Coronavirus vaccines still give “good protection” despite new research suggesting their effects can wear off after six months, an expert has said today.
Professor Adam Finn, member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said that while studies are showing waning immunity against mild illness some months after vaccination, the jabs are still warding off serious disease and hospital admissions.
He said: ““[It’s] encouraging actually that people who’ve had two doses are still very much well protected against serious illness, which is our main objective.
“But we do need to watch out very carefully to see if this waning begins to translate into occurrence of more severe cases because then boosters will be needed.”
The Pfizer jab was 88 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19 infection a month after the second dose but that fell to 74 per cent after five or six months.
The AstraZeneca vaccine had a 77 per cent protection from infection one month after the second dose. After four to five months protection decreased to 67 per cent.
“Perfect storm” hits tourism industry
22:30 , Rachael Burford
A “perfect storm” of a surge in holidaymakers, staff shortages and problems with suppliers is hitting the tourism industry, experts have said.
Hoteliers and bar owners said staff were ill with coronavirus, others isolating after being “pinged” and there was a recruitment crisis due to Brexit and too little housing.
It meant some hotels were being forced to close rooms - while restaurants, cafes and bars were operating reduced opening hours and limiting menus.
At the same time leaders in Cornwall said there had been an increase in tourists as many people were choosing to holiday in the UK due to the international travel restrictions in place.
Cornwall Chamber of Commerce said there were an extra 30,000 visitors to the county during the summer season compared to previous years. The area now has the highest rate of Covid-19 cases in England.
Nick Hayman, joint owner of the Fistral Beach Bar in Newquay, said there had been problems with furlough, Covid-19, a decline in EU workers and too little housing.
“It has been difficult all summer. It is not a Newquay problem and it seems like a nationwide problem at the moment,” he said.
Mr Hayman added that changes to tax laws meant for buy-to-let owners there was more money to be made from holiday lets and Airbnb than from renting to long-term tenants.
“It’s a perfect storm because there’s more money in it and the tax breaks are better,” he said.
Pandemic pushes up prices of staycations
21:26 , Rachael Burford
Holidaying in the UK can now be more expensive than travelling to many luxury European destinations, research has found.
Tourists can expect to pay hundreds of pounds more for staycations during the pandemic, with private accommodation prices rising by an average of 41 per cent.
Those travelling to British seaside towns and countryside retreats have been particularly hit.
Seven nights in a top hotel at Lake Garda, Italy — a destination which is a favourite of Hollywood stars Drew Barrymore, Tom Cruise and Bradley Cooper — was almost a quarter of the price of a similar holiday in the Lake District.
Read more here.
Irish politicians concerned about social distancing at hurling final
20:49 , Rachael Burford
Irish politicians have expressed concern about the lack of social distancing during the All-Ireland hurling final on Sunday.
Commissioner Drew Harris said gardai had learned some lessons from the match, which saw thousands of people gathered around the stadium.
“Everybody was very concerned about the scenes and it’s hard for people sometimes,” Minister for Justice Heather Humphries told reporters on Wednesday.
Ms Humphries was attending the Scott Medal ceremony, awarded to gardai for acts of bravery, at Dublin Castle.
“They’re jubilant about their team winning and you can understand that sometimes people just forget, and that is understandable too, but there is a strong onus on every single one of us to try and take responsibility for what we’re doing and try and keep our distance,” she said.
She said the Cabinet would meet next week to consider all advice and recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team meeting on Wednesday.
Two year surgery waiting lists after pandemic, warn dentists
19:04 , Rachael Burford
People in need of dental surgery could be forced to wait up to two years for care, dentists have warned.
Almost two in five dental surgeons think the backlog of care caused by the coronavirus pandemic will take at least a year to clear.
While 19 per cent believe it will take more than two years to get through the volume of patients waiting for treatment, according to a poll by the Faculty of Dental Surgeons.
A quarter of the 300 dental surgeons polled said that the majority of people on their waiting list were children.
The latest waiting times data for the NHS in England show that 389 patients were waiting at least two years for oral surgery in June 2021.
There were a total of 227,750 patients on the waiting list for oral surgery at this stage, including 21,461 who had already been waiting more than a year.
Matthew Garrett, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “The pandemic created a significant backlog of patients needing treatment, which will not be cleared anytime soon.
“Also worrying is that up to a quarter of our members have told us most patients on their waiting lists are children.
“Particular efforts must be made to ensure timely access to dental treatment for children and vulnerable adults, including those with special educational needs.”
Almost 36,000 new Covid infections and 149 deaths
18:13 , Rachael Burford
There were 35,847 new Covid infections and 149 deaths in the UK on Wednesday, Government figures have revealed.
It followed 176 deaths recorded on Tuesday, which marked the highest number in the UK since March.
The UK death toll stands at 132,003 in the UK.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 156,000 deaths registered where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Significant surge in Covid cases will happen despite best efforts, says expert
17:13 , Tom Ambrose
Music festivals and schools returning will lead to a “significant surge” in Covid-19 infections causing concerns for medics, an expert advising the Government has said.
A rise in cases as a result is “realistic” and will happen “despite best efforts” amid the spread of the dominant and more transmissible Delta variant of coronavirus, Professor Ravindra Gupta said.
His comments come as another expert said vaccines should prevent the “significant wave” of hospital admissions seen last autumn, but added there is uncertainty over how big any rise might be this time.
Asked if a surge in cases is inevitable amid summer festivals and the imminent return of schools and colleges, Prof Gupta told BBC Radio Four’s World at One: “Of course there is going to be an associated surge in cases, given that the young people in these events are largely going to be unvaccinated.
“That’s just something that is predictable and will happen, despite best efforts.”
Brazil to give COVID-19 booster shots to elderly and vulnerable
16:48 , Tom Ambrose
Brazil will give booster shots of Covid vaccines to people with compromised immune systems and those over the age of 70 beginning in mid-September, its Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
Vaccines from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer will be used for the booster shots, the ministry said in a statement.
The information differs from remarks on Tuesday by Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga, who had said vulnerable people and over 80-year-olds would receive an additional jab of the Pfizer.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant and new research suggesting diminished effectiveness of vaccines over time has led many countries to propose an additional dose to reinforce protection.
16:16 , Tom Ambrose
The Government has said a further 149 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 132,003.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 156,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
As of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 35,847 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the Government said.
Government data up to August 24 shows that of the 89,865,264 Covid jabs given in the UK, 47,792,552 were first doses, a rise of 55,410 on the previous day.
Some 42,072,712 were second doses, an increase of 130,676.
Festivals ‘safer places to be’ because of testing – Reading and Leeds boss
15:28 , Tom Ambrose
The organiser of Reading and Leeds Festivals has said such events are arguably “safer places to be” because attendees have been tested for Covid-19.
The sister concerts are returning this year with headliners including Stormzy, after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic.
Melvin Benn, managing director of the Festival Republic Group, told BBC Radio 4 young people were often in environments where they were not tested and did not know whether people around them were infectious.
He said: “I certainly think that the virus is continuing and we have to get used to it or we have to increase the number of vaccinations.
“The Government are encouraging more vaccinations. We as an organisation are encouraging more vaccinations. We have a vaccination centre on site at both Reading and Leeds, for example. So that is ultimately what will reduce that spread.”
Novavax to participate in study on third vaccine dose
14:46 , Laura Sharman
Novavax is being studied in the UK to see whether it could serve as a safe and effective Covid booster jab for people with weaker immune systems.
The University of Glasgow and the University of Birmingham are leading the research which is funded by the government’s vaccines taskforce and the UK Research and Innovation.
Scotland reports more than 5,000 Covid cases and five deaths in past 24 hours
14:26 , Laura Sharman
Scotland has recorded the deaths of five coronavirus patients and 5,021 cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data.
Scottish government figures indicate this takes the death toll under the daily measure of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days to 8,085.
The daily statistics differ from weekly National Records of Scotland figures released earlier on Wednesday as those include all deaths where coronavirus is mentioned on the death certificate, at 10,505 as of Sunday.
The daily test positivity rate is 11.0%, down from 14.5% the previous day.
A total of 391 people were in hospital on Tuesday with recently confirmed Covid, up by 27 on the previous day, with 44 patients in intensive care, up one.
So far, 4,088,894 people have received the first dose of a Covid vaccine and 3,603,429 have had their second.
US urges military troops to get vaccinated
14:21 , Laura Sharman
Military troops in the USA are being urged to get the coronavirus vaccine immediately.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered service leaders to “impose ambitious timelines for implementation” in a memo on Wednesday.
“To defend this nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” he added.
“After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the president, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease... is necessary to protect the force and defend the American people.”
More than 800,000 service members have yet to get their shots, according to Pentagon data. And now that the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, it will be added to the list of required shots troops must get as part of their military service.
The memo does not dictate a specific timeline for completing the vaccinations but it says the military services will have to report regularly on their progress.
Sydney hospitals battle coronavirus as daily infections hit record
13:55 , Tom Ambrose
Sydney's COVID-19 infections hit a daily record on Wednesday, putting parts of the health system under pressure, officials said, calling for vaccinations to be stepped up to stem the tide of hospital admissions.
Despite two months of lockdowns in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW) state reported 919 new cases amid a growing Delta variant outbreak, taking Australia's daily case numbers to a new pandemic high just below 1,000.
New infections in greater Sydney reached 838, eclipsing Sunday's record of 830 cases for the whole state. Some 85% of the state's total infections lie in greater Sydney. A total of 113 people in the state are in intensive care, with 98 of those unvaccinated.
"This highlights ... the fact that vaccination is the key. We need to increase those vaccine coverage levels," NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said during a televised media briefing in Sydney, the state capital.
Australia, grappling to control a third wave of the coronavirus, has locked down more than half of its 25 million population, including its largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and is accelerating an initially sluggish vaccine rollout.
I don’t want to go back to anything like lockdown, Sturgeon says
13:29 , Tom Ambrose
Nicola Sturgeon has said she does not want to go back into lockdown as Covid-19 cases in Scotland surge.
The First Minister said on Tuesday she could not rule out the re-imposition of restrictions as a new daily high case number was recorded.
Scotland moved beyond Level 0 on August 9, which saw most legal restrictions removed from the statute book, but Ms Sturgeon rejected the idea that the easing came too soon.
However, the easing coincided with a sharp rise in cases, as well as a rise in hospital figures and intensive care admissions.
Domestic homicide could rise as Covid restrictions ease, policing bodies warn
13:04 , Tom Ambrose
Authorities must be prepared for an increased risk of domestic homicides as some abusers’ control is taken away amid eased coronavirus restrictions, policing bodies have warned.
Some 163 domestic homicides and 38 suspected suicides of victims of domestic abuse were reported by police in the year to March 31, according to new research from the Domestic Homicide Project.
The figures show that rates of domestic homicides are “entrenched and enduring” but did not rise significantly during the first year of the pandemic.
But the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and College of Policing say the rates are unacceptable and warn of an increased risk of deaths as some abusers regain access to their victims as society reopens.
Their report also warns that financial pressures arising from Covid-19, its mental health legacy and delays to court cases are also likely to continue to be reflected in domestic abuse, domestic homicide and victim suicide.
Impact on hospital admissions after schools return hard to predict – expert
12:24 , Tom Ambrose
Vaccines should prevent the “significant wave” of hospital admissions seen last autumn after schools returned, but it will be around a month before the true effect of pupils getting back to class for the new term is known, an expert has said.
The impact on cases and hospital numbers will be “critical in determining what we might expect to see as we move into the winter”, Dr Mike Tildesley said.
The University of Warwick professor, who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) which advises the Government, said cases are likely to rise once schools return but the “biggest unknown” is whether that translates to a lot of people needing hospital treatment with Covid-19.
He told the PA news agency: “Probably what we will see is maybe middle of September we might see cases picking up a little bit and it may take a week or two or more for that to spill over into a rise in hospital admissions.
“But to me the biggest unknown, and I think it’s very hard for any of us to call this now, is exactly how big that rise is going to be.”
Older workers could retire later if allowed to work from home
11:44 , Tom Ambrose
Older workers might choose to delay their retirement if offered the option of continuing to do their jobs from home after the pandemic, new research has indicated.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found those in their 50s and 60s who were working from home during the coronavirus crisis said they were planning to retire later than those who were still travelling to their workplace.
It could have a positive knock-on effect for those who are able to work remotely, and grow the economy.
The age at which a person retires has implications for their financial security, the ONS said.
It added that more than 5% could be added to UK gross domestic product (GDP) if those aged 50 to 64 were employed at the same level as 35 to 49-year-olds.
Children removed from shielding list in Wales
11:09 , Tom Ambrose
Children have been removed from the so-called shielding list in Wales.
Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan said that children and young people will be removed from the list of people who could potentially be asked to shield and will no longer be considered clinically extremely vulnerable in relation to Covid-19.
The Welsh Government said that the move follows advice from the four chief medical officers of the UK.
Devolved departments of health in other nations have been contacted to see whether children will be taken off the lists in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Russia reports 809 COVID-19 deaths, 19,536 new cases
10:39 , Tom Ambrose
Russia on Wednesday reported 809 coronavirus-related deaths, close to a record one-day high set earlier this month amid a surge of cases blamed on the Delta variant and the slow rate of vaccinations.
The government's coronavirus task force also reported 19,536 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours.
India hurries teacher vaccinations as some physical classes resume
10:14 , Tom Ambrose
India will supply millions of additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to its states to try to inoculate all school teachers by early next month, the health minister said on Wednesday, as the country gradually resumes physical classes.
The pandemic has hit the country of 1.35 billion people particularly hard and hundreds of millions of its students have been stuck at home for months, with little or no access to online education for a majority of the poor.
India last week approved its first COVID-19 vaccine for older children and is trying to urgently immunise all of its nearly 10 million school teachers. The country has been vaccinating its adults since the middle of January.
Generation of children ‘could be failed’ without mental health support
09:54 , Tom Ambrose
A generation of children could be “failed” because of a lack of adequate mental health support, experts have said.
The Mental Health Network warned that many children could be left without vital support due to shortages which could allow their problems to worsen over time.
Its latest report states that the mental health system for children and young people is reaching a “tipping point” as it faces significant demand.
The pandemic has led to extra pressures which could lead to mental health problems for youngsters including uncertainty and anxiety caused by the lockdowns, school closures, isolation from friends and peers, bereavement and loss, and extra stresses and pressures on families, it said.
The coronavirus crisis has also worsened existing problems of mental health inequalities.
We want to avoid school closures ‘at all costs’ – Swinney
09:34 , Tom Ambrose
The Scottish Government wants to avoid closing schools in response to rising coronavirus cases “at all possible costs”, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said.
It comes after Nicola Sturgeon warned she could not rule out reimposing Covid restrictions as the number of new daily cases in Scotland hit the highest level ever.
Mr Swinney said the return of Scottish schools after the summer break had contributed to the rise in cases.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday, Mr Swinney said any new restrictions would be “proportionate”.
Covid vaccines still give good protection against serious illness, says expert
08:59 , Tom Ambrose
Covid-19 vaccines are still offering good protection against serious illness, which is the “main objective”, according to an expert who is advising the Government on a potential autumn booster campaign.
Professor Adam Finn, member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said that while studies are showing waning immunity against mild illness some months after vaccination, the jabs are still warding off serious disease and hospital admissions.
The JCVI is expected to make an announcement in days on whether the UK will press ahead with an autumn booster campaign for 30 million people over the age of 50 and the clinically vulnerable.
The NHS in England has been preparing for such a push to commence on September 6, alongside its annual flu campaign.
08:47 , Tom Ambrose
Professor Adam Finn, member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said that giving an additional coronavirus jab to immunocompromised people “might serve a useful purpose”.
Asked about a study which showed that 40% of immunocompromised people generate a lower antibody response to healthy adults, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s very much what we expected, but it is very useful because we need to figure out who are the priority people to receive additional doses of vaccine.
“In this case it would be more a sort of third priming dose than the booster, in the sense that we’d be trying to get them to be protected or better protected than they already are with the two doses they’ve already had.”
He added: “The immunocompromised groups, which are the subject of this study… one would expect to be in line for additional dose,
“I don’t really think of this as a booster because we’re still trying to get them protected in the first place.”
Japan to expand virus emergency as cases rise
08:42 , Laura Sharman
Japan is set to expand its coronavirus state of emergency for a second week in a row, adding several more prefectures as a surge in infections fuelled by the Delta variant strains the country’s health system.
The government last week extended the state of emergency until September 12 and expanded the areas covered to 13 prefectures from six, including Tokyo.
Another 16 prefectures are currently under quasi-emergency status.
At a meeting of experts on Wednesday, the government proposed upgrading eight prefectures from quasi-emergency status to a full state of emergency.
Tourism industry hit by Brexit, Covid and surge in holidaymakers
08:30 , Laura Sharman
Staff shortages, supplier issues and a surge in holidaymakers has created the perfect storm dealing another blow to the tourism industry, experts have said.
Hoteliers and bar owners said staff were ill with coronavirus, others isolating after being pinged and there was a recruitment crisis due to Brexit and too little housing.
It meant some hotels were being forced to close rooms while restaurants, cafes and bars were operating reduced opening hours and limiting menus.
Tourism leaders in Cornwall said there had been an increase in tourists as many people were choosing to holiday in the UK due to the international travel restrictions in place.
New figures show Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly now have the highest rate of Covid-19 cases in England.
Study looks at blood clot risk for surgical patients who have survived Covid
08:26 , Laura Sharman
Surgical patients who have recently had Covid-19 appear to have a higher risk of blood clots after their operation, a study suggests.
Researchers suggest patients should be monitored more so they could get prompt treatment.
A team of researchers, led by experts at the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery in Birmingham, examined data on patients who needed both emergency surgery and pre-planned surgery in October 2020 to see whether they went on to develop a venous thromboembolism in the month after their operation.
Academics examined data on more than 128,000 patients from 1,630 hospitals across 115 countries.
Smoking among young people rose by quarter in first lockdown
08:21 , Laura Sharman
The number of young adults who smoke in England rose by a quarter in the first lockdown but more people also successfully kicked the habit, new research shows.
Hundreds of thousands of people picked up smoking after the coronavirus pandemic hit, the study funded by Cancer Research UK showed.
There was a 25% increase in 18 to 34-year-olds who smoke, which translated into a rise of more than 652,000 young adults, the charity said.
Researchers from University College London and the University of Sheffield said there was an increased prevalence of high-risk drinking among all groups (40%).
But the rise was greater among women (55%) and people from less advantaged backgrounds (64%).
Call for more support for new nurses and midwives
08:17 , Laura Sharman
New nurses and midwives feel “unprepared and unsupported in first roles” after missing out on vital training, a union suggests.
Unison said that more must be done to support these newly qualified workers and students as they start their career after a poll found that 70% believe they have missed out on important learning experiences during the coronavirus crisis.
Many newly qualified midwives and nurses and students worked on the front line of the pandemic.
And now more than half of final year students said they are worried they are not as prepared for qualification as they should be, according to a survey of 182 student and newly qualified nurses and midwives.
Unison’s national officer for nursing, Stuart Tuckwood, said: “Constructive and meaningful support in the workplace is vital for those newly qualified so they can fulfil their potential.”
Poorer parents more likely to worry about lost lessons
08:02 , Laura Sharman
Parents whose children are eligible for free school meals are more likely to be worried about how much learning they have lost due to Covid, a study suggests.
Charity Teach First is calling on the government to provide funding to reduce teachers’ timetabled hours in schools serving the poorest communities so staff can spend more time on planning high quality lessons.
Nearly half (44%) of parents of pupils eligible for free school meals said they were extremely or somewhat worried about lost learning during the pandemic, compared to 34% of parents whose children are not eligible.
The poll, of more than 1,400 parents in July by the Parent Ping app, suggests that families in the West Midlands (49%) are also more likely to be concerned about their child’s lost learning than those in London (33%).
It also found that the majority of parents (63%) believe that teachers are not paid fairly for the amount of work they do - in light of the government’s announcement of a pay freeze for teachers in 2020/21.