UK coronavirus LIVE: Hopes for summer staycations as nursing leaders slam ‘pitiful’ pay offer

During a visit to Glasgow Lighthouse Lab, Mr Hancock told reporters: “I’ve said before that I’m optimistic for a great British summer and I’m now more optimistic about having a great British summer than I have been at any time, thanks to the speed and the effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.” Meanwhile, a massive row is brewing as the Royal College of Nursing slammed a proposed 1% pay offer to hard-pressed NHS staff in 2021/22 as “pitiful”.

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WHO warning over resurgence of cases in Europe

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is seeing a resurgence in cases in central and eastern Europe it has warned. Head of the organisation’s Europe office Hans Kluge said that several western European countries had also seen a rise,

He warned about the stress on hospitals adding: “A year into the pandemic our health systems should not be in this situation.”

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Scientists identify new Covid variant in UK

Scientists have identified 16 cases of a new coronavirus variant in the UK, Public Health England (PHE) has announced. Cases of the variant, referred to as VUI-202102/04, were first identified on February 15 through genomic horizon scanning. PHE said on Thursday that all individuals who tested positive and their contacts have been traced and advised to isolate.

The variant, which is understood to have originated in the UK, was designated a “variant under investigation” (VUI) on February 24. Variants of Covid-19 can be identified as VUIs or “variants of concern” (VOCs).

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Royal College of Nursing hits out at ‘pitiful’ 1% pay offer to NHS staff

The government has published its submission to the NHS pay review body – revealing a proposed pay rise in 2021-22 of one per cent for NHS staff in England. The Royal College of Nursing has dismissed the offer as “pitiful and bitterly disappointing”.

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UK reports another 242 deaths from the disease

The latest Covid-19 figures have been announced.

Some 6,573 further infections have been reported, with cases dropping by around a third in a week. Another 242 fatalities brings the official UK death toll to 124,025.

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Zoo animals given Covid jabs

The San Diego zoo has given nine orangutans an experimental coronavirus vaccine after a troop of gorillas tested positive for the virus but later recovered, according to National Geographic. The apes became the first known non-human primates to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in the US in February and that the animals were distracted from the needles with treats.

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Celebrated South African journalist dies with Covid

Tributes have been paid for prominent  South African journalist Karima Brown, 54, who died of Covid in hospital earlier today, according to reports from Associated Press.

Her family said in a statement: “We are enormously proud of the fierce determination she had shown, since her early years, to get involved in bringing about a more inclusive, and anti-racist South Africa. “This determination also shaped her fearless approach to journalism. She was driven by a conviction that journalism must be in service of justice.”

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Downing Street appeals to over 80s to stick to rules even after jab

Downing Street urged people to continue to respect the lockdown after an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey suggested more than four in 10 over-80s who received a coronavirus vaccine during the current lockdown appear to have since broken the rules.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s important that people continue to follow the guidelines that are in place.” Asked if the elderly were behaving irresponsibly, the spokesman said: “We are asking everybody to continue to follow the rules and guidelines.”

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Italy blocks vaccine shipment to Australia

Italy has halted the shipment of 250,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Australia. The move comes after the European Union changed the rules on vaccines being shipped outside the bloc.

It is the first time such an intervention has been triggered.

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A further 184 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England

The latest figure from NHS England brings the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 83,917. Patients were aged between 19 and 98. All except six, aged between 47 and 85, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between November 19 and March 3, with the majority being on or after February 28.

There were 50 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

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Vaccine take-up in London among people aged 80 and over continues to lag behind other regions of England, figures suggest

An estimated 83.2 per cent of people in this age group in the capital have had their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to NHS England.

Take-up in all other regions is estimated to be at least 95 per cent, with south-west England having the highest proportion at 98.9 per cent.