- The UK introduced nationwide quarantine until mid-February.
- Saudi Arabia and its allies agree to lift the blockade from Qatar.
- BioNTech, Pfizer, warns the UK against attempts to postpone the second vaccine shot.
The UK Introduced Nationwide Quarantine Until mid-February
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a special address to the nation on Monday evening, January 4, in which he announced the introduction of a new lockdown in the United Kingdom from January 6 due to the second wave of coronavirus.
The country’s government has decided to quarantine and close schools in England due to the rapid deterioration of the epidemic situation and the growing threat of overcrowding in hospitals. The reason for this threat was the rapid spread of a new genetic variant of the coronavirus, previously identified in the kingdom.
“Our scientists have confirmed that the transmission rate of this new variant is 50% to 70% higher than the previous variant,” Johnson said, noting the sharp increase in the number of deaths and infections. “The number of deaths over the past week has grown by 20% and, unfortunately, will only grow,” he admitted. “If decisive measures are not taken now, the national health system may be overwhelmed within 21 days,” the prime minister said, stressing that the quarantine will last at least until mid-February.
Scotland has already announced a national lockdown, it began at midnight. The quarantine regime also applies in Northern Ireland and Wales. Each of the administrative and political parts of the United Kingdom has the right to independently determine the sanitary and epidemiological measures in force on its territory, but their similarity, in fact, makes this third quarantine nationwide.
Thus, the UK government listened to experts from the National Health Service (NHS) and the chief doctors of the regions of the United Kingdom, who recommended increasing the threat level from coronavirus from the fourth to the maximum fifth level.
On Monday, the number of detected cases of coronavirus in Britain per day was a record 58 784 since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 50 thousand cases of infection have been recorded daily for a week. In many parts of England, the situation is dire, with hospitals nearly overcrowded, and the temporary Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Convention Center in east London is expected to begin admitting patients this week.
The head of government-linked the lifting of restrictions to the success of vaccinations and a number of other factors. “If our understanding of the virus does not change dramatically, if the rollout of the vaccination program continues successfully if the number of deaths starts to decline, because vaccines will work, and most importantly, if everyone observes the rules, then I hope we can gradually lift quarantine restrictions, “Johnson said.
Saudi Arabia and its Allies Agree to Lift the Blockade from Qatar
Saudi Arabia and its allies agreed to resume relations with Qatar and lift the blockade imposed on the emirate more than three years ago. A senior source in the Donald Trump administration told Reuters that an agreement between the parties that would end the conflict will be signed on January 5.
Gulf leaders are scheduled to meet in Riyadh on Tuesday for an annual summit to announce a resolution to the conflict. As part of the agreement, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt will end the blockade of Qatar, and the emirate, in response, will abandon claims related to the sanctions of neighboring states.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmed Nasser al-Sabah later announced that Saudi Arabia would open its land, air, and sea borders with Qatar.
“Tonight an agreement was reached on the opening of air, land, sea borders between Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” TASS quoted him as saying.
If the agreement is signed, it will be another major diplomatic success for the Donald Trump administration. Earlier, American diplomats managed to achieve the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. It is noted that US actions in the Middle East are aimed at creating a coalition against Iran.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates broke off relations with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region. Qatar — which shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia — rejected the accusations, calling them “unjustified” and “baseless.”
Doha had been set 13 demands, ranging from closing Al Jazeera television and shuttering a Turkish base to cutting links to the Muslim Brotherhood and downgrading ties with Iran.
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, joined by Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook, a special State Department adviser, was flying to Saudi Arabia to attend the signing ceremony, a senior Trump administration official said.
BioNTech, Pfizer, Warns the UK Against Attempts to Postpone the Second Vaccine Shot
The United Kingdom last week announced its new focus was to give the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine to as many people as possible, meaning the window between receiving the first and second shot would increase from three weeks to three months.
However, Biontech, Pfizer says there is “no data” to support Britain’s decision to alter the dosing schedule so that more people can get the vaccination sooner.
Several experts supported the decision to delay the second jab so that, considering the gravity of the UK’s increasingly deteriorating second wave, more individuals would get the first. But some, such as Anthony Fauci, chief of US infectious diseases, have questioned the dosing regime because it has not been evaluated in clinical trials.
In a joint statement released on Monday, BioNTech / Pfizer claimed there was no data to demonstrate that the protection offered by the first dose would be sustained after three weeks.
“The safety and efficacy of the vaccine has not been evaluated on different dosing schedules as the majority of trial participants received the second dose within the window specified in the study design,” the companies said.
On Monday, the European Medicines Agency announced that it was appropriate to comply with a maximum of 42 days between the first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in order to achieve complete safety.
“The second vaccine dose is likely to be very important for the duration of protection, and at an appropriate dose, the interval may further increase vaccine efficacy. In the short term, the additional increase of vaccine efficacy from the second dose is likely to be modest; the great majority of the initial protection from clinical disease is after the first dose of vaccine.”
“In terms of protecting priority groups, a model where we can vaccinate twice the number of people in the next two to three months is obviously much more preferable in public health terms than one where we vaccinate half the number but with only slightly greater protection.”