UK Covid live: Wales tightens measures for shops and workplaces; PM's plans for school testing in disarray

By Lucy Campbell

07:37

The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has said there are signs that coronavirus cases are stabilising or reducing across much of Wales.

Drakeford said the all-Wales coronavirus rate has dropped below 400 per 100,000 people for the first time in “many weeks”.

“We are seeing some encouraging signs that cases are stabilising and reducing,” said Drakeford. The rate is currently at 365.

He said:

These signs of improvements show all the hard work and sacrifice is really paying off. We have to continue making this effort.

Drakeford said the situations remained “serious” in Wrexham and Flintshire in north Wales and the NHS in Wales remained under “immense and sustained pressure”.

07:19

Wales tightens Covid measures for shops and workplaces

Supermarkets, shops and workplaces in Wales are to be compelled to carry out a specific coronavirus assessment under new legislation being brought amid concerns that some businesses are not taking restrictions seriously enough.

The Welsh government said on Friday the risk assessments would be the “starting point” for implementing measures required to minimise exposure to Covid-19 in places open to the public and workplaces.

Businesses will have to consider issues such as whether ventilation is adequate; hygiene; ensuring physical distancing is taking place; and use of PPE and face coverings. It will also include considering how employers maximise the number of people who can work from home.

The Welsh government said the highly contagious new variant of the virus meant it had looked again at the rules regulating workplaces and premises that remain open to the public.

Full story here:

07:18

New Brazilian variant of concern has not been detected in UK

Prof Wendy Barclay, G2P-UK lead and head of department of infectious disease and chair in influenza virology at Imperial College London, said the Brazilian variant detected in the UK is not the one causing the concern.

She explained:

The new Brazilian variant of concern, that was picked up in travellers going to Japan, has NOT been detected in the UK. Other variants that may have originated from Brazil have been previously found.

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07:11

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06:12

One of two Brazilian variants detected in UK before travel ban

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A national project has been launched to scrutinise new variants of the coronavirus with the aim to flag variants of concern and investigate issues ranging from how contagious these variants are to whether they cause more serious disease, or could evade the protection offered by current Covid-19 vaccinations.

Dubbed the ‘G2P-UK’ National Virology Consortium, the project involves 10 research institutions in the UK, including Oxford University and Imperial College London, with efforts already underway to unpick details of the new UK variant and the variant identified in South Africa that have raised concern among experts.

The project has received £2.5 million of funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and will work alongside Public Health England and the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium – which have previously flagged, tracked and investigated new variants of the coronavirus – to boost surveillance of emerging mutations.

Prof Michael Malim, co-lead of the project from King’s College London, said:

It’s really important for the strengths and breadth of UK virology to come together and develop an evidence-base to explain the biological impacts of viral variants, such as possible resistance to vaccine induced immunity, and inform how we should respond and plan for the future.

05:38

05:06

The Scottish Conservative party has immediately suspended one of its candidates for May’s Scottish parliament elections after reports that he suggested people queuing for food banks in the UK during the pandemic were overweight.

The Daily Record this morning reported comments made by Craig Ross, the candidate for Glasgow Pollok constituency, last year in his podcast, which he advertises as including “reaction to the Guardian newspaper from the centre-right”.

Referring to interviews with food bank users he had watched on Channel 4 news, Ross said:

I’m not saying that every single person who claims to be really hungry and is reliant on charity is also very overweight, but what I am saying is if Channel 4 News is having a reasonable go at showing the reality of food bank usage, then we know that the people that they film are far from starving. If anything, their biggest risk is not starvation, it’s diabetes.

He also complained about anti-poverty campaigner and Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford, saying: “Has Marcus Rashford stood for election to anything? Not that I’m aware of.”

A Scottish Conservative party spokesman said: “We have suspended this candidate and an investigation is under way. These unacceptable comments do not reflect the views of the party.”

04:59

Wales introduces mandatory testing for international arrivals

04:55

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04:44

Plan to discharge Covid patients to care homes in England is 'madness'

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04:39

Ban on arrivals from South America and Portugal over Brazilian variant in force

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