High street pharmacies have begun rolling out Covid-19 vaccines as the UK’s virus death toll has now climbed above 100,000.
Boots and Superdrug branches will be among the six stores across England which will be able to administer the jabs from Thursday while the government aims to hit its target of vaccinating all people in the four most vulnerable groups by the middle of next month.
Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, north London, Woodside Pharmacy in Telford and Appleton Village pharmacy in Widnes will be in the first group to hand out the injections, alongside Boots in Halifax, and Superdrug in Guildford.
Boris Johnson also told MPs that distribution “will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can” but said supply of doses remained the main barrier.
The government’s heavily promoted “test before travel” scheme, which requires travellers to England to present an officially approved certificate of a negative coronavirus test, was due to come into effect for arrivals from 4am on Friday.
But late on Wednesday night, with details of approved tests still unavailable, the transport secretary postponed the plan to Monday “to give international arrivals time to prepare”.
‘I think it’s wonderful actually,’ says first vaccine recipient at Macclesfield pharmacy
Robert Salt, 82, was the first person to receive the vaccine at Andrew’s Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire, this morning.
He said: “I think it’s wonderful actually. There was a little trepidation but it’s good, everything has gone fine today, apart from the weather.”
He said his wife was still waiting to get a vaccine appointment as she was under 80.
Timeframe for 24/7 vaccinations unclear
Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins said she could not give a timeframe for when vaccinations will begin to be provided 24/7, adding: “It’s not just the availability of the vaccine, it’s having the people to do it.
“I would not want to give you a timeframe because I am not involved in those discussions.
“It does take time, and we have to do it carefully and we have to do it with safety absolutely paramount in our minds.”
Government would ‘love’ to vaccinate everyone now but not realistic
Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins said the government would “love” to vaccinate everyone right now but it needed to be realistic.
When asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain why other frontline workers such as teachers and police officers could not be vaccinated she said: “We absolutely understand this but we have the supply of vaccines that we have and we are aiming to get up to two million doses delivered each week.
“We would love everyone to be vaccinated right now but we have to be realistic.”
Another 100,000 Brits could die if lockdown lifted too soon, expert warns
Another 100,000 Britons could die if Boris Johnson lifts the lockdown too soon, Neil Ferguson says – warning some restrictions must stay in place “to the autumn”.
Pressure to ease the curbs as early as the end of February must be resisted, the leading epidemiologist said, agreeing some will be needed for “many, many months to come”.
Deputy political editor Rob Merrick has more details:
‘It is probably the biggest single day of my career,’ says pharmacy boss
Andrew Hodgson, director of Andrew’s Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire, which was in the first group of pharmacies to deliver Covid vaccines, said: “It is probably the biggest single day of my career.”
Mr Hodgson, who has owned pharmacies in the area for more than 30 years, administered the first vaccine of the day at 8am and said 360 of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs were due to be delivered by the end of today.
He said: “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. We’ve set this up in three or four weeks from scratch. The whole team is very excited to be part of the rollout.”
Mr Hodgson said he knew four generations of some families who use the pharmacy. He added: “I feel close to the people who are getting vaccinated and it is a personal experience for them.”
Temporary mortuary set up during first wave of pandemic now in use
A temporary mortuary set up in a former aircraft hangar at the start of the pandemic is now in use.
The facility at the former RAF Coltishall base, north-east of Norwich, was not required during the first wave of coronavirus but is now being used by Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
Tom McCabe, chairman of Norfolk’s Covid-19 Strategic Co-ordination Group, said: “It was always anticipated that during challenging periods there would be extra pressures on mortuaries, undertakers and crematoria.
“This temporary mortuary provides additional capacity to help make sure the county’s hospitals have enough flexibility of space in their own mortuaries, and to ensure we can provide the most respectful and dignified way to look after both those who have died, and their families, over this difficult period.”
The former air base site is now known as Scottow Enterprise Park.
‘We will follow wherever science leads us’
“We will follow wherever science leads us,” says World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic as he announces a team has been sent to Wuhan in China to investigate the source of the coronavirus outbreak.
Team sent to Wuhan to investigate source of coronavirus outbreak
World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said a team had been sent to Wuhan in China to investigate the source of the coronavirus outbreak.
He told Sky News: “We know coronaviruses are naturally harboured in the bat population but how it jumped to humans is very important so we can prevent any further exposures to these viruses, whether there was intermediate animal species or not and how the virus jumped from animal world to human world.
“The team will look into different aspects of the early days of the pandemic, we start in Wuhan because this is where the first cases were detected.
“We will look at epidemiological data, we will look into the evidence that has already been collected by Chinese counterparts.”
UK monitoring new Brazilian Covid variant ‘very carefully’
Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins said the UK was monitoring the new Brazilian coronavirus variant “very carefully” and that “practical measures” were being worked on.
Speaking on Sky News, she added: “This variant has been spotted and it is not unusual for viruses to develop variations in their strains.
“But in terms of the UK, we are monitoring it very, very carefully, we have a world-leading team of scientists working on the different forms of the virus.
“And as the prime minister said yesterday, in terms of practical measures, they are being worked on at the moment and no doubt we will hear more in due course as to measures to help deal with that.”
Signs of Covid cases ‘plateauing’ in some parts of England, says expert
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, has said there are signs of Covid case numbers and hospitalisations plateauing in parts of England and Wales.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s much too early to say exactly when case numbers are going to start coming down but in some NHS regions in England and Wales there’s sign of plateauing.
“For instance, London community testing, PCR pillar two testing, those case numbers are coming down. At the moment it looks like in London in particular and a couple of other regions in the southeast and east of England hospital admissions may even have plateaued though it’s hard to tell if they are coming down.
“This is not seen everywhere, both case numbers and hospital admissions are going up in many other areas but overall at a national level we are seeing the rate of growth slow.”