Good morning. Priti Patel, the home secretary, has been doing the morning interview round on behalf of No 10 (which may be further proof that my colleague Peter Walker’s article last month struck a nerve), and she has confirmed that she wants to ensure that police officers get priority for the vaccine.
On the Today programme she was asked if there was a chance, provided the experts agreed, that the police could be “bumped up this queue” for the vaccine. She replied:
It’s those police, fire and other frontline workers. The health secretary [Matt Hancock] and I are working to absolutely make that happen. I will be very clear about that. That isn’t just something we are thinking about. There is a lot of working taking place in government right now. If the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation [JCVI] says that is a possibility, we can make it happen. We have the logistical plans in place. We will absolutely work to make that happen.
The current plan is to vaccinate the nine priority groups identified by the JCVI. There are 15 million people in the UK in the first four categories (care home residents, health and social care workers, and the over 70s), and they are meant to get their first dose by the middle of February. There are another 17 million people in the next five categories (the over-50s, and other adults with serious underlying health conditions), and they are meant to get their first dose by early spring.
The JCVI has not yet decided in what order it will vaccinate the rest of the population (adults under 50), but ministers have hinted strongly that the police, teachers and shop workers should get priority.
On the Today programme it was not entirely clear whether Patel was just saying she was pushing for the police to get priority in phase two (when the under-50s get vaccinated), or whether she wants the JCVI to change the nine-cohort priority list it has already drawn up. But when I asked an aide for clarification, I was told to read the transcript of her interview on LBC, where Patel was much clearer about wanting the priority list to be revised.
When Nick Ferrari, the presenter, asked if Patel wanted the police to be “moved up the ranks” for vaccinations, she said a lot of work was taking place on that issue. When Ferrari asked why that was not happening, if ministers were in favour, and why the police were not being treated like the over-75s, she said a vaccine delivery plan was in place. Ferrari then asked if that meant the police would be “promoted up”. Patel replied:
We’re working to achieve that … I’ve been saying to policing partners in particular, get ready.
Ferrari then asked what again what was stopping Patel if this is what she wanted. She replied:
We’re working with the JCVI which is the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisations. They are the ones that are determining this, it’s not for politicians.
So, Patel wants to over-ride the current priority decisions taken by the JCVI – but has not yet got agreement for this in government. What we don’t know yet is how much support she has for this from ministerial colleagues. No doubt we will find out more as the day goes on.
Here is the agenda for the day.
12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.
12.15pm: Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, holds a coronavirus briefing in Cardiff.
12.30pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, takes questions in the Scottish parliament.
12.30pm: Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, responds to an urgent question in the Commons about backlogs in the criminal justice system.
1.30pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.
2.30pm: Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, gives evidence to the Commons Northern Ireland affairs committee.
Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.
Here is our global coronavirus live blog.
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