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Dame Sarah Gilbert: Next pandemic could be more lethal than Covid
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has said there is confirmed “community transmission” of the omicron variant across the UK.
The announcement means cases are being detected in people who have not travelled to southern Africa.
Mr Javid told MPs on Monday that “multiple regions of England” were seeing cases of the variant that were not linked to international travel.
It comes as more than 51,000 new Covid cases were recorded in the UK in the last 24 hours as official data showed another rise in omicron cases.
The latest figures revealed a further 51,459 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK, with 90 new omicron infections.
The official data also showed that there were a further 41 people who had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19. The figures tend to be lower on a Monday due to a lag in reporting data over the weekend.
WHO advises against blood plasma treatment
The World Health Organisation has advised against using the blood plasma of patients who have recovered from Covid-19 to treat those who are ill, saying current evidence shows it neither improves survival nor reduces the need for ventilators.
The hypothesis for using plasma is that the antibodies it contains could neutralise the virus, stopping it from replicating and halting tissue damage.
Several studies testing convalescent blood plasma have shown no apparent benefit for treating Covid-19 patients who are severely ill.
A US-based trial was halted in March after it was found that plasma was unlikely to help mild-to-moderate Covid-19 patients.
The method is also costly and time-consuming to administer, the WHO said in a statement on Monday.
Tom Batchelor6 December 2021 23: 49
Mixing vaccines works against Covid, finds study
A first dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine followed by a second dose of the Moderna or Novavax jabs generates strong immune responses against Covid, say researchers.
According to the study, participants who received a first dose of the Oxford or Pfizer jab generated a robust immune response when given a second dose of vaccines manufactured by Novavax or Moderna nine weeks later.
No safety concerns were raised in this study of 1,070 participants, the University of Oxford-led Com-COV study found.
Researchers say the study supports the flexible use of these vaccines in primary immunisation schedules, which is crucial to help their rapid deployment especially in low-and middle-income countries where vaccine supply may be inconsistent.
Matthew Snape, associate professor in paediatrics and vaccinology at the University of Oxford, and chief investigator on the trial, said: “Thanks to studies such as these, we are now getting a more complete picture of how different Covid-19 vaccines can be used together in the same vaccine schedule.
“Encouragingly, all these schedules generated antibody concentrations above that of the licensed and effective two-dose Oxford/AstraZeneca schedule.
“When it comes to cellular immunity, having a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine followed by any of the other study vaccines generates a particularly robust response.”
Tom Batchelor6 December 2021 23: 36
Brazil reports 4,385 cases, 108 deaths
Brazil has had 4,385 new Covid cases reported in the past 24 hours, and 108 deaths from Covid-19, the health ministry said on Monday.
The South American country has now registered 22,147,476 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 615,744, according to ministry data, in the world’s third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest.
With 65 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, the rolling 14-day average of Covid deaths has fallen to 211 per day, compared to the toll of almost 3,000 a day at the peak of the pandemic in April.
Tom Batchelor6 December 2021 23: 13
Omicron ‘spreading extraordinarily fast’
“The virus is spreading extraordinarily fast, very rapidly,” explained Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute.
“If you look at the slopes of this wave that we’re in at the moment, it’s a much steeper slope than the first three waves that South Africa experienced.
“This indicates that it’s spreading fast and it may therefore be a very transmissible virus, which is what is being predicted.”
Tom Batchelor6 December 2021 22: 46
New contract rules unveiled by government after fury over Covid ‘VIP lane’ scandal
Boris Johnson’s government has unveiled a series of changes to public procurement rules in a bid to avoid a repeat of the controversy over a “VIP lane” set up for Covid contracts.
Ministers have faced accusations of cronyism after it emerged that some firms were given access to a high priority lane for lucrative personal protective equipment (PPE) deals during the pandemic.
The government is now planning to tighten the rules so emergency public contracts can no longer be given without competition.
Here is the story:
Tom Batchelor6 December 2021 22: 24
Theresa May warns govt against ‘stopping and starting economy’
Former prime minister Theresa May has warned the government against responding to new variants by “stopping and starting sectors of our economy”.
Ms May was joined in the House of Commons by other senior Conservatives on the backbenches who questioned the government’s response to the omicron variant – particularly when it comes to travel restrictions.
But the former PM said: “The early indications of omicron are that it is more transmissible but potentially leads to less serious illness than other variants.
“I understand that would be the normal progress of a virus. Variants will continue to appear year after year.
“When is the government going to accept that learning to live with Covid, which we will all have to do, means we will almost certainly have an annual vaccine and that we cannot respond to new variants by stopping and starting sectors of our economy which leads to businesses going under and jobs being lost?”
Tom Batchelor6 December 2021 22: 04
US advises against travel to France and Portugal
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised Americans against travel to France, Portugal, Jordan and Tanzania, over Covid concerns.
The CDC now lists 83 destinations at “Level 4: Very High” classification and also on Monday added Andorra, Cyprus and Liechtenstein to the highest travel advisory level.
The United States imposed new rules from Monday requiring international air travelers to obtain a negative test within one day of travel.
Under the prior rules, vaccinated international air travelers could present a negative test result obtained within three days of their day of departure.
Tom Batchelor6 December 2021 21: 41
German scientists complain about tabloid coverage of pandemic
A group representing Germany’s main scientific groups has accused the country’s biggest-selling newspaper of contributing to public hostility against scientists during the pandemic, reports Reuters.
In a statement on Monday, the Alliance of Scientific Organisation criticised a recent report by the Bild tabloid for singling out three researchers who had called for tougher restrictions to reduce Covid-19 infections in Germany.
The paper published pictures of the three scientists Saturday with the headline: “Trio of experts give us frustration for the holidays.”
It came days after German officials agreed to tighten existing restrictions, particularly for unvaccinated people, amid a surge of new cases.
The alliance said making it seem like the three researchers personally were responsible for unpopular measures could “easily contribute to a climate of opinion that has elsewhere already led to scientists being subjected to or threatened with physical or psychological violence”.
Tom Batchelor6 December 2021 21: 20
Covid disruption leads to additional 69,000 malaria deaths – WHO
Disruption to healthcare linked to the pandemic contributed to an additional 69,000 deaths from malaria in 2020 compared to the previous year, but a worst-case scenario was averted, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.
In total over 627,000 people globally – most of them babies in the poorest parts of Africa – were killed by malaria last year compared with 558,000 in 2019, the WHO said in its annual malaria report.
The number eclipses the 224,000 people reported to have died from the coronavirus in Africa since the start of the pandemic.
About two thirds of the additional malaria deaths in 2020 were due to Covid restrictions disrupting prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria, the WHO said.
Tom Batchelor6 December 2021 21: 05
South African cruise crew member among 17 Covid cases
A South African crew member suspected of having the omicron variant is among 17 Covid cases detected on a cruise ship that disembarked in New Orleans over the weekend, the cruise line said on Monday.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd said the crew member on the Norwegian Breakaway vessel was in isolation for the entirety of the cruise that departed New Orleans on 28 November carrying more than 3,200 individuals and made stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico.
Louisiana health officials said all passengers were tested for Covid-19 before leaving the ship, and those who tested positive would either travel to their residence in a personal vehicle or self-isolate in accommodations provided by Norwegian Cruise Line.
Tom Batchelor6 December 2021 20: 50
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