SAGE expert: ‘Likely both Brazilian coronavirus strains already in the UK’
Professor John Edmunds, who works on the Government’s coronavirus response as part of the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), has said said it was “likely” that there are already cases of both Brazilian coronavirus variants in the UK.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In terms of the South African one, we had imported cases already by the time we put in additional restrictions for South African travellers.
“For the Brazilian one… I don’t think there is evidence that we’ve imported cases of the Manaus strain, as far as I’m aware at least, but it is likely that we probably have quite honestly.“We are one of the most connected countries in the world so I would find it unusual if we hadn’t imported some cases into the UK.”
Two variants of interest have been identified in Brazil; the first has a small number of mutations and eight genomically confirmed cases of this variant have been identified in the UK.
The second, which has been detected in Manaus and in travellers arriving in Japan and it is feared is highly contagious, has not been detected in the UK.
‘We have to social distance better’
Public health measures like social distancing are working to stop the transmission of new strains of coronavirus, but “we have to do them better”, a World Health Organisation spokeswoman has said.
Dr Margaret Harris told the BBC: “The thing we’re seeing with quite a few of the different strains that have been identified in different countries is they’re not proving more dangerous in terms of making you sicker, but they are more efficient at transmitting.
“The public health measures that we know work: the distancing, not gathering in large numbers, understanding who has the virus and who has not, keeping the two apart, all those measures do work.
“They work over and over again in a number of countries, so we have to do them better.
“Some of the actions at the borders, like testing people, quarantining people, understanding where they’re coming from, are all part of ensuring who has the virus, who has not and keeping them apart.”
Removing coronavirus restrictions next month ‘a disaster’, leading epidemiologist warns
Removing coronavirus restrictions at the end of next month would be a “disaster” and put “enormous pressure” on the NHS, a leading epidemiologist has warned.
Professor John Edmunds, who works on the Government’s coronavirus response as part of the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it would be a disaster if we removed restrictions in, say, the end of February when we have gone through this first wave of the vaccination.
“First of all vaccines aren’t ever 100% protective, and so even those that have been vaccinated would be still at some risk.
“Secondly, it is only a small fraction of the population who would have been vaccinated and if you look at the hospitalisations at the moment, about half of them are in the under 70s, and they are not in the first wave to be vaccinated.
“If we relaxed our restrictions we would immediately put the NHS under enormous pressure again.”
Airport Operators Association warns ‘only so long’ before airports might have to close temporarily to save costs
The UK’s aviation sector “urgently” needs more government support if it is to survive another long period of travel curbs, industry groups have said.
From Monday, all travel corridors to the UK will be closed to prevent the arrival of any new variants of Covid.
Airport operators have said it understands the move , but warned that it would deepen the crisis for the sector.
The Airport Operators Association warned there was “only so long” before airports might have to close temporarily to save costs.
Meanwhile, the British Airline Pilots’ Association called the travel corridor closure “yet another huge blow”, and warned that the UK aviation industry would “not be there to support the post Covid-19 recovery” without “a clear plan of action and a proper package of support”.
India launches ‘world’s biggest vaccination programme’
India started inoculating health workers on Saturday in what is likely to be the world’s largest Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
The country is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunisation programmes.
Indian authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people, several times more than its existing programme that targets 26 million infants.
The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front line workers to be followed by 270 million others, who are either aged over 50 or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to Covid-19.
Shadow home secretary says Government must act in ‘proper, strategic way’ in its closure of all travel corridors
The shadow home secretary has warned the Government to act in a “proper, strategic way” in its closure of all travel corridors on Monday.
Labour’s Nick Thomas-Symonds told the BBC: “The measures are necessary, I support them coming into effect.
“I do say to the Government to get a comprehensive plan and to act in a proper, strategic way, not in the short-term chaotic way we’ve seen over the past twelve months.”
He added: “First of all it is about checking before people board airplanes and then checks on arrival.
“But to make this whole system work we have to have an effective quarantine system, and that’s been a real problem.”