Covid news — live: Stricter lockdown could be needed for UK and Whitty warns NHS facing ‘dangerous’ crisis – The Independent

All adults will be vaccinated by autumn, says Matt Hancock

The UK government is facing calls for a “total clampdown” on social interaction to bring down coronavirus infection rates, with nurseries and places of worship closed this month.

Anthony Costello, a professor of global health at UCL and former WHO official, warned that the country was in a “national crisis” and needed to introduce a stricter lockdown to prevent deaths and the possibility of further damaging virus mutations.

“We should have no nurseries open, no synagogues, no churches, no mosques. We should have compulsory masks, two-metre distancing,” Mr Costello told the Sunday Mirror.

It came as England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned that the NHS was facing the “most dangerous situation” in living memory due to Covid-19 this winter. 

As the UK’s mass vaccination campaign continues to rollout, Professor Whitty said that the only way to prevent avoidable deaths was for the public to stay home wherever possible.

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Information to date on vaccine success against new variants ‘very encouraging’

Professor Peter Horby has said that the information to date on the success of vaccines against new variants is “very encouraging”.

He told the BBC: “So far, the data we have is encouraging that the vaccines still work just as well [against new variants].

“We need more data but so far it’s very encouraging.”

He added that it was possible that Covid-19 could become an “endemic virus” in the UK that causes “seasonal pressures and some excess deaths” but not the widespread disruption seen over the past 12 months.

Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 10:59

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Scientific adviser says life will not return to normal after most vulnerable vaccinated

Government scientific adviser Professor Peter Horby has said that life will not necessarily return to normal even after vaccinating the most vulnerable parts of the population this winter.

“I don’t think it [the first phase of the vaccination rollout] will return us to normal,” Professor Horby told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“There will still be a large number of people being infected, and although the absolute risks of someone under the age of 80 dying or ending up in hospital are low, with a large number of infections that still translates into a lot of people and so we’re going to have to manage the virus, with social distancing measures as well as vaccination for the coming months.”

When asked about the likelihood of social distancing measures being in place next winter, he added: “I think that’s likely. I think it very much depends on how well we can scale up the vaccine programme and how quickly we can get it out to a substantial proportion of the population.”

Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 10:47

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Starmer suggests nurseries should be closed to slow virus spread

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has warned that current lockdown restrictions may not be tough enough and suggested that nurseries “probably should be closed” to reduce infection rates.

“I think there is a case for looking at nursery schools, we’re talking to the scientists about that,” Sir Keir told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

“I think people are surprised that primary schools were closed but nurseries aren’t.”

He added: “I think they probably should be closed, I do want to talk to the scientists about that.”

Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 10:31

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Current measures may need to be tightened if cases do not come down, expert says

Current lockdown measures may need to be tightened further if it becomes clear that they are not working to bring down infection rates, a government scientific adviser has said.

Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Now we’re in a situation where everything that was risky in the past is now more risky so we are going to have to be very, very strict about the measures.

“Whether the current restrictions are enough, I think it remains to be seen. It will be a week or two before it becomes clear.

“They may be sufficient but we have to be very vigilant and if there’s any sign that they’re not, then we’re going to have to be even stricter I’m afraid.”

Professor Horby added that Covid vaccines will probably be updated every few years as the virus was not going to disappear in the coming months.

Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 10:20

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Hancock: ‘Highly likely’ people will be vaccinated against Covid annually

Matt Hancock has said it is “highly likely” that people will be vaccinated against Covid annually, potentially with a dual-shot with the flu jab.

Mr Hancock told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I think it’s highly likely that there will be a dual-vaccination programme for the foreseeable, this is the medium-term, of flu and Covid.”

He added: “Flu vaccination rates are at their highest level ever. Over 80 per cent of the over-65s have been vaccinated for flu this year. That’s the biggest increase, a jump on last year when it was around 70 per cent.

“That’s very good news. It’s good news for two reasons. Firstly, to protect people against flu and secondly because it shows the vast, vast majority of over-65s are up for getting vaccinated.”

Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 10:09

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Health secretary Matt Hancock has insisted that every adult will be offered a coronavirus vaccine by the autumn – you can find his comments below:

Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 10:05

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Vaccine rollout will have ‘already prevented thousands of people dying’

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the vaccine rollout will already have prevented thousands of people from having to be admitted to hospital with coronavirus.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge: “It’s really too soon for the vaccine to have started having a measurable impact, but we can predict that already it’s preventing cases just simply from the numbers of people who’ve received the vaccine which is now approaching one-and-a-half million people, and the rate of infection that’s occurring which is really very high now.

“So there are certainly thousands of people already who have not been admitted to hospital and who will not be dying of this infection as a consequence of the programme that’s begun in December.”

On the issue of whether teachers could be moved up the vaccine priority list, Professor Finn said the JCVI would be discussing prioritisation over the coming weeks and acknowledged that teachers played a “critical role” in society.

Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 10:03

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Hancock warns ‘every flex of guidance can be fatal’

Health secretary Matt Hancock has warned that “every flex [of the guidance] can be fatal” when asked about the case of two women who were fined £200 each after driving five miles from their home for a walk in Derbyshire.

Mr Hancock told Sky News that he was “absolutely” going to back the police in the case following criticism of the decision.

“Because the challenge here is that every flex can be fatal… these rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they’re the limit of what people should be doing,” he said.

Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 09:56

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Our reporter, Kate Ng, has more details below on Professor Chris Whitty’s dire warning about the pressure on the NHS this winter:

Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 09:47

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Matt Hancock was less clear this morning about when coronavirus restrictions could be lifted – he told Sky News that he would not give a “specific date” for normality returning as the impact of the vaccine on transmission is still unknown:

Conrad Duncan10 January 2021 09:44