UK Covid cases drop by a third in a week to 4,479 while deaths plunge 20% to 51

By | April 1, 2021

Covid cases drop by a third in a week to 4,479 while deaths plunge 20% to 51 and infections fall in EVERY age group except schoolchildren. But politicians and police warn Britons not to go crazy this weekend

  • Professor Tim Spector, a King’s College London epidemiologist, said the app’s figures were ‘positive news’
  • Covid Symptom Study suggested in week ending March 27 2,839 people got symptoms of Covid each day 
  • The app’s figure was down from last week’s estimate – 3,245 – which had risen slightly from a week earlier
  • It comes as police issued stern warnings officers will be enforcing lockdown restrictions over the weekend
  • Millions are expected to use the four-day Easter break to enjoy the first weekend of eased curbs on freedom

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Britain’s daily coronavirus cases have dropped by a third in a week and deaths are continuing to fall, official data revealed today as a catalogue of statistics showed England’s outbreak is still shrinking.

Department of Health bosses posted 4,479 lab-confirmed cases today and 51 deaths — down 20 per cent on the same time last week.

Figures also showed more second vaccine doses (404,922) than first shots (241,906) were dished out for the second day in a row.

Data across the board revealed the virus remains in retreat, prompting experts to claim reopening schools had a ‘very small’ impact on cases and England was in a ‘good position’ for the next bout of lockdown-easing on April 12.

The Office for National Statistics estimated 148,100 Britons were infected on any given day last week — the lowest figure since before the second wave spiralled out of control and down almost 10 per cent on the previous seven-day spell.

Figures from a symptom-tracking app monitoring the size of the country’s outbreak also claimed the number of people falling ill with tell-tale signs of the disease every day has dropped by a similar amount to 2,800.

And Public Health England data revealed cases have fallen in every age group except secondary school children, offering more proof that reopening classrooms on March 8 has not triggered any resurgence.

Separate Test and Trace figures today also added to the heartening estimates, showing the number of people diagnosed with Covid in England fell by two per cent last week with 36,606 cases – the fewest since September.

PHE statistics revealed infection rates were rising in a quarter of councils across the country – but that the rise was entirely down to a spike in 10 to 19 year olds.

It comes as police issued stern warnings officers will be enforcing lockdown this weekend, with millions expected to use the four-day Easter break to enjoy the first weekend of eased restrictions to meet with family and friends.

Experts also warned coronavirus cases will spike next week and the country could be plunged into a fourth lockdown if people fail go wild over the bank holiday.

Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to speed up the lifting of lockdown restrictions, in the face of the shrinking outbreak and successful vaccination drive.

But the Prime Minister has so far defied calls from anti-lockdown Tory MPs, sticking to his ultra-cautious roadmap back to normality.

In another day of Covid news:

  • GP surgeries, hospitals and supermarkets are set to be exempt from Covid vaccine passports;
  • As Boris Johnson says the burdensome forms will be needed to go on holiday abroad in the future;
  • Chris Whitty warns the UK will remain vulnerable to outbreaks for another two years, and will need selective travel bans for hotspot areas;
  • And Police plead with Britons to control their children over four-day Easter break after clearing thousands of revellers from city centres; 
  • Meanwhile in Europe, Emmanuel Macron is accused of behaving like a ‘monarch’ who thinks he is the ‘best virologist in France’ following lockdown announcement; 
  • And Brussels turns to India in attempt to buy 10million AstraZeneca doses after Delhi blocked shipment of half this number to Britain.

PHE data showed that a quarter of council authorities in England - or 41 out of 149 - saw a rise in Covid cases last week, with the upticks likely being driven by school children

PHE data showed that a quarter of council authorities in England – or 41 out of 149 – saw a rise in Covid cases last week, with the upticks likely being driven by school children

The Covid Symptom Study shows that infection rates are still coming down in all adult age groups, although they appear relatively flat in school-age children (blue line)

The Covid Symptom Study shows that infection rates are still coming down in all adult age groups, although they appear relatively flat in school-age children (blue line)

Test and Trace data today showed a total of 36,606 people tested positive for Covid in England at least once in the week to March 24. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289

Test and Trace data today showed a total of 36,606 people tested positive for Covid in England at least once in the week to March 24. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289

A group are pictured having a game of beach volleyball enjoy the last day of warm temperatures before the weather turns colder at Bournemouth in Dorset today

A group are pictured having a game of beach volleyball enjoy the last day of warm temperatures before the weather turns colder at Bournemouth in Dorset today

Two women leap in the air as they pose for a photograph from a friend as they enjoy the last day of warm temperatures today in Bournemouth

Two women leap in the air as they pose for a photograph from a friend as they enjoy the last day of warm temperatures today in Bournemouth

EVEN THE GLOOMIEST EXPERTS SAY DAILY COVID DEATHS SHOULD CONTINUE TO DROP 

Cambridge University academics whose gloomy warnings of 4,000 deaths a day spooked ministers into imposing England’s second lockdown say daily fatalities will continue to drop when more restrictions are eased.

The ‘Nowcast’ team, which feeds into No10’s advisory panel SAGE, estimates Covid deaths could fall as low as 35 a day by April 16, based on current trends.

England is set to hit the second stage of Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on April 12, with hairdressers and gyms set to reopen and bars, pubs, and cafes allowed to serve customers outdoors.

The Prime Minister has warned the plan could be derailed by a spike in Covid cases or the emergence of a new variant that may dodge vaccine-sparked immunity.

But the latest catalogue of data is promising, and shows cases are still falling in England and three quarters of all age groups despite schools reopening. 

Experts said the numbers suggested England was in a ‘good position’ as it prepared to ease more measures.

Writing in their latest report, the Cambridge scientists said: ‘We predict that the number of deaths occurring daily is likely to remain low with a forecast for the period around April 16 suggesting that there will be fewer than 175 deaths per day and potentially as few as 35 deaths per day.’

They also suggested there were around 12,900 new infections occurring daily across England, with rates being highest in the East Midlands, North West and West Midlands. 

In an upbeat tone head modeller Professor Daniela De Angelis said: ‘The pandemic has been shrinking in England as a consequence of the January lockdown and signs of the impact of immunisation on the risk of mortality are becoming apparent.’

But she added there are also signs that cases are now ticking up in some regions which will need to be carefully monitored.

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The ONS report is based on test results from 144,000 random members of the population which are then scaled up to the whole country.

It found infection rates were highest in Yorkshire, the North East and the North West, at 0.4 per cent, and lowest in the South East and South West, at 0.1 per cent.

The rate was 0.3 per cent – three in a thousand – in the East and West Midlands and in London, and 0.2 per cent in the East of England.

Of the devolved nations, Wales has the lowest infection rate (0.18 per cent) and Northern Ireland the highest (0.45 per cent), while it was 0.32 per cent in Scotland.

When the figures were broken down by age group they showed cases had only risen among 16 to 24-year-olds, to 0.31 per cent, but had remained stable in 11 to 15-year-olds at 0.42 per cent.

Case rates were lowest among 50 to 69-year-olds (0.14 per cent), who are being offered at least one dose of the Covid vaccine.

And over-70s (0.18 per cent), where everyone in this age groups has been offered at least one dose of the jab.

Public Health England’s data, taken from the official swab testing system, backed this up and showed that infection rates also fell in all age groups except 10 to 19-year-olds where they rose by seven per cent to 109.8 cases per 100,000 people.

Over-70s – who are most at risk of becoming ill if they catch the virus – still had the lowest infection rate (10.7 per 100,000).

PHE data showed that a quarter of local authorities in England – or 41 out of 149 – saw a rise in Covid cases last week, Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report revealed today, with the upticks being driven by school children.

Figures showed infection rates fell in all age groups except 10 to 19-year-olds where they rose by seven per cent to 109.8 cases per 100,000 people. Over-70s – who are most at risk of becoming ill if they catch the virus – still had the lowest infection rate (10.7 per 100,000). Everyone in this group has been offered a Covid vaccine.

The council areas recording rising infection rates were mostly based in London, where nine boroughs saw an increase including Bexley where they doubled, and the South East with eight councils recording more cases than previously including the Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire and Windsor and Maidenhead.

But pockets of growing infections were scattered across England including five areas in the South West – Devon, Cornwall, and Plymouth among others – and four in the North West – Trafford, Oldham and Central Manchester.

The Covid Symptom Study app had suggested cases were already increasing in London and the South East last week. But PHE data disputed this, saying cases in all regions were still falling.

The app, published early ahead of Good Friday, bases its estimates on reports from more than a million Britons on whether they are feeling unwell, what symptoms they are suffering, and if they have tested positive for the virus.

But it can only detect symptomatic infections – which trigger warning signs of the virus – and not asymptomatic cases thought to make up about a third of the total infections across the country.

Covid cases fell in all age groups last week except schoolchildren aged up to 19 years old, according to the app, where they remained steady.

WHAT DID THE DATA REVEAL TODAY? 

There are several data reports tracking the spread of Covid in the UK published every week.

Office for National Statistics

The ONS report, based on random swab testing of around 144,000 people, showed the total number of people with coronavirus fell last week.

The report suggested 0.27 per cent of people in England had the virus at a time in the week ending March 27 – around 148,100 people, or one in every 370.

This was down nine per cent from 162,500 a week earlier, which had been a slight rise from the week before that.

Public Health England

Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report showed that positive tests were down in all regions and all adult age groups.

They rose in 10 to 19-year-olds, believed to be driven by schools reopening, and in 41 out of 149 council authorities across the country, many in London and the South East.

 Covid Symptom Study

This app estimated Covid cases fell by 13 per cent last week, to 2,839 daily symptomatic infections.

Its figures are based on reports from more than a million Britons who tell the app whether they are feeling unwell, what symptoms they are suffering and if they have tested positive for the virus.

Test and Trace

Covid cases fell by two per cent last week, according to its weekly official report.

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Test and Trace said there were 3,606 cases in the week to March 24, down from 37,289 the week before. 

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The highest number of daily symptomatic cases, the Symptom Study found, were in London and the West Midlands (510 each), estimates suggest, followed by the East Midlands (369), Yorkshire and the Humber (346) and the South East (303). 

Professor Spector added: ‘As cases decline again, we’re seeing regional divides widen to a three-fold difference, a familiar trend we saw last summer when cases were similarly low.’   

Separate data from Test and Trace today showed England’s outbreak shrunk by two per cent in the week to March 24 after 36,606 people tested positive for Covid. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289.

Some 7.1million lateral flow tests for Covid were also done last week, down from 7.7million in the previous week, as schools were asked to test pupils twice a week to root out any cases of the virus.

PHE’s data showed 10 to 19-year-olds had the highest Covid infection rate in England last week at 109.8 cases per 100,000. This was up from the 102.3 recorded the week before.

All pupils were invited back to schools on March 8 with twice weekly testing in place to ensure any outbreaks were snuffed out quickly.

Experts say the escalated testing regime could have led to more asymptomatic infections – which cause no symptoms – being picked up that would previously have gone unreported.

Over-30s had the second-highest infection rate (71.6), but this was down 12 per cent on the previous week (81.2), and over-40s had the third highest (61.2), also down 15 per cent on the week before (15 per cent).

The lowest infection rate was among the over-70s, who have all been offered at least one dose of the vaccine, followed by the over-60s (20.1), who have also all been offered a first dose.    

Test and Trace figures also showed there were 30,779 people transferred to the contact tracing system, of whom 91.4 per cent were reached and asked to provide details of close contacts – people they had been near for more than 15 minutes.  

The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means it is now in the best position of all major European nations, despite being the worst hit in January.

The weekly infection rate in France — where intensive care units are overwhelmed — is around eight times higher than in the UK. 

President Emmanuel Macron last night blamed the so-called ‘British variant’ for the country’s surge in cases, saying it created ‘a pandemic inside a pandemic’ as France heads into its third national lockdown from Saturday.  

There are mixed pictures across different regions of England, which Professor Spector said 'we saw last summer when cases were similarly low'

There are mixed pictures across different regions of England, which Professor Spector said ‘we saw last summer when cases were similarly low’

Increased Easter patrols follow week of lockdown rule-breaking 

Since lockdown was first eased on Monday police have been forced to disperse crowds straying beyond the newfound freedoms.

Cities across the country saw illegal gatherings broken up by officers: 

MANCHESTER: Police cleared drinkers from Castlefield Bowl after revellers gathered for a live DJ set;

NOTTINGHAM: Officers seized bottles of alcohol from sunseekers and poured it onto the grass;

LEICESTER: Police begged parents to control their children, admitting they ‘could not sort this alone’;

HARBOROUGH: Councillor accused revellers they risk exploding ‘deadly Covid-19 timebomb’ after parties;

LEEDS: Police threatened to disperse further big crowds after fights broke out at Hyde Park in Leeds. 

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Meanwhile experts warn coronavirus cases will spike next week and the country could be plunged into a fourth lockdown if people fail to heed advice over the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Police have stepped up patrols and are begging parents to control their children over the four-day break, in the wake of carnage seen across the country this week.

Lockdown restrictions eased for the first time in months on Monday, allowing groups to meet outdoors – but experts fear the loosening of rules may lead to a dangerous spike in Covid cases, with millions expected to use the four-day Easter break to enjoy the first weekend of eased restrictions to meet with family and friends.

Professor Adam Finn tweeted: ‘Throngs of young people crowded together in their hundreds enjoying the beautiful warm evening together by the water.

‘A complete change. If this is happening everywhere then we can confidently expect case numbers to rise next week.’ And Professor Lawrence Young warned the virus was ‘still out there and very infectious.’

He told the Sun Online: ‘While the risk of transmission is low in outdoor spaces, crowding together could result in some spread of the virus and it’s too easy to take liberties which we consider to be low risk but aren’t e.g. close contact by hugging or popping inside to go to somebody else’s toilet.

‘We need to hang on in there with the current restrictions for a bit longer – none of us want another lockdown.’

This comes as police forces across the country including Merseyside, Humberside, Dorset, Sussex and Cheshire today issued stern warnings that officers will be out enforcing lockdown measures, such as the rule of six.

An RAC survey projects 5.6million cars will hit the road this weekend to visit loved ones, taking advantage of the four-day holiday and end of three-month ‘stay at home’ orders, which were replaced with ‘stay local’ on Monday.  

Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to speed up the lifting of lockdown restrictions, in the face of the shrinking outbreak and successful vaccination drive.

But the Prime Minister has so far defied calls from anti-lockdown Tory MPs, sticking to his ultra-cautious roadmap back to normality.

Other police chiefs warned ministers that the ‘rule of six’ is virtually unenforceable because of the two household concession, which puts no limit on numbers. Across the country yesterday:

  • MANCHESTER: Police cleared drinkers from Castlefield Bowl after revellers gathered for a live DJ set;
  • NOTTINGHAM: Officers seized bottles of alcohol from sunseekers and poured it onto the grass;
  • LEICESTER: Police begged parents to control their children, admitting they ‘could not sort this alone’;
  • HARBOROUGH: Councillor accused revellers they risk exploding ‘deadly Covid-19 timebomb’ after parties;
  • LEEDS: Police threatened to disperse further big crowds after fights broke out at Hyde Park in Leeds. 
Sun-seekers have been seizing upon the recent heatwave and cramming at parks and beaches since 'stay at home' orders were dropped on Monday

Sun-seekers have been seizing upon the recent heatwave and cramming at parks and beaches since ‘stay at home’ orders were dropped on Monday 

Police officers standing in the Castlefield Bowl area in Manchester City Centre last night after a massive rave

Police officers standing in the Castlefield Bowl area in Manchester City Centre last night after a massive rave

A survey by the RAC projects 5.6million cars will hit the road this weekend to visit loved ones, taking advantage of the four-day holiday and end of the 'stay at home' orders, which were replaced with 'stay local' on Monday. A14 traffic today, pictured

A survey by the RAC projects 5.6million cars will hit the road this weekend to visit loved ones, taking advantage of the four-day holiday and end of the ‘stay at home’ orders, which were replaced with ‘stay local’ on Monday. A14 traffic today, pictured

Not so HOT cross buns! Heatwave set to give way to SNOW this Easter weekend 

The hot weather which baked much of the UK this week is set to give way to a chilly Easter weekend. Parts of the UK saw temperatures hit almost 24C (75.2F) on Wednesday, with Weybourne, north Norfolk leading the way at a peak of 23.9C (75F).

The figure fell just shy of the nation’s hottest ever March temperature of 25.6C (78F), which was recorded in 1968 at Mepal in Cambridgeshire. But the warm weather will not extend into the Easter weekend, with temperatures forecast to drop to the low teens in the east of England from Thursday.

Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said a ‘cold front’ will start moving down from the north, bringing with it colder, windier conditions in stark contrast to the previous ‘warm southerly winds’.

Good Friday is expected to be fine and sunny for much of the UK before developing into rain on Easter Sunday, with the chance of sleet or snow in Scotland and the far north of England.

Temperatures are expected to bottom-out on Easter Monday, with the mercury likely to hover around 0C (32F) in much of Scotland and north east England.

The hottest place in Britain by 2pm yesterday was Weybourne in Norfolk which hit 74.5F (23.6C). This was 36.4F (20.2C) warmer than the coldest place in the UK at the same time, Dalwhinnie in the Highlands, with 38.1F (3.4C).

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Residents living around tourism hotspots are even being encouraged to report visiting second-home owners to the police, with Dorset’s police chief warning: ‘People are very quick to pick the phone up and tell us.’

Tourism bosses also cautioned crowds against triggering a ‘false start’ and urged people to hold fire on until the next big relaxation on April 12 when bars and restaurants open. 

After officers grappled with a wave of disobedience, one police chief tore into the new guidance for being too hazy.

Dorset’s chief constable James Vaughan said ‘Like the travel guidance throughout the pandemic, it is slightly vague. The message from the Government whilst in this phase of the lockdown, it is still to say broadly local.

‘That is the advice. It is very difficult to enforce because there are no regulations behind it. I am not sure the stay local message is going to be very strong.’

Sun-seekers have since been seizing upon the recent heatwave and cramming at parks and beaches, which have been left strewn with rubbish to the disgust of locals.

Although the Met Office forecasts a looming dip in temperatures, officers are still braced for a spike in footfall at beauty spots. 

Police have also begged parents to control their children over the four-day Easter break after officers cleared thousands of boozy revellers from city centres across England last night.

Large crowds gathered in Manchester, London, Nottingham and Leeds on the last day of the UK’s searing 75F mini-heatwave, just days after national Covid-19 restrictions were eased.

Officers were seen clearing drinkers from Castlefield Bowl in Manchester city centre after hundreds gathered for a rave with a live DJ set, while police took similar action in London’s Hyde Park.

In Leeds, fights broke out in Hyde Park while police in Nottingham seized bottles of alcohol from sunseekers and poured it on the grass after ‘appalling scenes’ in the city’s arboretum earlier in the week.

While police in Leicestershire begged parents to control their children, Harborough councillor Phil Knowles accused revellers of ‘setting up another Covid-19 timebomb all set to explode’.

However, Chief Constable James Vaughan of Dorset Police has suggested the chaos witnessed yesterday – including a live DJ set and brawls – has been caused by ‘slightly vague’ messaging not backed by law.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson dropped the Stay at Home diktat in England on Monday, instead swapping it for a Stay Local message to try to encourage people to be cautious as lockdown eases.

Mr Vaughan said: ‘Like the travel guidance throughout the pandemic, it is slightly vague. The message from the Government whilst in this phase of the lockdown, it is still to say broadly local. It is very difficult to enforce because there are no regulations behind it. I am not sure the stay local message is going to be very strong.’

Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner, said that police believe they can control the crowds if they can ‘get on top of control over alcohol confiscation, and make the people holding it pour it away’.

The hot weather which baked much of the UK this week is set to give way to a chilly Easter weekend, with Good Friday expected to be fine before developing into rain on Easter Sunday and possibly sleet or snow in Scotland.

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The tougher approach to enforcing the rule of six comes amid warnings from experts that throwing out all social distancing could lead to a large spike in infections, even after millions have received vaccines.

Other police chiefs warned ministers that the ‘rule of six’ is virtually unenforceable because of the two household concession, which puts no limit on numbers.

The biggest crowds yesterday appeared to be at Woodhouse Moor in Leeds, where hundreds of people gathered – and West Yorkshire Police warned they would ‘disperse groups of over six, using fines where appropriate to do so’.

Elsewhere in the region a 14-year-old boy died after getting into difficulty at a waterfall. He was spotted struggling in a pool at about 6pm yesterday below the Goit Stock Waterfall beauty spot at Cullingworth near Bradford.

Officers from the Harborough and Lutterworth unit who have been patrolling parks as sunseekers were out enjoying the warm weather after asking for public help.

Police went between parks yesterday to ‘keep everything under control’ when another drunk child was escorted home and asked parents to consider where their children were and what they were doing.

But last night, during the second night of park patrols, the team begged for help on Twitter, saying they ‘could not sort this alone’. Harborough and Lutterworth team Tweeted: ‘As predicted we are busy between parks and busy with normal demand. We are having to take another child home who is drunk from a park.

‘We have dedicated officers who are going from park to park to try and keep everything under control. We cannot sort this alone, we need your help.’

Hundreds of revelers attended a massive illegal rave last night in the Castlefield Bowl, Manchester City Centre

Hundreds of revelers attended a massive illegal rave last night in the Castlefield Bowl, Manchester City Centre

Hundreds of revelers attended a massive illegal rave last night in the Castlefield Bowl, Manchester City Centre

Hundreds of revelers attended a massive illegal rave last night in the Castlefield Bowl, Manchester City Centre

Cllr Knowles, who leads the Liberal Democrat group on Harborough council, accused revellers of ‘setting up another Covid-19 timebomb all set to explode’.

‘The last thing we want to do is to spark off a new wave of infections in Harborough and go straight back to square one,’ he told the Harborough Mail. ‘Can you imagine more people dying, more people struck down – and all of us going back into lockdown? It would be catastrophic.’

He added: ‘This behaviour is so wrong on so many levels. What has got into these people? … None of them were wearing masks or keeping their social distance. How can they think this is right?’

Police forces across the UK are urging revellers to show some restraint. Chief Superintendent Matt Nicholls, from Hertfordshire Constabulary, said: ‘We’re all well aware what is permitted as we ease out of lockdown under the roadmap and I’m grateful to see the vast majority of people complying with the new rules.

‘Our officers will be carrying out additional patrols across the county over the long weekend, engaging, explaining and encouraging everyone to do the right thing. Enforcement action remains our last resort.’

Yorkshire police urged people not to flock to the area over the weekend, while Northumberland police said they were bracing themselves for a surge in visitors to beauty spots.

Northumbria Police’s Northern Communities Chief Inspector Ron Charlton said: ‘Anticipating that beauty spots around the area will be popular places for people to meet, we have brought forward a number of initiatives to tackle anti-social behaviour.

‘This includes extra patrols in parks, the countryside and along the coastline. We want to be clear anti-social behaviour is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

West Midlands Police told the i they would continue to engage with the community, but that flagrant rule breakers would not go unpunished. A spokesperson said: ‘Our officers and PCSOs will positively and politely engage in conversation and through explanation or encouragement seek to resolve the breach.

‘If we are faced with significant and blatant breaches with clearly identifiable large gatherings, people can expect to receive enforcement action.’

Warwickshire Police said ‘additional high visibility patrols’ would be deployed over the weekend. ACC Alex Franklin Smith said: ‘We have seen an increase in parties and gatherings in recent weeks, and this is not sensible.’

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick urged people to make the most the latest easing of lockdown restrictions in England in a ‘sensible, cautious’ manner, enjoying the sunshine but also being careful and sticking to the rules.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘We’ve all waited a long time to meet family and friends outdoors with these very limited freedoms we have now. We just need to exercise caution and be sensible and pragmatic.

‘I think the vast majority of people will do that. They will enjoy the sunshine this week and over the Easter weekend, but they will do that in a sensible and cautious way.’

Mr Jenrick added that people should try ‘to be careful, sticking to the rules’, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted last night: ‘Let’s enjoy the sun but let’s do it safely. We have come so far, don’t blow it now.’

Their comments come after the Prime Minister said he hoped people would take advantage of the ‘beautiful weather’ to play sport or exercise, while also emphasising the country should still ‘proceed with caution’.        

Boris says vaccine passports WILL be needed to go on holiday as he tries to face down Tory AND Labour rebellion over ‘un-British’ plans for proof of jab to enter pubs and shops and prepares to unveil scheme next week

Boris Johnson today delivered his strongest hint yet that Britons will need a vaccine passport to go on holidays abroad as he faces a Labour and Tory revolt over them potentially being used domestically.

The Prime Minister said during a visit to Middlesbrough that there is ‘definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports’. 

He insisted ‘there’s a logic’ to such an approach on travel as he also said proof of vaccination and having had a test could help provide ‘maximum confidence to businesses and customers in the UK’.

The latter comment is likely to be viewed as a sign that the Government does intend to proceed with some sort of domestic ‘Covid status certification’.

Ministers are due to report with their initial findings on the subject on Monday next week but the PM is facing a growing battle to get a scheme passed into law after Sir Keir Starmer suggested needing a passport to go to the pub would be un-British.

The Labour leader hinted that his party could line up alongside Tory rebels to oppose the idea, raising the prospect of Mr Johnson struggling to get legislation through the House of Commons.

One Tory MP said on the potential for the Government to lose a vote on vaccine passports: ‘If Labour are not onside that puts it in a totally different position.’ 

Mr Johnson’s comments on vaccine passports for international travel were welcomed by the Airlines UK trade body. 

It said a digital system built on vaccination status and test results ‘will make it easier for customers’ to travel but stressed there is a need for a ‘common international approach’.   

Boris Johnson (pictured today in Middlesbrough) has suggested pubs and other venues could require customers to show a vaccine passport - which are likely to feature a combination of vaccine and testing data - to gain entry to hospitality venues or events.

Boris Johnson (pictured today in Middlesbrough) has suggested pubs and other venues could require customers to show a vaccine passport – which are likely to feature a combination of vaccine and testing data – to gain entry to hospitality venues or events.

Sir Keir Starmer (pictured) said demanding vaccine passports for entering pubs or sporting events would go against the ‘British instinct’

GP surgeries, hospitals and supermarkets are set to be exempt from Covid vaccine passport

Hospitals, GP surgeries and supermarkets could be excluded from any Covid vaccine passport scheme, according to reports, as Boris Johnson prepares to announce more details of on Monday.

Ministers could create a list of ‘essential’ public buildings which could be banned from excluding members of the public who have not had a jab, according to the Times.

It comes as the Government is said to be looking at the idea of Covid status certificates ‘increasingly seriously’. 

The certificates will show if a person has been vaccinated, has recently tested negative, or has shown anti-bodies.

Pubs, bars and restaurants have previously been earmarked as businesses which may have to implement a Covid passport system.

That’s despite objections from industry chiefs, as well as GP groups, who warn such a system could be ‘discriminatory’.

Previous reports have suggested NHS workers could also be forced to have Covid jabs under plans being discussed by ministers.  

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Sir Keir said in an interview with the The Daily Telegraph that demanding certificates to enter pubs or sporting events would go against the ‘British instinct’ and indicated there could be public opposition if Covid death rates are near zero and hospital admissions are very low.

Mr Johnson last week suggested pubs and other venues could require customers to show a vaccine passport – which are likely to feature a combination of vaccine and testing data – to gain entry.

But while the idea has strong support among the public, according to polls, it is opposed by hospitality industry figures and some politicians on economic and civil liberties grounds.

Sir Keir said his ‘instinct’ told him there will be ‘a British sense that we don’t actually want to go down this road’ as the pandemic comes to an end.

The Labour leader said: ‘My instinct is that, as the vaccine is rolled out, as the number of hospital admissions and deaths go down, there will be a British sense that we don’t actually want to go down this road.’

He continued: ‘I think this is really difficult and I’m not going to pretend there’s a clear black and white, yes-no easy answer on this.

‘It is extremely difficult. My instinct is that… (if) we get the virus properly under control, the death rates are near zero, hospital admissions very, very low, that the British instinct in those circumstances will be against vaccine passports.’

Some Tory MPs, led by the former Cabinet minister David Davis, have expressed serious concerns about the potential use of domestic vaccine passports. 

Mr Davis, who has backed using the documents for international travel, said using them to determine entry to pubs or other businesses could be illegal. 

Mr Johnson said today: ‘There’s definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports.

‘You can see already that other countries, the aviation industry, are interested in this and there’s a logic to that.

‘I think when it comes to trying to make sure that we give maximum confidence to businesses and customers in the UK, there are three things – there’s immunity whether you have had it before so you have natural antibodies, whether you have been vaccinated, and of course whether you have had a test.’

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he had been in discussions with the UK Government about a vaccine passport scheme. 

He said: ‘There are positive prizes to be won from having a successful vaccine certification scheme but there are many practical and ethical issues that will need to be addressed and resolved successfully if those positive opportunities can be won from it.’ 

An Airlines UK spokesman said: ‘A proper integrated digital solution that can verify travellers’ data across borders, be it testing results or vaccination status, will make it easier for customers and remove further complexity to the passenger journey, therefore making travel more attractive. 

‘The PM’s words are therefore extremely welcome as is the commitment of the UK Government to work with the EU and through the G7 to agree a common international approach to passports, that can satisfy concerns around data and privacy whilst being recognised in as many countries as possible around the world.’  

Pubs and other venues could require customers to show a vaccine passport to gain entry (file image)

Pubs and other venues could require customers to show a vaccine passport to gain entry (file image)

More than three-quarters of Britons say they support vaccine passports for foreign travel

The British public overwhelmingly back the use of vaccine passports for trips to the pub, according to a new survey. 

Almost eight in 10 people (78 per cent) polled by Ipsos MORI supported people having to show proof of having had a coronavirus vaccine to travel abroad or visit people in care homes.

And there was strong backing for them to be required to work as a frontline NHS medic or in a care home (79 per cent) as well as in schools (69 per cent).

It comes amid a backlash against rumoured Government plans to force care home staff to get the jab amid lower than expected take-up.

Controversially there is also strong support for using the documents to determine whether people can enter a pub or restaurant once the hospitality industry reopens.

There has been loud condemnation of the idea from the industry and politicians on economic and civil liberties grounds.

But Ipsos MORI found 62 per cent of Britons would back their introduction for people wanting to go for a pint or a meal with their family and 63 per cent want them to be used for people going to the gym.

 

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There has been a fevered debate over whether vaccine passports should become part of normal day-to-day life. 

Pub bosses across Britain said the idea was ‘absurd’ and ‘unworkable’ and signalled they would not ask customers for proof that they had been inoculated or were clear of coronavirus. 

The boss of trade body UKHospitality yesterday warned that the scheme posed a legal minefield – while the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium having warned it could lead to an increase in violence against shop workers. 

Despite the opposition in some quarters, the British public appears to be in favour of the move, believing the economic benefits would outweigh any infringement on privacy.

Ipsos Mori yesterday revealed that 62 per cent of Britons would back their introduction for people wanting to go for a pint or a meal with their family and 63 per cent want them to be used for people going to the gym.

Almost eight in 10 people (78 per cent) polled supported people having to show proof of a coronavirus vaccine to travel abroad or visit people in care homes.

And there was strong backing for them to be required to work as a frontline NHS medic or in a care home (79 per cent) as well as in schools (69 per cent).

Sir Ed Davey became the latest party leader to oppose the passports today. He used a Daily Telegraph column to say they ‘are illiberal, unworkable and would be utterly ineffective in keeping people safe from Covid’.

Mr Johnson has previously said that he acknowledges the ‘moral complexities’ around bringing in a domestic vaccine passport scheme.  

A Whitehall source said one possibility being considered is that landlords may be able to scrap social distancing if they check Covid health certificates on entry.

The move would allow them to operate at much higher capacity and could be a strong incentive for them to participate in the scheme.

However, Sir Keir raised concerns around the suggestion that landlords could be allowed to decide for themselves.

He said: ‘I think this idea that we sort of outsource this to individual landlords is just wrong in principle.’

Asked if he feels uncomfortable with the new Covid laws introduced, he explained that current restrictions should not be in place for longer than they are necessary.

‘If that was a long-term proposition I’d be very, very worried about it and I would be fighting it tooth and nail,’ he said.

‘Nobody wants these restrictions, nobody enjoys living under these restrictions, and they shouldn’t be in place for a moment longer than is absolutely necessary.’

Yesterday, hospitality and retail bosses warned that demanding vaccine passports for customers entering venues could pose legal issues and put staff in danger.  

Customers during the Eat Out to Help Out scheme last August in Manchester

Customers during the Eat Out to Help Out scheme last August in Manchester

Wetherspoon boss says vaccine passports would be ‘the last straw’ for pubs

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has said vaccine passports would be ‘the last straw’ for struggling pubs and force bar staff into a ‘bitter civil liberties war’ with customers.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Martin said ‘there is no justification for a passport system’.

The chairman of the pub chain said: ‘For many pubs, hanging on for dear life and devastated by G-force changes of direction, a complex and controversial passport scheme would be the last straw.

‘It would inevitably put pub staff in the frontline of a bitter civil liberties war, with some customers unwilling to be vaccinated or unable to have a jab for medical reasons.’

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Speaking as part of a webinar hosted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said: ‘This is quite a challenging issue for a lot of people to wrestle with.

‘If you are in a consumer environment, you have legal concerns regarding age, ethnicity, gender, and I don’t think considering a valid test alongside a vaccine certificate is enough.

‘From a consumer position, you will also have issues regarding frontline staff having to enforce the law about this.’

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, echoed these concerns and said that violence against shop workers had already increased sharply during the pandemic due to the enforcement of other restrictions. 

‘We’re seeing, with mask-wearing particularly and other enforcement issues, that the levels of violence and abuse against people on the front line – be that delivery driver, supermarket or convenience shop worker – there were about 400 incidents a day pre-Covid but they say that has gone up really significantly.

‘The paradigm has moved over the past few months as people have become more frustrated over the rules.’

But Ms Nicholls said she believes international travel and major events were the ‘two areas where certification could really work’.

She also said she hoped social distancing restrictions could be fully removed by the June 21 road map date without the need for vaccine certification.

‘The Government appears to be linking certifications and the removal of social distancing – the price is too high to say it can only be removed with certificates in place,’ she said.

‘The Prime Minister has said they want to remove everything by June 21 and people see this as ‘life back to normal’.

‘From businesses’ point of view, there are a lot of people who have heard they can trade as normal by June 21, but if there is any conditionality or controls here they need to say so soon.

‘And then the Chancellor needs to go back as the Budget commitments won’t be sufficient in their current plans.’

Tory backbenchers, publicans and some scientists have raised concerns over the possible introduction of coronavirus health certificates as England’s lockdown is eased.

Ministers are studying their potential use, which could see access to venues granted only if customers have been jabbed, received negative tests, or developed antibodies through past infection.

Just 38% of Britain’s restaurants and pubs have outdoor space needed to reopen on April 12 – as South East fares best with just over half of venues able to serve al-fresco food and drink 

The South West of Britain leads the ranks in terms of pubs that have outdoor space, with 91.7% falling into that category, followed by the South & South East on 74.8%

The South West of Britain leads the ranks in terms of pubs that have outdoor space, with 91.7% falling into that category, followed by the South & South East on 74.8%

More than half of Britain’s pubs and restaurants will be forced to remain closed when lockdown restrictions ease because they do not have outdoor space.  

Under the next relaxation of coronavirus rules, a swathe of freedoms will be restored on April 12 under the current timetable.

This includes a long-awaited reopening for pubs and restaurants in England, which will be able to serve customers in alfresco seating areas.

But despite being given the green light to open, hospitality venues across the country will still be locked after April 12 because just 41,100, or 38.2 per cent, have outdoor space, according to overall data. 

Only 33.1 per cent of operators in London have space they can use outside and only 22.9 per cent of venues in Scotland – which will see sites reopen from April 26 – have outdoor areas. 

Breaking the data further down, by region and type of venue, shows stark differences in each region’s proliferation of open-spaced venues.  

The South West of Britain leads the ranks in terms of pubs that have outdoor space, with 91.7% falling into that category, followed by the South & South East on 74.8%. 

Scotland was the region with the lowest percentage, with less than half – 44.9% – of pubs able to host customers outside. 

Overall data: More than 41,000 pubs, bars and restaurants have some kind of outdoor space which could allow them to reopen on April 12. The South West leads the way, with 51.1 per cent of venues boasting outdoor areas

Overall data: More than 41,000 pubs, bars and restaurants have some kind of outdoor space which could allow them to reopen on April 12. The South West leads the way, with 51.1 per cent of venues boasting outdoor areas

These differences are also present in the figures for restaurants. The East of Britain boasts the highest percentage of restaurants with outdoor spaces – 31.2% – and the South West again holds a prominent position, in second place with 30.6%.

The figure is in the high twenties for much of the rest of England – including Lancashire, London, the North East and Yorkshire – but Scotland and Wales remain in single figures.

Just 8.5% of restaurants in Wales have outside spaces, and only 5.1% in Scotland.

The data comes amid bleak figures which show the number of licensed premises over the past year fell by some 7,592 to 107,516, laying bare the devastating toll of the pandemic.  

From April 12, diners will be able to meet in a group of up to six people from different households, while a maximum of two households can meet to form a group of any size. Indoor dining will only be allowed after May 17. 

The latest monthly Market Recovery Monitor by CGA and AlixPartners has revealed that 38.2 per cent of licensed premises in the UK say they have space to allow them to trade.

Firms have said they will plan to utilise gardens, terraces, car parks and other areas where they can potentially seat guests to reopen when outdoor hospitality is given the go-ahead in the next phase of the Prime Minister’s road map.

More than 41,000 pubs, bars and restaurants have some kind of outdoor space which could allow them to reopen on April 12. 

However, the proportion of operators able to operate outside fluctuates significantly depending on their specific area of the hospitality market.

More than 80 per cent of community pubs have said they have appropriate outdoor space to reopen.

However, only 11.9 per cent of casual dining restaurants have such space, meaning further pain for many chains which have been hit hard in the past 12 months.

The report also said that a significant number of sites with outdoor space will still be unlikely to trade from mid-April because of limitations to their space and the cost of equipping or staffing them being unprofitable.

It highlighted that punters in the south-west of England will be best placed come April 12, with 51.1 per cent of premises in the area having outdoor space.  

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