Handful of Countries Added to the Travel ‘Green List’

The Government’s ‘traffic light’ travel lists have been updated again, with just seven countries set to join the ‘Green List’. But Canada, which is one of these seven countries, currently has a ban on Britons travelling over anyway. BBC News has the story.

Canada and Denmark are among seven countries moving to the Green List in the latest changes to Covid restrictions.

Thailand and Montenegro are being added to the U.K. Government’s ‘Red List’ – meaning they are considered to be among the highest-risk destinations.

Finland, the Azores, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Lithuania are also moving to the Green List.

The changes will come into force at 4am on Monday.

Travellers coming from Green List countries do not have to quarantine when they come back to the U.K. – whether or not they have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine. They still have to be tested before leaving the U.K. however and upon their return, and fill in a passenger location form. 

But while Canada is on the Green List, it currently has a ban on British nationals entering the country. 

Only U.K. or Irish nationals, or U.K. residents, are allowed in to the U.K. if they have been to Red List countries. They then have to pay to self-isolate in a Government-approved quarantine hotel. [Good luck to them!] …

Airlines U.K., which represents U.K.-registered carriers, said the “small number of green destinations” was making international travel “more expensive, burdensome and uncertain compared to other countries”. …

Charlie Cornish, Chief Executive of Manchester Airports Group which operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports, said the changes to the travel traffic light system will make “little difference” to the recovery of the travel industry and called on the Government to “overhaul” it.

Worth reading in full.

Canada Authorises Use of Pfizer Covid Vaccine for Children

Canada has become the first country to authorise the use of the Pfizer Covid vaccine on children aged 12 to 15. Many other countries are likely to follow suit. BBC News has the story.

[Canada’s] Health Ministry made the decision based on data from phase three clinical trials on children that age. 

“The department determined that this vaccine is safe and effective when used in this younger age group,” an adviser at the Ministry said. Pfizer says its jab works well in the age group.

Canada has already authorised the use of the Pfizer vaccine in people over 16. 

The state of Alberta, which has the highest rate of the virus in the country, said it would offer vaccines to those over 12 from Monday.

Canada has recorded more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases and roughly 20% of those have been in people under the age of 19. 

The country’s vaccine rollout has been relatively slow, caused by delivery delays. About 34% of people in the country have received at least one dose of the vaccine while the figure in the US stands at 44%, according to Our World in Data…

As part of the vaccine’s approval, Pfizer will have to continue providing information to Canada’s Health Ministry on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine in those aged 12 to 15. 

In March, Pfizer said initial results from trials of its vaccine in this age group showed 100% efficacy and a strong immune response.

U.S. regulators are expected to authorise the use of the Pfizer vaccine in the same age group in the coming days, and in the U.K. the NHS is preparing to vaccinate schoolchildren from September, shortly before those aged over 50 will be offered a third Covid vaccine dose.

The BBC News report is worth reading in full.

New Paper Argues the Costs of Canada’s Lockdown Far Outweighed the Benefits

The Canadian economist Douglas Allen has written a paper reviewing the literature on the costs and benefits of lockdown. Early studies, he argues, made a number of erroneous assumptions, which led them to overestimate the benefits and underestimate the costs.

Such studies overestimated the benefits of lockdowns insofar as they used overly pessimistic values of key epidemiological parameters; they assumed people would not change their behaviour voluntarily in response to the pandemic; and they assumed the “value of a statistical life” is independent of age. And they underestimated the costs of lockdowns insofar as they only took into account the effects on GDP.

The “value of a statistical life” is a concept used by economists and political scientists to compare the impact of different policies. It is calculated by observing how much individuals are willing to pay to avoid a given level of risk. For example, researchers can examine the relationship between wages and fatality rates across occupations, while holding other factors constant. (Crab fishermen get paid a lot more than fruit pickers, in part because their work is more risky.)  

However, the “value of a statistical life” is lower at older ages, particularly above age 65. Since the vast majority of those who die of COVID-19 are older than 65, assuming the “value of a statistical life” is independent of age will lead one to overestimate the benefits of policies that aim to reduce mortality from COVID-19. 

Allen then reviews studies that have attempted to disentangle the impacts of lockdowns versus voluntary changes in behaviour. He concludes, “all of them find that mandated lockdowns have only marginal effects and that voluntary changes in behavior explain large parts of the changes in cases, transmissions, and deaths.”

Finally, Allen undertakes his own cost-benefit analysis of Canada’s lockdowns. Following the economist Bryan Caplan, he assumes that the average Canadian valued life under lockdown 5/6ths as much as the alternative, which implies that Canadians lost 6.3 million life years in total. Allen claims that this figure exceeds any plausible estimate of the number of life years saved. 

Even if you don’t agree with his assumptions, Allen’s paper is worth reading in full.

Canada Suspends Use of AstraZeneca Covid Jab for Those Under 55

The debate over the safety of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine is alive and well, with Canada now suspending the use of the jab for people under 55. Earlier this month, Health Canada (the country’s health department) said that “the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh its risks”. But, following a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the rollout of the jab is now being limited due to concerns it might be linked to rare blood clots. The Guardian has the story.

Canada on Monday suspended the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people under 55 following concerns it might be linked to rare blood clots.

The pause was recommended by the NACI for safety reasons. The Canadian provinces, which administer health in the country, announced the suspension on Monday.

“There is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca Covid vaccines to adults under 55 given the potential risks,” said Dr Shelley Deeks, Vice-Chair of the NACI.

Deeks said the updated recommendations came amid new data from Europe that suggests the risk of blood clots is now potentially as high as one in 100,000, much higher than the one in one million risk believed before.

She said most of the patients in Europe who developed a rare blood clot after vaccination with AstraZeneca were women under 55, and the fatality rate among those who develop clots is as high as 40%.

Earlier this month, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that the AZ Covid vaccine is “safe and effective”, but that it cannot “rule out definitively” the vaccine’s link to a rare clotting disorder. The Telegraph reported:

The EMA has said they “cannot rule out definitively” a link to a rare clotting disorder.

The agency will update its guidance to include an explanation about the potential risks on both the patient leaflet and in the information for healthcare professionals, the chief of the EMA said.

A Canadian health official has said that more data is needed before the rollout of the AZ vaccine can be considered definitely safe – not just “probably” safe – for those under the age of 55. The Guardian reports:

Dr Joss Reimer of Manitoba’s vaccine implementation taskforce said despite the finding that there was no increase risk of blood clots overall related to AstraZeneca in Europe, a rare but very serious side-effect has been seen primarily in young women in Europe.

Reimer said the rare type of blood clot typically happens between four and 20 days after getting the shot and the symptoms can mirror a stroke or a heart attack.

“While we still believe the benefits for all ages outweigh the risks I’m not comfortable with ‘probably’. I want to see more data coming out of Europe so I know exactly what this risk-benefit analysis is,” Reimer said.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Germany is set to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people under the age of 60 over concerns it may cause potentially fatal blood clots.