UK To Offer COVID Vaccine To Healthy 16 And 17-Year-Olds

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 11, 2020 A laboratory technician supervises capped vials during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

The UK government announced Wednesday it will offer coronavirus vaccinations to all 16 and 17-year-olds, but not to younger healthy teenagers as in many other Western countries. 

The move follows updated guidance from British health regulators that the country’s vaccine drive should be extended to those aged 16 and 17 without underlying health issues after a review of the latest data.

However, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) made no change to its current advice to the government that only 12 to 15-year-olds deemed vulnerable should be jabbed.

This contrasts with the United States, which announced in May that younger teens would be vaccinated, and the European Union’s medicines regulator which has approved two shots for all over-12s.

Britain’s health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed he had accepted the UK experts’ latest recommendations and asked the state-run National Health Service (NHS) “to prepare to vaccinate those eligible as soon as possible”.

“JCVI will continue to review data and provide updates on at risk groups aged 12-15 and whether any additional groups will be added,” he said in a statement.

The older teenagers eligible will receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which has been approved for use in Britain for people aged 12 and over.

Regulators have not yet decided when they should get their second doses, with a further recommendation likely in the coming weeks.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said at a televised briefing to announce the change that he wanted the NHS to begin jabbing 16 and 17-year-olds “as fast as practically possible”.

“It has been preparing for multiple permutations and options for very many weeks now, and I would expect this programme will start in a very short number of weeks,” he added.

Health experts welcomed the move, with Russell Viner, professor of Child and Adolescent Health at University College London, calling it a “sensible step”.

“There are important social and educational benefits for protecting young people and reducing transmission in the upper years of secondary school,” he said.

Britain’s fast-paced vaccination programme has seen nearly 89 percent of adults given at least one dose, while close to two-thirds are now fully jabbed.

Since easing all virus curbs in England on July 19, the number of new daily cases has declined, prompting hopes the vaccines are succeeding in defeating the pandemic in Britain.

AFP

Heathrow To Fast-Track Vaccinated Passengers

In this file photo taken on December 31, 2020, a UK border sign welcomes passengers on arrival at Heathrow airport in west London. Border restrictions were being tightened around the world on January 25, 2021. Ben FATHERS / AFP

 

London’s Heathrow airport said Wednesday it plans to offer fast-track lanes for fully-vaccinated arriving passengers, as the UK government winds down its pandemic curbs.

The government is expected Thursday to announce that travellers coming to England from “amber” countries — the middle ranking for Covid incidence, covering most of Europe — will no longer have to quarantine.

In advance, Heathrow said it was launching a pilot for passengers coming from selected destinations to enter an immigration fast track on arrival, after showing proof they have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

“This pilot will allow us to show that pre-departure and arrival checks of vaccination status can be carried out safely at check-in, so that fully vaccinated passengers can avoid quarantine from July 19,” Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said.

July 19 is the government’s target date for lifting most pandemic restrictions in England, although many scientists are worried about the plan as infection rates soar from the more contagious Delta variant.

The government, however, says a successful mass vaccination programme has weakened the link connecting infections to hospitalisations and deaths.

More than 86 percent of adults in the UK have received at least one jab, and 64 percent are fully vaccinated, according to official data.

“The UK is already falling behind (the) US and EU, and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake,” said Shai Weiss, chief executive of the airline Virgin Atlantic.

The Heathrow trial will initially cover passengers flying in on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay in Jamaica, and New York.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Tuesday said people in England who have been double-jabbed — as well as under-18s – will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.

But the easing will only apply from August 16, almost a month after other controls are due to have ended, including the mandatory wearing of face masks in enclosed spaces.

The UK’s other nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — set their own health policy and are moving more slowly.

AFP

England To Cut Quarantine Period For Travellers From Abroad

PHOTO USED TO DEPICT THE STORY: File photo of mounted police officer’s patrols outside the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England in London. PHOTO: Tolga Akmen / AFP

 

Travellers to England from abroad could face a shorter period in quarantine from mid-December, the UK government announced Tuesday in a move welcomed by the battered aviation sector.

From December 15, travellers arriving by air, ferry or train can end their quarantine if testing negative for COVID-19 at least five days after their arrival.

New arrivals currently have to self-isolate for 14 days, while Britain has recorded more than 55,000 deaths of people testing positive for coronavirus, the highest figure in Europe.

“This is a hugely welcome step that will begin the process of opening up international travel and restarting UK aviation,” trade body Airlines UK said in a statement, as the government prepares also to lift England’s lockdown next week.

READ ALSO: No Sinister Plan Behind COVID-19 Vaccine, Says Nigerian-Born Doctor Leading Pfizer Research

Airlines UK, however, added that it wanted to see “a pre-departure or domestic testing regime that can remove safely the need for self-isolation altogether, as quickly as possible”.

This was echoed by Johan Lundgren, chief executive of British no-frills airline EasyJet.

“We have always said that implementing an effective testing regime which reduces the length of quarantine is key to getting people travelling again,” he said in a statement.

Under the relaxed plans, passengers will have to book a private screening and quarantine beforehand.

Those who choose not to be tested will have to observe a two-week quarantine.

“Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

“By giving people the choice to test on day five, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic.”

The UK government sets a transport policy for England. The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own.

London changed course after seeing evidence that a test after five days of self-isolation “provides materially better results” than just having a test on arrival.

The new strategy is accompanied by a financial support plan for commercial airports in England.

“The aviation industry is vital to our economy –- creating jobs and driving growth,” said finance minister Rishi Sunak.

“This new package of support for airports, alongside a new testing regime for international arrivals, will help the sector take off once again as we build back better from the pandemic,” the chancellor of the exchequer said.

AFP

Britain To Reopen Places Of Worship On June 15

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 19, 2020 A pedestrian walks along an empty street outside York Minister in the centre of York, northern England, as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues. – The UK government said on June 7, 2020, it will reopen places of worship “for private individual prayer” on June 15 as it continues to progressively ease coronavirus restrictions. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said services and worship groups will still be banned for the time being due to concern that the virus spreads more quickly in enclosed spaces. OLI SCARFF / AFP.

 

The UK government said Sunday it will reopen places of worship “for private individual prayer” on June 15 as it continues to progressively ease coronavirus restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said services and worship groups will still be banned for the time being due to concern that the virus spreads more quickly in enclosed spaces.

“People of all faiths have shown enormous patience and forbearance, unable to mark Easter, Passover, Ramadan or Vaisakhi with friends and family in the traditional way,” Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said in a statement.

“We are now able to move forwards with a limited but important return to houses of worship.”

Britain’s official COVID-19 death toll of 40,465 is second only to that of the United States.

But cases across Europe have fallen off sharply and Britain is now cautiously proceeding with partial school reopenings and the resumption of basic business activity that ended when the country shut down on March 23.

Johnson’s government also intends to reopen all stores on June 15. Restaurants and pubs will be allowed to seat a limited number of customers in a week.

But Johnson has had to weather intense criticism for his handling of the health crisis.

Critics say Britain had ample time to take the appropriate precautions — such as shutting down retail and closing schools — after seeing the disease spread from China to Italy and other parts of Europe at the start of the year.

READ ALSO: Pope Says Worst Of COVID-19 Is Over, Vatican Clear Of Cases

The government is now coming under attack for starting to lift the restriction too quickly.

The average reinfection rate in some northwestern and southwestern parts of Britain is still perilously close to the 1.0 figure above which the virus begins to spread.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock argued that the government was proceeding with abundant caution because it was wary of the dire economic effects of a second lockdown.

“The worst thing for the economy would be a second spike,” he told Sky News.

Hancock also dismissed reports of a raging policy clash between pro-business government ministers and more health conscious scientific advisers.

“I care deeply about getting the economy going and the best way to get the economy going is to ensure that we get the number of new infections right down,” he said.

AFP

UK Govt ‘Agrees Not To Favour EU Workers After Brexit’

 

Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet has agreed that EU citizens should not have preferential access to work in Britain compared to people from elsewhere after Brexit, media reports said Tuesday.

Ministers gathering on Monday “unanimously supported a system based on skills rather than nationality”, an unnamed source told the BBC, with similar reports in The Times and The Guardian.

Citizens from the other 27 European Union member states are currently free to live and work in Britain under the bloc’s freedom of movement rules, but this will end after Brexit.

A government-commissioned report last week recommended that in future, EU and non-EU citizens follow the same immigration rules, with preference given to high-skilled workers.

The report’s author, Alan Manning of the Migration Advisory Committee, briefed the cabinet meeting on Monday on his plan.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The cabinet agreed that, once free movement is brought to an end, the government will be able to introduce a new system which works in the best interests of the UK, including by helping to boost productivity.”

May is now expected to make an announcement on future immigration rules at her Conservative party’s conference next week, before likely introducing proposals later this year.

However, any post-Brexit immigration policy could be affected by Britain’s future trade deals.

The EU may well seek to negotiate continued preferential treatment in return for access to its single market, while other countries could also seek visa waivers in return for trade deals.

May promised last week that even if Brexit negotiations with the EU break down, the rights of Europeans currently living in Britain “will be protected”.

Her spokesman said there would be formal proposals published “shortly”.

AFP

UK Govt, Civil Society Seek Better Security Ahead Of 2019 Elections

The government of the United Kingdom and members of the Civil Society Organization (CSOS) in Abuja are advocating for the need to strengthen Nigeria’s security and justice system ahead of the 2019 general elections.

The head of security and Justice Department at the British High Commission and members of the civil society organization want security agencies to function within the confines of the laws during the polls.

They also appeal to the national assembly to make new laws that would strengthen the Nations security and justice system.

The Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, PLAC, Clement Nwankwo at the meeting said Nigeria as a country is committed to respecting treaties that are in international best practices.

READ ALSO: 2019 Elections: PDP Reconciles Aggrieved Members

The Head, Security, Justice, Reforms Programmes of British Economy, Pauline Owen said it is the responsibility of Nigeria and its citizens to promote peace and stability.

“Nigeria, its citizens, government structure and security bodies have a critical and positive role to play in promoting peace and stability throughout the region.”

Man Dies As Hundreds Aim Channel Tunnel

channel tunnelFrench police have confirmed the death of a man while about 1,500 migrants were trying to enter the channel tunnel in Calais on Tuesday.

Speaking after a meeting of the government’s Emergency Cobra Committee, Home Secretary, Theresa May, said the UK was pressing for the rapid installation of 1.2 miles of new security fencing which it had pledged to pay for at Coquelles, near the tunnel entrance.

The man was the ninth person killed at the channel tunnel terminal this summer.

French police said he was probably crushed by a lorry which was exiting one of the shuttles that transport vehicles through the tunnel.

The incident came after the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, pledged that the UK government would do everything possible to combat the crisis.

Mr Cameron had,  however, confirmed a £7m ($11m) funding for a new fencing at the terminal.

The man who died was described as Sudanese, aged between 25 and 30.

UK’s Conservative Holds First Inaugural Meeting

ConservativeFor the first time in 18 years, the United Kingdom’s all Conservative cabinet has held its inaugural meeting on Tuesday.

The newly re-elected Prime Minister, David Cameron, told the all-Tory cabinet meeting that they must focus on “bread and butter” ways of improving people’s lives.

Cameron, while addressing his top team for the first time since his victory, promised a “down-to-earth” conservative agenda focused on extending opportunity.

The re-elected Prime Minister also insisted that all changes to public services must be rooted in “true social justice and genuine compassion”.

Laws on work and childcare are expected to be among the priorities of the new UK government.

The Conservatives won a 12-seat majority in the House of Commons in last Thursday’s election, winning 331 of the 650 seats.

The British Prime Minster, David Cameron, shortly after the election victory, promised to lead a government for “one nation” and make “Great Britain greater” adding that the UK was “on the brink of something special”.

He also pledged more powers for Scotland, in a response to the rise of the SNP, which brings with it the threat of another independence vote and claims that the Conservative Government will have “no legitimacy in Scotland”.

Four Nigerians also won seats in the UK Parliament.

Mr Cameron’s rivals Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, all resigned after election disappointment.