COVID-19: Brits warned against making summer holiday plans
- Medical experts warn Britons against making elaborate summer holiday plans
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson confident about UK vaccine efficacy
- UK government planning annual covid vaccination boosters
- Pound Sterling (GBP) hits new high against US dollar (USD)
The damaged caused by the coronavirus pandemic has already plunged the economy into its worst recession in over three centuries. However, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes that the country’s rapid vaccine rollout will enable the government to ease lockdown restrictions from March.
Despite having one of the highest death tolls globally, Britain is second only to Israel in the race to immunisation, which is buoying hopes of the UK economy being unlocked before its peers.
According to official government statistics, nearly 12.3 million people in the UK have received their first vaccine dose, while half a million have received both jabs.
UK vaccines boosting hopes of a return to normality
Health Minister Nadhim Zahawi, who is responsible for the vaccine rollout, confirmed that healthcare staff administered 979 doses per minute to eligible citizens and residents between 11 AM and 12 PM on February 6th – marking the busiest period yet.
Mr Zahawi told Sky News that both he and PM Boris Johnson are confident that the government will meet its target to inoculate 15 million people by February 15th and all over 50s by May-end.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently commended the UK for its “brave” decision to delay the period between vaccine doses after new data from AstraZeneca showed that leaving a longer gap between jabs offers better, long-term protection.
Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News that the UK government is now accumulating stock for second doses, which he expects to be issued from March.
Despite reports of vaccines being ineffective against new coronavirus strains, Mr Zahawi and other MPs said that the current vaccines will still prevent severe COVID symptoms and offer limited protection against mild cases of the South African strain.
He added that AstraZeneca/Oxford is developing a vaccine that offers higher protection against variant strains, namely the South African strain, which is considered more contagious and more lethal than the original variant.
However, Mr Zahawi expects PM Boris Johnson will introduce annual vaccinations, which in effect will be vaccine top-ups, similar to the way flu injections are administered.
Nadhim Zahawi also confirmed that there are no plans to mandate vaccine passports and that people should ask their GPs if they need to provide proof of their vaccine for travel purposes.
However, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, warned Britons against making elaborate travel plans. He said it is too early to tell when lockdown restrictions can be eased.
Medical expert warns against elaborate summer holiday plans
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam advised Brits planning to go abroad this summer not to get their hopes up due to ongoing uncertainty over the timetable for easing lockdown restrictions.
During a COVID-19 press conference, Prof Van-Tam said that any easing of coronavirus restrictions would have to happen gradually and depend upon the prevalence of COVID-19, vaccination progress and whether the public is adhering to the current rules.
However, he suggested that this is unlikely to be any time soon as the UK government is still awaiting “readouts on the success of the vaccine programme.”
New quarantine rules and travel restrictions have been a source of deep frustration for the aviation industry. Airlines and travel companies have warned of the catastrophic impact these new measures will have on the sector.
There are currently 33 countries on England’s “red travel list”, meaning arrivals from those destinations will be required to self-isolate in designated quarantine hotels for ten days, with fees paid by travellers.
These new quarantine rules are expected to remain in place until March-end, after which the UK government is hoping that the vaccine rollouts will reduce the need for this additional measure.
Prof Van-Tam also said that the public should feel reassured about the current vaccines as they are still effective against the coronavirus.
Britons urged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 now
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van Tam, has advised Britons not to wait for reformulated vaccines that are being developed to increase protection against new strains as these mutations may never become dominant in the UK.
He noted that the most prevalent variant strain in the UK is the Kent mutations, which was also identified in Manchester over the past 24 hours.
Prof Van-Tam said that “just as variations to the virus were inevitable, “it’s almost inevitable that at some point we would need variations to the vaccine.”
However, he said that the public should not be alarmed by this as scientists and medical experts anticipated the possibility that vaccines may need to be adapted for some time.
His comments suggest that the UK has nothing to worry about regarding the South African strain and current vaccine efficacy, which appears to have boosted confidence over the UK’s recovery outlook, evident in pound Sterling (GBP) price action.
Pound Sterling closes in on three-year best against US dollar
The UK’s vaccination programme continues to underpin pound Sterling (GBP) upside.
The British pound to US dollar (GBP/USD) exchange rate rallied to USD 1.3789 earlier during the London session – its highest level since April 2018.
Although UK gross domestic product (GDP) data could pour cold water on GBP/USD gains, Cable could continue to climb higher amid signs that the UK’s economic rebound could eclipse other leading economies.
Both Europe and the United States lag behind the UK in terms of vaccine rollouts, which has seen GBP/USD and the British pound to euro (GBP/EUR) exchange rate reaffirm a more constructive medium-term outlook.
The underlying tone for pound Sterling (GBP) exchange rates has improved into 2021, and several analysts have raised bets for GBP upside in recent weeks.
While downside risks remain given that the UK economy could be facing a double-dip recession, the UK’s vaccine success should continue to contribute to pound Sterling (GBP) outperformance.