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In interviews this morning George Eustice, the environment secretary, insisted that hotels would be ready for the introduction of the hotel quarantine rule for arrivals from high-risk countries from Monday next week – even though Downing Street said yesterday no contracts had yet been signed. He told the Today programme:
My understanding is that officials in the Department for Health are in discussion with a range of operators about procuring those hotels, and they are confident that they will get the capacity needed for the policy to start next week.
I don’t really accept that. I think, ever since December when we started to see these other strains arriving, we have been incrementally strengthening our approach to the border.
Prof Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told the Today programme this morning that the findings of study publicised at the weekend saying the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offered only “minimal” protection against mild or moderate illness from the South African variant of coronavirus were expected. He explained:
In many ways, it’s exactly what we would have expected, because the virus is introducing mutations, as we’ve discussed before, to allow it to still transmit in populations where there’s some immunity.
And we already knew in South Africa that the virus was able to cause mild infections in people who were infected earlier last year.
The really important point though is that all vaccines, everywhere in the world where they’ve been tested, are still preventing severe disease and death.
And I think that is perhaps the clue to the future here, that we are going to see new variants arise and they will spread in the population, like most of the viruses that cause colds every winter.