Morning update: Vaccine age lowered again in attempts to curb Indian variant

INSTEAD of shivering outside, group of six can now head indoors – in the home and in hospitality. Here’s everything you need to know about the pandemic. 

  • The Government said a further five people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 127,684. Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have been 152,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. The Government also said that, as of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 1,979 lab-confirmed cases in the UK. It brings the total to 4,452,756.
  • People aged 37 can now get a Covid vaccine, with the age to be lowered again later in the week as the vaccine rollout continues at pace in attempts to tackle the Indian variant.
  • A Darlington doctor has warned patients could face extensive waiting times at GP surgeries if appointments are opened to pre-pandemic levels. Last week, NHS England said all GP practices must offer face-to-face appointments and an in-person reception desk, ending the mandatory “total triage” system introduced during the pandemic. Dr Amanda Riley, clinical director of the Darlington Primary Care network warned it will be a gradual process and not a sudden return.
  • Covid-19 rates in the UK’s worst hotspots are being driven by a sharp rise in cases among younger age groups, new analysis shows, amid calls for the vaccine rollout in some parts of the country to be extended as far as teenagers. Bolton, Bedford and Blackburn with Darwen are currently recording the highest Covid-19 rates in the UK, with the spread of the Indian variant of coronavirus driving a steep increase in cases. But in each of the three areas, case rates among younger people are running at a much higher level than those for older age groups, according to analysis of the latest data.
  • Holidaymakers said they are “delighted” to have boarded the first flights to Portugal as travel restrictions were eased for people in England and Wales on Monday. The first day of leisure travel to a handful of Government-approved countries has seen key workers jetting off on beach holidays, Britons reunited with partners abroad, and passengers finally being allowed to fly after facing months of cancellations due to coronavirus. Meanwhile, the chief executives of easyJet and Gatwick Airport have urged the Prime Minister to add more popular European holiday destinations to the green list as soon as possible.
  • Downing Street has urged health officials not to extend the coronavirus vaccine rollout to younger people and to stick to the priority list advised by experts. There have been calls for those in areas where there are higher rates of the Indian variant of Covid-19 to be offered the jab regardless of their age in a bid to stem the spread of the strain, which is understood to be more transmissible. Bolton Council has been pushing for those aged 18 and over to be vaccinated, and a councillor deleted a tweet on Saturday in which he claimed “anyone” with a Bolton postcode and registered with a Bolton GP could visit a vaccine bus and get jabbed.
  • Downing Street has again not ruled out a return to local restrictions amid concern over the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Asked whether ministers would consider a return to a tiered system of rules, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I don’t want to get ahead of where we are at the moment and start getting into hypothetical situations. As the Prime Minister has set out, we’ve moved as a country into step three, albeit with a very targeted increase in surge vaccinations and testing in these areas where we’re seeing rises and that’s what we want to proceed with if at all possible but we don’t want to rule anything out. And I think until we have more data and more evidence, we won’t be making those judgments.”
  • The UK’s first Covid-19 vaccine study for pregnant women is set to launch. Around 235 women will be given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or a placebo in the study, which is taking place at 11 hospital sites in Newcastle, Leeds, London, Oxford, Gillingham, Edinburgh and Southampton. More than 100,000 pregnant women have already been vaccinated in the US, mainly with mRNA vaccines including Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, with no safety concerns.