Coronavirus second wave peak 'is flattening' as 22,287 more cases and 511 new deaths recorded

 THE Coronavirus second wave  peak is “flattening” as 22,287 more cases and 511 new deaths are recorded.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Britain is “heading in the right direction” as he addressed the nation today.

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Mr Hancock said infections were down from 24,430 a week ago.

However, there are 16,409 new patients in hospital suffering from Covid.

Mr Hancock also revealed that vaccinations will start next month if Pfizer's vaccine is cleared by the safety regulator.

Mr Hancock said: "If the regulator approves a vaccine we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of the rollout next year."

If the regulator approves a vaccine we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of the rollout next year.

The Health Secretary said data is already being supplied by Pfizer, with full data in the coming days and described the progress as "another important step forward.”

He added: "We're heading in the right direction but there is still a long way to go."

NHS England's national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said that there looked to be a "levelling off" in hospital patients with Covid.

But he said: "That is just a few days’ data and it’s important not to read too much into it yet. We need to see data over a few more days and into next week."

NO CHRISTMAS CHEER

Mr Hancock stopped short of revealing whether the lockdown could be extended after the original end date of December 2.

Brits eager for Christmas with their families may have to wait a little longer to make their plans as the Health Secretary said it is "too early to tell" what might happen.

Mr Hancock explained that from data in recent days we are still “clearly near the peak" of the second wave.

He said that ministers have not yet made a decision on Christmas – but all four UK nations are working together on the issue.

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van Tamm added: "The government clearly wants to give us a break to some extent at Christmas, we as citizens want a break.

“But there are no magic numbers about on days of Christmas and days of payback in terms of lockdown."

It comes as…

  • NHS to start rolling out Covid vaccine to under-50s by end of January, leaked docs claim
  • UK’s official Covid R rate falls AGAIN – and only the South East is above 1
  • Lockdown ban on seeing family must continue & super-Tier 4 introduced or nation faces January lockdown, NHS boss warns 
  • Cops have ‘other things to do’ than barging in on Christmas dinners – as family hugs banned
  • Boris Johnson to reveal UK wide Christmas travel plans next week raising hopes for family gatherings
  • UK just ‘weeks away’ from mass Covid vaccine programme, Matt Hancock says

In England, 326 fatalities were confirmed, bringing the overall number of Covid deaths in English hospitals to 37,796.

The patients, who were aged between 29 and 100 died between September 11 and November 19 – and all but six had underlying health conditions.

Wales reported 31 more fatalities today along with 1,020 cases. It brings the total number of Covid deaths in Wales to 2,338.

Scotland confirmed another 32 new deaths and 1,018 new infections in the last 24 hours, raising the overall death toll there to 3,459.

Another 12 fatalities were recorded in Northern Ireland – bringing the overall tally there to 913.

Testing data from November 19 shows another 369 people have tested positive for the bug in Northern Ireland.

R RATE FALLS

Despite the grim figures, the UKs coronavirus R rate has fallen for the second week in a row – and could be as low as 0.8 in the North West.

The current R value – the number of people an infected person will pass Covid-19 on to – is estimated to be between 1.0 and 1.1.

When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially, but below that number would suggest the epidemic is shrinking.

Estimates suggest that areas in the South of England are seeing the worst R rates – with the range highest in the South West, South East and East of England.

The South West has an R rate of 1 – 1.3, the South East is at 1.1 – 1.4 and the East of England sits between 1 – 1.3.

It comes at the government looks to keep infection rates at bay over Christmas, as it thinks up ways to get families together for the festive season.

And it is set to roll out its coronavirus vaccine programme for the under-50s as early as January, leaked documents revealed today.

COLD TURKEY

Chief Grinch Matt Hancock today appeared to ban hugs at Christmas – but raised hopes families can meet up for festive dinners.

Meanwhile Dame Cressida Dick said cops have "other things to do" than barge in on lunches to enforce Covid rules throughout the holiday.

The Metropolitan Police chief today said officers won’t be bursting into homes or knocking on doors unless there is evidence of a "huge" party.

Police will instead be taking a ‘softly, softly’ approach to festive family dinners – and could turn a blind eye to "six plus grandma" in one house.

The Government has yet to announce how many people will be allowed under one roof from different households over Christmas.

It is expected there will be a relaxation of the rules, but today it was heavily suggested restrictions on touching would still be in place.

Health Secretary Mr Hancock said although families are likely going to be able to meet for Christmas lunch, social distancing is still expected.

This could dash weary Brits' hopes of being able to hug family members throughout the more relaxed festive period, after a tough year.

He told BBC Breakfast there is a need to "respect the fact that we mustn't spread the virus further but also respect the fact that Christmas is a special time where people get together, especially with their families".

Mr Hancock added: "It's about getting the balance right and allowing people to have a Christmas that undoubtedly will be different this year but still try to have that cherished Christmas with your family as much as possible.

"I've got no doubt that people will continue to respect social distancing throughout, because we know that that is so important for full control of the virus."

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