Making Headlines: Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine concerns; plus Boris Johnson urged not to lift lockdown
People’s online searches can be used as a tool to help epidemiologists spot coronavirus outbreaks early, researchers have said.
Using symptom-related searches through Google could allow experts to predict a peak in cases on average 17 days in advance, a group from University College London said. Analysing internet search activity is already used to track and understand the seasonal flu.
Using data on Covid-19 web searches in a similar way alongside more established approaches could improve public health surveillance methods.
The Prime Minister has been warned not to lift lockdown until the daily infection rate drops below 1,000 cases, it has been reported.
Political pressure to ease restrictions is growing but NHS chiefs are warning an early exit from lockdown could see another surge in Covid cases. The number of new infections was 18,262 on Saturday with almost 30,000 people being treated in hospital.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers which represents hospital trusts, told the Sunday Times the country had “crested the peak” of the outbreak but still had a long way to go and that people would “take months” to recover.
Two people have been arrested and more than 50 have been fined after police raided a gym in Merseyside.
Officers were tipped off that Prophecy Performance Centre on Gaskill Road in Speke had been welcoming fitness enthusiasts in defiance of the national lockdown. A 24-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment and are being questioned by police. Some 52 people were issued with fixed penalty notices.
Britons face needing a third jab this year amid concerns about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’s effectiveness against the South African coronavirus variant. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi was forced to defend the vaccine after a new study in South Africa found it was not effective at preventing mild illness caused by the more infectious mutation.
South Africa has suspended the rollout of the British-designed vaccine to healthcare staff following the results, which have yet to be peer reviewed.
Mr Zahawi urged the public to keep faith with the Oxford jab as scientists working on the vaccine raised the prospect of having a booster dose available by the autumn.
And finally, a grandfather who became the oldest person to row 3,000 miles unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean has encouraged older people to “keep active and challenge yourself”.
Frank Rothwell, 70, from Oldham, set off from Canary Island La Gomera on December 12 and crossed the finish line in Antigua in the Caribbean on Saturday – reuniting with Judith, his wife of 50 years, with time to spare until Valentine’s Day.
The achievement has also raised more than £720,000 for dementia research with Alzheimer’s Research UK.
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