Britain has smashed its vaccine record yet again with 874,000 jabs given in just one day – as preliminary Covid data shows 41 people have died after testing positive in England and Wales.
The jab figure recorded yesterday – which covers first and second doses – marks the second day in a row of record-beating figures, with 711,156 vaccines given on Friday.
More than half of all adults have now had at least one vaccine dose, with the number equivalent to the entire adult populations of Liverpool, Southampton and Oxford combined.
But as the UK’s hugely-successful vaccination drive soars ahead, the EU today doubled down on its threat to block jab exports to the UK.
European Commissioner for financial services Mairead McGuinness said ‘everything is on the table’ and the EU’s focus is on ‘protecting our citizens’.
She also said there is a need for both sides to ‘calm down’ amid the escalating war of words over vaccine supply – as the British Government warned Brussels that ‘the world is watching’.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Brussels that going ahead with an export ban would ‘damage the EU’s reputation globally’.
He said the EU is ‘under tremendous political pressure’ because of its botched vaccine rollout and insisted ‘the rest of the world is looking at the Commission about how it conducts itself’.
In other developments:
- Policing minister Kit Malthouse has been accused of breaching Covid-19 protocol at the Home Office after he tested positive at his place of work;
- EU doubled down on its threat to block jab exports to the UK – as the British Government warned Brussels that ‘the world is watching’;
- Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman defended Nicola Sturgeon, claiming the First Minister has ‘led by example’ while accusing her critics of playing ‘partisan politics’ amid growing calls for her resignation;
- Plans for ‘Alfresco April’ gathered pace with Marston’s brewery saying 700 of its pubs would open on April 12;
- Experts predicted a £11.5 billion wedding bonanza once restrictions eased, while some hairdressers reporting full appointment books until early summer;
- Japan announced that in a ‘great sacrifice’, international fans would be barred from attending the Tokyo Olympics later this year.
A further 41 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 in England and Wales, preliminary figures have revealed (file image)
Of the 874,000 vaccines recorded in Britain yesterday, 756,873 were in England alone – and 686,424 of England’s jabs were first doses.
Meanwhile, 35 people have died in hospital in England alone – including a 37-year-old with no underlying health conditions, NHS England data has revealed.
In Wales, a further six people died after testing positive for the virus. Scotland recorded no new deaths.
The 41 hospital deaths seen across England and Wales is down from the 61 reported last Sunday.
Wales has seen 196 positive tests, while 532 cases were reported in Scotland. England’s case figure will be revealed later today.
Britain’s all settings figures – which cover deaths in hospitals, care homes and the wider community – will be published on the Government’s Covid-19 dashboard at 4pm.
The UK’s triumphant vaccine figures come at the end of a week which saw the highest number of doses delivered since the vaccination programme began, NHS England said.
Chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: ‘The speed and precision of the NHS vaccination campaign has been on full display this weekend and yesterday NHS staff across England administered a remarkable 27 jabs a second.
‘In just one day we vaccinated the equivalent of the entire adult populations of Liverpool, Southampton and Oxford combined.
‘When my turn came earlier this week I was delighted to get my first dose and we have a strong supply of vaccine for the coming week too, so if you are aged 50 plus, don’t delay!
‘Now is a great time to book your NHS Covid jab – it’s quick and efficient, safe and effective, and painless.’
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned Brussels that going ahead with an export ban would ‘damage the EU’s reputation globally’
European Commissioner for financial services Mairead McGuinness said ‘everything is on the table’ and the EU’s focus is on ‘protecting our citizens’
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has threatened to join forces with the French and German governments to hold hostage more than 19 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to be shipped to the UK over the coming weeks
The EU’s disastrous vaccine rollout means barely 12 per cent of adults in France, Germany and Italy have so far had jabs. Pictured: German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Brussels claims AstraZeneca has delivered only a third of the 90 million vaccine doses that it promised to the EU during the first quarter of this year, but has met its contract to supply the UK in full. Pictured: French President Emmanuel Macron
Meanwhile, tensions with the EU continued to increase. In a dramatic move, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, threatened to join forces with the French and German governments to hold hostage more than 19 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to be shipped to the UK over the coming weeks.
The EU continues to face criticism over the glacial speed of its vaccination programme and many of its members have been plunged into fresh lockdowns as Covid-19 cases soared.
Meanwhile, the UK delivered 711,156 jabs in 24 hours on Friday, with Boris Johnson hailing the success by tweeting: ‘Many thanks to everyone involved in this fantastic achievement. Let’s keep going!’
It comes as the Government began working on plans to move the majority of the UK’s coronavirus vaccine production onshore to make Britain more self-sufficient, the Telegraph reported.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is understood to have held talks with Nadhim Zahawi, the Vaccines Minister, about how to speed up production in the UK – and reduce the risk of other nations disrupting the rollout.
An insider said: ‘There is a lot of domestic production already. We are always looking at ways we can increase vaccine production in the UK. The Government is looking at ways vaccine supplies can be increased all the time.’
Brussels claims AstraZeneca has delivered only a third of the 90 million vaccine doses that it promised to the EU during the first quarter of this year, but has met its contract to supply the UK in full.
An irate Ms von der Leyen said the bloc reserved the right to hit back by banning the export of batches made by the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant to the UK. They account for around 20 per cent of Britain’s future supplies.
The explosive plan will be discussed at a European Council summit on Thursday, but already has the backing of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Ms McGuinness told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that EU leaders will ‘make an assessment of the current situation’ when they discuss the matter.
‘I think what is terribly important this week, as you say, there is an increase in infections across Europe, alarming for everybody,’ she said.
‘But the leaders will meet this week and they will make an assessment of the current situation about the roll out of vaccines and perhaps make decisions.
‘But as the President of the Commission said herself, everything is on the table but there is no decision.’
Seeking to cool tensions, she added: ‘Frankly none of us have had a great Covid. I think all of us should put our hands up and say we were not prepared for this global pandemic, we did not do our best at the beginning but we are doing our best now to protect our citizens.
‘I think that is exactly what Europe is focused on is on protecting our citizens and once everyone is protected we are safe.
‘I think that we all need to, if you like, calm down, look very carefully, if you like, dispassionately at the situation around the raw materials for vaccines, around where they are produced and how we might ramp up that production.’
Government ministers have been scathing in their reaction to the export ban threat and Mr Wallace today added his voice to the chorus of senior figures criticising the EU’s approach.
He told Sophy Ridge on Sky News: ‘I will take the President of the European Commission’s words that she gave to the Prime Minister a few months ago that Europe and the European Commission and Europe were not going to engage in breaking contracts.
‘All of us recognise the importance of international law and upholding contract law around the world.
‘The European Union will know that the rest of the world is looking at the Commission about how it conducts itself.
‘If contracts get broken and undertakings, that is a very damaging thing to happen for a trading bloc that prides itself on the rule of law, prides itself on following contracts and being an open trading bloc.
‘The Commission knows deep down the world is watching what happens and also it would be counterproductive because the one thing we know about vaccine production and manufacturing is it is collaborative.’
Mr Wallace said the European Commission is ‘under tremendous political pressure’ and warned its reputation is at stake.
He said: ‘I think it is really a matter for them of how they deal with it. But the values that they espouse of the European Union of upholding the rule of law, being a trading bloc, all of that means that you follow those contracts, you honour them that you agreed, and I think it would damage the EU’s reputation globally should they renege on those things.’
A senior British Government official last night warned any move to ban jab exports would be illegal. ‘The reality is our contract with AstraZeneca is rock-solid and better than the EU’s,’ said the official. ‘And we’re only getting what we helped to develop and paid for.’
The EU’s disastrous vaccine rollout means barely 12 per cent of adults in France, Germany and Italy have so far had jabs. Swathes of Europe are now in lockdown, with almost three-quarters of the EU’s 27 member states suffering spiralling Covid-19 infection rates.
In contrast, the number of first dose vaccinations delivered in the UK soared to a total of 26,853,407 – 51 per cent of all UK adults – with 2,132,551 people having had second jabs.
Britain’s reliance on imports is also set to be reduced as an Oxford factory able to produce up to 70 million doses in under six months is ready to open a year ahead of schedule.
The dire situation in Europe has put the summer holiday hopes of millions of Britons into doubt.
Government scientists fear travellers could bring the mutant South African strain into the UK while Health Secretary Matt Hancock has privately confided his growing pessimism about foreign trips resuming after May 17, the earliest date on the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown.
As summer holidays hang in the balance, Professor Jeremy Brown – a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – today said social distancing rules will need to be kept in place in the UK until ‘everybody’ has been vaccinated.
Prof Brown said ‘some degree of social distancing or protection is going to be required’ until the whole nation has had the jab.
He said the rules will need to be retained because people who have not had the jab could still be at ‘high risk of disease’.
The Government has not committed to a date for lifting all social distancing rules.
But under Boris Johnson’s roadmap ministers have committed to updating advice on social distancing between friends and family no later than step three in the strategy, set for May 17.
Prof Brown was asked during an interview on Sky News what the purpose of a coronavirus vaccine programme is if people are still required to follow mask and social distancing rules.
People walk along a sea promenade in Barcelona, Spain today. Madrid has seen a surge in tourism after city officials refused to follow the government’s Covid curfew and let restaurants and bars stay open until 11pm
Professor Jeremy Brown told Sky News ‘some degree of social distancing or protection is going to be required’ until the whole nation has had the jab
He replied: ‘Essentially, until we can suppress infection going around the country, which means vaccinating everybody, then some degree of social distancing or protection is going to be required, just because even if a small proportion of people have not been vaccinated or where the vaccine has not worked very well, we have a high risk of disease if we have no control of infection and the control of infection comes in once a very high proportion of the country have been vaccinated.
‘We now know that the vaccine does prevent transmission to a degree but that only works on a population level once you have vaccinated a high proportion of the population, so that’s phase two of the vaccine programme.’
Prof Brown said a ‘very large number’ of at-risk people could develop a ‘serious’ Covid-19 infection if restrictions are lifted too quickly.
Meanwhile, policing minister Kit Malthouse has been accused of breaching Covid-19 protocol at the Home Office after he tested positive at his place of work.
The Government has not committed to a date for lifting all social distancing rules but under Boris Johnson’s roadmap ministers have committed to updating advice on social distancing between friends and family no later than step three in the strategy, set for May 17
Mr Malthouse took a lateral flow test on his way into work last Monday – but the minister reportedly went into the Home Office without waiting for the results.
According to the Sunday Times, Mr Malthouse was asymptomatic and was alerted to his positive test result 30 minutes after taking the test.
The 54-year-old immediately asked those working in his department to wear masks and drove himself home to self-isolate after receiving the diagnosis.
In January, Mr Malthouse told LBC that it is ‘preposterous’ to think anyone would be ‘ignorant’ of the rules during the third national lockdown.
He said: ‘It seems preposterous that after 10 months anyone could be ignorant to the rules.
‘Also, it is frankly ignorant to the perilous state that we find ourselves in with the NHS rammed to capacity, with numbers of infections rising on a daily basic and sadly deaths following them.’
Government guidance states that workers must remain socially distanced at work until they receive their negative test result.