Covid UK news LIVE – 12m Brits to get Autumn AstraZeneca booster to protect against mutant South Africa strain

TWELVE million Brits may need an Autumn AstraZeneca booster jab to protect against the fearsome South African mutant strain.

It comes amid reports that early data shows the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is less effective against the highly infectious variant.

A small trial of just 2,026 people found the vaccine had "limited efficacy" in protecting against mild and moderate disease caused by the mutant Covid.

But AstraZeneca has vowed its scientists will now start adapting the vaccine to kill the new variant. It is hoped this will be achieved by the Autumn.

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

  • Ben Hill


    Lockdown could last longer if the South African Covid variant spreads, a Sage scientist today warned.

    Dr Mike Tildesley said "it's very possible" the mutated strain is already widespread in the UK – as 147 cases were confirmed by the health minister.

    Dr Tildesley, an infectious disease expert at Warwick University, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme "surge testing" taking place in certain areas in England "really needs to be effective" to halt transmission.

    But he warned that "sadly we may be in a similar situation to the Kent variant" which eventually spread across the whole of the UK.

  • Ben Hill


    A mountain rescue volunteer has suffered life changing injuries after falling 500ft while trying to rescue two Covidiots who broke lockdown rules to camp in the Lake District.

    The volunteer in his 60s was part of a team responding to calls one of the campers was suffering chest pains while staying on Red Screes, above Kirkstone Pass, near Ambleside, in the early hours of Saturday.

    But the male volunteer slipped and fell and needed to be helicoptered to hospital by the Coastguard.

    Cumbria Police said officers issued £200 fines to each camper, a man from Liverpool and a man from Leicester, for breaching Covid restrictions.

  • Ben Hill


    Piers Morgan today blasted a minister's "staggering" lack of knowledge as he failed to say whether the Government had signed any hotel quarantine deals, with just days to go before they start.

    The Good Morning Britain host got into a fiery row with Health Minister Ed Agar over the new quarantine regime which is due to start in a week's time.

    Anyone coming in from at least 30 'red list' countries must isolate for 10 days inside their hotel – and they can only be released with two negative tests.

    It's designed to stop the more transmissible mutant variants of Covid from grabbing hold in Britain and spreading.

  • Ben Hill


    Cops are warning of a scammer wearing full PPE who claims to be administering door-to-door Covid jabs.

    A worried householder in Fife refused them entry and contacted their local GP, who in turn contacted police.

    Chief Inspector Anton Stephenson, of Police Scotland’s Safer Communities Division, said: “We will pursue anyone who sets out to cause this kind of harm and anxiety to our communities, especially linked to health when people are understandably anxious as the vaccine programme is rolled out across Scotland.”

  • Ben Hill


    Illegal migrants are to be given an amnesty to encourage them to come forward to get the Covid vaccine, it has been reported.

    The estimated 1.2 million with ‘irregular status’ will be guaranteed they will not be penalised including those who entered secretly, such as on a boat or in the back of a lorry.

    Already, some 11.5m have been given at least one of two jabs, with the government aiming to have around 14 million of the most vulnerable vaccinated by February 15.

    In a bid to encourage uptake of the vaccine, the Home Office will take no action if illegal migrants register with a GP to be inoculated.

  • Ben Hill


    South Africa halted Monday's planned rollout of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccinations after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild infection from one variant.

    The coronavirus has killed 2.3 million people and turned normal life upside down for billions but new variants have raised fears that vaccines will need to be tweaked and people may have to have booster shots.

    Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Oxford said in a prior-to-peer analysis that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided minimal protection against mild or moderate infection from the so-called South African variant among young people.

    "This study confirms that the pandemic coronavirus will find ways to continue to spread in vaccinated populations, as expected," said Andrew Pollard, chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial.

  • Ben Hill


    A driver who put his skates on and tore along an icy road at 109mph in his car was booked for speeding – and got a £200 fine for breaking the lockdown law too.

    North Wales Police today condemned the 'stupid' motorist for putting lives at risk by speeding like a maniac on the ice rink road and risking a spread of the coronavirus germs.

    Traffic cops stopped him on the A55 at Broughton, Flintshire, after their cameras recorded him doing 109mph, nearly 40mph faster than the national speed limit.

    One officer said "At that speed, on a really dangerous icy road surface, he could have skidded out of control and killed innocent people." They said he was also in breach of coronavirus regulations as his reason for travelling was 'not deemed essential'.

  • Ben Hill


    Tanzania has spent more than six months trying to convince the world it has been cured of the coronavirus through prayer, while refusing to take measures to curb its spread.

    However, dissent is mounting, along with deaths attributed to "pneumonia", with even a politician in semi-autonomous Zanzibar admitting he has the virus.

    "Covid-19 is killing people and we see a lot of cases but we cannot talk about the disease," said a doctor in a public hospital in Tanzania's biggest city Dar es Salaam, who like many asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

    Tanzanian President John Magufuli has continually played down the seriousness of the virus even as neighbouring countries shut borders and implemented curfews and lockdowns.

  • Ben Hill


    Britain's largest teaching union has been accused of "hijacking" the Covid pandemic to secure a pay rise.

    Leaders of the National Education Union (NEU) claimed the crisis was a "turning point" as the union pushes for "key demands", it's reported.

    Pay demands are included in the union's list, The Telegraph reports.

    Union bosses have also reportedly called for reductions in class sizes to be "long term".

  • Ben Hill


    A total of 147 people in the UK have been infected with the South African variant, the health minister confirmed today.

    Officials have identified an additional 42 cases after door-to-door "surge testing" was ramped up in the past week.

    It came after 11 new cases of the variant with no links to travel were detected in eight postcodes across England.

    Asked about the latest case figures on BBC Breakfast today, Edward Argar said: "147 is the latest figure I have.

    "So, it's by no means the dominant variant in the UK – that's the historic variant we've had for a long time – and the Kent variant."

  • Ben Hill


    Brits face needing a third jab this year amid concerns about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine's effectiveness against the South African coronavirus variant.

    Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi was forced to defend the vaccine after a new study in South Africa found it was not effective at preventing mild illness caused by the more infectious mutation.

    South Africa has suspended the rollout of the British-designed vaccine to healthcare staff following the results, which have yet to be peer reviewed.

    Mr Zahawi urged the public to keep faith with the Oxford jab as scientists working on the vaccine raised the prospect of having a booster dose available by the autumn.

    Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the minister said: "While it is right and necessary to prepare for the deployment of an updated vaccine, we can take confidence from the current roll out and the protection it will provide all of us against this terrible disease."

  • Ben Hill


    Britain is on track to have given 15million Covid jabs by Valentine’s Day as the rollout goes from strength to strength.

    Nearly 1,000 vaccinations are now being done every minute, the Government said.

    Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi revealed the landmark was in sight as more than 12million Brits have had their first doses.

    A total of 2,700 sites across the country are now rolling them out as quickly as they can — including 200 pharmacies, 250 hospital hubs, thousands of GPs, and 100 mass vaccination centres.

  • Ben Hill


    British Airways have been left red faced after appearing to praise Right Said Fred for 'going mask-less' and 'speaking out on Covid and the lockdowns'.

    The nineties pop-duo tweeted that one of them had passed through Heathrow Airport's terminal 5 on Thursday and boasted that staff were 'lovely' and even suggested he had been 'thanked' by them.

    British Airways claimed the now-deleted response was the result of 'human error'.

    Right Said Fred, who proclaim to be lockdown deniers on Twitter, said: "I am at Heathrow.

    "I was dreading travelling, but it's been the very opposite of what I expected."

  • Ben Hill


    Large crowds at sporting events and big weddings may not return for years in order to stop further Covid outbreaks, experts have warned.

    Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London said social-distancing measures and masks may be kept far beyond current lockdown measures despite the vaccine rollout.

    Professor Spector told Times Radio that he "can't see us suddenly having another Cheltenham Festival with no regulations again".

    The horse racing event sparked fury last year as tens of thousands of people gathered despite the emergence of Covid-19 and with a national lockdown called just days later.

  • Ben Hill


    Paedo pop star Gary Glitter has had his Covid vaccine — while his victims and many prison officers guarding him await their life-saving jab.

    Glitter, 76, is one of the first lags to get protected, outraging justice campaigners.

    Sources said last night that prisoners were not being prioritised ahead of the general public or jumping the queue.

    Sex offenders are likely to be among the first to get the jab as they form a large part of the older prison population.

  • Ben Hill


    Childhood sweethearts who were married for 56 years died seven hours apart from Covid-19.

    Leigh and Cynthia Bryant were struck down by the virus last month.

    The couple, from Wellington, Somerset, were both taken to Musgrove Hospital in Taunton after testing positive.

    Cynthia, 75, was first affected and her 77-year-old husband was admitted to the same hospital five days later.

    Cythia died at 6.15pm on January 22, and her husband passed away at 1.15am the next morning.

  • Alex Winter


    Dr Hilary has spoken on GMB to reassure viewers following concerns about how effective the AsstraZeneca jab is against the South African mutation.

    But he admits the news is a 'concern' – and says efficacy was reduced to around 22 per cent in that small trial.

  • Alex Winter


    South Africa has suspended plans to inoculate its frontline health care workers with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

    It comes after a small clinical trial suggested the jab isn't effective in preventing mild to moderate illness from the variant dominant in the country.

    South Africa received its first 1million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week and was expected to begin giving jabs to health care workers in mid-February.

    Preliminary data from a small study suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine offers only minimal protection against mild to moderate disease.

    But the South African variant is more infectious, according to experts. It's driving a deadly resurgence of the disease in the country, and is currently accounting for more than 90 per cent of Covid cases, health minister Zweli Mkhize said.

  • Alex Winter


    A Covid jab which can beat the mutant South African variant could be ready as soon as autumn, scientists have said. 

    It comes as vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi assured Brits that the Oxford jab would still prevent deaths – despite a study suggesting it was less effective against mild disease caused by the strain.

    Researchers still believe the Oxford vaccine is effective in preventing severe disease, hospital admissions and deaths, and also works well against the original coronavirus strain.

    Here's what you need to know.

  • Joseph Gamp


    China reported 14 new mainland COVID-19 cases on Feb. 7, official data showed on Monday, up slightly from a day earlier.

    All new cases originated from overseas.

    The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed COVID-19 cases, rose to 16 from 10 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said in a statement.

    The total number of COVID-19 cases in mainland China stands at 89,706, while the death toll is unchanged at 4,636. 

  • Joseph Gamp


    The Government has secured 20 million rapid coronavirus tests made by a Derby-based manufacturer.

    The lateral flow antigen tests, which can return results in under 30 minutes, are the first British-made tests to be validated by Public Health England (PHE) in the laboratory and are in the final stages of clinical trial validation, authorities said.

    The tests, made by SureScreen Diagnostics, have been proven to detect the B117 "Kent" variant of Covid-19, said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

    They will bolster the Government's testing programme and will be deployed to test NHS and care home staff as well as in schools, universities, and for key workers.

    "With up to a third of individuals with Covid-19 not displaying symptoms, broadening asymptomatic testing is essential in finding positive cases who may unknowingly pass on the virus in order to break chains of transmission," Said the DHSC.

  • Joseph Gamp


    Long Covid kids left in crippling long-term pain as chronic condition ‘strikes down 74,000 Brit youngsters’


  • Joseph Gamp


    It is too soon for Germany to lift its lockdown without risking a third wave of Covid-19 infections, Bavarian premier Markus Soeder said on Sunday, ahead of a crunch meeting to review the restrictions aimed at stemming the pandemic.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany's 16 federal states are due to meet virtually on Wednesday to discuss whether to ease the restrictions from Feb. 15, or extend a lockdown that began in mid-December.

    "I think, basically, the lockdown will have to be extended for the time being," Soeder told broadcaster ARD.

    "There is no point in just breaking it off now. Imagine: we open everything in one fell swoop, then within two, three weeks we will be in a situation maybe even worse than before," he said. "If we make a mistake now, we will have a third wave."

    Wednesday's meeting would nonetheless have to produce a vision for a way out of lockdown, but how to do so would have to be discussed, Soeder said.

  • Joseph Gamp


    Cronyism concerns have led to Labour urging companies with Conservative Party links to disclose their pandemic profits.

    Research by the Opposition suggests the value of contracts awarded to firms with connections to the Tories amounts to almost £2 billion.

    Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves is expected to reveal she has written to the top 10 firms with Tory connections that secured contracts during the Covid-19 crisis in a bid to unveil their profit levels.

    She will also call for taxpayer money to be clawed back by the Government if the contracts have failed to be delivered fully, and outline proposals to boost transparency for outsourcing and the tendering process.

    Last November saw the National Audit Office (NAO), the public spending watchdog, publish a scathing report which criticised the way normal standards of transparency had been set aside.

  • Joseph Gamp



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