Monday 16 November 2020

UK COVID Briefing 16/11/20

UK COVID Briefing 16/11/20

Matt Hancock, the face of the UK COVID response led today's briefing in Boris' absence. Alongside were Prof Jon Van-Tam-Halen, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Dr Susan Hopkins, Medical Advisor to COVID-19 response

Boris is self-isolating because of close contact with someone who later tested positive (MP Lee Anderson). I'm not convinced we'll spot a difference, and nor is it very special, a hell of a lot of people are self-isolating. He is however kind of special in that he's already had COVID and recovered. Astoundingly, that's already over 6 months ago (how time flies), and we really aren't sure how much immunity he'll have left. Where your health is concerned, it's pretty much always best to err on the side of caution. 

Average cases are now at 25,329 per day (22,443 last week).
14,529 people are in hospital (13,025 last week).
On average we are currently losing an average of 413 people a day.

Care home testing pilot has started

Matt talks about Long COVID and the fact that it can affect anyone. Hundreds of thousands of people are already affected, with fatigue, muscle pain, neurological problems etc
Long COVID clinics are open already, and we're building more - there will be 40 in place by the end of the month. 
He apologises for missed or different events - e.g.Diwali. Thank you for following the guidelines and staying at home. 
We have the  "largest COVID testing capacity in Europe" and we are creating 2 new megalabs. They will add another 600,000 tests a day to our capacity, so testing in spring should be really slick. The megalabs will create 4000 jobs and form a permanent diagnostics industry. They'll be there in case of future pandemics, and can also help with other diagnostic care - e.g Cancer. 
From this weekend, Royal Mail will open some post boxes on Sundays to speed up testing.
Over the last week, 3m NHS staff have been tested, and a pilot has started for testing care home visitors. 
83 authorities have signed up for Lateral Flow rapid tests. 

The Janssen (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) vaccine candidate starts phase 3 clinical trials today - large scale human trials (they need volunteers). This is the UK's 3rd home-grown vaccine (we have options on 30m doses). 

Bigger vaccine news today is that US based Moderna have now released their interim results and say their vaccine is 94.5% effective. This is going to take some beating, and really fabulous.  
Today we have arranged 5m doses of the Moderna vaccine. They are expected to be available in the Spring as long as all of the safety data is good.  Safety Data on both Moderna and the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines is due within a couple of weeks. 

The lateral flow tests are pretty good, with less than 5 per 1,000 false positives. Susan says they're very accurate. No expansion on "very". Results are available within an hour or two. (It actually only takes about half an hour,  but they might want to take it away to a secret cupboard to add the reagent and send you off shopping for 2 hours to stop you making the place look untidy). 
Almost 100,000 people in Liverpool have been tested with Lateral Flow, and 700 asymptomatic cases were found. Nice. But bad. But good they were found. 
Lateral Flow are being used within the NHS and care homes. A negative test doesn't mean you are 'safe', it means you aren't shedding virus at that moment. Remember you might still already have caught COVID, but too recently for it to show up. 
There was a video on Lateral Flow tests, which was a bit confusing to be honest. Hopefully it made sense. 

Vaccines Update

Jon explains we need the vaccine safety data before we decide a final order for vaccines. Sometimes they're more effective with different groups etc. Some vaccines don't quite trigger the right response or 'wake up' the right bits in older people for example. The data we are waiting on will give us more information. 

Susan explains we need to wait another week before we should see cases in the UK dropping and the lockdown having an effect. Hospital admissions will slow around a week later. 

Matt says he has no regrets we didn't buy into Moderna's vaccine earlier. (We have 6 deals, we can't buy them all.) We have managed to snag 5m doses (2 doses per patient). Jon agrees. We bought into different types, availability,  timing. We did okay. We have committed to up to 350m doses if they all work. (355m now.) 
In Spring we didn't even know if the spike protein vaccines were going to work effectively, so seeing that they are so effective is brilliant news, but buying into all of those types of vaccines at the start would have been a very risky move. 
Press questions involved the fact the government is discussing the prospect of a 5 day quarantine, and then if you get a negative test 5 days after contact with someone who later tests positive, you're free. Day 5 seems to be the day that people have the highest viral shedding, so the easiest to get a positive result for most people  - as well as the day they develop any first symptoms. 
We're told Boris is self-isolating as per the regulations, as a good example. Presumably because we don't break the rules now Dominic Cummings Goings Gone...

Back with the normal update tomorrow! 


  1. I genuinely don't think the 5 day quarantine is a good idea. I tested negative on day 3 or possibly day 5 depending on if you take the positive test or when they think they were contagious. I didn't test positive until day 10 after the first positive or possibly day 12 if you go with when they go back with Trace and protect. x

    1. I think it's a very risky move. Although day 5 is the common average, it is just a common average - we know that it can regularly be 2 weeks between contact with an infectious person and symptoms appearing - that's why self-isolation for contacts went up from 10 days to 14. A negative test on Day 5 really is slim evidence.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I read every one and try my best to reply!