All the Times Boris Johnson Has Shifted the Goalposts

We recently marked the first anniversary of “three weeks to flatten the curve”. It has been difficult at times to keep up with the latest requirements set by the Government to unlock Britain. Our vaccine rollout has been successful – almost half of our total population has received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine and more than six million people have received both. This was supposed to set us on “a one-way road to freedom” but the rhetoric seems, not for the first time, to have changed. Matt Hancock has suggested that freedom can now only be reclaimed through weekly mass testing.

MailOnline has compiled a list of all the times the Government has moved the goalposts when it comes to relaxing restrictions.

Ministers introduced the first lockdown last March in order to “flatten the curve” of Covid infections, preventing a crisis that would overwhelm hospitals. 

People were ordered to stay in their homes to prevent the pandemic ripping through society and causing the NHS to come under strain it could not cope with.

Experts agreed infections would inevitably occur but that spreading them [sic] the cases over a longer period of time… would make it easier for hospitals to cope. 

In an attempt to justify hitting the nuclear button on lockdown, the Prime Minister presented graphs at Downing Street press conferences to illustrate why the plan would bring the outbreak to manageable levels. 

Striking a sombre tone on March 12th, Mr Johnson warned of severe disruption lasting for “many months”.

But the PM – who later publicly backed calls that Britain needed to learn to live with the virus, saying restrictions did not provide an “enduring solution” because the price was “too heavy” – refused to budge on easing lockdown until late in the summer, even though cases had dropped to negligible levels. 

Restrictions weren’t drastically lifted until “Super Saturday” on July 4th, by which time just 45 Britons were dying of Covid each day, on average. For comparison, the current figure stands at 30.

Critics accused Number 10 of silently changing its Covid-fighting strategy, morphing from containing the virus to seemingly trying to eliminate it – which experts insist is impossible. 

More Than Six Million Britons Fully Vaccinated Against Covid

Britain has passed another milestone in its vaccine rollout with six million people now fully vaccinated against Covid. Almost 32 million have also received their first dose. Sky News has the story.

More than six million people in the UK are now fully vaccinated against Covid, while nearly 32 million have had their first dose.

Another 99,530 first jabs were administered on Wednesday, taking the total to 31,807,124.

And there were 408,396 second jabs, the second highest daily total to date, taking the number of people fully protected against Covid to 6,091,905. …

Vaccination numbers have been notably lower so far this month as the focus is placed on administering second jabs rather than moving down the age groups, but have picked up slightly since Tuesday saw the lowest number of first doses given since early January (40,744).

The first doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered in the UK [this week], in Wales.

The jab from the US pharmaceutical giant, along with the one from Pfizer, will be key if the Government is to meet its target of offering every adult a jab by the end of July.

Despite this success, the Government remains uninterested in speeding up Britain’s reopening. Matt Hancock recently suggested that freedom could only be reclaimed through weekly mass testing – yet another shift of the goalposts.

Sky News’ report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: In the latest episode of the Spectator’s podcast “The Week in 60 Minutes“, Kate Andrews asks: “If the vaccine won’t restore our liberty, what will? When does it end?”

Under-30s to Be Offered Alternative to AstraZeneca Vaccine Following MHRA Investigation

Britain’s vaccine rollout is to undergo a “course correction” that will see people below the age of 30 being offered alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine, following advice from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA said there is a possible link between this vaccine and “extremely rare and unlikely to occur” blood clots. Government advisors have stopped short of restricting the use of the AZ jab in younger people altogether, despite considering doing so.

Up to March 31st, 79 people in the UK developed blood clots following their first AstraZeneca jab. Nineteen of these people have died. The Chief Executive of the MHRA said: “The risk [of getting blood clots after receiving the AZ vaccine] is four people in a million.” Sky News has the story.

Britons aged 18-29 will be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine following 79 people developing blood clots after the jab, Government advisors have decided.

The MHRA concluded there is a possible link between the AZ vaccine and “extremely rare and unlikely to occur” blood clots with lowered platelets.

Younger people are much less likely to die from Covid so the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has decided it is safer to advise that age group are offered a different jab, where possible. …

The advice is being given after a total of 79 people in the UK have had blood clots following their first AstraZeneca jab up to March 31st, Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA said. More than 20 million people have been given the AZ vaccine.

Of those 70 people, 19 have died – three under the age of 30.

A total of 51 women and 28 men aged 18 to 79 were affected but Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of the Commission on Human Medicines, said there is no evidence women have a predilection to develop blood clots after having the AZ jab.

“The risk is four people in a million,” Dr Raine added.

The UK is currently also rolling out the Pfizer Covid vaccine and, most recently, the Moderna vaccine, but people below the age of 30 will only be given these alternatives where possible.

JCVI chairman Professor Wei Shen Lim said: “We are advising a preference of one vaccine over another vaccine for a particular age group out of utmost caution rather than any serious safety concerns.”

He added that people who are just over 29 years-old should make their decision, but getting the vaccine is much safer than not getting it.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A review by the European Medicines Agency has also concluded that “unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects” of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Stop Press 2: In an article for the Spectator, Ross Clark asks whether the writing is on the wall for the AZ jab.

The Government has invested a huge amount of money and faith in the AstraZeneca vaccine, and has rightly been praised for its rapid rollout, which was based on the best evidence at the time. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been wrongfully attacked by President Macron among others, who declared it to be “quasi-ineffective” in the over-65s – without any evidence. It will take political courage to admit that the AstraZeneca vaccine is second-best, and should perhaps be phased out as other vaccines become available in substantial quantities. But it is beginning to look as if that might be the most likely outcome.

Very much worth reading in full.

British Rollout of the Moderna Covid Vaccine Begins as AstraZeneca Supply Dries Up

Britain’s rollout of the Moderna vaccine began today amid disruptions in its supply of the AstraZeneca jab which faces continuing scrutiny regarding its connection to rare blood clots. Reuters has the story.

Britain began using Moderna’s Covid vaccine on Wednesday in Wales just as its rollout of other shots fell to their lowest level this year due to a supply crunch caused by manufacturing problems at AstraZeneca.

Britain has surged ahead of the rest of Europe in the race to vaccinate its population, with almost half of its citizens receiving a first dose. But supply issues from its main AstraZeneca shot have slowed progress in recent days.

Britain distributed almost 96,000 shots on Sunday and just over 105,000 on Monday, the lowest figures since the Government started publishing daily numbers in January.

It had warned that the rollout would slow in April due to AstraZeneca’s manufacturing issues, including at a site in India.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he would not go into details about supply and delivery timelines but said the country remained on track to provide a first dose to all adults by the end of July.

That rollout will now be bolstered by the addition of the Moderna shot. Already used in the United States and other parts of Europe, it becomes the third vaccine to be used in Britain after AstraZeneca and one from Pfizer.

The Prime Minister has welcomed the arrival of the Moderna vaccine, saying that 17 million doses of the jab have been ordered.

The disruption to the supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine comes as the jab is under scrutiny regarding its link to rare blood clots. Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are due to give an update on this issue shortly.

The Reuters report is worth reading in full.

“Pessimistic” SAGE Wrong That Britain Can’t Unlock Early, Says Government Scientist

The Government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown could be sped up because of the success of Britain’s vaccine rollout, according to a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling (SPI-M) group. The Mail has the story.

Britain’s roadmap out of lockdown could be sped up because the coronavirus vaccines are working so well, according to one of the Government scientists – despite doomsday modelling by SAGE suggesting lifting restrictions could trigger a surge in deaths.

Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick team that correctly predicted the UK’s second wave, said he was “really pleasantly surprised” that reopening schools did not cause a spike in infections.

The infectious disease modeller, who is also a member of the SPI-M group whose calculations feed into SAGE, told LBC Radio: “If these numbers keep going down over the next few weeks there certainly is an argument to say ‘well actually, we’re doing really well with the road map, it could be sped up’.” 

This week, some of the modelling in documents released by SAGE suggested that lifting curbs fully in June could lead to more than a thousand deaths a day this summer and push the NHS to the brink again.

Dr Tildesley conceded “there may well be” a surge of cases across the country but probably not as high as some of the gloomy forecasts have predicted. The Government was this week accused of using “Project Fear” tactics to prolong coronavirus restrictions by stealth after releasing the tranche of SAGE papers.

The expert group included modelling from three different universities – Imperial College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Dr Tildesley’s team at Warwick University.

After reviewing all three papers, SAGE said social distancing, mask-wearing and Covid vaccine passports will need to remain in place for at least another year to keep the virus in check even when the most brutal curbs are lifted. 

It added that while the vaccines prevent the vast majority of people from falling ill and dying from coronavirus, they “are not good enough” to see all curbs lifted “without a big epidemic”. 

In March, the Government decided not to ease lockdown restrictions before Easter because of a warning from SAGE that this could lead to 55,000 more deaths. Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, has criticised the Government’s scientific advisors for basing their forecasts on the most pessimistic assumptions.

They seem to be picking the most pessimistic of the assumptions each time in order to come up with the worst case scenario, perhaps to avoid complacency. 

They might want to warn people that if we just relax our guard this is what could happen, that’s why a lot of language is written like that. 

I’m certainly not arguing we should totally relax right now but I think the vaccine is doing better than they are saying… and they are just painting a much bleaker scenario than the reality.

Worth reading in full.

Child Jabs Halted in Trial as Adult Clot Link Probed

Concern over the link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare cases of blood clots has led to the halting of trials of the jab on children aged six to 17. The BBC has the story.

A trial of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine on children has stopped giving out jabs while the UK’s medicines regulator investigates a possible link with rare blood clots in adults.

Professor Andrew Pollard from the University of Oxford told the BBC there were no safety concerns with the trial itself, but its scientists were waiting for further information.

Around 300 volunteers signed up.

Earlier, PM Boris Johnson said people should get their jab when invited.

More than 31.6 million people in the UK have had a first vaccine dose.

A total of 5.4 million people have received a second dose.

Two vaccines – developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer – are being used in the UK, while a third – from Moderna – has been approved.

The trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine on children, which started in February, is assessing whether the jab produces a strong immune response in those aged between six and 17.

Its suspension comes after a European Medicines Agency (EMA) official, speaking in a personal capacity, said there appeared to be a link with the jab and rare blood clots.

Confirming that the trial on children was being paused, Prof Pollard said: “Whilst there are no safety concerns in the paediatric clinical trial, we await additional information from the MHRA on its review of rare cases of thrombosis/thrombocytopaenia that have been reported in adults, before giving any further vaccinations in the trial.”

Participants are advised to continue to attend all scheduled visits and can contact the trial sites if they have any questions.

The Chair of the European Medicines Agency’s vaccine evaluation team has said there is a connection between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots, although the exact cause of the adverse reaction remains uncertain. Meanwhile, the MHRA is being urged to consider restricting the rollout of the jab due to the occurrence of blood clots in younger people – especially young women.

The BBC’s report is worth reading in full.

Blood Clot Cases Could Reduce Take-up of AstraZeneca Vaccine Among Young Women

Younger people – particularly young women – may turn down the AstraZeneca vaccine because of fears about blood clotting, health officials have warned. Thirty blood clot cases were recorded after the first 18 million doses of the jab. Two-thirds of patients with these rare conditions are female. The Observer has the story.

Health officials are becoming increasingly worried that younger people will reject Covid jabs as concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to grow. A total of 30 cases of rare blood clots have been linked to the jab in the UK, resulting in seven deaths. Eighteen million doses of the vaccine have been administered so far.

It is feared that younger women will be particularly anxious and may refuse to accept the vaccine because two-thirds of patients with these types of blood clots are female.

The link with blood clots, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, CVST, has led Germany and the Netherlands to halt giving the vaccine to people under 60. However, the European Medicines Agency has said there is “no evidence” to support such restrictions, while the WHO has also urged countries to continue giving the jab.

Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, said that it was not uncommon to get clusters of rare events purely by chance. “But once you find that cluster in one population and it then crops up in another – such as previously in the German and now in the English – then I think the chances of that being a random association is very, very low,” he said.

“Clearly more work needs to be done, but I think the evidence is shifting more towards it being causally related at the moment.” However, he added that the risks of taking the AstraZeneca vaccine were still far outweighed by the risks of not getting it.

Faith in the AstraZeneca vaccine has fallen on the Continent because of reports of blood clots. A recent survey suggested that concerns about the AZ jab are now widespread in Denmark. More Danes would decline to get an AZ vaccine than would refuse to get a Covid jab altogether, highlighting that lower take-up is not simply the product of general vaccine scepticism. Reuters reported:

One in three Danes would decline to get a Covid shot using AstraZeneca’s vaccine, local media outlets TV 2 and Politiken reported late on Wednesday, citing a recent survey. …

The survey, conducted by Megafon among 1,053 persons, showed 33% of Danes would decline to get a shot with AstraZeneca’s vaccine. However, only 7% would decline regardless of which Covid vaccine they were offered.

British officials fear that the same concerns may be emerging here.

The Observer’s report is worth reading in full.

More Than Five Million People Fully Vaccinated in UK

More than five million people in the UK have received both doses of a Covid vaccine – just under 10% of those aged over 18. Over 30 million people have also received their first jab. BBC News has the story.

More than five million people in the UK have received a second dose of a Covid vaccine.

The latest figures show an additional 246,631 second doses, bringing the total to 5.2 million.

It means 9.9% of over-18s have received both injections. First doses have been given to 31.4 million people.

As the vaccination programme takes effect, daily reported deaths fell to 10, their lowest number since September 14th.

However, reporting lags may mean lower than usual figures for deaths because of the bank holiday.

The UK also reported another 3,423 confirmed coronavirus cases.

In a post on Twitter, Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the “milestone” in the vaccination programme, adding: “I urge everyone to take up their second dose as soon as they are offered it.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it meant that 50% of over-80s have now had their second jab.

Worth reading in full.

Danish Vaccine Passport App “Will Cause Domino Effect” Across Europe

The Danish developers of a new Covid passport app say that its technology will cause a “domino effect” across Europe. The company is currently in talks with a number of European countries, possibly including the UK. Sky News has the story.

The company behind a Danish Covid passport app says its rollout will cause a “domino effect” across Europe.

Netcompany is developing an app which will be ready for use in Denmark by May.

It will show whether a person has been vaccinated against Covid as well as recent test results.

The firm’s Chief Executive Andre Rogaczewski said international interest in the technology is “very high”.

“We are talking to at least a dozen of countries, and most of them in Europe right now,” he told Sky News.

The UK could be among them, although no details have been confirmed. …

Denmark was the first country in Europe to confirm it will use digital passports.

Mr Rogaczewski said: “I think that’s going to start some sort of domino effect. We will see more countries in Europe following suit.”

There have been suggestions that the technology could be incorporated into the existing NHS Covid app.

Trials of vaccine passports are expected to begin in the UK next month at venues such as theatres and stadiums, despite growing opposition to the idea from MPs.

Sky News’ report is worth reading in full.

30 Blood Clot Cases Reported in UK After 18 Million AstraZeneca Jabs

The UK’s medicines regulator recorded 30 blood clot cases after the first 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. The MHRA insists that the benefits of the jab still “far outweigh any known side effects”. Sky News has the story.

Thirty blood clotting cases were reported in the UK after the first 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the medicines regulator has said.

The figure is 25 more than previously reported.

The count was updated as part of a rolling review into Britain’s Covid vaccines, with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency stressing the benefits of the jab “far outweigh any known side effects”.

Concerns have been raised about blood clots after a tiny proportion of cases among the tens of millions who have received the AstraZeneca jab.

Some countries, such as Germany, have restricted its use to certain ages but the European medicines watchdog and the World Health Organisation both say it’s safe and effective.

The MHRA said on Thursday there had been “22 reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) and eight reports of other thrombosis events with low platelets”.

The figures cover December 9th 2020 to March 21st this year, when 15.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered, and around 2.2 million second doses.

The regulator stressed that all medicines have potential side effects and that the benefits of both Covd jabs means people should not hesitate to get vaccinated.

“The number and nature of suspected adverse reactions reported so far are not unusual in comparison to other types of routinely used vaccines,” said the MHRA report.

CVST is a rare condition and is potentially fatal. A number of countries have reported such cases in relation to the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. The Financial Times reports:

In Norway, health officials have reported at least six such cases among 120,000 recipients of the jab, four of whom died. In Germany, 31 cases have been reported after 2.7 million vaccinations, including 29 women aged between 20 and 63, and two men aged 36 and 57. Nine of them have died.

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has said that the risk of blood clots is greatest for women aged under 55. Both Canada and Germany have now limited their AZ vaccine rollouts to those over 55 and 60, respectively.

The Sky News report is worth reading in full.