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Covid UK: 10,625 new cases and 799 deaths in daily toll - cramzine

Covid UK: 10,625 new cases and 799 deaths in daily toll

Britain today recorded a further 10,625 coronavirus cases and 799 deaths in yet another sign brutal lockdown measures have turned the tide on the second wave — as a top expert said fatalities from all causes could fall to ‘normal’ levels as soon as next month.

Department of Health figures showed daily infections dropped by 14 per cent compared to the same time last week when 12,364 were recorded, and had plunged by 37 per cent from two weeks ago. 

And Covid deaths had also dipped by 25 per cent compared to last Tuesday, when 1,052 were registered.

But there are signs the UK’s coronavirus vaccine roll-out may be slowing after fewer than 280,000 doses were administered yesterday. Officials have blamed ‘patchy’ supply for the inconsistent figures, with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi saying today that doses were ‘finite’ at the moment.

Eminent statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, said today he was ‘sticking my neck out’ and predicting all-cause deaths could tumble to ‘normal’ levels by next month.

He told Times Radio: ‘Compared to the first one (Covid wave), we went up really fast, because we weren’t taking any measures really at all. We were late putting in restrictions. And we went up very fast (in terms of deaths). And we came down really quite slowly. 

‘This time, we went up very slowly, throughout autumn, then with the new variant went up faster over Christmas, but we’re coming down actually remarkably fast. It is extraordinary, especially that there is this new variant. And then with the vaccine starting to kick in, we’re really seeing a very rapid fall, I think better than most people would have expected.’ 

His comments came after Office for National Statistics data today showed 7,320 victims had Covid mentioned on their death certificates in England and Wales over the week ending February 5. 

This was a 13 per cent drop from the previous week, and the first time that the number of weekly victims linked to the disease had dipped since the seven-day spell ending December 25.  The latest data also showed every region in England saw Covid deaths fall compared to the previous week. And the number of deaths from all causes also fell by seven per cent.  

In other developments today, Nicola Sturgeon revealed schools in Scotland would return on Monday, as she set out the devolved nation’s roadmap out of lockdown. Her blueprint comes six days before Boris Johnson is due to make his announcement.

The First Minister also warned people not to book foreign holidays and said the shutdown in Scotland — which is bearing fewer cases than England — is unlikely to end until April. 

And it comes after the UK’s vaccine minister today claimed it is ‘up to businesses’ to decide if they want to require proof of vaccination before serving customers. Nadhim Zahawi ruled out the Government introducing a domestic ‘vaccine passport’ as he said the nation’s vaccination programme and mass-testing are the best tools for getting life back to normal.

No10 ADDS 1.7MILLION ENGLISHMEN TO THE ‘SHIELDERS’ LIST AND SAYS THEY SHOULD STAY INDOORS UNTIL THE END OF MARCH 

A further 1.7million people in England are being told to shield from coronavirus and everyone on the vulnerable list is being urged to stay at home until at least March 31.

The Department of Health announcement pours cold water on hopes that lockdown rules could start to be drastically eased next month, suggesting medics don’t think society will be safe.

This is despite the Government smashing its target of vaccinating 15million of the most vulnerable by February 15. There had been hopes that, once those most at risk were jabbed and developed immunity several weeks later, that the most draconian curbs could be lifted.

Officials said the shielding list — which was first drafted up almost a year ago — was being almost doubled after No10’s scientific advisers identified additional adults at serious risk of Covid using an algorithm.

The DoH did not say who would be added, but the updated list goes beyond looking only at underlying conditions and includes other risk factors including age, weight, ethnicity and level of deprivation.

Of the 1.7million new shielders, 900,000 have already had their first dose because their age or medical history made them eligible during the first phase of the roll-out.

But health chiefs are now racing to immunise the 800,000 who were missed during the first wave of vaccinations. They will be prioritised, health chiefs said.

People who are shielding are advised not to leave their homes at any time, except for brief exercise or medical appointments, because they’re at much higher risk of being hospitalised or dying if they catch the coronavirus.

Ministers are planning to begin easing lockdown restrictions from as soon as March 8, with the strict ‘stay at home’ message to be ditched by Boris Johnson.

Whitehall sources say Britons could be allowed to socialise outside for the first time since Christmas on that date. Outdoor leisure activities, including golf and tennis, could be permitted before Easter.

The Prime Minister will publish his roadmap for easing lockdown next Monday, which will include target dates for the earliest each of the restrictions will be lifted.

But it’s still not clear when lockdown curbs will be eased significantly and shops, gyms and restaurants will be allowed to open, with the PM opting for a ‘cautious’ approach to ensure this is the last time the country has to shut down completely. 

In other coronavirus news:

  • Nicola Sturgeon revealed schools in Scotland will reopen on Monday as she sets out her roadmap out of lockdown six days before Boris Johnson; 
  • The First Minister also warned people not to book foreign holidays and admitted restrictions were unlikely to be lifted until April;
  • No10 today added 1.7million people to the ‘shielders’ list and said they should all stay in until March 31;
  • PHE boss criticises No10 for doing ‘science by press release’ in leaked emails showing nation’s top experts were left in the dark about December’s shock Kent variant announcement;
  • UK detects another 15 cases of South African strain – which top experts say could make jabs less effective;
  • Officials also spot 42 infections of a new strain with the same mutations as the South African variant; 
  • Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi warned it is ‘up to businesses’ to decide if they want to demand proof of vaccination before admitting customers.

The Department of Health’s official figures also reveal Plymouth, in Devon, has become the first area to record an infection rate below 50 cases per 100,000 people in England since the third lockdown was imposed.

The 235,000-strong town had a case rate at 46.9 on February 11, the latest date available, and a total of 123 cases.

As many as eight out of 32 London boroughs are also now recording an infection rate below 100 per 100,000, as the second wave continues to recede. 

ONS data published today on Covid fatalities in the week to February 5 showed although they had now peaked, the levels remained high overall at the start of the month.

The proportion linked to the virus was the third highest on record after 42.5 per cent of 17,192 fatalities from all causes involved the disease.

And two regions in England — the East and the South East — also still recorded more than 1,000 Covid deaths. 

ONS death figures have only just shown a downturn because they lag behind daily death figures, after statisticians analyse each fatality to identify all those where the virus was mentioned.

The Department of Health’s daily updates show that the number of deaths from the virus has been falling for a fortnight, in line with nose-diving infections, after peaking in mid-January.

There is a delay of about three weeks between someone getting infected with the virus and sadly succumbing to the disease, meaning it takes time for a dip in cases to show up in the deaths figures.

It comes as Ms Sturgeon today confirmed that Scottish schoolchildren will return to class from next Monday, a full fortnight before their English counterparts.

She said that a phased reopening of schools will begin from February 22 – but dashed the hopes of Scots dreaming of a foreign summer holiday this year.

Under the plans announced at the start of February and confirmed at Holyrood this afternoon, pupils in Primary 1 to Primary 3 would also be allowed back into school first, as would those in the senior phase of secondary school.

NADHIM ZAHAWI SAYS IT IS ‘UP TO BUSINESSES’ TO DECIDE IF THEY WANT TO USE JAB PASSPORTS

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi today said it is ‘up to businesses’ to decide if they want to require proof of vaccination before serving customers.

Mr Zahawi ruled out the Government introducing a domestic ‘vaccine passport’ as he said the nation’s vaccination programme and mass-testing are the best tools for getting life back to normal.

He confirmed the Government is working on a form of vaccine certificate which people will be able to ask for should it be a requirement for travelling to a specific country.

But his suggestion that firms could decide for themselves whether to ask for proof of vaccination is likely to cause controversy.

Mr Zahawi’s comments raise the prospect of shops, pubs and restaurants refusing entry to customers if they cannot prove they have been vaccinated against coronavirus.

All children under school age in early learning and childcare would also return.

The move heaps pressure on Boris Johnson to confirm classes in England will begin again on March 8.

He is widely expected to confirm this when he unveils a ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown next Monday, but questions remain over how many children will immediately return.

Ms Sturgeon said that after Monday, further returns to school would not happen before March 15, given the need to properly assess the ramifications of the return in phase one.

The First Minister said: ‘I want to be clear, though, that the need to properly assess the impact of this limited reopening means we think it unlikely, at this stage, that there will be any further return to school before 15 March.

‘As we consider these issues, we are of course doing everything we can to ensure that schools are as safe as possible for children, and for the education workforce.’

Senior phase pupils, teachers and school staff will be given lateral flow testing twice a week from next week. The Scottish Government hopes to produce a full roadmap out of lockdown next week, Ms Sturgeon added.

But as a payoff for the schools going back, she warned today that foreign holidays are probably ruled out this year.

‘We are very likely to advise against booking Easter holidays, either overseas or within Scotland as it is highly unlikely that we will have been able to fully open hotels or self-catering accommodation by then,’ she told MSPs.

‘However for the summer, while it is still highly unlikely that overseas holidays will be possible or advisable, staycations might be – but this will depend on the data nearer the time.’

The number of deaths recorded from all causes in England and Wales remained above the five-year average in the week ending February 5, the most recent, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show

The number of deaths recorded from all causes in England and Wales remained above the five-year average in the week ending February 5, the most recent, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show

Figures showed 42.5 per cent of all deaths recorded in the most recent week involved the virus, the third highest on record

Figures showed 42.5 per cent of all deaths recorded in the most recent week involved the virus, the third highest on record

Every region of England saw the number of deaths from the virus it recorded fall in the most recent week. But they remained above 1,000 in the East of England and South East

Every region of England saw the number of deaths from the virus it recorded fall in the most recent week. But they remained above 1,000 in the East of England and South East

The number of deaths in care home residents linked to the virus fell by 13.2 per cent compared to the previous week after 2,175 were recorded. These were deaths across all settings including those in hospitals

The number of deaths in care home residents linked to the virus fell by 13.2 per cent compared to the previous week after 2,175 were recorded. These were deaths across all settings including those in hospitals

Official data shows the virus has had a disproportionate impact on older age groups, with the vast majority of fatalities being among those over 65 years old

Official data shows the virus has had a disproportionate impact on older age groups, with the vast majority of fatalities being among those over 65 years old

Hospital is still the main location where deaths linked to the virus are occurring, followed by care homes and private homes

Hospital is still the main location where deaths linked to the virus are occurring, followed by care homes and private homes

The above graph shows the number of deaths linked to the virus decreased in the most recent week

The above graph shows the number of deaths linked to the virus decreased in the most recent week

Official data also reveals the number of deaths involving influenza also dropped in the most recent week. The flu has failed to take off this year, after mask-wearing and social-distancing measures prevented the virus from spreading

Official data also reveals the number of deaths involving influenza also dropped in the most recent week. The flu has failed to take off this year, after mask-wearing and social-distancing measures prevented the virus from spreading

Professor David Spiegelhalter, a top statistician at the University of Cambridge

Professor David Spiegelhalter, a top statistician at the University of Cambridge

The ONS figures also show more than 1,000 Covid deaths occurred each day for 23 days in a row from January 7, the data also showed, and peaked when 1,437 fatalities were recorded on January 19. This is just below the peak of the first wave when 1,457 Covid deaths were registered on April 8. 

Although encouraging, the latest report showed excess deaths from all causes are still 40 per cent above the five-year average – the official estimate for the number of deaths expected in a particular week – or 4,986 deaths higher. This shows the second wave was still inflicting a heavy toll on the country in early February.

Deaths are generally higher over the winter months normally due to outbreaks of flu and other diseases. But these figures show Covid deaths were still far above the levels triggered by flu.

ANOTHER MUTANT STRAIN OF COVID IS FOUND IN THE UK

Another Covid variant that could dodge vaccine-triggered immunity has been identified in the UK, scientists say.

The strain — called B.1.525 — has been spotted 33 times already but experts say this could be an underestimate. It carries the E484K mutation found on both the South African and Brazilian variants, which make the current crop of jabs slightly less effective.

The variant also has the Q677H mutation on its crucial spike protein, prompting warnings from scientists that this could make it even more resistant to vaccines. And it shares similarities with the Kent strain, which studies show is up to 70 per cent more infectious and deadlier.

The B.1.525 variant was first detected in Britain in mid-December — but this doesn’t mean it evolved here. The UK does far more sequencing than other countries. It has already spread to 11 countries including the US, Canada and Denmark, which are not on the UK’s ‘red list’.

It has been linked to travel to Nigeria, where 12 out of 51 virus samples analysed — or 24 per cent — were the new variant. For comparison, the UK has only found it in 33 of 70,000 genomes sequenced, or less than 0.4 per cent.

The discovery will likely spark fears Britain’s lockdown restrictions may be delayed. Boris Johnson — who is set to unveil his ‘roadmap’ back to freedom on Monday — last week refused to rule out extending measures if the South African virus kept on spreading. His comments came after an alarming study claimed Oxford University’s vaccine may not stop people falling ill with the mutant strain.

But although some genetic changes have been found to make jabs slightly less effective, experts say everyone should still get vaccinated because the jabs should prevent serious illness and death from the disease — even if they don’t stop people developing symptoms.

Every region of England also recorded more fatalities than the five-year average, with the highest toll in London where they were 69.8 per cent above (790 more deaths). This was followed by the East of England which was 62.5 per cent above (833 more) and the South East which was 58.5 per cent above (1,085 more).

The three regions were hit hardest by the second wave of the pandemic, after the mutant Kent strain emerged and spread rapidly through these regions sparking ministers decision to abandon Christmas bubbles.

The lowest percentage of deaths above the five-year average was in Yorkshire and the Humber where they were 10.7 per cent above (128 more), the North East where they were 11.6 per cent above (77 more) and the South West where they were 31.4 per cent above (359 more).

In Wales they recorded 18.8 per cent more deaths from all causes than the five-year average after 903 fatalities were registered in the most recent week or 18.8 per cent more than expected.

Deaths were also still above the five-year average in all settings – in yet another sign of the damaging impact inflicted by the second wave on the country. 

Professor Kevin McConway, a statistician at the Open University, said today it was ‘excellent’ to see the number of deaths registered in England and Wales were ‘clearly lower than the previous week’.

‘That’s not surprising given the falls that we’ve seen in the daily numbers of deaths on the dashboard at coronavirus.data.gov.uk’, he said, ‘and given that the numbers of registered deaths had already started to fall in the bulletin from ONS for the previous week’. 

He added: ‘Things are definitely moving in the right direction. Excess deaths – the difference between the number of deaths in the latest week and the average number for the same week in the five years from 2015-2019, are down too.’

In further news, Public Health England today revealed it has found another 15 cases of the South African coronavirus variant on British soil – taking the total to 217 amid concerns it could make vaccines less effective if it becomes widespread.

Surge testing began at the start of February in areas known to have had cases of the variant, in which mass public swab-testing – some of it done door-to-door – aims to weed out cases spreading among people without symptoms.

And 42 people are confirmed to have been infected with a new variant not seen before, which carries the same mutation that makes the South African strain able to dodge some of the immunity given by older vaccines.

The strain — called B.1.525 — has been spotted 42 times already, twice in Wales, but experts say this could be an underestimate. Health chiefs today officially listed it as a variant under investigation while further tests are carried out. It will not be instantly listed as a strain of concern, like the South African and Kent viruses.

It carries the E484K mutation found on both the South African and Brazilian variants, which make the current crop of jabs slightly less effective.

The variant also has the Q677H mutation on its crucial spike protein, prompting warnings from scientists that this could make it even more resistant to vaccines. And it shares similarities with the Kent strain, which studies show is up to 70 per cent more infectious and deadlier.

The B.1.525 variant was first detected in Britain in mid-December — but this doesn’t mean it evolved here. The UK does far more sequencing than other countries. It has already spread to 11 countries including the US, Canada and Denmark, which are not on the UK’s ‘red list’.

It has been linked to travel to Nigeria, where 12 out of 51 virus samples analysed — or 24 per cent — were the new variant. For comparison, the UK has only found it in 33 of 70,000 genomes sequenced, or less than 0.4 per cent.

The discovery will likely spark fears Britain’s lockdown restrictions may be delayed. Boris Johnson — who is set to unveil his ‘roadmap’ back to freedom on Monday — last week refused to rule out extending measures if the South African virus kept on spreading. His comments came after an alarming study claimed Oxford University’s vaccine may not stop people falling ill with the mutant strain.

One senior Tory MP told MailOnline that the discovery of such variants could give Downing Street cold feet about easing lockdown. They said: ‘It looks as if these variant are actually tackled by the existing vaccines but the fact is you don’t know until time passes and you can see the impact on real people. The problem is that every time a variant pops up it causes this problem with people saying “hang on”.’

The above map shows where the strain B.1.525 has been detected in the world. It was first identified in the UK and Nigeria in late December

The above map shows where the strain B.1.525 has been detected in the world. It was first identified in the UK and Nigeria in late December

Above is the number of cases identified by country. In areas where more genomes are checked for variants of the virus, it is likely more cases will be detected

Above is the number of cases identified by country. In areas where more genomes are checked for variants of the virus, it is likely more cases will be detected

Above is the number of times cases have been found since the first variant was reported by country. It has been most common in Nigeria, Jordan and Ghana this shows

Above is the number of times cases have been found since the first variant was reported by country. It has been most common in Nigeria, Jordan and Ghana this shows

FOUR TRAVELLERS ARE FINED £10,000 EACH AFTER FAILING TO DECLARE THEY HAD ARRIVED FROM ‘RED-LIST’ COUNTRIES 

Four passengers arriving in the UK have been fined £10,000 each for failing to tell authorities that they came from a ‘red-list’ country.

The passengers landed at Birmingham Airport where they ‘attempted to hide their routes’, West Midlands Police revealed.

Police have not said where the four people arrived from, but they were ‘identified and received £10,000 fines as a result’.

Arrivals from 33 ‘red list’ countries now have to pay £1,750 to quarantine in a hotel for ten days – or face a £10,000 fine.

Passengers who lie about where they came from on their passenger locator forms could be hit with a 10-year jail sentence.

West Midlands Police temporary Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd said: ‘By midday yesterday, on the first day of implementation, we have received six passengers who had declared travelling from a red list country, who were taken to the quarantine hotel.

It comes as one of Public Health England’s top advisers has accused the Government of doing ‘science by press release’ by announcing things without telling its scientists.

Dr Susan Hopkins, who has appeared alongside senior ministers in Downing Street press conferences throughout the pandemic, vented her frustration in leaked emails seen by Politico.

The email came in the wake of Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s first announcement about the Kent variant on December 14.

The mutated strain of the virus hadn’t been mentioned to the public before a shock press conference less than a fortnight before Christmas. It took off at such speed that festive changes to lockdown rules were scrapped at the 11th hour for millions of people in London, the East and the South East.

A scramble for detail ensued, with PHE unable to give journalists any information beyond a name for the variant.

The leaked emails show the same rush for information was playing out behind the scenes, with senior medics baffled by the announcement.

When MailOnline requested details at the time of where cases of the Kent variant had been found, the Department of Health referred the request to PHE, which deferred to COG-UK, an organisation analysing the genetics in positive Covid test samples. COG-UK could not provide the information.

PHE has denied that Dr Hopkins was criticising the Government in her email.

Politico reports that an infection control doctor and PHE adviser, Dr David Farren, said in the email conversation: ‘I can’t see anything on the usual channels.’

Dr Michael Kelsey, a microbiologist and NHS doctor in London, added: ‘This is part of the new “science by press release” that has become the norm.’

Dr Hopkins, who is the senior medical adviser at PHE, replied: ‘Science by press release is correct.’

She said it would be at least a day before PHE was able to explain the new variant to scientists; even those advising the government body. 

A PHE spokesperson said: ‘Dr Hopkins was absolutely not criticising the Government.

‘She was reflecting on the fact that, owing to the fast moving nature of the science throughout the pandemic, there has been a need to communicate quickly and directly to the public, often at the same time as the scientific community, as opposed to the usual full peer-review publication process which often takes months.’

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