In total, 250 active hospital sites, 89 vaccination centres, and around 1,200 local vaccination sites – including primary care networks, community pharmacy sites and mobile teams – were set up to ensure every at-risk person has easy access to a vaccination centre, regardless of where they live.
Some 100 Oxford million jabs have been ordered by the Government, with 40 million due to be rolled out by March. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency also approved the Moderna vaccine for use on Jan 8, which is expected to be delivered this month.
But what about the new strains?
Studies suggested the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine may be only 10 per cent effective against the South African strain, but Professor Jonathan Van Tam said the variant is not likely to become dominant.
The news comes as people living in an area of Barnet, North London, have been urged to get a test after a case of the South African variant of coronavirus was detected on April 14. The variant was also found in three South London boroughs, where surge testing was deployed in an attempt to stop the spread of the variant.
Scientists have found that the Kent coronavirus variant is mutating to mimic the South African variant, which could render current vaccines less effective.
However, Nick Loman, professor of microbial genomics and bioinformatics at the University of Birmingham, said it was unlikely that the new variants could out-compete the less dangerous UK variant.
Additionally, a new variant from the Philippines has also been identified in England for the first time after two cases were reported on Mar 16. It came after the Philippines reported 33 cases of a new variant on Mar 9.
Public Health England said the variant contains a number of notable mutations, including the E484K spike protein found in the Manaus variant. Concerns have been raised that vaccines may not be as effective against this protein.
The new strain has been designated as a variant under investigation (VUI) rather than a variant of concern, such as the Manaus strain.
Public Health England said one of the cases was linked to international travel and the other is still being investigated, but did not confirm where either had been found.
It comes as a coronavirus variant that was first detected in India was found in the UK on Apr 14.
It was the first time PHE had reported the variant in the UK. The B.1.617 variant carries two mutations, E484Q and L452R. Both are separately found in many other coronavirus variants, but they were reported together for the first time in India.
On Apr 19, Matt Hancock confirmed India had been added to the international travel “red list” after 103 cases of the Indian variant were identified in the UK, of which the “vast majority have links to international travel”. The new rules will come into force from Friday, Apr 23.
The move was announced just hours after Boris Johnson cancelled his long-awaited trip to the country after a record-breaking surge in cases. New Delhi has been put into a week-long lockdown in an attempt to bring down the level of infection.
Samples have been analysed to see if the new variant has any “concerning characteristics” such as greater transmissibility or resistance to treatments and vaccines.
Prof Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told the Guardian that the arrival of the India variant was potentially worrying.
He said: “These two escape mutations working together could be a lot more problematic than the South African and Brazilian variants who have only got one escape mutation.
“It might be even less controlled by vaccine than the Brazilian and South African variants.”
How did coronavirus spread worldwide?
At the end of Dec 2019, the Chinese authorities sent out a public alert warning that a “pneumonia of unknown cause” had been identified in Wuhan, central China.
Some 10 days later, on Jan 7, scientists announced that a new coronavirus was the source of the outbreak – quickly adding that it then did not appear to be spreading between humans.
At that point, fewer than 60 cases had been found. But now the virus, since given the name SARS-CoV-2, has spread to 185 countries, infecting more than 139 million people with the disease Covid-19 and killing more than 2.9 million.
This map, which updates automatically, shows where the disease is now, how many cases there have been and how many people have died:
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