Covid-19: Whitty warns against unlocking restrictions too earlyon March 9, 2021 at 6:11 pm

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Five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Tuesday evening.

Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Tuesday evening. We’ll have another update for you tomorrow morning.

Unlocking too quickly would lead to a substantial surge in Covid infections, the UK’s chief medical adviser has said. “It is very easy to forget how quickly things can turn bad,” Professor Chris Whitty told the Science and Technology Select Committee. It takes about three weeks to build up immunity following the first dose of the vaccine, so currently only the first four priority groups will have developed significant protection at the moment. But nearly half of hospital admissions have been seen in the under-70s. The comments come amid pressure from backbench Tories to ease lockdown more quickly, but Prof Whitty said the step-by-step roadmap was necessary because “you want to be absolutely confident it is safe”. Read more from our health correspondent Nick Triggle.

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Up to four adults from two different households will be able to meet outdoors in Scotland from Friday of this week. Restrictions on young people will also be eased, with four people aged between 12-17 able to meet, even if they are all from different households. Outdoor, non-contact group sports for adults will also restart on Friday. And from 26 March, people will be able to gather for communal worship, provided there are no more than 50 gathered and social distancing is observed. However, the overall requirement to stay at home will remain in place, with Nicola Sturgeon cautioning that hospital admissions and deaths from the virus were “still higher than we would want”. Read more on what Scotland’s First Minister had to say here.

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A health minister has defended the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff in England, saying “nurses are well-paid for the job”. Lord Bethell praised the “heroics” of health workers during the pandemic, but said they had secure jobs that many people would “envy”. He was responding to opposition calls for the government to rethink its “miserly” 1% pay offer. Nurses have described the offer as “insulting”, with unions threatening strike action. Labour peer Lord McNicol said it was a “kick in the teeth” for NHS workers, while Lib Dem peer Lord Willis said it amounted to a pay cut. Ministers will take a decision on NHS pay for 2021/22 in May, after an independent panel makes it final recommendation.

Protest in Manchester, over the proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers from the government.

image copyrightPA Media

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Hospitals in and around Paris have been told to reduce non-Covid treatments by 40%, with just 83 beds currently available in intensive care units in what is France’s most populous region. It follows a net increase into intensive care of 35 patients per day over the past two weeks. France has tried to speed up its slow vaccination campaign, but remains dogged by high infection rates. Health director Jérôme Salomon said a major lockdown would only be considered “as a last resort measure… if we were under the impression the hospital system could not cope”.

People gather along the banks of the Canal Saint Martin in Paris on Sunday 7 March

image copyrightEPA

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UK supermarkets have warned of a shortage of some dog and cat food products following an “unprecedented” rise in pet ownership during lockdown. Sainsbury’s has apologised after running out of dog and cat food pouches due to a “national shortage”, although tinned and dry food are unaffected. Morrisons also said it was seeing an “increase in demand”. Pet food maker Purina said the UK market had “changed significantly” during the pandemic and it was producing “more pet food… than ever before”. Even before another surge during November’s second lockdown more than two million Britons had taken on new pets.

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You can find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

Or why not read about the secondary school teacher who met her pupils face-to-face for the first time this week, as pupils in England returned to school.

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