Businesses across Northern Ireland are reopening following a two-week circuit-breaker that saw shops, close contact services and the hospitality sector shut on 27 November. 

Normal church services can resume, with more people allowed to attend weddings and funerals, while entertainment including cinemas and museums will also open their doors. However, pubs that do not serve food will remain closed.

In parts of western Scotland, including Glasgow, non-essential shops are welcoming customers for the first time in three weeks, as 11 council areas were moved from level 4 to level 3 restrictions.

The easing of restrictions came as AstraZeneca said it would look into combining its experimental Covid-19 vaccine with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine candidate, in an attempt to boost efficacy.

The developers of Sputnik V had suggested last month that AstraZeneca try the combination.

AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with Oxford University, said it was would soon begin exploring whether two common cold virus-based vaccines could be successfully merged with Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, which developed Sputnik V.

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1607684269Government releases details on areas to receive mass testing in schools

The government has released more details on the areas in England where secondary school and college students will be tested for the coronavirus.

Staff, students and families in parts of north-east London, south Essex and Kent are being urged to get tested.

The London boroughs receiving additional testing are: 

Barking and DagenhamHackney and the CityHaveringNewhamRedbridgeTower HamletsWaltham Forest

The Essex boroughs included are: 

SouthendBasildonCanvey IslandHarlowBrentwood

In Kent, two more mobile testing units (MTU) will be deployed on Saturday. Another 10 MTUs will arrive later in the weekend.

Clea Skopeliti11 December 2020 10:57

1607683161Oxford vaccine to be trialled alongside Russian Sputnik jab

AstraZeneca, the biotechnology firm developing Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, will start clinical trials combining its jab with Russia’s Sputnik vaccine by the end of the year, a Russian official has said.

The head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund, Kirill Dmitriev, said in a statement that Russia was determined to start joint production of the new combined vaccine with AstraZeneca once it had proven its efficacy in clinical trials.

AstraZeneca announced earlier on Friday it would investigate combining the vaccines, a move Russian scientists suggested could sharply improve efficacy.

Clea Skopeliti11 December 2020 10:39

1607682536Sanofi/GSK delay shows vaccine development ‘not a straightforward path’, scientist says

The delay in the Sanofi and GSK vaccine programme shows vaccine development is “not a straightforward path”, a scientist has said.

Prof Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, described the delay as “typical”.

He said: “This announcement is typical of what we might have expected as vaccine development is being carried out under intense public and media scrutiny for a pandemic vaccine,” Prof Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said.

“The first few vaccines to get to an interim analysis stage in phase 3 trials were unusual to have got that far without notable problems, and that is why most in the field were amazed at the results.  This shows what we know, that it is not always easy to develop a new vaccine to the point of being used to prevent the disease.  The Australian announcement and this one illustrate that getting a vaccine that shows efficacy in the relevant age (and other) groups is not a straightforward path; many uncertainties can persist.”

Clea Skopeliti11 December 2020 10:28

1607680511Culture secretary refuses to comment on possibility of schools shutting early

Oliver Dowden has refused to be drawn on whether the government might shut schools early ahead of Christmas to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said: “The main thing we are doing in respect of schools which you have seen today is to have this mass testing to pick up on those kids who are asymptomatic.”

He continued: “If we can identify those people, get them self-isolating, then we limit the spread and in terms of the opening of schools we have already demonstrated some flexibility in terms of next Friday, and taking that as an inset day.”

Clea Skopeliti11 December 2020 09:55

1607680050Thousands of British tourists on Canary Islands forced to self-isolate upon return

Thousands of British tourists on the Canary Islands have been hit new quarantine rules which came into force on Thursday.

People arriving in the UK from the Spanish islands from 4am on Saturday must self-isolate for 14 days after the islands were removed from the UK’s travel corridors list due  to a rise in the positivity rate for coronavirus tests.

Tour operator Tui said it has around 5,000 UK holidaymakers on the islands, with a further 800 booked to fly out on Friday morning.

The quarantine period can be cut for people arriving in England from 15 December if they pay to take a coronavirus test at least five days after they land, and test negative.

Clea Skopeliti11 December 2020 09:47

1607678538Australian researchers abandon vaccine over false positive HIV response

Australian researchers have said they are abandoning their vaccine candidate after it produced false positive results to HIV tests. 

The country had agreed to buy 51 million doses of the vaccine being developed by Australian firm CSL and the University of Queensland (UQ). 

CSL and UQ stressed that the false positive results meant trial volunteers’ health was not at risk.

Clea Skopeliti11 December 2020 09:22

1607676870GSK and Sanofi announce delay in vaccine programme

The race for a Covid-19 vaccine has been hit with a setback after GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi announced a delay in their programme after trials showed a low immune response in older adults.

The two pharmaceutical companies will begin a second-phase study with an improved candidate in February, with hopes of rolling out a more effective jab by the end of 2021.

The UK’s vaccine taskforce has secured access to 60 million doses of the protein adjuvant vaccine.

Clea Skopeliti11 December 2020 08:54

1607676220Coronavirus cases are rising again, Sage member warns

Sage member Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The downward trend that happened after the higher tiers and lockdown has now stopped, cases are going up.

“(There are) 350, 400 deaths a day in the UK – that’s about 10,000 a month. And these are real deaths. These are extra deaths that would not have happened normally.

“They are from Covid, they are not just with Covid.”

Clea Skopeliti11 December 2020 08:43

1607675459Government’s priority is keeping children in school, culture secretary says

The government’s main priority is to keep children in school, the culture secretary has said.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Oliver Dowden said: “As a government we are doing everything we can first of all to prioritise kids remaining in schools, and the vast majority of children remain in schools.

“And secondly, to ensure that schools continue to be a safe place – and I pay tribute to teachers and head teachers and all the work they have done.”

Clea Skopeliti11 December 2020 08:30

1607674761Heathrow passenger numbers down 88% in November

Heathrow’s passenger numbers were down 88 per cent year-on-year in November, with 747,000 people travelling through the London airport.

The airport said the low figures were because of travel restrictions and England’s second national coronavirus lockdown.

Terminal 4 will remain closed in 2021 “based on current forecasts and continued decline in passengers”, it announced.

Clea Skopeliti11 December 2020 08:19

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