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False Covid test results not cause of surge in south-west England, says No 10


False Covid test results not cause of surge in south-west England, says No 10

Downing Street has dismissed claims that 43,000 false Covid test results from a Wolverhampton laboratory are to blame for the surge in the number of cases in the south-west of England, claiming that the region may be catching up with the rest of the country.

Experts have linked the high case rates in the west country to the problems at the Wolverhampton laboratory of a company called Immensa, which NHS test and trace suspended from processing PCR Covid tests earlier this month.

However, No 10 insisted on Monday that the false results issue was not the cause of the surge, suggesting that the lower Covid rates in the region in the past could be behind the current increase.

“In terms of the causes behind the increase in the south-west, we’ve seen there was this lab error; I don’t believe that accounts for the increases we have seen,” Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said. “We know the south-west was an area that did not previously have as high rates as other parts of the country, which may be a factor as well.”

In response to the high rates of Covid, directors of public health in the south-west have advised schools to take measures such as cancelling assemblies, wearing masks in corridors and returning to bubbles.

The south-west currently has the highest case rate of any region, with 760 cases per 100,000, according to Public Health England. The south-east had the second-highest rate, with 526 cases per 100,000. The latest seven-day average figure for hospital admissions in the south-west was 91, up 14% on the previous week.

No 10 said it wanted to minimise disruption to learning, but backed public health directors to give such advice where necessary. “We would expect them to balance the public health risk with the longer-term harm of disruption to education,” the spokeperson said, adding that there were a “limited number of cases” where directors of public health were using their discretion to impose extra measures.

Asked later what the government was doing to hold Immensa to account, Johnson’s spokesperson said they were not aware of any specific plans to do so beyond the details of the contract. He added: “I’m not aware that specific issue is solely responsible for the uptick in case rates we’ve seen in the south-west region.”

Dr Kit Yates, a senior lecturer in the department of mathematical sciences at the University of Bath, said it was “inconceivable that telling 43,000 people they were negative when in fact they were positive, making them believe they could safely go in to schools and workplaces where they may have infected others, did not have an impact the prevalence of Covid in the south-west … In part we may be seeing the impact of people who were given the false negatives being asked to retest and finally appearing in the figures.

“However, the vast majority of people given the false negatives will no longer be testing positive, so this is unlikely to be a big driver of the case rates. These figures will be independent of the testing scandal, indicating that the fast rises we are seeing are genuine and not a result of retesting.”

He said two other factors might also help to explain the region’s high prevalence. “Firstly, the south-west has the highest proportion of the new AY4.2 subvariant, which seems to spread slightly faster than the original Delta variant.

“Secondly, it’s also the case that not all the false negatives were sent to the south-west; some were sent to Wales, some to the south-east and some to Yorkshire, so it’s possible that some of the rises in these regions are also due to the false negatives scandal.”

He also said it was “very odd to see No 10 trying to cover for this private company’s mistakes instead of demanding an urgent investigation and being upfront with the general public about what has happened”.

No 10 has so far resisted pressure from scientists and advisers to bring in “plan B” measures such as mandatory face masks on public transport and in shops, vaccine passports, and working from home.

Increasingly, however, some local authorities are using powers given to them by the government to issue their own advice on public health grounds. Dan Norris, the Labour mayor for the West of England, has sent out a poster urging people to wear face coverings to thousands of public-facing businesses.

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AIDS Agency Chief Says 1 Out Of 100 Persons Positive In Kaduna

The Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Aids Control Agency (KADSACA), Dr Isa Baka has said a survey had revealed that one out of 100 people is positive to the AIDS disease in the state.

Baka disclosed this speaking shortly after a walk in commemoration of the World AIDS Day, on Thursday in Kaduna.

The theme of the year’s’ World AIDS Day is “Equalise to End AIDS: Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services’’.

He said the present statistics was a remarkable development against previous survey which gave 11 of every 100 people in the state.

Baka added that the AIDS prevalence in Kaduna, which is at 1.1, being a survey carried out by the state government itself, was later done at the national level, where that of Kaduna was confirmed as very accurate.

“At the national level, the prevalence of the virus (AIDS) was at 1.4 (four people out of 100 test positive), while that of Kaduna is confirmed to be 1.1, was in determination of the state government and KADSACA’s efforts to ensure minimal prevalence of the virus,” he said.

He said as part of efforts to continue reducing the prevalence of AIDS in the state, government initiated programmes across the 23 LGAs.

He said one of the UNICEF anchored programmes, which is the ‘Adolescent and Youths Living With HIV and AIDS’ programme, was present and effective in at least, 18 LGAs and 24 sites in the state.

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Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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