Coronavirus news – live: Lockdown eases across England as Starmer warns border quarantine not tight enough

Coronavirus in numbers

A heatwave is forecast to hit the UK this week as Covid-19 restrictions in England are eased— more than three months after the country was plunged into its third lockdown.

Golfers teed-off at midnight using neon coloured balls and swimmers braved the cold for early morning dips as “the rule of six” returned on Monday.

Outdoors sports and leisure activities such as football and cricket pitches, tennis and basketball courts and outdoor swimming pools have also reopened. Organised team sport can also resume.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is reminding people to remain vigilant as the restrictions are lifted, warning that the pandemic is not yet over.

“Despite today’s easements, everyone must continue to stick to the rules, remember hands, face, space, and come forward for a vaccine when called,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer is urging Mr Johnson to tighten quarantine measures for travellers entering the UK to prevent derailing the roadmap out of lockdown.

The Labour leader called for a “comprehensive scheme of quarantine” as he pointed to third waves emerging in European countries such as France and Germany.

Monday’s easing of restrictions comes after the UK’s hugely successful vaccination programme reached 30m inoculations on Sunday. Moderna’s jab is expected to arrive in the UK from April.


Office for Health Promotion to be set up to tackle obesity and poor mental health

A new Office for Health Promotion will be formed to tackle obesity and poor mental health, as lockdown restrictions are eased and the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

My colleague Eleanor Sly reports:

Matt Mathers29 March 2021 15:30


Zero Covid deaths in Scotland for three consecutive days

No deaths of recent coronavirus patients have been recorded in Scotland for the third consecutive day, according to official figures.

The death toll under the Scottish government’s daily data measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7,584.

Previously, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has stressed the number of deaths registered over the weekend can be artificially low as register offices are generally closed then.

The latest data published by the Scottish government indicates there were 352 positive tests in the past 24 hours.

The daily test positivity rate is 3.2 per cent, up from 2.6 per cent on Sunday.

A total of 217,479 people in Scotland have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

There are 259 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down five in 24 hours, and, of these, 22 patients are in intensive care, no change on the previous day.

A total of 2,409,826 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 326,263 have received their second dose.

Matt Mathers29 March 2021 15:12


Northern Ireland’s mass vaccination centre hailed as ‘significant milestone’ in jab roll out

Northern Ireland’s mass vaccination centre has been hailed as a “significant milestone” in the fight against coronavirus.

The SSE Arena in Belfast will have the capacity to administer jabs to 40,000 people a week.

A slowdown in the UK’s vaccine supply lines will see the centre processing around 11,000 people a week initially, with the numbers ramping up as more AstraZeneca jabs become available.

The SSE will operate as a mass vaccination site for the whole of Northern Ireland.

Several regional centres will continue to administer vaccines, as will GP surgeries.

Matt Mathers29 March 2021 15:03


Sunseekers and swimmers enjoy lockdown easing

People enjoy the spring weather at St James’s Park in London.


14-month-old Stanley Wall is held by his mother Vickie Long in the pool at Hathersage outdoor swimming pool near Hope Valley


Matt Mathers29 March 2021 14:38


Households of immunosuppressed adults to get jab priority

Households of people with a weakened immune system are to be prioritised for Covid-19 jabs.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said people over the age of 16 who are living in a house with an adult with a weakened immune system – such as those with blood cancer, HIV or are having immunosuppressive treatment such as chemotherapy – will qualify for an early injection.

It is hoped the move will help to limit the spread to immunosuppressed adults, who have a weaker immune system and are less able to fight infections naturally.

The NHS in England has been told to offer jabs to this group after the government accepted the recommendation.

Matt Mathers29 March 2021 14:35


Ethiopia to get 300,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine, health minister says

Ethiopia on Monday said it would receive 300,000  vaccine doses from China’s state-backed China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) on Tuesday.

The Sinopharm doses are the first shots Ethiopia has secured outside the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative, health minister Lia Tadesse told Reuters.

Ethiopia is struggling to administer shots and tame infections that have spiked.

In the past month, it has recorded a 26 per cent increase in coronavirus infections and deaths rose by 18 per cent, health ministry data shows.

On Thursday, Africa’s disease control body, the Africa CDC, said Ethiopia had reported the highest number of new cases in the last week of any country on the continent.

Matt Mathers29 March 2021 14:30


Downing Street says UK doesn’t have spare vaccines to share

Britain does not currently have a surplus of Covid vaccines to share with other countries, but will consider how to distribute any future surplus if there is one, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Monday.

“Our first priority is to protect the British public, and the vaccine rollout is continuing to that end,” the spokesman told reporters. “We don’t currently have a surplus of vaccines, but we will consider how they are best allocated as they become available.”

Matt Mathers29 March 2021 14:13


Russia registers one-shot Sputnik Light vaccine

Russia’s health ministry has registered the one-shot Sputnik-Light version of its Covid-19 vaccine for use, the TASS news agency reported on Monday.

Russia said last week that it had completed clinical trials for the slimmed-down vaccine, which it has cast as a possible temporary solution to help countries with high infection rates make the vaccine go further.

Moscow has said that its two-dose Sputnik V vaccine will remain the main version used in Russia.

Matt Mathers29 March 2021 13:46


Roadmap to easing lockdown remains ‘on track’, No 10 says

Downing Street said that the road map to easing coronavirus restrictions remains “on track” with the government keeping the “relevant data and scientific evidence under review” ahead of the next step.

The prime minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “We remain on track to deliver the road map.

“And we will continue to keep the relevant data and scientific evidence under review as we now move towards 12 April, which as you know is step two.”

No 10 also said talks with the EU on vaccine supplies were ongoing and that “openness and global co-operation” were important in tackling the pandemic.

Samuel Osborne29 March 2021 13:32


Tougher quarantine measure needed, Sir Keir Starmer says

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said tougher quarantine measures were needed to prevent the lockdown-easing plan being derailed.

“It’s good we have got to this stage of lifting some of the restrictions, we have got to be cautious about it,” he told reporters on a local election campaign visit to Milton Keynes.

“I think the single biggest risk is, of course, what we are seeing happening in other countries where the numbers are still going up.

“One of my primary concerns is that, under the government’s scheme, only 1 per cent of those coming from abroad is quarantining. That seems wrong.

“We should have a comprehensive scheme of quarantine because that, it seems to me, is the single biggest threat to the progress that we are making.”

Our politics correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports:

Matt Mathers29 March 2021 13:17

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