Expecting life to return to normal by April thanks to vaccine is unrealistic – Daily Mail

The Covid vaccine does not mean people can ‘go mad’ again any time soon, senior officials warned on Friday as the UK’s reproduction rate rose for the first time since October – but the latest death toll fell to 424.

Widespread coronavirus immunity is going to take some time despite the vaccine rollout, they said.

The current Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires two doses, taken 21 days apart, and then an extra week before full immunity is reached.

It will primarily reduce deaths and hospitalisations in the elderly and vulnerable who have received the jab, the government source explained.

But community transmission will only begin to fall when the rest of the population are immunised.

It comes after it was revealed Essex and Bedfordshire could be upgraded to the toughest lockdown restrictions next week after suffering some of the biggest spikes in coronavirus cases in England during the week after the national shutdown.

The counties, along with London, Milton Keynes and Berkshire, are now staring down the barrel of Tier 3 lockdowns and will need to dramatically reverse their epidemics to avoid having localised curbs tightened when the system is reviewed on December 16. 

  • Britain’s daily coronavirus cases increased by 33 per cent on Friday compared to seven days ago. A total of 21,672 new cases were announced, up slightly from 20,964 yesterday
  • There were also 424 further deaths from coronavirus, marking a 15 per cent fall from last Friday’s figure of 504, as well as yesterday’s figure of 516. It means there have been 63,506 UK deaths from the disease in total 
  • SAGE, Number 10’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, estimated the R number across Britain to be between 0.9 and 1.0, having risen from 0.8 and 1.0 a week ago
  • The Covid vaccine does not mean people can ‘go mad’ again any time soon, senior officials warned on Friday 
  • The self-isolation period for contacts of a positive coronavirus case is to be cut from 14 days to 10 days from Monday in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The change already applies in Wales;
  • Scientists identified mutations in five genes associated with the development of life-threatening illness in Covid-19 patients, which they said could lead to potential new drug treatments for the disease; 

The Covid vaccine does not mean people can ¿go mad¿ again any time soon, senior officials warned on Friday. Pictured: People out in York on Friday, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

The Covid vaccine does not mean people can ¿go mad¿ again any time soon, senior officials warned on Friday. Pictured: People out in York on Friday, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

The Covid vaccine does not mean people can ‘go mad’ again any time soon, senior officials warned on Friday. Pictured: People out in York on Friday, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

A total of 481,500 patients had coronavirus in the seven days up to December 5, down from 521,300 the week prior (8 per cent), according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

A total of 481,500 patients had coronavirus in the seven days up to December 5, down from 521,300 the week prior (8 per cent), according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

A total of 481,500 patients had coronavirus in the seven days up to December 5, down from 521,300 the week prior (8 per cent), according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Earlier this week, a British grandmother became the first person in the world to be given the jab as part of a mass vaccination programme.

It was the first of 800,000 doses of the vaccine that will be dispensed in the coming weeks.

People aged 80 and over, care home workers and residents, and NHS staff are at the top of the priority list to receive the jab.

Senior officials said there is a danger that people will ‘start going mad’ once the vulnerable have been vaccinated, and that the epidemic could grow again as a result. 

And just because the vaccine is available does not mean everything will be back to normal, they said, adding it was an ‘unrealistic expectation’ to assume this would be the case by April.

The warning comes as it emerged dozens of GP practices in England have opted out of the Covid vaccine rollout.

SAGE, Number 10's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, estimates the R number across Britain is between 0.9 and 1.0, having risen from 0.8 and 1.0 a week ag

SAGE, Number 10's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, estimates the R number across Britain is between 0.9 and 1.0, having risen from 0.8 and 1.0 a week ag

SAGE, Number 10’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, estimates the R number across Britain is between 0.9 and 1.0, having risen from 0.8 and 1.0 a week ag

More than 100,000 patients will not be able to get the jab from their family doctor after their GP surgeries decided not to take part in its deployment, according to the Guardian.

The practices include some in Manchester, Sussex, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and the Thames Valley, where the local NHS will have to arrange for patients registered at those surgeries to be vaccinated somewhere else.

Some GPs say they are already too busy to administer the vaccine, and their patients could suffer if practices have to cut back other services so doctors can administer injections.

The contract of involvement, which NHS England negotiated with the British Medical Association (BMA), says that vaccine clinics should run from 8am to 8pm seven days a week. 

NHS England have also introduced a new rule requiring every recipient to be monitored for 15 minutes after receiving the jab, after two hospital staff had an allergic reaction to it.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, admitted the vaccine rollout was going to be an ‘enormous challenge’.

‘It is going to be a huge challenge, both in terms of logistics and workload, but we know it is an extremely necessary one, that will be essential in our pandemic response, keeping people safe and helping to facilitate getting life back to normal,’ he said.

‘Given these challenges, we understand why some practice have felt like they cannot sign up.

‘But there has been an excellent response from the large number of practices able and wanting to be involved.’ A spokeswoman for the NHS said: ‘As set out and supported by the BMA, general practices will deliver the vaccine from nominated sites within primary care networks, where it is safe and practical to do so.

‘There has been a fantastic response from GPs across England signing up to do so.

Pictured: a reveller carries a woman down a street in York on Friday, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

Pictured: a reveller carries a woman down a street in York on Friday, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

Pictured: a reveller carries a woman down a street in York on Friday, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

A group celebrating Christmas walk down a street in York, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

A group celebrating Christmas walk down a street in York, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

A group celebrating Christmas walk down a street in York, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

Just because the vaccine is available does not mean everything will be back to normal, experts said, adding it was an ¿unrealistic expectation¿ to assume this would be the case by April

Just because the vaccine is available does not mean everything will be back to normal, experts said, adding it was an ¿unrealistic expectation¿ to assume this would be the case by April

Just because the vaccine is available does not mean everything will be back to normal, experts said, adding it was an ‘unrealistic expectation’ to assume this would be the case by April

‘Given the well-known logistical challenges of delivering this particular vaccine, GPs like others across the NHS are now responding rapidly to make arrangements for this to happen.’  

Cases rose in all three of Bedfordshire’s authorities today, according to Public Health England’s latest surveillance report, with Central Bedfordshire reporting the second biggest rise of any authority in England in the week up to December 6. Infections spiked 51.3 per cent from 78.99 to 119.52.

In Bedford the rise was less severe but still significant, with cases rising more than a quarter from 99.83 to 127.53. Luton – once England’s Covid capital – recorded a jump in case rates of about a fifth, rising from 245.48 to 294.29.

Essex also appears to be teetering on the brink of a Tier 3 lockdown, with the county-wide infection rate jumping by a third in the last week, from 145.31 to 195.14. Southend-on-Sea saw the fourth biggest rise in cases in the last week, according to PHE, with infections jumping by 50.6 per cent from 136 per 100,000 to 204.8. Thurrock recorded a 36 per cent rise, with the rate climbing from 197.31 to 268.44.

Groups queue for takeaway mulled wine and cider in York, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

Groups queue for takeaway mulled wine and cider in York, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

Groups queue for takeaway mulled wine and cider in York, one of the few cities in the north of England currently under Tier 2 restrictions

It comes as Britain’s daily coronavirus cases increased by 33 per cent on Friday compared to seven days ago. A total of 21,672 new cases were announced, up slightly from 20,964 yesterday. 

There were also 424 further deaths from coronavirus, marking a 15 per cent fall from last Friday’s figure of 504, as well as yesterday’s figure of 516. It means there have been 63,506 UK deaths from the disease in total.    

SAGE, Number 10’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, estimated the R number across Britain to be between 0.9 and 1.0, having risen from 0.8 and 1.0 a week ago. The R — which represents the average number of people each Covid-19 patient passes the disease to — is still between 0.8 and 1.0 in England, but SAGE said it was not confident that R was below 1 in all English regions, particularly in London and the South East, where it is highest. Spiking cases in Wales are also thought to have also contributed to the UK-wide R number climbing.

Getting the reproduction value below 1.0 is crucial because it signals the epidemic is in retreat. An R of one suggests every 10 infected people spread it to 10 others and the outbreak won’t change size. Any higher and it grows, or lower and it shrinks. 

In more positive news, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found infections dropped by nearly 10 per cent in the final week of England’s second national lockdown. It estimates 481,500 patients had the disease in the seven days up to December 5, down from 521,300 the week prior (8 per cent). 

It was the third week in a row that weekly infections dropped after reaching an all-time high of 664,700 in the seven days to November 14. The 481,500 weekly case figure means that about one in 115 people in England were carrying the coronavirus at any given time at the start of December.

Infections fell in every region of the country except in London, the ONS said, but there are ‘early signs that rates may have increased in the East’. The Government-run data collection body warned Covid-19 transmission continued to rise among secondary school-age children and less so in people in their 40s — despite the lockdown.

But the percentage of people testing positive decreased in older teenagers and young adults, those aged 25 to 34 years and 50 to 69 years, it added. Even though cases are coming down in the North West, Yorkshire and the North East — where swathes were put under Tier 3 restrictions on December 2 — the rate of infection still remained highest in those regions in the most recent period. 

Weekly Public Health England data show that many areas in London, East and South East have seen infection rates rise since the lockdown ended and could face Tier Three rules from next week

Weekly Public Health England data show that many areas in London, East and South East have seen infection rates rise since the lockdown ended and could face Tier Three rules from next week

Weekly Public Health England data show that many areas in London, East and South East have seen infection rates rise since the lockdown ended and could face Tier Three rules from next week

PHE’s weekly surveillance report revealed London, Essex, Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and parts of Berkshire all recorded significant rises in infection numbers, suggesting the medium bracket of curbs are not keeping epidemics there squashed.

All five areas now face the possibility of being plunged into Tier 3 lockdowns unless they can dramatically reverse the virus’s trajectory within the next five days.

A shake-up of the current Tier system is due to happen on December 16, when infection, hospital and death rates will be reviewed to decide whether to tighten or loosen curbs across the country.

The report found Tier 2 London had become England’s Covid-19 hotspot, with higher case rates than anywhere in the country, even in Tier 3 areas in the North. 

WHERE DID INFECTIONS RISE MOST IN TIER 2? 

Infection rate (% change)

Bracknell Forest

Central Bedfordshire

Hackney & City of London

Southend-on-Sea

Enfield

Haringey

Waltham Forest

Harrow

Wokingham

East Sussex  

166 (+71%)

120 (+51%)

196 (+51%)

205 (+51%)

244 (+49%)

209 (+48%)

314 (+48%)

217 (+47%)

143 (+43%)

122 (+37%) 

Positive tests per 100,000 people, week November 30 to December 6 (Public Health England) 

Secondary school pupils and teachers in Covid hotspots in London, Essex and Kent will get ‘hundreds of thousands’ of extra swabs from TODAY

Mass coronavirus testing is being rolled out in secondary schools in coronavirus hotspots in North East London, South Essex and Kent from today.

The launch comes after official data showed pupils aged 11 to 18 were fuelling the winter surge of infections in the capital and South East England. 

The Department of Health said ‘hundreds of thousands’ of swabbing kits are being sent to the existing testing hubs, as well as 37 additional mobile units being set up.  

Fifteen 15 extra mobile testing sites will be sent to London starting today and over the weekend, with an additional 12 in Kent and 10 in Essex, to bolster capacity.

The seven London boroughs involved in the scheme are Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

Five Essex boroughs will also take part – Basildon, Canvey Island, Brentwood, Harlow and Southend – but it is not clear where the tests will be rolled out in Kent.

The case rate per 100,000 people in the capital stood at 191.8 on December 6, up from 158.1 in the previous week.

It puts the capital ahead of regions in the highest level of Tier 3 restrictions, such as the West Midlands, where cases fell to 158.4 per 100,000 from 196.8 a week ago.

Covid-19 cases rose in 28 of London’s 32 boroughs in the most recent seven-day period, with Havering recording the highest incidence at 389 infections per 100,000 people. It is followed by Barking and Dagenham, at 319.9 and Waltham Forest at 313.7.

During the most recent week, cases roses most quickly in Hackney – going from 129.62 to 195.98 (51 per cent) – and the northern boroughs of Enfield (163.57 to 243.56) and Haringey (141.08 to 208.82).

Essex also appears to be teetering on the brink of a Tier 3 lockdown, with the county-wide infection rate jumping by a third in the last week, from 145.31 to 195.14.

Southend-on-Sea saw the fourth biggest rise in cases in the last week, according to PHE, with infections spiking by 50.6 per cent from 136 per 100,000 to 204.8. Thurrock recorded a 36 per cent rise, with the rate climbing from 197.31 to 268.44.

Bedfordshire, in the East of England, could also be facing tighter restrictions after cases rose in all three of its authorities.

Central Bedfordshire reported the second biggest rise of any authority in England in the most recent period. Infections spiked 51.3 per cent from 78.99 to 119.52.

In Bedford the rise was less severe but still significant, with cases rising more than a quarter from 99.83 to 127.53.

Luton – once England’s Covid capital – recorded a jump in case rates of about a fifth, rising from 245.48 to 294.29.

Milton Keynes also looks to be at risk after infection rates surged by a third from 143.62 to 191.13.

The picture in Berkshire is a bit more complicated, with some districts suffering dramatic spikes, others reporting smaller increases and one seeing continued decline.

However, this was also the case in Kent where nearly two million people were plunged into Tier 3 despite several boroughs having case rates below the national average. It’s fate was sealed by hotspots such as Swale, Thanet and Medway.

Bracknell Forest , in Berkshire, recorded the highest jump in case rates in the week up to December 6. Cases rose by 70 per cent from 97.1 to 165.7.

By comparison, Windsor and Maidenhead only saw infections rise by 4 per cent, from 99.72 to 103.68.

Slough actually recorded a 17 per cent drop in infections, with the rate plunging to 246.76 from 299.59 the seven days prior.

The case rate in Wokingham, on the other hand, spiked by nearly 43 per cent (from 99.93 to 142.59), and rose by a quarter in Reading (132.9 to 167.51).

Reacting to the ONS findings, Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said it was ‘disappointing’ that infection numbers were not decreasing everywhere despite coming out of lockdown just two weeks ago. 

He added: ‘These latest ONS infection data show a mixed picture across the country. We’ve reached a point where there are clear decreases in the numbers of people infected with the coronavirus in areas that are largely under Tier 3, but nationally the rate of decrease may be slowing down or even levelling out. 

‘New infections in London are increasing and there are signs of a deteriorating situation in the East of England. 

‘It seems that we may be at the shoulder of the trough which might see the decline slow further and stop over the next week or so, before the Covid restrictions are loosened for Christmas. 

‘If this happens, the numbers of hospitalisations and deaths can also be expected to cease their decline in the coming weeks. 

‘Two weeks after lockdown was lifted, it is disappointing that infection numbers are not decreasing everywhere, but it is perhaps unsurprising given the time of year. Accordingly, decision makers and members of the public may wish to reflect on how they handle the festive period.’ 

The ONS estimates are based on 204,865 swab tests sent to 1,314 households over the last two weeks. In total 1,637 people were swabbed and there were 1,742 positive tests.  The study did not include care homes or hospitals. 

The report found nationwide the percentage of people testing positive for the disease by December 5 was 0.88 per cent. 

Broken down, North West was recording the highest infection rate, with an estimated 1.3 per cent of the population testing positive.

This was followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (1.2 per cent) and the North East (1.1 per cent). The South West had the lowest rate at 0.4 per cent.

In Wales, the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 has increased in recent weeks, the ONS said. An estimated 25,600 people in private households had Covid-19 between November 29 and December 5 — the equivalent of 0.84 per cent of the population.

This is up from an estimated 18,100 people for the period November 22 to 28, or 0.60 per cent of the population. Because of the relatively small number of tests and low number of positives in its Wales sample, results should be interpreted with caution, the ONS added. 

In Northern Ireland, an estimated 7,800 people had Covid-19 between November 29 and December 5, or 0.43% of the population. This is down from an estimated 9,500 people for the period November 22 to 28, or 0.52% of the population.

In Scotland, an estimated 43,300 people had Covid-19 between November 29 and December 5, or 0.82 per cent of the population – up from 40,900 people, or 0.78 per cent, for November 22 to 28. All figures are for people in private households. 

It comes as mass coronavirus testing is being rolled out in secondary schools in coronavirus hotspots in North East London, South Essex and Kent from today.

The launch comes after official data showed pupils aged 11 to 18 were fuelling the winter surge of infections in the capital and South East England. 

The Department of Health said ‘hundreds of thousands’ of swabbing kits are being sent to the existing testing hubs, as well as 37 additional mobile units being set up.  

Fifteen 15 extra mobile testing sites will be sent to London starting today and over the weekend, with an additional 12 in Kent and 10 in Essex, to bolster capacity.

The seven London boroughs involved in the scheme are Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

Five Essex boroughs will also take part – Basildon, Canvey Island, Brentwood, Harlow and Southend – but it is not clear where the tests will be rolled out in Kent.

Officials are encouraging all pupils, their families and teaching staff to start booking their tests, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.

People can apply for the tests using the Government’s online testing portal and will be asked to visit a mobile testing unit in their borough. 

Children under 16 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Number 10 has still not revealed how often children will be swabbed and how many pupils it will affect. 

But London’s seven hotspot boroughs are home to 640,000 children aged between 11 and 18, according to Office for National Statistics 2019 population estimates. 

The five Essex boroughs have more than 55,000 pupils in that age group. 

The deployment of the tests is an attempt prevent London and Essex being plunged into a Tier 3 lockdown — they’re both currently in Tier 2.

Covid infections are falling in most age groups but transmission is high in secondary school and college aged pupils.

As long as it remains high in these groups there remains a risk children will pass the disease to their parents and the virus will race through the population. 

Kent is already in a Tier 3 but the county-wide infection rate is being inflated by a handful of districts with high transmission.     

Officials said the 15 new mobile testing units in London will provide around 75,000 extra daily tests over and above existing capacity in the capital. 

They added that an additional 44,000 home test kits will be made available for school staff including teachers to test before returning in January.