The coronavirus morning headlines for Monday, February 8, as there are reports millions of people could need a third vaccine jab in the autumn in a bid to fight off the threat of mutant Covid strains.
NHS chiefs are said to be hopeful that the extra dose of the inoculation can be given at the same time as winter flu jabs.
But ministers reportedly face a decision about which of the new variants of coronavirus to target after a study found the current Oxford vaccine may not be able to prevent mild and moderate illnesses in the South African strain.
South Africa is temporarily suspending the start of its Covid-19 vaccinations with the AstraZeneca jab after a study showed the drug failed to prevent mild and moderate cases of the virus variant that has appeared in the country.
Currently, the government is rapidly testing about 80,000 people across England in eight key areas in the hopes of locating all cases of the South African variant of the virus. Thirteen cases are being investigated in Wales, including two where people had no history of international travel.
Yesterday, it was revealed that early data suggested the Oxford AstraZeneca jab only offered limited protection against the variant which has health chiefs concerned.
Now, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that jabs to protect against Covid could be offered every year, depending on which variant is prevalent at the time.
He urged the public to keep faith with the Oxford jab as scientists working on the vaccine raised the prospect of having a booster dose available by the autumn.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the minister said: “While it is right and necessary to prepare for the deployment of an updated vaccine, we can take confidence from the current roll out and the protection it will provide all of us against this terrible disease.
“We need to be aware that even where a vaccine has reduced efficacy in preventing infection there may still be good efficacy against severe disease, hospitalisation, and death. This is vitally important for protecting the healthcare system.”
Professor Sarah Gilbert, the Oxford vaccine’s lead researcher, said her team was working on having an adapted version of their jab that could tackle the South Africa mutation – of which cases have been found in England – “available for the autumn”.
Infection rate continues to fall in Wales
The latest Public Health Wales (PHW) data shows that the infection rate has fallen again.
Following the latest figures the Wales infection rate is 118.9 per 100,000 population for the seven days up to February 2, a decrease from 122.6 on Saturday. It has not been this low for more than four months.
The figures published on Sunday, February 7, showed that 28 people have died with coronavirus in Wales in the past 24 hours and the infection rate across the country continues to fall.
Another 461 new cases of the virus have been recorded, a drop from the 675 reported on Sunday. It brings the total since the pandemic began to 196,060.
The number of people who have now died with the virus in Wales has reached 4,961.
PHW data shows 589,622 people have now received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of 10pm on Saturday, up 32,625 on the figure published 24 hours earlier. That’s nearly a fifth (18.7%) of the Welsh population. Some 2,606 people have now received both of their vaccine jabs.
Fines issued for rugby and birthday party breaches
Nine people were handed fines on Saturday night after they were caught watching the England rugby match at a friends house. South Wales Police broke up the group – from several households – in the Uplands area of Swansea.
They tweeted: “Nine fixed penalty notices issued for breaching Covid [regulations] as they had attended their friend’s house, from several households, to watch England lose in the rugby.”
Further up the Swansea valley, in Ynystawe, officers issued half a dozen fixed penalty notices to people attending a birthday party at someone’s home.
The guests were discovered to be from different households.
In Liverpool, two people were arrested and more than 50 have been fined after police raided a gym in Merseyside on Sunday afternoon. Officers were tipped off that Prophecy Performance Centre on Gaskill Road in Speke had been welcoming fitness enthusiasts in defiance of the national lockdown.
Coronavirus delays rollout of Metro
The rollout of a £750m integrated public transport network across south Wales faces a “marginal” delay due to the coronavirus crisis.
James Price of Transport for Wales (TfW), said the South Wales Metro project, set to be completed in 2023, will be delayed for “months not years”.
He told the BBC that work on lines, funded by the Welsh Government and European Union, had already started.
It comes as TfW is nationalised after a drop in passenger numbers during Covid.
Schools in England may open for two weeks in summer
Boris Johnson could open schools in England during the period pupils would ordinarily be on summer break, it has been reported.
Ministers are said to be looking at keeping schools open an extra two weeks.
Classrooms could be instructed to keep doors and windows open in a bid to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
A two-week extension of the school year would see pupils continuing to attend classes into the first week of August.
The missed summer holidays time would then be tacked on to existing autumn and winter breaks.
In Wales, Education Minister Kirsty Williams has said she is looking at changing academic year dates for next school year and is looking at using school holidays to help children catch up after a year of disrupted learning. Read what she had to say here.
GPs can give out vaccination records if needed for holidays
State-issued immunity passports will not be given out – but those inoculated against coronavirus will be able to ask their GP for written proof of their vaccine status if needed for travel, a minister has said.
Downing Street has been adamant that it does not plan to issue so-called “vaccine passports” to allow people to travel once they have had both doses of a vaccine
But with countries such as Greece stating they will waive quarantine requirements for those who have been jabbed, ministers are facilitating a way in which UK residents with protection can travel once the lockdown is over.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi was asked about whether the Government was considering issuing immunity passports and told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “No, we’re not. One, we don’t know the impact of the vaccines on transmission.
“Two, it would be discriminatory and I think the right thing to do is to make sure that people come forward to be vaccinated because they want to rather than it be made in some way mandatory through a passport.
“If other countries obviously require some form of proof, then you can ask your GP because your GP will hold your records and that will then be able to be used as your proof you’ve had the vaccine.
“But we are not planning to have a passport in the UK.”
Cases in your area by postcode:
One in three ambulance staff have had coronavirus
More than one in three ambulance staff have had Covid-19 – mainly catching it while at work, according to new research.
The GMB union said a survey of 1,600 of its members in the service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, suggested that 37% have had the virus.
Almost a third of those said their symptoms were “really bad” or required medical attention.
The GMB said poor personal protective equipment (PPE) was to blame, claiming that ambulance workers report having to attend patients with flimsy gowns.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk