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Covid-19: Vaccination hubs, Whitty's warning and lockdown learning

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Monday morning. We'll have another update for you at 18:00 BST.

1. First mass vaccination hubs open

Seven centres begin operating this morning across England, a key part of efforts to vaccinate 15 million in the top four priority groups by mid-February. To begin with, more than 600,000 aged 80 or over are being sent letters inviting them to book an appointment at one of the hubs - but if the journey is too long, they're being told closer options will be available soon. The centres will be open 12 hours a day and more large-scale sites will follow. The health secretary will give more details later, while the Welsh government will publish its own vaccination plan. In Scotland, more clinics should start to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Here's how vaccines are approved for use, and some of the challenges a rollout on this scale faces.

2. Push for greater compliance

Scientists have warned stricter measures might be needed to curb infections in England but, right now, the government is focusing on an "all-out public information" campaign to improve compliance with the existing rules. Chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty is appearing on TV and radio this morning urging the public to "stay at home" given what he called the "appalling situation" we are in. He told BBC One's Breakfast that getting case numbers down was "everybody's problem", and "every unnecessary contact" with someone from another household gave the virus an opportunity to be transmitted. "We need to really double down", he added, because "this is the most dangerous time we've had in terms of numbers into the NHS." If you've seen videos online claiming some hospital wards and corridors are empty, BBC Reality Check explains what's really going on.

media captionThe emergency body storage facility in a Surrey woodland

3. Economic struggles

The Federation of Small Businesses says a record quarter of a million firms could close over the coming year. The organisation's chairman, Mike Cherry, said financial support provided to businesses during the pandemic had "not kept pace with intensifying restrictions". It also wants more help for many self-employed workers who are currently excluded from aid. There's another call for more government support this morning from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. He wants teachers, the armed forces and care workers to be left out of a public sector pay freeze, and is urging ministers not to end the temporary ??20-a-week boost to Universal Credit.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe Federation of Small Businesses said the government had met the latest national lockdown "with a whimper"

4. Criminal justice system

The body representing prison staff says courts should cease hearing trials to help stop the spread of coronavirus in jails. Mark Fairhurst, from the Prison Officers' Union, said there had been a "massive outbreak" at Cardiff Prison, and the site was struggling to find space for newly-sentenced arrivals. However, others within the criminal justice sector argue courts must be kept open to prevent the case backlog growing further. The rate of spread in prisons is still well below the wider population, and a prison service spokesman said shielding, mass testing and limited regimes were in place at all facilities.

5. Lockdown learning - and lunging

Primary and secondary schools are closed to most pupils, and the switch to virtual learning presents challenges for many families. The BBC is trying to help, and from today lessons and programmes will be broadcast on TV, on BBC Two and CBBC. They'll also be available on iPlayer, with additional content online. Find out all you need to know here. If you're looking for some inspiration for PE, Joe Wicks is also back today. For many families, he was one of the fixtures of the first lockdown, and live classes start at 09:00 GMT on his YouTube channel.

image copyrightZoe Kleinman

And don't forget...

Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

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