Here are the coronavirus morning headlines for Wednesday, December 2, as it was announced that Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK.
Officials said the vaccine will be made available “from next week”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.
“This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will shortly also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “Help is on its way. The MHRA has formally authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19.
“The NHS stands ready to start vaccinating early next week.
“The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply.”
It is understood that an announcement could be made on Wednesday on Wales. Read more here.
The chief medical officer, Dr Frank Atherton, and Dr Gillian Richardson, co-chair of the Covid-19 Vaccine Programme Board will hold a press conference to update on the latest coronavirus situation in Wales at 12.15pm on Wednesday.
Speaking on Monday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said there had been a successful test of the practicalities of rolling out the vaccine.
“Last week, the NHS in Wales carried out a large and successful test of all the practical things, which will need to be in place once a vaccine is given the go-ahead,” he said.
Mr Drakeford then added that this “could be as early as this week and we will be ready for it”.
The Welsh Government will be using the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to decide who will be the first people to be vaccinated.
The Daily Telegraph reported the Armed Forces and NHS had begun preparations for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine by the weekend.
We need more than the ‘mum test’ to encourage vaccine uptake – report
Health officials must do more to provide the public with information about Covid-19 vaccines to encourage uptake, according to an article in a medical journal.
The public need to be presented with “clear, balanced information” on vaccines, an editorial published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin says.
Providing more information could “counter rumours, fake news, unsubstantiated scare stories and overinflated claims of success”, the article states.
The piece, titled Covid-19 Vaccination – We Need More Than The ‘Mum Test’, refers to comments made by England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.
“I think the ‘mum test’ is very important here,” he told the Downing Street vaccine briefing in November.
“My mum is 78, she will be 79 shortly, and I have already said to her ‘Mum, make sure when you are called you are ready, be ready to take this up, this is really important for you because of your age’.”
The article’s author, David Phizackerley, said it is not yet clear how many people will have to be vaccinated to create herd immunity for Covid-19.
He cited a poll which found that 64% of British adults are likely to get a vaccine once one is approved.
Mr Phizackerley, deputy editor of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, said that providing “clear, balanced information on vaccination risks and benefits” has been shown to have an impact on uptake.
Brains and JD Wetherspoon to close all Welsh pubs
The fall out from the announcement that pubs and restaurants will have to close at 6pm and can’t serve alcohol continues as B rains has announced close all of its pubs from Friday.
Wales’ biggest pub chain said on Tuesday that it will close from December 6 until further notice.
Chief executive Alistair Darby has joined the criticism of the latest measures announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford on Monday.
From Friday, Welsh pubs, restaurants and cafes will be banned from serving alcohol and will be unable to open to customers beyond 6pm. The new rules are explained here and you can follow live updates here.
Now Mr Darby has joined the criticism in calling the new rules “insulting”.
The head of pub chain JD Wetherspoon Tim Martin also knocked the new rules on Monday, describing them as puritanical and a sad reflection of “groupthink”, and he announced on Wednesday that all their pubs would be closing too.
He accused First Minister Mark Drakeford of “talking cobblers”.
Mr Drakeford said on Monday the move was needed to bring down the spread of coronavirus as the number of people in hospital was growing and Wales faced an additional 1,700 unnecessary deaths with Covid this winter.
First Minister banned from more than 100 pubs
Meanwhile, Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has been barred from more than 100 pubs in Wales following his announcement of new coronavirus stopping pubs selling alcohol.
The West Conwy Pubwatch group said Mark Drakeford would be banned from entering their members’ premises for at least 18 months.
West Conwy Pubwatch group has taken matters further by banning the man who brought in the measures from all its member pubs with organisers saying more than 300 hospitality businesses have said they would lend their support to the move.
In an open letter to Mr Drakeford they said: “All licensees have a legal duty under the Licensing Act of 2003 to ensure that disorderly, argumentative, violent behaviour and antisocial behaviour does not occur on or around their premises and to prevent the occurrence of criminal offences.
“As a result of your behaviour on November 30th 2020 at the Senedd Cymru your actions class as antisocial behaviour for the damage caused to our members’ premises.
“The licensees of the West Conwy Pubwatch have jointly decided that in order to discharge their duty as referred to above they are exercising their right not to allow you entry to their premises.”
Latest cases for Wales
A further 23 people have died with coronavirus in Wales and more than 650 new positive cases have been confirmed.
The latest statistics released by Public Health Wales (PHW) on Tuesday show 667 people have tested positive for the virus in Wales in the last 24-hour period.
It brings the number of positive tests since the outbreak began to 81,009, while 2,563 people have died with lab-confirmed coronavirus.
The infection rate across Wales as a whole now stands at 217.8 per 100,000 people based on the seven days up to November 28. This is an increase from 212 on Monday.
Blaenau Gwent is now the local authority in Wales with the highest infection rate in Wales with a seven-day rate of 435.1 cases per 100,000 population, up from 428 the day before. Cases for your area are here.
High school announces it is closing early
A Welsh high school has announced it will close early for Christmas despite First Minister Mark Drakeford saying they should stay open.
St Martin’s School in Caerphilly will end term a week early on December 10 after discussions with parents showed 68% intended to keep their children at home for the last week of term anyway.
Head teacher Lee Jarvis said: “At St Martin’s we are feeling the impact of the ever-rising positive cases within our community and Wales as a whole.”
Other schools and local education authorities are also understood to be taking the same approach, or pressing for it, to avoid spreading the virus over Christmas and to reduce the likelihood of people having to self-isolate over the festive period.
At last Friday’s coronavirus briefing Mr Drakeford said it was not the intention of the Welsh Government that schools should close early. He said children had lost enough education already and it was also a safeguarding matter.
But head teachers said parents have been indicating they will keep their children at home for the last week of term to avoid any risk of infection or self-isolation over the holiday.
England’s second lockdown ends
A strengthened tiered system of coronavirus restrictions has replaced England’s second national lockdown after Boris Johnson suffered the largest Tory rebellion of this Parliament.
Despite the bruising revolt, the Commons backed the Prime Minister’s new measures meaning 99% of the nation entered the toughest Tier 2 and 3 restrictions on Wednesday.
MPs backed the curbs by 291 votes to 78 – a Government majority of 213 – on Tuesday evening, paving the way for 55 million people to remain unable to mix indoors with those from other households.
But 55 Conservatives rebelled, with 52 voting against the Government, a further two acting as tellers for the noes and one formally abstaining.
However, the measures passed after Labour ordered its MPs to abstain, with party leader Sir Keir Starmer warning the plans pose a “significant” health risk.
Rebel leader Mark Harper, a Conservative former chief whip, said “we very much regret” that “so many of us felt forced to vote against the measures” during a national crisis, adding “we must find a way to … end this devastating cycle of repeated restrictions”.
A Government spokesman welcomed the Commons’ backing, which the House of Lords later approved, but said ministers would “continue to work with MPs who have expressed concerns in recent days”.
Public must be warned that ‘swallowing hand sanitiser can kill’
The public must be warned that hand sanitiser can kill if it is swallowed, an expert has said, as cases of accidental poisoning continue to rise.
More needs to be done to protect people against the dangers of ingesting sanitiser with a high alcohol content, but particularly children, the elderly and those with mental health issues, according to researcher Georgia Richards from the University of Oxford.
Her analysis of two deaths identified in coroners’ reports, and published in the journal BMJ Evidence Based Medicine, says the public is largely unaware of the hazards posed by sanitiser.
She points to a 61% increase in poisonings from alcohol-based hand sanitisers reported to the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) in the UK, from 155 between January and September 2019 to 398 between January and September 2020.
Two children in Australia and the US have also suffered accidental poisoning from sanitiser at home during the pandemic, she writes.
“The volume of these products now to be found around homes, hospitals, schools, workplaces and elsewhere may be a cause for concern,” she said.
“Warnings about the toxicity and lethality of intentionally or unintentionally ingesting alcohol-based hand sanitisers have not been widely disseminated.”