Coronavirus UK news update – Covid cases 'virtually eliminated' in parts of Britain as vaccines lead to near-zero deaths

CORONAVIRUS has been "virtually eliminated" in parts of the UK with vaccines leading to nearly zero cases and deaths in many areas.

As many as eight million Brits are living in areas with close to zero cases, according to new Department of Health data.

Approximately 1,065 out of the UK's 6,792 districts had fewer than three new covid cases reported in the week up to February 24 – although that could obviously mean those areas had no cases whatsoever.

The Department of Health refuses to release numbers below three amid fears individual sufferers could be identified and face public retribution.

Devon and Cornwall are the counties with the most districts reporting three or fewer cases, with the North West having the most new cases.

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    HANCOCK ON ANTIBODIES

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that one in four people in England are now estimated to have antibodies against Covid-19.

    He told the Commons: "This morning, the Office for National Statistics published new data on the levels of protection people have.

    "They show that up to February 11, one in four people are estimated to have antibodies against coronavirus in England, up from one in five.

    "The levels are highest in the over-80s, the first group to be vaccinated, showing again the protection from the vaccine across the country."

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    MATT HANCOCK HAS FINISHED SPEAKING

    The Shadow Health Secretary is now speaking.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    CURRENT VACCINES HAVE NOT BEEN TESTED AGAINST LATEST VARIANT

    Neither vaccines have been tested against the latest variant, however, the Health Secretary said "we do know the variant has caused significant challenges in Brazil."

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    LATEST INFO ON IDENTIFYING BRAZIL VARIANT

    The Government is contacting the person who tested positive for the variant but who left off contact details on their locator form.

    Matt Hancock said that they have identified the batch of home test kits in question and has narrowed from the whole country down to 379 households in the South East of England.

    "We are contacting each one."

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    UPDATE ON SIX CASES OF BRAZIL VARIANT

    No information to say whether the Brazil variant has spread.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    HEALTH SECRETARY CONFIRMS THE UK IS ON TRACK FOR VACCINE ROLLOUT

    The UK is on track to offer vaccine to all adults by July.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    SINGLE DOSE SHOES PROTECTION FOR OVER 70S

    A single dose of vaccine from Pzifer and Oxford shows protection for over 70s.

    There has been a 80% reduction in hospitalisations for that age group.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    1 IN 4 PEOPLE IN THE UK ARE ESTIMATED TO HAVE ANTIBODIES

    ONS (Office of National Statistics) show that up to Feb 11 that 1 in 4 are estimated to have antibodies in UK -up from 1 in 5.

    Highest in the Over 80s – the first group to be vaccinated.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    COVID DEATHS FALLING

    Deaths are falling faster than first peak showing that the vaccine is working.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    MATT HANCOCK SPEAKING NOW

    The Health Secretary is now live at the House of Commons.

    You can watch on our homepage.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    PRESS BRIEFING DELAYED

    Matt Hancock's press briefing has been delayed.

    Keep an eye on our blog for the latest updates.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    MATT HANCOCK TO SPEAK AT 12:30

    Matt Hancock is to speak at the House of Commons at 12:30pm.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    MORE THAN A THOUSAND YOUNGSTERS WAIT YEAR OR MORE FOR MENTAL HEALTH APPOINTMENT

    More than 1,500 children had been waiting a year or more for specialist help with mental health problems by the end of 2020 – with the total having increased by almost 165% in 12 months.

    New figures showed that at the end of December a total of 1,560 youngsters had been waiting 52 weeks or more for an appointment with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

    That is up from 589 at the end of December 2019 – a rise of 164.8%

    By the end of 2020, 11,166 children and young people were waiting to be seen by CAMHS – with campaigners at the Scottish Children's Services Coalition (SCSC) complaining that the number waiting more than a year was the worst on record.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    GERMANY TO EXTEND CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN UNTIL MARCH 28

    Germany plans to extend its coronavirus lockdown until March 28 but some restrictions will be eased starting from March 8, Focus Online reported, citing a draft agreement for talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and leader of the 16 federal states.

    Merkel is due to discuss lockdown options with the states heads on Wednesday, as coronavirus cases in Germany reached more than 2.4 million.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    PLAN TO CELEBRATE CAPTAIN SIR TOM MOORE'S LIFE REVEALED BY HIS DAUGHTER

    The life of Captain Sir Tom Moore will be celebrated through an event on what would have been his 101st birthday which people around the world can get involved with, his daughter said.

    Hannah Ingram-Moore said that the event on April 30 "will truly celebrate his generosity of spirit, the hope and joy he brought to millions and his sense of fun".

    She did not disclose full details of the event but asked, in a post on her father's official Twitter account, that people save the date.

    Sir Tom captured the hearts of the nation with his fundraising efforts during the first coronavirus lockdown when he walked 100 laps of his Bedfordshire garden before his 100th birthday last year, raising more than £32 million for the NHS.

    The Second World War veteran died at Bedford Hospital on February 2 after testing positive for Covid-19.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    FUTURE FEARS

    More than six in 10 adults admit the Covid-19 pandemic has heightened their fears and worries for their parents' futures.

    A study of 2,000 adults aged 40 and over with elderly parents found half felt the restricted contact during the lockdowns has made them think about how they will care for them in years to come.

    And for 57 per cent, Covid has given them a glimpse at what life for their parents could be like if they were unable to check in on them regularly.

    More than four in 10 adults (41 per cent) worry their parents will be isolated and alone, while 33 per cent are concerned about the risk of falls.

  • John Hall

    MATT HANCOCK TO GIVE STATEMENT TODAY OVER BRAZILIAN VARIANT

    Matt Hancock will give a statement in the Commons today as the hunt goes on to track down the mystery British traveller infected with the Brazilian Covid strain.

    The Health Secretary is expected to provide an update on the new mutant strain at 12.30pm today.

    Mr Hancock is likely to give further details on the missing traveller after he made a desperate plea for them to come forward last night.

  • John Hall

    WALES – COVID FIGURES

    A total of 4,079 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending February 19 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – a drop of 28% on the previous week.

    The figure is the lowest total since the week ending January 1.

    Around three in 10 (29.5%) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to February 19 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

  • John Hall

    JOGGERS SHOULD WEAR MASKS WHILE OUT IN PUBLIC

    Joggers should wear a mask when running past people, experts have said.

    Trish Greenhalgh, professor in primary care health sciences at the University of Oxford, told Good Morning Britain: "There is no doubt the virus is in the air, there is no doubt that you can catch it if you inhale, and that someone else has exhaled.

    "The exercising jogger – the puffing and panting jogger – you can feel their breath come and you can sometimes actually feel yourself inhale it, so there's no doubt that there is a danger there.

    "40% of Covid cases happen by catching it from people who have no symptoms – so you're jogging along you think you're fine, and then the next day you develop symptoms of Covid, but you've actually breathed that Covid onto someone perhaps you know, an old lady walking a dog or something like that."

  • John Hall

    CONTINUED

    The new jabs certificates could also be used to allow people to resume day to day activities like going to pubs, restaurants, and cinemas.

    Eurocrats insist they're then ready to work with the WHO on how to expand the scheme to Brits and other international visitors.

    Mrs von der Leyen said the new "green pass" should allow Europeans "to move safely in the EU or abroad – for work or tourism".

    A Commission spokesman added: "We’re of the view that in collaboration with the WHO there should be a way to scale this up globally.

    "We work on a European solution now – this is where we start – and then anything else would need to come after."

    A senior EU source said Brits are "always welcome" in Europe "as long as you meet all of the conditions and standards".

  • John Hall

    HOLS HOPE

    Brussels has raised hopes that vaccine passports will save Brits' summer holidays in Europe.

    Chief eurocrat Ursula von der Leyen announced the bloc will draw up plans for jabs certificates within weeks and aims to have them in place by June.

    She insisted travel curbs will only be eased within Europe at first, so tourists from the UK face an anxious wait to see if they'll be let in this summer.

    But in a sign of impatience, Spain said it's ready to sign a travel corridor with Britain if the EU doesn't get its act together.

  • John Hall

    BRITS SPENT £15.2BILLION MORE ON GROCERIES DURING PANDEMIC

    Britons have spent £15.2 billion more on groceries during the pandemic as lockdowns and restrictions over the past year have forced the closure of pubs, cafes and restaurants, new figures show.

    Kantar grocery data revealed each household spent around £4,800 in supermarkets over the past 12 months since the coronavirus crisis struck – £500 more than in normal times.

    The figures reveal supermarket sales rose by 12.5% in the 12 weeks to February 21 and growth ramped up to 15.1% over the past month in the fastest rate since June 2020.

    Online grocery sales reached a new record share in the four weeks to February 21, accounting for 15.4% of sales, up from 8.7% last year, according to Kantar.

  • John Hall

    DELAYING SECOND VACCINE DOSE CREDITED WITH SAVING 'LARGE NUMBER OF LIVES'

    The decision to delay second doses of Covid vaccine in an effort to jab more older people has been credited with saving a "large number" of lives, after data suggested hospital admissions are being greatly reduced by the rollout.

    The "exciting" and "hugely reassuring" results from a Public Health England (PHE) study have indicated that the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective in reducing infections among those aged 70 and over.

    England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said data showing vaccine effectiveness against illness of approximately 60% and a reduction in the likelihood of hospital admission by 80% after a single dose gives the "first glimpses" of how the jabs programme is working.

    Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the "bold" decision to delay the second dose so more older people could be protected by a single dose more quickly had saved lives.

  • John Hall

    MASKS ON

    Children as young as four at dozens of primary schools in East London will have to wear Covid face masks all day.

    Redbridge Council has written to all 56 primaries under its control advising that face coverings should be worn by kids when they return on March 8.

    Children from Reception up to Year Six have been told to wear the masks "in all areas of the school" and are only allowed to take them off while eating. This is despite the Department for Education saying that primary kids do not need to wear coverings as the risk of them developing severe Covid symptoms is extremely low.

    Redbridge is the first council to instruct all its primaries to introduce mandatory mask wearing, reports The Telegraph.

  • John Hall

    FRENCH OPEN

    France has green lit the AstraZeneca jab for older people with underlying health issues in an embarrassing u-turn for Emmanuel Macron.

    Health minister Oliver Veran announced the decision after Mr Macron had originally claimed there was not enough data on the age group to allow older people to use it.

    Last night, Mr Véran told France Télévisions: “The Haute Autorité de Santé now considers as of today that all three vaccines that we have in France have a remarkable efficacy to protect people against the risk of severe forms of Covid-19.

    “As a result, I can announce that from now on everyone aged 50 and above who have comorbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a history of cancer can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca without any age limits.”

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