Week Ahead: Prime Minister Boris Johnson's vaccination deadline and a lockdown Pancake Day

It’s vaccination target deadline day for Ministers before a lockdown Pancake Day, while artists make themselves heard. John Blow looks into the week ahead.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a Covid-19 related visit to SureScreen Diagnostics in Derbyshire. Picture: Phil Noble/PA Wire.

Deadline day

Fourteen million of the UK’s most at-risk people have been offered their first jab against coronavirus.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson in January set an objective of offering the first of two doses of a vaccine to the top four priority groups - including all those 70 years of age and over, clinically extremely vulnerable individuals, and residents and staff of care homes for older adults - by the middle of this month.

Pupils from St Peter's C.E. Primary School, taking part in pancake races at Leeds Minster in 2020. Picture: James Hardisty.

The number was first put at 15 million people, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said later that month that the first four categories amounted to 13.9 million across the UK.

Ministers have said they are on track to reach the goal and the Government will see it as a triumph following a year of intense scrutiny and criticisms that it has been slow to act in other areas of the pandemic, such as the first lockdown.

A review of the latest lockdown measures is also due to start today.

At this point last week more than 12 million people in the UK had received at least one dose, and Downing Street has also said that all adults aged 50 and over should have been offered a vaccine by May.

The vaccination programme itself is also a bone of contention for a number of groups, though, in terms of who is next in the queue.

An open letter sent from all 43 branches of the Police Federation of England and Wales to officials in Westminster, for example, said that a failure to prioritise the vaccination of frontline police officers against Covid-19 would be “a deep betrayal and will not be forgiven or forgotten”.

Elsewhere campaigners have also urged the Government to make all people with learning disabilities a priority for vaccination, and there are also worries that nursing staff who do not work directly for the NHS are being left behind in the programme.

Shrove Tuesday

Lockdowns lend themselves to people binging on something sweet, or perhaps savoury - the perennial Pancake Day debate.

Shrove Tuesday - known in some parts as Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday” - is part of the Christian calendar marking the eve of Lent, the 40 days of fasting and prayers before Easter.

It was historically held so people could use up their supplies before Lent began the day after, on Ash Wednesday.

Such an occasion would normally call for Leeds Minster’s annual pancake race, when pupils from schools nearby pound the pavements outside, pans in hand, or the tradition of skipping on Scarborough’s South Bay.

The word shrove comes from Old English for shrive - to confess sins - an activity of Shrove Tuesday.

According to information from the Church of England Diocese of Leeds, it is believed that pancake races came from women rushing to church before the noon cut-off time, clutching their half-finished pancakes.

Concerned creatives

EU visa arrangements for creative workers will also be a focus in Parliament on Tuesday.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee will convene a formal meeting for oral evidence, attended by Minister Caroline Dinenage MP and Alastair Jones, Deputy Director of the

Creative and Cultural Touring Project. Incorporated Society of Musicians, Production Guild of Great Britain and Freelancers Make Theatre Work representatives are also due to speak.

Following Brexit, some musicians from Yorkshire have called on the Government to secure visa-free travel deal for artists touring Europe, which Kaiser Chiefs bassist Simon Rix has said is “one of the ways the band earns money in this streaming age”.