London may face tier three restrictions soon to combat surging coronavirus cases
Cases in London continue to rise, making it increasingly likely that the city will be put under tier three coronavirus rules. “We know that as cases go up, hospitalisations and deaths follow. The current trajectory is a worrying one,” Public Health England (PHE) London director, Kevin Fenton, told the Evening Standard. The seven-day average across England is 153 cases per 100,000 people. London now has a case rate of 191.2 per 100,000, with 22 of the 32 boroughs above the national average. Four boroughs in the north east – Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest and Redbridge – have case rates above 300 per 100,000. Last week Fenton warned Londoners: “If we want to avoid being placed in tier three, it is vital we keep transmission down.” And after a meeting of London MPs with health minister Helen Whately on Thursday, one MP told Sky News: “It was a very clear preparation for tier three. I think the decision is pretty much made.” The UK government is expected to review the tier allocation for London, as well as for all other regions in England, on 16 December.
Across the UK as a whole, the R number has increased slightly to between 0.9 to 1.0 in the most recent official estimate, from between 0.8 and 1.0 in the previous week’s estimate. The R number estimate for London is slightly higher than that for the UK as a whole, at between 0.9 and 1.1. These estimates are most likely to represent the situation two or three weeks ago due to a time lag in the data used to model the R. The latest UK government figures indicate the number of new infections across the country is shrinking by between 0 and 2 per cent each day.
Other coronavirus news
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to grant emergency use authorisation for the coronavirus vaccine developed by US company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. A panel of independent experts recommended its use yesterday, saying that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks in people aged 16 and over. The panel spent a day discussing data from trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, and voted 17-4 in favour of the authorisation, with one abstention. A final decision from the FDA could come in the “next couple of days”, Marion Gruber, director of the FDA’s research office, told the Financial Times. The vaccine has already been authorised for use in the UK, Bahrain, Canada and Saudi Arabia.
A coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by UK company GlaxoSmithKline and its French partner Sanofi has been delayed until late 2021, after interim analysis of results from a phase I/II trial showed that it did not produce a sufficiently strong immune response in people aged 50 and older.
Australia halted trials of a vaccine being developed by Australian company CSL in partnership with the University of Queensland after some trial participants received false positive HIV test results.
Daily covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths reached new records in the US on Wednesday
More than 3000 people died in a single day from coronavirus for the first time in the US, and new records were set for cases and hospitalisations as some US states set up field hospitals to treat people. Across the country on Wednesday, there were 221,276 new cases identified, 106,000 people hospitalised with covid-19 and 3124 people who died from the disease. California, Texas and Rhode Island are setting up field hospitals in preparation for a potential overflow of coronavirus patients as intensive care units continue to fill. Two weeks ago, US health adviser Anthony Fauci urged people to follow covid-19 guidelines during Thanksgiving. The holiday still saw more than a million people passing through airports in the US, and a few days later, Fauci said the country could expect to see “surge upon surge” of cases as people returned home.
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Canada’s health regulator approved the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Wednesday. It is expected that the first people will be vaccinated next week. Canada is the third country to authorise the vaccine after the UK and Bahrain. Today a panel of independent experts is meeting to consider whether the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should authorise the jab for emergency use. In a report to the panel published online on Tuesday, the FDA endorsed the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.
Complete results from phase III trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were published in the New England Journal of Medicine today. The paper confirmed findings announced earlier by the two companies that the vaccine had a similar rate of efficacy across all groups of age, sex, race, ethnicity, weight and underlying chronic conditions, and concluded that the safety profile over an average of two months after vaccination was similar to that of other viral vaccines. It also mentioned one case of severe covid-19 in the vaccinated group, compared to nine in the placebo group.
London had the highest coronavirus infection rate in England in the week up to 6 December, according to Public Health England, increasing the chance the city will be moved into tier three – the highest level of coronavirus restrictions – in the coming days. London’s case rate per 100,000 people was 191.8 in the seven days up to 6 December, higher than other regions currently under tier three rules, such as the West Midlands where the case rate was 158.4 per 100,000 people during the same period.
Coronavirus cases are rising in Japan. Tokyo reported a record 602 new cases on Thursday, out of 2078 daily new cases across the country. Japan announced plans to buy 10,500 deep freezers to store coronavirus vaccines when they arrive.
UK regulator says people with history of significant allergic reactions shouldn’t get Pfizer vaccine
People with a history of significant allergic reactions should not receive the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, which is being rolled out in the UK this week, according to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The advice was released after two healthcare workers experienced allergic reactions shortly after receiving their first doses of the vaccine yesterday. Both individuals have a history of serious allergies and they have since had treatment and recovered. “The prompt reporting of these events […] and the rapid issuing of additional information to guide practice shows that the safety monitoring system is working well,” said Penny Ward at King’s College London in a statement. “As these two events occurred in people with a history of severe allergy, it is sensible of the MHRA to draw attention to these reports and to suggest that individuals with a history of severe allergy not receive the vaccine at this time,” said Ward.
Other coronavirus news
The UK government is under pressure to impose tighter coronavirus restrictions in London. “The latest data shows case rates are on the increase again in most London boroughs, including in the at-risk over 60s,” Kevin Fenton, London regional director for Public Health England (PHE), told the Guardian. The city is currently under tier two restrictions but the prevalence of infection is rising: London had a case rate of 170 cases per 100,000 people in the week up to 2 December, according to PHE figures, up from 156 per 100,000 the previous week. John Asht
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