Health Secretary Matt Hancock tonight warned it is ‘too early’ to know if coronavirus case numbers will have fallen enough to lift the England-wide lockdown on December 2.
Mr Hancock said ‘most of’ the positive tests which are emerging across the country now likely originated before the national shutdown started.
Health officials said this afternoon that ‘if the lockdown is working’ then they should start to see case numbers start to fall ‘over the next week’.
It comes as figures today revealed how Britain’s second Covid wave appears to be flatlining, with just a small rise in infection numbers when compared to this time last week.
Mr Hancock also revealed tonight that Britain has now secured five million doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine after UK officials scrambled to strike a last-minute deal with the US firm.
The Health Secretary said ministers ‘absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system’ next month – but he stopped short of guaranteeing that will happen as he placed Christmas in peril.
However, Susan Hopkins, a director of Public Health England, said the system of tiered restrictions in England would have to be ‘strengthened’ even if the current lockdown ends on December 2.
In other coronavirus developments today:
- Boris’s £100billion Operation Moonshot will ‘fail miserably’ and may accelerate Covid’s spread because the tests are poor, top experts warn Mr Johnson insisted he can run the country by Zoom as he hit back at criticism of a mask-free meeting with a coronavirus-infected Tory MP that has forced him to self-isolate for a fortnight;
- More than 250 NHS workers and care home staff have joined an ‘anti-vaxxer’ group that compares Pfizer’s Covid jab to ‘poison’ and is opposed to wearing masks;
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed Britain is ‘working very closely’ with Pfizer to roll out the drug giant’s breakthrough vaccine from the start of December;
- Coronavirus was circulating in Italy as early as September 2019 – months before the disease was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a study by the National Cancer Institute of Milan has suggested;
- International flights between Australia and the UK will only resume when a vaccine starts being rolled out, Qantas boss Alan Joyce claimed;
- Baby boomers who missed out on holidays, sport and seeing friends during lockdown spent the money they saved on alcohol instead, according to psychiatrists.
Matt Hancock, pictured in Downing Street this afternoon, said ministers ‘absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system’ next month – but he stopped short of guaranteeing that will happen
Dr Susan Hopkins (pictured) said ‘if the lockdown is working’ then officials should start to see case numbers falling ‘over the next week’
‘Long Covid shows this virus can strike us all… and we must strike back,’ says Matt Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the ‘many thousands of people suffering from long Covid’ highlights how the virus does not just prey on the elderly.
As many as 60,000 people of all ages in the UK are thought to be suffering from long-lasting effects of coronavirus, which linger after the original illness has cleared up.
Speaking at the Downing Street briefing this evening, Mr Hancock said it demonstrated how the ‘virus can strike us all, and we must all do our bit to strike back.’
He said even the young and healthy are suffering symptoms months after their coronavirus illness. These include fatigue, breathlessness and brain problems.
Mr Hancock confirmed at least 43 NHS mini-hospitals are to be established in England to help those suffering from long Covid.
The centres will offer support to as many as 500,000 people thought to be suffering prolonged effects of the virus, including breathlessness, fatigue and anxiety. He said up to 40 of them will open next month,
Ten sites are already earmarked for the Midlands, seven in the North East, six each in the East of England, South West and South East, five in London and three in the North West.
A person will need a referral from a GP or other healthcare professional to access the service.
About five per cent of those who get coronavirus experience symptoms that last for 12 weeks or more, according to research by King’s College London. It is double that for those under the age of 50.
More than two-thirds of those hospitalised because of the virus suffer from debilitating symptoms more than seven weeks after being discharged, a study in the medical journal Thorax reported.
Mr Hancock said: ‘[The] threat is not just to the oldest and most vulnerable, but of anyone of any age from any background.
‘We’ve already seen the serious impact that long Covid can have on people’s quality of life, even the fit ant the young.
‘Symptoms like fatigue and breathlessness, muscle pain and neurological problems, long after they first had the virus. And we know long Covid affects thousands of people, many thousands of people.’
He added: ‘We’ve already opened long Covid clinics in many parts of the country. I am very pleased to confirm that the NHS will have a network of 40 long Covid clinic right across England in place by the end of this month.
‘They will bring together doctors, nurses, therapists and the other NHS staff like physios to help those suffering the long term effects of coronavirus. Long Covid shows that this virus can strike us all, and we must all do our bit to strike back, by following the rules and denying the virus the connections it needs to spread
‘I know this hasn’t been easy.’
It follows a study from King’s College London which found older people, women and those with a number of different symptoms in the early stage of their illness were more likely to develop long Covid.
One in 10 were still unable to shake off the side effects eight weeks after infection, the study found.
Research of long Covid has flagged a huge list of problems, including excessive fatigue, breathlessness, insomnia, muscle pain, chest pain, a cough, loss of smell, headache, fever, joint pain and diarrhoea.
Boris Johnson has made clear that the regulations underpinning the national lockdown will expire on December 2 and MPs will be given a say on what happens next.
In a message to MPs, the Prime Minister said he was ‘more confident than ever that we will end these exceptional measures on December 2 and continue to pummel Covid into submission’.
However, there are fears that if case numbers are still high as the four-week deadline approaches then the PM could be forced into trying to extend the shutdown.
That would spark a furious Tory rebellion, with many of the PM’s backbenchers adamant they will not agree to keeping the national measures in place.
Appearing at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock was asked whether lockdown will be extended if case numbers are still continuing to rise.
He said: ‘The answer is that it is too early for us to know what the number of cases will be as we come to the end of the current lockdown.
‘But what I would say is that at the moment most of the tests that we are getting back and most of the positive cases are from around the time that the lockdown came in.
‘And so we are yet to see in the data, and it is too early to expect to see in the data, the impact of the second lockdown.
‘But we absolutely hope to be able to replace the national lockdown with a tiered system similar to what we had before.
‘But we of course are assessing that and assessing how we can make sure that that will be effective.’
Dr Susan Hopkins, a Public Health England director who is advising the Government’s coronavirus response, said officials should start to see if lockdown is working ‘over the next week’.
Speaking alongside Mr Hancock, she said: ‘The key issue for us is making sure that cases start to fall and we expect if the lockdown is working, and we are all doing the best we can to have reduced social contact with other people, that we will start to see cases decline over the next week.
‘We expect it will be longer to see hospital admissions [fall], another week or so, but I think as long as we start to see cases decline then we can start making a judgement about what are the right decisions that we make and what are the opening up decisions that happen on December 2.’
Dr Hopkins signalled there could be a possible tightening of restrictions at the bottom end of the English tier system if and when the Government decides to reintroduce it.
She warned this could be required to increase its effectiveness until Covid-19 vaccines become widely available.
Dr Hopkins said Tier One – the only level which allows different households to mix indoors – had ‘little effect’ on slowing the spread of Covid and would have to be toughened up until a vaccine is rolled out.
Asked what might happen after the lockdown ends on December 2, she said: ‘We have recognised that the tiering of the country has had a different effect in each area.
‘Tier 3 and especially Tier 3 plus in the north has had an effect on reducing the numbers of cases in the north west and we can see in the north west a declining number of cases now.
‘Tier 2 seemed to hold in some areas and not so well in others so really it depends on how fast transmissions are occurring and how well the individuals in the population are taking that advice in.
‘We are seeing very little effect from Tier 1 and I think when we look at what tiers may be there in future we will have to think about strengthening them in order to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone.’
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the plan amounted to months of ‘lockdown by another name’.
He warned that ministers would face a huge rebellion if they tried to push the scheme through the Commons.
Sir Iain said: ‘This is just lockdown by another name. There is no way they will get the support of the Conservative Party. It is the health lobby once again showing it doesn’t care about anything else – they want us kept in lockdown until April, regardless of the cost.
‘The intensive care units are not full but the economy is on its knees. If there is no Tier One then that is the end for the hospitality sector.’
It comes as new figures appear to show Britain’s second coronavirus wave has flatlined. Case numbers increased just 0.06 per cent in the last week, according to the new figures.
They showed there had been another 21,363 new lab-confirmed Covid cases in the UK. Though the figure appears high, it is a small increase from last Monday’s figure of 21,350 new cases.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 1,390,681 since the start of the pandemic.
The Government also announced a further 213 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday – up 9.8 per cent from last Monday’s figure of 194.
The latest death figure brings the UK total to 52,147 since the start of the pandemic.
In another sign lockdown measures are working, new Covid case numbers were recorded at 21,363 in the UK. The figure is new lab-confirmed cases recorded as of 9am today
The Government also announced a further 213 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday – up 9.8 per cent from from last Monday’s figure of 194
However, separate data from the UK’s statistic agencies show the figure to be more than 67,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
These include deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days.
Meanwhile, Mr Hancock revealed tonight that Britain has secured five million doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine after UK officials scrambled to strike a last-minute deal with the US firm.
But the jab – which was revealed today to be 94.5 per cent effective at preventing people from getting infected with Covid-19 – needs to be taken in two shots, meaning the five million doses will only vaccinate two-and-a-half million Brits.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference tonight, Mr Hancock said the vaccine won’t be available in the UK until next spring because the Massachusetts-based firm needs to drastically ramp up its supply chain.
But Americans will likely get their hands on 20 million doses before the new year.
The UK has already secured 40 million doses of a different vaccine from Pfizer, which uses the same technology as Moderna and was last week found to be 90 per cent effective.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference tonight, Mr Hancock said the vaccine won’t be available in the UK until next spring because the Massachusetts-based firm needs to drastically ramp up its supply chain
Moderna’s vaccine works in the same way as the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, by using 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
WHAT DO MODERNA’S TRIAL RESULTS MEAN?
How big is the clinical trial?
Moderna’s phase three final trial is being carried out on approximately 30,000 people. The huge number of people involved means the results can be more specific and the tests done on wide-ranging groups of people.
Half of the group have been given two doses of the real Covid vaccine, named mRNA-1273, while the other half received two doses of a placebo (a fake vaccine). The doses are given 28 days apart.
The trial is being done in the US and started in July, with the latest intake in October.
How many people in the trial have caught coronavirus?
So far, 95 people in the trial have tested positive for coronavirus.
Five of them – 5.2 per cent – were in the group who received the real vaccine.
90 of them – 94.7 per cent – were in the group who received the placebo.
Rounded down, this suggests the vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective.
If it was zero per cent effective you would expect there to be 90 people testing positive in both groups, and if it was 100 per cent effective there would be 90 in the placebo group and none in the vaccine group.
Did anyone get seriously ill?
There were 11 instances of severe Covid-19 in the placebo group but none in the vaccine group, suggesting it protects against severe Covid-19.
However, the numbers remain relatively small and longer term follow-up will be required to hone the estimates and prove the effectiveness of the jab.
Who was the vaccine tested on?
The trial has attracted praise for the diversity of people enrolled in its trial, which includes thousands from groups most at risk of severe Covid-19 or death.
Out of the 30,000 participants, 7,000 are over the age of 65; 5,000 are younger but have serious illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease; 6,000 who are Hispanic or LatinX; and 3,000 are black or African American.
42 per cent of participants are considered to be at medically high risk, Moderna said – these are the groups likely to be given vaccines first, and the ones who benefit most – while 37 per cent are from what it called ‘communities of color’.
But the Government did not place orders for Moderna’s jab at the same time, despite it being cheaper and easier to store than Pfizer’s.
It meant the British Government was left flat-footed when the company announced its initial findings this morning. Mr Hancock dodged questions over why the UK had not bought Moderna’s vaccine ahead of time, insisting it was ‘really good news’ that No10 had managed to secure any at all.
He also paid tribute to the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, chaired by Kate Bingham, and Business Secretary Alok Sharma for their ‘great job’ in wrangling a last-minute deal with the biotech firm.
Mr Hancock said he was ‘delighted’ that No10 had expanded its portfolio of vaccines from six to seven and repeatedly said the jab won’t be manufactured in Europe until the spring. Labour MP Bill Esterson said the failure to pre-order any doses of the Moderna vaccine represented ‘mistake after mistake after mistake by the UK Government.’
The Health Secretary hailed both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine trial results as a ‘candle of hope’, but warned the UK’s high infection and death rates made it ‘painfully clear the virus remains a potent threat’ – 25,000 people are catching the disease every day and 413 are dying.
Moderna’s results show 95 out of more than 25,000 participants caught the coronavirus in the trial.
Only five out of the 95 had actually been given the vaccine, while the other 90 were in a placebo group and given a fake jab.
And nobody in the vaccine group got seriously ill with Covid-19, compared to 11 in the placebo group, who were given a fake vaccine to compare against the real one.
The results suggest the vaccine significantly reduces the risk of people testing positive for coronavirus or getting sick with Covid-19.
The US has already struck a $1.5billion (£1.16bn) deal for 100m doses, while the EU has an ‘unsigned’ deal for 160m doses.
Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Qatar and Israel have all also secured deals, while the company continues ‘discussions with a number of countries’.
Moderna is expected to manufacture 20m doses this year for the US before beginning global delivery next year.
The jab is expected to cost $15.25 (£11.57) per dose, so $30.50 (£23.14) per person, which is slightly cheaper than the $19.50 (£14.79) per dose charged to the US by Pfizer.
Moderna’s may be cheaper to distribute, however, because it can be kept in a fridge for up to a month and transported in normal freezers at -20°C (-4°F). Nations will not need to buy expensive specialist freezers or the global supply of dry ice, which experts warned would be a drawback of Pfizer’s jab which must be kept at -70°C (-94°F).
Moderna said it will apply for a licence from the US Food & Drug Administration within weeks, but it is unclear whether it will apply to the UK.
British drug regulator, the MHRA, is in the midst of an ongoing review of the vaccine. MPs today criticised No10 for failing to buy the vaccine, accusing ministers of ‘mistake after mistake after mistake’.
Moderna has become the second high-profile company to confirm interim results of a clinical trial of its coronavirus vaccine, claiming that the jab is nearly 95 per cent effective
Moderna has become only the second pharmaceutical company (pictured left, a scientist in the firm’s lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts) to reveal interim results of a trial of its coronavirus vaccine, following a joint venture between Pfizer and BioNTech last week
Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland’s lockdown could get even TOUGHER to save Christmas
Nicola Sturgeon warned Scotland’s coronavirus hot-spots they face being plunged into the tightest possible lockdown as she tries to rescue Christmas.
The First Minister said that some areas where cases remain ‘stubbornly high’ could be placed in Level 4 when a decision is made tomorrow, which would see all non-essential shops and services closed.
In her daily televised press conference, she said such a move would be a short, sharp hit to get cases decreasing. It would bring parts of Scotland more in to line with the lockdown currently underway in England.
‘Stubbornly high prevalence means that we might have less flexibility to offer some limited and careful easing of restrictions over the Christmas period which we are very keen to do,’ she said.
‘Moving to Level 4 restrictions for a limited period in some areas, while not a decision we would ever take lightly because of the wider economic and social impact, would help us to address both of these concerns.’
The First Minister said her Cabinet will make decisions tomorrow morning about any changes, before she makes a statement at Holyrood in the afternoon.
Ms Sturgeon said officials are considering whether current restrictions are reducing coronavirus rates quickly enough in some areas, ‘particularly in parts of the west of Scotland that have a stable but still stubbornly high prevalence of the virus’.
She spoke about the issue as she revealed Scotland has recorded six deaths from coronavirus and 717 positive cases in the past 24 hours.
The First Minister told the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Monday the stubbornly high rates are causing concern as it means there is not the required level of assurance that regional hospital and intensive care services can cope as winter progresses.
She said it is her ‘objective and intention’ to ensure schools remain open, adding: ‘We don’t take lightly issues of school safety.’
The First Minister said she has asked adults to bear more of the restrictions to ensure schools are able to remain open for face-to-face teaching.
She added: ‘Young people have had months out of school already this year and if we can at all avoid it we want to ensure that they don’t have further time out of normal full-time schooling.’
Ms Sturgeon also revealed one local authority will have reduced restrictions in Tuesday’s announcement.
Ms Sturgeon urged people to adhere to local measures, saying: ‘Every time we stop someone, especially someone who is older and more vulnerable, then we give them a chance of living into the era – which is firmly on the horizon – where better therapies, vaccines, testing and treatments will be available.
‘I think that motivation as we are living under these restrictions right now is important to bear in mind.
‘The end is not quite with us but we can see hope on the horizon now that we couldn’t see just a few weeks ago.’
Giving a further update on the daily coronavirus figures, she said the number of positive cases in the past 24 hours is lower than expected and is being examined.
The daily test positivity rate is 8.3 per cent, up from 7.2 per cent on Sunday, and of the new cases, 220 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 136 in Lanarkshire, and 101 in Lothian.
There are 1,227 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, a fall of 14 in 24 hours.
Of these patients, 98 are in intensive care, down by two.
The death toll of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days is now 3,286.
The company’s share price surged by 15 per cent on the news, rising to $101.53 (£77.04) by 8am ET (1pm GMT) in pre-market trading, after an initial rise when the US’s infectious disease director Anthony Fauci pre-empted today’s results last week.
Moderna’s study will continue until 151 people have been infected, and the company admitted the estimate of how effective the jab is might change by the end.
Scientists today hailed the news as ‘tremendously exciting’ and ‘a second dose of very encouraging news’, and it comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said the UK is gearing up to start giving out Pfizer’s vaccine from December 1.
But, in a bid to temper expectations, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there was still ‘a long road to travel’ in the global pandemic.
It warned the virus will still have ‘lots of room to move’ because on the very vulnerable will get access to a jab, with the majority of people waiting until well into next year to get one.
Virologist at the University of Reading, Professor Ian Jones, told MailOnline: ‘Yet another set of vaccine data with 90 per cent plus protection.
‘The poor antibody response seen in some natural Covid infections clearly does not apply to purposeful vaccination, which in turn means we can be confident about pushing the pandemic back as and when vaccine rollout occurs.
‘For the Moderna vaccine the logistics of the process may also be helped by their stability data which shows a less strict cold chain requirement than some. With three trials having been reported and no major safety issues identified, the vaccination program can now focus on deployment and access to vaccines for all who need them.’
And Dr Andrew Preston, a biologist at the University of Bath, told MailOnline: ‘That two vaccines, based on this new vaccine platform [mRNA vaccine] give such similar, high levels of protection gives real confidence that the vaccines work.
‘Like the Pfizer trial, a vast majority of the cases of Covid recorded occurred in people who had received the placebo vaccine, demonstrating the ability of the Covid vaccine to protect against disease.
‘The trial included people in the most vulnerable categories (older age and certain co-morbidities [illnesses]).
‘Although this important inclusion is emphasised in the press release, a detailed explanation of whether the trial data can specify the level of protection for each of these key subgroups is lacking.
‘So, while the headline figure of overall protection is extremely encouraging, some important questions remain to be answered.’
He added the fact that fact the vaccine does not need to be kept in ultra-cold temperatures like Pfizer’s, so would be easy to store, was ‘a second dose of very encouraging news’.
Dr Preston said it was not necessarily a failure of the Government not to order the jab because it works the same way as Pfizer’s, so if one of them failed the other was likely to. The UK bought 40million of Pfizer’s vaccine.
He said: ‘The mRNA vaccine is a new platform. The Covid vaccines will be the first licensed use of a mRNA vaccine.
‘As such, it could have been viewed as the most risky of all of the vaccines.
‘So investing in mRNA vaccines at the expense of a more traditional vaccine would have been viewed as high risk.’
Dr Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, added: ‘We’ve got six vaccines that we’ve bought in the millions of doses of, so we’ll have plenty of the Pfizer jab and Oxford’s, assuming that also works.’
A Government spokesperson said this afternoon: ‘The news from Moderna appears to be good and represents another significant step towards finding an effective Covid-19 vaccine.
‘As part of the ongoing work of the Vaccines Taskforce, the Government is in advanced discussions with Moderna to ensure UK access to their vaccine as part of the wider UK portfolio.
‘Moderna are currently scaling up their European supply chain which means these doses would become available in spring 2021 in the UK at the earliest.
‘To date, the UK government has secured early access to 350million vaccines doses through agreements with six separate vaccine developers.
This includes 40m doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which is based on the same platform as Moderna’s vaccine and if approved by the medicines regulator, is expected to begin delivery as early as December 2020.’