Dawn Neesom blasts MPs for ‘terrorising’ public over coronavirus
The vaccines minister suggested England was likely to progress along Boris Johnson’s roadmap, as deaths continue to fall. Under the plans, the ban on households mixing indoors is due to be eased within a fortnight, and all legal limits on social contact could be swept away after June 21. Mr Zahawi said: “I’m not seeing any evidence that would lead me to believe we are not going to meet May 17 and – with the caveat that we continue to analyse the data – June 21 as well.
“And we get ourselves away from this pandemic and into a world where we deal with it the way we deal with the flu virus, with an annual vaccination programme from next year onwards.”
Official figures show that more people are now dying from flu and pneumonia than coronavirus.
Data from the Office for National Statistics showed a decline in deaths in England and Wales where the virus is mentioned on the death certificate. There were 260 during the week to April 23, the lowest number in seven months and down from 362 the previous week.
For comparison, flu and pneumonia was the underlying cause for 278 deaths in the same seven-day period and was mentioned on 1,203 death certificates
Overall there were 9,941 deaths from all causes over the seven days — 5.3 percent below the same period between 2015 and 2019.
Nadhim Zahawi suggested England was likely to progress along Boris Johnson’s roadmap
Infections and deaths have fallen dramatically since the second wave of the virus as thousands more gain protection every day.
Yesterday’s daily figures showed a further 2,144 virus cases were confirmed, down slightly from 2,166 on the previous Wednesday. There were 27 Covid-19 deaths, compared to 29 a week earlier.
More than 34.7 million people have received their first vaccine dose in the UK and 15.8 million have had their second jab. Among those aged 70 and over, who were front of the queue for vaccines, deaths involving Covid-19 have fallen by 98 percent since the second-wave peak.
Following reports that over-50s will get booster jabs this autumn to virtually eliminate any threat from the virus by Christmas, Mr Zahawi said nothing had been decided yet.
However, he confirmed that England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty is looking at several options. It is understood these include giving people a third dose of one of the vaccines already in use or deploying tweaked vaccines that target variants.
Infections and deaths have fallen dramatically since the second wave of the virus
Mr Zahawi said the timing had not been determined but the NHS would be “ready for deployment from September onwards.
“Clinicians haven’t yet made the decision when they will need to boost, whether to give more immunity to the most vulnerable, to increase the durability of the protection or to deal with variants.
“There’s a clinical trial that [Deputy Chief Medical Officer]Jonathan Van-Tam is conducting called ‘Cov boost’, which looks at which vaccine delivers the best boost.” Mr Zahawi also noted that work was going on to identify areas where uptake of first jabs has been lower and where coronavirus could still spread “like wildfire”. He said: “We are now able to see exactly where, by postcode, which communities we need to really focus on.
“We are running pilots in places like Luton on offering the vaccine to multi-generational households.
More than 15.8million people in the UK have received their second jab
“Vaccine positivity is incredibly high in the UK, it’s running at 83-84 percent of adults saying they will be vaccinated. Nine out of 10 45-year-olds have now got the protection of a single dose. That’s great, but that 14-15 percent where they are still hesitant, if the virus gets hold of those communities it will go through them like wildfire. I will not stand by and watch that happen.”
Meanwhile, analysis of national data from Israel shows two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is more than 95 percent effective at protecting against Covid-19 infection, hospitalisation and death.
A single dose was found to be 58 percent effective against infection, 76 percent against hospitalisation and 77 percent against death.
Israel has had the fastest vaccine rollout in the world. By April 3, 72 percent over the age of 16 and 90 percent of over-65s had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
The study, published in The Lancet, looked at data gathered between the end of January and early April when the Kent variant was dominant in Israel.
Lead author Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, of the Israel Ministry of Health, said: “As the country with the highest proportion of its population vaccinated against Covid-19, Israel provides a unique real-world opportunity to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine and to observe wider effects of the vaccination programme on public health.
“These insights are hugely important because, while there are still some considerable challenges to overcome, they offer real hope that Covid-19 vaccination will eventually enable us to control the pandemic.” Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said the findings confirmed that the Pfizer vaccine provides high protection even in vulnerable older people.
He added: “It is important that people get both doses and, if UK vaccine policy changes, to get a third dose if offered in the autumn.
“Topping up your immunity with the vaccine boost will be even more important with the emergence of new variants.”
More than 34.7million people have received their first vaccine dose in the UK
Comment by Robert Dingwall
BY ANY standards the Covid-19 vaccination programme has been an extraordinary success.
Hospitals have emptied. Deaths are down to single figures.
There are so few positive tests that we do not really know whether the results are true or false.
Even the pessimistic government modellers think the chance of a “third wave” is minimal.
Nothing should be blocking the timetable to release restrictions, without any small print.
By June, all the most vulnerable people in the country will have been vaccinated and have as much protection as they will ever have.
A single dose of the Pfizer vaccine was found to be 77 percent effective against death
This does not mean they will never get Covid again. But even if they get a new variant, they are very unlikely to get seriously ill or die.
The biggest obstacle to a normal life is the level of anxiety that has been created over the last year. This affects scientists and politicians as much as ordinary people.
You can see it in the expert letter demanding that face masks should go on being worn in schools – where low-risk or vaccinated teachers mix with low-risk children.
From my office window, I watch people walking past with masks on when the risk of infection outdoors is as near zero as anyone can measure.
The Government should take a lead. Reverse the psychological techniques used to increase fear. Let’s not just remove restrictions but encourage people to go out and mix.
Let’s not have constant reminders of risk, like passports for pubs. Let people sing for joy, whether in churches or football grounds.
Well before all adults are vaccinated at the end of the summer, the British people will be able to live with Covid just as they live with flu, common colds or other respiratory infections.
We have never let them terrorise us. We should not treat Covid any differently.