Chance of England Covid restrictions ending on 21 June ‘looking good’ | Coronavirus

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The prospects for ending all coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England on 21 June are “looking good” as long as people are careful, said Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, while other scientists said the latest variant could spread widely even with high vaccination coverage and the public were urged to get second shots.

Harries was speaking as the government revealed that more than a million people had downloaded the NHS app, which now enables people to prove their vaccination status if they want to travel – suggesting many are hoping for a foreign holiday soon. More than 22.6 million people in the UK have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

Harries was upbeat on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, but said people still needed to take precautions for the time being, particularly as new variants of coronavirus continue to circulate.

Scientists are anxious about the low efficacy of one dose of the Covid vaccines against the so-called India variant, B.1.617.2. Late on Saturday evening, a paper from Public Health England revealed that vaccine efficacy after one dose drops from 50% against the Kent variant B.1.1.7 to 33% against the India variant.

“What is clear from this research is that the main thing we can do to reduce the spread of this variant is to ensure that we get our second dose of whatever vaccine we had for our first injection,” said Prof Paul Hunter from the University of East Anglia. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine increases efficacy to 88% and AstraZeneca’s to 60% – although that is expected to rise as more time elapses after the vaccination. Hunter said it was likely that booster doses would be needed in the autumn.

Harries said it was especially important for people in areas with higher numbers of infections of the new variant to carry on social distancing and testing.

“It’s looking good if people are continuing to observe all of the safety signals, so we should not stop doing what we’re doing, particularly in areas where we have that variant of concern, the B.1.617.2, in the north-west and around London,” she said.

“It’s really important that people continue to do ‘hands, face, space’ and work from home, have their jabs and go for tests as well. The cases of the B.1.617.2 variant are rising, they have risen very steeply and much of the media have reported a 160% rise in cases over the week period [to 20 May] but they seem to be slightly levelling at the moment.

“It’s still very early days. We all need to be very cautious and I think we all don’t want to go back to the sort of lockdowns that we’ve had … none of us want to return to that sort of restriction.”

The new popularity of the NHS app was a cause for celebration, the Department of Health suggested. The NHS app pre-existed the pandemic, having been launched in January 2019, and already allows people to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions. It is not the same as the Covid contact tracing app. For the last week, those who have it on their smartphone have also been able to display their vaccination status.

More than 1.3 million people have downloaded the app since 7 May, when the government’s intention to enable it to become an immunity passport was announced. The government says the update to the app has been “designed in line with World Health Organization interim guidance”. The assumption is that it will be acceptable to other countries where UK citizens may hope to travel this year.

People who do not have a smartphone or do not wish to download the app can also obtain a vaccination certificate by post, by contacting 119. The first 20,000 letters were delivered on Saturday, the Department of Health said.

The app has 4.8 million registered users, which is a very small proportion of users of the NHS. But Matt Hancock was happy people were also accessing the other functions of the app. Over four days last week, 11,483 people registered their willingness to become an organ donor on it – 10 times the number who registered in April. Nearly 90,000 prescriptions were ordered and more than 8,000 GP practice appointments booked.

“The strides in technology and innovation we’ve made throughout the pandemic are having real consequences beyond fighting this virus – they’re making treatment, diagnosis and care better for patients,” said the health secretary.

More than 60m doses of vaccine have been given in the UK, the Department of Health said. About 37.9 million people have had one dose (72%) and 22.6 million have had two doses (43%). The Department of Health said vaccines had saved more than 13,000 lives and prevented 39,100 hospitalisations in England by 9 May.

In areas where the India variant is dominant, people in the top nine priority groups are being urged to rebook, to get their second jabs eight weeks rather than 12 weeks after the first. Some are complaining of confusion, however, having been told they must cancel their existing appointment before they can rebook, with no guarantee of getting an earlier date. It is understood the service is being updated to try to iron out the problems.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Chance of England Covid restrictions ending on 21 June ‘looking good’ | Coronavirus

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