January 25 2021

Health Secretary Matt Hancock led tonight’s press briefing at Downing Street. He started with the daily statistics. Please always remember that Monday’s figures reflect a lot of Sunday activity and so tend to give a false picture, tomorrow’s figures will be more accurate. The 7 day rolling averages help to remove that problem by comparing whole weeks at a time. A total of 412,204 tests were done in the last 24 hours, overall a 0.4% rise in the numbers over a 7 day period. The number of positive tests was only 22,195, a reduction of 25 % in the 7 day rolling average. The positive rate is now 390.5 per 100 k of the population.

There have been 592 deaths registered in the last 24 hours which is a 9.8% rise in the seven day rolling average. The rate per 100k is 11.9.There is no weekend hospital data but on 21st January 37,899 were hospital inpatients, that is twice the number of the last peak and remains critically high. With over 4,000 on a ventilator this is the highest ever recorded in the pandemic.

On the plus side, 6,573,570 1st doses of vaccine have been given as well as 470,478 of the second doses. Mr Hancock was obviously delighted that as of late last night 78.7% of the over 80s in England had been immunised with at least one dose. Vaccine supply continues to be a limiting factor. 32 more large scale vaccination centres have been opened today. Half a million vaccine doses were given on Saturday, and 1 in 9 of all adults have now had a jab.

Remember there is still a long way to go, because the above means 8 out of 9 adults are still waiting for their first dose.

There is no doubt that the ‘Kent’ variant of the virus has made overcoming the pandemic much more challenging. It is 30-70% more easily transmitted and there is now emerging evidence that it has brought more deaths than anticipated. Matt Hancock said ‘We must be extra careful, we must protect lives, the end is in site, there are better days ahead’.

In answer to questions it was explained that with such high levels of infection, herd immunity is a long way off. We need the hospital admissions and the death rate to be a lot lower before it is possible to say when and how restrictions can begin to ease.

Now one of the most important things to do is to build much more confidence in the vaccine. I am glad to see the over 80s leading the way on this.

Astra Zenica have cut the amount of vaccine they can supply to the EU from 70 million to 31 million doses causing some anger and distress across Europe.

A French vaccine being developed at the Pasteur Institute has been abandoned after trials proved disappointing in efficacy in the Phase 1 trials. It had been developed from the measles vaccine. Merk who were working with the Pasteur Institute have dropped their plans for a vaccine and will now be concentrating on development for new treatments.

Portugal now seems to be one of the world’s worst affected country. With a population of only 10 million, the emergency services staff and all those over 50 with pre-existing conditions are to be immunised first. The country has the highest 7 day rolling average of new cases and the number of deaths per million in the world.

Israel is doing things differently now and are immunising 18-19 year olds first. And Indonesia is immunising the 18-59 year olds first, ahead of the elderly. It will be interesting to see how this pans out in the weeks ahead. A company called CERA which cares for the elderly said that only 1% of elderly people in their care have had had their first jab. and only a third of their carers. Another company Fours Seasons Health Care said more than 80% of residents and 60% of staff have been immunised. The Order of St John Trust which runs 66 Care Homes claimed 100 % of patients but less staff had been immunised.

It is of concern to see the big differences here which must in part due to enthusiasm and leadership in the different groups. There has been widespread misinformation about vaccine safety which must urgently be put right. We can all play apart. Reassurances about allergies not being a contra indication are essential and we can explain that over 6 million have failed to cause a single major problem now.

There is unlikely to be any reduction in the restrictions before the end of term, at Easter. I am sure schools will be opened as soon as possible knowing how keen the PM is to get schools open again. The Prime Minister said he is always looking at the restrictions but will not be relaxing them.

We have to get the infection rate, hospital admissions and death rate a great deal lower than this current very high level. We are seeing less new cases. It seems as though hospital admissions might be on the turn, we shall see later this week. Deaths remain far too high.

Your thoughts and ideas are very welcome. Spread the news the vaccine is safe. Stamp on any misinformation you see.

We have no option but to continue to stay apart and stay at home. Take pressure off the NHS, and then we can review our route away from the pandemic.

We cannot plan an exit strategy until we bring numbers down and that depends on us all doing our duty, staying out of circulation and staying safe.

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