The Covid-19 variants that have worried scientists do not appear to be increasing in popular European destinations, British advisors have said.
While the Covid infection rates are still high in countries like Spain and France, the values of the South African variant, for example, remain fairly constant and, according to scientists advising the government, do not increase.
The Kent variant is now so widespread in many European countries that there is currently no advantage for other variants and therefore they do not increase particularly.
Although there are pockets where variant cases seem high, they still only account for about 5% of the cases or less.
Experts therefore believe that variants may not become such a problem, depending on what measures countries like Spain and France are taking to lock down now.
The advisors believe that, as was the case in the UK, there is now a race between increased virus spread and vaccination.
It is still unclear whether vaccines protect against variants, although research published last week indicated that the Pfizer bump could offer good protection against the Brazilian and South African variants.
AstraZeneca also hopes that its vaccine will protect against serious diseases of all kinds.
The government’s scientific advisors believe that if the international holiday resumes, PCR testing will be required as it is more sensitive than the cheaper lateral flow tests.
They also argue that PCR testing is the only type that can detect the presence of variants and is therefore needed for international travel.
When it comes to herd immunity at home, the scientific advisors believe it is still a long way off. More than 80% of people need a vaccine to achieve herd immunity.
However, they said that the introduction of the vaccine had already slowed transmission a lot and that this will increase as more younger people are bumped into.
The comments come from new data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showing that around one in 340 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week leading up to April 3 – largely unchanged from the previous week
It’s the lowest since the week leading up to September 24th, when the estimate was one in 470.
In Wales, an estimated one in 800 people in the week leading up to April 3 had Covid-19 – up from one in 570 in the week leading up to March 27.
The estimate for Scotland is one in 410, one in 320, and for Northern Ireland it is one in 300, one in 220.
The R ranges from 0.8 to 1 across England. Government scientists said the situation was too variable to produce a UK R rate, but R is believed to be above 1 in some parts of the UK.
Scientific advisors said infection rates have flattened out, with possible increases in some cities.
Elsewhere, the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) Safety Committee has announced that it will continue to review reports of rare blood clots related to the vaccine produced by Janssen, of which Johnson & Johnson is the parent company.
Four serious cases of unusual blood clots with low platelets have been reported – one in a clinical trial and three during the launch of the vaccine in the US. One person died.
It comes after the EMA said earlier this week that low platelet count cerebral blood clots should be considered a rare side effect of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine.
The EMA is also investigating five reports of rare capillary leak syndrome in people vaccinated with AstraZeneca.
This syndrome causes fluid to leak out of blood vessels, causing tissue swelling and a drop in blood pressure.
Meanwhile, papers published by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) suggest that five days of sequential cross-flow testing for regimen compliance could be equivalent to the effectiveness of a 10-day quarantine period.