A Whitehall source told the Telegraph that once the most vulnerable groups had been vaccinated “even if there is some transmission it’s a manageable problem – so we don’t need the restrictions. It’s looking good for schools returning in March, shops reopening in April.”
Captain Tom’s memory will be ‘marked properly’ – Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the contribution made to the NHS by Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised more than £32 million for the health service during the first lockdown, would be formally marked.
Describing him as an “inspiration”, Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast: “I think we should find a way to make sure we mark the memory of Captain Tom and thank him for the contribution he made for the NHS.
“I will ensure we mark his contribution properly and appropriately at the right moment.
“I think everybody would welcome that, I think he has touched the hearts of so many people of all ages.
“He touched the heart of the nation and we should remember that.”
Whitty abuser was ‘pathetic’ – Hancock
The person who insulted Professor Chris Whitty on social media platform TikTok has been branded “pathetic” by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Reports have shown footage of England’s chief medical officer being accused of “lying” about Covid-19 while out walking near Westminster.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said: “I think the individual concerned is pathetic, I think it is ridiculous what he is doing.
“Chris Whitty is one of our greatest living scientists and his advice to the Government all the way through this, and his advice to all of us in the population, has been incredibly smart and thoughtful, and he is a great asset to this nation.
“The idea that someone would do something as silly as that is ridiculous.”
He added: “Christ Whitty is a scientist of great repute and, frankly, he should be respected by everybody.”
Updating vaccines to deal with mutations is ‘relatively straightforward process’ – Oxford expert
Dr Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, said that even if the virus adapts so it can continue to transmit, “that doesn’t mean that we won’t still have protection against severe disease”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I think one of the things that we know about these new variants is that they are making changes that allow them to avoid human immune responses so that they can still transmit.
“So that does mean that it’s likely over time that the virus will find ways of adapting and continue to pass between people despite natural infection and immunity after that or from the vaccines.
“That doesn’t mean that we won’t still have protection against severe disease because there’s lots of different ways in which our immune system fights the virus – it is much more about the virus being able to continue to survive, rather than for it to cause harm to us.
“If we do need to update the vaccines, then it is actually a relatively straightforward process it only takes a matter of months, rather than the huge efforts that everyone went through last year, to get the very large-scale trials run and read out.”
Vaccines still showing ‘encouraging’ signs against mutations – Oxford expert
Asked about new variants and mutations of the virus, Dr Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, told Good Morning Britain: “There is one really encouraging bit of data from our trial, and actually all of the studies going on in many different countries.
“The really important endpoint – which is hospitalisation, severe illness and death – the vaccines are preventing that even in situations where there is a lot of new variants arising.
“So, if we take that as the key metric, keeping people out of hospital. I’m relatively encouraged.”
We’re working on getting quarantine hotels up and running – Hancock
Cabinet minister Matt Hancock said there were “stringent measures in place” at the UK border and that proposals to bring in hotel quarantine for arrivals from the most risky countries were in tow.
On the forced quarantine situation, he told Sky News: “Obviously we’re working on these proposals – that’s specifically from ‘red list’ countries and you’re not at the moment allowed to travel from ‘red list’ countries at all.
“We’re always looking to strengthen these things but we already have very stringent measures in place at the border.”
Pressed on when the hotel quarantines will be brought in, Mr Hancock added: “That will be set out shortly but the critical thing is that the measures are already in place to require the isolation of every single passenger who comes into this country.”
NHS charity chief pays tribute to Captain Tom
Ellie Orton, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, said Captain Sir Tom Moore has left a “huge and lasting legacy”.
She told BBC Breakfast: “We are devastated at NHS Charities Together to hear that he has passed away and our thoughts and our prayers are with his family and friends at this time.
“He has left a huge and lasting legacy in NHS Charities because of the absolutely phenomenal fundraising he did himself.”
Ms Orton said Sir Tom inspired thousands of others to do the same.
She added: “We’ve never known anything like this in NHS Charities and I’m not sure any charity has either.
Oxford results are vindication of Government’s vaccine strategy – Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a study showing a single dose of the Oxford vaccine may reduce transmission of coronavirus by two-thirds “categorically” supported the Government’s strategy of delaying rollout of the second jab.
He told Sky News: “This Oxford report is very good news, it backs the strategy that we’ve taken and it shows the world that the Oxford vaccine works effectively.
“The really good news embedded in it is that it not just reduces hospitalisations – there were no people in this part of the trial who are hospitalised with Covid after getting the Oxford jab – but also it reduces the number of people who have Covid at all, even asymptomatically, by around two-thirds.
“That reduction in transmission, as well as the fact there is no hospitalisations, the combination of that is very good news and it categorically supports the strategy we’ve been taking on having a 12-week gap between the doses because it shows that the strength of the protection you get is, in fact, slightly enhanced by a 12-week gap between the doses. It is good news all round.”
Mr Hancock added that changes to vaccines to adapt them to new coronavirus variants could be given fast approval by the UK regulator.
He said: “We’re working with the companies on developing those and ensuring that they can get regulated and used much more quickly than first time round because it is just an adjustment to the vaccine rather than a completely new vaccine.”
Public health officials investigate strains showing South Africa-style mutation
Public Health England (PHE) is investigating strains of coronavirus in the UK which have developed a mutation that has been worrying scientists.
Eleven cases in the Bristol area have been identified as the variant that originally arose in Kent but are now showing the E484K mutation.
A cluster of 32 cases in Liverpool also have the same mutation but relate to the original strain of coronavirus that has been around since the start of the pandemic.
The South African variant – which also shows the mutation – is under investigation in at least eight postcode areas of England where cases not linked to travel have been found.
A PHE spokesman said: “PHE is monitoring the situation closely and all necessary public health interventions are being undertaken, including enhanced contact tracing and control measures.”
The E484K mutation has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing people contracting Covid-19.
However, public health experts believe current vaccines will still be effective against strains with the mutation, although at a lower level, and are good at preventing severe disease.
Regional PHE officials said the mutation was detected in Liverpool last month as part of cases among staff at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. A cluster of an initial five cases was detected on January 10 among some staff who had attended an event outside the hospital, believed to be a funeral.
Yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said testing was now under way in postcode areas affected by the mutation, alongside eight postcode areas affected by the South African variant.
— to www.standard.co.uk