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Chinese experimental Covid-19 vaccine is safe and produces an immune response 

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chinese experimental covid 19 vaccine is safe and produces an immune response

Hopes of getting a Covid-19 vaccine were boosted again today after an experimental Chinese jab was found to be safe and produce an immune response. 

Every volunteer given a double-dose of state-owned firm Sinopharm’s vaccine made antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. 

In theory, this would protect them from catching the virus again in the future, or at least protect them from developing a severe bout of the disease. But this has not been proven by the scientists yet — they only injected fewer than 1,000 participants.

Ministers repeatedly insisted Britain could start to use a Covid-19 jab by September — but the Government has still yet to approve any vaccine because of a lack of data that they work.

Number 10’s own vaccine tsar yesterday admitted the odds of getting one rolled-out before Christmas were ‘slim’, with World Health Organization officials now claiming one won’t be ready until 2021 at the earliest for the most vulnerable.

Oxford University’s experimental jab is considered the front-runner but Downing St has also bought supplies of 340million different vaccines, in a spread-betting approach to ensure the UK doesn’t miss out on any scientific breakthrough. 

The results of the first two phases of clinical trials of Sinopharm’s vaccine, published in The Lancet, come after experts released promising results of another candidate jab made by Pfizer and its German partner.  

The Chinese state-owned enterprise Sinopharm published the results of its first two phases of clinical trial in the medical journal the Lancet today. Pictured, Sinopharm vaccine samples in a Beijing lab in April

The Chinese state-owned enterprise Sinopharm published the results of its first two phases of clinical trial in the medical journal the Lancet today. Pictured, Sinopharm vaccine samples in a Beijing lab in April

The Chinese state-owned enterprise Sinopharm published the results of its first two phases of clinical trial in the medical journal the Lancet today. Pictured, Sinopharm vaccine samples in a Beijing lab in April 

All participants given the jab BBIBP developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Pictured: A staff member tests samples of a Sinopharm vaccine

All participants given the jab BBIBP developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Pictured: A staff member tests samples of a Sinopharm vaccine

All participants given the jab BBIBP developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Pictured: A staff member tests samples of a Sinopharm vaccine

A vaccine is considered key to ending the Covid-19 pandemic because it ensures a person will not catch the coronavirus. 

All hopes are being pinned on finding one proven to work, but until then, measures such as social distancing have to be used to prevent the virus spreading. 

More than 600 healthy adults were given Sinopharm’s jab, dubbed BBIBP, and none suffered an adverse reaction. 

The most common side effect, reported by a quarter of volunteers, was pain at the point the needle was injected — which is common for any jab.

Two doses were shown to be more powerful than one, which is typical for the way BBIBP is made. 

It is an inactivated vaccine, meaning it contains the virus but it has been grown in a laboratory and then killed, so it is not infectious.  

Inactivated vaccines are well known and have been used against diseases such as influenza, measles and rabies. But they usually don’t provide immunity that’s as strong as live vaccines, so several doses over time may be necessary.

Adults over the age of 60 took a longer time to mount immunity, according to the results of the study, carried out by Beijing Institute of Biological Products.

But all volunteers had antibodies — proteins of the immune system which fight infection — seven weeks after injection compared with four in those under 60 years old.

This is not unusual because the immune system slows with ageing, meaning it takes longer for older people to respond to a vaccine or illness. It is also seen for influenza vaccines.

Antibodies are produced by B-cells in the immune system. They can take several days to build up. 

They are stored by the immune system so that if the virus enters the body again, they can react faster to clear it from the body before it makes a person sick. 

Pictured: How antibodies grew in volunteers given the jab over time (A is under 60 years old and B is 60 to 80 year olds). 'Seroconversion rates' refers to how many people developed antibodies. The graphs show 100 per cent of under 60 year olds developed antibodies within 28 days, regardless of the dose. But it took longer, 42 days, in the older cohort

Pictured: How antibodies grew in volunteers given the jab over time (A is under 60 years old and B is 60 to 80 year olds). 'Seroconversion rates' refers to how many people developed antibodies. The graphs show 100 per cent of under 60 year olds developed antibodies within 28 days, regardless of the dose. But it took longer, 42 days, in the older cohort

Pictured: How antibodies grew in volunteers given the jab over time (A is under 60 years old and B is 60 to 80 year olds). ‘Seroconversion rates’ refers to how many people developed antibodies. The graphs show 100 per cent of under 60 year olds developed antibodies within 28 days, regardless of the dose. But it took longer, 42 days, in the older cohort 

The greatest antibody responses were made when participants were given two 4mg doses either 21 days or 28 days apart (green and purple bars)

The greatest antibody responses were made when participants were given two 4mg doses either 21 days or 28 days apart (green and purple bars)

The greatest antibody responses were made when participants were given two 4mg doses either 21 days or 28 days apart (green and purple bars)

SINOPHARM OFFERS FREE JABS TO THE PUBLIC, INCLUDING STUDENTS, OUTSIDE TRIALS

A division of Sinopharm, that is developing two Covid-19 vaccines, is offering them for free to Chinese nationals, including students.

State-owned Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group Co (CNBG) has given the vaccine to 350,000 people outside its clinical trials, which have about 40,000 people enrolled, a top CNBG executive said recently. 

The move by CNBG is reportedly aimed at boosting public confidence in jabs developed in China.

It’s unusual to offer people vaccines outside of clinical trials and before final regulatory approval for general use. It raises ethical and safety questions, as companies and governments worldwide race to develop a vaccine that will stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Chinese companies earlier drew attention for giving the vaccine to their top executives and leading researchers before human trials to test their safety and efficacy had even begun. 

In recent months, they have injected a far larger number under an emergency use designation approved in June, and that number appears poised to rise.

Chinese students going abroad for higher studies were encouraged to sign up for a free jab this month, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The announcement of the company distributing vaccines to students appeared on a website where people could sign up to receive it, the newspaper reported.

The website said on Monday that 481,613 people had taken the vaccine while an additional 93,653 had applied to be inoculated.

The website was down starting Tuesday, the report said, adding that it was ‘under maintenance’. 

Now, large Chinese firms including telecom giant Huawei and broadcaster Phoenix TV have announced they’re working with Sinopharm to get the vaccine for their employees. 

Another company, Sinovac Biotech, has injected 90 per cent of its employees and family members, or about 3,000 people, most under the emergency-use provision, CEO Yin Weidong said. 

It has also provided tens of thousands of rounds of its CoronaVac to the Beijing city government.

Separately, the Chinese military has approved the use of a vaccine it developed with CanSino Biologics Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, in military personnel. 

Diego Silva, a lecturer in bioethics at the University of Sydney, said that giving vaccines to hundreds of thousands outside of clinical trials doesn’t have ‘scientific merit’ in China, where there are currently very few locally transmitted cases, and incoming arrivals are quarantined centrally.

‘If it’s in the US where the virus is still raging that’s a bit different. But in a country like China it doesn’t seem to make sense to me,’ he said. ‘Because there’s not enough of the virus in China locally to deduce anything, you’re introducing a whole host of others factors by injecting people outside of trials.’

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Despite the trial being carried out by Sinopharm itself, independent scientists were hopeful.

Writing in a linked Comment article, Professor Larisa Rudenko, from the Institute of Experimental Medicine, Saint Petersburg, Russia, said described the findings as ‘promising’, but said ‘more studies are needed to establish’ whether the vaccine promotes T cells — a type of white blood cell to attack the virus.

Dr Andrew Preston, a reader in microbial pathogenesis involved in vaccine development, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, said it the progress was ‘good news’.

He told MailOnline: ‘This trial was different to others that it included over 60’s, one of the key cohorts who we want to protect through vaccination. The same safety profile was observed in the older group as in younger groups.’

However, he added: ‘This doesn’t really change the picture an awful lot. Yes, it’s another vaccine through the initial Phase 1/2 testing which is good. 

‘But of course this does not tell us whether the vaccine actually protects against infection and/or disease.’

He also said the study does not appear to have studied T cells ‘which are likely to be important for protection against Covid-19’. 

‘It’s likely that we’ll need several different vaccines to cover different scenarios and to help fill demand,’ he said. ‘Passing this testing stage enables it to move onto larger trials in which the effectiveness of the vaccine in terms of protection can be evaluated.’   

Sinopharm has two vaccines in final stage clinical trials, and China has eight overall, putting the country at the forefront of the quest to end the pandemic. 

The Beijing-based firm recently said its other vaccine contender may be on the market by December and cost just £100 for two doses. 

Other front-runners include Oxford University, whose vaccine will be produced on mass by AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna. 

The study findings today come from Sinopharm’s vaccine being trialled by Beijing Institute of Biological Products. 

Trials for its other vaccine, the one which may be ready by Christmas, are being co-ordinated by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.   

The BBIBP-CorV vaccine used in the study reported is based on a sample of the virus that was isolated from a patient in China, where the coronavirus first emerged in December 2019.

Supplies of the virus were grown in a laboratory and then killed using a chemical called beta-proprionolactone.

BBIBP-CorV includes the dead virus mixed with aluminium hydroxide — an adjuvant which can boost the immune response. 

Adjuvants are sometimes added to reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, which allows more doses to be made quicker. 

The first phase of the study was designed to find the optimal safe dose for BBIBP-CorV and involved 192 people.

Half were aged between 18 and 59 years, and the other half were aged between 60 years and 80 years. 

A total of 144 participants received the vaccine. Forty-eight received the placebo or ‘dummy’ vaccine so researchers can compare the side effects.

Participants were asked to report any adverse events for the first seven days after each vaccination, and these were investigated by the research team to see if there was any organ damage.

No serious adverse events were reported within 28 days after vaccination. 

The most common side effect, reported by 24 per cent, was pain at the injection site. Only six per cent of those in the placebo group complained of this. 

A small number (four per cent) of participants reported experiencing a fever, another more common side effect of receiving a vaccine which signals the body is working to produce an immune response. Six per cent of those given the placebo reported this.

There were no instances of clinically significant changes in organ functions detected in laboratory tests in any of the groups. 

Within the two age groups, volunteers given the Sinopharm jab were given different dose levels, twice, 28 days apart. These were 2mg, 4mg and 8mg. 

The second phase of the study was designed to identify the best timing of doses.

A total of 448 participants aged between 18 and 59 years were randomly assigned to receive either a vaccine or a placebo. Some 336 received the vaccine and the remaining 112 the placebo.

Some of those given the vaccine received one 8mg shot. The rest were given two shots of 4mg on a schedule — either 14 days, 21 days or 28 days after the first jab.   

Blood samples were taken of all 640 participants in the first and second phase of the study to test antibody levels for SARS-CoV-2 before and after vaccination. 

The greatest antibody responses were made when participants were given two 4mg doses either 21 days or 28 days apart. 

Professor Xiaoming Yang, one of the authors of the study, from the Beijing Institute of Biological Products Company Limited, Beijing, said: ‘Our findings indicate that a booster shot is necessary to achieve the greatest antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 and could be important for protection. This provides useful information for a phase 3 trial.’

Inactivated vaccines work differently to live vaccines, and often multiple doses are necessary to build up and maintain immunity. For example with measles, two doses are needed.

Participants aged 60 and over were slower to respond, taking 42 days before antibodies were detected in all recipients compared with 28 days for participants aged 18-59.

Antibody levels were also lower in those aged 60-80 years compared with those aged 18-59.

Professor Yang said: ‘Protecting older people is a key aim of a successful COVID-19 vaccine as this age group is at greater risk of severe illness from the disease.

‘However, vaccines are sometimes less effective in this group because the immune system weakens with age. 

‘It is therefore encouraging to see that BBIBP-CorV induces antibody responses in people aged 60 and older, and we believe this justifies further investigation.’

Phase three of the clinical trials, the final stage, will assess whether these antibody responses actually protect people from disease.

Sinopharm said in July that its other vaccine could be ready for public use by the end of this year after the conclusion of final trials. 

Chairman of Sinopharm Group Liu Jingzhen said, according to Guangming Ribao newspaper: ‘After the third stage of international clinical trials ends, we can register the inactivated vaccine.

‘According to our estimations, by the end of the year, it may appear on the market.

‘I have personally received two shots of the vaccine, there were no side effects. 

‘After the inactivated vaccine enters the market, its price will not be too high, it will be around several hundred yuan. Two shots will cost about 1,000 yuan (about $144/£100).’ 

China also has a vaccine candidate each from Sinovac and CanSino, which are both in phase three trials.  

SINOPHARM’S OTHER VACCINE ALSO TRIGGERS ANTIBODIES

Sinopharm’s other experimental jab, the trials of which are being co-ordinated by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, has been shown to trigger antibodies in volunteers.

Although the findings are promising, they do not prove the jab can prevent a person catching the virus. 

Results of the most recent trial were published on August 13 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and led by Shengli Xia, of the Henan Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ninety-six healthy adults from China aged between 18 and 59 years old were assigned to one of the three dose groups (2.5, 5, and 10 μg/dose), or a control group for a placebo jab.

They were given three shots in total, on days 0, 28, and 56. 

After seven days, adverse reactions occurred occurred in 20.8 per cent, 16.7 per cent, and 25 per cent of patients in the low-dose, medium-dose, and high-dose groups, respectively. 

In the second trial, 224 healthy adults were randomly divided into two groups in which they received a jab on either day zero and 14, or day zero and 21. Some received a medium dose of the real vaccine candidate, while the others were given a placebo.

No more than one fifth of participants in the phase two trial had side effects.

Overall, 15 per cent of participants reported side effects within seven days of the injection, which is ‘lower compared with results of other candidate vaccines’, the researchers said.

The most common side effect was injection site pain. No serious adverse reactions were noted by the researchers. 

When looking at the immune response to the vaccine, the trial found ‘the inactivated vaccine may effectively induce antibody production’ based on antibody levels increasing. 

The results in both phases indicated that a longer interval (21 to 28 days) between the first and second injections produced higher antibody responses compared with a shorter interval schedule (14-day group).

Antibodies started to increase after a second injection and further increased after the third injection in the phase 1 trial, suggesting the need for a booster injection, the paper said.

No new Covid-19 cases were reported and no participant developed any symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection during the trial. 

But its not clear if people were protected by the jab or if they had just not been exposed to the coronavirus. And the researchers did not look at home long antibodies lasted in the long-term.

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This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Trump and Melania pose with two children dressed as them as they welcome kids for Halloween party 

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trump and melania pose with two children dressed as them as they welcome kids for halloween party

Donald and Melania Trump skipped passing out the candy at this year’s Halloween celebration at the White House and waved to the trick-or-treaters instead at a down-sized event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The first couple came out to the music of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller,’ holding hands and waving to the crowd. 

They did not wear face masks as they greeted the children, who walked in a line in front of them at the South Portico of the White House. 

It was a parade of angels, astronauts, pirates, cartoon characters, skeletons, witches, unicorns and tyrannosaurus rex. 

Spooky music – from the ‘Game of Thrones’ theme song to the ‘Phantom of the ‘Opera’ – played in the background as costume parade marched by the first couple. 

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34833644 8878299 image a 46 1603669833850

LOOK-A-LIKES: Children dressed as the Presidential couple pose in front of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at a Halloween celebration at the White House

HAPPY HALLOWEEN: President Trump asked the boy if he was dressed as a hot dog; he was

HAPPY HALLOWEEN: President Trump asked the boy if he was dressed as a hot dog; he was

HAPPY HALLOWEEN: President Trump asked the boy if he was dressed as a hot dog; he was

SCARY: First Lady Melania Trump looks a little startled to see a giant tyrannosaurus rex

SCARY: First Lady Melania Trump looks a little startled to see a giant tyrannosaurus rex

SCARY: First Lady Melania Trump looks a little startled to see a giant tyrannosaurus rex

TRICK OR TREAT: This little Spiderman came up to the Trumps to trick or treat, not realizing the first couple weren't handing out candy this year

TRICK OR TREAT: This little Spiderman came up to the Trumps to trick or treat, not realizing the first couple weren't handing out candy this year

TRICK OR TREAT: This little Spiderman came up to the Trumps to trick or treat, not realizing the first couple weren’t handing out candy this year

The White House was lit up for the occasion with the Trump Balcony a glow. A giant ‘Halloween 2020’ sign hung from the South Portico balcony, leaves in the different colors of autumn circled the columns, and an array of chrysanthemums cascaded down the East and West staircase. 

And, of course, there were many, many pumpkins.

A light mist fell as the children made their way through, adding to the festive atmosphere. 

Most of the children and guests wore masks. 

Social distancing measures were supposed to be in place but things got off to a rough start. 

After the Trumps came out, the excited guests crowded around the first couple to take photo and photo until staff got them to move along.

‘Move along, keep the line moving,’ staff called as people stopped to take out their phones.

But, from there, things went more smoothly.

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34833552 0 image a 45 1603669641129

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany brought her 11 month year old daughter, who was dressed as a mouse

President Donald Trump salutes a child dressed as a soldier

President Donald Trump salutes a child dressed as a soldier

President Donald Trump salutes a child dressed as a soldier

A group of unicorns stop to talk to the first couple

A group of unicorns stop to talk to the first couple

A group of unicorns stop to talk to the first couple

Instead of handing out candy, President Trump and Melania Trump waved to the kids as they walked by

Instead of handing out candy, President Trump and Melania Trump waved to the kids as they walked by

Instead of handing out candy, President Trump and Melania Trump waved to the kids as they walked by

PICTURE TIME: First lady Melania Trump leans into President Donald Trump to pose for a socially distant selfie

PICTURE TIME: First lady Melania Trump leans into President Donald Trump to pose for a socially distant selfie

PICTURE TIME: First lady Melania Trump leans into President Donald Trump to pose for a socially distant selfie

COSTUME PARADE: Children paraded by the president and first lady, who just waved instead of handing out candy due to the coronavirus pandemic

COSTUME PARADE: Children paraded by the president and first lady, who just waved instead of handing out candy due to the coronavirus pandemic

COSTUME PARADE: Children paraded by the president and first lady, who just waved instead of handing out candy due to the coronavirus pandemic

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows greats guests on the south lawn of the White House during the Halloween celebration

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows greats guests on the south lawn of the White House during the Halloween celebration

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows greats guests on the south lawn of the White House during the Halloween celebration

A child dressed as a porcupine walks to be greeted by the Trumps

A child dressed as a porcupine walks to be greeted by the Trumps

A child dressed as a porcupine walks to be greeted by the Trumps

Children – in an array of costumes ranging from super heroes to scary – marched in front of the Trumps, some stopped to wave, some hid behind their, and others just looked confused by the group of cameras recording every move.

Parents carried those to small to walk on their own. Kids dressed as miniature lions, elephants and a baby Winnie the Pooh got waves from the Trumps.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany carried her 11-month old daughter dressed as a mouse to meet the first couple.

A miniature Donald and Melania Trump – him in a black suit with a red tie, her in a white dress, both in face masks – drew big smiles from the real Trumps, who posed for pics with them.

The two kids posed for several minutes before the girl pulled the boy away to keep moving down the line.

‘He likes the press,’ the president observed. 

The first lady, wearing an orange coat, laced her arm through the president’s to lean in and pose for one socially distanced selfie.

The president gave his signature thumbs up to many of the trick or treaters. One group – wearing the sporting jerseys of the New York teams – got a double thumbs up from Trump, who recently moved his residence to Florida.

And Trump called back to properly meet and take a picture with a child in a wheel chair, bending down to talk to him. 

He also saluted a few children in military costumes, who saluted back. 

The White House was lit up and decorated with leaves and pumpkins for the Halloween celebration

The White House was lit up and decorated with leaves and pumpkins for the Halloween celebration

The White House was lit up and decorated with leaves and pumpkins for the Halloween celebration

The Trumps spent about 35 minutes waving to the kids as they paraded by

The Trumps spent about 35 minutes waving to the kids as they paraded by

The Trumps spent about 35 minutes waving to the kids as they paraded by

One little girl was a bit too shy to come close to the Trumps, who waved at her

One little girl was a bit too shy to come close to the Trumps, who waved at her

One little girl was a bit too shy to come close to the Trumps, who waved at her

The president and first lady in front of the decorated South Portico

The president and first lady in front of the decorated South Portico

The president and first lady in front of the decorated South Portico

The president also said to one child who paused in front of them: ‘you’re a hot dog?’ The boy was indeed dressed as a hot dog.  

The first couple were separated by a row of flowers in planters’ boxes from the crowd but one little SpiderMan walked around the barrier and straight up the Trumps’, holding up his bag to properly trick or treat. 

Alas the Trumps had no candy with them.

The traditional orange bags of treats that the first couple hand out had already been given to the kids, who carried them as they marched along. The bags had been set up on tables off to the sides of the events — that families picked up individually. 

One child skipped the Trumps and walked straight to the cameras to pose, ignoring the president and first lady behind him. 

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows came out to observe the festivities, bending down to talk to kids and help direct traffic when the line bottle-necked. 

The crowd was excited to be there and happy to see the Trumps. ‘We love you’ and ‘four more years’ were shouted by many adults who walked by. 

‘Thank you,’ the president said to them. 

Trick-or-treating is an annual tradition at the White House going back to 1958 when first lady Mamie Eisenhower first decided to decorate the for the holiday.

Guests at this year’s event were frontline workers, military families and schoolchildren. 

Everyone over the age of two was asked to wear a mask and social distance. And staff working the event had to wear masks and gloves.

NASA had space-related items for kids to observe, as well as a display of an inflatable rockets.

Kids were also able to receive a Junior Ranger badge and paper ranger hat from the Interior Department. The Transportation Department passed out paper airplanes.

The United States Air Force Strolling Strings played traditional Halloween songs and other tunes.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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ROBERT HARDMAN: Forget loo rolls… now we’re talking turkey!

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robert hardman forget loo rolls now were talking turkey

First it was loo roll, then personal protective equipment, baking ingredients, fruit- pickers and, latterly, testing kits.

With every major shortage of every important commodity during this pandemic, the patience of the British people has been tested to the limit. Yet, somehow, we have managed to muddle through.

Until now. For we may be fast approaching a shortage that really could do for this Government.

In short, two months from now, large parts of the country could be facing a Christmas with all the trimmings — but no turkey. Robert Hardman is pictured above at Copas Turkey Farm

In short, two months from now, large parts of the country could be facing a Christmas with all the trimmings — but no turkey. Robert Hardman is pictured above at Copas Turkey Farm

In short, two months from now, large parts of the country could be facing a Christmas with all the trimmings — but no turkey. Robert Hardman is pictured above at Copas Turkey Farm

Indeed, I fear that the mere mention of it may be enough to incite public disorder. However, given that there is still time to resolve this crisis, this is no time to stay silent.

In short, two months from now, large parts of the country could be facing a Christmas with all the trimmings — but no turkey.

A series of Covid-related developments — including a serious shortage of skilled migrant labour and the fact that very few people are either going abroad or eating out this Christmas —mean that demand is going in one direction and supply in the other. And that points inexorably towards a nationwide run on our favourite bird.

Orders are already well ahead of the same stage last year here at the Copas family’s Berkshire farm. 

The Copas family — Tom runs the business with his wife, Verity (pictured together above) and three sisters — sell only to independent butchers and directly to the public, so they have their ear to the ground

The Copas family — Tom runs the business with his wife, Verity (pictured together above) and three sisters — sell only to independent butchers and directly to the public, so they have their ear to the ground

The Copas family — Tom runs the business with his wife, Verity (pictured together above) and three sisters — sell only to independent butchers and directly to the public, so they have their ear to the ground

Around 32,000 birds are having a high old free-range time ahead of what third-generation boss Tom Copas, 36, calls ‘the crunch’, following which these 600 broad acres of paddocks, cherry orchards and barns will suddenly fall silent.

At present, however, there is an incessant chorus of ‘gobble-gobble’ plus the odd tinkle of tambourine — these birds actually have their own musical instruments.

The Copas family — Tom runs the business with his wife, Verity, and three sisters — sell only to independent butchers and directly to the public, so they have their ear to the ground. This year, several patterns are emerging.

‘Not so many people will be on holiday or eating out. They’ll cook at home,’ says Tom. 

‘And we are going to see less ‘home and away’ fixtures, where families might spend Christmas with one side of the family one year and another the next. This year, both sides of the family will want their own turkey.’

Verity has been touched by the number of regular customers getting in touch to wish them well through the pandemic. ‘After the year that many people have had, they are determined to have a proper Christmas and that means a proper turkey,’ she says.

The National Farmers’ Union says that Britain usually eats around ten million turkeys at Christmas, with just over six million of them ‘farm-fresh’ birds reared at home. The rest are mainly frozen imports and special cuts such as crowns and breasts.

This year, though, all the indicators are that we are going to need many more birds from an industry which could be missing up to half its workforce. Hence the looming crisis.

A turkey-free Christmas? We may as well block up the chimney, leave the Christmas tree in the forest and tell the Queen not to bother come 3pm on December 25!

A further consequence of the pandemic is that the Government’s rule-of-six limit on family gatherings means that many families will want a much smaller bird. 

The entry-level model on many farms will weigh around four kilos (9 lb) — enough to feed eight to ten adults.

According to the British Poultry Council, there will be some producers who see no point in spending more money on more food and electricity to fatten up a bird that has already exceeded market size for these reduced Christmas gatherings

According to the British Poultry Council, there will be some producers who see no point in spending more money on more food and electricity to fatten up a bird that has already exceeded market size for these reduced Christmas gatherings

According to the British Poultry Council, there will be some producers who see no point in spending more money on more food and electricity to fatten up a bird that has already exceeded market size for these reduced Christmas gatherings

According to the British Poultry Council, there will be some producers who see no point in spending more money on more food and electricity to fatten up a bird that has already exceeded market size for these reduced Christmas gatherings. 

They may want to slaughter their birds now and stick them all in the freezer, especially with a major manpower shortage on the horizon.

Turkey consumption in the UK (unlike the rest of Europe) is driven by a single day in the calendar. 

That means the industry is heavily reliant on temporary staff for a hectic process of slaughtering, plucking, eviscerating and packing millions of birds in a matter of days. Farm-ageddon for the turkey trade is just weeks away and, as ever, the UK looks to Eastern Europe.

‘You really do need people trained in butchery, who know what they’re doing — for welfare, for safety and so on,’ says Aimee Mahony, chief poultry adviser to the National Farmers’ Union. She has around 270 members producing fresh, ‘farm-gate’ home-grown birds for the domestic market.

Between them, they rely on around 8,500 part-time staff, half of them Eastern European poultry workers who would normally take a fortnight’s holiday and book a flight to the UK to help out.

It’s good money, many are old friends and everyone gets home in time for Christmas. However, if they will face two weeks of quarantine on the way in — as is currently the case — then they simply won’t come. And that would be disastrous, since many farmers just won’t be unable to process their birds in time for Christmas.

So they are lobbying the Government with a simple request: to be granted exactly the same exemption ministers have already granted to the fruit industry.

Back in late summer, Eastern European workers were allowed to come to the UK and spend their quarantine period picking fruit, provided they remained in a bubble on the farm. Poultry farmers merely want the same deal.

‘The next few weeks are going to be crucial,’ says Aimee Mahony.

Tom Copas is praying that the exemption comes in time for the dozens of workers who have been travelling to Cookham, Berkshire, from Poland and Romania each winter for years. Their digs await.

A while back, his father, Tom senior, had the bright idea of buying up some of the accommodation units that were used by the workers who had built the Channel Tunnel.

His barns are all spotless and ready to go and ‘bubbles’ have been planned. He has even arranged pre-departure Covid tests and private ‘bubbled’ buses across Europe for his seasonal workers, but he still can’t confirm things.

Unlike the big industrial producers who go for ‘wet-plucking’ (whereby a carcass is dunked in scalding water and plucked by machine), traditional farms like this prefer ‘dry-plucking’, much of it by hand.

It produces superior meat, better flavour and allows the turkey to hang properly in cold storage for 14 days. But it requires expertise and it needs to happen on time.

‘It is bang or bust in this business,’ Tom explains cheerfully, ‘but we’ll make it work. We have to!’

There is no chance of an early demise for any of the birds on the Copas family’s farm. 

‘You have got to let the bird grow properly for up to 26 weeks. Otherwise, you don’t get the stores of fat which make it juicy,’ says Tom. ‘People want a proper turkey, not a bag of bones.’

After all the grim uncertainty of 2020, can we not at least feel confident of a turkey on the table on Christmas Day? This industry, unlike others, is not demanding gazillions from the Government. Turkey farmers merely want the same rights as fruit farmers — and fast

After all the grim uncertainty of 2020, can we not at least feel confident of a turkey on the table on Christmas Day? This industry, unlike others, is not demanding gazillions from the Government. Turkey farmers merely want the same rights as fruit farmers — and fast

After all the grim uncertainty of 2020, can we not at least feel confident of a turkey on the table on Christmas Day? This industry, unlike others, is not demanding gazillions from the Government. Turkey farmers merely want the same rights as fruit farmers — and fast

If you had to be a turkey anywhere, this seems a pretty good perch. The birds are divided according to breed and size, ranging from the Devon Bronze, which might weigh in at four-and-a-half kilos (10 lb), to a hefty 10 kg (22 lb) Wirral Black.

Every field is surrounded by two fences, one with a thick mesh and one electric. 

They are not there to keep the turkeys in, but to keep the foxes and mink out. Hence the sight of some faintly bemused alpacas. 

‘A few years ago the foxes killed 350 birds in one week alone, mostly for fun, and you can’t keep dogs with turkeys. Then someone told me that alpacas have a great guarding instinct. They all get on very well and the foxes stay away.’

Turkeys love to peck at anything shiny — they even peck the buckles on my boots; hence the tambourines and children’s xylophones hanging on string. 

It all helps to keep the birds calm. If they are suddenly spooked, they can stampede, which leads to bruising, injury and even suffocation.

For the same reason, all the fields have tall crops to make the birds feel safe from anything overhead.

Further pampering is due next week when Tom begins ‘firework training’, letting off a few controlled pyrotechnics so that the birds are not suddenly freaked out by any Bonfire Night displays.

So, any top tips for the perfect turkey? ‘Breast side down under loose foil for three-quarters of the time, and then turn it over with the foil off,’ says Tom. ‘And always let it stand for 45 minutes.’

I am already feeling peckish — and a little worried, too.

After all the grim uncertainty of 2020, can we not at least feel confident of a turkey on the table on Christmas Day?

This industry, unlike others, is not demanding gazillions from the Government. Turkey farmers merely want the same rights as fruit farmers — and fast.

Anything else, frankly, is gobbledygook.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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EastEnders director sacked after turning up to work ahead of receiving a positive covid-19 diagnosis

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eastenders director sacked after turning up to work ahead of receiving a positive covid 19 diagnosis

An EastEnders director has been sacked from the set after turning up to work ahead of a positive covid-19 diagnosis. 

Joe Nugent, a first assistant director at the show, took a test for coronavirus after feeling unwell over the weekend of October 10, reports The Sun.

Despite experiencing symptoms of the virus Mr Nugent went into work as normal at the BBC‘s Elstree set in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, for the following Monday and Tuesday.

The director only notified colleagues after his test result came back positive on Tuesday evening – having already spent two days amongst the soaps’ crew and cast. 

Joe Nugent, a first assistant director at the show, took a test for coronavirus after feeling unwell over the weekend of October 10

Joe Nugent, a first assistant director at the show, took a test for coronavirus after feeling unwell over the weekend of October 10

Joe Nugent, a first assistant director at the show, took a test for coronavirus after feeling unwell over the weekend of October 10

One cast member later tested positive for coronavirus following the covid rule breach by Mr Nugent.

A source told The Sun how a show chief had written to staff saying: ‘You will all have heard we had an active Covid case on site.

‘This should serve as a reminder that keeping ourselves and our colleagues safe is an ongoing situation and a shared responsibility.’ 

Although the EastEnders’ cast member who subsequently tested positive for the virus has not been named, Danny Dyer ruled himself out with a series of negative coronavirus tests following the scare.     

The EastEnders' cast were said to have almost staged a 'mutiny' over the news that a positive covid-19 case had been on set

The EastEnders' cast were said to have almost staged a 'mutiny' over the news that a positive covid-19 case had been on set

The EastEnders’ cast were said to have almost staged a ‘mutiny’ over the news that a positive covid-19 case had been on set

One cast member later tested positive for coronavirus following the covid rule breach by Mr Nugent (pictured)

One cast member later tested positive for coronavirus following the covid rule breach by Mr Nugent (pictured)

One cast member later tested positive for coronavirus following the covid rule breach by Mr Nugent (pictured)

An EastEnders source told The Sun that actors nearing the at-risk age bracket had felt ‘livid’ and ‘let down’.

They added: ‘There was talk of a mutiny. He was given the boot, partly to assuage cast members.’

Since filming resumed in June all staff members have been regularly tested for covid-19.

MailOnline has contacted Joe Nugent for comment. 

Danny Dyer ruled himself out with a series of negative coronavirus tests following the scare

Danny Dyer ruled himself out with a series of negative coronavirus tests following the scare

Danny Dyer ruled himself out with a series of negative coronavirus tests following the scare

Socially distanced filming taking place on the set of EastEnders as two actors sit separated for a scene on the same bench

Socially distanced filming taking place on the set of EastEnders as two actors sit separated for a scene on the same bench

Socially distanced filming taking place on the set of EastEnders as two actors sit separated for a scene on the same bench

Last week EastEnders’ new £87 million set took a step closer to completion, as builders finished work on the redesigned Queen Vic pub along with a slew of other businesses on Tuesday.

Snaps show the big-budget set isn’t far from being glimpsed on screens, with the newly-painted tavern boasting a new version of its iconic sign.

Work on the EastEnders’ set has been ongoing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite being a step closer to completion is still not expected to be done until 2023.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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