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Live Reporting

Edited by Marie Jackson

All times stated are UK

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  1. Thank you and goodbye

    That's all from the live page today, thank you for joining us.

    Today's updates were the work of Alice Evans, Joseph Lee, Lauren Turner, Emma Owen, Mary O'Connor, Richard Morris, George Wright and Jennifer Meierhans. This page was edited by James Clarke.

    We'll be back tomorrow to bring you all the very latest.

  2. Latest headlines from the UK and around the world

    Person receives Covid vaccine

    We'll be pausing our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in a few minutes' time. If you're just catching up, here are some of the latest developments:

  3. The latest UK Covid statistics, in graphs

    Following the release of the official daily figures on coronavirus cases, deaths and other statistics, here's a look at the coronavirus epidemic in the UK, through graphs and charts:

    Graph showing an increasing number of people in hospital with coronavirus
    Graph shows steep rise in daily reported Covid cases
    Graph shows daily deaths increasing
    Chart summarising coronavirus in the UK
  4. Analysis: What are 'hot homes' and how would they work?

    Alison Holt

    Social affairs correspondent

    Care home

    Hospital managers in areas with high numbers of Covid cases say they are talking to residential and nursing homes about taking patients to ease pressures. So how will this work?

    In England, each area should now have designated places with high levels of infection control to take Covid positive patients who no longer need hospital care.

    These beds might be in a separate care home – so called “hot homes”- or in the wing of an existing home, which operates with different staff from the rest of the building.

    Many care providers have been reluctant to even consider such a role after the high number of care home deaths in the first wave.

    One care homeowner, who is taking Covid patients, says he has some empty beds but with the new variant of the virus spreading so easily, he wants his staff vaccinated as a priority.

    In addition, concerns over whether homes are insured if they take Covid patients still haven’t been addressed.

  5. What did we learn from the Downing Street briefing?

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has just led a Downing Street news conference, alongside NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens and Brigadier Phil Prosser.

    Here’s a quick recap of the key points:

    • Nearly 1.5m people in the UK have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, Mr Johnson said. These people will have some degree of immunity within the next two to three weeks
    • The PM said that if all goes to plan with the opening of more than 1,000 vaccination centres across the UK, there will be “hundreds of thousands” of jabs available per day by 15 January, and nobody will have to travel more than 10 miles for a vaccine appointment. Mr Johnson said he hoped every elderly care home resident will have been offered a jab by the end of the month
    • Two life-saving drugs that a trial has found can cut deaths by a quarter in patients who are the sickest with Covid-19, will be available on the NHS “with immediate effect”, the PM said. As well as saving more lives, the drugs - tocilizumab and sarilumab - speed up patients' recovery and reduce the length of time that critically-ill patients need to spend in intensive care by about a week
    • There are now 50% more Covid patients in hospital than during the peak of the first wave, with an increase of 10,000 patients since Christmas Day, NHS England chief Sir Simon Stevens said
    • Sir Simon said there needs to be a "huge acceleration" in the UK's vaccine rollout to reach the target of having the over-70s, the most clinically vulnerable and front-line health and care workers offered a jab by mid-February. He said this would involve expanding vaccine supplies, getting more places to give the jabs, and increasing the number of people and partnerships helping to "get the job done"
    • Members of the Armed Forces will use their logistical skills to help with the vaccine rollout. Brigadier Phil Prosser, Commander of Military Support to the Vaccine Delivery Programme, said the operation would be "unparalleled in its scale and complexity", adding that the army planned to distribute the vaccine as soon as it receives each dose
    • Sir Simon also hit out at people who falsely claim that coronavirus is "fake news" and that hospitals are empty, saying it is an "insult" to NHS workers on the frontline, with the PM telling people making these claims to "grow up"
  6. Analysis: 'Conspiracy theories are an insult to staff'

    Nick Triggle

    Health Correspondent

    Staff at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south-west London
    Image caption: Staff at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south-west London

    Strong words from NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens about conspiracy theories that hospitals are not busy. He calls it an insult to staff.

    One figure that is often used is the fact that around one in 10 beds are available – that is actually more than last year.

    But that does not tell you the full story

    Hospitals have only been able to achieve this by cancelling planned care – that includes routine treatments like hip and knee operations but also, in some places, urgent cancer care.

    More intensive care beds have been opened – there are a fifth more than there were at the start of November.

    But there is not a space or the specialist staff to run these.

    So staff are being redeployed and wards turned into emergency intensive care areas.

    One in three patients in UK hospitals now has Covid – in some areas it is as high as one in two.

    This is stretching the health service to the limit.

  7. Watch: Inside a central London intensive care unit

    NHS England's chief executive Simon Stevens was earlier asked about concerns from NHS staff about people who falsely claim the virus is "fake news" and that hospitals are empty.

    In his response calling the claims an "insult" to NHS staff, Sir Simon also praised media reporting on the real pressures hospitals are facing, including the BBC's.

    The BBC's Medical editor, Fergus Walsh, has returned to an intensive care unit at University College Hospital, in central London.

    It was the same intensive care unit that he first visited in April, during the first peak of the pandemic.

    Shell-shocked staff have told of the physical and mental toll the pandemic is having on them.

    "My emotions are all over the place. Scared, sad, petrified, worried," one ICU nurse said.

    Video content

    Video caption: ICU hospital staff: 'Scared, sad, petrified, worried'
  8. Analysis: 'Breakthrough couldn't come quickly enough'

    Michelle Roberts

    Health editor, BBC News online


    These new life-saving Covid drugs, tocilizumab and sarilumab, may be hard to pronounce but they are easy to give.

    And the NHS already has stocks of them, meaning the sickest patients can receive doses immediately, to save hundreds more lives.

    This treatment breakthrough couldn't come soon enough.

    There are more than 30,000 Covid patients in hospitals around the UK - far more than during the peak of last April. In trials, it has been found the new drugs cut deaths by a quarter, saving around one extra life for every 12 people treated.

    They also speed up recovery and reduce the length of time that critically-ill patients need to spend in intensive care by about a week

  9. London's Nightingale hospital to open next week

    London Nightingale Hospital

    The next question comes from the Evening Standard's Sophia Sleigh.

    She says London's hospitals are "staring into the abyss" , and less than two weeks off being overwhelmed by the surge in the number of coronavirus patients. "Why wasn't more done to stop us ending up here?" she asks.

    Sir Simon answers by saying the UK's four chief medical officers acted to move the UK's risk level up to level five on Monday - which reflected the strain on the NHS.

    He adds that the London Nightingale field hospital expects to open to patients next week - and says it will also be used as a vaccination centre.

    In response to Sleigh's second question, about how and when life might return back to normal, the PM says "there will be the chance to look at some relaxations of restrictions" by 15 February.

    However, he says this will only be the case if the vaccination programme goes ahead with the speed expected, and no further new variants of the virus develop by then.

    Johnson says reopening schools will "certainly be the priority" in any review of lockdown rules.

    "I do think things will be much better by the spring," he adds.

    That brings an end to today's press conference.

  10. Spiky language on disinformation and conspiracy theories

    Chris Mason

    Political Correspondent

    I was struck today by the language, tone and palpable anger from the prime minister and Sir Simon Stevens about the drivel that floats around on the internet about the pandemic.

    The prime minister said those who've turned up outside hospitals suggesting Coronavirus is a scam should "grow up."

    And Sir Simon, whose public manner is normally measured and reserved, is clearly furious at some of the stuff he has seen on social media.

    "It's a lie" he said pointedly at claims hospitals are actually quite quiet and "most obviously untrue".

    Instead, he said, people should rely on established media sources - as he name checked ITV, Sky News, Channel 4 and the BBC.

  11. 'Every death is a tragedy' says PM

    Person being stretchered into an ambulance

    Will James of Reuters asks Sir Simon if he can guarantee people who have had their first Pfizer jab will get their second.

    Sir Simon confirms they will get a second jab. He says the gap between vaccines also means it can be offered to many more people.

    James also asks the PM for the final toll that will be seen by spring.

    Boris Johnson says he cannot give that number - but that it will be "tragically far too high".

    "Every death is a tragedy, we mourn every person we lose in this pandemic," he adds. The "overall toll" will depend on the success of the vaccination programme - and also on everyone working together to stop transmission of the virus and protect the NHS.

  12. Can people receive a normal standard of care in the NHS right now?

    Line up of press conference

    Chris Smith of The Times asks if Covid and other patients will be able to receive a normal standard of care in the NHS. Secondly, he asks if the government will move to younger age groups to make sure 13 million people end up being vaccinated.

    Simon Stevens of the NHS says "uptake is likely to be high" of the Covid vaccine, following on from high numbers of people taking the flu jab this winter. He says "people have heard that message" on the vaccine and the NHS is getting a "good response" when people are being offered the vaccine.

    He adds that the situation in London is "very serious" following the new variant of Covid, saying NHS hospitals in London are receiving 800 Covid patients a day, which is the equivalent of St Thomas' Hospital.

    Hospitals are expanding critical care areas so these can be surged when demand is necessary, but he warns "it is vital that the infection rate now comes under control".

    Boris Johnson adds it is "important" that the government sets high "stretching" targets for vaccination, as the NHS is under "extreme pressure already" and high levels of vaccination is what the public wants, to avoid further lockdowns.

  13. People who claim virus news is fake 'need to grow up' says PM

    Empty hospital beds
    Image caption: Johnson says people who claim hospitals are empty 'need to grow up'

    Victoria Macdonald from Channel 4 asks the prime minister if he regrets not locking down earlier - given that many patients now in hospital will have been infected before Christmas.

    Boris Johnson says that the government learned of the new variant on 18 December and tier four measures were put in place the next day for the vast bulk of the country.

    Macdonald also asks about concern from NHS staff about people out there who falsely claim the virus is "fake news" and that hospitals are empty.

    Johnson replies these people "need to grow up", saying that we have already heard from Sir Simon how much pressure the NHS is under. We all need to do our bit to protect it, he says.

    For the vast majority, this means staying home to protect the NHS - and for those invited to take the vaccine, to have the jab.

    Sir Simon says that if people sneak into a hospital late at night and film an empty corridor, they are responsible for potentially changing behaviour that will kill people.

    It is an "insult" to the intensive care nurse, working 12 hour shifts in the most trying of circumstances, he adds.

    "There is nothing more demoralising than having that kind of nonsense spouted when it is obviously untrue," says Sir Simon, praising reports on Channel 4, the BBC, ITV and Sky for reporting what is actually going on in hospitals.

  14. PM: Expect 'lumpiness and bumpiness' in vaccine programme

    ITV's Emily Morgan asks the PM to clarify why some GPs have reported not receiving regular supplies of the coronavirus vaccine, despite having capacity to administer doses.

    The prime minister says "to the best of my knowledge we are rolling out supplies of both vaccines to GP surgeries", and repeats his earlier remark - that there will be roughly 1,000 primary care vaccination centres up and running across the country by the end of the week.

    He insists the supply of both vaccines is being rolled out but adds: "I won't hide from you - of course, in the early phases, there's going to be lumpiness and bumpiness in the distribution. Today it may be that some GPs aren't getting the consignment that they expected."

    Sir Simon adds that today is the first day of the vaccine rollout by GPs - and that with more than a thousand locations for the vaccine to be delivered to on a daily basis, there will be bumps along the road.

    "We've just got to have a sense of gathering round to get this thing done as a big team effort, rather than poking and prodding [at small bumps in the road]," he says.

  15. Analysis: 'The biggest hurdle the UK faces is vaccine supply'

    Nick Triggle

    Health Correspondent


    Lots of detail has been given about how the NHS – working hand-in-hand with the military – will be able to deliver the vaccines.

    There will be more local vaccination centres, hospital hubs and even mass vaccination at sports stadiums.

    Thousands of extra vaccinators have already been trained – and thousands more are waiting in the wings.

    But the biggest hurdle the UK faces is vaccine supply.

    If it is not available, it cannot be put in arms no matter how many centres and vaccinators we have.

    In the long term supply is not going to be a problem – two vaccines have already been approved and there are encouraging signs others will follow.

    But in the short term everything depends on how quickly a plant in Wrexham can get the vaccine produced by Astrazeneca into vials and then how quickly the regulator can carry out the safety checks.

    At the moment there is thought to be only a few million doses ready for the NHS – with another 15 million or so going through this system.

    The target to vaccinate the most at risk groups by mid-February is achievable – but it will require a lot to go right.

  16. Trump 'completely wrong' to cast doubt on election result - Johnson

    Storming of the Capitol

    The BBC's Alex Forsyth asks if Donald Trump was responsible for inciting the storming of Congress in Washington DC. She also asks if the government can deliver in their promises on the vaccine.

    Boris Johnson says the US has stood for "freedom" and "democracy". He says what Mr Trump has done, casting doubt on the election result, was "completely wrong". He says he condemns anyone who would encourage people to behave the way they did in the Capitol. He says he is "very pleased" that democracy has prevailed and Joe Biden is the President-Elect.

    But he says the purpose of this press conference is to hear more detail on the vaccine roll-out. He adds that on Monday, there will be a further press conference with Matt Hancock giving specific details on the vaccination programme.

  17. The comparative politics of a pandemic

    Chris Mason

    Political Correspondent

    It is inevitable that part of the politics of a pandemic is the perceived relative performance of different countries.

    You can pick your metric to make your comparison, and plenty have.

    The death toll in the UK, and the economic slump, have come in for particular criticism.

    But the government has, for some time, sought to emphasise how the UK is ahead of the game on vaccinations.

    The UK was considerably quicker than the EU, for instance, in licencing the first vaccine, from Pfizer-BioNTech.

    At today's news conference, the Prime Minister has pointed out that the UK has already given more people a first jab for Covid than all the other countries in Europe put together.

    Sir Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of the National Health Service in England, added that the UK has jabbed four times as many people as Germany and 300 times more than France.

    But he acknowledged the scale of the ongoing challenge - trying to vaccinate as many people in the next five weeks as normally happens in five months with the flu jab.

    One final thought: ministers tend to suggest international comparisons are pointless or premature when the comparisons are less than flattering.

    They're rather keener on them when the numbers look better.

  18. PM 'understands students' frustrations'

    Stephen from Sheffield
    Image caption: Stephen from Sheffield asks how the government is supporting students

    In his second question from the public, Johnson is asked how the government is supporting university students at this time.

    The PM says the government needs to "look hard" at the deal students have been given and "what we can do to support students" and help them at this very difficult time.

    Many cannot go back to university except for key practical courses, he notes.

    The PM says he understands the frustrations - and especially the "financial frustrations that entails".

    He tells the questioner, Stephen, from Sheffield that the issue is being looked at - and that he will be hearing more on this from the education secretary.

  19. 'Why are early years open if schools are a vector for spread?'

    Judith from Leeds

    After hearing from Brigadier Phil Prosser, the Downing Street coronavirus conference is now turning to questions from members of the public.

    Judith from Leeds asks how early years provision can safely remain open, if primary schools have been deemed a "vector" for spreading coronavirus.

    The PM says the "whole point is that we believe that schools are safe", as is, he says, early years provision - but "we have to look at the overall budget of risk - the overall spread that schools can be involved in".

    He adds that it is "very important" to keep early years education open to help key workers stay at work during the pandemic.

    NHS CEO Sir Simon Stevens adds that many health service staff rely on having available childcare - so keeping early years open is "hugely important to the NHS's effort" to tackle the virus.

  20. Vaccine roll-out 'unparalleled' in scale

    Brigadier Phil Prosser

    Brigadier Phil Prosser, Commander of Military Support to the Vaccine Delivery Programme, is now speaking.

    He says his team are drawing on their logistics knowledge from previous military operations to help roll out the vaccine.

    He says the "mission" in this case is to "support the NHS" and to "minimise the number of deaths, as quickly and as safely as possible". But, he warns, the plan has "many challenges".

    The Army has to make sure that vaccines are available across the UK, and in the case of the Pfizer vaccine, have to be stored at -70C. This means "the plan needs to be agile," he adds.

    He says the Army plans to distribute the vaccine as soon as it receives each dose, adding "it needs to be in arms, not on shelves".

    Something on this scale "has not been done before, and we are learning as we go", he says, and the logistics operation is "unparalleled in its scale and complexity".

    It is the equivalent, he says, of setting up a major supermarket chain in less than a month.