Britain has reported a further 6,035 coronavirus cases within the previous 24 hours and 144 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test – marking a huge drop on last week.
The latest figures mean cases over the past seven days were down 21.2 per cent compared with the previous seven-day period, and deaths were down 33.5 per cent.
They also mark a 40 per cent drop in infections since last Sunday’s daily figure of 9,834 and a drop in deaths by a third from 215.
Meanwhile official data released on Sunday showed a total of 20million people have had their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Today’s data have raised fresh questions over the Prime Minister’s ultra-cautious ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, which will not see the country free from restrictions until June.
All schools in England will reopen from March 8 and at the same time people will be allowed to meet socially with one friend or family member in the park for a coffee or a picnic.
From March 29 the formal Stay at Home edict will be dropped and the Rule of Six will comeback. That date will also see the reopening of tennis courts and golf courses and the return of grassroots football.
But shops, hairdressers and pubs must remain closed until April 12 at the earliest – the same time gyms can open. Even at that point pints and meals can only be consumed outdoors.
Campsites and holiday lets can reopen for single households from April 12 – but international travel is completely off the cards until at least May 17.
Sports can start to return from May 17, although venues will need to work on reduced capacities. Up to 30 people can go to weddings from the same date, but are stuck at that number until the next phase of the roadmap.
Only at June 21 will all legal limits on social contact go, and the remaining elements of the hospitality sector be allowed to open.
But today many appeared to jump the gun and throw the stay at home message out the window as the sunny weather saw people hit the streets and flock to beaches.
Elsewhere in the retreating epidemic:
- A quarter of frontline NHS workers in London are refusing the vaccine;
- A poll found 81 per cent of voters think it should be compulsory for medics and care home workers to have the vaccine, while 54 per cent support vaccine passports as a condition of entry to restaurants or on public transport;
- Boris Johnson’s poll ratings have surged since he announced his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, which is supported by more than two-thirds of people;
- Almost three-quarters of care homes bosses said they wanted to implement a ‘no jab, no job’ policy;
- New Covid cases have fallen by 28 per cent over the past seven days to 7,434, while deaths dropped by more than a third to 290;
- The number of first-dose vaccinations administered surpassed 19.6 million, with more than 750,000 people having their second jab;
- Tributes were paid to Captain Sir Tom Moore at his funeral yesterday;
- EU leaders have been warned it could be 2023 before the bloc manages to offer a jab to all of its adult population;
- Pubs and restaurants complained they were facing a nightmare of red tape if they wanted to reopen for alfresco service on April 12, in line with Mr Johnson’s roadmap.
In Newcastle hordes of shoppers were spotted descending on to the Quayside this morning despite government appeals to stay indoors
A group of young women gathered on a park bench in Wimbledon Common on Sunday as they made the most of the weather in the capital
Vaccine boost propels Boris Johnson and the Tories to a seven-point poll lead
Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party have extended their poll lead over Labour to seven points, according to a new survey. An Opinium poll put the Tories on 43 per cent and Labour on 36 per cent, the biggest gap recorded by the firm since July of last year.
The numbers suggest Mr Johnson is enjoying a ‘vaccine boost’ as the Government’s roll-out of coronavirus jabs continues to exceed expectations. The survey, conducted between February 24-26, found that approval of the Government’s handling of the pandemic has increased this week.
Some 36 per cent now approve, an increase of three points, while 45 per cent disapprove which is unchanged. Approval of the Government’s handling of the vaccine roll-out has also gone up.
Some 68 per cent of respondents approve of the job ministers are doing, up six per cent, while 12 per cent disapprove.
Overall, the poll puts the Tories on 43 per cent and Labour on 36 per cent in terms of general election voting intention.
The Government said a further 144 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday, bringing the UK total to 122,849.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies 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 143,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
The Government also said that, as of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 6,035 lab-confirmed cases in the UK. It brings the total to 4,176,554.
But today also marked a huge milestone in Britain’s fight against the virus, with more than 20 million people in the UK having now have had their first dose of a vaccine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on social media that it was a ‘huge national achievement’ and praised the NHS staff, volunteers and armed forces for their work in the vaccine rollout.
He tweeted: ’20 million people across the UK have now got the jab – a huge national achievement and a testament to the tireless work of NHS staff, volunteers, the Armed Forces & many more.
‘I urge everyone to get the jab when called. Every jab makes a difference in our battle against Covid.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said vaccinating more than 20 million people against coronavirus was a ‘magnificent achievement for the country’.
In a video on his Twitter, Mr Hancock said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted that over 20 million people have now been vaccinated across the UK – it’s absolutely fantastic.
‘I want to thank every single person who’s come forward to get the jab because we know with increasing confidence that the jab protects you, it protects your community and it also is the route out of this for all of us.’
Nurse Elspeth Huber from Hannage Brook Medical Centre administers the COVID 19 vaccine during home visits to the most vulnerable people amid the outbreak of coronavirus near Wirksworth, Derbyshire
Members of the public receive their Covid-19 vaccinations at Lichfield Cathedral, Staffordshire on February 26, 2021
Mr Hancock urged everyone eligible for the vaccine to come forward and added: ‘Every jab in the arm is another life soon to be protected from this awful disease and means we are a step closer to returning to our normal lives.’
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi tweeted: ‘BINGO! One Score over 20,000,000 people have had the vaccination (1s dose).
‘What an achievement for February 2021. What a team! Proud to be with you on this journey.’
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: ‘Vaccinating 20 million people – including 17 million across England – in a few short weeks shows the NHS vaccination campaign is firing on all cylinders, and looking out to Easter and beyond it’s full speed ahead.
‘As we can see from other parts of the world, having vaccines from the manufacturers versus actually administering them to patients can be two different things.
‘So this latest milestone is also a tribute to careful health service planning, effective organisation and amazing teamwork across the whole of the country.’
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopkins has also praised the milestone as a ‘great credit to everyone involved’ in delivering the vaccines including trusts and volunteers – but warned that ‘now is not the time to let down our guard’ or ease restrictions.
‘It’s important to remember there’s a long way to go – we’re not even close to half way through this programme,’ he said.
‘As we set out in our recent briefing, we need to see more progress on vaccines, lower Covid-19 case numbers, much less pressure on the NHS and plans in place to contain future outbreaks before easing restrictions.’
A single shot of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer jab cuts the chance of needing hospital treatment by more than 90 per cent, ‘real world’ results from the NHS vaccination programme show
EU nations including Germany are being far outpaced by Britain in the vaccine race after Brussels was late to place orders with firms including Pfizer and AstraZeneca
THREE PEOPLE WITH BRAZIL VARIANT OF COVID-19 DETECTED IN SCOTLAND
Three cases of the Brazil variant of Covid-19 have been detected in Scotland.
Following a return to north-east Scotland from Brazil, three Scottish residents tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus.
All three have been self-isolating since their return to Scotland.
The tests were completed in early February and passed to the UK’s advanced sequencing capabilities programme – which detected this new variant.
Due to the potential concerns around this variant, other passengers on the flight used by the three individuals from London to Aberdeen are being contacted.
These three cases are not connected to three cases also identified in England.
Health protection teams, including local clinicians, have assessed each case and their contacts and are arranging protective measures for this small number of potentially exposed individuals.
To provide an extra layer of safety, teams are ensuring people who could have been infected by these first line contacts are also isolated and tested.
This is to ensure all possible precautions are taken as experts learn more about this particular variant.
Clinical and trial data continues to be assessed to examine how the new variant may respond to current Covid-19 vaccines.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: ‘The identification of this new variant is a concern but we are taking every possible precaution.
‘We have identified these cases thanks to our use of advanced sequencing capabilities which means we are finding more variants and mutations than many other countries and are therefore able to take action quickly.
‘This new variant demonstrates how serious Covid is and reinforces the need to minimise the spread of the virus.
‘We would encourage everyone across the country to adhere to the necessary public health restrictions by staying at home except for essential purposes as this is the single best way of staying safe and stopping the spread of this virus.
‘It is now also illegal for anyone to travel to or from Scotland unless it is for an essential reason.
‘The Covid vaccination programme is one of three key ways we are working to beat this virus, along with our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission, and the important lockdown restrictions everyone in Scotland must follow.
‘These three strands – following expert advice and guidance to suppress the virus, using our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and rolling out vaccination as fast as supplies allow – are the three critical actions that will see us move, step by step, to protect the public, save lives and a brighter year ahead.’
Meanwhile nearly two million people aged 60 to 63 in England are being invited to book a coronavirus jab, with the letters due to start arriving on Monday.
NHS England said the letters will explain how people can make an appointment through the national booking service.
They have been sent out after more than three in four people aged 65 to 70 took up the offer of a vaccination, it added.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show there is no evidence of newly discovered coronavirus variants spreading after concerns that case rates are rising in one in five areas.
He added: ‘That’s not what I’ve seen in any of the data.’ Pressed if there was any evidence of more new variants, he said: ‘No.’
Mr Sunak also said the Government should reach its conclusion on vaccine passports in ‘a few months’ time’ and that the Prime Minister had taken a ‘cautious but irreversible approach’ with his road map but there was a ‘sense of confidence and optimism about the future’.
Asked if the data were better than expected, the PM’s road map could happen quicker, he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: ‘What we want is a cautious but irreversible approach.
‘That’s why we’ve taken the approach that we have and those will be the earliest dates that we think we can do the various things we’ve laid out.’
He added: ‘What businesses don’t want is a stop-start approach to this, we want to know that it’s a one-way road and that’s why it’s cautious.
‘We’ve given the earliest of dates to give a sense of timing and a sense of direction and then obviously we might have to adjust those if things are not going exactly as we would like, but look the early signs are promising.
‘We’re seeing great news with the rollout of the vaccine, not just the take-up of it but also the efficacy of the vaccine, the data that we’re getting is showing us that it is working, so I think that should give us all a sense of confidence and optimism about the future that we can make progress on that road map and hopefully slowly get our lives back to normal.’
The Duke of Cambridge has also urged people to keep on taking the Covid-19 vaccination so ‘younger generations’ will feel ‘it’s really important for them to have it’.
William also warned against ‘rumours and misinformation’ on social media about coronavirus jabs, as he and Kate talked by video call with two clinically vulnerable women who have been shielding since last March.
His comments came after the Queen encouraged those hesitant about vaccination to ‘think about other people rather than themselves’.
The Department of Health and Social Care also said that two rapid coronavirus tests will be sent out to all households with school-aged children every week under plans for schools to safely reopen in England from March 8.
Free tests will be provided to pupils’ households, as well as those in their childcare or support bubbles, regardless of whether anyone has symptoms, the department added.
The rapid tests will be ordered and collected from local sites or administered through workplace testing programmes.
Secondary and college pupils will be tested with lateral flow tests twice a week, receiving three initial tests at school before they start taking them at home.
But despite the threat from the virus and lockdown restrictions, Britons headed outside as weather forecasters said the mercury would spike at 73F (23C) by April as spring is set start tomorrow.
The UK has suffered through the coldest winter for three years according to the Met Office and after a week of 64F (18C) spring is around the corner.
Surfers and swimmers were seen on Branksome Beach in Dorset making the most of the sunny skies and some were even spotted without wetsuits as they braved the chilly waters.
Surfers and swimmers were seen on Branksome Beach in Dorset making the most of the sunny skies and some were even spotted without wetsuits as they braved the chilly waters
Dogwalkers took to the beach in Camber, Sussex, this morning to celebrate sunny skies and warmer weather
Crowds of people met outdoors in the sunshine on Wimbledon Common during the unusually warm February weather
Locals hit the beach in Broadstairs, Kent, and make the most of the balmy temperatures
A woman was spotted lying down to bathe in the sun on the beach in Broadstairs in Kent today
In Newcastle hordes of locals were spotted descending on to the Quayside this morning despite government appeals to stay indoors.
And police were seen patrolling the beach in Brighton as people stopped to sit on the pebbles this morning.
However mild temperatures will drop for a five-day cold burst from Thursday.
Snow flurries are likely in the east as temperatures halve to 5C, with frost and freezing nights set to dip towards the -6C seen in Scotland this morning.
But warm southerly winds are poised to send highs pushing towards 73F (23C) by early April, ex-BBC and Met Office forecaster John Hammond of weathertrending said.
It would cheer millions as households meet from March 29 and pub beer gardens reopen from April 12.
Met Office forecaster Marco Petagna said: ‘A colder north-easterly airstream will be introduced across the UK later in the week.’
The Weather Outlook forecaster Brian Gaze said: ‘Spring is starting but winter may return, with wintry showers in eastern Britain.’
A Met Office forecaster said: ‘A short colder spell is likely at the end of the week for a time. Frost and fog may occur.’
Ex-BBC and Met Office forecaster John Hammond of weathertrending said: ‘Much chillier northeasterly winds from Scandinavia may be cold enough for a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow in showers arriving across the North Sea.
‘But by late March, with temperatures dependent on wind direction, southerly winds could perhaps send the mercury into the low 20s as days grow longer than nights.’
A Met Office forecaster said: ‘Brief colder intervals are also possible from March 14-28, although temperatures are most likely to be around or a little above average overall.’
Swimmers in Banksome Beach were seen braving the water without wetsuits as the mercury rises
Runners and walkers were seen enjoying the sunny weather on Branksome Beach in Dorset this morning
And police were seen patrolling the beach in Brighton as people stopped to sit on the pebbles this morning