How are cases spreading in the UK, and how are we trying to slow the spread?
Of the 315 local areas in England, 16 have seen a rise in case rates and 299 have seen a fall, for the seven days to Feb 12.
Middlesbrough has the highest rate in England, with 449 new cases recorded in the seven days to Feb 12 – the equivalent of 318.5 cases per 100,000 people.
This is down from 356.8 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to Feb 5.
Of the 16 areas to record a week-on-week rise, the top five are:
- Copeland (up from 159.9 to 247.9)
- Exeter (30.4 to 79.1)
- West Lindsey (84.7 to 128.6)
- Newark & Sherwood (215.6 to 255.7)
- Lincoln (91.6 to 125.9).
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 18,348,165 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in the UK between Dec 8 and Feb 22 according to provisional gov.uk data, including first and second doses.
Of this number, 17,723,840 were the first dose of the vaccine, while 624,325 have been given a second dose.
In total, 250 active hospital sites, 89 vaccination centres, and around 1,200 local vaccination sites – including primary care networks, community pharmacy sites and mobile teams – were set up to ensure every at-risk person has easy access to a vaccination centre, regardless of where they live.
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?
Studies suggested the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine may be only 10 per cent effective against the South African strain, but Professor Jonathan Van Tam said the variant is not likely to become dominant.
The news comes as scientists have found that the Kent coronavirus variant is mutating to mimic the South African variant, which could render current vaccines less effective.
Surge testing in areas of Manchester, including Moss Side and Fallowfield, started from Feb 9 to combat the spread of the Kent variant, after four cases from two unconnected households were discovered. Door-to-door testing will take place for those who cannot attend testing centres, as well as offering tests to those who work in the area.
There have also been 55 cases of a new lineage in Liverpool which appears to be a mutation of the very early ‘A’ strain of the virus, which now carries E484K as well as other changes that could make it more transmissible. It has been designated as a “variant under investigation”.
However, Nick Loman, professor of microbial genomics and bioinformatics at the University of Birmingham, said it was unlikely that the new variants could out-compete the less dangerous UK variant.
How did coronavirus spread worldwide?
At the end of Dec 2019, the Chinese authorities sent out a public alert warning that a “pneumonia of unknown cause” had been identified in Wuhan, central China.
Some 10 days later, on Jan 7, scientists announced that a new coronavirus was the source of the outbreak – quickly adding that it then did not appear to be spreading between humans.