Covid vaccine news UK – Free rapid Covid tests now available for businesses and all adults could get jab by June

FREE rapid coronavirus tests are now available for businesses in the UK, the government has announced.

It comes as a minister predicted that all adults could receive the jab by June should the vaccine rollout continue at its current pace.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, told The Times it was “possible” that all adults could be offered vaccines by June.

Currently, about 3m jabs a week are being rolled out – which would mean the government's current pledge to vaccinate about 53m people would be hit by the end of July.

It comes as Portugal joins Cyprus and Greece in pledging to reopen its borders to sun seekers from the UK in just over two months' time.

Under the PM's roadmap out of lockdown Brits will be prevented from travelling abroad for holidays until mid-May.

But a number of Mediterranean countries are already working on plans to bring back tourism from the UK as soon as it's allowed.

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic

  • Dan Keane

    IMPACT OF VACCINES 'YET TO COME'

    Infectious disease expert Dr Mike Tildesley has said the impact of vaccines on the coronavirus transmission rate is "yet to come".

    He said: "I think most of the reason the numbers are going in the right direction now is still due to lockdown.

    "I think we haven't quite seen the impact of vaccinations, probably start to come in round about now and having a little bit of an effect, but most of the effect thus far actually is probably the fact we have been under severe restrictions since the start of January."

  • Dan Keane

    MASKS DO STOP THE SPREAD, STUDY FINDS

    Strict face mask laws can slow the spread of the coronavirus, a new study has found.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in the US, looked at counties placed under state-issued mask mandates and at counties that allowed restaurant dining both indoors and at tables outside.

    Researchers found that mask mandates were associated with reduced coronavirus transmission, and that improvements in new cases and deaths increased as time went on.

  • Dan Keane

    FORMER HEALTH MINISTER SAYS IT IS 'WRONG TIME' FOR NHS PAY RESTRAINT

    A former Conservative health minister has said it is the "wrong time" to be restraining the pay of NHS workers who have gone "above and beyond" during the pandemic.

    MP Dr Dan Poulter has called for a rethink on the proposal.

    However, he said it is "very valid" for ministers to turn their attention to paying back the £400 billion borrowed during the coronavirus crisis – but it is the "wrong time to be making this decision".

    He told BBC Radio 4's Today: "For me, this is, from a moral perspective, the wrong time to be applying pay restraint."

  • Dan Keane

    NEW STRAINS 'WON'T KILL THE SUMMER'

    New Covid strains are "very unlikely" to stop the UK from returning to normal this summer, an expert has said.

    Professor Sharon Peacock, head of the Covid-19 Genomics UK scientific body, told The Times she was "very optimistic" that the immunisation programme would continue to be effective.

    She said the new variants were “very unlikely to send us back to square one”.

    Prof Peacock said: “I’m very optimistic that the vaccines will be rolled out, that they’ll be effective, and that we’ll be in a better place by the summer and autumn."

  • Dan Keane

    COURTS STAFF VOTE TO STRIKE OVER COVID FEARS

    Staff in two courts in England have voted to take strike action over coronavirus safety concerns.

    Members of the Public and Commercial Services union at Liverpool Law Courts and Snaresbrook Crown Court in London backed industrial action.

    The union has been calling for courts to be closed, and reopened with regular testing of staff and increased safety measures.

  • Dan Keane

    SAUDI ARABIA TO END LOCKDOWN

    Saudi Arabia is set to become one of the first countries to end lockdown restrictions completely.

    Indoor dining, cinemas and entertainment activities and events will all resume from tomorrow, state news agency SPA said.

    Some activities will remain banned, including weddings and corporate meetings

  • Dan Keane

    IRELAND MAKES PROGRESS ON VACCINATIONS

    Ireland is expected to reach the milestone of half a million coronavirus jabs administered this weekend.

    Speaking in a video posted on Twitter, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said government is doing everything it can to secure supplies and to give those vaccines to people as quickly as possible.

    "Over the coming days we will have administered half a million doses since the first vaccination was given to Dubliner Annie Lynch 63 days ago," he said.

    "Next week we will begin to vaccinate those with underlying health conditions as well as continuing to vaccinate the over-70s and healthcare workers."

  • Dan Keane

    'NEXT FEW WEEKS WILL BE CRUCIAL'

    An infectious disease expert has said the "next few weeks are going to be crucial" for keeping coronavirus infections down as schools reopen.

    Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Government's SPI-M modelling advisory panel, told Times Radio that children going back to classrooms would cause a rise in theR rate – while more vaccinations would cause it to reduce.

    He said: "We do need to get this balancing act correct and we need to open up at the rate of vaccinations and keep the R number in check, as it were.

    "Definitely things are moving in the right direction but the next few weeks are going to be crucial for us to monitor what happens when schools open."

  • Dan Keane

    EU SEEKS TO ACCESS OXFORD VACCINE PRODUCED IN US

    The EU will urge the United States to permit the export of millions of doses of the Oxford jab to Europe, the Financial Times reports.

    The EU also wants Washington to ensure the free flow of shipments of crucial vaccine ingredients needed in European production, according to the FT.

    "We trust that we can work together with the U.S. to ensure that vaccines produced or bottled in the U.S. for the fulfilment of vaccine producers' contractual obligations with the EU will be fully honoured", the newspaper quoted the European Commission as saying.

  • Dan Keane

    LIST OF MUTATIONS 'WILL GROW'

    Prof Gupta also warned that the list of Covid mutations is likely to grow in the coming year as transmission remains high in certain countries.

    But he added: "On the other hand, we can take comfort in the fact that the virus is doing very similar things across all of these variants, so there are some very common themes coming along and very common mutations, so that helps us to design the next generation of vaccines."

  • Dan Keane

    VACCINES 'MUST BE TWEAKED FOR BRAZIL VARIANT'

    Vaccines need to be redesigned to prevent widespread transmission of coronavirus variants such as that first found in Manaus, Brazil, an infectious disease expert has said.

    Professor Ravindra Gupta said it was "fantastic" that the mystery person infected with the Manaus variant had been found.

    He told Times Radio: "But there will be people out there who have not been tracked and traced who have the variant and who may have transmitted it."

    Prof Gupta, an expert in clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said it is "always a possibility" that the Manaus P1 variant could become dominant in the UK but it is "unlikely at the moment because, first of all, we have low rates of transmission and we have a virus that has a transmission advantage".

  • Dan Keane

    SCHOOL TESTING 'LIKELY TO DECREASE OVER TIME'

    Professor Sheila Bird said that pupils and families' willingness to take part in twice-weekly testing is likely to decrease over time.

    She added: "There is initial interest and curiosity, but twice a week is a big ask of children and families, and the additional benefit from doing this twice a week versus once a week is modest and it has to be offset against the implications for the consent rate and the willingness to continue to do it."

  • Dan Keane

    DOUBLE CHECK SCHOOL TEST RESULTS, EXPERT WARNS

    Professor Sheila Bird, a member of the Royal Statistical Society, said every positive quick-result test of a school pupil should be checked with a PCR test to ensure it is accurate.

    Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the likelihood of a false positive reading from a lateral flow test, she said: "Very likely.

    "In the present circumstances when infection incidence is low, the false positive rate with lateral flow tests remains to be absolutely determined in the context of schools but may be between one and three per 1,000 children.

    "So to differentiate a false positive from a true positive is to do that PCR confirmation."

  • Brittany Vonow

    FEELING APE

    The San Diego Zoo has vaccinated nine great apes against Covid.

    A number of gorillas reportedly fell ill with the virus at the zoo's safari park.

    Now, a number of the animals have been given a jab.

  • Brittany Vonow

    MUTANT SPREAD

    Surge testing has been deployed in London after the patient who contracted the Brazilian variant was finally found, Matt Hancock has said.

    The Health Secretary said the patient with the strain lived in a household that had recently returned from Brazil and that testing was being rolled out in Croydon to "minimise the risk of it spreading".

    Speaking at a Downing Street press conference last night he said patient X had been found due to the "dogged determination" of Test and Trace teams.

  • Brittany Vonow

    GETTING THE JAB DONE

    More than 290million coronavirus vaccine doses have now been administered worldwide.

    The UK along has given out more than 18m first doses of the jab.

  • Elizabeth Little

    1 IN 3 STILL DONT HAVE SYMPTOMS

    Around one in three people still don't have symptoms of Covid, and are passing it on to others.

    It is hoped widespread testing will help bring the number of Covid deaths and infections down over the coming weeks.

    Numbers in the UK have already fallen by a third in a week with 236 fatalities and 5,947 cases recorded in the last 24 hours.

    It is the biggest week-on-week drop since the second wave peak of the pandemic. Last Friday, 8,523 cases and 346 deaths were reported.

  • Elizabeth Little

    ALL WORKING BRITS TO GET TESTED

    All Brits who have to go into work and can't stay home are now able to get rapid result Covid tests, it was confirmed last night.

    Previously only businesses who had more than 50 employees were able to get their hands on lateral flow tests, but this is being expanded.

    The UK is now testing 2.8million people every week, Matt Hancock revealed last night.

    And this number is set to increase as kids going to school and their families will be able to get tests twice a week from March 8 when pupils return to the classroom.

  • Elizabeth Little

    LOVE ISLAND STAR 'COULD CRY' OVER PM MENTAL HEALTH PLEDGE

    Dr Alex George said he could "actually cry" as he celebrated £79 million being approved for youth mental health.

    The former Love Island star was recently appointed Youth Mental Health Ambassador by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as he’s set to advise the government on young people’s mental wellbeing.

    Dr Alex announced the government has now approved a significant amount of money to help fund many of the mental health services in this country which look after young people.

    It includes the Mental Health Support Team for schools, as well as the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.

  • Elizabeth Little

    ITALY 2020 DEATH TOLL HIGHEST SINCE WW2

    Italy registered more deaths in 2020 than in any other year since World War Two.

    New data suggests Covid-19 caused thousands more fatalities than were officially attributed to it.

    Total deaths in Italy last year amounted to 746,146, statistics bureau ISTAT said, an increase of 100,525, or 15.6 per cent, compared with the average of the 2015-2019 period.

  • Elizabeth Little

    PM 'MISLED PARLIAMENT OVER COVID CONTRACTS'

    Boris Johnson misled parliament over the publication of coronavirus contracts, a court order appears to show.

    The prime minister had claimed that the contracts, which are subject to a legal challenge and cronyism allegations, were “there on the record for everybody to see”.

    But a final order handed down by the High Court on Friday said the government had in fact only published “608 out of 708 relevant contracts”.

  • Elizabeth Little

    ANTI-VAX BOOKS ON AMAZON

    Anti-vaccination books are being sold on Amazon and on Waterstones and Foyles websites.

    People are calling for warnings on items to combat the spread of misinformation.

    Top-selling books on Amazon include Anyone Who Tells You Vaccines Are Safe And Effective Is Lying, and Vaccine-nation: Poisoning The Population, One Shot At A Time.

    Sky News report the number of customer reviews and ratings on books like these show there has been a big increase in purchases since the pandemic began.

  • Elizabeth Little

    ONE MILLION BRITS HAVE SECOND JAB

    More than one million Brits have now had their second Covid vaccine dose in a huge milestone for the NHS.

    45,045 extra second jabs dished out in England yesterday pushed the extraordinary total to 1,008,907.

    Thousands more Brits are now protected against catching Covid or getting seriously ill from the bug.

    The UK's jabs rollout has been hugely successful, with more than 21million having had their first inoculation.

  • Elizabeth Little

    13 PLACES WHERE COVID CASES ARE RISING

    Cases of Covid-19 are still rising in 13 places in England and this interactive map reveals if your area is on the list.

  • Elizabeth Little

    R RATE UP AGAIN

    Britain's official R rate has crept up again this week and could be as high as 1 in one of the UK's hotspot areas.

    The R rate – which represents the number of people an infected person will pass Covid-19 onto – is between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK, Sage said today.

    This is slightly up from last weeks estimate which was between 0.6 and 0.9.

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