As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to evolve, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises British nationals against all but essential travel, exempting some countries that no longer pose an unacceptably high risk for British travellers. This advice is being kept under constant review and may change at short notice.
The fitfortravel (for the general public) and TRAVAX (for health professionals) country pages have been updated to include a COVID-19 country specific risk-rating, with every country being identified as high, moderate or low risk and each rating accompanied by appropriate travel advice. This information will be listed in the ‘Alerts’ section on each country page of fitfortravel and the 'Emerging Health Risks' section of every TRAVAX country page. This risk-rating is based on a robust public health assessment of the COVID-19 risks for travellers to each country and is regularly reviewed.
In December 2020, the COVID-19 risk for UK travellers was increased in 14 countries, please see the individual country news alerts for further details. Furthermore, the COVID-19 risk for UK travellers was decreased in the following countries:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
The COVID-19 risk rating and travel advice from the FCDO is being kept under constant review and may change at short notice. All travellers are advised to continue following sensible precautions and consider the following sources of information listed below.
Advice for travellers
Before planning or booking international travel, please check:
Information relating to travel and COVID-19 is available on the TRAVAX (for healthcare practitioners) and fitfortravel (for the public) websites.
Information on COVID-19 for the general public is available on the NHS Inform (Scotland) and the NHS.UK (rest of the UK) websites.
Information and resources on COVID-19 for health professionals is available on the Health Protection Scotland (HPS) (Scotland) and Public Health England (PHE) (rest of the UK) websites.
The Resuscitation Council UK (RCUK) have updated their guidance on the management of anaphylaxis in a vaccination setting, to reflect the current COVID-19 mass vaccination programme. This updated information includes a poster of the algorithm for managing anaphylaxis, which is a useful resource for displaying in clinics.
While anaphylaxis following vaccination is rare, occurring in less than one case per million doses for vaccines in the UK, COVID-19 vaccines are new, so it is uncertain if the risk of anaphylaxis will be higher in comparison to other vaccines.
It should also be noted that, although the RCUK guidance has been updated in relation to the COVID-19 mass vaccination programme, it can be used in any vaccination setting. All healthcare professionals administering travel vaccines are asked to familiarise themselves with the new guidance.
Source: TRAVAX, 24 December 2020
Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of Stamaril yellow fever vaccine, have updated their Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC), stating that the tip caps of Stamaril prefilled syringes contain a natural rubber latex derivative, which may cause allergic reactions in individuals sensitive to latex. As a result, healthcare professionals are reminded that they must take an accurate medical history and complete a risk assessment before administering any vaccine.
The following should be noted:
- Yellow fever vaccine can only be administered in designated yellow fever centres.
- Stamaril is the only yellow fever vaccine currently available in the UK.
- The manufacturer’s patient leaflet should be given to everyone receiving a yellow fever vaccine as part of their travel consultation.
Travellers considering yellow fever vaccination are advised to consult the yellow fever disease and vaccination pages on the fitfortravel website.
Source: TRAVAX, 22 December 2020
The Scottish Government has announced that projects with a specific focus on efficiency, cutting emissions and improving environmental performance have been selected as part of the next round of the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF).
The KTIF, which is delivered through the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014 to 2020, will provide almost £63,000 to support projects which will explore ways to help reduce emissions and tackle climate change in farming and food production, and could result in the creation of jobs in the rural economy.
Funding has been approved for the following projects:
- Demystifying Sensor Farming, facilitated by Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), seeks to support family farms and crofters embrace the potential of new technology around sensors and digital farming, in order to facilitate the gathering of actionable data that will optimise for profitability and sustainability.
- Agroforestry in Action, facilitated by the Soil Association (Scotland), aims to increase awareness and understanding amongst farmers, crofters and other rural stakeholders of the opportunities for agroforestry in Scotland and its benefits for productive and sustainable farming, resource efficient land management, the environment, nature and a safe climate.
- Bringing Biodiversity Back, facilitated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), seeks to highlight existing work undertaken on farms, crofts and estates in four specific regions of Scotland to promote activities and help to increase biodiversity, whilst ensuring financial sustainability for farming operations. The project aims to ensure ongoing impact by using these initial workshop sessions as a starting point for a facilitated community of practice to offer support and guidance to each of the four regions in developing their nature friendly farming work.
On a related matter, two new farmer-led groups are being established to develop advice and proposals to the Scottish Government on how to cut emissions and tackle climate change as reaffirmed in the recently published Climate Change Plan. The Dairy Group and the Hill, Upland and Crofting Group (HUCG) will focus on the dairy and high nature value sectors.
The formation of these groups brings the total number of farmer-led climate groups to five, following on from the Industry led Pig Sector group, the Arable sector group, which met for the first time in December, and the Suckler Beef Climate Group, which has already published recommendations and a separate programme board has now been set up to take these forward.
Sources: Scottish Government, 29 December 2020 and Scottish Government, 22 December 2020
The Scottish Government has announced an update to its climate change plan, with the aim of stopping all non-household biodegradable waste from entering landfill by 2025.
A ban on household biodegradable waste being sent to landfill is already in place and the Climate Change Plan 2018 to 2032 commits to consulting on extending this to cover business and non-municipal waste.
The proposals are part of a package of measures aiming to reduce food waste by one-third, and recycle 70% of all waste, by 2025.
Key initiatives include:
- restrictions on the supply of specified single use plastic items
- a proposed charge on single use disposable beverage cups
- legislation to increase the carrier bag minimum charge, from 5p to 10p, next year
- consultations in 2021 on electronic waste tracking, a mandatory national food waste reduction target and the mandatory reporting of Scotland’s food surplus and waste by food businesses
- the establishment of a £70 million fund to improve local authority recycling collection infrastructure
In line with the EU Commission’s Circular Economy Package, a consultation will look at requirements to separately collect garden waste by 2023 and textiles and hazardous elements of household waste by 2025. Additionally, extra funding will be available to double the number of landfill gas capture sites from 12 to 24 by 2025 in a bid to harness the energy generated from landfill and maximise circular economy opportunities.
Source: Scottish Government, 30 December 2020
On 30 December 2020, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised on the safety of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, stating both vaccines provided high-levels of protection against coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, including severe disease. The committee recommends vaccinating more people with the first dose should be prioritised above offering others their second dose, as this will provide the greatest public health benefits in the short-term and save more lives, due to the fact that protection is obtained around two weeks after the first vaccine dose.
The current evidence suggests that increasing age is the single greatest risk factor. As a result, the current recommendation is that residents in a care home for older adults and their carers will be treated first, followed by people over the age of 80 and frontline health and social care workers. The programme will then be rolled out to the rest of the population sequentially based on the JCVI’s priority list. This initial phase of the vaccine programme is estimated to cover around 99% of preventable COVID-19 deaths.
For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the second vaccine dose can be offered between three to 12 weeks after the first dose. For the AstraZeneca vaccine, the second dose can be offered four to 12 weeks after the first dose, although some data from the AstraZeneca vaccine trials suggests that extending the time to the second dose may be better than having the second dose earlier. However, skipping the second dose is not advised, as this may be important for longer lasting protection, however exact durations of protection are currently unknown.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been procured on behalf of the four nations by the UK Government, who have ordered 100 million doses, of which Scotland will get 8.2% based on its population. In Scotland, roll-out of the vaccine started on 4 January 2021, in the settings already being delivered in, before moving out into more community settings from 11 January 2021.
Sources: UK Government, 30 December 2020 and Scottish Government, 30 December 2020