Coronavirus vaccine would have to be 85 percent effective to stop a surge in deaths – Daily Mail

Social distancing might have to remain in place until the end of the year, scientists warned today, 

The vaccine would have to be 85 per cent effective to prevent a surge in deaths if restrictions were completely relaxed, according to modelling passed to Downing Street.

A paper commissioned by SPI-M, a subgroup of Sage, and produced by modellers at the University of Warwick showed the UK would see a large spike in deaths if inoculation fails to significantly cut transmission. 

It warned ‘high uptake’ was also vital to get the UK back to normal – without risking a deadly wave of coronavirus, reported the Telegraph

It said: ‘Only vaccines that offer high infection-blocking efficacy with high uptake in the general population allow relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions without a huge surge in deaths.’

In other coronavirus news:  

  • Figures showed daily positive Covid tests have fallen by 31 per cent in the past week to 23,275, with hospital admissions down by 16 per cent;
  • German claims that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective in over-65s were rubbished by senior government adviser;
  • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer writes in today’s Mail on Sunday in support of the Jabs For Teachers campaign for all school staff to be vaccinated;
  • Boris Johnson signalled that he wanted to relax lockdown rules on exercise, but was urged to move quickly;
  • Some of the UK’s biggest firms, including John Lewis and Tata, said rapid workplace tests have prevented thousands of sick days;
  • A major US study found proof that Covid-19 originated in China, undermining Beijing’s claims it may have come from elsewhere;
  • Germany’s government on Sunday threatened legal action against laboratories failing to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the European Union. 

Wendy Milbank, aged 75, from Newmarket, receiving the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine at the Newmarket Racecourse. Modelling passed to Downing Street showed the UK would see a large spike in deaths if inoculation fails to significantly cut transmission

Wendy Milbank, aged 75, from Newmarket, receiving the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine at the Newmarket Racecourse. Modelling passed to Downing Street showed the UK would see a large spike in deaths if inoculation fails to significantly cut transmission

Wendy Milbank, aged 75, from Newmarket, receiving the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine at the Newmarket Racecourse. Modelling passed to Downing Street showed the UK would see a large spike in deaths if inoculation fails to significantly cut transmission

Shoppers queue outside during the opening day of Rogers Wholesale, a supermarket which only sells food that's past its Best Before date on January 30 in Stockport

Shoppers queue outside during the opening day of Rogers Wholesale, a supermarket which only sells food that's past its Best Before date on January 30 in Stockport

Shoppers queue outside during the opening day of Rogers Wholesale, a supermarket which only sells food that’s past its Best Before date on January 30 in Stockport

Experts think efficacy is currently at 60 per cent but it is still an unknown.

SPI-M’s other modelling groups at Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have reportedly reached similar conclusions.

Even in the best case scenario – where vaccines stop 85 per cent of transmissions – lockdown will have to stay in place until May.

If lockdown was lifted mid-February, a third surge of infections would follow by April, the modelling found.

While efficacy at 85 per cent would mean deaths peak at 1,000 deaths a day, at 60 per cent daily deaths would rise by an average of 500 to 1,500 a day.  

Volunteers are trained by St John Ambulance instructors to administer Covid-19 vaccines at Manchester United Football Club on January 30

Volunteers are trained by St John Ambulance instructors to administer Covid-19 vaccines at Manchester United Football Club on January 30

Volunteers are trained by St John Ambulance instructors to administer Covid-19 vaccines at Manchester United Football Club on January 30

A ban on large events and other social distancing restrictions would still need to be in place until the end of the year. Pictured, Haymarket in central London on January 8

A ban on large events and other social distancing restrictions would still need to be in place until the end of the year. Pictured, Haymarket in central London on January 8

A ban on large events and other social distancing restrictions would still need to be in place until the end of the year. Pictured, Haymarket in central London on January 8

 

 

Vaccines expert shoots down Macron’s claim that AstraZeneca jab is ineffective in over-65s

A top scientist with Oxford’s vaccine team has accused Emmanuel Macron of demand management’ after casting doubt on the AstraZeneca jab’s efficacy.

Professor Sir John Bell slapped down the French President’s baseless claims that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is ‘quasi-ineffective’ for the over-65s.

He said: ‘I suspect this is a bit of demand management from Mr Macron… if he didn’t have any vaccine the best thing you could do is reduce demand.’  

Macron stoked tensions by questioning the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab in older patients, despite it being approved by the EU regulator.

Sir John told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’m not sure where he got that from.’

He acknowledged its original study only had small numbers of elderly people, with many shielding themselves from the pandemic, but added: ‘The numbers still pointed toward a very highly effective vaccine but the numbers were small, in fairness, we always accepted that.’

He said other studies proved ‘elderly people responded just as well in other age groups’ and that ‘there’s really persuasive evidence that this is a protective vaccine in those populations’. 

Dr Sam Moore, one of the paper’s authors, said: ‘If we get very high infection blocking then this could almost be what delivers us from it, but it would have to be very high. Even vaccines with 85 per cent infection blocking are insufficient to drive ‘R’ below one on their own.’

Because the R rate is now above three social distancing measures have to stay in place for longer for the vaccine to take effect without risking more deaths.

If the vaccine does provide a 60 per cent block against coronavirus transmission, as experts have suggested, lockdown could end at the end of May, according to the Warwick model.

But a ban on large events and other social distancing restrictions would still need to be in place until the end of the year.      

A Government spokesman said: ‘At this early stage in the vaccination programme, scientists do not have sufficient data to advise how the vaccine may affect onward transmission.’ 

It comes after Boris Johnson forced the EU into an extraordinary double climbdown during a dramatic late-night intervention to protect the UK’s record-breaking vaccine rollout.

During two phone calls just 30 minutes apart, the Prime Minister made European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ditch plans to stop 3.5 million doses of the Pfizer jab from reaching the UK from a factory in Belgium and abandon the ‘nuclear option’ of imposing a hard border on Northern Ireland to prevent them reaching the UK.

Following his diplomatic victory, Britain yesterday recorded a daily record for first-dose jabs – 487,756 – to bring the total to almost 8.4 million.

In his phone calls, Mr Johnson warned Ms von der Leyen that her actions risked denying millions of British pensioners their second Pfizer injections. 

She immediately capitulated in a tweet sent out shortly before midnight on Friday. 

As part of an implicit ‘peace deal’ with the EU, No 10 yesterday adopted a conciliatory tone. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the EU recognised that it had ‘made a mistake’ and both sides agreed on the need for a ‘reset’.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster was less diplomatic, branding the EU’s move an ‘incredible act of hostility’. 

Life will not return to normal until 2024 when the whole world is vaccinated against Covid, warns health expert 

Life will not return to normal until 2024 when the whole world is vaccinated against coronavirus, a health expert has warned.

Dr Clare Wenham, assistant professor of global health policy at London School of Economics, said it will take four years for the vaccine to be distributed globally.

She told Sky News helping other countries to access the jab could actually hail a quicker return to normality.

‘This pandemic isn’t going to be over until it’s over globally,’ she said, as unchecked strains of coronavirus continue to threaten the efficacy of vaccinations.

Dr Clare Wenham (pictured), assistant professor of global health policy

Dr Clare Wenham (pictured), assistant professor of global health policy

Dr Clare Wenham (pictured), assistant professor of global health policy

She said border controls would have to remain in place to stop these variants being brought into the UK. 

It comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) asked the UK to pause its vaccination program to help the global rollout.

WHO spokesman Margaret Harris said it was ‘clearly morally the right thing to do’, adding ‘you can wait’ in an interview with the BBC.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to offer all UK adults a first dose of the vaccine by Autumn.

The WHO, on the other hand, wants ‘two billion doses’ to be ‘fairly distributed’ around the world by the end of the year. 

WHO director general  Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has repeatedly said a ‘me first’ approach will prolong the pandemic and cause more deaths.

And Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), warned vaccinating ‘a lot of people in a few countries, leaving the virus unchecked in large parts of the world, will lead to more variants emerging’. 

Britain’s Covid cases plunge for another day – down 31% in a week to 23,275 – as scientists say vaccine drive IS working and UK records another 1,200 deaths

By JEMMA CARR FOR MAILONLINE

The UK’s Covid cases plunged yet again after 23,275 people tested positive on Saturday – down 30.6 per cent on last Saturday.

In a positive sign that England’s third national lockdown is working, 10,000 fewer people tested positive yesterday compared to the 33,552 cases recorded on this day last week.

Yesterday’s week-on-week drop in figures is larger than last Saturdays, which saw an 18 per cent dip in daily cases compared to one week prior. 

The daily death toll has plummeted as well, as official figures showed 1,200 people have died after testing positive – an 11 per cent drop on last Saturday’s 1,348 fatalities.

Data has shown the UK’s ambitious vaccination plan is helping to reduce cases as well as protecting recipients from symptoms. 

And, following a week of promising figures, Boris Johnson is considering relaxing lockdown exercise rules to ease the pressure on Britons’ physical and mental health

Potential rule changes could see Britons allowed to exercise more than once a day, or socially-distanced in groups of three or four. 

Boris Johnson is considering relaxing lockdown exercise rules to ease the pressure on our physical and mental health

Boris Johnson is considering relaxing lockdown exercise rules to ease the pressure on our physical and mental health

Boris Johnson is considering relaxing lockdown exercise rules to ease the pressure on our physical and mental health

Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said preliminary research suggested the first dose of the vaccine is helping to protect young adults and over-80s. 

He added that the data, which is set to be published in the next few days, also indicates Britons may benefit in the long-term from a delayed second dose.

The research, accessed through Public Health England (PHE) vaccination records, is mostly based on the Pfizer/BioNTech jab and represents around three to four weeks of the programme.

Government data up to January 29 shows of the 8,859,372 jabs given in the UK so far, 8,378,940 were first doses – a rise of 487,756 on the previous day’s figures.

Some 480,432 were second doses, an increase of 2,178 on figures released the previous day.

The seven-day rolling average of first doses given in the UK is now 359,656.

The Prime Minister has asked officials to draw up options for a slight lifting of the rules, which currently limit people to meeting one other person for outdoor exercise once a day

The Prime Minister has asked officials to draw up options for a slight lifting of the rules, which currently limit people to meeting one other person for outdoor exercise once a day

The Prime Minister has asked officials to draw up options for a slight lifting of the rules, which currently limit people to meeting one other person for outdoor exercise once a day

Even though non-essential shops, as well as gyms, bars, and hairdressers are still shut, high streets in parts of the country looked busy, with photos showing packed pavements in Newcastle and London. Pictured: Newcastle Quayside on Saturday

Even though non-essential shops, as well as gyms, bars, and hairdressers are still shut, high streets in parts of the country looked busy, with photos showing packed pavements in Newcastle and London. Pictured: Newcastle Quayside on Saturday

Even though non-essential shops, as well as gyms, bars, and hairdressers are still shut, high streets in parts of the country looked busy, with photos showing packed pavements in Newcastle and London. Pictured: Newcastle Quayside on Saturday

Based on the latest figures, an average of 413,816 first doses of vaccine would be needed each day in order to meet the Government’s target of 15 million first doses by February 15.

Wales has reported a further 737 cases and 25 deaths. Scotland has seen 994 new cases and 60 deaths.

The Prime Minister has asked officials to draw up options for a slight lifting of the rules, which currently limit people to meeting one other person for outdoor exercise once a day. 

Possible options include allowing people to meet a friend from another household for outdoor exercise more than once a day.

Alternatively, socially distanced exercise could be permitted in groups of three or four – although this is thought to be harder to police.  

Government estimates 220,000 will be the true death toll of the pandemic 

By Eleanor Hayward, Health Correspondent For The Daily Mail 

More than 100,000 people are likely to die from non-coronavirus causes because of the pandemic, according to an official government estimate.

By the end of next month the chaos in hospitals and care homes will have led to 46,000 avoidable deaths, Department of Health research has suggested.

Cancellations to routine operations may cause 18,000 excess deaths in the long-term, on top of hundreds more from cancer.

Officials calculated that over the next few years another 40,000 people may die due to the economic impact of lockdown, including rising unemployment and mental health issues.

The Government paper says the overall death toll of the pandemic will be 222,000, with 54 per cent dying from the virus.

Overall, scientists suggest there will be 105,000 additional deaths because of the enormous disruption to non-Covid NHS care, as well as the economic downturn.

The document, dated December 17 and published yesterday by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), was drawn up by civil servants at the Department of Health, the Office for National Statistics and the Home Office.

It laid bare the unintended consequences of lockdown in detail, but stressed that the overall death toll would be far higher without the draconian restrictions.

So far more than 103,000 people in the UK have died after testing positive for Covid-19. 

Without lockdown, another 97,000 would have died from this winter alone, the report said.

The document also suggested the number of virus deaths could reach 122,000 by the end of next month.

Government sources have cautioned that the exit out of lockdown will be slow, with shops, gyms and hairdressers possibly opening in April, while scientists say that pubs and restaurants may be unable to open until May.

Even though non-essential shops, as well as gyms, bars, and hairdressers are still shut, high streets in parts of the country looked busy, with photos showing packed pavements in Newcastle. 

Last week Mr Johnson announced the lockdown would continue until at least March 8, with schools set to be the first facilities to reopen. 

But a source familiar with the PM’s thinking said: ‘Schools will be first and everything else will have to take its place after that. 

‘The only exception might be exercise. The PM keeps coming back to social contact – is there anything we could do to help a bit? 

‘Could we do a bit more on exercise to help with people’s mental health? That is being looked at.’

Officials will also examine whether outdoor sports that can be social distanced, such as golf and tennis, could be allowed to resume. However, a source said that was unlikely at this stage.

A Cabinet Office task force has begun work on a new ‘road map’ out of lockdown, which will be published in the week beginning February 22. 

Earlier this month Mr Johnson was spotted cycling in the Olympic Park, seven miles away from Downing Street, despite Government restrictions limiting exercise to once a day and ‘you should not travel outside your local area’.  

Ministers this month rejected calls to flesh out the rules surrounding exercise amid concerns their vagueness allowed police leeway to hand out fines too enthusiastically.

That two woman in Derbyshire were fined for driving five miles from their homes for a walk was held as an example of the gray area surrounding the ‘stay local’ advice. 

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has permitted people to travel up to five miles outside their local authority area, and in Northern Ireland, the Executive has placed a 10-mile limit. Wales also has a ‘stay local’ rule.  

Although restrictions on exercise was earmarked as being among the first to be loosened, the PM has consistently said that reopening schools is a national pritority.

His announcement last week that children will not go back to classrooms after the February half-term and will have to wait until at least March 8 if the data permits was met with dismay from parents.

Many contacted MailOnline to describe the challenges of homeschooling while juggling a full-time job.

Today, Mr Johnson wrote an open letter to Britain’s parents thanking them for doing ‘a great job’ during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the open letter, Mr Johnson wrote: ‘I’m particularly in awe of the way the parents, carers and guardians of children have risen to the unique challenges with which you have been faced.

‘Whether you’ve been welcoming a baby into the world without all the usual support networks, finding new ways to entertain a restive five-year-old when the soft play centre is shut and playdates are but a distant memory, or steering a teenager through the emotional stresses and strains of these unprecedented times, you have been dealt the trickiest of hands yet played it magnificently.’

He insisted the Government is ‘doing everything we can to support you’, with laptops being sent to schools and the extension of free school meals after pressure from critics.

The Prime Minister penned an open letter to parents, carers and guardians to say they have responded 'magnificently', with the Government having faced sustained criticism for its handling of education during the pandemic

The Prime Minister penned an open letter to parents, carers and guardians to say they have responded 'magnificently', with the Government having faced sustained criticism for its handling of education during the pandemic

The Prime Minister penned an open letter to parents, carers and guardians to say they have responded ‘magnificently’, with the Government having faced sustained criticism for its handling of education during the pandemic

And Government scientists say that pubs and restaurants may be unable to open until May

And Government scientists say that pubs and restaurants may be unable to open until May

And Government scientists say that pubs and restaurants may be unable to open until May

A woman pictured arriving at an NHS vaccination centre in Wembley, London, yesterday. Professor Anthony Harnden said preliminary research suggested the first dose of the vaccine is helping to protect young adults and over-80s

A woman pictured arriving at an NHS vaccination centre in Wembley, London, yesterday. Professor Anthony Harnden said preliminary research suggested the first dose of the vaccine is helping to protect young adults and over-80s

A woman pictured arriving at an NHS vaccination centre in Wembley, London, yesterday. Professor Anthony Harnden said preliminary research suggested the first dose of the vaccine is helping to protect young adults and over-80s

Vaccines expert Sir John Bell says Macron is ‘managing demand’ by claiming AstraZeneca jab is ‘almost ineffective’ on over-65s because he has no vaccines 

A top scientist with Oxford’s vaccine team has accused Emmanuel Macron of demand management’ after casting doubt on the AstraZeneca jab’s efficacy.

Professor Sir John Bell today shot down the French President’s baseless claims that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is ‘quasi-ineffective’ for the over-65s.

He said: ‘I suspect this is a bit of demand management from Mr Macron… if he didn’t have any vaccine the best thing you could do is reduce demand.’ 

While Britain has already inoculated 11 per cent of its population, the rollout on the Continent has been sluggish and blighted by supply issues.

The EU is currently tangled in a row with AstraZeneca over supply shortfalls and has demanded UK doses are diverted to the bloc.

Macron stoked tensions further yesterday by questioning the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab in older patients, despite it being approved by the EU regulator.

Sir John today told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’m not sure where he got that from.’

He acknowledged its original study only had small numbers of elderly people, with many shielding themselves from the pandemic, but added: ‘The numbers still pointed toward a very highly effective vaccine but the numbers were small, in fairness, we always accepted that.’

He said other studies proved ‘elderly people responded just as well in other age groups’ and that ‘there’s really persuasive evidence that this is a protective vaccine in those populations’.

Early data has shown that the vaccination drive is already easing the UK’s Covid-19 pandemic and is reducing cases.   

Deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) Professor Harnden told The Times: ‘The preliminary data indicate a vaccine effect from the first dose in both younger adults and in older adults over 80. The effect seems to increase over time.

‘It is possible that we may get stronger and better long-term protection by a delayed second dose.’ 

He also said that, in exceptional circumstances, people may be able to receive a jab from a different manufacturer for their second dose.

Professor Harnden added: ‘There aren’t results from studies on mixing vaccines at the moment, so we haven’t got evidence but there’s no theoretical evidence why you shouldn’t mix vaccines.’

The comments follow politicians in London, Dublin and Belfast rounding on Brussels for announcing controls to stop vaccine exports reaching the UK through Northern Ireland by effectively create a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Anger over the move forced a late night U-turn from the European Commission, which first triggered Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol amid a row with AstraZeneca over slow supplies of its jab to the bloc.

French President Emmanuel Macron poured petrol on the rift yesterday when he baselessly claimed there was no evidence the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot worked in over-65s, despite it gaining approval from the EU regulator. 

Meanwhile, scientists welcomed the ‘extremely encouraging’ results of Janssen’s new single-shot Covid-19 vaccine trial announced less than 24 hours after the Novavax jab also appeared effective.

The vaccine, developed by the Johnson & Johnson-owned pharmaceutical firm, is 66 per cent effective overall at preventing moderate to severe coronavirus 28 days after vaccination, trial results show.

Novavax announced late on Thursday that its jab was 89 per cent effective following a clinical trial run in the UK.

The results came as yesterday marked the anniversary of the first known death involving Covid-19 in the UK, that of 84-year-old Peter Attwood, from Chatham in Kent.

One year on, the Government on Friday said the death total now stands at 104,371 after reporting a further 1,245 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 121,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

Sir Simon Stevens (centre) observes a member of the vaccine team during a visit to the Centre for Life in Newcastle on Friday

Sir Simon Stevens (centre) observes a member of the vaccine team during a visit to the Centre for Life in Newcastle on Friday

Sir Simon Stevens (centre) observes a member of the vaccine team during a visit to the Centre for Life in Newcastle on Friday

Pharmacists administer a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccination during a clinic held in Derby on Thursday

Pharmacists administer a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccination during a clinic held in Derby on Thursday

Pharmacists administer a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccination during a clinic held in Derby on Thursday

Late-stage trials of the Janssen coronavirus vaccine, taken from a still of an undated video issued by Johnson and Johnson

Late-stage trials of the Janssen coronavirus vaccine, taken from a still of an undated video issued by Johnson and Johnson

Late-stage trials of the Janssen coronavirus vaccine, taken from a still of an undated video issued by Johnson and Johnson

Anti-lockdown hairdresser who has already been fined £17,000 is met by police as she makes ANOTHER attempt to re-open 

By Emily Webber For MailOnline 

A rebel hairdresser has been stopped from opening up her salon today as shopkeepers across the country say they will break Covid rules to start trading again.

Mother-of-two Sinead Quinn, the owner of Quinn Blakey Hairdressing, Oakenshaw, near Bradford, returned to her salon shortly before 12pm today and entered the building.  

Ms Quinn revealed that she had an injunction made against her that forbid her from opening the salon with a power of arrest attached to it. 

Writing on Telegram, she said: ‘Hey guys, I’ve had an injunction against me. I won’t be cutting hair today but I’m gonna go open soon and clean and grab a few things. Police and council all over this morning. I’m just having a coffee then going back up!’

Ms Quinn also attached a picture of the letter sent to her by Kirklees Council and the injunction is in place until March 31. 

She added on the Telegram chat: ‘I have two little girls at home that want to see their mummy tonight and I don’t fancy spending anytime in the cells on b****** charges.’ 

Ms Quinn spoke to two police officers through the door today before letting them inside and closing the shutters.  

However they left the salon shortly after and Ms Quinn drove away in her black Range Rover.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Police did attend at a hair-dressers in Oakenshaw on Saturday 30 January. 

‘No Covid breaches or any other such matters were disclosed or noted.’

Experts say the latest vaccine data is another positive sign, with three jabs already approved for use in the UK – Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca.

Professor Kevin Marsh, co-lead of the Covid-19 team at the African Academy of Sciences, and Professor of Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford, said the results from the Janssen jab trials were ‘extremely encouraging’.

He said: ‘It is possible that some people will look at the overall reported efficacy of 66 per cent in preventing moderate to severe Covid-19 and focus on comparisons with potentially higher ‘top line’ efficacy reported for some other vaccines.

‘This would be a mistake. The real headline result is that a single-shot vaccine, capable of easy long-term storage and administration, provided complete protection against hospitalisation and death.’ 

The UK has ordered 30million doses of the vaccine, with the option of 22million more, with deliveries expected in the second half of this year if the jab is approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Some 60million doses of the Novavax jab, to be produced on Teesside, have also been secured, with the hope that the MHRA could approve it within weeks.

Janssen is continuing trials into two doses of its vaccine to see whether this produces an even higher efficacy.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: ‘This is yet more good news from Janssen on vaccines.

‘If this jab is approved this could significantly bolster our vaccination programme, especially as a single-dose vaccine.’

Johnson & Johnson plans to file for regulatory approval in the US next week, followed shortly by applying for approval in Europe and the UK.

However, the latest Government figures suggest the growth rate, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is between -5 per cent and zero for the UK as a whole.

It means the number of new infections in the UK is broadly flat or shrinking by up to 5 per cent every day.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the estimates are based on the latest data, available up to January 25, including hospital admissions and deaths as well as symptomatic testing and prevalence studies.

But it warned that cases ‘continue to be dangerously high and the public must remain vigilant to keep this virus under control, to protect the NHS and save lives’.   

 

Lockdown rules: So what ARE we allowed to do then? 

Can I go for a walk with a friend?

LEGAL: Meeting one person from outside your household is permitted in England if you leave home on your own, and observe social distancing. You should leave home only once a day.

NOT LEGAL: Two or more people from your household cannot meet anyone from another household for exercise. It has to be one-to-one. There are only very limited exceptions, such as meeting someone who is in a support bubble with you because they live alone.

GREY AREA: Guidelines say you should ‘stay local’, and adds that this means ‘the village, town, or part of the city where you live’. The Government advises that you should leave home on foot rather than go by car or public transport to meet a friend.

Can I buy a coffee with a friend while I’m out?

LEGAL: Buying a takeaway coffee is legal, providing you observe the one-to-one rule. ‘If you’re getting coffee on your way to do exercise, or as part of your acquiring food, or one of those reasons you’re allowed to be out of the house, then that is legitimate,’ 

Home Office minister Kit Malthouse told Good Morning Britain yesterday. Last week Derbyshire Police fined two women £200 each for meeting up five miles from their homes, and said their takeaway drinks were an illegal ‘picnic’ – but the force has since cancelled the penalties and apologised.

NOT LEGAL: Meeting more than one person for a coffee. Sitting down with a coffee with a friend on a park bench for an extended period of time.

GREY AREA: The Government has not defined when a short sit-down to catch one’s breath during exercise becomes illegal. It is encouraging people to use their judgment and act responsibly, rather than look for loopholes in the lockdown rules.

Can I go for a bike ride?

LEGAL: A bike ride of 50 to 70 miles would be fine in most cases, Mr Malthouse said.

NOT LEGAL: Presumably, travelling further than 70 miles would be illegal.

GREY AREA: The nature of cycling means large distances can be covered. The parameters set out by the minister are yet to be tested.

Can I drive somewhere to exercise?

LEGAL: Yes, if absolutely necessary. The England guidelines say you should stay local, but they do not ban driving to exercise alone or as a household. Different rules apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

NOT LEGAL: Driving a long distance.

GREY AREA: A medium distance would probably not be in the spirit of the rules, especially as ministers have been clear you should be exercising on foot from home wherever possible. The exact point at which a short local drive becomes a breach of the rules is unclear.