Scientists at Oxford believe they have made a breakthrough after discovering a Covid-19 vaccine may be able to provide “double protection” against the virus.
The trial in healthy adult volunteers, which began in April, reportedly showed the vaccine generated an immune response, with blood samples indicating it stimulated the body to produce both antibodies and “killer T-cells”. The combination of the two responses “will hopefully keep people safe”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday that teams were working towards a “best case scenario” of a vaccine being made available some time this year, although conceded it was more likely in 2021.
It comes as the death toll in the UK rose by 66 on Thursday. No deaths were reported in Northern Ireland and Wales, while England recorded 19 and Scotland recorded one.
Follow our live updates here…
Netflix boosts global subscriptions by more than 10m amid pandemic
Netflix boosted its total number of global subscriptions by more than 10 million in the last quarter amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The streaming giant has now seen the number of paid memberships it receives grow by 26 million in the first half this year, according to a company letter to shareholders.
The figure is nearly on a par with the 28 million that were added throughout the whole of 2019 and the company has exceeded its targets.
The meeting was adjourned before it even started:
Read Russia’s reaction here:
Leicester mayor hits out at ‘political’ decision to keep city-wide restrictions
Leicester’s mayor responded to the partial easing of lockdown restrictions by accusing the Government of attempting to penalise the city’s businesses and residents.
Commenting to media gathered at Leicester’s City Hall, Sir Peter Soulsby criticised Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s decision to keep some restrictions in force across the Labour-run city of Leicester and Liberal Democrat-controlled Oadby and Wigston.
Sir Peter said: “They have chosen to focus on the city geographical area – effectively the area of the county that votes Labour, and that’s just scandalous.
“If they were going to alter the boundary, they should have gone down to the area that they now know where the virus is.
“They have left two areas in there – one that has a Liberal Democrat council, the other that has a Labour mayor.”
Sir Peter added: “The fact is they have focused in a way that is clearly party political and that’s not a way to deal with the virus.
“That’s not a way to deal with the people who will be very angry and very frustrated that they are being punished for the way in which they voted.”
He went on: “I am determined of course to continue to focus on what the data now does tell us – to continue to focus on the neighbourhoods, the streets, the households, where we now know there is the virus.
“They are prepared not just to penalise this city, but also to penalise its economy.
“Because right at the start of this, there were promises from the Secretary of State that there would be a financial package – compensation scheme – for our businesses that are being held back.
“Now two weeks on, he’s still not delivering on that promise.
“That obviously is a matter of great concern to me and those who care about the future wellbeing of this city.”
Here’s the latest from Leicester:
Leicestershire County Council said changes to the lockdown boundary would come into effect on July 24.
Restrictions will only apply in the city of Leicester and the borough of Oadby and Wigston.
Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, said: “I’m acutely aware that residents and businesses in the wider lockdown zone have found the last few weeks extremely tough. I’m pleased that the Secretary of State has listened to concerns and agreed to change the boundary. I have now heard from the Department for Health and Social Care about the timing of the boundary change and it will be from 24 July.
“We need to stop the spread of this deadly virus and we’re taking bold and decisive action to do just that. Oadby and Wigston remains a hot spot and that’s why we’re asking people in part of the borough to get tested, whether they have symptoms or not. The response from residents has been tremendous and I want to thank them for heeding our call.
“I know everyone in Oadby and Wigston will be disappointed they are not coming out of lockdown yet, but it is so far above the national average for cases that we have to remain cautious. I understand why they have campaigned vigorously not to be in lockdown and I hope that the current improvements will bring that closer.”
A Leicester woman with incurable cancer said she feels “frustrated” with the continuing lockdown.
Michelle Teale, 58, has stage four breast cancer which is “treatable but not curable”, putting her in the shielding group for Covid-19.
She has not seen her 85-year-old mother, who lives more than 100 miles away, for over 20 weeks. They had been planning a reunion when the city first went into lockdown.
Each week that goes by is another week taken away from me.
It’s frustrating. And yet again, he never said anything about shielding people. We seem to be the forgotten people and that’s what I find so frustrating, we are the last people to get mentioned.
There must be hundreds of us in Leicester who don’t live near our families.
Her husband has also been unable to see his grown-up children since January.
She said: “We didn’t think it was going to be good news, and now we just have to wait. We are trying to make the days go by as quickly as possible without wishing our lives away.”
Leicester’s Labour mayor Sir Peter Soulsby reacted to the Government announcement by accusing Mr Hancock of a politically motivated attempt to penalise the city and its economy.
Commenting to media gathered at Leicester’s City Hall, Sir Peter said:
What they have chosen to do now is not to focus on the areas of the city where the virus is and where we actually need to be putting our attention.
They have chosen to focus on the city geographical area – effectively the area of the county that votes Labour, and that’s just scandalous.
If they were going to alter the boundary, they should have gone down to the area that they now know where the virus is.
They have left two areas in there – one that has a Liberal Democrat council, the other that has a Labour mayor.
I am determined of course to continue to focus on what the data now does tell us – to continue to focus in the neighbourhoods, the streets, the households, where we now know there is the virus.
Labour’s Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) asked about the Sage recommendation to impose lockdown on March 16, adding:
The Secretary of State has just suggested he responded by advising people to practise social distancing on that date, but advising people to socially distance is not the same as imposing a lockdown.
That week-long delay could have cost thousands of lives. So I ask the Secretary of State: why did the Government fail to act when Sage called on it to and does the Secretary of State regret this delay?
Mr Hancock replied: “She’s trying again… on March 16 I said to this House, and it was welcomed by the front bench opposite, ‘today we’re advising people against all unnecessary social contact with others and all unnecessary travel’.
“That is when the lockdown truly started.”
DUP MP Jim Shannon (Strangford) said the Government must clarify its message on face coverings, adding: “Many people are questioning the appropriate time and appropriate place to wear a mask.”
Mr Hancock replied: “It is going to be, by July 24, mandatory to wear a mask in a shop, on public transport and in any NHS setting, and then it is recommended in a broader set of settings.
“That is based on medical advice and also on the judgment that we want to also bring confidence to people that they can and should go shopping, precisely because of the economic benefits that brings.”
Mr Hancock, in response to Conservative former minister Dame Cheryl Gillan, committed to ensure the clinical decision-makers who make recommendations on the order of priority for any vaccine – flu or coronavirus – take a “specific look at the latest evidence on epilepsy”.
Mr Hancock said it is vital that national resources are used to get to the bottom of the “sore” of modern-day slavery in Leicester.
Conservative MP Peter Bone (Wellingborough) said: “This week there was a report from the Centre for Social Justice saying that we have a hundred thousand modern-day slaves in this country.
“Now it appears that many of those are in Leicester and that unfortunately created this high infection rate. What is the Government going to do to look into this matter and if this is happening, clamp down very hard on the people that are causing it?”
Mr Hancock responded: “The allegations that (Mr Bone) makes are ones that have been widely made and are widely understood to be a potential part of the problem.
“I speak carefully in terms of the language because I know that there’s ongoing operations, both to deal with the public health problem and to deal with other illegality.
“This is a sore that has long gone untreated and undealt with in Leicester, and it is absolutely vital that we add national resources to make sure that we get to the bottom of this problem in Leicester once and for all.”
Mr Hancock said he would be “absolutely open” to creating a national day of recognition for NHS and key workers.
Responding to Labour MP Janet Daby (Lewisham East), he said: “I’ll certainly look at it. It seems like a very interesting idea.
“I think Clap for our Carers was an absolutely brilliant initiative, I love the fact that it was essentially… a social initiative, it didn’t come from Government, we embraced it enthusiastically and all went out clapping, as did everybody.
“And a way to mark that permanently is something that I’m absolutely open to.”
Labour MP Chris Bryant (Rhondda) asked about the security of the UK’s vaccine processes in light of reports that cyber-attacks had been launched.
He said: “How secure are we ensuring the vaccine processes in the UK from cyber-attack from elsewhere, and is there anything further that we need to do make sure that other countries aren’t looking on this as some kind of stupid competition? We’re all in this together, aren’t we?”
Mr Hancock responded: “Absolutely, our approach is that the vaccines that are developed in the UK, supported by UK Government and ultimately UK taxpayers’ money, are there of course to provide protection should they come off to the UK population, but so too to the population around the world.
“With respect to the question about cyber-security and potential hacking, he’ll understand why I can’t go into full details, but I can reassure him that the National Cyber Security Centre is taking this very seriously.”
Tory former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was concerned about variances between hospitals in the number of people dying of Covid-19.
He said: “I want to ask the secretary of state about the worrying variation in coronavirus mortality rates between hospitals which appear to range from 12.5% to 80%.
“Now there may be some issues of deprivation or ethnicity, but some of that variation is likely to be a failure in some hospitals to adopt best practice, which is what the ‘Getting It Right First Time’ programme led by Professor Tim Briggs does.”
He asked if Mr Hancock would agree to a meeting.
Mr Hancock replied: “The unjustified variation in performance between different hospitals within the NHS is a huge issue across the board, because if the standards in every hospital were the same as the standards in the best hospital the performance of the whole would be so much higher.
“That is exactly what the ‘Getting It Right First Time’ programme was designed to deliver, it was instigated by my right honourable friend (Mr Hunt), and I’d be very happy to listen to what both he and Professor Briggs have got to say.”
Read the full story here:
Leicester lockdown to begin easing on July 24, Hancock announces
Leicester’s local lockdown will see “some” restrictions eased from July 24, Matt Hancock has announced as he warned: “There is still a lot to do”.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, the Health Secretary said that measures will be lifted in some areas like schools but he refused to allow the reopening of pubs.
The city was plunged into a localised lockdown after it saw a spike in cases last month but Mr Hancock said the seven-day infection rate has gone down.
The Royal Parks has launched a campaign:
Lockdown’s rubbish: Litter louts dump 20 buses of trash in Royal Parks
Litter louts dumped the weight of 74 elephants in rubbish across London’s parks last month, as sun seekers flocked outside to enjoy eased lockdown restrictions.
The Royal Parks charity said that staff saw 258.40 tonnes of trash collected from eight parks in June alone – the equivalent weight of 20 new London buses. The amount of rubbish jumped by a third compared with June 2019, the charity said.
Mr Hancock responded to chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance’s comment that the Government was advised to implement lockdown measures earlier than they did.
Mr Hancock said: “Of course 16 March is the day when I came to this House and said that all unnecessary social contact should cease. That is precisely when the lockdown was started and… it is unusual to be attacked for saying exactly the same as the chief scientific adviser.”
On calls to reimburse Leicester families for their holidays, he added: “Of course I would urge holiday companies that people in Leicester have booked with to reimburse people in Leicester who might have booked a holiday at this point.
Mr Hancock added: “I think we across the whole House would strongly support action to ensure that illegal, insecure work is stamped out. The Home Secretary is taking action where that is appropriate, but of course, the public health response is vital.”
On the geographical nature of Leicester’s lockdown, he continued: “I gave the mayor of Leicester the opportunity to put forward any changes he might have wanted within the city boundary but he declined to do so.”
Mr Ashworth asked the Health Secretary what was wrong with the Randox test kits and how many had been used.
He said: “Is there a health risk to anyone who has been tested with these kits? And how many people have these unsafe kits been used on and why weren’t the certifications checked before these kits were used?
“These kits tend to be used in many care homes. We want care home residents to be tested regularly, we want care home staff to be tested regularly – can he guarantee that those care homes will now get alternative kits rapidly?”
Mr Hancock replied: “The reason is that they had a CE stamp and upon investigation of the certification of that stamp the certification was not forthcoming, and therefore physical checks were done and we found that the swabs weren’t up to the standards that we expect.
“This is limited to the Randox element of the testing system, not the broader testing system that we have, and I explained the clinical position which is that there is no evidence of any harm having been done and that there is full access to testing because we have plenty of other test kits available.”
Mr Ashworth called on Mr Hancock to ensure people in the city who have booked foreign holidays during “Leicester fortnight” are reimbursed now they are unable to leave.
The Labour MP said: “We also know we have a large ethnic minority community, so can he explain why he has not yet implemented the recommendations of the Public Health England report into protecting those from minority ethnic backgrounds?
“And of course, there has been widespread speculation about the garment industry. Can he tell us how many HSC inspections and how many HMRC inspections have now taken place in Leicester’s textile factories, particularly since the Home Secretary a couple of weeks ago promised us she would stamp out any illegal exploitation?”
Mr Ashworth also called for Mr Hancock to explain the public health reasons behind the geographical nature of the restriction changes.
Mr Ashworth welcomed extra testing in Leicester and paid tribute to those living in the city for their efforts during 17 weeks of lockdown.
The Labour frontbencher, who is MP for Leicester South, told the Commons: “If we still have to make further personal sacrifice to keep people safe and hunt this virus down with the lockdown, then so be it.
“But there’s no question there will be a degree of dismay across the city in response to the Secretary of State’s remarks.”
Mr Ashworth said many businesses will want to know if they can get extra support if they cannot reopen.
Send your news and stories to us email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and WhatsApp: +447747873668.
Before you go...
Democratic norms are being stress-tested all over the world, and the past few years have thrown up all kinds of questions we didn't know needed clarifying – how long is too long for a parliamentary prorogation? How far should politicians be allowed to intervene in court cases? To monitor these issues as closely as we have in the past we need your support, so please consider donating to The Climax News Room.