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COVID-19: Record number of people waiting for NHS treatment in England | UK News

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COVID-19: Record number of people waiting for NHS treatment in England | UK News

Record numbers of people were waiting for NHS treatment in England in November, while new figures reveal that A&E visits were 50% higher in December than during the April peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The numbers come as a slew of figures were released by NHS England and the Office for National Statistics.

Here are the main figures you need to know:

Hospital treatment

A total of 4.46 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in England at the end of November 2020, the highest number since records began.

This compares to 4.42 million in November 2019 and 4.45 million in October that year – the previous highest number in the data which goes back to August 2007.

The NHS England figures also show that the number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England stood at 192,169 in November 2020 – the highest number for any calendar month since May 2008.

A&E admissions in England

Half a million more people sought help in England’s A&Es in December compared with the first peak of the pandemic in April.

But A&E attendances at hospitals in England continue to be below levels of a year ago, according to NHS England.

A total of 1.5 million attendances were recorded in December 2020, down 32% from 2.2 million in December 2019.

NHS England said the fall is “likely to be a result of the COVID-19 response” – suggesting that people are still staying away from A&E because of the pandemic.

Vaccines

NHS data shows that up to 10 January the most vaccines had been delivered to the Midlands, where 447,329 doses were given.

The areas to receive the lowest amounts were London, with 237,524 doses, and the East of England with 236,023.

Critical care beds

Around one in five major hospital trusts in England had no spare adult critical care beds on 10 January, NHS England figures show.

Some 27 out of 140 acute trusts reported 100% occupancy of all “open” beds on 10 January – the latest date for which statistics are available.

Cancer referrals

NHS England figures also show that a total of 205,182 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in November 2020, up from 201,498 in November 2019 – a rise of 2%.

This compares with a year-on-year rise of 2% in September and falls of 8% in October, 15% in August and 19% in July.

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COVID-19: UK to look ‘very carefully’ at vaccine dosing after concerns raised over level of protection | Politics News

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A member of medical staff prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at The Vaccination Hub at Croydon University Hospital, south London, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.

The UK will need to look “very carefully” at the protection provided by the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the government’s chief scientific adviser has told Sky News, amid concerns its effectiveness is significantly lower than had been found in trials.

Sir Patrick Vallance said the government would “just need to keep measuring the numbers” as the vaccine is rolled out across the UK.

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Answering questions from Sky News viewers, Sir Patrick was asked about an analysis from Israel, where the Pfizer jab has been rolled out the fastest.

That study suggested the effectiveness of the vaccine after a single dose was as low as 33% – rather than the 89% that had initially been thought.

The 89% figure – pointing to high short-term protection – was used to help justify the UK’s decision to delay giving a second vaccine dose to people for up to 12 weeks, as part of a push to get as many people as possible in the UK vaccinated with an initial first dose.

Sir Patrick said: “We need to look at this very carefully, we just need to keep measuring the numbers.”

He admitted that “in practice” the protection provided by one dose of a Pfizer vaccine probably won’t be as high as 89%, but he pushed back against the suggestion it could be as low as 33%.

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The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first to be approved for use in the UK

“What we know from a clinical study is… if you take everything from day zero, the moment you get the vaccine, to day 28 then the overall figure is something like 50% protection,” Sir Patrick said.

“But, of course, you don’t expect to get any protection in the first 10 days, because it hasn’t had a chance for the immune system to build up.

“And some people may have been infected before they had the vaccine.

“So, if you take from day 10 up towards day 21 and beyond, then it looks much more like the 89% figure that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said.

“That’s the clinical trial data and we also know that when you get into real world practice, things are seldom quite as good as clinical trial.

“So I think the 89% or so is the figure you see post-10 days, so that’s the basis of the recommendation.

“It probably won’t be as high as that in practice, but I don’t think it will be as low as the figures you’ve just given.”

Sir Patrick said the UK would get more “real world” data from both Israel’s and the UK’s vaccination programme over the coming weeks to “get a better handle on exactly how effective this is in the real world, rather than in the conditions of a clinical trial”.

But he stressed it was “quite important not to assume this protects in the first 10 days, because it doesn’t”.

Scientists in Israel studied preliminary data from 200,000 vaccinated people.

Professor Ran Balicer, who works for the largest health care provider in Israel and who is an adviser to the World Health Organisation, told Sky News there was “no difference” between infections of vaccinated and unvaccinated people until 14 days after a Pfizer jab.

But he added that, on day 14 after vaccination, “a drop of 33% in positivity was witnessed in the vaccinated group and not in the unvaccinated”.

Prof Balicer said the data did not show an 89% reduction in positivity rates, but said further data and analysis would be provided after being peer-reviewed.

Israel is providing a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at three weeks, which Prof Balicer said means it is “impossible” for them to analyse the impact of not providing a second dose for a longer period of time.

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Donald Trump issues flurry of pardons as he leaves office | US News

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Donald Trump issues flurry of pardons as he leaves office | US News

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon and rapper Lil Wayne are among the people being pardoned or granted clemency by Donald Trump in the final hours of his presidency.

The outgoing president granted clemency to 143 people on Wednesday.

Wayne pleaded guilty last month to possessing a loaded, gold-plated handgun on a private flight in 2019. He faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison at a hearing next week.

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‘We pray for the new administration’

The president met the rapper during his election campaign last year, with the artist later praising some of Mr Trump’s policies such as proposed justice reforms.

Controversial former White House adviser Bannon, who was fired by Mr Trump, has also been granted clemency.

“Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen,” the White House said in a statement.

He was charged last year with swindling Trump supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build the US-Mexico border wall, and pleaded not guilty.

Bannon was appointed chief executive of Mr Trump’s successful presidential campaign in 2016, leaving his role at conservative website Breitbart News.

Lil Wayne
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Lil Wayne is also among a raft of 11th-hour pardons and commutations

He became chief strategist for Mr Trump after his inauguration, but clashed with others in the White House and was pushed out in August 2017.

Bannon was recently banned from Twitter after he called for the beheading of top government doctor Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray.

Others reportedly among the dozens of people being pardoned are Kodak Black – a rapper also sentenced over weapons charges, and former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who is seven years into a 28-year sentence for corruption and racketeering.

Mr Trump has previously pardoned several of his closest confidantes such as Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who lied to the FBI, and commuted the prison term for Roger Stone – who was convicted of lying to Congress during its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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Super Bowl LV: First woman official chosen for showpiece American Football game | US News

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Ms Thomas will be a down judge at the Tampa game next month

A woman will officiate at next month’s Super Bowl for the first time, the NFL has announced.

Sarah Thomas, 47, will be a down judge at the world’s biggest annual sporting event.

“Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl.

“Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honor,” said NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent.

Ms Thomas became the league’s first full-time female official in 2015, making her regular season debut in September that year.

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Ms Thomas will be a down judge at the Tampa game next month

She will join a male-dominated staff of officials for the big game in Tampa, Florida, on 7 February.

Home town side Tampa Bay Buccaneers are due to play Green Bay Packers for a place in the game, while their opponents will be either Buffalo Bills or defending champions Kansas City Chiefs.

NFL bosses have yet to reveal how many fans will be able to attend due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reports have suggested it could be around 20%, with fans sitting in groups and having to wear masks.

The half-time show comes from Canadian singer The Weeknd.

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