This week we heard more good news on vaccines. The UKs Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has proved to be 70% effective (up to 90% if a half dose is followed by a full dose). Not only is the Oxford vaccine effective, it is also (of the three announced to date) the cheapest to produce and easiest to transport: it can be stored for several months in a regular fridge.
On the 11th January – the day the Covid 19 genetic code was made known - the Oxford team immediately established the fundamentals of the vaccine which they have pursued relentlessly ever since. The independent regulator will now assess all the vaccines. It is positive news but it is still early days and a thorough assessment of the vaccines and their safety is required before they can be certified for use.
Subject to that approval the UK is well placed to roll out the vaccines, with the largest pre-order vaccine portfolio per person in the World: planning is already underway locally on how this will be delivered in practice.
Whilst news of a vaccine is incredibly promising and makes us all hopeful for a better 2021 we must continue to be careful.
The November lockdown will end next week, with the introduction of a strengthened tier system. It is important to recognise that the tiers are in place to continue to suppress the rate of infection. They have a vital role and the virus will continue to impact our lives. However it will allow areas with lower case numbers greater freedom and even in tier 3 non-essential retail can reopen, as can gyms, hairdressers and places of worship. Whilst it is right to start with a cautious approach I hope areas, benefiting from increased testing, will be able to drop out of the higher tiers in coming months.
The Government has also announced a relaxation over Christmas which I know many will welcome. The ability for three households to mix, even if for a limited period, will not make this “Christmas like normal” but it will help families get together at what is such an important for so many.
Alongside these practical measures the Government continues to help support businesses. Aviation, as we know in this area, is a sector which has been deeply impacted by the virus. From 15th December provided arrivals take a test five days after their arrival (and it is negative) air passengers will be released from quarantine – cutting the quarantine period by two-thirds. Extra direct financial support is also being provided to airports – including Gatwick.
There is still a long way to go but we are making progress.