Different coronavirus vaccines could be used on different parts of the population if laboratories succeed in developing a range of successful types, the business secretary has said.
Alok Sharma visited a high-security factory in Livingston, near Edinburgh, where the French firm Valneva is developing a new vaccine using a deactivated Covid-19 virus, one of up to a dozen the UK government has said it may invest in.
The UK government has ordered at least 60m doses of the Valneva vaccine, with an option to increase that to 100m doses; 100m doses of another type made by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford; and 30m doses of a further type from BioNTech and Pfizer, if their trials succeed.
During Wednesday’s visit, Sharma said the vaccine being developed by Astra Zeneca and Oxford university was “ahead of the pack in terms of trials” but he said many of those under development could be used; some may be more beneficial for different people.
We’re, of course, investing in a range of vaccine candidates which have different underlying and technical properties. At the end of the day, what we hope in an ideal world, is that all the vaccines we’re investing in are successful.
However, it’s also the case it will depend very much on the individual properties of individual vaccines, in terms of what part of the population they could be deployed into. So it is entirely possible to imagine that you have a number of successful vaccines but they’re deployed in different parts of the population.
Sharma added that some caution was needed; it was possible these trials may fail to get approval. The Valneva vaccine is not likely to win regulatory approval before the second half of 2021. “I hope we will be successful but there are no guarantees,” Sharma said.
UK records 65 more deaths – official figures
NHS test and trace has only managed to trace 53% of the contacts identified in Greater Manchester, amid increasing coronavirus cases in the area.
Figures published by Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) on Wednesday showed the rate of positive Covid-19 tests per 100,000 people had increased to 27.6 in the week ending 1 August, from 23.5 the week before. Oldham, Manchester and Trafford currently have the highest rates of infection in the area.
The authority’s 10 boroughs have been subject to reimposed lockdown measures – meaning residents are not allowed to visit different households at home, or go to indoor venues with people outside their own household – since Friday 31 July.
However, data on tracing contacts of those infected shows that as of Tuesday, the national system had managed to make contact with only 6,350 of the 12,075 contacts it had identified.
GMCA’s local tracing team on the other hand had identified 10,547 contacts, and had managed to engage with 99%, or 10,482.
During a regional coronavirus briefing on Wednesday afternoon, the Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, called for greater access to national track-and-trace information.
He argued that NHS test and trace should pass on the contact details of the people they cannot reach to the local authority within 48 hours, allowing local contact tracers to reach people on their doorsteps.
As ministers and teachers wrestle with the challenge of safely opening schools in England in September, a former government adviser, Neil Ferguson, threw another spanner in the works by suggesting older teenagers could transmit the virus just as well as adults, writes Guardian national news reporter Haroon Siddique.
Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
The risk then is that big schools, comprehensives, universities, FE [further education] colleges link lots of households together, reconnect the social network, which social distancing measures have deliberately disconnected. And that poses a real risk of amplification of transmission, of case numbers going up quite sharply.
A South Korean study published in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal last month found Covid infection rates among household contacts to be highest where they resided with someone with the virus in the 10- to 19-year-old age group. By contrast they were lowest in the age group 0-10 years. Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said of the study:
It’s the best we’ve got. Children get the virus at all sorts of ages. Because people haven’t been at school, there’s no real epidemiological evidence for whether it’s a problem or not.
Health officials tracing contacts in the Covid-19 outbreak in Aberdeen have released the names of 32 pubs, restaurants and golf courses scattered around the city and Aberdeenshire visited by infected people, writes Severin Carrell, the Guardian’s Scotland editor.
The list includes the Cock and Bull, a gastropub in Balmedie close to Donald Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf course and used in the past by President Trump on his visits to Scotland, as well as a golf club in Aboyne, about 30 miles from Aberdeen.
NHS Grampian also named a restaurant at Bridge of Don on the outskirts of Aberdeen, the Buckie Farm Carvery, and the Dyce Carvery close to Aberdeen airport.
It names two of the bars at the centre of the scare, the Hawthorn bar where the first cluster of cases emerged last week, and the Soul bar on Union Street, which featured in social media complaints about significant queues at the weekend.
In a series of tweets, NHS Grampian added that its contact tracing teams had identified 191 close contacts as well as 54 infected people.
Dr Emmanuel Okpo, a consultant in public health medicine for NHS Grampian, said: “I know people in the city will be concerned by this news. I want to stress that our health protection and test and protect teams are working extremely hard to speak to all the detected cases and identify their close contacts. We will be in contact with everyone.
“[If] you are identified as a close contact of a detected case you will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Please do not seek a test if you do not have symptoms; getting tested and receiving a ‘not detected’ result will not remove the requirement to self-isolate.”