England ‘long way’ from easing virus lockdown, says govt as experts' concerns over ‘vaccine escape’ grow
British health secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday said that England is a “long way” from easing restrictions, given the enormous pressure on National Health Service (NHS). The United Kingdom has been witnessing a surge in the cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) after different imported variants of coronavirus were detected in the country. Hancock said that Britain has detected 77 cases of the South African variant and nine cases of a Brazilian variant.
“There is early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down. But we're a long, long, long way from that from being low enough because the case rate was incredibly high and you can see the pressure on the NHS. You can see it every day,” the health minister told Sky News.
The virus variants have triggered concerns among the health experts and scientific community at a time when the government is trying to contain the pandemic through vaccination. The UK has been reporting over 1,000 Covid-19 related deaths for the last five days. The country has recorded the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe with more than 97,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center.
Oxford professor Anthony Harnden, who serves as deputy chair of a scientific committee on vaccination, told Sky News that the new variants are a “real worry” because Covid-19 vaccines may not be effective against them. “The South African and the Brazilian Amazonian ones, there are hints that there will be vaccine escape," he warned.
Though there have been speculations around a possible blanket ban on inbound travellers amid fears of new virus variants, Hancock said that the government will stick to a “precautionary principle”. The health secretary stressed that pre-departure testing has been strictly implemented to prevent the spread of a new variant.
"But it is absolutely vital that we protect this country from a new variant that may not be as well dealt with by the vaccine. We cannot risk the progress that we have made,” he added.
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- The UK has also extended concessions for students unable to travel to the UK after getting admission to British educational institutions because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was done due to the continuing disruption in international travel.
- According to Le Maire, a pension reform to address the financial imbalances in the country’s system is still possible before voters head to the polls in April 2022.
- Marking the first time it had taken down Thai accounts alleged to be linked to the government, Facebook said on Wednesday it had removed a Thailand-based network that included 77 accounts, 72 pages and 18 groups on Facebook and 18 accounts on Instagram, citing "coordinated inauthentic behaviour".
- Even though the gender pay gap across the 27-nation bloc has been reduced to 14% for people doing exactly the same work, the European Commission wants to eliminate the disparity by imposing specific rules to make pay levels public.
- 4.3 million Americans are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits. Counting supplemental federal unemployment programs that were established to soften the economic damage from the virus, an estimated 18 million people are collecting some form of jobless aid.
- In Thursday's bombing in Jalalabad, the female doctor was killed while on her way to work at the provincial hospital's maternity ward.