The vaccine has been shown to trigger a robust immune response in healthy adults aged 56-69 and people aged over 70. No serious adverse health events related to the vaccine were seen in the participants.

Households could be allowed to mix indoors, starting on Christmas Eve, but Government medical adviser Dr Susan Hopkins suggested tougher restrictions could be needed either side of Christmas if curbs are to be eased for a time.

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1605774701Londoners are being urged to ‘pretend commute’ to get them moving1605774466Getting R rate below one is crucial

rof Andrew Hayward told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the reproduction number – the R value – of coronavirus needed to be below 1 for the epidemic to shrink.

“Approaching 1 is not good enough – that still means the infection is increasing,” he said.

“It needs to be clearly below 1 and it needs to get to low levels, rather than the high levels that we still have.”

Asked whether he would impose further restrictions throughout December such as stricter tiers than before, he said “it is a very difficult balance”.

He added: “We would need to be very mindful of the fact that this last period of the year is absolutely critical economically for many businesses so I think we do need to find a way of allowing them to function but in a responsible way.”

1605774057Britons need to prioritise health over festivities – expert

Asked if people should worry more about the health and welfare of their parents and grandparents than gathering together for a movie over Christmas, Prof Andrew Hayward from UCL said: “Well exactly.

“We’re on the cusp of being able to protect those elderly people who we love through vaccination and it would be tragic to throw that opportunity away and waste the gains we’ve made during lockdown by trying to return to normality over the holidays.”

Prof Hayward also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “there is a cost” to putting families together.

“When policies are undulating between stay at home to save lives, eat out to help out, the tier system, second lockdown and proposals for an amnesty on social distancing, it’s a highly inconsistent message.

“Whereas in fact the things that people need to do to stay safe and to keep their loved ones safe are relatively simple.

“Avoid, as far as possible, indoor close contact with people outside of your household, avoid crowded places and protect the most vulnerable by not putting them at unnecessary risk.”

1605773345Hancock shares vaccine excitement

Responding to the news the Oxford coronavirus vaccine shows a strong immune response in adults age over 60, Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “There is still much work to be done, but this is a really encouraging set of findings from the @UniofOxford and @AstraZeneca vaccine.”

1605773156Christmas mixing could throw fuel on Covid fire – expert

Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London (UCL) and a member of Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said mixing at Christmas posed “substantial risks”.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Mixing at Christmas does pose substantial risks, particularly in terms of bringing together generations with high incidence of infection with the older generations who currently have much lower levels of infection and are at most risk of dying if they catch Covid.

“My personal view is we’re putting far too much emphasis on having a near-normal Christmas.

“We know respiratory infections peak in January so throwing fuel on the fire over Christmas can only contribute to this.”

1605773099Business update: Royal Mail sees profits plunge but there’s still hope for Christmas

Royal Mail has revealed it tumbled to a £20 million group operating loss in the first half of 2020, but hiked its sales outlook amid a boom in parcel deliveries during the pandemic.

The group’s operating losses for the 26 weeks to September 27 compare with earnings of £61 million a year ago and come after its core Royal Mail postal arm plunged to a £129 million underlying operating loss.

Group pre-tax profits crashed 90.2 per cent to £17 million over the first half.

But it said full-year revenues at Royal Mail were now expected to be between £380 million to £580 million higher year-on-year, which could see the division deliver a “better than break-even” result.

Keith Williams, interim executive chair at Royal Mail, said: “The growth in online shopping and parcels during the pandemic, combined with our increased focus on delivering more of what customers want, has led to revenue growth of nearly 10 per cent for the group in the first half, with Royal Mail revenue up nearly five per cent.

“For the first time, parcels revenue at Royal Mail is now larger than letters revenue, representing 60 per cent of total revenue, compared with 47 per cent in the prior period.”

( Parcels are now bringing in more revenue than letters for the first time in Royal Mail’s history / Getty Images )1605772820‘Crucial’ Brits get vaccinated

Dr Tildsley told BBC Breakfast that there had been some “reluctance” in the general public towards a new vaccine but stressed the importance of high uptake as soon as one became available.

“We do need to make sure that when vaccines are available they are available for everybody,” he said.

“We do know that among some people there has been a bit of reluctance to have a vaccine, given the speed of development.

“I would say that it is really important that we get a large, high level of uptake when it is available so we can reach herd immunity, that’s really crucial at this point.”

Dr Tildsley added that both long and short-term costs needed to be considered when deciding on an “optimal” vaccine strategy.

More on Britons’s vaccine reluctance here:

1605772597Here’s a round-up of everything we know so far about the Oxford vaccine:1605772201World update: Africa records two million coronavirus cases amid fears of fresh surge

Africa has surpassed two million confirmed coronavirus cases as health officials warn of infections starting to creep up again into a second surge.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Thursday that the 54-country continent has seen more than 48,000 deaths from Covid-19.

The continent of 1.3 billion people is being warned against “prevention fatigue” as countries loosen pandemic restrictions to ease their economies’ suffering and more people travel.

The Africa CDC director this week openly worried that the level of mask-wearing has gone down and called that dangerous.

“We don’t know how high the second peak will come,” John Nkengasong said on Monday.

While the world takes hope from recent news about promising Covid-19 vaccines, African health officials also worry that the continent will suffer as richer countries buy up supplies.

Several African countries have confirmed virus cases in the six figures. South Africa leads with more than 750,000, while Morocco has more than 300,000, Egypt more than 110,000 and Ethiopia more than 100,000.

( AP )1605771868Vaccine set to deliver ‘magic herd immunity’ to UK

Dr Michael Tildesley, who sits on a Sage sub-group, said the vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford is “going to be hopefully one of the key game changers” because the number of doses acquired by the Government will allow the UK to “hopefully reach that magic herd immunity”.

The latest trial results for the vaccine suggest it produces a strong immune response in older adults, which Dr Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling (SPI-M) group, told BBC Breakfast is “the really key thing” for preventing deaths.

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