By Powerscourt on 12/12/2020

Powerscourt Coronavirus Briefing – 12 December 2020


International claim to vaccine fame has begun

It’s official, the US has approved the PfizerBioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, just days after 90-year-old Margaret Keenan received the UK’s first jab. Determined to make the vaccine a part of his legacy President Trump put heavy pressure on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give a speedy approval. The FDA commissioner was reportedly told he would lose his job if he didn’t approve it soon according to US media. 

Trump took to Twitter (of course) to congratulate himself, blame China once again and state that the first dose will be administered “in less than 24 hours”, although Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has said more realistically that it will likely be Monday or Tuesday. The US death toll is now over 295,000 according to Reuters.

The vaccine approval is undeniably a turning point in the US’s fight against the virus, but health experts are worried about the consequences of failing to manage the court of public opinion on its safety. Appearing to rush the approval and distribution could further ignite anti-vaxxers.

AstraZenca announced that it is to join forces with the promoters of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V. Astra and the Russians will start trails to establish whether Astra’s Oxford Vaccine is more effective when used in conjunction with elements of Sputnik V. 

In the UK, the government has announced that from Monday those who have been exposed to Covid-19 will only be required to isolate for 10 days instead of the current 14. The move is an attempt to encourage people to quarantine properly, rather than doing it for a few days, getting bored and popping to the pub. A government advisory panel found that only 20% of people who should have self-isolated for 14 days over the summer actually managed to do so.

The requirement has also been reduced for those arriving in the UK from countries not a part of a corridor for quarantine-free travel.

The current tier allocation is up for review later this week. London Mayor Sadiq Khan is determined to prevent the capital from moving to Tier 3, the toughest tier. Fresh data from Public Health England shows that London has the highest rate of cases in the country. In a statement yesterday Khan announced tougher policing of rules and more community testing.

London will see 85 new test centres, 35 of which will be able to deliver results on the spot. Khan also announced an increased presence of police and Covid marshals, greater enforcement of mask-wearing on public transport and more social distancing reminders in high streets and shopping centres.

“Nobody wants the capital to face Tier 3 restrictions: it would be catastrophic for our pubs, bars, restaurants and culture venues,” Khan said. “But with cases rising, we are now at a tipping point, which is why we all have a responsibility to do everything we can to get on top of the virus by following the rules.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted yesterday that we are likely to leave the EU without a trade deal on Dec 31st, causing the sterling to slump.

It fell more than 1% against the dollar to $1.3135, its lowest since Nov. 13, before improving to $1.3230 after Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, said Brexit talks may have to continue beyond the Sunday deadline.

Yesterday’s fall puts the pound on track for a 1.5% drop this week, the poorest performance since September.




Biopharmaceutical giants Pfizer are one of many vaccine-producing firms offering what may be a light at the end of this 2020-long tunnel, with the US also confirming they have now authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. They become the sixth country to do so in the wake of their deadliest week suffered since the beginning of the pandemic. President Donald Trump says the first vaccinations will take place “in less than 24 hours”. “Today our nation has achieved a medical miracle – We have delivered a safe and effective vaccine in just nine months.”



Lateral flow tests pick up only half of Covid-19 cases, study finds – Financial Times

Schools that close for last week of term could face legal action, ministers warn – The Telegraph

‘There will be another nasty virus, but this time Britain will be ready’ – The Times