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The video the world has longed to see… Covid vaccines rolling off the production line

Whizzing off the production line in thousands of tiny bottles – new footage shows the vaccine that could end the Covid misery engulfing the planet.

Drug giant Pfizer has already manufactured ‘several hundred thousand doses’ of the jab at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

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They are being stockpiled ready to be rolled out worldwide if clinical trials are a success, and regulators deem it safe and effective.

The US giant hopes to make 100 million doses available this year, of which 40 million are destined for the UK – a figure that will be dwarfed by the 1.3 billion jabs the company aims to manufacture in 2021. 

Every patient who receives the vaccine will need two doses.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday today, Pfizer UK boss Ben Osborn says: ‘It was great to see the first vial coming off the manufacturing line. 

‘It just brought a tremendous smile to my face to see all of this work actually result in a product.’ 

The news of progress on the Covid-19 vaccine came as: 

  • It was revealed MPs DID flout 10pm bar curfew but Matt Hancock refused 30 TIMES to say if he was among them as House of Commons bosses are accused of a cover-up;
  • Mayor Andy Burnham blamed Chancellor Rishi Sunak for being ‘the problem’ in row over financial support for Manchester Tier 3 lockdown and accuses him of making ‘wrong judgements’ throughout pandemic;
  • Tory MPs demanded Boris Johnson set a ‘clear end date’ for local lockdowns and set out a strategy to get life back to normal amid fears ministers could this week agree new ‘super’ Tier Three rules;
  • Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is accused of breaking two-week quarantine rules after being photographed at a London club 10 days after returning from a White House event in the US
  • Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was accused of cynically positioning himself against PM as he calls for half-term lockdown.

Hundreds of thousands of doses of a possible Covid-19 vaccine have been prepared by a plant in Belgium 

Pfizer's UK boss Ben Osborn said: It was great to see the first vial coming off the manufacturing line. It just brought a tremendous smile to my face to see all of this work actually result in a product'

Pfizer’s UK boss Ben Osborn said: It was great to see the first vial coming off the manufacturing line. It just brought a tremendous smile to my face to see all of this work actually result in a product’

Pfizer, which is working with Germany’s BioNTech, is currently running a trial on 44,000 people, and last week said it plans to apply for emergency US approval of its vaccine in November. 

That puts Pfizer in pole position in the race to launch a Covid vaccine.

Separately, Osborn said Pfizer’s laboratory in Sandwich, Kent, has unearthed drugs that could provide a potential cure for Covid-19. 

The UK's deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, reportedly told MPs last week that stage three trials of the vaccine created at Oxford University could be rolled-out in December, reports the Sunday Times

The UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, reportedly told MPs last week that stage three trials of the vaccine created at Oxford University could be rolled-out in December, reports the Sunday Times

It comes as it was today reported that the NHS is preparing to introduce a coronavirus vaccine soon after Christmas.

The UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, reportedly told MPs last week that stage three trials of the vaccine created at Oxford University, which is being produced by Astra Zeneca, could be rolled-out in December, reports the Sunday Times.  

According to the paper, he said: ‘We aren’t light years away from it. It isn’t a totally unrealistic suggestion that we could deploy a vaccine soon after Christmas. 

‘That would have a significant impact on hospital admissions and deaths.’ 

Thousands of NHS staff are to undergo training to administer a vaccine before the end of the year, the paper adds.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is under growing pressure from furious Tory grandees to set out a ‘clear end date’ for local lockdowns.

Senior Conservative Party figures have warned the Prime Minister he must announce a ‘strategy for returning life to normal’ as they said an indefinite cycle of localised shutdowns is not acceptable and would wreck the economy. 

The row over local lockdowns came as the Mayor of Greater Manchester (pictured: People enjoy a night out in Manchester), Andy Burnham, blamed Chancellor Rishi Sunak for being 'the problem' in the standoff over moving the region into Tier Three

The row over local lockdowns came as the Mayor of Greater Manchester (pictured: People enjoy a night out in Manchester), Andy Burnham, blamed Chancellor Rishi Sunak for being ‘the problem’ in the standoff over moving the region into Tier Three

Meanwhile, in Leeds, people were also out on the town last night despite the area being on the brink of a Tier Three lockdown

Meanwhile, in Leeds, people were also out on the town last night despite the area being on the brink of a Tier Three lockdown

Bars and pubs were also busy in London, which has recently been moved into Tier 2 of the new alert system

Bars and pubs were also busy in London, which has recently been moved into Tier 2 of the new alert system

Artist Peter Barber works on a mural in Manchester city centre yesterday, depicting nurse Melanie Senior after The National Portrait Gallery commissioned the mural based on a photograph by Johannah Churchill

Artist Peter Barber works on a mural in Manchester city centre yesterday, depicting nurse Melanie Senior after The National Portrait Gallery commissioned the mural based on a photograph by Johannah Churchill

Official data shows the rolling seven day average of coronavirus cases in Greater Manchester has been falling in recent days

Official data shows the rolling seven day average of coronavirus cases in Greater Manchester has been falling in recent days

The intervention came amid growing speculation that ministers could this week agree to new ‘super’ Tier Three restrictions which would be imposed on the parts of the country with the highest coronavirus infection rates.

Lockdown critics are on red alert after Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser, said last week that the draconian Tier Three measures will not be enough to get the R rate below the key number of 1.

He said on Friday the ‘baseline’ measures set out in the top tier of restrictions, which include shutting pubs and banning household mixing indoors, ‘almost certainly aren’t enough’ to get the virus back under control. 

But the prospect of even stricter rules being rolled out by the Government is likely to spark an angry Tory backlash. 

Many Tory MPs and peers believe the current blueprint of local lockdowns is not sustainable in the longer term. 

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said it was ‘pointless’ to rely on lockdowns to suppress on the virus. 

Coronavirus positive tests in London have increased dramatically since the beginning of September but changes in recent weeks suggest the rate of rise is slowing down, with a 37 per cent increase in the seven days to October 7, compared to the almost double 84 per cent in the third week of September

Coronavirus positive tests in London have increased dramatically since the beginning of September but changes in recent weeks suggest the rate of rise is slowing down, with a 37 per cent increase in the seven days to October 7, compared to the almost double 84 per cent in the third week of September

Some 136 deaths were recorded yesterday, but scientists have warned this could rise to 690 by the end of the month

He told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘If further restrictions on people’s lives are proposed, the Government has to set a clear end date and a strategy for returning life to normal.’ 

Mayor Andy Burnham blames Chancellor Rishi Sunak for being ‘the problem’ in row over financial support for Manchester Tier 3 lockdow 

A growing feud between Andy Burnham and top ministers is set to intensify after the Labour mayor labelled Rishi Sunak ‘the problem’ in a row over tighter coronavirus restrictions in Greater Manchester.

The mayor of Greater Manchester, who has called for more financial support for the area ahead of plans to plunge it into a Tier 3 lockdown, has hit out at the Chancellor, who he says has made ‘wrong judgements throughout this’.

He also attacked Mr Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme as ‘poor judgement’, in an interview with New Statesman magazine.

It comes after allies close to Chancellor yesterday accused Mr Burnham of using the virus as his ‘soapbox moment’.

Mr Burnham and Conservative politicians in Greater Manchester are opposing the government’s Tier 3 measures, which will see pubs and bars closed in the area.

The two sides are currently locked in a stalemate over the proposals.

Mr Burnham has called for a return to the generosity of the original furlough scheme that saw the Treasury pay 80 per cent of workers wages.

But Mr Sunak has only offered a 66 per cent subsidy for those whose firms forced to shut by Tier 3 measures.

Ahead of supposed talks set up for the weekend, which Mr Burnham’s office deny, the Greater Manchester mayor hit out at Mr Sunak in an interview with the New Statesman magazine: ‘I think the problem now is, to a large degree, the Chancellor. I think he’s made wrong judgements throughout this.’

He criticised the Eat Out to Help Out meal subsidy scheme as a ‘poor judgment’, and added: ‘The cost of that should have been paying for the furlough now.’

But he insisted, during the interview, conducted on Friday, that the failure ultimately lies with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

He added: ‘He shouldn’t be allowing the Treasury to run the policy’.

Mr Burnham and council leaders have insisted they ‘are ready to meet at any time’ in order to broker an agreement with No 10 but there was a failure in communication on Saturday.

Downing Street indicated a call had been scheduled for Sunday morning after a message was left with Mr Burnham.

But a spokesman for the mayor said: ‘Nothing has yet been arranged.’

A Downing Street source responded: ‘No 10 reached out this morning to try and arrange a meeting with the Mayor of Manchester.

‘We will continue to try and reach an agreement on these difficult, yet necessary, measures to protect the NHS and the people of Manchester.’

Mr Johnson on Friday threatened to impose measures without local support as he warned that ‘time is of the essence’ and that ‘tragically more people will die’ with each day of delay. 

Lord Lamont of Lerwick, the former chancellor, said repeatedly imposing lockdowns and then lifting them was ‘deeply damaging to business and is not really a strategy’.  

Sir Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative backbencher, has urged the Government to set out a ‘living with coronavirus’ policy. 

He and five other Essex MPs have also called for more financial support for businesses in Tier Two areas. 

A Government spokesman said: ‘We keep all measures under review and we don’t want restrictions to be in place any longer than is necessary, but where the virus is spreading we must take targeted action in order to save lives, protect the NHS, keep children at school and shelter the economy.’   

The row over local lockdowns came as the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, blamed Chancellor Rishi Sunak for being ‘the problem’ in the standoff over moving the region into Tier Three.  

The feud between Number 10 and the Labour mayor continued yesterday after Downing Street said fresh talks had been set up for the weekend, only for Mr Burnham’s office to deny that was the case.

Mr Burnham and Conservative politicians in Greater Manchester oppose Tier Three measures being imposed, with the mayor calling for greater financial support for workers and businesses.

He has called for a return to the generosity of the original furlough scheme that saw the Treasury pay 80 per cent of workers wages, but Mr Sunak has only offered a 66 per cent subsidy for those whose firms forced to shut by Tier Three measures.

The Greater Manchester mayor told the New Statesman magazine: ‘I think the problem now is, to a large degree, the Chancellor. I think he’s made wrong judgements throughout this.’ 

Downing Street indicated a call had been scheduled for Sunday morning after a message was left with Mr Burnham.

But a spokesman for the mayor said: ‘Nothing has yet been arranged.’

A Downing Street source responded: ‘No 10 reached out this morning to try and arrange a meeting with the Mayor of Manchester.

‘We will continue to try and reach an agreement on these difficult, yet necessary, measures to protect the NHS and the people of Manchester.’

Mr Johnson on Friday threatened to impose measures on Greater Manchester without local support as he warned that ‘time is of the essence’ and that ‘tragically more people will die’ with each day of delay. 

The threat came as a top expert and SAGE committee member today warned  Christmas will be ‘tough’ this year and is unlikely to be a traditional family celebration if coronavirus infections continue to increase.

Professor Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the UK faces a ‘very, very difficult’ period over the next three to six months.

But Professor Farrar, who is the director of the Wellcome Trust, research-charity based in London, said there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

He said he believes a Covid-19 vaccine and effective treatment will be ready in the first quarter of 2021.

Prof Farrar told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday a circuit-breaker national lockdown is now needed, claiming there could currently be 50,000 coronavirus cases per day across the UK.

He said: ‘The ONS (Office for National Statistics) survey, which is the best data in the country at the moment, shows that 27,000 people are getting this infection every day. But that was until the 10th of October.

Professor Farrar, who is the director of the Wellcome Trust, research-charity based in London, said there is 'light at the end of the tunnel'

Professor Farrar, who is the director of the Wellcome Trust, research-charity based in London, said there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

Infection numbers in the UK are rising and are far beyond those at the height of the pandemic in April and May, though a massive increase in testing is said to be the reason

Infection numbers in the UK are rising and are far beyond those at the height of the pandemic in April and May, though a massive increase in testing is said to be the reason

‘Today it will be over 50,000, just as the CMO (England’s chief medical officer) Chris Whitty and (the Government’s chief scientific adviser) Sir Patrick Vallance suggested some three weeks ago.

‘It would be at 50,000 new cases across the country every single day, and that’s almost exactly where we are.’

Asked about Christmas, Prof Farrar said he does not believe a vaccine will be ready in time for the festive period.

Top professor and SAGE member says ‘Christmas will be tough’, but says there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

A top expert and SAGE committee member today warned  Christmas will be ‘tough’ this year and is unlikely to be a traditional family celebration if coronavirus infections continue to increase.

Professor Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the UK faces a ‘very, very difficult’ period over the next three to six months.

But Professor Farrar, who is the director of the Wellcome Trust, research-charity based in London, said there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

He said he believes a Covid-19 vaccine and effective treatment will be ready in the first quarter of 2021.

Prof Farrar told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday a circuit-breaker national lockdown is now needed, claiming there could currently be 50,000 coronavirus cases per day across the UK.

He said: ‘The ONS (Office for National Statistics) survey, which is the best data in the country at the moment, shows that 27,000 people are getting this infection every day. But that was until the 10th of October.

‘Today it will be over 50,000, just as the CMO (England’s chief medical officer) Chris Whitty and (the Government’s chief scientific adviser) Sir Patrick Vallance suggested some three weeks ago.

‘It would be at 50,000 new cases across the country every single day, and that’s almost exactly where we are.’

Asked about Christmas, Prof Farrar said he does not believe a vaccine will be ready in time for the festive period.

He added: ‘Christmas will be tough this year. I don’t think it’s going to be the usual celebration it is and all families coming together, I’m afraid.

‘I think we have to be honest and realistic and say that we are in for three to six months of a very, very difficult period.

‘The temperatures drop, we are all indoors more often, we have the other infections that come this time of year.

‘It’s much better for us to be upfront and honest now, and say we are in for a really difficult time, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.’

He added: ‘Christmas will be tough this year. I don’t think it’s going to be the usual celebration it is and all families coming together, I’m afraid.

‘I think we have to be honest and realistic and say that we are in for three to six months of a very, very difficult period.

‘The temperatures drop, we are all indoors more often, we have the other infections that come this time of year.

‘It’s much better for us to be upfront and honest now, and say we are in for a really difficult time, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.’

Prof Farrar said a short national lockdown known as a circuit-breaker is needed to reduce transmission rates, as previously recommended by Sage last month.

He said the ‘best time’ to have introduced the temporary lockdown would have been around September 20, but added ‘it was never too late’.

He said: ‘The second best time to do this is now, and the worst time to do this is at the end of November when things would have really got considerably worse.

‘So it’s never too late, it’s better to do it now than in a month’s time.’

In regard to a potential vaccine and effective treatments, Prof Farrar said he believes they are ‘three to six months away’.

Meanwhile, Dr Alison Pittard, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine in London, later told the programme that doctors’ evolving understanding of the virus has dramatically upped the survival rate.

She said doctors’ haste to mechanically ventilate patients at the start of the pandemic might have contributed to the higher rate of death in spring compared to now.

At the start of the pandemic, just 66% of people in hospital with coronavirus survived, compared to 84% in August.

Dr Pittard said: ‘Initially we used to put patients straight on to mechanical ventilation – so we would bring them to intensive care, sedate them and put them on ventilators.

‘But we have slowly started to realise that perhaps we could manage some patients without doing that.’ 

The warnings from experts came as it was today revealed the government’s Test and Trace system has failed to reach nearly a quarter of a million close contacts of people who have tested positive for coronavirus, new analysis has found.  

Private firms Serco and Sitel failed to get in touch with 245,481 contacts in England either online or from call centres over four months – missing nearly 40 per cent of contacts, the figures show.

SAGE has warned the system needs to call at least 80 per cent of all contacts and ensure they self-isolate, in order to stop the spread of infection. 

Labour said the figures, released by the Department for Health, show test and trace is ‘on the verge of collapse’ and highlight the need for a short national lockdown to allow the Government to fix the system.

And just two days ago NHS Providers, which represents NHS Trusts across the country, blasted the system saying it was ‘deeply unfortunate’ that there was ‘still clearly a long way to go until our Test and Trace system is fit for purpose’. 

The Government defended the system, saying Test and Trace is ‘breaking chains of transmission’ and had told 900,000 people to isolate.

This shows the percentage of contacts reached by online and call-centre contact tracers. The system failed to reach almost 81,000 contacts that were identified in the first week of October

This shows the percentage of contacts reached by online and call-centre contact tracers. The system failed to reach almost 81,000 contacts that were identified in the first week of October

This shows the percentage of positive cases reached by local health teams by regions across England. There are drops in parts of the North West, which may reflect the system being overwhelmed by a surge in cases

This shows the percentage of positive cases reached by local health teams by regions across England. There are drops in parts of the North West, which may reflect the system being overwhelmed by a surge in cases

Boris Johnson pledged in May that the system, which has cost £12billion, would be ‘world-beating’. 

He also pledged to get all coronavirus test results out within 24 hours by the end of June, but this promise has not been met.

Experts say speed in turning around the kits is vital to ensuring those infected and their close contacts are reached quickly and asked to self-isolate.  

A successful tracing programme has long been hailed as a way to ease lockdown measures.

Meanwhile, House of Commons bosses are today accused of a cover-up after admitting MPs broke a strict Covid drinking curfew – but failing to say if Matt Hancock was among them.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that an official inquiry has confirmed our revelations last week that MPs drank their way past the nationwide 10pm deadline in a Commons bar. 

House of Commons bosses are today accused of a cover-up after admitting MPs broke a strict Covid drinking curfew – but failing to say if Matt Hancock was among them

House of Commons bosses are today accused of a cover-up after admitting MPs broke a strict Covid drinking curfew – but failing to say if Matt Hancock was among them

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that an official inquiry has confirmed our revelations last week that MPs drank their way past the nationwide 10pm deadline in a Commons bar. But in an extraordinary lapse, officials failed to ask if the Health Secretary was involved – despite the claims of a senior Tory MP that he was there

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that an official inquiry has confirmed our revelations last week that MPs drank their way past the nationwide 10pm deadline in a Commons bar. But in an extraordinary lapse, officials failed to ask if the Health Secretary was involved – despite the claims of a senior Tory MP that he was there

But in an extraordinary lapse, officials failed to ask if the Health Secretary was involved – despite the claims of a senior Tory MP that he was there. 

Last night, former Labour MP John Mann (above) said of the limited Commons inquiry: 'This does smack of a cover-up. We in Parliament have a duty to respect the rules we lay down for everyone in the country.'

Last night, former Labour MP John Mann (above) said of the limited Commons inquiry: ‘This does smack of a cover-up. We in Parliament have a duty to respect the rules we lay down for everyone in the country.’

Mr Hancock is today under mounting pressure to come clean about his actions after the witness insisted: ‘I stand 100 per cent by my story. I know what I saw, and when.’ 

Yet the Health Secretary has refused 30 times to say whether he returned to the Commons Smoking Room bar after a 9.40pm vote.

Last night, former Labour MP John Mann, who is now a non-affiliated peer, said of the limited Commons inquiry: ‘This does smack of a cover-up. We in Parliament have a duty to respect the rules we lay down for everyone in the country. But more than that, we have a duty to be seen to be respecting the rules.’

However, Charles Walker, the senior Tory MP who led the curfew probe, last night claimed it would have been ‘invidious’ to have asked Commons bar staff to name the MPs drinking past 10pm. 

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured) yesterday banned alcohol sales in all Commons outlets. But earlier in the week, authorities reacted to the curfew breach by installing a new sign in the bar setting out the curfew rules

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured) yesterday banned alcohol sales in all Commons outlets. But earlier in the week, authorities reacted to the curfew breach by installing a new sign in the bar setting out the curfew rules

Police officers patrol the streets of Soho on Saturday night after London went into its first day of Tier 2 lockdown

Police officers patrol the streets of Soho on Saturday night after London went into its first day of Tier 2 lockdown

The Mail on Sunday last week revealed astonishing claims that the Health Secretary had breached his own curfew by drinking in the Smoking Room bar after 10pm. 

Ex-Health Secretary accused of cynically positioning himself against PM as he calls for half-term lockdown 

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt faced fury yesterday after backing calls to plunge Britain once again into lockdown.

Mr Hunt joined Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in supporting a national ‘circuit breaker’ in which the country would be told to stay at home for two or three weeks over half term with pubs, shops, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers forced to close.

With hundreds of thousands of jobs already at risk due to tougher restrictions, critics warned such a move would be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of the hospitality industry.

Others warned that any new lockdown – as with the initial three-month closure, which was initially predicted to last just three weeks – would go on for much longer, producing ‘catastrophic’ repercussions.

Asked about the possibility of a circuit breaker, Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’ve always thought that it’s better to do things quickly and decisively than to wait until the virus has grown, so I have a lot of sympathy with that.’

While trade bodies and leading figures within Mr Hunt’s party reacted with dismay, some MPs interpreted it as the first move in a cynical plan to topple old rival Boris Johnson and position himself as a future leadership contender.

‘Jeremy’s sensing Boris is in a difficult position, and I think he’s sticking the boot in,’ said one senior Tory MP

We reported how Mr Hancock arrived at the MPs-only bar just before a 9.40pm vote on Monday, October 5, ordered a glass of white wine and made a tasteless joke about Public Health England losing nearly 16,000 positive coronavirus tests. 

‘The drinks are on me – but Public Health England are in charge of the payment methodology so I will not be paying anything,’ he was heard to say. 

In a carefully worded statement issued on his behalf, the Health Secretary made no attempt to deny that he made the joke. 

He has also admitted being in the Smoking Room that night but claims ‘no rules have been broken’ and claimed he ‘departed the parliamentary estate to go home’ after taking part in a Commons vote at 9.40pm.

However, his spokesman has declined to answer the simple question: did he return to the bar before he left for home?

Since Mr Hancock’s only formal statement to this newspaper last weekend, we have sent his spokesman 30 further requests for comment including twice daily emails and twice daily WhatsApp messages. 

The spokesman replied just three times, to say only: ‘I would refer you back to the previous statement that I provided.’

Mr Walker, chairman of the Commons Administration Committee, confirmed that some MPs broke the rules, saying: ‘It happened and it should not have happened… it does seem there were drinks being consumed after 10pm on that Monday night in the Smoking Room.’

He stressed that the rules then in place in the Commons – in line with the curfew for all pubs and restaurants – were that bars should be empty of people drinking alcohol by 10pm. But he defended the decision not to identify which MPs have been guilty, saying it would have been ‘invidious’ to ask Common staff to do so.

However, Sir Alistair Graham – former chairman of the Committee on Standards In Public Life – said: ‘I don’t know that should be so. If they are trying to apply rules in a rigorous way, why shouldn’t they ask the staff which MPs they were serving?’

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle yesterday banned alcohol sales in all Commons outlets. But earlier in the week, authorities reacted to the curfew breach by installing a new sign in the bar setting out the curfew rules.

However, one source complained that some MPs might ignore staff ‘because they see themselves as senior to them’. 

Mail on Sunday comment

Here is a very simple question, to which the answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It runs: ‘Did Health Secretary Matt Hancock return to the House of Commons Smoking Room after going to vote at 9.40pm on Monday, October 5?’

The Mail on Sunday has put this to Mr Hancock almost 30 times in the past week, and has received no such answer.

This is the same Matt Hancock who issues the decrees which have shut or brutally restricted restaurants and pubs up and down the country, wrecking their trade with curfews and rigid, inflexible closures.

On behalf of all those who have built up such businesses with long hours of risk and hard work and who now face going broke, and on behalf of those whose jobs in the hospitality industry are being wiped out, we demand that Mr Hancock replies, and finally reveals whether he obeys his own rules.

Yesterday, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt faced fury yesterday after backing calls to plunge Britain once again into lockdown.

Mr Hunt joined Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in supporting a national ‘circuit breaker’ in which the country would be told to stay at home for two or three weeks over half term with pubs, shops, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers forced to close.

With hundreds of thousands of jobs already at risk due to tougher restrictions, critics warned such a move would be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of the hospitality industry.

Others warned that any new lockdown – as with the initial three-month closure, which was initially predicted to last just three weeks – would go on for much longer, producing ‘catastrophic’ repercussions.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) faced fury yesterday after backing calls to plunge Britain once again into lockdown

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) faced fury yesterday after backing calls to plunge Britain once again into lockdown

£360 fine for kissing 

A couple in Milan have been fined 400 euros (£360) for kissing in the street because removing their masks breached coronavirus restrictions.

After kissing on their way to a restaurant, the engaged couple said they found themselves surrounded by four police officers. 

Local reports said the couple – a 40-year-old Italian man and a Polish woman – had been engaged for two-and-a-half years.

In Italy, there is no obligation for people who live together to wear a mask when in public.

The fine was issued to the couple after they were unable to prove to officers that they lived at the same address.

Asked about the possibility of a circuit breaker, Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’ve always thought that it’s better to do things quickly and decisively than to wait until the virus has grown, so I have a lot of sympathy with that.’

While trade bodies and leading figures within Mr Hunt’s party reacted with dismay, some MPs interpreted it as the first move in a cynical plan to topple old rival Boris Johnson and position himself as a future leadership contender.

‘Jeremy’s sensing Boris is in a difficult position, and I think he’s sticking the boot in,’ said one senior Tory MP.

‘He lost the leadership election but he has been constantly niggling away at the edges. He’s doing the same as Starmer – gambling we do go into a lockdown, in which case he’ll say, ‘Well, I told you so’.’

‘If Jeremy’s going to make a comeback, this is how to do it,’ said another, adding that if Mr Hunt was proved right about a lockdown, it might lead to him succeeding beleaguered Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

‘He could go back to his old department, take the country through Covid, then go for the top job,’ the MP said.

The Prime Minister last week said he would try to avoid a second national shutdown ‘if at all possible’ but ‘cannot rule anything out’.

Instead, he has pressed ahead with a targeted battle plan of local restrictions with more than 28 million people now living under tighter measures. At midnight yesterday, Londoners were among those plunged into the Tier 2 alert bracket which bans different households from meeting indoors.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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