Matt Hancock has been questioned by MPs on whether Christmas is being treated differently to other religious festivals. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims have not been able to enjoy celebrating their festivals with their families. Follow live COVID19 updates 👇
The latest coronavirus updates as England is set to return to a toughened three-tier restriction system when lockdown ends.
More details on Gove's upcoming COBRA meeting about Christmas plans...The talks involving Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the devolved governments are expected to get under way around 4pm.Ministers are working on plans for three households and a five-day break, from Christmas Eve to 28 December, subject to agreement among the four nations of the UK.
Facing questions from MPs on the health and science and technology select committees, Matt Hancock said Christmas would not look the same as normal.If an agreement is reached, Boris Johnson is expected to set out how families might be able to gather over Christmas later this week.
Read more on what can be expected13:08Daily podcast vaccine special: And then there were threeThere is a team of scientists at the University of Oxford that is both overjoyed and shattered.Trials of their vaccine with AstraZeneca in the fight against coronavirus indicate it is up to 90% effective. headtopics.com
There is also some suggestion that the vaccine could even help to prevent the spread of COVID-19.On the Sky News Daily podcast with Dermot Murnaghan we hear from Professor Sarah Gilbert, who is the woman who led the Oxford team, while our science correspondent Thomas Moore examines the detail as we compare the Oxford vaccine with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna ones.
Plus, why medical student Lois Clay-Baker signed up to the trials - that aim to help life for the likes of Gerry and Ann Wells, in their 70s, get back to some kind of normal.12:53Hancock: Family visits to care homes soonBarbara Keeley MP, at the social care select committee, raises concerns to Health Secretary Matt Hancock over the blanket ban on visits to care homes and mental health units,
Ashish Joshireports.She says she has heard from one family who asked for their son with a learning disability in a mental health unit to be brought to the window so that they could see if he was still alive.She said:"There's very high levels of inadequate care for that group of people."
In his reply, Mr Hancock says the full responsibility of the system falls to the Care Quality Commission (CQC).He is told the CQC has not been carrying out inspections during the pandemic.The minister accepts that most of the looking after of people in these settings is by family and he hopes that"we'll be able to get them visiting soon". headtopics.com
12:33Public health versus the economyMatt Hancock's questioning at the social care select committee meeting is refocused onto the lives and livelihoods issue,Ashish Joshiwrites.The health secretary is asked:"Do you think deaths averted or quality of life, years saved are the only really relevant factors here?
"Do you think of unprecedented harm to freedoms and liberties and normal life should be part of those considerations?"Mr Hancock replied:"Yes, I absolutely do. I think you've got to consider all these things. It comes back to the debate about following the science versus being guided by the science. Medical science is only part of the equation."
12:30Hancock: Supporting hospitality has been very importantThe health secretary is answering a question about the Eat Out To Help Out scheme at the social care select committee meeting,Ashish Joshireports.Sarah Owen MP asks:"Was Eat Out To Help Out a mistake especially at a time when COVID-19 cases had already began to rise?"
Mr Hancock replies:"You have to balance the needs of of all the considerations of the economy and the hospitality sector in particular with the direct impact of NPIs (non pharmaceutical interventions) and that's what we do all the time."And obviously supporting the hospitality industry has been a very important part of trying to get through this." headtopics.com
12:21Sputnik V vaccine is up to 95% effective, Russia claimsRussia's coronavirus vaccine is up to 95% effective at stopping people developing COVID-19, its developers claim.Second interim data from the Sputnik V vaccine appears to provide 91.4% protection 28 days after the first dose and the researchers say the figure is as high as 95% 42 days after the first dose.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund - which is the country's sovereign wealth fund - said that the vaccine will cost less than $10 US dollars (£7) per dose for international markets, and is expected to become available in February 2021.Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, said:"The uniqueness of the Russian vaccine lies in the use of two different human adenoviral vectors which allows for a stronger and longer-term immune response as compared to the vaccines using one and the same vector for two doses."
He added:"We are ready to start deliveries of the Sputnik V vaccine to foreign markets thanks to partnerships with manufacturers in India, Brazil, South Korea, China and four other countries."12:12Kent hospital pays tribute to nurse who died with COVID-19
A hospital has paid tribute to an"amazing" and"much-loved" nurse who moved to the UK from the Caribbean to work for the NHS has died after contracting COVID-19.Hannah Jackson, a staff nurse at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent, died suddenly on Sunday, according to a fundraising page set up in her memory.
She is thought to have caught coronavirus around a week and a half ago, but was admitted to hospital on Saturday and died the following day after going into cardiac arrest.Colleagues on the page described Ms Jackson as an"amazing lady" and said there was"never a frown in the room whilst she was around".
12:00Hancock: Tier 3 measures before second lockdown were not strong enoughThe health secretary tells MPs at the social care committee that the Tier 3 restrictions imposed before the second national lockdown in England were not strong enough.The PM has since unveiled harsher tiered restrictions which are due to come into place next month.
Mr Hancock says:"The trigger that persuaded me that we needed to go into national lockdown, having been essentially the architect of the tiered system and a big supporter of it, was that we saw case rates going up suddenly and quite sharply in almost every part of England.
"Therefore, even in the low prevalence areas, you could see that they were going to get to high prevalence if we didn't act."Asked why he opted against a circuit-break style lockdown in favour of a month-long clampdown, he says:"A circuit-breaker is just a two-week lockdown, here we went second time round for a four-week lockdown.
"But then critically, (we are) returning to a tiered system which is better-calibrated having learned the impact of the tiered system in September and October where the third tier wasn't strong enough to get the R below 1, and therefore cases falling.
"Therefore, we need a slightly tougher third tier so we can have confidence that we can bring cases down under the tiered system."11:47Hancock is asked why Christmas is being treated differently to other religious festivalsThe health secretary is asked"What will Christmas look like this year?"
Ashish JoshiMatt Hancock tells the social care select committee:"I don't know. Not the same as normal."Next he's asked about the importance of Christmas over religious celebrations like Eid and Diwali.Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims have not been able to enjoy celebrating their festivals with their families - yet a lot of emphasis has been placed on trying to have measures reduced to enable some sort of household mixing over Christmas.
Mr Hancock says:"I'm very sensitive to this point. And we did think about it and we were engaged and we have discussed it and the conclusion that we've come to, which I agree with very strongly, is that Christmas is a national holiday and it's the biggest national holiday we have."
He adds:"Of course, it has a particular importance for Christians but it is a national holiday for everybody in this country."11:44Should we have locked-down earlier?Our health correspondentAshish Joshiis listening in on Matt Hancock's meeting with the social care select committee, and reports: This is the key question about lessons learned - should we have locked-down earlier?
Matt Hancock is told UK acted later than other countries in Europe but did not act.The health secretary says there will, rightly, be a debate about this issue. But he says the government acted on the available scientific advice and all four nations of the United Kingdom moved at the same time.
Asked what is the key difference, the lessons learned between the first and second lockdown, Mr Hancock replies:"Keeping the schools open."11:35Hancock: Test and Tracealone cannot keep the virus under controlSpeaking to the social care select committee on decisions made around testing, the health secretary said:"Test and Trace alone cannot keep the virus under control - and I think that is true for all countries.
"For instance, in some of the far eastern countries where they will see a number of cases they will put in huge testing capability, and I think mass testing does have that ability in a way that testing of symptomatic people and then contact tracing finds it much harder to do.
"To lay this at the door of Test and Trace is wrong."11:29Hancock: I got the best scientific advice I could getJeremy Hunt, chair of the social care select committee, asks Matt Hancock:"Did you get the best scientific advice at the outset?"
The health secretary replied:"The first thing is, on testing it is wrong to say that the advice was to stop testing and we didn't stop testing – we ramped testing up all the time."He added:"I think I got the best scientific advice that my scientific advisers could give me.
"There is absolutely no doubt that we can, we should and we must learn from all of the international examples of how we can best deal with a pandemic of any sort."11:18Hancock: We think we'll be getting back to normal by EasterHealth Secretary Matt Hancock is giving evidence to the health and social care committee about lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He says the government thinks we"will be getting back to normal after Easter".While some measures will remain"commonplace" such as washing hands, the"damaging social distancing interventions" should hopefully be lifted after Easter if the two vaccines are approved by the regulator.
Mr Hancock said the same tools and data that we use to judge what should happen to the social distancing interventions are"essentially the same measures of other things we are trying to protect against – we are trying to protect against cases of coronavirus, hospitalisations and deaths".
On the promising results of vaccines, he said:"The vaccine trials can successfully test in these large numbers of people in the trials – tens of thousands of people in each of the three that have so far reported positive efficacy – for whether they can protect an individual."
Mr Hancock said there is some evidence in the AstraZeneca trial of protection of transmission due to regular testing of the participants.11:15This is what Gatwick check-in queues look like in lockdownEarlier Sky's Enda Brady told you that just 200 passengers would depart from Gatwick today - and this video shows exactly how quiet it is.
Airport bosses hope that a combination of pre-travel tests (Gatwick is starting those on Monday) and the reduction in the quarantine time to as little as five days (if you pass a self-funded test on the fifth day) will get people travelling again.10:57
Gove to chair COBRA meeting on Christmas rules at 4pmConservative MP Michael Gove will chair a COBRA meeting with devolved administrations later today, as discussions continue about Christmas rules, according to government sources.10:41The prime minister had no choice but to end the lockdown, but his own MPs hate the new restrictions
Analysis by Beth Rigby, political editorThe prime minister knew that he couldn't run the English national lockdown beyond 2 December.He might have a majority of 80, but had he tried to extend this four-week lockdown his restive party would have not just deserted him but denounced him too, leaving his already troubled premiership in even deeper peril.
Instead then, the prime minister announced on Monday aCOVID Winter Planwith a new tiered system.Concessions were offered to those in his party and his cabinet anxious about the economic and social fall-out of measures: shops, gyms and hair and beauty salons open across all tiers while the 10pm curfew will be extended to 11pm - measures to help the high street in the run-up to Christmas.Read more: Sky News »
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