Cases of South Africa and Brazil Covid variants in UK are falling, Matt Hancock says
The minister told Sky News on Sunday that there was evidence that measures to control the spread of the concerning variants, which have been found to reduce vaccine efficacy, were working.
It came after Boris Johnson promised to offer all adults in the UK a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of July as he prepares to unveil his road map for relaxing lockdown restrictions in England on Monday.
The prime minister has spent the past week considering data on deaths, cases, hospital admissions and the effect of the vaccine rollout with his scientific advisers.
The road map will also include a more ambitious target for vaccinating all adults aged over 50, as well as those with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk, by 15 April.
Pfizer vaccine ‘highly effective’ in reducing virus spread
The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech appears to be highly effective in limiting the spread of of the virus, according to reported data from Israel, in a development that could alter the course of the pandemic.
A study conducted by Pfizer and the Israeli Health Ministry shows that the vaccine is 89.4 per cent effective at preventing infections, whether symptomatic or not.
Peter Stubley21 February 2021 17:52
Tanzania’s president finally admits coronavirus problem
Tanzania’s president has finally acknowledged that his country has a coronavirus problem, after claiming for months that the disease had been defeated by prayer.
John Magufuli urged citizens of the East African country to take precautions and even wear face masks – but only locally made ones.
His comments came a day after the director-general of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged Tanzania to take “robust action”.
Mr Magufuli, speaking at the chief secretary’s funeral in a nationally televised broadcast, urged the nation to participate in three days of prayer for unspecified “respiratory” illnesses that had become a challenge in the country.
Tanzania has not updated its number of coronavirus infections since April, when they totalled 509.
Peter Stubley21 February 2021 17:34
French rugby players test positive for Covid ahead of Scotland clash
France will be without five first-team players for next Sunday’s Six Nations match against Scotland after scrum-half Antoine Dupont tested positive for Covid-19.
Prop Julien Marchand, centre Arthur Vincent, prop Mohamed Haouas, winger Gabin Villiere and lineout coach Karim Ghezal will also all be forced to observe a minimum period of seven days in isolation due to infections.
Our reporter, Jerome Pugmire, has the full story below:
Conrad Duncan21 February 2021 17:11
Americans may still need to wear masks in 2022, Fauci says
Americans may still need to wear masks in 2022 even as the country relaxes other restrictions to combat coronavirus, the top US infectious disease expert has said.
When asked if Americans should expect to still be wearing masks into next year, Dr Anthony Fauci told CNN: “I think it is possible that that’s the case.”
However, he added that this depended on the level of spread in communities and potential variants of the virus.
“Obviously, I think we are going to have a significant degree of normality beyond the terrible burden that all of us have been through over the last year,” the expert said.
Conrad Duncan21 February 2021 16:52
UK reports 215 new Covid deaths, 9,834 new cases
A further 215 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 in the last 24-hour period, bringing the UK’s total death toll to 120,580.
The government has also reported a further 9,834 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, as of 9am on Sunday.
However, separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 140,000 UK deaths.
Meanwhile, 334,679 first doses of vaccines have been registered for 20 February – a drop from the same time last week which brings the seven-day rolling average to 359,990.
Conrad Duncan21 February 2021 16:26
Israel’s vaccine drive reaches almost half its population
Israel’s vaccination drive has reached almost half of the country’s population, with at least one dose of the Pfizer jab offered to more than 46 per cent of its 9 million people.
However, the country’s inoculation campaign has faced criticism for excluding Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from its efforts.
Our reporter, Tom Batchelor, has the full story below:
Conrad Duncan21 February 2021 16:10
Our reporter, Samuel Osborne, has details below on when Boris Johnson is expected to announce his lockdown exit plan on Monday:
Conrad Duncan21 February 2021 15:48
Lorry drivers on quick trips to UK no longer need Covid test to travel to France
Lorry drivers heading back to France from 11pm on Sunday will no longer need to show a negative coronavirus test if they have spent less than 48 hours in the UK, the transport secretary has announced.
Currently HGV drivers heading to France from the UK are obliged to take a Covid-19 test before arriving at outbound ports, such as Dover or the Eurotunnel.
“I’ve agreed more flexibility in testing for hauliers travelling from the UK to France,” Mr Shapps tweeted.
“From 11pm tonight, Lorries returning to France from UK having spent less than 48hrs in the UK will NO LONGER require a Coronavirus test.”
Under the new rules, cross-channel operators will give drivers evidence of the time of their trip to the UK, which can then be shown at check-in for the return journey.
Conrad Duncan21 February 2021 15:33
Hancock says UK will not offer to host delayed Euro 2020
Health secretary Matt Hancock has insisted that the government will not offer to host this summer’s Euros amid reports that the football tournament could be moved to the UK.
When asked about the claim on Sunday, Mr Hancock told Sky News: “I haven’t seen anything on that, I understand that that’s not right.”
Our reporter, Callum Rice-Coates, has the full story below:
Conrad Duncan21 February 2021 15:09
Labour says lucrative contract for Hancock’s ex-neighbour ‘must be investigated’
Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister has said a lucrative contract given to Matt Hancock’s former neighbour “must be investigated” following reports that he has been reported to the UK’s medicines regulator.
Alex Bourne, a former publican, secured a £30m contract to produce millions of vials for coronavirus tests last year, despite having no experience in the industry.
He has now been put under investigation by the MHRA, according to The Guardian.
“This is extremely worrying and the reasons for handing this contract out in the first place must be investigated and shared in the public interest,” Rachel Reeves said.
“The government needs to get a grip on the cronyism and waste marring its pandemic procurement. It must be far more transparent and publish outstanding contracts and details of the VIP fast lane now.”
Conrad Duncan21 February 2021 14:47