Jonathan Van-Tam says Britain is ‘at or close to the bottom’ of its Covid outbreak as daily cases fall by 10% in a week to 2,166 and 68.3% of adults have antibodies but deaths rise slightly to 29

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Jonathan Van-Tam today said the UK is ‘at or close to the bottom’ of its Covid outbreak as data showed daily cases fell again by 10 per cent in the past week, to 2,166, while 29 more deaths were announced.

The deputy chief medical officer said at today’s Downing Street briefing that he was ‘hopeful’ about Britain getting back to normal in the coming months and said vaccines should mean tough national lockdowns won’t happen again.

He compared the situation now to last September’s, before the devastating second wave ignited by the Kent variant, and said: ‘The vaccine has undoubtedly helped… it really is the way out of getting into trouble of the same size and magnitude ever again.’  

The Department of Health’s usual update today showed there were 2,166 positive test results received in the past 24 hours, down 9.6 per cent from a week ago. Another 29 deaths were recorded, up by a third on the 22 last Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, a major Office for National Statistics (ONS) testing survey revealed 68.3 per cent of people in England had coronavirus antibodies in the week ending April 11, up from 53.1 per cent a fortnight prior. It suggests the majority of the population now has some immunity against the disease.

The finding highlights the success of the huge vaccination drive, which today saw another 116,328 people given a first dose and 379,265 their second. In total almost 34million Brits have been given at least one injection and 13.5m have been fully immunised.   

And separate analysis today revealed a single dose of vaccine slashes the risk of spreading coronavirus to a member of your household by up to half. This means not only do they reduce the chance of catching Covid in the first place, the jabs greatly reduce the chances of passing it on. 

The deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said at today's Downing Street briefing that he was 'hopeful' about Britain getting back to normal in the coming months and said vaccines should mean tough national lockdowns won't happen again

The deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said at today’s Downing Street briefing that he was ‘hopeful’ about Britain getting back to normal in the coming months and said vaccines should mean tough national lockdowns won’t happen again

Professor Van-Tam said in the briefing: ‘We are really in very low levels that are comparable to where we were in September last year. We are running as a typical seven-day average at just over 2,000 people testing positive per day.

UK BUYS 60m MORE PFIZER VACCINE DOSES 

Britain has bought another 60million doses of Pfizer‘s Covid vaccine as part of plans to launch a booster jab rollout this autumn, Matt Hancock revealed tonight.

Ministers hope the extra supplies — which will take No10’s total order to 100million — will start to be delivered from September through to early 2022 so everyone in the country can be offered a third vaccine.

Some of the supplies may also be used for second doses for under-30s vaccinated in June and July, who would expect their boosters in September and October. Young adults are not likely to get the AstraZeneca vaccine because of concerns about blood clots.

The autumn vaccine rollout will offer everyone who has been vaccinated a third jab, either of the same type or potentially a different vaccine if studies prove this works, to boost their immunity for the long-term, officials said. 

The extra jabs will be the same as the Pfizer ones given out at the moment, not specific ones targeted at the South Africa or Brazil variants, although the company is working on these.  

Mr Hancock said at a Downing Street briefing today that ‘evidence is stacking up that the vaccine protects you, it protects your loved ones, and it’s the way out of this pandemic’. 

‘My sense is that probably we are at or close to the bottom at the moment in terms of this level of disease in the UK. 

‘Most of the steady decline we have seen, the disappearance of our third wave, has been down to the efforts of the British people in following lockdown.

‘The vaccine has undoubtedly helped in the later stages and there is good evidence that the death rate in the elderly has dropped faster than it has in the younger age groups and it has dropped faster than it did in the second wave, and that is undoubtedly a vaccine effect.

‘What is important about these vaccines and the vaccine rollout is it really is the way out of getting into trouble of the same size and magnitude ever again, and that’s why it’s important that this job must get finished.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the NHS’s Dr Nikki Karanani took to the Downing Street podiums to announce that Britain had bought 60million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine for an autumn third-jab rollout.

They showed charts painting a picture of impressive vaccine uptake across the UK, urging younger people to come forward when they are allowed to, as Mr Hancock, 42, will get his vaccine tomorrow.

Professor Van-Tam added: The modelling consensus is clear, we will have what’s called a third wave.

‘I am fairly hopeful that, if the vaccine programme continues at pace and continues to be as successful as it has been, the third wave might just be a third upsurge and much less significant because of the delinking of cases to hospitalisations and deaths.

‘But I think it is inconceivable to think we will go from a period of relative calm, which is where we are now, with no further bumps in the road in terms of upswings in activity between now and this time next year.’ 

Today’s ONS report, based on random blood tests of around 20,000 adults across the UK, estimated 62.5 per cent of the adult population in Northern Ireland have the proteins. The figure was slightly lower in Wales at 61 per cent and Scotland (57.8 per cent). 

As well as through jabs, antibodies are made in response to previous infection. The fact that almost half (46.5 per cent) of people aged 16 to 24 in England tested positive for antibodies suggests younger people are enjoying protection from prior infection. 

About seven in 10 adults in England have coronavirus antibodies, according to a major Office for National Statistics (ONS) testing survey. It also estimated 62.5 per cent of the adult population in Northern Ireland have the proteins. The figure was slightly lower in Wales at 61 per cent and Scotland (57.8 per cent)

About seven in 10 adults in England have coronavirus antibodies, according to a major Office for National Statistics (ONS) testing survey. It also estimated 62.5 per cent of the adult population in Northern Ireland have the proteins. The figure was slightly lower in Wales at 61 per cent and Scotland (57.8 per cent)

Antibody levels across the UK in February

Antibody levels across the UK in March

How antibody levels have increased over time thanks to vaccines: The jab programme was rolled out to older people first (highlighted in February, left) and has gradually opened up to younger groups

The results highlight the success of Britain's vaccine programme, which has seen almost 34million Britons - more than half the entire population - receive at least one dose. Some 13.2m of them have been given both injections

The results highlight the success of Britain’s vaccine programme, which has seen almost 34million Britons – more than half the entire population – receive at least one dose. Some 13.2m of them have been given both injections

And official data shows nearly 40 million Britons live in practically 'Covid-free' areas, where two or fewer cases were recorded during the latest week. England is split into 6,800 areas - which each have average population of approximately 8,200 - to record data on Covid. Public Health England (PHE) redacts data for areas that see two, one or no cases in one week so as to protect the identities of those infected (a graph showing areas based on the number of Covid cases). A total of 4,819 areas have had their information pulled by PHE

And official data shows nearly 40 million Britons live in practically ‘Covid-free’ areas, where two or fewer cases were recorded during the latest week. England is split into 6,800 areas – which each have average population of approximately 8,200 – to record data on Covid. Public Health England (PHE) redacts data for areas that see two, one or no cases in one week so as to protect the identities of those infected (a graph showing areas based on the number of Covid cases). A total of 4,819 areas have had their information pulled by PHE

It comes as a major Government analysis today revealed a single dose of vaccine slashes the risk of spreading coronavirus by up to half. Adults who received the Pfizer vaccine (red) but still caught the virus were 49 per cent less likely to spread it to other household members than those who weren't inoculated. Those given the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab (blue) were 38 per cent less likely to transmit it to others in their household. The graph shows that in the first few days after vaccination (right), people are more likely to pass the disease on compared to weeks later, when immunity has time to build up (left). The figures are based on an odds ratio, meaning anything above one is an increased risk - and anything below is the opposite

It comes as a major Government analysis today revealed a single dose of vaccine slashes the risk of spreading coronavirus by up to half. Adults who received the Pfizer vaccine (red) but still caught the virus were 49 per cent less likely to spread it to other household members than those who weren’t inoculated. Those given the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab (blue) were 38 per cent less likely to transmit it to others in their household. The graph shows that in the first few days after vaccination (right), people are more likely to pass the disease on compared to weeks later, when immunity has time to build up (left). The figures are based on an odds ratio, meaning anything above one is an increased risk – and anything below is the opposite 

NHS England began offering people a jab to people aged 42 and over this week and the programme is expected to open to people in their 30s next week. Only younger people with underlying health conditions or who live in areas where GPs have extra stock have been offered an appointment. 

In England, the highest percentage of adults testing positive for Covid-19 antibodies in the week to April 11 was estimated to be the 70 to 74 age group (87.6 per cent), followed by 80 and over (87.1 per cent) and 60 to 64 (85.7 per cent). The lowest percentage was for 16 to 24-year-olds (46.5 per cent).

TAKING RAPID COVID TESTS DOESN’T MAKE YOU ‘INVINCIBLE’, HEALTH CHIEF WARNS

People who are vaccinated and using rapid turnaround Covid-19 tests are ‘not invincible’, Professor Anthony Harnden of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has said.

‘If you’ve got a positive lateral flow test that’s quite helpful in the sense that you know that you need to have a PCR and you may well have the infection and you may be infectious to other people,’ he told the Science and Technology committee of MPs today.

‘The problem is with a negative lateral flow test doesn’t mean to say necessarily you’ve not got the infection.

‘I think everybody’s got to be cautious and just because you’ve been vaccinated, and just because you have a negative lateral flow test, does not mean you’re invincible because these tests are not perfect.

‘Of course, as the prevalence infection goes down in the population the predictive value of all these tests becomes problematic as well, so I would say they’re helpful, as part of the arsenal of tests and investigations and vaccine and everything else, but they shouldn’t be just taken in isolation.’

Source: Press Association 

In Wales, the highest proportion of adults likely to have tested positive for antibodies was the 70 to 74 age group (83 per cent) followed by 65 to 69 (82.9 per cent) and 60 to 64 (82.8 per cent).

In Scotland the highest percentage was estimated to be among 65 to 69-year-olds (85.1 per cent), followed by 70 to 74-year-olds (81.4 per cent) and 60 to 64-year-olds (80.1 per cent).

In Northern Ireland, the ONS uses different age groups due to small sample sizes and estimates 82 per cent of people aged 70 and over were likely to have tested positive for antibodies in the week to April 11. All figures are for people in private households and do not include settings such as hospitals and care homes.

Other scientific advisers have warned that the country must stick to its rigid lockdown-easing schedule, which won’t see pubs and restaurants open for indoor service until May 17, when foreign travel will also resume. They said speeding up lockdown-easing plans would still be a ‘big mistake’.

Professor Peter Openshaw, chair of the SAGE subgroup NERVTAG, told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme: ‘I really think that we’re doing the right thing by being cautious and by proceeding according to the evidence and not easing too fast.

‘I think we do know that easing too fast would be a big mistake and we don’t want to lose all the ground that’s been gained by massive public effort to get to where we are now. It’s so vital that we do keep up the precautions and move with cautious speed.’

Dr Tildesley suggested the decision on whether social distancing would be needed after the June road map date could be a political one. 

However, he said vaccines were doing the job of preventing most people falling seriously ill, and he was hopeful hugs would be back on the agenda by the date the Government has set for lifting legal limits on social contact.

Speaking on Times Radio, Dr Tildesley was asked at what stage people will be able to be close to another person, such as a family member, if both have been vaccinated.

He said: ‘I think this is really difficult because of course, in a sense, this becomes more of a sort of a political decision rather than an epidemiological decision because we have been told that on June 21 all of these legal limits on contact will be removed, but it’s still unclear exactly what that means.

‘Whether that means that on that date some social distancing will be in place or whether all of those will be removed and you’ll be able to go and hug your loved ones…

‘I think the key thing is that if you’re both vaccinated, of course, it does reduce the risk of anyone becoming severely ill and my hope is that as we move towards that June date, we will be in a position that we can not just see our loved ones, but also we can hug our loved ones because it’s been a very long time since we’ve been able to do that.’

Brits rush to download NHS App after Grant Shapps confirmed it WILL be used as Covid passport for travel 

The NHS app will double as a covid passport with vaccinations already uploaded, it was revealed today, as Portugal said it would welcome tourists with jabs from mid-May and Spain from June.

Thousands have rushed to download the app this morning and were shocked to discover the details of their jab – including how many they’ve had – is already on there.

He tweeted a picture of his record in the ‘medicines and treatments’ section of the NHS app to his 895,000 followers, which led to a flurry of replies from others who had discovered the same thing.

But the Department of Health has denied claims it has secretly rolled out covid passports, insisting that all vaccines are automatically added to the app containing the user’s medical records.

The spokesman could not confirm if this is how people will present proof of being vaccinated airports, or how a negative test will be uploaded to the app if it is not done via the NHS.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today revealed the NHS app is being worked on to become a health certificate for international travel – but explained it will be housed on the app used to book appointments and repeat prescriptions, not the Covid-19 one currently used to check into pubs, cafes and other venues.

His announcement led to a rush of people trying to download the app, but people using smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 6, launched in 2014, claim they were unable to use it.

Domestic coronavirus statistics ‘look good’ enough to enable the resumption of foreign holidays from May 17, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also revealed.

Mr Shapps also said the NHS app is being worked on to become a health certificate for international travel – but it is the app used to book appointments, not the Covid-19 one currently used to check into pubs, cafes and other venues.

He said there was a need for ongoing monitoring of the situation, including of what happens when people are allowed to mix indoors again.

From May 17, up to two households, or six individuals from other households (the rule of six), will be able to meet inside.

Dr Tildesley said: ‘We obviously do need to monitor the data as we get to the main relaxation, when you are allowed to go inside people’s households, it’s really important that we monitor that data and ensure that we don’t get a resurgence at that point.’

It came after research by Public Health England (PHE) found just one dose of vaccine cuts the risk of spreading the disease to others by half.

The analysis, which involved almost 1.5million adults, is the first of its kind to confirm the effectiveness of the vaccines in curbing the virus’s ability to spread.

The new study on transmission of the virus found that adults who received the Pfizer vaccine – but still caught the virus – were 49 per cent less likely to spread it to other household members than those who weren’t inoculated.

The results for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab were not quite as good but nonetheless, those who received it were 38 per cent less likely to transmit it to others in their household.

But the fact that both vaccines dramatically reduce the virus’s ability to spread – as well as preventing serious illness – offer renewed hope that they hold the key to a return to normal life.

They have already been shown to reduce coronavirus hospitalisations and deaths by 80 per cent after one dose, rising even higher after full immunity. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘This is terrific news, we already know vaccines save lives and this study is the most comprehensive real-world data showing they also cut transmission of this deadly virus.’

Previous analysis had already confirmed the jabs were excellent at preventing severe disease and death but one of the unanswered questions was how much they stopped transmission. 

Scientists have repeatedly warned a jab that is poor at halting the disease’s spread meant there was always a risk of the virus circulating in high numbers and eventually spilling into the small number of vulnerable people who aren’t jabbed or for whom the jabs don’t work.

On PHE’s latest analysis, Mr Hancock added: ‘It further reinforces that vaccines are the best way out of this pandemic as they protect you and they may prevent you from unknowingly infecting someone in your household.

‘I urge everybody to get their vaccines as soon as they are eligible and make sure you get your second dose for the strongest possible protection. This is a huge national effort and we will beat the virus together.’

The jabs’ ability to prevent virus transmission kicked in after just 14 days and they worked regardless of a person’s age or the number of people within their household, with whom they had close contact.

One jab HALVES spread of virus in your home

A single dose of vaccine slashes the risk of spreading coronavirus by up to half, a major study reveals today.

Not only does the jab reduce a person’s chance of catching Covid in the first place, it greatly reduces their chances of passing it on, should they get infected.

The research by Public Health England (PHE) which involved almost 1.5million adults is the first of its kind to confirm the effectiveness of the vaccines in curbing the virus’s ability to spread.

The new study on transmission of the virus found that adults who received the Pfizer vaccine – but still caught the virus – were 49 per cent less likely to spread it to other household members than those who weren’t inoculated.

The results for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab were not quite as good but nonetheless, those who received it were 38 per cent less likely to transmit it to others in their household.

But the fact that both vaccines dramatically reduce the virus’s ability to spread – as well as preventing serious illness – offer renewed hope that they hold the key to a return to normal life.

They have already been shown to reduce coronavirus hospitalisations and deaths by 80 per cent after one dose, rising even higher after full immunity. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘This is terrific news, we already know vaccines save lives and this study is the most comprehensive real-world data showing they also cut transmission of this deadly virus.’

The results will come as a huge boost for the country’s lockdown easing plans, given that almost 34million Britons – more than half the entire population – have had one dose. Some 13.2m of them have been given both injections.

It comes as Boris Johnson said yesterday that the ‘road ahead looks positive’ as separate figures revealed Covid deaths have plummeted 97 per cent since the second peak.

Previous analysis had already confirmed the jabs were excellent at preventing severe disease and death but one of the unanswered questions was how much they stopped transmission. 

Scientists have repeatedly warned a jab that is poor at halting the disease’s spread meant there was always a risk of the virus circulating in high numbers and eventually spilling into the small number of vulnerable people who aren’t jabbed or for whom the jabs don’t work.

On PHE’s latest analysis, Mr Hancock added: ‘It further reinforces that vaccines are the best way out of this pandemic as they protect you and they may prevent you from unknowingly infecting someone in your household.

‘I urge everybody to get their vaccines as soon as they are eligible and make sure you get your second dose for the strongest possible protection. This is a huge national effort and we will beat the virus together.’

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: ‘Vaccines are vital in helping us return to a normal way of life. 

‘Not only do vaccines reduce the severity of illness and prevent hundreds of deaths every day, we now see they also have an additional impact on reducing the chance of passing Covid-19 on to others. I encourage anyone who is offered a vaccine to take it as soon as possible.

‘While these findings are very encouraging, even if you have been vaccinated, it is really important that you continue to act like you have the virus, practise good hand hygiene and follow social distancing guidance.’

Meanwhile, official data has revealed nearly 40 million Britons live in practically ‘Covid-free’ areas. The UK’s hugely successful vaccine rollout and continued lockdown measures have meant that seven in ten people now live in places where two or fewer cases were recorded during the latest week.  

In another positive sign, yesterday’s daily deaths figure halved in a week – with 17 recorded on Tuesday, compared to 33 one week prior. England is split into 6,800 areas – which each have average population of approximately 8,200 – to record data on Covid.

Public Health England (PHE) redacts data for areas that see two, one or no cases in one week so as to protect the identities of those infected.  A total of 4,819 areas have had their information pulled by PHE, analysis by The Times revealed. 

This means that 38 million people are in areas where two or fewer cases have been recorded in the most-recent week of available data.

It was also revealed today that the NHS app will double as a Covid passport with vaccinations already uploaded.

Thousands have rushed to download the app this morning and were shocked to discover the details of their jab – including how many they’ve had – is already on there.

He tweeted a picture of his record in the ‘medicines and treatments’ section of the NHS app to his 895,000 followers, which led to a flurry of replies from others who had discovered the same thing.

But the Department of Health has denied claims it has secretly rolled out covid passports, insisting that all vaccines are automatically added to the app containing the user’s medical records.

The spokesman could not confirm if this is how people will present proof of being vaccinated airports, or how a negative test will be uploaded to the app if it is not done via the NHS.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today revealed the NHS app is being worked on to become a health certificate for international travel – but explained it will be housed on the app used to book appointments and repeat prescriptions, not the Covid-19 one currently used to check into pubs, cafes and other venues.

His announcement led to a rush of people trying to download the app, but people using smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 6, launched in 2014, claim they were unable to use it.

Domestic coronavirus statistics ‘look good’ enough to enable the resumption of foreign holidays from May 17, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also revealed.

Mr Shapps also said the NHS app is being worked on to become a health certificate for international travel – but it is the app used to book appointments, not the Covid-19 one currently used to check into pubs, cafes and other venues.

He told Sky News: ‘In terms of vaccine certification, I can confirm we are working on an NHS application, actually it will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS and so on, to be able to show you’ve had a vaccine or you’ve had testing.

‘I’m working internationally with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised, as that’s the way forward.

‘Actually, I’m chairing a meeting of the G7 secretaries of state for transport, my equivalents from America and Canada and all the G7 countries, next week on exactly this subject’.

Overseas leisure travel could resume for people in England on May 17 under Boris Johnson’s road map for easing restrictions.

Mr Shapps told Sky News: ‘I have to say that so far the data does continue to look good from a UK perspective, notwithstanding those concerns about where people might be travelling to and making sure we’re protected from the disease being reimported.’

He added he will set out which countries fall into the ‘green’, ‘amber’ and ‘red’ categories under the new risk-based traffic light system ‘towards the beginning of May’.

That will determine what testing and quarantine requirements travellers will face when they return from various destinations.

Revealing Spain was throwing open its beaches, tourism minister Fernando Valdes Verelst said: ‘June will be the start of the recovery of tourism in Spain. By then, we will have a digital vaccination certificate in place and we will be able to reopen our borders.’

He said Spain was pushing for the UK’s digital vaccine passport to be ‘mutually recognised’ and that he welcomed Boris Johnson’s plans to restart international travel.

Mr Verelst said he expected Spain to be on the UK’s travel green list when international travel resumes thanks to the country’s successful vaccine rollout which has seen 22 per cent of the population receive a first dose.

This would mean Britons returning to the UK from Spain would not have to quarantine.

But Mr Shapps said the public will have to ‘wait and see’ about whether the UK will permit travel to Spain.

He told Times Radio: ‘Spain specifically, I’m afraid I just don’t have the answer to that because the Joint Biosecurity Centre will need to come up with their assessment and we can’t do that until a bit nearer the time.

‘So we will need to wait and see.’

Speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council in Mexico, he added: ‘Because of the progress in our vaccine rollout with 22 per cent of our population having had their first dose already, we expect by June to be at the green light.

‘We are having close conversations with UK authorities and we are exchanging information on Spain’s digital system and the trial happening at our airports in May.’

Spain is the UK’s most popular overseas destination with 18.1million people visiting the country from the UK in 2019.

The port city of Malaga in Spain’s Costa del Sol was easyJet’s top beach destination for British tourists in 2019.

The UK has earmarked May 17 as being the earliest date when international travel would be allowed for non-essential reasons following a winter lockdown, with a ‘traffic light system’ based on individual countries’ COVID risk levels.




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