Covid news - live: New drugs that ‘significantly’ reduce risk of death rolled out as daily UK fatalities pass 1,000 again

Follow the latest updates on the pandemic

All care home residents to be vaccinated by end of the month, Johnson says

 Almost 1.5 million people have now been vaccinated against Covid-19 and everyone in care homes should receive a jab by the end of January, Boris Johnson says.

But  GPs are warning of problems in some areas getting supplies as surgeries began rolling out the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, beginning the largest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS.

A further 1,162 deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours, the second-highest daily increase since the start of the outbreak. And coronavirus cases in England rose by almost a quarter over Christmas according to the latest Test and Trace data.

NHS hospitals across the country have been told to start vaccinating frontline health and care workers immediately, and seven mass vaccination centres will open next week, in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.

But an official briefing has warned hospitals in London are on the verge of being overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases even under the “best case” scenario, leaving the capital short of nearly 2,000 general and acute and intensive care beds by 19 January.

Meanwhile critically ill Covid-19 patients admitted to intensive care units across the UK will be able to receive new drugs that can "significantly" reduce the risk of death as well as time spent in hospital by up to 10 days.

NHS patients will have access to tocilizumab and sarilumab - which are typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis - under updated guidance due to be issued tomorrow by the Government and the NHS to Trusts across the UK.


Keir Starmer calls for more volunteers to administer vaccines

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the vaccine drive should be a national effort and called on more volunteers to come forward to help.

Speaking to broadcasters at a vaccine centre in Newham, east London, he said: "I have criticised the Government over the past nine months for being slow, I did think they were being slow.

"But frankly now this is a national effort and we all have to put our shoulder to the wheel.

"This is the light at the end of the tunnel, we all have to make it work whatever our other differences.

"It is why we've launched this campaign for volunteers to come forward - we've got 500,000 members in the Labour Party, we've got millions of trade unionists and our campaign today is to say to them: play your part, step up, put aside your differences, we need volunteers.

"If you look at the set-up here, you've got people administering the jab but you've also got to get people here, you've got to get the information to them, steward them in, and volunteers can do all that."

Samuel Osborne7 January 2021 11:59

Hancock questioned about vaccine supply

Health secretary Matt Hancock faced questions about the supply of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as he visited a doctors' surgery which had not received a delivery.

Mr Hancock was promoting the rollout of the vaccine to GPs but the London surgery he visited had not received the Oxford product.

It was expecting the first batch of the Oxford vaccine this morning but that has now been pushed back by 24 hours, Sky News reported.

Dr Ammara Hughes, a GP at the Bloombsury Surgery in London visited by Mr Hancock, told reporters: "We were expecting our first AstraZeneca 400 today, but we've had a pushback for 24 hours so we're now getting that delivery tomorrow."

She told Sky News: "It's just more frustrating than a concern, because we've got the capacity to vaccinate and if we had a regular supply, we do have the capacity to vaccinate three to four thousand patients a week.

"We have been running since the middle of December, and on our busiest days we can vaccinate 500 people easily.

"If we could get the AstraZeneca, then we could easily vaccinate 500 a day, which would ease the pressure on the health service and we could get more and more people vaccinated quickly and hopefully get out of the pandemic."

Samuel Osborne7 January 2021 11:45

Covid cases rose by almost a quarter over Christmas

The number of Covid-19 cases in England rose by almost a quarter over Christmas, new figures show, raising further questions of the government’s decision to relax restrictions for the festive period, Samuel Lovett reports.

Covid cases rose by almost a quarter over Christmas, new figures show

The number of Covid-19 cases in England rose by almost a quarter over Christmas, new figures show, raising further questions of the government’s decision to relax restrictions for the festive period.

Samuel Osborne7 January 2021 11:25

Patients receiving Oxford vaccine no longer need to be observed for 15 minutes, NHS says

Patients receiving a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will no longer need to be observed for 15 minutes according to the NHS, Samuel Lovett reports.

The policy change was announced on Wednesday, ahead of today’s rollout within GPs and other community-based settings.

The move has been met with relief by GPs, who argue the removal of the observation period - which is not required for the annual influenza jab - will help to ensure more people can be vaccinated on a daily basis.

Dr Simon Hodes, a GP based in Watford, told The Independent: “What this means in reality is that unless there are evolving concerns, we can treat the Oxford jab like a seasonal flu vaccine if we have supplies.

“With Oxford AstraZeneca and no need for post vaccine observation, we could literally vaccinate the whole country at risk within weeks in General Practice without the need for any additional vaccination centres (especially if they suspended all routine work to prioritise this).”

However, those being vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate must continue to be observed for 15 minutes after receiving their dose, due to the novel technology used for the vaccine and early indications it may not be suitable in people with a history of severe allergic reactions.

Samuel Osborne7 January 2021 11:12

Nearly 20,000 have received second vaccine doses

Nearly 20,000 second doses of Covid-19 vaccines were administered between 29 December and 3 January, NHS England said.

Some 19,981 second Pfizer jabs were given as of Sunday, which was before the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. All vaccinations given before 29 December were of first doses.

Overall, 308,541 people received a jab in the week ending Sunday 3 January, taking the total number vaccinated in England since the rollout began to 1,112,866.

Of those, 661,224 (60 per cent) were given to people aged 80 or over, the health service said.

Samuel Osborne7 January 2021 10:51

Matt Hancock says he is not aiming for a ‘zero-Covid’ Britain

The government is not aiming for a “zero-Covid” Britain, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Mr Hancock said that eradication of the disease was “impossible” and the goal instead should be to reduce it to “manageable” proportions.

Political editor Andrew Woodcock reports:

Matt Hancock says he is not aiming for a ‘zero-Covid’ Britain

‘We’re going to have a great summer,' predicts ‘optimistic’ health secretary

Samuel Osborne7 January 2021 10:29

Boris Johnson to hold press conference at 5pm

Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference at 5pm alongside NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens.

Samuel Osborne7 January 2021 10:11

Health secretary ‘delighted’ care home residents will begin receiving vaccine this week

The health secretary Matt Hancock has said he is "delighted" care home residents will begin receiving their first Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination this week.

He tweeted: "This will ensure the most vulnerable are protected and will save tens of thousands of lives."

Samuel Osborne7 January 2021 10:03

Scientists create guide to building truth ‘sandwich’ to combat Covid misinformation

In a bid to fight against misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines, a group of scientists from all over the world have created an online guide to building a ‘truth sandwich’, Kate Ng reports.

The guide serves to arm people with practical tips, up-to-date information and evidence to talk reliably about the vaccines, and enable them to constructively challenge associated myths.

Scientists create guide to building truth ‘sandwich’ to combat Covid misinformation

Truth sandwich can help people ‘challenge and debunk misinformation in a positive, constructive manner’, says scientist

Samuel Osborne7 January 2021 09:46

New border measures to prevent cases entering UK to be announced

Home secretary Priti Patel promised that new measures at the border to prevent cases of coronavirus being imported into the UK would be announced "in the next few days".

Asked whether there could be a ban on non-essential travel, she told BBC Radio 4's Today: "The current advice remains that you must stay at home and not travel abroad unless you are permitted under regulations.

"So travel should only be taking place under very strict rules."

The prime minister told a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday the government will be "bringing in measures to ensure that we test people coming into this country and prevent the virus from being readmitted".

Ministers are understood to be considering introducing a requirement for international arrivals to have a negative coronavirus test before travelling to Britain in order to tackle surging cases. Hauliers would be exempt.

Samuel Osborne7 January 2021 09:27

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