UK coronavirus LIVE: Boris Johnson ‘hopeful’ lockdown can be eased as vaccines minister gives priority update

Meanwhile, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has clarified the priority groups for those with asthma as the jab roll out continues. Those with “extremely vulnerable cases” are in category four and those with oral steroids are in category six.

Live updates

1613472279

Weekly registered Covid deaths fall for first time since Christmas

New data has found the number of weekly registered deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales has fallen for the first time since Christmas,

There were 7,320 deaths registered in the week ending February 5 where “novel coronavirus” was mentioned on the death certificate, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This is a fall of 1,113 deaths (13.1%) compared with the previous week.

The last time deaths fell was the week ending December 25, which included one bank holiday which likely had an impact on registrations.

Coronavirus accounted for 42.6% of the overall deaths registered during the seven days, which also fell from the previous week.

All regions in England and Wales saw a decrease in the number of deaths involving Covid compared to the previous week, but still have an overall higher number of deaths compared to the average for this time over the past five years.

1613471687

Covid: The number of people who have antibodies for the virus has increased, says ONS

The number of people who have antibodies for the virus which causes Covid-19 has increased across the UK, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

Having antibodies in the blood indicates that people have either previously been infected with the virus or have had a Covid-19 vaccine.

The ONS said that in England an estimated one in five people have antibodies compared to one in seven in Wales and Northern Ireland and an estimated one in nine in Scotland.

Older people were more likely to have antibodies in England.

But in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the highest rates were seen among younger adults.

Esther Sutherland, principal statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey, said: “Antibody positivity rates have increased across all four nations and the effects of the vaccination programmes have begun to appear, especially in the older age groups.”

1613470710

Some 2,175 Covid-related deaths among care home residents, says ONS

Some 2,175 care home resident deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales were registered in the week to February 5 – a drop of 13% on the previous week.

A total of 37,895 care home residents in England and Wales have now had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate, the ONS said.

The figures cover deaths of care home residents in all settings, not just in care homes.

1613470589

Covid: 7,320 deaths registered in England and Wales

A total of 7,320 deaths which mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate were registered in England and Wales in the week ending February 5, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figure is down 13% from 8,433 deaths in the week to January 29.

This comes as ONS reports the total number of Covid-related deaths that occurred in the UK by February 5 was 133,077.

1613467812

Government could facilitate vaccine passports for international travel, says Nadhim Zahawi

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government could facilitate vaccine passports for international travel if required by other countries, but ruled them out for the “domestic economy”.

“Some countries are beginning to move in the direction of requiring a certificate, in the way we do now in terms of pre-departure testing,” he told Good Morning Britain.

“Some countries are looking at only allowing people in if they have a vaccine certificate and we will look to facilitate it for the individual.

“For your viewers who would need that certificate in the way they would have needed a yellow fever vaccine certificate to travel to particular parts of the world, then we will make that available.

“We are not looking at a vaccine passport for our domestic economy. I think it is much better to vaccinate the whole of the adult population, offer the vaccine to them, as quickly as possible, by September.”

1613465877

National Gallery plans £30million makeover ‘to help heal the nation’

The National Gallery has unveiled plans for a £30 million makeover to mark its bicentenary in 2024.

Director Dr Gabriele Finaldi said the work on its Sainsbury Wing in Trafalgar Square, and the public space immediately adjacent to it, would help attract visitors made “more cautious” about visiting public buildings since the pandemic, and aid the gallery in its task to help “in the healing of our country”.

Read the full story here

1613465228

Employment: Vaccination programme is ‘non-mandatory’, says Zahawi

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi declined to say whether employers can legally require staff to disclose whether they have received a coronavirus vaccine.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The vaccination is not mandatory.

“Employers have been talking to us, they are concerned about their duty of care for the residents, the elderly residents, especially if the virus mutates. At the moment, the dominant virus in the UK, the vaccines work well against the dominant virus.”

Pressed again if employers can require employees to disclose their vaccination record, he said: “At the moment, the vaccination programme is non-mandatory.”

1613463840

‘Tens of millions’ of Covid-19 vaccine doses arriving in March, says Nadhim Zahawi

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said “tens of millions” of coronavirus vaccine doses will be coming in March and April.

He told BBC Breakfast: “Supplies are coming online, we have to reserve second doses so that is an additional requirement at the moment where supply is finite.

“But I see much greater volume in March and April, tens of millions of doses coming through and I’m confident that we’ll hit our target (by the end of April).”

1613462734

London leads pandemic fightback as Covid rate down 41% in a week

Covid-19 cases plummeted by at least 39 per cent in a week in 24 London boroughs, official figures reveal today, with the city seeing the fastest drop in infection rates of all regions.

Sutton in south London saw the biggest fall in confirmed cases, of 51.8 per cent in the week to February 10.

Five inner city boroughs have now gone below a seven-day rate of 100 new infections per 100,000 after sharp falls.

Read the full story here

1613461606

Early data on vaccines’ effect is ‘really encouraging’ says vaccines minister

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said early data on vaccines’ effect on transmission is “really encouraging” but more evidence is being awaited.

He said Public Health England studies on the impact on hospitalisation, deaths and transmission is ongoing, telling Times Radio: “We’re beginning to see more and more data but at the moment it’s far too early to begin to speculate on the quality of the data.”

But other research has shown good signs.

Mr Zahawi said: “We’ve got to make sure that you bring down the infection rates, hence why we’re waiting to see the data on transmission. The Oxford team had some early data which is really encouraging on transmission, which has to be peer reviewed.

“Ultimately what we want to do is make sure the vaccines are delivering that bridge – you break the link between infection rates and hospitalisation and serious illness and deaths.”

Evening Standard – News