Covid restrictions likely to continue ‘for some time’, says scientific adviser
About 8.8 per cent of Covid-19 hospital cases in England over the first wave of the pandemic may have been acquired on wards, according to scientists advising the government.
Experts analysing the data said the numbers may have been as high as 31,000 in England over the first wave – although the NHS medical director disagreed.
Meanwhile, the government claims it is set to hit its UK-wide target of offering a vaccine to those people most at risk by Monday, after England and Wales said those groups had been reached.
However, some housebound people in those groups, including vulnerable people over 80 and over 90, have been left waiting, The Independent can reveal.
The total number of lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has now exceeded 4 million since the outbreak began, according to the government’s dashboard.
Housebound over-80s ‘forgotten’ in vaccines rollout as younger people get jabs in UK’s ‘world-leading’ scheme
Vulnerable housebound people in some areas of the UK have still not been vaccinated against Covid – while in other areas much younger, fitter people are already receiving jabs.
Vincent Wood12 February 2021 22:09
Hotel quarantine law published
Regulations requiring people from “red list” countries to quarantine in hotels have been published, just three days before the scheme becomes law.
UK nationals or residents returning to England from 33 countries will be required to spend 10 days in Government-designated accommodation from Monday.
The law sets out new requirements for people to book their “managed self-isolation package” which includes a hotel, transport and testing.
People must quarantine in the room but exceptions allowing them to leave include the need for urgent medical assistance, to exercise or attend the funeral of a close family member.
The regulations state that leaving for these exceptional reasons should only happen if the person “has been given prior permission by a person authorised by the secretary of state for this purpose”.
The legislation comes into force at 4am on Monday.
Passengers arriving into England face fines of up to £10,000 for failing to quarantine, and those who lie on their passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in jail, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced earlier this week.
The cost for a quarantine hotel stay is £1,750 for a single adult.
Vincent Wood12 February 2021 21:40
Scottish government faces legal fight over church closures
The Scottish Government is facing a judicial review over the closure of churches after religious leaders launched legal proceedings.
Representatives from a range of Christian denominations including the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), the Free Church of Scotland, and a number of independent churches launched the action, stating that the closures are unlawful as they breached human rights law and the Scottish constitution.
Lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of coronavirus have forced places of worship to shut.
Bu lawyers for the religious leaders said that Lord Braid had now granted full permission for a substantive hearing next month, which they said could result in the courts ordering Scottish ministers to allow churches to reopen.
Vincent Wood12 February 2021 21:20
Help to buy extended by two months amid coronavirus delays
Jane Dalton12 February 2021 20:50
‘About 8% of Covid cases may have been picked up in hospital’
About 8.8% of Covid-19 hospital cases in England over the first wave of the pandemic may have been nosocomial – or hospital-acquired – infections, according to scientists advising the Government.
In a new document published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on Friday, figures suggest that between 2 February and 26 July last year, there were about 7,906 cases of Covid-19 infections, where patients tested positive 15 or more days after hospital admission.
Experts analysing the data said this figure increased to 14,635 cases (or 16.4%), when factoring in positive Covid-19 tests eight or more days after hospital admission.
However, they add that when taking into account missed hospital-acquired infections – those with a symptom onset after discharge, or those with symptom onset prior to the defined cut-off – the numbers may have been as high as 31,000 in England over the first wave.
The experts said that while the proportion of Covid-19 cases linked to hospital transmission is considerable, this is relatively small at a population level.
The undated document said: “A simple calculation assuming 5% of infections are hospitalised and of these hospital cases, if 25% are due to nosocomial infection, the complete prevention of nosocomial transmission would have led to approximately 1% impact on the number of infections in the English epidemic overall.
“However, since hospitalised patients tend to be old and/or frail, the impact in terms of morbidity and mortality would nonetheless be expected to be substantial.”
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “We disagree with these claims, since as the paper itself admits, this research makes large speculative assumptions about Covid cases in hospitals which are not actually backed up by data, notably during a period when testing availability for Covid-19 was often limited.
“The ONS and other data have conclusively demonstrated that the root cause of rising infection rates in hospitals is rising rates in the community, which is why it’s so important the public continue to follow hands, face, space advice.”
Jane Dalton12 February 2021 20:34
Immigration officers yet to receive guidance on hotel quarantine, union warns
Immigration officers have not yet received operational guidance on how the new system of mandatory quarantine hotels will work, little more than 48 hours before the scheme comes into effect, the Immigration Services Union told The Independent. Andrew Woodcock reports:
Jane Dalton12 February 2021 20:20
We’re on target to jab most vulnerable, claims Johnson
The prime minister has hailed the success of the vaccination programme, saying it appeared Monday’s target of inoculating the most vulnerable would be met.
More than 14 million people in the UK have received a first dose of a vaccine.
In a video posted on his Twitter account, Boris Johnson said: “As I speak we’ve vaccinated about 14 million people now across the whole of the UK – that’s the first jab for 14 million people. It looks like we are on target, we very much hope to reach the JCVI, the most vulnerable groups one to four, by the 15th.
“There’s obviously a lot of work going on to make sure we do that and I want to thank, again, everyone involved who’s helping.”
He added that people were working “absolutely flat out” to keep the vaccinations going, despite adverse weather conditions.
Jane Dalton12 February 2021 20:03
UK could go ‘back to normal’ within a year, says top scientist
Jane Dalton12 February 2021 18:55
Government claims it will hit Monday target to vaccinate most vulnerable
The Government claims it is set to hit its UK-wide target of offering a Covid-19 vaccine to people most at risk by Monday, after England and Wales said those groups had been reached.
The NHS urged health and care workers who have not accepted a vaccine but would like one to contact their employer who is responsible for arranging their vaccination.
People eligible for a jab who are able to travel can also arrange one through the national booking system or by calling 119.
It comes as Government data up to 11 February shows that 14,012,224 people in the UK have now received a first dose of the vaccine.
Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, praised staff for their efforts in reaching millions of people with vaccines.
He said: “The whole of the NHS has mobilised to protect the most vulnerable, supported by communities coming together with volunteers, local authorities, the armed forces and local businesses.”
Jane Dalton12 February 2021 18:23
EU drug watchdog to fast-track variant-modified vaccines
Europe’s medicines regulator is planning to speed up assessments of any vaccines that are modified to protect against variants of the virus, the head of the agency’s Covid-19 task-force says.
Marco Cavaleri, chairman of the vaccine evaluation team at the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said there should be no need for lengthy large-scale trials like those needed to evaluate the first Covid-19 vaccines, since tweaks for new variants can be tested on smaller groups.
“We are working on updated guidelines, assuming that we cannot ask for large Phase III trials. This will allow us to go faster,” said Mr Cavaleri.
“We will ask for much smaller trials, with a few hundred participants, rather than 30,000 to 40,000,” he told Reuters. He said the EMA would focus primarily on immune response data.
Drugmakers including Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have been testing their vaccines against several fast-spreading, more infectious variants of the novel coronavirus.
Variants which emerged in Brazil (known as P1), Britain (known as 20I/501Y.V1 or B117) and South Africa (known as 20I/501Y.V2 or B1351) have already spread around the world, piling more pressure on governments struggling to tame the pandemic which has killed almost 2.5 million people.
These are the three major variants that are worrying scientists, with their spread raising the risk that newly-developed vaccines will need to be updated or tweaked to be effective against some variants, and that people may require one or more booster shots.
Vaccine makers Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as AstraZeneca and Moderna, whose Covid shots have been authorised for emergency use in Europe, have said they are preparing for the possibility that variants will emerge that could require tweaks to their vaccines.
Normally, an EMA approval requires extensive studies with large numbers, starting with safety and ending with efficacy.
Jane Dalton12 February 2021 18:14