UK Covid live: next phase of coronavirus vaccine rollout begins in England











World Health Organization Covid-19 special envoy expects ‘some sort’ of vaccine passports










Middlesbrough council withheld potentially embarrassing details of how – against the advice of its own public health expert – it ordered £24,000 worth of Covid tests that it could not use, emails reveal.

The independent mayor of Middlesbrough, Andy Preston, spent £24,000 on pinprick antibody tests, disregarding concerns voiced by the region’s director of public health, according to documents released under freedom of information laws.

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Coronavirus case rates fall in nearly 95% of UK local authorities

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Calls for Serco-run test-and-trace system to be scrapped

The chair of the Bolton NHS foundation trust has called for the Serco-run test-and-trace system to be scrapped.

Prof Donna Hall tweeted that the system should be handed back to local government public health teams and NHS organisations after the success of the vaccine rollout. She argued that it would be braver to admit the £22bn test-and-trace programme should be shelved now rather than waiting until spring.

A report from the National Audit Office found that the system had repeatedly failed to meet targets for delivering test results and contacting infected people.

My colleague Josh Halliday reported last year that Serco, the outsourcing firm, was being paid up to £400m for its work on test and trace, but it had subcontracted a bulk of contact-tracing to 21 other companies.

Hall, a former leader of Wigan council, has long argued that the tracing system should be in local hands. She wrote a piece for the Guardian in May 2020 arguing:


I have seen firsthand the incredible work of public health and environmental health teams who work to test, track, trace and treat people with sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis and HIV. They involve GPs, local NHS trusts and the local community to ensure no stone goes unturned. I’ve been out to accompany these impressive multi-agency frontline teams and witnessed the supportive conversations they have with sex workers, homeless people and recent migrants to the UK.

The staff have had the right training and have local knowledge about which GPs to speak to. They know who in the local community centre will know where a person lives so they can receive lifesaving treatment. And we should now be using these well-tested approaches to tackle coronavirus.

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Covid vaccine take-up lower among health workers, says Hancock

Covid vaccine take-up has been notably lower among health and care staff than among age-based groups to have been offered the injection, Matt Hancock has said, increasing concerns that this could hamper progress in tackling the virus.

While take-up was more than 90% among the first four age groups to have been offered at least a first injection – which include all those aged 70 and above – for NHS staff it was about 80%, and for care staff “around two-thirds”, the health and social care secretary said.

He did not specify whether the figures were for England or UK-wide, but as health policy is devolved, it is likely they are for England.

In a round of interviews after the news that the target of offering at least a first vaccination to all those in the top group groups seen as most vulnerable by Monday had been met in England, Hancock also stressed the government’s concern that take-up among black, Asian and minority ethnic health and care staff was lower than average.

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Next phase of vaccine rollout begins today

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