Reich and others say they expect that the immunity from natural infections plus the successful

The Midlands has the highest vaccination rate in England and the South West the lowest, new NHS England data reveals.

Data shows 117,909 people had their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, taking the UK’s total to 33,257,651.

The new numbers mean that 95% of over-50s in England have been vaccinated, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock promising that: “We’re on track to offer a vaccine to all adults by the end of July.”

It comes as the UK reported a further 18 coronavirus-related deaths and 2,729 new cases in the latest 24-hour period.

Thursday’s figures compare with Wednesday’s 22 deaths and 2,396 new infections and last Thursday’s 30 deaths and 2,672 cases.

It brings the total number of infections since the start of the pandemic to 4,398,431 and total number of deaths to 127,345.

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The row over Boris Johnson’s text messages with businessman Sir James Dyson about ventilator production earlier in the pandemic dominated Prime Minister’s Questions. After it was revealed Mr Johnson promised to “fix” tax changes for Dyson, the prime minister said he made “absolutely no apology at all for shifting heaven and earth” to obtain ventilators – although in the end the company was not called upon to supply any. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was part of a pattern of “sleaze” with “one rule for those who have the prime minister’s phone number and another for everybody else”. Sir James told the BBC that his company spent £20m on development costs and derived no benefit from the ventilator project. He said his text messages with the prime minister were an effort to seek “compliance” with tax rules.

Rushmoor in Hampshire and Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, Worcester, and South Oxfordshire have all vaccinated 100% of the over-50s, the new figures reveal.

While the Isles of Scilly and Hertsmere in Hertfordshire have vaccinated the most under-49s, with 70.4% and 46.3% jabbed respectively.

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The lowest vaccination rates among the over-50s are all in London, with boroughs in the capital making up the bottom 19.

London has also vaccinated the least under-49s nationwide, with Canterbury, Kent, the next lowest (23.8%), followed by Nottingham (23.9%).

With many adults still not vaccinated, the UK remains “vulnerable” and may well likely to see a “summer surge” in cases as restrictions are eased, a government scientist has warned. Prof Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said the dates for opening up society may need to be adjusted as a result. But he said the size of the rise in cases would depend on the progress in vaccination as well as people’s behaviour. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also warned that most scientists believe there will be a third wave of infections, but he said he has seen nothing so far that would mean the next step in easing coronavirus rules cannot go ahead.

Hairdresser Sinead Quinn previously made headlines for putting a sign in her window declaring that Article 61 of Magna Carta allowed her to opt out of coronavirus regulations and open her shop near Bradford during lockdown. Now she is being taken to court over £17,000 of fines, with Kirklees Council saying she has not paid anything after repeated breaches. Ms Quinn could face an unlimited fine if she is found guilty. She has previously said on social media that she does not “consent” to Covid regulations.

At least 22 Covid-19 patients have died in a hospital in India after an oxygen leak meant ventilators had no supply for 30 minutes. The accident at the Zakir Hussain hospital in Nashik took place in one of the worse-affected of India’s states, as the nation struggles with more than 200,000 infections a day. The hospital had called in tankers after it began to run out of oxygen, but it is not clear how the accident happened while the storage tank was being refilled. Many Indian cities are facing a drastic shortage of hospital beds and struggles over supplies of oxygen and drugs.
As COVID-19 cases creep up again across the country, federal officials and epidemiologists say they’re worried we could hit another tipping point, leading to a fourth significant surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

“We’re skating on a knife’s edge right now,” said Nicholas Reich, a biostatistician at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Average daily reported cases are up 10% compared to a week earlier, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows, with more than 30 million COVID-19 cases reported since early last year. Hospitalizations and deaths, which usually lag cases by a few weeks, have inched upward as well, after a decline and plateau that began in early January.

Reich and others say they expect that the immunity from natural infections plus the successful rollout of vaccines, which are now reaching nearly 3 million people a day, will help moderate this surge.

But Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said in a White House briefing with media Monday that she’s anxious about what the next few weeks could bring.

“Right now I’m scared,” she said in what she described as an off-script moment of candor.