Coronavirus news – live: NHS app may not be ready to be ‘vaccine passport’ as green list expected Friday

‘Don’t book foreign summer holidays yet’, says Liz Truss

The NHS app may not be ready to be used for international travel when it resumes on 17 May, Number 10 has said.

Most of Europe and the US should move onto the UK’s “green list” next month, according to ministers.

The government is expected to announce a green list of destinations – from where arrivals into England will not have to quarantine as of 17 May – on Friday, and then review this list every three weeks.

While the public await the official list, the UK has amended its travel advice to show a list of low-risk nations ahead of the expected return to non-essential travel in mid-May.

Meanwhile, the UK government has said they have “no plans” to bring forward the earliest date for lifting Covid-19 restrictions from 21 June. 

This comes despite what Downing Street has called “hugely encouraging” data on coronavirus transmission.

Epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson however has said he feels “fairly optimistic” there will be a return to “something which feels a lot more normal by the summer”.

The expert from Imperial College London, who advises the government, also said the UK data on deaths and cases was “very encouraging” and it was unlikely the NHS would be overwhelmed after an expected rise in Covid cases in late summer.

But Professor Stephen Reicher, another expert, has warned the public to take Boris Johnson’s comments suggesting social distancing could be scrapped in summer with a “pinch of salt”.

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BioNTech working on approval for longer-lasting version of Covid vaccine

Biotechnology company BioNTech is working on getting approval for a version of its Covid-19 vaccination which would be able to be stored in the fridge for up to six months between 2C and 8C, Chief Executive Ugur Sahin said on Tuesday.

Mr Sahin told a Financial Times conference panel: “Our first formulation had to be stored and shipped at minus 80 degrees. We have now, in the meantime, a formulation which is not yet approved… which can be stored at two to eight degrees.”

He added that data packages were in the process of being prepared for regulators.

The vaccine is made with Pfizer and with Mr Sahin explaining: “We will most likely reach six months stability at two to eight degrees.”

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 14:00

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NHS app may not be ready to act as ‘vaccine passport’ when travel resumes

The NHS app may not be ready for use as a “vaccine passport” when international travel resumes on 17 May, Downing Street has confirmed.

A “green list” of countries regarded as safe for travel from that date is expected to be released on Friday this week.

As few as 10 states are expected to be on the list drawn up by the government’s Global Travel Task Force, with others added in June if their coronavirus rates drop.

Andrew Woodcock explains:

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 13:44

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AstraZeneca says it has ‘no engineers’ to share vital vaccine technology

AstraZeneca has claimed it does not have enough engineers to help share its vital Covid vaccine technology with other global manufacturers, as other pharmaceutical giants face growing pressure to relinquish their control over the production of the life-saving jabs.

Amid a global shortage of supplies, health campaigners have called on the likes of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and others to waive their intellectual property (IP) rights and transfer vaccine manufacturing know-how to other companies capable of producing doses en masse.

Western markets have received the vast majority of jabs, with fewer than 1 per cent of doses administered in low-income countries by the end of March. Last month, the World Health Organisation warned there is an “urgent, near-term need to unlock additional Covid vaccine supply”.

Samuel Lovett has more:

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 13:26

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India Covid cases soar past 20 million as devastating second wave continues

The total number of Covid-19 infections in India crossed 20 million on Monday as the country reported 357,229 new cases in the 24 hours ending Tuesday morning. 

India’s infection tally is second only to the United States, which has reported more than 32 million cases. Experts believe even India’s huge reported figures are an undercount, but it’s unclear by how much.

The country recorded 3,449 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the overall toll to 222,408.

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 13:15

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‘No plans’ to end lockdown restrictions earlier than 21 June, No10 says

The government has “no plans” to bring forward the earliest date for the end of lockdown from 21 June, despite “hugely encouraging” data on Covid transmission, Downing Street has said.

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 12:58

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Majority of people in England with Covid-19 are self-isolating

The majority of people in England who test positive for Covid-19 are continuing to follow rules and self-isolate, a survey has suggested.

Of those asked, 84 per cent said that they fully adhered to the self-isolation requirements for the whole 10-day period following a positive test for coronavirus.

Only 15 per cent of people reported having broken the rules during their self-isolation period. These included leaving home or having visitors for a reason which is not allowed under current legislation.

Figures were compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and were based on responses collected from adults in England.

The survey was carried out between 12 and 16 April and suggests that most people are still following requirements for self-isolating, even though there has been a sharp fall in Covid-19 infections and deaths in recent weeks.

Tim Gibbs, head of the ONS public services analysis team, said: “It is encouraging to see the majority of those who tested positive for coronavirus reported fully adhering to requirements designed to protect them and others from further spread of Covid-19.”

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 12:42

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Number of secondary school staff and pupils with Covid-19 drops, survey suggests

Fewer school pupils and staff in English secondary schools tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after schools reopened compared to in the Autumn term, figures suggest.

Around 0.33 per cent of pupils and 0.32 per cent of secondary school staff tested positive for Covid-19 between mid and late March. This compares to 1.22 per cent and 1.64 per cent respectively in December, according to a small study of a number of schools.

The survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) went on to suggest that the percentage of secondary school pupils and staff testing positive for Covid-19 is significantly lower than it was in November. At this time, 1.42 per cent of pupils and 1.36 per cent of staff tested positive for Covid-19.

The Schools Infection Study, from PHE, the ONS and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), tested staff and pupils in a total of 137 schools. The tests were carried out when schools reopened in March.

Overall, 15,187 school staff and pupils took part in the study. It took place on school sites between 15 and 30 March.

The ONS stressed however  that the data presented in the study could not be seen as representative of all the schools in England.

Dr Shamez Ladhani, a PHE consultant epidemiologist and the study’s chief investigator, said: “Results of this study shows current Covid-19 infection among secondary school staff and pupils has fallen significantly from the already low levels recorded last November.

“These findings are reassuring and contribute to wider evidence that shows the risk of transmission in schools is low.

“This also indicates the importance of public health measures in schools for reducing transmission.”

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 12:29

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No evidence Covid-19 vaccines affected by drinking alcohol, says health regulator

There is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines are affected by drinking alcohol after having had the jab, a UK regulator has said.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was responding to reports on social media that people ought to avoid drinking for up to two weeks following a vaccine.

In January, advisers to Drinkaware, an alcohol education charity which is funded by the alcohol industry, said there was some evidence drinking, particularly heavy drinking, may interfere with the body’s ability to build an immune response to some vaccines.

There is no information on this in patient information leaflets from the NHS or the vaccine manufacturers however that would suggest a link of this kind.

A spokeswoman for the MHRA said: “There is currently no evidence that drinking alcohol interferes with the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines.

“We would advise anyone concerned about this to talk to their healthcare professional,” PA reported.

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 12:08

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Eight Asiatic lions at Indian zoo test positive for Covid

Eight Asiatic lions have tested positive for Covid-19 at a zoo in Hyderabad, India, in the first such case reported in the country.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India’s largest organisation for research and development, tweeted that one of its life science institutions in Hyderabad, The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), would carry out “detailed investigation of the samples for genome sequencing to find out if the strain came from human beings or not.”

Veterinarians at the Nehru Zoological Park reportedly noticed the lions showing Covid-like symptoms in the last week of April.

Vishwam Sankaran has more:

Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 11:58

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Most of Europe should be on ‘green list’ next month, ministers say

Most of Europe and the US should move onto the UK’s “green list” next month, according to government ministers.

This “big bang” reopening for travel is due in large part to the UK’s successful rollout of the vaccination programme, which has seen one in four Britons receive both doses of the vaccine at the time of writing.

After the initial green list of countries – from where arrivals into England will not have to quarantine as of 17 May – is announced, the list will be reviewed every three weeks.

Helen Coffey reports:

Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 11:39

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