Great Britain

Coronavirus UK news update – 16 cases of new Covid variant discovered as Rishi warns lockdown lift could be delayed

A NEW coronavirus variant has been identified as 16 cases were discovered in the UK.

Public Health England said 16 cases of a Covid strain known as VUI-202102/04 have been detected.

The variant has been designated a "variant under investigation", which means it will be closely monitored but surge testing won't be rolled out.

It is understood to be an evolution of the UK variant, containing the E484K mutation, and similar to the one found in Liverpool earlier this year.

This comes as Rishi Sunak hinted that the lifting of lockdown could be delayed for months beyond the highly anticipated June 21.

Speaking to Sky News during a visit to Teeside, the Chancellor revealed he extended his multi-billion furlough scheme until September because the current lockdown roadmap plan "might change".

"I wanted people to have the reassurance that we were 'going long', beyond the end of the road map, because of course things might change.

"Hopefully that won't happen, we are making great progress... Things will take a bit of time to get back to the way they were, so I think it is important to provide that extra cushion," he added.

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

  • COVID 'EPICENTRE' REVEALED

    England's latest Covid 'epicentre' has been revealed as shock stats show the Midlands dominates the list of the 20 worst-hit areas.

    Thirteen of the 20 areas with the highest coronavirus case rates across the country are now in that hard-hit region.

    Only Barnsley, Bolton, Preston, Bradford, Hull, Peterborough and Fenland make the list who are not in the Mids, according to  Public Health England.

    Top of the lot is North West Leicestershire, where 197.9 people out of every 100,000 caught the virus in the week leading up to February 28.

    Corby, in Northants, comes in second with a rate of 188.3 per 100,000, and Leicester, with 188 per 100,000, makes third place.

  • COVID HOSPITAL INPATIENTS DROPS BELOW 10,000

    The number of Covid hospital inpatients in England has finally dropped to levels seen in May. 

    Official data shows there are now less than 10,000 people in hospitals across the country with the disease.

    On March 3, 9,594 patients were recorded as the second wave continues to tail off.

    It’s the lowest since November 1, just before the second national lockdown, when inpatients stood at 9,623. 

    Coming out of the first wave, the level first dropped below 10,000 on May 10, when 9,893 inpatients were recorded.

  • MARK WRIGHT'S UNCLE DIED FROM COVID-19

    Former Towie star Mark Wright today said he has been left "broken to pieces" following the death of his uncle from coronavirus.

    Eddie Wright, who was also the father of Mark's cousin and fellow TOWIE star Elliott Wright, passed away on Tuesday.

    Eddie had lost his battle with the virus after eight weeks.

    "You’d have to be God to find a better man than my uncle. Put simply, you won’t," Mark posted on Elliot's tribute post.

    "I love you uncle Eddie, I’m never going to forget you. Broken to pieces."

  • WU WHAT?

    A team of World Health Organisation experts probing the origins of Covid-19 is scrapping a top level report on its recent mission to China, say reports.

    No reasons were apparently given for the decision to ditch the interim report but the move comes after a string of delays and a dramatic U-turn by the WHO.

    And after it was accused of "a whitewash" by saying it found Covid probably did not originate at the Wuhan wet market or from a state science lab leak.

    The much-heralded probe had been plagued by delays, concern over access and bickering between Beijing and Washington.

    Tensions were heightened when the US accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticised the terms of the WHO visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.

  • EXTRA STRAIN

    A new coronavirus variant has been identified in the UK, health bosses have revealed today.

    Public Health England said 16 cases of a Covid strain known as VUI-202102/04 have been detected.

    The variant has been designated a "variant under investigation", which means it will be closely monitored but surge testing won't be rolled out.

    It is understood to be an evolution of the UK variant, containing the E484K mutation, and similar to the one found in Liverpool earlier this year.

    But it doesn't feature the the N501Y mutation, found in all variants of concern (VOCs) such as the South African and Braziliant variants.

  • MOST LIKELY HOLIDAY SPOTS FOR BRITS

    Holiday abroad are yet to be given the go-ahead by the UK government, although it is hoped that they will resume from the summer.

    A number of countries are very keen to get Brits back, and are offering vaccine passport schemes and fewer travel restrictions to encourage people to return.

  • 'COVID ARM' CASES

    Moderna's vaccine can cause a painful reaction in the arm up to 11 days after the jab, experts have warned.

    The side effect, dubbed “Covid arm” has occurred in a small number of patients in the US.

    But they stressed that people with the harmless reaction should still get their second dose of the jab for optimal protection against Covid - around 95 per cent for the Moderna jab.

    A report in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that there had been at least 12 incidences of patients presenting with large marks on their arms after having the jab.

  • SLAP IN THE FACE FOR THE NHS

    NHS staff are expected to get just a 1 per cent pay rise next year.

    As part of measures to tighten the belt, pay rises across the public sector are to be paused from April, but NHS staff and the lowest paid will get a small, below-inflation rise.

    The Department of Health said in its submission to the annual pay review bodies that "the Government will need to take into account the challenging fiscal and economic context" with pay awards.

    It went on: "In settling the DHSC and NHS budget, the government assumed a headline pay award of 1% for NHS staff.

    "Anything higher would require re-prioritisation."

  • SIXTEEN CASES OF COVID VARIANT

    There have been sixteen cases of a new Covid variant identified by Public Health England after being first detected on February 15 through genomic horizon scanning.

    All individuals who tested positive and their contacts have been traced and advised to isolate, and the variant was designated a variant under investigation (VUI) on February 24, PHE said on Thursday.

    The variant is understood to have originated in the UK, and it contains the E484K mutation, which is also found in two existing VUIs present in the UK, but does not feature the N501Y mutation, present in all variants of concern (VOCs).

    The addition of this variant as a VUI means there are now a total of four VUIs and four VOCs currently being tracked in the UK.

  • DROP IN DEATHS

    Covid deaths in the UK have dropped by 26 per cent in a week as a further 242 fatalities were recorded today.

    And the total number of infections has reached 4,201,358 after 6,573 cases were reported in the last 24 hours.

    Today's daily death toll brings the grim total of Covid fatalities to 124,025.

    But along with the declining rate of daily deaths, the number of infections has dropped by 34 per cent in one week.

    Yesterday, 6,385 infections were recorded in 24 hours, along with a further 315 deaths.

  • SURGE TESTING IN TWO NEW AREAS IN ENGLAND

    Surge testing has been deployed to two new areas of England to stop the spread of the South Africa variant of coronavirus.

    Residents in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, and Brent, north west London, are urged to take up the offer of a test.

    Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help understand Covid-19 variants and their spread within those areas.

    A Department of Health statement said: "Working in partnership with the local authorities, additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed to targeted areas within Stockton-on-Tees (TS19) and Brent (North Wembley), where the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found.

  • NEW CARE HOME GUIDANCE CONFIRMS VISITING IS NOT CONDITIONAL ON BEING VACCINATED

    Friends and relatives who provide essential care to care home residents should be allowed to continue visiting if the home has a coronavirus outbreak unless there is a specific reason not to, new guidance says.

    Care homes in England should enable every resident to be visited indoors by a “single named visitor” from Monday who will be tested and wear protective equipment.

    These visitors will be allowed to hold hands with their friend or relative, but will be asked to minimise physical contact and should not hug or kiss them, to help reduce the chance of spreading Covid-19.

    The new visiting guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says visiting is not conditional on the resident or visitor having been vaccinated, but this is “strongly recommended”.

    The Government has also said residents with the highest care needs will be able to nominate a visitor to provide essential care or emotional support. This will happen in circumstances where “close contact personal care from a loved one is critical for the resident’s immediate health and wellbeing”.

  • POLICE AND INTELLIGENCE 'FOILED THREE TERROR ATTACKS IN PANDEMIC'

    Police and UK intelligence services have foiled three terror attacks since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Counter Terrorism Policing disclosed the information as Home Office figures showed the number of arrests for terrorism-related activity fell by 34% in 2020, the lowest level in nine years Despite this, the number of terror plots prevented has risen to 28 since March 2017, police said.

    Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, the senior national coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, said: "These statistics tell me two things.

    "Firstly, that despite facing unprecedented challenges brought about by the pandemic, Counter Terrorism Policing continued to keep the public safe by making 185 arrests across more than 800 live investigations, stopping three possible terror attacks in the process.

    "And secondly, that while the rest of us have been focused on protecting ourselves and our families from this terrible disease, terrorists have not stopped planning attacks or radicalising vulnerable people online."

  • COVID DEATHS PLUNGE BY 26% IN A WEEK WITH 242 FATALITIES AND 6,573 CASES IN PAST 24 HOURS

    Covid deaths in Britain have dropped by 26 per cent in a week as a further 242 fatalities were recorded today.

    And the total number of infections in Britain has reached 4,201,358 after 6,573 were reported in the last 24 hours.

    Read more here.

  • BREAKING: MARK DRAKEFORD SELF-ISOLATING AS A 'PRECAUTION'

    The Welsh Government said First Minister Mark Drakeford is self-isolating "as a precaution" after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.

    Mr Drakeford appeared before the Welsh Affairs Committee on Thursday from an outbuilding at the bottom of his garden, where he lived alone earlier during the pandemic when his wife and mother-in-law were shielding.

    A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "The First Minister is self-isolating as a precaution after being in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus."

  • MORE THAN 2.2M JABS GIVEN IN LONDON BETWEEN DECEMBER AND MARCH

    NHS England data shows a total of 2,239,161 jabs were given to people in London between December 8 and March 3, including 2,147,388 first doses and 91,773 second doses.

    This compares with 3,473,258 first doses and 115,627 second doses given to people in the Midlands, a total of 3,588,885.

    The breakdown for the other regions is:

    • East of England - 2,096,215 first doses and 83,972 second doses, making 2,180,187 in total
    • North East and Yorkshire - 2,738,543 first and 108,779 second doses (2,847,322)
    • North West - 2,326,546 first and 85,373 second doses (2,411,919)
    • South East - 2,867,324 first and 117,118 second doses (2,984,442)
    • South West - 2,047,313 first and 80,982 second doses (2,128,295)
  • 'I WANT TO BE HOME WITH MY FAMILY': OIL WORKERS CALL FOR QUARANTINE EXEMPTION

    Overseas workers in the oil and gas industry say they have been "completely forgotten about" in the UK's hotel quarantine rules.

    Gary Douglass, a rigging specialist from Sunderland, is among those working offshore in the United Arab Emirates, whose shift pattern of 28 days on, 28 days off means it is now effectively impossible for him to come home and see his family.

    "We've been completely forgotten about," he told the PA news agency.

    Mr Douglass, 51, was stuck overseas for seven months last year when the UAE closed its borders at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since they reopened he has been able to get home - but only for two weeks out of eight as he is required to quarantine for 10 days when he arrives in the UAE before he is allowed to travel out to the rig.

    Now the new rules for arrivals coming into the UK mean he is stuck abroad again as, if he returned home, by the time he finished quarantining he would effectively have to turn around and begin the two-day journey back to Dubai - as well as paying £1,750 every time.

  • THREE MEN HELD ON SUSPICION OF THEFT OF COVID-19 TESTS MEANT FOR SCHOOLS

    Police have arrested three men on suspicion of theft after "boxloads" of coronavirus tests destined for schools were stolen from a lorry.

    Essex Police said the lateral flow tests were stolen from Harlow Business Park in the early hours of Tuesday and were meant for secondary schools across the country.

    The force said the tests have been recovered.

    A 31-year-old from Canvey Island, a 27-year-old from Newham, east London, and a 37-year-old from Dagenham, east London, have been arrested on suspicion of theft.

Football news:

Saul, Jimenez, Torreira, Vitolo and Vrsalko may leave Atletico in the summer
Modric on the contract: Things are going well with the extension. I am happy at Real Madrid and I hope to be here next season
Neymar hit the crossbar and the post in the first half of the game against Bayern. The Germans lead 1-0
Raphael Leau: Milan is a great club and deserves to return to the Champions League
Shupo-Moting has scored 4 goals in his last 5 Champions League games. He has one goal in 18 Bundesliga games
Juventus wants to extend the loan of Morata for at least another season for 10 million euros
Milan wants to buy Tonali from Brescia