lmost one in four adults in the UK have had their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, Matt Hancock has said.
The Health Secretary speaking at a Downing Street press briefing after new data showed that coronavirus deaths in the UK had hit a six-week low. A further 333 fatalities and 14,104 infections were reported on Monday.
On Monday it was reported that Britons could be required to have a third “booster” jab this year, after a major study found the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the South African coronavirus variant.
Meanwhile, the public have said that they would rather Boris Johnson lead the pandemic response than Sir Keir Starmer, in an exclusive poll for The Evening Standard.
Musicians ‘have lost entire continent as a venue’ because of Covid-19 and Brexit, according to MP
Giles Watling, the Conservative MP for Clacton, Essex, said the music industry is facing the “double whammy” of the impact of coronavirus and new post-Brexit restrictions on touring.
His comments came in a debate sparked by more than 280,000 people signing a petition calling for a cultural work permit deal to be reached.
Mr Watling told the Petitions Committee music is “a great deployment of UK soft power”.
He added: “Our performers are now facing a double whammy of an industry devastated by Covid and the loss of an entire continent as a venue.
“We must continue to raise this issue with our EU neighbours.”
Former Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman told the committee the issue is “so important in so many ways, culturally as well as financially”.
“It is not a Brexit teething problem,” she told the Petitions Committee. It will be enduring unless it is sorted out.”
South Africa to delay rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the head of South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told a World Health Organisation (WHO) press conference that the nation has decided to delay the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine “until we have processes in place to undertake this kind of stepwise implementation approach”.
WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added the news that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab may be less effective against the South African variant is “clearly concerning” but there are some “important caveats”.
He told the Geneva conference: “Given the limited sample size of the trial, and the younger, healthier profile of the participants, it’s important to determine whether or not the vaccine remains effective in preventing more severe illness.
“These results are a reminder that we need to do everything we can to reduce circulation of the virus with proven public health measures.”
Expanding testing in childcare is part of the Government plans, says Mr Hancock
The Health Secretary said in response to a final question: “This testing is free for now and we’re always looking to who we can expand this testing to.
“We expanded it to the NHS to schools, to hundreds of large employers and we now want to expand it to employers of more than 50 people and we will look how much further we can go after that.”
Should people be prepared for tougher border controls until there is widespread vaccination around the world?
Mr Hancock said the Government needed to know more about the impact of vaccines on new variants before anything could be said about summer holidays and lifting measures at the border.
“The fact that we have only seen 147 cases of the new variants – other than the Kent variant – means that we need to protect the country from variants, hence the toughening that we took last month with measures at the border and we’re on track to deliver on stronger border measures still from countries of concern by next Monday.
“The proportion of cases coming from abroad at the moment is still very low, of course we want to life these measures as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Professor Van-Tam said goal is to shift the whole curve to the left to “managing community illness through community vaccination”
Prof Van-Tam it would be helpful to think about the Covid-19 crisis in terms of how the UK manages seasonal flu which it does via vaccination and making sure the disease does not overwhelm the NHS.
He added that the goal is to “take the whole curve and shift it to the left so that the vast majority of the illness is manageable in the community as opposed to causing enormous pressure on our hospitals.
“If we do that we open up a whole way of living normally in the future.”
What is the plan if we can’t stop transmission through vaccination?
Mr Hancock said in response to the question from an ITV journalist: “The answer is really clear that we have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will work to make people safe and it’s vitally important that people come forward for their vaccine.
“We have a plan for what to do if we need to update the vaccines to work on the new variant but we also have a plan to keep those variants under control and keep them suppressed.”
Will a booster jab be required next Autumn or will second doses of the vaccines be altered?
Professor Van-Tam said in response to the question from a member of the public: “It’s more likely to be a booster required next Autumn. With new technologies, such as the messenger RNA vaccine, we can move pretty fast to vary the virus in the vaccine.
“And we’re talking about a matter of weeks rather than matter of months, nevertheless those vaccines still have to be tested in a small scale way and then they have to be produced.”
Professor Van-Tam: “Don’t worry you can be re-vaccinated”
Professor Van-Tam urged those who are reading the headlines and are panicking, to take comfort in the fact that there is a lot of research going on behind the scenes.
He said: “Just as variations of the virus were inevitable, it’s almost inevitable we at some point would need variations of the vaccine.
“It’s something we have anticipated for quite some time.”
South African variant is not the dominant variant in the UK, says Professor Jonathan Van-Tam
The Deputy Chief Medical Officer said the Covid-19 variant first detected in Kent remains the dominant variant in the UK.
He said: “Early data on modelling does not suggest that the South African variant has a transmissibility advantage over our current virus.
“Because of that, there is no reason to think the South African variant will catch up or overtake our current virus in the next few months.”
Mr Hancock said cases and Covid-19 deaths are still too high
He told the briefing: “We’re turning a corner with our battle against coronavirus, the vaccine rollout is going well.
“All the time we must be vigilant and do whatever it takes to tackle new variants that arise.”