However, the city’s public health chief Professor Kevin Fenton warned that case rates “remain extremely high” and “we have more difficult weeks ahead of us”.
In more positive developments, the pace of the mass-inoculation programme is set to double next week to as many as 500,000 people a day. A Whitehall source told The Times they believed all 32 million over-50s could get their first jab by mid to late March.
Brazilian variant HAS been found in UK
Professor Wendy Barclay, head of G2P-UK National Virology Consortium, a new project set up to study the effects of emerging coronavirus mutations, said one Brazilian variant of coronavirus has been detected in the UK.
She said: “There are two different types of Brazilian variants and one of them has been detected and one of them has not.”
She added: “In the databases, if you search the sequences, you will see that there is some some evidence for variants from around the world, and I believe including the Brazilian one, which probably was introduced some time ago.
“And that will be being traced very carefully.”
Here’s the latest on that Brazilian strain – and how it affects the UK:
Scotland update: Tory candidate suspended by party over comments about ‘fat’ food bank users
A Scottish Conservative candidate for the Holyrood election has been suspended by the party after claiming “fat” food bank users are “far from starving”.
Craig Ross, the Tory candidate for Glasgow Pollok, also expressed scepticism about the UK Government listening to campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford about food poverty and feeding hungry children.
The Scottish Tories have now suspended Mr Ross over the “unacceptable comments”, which were unearthed by the Daily Record newspaper.
The current MSP for Glasgow Pollok, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, called for him to be dropped as the Tory candidate.
Speaking on his podcast, Mr Ross – who earlier this year posted a video challenging SNP election candidates to complete 18 pull-ups – discussed coverage of people using food banks and said: “Their biggest risk is not starvation, it’s diabetes.”
He claimed Manchester United star Rashford organised an “online mob” to pressure the Government to change its policy on free school meals for pupils.
Mr Ross said: “Has Marcus Rashford stood for election to anything? Not that I’m aware of.
“So should we turn our welfare policy upside down in order to suit Rashford’s view as to what would be decent?”
In his podcast, which aired on June 29, the former lecturer said: “In this world of such tremendous hunger, in this world where people are routinely struggling to eat, in this world where people appear on Channel 4 News and talk about how their children eat but they don’t because they can’t afford to – almost everybody in that world is grossly overweight.
“And again people can’t accept this. People have no idea how fat they are.
“I’m not saying that every single person who claims to be really hungry and is reliant on charity is also very overweight, but what I am saying is if Channel 4 News is having a reasonable go at showing the reality of food bank usage, then we know that the people that they film are far from starving.”
The Supreme Court has offered small businesses a glimmer of hope:
The Government is taking steps to make Tube platforms more Covid-secure…
Keep fighting the good fight, Londoners:
New Covid test travel rules delayed to avoid ‘repatriation crisis’
Grant Shapps said the implementation of new rules requiring people to have a negative test before boarding a flight to the UK had been delayed until Monday to give time to draw up a list of acceptable tests.
The Transport Secretary told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Knowing that Brits returning, for example, would want to be able to see which version they could legally use, up to the correct specification, it turns out there are so many different ones, we didn’t want to make criminals out of people just because they weren’t able to guess which one had the right, what’s called sensitivity and specificity.
“So, we have just given a small grace period until Monday morning to let people safely return, and not create some sort of repatriation crisis.”
Vaccines can be modified ‘within weeks’ to deal with mutations
Epidemiologist Dr Tildesley added that although viruses mutate “all the time”, this usually results in “milder forms” emerging “in order to survive better”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “If you have a very transmissible virus that also has a very high mortality rate then actually – and this is not meant to be flippant at all – but that’s not very good for the survival of the virus in a sense, if it kills its host.”
He added that if a vaccine-resistant variant emerges, jabs can be modified within “weeks rather than months” to combat this.
Dr Tildesley said: “Over the longer term, it’s probably likely that we will get variants emerging where the vaccines won’t necessarily have the same effect.
“And I will say that’s nothing to get massively panicked about – we do expect this, and this is what happens with flu all the time, that we have to develop a vaccine every year to protect against whatever virus strain is circulating.”
Scientist shares concern as Brits are much more active during third lockdown
Professor Andrew Hayward, director of the University College London (UCL) Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said last week’s data on cases “probably relates to the lockdown measures”.
But he told Times Radio: “My concern is that what we’ve really got going on here is we’ve more or less split the population in two – those who can afford to stay at home and work and those who can’t.
“I suspect what we’re really seeing is a very fast decline in those who are staying at home, and either a levelling off or potentially even a continuing increase in those who are continuing to work.”
He said the national picture was also being impacted by the two different strains of the virus.
He added that “what concerns me” is there is more activity than in the first lockdown, with three times as many people now using the London Underground and twice as many people using cars and buses.
Asked if further lockdown measures were necessary, he said: “I do”, adding it needed to be possible for “those people who can’t afford to work from home to work from home with the right financial packages to support that”.
Asked about nurseries and churches being open, he said there “is a risk where wherever you bring people together” but said it was “probably OK” in large spacious venues with people “extremely socially distanced”.
Prof Hayward said he was not aware of the new Brazilian variant being in the UK but “I wouldn’t take that as gospel”.
‘I’m the last person you should take travel advice from’ – Transport secretary
Pressed on whether it was wise for pensioners who have had the vaccine to book summer holidays, Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am the last person you should take travel advice on this from.
“I remember about this time last year, or a little bit later, being asked whether I would book a summer holiday. We then had the travel corridors and I did book, I went to Spain with my family.
“And, within an hour of getting there, I, myself, put Spain… took them out of the travel corridor, meaning that I needed to come home and start my quarantine, leaving my family there.
“So, don’t take any travel advice from me.”
— to www.standard.co.uk