UK coronavirus LIVE: New Covid variants ‘could cause lockdown to go backwards’ as vaccine speed ‘to double’

It comes as vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast that March will be a “big month” for the UK vaccination programme. “We’ll probably going to be twice the rate over the next 10 weeks as we have done over the past 10 or 11 weeks,” he said.

Live updates

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A further 127 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in hospital in England

A further 127 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 83,250, NHS England said on Monday.

Patients were aged between 46 and 99.

All one, aged 58, had a known underlying health condition.

The deaths were between December 9 and February 28, with the majority being on or after February 24.

There were 16 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

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Former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, believes UK needs tighter measures

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the discovery of six cases of the Brazilian P1 variant of the coronavirus in the UK showed the need for tighter controls.

“Absolutely we have got to look at what has gone wrong,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One programme.

“It shows that it needs to be tightened up still further because if we are going to protect the road map out of lockdown then the name of the game is going to be stop new variants coming in, some of which may end up being immune to the new vaccines.

“Where we need to get to is a much, much more thorough combination of test and trace and genetic sequencing so we are not just testing the people who have been near someone who tested positive, but we also are working out where the original infection happened and which variant it is.

“You can only do that if you bring the cases right down.”

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Drakeford criticises UK government approach to travel

Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford has said he would take the “opposite” approach to international travel to the one taken by the UK government.

Last September, Covid-19 cases in Wales were “undoubtedly driven up” partly because people returned from holidays abroad and brought the virus with them, he added.

Speaking at a press conference in Cardiff, he said he “remained concerned” about travel into the UK, particularly due to new variants being seen in different parts of the world.

“I would do it in the opposite way to the UK government, this is the case I’ve tried to make to them,” Mr Drakeford said on Monday.

“The UK government’s approach is that all international travel is OK apart from 33 countries that are on a red list.

“I would do it the opposite. I would say we shouldn’t be having international travel but here is a list of countries where we are confident that things are under control, where there are testing regimes, where we will be confident that people returning from there would not be posing a threat to us.”

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Schools in England will reopen on Monday as planned despite discovery of Brazilian variant of the coronavirus

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Schools will reopen on March 8 as we set out in the road map.”

The spokesman said that included South Gloucestershire where two cases had been found.

“We have deployed the extra surge testing in Gloucestershire to ensure that if there are any other cases in that local area we can identify then and ensure those people are isolated,” he said.

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No 10 indicates that UK officials will discuss the EU’s plans for a coronavirus passport with counterparts in Brussels

The European Commission has set out plans for a “digital green pass” which would record vaccination status and test results, and could unlock travel for work and tourism.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have said that we are looking at the issue of vaccine passports.

“As you can expect, DfT (the Department for Transport) will work and do speak to countries across the world in terms of how they may look to introduce passports.”

The spokesman would not pre-empt the outcomes of the UK Government’s review.

But “of course you can expect us to speak to the EU and other countries on how they may implement any similar sorts of policies”.

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Boris Johnson says he still expects the road map for easing England’s restrictions to be irreversible

He told reporters at a school in Stoke-on-Trent: “What we are doing is embarking now on a journey, a one-way road map to freedom and it is designedly cautious in order to be irreversible.

“That is what we are hoping to achieve. Some people say we should go faster, some people say we should be more hesitant.

“I think we are going at the right pace, education is the priority, getting all schools open on March 8 is something that we have set our hearts on for a long time and I am confident we will be ready.”

Mr Johnson defended the testing regime for schools, insisting “people do understand how to use them and we are very confident that they will be of use in helping to keep the disease under control, keep it going down as we get schools back open”.

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All passengers on the flight from London to Aberdeen which the three people in Scotland confirmed to have the Brazilian variant of coronavirus were on will be contacted

They travelled on flight BA1312, which left Heathrow Airport on Friday January 29.

Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman told the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing: “If you were on that flight and have not yet been contacted, you will be contacted shortly, so please wait for that.”

She said there is currently no reason to believe the variant is in circulation in Scotland but the Government is doing “everything that’s necessary” to check whether it could have been transmitted in Scotland and to identify and break any chains of transmission.

She added: “We know that current vaccines are effective against the strains of the virus which have already been established in the UK.

“However, more work is required to determine that this remains the case for emerging strains of the virus, such as the one we are highlighting today from Brazil.”

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Scotland records 386 positive coronavirus tests in the past 24 hours

Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, the Health Secretary said 202,470 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 202,084 the previous day.

The daily test positivity rate is 4.5%, up from 3.8% the previous day.

Of the new cases, 123 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 70 in Lothian and 51 in Lanarkshire.

No new deaths have been recorded, meaning the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7,131.

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Government moved “as fast as we could” with introducing hotel quarantine measures says Boris Johnson

Asked if the Government was too slow to implement quarantine hotel measures, the Prime Minister told reporters: “I don’t think so, we moved as fast as we could to get that going.

“It’s a very tough regime – you come here, you immediately get transported to a hotel where you are kept for 10 days, 11 days.

“You have to test on day two, you have to test on day eight, and it’s designed to stop the spread of new variants while we continue to roll out the vaccination programme.

“We don’t have any reason at the present time to think that our vaccines are ineffective against these new variants of all types.”

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Boris Johnson says a “massive effort” is under way to prevent new coronavirus variants spreading

He told reporters: “If you look at what we have done in the case of the South African variant, a massive effort went in there.

“The same is going on now to contain any spread of the Brazilian variant.”

There was “no reason not to think that our vaccines are effective against these variants of concern at the present time” and Public Health England “don’t think that there is a threat to the wider public”.

Evening Standard – News