Govt Says New English Lockdown Could Last Longer Than Month

A new four-week coronavirus lockdown in England will be extended if it fails to reduce infection rates, the government said Sunday, as it faced criticism over the abrupt decision to shut down again.

The second national lockdown, hastily announced late Saturday following warnings hospitals could be overwhelmed within weeks, is set to come into force from Thursday and end on December 2.

But senior minister Michael Gove said the government would maintain the stringent measures if the R rate — the number of people one person with the virus is likely to infect — remained above one.

“With a virus this malignant, and with its capacity to move so quickly, it would be foolish to predict with absolute certainty what will happen in four weeks’ time,” he told Sky News.

“And so therefore of course we will review what requires to be done but we have a clear plan over the next four-week (period),” he added.

Under the new rules unveiled by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, people must stay at home except in cases where exemptions apply, such as for work, education or exercise.

In contrast to the months-long UK-wide lockdown earlier this year, schools, colleges and universities will remain open.

But pubs and restaurants will shut unless serving takeaway food, while all leisure and entertainment venues and non-essential shops will close.

The ramped-up response came as Britain surpassed one million cases, after announcing nearly 22,000 new infections Saturday.

The government’s scientific advisors have warned Covid-19’s prevalence, and resulting hospitalisations and deaths, are rising faster than their most dire predictions.

They cautioned that under the current trajectory, intensive care units and ventilator capacity could be overwhelmed by early December while winter deaths could be double the current toll.

Britain is already among the hardest-hit countries in Europe, with total Covid-19 related deaths nearing 47,000, after another 326 fatalities were announced.

Some European neighbours and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already re-imposed partial lockdowns to try to cut their surging virus rates.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces that England has to go back into coronavirus lockdown as cases surge British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces that England has to go back into coronavirus lockdown as cases surge Photo: POOL / Alberto Pezzali

Last month, the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) recommended a two-week national “circuit-breaker” lockdown over the half-term school holidays this past week.

But Johnson, who is responsible for health policy in England only, resisted the move, opting to persevere with a system of localised restrictions.

Keir Starmer, the leader of the main opposition Labour party who last month backed the circuit-breaker, said the delay meant the lockdown would now be longer and harder on people.

“The government was too slow in the first phase of the pandemic and now it’s been too slow again,” he told the BBC.

Starmer called on ministers to improve the faltering contact tracing system to ensure the shutdown ends early next month.

“There will be no effective exit on the second of December unless the government uses this time to fix test, trace

Read more

Under 60% of English COVID contacts reached in new record low for trace scheme

LONDON (Reuters) – A record low 59.6% of contacts of positive COVID cases were reached in the latest week, statistics for England’s Test and Trace scheme showed on Thursday, with turnaround times for people receiving their results also getting slower.

British government scientists have warned that the test and trace scheme is relatively ineffective as the coronavirus spreads ever more quickly, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is tackling a growing second wave with a localised approach.

Recent weeks have seen increases in the number of contacts of positive COVID-19 cases identified, with 251,613 identified in the latest week, up 15% on the previous week.

But the proportion being contacted is well below an 80% target for contacts traced.

Between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14, 33.4% of in-person test results were received the day after the test was taken, compared with 67.9% the week before.

The test and trace scheme showed that there had been a 12% increase in positive cases in the latest week. There were 96,521 people transferred to the system, of which 80.7% were reached and asked to provide information about their contacts.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Stephen Addison)

Source Article

Read more

What Language for COVID Vaccines in the EU? Brussels Opts for English | Top News

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – COVID-19 vaccines should have labels and packages with information only in English, European Union regulators have agreed, loosening multilingual requirements that could slow the roll-out of shots in the continent.

The move, meant to speed up the distribution of any vaccine if and when it is available, is also a testament to the dominant position of the English tongue in the 27-nation bloc – despite Brexit.

EU health experts have agreed to limit the information on jabs’ labels and packages “to one EU official language, preferably English,” an EU document said.

Vaccine makers had urged the EU to soften during the pandemic rules that require them to have labels in the bloc’s 24 official languages.

The document was adopted in late September and published last week on a little watched webpage of the EU Commission.

When the EU executive commission first flagged in early September the possibility of temporarily cutting the language requirements on vaccines, consumer groups warned against risks for patients who may be administered jabs improperly.

The document, which was prepared by the EU Commission and endorsed by health experts from EU countries, says that information should be omitted if countries opted for multilingual labels.

However, vaccine makers remain obliged to provide paper leaflets for each dose in the languages of the country where the shot will be administered, the document says.

But leaflets could be distributed separately from vaccines, the EU document says, in a move meant to speed up their roll-out but which critics fear could cause delayed deliveries of information leaflets.

“The commission and member states must demand vaccine manufacturers to ensure that printed leaflets are available when consumers get the vaccine,” said Ancel la Santos, of the consumer group BEUC.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

Source Article

Read more