Threat of third lockdown in England after Christmas on the cutting edge

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England’s former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government faced a “very difficult and finely balanced judgment” on whether to tighten the rules on coronaviruses.
Mr Hunt, who now chairs the Commons Health and Welfare Committee, said if ministers do not want to change the law, they should consider strengthening guidance on social distancing.

“It’s a very difficult and finely balanced judgment. The biggest worry is what goes on inside at family gatherings and that is where the risks increase, ”he told BBC Radio 4.

“They have to react to what is happening on the ground. I think they can be clearer on what is and what is not advisable as it would be a huge tragedy if we had a death spike at the end of January / February because we took our foot off the pedal so close to having a vaccine. ”

Mr Hunt said the need for a third national lockdown after Christmas was “on the edge”.

“Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to judge at the moment because in the northeast and northwest, although infection levels are increasing, they are still much lower than they have been, and the second strain of the virus does not appear to have spread as much in the North as in the South. I would say right now it’s on a razor’s edge.

Mr Hunt said that if the Oxford-AstraZenca vaccine is approved by regulators before the end of the year, it will ensure the continued rollout of the vaccination program.

“It will make a huge difference because the doses we have of the Pfizer vaccine will allow us to continue until the end of January and I don’t think we will receive another shipment until March.

“So if we could have this Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine ready to launch in January, we could keep the roll out at its current rate.”

The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said its review of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine is still ongoing.

His comments follow reports the vaccine could be approved before the new year, with the Daily Telegraph reporting that senior sources in Whitehall believe the MHRA will clear it on December 28 or 29.

A spokesperson for the MHRA said: “Our ongoing review of the Oxford / AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is ongoing.

“Our vaccine approval process is designed to ensure that any licensed Covid-19 vaccine meets the high standards of safety, quality and efficacy expected.

“Any vaccine must undergo rigorous clinical trials to international standards, under the supervision of the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and no vaccine would be allowed to be supplied in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficiency are not met. are met. ”

Royal College of General Practitioners President Professor Martin Marshall has said he will speed up the rollout of the coronavirus vaccination program in nursing homes if the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is approved by regulators.

“Right now we’re dealing with this Pfizer vaccine, which is difficult,” he told BBC Radio 4 Today.

“On the assumption that we’re going to get approval for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is a lot more familiar because it looks a lot more like the flu shot, then I think we can roll out at a much faster rate, but certainly in the next few weeks and months, we expect all care homes to be covered. ”

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