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Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advice

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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Dec 19, 2020 10:16 pm

Anti-lockdown protestors
clash with police in London


Five police officers have been injured and 29 people arrested as anti-lockdown protestors clashed with police in central London

Hundreds marched on Parliament Square from Oxford Street and Regents Street earlier despite fears that a mutant strain of coronavirus is spreading rapidly around the city.

Police had warned people not to attend large gatherings so close to Christmas and extra officers were deployed to try to ensure social distancing rules were followed.

But there were ugly scenes as officers attempted to control the crowds and several protestors were led away into police vans.

There were several clashes between officers and unmasked demonstrators, who chanted ‘we demand freedom’.

Andreas Michli, the owner of a gym in Wood Green that refused to shut its door during the second national lockdown, was one of multiple people who has been arrested.

‘I’m going to keep doing this until we’re free,’ he said as he was led to a police van.

It came as Boris Johnson announced that several areas of eastern and south-east England would be placed under tier four restrictions – the toughest in the UK.

Protestors, many of whom weren’t wearing masks, marched through the centre of London carrying placards that said things like ‘Why vaccinate for something 99% of people beat’ and ‘It’s not about a virus, it’s about control.’

The Metropolitan Police account later tweeted: ‘We arrested 29 people today following demonstrations across the city.

‘Unacceptably five of our officers were injured – thankfully their injuries are not serious.’

Before the demonstration began, Scotland Yard issued an open letter urging people not to attend.

The force said extra officers will be on London’s streets to encourage compliance with strict regulations and to ‘swiftly clamp down on those wilfully and dangerously ignoring them’.

Other protests took place in UK cities across the country but the one in London was the largest

The open letter asked people not to attend any large gathering and warned they may be at risk of committing a criminal offence if they do.

Coronavirus laws outlaw gatherings of more than six outdoors, although there is a list of exemptions which includes protests where all relevant safety precautions are in place.

National chairman John Apter and Met Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh described the Christmas footfall coupled with a mass demonstration as a potentially ‘deadly and unmanageable mix’.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: ‘Where we become aware of planned events that will breach regulations, we will try to engage with organisers or venues to make them fully aware of the restrictions that are in place to keep people safe.

‘However, if people do not listen to our advice and fail to comply with the rules, we will be forced to take enforcement action.

‘With infection rates rising rapidly across the capital, we all need to play our part in preventing the spread of the virus.

‘This is the final weekend before Christmas, so now is not the time for complacency. I know Londoners know what they should and should not be doing and I would urge everyone to act sensibly and do their part to keep our city safe.

‘Sticking to the guidelines put in place to keep us all safe and well is now more important than ever.

‘This weekend we will ensure we deal with the activity of a few so as not to expose our communities at even greater risk during this pandemic.’

https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/19/anti-loc ... -13778822/
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Dec 19, 2020 10:33 pm

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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Dec 19, 2020 10:43 pm

People rush to leave London
before tier 4 lockdown


People wait on the concourse at Paddington Station in London, on the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas, after the announcement that London will move into Tier 4 Covid restrictions from midnight.

Scenes of commuters rushing to leave London have been called ‘utterly predictable’ as the capital was told it would go into lockdown with just eight hours notice.

Video footage on social media shows huge queues at St Pancras station, as people rushed to catch the train to Leeds, potentially joining family members and loved ones for Christmas, while they still could.

At 4pm this afternoon Boris Johnson held a Downing Street press conference, declaring tougher tier four restrictions – broadly the same as November’s lockdown – in London, and much of the South East and East of England from midnight tonight.

Plans allowing five day festive bubbles for three households have been scrapped in these hotspots and have been stripped back to just Christmas Day in tiers one, two and three.

People have also been advised to avoid travel and to stay as local as possible.

When asked by the media what he would say to someone who has their bags packed to see family and loved ones for Christmas, England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘If you’ve packed your bag for Christmas, unpack it.’

But with the Prime Minister sticking to his guns and defending his Christmas bubble plans between late November and this afternoon, many people will have already made up their minds regardless of the Downing Street’s last minute change of heart.

As commuters scrambled to get to other towns and cities across the country, making social distancing impossible, people took to social media to voice their concerns.

Blogger and University of Glasgow law student Ben McKinlay tweeted: ‘What an utterly predictable disaster.’

Sharing a video from the scene, journalist Harriet Clugston said: ‘Last train out of Saigon. Queue at St Pancras as we wait to board the Leeds bound train.

‘Everyone of course has suitcases. People have tried to secure social distancing by placing on seats but being asked to remove them by other passengers as the train is so full.

‘To make matters worse, we’ve been told this train will be taken out of service at Derby.

‘We will all get off and board a new train, no doubt mixing the virus amongst ourselves as we reorganise with new seat partners. Maximum damage guaranteed.’

Another woman, who did not wish to be named, said she and her partner had made the ‘split decision’ to take their young son to her parents’ home on the coast.

She said: ‘We just made the decision to leave based on the fact that my parents said come, and we couldn’t bear the thought of no fresh air and a toddler going rogue round a small flat for the foreseeable.

‘We also really just felt we wanted to get the baby somewhere a bit safer with a garden, though we know a lot of people won’t have that luxury.

‘The grandparents are just desperately happy they’ll see their grandson.

‘We obviously worry about taking something down to them, but they seem happy to take the risk.’

Izzy, 22, from Bristol, said that she wanted ‘the security of being home for Christmas’ and that her parents had come to collect her before the restrictions came into effect.

She added: ‘I have a slight nervousness that they might block the roads or something stopping me going home.

‘I’m moving out of my flat so I need my dad to come and get me and he feels more comfortable doing it before Tier 4 kicks in.’

https://metro.co.uk/2020/12/19/last-min ... -13778954/
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Dec 21, 2020 2:31 am

France's ban on British truckers

Britain's supermarket shelves may soon stand empty as France's Covid-19 ban on British lorries is set to stop Continental hauliers bringing in vital festive food supplies, industry bosses have warned

The Port of Dover closed to all freight vehicles leaving the UK tonight for the next 48 hours after France imposed an inbound travel ban following the mutant Covid-19 strain which plunged London and the south east into Tier Four.

Hauliers coming to Britain from France will still be allowed in but there are fears that lorry drivers will not travel to avoid being 'marooned' in the UK.

The Food and Drink Federation CEO Ian Wright said: 'Tonight's suspension of accompanied freight traffic from the UK to France has the potential to cause serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies and exports of UK food and drink.

'The Government must very urgently persuade the French government to exempt accompanied freight from its ban.'

The French Government joined a number of other European nations in banning inbound flights from the UK. Pictured: Passengers at King's Cross St.Pancras train station queue to board trains to Paris in London

Last night the Department for Transport said Kent;s Manston airport was being prepared to to accommodate 'up to 4000 lorries' as a measure to ease congestion in Kent in the wake of the France travel ban and warned hauliers to avoid travel to Kent ports 'until further notice'.

Kent Police implemented Operation Stack, when parts of the M20 are set aside to queue lorries headed for the Continent.

It comes after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged hauliers to avoid travelling to Kent ports as the closure of the France-UK border is expected to trigger 'significant disruption'.

The French Government joined a number of other European nations in banning inbound flights from the UK in a bid to prevent the spread of a coronavirus mutation sweeping through London and the south east of England.

Mr Shapps tweeted on Sunday night: 'Following the French Government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48hrs, we're asking the public & particularly hauliers not to travel to Kent ports or other routes to France.

'We expect significant disruption in the area. My department is urgently working with Highways England and Kent Council on contingency measures to minimise traffic disruption in the area.

On its website it said: 'Both accompanied freight and passenger customers are asked not to travel to the Port.

He added: 'Brexit stockpiling is one thing, the Christmas rush is another thing, but the absolute hammer blow now is to close the borders for 48 hours.

'That is a serious disruption of the all important supply chain.'

Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, which is based in Tunbridge Wells, tweeted: 'Logistics UK is aware of news that accompanied freight to France is being not allowed for 48 hours; we are concerned about the welfare of drivers and we are urgently seeking more information for our members.'

Tory Kent MP Sir Roger Gale urged No 10 and Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to 'get a grip' on the developing situation with the Britain-France border.

The Belgian government also announced its borders with the UK will close at midnight on Sunday

The Eurostar rail service said on its website on Sunday evening that due to the French and Belgian border closures it was unable to run any trains from London to Paris, Brussels, Lille or Amsterdam on Monday or Tuesday.

Services from Amsterdam, Brussels and Lille to London would also not run on these days, but trains from Paris to London continue to operate.

The rail company said it planned to resume all services to and from the UK on Wednesday and was awaiting further details from relevant governments on how travel restrictions will be enforced.

Lorries queue at Dover on Friday as the UK tries to strike a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31

Extraordinary photographs taken from above the M20 in Kent showed how vehicles were bumper-to-bumper amid claims businesses are stockpiling in case of a No Deal Brexit at the end of the month.

And across the water in France, in Calais trucks lined dual carriageways for miles as they tried to get a ferry to Dover or the Channel Tunnel to Folkestone ahead of the busiest shopping week of the year.

Retailers say items they ordered in August for Christmas have still not arrived in Britain because of shipping chaos caused by Covid-19 in China and problems unloading in the UK seeing containers dumped in Zeebrugge, Belgium.

UK firms are haemorrhaging £1million or more because shipments have been delayed and quadrupled in price with the cost of moving a container from Qingdao, China, to the UK now at £7,500 per load - up from £2,000.

Problems at ports are being caused by a series of problems occurring at once which are not all unique to the UK. Industry insiders say there are three key issues behind the chaos:

    The system for shipping goods around the world stopped working properly when economies shut down and reopened at different times as they dealt with Covid.

    This led to shipping firms falling behind when it came to retrieving empty containers from European ports and taking them back to factories in Asia.

    The container shortage is being exacerbated by a lack of staff across the global supply chain - including sailors, hauliers and warehouse workers - due to people falling ill or having to quarantine.
The problems caused by Covid have been compounded by a surge in demand caused by:

    If the UK leaves the EU with no deal, then at the end of the transition period tariffs will be applied to imported goods according to World Trade Organisation rules.

    Companies are therefore stockpiling goods out of fear of having to pay tariffs, or because they are concerned that new customs procedures after Brexit will delay imports.

    There is always a spike in demand for goods around Christmas, which is exacerbating problems.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/articl ... ckers.html
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Dec 24, 2020 12:36 am

Giving just one vaccine dose

A senior scientific adviser has said more data is needed before the government can adopt a proposal to give as many people as possible a single dose of a Covid vaccine rather than preserving stocks so there is enough for a second jab

The former prime minister Tony Blair and Prof David Salisbury, a former director of immunisation at the Department of Health, backed the idea on Wednesday, saying second shots should be given only when more stock is available.

While the suggestion would mean each vulnerable person who has received the vaccine would be afforded less protection, the number of people given at least some protection would double.

But Prof Wendy Barclay, a member of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told the Commons science and technology committee: “I think that the issue with that is that the vaccine is on the basis of being given two doses, and the efficacy is on that basis. To change at that point, one would have to see a lot more analysis coming out from perhaps the clinical trial data.”

Barclay agreed with the suggestion of the Labour committee member Graham Stringer that any such change to the established vaccine policy was “too risky”.

Blair told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier that the proposal to spread the doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine already in the government’s possession more widely and thinly should be considered because “the reality is we are now in severe lockdown until vaccination”.

How does the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine work?

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which is expected to be approved this month and is easier to store and transport, could then be used in the same way once it becomes available.

“Does the first dose give you substantial immunity – and by that I mean over 50% effectiveness? If it does, there is a very strong case for not, as it were, holding back doses of the vaccine,” Blair said.

“If in January AstraZeneca is delivering you 10m or 20m doses of the vaccine, you vaccinate 10 or 20 million people, because then you should get more vaccine coming on stream by the time you are ready for the second dose and that first dose can give you substantial immunity.”

The former prime minister also criticised the “somewhat inflexible ‘by age’ structure” used to determine who receives the jab. Experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have drawn up a priority list based on clinical need, but Blair, who does not have a medical background, said: “There is a strong case for saying you have got to focus also on the people spreading the disease, not simply the most vulnerable.”

Salisbury told the Guardian: “In the circumstances we currently face, I think the best use of the vaccine stocks is to give the first dose to as many high-risk people as possible. And after that, you then give second doses.”

He said the New England Journal of Medicine study had reported the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to have 91% efficacy, compared with 95% for two doses. That level of protection, he said, was justification for administering only one dose to a larger group at first, followed by the second when possible.

While the study showed 52% efficacy in the period between the first and second doses, Salisbury explained that each dose only begins to take effect after several days. Therefore, he interpreted data from the period immediately after the second dose as indicative of the possible efficacy of the first.

The study’s authors noted, however, that it was not “designed to assess the efficacy of a single-dose regimen”. Prof Stephen Evans, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said a briefing document produced by the US Food and Drug Administration was a “more reliable source”.

He said: “What is clear is that there is evidence of efficacy in the short term and it seems likely that the efficacy will not decline notably. This efficacy is clearly nearer 80% than 90% and could be quite a bit lower, but is still good.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our brilliant NHS has vaccinated more than half a million people against Covid-19 using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Over the coming weeks and months, the rate of vaccinations will increase as more doses become available and the programme continues to expand.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/ ... id-adviser
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Dec 25, 2020 1:13 am

France is confronting anti-vaxx problem

As it emerges from its second Covid lockdown, France is preparing to roll out one of the biggest vaccination campaigns in its history. The country has been badly battered by the pandemic, tallying 59,000 Covid deaths and 2.39 million cases so far, and the vaccine would finally offer a way out of the ordeal. Yet, Paris will now have to grapple with another alarming reality: France has become one of the most vaccine-sceptical countries in the world

“I'm not going to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, unless they make it mandatory. It doesn't seem reasonable, when you look at how quickly these products have been manufactured.” Catherine, a 55-year-old French woman who is crossing Paris's Luxembourg Gardens on her way to work, is absolutely sure: “I'm healthy, I don't fall into the age groups at risk...I don't need the shots.”

Patrick, who is exercising just a few meters away, has a similar view: “I'm quite wary, usually it takes several years to create a new vaccine. This seems rushed, we have no long-term perspective on secondary effects,” says the 34-year-old engineer. “I think it's too soon to vaccinate the population.”

An Ipsos survey gauging the attitudes of 15 countries in October found that only 54 per cent of French respondents would be willing to get a Covid vaccine jab, compared to 64 per cent in the US and 79 per cent in the UK. This attitude is in line with the population’s broader distrust of vaccines in general. In 2018, in a wide-ranging Gallup study of 144 countries, the French were found to be the most prone to believe that vaccines aren't safe – an opinion shared by about one third of respondents.

Like the rest of the EU, France is awaiting the go-ahead of the European Medicines Agency to make the new vaccines available, but the country has already pre-ordered up to 200 million doses. The campaign may kick off as early as in the last days of December, starting with the elderly in care homes. The government has decided to leave the shots optional, and is in desperate need to boost the population’s trust.

The pillar of its strategy will be general practitioners: a lesson learned the hard way from France’s past failures, particularly the 2009 vaccination campaign against the H1N1 virus. Back then, the logistical details were decided by administrative authorities such as the prefects, and family doctors felt left out of the effort.

Gyms across the country were converted into big testing centres, but remained largely empty. By the summer of 2010, barely 8.5 per cent of the population had been vaccinated, well short of the 75 per cent target. The campaign cost €600 million (£540m), but its main result was that, as a health policy expert told a parliamentary inquiry, it “stirred up tensions between doctors and public authorities.”

This time, things are going to be different. Jacques Battistoni, president of France's biggest union of general practitioners, says that while the details are still being hammered out, local doctors expect to have a much bigger role not just in answering their patients' questions and reassuring them, but also in deciding where and how people will receive the jabs.

"In the early stages, vaccines will go to the most vulnerable groups, elderly people that we know well and see regularly,” says Battistoni. “So we will have to find places where they can get the shots easily.” These will likely include public spaces selected in coordination with local authorities, doctors' offices big enough for the task, but potentially also the patients' homes.

The government is aware that communication will be essential. Once the rollout begins, multiple public bodies will monitor the new vaccines closely, with the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament issuing weekly public reports. Vaccine recipients will get full medical check-ups beforehand, and will be contacted systematically after the jabs to inquire about their health. The agency is also improving an existing online platform where doctors and the general public can flag side effects, making it simpler to use.

Following what is becoming a pattern in France during this crisis, Paris has also picked a highly respected but previously little-known figure to be the “public face” of this new phase. Last spring, before becoming prime minister, Jean Castex had been appointed “Monsieur Déconfinement,” in charge of overseeing the lifting of the first national lockdown; now, immunologist Alain Fischer has been tasked with advising the government and helping reassure the population, getting the message across that safety and transparency are the authorities’ top priorities.

“Monsieur Vaccin”, as French media are already calling him (reportedly to his chagrin), featured prominently in the government’s press conference to present the vaccination campaign earlier this month. He will help coordinate a variety of committees, made up of experts but also local officials and normal citizens, in a bid to better adapt the state’s response to people's fears.

One of these advisory bodies will be formed by some 30 people selected at random among the public – a mechanism that has already been tested recently, to help devise France’s next steps to tackle climate change. Greater involvement of the civil society has been one of president Emmanuel Macron’s mantras, although observers are divided over the extent to which proposals coming from the bottom are translated into actual policy – with critics saying this is just a gimmick.

Winning people over will be no easy task: distrust of public authorities is in a way part of the French national character. According to data from Sciences Po university, which tracks public mood and compares it to other countries, over the past decade the percentage of people saying they have faith in the government has never been higher than 33 per cent. The figure was 27 per cent this year, 14 points lower than in the UK.

Public policy blunders bear some responsibility for this state of affairs. Many experts agree that a turning point in the French anti-vaxxer phenomenon was the campaign against Hepatitis B in the '90s. A vaccine had been available for years, but in the country immunisations were lagging and the disease was on the rise.

In 1994, the government decided to launch a mass vaccination of all newborns and kids entering middle school. France’s vaccination rate quickly became one of the highest in the world (about one third of the population), but the debate about side effects also grew in intensity. In 1998, amid largely unfounded concerns of a link with multiple sclerosis, then-health minister Bernard Kouchner “temporarily” stopped the vaccinations in schools, while still recommending them for newborn babies.

The stated goal had been to reassure the public, but the government’s position appeared inconsistent, and the result was the opposite. Provisional measures became permanent, and the campaign lost steam. While no convincing evidence of a connection between Hepatitis B vaccines and multiple sclerosis was ever found, mistrust among the French remained sky-high for decades. In a study carried out between 2012 and 2014, some 80 per cent of respondents said they worried about it or were outright against it. When the vaccine was finally made mandatory three years ago, such concerns emerged again in the public debate – albeit they never threatened to jeopardise the reform.

Closer to home, the way French authorities have handled the ongoing Covid-19 crisis has sometimes compounded people's scepticism. The messaging on face-masks, in particular, has been perceived by many as confusing and insincere. In the early spring, as Covid cases surged, the country’s stocks quickly ran low. Masks became hard to find and often insufficient even for hospital personnel. It was then, following a pattern seen in other countries – notably the US – that the French government claimed that face coverings were “totally useless” for the general public and should only be worn by health professionals and people who had tested positive for the virus.

Over the following months, though, as the problem of shortages was gradually resolved, the line changed. In April, top officials started encouraging wearing masks for all those who “wished to,” making them mandatory on public transport and some schools the following month, at the end of the first lockdown. Face coverings later became compulsory in all indoor public spaces, and ultimately, over the summer, in many outdoor areas as well.

While the changes in the official stance partially reflected the advice given by French and international scientific bodies, including the WHO, the result was to sow doubt among the population that the original recommendations had simply been a ruse to stave off mask shortages.

The government's efforts to win the public over may also be hampered by the increasing polarisation of the current political environment. According to a poll published last week by broadcaster BFMTV, far-right and (to a lesser extent) far-left voters are much more likely to reject the vaccine than supporters of the centrist La République en Marche – the party founded by President Emmanuel Macron. “Part of the population may reject the jabs just because they don't see them as an anti-Covid vaccine, but as a pro-Macron one,” says Laurent-Henri Vignaud, a historian of sciences and co-author of a book on vaccine-scepticism.

People on the extremes of the French political spectrum are also more responsive to conspiracy theories, which play a major role in the anti-vaxxer discourse. In a survey released in 2019 by research institute Ifop, 43 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that “the Health Ministry is in cahoots with the pharmaceutical industry to keep the truth about vaccines' harmfulness from the public”; that figure jumped to 53 per cent among supporters of the far-left France Unbowed, and 61 per cent among those of the National Rally – Marine Le Pen's anti-immigration party.

This year, another Ifop poll found that far-right voters are also much more likely to believe that the novel coronavirus was intentionally engineered in a laboratory. France is by no means a unique case: in 2015 a much-cited study also showed a strong correlation between radical political beliefs and “conspiratorial mindsets” in the US and in the Netherlands.

Like in most countries, social media is making the problem worse. According to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank, anti-vaccine views feature prominently in France’s most popular Covid-related posts on Facebook and Twitter. Two out of the top five most-shared Facebook posts commenting on France’s second wave conveyed anti-vaccination messages. In the same period, the five French Twitter accounts with the highest number of posts about the pandemic all contained disinformation and unfounded speculation.

Despite all these challenges, some experts believe the threat posed by anti-vaxxer sentiment in France should not be overblown. After all, in 2018 the number of compulsory vaccine jabs for newborns went from three to 11 without major backlash. For most key vaccines, immunisation rates among babies are over 90 per cent.

The hope is that the new anti-Covid shots will pave the way to a return to normalcy and ease the pressure on health facilities overburdened with Covid patients. However, many frontline professionals are under no illusion that this will happen in the short term. Guillemette Frémont works in a hospital just east of Paris – an area where Covid has hit hard. She warns that, even once vaccination starts, the crisis will be far from over, with multiple new waves of the virus to be expected. She finds French people’s wariness of vaccines difficult to understand: “As a doctor and infectious disease specialist, I have always been puzzled by it.”

To defeat the nation’s rampant scepticism, transparency from the top will be paramount. “The government must avoid repeating the same kind of mistake it made with masks, by all means,” says Laurent-Henri Vignaud, the historian. “It has a catastrophic impact.”

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/france- ... obal-en-GB
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Dec 25, 2020 1:19 am

Surely the best way to contain the virus is to have a proper lockdown of 2 weeks after which time the virus would have died off naturally

All that would be required is for the government to make sure everyone has a month's supply of food

Just in case that some people in lockdown spread it to other family members

Many people who have the virus are not remaining isolated once they start to feel better
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Dec 26, 2020 5:00 am

New Covid Antibody Therapy

A new antibody treatment with the potential to give people instant immunity after being exposed to Covid-19 and prevent illness is being trialled by British scientists in the UK

The drug would offer immediate and long-term protection to patients when it would be too late to offer a vaccine, potentially saving thousands of lives.

It could be given as an emergency treatment to hospital inpatients, care home residents and university students to help reduce the spread of the virus.

People who live with someone has caught Covid or been exposed to them could be injected with the drug to stop them becoming infected, even if they have not had a coronavirus vaccine.

British scientists from the University College London Hospitals NHS (UCLH) have already injected ten people with the drug as part of the new trial called Storm Chaser, with an aim to trial the new treatment on 1,125 people globally. The participants received two consecutive doses of the drug.

They hope the treatment would provide protection from Covid-19 for between six months to a year.

The development came as:

    England has recorded 32,725 coronavirus cases on Christmas Day, according to the latest figures, as festive bubbles were cancelled for millions.

    The infections announced today means there has been a 14 per cent increase in cases in a week even without the full figures.

    In England 570 deaths were recorded - bringing the national tally since March up to 70,195.

    Nationwide figures weren't released today because the devolved nations' tallies aren't counted on the Government dashboard over Christmas.

    Six million more people moved into Tier 4 lockdown today after those already under the tightest coronavirus restrictions celebrated a Covid Christmas any way they could.

    Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire will move into Tier 4, created in response to a variant of Covid-19 discovered in the UK, from Saturday.

    The parts of Essex still in Tier 2, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire including Portsmouth and Southampton, but with the exception of the New Forest, will also move into the toughest tier.

    The additional six million going into Tier 4 takes the total number of people under the toughest restrictions to 24 million - 43 per cent of England's population. A further 24.8 million will be in Tier 3.
Scientists from the UCLH have also begun a second clinical trial named Provent, to examine the use of the antibody for people who may not benefit from vaccines, such as patients with a compromised immune system, or those at increased risk of Covid-19 infection due to factors such as age and existing conditions.

UCLH injected the ten people - including medical staff and university students - as part of the Storm Chaser trial at its new vaccine research centre after the study entered phase three trials on December 2.

Key groups of the trial include healthcare workers, students who live in shared accommodation and patients who have been recently exposed to anyone with Covid-19, as well as those in long-term care, the military and industry staff such as factory workers.

In the first trial, the antibody, known as AZD7442, has been developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which has also created a vaccine with Oxford University that is awaiting approval for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Meanwhile, older people and those in long-term care, as well as people with conditions such as cancer and HIV, will be recruited to take part in the Provent trial.

NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: 'The continuing contribution of the NHS to pioneering global efforts to fight Covid-19 is remarkable.

'These two clinical trials are an important addition to testing new therapeutic approaches, as antibody treatments may offer an alternative to patient groups who cannot benefit from a vaccine, such as immunocompromised patients.'

UCLH virologist Dr Catherine Houlihan, who is leading the Storm Chaser trial, said: 'We know that this antibody combination can neutralise the virus, so we hope to find that giving this treatment via injection can lead to immediate protection against the development of Covid-19 in people who have been exposed - when it would be too late to offer a vaccine.'

Dr Houlihan said the treatment would be an 'exciting addition' to the efforts being tested and developed to fight corovavirus, reports The Guardian.

'If we can prove that this treatment works and prevent people who are exposed to the virus going on to develop Covid-19, it would be an exciting addition to the arsenal of weapons being developed to fight this dreadful virus,' she said.

UCLH infectious diseases consultant Dr Nicky Longley, who is leading the university's portion of Provent, said: 'We want to reassure anyone for whom a vaccine may not work that we can offer an alternative which is just as protective.'

Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia and an expert in infectious diseases, said the new treatment in the Storm Chaser trial could save thousands of lives.

'If you are dealing with outbreaks in settings such as care homes, or if you have got patients who are particularly at risk of getting severe Covid, such as the elderly, then this could well save a lot of lives. Providing it's borne out in phase 3 trials, it could play a big role in keeping alive people who would otherwise die. So it should be a big thing,' he said.

'If you had an outbreak in a care home, you might want to use these sorts of cocktails of antibodies to bring the outbreak under control as soon as possible by giving the drug to everybody in the care home – residents and staff – who hasn't been vaccinated.

'Similarly, if you live with your elderly grandmother and you or someone else in the house gets infected, then you could give her this to protect her.'

The potential breakthrough in the instant immunity treatment is welcome news to millions of Brits who are facing Tier 4 restrictions amid rising coronavirus cases.

The drug would offer immediate and long-term protection to patients when it would be too late to offer a vaccine, potentially saving thousands of lives. Pictured: Margaret Keenan, 90, who was applauded by staff as she returned to her ward after she became the first person in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine on December 8

The number of people with coronavirus in England last week spiked to pre-second lockdown levels with almost 646,000 people carrying the illness

England has recorded 32,725 cases in the last 24 hours, according to the latest figures, as festive bubbles were cancelled for millions.

Nationwide figures weren't released today as the devolved nations' tallies aren't counted on the Government dashboard over Christmas.

The infections announced today means there has been a 14 per cent increase in cases in a week even without the full figures.

But in England 570 deaths were recorded - bringing the national tally since March up to 70,195.

Last week, Christmas was cancelled for millions of people living in London, the south-east of England and Wales after Boris Johnson announced a new lockdown.

In hospitals around England 401 patients died of coronavirus on Christmas Day. The grim figure, which is for Covid-related hospital deaths recorded in the last 24 hours, compares to 317 a week ago.

None of the deaths were under 40 years old and all but 14 had underlying health conditions, according to the latest data.

There were another 33 deaths where coronavirus was mentioned on the person's death certificate. It means the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals now stands at 48,150 people.

The 32,725 coronavirus cases announced today in England are up by 14 per cent on the 28,507 confirmed last Friday.

Northern Ireland did not update its death figures yesterday. They will not be resumed until December 28. There will be no data for Wales on December 25 or January 1.

Similarly in Scotland, death figures will not be updated today through to December 28. There will also be no figures between January 1 and January 4.

Yesterday, more than 1,000 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Scotland as measures were eased for Christmas.

A total of 1,165 new cases were reported by the Scottish Government in the past 24 hours, new figures have shown.

The number is 4.3 per cent of all tests undertaken during that period, down from 5.3% the day before.

In total, 118,035 cases have been reported in Scotland since the beginning of the pandemic.

During the holiday period, the COVID-19 Dashboard, which publishes data on coronavirus cases and deaths, is only uploading tallies for England on a daily basis.

The latest figure comes as a new strain of coronavirus grips south-east England. The strain is thought to be better at spreading, but is not yet thought to be more deadly.

One in every 85 people in England are now infected with coronavirus, half of them have caught the new super-infectious strain and cases in London have trebled in two weeks.

But Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows the epidemic is being driven by southern regions, where the variant has become the dominant strain, with cases still falling of flattening in the North and Midlands, where it is yet to become widespread.

Officials fear, however, it is only a matter of time before the mutant variant – which is up to 56 per cent more infectious than regular Covid and was first detected in Kent in September – becomes prevalent everywhere.

It became the country's dominant strain by the beginning of November, research shows.

About two-thirds of people testing positive in London, the East and the South East, are thought to have the new variant, the ONS said. Nationally, the strain is thought to make up 50 per cent of infections.

Viruses mutate regularly, and scientists have found thousands different of mutations among samples of the virus causing Covid-19.

But many of these changes have no effect on how easily the virus spreads or how severe symptoms are.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the surprise announcement on December 19 that a new 'Tier 4' was to be introduced from midnight, effectively cancelling Christmas for a third of the country due to fears about the Kent strain.

It shuttered non-essential retail, gyms, cinemas, hairdressers and bowling alleys - while people are restricted to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.

It meant thousands of Britons had to cancel their Christmas Day plans, because meeting in a bubble was no longer allowed.

In a further blow for Brits hoping for some sort of normality in the future, Matt Hancock announced on Wednesday a second mutated variant of coronavirus has already been found in London and North West England after being brought to the UK from South Africa.

Ministers fear this variant, known as 501Y.V2, is even more infectious than the one found in Kent that has been behind a recent explosion of coronavirus infections in the East, South East and London.

Mr Hancock revealed two cases of the South African variant have been detected so far in England in contacts of people who had travelled back from the country in recent weeks.

The cases had no link between them, with one in London and the other in the North West of England, MailOnline understands, and the links to South Africa were discovered on Tuesday.

Mr Hancock said the discovery of the variant in the UK was 'highly concerning' and revealed 'immediate restrictions' were being imposed on travel to and from South Africa.

Those who have arrived from the country in the last fortnight are being urged to quarantine for two weeks.

He made the announcement as he plunged millions more people in the South East of England into Tier Four, with the measures kicking in at midnight on Christmas Day.

West Sussex and the parts of East Sussex, Essex, Surrey and Hampshire not already in the top tier will enter Tier 4 from a minute past midnight on Boxing Day, with the exception of the New Forest. They will be joined by Oxfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire will go from Tier 2 to Tier 3, as will Cheshire and Warrington. And Cornwall and Herefordshire will enter Tier 2, meaning no parts of England will be in the lowest Tier 1.

As Britain's crisis worsens, SAGE experts revealed the coronavirus R rate in Britain has risen to between 1.1 and 1.3 due to the Kent variant of coronavirus.

The strain is spreading fastest in London and the East of England, where the R could be as high as a shocking 1.5, and it is at least one or higher in every region of England except the North East and North West.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson refused to rule out a third national lockdown after a Sage model warned that Britain needs to increase their vaccination rates to avoid deaths from the mutated Kent coronavirus.

He warned people that it will 'continue to be difficult' because of the new strain of Covid-19.

During a press conference, Mr Johnson said: 'We believe that we're going to have to get through this tough period now with, as I have said many times, very tough restrictions, with tough tiering.

'As much as I regret that, I do think it is necessary for us to grip this virus now to stop it running out of control in January.

'We need to buy ourselves time to get the vaccine into as many arms of the elderly and vulnerable as we can.'

A very Covid Christmas: Six million MORE people move into tough Tier 4 restrictions TODAY - bringing the total to 24million - after Britons celebrated any way they could

    Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire move to Tier 4 - created to halt the mutant strain

    In Tier 4, no household mixing is allowed while all non-essential shops and businesses must close yet again

    It comes after many had to make the most of a Christmas day already under Tier 4 restrictions in London
Millions of people will move into Tier 4 today after those already under the tightest coronavirus restrictions celebrated a Covid Christmas any way they could.

Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire will move into Tier 4, created in response to a variant of Covid-19 discovered in the UK, from Saturday.

The parts of Essex still in Tier 2, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire including Portsmouth and Southampton, but with the exception of the New Forest, will also move into the toughest tier.

The additional six million going into Tier 4 takes the total number of people under the toughest restrictions to 24 million - 43 per cent of England's population. A further 24.8 million will be in Tier 3.

It comes after many had to make the most of a Christmas Day already under Tier 4 restrictions in London and the south east.

Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire will move into Tier 4, created in response to a variant of Covid-19 discovered in the UK, from Saturday

Photographs showed groups meeting to eat their Christmas dinners on Clapham Common in London while others headed to beach in Brighton to get some fresh air ahead of moving up a Tier to 4 today.

Meanwhile in other parts of the country some families were able to visit their elderly relatives in care homes to celebrate festivities. Some families in Birmingham were pictured meeting grandparents in parks to exchange gifts.

It came as England recorded 32,725 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, according to the latest figures, as festive bubbles were cancelled for millions.

Nationwide figures weren't released today as the devolved nations' tallies aren't counted on the Government dashboard over Christmas.

Families turned out for the traditional Christmas Day swimming on the beach yesterday in Brighton. The area will move into Tier 4 today

The infections announced today means there has been a 14 per cent increase in cases in a week even without the full figures.

But in England 570 deaths were recorded - bringing the national tally since March up to 70,195.

In Tier 4, no household mixing is allowed, though one person can meet one other person outside in a public space, while all non-essential shops and businesses must close, including personal care and indoor entertainment.

Nobody can enter or leave Tier 4 areas and residents must not stay overnight away from home.

Meanwhile, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including the North Somerset council area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire plus Cheshire and Warrington are moving up to Tier 3.

In the 'very high' alert level, no household mixing is allowed indoors or outdoors, except in parks and public gardens.

All hospitality is closed, except for takeaways and deliveries, and accommodation and entertainment venues must shut.

Cornwall and Herefordshire are moving up to Tier 2 from December 26, where the main restrictions are no household mixing allowed indoors, but the 'rule of six' applies outdoors.

Hospitality venues must close unless serving substantial meals with drinks, while large sport and entertainment events are allowed but with a very limited audience.

The Isles of Scilly, which has a population of just 2,000 people, will be the only area of England remaining in Tier 1.

In the lowest alert level, the 'rule of six' must apply indoors and outdoors, while there must be table service in hospitality venues, with last orders at 10pm and closing time at 11pm.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/articl ... unity.html
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:18 pm

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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:41 pm

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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Jan 08, 2021 6:05 pm

UK: What powers do police have
if people break Covid rules?


The police's role in the coronavirus pandemic is simple: to ensure we follow the national lockdown restrictions imposed since Christmas

But in practice, that is a huge challenge for officers who are being asked to monitor behaviour that, until March last year, was perfectly legal.

How do police enforce Covid rules?

Since March, police chiefs have followed a system called "The Four Es". Before fines are issued to rule-breakers, police will first:

    Engage with people, to ask why they appear to be breaking the rules

    Explain the law, stressing the risks to public health and to the NHS

    Encourage them to change their behaviour
The fourth "E" is "Enforce" by issuing penalty notices, as a last resort. And it's looking like there will be more of these fines in this critical New Year lockdown if people do not comply with the measures to contain the virus.

What are the fines for breaking Covid rules?

The police have a legal duty to make sure the rules are enforced, alongside council, environmental health and trading standards officers.

If you break coronavirus regulations, you could get a fixed penalty notice , the Covid equivalent of a parking ticket. Since March, some 32,000 have been issued in England and Wales.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland fines start at £200 - but are lower in Scotland.

Large parties can be shut down by the police - with fines of up to £10,000.

In extreme circumstances, you could be prosecuted and face an even greater fine imposed by a court. Jeremy Corbyn's brother, Piers, is among those who have ended up in court. Similar rules apply in all parts of the UK.

Can police fine me for being in the street?

Yes. All of England is now in a "tier four" national lockdown, with similar measures in place across the rest of the UK.

Under the new lockdown law, you must stay at home unless you have a reasonable excuse to be outside. Your home includes any property associated to it - such as a garden, shed or garage - and also access to it.

The government's lockdown guidance sets out examples of reasonable excuses which are defined in the law. Police won't fine you for leaving home to go shopping for essential goods, or to obtain a service from a business that can remain open, or for going to work or education, training or childcare.

There are other reasonable excuses - such as helping other people in their moment of need - and police chiefs are telling frontline officers to use their judgement if they come across a situation that's not defined in the regulations.

If you want to take part in a protest, the law does not define that as a reasonable excuse to leave home. There is, however, an exception for joining a picket as part of lawful industrial action.

Will police arrest me for exercising?

No. There was enormous confusion last March over how long people could exercise for - and where - leading to Cabinet Minister Michael Gove pronouncing that he thought half an hour was enough.

Exercise is one of the reasonable excuses for being outside in a public space. There are no restrictions in law in England on how you exercise and for how long - other than you cannot do it in groups. So you can run or go on a wander with someone else from your household, support bubble or, critically, one person you don't live with.

While the law does not make it a crime to sit on a park bench, if you can't show you're doing it as part of exercise, you might be questioned, told to move on - or face a fine.

Will the police fine me for mingling?

They might. This refers to the ban on "gatherings".

The last-but-one version of the restrictions made it a potential crime to "mingle". That language has now gone from the law - but the rules are far stricter.

While the law in England doesn't criminalise bumping into someone in the street, you can no longer meet anyone socially - other than those in your household, support bubble or people you care for.

People can enter your home for specific and reasonable purposes, such as for an emergency, or to carry out work.

Even if I break the rules, how likely am I to be fined?

The Home Office has given the police an extra £30m to pay for specific Covid patrols in England and Wales.

And over the Christmas period there were more than 800 fines for what Home Secretary Priti Patel says were "egregious" breaches of the rules.

The National Police Chiefs' Council hasn't abandoned the Four Es - but expect more fines and more officers asking people what they are doing.

For instance, the Metropolitan Police has told officers to issue fines "more quickly" to anyone committing obvious, wilful and serious breaches.

Derbyshire Police, who famously put a drone up over hikers in the first lockdown, has issued a similar warning.

Can police make me cover my face?

Yes - while in shops and on public transport. You could face a fixed penalty notice if you don't.

Can police check whether I'm isolating?

If you have returned from an overseas Covid hotspot, or have been told by the NHS Test and Trace system to stay at home, you must quarantine for 10 days.

The police can now check the NHS Test and Trace database to investigate a tip-off about a quarantine-breaker. Police won't get to see your personal health records.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-52106843

UK police have become bullies - time they stopped picking on innocent walkers and went back to fighting crime

Perhaps they could catch drug dealers for not isolating
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Jan 08, 2021 7:40 pm

Covid vaccine UK update:
When will others be ready?


A third Covid vaccine developed by Moderna has been approved for use in the UK

But how does it compare with the other vaccines?

Why do we need a vaccine?

The vast majority of people are still vulnerable to coronavirus. It's only the current restrictions that are preventing more people from dying.

Vaccines teach our bodies to fight the infection by stopping us from catching coronavirus, or at least making Covid less deadly.

Having a vaccine, alongside better treatments, is "the" exit strategy.

Moderna vaccine

The Moderna vaccine is a new type called an RNA vaccine, and uses a tiny fragment of the virus's genetic code.

This starts making part of the virus inside the body, which the immune system recognises as foreign and starts to attack.

    It protects 94.5% of people, the company says

    The UK has pre-ordered 17 million doses which it should start to receive in the spring

    It is given in two doses, four weeks apart

    30,000 have been involved in the trials, with half getting the vaccine and half dummy injections
The Moderna vaccine uses the same approach as the Pfizer vaccine but it is easier to store, because it stays stable at -20C for up to six months.

Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine

    There is also intriguing data that suggests perfecting the dose could increase protection up to 90%

    The UK has ordered 100 million doses

    It is given in two doses
This may be one of the easiest vaccines to distribute, because it does not need to be stored at very cold temperatures.

It is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus from chimpanzees, that has been modified to not grow in humans.

Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine

The big breakthrough came when Pfizer-BioNTech published its first results in November.

    They showed the vaccine is up to 95% effective

    The UK is due to get 40 million doses

    It is given in two doses, three weeks apart
The vaccine must be stored at a temperature of around -70C. It will be transported in a special box, packed in dry ice and installed with GPS trackers.

On 2 December, the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for widespread use.

Six days later 90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first patient to receive the vaccine at University Hospital in Coventry. Since then, more than a million people in the UK have been vaccinated.

Like Moderna, Pfizer's is an RNA vaccine - the first ever to be approved for use in humans.

What other vaccines are being developed?

Other trial results are also expected in the coming weeks.

    Data on the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, which works like the Oxford one, suggests it is 92% efficient

    Janssen's trial is recruiting 6,000 people across the UK, in a total of 30,000 volunteers worldwide, to see if two jabs give stronger and longer-lasting immunity than one

    Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and Sinopharm in China, and Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute are all in final testing
Understanding which method produces the best results will be vital. Challenge trials, where people are deliberately infected, could help.

Who will get the vaccine first?

This depends on where Covid is spreading when the vaccine becomes available and in which groups each is most effective.

Older care home residents and staff top the UK's preliminary priority list, followed by health workers like hospital staff, and the over-80s.

Age is, by far, Covid's biggest risk factor.

What still needs to be done?

    Huge-scale development must happen for the billions of potential doses

    Researchers still need to find out how long any protection may last
It was thought that 60-70% of the global population must be immune to stop the virus spreading easily (herd immunity) - billions of people, even if the vaccine works perfectly.

However, those figures will rise considerable if the new, more transmissible, variants spread widely.

Would a vaccine protect everyone?

People respond differently to immunisation.

History suggests any vaccine could be less successful in old people because an aged immune system does not respond as well, as happens with the annual flu jab. But data so far suggests this may not be a problem with some of Covid vaccines

Multiple doses may overcome any problems, as could giving it alongside a chemical (called an adjuvant) that boosts the immune system.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51665497
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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jan 09, 2021 7:02 pm

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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jan 10, 2021 6:39 am

Confusing, here are so many masks on sale

Which is best we all wonder?

Perhaps we should look at the types of masks our leaders are wearing

I am going on a mask hunt starting with the police who appear to be wearing surgical masks

Image

Boris prefers the black mask

Image

Or blue, whereas CEO London Ambulance Service (seen here with Boris) appears to be wearing a surgical mask:

Image

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt goes for the patriotic look - not sure how effective it is:

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Re: Coronavirus: we separate myths from facts and give advic

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jan 11, 2021 1:43 pm

Taiwan Vows to Stick to Covid-19 Limits

The island’s success against the coronavirus has created a sinking feeling for many residents: How much longer can their good fortune last?

Commuters in Taipei in December. Life in Taiwan has remained normal for most of the past year, and gross domestic product is still forecast to grow.

Consider for a moment, in this time of anguish and loss and death, of mass unemployment and flattened national economies, the Twilight Zone alternate reality that is Taiwan.

For months and months, life on the island has been, in a word, normal — spookily so. Weddings have been held, worry free. People have packed pro ball games, attended cello concerts and thronged night markets. Taiwan’s population is larger than Florida’s, but its Covid-19 death toll can be counted on two hands.

It is the kind of off-the-charts success against the virus that has created a sinking feeling in the stomachs of many residents: How much longer can the island’s good fortune last?

For Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s health minister and head of its epidemic command center, success is all the more reason not to waver on the bedrock of the government’s coronavirus strategy. The island has been sealed off to most visitors since March. People who are allowed to enter still have to quarantine under tight watch for two weeks, including Taiwanese citizens.

The high walls have kept the island from being deluged with infections, but they risk isolating Taiwan economically and politically if the rest of the world relaxes its defenses as vaccinations get underway.

The government is not likely to budge on those policies until there are vaccines that are a proven, lasting weapon against the virus, Mr. Chen said in an interview. Taiwan will not be like one of those places, he suggested, that eased lockdowns under public pressure only to have to tighten them again later.

“I believe there will be another wave,” he said. “Because everybody thinks, ‘I’ve gotten the vaccine, or I’m getting the vaccine next week, I’ve waited so long, I can be free now, right?’”

Once there is more evidence about whether the current vaccines offer enduring immunity, “only then can we really start to relax a bit,” he said.

As vaccinations begin around the globe, the question of how and when to ease Covid border controls will also confront other places, such as Australia and New Zealand, that have used their geographic insularity as a primary defense against the pandemic.

Taiwan has already held fast to its entry restrictions and quarantines for much longer than many governments could without facing a big public backlash. The island’s economy has slowed along with the world’s during the pandemic but it continues to grow at a decent clip.

Japan and South Korea, two other Asian democracies praised for their virus responses, are now grappling with large flare-ups of new infections.

But as successful and tireless as Taiwan’s health officials have been, the island has also benefited from sheer good luck, said C. Jason Wang, an associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

With the case count surging globally and a more contagious variant of the virus circulating in many places, greater numbers of infected people are bound to arrive at Taiwan’s borders, Dr. Wang said. Which means it is only a matter of time before more positive cases slip past the government’s defenses.

Taiwan on Wednesday confirmed its first case involving the new variant, in a person who had entered from Britain, tested positive and been hospitalized. In response, the government further tightened its entry bans and quarantine rules.

“It’s remarkable that Taiwan has held the line for so long,” Dr. Wang said. But even if the island vaccinates its population by the middle of 2021, “then you’ve still got six months to go,” he said. “It’s really difficult to keep this up for another six months.”

For Mr. Chen, 67, 2020 was a year of tough calls, even as he has pulled off a virus response that would be the envy of any public health official on the planet.
Covid-19 Vaccines ›

In a recent opinion poll, Mr. Chen, a dentist by training, received a higher approval rating than any other top official, including his boss, President Tsai Ing-wen. He is being talked about as a potential candidate for mayor of Taipei, the island’s capital. His cool, unflappable mien at the government’s epidemic news briefings has won him an odd kind of celebrity. It is not every middle-aged health minister who is photographed clad in Gucci for the local edition of GQ.

Yet in Mr. Chen’s telling, his decisions since the outbreak started have upset certain people at almost every turn. Like when he barred medical workers from leaving the island in February. Or when he announced in March that the island was forbidding entry by nearly all non-residents.

Many of the Taiwanese government’s ideas about dealing with the virus came from “feeling around in the dark,” Mr. Chen said.

For instance, when a cluster of infections appeared on the Diamond Princess cruise liner in February, officials in Japan, where the boat had docked, allowed many passengers who tested negative to walk free. Some of them later tested positive. Taiwan took note.

“By then it became very clear to us,” Mr. Chen said. “After you test, you have to quarantine both the positives and the negatives.”

Taiwan’s emphasis on strict quarantines has helped contain infections without overwhelming its hospital system or incurring huge costs for testing. But some experts are now urging the government to test more widely, particularly at the border, to catch more cases that do not show symptoms.

“We came up with many of our policies when there were a few million infections around the world,” said Chan Chang-chuan, a professor at the College of Public Health at National Taiwan University. “But now there are tens of millions, and we’re heading toward a hundred million. It’s a whole different stage.”

Mr. Chan said he believed Taiwan should begin testing everyone at the border, not just quarantining them. It has already started doing this for people arriving from Britain, where the more transmissible variant of the coronavirus has been found to be circulating.

Taiwan’s position has been that carriers of the virus who are asymptomatic after 14 days of isolation are not likely to be very infectious. Mr. Chen said he had no doubt that there had been some asymptomatic cases that never made it onto the government’s radar.

“But if those infections are not causing problems, then should I spend a lot of energy trying to find those people?” he said. “Or should I focus my efforts on infections that are already causing problems?”

It is unclear how much of a gamble this approach has involved. A study published in The Lancet in October found that out of 14,765 people whose blood was sampled at a Taipei hospital, a lower share tested positive for coronavirus antibodies than in other countries. Yet the share could still imply a much higher number of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infections than is reflected in Taiwan’s official case numbers, the study’s authors wrote.

“Basically, it’s a trade-off between how much money you want to spend and how much risk you want to take,” said Dr. Wang, the Stanford professor. As the global case count swells and more infections are likely to leak into Taiwan, “then it’s a matter of how much leakage you want in your house.”

Dale Fisher, a professor in infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore, contrasted Taiwan’s tight border policies with Singapore’s more “nimble” approach. The city-state recently lifted restrictions on travelers from Taiwan, but Taiwan did not reciprocate.

“We think that even if a traveler brought it in, we think there’s a good chance it wouldn’t spread anyway,” Dr. Fisher said. “If you’ve got no faith in your system, then that would make you keep the borders harder.”

The real test for Taiwan, he said, is if the vaccines do not end up offering long-lasting immunity and the world needs to live with Covid for longer. How well would Taiwan’s people bear being sealed off from the wider world for another year? Another five years?

“This is why we’d say close your borders if you just want to buy time to get yourself organized,” Dr. Fisher said. “But don’t think of it as a strategy.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/02/worl ... obal-en-GB
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