Covid UK: Cases fall 28% in week to 4,052 while deaths halve to 43

Britain’s coronavirus infection rate is now significantly lower than 25 of the EU’s 27 countries – as the UK’s daily Covid cases plunge by 28 per cent in a week, official figures revealed. 

The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means it is now in the best position of all major European nations, despite being the worst hit in January.

The weekly infection rate in France – where intensive care units are overwhelmed – is around eight times higher than in the UK. It comes as France heads into its third national lockdown from Saturday.

President Emmanuel Macron yesterday announced that all of mainland France will be under a 7pm curfew, working from home will be expected from those that can, gatherings will be limited, non-essential shops will be closed, and travel restrictions will be imposed. 

In Germany, which recorded 23,681 cases on March 30, the infection rate is nearly three times higher. 

Over the past week, the UK has recorded an average of 73 cases per one million people every day. This is a lower rate than all 27 EU nations apart from Denmark and Portugal, which have both adopted strict lockdowns. 

Hungary, the worst affected EU nation, has a daily rate of 882 cases per one million.

In France it is 571, while the rate in the Netherlands is 449 and in Italy it is 334. As Europe battles a third wave, UK cases, deaths and hospitalisations have fallen to a six-month low.

On Wednesday, another 43 deaths and 4,052 cases were recorded. Deaths are now averaging 50 a day, down from a peak of 1,284 deaths on January 19. It also marked a 56 per cent week-on-week drop in deaths on last Wednesday. 

The contrasting fortunes of Britain and mainland Europe are largely down to our successful vaccination programme. Nearly six in ten adults in the UK have now received at least one dose.

But across the EU, just 11 per cent of the population have been vaccinated.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens is urging all over-50s and younger people with health conditions yet to be vaccinated to book an appointment now.

During April the NHS will focus on second doses but appointments for all over-50s not yet protected will also be available.

Yesterday, the number of second doses of Covid-19 vaccine outnumbered first doses for the first time.

A total of 270,526 second doses were registered on March 30, compared with 224,590 first doses, according to government figures. Previously the number of first jabs per day had always exceeded second jabs.

A total of 4.1million people in the UK are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, around one in 13 adults.

Sir Simon said: ‘We’re well on track to meet our April 15 goal of offering NHS Covid vaccination to everyone aged 50 and over, as well as other high risk groups.

‘In just the past two weeks we’ve now jabbed nearly 85 per cent of people aged 50-54, and over three million of the highest risk people have also now had their top up second dose.’

But last night Dr Yvonne Doyle, of Public Health England, warned: ‘As restrictions lift and the weather improves, we cannot drop our guard. We’re not out of the woods quite yet.’

She said: ‘There are still as many people in hospital now as there were at the start of the second wave, and tens of thousands of us are getting infected every week and may become seriously ill. 

‘As restrictions lift and the weather improves, we cannot drop our guard. We’re not out of the woods quite yet.’

She urged Britons to continue washing their hands, wearing facemasks and social distancing to stop coronavirus spreading, adding: ‘[Covid] case numbers are still high in certain places and looking forward they are certainly not predictable, so your actions are still saving lives.’ 

Her warning came as a third wave of Covid-19 surges across Europe, with countries facing a desperate bid to vaccinate their populations in time. 

Macron yesterday announced a four-week lockdown in France from Saturday which will bring the whole country in line with 19 virus hot-spot territories which have had a limited lockdown imposed for the past two weeks.

The President also announced a three-week closure of nurseries, schools, colleges and high schools, that will have a staggered reopening from April 26.  

‘The epidemic is accelerating, and we are likely to lose control, so we must find a new way of reacting. We must therefore set ourselves a new framework for the coming months,’ the head of state said during the dramatic address. 

The weekly infection rate in France - where intensive care units are overwhelmed - is around eight times higher than in the UK. It comes as France heads into its third national lockdown from Saturday, Emmanuel Macron announced

The weekly infection rate in France - where intensive care units are overwhelmed - is around eight times higher than in the UK. It comes as France heads into its third national lockdown from Saturday, Emmanuel Macron announced

The weekly infection rate in France – where intensive care units are overwhelmed – is around eight times higher than in the UK. It comes as France heads into its third national lockdown from Saturday, Emmanuel Macron announced

France's infection rate has soared in recent weeks in a resurgence blamed on the British variant of Covid-19, which has now resulted in a third national lockdown

France's infection rate has soared in recent weeks in a resurgence blamed on the British variant of Covid-19, which has now resulted in a third national lockdown

France’s infection rate has soared in recent weeks in a resurgence blamed on the British variant of Covid-19, which has now resulted in a third national lockdown

He blamed the ‘British variant’ for creating ‘a pandemic inside a pandemic’ that was more contagious and ‘more deadly.’

This meant the situation had changed since he was resisting calls for another lockdown amid spiralling infections – despite experts urging him to act sooner.

‘We are faced with a new situation,’ he said. ‘We are involved in a race. Propagation of a new variant that was identified by our British neighbours’ must be dealt with.’ 

Current efforts to limit the virus ‘were too limited at a time when the epidemic is accelerating’. The spread of the variant meant ‘we risk losing control’, he added.  

It came as police seized beer from revellers and poured it on the grass on Wednesday as Brits once again flocked to parks and beaches to enjoy 75F (24C) temperatures.

Hundreds of young people gathered at the Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham this afternoon with bottles of alcohol, despite officers saying yesterday that this would be seized from anyone entering parks in the city. And the officers stuck to their word as officials clamped down on anti-social behaviour in the city after large crowds broke the rules at Nottingham’s Arboretum on Monday, brawling and leaving huge amounts of litter.  

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick urged people to make the most the latest easing of restrictions in England in a ‘sensible, cautious’ manner, enjoying the sunshine but also being careful and sticking to the rules.  

Police officers confiscate alcohol at the Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham this afternoon

Police officers confiscate alcohol at the Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham this afternoon

Police officers confiscate alcohol at the Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham this afternoon

Police officers confiscate and dispose of alcohol at the Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham this afternoon

Police officers confiscate and dispose of alcohol at the Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham this afternoon

Police officers confiscate and dispose of alcohol at the Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham this afternoon

People on the beach at Barry Island in South Wales as the UK enjoys unseasonably warm temperatures

People on the beach at Barry Island in South Wales as the UK enjoys unseasonably warm temperatures

People on the beach at Barry Island in South Wales as the UK enjoys unseasonably warm temperatures

People walk along the promenade at Brighton this afternoon as sunseekers head to the East Sussex coast

People walk along the promenade at Brighton this afternoon as sunseekers head to the East Sussex coast

People walk along the promenade at Brighton this afternoon as sunseekers head to the East Sussex coast

Police on horseback patrol along Tynemouth Longsands beach in North Tyneside this afternoon

Police on horseback patrol along Tynemouth Longsands beach in North Tyneside this afternoon

Police on horseback patrol along Tynemouth Longsands beach in North Tyneside this afternoon

EU REGULATOR SAYS THERE’S ‘NO EVIDENCE’ TO BACK GERMAN ASTRAZENECA BAN FOR UNDER-60s

Europe’s medical watchdog slapped down Germany for suspending AstraZeneca’s coronavirus jab after a small number of vaccinated people developed deadly brain clots.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said there was ‘no evidence’ to support halting the jab for people under 60, adding that the benefits of protecting against Covid far outweighed the risk of the extremely rare condition.

Analysis by the regulator found just 62 out of 9.1million people vaccinated with the British-made jab worldwide had developed the brain clot, known as cerebral sinus venous thrombosis — a rate of about five per million.

Emer Cooke, the EMA’s executive director, told a press conference this afternoon there was no proof the vaccine had caused CSVT in any of the cases and admitted those people might have developed the condition regardless.

The EMA’s ruling puts the watchdog at odds with many other major EU member states which have also restricted the jab’s rollout in certain age groups, including France, Spain and Norway.

Cases of CSVT have been most common in Germany, where 31 out of 2.7million vaccinated people suffered the deadly brain clot – a rate of one in 90,000. It led to the nation banning the vaccine in under-60s last night.

The EMA revealed twice as many women had received AstraZenca’s vaccine in Europe than men, before adding that the people normally most at risk of CSVT are females aged 35 to 45, possibly explaining the higher rates.

Until recently Germany had banned the AZ jab for over-60s due to initial fears about blood clots, meaning its rollout had for weeks targeted those most susceptible to CSVT.

Ms Cooke said: ‘At present, the experts have advised us that they have not been able to identify specific risk factors, including age, gender or previous medical history of clotting disorders, for these very rare events.

‘And, as I mentioned previously, a causal link of the vaccine has not yet been proven but it is possible, and further analysis is still ongoing. According to the current scientific knowledge, there is no evidence to support restricting the use of this vaccine in any population.’

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In another day of Covid news:

  • EU regulators slapped down Germany for banning the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for under-60s on Wednesday, saying there is ‘no evidence’ to support the restriction and benefits far outweigh risks;
  • President Macron is set to make an address tonight amid fears France is heading for a third lockdown;
  • Maskless Queen honours 100 years of brave Aussie flyers in her first public outing in five months;
  • Tourism bosses say roll-out success means Britons should be allowed summer holidays this year;
  • As Malta becomes the latest destination on the continent to say it will welcome British tourists;
  • Meanwhile, Michelle Heaton, 41, says she and her family have caught Covid just one month after they got their first dose of Pfizer vaccine;
  • Mother’s face, arm, chest, legs and back erupt in agonising red rash after AstraZeneca vaccine;
  • But doctors say this could be linked to ‘many other factors rather than the jab itself’;

Birmingham council suspended mowing across its parks on Wednesday so they could focus on litter picking instead — while Nottingham closed two of its parks this afternoon after ‘appalling scenes’ of crowds there in recent days.

The biggest crowds appeared to be at Woodhouse Moor in Leeds, where hundreds of people gathered – and West Yorkshire Police warned they would ‘disperse groups of over six, using fines where appropriate to do so’.

Elsewhere in the region a 14-year-old boy died after getting into difficulty at a waterfall. He was spotted struggling in a pool at about 6pm yesterday below the Goit Stock Waterfall beauty spot at Cullingworth near Bradford.

And there was a major clean-up in parks and beaches after people left behind mounds of litter including disposable barbecues, beer cans and takeaway boxes on the hottest March day in Britain for 53 years yesterday.

The hottest place in Britain by 2pm on Wednesday was Weybourne in Norfolk which hit 74.5F (23.6C). This was 36.4F (20.2C) warmer than the coldest place in the UK at the same time, Dalwhinnie in the Highlands, with 38.1F (3.4C).

Warwick University viruses expert Professor Lawrence Young warned people mixing in parks could turbo-charge the spread of the virus, telling MailOnline on Wednesday: ‘We all expect the rates of infection to increase when these restrictions are removed. That’s why we built gaps into the roadmap. But this (yesterday’s scenes) is a real worry.

‘What we’ve got is a serious situation where the younger population, who are responsible for the majority of the spread of the virus, are then mixing in parks. They think it’s OK to mix outside and you won’t get infected but if you are near someone who has the virus – is shedding the virus – then you are at risk.

‘The transmission of the virus is clearly reduced when you are in a well-ventilated space and the sun is shining, but if you are in close proximity with someone who is infected you could get infected too.’

In North Tyneside, the picturesque Longsands Beach in Tynemouth was strewn with rubbish this morning after sunseekers flocked to the coast to enjoy the hot weather as temperatures soared to almost 68F (20C) in the area.

There were dismal scenes on the sands on Wednesday — with cans, coffee cups and plastic bags scattered across the shore. One onlooker said: ‘It’s heartbreaking to see. This is one of the most beautiful beaches in our region.

‘We’re very lucky to have access to such a stunning coastline. It is so upsetting to see so much rubbish. People should have more respect for nature, and stay away, if they can’t clean up after themselves.’

Nicola Smith, 40, had planned to watch the sunrise with her eight-year-old daughter Leah, but instead of relaxing as the sky turned red, the pair began to clear the sands of litter left behind.

The health and social care worker said: ‘It’s absolutely awful. We got up at 5.45am as we wanted to enjoy the sunrise. But when we got here we just could not believe the amount of rubbish.

‘We decided to start picking up the litter instead. There’s so much. People have had barbecues and left behind beer bottles, clothes, shoes, even phone charges. You’ve got to be so careful where you tread. It’s just not safe. My daughter has been collecting rubbish for an hour and a half now.

Germany has reported significantly more cases of cerebral sinus venous thrombosis (CSVT) than other major European countries and the reasons for it are unclear. The UK has vaccinated five times as many people but seen just one sixth as many CSVT cases, while France, Italy and Spain used the AstraZeneca jab on similar age groups but also had much lower rates of CSVT. There is still no evidence the vaccine is causing the condition, experts say

Germany has reported significantly more cases of cerebral sinus venous thrombosis (CSVT) than other major European countries and the reasons for it are unclear. The UK has vaccinated five times as many people but seen just one sixth as many CSVT cases, while France, Italy and Spain used the AstraZeneca jab on similar age groups but also had much lower rates of CSVT. There is still no evidence the vaccine is causing the condition, experts say

Germany has reported significantly more cases of cerebral sinus venous thrombosis (CSVT) than other major European countries and the reasons for it are unclear. The UK has vaccinated five times as many people but seen just one sixth as many CSVT cases, while France, Italy and Spain used the AstraZeneca jab on similar age groups but also had much lower rates of CSVT. There is still no evidence the vaccine is causing the condition, experts say

Several member states have paused rollouts of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a tiny number of inoculated people, predominantly women under 55, suffered deadly brain clots

Several member states have paused rollouts of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a tiny number of inoculated people, predominantly women under 55, suffered deadly brain clots

Several member states have paused rollouts of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a tiny number of inoculated people, predominantly women under 55, suffered deadly brain clots

Europe's suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine will erode public confidence in the jab and lead to more coronavirus deaths, experts warned

Europe's suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine will erode public confidence in the jab and lead to more coronavirus deaths, experts warned

Europe’s suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine will erode public confidence in the jab and lead to more coronavirus deaths, experts warned

MASKLESS QUEEN HONOURS 100 YEARS OF BRAVE AUSSIE FLYERS IN FIRST PUBLIC OUTING FOR FIVE MONTHS 

The Queen was in good spirits as she arrived at the CWGC Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey

The Queen was in good spirits as she arrived at the CWGC Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey

The Queen was in good spirits as she arrived at the CWGC Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey

The Queen entertained service personnel as she quipped about Typhoon jets being ‘sent off to chase the Russians’ during her first official royal engagement in five months.

The 94-year-old monarch visited the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey, to mark the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force.

While she has been seen in video calls this year, it is the first time the Monarch has been seen in public since December, when she welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge back to Windsor after their whistle-stop tour of Britain.

It was her first in-person official engagement of 2021 – and the first since last October, when she visited the Defence Laboratory at Porton Down alongside her grandson Prince William.

It is also the first time she has been seen since Harry and Meghan’s bombshell Oprah interview.

But in a light moment, the Queen quizzed one Australian serviceman about his work with Typhoon jets and asked if they were ‘being sent off to chase the Russians?’ and was told, ‘That’s correct, ma’am, it’s a lot of fun for us!’

The Queen, who had her Covid vaccine in January, did not wear a face covering but donned a bright spring-inspired ensemble; an ivory Angela Kelly dress, green coat and matching hat adorned with faux daffodils and orchids, and the Australian wattle brooch presented to her on her first tour of the country in 1954.

She joked: ‘It’s a very long time since I’ve been here,’ as she arrived at the memorial – which she had opened in her coronation year, on October 17, 1953.

The event comes as her husband Prince Philip recovers at home after undergoing heart surgery at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London earlier this month. 

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It comes after EU regulators slapped down Germany for suspending AstraZeneca’s coronavirus jab after a small number of vaccinated people developed deadly brain clots. 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said there was ‘no evidence’ to support halting the jab for people under 60, adding that the benefits of protecting against Covid far outweighed the risk of the extremely rare condition.

Analysis by the regulator found just 62 out of 9.1million people vaccinated with the British-made jab worldwide had developed the brain clot, known as cerebral sinus venous thrombosis — a rate of about five per million.

Emer Cooke, the EMA’s executive director, told a press conference this afternoon there was no proof the vaccine had caused CSVT in any of the cases and admitted those people might have developed the condition regardless.

Tourism bosses have also said that the UK’s successful jabs roll-out means it is safer for Britons to take summer holidays to more than 130 countries across the world.

A study commissioned by Manchester Airports Group says that most of Europe, the Caribbean, north Africa and the United States should be on the destination list.

The report, submitted to the Government’s travel task force – which is due to outline its own plans next Monday – says it should be possible to allow people to visit countries with higher coronavirus rates that last summer without ‘increasing the risk of putting pressure on the NHS’.

Currently all leisure travel is banned until May 17 at the earliest, with fears that a spike in Covid cases in Europe and a death rate of more than 1,000 a day in the US will keep foreign flights off the menu for some time.

However, business leaders last night united with MPs to plead with the Prime Minister to be ambitious as they warned that more than a million jobs were at risk if Boris Johnson failed to get Britain flying again.

In letter to the PM, they said firms across the country faced devastation if planes were kept grounded.

The PM has pencilled in May 17 as the earliest date when foreign travel could resume, but there are fears he will push this back as the continent is hit by a third coronavirus wave.

Mr Johnson will give an update on his plans on Monday, but sources say he is likely to declare it is still too early to set a firm date for when borders can reopen.

Following pleas from a group of 40 MPs earlier this week, industry leaders from the British Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and UK Hospitality said the economic recovery would be put at risk if overseas trips remained illegal.

‘If we cannot start flying again this summer, the further damage to UK businesses large and small would be severe,’ they wrote.

‘Aviation is vital to the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic. Our air links are not a frivolous luxury.

‘They connect Britain with the world and link British products, experiences and expertise with billions of potential buyers overseas.’

The business groups said the success of the vaccine rollout ‘should allow us to push on with rebuilding the businesses, jobs and livelihoods that have been hit so hard by our forced isolation’. 

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