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COVID-19: Boris Johnson warns of ‘immense logistical challenges’ in distributing vaccine | Politics News

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COVID-19: Boris Johnson warns of 'immense logistical challenges' in distributing vaccine | Politics News

It will take “some months” for the UK’s most vulnerable people to be vaccinated against coronavirus, the prime minister has said.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Boris Johnson acknowledged there will be “immense logistical challenges” in distributing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which has been approved for use in the UK.

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UK approves use of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine

“It will inevitably take some months before all the most vulnerable are protected – long, cold months,” he said.

“So it’s all the more vital that as we celebrate this scientific achievement we are not carried away with over-optimism or fall into the naive belief that the struggle is over.”

The PM was speaking after the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The jab, which has been given the green light by the independent health regulator, will be rolled out across the UK from early next week.

Elderly people in care homes and their carers are top of the list to get the vaccine, which studies have shown is 95% effective and works in all age groups.

The government has secured 40 million doses of the COVID-19 jab, which needs to be refrigerated at -70C (-94F).

How COVID-19 vaccines ordered by the UK compare
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How the vaccines ordered by the UK compare

Despite being at the top of the priority list, the head of the NHS told the news conference that most care home residents will need to wait for their vaccine because of difficulties in transporting it.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said that because the jab has to be stored at such low temperatures it can only be moved a few times.

Packs of doses – with 975 doses per pack – also cannot be easily split at this moment in time.

The first people to get the vaccine will receive it from from 50 hospital hubs and will be the over-80s, care home staff and others identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) who may already have a hospital appointment.

He said the majority of vaccinations will take place in “January through to March or April for the at-risk population”.

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Mass vaccine rollout planned from January

“We have to move it around the country in a carefully controlled way initially at minus 70 degrees centigrade, or thereabouts, and there are a limited number of further movements that we are allowed by the regulator to make,” Sir Simon said.

“It also comes in packs of 975 people’s doses so you can’t at this point just distribute it to every individual GP surgery or pharmacy as we normally would for many of the other vaccines available on the NHS.”

Pharmacies could be able to start giving people jabs in January, Sir Simon said.

“If the MHRA, the independent regulator, as we expect they will, give approval for a safe way of splitting these packs of 975 doses then the good news is we will be able to start distributing those to care homes,” he said.

“And then as even more vaccine becomes available finally we will be able to switch on large vaccination centres across the country and indeed invite local community pharmacists probably at the beginning of January to begin to offer vaccination as well.”

Speaking about the difficulty of getting the vaccine into care homes, Mr Johnson said there is a risk the vaccine could “degenerate” if it is “improperly handled”.

The call for patience was echoed by the deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who appeared alongside the PM and Sir Simon.

“Rollout won’t be instant,” he warned, as he called on people to stick to the current restrictions and general guidance over the coming months.

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Hancock offers to get jab alongside Labour’s Ashworth

Echoing Sir Simon, he said the vaccine was a “complex product with a very fragile cold chain”.

“It’s not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back in multiple times. It’s really tricky to handle,” he said.

Professor Van-Tam also appealed to people on the fence about vaccines, saying: “Everyone wants social distancing to come to an end – we are fed-up with it.

“Nobody wants lockdowns and to see the damage they do. But if you want that dream to come true as quickly as it can come true, then you you have to take the vaccine when it is offered to you.

“Low uptake will almost certainly make restrictions last longer.”

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‘We need people to take the vaccine’

He said the current restrictions, including social distancing and the tiered system across England, will need to stay in place “for now”.

“If we relax too soon, if we just, kind of, go ‘oh, the vaccine’s here, let’s abandon caution’, all you are going to do is create a tidal wave of infections,” he said.

Asked by Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby if the coronavirus tiers will continue beyond the end of January, when MPs are due to vote on them again, the PM replied: “I think for the time being, you’ve got to take it that tiering is going to be a very, very important part of our campaign against coronavirus.

“It’s absolutely vital that people stick to the guidance and follow the rules.”

Meanwhile, the PM’s press secretary has suggested Mr Johnson could have a jab live on TV – but only if it did not prevent someone more in need from getting one.

Analysis: PM reveals his metric for success after vaccine breakthrough
By Tom Rayner, political correspondent

After countless Downing Street press conferences where so much about the future was in doubt, Boris Johnson set out to deliver a message underpinned by certainty.

This evening there was no need for graphs, terrifying projections or colour-coded maps.

He said he was now “certain” the arrival of a clinically approved vaccine meant there was a way out of the pandemic, but he was equally sure “the struggle isn’t over” and that the “plan does depend on all of us continuing to make sacrifices”.

But despite attempts by Mr Johnson to capture the moment with martial arts metaphors, it was the deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam who seemed to capture those dual certainties with greater impact and eloquence.

He said he was “quite emotional” about the news this morning and reassured the public they were right to feel that way too.

“Everyone needs to be delighted with the news today” he said “but equally patient and realistic”.

And the reason for the need for the certain need for patience was laid out over the course of the press conference.

The key example was the acknowledgment that despite care home staff and residents being considered the most vulnerable category, the Pfizer vaccine will not be easy to get to them.

Cases of the vaccine contain 975 doses, and those consignments cannot be separated down into smaller units..

Those cases would be too large for most individual homes, so it will require the medical regulator to change its permissions for this particular vaccine or the approval of the less logistically demanding Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, for doses to be quickly rolled out.

Even if this particular challenge were to be overcome, head of the NHS Sir Simon Stevens made the point that even the most vulnerable are unlikely to get the required second dose until the New Year, so the need for social distancing and other restrictions will still be required for some time to come.

Indeed, Jonathan Van Tam suggested he did not believe COVID-19 would ever be entirely eradicated and was likely to become seasonal like flu.

“Do I think we be able to throw a big party like the end of the war? No I don’t”, he said, adding that he thinks some of the habits of handwashing and keeping some distance could be enduring.

That seemed to alarm the prime minister, who perhaps saw it as undermining the message of certainty that normality would return.

It was a revealing moment, because it seemed to gives a sense of Mr Johnson’s personal metric for success.

So much so the deputy chief medical officer felt the need to clarify he was talking about habits, rather than an enduring need for government restrictions.

“Well, who knows, who knows” said the PM, uncertainly.

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COVID-19: England’s COVID infection rate decreases slightly but remains high – ONS | World News

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COVID-19: England's COVID infection rate decreases slightly but remains high - ONS | World News

The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in England has decreased slightly but remains high, according to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Around 1 in 55 people who are not in care homes, hospitals or other institutional settings had the virus in the week ending 16 January.

In the last full infection survey published two weeks ago, 1 in 50 people had the virus – showing there has been a small decrease, although infection rates still remain high.

Worryingly, infection rates in Northern Ireland jumped from 1 in 200 in the previous survey to 1 in 60.

Rates in Scotland and Wales have levelled off, with 1 in 100 and 1 in 70 people infected respectively.

In England, London and the North East still have the highest infection rates, with about 1 in 35 people estimated to have the virus in the capital.

However, there was some good news as the percentage of people infected with the new variant has fallen in London, the South East and the East of England.

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COVID-19: Holidays to Spain could be delayed ‘until end of summer’ | World News

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reportedly said 70% of the population will need to be vaccinated

Britons hoping to escape to Spain could have their holiday plans cancelled following reports the Spanish prime minister said the country would not welcome international tourists until the “end of summer”.

Speaking at a meeting of the World Tourism Organisation, Pedro Sanchez reportedly said he did not expect holidaymakers to visit Spain until nearly all of the population has been vaccinated.

He said the country would “progressively” prepare to welcome international tourists once 70% of Spain’s population had been vaccinated, which he expected to be by the end of this summer, local media sites including Euro Weekly News have reported.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reportedly said 70% of the population would need to be vaccinated

It will be a blow for the tourism sector, which closed its worst year since the 1970s in 2020 with revenues falling by more than 75%.

Spain reported its highest daily number of coronavirus infections yet on Thursday, recording 44,357 cases.

A further 404 deaths were also reported, taking the country’s total to 55,041 deaths and 2.5 million cases.

Spain is not the only popular holiday destination closing its doors to British tourists, as Portugal has said it will be suspending all flights to and from Britain from Saturday onwards.

Only repatriation flights will be allowed between the two countries, Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference.

British tourists arrive at Gran Canaria airport
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Spain is one of the most popular destinations for British tourists

Meanwhile, the UK itself has “considered” a full closure of its borders.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News ministers were keeping the idea “under review” and “can’t rule anything out for now” – although they believed the current restrictions were “sufficient”.

Asked whether people should be booking foreign holidays for this summer, Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to give an answer and said it was “far too early” to speculate on restrictions.

But some Britons have already begun booking their breaks, with holiday firms saying they had seen a spike in bookings from older people planning trips following the vaccine roll-out.

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‘We need to have a spring and summer season’

The UK’s largest tour operator TUI said half of bookings made so far have been made by over-50s.

Spain ranks among the most popular countries for people planning holidays this year.

A study by travel company Club Med showed it was the fifth most popular destination, behind the Maldives, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey.

Earlier, European Union leaders held an online summit to discuss potential coronavirus measures, including further border restrictions.

While a number of EU leaders said they would not rule out border closures, Spain and Greece backed an idea for a common approach to “vaccine passports”.

The system would allow people to travel if they had received the vaccine, although EU diplomats said the measure was premature as it is not yet clear if vaccinated people could still pass on the virus to others.

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Donald Trump was fooled into talking to prankster pretending to be Piers Morgan, TV presenter says | UK News

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Donald and Melania Trump

A prankster pretending to be Piers Morgan managed to fool Donald Trump into thinking he was speaking to the real TV presenter.

It happened in October while the former president and Apprentice star was on Air Force One, Morgan said.

Mr Trump, who left the White House for the final time earlier this week, only realised he had been scammed when he rang the genuine Morgan the following day while on his way to Florida, the presenter revealed.

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Donald and Melania Trump boarding Air Force One for the last time on Wednesday

Morgan told the BBC it was a “hilarious story”, adding: “Somebody had called him pretending to be me the day before and got through to him on Air Force One and they had a conversation with Trump thinking he was talking to me.”

It is not known who the prankster was.

The pair, who have known each other for more than a decade, fell out last year after Morgan, 55, criticised Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2008, Morgan won a series of Celebrity Apprentice hosted by the billionaire businessman.

He also interviewed him during his time in office for ITV‘s Good Morning Britain.

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Donald Trump’s presidency in 6 minutes

Taking about Mr Trump’s time as US president, Morgan said the 74-year-old had been a “useless leader” because of his “character flaws – the chronic narcissism, the desire to make everything about himself”.

But Mr Trump is not the only prominent person to have been fooled by a prankster.

In March last year, Prince Harry was reportedly tricked into speaking about his decision to quit the royal family by Russian hoaxers posing as the environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

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