Lets stop the blame game over the shortage of ICU beds for Covid patients – The Guardian


Doctors must be trusted to care for every patient without judgment and everyone else to help protect the NHS

Sat 23 Jan 2021 15.27 GMT

The situation in UK intensive care units (ICUs) is grave. Across the UK, units are under immense pressure and are as busy or busier than they were in the first wave. All plans enacted over the summer to provide support for critical care services going into winter pressures have been stretched and then stretched again. Stories from exhausted staff and overcrowded wards, particularly in London, show how close to breaking we are. Both the prime minister and the CEO of the NHS, Simon Stevens, have raised the spectre of critical care treatment becoming limited if demand exceeds supply.

We went into this pandemic with fewer staffed, funded critical care beds compared with other developed nations. Germany has 29 ICU beds per 100,000 population, the US around 25, the UK 6.6. The Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, the professional body responsible for all doctors working in intensive care in the UK, had highlighted this and possible solutions in its critical condition and critical futures reports. More training in intensive care skills for healthcare staff and better ways of identifying the workload that an intensive care nurse can safely do were issues we highlighted. There has not been the wholesale development of services that was needed and which would have helped us cope better in this pandemic; intensive care was just another competing healthcare interest in an NHS with a limited budget.

A troubling narrative now appears to have crept into some reporting of intensive care bed shortages – blame the public. Social and conventional media are awash with comments from exhausted and understandably frustrated fellow healthcare workers who suggest individuals may have “blood on their hands” or need to “fuck off”. We are trying to cope with a significantly more infectious form of coronavirus, a lockdown with more exemptions that are open to interpretation than previous lockdowns and an apparently unstoppable rise in the number of cases presenting to hospitals. It is people living in areas of the country with the most social deprivation, poor, cramped housing and multigenerational living who experience the highest risk of catching Sars-CoV-2, require hospital admission, become critically ill and, sadly, die.

In desperation, it is tempting to seek to apportion blame when all apparent previous exhortations have failed, but this is too easy and too simplistic. In doing so, we run the risk of feeding the trolls who call us liars when we show the harsh realities of intensive care treatment in a pandemic and losing the goodwill of those trying their best to comply.

Doctors and other healthcare workers are trusted professionals. That trust comes in part because of the contract we make with you, the public, in acting to provide care and treatment where we can, without judgment. We do that in relation to treatment for road traffic collisions irrespective of who is “at fault”, vascular diseases where the individual may have damaged blood vessels due to smoking and forms of cancer where lifestyle factors are known to play a part as much as genetics. We do it because it’s the right thing to do because health is so valuable. We do not know who will need our help until they do and in each case we treat and care without judgment.

We know that 10 months of restrictions on how we live our lives have been tedious and frustrating. Now, as healthcare professionals, we are asking each and every member of the public to join in this contract with us. Act without judgment and selflessly. Do what is asked of you for the sake of those you have not met and may yet need our help, as much as those close to you who have or will be treated by the NHS at some point in their lives.

Our message is simple. Please stay at home and protect lives. Follow the rules.














UK records 33,552 Covid cases and 1,348 deaths today –

Coronavirus cases and deaths SET AND HOLD Picture: Getty -

The UK has recorded another 1,348 coronavirus deaths (Picture: Getty/

The UK has recorded another 1,348 coronavirus deaths, bringing the overall tally to 97,329, according to official data.

A further 33,552 people have tested positive for Covid-19 over the last 24 hours, the latest figures from the Department of Health show. This brings the total number of lab-confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 3,617,459.

The Government’s coronavirus dashboard also states that 5,861,351 people have now received their first vaccine dose, with 468,617 of those having gone on to receive their second.

The update comes after Boris Johnson revealed the UK coronavirus variant may be more deadly than the original strain.

Speaking at Friday’s Downing Street briefing, the prime minister said: ‘I must tell you this afternoon that we’ve been informed today that in addition to spreading more quickly it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant, the variant that was first identified in London and the South East, may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.’

He also said the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital had exceeded the first wave peak in April.

The Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, suggested the new variant could increase the mortality rate by nearly a third for men in their 60s who have Covid-19.

For a thousand people in that group who became infected with the old variant, roughly 10 would be expected to die – whereas with the new variant it might be 13 or 14, with similar increases in mortality rates across the age ranges.

He said: ‘I want to stress that there’s a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it, but it obviously is of concern that this has an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility, as it appears of today.’

Coronavirus cases and deaths SET AND HOLD Picture: Getty -

Infections have continued to fall by around a quarter compared to last week (Picture: Getty/

Another top scientist advising the Government today defended the decision to reveal the evidence, but added that ‘people need to put it into perspective’.

Professor Peter Horby, who chairs the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said that if the information had not been released, authorities may have been accused of ‘covering it up’.

He told BBC Breakfast on Saturday that although there were signs that the strain carried a higher risk of death, it was still ‘very, very small’ to most people.

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Professor Horby said: ‘Initial data didn’t suggest that this was any more serious than the old virus but now the data has started to come in, there are a number of streams of data that are coming in, that suggest there might be a small increase in risk of death.

‘There are some limitations in the data so we need to be cautious with the interpretations but it is important that people understand that we are looking at this and this may be true.

‘If you look at it as a relative change like 30 or 40% then it sounds really bad but a big change in a very small risk takes it from a very small number to a slightly bigger, but still very small number, so for most people the risk is very, very small.

‘People need to put it into perspective. This is a risk for certain age groups and that risk may have increased but for most people it is still not a serious disease.’

Asked whether the Government could be accused of scare-mongering by providing such data too early, Professor Horby replied: ‘I think a very important principle is transparency.

‘Scientists are looking at the possibility that there is increased severity… and after a week of looking at the data we came to the conclusion that it was a realistic possibility.

‘We need to be transparent about that. If we were not telling people about this we would be accused of covering it up.’

Other scientists have said it is still an ‘open question’ whether the new coronavirus variant is more deadly.

Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the BBC’s Today programme that the new strain was not a ‘game changer’ in terms of dealing with the pandemic.

He said: ‘There is evidence it is more dangerous but this is a very dangerous virus.

‘In terms of making the situation worse it is not a game changer. It is a very bad thing that is slightly worse.’

Public Health England medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said that more work was needed to establish whether the variant was more deadly.

She told Today: ‘There is some evidence, but it is very early evidence. It is small numbers of cases and it is far too early to say this will actually happen.’

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Covid deaths in Norfolks hospitals passes 1,000 – Eastern Daily Press

The total number of hospital patients who have died after testing positive for coronavirus in Norfolk has now passed 1,000.

The confirmation of 30 new Covid related deaths in the latest 24 hour period brings the county’s death toll to 1,013 since the start of the pandemic.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital reported 28 of the new deaths, which occurred at the hospital dating back to January 12.

The hospital said 20 patients, including 11 men and nine women, had died between January 11 and January 20.

This month alone, 163 deaths have been reported at the Norwich hospital, the highest monthly total since April.

The hospital has also discharged 1,000 patients since the start of the pandemic.

At the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, this month has seen more Covid deaths than any other, with 80. 

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn, has reported 64 deaths this month.

It means the first month of 2021 has now reported the most Covid deaths of the whole pandemic, with 324 deaths.

This has surpassed the first wave in April where 254 people were reported to have died across the county’s hospitals.

Figures show coronavirus infection rates across the county are falling week on week, but have also brought warnings from the prime minister and the director of public health for Norfolk.

On Thursday, Dr Louise Smith said the county may have turned a corner over infection rates but warned the number of hospital admissions and deaths has yet to peak.

She said: “I think it’s reasonable to anticipate that while we remain in lockdown and people follow the current regulations – and unless we see a new variant emerge again – that we are seeing a trend of the number of infections in the community come down.

“We don’t believe we’ve seen the peak in terms of hospital admissions yet, or, indeed, of deaths, because those follow a number of days to weeks after the peak in the community.”

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 397 deaths at the NNUH, 254 at the James Paget, 307 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and 55 in the region’s community hospitals.


Covid data: More than 750 coronavirus deaths now recorded in Cambridgeshire – Cambridgeshire Live

More than 750 people have now died in Cambridgeshire after contracting Covid-19.

The latest data released by the Government today, January 23, showed that the death toll in Cambridgeshire now stands at 759.

Peterborough has recorded the most deaths, with more than 230, however, Huntingdonshire is not too far behind with 170 and Fenland with almost 150.

There have also now been more than 31,000 local cases of coronavirus confirmed since the outbreak of the pandemic – with more than 3,000 recorded in the latest seven day period.

While Cambridge, Fenland and South Cambridgeshire recorded around 400 new cases in the last seven day period, and East Cambridgeshire only just over 200, Peterborough recorded more than 1,000.

It comes after experts have warned that this lockdown is not strict enough, pointing out several loopholes which they are urging the Government to close before they have an impact on case numbers.

While the country’s infection rate has fallen to between 0.8 and 0.1, there have been stark warnings issued that the new UK strain of the virus could potentially be more deadly than the original.

To find out all the latest near you, we’ve broken down all the latest Government data below.

Shoppers in Peterborough City Centre and the Market last month

Cambridgeshire cases by area – whole pandemic

More than 30,000 cases of coronavirus have been recorded across Cambridgeshire since the outbreak of the pandemic.

A total of 31,861 cases have now been recorded in Cambridgeshire, with more than a third of those cases coming from Peterborough alone – which has recorded more than 10,800 cases.

  • Cambridge: 4,684
  • East Cambridgeshire: 2,310
  • Fenland: 3,627
  • Huntingdonshire: 5,795
  • Peterborough: 10,853
  • South Cambridgeshire: 4,592

Cambridgeshire cases by area – last seven days

Once again, Peterborough has recorded the highest number of cases in the latest seven day period.

Cambridgeshire recorded 3,129 cases in the latest seven day period, which ended five days ago.

Of these, more than 1,000 cases were recorded in Peterborough, while most other areas of Cambridgeshire recorded fewer than 500 cases – with the exception of Huntingdonshire which recorded almost 600.

  • Cambridge: 409
  • East Cambridgeshire: 231
  • Fenland: 414
  • Huntingdonshire: 594
  • Peterborough: 1,045
  • South Cambridgeshire: 436

Use our tool below to find out more about the Covid vaccine near you:

Cambridgeshire Covid deaths

Across Cambridgeshire, almost 800 people have now sadly died after contracting coronavirus.

Out of the 759 recorded deaths in Cambridgeshire, 233 of them have come from Peterborough – almost a third.

This is people who have died within 28 days of first testing positive for COVID-19.

  • Cambridge: 67
  • East Cambridgeshire: 60
  • Fenland: 149
  • Huntingdonshire: 170
  • Peterborough: 233
  • South Cambridgeshire: 80


The beds arent even getting cold: Inside a London hospital full with Covid patients – Channel 4 News

‘The beds aren’t even getting cold’: Inside a London hospital full with Covid patients – YouTube

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170 symptoms that show you might have long Covid – Yorkshire Live

For most people, coronavirus will be a mild illness.

Many people who test positive for Covid-19 will get better with a couple of weeks.

But some are not so lucky and have been left feeling extremely unwell for months afterwards.

This is known as long Covid and it is thought to affect around 600,000 people in the UK.

A&E nurse Sophie Evans, 28, told the Mirror she spent spent ten days in hospital and is still on sick leave with long Covid, with “no end in sight”.

She said: “Every day is a battle, I am constantly in pain. I thought I was going to die. I don’t know how I am not dead.

“It breaks my heart to know there will be more sufferers during a second peak. It’s a horrible place to be.”

Another sufferer, Alisa Gabay, 36, said she has been “stuck in bed” for seven months.

“Every day is a battle, I am constantly in pain. I thought I was going to die. I don’t know how I am not dead,” she said.

One woman who created a support group for sufferers said more than 170 symptoms had been reported.

The symptoms of long Covid

  • Violent seizures
  • Violent shaking
  • Vibrations inside the body
  • Trembling
  • Twitching of fingers/thumbs
  • Nightime weird sensations eg, feeling frightened
  • Brain Fog
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Numbness in extremities: fingertips
  • Scaly skin
  • Itchy skin

Find the latest coronavirus cases near you

  • Bruising
  • Livedo reticularis
  • Red marks appearing under skin
  • Dry skin
  • Skin ageing
  • Weird lumps appearing on skin
  • Circles/lumps appearing on feet
  • Heart racing
  • Heart stabbing pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Loss of smell
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of taste
  • Hearing Strange sounds at night
  • Flashing lights in the eyes
  • Shadows in corner of eyes
  • Tinnitus
  • Buzzing of ears
  • Popping of ears
  • Excessive thirst
  • Disruption to menstrual cycle
  • Amenorrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Lower Back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck pain
  • Swollen glands

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  • Hair loss (men and women)
  • Severe cramping
  • Breathlessness
  • Lung bruising
  • Chest tightness
  • Lung pressure
  • Asthmatic exacerbation
  • Coughing when lying down.
  • Clear mucus producing cough
  • Blood clots
  • Depression
  • Anxiety (being over prescribed/labelled by medics)
  • Frustration
  • Isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Demoralisation (due to not being believed)
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Rumbling intestines (above normal levels)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stool colour changes
  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Gas production increases/decreases
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigued sleep
  • Psychological disturbances in the dark
  • Psychological disturbances when sleeping
  • Have to sleep sitting upright
  • Urine incontinence at night whilst sleeping
  • Urine incontinence during the day whilst active
  • Faecal incontinence at night whilst sleeping
  • Faecal incontinence during the day whilst active
  • Stomach cramping/intestinal cramps
  • Jaw pain
  • Sinus problems
  • Pain in cheek bones/jaw area
  • Neck glands up
  • Parotid glands up
  • Glands by ears up
  • Glands on back of head/upper neck up
  • Hair loss
  • Blurry vision
  • Foggy vision (sudden bursts)
  • Floaters in vision
  • Black shadows in corner of eyes
  • Blurry vision with screens/bright lights/cannot read letters
  • Nervous breakdown
  • Night sweats
  • Hallucinations
  • Dry mouth
  • Hip pain
  • Heavy legs
  • Vomiting
  • Congestion
  • Thyroiditis
  • Restless legs
  • Chin swelling
  • Inflammation of old injuries
  • Post covid diabetes
  • Phlegm
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, movement
  • Tingling of extremities
  • Sinus swelling
  • Hives
  • Low body temperatures
  • Low blood pressure
  • High blood pressure
  • Requiring reading glasses
  • Excessive bleeding gums
  • Excessive rectal bleeding
  • Rheumatoid arthritis flare-up
  • Swelling in extremities
  • Burning in intestines/gastric area
  • Metallic taste in mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Dysphagia issues
  • Water on the knee
  • Lower back pain
  • Numbness in arms, necks, face
  • Swollen temples
  • Migraines
  • Feeling feverish without a temperature
  • burning/fizzing sensation in body parts
  • Random bruising
  • low/high blood sugar
  • Spontaneous lactation
  • Fluid retention
  • Red marks on body after resting that last for hours
  • Bruising under nails
  • Breast pain and lumps
  • Shooting neuropathy
  • Coughing up blood
  • Blood in urine and stools
  • Localised swelling in feet
  • Conjuctivitis
  • Nausea
  • Earache
  • Toothache
  • Itchiness/burning eyes
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Trouble trying to form words
  • Blocked ears
  • Trouble focusing attention
  • Balance issues
  • Pressure behind the eyes
  • No grip or strength in fingers
  • Sensitivity in the head
  • Sore gums
  • White tongue
  • Pins and Needles
  • Mouth tingling
  • Skin sensations on hands and arms


Guernsey goes into lockdown for the first time in seven months – Daily Mail

Guernsey has gone into lockdown for the first time in seven months after four new cases of coronavirus were discovered among the island’s 67,000 population, the island’s government has said.

The States of Guernsey said in a statement that it was unclear how the individuals concerned had contracted the disease, as none was from travel or from contacts with known cases. 

‘Contact tracing is continuing to determine whether there is a link between the cases and whether these cases are linked or if this is a result of wider community seeding,’ the statement said.

Tests taken on Friday confirmed the latest cases and efforts to prevent the virus spreading are underway.  

The move comes after the island had been free of coronavirus restrictions since early June.

Guernsey has been plunged into another lockdown after the discovery of new coronavirus cases. Pictured: New year day swimmers at Braye Bay, Alderney, Guernsey

Guernsey has been plunged into another lockdown after the discovery of new coronavirus cases. Pictured: New year day swimmers at Braye Bay, Alderney, Guernsey

Guernsey has been plunged into another lockdown after the discovery of new coronavirus cases. Pictured: New year day swimmers at Braye Bay, Alderney, Guernsey

In comparison to the Guernsey’s four discovered cases, in the UK, as of Monday, the rate of people with at least one positive Covid test was 421.3 per 100,000 population. 

Chief Minister Peter Ferbrache, who was appointed to the role in October, said: ‘We have four new cases of COVID-19 that have been identified overnight and it is not clear yet if they are linked or how they contracted the virus. 

‘We must for the moment assume this is the result of community seeding.

‘We are announcing these steps with immediate effect in the hope that we can get this quickly under control with a sharp and strict lockdown.  

‘Unlike before, this is not new to us. We have done this once already, we know as a community that together we can do this successfully and keep each other safe.

‘Even in doing this for a second time, we know the rules are not perfect. This isn’t about perfection, it’s about speed. 

He added: ‘If we need to update our guidance in the days ahead, we will do so please bear with us. We have taken decisive action. We know a lockdown isn’t easy.’   

Under the latest measures, islanders have been told to stay home from midday Saturday except for essential shopping, medical care or up to two hours exercise outdoors.

Chief Minister Peter Ferbrache (pictured), who was appointed to the role in October, said: 'We must for the moment assume this is the result of community seeding.'

Chief Minister Peter Ferbrache (pictured), who was appointed to the role in October, said: 'We must for the moment assume this is the result of community seeding.'

Chief Minister Peter Ferbrache (pictured), who was appointed to the role in October, said: ‘We must for the moment assume this is the result of community seeding.’

Non-essential shops and restaurants have been ordered to to close, including for deliveries and takeaways.

Schools will also shut, except for children of key workers, or from vulnerable families.

Dr Nicola Brink, Director of Public Health, said: ‘The safety of our community has always been our priority. The reappearance of cases of COVID-19 via unexplained community transmission means that we have to assume that these new cases pose a significant risk.

‘A lockdown is the most effective and efficient way to prevent onward transmission of COVID-19. 

‘We know from other jurisdictions around the world that hard and strict measures introduced quickly generate the best results and that is our focus – to try and get this under control and us back to the normality we have all enjoyed as quickly as possible.’

The first confirmed case of coronavirus on the island was announced on March 9 after a patient returned from Tenerife on their return before a full lockdown was introduced on March 24. 

Guernsey's pubs threw open their doors to drinkers for the first time since lockdown in June

Guernsey's pubs threw open their doors to drinkers for the first time since lockdown in June

Beedy Bourgaize enjoying his pint of Guinness in the sun at the The Red Lion in Guernsey

Beedy Bourgaize enjoying his pint of Guinness in the sun at the The Red Lion in Guernsey

Guernsey’s pubs threw open their doors to drinkers for the first time since lockdown in June

But as early as mid April Guernsey – a self-governing British Crown dependency – was on its way out of coronavirus lockdown as gardeners, mechanics, estate agents and builders were given permission to return to work. 

Before today, lockdown in Guernsey had been eased from June with residents heading back into pubs and shops.

The island was the first place in the British Isles to reopen pubs after they were forced to close in March last year. 

In addition to pubs, hairdressers, gyms, restaurants, cafes, museums and cinemas were allowed to welcome customers again. 

In June they had entered phase four of the exit plan from lockdown after Guernsey reported ‘no known’ Covid-19 cases remained. 


COVID-19: Scientists cast doubt over claim UK variant is more deadly – Sky News

Scientists have cast doubt over claims the COVID-19 variant first identified in the UK is more deadly than the original virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the British public on Friday there was “some evidence that the new variant may be associated with a higher degree of mortality”.

Early evidence suggested the variant could be about 30% more deadly, the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said, alongside Mr Johnson.

Live COVID-19 updates from the UK and around the world

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UK COVID variant ‘more deadly’ strain

It followed a report by the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), which concluded there is “a realistic possibility” that the new variant “is associated with an increased risk of death”.

But the report warned there were “limitations” in the data “that it may not be possible to resolve”.

Dr Mike Tildesley, who advises the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said it was “possibly a little bit presumptuous” of the prime minister to present the findings “in the very early stages”.

As more data is collected over the next two weeks, it is possible that the variant may prove to be less deadly than the original virus, he added.

Dr Tildesley told Sky News: “It’s somewhat unclear that this 30% is really reflective of what we are seeing.

“I would certainly approach this with an element of caution at the moment.”

He added: “[The data] could continue to reflect what we are seeing already, that it’s more transmissible and more deadly, but it’s possible as we get more data that it could go the other way.”

Dr Tildesley suggested the government may have decided to present the early data to encourage people to follow the COVID restrictions.

The UK recorded another 1,348 coronavirus deaths on Saturday, taking the total to more than 97,000.

“We are seeing our hospitals still under severe pressure,” Dr Tildesley added.

“We are seeing sadly record number of deaths in the last week per day which is really worrying.

“Maybe it serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to keep adhering to the rules.

“Even if the data are a little bit uncertain right now, that might be one good reason to report on this a little bit earlier – as a reminder to people that we still need to batten down the hatches and do what we have been doing.”

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Campaign launched amid ‘very precarious’ situation

At a Downing Street news conference on Friday, Sir Patrick said with the initial variant, 10 out of 1,000 people over the age of 60 who were infected would be expected to die.

With the UK variant, the available data suggests that 13 or 14 people out of 1,000 from the same age group would die, he added.

Professor Calum Semple, a member of SAGE and NERVTAG, said it was a “small but important change”.

“The headline figure of 30% is dramatic but it’s not particularly helpful because the actual risk of death for any individual is actually quite small,” he told Sky News.

“If you are a person in your 80s and you’ve got multiple underlying problems, then yes the risk is much higher.

“If you’re a 20-year-old, the risk is infinitesimally small to start with so you won’t notice an increase in risk.”

Professor Calum Semple says that Christmas mixing and the new variant are pushing up the numbers of COVID cases and deaths

Professor Calum Semple said suggestions the variant is 30% more deadly ‘is not particularly helpful’

Prof Semple defended the government’s decision to present the mortality data, saying ministers would have been accused of a cover-up had they not revealed the findings to the public.

“I think it’s really good that science and policy are on the same page in being transparent, sharing data early, and making people aware of the situation,” he said.

“And perhaps if that’s been used to reinforce the importance of getting vaccinated and importance of self-isolating if you feel unwell, and not breaching regulations, then that’s a good use of the data.

“From my position, the data is early. We cannot be completely confident in it. In fact, we’ve said in the reports that we have low confidence in it.

“But we would be criticised far more if we didn’t share this information and three weeks later we say; ‘Oh by the way, this is happening and we knew about it three weeks ago but didn’t tell you’.”

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Vallance: ‘Virus is with us forever’

The co-author of the NERVTAG report, Professor Graham Medle, said it clear the new variant is more transmissible than the original.

However, he acknowledged that it remains an “open question” whether it is more likely to lead to death.

“The question about whether it is more dangerous in terms of mortality, I think, is still open. There is evidence it is more dangerous but this is a very dangerous virus,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.

“In terms of making the situation worse, it is not a game-changer. It is a very bad thing that is slightly worse.”


The vaccine has given us hope, but we still need to follow the rules –

Next Saturday will mark the first anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and next Sunday will be one year on from the first case of Covid-19 detected in the UK.

It has been a terrible year as the virus has spread across the world causing misery, hardship, death and severely disrupting all of our lives.

The silver lining has been the incredible work of scientists and healthcare professionals across the world. If you had told me 12 months ago, that the UK would have discovered, in dexamethasone, the first treatment proven to reduce Covid-19 deaths, and vaccinated over five million people by this point, I would have been astonished.

But that is the place in which we find ourselves. Hardship, but also hope.

Many people have played an important role in getting vaccines in arms, including the teams of researchers behind the development of the vaccines, the volunteers who took part in clinical trials, the Vaccines Taskforce who ensured we had supply of vaccine, and the NHS staff and volunteers who are now working hard to administer them to people quickly and safely.

Their work has been incredible and we should rightly celebrate this.

Vaccines do offer the way out of the pandemic and a return to life as we knew it – having a pint before watching your local football team, multi-generational family gatherings and big weddings.

These really will return! But to make that happen as quickly as possible we need to bring the number of cases down as soon as we can whilst we vaccinate our most vulnerable.

To do that there are some important scientific points I want to highlight:

  • No vaccine has ever been 100 per cent effective so no-one will have 100 per cent protection from the virus. The way to reduce everyone’s risk is to break the chains of transmission and really push down the number of cases.  
  • Vaccines work by tricking your body into thinking it has to fight the virus. It trains you for this fight by making antibodies and stimulating T-cells; then you are ready if you do come across the real thing. However, like any training, getting up to ‘match fitness’ takes time. Your body’s response, the immune response, is only fully trained up around two or three weeks after you have each of your two jabs. If you are older it’s better to allow at least three weeks. You can still get Covid-19 in this time.
  • Even better and longer lasting protection then comes from the second dose, so it is really important that everyone gets the second jab.
  • Really importantly, we do not yet know the impact of the vaccine on transmission of the virus. So even after you have had both doses of the vaccine you may still give Covid-19 to someone else and the chains of transmission will then continue. If you change your behaviour you could still be spreading the virus, keeping the number of cases high and putting others at risk who also need their vaccine but are further down the queue.
  • We still have a very high number of hospitalisations and deaths. A quarter of hospital admissions for Covid-19 are in people under the age of 55. Despite the speed of the rollout, these are people who will not have the vaccine for a while yet. 

Some people are questioning the UK policy of trying to give as many at-risk people as possible the first dose of vaccine in the shortest possible time, inevitably extending the interval before the second dose is given.

But what none of these (who ask reasonable questions) will tell me is: who on the at-risk list should suffer slower access to their first dose so that someone else who’s already had one dose (and therefore most of the protection) can get a second?

Everyone on the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation]priority list is at risk from this nasty virus, and vaccines just can’t be produced at an unlimited rate.

It has been a very difficult year for us all and everyone, including me, is desperate to return to seeing the people we love.

The vaccine has brought considerable hope and we are in the final furlong of the pandemic but for now, vaccinated or not, we still have to follow the guidance for a bit longer.  


Exclusive: Five million vaccinated Britons told to carry on as if you have the virus by Jonathan Van-Tam –

“Despite the speed of the rollout, these are people who will not have the vaccine for a while yet,” he says, writing: “Regardless of whether someone has had their vaccination or not, it is vital that everyone follows the national restrictions and public health advice, as protection takes up to 3 weeks to kick in and we don’t yet know the impact of vaccines on transmission.”

He stresses immunity takes time to build up so that a body’s response is “only fully trained up around two or three weeks after you have each of your two jabs. If you are older it’s better to allow at least three weeks. You can still get Covid in this time”.

He adds: “No vaccine has ever been 100 per cent effective so no-one will have 100 per cent protection from the virus. The way to reduce everyone’s risk is to break the chains of transmission and really push down the number of cases.”

He says, like anyone, he is “desperate to return to seeing the people we love”, adding: “The vaccine has brought considerable hope and we are in the final furlong of the pandemic but for now, vaccinated or not, we still have to follow the guidance for a bit longer.”