UK can avoid more lockdowns with vaccine programme, says expert
Emergency admissions also down
Emergency admissions to A&E departments at hospitals in England also showed a fall last month, down 20% from 559,058 in January 2020 to 445,600 in January 2021.
NHS England again said this is likely to be a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak.
A&E attendances down
A&E attendances at hospitals in England continue to be below levels of a year ago, according to the latest figures from NHS England.
A total of 1.3 million attendances were recorded in January 2021, down 38% from 2.1 million in January 2020.
NHS England said the fall is “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response” – suggesting that people are still staying away from A&E departments because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The year-on-year drop in A&E attendances of 38% in January compares with falls of 32% in December, 31% in November and 26% in October.
Merkel calls for patience after extending lockdown until March 7th
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans on Thursday to have a little more patience after agreeing with regional leaders to extend a coronavirus lockdown until March 7 and said restrictions would not be kept for a day longer than necessary.
Addressing the Bundestag lower house of parliament, Merkel said the extension was needed to avoid a third wave due to the risk posed by new virus variants.
“I know what we have achieved in our fight against the virus has had, and is still having, a high price,” said Merkel.
A gradual fall in new daily infections has raised pressure for an easing of tight restrictions in place since mid-December and Merkel agreed with state premiers on Wednesday that some schools and hairdressers could open sooner than March 7.
Seeking to reassure Germans that the lockdown was helping, Merkel said she was aware this was the most serious curtailment of freedoms in post-war Germany. She knew many people were lonely and worried about money and their future.
“As a democracy we have a duty not to keep the restrictions in place for a day longer than is necessary,” she said.
Shadow health secretary sceptical of NHS reforms
Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said she is sceptical that the latest NHS reforms will provide the improvement needed.
“The truth is, if reorganising NHS structures improved the quality of care or patient outcomes we’d have already reached nirvana as there have been 20 reorganisations since 1999,” she tweeted.
“Plus we wont properly integrate NHS & social care without long term funding reform for social care – an issue Ministers have repeatedly ducked.”
Ms Kendall said that giving the Health Secretary “sweeping powers” over the NHS in England “is not (what the) NHS has called for or the lesson we should take from experience”.
She pointed to “major problems” with programmes that Matt Hancock’s department has been responsible for during the pandemic, such as the supply of personal protective equipment and NHS Test and Trace, and compared it with the “success of vaccine delivery” handled by NHS England.
Matt Hancock defends booking summer holiday already
However, the health secretary urged the public to be patient.
Ireland to stay in lockdown until Easter
Ireland expects to retain strict Covid-19 health measures at least until Easter, Minister Micheal Martin said on Thursday.
The government hopes to drop restrictions on the construction sector and reopen schools in early March, but restrictions on travel, visiting other households and on retail and hospitality are likely to remain in place, he told RTE radio.
“Certainly we are looking at continuation of high levels of restrictions until the Easter period,” Martin said.
Setting an ‘arbitrary’ date for restrictions to be lifted ‘doesn’t make sense’
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said it is “not sensible” to predict when Covid-19 restrictions can be lifted and when people might be able to go on holiday.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “It is not sensible to set a date when restrictions will be lifted – those restrictions can and they will be lifted, but only when the data allows that to be true. Setting a date now, arbitrarily, for some date in March or April, frankly doesn’t make any sense.
“I appreciate that businesses have to plan and everything else, but the data has to drive us, and in 2020 we lifted restrictions too quickly when the date would not really have allowed that and, frankly, as a result the transmission went back up in this country.”
He added: “The new variants are a massive warning. We are not through this pandemic yet but we can be through it, but only if we reduce transmission, we vaccinate as many people as we can in this country, and we ensure that those vaccines are available in an equitable way around the world.
“That’s not just a moral and ethical case, that’s the financial and economic (case), and it’s the only way to bring this pandemic to a close globally.”
Border controls will only work if community transmission rates are low, says expert
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, warned that border controls only work if transmission rates are low in the community.
He pointed out that almost all of the first infections detected in the UK in February and early March last year were seeded by British people returning from mainland Europe and not from China, where the pandemic began.
“Boarder controls can work if transmission is very low, if they are very comprehensive and you’re willing to put them in place for a very long time.
“They buy you time, but they don’t reduce transmission when your transmission is already very high.”
Sir Jeremy told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The biggest threat in the UK at the moment is local transmission.
“We’ve got 750,000 people infected in the UK today and the priority needs to be to drive those numbers down – to get vaccinations to as many people as are willing to have them.”
Too early to know summer restrictions, says Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it is too early to know which coronavirus restrictions will still be in place by the summer.
“As the Prime Minister set out yesterday, we do have to be patient,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Because things like the vaccine rollout are going well – that is the progress that people want to see – but there is still the uncertainty around where we will be by the summer.
“I am saying exactly the same as every other minister is saying, which is there is uncertainty, and that means we cannot make categorical assurances but we are doing everything we can to get things back to normal.”
— to www.standard.co.uk