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UK Covid live: South African variant cases reported in Surrey prompt fears of community transmission

Good morning. Many aspects of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis have been flawed, but generally the vaccination programme has so far been a remarkable success and so it is understandable why ministers are keen to talk about that. Today the government says it has effectively hit its target of offering all care home residents in England a jab (some have been missed because visits were cancelled due to Covid outbreaks in the homes) and this morning Helen Whately, the care minister, has been giving interviews about that.

But she has refused to confirm that all care home staff have been offered a vaccine. “We know that we are still working through the care home staff,” she told the Today programme. It had been assumed that staff were also covered by the end of January deadline, although Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock have both made comments (eg, here and here) saying the January promise just applied to residents.

Whately also seemed to water down the commitment to opening a centre offering vaccines 24/7. In early January No 10 caused a stir by claiming there was “not a clamour” for these. Boris Johnson subsequently announced the government would pilot the idea (after Sir Keir Starmer backed 24/7 vaccinations) and Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister, said a pilot would “absolutely” be launched in London by the end of January. Today, though, when asked what had happened to this proposal, Whately just said it was “something that was being looked into”.

Here is the agenda for the day.

12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.

12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, is holding a coronavirus briefing.

12.15pm: The Welsh government is expected to hold a coronavirus briefing.

1.30pm: Sir Keir Starmer appears on Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch.

After 3.30pm: MPs begin an opposition day debate on a Labour motion calling for work on the removal of dangerous cladding from flats to start immediately.

4pm: Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, gives evidence to the Commons procedure committee, about Commons procedure during the pandemic.

5pm: Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is expected to hold a press conference at No 10.

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.

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.

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