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UK begins mass coronavirus vaccination rollout as 90-year-old gets jab
A grandmother has become the first person in the world to receive Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine as the NHS embarks on a mass vaccination programme. Margaret Keenan, 90, received the jab at 6.31am in Coventry on Tuesday, marking the start of a phased rollout of the vaccine to older people, NHS staff and care home workers.
Jabs will be administered at dozens of hospital hubs across the country from Tuesday – dubbed “V-Day” by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Mrs Keenan, known to family and friends as Maggie, received the jab from nurse May Parsons at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.

Mrs Keenan, who turns 91 next week, is a former jewellery shop assistant who retired four years ago.

She has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren.

Mrs Keenan said: “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19, it’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.

“I can’t thank May and the NHS staff enough who have looked after me tremendously, and my advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it – if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too.”

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens praised all those involved in delivering the new vaccine programme.

“Less than a year after the first case of this new disease was diagnosed, the NHS has now delivered the first clinically approved Covid-19 vaccination – that is a remarkable achievement,” Sir Simon said.

“A heartfelt thank you goes to everyone who has made this a reality – the scientists and doctors who worked tirelessly, and the volunteers who selflessly took part in the trials. They have achieved in months what normally takes years.

“My colleagues across the health service are rightly proud of this historic moment as we lead in deploying the PfizerBioNTech vaccine.

“I also want to thank Margaret, our first patient to receive the vaccine on the NHS.”

Mrs Keenan has been self-isolating for most of this year and is planning on having a very small family “bubble” Christmas to keep safe.

Originally from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, she has lived in Coventry for more than 60 years.

She will receive a booster jab in 21 days to ensure she has the best chance of being protected against the virus.

NHS nurse Mrs Parsons said it was a “huge honour” to be the first in the country to deliver the vaccine to a patient.

She said: “It’s a huge honour to be the first person in the country to deliver a Covid-19 jab to a patient, I’m just glad that I’m able to play a part in this historic day.

“The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS, but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

The NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme will see patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, among the first to receive the jab.

Care home providers are also being asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to begin booking staff in to vaccination clinics.

GPs are also expected to be able to begin vaccinating care home residents.

Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from Covid-19.

Mr Hancock said that when enough vulnerable people have been vaccinated “then, of course, we can lift the restrictions … we think that will be in the spring.”

Reacting to the footage of Mrs Keenan getting her jab, he told Sky News: “I’m feeling quite emotional, actually, watching those pictures.

“It has been such a tough year for so many people and finally we have our way through it – our light at the end of the tunnel as so many people are saying.

“And just watching Margaret there – it seems so simple having a jab in your arm, but that will protect Margaret and it will protect the people around her.

“And if we manage to do that in what is going to be one of the biggest programmes in NHS history, if we manage to do that for everybody who is vulnerable to this disease, then we can move on.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Got a bit of a lump in the throat watching this. Feels like such a milestone moment after a tough year for everyone.”

Published: 08/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Covid-19 vaccine rollout: How it is all unfolding
The UK will see the largest-scale immunisation programme in its history begin this week when the first Covid-19 vaccines are administered. NHS staff have been working through the weekend to prepare for the launch, but what does that entail and what can people expect in the next few days?

We have looked at the key questions around what has been going on behind the scenes ahead of an historic week and how it will all unfold.

– When did the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arrive and where are they?

The delivery of the first batch of vaccine vials arrived from Belgium on Thursday, with rollout starting on Tuesday.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, as people need to receive two doses.

There are 800,000 doses in the first tranche, meaning that 400,000 people will be vaccinated initially.

The vaccines have been stored in undisclosed secure locations to ensure the security of the vaccine and of those storing and delivering it.

– Are all the vaccines in the right place and ready for the first day of rollout?

Doses have already been arriving at vaccine hubs in preparation for Tuesday, but it is not known when exactly all 50 hubs in England will receive vaccine doses, as they are starting to administer the jab at different times and deliveries are expected to happen throughout the week.

Pictures show the arrival of a batch of vaccines at Croydon University Hospital in south London over the weekend, with similar scenes unfolding all around the country.

– How are the vaccines stored?

The vaccine needs storage temperatures of minus 70C to minus 80C.

Public Health England said it has secured 58 specialised Twin Guard ultra-low temperature freezers which provide sufficient storage for approximately five million doses of potential Covid-19 vaccines which require ultra-low temperature storage.

The freezers are in the UK, fully operational, and located in national storage facilities in Britain and in Northern Ireland.

The freezers, which are not portable, each hold about 86,000 doses.

– Where exactly will vaccines be administered?

Jabs will be administered at dozens of hospital hubs from Tuesday – with people aged 80 and over, care home workers and NHS workers who are at higher risk the first to receive the vaccine.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said hospitals in England have identified an appropriate place on their estate where they can conduct the vaccinations.

He said the ideal scenario is that this place is close to a cark park and separate from any other clinical area where there might be a risk of Covid-19 infection.

Staff will be working out the best arrangements in a socially distanced way and there will be timed slots to minimise queueing.

– How are appointments being arranged?

Mr Hopson said staff have been identifying people in the key target groups and lists have been passed to appointment bookers who have been making phone calls to arrange appointments.

He said some hospitals are focusing on people who are due to come in for an outpatient appointment, or indeed those who are currently receiving care in hospital.

Mr Hopson said hospitals are also talking to care homes which have been asked to provide lists of their workers.

– What will the appointment involve?

When a person arrives they will be registered and be prescribed the vaccine.

A computer system will issue an email or a letter to the patient and their GP saying they have had the vaccine and confirming a follow-up date for three weeks later when they will get the second dose.

The jab is typically delivered by an injection in the shoulder.

– Should everyone aged 80 and over expect a phone call this week?

No. Mr Hopson said people should not get anxious or worried if they do not receive a call or a letter, adding that the vast majority of people will not be vaccinated until early 2021.

He anticipates that there will be communications in the coming weeks telling people how quickly they are getting through those who are over 80.

– Are care home residents not a priority?

They are indeed. They are at the very top of the priority list but there are challenges with getting the jab to them.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used.

The vaccine boxes containing 975 doses will need to be split so that they can be taken to care homes.

Mr Hopson said this will get going in about a week’s time and will be led by primary care networks.

– What plans are in place in Scotland?

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said initial supplies of the vaccine have arrived safely and are being stored securely ahead of the first jabs being administered on Tuesday.

Care home residents in Scotland will be able to receive the Pfizer Covid vaccine from December 14.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP said Scotland will receive 8.2% of the 800,000 doses (just over 65,500) in the first delivery secured by the UK, with more to come in the weeks ahead.

She said the doses will go to the 23 commercial-size freezers in acute hospitals around Scotland which can hold the vaccine in the very low temperature it requires.

Future plans include mass vaccination centres but that will be further down the line when vaccinators are dealing with much younger people.

Other plans include mobile vaccination centres and high street locations where people can go for a jab.

– What is happening in Northern Ireland?

Tuesday is the big day in Northern Ireland too, and the PA news agency understands that the first Pfizer/BioNTech dose will be administered at 8am at a mass vaccination centre at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

The recipient will be one of an 800-plus team of vaccinators that will be involved in the subsequent roll-out programme and there are 25,000 doses in the initial batch of the vaccine.

Healthcare workers will be able to get the vaccine through the remainder of December at seven centres spread across the region.

Two of the facilities are located on hospital grounds – at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald and Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital – and the rest in leisure centres.

The centres will operate 12 hours a day and seven days a week in an effort to vaccinate 100,000 healthcare and care home staff.

Care home residents and people aged over 80 are also in the first priority vaccination group, and health officials are continuing to examine ways to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in care homes in Northern Ireland.

– And how are things looking in Wales?

Frontline NHS and social care staff in Wales will receive the country’s first coronavirus vaccine from Tuesday.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said he hoped supplies of the Pfizer vaccine marked a “turning point in the pandemic” that would put Wales “on what is going to be a long path back to normality”.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said Wales is ready to deploy the vaccine in phases, starting with hospital sites and then community settings.

People will be sent appointments with details of the location where they will receive the vaccination, dependent on where they are on the schedule and risk.

Those receiving a jab will be given a credit card-sized NHS Wales immunisation card which will have the vaccine name, date of immunisation and batch number of each of the doses given, handwritten on them.

These will act as a reminder for a second dose and for the type of vaccine, and it will also give information about how to report side effects.

Published: 07/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Around 25,000 turkeys to be culled after ninth outbreak of bird flu
Around 25,000 turkeys will be culled following the ninth outbreak of bird flu among captive birds in England, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said. Defra said the H5N8 strain of avian influenza was confirmed in rearing turkeys at premises near King’s Lynn in west Norfolk on Saturday.

All of the birds on the site will be humanely culled to prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease and protection and surveillance zones of 3km and 10km respectively have been put in place.

An investigation is under way to identify the likely source of the infection.

The ninth case comes shortly after avian flu was confirmed in rearing turkeys at premises near Attleborough, also in Norfolk, on Friday.

Up to 30,000 turkeys will be culled at this site and similar surveillance measures have been put in place.

From December 14, all bird keepers must legally keep their flocks indoors and follow biosecurity procedures under measures announced by the Government to limit the disease’s spread.

The chief veterinary officers for England, Scotland and Wales agreed on the new measures to protect wild birds and poultry following cases of the “highly infectious” illness in both populations.

Christine Middlemiss, Sheila Voas and Christianne Glossop encouraged bird owners to use the coming days to prepare for the measures.

In a joint statement, the three chief vets concluded: “We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”

Last month, restrictions were implemented to prevent the spread of the virus as England, Scotland and Wales were made an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ).

This meant that poultry and captive bird keepers must take additional steps such as disinfecting equipment, vehicles and clothing, changing clothing and footwear before entering enclosures and limiting access to non-essential people.

The flu spreads between birds by direct contact or through contaminated bodily fluids, and can also be spread by contaminated feed, water, or by dirty clothing and footwear.

Public Health England said the risk to the public from the virus is “very low”, and food standards agencies have said it does not affect the consumption of poultry products.

Published: 07/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Snow on ground could disappear for most by end of century, Met Office suggests
Snowball fights and sledging could be at risk because snow that settles on the ground in winter may disappear for much of the UK by the end of the century due to climate change, a Met Office analysis has suggested.
Detailed projections suggest traditional winter activities such as building snowmen could be lost if global greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced.

The research, which will feature on BBC Panorama on Monday, suggested that most of the south of England may not see days with freezing or below temperatures by the 2040s, due to climate change.

If this trend continues only very high ground and parts of northern Scotland will experience freezing temperatures by 2080.

The Met Office stressed there is year-on-year variability with temperature and some years will be colder or warmer than the trend.

The findings are based on projections assuming global emissions continue to increase. However, the Met Office said that while this scenario may not be the most likely outcome, it is credible.

If global emissions are reduced, the UK can avoid larger temperature rises, but average temperatures are still likely to increase.

Hotter, drier summers are also more likely if emissions continue to accelerate, the Met Office said, highlighting there will be regional variations in the effects.

Senior Met Office scientist Dr Lizzie Kendon told BBC Panorama: “We’re saying by the end of the century much of the lying snow will have disappeared entirely except over the highest ground.

“The over-arching picture is warmer, wetter winters; hotter, drier summers.

“But within that, we get this shift towards more extreme events, so more frequent and intense extremes, so heavier rainfall when it occurs.

“It’s a big change… in the course of our lifetime. It’s just a wake-up call really as to what we’re talking about here.”

Dr Kendon said temperatures exceeding 30C (86F) for two days in a row will be 16 times more frequent by the end of the century, compared to the average between 1981 and 2000.

According to the new Met Office analysis, increasing emissions could mean the average hottest day in Hayes, west London, could reach 40C (104F) by around 2017.

The Met Office analysis also suggests winter rain could increase by up to a third on average without steps to reduce global emissions, but this is less certain and rainfall could decrease instead.

Published: 07/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

When is the World Cup qualifying draw, and how will it work?
The road to Qatar 2022 begins for European teams on Monday as the World Cup qualifying draw takes place. Here, Radio News Hub gives the lowdown on what to expect.

Where is it happening, and what time does it start?

As with most events in 2020, the draw ceremony will be a virtual event staged in Zurich, the home city of world governing body and World Cup organisers FIFA.

It is due to start at 1700 GMT.

How will it work?

The 55 nations will be split between 10 groups, five containing five teams and five containing six teams. The teams will be placed in six seeding pots, with pot one containing the highest-ranked sides and pot six the lowest.

Who is in which pot?

England are among the top seeds, with Wales in the second pot. Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland are all in the third pot, opening up the possibility of some old rivalries being renewed.

Which groups will have five teams and which will have six?

Groups A to E will feature five teams, with F to J containing six. England have only got a one in six chance of being in one of the five-team groups. This is because fellow top seeds Belgium, France, Italy and Spain, as Nations League finalists, will be awarded places in five-team groups in order for them to also fit in the UEFA tournament in October next year.

The five teams in pot six will be only be drawn into one of the six-team groups.

When will the qualifying matches be played?

The games will take place between March and November next year. Qualification play-offs will be played in March 2022.

How many teams qualify?

In total, 13 European countries will feature at Qatar 2022. These will be the 10 group winners, plus three further countries via the play-offs. The play-offs will feature the 10 group runners-up, alongside the two sides ranked highest in the 2020-21 Nations League who have not already qualified as a group winner or secured a runner-up spot. Those 12 teams will be split into three separate paths, with the winner of each booking a ticket to Qatar.

When will the tournament take place?

For the first time ever the World Cup will be played in November and December of 2022 to avoid the intense summer heat in the Middle East.

Published: 07/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Calls to stop suspected sex offenders watching junior sport
A Radio News Hub Investigation has found a loophole in the law which allows people being investigated for child sexual offences to attend junior sports events.
There are now calls for the Police and football authorities to ban anyone being investigated for a sexual crime against a child from junior sports facilities.
David Lean, who was abused by the football coach and peadophile Barry Bennell, is campaigning for the law to change.

This comes after we've seen evidence of a veteran football coach in Lancashire who was still attending junior matches despite being charged with sharing sexual messages with someone he thought was a 12-year-old boy.

The man in his late 70's is now banned via a Sexual Harm prevention Order after pleading guilty.
Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk police and the man in charge of investigating sex offences aginst children says he will look at how this “obvious gap” can be bridged.

We've been hearing from David Lean;

A Radio News Hub Investigation has found a loophole in the law allowing some people being investigated for child sexual offences to attend junior sports [email protected] was sexually abused as a child by the former #Crewe Alexandra and #ManchesterCity coach Barry Bennell

— Radio News Hub (@radionewshub) December 7, 2020

Published: 07/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

List of the 50 hospital hubs in the first wave of Covid-19 vaccine programme

Here is a list of the 50 hospital hubs in England where Covid-19 vaccines will be administered in the first wave of the immunisation programme.

Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

East Suffolk And North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust

James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Norfolk And Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust

Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Croydon Health Services NHS Trust

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – Denmark Hill

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – Princess Royal University Hospital

Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust

Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Coventry And Warwickshire NHS Trust

Royal Stoke Hospital

Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust

University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

Shrewsbury And Telford Hospital NHS Trust

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust

Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

South Tees NHS Trust

Wirral University Teaching Hospital

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust

Blackpool Teaching Hospital

Lancashire Teaching Hospital Trust

Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust – Wexham Park Hospital

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – William Harvey Hospital

Brighton And Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust – Royal Sussex County Hospital

Portsmouth University Hospitals Trust

Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust

Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust

Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

North Bristol NHS Trust

Published: 06/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Vaccine to have ‘marginal impact’ on winter pressures as rollout work continues
The UK’s chief medical officers have warned the coronavirus vaccine will only have a “marginal impact” on hospital numbers over the winter as each of the four nations prepares to start administering the first doses next week.
Festive gatherings are likely to put additional pressure on healthcare services, with a tough few months still ahead, experts said.

It comes as preparations are continuing to roll out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from as early as Tuesday in what has been described as “one of the greatest challenges the NHS has ever faced”.

GP surgeries in England have also been told to be ready to start staffing Covid-19 vaccination centres by December 14.

In a letter to colleagues, the four chief medical officers said this winter would be “especially hard” for the health service due to coronavirus.

“Although the very welcome news about vaccines means that we can look forward to 2021 with greater optimism, vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with Covid over the next three months,” they said.

“The actions and self-discipline of the whole population during lockdowns and other restrictions have helped reduce the peak and in most parts of the four nations hospital numbers are likely to fall over the next few weeks, but not everywhere.

“The social mixing which occurs around Christmas may well put additional pressure on hospitals and general practice in the New Year and we need to be ready for that.”

The letter, signed by chief medical officer of England, Professor Chris Whitty; of Scotland, Dr Gregor Smith; of Wales, Dr Frank Atherton; and of Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride, said they did not expect the virus to “disappear” even once full vaccination had occurred.

The first jabs will be administered in each of the UK nations on Tuesday. In Northern Ireland it will be administered at a mass vaccination centre at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, while in Wales frontline NHS and social care staff will receive the country’s first coronavirus vaccine.

The first vaccinations will also take place in Scotland next week, while jabs will be administered at hospital hubs in England.

Meanwhile, in a letter sent out across England’s primary care networks, NHS England and NHS Improvement said GP-led vaccination centres would start administering doses from December 14.

The letter said centres would be set up with the necessary IT equipment and a fridge, while staff would be given training to ensure they are ready to administer 975 doses of the vaccine to priority patients within three-and-a-half days of delivery.

The first to receive the vaccine in these centres will be those aged 80 and over, as long as other risk factors, “clinical or otherwise”, have been taken into account.

There remain issues around how to ensure elderly residents in care homes, who have been recommended as the top priority, get access to a jab due to difficulties in storing and transporting the Pfizer/BioNTech version as its cold temperature – minus 70C – limits how often it can be moved.

NHS England has not yet committed to a date to roll the vaccine out in English care homes, but Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, told the BBC on Friday that she estimated the vaccine would begin to be delivered to care homes “within the next two weeks”.

In total, some 40 million doses of Pfizer’s inoculation are on order – enough to administer it to 20 million people, with two jabs required 21 days apart.

In other developments:

– Downing Street defended the UK medicines regulator following criticism from America’s top infectious disease expert that the Pfizer vaccine approval had been “rushed”.

– The reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission appeared to fall this week. The Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said the R rate was confirmed to be between 0.8 and 1.

– A further 504 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, while there were a further 16,298 cases.

Published: 05/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

PM and EC president in emergency talks as time runs out on trade deal
Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen are to hold emergency talks as negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal go down to the wire.
With time for an agreement rapidly running out, the two sides’ chief negotiators announced on Friday they were putting the talks on “pause” to allow political leaders to take stock.

In a joint statement following the latest round of negotiations in London, the UK’s Lord Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier said the conditions for an agreement had still not been met.

After months of circling round the same issues, they said “significant divergences” remained over fisheries, the “level playing field” rules on fair competition and the enforcement mechanism for any deal.

While a series of deadlines have come and gone, this weekend is being seen as crucial if there is to be an agreement before the current Brexit transition period comes to an end at the end of the month.

However, the UK side has accused Brussels of trying to introduce “new elements” into the talks at the 11th hour putting the chances of a deal in jeopardy.

They fear Mr Barnier has been coming under pressure from French President Emmanuel Macron, as the leader of a group of nations concerned that he has given too much ground to the UK.

On Friday, France’s Europe minister Charles Beaune publicly warned his country could veto any agreement if they were not happy with the terms.

But in a sign of tensions within the bloc, Irish premier Micheal Martin – whose country could be one of the biggest losers in the event of no-deal – complained some member states had been putting pressure on to gain “additional information”.

He pointedly called for the negotiators to be given the “space” they needed to conclude their discussions.

Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen are expected to speak by telephone on Saturday afternoon.

EU leaders are due to meet on Thursday for a two-day summit in Brussels – their last scheduled gathering of the year – when they could sign-off on any agreement.

Time then has to be found for both Houses of Parliament in the UK and the European parliament to ratify it before the transition period expires.

If there is no agreement the UK will leave the European single market and customs union on December 31 and begin trading with the bloc on World Trade Organisation terms, with the imposition of tariffs and quotas.

In a further complicating factor, the UK Government is bringing back to the Commons legislation enabling it to override elements of Mr Johnson’s “divorce” settlement with Brussels in breach of international law.

On Monday, MPs will vote on whether to overturn amendments by the House of Lords which removed the provisions in the UK Internal Market Bill relating to the Irish border.

MPs will then go on later in the week to debate the Taxation (Post-Transition Period) Bill which contains further similar provisions.

The legislation has infuriated the EU and – if it is passed – could further sour the mood in the negotiations making a deal harder to reach.

In their statement, Lord Frost and Mr Barnier said: “After one week of intense negotiation in London, the two chief negotiators agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.

“On this basis, they agreed to pause the talks in order to brief their principals on the state of play of the negotiations.”

Published: 05/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Regulator defends speed of UK vaccine approval as first batch arrives
The UK approved a Covid-19 vaccine without compromising safety, the medicines regulator said after America’s top infectious disease expert questioned the level of scrutiny. Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned the speed at which the UK approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could undermine confidence in the jab.

Dr Fauci told CBS American regulators would do a “more thorough job”, although he later backed away from the comments, saying he was not implying sloppiness on the part of British authorities, in whom he had “great faith”.

However with the first doses of the vaccine now believed to have arrived in the UK, there was still confusion over who would receive it first, with Scotland planning to deliver the jabs into care homes from December 14, but NHS England not committing to a date.

The comments came as the coronavirus death toll in the UK passed the 60,000 mark, jumping to 60,113 after a further 414 fatalities were announced on Thursday.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer jab, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, with 800,000 doses expected to arrive by next week.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: “We have rigorously assessed the data in the shortest time possible, without compromising the thoroughness of our review.

“Covid-19 vaccines, including this one, are being developed in a co-ordinated way that allows some stages of this process to happen in parallel to condense the time needed, but it does not mean steps and the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness have been bypassed.”

It added a rolling review of the vaccine data started at the beginning of October, and the agency said it had made good progress on the review before the last submission of data was received.

“Any vaccine must undergo robust clinical trials in line with international standards, with oversight provided by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

“No vaccine would be authorised for supply in the UK unless the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.”

The Times reported MHRA head June Raine will conduct a round of interviews with regional radio stations in an attempt to convince people concerned about the vaccine, believing people are more likely to trust what they hear on local radio.

Dr Fauci told CBS News that Britain “kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile” adding: “They really rushed through that approval.”

“The FDA, the United States of America Food and Drug Administration, is the gold standard of regulation,” he said.

“They are doing it in a careful way, appropriately.”

He warned the speed of the approval could damage confidence, telling Sky News: “When we did a survey here in the US, there was a considerable degree of scepticism and reluctance to get vaccinated and we were concerned that if we did anything that looked like it was cutting corners that would feed into the scepticism.”

But in a later interview with BBC News, Dr Fauci said he did not mean to “imply any sloppiness”, adding: “I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community at the UK.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) offered a toned down response to the MHRA decision, simply stating the approval had been “acknowledged”.

Dr Siddhartha Sankar Datta, WHO regional adviser for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunisation in Europe, said: “The national regulatory authority of a country will review the different elements of a system before they make the vaccine licensed for use – (based on) the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine.

“That is what the UK’s national regulatory authority has done yesterday with their evaluation. We have learned about it and we acknowledge it.”

The European regulator has criticised the approval of the vaccine using emergency powers, insisting that its own, slower approach is more appropriate.

One Cabinet minister declared the UK is getting a coronavirus vaccine first because it is a “much better country” than France, Belgium and the US.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson praised the work done by the medical regulator to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use.

Issues surrounding storage temperature and how many times it can be transported have prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to warn of “immense logistical challenges” in the Pfizer rollout, with experts saying people in care homes might face a delay in receiving immunisation from the disease.

NHS England would not commit to a date to roll the vaccine out in English care homes.

In related news:

– Travel between Wales and some other parts of the UK will be allowed from 6pm on Friday, including to and from Tier 1 and 2 areas of England and Level 1 and 2 areas of Scotland.

– But the Welsh Government says travel is prohibited between Wales and Tier 3 areas of England, Level 3 or 4 areas of Scotland, and the whole of Northern Ireland, which is currently under lockdown.

– The proportion of close contacts reached by England’s Test and Trace system has jumped after contact tracers stopped trying to reach all under-18s individually – but more than a quarter are still being missed despite the change.

– Facebook has vowed to start removing false claims about new coronavirus vaccines, including misinformation that vaccines contain microchips.

Published: 04/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

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