Health Secretary Matt Hancock is to host another Downing Street press conference this evening.

Mr Hancock will deliver an update from No 10 at around 5pm, and is expected to speak about concerns over the South Africa variant of Covid-19 and the effectiveness of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

It comes as South Africa suspends its rollout of the vaccine to healthcare staff, following results from a study which suggested that it was not effective against mild illness of this variant.

The country had received its first one million doses of the vaccine at the end of January, with plans to roll it out to frontline health workers from the middle of February.

These plans have now been suspended as preliminary research suggested that the vaccine offers only minimal protection against mild to moderate disease from the variant.

A study of around 2,000 people has shown the jab only offers minimal protection against mild disease of the South Africa variant and, due to the young age of participants, could not conclude whether the jab worked against severe disease.


Ministers in the UK have moved to reassure the public over the effectiveness of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as experts warned it was “very possible” the South African variant is already quite widespread in the UK.

As of yesterday (Sunday, February 6) 12,014,288 people in the UK have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, while 511,447 people have had their second dose.