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The end of ‘Plan B’, Omicron specific jab, care-home restrictions eased and regional dis

Restrictions eased this week as England moves out of Plan B and back to Plan B

The Plan B restrictions introduced over the Christmas period due to the rise of the Omicron variant have finally ended this week. The other nations in the UK are also moving to less stringent restrictions, but are not opening up to the level of England.

Mask wearing and working from home advice are among those restrictions being removed as England moves out of the government’s Covid Plan B. The advice for pupils and staff to wear masks in classrooms was removed on 20 January, and work from home advice eased on 19 January.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The tireless efforts of NHS and care staff, and the army of volunteers, as well as the phenomenal response of the British public means over 37 million people, have been boosted. I want to thank everyone who has come forward to get boosted now… Our vaccines, testing and antivirals ensure we have some of the strongest defences in Europe and are allowing us to cautiously return to Plan A, restoring more freedoms to this country.”

Read the full story in Sky News.

Pfizer and BioNTech start trials of new Omicron specific jab

Pfizer and BioNTech have started clinical trials of a new Covid vaccine which targets the Omicron variant. The companies plan to test the protection gained from the new vaccine as a booster jab and as three separate jabs in unvaccinated people. More than 1,400 adults are expected to be enrolled in the trial, likely to be in the United States.

Moderna, Oxford University and AstraZeneca are also planning to begin trials of their own Omicron-specific vaccine soon. Vaccine developers had always planned to tweak their original Covid vaccines as new variants emerged, but the arrival of the fast-spreading Omicron strain in the last two months has hastened that process. Many countries have now offered a booster or third dose of their original vaccine, which has been shown to provide a good level of protection against serious illness and death – even against Omicron.

Kathrin U. Jansen, senior vice-president and head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer said: “Staying vigilant against the virus requires us to identify new approaches for people to maintain a high level of protection, and we believe developing and investigating variant-based vaccines, like this one, are essential in our efforts towards this goal”

Read the full story in BBC News.

Care home Covid rules to be relaxed in England allowing more visitors

Care home residents in England will be able to receive unlimited visitors from Monday as the restrictions to tackle the Omicron variant are eased, the Department of Health has said. Self-isolation periods will be reduced from 14 days to 10 days for those residents who test positive, with further reductions if they test negative on days five and six.

The easing of care home restrictions comes as 86.5% of care home residents have now had their booster jab, the DoH said, which provides maximum protection against Omicron, with the latest data from the UK Health Security Agency showing it is 92% effective in preventing hospitalisation two weeks after it is administered.

The health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “I know how vital companionship is to those living in care homes and the positive difference visits make, which is why we continued to allow three named visitors and an essential care giver under plan B measures… Thanks to the progress we have made, I am delighted that care home restrictions can now be eased further allowing residents to see more of their loved ones.”

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Northerners more likely to develop hearing loss

A new study from the University of Manchester has found that northerners are up to 85 per cent more likely to develop hearing loss than southerners. Researchers said deprivation, working in heavy industry and increased alcohol intake could be behind the differences, although they warned that the study could not prove causation.

To determine the geographical differences in hearing loss, the team looked at 8,263 participants aged 50-89 years old from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). They found that for people aged 61 to 70 year-olds, one quarter (24.6 per cent) of people in the North East and 22.6 per cent in Yorkshire and Humber, had hearing loss compared with 14.6 per cent in the South East.

Dr Dalia Tsimpida, a postdoctoral researcher based in the University’s Division of Medical Education, and primary investigator of the study, said: “Hearing loss is an important public health issue that costs the English economy over £25 billion a year in productivity and unemployment… We cannot imply causality at this stage; behind it might be the result of socio-economic factors such as high occupational noise exposure from manual occupations and differences in regions of England with strong and weak manufacturing industries.”

Read the full story in The Telegraph.


Quote of the week

The deadline in April is getting closer for patient-facing NHS workers to be fully vaccinated or lose their job. Asa Granger is a paramedic for South East Coast Ambulance Service has said:

“I cannot treat any one of my patients without their consent, yet they’re asking me to get vaccinated against my will…Back in 2020 we were all being clapped and come 2022 they’re saying we are sacking you, it’s an absolute disgrace… I’m relatively young, fit and well. There have been lots of adverse effects linked to the vaccine. If I don’t take the vaccine I’m 100% safe from the side-effects. I’m pretty happy with those odds.”

Read the full story in BBC News.

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