'ZERO chance of NHS overwhelmed': Pub chain boss says SAGE wrong

‘There is ZERO chance of hospitals being overwhelmed’: Pub chain boss says SAGE models underestimated the effects of vaccine as he demands government relaxes Covid restrictions before May 17

  • Hugh Osmond, chief of Punch Taverns, says Boris Johnson’s roadmap was costing hospitality £200m per day
  • It is based on models which he argues are now weeks out of date and proved wrong by the actual data
  • ‘We were told it would be data not dates,’ Mr Osmond said. ‘Well now we have some very hard data’
  • Sage models on vaccine uptake, efficacy, transmission, cases and deaths were all incorrect, the CEO said 
  • Comes after Sage yesterday conceded that the chance of indoor transmission in pubs was ‘relatively low’
  • Just one in 1,000 people in England now have Covid, and R rate is still below 1, following British vaccine drive
  • Means government will likely approve next stage of PM’s roadmap on May 17 in a huge step forward in easing
  • From that date, limits on outdoor meetings will be lifted and the rule of six will be introduced indoors settings 
  • But Mr Osmond says this should have come much sooner to prevent the ‘devastation’ of the high street

The boss of one of Britain’s largest pub chains has argued that there is now ‘zero chance of the NHS being overwhelmed’ because the government’s modelling has been proved wrong by hard data on the vaccines.

Hugh Osmond, chief of Punch Taverns and formerly Pizza Express, said that Boris Johnson’s roadmap was costing his industry £200 million each day on the basis of projections which now lag weeks behind the actual figures which prove the scientists were wrong about vaccines, hospitalisations, cases and deaths due to Covid-19. 

‘We were told it would be data not dates,’ Mr Osmand told Radio 4 this morning. ‘Well now we have some very hard data which the government has not denied.

‘It has shown that firstly the vaccines have proved more effective than the Sage models assumed, there’s been greater uptake, they’ve been more effective at preventing severe disease and they’ve been more effective at preventing transmission than the models assumed.

‘And similarly cases have fallen faster than the models predicted, hospitalisations have fallen much, much faster than the models predicted, and deaths have fallen even faster than that.

‘So there is now zero chance of the NHS being overwhelmed, simply because of all this data is further ahead of any of the models used.’

It comes after Sage analysis yesterday admitted that the risk of catching coronavirus in a pub or restaurant is ‘relatively low.’

Sage found there had been just 226 outbreaks in pubs and restaurants in England since the pandemic began, despite the sector being heavily penalised throughout the Government’s Covid response.  

Britain’s world-beating vaccine drive has meant just one in 1,000 people in England now have Covid, and the R rate is still below 1. 

The drop in figures means the government will likely approve the next stage of England’s lockdown easing on May 17, but Mr Osmond says that this date should have been brought forward.

He told the BBC: ‘It’s reaching the stage where it’s becoming academic because unfortunately hospitality needs two weeks to open and it’s scheduled to open on May 17 anyway.’

He added: ‘Everyday it costs hospitality alone £200 million when it’s fully closed, and hospitality has approximately 3 million people on furlough, so we don’t know if they will have jobs to go back to.

‘I have been walking round the high streets of the UK over the last three, four weeks and in 30 years I have never, ever seen this level of devastation to shops, hairdressers, cafes, pubs, bars. It’s worse than coming out of the 1990s recession – so many closed places that will not reopen when lockdown ends.’ 

Hugh Osmond, chief of Punch Taverns and formerly Pizza Express, said that Boris Johnson’s roadmap was costing his industry £200 million each day on the basis of projections which now lag weeks behind the actual figures which prove the scientists were wrong about vaccines, hospitalisations, cases and deaths due to Covid-19

Britons will be allowed to hug their friends and family in just over a fortnight as ministers look set to follow through with the next stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown. Pictured: Revellers out in Soho, London, on Friday night

Police are seen in Soho on Friday night as revellers enjoy outside dining in restaurants 

Diners are seen enjoying an al fresco meal in Soho, London, on Friday night 

The streets of Soho are lined with diners who are enjoying an outdoor meal now it is permitted under Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown 


South Asian communities in England experienced greater levels of Covid-19 infection, severe disease and death during the second wave when compared to other minority ethnic groups, according to scientists.

Researchers said that while disparities for hospital admissions and death improved for most minority ethnic groups between the first (February to September 2020) and the second wave (September to December 2020) of the pandemic, it widened for those from South Asian backgrounds.

The findings, published in the journal Lancet, are based on 17 million adults in England and is thought to be the largest study to date.

Dr Rohini Mathur, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, said: ‘Despite the improvements seen in most minority ethnic groups in the second wave compared to the first, it’s concerning to see that the disparity widened among South Asian groups.

‘This highlights an urgent need to find effective prevention measures that fit with the needs of the UK’s ethnically diverse population.’

The scientists said health factors – such as body weight, blood pressure and underlying health conditions – as well has household size could be some of the key factors for disparity in Covid-19 mortality for South Asian groups.

Based on their findings, the researchers are calling for more intensive strategies tailored to improve outcomes in South Asian communities in addition to reducing structural disadvantage and inequality and improving quality of and access to healthcare across all minority ethnic groups.

Dr Mathur said: ‘While multigenerational living may increase risk of exposure and transmission (from children or working age adults to older or vulnerable family members), such households and extended communities also offer valuable informal care networks and facilitate engagement with health and community services.

‘In light of emerging evidence that minority ethnic groups are less likely to take up the Covid-19 vaccine, co-designing culturally competent and non-stigmatising engagement strategies with these communities is increasingly important.’

The Covid-19 pandemic is thought to have had a disproportionate impact on minority ethnic communities in the UK when compared with white groups – with living in deprived areas, working in front-line jobs, and having poorer access to healthcare putting them at higher risk of severe disease and mortality.

For their study, the researchers analysed partially anonymised electronic health data from 17,288,532 adults in the OpenSAFELY database.

Ethnicity was self-reported by participants and grouped into five main categories – white, South Asian, black, other, and mixed.

Data showed that during the first wave, nearly all minority ethnic groups had higher relative risk for testing positive, being admitted to hospital and intensive care units (ICU), and death, compared to white groups.

ICU admissions were more than doubled for all minority ethnic groups compared with white groups, the researchers said, with black people more than three times more likely to be admitted to ICU after accounting for other factors.

The researchers found these risks lessened during the second wave for all minority ethnic communities, with the exception of South Asian groups.  

Mr Osmond launched a judicial review last month which claimed the government ‘failed’ to provide evidence for delaying the return to indoor drinking.

He says that, though the pubs are due to reopen indoors on May 17, he wants the government to lay out all the evidence it has used previously which ‘destroys livelihoods’ to ensure that it cannot be implemented again.  

It comes as international travel looks set to also get the green light on May 17 as was pencilled into the roadmap out of lockdown unveiled earlier this year. 

Ministers could also relax social distancing between friends and family on May 17 – meaning loved ones kept apart for months may finally be allowed to hug.  

From that date, limits on outdoor meetings are set to be lifted while the rule of six – or two households rule – will apply indoors. 

Government guidance states the advice ‘on social distancing between friends and family’ will be updated on May 17. 

And a source told The Times: ‘The data is looking very good. The scientists say we’re on track for the next stage unless something changes dramatically.’ 

Britain’s daily Covid deaths have fallen by nearly two thirds in a week as health chiefs recorded just 15 fatalities on Friday. 

Department of Health bosses also posted another 2,381 cases, with the outbreak remaining stable. 

Last Friday there were 2,678 infections and 40 deaths reported. 

Another 610,000 vaccines were also dished out, with 14.5million Britons now fully vaccinated against coronavirus. 

The Government today announced care home residents will be able to leave their home for ‘low risk’ visits without having to self-isolate for 14 days on their return.

From Tuesday, residents leaving their home for a walk or to visit a loved one’s garden will no longer have to isolate for two weeks when they get back.

But those leaving for medical appointments and for overnight visits will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) removed the requirement for outdoor, ‘low risk’ visits after being threatened with legal action by the charity John’s Campaign.

Campaigners said the rule encourages care homes to act unlawfully by ‘falsely imprisoning’ residents, with family members calling it ‘barbaric’.

Under the changes, residents on visits out must be accompanied by either a member of staff or one of their two nominated visitors, and follow social distancing throughout.

They cannot meet in groups or go indoors – except for the use of toilets – and public transport should be avoided where possible.

It is understood a resident would be able to eat outside at a restaurant or cafe with their care worker or nominated visitor if they agree this with the care home in advance.

Residents will also be able to vote in person in the upcoming local elections without having to self-isolate for 14 days.

The DHSC is expected to review the self-isolation requirement for more visits on May 17.  

It comes as separate data showed England’s Covid cases have plunged by 40 per cent in a week, with just one in every 1,010 people now carrying the virus.

Office for National Statistics data suggested the total number of infections is lower than at any point since early September and infections have been falling constantly for five weeks. 

Its report showed that cases were still tumbling in all regions except Yorkshire and the East of England ‘where the trends are uncertain’. 

They also came down in all children and teenagers and people over 35, increasing only in young adults. 

And SAGE yesterday estimated the R rate was between 0.8 and 1.1, meaning the outbreak is still flat. 

It is up slightly on the 0.8 – 1.0 last week, and reflects the state of the outbreak a fortnight ago because the data takes time to filter through. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted about the numbers, saying: ‘This data is hugely promising and shows that our strategy is working.’ 

Experts said the data ‘should be celebrated’ and were the first proof that, despite the reopening of outdoor hospitality and allowing the rule of six earlier this month, there was still ‘no evidence of an increased transmission risk’. 

Evidence that Covid has been stamped out in Britain is now overwhelming as the vaccine rollout speeds ahead and official figures show 22million people – one in three – live in areas where not a single person has died with the virus this month. 

It marks a seismic shift from the UK’s dire situation in January at the height of the second wave, when fewer than 50,000 Britons were in places with zero coronavirus victims during that month. 

But a member of the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said that while the role of vaccines in keeping down coronavirus infections is growing, caution must be exercised in easing restrictions. 

Around 22million people are living in areas across the UK where there have been no coronavirus deaths so far in April, official figures revealed

UK rate of Indian Covid variant spikes EIGHT-FOLD in a fortnight

The proportion of UK Covid infections caused by the Indian variant spiked eight-fold in a fortnight at the start of April, MailOnline can reveal.

Four hundred cases of the mutant strain – linked to an explosion of cases in India – have been detected in Britain since it was first spotted in February.

While it accounted for just 0.2 per cent of positive tests checked by laboratory scientists at the end of March, this had surged to 1.7 per cent by mid-April.

Health chiefs have now split the B.1.617 variant, as it is known to virologists, into three distinct virus types because it has mutated into similar but genetically different strains.

Scientists can’t yet tell whether any of the three spread quicker than the Kent strain, which is dominant in Britain. But they don’t think it does based on current evidence, and also don’t believe it is any more like to cause serious illness or death.

Early research suggests both the AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covishield in India, and the Pfizer jab, still work against the variant, as well as the country’s home-made jab Covaxin.

Some areas of Britain have had clusters of multiple cases of B.1.617 and in Basingstoke it accounted for one in five positive tests in the most recent week, up to April 10.

The numbers mean it has quickly become more prevalent than the South African and Brazilian variants but this is likely linked to an surge of tests on travellers, while the others are known to have spread within the UK.

India is currently going through a catastrophic second wave with overwhelmed hospital wards spilling out into the streets, bodies piling up in public and cremations taking place in parks and car parks. Medics fear up to 3million people are catching the virus and 30,000 dying from it every day. 

Professor Adam Finn told BBC Newsnight: ‘I think the role of the vaccine programme is increasing week on week.

‘Increasingly we’re seeing the impact of the vaccine, initially on hospitalisation and now increasingly actually on transmission of the virus. So we are in a good place.

‘The low figures are a reflection of that but I think there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 14 months is that how things are today is not a close and accurate predictor of how things will be in two or three months time, so we have to expect a certain amount of instability going forward, I don’t think this is all over yet.’ 

He said a ‘very large’ number of people are yet to be vaccinated or survived infection so remain vulnerable to the virus, and warned there is a ‘need to play it safe and not wander too close to the edge of the cliff’. 

NHS data yesterday revealed that only tiny numbers of people are being hospitalised with coronavirus after their first vaccine dose has kicked in.

Numbers analysed by SAGE showed that around one per cent of people hospitalised with the virus in the second wave were three weeks post-vaccine, by which time they are expected to have protection.   

There were 526 people admitted with Covid three or more weeks after their first jab, out of a total of 52,000 inpatients included in the study. 

Those 526, who were expected to have vaccine protection, made up 29 per cent of all people admitted at any time after the first jab. 

The other 71 per cent fell ill too soon after their vaccine to have any real immunity.

These ‘vaccine failure’ patients were almost all very elderly and frail, SAGE advisers said, and fit into the same group for whom the jabs are less likely to work.  

Professor Calum Semple, member of SAGE and a Liverpool University virologist, said the data were ‘reassuring’ that even single doses of vaccines are protecting people in the real world.

The numbers show the rate of hospitalisation remained high during the first week after the jab but then fell dramatically in the second and third weeks and beyond. 

Other trials have shown that not all elderly people have an immune response to the first dose of a vaccine – which may explain why some still end up in hospital after their jab – but generally everybody shows signs of immunity after the second dose.  

The promising figures come as thousands of revellers returned to the dancefloor at the UK’s first post-lockdown ‘nightclub’ rave on Friday. 

Nightlife promoter Circus hosted The First Dance in Liverpool, where revellers did not have to wear face coverings or social distance for the first time since before lockdown began. 

The line-up included Circus founder and DJ Yousef, Lewis Boardman and The Blessed Madonna. Fatboy Slim is among the acts due to perform on Saturday. 

NHS England statistics going up to April 25 show that 65 per cent of adults in the age group have had their first dose of either the AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna jab. But MailOnline analysis shows inoculation rates vary wildly across the country. Seven local authorities have seen fewer than half of residents in the age group

Confetti is fired into the crowd who are seen enjoying themselves during the dance event at Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse in Liverpool

A crowd of revellers seen drinking beer and enjoying their time at the nightclub in Liverpool on Friday in the first post-lockdown rave

A deadline for grading countries under the new traffic light system for international travel has been missed by the Government.

The Commons’ Transport Select Committee issued a report last week which stated that the green, amber and red lists of destinations must be published by Saturday ‘at the latest’, but this has not happened.

Instead, the Department for Transport has only said the lists will be made public in ‘early May’.

The ban on overseas leisure travel is expected to be lifted for people in England from May 17 as part of the next easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The traffic light system will be risk-based, with different rules for people returning to England depending on which list their destination is on.

Many people are eager to discover what countries are on the green list to avoid the need to self-isolate.

Ravers have to take a lateral flow test 24 hours before the event in order to release their e-ticket, and have to produce a negative result to gain entry.  

They are then asked to take another test five days after the rave and submit the results.

Inside the Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse, crowds packed the floor to dance shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time in more than a year. 

Club-goers were seen hugging and kissing each other, with some sitting on others’ shoulders for a better view of the stage.  

Merseyside Police has even had to reassure concerned members of the public after receiving messages from people who saw footage of the non-socially distanced event.

The force said: ‘This is fortunately a legal event which is part of the pilot scheme.’

It is hoped the event, the first of two taking place on consecutive nights, will pave the way for clubs across the country to reopen their doors. 

But critics say the event bears little resemblance to an actual club night, with the event starting at 2pm and revellers getting kicked out by 11pm.  

People involved in the trial do not need to socially distance from strangers nor wear a mask, but must be over 18, live in the Liverpool City region and registered to a GP, and must be showing no signs of Covid-19 symptoms.

The trial events are designed to advance the reopening roadmap’s plan to scrap social distancing on June 21. 

The club night is led by scientists, aided by researchers inside to ‘monitor’ crowds and study ‘behavioural’ responses of people after a year of social distancing.

A board of advisers, made up of independent scientists and public health experts, will assess the data and present results to Ministers at the end of May.

A woman is seen dancing and waving her arms from side to side as people dance and sit on on others’ shoulders for a better view of the stage

People enjoy themselves on the dance floor at Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse in Liverpool

A general view showing the crowd of revellers dancing in front of the stage inside a warehouse in Liverpool

People hold up their phones during the event inside a warehouse in the city, dancing shoulder to shoulder for the first time in more than a year

Ravers are seen towards the front of the crowd in Liverpool tonight. Three thousand people are expected at the event

A man enjoys his time at the UK’s first post-lockdown ‘nightclub’ rave. The trial events are designed to advance the reopening roadmap’s plan to scrap social distancing on June 21

Crowds packed the floor inside the warehouse to dance shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time in more than a year

Revellers stood at the front of the crowd pose for the camera during the event inside a warehouse in Liverpool

A general view of the dance floor is pictured. The club night is led by scientists, aided by researchers inside to ‘monitor’ crowds and study ‘behavioural’ responses of people after a year of social distancing

A woman can be seen sat on someone’s shoulders as people enjoy their time at the rave hosted by nightlife promoter Circus

One reveller holds a bottle of wine up in the air as she sits on someone’s shoulders during The First Dance event in Liverpool

Clubbers in the UK return to the dance floor as Circus hosts the first dance event in Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse

A woman reacts to the camera as she sit on someone’s shoulders and holds up her phone to record the event in Liverpool

Revellers are seen inside the warehouse for a Covid safety pilot event attended by around 3,000 people

A group of women pose for the camera. People involved in the trial do not need to socially distance nor wear a mask

Two women dance together as Circus hosts the test rave which will provide data on how events could be permitted to safely reopen

People make their way to the stage area as Circus hosts the first dance event, welcoming 6,000 clubbers to the city’s Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse

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