UK records 18,262 new Covid cases – down a fifth in a week

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UK records 18,262 new Covid cases – down a fifth in a week

The UK has recorded 18,262 new coronavirus cases - down a fifth in just one week.In a triumphant sign that the UK's third national lockdown has slo

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The UK has recorded 18,262 new coronavirus cases – down a fifth in just one week.

In a triumphant sign that the UK’s third national lockdown has slowed the spread of a highly-infectious Covid-19 variant, today’s daily case total is down 21.5 per cent on the 23,275 seen last Saturday. 

Britain’s daily death toll has plunged – with 828 fatalities recorded today. The figure is 31 per cent lower than the 1,200 seen on this day last week.

It marks the second Saturday in a row where deaths have dropped week-on-week – suggesting Britain’s death toll has caught up with the country’s decreasing case numbers. 

Today’s figures come as Worcestershire becomes the latest region to detect the South African coronavirus variant.

In other coronavirus news: 

  • All passengers arriving in Britain from countries not on the Covid hotspot list could have to take up to four tests during their at-home isolation period, it emerged last night; 
  • Worcestershire became the latest area to start ‘surge testing’ after the South African coronavirus variant was detected;
  • Kent airfield staff who test truckers for Covid have been accused of sleeping with each other and distributing drugs;
  • The boss of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce is ‘very confident’ Britain can offer jabs to all over-50s by May and say the UK is leading the way in the fight against mutant variants.

How will the country’s arrivals testing scheme work? 

How many tests do people need to get?  

1 – Passengers get their first mandatory test within 72-hours of their departing flight.

(When they arrive – from a country that isn’t on the list of 33 ‘red’ countries that must quarantine in a hotel – they must isolate for 10 days)

2 – On day two of self-isolation, a Covid PCR test will be administered. The tests will be posted to the traveller, it is understood.

3 – An optional test can be taken on the fifth day of at-home isolation. If it comes back negative, the traveller will no-longer have to self isolate.

4 – For those who don’t opt for the day five test, another test will be carried out on day eight.

How are the mandatory tests enforced?

Fines will be issued for those who don’t get tested, The Times reports.

But it is not clear how the mandatory testing will be enforced – i.e. how officials will know if the tests have been taken or not.

It is also not clear how much the fines will be. 

Will they be lateral flow or PCR tests?

The tests on day two and day eight will likely be PCR tests – which are more reliable than the quicker lateral flow ones. 

The tests passengers flying into the UK must take can be lateral flow tests or PCR tests.

It is unclear what tests passengers can take on their optional day five test.

Who will pay for the tests? 

The traveller will have to pay for the tests.

Worcestershire County Council has set up ‘surge testing’ in the WR3 postcode and parts of the WR9 postcode after cases of the variant with no links to international travel were identified.  

It comes as a million people in the North West of England have been told to take a Covid test if they have a runny nose, as part of a clampdown on a mutated virus detected in the region. 

A mobile testing unit has been set up at The White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath, near Worcester, for adults with no symptoms living within walking distance, a drive-through testing site will open and door-to-door testing will be rolled out. 

Worcestershire County Council said: ‘Working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace, every person over the age of 18, living in the WR3 postcode and some WR9 postcodes, is strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test this week, even if they are not showing symptoms.’ 

Meanwhile, residents in the Liverpool city region, Preston and Lancashire have been urged by health bosses to get swabbed if they have even the slightest suspicion they are ill. 

It comes after more than 40 cases of an altered strain of the original virus – which carries a mutation experts fear makes vaccines less potent – was spotted in the three areas. 

Yesterday, it was revealed that passengers arriving in Britain from countries not on the Covid hotspot list could have to take up to four tests during their at-home isolation period, it emerged last night. 

Earlier this week, the Government confirmed that all passengers from the 33 ‘red list’ countries would have to quarantine for ten days in a hotel from February 15.

And now, travellers arriving from countries not on the list – who have to isolate for ten days at home – face three mandatory Covid tests during their isolation.

A fourth test taken half-way through quarantine could allow travellers to be let out early.

All the tests must be paid for by the traveller. Those who fail to take the mandatory tests face fines.

It is unclear how much the tests will cost, but private patients can fork out around £150 on one currently.

This means it could cost up to £600 for all four tests.

The mandatory testing regime – to be announced next week by Health Secretary Matt Hancock – will come into force on February 15.

Staff instruct a person on how to carry out a Covid-19 test at a mobile testing unit set up at the White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath, near Worcester

Staff instruct a person on how to carry out a Covid-19 test at a mobile testing unit set up at the White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath, near Worcester

Workers have started testing residents near Worcester

A member of the public grimaces as he is tested for Covid-19 at a mobile testing unit set up at the White Hart pub

A member of the public grimaces as he is tested for Covid-19 at a mobile testing unit set up at the White Hart pub

How will the country’s arrivals testing scheme work? 

How many tests do people need to get?  

1 – Passengers get their first mandatory test within 72-hours of their departing flight.

(When they arrive – from a country that isn’t on the list of 33 ‘red’ countries that must quarantine in a hotel – they must isolate for 10 days)

2 – On day two of self-isolation, a Covid PCR test will be administered. The tests will be posted to the traveller, it is understood.

3 – An optional test can be taken on the fifth day of at-home isolation. If it comes back negative, the traveller will no-longer have to self isolate.

4 – For those who don’t opt for the day five test, another test will be carried out on day eight.

How are the mandatory tests enforced?

Fines will be issued for those who don’t get tested, The Times reports.

But it is not clear how the mandatory testing will be enforced – i.e. how officials will know if the tests have been taken or not.

It is also not clear how much the fines will be. 

Will they be lateral flow or PCR tests?

The tests on day two and day eight will likely be PCR tests – which are more reliable than the quicker lateral flow ones. 

The tests passengers flying into the UK must take can be lateral flow tests or PCR tests.

It is unclear what tests passengers can take on their optional day five test.

Who will pay for the tests? 

The traveller will have to pay for the tests.

The travellers first test will be taken up to 72 hours before flying – as is the rule currently. 

Once home, arrivals must begin their ten-day self isolation. 

On their second day in quarantine, travellers need to get a second compulsory Covid test.

It will likely be a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which will be posted to Britons to carry out themselves, sources claim.

They could also be given the details of their nearest Covid testing centre after filling in a passenger locator form.

Arrivals will then have the option of a third Covid test they can take on the fifth day of at-home isolation.

This is optional and will allow the traveller to leave quarantine early should it come back negative.

A fourth compulsory Covid test will then be taken on day eight. 

It is not yet known whether people who test negative on day five still have to get tested on day eight.   

On the Worcestershire outbreak Dr Kathryn Cobain, director for public health in the county, said: ‘I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.’

Despite the frantic bid to try and stop the mutated variants spreading in Britain, scientists have warned the cases identified so far are likely just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. 

Door-to-door and mobile testing began in Britain at the start of the month as part of urgent efforts to swab 80,000 people. This came after 11 cases of the variant were identified in people who had no links to travel – suggesting it may be spreading in communities.  

Any positive results as part of surge testing programmes will be sent for genome sequencing to identify the variant – a process which usually takes around a fortnight. 

The alteration, scientifically known as E484K, is also found on the South African and Brazilian variants which have led to Britain toughening up its border controls.

Even though the mutation does not specifically cause any different symptoms to the original strain, officials are broadening the criteria for a swab as a safety net to snuff out cases that would normally go undetected.

‘Surge testing’ has been ordered in 11 authorities after the South African variant of coronavirus was detected in the UK

Staff instruct a person on how to carry out a Covid-19 test at a mobile testing unit set up at the White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath earlier today

Staff instruct a person on how to carry out a Covid-19 test at a mobile testing unit set up at the White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath earlier today

A Covid-19 mobile testing unit set up at the White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath, near Worcester, as the area became the latest instructed to undergo a 'testing surge'

A Covid-19 mobile testing unit set up at the White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath, near Worcester, as the area became the latest instructed to undergo a ‘testing surge’

Workers hurried to get the site near Worcester set up as the council announced two postcodes needed to be tested

Workers hurried to get the site near Worcester set up as the council announced two postcodes needed to be tested

As workers put up a tent to share those getting tested from the drizzly weather, residents started to arrive in Fernhill Heath

As workers put up a tent to share those getting tested from the drizzly weather, residents started to arrive in Fernhill Heath

Any positive results as part of surge testing programmes will be sent for genome sequencing to identify the variant - a process which usually takes around a fortnight. Pictured, The White Hart pub

Any positive results as part of surge testing programmes will be sent for genome sequencing to identify the variant – a process which usually takes around a fortnight. Pictured, The White Hart pub

Police officers and other emergency services go door-to-door to collect Covid-19 tests from residents homes on February 3 in Maidstone

Police officers and other emergency services go door-to-door to collect Covid-19 tests from residents homes on February 3 in Maidstone

A million people in the North West of England have been told to take a Covid test if they have a runny nose, as part of a clampdown on a mutated virus detected in the region

A million people in the North West of England have been told to take a Covid test if they have a runny nose, as part of a clampdown on a mutated virus detected in the region

The wider range of symptoms includes shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, a sore throat, congestion or a runny nose, and nausea or vomiting.  

Public Health England said the most recent tests rolled out in a number of areas of the country this week will be prioritised in a bid to speed up the process.

Liverpool and Warrington find cases of mutation known as E484K

Public Health England has identified cases of the original virus strain with the mutation, scientifically known as E484K, in the Liverpool City Region and Warrington. 

The mutation has also been found in Preston and West Lancashire, according to health officials.

The E484K mutation – also found in the South African and Brazilian variants – appears to boost the virus’s ability to avoid the immune system, raising the risk of reinfections or the current crop of vaccines being less effective.

It has appeared separately in cases of both the Kent variant and on the original version of the virus. 

Neither are yet being described as new variants but represent physical differences to the virus that could change how it behaves.

It comes after 32 people in Liverpool have also been struck down with the original strain of the virus with the E484K mutation. MailOnline understands the cases were spotted three weeks ago.

A cluster of an initial five cases was detected on January 10 among staff at Liverpool Women’s Hospital who had attended an event outside the hospital, believed to be a funeral. 

Warrington Council have said they will get behind enhanced contact tracing in the town. 

Thara Raj, Warrington’s director of public health, explained how ‘some residents may be concerned’ but added it shouldn’t ‘cause any further alarm’. 

Ms Raj added: ‘We are monitoring the situation closely and all necessary public health interventions are being undertaken.’ 

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health and wellbeing at Lancashire County Council, said: ‘If you live in Preston or West Lancashire and you’re feeling under the weather, please get a Covid test. 

‘Understandably, some residents may be concerned but all viruses mutate over time so this should not cause any further alarm.  

Testing of around 10,000 people in Maidstone, Kent, was completed on Thursday night.

In Surrey, testing in Woking was expected to finish on Friday with door-to-door deliveries in Egham and Thorpe due to begin on Saturday.

Sefton Council said efforts to identify the variant in the Norwood area of Southport in Merseyside would continue into the weekend.

Testing in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, is being rolled out for another week until February 12, the council said.

Around 10,300 people in Walsall have been tested so far and some 560 tests had been conducted in the affected areas in Birmingham, the West Midlands Combined Authority was told.

Mobile testing units and home testing kits were also deployed this week to Hanwell, west London and Mitcham, south London.

Testing will also continue into next week in Tottenham, north London. 

Matthew Ashton, director of public health for Liverpool, told the i newspaper: ‘We are concerned that people may not think they have Covid because they are not displaying the classic symptoms and, as a result, could be unwittingly spreading the infection to others.

‘The virus is changing all the time, so it is essential that we redouble our efforts so we stay one step ahead of it, and we know some people have been testing positive with other symptoms.’ 

Around 40 cases of the original strain of Covid carrying the E484K mutation were spotted in Liverpool, Warrington and Lancashire.

In another twist to the UK’s Covid crisis, officials have also spotted 11 strains of the Kent variant which have that mutation, suggesting it is also evolving again. 

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health and wellbeing at Lancashire County Council, added: ‘If you live in Preston or West Lancashire and you’re feeling under the weather, please get a Covid test.

‘It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the three classic symptoms of a fever, loss of taste or smell, or a cough – even a headache could be an indication you may have this mutation.

‘Understandably, some residents may be concerned but all viruses mutate over time so this should not cause any further alarm.

‘Alongside our partners, please rest assured that we are monitoring the situation closely.

‘It is important to stress that there is currently no evidence that this mutation alone causes more severe illness or is more transmissible.

‘The best way to control the spread is for everyone to continue to abide by the lockdown rules and following the simple steps of washing your hands, using a face covering and making space from each other.

‘While Covid has been here for a while now, these new variants remind us that we all need to keep doing what we can to stay safe and avoid spreading Covid to each other.’

The variant discovered in the North West is said to be less concerning because it is an altered version of the original strain so is less transmissible than the Kent one. 

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