PM warns tougher measures may be needed and calls for ‘maximum vigilance’

Boris Johnson has warned that tougher lockdown measures may be needed as he announced that around 2.4 million vaccines for Covid-19 have now been put in people's arms.

The Prime Minister stressed "now is the moment for maximum vigilance" amid increasing calls for tougher lockdown restrictions as case rates soar in several parts of the country.

During a visit to a vaccine centre in Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol, the Prime Minister said: "We're going to keep the rules under constant review.

"Where we have to tighten them, we will.

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PM visits mass vaccination centre
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a mass vaccination centre at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol, southwest England on January 11, 2021. - Seven mass coronavirus vaccination sites opened across England on Monday as the government races to dose millions of people while a new strain of the disease runs rampant across the country. (Photo by Eddie MULHOLLAND / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EDDIE MULHOLLAND/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Prime Minister Boris Johnson bumps elbows with First Responder Caroline Cook after she got her vaccination as he visits a vaccination centre at Ashton Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Bristol, England. The location is one of several mass vaccination centres in England to open to the public this week. The UK aims to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February. (Photo by Eddie Mulholland-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a vaccination centre at Ashton Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Bristol, England. The location is one of several mass vaccination centres in England to open to the public this week. The UK aims to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February. (Photo by Eddie Mulholland-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to patients and staff at a mass vaccination centre at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol England on January 11, 2021. - Seven mass coronavirus vaccination sites opened across England on Monday as the government races to dose millions of people while a new strain of the disease runs rampant across the country. The sites include football stadiums and a horse racing course, and are located in cities including Bristol, London, Newcastle and Manchester. (Photo by Eddie MULHOLLAND / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EDDIE MULHOLLAND/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Prime Minister Boris Johnson accompanied by Head Nurse Anne Morris visits a vaccination centre at Ashton Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Bristol, England. The location is one of several mass vaccination centres in England to open to the public this week. The UK aims to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February. (Photo by Eddie Mulholland-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches First Responder Caroline Cook getting her vaccination as he visits a vaccination centre at Ashton Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Bristol, England. The location is one of several mass vaccination centres in England to open to the public this week. The UK aims to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February. (Photo by Eddie Mulholland-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a mass vaccination centre at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol, southwest England on January 11, 2021. - Seven mass coronavirus vaccination sites opened across England on Monday as the government races to dose millions of people while a new strain of the disease runs rampant across the country. (Photo by Eddie MULHOLLAND / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EDDIE MULHOLLAND/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a mass vaccination centre at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol, southwest England on January 11, 2021. - Seven mass coronavirus vaccination sites opened across England on Monday as the government races to dose millions of people while a new strain of the disease runs rampant across the country. (Photo by Eddie MULHOLLAND / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EDDIE MULHOLLAND/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to patients and staff at a mass vaccination centre at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol, southwest England on January 11, 2021. - Seven mass coronavirus vaccination sites opened across England on Monday as the government races to dose millions of people while a new strain of the disease runs rampant across the country. (Photo by Eddie MULHOLLAND / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EDDIE MULHOLLAND/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Prime Minister Boris Johnson accompanied by Head Nurse Anne Morris visits a vaccination centre at Ashton Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Bristol, England. The location is one of several mass vaccination centres in England to open to the public this week. The UK aims to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February. (Photo by Eddie Mulholland-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches First Responder Caroline Cook getting her vaccination as he visits a vaccination centre at Ashton Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Bristol, England. The location is one of several mass vaccination centres in England to open to the public this week. The UK aims to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February. (Photo by Eddie Mulholland-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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"We have rules in place already which, if they are properly followed, we believe can make a huge, huge difference.

"It's now that people need to focus... when they're out shopping, whether they're buying cups of coffee in the park or whatever it happens to be, they need to think about spreading the disease."

Mr Johnson said that "more important than us just pushing out new rules", people should follow existing guidance.

"In supermarkets, people need to be keeping their distance, making sure that they're wearing masks, doing the right thing.

"We need to enforce the rules in supermarkets. When people are getting takeaway drinks, in cafes, then they need to avoid spreading the disease there, avoid mingling too much.

"Now is the moment for maximum vigilance, maximum observance of the rules.

"Of course, if we feel that things are not being properly observed then we may have to do more."

Turning to vaccines, the Prime Minister said roughly 40% of the 80-year-olds in the UK have now been vaccinated, with around 23% of the elderly residents of care homes having been inoculated.

He said around two million people overall have received a vaccine and "maybe a bit more".

He added: "We're at about 2.4 million jabs all in across the whole of the UK."

Among those calling for tougher lockdown rules is Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who told reporters the country is "at the most serious stage" of the pandemic "and that calls for the most serious restrictions".

Sir Keir said: "There probably is more that we could do.

"An example is the question of whether nurseries should be open."

It comes as Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, warned the UK has not yet hit the peak of the current wave of Covid-19 infections, with the next few weeks being "the worst" of the pandemic for the NHS.

He said the vaccine rollout offered hope that lockdown restrictions could be lifted in the coming months but described the current UK death and case rate as an "appalling situation".

During a BBC phone-in on the current high case rates, he said: "I don't think we're yet at the peak, I'm afraid.

"I think we will be at the peak if everybody can double down and absolutely minimise their contacts.

"The point of the lockdown is to bring that forward, but it only works if everyone really thinks about every individual interaction they have and try and minimise them."

Prof Whitty said the new variant of coronavirus was causing a "significant problem", telling BBC Breakfast: "We will get through together but at this point in time we're at the worst point in the epidemic for the UK."

Currently, around one in 50 people in England is infected.

Prof Whitty said: "There's a very high chance that if you meet someone unnecessarily they will have Covid."

He added: "This is the most dangerous time we have really had in terms of numbers into the NHS at this particular time."

Asked if coronavirus is being spread outdoors, Prof Whitty said the risks were much lower than for indoors, but said problems could occur if people gathered in groups, such as huddled round a market stall.

Pressed on whether people should wear masks in all outdoor settings, he said the most important thing was actually that people stayed home unless their journey was essential.

"I think that the much more important thing is that people should not be leaving their home unless they absolutely have to," he said.

Covid-19 case rates in south and east England
(PA Graphics)

"And where they do, try and keep their distance from people."

He added: "In a sense tinkering with the rules may be useful, but the far more important thing is that everybody abides by the spirit of the rules that are there at the moment."

It comes as seven mass vaccination centres open across England in a drive to ramp up the rollout of coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

The Government aims to hit a target of vaccinating around 15 million people at highest risk of death and severe disease by the middle of February.

The new centres – including at a football stadium and a tennis club – will be joined later this week by hundreds more GP-led and hospital services along with the first pharmacy-led pilot sites, taking the total in England to around 1,200.

Overall there will be 2,700 vaccine sites across the UK, according to the Government vaccine rollout plan.

The document sets out plans to vaccinate at least two million people a week, with ministers pledging that "tens of millions will be immunised by spring".

It also suggests that "those delivering key public services" and others at high risk of exposure could be next in line for the vaccine once the at-risk priority groups have been vaccinated.

Covid-19 case rates in Midlands and northern England
(PA Graphics)

Elsewhere:

– The biggest increases in Covid-19 case rates are now happening outside the South and East of England, analysis by the PA news agency shows. The Liverpool City Region and parts of the West Midlands have seen particularly sharp rises.

– Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the vaccine rollout could take place 24 hours a day if there are enough supplies of the jab from manufacturers. He also suggested that police officers, teachers and other critical workers will be in the "highest category of phase two" of the vaccine rollout.

– NHS England's national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said the "vaccine programme is not going to have an impact on Covid for a few months yet," as he urged people to follow the rules.

– Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the "overriding message" was Scotland was now in the "most perilous and serious position since the start of the pandemic". She urged people to stay at home, saying: "At the moment we are in a really dangerous situation."

– In Wales, health minister Vaughan Gething said everyone over 50 and those at risk due to underlying health conditions will be offered vaccination by the spring while all other adults will be offered vaccines by the autumn.

– Dead bodies are being kept at a temporary mortuary in Surrey after the county's hospital reached maximum capacity.

– Sir Richard Branson has paid tribute to his mother, Eve, who has died from Covid-19 aged 96.

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