NEWS OF THE WEEK 22/11/20
On Wednesday, Pfizer revealed they have found their vaccine to be 95% effective against Coronavirus, 28 days after administration. The vaccines efficiency seems to be consistent amongst all races, ethnicities and genders, with 94% efficacy in people over 65. This means the vaccine has achieved the safety criteria it needs to be distributed across the country- although it still needs to be assessed by the UK’s medicines regulator, MHRA. The most common side effects seemed to be fatigue and headaches, although these were not at a particularly high rate.
If the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approve the vaccine, it will begin to be administered in December. In order for herd immunity to work- as so the virus cannot be spread easily- 60-70% of Brits will need to be vaccinated, which will require millions of vaccines to be developed.
Alternatively, a jab for those who cannot be vaccinated is also being trialled. The hope is that people with weakened immune systems will be able to receive a jab containing antibodies that will protect them against coronavirus for ‘at least’ 6 months. The injection, created by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, is currently going through its final trials in Manchester. In addition to this, Matt Hancock has announced that over-50s will be offered a free flu jab from December onwards, alongside the Coronavirus vaccine or antibody injection.
NORTHERN IRELAND’S SECOND CIRCUIT BREAKER
Northern Ireland have made the decision to extend their circuit breaker. Originally, the lockdown was meant to end on the 27thof November, however, this deadline has now been extended for another 2 weeks. The extension will also bring new restrictions throughout Northern Ireland, including the closure of non-essential shops and places of worship. First Minister Arlene Foster has said that Northern Ireland is faced with the ‘sobering prospect’ of hospitals being overwhelmed within the next few weeks unless extra measures are taken.
Amid accusations of bullying, an inquiry was launched to investigate the behaviour of Home Secretary Priti Patel. The report found that Patel had breached the ministerial code, with claims that she would swear and shout at colleagues. It found that Patel’s behaviour ‘amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by victims’.
Boris Johnson, however, has denied the findings and has expressed his full support for Patel, with claims that Johnson has tried to tone down the seriousness of the report’s findings. Johnson’s support for Patel has been met with criticism from Unions, arguing that is has undermined the rights of workers. The Prime Minister’s ethics advisor, Sir Alex Allan, has resigned over Johnson’s refusal to fire Patel.
On Thursday, Johnson announced an extra £16.5 million for the defence budget over a four-year span. The Prime Minister told the Commons about the introduction of energy weapons as a replacement for traditional guns, with the aim of ‘revolutionising warfare’. This is the biggest investment in the defence budget in 30 years.
The investment has been defended by Johnson as a much-needed modernisation of the UK defence bodies, with the creation of a new Space Command aspect of the military, designed to protect the UK against drone attacks. It is also stressed that the armed forces now has a wider role within society, with military intervention in humanitarian crises and our coronavirus response.