United Kingdom

Britain hits 400,000 daily Covid jabs

A record 400,000 Britons got their coronavirus vaccinations on Thursday as the NHS drive continues to gather steam.

The early figures - published ahead of the official update from the Department of Health later today - suggest thousands of jabs are being administered every hour, and mark the third day in a row the scheme has got faster.

The Government is aiming to get jabs into the arms of 15million in the most at risk groups by mid-February. This means they will need to inoculate about 350,000 a day, a target that was exceeded yesterday.

Overall, more than 5.3million Britons have been vaccinated against the virus.

The statistics will be updated later today to include all jabs done, but they area promising sign the rollout is being ramped up.

No10 today slapped down Tory calls for a 'road map' out of the national shutdown despite the R number dropping below the critical level of one while separate figures show cases have halved in a fortnight.

Downing Street defied mounting anger from MPs and more evidence the outbreak has peaked, warning the NHS is still under huge pressure and the curbs will only be lifted when it is 'safe.

Boris Johnson has pointedly refused to rule out the draconian restrictions lasting into the summer, while ministers seem focused on ramping up border controls and boosting bailouts.

But the Prime Minister is coming under massive pressure to lay out an exit timetable, with the 70-strong Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs urging the government to start lifting the lockdown no later than March 8 - when vaccines given to the most vulnerable groups should have taken effect.

It comes as the vaccination strategy was mired in confusion today amid claims that supplies to areas that have been quickest to inoculate the most vulnerable will be diverted to slower areas to allow them to catch up.

Britain's Covid vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi today denied the reports, but this afternoon No10 refused to deny that supplies could be redistributed. 

HOW INTENTION TO TAKE COVID VACCINE RISES WITH AGE

Older Britons are more likely to get the Covid vaccine than younger generations, according to data.

An Office for National Statistics survey published today revealed almost every adult aged 70 and over (98 per cent) would show up to their appointment.

But only eight in 10 of those aged between 16 and 29 said they would be inoculated against the virus. Overall 89 per cent of Britons said they would get the jab.

Older people are most at risk of death if they catch the virus, while younger people are more likely to only suffer mild symptoms.

The ONS survey also showed only one in 20 Britons, or five per cent, said they were very or fairly unlikely to get the vaccine.

And one in 100 respondents said they had already declined the jab, the equivalent of around half a million adults. 

Among adults who said they were unlikely to take the jab, the most common reason was being worried about potential long-term effects on their health (43 per cent).

A similar proportion (42 per cent) were concerned about potential side effects, and 40 per cent said they wanted to wait to see how well the vaccine works.

Around a quarter (26 per cent) said they do not think it will be safe.

Almost 5,000 Britons were questioned between January 13 and 17 as part of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey to understand the impact of Covid-19 on society.  

Early figures from NHS England published today show 359,897 people got either their first or second dose of the vaccine on January 21. 

In Wales almost 22,000 got their jab on the same day, while Scotland said it had inoculated 23,800.

No early figures were provided for Northern Ireland, but these will be revealed when the count is updated later today.

NHS England said overall it had completed 5,100,475 vaccinations by January 21, and of these 4,661,293 were for the first dose and 439,182 were for the second.

Public Health Wales said it had done 212,317 first doses since the scheme began, and 415 second doses.

And Public Health Scotland said 358,454 people had got their first dose by 8am on January 22, and 4,689 had got their second.

As the vaccination drive ramped up further today the Prime Minister refused to set out a timeline for getting out of England's third lockdown.

It came amid mounting signs that the second wave had already peaked.

In a dramatic sign that Britain's outbreak could be flattening out, SAGE today estimated the R rate was between 0.8 and 1. That is down sharply from last week, when it was between 1.2 and 1.3. The number represents how many people an infected individual passes the disease on to, and anything below one means the outbreak is shrinking.

Separate data show cases have halved in a fortnight, although a million people were infected, and deaths in London are falling. 

Mr Johnson is leading a press conference this evening, and is expected to take stock of the situation faced by the country. 

But there is little evidence the brutal squeeze will be loosened any time soon, despite grim figures showing business activity has plunged even more than expected during the lockdown this month, leaving the UK looking down the barrel of a double dip recession.

The Government borrowed more than £34billion in December - the third highest monthly total ever - as it scrambles to keep millions of jobs and stricken firms afloat while tax revenues dwindle.

Instead Cabinet ministers are embroiled in an unseemly squabble over whether to pump up financial support further and toughen rules at UK borders.

A leaked plan from Matt Hancock's Department of Health would see everyone who tests positive for coronavirus given £500 in cash to self-isolate.

The idea, which could cost half a billion pounds a week, is meant to bolster low levels of compliance - but officials at Rishi Sunak's Treasury branded it 'bonkers', while No10 effectively disowned the proposal, saying the PM had not seen it. 

NHS URGED TO RECOGNISE 'COVID TONGUE' AS SIGN OF CORONAVIRUS 

Professor Tim Spector, from King's College London, said he's seeing an increasing number of infected patients with sores on their tongue and unusual mouth ulcers

The NHS is being urged to recognise 'Covid tongue' as an official symptom of coronavirus amid fears it is becoming more widespread.

Professor Tim Spector, from King's College London, said he's seeing an increasing number of infected patients with sores on their tongue, unusual mouth ulcers and swollen tongues.

The epidemiologist, who is monitoring the UK crisis through his Covid symptom tracker app used by millions of Brits, warned one in five sufferers show symptoms the NHS doesn't recognise.

Professor Spector warned 20 per cent of infectious people may be slipping through the cracks and continuing to spread the disease because of it.

The NHS currently only lists three signs of the infection — a fever, continuous cough and loss of smell or taste. It suggests only people with these three symptoms may have Covid-19 and therefore should self-isolate and get tested.

This means Britons suffering from the virus' less common symptoms are not getting access to swabs and may be continuing to pass the virus to others.

The UK has repeatedly been accused of playing catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to spotting Covid-19 throughout the crisis.

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns of 11 primary symptoms, including fatigue, body aches, headache, sore throat and shortness of breath — but admits the virus can cause an array of other side effects.

It comes amid confusion over the vaccine strategy today after it was suggested vaccine supplies would be re-routed to areas struggling to keep up with the drive.

Britain's Covid vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi today denied reports that jabs are being diverted from the fasted parts of the North to areas lagging behind in the over-80s rollout, in order to even out a postcode lottery.

It came after a Labour MP that the region was being punished for reaching the most elderly Britons so far.

But this afternoon No 10 refused to deny that supplies could be redistributed. Asked to rule out cutting supplies to the best-performing area the Prime Minister's official spokesman would only say that the system had to be 'fair across the UK'.

Asked to comment on the report today, the No10 spokesman said: 'We will continue to ensure that all areas and regions of the UK receive the vaccine to ensure we can protect the most vulnerable in society.

'I would point to what Matt Hancock said yesterday where he said we have got to make sure vaccination is fair across the UK and some parts of the country, including parts of the North East and Yorkshire, have gone fast early on.

'He also said why we're putting more vaccine into areas that haven't made as much progress, so everyone in the top four groups can receive the offer of a vaccine by February 15.

'We've always said that we will prioritise those first four cohorts, which is why we set the mid-February target.

'But it remains the case that areas of the UK will continue to receive doses of the vaccine.'

'We have less vaccine because supply remains a challenge. Yorkshire as I said to local BBC tonight will get its allocation to be able to meet the target of offering the most vulnerable by mid-February.'

He issued the stark rebuttal after Jon Trickett, Labour's MP for Hemsworth, West Yorkshire, accused Number 10 of 'punishing' Yorkshire for its rapid vaccination drive.

'Why do we have to be held back? I don't get it,' Mr Trickett told the Yorkshire Post.

'Once again, the North has excelled and once again the North is being punished for problems in the South.'

Yorkshire and the North East are leading the race after getting first doses to 64 per cent of over-80s, followed by the North West at 60 per cent and South West at 57 per cent.

The Health Service Journal reported that ministers would divert vaccine supplies from areas leading the race to regions lagging behind.

The publication reported that GPs in both the North East and Yorkshire would only receive half of their usual vaccine supply - around 100,000 instead of 200,000.

BRITONS WHO REFUSE COVID-19 VACCINE WON'T BE PROTECTED BY NEIGHBOURS

Pictured, the impact on R rate for various vaccination scenarios, herd immunity is only achieved if R is kept below 1

Britons who refuse to take coronavirus vaccines will not enjoy protection even if their neighbours are immunised, scientists warned today.

University of East Anglia experts yesterday claimed the current crop of Covid jabs will never allow Britain to reach 'herd immunity' - when so many people are immune to a virus that it can't spread and eventually fizzles out.

The research found the efficacy of current vaccines, combined with the emergence of more infectious variants of the virus, meant keeping the R below one without lockdown restrictions could become impossible.

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert who led the study, said today people shouldn't count on getting default protection from their neighbours, as he urged everyone who is eligible for the jabs to take them. 

He said vaccines would allow a return to 'near-normal' life for large parts of society, but those who refuse the jab would not be protected. 

The 10 per cent of Brits who are not vaccinated against measles, for example, enjoy protection through herd immunity - although there are still flare ups of the infectious disease in communities where uptake is not that high.

Experts now believe Covid will become a seasonal virus that we have to learn to live with forever, like flu. 

Professor Hunter told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'The rolling out the vaccine is going to make a huge difference and going to enable us to relax many of the restrictions that we're under at the moment and, certainly as we're moving into spring when the better weather comes along, that'll considerably help - 'but I think there are two key issues.

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