UK strikes deals for two antiviral drugs to help combat coronavirus surge this winter


Health Secretary Sajid Javid has hailed two new additions to the UK’s “armoury of life-saving measures” to tackle COVID-19 as he announced the purchase of 730,000 doses of possible coronavirus treatments.

The government’s antivirals taskforce has struck deals for two new coronavirus treatments, which – if they are approved by the medicines regulator – are expected to be given to those most vulnerable to COVID-19.

The agreements have seen the UK secure 480,000 courses of Molnupiravir – produced by Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) – which has been proven in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk non-hospitalised adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms by 50%.

The US has already struck a $1.2bn deal to purchase around 1.7m courses of Molnupiravir, should it be approved by the American regulator.

Record number of coronavirus booster jabs administered – with 800,000 given in past 72 hours


A “record number” of coronavirus booster jabs were administered on Saturday, with more than 800,000 inoculations given in the past 72 hours, the NHS has said.

A total of 5.1 million third jabs have been given, with around half of people aged 50 and over – and those who are currently eligible – being given a dose.

Saturday was the biggest booster day on record, with 325,140 vaccines given.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, said: “It’s fantastic to see so many coming forward to book in their vital vaccination.

“Getting your booster jab is essential and is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones this winter – the vaccine is safe and effective so please do go online if you’re eligible or call 119 to book in for your lifesaving booster today.”

First signs booster shots starting to work in England?


Vaccinated people are less likely to spread Covid, new research finds


People who are vaccinated against Covid-19 are less likely to spread the virus even if they become infected, a new study finds, adding to a growing body of evidence that vaccines can reduce transmission of the delta variant.

British scientists at the University of Oxford examined national records of nearly 150,000 contacts that were traced from roughly 100,000 initial cases. The samples included people who were fully or partially vaccinated with either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the AstraZeneca vaccines, as well as people who were unvaccinated. The researchers then looked at how the vaccines affected the spread of the virus if a person had a breakthrough infection with either the alpha variant or the highly contagious delta variant.

Both vaccines reduced transmission, although they were more effective against the alpha variant compared to the delta variant. When infected with the delta variant, a given contact was 65 percent less likely to test positive if the person from whom the exposure occurred was fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. With AstraZeneca, a given contact was 36 percent less likely to test positive if the person from whom the exposure occurred was fully vaccinated.

The risk of transmission from a breakthrough infection was much higher if someone had received just one dose of either vaccine.

Two million booster jabs given in England


More than two million Covid booster jabs have been given out, NHS England has said, amid concern about how the health service will cope this winter.

England’s chief nursing officer, Ruth May, said it was “fantastic” that people were topping up protection.

The over-50s and people with health conditions are among those being offered a third jab.

Third jabs are being given to people in certain groups at least six months after their second dose.

Ms May said so many people had received a booster shot in England because of the “incredible efforts of NHS staff”.

The wave of job cuts many expected at the end of the furlough scheme has not happened


The wave of job cuts many expected at the end of the furlough scheme has not happened, early data suggests.

The number of redundancies proposed by employers in September was close to record lows.

Many businesses with large numbers of furloughed workers say they have taken everyone back, and unions had not heard of major redundancy processes.

Around one million workers were thought to be on furlough when the scheme ended.

The furlough scheme, where government paid a proportion of workers’ wages when their employers couldn’t, ended in September after 18 months.

There were concerns that many employers would not be able to pay their workers’ wages when the scheme ended, and would have to cut jobs.

‘Covid-19 will become like common cold’ by next spring, say experts who claim worst of pandemic is over

Covid-19 could soon resemble the common cold as the virus weakens and people’s immunity is boosted by vaccines and exposure, two leading experts have said.

Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, has claimed the coronavirus could become like a cold by as soon as next spring.

He also claimed the UK “is over the worst” of the pandemic and things “should be fine” once winter has passed.

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, the co-creator of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, has made similar claims and said Covid-19 will become like a cold as it is unlikely to mutate into a dangerous variant.

Speaking to a Royal Society of Medicine webinar last night, she said that viruses tend to become weaker as they spread.

She said: “We normally see that viruses become less virulent as they circulate more easily and there is no reason to think we will have a more virulent version of Sars-CoV-2 [Covid-19].

“We tend to see slow genetic drift of the virus and there will be gradual immunity developing in the population as there is to all the other seasonal coronaviruses.”

Seasonal coronaviruses cause colds, and Dame Sarah said: “Eventually Sars-CoV-2 will become one of those.”

Ronapreve: ‘Most vulnerable’ to get new Covid drug next week


The UK’s “most vulnerable” hospital patients, who are unable to build up an antibody response to Covid, will be offered new drug Ronapreve from Monday.

The new Covid treatment, approved just last month, uses a pair of laboratory-made antibodies to attack the virus.

It was famously used as part of the suite of experimental medicines given to US President Donald Trump last year.

The antibody cocktail has been shown to reduce hospital stays by four days and cut the risk of death by a fifth.

The government said it had secured sufficient supply of the new therapeutic for eligible NHS patients across the four nations to cover the forthcoming winter.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he was “thrilled it will be saving lives from as early as next week”.

“The UK is leading the world in identifying and rolling out life-saving medicines, particularly for Covid 19, and we will continue our vital work to find the best treatments available to save lives and protect the NHS,” he said.

Long Covid less common than feared – ONS study


One in 40 people with coronavirus has symptoms lasting at least three months, Office for National Statistics figures suggest.

In April, an ONS report put the proportion at about one in every 10.

The latest, large and comprehensive analysis suggests long Covid may be less common than previously thought.

Like many other reports, the analysis suggests women, 50- to 69-year-olds and people with other long-term health conditions are the most likely to have some of these symptoms 12 weeks after a Covid infection.