Coronavirus UK news – Terrifying South Africa covid variant found in Surrey as experts go door-to-door testing for cases

THE terrifying South African strain of coronavirus has been detected in Surrey sparking fears on a community outbreak.

Two locals with no travel links to South Africa have tested positive for the mutation, named 501YV2, which is feared to be 50 per cent more contagious than the original strain and could resist vaccines.

So far, there has been a total of 105 cases of the South African variant in the UK but until now all had been connected to travel from the country.

The response now is to work out how far the mutation has spread inside the UK, with researchers carrying out door-to-door testing in areas of Woking to track anybody else with the strain and forcing them to self-istolate.

Follow the live blog below for the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis…

  • Shayma Bakht

    SCHOOL CLOSURES ‘COULD LEAD TO £350BN IN LOST LIFETIME EARNINGS’

    School closures could lead to a loss in earnings of £350 billion in the long run, a report has warned.

    A “massive injection” of resources is needed to help pupils catch up after many children will have missed out on around half a year of in-person lessons, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) paper.

    A variety of options – including allowing students to repeat a whole school year, lengthening the school day, or extending the academic year – should be “on the table” to increase learning time, it says.

    Pupils who have lost six months of normal schooling could lose approximately £40,000 in income over their lifetime, the IFS observation suggests.

    This equates to £350 billion in lost lifetime earnings across the 8.7 million school children in the UK.

  • John Hall

    VACCINATIONS FOR CARE WORKERS SHOULD "STEP UP", SAY EXPERTS

    Efforts to vaccinate care workers should be stepped up, industry leaders said as the Government claimed a "crucial milestone" had been reached with all older care home residents in England offered a jab.

    NHS England said figures are expected to show on Monday that people living at more than 10,000 care homes with older residents had been offered their first vaccine doses, meeting the deadline set by Boris Johnson.

    A "small remainder" were said to have had their visits deferred for safety reasons during a local outbreak but these will be visited "as soon as NHS staff are allowed to do so

  • John Hall

    PM 'OPTIMISTIC' PEOPLE WILL BE ABLE TO ENJOY A SUMMER HOLIDAY

    Boris Johnson has said he is "optimistic" people will be able to enjoy a summer holiday this year, provided the disease can be kept under control.

    "I don't want to give too much concrete by way of dates for our summer holidays. I am optimistic – I understand the reasons for being optimistic – but some things have got to go right," he said during a visit to Batley, West Yorkshire.

  • John Hall

    SOUTH AFRICAN VARIANT FOUND IN BRITAIN

    Two people in southern England have tested positive for the South African variant of the coronavirus without having any links to people who have travelled recently, prompting a step-up in testing in that area.

    Residents in parts of Surrey, to the south west of London, will now be tested whether they are showing any symptoms or not.

    Residents in parts of Surrey, to the south west of London, will now be tested whether they are showing any symptoms or not.

  • John Hall

    BORIS JOHNSON CONCERNED ABOUT CHILDREN'S EDUCATION

    Boris Johnson has said that while the economy can bounce back strongly from the pandemic, he is concerned about the impact on children's education.

    He said: "It is going to take a while for our country to bounce back completely from Covid. The economy, I think, can bounce back very, very strongly – the UK has immense natural resilience.

    "The thing that really concerns me at the moment is education and the deficit in our children's education that we have run up as a result of these lockdowns."

  • John Hall

    INFECTION RATES GOING DOWN

    Just five local areas in the UK have recorded a week-on-week rise in Covid-19 case rates, new analysis shows.

    All national and regional rates have now dropped to pre-New Year levels, according to the data.

  • John Hall

    RECORD NUMBER OF VACCINES IN THE UK

    A record-breaking 598,389 Covid-19 jabs were given out on Saturday.

    The total number of Brits who have now received at least one dose of the vaccine is 8,977,329.

  • John Hall

    UK COULD BE 'CLOSE TO NORMAL' BY SUMMER, GOVERNMENT SCIENTIFIC ADVISER SAYS

    The UK could be easing out of restrictions in March and back to almost normal by summer if vaccines are 70 per cent to 80 per cent effective at blocking transmission, a Government scientific adviser has suggested.

    Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of Sage subgroup the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), said scientists believed vaccines would block transmission of coronavirus but it was not yet known by how much.

    "If we think optimistically, if we follow the trajectory of the rollout of the vaccine… then hopefully we can be easing out of these controls that we've got in place sometime in March," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

    "But if the vaccine rollout continues at high levels, and we do find that actually these vaccines are very good at blocking transmission as well as preventing severe infection, then we're in a good position.

    "Hopefully by the summer we can get back to something pretty close to what we have seen before the pandemic was normal."

  • John Hall

    NORTHERN IRELAND'S DEPUTY FIRST MINISTER SELF-ISOLATING AGAIN

    Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister has announced she has gone into self-isolation.

    Michelle O'Neill said she is taking the measure following a positive coronavirus test result at her home in Co Tyrone.

    "I will work from home to continue to protect families, workers and to take us through this pandemic," she tweeted on Monday morning.

  • John Hall

    PIERS MORGAN'S MUM HAS FLU SYMPTOMS AFTER COVID JAB

    Piers Morgan revealed his mum is in bed with flu-like symptoms days after getting her coronavirus vaccine.

    The Good Morning Britain host's parents had their jabs in East Sussex on Saturday and were full of praise for the "quick, efficient, and painless" service.

    However, mum Gabrielle, 76, is now experiencing some side effects.

    Piers explained: "They said it was very efficient, very quick, very painless, all very happy. My mum then got quite a bad reaction to her jab. I say bad, like a fluey reaction, and she's in bed. A lot of people are getting a little bit, or a little bit more reaction."

    Dr Hilary Jones then reassured Piers and viewers that what she was experiencing is perfectly normal.

  • John Hall

    I DIDN'T BELIEVE THE VIRUS WAS REAL, COVID-19 PATIENTS TOLD NURSE

    A senior nurse in a coronavirus ward has said patients told her they did not believe the virus was real.

    Senior charge nurse Rosario Walshe leads the team at Ward A31 at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert in the Falkirk Council area and said there has been a "huge spike" in cases recently.

    The PA news agency was given access to the 32-bed Covid-19 ward where every bed was taken as hospital referrals have doubled since the first wave.

    Ms Walshe believes a combination of family gatherings at Christmas, people ignoring guidelines and the new rapidly-spreading variant is behind the rise.

    "I've had patients say to me, 'I wish I had listened, I didn't listen. I didn't really believe it was real,' so that was quite an eye opener," she said. "The last few weeks have been extremely busy and challenging. It's definitely different to the first wave."

  • John Hall

    RESIDENTS AT ALL ELIGIBLE CARE HOMES OFFERED COVID JAB, FIGURES SET TO CONFIRM

    The coronavirus vaccine has been offered to residents at every eligible care home with older people in England, official figures are expected to confirm on Monday.

    NHS England said people living at more than 10,000 care homes with older residents had been offered the jab.

    A small number of homes had visits deferred for safety reasons during a local outbreak but would be visited as soon as it was safe for NHS staff to do so, a spokesman for NHS England said.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "Today marks a crucial milestone in our ongoing race to vaccinate the most vulnerable against this deadly disease.

    "We said we would prioritise and protect care home residents, and that is exactly what we have done.

    "There will be difficult moments to come, and the number of cases and people in hospital remains dangerously high.

    "But vaccines are our route out of the pandemic, and having protected 8.9 million people with a first dose so far, our rollout programme will only accelerate from here on."

  • John Hall

    SCHOOL CLOSURES 'COULD LEAD TO £350BN IN LOST LIFETIME EARNINGS'

    School closures could lead to a loss in earnings of £350 billion in the long run, a report has warned.

    A "massive injection" of resources is needed to help pupils catch up after many children will have missed out on around half a year of in-person lessons, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) paper.

    A variety of options – including allowing students to repeat a whole school year, lengthening the school day, or extending the academic year – should be "on the table" to increase learning time, it says.

    Pupils who have lost six months of normal schooling could lose approximately £40,000 in income over their lifetime, the IFS observation suggests.

    This equates to £350 billion in lost lifetime earnings across the 8.7 million school children in the UK.

  • John Hall

    RYANAIR LOSSES

    Ryanair said on Monday it may lose close to 1 billion euros (£883 million) in its current financial year, by far its worst ever performance, but Europe's largest low-cost carrier said the crisis would create significant growth opportunities.

    The Irish airline said it expects to post a loss of between 850 and 950 million euros in its current financial year, which ends on March 31, around 5 times larger than its previous record annual loss posted in 2009.

    "Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc across the industry," the airline said in a statement. "FY21 will continue to be the most challenging year in Ryanair's 35 year history."

  • John Hall

    40 MILLION MORE JABS

    The British government has ordered 40 million further doses of Valneva's Covid-19 vaccine candidate for 2022, the French drugmaker said today.

    This brings Britain's total orders to 100 million doses, while it retains options for a further 90 million doses between 2023 and 2025, the company said in a statement.

    The firm expects a read-out of its Phase I/II clinical trial within three months.

  • Shayma Bakht

    MATT HANCOCK TO LEAD PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY

    Matt Hancock will hold a Downing Street press conference tonight to hail a “crucial milestone” in the fight against Covid – revealing almost all care home residents and staff having now been offered a vaccine.

    The Health Secretary is expected to appear at 5pm and announce the Government is set to hit its target of jabbing all of the 10,000 people in the sector who want a dose by the end of January.

    His announcement will come on the back of Britain’s record-breaking vaccination day yesterday, when more than 600,000 people across the country received a dose.

    You can read more here

  • John Hall

    'CRUCIAL MILESTONE'

    Boris Johnson marked a "crucial milestone" in the fight against coronavirus as official figures confirmed all older residents in England's care homes have been offered a vaccine.

    The Prime Minister said the rollout "will only accelerate from here on", after the daily number of jabs administered in the UK exceeded 500,000 for the first time.

    NHS England said figures are expected to show on Monday that people living at more than 10,000 care homes with older residents had been offered their first vaccine doses, meeting the deadline set by the Government.

  • John Hall

    GOVERNMENT ORDERS AN EXTRA 40M DOSES OF VALNEVA VACCINE

    The Government has ordered an extra 40 million doses of the Valneva Covid-19 vaccine which is being manufactured in Scotland.

    The move means 100 million doses of Valneva have now been put on order, enough for every adult in the UK, with the latest batch earmarked for delivery in 2022.

    The Government has also retained options over a further 90 million doses for supply between 2023 and 2025.

    Valneva said the total value of the entire order was up to 1.4 billion euro (£1.24 billion).

    The vaccine is still in clinical trials, with the early-stage phase 1/2 study expected to read out within the next three months.

  • John Hall

    WHERE IS THE VALNEVA VACCINE BEING MADE?

    The jab is expected to be given as two doses and is being made at a site in West Lothian, with the Government saying the new deal "will bolster long-term vaccine production in Scotland".

    Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "If approved, Valneva's vaccine will not only help tackle Covid-19 here in the UK, but aid our mission to ensure there is a fair supply of vaccines across the globe.

    "No-one is safe till the whole world is safe."

  • John Hall

    'TOO EARLY' TO DETERMINE WHEN THE UK WILL SEND VACCINES ABROAD

    On Sunday, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said it is "too early" to determine when the UK will send vaccines abroad.

    She said that "we first need to make sure that our population is vaccinated" but insisted it would be damaging to become a "vaccinated island" while other countries go without.

    Ms Truss told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday: "It's a bit too early to say about how we would deploy 'XX' vaccine, but we certainly want to work with friends and neighbours, we want to work with developing countries because we're only going to solve this issue once everybody in the world is vaccinated."

  • Shayma Bakht

    ‘SUCH A BIG MOMENT’

    Health minister Helen Whately said the news the rollout of vaccines to care homes is almost complete is “really tremendous news” for the whole country.

    She told Sky News: “We all know they’ve had such a hard time during this pandemic. It’s such a big moment.

    “We said they would be top priority for the vaccination and we’ve gone in and we’re delivering on that.

    “It does feel like a real milestone for our care homes. It’s been such a dark time and now this is a moment to give them hope and some protection against this tremendously cruel virus.”

  • John Hall

    EVERY UK CARE HOME HAS BEEN OFFERED COVID VACCINE

    Boris Johnson today hailed the vaccine roll out as it hit the “crucial milestone” of jabbing every care home resident.

    The PM marvelled at the army of volunteers, GPs and care home staff who jabbed the estimated 400,000 residents in 10,000 care homes across the UK.

    He said: “Today marks a crucial milestone in our ongoing race to vaccinate the most vulnerable against this deadly disease.

    “We said we would prioritise and protect care home residents and that is exactly what we have done.”

    More on the story here

  • John Hall

    THE SUN'S JABS ARMY SUCCESS

    We launched our drive to support the Royal Voluntary Service in amassing our Jabs Army of helpers at the beginning of January.

    Just 18 days later, you helped us reach our target of signing up 50,000 people as stewards to assist in rolling out Covid vaccines to the population.

  • John Hall

    VACCINES MAY ALREADY BE SLOWING TRANSMISSION OF VIRUS

    Covid vaccines are already easing the pandemic's grip on Britain, a study has shown.

    As inoculations rack up, early data shows the crisis is easing and the number of people testing positive is already dropping, experts say.

    The research, which will be published within days, will also provide evidence that Brits are protected with just one dose.

    More on the story here

  • John Hall

    MATT HANCOCK TO LEAD PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY

    Matt Hancock will hold a Downing Street press conference tonight to hail a "crucial milestone" in the fight against Covid – revealing almost all care home residents and staff having now been offered a vaccine.

    The Health Secretary is expected to appear at 5pm and announce the Government is set to hit its target of jabbing all of the 10,000 people in the sector who want a dose by the end of January.

    His announcement will come on the back of Britain's record-breaking vaccination day yesterday, when more than 600,000 people across the country received a dose.

    You can read more here

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