New Covid app results reveals if YOUR area is at risk of moving tiers next week

A NEW coronavirus dashboard can reveal whether your area is at risk of moving tiers next week.

The data, from the researchers behind the ZOE Covid Symptom Study, shows the Covid-19 prevalence rate for each area of England.

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It suggests that for the majority of the country, cases per 100,000 have either fallen or remain stable.

There are just four subregions where the rate of infections is on the rise, according to the latest app data from yesterday.

These include current Tier 2 areas of Suffolk, Wiltshire and Swindon, and Reading, Wokingham, Bracknell Forest, Windsor and Maidenhead and West Berkshire.

It means that if cases continue to rise, these places could end up under the toughest level of restrictions when they are reviewed next week.

Meanwhile, Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull, in the West Midlands may have to remain in Tier 3 as case rates there continue to rise.

The dashboard is part of a daily report from experts at ZOE and King's College London, which is then presented to the Government.

It is based on around one million weekly self-reporters and the proportion of newly symptomatic users who have positive swab tests.

Professor Tim Spector, who leads the team, tweeted on Friday: "We launched today on the ZOE app a complex dashboard about the stats for English tiers based on the govt criteria on prevalence, trends and NHS capacity."

He added that they will be simplifying the format, but that the data is available to all those who self-report on the app.

The epidemiologist also revealed today that there is now little regional variation in new cases with around 18,000 per day.

He said the R rate is now sitting at 0.8 across England, however, it has gone above 1 in Wales.

However, Prof Spector warned that there are now more new cases in London than in the North where infections have flattened.

England's tier system, which was re-enforced on December 2, will be reviewed every two weeks with the first review next Wednesday.

It takes into account the case rates and NHS capacity as well as the views of local directors of public health all taken into consideration.

A final decision on whether any areas should change tiers made at a Cabinet committee with changes coming to effect on December 19.

After the fourth review on January 27, the tier regulations will be brought to Parliament again. 

CLIMB DOWN

While 99% of England have been placed in Tiers 2 and 3 from December 2, the Prime Minister has assured MPs that it will be possible for areas to climb down the tier system if infection rates reduce. 

The government has said it will use five different measures to decide which tiers are applied in an area, including case detection rates in all age groups, the rate at which infections are rising or falling, and the predicted strain on the NHS. 

But the potential roll out of effective vaccines could mean an end to the tier system early in 2021. 

Vaccinations will be administered at dozens of hospital hubs from Tuesday – dubbed "V-Day" by Health Secretary Matt Hancock – with people aged 80 and older, care home workers and NHS workers who are at higher risk at the front of the queue.

Croydon University Hospital in south London was one of the first hospitals to take delivery of the vaccine over the weekend, with similar scenes unfolding around the country ahead of the rollout.

 

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

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

Logistical issues mean there are difficulties in delivering the Pfizer jab to care home residents, as it needs to be stored at minus 70C before being thawed out and can only be moved up to four times within that cold chain before being used.

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

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), was asked when the MHRA would approve the breaking up of the vaccine packs into smaller batches for care homes.

She told BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "We have approved how the vaccine can be put into the smaller packs, but obviously what we're doing is giving advice and guidance on how well and carefully that is done."

It has been confirmed care home residents in Scotland will be able to receive the vaccine from December 14.

The distribution of the vaccine across the UK is being undertaken by Public Health England and the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through systems specially adapted from those used for the national immunisation programmes.

On arrival in Croydon, the batch of vaccines was unboxed by a pharmacy technician wearing specific protective equipment to ensure safe handling at such cold temperatures.

After going through final quality control checks, batches will be placed in freezers to ensure they are kept at the right temperature until being used.

JAB HUBS

There are 50 hubs in the first wave of the vaccination programme in England, with more hospitals starting to vaccinate over the coming weeks and months as the programme ramps up.

It is not known when exactly all 50 hubs will receive vaccine doses, as they are starting to administer the jab at different times, but deliveries are expected throughout the week.

NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said many hospital hubs had received their allocation of the initial 800,000 doses, and she expected there would be up to four million doses in the country by the end of December.

Meanwhile, the UK's chief medical officers have warned the coronavirus vaccine will only have a "marginal impact" on hospital numbers over the winter.

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

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

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.

GPs will then be expected to administer jabs according to the priority list set down by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) as more stocks of the vaccine come in.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said there has so far been "mixed messaging" about when higher risk people can expect to be vaccinated.

BMA chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the Government needed to "be crystal clear" about when priority groups will be vaccinated after "mixed messaging about when care homes, high-risk patients in the community and NHS staff can expect to be vaccinated".

 

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