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tv   Newswatch  BBC News  December 4, 2021 3:45am-4:00am GMT

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but we also heard the opposite concern, that the possible risks of the new variant were being underplayed at times on air. here is steph dodwell... well, at the heart of the bbc�*s reporting over the past week has been its medical editor, fergus walsh, and hejoins me now. thank you for coming on newswatch. there has, of course, been a lot of coverage of omicron over the past week. some viewers, as you have heard, think it's excessive and alarmist. how would you respond to them?
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well, i would say don't shoot the messenger. what we are seeing is science in real time. it's absolutely remarkable. it's only been identified, omicron, about ten days ago. it only got a name — omicron — last friday. so incredibly early, very good research from the south african authorities, and as a result of that, we have seen this very swift action. and we have been reporting not only on what the scientists have said, and they are genuinely concerned that this could be the worst variant yet — but you also have to look at what governments have done. the uk government imposing travel restrictions, dramatically changing the booster programme from the over 40s getting a booster now down to everybody over the age of 18, and in england, the aim to offer everyone a boosterjab by the end of january. and then, in terms of the length of time between a second dose and a booster being reduced from six months
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to three months. so, it has dramatically focused attention on getting the population in the best possible immunological state before omicron really hits. fergus, we have also had the opposite point of view from some viewers who think the coverage has actually not taken the risk of omicron seriously enough, and that people listening will be too casual about it. well, it's dominated the airwaves. i don't think there's anything that's been casual about the coverage. we have pointed out that some doctors in south africa who first identified it said, well, it's causing mostly a mild illness, but the flipside of that is that it's quite a young population in south africa, and it's been spreading among student population there, and you would expect a younger people, younger adults who get infected to have a mild illness. and it's also fair to say that coronavirus for most people is not a serious illness — but even a minority who get seriously ill, that can
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lead to, you know, very, very serious problems for the nhs, very serious levels of death and disease, which is what we have seen over the last two years. and really struck by the fact that for the last 18 months, you and your colleagues covering the story are aware that what you report can have an effect on, kind of, the public�*s attitude to risk and their actions, can't it? and i wonder how you deal with that responsibility? yeah, i have said many times i feel a very heavy responsibility to pitch the messaging that i'm giving right. i know that — and i've done this right throughout since i've been covering medical issues for nearly 20 years, that if i'm doing a story about cancer, i'm aware that, you know, several hundred people that day watching will havejust had a cancer diagnosis. so, with omicron or with delta, coronavirus generally, you have got to be aware
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that there will be people who have been infected with whatever variant of the illness, and you've got to try and get them messaging which is clear, which is not alarmist, and i think the message with omicron, and i keep repeating this is, we don't know yet. we don't know yet whether it causes more severe disease, we don't know yet whether it will evade the vaccines, and we are going to have to await maybe two weeks, maybe three weeks before a clearer picture emerges. one of the other big challenges is that we know there is a kind of fatigue out there. we heard it from one of the viewers there saying, you know, "i'm sick of this, we need to get back to normal." i agree! laughter. i agree that i am very fatigued, and i did kind of put my head in my hands when omicron popped up. there was a great hope that delta would be the last big variant. yeah, i mean, iam not
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surprised that people feel sick to the sight of seeing me do this story. i would like to change what i'm doing and be reporting on medical innovation and other things apart from coronavirus, but we can't ignore omicron and the potential — and i stress potential — threat that it poses. and can i ask when we think we might know enough about omicron to be able to fill in some of these gaps we have? so, what we are waiting for is results of lab tests, which will show how well the virus performs against blood which has the antibodies and the t cells of people who have had two doses, three doses or are unvaccinated. that will tell us something, but what you really want is the real—world evidence. the first will come from south africa — we are seeing a rise in hospital admissions there, but it's all from a very low base. we really want to see what effect it has here in the uk on a very highly immunised population, where delta is really, it's the big bully variant
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on the block, and it will have to see whether omicron can really make inroads into that. there are people who say maybe omicron might be more transmissible, but maybe it will cause a more mild illness. and in terms of timescale, before christmas might we know? i think we will know a lot more before christmas. but it will become clear bit by bit, so giving you a kind of absolute underlined answer — this is the answer, omicron — it will be bit by bit, i'm afraid. well, fergus walsh, thank you so much for keeping going with the story. we appreciate it. and thank you for coming on newswatch. before we leave omicron, here is another aspect of the coverage which irritated some viewers this week. a big challenge ahead with the roll—out of these boosters — on england in the run up to christmas?
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the health secretary says there is no need to cancel your christmas arrangements. as preparations for christmas . go ahead, some doctors say it's best to avoid large gatherings, but ministers say it is- the individual's responsibility. i simon higgins email that's what this plea... while the omicron variant was seizing the news agenda at the end of last week, thousands of people in the north of england, scotland and wales had a more immediate problem — storm arwen, which has caused significant travel disruption, damage and loss of power. last friday, scotland correspondent, lorna gordon, was in the eye of the storm in stonehaven. but there are very treacherous
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conditions out on the roads with those gusting winds, falling debris, the red alert, of course, meaning there is a potential risk to life, and the police in scotland tonight saying that if you live in any of these affected areas, you should not head out onto the roads. so, why had lorna gordon and her camera crew ventured outside herself to bring us that report? long—term newswatch viewers will be familiar with that question, posed here sarah harris. susan penny echoed that.
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other viewers had a different concern about the bbc�*s coverage of storm arwen, outlined here by wendy appleby. well, we put these points to bbc news and they told us... thank you for all your comments this week. if you want to share your opinions about what you see,
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hear or read on bbc news on tv, radio, online and social media, email... or you can find us on twitter. you can call us. and do have a look at our website for previous interviews. that's all from us. we will be back to hear your thoughts about bbc news coverage again next week. goodbye. hello. we have a rather cold and windy weekend to come and there'll be some wet weather at times, especially on saturday — some showers or some showery rain and hill snow. drier for many on sunday. throughout the weekend, though, a chilly wind to contend with. what's going on? low pressure close to scotland as saturday begins will run south through the north sea as the weekend goes on. around it, showers or some longer spells of rain and hill snow, especially on saturday, and it's also dragging in another push of chilly air from the north—west.
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and it's not what those without power or working to restore power after storm arwen want to hear but it is going to be a rather cold weekend ahead with temperatures starting like this for saturday morning. just a few spots close to freezing, just a hint of frost here and there. there'll be early rain across eastern england clearing away to sunny spells, but then this curl of rain and hill snow through scotland, northern ireland, pushing into more of northern england, wales and the midlands as we go on through the day. north—west scotland starting to brighten up in the afternoon — just a few showers. the far south of wales and much of southern england, a lot of the day is going to be dry. it's blustery wherever you are — these are average speeds. some stronger gusts around particularly western coasts — 40—45 mph or so, so a risk of gales here — so it will feel colder than these temperatures might suggest, which are already down compared with what we had on friday. saturday evening and night, its central and eastern parts of england with outbreaks of rain. some snow to the higher parts of the pennines and peak district.
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a few showers in the west but some clear spells, too, and where you have the clear spells, a greater chance of a frost going into sunday morning, especially in the countryside. and on sunday, well, the low pressure�*s here. for many, it's far enough away to allow a drier day but close to that across especially eastern parts of england, there'll be some outbreaks of rain around. they may just fringe into eastern scotland at times and also push a little further west towards the midlands. much of scotland, northern ireland, wales and the western side of england, bar the odd shower, will stay mainly dry. there'll still be a very brisk north—northwesterly breeze to contend with, so it will feel colder than these temperatures might suggest. and temperatures don't change much in the week ahead and especially during the first half of the week, it looks like we're going to have to contend with more wet and, at times, very windy weather.
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this is bbc news. our top stories: american prosecutors charge the parents of a teenager accused of a massacre at a school, saying they share responsibility. i will reiterate today that gun ownership is a right and with that right comes great responsibility. the first data on the omicron variant of covid suggests vaccines are less effective at stopping it spreading, but they do make the symptoms less serious. it's possible that the omicron variant is able to overcome and cause infections even in previously vaccinated people. however, if they develop only mild illness, that means that the vaccines are still providing protection. scientist say they can now use gene—editing technology to determine the sex of mice, creating female or male—only litters.


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