As the United Kingdom battles a new more infectious strain of the coronavirus ahead of Christmas celebration, the country’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has imposed tighter coronavirus curbs on millions of people in England and largely reversed plans to ease restrictions.
In the last two weeks the number of cases in England soared because of a variant of the virus that scientists said is up to 70 percent more transmissible.
The prime minister during a news conference said “it is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned,” he added “I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me.”
Johnson said “but it’s the best that we have at the moment and we have to act on information as we have it, because this is now spreading very fast.”
Even as the prime minister and his scientific advisors believe vaccines will still be effective, and the new strain is not more deadly or more serious in terms of the illness caused, Johnson said the government had to take urgent action.
London and southeast England – with about a third of the English population – are currently in the highest level of a three-tier system of rules and will now be placed in a new Tier 4 level.
People will be required to stay at home except for essential reasons such as work, and non-essential retail will close, as will indoor leisure and entertainment. Social mixing will be limited to meeting one other person in an outdoor space.
23 Norwegians Dead After Taking COVID-19 Vaccine
The New York Post has quoted Norwegian health officials as saying twenty-three persons have died within days of receiving the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Thirteen of the deaths are said to be related to side effects of the shots. All thirteen were nursing home patients who were at least eighty years old.
The newspaper quoted the chief physician at the Norwegian medicines agency, Sigurd Hortemo, as saying in a statement on Friday, common reactions to the vaccine, including fever and nausea, may have contributed to a fatal outcome in some frail patients.
This has forced officials to adjust their guidance on who should receive the vaccine, but they are not expressing serious concern.
The country has inoculated more than thirty-thousand citizens with the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine since last month.
Norwegian medicines agency medical director, Steinar Madsen, says the agency is not alarmed. He says the vaccines have very little risk.
COVID-19 Infection Gives Some Immunity, But Virus Can Still Be Spread, Study Finds
As United Kingdom, struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic and amid attempt to accelerate vaccination efforts, a study of healthcare workers in the European country has found people who have had COVID-19 are highly likely to have immunity to it for at least five months but there is evidence that those with antibodies may still be able to carry and spread the virus.
Preliminary findings by scientists at Public Health England (PHE) showed that reinfections in people who have COVID-19 antibodies from a past infection are rare – with only 44 cases found among 6,614 previously infected people in the study.
But experts cautioned that the findings mean people who contracted the disease in the first wave of the pandemic in the early months of 2020 may now be vulnerable to catching it again.
They also warned that people with so-called “natural immunity” – acquired through having had the infection – may still be able to carry the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in their nose and throat, and could unwittingly pass it on.
Susan Hopkins, the senior medical adviser at PHE and co-leader of the study, whose findings were published on Thursday said “we now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection, but this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts.”
“This means even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections. But there is still a risk you could acquire an infection and transmit (it) to others.”
A statement on the study said its findings did not address antibody or other immune responses to vaccines now being rolled out against COVID-19, or on how effective vaccines would be. Vaccine responses will be considered later this year, it said.
According to British government data, a daily record of 1,564 deaths was on Wednesday reported in the country bringing the total death toll to more than 89,000 persons.
The UK with its population of more than 66 million has injected 2.6 million persons with the first dose of a vaccine. Earlier, the British government approved three main COVID-19 vaccines – by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford and Moderna.
‘Unique’ COVID-19 Variant Detected In Kenya
Kenya says it has detected a unique coronavirus variant in the south-east of the country, following a study by state-linked Kenya Medical Research Institute between June and October.
Scientists at the institute say more research needs to be done to assess the impact of the variant.
Kenya has so far confirmed nearly 100,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 1,700 deaths.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says the faster-spreading South African variant has been detected in three African states – Botswana, Zambia and the Gambia in west Africa.
WHO says Africa has now surpassed three million COVID-19 cases, and daily case numbers were exceeding the first wave peak.
WHO an average of 25,223 cases were reported each day between 28 December 2020 and 10 January 2021 in Africa, which is nearly 39% higher than the July 2020 two-week peak of 18,104 daily average cases.
“Revamped public health measures are ever more critical to avert a runaway surge in infections that could stretch health facilities to the breaking point,” it added.