December 3, 2020

UK coronavirus LIVE: Oxford Covid vaccine hope as Christmas mixing ‘could see five days of tighter curbs’ – Evening Standard

Dr Michael Tildesley, who sits on a Sage sub-group, said the vaccine is “going to be hopefully one of the key game changers” because the number of doses acquired by the Government could allow the UK to “reach that magic herd immunity”.

Live updates


Business update: Naked Wines upgrades sales after Covid drives buyers to online drinks

Naked Wines has upgraded its expected sales for the year by more than half as the online merchant boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company said sales are expected to grow between 55 and 65 per cent in the current financial year, half of which has already passed.

In the six months to the end of September, revenue ballooned nearly 80 per cent as people in lockdown turned to online shopping, Naked said.

“Naked Wines is a bigger, better business than it was 12 months ago. The last six months have been a critical period in the development of the company,” said chief executive Nick Devlin.

“We have delivered exceptional growth and a permanent step change in scale and efficiency for the organisation.”

( Naked Wines )

Calls to reopen churches and other places of worship

The Government is facing growing calls to reopen places of worship during the lockdown.

Co-op Funeralcare said its research shows the “devastating impact” the closure of places of worship has on people, resulting in feelings of guilt and isolation.

During the first lockdown in spring, more than half of 1,700 people surveyed had to worship privately at home as venues closed, the Co-op said.

The research highlights the importance of collective worship, showing why such venues should remain open during a second lockdown, according to the report.

Co-op Funeralcare said churches, synagogues, temples and other places of worship also play an important role in communities, hosting events and groups that bring people together and provide much-needed support.

One in five of those surveyed, whose place of worship closed, said they were unable to attend the funeral of a loved one.

Sam Tyrer, managing director of Co-op Funeralcare, said: “Over the past year, we have seen just how important it is that communities come together and support one another during these devastating times.

“This research shows that, for many, places of worship are an incredibly important part of that and their closure is having a real impact on people’s wellbeing.

“Whilst it is clear that tough decisions have been made to curb the spread of Covid-19, the closure of places of worship may have unintended consequences on the wellbeing of those that rely on them, particularly the bereaved.

“We urge government to consider the health and wellbeing of individuals for whom places of worship and collective worship are critical and consider allowing such venues to fully reopen safely during lockdown.”


Coronavirus testing sites open at Dublin Airport

Two coronavirus testing facilities are opening at Dublin Airport.

Passengers and the general public will be able to take either a drive-through or walk-in test.

The sites will initially have the capacity for up to 12,000 tests per day, but the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) said this will soon be increased to 15,000.

The facilities will be operated by healthcare firms Randox and RocDoc, and both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) testing will be available, with prices starting at 99 euro.

Sophie Boyd, project manager for Randox’s testing service at the airport, said: “We have significant capacity in place to implement high volume PCR testing, which is currently the only method of Covid-19 testing recognised and approved by every country worldwide.”

DAA managing director Vincent Harrison said: “We have been keen to provide testing at Dublin Airport for some time and the Government’s recent decision to grant planning exemption, which we strongly welcome, will enable two testing facilities to open this Thursday.”

There is fresh demand for travel-related Covid-19 testing following the introduction of the EU traffic light system in Ireland and across Europe.

Several countries now require travellers to have had a negative Covid-19 test prior to their journey.

( PA )

Here’s what a top Sage expert has to say about Christmas plans…


Business update: B&Q owner Kingfisher sees sales boosted by home improvement boom

B&Q owner Kingfisher has reported a sales jump over the past three months as the pandemic helped drive spending on home improvements.

It revealed total group sales rose by 17.6 per cent to £3.5 billion for the quarter to October 31, with a 17.4 per cent increase in like-for-like sales.

The company, which also runs Screwfix in the UK, said it saw like-for-like sales growth slow to 12.6 per cent in the first weeks of the current quarter as it was impacted by a tightening of restrictions across Europe.

It said all of its stores remain open to customers despite lockdown measures, due to their essential status.

The company also told investors that it has rapidly grown its online business during the pandemic, with e-commerce sales up 153 per cent in the third quarter.

( Getty Images )

Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have set the bar ‘high’ for Oxford

One Oxford vaccine trial volunteer said the results of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines set a “high bar” for the AstraZeneca study.

Sarah Hurst, 47, from Oxfordshire said: “It could be a bit disappointing if it got 80 per cent, and you feel, ‘oh, those other ones are better’. I am not biased in favour of a particular vaccine but people are going to prefer to have the one that’s the most effective and it depends on what’s available.

“I am really concerned about the Brexit end of the transition period, I have no confidence at all that we are going to get supplies, so if our result wasn’t as good as the other two and we got 80 per cent, I’d be happy to have that vaccine if that was all that was available. It would still be good. But I hope it’s 90 per cent or more.”

Ms Hurst said she did not experience any adverse side-effects during the trial, adding: “I was so surprised.

“I said to them, ‘I feel like I am in the placebo group because I feel nothing at all, no raised temperature, nothing’, and they said, ‘well we chose meningitis as the placebo because we thought it would provoke a reaction so that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference’.

“But I treated it as if I’d had the placebo anyway, so not going out and feeling confident just because I had it.”

She said she signed up to the trial because she “wanted a vaccine as quickly as possible so we can live our lives again”.


Air travel continues to be crippled by the pandemic

Holiday and airline firm Jet2 has slumped to a first-half loss and said it remained cautious over next summer despite recent positive developments on a coronavirus vaccine.

The Jet2holidays and firm – formerly called Dart Group – reported operating losses of £111.2 million for the six months to September 30, against earnings of £361.5 million the previous year.

In what would normally be its busiest period, the airline flew just 990,000 passengers in the half year, down from 10.07 million a year earlier as plunging demand and restrictions amid the pandemic crippled the aviation sector.

Jet2 warned over further losses in the traditionally quieter half of the financial year and cautioned that it expects to slash its winter 2020-21 services by half year-on-year.

( Jet2 flew just 990,000 passengers in the first half of the year – down from more than 10 million / PA )

Securing a jab is still an up-mountain battle…

Speaking about vaccine development by teams around the world, Professor Andrew Pollard said: “We’re still at the bottom of that mountain, in some ways, but we’ve done the route into the bottom of the mountain – the long trek to get to the start.

“Now we’ve got to get the data about the vaccines in front of regulators for them to scrutinise it and approve the first vaccines, and then we’ve got that huge effort to climb up to the top where we’ve got a vast majority of those who are at risk vaccinated and protected, so that the most vulnerable are no longer at risk, and we can start to get back to normal.


This isn’t a competiton – we NEED other vaccine developers to do well, Oxford chief insists

Professor Andrew Pollard, the head of Oxford’s vaccine trial team, said there is “no competition” between different vaccines because “we need multiple vaccines to be successful”.

He added that the Oxford vaccine, which studies suggest would not need to be kept at temperatures as low as those made by Pfizer and Moderna, is being developed for distribution “everywhere” including places with limited infrastructure for ultra-cold storage.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “We’re really looking globally, we want to be able to get to every corner of the world if indeed the vaccine is shown to work.

“The thing that matters with vaccines is the impact it can have, and that is, can you get it to people and are they being vaccinated, so until you’ve got high coverage and you’re able to prevent the disease in those who are most vulnerable, we won’t get there.

“That’s why we need multiple vaccines to be successful. It’s fantastic news that Pfizer and Moderna have got there, and clearly will be getting themselves prepared for their regulatory submissions.

“But there’s no competition between them and the other vaccines, we need all of them to be successful, because we’ve got a lot of people to protect all around the globe.”


Meanwhile, some students may not even be able to leave halls for Christmas