The UK’s latest vaccination figures

Infection rates in the UK appear to be falling, with an Imperial College React study suggesting that infections have dropped to just one in 200 people, and the R number reported to be at 0.72.

Scientists are still warning against lifting coronavirus restrictions too quickly but Boris Johnson has been keen to reassure people that he will take a “cautious and prudent approach” to easing the national lockdown.

However, a health expert has warned that eradicating the coronavirus in the UK would be almost impossible, underlining that the country will need to learn to live with it.

Dr Christine Tait-Burkard,  a research fellow in the department of infection and immunity at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, said the UK was in a fundamentally different position from that of New Zealand and Australia, where such strategies were “quite feasible”, because you can only reach them by lengthy air or sea travel.

A further discovery of the South African variant of the virus, in Leeds, has prompted more “surge” testing.

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Government pledges £18.5m for long Covid research

Four major studies into the long-term impact of coronavirus will be boosted by £18.5 million of Government funding as researchers attempt to dig into the causes and potential treatments for the “debilitating” symptoms some are left with long after infection. Joe Middleton reports:

Jane Dalton18 February 2021 13:14

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TV ad to urge Bame communities to get vaccines

An advert featuring black and British-Asian celebrities is set to air across commercial television to encourage ethnic minority groups to accept a vaccine, writes Jon Sharman:

Jane Dalton18 February 2021 13:12

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South African variant in Leeds prompts more ‘surge’ testing

More “surge” testing is being introduced in England after a further discovery of the South African variant of Covid-19.

The mutation has been found in Leeds, prompting the Department of Health to announce additional testing and genomic sequencing in a bid to detect cases and control the spread.

It is the latest area of the country to have targeted testing set up.

People in the LS8 postcode, including parts of Harehills and the area just north of Easterly Road where the variant was found, are being “strongly encouraged” to take a test when offered, whether or not they have symptoms.

Earlier this week the department said targeted testing regimes would be set up in parts of Norfolk, Southampton and Woking in Surrey.

Efforts in Manchester to track down examples of the more transmissible Kent variant were also being expanded following deployment of testing teams last week.

Jane Dalton18 February 2021 12:47

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Prince Charles ‘saddened’ by low jab uptake among ethnic minorities

The Prince of Wales has said it is a tragedy not everyone is benefitting from the Covid vaccine.

At an online conference aimed at encouraging take-up among minority communities, Prince Charles praised the “extraordinary achievements” of the medical experts whose efforts “must rank as one of the greatest scientific achievements of our time”.

He also highlighted the vaccine’s benefits, saying: “It is clear that the virus has affected all parts of the country, and all sections of society – but it is also clear that there are particular challenges faced in particular sections of our society, especially in some ethnic minority communities.

“What saddens me even further is to hear that those challenges are being made even worse by the variable uptake of the vaccines which finally offer us a way out of the suffering of the past year.”

Jane Dalton18 February 2021 12:44

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Scotland records 57 new deaths and Wales 14

Scotland has recorded 57 more deaths from coronavirus and 685 positive tests in the past 24 hours, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

It brings the death toll of people who died after testing positive within 28 days to 6,885.

Public Health Wales reported another 14 deaths, taking the total in the country since the start of the pandemic to 5,189.

Jane Dalton18 February 2021 12:30

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Researchers urge delaying Pfizer jab second dose

The second dose of Pfizer’s vaccine could be delayed in order to cover all priority groups as the first one is highly protective, two Canada-based researchers said in a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The vaccine had an efficacy of 92.6% after the first dose, Danuta Skowronski and Gaston De Serres said, based on an analysis of the documents submitted by the drugmaker to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In its response, Pfizer said alternative dosing regimens of the vaccine had not been evaluated yet and that the decision lay with the health authorities.

Jane Dalton18 February 2021 12:22

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Huge majority of Britons prefer Scotland’s tougher quarantine rules to England’s measures

Almost three in four people across the UK prefer the Scottish government rules for hotel quarantine to the less strict approach taken for arrivals in England.

A YouGov poll found 72 per cent of people preferred the policy by Nicola Sturgeon’s government, demanding all travellers arriving from abroad remains in a hotel for 10 days.

Only 18 per cent of respondents said they prefer the measures taken by Boris Johnson’s government, which only requires those coming from a “red list” of countries with a high level of Covid cases to quarantine.

Clea Skopeliti18 February 2021 11:52

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Record number of rapid tests conducted in England

A record number of rapid coronavirus tests were carried out in England in the week to 10 February, the latest data shows.

It is the second successive week in which more lateral flow device (LFD) tests were conducted that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

A total of 2,400,724 LFD tests were conducted, while 1,295,051 PCR tests were carried out in the week ending 10 February.

Rapid tests give results in 30 minutes or less, while PCR tests are processed in a laboratory.

LFD tests are being rolled out to catch asymptomatic cases, but have been concerns around the rapid tests’ accuracy, with false negative rates of up to 50 per cent.

Clea Skopeliti18 February 2021 11:41

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Starmer warns against ‘return to business as usual’ after coronavirus crisis

Keir Starmer has said the coronavirus crisis has exposed the country’s “fragilities”, in a speech where he argued against a “return to business as usual”.

In a speech delivered virtually, the Labour leader said: “I believe there is a mood in the air that we don’t detect often in Britain. It was there in 1945 after the sacrifice of war and it is there again now – it is there in the determination that our collective sacrifice must lead to a better future.”

He said next month’s budget presented a “fork in the road” and offered the potential to “seize the moment” and create a future that looks “utterly unlike the past”.

Mr Starmer added: “We can’t return to business as usual, certainly not to an economy rooted in insecurity and inequality.”

Clea Skopeliti18 February 2021 11:25

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Number of positive tests in England falls to lowest level since early December

The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in England has fallen to the lowest level since early December, the latest data shows.

A total of 106,474 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to 10 February, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

This is down 29 per cent on the previous week and is the lowest number since the week to 2 December.

Clea Skopeliti18 February 2021 11:20

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