The country is “past the peak” of the current wave of the pandemic, says Chris Whitty

The UK could see a “significant return to normality” by the summer as restrictiosn are gradually phased out once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated, a scientific adviser to the government has suggested.

However, Andrew Hayward, the director of UCL’s Institute for Epidemiology, stressed that Boris Johnson was “absolutely right to be cautious” in unwinding the lockdown in the immediate future as he faces pressure from Conservative backbenchers over the return of schools.

It comes as patients will receive different coronavirus vaccines for their first and second doses in a government-backed study to determine how safe the method is.

The programme, which has received £7m from the government’s Vaccine Taskforce, will investigate whether a mixed-dose vaccine regimen is better than, or a good alternative to, two doses of the same jab.

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1612443432Latest Wales Covid vaccine data

Public Health Wales said a total of 490,570 first doses of the coronavirus vaccine had now been given, up 28,073 from the previous day.

And 1,216 second doses were given, an increase of 56.

Liam James4 February 2021 12:57

1612441707No date set for over-50s Covid vaccine rollout, says minister

The government’s vaccines minister said he will not yet commit to a date for when all over-50s can expect to receive a Covid-19 jab.

Those aged 50-70 will have to wait until at least 15 February — by when the government aims to have offered jabs to the most vulnerable — for a target date to be set, Nadhim Zahawi said earlier.

“We will set out our target [for vaccinating groups 5-9] after we have hit our February 15 target,” Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast.

“But you can do the maths. We did 600,000 in a single day – the deployment infrastructure that we’ve built can do as much vaccines as we get supply, so the limiting factor will be vaccine supply.

“You can see that in the next 10 or so days, we’ve got to do another almost touching five million and so if we keep that rate up, we will very quickly go down the list of the top nine.”

Liam James4 February 2021 12:28

1612440360What you need to know about Covid vaccine mixing and matching

The government has announced that it is launching a new study in the UK, a world first, which will explore the possibility of ‘mixing and matching’ different coronavirus vaccines.

Known as a heterologous prime-boost, the treatment can only be administered with licensed jabs and involves using one dose each of two different vaccines.

My colleague Samuel Lovett looks at what you need to know about mixing and matching Covid vaccines:

Samuel Osborne4 February 2021 12:06

1612439503Labour leader calls for hotel quarantine for every international arrival

Sir Keir Starmer said he wanted to see hotel quarantine measures applied to every international arrival, with exemptions only for people supplying medicines or food.

The Labour leader told broadcasters: “We’re calling for quarantine for everybody who arrives in the UK from any country.

“There will have to be exceptions for medicines and foods – there always is – but for everybody else that is not within those exceptions, a full quarantine.

“And the reason for that is because, in the first wave, 0.1 per cent of cases came from China where we had restrictions, 62 per cent came from France and from Spain where we didn’t have restrictions.

“There is every reason to think the variant will behave in the same way and that’s why we’re saying to government, ‘We’re in race now, virus against vaccination, let’s secure our borders while we carry out the vaccination process’.”

Sir Starmer warned the UK will be back to “square one” if coronavirus variants that currently approved vaccines are not effective against enter the country.

Speaking at a vaccine centre at Watford’s Asda supermarket, Sir Keir said: “Of course tough quarantine measures have an (economic) impact and in a sense nobody wants that.

“But if a variant gets through that isn’t subject to the vaccine, we are going to be back to square one and that will have months of impact on the economy, huge damage to the economy.

“So the risk is huge if we don’t secure our borders and I think most people would say, ‘For heaven’s sake, now we’ve got the vaccine being rolled out, don’t put that at risk’.”

He accused the government of being in “chaos and confusion” over hotel quarantine measures, after they appeared to be delayed until next week, adding: “Surely, before you announce arrangements like this, you’d have done the planning beforehand.”

Samuel Osborne4 February 2021 11:51

1612438360One in 10 major hospital trusts had no spare adult critical care beds last week

Around one in 10 major hospital trusts in England had no spare adult critical care beds last week, NHS England figures show.

A total of 15 out of 140 acute trusts reported 100 per cent occupancy of all “open” beds each day from 25 to 31 January.

These included University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest trusts in England, along with Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust.

The figure is down slightly on 18 out of 140 acute trusts that reported 100 per cent occupancy of critical care beds each day from 18 to 24 January.

Samuel Osborne4 February 2021 11:32

1612437155Number of patients waiting longer than an hour to be handed from ambulance teams to A&E staff falls to lowest level

The number of patients waiting longer than an hour to be handed over from ambulance teams to A&E staff at hospitals in England has fallen to its lowest level this winter.

A total of 2,339 delays of more than 60 minutes were recorded across all acute trusts in the seven days to January 31, according to figures published by NHS England.

This compares with 3,283 in the previous week, and 5,513 in the seven days to January 10 – the highest weekly figure so far this winter.

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust reported the highest number last week for an individual trust (214 delays of more than 60 minutes), followed by the Royal Wolverhampton Trust (125) and University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHS Foundation Trust (118).

A handover delay does not always mean a patient has waited in the ambulance. They may have been moved into an A&E department, but staff were not available to complete the handover.

Samuel Osborne4 February 2021 11:12

1612435817‘Operational plan’ for hotel quarantines to be released next week

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, will lay out the “operational plan” for hotel quarantines next week, Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed.

The vaccines minister told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Next week the secretary of state for health will be setting out the operational elements of this policy.

“We will absolutely be setting out how the quarantine hotels will work next week.”

Asked whether he had been frustrated by the delay in implementing the tighter border restrictions, Mr Zahawi replied: “No, because it is one part of a greater piece.

“(There is) the passenger locator form – you will be refused by the airlines to get on a flight if you haven’t filled in a passenger locator form – so we know exactly where you are, so we can check where you are and that you are quarantined, and you get fined – and I make no apology for the 40,000 fines that we’ve issued already.

“But, as I say, it is one part, and next week you will have the operational plan for how we are implementing the hotel quarantine.”

Samuel Osborne4 February 2021 10:50

1612434723Investigation launched after 1,000 doses of Covid vaccine left unrefrigerated to spoil at hospital

An investigation has been launched after 1,000 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine had to be thrown away because they were left out of a fridge for almost three hours, Colin Drury reports.

The batch, worth £12,000, spoiled after being delivered to Stratford Hospital on Tuesday.

Samuel Osborne4 February 2021 10:32

1612433531Data backs up 12-week dosing regime for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, minister says

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said there is data not yet in the public domain which backs up the 12-week dosing regime for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

It came after a study found that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could offer protection of up to 76% 12 weeks after a single dose.

Asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain whether he can reassure the public that the delay between Pfizer doses is safe, Mr Zahawi said: “Our regulator, the MHRA, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination (and Immunisation, the JCVI) and the deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, and the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have looked at all the data, including data from the manufacturers that isn’t in the public domain, and they are absolutely certain that this is the right dosing strategy and we will continue on that dosing strategy for the deployment.

“What Pfizer has said is that it is up to the regulatory authority in each nation to make this decision, and our regulatory authority looked in detail at this, as have the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the chief medical officers, and I think it is the right thing to follow the expert advice of all those great scientists and experts who know what they are doing to say, actually, the up-to-12-week dosing regime is the right one.”

Samuel Osborne4 February 2021 10:12

1612431595Country could see ‘significant return to normality’ by summer if most vulnerable vaccinated, says Sage adviser

Government scientific adviser Andrew Hayward has suggested there could be a “significant return to normality” by the summer with restrictions gradually phased out once the most vulnerable people in the UK have been vaccinated, political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports.

The director of UCL’s Institute for Epidemiology, however, stressed that Boris Johnson was “absolutely right to be cautious” in unwinding the lockdown in the immediate future as he faces pressure from Conservative backbenchers over the return of schools.

Samuel Osborne4 February 2021 09:39

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