Britain May Allow Christmas As COVID Cases Start To Flatten

A Santa is seen in a coronavirus-safe plastic bubble at the Zoo in Aalborg

The professor of infectious disease epidemiology, and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the country was "on the cusp" of being able to vaccinate older populations and it would be "tragic" to throw away the gains made in suppressing coronavirus.

Reports suggest households might be allowed to mix indoors for a five-day period from Christmas Eve, and that ministers are considering plans to allow three or four households to form bubbles.

Mr Hancock went on to say that government officials were working hard to map out an "agreed set of rules".

Speaking on Times Radio, Mr Hancock said discussions with the devolved nations are continuing with the aim of reaching agreement on how families can celebrate the festive period.

He said the consideration by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of the vaccine is "another important step forward in tackling this pandemic", adding that, if approved, a vaccine could be rolled out from December.

England is now in the third week of its four-week lockdown, which is due to end on 2 December.

But referring to the "ray of light" that may be provided by a vaccine, Mr Hancock confirmed that he has formally asked the UK's regulator to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use here.

Regarding vaccines, Mr Hancock confirmed volunteers are now being trained but the "big numbers" in terms of vaccinating people will be in the new year.

Striking an optimistic tone, Mr Hancock said that with the news of vaccine breakthroughs in recent weeks, coupled with an expansion in mass testing, he is "more and more confident" that life will be closer to normal by spring.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) also reported that NHS England has told local leaders that each of the 42 health and care systems in England should have at least one mass vaccination site, while larger systems could have two.

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Under the plan, every adult who wants a jab could be vaccinated by early April.

The government also reduced their estimate of the reproduction "R" number, and said the daily growth rate had fallen to between 0 per cent and 2 per cent.

A No 10 spokesman said on Thursday that ministers would keep case numbers "under review" into next week, when it will "set out more details of the next phase" after lockdown ends. "It's too unsafe a time and an opportunity for the virus to spread".

But on Friday night Professor Jonathan Van Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, said the health service meant to "move with as much pace as we can possibly muster" with only a matter of weeks difference between priority groups.

He appealed to people to "keep up the pressure on this virus and push down on it as much as we can right to the end of the period (of lockdown)".

Meanwhile Northern Ireland will shut non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants for two weeks from November 27, while MSPs voted to support new Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland, including tougher measures in 11 council areas and a travel ban for the worst-hit areas.

BRITAIN could ease stringent Covid-19 rules to allow families to gather for Christmas as signs indicate that coronavirus cases are starting to flatten as a result of current lockdowns, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday (20).

On Friday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there were "substantial differences" in Covid-19 infection rates across England, with rates having continued to increase in London, the east of England and the South East, but decreasing in the North West and the East Midlands.

Sage said the reproduction number - or R value - for the whole of the United Kingdom had dropped to between 1 and 1.1.

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