The Government said a further 397 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, falling by 17 per cent, bringing the UK total to 61,014.
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 74,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
The Government said that, as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 15,539 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 1,705,971.
Britain’s coronavirus deaths in hospital are two lower than last weekend with 368 victims in more proof the second wave has been levelling off as a result of coronavirus lockdown.
In England 315 people died from coronavirus in hospital, while Wales recorded 24 deaths, Scotland 22 and Northern Ireland reported seven.
Yesterday, health chiefs recorded 504 victims as a raft of promising statistics confirmed the second wave is in full retreat after November’s lockdown.
Last Saturday, official figures revealed 479 coronavirus deaths – a 40 per cent rise on the 341 figure seen the week before. The nation’s official death toll in all settings, including care homes, is now at more than 60,500 – the highest in Europe and fifth highest total in the world.
But Department of Health figures showed Friday’s death count – which NHS England said included a 15-year-old with no known underlying conditions – was only slightly lower than the 521 announced the Friday the week before.
The curve has been consistently falling for more than a fortnight but officials yesterday announced another 16,298 cases, marginally up on last week’s 16,022.
In other coronavirus news today:
- Britons headed out on an expected £1.5billion spending spree across high streets to do their Christmas shopping following the end of lockdown;
- Protesters gathered in Victoria Square in Birmingham this afternoon and outside Stratford Station in east London to demand an end to lockdown measures;
- Furious Slough locals scolded lockdown rule-breakers who refuse to wear masks or keep a social distance for causing the borough to be put under strict Tier 3 restrictions;
- The Jenner Institute, the Oxford team behind a successful coronavirus vaccine, are on the verge of entering the final stage of human trials in their jab against malaria;
- Coronavirus vaccines are expected to be rolled out to care homes and GP surgeries within a fortnight after regulators confirmed doses can be transported in refrigerated bags to keep them cool enough.
In yet more evidence that the worst of Britain’s resurgence of Covid is over, SAGE revealed the R rate has fallen for the fourth week in a row and could now be as low as 0.8. No10’s scientific advisory panel claimed outbreaks were shrinking in every part of the country.
Scotland’s first Covid vaccines arrive
Coronavirus vaccines have arrived in Scotland ahead of a nationwide immunisation battle.
The ‘initial supplies’ have been stored ‘securely’ ahead of the first vaccinations on Tuesday.
Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: ‘Some positive news – initial supplies of the Covid vaccine have now arrived safely in Scotland and are being stored securely.
‘The first vaccinations are on track to be administered on Tuesday.’
And Office for National Statistics data showed the number of daily coronavirus infections in England plummeted by almost half last month, from 47,700 per day to 25,700 in the week ending November 28, in more proof that the disease has began to fade away. The report estimated that a total of 521,300 people were carrying the virus in England on November 28, down from 665,000 just two weeks earlier.
Separate infection estimates produced by the Covid Symptom Study say there are just 15,845 people developing symptoms of coronavirus each day in England, down from a peak of 44,000 at the end of October. Although the numbers are different to those made by the ONS, they illustrate the same downward trend.
Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College epidemiologist running that study, which is based on data from a public mobile app, said the signs were ‘encouraging’, adding: ‘We’re now [at] less than half the peak of the second wave we saw in October.’
And separate Public Health England figures revealed every local authority in the North saw their Covid-19 infection rate fall last week, adding to mounting questions over whether millions of people have been unnecessarily forced to live under the harshest Tier Three curbs.
The promising figures come as the UK gets set to become the first country in the world to start vaccinating people against Covid-19 next week, after drug regulators gave the green light for a jab developed by pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and BioNTech.
The first doses were delivered on British soil Thursday via a convoy of unmarked lorries from Belgium and NHS Providers chief Dr Chris Hopson says the country is planning to start vaccinating on Tuesday, December 8, with care home residents and staff and elderly hospital patients at the front of the queue.
Coronavirus vaccines will be rolled out to care homes and GP surgeries within a fortnight, after regulators confirmed that doses can be transported in refrigerated bags. Pictured, Matron May Parsons (right) talks to Heather Price (left) during training in the Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic at the University Hospital in Coventry
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) still has to rubber-stamp the protocol for removing the fragile vaccine from its deep-freeze, but officials expect that to be resolved within days (stock photo)
GPs were last night told to prepare to receive doses of the coronavirus vaccine in the week starting December 14, with care homes expected to receive the vaccine in the same week.
HOW IS THE OUTBREAK DIFFERENT ACROSS THE COUNTRY?
Regional differences across England show that some parts of the country are being hit far harder than others during the second wave of coronavirus.
The R rate is produced by SAGE; daily infections by the Covid Symptom Study; and percentage of people infected by the ONS.
Not all are collected in the same way or using the exact same time frame, but illustrate an approximately consistent picture that cases are highest but declining fastest in the North, while lower but shrinking more slowly in the South.
% of people carrying coronavirus
0.9 – 1.0
0.8 – 1.1
0.8 – 0.9
0.7 – 0.9
0.7 – 0.9
0.9 – 1.1
0.7 – 1.0
1.1 – 1.2%
1.6 – 1.7%
NHS officials last night gave GPs ten days’ notice to prepare to receive stocks of the vaccine in order to begin the process of injecting elderly and vulnerable people.
In a letter, they said central GP hubs will receive trays of 975 doses and will have to use all of them within three and a half days. The sites to receive the jabs will be confirmed on Monday.
Meanwhile, people are so unlikely to get Covid a second time that they could be get ‘immunity certificates’ after a vaccine or confirmed illness, according to SAGE.
Scientists on the advisory panel said it was ‘likely to be possible’ that people could be freed from social distancing if they were proved immune to coronavirus.
SAGE is made up of dozens of expert scientists who interpret research and explain it in simple terms to government ministers so they can decide on policies.
In a report presented by infectious diseases sub-group NERVTAG in November, researchers said they had ‘high confidence’ that people would become immune to coronavirus after catching it once or getting vaccinated, which triggers the same reaction in the body without actually causing illness.
Although it is possible that people could get sick a second time it is rare, they said, and there was not good evidence that people could transmit the virus if they had some level of immunity.
Now that people are actually going to get vaccinated in the UK it could be time the Government considered immunity certificates for people who have had a jab, they said.
Nervous about whether immunity might fade after six months, however, SAGE stuck to suggesting a ‘short-term’ solution and said more data was needed.
Downing Street has toyed with the idea of immunity certificates in the past but never announced a policy on the subject.
Michael Gove this week denied that Britons will need ‘immunity certificates’ to go to the pub – despite a fellow minister raising the prospect that some venues may insist on proof that people have either had the illness or been vaccinated before granting them entry.
Currently, people who get a vaccine to protect them from Covid-19 will still have to follow the same rules as everyone else, which raises questions about whether people who aren’t at personal risk will bother to volunteer for it.