Britain records 2,144 Covid cases and 27 deaths, as both still fall

Britain records 2,144 Covid cases and 27 deaths as both measures continue to fall – and two thirds of adults have now been vaccinated

  • Department of Health data showed infections had dipped one per cent and deaths were down 6.9 per cent
  • More than 34.7million Britons have now received one dose of the Covid vaccine – or 66 per cent of adults
  • It comes after official data revealed flu and pneumonia are now killing more people than Covid 

Britain recorded another 2,144 Covid cases and 27 deaths today as both measures continued to point downward — while two thirds of adults have now received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Department of Health data showed infections had dipped one per cent compared to the same time last week, and fatalities were down by two or 6.9 per cent.

Covid deaths rose compared to the two previous days when they were in single figures, but experts said this was expected because more fatalities from the bank holiday weekend had now been registered. 

More than 34.7million Britons have now received their first dose of the vaccine — or 66 per cent of all over-18s — while 15.8million are fully inoculated.

It comes after figures revealed more people are now dying from flu and pneumonia than Covid in England and Wales for the first time since the second wave took off last year.

Office for National Statistics data showed the virus was mentioned on 260 death certificates that occurred in the week ending April 23 — down 30 per cent on the week before. But Covid was only listed as the underlying cause for 176 of the victims. For comparison, flu and pneumonia was behind 278 deaths in the same seven-day spell but mentioned on 1,203 certificates. 

The promising figures will inevitably pile more pressure on Boris Johnson to speed-up his ultra-cautious lockdown exit strategy, which will not permit holidays or pubs and restaurants to serve indoors until May 17. Restrictions will remain in place until June 21, at the earliest.

Scientists are already predicting the successful vaccine roll-out may mean the country never needs another blanket lockdown. 

It comes amid fury over Champions League final plans that could ‘make a mockery’ of Britain’s lockdown efforts should 8,000 Man City and Chelsea fans travel to Covid hotspot Turkey.

Up to 8,000 British football fans could get tickets for the Champions League final in Turkey this month as UEFA draws up plans to host the match in front of a stadium of thousands despite the country’s Covid outbreak.

Manchester City and their opponents in the final will receive up to 4,000 tickets each for fans to attend the match in Turkey – and the second finalists could be Chelsea if they win tonight.

Football chiefs and Turkish authorities are believed to be drawing up plans to accommodate 25,000 spectators at the Ataturk Stadium for the match on May 29. If they are approved, the stadium in Istanbul will host a third of its 76,000-capacity.

Turkey’s rate of coronavirus cases is around 12 times higher than Britain’s and double the European average

But staging the game will make a ‘mockery’ of Britain’s efforts to stamp out Covid, according to an MP and public health experts, who say English fans shouldn’t be allowed to attend.

Turkey currently has a coronavirus infection rate 12 times higher than Britain’s, with 370 new cases per million people announced yesterday, compared to 30. There were 31,200 more positive tests confirmed on Tuesday alongside just 2,000 in the UK.

Clive Efford, MP for Eltham in Greenwich, South East London, said: ‘It is a risk not worth taking at this stage.’

Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West, told MailOnline that if Chelsea make it through the match should be moved to Britain. He said: ‘I know it would be a blow for Istanbul but… it would certainly be safer from a Covid point of view.’

City eased their way to their first Champions League final with a stunning 2-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium, last night, to go with their 2-1 win in France.

Chelsea will play Spanish giants Real Madrid tonight in hope of clinching the other place in the final – they drew 1-1 in Madrid in the first leg.

At least 4,000 Brits will be given the chance to travel with City if the plans are given the green light, and the UK contingent could be upped to 8,000 if Chelsea win at Stamford Bridge tonight.

In other coronavirus developments today: 

  • The entire Indian delegation that travelled to London for the G7 summit must self-isolate after two Covid cases were detected;
  • Top SAGE adviser Professor Neil Ferguson said it was unlikely the UK will have to lock down again because the vaccine rollout is going so well;
  • One in five adults experienced some form of depression at the start of 2021 — double what was recorded before the pandemic;
  • Holidaymakers are to be given Covid screening packs to use abroad as the Foreign Office hints at its ‘green list’… but travellers will still have to pay £50 for gold-standard swabs;
  • India accounted for nearly half of Covid cases globally and one in four deaths over the last week. 

Doctors list a disease such as Covid as the underlying cause of death when they consider it to be to blame for someone dying.

They can, however, also mention other conditions as contributors, meaning they were not the main cause but played a role.

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University’s Medical School, said flu and pneumonia were now behind more deaths than Covid because of vaccinations and lockdown easing measures.

‘There is no question that the vaccine roll-out is driving down Covid deaths,’ he told MailOnline.

‘What we are seeing is that vaccination is clearly biting now and having a massive impact not only on the level of the disease but also on the spread.’

He added: ‘I think (the rise in deaths due to flu) is a consequence of as you ease lockdown restrictions, you are going to see more mixing and more virus spread.

‘We have all been living in isolation over the winter. Often, what happens with these infections is they travel around through the year in new forms and boost our immunity against them.

‘But in a year without mixing this hasn’t been the case – a load of us have not had colds we would normally get.

‘As a result, some people are more vulnerable to infections but have not had that boost you get from infection every year may be more at risk.’

Studies suggest the Covid jabs roll-out may be stopping the spread of the virus even as lockdown measures are eased.

More than three in five Britons have been jabbed and they are highly effective at blocking infections. 

But flu vaccines, which are dished out to millions every winter, are less effective at blocking infections, giving the virus a window to resurge once people start mixing more regularly.

ONS figures showed Covid only made up 2.6 per cent of all fatalities recorded in England and Wales two weeks ago, compared to more than 40 per cent at the peak of the second wave.

Three out of nine regions in England — North East, East Midlands and the South West — went at least one day without a single Covid fatality occurring over the latest week.

And eight out of nine went at least one day with just one Covid death occurring, with only the West Midlands not hitting this level.

There were 9,941 deaths from all-causes — including dementia, heart disease and Covid — which was 5.3 per cent below the five-year average, or 556 fewer deaths, for the number of deaths expected at this time of year.

Experts had said all deaths were likely to fall below average for some time because more people had died earlier than they otherwise would have without the spread of the virus.

There were also 26 deaths involving Covid among care home residents, almost half the 44 recorded in the previous seven-day period.

Amid the promising figures Mr Johnson is yet to budge on his lockdown easing strategy, despite insisting he will be led by ‘data not dates’.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi (left) said the £30million investment in Porton Down to fight Covid variants would ‘future-proof the vaccination programme for next year and the years beyond that, as we move from pandemic to endemic and deal with it in the way we would deal with the annual flu vaccination programme’. Boris Johnson (right) waves as he rides a bike ride along the towpath of the Stourbridge canal in the West Midlands during a Conservative party local election visit

The 60million extra doses of Pfizer’s vaccine ordered by the UK will put it on par with AstraZeneca’s as the most widely available in the country, with 100million doses of each. The UK has enough supplies on order to vaccinate the entire population many times over

It comes as vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi predicts Covid could be treated like the flu next year and this year’s autumn vaccine booster drive for over-50s may be the start of an annual jab programme.

Mr Zahawi said plans for a second vaccine roll-out and huge investment in testing for variants would ‘future-proof’ the country against coronavirus, scrapping the need for any future lockdowns.

His comments came after Professor Neil Ferguson, the SAGE adviser whose warning that hundreds of thousands could die if Britain didn’t go into lockdown in March 2020, said Britain might never need another Covid lockdown and looks set for a ‘steady course out of the pandemic’ thanks to the vaccine roll-out.

He admitted to the BBC there ‘may be a need to roll back on some of these measures’ if a vaccine-resistant variant were to appear later in the year but he didn’t think it would happen.

To cut the risk of this happening the Government will, in autumn, offer a third jab to everyone over the age of 50 or in a clinically vulnerable group. One unnamed minister claimed it is hoped the move means Covid will have ‘faded away into the background like any other illness’ by Christmas.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, is currently supervising trials of two ways to deliver autumn boosters, including giving third doses of existing jabs or using updated vaccines specifically tailored to target new variants. The current jabs are modelled on the Wuhan variant which is no longer dominant.

Early research has raised hopes in the Government that either of the two approaches can nullify the threat from existing and new variants, it is understood. Matt Hancock last week announced Number 10 had bought 60million more doses of the Pfizer jab to use for the second rollout.

Public Health England, soon to become the UK Health Security Agency, will also pump an extra £30million into analysing positive swab samples to track Covid variants and develop new vaccines to fight them if necessary. The project will be co-ordinated from its Porton Down lab in Wiltshire.

Mr Zahawi said the scheme would ‘future-proof the vaccination programme for next year and the years beyond that, as we move from pandemic to endemic and deal with it in the way we would deal with the annual flu vaccination programme’.

He warned, however, the virus was still capable of spreading ‘like wildfire’ in places where vaccine uptake was low and that officials were looking at postcode level data to spot which communities were at risk of flare-ups.

Discussing the plans to wheel out booster doses to millions of adults this autumn, a senior government minister told The Times: ‘We think that the level of protection in the population to any variant will be so high that, by Christmas, Covid should have just faded away into the background like any other illness in circulation.

‘So much so we don’t think there will be any need to give a booster shot to younger people because transmission will have got so low.’ 

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