AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot hailed the jab’s “winning formula” of using two doses and said of the more contagious variant: “We think the vaccine should remain effective. But we can’t be sure, so we’re going to test that.”
Meanwhile, scientists from the Independent Sage group have urged that all regions of England be placed in Tier 4, meaning that non-essential shops, hairdressers, and leisure and entertainment venues must close.
Boxing Day one of London Ambulance’s busiest ever
London Ambulance Service said Boxing Day had been one of its “busiest ever” days.
“Like NHS organisations across the country, demand for our services has risen sharply over the past weeks and we are now taking up to 8,000 999 calls a day compared to 5,500 on a typical ‘busy’ day.
“Boxing Day this year was one of our busiest ever days,” a statement said.
Vaccination continued over Xmas period
Coronavirus vaccinations in England continued on Christmas Day and during the weekend, NHS England has confirmed.
Hospitals under ‘real rise in pressure’ in London and the South
Hospitals have seen “a real rise in pressure” in Tier 4 areas including London and the South in the past days, NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery has said.
Speaking on the BBC, she said: “We’re seeing a real rise in the pressure for hospital services, but also other types of NHS services as well… ambulance trusts in particular are coming under extreme pressure, as are community and mental health services…
“Part of the issue is many more people coming through the door with Covid, but also people coming through the door with other conditions as well.”
She added: “We’re seeing real pressure particularly in London and the South, and that comes from this added demand, but also staff absence.
“It’s localised at the moment, but we could see that growing, and I think it’s really important to remember that what’s going on in the community is also going on in healthcare settings.”
Ms Cordery said the spread of coronavirus among communities “impacts hugely” on staffing levels across the NHS.
‘Thank God’: Europeans react to EU vaccine rollout
Europe launched a mass Covid-19 vaccination drive on Sunday with pensioners and medics lining up to get the first shots to see off a pandemic that has crippled economies and claimed more than 1.7 million lives worldwide.
“Thank God,” 96-year-old Araceli Hidalgo said as she became the first person in Spain to have a vaccine at her care home in Guadalajara, near the capital Madrid.
“Let’s see if we can make this virus go away.”
In Italy, the first country in Europe to record significant numbers of infections, 29-year-old nurse Claudia Alivernini was one of three medical staff at the head of the queue for the shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
“It is the beginning of the end … it was an exciting, historic moment,” she said at Rome’s Spallanzani hospital.
The region of 450 million people is trying to catch up with the United States and Britain, which have already started vaccinations using the Pfizer shot.
Brentwood has highest infection rate in UK
Here are the latest Covid-19 case rates for every local authority area in England.
The rate is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people.
Data for the most recent four days (December 24-27) has been excluded as it is incomplete and does not reflect the true number of cases.
Of the 315 local areas in England, 282 (90%) have seen a rise in case rates and 33 (10%) have seen a fall.
Brentwood in Essex has the highest rate in England, with 1,111 new cases recorded in the seven days to December 23 – the equivalent of 1,442.5 cases per 100,000 people.
This is up steeply from 886.8 in the seven days to December 16.
Epping Forest, also in Essex, has the second highest rate, up from 971.2 to 1,388.1, with 1,828 new cases.
Thurrock, again in Essex, is in third place, where the rate has risen from 1,066.9 to 1,330.7, with 2,320 new cases.
Italy sees 305 more Covid deaths
Italy added another 305 victims to its official coronavirus death toll on the same day it joined the rest of the European Union in launching a massive vaccination campaign.
Another 8,913 people tested positive Sunday, far fewer than in recent days. But with the Christmas holiday weekend, far fewer tests were conducted.
Italy leads Europe in the official COVID-19 death toll with 71,925 victims, though officials say the true toll is far higher due to missed infections early on and testing limitations.
Italy on Sunday began administering the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to health care workers who have been on the front lines of the pandemic since Italy in late February became the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe.
The death toll has risen by 316
Long Covid patients haunted by ‘unbearable’ smells of fish, sulphur, and burnt toast
ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon Professor Nirmal Kumar said this “very strange and very unique” long-term symptom, known as parosmia, seems to be affecting young people and healthcare workers in particular.
Two teenagers given £1,000 fines and man arrested after rave in Manchester
Officers were called to empty flats in the Shudehill area of the city at around 4.20am on Sunday after reports of a large gathering and loud music.
Patrols from Greater Manchester Police attended an address on Hanover Street and dispersed around 100 people in attendance, seizing music equipment.
The two teenage males, aged 17 and 18, were each given the four-figure fixed penalty notice.
A 27-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and remains in custody.
He was also given a £200 notice.
Chief Inspector Colin MacDiarmid, of the force’s City of Manchester division, said: “There is no denying the blatant breach of Covid legislation that took place here last night, and enquiries are ongoing to ensure the organisers of this gathering are held accountable for their unacceptable actions.
“The majority of people in Manchester have made tremendously difficult sacrifices over the Christmas period and have complied with the rules that we all have to follow; however, it is the minority of people who attend events such as this that risk undoing the hard work of everyone else.”
Scientists call for Tier 4 lockdown restrictions across all of UK amid spread of Covid-19 variant
Dr Zubadida Haque, a member of Independent Sage, said the advisory group of scientists were “very worried” about a rise in the number of coronavirus deaths and number of patients in hospital with the virus.