Good morning. As we report in our overnight splash, a “significant reduction” in vaccine supply means people under 50 in the UK may have to wait up to a month longer than previously expected for their first jab.
At the 5pm Downing Street press conference last night Matt Hancock, the health secretary, insisted that the shortfall was just a routine and he refused to acknowledge that it would make a material difference to people waiting for a vaccine. It was not one of his more convincing performances, and afterwards he was accused of not being honest with the public.
Overnight No 10 seems to have realised that the critics were right and that the original Hancock line would not hold. Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, has been doing the broadcast round this morning and he has been delivering a refined verdict; the vaccine rollout will be slower than expected, he said, although he insisted the key target dates would still be met. He told BBC Breakfast:
We are experiencing some supply issues so it does mean the vaccine rollout will be slightly slower than we may have hoped but not slower than the target we set ourselves.
We’re going to move forward as quickly as we possibly can but it won’t be as fast as we might have hoped for a few weeks but then we have every reason to believe that supply will increase the months of May, June and July.
But Jenrick also said the government was “confident” that it was still on course to meet its two key vaccine targets; for everyone in the phase 1 priority groups (all over-50s, people with underlying health conditions, and health and social care workers) to have a first dose by 15 April, and for all adults to have a first dose by the end of July.
Given that this timetable won’t be affected, then arguably there will be no delay to the vaccine rollout programme. But with the government in “under-promise and over-deliver” mode at the moment, this timetable was deliberately cautious and in private officials were hoping for a faster rollout. Last week, in a story attributed to “senior government sources”, the Telegraph was reporting that “everyone over 40 should be offered their first Covid-19 vaccine by Easter”.
Here is the agenda for the day.
10am: Sir Keir Starmer takes part in a virtual Q&A during a visit to Scotland.
10am: Former cabinet secretary Lord Sedwill gives evidence to a Lords committee on relations with China.
11am: Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, launches Welsh Labour’s campaign for the Senedd elections in May.
12pm: Downing Street holds its daily lobby briefing.
12pm: Sir Kevan Collins, the education recovery commissioner, gives a speech to the Association of School and College Leaders virtual conference
Around 12pm: Matt Hancock, the health secretary, makes a statement to MPs about Covid.
12.30pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, takes questions in the Scottish parliament.
2pm: Public Health England publishes its weekly Covid surveillance report.
Politics Live has been mostly about Covid for the last year and I will be covering UK coronavirus developments today, as well as non-coronavirus Westminster politics. For global coronavirus news, do read our global live blog.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.