Covid UK: Daily Covid deaths HALVE in a week to 56 while new cases fall 25% to 4040
Britain’s daily Covid death toll has halved in a week, official figures revealed today amid mounting calls for Boris Johnson to lift lockdown restrictions quicker.
Department of Health bosses posted 56 lab-confirmed fatalities and another 4,040 coronavirus cases — down 25 per cent on last Tuesday.
It comes after the Office for National Statistics today revealed Britain had crossed the grim milestone of 150,000 deaths from the virus since the start of the pandemic. As many as 150,116 death certificates registered between when the pandemic first reached Britain and March 19 have mentioned the virus.
Covid deaths have, however, been in a downward spiral since the second wave peaked in January when there were almost 1,500 virus victims being recorded daily. For comparison, the figure has now dropped below 100.
England eased lockdown rules yesterday to allow groups of six people from two different households to meet. But the relaxation today prompted warnings as Brits flocked to parks and beaches, with temperatures soaring beyond 75F (24C) on the country’s hottest March day in more than half a century.
Police have already been forced to ban drinking in parks in Nottingham, while tourism bosses in Devon, Cornwall and Cumbria urged people to stay away and only take trips when it is ‘safe and legal’.
Boris Johnson is hoping the mass vaccination drive — which has jabbed more than 30million Britons — will fend off any further waves of the virus. And ONS data today revealed more than half of people in England now have Covid antibodies thanks to the mass roll-out and natural immunity from previous infection.
Promising statistics show Covid deaths in England and Wales have dipped below 1,000 for the first time since October. Deaths from all causes – including dementia, heart disease and the virus, also remained below average
Hundreds of people flock to Woodhouse Moor in Leeds today as they make the most of the warm weather conditions
The beautiful conditions brought the crowds down to Brighton beach this afternoon as they enjoyed the hot weather
GERMAN HOSPITALS BLOCK ASTRAZENECA JABS FOR UNDER-60S
AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine is safe and there’s still no proof it causes blood clots, a British scientist said today after parts of Germany banned the jab again.
Berlin, Munich and the eastern state of Brandenburg have stopped giving the vaccine to under-60s and Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to make a statement tonight.
Hospitals in the major cities made the controversial move on their own after hearing about cases of blood clots in women who had received the jab.
British MPs called today’s decisions ‘ludicrous’ and said they ‘reek of total confusion’, adding that regulators have repeatedly said the jab is safe and the rollout is urgent.
It is the latest in a string of European grievances with the vaccine, which first saw countries including Germany refuse to use it for elderly people when they claimed it didn’t work, and has now seen it banned for young people over safety concerns.
But the European Medicines Agency investigated the issue this month and found no evidence the vaccine raised the risk of blood clots, agreeing with the UK and the World Health Organization that Covid is more dangerous and the jab must be used.
German health officials hinged today’s fears on 31 cases of a rare brain blood clot among 2.7million recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 29 of the cases were in women aged 20 to 63 and nine people died.
Scientists insist the risk of blood clots is no higher than in the general population but Canada has also pressed ahead with a surprise ban on giving it to under-55s.
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, said: ‘There is no evidence that there is a problem but even if there was then you’re reducing what, at worst, is a tiny risk and imposing a bigger one by not giving people the protection of a vaccine.’
He added that people who were more worried about the minute possibility of a blood clot than they were of Covid-19 ‘have their priorities all wrong’.
Amid the second day of meetings in groups of six:
EU chief Urusla von der Leyen allegedly refused to sign plea from world leaders for new global treaty to foster global preparations for future pandemics;
German hospitals ban AstraZeneca jabs for under-60s over blood clot fears after Canada also blocks jab;
President Macron believes he is such an expert on Covid he no longer needs scientific advice, claim colleagues working for the French leader;
WHO health chief admits China withheld data when it visited the country to track the origins of the virus;
Figures show Brazil Covid death rate tripled among those in their 20s as dangerous new variant took hold;
British tourists are warned they will need to wear face masks while sunbathing on the beach in Spain;
Airlines call for rapid Covid tests to be used to allow international travel this summer because ‘they work just as well as hotel quarantine’;
Booze-filled students are filmed brawling in Nottingham as many enjoy first days of Rule of Six.
Department of Health figures showed 43 local authorities in England were recording fewer than 20 cases per 100,000 residents by the week to March 25, the latest available.
The lowest infection rates were in the Orkney Islands and the Cotswolds, which both registered 4.5 cases for every 100,000 people in the most recent seven-day spell.
And the highest rates were in Corby (235.4), West Lothian (170.9) and Rotherham (169.2).
It comes after ONS figures for deaths linked to Covid by the date of death, as opposed to when it was registered, showed the UK has now suffered more than 150,000 fatalities from the virus.
Of these more than a third — 55,407 — have occurred since the start of January when the second wave was at its peak.
Other measures of Covid deaths published by the ONS including registrations — when deaths are officially recorded — are yet to cross this threshold.
The ONS publishes weekly coronavirus fatality counts after going through death certificates to identify those that mention the virus, leading to a delay of up to two weeks in their figures. Their count includes both suspected and confirmed Covid deaths.
The Department of Health, however, publishes daily death tolls from the virus based on people who die within 28 days of testing positive. Its death toll stands at 126,615.
The UK has the world’s fifth highest coronavirus death toll, behind only the US (550,000), Brazil (314,000), Mexico (202,000) and India (162,114), according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.
It also has the highest toll from the virus so far in Europe.
The same weekly ONS figures also showed England and Wales saw fewer than 1,000 deaths linked to the virus in the week ending March 19. It was the first time fatalities were in triple figures since the week ending October 12, when there were 978 fatalities.
There were 10,331 deaths from all causes — including dementia, heart disease and the virus — in the latest week, which was more than 800, or 8 per cent, below the five-year average for the number expected at this time of year.
Among care home residents, deaths linked to the virus halved in two weeks, after 195 were recorded in the seven days to March 19 compared to the 467 registered in the first week of the month.
And deaths from all causes among the residents were 30 per cent below the five-year average, after 2,126 were recorded compared to the 2,891 expected.
Statisticians calculate the five-year average to reveal whether more or fewer people are dying at a particular time of year than expected, highlighting when there is a spike in fatalities.
Experts have warned deaths will likely dip below the five-year average for weeks because the virus has caused more people to die earlier than they would have, had they not become infected.
All regions of England recorded fewer deaths from all causes than expected at this time of year, with the sharpest dip in the East of England (-14.5 per cent below average or 175 fewer deaths).
London had the second-sharpest dip (-11.3 per cent or 117 deaths), followed by the South West (-9.4 per cent or 116 deaths), North East (-8.1 per cent or 46 deaths) and the East Midlands (-6.8 per cent or 65 deaths).
The number of deaths from all causes has remained below the number expected for the second week in a row. Statisticians said this was possible because more people have died earlier than expected due to the virus
All regions in England and Wales recorded fewer deaths than the five-year average in the week to March 19
Deaths among care home residents linked to the virus have also halved in two weeks, figures showed. There were 195 recorded in the week to March 19, the most recent available
KENT COVID VARIANT IS NOT DEADLIER THAN THE ORIGINAL STRAIN
The Kent coronavirus variant is not more deadly than the original strain, an official study has found.
Public Health England’s analysis of more than 5,500 Covid patients in the second wave found there was ‘no difference’ in mortality rates between the strains in the month after getting infected.
However, the agency discovered people who caught the Kent B.1.1.7 variant were a third more likely to need hospital treatment than those infected with the older version, though the risk remained tiny for the majority of people.
Among the researchers behind the study were ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, the SAGE scientist whose gloomy forecasts of the first wave plunged the country into its first shutdown, and Dr Susan Hopkins, one of PHE’s chief epidemiologists.
The finding comes just months after No10 used a dramatic press conference to warn the public the Kent variant was at least 30 per cent deadlier.
Ministers claimed their shock announcement in January was justified because eight independent studies submitted to SAGE had pointed to increased lethality.
But the Government was accused of jumping the gun before there was hard proof and scaremongering the public into complying with the third lockdown.
It is hard to compare death rates between the first and second waves, to measure the impact of the different variants, because many people weren’t tested in the first wave, meaning the ratio of infections to deaths is wrong.
Independent scientists told MailOnline today the latest PHE study was an ‘outlier’ and pointed out that several other recent studies had concluded B.1.1.7 was more deadly.
Dr Simon Clarke, cellular microbiologist at Reading University, said: ‘As things stand, this paper is in the minority, it’s an outlier.’
He also questioned the finding that the variant increases hospital risk but not mortality, adding: ‘I don’t see how that could make sense.’
It comes as police were forced to ban alcohol in parks in Nottingham, while tourism bosses in Devon, Cornwall and Cumbria urged people to stay away.
Among the most packed locations in England today was Woodhouse Moor in the Hyde Park area of Leeds, with hundreds of people flocking to the site, near a main student hub in the city. One local resident said: ‘There’s hundreds here – literally hundreds. People have barbecues going on. It’s really frustrating, to be honest.
‘I get it, it’s 20C and people want to enjoy the weather, but we’re literally a few weeks away from lockdown ending. Can they not just wait? It’s been busy since around 12pm, but within the last hour or so, it’s become rammed full.’
But one student, who was sunbathing on a quieter side of the park, said: ‘I mean it’s fair enough, you can’t really blame people for coming out and enjoying the sun. But I mean, it is pretty packed but what are you supposed to do? You can’t sit at home when it’s like this. It was always going to happen with weather like this.’
Up to six people or two households of any size are now allowed to meet outdoors in England after the rules were relaxed yesterday – and most Britons in parks across the nation were abiding by the rules in the sunshine today.
But after large crowds blatantly broke the rules last night in Nottingham and left huge amounts of litter, police in the city said alcohol would be seized from anyone entering parks there and a dispersal order was imposed.
Furious local councillor David Mellen said a selfish minority had abused the easing of restrictions at Nottingham Arboretum following a series of brawls yesterday, criticising people for ‘acting so thoughtlessly and recklessly’.
There were also concerns over more chaotic scenes in Bristol tonight as police warned Kill The Bill protesters against further violence ahead of another demonstration which is expected to take place in the city.
The warmest conditions today were in South East England, which was on a par with the Spanish holiday island of Majorca, as people enjoyed the newfound freedom of being allowed to meet up in groups of up to six outdoors.
Kew Gardens in West London hit 76.1F (24.5C) at about 4pm – making today Britain’s warmest day of 2021 so far by some distance, smashing the record set only yesterday eight miles away at St James’s Park of 68.7F (20.4C).
The mercury last got above 73F (23C) in 2012 and 75F (24C) in 1968 – a year which also saw the all-time record of 78.1F (25.6C) set in Mepal, Cambridgeshire, on March 29, 1968, in records dating back to 1884.
It comes after a dramatic diurnal range – the difference between low and high temperatures in a day – this morning as the mercury rose by 37.1F (20.6C) in four hours in Suffolk – from 29.1F (-1.6C) at 7am to 66.2F (19C) by 11am.
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