Covid news – live: Relaxing restrictions before Christmas could ‘trigger third wave’, warn NHS leaders – The Independent

Christmas shoppers on Regent Street in central London.

Hospital bosses have warned Boris Johnson that relaxing tier restrictions could trigger a third wave of coronavirus this winter.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, NHS Providers urged “extreme caution” in moving any area of England to a lower tier when the measures are reviewed on Wednesday.

Chief executive Chris Hopson said: “We’re about to hit our busiest time of year so people are really worried that if we relax the restrictions now the NHS simply won’t be able to cope with all of the work that it needs to do in late December, January and February.”

Meanwhile London mayor Sadiq Khan has urged people to “shop safe” this weekend in a bid to prevent the capital moving into Tier 3, which he has previously claimed would be “catastrophic for businesses”.

Elsewhere, Germany has confirmed a new lockdown will start from Wednesday, Italy now has Europe’s highest death toll after overtaking the UK last night, and the US is taking deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine ahead of the rollout on Monday.

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Germany to enter new lockdown, Merkel announces

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced most shops will be ordered to shut starting on Wednesday, along with schools and daycare centers.

The new restrictions are expected to remain in effect until at least January 10 as the country grapples with a second wave of the pandemic. 

However German states are still expected to ease Covid-19 restrictions during the holiday period from 24 to 26 December in order to allow family members to gather. 

Peter Stubley13 December 2020 10:55

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NHS bosses urge public to ‘think very carefully’ about Christmas plans

Here’s some more detail on that warning by NHS leaders to Boris Johnson over the review of the tier restrictions on Wednesday.

NHS Providers, which represents NHS Trusts across England, raises concerns that “the spread of the virus will quickly gather pace as soon as restrictions are relaxed, triggering a third wave of Covid-19 patients coming into hospitals just as the NHS enters its traditional busiest period.”

They also point to a slower decline in the number of patients compared to the first wave, with some areas seeing an increase.

“Trust leaders are therefore very worried about the task they face between late December and February as they try to balance large numbers of Covid-19 patients, the impact of increasing winter emergency pressures, planned care that can not be delayed any longer, and the new demands of the vaccination programme,” NHS Providers add.

The letter sent to the prime minister also urges the public to “think very carefully” before organising extra social contact, particularly with vulnerable people, over Christmas.

Peter Stubley13 December 2020 10:53

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‘Pretty high’ chances of Oxford vaccine rollout by end of 2020

The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is highly likely to be available by the end of the year, according to the lead researcher Prof Sarah Gilbert.

When asked how many people needed to be vaccinated for life to return to normal, she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “If we’re trying to protect the most vulnerable, then in this country we’re planning to immunise about 20 million people based on age and also the frontline healthcare workers.

“And that would really have a big effect on hospitals being able to go back to normal. That’s not going to completely prevent transmission, but it should prevent the hospitalisations and severe cases.

“And then to reduce it in the community further we would need more people to be immunised, and it’s going to be something that we get the data on as we start to see the vaccine rollout.”

On the chance of people receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab before the end of the year, she said: “I think the chances are pretty high. But we do need multiple vaccines, all countries need multiple vaccines, the world needs multiple vaccines and we need vaccines made using different technologies, if that’s possible.”

She said this was due to companies potentially encountering problems with the supply of raw materials as doses are produced, which could slow down vaccine rollout if other jabs are not available.

“So having multiple shots on goal, multiple irons in the fire, is what we really need,” she added.

Peter Stubley13 December 2020 10:24

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Christmas surge will have ‘big impact on getting back to normal’

The lead researcher in the Oxford vaccine has said that a surge in Christmas infections means it will take much longer for the UK to “get back to normal”.

Professor Sarah Gilbert raised the example of the US, where the Thanksgiving holiday is thought to have contributed to the current record levels of deaths, at over 3,000 a day.

“If we have that kind of thing happening in the Christmas holidays its going to take so much longer to get things back to normal,” she told BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

“It’s not possible to run vaccination clinics when staff are off sick and there is a high transmission rate affecting people’s ability to come to vaccination clinics.

What we do over the next few weeks is going to have a big impact on on how long it’s going to take to get back to the normal. Hopefully we can be more or less back to normal by the summer but that’s not going to be possible if we start from a very bad position in January.”

Peter Stubley13 December 2020 10:20

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Vaccine rolls out to Scottish care homes

Residents of Scottish care homes will begin to receive the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine from Monday, the Health Secretary has confirmed.

NHS staff began to receive the jab on 8 December and so far more than 5,000 vaccinators and other key staff have had their first dose.

The focus is now on care home residents and staff, who are in the highest-priority group identified by a UK-wide committee.

The Scottish Government said a logistical solution had been reached to “pack down” the vaccine from its initial batches to smaller pack sizes which can then be brought into care homes for the elderly.

Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at minus 70C before being thawed out, however it can be transported in an unfrozen state for up to 12 hours.

Ethel Sinclair, 100, was among residents to receive the vaccine at a care home in north Belfast, Northern Ireland, earlier this week

(PA)

Peter Stubley13 December 2020 10:04

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Community testing rolls out to 67 areas from Monday

The government has announced the first wave of areas in England that will receive community testing.

From Monday 14 December, a total of 67 local authorities can launch community testing programmes to help curb the further spread of coronavirus.

So, what exactly is community testing, where can you get it and is it mandatory? Here is everything you need to know.

Peter Stubley13 December 2020 09:51

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Bahrain approves China’s vaccine

Bahrain’s National Health Regulatory Authority has announced it had approved the registration of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).

The statement cited data from Phase III clinical trials that showed an 86 per cent efficacy rate and said Bahrain had participated in those trials.

Bahrain, which earlier this month granted emergency use authorisation for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, said on Thursday that it would provide free vaccines for all citizens and residents.

Peter Stubley13 December 2020 09:43

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‘Let’s not throw away the gains we have made’: Vallance

The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance has warned coronavirus will “bounce back” unless people follow the rules until the vaccination programme takes effect.

Writing in the Guardian, he said: “We are entering a new phase of the pandemic, one that will be fundamentally different because of the promise that vaccines hold. And while every person vaccinated is a single small step back towards normal life, it is vital that we remain clear-eyed and recognise that we are not out of the woods yet. Vaccines will need to be given to many millions of people to protect the vulnerable from severe disease and, we hope, to reduce the transmission of the virus, but we don’t know this for sure yet. It will take time to find out all we need to know, and it will take time for vaccination to reach the levels at which we can begin to lower our guard.

“Let’s celebrate the scientific achievement, let’s rejoice that new vaccine technologies will change the outlook for future infectious diseases, let’s recognise the international nature of collaboration in science and medicine, but let’s not throw away the gains we have made by allowing the virus to spread while we wait for vaccination to take effect. Continuing to follow the rules and avoiding the spread of virus is going to be essential, or this virus will simply bounce back.”

Peter Stubley13 December 2020 09:39

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South Korea head towards lockdown

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in warned on Sunday that Covid-19 restrictions may be raised to the highest level after a second day of record increases in cases.

Presiding over an emergency meeting at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters for the first time since February, the president urged vigilance and called for an all-out efforts to contain the virus.

“Unless the outbreak can be contained now, it has come to the critical point of considering escalating social-distancing measures to the third level,” he said.

Seoul, home to about half of South Korea’s 52 million people, is currently under level 2.5 restrictions. Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned and restaurants are prohibited from serving customers after 9 pm.

Level 3 curbs would essentially mean a lockdown for the first time in Asia’s fourth-largest economy. Schools would switch to remote learning, companies could allow only essential workers in offices and gatherings of more than 10 people would be banned.

A street in Seoul, South Korea, as cases rise.

(REUTERS)

“Our back is against the wall,” Moon said. “This is a crucial moment to devote all our virus control capabilities and administrative power to stopping the coronavirus spread.”

Peter Stubley13 December 2020 09:28

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Italy overtakes UK with Europe’s highest death toll

Italy now has the highest Covid death toll in Europe after overtaking the UK on Saturday evening – at least according to one measure.

The country reported a further 649 deaths, bringing the official total to 64,036. The UK’s official total currently stands at 64,024, after a further 519 deaths were added yesterday.

However both numbers are believed to greatly underestimate the real toll, due to missed infections, limited testing and different counting criteria. The UK’s total is based on the number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test, and separate data based on the number of deaths registered with Covid as a cause shows more than 73,000 deaths as of 27 November.

The US has the highest death toll in the world at nearly 300,000, followed by Brazil, India and Mexico.

Peter Stubley13 December 2020 09:21