Coronavirus news: ‘Concerning’ Brazilian variant detected in UK as first vaccine doses pass 20 million

Conrad Duncan and Peter Stubley
·1-min read

Health secretary Matt Hancock has celebrated a “magnificent achievement for the country” after it was confirmed that more than 20 million people have now been given their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

“I want to thank every single person who's come forward to get the jab because we know with increasing confidence that the jab protects you, it protects your community and it also is the route out of this for all of us,” Mr Hancock said in a video posted on Twitter.

The milestone was reached as the first cases of a ‘concerning’ Covid variant from the Brazilian city of Manaus were detected in the UK. Surge testing was launched in South Gloucestershire after three people tested positive with the new strain. Three other cases were identified in Scotland.

Meanwhile chancellor Rishi Sunak ruled out accelerating England’s roadmap out of lockdown, even if data showed Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths were dropping faster than expected.

Mr Sunak also hinted on Sunday morning at tax rises in next week’s Budget, telling Sky News that he would be “responsible” with the public’s finances as the government looks to pay down the massive national debt built up during the Covid crisis.

The government has announced that pubs, restaurants, shops and other businesses which have been hit hardest by the pandemic will be supported by a £5bn grant scheme to help them to reopen as lockdown restrictions are eased.