CategoryIreland

First doses of Pfizer jab arrive in Northern Ireland

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The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine have arrived in Northern Ireland.

Nearly 25,000 doses arrived in Belfast on Friday – it is hoped it will be the first of several deliveries this month.

Health Minister Robin Swann said confirmation of which groups will get the vaccine first is due next week.

There will be dummy runs at various locations, and the first administration of the vaccine could happen early next week, BBC News NI understands.

Mr Swann said there was “a long journey ahead of us but we can be optimistic”.

He added: “Vaccinators will be the first to receive the vaccine, followed swiftly by priority groups.

“We are being guided on prioritisation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

“It has identified care home residents and staff and health and social care workers as priority groups.”

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UK – A shrinking epidemic – R rate between 0.8 and 1.0

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Across the UK, the epidemic is falling by between 1% and 3% a day, according to the latest estimates from Sage.

The R values in England, Scotland and Wales are all believed to be between 0.8 and 1.0.

It’s the first time since September that Sage believe that there’s a good chance that infections are falling in every region in England. While official estimates of R in Northern Ireland are around 1, the good news is that infections have been falling since the start of the month, and are lower than the rest of the UK.

Scientists say that these are the two numbers to keep an eye on.

The infection rates from surveys like the one led by the ONS tell us how good or bad things are – how many people have the virus.

And R tells us whether the epidemic is growing (above 1) or shrinking (below 1) – and where we can expect the infection rates to go next.

Falling infections in England, Scotland and Wales are good news – they mean fewer deaths in weeks to come – but infection levels in the three nations are still roughly where they were in the middle weeks of October.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-55184009

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White House considers lifting European travel restrictions

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The White House is considering rescinding entry bans for most non-U.S. citizens who recently were in Brazil, Britain, Ireland and 26 other European countries, five U.S. and airline officials told Reuters.

The Trump administration imposed the bans in a bid to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic. It is not considering lifting separate entry bans on most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in China or Iran, the officials said.

The plan has won the backing of White House coronavirus task-force members, public health and other federal agencies, the people briefed on the matter said, but President Donald Trump has not made a final decision and the timing remains uncertain.

The White House, Department of Homeland Security and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not comment.

Many administration officials argue the restrictions no longer make sense given that most countries around the world are not subject to the entry ban. They contend lifting the restrictions would be a boost to struggling U.S. airlines, which have seen international travel fall by 70%, according to airline industry data.

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Infection rates levelling off in England and Scotland

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Coronavirus infection rates are levelling off in England and Scotland and decreasing in Wales and Northern Ireland, latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests.

It shows rates in school-age children are still rising while falling in young adults.

The R number for the UK continues to fall and is now between 1 and 1.1.

But that doesn’t yet reflect the impact of the second lockdown in England, introduced on 5 November.

The government’s scientific advisers, Sage, say the epidemic in the north-west of England is now shrinking, although infection levels in the region still remain high.

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R number for UK has fallen to between 1 and 1.2

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The R number for the UK has fallen to between 1 and 1.2, the closest it’s been to 1 since early September.

It comes as the Office for National Statistics says the number of people infected with coronavirus is slowing down.

Data up to 6 November, the day after England’s second lockdown began, shows infections falling in the north west but rising in the south and Midlands.

In Northern Ireland, infection rates were levelling off, the ONS says.

But in Wales rising infection levels were still continuing.

And it’s too early to say if they were stabilising a week ago in Scotland.

Although growth may be slowing in some parts of the country, the government’s scientific advisers say “significant levels of healthcare demand and mortality will persist until R is reduced to and remains well below 1 for an extended period of time”.

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Ireland’s R number drops below one

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The R-rate of Covid-19 transmission in the Republic of Ireland has dropped below 1, according to the country’s health minister.

Stephen Donnelly told the Dáil (Irish parliament) health committee it was sitting between 0.7 and 0.9.

The R-rate indicates how many others someone with coronavirus could go on to infect.

The news comes two weeks after the Irish government imposed its toughest Level 5 restrictions nationwide.

The measures, broadly similar to the spring lockdown, were to be in place for six weeks, but will be reviewed after four.

On Wednesday, Mr Donnelly said there had been positive signs in recent days that the virus rate had fallen in 23 out of 26 counties.

He said the current 14-day incidence rate is 228 cases per 100,000 people.

This compares to 278 per 100,000 in the previous 14-day period.

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Republic of Ireland could begin vaccinations in early 2021, says Leo Varadkar

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The Republic of Ireland could start vaccinating vulnerable people against coronavirus early next year, deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar, who is a qualified doctor, said a COVID-19 inoculation could be approved in a couple of months.

He told RTE radio: “I’m increasingly optimistic, as is government, that we will see a vaccine approved in the next couple of months and that in the first half or first quarter of next year it’ll be possible to start vaccinating those most at risk.”

https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-republic-of-ireland-could-begin-vaccinations-in-early-2021-says-leo-varadkar-12114248HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Ireland could be among first to receive coronavirus vaccine that may be ready ‘within weeks’

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The boss at the Irish branch of one of the world’s biggest drug companies has raised hopes of a coronavirus vaccine “within weeks”.

Paul Reid, managing director of Pfizer Ireland, said his firm’s experimental jab could be approved by the end of next month and Ireland could be among the first to receive a batch.

Pfizer already has 100 million doses ready and is waiting for the green light from authorities in Europe and the US.

Mr Reid told the Irish Independent the vaccine involves two doses and is being tested on 44,000 people aged 12 and upwards.

He said: “We are accelerating through the clinical trial programme at breakneck speed.

“We are seeing a speed of recruitment into the trials that we have never seen before. Already 40,000 have been recruited.

“We have over 35,000 participants who received the second dose of the vaccine.”

A spokesperson for Pfizer Ireland told Dublin Live that submitting the vaccine for emergency use authorisation to the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency next month were major milestones.

https://www.dublinlive.ie/news/health/coronavirus-ireland-vaccine-ireland-pfizer-19160492HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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US authorities exploring use of testing to ease air travel restrictions between NYC and London

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After months of stringent international travel restrictions, efforts are underway to open travel between London and New York City, according to sources familiar with the plans.

There is ongoing planning for a pilot program that would use a combination of testing and quarantines to help get international air traffic moving again, according to one of the sources familiar with the plans. The NYC-London route would be a pilot route for the program.

However, the program is “far from a done deal yet,” the source said.

Earlier this year, the US implemented a set of severe travel restrictions as the Trump administration grappled with how to handle the spreading coronavirus pandemic, which included banning travelers from dozens of countries, rerouting flights and diverting thousands of airline passengers for medical screening. In March, the administration expanded its restrictions from Europe to include the United Kingdom and Ireland as it tried to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The US had already blocked certain travel from Iran and China.

A Department of Homeland Security official told CNN: “We’re at the early stages of working with our interagency partners, the industry, and our international partners for means to safely encourage transatlantic travel while mitigating public health risks.”

Officials are hoping to open travel between the two cities before the end of the year, but there are still details to be worked out and the timing is unclear, an administration official said. “We want to get to a program. We are trying to figure out what an opening would look like,” such as “what criteria we would have to meet” and “who would be responsible,” the official said.

To open travel, officials are going to want a “recent negative test,” but it is still unclear who would collect the information and verify the results, according to an administration official. “Who is going to verify the negative test? Who will do that — TSA, the airlines? It hasn’t matured yet to a pilot program yet,” the official said.

Knowing that quarantines aren’t something the US has been able to enforce, it may be a recommendation but likely not a requirement to allow trans-Atlantic travel, the official said.

On September 22, the International Air Transport Association called for coronavirus testing at airports as a requirement for all passengers and airplane crew members before international flights.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/12/politics/testing-ease-air-travel-nyc-london/index.htmlHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Chuck Feeney: The billionaire who gave it all away

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Becoming a billionaire would be, for most of us, the very apex of achievement – and a very unrealistic dream come true.

Chuck Feeney lived that dream but he wasn’t content simply with becoming a billionaire – no, he set himself a further a goal.

To give away his entire multi-billion dollar fortune while he was still living.

The 89-year-old American businessman has now achieved that, donating almost $9bn (£7bn) worldwide.

And through his private foundation the Atlantic Philanthropies, Mr Feeney, born to Irish-American parents, gave $570m (£447m) to causes in Northern Ireland over four decades.

Who is Chuck Feeney?

Charles F Feeney was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1931, during the Great Depression.

His mother worked as a hospital nurse and his father was an insurance underwriter.

The philanthropist traces his family history back to County Fermanagh, where his grandmother was brought up close to the village of Kinawley.

The entrepreneur made his money selling luxury duty free goods to travellers across the world, but he rejected the trappings of wealth himself.

For the first 15 years of his philanthropic mission, Mr Feeney donated money in secret leading to him being dubbed the James Bond of philanthropy, only emerging from anonymity in 1997.

He now lives in a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco with his wife Helga, having travelled extensively to examine projects to donate to.

Christopher Oechsli, president of the Atlantic Philanthropies, said it was “an honour” to support so many projects in Northern Ireland since first beginning its operations here in 1991.

“It’s heartening to see the progress made and the way groups Atlantic supported continue to drive change in these challenging times,” he said.

“That’s the legacy.”

According to biographer Conor O’Clery, Chuck Feeney is “very happy” that he has now completed his almost 40-year mission and celebrated the milestone with wife Helga.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-54300268HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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