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Minister urges families to do "minimum" in Christmas bubbles


The Christmas plans of millions of Britons were at stake tonight as politicians failed to make a decision on whether a planned festive easing of coronavirus restrictions should be lifted, under warnings that it could cost lives.

Talks between the UK government and leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland broke off tonight, with no agreement on whether to keep the Christmas bubbles to allow three households to mingle.

The seriousness of the situation Boris Johnson was facing was underscored when the daily cases hit 18,450, a 50 percent increase from last Tuesday, although deaths fell.

And it came when it emerged that Sussex could be the next area of ​​England to be drawn into Tier 3 amid a spike in some cases.

The nationwide increase in cases became known shortly before Michael Gove's crisis talks with Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford from Wales and Arlene Foster from Northern Ireland.

The talks did not result in consensus, however, and will continue tomorrow with a little over a week before the easing of restrictions is due to take effect on December 23.

Ms. Sturgeon said this afternoon she asked the meeting to consider whether changes are needed given the increasing cases and emergence of a mutant strain of coronavirus – which may be more contagious.

She told the Scottish Parliament that she did not have a "fixed point of view" but that they would consider reducing the length or number of households that can mingle.

In a veiled threat, she also said that her government would take whatever action it deems "appropriate", even in the absence of a UK agreement.

Mr Drakeford said the nations face a "grim election" only eight days before the laid-back rules come into effect and many families have made plans.

Tory MPs are increasingly nervous about the proposals in the UK after the BMJ and HSJ warned, according to respected medical journals, that the "rash" "costs lives" and needs to be removed. Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the health committee, said the government should listen "very, very carefully" to concerns.

Two surveys today showed that the overwhelming majority of the public believed that restrictions should be stricter. A YouGov poll found that 57 percent want the bubbles to drop, versus 37 percent who support them. Separate Ipsos MORI research found that 49 percent believed the rules were not strict enough.

After sitting on the fence for days, Sir Keir Starmer called for a Cobra meeting this afternoon to see if the easing should take place and said he was "increasingly concerned".

But even though he insisted that if he chose to reverse the bubbles he would assist the Prime Minister, Sir Keir stopped before assisting the move. "Obviously, any further tightening of restrictions will deeply disappoint many across the country," he wrote in a letter.

“But the public doesn't want false endorsement, warm words or hidden challenges from their prime minister. You want leadership. & # 39;

London Mayor Sadiq Khan added his vote to the demands, but predicted that the Prime Minister will not postpone because he does not want to be seen as a "cancellation of Christmas".

As part of the festive relaxation, up to three households can meet for five days between December 23 and 27.

Downing Street said all guidelines were being kept under "constant review" but insisted that the "intent" is to continue the plan despite a surge in infections, which means London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will start tonight placed under tier 3 curbs.

Meanwhile, some experts have warned that it is too early to be alerted about the new strain of cornavirus. The newest variant does not appear to be any more deadly, and the risk of it being impervious to the vaccines in place is considered small.

The arguing about Christmas and the risks of a third wave were as follows:

  • The economic blow from the coronavirus was underscored by numbers showing a record 370,000 layoffs in the three months to October and unemployment rising to 4.9 percent.
  • A total of 2,835 deaths recorded in England and Wales for the week ending December 4th mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, the latest figures showed. That was 7 percent fewer than 3,040 deaths for the week ended November 27.
  • London's pubs have been bustling with trade as people enjoy one last drink before the capital plunges into Tier 3 from midnight.
  • MailOnline's analysis of official NHS data found that only one trust is busier than it was last winter, and hospitals across the capital are quieter than usual.
  • The fate of a post-Brexit trade deal still hangs in the balance as Boris Johnson announced he would go to India next month to strengthen ties.
  • Welsh government polls fell 21 percentage points after pubs were banned from serving alcohol.
  • A Greenwich council chairman has pulled out after defying the government by asking schools to close before the Christmas break.
  • The UK recorded an additional 20,263 coronavirus cases yesterday, more than a third more than last Monday.
  • The number of coronavirus cases in England fell by a quarter during the second national lockdown, the government-sponsored REACT-1 study found.
  • The five-day travel quarantine system was in chaos as companies warned of high demand for testing.

Keir Starrmer in London yesterday

Boris Johnson gathered his cabinet today to reflect on the state of the coronavirus battle

Boris Johnson (right) gathered his cabinet today to reflect on the state of the coronavirus battle. Keir Starmer (left) has called for a Cobra meeting to cancel Christmas bubbles

A surge in infections means London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be placed under Tier 3 curbs from Monday evening

A surge in infections means London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be placed under Tier 3 curbs from Monday evening

According to a government-backed study, the number of coronavirus cases in England fell by a quarter during the second national lockdown. Pictured: a graph showing a decrease in the percentage of positive tests per 10,000 people when the second lockdown began in November

A poll by Ipsos MORI today found that most Britons believe the rules for the Christmas bubble should be stricter

A poll by Ipsos MORI today found that most Britons believe the rules for the Christmas bubble should be stricter

Christmas bubbles are "rashes" and will "cost lives"

The Christmas bubble plan is "hasty" and must be abandoned to prevent it from "costing lives," respected experts warned today.

In a rare joint editorial, the British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal have urged the government to stop easing.

They said: “When the government was drafting current plans to allow household shuffling over Christmas, it had assumed that the demand for Covid-19 to the NHS would decline.

"But it's not like that, it's rising, and the emergence of a new strain of the virus has brought more potential dangers with it."

“The public can and should mitigate the effects of the third wave by being as cautious as possible over the next several months. But many will see the lifting of restrictions over Christmas as permission to drop their guard.

& # 39; The government was too slow to put restrictions in place in the spring and again in the fall. She should now reverse her hasty decision to allow household shuffling and instead extend the tiers over the five-day holiday season to lower the numbers ahead of a likely third wave.

"It should also review and strengthen the tiered structure that failed to suppress infection and hospitalization rates."

The article added that "the government is about to fall into another major mistake that will cost many lives". "If our political leaders do not take quick and determined action, they can no longer claim to protect the NHS," it said.

As cases have increased, questions have arisen about the Christmas bubble plan while the advent of the new strain of Covid has added another element to the situation. Wales has already signaled that it could rethink UK regulations as its infection rate hits alarming levels.

In their blunt editorial today, the BMJ and HSJ said: “When the government was working out the current plans for a budget mix over Christmas, it had assumed that the demand for Covid-19 at the NHS would decline.

"But it's not like that, it's rising, and the emergence of a new strain of the virus has brought more potential dangers with it."

“The public can and should mitigate the effects of the third wave by being as cautious as possible over the next several months. But many will see the lifting of restrictions over Christmas as permission to drop their guard.

& # 39; The government was too slow to put restrictions in place in the spring and again in the fall. She should now reverse her hasty decision to allow household shuffling and instead extend the tiers over the five-day holiday season to lower the numbers ahead of a likely third wave.

"It should also review and strengthen the tiered structure that failed to suppress infection and hospitalization rates."

The article added that "the government is about to fall into another major mistake that will cost many lives". "If our political leaders do not take quick and determined action, they can no longer claim to protect the NHS," it said.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms. Sturgeon said: “Later today there will be a discussion on four nations to take stock of recent developments.

“But right now I want to be extremely careful.

“If you can avoid mingling with other households over Christmas, especially indoors, please do so.

"But if you find it essential – and we have tried pragmatically to see that some people will – please reduce your unnecessary contacts as much as possible until then."

Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Parliament, "Regardless of how the UK governments resolve this problem, there will be a very, very balanced series of judgments between different types of damage caused by what is done."

Only one of the capital's NHS trusts is busier than last winter

Questions are being raised about No10's decision to put London on Tier 3 lockdown from midnight as official NHS data shows only one trust is busier than last winter and hospitals across the capital are quieter than usual .

The government's online Covid tracker also shows that the average number of daily deaths in the capital is an eighth of its peak in April and the weekly intake of the disease is a quarter of what it was in the spring.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed last night that London will move into the strictest lockdown level, claiming that action must be taken immediately to prevent the health service from becoming overwhelmed after a surge in infections in recent weeks.

However, MailOnline's analysis of NHS England statistics shows that of the capital's 18 major hospital trusts, only the University College London's NHS Foundation Trust is busier than 2019.

According to the most recent publicly available data, for the week ended December 6, a total of 3,606 of 3,848 available beds, or 93.71 percent, were occupied by the Trust. The trust was 89.23 percent full in the seven days ended December 8, 2019.

However, London's NHS hospitals are on average quieter than in the previous two winters. In the week ending December 6th of this year, 88.79 percent of the beds were occupied. In the capital, around 1,500 beds are currently left unused every day.

By comparison: the capital's 18 trusts were occupied 95.35 percent in the seven days up to December 8th last year and 95.12 percent in the same period in 2018.

Mr Drakeford said the "virulence" of Covid-19 this winter was not predicted from modeling that was being done in many parts of the world.

"I'm going to discuss with Michael Gove today whether the four-nation agreement we have reached continues to have slightly more advantages than disadvantages or whether there is another balance that we should strive for," he told the Senedd.

& # 39; Damage is being done in both directions. It hurts when people come together over Christmas in a way that is not responsible and doesn't heed all of the advice we have given to people.

"If we are to keep people from meeting over Christmas, people's sense of mental health will be damaged in different ways than people's sense of how to get through this incredibly difficult year together."

He added, “The choice is bleak, isn't it? I've been reading heartbreaking requests from people on my own email account for the past few days not to reverse what we agreed to do for Christmas.

“People who live all alone and have made arrangements to be with people for the first time tell me that this is the only thing they have been looking forward to in the past few weeks.

"Yet we know that if people don't responsibly use the modest amount of additional freedom, we will see an impact on our already pressurized health services."

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Sir Keir said: “In the last few days it has become increasingly clear that the animal system that you introduced two weeks ago could not control the transmission of Covid-19.

"Unfortunately, it now appears that the government has once again lost control of infection, putting our economy and NHS at serious risk in the New Year."

The Labor leader said he "welcomed the fact that the government had sought a four-nation approach to the agreements over the Christmas period".

“I understand that people want to spend time with their families after this terrible year, but the situation has clearly gotten worse since the decision was made over Christmas. It doesn't serve anybody for politicians to ignore this fact, ”he wrote.

“I believe that you should convene Cobra now within the next 24 hours to see whether the current easing is appropriate given the increasing number of cases. If you work with government scientists to conclude that we need to take tougher measures to keep people safe over Christmas, you will have my support. & # 39;

Sir Keir admitted that abandoning the plans would be "deeply disappointing to many across the country."

“Many will have already started planning for Christmas and have held onto the prospect of a happy day with family and loved ones to guide us through these difficult months. But the public doesn't want false endorsement, warm words or hidden challenges from their prime minister. You want guidance, ”he said.

Keir Starmer's letter to Boris Johnson complete

Dear Prime Minister,

In the last few days it has become increasingly clear that the animal system introduced two weeks ago could not control the transmission of Covid-19.

Unfortunately, it now appears that the government has once again lost control of infection, putting our economy and NHS at serious risk in the New Year.

This will be a source of great concern for people across the country who have made so many sacrifices to protect families, loved ones and communities.

The fantastic work done by scientists and others in developing a vaccine has been a tremendous accomplishment for our country and has made it possible for all of us to feel hopeful again.

But we were brought back to earth with a thud as the grim possibility of an increasingly bleak winter loomed in sight.

I welcomed the fact that the government had sought a four-nation approach to the agreements over the Christmas period.

I understand that people want to spend quality time with their families after this terrible year, but the situation has clearly gotten worse since the decision was made over Christmas. It serves no one for politicians to ignore this fact.

I believe that you should convene COBRA now over the next 24 hours to see if the current easing is appropriate given the increasing number of cases.

If you work with government scientists to conclude that we need to take tougher measures to keep people safe over Christmas, you have my support.

Obviously, further tightening of restrictions will be deeply disappointing to many across the country. Many will have already started planning for Christmas and will have held onto the prospect of a happy day with family and loved ones to guide us through these difficult months.

But the public doesn't want false endorsement, warm words or hidden challenges from their prime minister. You want leadership.

This is a critical moment for our country. The tiered system did not keep the virus under control and gave us little leeway.

Put simply, if you make the wrong decision now, the impact on our NHS and economy in the New Year could be dire.

Our country has already experienced one of the worst death rates in Europe and the worst recession of any major economy. It wasn't inevitable, but it was a failure to make the difficult decisions at the right time.

The government was too slow at the start of the pandemic and in September, when it became clear we needed a half-time break, they ignored the scientific advice and postponed the inevitable until November.

I urge you not to repeat this mistake now. Your priority should be a safe Christmas that will make for a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Your

Keir Starmer

Labor Party leader

& # 39; This is a critical moment for our country. The tiered system did not keep the virus under control and gave us little leeway. Put simply, if you make the wrong decision now, the impact on our NHS and economy could be dire in the New Year. & # 39;

Downing Street said it was still the government's "intention" to allow up to three households to mingle over the Christmas season.

The prime minister's official spokesman said the dates were "under constant review" but the government wanted to "allow families and friends to meet".

Speaking to a briefing in Westminster, he said, "As we have always done throughout the pandemic, we will be constantly reviewing this, but our intention to allow families and friends to meet during the Christmas season remains."

The spokesman refused to say when families could make arrangements with confidence that plans will not change.

"We set out the Christmas guidelines and made it clear that people must remain cautious and vigilant throughout the holiday season," the spokesman said.

"As we have done throughout the pandemic, all advice is constantly being reviewed."

Asked during a round of interviews this morning if there is any chance of change, Mr Barclay said, "Well, all things are always checked."

However, he continued to make it clear that there is currently no intention to change course. “There is a balance to be found that many families have not seen each other all year round. It is important for people's wellbeing, for their mental health. We don't want to criminalize people for getting together as a family over Christmas, ”he said.

“But it is important that people do the minimum that is possible. So people will make their own judgments. & # 39;

In the House of Commons, Tory MP Mark Harper, who heads a lockdown-skeptical group of MPs, said there would have to be a new vote if the prime minister wants to revise the Christmas schedule.

"There is a lot of discussion outside of the Christmas season regulations and relaxing coronavirus regulations," he said.

"Am I right, Madam Deputy Speaker, given the Christmas provisions that this House has specifically voted on, this decision should not only be made for Ministers if it is proposed to change it, but it should be brought back to this House for." a vote before Christmas? & # 39;

Deputy Spokeswoman Dame Rosie Winterton replied, “As far as I know, Ministers may have the power to change the Christmas rules without going back into the house.

& # 39; You have taken that power. Of course you have taken the view that it would be desirable if you came back, but as I understand it, you have the option to vary it if you think it appropriate. & # 39;

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, said at a press conference on Downing Street last night that the government was not sure whether the new strain was more contagious, but wanted to bring it to the public's attention as new restrictions were put in place.

He said, “The main reason we bring this to people's attention is whether it is spreading faster. It may or may not be "cause and effect".

& # 39; The reason Tier 3 is being introduced is because rates are increasing very rapidly in many areas.

"The variation may or may not help, but the reality is that it is happening across the board and that is the reason for the changes."

That didn't suggest a vaccine wouldn't work against the new strain, and current tests can show that.

As of tomorrow, more than 60 percent of the English population – 34 million people – will live in areas where it is forbidden to eat out and almost all socializing.

Covid cases developing fastest in Hastings, Crawley and Worthing – but ministers will separate low-infection rural areas from nearby urban hotspots in Tier Review tomorrow to avoid a Tory riot

Sussex could be the next area of ​​England to be drawn into Stage Three. Official numbers suggest that the count of Covid-19 cases has increased. However, ministers have raised the prospect of segregating low-infection rural areas from urban hotspots.

The fastest surge in Covid-19 infections across England was recorded in Hastings, East Sussex, according to the latest figures from Public Health England. The cases there have more than tripled from 114.4 per 100,000 in the week ending December 2 to 372.3 in the seven days ending December 9.

Two other counties in West Sussex, Crawley and Worthing, were among the five largest agencies in the country to record the largest drops in that period. Infections have more than doubled in both areas, rising from 41.8 per 100,000 to 102.3 in Crawley and from 25.3 per 100,000 to 58.8 in Worthing.

However, data shows that the Sussex epidemic is triggered by a few selected hotspot areas. More than a dozen rural villages and towns have fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 people. The government will review its first formal review of the tier system tomorrow.

With a Tier 3 upgrade, pubs and restaurants across Sussex would not have to switch to take-out again before Christmas. According to the rules in force, people are not allowed to meet people they do not live with indoors, but hospitality can remain open. Alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal.

However, ministers reportedly are considering separating rural areas with low infection from urban hotspots in an attempt to quell a riot by the conservative backbench brewery. The decision to introduce tiers at the county or township level sparked Tory anger as villages with only a few cases were ranked Tier 3 due to their proximity to a city with a high infection rate. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has signaled MPs that the review will address "areas of decoupling".

Matt Hancock was asked intensely last night whether the five-day Christmas rule should be abolished.

The Minister of Health declined to categorically rule this out and instead suggested a period of self-isolation before visiting elderly relatives.

He warned that shopping trips to Tier 3 areas like London could also break the rules.

Health experts point out that European countries have imposed strict Christmas restrictions. However, a lawsuit would cause massive disruption to families who have already made plans.

Mr Hancock announced that more than 1,000 cases of the new tribe have been identified, mostly in the south.

“We understand why people want to see loved ones, especially at this time of year, especially after this year. But it has to be done in a way that is careful and responsible.

"Now, two weeks in advance, being careful and making sure you minimize the chances of both getting and passing the disease on is the thing to do."

When asked about the easing of restrictions over Christmas, Prof. Whitty said, “This is limited relaxation in a sense that will have some impact on the upward pressure on the coronavirus.

“But the most important thing is that people just have to be sensible. The extent of the impact this will have depends entirely on how many people do it in responsible, minimalist ways. & # 39;

Meanwhile, scientists have tried to reassure the public after ministers announced yesterday that the new strain of coronavirus had been identified.

Although the virologist Dr. Chris Smith spreads faster, the new variant of the coronavirus may not be "badass".

"Once it infects you, when it gets inside you, it doesn't really make you sick," he told BBC Breakfast.

"That seems to be the pattern right now, and the other big question right now is," Is this change enough to bypass what the vaccine is doing to protect us?

"At the moment the answer seems to be no, but we have to watch that."

Dr. Smith added that the discovery of the new variant reassured him as "it shows that the system is working".

Alan McNally, Professor of Microbial Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Birmingham, stressed that the British should "stay calm and rational".

He said, “It's important to have a calm and rational perspective on the strain as this is normal virus development and we expect new variants to come and go and emerge over time.

"It is too early to worry or not about this new variant, but I am impressed with the surveillance efforts in the UK which have made it possible for this to be picked up so quickly."

Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University, questioned whether gatherings were worth the risk if the most at risk were to be vaccinated soon.

Treasury Secretary Steve Barclay said the relaxation plans were under constant scrutiny, despite insisting that the government would not "criminalize" people who want to see their relatives

Treasury Secretary Steve Barclay said the relaxation plans were under constant scrutiny, despite insisting that the government would not "criminalize" people who want to see their relatives

A pub in South West London hoping to do some trading before the new Tier 3 restrictions go into effect at midnight

A pub in South West London hoping to do some trading before the new Tier 3 restrictions go into effect at midnight

Victoria drinkers enjoy one last drink before draconian new restrictions go into effect overnight

Victoria drinkers enjoy one last drink before draconian new restrictions go into effect overnight

Shoppers were out on Regents Street in central London on Monday evening when news of the Tier 3 move broke

Shoppers were out on Regents Street in central London on Monday evening when news of the Tier 3 move broke

Greenwich Council Chairman Danny Thorpe has told all schools in south east London to close on Monday evening as he warned that the situation in Covid-19 is "escalating extremely quickly". The infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants of the capital was 191.8 on December 6, compared to 158.1 in the previous week. Pictured: Infection rates in London by county week through December 6th

Greenwich Council Chairman Danny Thorpe has told all schools in south east London to close on Monday evening as he warned that the situation in Covid-19 is "escalating extremely quickly". The infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants of the capital was 191.8 on December 6, compared to 158.1 in the previous week. Pictured: Infection rates in London by county week through December 6th

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, said at the press conference on Downing Street last night that there was nothing to suggest that a vaccine would not work against the new strain and that current tests could prove it

Matt Hancock (pictured during Monday's Covid press conference) was asked intensely on Monday whether the five-day Christmas rule should be abolished

Matt Hancock (pictured at right during yesterday's press conference # 10) was faced with intense questions about whether the five-day Christmas rule should be abolished. Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (left) said people need to be careful

Mutant virus or project stage? Scientists say mutated strain of coronavirus could make the disease LESS fatal

Matt Hancock was accused today of terrifying the public after dramatically announcing that a mutant strain of coronavirus is spreading in London and the South East.

The Minister of Health dispelled the bombing claim yesterday when he made plans to move 11 million people in the capital Essex and Hertfordshire to the third stage from midnight to warn that the mutated strain could spread faster than older versions of the virus .

However, experts have resorted to his claim, claiming he used "exaggerated rhetoric" to scare people, revealing that development was normal, with this exposure likely not to affect how vaccines work or make people sick.

According to experts, the coronavirus has mutated thousands of times in a completely natural process, and many actually get weaker as it evolves.

Scientists said it was definitely important to study new strains to see if they would change the behavior of the virus and to keep an eye on global outbreaks, but questioned Mr. Hancock's timing.

There are some concerns that the mutated strain could be a form that the immune system isn't as well recognized and that vaccines may not be as effective. The British Covid-19 Genomics UK consortium said it is investigating this and is also checking whether any of these mutations contribute to increased transmission or not.

Logs of where the mutation was found indicate that the first record of the VUI – 202012/01 strain was from the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab on September 20th.

Since then, the mutated version of the virus has been recorded more than 1,000 times, mainly in England, but also in Wales, Scotland and Denmark.

The reason it's interesting, scientists say, is because it's the virus' spike protein. The spike is used to attach to the body to cause disease and is the part that is most often attacked by the immune system, so it can potentially affect one of these processes.

Speaking to ITV's Good Morning Britain, she told ITV's Good Morning Britain, “This is the Christmas worry because once you walk into someone's house you are likely to get the virus if someone else has it.

“Look what happened to Thanksgiving in the United States. You just have to read the stories and look at the numbers to see what happens when people are not careful around the holiday season. & # 39;

Gabriel Scally, Professor of Public Health at the University of Bristol, suggested families consider whether it would be useful to meet indoors.

When asked if there should be any meetings at all, TV doctor Dr. Hilary Jones: “My gut feeling is that this shouldn't be the case. It asks for trouble.

& # 39; It will delay the vaccination program as we will almost inevitably see an increased R-rate (reproductive rate) in January and February. That means there will be sick people who would give the vaccinations, people who cannot come to the vaccination centers because they are already sick. This means that hospitals will be busier.

"And it will delay all of the good things we are looking forward to now when vaccinations come in the pipeline."

However, Professor Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia said gatherings were "a tolerable risk," especially when offset by closings of schools and workplaces.

"While it carries a risk, on the flip side, January is generally a very bad month for people's mental health," he added.

The Netherlands is entering a difficult second lockdown today with the closure of all schools and shops for at least five weeks and a mandate to stay at home.

"The Netherlands are closing," said Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a national address to the sound of demonstrators beating pots and pans outside his office in The Hague. "We realize the severity of our decisions just before Christmas."

Italy is aiming to close the “red zone” on Christmas Eve, with a ban on citizens leaving their cities on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year's Day. There is also a 10 p.m. curfew.

In Germany, the heads of state and government are being asked to ban all but unimportant travel and to close shops from December 21st. A special Christmas window, in which ten people can meet between December 23 and January 1, instead of the current five, is threatened.

Starting today, general practitioners will be delivering the Pfizer vaccine to elderly patients with teams scheduled to go to nursing homes by the end of the week.

Doctors warn that the rollout could be threatened if health workers fall ill with coronavirus or patients can't attend appointments because they have the virus.

What is "VUI – 202012/01"? A new, fast-spreading strain of coronavirus could be behind the rising cases in London and the South East – but it was "only found in 1,000 people and is no more deadly".

A mutant strain of coronavirus could be behind the rapid rise in infections in London and the south-east of England, Matt Hancock claimed yesterday.

British experts have so far found more than 1,000 people with the VUI – 202012/01 variant, the Health Minister informed the House of Commons.

There have been reports of the tribe in at least 60 local authorities and it is believed to be similar to other tribes in Europe, he claimed.

VUI – 202012/01 was picked up in Kent last week during routine testing by Public Health England (PHE) and ministers were made aware of its existence on Friday.

PHE scientists are examining the strain at a government laboratory in Porton Down to see if it behaves differently than the normal version of the virus.

Professor Chris Whitty said at a press conference on Downing Street Monday that it was possible the strain could be more contagious than normal Covid.

However, the chief doctor said there was "no evidence" that it was more dangerous or that it could slip past Covid-19 vaccines or tests.

He added, "There isn't much selective pressure on this virus and so it would be surprising – not impossible, but quite surprising – if this virus actually evolved to bypass the vaccine."

No information has been publicly released about the strain and it does not appear to exist in scientific studies, nor to be associated with any of the other mutations found in Europe.

Other versions of the coronavirus were found throughout the year, and experts say it is perfectly normal for the virus to change as it spreads and there is nothing to be concerned about.

Variants D614G and 20A.EU1 have been found to be widespread and spread faster than original versions from East Asia, but not more deadly.

Independent scientists said it was "too early" to worry about the new strain.

A mutated strain of coronavirus could be to blame for a rapid surge in infections in London and south-east England, Matt Hancock suggested today (file)

A mutated strain of coronavirus could be to blame for a rapid surge in infections in London and south-east England, Matt Hancock suggested today (file)

Mr. Hancock, who first unveiled the strain's discovery, told MPs in the House of Commons yesterday: “In the past few days, thanks to our world-class genomic skills in the UK, we have identified a new variant of the coronavirus that could be linked to its faster spread in the south east of England.

The first analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants. We have currently identified over 1,000 cases of this variant, mostly in the south of England.

“Although cases have been detected in almost 60 different local authorities and the number is growing rapidly. Similar variants have been identified in other countries in recent months.

& # 39; We have notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of this new variant and Public Health England is working hard to continue its expert analysis at Porton Down.

WHAT'S KNOWN ABOUT THE NEW STRAIN?

Experts have so far identified more than 1,000 confirmed cases in the UK, mostly in Kent and some parts of London.

There have been reports of pollution in at least 60 local authorities in England;

It was called VUI 202012/01 – which stands for "Variant Under Investigation in December 2020".

It was picked up last week in Kent during routine testing by Public Health England (PHE).

The ministers were made aware of their existence on Friday;

The strain is believed to resemble ultra-infectious varieties that race through Europe.

PHE scientists are studying the mutant strain in a government laboratory in Porton Down.

There is currently no evidence that the strain is more deadly or causing any more serious symptoms than other versions of the virus.

It is highly unlikely to be vaccine resistant.

“I have to emphasize at this point that there is currently nothing to suggest that this variant is more likely to cause serious illness.

& # 39; And the latest clinical advice is that it is highly unlikely that this mutation will not respond to a vaccine. But it shows that we need to be vigilant and follow the rules.

"And everyone has to take personal responsibility not to spread this virus."

Experts will try to find out if VUI – 202012/01 is more contagious, more deadly, or if it has an effect on the Pfizer vaccine. It usually takes about two weeks to get the results.

But Mr Hancock said there was "currently nothing to suggest" that the strain is more effective or causing more severe symptoms, adding that it was "highly unlikely" to be resistant to vaccines.

At the Downing Street press on Monday, Professor Whitty tried to allay fears of the new strain.

He said: “The reason it was found is because the UK has a good surveillance system that is wider than many other countries.

& # 39; And it appears to be in an area of ​​the country, particularly Kent and parts of London, that is growing rapidly.

“Now we don't know what cause and effect are – is it becoming more common because it is in a part of the country where the rate of increase is faster anyway and therefore there is inevitably a higher proportion (of the burden)? Or is it possible that this virus (strain) can be transmitted more easily by itself? It is not immediately clear. & # 39;

He said there are three main problems with new varieties of viruses, adding, “The first is, is there any evidence that this is more dangerous? And there is currently no evidence of this.

& # 39; The second question is, is it invisible to the tests we have? And the short answer is no … the third question is that given that we now have a vaccine around the corner, we would expect that to reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.

“And I think we should remember that we haven't used a vaccine yet and that a relatively small part of the population is still immune from previous infection. Hence, there is not much selective pressure on this virus and therefore it would be surprising – not impossible, but rather surprising – if this had actually evolved to bypass the vaccine.

"Over time, with any infection, if a very high proportion of the population has been vaccinated, the selection pressure increases, and at that point the new variants are more likely to be the ones that can partially escape a vaccine, but" There's no reason to believe that right now. & # 39;

So far, little is known about VUI 202012/01 – what stands for Variant Under Investigation in December 2020 – or where it comes from.

All viruses naturally mutate when they spread in populations, and the changes usually make little difference in the way they behave in humans.

WHAT OTHER COVID STRAINS ARE CREATED?

Hundreds of coronavirus strains are currently circulating around the world.

All viruses, including the virus that causes Covid-19, naturally mutate when spreading in populations.

But the changes usually make a minimal difference in the way they behave in humans.

However, there were three that caught the attention of scientists:

D614G

D614G is by far the most common coronavirus strain worldwide and first appeared in Germany in February.

It is believed to make up 85 percent of the world's cases.

The D614G mutation occurred in a European patient at a specific location, position 614, on the virus' spike protein.

This viral spike hijacks the human ACE2 receptor, thereby infecting human cells.

The location of the mutation is at a critical point that affects the halving of the virus after infiltration of a cell.

The mutation is very small and simple, one amino acid is changed from D (aspartate) to G (glycine), hence the nickname D614G.

Through international trips, this variant was able to spread across the continent and to America, Oceania and Asia within a few weeks.

Scientists are still trying to figure out why the D614G strain became the main form of SARS-CoV-2, and believe that this may be due to the mutation that increases the amount of virus in the upper respiratory tract.

This increases the likelihood of spreading if the infected person speaks, coughs, or sneezes.

20A.EU1

It is believed that 20A.EU1 is behind Europe's second wave.

Scientists who track the virus believe it is behind up to eight in ten infections on the continent.

It was returned to a farm in northern Spain in June, and experts believe it sped across the continent when vacationers returned in the summer as broadcasting paused and locks eased.

Since July 20A.EU1 has been identified in twelve European countries – including Belgium, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Norway and the Netherlands.

It was also transmitted from Europe to major cities on other continents such as Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Like D614G, scientists believe the strain has a certain mutation in the spike protein that Sars-CoV-2 uses to enter human cells, which could make this process easier.

Cluster 5

Scientists believe that the variant originated in Denmark in the mink.

It is believed to have jumped to mink from farm laborers in the summer before being returned to humans.

During the transition between species, a mutation occurred in its spike protein.

It has been feared that Cluster 5 could slip past promising new Covid-19 vaccines that work by stimulating an antibody response.

Officials cordoned off parts of northern Denmark where the variety originated and ordered 17 million minks to be weeded to pound the variant before it spread.

Many pathogens evolve to become more contagious, which often makes them less deadly so they can survive longer and be spread to more people.

A WHO spokesperson told MailOnline: “We are aware of this UK variant that has been reported to us by national authorities and we understand they are addressing it.

'It is normal for viruses to change. Most changes have little to no effect on the properties of the virus.

"Depending on where the changes are in the virus' s genetic material and how those changes affect the shape or properties of the virus, some of them could potentially affect the behavior and spread of the virus."

“When a virus changes so much that it's different from what vaccines are supposed to fight or tests are designed to detect, it can affect the way vaccines and diagnostic tests work.

“Together with its network of experts, WHO is monitoring changes to the virus so that, in such a case, measures can be taken to prevent the spread of this variant.

"So far, SARS-CoV-2 has hardly changed, with no impact on the available diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines that are under development."

In response to the results, Professor Jonathan Ball, a molecular virologist at the University of Nottingham, said, “The genetic information in many viruses can change very quickly, and sometimes those changes can benefit the virus – by allowing it to transmit more efficiently or to escape from vaccines or treatments – but many changes have no effect at all.

'While a new genetic variant of the virus has emerged and is spreading in many parts of the UK and around the world, it could happen purely by chance.

“It is therefore important that we examine any genetic changes that occur to find out whether they affect the behavior of the virus. By the time we have done this important work, it is premature to say about the possible effects of the virus mutation. & # 39;

Professor Alan McNally, an expert in microbial evolutionary genomics at the University of Birmingham, added: “In the last few weeks some of the UK's PCR testing laboratories have taken up this new variant.

'Backed by the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium and Rapid Genomics, it was identified incredibly quickly.

"Hopefully the narration here is how amazing our surveillance was to pick up on this. Great efforts are being made to characterize the variant and understand how it came about.

'It's important to have a calm and rational perspective on the strain as this is a normal virus development and we expect new variants to come and go and emerge over time.

"It is too early to worry or not about this new variant, but I am impressed with the surveillance efforts in the UK which have made it possible for this to be picked up so quickly."

The only purpose of the virus is to replicate as often as possible. Tiny changes in its DNA occur every time it spreads between people to allow for greater growth, transferability, or an escape from the immune system.

However, most changes have little to no effect, and rarely does a mutation occur that actually achieve any of these goals. This is a process that can take years, if not decades, for most viruses.

However, some, like the flu, mutate much faster, which is why a different flu shot is given each year to protect millions of people from various stresses.

Experts are still not sure how quickly SARS-CoV-2 mutates. However, there is consensus that this process is slower than the flu, as is the case with other seasonal coronaviruses.

Another mutation in Sars-Cov-2, D614G, was identified this summer and is still thriving in Europe, the US, and parts of Asia.

It is believed to make up 85 percent of the world's cases. The D614G mutation occurred in a European patient at a specific location, position 614, on the virus' spike protein.

This viral spike hijacks the human ACE2 receptor, thereby infecting human cells.

The location of the mutation is at a critical point that affects the halving of the virus after infiltration of a cell.

The mutation is very small and simple, one amino acid is changed from D (aspartate) to G (glycine), hence the nickname D614G.

Through international trips, this variant was able to spread across the continent and to America, Oceania and Asia within a few weeks.

Scientists are still trying to figure out why the D614G strain became the main form of SARS-CoV-2, and believe that this may be due to the mutation that increases the amount of virus in the upper respiratory tract.

This increases the likelihood of spreading if the infected person speaks, coughs, or sneezes.

Another strain called 20A.EU1 is said to have been behind the second wave of epidemics in Europe. Since July 20A.EU1 has been identified in twelve European countries – including Belgium, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Norway and the Netherlands.

It was also transmitted from Europe to major cities on other continents such as Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Experts tracked 20A.EU1 back to a farm in northern Spain in June, believing it was racing across the continent when vacationers returned in the summer when broadcasting paused and locks eased.

The researchers believe the variant was able to move so quickly over the summer due to the timing of travel restrictions and the easing of social distancing measures.

But it is also believed that 20A.EU1 has a certain mutation in the spike protein that Sars-CoV-2 uses to invade human cells, which could facilitate this process.

A third strain – called Cluster 5 – that appeared in Mink in the fall set off alarms after it was found to be resistant to antibodies.

It has been feared that Cluster 5 could slip past promising new Covid-19 vaccines that work by stimulating an antibody response.

Officials cordoned off parts of northern Denmark where the variety originated and ordered 17 million minks to be weeded to pound the variant before it spread.

Lockdown reduced coronavirus cases by 28%, but the effect was unevenly distributed and cases actually rose before restrictions ended in London and the North East, a new Imperial study found

By Luke Andrews for MailOnline

According to a government-backed study, the number of coronavirus cases in England fell by a quarter during the second national lockdown.

Scientists found 1,299 positive cases in 160,000 people in the three weeks to December 3 – roughly 0.94 percent, or 94 cases per 10,000 people.

This was a decrease from the last three weeks to November 2, when 1,732 out of 160,000 swabs were positive, showing 1.08 percent of the population were infected, or 108 per 10,000.

When the data was broken down by region, however, a varied picture emerged, in which the infections slid down in some places, but up in other places despite the uniform forced closure of pubs, bars and restaurants.

In Yorkshire and Humber, London and the northeast, infections increased during the study period, the researchers said.

In the capital, the rate of people with coronavirus rose from 98 to 10,000 people to 121 per 10,000.

However, they halved in the West Midlands, and falls have also been recorded in the East Midlands and the Northwest.

Imperial College London scientists who conducted the Health Department-commissioned REACT-1 study said it was "not clear" why these differences occurred.

However, they added that there may be a link between them and the toughest containment measures imposed in areas prior to the second lockdown.

According to a government-backed study, the number of coronavirus cases in England fell by a quarter during the second national lockdown. Pictured: a graph showing a decrease in the percentage of positive tests per 10,000 people when the second lockdown began in November

A graph showing the percentage of positive tests per 10,000 people (the prevalence) in different regions of England. The sixth round takes place between October 16 and November 2 and the seventh round between November 13 and December 3

A graph showing the percentage of positive tests per 10,000 people (the prevalence) in different regions of England. The sixth round takes place between October 16 and November 2 and the seventh round between November 13 and December 3

A graph shows the percentage of the 160,000 swabs in different regions of England before (round six) and during (round seven) the second national blockage (prevalence)

A graph showing the percentage of positive tests per 10,000 people (prevalence) in different regions of England before (sixth round) and during (seventh round) the second national lockdown

The study, published every month, found that the overall virus reproduction rate fell below one to 0.96 – suggesting that the second wave has shrunk over the period.

However, this also varied between regions, with the London R-rate rising to 1.27, suggesting that the outbreak in the capital actually increased beyond the lockdown.

One in eleven people now had Covid

At least one in eleven people in England had coronavirus, a separate government surveillance study suggests.

The Office for National Statistics found that 8.7 percent of adults had Covid-19 antibodies in their blood by November.

Antibodies are virus-fighting proteins that are made and stored by the immune system in response to a viral infection, so the body knows how to defend itself against future exposure.

If someone has Covid-19 antibodies, it means that they previously contracted the disease and have recovered.

The result suggests that more than 3.9 million people in England have been infected with Covid-19, which is more than double the UK government's official figure of 1.5 million.

ONS estimates are based on tens of thousands of blood tests that are randomly sent to people's homes every week.

It only includes people over the age of 16 and doesn't deal with nursing homes and hospitals, which means it's likely a huge underestimate.

Numbers statisticians estimate that 4.4 million adults across the UK (6.6 percent) have caught and hit Covid-19.

It was also above one in the North East (1.09), East England (1.05) and South East (1.02).

"To sum up, the lockdown in England during the second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic was accompanied by a reduction in the prevalence of Covid-19 at the national level," the scientists said in the publication.

However, the decline in prevalence during lockdown was not consistently observed across the country. In particular, we found evidence of a recent spike in London and a flattening elsewhere. & # 39;

They warned ministers that "further vigilance is needed to reduce infection rates until the vaccination program can achieve effective population-level immunity."

Professor Paul Elliott, Director of the REACT-1 Study and Chair of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at Imperial, said yesterday: “We were very concerned in the last round in October that there was some very rapid growth in the south . including London, but now we see that the prevalence rates are as they were back in October.

“So it clearly had an impact on the lockdown to stop the very high surge that occurred six weeks ago. But based on our data and other data, we seem to be back in a different phase of fairly rapid acceleration. & # 39;

Professor Steven Riley, one of the leading scientists behind the study, told a news conference that the timeframe for the potential increase in infections is "much, much shorter" than if help is likely to become available through the vaccine.

He added that rates need to be carefully monitored as "we appear to be at a stage in the epidemic where there is the potential for a rapid increase".

"It may suddenly be able to pop up, perhaps for reasons we may not fully understand," he said.

"If the current values ​​in regions are lower than in the past, there is a risk that they will jump back."

Around 700,000 people contracted the virus each day during the lockdown, provided they identified 75 percent of the cases.

And the numbers suggest that the highest prevalence is currently seen in secondary school students who rarely experience serious symptoms or end up in hospital.

The schools did not have to close during the four-week closure.

Scientists found 1,299 positive cases in 160,000 people in the three weeks to December 3 - roughly 0.94 percent, or 94 cases per 10,000 people (the percentage of positive tests per 10,000 people shown on a graph).

Scientists found 1,299 positive cases in 160,000 people in the three weeks to December 3 – roughly 0.94 percent, or 94 cases per 10,000 people (the percentage of positive tests per 10,000 people shown on a graph).

A graph showing the percentage of positive tests per 10,000 people (the prevalence) in different regions of England before and during the national lockdown

A graph showing the percentage of positive tests per 10,000 people (the prevalence) in different regions of England before and during the national lockdown

According to age group, the highest infection rate was previously recorded among 18 to 24 year olds. However, the latest results from the REACT-1 study show that 13-17 year olds have switched.

Around one in 50 teenagers in this age group across the country has the virus, based on a snapshot of more than 168,000 swabs taken by researchers.

Approximately 2 percent of children ages 13-17 have the virus across the country based on their percentage of the 1,299 positive swabs returned.

According to age group, the highest infection rate was previously recorded among 18 to 24 year olds. However, the latest REACT-1 study results show that during lockdown (round seven), 13-17 year olds were switched to.

According to age group, the highest infection rate was previously recorded among 18 to 24 year olds. However, the latest REACT-1 study results show that during lockdown (round seven), 13-17 year olds were switched to.

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday that London, along with areas of Essex and Hertfordshire, would be put into Tier 3 restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

He said this was a response to rising infection rates across the region and increasing pressure on the NHS.

It was also announced that a new variant of the virus had been identified, but there was still no evidence that it posed a greater risk to humans.

The study was published as a form and has yet to be examined by experts.

There is no need to panic! A new variant of the coronavirus sounds scary, but viruses are constantly mutating, writes Professor HUGH PENNINGTON

The phrase "new variant of the coronavirus associated with a faster spread", uttered in gloomy tones by Matt Hancock in the Commons yesterday, conjures horror at a previously invisible mutant pathogen that is permeating the civilian population: a new plague as a whole .

In fact, the reality is much more prosaic. The simple fact is that viruses all mutate.

It's a normal event that happens all the time and isn't particularly troubling.

The flu virus does this more easily than Covid, which is why scientists develop a new vaccine against it every year.

There is nothing alarming about a mutating virus in and of itself: in the vast majority of cases, it doesn't matter how much disease it causes or how quickly it spreads.

Many of the mutations are due to proofreading errors when the DNA or RNA is multiplying or replicating.

Mr. Hancock chose his language carefully. He did not say that the "new variant" "causes" the spike in cases in London, he said that it was merely "related" - not the same thing at all. Pictured: shoppers in Regent Street, London

Mr. Hancock chose his language carefully. He did not say that the "new variant" "caused" the spike in cases in London, he said it was merely "related" – not the same thing at all. Pictured: shoppers in Regent Street, London

Some viruses mutate more than others. The Covid virus has fewer mutations, but they still occur.

Wenn ich unserem Gesundheitsminister gegenüber unfreundlich wäre, würde ich ihn beschuldigen, gestern ein neues "Projekt fürchten" ins Leben gerufen zu haben, um eine weitere Verschärfung der Beschränkungen zu rechtfertigen – und um die neue "Sperrung" von London, wie sie unter Stufe drei gestellt wird, zu untermauern Beschränkungen.

The lamentable shortcomings in contact tracing and other measures are haunting us in a serious second wave.

The lamentable shortcomings in contact tracing and other measures are haunting us in a serious second wave. Pictured: Infection rates in London by county week through December 6th

The lamentable shortcomings in contact tracing and other measures are haunting us in a serious second wave. Pictured: Infection rates in London by county week through December 6th

Hence Mr Hancock's exaggerated rhetoric that a new mutant form of Covid is haunting London and the Home Counties, leading to exponential increases in transmission. The truth is that the virus that emerged in London this spring is genetically different in many ways from the one that is now making such an unwanted return.

Aber beide haben weitgehend die gleiche genetische Grundsequenz oder den sogenannten "Fingerabdruck" des Virus – und beide verursachen vergleichbare Krankheitsniveaus.

Mr. Hancock chose his language carefully. Er sagte nicht, dass die "neue Variante" in Fällen in London die Spitze "verursachte", er sagte, sie sei lediglich "damit verbunden" – überhaupt nicht dasselbe.

Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at Aberdeen University, Professor Hugh Pennington (picture)

Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at Aberdeen University, Professor Hugh Pennington (picture)

In addition, he continued, "There is currently no evidence that this variant is more likely to cause serious illness … and it is highly unlikely that this mutation will not respond to a vaccine."

Quite. No reason to panic. Aber Herr Hancock zeigte vielleicht den wahren Zweck seiner Aussage, als er hinzufügte: "Es zeigt, dass wir wachsam sein und die Regeln befolgen müssen."

The government's priorities are all wrong. Regardless of its variant, Covid-19 does not kill indiscriminately. Rather, it is cruelly aimed at the elderly and the weak, and we have learned a lot about how to better protect and treat them.

We've also learned the hard way that the main vehicle of transmission is in the home, especially in multi-generational households.

This was behind the skyrocketing peaks in the northern cities of England earlier in the year – and there are classes for all of us who mingle for Christmas. Perhaps Mr. Hancock could have focused on that rather than resorting to irresponsible scare tactics.

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