraZeneca. 
Boris Johnson made European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ditch plans to stop 3.5 million doses of the Pfizer jab from reaching the UK from a factory in Belgium

Boris Johnson made European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ditch plans to stop 3.5 million doses of the Pfizer jab from reaching the UK from a factory in Belgium

Boris Johnson made European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ditch plans to stop 3.5 million doses of the Pfizer jab from reaching the UK from a factory in Belgium

Mr Johnson warned Ms von der Leyen (pictured) that her actions risked denying millions of British pensioners their second Pfizer injections

Mr Johnson warned Ms von der Leyen (pictured) that her actions risked denying millions of British pensioners their second Pfizer injections

Mr Johnson warned Ms von der Leyen (pictured) that her actions risked denying millions of British pensioners their second Pfizer injections

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss this morning said it was important to 'resist vaccine nationalism and protectionism', adding: 'The Prime Minister has spoken to Ursula von der Leyen. She's been very clear those contractual supplies won't be disrupted'

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss this morning said it was important to 'resist vaccine nationalism and protectionism', adding: 'The Prime Minister has spoken to Ursula von der Leyen. She's been very clear those contractual supplies won't be disrupted'

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss this morning said it was important to ‘resist vaccine nationalism and protectionism’, adding: ‘The Prime Minister has spoken to Ursula von der Leyen. She’s been very clear those contractual supplies won’t be disrupted’

Tony Blair blasts ‘very foolish’ EU on vaccines 

Tony Blair has criticised the European Union’s short-lived move to override the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland under its vaccine export controls as a ‘very foolish’ move that jeopardised the peace process.

The former prime minister, a vocal supporter of the UK remaining in the bloc, said Brussels’ action in triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to control the movement of coronavirus jabs had been ‘unacceptable’.

The EU backtracked on the move, imposed unilaterally as it faces shortfalls on vaccine supplies, after facing universal criticism from London, Dublin and Belfast.

Asked if the move was irresponsible, the Labour grandee told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘Yes, it was a very foolish thing to do and fortunately they withdrew it very quickly.

‘I was somebody who negotiated the Good Friday Agreement, it’s brought peace to the island of Ireland and it is absolutely vital that we protect it and that’s why what the European Commission did was unacceptable but, as you say, fortunately they withdrew it very quickly.’

Mr Blair also said there is a ‘very strong case’ for teachers to be vaccinated before schools are reopened to all students in England, which the Government has earmarked for March 8.

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As part of an implicit ‘peace deal’ with the EU, No 10 yesterday adopted a conciliatory tone. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the EU recognised that it had ‘made a mistake’ and both sides agreed on the need for a ‘reset’.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster was less diplomatic, branding the EU’s move an ‘incredible act of hostility’. 

Meanwhile Tory MPs were jubilant, with one describing the EU’s surrender as Mr Johnson’s ‘Falklands moment’.

The Mail on Sunday understands that before Brussels was forced to blink twice, the Government had drawn up contingency plans to break any EU blockade. 

Under a ‘vaccine security exercise’ adapted from plans for a No-Deal Brexit, supplies of the Pfizer jab could have been airlifted out of the continent.

The EU – and Ms von der Leyen in particular – were savaged by the European media for their handling of the row as governments across the bloc faced a backlash from their voters.

And with the EU having only vaccinated 2.5 per cent of its population – compared to 12 per cent in the UK – Ms Foster suggested that Northern Ireland could help to provide vaccine supplies to Dublin.

The simmering row over vaccines exploded on Friday evening when Brussels said it would trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – thereby creating a hard border on the island of Ireland – and take other measures to stop supplies of the Pfizer vaccine from reaching Britain.

Mr Johnson called an emergency meeting at No 10 to decide the UK’s response, then spoke to the Commission President just before 10pm to set out his demands and warn Ms von der Leyen her actions could threaten the Irish peace process. 

They spoke again at 10.30pm when Ms von der Leyen agreed to issue a climbdown message that ‘there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities’.

The fiasco has put Ms von der Leyen’s position in doubt, with one senior EU source saying ‘the disquiet is growing’.

Tory MPs on both sides of the Brexit divide heralded Mr Johnson’s efforts. One Remainer said: ‘If this had happened in 2016, I would have voted to Leave without blinking.’ 

Yesterday's daily death toll has plummeted as well, as official figures showed 1,200 have died after testing positive - an 11 per cent drop on last Saturday's 1,348 fatalities

Yesterday's daily death toll has plummeted as well, as official figures showed 1,200 have died after testing positive - an 11 per cent drop on last Saturday's 1,348 fatalities

Yesterday’s daily death toll has plummeted as well, as official figures showed 1,200 have died after testing positive – an 11 per cent drop on last Saturday’s 1,348 fatalities

The UK's Covid cases plunged yet again after 23,275 people tested positive yesterday - down 30.6 per cent on last Saturday

The UK's Covid cases plunged yet again after 23,275 people tested positive yesterday - down 30.6 per cent on last Saturday

The UK’s Covid cases plunged yet again after 23,275 people tested positive yesterday – down 30.6 per cent on last Saturday

The UK has streaked ahead of Europe in terms of the number of vaccines administered (pie chart shows the number of vaccines given by January 26)

The UK has streaked ahead of Europe in terms of the number of vaccines administered (pie chart shows the number of vaccines given by January 26)

The UK has streaked ahead of Europe in terms of the number of vaccines administered (pie chart shows the number of vaccines given by January 26)

The Prime Minister visiting a French biotechnology laboratory in Livingston, Scotland

The Prime Minister visiting a French biotechnology laboratory in Livingston, Scotland

The Prime Minister visiting a French biotechnology laboratory in Livingston, Scotland

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said this afternoon the EU 'recognises they made a mistake' and 'stepped back' following the conversation between the two leaders

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said this afternoon the EU 'recognises they made a mistake' and 'stepped back' following the conversation between the two leaders

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said this afternoon the EU ‘recognises they made a mistake’ and ‘stepped back’ following the conversation between the two leaders

The move was slammed by Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster (pictured), who accused the EU of an 'incredible act of hostility'

The move was slammed by Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster (pictured), who accused the EU of an 'incredible act of hostility'

The move was slammed by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster (pictured), who accused the EU of an ‘incredible act of hostility’

Another Tory backbencher said: ‘This could be Boris’ Falklands moment… Ministers have played a blinder.’

But former Brexit Secretary David Davis warned: ‘I fear we are still going to see them trying to do similar things by the backdoor.’

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said: ‘The EU cocked up big time.’

Mr Gove said: ‘I think the EU recognises they made a mistake in triggering Article 16… But now the EU has stepped back.’

The row came just before today’s first anniversary of Britain leaving the EU.

Marking the day, Mr Johnson said: ‘The destiny of this great nation now resides firmly in our hands. I take on this duty with a sense of purpose.’

What is Article 16 and why has the EU invoked it? 

Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol allows either the EU or the UK to override part of the Brexit trade agreement in relation to border controls in Northern Ireland.

The protocol itself was designed to avoid a re-emergence of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

But in the deal, both parties agreed to a get-out clause, which could be used if the protocol was thought to be causing ‘serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties’.  

However the EU has now invoked the clause, to put measures on vaccines coming from the EU to Northern Ireland.

The move is being introduced amid a huge row between the UK and EU over vaccines supplies, with Brussels accusing the UK of ‘hijacking doses’.

The row started after Oxford vaccine maker AstraZeneca announced it would not be able to supply as many vaccines as it had first hoped to the EU by Spring.

The EU has since unveiled plans for an export ban which could stop 3.5million Pfizer vaccines – made in Belgium – from being exported to the UK.

The aim of this move will be to prevent the possibility of the UK bringing vaccines into Northern Ireland ‘through the backdoor’, by using the controls-free border to bring in vaccines from the EU. 

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He has asked former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith to set up a taskforce of MPs to ‘think more inventively about how we boost growth, innovation and competition’. 

Last night Ms von der Leyen tweeted: ‘Constructive talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson tonight.

‘We agreed on the principle that there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities.’

It came about an hour after a statement from the Commission outlining the detail of the export controls of vaccines.

It said: ‘To tackle the current lack of transparency of vaccine exports outside the EU, the Commission is putting in place a measure requiring that such exports are subject to an authorisation by Member States.

‘In the process of finalisation of this measure, the Commission will ensure that the Ireland / Northern Ireland Protocol is unaffected. 

‘The Commission is not triggering the safeguard clause.

‘Should transits of vaccines and active substances toward third countries be abused to circumvent the effects of the authorisation system, the EU will consider using all the instruments at its disposal.

‘In the process of finalising the document, the commission will also be fine-tuning the decision-making process under the implementing regulation.’  

Following the conversation between the PM and Ms von der Leyen, an ally of Mr Johnson told the FT: ‘The call was fine, hopefully that’s the end of it.’ 

But the move by Brussels to initially say it was triggering Article 16 – seen as the nuclear option – left figures in Britain and Ireland reeling. 

Stormont’s first minister Arlene Foster called the move an ‘incredible act of hostility’ and this morning said the rift emanated from the ‘EU’s vaccine embarrassment and mismanagement’. 

Meanwhile former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said the EU’s move offered no understanding of the delicate political landscape of the island of Ireland.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘Years have been spent trying to ensure goods will flow freely and there will be no hard border and last night the EU pulled the emergency cord without following any of the process that are in the protocol if one side wants to suspend it.

‘And they did that, in my view, without anywhere near the understanding of the Good Friday Agreement, of the sensitivity of the situation in Northern Ireland, and it was an almost Trumpian act.’

European newspapers lashed out EU leaders on Saturday after the bloc tried to impose Covid vaccine controls on the Northern Ireland border. A leading correspondent for Germany's Die Welt paper savaged European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, saying she had committed an 'unforgettable Brexit own goal'

European newspapers lashed out EU leaders on Saturday after the bloc tried to impose Covid vaccine controls on the Northern Ireland border. A leading correspondent for Germany's Die Welt paper savaged European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, saying she had committed an 'unforgettable Brexit own goal'

European newspapers lashed out EU leaders on Saturday after the bloc tried to impose Covid vaccine controls on the Northern Ireland border. A leading correspondent for Germany’s Die Welt paper savaged European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, saying she had committed an ‘unforgettable Brexit own goal’

France's Le Monde editorial called the move 'deplorable', adding that Von Der Leyen had 'fortunately' given up on the inflammatory border decision

France's Le Monde editorial called the move 'deplorable', adding that Von Der Leyen had 'fortunately' given up on the inflammatory border decision

France’s Le Monde editorial called the move ‘deplorable’, adding that Von Der Leyen had ‘fortunately’ given up on the inflammatory border decision

Elsewhere the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the EU’s U-turn was ‘welcome’ but added ‘lessons should be learned’.

In a statement on Twitter, he said: ‘Welcome news, but lessons should be learned; the Protocol is not something to be tampered with lightly, it’s an essential, hard won compromise, protecting peace & trade for many.’

Brussels had triggered the controversial Article 16 just 29 days after the UK and EU struck the post-Brexit trade deal when Britain left the transition period. 

The EU’s chief negotiator in that agreement, Mr Barnier, today called for ‘co-operation’ between Brussels and the UK over the supply of vaccines across Europe.

Mr Barnier told The Times: ‘We are facing an extraordinarily serious crisis, which is creating a lot of suffering, which is causing a lot of deaths in the UK, in France, in Germany, everywhere.

‘And I believe we must face this crisis with responsibility, certainly not with the spirit of oneupmanship or unhealthy competition. I recommend preserving the spirit of co-operation between us.’ 

Last night, Lord Ricketts, a former UK ambassador to France, accused Brussels of ‘escalating recklessly in an attempt to get more doses [of the vaccine] from the UK’. He added: ‘The EU is all at sea on this.’

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tweeted: ‘The European Union was originally inspired by Christian social teaching – at the heart of which is solidarity.

‘Seeking to control the export of vaccines undercuts the EU’s basic ethics. They need to work together with others.’

The World Health Organisation also said the export ban was a ‘very worrying trend’.    

Vaccines expert shoots down Macron’s claim that AstraZeneca jab is ineffective in over-65s

A top scientist with Oxford’s vaccine team has accused Emmanuel Macron of demand management’ after casting doubt on the AstraZeneca jab’s efficacy.

Professor Sir John Bell today slapped down the French President’s baseless claims that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is ‘quasi-ineffective’ for the over-65s.

He said: ‘I suspect this is a bit of demand management from Mr Macron… if he didn’t have any vaccine the best thing you could do is reduce demand.’  

Macron stoked tensions yesterday by questioning the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab in older patients, despite it being approved by the EU regulator.

Sir John today told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’m not sure where he got that from.’

He acknowledged its original study only had small numbers of elderly people, with many shielding themselves from the pandemic, but added: ‘The numbers still pointed toward a very highly effective vaccine but the numbers were small, in fairness, we always accepted that.’

He said other studies proved ‘elderly people responded just as well in other age groups’ and that ‘there’s really persuasive evidence that this is a protective vaccine in those populations’. 

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Britain’s Covid cases plunge for another day – down 31% in a week to 23,275 – as scientists say vaccine drive IS working and UK records another 1,200 deaths

By JEMMA CARR FOR MAILONLINE

The UK’s Covid cases plunged yet again after 23,275 people tested positive on Saturday – down 30.6 per cent on last Saturday.

In a positive sign that England’s third national lockdown is working, 10,000 fewer people tested positive yesterday compared to the 33,552 cases recorded on this day last week.

Yesterday’s week-on-week drop in figures is larger than last Saturdays, which saw an 18 per cent dip in daily cases compared to one week prior. 

The daily death toll has plummeted as well, as official figures showed 1,200 people have died after testing positive – an 11 per cent drop on last Saturday’s 1,348 fatalities.

Data has shown the UK’s ambitious vaccination plan is helping to reduce cases as well as protecting recipients from symptoms. 

And, following a week of promising figures, Boris Johnson is considering relaxing lockdown exercise rules to ease the pressure on Britons’ physical and mental health. 

Potential rule changes could see Britons allowed to exercise more than once a day, or socially-distanced in groups of three or four. 

Boris Johnson is considering relaxing lockdown exercise rules to ease the pressure on our physical and mental health

Boris Johnson is considering relaxing lockdown exercise rules to ease the pressure on our physical and mental health

Boris Johnson is considering relaxing lockdown exercise rules to ease the pressure on our physical and mental health

Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said preliminary research suggested the first dose of the vaccine is helping to protect young adults and over-80s. 

He added that the data, which is set to be published in the next few days, also indicates Britons may benefit in the long-term from a delayed second dose.

The research, accessed through Public Health England (PHE) vaccination records, is mostly based on the Pfizer/BioNTech jab and represents around three to four weeks of the programme.

Government data up to January 29 shows of the 8,859,372 jabs given in the UK so far, 8,378,940 were first doses – a rise of 487,756 on the previous day’s figures.

Some 480,432 were second doses, an increase of 2,178 on figures released the previous day.

The seven-day rolling average of first doses given in the UK is now 359,656.

The Prime Minister has asked officials to draw up options for a slight lifting of the rules, which currently limit people to meeting one other person for outdoor exercise once a day

The Prime Minister has asked officials to draw up options for a slight lifting of the rules, which currently limit people to meeting one other person for outdoor exercise once a day

The Prime Minister has asked officials to draw up options for a slight lifting of the rules, which currently limit people to meeting one other person for outdoor exercise once a day

Even though non-essential shops, as well as gyms, bars, and hairdressers are still shut, high streets in parts of the country looked busy, with photos showing packed pavements in Newcastle and London. Pictured: Newcastle Quayside on Saturday

Even though non-essential shops, as well as gyms, bars, and hairdressers are still shut, high streets in parts of the country looked busy, with photos showing packed pavements in Newcastle and London. Pictured: Newcastle Quayside on Saturday

Even though non-essential shops, as well as gyms, bars, and hairdressers are still shut, high streets in parts of the country looked busy, with photos showing packed pavements in Newcastle and London. Pictured: Newcastle Quayside on Saturday

Based on the latest figures, an average of 413,816 first doses of vaccine would be needed each day in order to meet the Government’s target of 15 million first doses by February 15.

Wales has reported a further 737 cases and 25 deaths. Scotland has seen 994 new cases and 60 deaths.

The Prime Minister has asked officials to draw up options for a slight lifting of the rules, which currently limit people to meeting one other person for outdoor exercise once a day. 

Possible options include allowing people to meet a friend from another household for outdoor exercise more than once a day.

Alternatively, socially distanced exercise could be permitted in groups of three or four – although this is thought to be harder to police.  

Government estimates 220,000 will be the true death toll of the pandemic 

By Eleanor Hayward, Health Correspondent For The Daily Mail 

More than 100,000 people are likely to die from non-coronavirus causes because of the pandemic, according to an official government estimate.

By the end of next month the chaos in hospitals and care homes will have led to 46,000 avoidable deaths, Department of Health research has suggested.

Cancellations to routine operations may cause 18,000 excess deaths in the long-term, on top of hundreds more from cancer.

Officials calculated that over the next few years another 40,000 people may die due to the economic impact of lockdown, including rising unemployment and mental health issues.

The Government paper says the overall death toll of the pandemic will be 222,000, with 54 per cent dying from the virus.

Overall, scientists suggest there will be 105,000 additional deaths because of the enormous disruption to non-Covid NHS care, as well as the economic downturn.

The document, dated December 17 and published yesterday by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), was drawn up by civil servants at the Department of Health, the Office for National Statistics and the Home Office.

It laid bare the unintended consequences of lockdown in detail, but stressed that the overall death toll would be far higher without the draconian restrictions.

So far more than 103,000 people in the UK have died after testing positive for Covid-19. 

Without lockdown, another 97,000 would have died from this winter alone, the report said.

The document also suggested the number of virus deaths could reach 122,000 by the end of next month.

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Government sources have cautioned that the exit out of lockdown will be slow, with shops, gyms and hairdressers possibly opening in April, while scientists say that pubs and restaurants may be unable to open until May.

Even though non-essential shops, as well as gyms, bars, and hairdressers are still shut, high streets in parts of the country looked busy, with photos showing packed pavements in Newcastle. 

Last week Mr Johnson announced the lockdown would continue until at least March 8, with schools set to be the first facilities to reopen. 

But a source familiar with the PM’s thinking said: ‘Schools will be first and everything else will have to take its place after that. 

‘The only exception might be exercise. The PM keeps coming back to social contact – is there anything we could do to help a bit? 

‘Could we do a bit more on exercise to help with people’s mental health? That is being looked at.’

Officials will also examine whether outdoor sports that can be social distanced, such as golf and tennis, could be allowed to resume. However, a source said that was unlikely at this stage.

A Cabinet Office task force has begun work on a new ‘road map’ out of lockdown, which will be published in the week beginning February 22. 

Earlier this month Mr Johnson was spotted cycling in the Olympic Park, seven miles away from Downing Street, despite Government restrictions limiting exercise to once a day and ‘you should not travel outside your local area’.  

Ministers this month rejected calls to flesh out the rules surrounding exercise amid concerns their vagueness allowed police leeway to hand out fines too enthusiastically.

That two woman in Derbyshire were fined for driving five miles from their homes for a walk was held as an example of the gray area surrounding the ‘stay local’ advice. 

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has permitted people to travel up to five miles outside their local authority area, and in Northern Ireland, the Executive has placed a 10-mile limit. Wales also has a ‘stay local’ rule.  

Although restrictions on exercise was earmarked as being among the first to be loosened, the PM has consistently said that reopening schools is a national pritority.

His announcement last week that children will not go back to classrooms after the February half-term and will have to wait until at least March 8 if the data permits was met with dismay from parents.

Many contacted MailOnline to describe the challenges of homeschooling while juggling a full-time job.

Today, Mr Johnson wrote an open letter to Britain’s parents thanking them for doing ‘a great job’ during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the open letter, Mr Johnson wrote: ‘I’m particularly in awe of the way the parents, carers and guardians of children have risen to the unique challenges with which you have been faced.

‘Whether you’ve been welcoming a baby into the world without all the usual support networks, finding new ways to entertain a restive five-year-old when the soft play centre is shut and playdates are but a distant memory, or steering a teenager through the emotional stresses and strains of these unprecedented times, you have been dealt the trickiest of hands yet played it magnificently.’

He insisted the Government is ‘doing everything we can to support you’, with laptops being sent to schools and the extension of free school meals after pressure from critics.

The Prime Minister penned an open letter to parents, carers and guardians to say they have responded 'magnificently', with the Government having faced sustained criticism for its handling of education during the pandemic

The Prime Minister penned an open letter to parents, carers and guardians to say they have responded 'magnificently', with the Government having faced sustained criticism for its handling of education during the pandemic

The Prime Minister penned an open letter to parents, carers and guardians to say they have responded ‘magnificently’, with the Government having faced sustained criticism for its handling of education during the pandemic

And Government scientists say that pubs and restaurants may be unable to open until May

And Government scientists say that pubs and restaurants may be unable to open until May

And Government scientists say that pubs and restaurants may be unable to open until May

A woman pictured arriving at an NHS vaccination centre in Wembley, London, yesterday. Professor Anthony Harnden said preliminary research suggested the first dose of the vaccine is helping to protect young adults and over-80s

A woman pictured arriving at an NHS vaccination centre in Wembley, London, yesterday. Professor Anthony Harnden said preliminary research suggested the first dose of the vaccine is helping to protect young adults and over-80s

A woman pictured arriving at an NHS vaccination centre in Wembley, London, yesterday. Professor Anthony Harnden said preliminary research suggested the first dose of the vaccine is helping to protect young adults and over-80s

Vaccines expert Sir John Bell says Macron is ‘managing demand’ by claiming AstraZeneca jab is ‘almost ineffective’ on over-65s because he has no vaccines 

A top scientist with Oxford’s vaccine team has accused Emmanuel Macron of demand management’ after casting doubt on the AstraZeneca jab’s efficacy.

Professor Sir John Bell today shot down the French President’s baseless claims that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is ‘quasi-ineffective’ for the over-65s.

He said: ‘I suspect this is a bit of demand management from Mr Macron… if he didn’t have any vaccine the best thing you could do is reduce demand.’ 

While Britain has already inoculated 11 per cent of its population, the rollout on the Continent has been sluggish and blighted by supply issues.

The EU is currently tangled in a row with AstraZeneca over supply shortfalls and has demanded UK doses are diverted to the bloc.

Macron stoked tensions further yesterday by questioning the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab in older patients, despite it being approved by the EU regulator.

Sir John today told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’m not sure where he got that from.’

He acknowledged its original study only had small numbers of elderly people, with many shielding themselves from the pandemic, but added: ‘The numbers still pointed toward a very highly effective vaccine but the numbers were small, in fairness, we always accepted that.’

He said other studies proved ‘elderly people responded just as well in other age groups’ and that ‘there’s really persuasive evidence that this is a protective vaccine in those populations’.

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Early data has shown that the vaccination drive is already easing the UK’s Covid-19 pandemic and is reducing cases.   

Deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) Professor Harnden told The Times: ‘The preliminary data indicate a vaccine effect from the first dose in both younger adults and in older adults over 80. The effect seems to increase over time.

‘It is possible that we may get stronger and better long-term protection by a delayed second dose.’ 

He also said that, in exceptional circumstances, people may be able to receive a jab from a different manufacturer for their second dose.

Professor Harnden added: ‘There aren’t results from studies on mixing vaccines at the moment, so we haven’t got evidence but there’s no theoretical evidence why you shouldn’t mix vaccines.’

The comments follow politicians in London, Dublin and Belfast rounding on Brussels for announcing controls to stop vaccine exports reaching the UK through Northern Ireland by effectively create a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Anger over the move forced a late night U-turn from the European Commission, which first triggered Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol amid a row with AstraZeneca over slow supplies of its jab to the bloc.

French President Emmanuel Macron poured petrol on the rift yesterday when he baselessly claimed there was no evidence the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot worked in over-65s, despite it gaining approval from the EU regulator. 

Meanwhile, scientists welcomed the ‘extremely encouraging’ results of Janssen’s new single-shot Covid-19 vaccine trial announced less than 24 hours after the Novavax jab also appeared effective.

The vaccine, developed by the Johnson & Johnson-owned pharmaceutical firm, is 66 per cent effective overall at preventing moderate to severe coronavirus 28 days after vaccination, trial results show.

Novavax announced late on Thursday that its jab was 89 per cent effective following a clinical trial run in the UK.

The results came as yesterday marked the anniversary of the first known death involving Covid-19 in the UK, that of 84-year-old Peter Attwood, from Chatham in Kent.

One year on, the Government on Friday said the death total now stands at 104,371 after reporting a further 1,245 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.

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 121,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

Sir Simon Stevens (centre) observes a member of the vaccine team during a visit to the Centre for Life in Newcastle on Friday

Sir Simon Stevens (centre) observes a member of the vaccine team during a visit to the Centre for Life in Newcastle on Friday

Sir Simon Stevens (centre) observes a member of the vaccine team during a visit to the Centre for Life in Newcastle on Friday

Pharmacists administer a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccination during a clinic held in Derby on Thursday

Pharmacists administer a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccination during a clinic held in Derby on Thursday

Pharmacists administer a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccination during a clinic held in Derby on Thursday

Late-stage trials of the Janssen coronavirus vaccine, taken from a still of an undated video issued by Johnson and Johnson

Late-stage trials of the Janssen coronavirus vaccine, taken from a still of an undated video issued by Johnson and Johnson

Late-stage trials of the Janssen coronavirus vaccine, taken from a still of an undated video issued by Johnson and Johnson

Anti-lockdown hairdresser who has already been fined £17,000 is met by police as she makes ANOTHER attempt to re-open 

By Emily Webber For MailOnline 

A rebel hairdresser has been stopped from opening up her salon today as shopkeepers across the country say they will break Covid rules to start trading again.

Mother-of-two Sinead Quinn, the owner of Quinn Blakey Hairdressing, Oakenshaw, near Bradford, returned to her salon shortly before 12pm today and entered the building.  

Ms Quinn revealed that she had an injunction made against her that forbid her from opening the salon with a power of arrest attached to it. 

Writing on Telegram, she said: ‘Hey guys, I’ve had an injunction against me. I won’t be cutting hair today but I’m gonna go open soon and clean and grab a few things. Police and council all over this morning. I’m just having a coffee then going back up!’

Ms Quinn also attached a picture of the letter sent to her by Kirklees Council and the injunction is in place until March 31. 

She added on the Telegram chat: ‘I have two little girls at home that want to see their mummy tonight and I don’t fancy spending anytime in the cells on b****** charges.’ 

Ms Quinn spoke to two police officers through the door today before letting them inside and closing the shutters.  

However they left the salon shortly after and Ms Quinn drove away in her black Range Rover.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Police did attend at a hair-dressers in Oakenshaw on Saturday 30 January. 

‘No Covid breaches or any other such matters were disclosed or noted.’

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Experts say the latest vaccine data is another positive sign, with three jabs already approved for use in the UK – Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca.

Professor Kevin Marsh, co-lead of the Covid-19 team at the African Academy of Sciences, and Professor of Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford, said the results from the Janssen jab trials were ‘extremely encouraging’.

He said: ‘It is possible that some people will look at the overall reported efficacy of 66 per cent in preventing moderate to severe Covid-19 and focus on comparisons with potentially higher ‘top line’ efficacy reported for some other vaccines.

‘This would be a mistake. The real headline result is that a single-shot vaccine, capable of easy long-term storage and administration, provided complete protection against hospitalisation and death.’ 

The UK has ordered 30million doses of the vaccine, with the option of 22million more, with deliveries expected in the second half of this year if the jab is approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Some 60million doses of the Novavax jab, to be produced on Teesside, have also been secured, with the hope that the MHRA could approve it within weeks.

Janssen is continuing trials into two doses of its vaccine to see whether this produces an even higher efficacy.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: ‘This is yet more good news from Janssen on vaccines.

‘If this jab is approved this could significantly bolster our vaccination programme, especially as a single-dose vaccine.’

Johnson & Johnson plans to file for regulatory approval in the US next week, followed shortly by applying for approval in Europe and the UK.

However, the latest Government figures suggest the growth rate, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is between -5 per cent and zero for the UK as a whole.

It means the number of new infections in the UK is broadly flat or shrinking by up to 5 per cent every day.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the estimates are based on the latest data, available up to January 25, including hospital admissions and deaths as well as symptomatic testing and prevalence studies.

But it warned that cases ‘continue to be dangerously high and the public must remain vigilant to keep this virus under control, to protect the NHS and save lives’.   

Lockdown rules: So what ARE we allowed to do then? 

Can I go for a walk with a friend?

LEGAL: Meeting one person from outside your household is permitted in England if you leave home on your own, and observe social distancing. You should leave home only once a day.

NOT LEGAL: Two or more people from your household cannot meet anyone from another household for exercise. It has to be one-to-one. There are only very limited exceptions, such as meeting someone who is in a support bubble with you because they live alone.

GREY AREA: Guidelines say you should ‘stay local’, and adds that this means ‘the village, town, or part of the city where you live’. The Government advises that you should leave home on foot rather than go by car or public transport to meet a friend.

Can I buy a coffee with a friend while I’m out?

LEGAL: Buying a takeaway coffee is legal, providing you observe the one-to-one rule. ‘If you’re getting coffee on your way to do exercise, or as part of your acquiring food, or one of those reasons you’re allowed to be out of the house, then that is legitimate,’ 

Home Office minister Kit Malthouse told Good Morning Britain yesterday. Last week Derbyshire Police fined two women £200 each for meeting up five miles from their homes, and said their takeaway drinks were an illegal ‘picnic’ – but the force has since cancelled the penalties and apologised.

NOT LEGAL: Meeting more than one person for a coffee. Sitting down with a coffee with a friend on a park bench for an extended period of time.

GREY AREA: The Government has not defined when a short sit-down to catch one’s breath during exercise becomes illegal. It is encouraging people to use their judgment and act responsibly, rather than look for loopholes in the lockdown rules.

Can I go for a bike ride?

LEGAL: A bike ride of 50 to 70 miles would be fine in most cases, Mr Malthouse said.

NOT LEGAL: Presumably, travelling further than 70 miles would be illegal.

GREY AREA: The nature of cycling means large distances can be covered. The parameters set out by the minister are yet to be tested.

Can I drive somewhere to exercise?

LEGAL: Yes, if absolutely necessary. The England guidelines say you should stay local, but they do not ban driving to exercise alone or as a household. Different rules apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

NOT LEGAL: Driving a long distance.

GREY AREA: A medium distance would probably not be in the spirit of the rules, especially as ministers have been clear you should be exercising on foot from home wherever possible. The exact point at which a short local drive becomes a breach of the rules is unclear.

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