Ministers could send military support to Hull

Ministers could send Army troops to Hull as a ‘Covid emergency’ is declared with the city battling the worst infection rates in England

  • Council bosses and MPs issued statement after Covid-19 Taskforce meeting 
  • Said the group discussed what they have called Hull’s ‘Covid-19 emergency’ 
  • City had 1,944 new cases recorded in seven days to November 15, figures show
  • This is the equivalent of 748.3 cases per 100,000 people, data has revealed 

The Government is considering introducing ‘feet on the ground’ military support in Hull to help tackle the city’s Covid-19 infection rate – the worst figure recorded in England.

Council leaders and MPs issued a joint statement after a meeting on Friday with the Government’s national Covid-19 Taskforce over what they have called Hull’s ‘Covid-19 emergency.’

Figures published on Thursday show the city had 1,944 new cases recorded in the seven days to November 15 – the equivalent of 748.3 cases per 100,000 people.

This is up slightly on 735.6 in the seven days to November 8.

In a joint statement following the meeting, leader of Hull City Council Stephen Brady and MPs Dame Diana Johnson, Karl Turner and Emma Hardy said: ‘We’ve had a positive meeting with the Government and discussions for military support are underway with a request for assistance with planning and actual “feet on the ground” to support the administration of our targeted lateral flow tests.

‘We also made the point that we would be keen to be part of any pilot on mass vaccination with additional logistical support.’ 

In other coronavirus news: 

  • Office for National Statistics data published this afternoon showed daily infections dropped from 47,700 to 38,900 between November 8 and November 14, a fall of 18 per cent. The ONS said the rate of new infections ‘appears to have levelled off in the most recent week’;
  • The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said the reproduction ‘R’ rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient passes the disease to – had fallen slightly to a maximum of 1.1, from a maximum of 1.2 last week, and could be as low as 1.0 or lower in every region of Britain; 
  • Professor Lockdown Neil Ferguson warned most Covid curbs should stay after national shutdown ends on December 2 or infections will ‘rebound’;
  • Northern Ireland is going into lockdow again just days after reopening, with all non-essential shops, hair salons and cafes forced to close from next Friday in another tough two-week shutdown; 
  • Rishi Sunak is facing a battle with trade unions as they brand his pay squeeze for five million public sector workers – apart from nurses and doctors – a ‘cruel body blow’ as he scrambles for ways to help pay for coronavirus recovery;
  • Ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Government should test everyone for coronavirus once a month to make a ‘freedom pass’ system where people with negative results can live normal lives; 
  • People with COVID-19 antibodies are protected against reinfection for at least six months, an Oxford study has found. 

The Government is considering introducing ‘feet on the ground’ military support in Hull to help tackle the city’s Covid-19 infection rate – the worst figure recorded in England. Pictured: Soldiers in Southport earlier this month ahead of  operation moonshot

The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said the reproduction ‘R’ rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient passes the disease to – had fallen slightly to a maximum of 1.1, from a maximum of 1.2 last week, and could be as low as 1.0 or lower in every region of Britain

Matt Hancock today confirmed that coronavirus vaccines will start to roll out next month if one is approved by the British drug regulator.

There were another 20,252 positive coronavirus tests recorded country-wide today – and 511 more people have died. 

While cases are down – a drop of 26 per cent from the 27,301 recorded last Friday – deaths are continuing to rise, with today’s 511 a 36 per cent increase from 376 this time last week. 

The UK-wide R rate – which denotes how many people each infected person gives the virus to – has fallen for a second week in a row and could be at 1.0 or lower in every region of the UK. 

The whole-country estimate is at between 1.0 and 1.1, the lowest figure since the start of September before the second wave began.

Leaders in Hull said they also discussed with the taskforce a request to allow more flexible local decision making on school closures.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock held a TV briefing today to announce that the Government has officially asked the drugs regulator the MHRA to consider whether Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine is suitable to use on the public

This followed Hull’s director of public health Julia Weldon revealing that 57 of the city’s 97 schools have seen closures in some year groups but that only one primary school had been completely closed to all children ‘for a very short period of time’.

The statement on Friday said: ‘The issue of flexibilities for local schools, to move to key workers and vulnerable children only which would only be done on a case-by-case basis and if absolutely required, is now fully understood by the Government and it is hoped there will be a positive outcome to this request from the Department for Education.’

The leaders said it was likely Hull will emerge in Tier 3 or in an even higher bracket after the national lockdown ends on December 2.

They said they had also made the case for extra discretionary financial support for businesses, as well as for the city council itself, and said there is plans to meet with Government again in a fortnight.

Friday’s meeting followed a personal plea to Prime Minister Boris Johnson from Mr Brady.

The Labour council leader said that the city has been ‘forgotten’ by central Government and urged Mr Johnson to take action after its Covid-19 infection rates soared at an ‘astonishing and terrifying rate’.

Earlier this week, the Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said there were 188 confirmed Covid-19 positive patients in hospital in the city, with 14 in intensive care.

Office for National Statistics data published this afternoon showed daily infections dropped from 47,700 to 38,900 between November 8 and November 14, a fall of 18 per cent. The ONS said the rate of new infections ‘appears to have levelled off in the most recent week’

Last week, Ms Weldon said this figure could soon rise to 400 or even 500 ‘in the next couple of weeks’, given the rising infection rates.

On Thursday, the trust announced that a total of more than 300 people had now died from Covid-19 in the city’s hospital.

HOW DOES HANCOCK PLAN TO VACCINATE A MILLION PEOPLE A DAY? 

The Health Secretary has revealed ambitions to inoculate a million Brits against Covid every day as soon as a vaccinate is given the green light by the UK drugs watchdog.

Though Mr Hancock has admitted it was going to be ‘one of the biggest civilian projects in history’. 

Normally the NHS vaccinates 15 million people against flu every year winter over the space of about four months. 

The Government plans to set up dozens of mass coronavirus vaccination sites across the country in the coming weeks.

Doctors, nurses, firefighters and soldiers will be trained up to help deliver the inoculations. 

Retired medics, medical students and other NHS staff who normally don’t give vaccines – including physiotherapists – are also being recruited. 

GP surgeries have been told to organise the initial wave, which will involve using community centres, village halls, and practices themselves to administer the jabs to care workers and the elderly as soon as next month.

The NHS is establishing a series of much larger venues to inject millions of others once those at the top of the priority list have had the jabs. 

Empty NHS Nightingale Hospitals and sports centres, including the Derby Arena, area are reportedly being lined up as possible venues.

Mr Hancock told Sky News the roll out should be ‘relatively straightforward’ because the NHS has the infrastructure.

But the health service will have to juggle the unprecedented Covid drive with the biggest flu vaccination programme ever – 30million people are being vaccinated on the NHS compared the 15million normally.

There is also the logistical problems with Pfizer’s vaccine – which looks set to be the first jab to be approved.

It needs to be stored at -70°C (-94°F), which means the UK will need to buy specialist freezers and huge supplies of dry ice. 

Teresa Cope, chief operating officer for the trust, said: ‘The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic has affected our region much more severely than the first and we are seeing the results of this in both our Covid-related hospital admissions and the number of people dying locally with the virus.’

She said: ‘Covid-19 remains a very real danger in Hull and the East Riding.’ 

It follows a TV briefing by Health Secretary Mr Hancock today, in which he said the Government has officially asked the regulator, the MHRA, to consider licensing the vaccine made by pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and BioNTech.

A late-stage study this week confirmed that the jab was 95 per cent effective in clinical trials and appears to protect people of all ages from coronavirus.

The £15-a-dose jab is currently the odds-on favourite to be approved first by the MHRA, although candidates from Moderna and Oxford University are close behind.

This week’s results from the Office for National Statistics mass testing survey suggest that England’s second wave peaked at the start of lockdown, with the estimated daily infections tumbling by 18 per cent in the first week of the shutdown, from 47,700 to 38,900 per day by November 14. 

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy medical officer for England, said today that the UK is ‘waiting’ for the watchdog’s authorisation to use the vaccine and said it would ‘happen at the speed of science’.

Leaked NHS plans today revealed that even those in the lowest risk group – healthy adults under the age of 55 – may be able to start getting vaccinated in just two months’ time if everything goes to plan.

The files say all pencilled-in dates for vaccines are dependent on the arrival of supplies – with up to seven million doses expected next month – and are based on NHS proposals to create huge GP-run facilities to deliver the shots. 

Mr Hancock said: ‘I can confirm that the government has formally asked the MHRA to assess the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for its suitability.

‘If a vaccine is approved, it will of course be available across the UK, from our NHS, free at the point of delivery according to need not ability to pay.’

The announcement follows the news earlier today that Pfizer had asked the regulator in the US – the FDA – to do the same thing there.

It released a report earlier this week confirming that it had finished collecting the required amount of safety data and that testing showed its vaccine may protect up to 95 per cent of people from getting Covid-19.

Although Pfizer’s is currently the front of queue it may not be approved, or may take longer to get through the process that one that comes later, but officials are expected to give at least one type the green light this year.

The UK has ordered 40million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine – with the first batch set to arrive next month – and five million of Moderna’s – which are due in spring next year. It also has an order in place for up to 100million vials of Oxford’s candidate which scientists say should finish clinical trials by Christmas.

The leaked NHS plans suggest vaccines could be made available to all UK adults by the end of January but most 18 to 50-year-olds, who are the least likely to get severe Covid-19 and die, would likely be vaccinated in March.

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