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COVID-19: Vaccines will only have ‘marginal impact’ on NHS winter pressures, chief medical officers warn | UK News

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Screen grab of Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Witty, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).

COVID-19 will keep hospitals under continued strain in the coming months as new vaccines will only have a “marginal impact” on patient numbers over winter, the UK’s chief medical officers have warned.

In a letter written to healthcare colleagues, the group – which includes England’s Professor Chris Whitty – also said that festive gatherings were likely to put additional pressure on the NHS.

“Winter is always a challenging time for the NHS and wider health and social care service. This year will be especially hard due to COVID-19,” it said.

“Although the very welcome news about vaccines means that we can look forward to 2021 with greater optimism, vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with COVID over the next three months.”

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Professor Chris Whitty is one of the letter’s signatories

The letter was co-signed by Professor Whitty, Scotland’s Dr Gregor Smith, Dr Frank Atherton of Wales, and their Northern Ireland counterpart Dr Michael McBride.

It says that while recent lockdowns in all four nations, and public adherence to social distancing and other measures, had helped slow the spread, hospital admissions and deaths would likely remain high before the spring

“The actions and self-discipline of the whole population during lockdowns and other restrictions have helped reduce the peak and in most parts of the four nations hospital numbers are likely to fall over the next few weeks, but not everywhere,” the letter reads.

And it warns: “The social mixing which occurs around Christmas may well put additional pressure on hospitals and general practice in the New Year and we need to be ready for that.”

It comes as the first supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived in the UK in preparation for vaccinations to start from next Tuesday.

Government ministers said 800,000 doses would be available next week, with the over-80s and care home staff first in line to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

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

The letter praised health workers for responding “magnificently” to the challenges of the pandemic and stressed the importance of continuing support for others within the profession.

But it added that it was “essential” that the next months were used to learn more about the virus to help inform treatments moving forward.

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‘I wouldn’t advise’ hugging elderly relatives at Xmas

“We do not expect COVID to disappear even once full vaccination has occurred, although it will be substantially less important as a cause of mortality and morbidity,” it said.

“It is therefore absolutely essential that we use the next months to learn as much as we can as we expect COVID to be less common in the future.

“This will allow us to have the best chance of a strong evidence base for managing it over the coming years.”

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How the vaccine rollout will work

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also warned Britons not to allow encouraging headlines about the pandemic, including Friday’s news that the UK’s R number had seemingly shrunk to a four-month low, to make them complacent.

Earlier it emerged that the government’s scientific advisers believe immunity from COVID-19 may only last for up to three months from the point of either infection or vaccination.

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British Virgin Islands: Inquiry into claims of corruption and political interference – all with the public purse | World News

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab wearing a face mask waits for the French and German foreign ministers to arrive for an E3 Ministers meeting at Chevening House in Sevenoaks, Kent.

Claims of widespread corruption and fraud involving millions of pounds of public money are being investigated on the British Virgin Islands.

The governor of the islands, a British territory, has ordered an independent inquiry into the allegations and is supported by both the prime minister and the foreign secretary.

One of the claims is that $40m (£29m) set aside for struggling families during the COVID pandemic might have been channelled to political allies.

Announcing the Commission of Inquiry, Governor August Jaspert said there were “wide concerns over the possible mismanagement of some public projects”.

He said successive audit reports had set out practices of “political interference, inflated pricing and conflicts of interest” and added: “These may have cost the public purse millions of dollars in recent years, with no sign of improvement.

“In the past months, the community has had many open and honest conversations about this. For the first time, many have felt confident to raise their voice. This is an important conversation for us to have, albeit difficult as those who speak up are too often silenced.”

In a written statement to parliament, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The UK is extremely concerned about the state of good governance in the British Virgin Islands.

“A consistent and deeply troubling array of concerns have been put to the governor by local institutions and the community.

“Successive attempts have been made to address these concerns through local institutions, many of which have done commendable work to bring them to light.

“However, the scope and seriousness of the concerns are now beyond local capacity to address.”

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Mr Raab said the ‘scope and seriousness of the concerns are now beyond local capacity to address’

It is the first inquiry of its kind in more than 10 years – the last took place in 2008 to investigate corruption on Turks and Caicos.

It was felt that the British Virgin Islands themselves lack the ability to investigate allegations of this breadth, scope and seriousness.

Among the claims are ones of political interference in appointments and the criminal justice system – and the misuse of public money on infrastructure and transport projects including $7m (£5m) to an airline that did not exist and more than a million dollars spent on a school fence.

There have also been claims of intimidation towards people in the media and community leadership.

In November 2020, two tonnes of cocaine with a street value of almost £190m was seized, underlining the extent of criminal behaviour on BVI.

The inquiry is set to formally begin in the coming days and is expected last at least six months.

It will be led by the Right Honourable Lord Justice Gary Hickinbottom, an experienced High Court judge.

He will have the power to seize evidence and force witnesses to give evidence.

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COVID-19: 4 million jabs delivered but Boris Johnson warns there will be no ‘open sesame’ of lockdown easing | Politics News

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COVID-19: 4 million jabs delivered but Boris Johnson warns there will be no 'open sesame' of lockdown easing | Politics News

Four million people have now received a coronavirus jab, the prime minister has revealed, as he warned the public there will be no “open sesame” of lockdown easing.

Speaking during a visit to the manufacturing facility for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Boris Johnson said the UK was rolling out COVID-19 vaccines “as fast as we can”.

Live COVID news from UK and around the world

“I think we’ve done more than half of the over-80s, half of the people in care homes, the elderly residents of care homes,” he said.

According to the latest figures from Public Health England, a total of 4,062,501 people in the UK have received the first dose of a vaccine.

Those over the age of 70 and any adult classed as being clinically extremely vulnerable will, from today, also start being offered a jab.

And Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News earlier that 24-hour vaccination sites will be piloted in London before the end of the month.

Asked about when restrictions could begin to be relaxed, the prime minister said it would be a gradual process and would depend on successfully rolling out the vaccine and no new concerning variants of the virus emerging.

“I understand completely that people want to get back to normal as fast as we possibly can. It does depend on things going well,” Mr Johnson stressed.

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Round-the-clock vaccinations pilot

“It depends on the vaccination programme going well, it depends on there being no new variants that throw our plans out and we have to mitigate against, and it depends on everybody, all of us, remembering that we’re not out of the woods yet.”

The prime minister said the government would be able to “take stock of what we’ve achieved” in the middle of next month – the deadline set to offer a first dose of the vaccine to the most vulnerable.

“That’s the time to look at where the virus is, the extent of the infection and the success that we’ve had,” said Mr Johnson.

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Will the vaccine stay ahead of new variants?

“It’s only really then that we can talk about the way ahead and what steps we can take to relax.

“I’m afraid I’ve got to warn people it will be gradual, you can’t just open up in a great open sesame, in a great bang, because I’m afraid the situation is still pretty precarious.”

Mr Johnson again maintained that things would look “very different” by spring.

He said: “That doesn’t mean we are not going to be living with the consequences of the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic for a while to come – the economic consequences and the threat to our health as well.

“We have to remain vigilant about this for a long time.”

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US Capitol Complex put in lockdown due to ‘external security threat’ | US News

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US Capitol Complex put in lockdown due to 'external security threat' | US News

The US Capitol Complex has been put in lockdown with no entry or exit due to an “external security threat”.

US Capitol Police issued a warning to all buildings within the complex.

A notice sent to House and Senate offices read:  “All buildings within the Capitol Complex: Due to an external security threat located under the bridge on I-295 at First and F Streets SE, no entry or exit is permitted at this time.

“You may move throughout the buildings but stay away from exterior windows and doors.

“If you are outside, seek cover.”

The Capitol Complex on the National Mall in Washington DC, is a group of 20 buildings and offices surrounding the Capitol building itself, that are used by the federal government and its departments.

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