Britain’s daily Covid deaths have halved in a week — while infections have risen slightly, official figures revealed today.
Department of Health chiefs posted 13 more lab-confirmed victims after recording just seven yesterday — which was the first time the daily fatality count was in single figures since September. For comparison, 26 deaths were registered on Easter Monday.
Government statisticians today also added another 3,568 positive tests to the official tally, up 29 per cent on last week’s figure of 2,762.
The rise may be explained by the fact last week was Easter Sunday. Experts have previously noted testing numbers dip on public holidays due to the way swabs are recorded and because fewer people come forward for them.
There is also a chance the uptick has been caused by No10’s easing of restrictions on March 29. Academics have warned cases will inevitably rise when restrictions are eased but because millions of people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, the NHS shouldn’t be overwhelmed.
England took its next step on Boris Johnson’s cautious roadmap back to freedom today, with pubs and restaurants finally allowed to serve customers for the first time in months — but outdoors only. Hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and swimming pools were all also allowed to open again.
Hardy drinkers shrugged off snow and hailstones to celebrate the ‘Glorious Twelth’ in beer gardens and scores dashed to the pub for their first post-work pint in months.
Desperate shoppers were seen fighting to join queues for limited edition trainers and bargain clothes in popular stores, as they were allowed to open for the first time this year. While council killjoys forced some outdoor seating areas to close and investigated one venue over its long queue.
Revellers wearing umbrellas on their heads enjoy a drink outside at The Still & West pub at Spice Island in Portsmouth
I’ll drink to that! Customers enjoy glasses of white win as they sit at outside tables as at a re-opened pub in Leeds, West Yorkshire
Dash for first after work pints in FOUR MONTHS! Britons head for first post-work beers
Hardy drinkers shrugged off blizzards today to enjoy a pint in chilly beer gardens as England celebrated the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ in style – while council killjoys forced the closure of some outdoor seating areas and investigated one venue over its long queue.
Temperatures dipped to -3C overnight before a snowy morning, and although temperatures have now risen they remain a crisp 7C in London, 8C in Manchester and 5C on the south coast. The deepest snowfall in England today was at Little Rissington in Gloucestershire, which recorded 1.5inches (4cm).
As England basked in sunshine this afternoon more people revealed their plans for an after-work pint – if they could get a seat.
It comes amid confusion over what counts as a legitimate outdoor seating area, with some pubs ready for reopening told they would have to either close their beer gardens or reduce capacity.
Government guidance states that shelters, marquees, and other temporary structures with roofs must have half their walls open at all times to be classed as being outdoors.
However, councils are interpreting the rules differently, leading to outcry from some landlords and restaurant owners who have only just been told they supposedly breach the rules.
Elsewhere, pubs and restaurants in London’s West End enjoyed a lunch time rush, as customers made the most of the chance to sit and drink outdoors, despite the chilly weather.
One unnamed Lancashire publican has written to the Prime Minister after being told his walled bar garden is not compliant, meaning he cannot reopen despite taking bookings for 1,000 meals, the Telegraph reported.
Brett Mendoza, who runs the Caxton Arms in Brighton, installed a new roof, heaters and furniture and received 700 bookings ahead of his grand reopening – only to be told with 48 hours’ notice that his safety measures weren’t enough.
The landlord was told that because the garden is below street level and surrounded by four walls there is not enough ventilation to carry off molecules of the virus in air droplets.
The pub tweeted: ‘Yesterday Brighton Council decided that with or without the temporary roof, the garden is not Covid compliant and forced us to close. Reason: garden is below street level, surrounded by four walls, so air can’t flow. We will be contacting people to notify you of your cancellations.’
Mr Mendoza added: ‘Stock bought. Absolutely devastated. Appeal is in.’
However, the publican later came to an agreement with officials and will be allowed to open the outside space with a downsized capacity.
It comes after MailOnline today revealed that parts of England have still only vaccinated half of citizens over the age of 50, as the NHS prepares to move onto people in their 40s.
Some areas of the country have stormed ahead and managed to reach more than 96 per cent of people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and above, exceeding Number 10‘s ambitions.
But others have been sluggish for months, with large sections of their middle-aged and elderly populations still unprotected against Covid.
Official data analysed by MailOnline shows that 36 areas of the country have given a Covid jab to fewer than 60 per cent of people in the high-risk age groups.
London has had the least successful rollout so far and is home to six of the 10 lowest uptake areas.
The UK target was to offer at least one dose of a vaccine to everyone over the age of 50, those with serious health conditions, and NHS and care workers, by April 15.
This target has been met ahead of schedule and the Times now claims 49-year-olds are set to be contacted from this week, with younger people getting offers later in April.
Deliveries of a third vaccine, made by US company Moderna, will make this possible, while leftover supplies of Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s jabs are used to carry on with top-up doses for people first immunised earlier in the year.
More than 32million Brits have now received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, including 27million people in England.
NHS England data show, out of 6,791 MSOA areas in England, 36 have vaccinated fewer than 60 per cent of over-50s.
By comparison, 3,715 places have vaccinated 90 per cent or more of those at risk of dying if they catch Covid-19, according to figures up to April 4.
An MSOA is a middle layer super output area, each of which is home to around 10,000 people.
The lowest uptake has been in Tidenham and Woolaston in Gloucestershire (27 per cent), although some residents may be getting vaccines in Wales so not getting counted in the English statistics.
Of areas that definitely just have low uptake, the worst was Harehills South in Leeds (52 per cent).
Moss Side West and Moss Side East in Manchester also featured in the bottom 10 with 54 and 56 per cent, respectively.
And all the other six areas in the worst 10 were in London.
Four are in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea alone – Bayswater East, Queensway and Hans Town, all on 54 per cent, and Kensington Gardens (55 per cent).
Waterloo Road, on 56 per cent, and Loughborough Road, 57 per cent, are both in the southern borough of Lambeth.
Another 26 areas had uptake lower than 60 per cent, with many more in London and also others in cities in the north and Midlands including Birmingham and Liverpool.
The NHS will press ahead with the vaccination programme, despite some areas lagging behind on earlier priority groups.
Until now, only people aged 50 and over have been included in the age-based rollout, excluding healthcare workers and people in vulnerable groups.
But the health service could reach out to 49-year-olds from today and others in their 40s later in April, The Times reports.
As England basked in sunshine this afternoon, pub goers Gabriella Lucena, 24, (left) and Gabrielle West, 28, (right) enjoyed a pint and a soft drink by the Thames at Hammersmith, West London with one-year-old Cocker Spaniel Lola
Two hardy customers tucking into breakfast this morning at the Yangaz Bistro Grill in Cranleigh, Surrey
Early morning shoppers run to queue outside the JD Sports store in Oxford Street, London, desperate to get inside first
The ‘Glorious Twelfth’: What can you do from today? (And what do we still have to wait for?)
- All non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen, as will hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and swimming pools, with no group classes allowed.
- Pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen for outdoor service, but will have to wait until at least May 17 to serve customers indoors.
- Mass testing to be available, with everyone urged to take two tests per week.
- New care home rules will allow residents to have two visitors, rather than just one.
- Self-catering accommodation, including campsites, can reopen, but hotels and B&Bs must remain closed until at least May 17.
- Shops will be allowed to stay open until 10pm, six days a week, in a bid to reduce crowding.
- The maximum number of people allowed to attend weddings and wakes will rise from six to 15.
- Public buildings can reopen, as can outdoor attractions such as theme parks and zoos.
- Controversial hospitality rules such as the 10pm curfew and requirement to buy a ‘substantial meal’ with alcohol will be dropped.
- Clothes shops will be allowed to reopen their changing rooms for the first time in more than a year.
Still banned –
Until May 17 at the earliest: Gatherings of up to 30 people outdoors, with the rule of six and two-household rule indoors; pubs and restaurants will reopen indoors; and controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted.
Outdoor events will be allowed to have a capacity of 50 per cent or 4,000 people, whichever is lower; while special provisions will be made for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be spaced out, with up to 10,000 people or 25 per cent of total seated capacity, whichever is lower.
Up to 30 people will be allowed to attend weddings, receptions, funerals, and commemorative events, including wakes. Indoor gatherings like exercise classes will be given the go ahead.
Until June 21 at the earliest: All legal limits on social contact will be lifted and nightclubs reopened.
Government sources told the paper the NHS would ‘ease into’ the next age groups in spite of supply shortages.
Delays to a delivery of five million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine expected from India threw a spanner in the works of the UK’s rollout last month, prompting officials to effectively pause first-time jabs in England.
And Pfizer’s jab has been used up so quickly that first-dose appointments were halted in March so supplies could be preserved for giving people their second jabs.
The vaccination programme peaked at an average of 500,000 new patients every day in mid-March but has now slumped to around 83,000 per day as stocks are going through a bottleneck and the demand for second doses is higher.
There are now around five times as many people getting second doses as first jabs, with a record 475,230 given out on Saturday, April 10.
The addition of a third vaccine to the UK’s clinics – made by Moderna – will help the NHS to get through younger age groups but is not expected in huge numbers.
Moderna’s jab will be given out in England this week for the first time, but supplies are expected to trickle in at only around 160,000 doses a week, according to leaked plans from the Scottish Government in January.
And the UK has only bought 17million – enough to vaccinate 8.5million people with two jabs each.
A fourth vaccine could become part of the programme soon, too, with approval for Janssen’s one-shot vaccine expected from the British regulator within days. Supplies may not come until summer, though.
While Novavax’s jab — which is being manufactured in Durham — may also be given the green-light in the coming weeks.
The UK is understood to still be using AstraZeneca’s vaccine for its limited first doses and Moderna’s jab will add to this, with more becoming available in the following weeks.
The Department of Health continues to refuse to comment on the technicalities of the rollout or supply chains, but hinted plans it would move on were correct.
A spokesperson said: ‘Our vaccination programme continues at pace – with over 32million people having now received a first dose.
‘Our target is to offer a jab to over 50s by 15 April and all adults by the end of July, and we are on course to meet that.
‘We will be setting out more details later this week.’
The Times also claimed Premier League footballers could get their Covid vaccines early under plans being considered by ministers.
No10’s scientific advisers are investigating whether vaccinating people most likely to travel could cut the risk of importing variants. The newspaper claims the plans are at an ‘early stage of discussion’.
Official data show that 36 areas of the country have given a Covid jab to less than 60 per cent of people in the high-risk age groups. London has a large proportion of the worst-performing areas