MORE than 9.3 million people have now received the Covid vaccine, as the Government races to rollout jabs amid a deadly new virus strain.
During Monday’s Downing Street briefing, Matt Hancock announced there would be a door-to-door hunt for cases in numerous UK postcodes in order to stop these mutant strain infections becoming a national outbreak.
People living in the following postcodes must now stay indoors and get a coronavirus test as soon as possible: Ealing (W7) Haringey (N17) Croydon (CR4), Walsall (WS2), Maidstone (ME15), Woking (GU21), Broxbourne (EN10) and Southport in Preston (PR9).
It comes after the terrifying South African strain of coronavirus has been detected in Surrey sparking fears of a community outbreak.
Two locals with no travel links to South Africa have tested positive for the mutation, named 501YV2, which is feared to be 50 per cent more contagious than the original strain and could resist vaccines.
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WEEKLY COVID DEATHS OF CARE HOME RESIDENTS ‘AT HIGHEST LEVEL SINCE END OF APRIL’
Weekly registered deaths of care home residents involving coronavirus have passed 2,000 and are at their highest level since the end of April, new figures show.
There were 2,364 deaths of care home residents involving Covid-19 in the week ending January 22, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
This includes residents who died in care homes, hospitals and other settings.
This is up 37.5 per cent from the previous week, and is the highest weekly number since the week ending May 1.
MAN DIES OF COVID DAYS AFTER BEATING CANCER
A grieving wife has spoken of her heartache after her husband tragically died from Covid after contracting the deadly virus just two days after beating cancer.
Kim Courtney, 61, said she was left feeling “totally empty” after her husband of 13 years Eugene, 63, sadly passed away three weeks after being diagnosed with Covid.
The couple had celebrated Eugene beating prostate cancer on January 4, but the great grandad suddenly fell terribly ill just two days later and was rushed to hospital by ambulance.
Doctors at Royal Lancaster Infirmary initially believed he had suffered from a heart attack but further tests revealed he had contracted coronavirus.
Just days later he was placed on a ventilator in an attempt to save his life as his condition deteriorated rapidly and he struggled to breathe on his own and his kidneys were failing.
PARTIAL SCHOOL RETURN SET TO BE ANNOUNCED IN SCOTLAND
The return of some school pupils in Scotland is set to be announced, as top adviser Professor Jason Leitch claims “progress” is being made against the coronavirus.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will update MSPs on changes decided by the Cabinet to the current restrictions in Scotland, which was forced into lockdown earlier this month.
Prof Leitch added that, although it looks as though some pupils will return, schools will not go back to normal.
SUPERMARKETS ENJOY SURGE IN SALES FROM LATEST LOCKDOWNS
Supermarkets enjoyed a surge in sales as the tiering systems and new national lockdowns helped boost sales by 12.2 per cent in the 12 weeks to January 24, according to the latest Kantar grocer data.
Analysts said this was an acceleration on the Christmas period, as the reintroduction of national lockdown restrictions and the closure of cafes, restaurants and pubs saw eating out of the home curtailed once more.
Kantar added that in January shoppers spent £1 billion more on supermarket food and drinks compared with the same month a year ago.
VOLUNTEERS PREPARE FOR DOOR-TO-DOOR TESTING
Around 150 volunteers are due to start the door-to-door delivery of coronavirus testing kits in Woking to help identify any cases of the South African variant in the Surrey town.
Plans involve delivering PCR tests, which are not compulsory, for some 9,500 residents living in an area within the GU21 postcode.
SOUTH AFRICAN STRAIN FOUND IN AT LEAST 30 COUNTRIES
Sage member Professor Andrew Hayward said the South African strain has been identified in at least 30 countries around the world including Europe, America, and other parts of Africa.
On the effectiveness of vaccines, the professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London said that “whilst you may have reduced effectiveness against preventing disease, quite often what happens with these vaccines is that they’ll still prevent against severe disease.”
He added: “And so we would expect the vaccines to still be very worthwhile and very good at preventing severe disease.
“Of course we’ve got a lot staked on the effects of these vaccines, and that’s why I think it’s really appropriate to take every measure that we can to try and stop the emergence of the strain.”
NICOLA STURGEON FACES ANGER OVER SCOTLAND’S VACCINE ROLLOUT
Nicola Sturgeon has faced anger after Scotland’s Covid jab rollout slumped behind other UK nations in a record low day.
The First Minister said there was no “explanation” for why only 9,628 doses were given out, the fewest since daily stats started being publicly logged.
It brings the total first jags tally to 575,897 amid a row over a slower rollout in Scotland compared to other parts of the UK.
Ms Sturgeon has been accused of making bogus claims to excuse Scotland’s slower vaccine rollout — as it emerged that all eligible English care home residents have now been offered jabs.
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Nicola Sturgeon faced criticism over Scotland’s coronavirus vaccine rolloutCredit: Getty – Pool
‘ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE’ TO COMPLETELY SHUT DOWN COUNTRY
Professor Sir Mark Walport, former chief scientific adviser to the Government, said it is “almost impossible” to completely shut down the country and prevent highly transmissible new strains from other countries coming to the UK.
Sir Mark told Times Radio: “The challenge for a country like the UK, which is a major global hub where for our resilience we depend on supplies from all over the world, is whether it’s practical to actually achieve that.
“I think, realistically, most people would feel that, whilst one can delay the coming in of new variants of viruses from around the world, it’s almost impossible to completely close down a country and prevent that happening if there is a very highly transmissible variant.”
FOREIGN OFFICE REITERATES THAT GOING ON HOLIDAY IS CURRENTLY ILLEGAL
On January 29 officials from the Foreign Office signed off adverts which are intended to “remind people that travelling abroad is against the law”.
One, which features flip flops, warns: “Going on holiday is currently illegal.
“Stay at home. Save Lives.”
DUBAI SHUTS ALL BARS AFTER COVID SPIKE
Dubai is closing all its bars and pubs in February following a Covid spike after British influencers mocked a travel ban.
It follows an increase in Covid cases across the UAE, which has attracted social media stars fleeing lockdown UK.
A spokesman for the Dubai Media Office blamed “a marked increase in the number of violations of precautionary measures” for the shutdown of its bars and clubs.
It also blames a spike in Covid cases after New Year’s Eve.
The spokesman said: “The measures seek to further enhance efforts to combat Covid-19, and protect the health and safety of all citizens, residents and visitors.”
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CONCERNS ABOUT SOUTH AMERICAN VARIANT
Professor Sir Mark Walport, former chief scientific adviser to the government, said he was “more worried” about the coronavirus variant which has emerged in South America over the one from South Africa.
He told Times Radio: “I’m concerned about the South African variant – it is more transmissible and the evidence is that the vaccine protects against it slightly less well – but the answer is that the current vaccine still work pretty well against this variant.
“The South African variant is an example of others that are cropping up around the world and the one I think we should be more worried about is the variant that’s emerged in South America.”
CAPTAIN TOM’S FAMILY IN HOSPITAL WITH HIM
Captain Sir Tom Moore’s family are with him in hospital as he battles Covid-19 and pneumonia.
Last night, Bedford Hospital said Capt Sir Tom had been joined at his bedside by members of his family.
A statement, released with the agreement of his daughters Hannah Ingram-Moore and Lucy Teixeira, said: “Bedford Hospital continues to care for Captain Sir Tom Moore.
“At this time members of Captain Tom’s family are with him.”
CRIMINALS SELLING FORGED COVID NEGATIVE TESTS FOR £100
Criminal gangs have been cashing in on the pandemic by selling forged negative Covid tests at airports for £100.
Europol, the European Union’s police agency, issued the warning after it emerged a man had been arrested at Luton airport last week on suspicion of selling fake Covid papers.
The EU police agency said that gangs are faking the name of a genuine laboratory on the certificates in a bid to dupe officials at borders.
In a statement Europol, who are based at The Hague, Holland, said: “As long as travel restrictions remain in place due to the pandemic, it is very likely that criminals will seize the opportunity of producing and selling fake Covid-19 test certificates.
“Given the widespread technological means available in the form of high-quality printers and different software, fraudsters are able to produce high-quality counterfeit, forged or fake documents.”
FULL UK HOTEL QUARANTINE ‘NOT FEASIBLE’
A British minister said it was not feasible to order all international arrivals in Britain to quarantine in a hotel in a drive to prevent the spread of coronavirus variants.
Junior education minister Michelle Donelan was asked on BBC TV about a suggestion that Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, could require all arrivals to stay in a hotel, rather than just those coming from high-risk areas.
“We will continually evolve our strategies but that is unfeasible and we have to be realistic about what we adopt and what we do. And what is deliverable as well,” she said.
A door-to-door testing blitz of 80,000 people in England is aiming to find “every single case” of the South Africa coronavirus variant in a bid to stop the spread of the more infectious strain.
Eleven cases of the variant identified over the past week were in people who had no links to travel, prompting concerns the mutation may be spreading in communities.
Mobile testing units and home testing kits will be deployed to areas where the variant has been discovered as the UK Government looks to prevent it getting a foothold.
JAPANESE STATE OF EMERGENCY
Japan needs to link up private Covid-19 testing with public databases to get a firmer grip on the extent of the pandemic, health experts said on Tuesday, a recommendation that comes as the government prepares to extend the country’s state of emergency.
Japan has not adopted the widespread testing efforts seen in many other countries, focusing instead on breaking up clusters.
But amid a third and more deadly wave of infections, doctors and health officials have increasingly criticised the current regime as insufficient to find and track infections.
Residents are also seeking alternatives and the number of self-paid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at private clinics has surged.
A team of investigators led by the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived on Tuesday at an animal health facility in China’s central city of Wuhan in the search for clues about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The independent team has already visited key hospitals, the regional disease control centre and the city’s Huanan seafood market, where the first cluster of infections was believed to have originated late in 2019.
The trip was going “really well, excellent,” one of its members, Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, told Reuters on Tuesday, responding to a query just before entering the animal health centre.
As the team left, Daszak said it had held “very informative meetings”, but did not elaborate.
OVER 65s COULD REIECEVE VACCINE INVITES NEXT WEEK
Over-65s could start receiving their Covid vaccination invite letters next week as the UK’s jab rollout powers on, it’s reported.
Almost a million Brits were injected over the weekend, with more than 9.2 million overall now receiving at least one dose.
Almost nine out of 10 of over-80s and half of over-70s have had their first jab, with the government on target to offer vaccines to all over-70s by February 15.
One in 60 Brits received a coronavirus vaccine over the weekend alone, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night hailing the “mammoth effort”.
CRIME GANGS SELLING FAKE COVID-19 CERTIFICATES
The European Union’s police agency is warning nations to be on the lookout for fake COVID-19 test certificates, as crime gangs attempt to cash in on pandemic travel restrictions.
Many countries have introduced requirements for arriving passengers to show a negative COVID-19 test to slow the spread of the coronavirus brought in by people arriving from other nations.
Europol said Monday that recent cases reported by EU member states include a forgery ring selling negative test results to passengers at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and a counterfeiter detained by Spanish police for selling fake test results.
British authorities also caught fraudsters selling COVID-19 documents for £100 each.
STUDENTS WILL HAVE ACCESS TO EXTRA £50M GOVERNMENT HARDSHIP FUND DUE TO COVID-19
University students facing financial pressures due to the pandemic will have access to an additional £50 million support fund from the Government.
Universities will be able to use the extra funding to help students facing loss of employment, additional costs for alternative accommodation, or to support access to remote teaching amid Covid-19.
The majority of university students in England have been told to stay at home and not return to campus under the latest lockdown, which has sparked calls for greater financial support.
A number of universities have moved lessons online until even later in the academic year, prompting campaigns for rent rebates for term-time accommodation and tuition fee refunds.
In December, the Government announced a one-off fund of up to £20 million to help students most in need of support in exceptional circumstances. Now a further £50 million will be available, taking the total to £70 million for this financial year.
BORIS JOHNSON CONFIDENT COVID VACCINES PROVIDE HIGH PROTECTION AGAINST ‘ALL VIRUS VARIANTS’
WHO PUSHES AGAINST CLAIMS INVESTIGATORS ‘NOT GETTING ENOUGH ACCESS’ IN WUHAN
Officials at the World Health Organization pushed back against suggestions that the U.N.-led team investigating the origins of the pandemic in China is not getting enough access or data during its ongoing visit to Wuhan.
WHOs COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said the team, comprised of experts from 10 countries, has plans to visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology, among other sites.
We need to give them the space to be able to carry out this scientific study, she said, in response to suggestions that China has been less than transparent about how the outbreak began. WHOs team arrived in Wuhan last month after a months-long delay to investigate the animal origins of COVID-19.
Dr. Michael Ryan, WHOs emergencies chief, said the agency was continuing to ask for more data and said anyone with information about how the pandemic started should share it with the organization.
FOREIGN HOLIDAYS ‘NOT REALISTIC’ THIS SUMMER, SAYS CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER
Irish people have been warned that going on foreign holidays is “not realistic” this summer.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said people should not be heading to European or worldwide destinations over the summer months.
His remarks come after Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary claimed the airline industry will bounce back this summer, with people taking holidays abroad in July, August and September.
Dr Holohan said: “I don’t think we’re headed for a summer where millions of people from this part of the world, from Europe, can expect to be heading to beaches that are other than in their own localities.
“I don’t think it’s realistic for us to foresee a situation that would be characterised by things we would all like to do where we fly off to other parts of Europe and the world for our summer holidays.”
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