THE Brazilian “variant of concern” that has been discovered in the UK could disrupt plans to lift all lockdown measures in the UK by June 21 an expert has suggested.
Asked about the variant on Times Radio, Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College said the public should be “somewhat worried but not total panic, perhaps.”
But he suggested the Brazilian variant could have a real impact on the UK’s jab rollout, saying “The way I think about it is it’s a bit like, and I think about the effect that the Kent variant had… it just slowed everything up.”
If the variant does slow the UK jab rollout, Boris Johnson’s lockdown roadmap will almost certainly be impacted as one of the key conditions for June 21 lifting of measures is vaccines continuing at their current pace.
Any slowing down of the rollout could potentially push the June 21 date back by weeks or even months, as the Prime Minister made clear when he first announced his plans on February 22.
The news comes as it was revealed more than 20 million people have had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine in the UK.
Boris Johnson hailed the “huge national achievement” while praising the NHS, volunteers and armed forces for their work in the vaccine roll-out.
Meanwhile, vaccines for people over 40 will begin this month as Britain delivers jabs to more than 20 million adults, The Telegraph reported.
Health officials are about to send the last batch of invites to those over 60, the report added.
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Hancock was asked on the EU plan to have a vaccine passport.
He said the UK is working with international partners on this. The EU is part of the discussion, as are other partners.
But he says you already need a test to visit the EU. He say certification will cover being vaccinated and getting tested.
Tonight’s team were asked whether double masking was a good idea, stating that even Joe Biden was wearing two masks.
Dr Hopkins said “the more layers the better” but Public Health England recommends at least two, and preferably three, layers in a mask.
12 WEEK JAB GAP
New data also supports decision to have a 12 week break in between the first and second dosage, the health secretary said.
FOREIGN HOLIDAYS THIS YEAR?
Van-Tam says we are in “a zone of great uncertainty”.
He says European countries are running behind the UK in their vaccination programmes.
A lot will depend on what policies they impose. So there is “great uncertainty” about what will be possible, he says.
He says he cannot say more than that.
BORDERS TOO POROUS?
When asked if the borders are too porous as countries that are not on the government red list, like Germany and Japan do not have the P1 variant, Hancock said the proportion of cases that are variants of concern in some cases, like Germany, are exceptionally low.
“In other countries they are the dominant variant. That is why countries go on the red list”, he says.
He says quarantine applies anyway, to countries that are not on the red list.
NO NEED TO CHANGE SCHOOL POLICY
Matt Hancock says the government thinks there is no need to change the policy on schools.
In five of the six cases, the authorities have a high degree of confidence those involved followed quarantine.
In the sixth case, the government is trying to find the individual. But there is no further evidence of community spread.
Hopkins says almost 150,000 cases of the infection have been sequenced this year, and these are the only six cases of this variant found.
VAN-TAM QUESTIONED ON VACCINE FIGURES IMPACT
Van-Tam was asked what practical impact the vaccine figures have. He said that over time he expects to see a lower level of disease, less infection among the vulnerable, and less severe illness among vaccinated people who do get ill. The proportion of severe cases (to mild cases) should decrease.
But this does not mean the problem is fixed, he says.
HOTEL QUARANTINE QUESTIONS
Matt Hancock was asked if the Brazilian variant got into the country because England was late to introducing quarantine hotels.
He said quarantine rules were already in place. And he says a travel ban on arrivals from Brazil was in place too.
VERY DIFFERENT WORLD
“If we are patient and we give this vaccine programme time to have it’s full effect, its going to hopefully take us into a very different world in the next few months,” said JVT
He stressed that we had to be patient and how important it is for people to get vaccinated when they are called.
PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND VACCINE STUDY
Today Public Health England (PHE) has submitted a pre-print of a real-world study that shows that both the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective in reducing Covid-19 infections among older people aged 70 years and over. Since January, protection against symptomatic Covid, four weeks after the first dose, ranged between 57 and 61% for one dose of Pfizer and between 60 and 73% for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine …
In the over-80s, data suggest that a single dose of either vaccine is more than 80% effective at preventing hospitalisation, around three to four weeks after the jab. There is also evidence for the Pfizer vaccine, which suggests it leads to an 83% reduction in deaths from Covid-19.
The data also shows symptomatic infections in over-70s decreasing from around three weeks after one dose of both vaccines.
The new analysis adds to growing evidence that the vaccines are working and are highly effective in protecting people against severe illness, hospitalisation and death.
RISK OF INFECTION DROPPED BY 60 PER CENT IN OVER 70S
Jonathan Van Tam began his part of the press conference. He said: “A few moments ago, Public Health England published a new report summarising vaccine effectiveness to date.”
Van-Tam says some of the results are subject to wide confidence levels (ie, there is considerable uncertainty as to what the correct figure might be).
But he says is is confident in saying one dose of vaccine among over-70s reduces the risk of infection by at least 60%, and reduces the risk of hospitalisation by at least 80%.
THIRD UNLINKED TEST
Dr Hopkins said: “There is also a third unlinked case, this individual did not complete their test registration, so follow up details were not available to test and trace teams.”
She stressed that it was an “extremely rare event” but explained how important it was for people to fill out all the details upon taking a test.
SWISS AIR FLIGHT
Individuals who were on the Swiss Air flight LX318 travelling from Zurich into London on February 10 are also going to be contacted.
More than 90 percent of the flight have been contacted through passenger location forms, but Dr Hopkins asked if anyone was on that flight and has not yet been contacted, to call 0117 4503174 to arrange a test.
VARIANT IN SOUTH GLOUCESTER
Of the cases found, two are from a simgle household in the South Gloucester area.
One of these individuals travelled back from Brazil and self isolated at home.
The household developed symptoms shortly afterwards and the variant was discovered.
TRACKING NEW VARIANTS
Dr Susan Hopkins said they are tracking the new Brazilian variants closely.
The current vaccines have not yet been studied against this variant and further data will need to come through to help understand the vaccine effectiveness against the variant.
She stressed that in the meantime it is important to track cases of this variant “as closely as possible”.
SCIENTISTS STUDYING VARIANT
Scientists around the world are currently studying the variants of the virus.
Mr Hancock also stressed that one of the six people who tested positive for the Brazilian variant did not fill out the test and trace form correctly, and has urged that person to get in touch with the NHS test and trace.
SURGE TESTING IN SOUTH GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Surge testing will be in place in South Gloucestershire for the Brazilian variant.
Mr Hancock urges everyone to go and get tested – even if people are showing no symptoms.
JABS TO REPLACE RESTRICTIONS
The health secretary explained that as the jab continues to be rolled out, the safety that comes from the restrictions we are currently under will be replaced by the safety of the vaccine.
1.65BILLION BUDGET FUNDING
We are making sure that we have the funds to do all this incredible work.
The budget meeting on Wednesday will pump 1.65billion pounds worth of new government funding to support the vaccine roll out across all parts of the UK.
JABS BY END OF JULY
So long as everything goes to plan, everyone will have jabs by the end of the July.
OVER 60S TO BE CALLED FOR JABS
Mr Hancock said: “It shows the power of science. And what it means for you is when the call comes, get the jab.”
He also formally announced that the over 60s will now be called for their jabs.
OXFORD JAB PRAISE
“The data show that the protection that you get from catching Covid 35 days after a first jab is even slightly better for the Oxford jab than for pfizer – albeit both results are clearly very strong,” Mr Hancock said.
“EXTREMELY GOOD NEWS”
The vaccine is helping to protect the NHS and to save lives.
Mr Hancock went on to share the new data: “A single shot of either vaccine works against severe infection among the over 70s with a more than 80 per cent reduction in hospitalisations.
“This is extremely good news.”
NUMBER OF DAILY DEATHS FALLING
The number of deaths each day is falling much, much faster than in the first peak.
It’s falling faster in the over 80s who got the jabs first.
The number of people being hospitalised is falling faster, especially among the age groups who were vaccinated first.
The fall in the number of older age groups is faster than those in younger age groups – which proves the vaccines are working.
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