Coronavirus UK news – Covid vaccine BOOST as Britain secures 1m extra jabs but London 'must go into new tier 3 lockdown'

GPS can start booking Covid vaccine appointments within days with the UK set to get at least one million more jabs imminently.

The news comes as hundreds of OAPs received the vaccine after the UK became the first country in the world to start using the Pfizer vaccine. 

It has now emerged two more consignments of the vaccine will be delivered both next week and the following week – on top of the initial 800,000 doses. 

The Times reports that means the NHS should now have four million doses of the jab before Christmas.

Although the vaccine offers some light at the end of the tunnel, things could get worse before they get better for Londoners, with the capital on the brink of moving into tier 3 lockdown within a matter of days.

With data showing case numbers are continuing to rise in tier 2 London, Prof Kevin Fenton, London regional director for Public Health England, urged the government to put the capital under the strictest tier restrictions.

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news, reaction and updates on the lockdown plans…

  • Britta Zeltmann

    OXFORD VACCINE: 'WE HAD TO MOVE QUICKLY'

    Professor Gilbert from the University of Oxford has said it is for regulators to decide whether to give permission for vaccine use based on a smaller sub group which had higher efficacy results.

    "I think it's important to remember that this year we have had to move quickly in vaccine development and that meant making some pragmatic decisions as we've gone along the way," she told the Today programme.

    "In other circumstances, if there hadn't been so much pressure of time, we might have tested a number of different variants and then selected the one that we thought was going to work best.

    "BioNTech did actually test two different versions and ended up using the version that's closer in design to our vaccine, so that was a pleasing result for us."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'OXFORD VACCINE IS SAFE'

    Of the Oxford Vaccine's effectiveness, Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What we should take away from it is that the vaccine is safe, it's highly effective and one really important finding is that from 21 days after being given the first dose of the vaccine, nobody was admitted to hospital with Covid or had severe Covid disease.

    "So, that's a really important finding.

    "We also report on the efficacy against symptomatic PCR-confirmed Covid – so that is a milder form of disease where people aren't needing to go into hospital – and, on average, the efficacy was 70% against that.

    "But in a subgroup who had a half dose of the vaccine first followed by a full dose, it was 90%."

  • Christy Cooney

    RUSSIA PASSES 2.5MILLION CASES

    The total number of people infected by coronavirus in Russia since the start of the pandemic has now passed 2.5million.

    The country saw 26,097 people test positive yesterday, bringing its overall tally to 2,515,009.

    It currently has the fourth-largest outbreak in the world, behind the US, India, and Brazil.

    Its total death toll stands at 44,159.

  • Christy Cooney

    OXFORD VACCINE 70 PERCENT EFFICACY CONFIRMED

    The coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is 70 percent effective, data published in the Lancet has confirmed.

    The figure is the combined result of two trials, one of which found the jab to be 90 percent effective, the other 62 percent.

    The 90 percent figure came from a trials in which volunteers were mistakenly given a half-dose of the first of two jabs.

    Regulators will now have to decide whether to approve the vaccine for use and, if they do, what dose should be used.

  • Christy Cooney

    TIER 3 FIERS FOR LONDON

    Concern is mounting that tier 3 restrictions could be needed in London amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

    Data shows that, between November 26 and December 2, the capital saw an infection rate of 170 cases per 100,000 people, up from 156 cases the previous week and higher than some areas already in tier 3.

    Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director for Public Health England, said Londoners would need to "work together to prevent a big surge in cases… ahead of the festive period".

    But Professor John Ashton, former regional director for north-west England, told the Guardian that the government needed to "decide in the next 48 hours whether to move London into tier 3".

    "Otherwise they really risk a terrible situation," he said.

  • Ben Hill

    BIDEN'S CALL

    President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday called for urgent action on the coronavirus pandemic as he introduced a health care team that will be tested at every turn while striving to restore the nation to normalcy.

    Biden laid out three COVID-19 priorities for his first 100 days in office: a call for all Americans to voluntarily mask up during those 100 days, a commitment to administer 100 million vaccines and a pledge to try to reopen a majority of the nation's schools.

    "I know that out of our collective pain, we will find our collective purpose: to control the pandemic, to save lives, and to heal as a nation," Biden said.

  • Ben Hill

    CHINA COVID CASES

    Mainland China reported 15 new Covid-19 cases for December 8, up from 12 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Wednesday.

    The National Health Commission, in a statement, said 11 of the new cases were imported infections originating overseas. It also reported four new local infections in Sichuan province.

    New asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to one versus five cases a day earlier.

    The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in China now stands at 86,661. The death toll remains unchanged at 4,634.

  • Ben Hill

    MILLION JABS

    GPs are to start booking Covid vaccine appointments within days as it's revealed the UK is to get at least one million more jabs imminently.

    The news comes as hundreds of OAPs received the vaccine after the UK became the first country in the world to start using the Pfizer vaccine. 

    Patients eligible for the coronavirus vaccine will reportedly be notified by their GP mainly by the post or by phone.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on Tuesday: “From next week we will expand deployment to start vaccinations by GPs and we will vaccinate in care homes by Christmas.

    "As more vaccines come on stream in the new year, we will open vaccination centres in larger venues, such as sports stadiums and conference halls."

  • Ben Hill

    LOTTO GENEROSITY

    A couple who scooped the EuroMillions jackpot have given more than half of their near-£115 million win away to loved ones, charity and those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Frances and Patrick Connolly had said their first priority was a list of around 50 friends and family to share their good fortune with following their big win on New Year's Day 2019.

    Almost two years on, they have extended their generosity to around £60 million, in what National Lottery operator Camelot said is one of the biggest ever giveaways.

    Steering well clear of the stereotypical champagne lifestyle that might be expected of jackpot winners, the pair have set up two charitable foundations – the Kathleen Graham Trust in Northern Ireland, where they are both from, and the PFC Trust in County Durham, where they now live.

    Their good deeds have included buying 1,000 presents for patients who will be in hospital on Christmas Day and handing out hundreds of tablets for people who found themselves isolated during the coronavirus lockdown.

  • Ben Hill

    MASKS FOR A YEAR

    Brits could be wearing face masks for a year despite the vaccination roll out, the government’s chief scientific officer has warned.

    Sir Patrick Vallance hailed the beginning of the UK’s largest ever immunisation programme as a "tremendous day" – though life will not start returning to normal in the UK until spring next year.

    He said the public should be prepared to be wearing masks for all of next year.

    "It may be that next winter even with vaccination we need measures like masks in place,” he said.

  • Ben Hill

    STUDY FINDS SHIELDS DON’T ALWAYS PROTECT AGAINST COVID

    Plastic face shields don't protect against Covid-19 if an infected person sneezes, according to new research.

    Alarming video shows what happens when a person standing three feet away – in line with social distancing – sneezes at a wearer.

    The shields began to be worn by hairdressers, barbers, nail technicians and tattooists to get them back to work after the first lockdown.

    But because they don't completely cover the entirety of the face that leaves room for droplets expelled by the mouth and nose to escape.

  • Ben Hill

    RAY OF LIGHT

    A super rare rainbow was spotted in the skies over Britain – in what is being seen as a sign of hope on so-called V-Day.

    The stunning V-shaped ray of light appeared as hundreds of OAPs and NHS staff became the first in the world to receive the much-heralded Pfizer vaccine.

    Retired lorry driver Anthony Bacon, 66, snapped the incredible image from his garden in Anglesey, North Wales.

    He said: “It’s God giving Covid the Vs. We’ll see the back of this thing with the vaccine that’s for sure.”

  • Ben Hill

    CORONAVIRUS RELIEF PACKAGE

    In the United States, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said Congress should pass a U.S. coronavirus relief package without either the business liability protections that Republicans want or the aid to state and local governments that is a Democratic priority.

    The Republican's proposal was immediately rejected by the Senate's Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, who called it an attempt to "sabotage" bipartisan talks on coronavirus relief.

    The exchange appeared to leave the leaders in a continued stalemate, despite the fact that both parties are under mounting pressure to deliver a fresh infusion of aid to families and businesses reeling from a pandemic that has killed over 283,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work.

  • Ben Hill

    KATE AND WILLS RETURN FROM COVID THANKS TOUR

    The Queen enjoyed a Christmas carol performance on the steps of her Windsor Castle home – as she welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge after their royal train tour of the country.

    As a Salvation Army band played festive tunes for the Queen and her family gathered around her, the head of state could be seen quietly singing along.

    The monarch's appearance was the first time she has been seen in public with senior members of the royal family en masse since before the coronavirus pandemic.

    The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall stood socially distanced nearby, as did William and Kate, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and the Princess Royal with Christmas trees lit with lights nearby, adding to the atmosphere.

    The Cambridge's trip to thank key workers, volunteers and communities for their pandemic efforts has provoked veiled criticisms from Welsh and Scottish ministers, who raised suggestions about the timing of the visits while Covid cases were still prevalent and many parts of the UK were subject to strict Covid rules.

    Credit: 2020 Getty Images
  • Ben Hill

    BURLEY'S BREAK

    Kay Burley will take a period of extended holiday after breaking lockdown laws.

    The veteran journalist’s future on the channel is said to be hanging in the balance after she was caught hosting an illegal 60th birthday party.

    Kay and nine friends – including Sky colleagues Beth Rigby, Inzamam Rashid and Sam Washington – partied at Century Club in Soho, London, against the rule of six.

    It’s thought she is now unlikely to be back on air until 2021.

  • Ben Hill

    JAB EXCITEMENT

    A very British granddad has sent Twitter into meltdown after being quizzed by an over-excited reporter just after getting his Covid vaccination.

    Martin Kenyon, 91, was collared by CNN as he left Guy's Hospital in London, after becoming one of the first people in the country to receive the new breakthrough jab.

    And those to have seen his charming chat with the US news network were so impressed by his performance they believe he now deserves a cameo in The Crown.

    Mr Kenyon's matter-of-fact attitude over his trip to hospital was in stark contrast to that of the reporter – keen to build up his story for the viewers back home.

  • Ben Hill

    SWISS BAN

    Switzerland plans to ban all public events apart from church services and legislative meetings and further limit private gatherings after December 12, as it said on Tuesday that the Covid-19 situation was deteriorating.

    It is starting talks with the nation's 26 cantons over the proposals, as it prepares for the new restrictions.

    The announcement came as the Federal Office of Public Health reported 92 more deaths, taking the death toll in Switzerland and neighbouring Liechtenstein to 5,116. The number of cases rose by 4,262 cases to 358,568, it said.

    The government also plans to order restaurants, shops and markets to close at 7pm through to January 20 in an effort to restrict the spread of the virus. It also aims to restrict the number of people who could meet in households to five.

  • Ben Hill

    OXFORD MAKES THE GRADE

    Oxford University's Covid-19 vaccine "has a good safety record and efficacy" and could help control the pandemic, a scientist leading the study has said, as phase three data was published.

    Interim results from pooled studies show the vaccine was 70.4% effective, on average, in preventing coronavirus after two doses were given.

    For people given two full doses of the jab in one study, the vaccine was 62.1% effective.

    In a study where people received a half dose followed by a full dose, the vaccine was 90% effective.

  • Ben Hill

    SUPER GRAN

    Maggie Keenan vowed to live past 100 yesterday as she became the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine patient.

    The 90-year-old hero made history by volunteering to have the cutting-edge Pfizer jab in front of the world’s media.

    Last night, her family said she wanted to inspire everyone to take the shot so life can get back to normal.

    Son Philip Keenan, 61, said: “She is determined than ever to live beyond 100 and has done everything possible to protect herself.

  • Ben Hill

    US HOLIDAY FALLOUT

    Deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S. have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the frightening peak reached last April, and cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, with the crisis all but certain to get worse because of the fallout from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

    Virtually every state is reporting surges just as a vaccine appears days away from getting the go-ahead in the U.S.

    The epidemic in the U.S. is punishing. Its widespread. Its quite frankly shocking to see one to two persons a minute die in the U.S. a country with a wonderful, strong health system, amazing technological capacities, said Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organizations chief of emergencies.

    The virus is blamed for more than 280,000 deaths and almost 15 million confirmed infections in the United States.

  • Ben Hill

    KAY BURLEY DROPPED

    Sky News host Kay Burley was dropped from her show today after breaking Tier 2 Covid rules while celebrating her 60th birthday.

    The broadcaster was at the centre of a star-studded group of ten colleagues who reportedly partied into the early hours, with four group members allegedly ending up at her London home.

    Burley, who now faces an internal inquiry at Sky News, is believed to have spent Saturday evening at swanky private members' club Century Club in Soho.

    She was not on air for her usual morning slot on Sky News today after apologising for her "error of judgment".

    Sky News host Kay Burley was dropped from her show
  • Britta Zeltmann

    'VACCINES FOR ALL AGES NEEDED'

    AstraZeneca's Mene Pangalos said adults of all ages need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to make a "dent" in the pandemic.

    "We actually do need to protect all age groups," he told a briefing for journalists.

    "I realise the people that are most severely impacted by disease are the over-65s, over-75s, over-85s, but the reality is we need to actually have vaccines that immunise everyone from adolescence to the oldest adults to really dent the pandemic around the world."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    DEADLY SPREAD

    UK coronavirus deaths increased by 616 today, bringing the UK total to 62,033.

    The Government said that, as of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 12,282 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

    It brings the total number of positive test results for Covid-19 in the UK to 1,750,241.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    OXFORD VACCINE DATA 'STILL BEING COLLECTED'

    Professor Andrew Pollard said data on the effectiveness of the Oxford vaccine in older adults was still being collected.

    He told a briefing for journalists: "As we do further cuts of the data, we'll have a lot more information about the other age groups.

    "And I think the evidence we have so far on the immune response very much suggests that there is likely to be similar levels of protection across the ages, because there is no daylight between the levels of immune response even in the over-70s when we compare with the younger adults.

    "I think it is important that we do generate some more data in those older adults over time."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    SCHOOLS OUT

    Schools have been told they can take an inset day next Friday and finish term early for Christmas.

    Staff were told last week they were expected to be on call right up to December 24, so that if any coronavirus outbreaks had been reported after the school closed teachers could help with contact tracing.

    Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb told MPs: "We are about to announce that inset days can be used on Friday December 18, even if an inset day had not been originally scheduled for that day.

    "We want there to be a clear six days so that by the time we reach Christmas Eve staff can have a proper break without having to engage in the track and trace issues."  

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