Hotel quarantine rules should be “strengthened” to stop new variants entering the UK, the Health Secretary has suggested.
Matt Hancock told Sky News: “You keep reading out that Sage wanted mandatory isolation for those that arrive, and that’s what we’ve got. I’m up for strengthening that further. We do work very closely with these scientists.
“Measures are already in place to require the isolation of every single passenger who comes into this country. Further enforcement of that of course can always be introduced and strengthened, but the advice is clear that everyone coming through should isolate.”
But Dr Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, said that even if the virus adapts so it can continue to transmit, “that doesn’t mean that we won’t still have protection against severe disease”.
He suggested that vaccinating the nation could turn Covid and its variants into an illness similar to a cold.
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Captain Sir Tom Moore came to ‘symbolise resilience’
Matt Hancock has described his admiration for Captain Sir Tom Moore and the example the veteran set during the first lockdown.
The Health Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “He came to symbolise resilience, didn’t he, in difficult times? His modesty, his very British manner.
“The thing that I really admired was that, when we were in that first lockdown, he could have just sat through it, but he saw that the NHS was under pressure and he decided to do his bit.
“And, for him, doing his bit meant trying to raise £1,000 by walking round his garden, and it just shows that everybody can do their bit and you can just get up and make it happen, and I love that.
“I admired him so much. I had the pleasure to speak with him once and it was really, truly wonderful and it is very, very sad that he is no longer with us.”
JCVI member says vaccines will need adjusting for ‘top-level protection’ as virus mutates
Professor Adam Finn, from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the Oxford transmission results are “very, very good news”.
He told Times Radio: “I think it points to the fact that all of these vaccines to some extent will be able to reduce transmission.”
Asked if the new strains show signs of being vaccine-resistant, he said: “Yes, they do, and that’s something that I guess we’ve expected all along.
“So it is going to be a game of catch-up going forward; the vaccines will continue to work, but, as virus mutates, they will work less well, and we’ll have to adjust them to bring them back up to top-level protection.
“But that’s what we do with flu all the time. It’s not something that’s that alarming or unexpected really, but it is a reality.
“There isn’t a silver bullet, we’re not going to solve this problem overnight, it’s going to take time.”
Oxford vaccine produces ‘good immune response’ in older adults says chief investigator of trial
When asked about the decision in France not to approve the vaccine for use in older people, Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, told the Today programme: “The European Medicines Agency has approved the vaccine for use in all ages in all countries in Europe, the MHRA has approved for all ages, and another 25 or so regulators elsewhere in the world have also approved the vaccine for all ages.
“But individual countries have their own JCVI equivalent committees and they have to look at what vaccines they have available, what they make of the data and what’s best for their population. So, that’s obviously up to them.”
Pressed on comments by French president Emmanuel Macron, who claimed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” for over-65s, he added: “I don’t understand what the statement means. The point is that we have rather less data in older adults, which is why people have less certainty about the level of protection.
“But we have good immune responses in older adults very similar to younger adults, the protection that we do see is in exactly the same direction and of a similar magnitude to younger adults.
“I think we’re confident that we’re going to see good protection in all age groups, just as global regulators haven taken that view.”
Most scientists confident that vaccines will have ‘good impact’ against Kent variant
On the effect the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could have on new variants, Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, told Sky News: “We’re working very hard to produce some data on the Kent variant, because that has been circulating here in the UK whilst we’ve been running the trial over the last couple of months, so we should have some new data on that fairly soon.
“But I think most scientists are confident that the vaccines will have a good impact against that variant because it hasn’t picked up many mutations that should be avoiding human immune responses, whereas some of the other variants have absolutely been appearing in settings where there’s a need for the virus to escape from human immunity.
“And those are going to be much more difficult to block from transmission.”
Science is ‘clear’ that Oxford vaccine ‘works on adults of all ages’
Asked about the decision by health bodies in France, Germany and Austria to recommend limiting the supply of the Oxford vaccine to those under the age of 65, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The science is clear, and the results from last night strengthen this, that this vaccine works on adults of all ages.
“I think that it is so important in these judgments to follow the science.
“It is not just based on this clinical study, it is also based on lab studies of the response of people of different ages.
“And, as soon as it is validated, we will publish the data from the actual rollout in the UK which links those people who have been vaccinated and then looks at who is testing positive to find out how the actual rollout across the country is working in terms of its effectiveness.”
Health Secretary ‘optimistic’ about great British summer
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he is “optimistic” about the prospect of people being able to enjoy a holiday in the summer.
“I’m optimistic that we will have a great British summer,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“The challenge we all still have is we have to keep control of the virus, so we have got to monitor progress.
“But the vaccine rollout is going well, the vaccines clearly work and so this is really, really good progress.”
Matt Hancock: ‘People tend to want to have the jab during the day’
The evidence from a 24-hour pilot of administering vaccines throughout the night is that both recipients and those giving the jabs prefer to work during the day, Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Some hospitals did do 24-hour jabbing and they did that in order to ensure their night shifts got the protection,” the Health Secretary said.
“But we have discovered, perhaps to nobody’s surprise, that people tend to want to have the jab during the day, and those who are doing the vaccinations prefer to do it during the day, so, since what you need to do is you need a vaccinator and the vaccine and the person being vaccinated, getting those three together during the day is more convenient than overnight.
“So we have done 24-hour vaccinations. The rate-limiting factor is not the ability for the NHS to get this delivered, the rate-limiting factor is supply.
“We will do anything to make sure that the supply is delivered into people’s arms as fast as safely possible, including 24-hour supply.”
Oxford vaccine news will ‘help us all to get out of this pandemic’
Matt Hancock said the new information about the Oxford vaccine reducing transmission of Covid-19 is what will “help us all to get out of this pandemic”.
The Health Secretary told BBC Breakfast: “The new information that we’ve got is that (the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine) also reduces transmission.
“I’ve said many times…that one of the things we don’t know is the impact of the vaccines on reducing transmissions.
“We know from the earlier trials that the vaccines are safe and effective at protecting the individual.
“We now know that the Oxford vaccine also reduces transmission and that will help us all to get out of this pandemic, frankly, which is why it is such good news that we should welcome.”
Covid-19 will become like colds and mild infections, Oxford jab chief says
Asked about how protective the Oxford jab is against new mutations, Dr Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, told the Today programme: “We are anticipating good protection against the B117, the Kent variant, that has been circulating over the last couple of months here in the UK.
“Again, we’re looking at that at the moment, we should have some information to make public very soon.
“I think on that we’re fairly confident, but when we look at the new mutations that have been arising in other countries and now also here in the UK – that is the virus trying to escape from human immunity, and that’s whether it’s from vaccines or from infection.
“I think that’s telling us about what’s to come, which is a virus that continues to transmit, but hopefully that will be like other coronaviruses that are around us all the time, which cause colds and mild infections, and they know their whole raison d’etre is to be able to transmit between people, but we will have built up enough immunity to prevent the other severe disease that we’ve been seeing over the last year.”
Oxford jab could have ‘huge impact’ on transmission
Dr Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, said the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab could have a “huge impact” on transmission – but the data from the trial was drawn before the new variants emerged.
He told the Today programme “About a third of people have no symptoms and the other two-thirds have symptoms, if you look at the whole of that group together – because all of those people could be transmitting – then there’s about a two-thirds reduction in the number who have been vaccinated, who have a positive PCR [test] and therefore are infected.
“So, because they’re no longer infected, they can’t transmit to other people. So that should have a huge impact on transmission.”
‘Don’t go to the shops’, Health Secretary tells people in South African variant areas
People living in the postcodes in England where door-to-door testing is taking place to prevent the spread of the South African variant should consider not going to the shops if they have food in the house, Matt Hancock has suggested.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We’re in a national lockdown so there is not a stronger law we can bring in place that says ‘Really stay at home’ but the critical point is that everybody should be staying at home unless they have to.
“If you are in one of those postcodes, it is absolutely imperative that you minimise all social contact outside of your house.
“So this means, for instance, whereas the Government guidance to most of us is ‘Do go to the shops if you need to’, in those areas, in the immediate term, we are saying ‘If you have food in the house, please use that’.
“It is about a more stringent interpretation of the existing rules, trying to make sure that in those areas we do everything we possibly can to end all transmissions so we can get this new variant right under control. There are only a handful of cases, so we have the opportunity to really stamp on it now.”
Chris Whitty abuser ‘pathetic’, says Hancock
The person who insulted Professor Chris Whitty on social media platform TikTok has been branded “pathetic” by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Reports have shown footage of England’s chief medical officer being accused of “lying” about Covid-19 while out walking near Westminster.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said: “I think the individual concerned is pathetic, I think it is ridiculous what he is doing.
“Chris Whitty is one of our greatest living scientists and his advice to the Government all the way through this, and his advice to all of us in the population, has been incredibly smart and thoughtful, and he is a great asset to this nation. The idea that someone would do something as silly as that is ridiculous.”
He added: “Chris Whitty is a scientist of great repute and, frankly, he should be respected by everybody.”
Hong Hong threatening to knock down doors to test
Hong Kong is threatening to knock down the doors of residents who don’t respond to authorities conducting mandatory-testing blitzes as the city tries to end a persistent winter wave of coronavirus cases.
The Asian financial hub has been attempting to curb a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections with targeted lockdowns that see authorities cordon off an area and restrict movement until residents receive negative results.
Here is a photo from the locked down Sham Shui Po area.
New mutations won’t stop vaccine effectiveness, says Oxford jab chief
Dr Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, said that even if the virus adapts so it can continue to transmit, “that doesn’t mean that we won’t still have protection against severe disease”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I think one of the things that we know about these new variants is that they are making changes that allow them to avoid human immune responses so that they can still transmit.
“So that does mean that it’s likely over time that the virus will find ways of adapting and continue to pass between people despite natural infection and immunity after that or from the vaccines.
“That doesn’t mean that we won’t still have protection against severe disease because there’s lots of different ways in which our immune system fights the virus – it is much more about the virus being able to continue to survive, rather than for it to cause harm to us.
“If we do need to update the vaccines, then it is actually a relatively straightforward process it only takes a matter of months, rather than the huge efforts that everyone went through last year, to get the very large-scale trials run and read out.”
Vaccine preventing hospitalisation, severe illness and death
Asked about new variants and mutations of the virus, Dr Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, told Good Morning Britain: “There is one really encouraging bit of data from our trial, and actually all of the studies going on in many different countries.
“The really important endpoint – which is hospitalisation, severe illness and death – the vaccines are preventing that even in situations where there is a lot of new variants arising.
“So, if we take that as the key metric, keeping people out of hospital. I’m relatively encouraged.”
Virus in UK mimics South African mutation
Covid in the UK is mutating to mimic the South African variant, officials have discovered, with dozens of cases found across the country.
Genomic sequencing has identified a mutation of the spike protein, both in the original strain and the newer Kent variant of the virus, which is likely to render current vaccines less effective. The E484K mutation resembles that seen in the South African and Brizilian variants.
The discovery emerged the day after ministers ordered door-to-door testing in eight postcodes across England after cases of the South African type were discovered with no obvious link to recent travel.
Further “surge testing” was ordered on Tuesday for neighbourhoods of Bristol – where the E484K mutation was discovered in 11 cases of the Kent variant – and in Liverpool, where it was discovered in 32 cases of the original variant.
One Oxford Covid jab cuts transmission
The data, released on Tuesday night, also revealed that the first jab prevents 100 per cent of hospitalisations after 22 days once an immune response has had time to develop.
It came as the number of vaccine doses administered in the UK passed 10 million, with 9,646,715 first doses and 496,796 second doses.
Read out front page story by Henry Bodkin, Gordon Rayner and Laura Donnelly in full here.
Oxford jab report vindicates Goverment decision to delay second dose
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a study showing a single dose of the Oxford vaccine may reduce transmission of coronavirus by two-thirds “categorically” supported the Government’s strategy of delaying rollout of the second jab.
He told Sky News: “This Oxford report is very good news, it backs the strategy that we’ve taken and it shows the world that the Oxford vaccine works effectively.
“The really good news embedded in it is that it not just reduces hospitalisations – there were no people in this part of the trial who are hospitalised with Covid after getting the Oxford jab – but also it reduces the number of people who have Covid at all, even asymptomatically, by around two-thirds.
“That reduction in transmission, as well as the fact there is no hospitalisations, the combination of that is very good news and it categorically supports the strategy we’ve been taking on having a 12-week gap between the doses because it shows that the strength of the protection you get is, in fact, slightly enhanced by a 12-week gap between the doses. It is good news all round.”
Video appears to show Whitty being subjected to abuse in street
A Conservative MP has condemned a video that appears to show Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, being subjected to verbal abuse in the street.
The footage, which is undated, was taken at Westminster’s Strutton Ground market and uploaded to TikTok.
Matt Vickers, MP for Stockton South, said: “This is appalling, I really can’t believe this footage.
“Chris Whitty is doing all he can to help guide us through this crisis and should never be subjected to this abuse.”
A young man holding the cameraphone can be heard repeatedly saying “you’re a liar”. Whitty does not respond and puts on a face mask.
‘Dead patient left on ward for hours amid staff shortgages’
A dead patient was left on a ward for hours and another died after a fall at a hospital which has suffered staffing issues during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A new report into care at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest in England which has been hit particularly hard by the latest coronavirus wave, has laid bare the impact of the pandemic.
A series of Care Quality Commission (CQC) reports highlight how a patient who died was left on a ward for almost five hours and was not transported away due to low staffing levels.
In one part of the trust, nurses were caring for up to 17 patients.
Inspectors also highlighted issues surrounding infection control after hearing reports of patients without Covid-19 being placed on wards where there were Covid-positive patients.
CQC inspectors said deceased patients at Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, one of the hospitals run by the trust, were “not always transported from the wards in a timely manner”.
The document also highlights how another patient died and others suffered harm after potentially avoidable falls.
The inspection report states: “We were provided with examples of potentially avoidable falls due to low staffing numbers.
“On ward 11, a patient fell and passed away after sustaining an injury.
“At the time of the fall, the ward was short-staffed, and all staff were busy with other patients.
Ryanair’s “jab and go” ad banned
Ryanair’s “jab and go” ad has been banned after it was deemed “irresponsible” by the regulator.
The advert, two versions of which appeared on TV in late December and early January, showed an image of a vaccine while the voiceover said “vaccines are coming” and suggested travellers should book Easter and Summer holidays.
It added: “So you could jab and go.”
It led to the third highest number of complaints about a single ad ever filed to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), with more than 2,000 viewers raising concerns.
The ASA said the ad could be considered misleading for suggesting that people would be able to go on holiday this easter without restrictions if they had been vaccinated and also irresponsible by encouraging people who have had the vaccine to act irresponsibly.
Read more: Ryanair ‘jab and go’ ad banned by regulator
WHO team visit Wuhan lab
World Health Organisation inspectors visited a laboratory in China’s Wuhan city on Wednesday that American officials suggested could have been the source of the coronavirus.
The inspection of the Wuhan virology institute, which conducts research on the world’s most dangerous diseases, will be one of the most-watched stops on the team’s probe into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The sensitive mission, which China had delayed throughout the first year of the pandemic, has a remit to explore how the virus jumped from animal to human.
But questions remain over what the experts can hope to find after so much time has passed.