Monday 1 March 2021

UK COVID Briefing 1st March 2021 with Matt Hancock

UK Briefing 1st March 2021 with Matt Hancock

(Remember it is Monday, so some figures are artificially a little low because of weekend reporting.)

Cases: 4,182,009 (+5,455)

Losses of Life: 122,953 (+104)

In Hospital: 14,808

Using a Ventilator: 1,971

Vaccinated 1st Dose: 20,275,451

Vaccinated Fully: 815,816

Matt Hancock did indeed lead a COVID briefing today, with the unusual supporting combo of Prof Jon Van Tam, Deputy CMO for England, and Susan Hopkins of Public Health England.

URGENT need to find person with SA Variant UK Feb 2021

Matt led with yesterday's exciting news that the NHS has now vaccinated over 20m people across the UK, including 17m in England alone. It is super impressive - not far off world-beating. Well done to all nations for such a fantastic achievement.
Matt 'pays tribute' to all of the teams involved across the whole of the UK. "Insight and hard work." He used the phrase entrepreneurial something, I forget. He thanked Business.

94% of those eligible (according to a recent survey) say they have had, or will have, the jab. All of Matt's friends keep sending him photos of themselves having their vaccination apparently. That's nice.


Matt says the data shows vaccination is working - in hospitalisations and deaths, the age groups vaccinated first have the quickest drops, and it's making the drops far, far faster than the first peak. Real world effects. 

010321 UK GOv  briefing mortality dropping quickest in people over 80

Matt says today's exciting new data shows that 'A single shot of either the Pfizer or Oxford jabs will offer "more than 80% reduction in hospitalisations" in people over 80.'
"The number of COVID admissions of people over 80 in the UK have dropped to single figures in the last couple of weeks."
That really is the very best we could have hoped for. 

The over 60's are now being invited for vaccination. All UK adults will be offered at least 1 dose by the end of July.

In Wednesday's Budget Rishi will announce £1.6b for vaccines - including developing vaccines for new variants. 

010321 UK GOv  briefing chart showing mortality over and under 80

Matt reminds us about the 6 cases of Brazilian Variant discovered in the UK over the past few days. 5 people self-isolated at home and hopefully didn't pass it to anyone else, but 1 is missing. 
If you took a test on 12th /13th and didn't complete your information card, or didn't get your results, please call 119 in England / 03003032713 in Scotland. 

Susan talks about the P1 Brazilian / Manaus Variant. She says they're being tracked because of mutations E484K (pesky! antibody resistant) and N501Y (the mutation that makes the UK and South African variants more catchy/deadly). Current vaccines have not yet been studied against this variant (but it's anticipated they won't be as effective - we'll be darned lucky if they are). 

What happens next is genuinely impressive contact tracing (the following is what countries like New Zealand, China, Singapore, South Korea have being doing since the beginning).
Susan described the movements of the people known to have the Brazilian P1 Variant in the UK.
- Cases 1-3 travelled together from Brazil (via Paris and London, to Scotland).
- Cases 4 and 5 live together in South Gloucester, and 1 person recently returned from Brazil, then self-isolated at home and has passed it to at least 1 household member. Additional surge testing is being carried out in South Gloucester as a precautionary measure.

Passengers who travelled on the same flight as case 4 are being contacted where possible. If you were on Swissair LX318 from Zurich to London on 10th February and have not yet been contacted, please call 0117 450 3174 to arrange tests for you and your household.

- Case 6 did NOT complete their registration, and has not yet been traced. PHE believe this person took the test on 12th / 13th February and possibly returned the test in the post without registering it online, or forgot to put the card in the plastic bag. It could have been door-to-door surge testing. Please call 119 in England or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland as soon as possible if it could be you. You'll know if you didn't receive your COVID test result. 

010321 UK GOv  briefing chart showing number of people  hospitalised over time

Jon Van Tam talked about the' vaccine effectiveness report' published just now. He says it's taken a while for everything to stabilise enough to be certain about data, and thanks his colleagues.
Outcome after 1 dose of vaccine in people aged 70+ in the UK:
- Infections (people with symptoms who request a test) - both vaccines efficacy at preventing illness approximately 60% at 28-34 days after vaccination.
The Pfizer remains steady 35 days+, the Oxford / AZ seems to become more effective over time, possibly up to 70%, but it's less certain.
- Hospitalisations (people admitted) - both vaccines efficacy 80%.
- Mortality - the Pfizer vaccine has reduced mortality in people aged 70+ by 85%. It's too early for certain data on the Oxford / AstraZeneca.
That is a HUGE difference. Nice figures.

We are reminded to book and get our jab when we are called, and that the first of the people getting 2nd doses are being notified now.

Public asked why we don't have specific thresholds to reach to remove restrictions - Matt says some of our measures can't be quantified by numbers e.g. a new variant of concern.

Press asked if we are likely to have lots more P1 cases within the community. Susan says it's unlikely - all 5 known cases behaved exactly as they should, and we haven't yet found any other associated cases. The 6th case may also have behaved impeccably, as we have sequenced 160,000 cases in 2021 and only found these 6. We are sequencing around 30% of cases in total.
Matt says this shows why it's critical to follow the rules - it really does. 

010321 UK GOv  briefing testing positive percent

Press asked about P1 cases being found in other countries, but we haven't added them to the 'Red List'. She's misunderstanding a bit. In the UK almost all of our cases are UK variant B117. In Manaus, Brazil, almost all cases are P1. Just because a handful of cases are found in England, or Japan, for example, doesn't mean they're rife with it.

Matt reminds us that vaccines are still very effective against all known variants - including P1 (which you're really super unlikely to catch in the UK unless you happen to live with Case 6).

I have no idea what press asked, but Jon talked about some countries choosing not to use the Oxford vaccine in older people - this was based on the fact we simply didn't have the data at first (only 1 older person in the trial actually caught COVID). We now clearly DO have the data - as does Israel (Matt reminds us).

Press asked about 'double-masking', which the CDC have recommended - they're mainly referring to a medical mask under a vanity cloth face mask. Susan says we recommend a 3 layer mask, but 2 layers is enough. Here's what it says on the Gov dot uk website:
A face covering should:
- cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably
- fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face
- be secured to the head with ties or ear loops
- be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton
- ideally include at least 2 layers of fabric (the World Health Organization recommends 3, depending on the fabric used)
- unless disposable, it should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged

010321 UK GOv  briefing chart showing number of people vaccinated

Jon Van Tam reminds us again that getting your second dose of vaccine is expected to make your immunity last far longer, and should also increase efficacy overall.

Press asked about 'Green Cards/Passports' for international travel. Matt says there are discussions, we need to get it right, and reminds her some people cannot be vaccinated, so alternative options will be needed.

Susan explains that in every step of reopening, we expose people to new people, so cases will naturally go up initially, and that needs to be monitored. Taking it slowly allows us to do that monitoring and see the effect, and react accordingly.
Jon Van Tam reminds us - we want this to be it. Once, done. Not back and forth.
Yes we do....

Good news - mostly. One day it'll ALL be good news.

Back tomorrow with the regular report...


To find the nearest centre offering Lateral Flow Kits -

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