Wednesday 28 April 2021

COVID UK Briefing 28th April 2021 with Matt Hancock

COVID UK Briefing 28th April 2021 with Matt Hancock

Cases: 4,411,797 (+2,166)
Losses of life: 127,480 (+29)
In hospital: 1,634
Using a ventilator: 227

A couple of important points have come out today:

Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP Leader Arlene Foster is going to step down.

The Electoral Commission are going to investigate Boris' £200,000 Downing Street flat refurbishment.

The EU have approved the Brexit trade deal.
(Ahhhh. Now it makes sense. "Stooge, your work here is done. Move aside...." [you know I'm right].)

Transport Minister Grant Shapps confirmed earlier today on Sky telly that the UK will use an app. as an International COVID Passport.
"In terms of vaccine certification, I can confirm we are working on an NHS application, actually it will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS and so on, to be able to show you've had a vaccine, or you've had testing."
(I'm presuming there will also be a paper version for people who do not use a smartphone. Hold onto your NHS COVID vaccination card.)

COVID UK Briefing slide showing results of household transmissibility study in 2 large circles

New data from Public Health England shows that after your first vaccination, if you do catch COVID, you are far less likely to pass it to your own unvaccinated household members. That's fabulous news - especially long term for anyone living with someone who can't be vaccinated.
4 weeks after one dose of either vaccine, if you catch COVID, your risk of developing any symptoms is reduced by about 60 to 65%. For 2/3 people their body recognises the virus instantly and fights it off immediately, before they even get a sniffle. More importantly, hopefully before it begins reproducing and they start breathing out viral particles into the air.
Public Health England looked at household transmission and compared it to vaccinations, and found that:
"...those who do become infected 3 weeks after receiving one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine were between 38% and 49% less likely to pass the virus on to their household contacts than those who were unvaccinated."
"Protection was seen from around 14 days after vaccination, with similar levels of protection regardless of age of cases or contacts."
Your own household are the people you are most likely to infect (it's almost unavoidable), so this is excellent news. Figures in workplaces and public spaces should hopefully be even better. 

280421 UK COVID Briefing slides new confirmed cases sept 2020 to date

Today's briefing was not with Boris "everyone is picking on my Indian restaurant decor" Johnson. Instead Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, led the proceedings, accompanied by the UK's Deputy Chief Medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam (not seen him in ages!) and Nikki Kanani of NHS England/Test & Trace.

Matt started by talking about India, and the horrific scenes which we are witnessing. He explained the UK have already sent ventilators and oxygen concentrators. He is sending more help this week, and is working with Northern Ireland to send some super smart oxygen generators.
"This is a global fight."
He says the situation in India is a stark reminder that this isn't over yet. It shows how important it is that we are vigilant here at home. 

The vaccination is proving a success. He talks about today's household transmission data. With the reduction in symptomatic cases AND the reduction in passing on COVID, it's very encouraging in terms of the impact on transmission.
"In summary, we think that you get around 2/3 protection against catching the disease at all, around 4/5 reduction in your likelihood of ending up in hospital, and around 85% protection from dying of COVID. That's the protection you get from 1 dose. And in addition to all that. You're up to half as likely to pass it on to someone else that you live with. We expect the benefits to be even greater after 2 doses."
Matt shows an animated chart which shows 1st and 2nd vaccine doses. Over 95% of people over 50 have been vaccinated.
Anyone who is 42 or older can now come forward and get the jab. This includes Matt. He has already had his text and will be vaccinated tomorrow morning.
"Every vaccination gives us hope."

280421 UK COVID Briefing slides losses of life sept 2020 to date

Matt shows a chart with the percentage of people who have antibodies. It's almost at half in younger people, and 7 in 10 adults overall. (This chart wasn't in the slides sadly.)
He talks about booster shots trials and says we have secured another 60m doses of Pfizer - BioNTech vaccines to be used as booster shots later this year. (One each.)
"Join me and get the jab."

Jon Van Damme Tam with the slides. Nice tie! It's a lovely turquoise.
He shows the numbers of positive cases, and visibly we are as low as we were in September last year. He believes we are 'at or close to the bottom' - this is likely to be as low as it gets for a while.
The graph for hospitalisations is very similar - again he believes this is likely to be as low as it'll get.
Losses of life again is a very similar shaped graph. Hopefully this will continue to go down (to zero preferably).
He shows that the decline in cases etc began before the effects of vaccinations could have started. 
"Most of the steady decline we have seen, the disappearance of our 3rd wave, has been down to the efforts of the British people in following lockdown. Now, the vaccine has undoubtedly helped in the later stages, and there's good evidence that the death rate in the elderly has dropped faster than it has in the younger age groups. And it's dropped faster than it did in the 2nd wave, and that is undoubtedly a vaccine effect.
But what is really important about these vaccines, and about the vaccine rollout, it really is the way out of getting into trouble of the same size and magnitude ever again."
He talks about the PHE household study above. 

280421 UK COVID Briefing slides vaccinations 1st and 2nd doses

Nikki thanked lots of people who have done an especially great job at organising vaccinations.
More than 1/4 of people are now fully vaccinated. She went through some local numbers. 

Public asked when they can safely take their elderly relatives out. Matt says he hopes to have good news soon. There are risks and health consequences both ways. Jon Van Tam says we need to ensure these vaccines work as well in frail patients, and we need a little while longer to get full clarity. 

Public also asked about the future of the UK's fantastic scientists, researchers, biomedical etc. This is actually a legacy COVID will leave us forever. Research and development has come on decades. Yesterday AstraZeneca announced successful trials of a much more safe and effective Malaria treatment. COVID is one disease from many, and we have really shone at the labwork. Everyone who has participated in trials is thanked. Jon thanks every patient who signed up for a clinical trial while ill. The UK is generating data on treatments and vaccines for the whole world (discoveries like Dexamethasone have already saved tens of thousands of lives). 

First press question was about Boris, and she was shot down. Matt says he isn't answering and moves on.

Next press asked if the UK are considering sending India any vaccines. Matt says we don't have any excess doses right now, but we have given the Serum Institute India the Oxford vaccine recipe for free, and we are sending ventilators, oxygen production machines etc that we aren't using.

Next press question asked about relaxing rules on funerals, as it doesn't seem fair people can't mourn properly, and in 7 weeks they'll be able to pack into a nightclub.  Matt says data supports the steps we are taking, we aren't intending to go ahead of schedule.
Jon says 'we have some twists and turns ahead, and we are running on a dry line, so we don't want to hit a wet patch'. I think that means, 'shushhhh. It's going well. Don't change anything, don't break it'.
He explains we have set dates to match with 3 weeks after vaccination steps, and spread out to see true data and the effect it has.
He warns variant case numbers have grown. Not by much, but they aren't running away any time soon. We need to maintain caution. We still aren't entirely sure if each of the variants will be affected by vaccines massively differently, or if it'll be similar - and we certainly aren't going to allow lots of spread of variants in the UK so that we can find out. Instead it'll take time to gather data from enough cases to try and work it out.
Jon talks about booster jabs for some or all of us.
Matt: "We need to protect the progress we have made. Through a combination of the robust measures we have in place at the border and booster jabs later in the year."

270421 1 in 4 UK adults have had 2 doses of a vaccine edit

Press asked why we've bought more vaccines when we've already bought more than twice what we need. Why can't we give them to India? Matt explains they aren't in a freezer, they aren't made yet. India is making more vaccines than any other country right now - they're using them all.
He says this is ongoing. Our strategic goal is to reduce danger from COVID the same as we have flu, so that it doesn't usually affect our everyday lives.
Jon explains about 'mix and match' vaccines to hopefully offer better protection against a range of variants, and potential future variants. Trials will show which boosters or combinations work best. (This is data we'll be sharing with the world.)
He says a couple of bumps are likely (we are expecting one at the end of May/beginning of June). He thinks we may see more cases heading into this Winter.
Really the big takeaway is that everything is exactly on track or more promising than anticipated. It's just a bloody shame it couldn't happen worldwide overnight. 

Last press that the BBC were willing to show asked about the future inquiry into the COVID response. Matt says EVERYTHING should be covered. Nikki agrees. Jon says "not right now". He feels we're too busy with the vaccination process and need to focus right now on the success of this. Have some positivity in a world where it is hard to find. Enjoy that success, and if you are part of the huge teams of people who made it happen, (including the thousands of St John's Ambulance volunteers), Jon says he hopes you look in that mirror and are proud of the person you see. I do too. All of you. Thank you. 

Back tomorrow with the usual news.... 


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