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Covid-19 news: Home and work testing to expand in England next month

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A coronavirus lateral stream system exhibiting a optimistic check end result.

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Latest coronavirus news as of 5pm on 17 February

UK authorities plans to ship 400,000 checks a day to houses and workplaces

Rapid coronavirus checks will begin being despatched out by submit next month to enable twice-weekly testing of individuals with out covid-19 signs for up to two-thirds of England’s inhabitants. The pregnancy-test-style lateral stream assays, which search for viral proteins in a swab from the nostril or throat, produce outcomes inside half an hour, however they don’t seem to be as correct because the slower PCR checks used in labs and clinics. The lateral stream checks are already getting used for screening folks with out covid-19 signs in settings corresponding to healthcare, care houses and in sure faculties and universities. The variety of these checks carried out has elevated massively in the previous month. The newest deliberate enlargement would contain finishing up greater than 400,000 checks a day in houses and workplaces, in accordance to paperwork seen by The Times. The roll-out would start earlier than faculties open up face-to-face instructing – at present slated for 8 March in England – and the checks can be despatched to schoolchildren, their households and academics, in addition to anybody who can not work at residence. It can be accompanied by a marketing campaign to encourage uptake provisionally known as “Are you ready? Get testing. Go.”

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Using lateral stream checks for mass screening is controversial, as a result of they’ve a greater false-negative charge than PCR checks. Proponents say lateral stream checks discover people who find themselves most infectious. Critics say they miss people who find themselves nonetheless able to transmitting the virus and who’re then falsely reassured they’re freed from the virus, so might behave extra riskily. A spokesperson for the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care stated their plans for increasing testing haven’t but been finalised.

Other coronavirus news

Four extra signs needs to be added to the listing of indicators that folks want a coronavirus check, researchers say. The new signs are fatigue, headache, sore throat and diarrhoea. The present signs that point out the necessity for a check are cough, fever or lack of style or odor. The findings come from an evaluation of customers of an app known as the Zoe Covid Symptom Study, which tracks covid-19 signs and circumstances. Using these further indicators as a set off for testing would lead to many extra folks being examined who don’t have the virus, however it could additionally decide up 40 per cent extra coronavirus circumstances, the researchers have calculated. 

The world’s first examine that may intentionally infect wholesome volunteers with the coronavirus will start next month. Initially, 90 folks aged 18-30 may have a small dose of the virus squirted up their nostril and will then be fastidiously monitored to see how their immune system reacts and to discover the smallest dose wanted for a gentle an infection. In future the experimenters will examine how efficient vaccines are towards present and novel variants of the virus, stated Chris Chiu at Imperial College London.

South Africa will this week grow to be the primary nation in the world to begin giving folks the Johnson & Johnson covid-19 vaccine. This one-shot jab is efficient at stopping extreme illness from the coronavirus variant prevalent in that nation.

Coronavirus deaths

New Scientist Default Image

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.43 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 109.6 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

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The New York Times is monitoring hospital mattress occupancy in England in an interactive graphic.

Panorama: The Race for a Vaccine is a BBC documentary concerning the inside story of the event of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine towards covid-19.

Race Against the Virus: Hunt for a Vaccine is a Channel 4 documentary which tells the story of the coronavirus pandemic by way of the eyes of the scientists on the frontline.

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Humans of COVID-19 is a undertaking highlighting the experiences of key staff on the frontline in the battle towards coronavirus in the UK, by way of social media.

Belly Mujinga: Searching for the Truth is a BBC Panorama investigation of the dying of transport employee Belly Mujinga from covid-19, following studies she had been coughed and spat on by a buyer at London’s Victoria Station.

Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix is a brief documentary sequence analyzing the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to battle it and methods to handle its psychological well being toll.

New Scientist Weekly options updates and evaluation on the most recent developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees skilled journalists from the journal talk about the most important science tales to hit the headlines every week – from know-how and area, to well being and the atmosphere.

COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened, and How to Stop the Next One by Debora Mackenzie is about how the pandemic occurred and why it’ll occur once more if we don’t do issues otherwise in future.

The Rules of Contagion is concerning the new science of contagion and the stunning methods it shapes our lives and behaviour. The writer, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist on the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the e book he examines how illnesses unfold and why they cease.

 

Previous updates

A woman wearing a face mask stands on a balcony in a retirement home

A girl in a retirement residence appears to be like out on the view from her balcony

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16 February

Nearly two million extra folks can be added to England’s shielding listing

About 1.7 million folks in England can be instructed to defend and take further precautions from covid-19 after they have been discovered to be at critical danger of illness or dying. They may also be prioritised for covid-19 vaccination. The addition will carry the entire quantity on the UK authorities’s shielding listing to virtually 4 million, all of whom are being suggested to defend till 31 March. 

The folks being added to the listing have been recognized utilizing an algorithm to predict whether or not an individual is liable to extreme illness or dying from covid-19. The algorithm incorporates data on age, ethnicity, physique mass index, different well being circumstances and postcode (which is indicative of the extent of deprivation). “As we learn more about covid-19, we’re continuously reviewing the evidence,” Jenny Harries, considered one of England’s deputy chief medical officers, instructed a briefing on 16 February. “It was very clear that not all of those individuals who were at risk were identified by the binary approach,” she stated. Harries stated it is going to be up to the people to determine whether or not to observe the shielding recommendation or not.

Other coronavirus news

An estimated one in 5 folks in England had antibodies towards the coronavirus in the 28 days up to 1 February, suggesting that they had beforehand been contaminated or had obtained a covid-19 vaccine, in accordance to the Office for National Statistics. In Wales and Northern Ireland the equal estimate was one in 7 and for Scotland it was one in 9 folks. People have been examined for antibodies as a part of the COVID-19 Infection Survey in the UK. In England, folks aged 80 and over have been most definitely to check optimistic for antibodies with 40.9 per cent testing optimistic, which might be due to the excessive vaccination charge in this group. “It could be tempting to assume that quantifying antibody levels like this tells us the level and distribution of immunity to covid-19 in the population, but we do not know what components of the immune system are required for immunity or how long protection will last,” stated Simon Clarke on the University of Reading in a assertion.

Early knowledge from vaccinations in Israel point out that the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine prevents 94 per cent of symptomatic coronavirus infections. The examine checked out 600,000 totally vaccinated folks and the identical variety of unvaccinated folks. This is a really comparable degree of effectiveness to that recorded in medical trials of the vaccine. Israel’s well being fund, Clalit, used coronavirus check outcomes extracted from folks’s well being data to evaluate numbers of infections between those that had obtained two doses of the vaccine and those that hadn’t obtained any doses. There have been 94 per cent fewer infections amongst those that had been vaccinated. Nearly half of Israel’s resident grownup inhabitants have obtained no less than one dose of covid-19 vaccine thus far.

Coronavirus deaths

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Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.41 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 109 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Merged variants: The UK and California variants of coronavirus seem to have mixed right into a closely mutated hybrid, sparking concern that we could also be getting into a brand new section of the covid-19 pandemic.

 

A laboratory technician handles vials in a laboratory

Genome sequencing of the coronavirus and its variants on the Centre National de Reference in France

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15 February

Coronavirus variants carrying comparable mutations detected in the US 

Seven coronavirus variants carrying comparable mutations have been detected in the US. All the variants, reported in a preliminary examine, have gained a mutation on the similar location in their genome and seem to belong to the identical lineage as a virus first sequenced on 1 December, which subsequently turned extra frequent. “There’s clearly something going on with this mutation,” Jeremy Kamil at Louisiana State University and co-author of the examine, instructed the New York Times. It isn’t clear if the mutation makes the variants extra transmissible, just like the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant first sequenced in the UK, however its location in a gene that influences how the virus enters human cells is regarding. “I think there’s a clear signature of an evolutionary benefit,” stated Kamil. The preliminary examine was launched on a pre-print server and has not been peer-reviewed.

Other coronavirus news

UK well being minister Matt Hancock revealed that a 3rd of social care staff in England haven’t had a covid-19 vaccine but, regardless of being among the many first precedence teams. “We’ll keep offering and keep contacting people who work in social care,” Hancock instructed the BBC’s Breakfast present. “Obviously the uptake there is very important,” he stated. Separately, a preliminary examine discovered decrease covid-19 vaccine uptake amongst Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers on the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in England. “These findings give significant cause for concern, as ethnic minority groups (especially those working in healthcare) are at higher risk of infection with [the coronavirus] and adverse outcome from covid-19,” stated the report, which has not been peer-reviewed. More than 15 million folks have obtained a dose of covid-19 vaccine in the UK thus far, in conserving with the federal government’s goal of providing a primary dose of vaccine to 4 precedence teams by mid-February.

“We’ll do everything we can” to reopen faculties in England by 8 March, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has stated, including: “But we’ve got to keep looking at the data, we’ve got to keep looking at the rates of infection, don’t forget they’re still very high.” The UK authorities is anticipated to set out plans for ending restrictions at a briefing on 22 February. Johnson stated the federal government’s plans can be “cautious but irreversible”.

The first travellers required to keep at quarantine accommodations in England arrived at London’s Heathrow airport on 15 February. People arriving in the UK from 33 “red list” nations at the moment are required to go into necessary resort quarantine for 10 days on arrival, at their very own expense.

Coronavirus deaths

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Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.4 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 108 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

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Making a distinction: The unpredictability of covid-19 could make our lives really feel uncontrolled, however there are issues we will all do to affect our course by way of the pandemic.

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A girl receives the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid19 vaccine at an NHS vaccination middle in Ealing, west London

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12 February

Vaccinations of individuals underneath 70 start in England next week

Vaccinators in England can now begin giving covid-19 vaccines to folks aged between 65 and 69, so long as they’ve already supplied jabs to older and clinically susceptible folks in the highest precedence teams. “We have been told by NHS England that, in exceptional circumstances, where we have reached other groups, we can move on to cohort five [people aged 65 to 69],” an nameless physician instructed the Guardian. Across the UK, 14 million folks had obtained a primary dose of covid-19 vaccine as of 12 February – equal to about 20 per cent of the entire inhabitants.

Infections fall throughout the UK

Coronavirus infections seem to be falling throughout the UK. The Office for National Statistics estimates that about one in 80 folks in England had covid-19 in the week up to 6 February, down from one in 65 folks the earlier week. In Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland the equal figures for the latest week are roughly one in 85, one in 75 and one in 150 folks respectively, all down from the earlier week’s figures. The newest official estimate of the R quantity – the typical variety of folks every individual with coronavirus infects – places it between 0.7 and 0.9  for the UK as an entire, indicating the nation’s epidemic is shrinking. 

Neil Ferguson at Imperial College London, who advises the UK authorities as a part of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, stated lockdowns have helped drive down circumstances. “They’re basically halving about every 17 days at the moment,” he instructed Politico’s Westminster Insider podcast. Ferguson stated it is perhaps potential to reopen no less than main faculties in a month’s time. “And if we continue to see then a continued decline without large outbreaks, then perhaps starting to relax other aspects of society the following month,” he added. UK prime minister Boris Johnson has stated discussions on reopening faculties will occur in the week beginning 22 February, with faculties probably ready to reopen from 8 March.

Other coronavirus news

Germany is imposing strict new border controls due to concern over coronavirus variants, with a ban on journey into the nation from the Czech Republic and Austria the place the B.1351 and B.1.1.7 variants of the virus have been discovered to be prevalent. Returning residents and sure important staff can be exempt. 

French well being authority Haute Autorite de Sante beneficial that individuals who have already had covid-19 and recovered ought to solely be supplied a single shot of covid-19 vaccine. “The single dose of vaccine will act as a reminder,” it stated in an announcement.

Coronavirus deaths

New Scientist Default Image

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.37 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 107 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

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Photo of a person's hand holding a box of medication labelled tocilizumab

A pharmacist in France shows a field of tocilizumab, which is used in the therapy of rheumatoid arthritis

PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo

11 February

Roche’s arthritis drug tocilizumab discovered to lower danger of dying amongst sufferers with extreme covid-19

The arthritis drug tocilizumab reduces the danger of dying amongst severely in poor health covid-19 sufferers, in accordance to findings from the RECOVERY trial, which has been testing a spread of potential remedies for the illness since March final yr. The examine discovered that 29 per cent of covid-19 sufferers who obtained tocilizumab died inside 28 days, in contrast to 33 per cent of those that didn’t obtain the drug. Treatment with tocilizumab – bought underneath the model title Actemra by Swiss firm Roche – additionally shortened the time to restoration and diminished the requirement for mechanical air flow. The trial included 2022 covid-19 sufferers randomly allotted to obtain tocilizumab in addition to their commonplace care and 2094 sufferers allotted to commonplace care solely, which for 82 per cent of all sufferers in the examine included therapy with a steroid, corresponding to dexamethasone. Last yr, dexamethasone turned the first drug discovered to scale back dying charges in covid-19 sufferers. The most up-to-date outcomes point out that tocilizumab gives extra advantages when used with steroids, like dexamethasone. “Used in combination, the impact is substantial,” stated Martin Landray on the University of Oxford, one of many lead investigators on the trial. “After dexamethasone (steroids), this is the most significant advance in the treatment of covid,” stated Athimalaipet Ramanan on the University of Bristol in a assertion.

Other coronavirus news

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued up to date steerage saying individuals who have been “fully vaccinated” towards covid-19 are not suggested to quarantine if they’re uncovered to somebody who checks optimistic for coronavirus. This applies to individuals who have had each doses of a covid-19 vaccine no less than two weeks in the past. However, the CDC stated this doesn’t imply that totally vaccinated people ought to cease taking precautions and added that individuals who had their pictures three months in the past or extra ought to nonetheless quarantine if they’re uncovered, because it isn’t identified how lengthy safety towards covid-19 lasts.

US well being officers are advising folks in the nation to contemplate sporting two masks on high of one another to higher shield themselves towards coronavirus an infection. A CDC report steered sporting a fabric masks over a disposable surgical masks or enhancing the match of a single surgical masks as methods to increase safety.

It might take six to 9 months to produce and deploy covid-19 vaccines that work towards new variants of the coronavirus, in accordance to AstraZeneca. The UK-Swedish firm made this assertion after its present vaccine was discovered to be much less efficient towards the coronavirus variant first recognized in South Africa.

The Guardian reported that greater than 40 per cent of workers on the UK’s largest care residence supplier haven’t obtained any doses of covid-19 vaccine.

Coronavirus deaths

New Scientist Default Image

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.35 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 107 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

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A woman is pictured sitting on a chair, holding a coronavirus test kit

A girl takes a coronavirus check at a short lived testing facility in London, UK

Hollie Adams/Getty Images

10 February

Chills, lack of urge for food, headache and muscle ache linked to covid-19 in new examine

New signs have been linked to covid-19 in sure age teams, together with chills, lack of urge for food, headache and muscle ache, in Imperial College London’s REACT examine. The 4 new signs have been recognized by researchers by way of random swab testing and questioning of greater than 1,000,000 folks in England, performed between June 2020 and January 2021. The researchers discovered an affiliation between testing optimistic for the coronavirus and reporting any of those new signs or different signs beforehand linked to covid-19, corresponding to a persistent cough, fever or a loss or change in sense of style or odor. 

The extra signs folks had, the extra seemingly they have been to check optimistic, though there was some variation in signs throughout completely different age teams. Chills have been linked with an infection throughout all age teams, whereas complications have been reported primarily in kids aged 5-17, urge for food loss in adults over 18 and muscle aches in these aged 18-54. Infected 5-17 yr olds have been additionally much less seemingly to report experiencing fever, persistent cough and urge for food loss, in comparability with adults.

The REACT examine additionally checked out whether or not reported signs modified earlier than and after the B.1.1.7 variant turned the dominant variant in the UK. It discovered that signs have been largely comparable, regardless of the elevated prevalence of B.1.1.7. However, loss or change of sense of odor was much less predictive of getting covid-19 in January when B.1.1.7 accounted for about 86 per cent of infections, in contrast with November to December when it was 16 per cent. “As the epidemic progresses and new variants emerge, it’s essential that we keep monitoring how the virus affects people so that testing programmes meet changing needs,” stated Joshua Elliott, one of many researchers behind the examine at Imperial College London, in an announcement.

Other coronavirus news

People in the UK are going to have to “get used to the idea of vaccinating and revaccinating in the autumn as we face these new variants”, UK prime minister Boris Johnson instructed parliament on 10 February. Several vaccine producers have confirmed that they’re already engaged on new variations of their covid-19 vaccines to be certain that they continue to be efficient. The UK authorities just lately introduced a partnership with producer CureVac to quickly manufacture new vaccines in response to new coronavirus variants if wanted. “We believe that they may help us to develop vaccines that can respond at scale to new variants of the virus,” stated Johnson.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam stated he doesn’t suppose the B.1351 coronavirus variant first recognized in South Africa “is going to be a dominant issue in the next few months”. Speaking on BBC News, Van-Tam stated 90 per cent of circumstances in the UK in the meanwhile are brought on by the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in Kent.

South Africa is contemplating promoting or exchanging its doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine, in accordance to the nation’s well being minister. Plans to begin administering the jabs have been placed on maintain this week after a small, preliminary examine indicated it might not shield towards gentle or reasonable covid-19 brought on by the B.1.351 variant.

Coronavirus deaths

New Scientist Default Image

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.34 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 107 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

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Peter Ben Embarek, a member of the WHO-China joint study team, gestures with his hand as he answers a question during a press conference

Peter Ben Embarek solutions questions on the WHO-China joint examine press convention in Wuhan, China on 9 February

Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

9 February

WHO crew in China is investigating concept that coronavirus was unfold by way of frozen meals

The World Health Organization (WHO) mission in Wuhan, China has dominated out the chance that the coronavirus originated in a laboratory, however the crew is investigating whether or not the virus got here from frozen meals, presumably from exterior China. The investigation crew chief Peter Ben Embarek stated the virus appears to have originated in bats, as initially thought, however it was in all probability transmitted to people by way of an unknown intermediate species, presumably a lifeless or frozen animal meals product. Embarek stated it’s “extremely unlikely” that the virus escaped from a lab. The WHO mission arrived in China in January and spent 4 weeks researching the origin of the coronavirus with website visits to the Huanan seafood market, initially suspected because the supply of the virus, in addition to the laboratories on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was additionally being investigated as a possible supply. It introduced its preliminary findings at a press briefing in Wuhan on 9 February. 

Other coronavirus news

People arriving in England who’re required to quarantine in accommodations can be charged a price of £1750 to cowl the price of their keep, transport and coronavirus checks, UK well being minister Matt Hancock introduced. People who fail to quarantine face fines of up to £10,000, whereas those that lie on their passenger locator varieties about visiting any of 33 “red list” nations face up to 10 years in jail. Hancock stated comparable measures are being checked out for the devolved nations. “People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk,” he instructed parliament on Tuesday. He additionally confirmed that an enhanced testing regime for all arrivals would begin on 15 February, from which level all arrivals can be required to get examined for the coronavirus on the second and eighth days of their 10-day quarantine interval.

Extra covid-19 testing will start in elements of Greater Manchester in the UK, following the invention of 4 folks contaminated with a mutated model of the B.1.1.7 variant, first recognized in Kent. The 4 folks, from two separate households in Greater Manchester, have been discovered to be contaminated with a virus carrying the E484K mutation. The mutation is regarding, as there’s proof that some covid-19 vaccines could also be much less efficient towards the B.1.351 variant, often known as the “South Africa variant”, which has the identical mutation.  

The NHS covid-19 app has instructed 1.7 million folks in England and Wales to self-isolate since its launch in September. A preliminary evaluation by researchers on the University of Oxford and the Alan Turing Institute signifies 594,000 coronavirus circumstances have been prevented by the app. The app has had about 21.7 million downloads, though inside knowledge suggests about 16.5 million persons are at present actively utilizing its contact-tracing device, in accordance to the BBC.

Coronavirus deaths

New Scientist Default Image

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.32 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 106 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

South Africa variant: South Africa paused its rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine because it won’t be efficient towards the South African B.1.351 coronavirus variant – however it’s nonetheless seemingly to restrict the severity of covid-19.

A person wearing a face mask leans out of a car window to get vaccinated

An individual receives a covid-19 vaccine at a drive-through vaccination centre in St Albans, UK

REUTERS/Paul Childs

8 February

Researchers are investigating methods to modify covid-19 vaccines to deal with the South Africa variant and others that emerge

UK ministers say work is underway to tweak present covid-19 vaccines to deal with new variants of the coronavirus together with the B.1.351 coronavirus variant, generally referred to because the “South Africa variant”. On 6 February, a small, preliminary examine was reported to present that the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine might not shield towards gentle or reasonable covid-19 brought on by B.1.351. At least 147 circumstances of this variant have now been detected in the UK. “Our brilliant scientists and medical advisers are now working on the potential for new versions of existing vaccines to offer further protections against covid variants,” Nadhim Zahawi, minister for covid-19 vaccine deployment, wrote in the Telegraph. As a precaution, South Africa – the place the variant accounts for about 90 per cent of latest coronavirus circumstances – has put its rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on maintain. However, the examine, which has not but been printed or peer-reviewed, was comparatively small and didn’t have a look at the influence of the vaccine on extreme illness or dying.

Sarah Gilbert on the University of Oxford, one of many lead vaccine researchers on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, stated a modified model that’s efficient towards the South Africa variant may very well be prepared to deploy in the autumn. “What we’re seeing from other vaccine developers is that they have a reduction in efficacy against some of the variant viruses,” Gilbert instructed the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on 7 February, including that though vaccines could also be much less efficient at lowering circumstances with new variants, they nonetheless seem to be protecting towards dying, hospitalisation and extreme illness. Other covid-19 vaccine producers are additionally engaged on new variations of their vaccines to be certain that they continue to be efficient. “We’re very confident in all the vaccines that we are using, and I think it’s important for people to bear in mind that all of them, we think, are effective in delivering a high degree of protection against serious illness and death, which is the most important thing,” stated UK prime minister Boris Johnson, in an interview with Sky News on 8 February. “We will be continuing to study the results, the effectiveness, of the vaccine rollout.”

Other coronavirus news

All folks residing in the UK can be eligible to obtain a covid-19 vaccine no matter whether or not they have the authorized proper to work and dwell in the nation, the UK authorities stated on 8 February. “Coronavirus vaccines will be offered to everyone living in the UK free of charge, regardless of immigration status,” a authorities spokesperson instructed Reuters. The authorities stated getting the vaccine wouldn’t set off immigration checks.

Ireland stated it’ll crack down on travellers returning to the UK from the Middle East by way of Ireland to keep away from just lately launched quarantine guidelines. The variety of folks travelling to Dublin from Dubai has risen for the reason that UK added the United Arab Emirates to its journey ban listing in January.

Coronavirus deaths

New Scientist Default Image

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.31 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 106 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

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Three people wearing face coverings sit on chairs in a waiting area

People wait to obtain the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine at Copes pharmacy in Streatham, England

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

5 February

Early outcomes recommend the Oxford covid-19 vaccine works towards B.1.1.7 virus variant

Preliminary outcomes point out that the covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca is efficient towards the extremely transmissible coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the UK. Researchers on the University of Oxford analysed swabs from vaccine trial individuals who had examined optimistic for the coronavirus between 1 October 2020 and 14 January 2021, to decide the variant of the virus with which that they had been contaminated. They discovered comparable efficacy charges of the vaccine towards the B.1.1.7 variant (74.6 per cent efficient) and the unique virus (84 per cent efficient). This is even if these contaminated with the B.1.1.7 variant produced fewer antibodies that would neutralise the virus. The outcomes have been launched on-line as a pre-print and haven’t been peer-reviewed.

Vaccine researchers are investigating methods to modify present covid-19 vaccines quickly to guarantee continued safety towards different new variants as nicely. “We are working with AstraZeneca to optimise the pipeline required for a strain change should one become necessary,” stated Sarah Gilbert on the University of Oxford in a assertion. “This is the same issue that is faced by all of the vaccine developers, and we will continue to monitor the emergence of new variants that arise in readiness for a future strain change,” she stated. “All viruses accumulate mutations over time, and for influenza vaccines there is a well-known process of global viral surveillance, and selection of strains for an annual update of the vaccines.”

Other coronavirus news

Coronavirus circumstances seem to be falling in a lot of the UK. The most up-to-date outcomes from a random swab testing survey by the Office for National Statistics point out optimistic checks have been falling in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the week up to 30 January. New infections throughout the UK as an entire are estimated to be falling by between 2 and 5 per cent every day, and the most recent official estimate for the UK’s R quantity – the typical variety of folks every coronavirus case infects – places it between 0.7 and 1.0. This is most definitely to symbolize the state of affairs two to three weeks in the past, due to a time lag in the info. The UK authorities stated it goals for all folks aged 50 and above to have been supplied a covid-19 vaccine by May, clarifying earlier feedback by a spokesperson for UK prime minister Boris Johnson who on 4 February stated the federal government’s goal was “spring”.

Johnson & Johnson utilized for an emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration for its covid-19 vaccine. The firm introduced final week that the single-dose vaccine had an efficacy of about 66 per cent in section III trials. If authorized, it could grow to be the third covid-19 vaccine authorised for emergency use in the US, after these developed by Pfizer and its companion BioNTech and by Moderna.

Israel introduced it will ease lockdown restrictions from 7 am native time on 7 February however will preserve its borders closed, after a slight discount in coronavirus circumstances. Almost 80 per cent of individuals over 50 in Israel have obtained a covid-19 vaccine thus far. The nation is vaccinating its 9 million residents at the next charge than every other nation.

Coronavirus deaths

New Scientist Default Image

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.28 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 105 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

A person wearing personal protective equipment holds a vaccine vial and syringe between their fingers

A physician prepares to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Salisbury Cathedral in Salisbury, UK

NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

4 February

UK plans to check impact of giving one dose every of the Pfizer and Astrazeneca covid-19 vaccines

A UK trial is aiming to examine the influence of giving folks two completely different covid-19 vaccines for his or her first and second doses. Being ready to use both vaccine will create extra flexibility in the supply of doses, and assist cope with disruption in provides, stated England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam. He stated combining two completely different vaccines in this manner might additionally increase immune responses, probably main to higher safety towards covid-19. The trial, which is being led by researchers on the University of Oxford and funded by the UK authorities’s vaccine taskforce, will recruit 820 volunteers over the age of fifty who haven’t but obtained a covid-19 vaccine. Participants will then obtain a primary dose of both the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca or the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Some of them will get the identical vaccine once more for his or her second dose 4 or 12 weeks later and others will get a second dose of the opposite vaccine, to check the impact of mixing the 2 pictures and of various time intervals between doses. 

UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi stated the nation is on observe to meet its goal of vaccinating all folks in the 4 precedence teams towards covid-19 by 15 February. He instructed parliament it has been “an incredible effort” that has “drawn on the hard work of so many”. Last month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated the UK authorities goals to have given a primary dose of covid-19 vaccine to all these over 70, probably the most clinically susceptible folks and frontline well being and social care staff by 15 February – equal to about 15 million folks. Across the UK, greater than 10.4 million folks had obtained a primary dose of covid-19 vaccine as of 4 February.

Other coronavirus news

International journey was related to elevated dying charges in the worst-affected nations in the course of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, in accordance to a examine printed in the scientific journal BMJ Open. Tiberiu Pana on the University of Aberdeen, UK, and colleagues analysed the connection between country-level elements – corresponding to worldwide arrivals, inhabitants density and well being indicators – and the typical improve in each day deaths recorded in early 2020 throughout the 37 nations with the very best dying charges from covid-19. They discovered that the most important improve in dying charges was related to worldwide arrivals. An improve of 1,000,000 worldwide arrivals was related to a 3.4 per cent rise in the typical each day improve in covid-19 deaths.

A World Health Organization scientist has stated society is unlikely to return to “normal” till 2022. “I think we are going to be well into next year before we see a change – that change is likely to be caused by high coverage of the vaccines,” stated Helen Rees, who sits on the WHO’s committee for covid-19. “I think this new normal we all talk about is with us for a very long time,” Rees instructed BBC Wales Live.

Coronavirus deaths

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Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.27 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 104 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Tweaking vaccines: The coronavirus is evolving to evade the safety from vaccines and pure immunity – what can we do to battle again?

Vaccine nationalism: The quickest manner to finish the covid-19 disaster is for nations to put the pursuits of the world forward of their very own, says Seth Berkley.

Royal Navy medics prepare syringes of the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre

Royal Navy medics put together syringes of the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Bath, UK

ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP by way of Getty Images

3 February

Covid-19 vaccine towards new variants may very well be deployed quickly, says Oxford vaccine researcher

A model of the covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca that may deal with the brand new, extremely transmissible coronavirus variants may very well be prepared to deploy in about 7 months in the UK, in accordance to a researcher on the Oxford vaccine crew. “The actual work on designing a new vaccine is very, very quick because it’s essentially just switching out the genetic sequence for the spike protein,” Andrew Pollard on the University of Oxford instructed the BBC. “And then there’s manufacturing to do and then a small scale study. So all of that can be completed in a very short period of time, and the autumn is really the timing for having new vaccines available for use,” he stated. Pollard stated work is already underway to replace the vaccine and improve its efficacy towards just lately recognized coronavirus mutations, corresponding to these in the variants first sequenced in the UK and South Africa.

Preliminary outcomes recommend that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine might scale back coronavirus transmission, in addition to lowering symptomatic covid-19 and extreme sickness. UK well being minister Matt Hancock praised the findings of the examine led by researchers on the University of Oxford. The outcomes point out that two doses of the jab scale back coronavirus an infection with or with out signs by 67 per cent. They additionally recommend {that a} single dose of the vaccine is 76 per cent efficient at stopping symptomatic covid-19 for 3 months, with this determine growing to 82 per cent after two doses. Hancock described the outcomes as “absolutely superb” and stated they present that “vaccines are the way out of this pandemic”.

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A cellular coronavirus testing unit has been arrange in the city of Southport in England to check residents for the coronavirus and determine if they’ve the variant first recognized in South Africa. Firefighters and council workers are additionally delivering 10,000 residence testing kits to folks residing in the realm.

Denmark introduced plans to introduce a digital “Corona-Pass”, which might enable Danish residents to show they’ve been vaccinated towards covid-19 for the needs of enterprise and leisure journey, in accordance to the nation’s finance ministry.

Israel will begin increasing its covid-19 vaccination programme to everybody over the age of 16, in accordance to its well being ministry.

Coronavirus deaths

New Scientist Default Image

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.25 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 104 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Pandemic burnout: As the coronavirus disaster goes on, an growing variety of us are feeling worn out and unable to cope. Here’s how one can inform if that is burnout, and what you are able to do to shield your self.

Vaccine throughout being pregnant: With little security knowledge obtainable on covid-19 vaccines throughout being pregnant, people who’re pregnant should weigh up the dangers and advantages for themselves, whereas proof for individuals who are breastfeeding is extra clear.

Passengers push luggage on trolleys through a terminal at London's Heathrow airport

Travellers arrive at London’s Heathrow airport

Hollie Adams/Getty Images

2 February

UK science advisers beneficial introduction of journey restrictions two weeks in the past

The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) suggested the federal government to introduce necessary resort quarantine for travellers arriving into the UK two weeks in the past, in accordance to minutes from a gathering on 21 January that have been leaked to the Times. On Thursday 21 January, SAGE reportedly warned that “reactive, geographically targeted” journey bans couldn’t be relied on to forestall faster-spreading coronavirus variants, corresponding to these recognized in South Africa and Brazil, from reaching the UK, including that: “no intervention, other than a complete, pre-emptive closure of borders, or the mandatory quarantine of all visitors upon arrival in designated facilities, irrespective of testing history, can get close to fully preventing the importation of new cases or new variants.” 

A Downing Street spokesperson stated SAGE didn’t instantly advise UK prime minister Boris Johnson to shut borders. Universities minister Michelle Donelan instructed Sky News that the federal government “always based our decisions on the best medical and scientific advice” and stated “the SAGE advice actually said it would probably be ineffective, in fact, to close the borders, which was the same advice that we got at the time from the World Health Organization”. Johnson introduced geographically focused resort quarantine measures for travellers coming back from 30 nations, together with Brazil and South Africa, final week.

UK well being minister Matt Hancock urged folks residing in postcodes in England singled out for enhanced coronavirus testing for the so-called South Africa variant to keep at residence until “absolutely essential”. Urgent door-to-door testing for the faster-spreading variant has been deployed after 11 circumstances with no hyperlink to overseas journey have been recognized in elements of England.

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Interim outcomes from section III trials recommend Russia’s covid-19 vaccine is 91.6 per cent efficient, and knowledge on the vaccine is being submitted to the European Medicines Agency, in accordance to Kirill Dmitriev, director of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. The outcomes, based mostly on a section III trial together with 21,977 adults, three-quarters of whom obtained the Sputnik V vaccine, are printed in scientific journal the Lancet. Other individuals obtained a placebo. 

Sweden introduced it could not suggest the covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca for folks aged over 65, hours after Poland stated it could not supply the vaccine to over 60s. Last week, medical consultants in Germany and Austria made comparable suggestions, citing a scarcity of information in this age group. The European Medicines Agency authorised the vaccine to be used in all grownup age teams throughout the European Union and June Raine, chief govt of the UK Medicines and Healthcare merchandise Regulatory Agency, final week stated: “Current evidence does not suggest any lack of protection against covid-19 in people aged 65 or over. The data we have shows that the vaccine produces a strong immune response in the over-65s.”

Coronavirus deaths

New Scientist Default Image

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.24 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 103 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Faster-spreading variants: The faster-spreading UK coronavirus variant has acquired a mutation that may assist it evade immune safety – the identical mutation already discovered in the South African variant.

Article amended on 4 February 2021

We corrected June Raine’s title.

A health worker talks with a man taking a swab test in a park

A well being employee talks with a person taking a swab check in Goldsworth Park, because the South African variant of the novel coronavirus is reported in elements of Surrey, in Woking, UK, 1 February 2021

REUTERS/Hannah McKay

1 February

All adults in elements of England to be examined for South Africa variant after 11 new circumstances recognized

Door-to-door testing for the so-called South Africa coronavirus variant will start in elements of England this week, after 11 circumstances with no identified hyperlinks to journey or to earlier circumstances have been recognized in eight areas of the nation. Urgent testing of adults, no matter signs, will happen in some postcodes in Hertfordshire, Surrey, Kent, Walsall, Sefton and in the London boroughs of Merton, Haringey and Ealing. “We are trying to contain this so it does not spread,” Susan Hopkins, senior medical adviser at Public Health England instructed the BBC. Any newly recognized infections can be analysed to see if they’re brought on by the extremely transmissible coronavirus variant first sequenced in South Africa. 

UK well being minister Matt Hancock “has ordered an attempt at eradication of the new variant if at all possible”, with public well being officers beginning to go door-to-door in affected areas this week, in accordance to a briefing seen by the Guardian. “This is a precautionary measure,” stated Ruth Hutchinson, director of public well being for Surrey, in an announcement. “The more cases of the variant we find, the better chance we have at stopping it from spreading further,” stated Hutchinson, including: “It’s really important to say that there is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness, so you don’t need to worry.”

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A covid-19 vaccine has now been supplied to older residents at each eligible care residence in England, the NHS introduced, however vaccination charges of care residence workers are lagging behind residents. Fiona Carragher, director of analysis and influencing at Alzheimer’s Society instructed the BBC she remained involved that the vaccination rollout for care residence workers “has not been nearly so effective”. In January, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated the UK authorities goals to vaccinate all these over 70, probably the most clinically susceptible folks and frontline well being and social care staff by 15 February – equal to about 15 million vaccinations. Across the UK, greater than 8.9 million folks had obtained a primary dose of covid-19 vaccine as of 30 January.

The European Union stated AstraZeneca has agreed to provide it with 9 million extra doses of its covid-19 vaccine, developed in partnership with the University of Oxford. This brings the entire variety of anticipated doses for the primary quarter of this yr to 40 million, which is about half of what the EU was initially anticipating. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted saying the corporate would expand its manufacturing capability in Europe, and begin delivering doses every week sooner than scheduled.

Germany’s well being minister Jens Spahn hinted that covid-19 vaccines from China and Russia may very well be used in Europe to compensate for the shortfall of doses equipped by Pfizer and its companion BioNTech, and by Oxford/AstraZeneca. “Regardless of the country in which a vaccine is manufactured, if they are safe and effective, they can help cope with the pandemic,” Spahn instructed German media on Sunday, including that any vaccine will first want to be authorized by the European Medicines Agency.

Coronavirus deaths

New Scientist Default Image

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.23 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 103 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Can vaccines cease transmission?: Several research recommend that coronavirus vaccines can considerably scale back transmission of the virus, however not halt it utterly – so social distancing remains to be obligatory.

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A lab technician working at Janssen Pharmaceutical in Beerse, Belgium

Virginia Mayo/AP/Shutterstock

29 January

Vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax report optimistic trial outcomes

A coronavirus vaccine developed by the US agency Novavax has been proven to be 89 per cent efficient in stopping covid-19 in medical trials. The trials included individuals in the UK and South Africa, and discovered the vaccine to be 86 per cent efficient towards the UK variant of the virus, however solely 60 per cent efficient towards the variant in South Africa. Novavax stated it’ll instantly start growth on a vaccine particularly focused to the South African variant.

Janssen, a subsidiary of US agency Johnson & Johnson, introduced that its covid-19 vaccine confirmed 66 per cent efficacy in a world trial. These outcomes are based mostly on a single dose of the vaccine, which makes it simpler to administer than the two-shot vaccines which have already been authorized. The firm has stated it’ll promote its vaccine on a not-for-profit foundation.

The UK has already ordered 30 million doses of the Janssen vaccine and the European Union has ordered 400 million. The UK has additionally ordered 60 million doses of the Novavax jab.

Other coronavirus news

The European Medicines Agency has beneficial the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for all adults, which is able to enable mass use of the vaccine in the European Union. Yesterday, a German committee beneficial towards approving the vaccine for folks over 65 due to inadequate knowledge in the trials, however the EMA’s consultants stated safety may very well be anticipated in this group and there’s dependable data on security. The vaccine is already the topic of a dispute between AstraZeneca and the EU over the agency’s resolution to provide fewer doses to the EU this yr than initially agreed. Today, the European Commission printed elements of its contract with AstraZeneca, which it says obliges the corporate to provide the agreed volumes. The drug-maker says the contract solely obliges it to make its “best effort” to meet the EU demand, not to stick to a selected timetable. The EU additionally introduced export restrictions on vaccines made inside the bloc in response to the deliberate lower in deliveries. 

The coronavirus variant from South Africa – which is extra infectiousness  than the unique variant has been detected in the US for the primary time, with two circumstances confirmed in South Carolina

The New York state authorities has launched new figures exhibiting that it undercounted deaths from covid-19 in nursing residence residents by greater than 3800. The state’s general dying toll has not elevated, however the greater tally in nursing houses has fuelled criticism that governor Andrew Cuomo didn’t do sufficient to shield these residents.

In the UK, covid-19 hospital admissions fell to 33.51 per 100,000 folks from a charge of 35.64 in the week ending 24 January, figures from the Office for National Statistics present. One in 55 folks in personal households in England examined optimistic for covid-19 between 17 and 23 January, which has similarities to the earlier week. The an infection charge was roughly one in 70 in Wales, one in 50 in Northern Ireland and one in 110 in Scotland. The R quantity for the UK is between 0.7 and 1.1, in accordance to the newest estimate by the federal government’s scientific advisory group. The R quantity is the variety of folks every individual with covid-19 will go on to infect.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Global vaccine distribution: While mass immunisation programmes are making fast progress in wealthy nations, many middle-income nations have solely simply begun roll-outs and most low-income ones will take months to get began. These delays improve the danger of mutations main to variants which can be extra transmissible,and might render vaccines much less efficient in future.

Coronavirus deaths

The worldwide covid-19 dying toll has handed 2.19 million. The variety of confirmed circumstances is greater than 101 million, in accordance to Johns Hopkins University, although the true variety of circumstances can be a lot greater.

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