UK COVID-19 Update: Latest on Jabs vs Variants, More Self-isolation Support

Tim Locke

May 24, 2021

These are the UK coronavirus stories you need to know about today.

Latest on Jabs vs Variants

A preprint study by Public Health England (PHE) has found that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Indian SARS-CoV-2 variant.

The study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 (Indian) variant 2 weeks after the second dose, compared to 93% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant.

Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were 60% effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant compared to 66% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant.

Both vaccines were 33% effective against symptomatic disease from B.1.617.2, three weeks after the first dose compared to around 50% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant.

More Self-isolation Support

More support is being given to people self-isolating in nine areas of England as part of pilots to encourage more testing and adherence to self-isolation rules.

Measures include alternative accommodation for people in overcrowded households, social care support, mental health and language support.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We recognise just how challenging self-isolation is for many people and these pilots will help us find the best ways to support people and making it easier for everyone to keep doing their bit."

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, welcomed the announcement but said: "Health leaders know there is still more to do to ensure the test and trace system is working as effectively as possible. There is still the very real risk that some people simply will not be able to afford to self-isolate, which in turn, could discourage them from getting tested at all. The Government must go further to make good on its commitment to overcome these barriers."
 

Travel Traffic Light Grey Area

Spain began welcoming UK tourists again today despite the country being on the 'amber' COVID-19 travel list requiring extra testing and 10-day self-isolation at home.

Business Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan told Sky News: "The Prime Minister has been clear that, for now, amber means please don’t go unless there is an urgent family reason...because we are still trying to slowly move through our road map to being able to open up on June 21 and we want to do that in a steady and careful way."

 "At the moment," she added, "amber countries really aren’t safe to go to."

Latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data show UK residents made 74% fewer trips abroad last year compared with the previous year because of the pandemic.

More News

  • Indoor hospitality and tourism venues reopened in Northern Ireland today in its latest easing of lockdown measures. The limits on outdoor gatherings have been increased to 500 people.

  • Data from Healthwatch England show 80% of people struggled to get timely access to dental care under lockdown. The watchdog found some people were told to wait 3 years for an NHS appointment while private patients got appointments within a week.

  • The Duchess of Cambridge praised nurses for their role in the pandemic response in a video message for Nursing Now. "COVID-19 has highlighted the vital role that nurses provide which we all rely on and it’s made all the more extraordinary when we consider the huge sacrifices and personal demands that have been placed on all of you by the pandemic," Kate said.

  • Around 72% of UK adults have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to figures released on Sunday. NHS England is now sending text messages inviting 32- and 33-year-olds to book vaccination appointments.

  • British athletes and support staff will be offered full COVID-19 vaccination ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as part of a deal between the International Olympic Committee and Pfizer.

  • A study of sewage and waste water to detect local COVID-19 outbreaks is being extended with more sequencing capacity to support detection of virus variants. The Environmental Monitoring for Health Protection (EMHP) Programme now covers more than two thirds of the population of England.

  • In a controlled environment specially trained dogs were able to detect COVID-19 on masks, socks, and t-shirts with accuracy of up to 94%, according to a London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Medical Detection Dogs, and Durham University preprint study.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

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