EVEN tougher coronavirus lockdown measures are to be enforced, Priti Patel has revealed.
At a press conference this evening, the Home Secretary announced a tough new £800 fine for anybody who attends attending house parties, doubling for every repeat offence. Those hosting gatherings can get a £10,000 fine.
The press conference is still ongoing and you can watch LIVE here on this page by clicking the video link above or following the live blog below.
Her statement comes after an expert warned that the current lockdown simply isn't working and coronavirus infections appear to be increasing.
Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London, said his college's React study shows the number of infection increased between 6 and 15 January, despite the full national lockdown.
Follow the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis in our live blog below.
CREMATORIUMS STRUGGLING TO COPE WITH DEMAND
German crematoriums are struggling to cope with demand after an explosion of coronavirus deaths, as a new mutant strain rampages.
Coffins scrawled with 'corona' in chalk are stacked on top of one another in every available space of Meissen's sole crematorium, as the death toll hit over 50,000.
The chapel at the crematorium has now been converted into a storage facility for the dead, and chairs previously used to accommodate mourners have been removed to make space for coffins.
Crematorium director Jörg Schaldach discussed his sadness, saying: "For us, the problem isn't storage. The problem is actually for the bereaved.
"The ambulance leaves the yard and they never see their relatives again. There are no hospital visits. People understand that this is a crisis and they accept that. But the psychological aspect of parting is very, very difficult."
PUBS & RESTAURANTS SHOULD STAY SHUT TILL MAY: RESEARCHERS
Bars and restaurants should stay shut until May, researchers have suggested, as they warned that reopening society too quickly could have a "disastrous" effect.
A team of experts modelling the pandemic said that even if 90% of people are vaccinated against coronavirus, 10% would still be at risk of serious infection.
They argued that little is currently known about the effect of vaccines on transmission and if younger people catch coronavirus - they would be at risk of developing long Covid, which can have a debilitating impact on health.
The experts suggested that restrictions should be lifted slowly.
£10K COVID BREACH FINE FOR MUSIC VID ORGANISER
A music video organiser has been slugged with a £10,000 fine for flouting Covid lockdown rules in England.
The London man was found with 30 music star wannabes in a car park, filming a music vid, despite the over-stretched NHS, and huge infection numbers.
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Officers attended the car park and found more than 30 people present on the sixth floor, along with music and filming equipment.
"Most of the group were not wearing face coverings and were not adhering to social distancing.
“A number of people were compliant and left the scene immediately.
"However, one member of the group refused to comply with requests by officers to leave the area, and he was issued with a £200 Fixed Penalty Notice.”
BRITS BANNED FROM SPAIN TILL END OF SUMMER
Britons can't holiday in Spain till the end of summer - when most of the population has been vaccinated, the Prime Minister has declared.
Pedro Sánchez said: “Only mass vaccination will open the way to the normality we want.”
Once 70 per cent of Spain’s population had received the Covid jab, Mr Sanchez said the country would “progressively” prepare to welcome international tourists.
See our full story HERE.
QUEUE JUMPERS 'REPREHENSIBLE'
"Coronavirus has impacted everyone's lives across the country," said Home Secretary Priti Patel at tonight's press conference.
"With the number of people who have died, this is an absolute tragedy."
She said the government is continuing to be advised by the science.
In regards to queue-jumping vaccine recipients, she said it was "morally reprehensible because these individuals are putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk."
HOUSE PARTY FINES INCREASED TO £800 IN CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL GATHERINGS
Fines of £800 will be slapped on people caught at house parties as part of tougher measures to crack down on illegal gatherings during the pandemic.
The penalty, coming into force next week, will apply for groups of over 15 people and will double after each offence up to a maximum of £6,400 for repeat offenders, the Home Secretary said.
The fines currently stand at £200. The £10,000 penalties for unlawful groups of more than 30 people will still only apply to the organiser.
Announcing the decision at Thursday's Downing Street press conference, Priti Patel said: "The science is clear: such irresponsible behaviour poses a significant threat to public health.
"Not only to those in attendance but to our wonderful police officers who attend these events to shut them down."
COVID PANDEMIC IS LIKE DEALING WITH THE BLITZ
NHS England regional medical director for London Dr Vin Diwakar compared breaking the rules to turning on a light in the middle of a blackout during the Blitz.
He told the Downing Street press conference: "This is the biggest health emergency to face this country since the Second World War.
"For me and my colleagues in the NHS breaking the rules in the way that's been described today is like switching on a light in the middle of the blackout in the Blitz.
"It doesn't just put you at risk in your house, it puts your whole street and the whole of your community at risk."
SAFE AND EFFECTIVE JABS
NHS England regional medical director for London Dr Vin Diwakar tonight sought to allay concerns related to vaccine hesitancy.
He told the Downing Street press conference: "We do have communities who do have entirely legitimate and understandable concerns about the vaccines.
"So we do know, for example, that in some of our Asian communities, in some of our black communities, there are longstanding concerns that actually go back generations because of the history, in the way people were brought up by their grandparents, who were told by their grandparents that experiments were done in the early part of the last century, that unethical experiments were done way back in the 60s.
"I'm convinced as a doctor, having looked at all the research, looked at the processes that we have through the medicines health regulatory authority, this is a safe and effective vaccine.
"The things that happened historically in the past have not happened now we have good research evidence and I would urge people who are offered the vaccine to come together."
GLIMMERS OF HOPE
Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS England regional medical director for London said that there are "early glimmers of hope" with the lockdown measures in place.
Asked whether people should start booking summer hols, Priti Patel said it was "far too early to speculate restrictions."
She added: "Think about the numbers...we have 1,000s of people still in hospital, the advice is clear, we are in lockdown.
"People shouldn't be travelling unless it is critical.
"We want to protect members of the public."
TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT OTHER LOCKDOWN MEASURES
"We have lockdown measures - it's right we have stringent measures in place.
"[But] it's too early to speak about other measures," said Home Secretary Priti Patel.
When it comes to lockdown measures, such as border controls, "it's right the government does everything it can to protect people", she added.
Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS England regional medical director for London, said that the lockdown measures are, however, making an impact.
THANKS TO FRONTLINE WORKERS
Frontline staff and key workers have been praised for their efforts "every day", said Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS England regional medical director for London.
He told tonight's press conference that "schools have guidance on how to keep safe and reduce the spread".
MUTANT VARIANTS UNDER CLOSE OBSERVATION
Vaccines are effective against the coronavirus strains circulating in the UK, says Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS England regional medical director for London.
He said that variants are being "carefully tracked" and they are being kept "under review".
QUEUE JUMPERS TURNED AWAY
Those caught trying to jump jab queues fraudulently will be turned away.
Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS England regional medical director for London said at the press conference that the situation in the capital remains 'precarious'.
In London, more than 50% of all patients in hospitals have been admitted with Covid.
"Sadly over 1,000 patients died in London hospitals "just last week", he said.
34,000 people are in hospital nationally with the disease.
He said "we do have hope with an increasing number of people who have been vaccinated".
OVER 4.5M JABS GIVEN SO FAR
Over 4.5million people have now been vaccinated in England with more than 500,000 getting the jab in London.
"We are vaccinating 100s of 1,000s of people every day," says Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS England regional medical director for London.
"As a doctor I would encourage anyone offered this vaccination to get it, because it protects you against the seriousness of this awful disease."
He was "horrified" at hearing about "unscrupulous people" have used links shared with them to falsely book a jab appointment.
This "denies" vulnerable people and is "morally reprehensible" he said.
DOZENS OF NEW JAB CENTRES OPENING TO BOOST VACCINATIONS
Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS England regional medical director for London said that "today, dozens of new vaccination centres are opening across the country.
"This includes one at a mosque in Birmingham, a cinema in Aylesbury, and an additional 65 pharmacies will start offering vaccinations this week.
"That's on top of a 1,000 GP-led services, more than 200 hospital hubs and a growing network of large-scale vaccination centres including Barnet football ground in London."
EMERGENCY WORKERS ATTACKED
According to Crown Prosecution stats, 1,688 offences were charged in relation to assaults on emergency service workers over the past six months.
Cops are facing more abuse from rule breakers, says Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
He said people needed to comply with rules.
LONG LIST OF BREACHES
Recent examples of Covid rule breakers include:
250 PENALTY NOTICES GIVEN
Since regulations were introduced in late August, and up to 17th Jan this year, 250 fixed penalty notices have been issued by forces in England.
Cops won't "waste time" trying to reason with flouters putting people's lives at risk.
"They have no regard for the safety of others or even themselves.
"The majority of poeple are doing their best to follow rules and protect the NHS," says Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
But, the minority has to be dealt with, he adds.
BIG GATHERINGS RISKING OTHERS' LIVES
Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, continues: "Gatherings where people are in close contact with each other in confined spaces will allow the virus to spread.
"Anyone who organises one will be given a fixed penalty.
"So will those who choose to attend."
DANGEROUS STAGE OF PANDEMIC
Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council also says: "personal decisions are critical.
The death figures of recent days are shocking. I urge everyone to take notice of them.
"Every person lost is somebody's family member."