Latest updates on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Oxfordshire for the week commencing 04 January. This is a rolling story and it will be updated with any significant developments.
11.00am on 10 January
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has said every adult will be offered a vaccine by the autumn, but right now, people must follow lockdown guidance and stay at home.
He said the government’s goal was to have offered a vaccine to everybody in the top four most vulnerable groups by mid-February, and it was “on track” to deliver that.
However, he added that it still takes two to three weeks for those individuals to get immunity. And that it was not possible to be more precise on when restrictions might be lifted as it will depend on how things progress.
With schools currently shut to most pupils – except for the children of key workers, those without laptops and the vulnerable – he set out the government’s four criteria for relaxing restrictions and reopening schools as follows:
4.15pm on 08 January
The UK has recorded the highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since the pandemic began as, sadly, a further 1,325 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive COVID test.
1.15pm on 08 January
The vaccine is made by Moderna, a US company, and it works in a similar way to the Pfizer vaccine that is already being offered by the NHS i.e. it injects part of the virus’s genetic code in order to provoke an immune response. But unlike the Pfizer vaccine, it only requires temperatures of around -20C for shipping – similar to a normal freezer.
The UK has ordered an extra 10 million doses of this vaccine, taking the total order to 17 million, but supplies are not expected to arrive until spring. This comes as the PM announced yesterday that around 1.5 million people in the UK have had at least one dose of Covid vaccine so far, including almost a quarter of those aged over 80 in England.
Vaccines are being given to the most vulnerable first, as set out in a list of nine high-priority groups, covering around 30 million people in the UK. The prime minister has said the aim is to vaccinate those in the first four groups (around 13 to 15 million people in the UK) by mid-February including care homes residents and staff, frontline NHS staff, everyone over 70 and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is further great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease. We have already vaccinated nearly 1.5 million people across the UK and Moderna’s vaccine will allow us to accelerate our vaccination programme even further once doses become available from the spring. While we immunise those most at risk from Covid, I urge everyone to continue following the rules to keep cases low to protect our loved ones.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted it was “excellent news” the Moderna vaccine had been approved for use. He said: “Our national vaccine effort is accelerating to vaccinate priority groups with our existing two vaccines, and the Moderna doses will add to that when they become available in spring.”
Excellent news the @MHRAgovuk has approved the use of the @moderna_tx vaccine.
Our national vaccine effort is accelerating to vaccinate priority groups with our existing two vaccines, and the Moderna doses will add to that when they become available in spring. https://t.co/yt43dxGuGS
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 8, 2021
5.15pm on 07 January
PM Boris Johnson has announced that nearly 1.5 million people in the UK have been vaccinated and that over 1,000 GP sites, 223 hospital sites, seven giant vaccination centres and 200 community pharmacies will be delivering the vaccine by the end of the week. He added that everyone should have a vaccination available within 10 miles.
Earlier, the latest published government data showed 1,162 people are reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus – the highest UK daily total since 21 April. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there have been 633 COVID-19 deaths in Oxfordshire as at Christmas day.
2.30pm on 07 January
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being rolled out to hundreds of GP-run vaccination centres across the country, including Oxfordshire, as part of the UK biggest vaccination programme ever, with a view to having 13 million people in the highest priority groups vaccinated by mid-February.
The news comes as government figures released this morning show that the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in England has reached its highest level since the pandemic began, despite a drop in the number of people being tested over Christmas.
On Wednesday, the government announced that across the UK, some 1.3 million people have already been vaccinated, on a day when a further 1,041 people were reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus – the highest UK daily total since 21 April.
The 7-day rolling average weekly rate of confirmed cases per 100,000 population in The County of Oxfordshire reached it’s highest levels at 542.6 as at 01 January – more than double the rate two weeks prior. The Office for National Statistics reported earlier in the week that one in 50 people in England have COVID-19 in the latest week.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – with the second jab taking place 12 weeks after the first – is easier to administer as it can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech jab that requires long-term storage at -70C.
2.00pm on 06 January
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed that GCSEs, AS and A-levels exams in England will not go ahead this year and will be replaced by a form of teacher-assessed grades. He said: “This year we’re going to put our trust in teachers rather than algorithms,” the education secretary says.
He added that schools are better prepared for remote learning than they were last year and that there is a legal requirement for schools to provide high-quality remote education of between 3 and 5 hours teaching a day depending on the age of the child.
1.00pm on 06 January
The government figures below shows the number of new cases and change in the rates for this week (up to 01 January) compared to the previous week (up to 25 December) across the county.
The 7-day incidence rates fluctuate daily. For consistency, the report is based on the nationally available data for the prior week ending Friday. It is currently updated weekly by Tuesday evening, at which time the data are less subject to change.
Take a closer look at the coronavirus (COVID-19) numbers in Oxfordshire.
11.00am on 06 January
Steep rises throughout the country including a doubling of cases in Oxfordshire in the space of a fortnight has prompted the government to place the nation into a third lockdown from 05 January.
National lockdown restrictions announced by Government mean people in Oxfordshire and elsewhere must stay at home to help contain the virus. In the last week alone the number of cases increased by 64% and this follows a substantial increase in the week prior to that. The number of cases in the over 60s have more than doubled in the last week.
Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, said: “The number of cases both locally and nationally have risen hugely during December and people are once again being asked to stay at home. The new variant of COVID-19 spreads extremely quickly and these rules are being applied for our own safety and protection. We have had some good news as regards the Oxford vaccine but in coming weeks it’s important that we keep up the discipline of abiding by the rules.
“We have seen how aggressively the virus spreads and during 2020 as a whole we have seen that this virus thrives on human contact. We clearly still have some very difficult times to get through before the vaccine begins to make a significant impact on COVID-19.
“The quick move to a further national lockdown is a stark warning that we need to be extra vigilant. I would urge people to take personal responsibility as individuals and families throughout the coming weeks to give ourselves a chance of containing the virus and clearing a path for the vaccine. It is great news that the vaccine made in Oxford has now become the second in circulation in the UK. However, this is precisely the time of year when viruses thrive and we must be on our guard.
“I would urge everyone to protect themselves, the communities in which they live and therefore the NHS as we progress through the early days of 2021.”
6.30am on 06 January
As England goes into lockdown, Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council has said: “The very high level of infections and hospital admissions is something we should all be deeply concerned about. I know another lockdown is not how we all wanted to start the new year, but the reality is that despite everyone’s best efforts, infection rates are increasing and it is now essential.
In a statement to support the lockdown, she said: “I know 2020 was a really tough year, and it has tested our resolve in so many different ways. But with numbers rising so fast, once again we need to come together as a city, to bring the rates of transmission back under control. That means supporting each other to properly follow the rules as we did in the spring. Oxford City Council will continue to do everything we can to keep essential services running while also providing additional help to the many families and businesses across the city that need it.
She added: “I want to emphasise that it is essential that we all follow the guidance – minimise travel and only leave home if you absolutely must, wear a face mask, keep a distance from others, wash your hands regularly, don’t socialise indoors. Keeping children home from school is hard, but it will keep you and other families safer. Schools will still be open for key worker and vulnerable families. If you think you have symptoms you must self-isolate immediately and book a test, the NHS will let you know what to do next when they give you the result.
She concluded by saying: “There are now two vaccines being given to the most at risk which is a great step forward, but most of us will have to wait some months for our jab. Let’s all do what we need to get through this lockdown. Keep in touch with friends and neighbours to support each other, ask for help if you need it, and help our NHS by making sure you’re not the next case they have to treat.”
5.30pm on 05 January
One in 50 people in private households in England had COVID-19 between 27 December and 02 January according to ONS figures.
Boris Johnson says 1.1 million people have now been vaccinated in England, and 1.3 million across the UK. “That includes more than 650,000 people over 80 which is 23% of all the over 80s in England,” he says.
That means nearly one-in-four of the most vulnerable groups will have, in two to three weeks time, a significant degree of imunity, he added.
According to t PM, the NHS is commited to offering a vaccination to everyone in the top 4 priority groups by the middle of February, and to help with meeting the target there will be almost 1,000 vaccination sites open across the country by the end of this week.
He concluded his opening remarks by urging people to persevere with the tough new restrictions over the long weeks ahead, with a promise of daily updates on vaccinations from Monday.
On the first day of the third national lockdown in England, we take a closer look at the coronavirus (COVID-19) numbers in Oxfordshire.
9.30am on 05 January
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced that businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are to receive a one-off grant worth up to £9,000, to help them navigate this difficult period.
This follows the Prime Minister’s announcement last night that these businesses will be closed until at least February half-term to help control the spread of the virus.
The cash is provided on a per-property basis to support businesses through the latest restrictions and is expected to benefit over 600,000 business properties, worth £4 billion in total across all nations of the UK.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “The new strain of the virus presents us all with a huge challenge – and whilst the vaccine is being rolled out, we have needed to tighten restrictions further.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we’re announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the Spring.
“This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they can reopen.”
A further £594 million is also being made available for Local Authorities and the Devolved Administrations to support other businesses not eligible for the grants, that might be affected by the restrictions. Businesses should apply to their Local Authorities.
The new one-off grants come in addition to billions of existing business support, including grants worth up to £3,000 for closed businesses, and up to £2,100 per month for impacted businesses once they reopen.
The government has also provided 100% business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, £1.1 billion existing discretionary funding for Local Authorities, the furlough scheme now extended to April and 100% government-backed loans, extended until March.
8.30pm on 04 January
As England enters a third national lockdown, here’s a summary of what you can and cannot do.
You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:
Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until the February half term. Early Years settings remain open.
Higher Education provision will remain online until mid February for all except future critical worker courses.
If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live. You may leave your local area for a legally permitted reason, such as for work.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. You should not attend work.
You cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).
You may exercise on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble.
You should not meet other people you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, unless for a permitted reason.
You must stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household.
Full details of what what you can and cannot do during the national lockdown is available here.
8.15pm on 04 January
The PM has announced that England is to go into a full national lockdown. Everyone is to stay at home, and not be outside of their home, except under limited circumstances to include essential shopping, exercise, work (if you cannot work from home), seek or receive medical help, and to flee domestic abuse.
Furthermore, all schools – primary, secondary and colleges – are to close, and move to remote learning, with examinations cancelled. While schools were still considered to be safe, the PM said they may act as ‘vectors of transmission’, causing the virus to spread between households and in the community.
The current lockdown restrictions will remain in place until at least mid-February. Exiting the lockdown will very much depend on, according to the PM, “if our understanding of the virus doesn’t change, the vaccine rollout continues to be successful, if deaths fall, and everyone “plays their part following rules”.
The PM concluded by saying the weeks ahead “will be the hardest yet.
“But I really do believe we are entering the last phase of the struggle because with every jab that goes into our arms we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people,” he says.
“Thanks to the miracle of science, not only is the end in sight but we know exactly how we are going to get there.”
4.00pm on 04 January
Boris Johnson will make a televised address at 8.00pm tonight as the Government says further steps must now be taken to address a surge in coronavirus cases. It follows on from Nicola Sturgeon’s, announcement of a legal requirement for Scots to stay at home from midnight, with schools closed to pupils until February.
2.00pm on 04 January
Boris Johnson has said there is “no question” the government will announce stricter measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus “in due course”, but gave no timetable for when this might happen.
He warned of “tough, tough” weeks to come, but, with more than three-quarters of England’s population already under the highest – tier four – restrictions, coronavirus infection cases continue to rise, and hospitals are coming under increasing pressure.
On Sunday, the UK recorded more than 50,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases for the sixth day in a row.
Oxfordshire residents, along with some 78% of the population of England, are under tier four restrictions in which non-essential shops are closed, and people can only leave their homes for a limited number of reasons.
When asked what further restrictions would be put in place, Mr Johnson said: “What we have been waiting for is to see the impact of the tier four measures on the virus and it is a bit unclear, still, at the moment.
“But if you look at the numbers, there is no question that we are going to have to take tougher measures and we will be announcing those in due course.”
He added that the faster-spreading coronavirus variant that has developed in south-eastern England required “extra-special vigilance”.
Speaking on a visit to Chase Farm Hospital in north London, the prime minister argued that closing primary schools must remain a “last resort”, adding that the “risk to kids” was “very, very small”.
Asked whether they could remain closed, Mr Johnson said: “We are keeping things under review.” Currently, primary schools in Oxfordshire are opened, but secondary schools are currently closed until 18 January, except for pupils in their final GCSE and A-level years (Years 11 and 13), who are due to return on 11 January.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is calling for new England-wide restrictions to come in immediately, saying it was “inevitable” more schools would have to close to lessen the spread of coronavirus.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the “old tier system” in England was “no longer strong enough” to contain increasing infections. But a former Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has urged the government to close all schools and UK borders “right away” while banning “all household mixing”.
8.05am on 04 January
82-year-old Brian Pinker has become the first person in the UK to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since it was approved for use. The retired maintenance manager, who describes himself as ‘appropriately oxford born and bred’ said he was looking forward to spending his 48th wedding anniversary with his wife Shirley in February.
'I'm so pleased to be getting the COVID vaccine today and really proud it is one that was invented in Oxford.'
82-year-old Brian Pinker became the first person in the world to receive the new Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine this morning at @OUHospitals. 💉 pic.twitter.com/nhnd3Sx97m
— NHS England and NHS Improvement (@NHSEngland) January 4, 2021
Dr Bruno Holthof, OUH Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are very proud that the Churchill Hospital in Oxford was chosen to be the first location to provide the Oxford Vaccine.
“I would like to thank all our staff who have played their part in ensuring that we can deliver the vaccine for our patients and staff, and I would also like to pay tribute to the team here in Oxford who developed this vaccine in record time.”
Alongside Brian Pinker, music teacher and father-of-three Trevor Cowlett, aged 88, and Professor Andrew Pollard, a paediatrican working at OUH who also pioneered the Oxford jab, were among the first to be vaccinated today.
6.00am on 04 January
The first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine are to be given as the UK accelerates its vaccine programme to tackle a surge in cases.
Six hospital trusts – including the Churchill Hospital in Headington Oxford, will begin administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Monday, with 530,000 doses ready for use.
More doses will be sent to hundreds of GP-led services and care homes across the UK later in the week, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is a pivotal moment in our fight against this awful virus and I hope it provides renewed hope to everybody that the end of this pandemic is in sight.”
The UK’s chief medical officers had announced last week that the gap between the first and second doses of the vaccine should be lengthened, so that more people can be protected faster, saying getting more people vaccinated with the first jab “is much more preferable”.
The vaccine, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, was approved for use in late December. It can be stored at fridge temperatures, making it easier to distribute and store than the Pfizer-BioNTech equivalent.
The UK government says it has secured 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, enough for most of the population.
5.30am on 04 January
Many of England’s primary schools are opening on today, but rows are continuing over whether pupils should return to school given the recent surge in coronavirus infections.
There is uncertainty over how many classes could be closed after advice from a teachers’ union that it is not safe for staff to be in school. Furthermore, some individual local authorities in Tire 4 areas have raised concerns about reopening fully.
Headteachers have warned of a “confusing picture” for parents and schools, while the Department for Education has said switching to online teaching should be a “last resort”.
Meanwhile, the prime minister has warned that regional restrictions in England are “probably about to get tougher”, to curb rising coronavirus infections, with the Labour Party leader Keir Starmer calling for a national lockdown.
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