Virus restrictions ‘likely to remain until next summer,’ says Oxford vaccine chief

Prof. Andrew Pollard, who runs Oxford University’s research group working to find a coronavirus vaccine, said that without immunization there was minimal chance of Britain returning to normality until at least next summer. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 14 October 2020

Virus restrictions ‘likely to remain until next summer,’ says Oxford vaccine chief

  • Pollard also warned that a working vaccine available on a national scale by the new year might not be possible even if trials are completed by December

LONDON: The UK faces at least another nine months of restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus, because a workable vaccine might not be ready until well into 2021, the head of Oxford University’s vaccine team said on Tuesday.

Prof. Andrew Pollard, who runs the university’s research group working to find a coronavirus vaccine, said that without immunization there was minimal chance of Britain returning to normality until at least next summer, with measures such as face masks and social distancing likely to remain in place until then, the Mail Online reported.

“Life won’t be back to normal until summer at the earliest. We may need masks until July,” Pollard said during an online seminar with Oxford alumni.

“If we end up with a vaccine that’s effective in preventing the disease, that is by far the best way to control the virus. But in the medium term, we’ll still need better treatments.

“When does life get back to normal? Even if we had enough vaccines for everyone, in my view it’s unlikely that we’re going to rapidly be in a position where the physical distancing rules can be just dropped.

“Only when there is a big drop in serious cases will governments feel able to relax these measures. This is an easily transmissible virus,” he added.

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Pollard also warned that a working vaccine available on a national scale by the new year might not be possible even if trials are completed by December, especially as any approved immunization product would have to be given to health workers and front-line staff first.

And even once a vaccine had received approval from Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, it would still pose a “huge logistical challenge” to roll the program out on a national level, Pollard said.

“Once we have the trial results, I can’t imagine they will do that overnight,” he added. “They will have to scrutinize the data very carefully — the public would not expect any less.”

Pollard’s Oxford vaccine team has been working alongside pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop a vaccine using human trials since April.

The professor’s warnings come as the UK government is contemplating stricter, more localized lockdowns to combat a sharp increase in virus cases in England and Wales.


Italy’s Lombardy region to impose virus curfew

Updated 20 October 2020

Italy’s Lombardy region to impose virus curfew

  • The curfew from 11pm to 5am is expected to begin on Thursday night and last to November 13
  • More than 10,000 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in Italy on Friday for the time ever

ROME: Italy’s northern Lombardy region prepared Tuesday to impose a nighttime curfew, the most restrictive anti-coronavirus measure the country has seen since emerging from a national lockdown in the spring.
The curfew from 11pm (2100GMT) to 5am is expected to begin on Thursday night and last to November 13.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza gave his consent late Monday to the more restrictive measure proposed by the regional government, after an hours-long meeting.
“It’s an appropriate and symbolically important initiative that shouldn’t have particularly serious economic consequences,” Regional President Attilio Fontana said in the newspaper La Repubblica on Tuesday.
More than 10,000 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in Italy on Friday for the time ever, with Lombardy the hardest hit region, as it was in the beginning of the health crisis in February.
The region, which includes Italy’s financial hub of Milan, reported 1,687 new cases on Monday, with Italy’s southern Campania region coming a close second with 1,593.
Since Italy became the first hard-hit European country earlier this year, more than 36,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the country.
On Saturday, Lombardy ordered its bars to shut at midnight and prohibited the consumption of food and drink in public outside areas.
Italy has put in place recent restrictions to try to stem the new wave of infections, but none have so far imposed a curfew.
They include banning amateur contact sports, such as football matches, school trips, and restricting bars and restaurants to table service after 6pm.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he does not envision another country-wide lockdown, which would further sap Italy’s struggling economy, but has said that he would not rule out limited ones.
Lombardy’s curfew is expected to only allow people to leave their home for reasons of health, work or necessity.
The new decree will also call for large shopping centers to be shut on weekends, according to Italian media reports.