srael has started easing lockdown restrictions as the number of people vaccinated against coronavirus nears 50 per cent.
Vaccine rollout for children should happen ‘as fast as we can’ says expert
The vaccine rollout should turn to children “as fast as we can”, an expert advising the Government has said.
Professor John Edmunds said until everyone is jabbed, there remains a “significant risk of a resurgence” of the virus.
The scientist, who is a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the UK is currently in a “strong position” due to the successful vaccine programme and the Prime Minister’s pledge to offer all adults a jab by the end of July will make a “huge difference”.
However, Professor Edmunds warned it will take months to have everyone covered.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It takes some time, it’s going to take months yet to vaccinate all of us.
“We’re all at risk and we can all spread the virus, and so until we’ve all been vaccinated – I include children here – then there is going to be significant risk of a resurgence.”
Professor Edmunds, who said he is a father of two children of secondary school age, said he believes “there is an argument for turning to children as fast as we can” in the rollout.
He added: “There will continue to be major disruption in schools until we have vaccinated our children.”
Opening schools now could see the R number come close to 1, he said, but asked if two households socialising outside was likely to have an effect on the R number, he said: “Not much, mixing outside is pretty safe.”
On a phased reopening of schools, he said that purely from an epidemiological viewpoint “it’s always safer to take smaller steps and evaluate”.
One in three adults has had Covid-19 vaccine, says Hancock
One in three adults has had a coronavirus vaccine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “As of this morning, one in three adults of all adults in the whole country have been vaccinated – it’s great news.
“We are confident that the vaccine works effectively against both the old strain that has been here for some time and the so-called Kent variant, which is now the main source of infection in this country.
“We do not yet have the confidence that the vaccine is as effective against the South Africa variant and the variant first seen in Brazil, but we do think that the measures that we have taken – both the enhanced contact tracing and the measures at the border – are reducing those new variants here.”
Mr Hancock said the latest data showed “around a dozen” new cases of the South African variant had been found in the country. In total, there have been around 300 cases, he said.
Keir Starmer calls for all pupils to return to schools on March 8
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has rejected pressure from unions to call for a phased return of schools, arguing that “ideally” all children should be back in England’s classrooms on March 8.
Starmer said he hoped Boris Johnson would set out a “cautious, careful” exit from lockdown when the Prime Minister publishes his road map on Monday but the full return of schools should be the aim.
His stance comes after a coalition of unions and professional bodies warned that reopening schools to all pupils in England at the same time would be “reckless” and could risk another spike in Covid-19 infections.
The joint statement was from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the NAHT school leaders’ union, the National Education Union (NEU), the NASUWT teachers’ union, the National Governance Association (NGA), the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) and Labour-affiliated unions Unison, Unite and GMB.
Starmer told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Ideally, I’d like to see all schools back open on 8th March and all children back in school on March 8.
“I’ve been worried through the pandemic, a number of people have, about the impact that being out of school has on particularly vulnerable children and the attainment gap is getting bigger, so ideally March 8.
“We’ll have to see obviously where the data is, see where the science is, but that’s what we should be working towards.
“If that means more testing, if that means Nightingale classrooms, if it means other measures, let’s do that because I want to get our kids back into school.”
Coronavirus restrictions will be eased with ‘weeks between the steps’, says Hancock
Coronavirus restrictions will be eased with “weeks between the steps”, Matt Hancock has said.
The Health Secretary told Times Radio it takes a few weeks for the impact of lifting measures to be seen.
He said: “Hence there will be weeks between the steps so that we can watch carefully.”
Mr Hancock also said social distancing measures and the wearing of face coverings is likely to remain for a while.
He added: “I want to see it more about personal responsibility over time as we have vaccinated more and more of the population.”
Israel is easing lockdown restrictions
Israel is easing lockdown restrictions as studies reveal the Pfizer vaccine is up to 95.8% effective in preventing hospitalisations and death.
Shops, libraries and museums will be allowed to open from Sunday with social distancing and masks still required.
People will also able to enter shopping malls and tourist attractions such as zoos.
It comes as the health ministry said on Saturday that studies revealed the risk of sickness from the virus has dropped 95.8% among people who have had both doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
They also found that the vaccine was 98% effective in preventing fever or breathing problems.
The findings were based on data collected nationally through February 13 from Israelis who had received their second shot at least two weeks previously.
About 1.7 million people had been administered a second shot by January 30, making them eligible to be included, according to the Health Ministry’s website.
They added that easing the restrictions is the first stage of returning to normal life, after the country went into a second lockdown on December 27.
Other facilities will now be allowed to open across the country including gyms, hotels and synagogues.
However, to do this, people must have a “green passport”, which proves they have been fully inoculated or deemed immune after recovering from COVID-19.
The app-based passport is issued by the health ministry and will be valid for six months, one week after the second dose, according to the BBC.
Despite the easing of restrictions, Israel’s airport will remain closed for another two weeks and crowds are not allowed back at concerts.
Israel has the highest vaccination rate in the world with more than 49% of people receiving at least one dose.
Matt Hancock says he would publish ‘what is legally required’ after High Court ruling
Matt Hancock said he would publish what is legally required after the High Court ruled the Government unlawfully failed to publish details of billions of pounds’ worth of coronavirus-related contracts.
The Health Secretary told Sky News: “On average, we published them just over a fortnight later than they should have been, and there’s a reason for that, and the reason is that there was a global shortage of PPE and we needed to buy PPE to save lives.
“My officials, with my full support, spent every waking hour buying PPE so that even though we came close we never actually ran out of PPE in this country – and they did that even though the paperwork got delayed by, on average, just over a fortnight.
“That’s what the court found and I – and I think any secretary of state in my position – would absolutely back my officials in doing the right thing and saving lives.”
He said the Government would “commit to publishing on the standard basis what is legally required and what is normal to publish”.
Enhanced contact tracing and tighter border measures working to combat spread of variants, says Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says there is evidence that enhanced contact tracing and tighter border measures are working to combat the spread of new Covid-19 variants in the UK.
“There is evidence that the measures we’re taking, both the enhanced contact tracing and also stricter measures at the border, there is evidence that these are working and that we’ve now got a much stronger vigilance in place because everyone coming into the country has to be tested,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.
He added that the Government have a “strong set of actions working with local authorities very specifically where new variants are found.”
Hancock insists ‘cautions’ approach to easing lockdown restrictions is ‘incredibly important’
Matt Hancock has insisted it is right to take a “cautious” approach to easing lockdown restrictions despite the vaccine programme going “very well”.
The Health Secretary said: “I know that everybody at Sky News is keen to be able to get back to having parties and all of us understandably want to get back to normal.
“But it is right to be cautious – it is incredibly important. There are still almost 20,000 people in hospital with Covid right now…
“The vaccination programme, whilst clearly going very well, will take time to be able to reach all people who have significant vulnerability, especially because we need to get the second jab to everybody.
“So, we’ve got time that needs to be taken to get this right. The Prime Minister will set out the road map tomorrow and he will set out the full details – taking into account that we need to take a cautious but irreversible approach, that’s the goal.”
Announcement on vaccine priority expected next week, says JCVI member
Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he expected an announcement to be made around vaccine priorities some time in the next week.
Asked about a new priority list for people under 50, he told BBC Breakfast: “The strategy from JCVI that’s being provided as advice to the Government is just being finalised at the moment, and then Government will make their decision as to how to do this during the coming days, so I think there’ll be some kind of public announcement around that in the next week or so.”
He said he could not say what he expected the priorities would be because that is something to be announced by the Government, not JCVI.
He added: “I think from what we’ve heard from Government already, the emphasis is on getting the programme done as fast as possible, but beyond that I can’t make any further comment.”
Health secretary says Government believes they have enough vaccine supplies to reach new target
Matt Hancock said the Government believed it had the vaccine supplies to meet the new target of offering all adults a jab by the end of July.
“We now think that we have the supplies to be able to do that, we can see the NHS and all of those partners and all of those working on this have been able to deliver jabs at about half-a-million a day, which is an incredible effort,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
“So, collectively, the whole team now needs to focus on this renewed target of all vulnerable groups, all those over 50 by April 15 and then we will keep rolling out and make sure that all adults get access to the jab.”
— to www.standard.co.uk