Britain records 1,162 Covid deaths in second worst ever day of pandemic

Britain today recorded 1,162 coronavirus deaths in the second worst day of the pandemic, but cases dropped compared to last week after health bosses announced 52,618 new infections.

Department of Health figures show only April 21 - in the midst of the first wave - was worse, when 1,224 victims were declared. The third worst day was on April 9, when 1,116 fatalities were recorded.

Today's deaths were up 20.5 per cent compared to last Thursday, when 964 were reported. Experts fear the daily number of Covid-19 deaths may rise further, because of the spiralling number of infections in the community.

And the number of cases dropped six per cent from the same time last week, when health chiefs said they had found a further 55,892. This may be a glimmer of hope the nationwide lockdown is starting to slow the spread of the virus - although it can take a week for an infected person to develop symptoms and get a test.

It comes as Boris Johnson prepares to hold a Downing Street press conference at 5pm tonight, when he is expected to unveil plans to bring in the military to ramp up the sluggish roll out of the vaccine.

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Only 1.3million Britons have been vaccinated in the first month of the critical programme, as it is plagued by supply and staffing shortages, logistical problems and bureaucratic barriers that have strangled the scale-up.

It has also faced delays as elderly Britons refuse to get the Belgian-made Pfizer vaccine in Stockton-on-Tees, insisting they would rather wait 'for the English one', and miss vital appointments in Nottingham.

Ministry of Defence chiefs were instructed to devise the plans to hit the Prime Minister's lofty target of vaccinating 13million — including over-70s, care home residents, NHS staff and extremely vulnerable adults of all ages — and ending lockdown by mid-February.

The NHS operation, considered the biggest vaccination drive in British history, will involve more than 100 soldiers next week with almost 1,500 reserve troops on standby, The Telegraph reports. It comes after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said last week there were 250 six-man tams were 'standing ready' to deliver 100,000 doses a day, if there was a request for more boots on the ground support from the Army.

Mr Johnson is expected to be joined at the press conference by Brigadier Phil Prosser as well as Sir Simon Stevens. The NHS England boss will likely face questions about a decision to tell GPs to 'stand down' routine appointments so they can prioritise Covid vaccinations.

As many as seven mass vaccination centres are set to open in England to aide the roll-out, set up in locations including sports stadiums and London's ExCeL centre. But critics have warned the target is over-ambitious and said the Prime Minister should not make promises he won't be able to meet.

It emerged last night that guidance had been sent to doctors explaining the jabs should be their 'top priority' - with other 'non-essential' activities postponed, potentially for weeks. NHS England has already advised surgeries to focus on the delivery of the vaccine by prioritising jab appointments over anything else. 

Boris Johnson (pictured this morning) will unveil a new Army-led plan to distribute Britain's coronavirus jabs this evening as Number 10 scrambles to scale up the UK's sluggish immunisation drive

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Boris Johnson (pictured this morning) will unveil a new Army-led plan to distribute Britain's coronavirus jabs this evening as Number 10 scrambles to scale up the UK's sluggish immunisation drive

Two elderly Britons are pictured outside Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, which will open as a mass Covid vaccination centre next week

Two elderly Britons are pictured outside Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, which will open as a mass Covid vaccination centre next week

BORIS BRINGS IN THE ARMY TO TURBO-CHARGE THE COVID VACCINE ROLL OUT 

Boris Johnson will tonight unveil a new Army-led plan to distribute Britain's coronavirus jabs as No10 scrambles to scale up the UK's sluggish immunisation drive in hope of easing draconian restrictions by mid-February.

Government sources say around 1,500 troops will be on standby to deliver Covid vaccines if NHS staff fall ill under the 'insurance policy' strategy, drawn up by senior military battlefield planners. NHS bosses have already asked for the help of 130 soldiers, who will be drafted onto the frontline next week.

It is hoped the battle plan will bolster the UK's chances of delivering on Mr Johnson's lofty promise of vaccinating 13million people and ending lockdown by mid-February. So far the UK's vaccination scheme has been plagued by supply and staffing shortages, logistical problems and bureaucratic barriers that have strangled its scale-up. It has meant that only 1.3million Brits across the UK have had the jab since it launched a month ago.

Amid the rocky start to the big vaccination push, a Royal College of GPs poll today found two-thirds of family doctors do not believe the target of 2million doses a week is achievable. There have been a growing number of reports of deliveries being delayed and vaccine appointments having to be cancelled across the country. Health Secretary Matt Hancock faced embarrassment today when a London GP surgery he visited to mark the start of a new vaccine roll-out revealed it had not yet received any.

Figures today showed that the NHS in England has now managed to inoculate almost 1.1million people since the mass immunisation drive began. The programme saw more than 300,000 doses dished out in the final week of the Pfizer-only plan, up 27 per cent in a week.

Ministry of Defence chiefs were instructed to devise plans to distribute the vaccines evenly to the most vulnerable within the PM's target of immunising them by mid-February. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last week said there were 250 six-man teams 'standing ready' to deliver 100,000 doses a day, if there was a request for more boots on the ground support from the Army.

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Today's figures mark the tenth day in a row Britain has recorded more than 50,000 new infections, as the virus continues to spread across the country.

It takes at least two weeks for someone who has been infected with the virus to develop symptoms bad enough to become hospitalised, and eventually sadly die from the disease, meaning the deaths are expected to rise at a later date.

People in their 20s now have the highest rate of coronavirus infection in England, with 0.8 per cent of the population infected.

Public Health England figures show young adults – between the ages of 20 and 39 and, to a lesser extent, people in their 40s – are the worst affected groups but case numbers are surging in every age group.

In the week ending January 3 there were 843 positive tests per 100,000 people among 20 to 29-year-olds, compared to 813 per 100,000 in people in their 30s. 

The figures rose 40 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively, with the 20s age group overtaking the 30s as the one with the highest rate.

The rate for people in their 40s was 738 per 100,000, the third worst and up a quarter in a week.

Some of the lowest rates of infection were in children, ranging from 194 in under-fives to 435 in teenagers, but they were still rising despite school holidays.

The biggest increase was seen among people in their 60s, where the positive test rate rose 47 per cent from 308 per 100,000 people

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