UK Covid deaths plunge by 35% in a week with 290 fatalities and 7,434 cases in past 24 hours

A FURTHER 290 people have died of Covid in the UK – with the grim daily toll down by 34 per cent on last Saturday.

Another 7,434 people have tested positive overnight, with a total of 4,170,519 infections recorded since the start of the pandemic.

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This time last week, 10,406 more people tested positive and 445 died – and the previous Saturday, February 13, 13,308 new cases and 621 deaths were recorded.

During the first Saturday of the month, 18,262 people tested positive and 828 died – meaning deaths recorded today are 64 per cent lower than they were on February 6.

In total, 257 more deaths were recorded today at hospitals in England. Patients were aged between 23 and 98, and seven of the casualties, who were aged between 45 and 95, had no known underlying health conditions.

In Scotland, 525 more infections were reported, and 18 patients died, while in Wales, 198 new cases have been recorded and 16 died.

The daily tolls for devolved nations and the UK as a whole differ based on the speed with which the figures are recorded by health authorities.

The jabs roll-out continues apace, with a further 452,777 first doses and 16,226 second doses handed out in the past 24 hours.

It comes as:

  • Boris Johnson says workers will be back in their offices in a "few short months"
  • A study has found just one in 10 people with Covid pass it onto someone they live with
  • Pfizer announces it will test jabs on children aged between five and 11
  • Lockdown-weary Brits head for parks and beaches in this weekend's gorgeous sunshine – despite warnings for them to stay home
  • Lidl is rated the worst supermarket for Covid-secure shopping by customers

However, as cases continue to plummet across the country, health chiefs have warned Brits not to relax yet.

In a conference from Downing Street last night, Jonathan Van-Tam warned infections are "burning quite hot" in some areas.

The deputy chief medical officer said now isn't the time to return to normal – even for those who have had the jab.

Presenting a series of slides on coronavirus case rates, he said there "were quite a few areas of the UK that are burning quite hot", including in the Midlands and spreading up to the west coast of England.

"Do not wreck this now," he said.

"It is too early to relax.

"Just continue to maintain discipline and hang on just a few more months."

Cases are plummeting in London and the South East, both of which were at the epicentre of the crisis just weeks ago.

That's despite the super-infectious mutant Kent variation emerging in the area.

However, rates remain stubbornly high in the North or the Midlands.

Corby in Northamptonshire – which has a population of less than 60,000 – is now the worst-affected place in England, with 33.7 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to February 22.

Meanwhile, of the 315 local areas in England, 55 – 17 per cent – have seen a rise in case rates.

Sage behavioural scientist Professor Susan Michie has warned people may follow the lockdown restrictions less strictly after getting vaccinated.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The concern is that as the vaccination programme rolls out and more people are getting vaccinated themselves and seeing other people in their community getting vaccinated, that people may drop their guard."

She said evidence comes from Lyme disease and influenza vaccine rollouts where those vaccinated were less likely to adhere to preventative behaviours.

In national surveys from December, some 29 per cent of people said that after getting vaccinated they would adhere less strictly and 11 per cent said they would not follow the rules.

Elsewhere, a row over the vaccination priority list rumbles on today after scientific advisers confirmed yesterday that people aged between 40 and 49 will be next in line for the jab.

They'll be followed by the 30 to 39 age group and then all those 18 to 29.

It means teachers and police officers won't be prioritised.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said the move would "provide the greatest benefit in the shortest time".

Unions reacted with fury to the news.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told BBC Breakfast: "I'm certainly not going to argue with an eminent scientist, but I think what I would say is, a week on Monday we are at a moment, a national moment – 10 million children and young people are going to start the process of going back into their schools.

"The Government today is launching a campaign to try to reassure parents that they should be sending their children back – that tells you something about the level of anxiety there is.

England’s Covid hotspots

The top 30 worst-hit areas, with the rate of new cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to February 22 and, in brackets, the number of new cases

  • Corby, 333.7, (241)
  • Peterborough, 263.0
  • Tamworth, 250.3, (192)
  • North Warwickshire, 246.7
  • Leicester, 240.2, (851)
  • Sandwell, 235.3, (773)
  • Fenland, 225.8, (230)
  • Middlesbrough, 223.4, (315)
  • Mansfield, 222.3, (243)
  • Preston, 222.2, (318)
  • Redditch, 219.3, (187)
  • Bury, 217.8, (416)
  • Bolton, 213.5, (614)
  • Bradford, 211.6, (1142)
  • North West Leicestershire, 207.5, (215)
  • St. Helens, 204.3, (369)
  • Gedling, 203.6, (240)
  • Luton, 202.3, (431)
  • South Holland, 198.9, (189)
  • Wellingborough, 198.2, (158)
  • Ashfield, 196.2, (251)
  • Kettering, 193.6, (197)
  • Tameside, 193.4, (438)
  • Erewash, 193.3, (223)
  • Walsall, 191.3, (546)
  • Slough, 189.2, (283)
  • Stockport, 189.1, (555)
  • Nottingham, 188.6, (628))
  • Kirklees, 187.1, (823)
  • Charnwood, 184.6, (343)

"So, it's understandable that what teachers will say is, if you want that public confidence, would it not make sense that you simply say to those people working in schools, they have been vaccinated as well.

"That, I think, would strengthen the Government's position and it would be reassuring not just for the people working in schools but for parents and also young people."

Meanwhile, Police Federation national chair John Apter said: “This announcement shows a complete lack of understanding about policing this pandemic and is an utter betrayal of police officers.

“My colleagues have been on the frontline since the first national lockdown last March, risking infection and even death to keep the public safe.

“Together with others across policing, we have never said police officers should jump the queue but should be prioritised.

“It’s right that the most vulnerable and health and care workers were vaccinated.

“But what about police officers who cannot mitigate against the risks of contracting and spreading this deadly virus? Yet the calls to prioritise policing have been ignored.”

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