WESTMINSTER PARLIAMENTARY UPDATE
Covid-19 Update – House of Commons (12 July)
Sajid Javid confirms that Covid-19 restrictions will cease on Monday 19 July. The government have published updated guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people to come into effect after 19 July.
The Minister calls for individuals to act with ‘caution and personal responsibility. For example, everyone should return to work gradually if they are currently working from home, they should try to meet people outside where that is possible, and it is expected and recommended that people should wear face coverings, unless they are exempt, in crowded indoor settings like public transport’.
Additionally, ‘from 16 August double-jabbed adults and under-18s will no longer need to self-isolate if they are a close contact of someone with Covid-19’.
Some MPs call for face masks to be mandatory in indoor settings and public transport.
Read the full transcript here.
Written Parliamentary Question – Coronavirus: Protective Clothing (14 July)
Peter Dowd (Labour MP for Bootle): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what discussions Ministers of his Department have had with representatives of (a) charities and (b) patient organisations that represent people who are immunocompromised on the use of face masks as a protection against covid-19 infection.
Jo Churchill (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care): Ministers have regular discussions with representatives of charities and patient organisations on a range of issues, including interventions to protect against COVID-19.
If the decision is taken to move to step four of the roadmap, we will continue to set out in guidance that wearing a face covering may reduce risk of transmission, especially in enclosed and crowded indoor spaces.
The standard guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people will be updated ahead of any lifting of restrictions on 19 July.
Written Parliamentary Question – Coronavirus: Screening (14 July)
Daisy Cooper (Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will make it his policy to make covid-19 antibody testing available to (a) immunocompromised and (b) clinically extremely vulnerable patients in order that they can assess their own levels of vaccine protection.
Jo Churchill (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care): Antibody testing is available in limited circumstances which includes some of those classed as immunosuppressed and clinical extremely vulnerable. However, there are currently no plans to implement antibody testing post-vaccination in order to determine levels of antibodies other than testing that is already in place. There remains uncertainty as to whether the presence of antibodies means that an individual cannot transmit the virus to others. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will continue to review emerging scientific evidence on the use of vaccines in those with immunosuppression and those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and will update its advice as necessary.
Written Parliamentary Question – Coronavirus: Face Masks (13 July)
Helen Hayes (Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of removing the requirement to wear face coverings (a) on public transport and (b) in indoor public spaces on people who (i) have blood cancer, (ii) have weakened immune systems and (iii) are unable to take the covid-19 vaccine.
Jo Churchill (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care): Ahead of moving to step four of the roadmap, we will undertake impact assessments, as part of the Public Sector Equality Duty. If the four tests are met and the decision is taken to move to step four, we will continue to set out in guidance that wearing a face covering may reduce risk of transmission, especially in enclosed and crowded indoor spaces. Additionally, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has provided interim advice on a potential booster vaccine programme in the autumn.
The standard guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people will be updated if the decision is taken to move to the next step of the roadmap.
Written Parliamentary Question – Vaccination: Children (13 July)
Steve Baker (Conservative MP for Wycombe): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to (a) create catch-up non-covid vaccination programs for children vulnerable to serious childhood diseases and (b) protect children’s vaccination services against the risk of disruption by unseen events in the future.
Jo Churchill (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care): The majority of National Health Service immunisation services were maintained throughout the COVID-19 response and time-critical routine immunisations administered in primary care continued to be delivered. However, the delivery of schools-based immunisation programmes have been rescheduled when schools reopened and we have raised awareness of the ongoing availability of NHS immunisations and the importance of keeping up to date with routine childhood immunisations.
Children’s vaccination services will continue to be maintained. The NHS ensures accurate information on the immunisation status of children and young people is available and reminders/recalls are sent to those who fail to attend. This information is available to clinicians to provide catch-up vaccinations at every appropriate opportunity, if needed.
Written Parliamentary Question – Coronavirus: Antibodies (8 July)
Sir Mike Penning (Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social care, what steps he is taking to monitor the level of antibodies in clinically extremely vulnerable people who have had two doses of the covid-19 vaccine but, as a result of their condition or medication, might be expected to respond poorly to the vaccination.
Nadhim Zahawi (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care): Public Health England has been monitoring the effectiveness of vaccinations in clinical risk groups which will include those with immunosuppression.
From the evaluation of the vaccine programme, the data shows that completion of the two dose schedule correlates well with protection from both disease and severe outcomes, including hospitalisation and death.
Virus Watch data, supported by the United Kingdom Research and Innovation and National Institute for Health Research COVID-19 rapid response initiative and the antibody testing team in NHS Test and Trace, provided information regarding patients antibodies which included immunocompromised patients as part of their cohort. This suggests some protection against COVID-19, but is only one measure of protection and does not look at cellular immunity which is important in terms of long-term immunity.
Written Parliamentary Question – Coronavirus: Antibodies (8 July)
Sir Mike Penning (Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social care, what research is being carried out to improve the level of antibodies in clinically extremely vulnerable people who have had two doses of the covid-19 vaccine but, as a result of their condition or medication, might be expected to respond poorly to the vaccination.
Nadhim Zahawi (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care): UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is providing £4 million towards the OCTAVE study to examine the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in clinically at-risk groups, including patients with certain immunosuppressed conditions. UKRI has allocated a further £3 million towards a research call to support projects examining the nature and quality of COVID-19 vaccine responses and the mechanisms of immune failure that lead to either COVID-19 re-infection or vaccine breakthrough. This call is now closed and the results will be announced in due course.
SENEDD PARLIAMENTARY UPDATE
Most Covid-19 rules in Wales – but not all – are set to be removed from Saturday 7 August. The Welsh Government said all laws on the number of people who can meet will end. Face masks will still be required in most indoor public places and public transport except in pubs, restaurants and schools.
Some rules will change on Saturday 17 July, meaning six people can meet in private homes and holiday homes and organised indoor events can take place for up to 1,000 seated and 200 standing.
The Welsh plan to move to its current lowest level of Covid-19 restrictions – known as alert level 0 – on Saturday 7 August, depends on the country’s public health situation. If it does revert to level 0, there will be no limits on who can meet indoors, there will be no law on social distancing and venues will have to assess risk.
This means there will be more rules in Wales than in England.
Despite the plan to ease many rules, people will be asked to continue working from home wherever possible. Meanwhile, specific social distancing in workplace laws are expected to end from Saturday 7 August, with businesses left to decide if they still need to keep customers and workers apart through risk assessments.
Mr Drakeford warned the Senedd that the Delta variant is in every part of Wales and was ‘spreading quickly’, with ‘real dangers’ that could not be ignored.
HOLYROOD PARLIAMENTARY UPDATE
Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister) has provided an update on the easing of restrictions in Scotland. The main points are:
Scotland will move to a ‘modified’ level 0, which means further easing of restrictions for meeting others, businesses and events – but face mask rules remain, as do limits on outdoor gatherings and work from home guidance.
Face masks will remain mandatory in indoor settings/public transport- and are expected to remain ‘for some time yet’.
Monday 9 August is the indicative date for dropping ‘most’ legal restrictions – there is no current intention to delay this, but will based on data/cases. Likely some requirements for face masks will remain even after this date.
There was an acknowledgement of the concerns of the CEV group and recognition that the easing of restrictions will cause unease. It is expected that the Chief Medical Officer will write to those on the CEV list with guidance, and there will be an online survey to gauge what additional support is required to support people on this list.
If you have any questions, or would like to receive our full parliamentary weekly update about all issues affecting the UK’s genetic, rare and undiagnosed community, please email our Policy Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org.