Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that some school pupils in Scotland will return to the classroom next week — but warned the public not to see the step as an end to lockdown.

Live updates

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South African variant on the rise

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said testing regimes will be set up in Norfolk, Southampton and Woking, Surrey, where positive cases of South African variant have been discovered.

Public Health England data shows that 217 confirmed or probable cases of the South African variant have been discovered – a rise of 15 since the last update on February 11.

People living within the targeted testing areas are strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test this week, whether they are showing symptoms or not, a spokeswoman for the department said.

People with symptoms should book a test in the “usual way”, and those without symptoms should visit their local authority website for more information, she added.

DHSC said surge testing in parts of the London boroughs of Haringey and Merton, along with Sefton in Merseyside, were complete.

“Further data on surge testing will be provided in due course,” a spokeswoman said.

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EU to fast track review of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The EU’s drugs regulator said on Tuesday it could issue an opinion by mid-March on whether to approve drugmaker Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine under a speedy review.

The US drugmaker said it had submitted a conditional marketing application for the vaccine, called COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen, with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The shot is also being evaluated by US authorities.

The EU watchdog said a fast-tracked review of the coronavirus vaccine by its human medicines committee was possible because it had been already assessing some data in real time, and will now look at the vaccine’s efficacy, safety and quality.

Johnson & Johnson said it was ready to begin distributing the vaccine within the European Union in the second quarter of 2021.

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UK could give two Covid doses to all adults by September

The United Kingdom could give two doses of Covid-19 vaccine to all adults by August or September, helped by its portfolio approach of buying from several different producers, the interim head of the country’s vaccine taskforce told Sky News on Tuesday.

Britain has vaccinated 15.6 million people with a first dose and 546,165 with a second dose, the fastest roll-out per capita of any large country so far.

Clive Dix, leading the group which managed Britain’s vaccine procurement strategy, told Sky News that more vaccines would be approved for use in the “very near future”, providing enough shots in case there were any production issues from existing suppliers AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

Asked how long it would take the UK to give two doses of the vaccine to all adults, he replied: “We’re probably talking August time or September time all done, maybe sooner if we need to.”

“We’ve got to deliver just over 100 million doses of vaccine and I believe we should be able to do that. I’m not in deployment so I can’t look at the numbers of when they will be. But if they need to be deployed by then, we’ve got the vaccine to do that.”

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Shrewsbury boss leaves hospital after Covid battle

Shrewsbury manager Steve Cotterill has returned home after 33 days in hospital battling Covid-19.

The 56-year-old tested positive for coronavirus on January 1 before his illness progressed to the point where he spent time in Bristol Royal Infirmary’s intensive care unit.

But now the Cheltenham-born boss is back home in Bristol and will continue to manage Shrewsbury remotely as he steps up his rehabilitation.

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More surge testing

More areas in the south of England will be subject to surge testing to find cases of the South African mutation of Covid-19.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said testing regimes will be set up in Norfolk, Southampton and Woking, Surrey, where positive cases of South African variant have been discovered.

The testing will be targeted within the postcodes of IP22, SO15 and GU22 in those areas respectively.

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South Africa to share vaccine with other African countries

South Africa plans to share 1 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses with other African countries, a senior official said, as the government confirmed the first shots from rival Johnson & Johnson would arrive on Tuesday evening.

The country paused the rollout of AstraZeneca doses this month, after preliminary trial data showed they offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the country’s dominant coronavirus variant.

It has been consulting scientists about what to do with the AstraZeneca vaccine, switching to a plan to start inoculating healthcare workers with J&J’s alternative in a research study. The South African Medical Association (SAMA) said if the first shots arrived on Tuesday as expected, then vaccinations could start on Wednesday.

Eighty thousand J&J shots are expected initially, and up to 500,000 health workers could be immunised in total in the study.

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South African variant detected in more parts of England

Extra coronavirus testing is to be carried out in Norfolk, Southampton and Surrey as well as an expanded area of Manchester, following the detection of the South African variant.

The surge testing will be carried out within targeted areas of the IP22 postcode, as well as the SO15 and GU22 postcodes.

Testing in Manchester will be expanded to specific areas within the M40 and M9 postcode.

People living within the targeted areas 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 while others should visit their council website.

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French cases fall week on week

France reported 586 new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, down from 724 a week ago, while the seven-day moving average of deaths fell to 381, the first time the average was below 400 since late January.

The 586 deaths included 351 deaths in hospitals, from 412 on Monday, and 235 deaths in retirement homes over the past four days. The health ministry usually reports retirement home deaths on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Hospital numbers eased again, with the total number of people in hospital with Covid-19 down by 283 to 26,239 and the number of people in intensive care down by 33 to 3,348.

The number of new confirmed virus infection cases rose by 19,590 to 3.49 million, compared to an increase of 18,870 a week ago. The seven-day moving average of new cases increased to over 18,400.

The ministry also reported that at total of 3.16 million vaccination shots have been administered, including more than 815,000 second injections.

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Israel to offer food and drinks to vaccine recipients

Pizza, hummus, pastry and a cup of coffee were on the menu on Tuesday to entice Israelis to get their Covid-19 vaccinations.

In cooperation with local restaurants, Tel Aviv offered the food at two pop-up vaccination centres, hoping to persuade inoculation holdouts to take a shot.

Although Israel is leading the world in the speed of its vaccination drive, authorities are still concerned that younger people less prone to dangerous coronavirus complications, and others jittery about inoculation will not get their jabs.

So it was free pizza, hummus and knafeh, a sweet Middle Eastern dessert made with filo pastry, for all. And dozens of people showed up.

“We came to get vaccinated, until now we were worried but because of the upcoming restrictions (against people who don’t vaccinate) there was not much choice, and it’s also very nice to get a pizza and a coffee,” said Lizi Kritzer, a 32-year-old municipality worker.

Israel plans to ease more restrictions on businesses on Sunday and reopen hotels and gyms to those fully vaccinated or deemed immune after recovering from Covid-19.

With nearly 43% of citizens having received at least one shot of Pfizer Inc’s vaccine, Israel has moved ahead with a gradual relaxing of lockdown measures imposed on Dec. 27.

Its ambitious vaccination drive has made it the largest real-world study of Pfizer’s vaccine. The country’s largest healthcare provider has reported a 94% drop in symptomatic Covid-19 cases among 600,000 people who received both doses.

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