23 November 2020


News summary

Daily COVID-19 figures update

The number of global cases and mortalities can be followed here, and the number of UK cases can be followed here. Live news updates can be found on the BBC website.

Oxford University vaccine shows 70% protection

The coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford stops 70% of people developing COVID-19 symptoms, a large-scale trial shows. It will be seen as a triumph, but it comes off the back of Pfizer and Moderna showing 95% protection. However, the Oxford jab is far cheaper, and is easier to store and get to every corner of the world than the other two. So it will play a significant role in tackling the pandemic, if it is approved by regulators. There is also intriguing data that suggests perfecting the dose could increase protection up to 90%. The UK Government has pre-ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, enough to immunise 50 million people. The vaccine has been developed in around 10 months, a process that normally takes a decade.

Confusion over Christmas get-together plans

The UK Government has said that UK's four nations have backed plans to allow some household mixing "for a small number of days" over Christmas. However, the Scottish Government that said "no agreement has been reached" and the Welsh Government also backs that position, currently. Discussions are continuing - including about travel arrangements - but it is hoped agreement on the joint approach can be reached this week. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to unveil on Monday a tougher three-tiered system for England - to be introduced at the end of the current lockdown on 2 December. The 10pm closing time for pubs and restaurants will also be relaxed. One option that was discussed in 4-nation meetings this weekend was that three households could be allowed to meet up for up to five days, according to the BBC.

Scotland: patients still being sent to care homes without negative tests

Opposition parties are demanding a complete ban on discharging patients to care homes without two negative tests. The two test policy was introduced in April, but the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman, has confirmed that such discharges are still allowed. Jeane Freeman said it was "right and proper" that clinicians had the final say in exceptional cases. The Scottish Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems have called for the practice to be stopped. Large numbers of elderly patients were moved out of hospital in the early weeks of the pandemic amid fears the NHS could soon become overwhelmed. However, an analysis by Public Health Scotland published last month found no "statistically significant evidence" that it caused the high rate of infection and deaths in care homes. The policy of hospital patients having two negative tests prior to discharge to a care home was introduced on 21 April.

News in brief