UK on ‘glide path to landing’ after vaccine boost as coronavirus ‘nears second peak’
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Britain is now on a “glide path to landing”, a top medic said today after a vaccine boost and claims coronavirus is nearing its second UK peak.
But Jonathan Van Tam also warned a “side wind” could knock the government off course just as it tries to land.
The Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England used the aviation metaphor as multiple studies emerged suggesting England’s lockdown may be having an effect.
The ONS said there were an average of 38,900 new cases per day of Covid-19 in England in the week to November 14 – down from 47,700 per day the week before.
And Matt Hancock said average new cases that test positive per day are now at 22,287 – down from 24,430 a week ago.
"This is clearly flattening,” said the Health Secretary. “The peak is clearly… we’re clearly near the peak of this second increase and the second wave."
Matt Hancock said: "We’re clearly near the peak of this second increase and the second wave"
(Image: Sky News)
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Meanwhile Mr Hancock confirmed the Pfizer/BioNTech breakthrough vaccine has begun the process of regulator approval in the UK.
“If the regulator approves a vaccine we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of the rollout in the new year,” he said. “We’re heading in the right direction but there is still a long way to go.”
Turning to a flight metaphor, Prof Van Tam added: “Do I believe we’re now on the glide path to landing this plane? Yes, I think I do.
“Do I accept that sometimes when you’re on the glide path you can have a side wind and the landing is not totally straightforward – of course.
“And this is the real science world we live in. But yes, I think we’re on the glide path.
A vaccine could start being given out next month – but if, and only if, it passes regulator tests
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
But Jonathan Van Tam also warned there were no guarantees about when a vaccine will start being rolled out.
He also warned it was “pointless” to speculate about how many doses will be available and when.
He said the matter is now in the MHRA’s hands, saying: “It will happen at the speed of science.
“It has to happen in their own time when they are ready and we have to leave them and trust them to get on with that.”
Mr Hancock later admitted: “It is absolutely a question for [the MHRA] how long they take, I am not going to pre-judge that at all.”
The Pfizer jab is one of two vaccines that has passed Phase 3 trials, but neither are yet approved by regulator the MHRA and the other won’t be available until Spring.
Concerns have been raised about the vaccine priority list – which puts all healthy over-50s at the very bottom, while placing over-80s, care home residents and NHS staff first.
However, Prof Van Tam said the the difference between being higher or lower on the vaccine priority list "will be one or two or three weeks. It won’t be very long at all.”
Older people will get the vaccine first
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
As of three weeks ago, just before England’s national lockdown, the R number across the UK fell to 1.0-1.1.
That means every 10 people with Covid-19 pass the virus to 10 or 11 others on average.
The R number is now below 1 in the North West, sitting at 0.8 to 1.0, after the region was hit with tougher Tier 3 restrictions before lockdown.
SAGE today said the R number may already be below 1 in England, but hasn’t shown up yet in official data.
“These figures are promising and they show that the second peak is flattening,” Mr Hancock said.
And he said ministers are currently drawing up plans for how lockdown rules might be relaxed on Christmas.
Previous SAGE data had suggested every day of looser lockdown rules would need 5 days of tighter lockdown to pay for it.
But Prof Van Tam said: “There’s no magic number about how many days this is going to cost so we shouldn’t frame it that way.”