Coronavirus UK news update – South Africa strain that could DERAIL lockdown lifting found in new area after covid tests

NEW cases of the feared South African coronavirus mutation have been confirmed in the UK.

Surge testing have been rolled out to the Sandwell area in the West Midlands to offer more tests to locals, after infections of the mutation which could threaten the UK's lockdown lifting roadmap were discovered.

It comes as an expert warned the EU is heading for "disaster" after multiple countries decided to suspend their AstraZeneca vaccine rollout over unsubstantiated blood clot fears, an expert has warned.

Germany yesterday became the 14th country to suspend the jab following Netherlands, Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Italy and Thailand.

And just an hour later France revealed it was shutting down its AstraZeneca rollout for 24 hours as well while the blood clot claims were looked into.

The evidence for such blood clotting appears to be patchy at best though and research in the UK suggests the vaccine has no discernible impact on the likelihood of developing a blood clot compared with not taking it.

Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, this morning told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think it is very clear that the benefits of being vaccinated at the moment so far outweigh the possible concern over this rather rare type of blood clot.

"I think it is a disaster for the vaccination uptake in Europe, which is already on slightly unsteady ground in some countries."

Asked why he thought so many countries were pausing the rollout Professor Openshaw said: "I think the committees are probably afraid of not making that decision to pause on the basis that they might be in some way thought culpable if they didn't, but actually these are such rare events."

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on March 10 it would be investigating a spate of blood clotting cases in Europe.

But it later urged countries to continue vaccinating because the benefits of being protected outweigh any potential risk.

The UK medicine regulator – the MHRA – also says the jab is safe and encourages Brits to accept their offer of a vaccine when it arrives.

And the World Health Organisation also reiterated its guidance that the Oxford / Astra-Zeneca vaccine is safe.

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic

  • Alice Peacock

    CONTINUED

    But addressing the education select committee, Dr George urged caution on using negative language to describe learning disruption and he said he had raised concerns about such messaging to Number 10.

    Regarding phrases like "lost generation" and "catch-up", he said: "These are I think hugely potentially damaging to young people.

    "They do listen, they see the media, they see social media, and I just wonder where that leaves young people feeling like they are left? 'Well if I don't catch up then what am I?'

    "And I've actually had that echoed in messages across social media to myself – a lot of concern from young people saying: 'Am I part of this lost generation? What does that mean for our futures?'

  • Alice Peacock

    PHRASES LIKE 'CATCH-UP' MAY BE DAMAGING TO YOUNG PEOPLE

    Using phrases such as "lost generation" and "catch-up" when addressing the impact of Covid-19 on young people could be "damaging" to them, the Government's youth mental health ambassador has said.

    Dr Alex George, an A&E doctor and star of TV's Love Island, told MPs that "we must steer away from that language" as it is leaving young people concerned about their futures as a result of the pandemic.

    His comments came as England's new children's commissioner said she was "absolutely determined" to make sure that children are prioritised so they do not become the "lost generation" following Covid-19.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made £1.7 billion of "catch-up" funding available in England to help children who have faced disruption from school and college closures during the pandemic.

  • Alice Peacock

    NIGHTINGALE COURT WILL OPEN IN NOTTINGHAM TO REDUCE COURT CASE BACKLOG

    A Nightingale court will open in Nottingham this month to reduce the area’s court case backlog, Robert Buckland has announced.

    Asked if the Government has plans to create a Nightingale court in Nottingham by Conservative MP Darren Henry, Mr Buckland said: “I am delighted to let (Mr Henry) know that as a result of the campaigning that he and other Nottinghamshire colleagues have undertaken, we will indeed be opening a Nightingale court in Nottingham before the end of this very month.

    “And I agree that adding additional capacity to opening up Nightingales is the key to tackling the higher level of outstanding cases caused by the pandemic.

    “We’ve now opened Nightingales in every HMCTS region and we are on track to have a total of 60 additional court rooms by the end of March.”

  • Alice Peacock

    'NO LINK TO BLOOD CLOTS' EMA SAYS

    The European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave an update on its analysis of blood clotting cases today, announcing there was no direct link with the jab.

    EMA executive director Emer Cooke said the cases of blood clots in recently vaccinated people was still being analysed "tirelessly" by a range of experts.

    A conclusion is expected on Thursday, which Ms Cooke said she would not speculate on.

    But the agency said it remained "firmly convinced" that the benefits of vaccinating people against Covid outweigh the potential side effects.

    It comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) urged nations to continue using the life-saving jab because there is no clear evidence it was behind fatal blood clotting conditions.

  • Alice Peacock

    ITALY AND FRANCE ADMIT BAN ON ASTRAZENECA VACCINE IS POLITICAL

    Italy and France have admitted that their ban on the AstraZeneca vaccine supposedly due to blood clot fears is political – as the EU "sulks" over Brexit.

    Nicola Magrini, who runs Italian medicines regulator AIFA, said politicians in Italy were pressured to ban the Covid jabs after Germany and France did.

    Mr Magrini told La Repubblica: "We got to the point of a suspension because several European countries, including Germany and France, preferred to interrupt vaccinations… to put them on hold in order to carry out checks. The choice is a political one."

    EU officials have said today that there is “no indication” the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine causes blood clots.

    Conservative MP Anthony Browne said European leaders had been driven by "politics not science", and claimed the EU's "Brexit sulk will cost lives".

  • Alice Peacock

    SCOTTISH HOSPITALITY WILL OPEN FROM APRIL 26

    Beer gardens will also be able to open when Scotland's lockdown is lifted, the First Minister has said.

    "Cafes, restaurants and bars will be able to serve people outdoors – in groups of up to 6 from 3 households – until 10pm," she said.

    "Alcohol will be permitted, and there will be no requirement for food to be served."

    There will also be indoor opening of hospitality from April 26, limited initially to food and non-alcoholic drinks until 8pm.

    She added from early June her hope is that all of Scotland will move to Level 1 of coronavirus restrictions – the second lowest of five tiers.

     

  • Alice Peacock

    HALF OF ALL ADULTS JABBED BY WEEK’S END

    HALF of all adults in the UK could be vaccinated by the end of this week as the jab rollout surges ahead. 

    Some 24.4 million Brits have already been inoculated – under two million short of half of all over-18s in the country.

    It comes after over 770,000 jabs were given out over the weekend – with 512,108 doled out on Saturday alone. 

    Supplies are also set to receive a boost this week, with around four million doses to become available. 

    NHS England has written to vaccine providers to urge them to ensure they have the staff in place to ramp up capacity. 

  • Alice Peacock

    'ROUTE BACK TO NORMALITY DEPENDS ON CONTINUED SUPPRESSION'

    Nicola Sturgeon has warned against complacency as she announced the easing of restrictions in the coming weeks in Scotland.

    The First Minister said that while she hopes to be able to lift the stay-at-home order and open retail and hospitality at different points next month, work was still required to ensure cases did not rise.

    She said: "This is certainly the most hopeful I have felt about the situation for a long time.

    "However, as you would expect, I do need to add a note of caution.

    "I know this is the bit none of us want to hear, but the route back to normality does depend on continued suppression."

  • Alice Peacock

    SCOTLAND WILL EMERGE FROM LOCKDOWN ON APRIL 26

    Scotland will move out of lockdown and into a "modified Level 3" on April 26.

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that the vaccination programme will have reached those most at risk of dying from Covd-19, which "will give us confidence to ease restrictions much more significantly from April 26".

    On the same date, travel restrictions across the country will be dropped.

    The First Minister said: "We hope that restrictions on journeys between Scotland and other parts of the UK and the wider common travel area can also be lifted, if not on April 26, then as soon as possible thereafter."

  • Alice Peacock

    NEARLY NINE IN 10 PUPILS HAVE ATTENDED SCHOOLS IN ENGLAND SINCE REOPENING

    Nearly nine in 10 pupils have attended schools in England since they began to fully reopen last week, Government figures show.

    Around 89% of secondary school pupils were in class on March 15 – a week after schools began to stagger the return of these pupils for mass testing, the Department for Education (DfE) analysis shows.

    Attendance in primary schools began at 96% at the start of last week, but it fell slightly to 94% on March 15, the figures suggest.

    Overall, attendance in state schools steadily increased from 68% on March 8 to 89% on March 11.

    The DfE estimates that 1% of all state school pupils on roll did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons on Thursday last week.

  • Sarah Grealish

    CONTINUED

    In his foreword to the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, the Prime Minister said when work began on the document in early 2020 "we could not have anticipated how a coronavirus would trigger perhaps the greatest international crisis since the Second World War, with tragic consequences that will persist for years to come".

    He added: "Covid-19 has reminded us that security threats and tests of national resilience can take many forms."

    In a section on global health – listed as one of the "transnational challenges" facing the world – the document said: "Infectious disease outbreaks are likely to be more frequent to 2030.

    "Many will be zoonoses – diseases caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites that spread from animals to humans – as population growth drives the intensification of agriculture and as the loss of habitats increases interaction between humans and animals.

    "Another novel pandemic remains a realistic possibility."

  • Sarah Grealish

    ANOTHER PANDEMIC IS 'REALISTIC POSSIBILITY'

    BORIS Johnson's defence review today warned another pandemic is a "realistic possibility" by 2030 as population growth sparks more viruses.

    The PM today revealed his biggest shake up since the Cold War to MPs – as he vowed more nukes and billions of pounds of extra cash to keep the nation safe in future.

    His major shake-up revealed that infectious disease outbreaks are likely to be more frequent by the end of the decade.

    Population growth and the loss of natural habitat would increase interaction between humans and animals, fuelling the risk of a disease spreading from one species to another, like what is thought to have happened with Covid 19.

  • Sarah Grealish

    DO YOU LIVE IN A COVID HOTSPOT?

    COVID cases have risen across a third of local authorities in England in the last week, official data has revealed.

    Of the 315 regions, 104 have witnessed an increase in infections – some only slightly up on last week.

    Find out about your area here.

  • Sarah Grealish

    UK COVID CASES RISE EIGHT PER CENT ON LAST WEEK AFTER SCHOOLS RETURN

    UK Covid cases yesterday rose by 5,089 – up by eight per cent on the number of new infections recorded this time last week.

    It follows the reopening of schools last Monday, which scientists feared could lead to a rise in cases.

    It is not clear whether the reopening of schools has caused today's slight rise in new cases.

    But Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), suggested last month it would be better to bring age groups back gradually, rather than open all classrooms at once.

    He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: “Of course there’s great needs to get our kids back in schools as fast as we can. But sticking to the epidemiology, yeah, of course, it’s always safer to take smaller steps and evaluate.”

  • Alice Peacock

    MATT HANCOCK DEFENDS 1% PAY RISE FOR NHS WORKERS

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a 1% pay rise for NHS workers was an increase, not a cut.

    Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee, he said that NHS workers had been “carved out” of the pay freeze in the rest of the public sector.

    When asked why it was 1% when the NHS 10-year plan made a 2.1% provision for annual pay increases for NHS workers, he said: “The NHS was carved out of the pay freeze that has been applied due to the enormous pressure on the public finances, that has been applied to everyone else in the public sector.

    “We put in place evidence reflecting what is affordable and we of course will study what the pay review body says.”

    Asked whether it was a pay increase or a real-terms pay cut, Mr Hancock added: “Inflation is below 1% and therefore a proposed 1% pay rise is indeed a pay rise and that’s simply a matter of fact.”

  • Alice Peacock

    CARE HOME RESIDENT COVID DEATHS FALL BY MORE THAN THREE QUARTERS IN MONTH

    Care home resident deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales have fallen by more than three quarters in a month, figures show.

    There were 2,175 care home resident deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate registered in the week ending February 5, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

    The latest weekly figures show 467 care home resident deaths involving Covid-19 were registered in the week to March 5 – down 78.5% in four weeks.

    The figures cover deaths of care home residents in all settings, not just in care homes.

    The ONS data also shows that the overall number of deaths of care home residents have been below the average for this time of year for three weeks in a row.

  • Alice Peacock

    WEEK-ON-WEEK FALL IN NUMBER OF COVID-19 DEATHS ACROSS ENGLAND

    ll regions of England recorded a week-on-week fall in the number of Covid-19 deaths registered in the week to March 5, the ONS said.

    South-east England saw the highest number of Covid-19 deaths registered: 328, down 32% from 481 in the previous week.

    Eastern England saw the second highest number: 277, down 18% from 337.

  • Alice Peacock

    HALF OF ALL ADULTS JABBED BY WEEK’S END

    HALF of all adults in the UK could be vaccinated by the end of this week as the jab rollout surges ahead. 

    Some 24.4 million Brits have already been inoculated – under two million short of half of all over-18s in the country.

    It comes after over 770,000 jabs were given out over the weekend – with 512,108 doled out on Saturday alone. 

    Supplies are also set to receive a boost this week, with around four million doses to become available. 

    NHS England has written to vaccine providers to urge them to ensure they have the staff in place to ramp up capacity. 

  • Alice Peacock

    CONTINUED

    He reveals in the documentary that while Oscar did not die of Covid he believee it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the pandemic.

    “I didn’t get to say goodbye to Oscar. And I suppose there are people whose family’s members died in intensive care who neve had that chance either, and it hurts,” he says in the documentary which airs tonight at 9pm.

    As the segment wrapped, a clearly emotional Holly, 40, fought back tears as she encouraged viewers to donate to their local NHS charities.

  • Alice Peacock

    EMOTIONAL TIME FOR THIS MORNING HOST TALKING DEATH OF COVID DOCTOR'S SON

    This Morning's Holly Willoughby fought back tears as an ICU doctor on the frontlines of the Covid pandemic revealed his son had died.

    Professor Hugh Montgomery appeared on Tuesday's show to talk about the importance of people watching ITV's documentary 2020: The Story of Us.

    The landmark feature-length documentary by Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald tells the story of coronavirus in Britain through the experience of people affected.

    Prof Hugh admitted he won't be watching it as it would be too traumatic to revisit the harrowing hospitals scenes as NHS staff battled the Covid pandemic.

    The professor also choked up in tears as he revealed his 17-year-old son, Oscar, died in May.

  • Alice Peacock

    NIGHTINGALE COURT WILL OPEN IN NOTTINGHAM TO REDUCE COURT CASE BACKLOG

    A Nightingale court will open in Nottingham this month to reduce the area's court case backlog, Robert Buckland has announced.

    Asked if the Government has plans to create a Nightingale court in Nottingham by Conservative MP Darren Henry, Mr Buckland said: "I am delighted to let (Mr Henry) know that as a result of the campaigning that he and other Nottinghamshire colleagues have undertaken, we will indeed be opening a Nightingale court in Nottingham before the end of this very month.

    "And I agree that adding additional capacity to opening up Nightingales is the key to tackling the higher level of outstanding cases caused by the pandemic.

    "We've now opened Nightingales in every HMCTS region and we are on track to have a total of 60 additional court rooms by the end of March."

  • Alice Peacock

    NEARLY NINE IN 10 PUPILS HAVE ATTENDED SCHOOLS IN ENGLAND SINCE REOPENING

    Nearly nine in 10 pupils have attended schools in England since they began to fully reopen last week, Government figures show.

    Around 89% of secondary school pupils were in class on March 15 – a week after schools began to stagger the return of these pupils for mass testing, the Department for Education (DfE) analysis shows.

    Attendance in primary schools began at 96% at the start of last week, but it fell slightly to 94% on March 15, the figures suggest.

    Overall, attendance in state schools steadily increased from 68% on March 8 to 89% on March 11.

    The DfE estimates that 1% of all state school pupils on roll did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons on Thursday last week.

  • Alice Peacock

    THIRD OF UK TOWNS AND CITIES HAVE SEEN A RISE IN CASES OVER LAST WEEK

    A third of towns and cities in England have seen a rise in cases of coronavirus in a week, according to new figures from Public Health England.

    Latest figures show 104 areas have seen a rise in case rates, 209 have seen a fall and two remain unchanged, Metro reported.

    Hull now has the highest reported number of Covid-19 cases, followed by Corby and Redditch.

    The data, published yesterday, is for the seven days up to March 11.

    The news comes a week after British pupils headed back to school, as part of Boris Johnson's lockdown-easing roadmap.

  • Alice Peacock

    'DEADLIEST DAY' OF UK'S COVID-19 PANDEMIC WAS IN SECOND WAVE, NOT FIRST

    The UK suffered its worst day for Covid-19 deaths during the second wave of the virus, new analysis confirms.

    A total of 1,463 deaths occurred on January 19 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

    This is four more than the 1,459 deaths that occurred on April 8 2020, which was previously the UK's "deadliest day".

    The total for January 19 has only now overtaken April 8, due to a small number of deaths that have recently been registered.

    The figures have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and provide the fullest picture so far of how the Covid-19 pandemic has unfolded in the UK.

    They show that 147,681 deaths have now occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

  • Alice Peacock

    OPERATIONAL COST OF PANDEMIC FOR THE NHS COVERED BY GOVERNMENT

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the operational cost of the pandemic for the NHS will be covered by the Government.

    When asked by the Health Select Committee about the extra £7 billion the NHS needs for Covid-related costs, Mr Hancock said working out the cost of the pandemic for the NHS was complicated.

    But he said the issue will be resolved soon, and added: "We have been clear we will find the Covid costs and just working out exactly what they are is complicated, not least because you have to see where we are in the pandemic.

    "Thankfully we are in a far better place in the pandemic than we were in November when the Spending Review was settled, nor indeed in January or February.

    "So working out the exact operational costs will be published shortly but what all parts of the NHS know is the direct operational costs of Covid will be covered."

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