Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
UK Covid death toll rises by 316 with 30,501 new cases
27 December 2020, 18:13
The UK coronavirus death toll has now reached 70,752, after 316 more families lost a loved one to the deadly virus in the past 24 hours.
The latest figures published by the government include people who died up to 28 days after testing positive for the virus.
However, figures for deaths and cases are likely to be higher as Scotland is not releasing death data between December 24 and 28, and Northern Ireland is not providing either case or death data over the same period.
Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 87,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
The Government said that, as of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 30,501 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 2,288,345.
Today's grim figure comes as the AstraZeneca boss brings hope to the nation, claiming the new Oxford vaccine could be the "winning formula" against the virus.
AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot told the Sunday Times he believed researchers had found the "winning formula" using two doses and promised to publish the results as reports suggested the UK regulator could approve the jab within days.
The claim will come as some relief even as Canada became the latest country to identify cases of the new highly infectious variant of coronavirus, which was first detected in the UK and has since spread to at least a dozen countries.
And Chancellor Rishi Sunak praised vaccination efforts so far, telling the Mail on Sunday: "There will be tough days and months ahead, but there are reasons to look ahead to a brighter future and what 2021 promises.
"The early roll-out of vaccines - and the incredible work of our scientists and NHS - means we can now see light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic."
But medical unions and Labour criticised the Government's handling of the programme, which they said had not made enough progress in care homes.
Nadra Ahmed, chairman of the National Care Association, told the Sunday Mirror the Pfizer/BioNTech roll out was going to be "difficult" but added: "It's another case of the massive over-promise on something that just cannot be delivered. It's constant."
And Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told the paper there was a "race against time" to vaccinate enough people as he urged the Government to avoid what he said were "the same mistakes again" in being "too slow" to protect care home residents - a veiled reference to PPE and hospital discharges.
On Christmas Eve, the Department of Health and Social Care said more than 600,000 people had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but the roll-out in care homes has been limited to seven areas.
It added larger care homes with 50 to 70 beds would be prioritised first, with around 2,900 care homes of this size in England.
The new variant, which was blamed for soaring rates across the country before the wider imposition of stricter Tier 4 measures in swathes of England on Boxing Day, continues to drive high case rates with another 34,693 reported on Saturday.