Vaccines ‘offer high levels of protection against Indian variant’

The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is 88% effective against the Indian variant after two doses, a study has found.

Vaccines: 'High level' of protection. Geber86 via IStock
Vaccines: 'High level' of protection.

The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is 88% effective against the Indian variant after two doses, a study has found.

Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs were found to be almost as effective against symptomatic disease from the B1617.2 strain as they are against the Kent variant after the second dose.

However, they were only 33% effective three weeks after the first dose.

Public Health England (PHE) said it expects to see even higher levels of effectiveness against hospital admission and death.

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The study, which took place between April 5 and May 16, found that the Pfizer vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant two weeks after the second dose.

Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca jab was 60% effective.

Both vaccines were 33% effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant three weeks after the first dose.

Some 12,675 genome-sequenced cases were included in the analysis, but only 1054 were of the Indian variant.

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The study included data for all age groups from April 5 to cover the period since the strain emerged.

Speaking at a Scottish Government coronavirus briefing on Friday, the First Minister said authorities are “fairly certain” the increase in cases Glasgow is being driven by the Indian variant – referred to by Sturgeon as April-02 – with “extensive public health measures” deployed over the past ten days.

The number of cases per 100,000 people in Glasgow has increased from 71 last week to 122.6 in the seven days to May 18.

Swimmer Duncan Scott makes history at Tokyo Olympics

The Scot is the first British athlete to win four medals at a single Olympics.

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Superstars: Luke Greenbank, Duncan Scott, James Guy and Adam Peaty.

Swimmer Duncan Scott is the first British athlete to win four medals at a single Olympics.

While Scott made history, Adam Peaty and James Guy were unable to collect their third golds of Tokyo 2020 after the United States secured top spot in the men’s 4×100m medley relay.

Peaty said the “pain” he feels at settling for silver shows how much progress Great Britain has made in the pool in the last decade.

It took a world record time to beat the 2019 world championship-winning Team GB quartet of Luke Greenbank, Peaty, Guy and Scott as the Americans clocked 3:26.78 seconds at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

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Britain finished 0.73secs adrift at 3:27:51 in a new European record time as they claimed a record eighth swimming medal – four golds, three silvers and a bronze – beating their previous best haul from the 1908 London Games.

They were unable to win a race at London 2012 while Peaty was their only gold medallist at Rio four years later, so the 26-year-old from Uttoxeter admitted to feeling bittersweet by the result of the final swimming event in Japan.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the American team,” Peaty said.

“They stepped up big time. They knew they had to step up big time. It’s an Olympic silver, people would die for that.

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“We will enjoy it but there is a little bit of pain there. Maybe you need that. Maybe you need that going to Paris (2024).

“Ten years ago we were happy making finals. We aren’t happy making finals any more.

“We are happy doing silver and medalling – that’s the culture that is different now – and that’s part of our success. We are aiming for gold, we are aiming to be the best in the world and dominate the world.

“By the time Paris comes around we are going to develop. A lot of teams are going to look at us. We are always looking for gold and for world records, I’m incredibly proud to be part of this team – it’s history-making.”

Peaty swam the fastest breaststroke split ever in 56.53s to vault Britain from seventh after the backstroke to first by the halfway point, but the vaunted Caeleb Dressel seized the initiative with the best-ever butterfly leg.

Dressel, who bagged his fifth gold of these Games in this race, put in a time of 49.03s to set the stage for Zach Apple to complete the job, with Scott unable to make any inroads in the last freestyle leg.

Dressel, said: “I was telling Adam that I think they bring out the best in us, it’s so fun racing with those guys because you don’t know what you’re going to get. There’s no guaranteed winner.”

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Scott has won gold in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay and silver in the solo event, as well as finishing runner-up in the 200m individual medley, and it was another second spot on the podium as he made British history on Sunday.

He said: “It’s not really hit me what’s happened. Each race I’ve tried to park when it’s done and look forward to the next one. It was important I didn’t bring in any disappointment or get too excited about what’s happened.

“I think the relay culture in Britain is great. There are great medal opportunities. I’ve got to give a massive credit to my teammates.”

A period of rest and recovery now awaits. Asked how they will unwind, Guy joked “a burger and some chips will do me” while Peaty offered a more sobering reflection at how important time away from the pressures of the sport is.

He said: “You’ve got to celebrate, it’s been hard for everyone. We’re not allowed to touch the water for a month now because it is going to be a war of attrition over the next three years.

“You’re seeing it in all sports now. You’re seeing it with Simone Biles, with Ben Stokes, mental health matters and it is about getting the balance right at that elite level. We love to celebrate, and why shouldn’t we?”

Ben Proud earlier finished fifth in the men’s 50m freestyle final won by Dressel in an Olympic record time of 21.07s, while Daniel Jervis also placed fifth in a 1500m freestyle race where Robert Finke of the USA triumphed in 14:39.65.

Commenting on Scott’s historic win, Mel Young, chair of sportscotland, said: “What a sensational result.

“Duncan Scott is now one of the most decorated British Olympians of all time having won four medals in Tokyo – an unparalleled achievement in modern history. He has made the entire country proud.

“His achievements will take a while to sink in but what is clear is this did not happen overnight.

“Duncan is one of the most dedicated athletes around and has put so much hard work into his training along with his coach, his wider support team and everyone at both Scottish Swimming and British Swimming.

“He deserves all the success and praise he is now rightfully receiving.”


Opposition call for Holyrood statement on drug deaths

Figures released on Friday showed that 1,339 people died from drugs in 2020.

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Holyrood: Opposition parties call for statement.

Scotland’s two main opposition parties have called for an urgent statement on drug deaths in Holyrood.

Figures released on Friday showed that 1,339 people died from drugs in 2020 – a new record high.

The rate was three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK and the highest in Europe, while the statistics also showed the least affluent were 18 times more likely to die from drugs than their more well off counterparts.

Both the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour have called for a ministerial statement on the deaths in parliament.

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The decision to recall parliament, which is currently in recess, is one for Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone, although virtual meetings have been scheduled to update MSPs on Covid-19 restrictions – with one such session due on Tuesday.

Tory health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “We have called for a ministerial statement because, despite the latest heartbreaking drug statistics, the SNP government have offered no extra support, no new ideas, no new solutions to this crisis.”

The Tories have introduced a Bill at Holyrood aimed at ensuring people struggling with addiction have the right to the treatment they request.

The Tory MSP added: “The SNP are out of touch with the needs of people on the front line of this crisis. People in our communities don’t need more warm words and empty platitudes, they need action.

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“On Tuesday, we hope the government will have the decency to explain why they are stalling on backing our Right to Recovery Bill proposal, which would guarantee everyone who needs addiction treatment can get it.”

Wells also took aim at drugs minister Angela Constance, who attended a vigil set up by a drugs campaign group for those who had lost their lives.

In her speech at the vigil, Constance referenced the Deacon Blue song Dignity and promised to “climb the mountain and turn the tide” of drug deaths, without pledging any specific action, prompting one of the organisers, campaigner Annmarie Ward, to tell her “talk is cheap”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has also called for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take “personal responsibility” for the deaths.

He said: “The First Minister, who admits she took her eye off the ball on this crisis, must update the Scottish Parliament on what they are now doing to save lives.

“It is not enough for the Government to express regret at these heartbreaking figures – they must be a call to action.

“Every year we get devastating figures, every year they get worse and every year we hear regret from the Government.

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“We have the same drug laws as the rest of the UK but three-and-a-half times the rate of drugs deaths.

“Apologising or expressing regret just isn’t good enough.

“The First Minister should put all her political energy into solving this crisis – after 15 years in Government it is a test she must pass.

“If she fails to make progress she should make way for someone who will.”


Coronavirus: Three deaths and 1034 new cases reported

A total of 422 people were in hospital on Saturday with recently confirmed Covid-19.

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Covid-19: The fight to stem the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further three deaths and 1034 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Scotland overnight, according to official figures.

The daily test positivity rate is 5.4%, up from the 4.9% reported on Saturday.

Of the new cases reported on Sunday, 279 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 164 are in Lothian, 159 are in Lanarkshire, and 115 are in Grampian.

The rest of the cases are spread out across nine other health board areas.

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A total of 422 people were in hospital on Saturday with recently confirmed Covid-19, 23 fewer than the day before. Out of those, 62 patients are in intensive care.

The lab-confirmed death toll of those who tested positive within the previous 28 days currently stands at 7942, however figures including suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now at least 10,324.

It was also confirmed that 4,011,060 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 1449 from the day before.

A total of 3,197,899 people have received their second dose, a rise of 17,739.


Former diplomat hands himself in to police ahead of sentence

A court ruled Craig Murray’s blog posts could have identified the accusers of Alex Salmond.

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Murray: Jailed over contempt of court.

Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has handed himself in to police in Edinburgh as he is set to begin an eight-month prison sentence.

Murray, who has become a blogger and pro-independence campaigner in recent years, was judged to have been in contempt of court over blogs he wrote during the trial of former first minister Alex Salmond.

The 62-year-old’s offending blog posts contained details which, if pieced together, could lead readers to identify women who made allegations against Salmond, who was acquitted of all 13 charges including sexual assault and attempted rape in March last year.

The former diplomat arrived at St Leonard’s police station in Edinburgh on Sunday morning to hand himself in and was joined by family and supporters.

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Murray drank from what appeared to be a bottle of champagne and thanked the crowd for their attendance, one video on social media showed, before embracing his wife Nadira and five-month-old son Oscar.

At a virtual sentencing in May, Lady Dorrian said Murray knew there were court orders giving the women anonymity and he was “relishing” the potential disclosure of their identities.

Lady Dorrian said Murray deliberately risked what is known as “jigsaw identification”, saying: “It appears from the posts and articles that he was in fact relishing the task he set himself, which was essentially to allow the identities of complainers to be discerned – which he thought was in the public interest – in a way which did not attract sanction.”


First vaccines for vulnerable teens to be ‘completed in August’

The Scottish Government has said it hopes to see first doses of the vaccine given this month

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Vaccine: Vulnerable teens to be jabbed this month.

The Scottish Government is aiming to ensure first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are given to teenagers in certain groups by the end of August.

Two weeks ago, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to vaccinate some 12-17 year olds, including those with Down’s Syndrome and learning difficulties, or those who are immunosuppressed or live with someone who is.

The change came on the back of a shift in guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and will see an estimated 4000 young people vaccinated.

Now, the Scottish Government has said it hopes to see first doses of the vaccine given this month, with offers to be made before August 16 – when most schools in Scotland return.

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Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “In line with the latest JCVI advice we will now be offering Covid-19 vaccinations to children and young people aged between 12 and 17 from key groups.

“The programme has always offered vaccine to groups where the benefits far outweigh the risks.

“The research and evidence shows that is the case for young people in these groups and they should now be called forward for a Covid-19 vaccine.

“These children and young people will be able to get the vaccine in the most appropriate setting for their situation. This may be in their own home or a care setting, or at a clinic, depending on their care or health needs.

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“I would urge any parent or carer who has a child or young person eligible for a vaccine to visit NHS Inform where they can find the most up-to-date information; and read the leaflet that they will receive with their letter or from their health board.

“Parents, carers or young people can also speak to their local health professional to discuss this further if they need to.”


‘Government would not stand in way of indyref2 if settled will’

The UK Government has repeatedly rejected requests from the Scottish Government for the powers to hold another vote.

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Gove: Westminster has repeatedly rejected requests for the necessary powers to hold another vote.

The UK Government would not stand in the way of another vote on Scottish independence if it is the “settled will” of voters, Michael Gove has said.

Westminster has repeatedly rejected requests from the Scottish Government for the necessary powers to hold another vote but the Cabinet Office minister said if the public desire a second referendum, “one would occur”.

The comment comes in the wake of a decline in support for independence.

Following around six months of consistent polling showing majority support for separation last year – with one poll going as high as 58% in favour – the tide began to turn at the beginning of 2021.

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The most recent survey by Panelbase for the Sunday Times found 48% of the 1287 respondents supported leaving the UK.

Gove told the Sunday Mail: “The principle that the people of Scotland, in the right circumstances, can ask that question again is there.

“I just don’t think that it is right, and the public don’t think it is right, to ask that question at the moment.

“If it is the case that there is clearly a settled will in favour of a referendum, then one will occur.”

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It is unclear what would convince the UK Government that another vote is the “settled will” of Scots but it could potentially mean positive election results for independence parties or continuous polling in favour for a certain period of time.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he believed May’s election to be an indicator that the “settled will” of the Scottish people is in favour of independence.

The SNP fell just one seat short of a majority in Holyrood in the election and are currently in talks with the Scottish Greens over an alliance on certain issues.

Blackford said: “It should not be news that the Tories are finally waking up to the fact that the people of Scotland have expressed their democratic wishes in an election that they want their future to be put into their hands.

“The fundamental point Michael Gove missed is that the people of Scotland have spoken and expressed their settled will that they want to hold a referendum when they elected a majority of independence-supporting MSPs to the Scottish Parliament just over two months ago.

“If Boris Johnson continues to ignore the mandate given by the people of Scotland to hold a referendum then he will continue to tell the people of Scotland that their opinion does not matter. That will only push support for independence up.”

Gove also rejected the chance of a third tilt at the leadership of the Conservatives, after failing in 2016 and 2019.

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“Historically, people who have run to be prime minister in the Tory Party and don’t make it don’t subsequently make it,” he said.

“I’ve had two goes and got bronze both times. I don’t think I’ll get the gold medal and I have to recognise that.

“I think Boris will be Prime Minister for a good while yet and there is a crop of younger people coming up who would be much better equipped than me.

“I won’t spoil their future by naming them but there comes a point where you have to recognise you’ve had your shot.”


Tall ship given warm welcome ahead of world expedition

Statsraad Lehmkuhl was met by a flotilla of small boats as it sailed into Lerwick Harbour on Friday night.

Contributed via Drone footage

A 107-year-old tall ship was warmly welcomed to Shetland ahead of its upcoming expedition around the world.

Statsraad Lehmkuhl, a Norwegian three-masted barque rigged training vessel, was met by a flotilla of small boats as it sailed into Lerwick Harbour on Friday night.

A group of well-wishers, a jarl squad and musicians also celebrated the ship’s arrival at the pier.

The welcoming was streamed online and broadcast on Norwegian TV.

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The Statsraad Lehmkuhl is now on its way back home after leaving Scottish waters on Saturday.

On August 20, the vessel will set sail on a circumnavigation of the world that is expected to last until April 2023.

The One Ocean Expedition will cover 55,000 nautical miles and visit 36 different ports.

It is part of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development project, which aims to create attention and share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean in sustainable global development.

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The ship, which is equipped with modern technology, will collect high-quality data of ocean physics, chemistry and biology continuously throughout its voyage.

For more information on Statsraad Lehmkuhl’s expedition, click here.


Woman raped in city lane in early morning sex attack

The 29-year-old was attacked in the early hours of Sunday.

© Google Maps 2020
Lane: Woman attacked in Edinburgh.

Police are investigating after a woman was raped in a city lane.

The 29-year-old was attacked in Edinburgh in the early hours of Sunday morning.

She was at the Union Street end of Broughton Street Lane when the serious sexual assault took place.

A full investigation is now under way as police appeal for anyone with any information regarding the incident to contact them.

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A spokesperson for the force said: “We received a report of a serious sexual assault against a 29-year-old woman at the junction of Broughton Street Lane and Union Street, Edinburgh.

“The incident was reported around 8.45am on Sunday, August 1, and is believed to have happened in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“Enquiries are at an early stage and ongoing. Anyone with information should contact Police Scotland on 101.”


Care-at-home service under fire for lack of Covid-19 testing

The Care Inspectorate unearthed a number of issues at Karma Healthcare.

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Concerns: The Care Inspectorate unearthed a number of issues at Karma Healthcare.

A care-at-home service that looks after more than 200 patients has been slapped with an improvement notice after inspectors discovered staff were not being regularly tested for Covid-19.

It was just one of a variety of issues unearthed at Karma Healthcare by the Care Inspectorate (CI) as the watchdog handed the Gourock, Renfrewshire, service the lowest possible grading of “unsatisfactory”.

As well as a lack of testing, inspectors found staff were putting patients at risk by frequently car sharing when undertaking visits.

And the CI was told around a quarter of staff had not received appropriate training around coronavirus, despite the service having been told to fix this two months before.

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A virtual check-up was carried out in May when Karma Healthcare received an “adequate” grading, but this has now been brought down following the latest findings.

Alongside infection control and prevention problems, there were also serious concerns highlighted around people’s personal care plans and medication practices.

A report released this past week stated: “Regular Covid-19 testing was not being undertaken. 

“We were informed by staff there was a lack of drivers which meant staff frequently car shared when undertaking visits to people. This meant the risk of cross-infection increased among people and staff.

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“We were informed by the management only approximately 75% of staff had received appropriate IPC [infection prevention and control] and Covid-19 training.

“The service had a poor notification history in alerting the CI when there was a suspected or confirmed outbreak.

“Upon the examination of the care plans, we found them to be of poor quality.

“We felt people were at significant risk as they may not always receive the right medication or treatment at the right time.”

There were also concerns highlighted around the service’s recruitment procedures and visiting schedules.

Inspectors found staff had started work with people prior to the manager receiving written references and completed checks.

And there were signs of poor recordkeeping, as inspectors were left unsure if staff were registered with the Scottish Social Services Council.

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Employees also said the quality of induction training was “inadequate”.

The report added: “Staff training in moving and assisting including hoists and catheter care left them unprepared and insufficiently skilled to provide support to people.

“People being supported and their relatives told us sometimes meals were being missed due to the timing of visits. We felt people did not always receive the right support to help them eat.

“We looked at visiting schedules and found some were inaccurate and did not reflect agreed visiting times and the support required. People told us ‘strangers’ turn up to support them and they are unsure of their needs.

“People said male staff had called to support them when they explicitly requested female staff.”

The CI gave Karma Healthcare seven urgent requirements to meet to bring the service up to a suitable standard.

Some of these were due to be met by Monday, July 26, such as the improvement of care plans and testing.

But bosses still have time to bring other areas up to scratch by August 9, such as medication management and infection prevention and control training.

A spokesman for Karma Healthcare said: “Karma Healthcare recognises the deficiencies in performance, which are amplified in the recent findings of the Care Inspectorate report.

“This has led to significant management investment, in terms of resources and time, to rectify and surpass the requirements.

“With the assistance and support of both the Care Inspectorate and the council, we are committed to re-establishing the quality of service our users deserve. It has been acknowledged by both bodies that our carers’ level of commitment is of excellent quality.

“We are striving to ensure that all supporting services and communications with the company meet a comparable standard.”

By local democracy reporter Steph Brawn


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