Coronavirus UK news – 'Very safe' for 2 fully vaccinated people to meet indoors but covid lockdown rules STILL ban it

ENGLAND’S deputy chief medical officer has suggested "we are at or close to the bottom" of the pandemic in the UK.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19 were "in very low levels" and comparable to September last year.

He added the number of people in hospital due to the virus is expected to drop further.

Looking ahead, he said vaccines could reduce a third wave of the virus, making it a "third upsurge" instead, but said it was "inconceivable" that there will not be further bumps in the road.

It comes as it was announced an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus jab have been secured for a booster vaccination programme in the autumn.

Spain has confirmed for the first time it will welcome Brits back to its beaches in June.

Read our coronavirus live blog below for the latest updates…

  • Aliki Kraterou

    'SO PROUD OF VACCINATION PROGRAMME'

    During a Downing Street press conference he said again said he couldn't wait to have his first dose.

    He hailed the efforts of the rollout and the experts behind the development of the vaccine, saying: "It makes me so proud of what we've done, we've been working on the vaccination programme for more than a year now and i'm very, very proud of it."

    "To keep us safe and free here, while we get this disease under control across the whole world, we have been working on a programme of booster shots for over a year now.

    "And we've backed some of the only clinical trials in the world looking specifically at booster shots."

  • Aliki Kraterou

    'DIDN'T HURT AT ALL'

    The Health Secretary was thrilled to announce he had the vaccine.

  • Aliki Kraterou

    CONTINUED

    “The rollout continues at pace and we are on track to reach our target of offering all adults a first dose of the vaccine by the end of July.

    "I was very excited when my call came, and I'd urge everyone to take up the offer when it comes, and become part of history in the UK’s biggest ever vaccination programme.”

  • Aliki Kraterou

    'A PRIVILEGE'

    He said: “It was a privilege to get my first jab within the historic walls of the Science Museum in London, where the team are documenting the national pandemic response and preserving items like the first Covid-19 vaccine vial to be used anywhere in the world.

    "Learning from science has been central this last year more than ever, so it felt fitting to be at the museum.

    “Over 47 million doses have now been administered across the country thanks not only to hundreds of hospitals, GP clinics and pharmacies, but to incredible sites like this that have volunteered their unused spaces.

  • Aliki Kraterou

    MATT HANCOCK GOT HIS SHOT

    Matt Hancock, 42, got his first Covid jab this morning from Professor Jonathan Van-Tam – saying "it didn't hurt at all".

    Mr Hancock, in a white T-shirt, grinned as England's deputy chief medical officer gave him the shot.

  • Aliki Kraterou

    CONTINUED

    "It is much better to be careful and follow the data and collect the data properly, analyse and then make a decision."

    "We all want obviously to get our freedoms back as quickly as possible but let us do this properly and let's do it safely.

    "The data is looking good and positive but nevertheless we really have to be careful.

    "Because what we don't want is mutations, for example, to blindside us and then have another spike."

  • Aliki Kraterou

    APRIL IS BIG SECOND DOSE MONTH

    He said: "At the moment only one in four adults have actually had the two doses.

    "We are accelerating doses – April is a big second dose month – but let me show the flip side of why we have to be careful.

    "If the vaccines have 85% efficacy and we vaccinate fully 85% of the adult population, that is still only 72% protection.

    "That is quite a sizeable percentage for the virus to go after and infect, which is why we have to be careful.

    "The good news is we're not seeing any evidence that would lead us to believe we can't meet the next step in May and, ultimately, June 23.

  • Aliki Kraterou

    'ENDEMIC'

    He also acknowledged there are "some very important questions" around jabs certificates and insisted "we can't be discriminatory in any way on this".

    Mr Zahawi also insisted while the UK's pandemic figures have hit a new low the country still needs to be "careful" when unlocking.

    And he revealed booster jabs for the elderly and vulnerable, earmarked for the Autumn, may not be issued until early next year.

    The vaccines minister said scientists will make the call on when the top-up shots would be most effective, but they'll be ready to go from September.

    And he announced hopes that at the start of next year "we will begin to move from pandemic to endemic and treat it like the flu".

  • Aliki Kraterou

    NHS APP

    Mr Zahawi's remarks come after transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the new Covid passports will be hosted on the NHS app.

    He also gave an update on their possible use domestically, suggesting they may be needed to get big events like football matches back to full capacity.

    The minister said: "We are exploring through the different pilots that were running.

    "Certainly for massive events, which could prove more challenging for us to open up, say Wembley Stadium for the semi-final of the FA Cup or the final.

    "If you want to go to 100% seat capacity at Wembley, you have to look at all these technologies that are available to you.

     

  • Aliki Kraterou

    CONTINUED

    He said: "For travel overseas, clearly a number of countries are now indicating they will request a Covid certification.

    "That's proof of either a Covid jab, or obviously a test as we currently request a pre-departure test certificate – other countries do the same thing.

    "So, NHSX under Matthew Gould are working on making that operationally possible by the 17th of May.

    "Internationally, it is right to make the certification available for our citizens and to shape the protocols around the world.

    "Because clearly a number of countries are going to do this – we'd much rather do it in a co-ordinated way."

  • Aliki Kraterou

    FINAL TWO STEPS

    Nadhim Zahawi also gave Brits a major boost by announcing the country is on track to hit the final two steps of the PM's lockdown roadmap on time.

    He confirmed people won't need to present Covid papers when going to pubs and restaurants when they fully reopen indoors next month.

    But he said the documents should still be available for international travel, with many destinations demanding proof of a jab for entry.

  • Aliki Kraterou

    VACCINE PASSPORTS IN TIME FOR HOLS

    Vaccine passports are set to be ready in time for the May 17 reopening of foreign travel, a top minister declared today.

    Nadhim Zahawi said officials are working to make sure the Covid certificates can be issued in time for people to jet off on their hols.

    It comes with countries including Greece, Spain, and Portugal all jostling to welcome back UK tourists as soon as possible.

  • Aliki Kraterou

    UK COVID CASES AND DEATHS

  • Aliki Kraterou

    60MILLION PFIZER DOSES

    Addressing the nation at a Downing Street press conference last night, Matt Hancock said: "The vaccine is helping us to bring back our freedom and we must protect that programme.

    "So we are working on our plans for booster shots too. To keep us safe and free here, while we get this disease under control across the whole world, we have been working on a programme of booster shots for over a year now.

    "I'm delighted to tell you we've been able to secure an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine."

  • Aliki Kraterou

    AUTUMN BOOSTER JABS

    Sixty million extra Pfizer vaccines have been secured for the UK as the government stockpiles Autumn booster jabs to prevent a third wave.

    Boris Johnson has already warned of a fresh wave of infections and experts said extra Covid doses for the vulnerable could be available by September.

    It comes ahead of the rollout extension to under-40s, expected in the next few weeks, and takes the total UK order to 100 million doses.

    All over-50s will be given a third booster jab against new variants this autumn to prevent a killer winter wave, under plans leaked to The Sun.

    The extra 60 million Pfizer doses will add to the UK’s growing armoury of vaccines – with deals now in place for 517 million shots of eight different types. 

  • Aliki Kraterou

    A RISE IN CASES WOULD BE 'INCONCEIVABLE'

    Professor Van-Tam said: “I would be highly confident, scientifically, that if those were reputable vaccines, then indeed it would be incredibly safe for those two people to meet.”

    He also noted that following the rules would be “frustrating at times for people, particularly those who’ve had their two doses, but we need to make sure we don’t have to go backwards again”.

    “My sense is that probably we are at or close to the bottom at the moment in terms of this level of disease in the UK," he said.

    Professor Van-Tam said it was “inconceivable” that there would be a rise in cases as mixing returned.

    However he said he hoped vaccinations would stop the NHS from being overwhelmed as it was in the winter.

  • Aliki Kraterou

    TWO FULLY-VACCINATED PEOPLE CAN MEET INDOORS

    Experts claim that two fully vaccinated people meeting indoors is "incredibly safe" but it's still not allowed under the cautious Covid lockdown roadmap.

    Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, said meetings between fully vaccinated people are "incredibly safe".

    He added that England was “extremely close” to allowing people to meet indoors – but that we needed to “hold the line for just a teeny bit longer”.

    Professor Van-Tam warned that there would be "bumps in the road" as Covid lockdown restrictions were rolled back.

  • Patrick Knox

    NEW INDIAN COVID VARIANT CASES FOUND IN LEICESTER

    Three cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus have been found in Leicester, health officials have confirmed.

    Ivan Browne, the city’s public health director, said the cases required “investigation and follow-up”.

    He said Public Health England (PHE) had notified him of the cases on Sunday.

    The cases are linked to travel from India, with the country going on the “red list” last Friday, meaning only UK citizens can enter from India after quarantining in a hotel.

    Further testing is being carried out at an unnamed city school to check for more cases.

  • Patrick Knox

    BOOSTER JABS BOUGHT TO COMBAT MUTANT BUGS

    Officials are preparing a booster programme based on clinical need to ensure people have the strongest possible protection against the virus, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

    This additional stock of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab – which has been rolled out in the UK since December – will be used alongside other approved vaccines for the booster programme.

    The Government said it will publish further details on the booster programme in due course, with the policy informed by advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation

  • Patrick Knox

    PICTURED: TRAGIC TOLL

  • Patrick Knox

    EXPLAINER – WHEN CAN WE EAT INSIDE A RESTAURANT?

    According to Boris Johnson’s lockdown roadmap, indoor dining will be possible on May 17.

    Until then, outdoor service remains the only option.

    Along with pubs, cinemas and indoor bingo halls, restaurants will also be able to open for indoor dining, with social distancing, in May.

    Some businesses will not open and sadly some will stay closed forever as a result of the third national lockdown.

  • Patrick Knox

    UK CAR OUTPUT UP NEARLY 50% IN MARCH AFTER 2020 COVID-19 HIT

    British car production rose by 47 per cent in March compared to the same time last year when factories halted output midway through due to the coronavirus pandemic, an industry body said in the first increase since August 2019.

    Volumes stood at 115,498 cars last month, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

    “Output was always going to be up but it remains below average, with some 11 billion pounds ($15 billion) worth of production lost over the past year,” said SMMT boss Mike Hawes.

  • Patrick Knox

    BRAZIL NEARS 400,000 COVID-19 DEATHS

    It is quickly catching up with the world's worst death toll in the United States, which has seen more than 570,000 casualties in total but less than a thousand deaths per day in recent weeks.

    Brazil's Covid crisis has spiraled out of control in recent months, with patchy restrictions on circulation and a highly contagious new virus variant driving infections.

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, has drawn harsh criticism for playing down the dangers of the virus, shunning masks and pushing unproven remedies.

  • Patrick Knox

    MASS TESTING FOR COVID COULD INCREASE TRANSMISSION – EXPERTS

    People with symptoms of Covid-19 may be "tempted" to bypass the laboratory-assessed coronavirus tests and use the at-home kits instead, experts have warned.

    Public health consultants said that this could potentially lead to "increases in transmission" and people with symptoms could be "falsely reassured" by the rapid turnaround tests.

    When a person has symptoms of Covid-19 – including fever, a new and continuous cough or a loss or change of sense of taste or smell – they need to get a coronavirus test which is assessed in a lab – known as a PCR test.

    But they might be "tempted" to instead to use the lateral flow tests which people across the nation are being encouraged to use as part of the mass screening efforts, experts warned.

  • Patrick Knox

    US TO SEND MORE THAN $100 MLN IN COVID SUPPLIES TO INDIA

    The supplies, which will begin arriving today and continue into next week, include 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests, the statement said.

    The United States also has redirected its own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India, which will allow it to make over 20 million doses of Covid vaccine, according to the White House.

    "Just as India sent assistance to the United States when our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need," the White House said in a fact sheet outlining the aid.

    India's death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surged past 200,000 yesterday worsened by shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen. 

    The last 24 hours brought 360,960 new cases for the world's largest single-day total, taking India's tally of infections to nearly 18 million.

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