Department of Health statistics show the number of new cases is 35 per cent below last Wednesday, when 38,905 were recorded. It also marks an 88 per cent fall on the 47,525 infections announced two weeks ago.
Another 1,725 Covid-19 deaths were recorded today, the second highest death toll since the crisis began. But they are down five per cent on last Wednesday’s record 1,820 victims.
Covid deaths lag by about three weeks behind trends in case rates, due to the time it takes for infected patients to fall seriously ill. Experts hope deaths will start to drop quite significantly this week or next.
Britain has now recorded a grisly 101,887 Covid fatalities in the 10 months since the pandemic began, after reaching six figures yesterday.
It came as Britain banned entry from 30 countries as it clamps down on foreign travel in a bid to shut out worrying variants from hampering the country’s vaccine drive. Arrivals from nations including Brazil and South Africa will be forced to quarantine in hotels for 10 days at their own expense.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also cranked up the pressure on holidaymaking Brits who have continued to fly to places like Dubai despite the lockdown, warning people trying to leave the UK would be turned back at airports.
MailOnline understands that hundreds of arrivals each day are expected to be escorted directly from airports to rooms, where they will have to stay for the duration of their isolation and pay a bill estimated at £1,500 – although ministers hope the numbers will ‘fall through the floor’ as people avoid coming to the UK.
In a statement to MPs, Ms Patel also announced that Britons will be sent home from ports and airports if they fail to prove their trip abroad is ‘essential’, as she vowed police will ramp up enforcement on travel restrictions.
She insisted the measures would help prevent mutant Covid strains getting into the country – but they are far milder than were originally mooted.
Boris Johnson today announced schools would not reopen until at least March 8 as he extended the lockdown measures in England for another three weeks, amid mounting Tory anger over the restrictions.
BORIS JOHNSON EXTENDS ENGLAND’S LOCKDOWN BY THREE WEEKS
Boris Johnson today declared that schools will not reopen until at least March 8 as he extended lockdown by another three weeks, but tried to quell rising Tory anger by pledging a ‘road map’ out of the coronavirus crisis.
The PM delivered the grim news for millions of children and struggling parents in a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, saying he knew how ‘frustrated’ they will be.
He made clear there is no hope of any lockdown easing until well after the mid-February review date – finally ruling out the idea that some more pupils could return to classrooms after half-term. Currently only the offspring of key workers are in schools, with everyone else remote learning.
Mr Johnson said fast progress was being made on vaccinations with doses given to more than 6.8million people – 13 per cent of the adult population – and the NHS is on track to hit the goal of covering the four most vulnerable groups by February 15. The jabs should give them full protection three weeks after that, he insisted.
‘We hope it will therefore be safe to begin the reopening of schools from Monday 8 March,’ the premier said – while warning that even that is contingent on pressure on the health service easing.
The announcement – which means many children face missing at least 111 days of school – came after the UK’s death toll hit the grim milestone of 100,000, with scientists claiming the victims could have been reduced by tougher Government action.
In the Commons, Mr Johnson admitted that ‘perpetual lockdown is no answer’. But he also confirmed that borders are being tightened, with enforced 10-day stays in ‘quarantine hotels’ for arrivals from countries on a ‘red list’ with high infection rates.
‘We will not persist for a day longer than necessary, but nor will we relax too soon,’ he said. ‘Reopening schools will be our first priority.’
Pleading for the public to stick with his strategy, Mr Johnson said: ‘Our goal now must be to buy the extra weeks we need to immunise the most vulnerable and get this virus under control, so that together we can defeat this most wretched disease, reclaim our lives once and for all.’
It comes as in another day of coronavirus news:
- Production of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is suspended after factory was evacuated following discovery of suspicious package;
- Nicola Sturgeon says the Prime Minister should keep out of Scotland under her Covid travel ban;
- Teaching unions push for an even longer schools closure as they warn mooted opening time is too early;
- Brussels demands Covid jabs made in Britain are sent to the continent as furious MEPs call for AstraZeneca’s contract to be made public;
- Public Health England reveals it has found 90 cases of the South African variant of the virus in the UK.
It comes as Ms Patel made the case for the government in a Commons statement, Ms Patel said: ‘It is clear that there are still too many people coming in and out of our country each day.
‘And today I am announcing further action to strengthen the health measures we already have at the border, but to reduce passenger flow so that only a small number of people for whom it is absolutely essential to travel are doing so and therefore reducing the risk to our world-leading vaccine programme.’
Under the push to clamp down on travel, airlines are expected to be fined if they fail to enforce non-exemptions properly after influencers were accused of ‘taking the p***’ by jetting out to Dubai, claiming their Instagram updates constituted work.
‘Even at St Pancras people have been turning up with their skis,’ Ms Patel said.
‘We see plenty of influencers on social media showing off about which parts of the world they are in…
‘Going on holiday is not a valid reason to travel.’
The limited Australian-style quarantine scheme follows concerns about new Covid variants entering Britain – but ignores a plea from Ms Patel and Health Secretary Matt Hancock to apply the diktat to all arrivals.
Confusingly, Boris Johnson told the House earlier that 22 countries will be on the quarantine list – but in fact the current ‘red list’ of countries from where only British nationals can come to the UK is much wider than that.
Ms Patel did not give a full roll call of the states included when she addressed MPs.
She said the government does have estimates for how many people will need to quarantine in hotels, but refused to give them. Sources said the numbers of arrivals going into the accommodation is likely to be in the hundreds to start with, but should fall quickly.
And although she suggested there is an ‘immediate’ crackdown the start date for the enforced quarantine is not clear.
At PMQs this afternoon, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government had ‘failed’ by being ‘too slow’ to bring it in and claiming that quarantining arrivals from 22 countries ‘doesn’t go far enough’.
Passengers arriving in Britain from any of the listed countries will have to isolate for 10 days in hotels near airports and pay around £1,500 for the privilege.
Boris Johnson told the Commons: ‘I want to make clear that under the stay at home regulations, it is illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes and we will enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel.
‘We have also banned all travel from 22 countries where there is a risk of known variants including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations.
‘And in order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in Government provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days without exception.
‘They will be met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine. The Department of Health and Social Care is working to establish these facilities as quickly as possible.’
The ‘test and release’ scheme, which allows travellers to leave quarantine if they have a negative Covid test on the fifth day in isolation, cannot be used for countries on the ‘red list’, so is unaffected by the changes.
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