“We are making great strides but we are not there yet”
This was the message from Matt Hancock at tonight’s Downing Street press briefing. He was supported ably by Prof. Jonathon Van Tam. JVT, as he is affectionately known, likened the situation to winning 3 nil in a football match, taking your eye off the ball and then losing 4-3. He often uses football analogies and is a keen supporter of my local football team, Boston United.
President Macron in France has been forced to do a U turn. At first, he claimed falsely that the OAZ vaccine was “quasi- ineffective” in the over 65s. He now says when it’s his turn he will willingly have the OAZ vaccine. They are really struggling to get vaccination underway in France.
In a very unusual move our Queen commented on having her Covid jab. She said it was easy and did not hurt. She urged everyone to get their jabs. If you are in doubt about it you should get a vaccine to help protect others.
JVT showed some sobering slides which clearly indicated we have quite a few problem areas where new cases are continuing to rise despite our best efforts. This is not the time to relax any of the rules with over 15,000 still in hospital it’s far from over yet. In 1 in 5 areas the number of cases is still rising.
The Prime Minister has promised all 9 of the priority groups for vaccine will have had their first one by 15th April and then vaccine given to everyone else over 18 by 31st July.
The JCVI (The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) has recommended that all those under the age of 50 are immunised in 3 age bands.
Group 10 will be aged 40-49
Group 11 will be aged 30-39
Group 12 will be aged 18-29.
After much discussion and on reviewing all available evidence they set the objective as simply saving the most lives. There have been calls to do it by occupational risk, considering teachers and police officers first. This proved a very difficult concept with such a large number of occupations to categorise. To do it like this would be too complex and take much longer. The Committee were unanimous in wanting to do them as quickly as possible by age group alone.
The other factors are that non-white Britons, those who live in poor areas and those who are obese are also at greater risk. These groups are less likely to be immunised so extra efforts will be made to inject them.
Prof JVT summarised this by saying he would much rather be in a queue that was moving fast. Just going by age it can go very fast. He pointed out that 19 million doses have been given so far but there are 30 million people in the top 9 categories. By his mathematics that means another 40 million to do in the over 50s. There is still a very long way to go. We cannot relax in any way. We must still stay at home. The numerous hot spots are very worrying and suggest the strict Covid rules are not being observed fully.
Tonight’s statistics show the R number remains between 0.6 and 0.9. Over 19 million first jabs have been given and over 736,000 2nd doses. We are through the supply hiccup and half a million were given today. 736,037 tests were conducted, which is near the maximum available per day. Only 8, 523 were positive. This is great news a further drop of 16.8% in the last 7days. The rate has fallen to 114/100k.
It usually takes two weeks before someone who has a positive test needs to be admitted to hospital so the numbers in hospital are delayed in the expected drop in numbers. We do still have 15,485 in hospital on 24 February. 2,047 are still on a ventilator on 25 February. This is still putting pressure on the NHS. We must get these figures down, they reflect the fact that the disease is still very active. It has not gone away. 1,117 were still admitted on 22 February alone.
Death is the final point in the pandemic, and there is a much smaller chance of dying now. 345 died in the last 24 hours which is a 31.3 % reduction and the death rate is now only 4 per 100k of the population.
Whether you have had one or two jabs or are still waiting patiently you should all be behaving in exactly the same way. That is staying apart and staying at home. Using your masks properly, sanitising hands regularly and other surfaces.
Remember it’s the unanimous view that we are not there yet. We must not give up on the last lap. To keep us on the exit pathway everyone must play their part.
Please stay safe.