BRITAIN’S official coronavirus R rate has crept up again this week and could be as high as 1 in one of the UK’s hotspot areas.
The R rate – which represents the number of people an infected person will pass Covid onto – is between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK, Sage said today.
This is slightly up from last weeks estimate which was between 0.6 and 0.9.
Infections are rising in the North East and Yorkshire, with Sage also stating that this area has the highest R rate in the country, of 0.7 to 1.
It comes as Portugal joins Cyprus and Greece in pledging to reopen its borders to sun seekers from the UK in just over two months’ time.
Under the PM’s roadmap out of lockdown Brits will be prevented from travelling abroad for holidays until mid-May.
But a number of Mediterranean countries are already working on plans to bring back tourism from the UK as soon as it’s allowed.
Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic…
DOUBLE CHECK SCHOOL TEST RESULTS, EXPERT WARNS
Professor Sheila Bird, a member of the Royal Statistical Society, said every positive quick-result test of a school pupil should be checked with a PCR test to ensure it is accurate.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the likelihood of a false positive reading from a lateral flow test, she said: “Very likely.
“In the present circumstances when infection incidence is low, the false positive rate with lateral flow tests remains to be absolutely determined in the context of schools but may be between one and three per 1,000 children.
“So to differentiate a false positive from a true positive is to do that PCR confirmation.”
The San Diego Zoo has vaccinated nine great apes against Covid.
A number of gorillas reportedly fell ill with the virus at the zoo’s safari park.
Now, a number of the animals have been given a jab.
Surge testing has been deployed in London after the patient who contracted the Brazilian variant was finally found, Matt Hancock has said.
The Health Secretary said the patient with the strain lived in a household that had recently returned from Brazil and that testing was being rolled out in Croydon to “minimise the risk of it spreading”.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference last night he said patient X had been found due to the “dogged determination” of Test and Trace teams.
GETTING THE JAB DONE
More than 290million coronavirus vaccine doses have now been administered worldwide.
The UK along has given out more than 18m first doses of the jab.
1 IN 3 STILL DONT HAVE SYMPTOMS
Around one in three people still don’t have symptoms of Covid, and are passing it on to others.
It is hoped widespread testing will help bring the number of Covid deaths and infections down over the coming weeks.
Numbers in the UK have already fallen by a third in a week with 236 fatalities and 5,947 cases recorded in the last 24 hours.
It is the biggest week-on-week drop since the second wave peak of the pandemic. Last Friday, 8,523 cases and 346 deaths were reported.
ALL WORKING BRITS TO GET TESTED
All Brits who have to go into work and can’t stay home are now able to get rapid result Covid tests, it was confirmed last night.
Previously only businesses who had more than 50 employees were able to get their hands on lateral flow tests, but this is being expanded.
The UK is now testing 2.8million people every week, Matt Hancock revealed last night.
And this number is set to increase as kids going to school and their families will be able to get tests twice a week from March 8 when pupils return to the classroom.
LOVE ISLAND STAR ‘COULD CRY’ OVER PM MENTAL HEALTH PLEDGE
Dr Alex George said he could “actually cry” as he celebrated £79 million being approved for youth mental health.
The former Love Island star was recently appointed Youth Mental Health Ambassador by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as he’s set to advise the government on young people’s mental wellbeing.
Dr Alex announced the government has now approved a significant amount of money to help fund many of the mental health services in this country which look after young people.
It includes the Mental Health Support Team for schools, as well as the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.
ITALY 2020 DEATH TOLL HIGHEST SINCE WW2
Italy registered more deaths in 2020 than in any other year since World War Two.
New data suggests Covid-19 caused thousands more fatalities than were officially attributed to it.
Total deaths in Italy last year amounted to 746,146, statistics bureau ISTAT said, an increase of 100,525, or 15.6 per cent, compared with the average of the 2015-2019 period.
PM ‘MISLED PARLIAMENT OVER COVID CONTRACTS’
Boris Johnson misled parliament over the publication of coronavirus contracts, a court order appears to show.
The prime minister had claimed that the contracts, which are subject to a legal challenge and cronyism allegations, were “there on the record for everybody to see”.
But a final order handed down by the High Court on Friday said the government had in fact only published “608 out of 708 relevant contracts”.
ANTI-VAX BOOKS ON AMAZON
Anti-vaccination books are being sold on Amazon and on Waterstones and Foyles websites.
People are calling for warnings on items to combat the spread of misinformation.
Top-selling books on Amazon include Anyone Who Tells You Vaccines Are Safe And Effective Is Lying, and Vaccine-nation: Poisoning The Population, One Shot At A Time.
Sky News report the number of customer reviews and ratings on books like these show there has been a big increase in purchases since the pandemic began.
ONE MILLION BRITS HAVE SECOND JAB
More than one million Brits have now had their second Covid vaccine dose in a huge milestone for the NHS.
45,045 extra second jabs dished out in England yesterday pushed the extraordinary total to 1,008,907.
Thousands more Brits are now protected against catching Covid or getting seriously ill from the bug.
The UK’s jabs rollout has been hugely successful, with more than 21million having had their first inoculation.
13 PLACES WHERE COVID CASES ARE RISING
Cases of Covid-19 are still rising in 13 places in England and this interactive map reveals if your area is on the list.
R RATE UP AGAIN
Britain’s official R rate has crept up again this week and could be as high as 1 in one of the UK’s hotspot areas.
The R rate – which represents the number of people an infected person will pass Covid-19 onto – is between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK, Sage said today.
This is slightly up from last weeks estimate which was between 0.6 and 0.9.
UK COVID DEATHS PLUNGE 32%
The number of people who have died of Covid in the UK has dropped 32 per cent in a week as 236 more fatalities were recorded today.
The number of cases reported overnight hasn’t yet been revealed amid delays. However, last Friday, 8,523 cases and 346 deaths were reported.
It’s understood the system is under pressure as pupils take tests ahead of schools reopening on Monday.
The dropping death toll raises hopes Brits are past the darkest time of the virus.
PORTUGAL TO WELCOME BRITS BY MAY
Portugal has become the latest European country to say it’s ready to welcome back British holidaymakers in May.
The tourism hotspot joins Cyprus and Greece in pledging to reopen its borders to sun seekers from the UK in just over two months’ time.
Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, Rita Marques, said the country wants to welcome back Brits from May 17.
She told the BBC: “I do believe that Portugal will soon allow restriction-free travel, not only for vaccinated people, but those who are immune or who test negative.”
And she insisted that “everything will be ready by mid-May” because the pandemic situation in the country is “stable”
Two grandparents were slapped with Covid fines for travelling 300 miles to visit their grandkids.
The couple were handed two £200 fixed penalty tickets for making a ‘non-essential’ journey from Buckinghamshire to Keighley, North Yorks during lockdown.
West Yorkshire Police for Keighley said: “Travelling from Buckinghamshire to Keighley is NOT an essential journey even if it is to see the grandkids.
“Two tickets issued to the offending couple. #StayAtHome #ExpensiveTrip #DontBlameGrandkids.”
There was outrage on both sides as some people backed the police for punishing rule breakers while others said the cops should be dealing with ‘real criminals’.
BRAZIL COVID VARIANT TRACKED
Matt Hancock this afternoon spoke of his relief that the mystery traveller with the Brazil Covid-19 variant has been found.
Mr Hancock said there are no signs of any onward transmission as the individual stayed at home.
But he confirmed that surge testing has been deployed in London.
He said: “Using the latest technology and with the dogged determination of our testing scheme, we have identified the person in question.”
LATEST COVID CONFERENCE: 1% PAY RISE
Matt Hancock announcement: What did the health secretary say in his speech today, Friday, March 5?
The health secretary addressed the nation amid backlash over a proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers.
He said: “I pay tribute to the incredible work of all those who work in the NHS, especially over the last few months during the second peak.
“As I said in my opening remarks, these have been challenging times and one of the challenges we face as a country, is the financial consequences of the pandemic.
“Elsewhere in the public sector, there’s a pay freeze in place and we have put forward what we think is affordable.”
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL FORM
From Monday, Brits travelling abroad will have to carry a form showing why their trip is allowed under lockdown rules.
If they fail to produce a vaild form could be stopped from travelling and face a £200 fine.
Under new measures to crack down on illegal trips, the Department for Transport said carriers will be checking for completed forms before passengers board – either at check-in or at the departure gate.
‘WE NEED TO CONTINUE PULLING TOGETHER’
Matt Hancock ends his briefing with a message to frustrated NHS workers, saying “we have over this pandemic pulled together in an incredible way and I really hope we can continue doing that, to deliver for patients” and welcome more nurses to the NHS over the years ahead.
NHS STAFF TO STRIKE 1% PAY RISE
Megan Ford from the Nursing Times says nurses are considering industrial action or leaving in light of the 1% pay rise after a year of the pandemic.
She asks Matt Hancock: “how do you expect to stabilise the NHS and complete the vaccination programme without nurses on the ground?”
The Heath Secretary again notes his “admiration” for NHS staff – noting his grandmother was a nurse.
He adds though the “challenge is that the nation’s finances are tight and whilst everybody else in the public sector is having a pay freeze, we are able to propose a pay rise for nurses at 1%.”
He adds: “I entirely appreciate that that reflects the difficult financial circumstances that the country is in.”
SHOULD STUDENTS WEAR MASKS IN CLASS?
John Johnson from Politics Home also asks about the guidance for pupils wearing face masks in schools.
Dr Hopkins says the advice is for “secondary school children to wear masks in classrooms and in corridors while moving around school,” in order to reduce the risk of transmission in secondary schools on their return on Monday.
She adds this is to ensure “the least amount of rises we can possibly hope for with increased mixing around the return of schools”.
DID TEST AND TRACE WORK AS WELL AS IT SHOULD HAVE?
John Johnson from Politics Home quotes Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who claimed Test and Trace did not work as well as it should have done during in the start of the pandemic.
Matt Hancock says Test and Trace “didn’t exist” at the start of the pandemic, with the first test being developed “about a month” after discovering the coronavirus.
He adds there has been a “programme of constant improvement”, noting contact tracing now reaches more than 90% of cases and more than 90% of their contacts at “rapid speeds” – which he says is an “incredible achievement of the team”.
WHEN WILL SOCIAL CARE REFORM PLANS BE PRODUCED?
Nigel Morris from the i asks Matt Hancock to provide a firm date on when social care reform plans will be produced.
He also asks if consideration will be given to a one-off bonus for NHS staff as is happening Scotland.
Matt Hancock says the government has a “clear manifesto” to deliver the plan, which will be published this year – but adds it is “more challenging to deliver in more difficult economic times.”
The Health Secretary says the one-off NHS bonus as seen in Scotland “isn’t the approach we have chosen to take”, and that “we have set out what is affordable”.
SHOULD BORDERS STAY SHUT?
Sky News’ Ashish Joshi asks whether the UK’s borders should be shut.
Dr Hopkins says currently, the only people should only be travelling internationally for essential reasons.
She adds the the day two and day eight post-arrival tests give “extra reassurance” for tracking cases and find new variants coming into the country.