THE Brazilian “variant of concern” that has been discovered in the UK could disrupt plans to lift all lockdown measures in the UK by June 21 an expert has suggested.
Asked about the variant on Times Radio, Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College said the public should be “somewhat worried but not total panic, perhaps.”
But he suggested the Brazilian variant could have a real impact on the UK’s jab rollout, saying “The way I think about it is it’s a bit like, and I think about the effect that the Kent variant had… it just slowed everything up.”
If the variant does slow the UK jab rollout, Boris Johnson’s lockdown roadmap will almost certainly be impacted as one of the key conditions for June 21 lifting of measures is vaccines continuing at their current pace.
Any slowing down of the rollout could potentially push the June 21 date back by weeks or even months, as the Prime Minister made clear when he first announced his plans on February 22.
The news comes as it was revealed more than 20 million people have had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine in the UK.
Boris Johnson hailed the “huge national achievement” while praising the NHS, volunteers and armed forces for their work in the vaccine roll-out.
Meanwhile, vaccines for people over 40 will begin this month as Britain delivers jabs to more than 20 million adults, The Telegraph reported.
Health officials are about to send the last batch of invites to those over 60, the report added.
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CARE WORKER TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID TWICE IN SEVEN MONTHS
A care worker warned about the risks of catching coronavirus multiple times – after she tested positive for the virus twice in seven months.
Michelle Lamont, 50, from Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, first tested positive for Covid-19 in April last year and said it was ‘the worst she’d ever felt’.
The mother-of-three initially felt lethargic while working on a late shift and was devastated after she tested positive for the virus.
She lost her taste and smell and felt weak and breathless, and other symptoms included palpitations, a headache and a loss of appetite.
Michelle said: “It was the worst I’d ever felt. Moving from my bed to the bathroom in my room was like doing a marathon. While I was lying in bed, I was worried I’d pass it on to my family.
“My oldest daughter helped look after me. She’d wear PPE and would clean door handles, she amazing but it was a total role reversal.”
VACCINE MINISTER DEFENDS UK BORDER CONTROLS WHEN ACCUSED OF ‘DITHERING’ OVER QUARANTINE MEASURES
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi defended the UK’s border controls, when asked if the Government had “dithered” over implementing hotel quarantine measures.
“I would say to you that the border controls that we have are pretty stringent,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Even countries that had hotel quarantine, like Australia, still have to deal with the variants actually challenging them in the same way they challenge us.”
PHE LOOKING FOR PERSON WHO MAY HAVE TAKEN HOME TEST
Dr Susan Hopkins, strategic response director at Public Health England, said the person PHE wishes to identify may have taken a home test and could be helped in locating their results and given further advice.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re making an appeal for anyone out there who was tested on February 12 and 13, probably by a home test or a test that was a drop and collect from a local authority system, and may not have completed the form completely online, or may have thought they did, but still hasn’t got their results.
“We are looking at where that test may have been sent from and to, working with the postal services, and the courier services.
“We’re also looking to try and track where exactly that sample may have been sent to on a local authority system.
“But I think the public appeal is also a belt and braces approach to ensure that we’ve gone through every option to find this individual.”
MARCH SET TO BE A ‘BIG MONTH’ FOR VACCINATIONS ROLL OUT
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said March will be a “very big month” for vaccinations.
“We have already been for now over 10 days reserving second doses,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“You have seen the numbers tick up of second doses – yesterday I think we were at 800,000 second doses.
“And in March you will see that number increase even more, because obviously those who had the first dose in January will be getting their second dose.
“The NHS have got all the protocols in place to deliver that, as well as of course continuing to do the first dose. March will be a very big month for us. We’ll probably going to be twice the rate over the next 10 weeks as we have done over the past 10 or 11 weeks.”
VACCINES MINISTER CONFIDENT OF SUPPLY
The UK is confident it has sufficient supplies of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, Minister for Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi said on Monday.
Zahawi said the United Kingdom’s vaccine rollout would accelerate in March – at around twice the rate of the past 10 weeks.
“I see the vaccine supply numbers coming in – I’m very confident that we’ve got the supplies of Pfizer and AstraZeneca and soon of course to come other vaccines like Moderna as well,” Zahawi told the BBC.
RUSSIA REPORTS 11,571 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES, 333 DEATHS
Russia on Monday reported 11,571 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 2,097 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,257,650.
The country also reported another 333 deaths, raising the official toll to 86,455.
AUTHORITIES ARE WORKING WITH THE POSTAL SERVICE TO FIND PERSON INFECTED WITH BRAZILIAN VARIANT
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said authorities were working with the postal service to locate a person infected with a concerning variant of coronavirus first found in Brazil.
Asked if it is known if the person had travelled to the UK or contracted the virus here, he told BBC Breakfast: “We don’t. Part of the reason why we want to locate them quickly is to understand more about them and their movements.
“They could have had a home test kit or a test kit provided to them by their local authority. But they didn’t fill in the contact details.
“We are working with the postal service to try and get other data to try and locate them, and this appeal is a belt and braces to try and make sure we locate them as quickly as possible.”
‘SOMEWHAT WORRIED, NOT TOTAL PANIC’ OVER P.1 BRAZILIAN VARIANT
Asked about how worried people should be about the Brazilian variant, Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College, told Times Radio: “Somewhat worried but not total panic, perhaps.
“It’s somewhat more worrying than the UK variant, the Kent variant, that we’re used to talking about, because it covers the double whammy, we think, of being more transmissible and somewhat better at evading neutralising antibodies.”
On what it would mean for the vaccination programme if the variant became widespread, he added: “The way I think about it is it’s a bit like, and I think about the effect that the Kent variant had on us, it just slowed everything up because suddenly things started to get a little bit worse again, and you know the end seemed a little bit further away.
“When I look at the data on how well this variant gets neutralised, it’s not that all immunity is gone, it’s that the vaccines look so much less potent, so there’ll be more people who have low antibody responses where it can break through and get affected. It all comes back much harder.”
HUNT FOR MYSTERY PERSON WITH CONCERNING BRAZILIAN VARIANT OF CORONAVIRUS
A hunt is under way to locate one of the first people in the UK believed to have contracted the Manaus variant of coronavirus, a new strain that may spread more rapidly and respond less well to existing vaccines.
Public Health England (PHE) said on Sunday that six cases of the concerning P.1 variant first detected in the Brazilian city have been confirmed in Britain, three in England and three in Scotland.
Two were confirmed in South Gloucestershire but the third English case has not been located and could be anywhere in the nation, with PHE saying the person did not complete their test registration card so their contact details are absent.
Anyone who took a test on February 12 or 13 and has not received a result, or has an uncompleted test registration card, is being asked to come forward immediately, as health officials scramble to track down the individual.
Schools could scrap ‘live’ online lessons for two weeks as teachers divert resources to test secondary pupils for Covid.
A mass testing blitz launches today with 32 million kits being posted to families with school-age kids in a bid to get students back in classrooms from March 8.
Secondary and college pupils will be tested with lateral flow tests twice a week.
But head teachers have said all this extra work will mean interactive lessons will need to cut, The Telegraph reports.
Some students, especially those aged 12 to 14, may not return to school until as late as March 19 because of the time taken to test other year groups – but their online teaching may take a hit while they wait.
The Health Secretary is set to hold a cross-party briefing this morning to discuss cases of the Brazilian variant in Britain.
Stephen Crabb, Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour Matt Hancock would hold the crunch talks on Monday morning.
Health officials have identified six cases of the variant in the UK, but only know who five of them are – urging the sixth person to come forward.
Three of the people with the new strain were detected on Friday in England, while three were found in Scotland on Saturday.
Rishi Sunak will extend the VAT cut on pubs and restaurants until at least June, The Sun can reveal.
And the five per cent rate may carry on for the rest of the year as businesses reopen.
Treasury sources told The Sun that the extension for the hospitality industry was deemed part of the pandemic package and would continue until the end of the lockdown exit plan which will see outdoor hospitality open on April 12.
Mr Sunak yesterday reassured the industry he was looking out for them, after hearing from campaigning pub landlord and ex-model Jodie Kidd.
Brits scoffed a record-breaking eight billion eggs in the past year as the lockdown baking boom sent sales soaring.
Shoppers splurged nearly £1.2billion on the protein-packed favourite in 2020 — a leap of more than a quarter from £950million the year before.
They bought 7.9 billion eggs in the 12 months ending in January, market research company Kantar said.
The total was up by a fifth from 6.6billion sold in 2019 and the highest on record.
The pandemic has made communities more united as the country pulls together amid the crisis, research reveals today.
Divisions, such as Brexit, which had split public opinion before Covid have faded significantly.
Only 12 per cent of the public now say their main political identity is Leaver, while Remainers are just 13 per cent.
And an overwhelming majority of us want to sustain or build on the tight-knit spirit after we have beaten coronavirus, findings from the Together coalition’s survey of nearly 160,000 people show.
Nearly seven in ten people took part in the weekly Clap for Carers, which saw many people meet and speak to their neighbours for the first time.
TAKING COVID-19 VACCINE WILL NOT ALTER YOUR DNA, GHANA PRESIDENT SAYS
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo urged citizens of the West African state on Sunday to ignore conspiracy theories surrounding coronavirus vaccines ahead of the launch of its nationwide inoculation campaign against the virus on Tuesday.
“Fellow Ghanaians, I know there are still some who continue to express doubts about the vaccine, others have expressed reservations about its efficacy, with some taking sides with conspiracy theorists who believe the vaccine has been created to wipe out the African race.
“This is far from the truth,” Akufo-Addo said in a nationwide address on Sunday night.
SLOVAKIA TO TIGHTEN ANTI-COVID MEASURES
Slovak government will tighten anti-epidemic measures from March 3, including stricter limits on people’s movement, as the country struggles with the resurgent coronavirus.
The government of Prime Minister Igor Matovic released details of the new measures after several days of debates with experts as the country has ranked among the world’s worst-hit by the recent wave of COVID-19 cases.
As of Wednesday, people will be allowed to travel from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. only to work or to see a doctor, while all currently valid exceptions from the limits on movement will be effective only between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
VACCINES FOR OVER-40S TO BEGIN THIS MONTH
Vaccines for people over 40 will begin this month as Britain delivers jabs to more than 20 million adults, The Telegraph reported.
Health officials are about to send the last batch of invites to those over 60, the report added.
An NHS worker who spends 12-hour shifts on the coronavirus frontline said she was “disgusted” after seeing people gather on a busy beach.
The woman spotted some groups of friends eating and drinking together on Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, Cornwall, yesterday – which is against lockdown restrictions.
She said the scenes were “non acceptable” as the country continues to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The current Covid-19 rules in England do not allow people to have a picnic in a public space or meet someone from a different household.
A stillborn baby whose mother had been struck down with coronavirus died in the womb after becoming infected with the disease, say reports from Israel.
The expectant mum – who was in her 36th week of pregnancy- was apparently admitted to the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba after falling chronically ill on Saturday.
Medics then learned her unborn baby had already died with later tests revealing the foetus had also been infected with the virus, reports the Times of Israel.
The hospital said it could not as yet link the virus to the death.
ISRAEL PLANS COVID JABS FOR PALESTINIAN LABOURERS AND SETTLEMENT WORKERS
Israel approved plans on Sunday to offer COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinians with Israeli work permits, a step a rights group said did not go far enough to safeguard Palestinians in occupied territory.
The Palestinians have received relatively few doses to date and lag far behind Israel, which has vaccinated over one third of its population in one of the world’s fastest roll-outs.
After facing criticism for not extending its campaign to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, Israel agreed this month to give Palestinian health officials 5,000 Moderna Inc doses.
It has since handed over 2,000 of them.
Covid deaths today plunged to their lowest level in 11 weeks with 144 more fatalities.
There has been 6,035 more infections – bringing the total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to 4,176,554.
This is the lowest number of daily positive cases since September 28.
Today’s daily death toll has brought the total number of victims to 122,849.
It is lower than yesterday’s total of 290 as the figure continues to drop.
Police are pulling over motorists heading to Barry in South Wales to find out whether their journey is essential.
Officers in masks have been seen chatting to drivers before deciding whether to let them continue – or make them turn around.
And they warned: “We’ve received numerous reports of crowds of people at beaches and other beauty spots across South Wales.
“Please remember that Welsh Government restrictions state that exercise should start and finish at your home – you shouldn’t be driving to these places. We are working alongside local councils to close some car parks, and will be stopping cars to check whether the journey is essential. Please understand that we are doing our best.
“However, we can’t be everywhere all of the time. It’s up to us all to do the right thing.”
LIFE’S A BEACH
Cops have set up Covid checkpoints to catch lockdown flouters – as thousands hit parks and beaches to soak up the sun.
Cooped-up Brits growing weary with the national restrictions headed outdoors today to make the most of the balmy 13.8C heat.
But health officials have say people must follow the order to stay at home – despite balmy weather ahead of the first day of meteorological spring tomorrow.
And across the country, PCs are out on duty to send those who bend the rules straight back home.
This is the moment Covid cops stopped a woman just two miles from her home as she was queuing to buy a coffee.
The woman, who posted footage of the incident on social media, claims she was slapped in handcuffs with her arms behind her back after she was spoken to by four uniformed officers in masks.
The video shows her telling the PCs she lives in Battersea and had joined a friend and the pal’s son, 13, for a walk.
“It’s not a crime to stand in a street,” she said. I’m social distancing – when I go in the shop, I had a mask.”
For the video click here.
NORWAY’S CAPITAL TIGHTENS LOCKDOWN TO FIGHT FASTER VIRUS SPREAD
Norway’s capital Oslo will tighten lockdown measures to combat a sharp rise in coronavirus infections linked to a more contagious variant, the city’s governing mayor said on Sunday.
The variant, which was first identified in Britain, started spreading in Oslo in January and now accounts for 50-70% of infections, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) said on Saturday.
On Friday, Oslo registered a daily record of 245 new coronavirus infections.
“We have to tighten the measures,” Raymond Johansen, the governing mayor of Oslo, told a news conference.
The infection numbers rose due to increased mobility, faster virus spread, as well as more testing, he added.