Monday, January 18, 2021
Health

Mayor Sadiq Khan declares a major incident in London

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London is facing the biggest threat of the pandemic so far as the NHS buckles under the strain of coronavirus cases, experts warned today as a major incident was declared in the capital.

The city is one of the main hotspots of the latest wave of the virus which saw deaths reach a record high today, with its spread now ‘out of control’ in the metropolitan area.

Mayor Sadiq Khan warned that more than 1 per cent of the city’s nine million residents tested positive for Covid last week, with one in 30 residents currently estimated to be infected. 

In the worst-hit boroughs, it is feared the rate is as high as one in 20 and startling figures also show that hospital admissions rose by a quarter in the first week of January. 

More than 7,000 NHS beds across the capital are currently occupied by Covid patients – 35 per cent higher than the busiest day of the pandemic in the spring. 

Police blasted a ‘small selfish minority’ ignoring the rules and promised to come down hard on transgressors who are refusing to stop partying despite the highly transmissible pathogen being rife. 

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: ‘I know Londoners will be shocked that officers are still dealing with a small selfish minority who think the rules don’t apply to them by holding house parties, large warehouse raves or other gatherings. These are creating breeding grounds for the much more transmissible variant.’

The Government said a further 1,325 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of today – the highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since the outbreak began. It brings the UK total to 79,833. 

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s regional director for London, said: ‘This is the biggest threat our city has faced in this pandemic to date.’ 

However, there was a tiny sliver of hope on the horizon. According to results of the UK’s largest testing scheme, coronavirus cases are already dropping in London. It suggests that some of the worst of the second wave may have already passed because of the strict Tier Four restrictions that were enforced before Christmas.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the outbreak through random swabs of thousands of people, suggest the capital’s crisis started to reverse on December 29 – a week before the nation’s third national lockdown came into force.

But because of the nature of the illness, however, there is a lag between the number of cases rising and falling and a corresponding change in hospital admissions and deaths.  

Mr Khan said that over the last three days alone the NHS has announced 477 deaths in London hospitals following a positive test for Covid-19.  

In a letter to Boris Johnson he has demanded churches and other places of worship be closed and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in supermarket queues and other places outside that may be crowded.  

He also wants more financial support for Londoners who need to self-isolate and are unable to work, and for daily vaccination data.

In a statement today Mr Khan said: ‘The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control.’ 

Major incidents were declared in London after the Grenfell Tower disaster, the London Bridge and Westminster terror attacks, and the Croydon tram crash in November 2016.

On another day of coronavirus chaos: 

  • As many as 100,000 Britons abroad have five days to get home or face being banned without a negative Covid test;
  • Britain’s coronavirus R rate could now be anywhere between 1.0 and 1.4 and as many as 150,000 people could be getting infected with the virus every day, the Government’s top scientific advisers revealed; 
  • Drivers are turned away from England’s beauty spots while police question parents with pushchairs amid questions as to whether they are taking enforcement of England’s third lockdown too far;
  • Welsh lockdown is extended for three more weeks with schools and colleges shut until February;
  • Horror as ‘NHS’ fraudster injects 92-year-old woman with fake coronavirus and charges her £160; 
  • Care home workers with Covid are told to stay in work due to mounting staff shortages;
  • Pfizer’s vaccine does work against the South African and UK strains of coronavirus, study finds;
  • National Express suspends all coach services due to new lockdown and plummeting passenger numbers;
  • Stanley Johnson boasts he is due to he is about to receive his second dose of the Covid vaccine – when many are still waiting for their first
  • And a poll reveals more people are planning to take the Covid vaccine, up to 85 per cent from 78 per cent last month.

Cases per day in London

Cases per day in London

People being hospitalised in London

People being hospitalised in London 

Coronavirus deaths in London

Coronavirus deaths in London

In a letter to Boris Johnson he has demanded churches and other places of worship be closed and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in supermarket queues and other places outside that may be crowded

An empty circle line train on the London Underground today a week after London was sent into lockdown along with the rest of the UK

An empty circle line train on the London Underground today a week after London was sent into lockdown along with the rest of the UK 

He said that over the last three days alone the NHS has announced 477 deaths in London hospitals following a positive test for Covid-19 (Piccadilly Circus pictured today)

He said that over the last three days alone the NHS has announced 477 deaths in London hospitals following a positive test for Covid-19 (Piccadilly Circus pictured today)

The Office for National Statistics found in its mass testing programme that almost two thirds (61%) of the positive tests it found in England appeared to be linked to the new variant of the virus. The figure was higher for some regions - particularly in London and the South - but lower in others

The Office for National Statistics found in its mass testing programme that almost two thirds (61%) of the positive tests it found in England appeared to be linked to the new variant of the virus. The figure was higher for some regions – particularly in London and the South – but lower in others

Covids cases falling in London, stats show 

Coronavirus cases are already dropping in London, according to results of the UK’s largest testing scheme.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the outbreak through random swabs of thousands of people, suggest the capital’s crisis started to reverse on December 29 – a week before the nation’s third national lockdown came into force.

The number of people testing positive stood at 3.33 per cent on January 2, which is most recent day data is available for. This had fallen for the fifth day in a row, down from 3.63 per cent on December 28.

Separate figures collated by the Department of Health also show cases in London have started to plateau.

Around 13,086 people living across the city were testing positive in the capital every day on December 31, in the most reliable day data is available for, down from 13,261 the day before.

For comparison, the figure stood at 2,350 at the start of December.

Despite cases appearing to have slowed, hospitals across London have yet to see any easing of Covid pressure because of the three-week lag it can take between getting diagnosed and becoming ill.

NHS statistics show there are currently more than 7,000 infected patients in beds in hospitals across the capital, with 908 hooked up to ventilators. During the darkest days of the spring, 5,200 beds were occupied by Covid patients.

London is also currently recording 100 coronavirus deaths a day, a figure which has steadily risen since mid-December. But it is still only half of the daily counts seen during the first wave, when up to 200 patients were succumbing to the illness each day.

 

Mr Khan added: ‘The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.

‘Our heroic doctors, nurses and NHS staff are doing an amazing job, but with cases rising so rapidly, our hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed. The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically.

‘We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.

‘Londoners continue to make huge sacrifices and I am today imploring them to please stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary for you to leave. Stay at home to protect yourself, your family, friends and other Londoners and to protect our NHS.’

A major incident has already been declared in neighbouring Surrey and Sussex.

Scientists revealed today that the reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK is between 1 and 1.4. When R was last updated on December 23 2020, it was between 1.1 and 1.3. 

An R number between 1 and 1.4 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 10 and 14 other people.

Sage has said the estimates published on Friday represent the transmission of Covid-19 over the past few weeks rather than the present situation. This is due to the time delay between someone being infected, having symptoms, and needing healthcare.

It came as a new mass test revealed the highly infectious new variant of coronavirus that emerged in Kent now accounts for 61 per cent of all new Covid cases in England and 70,000 people are getting infected every day.

The team behind the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app, carried out with King’s College London, say the number of people reporting symptoms each day is up 27 per cent in a week from 55,226 to 69,958.

And separate research by the Office for National Statistics found that, of the estimated 1.1million people currently infected with the coronavirus, almost two thirds have the fast-spreading variant of the virus.

The variant has become dominant in some regions, found in 81 per cent of cases in London, but is still linked to fewer than half of infections in the North of England, the Midlands and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Georgia Gould, chairwoman of London Councils, said: ‘Cases are rising at a dangerous rate in London, putting extreme pressure on the NHS.

‘One in 30 Londoners now has Covid. This is why public services across London are urging all Londoners to please stay at home except for absolutely essential shopping and exercise.

‘We know how tough this is for Londoners. Councils are here to support anyone struggling to access food or medicine.

‘Today, the thoughts of London leaders are with the thousands of Londoners in hospital battling Covid and the amazing carers fighting to save lives. We owe it to them to do all we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

‘This is a dark and difficult time for our city but there is light at end of the tunnel with the vaccine rollout. We are asking Londoners to come together one last time to stop the spread – lives really do depend on it.’ 

The highly contagious Kent variant of Covid has become dominant in some regions, found in 81 per cent of cases in London

The highly contagious Kent variant of Covid has become dominant in some regions, found in 81 per cent of cases in London

Very few people were travelling on the London Underground today after Britons were told to stay at home amid coronavirus

Very few people were travelling on the London Underground today after Britons were told to stay at home amid coronavirus

Georgia Gould, chairwoman of London Councils, said: 'One in 30 Londoners now has Covid. This is why public services across London are urging all Londoners to please stay at home except for absolutely essential shopping and exercise'

Georgia Gould, chairwoman of London Councils, said: ‘One in 30 Londoners now has Covid. This is why public services across London are urging all Londoners to please stay at home except for absolutely essential shopping and exercise’

An empty underground station at Tower Hill in London as the lockdown continued today across Britain

An empty underground station at Tower Hill in London as the lockdown continued today across Britain

What is a ‘major incident’?

A major incident is defined as being ‘beyond the scope of business-as-usual operations, and is likely to involve serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security’. 

In addition, ‘the severity of the consequences associated with a major incident are likely to constrain or complicate the ability of responders to resource and manage the incident.’ 

They were previously declared in London after the Grenfell Tower disaster, the London Bridge and Westminster terror attacks, and the Croydon tram crash in November 2016.

According to a document produced for London authorities, a major incident involves ‘special arrangements’ being introduced by one or more emergency services.

They ‘typically’ include one or more of the following:

  • Large numbers of people
  • Large numbers of medical casualties
  • The involvement of large proportions of the available police, fire and ambulance services
  • The mobilisation of support services – like shelter for people made homeless
  • A large number of public and media inquiries  

Are police taking Covid crackdown too far? 

Police today faced questions about whether they were taking the Covid crackdown too far as officers swooped on friends drinking tea on a walk to a beauty spot, forced their way into a family home ‘for having too many people inside’ and taped off benches to stop people from sitting down.

Friends Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore drove five miles to take a stroll at Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire when they were surrounded by officers, read their rights and fined £200 each. The pair were also told their cups of Starbucks peppermint tea were not allowed because they were ‘classed as a picnic’.

Guidance for the current lockdown says people can travel for exercise ‘as long as it is in their local area’, but does not specify how far people can travel. Derbyshire Police insisted the distance was ‘at the discretion’ of individual officers and the trip was ‘not in the spirit of the rules’.

Ms Allen, from her home in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, said: ‘I genuinely thought someone had been murdered… my car was surrounded… one of them started reading my rights and I was looking at my friend thinking ”This must be a joke”.’

Meanwhile, in Aberdeen, two policeman knocked on a family’s front door after complaints from a neighbour and stormed inside as a woman shouted ‘this is my house, get out of my house’ and children screamed in the background.

Two women, aged 18 and 48, and a 43-year-old man were charged in connection with assaulting police officers and threatening and abusive behaviour.

The footage immediately sparked controversy, with critics accusing the police of ‘oppressive’ behaviour for storming into a private house – while others argued they were just trying to enforce the Covid rules.

At Euston, officers were seen stopping passengers this morning to ask where they were going. Barrister Alex Wright tweeted: ‘Good to see lockdown being taken seriously, but a sad sight that I’d have dreamed of seeing in London.’

Snowdonia National Park has now closed all its car parks to visitors to ‘protect our communities and the NHS’, as officials slammed the public for ‘disregarding’ the law.

Priti Patel yesterday said it is ‘right’ for officers to confront Britons sat on park benches and argued that police should stop people and demand to know why they are outside their homes. It came as police said they would fine people the first time if they are caught not wearing face coverings or being outside without a suitable reason.

 

 

Britain approves Moderna’s Covid vaccine but won’t get any doses until MARCH at the earliest

Britain today approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine – but won’t be able to get any of the 17million doses it has bought until March at the earliest. 

Moderna’s Covid jab is the third to be given the green light by regulators in the UK, joining the vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca

Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that No10 won’t get any doses until the spring but said: ‘This is further great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease.’ And Business Secretary Alok Sharma described it as ‘another huge step towards ending lockdown’. 

The EU – which approved the same vaccine two days ago – will get supplies of the jab from next week after health chiefs struck a deal with the US-firm to buy 180million doses last summer. 

With Britain now scrambling to vaccinate 13million vulnerable Britons in the hope of ending the constant cycle of lockdowns by mid-February, an extra jab could have been a blessing. 

Boris Johnson last night revealed he was bringing in the Army to help speed up the UK’s sluggish scheme, as the Prime Minister pledged to deliver 200,000 doses a day by next Friday. He also pledged to offer every care home resident a jab by the end of January and announced a new national online booking system that officials hope will drastically speed up the process.

So far the inoculation drive – the biggest in British history – has been plagued by supply and staffing shortages, logistical problems and bureaucratic barriers strangling its scale-up, meaning only 1.5million have received at least one dose. 

It comes after Moderna’s chief executive last night say it was likely that the firm’s vaccine offers protection for a ‘couple of years’. But Stéphane Bancel said more research is needed to determine how long its shot wards off the coronavirus. 

 

Pensioners pictured queuing outside a vaccination centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, today in a sign Boris Johnson may already be making good on his promise to ramp up the country's roll out

Pensioners pictured queuing outside a vaccination centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, today in a sign Boris Johnson may already be making good on his promise to ramp up the country’s roll out

Pictured: Scientists working on the Moderna vaccine in a laboratory

Pictured: Scientists working on the Moderna vaccine in a laboratory

HOW DOES MODERNA’S VACCINE WORK? 

Moderna’s vaccine works in the same way as Pfizer and BioNTech’s, and are types called mRNA vaccines.  

They use genetic material called RNA from the coronavirus to trick the body into making the ‘spike’ proteins that the virus uses to latch onto cells inside the body.

These cells then look like the real virus to the immune system, so it attacks them as it would if someone was infected with Covid. It uses antibodies and T cells to attack these modified cells.

In the process it also creates its own memory of exactly how to destroy anything with the spikes on – i.e. the real coronavirus – in case it encounters them in the future. 

Moderna found in trials that its vaccine, which is given in two doses, was ‘generally safe and well tolerated’.

It said the majority of side effects were mild or moderate. The most common ‘severe’ effects were pain at the site, muscles or joints; fatigue and headache. These, the company said, were ‘generally short-lived’. 

Moderna said its vaccine can be stored in a normal fridge for up to a month before it is given out, meaning it will be cheaper to store and distribute.

Although it must be shipped at -20°C (-4°F), this is not too cold for normal freezers to handle.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, however, needed to be kept at -70°C (-94°F) at all times until it was about to be used, meaning expensive specialist equipment is needed to transport and store it.

As Britain prepared to ramp up vaccinations:

  • As many as 100,000 Britons abroad have five days to get home or face being banned without a negative Covid test;
  • Drivers are turned away from England’s beauty spots while police question parents with pushchairs amid questions as to whether they are taking enforcement of England’s third lockdown too far;
  • Welsh lockdown is extended for three more weeks with schools and colleges shut until February;
  • Horror as ‘NHS’ fraudster injects 92-year-old woman with fake coronavirus and charges her £160; 
  • Care home workers with Covid are told to stay in work due to mounting staff shortages;
  • Pfizer’s vaccine does work against the South African and UK strains of coronavirus, study finds;
  • National Express suspends all coach services due to new lockdown and plummeting passenger numbers;
  • Stanley Johnson boasts he is due to he is about to receive his second dose of the Covid vaccine – when many are still waiting for their first
  • And a poll reveals more people are planning to take the Covid vaccine, up to 85 per cent from 78 per cent last month.

Moderna’s vaccine was the second one to announce the results of its last-stage clinical trials when it did so in November, after Pfizer and BioNTech. They showed the vaccine appeared to prevent 94.5 per cent of Covid cases.

Mr Hancock at the time hailed the vaccine as a ‘candle of hope’ but the UK hadn’t pre-ordered it.

No10 had placed pre-orders for seven other candidates, including jabs made by Pfizer and BioNTech, Oxford University and AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Valneva, Imperial College London and Novavax. 

Moderna’s and Pfizer’s use the same technology, which had never been tried before, so scientists said it would have been a big gamble for the UK to order both. 

A scramble ensued on the day Moderna’s results were published, with British officials managing to hash out a deal for five million doses before Mr Hancock announced it on a TV press conference at 5pm that afternoon. This was later extended to 7million but the figure now stands at around 17million. 

Pensioners pictured queuing to receive their Covid-19 vaccine outside a centre in Hemel Hempstead,  Hertfordshire, today

Arthur Clark, 99, an RAF veteran, says he is yet to receive his Covid vaccination despite the programme starting a month ago

Arthur Clark, 99, an RAF veteran, says he is yet to receive his Covid vaccination despite the programme starting a month ago

Arthur Clark, from Beckenham in south east London, with his family

Mr Clark pictured in his RAF uniform

Speaking to MailOnline from his home in Beckenham, south east London, the great grandfather of four said he had been trying to get an appointment since Christmas. Pictured, left, is Arthur with his family and, right, as an RAF serviceman

Grants Shapps say Covid jabs may not beat South African strain, hours after study suggests it will

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned today the current wave of vaccines might not protect against the South African strain of coronavirus.

Mr Shapps said introducing a mandatory test and release system for travellers coming into the UK had become ‘much more urgent’ because of the threat the variant poses to Britain’s mass vaccination programme.

But there was confusion about the timing of his comments, which came just hours after a study by Pfizer/BioNTech suggested their vaccine could be just as effective against a mutation in the super-transmissible strain.

Amid international fears about the South African strain, thought to be at least 60 per cent more infectious than regular Covid, the UK has made it compulsory for travellers to test negative when they arrive in the country. 

The Pfizer study – which hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet – tested how well the vaccine worked on the key N501Y mutation, an alteration on the virus’s spike protein which is thought to be responsible for making it far more infectious than regular Covid.

And because current vaccines work by training the immune system to recognise the virus’s spike protein and attack it, there were fears this change could render jabs useless, or less effective.  

The catch, however, was that the UK wouldn’t get any of the doses delivered until March 2021 because the US had an exclusive contract for the first 20million doses because the government had given so much funding to the company.   

Hailing the approval today, Mr Hancock added: ‘We have already vaccinated nearly 1.5million people across the UK and Moderna’s vaccine will allow us to accelerate our vaccination programme even further once doses become available from the spring.

‘While we immunise those most at risk from Covid, I urge everyone to continue following the rules to keep cases low to protect our loved ones.’

MHRA guidance says the vaccine’s two doses should be dished out within 28 days of each other, unlike the controversial advice for the other two jabs, which says they can be taken up to 12 weeks apart.

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: ‘Today’s approval brings more encouraging news to the public and the healthcare sector. 

‘Having a third Covid vaccine approved for supply following a robust and thorough assessment of all the available data is an important goal to have achieved and I am proud that the agency has helped to make this a reality.

‘The progress we are now making for vaccines on the regulatory front, whilst not cutting any corners, is helping in our global fight against this disease and ultimately helping to save lives. I want to echo that our goal is always to put the protection of the public first.

‘Once in use, all Covid vaccines are continually monitored by the MHRA. This ensures that the benefits in protecting people against Covid continue to far outweigh any potential side-effects.

‘Meantime, even if you have had a vaccine it is vital that everyone follows the national lockdown restrictions and remembers ‘stay alert, protect the NHS and save lives’ at all times.’

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the Expert Working Group of the Independent Commission on Human Medicines said: ‘We are delighted to be able to give a positive recommendation for the Moderna vaccine which will help in the roll-out of the Covid vaccination programme.

‘As with all the Covid vaccine data we have seen to date, we have ensured a robust and thorough safety assessment has been carried out with the independent experts that sit on this group.’

It comes after it was claimed yesterday that a one-shot Covid jab that has the potential to significantly boost Britain’s sluggish vaccination scheme may be approved in the UK by next month.

Scientists and Government sources believe the vaccine, made by the Belgian arm of pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson, could be given emergency authorisation within weeks.

The jab uses similar technology to the Oxford University vaccine, making it just as easy to transport and store, but requires just a single injection to protect against Covid

However, it won’t be clear how effective the vaccine is until its trial results are made public and submitted to the UK’s medical regulator, which is expected to happen by early February.



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