THE UK’s successful vaccine rollout appears to be taking effect as daily Covid deaths plummet.
The number of deaths from coronavirus being reported per day is falling at a faster rate than it did towards the end of the first wave, figures show.
It comes as Professor Jonathon Van-Tam stated there is NO proof that the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots as he urged Brits to get jabbed.
At today’s Downing Street press briefing, the deputy chief medical officer encouraged people to continue to get their jab amid panic from the European Union.
His comments come after 20 countries paused the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
France and Germany yesterday admitted their ban was political – as MPs accused them of sulking over Britain’s more successful rollout.
New figures out today show the UK jabbed a total of 25,273,226 people between December 8 and March 16 with first doses, while 1,759,445 people have had their second dose.
Speaking this evening, Professor Van-Tam highlighted that there are side effects with most medications.
Addressing the nation he read out a statement from the EMA (European Medicines Agency), which stated that the AstraZeneca jab is safe for use.
Prof Van-Tam said: “There is lots of evidence now that is reassuring that there is no excess signal or risk.
“There is no evidence of increased risk.
“And I expect, without prejudice to their absolute findings, those to be the final conclusions of the EMA and (Britain’s) MHRA in due course.”
The number of new UK Covid deaths today plunged by 80 per cent in a month as another 141 fatalities were recorded, a signal the vaccine rollout is saving lives.
The daily rise is down by more than two thirds on the figure recorded on February 17, when 738 Covid deaths were confirmed.
Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic…
SHORTFALL FROM INDIAN PRODUCER BEHIND ASTRAZENECA SUPPLY ISSUES
A delay in the delivery of five million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine from India is thought to be behind a forthcoming reduction in the UK’s supply.
The delivery had been expected from the Serum Institute of India, the BBC reported, but has been held up by four weeks.
A letter to health leaders in England, published on Wednesday, warned of a “significant reduction in weekly supply” of the vaccine from March 29, “meaning volumes for first doses will be significantly constrained”.
The letter from Emily Lawson, NHS chief commercial officer, and Dr Nikita Kanani, medical director for primary care, said people “aged 49 years or younger should not be offered vaccination” unless they are in a higher priority group, such as being clinically vulnerable.
It added that the UK’s vaccines taskforce predicts the shortfall will last four weeks “as a result of reductions in national inbound vaccines supply”. The Department of Health has said the Government is still on track to offer a first dose to all adults by the end of July.
JAB TARGETS ‘CHALLENGING’
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Cabinet Minister Robert Jenrick has admitted jab targets are “challenging”.
“We’re still on course to meet our target, which is to get groups one to nine vacc by mid-april,” he said.
“If you remember our last big milestone which was in mid-February – we only met that with a couple of days’ grace. These targets are quite challenging, they’re not easy.”
“We still think we’re on course to meet the middle of April one and we still think we’re on course to meet the most important one of all, which is to get all adults vaccinated with first jab by end of July.”
Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick has suggested the issue with vaccine supply is due to doses being imported from abroad and did not deny a reported problem with supply from India.
The Housing Secretary told Sky News: “We’re sourcing vaccines from all over the world and we’re experiencing, occasionally, some issues and that has led to issue with some supply in the coming weeks.”
But asked about supply from India after a reported delay in the delivery of five million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute of India, he said: “I’m not going to get into the specific contracts we have with different manufacturers. We’re sourcing vaccines from many countries all over the world.
“It’s a very complex international supply chain and that does mean occasionally we will experience issues and that’s what we’ve experienced right now.”
Astrazeneca has said its supply of the Covid jab in the UK is “not experiencing any disruption” – after the NHS warned of a dip in supplies from the end of March.
NHS England today said there had been “reductions in national inbound vaccines supply” and asked organisations to ensure no further appointments were uploaded to booking systems in April.
NHS bosses said that as a result, people under the age of 50 should only get the jab if they are in a priority group for the vaccine.
But the reasons for the slowdown remain unclear, as Astrazeneca said this evening: “Our UK domestic supply chain is not experiencing any disruption and there is no impact on our delivery schedule.”
ONLINE SHOPPING HERE TO STAY
With many high-earning employees not expected back in the office full-time, the ‘home nesting’ that became a feature of the pandemic is set to continue – leading to sustained higher spending on home offices, gym equipment and renovations, a new report by McKinsey has found.
Online grocery shopping and virtual healthcare appointments are also expected to rise even as the Covid-19 pandemic recedes, while spending on remote education and digital entertainment will dip, the study found.
The report, based on surveys of consumers in China, France, Germany, the UK, and the United States, analyzed a series of pandemic-induced spending behaviors to predict which would outlast the crisis.
Two groups whose behaviour McKinsey predicts will have an outsized impact on how the post-pandemic economy functions are high-income, middle-aged women, and younger, high-income earners.
Europe’s medical regulator is set to give its verdict on the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday, following a chaotic few weeks that has seen nations suspend its use over blood clot fears.
There are “a number of options” open to scientists at the European Medicines Agency, its chief said earlier this week, including suspending approval for the jab in the EU, with the bloc’s innoculation programme already scrambling for vaccines.
Despite more than a dozen countries pausing rollouts, the EMA says it has found “no indication” of a serious problem and that the number of post-jab blood clots is no higher than it is among the general, unvaccinated population.
The World Health Organization said Wednesday it was better to take the AstraZeneca vaccine than not — adding that it was looking into available data on the shot.
RISK OF CATCHING COVID CUT BY A THIRD BY LIVING WITH SOMEONE JABBED
The risk of catching Covid is cut by a THIRD if you live with someone who has been vaccinated, it was revealed tonight.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said data from vaccinated healthcare workers in Scotland suggests that immunised Brits are far less likely to pass on the virus.
Dr Mary Ramsay tonight unveiled a raft of new data that shows the real-world impact of Britain’s jab rollout.
She told the Downing Street briefing: “Data from Scotland suggests vaccinated healthcare workers have a 30 per cent lower chance of passing infection on to their household contacts.
“This is the first evidence we have of a reduction in transmission from vaccination. This means the more people we vaccinate, the more we reduce the spread of infection”.
EU TO AGREE COVID PASSPORT SCHEME
The EU is set to agree to a Covid passport scheme that will allow jabbed Brits and those with antibodies to travel.
The bloc will publish details of its “digital green pass” in order for people to go on holiday in time for summer, it’s been reported.
The EU’s passport will allow those from non-EU countries to travel there if they are “in a position to present certificates under a system deemed sufficiently reliable,” according to a leaked document obtained by Bloomberg.
It comes as pressure piles on Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as Brits eagerly await news of when they can travel abroad again.
The digital pass will also allow travel for those who have tested negative or who can prove they have gained a level of immunity having recovered from Covid, the document states.
‘VACCINE SAVING THOUSANDS OF LIVES’
The Health Secretary has urged Brits to get their jab as soon as they are called as figures show death rates plunging in recent weeks thanks to the vaccine rollout.
“Deaths from Covid are down by over a third in the last week again and the vaccine is saving thousands of lives right now here in the UK and it can give us all hope,” he said.
“All of this underlines how important it is that when you get the call, get the jab.
“To anybody who still has concerns or any doubt about getting the jab, we know that the vaccine is safe and helps makes you safe.
“It gives you this protection.”
He added: “The strategy of going big, bold and early has clearly paid off.
“Furthermore, delays to restrictions have meant them needing to be tougher and longer-lasting than in other countries, thereby worsening the economic damage.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has touched everyone, but lower-income families have borne the brunt of the crisis in terms of their lives and livelihoods.
“This shouldn’t be forgotten as we look to rebuild post-pandemic Britain.”
Some 25,000 Brits were killed by Covid because Boris Johnson delayed the latest lockdown, experts have said.
The Resolution Foundation blasted the PM for dithering just when the super-infectious Kent coronavirus strain was ripping through Britain.
Mike Brewer, of the Foundation, said: “Going timidly and late on lockdowns has been a disaster, causing many thousands of avoidable deaths.”
WHERE IN UK ARE COVID CASES STILL RISING?
Coronavirus cases are still rising in 121 places in England and this interactive map reveals if your local area is on the list.
Official data from Public Health England (PHE) states that in the last seven days, 190 areas have seen a fall in infection rates.
Of the 121 places that have seen a rise in cases over the last week, there are five local authority areas that have witnessed a sizeable increase.
While Corby is the most infected local authority in England it has also seen the biggest week on week increase in cases.
Public health chiefs in the area have this week insisted that the reopening of schools has nothing to do with the spike in cases in the area.
PM DEFENDS PROPOSED 1% PAY RISE FOR NHS WORKERS
Boris Johnson has defended the Government’s proposed one per cent pay rise for NHS workers.
Labour’s Tahir Ali (Birmingham, Hall Green) said: “Throughout the last year, NHS staff have been working tirelessly to keep our communities healthy and safe during the pandemic.
“I would like to ask the Prime Minister why has he been economical with the truth when he says that a 1% pay increase is all the Government can afford?”
Mr Johnson replied that “no” he has not been economical with the truth, adding: “What we are saying is that we so value the incredible contribution of nurses to our country over the last year or more than we want them – exceptionally of all the public services – to be looked at for a pay increase at a time of real difficulty in the public finances, which I think people do understand.”
‘MINISTERS RISK RUINING BRITAIN’S SUMMER OF FUN’
Ministers risk ruining Britain’s “summer of fun” if they don’t introduce a government-backed Covid insurance scheme for live events.
Campaigners and MPs are calling for a parachute package to be out in place to help organisers in the event of a Covid outbreak scuppering festivals, gigs or large sporting events.
Events like the Great North Run are under threat without the insurance according to the Let LIVE Thrive campaign.
Tory MP Julian Knight said: “It is utterly pointless to spend a king’s ransom on furlough and the culture recovery fund yet not to put the one piece of the jigsaw in place – namely Covid-19 insurance – and scupper what could be a festival and live events season which could lift all our spirits.
Staff in the bright blue vaccine bus can administer up to 150 jabs a day.
And the area’s ten per cent uptake rise in the African and Caribbean communities and a similar increase within the Asian community has been attributed to it.
Rob, 42, who has had both jabs and urged everyone to have theirs, added: “One of the challenges of uptake is, of course, people having to go to vaccination centres and that’s been quite a problem especially reaching out to communities where there’s slow uptake.
“So, the NHS have come up with an innovative solution, which is to bring the vaccination centre to the people.
“And it’s an amazing, innovative response. It is the absolute best of what the NHS is.”
JUDGE RINDER HAILS ‘AMAZING’ JABS ARMY VOLUNTEERS
Judge Rinder has delivered his verdict that our vaccine volunteers are “amazing”.
Rob visited the Vaccine Bus in Greenwich, South East London, which travels around the borough to people who cannot or will not travel to traditional clinics for their jab.
He said: “I often meet interesting people as part of my job — today I met amazing people.
“I met someone who’s a little bit sort sceptical, and had his questions answered by an amazing doctor.”
Judge Rinder visited the Vaccine Bus in Greenwich, South East LondonCredit: The Sun
AZ SAYS SUPPLY OF COVID JABS ‘NOT EXPERIENCING ANY DISRUPTION’
AstraZeneca has said its supply of the Covid jab in the UK is “not experiencing any disruption” – after the NHS warned of a reduction in supplies from the end of March.
NHS England today said there had been “reductions in national inbound vaccines supply”, and warned that under-50s faced a month-long delay to get the jab.
In a statement, Astrazeneca said this evening: “Our UK domestic supply chain is not experiencing any disruption and there is no impact on our delivery schedule.”
It came after Health secretary Matt Hancock earlier warned that supply will always be “lumpy” despite the success of Britain’s vaccine rollout.
Ministers promised bumper supply from mid-March would see record daily jabs in arms. But a delay to a key shipment means millions of younger Brits will have to wait longer for their first immunisation.
MORE THAN 25MILLION JABBED SAYS HEALTH SEC
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has today praised the success of the UK’s vaccine rollout.
Speaking at this afternoon’s Downing Street press conference, he revealed more than 25million people had now received a jab.
“I’ve got some fantastic news to bring you today on the success of the vaccination rollout and the protection it is bringing right across the United Kingdom right now,” he said.
“Yesterday, we delivered 529,119 vaccines, more than half a million.
“That means today – exactly 100 days since Margaret Keenan got that first authorised jab in the whole world – we have now vaccinated over 25million people across the United Kingdom.”
JABS ARMY SELFIES WANTED FOR TV AD
More than 50,000 selfless Sun readers joined our Jabs Army to help make the UK’s vaccine rollout the envy of the world.
And now we want to say a massive thank you, by giving all our volunteers the chance to appear in a brilliant primetime Saturday night TV ad.
The commercial on ITV will pay tribute to our valiant volunteers for their amazing work as stewards at vaccine centres all over the country.
And we want to feature the faces of our kind-hearted volunteers in the advert The Sun is making with the Royal Voluntary Service and the NHS.
Cops have now been granted additional powers to move people on in Liverpool’s four parks if they suspect anti-social behaviour.
Merseyside Police tweeted this evening: “Police are in attendance after receiving reports of large groups of people gathering in Sefton Park this afternoon, Wednesday 17 March, to celebrate St Patricks Day.”
Chief Inspector Karl Baldwin said: “Such blatant disregard of the Covid-19 regulations, which are in place to protect our communities, will not be tolerated by Merseyside Police.
“We are still in a national lockdown and large gatherings, either indoors or outdoors, are currently not permitted under the current rules which state that you can only mix outdoors with one other person outside your household or support bubble.
“Now, more than ever, people should be taking heed of the regulations, so that infection rates can continue to drop, and we can meet the criteria necessary for easing lockdown in the upcoming weeks and months.”
COPS BREAK UP GROUP OF ST PATRICK’S DAY REVELLERS
Police have broken up hundreds of St Patrick’s Day revellers who broke Covid rules while gathering in a park.
Students descended on Sefton Park in Liverpool to celebrate in the sun – despite the national lockdown currently in place.
By the time they were moved on by cops, crowds who had a “blatant disregard” for rules had also left litter across the entire park.
Footage shared on social media showed crowds drinking in the sun as they flouted Covid rules while celebrating St Patrick’s Day.
Under currently lockdown restrictions, one person can meet with another from a different household – but no more than two people should be present.
Mrs von der Leyen’s threats sparked shock and anger in Downing Street.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the EU was acting like a dictatorship.
He insisted: “Frankly, I’m surprised we’re having this conversation.
“It is normally what the UK and EU team up with to reject when other countries with less democratic regimes engage in that kind of brinkmanship.”
More than 25million people have now been vaccinated in Britain, with half of all adults expected to get the jab by tomorrow evening.
EU CHIEF THREATENS TO SEIZE JABS FROM BRITAIN
Crazed Europe chief Ursula von der Leyen has threatened to seize vaccines from Britain as she went on the warpath over the EU’s shambolic jabs roll-out yesterday.
In an outburst triggered by our successful inoculation programme she warned “all options are on the table” amid fears that supplies bound for Britain may be halted.
The German European Commission president demanded Europe got a bigger share of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine — even though most of the continent has halted its use.
And Mrs von der Leyen hinted that the EU was prepared to bend the law to force British-based pharma giant AZ to hand over the vaccine formula.
MPs accused the bloc of behaving like a Stalinist dictatorship.
At a press conference in Brussels, Mrs von der Leyen declared: “All options are on the table. We are in the crisis of the century and I’m not ruling out anything for now because we have to make sure Europeans are vaccinated as soon as possible.”
‘ONE OF BIGGEST LOGISTICAL EXERCISES SINCE THE WAR’
Matt Hancock has thanked all those who have helped out during the rollout, adding that it is the “best project” he has ever been involved in.
“It’s been such a national mission, one of the biggest logistical exercises since the war, and I’ve had the honour of playing my part, we’ve had the honour of playing our parts, it’s been a huge team effort,” he said.
“I’ve got absolutely no doubt it’s the best project I’ve ever been involved in, and I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who lent in and has done so much to put this country the position we’re in to vaccinate almost half of the adult population – 25million people.”
Brits who have had both jabs, or can provide proof of antibodies or a negative test, would be able to go on holiday under the scheme.
Initially anyone wishing to travel would have to apply to the country they wanted to go to for a vaccine passport.
But in the “medium term” the EU wants to be able to recognise jabs certificates issued by other countries, like Britain.
The passports will be free for European citizens, but it’s not yet clear whether Brits would have to pay a fee.
Top eurocrat Vera Jourova said: “We all want the tourist season to start. We can’t afford to lose another season. Tourism, and also culture and other sectors that are dependent on tourism, terribly suffer. We’re talking about tens of millions of jobs.”
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