Coronavirus latest news: Matt Hancock hails ‘happy and free Great British summer’ as UK vaccine roll-out takes off

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he hopes for a “Great British Summer” as the UK’s vaccine roll-out picks up speed. 

“In six months we’ll be in the middle, I hope, of a happy and free Great British summer – I have a high degree of confidence that by then the vast majority of adults will have been vaccinated,” he told BBC Politics East.

According to the latest Government figures, the more than 8.4 million people have received their first dose of the vaccine, while 480,432 have had their second dose.

The UK currently has one of the highest levels of vaccine coverage, along with Israel and the UAE, but many poorer countries are yet to start any immunisations.

On Saturday, the World Health Organisation urged the UK to pause its vaccination programme once vulnerable groups have received their jabs to help ensure the global rollout is fair.

WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has repeatedly called for equitable distribution of vaccines and warned that a “me first” approach would prolong the pandemic, as well as human and economic suffering.

Follow the latest updates below.

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‘You can’t forget the hissing noise of oxygen’: 12 months on the coronavirus frontlines

When sailors return from long journeys at sea, the sensation of being rocked around on the waves lingers long after stepping ashore. For doctors on the coronavirus front line, it’s the tinnitus-like thrum of oxygen support systems which outlasts each shift.

“Ask anybody in this hospital to describe what Covid sounds like and it’s the hissing of high flow oxygen,” Dr Marc Mendelson tells The Telegraph from his office in the infectious diseases department at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa.

“These machines make a hiss, and that stays with you. It’s almost like being on a boat and feeling a bit motion sick. When you leave those wards you can still hear it.”

This weekend marks a year since the World Health Organization designated the spread of the new coronavirus as a global health emergency – the highest warning level under international law. 

Jordan Kelly-Linden and Sarah Newey spoke to health workers across the world to reflect on the last 12 months


Philippines expects 5.6 million vaccine doses to arrive by end-March 

At least 5.6 million Covid-19 doses of two international vaccines are expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first quarter of the year, the chief of the country’s coronavirus task force said on Sunday.

The initial volume is part of the 9.4 million doses of the two vaccines – one developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, the other by AstraZeneca- that are expected to be shipped in the first half, said Carlito Galvez, who also handles the government’s vaccine procurement.

Galvez said he has received a letter from Aurelia Nguyen, managing director of the World Health Organization-led CovaxFacility, informing the Philippine government of the shipment schedule and volume.

Review committees from the WHO, Unicef and the Geneva-based vaccine alliance GAVI granted the country the vaccines after the Philippines demonstrated its preparedness to receive them, he said.

The country’s Food and Drug Administration has approved the emergency use of both brands.


‘No disruption’ to UK’s Pfizer supply

The UK’s international trade secretary, Liz Truss, says the EU has guaranteed there will be no disruption to Pfizer vaccines being supplied to the UK from within the EU despite the EU’s threat of export controls on vaccines produced within the bloc.

Asked if she could absolutely guarantee the Belgium-made Pfizer jabs would not be disrupted, she told BBC One’s the Andrew Marr Show:

“Yes, I can. The prime minister has spoken to the president of the European Commission, she has assured him that there will be no disruption of contracts that we have with any producer in the EU.”


Slow and cautious approach to lifting lockdonw

Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins warned that relaxing lockdown measures would have to be done “very slowly, very cautiously” to avoid a surge in infections.

“We have learnt, as we did on the first occasion, we have to relax things really quite slowly, so that if cases start to increase we can clamp down quite fast,” she told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show.

“The NHS is going to be under pressure until the end of March, as normal in winter, but even more so with the amount of inpatients they still have with Covid-19.

“Any releases that we have will have to happen very slowly, very cautiously, watching and waiting as we go, with a two-week period to watch and see the impact of that relaxation because it takes that to see what’s happening in the population.”


UK can have a ‘1948 moment’ post-pandemic

Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK can have a “1948 moment” in rebuilding the country after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Asked whether he thinks Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is a threat to the Conservatives, he said: “I think he’s a very serious threat, a much bigger threat than we’ve had for many years, indeed since Tony Blair, I would definitely say that, yes.

“On the other hand, this could be a very exciting period for this country and if you look at what is, I think, generally recognised as the most successful Labour government since the war, the Attlee government, they were running the country in a period after a great crisis, the second World War.

“They showed enormous imagination in the setting-up of the NHS in 1948. I think we could turn this into a 1948 moment for the country as we come out of this crisis by completely reforming the social care system, giving it a proper 10-year plan, sorting out the workforce issues in the NHS, getting our cancer survival rates to the levels of France and Germany.

“I think sometimes there are opportunities in these terrible crises and if we grasp those opportunities, Boris Johnson really can show the country that we are the party of the NHS, which is something I know he very much wants to do.”


Results of UK vccine programme to become clear over next two weeks

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at Public Health England (PHE), said experts expect to see an impact of the coronavirus vaccine on the over-80s over the next two weeks.

Asked if there was evidence the vaccination programme was beginning to reduce infections, she told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are seeing declines in all age groups at the moment.

“We’re starting to see declines in the over-70s and over-80s. It’s a bit early to say whether those declines are directly related to the vaccine.

“What we would like to see is a divergence in the case rate in the over-70s and over-80s who have been vaccinated from the younger age groups, to show that they are declining faster.

“We have now hit 80% of the over-80s being vaccinated and really fast numbers climbing in the under 80-year-old age group as well.

“We expect over the next two weeks to start seeing that impact of that vaccine in that age group, and also an impact on hospitalisation.”


JCVI may recommend vaccine mix and match to avoid second dose delay

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI, said they are advising people should have a second dose of another vaccine, rather than no second dose, if supply issues make it impossible to have two doses of the same medicine.

He told BBC Breakfast: “The key thing at the moment from the JCVI perspective is to try and get the same vaccine for the second dose as the first dose.

“We are recommending a second dose because that’s important for long-term protection and it will be interesting to see on the supply side whether we can deliver that.

“If we can’t deliver that, JCVI advice is that it’s better to have a second dose of a different vaccine than no second dose at all, and there’s no theoretical reason why you can’t mix vaccines, just the studies are ongoing at the moment.”


Government ‘confident’ in UK vaccine supply

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has said he is “confident” of the UK’s vaccine supply.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We’re progressing extremely well in the number of vaccines in this country, we’ve had 8.3 million first doses so far.

“The Government have ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and 40 million of the Pfizer vaccine, both of which we’re giving out at the moment.

“These vaccines aren’t easy to manufacture, it’s a complicated process involving a lot of batch testing and supply chains, there are bound to be some bumps along the road.

“I’m quite confident the vaccine taskforce has ordered so many millions of doses of different vaccines that we can keep the supply going.”


Vulnerable people will die if other groups are bumped up the priority list

International Development Secretary Liz Truss has suggested more in the most vulnerable group of citizens could die if teachers are moved up the vaccination priority list.

There have been calls for teachers to be vaccinated before schools return, but after those in the four most vulnerable groups have received jabs, which is anticipated by mid-February.

Asked if teachers should be moved up the priority list, she told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “The issue is that for every person you vaccinate who isn’t in the most vulnerable group, that’s somebody in the most vulnerable group who isn’t getting their vaccine and who is more likely to die in the next few weeks and months.

“I just don’t think that’s right. That’s the decision made by the independent committee that we are going to vaccinate first the over-70s and those in the most vulnerable group, and then the over 50s.”


UK condemns vaccine nationalism 

International trade secretary Liz Truss has said that vaccine nationalism must be resisted.

She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge programme: “What we know about the vaccination programme is this is a global problem and we need a global solution.

“We’re only going to be able to deal with this disease if we get everybody vaccinated across the world.

“It’s vital we work together, it’s vital we keep borders open and we resist vaccine nationalism, and we resist protectionism.

“I’ve been working with my fellow trade ministers to make that happen. We’re pleased that the EU admitted that the Article 16 … for the border in Ireland was a mistake and they are now not proceeding with that.

“But, fundamentally, the way we’re going to get through this crisis is working together and I’m very pleased that the UK is leading the way.”


‘Too early’ to say what UK will do with excess vaccine 

International trade secretary Liz Truss said the UK wants to work with developing countries in beating Covid-19.

Ms Truss was asked about whether vaccines could be given to other countries when all people in the UK are vaccinated.

She said: “The UK has led in terms of things like the Covax programme, we’ve created the Oxford vaccine, which is a relatively low-cost, easy-to-deploy vaccine.”

Ms Truss continued: “Of course, we first need to make sure that our population is vaccinated. We have a target to get the most vulnerable vaccinated by mid-February.

“It’s a bit too early to say about how we would deploy ‘XX’ vaccine, but we certainly want to work with friends and neighbours, we want to work with developing countries because we’re only going to solve this issue once everybody in the world is vaccinated.

“We’re also working to keep trade flowing, which is really important, keep tariffs low or eliminated on medical goods and supplies so that we can make sure that all the world benefits from the expertise here in the United Kingdom.”


Covax scheme tipped for Nobel Peace Prize

he WHO and its Covax programme to secure fair access to Covid-19 vaccines for poor countries and the Gavi vaccine alliance, which works to increase immunisation in poor countries, are among nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, according to a Reuters survey of Norwegian lawmakers. 

Last year’s winner of the prize, the result of which is rarely as predicted, was the World Food Programme.


South Africa to receive extra 20 million vaccines, paper says 

South Africa has secured an additional 20 million coronavirus vaccines manufactured by Pfizer, national newspaper The Sunday Times reported on Sunday, citing an interview with the health minister.

The country has been one of the slowest among major emerging market nations to secure enough vaccines for the majority of its population and is due to begin administering first shots next month.

The extra doses would potentially push total supply secured by the continent’s worst-hit country above 40 million. South Africa has recorded more than 1.4 million cases of Covid-19 with close to 44,000 deaths.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told the Sunday Times: “These vaccines are secured and awaiting manufacturers to submit final agreements with details of delivery dates and exact amounts.”


South Korea to extend restrictions after schools outbreak

South Korea will extend its social distancing curbs by two weeks until the end of the Lunar New Year holidays as new infection clusters emerge in the country, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said on Sunday.

The announcement dashed earlier expectations that the government would ease the rules from the current highest levels, which include a restaurant curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than four people and have been in place since early December.

But health authorities decided to maintain the curbs after a new large outbreak emerged from missionary training schools across the country last week, reversing a recent downtrend in daily infections ahead of the Lunar New Year break, which begins on Feb. 11.

People walk by an advertisement for a hair salon along a shopping street in Seoul

People walk by an advertisement for a hair salon along a shopping street in Seoul



Pakistan set to get AstraZeneca, Sinopharm shots

Pakistan’s planning minister says the country will receive 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under the WHO’s COVAX Facility, out of which up to 7 million would arrive by March.

Asad Umar in his Saturday night tweet said also a plane is being sent to China to bring the first tranche of half a million doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine – enough to inoculate 250,000 out of 400,000 health workers.

He said the rest of the AstraZeneca vaccine would be delivered in the second half of the year.

Dr. Faisal Sultan, the prime minister’s special aide on health, said the vaccination will start next week.


Australian city in lockdown after quarantine hotel worker tests positive

 The Australian city of Perth was ordered into lockdown on Sunday after a security guard working in hotel quarantine tested positive for Covid-19, ending the country’s longest coronavirus-free run.

From Sunday evening until Friday, people in the city of 2 million must stay home, except for essential work, healthcare, grocery shopping or exercise, with visits to hospitals and nursing homes banned, said Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan.

Australia’s fourth-most populous city had recorded no cases of the virus for 10 months, and Australia just hours earlier had announced 14 days without a locally acquired infection.

Shoppers line up outside Coles Supermarket in North Perth

Shoppers line up outside Coles Supermarket in North Perth



Protesters disrupt vaccination site in LA 

Protesters briefly disrupted a coronavirus vaccination distribution center at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, US media reported on Saturday.

Several dozen people carrying signs demanding the end of lockdowns and promoting anti-vaccination conspiracy theories gathered at the entrance to the site, one of the largest in the US, social media posts showed.

“There appears to be only about 30 protesters total. It’s not clear why they’ve shut off the whole facility,” tweeted social media user Mikel Jollet.

Officials shut the site down for nearly an hour, US media reported, citing fire department officials – though the Los Angeles police department later insisted that the site had not been shut down and that all the vaccines would be distributed.

Protesters holding placards near entrance of vaccination center at Dodger Stadium

Protesters holding placards near entrance of vaccination center at Dodger Stadium



WHO teams visits Wuhan food market in search of virus clues

A World Health Organisation team looking into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday visited a market known to be the food distribution center for the Chinese city of Wuhan during the 76-day lockdown last year.

The team members were seen walking through sections of the Baishazhou market – one of the largest wet markets in Wuhan – surrounded by a large entourage of Chinese officials and representatives.

The members, with expertise in veterinarian, virology, food safety and epidemiology, have so far visited two hospitals at the center of the early outbreak – Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital and the Hubei Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine Hospital.

On Saturday, they also visited a museum exhibition dedicated to the early history of Covid-19.

Read more: WHO mission a ‘really big step forward’ to understand Covid-19 origins, team members say

A worker in protective overall passes by a warehouse at the Baishazhou wholesale market during a visit by the World Health Organisation

A worker in protective overall passes by a warehouse at the Baishazhou wholesale market during a visit by the World Health Organisation



Mexico’s president still has ‘mild case’ of virus

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continues to be only mildly affected by Covid-19, an official said on Saturday, a day after the Mexican leader broadcast a video informing the public that his health was improving.

Ricardo Cortes, a senior health ministry official, told a regular evening news conference that Mr Lopez Obrador still had a “mild case” of Covid-19 and noted the president had almost reached the half-way mark of his isolation phase.

Mr Lopez Obrador announced he had Covid-19 late on Sunday, since when he has withdrawn from his regular public schedule.


Most Australian Open players and their entourages out of quarantine

The Australian Open quarantine facilities are still holding 15 people, including one player and two others who tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in their lockdown, Melbourne health authorities said on Sunday.

The vast majority of the more than 1,000 players and their entourages undergoing 14 days of isolation in Melbourne and Adelaide were released by midnight on Saturday and have started preparing for the Grand Slam.

Spain’s Paula Badosa was the only player to have confirmed that she tested positive for Covid-19 in Melbourne, restarting the clock on her mandatory period of isolation.

Victoria on Sunday reported no local transmission of the virus for the 29th straight day and Australian Open tournament chief Craig Tiley said the priority for his organisation remained the health of the local community.

“No one is coming out of quarantine unless it is absolutely proved that they are not incubating the virus,” he said on ABC TV on Sunday.

Japan's Naomi Osaka during a training session in Melbourne 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka during a training session in Melbourne 



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