Friday briefing: Anger over hotel quarantine delay

Fri, 5 February 2021, 6:15 am

<img src="–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/–~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/; alt="<span>Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA
Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Top story: Hunt warns on lifting lockdown too early

Morning, everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and here are the top stories this Friday morning.

Ministers are under fire for delays in implementing plans to detain arrivals to the UK from high-risk countries in coronavirus quarantine hotels, with Labour accusing the government of “putting people at risk”. Lack of details about the plan forced the government to announce yesterday that the health secretary, Matt Hancock, would take personal charge of the scheme under which passengers from a “red list” have to pay for their own accommodation from 15 February. It had been hoped that mandatory isolation would be in place by now to stop the spread of new variants of Covid-19. The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said the scheme was “half-baked” as hotel chains said they had been kept in the dark about the plans.

Despite hope this week about case numbers reaching a peak, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that the cabinet should not lift the current lockdown until cases were down to 1,000 a day. “We mustn’t make the mistake that we made last year” in ending restrictions too early, he tells the Guardian. Up to 100 children a week are being hospitalised with a rare disease that can emerge weeks after Covid-19, leaving them in intensive care, doctors have said. Three-quarters of those worst affected by paediatric inflammatory multi-system syndrome were black, Asian or ethnic minority. It comes as figures showed white people aged over 80 were twice as likely to have had the vaccine as their black peers. In more optimistic news, a cheap drug normally used to treat gout – colchicine – has been found to have the potential to significantly reduce hospital stays among Covid-19 patients. And the US company Johnson & Johnson is seeking approval from regulators for the first single-dose vaccine.

As the UK death toll passed 110,000, we remember some more victims of the pandemic, including an NHS worker, a Tibetan rights activist and a police officer. You can find all the overnight developments in the pandemic at our live blog.