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London City Hall to Raise City Tax by Almost 10%

The funds will be used to provide free travel for children and the elderly

From April 2021, London Mayor Sadiq Khan plans to increase the part of the municipal tax that goes to the capital’s budget by 9.5%, according to The Evening Standard. The proceeds will be used to provide free travel for Londoners under 18 and over 60.

So, the council tax on category D will rise by £ 31.59 per year. £ 15 of this will be used to maintain the reduced fare, another £ 15 to support the police forces, and the remaining £ 1.59 to improve the work of the London fire department.

Taking into account the indexation from the local authorities, the total municipal tax increase in 2021 could be up to £ 100.

According to Sadik Khan, promotion is a forced measure. Now free travel for some categories of citizens in London is provided by the government, but from April it will shift responsibility to the metropolitan mayor’s office. “I understand that many families have faced serious financial difficulties due to the pandemic, but the government has left us no other choice. I promise all Londoners that every penny of this amount will be used effectively. “– said Khan.

In addition, the City Hall will not reduce the entry fee for central London until at least October 2021. Since June 22, 2020, it has risen in price from £ 11.5 to £ 15.

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Tearful nurse who zips up the body bags of dead Covid patients begs public to follow lockdown rules

An exhausted intensive care nurse has revealed the emotional toll of ‘zipping up body bags’ as she begs the British public to stop flouting coronavirus lockdown rules. 

Ameera Sheikh, 28, who zipped up the body bag on her fourth Covid-19 patient in just two days at a hard-hit London hospital, said she can’t sleep any more ‘because the nightmares are too much’.   

Her comments come after the UK’s Covid-19 death toll passed 80,000, after a further 1,035 deaths were recorded yesterday, increasing fears that the total will surpass 100,000 by the end of the month. 

Ameera Sheikh, 28, who zipped up the body bag on her fourth Covid-19 patient in just two days at a hard-hit London hospital, said she can’t sleep any more ‘because the nightmares are too much’

London's mayor Sadiq Khan declared a 'major incident' across the capital in the face of soaring Covid-19 cases. Pictured: Paramedics transfer a patient from an ambulance into the Royal London Hospital on January 8

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan declared a ‘major incident’ across the capital in the face of soaring Covid-19 cases. Pictured: Paramedics transfer a patient from an ambulance into the Royal London Hospital on January 8 

The ICU nurse revealed she and her colleagues are on their feet for up to 14 hours a day and some medics ‘are so burnt out that they can’t eat’. 

Ameera hit out at anti-lockdown protesters and said none of them will ‘ever zip up a body bag in their lives’ whilst she and her colleagues are risking their lives every day to treat patients.

She also said ‘our Government has failed us’ as London’s mayor Sadiq Khan declared a ‘major incident’ across the capital in the face of soaring Covid-19 cases.   

Ameera hit out at anti-lockdown protesters and said none of them will 'ever zip up a body bag in their lives' whilst she and her colleagues are risking their lives every day to treat patients. Pictured: Police officers arrest anti-lockdown protester outside Houses of Parliament in London on 6 January

Ameera hit out at anti-lockdown protesters and said none of them will ‘ever zip up a body bag in their lives’ whilst she and her colleagues are risking their lives every day to treat patients. Pictured: Police officers arrest anti-lockdown protester outside Houses of Parliament in London on 6 January

Ameera told The Sunday People: ‘Each day is as bad as the next. Some days it’s so intense. You feel so sick inside that you can’t even bring yourself to drink a glass of water.

‘We are on our feet for 13 or 14 hours a day, running around. I don’t sleep any more because the nightmares are too much.’ 

Ameera, who has worked for the NHS for 12 years, begged the British public to not break the coronavirus lockdown rules in order to help save lives. 

She said: ‘Please don’t break the rules. I have worked overseas in less developed countries where they don’t have the resources like we do and what is going on right now reminds me of those experiences.

‘Death was all around us then and death is all around us now.’ 

The ICU nurse revealed she and her colleagues are on their feet for up to 14 hours a day and some medics 'are so burnt out that they can't eat'. Pictured: A nurse works on a patient in the ICU in St George's Hospital in Tooting, London

The ICU nurse revealed she and her colleagues are on their feet for up to 14 hours a day and some medics ‘are so burnt out that they can’t eat’. Pictured: A nurse works on a patient in the ICU in St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London

In a scathing rebuke of the anti-lockdown groups who are flouting lockdown restrictions, she said: ‘They don’t have any medical qualifications yet feel it’s OK to make unfounded comments. 

‘When will they realise what’s going on? Will it be when they lose someone they love?

‘They need to realise the world doesn’t revolve around them. Other people are living in this world too and many have died because people chose not to wear a mask or wanted to hang out with their pals.’ 

She continued: ‘We can have a day where patients are dying all day long and you are having to quickly wash them and zip up a body bag.

‘None of the people from anti-lockdown groups will ever zip up a body bag in their lives.’  

Staff nurses work in the corridor of the Acute Dependency Unit at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south-west London

Staff nurses work in the corridor of the Acute Dependency Unit at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south-west London

The nurse has treated a number of patients who they know have broken lockdown rules. 

‘As healthcare workers we have to suspend judgement. Some people are very lucky not to have experienced Covid. 

Ameera, who is a Unite union representative, added: ‘[Some people] admit to flouting the laws and are apologetic, while others don’t care. They have maybe lost their jobs or feel isolated and therefore don’t trust anything the Government says.

‘Some are very sick but deny they have Covid at all.’ 

Speaking of the emotional toll of the virus and working in a hard-hit London hospital, Ameera added: ‘I’ve lost friends and colleagues to this virus and we have doctors working in red zones who have come back from retirement or are medically vulnerable.

‘Staff are falling sick and it’s no surprise when, in many areas of the hospital, they are only wearing aprons and simple surgical masks.

‘It’s only the staff on ICU who are wearing full PPE. Everyone is scared of catching the new variant because it’s so much more infectious and many of us are still waiting for our vaccinations.’

A consultant takes a moment to use his phone in the corridor of the Intensive Care Unit at St George's Hospital in Tooting

A consultant takes a moment to use his phone in the corridor of the Intensive Care Unit at St George’s Hospital in Tooting

Hospitals in London will run out of beds within weeks if the spread of coronavirus is not dramatically reduced, Mr Khan warned as he declared a ‘major incident’ across the city.

The capital’s mayor said Covid-19 cases were ‘out of control’ and implored Londoners to stay at home ‘unless it is absolutely necessary for you to leave’ in order to save lives and protect the NHS.

Chris Whitty has also warned hospitals are facing ‘the worst crisis in living memory’ as Covid-19 cases continue to soar – with 46,000 medical workers now off sick.   

Britons who don’t take the coronavirus lockdown seriously will cause ‘avoidable deaths’ when critically ill patients are turned away at the hospital door, Professor Chris Whitty warned in a scathing article for the Sunday Times.

Britons not taking the coronavirus lockdown seriously could soon cause 'avoidable deaths' when critically ill patients are turned away at the hospital door, Professor Chris Whitty warned in a scathing article for the Sunday Times. Pictured, ambulances outside the Royal London Hospital on January 8

Britons not taking the coronavirus lockdown seriously could soon cause ‘avoidable deaths’ when critically ill patients are turned away at the hospital door, Professor Chris Whitty warned in a scathing article for the Sunday Times. Pictured, ambulances outside the Royal London Hospital on January 8

And almost 50,000 hospital workers are currently off sick with Covid-19, according to the chair of the British Medical Association, Chaand Nagpaul, meaning an already stretched workforce is under even more pressure, reported The Guardian. 

Prof Whitty blasted coronavirus rulebreakers for being the ‘link in a chain’ that will allow the deadly virus to infect a and kill the elderly and vulnerable. 

‘We must stay home except for work, exercise and necessary activities. Every unneccesary interaction you have could be the link in the chain of transmission which has a vulnerable person at the end,’ he wrote.

The country has two weeks before hospitals are likely to be completely overwhelmed, Prof Whitty added, as the nation is plunged into the ‘most dangerous situation’ in living history.

Prof Whitty (pictured) blasted coronavirus rulebreakers for being the 'link in a chain' that will allow the deadly virus to infect a and kill the elderly and vulnerable

Prof Whitty (pictured) blasted coronavirus rulebreakers for being the ‘link in a chain’ that will allow the deadly virus to infect a and kill the elderly and vulnerable

Speaking about the high-demand in UK hospitals, Ameera said: ‘During and after the first wave, a lot of staff had handed in their resignation, and that’s across many hospitals in the UK.

‘A lot of people were just about coping in the first wave. [But] because of the way that they were treated, because of what they saw, the trauma, and not being supported well enough by management – they left.

‘So now we’re seeing a massive surge, being in the second wave, and it’s worse than the first wave.

‘It’s so stressful, my colleagues aren’t coping very well. Some of them are so burnt out that they can’t eat, they can’t sleep, they can’t bring themselves to come into work. How has our Government failed us, and had all these months to prepare?’

Footage showed the inside of St George's Hospital as Covid cases soar in Britain. The country has two weeks before hospitals are likely to be completely overwhelmed, Prof Whitty added, as the nation is plunged into the 'most dangerous situation' in living history

Footage showed the inside of St George’s Hospital as Covid cases soar in Britain. The country has two weeks before hospitals are likely to be completely overwhelmed, Prof Whitty added, as the nation is plunged into the ‘most dangerous situation’ in living history

Ameera also revealed some hospitals in the capital are now so overwhelmed that staff have no option put to place a negative patient with positive cases because there isn’t enough space. 

She said: ‘In London we are playing musical beds, moving patients from one hospital to another nearby to create space.

‘We are opening new intensive care units and new Covid wards, but with what staff? A lot of staff handed in their resignations after the first wave. Nurses are looking after three or even four patients each in ICU.

‘There are some hospitals who have the odd negative patient amongst a bay of positive cases because they’ve run out of side rooms.’ 

In a letter to Boris Johnson he has demanded churches and other places of worship be closed and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in supermarket queues and other places outside that may be crowded

Mr Khan warned that more than one per cent of the city’s nine million residents tested positive for Covid last week, with one in 30 residents currently estimated to be infected. 

In the worst-hit boroughs, it is feared the rate is as high as one in 20 and startling figures also show that hospital admissions rose by a quarter in the first week of January. 

More than 7,000 NHS beds across the capital are currently occupied by Covid patients – 35 per cent higher than the busiest day of the pandemic in the spring. 

Police blasted a ‘small selfish minority’ ignoring the rules and promised to come down hard on transgressors who are refusing to stop partying despite the highly transmissible pathogen being rife. 

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: ‘I know Londoners will be shocked that officers are still dealing with a small selfish minority who think the rules don’t apply to them by holding house parties, large warehouse raves or other gatherings. These are creating breeding grounds for the much more transmissible variant.’ 

Police blasted a 'small selfish minority' ignoring the rules and promised to come down hard on transgressors who are refusing to stop partying despite the highly transmissible pathogen being rife. Pictured: A man is arrested by police during an anti-lockdown protest at Parliament Square in London on 6 January

Police blasted a ‘small selfish minority’ ignoring the rules and promised to come down hard on transgressors who are refusing to stop partying despite the highly transmissible pathogen being rife. Pictured: A man is arrested by police during an anti-lockdown protest at Parliament Square in London on 6 January

Police confronted protesters chanting ‘take your freedom back’ as they marched through Clapham on Saturday to call for opposition against national lockdown measures ordering people to stay at home.

The protest, organised by group StandupX, was attended by a few dozen people who marched from Clapham Common, in south London, and then down the high street, prompting car drivers to blare their horns. 

After reaching the Argos store in Clapham, a video which was broadcast online showed brief scuffles between protesters and the Metropolitan Police as they appeared to arrest one man. At least 10 officers could be seen surrounding the protesters. 

Police confronted protesters chanting 'take your freedom back' as they marched through Clapham on Saturday to call for opposition against national lockdown measures ordering people to stay at home

Police confronted protesters chanting ‘take your freedom back’ as they marched through Clapham on Saturday to call for opposition against national lockdown measures ordering people to stay at home

After reaching the Argos store in Clapham, a video which was broadcast online showed brief scuffles between protesters and police as officers appeared to arrest one man. At least 10 officers could be seen surrounding the protesters

After reaching the Argos store in Clapham, a video which was broadcast online showed brief scuffles between protesters and police as officers appeared to arrest one man. At least 10 officers could be seen surrounding the protesters

The protest, organised by group StandupX, was attended by a few dozen people who marched from Clapham Common, in south London, and then down the high street, prompting car drivers to blare their horns

The protest, organised by group StandupX, was attended by a few dozen people who marched from Clapham Common, in south London, and then down the high street, prompting car drivers to blare their horns

Further scuffles then broke out outside a nearby Sainsbury’s store as officers made another arrest. Police said in a statement posted on Twitter that they had detained 12 people. 

It comes after the Metropolitan Police warned its officers will take action against protesters and will fine them the first time they are caught flouting lockdown rules.

The number of people who tested positive for coronavirus across the country rose by 59,937 yesterday, 3.8 per cent higher than last Saturday’s figure but down 8,000 on the previous day.

Shattered staff at London’s largest hospital St George’s say they are working ‘to the limit’ of their ability, battling low morale, exhausting shift patterns, and the prospect that the worst is still to come. 

Medical Director at NHS London, Vin Diwakar, warned medics that even if coronavirus patients grew at the lowest likely rate and hospital capacity is increased – including opening the Nightingale  at the ExCel Centre – the NHS would still be short 2,000 general, acute and ICU beds by January 19, the HSJ reports.

Inside St George’s they are seeing seriously ill patients in their twenties because of the new Covid strain – and bosses fear that there will be an exodus of staff when the third lockdown ends at Easter. 

Intensive care consultant Mohamed Ahmed said he had seen staff in tears at the end of their shift, while some decided they could no longer come to work

Intensive care consultant Mohamed Ahmed said he had seen staff in tears at the end of their shift, while some decided they could no longer come to work

Staff at London’s University College Hospital told the BBC they are having to make choices about which patients to prioritise after a surge in young people left fighting for their life and needing ventilators.

St George’s emergency department consultant Dr Mark Haden said: ‘Everyone’s stress levels are higher than usual. Everyone is working to the limit, to the threshold of what they’re able to. The hospital bed occupancy is very, very high, it has lots of Covid patients as inpatients at the moment.’ 

The Press Association was given access to the ICU where Ms Cooper said: ‘There is very little joy in our work at the moment. It’s hard to find that joy when you come into work – you’re scared for your colleagues, your families and yourself.’

She said some staff have had to be sent home to take time off due to the unprecedented pressures on the job, while others have battled on despite not being able to see family abroad for nearly a year.

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Neil Ferguson says herd immunity could be achieved in the UK before end of the year

‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson has said high infection rates and the UK’s mass vaccine rollout could see herd immunity against the coronavirus achieved before the end of the year – meaning a return to normal by autumn.

Ferguson, whose grim predictions of 500,000 deaths in the UK convinced the government to implement the first lockdown, now says he is ‘optimistic’ about the country’s future in 2021.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Ferguson said that he believes there will soon be a slowdown in infection rates, and perhaps even a decline – driven by high infection rates giving people immunity without the need for a jab.

‘That may be slightly aided by the fact there is quite a lot of herd immunity in places like London,’ he said. ‘Maybe 25% or 30% of the population has now been infected in the first wave and second wave. So that adds to the reduction of transmission.’

He also predicted that the Northwest of England – another area where large numbers have been infected – could also be on its way to herd immunity.

A policy of herd immunity – allowing the virus to spread through the population so people develop an immunity to the virus – was initially touted by some senior government figures, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

But when the potential cost to human life of following such a police was revealed, with Ferguson saying as many as 500,000 people could die as a result, the government changed their approach.

Ferguson, whose grim predictions of 500,000 deaths in the UK convinced the government to implement the first lockdown, now says he is ‘optimistic’ about the country’s future in 2021 as vaccines are rolled out 

Like many scientists, Ferguson believes herd immunity against Covid-19 should be achieved through the administration of vaccines to the population, and not by allowing the virus to spread.

But due to the UK now being one of the worst-hit countries in the world in terms of number of cases, as well as now having three vaccines approved for use, herd immunity is edging closer, the professor believes.

Saturday saw a further 59,937 cases reported, taking the UK’s total number of cases reported to over 3 million. 

The number of patients in hospital being treated for Covid-19 surpassed 32,000 for the first time, while a further 1,035 people succumbed to the virus – taking the total to 81,000.

But Ferguson says that things will only get worse in the months to come, saying it is ‘highly likely’ that the UK will hit 100,000 deaths. ‘Even optimistically it will be quite difficult to avoid another 20,000 deaths,’ he said.

In order for the UK to achieve herd immunity, a high percentage of the population will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, although the exact number is currently unknown.

For herd immunity against measles, one of the world’s most contagious diseases, around 95 percent of the population need to be immune, while in the case of polio, the threshold is around 80 percent.

For measles, the final five percent are safeguarded by the fact that the diseases does not spread among people who have been vaccinated.

Most scientists and experts believe that at least 80 percent of the population will need to vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19, but Ferguson admitted ‘We don’t know the extent to which immunity completely blocks infection — neither natural immunity nor immunity you would get from vaccines.’

The professor said that now, nine months into the pandemic, scientists have a clearer picture in terms of how long a person remains protected from the virus after being infected. 

‘If you get infected once, then at least for a year or more you will have quite a lot of protection against disease, a bit like a vaccine,’ he said. 

Key Worker James Hutchinson receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Life Science Centre at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne, northeast England, on January 9. In order for the UK to achieve herd immunity, a high percentage of the population will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, although the exact number is currently unknown

Key Worker James Hutchinson receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Life Science Centre at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne, northeast England, on January 9. In order for the UK to achieve herd immunity, a high percentage of the population will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, although the exact number is currently unknown

Key Worker Russell Robson from Sunderland is briefed before he receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Life Science Centre at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne, northeast England, on January 9

Key Worker Russell Robson from Sunderland is briefed before he receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Life Science Centre at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne, northeast England, on January 9

‘You’re not necessarily protected against being infected again, or transmitting. You’re just not very likely to get very sick. There are all of these caveats around immunity. It’s true of the vaccine as well as natural infection.’

Asked whether the latest lockdown will help the country get a grip on the virus, Ferguson said that it depends on how transmissible the new Covid-19 variant is.

During the first lockdown in March, the R rate – that refers to the number of people an infected person can pass the virus to – dropped to 0.6. The new variant, that could have an R rate 50 percent higher than older variants, suggests the lockdown could bring the rate down to 0.9 – below the target of 1.

However, Ferguson said experts are not certain the latest lockdown is as tough as the first, saying ‘it’s going to be quite a close-run thing,’ and that the decline could be slower than in March and April. 

He added that had the current spike in cases been seen earlier in the year – before vaccines had begun to be rolled out – the picture would be much bleaker. 

‘We will be able to vaccinate a large proportion of the population by Easter,’ he said. Even if we don’t quite make the prime minister’s timeline, it’s highly likely we’ll make those key groups by mid-March.’

The Queen and Prince Philip received their Covid-19 vaccinations yesterday – and made the fact public to encourage take-up of the injections which could finally turn the tide against the deadly pandemic.

As Boris Johnson announced an ambitious ‘test and jabs’ blitz to combat the virus, Her Majesty, 94, and the Duke of Edinburgh, 99, received their injections at Windsor Castle from a doctor in the Royal Household. 

It came as Britain recorded more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths for the fourth day in a row as the new mutation wreaks havoc across the country.

A further 1,035 people have died today in the deadliest Saturday since April 18, as the total Covid death toll since the pandemic began hit a grim 80,000.

The total marked a 132.5 per cent rise on the 445 deaths recorded on Saturday last week and was the highest Saturday figure since April 18.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a plea to families and begged them to stay home to save lives as the UK recorded its highest death toll since the pandemic began today and the NHS launches a new ad campaign fronted by Chris Whitty

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a plea to families and begged them to stay home to save lives as the UK recorded its highest death toll since the pandemic began today and the NHS launches a new ad campaign fronted by Chris Whitty

Everyone in England is being urged to stay at home and 'act like you've got it' as part of a major advertising campaign. including posters (pictured) encouraging the public to control the spread of the virus and protect the NHS and save lives

Everyone in England is being urged to stay at home and ‘act like you’ve got it’ as part of a major advertising campaign. including posters (pictured) encouraging the public to control the spread of the virus and protect the NHS and save lives

But in a positive sign the upward curve in cases may be levelling out a further 59,937 people tested positive, up just 3.8 per cent on last Saturday.

It is also more than 8,000 cases fewer than the 68,053 recorded yesterday – a record high. Friday also saw 1,325 more deaths.

Yet Professor Chris Whitty warned hospitals are facing ‘the worst crisis in living memory’, with 46,000 medical workers now off sick.

The Prime Minister said on Friday night that the drive aimed to have offered 12 million people the jab in England by the middle of February.

More than 1.5 million people have been vaccinated so far, but the rate needs to rise closer to two million a week for Mr Johnson to hit his target. He has pledged to bring in the Army to bolster the programme.

After the Queen and Prince Philip received their vaccine, Mr Hancock said he was ‘delighted’, tweeting: ‘We are defeating this vaccine jab by jab.’

As Boris Johnson announced an ambitious 'test and jabs' blitz to combat the virus, Her Majesty, 94, and the Duke of Edinburgh (pictured in November), 99, received their injections at Windsor Castle from a doctor in the Royal Household

As Boris Johnson announced an ambitious ‘test and jabs’ blitz to combat the virus, Her Majesty, 94, and the Duke of Edinburgh (pictured in November), 99, received their injections at Windsor Castle from a doctor in the Royal Household

Vaccination booths are pictured inside Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, which is one of seven mass vaccination centres which will open on Monday

Vaccination booths are pictured inside Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, which is one of seven mass vaccination centres which will open on Monday

While the Royal couple wait for their second dose, the so-called HMS Bubble – the protective shield around them created by staff isolating and being regularly tested – will be maintained.

A senior SAGE official on Friday warned the actual number of Britons currently getting infected every day is closer to 150,000 – claiming that the size of the second wave is now significantly worse than the first.  

As Britain’s death toll continues to climb, experts are calling for an even tougher lockdown to combat the rapidly-spreading new variant while the Government issued a new campaign blitz to scare people into obeying lockdown rules.

England is now in its toughest and longest shutdown since last spring and may not emerge from it until all the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Prof Whitty warned hospitals are facing ‘the worst crisis in living memory’ as Covid-19 cases continue to soar – with 46,000 medical workers now off sick.

Britons who don’t take the coronavirus lockdown seriously will cause ‘avoidable deaths’ when critically ill patients are turned away at the hospital door, Professor Chris Whitty warned in a scathing article for the Sunday Times.

And almost 50,000 hospital workers are currently off sick with Covid-19, according to the chair of the British Medical Association, Chaand Nagpaul, meaning an already stretched workforce is under even more pressure, reported The Guardian.

He said: ‘It is only if the NHS workforce is kept fit and well that we will be able to meet the unprecedented surge in demand that the coming weeks and months will bring as well as delivering the vaccine programme that remains our only hope to end this dreadful pandemic.’

Crowds of people were seen walking along the seafront in  Southend (pictured) on the deadliest Saturday since April 18

Crowds of people were seen walking along the seafront in  Southend (pictured) on the deadliest Saturday since April 18

Chris Whitty warns hospitals are facing ‘the worst crisis in living memory’ as Covid cases soar

Chris Whitty has warned hospitals are facing ‘the worst crisis in living memory’ as Covid-19 cases continue to soar – with 46,000 medical workers now off sick.   

Britons who don’t take the coronavirus lockdown seriously will cause ‘avoidable deaths’ when critically ill patients are turned away at the hospital door, Professor Chris Whitty warned in a scathing article for the Sunday Times.

And almost 50,000 hospital workers are currently off sick with Covid-19, according to the chair of the British Medical Association, Chaand Nagpaul, meaning an already stretched workforce is under even more pressure, reported The Guardian.

He said: ‘It is only if the NHS workforce is kept fit and well that we will be able to meet the unprecedented surge in demand that the coming weeks and months will bring as well as delivering the vaccine programme that remains our only hope to end this dreadful pandemic.’

Prof Whitty blasted coronavirus rulebreakers for being the ‘link in a chain’ that will allow the deadly virus to infect a and kill the elderly and vulnerable. 

‘We must stay home except for work, exercise and necessary activities. Every unneccesary interaction you have could be the link in the chain of transmission which has a vulnerable person at the end,’ he wrote.

The country has two weeks before hospitals are likely to be completely overwhelmed, Prof Whitty added, as the nation is plunged into the ‘most dangerous situation’ in living history.

Prof Whitty blasted coronavirus rulebreakers for being the ‘link in a chain’ that will allow the deadly virus to infect a and kill the elderly and vulnerable. 

‘We must stay home except for work, exercise and necessary activities. Every unneccesary interaction you have could be the link in the chain of transmission which has a vulnerable person at the end,’ he wrote.

The country has two weeks before hospitals are likely to be completely overwhelmed, Prof Whitty added, as the nation is plunged into the ‘most dangerous situation’ in living history. 

Prof Whitty has also appeared in adverts urging Britons to ‘act like you’ve got’ coronavirus to ‘protect the NHS and save lives’.

Two terrifying new posters also show a patient dying in hospital and a healthcare worker wearing full PPE, warning Britons: ‘If you go out, you can spread it. People will die.’ 

This week’s enormous case figures – which have exceeded 50,000 every day since Monday – have added pressure on the PM to speed up the sluggish vaccination programme designed to start getting Britain out of lockdown by mid-February.

Scientists have warned the current lockdown measures are too ‘lax’ and cannot contain the new Covid variant, so are demanding stricter restrictions as ‘interactions are now riskier’ than in the first wave of the pandemic.

While 90 per cent of the population ‘overwhelmingly’ sticking to regulations, Britain’s streets and public transport have remained busy this week allowing the virus to spread, with one expert describing the new strain as a ‘pandemic within a pandemic’.

As a result, ministers are considering introducing tougher measures as part of the crackdown, including possibly making face masks mandatory in busy outdoor areas.

On Saturday, Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director of Public Health England, said the more coronavirus patients the NHS has to deal with, the more difficult it is to keep other services open as he urged anyone doubting the seriousness of the situation to read and listen to the words of staff and patients.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I would encourage people to read, look at the programmes that you’re running on TV where you’re interviewing doctors, where you’re interviewing patients who’ve had this very severe disease and are suffering from the long-term effects of it.

‘This is the reality and that is the truth. So the advice would be listen, read, but stay at home. Protect yourself, protect your families.’

SAGE scientist Professor Susan Michie this morning warned that the current nation-wide lockdown is ‘too lax’.

She said the virus thrives in cold weather and people spending more time indoors increases the risk of transmission. 

She said a wide scope for what counts as a key worker means classrooms are nearly half full and public transport is crowded at school pick up and drop off – on top of rush hour for key workers. 

Permitted household contact for certain trades – including non-essential tradespeople or nannies –  also increases the risk of the virus spreading rapidly, the professor said.  

Professor Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London, told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: ‘This is quite a lax lockdown because we’ve still got a lot of household contact, people go in and out of other people’s houses if they’re a cleaner, a non-essential trade person or a nanny. 

Three police officers wearing face masks question a man sitting on a bench in St James's Park in central London this morning

Three police officers wearing face masks question a man sitting on a bench in St James’s Park in central London this morning

Despite around 90 per cent of the population 'overwhelmingly' sticking to regulations, the streets and public transport have remained busy this week, allowing the virus to spread. Pictured: Clapham today

Despite around 90 per cent of the population ‘overwhelmingly’ sticking to regulations, the streets and public transport have remained busy this week, allowing the virus to spread. Pictured: Clapham today

‘We also have mass gatherings in terms of religious events and nurseries being open, and you have this wide definition of critical workers so we have 30 to 50 per cent of classes full up at the moment and very busy public transport going to and from these things.

‘It’s definitely too lax. If you compare ourselves with March we have the winter season and the virus survives for longer in the cold plus people spend more time indoors and we now know aerosol transmission which happens indoors is a very big source of transmission for this virus.

‘Secondly, we have this new variant which is 50 to 70 per cent more infectious. You put those two things together alongside the NHS being in crisis, we should have a stricter, rather than a less strict lockdown than we had in March.’

Professor Michie’s concerns were echoed by Dr Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who said the new variant should be treated as a ‘new pandemic within a pandemic’. 

The Sage member told Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘The early signals we’re seeing are suggesting that there is probably less movement in the population than there was in November but perhaps slightly more than there was in April, and obviously that’s concerning because, with this new variant, essentially each interaction we have has become riskier than it was before.

People out and about Clapham, South London today after a major incident has been declared by the London Mayor due to rapid rise in Covid-19 cases England in currently in its 3rd Lockdown due to Covid 19. restrictions mean people can not leave home apart for work, exercise, and shopping for essential items pubs and restaurants have closed, Shops selling non essential Items are also closed, people have been asked to work from home where possible and mixing with other households is not allowed

People out and about Clapham, South London today after a major incident has been declared by the London Mayor due to rapid rise in Covid-19 cases England in currently in its 3rd Lockdown due to Covid 19. restrictions mean people can not leave home apart for work, exercise, and shopping for essential items pubs and restaurants have closed, Shops selling non essential Items are also closed, people have been asked to work from home where possible and mixing with other households is not allowed

No more warnings: Police vow to get even tougher with lockdown fines

Police are vowing to get even tougher with lockdown fines amid calls from scientists for even stricter restrictions, while No10 pushes an intimidating new ad campaign to try and arrest the spiralling number of coronavirus cases across the country. 

Derbyshire Police faced criticism yesterday for taking the lockdown crackdown too far after officers swooped on two friends for driving just seven miles to go for a walk at a beauty spot.

As a result, the ‘intimidating’ force is reviewing its Covid operations after getting clarification about the rules, with West Mercia Police also mocked for threatening to fine people £200 for playing in the snow.

Nevertheless, the message from government sources today is that police should be focusing more on enforcing rather than explaining rules, now nearly 10 months since the very first restrictions came into effect.

This was echoed by Wiltshire Police’s chief constable, Kier Pritchard, who wrote in the Gazette and Herald:  ‘Although we will continue to police with consent and in a proportionate way, my officers will move to enforcement much quicker when confronted with people clearly breaching the rules.

‘Up until now, police forces have focused on engagement, reinforcing the messaging within our communities and encouraging the public to comply in the first instance, only reverting to enforcement when we are faced with deliberate or repeated breaches.

‘We will continue to engage with our communities but my officers will quickly move to enforcement against those who are flagrantly breaching the rules.’

‘Even if we went back to that last spring level of reduction in contacts, we couldn’t be confident we would see the same effects as we saw last year because of the increased transmission.

‘To some extent we can think of this as a new pandemic within a pandemic.

‘From the data coming out, this is a very serious threat and new data from PHE (Public Health England) that came out yesterday suggested that that risk per contact is probably 40-50% higher than it was.

‘So both for the UK, and many other countries as well, we need to get away from this idea that we’re going to see a repeat of what happened last spring with our behaviours and really face the possibility that this is much riskier and we’re going to have to work much harder to reduce the impact.’ 

Police have vowed to get even tougher with lockdown fines, despite officers in Derbyshire being criticised for taking the crackdown too far they swooped on two friends for driving just seven miles to go for a walk at a beauty spot.

As a result, the ‘intimidating’ force is reviewing its Covid operations after getting clarification about the rules, with West Mercia Police also mocked for threatening to fine people £200 for playing in the snow.

Even so, the message from Government sources today is that police should be focusing more on enforcing rather than explaining rules, now nearly 10 months since the very first restrictions came into effect.

However, Proffesor Michie said to get people to comply, a more positive approach is needed to be taken rather than stricter enforcement.

‘What we know from this pandemic is what really motivates people is knowing there’s a really serious threat, knowing that what they do can make a difference and also knowing what they do can protect other people and their communities.

‘The behavioural committee of SAGE says consistently what we need is more support and enablement for people to adhere, not punishment. For example one area where there’s really poor adherence, and has been throughout, is having to isolate at home for what is now 10 days.

‘Our own data shows only 30 per cent of people with symptoms are staying at home. The reasons given are they may have caring responsibilities outside the house, they may need to get provisions, or importantly, they have to go out to work to get income.

‘What you need to be effective is have people who people trust and identify with. Yes, experts and scientists are trusted a lot more than politicians but we should also think about people from people’s own communities that are respected, particularly young men who find adherence most challenging, and think about who they identify with and respect, and that’s often sports personalities, singers, people from film and television.

‘We should be much more creative and imaginative about the kind of people who are speaking out.’      

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Headlines UK London

A Full English lockdown: Met Police probe officers spotted ‘flouting’ Covid curbs INSIDE London café

Met police officers who were spotted ‘flouting’ Covid rules by tucking into breakfast INSIDE London café en masse face investigation – despite cracking down harder on public who break rules

  • A passer-by caught squad cars outside Chef House Kitchen in south east London
  • Brian Jennings, 44, regularly walks past the cafe, near the Greenwich Patrol Base
  • IT manager said he was annoyed after reading about the tough police crackdown

The Metropolitan Police has launched a probe into officers spotted ‘flouting’ coronavirus curbs by tucking into breakfast inside a London café.

A passer-by caught several squad cars outside The Chef House Kitchen while servicemen sat inside at 9am, despite a ban on gatherings and table service.

Brian Jennings, 44, regularly walks past the cafe, near the Greenwich Patrol Base in south east London for exercise and saw them sitting inside eating.

The IT manager from Blackheath said he was outraged by the site after reading of members of the public who fined for going for a walk with a coffee.

A passer-by caught several squad cars outside The Chef House Kitchen while officers sat inside at 9am, despite a ban on gatherings and table service

Brian Jennings, 44, regularly walks past the cafe, near the Greenwich Patrol Base in south east London for exercise and saw them sitting inside eating

Brian Jennings, 44, regularly walks past the cafe, near the Greenwich Patrol Base in south east London for exercise and saw them sitting inside eating

He said: ‘There’s a large police depot on the Thames riverside near me. I walk past it a few times a week because it’s a nice quiet place to take exercise.

‘On the neighbouring industrial estate there’s a cafe. We noticed in the first lockdown and then we noticed it again today that, regularly, first thing in the morning there will be half a dozen squad cars outside and every table full of police officers having breakfast in there.

‘It’s not a one off it’s been going on for a few months. You read about people getting fined in the papers and it seems hypocritical as there [looks like there is little] social distancing in the cafe.

It comes after police have cracked down harder on rule breaking. Pictured: Kensington Palace Gardens in London

It comes after police have cracked down harder on rule breaking. Pictured: Kensington Palace Gardens in London

‘It’s a public cafe and it’s open and its serving table service in lockdown – it is not good.

‘It’s about as bad as it gets in the UK with a virus and it’s insensitive and stupid. I think it’s really bad.’

He added: ‘I find the regular, continued flouting of social distancing, and lockdown regulations by the police hypocritical and foolish at this time when the infection rates in Greenwich Borough are among the highest in the UK.’

The Met Police are looking into allegations and said it is attempting to ‘find out more information’.

The force said: ‘We are aware of the images and work is ongoing to find out more information.’

The Chef House Kitchen has been approached for comment.

Categories
Headlines UK London

Mayor Sadiq Khan declares a major incident in London

London is facing the biggest threat of the pandemic so far as the NHS buckles under the strain of coronavirus cases, experts warned today as a major incident was declared in the capital.

The city is one of the main hotspots of the latest wave of the virus which saw deaths reach a record high today, with its spread now ‘out of control’ in the metropolitan area.

Mayor Sadiq Khan warned that more than 1 per cent of the city’s nine million residents tested positive for Covid last week, with one in 30 residents currently estimated to be infected. 

In the worst-hit boroughs, it is feared the rate is as high as one in 20 and startling figures also show that hospital admissions rose by a quarter in the first week of January. 

More than 7,000 NHS beds across the capital are currently occupied by Covid patients – 35 per cent higher than the busiest day of the pandemic in the spring. 

Police blasted a ‘small selfish minority’ ignoring the rules and promised to come down hard on transgressors who are refusing to stop partying despite the highly transmissible pathogen being rife. 

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: ‘I know Londoners will be shocked that officers are still dealing with a small selfish minority who think the rules don’t apply to them by holding house parties, large warehouse raves or other gatherings. These are creating breeding grounds for the much more transmissible variant.’

The Government said a further 1,325 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of today – the highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since the outbreak began. It brings the UK total to 79,833. 

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s regional director for London, said: ‘This is the biggest threat our city has faced in this pandemic to date.’ 

However, there was a tiny sliver of hope on the horizon. According to results of the UK’s largest testing scheme, coronavirus cases are already dropping in London. It suggests that some of the worst of the second wave may have already passed because of the strict Tier Four restrictions that were enforced before Christmas.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the outbreak through random swabs of thousands of people, suggest the capital’s crisis started to reverse on December 29 – a week before the nation’s third national lockdown came into force.

But because of the nature of the illness, however, there is a lag between the number of cases rising and falling and a corresponding change in hospital admissions and deaths.  

Mr Khan said that over the last three days alone the NHS has announced 477 deaths in London hospitals following a positive test for Covid-19.  

In a letter to Boris Johnson he has demanded churches and other places of worship be closed and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in supermarket queues and other places outside that may be crowded.  

He also wants more financial support for Londoners who need to self-isolate and are unable to work, and for daily vaccination data.

In a statement today Mr Khan said: ‘The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control.’ 

Major incidents were declared in London after the Grenfell Tower disaster, the London Bridge and Westminster terror attacks, and the Croydon tram crash in November 2016.

On another day of coronavirus chaos: 

  • As many as 100,000 Britons abroad have five days to get home or face being banned without a negative Covid test;
  • Britain’s coronavirus R rate could now be anywhere between 1.0 and 1.4 and as many as 150,000 people could be getting infected with the virus every day, the Government’s top scientific advisers revealed; 
  • Drivers are turned away from England’s beauty spots while police question parents with pushchairs amid questions as to whether they are taking enforcement of England’s third lockdown too far;
  • Welsh lockdown is extended for three more weeks with schools and colleges shut until February;
  • Horror as ‘NHS’ fraudster injects 92-year-old woman with fake coronavirus and charges her £160; 
  • Care home workers with Covid are told to stay in work due to mounting staff shortages;
  • Pfizer’s vaccine does work against the South African and UK strains of coronavirus, study finds;
  • National Express suspends all coach services due to new lockdown and plummeting passenger numbers;
  • Stanley Johnson boasts he is due to he is about to receive his second dose of the Covid vaccine – when many are still waiting for their first
  • And a poll reveals more people are planning to take the Covid vaccine, up to 85 per cent from 78 per cent last month.

Cases per day in London

Cases per day in London

People being hospitalised in London

People being hospitalised in London 

Coronavirus deaths in London

Coronavirus deaths in London

In a letter to Boris Johnson he has demanded churches and other places of worship be closed and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in supermarket queues and other places outside that may be crowded

He said that over the last three days alone the NHS has announced 477 deaths in London hospitals following a positive test for Covid-19 (Piccadilly Circus pictured today)

He said that over the last three days alone the NHS has announced 477 deaths in London hospitals following a positive test for Covid-19 (Piccadilly Circus pictured today)

The Office for National Statistics found in its mass testing programme that almost two thirds (61%) of the positive tests it found in England appeared to be linked to the new variant of the virus. The figure was higher for some regions - particularly in London and the South - but lower in others

The Office for National Statistics found in its mass testing programme that almost two thirds (61%) of the positive tests it found in England appeared to be linked to the new variant of the virus. The figure was higher for some regions – particularly in London and the South – but lower in others

Covids cases falling in London, stats show 

Coronavirus cases are already dropping in London, according to results of the UK’s largest testing scheme.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the outbreak through random swabs of thousands of people, suggest the capital’s crisis started to reverse on December 29 – a week before the nation’s third national lockdown came into force.

The number of people testing positive stood at 3.33 per cent on January 2, which is most recent day data is available for. This had fallen for the fifth day in a row, down from 3.63 per cent on December 28.

Separate figures collated by the Department of Health also show cases in London have started to plateau.

Around 13,086 people living across the city were testing positive in the capital every day on December 31, in the most reliable day data is available for, down from 13,261 the day before.

For comparison, the figure stood at 2,350 at the start of December.

Despite cases appearing to have slowed, hospitals across London have yet to see any easing of Covid pressure because of the three-week lag it can take between getting diagnosed and becoming ill.

NHS statistics show there are currently more than 7,000 infected patients in beds in hospitals across the capital, with 908 hooked up to ventilators. During the darkest days of the spring, 5,200 beds were occupied by Covid patients.

London is also currently recording 100 coronavirus deaths a day, a figure which has steadily risen since mid-December. But it is still only half of the daily counts seen during the first wave, when up to 200 patients were succumbing to the illness each day.

 

Mr Khan added: ‘The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.

‘Our heroic doctors, nurses and NHS staff are doing an amazing job, but with cases rising so rapidly, our hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed. The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically.

‘We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.

‘Londoners continue to make huge sacrifices and I am today imploring them to please stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary for you to leave. Stay at home to protect yourself, your family, friends and other Londoners and to protect our NHS.’

A major incident has already been declared in neighbouring Surrey and Sussex.

Scientists revealed today that the reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK is between 1 and 1.4. When R was last updated on December 23 2020, it was between 1.1 and 1.3. 

An R number between 1 and 1.4 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 10 and 14 other people.

Sage has said the estimates published on Friday represent the transmission of Covid-19 over the past few weeks rather than the present situation. This is due to the time delay between someone being infected, having symptoms, and needing healthcare.

It came as a new mass test revealed the highly infectious new variant of coronavirus that emerged in Kent now accounts for 61 per cent of all new Covid cases in England and 70,000 people are getting infected every day.

The team behind the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app, carried out with King’s College London, say the number of people reporting symptoms each day is up 27 per cent in a week from 55,226 to 69,958.

And separate research by the Office for National Statistics found that, of the estimated 1.1million people currently infected with the coronavirus, almost two thirds have the fast-spreading variant of the virus.

The variant has become dominant in some regions, found in 81 per cent of cases in London, but is still linked to fewer than half of infections in the North of England, the Midlands and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Georgia Gould, chairwoman of London Councils, said: ‘Cases are rising at a dangerous rate in London, putting extreme pressure on the NHS.

‘One in 30 Londoners now has Covid. This is why public services across London are urging all Londoners to please stay at home except for absolutely essential shopping and exercise.

‘We know how tough this is for Londoners. Councils are here to support anyone struggling to access food or medicine.

‘Today, the thoughts of London leaders are with the thousands of Londoners in hospital battling Covid and the amazing carers fighting to save lives. We owe it to them to do all we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

‘This is a dark and difficult time for our city but there is light at end of the tunnel with the vaccine rollout. We are asking Londoners to come together one last time to stop the spread – lives really do depend on it.’ 

The highly contagious Kent variant of Covid has become dominant in some regions, found in 81 per cent of cases in London

The highly contagious Kent variant of Covid has become dominant in some regions, found in 81 per cent of cases in London

Georgia Gould, chairwoman of London Councils, said: 'One in 30 Londoners now has Covid. This is why public services across London are urging all Londoners to please stay at home except for absolutely essential shopping and exercise'

Georgia Gould, chairwoman of London Councils, said: ‘One in 30 Londoners now has Covid. This is why public services across London are urging all Londoners to please stay at home except for absolutely essential shopping and exercise’

What is a ‘major incident’?

A major incident is defined as being ‘beyond the scope of business-as-usual operations, and is likely to involve serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security’. 

In addition, ‘the severity of the consequences associated with a major incident are likely to constrain or complicate the ability of responders to resource and manage the incident.’ 

They were previously declared in London after the Grenfell Tower disaster, the London Bridge and Westminster terror attacks, and the Croydon tram crash in November 2016.

According to a document produced for London authorities, a major incident involves ‘special arrangements’ being introduced by one or more emergency services.

They ‘typically’ include one or more of the following:

  • Large numbers of people
  • Large numbers of medical casualties
  • The involvement of large proportions of the available police, fire and ambulance services
  • The mobilisation of support services – like shelter for people made homeless
  • A large number of public and media inquiries  

Are police taking Covid crackdown too far? 

Police today faced questions about whether they were taking the Covid crackdown too far as officers swooped on friends drinking tea on a walk to a beauty spot, forced their way into a family home ‘for having too many people inside’ and taped off benches to stop people from sitting down.

Friends Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore drove five miles to take a stroll at Foremark Reservoir in Derbyshire when they were surrounded by officers, read their rights and fined £200 each. The pair were also told their cups of Starbucks peppermint tea were not allowed because they were ‘classed as a picnic’.

Guidance for the current lockdown says people can travel for exercise ‘as long as it is in their local area’, but does not specify how far people can travel. Derbyshire Police insisted the distance was ‘at the discretion’ of individual officers and the trip was ‘not in the spirit of the rules’.

Ms Allen, from her home in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire, said: ‘I genuinely thought someone had been murdered… my car was surrounded… one of them started reading my rights and I was looking at my friend thinking ”This must be a joke”.’

Meanwhile, in Aberdeen, two policeman knocked on a family’s front door after complaints from a neighbour and stormed inside as a woman shouted ‘this is my house, get out of my house’ and children screamed in the background.

Two women, aged 18 and 48, and a 43-year-old man were charged in connection with assaulting police officers and threatening and abusive behaviour.

The footage immediately sparked controversy, with critics accusing the police of ‘oppressive’ behaviour for storming into a private house – while others argued they were just trying to enforce the Covid rules.

At Euston, officers were seen stopping passengers this morning to ask where they were going. Barrister Alex Wright tweeted: ‘Good to see lockdown being taken seriously, but a sad sight that I’d have dreamed of seeing in London.’

Snowdonia National Park has now closed all its car parks to visitors to ‘protect our communities and the NHS’, as officials slammed the public for ‘disregarding’ the law.

Priti Patel yesterday said it is ‘right’ for officers to confront Britons sat on park benches and argued that police should stop people and demand to know why they are outside their homes. It came as police said they would fine people the first time if they are caught not wearing face coverings or being outside without a suitable reason.

 

 

Britain approves Moderna’s Covid vaccine but won’t get any doses until MARCH at the earliest

Britain today approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine – but won’t be able to get any of the 17million doses it has bought until March at the earliest. 

Moderna’s Covid jab is the third to be given the green light by regulators in the UK, joining the vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that No10 won’t get any doses until the spring but said: ‘This is further great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease.’ And Business Secretary Alok Sharma described it as ‘another huge step towards ending lockdown’. 

The EU – which approved the same vaccine two days ago – will get supplies of the jab from next week after health chiefs struck a deal with the US-firm to buy 180million doses last summer. 

With Britain now scrambling to vaccinate 13million vulnerable Britons in the hope of ending the constant cycle of lockdowns by mid-February, an extra jab could have been a blessing. 

Boris Johnson last night revealed he was bringing in the Army to help speed up the UK’s sluggish scheme, as the Prime Minister pledged to deliver 200,000 doses a day by next Friday. He also pledged to offer every care home resident a jab by the end of January and announced a new national online booking system that officials hope will drastically speed up the process.

So far the inoculation drive – the biggest in British history – has been plagued by supply and staffing shortages, logistical problems and bureaucratic barriers strangling its scale-up, meaning only 1.5million have received at least one dose. 

It comes after Moderna’s chief executive last night say it was likely that the firm’s vaccine offers protection for a ‘couple of years’. But Stéphane Bancel said more research is needed to determine how long its shot wards off the coronavirus. 

 

Pensioners pictured queuing outside a vaccination centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, today in a sign Boris Johnson may already be making good on his promise to ramp up the country's roll out

Pensioners pictured queuing outside a vaccination centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, today in a sign Boris Johnson may already be making good on his promise to ramp up the country’s roll out

Pictured: Scientists working on the Moderna vaccine in a laboratory

Pictured: Scientists working on the Moderna vaccine in a laboratory

HOW DOES MODERNA’S VACCINE WORK? 

Moderna’s vaccine works in the same way as Pfizer and BioNTech’s, and are types called mRNA vaccines.  

They use genetic material called RNA from the coronavirus to trick the body into making the ‘spike’ proteins that the virus uses to latch onto cells inside the body.

These cells then look like the real virus to the immune system, so it attacks them as it would if someone was infected with Covid. It uses antibodies and T cells to attack these modified cells.

In the process it also creates its own memory of exactly how to destroy anything with the spikes on – i.e. the real coronavirus – in case it encounters them in the future. 

Moderna found in trials that its vaccine, which is given in two doses, was ‘generally safe and well tolerated’.

It said the majority of side effects were mild or moderate. The most common ‘severe’ effects were pain at the site, muscles or joints; fatigue and headache. These, the company said, were ‘generally short-lived’. 

Moderna said its vaccine can be stored in a normal fridge for up to a month before it is given out, meaning it will be cheaper to store and distribute.

Although it must be shipped at -20°C (-4°F), this is not too cold for normal freezers to handle.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, however, needed to be kept at -70°C (-94°F) at all times until it was about to be used, meaning expensive specialist equipment is needed to transport and store it.

As Britain prepared to ramp up vaccinations:

  • As many as 100,000 Britons abroad have five days to get home or face being banned without a negative Covid test;
  • Drivers are turned away from England’s beauty spots while police question parents with pushchairs amid questions as to whether they are taking enforcement of England’s third lockdown too far;
  • Welsh lockdown is extended for three more weeks with schools and colleges shut until February;
  • Horror as ‘NHS’ fraudster injects 92-year-old woman with fake coronavirus and charges her £160; 
  • Care home workers with Covid are told to stay in work due to mounting staff shortages;
  • Pfizer’s vaccine does work against the South African and UK strains of coronavirus, study finds;
  • National Express suspends all coach services due to new lockdown and plummeting passenger numbers;
  • Stanley Johnson boasts he is due to he is about to receive his second dose of the Covid vaccine – when many are still waiting for their first
  • And a poll reveals more people are planning to take the Covid vaccine, up to 85 per cent from 78 per cent last month.

Moderna’s vaccine was the second one to announce the results of its last-stage clinical trials when it did so in November, after Pfizer and BioNTech. They showed the vaccine appeared to prevent 94.5 per cent of Covid cases.

Mr Hancock at the time hailed the vaccine as a ‘candle of hope’ but the UK hadn’t pre-ordered it.

No10 had placed pre-orders for seven other candidates, including jabs made by Pfizer and BioNTech, Oxford University and AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Valneva, Imperial College London and Novavax. 

Moderna’s and Pfizer’s use the same technology, which had never been tried before, so scientists said it would have been a big gamble for the UK to order both. 

A scramble ensued on the day Moderna’s results were published, with British officials managing to hash out a deal for five million doses before Mr Hancock announced it on a TV press conference at 5pm that afternoon. This was later extended to 7million but the figure now stands at around 17million. 

Pensioners pictured queuing to receive their Covid-19 vaccine outside a centre in Hemel Hempstead,  Hertfordshire, today

Arthur Clark, 99, an RAF veteran, says he is yet to receive his Covid vaccination despite the programme starting a month ago

Arthur Clark, 99, an RAF veteran, says he is yet to receive his Covid vaccination despite the programme starting a month ago

Arthur Clark, from Beckenham in south east London, with his family

Mr Clark pictured in his RAF uniform

Speaking to MailOnline from his home in Beckenham, south east London, the great grandfather of four said he had been trying to get an appointment since Christmas. Pictured, left, is Arthur with his family and, right, as an RAF serviceman

Grants Shapps say Covid jabs may not beat South African strain, hours after study suggests it will

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned today the current wave of vaccines might not protect against the South African strain of coronavirus.

Mr Shapps said introducing a mandatory test and release system for travellers coming into the UK had become ‘much more urgent’ because of the threat the variant poses to Britain’s mass vaccination programme.

But there was confusion about the timing of his comments, which came just hours after a study by Pfizer/BioNTech suggested their vaccine could be just as effective against a mutation in the super-transmissible strain.

Amid international fears about the South African strain, thought to be at least 60 per cent more infectious than regular Covid, the UK has made it compulsory for travellers to test negative when they arrive in the country. 

The Pfizer study – which hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet – tested how well the vaccine worked on the key N501Y mutation, an alteration on the virus’s spike protein which is thought to be responsible for making it far more infectious than regular Covid.

And because current vaccines work by training the immune system to recognise the virus’s spike protein and attack it, there were fears this change could render jabs useless, or less effective.  

The catch, however, was that the UK wouldn’t get any of the doses delivered until March 2021 because the US had an exclusive contract for the first 20million doses because the government had given so much funding to the company.   

Hailing the approval today, Mr Hancock added: ‘We have already vaccinated nearly 1.5million people across the UK and Moderna’s vaccine will allow us to accelerate our vaccination programme even further once doses become available from the spring.

‘While we immunise those most at risk from Covid, I urge everyone to continue following the rules to keep cases low to protect our loved ones.’

MHRA guidance says the vaccine’s two doses should be dished out within 28 days of each other, unlike the controversial advice for the other two jabs, which says they can be taken up to 12 weeks apart.

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: ‘Today’s approval brings more encouraging news to the public and the healthcare sector. 

‘Having a third Covid vaccine approved for supply following a robust and thorough assessment of all the available data is an important goal to have achieved and I am proud that the agency has helped to make this a reality.

‘The progress we are now making for vaccines on the regulatory front, whilst not cutting any corners, is helping in our global fight against this disease and ultimately helping to save lives. I want to echo that our goal is always to put the protection of the public first.

‘Once in use, all Covid vaccines are continually monitored by the MHRA. This ensures that the benefits in protecting people against Covid continue to far outweigh any potential side-effects.

‘Meantime, even if you have had a vaccine it is vital that everyone follows the national lockdown restrictions and remembers ‘stay alert, protect the NHS and save lives’ at all times.’

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the Expert Working Group of the Independent Commission on Human Medicines said: ‘We are delighted to be able to give a positive recommendation for the Moderna vaccine which will help in the roll-out of the Covid vaccination programme.

‘As with all the Covid vaccine data we have seen to date, we have ensured a robust and thorough safety assessment has been carried out with the independent experts that sit on this group.’

It comes after it was claimed yesterday that a one-shot Covid jab that has the potential to significantly boost Britain’s sluggish vaccination scheme may be approved in the UK by next month.

Scientists and Government sources believe the vaccine, made by the Belgian arm of pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson, could be given emergency authorisation within weeks.

The jab uses similar technology to the Oxford University vaccine, making it just as easy to transport and store, but requires just a single injection to protect against Covid. 

However, it won’t be clear how effective the vaccine is until its trial results are made public and submitted to the UK’s medical regulator, which is expected to happen by early February.

Categories
Headlines UK London Manchester

Emergency situation introduced in London

Capital hospitals are filled with coronavirus patients

Sadiq Khan has announced a state of emergency in London due to the worsening epidemiological situation, The Guardian reports. The capital’s hospitals are filled with coronavirus patients and can barely cope with the workload.

The COVID-19 infection rate exceeded 1,000 cases per 100,000 people. More than 7 thousand people are in local hospitals, which is 35% more than in the spring of 2020. The ambulance receives about 8 thousand calls a day – on ordinary days, it receives about 5.5 thousand calls.

Sadiq Khan also appealed to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with a request to close churches and mosques (during this quarantine they were allowed to continue working) and to oblige Londoners to wear masks in all public places and even in lines. In addition, he asked the government to provide additional financial support to Londoners who cannot work due to quarantine.

“Our doctors, nurses and other NHS workers do a great job, but hospitals are at risk of overcrowding. The reality is that if the spread of the virus does not slow down in the next couple of weeks, we will run out of beds for patients. “– said the mayor of London. Due to a similar situation, the Greater Manchester administration imposed an emergency regime in August 2020.

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Headlines UK London Manchester

Coronavirus UK: 70,000 develop infection every day, app estimates

The coronavirus R rate in Britain could be anywhere between 1.0 and 1.4, SAGE said today as studies estimated that 70,000 people are catching the infection every day and the new variant accounts for 61 per cent of cases in England. 

SAGE’s reproduction rate, which shows how many people each infected person passes the virus to, has been given a wider range than the estimated 1.1 to 1.3 last week, meaning scientists aren’t sure how fast the outbreak is growing – but they are certain it is not shrinking.

It was similar across all seven regions of England, and had only dropped in the areas that were under Tier 4 restrictions before Christmas – London, the South East and the East of England. It rose in all other regions.

The R rate was highest in the South West at 1.1 to 1.5, meaning the outbreak may be growing fastest there. In four regions – London, the Midlands, North East and Yorkshire and the South East – the R rate was at 1.1 to 1.4, in the East of England it was between 1.1 and 1.3 and in the North West it was 1.0 to 1.4.

It was not below one in any region, suggesting top scientists think England’s Covid outbreak is still growing in all areas despite the third lockdown being in place for four days. Experts say its impact won’t be clear for another two weeks, because it takes this long for someone who was infected with Covid-19 before the draconian measures came into force to develop symptoms and get a positive test result, impacting the R rate.

But they argue the nationwide shutdown will start bringing down the daily number of infections because of curbs on social interaction, which is what the virus relies on to spread between households.  

The team behind the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app, carried out with King’s College London, say the number of people reporting symptoms each day is up 27 per cent in a week from 55,226 to 69,958.

And separate research by the Office for National Statistics estimated that 1.1million people were infected with the coronavirus, and that almost two thirds of cases have the fast-spreading variant of the virus. 

The variant has become dominant in some regions, found in 81 per cent of cases in London, but is still linked to fewer than half of infections in the North of England, the Midlands and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Pfizer, the US company behind the first Covid vaccine to be approved in the UK which is now being given to millions of people, said today that it has tested the jab against the new variant and it appears to still work normally.

Despite infection numbers soaring across the UK, with England accounting for 57,157 of the daily cases in this week’s release, there are signs that infections are starting to come down in London, the ZOE researchers said. The capital remains the hotspot, with almost a quarter of all the UK’s infections (23 per cent), but has been in lockdown for three weeks after Tier 4 started on December 19 and ran into the national lockdown.

The staggering numbers add to evidence that the second wave is out of control, as Department of Health officials have announced more than 50,000 new positive tests every day for the last 10 days, meaning over half a million people have been diagnosed in less than a fortnight, and the true number of cases is likely to be far higher.

As an inevitable result of soaring cases, the number of hospital patients is now above 30,000 and higher than ever, and 1,162 deaths were announced yesterday – in Britain’s second worst daily death toll since the pandemic began.

England is now in its toughest and longest lockdown since last spring and may not emerge from it until all the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated against Covid-19. The Government has ambitious plans to immunise 13.9m by mid-February and Boris Johnson claims it will be able to give 200,00 jabs a day by next week.

The Office for National Statistics found in its mass testing programme that almost two thirds (61%) of the positive tests it found in England appeared to be linked to the new variant of the virus. The figure was higher for some regions - particularly in London and the South - but lower in others

The Office for National Statistics found in its mass testing programme that almost two thirds (61%) of the positive tests it found in England appeared to be linked to the new variant of the virus. The figure was higher for some regions – particularly in London and the South – but lower in others

Positive cases appeared to be starting to fall or level off in London, the East and South East of England in this week's ONS data, which Professor Christ Whitty picked up on in a press briefing earlier this week

Positive cases appeared to be starting to fall or level off in London, the East and South East of England in this week’s ONS data, which Professor Christ Whitty picked up on in a press briefing earlier this week

The new variant of coronavirus (blue line) has become the dominant strain in England but is not yet more common than other types of the virus in the UK's other countries, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, ONS testing shows

The new variant of coronavirus (blue line) has become the dominant strain in England but is not yet more common than other types of the virus in the UK’s other countries, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, ONS testing shows

The Kent variant of the virus (blue line) has become dominant in London, the East of England and the South East, but not yet in other parts of the country, although it is narrowing the gap in most places

The Kent variant of the virus (blue line) has become dominant in London, the East of England and the South East, but not yet in other parts of the country, although it is narrowing the gap in most places

HOW THE R RATE CHANGED ACROSS ENGLAND COMPARED TO THE END OF DECEMBER

Region

East

London

Midlands

North East&Y

North West

South East

South West 

January 8

1.1 to 1.3

1.1 to 1.4

1.1 to 1.4

1.1 to 1.4

1.0 to 1.4

1.1 to 1.4

1.1 to 1.5 

December 23

1.2 to 1.5

1.2 to 1.5

1.0 to 1.2

0.9 to 1.1

0.9 to 1.1

1.2 to 1.4

1.0 to 1.2 

In their report today the ONS experts said their testing shows there has been a growth in the number of people testing positive for the new variant of the virus.

They can track this because the tests they use cannot detect the mutated gene in the new variant – meaning it only picks up on two out of the three main genetic targets it uses to spot coronavirus. This is called a ‘drop-out’ and, by looking at how many cases have this gene drop-out, they can calculate how many are linked to the variant.

The report said: ‘The highest percentages are seen in London, the East of England and the South East. In contrast, the percentages of cases compatible with the new variant remain relatively low in other regions at present.’  

The ZOE and King’s team predict that the reproduction rate (R) of the virus is above one in all parts of the UK and that the outbreak is worst in London.

They estimate the R is 1.2, on average, across England and 1.0 in Wales and 1.3 in Scotland.

Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College epidemiologist leading the study, said today: ‘The UK is now worryingly at 70,000 new daily cases and around 800,000 infected individuals, and the worst hit areas continue to be Wales, London and the South East. 

‘Our ZOE survey data is the most reliable source of the changing rates of infection over the holiday fortnight. 

‘One in 42 people in London has symptomatic COVID now, so those living in the capital must take care. The good news is that we are now seeing new cases in London coming down slightly. 

‘These figures are from the 3rd of January suggesting numbers had started to fall just before the announcement of the English national lockdown.’ 

The numbers produced by the Covid Symptom Study are based on reports from a million regular users of the mobile app, who log whether they feel ill as well as the results of any coronavirus tests they have taken.

It is unofficial but is the largest surveillance programme in the country, although it cannot estimate the number of people with coronavirus but without symptoms.

The data in this week’s report suggests that London is by far the worst affected region of the country, with an estimated 16,813 people getting symptomatic Covid-19 every day this week. 

It was followed by the South East with 9,059 cases, the East of England with 7,856 and the Midlands with 7,403.

Infections were lowest in the South West, where there were 3,464 infections per day, and in North West. There were between 5,000 and 6,000 per day in each of Scotland, Wales, the North West and the North East and Yorkshire.     

The Office for National Statistics, which uses mass testing to try and work out the true number of people infected with the coronavirus, is considered the most accurate measure of the true number of cases.

This picks up on infections whether people have symptoms or not, and this week estimated a staggering two per cent of the population has coronavirus – one in every 50 people. This rose as high as one in 30 in London. 

Boris Johnson announced the shocking infection rate in a TV briefing on Tuesday, January 5, when he laid out plans for the UK’s third and, hopefully, final national lockdown.

The PM said the scorching spread of the mutant variant of the virus, which has caused case numbers to explode in London and the South East, meant there was ‘no choice’ about imposing lockdown.

But he insisted the measures can get the situation under control while vaccines are rolled out – revealing that 1.3million people have now had jabs as he dismissed criticism that he is ‘over-promising’ about the most vulnerable categories being covered by mid-February.

Mr Johnson vowed to give the country ‘jab by jab’ information about the crucial immunisation process, now seen as the only way out of the relentless cycle of lockdowns.

He was flanked at the press conference by medical and science chiefs Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, whose warnings about the threat of the NHS being overwhelmed sparked the extraordinary U-turn to plunge England into new restrictions.

The podiums once again were adorned with the slogan from March 2020 – ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’.  

Asked if he thought the target of vaccinating more than 13million people over the next seven weeks was possible, Professor Whitty said it was ‘realistic but not easy’.

But the medic also delivered a grim message that ‘some’ restrictions could still be needed next winter, as the virus was likely to be in regular circulation like flu.  

Surging numbers of infections mean that more people will inevitable end up in hospital and the NHS has warned it is heading towards some of the toughest weeks on record as patient numbers continue to soar.

Professor Chris Whitty warned this week that there is a ‘material risk’ the NHS could be overwhelmed within weeks. 

The Covid Symptom Study, which uses reports from around one million people who have the app on their phones, showed that cases have been surging non-stop since the effects of England's second lockdown wore off in early December

The Covid Symptom Study, which uses reports from around one million people who have the app on their phones, showed that cases have been surging non-stop since the effects of England’s second lockdown wore off in early December

 

A breakdown of coronavirus cases by age group shows that infections are rising in most age groups but appear to have started to level off or fall at the start of this year among people in their 30s (green line) and in children and teenagers (blue)

A breakdown of coronavirus cases by age group shows that infections are rising in most age groups but appear to have started to level off or fall at the start of this year among people in their 30s (green line) and in children and teenagers (blue)

The Covid Symptom Study app data suggests that coronavirus outbreaks are worst in London and Wales and least bad in Devon, the Humber and Bath and Somerset

The Covid Symptom Study app data suggests that coronavirus outbreaks are worst in London and Wales and least bad in Devon, the Humber and Bath and Somerset

London’s hospitals will be overwhelmed by Covid-19 in less than two weeks even in a ‘best’ case scenario, according to health chiefs. 

Medical director at NHS London, Vin Diwakar, provided the worrying analysis to medical directors of the capital’s hospital trusts over a Zoom call yesterday afternoon.

Even if coronavirus patients grew at the lowest likely rate and capacity is increased – including opening the Nightingale – the NHS would still be short 2,000 general, acute and ICU beds by January 19, the HSJ reported.

Three scenarios are laid out for both G&A and intensive care – ‘best’, ‘average’ and ‘worse’. These account for the impact of four per cent daily growth, five per cent growth and six per cent growth, respectively. 

The briefing shows that the NHS in London had just 46 spare ICU beds on January, which is 3 per cent of its overall capacity. Over 70 per cent of its critical beds were taken up by people with Covid. 

On the same date there were just spare 720 general and acute beds, 5 per cent of its total, and more than 40 per cent were in use by infected patients.

Hospitals may have to start transferring patients to care homes if coronavirus keeps piling pressure on their wards, a senior health official has warned.

Chris Hopson, chief of healthcare union NHS Providers, warned that some hospitals are almost full already and looking for beds elsewhere for their patients.

BORIS JOHNSON PLEDGES 200,000 JABS A DAY BY NEXT FRIDAY

Boris Johnson last night announced he is bringing in the Army to bolster the UK’s coronavirus vaccination drive and claimed the NHS will be able to give 200,000 jabs every day by next Friday as part of ambitious lockdown-ending plans.

With the roll-out of vaccines the only light at the end of the tunnel, the Prime Minister today reassured the public there are enough doses available to get all the top priority groups immunised by mid-February. 

He also pledged to offer every care home resident a jab by the end of January and announced a new national online booking system that is hoped will be speed up the process.

NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens praised the UK for its ‘strong start’ but both he and the PM admitted there will be ‘difficulties’ and ‘bumps along the road’ as they scramble to immunise millions of people per week. 

The UK is aiming to vaccinate 13.9million people by mid-February, which could require up to 3m per week. Only 1.5million have received at least one dose so far — meaning there are another 11.5million to dish out in 39 days, or around 300,000 a day.

And for people who get sick before they can get a vaccine, Mr Johnson announced that two routine arthritis drugs – tocilizumab and sarilumab – would be used to treat critically-ill patients after scientists today found they can cut the risk of death by up to a quarter.

Mr Johnson’s mammoth jab pledge — which critics fear he won’t be able to deliver because it is over-ambitious — came moments after Britain recorded 1,162 Covid deaths in the second worst day of the pandemic. Department of Health data shows only April 21 had a worse death toll than today, when 1,224 victims were declared.   

The NHS operation, considered the biggest vaccination drive in British history, will involve more than 100 soldiers next week with almost 1,500 reserve troops on standby. And as many as seven mass vaccination centres are set to open in England to aide the roll-out, set up in locations including sports stadiums and London’s ExCeL centre. 

So far the UK’s vaccination scheme has been plagued by supply and staffing shortages, logistical problems and bureaucratic barriers that have strangled its scale-up.

‘They know there is some spare capacity in the care and nursing sector,’ he said. ‘They’re in the middle of conversations with care and nursing home colleagues to see if they can access that capacity.

‘It’s literally leaving no stone unturned to maximise every single piece of capacity that we’ve got, in those areas under pressure.’ 

If care homes are turned into overflow wards for hospitals it is likely only non-Covid patients would be sent to them, following uproar over a Government policy in the first wave which saw people recovering from coronavirus sent into care homes where they were feared to have triggered killer outbreaks.   

On BBC Radio 4 yesterday morning Mr Hopson said the situation is ‘really escalating very quickly’.

‘We’ve seen 5,000 new patients in hospital beds with Covid-19 over the last week – that’s 10 full hospitals worth of new Covid patients in just seven days so there’s a really big challenge.’

He said the Nightingales hadn’t been utilised – except in Manchester and Exeter – because they required staffing, snatching vital doctors and nurses away from overstretched wards and emergency units.

‘It’s better if we can access any spare capacity in the nursing home sector because its got staff there,’ he said.

‘We all recognise that if we’re going to do that then we really need to help care and nursing home.

‘So, for example, if we’re going to discharge patients who need consistent access to high quality therapy we’re going to need to ensure that our community services can provide that support.

‘We also know if we’re going to discharge patients that are perhaps slightly more higher levels of acuity than normal we’re going to have to provide extra nursing support.

‘The issue is we’re now at a point where unless we can access this capacity, we’re not going to be able to treat the patients that we need to treat in the NHS.’

But care home bosses are against the idea and warned it would be a ‘grave mistake’, risking triggering outbreaks among extremely vulnerable residents and adding to already ‘phenomenal’ pressure that homes are facing. 

Vic Rayner, chief executive of the National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit care homes, said today: ‘It would be a grave mistake to discharge large numbers of Covid-19 positive people to care and nursing homes, particularly with the new variant of the vaccine being so virulent.

‘Hospital patients must not be discharged to care homes without a cleared test result and there must not be pressure for care homes to take patients who are Covid-19 positive if they are not either established as a designated scheme, or have suitable arrangements in place. 

‘The crisis and pressure in the hospital sector is mirrored in the care and nursing home sector where we are already seeing testing and widespread community transmission causing rapid and unpredictable staffing shortfalls, adding phenomenal pressure to an exhausted and stretched workforce. 

‘Calls to protect the NHS must not ignore the massive potential impact on those living and working within care.’ 

GRANT SHAPPS CLAIMS VACCINES MIGHT NOT WORK AGAINST NEW VARIANTS – BUT PFIZER SAYS THEY WILL 

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned today the current wave of vaccines might not protect against the South African strain of coronavirus.

Mr Shapps said introducing a mandatory test and release system for travellers coming into the UK had become ‘much more urgent’ because of the threat the variant poses to Britain’s mass vaccination programme.

But there was confusion about the timing of his comments, which came just hours after a study by Pfizer/BioNTech suggested their vaccine could be just as effective against mutations found in super-transmissible strains that have emerged in South Africa and in Kent in the UK.

Amid international fears about the South African strain, thought to be at least 60 per cent more infectious than regular Covid, the UK has made it compulsory for travellers to test negative when they arrive in the country. 

Mr Shapps told Sky News: ‘This is an extra check and we’re doing this now because there are these variants that we’re very keen to keep out of the country, like the South African variant, for example. 

‘There are the concerns about the South African one in particular about how effective the vaccine would be against it so we simply cannot take chances. So today because of that variant it has become much more urgent.’ 

The Pfizer study – which hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet – tested how well the vaccine worked on the key N501Y mutation, an alteration on the virus’s spike protein which is thought to be responsible for making it far more infectious than regular Covid. 

And because current vaccines work by training the immune system to recognise the virus’s spike protein and attack it, there were fears this change could render jabs useless, or less effective. 

Results showed that neutralising antibodies were made against the mutation, which is also found in the highly-infectious Kent variant that is spreading rapidly across the UK. But both strains contain a catalogue of mutations, and the researchers have yet to prove that the vaccine works against them all.

Categories
Headlines UK London

RAF veteran, 99, is STILL waiting for vaccine appointment a month after scheme began

An RAF veteran who is about to turn 100 says he is still waiting for his Covid vaccination a month after the scheme started, as a Sage adviser calls on Number 10 to make it compulsory for NHS staff to get the jab.

Arthur Clark, a widower and great-grandfather of four said he had been trying to get an appointment since Christmas, leading his local MP to brand the vaccination roll out ‘shambolic’.

Speaking to MailOnline from his home in Beckenham, south east London, 99-year-old Mr Clark said: ‘It’s very annoying, I thought I’d been lost in the system.’ He added: ‘I appreciate it takes a while to get round to everyone, but I would have thought they’d have tried to give people of my age priority.’

The Government is aiming to get the first dose of the vaccine to 13million Britons – all over 70s, care home residents and frontline healthcare workers – by mid-February, before rolling it out to other age groups. 

Only 1.5million have received at least one dose so far — meaning there are another 11.5million to dish out in 39 days, or around 300,000 a day.

Boris Johnson yesterday announced he will bring in the Army to bolster the UK’s vaccination drive and claimed the NHS will be able to give 200,000 jabs every day by next Friday.

With the administration of vaccines the only light at the end of the tunnel, the Prime Minister yesterday reassured the public there are enough doses available. He also pledged to offer every care home resident a jab by the end of January and announced a new national online booking system that is hoped will be speed up the process.

Ministers are aiming to ramp up vaccinations to a mammoth two million a week, with NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens yesterday praising the UK for its ‘strong start’ but admitting there will be ‘difficulties’ and ‘bumps along the road’ as they scramble to hit the target. 

It comes as Professor Michael Parker, on the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), calls for mandatory jabs for NHS staff which could slash the risk of the virus spreading through hospitals, meaning fewer NHS workers would need to self-isolate and fewer patients would catch the disease on the wards. 

But, he warned, the programme may be derailed in the early stages because of mounting hospital admissions, with more than 10,000 Covid patients being admitted since Christmas Day – enough to fill 20 hospitals. 

The number of doctors and nurses off sick or self-isolating due to the coronavirus has quadrupled since September, leaked NHS England figures reveal. As many as 46,400 doctors and nurses are unable to attend shifts, reports The Independent, which is almost four times as high as the 12,382 reported on September 2.

Arthur Clark, 99, an RAF veteran, says he is yet to receive his Covid vaccination despite the programme starting a month ago

Arthur Clark, from Beckenham in south east London, with his family

Mr Clark pictured in his RAF uniform

Speaking to MailOnline from his home in Beckenham, south east London, the great grandfather of four said he had been trying to get an appointment since Christmas. Pictured, left, is Arthur with his family and, right, as an RAF serviceman

Professor Michael Parker suggested it should be made mandatory for frontline NHS staff to get the jab. Above is nurse Sue Toye, 51, being vaccinated at Coventry Health Centre yesterday

Professor Michael Parker suggested it should be made mandatory for frontline NHS staff to get the jab. Above is nurse Sue Toye, 51, being vaccinated at Coventry Health Centre yesterday

The number of doctors off due to the virus has quadrupled since September. Above are Covid-19 absences as a proportion of all absences registered at the NHS since the pandemic began

The number of doctors off due to the virus has quadrupled since September. Above are Covid-19 absences as a proportion of all absences registered at the NHS since the pandemic began

PFIZER’S VACCINE IS EFFECTIVE AGAINST COVID SOUTH AFRICAN AND UK MUTATION

Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid vaccine appears to be effective against the super-transmissible UK and South African strains of the virus, according to a study by the US drugmaker. 

The research – which hasn’t been peer reviewed yet – will calm international fears about the new variants, which top experts said had the potential to evade the current wave of jabs.

Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.

The mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility and there had been concern it could also make the virus escape antibody neutralization elicited by the vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists.

The study was conducted on blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine. Its findings are limited, because it does not look at the full set of mutations found in either of the new variants of the rapidly spreading virus.

Dormitzer said it was encouraging that the vaccine appears effective against the mutation, as well as 15 other mutations the company has previously tested against.

‘So we’ve now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact. That’s the good news,’ he said. ‘That doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t.’

As Britain prepared to ramp up vaccinations:

  • As many as 100,000 Britons abroad have five days to get home or face being banned without a negative Covid test;
  • Drivers are turned away from England’s beauty spots while police question parents with pushchairs;
  • Welsh lockdown is extended for three more weeks with schools and colleges shut until February;
  • Care home workers with Covid are told to stay in work due to mounting staff shortages;
  • Pfizer’s vaccine does work against the South African and UK strains of coronavirus, study finds;
  • National Express suspends all coach services due to new lockdown and plummeting passenger numbers;
  • Stanley Johnson reveals he is due to get his second Covid jab today after getting the first before Christmas;

Mr Clark told MailOnline: ‘Every night on the TV and the radio the government are telling everyone what a great job they’re doing, but it doesn’t feel that way from where I’m sitting.’

Mr Clark, a former RAF airman, served in the Far East during World War Two and witnessed the liberation of Burma in 1945.

He also met Lord Louis Mountbatten, then Supreme Allied Commander in SE Asia, when the pair were introduced around the time of Burma’s liberation from the Japanese. 

Mr Clark lives with his 89-year-old partner, Joyce Stewart, who likewise has heard nothing about an appointment for a jab.

He said he assumed he had ‘slipped through the cracks’ in the system, but MailOnline found he’s one of thousands of over 80s in his area alone still waiting for an appointment for their first injection.

The SE London Clinical Commissioning Group which is in charge of the roll-out programme said several thousand people are in the same situation and urged them to ‘wait for an appointment’. 

Brian Clark, 73 and Mr Clark’s son, described the process of trying to book an appointment: ‘It took ages to get through as the number was engaged, but when I did, they referred me to a local vaccination hub at the Beacon urgent care centre.

‘They in turn suggested I ring a central vaccination booking line run by the NHS, but I waited on the phone for two hours without being answered.

‘It’s unbelievable that a man of 99 years old hasn’t yet been vaccinated – or even given an appointment time – a month after they started doing it.’ 

Mr Clark’s Labour MP Ellie Reeves said: ‘This just shows the shambolic truth behind the government’s empty promises about getting 2 million people a week vaccinated.’

‘When a 99-year-old constituent can’t even find out when he’s likely to receive his vaccination a month into the roll-out programme, it is very concerning. 

‘My poor constituent is stuck at home in a very vulnerable position waiting to hear when he’ll get his first vaccination, let alone the second dose.

Professor Parker, who is also an expert in population health at the University of Oxford, cautioned NHS workers should be mandated to get the jab.

Boris Johnson has brought in the Army to turbo charge the UK's Covid vaccine roll out

Boris Johnson has brought in the Army to turbo charge the UK’s Covid vaccine roll out

He told a virtual Royal Society of Medicine briefing on vaccine hesitancy, reports The Telegraph: ‘There is a strong case for certainly saying healthcare workers working with vulnerable groups (should get the vaccine)… there is a strong case for compulsion.’

But he added the move would be ‘complicated’ because there is a ‘huge amount of stress on the NHS’.

‘The last thing we want is loads of people leaving because they don’t want a vaccination,’ he said. ‘Let’s be realistic.’

He also said it should be a disciplinary offence for doctors and nurses to try to put members of the public off the vaccine, and mentioned a situation where a nurse tried to encourage him not to get a jab.

In yesterday’s Downing St press conference Brigadier Phil Prosser, the army officer and Iraq veteran put in charge of speeding up the UK’s sluggish vaccination programme, insisted the military would use ‘battlefield techniques’ to ramp up the roll-out, adding: ‘My team are used to complexity and building supply chains at speed in the most arduous and challenging conditions.’

Ministry of Defence chiefs were instructed to devise the plans to hit the PM’s lofty target of vaccinating all over-70s, care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers and extremely vulnerable adults of all ages to end the endless cycle of lockdowns by mid-February.

The NHS operation, considered the biggest vaccination drive in British history, will involve more than 100 soldiers next week with almost 1,500 reserve troops on standby. And as many as seven mass vaccination centres are set to open in England to aide the roll-out, set up in locations including sports stadiums and London’s ExCeL centre. 

So far the UK’s vaccination scheme has been plagued by supply and staffing shortages, logistical problems and bureaucratic barriers that have strangled its scale-up.

Hugely ambitious claims about the Government’s vaccination programme will cause worry from some corners after it failed to live up to promises on its swab-testing scheme.

Matt Hancock had promised the programme would hit 100,000 tests per day by the start of May – and claimed at the time that it did – but it later emerged the Department of Health had posted out tens of thousands and counted them, and that the number never breached six figures until three weeks later on May 21.

And Boris Johnson promised in the summer that NHS Test and Trace would scale up to get everyone who visited a major testing centre their results within 24 hours, but this target has never been achieved. 

Missing the mark on vaccinating could have far worse consequences, with Britain stuck in lockdown until the most vulnerable people can all be immunised.

Mr Johnson’s mammoth jab pledge — which critics fear he won’t be able to deliver because it is over-ambitious — came after Britain yesterday recorded 1,162 Covid deaths in the second worst day of the pandemic. Department of Health data shows only April 21 had a worse death toll than today, when 1,224 victims were declared. 

Experts fear the daily number of Covid deaths may rise further, because of the spiralling number of infections in the community. But in a slight glimmer of hope, cases dropped compared to last week as health bosses posted 52,618 infections — down 6 per cent from the same time last week.

The figures mark the tenth day in a row Britain has recorded more than 50,000 new infections, as the virus continues to spread across the country.

It takes at least two weeks for someone who has been infected with the virus to develop symptoms bad enough to become hospitalised, and eventually sadly die from the disease, meaning the deaths are expected to rise at a later date.

People in their 20s now have the highest rate of coronavirus infection in England, with 0.8 per cent of the population infected.

Public Health England figures show young adults – between the ages of 20 and 39 and, to a lesser extent, people in their 40s – are the worst affected groups but case numbers are surging in every age group.

In the week ending January 3 there were 843 positive tests per 100,000 people among 20 to 29-year-olds, compared to 813 per 100,000 in people in their 30s. 

The figures rose 40 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively, with the 20s age group overtaking the 30s as the one with the highest rate.

The rate for people in their 40s was 738 per 100,000, the third worst and up a quarter in a week.

Some of the lowest rates of infection were in children, ranging from 194 in under-fives to 435 in teenagers, but they were still rising despite school holidays. 

Categories
Bollywood

Priyanka Chopra flouts Covid-19 lockdown rules in London, Aamir Khan seen playing with kids without mask


Here are top entertainment news stories.

Aamir Khan plays cricket with children in Mumbai, actor Kishwer Merchantt criticises them for not wearing masks

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Thousands across Britain take to doorsteps and landmarks are lit up blue in salute to Covid heroes

The nation rallied around the thousands of NHS staff and healthcare workers putting their lives at risk to help fight the spread of the coronavirus tonight as the Clap for Carers campaign made its return under a new name.   

Thousands of Britons across the nation stood outside their doorsteps in solidarity with the frontline workers helping fight Covid-19 after England was plunged into a third national lockdown.

The revamped campaign, which has been renamed Clap for Heroes, calls on people up across the UK to applaud in appreciation of those helping in the fight against Covid and has been expanded to include ‘every hero who has played their part through the pandemic’

These include delivery drivers, postal workers, teachers, home-schoolers, neighbours, scientists, volunteers, all those who wear masks when out and those who have stayed at home and socially-distanced.   

The scenes come as national landmarks were illuminated in blue tonight in an effort to pay homage to the hundreds of frontline NHS workers as part of the #LightItBlue initiative, which began in March last year.

Along the South Bank in central London, the London Eye was among hundreds of venues across the UK to light up  in blue in a gesture of thanks to the country’s key workers.  

Elsewhere the Shard, Madame Tussauds, and a Selfridges department store on Oxford Street were also illuminated in blue to share their support. 

Children in Surrey take to the streets to share their support of those helping fight the coronavirus on the frontline as the revamped campaign, which has been renamed Clap for Heroes, made its return

People in Stockton, Teesside, poke their heads outside their windows and take part in the relaunched Clap for Carers campaign

People in Stockton, Teesside, poke their heads outside their windows and take part in the relaunched Clap for Carers campaign

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria Starmer take part in the first 'Clap For Heroes' outside their home in North London

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria Starmer take part in the first ‘Clap For Heroes’ outside their home in North London

A mother and daughter stand outside their home in Saltburn-by-the-Sea and take part in the new Clap for Heroes event

A mother and daughter stand outside their home in Saltburn-by-the-Sea and take part in the new Clap for Heroes event

Tonight Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria Starmer led thousands of Britons across the country to pay tribute to the nation’s NHS staff outside their home in North London.

In Stockton, Teesside, people poked their heads outside their windows to take part in the relaunched Clap for Carers while children in Surrey were spotted taking to the streets with their pots and pans. 

Meanwhile the Royal family’s Instagram account posted a message quoting the Queen’s Christmas speech in which she paid homage to the nation’s frontline services who ‘still shine that lamp for us’.

It comes as Boris Johnson today announced he would bring in the Army to bolster the UK’s coronavirus vaccination drive and claimed the NHS will be able to give 200,000 jabs every day by next Friday as part of ambitious lockdown-ending plans.

With the roll-out of vaccines the only light at the end of the tunnel, the Prime Minister reassured the public there are enough doses available to get all the top priority groups immunised by mid-February. 

He also pledged to offer every care home resident a jab by the end of January and announced a new national online booking system that is hoped will be speed up the process.  

Mr Johnson’s mammoth jab pledge — which critics fear he won’t be able to deliver because it is over-ambitious — came moments after Britain recorded 1,162 Covid deaths in the second worst day of the pandemic. Department of Health data shows only April 21 had a worse death toll than today, when 1,224 victims were declared.  

Earlier today the founder of the Clap for Carers campaign, Annemarie Plas, 37, distanced herself from the event after NHS workers urged people to avoid taking part.

Ms Plas, who came up with the weekly ritual that ran for ten weeks on Thursdays at 8pm during the first lockdown, had confirmed its return yesterday.

But the Dutch national who lives in Streatham, South London, said she had since been targeted with personal abuse and threats against herself and her family.               

A couple join their fellow residents in Saltburn-by-the-Sea to take part in the relaunched campaign which sees people applaud the work of frontline workers

A couple join their fellow residents in Saltburn-by-the-Sea to take part in the relaunched campaign which sees people applaud the work of frontline workers 

People stand outside their home in Marsden and clap for those helping in the fight against coronavirus after the nation was plunged into a third lockdown

People stand outside their home in Marsden and clap for those helping in the fight against coronavirus after the nation was plunged into a third lockdown

Aria Pangan, 6, from Blackpool, joins the hundreds of Britons across the nation stood outside their doorsteps in solidarity with the frontline workers

Aria Pangan, 6, from Blackpool, joins the hundreds of Britons across the nation stood outside their doorsteps in solidarity with the frontline workers

A woman wears a face mask as she takes to the street in Saltburn-by-the-Sea and pays tribute to the thousands of workers on the frontline

A woman wears a face mask as she takes to the street in Saltburn-by-the-Sea and pays tribute to the thousands of workers on the frontline

A couple stand with their dog outside the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, as they join in with the applause tonight

A couple stand with their dog outside the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, as they join in with the applause tonight

School children at Teesside High School in Stockton-On -Tees take part in the new Clap for Heroes event as it makes its return to the country

School children at Teesside High School in Stockton-On -Tees take part in the new Clap for Heroes event as it makes its return to the country

Larry the Cat sits outside the door to 10 Downing Street as the Clap for Carers campaign makes its return to the nation

Larry the Cat sits outside the door to 10 Downing Street as the Clap for Carers campaign makes its return to the nation

People stand outside the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, as th eevamped campaign, which has been renamed Clap for Heroes returns

People stand outside the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, as th eevamped campaign, which has been renamed Clap for Heroes returns

Along the South Bank in central London the London Eye is illuminated blue in support of the frontline workers risking their lived in the fight against coronavirus

Along the South Bank in central London the London Eye is illuminated blue in support of the frontline workers risking their lived in the fight against coronavirus

A Selfridges department store on Oxford Street in London is lit up in blue and is emblazoned with the words 'let's change'

A Selfridges department store on Oxford Street in London is lit up in blue and is emblazoned with the words ‘let’s change’

Meanwhile in Trafalgar Square, a blue light shone on the fountain in a gesture of thanks to the NHS workers and volunteers working on the frontline

Meanwhile in Trafalgar Square, a blue light shone on the fountain in a gesture of thanks to the NHS workers and volunteers working on the frontline 

Mother-of-one Mrs Plas claimed she now had ‘no choice but to distance myself from this evening’s national applause’ – but insisted the event was not cancelled.

The yoga teacher added: ‘It absolutely can and should still happen at 8pm tonight if you choose and want to clap for your heroes on an individual and personal basis.’

It comes after NHS doctors, paramedics and surgeons hit out at the return of Clap for Carers tonight, saying they would rather people respect the national lockdown. 

Mrs Plas, who is originally from Amsterdam, said today: ‘Since announcing the return of the applause yesterday, I have been targeted with personal abuse and threats against myself and my family by a hateful few on social media channels.

‘Irrespective of their views and reasons for believing this is an acceptable way to behave, I did not set out to make a political statement and will not put my loved ones at risk. 

‘I have no political agenda, I am not employed by the Government, I do not work in PR, I am just an average mum at home trying to cope with the lockdown situation. 

‘As a consequence I have opted to distance myself from tonight’s planned applause and will no longer seek to raise further awareness of it.’

Mrs Plas, who is married to a British man and lives in a three-bedroom house worth an estimated £550,000, was inspired to launch Clap for Carers after seeing similar events in the Netherlands. 

The Blackpool tower is illuminated in blue as the hundreds across the country show their support for frontline workers

The Blackpool tower is illuminated in blue as the hundreds across the country show their support for frontline workers

The Shard in London is illuminated in blue

The globe at the top of Madame Tussauds is lit up in blue

The Shard and the globe at the top of Madame Tussauds lit up in blue as part of the #LightItBlue campaign by the NHS

The Royal family's Instagram account posted a message quoting the Queen's Christmas speech in which she said 'our frontline services still shine that lamp for us'

The Royal family’s Instagram account posted a message quoting the Queen’s Christmas speech in which she said ‘our frontline services still shine that lamp for us’

She added: ‘The applause is not cancelled. I don’t have that authority or right and nor do I want to dampen the show of positivity and unity of those who recognise what we stand for and why we created Clap For… in the first place (and opted to bring it back). 

‘It absolutely can and should still happen at 8pm tonight if you choose and want to clap for your heroes on an individual and personal basis – it’s up to each person to decide how relevant or worthwhile they feel it is to participate.’ 

But medics took to Twitter to call the event ‘cringeworthy and pointless’ while urging the public to ‘just let us get on, do our jobs and clear up the mess we’re in.’

Other staff said they would rather have a pay rise and an end to abuse, claiming the Government wanted people to ‘pity us because they say we can’t cope’.

NHS nurses were told last month that they will have to wait until at least this May for a pay rise they were promised by the Government after it was delayed. 

Annemarie Plas (pictured in May), 37, who came up with the weekly ritual that ran for ten weeks on Thursdays at 8pm during the first lockdown, said yesterday that it would return

Annemarie Plas (pictured in May), 37, who came up with the weekly ritual that ran for ten weeks on Thursdays at 8pm during the first lockdown, said yesterday that it would return

Mother-of-one Mrs Plas said in a statement this afternoon that she now had 'no choice but to distance myself from this evening's national applause' but insisted the event was not cancelled

Mother-of-one Mrs Plas said in a statement this afternoon that she now had ‘no choice but to distance myself from this evening’s national applause’ but insisted the event was not cancelled

How Annemarie Plas was inspired by similar Clap for Carers events in her native Holland

Annemarie Plas, 36, came up with the weekly Clap for Carers ritual that ran for ten weeks on Thursdays at 8pm during the first lockdown after being inspired by similar events in her native Netherlands.

The mother-of-one and yoga teacher, who is from Amsterdam, now lives in a three-bedroom house worth £550,000 in Streatham, South London, and is married to a British man.

She works as regional sales director for Objective Partners, a marketing consultancy based in her home city.

She has degrees in communications and law and previously worked in PR for the Dutch media firm Sanoma and communications group Starcom.

Mrs Plas originally thought her show of support for frontline workers might end up being just her and a few friends sharing a moment on Facetime.

But it turned into a huge national event each week, with millions of people lining their thresholds, gathering on pavements and standing in their gardens to show their support. 

However the event was criticised for becoming politicised and Mrs Plas said it should finish in May, which it did before tonight’s planned restart.

But Yazan Masannat, a surgeon for breast cancer patients at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, tweeted: ‘We really don’t want people to clap for us for doing our jobs.

‘Just stay at home and avoid getting infected and infecting everybody else that is more helpful. #ClapForHeroes #CoronavirusUK.’  

Mrs Plas came up with the ‘spontaneous idea’ as a way to show support for frontline workers battling Covid-19, and thought it might end up being just her and a few friends sharing the moment on video chat. 

However, it quickly became a national tradition every Thursday at 8pm during the first lockdown.

Millions of people across the UK lined their thresholds, gathered on pavements and stood in their gardens to support care staff and frontline workers. 

Speaking to BBC News yesterday, Ms Plas said: ‘A lot has happened, we are in the third national lockdown and I felt like a lot of other people. I wanted to help in any way I could to see if I could help lift the spirits just a little bit and connect the communities.

‘That’s why I thought it’s a good idea to bring it back.’

Ms Plas explained that she was now using the term ‘heroes’ because ‘everyone can be a hero’.

She continued: ‘That’s just a little change because now everyone can be a hero. As I said we are in a crisis, we are well aware of the pressures that the NHS are under, that carers are under.

‘They are working around the clock, that’s all they can do. People doing different things to show their appreciation.

‘I know that the applause is just a simple gesture but I thought it would be nice to bring back. If we can in this way say thank you to everybody, even the volunteers, people that are shielding, people that are following the rules.

‘Everybody is playing their part to get us through this again in such a challenging time and I thought using the word ‘heroes’ it can mean anybody because we are all doing the best that we can to get out of this as soon as we can.’

When asked if the wider public were more jaded about the event than they were last year, Ms Plas added: ‘We know now what a lockdown looks like.

‘We are still hearing the numbers are going up and if people have a different feeling towards for instance the applause I fully understand that. I only want to say those who feel they can help in any way, please join me.

‘If you feel like you want to express your gratitude in another way do that but this is for those who want to join.’