UK coronavirus LIVE: Brits face third AstraZeneca vaccine as over-70s urged to contact NHS for jab – Evening Standard


lmost one in four adults in the UK have had their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, Matt Hancock has said.

The Health Secretary speaking at a Downing Street press briefing after new data showed that coronavirus deaths in the UK had hit a six-week low. A further 333 fatalities and 14,104 infections were reported on Monday.

On Monday it was reported that Britons could be required to have a third "booster" jab this year, after a major study found the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the South African coronavirus variant.

Meanwhile, the public have said that they would rather Boris Johnson lead the pandemic response than Sir Keir Starmer, in an exclusive poll for The Evening Standard.

The Department of Health and Social Care said the rules were being tightened to prevent new variants entering the country.

Under the new measures, it is expected travellers will have to take tests after two and eight days into their 10-day quarantine period.

It follows the announcement last week that from February 15, UK nationals returning from high risk red list destinations will have to quarantine in Government-approved hotels where they will have to take two tests.

A DHSC spokesman said: Enhancing our testing regime to cover all arrivals while they isolate will provide a further level of protection and enable us to better track any new cases which might be brought into the country, and give us even more opportunities to detect new variants.

Some 10,000 extra tests will be rolled out in the region from Tuesday, after four people from two unconnected households were found to be infected with the mutation, Manchester City Council said.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, medical virologist and director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, told a National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) briefing that all the cases are directly linked to travel.

A variant first detected in Brazil has not been found in Ireland, where the so-called Kent variant is the most dominant.

The briefing heard that all variants are being monitored.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn urged adherence to public health advice.

Viruses cant mutate if theyre not replicating, he said.

So the fewer the amount of virus we have in this country, the less chance there is of a mutation thats going to have a knock-on impact on vaccine effectiveness.

The Governments new education recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins has said teachers will be asked to increase the learning time for children following school closures during the pandemic.

In a BBC interview, Sir Kevan suggested it was important to act quite quickly on arrangements for summer, adding that summer schools have promise.

The Government is said to be considering a number of options including summer schools, extended school days and shorter summer holidays as part of catch-up plans for pupils who have missed out on learning due to Covid-19.

Last week the Prime Minister appointed Sir Kevan as the education recovery commissioner to oversee the Governments catch-up programme.

In his first interview since taking up the role, Sir Kevan told the BBC: I think we need to think about the extra hours not only for learning, but for children to be together, to play, to engage in competitive sport, for music, for drama because these are critical areas which have been missed in their development.

He said teachers will need to be asked to increase learning time for children.

If youre going to secondary school in the next couple of years, its vital youre reading at the level you will need. We need to step in to support children in some of these critical areas of learning, the catch-up tsar told the BBC.

Englands deputy chief medical officer urged those who might be panicking after reading headlines on the impact vaccines have on coronavirus variants, to take comfort in the fact that scientists are carrying out major research on the variants from behind the scenes.

The areas targeted for additional testing are M14 4, M14 7, M15 5, M15 6, M16 7 and M16 8.

The DHSC said: Surge testing is in addition to existing extensive testing, and in combination with following the lockdown rules and remembering hands-face-space, will help to monitor and suppress the spread of the virus. Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help understand Covid-19 variants and their spread within these areas.

People living in this targeted area within these locations are strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test this week, whether they are showing symptoms or not. People with symptoms should book a test in the usual way.

The South African strain of the coronavirus is unlikely to become dominant in the UK over the coming months, the deputy chief medical officer for England has said .

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said that unlike the strain which emerged last year in Kent, the South African mutation did not enjoy a transmissibility advantage over other variants.

Speaking at a No 10 news briefing, he said he believed it was likely that the existing vaccines would be effective in preventing serious illness in people who became infected with the new South African strain.

But he suggested that people in high risk groups may need booster jabs either annually or biennially as the vaccines were updated to cope with new mutations of the virus.

A question mark remains over summer holidays this year with Britons told it is still too soon to say whether or not they should start making plans.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, was asked about holidays and said he could not give a proper answer as the data is not yet available.

He said any easing of lockdown restrictions in England would have to take place gradually and that contemplating what will happen in summer is stepping into the realm of a guessing game.

Prof Van-Tam told a No 10 news briefing that it is just too early to say.

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at Kings College London, has said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be felt at large gatherings long after lockdown was over.

He told Times Radio: I cant see us suddenly having another Cheltenham Festival with no regulations again, I cant see us having massive weddings with people coming from all over the world. I think for the next few years those days are gone.

Giles Watling, the Conservative MP for Clacton, Essex, said the music industry is facing the double whammy of the impact of coronavirus and new post-Brexit restrictions on touring.

His comments came in a debate sparked by more than 280,000 people signing a petition calling for a cultural work permit deal to be reached.

Mr Watling told the Petitions Committee music is a great deployment of UK soft power.

He added: Our performers are now facing a double whammy of an industry devastated by Covid and the loss of an entire continent as a venue.

We must continue to raise this issue with our EU neighbours.

Former Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman told the committee the issue is so important in so many ways, culturally as well as financially.

It is not a Brexit teething problem, she told the Petitions Committee. It will be enduring unless it is sorted out.

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UK coronavirus LIVE: Brits face third AstraZeneca vaccine as over-70s urged to contact NHS for jab - Evening Standard

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