5 positive developments this week in the UK’s battle against coronavirus

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·4 min read
'A good news week for the UK': People enjoy a drink in Belfast on Friday. (PA)
'A good news week for the UK': People enjoy a drink in Belfast on Friday. (PA)

The number of people in England estimated to have COVID-19 has dropped 40% in a week to the lowest figure – about one in 1,010 people – since the beginning of September.

The results for the week up to 24 April, from Friday's weekly Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey, have been described as particularly important because that period would have been the first to show any negative impact of the relaxation of COVID rules on 12 April.

The fact there has been no evidence of an increased transmission risk means it looks like the current road map, which aims for all restrictions on social contact to be lifted on 21 June, is still on target.

With the latest figures being described by Prof James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, as “capping a good news week for the UK”, here are four more positive developments in the battle against coronavirus from the past week...

2. Quarter of UK adults fully vaccinated

The UK's vaccine rollout has been one of the most successful in the world, and hit another major milestone on Monday, with one in four adults having received the full round of two doses.

Some 13,201,811 people had received their two doses at the time, and Ruth Rankine, primary care director at the NHS Confederation, said: “This is yet more evidence of the heroic efforts of so many people across the NHS, including and especially primary care, to make sure as many people as possible are protected."

By Thursday, the latest date for which statistics are available, the number of people with two doses had risen to 14,532,875. Some 34,216,087 people have received a first dose.

Watch: Coronavirus vaccine in numbers

In a further sign of the progress of the vaccine rollout, invites began to be sent to people aged 40 and over on Friday.

3. Seven in 10 adults in England have COVID antibodies

Another ONS survey, released on Wednesday, suggested 68.3% of adults in England have coronavirus antibodies.

The presence of antibodies implies someone has already had the infection in the past, or has been vaccinated. The antibody figures were 62.5% in Northern Ireland, 61.0% in Wales and 57.8% in Scotland.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said at Wednesday's Downing Street press conference that it was a “measure of the protection that we have collectively built up right across the country”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: Britain's Health Secretary, Matt Hancock gestures during a virtual press conference inside the new Downing Street Briefing Room in London on April 28, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA pool/Getty Images)
Matt Hancock at Wednesday's Downing Street press conference. (Getty Images)

"This is the vaccination programme in action," he added.

It takes between two and three weeks after infection or vaccination for the body to make enough antibodies to fight the virus. 

Antibodies then remain in the blood at low levels, although these levels can decline over time to the point that tests can no longer detect them.

4. Variants unlikely to 'rush away'

Since the turn of the year, there has been a constant focus on new coronavirus variants and, specifically, whether they will be resistant to vaccines.

There are four variants of concern and nine variants under investigation which have been identified in the UK. Case numbers of the variants first discovered in India, Brazil and South Africa have also increased in the past week.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Jonathan Van-Tam speaks during a virtual press conference inside the new Downing Street Briefing Room in London on April 28, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA pool/Getty Images)
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam at Wednesday's Downing Street press conference. (Getty Images)

However, speaking at Wednesday's Downing Street press conference, England's chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said: "I couldn’t call the numbers trivial, but at the same token I don’t see them rushing away now or in the next few weeks in terms of giving us a new kind of problem."

Prof Van-Tam also suggested he was confident the three vaccines currently being rolled out in the UK would continue to protect against severe illness.

5. A 'monumental' step back to normality

A Liverpool nightclub opened its doors on Friday night for the first time in over a year.

Circus, at the Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse, was set to welcome 6,000 clubbers over two nights in a test event to research the impact of large gatherings on the spread of COVID.

The First Dance event will not require any social distancing or face coverings, and it is hoped it will pave the way for more clubs to reopen across the country.

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DJ Yousef Zahar is co-owner of Circus and will be DJing at the event. He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's the first time in a long time I've allowed myself to be excited about anything. It's monumental."

Ticket holders have had to take a lateral flow test 24 hours before the event and will be required to produce a negative result to gain entry. It follows other pilot events in recent weeks such as fans attending football matches at Wembley.

Watch: How England is leaving lockdown