Displaying items by tag: coronavirus
Deaths in the UK have fallen below the five-year average for the first time since the summer. Experts say it means the winter wave of Covid deaths has ended, and lockdown and the vaccine rollout have saved lives. Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London said, ‘The new data on deaths are encouraging in suggesting the second devastating wave of the pandemic is behind us. But calling epidemics 'waves' can be misleading in implying a phenomenon which has reached a natural end - that is not the case here. The rapid decline in deaths we have thankfully seen is entirely because of the lockdown and the rapid rollout of vaccines. So, while I'm optimistic that this means we will be able to return to something more like normal in the next few months, we need to remain vigilant and cautious - particularly given the threat still posed by new variants of the virus.’
A battle between the EU and UK reveals the ugly truth about vaccine nationalism that is appearing across the globe. The UN General Assembly showed unity as global deaths approached a million last year. They said, ‘When a vaccine is developed, the world's most vulnerable should be first in line.’ The vaccines are here and solidarity between the nations has disappeared entirely. The EU has secured enough doses to cover its population three times. Canada has purchased enough to cover a population four times its size. The UK has agreements with vaccine suppliers, and did not expect the EU to disrupt the fulfillment of these contracts. However, the EU almost invoked a Brexit deal clause to prevent the UK from receiving vaccines from Europe. While stocks are limited governments will put their own populations first. Pray for pharmaceutical companies to share their ‘know how’ with poor countries to enable them to produce their own vaccinations.
Evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews in Washington have united to offer their sacred spaces for vaccine distribution to assist government and private companies to combat the pandemic. Walter Kim, of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Rabbi Moshe Hauer, of the Orthodox Union, stated, ‘Anyone in need of vaccination, whether or not they are members of our congregations or of our neighborhoods, is welcome.’ They offered to help with coordinating appointments and providing the medically trained volunteers to administer the shots, as well as spreading awareness to our communities about the importance of vaccination. Hauer said that everything about his faith compels him to contribute to the historic vaccination effort. His tradition teaches that not only is life the greatest gift from God, but it is an obligation to care for the well-being of others.
Michael Gove said that vaccines paid for must be delivered, with no ‘interruption’ in immunisation because of an argument between AstraZeneca (AZ) and the EU. The row erupted after the pharmaceutical giant warned the EU that it would experience a shortfall of up to 60% in the promised delivery of 100 million doses this quarter. AZ blamed its troubles on technical issues at its Belgium plant, the main production facility for Europe - and delay in ordering by the EU. The EU says it has legal right to jabs from AZ's two UK plants, as AZ must stick to its contractual obligations. The company claims its agreement includes a ‘best effort’ clause that makes its delivery goals an estimate rather than a rock-solid commitment. See also the Europe article ‘Vaccination supply chain’.
The dispute between the EU and AstraZeneca continues. The EU ‘wants clarity on the vaccine delivery schedule’, and requested a clear plan for fast delivery of their reserved vaccines. AstraZeneca explained the complexities of scaling up production of the vaccine. It is striving to bring this vaccine to millions of Europeans at no profit during the pandemic, but there were production issues at factories on the continent and problems with Europe’s supply chain. It is providing as many doses as possible. The EU said this is a breach of contract, and that the company should send vials from other production facilities - like those in the UK - to match previously made commitments. The UK said vaccine supplies would not be interrupted: see
On 23 January, riots began in many Dutch towns and cities against a night-time curfew to slow the spread of Covid. Protesters burned down a Covid testing station, burned vehicles, threw knives at police, looted businesses, threw fireworks, dynamite, gasoline, and bricks. The police detained hundreds. By 27 January conspiracy theorists and far-right sympathisers were sending invitations to join the protests, using every type of social media. The invitations were alarming and very aggressive. The country had begun tough lockdown measures in October, and by December schools and non-essential shops were shut down. The decision to restrict people further came in the middle of a political crisis after prime minister Mark Rutte resigned over a corruption scandal involving child tax benefits. His cabinet will continue to govern until the 17 March elections, which have now taken on a greater significance.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has criticised Canada for massively over-ordering supplies of the coronavirus vaccine, hindering the rollout of jabs to the world’s poorest nations. He said the North American country had in the pipeline more than five times what it needed for the size of its population. The archbishop highlighted surplus stocks as one of the main obstacles to a global vaccination campaign, along with misinformation and logistical challenges. His comments came after the head of the United Nations urged the world to act with far greater solidarity to ensure vaccines are available and affordable in all countries. Meanwhile, Oxfam claims that ‘the increase in wealth of the world’s top ten billionaires during the pandemic is more than enough both to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for everyone on the planet and to reverse the rise in poverty caused by coronavirus’. See
The home secretary has said the government will not announce new Covid restrictions before the weekend, but did not rule out further measures being put forward next week. It is thought ministers are considering requiring masks to be worn outside or allowing people to exercise only with people from the same household. Mrs Patel emphasised the current stay-at-home rules, under which people are only allowed to go out for a limited number of reasons, including work, essential shopping and providing care to a vulnerable person. Asked whether further restrictions could include a three-metre social distancing rule, or the requirement to wear masks outside, the home secretary said, ‘The plans are very much to enforce the rules. This isn't about new rules coming in - we're going to stick with enforcing the current measures.’ But she did not rule out new measures being announced next week and would move more quickly to fine people who break the rules.
There are concerns some schools in lockdown could be inundated with pupils without laptops after a change to the vulnerable pupil list. Pupils are learning remotely in England after schools shut to all but children of key workers and the vulnerable. But those without laptops or space to study are now eligible to attend school, under government guidance. National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Paul Whiteman said demand for key worker and vulnerable places in schools had risen substantially since the last school shutdown. ‘We have concern that the Government has not supplied enough laptops for all the children without them, and so has made lack of internet access a criterion of vulnerability - adding to the numbers still in school.’
Belfast’s Nightingale hospital will be expanded to increase the number of intensive care beds from 24 to 32. Currently 20 Covid-19 patients are receiving intensive care at the facility and four beds are available. The Nightingale will deal with patient surges due to rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in the coming weeks. There are 126 nurses providing round-the-clock one-to-one nursing cover for all 24 beds. The BBC also revealed plans to increase the number of ward beds from 21 to 36. All six NI main hospitals are operating at full capacity or beyond. There is an expected peak during the last two weeks of January.