Health

UK Covid live: Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines reduce hospital admissions by 85% and 94%, study suggests


Data on coronavirus hospital admissions in Scotland finds fall among people who have had first jab compared with those who had not

1.59pm GMT

At the weekend, in response to a spate of reports about the latest Downing Street in-fighting (this was the best version, but this the most entertaining), and the role in it all being played by friends of Carrie Symonds, the PM’s fiancee, the Bow Group called for an inquiry into her role in running the country. The Bow Group is now a maverick outfit with little credibility, but it used to be an influential, mainstream thinktank, and it can still manage to generate a headline.

At the Downing Street lobby briefing Allegra Stratton, the PM’s press secretary, said it was “incorrect” to claim that Symonds had a central role in running the country. Stratton went on.

The prime minister’s fiancee is on maternity leave, she’s raising their son Wilf and shortly she will be taking up a new role at the wildlife charity the Aspinall Foundation.

1.38pm GMT

At her news conference Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, also announced that people with mild or moderate learning difficulties would be vaccinated in Scotland as part of priority group six. Cohort six is for people with serious underlying health conditions, and under the guidelines drawn up by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which are being followed in England, only people with a severe and profound learning disability are in group six. Disability campaigners have called for all people with a learning disability to be included.

According to a recent ONS report, for people with a learning disability the risk of death with Covid is almost four times as high as for people without a learning disability.

1.26pm GMT

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has said that Scotland’s route of out lockdown will be “broadly similar” to England, but different in some respects. She will set out further plans for lockdown easing in a statement to the Scottish parliament tomorrow. Speaking at her daily briefing, she said:

Our plans out of lockdown will not be identical, they are already not identical because we’ve got some kids back in school today which is not the case in England until into March, so we will not be identical but I think there will be broad similarities.

Similar to us, it seems that they have prioritised children and education and getting life back to normal before doing other things.

So I think the principles will be the same – we’re living through the same pandemic.

We will seek to set out tomorrow an indicative order of priority and the likely phasing of firstly the gradual lifting of the current lockdown restrictions and then in due course, a return to the geographic levels system when we would decide whether all or parts of the country may move out of level 4 and into level 3, and of course that’s the part where more parts of the economy will start to open up.

This will be a cautious way forward because it’s really important that as we come out of this lockdown, we do so sustainably.

1.17pm GMT

Hospital admissions in England of patients with Covid-19 are down nearly three-quarters from their second-wave peak, PA Media reports. PA says:

A total of 1,068 admissions were reported for 19 February, NHS England said.

This is a drop of 74% from a peak of 4,134 on 12 January.

1.15pm GMT

Chris Jones, Wales’s deputy chief medical officer, has said there has been “a steady and consistent fall” in the weekly number of new Covid cases in the country.

He said the number of weekly cases had fallen from a peak of 630 per 100,000 people in December to 80 now. “This is significantly lower than at previous points when schools and colleges were fully open,” Jones said.

We continue to vaccinate more people as a percentage of our population than any of the other UK nations.

We are still on track to reach the next milestone of offering vaccination to everyone in priority groups five to nine by the end of April, provided vaccine supplies remain on course.

1.13pm GMT

The Association of School and College Leaders, which represents head teachers, has said it is “difficult to understand” why England is not adopting a phased reopening to schools, as the devolved administrations are doing. Geoff Barton, the ASCL’s general secretary, said:

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We share the government’s aim of bringing all children back to the classroom as soon as possible, but we remain concerned about the idea of a ‘big bang’ approach of a full return of pupils all at the same time.

This is very different from the plans in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in which a phased return is planned, and it is difficult to understand why the approach in England would go so much further.

1.13pm GMT

1.04pm GMT

The Welsh government has said it will continue to implement a “phased and very careful approach” to schools re-opening with many secondary school students not returning until after Easter.

The education minister, Kirsty Williams, said she had seen no evidence to suggest that schools could safely fully re-open within a few weeks, as is to happen in England.

At the same time, we would also like to see those in years 11 and 13 in schools, and those doing similar qualifications in colleges able to return to face-to-face learning in a safe and flexible way.

Where possible, we also want to give some flexibility around other learners, such as year 12 and those in year 10 who may also have been entered for qualifications this summer.

I haven’t received any new evidence or advice that supports a different approach to the one we’re taking here in Wales. Our phased and very careful approach is in line with the public health advice and is consistent with UK wide advice. If there is new and different advice available which contradicts our careful approach then clearly we would want to consider that. We will continue to follow the evidence, data and advice.

We know that opening schools will increase the R value. A cautious approach where we introduce the lowest-risk children back to school first, evaluate the impact of that, that will teach us a great deal.

12.49pm GMT

According to the overnight briefing, Boris Johnson’s plan for easing the lockdown in England does not just involve four phases. (See 12.08pm.) It also involves four tests for lockdown easing.

I’ve numbered them for clarity, but otherwise this is how they are described in the No 10 news release. They are:

1) The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.

2) Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.

12.18pm GMT

12.14pm GMT

This is from Mark Drakeford, the first minister of Wales, who is joining the many people concerned that reporting of the PM’s lockdown easing plan does not always specify that it is England only.

When the Prime Minister sets out his roadmap today, please note this applies to England only. Here in Wales, we announced last week that we’re using the next 3 weeks to get more students back to school/college, and looking at options for re-opening shops and hairdressers. Diolch.

12.08pm GMT

Here is the news release released by Downing Street overnight with early details of the roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England. It says there will be four steps for lifting the restrictions. My colleague Jessica Elgot has summed up what we know about what will happen when (which so far, beyond phase one, is not much).

Related: Covid lockdown easing in England: key dates and phases in the roadmap

Morning – a lot of detail to come thro the day about what rolling back regulations will look like – but gaps between the govt’s four steps expected to be FIVE weeks

The prime minister will not have forgotten, even if some of the rest of us have, that local elections take place on 6 May – a bumper crop this year, because last year’s cancelled polls will be wrapped into them. Mayoralties in London, the West Midlands, Teesside, the West of England, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough; county councils; a mass of thirds in districts and unitaries.

What a bracing springboard it would be to bounce into them with key restrictions lifted before the dates he will suggest this afternoon … and before polling day …

11.50am GMT

Diane Abbott, the former shadow home secretary, has just told Sky News that she has had her first dose of vaccine. It was painless, and she would encourage everyone to get vaccinated, she said. She is 67.

11.27am GMT

At a briefing on the research from Scotland suggesting that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines reduce hospital admissions by up to 85% and 94% respectively (see 9.24am), Aziz Sheikh, director of the Usher Institute and professor of primary care research and development at the University of Edinburgh, said he would anticipate seeing similar vaccine results across the UK. He said:

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We would certainly be hopeful that it will be very similar signals being reported by our colleagues in the other UK nations in due course.

For the results that we’ve observed and described here, we are encouraged.

Given the similarities between all of the approaches adopted across England and the devolved administrations, we would hope that the results that we’re seeing are broadly generalisable across the UK given that we’re using the same vaccines.

11.18am GMT

The funeral of Captain Sir Tom Moore will be held on Saturday, his family said. In a statement, his daughters Lucy Teixeira and Hannah Ingram-Moore said:

Over the past year our father spoke openly about his death and his funeral, and had wondered out loud if perhaps the interest in him over the last 12 months would mean we would need to have more Victoria sponge cakes available for the extra guests.

Sadly, like so many other families affected by the pandemic, we have no choice but to hold a small family funeral, which will take place this Saturday. Whilst we understand so many people wish to pay their respects to our father, we ask that the public and the press continue to support the NHS by staying at home.

10.54am GMT

Sir Keir Starmer was doing his regular LBC phone-in this morning. Here are the key points.

One senior backbencher said the message from the top was very clear – that there should be virtual “radio silence” on the issue. “The order that is coming out is: ‘Don’t mention the war.’ We are being told that Keir wants to move on and that if we mention the B-word let alone suggest we a need better deal with the EU than Boris Johnson’s we are being unhelpful.”

Several sources said that MP Carolyn Harris, Starmer’s parliamentary aide with responsibility for coordinating with Labour members – including on what questions they ask at prime minister’s questions – had been discouraging interventions on Brexit, saying they would damage the leader.

Rachel Reeves in the shadow cabinet leads for me on this. She has raised no end of issues. In fact, many times she has been saying we haven’t got enough customs officials on the front line.

Matt Hancock broke the law over PPE contracts

He needs to resign.

If he won’t, he should be sacked.

The government awarded public contracts to Tory friends and donors.

Matt Hancock acted unlawfully keeping it secret.

He should resign.

That particular case, in relation to Matt Hancock, involved whether the declarations had been made in time. And I don’t think that that is an issue [for resignation]. He should apologise and come and explain to the house, of course he should. But at the moment, in the middle of the vaccine, my strong feeling is that the vast majority of the public would say, for heaven’s sake, what you should be doing here is making sure he’s working really hard to get that vaccine rolled out properly, rather than calling for him to resign.

I don’t have any problem at all with the union jack …

Also, I’m patriotic. I want to lead our country because I want our country to be even better than it is now. I fundamentally believe in our country. And I’m very comfortable with that, I don’t have any problem with that.

I think communities are entitled to express a view on what statues they want up in their area. I’m not sure I see it as a priority in terms of what we’re living through, and what we’ve got in terms of getting the country back up and running. But if I was living in a community I probably would like to express a view one way or the other, and I think that’s not a bad thing.

We just had half-term and I said to the government, use that to vaccinate teachers and school staff before we go back to school. They didn’t do it and it is frustrating.

10.29am GMT

Dr Josie Murray, Public Health Scotland’s public health consultant lead for the EAVE II project which found that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines reduce hospital admissions by up to 85% and 94%, respectively (see 9.24am), said the results did not have any bearing on the virus’s ability to transmit from person to person and did not advise any changes. As PA Media reports, Murray said:

The first thing to say about these results is that the current vaccination programme shows from these data very likely to be preventing severe illness related to Covid-19.

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I think it’s really important to emphasise that these data don’t support any comment about transmission or indeed transmission policy and therefore we wouldn’t be advising on the basis of these results that we should alter anything that we’ve got implemented currently to stop transmission of the virus from person to person within Scotland.

10.09am GMT

Boris Johnson, or rather the person who manages his Twitter account, has posted these about the roadmap for leaving lockdown in England being published later.

Today I’ll be setting out a roadmap to bring us out of lockdown cautiously. Our priority has always been getting children back into school which we know is crucial for their education and wellbeing. We’ll also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.

Our decisions will be made on the latest data at every step, and we will be cautious about this approach so that we do not undo the progress we have achieved so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to keep yourself and others safe.

10.07am GMT

From Sky’s Ed Conway

As the PM prepares to announce a tentative timetable for loosening lockdown, it’s perhaps worth noting that the UK currently has the strictest lockdown in the developed world (as measured by the Oxdford @BlavatnikSchool’s tracker) pic.twitter.com/lGjsBU1zLP

9.47am GMT

As mentioned earlier, Nadhim Zahawi, who was out for No 10 this morning rolling the pitch ahead of the publication of the roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England, played down concerns about pupils returning to school all at once. (See 9.04am.) Here are some of the other lines from his broadcast round.

I think because the way this new variant actually took hold, which has become the dominant variant, the Kent variant, in the United Kingdom, infection rates around the country pretty much rose to similar, very high, unsustainable levels.

So the view is very much that this is about a gradual reopening of the whole of England, not regional.

The simple way to look at this is that outdoor is safer and therefore we prioritise versus indoor. Outdoor sports – tennis, golf, outdoor organised team sports, grassroots football – will go back on 29 March.

9.31am GMT

Here are some comments on the new research about the impact of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines on hospital admissions. (See 9.24am.)

From Prof Aziz Sheikh, lead researcher of the Scotland vaccine study and director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute

These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future. We now have national evidence – across an entire country – that vaccination provides protection against Covid-19 hospitalisations.

These results are important as we move from expectation to firm evidence of benefit from vaccines.

Across the Scottish population the results show a substantial effect on reducing the risk of admission to hospital from a single dose of vaccine.

These early national results give a reason to be more optimistic about the control of the epidemic.

9.24am GMT

The Covid vaccination programme has been linked to a substantial reduction in hospital admissions, PA Media is reporting. The PA story goes on:

Researchers examined coronavirus hospital admissions in Scotland among people who have had their first jab and compared them with those who had not yet received a dose of the vaccine.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland examined data on people who had received either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the one developed by experts at the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca.

9.04am GMT

Good morning. Today Boris Johnson is going to unveil what the government describes as its “roadmap for cautiously easing lockdown restrictions in England” and this will include the reopening of all schools on Monday 8 March. Here is our overnight preview story.

Related: Johnson unveils Covid lockdown exit plan: schools and social contact first

First of all, it’s no coincidence that the 8 March date has been chosen because the middle of February is when we offered the vaccine to the top four most vulnerable cohorts, and those who look after them. That is three weeks after that last person has had the first dose, when the protection really does kick in. And so we are being deliberately careful. And, of course, [we are] allowing teachers notice to be able to prepare.

So it’s ambitious, but it’s also careful, and it’s data driven.

Related: Coronavirus live news: US death toll nears 500,000; England roadmap out of lockdown revealed

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