Posted on February 2021 By Jamie Southwell
The Health Sectary, Matt Hancock, presented tonight's briefing. Alongside him were the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, and NHS England's Medical Director, Nikki Kanani.
Key points from the conference:
Matt Hancock started the briefing with the latest data regarding the coronavirus. There are currently a total of 29, 326 patients with the virus in hospitals across the UK with 841 average daily deaths.
The Health Secretary referring to the United Kingdom's vaccination progress has stated that over 12.2 million people have already been vaccinated with over 91% of those above 80 vaccinated, 95% of those between 74-79 vaccinated, and 75% of those between 70-74 vaccinated.
The vaccination program is still on track to meet our goal of everyone in groups 1 to 4 receiving the jab by the 15th of February reiterated Hancock.
Echoing the government announcement from earlier today, those aged 70 and over are to contact the NHS through the national booking service at nhs.uk or call 119 or speak to your local GP practice instead of waiting for the NHS to contact you.
"While we use the vaccination program to go on the offensive against this virus, it is very important to keep our defences up as well" Matt Hancock stated, referring to the increase in UK testing with over 4.5 million tests being carried out every single week. NHS Test and Trace is returning 97% of in person tests by the next day. Contact tracing has already reached 97% of contacts, 98% of which have been contacted with 24 hours.
Continuing with the positive news, we are informed of a new partnership with the Derby based manufacturer SureScreen to bolster the onshore test manufacturing capabilities. They will provide over 20 million rapid tests which can deliver results within 30 minutes and will be used with the UK's asymptomatic testing program to help find the 1 in 3 people who have the virus yet show no symptoms.
In response to employers expressing how useful early identification is, the Health Secretary has confirmed that the government will be offering regular workplace testing to all businesses with over 50 employees in sectors that are currently open. Nevertheless, he reiterates that those who can work from home, should work from home.
He then talked about the importance of tackling the new coronavirus variants. "It is imperative that our vaccination programme keeps pace with any changes to this virus."
The existing vaccines have some effect against the new variants especially in the severe cases, but may require a booster jab specifically targeting these new variants. Matt Hancock revealed a partnership between the vaccine company CureVac to develop vaccines that can be quickly adapted as new strains are identified in a similar manner to the flu vaccine.
Before turning to Nikki Kamani, Hancock stressed that the most important thing that you can do is "Get the jab when the time comes. Stay at home. Protect the NHS and save lives."
The Medical Director starts by paying tribute to her NHS colleagues who have been "working tirelessly" from car park marshalls to those planning the vaccination program. With over 1500 vaccination sites set up across the country with 28,000 vaccinations being administered hourly in the past weekend.
Jonathan Van Tam speaks last when answering questions about the South African strain. He states it will likely not catch up or overtake the dominant Kent variant.
To read the key points from previous government coronavirus conferences click here