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What you need to know about the coronavirus vaccines

Hospitals in the south of England have seen a “real rise in pressure” as the number of coronavirus patients receiving treatment heads towards the April peak.  

Paramedics in the capital are receiving almost 8,000 call-outs daily, with Boxing Day described as one of London Ambulance Service’s “busiest ever days”.  

The rise in patients come as hopes grow for the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming days, with volunteers ready to help roll out the jab nationwide, according to reports.  

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, told the BBC “ambulance trusts in particular are coming under extreme pressure, as are community and mental health services” as “many more people” are coming through the door with Covid and other conditions.  

The 7,918 calls received by London Ambulance Service on 26 December was up more than 2,500 on the 5,217 received on the same day last year, and medics are receiving support from other ambulance services in the south. 

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Russia to test new Covid antibody drug in new year

Russia will begin trials of an antibody treatment for Covid-19 patients next year, the head of the Moscow institute that developed Sputnik V, the country’s first vaccine against the new disease, said.

Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Institute, was cited by the RIA news agency as saying that he hoped trials for the new antibody-based drug would begin in the autumn of 2021.

“I hope clinical trials will begin in autumn,” he said. “We need to develop this drug using several technologies at the same time, which is something that is being done right now.”

Russia has been asking Covid-19 patients to donate blood plasma, which is rich in antibodies, for research.

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 14:35

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Scotland cases rise by 967

Scotland has recorded 967 positive coronavirus tests in the past 24 hours, Scottish government figures show.

A total of 120,891 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 119,924 on Sunday.

The daily test positivity rate is 12.2 per cent, down from 12.3 per cent on the previous day.

Information on coronavirus deaths and other statistics related to the virus is next due to be updated on 29 December.

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 14:25

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Schools must only reopen with 2-metre distancing & face masks, union says

Schools must only reopen next month if two-metre distancing between staff and pupils can be guaranteed and with compulsory face coverings, a union says.

And head teachers must be given the option of remaining closed except for vulnerable children and those of key workers in Covid-19 hotspots, the NASUWT has told Gavin Williamson.

The union, representing heads and other teachers, backed reopening next month – but has shifted its stance because of evidence of increased transmission among pupils of the new variant of the disease, writes Rob Merrick.

Jon Sharman28 December 2020 14:17

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German districts unable to use some Covid-19 vaccine shots due to refrigeration problem

Some German districts will not deploy doses of Covid-19 vaccine received over the weekend over fears the cold chain may have been interrupted during its delivery, Reuters reports.

“There were doubts as to whether the cold chain was maintained at all times”, Lichtenfels district administrator Christian Meissner told Reuters TV.

“Biontech commented and said that the vaccine was probably okay, but probably okay is not enough,” he said, adding that the jabs would not be used to avoid damaging public trust in the inoculation campaign.

A Lichtenfels district spokesman said on Sunday that 1,000 jabs earmarked for use in Lichtenfels as well as Coburg, Kronach, Kulmbach, Hof, Bayreuth and Wunsiedel in northern Bavaria had been affected by the temperature problem.

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 14:02

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Doctor who spoke out over Trump’s Covid drive-by stunt says ‘I regret nothing’

The emergency room doctor who was reportedly removed from his hospital’s rota schedule for publicly calling out Donald Trump said he stands by his words and does not regret criticising the president for his “insanity” to wave at supporters while getting treatment for Covid-19, writes Shweta Sharma.

Dr James Phillips, who is chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University, was removed from the schedule at Walter Reed as attending physician after he slammed Mr Trump for waving at his supporters from a car while he was infected with coronavirus and risking the lives of accompanying Secret Service agents in the car.

Jon Sharman28 December 2020 13:45

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Pfizer delays delivery of new batch of Covid vaccine to Spain

Pfizer has postponed the delivery of a new batch of the coronavirus vaccine to Spain by one day to Tuesday due to a logistics hurdle, Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

The company suffered an incident related to the control of temperature in the process of loading and sending out the vaccines, the minister said, adding the incident is now solved.

Jon Sharman28 December 2020 13:29

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New coronavirus variant found in Finland

The new coronavirus variant spreading across the UK has been found in two people in Finland, according to health officials.

It comes despite restrictions placed on travellers from Britain.

Jon Sharman28 December 2020 13:05

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Tory mayor calls for big boost in government support for businesses

The Conservative mayor of the West Midlands has called on the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to more than treble the £3,000 monthly grant for businesses forced to shut by the coronavirus to an average £10,000, as the new variant of Covid-19 threatens to extend the period of shutdown deep into 2021.

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 12:57

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Rising number of Covid patients in hospital ‘extremely worrying’

Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, has said the rising number of coronavirus patients in hospital is “extremely worrying”.

“With the numbers approaching the peaks from April, systems will again be stretched to the limit,” he added.

“It is not ‘just the case’ of using the Nightingale hospital as there are simply no staff for them to run as they were originally intended (mini intensive care units).

“They could play a role perhaps if used as rehabilitation units for those recovering but, again, where do we find the specialist staff – the NHS simply does not have the capacity to spare anyone.”

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 12:43

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Pfizer to complete supply of vaccines to EU by September

The distribution of an initial 200 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine across the European Union will be completed by September, a spokesman for the EU Commission has said.

The protracted timetable, which was previously unknown, confirms the bloc, with a population of 450 million, will need vaccines from other suppliers to speed up inoculations against the new coronavirus.

Most EU countries began inoculating healthcare workers and vulnerable people on Sunday with the Pfizer vaccine, which is the only one so far authorised in the 27-nation bloc, and requires a two-dose regimen.

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 12:21

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