10 years in prison if you hide trip to ‘red zone’ country, says Hancock
The South African variant of coronavirus is unlikely to become dominant in the UK, England’s deputy chief medical officer has said.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam used one of his characteristic analogies to explain: “If you are running a bath and you have got the hot water tap on and you add in a very small amount of cold water, so the cold tap is running as well but at really a very low volume, your bath water is basically going to remain hot,” he said.
“It’s only if that cold tap was gushing much more than the hot tap, the cold water would take over.”
It comes as 10-year jail sentences for travellers who conceal their journeys to high-risk countries have been criticised as “extraordinary high”.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said UK residents returning to England from 33 “red list” countries must quarantine for 10 days in government-designated hotels, and those caught lying about their movements could be fined £10,000 or be jailed for 10 years.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve told the Daily Telegraph: “The maximum sentence of 10 years for what is effectively a regulatory breach sounds, in the circumstances, unless it can be justified, extraordinarily high.”
Government lacks ‘clear strategy’ to tackle ‘vaccine hesitancy’ within BAME communities, Labour says
The government has “still not produced a clear strategy” to tackle “vaccine hesitancy” within BAME communities, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities Marsha de Cordova has said.
She said: “South Asians in particular, Bangladeshi and Pakistani people, are still experiencing three times the risk from coronavirus in the second wave… take-up of the vaccine is vital. We know that historical issues of mistrust and culturally inappropriate public health information has contributed to… vaccine hesitancy.
“The government has had time to plan to mitigate all this but has still not produced a clear strategy to engage with our black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. Can I ask the minister what steps she is taking to ensure the vaccine rollout reaches all our communities, particularly those who are unequally impacted.”
Responding, minister for equalities Kemi Badenoch said the government recognised the issue “is very serious”. She said: “I will be providing a second Covid disparities report at the end of this month which will provide more comprehensive detail of steps that we have taken.
“However this is an issue that we recognise is very serious, the disparities are changing for different groups. We have seen some progress for instance amongst black groups, however we do emphasise the vaccines are the best way to protect people from coronavirus.
“The DoH (Department of Health and Social Care) and the NHS are working closely with black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to support those receiving a vaccine and help anyone who may have questions about the process. As part of this we’re working with faith and community leaders.”
Samuel Osborne10 February 2021 12:51
Countries could insist people have received vaccines before allowing them to travel, Van-Tam says
It is “certainly plausible” that countries will insist that people have received a Covid-19 vaccine before allowing them to travel, England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said.
He stressed that the British position had never been that there should be mandatory vaccinations.
But Professor Van-Tam told the BBC: “I can’t tell you how other countries are going to react to us, react to the idea of international travel in the post-Covid pandemic world, and whether in fact other countries will themselves insist that visitors are vaccinated, I don’t know the answer to that.
“And I don’t think other countries yet know the answer to that. “
He said it was “certainly plausible that people will start to frame things that way” because of concerns about the spread of variants.
“People are very cautious at the moment about new variants and where we can take all around the world.”
Samuel Osborne10 February 2021 12:28
Van-Tam effectively rules out safety issues with coronavirus vaccines
England’s deputy chief medical officer has effectively ruled out safety issues with the coronavirus vaccines being used in the UK, saying so many people have now had the jab that it would be “pretty obvious” if it caused adverse reactions, political editor Andrew Woodcock reports.
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam also played down the threat from the South African variant of the disease in the UK, saying that 90 per cent of cases now involve the strain first identified in Kent.
Comparing the two variants to hot and cold water taps on a bath, he said that as long as one was flowing hard, the other would have little impact.
Samuel Osborne10 February 2021 12:05
Ministers failed to learn lessons from first Covid wave and locked down too late, Neil Ferguson says
The government failed to learn the lessons from the first wave of coronavirus last spring, resulting in a delayed national lockdown and a higher death rate over Christmas, Professor Neil Ferguson has suggested.
The senior scientific adviser, who sits on the government’s Nervtag emergency virus committee, said a “fragmented” consensus over the correct level of restrictions meant the country was in a weaker position going into the winter.
Samuel Osborne10 February 2021 11:32
South African variant may not become dominant in UK, Van-Tam says
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam used one of his characteristic analogies to explain why he did not believe the South African variant would become dominant in the UK.
England’s deputy chief medical officer told the BBC the mutation first identified in Kent accounts for more than 90 per cent of cases and there had been fewer than 200 cases of the South African strain.
“If you are running a bath and you have got the hot water tap on and you add in a very small amount of cold water, so the cold tap is running as well but at really a very low volume, your bath water is basically going to remain hot,” he said.
“It’s only if that cold tap was gushing much more than the hot tap, the cold water would take over.
“That’s probably the best analogy I can give you at the moment. There are no signs that South African variant is running at that speed at the moment and therefore I don’t frame it as something that is going to be a dominant issue in the next few months.”
Prof Van-Tam also said the study carried out in South Africa which showed low efficacy for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for mild disease should be interpreted with caution.
He said: “I’m not sure that really tells us about whether the vaccine is still going to be really important in terms of protection against severe disease and protection in an older age group, and they’re the people who are most at risk.
“It would be a very, very big public health win indeed if all of the vaccines that we’re deploying simply stop people going into hospital, even if they don’t flatten the infection rate. That would be a major, major public health victory.”
Samuel Osborne10 February 2021 11:12
Deputy chief medical officer concerned about vaccine take-up in minority ethnic groups
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said he was concerned about the take-up of Covid vaccines in minority ethnic groups.
England’s deputy chief medical officer told the BBC: “I have concerns that uptake in the minority ethnic groups is not going to be as rapid or as high as in the indigenous white population of the UK.
“And this really concerns me because the big message I have for for everyone listening is that this virus just doesn’t care what ethnic background you’re from.
“It just doesn’t care about the colour of your skin or where you live in the world or, or any of these things, it just cares that you’re a human being, that you don’t have immunity and that you’re susceptible.
“And this is really worrying, it’s a massive concern to people who are older and people who have higher risk conditions.
“The virus does not discriminate.”
Prof Van-Tam also condemned “nasty, pernicious” scare stories circulating on social media about the potential impact of Covid vaccines on fertility.
He told the BBC: “I have never heard of a vaccine that affects fertility.
“I was discussing this only yesterday with the chief medical officer [Professor Chris Whitty].
“We recognise that this is a nasty, pernicious scare story but that’s all it is.
“It is deliberately designed to target people’s worries and their aspirations in life.
“It’s complete and utterly groundless.”
Samuel Osborne10 February 2021 10:49
Japan to waste millions of doses of Pfizer vaccine because of syringe mixup
A shortage of specialist syringes in Japan means millions of people will not receive the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine, Bethany Dawson reports.
Standard syringes cannot extract the sixth and final dose from each vial manufactured by the US drugmaker. Without the specialist syringes, the final dose will be discarded.
Samuel Osborne10 February 2021 10:29
Airline body ‘in talks with government about vaccination app for travel’
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) is in talks with the government about a coronavirus vaccination app for travellers, according to its chief executive.
The trade body is working with carriers on the TravelPass app, which will give people flying abroad the ability to share their coronavirus test and vaccination results.
Alexandre de Juniac told the BBC’s Newscast podcast that the app could be rolled out from April and that discussions with the government have been “very fruitful”.
“We should not anticipate, but the UK authorities are among those with whom we have the closest link on this element,” he said.
Mr de Juniac confirmed reports that the app is being trialled by IAG, the parent company of British Airways.
Last week, Downing Street said the government has no “current plans” for coronavirus immunity passports amid reports that British officials have started work on an official certification programme.
A No 10 spokesman said: “There are still no current plans to roll out vaccine passports. Going on holiday is currently illegal.”
Samuel Osborne10 February 2021 10:13
Grand Shapps defends 10-year jail sentences for travellers who break rules
Grant Shapps has defended the threat of a 10-year jail sentence for travellers who try to conceal journeys from high-risk countries, saying the British public “would expect pretty strong action”.
“It’s up to 10 years, it’s a tariff, it’s not necessarily how long somebody would go to prison for,” the travel secretary told BBC Breakfast.
“But I do think it is serious if people put others in danger by deliberately misleading and saying that you weren’t in Brazil or South Africa, or one of the red list countries, which as you say does include Portugal.
“But I think the British public would expect pretty strong action because we’re not talking now just about, ‘oh there’s a lot of coronavirus in that country and you might bring some more of it back when we already have plenty of it here’.
“What we’re talking about now are the mutations, the variants, and that is a different matter, because we don’t want to be in a situation where we later on discover that there’s a problem with vaccines.”
Samuel Osborne10 February 2021 09:51
Surge testing begins in south London after South African variant case discovered
Extra coronavirus testing will be carried out in areas of south London after a case of the South African variant was discovered.
The surge testing and genomic sequencing will be rolled out in parts of West Norwood and a small section of Streatham in the borough of Lambeth, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
People over the age of 16 living or working within the SE27 0, SE27 9 and SW16 2 postcodes are strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test this week, whether they are showing symptoms or not.
Lambeth council said: “This is to help us track any potential cases after a case of the variant of Covid-19 that was first identified in South Africa was discovered in the area.”
Samuel Osborne10 February 2021 09:37