How are cases spreading in the UK, and how are we trying to slow the spread?
In London, the rolling seven-day rate as of Jan 23 stood at 473.1 cases per 100,000 people – down from 703.7 on Jan 15.
Eastern England is currently recording a seven-day rate of 385.1, down from 526.8.
In the East Midlands, the rate is down from 402.8 for the seven days to Jan 15 to 368.2 for the seven days to Jan 23, and in the West Midlands it has fallen from 571.9 to 464.8.
South-west England has recorded a larger drop, from 343.2 to 247.9.
North-east England is currently at 294.7, down from 433.3, while Yorkshire & the Humber is at 242.3 – the lowest regional rate in England – down from 259.1.
In north-west England, the rate has fallen dramatically from 528.6 to 394.1.
The UK became the first western country to begin administering the coronavirus vaccine, and Government hopes that mass vaccination could help slow the infection rate, particularly among the vulnerable older generation.
A total of 9,468,382 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between Dec 8 and Jan 31, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses.
Of this number, 8,977,329 were the first dose of the vaccine, while 491,053 were given the second dose.
Mr Johnson has pledged that the NHS is committed to offering a vaccination to everyone in the top four priority groups by Feb 15.
In total, 250 active hospital sites, 50 vaccination centres, and around 1,200 local vaccination sites – including primary care networks, community pharmacy sites and mobile teams – will be set up to ensure every at-risk person has easy access to a vaccination centre, regardless of where they live.
Also contributing to this “unprecedented national effort” will be the Armed Forces, who are set to be drafted in to help run mass vaccination centres in sports stadiums and public venues.
Some 100 Oxford million jabs have been ordered by the Government, with 40 million due to be rolled out by March. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency also approved the Moderna vaccine for use on Jan 8, which will be delivered in the spring.
But what about the new strain?
On Dec 14, in his address to Commons, the Health Secretary also announced a new variant of coronavirus had been identified in England that has caused a rapid increase in cases in London and the South East of England.
In England there has been a “relative increase” of this new variant in every area, said Professor Whitty, that is “spreading around the country”.
The fastest increases were in the East, South East and London, but it is “now taking off in other areas as well”, he said at a news conference on Jan 5.
However, Sir Patrick Vallance said on Jan 22 that there is “increasing confidence” that the UK variant will be susceptible to the vaccine.
The chief scientific advisor told the Downing Street press conference: “There’s increasing evidence from laboratory studies that the variant in the UK will be susceptible to the vaccines.
“There’s increasing confidence coupled with a very important clinical observation that individuals who have been infected previously and have generated antibodies appear to be equally protected against original virus and new variant.”
The news comes as a fourth Covid-19 vaccine, Novavax, could be approved for use in the UK within weeks as late-stage trials suggested it was 89% effective in preventing coronavirus, and highly effective against the UK and South African variants.
The UK has secured 60 million doses of the Novavax jab.
Although Boris Johnson also announced on Jan 22 that the UK variant of coronavirus could be up to 30 per cent more deadly than the original.
Prof Neil Ferguson, who sits on Nervtag, the Government’s virus advisory committee, said the latest data showed up to 13 in 1000 people aged 60 who contract the variant strain could die, compared with 10 in 1000 who caught the original variant.
“It is a realistic possibility that the new UK variant increases the risk of death, but there is considerable remaining uncertainty,” Prof Ferguson told ITV.
“Four groups – Imperial, LSHTM, PHE and Exeter – have looked at the relationship between people testing positive for the variant vs old strains and the risk of death.”
The professor said the data available on the new variant is patchy, but there is a “signal” that there is a “1.3-fold increased risk of death”.
Moderna Inc confirmed on Jan 25 that their vaccine produces virus-neutralizing antibodies in laboratory tests against new coronavirus variants found in the UK and South Africa. The vaccine was approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on Jan 8 and will be delivered to the UK in the spring.