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Tiered approach has curbed COVID cases, masks still vital even with vaccine say medical experts

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Swab tests on over 105,000 people as part of a major research study have shown that coronavirus infections are declining in England.

An interim report from the Imperial College of London’s REACT programme, which includes results from home coronavirus tests taken between 13th and 24th November, shows that an estimated 0.96% of England’s population has the virus, or around 1 in 100 people.

This is roughly a 30% drop in the number of infections compared with previous findings, where more than 1 in 80 or 1.3% of people had the virus as of 2nd November.

The results also highlight that the virus is having an uneven impact, with health workers, people living in large households and minority ethnic individuals having a higher risk of infection.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, said: “Our robust data offer encouraging signs for England’s epidemic, where we’re seeing a fall in infections at the national level and in particular across regions that were previously worst affected. These trends suggest that the tiered approach helped to curb infections in these areas and that lockdown has added to this effect.”

Despite the findings, Boris Johnson suffered the largest backbench rebellion of his premiership after more than 50 Tory MPs voted against the new three-tier system of coronavirus regulations.

The measures were passed by 291 votes to 78, paving the way for 99 per cent of England to be placed under the toughest Tier 2 and 3 restrictions when England’s national lockdown ended.

Vaccine not a replacement for masks

Prof Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said while the news of the UK approval of the Pfizer vaccine brings a “good news day, we do have to acknowledge several key things that are not being said by everyone.”

Evans has said that even with a vaccine being deployed within high-risk populations, he said that we will “not be able to change distancing, mask wearing etc for quite some time- months at least, and we don’t yet know when or whether that will stop.”

“Making vaccination available is not enough; people need to be convinced so that they do accept being vaccinated,” said Evans.

Evans warned that as we do not yet know about effects of vaccines that are extremely rare, and before we do there will be “scares” about adverse effects that are coincidental in fact, but perceived by some as being caused by the vaccine.

“As soon as we vaccinate very large numbers of people there will be coincidental deaths and strokes that occur in elderly people soon after receiving a vaccine. The MHRA and other groups are poised to study these things and to ensure that they are not in fact CAUSED by vaccination, but such events we know will happen, but jumping to conclusions will be unwise,” said Evans.

Although we are, physically, an Island, viruses do not respect borders, opined Evans.

“No country is an island entire of itself; every country is a piece of the world, a part of the world” (adapted from John Donne 1624). We need to ensure low and middle-income countries must also get access to effective vaccination. Selfishness will rebound,” he said.

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