Joint EU-UK statement insists they are working together for ‘win-win’ situation on vaccines

The UK and European Commission are working together “to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens”, according to a joint statement issued this evening. 

The statement comes after a day of heightened tensions, following the European Commission’s unveiling of new guidelines which limit the export of coronavirus vaccines to countries outside the bloc, prompting fears that Britain’s supply could be affected.

But the two parties have insisted that they are in dialogue.

“We are all facing the same pandemic and the third wave makes cooperation between the EU and UK even more important. We have been discussing what more we can do to ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on Covid-19…

“In the end, openness and global cooperation of all countries will be key to finally overcome this pandemic and ensure better preparation for meeting future challenges. We will continue our discussions.”

At a lunchtime press conference the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, had said that while “member states are facing a third wave” and “not every company is delivering on contract”, it is right for EU states to consider “reciprocity and proportionality” when exporting jabs.

France, Belgium and Iceland have all announced tightened restrictions today as a third wave of Covid-19 takes hold across the continent and the vaccination campaign stutters. 

​​Follow the latest updates below.

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06:36 PM

Ukraine reports record coronavirus deaths amid vaccine concerns

Ukraine has reported a record daily number of coronavirus-related deaths for the second consecutive day, as the health ministry sought to ease concern over the safety of vaccines.

Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said there were 342 deaths over the past 24 hours, up from 333 in the previous 24 hours, taking the overall Covid-19 death toll to 30,773.

A record 5,438 Ukrainians were also taken to hospital with Covid-19 over the past day, Stepanov said on Facebook, as the highly infectious B117 variant first found in Kent sweeps the country. The previous daily record was 4,887 on March 11.

That level is well above the previous peak of the pandemic in late 2020 when daily hospitalisations did not exceed 2,000. Hospitalisations began to rise in late winter during the new wave of infections.

Ukraine began rolling out its vaccination programme last month but the pace is slow, with just 137,026 people receiving the first shot as of today.

And there is still uncertainty about the supply of vaccines as its state Medical Procurement Agency (MPA) said it cannot accept a batch of the Sinovac shots because the local supplier did not provide the required documents.

06:24 PM

Scotland’s Covid lockdown ban on church services breached human rights, judge rules 

A ban on church services in Scotland was unconstitutional and breached human rights, a court has ruled, in the first legal victory against Covid laws.

In the judgement, published Wednesday, a judge ruled that a decision by Scottish ministers to ban and criminalise communal church worship during the current lockdown “disproportionately infringed” the freedom to express religious beliefs secured in the European Convention on Human Rights.

It was also found that the forced church closures were unlawful because they breached the Scottish constitution.

In a landmark ruling – which came two days before communal worship is due to resume north of the Border – Lord Braid agreed the regulations went further than was lawfully allowed and that the Scottish Government regulations “amount to a disproportionate infringement of the petitioners’ human rights”.

Gabriella Swerling has the full report here

06:15 PM

Hesitancy is hard-wired into all of us but we indulge it now at our peril  

Vaccine hesitancy is a modern curse but its root is as ancient as mankind itself and, to some extent, hard-wired into all of us, writes Paul Nuki. 

Over the past few weeks I’ve met an Israeli diplomat hesitant about being flown home to receive the Pfizer jab, an Ivorian youth worried vaccines were a trick of the colonial west and a London neighbour concerned about “unknown side effects”.  Even the health care worker who gave me my first Covid shot said she had delayed her own for several weeks because she had felt “unsure” about it.  

Looking at the charts showing the number of Covid cases rising exponentially again across Europe, we are about to pay a terrible price for such hesitancy. More are dying of Covid-19 now than in the first wave on the continent as the faster-spreading and more lethal UK variant takes hold. The outbreaks in the Balkans, Baltic states and Central Europe are among the worst in the world and it looks as if much of western Europe is set to follow.

Read the analysis in full here

06:10 PM

Joint EU-UK statement insists they are working together for ‘win-win’ situation on vaccines

The UK Government and European Commission have issued a joint statement saying they are working together “to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens”.

Here is the statement in full:

“We are all facing the same pandemic and the third wave makes cooperation between the EU and UK even more important.

“We have been discussing what more we can do to ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on Covid-19.

“Given our interdependencies, we are working on specific steps we can take – in the short-, medium- and long term – to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens.

“In the end, openness and global cooperation of all countries will be key to finally overcome this pandemic and ensure better preparation for meeting future challenges.

“We will continue our discussions.”

05:55 PM

Matt’s take



diagram, text: Matt


© Provided by The Telegraph
Matt



text: Matt cartoon


© Provided by The Telegraph
Matt cartoon

05:49 PM

UK scientists question role of mass-testing in Johnson’s road out of lockdown 

The prevalence of Covid-19 cases in Britain might be so low that mass rapid lateral flow testing do more harm than good, scientists said on Wednesday, as there could be more false positives generated than real cases detected.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made rapid testing a pillar of his plans to reopen England from coronavirus restrictions in June, along with the successful rollout of vaccines.

Infection rates have been falling, with one in 340 people in England estimated to have Covid-19 in the latest week.

Jon Deeks, Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Birmingham said that when prevalence drops, rapid tests would produce more false positives and less true positives.

“That’s a mathematical certainty, and there’s a point where you should stop (rapid tests). We may already be below that point,” Prof Deeks told reporters, adding that not enough thought was being put into when rapid tests would do more harm than good.

Asked about the independent report, called the Cochrane Review, Public Health England said all the tests in use had undergone rigorous validation.

“Rapid tests are effective at detecting Covid-19 in people that are highly infectious, both with and without symptoms,” Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to England’s test and trace system said. “They are an absolutely crucial way to help bring down infection rates and keep them low.”

05:41 PM

AstraZeneca says 29 million Covid-19 doses in Italy are for EU and Covax

AstraZeneca has said that some 29 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines found in an inspection at a plant in Italy were destined for the EU and for donations to poorer countries via the Covax scheme co-led by the World Health Organization.

At the request of the European Commission, Italian security forces inspected a Catalent factory in Anagni, near Rome, at the weekend and found the store of vaccine doses, according to Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi later confirmed the report of the inspection and said some of the batches of doses were seized while two batches were sent to Belgium. A batch can contain a million doses.

A flurry of reactions to the report reflected the level of mistrust in the EU towards the Anglo-Swedish firm, which slashed its supply target to the EU by the end of June to 100 million from 300 million envisaged in its contract with the 27-nation bloc. The 29 million doses found would be enough to vaccinate 14.5 million people.

“A stock of almost 30 million doses has been identified near Rome during an inspection we put in place. It has now been seized,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “The EU won’t be the fall guy of vaccinations.”

Another French official said it was under consideration whether some batches could be blocked.

Related: Italian vaccine factory raided after false rumour of hidden UK AstraZeneca doses

05:28 PM

Vaccine passport for pubs ‘may be up to landlord’, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has said it will be up to “individual publicans” whether to require a Covid vaccine passport. 

The Prime Minister said there was a distinction between the plans to make it obligatory for those working on the health or care sector frontline, compared with “commercial” sectors such as leisure and tourism. 

“There is a hierarchy between mandating something or permitting it, or forbidding it… some sectors where vulnerable elderly people are cared for there might be need for mandation,” he said.

However asked if such a certificate could be required for the pub, Mr Johnson told the liaison committee: “I think that that’s the kind of thing – it may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord.” 

05:20 PM

UK reports 98 deaths and 5,605 cases

An additional 98 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, according to the latest Government data, bringing the total death toll to 126,382.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 149,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The Government also said that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 5,605 lab-confirmed cases in the UK. It brings the total to 4,312,908.

For comparison, today’s figures compare to 5,758 cases last Wednesday and 141 deaths. 

05:14 PM

Dr Anthony Fauci: United States not turning the corner yet 

America’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has said he isn’t ready to say the nation has turned the corner in the coronavirus pandemic, despite about 2.5 million Americans getting vaccinated each day.

The government disease expert says he often gets asked that question. His response: “We are at the corner. Whether we or not we are going to be turning the corner remains to be seen.”

At the White House coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Dr Fauci added that the main challenge remains a stubbornly high level of new daily cases in the country.

New infections are hovering at around an average of 55,000 have slightly increased in recent day.s While that is clearly much better than the 250,000 daily cases at the peak of the winter wave, it’s uncomfortably close to levels seen during the Covid wave of last summer.

“When you are at that level, I don’t think you can declare victory and say you have turned the corner,” Dr Fauci said.

05:07 PM

Iceland tightens Covid-19 curbs after infection spike 

Quick update from Iceland, which has tightened Covid-19 restrictions, including lowering the limit on public gatherings to 10 people, after seeing a spike in infections.

The rules will remain in force for three weeks, the government said in a statement. Schools, swimming pools, gyms, and bars will be closed from tomorrow, a report on the Iceland Review news site said.

Earlier today France said that virus lockdowns would be expanded to three more areas, including Lyon, as doctors grapple with a third wave of new cases. Belgium also has tightened restrictions, closing schools and non essential businesses for four weeks. 

Related: Covid deaths on the rise again globally amid warning ‘worst yet to come’ for some countries 

04:52 PM

Boris Johnson appears downbeat about chances of overseas holidays 

Back to the Commons, where Boris Johnson has warned that “things are looking difficult on the continent” when asked about the possibility of international travel from May 17. 

He told William Wragg, chair of PACAC, that the findings of the global travel taskforce would be given to him on April 5, and he will set out plans thereafter. 

“We will have to look at the situation as it develops,” he adds. 

The Prime Minister also suggested that tougher measures with France may be introduced soon amid concerns around importing coronavirus variants.

“We will take a decision, not matter how tough, to interrupt those flows if we think it is necessary to protect public health and stop those variants coming in. It may be we have to do it very soon.”

But he adds that you cannot “put the whole of the world on a red list”, saying that is not something “the UK economy, the UK public would accept” until there is a “clearer understanding” of the risks. 

04:49 PM

Vaccine hesitancy could cost an added 236 million deaths over two years

Briefly moving away from Boris Johnson’s select committee appearance, new research has suggested that  vaccine hesitancy could lead to thousands of extra deaths over a two-year period.

The latest report by the Imperial College London Covid-19 response team evaluates the potential impact of vaccine hesitancy on the control of the pandemic and the relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs).

The team estimates that vaccine hesitancy would lead to an extra 236 deaths per million population over a two-year period for a vaccine with high efficacy.

In addition, the authors demonstrate that high vaccine hesitancy could prolong the need for non-pharmaceutical inventions, for example social distancing, to remain in place.

“Getting vaccinated is an individual choice, however this choice has social consequences,” said Daniela Olivera Mesa of Imperial College London.

“Our work demonstrated that vaccine hesitancy can have a substantial health impact that affects both the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. Building trust in vaccines is an important public health priority to control Covid-19.”

Related: Hesitancy is hard-wired into all of us but we indulge it now at our peril 

04:39 PM

Tougher measures might be needed on Channel travel, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has conceded that the Government “will have to look at” whether hauliers coming into the UK from France should be quarantined. 

He told Yvette Cooper the new variants were being “contained with surge testing and door to door testing”, but “putting France on the red list… with all the consequences that would have for UK supplies and cross channel movements – it is something that we will have to look at.”

He said “tougher measures” might be required “just because of the ambiguity about the effectiveness of the vaccine”. 

But challenged about why the UK wasn’t testing hauliers, he said “tougher measures would have very serious consequences on trade flow”. 

He added: “I agree with you Yvette this is an issue of concern”, saying it was not that long ago “the situation was the other way around. 

“We now, in all seriousness, need to look at the situation at the Channel. We can’t rule out tougher measures, and if it’s necessary to bring in testing I think we will do so.”

04:25 PM

Boris Johnson insists Test & Trace an ‘extraordinary achievement’

Meg Hillier, Labour MP and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, is quizzing the Prime Minister over the £37 billion of spending for the Test & Trace system.

He insists that he thinks the initiative has been “an extraordinary achievement”. 

Boris Johnson adds: “It’s thanks to NHS testing trees that we know whether the disease go up and down in localities, and that gives us the tools to fight it, it’s been absolutely indispensable.”

Ms Hillier also asks Boris Johnson what his biggest regret is from the pandemic. 

He says he doesn’t “want to make a mistake about my biggest mistake and single out the wrong one”, highlighting the lack of understanding about asymptomatic transmission (again) as being key. 

That “fed into the care homes epidemic”, he adds.  “We are learning the whole time and we want a proper inquiry, in due course.”

04:18 PM

Boris Johnson hints that the UK will retaliate if EU limits vaccine exports

Jeremy Hunt, chair of the Health Select Committee, is now grilling the Prime Minister – and reveals that he caught Covid-19 three days after receiving a jab, before immunity set in. 

He starts by asking what Boris Johnson makes of the European Union’s export restrictions, announced today, and whether Britain will retaliate against the bloc if the UK’s supply is affected.

Mr Johnson says that the government is “not taking anything off the table in terms of the British response to decisions this week”, adding that the UK will do “everything necessary” to ensure British people are vaccinated, which is the government’s “priority”. 

He adds: “I don’t think that the blockades of either vaccines or of medicines of ingredients for vaccines are sensible and I think that the long term damage done by blockades can be can be very considerable

“I would just I would just gently point out to anybody considering a blockade, or an interruption of supply chains that companies may look at such actions and and draw conclusions about, whether or not it is sensible to make to make future investments in in countries where that arbitrary blockades are imposed.”

04:11 PM

Boris Johnson defends the strength of the union in the face of Covid-19 

Dropping into the Prime Minister’s session in front of the Liaison Committee for a moment as Stephen Crabb, Conservative chair of the Wales committee, asks: “what went wrong with the four nations approach”, given the “fragmented, disjointed” approach? 

But Boris Johnson rejects the premise of the question, insisting there have been many strengths, including the roadmap and vaccination programme, which “show the benefit of the union”. 

Mr Crabb says the vaccine was based on central Government decision-making, rather than allowing devolved administrations to do so. He asks if it was a mistake not to deploy a centralised approach to the pandemic overall. 

Mr Johnson says “some” will say that, and there will be a time to look at this in the inquiry later. 

The new UK Health Security Agency will “concert our thinking more closely together”. 

04:10 PM

Analysis: The ethical questions around Covid vaccination for children 

For more than a year, Britain has faced one ethical dilemma after another, Laura Donnelly writes. Should the most vulnerable be expected to stay home, so that the rest of society can function more normally? 

How can the balance be struck against protecting human life, and supporting the economy to sustain it? And now ministers are facing one of the most controversial questions of all. Should children be vaccinated?

Unlike many common viruses – and the diseases for which children are routinely immunised – it has largely spared children from its direct effects causing few fatalities or severe cases across the population. 

Yet health officials are contemplating whether it could be necessary, and ethical, to nevertheless recommend routine Covid vaccination of the under-18s.

If trials, now ongoing, show the jabs are safe and effective then the programme could be rolled out as soon as this August, government sources say. 

Read the full piece here

04:07 PM

Turkey’s President under fire for packed rally despite virus surge

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under fire for holding his party’s congress inside a packed sports complex amid a new surge of Covid-19 cases.

Thousands of ruling party supporters filled the stands of the 10,400-capacity complex in Ankara despite the Turkish government’s social distancing rules.

Videos posted on social media purported to show busloads of ruling party supporters traveling to the capital to attend the congress, many of them without masks. Wearing masks in public spaces is mandatory in Turkey.

Murat Emir, a physician and lawmaker from Turkey’s main opposition party, described the scenes from the party congress as “shameful,” writing on Twitter that the event showed disregard for “the health workers who work day and night in the battle against the pandemic.”



a group of basketball players in front of a crowd: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech to gathered supporters outside a packed sports hall  - Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool


© Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech to gathered supporters outside a packed sports hall  – Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool

Former Ankara mayor Melih Gokcek, a member of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, maintained that delegates were tested for the coronavirus before attending the congress.

Erdogan has been criticised for holding similarly crowded local party congresses across the country in past weeks despite the pandemic. During one such event, he even boasted about the size of the crowd.

Turkey reported more than 26,000 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, weeks after the government eased restrictions in dozens of provinces.

03:58 PM

Zimbabwe president gets Covid-19 dose in effort to counter vaccine hesitancy

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa and some opposition politicians received China’s Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine in the tourist resort of Victoria Falls today, amid efforts to encourage citizens to get inoculated.

Zimbabwe has registered vaccines from China, India and Russia for emergency use but none so far from Western manufacturers.

In a country where suspicion and scepticism often trump facts, Mnangagwa’s vaccination at a public event, together with opposition leaders, was meant to assure citizens that the vaccines were safe. Still, some Zimbabweans remained sceptical.

“I have heard that some people are falling ill after being vaccinated so my family and I will not do it. If I was meant to die I will just die when the time comes, this is not for me,” Blessward Makoni, a 27-year-old father of one, told Reuters at his cellphone accessories shop in Harare.

Related: Flourishing anti-vax movement threatens to derail immunisation campaigns in Africa

03:44 PM

Finding Derek: the emotional scenes from Kate Garraway’s heartbreaking year 

As her husband lies in hospital fighting the long-term effects of Covid, here is everything you need to know about the presenter’s journey by Alice Hall. Read the full article here, below is an extract:

Of the high-profile Covid stories to emerge from the pandemic, one in particular has captured the nation’s attention: that of Good Morning Britain (GMB) presenter Kate Garraway, and her husband Derek Draper. In March last year, as the pandemic spread around the world, Derek, 53, was admitted to hospital with severe Covid and placed in a medically-induced coma.

Although coronavirus has not been present in Derek’s body since June, he is still fighting its long-term devastating effects: he has kidney failure, damage to his liver and pancreas and heart failure. Bacterial pneumonia and several infections has also left him with a hole in his lungs.

Derek’s story is told in a new documentary called Kate Garraway: Finding Derek. The program follows Kate, 53, as she narrates the devastating journey the family have embarked on since Derek caught the virus. One emotional clip from the trailer shows a visibly drained Kate shouting, “Derek, I miss you”. In the documentary she also meets other families who have been affected by long-term coronavirus – although it is thought that Derek is the longest surviving coronavirus inpatient.



Kate Garraway sitting on a couch: Kate Garraway  - Tony Ward


© Tony Ward
Kate Garraway  – Tony Ward

03:37 PM

Ireland residents warned not to book appointments in Northern Ireland

Residents of the Republic of Ireland have been warned not to book appointments at Northern Irish vaccine centres after hundreds were turned away while attempting to get inoculated in the United Kingdom, Daniel Capurro reports.

Some residents of the Republic do qualify for vaccination in the UK because they are employed in the Northern Irish health system. There is no general availability, however, despite media reports to the contrary.

Hundreds of people have been turned away, reported Irish broadcaster RTE, with some travelling to the province from as far away as Dublin and Galway.

Anyone wanting to be vaccinated in Northern Ireland must have a Health and Social Care (HSC) medical number, the equivalent of an NHS number, be registered with a GP in Northern Ireland and produce photographic ID.

The online booking system, though, does not require either these details or a home address to be entered. Instead, those hoping to get a vaccine are being turned away in person, despite taking up a booking.

Patricia Donnelly, head of the vaccination programme in Northern Ireland, urged residents of the Republic to stop booking appointments they were not eligible for.

03:26 PM

Afternoon news summary

MPs on the House of Commons Liaison Committee will be grilling the Prime Minister shortly over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

You can watch his evidence via the stream at the top of this blog, or follow live updates over on our politics live blog. We’ll also bring you the key exchanges here.

In the meantime, here’s a quick look at the key headlines to be aware of today:

  • Coronavirus vaccines produced in the European Union could be restricted from export to the UK, under a tougher regime to stem supplies to nations faring better in the pandemic.
  • But Number 10 has insisted that the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown has not been thrown off course by the EU’s plan to restrict vaccine supplies to countries that are in a better “epidemiological situation”.
  • Vaccine campaigners have accused Boris Johnson of a “warped” understanding of the crisis after he joked that “greed” and capitalism had contributed to the success of the jabs.
  • Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party, has said a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic should be held after coronavirus restrictions are eased.
  • Seven out of 10 patients hospitalised with Covid are not fully recovered five months after discharge, with middle-aged women most likely to suffer long-term consequences, a new study has shown. 
  • Belgium and France have tightened restrictions in an effort to curb a surge of Covid-19 cases, as a third wave of the pandemic takes hold across Europe. 
  • Brazil suffered a record 3,251 Covid-19 deaths, as pot-banging protests erupted across the country during an address by President Jair Bolsonaro in which he defended his pandemic response and pledged to ramp up vaccinations.
  • And finally, India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India to meet demand at home as infections rise, two sources told Reuters, as the country has detected a new “double mutant variant”.

03:15 PM

UK plan to vaccinate all adults by July ‘on track’ despite EU restrictions 

The UK’s plan to vaccinate all adults by the end of July has not been thrown off course by the EU’s plan to restrict vaccine supplies to countries that are in a better “epidemiological situation”. 

Admitting it is a Covid-19 “hotspot”, the European Commission said on Wednesday it may not approve exports to nations with more advanced vaccine rollouts or where there is a better “epidemiological situation”.

Member states have been told to consider whether the destination country restricts its own exports of vaccines, or raw materials, under plans to tackle “reciprocity”. They have also be told to consider whether the “conditions prevailing” in the destination country are “better or worse than the EU’s”.

A UK Government spokesman said: “We are all fighting the same pandemic – vaccines are an international operation; they are produced by collaboration by great scientists around the world. And we will continue to work with our European partners to deliver the vaccine rollout.

“We remain confident in our supplies and are on track to offer first doses to all over-50s by April 15 and all adults by the end of July. Our plan to cautiously reopen society via our road map also remains unchanged.”

03:11 PM

Middle-aged women more likely to suffer ‘long Covid’ than men, study finds 

Seven out of 10 patients hospitalised with Covid are not fully recovered five months after discharge, with middle-aged women most likely to suffer long-term consequences, a new study has shown. 

A study of 1,000 patients discharged from hospital between March and November last year found that each participant had an average of nine persistent symptoms.

The most common included muscle pain, fatigue, physical slowing down, poor sleep, joint pain, limb weakness and short-term memory loss.

Long Covid has been increasingly recognised as a syndrome since the start of the pandemic with some studies suggesting about one in 10 patients in total suffering long-term consequences. However, because the symptoms are vague and ill defined doctors find it hard to treat. 

Anne Gulland has more details on this story here.

03:03 PM

‘I lost my sense of smell to Covid, so I tried smell training’ 

Loss of smell is common among Covid sufferers, but charity AbScent’s techniques, recommended by the NHS, are showing promising results, Caroline Leaper writes. Read her full piece here, below is an extract:

Oh what I wouldn’t give to wake up and smell the coffee. Currently, depending on the brand and roast my husband has put in the pot, it typically smells like cigars or cannabis.

My sense of smell is completely hit and miss at the moment, returning and retuning after almost four months of anosmia, also known as smell blindness. Ketchup smells like curry powder, toothpaste smells like almonds, and lots of things smell of nothing at all.I tested positive for coronavirus on December 10.

It felt like an incredibly heavy cold and I was luckily over the worst of it within a week. It wasn’t until my sinuses had unblocked, though, that I realised my snout was out.In an attempt to perk myself up, I put my favourite perfume, Byredo Gypsy Water, on for the first time in a fortnight and for a second considered that it was the bottle, rather than me, that must have stopped working.



a woman sitting at a table in front of a bowl: Caroline Leaper  - Andrew Crowley for The Telegraph


© Andrew Crowley for The Telegraph
Caroline Leaper  – Andrew Crowley for The Telegraph

02:57 PM

India temporarily holds AstraZeneca exports as cases surge

India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca coronavirus shot made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine-maker, to meet domestic demand as infections rise, two sources told Reuters.

The move will also affect supplies to the Gavi/WHO-backed Covax vaccine-sharing facility through which more than 180 countries are expected to get doses, one of the sources said.

Covax has so far received 17.7 million AstraZeneca doses from the SII, of the 60.5 million doses India has shipped in total, and many countries are relying on the programme to immunise their citizens.

There have been no vaccine exports from India since Thursday, the foreign ministry’s website shows, as the country expands its own immunisation effort.

“Everything else has taken a backseat, for the time being at least,” said one of the sources. Both sources had direct knowledge of the matter, but declined to be named as the discussions are not public.

“No exports, nothing till the time the India situation stabilises. The government won’t take such a big chance at the moment when so many need to be vaccinated in India.”

India’s foreign ministry and the SII did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

02:47 PM

Poland: Record high case count overwhelms health system

Poland reported a record number of new coronavirus cases, just shy of 30,000, as the pandemic cripples hospitals in some parts of the country and the government mulls sending patients to different regions to help cope.

Poland has been hit very hard by a third wave of cases and a highly contagious variant of the virus first discovered in Kent, B.1.1.7. The regions of Silesia in the south and Mazowiecki, where the capital Warsaw is located, in particular have struggled.

The government has faced criticism for failing to support the healthcare system as cases rise, while it has called on the public to observe current restrictions more closely.

“Poland’s eyes are focused on Silesia,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Wednesday, adding that the government was considering moving patients from the south to the east, where more beds are available.

But doctors said the whole country’s healthcare system was struggling. “We are lacking beds everywhere, let’s not fool ourselves. This is an all-Poland situation,” immunologist Pawel Grzesiowski told Reuters.

02:37 PM

Vaccine breakdown: Midlands delivered the most jabs, South West trailing

The Midlands has administered the most coronavirus vaccines since the campaign kicked off in Britain on December 8, according to the latest figures from NHS England. 

The South East and North East and Yorkshire come a close second and third, while the South West is trailing behind with just under three million jabs administered.

Here’s a breakdown of how many jabs have been delivered per region:

  • Midlands: 4,753,652 first doses and 295,136 second doses, total of 5,048,788.
  • South East: 4,027,434 first and 314,460 second doses (4,341,894).
  • North East and Yorkshire: 3,788,657 first and 327,379 second doses (4,116,036).
  • North West: 3,105,713 first and 227,646 second doses (3,333,359).
  • London:  2,935,365 first and 235,238 second doses (3,170,603).
  • East of England: 2,915,046 first doses and 201,557 second (3,116,603).
  • South West: 2,769,798 first and 210,239 second doses (2,980,037).

02:09 PM

Wellcome pledges further £70m to tackle variants

Wellcome, a major funder of scientific research led by Sage member Sir Jeremy Farrar, has pledged a further £70 million to accelerate Covid-19 research and development “to ensure science keeps pace with the virus”.

The organisation says that the rise and spread of coronavirus variants means new vaccines and treatments are needed – as are better global systems to track changes. 

“Science has made staggering progress. The first vaccines, treatments and clinical advances are saving lives – and allowing some countries to, tentatively, start lifting lockdown restrictions. But that progress is at considerable risk of reversing,” said Sir Jeremy.

“More funding is vital to develop the range of treatments and vaccines the world needs – and to make sure these, and those we already have, are fairly and equally available in all countries. The job for science is a long way from done – either to exit this crisis or ensure the world can keep Covid-19 in check long-term.”

02:03 PM

Johnson under fire for ‘warped’ understanding of crisis after greed joke

Vaccine campaigners have accused Boris Johnson of a “warped” understanding of the crisis after he joked that “greed” and capitalism had contributed to the success of the jabs.

The Prime Minister made the comments at a private meeting of Tory MPs, but then hastily sought to backtrack as he praised AstraZeneca for supplying the Oxford vaccine at cost.

But Nick Dearden, director of the Global Justice Now campaign, which is campaigning for wider international access to jabs, said the Prime Ministers slip of the tongue is “an incredibly revealing remark”.

“It shows just how warped his understanding of this crisis is,” he added. “We have a vaccine because of massive public investment and the remarkable work of scientists at publicly-funded universities. We’ve rolled it out because of our incredible National Health Service.

“Greed, however, drove big pharma to privatise this work and withhold doses from millions worldwide to protect their profits. And, if Boris Johnson keeps letting it happen, there’ll be more coronavirus mutations that could send us back to square one.”

01:53 PM

Pope orders salary cuts for cardinals and clerics, to save jobs of employees

Pope Francis has ordered cardinals to take a 10 per cent pay cut and reduced the salaries of most other clerics working in the Vatican in order to save jobs of employees as the pandemic has hit the Holy See’s income.

The Vatican said that Francis issued a decree introducing proportional cuts starting on April 1. A spokesman said most lay employees would not be affected by the cuts.

Francis has often insisted that he does not want to fire people in difficult economic times, even as the Vatican continues to run up deficits.

Cardinals who work at the Vatican and live there or in Rome are believed to get salaries of about 4,000-5,000 euros a month, and many live in large apartments at well below market rents.

Most priests and nuns who work in Vatican departments live in religious communities in Rome, such as seminaries, convents, parishes, universities and schools – giving them greater protection from economic downturns.

They have much lower living expenses than lay employees – such as police, ushers, firefighters, cleaners, art restorers and maintenance personnel – who live in Rome and many of whom have families. It is these lay workers who the pope appeared to want to protect.

01:45 PM

Watch: Six crucial lessons from a year of coronavirus

01:34 PM

Deaths on the rise again globally as WHO warns ‘worst yet to come’ for some countries  

Covid-19 deaths have started to rise again around the world as the third wave of the virus takes hold amid warnings that – for some countries – the “worst is yet to come”. 

The resurgence of the pandemic, after a sustained lull earlier this year, is being driven by particularly horrifying numbers in parts of the world like Brazil. 

The country reported 3,000 daily deaths yesterday and is close to reaching 300,000 deaths in total from the virus, a toll surpassed only by the United States. 

But there has also been a “marked increase” in cases reported from South-East Asia, Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific regions, the WHO added, and there are “concerning trends” in some countries in the African and Americas regions too. 

Jennifer Rigby has more details here

01:25 PM

Situation worsens across France; Belgium imposes fresh restrictions; Spain resumes AstraZeneca 

The coronavirus pandemic is not looking good on the European continent. According to a French government spokesman, the Covid-19 virus situation is worsening everywhere in the country.

Gabriel Attal added that more people in France should work-from-home in order to curb the spread of the virus, sand suggested the government will step up checks and sanctions on companies not doing enough in this area. 

Meanwhile in Belgium, Le Soir newspaper has reported that fresh restrictions will be imposed – including shutting schools schools, hairdressers and non-essential stores.

Schools will reopen following the Easter break on 19 April, according to the newspaper, while restrictions on-essential retail and close-contact services likes beauty salons will be in place until 25 April.

And in Spain, authorities have restarted the AstraZeneca vaccination drive after a week-long suspension of the jab over fears about potential side-effects.

The suspension does not appear to have dampened people’s enthusiasm to get the jab, according to Reuters reporters on the ground. 

01:19 PM

Eight John Lewis stores to close with almost 1,500 jobs at risk

John Lewis said it will not reopen eight of its 42 stores post-lockdown, putting nearly 1,500 jobs at risk. 

Department stores in Peterborough, Aberdeen, York and Sheffield are set to close, while home stores in Tunbridge Wells, Ashford and Basingstoke & Chester will also shut. 

It said the move is part of a plan to “reshape our business in response to how our customers increasingly want to shop in-store and online”. 

Last year, the 157-year-old retailer plunged to a £517m loss, with chairman Dame Sharon White saying staff will not receive a bonus until 2022 at the earliest. 

Follow the latest over on our business liveblog.

01:08 PM

Poor planning and weak infrastructure threaten Africa’s vaccine roll out

Poor planning and weak infrastructure threaten African nations’ vaccination campaigns and countries should look to emulate Rwanda’s successful early roll out, according to a new analysis.

A report by the Tony Blair Institute says the “unprecedented efforts” by scientists to develop vaccines against Covid should be met by “unprecedented efforts” by governments to prepare for the jabs.

But in Africa – where, according to the World Health Organization just 51 per cent of 46 countries are equipped to deliver vaccine campaigns – this will be particularly challenging, the report warns. 

The Covid-19 vaccine deployment is “of a scale unlike anything undertaken previously,” the report says.

Anne Gulland has more details here.

12:57 PM

Sturgeon: ‘Virtually all’ people over 65 have had first Covid-19 jab

Moving away from the European Union vaccine restrictions, in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has said that “virtually all” those people aged 65 and over in the country has now received their first vaccine dose.

In addition she said 93 per cent of those aged between 60 and 64 had had their first jab, along with 63 per cent of 55 to 59-year-olds and 41 per cent of 50 to 54-year-olds.

“All of this I think is very encouraging and very hopeful indeed,” she told MSPs. “It means as we take part in this final session of First Minister’s Questions of this parliamentary term a return to greater normality for the country is now much more in sight.”

12:49 PM

EU vaccine exports: How Brussels is taking on Boris Johnson

The last hour has been dominated by news about the European Union’s new coronavirus vaccine export restrictions, which will be based on “reciprocity and proportionality”.

But this is just the latest round of a long-running dispute between the UK and EU over vaccines being sent to the UK, as the bloc tries to rescue its ailing vaccination effort.

This piece from Tony Diver has everything you need to know about how we got here, and what the controls might mean for the UK rollout.



a close up of a person wearing glasses: EU Commission President von der Leyen and EU Council President Michel hold video call with Turkey's President Erdogan - Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via REUTERS


© Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via REUTERS
EU Commission President von der Leyen and EU Council President Michel hold video call with Turkey’s President Erdogan – Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via REUTERS

12:44 PM

Italian authorities raid factory amid false fears AstraZeneca doses being hidden for UK 

Staying with vaccine news for a moment, Italian have authorities raided a vaccine factory amid fear 29m AstraZeneca jabs meant for developing countries were hidden supplies meant for the UK. 

he raid meant AstraZeneca fell victim to more vaccine disinformation after the British-Swedish company was falsely accused of hiding the doses.

The erroneous report spread like wildfire across European media because Brussels is threatening the UK with an export ban on millions of AstraZeneca doses from its Halix plant in Leiden, the Netherlands. 

News reports in Italy said that a European Commission investigation and a raid by Italian authorities had exposed the British-bound shipment at the Catalent plant in Anagni. 

But The Telegraph understands that the 29 million doses at the “fill and finish” plant in Lazio, the region that includes Rome, were due to be sent to European and developing countries under the Covax programme. 

James Crisp and Nick Squires have more details here.

12:40 PM

Analysis: EU wants UK to release AstraZeneca from contractual agreements

Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president, wants Boris Johnson to release AstraZeneca from its contractual agreement of first refusal on supplies from the company’s two British factories so it can supply the bloc, James Crisp writes.

The commission argues that its contract with AstraZeneca counts the two factories as EU suppliers. The Halix factory cannot currently supply the EU, pending regulatory clearance from the European Medicines Agency. 

The move comes ahead of an EU summit on Thursday where the bloc’s 27 leaders will discuss possible export bans and amid UK-EU negotiations to try and avoid the ban.

The commission turned down a British offer of trilateral talks with AstraZeneca, arguing it was not possible because Brussels had begun legal action against the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company.

Italy became the first country to trigger the vaccine export mechanism, which was introduced in January in the opening salvos of the row with the company, and blocked 250,000 AstraZeneca jabs from being exported to Australia earlier this month.

The commission said it had received 380 export requests to 33 different destinations for a total of around 43 million doses and had granted all, except one. 

The new rules also remove exemptions for non-EU members such as Norwary and Switzerland, as well as Israel and Serbia, which have far outstripped the bloc in vaccinations. 

Developing countries part of the Covax vaccination program remain exempt from the mechanism, which the commissioners insisted “was not an export ban”.

12:37 PM

Analysis: EU denies export restrictions are aimed at UK – but admits Britain could be hit hardest

Brussels today launched new rules that will allow it to impose a vaccine export ban on countries, such as Britain, which have far outstripped its vaccination rates, James Crisp writes.

The European Commission said the revised “vaccine transparency mechanism” would also target countries that manufactured coronavirus vaccines but did not export them to the bloc. 

Brussels is furious with AstraZeneca after the company announced a string of supply shortfalls, and companies failing to meet contractual obligations are also targeted in the new rules. 

Its trade and health commissioner denied that the ban was a punishment for Britain’s vaccination success, which has jabbed more than half of its adult population compared to just 12 percent in the EU. 

But asked which country could be hardest hit, Valdis Dombrovskis, the trade commissioner, gave the UK as an example. 

He said that the EU has exported about 10.9 million vaccines, mostly from the Belgian Pfizer plant, to the UK but Britain has not sent any jab shipments to the bloc. 

The commissioners said that any decision to ban exports would be based on reciprocity, whether a destination restricts exports to the EU and proportionality – whether the conditions in the destination country was better or worse than the EU’s. 

The commission has already threatened to use the mechanism to block the export of millions of AstraZeneca vaccines from the company’s Halix plant in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Mr Dombrovskis did not deny that Pfizer exports to Britain could be blocked. He said decisions would be made on a “case by case basis”. 

12:32 PM

EU denies new restrictions are an ‘export ban’

The EU denied its updated export authorisation mechanism was an “export ban”.

“What we are presenting here today is not an export ban, I think that this needs to be very clear,” said European Commission health commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

Meanwhile the Commission’s executive vice-president, Valdis Dombrovskis, said AstraZeneca has “only delivered a small portion of its agreed contractual commitments” with the EU.

He told a press conference that “continued shortfalls in production are not distributed fairly across different contracting countries”, in an apparent reference to the production of AstraZeneca jabs in the UK.

The EU “continues to export vaccines to countries that have production capacities of their own but when these countries do not export to the EU there is no reciprocity”.

The EU faces a “very serious epidemiological situation” but “continues to export significantly to countries whose epidemiological situation is less serious than ours or whose vaccination rollout is more advanced than ours” – both descriptions which could apply to the UK.

12:27 PM

EU vaccine stockpile shouldn’t halt AstraZeneca supply, says Belgian MEP

The fact the European Union (EU) are stockpiling millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine should not stop the jab manufacturer delivering supply to the bloc, a Belgian MEP has said. 

Philippe Lamberts conceded that the EU do have doses at their disposal, but this should not “exonerate” the company that produces the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine from their delivery commitments. 

He said: “Frankly speaking, we are not in this position because of the British Government or because of the European Commission. 

“We are in this position because of the inability to fulfil promises of a vaccine manufacturer – in this case AstraZeneca.”

Speaking of his admiration of the way the British vaccine rollout has been handled, he added: “We have to do our job.  That [having millions of stockpiled doses] does not exonerate suppliers of their commitments, regardless of what the customer does with their wares.”

12:10 PM

Ursula von der Leyen: ‘open roads should run in both directions’

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, has suggested that new restrictions on vaccine exports are being introduced because “open roads should run in both directions”.

“While our member states are facing the third wave of the pandemic and not every company is delivering on its contract, the EU is the only major OECD producer that continues to export vaccines at large scale to dozens of countries,” she told the press conference. 

“But open roads should run in both directions. This is why the European Commission will introduce the principles of reciprocity and proportionality into the EU’s existing authorisation mechanism.”

Here’s what they mean by those two words – reciprocity and proportionality:

  • First, the EU will consider whether the destination country restricts its own exports of vaccines, or raw materials, by law or other means, under plans to tackle “reciprocity”.
  • Second, under “proportionality”, countries must consider whether the “conditions prevailing” in the destination country are “better or worse than the EU’s”, in particular its epidemiological situation, its vaccination rate and its access to vaccines.

11:59 AM

Reciprocity and proportionality: EU announces further vaccine export restrictions

The European Commission is currently outlining new rules to restrict vaccine exports from the bloc, during a virtual press conference from Brussels.

They say that reciprocity and proportionality will be added to guidelines around exporting vaccines from the EU, to help ensure that Europeans are able to access vaccines. This means states should look at whether the countries they are exporting to have a large production capacity themselves or are restricting supplies. 

We’ll bring you more on what this means for Britain in due course.

In the meantime here’s a reminder of how many vaccines the EU has agreed to export since the end of January, when the bloc introduced rules to control exports amid a row with Britain over supplies of AstraZeneca’s shot.

Since the start of this system, Brussels has granted 380 export requests to 33 different destinations and blocked one, which was a shipment to Australia. The main export destinations as of March 23:

UK 10.9 million doses; Canada 6.6; Japan 5.4 Mexico 4.4; Saudi Arabia 1.5; Singapore 1.5; Chile 1.5′ Hong Kong 1.3; Korea 1; Australia 1.

11:53 AM

Today in pictures

Suwon, South Korea:



a close up of a person: A photo taken with a thermal imaging camera shows officials moving a box containing Pfizer Inc.'s Covid-19 vaccines in a cryogenic condition to a vaccination center in Suwon, south of Seoul - YONHAP/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 


© YONHAP/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A photo taken with a thermal imaging camera shows officials moving a box containing Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccines in a cryogenic condition to a vaccination center in Suwon, south of Seoul – YONHAP/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

 Bristol, UK:



Surfers ride waves during a training session for staff at The Wave attraction in Bristol. The inland surfing lagoon is set to be one of the first destinations opening to the public in the wake of the Government roadmap out of lockdown on March 29 - Ben Birchall/PA Wire


© Provided by The Telegraph
Surfers ride waves during a training session for staff at The Wave attraction in Bristol. The inland surfing lagoon is set to be one of the first destinations opening to the public in the wake of the Government roadmap out of lockdown on March 29 – Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Laguna province, Philippines



A bat ecologist detangles a bat caught on a mist net that was set up in front of a building with a bat roost at the University of the Philippines Los Banos - REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez


© Provided by The Telegraph
A bat ecologist detangles a bat caught on a mist net that was set up in front of a building with a bat roost at the University of the Philippines Los Banos – REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Brasilia, Brazil:



a group of people standing around a fire: Cemetery workers transport the coffin of a military policeman who died from Covid-19, at the Campo da Esperanca cemetery. The latest figures show Brazil suffered a record 3,251 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours. - AP Photo/Eraldo Peres


© Provided by The Telegraph
Cemetery workers transport the coffin of a military policeman who died from Covid-19, at the Campo da Esperanca cemetery. The latest figures show Brazil suffered a record 3,251 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours. – AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

11:44 AM

Harrogate’s Nightingale hospital dismantled having treated no coronavirus patients

Work has started to dismantle £27 million Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and Humber, which was set up in Harrogate Convention Centre, according to Yorkshire Live.

The temporary 500 bed facility was build last year to cope with a surge of coronavirus cases, but didn’t treat a single Covid-19 patient. Instead, it was used for non-virus diagnostic tests and outpatient appointments. 

The NHS announced earlier this month that each of the seven Nightingale hospitals i England – described as the “ultimate insurance policy” – would close. Just the hospitals in London and Sunderland will stay open for vaccinations. 

It’s not yet clear how long it will take to dismantle the hospital, or how much it will cost.

11:33 AM

Global news briefing

Just joining us? Here’s a quick roundup of the key developments across the globe:

  • The European Commission looks set to extend EU powers to potentially block Covid-19 vaccine exports to Britain and other areas with much higher vaccination rates later today, and to cover instances of companies backloading contracted supplies, EU officials said.
  • Poland reported a record 29,978 new daily cases, as the government prepares to toughen restrictions amid a worsening third wave of the pandemic.
  • France’s culture minister has been hospitalised with Covid-19 but its employment minister has been discharged after receiving treatment over the past few days, amid a rapidly escalating third wave of the pandemic.
  • Angela Merkel and leaders of Germany’s federal states are set to ditch a plan agreed just yesterday for two extra “rest-days” around the Easter holidays to try to break a surge in new cases.
  • Brazil suffered a record 3,251 Covid-19 deaths, as pot-banging protests erupted across the country during an address by President Jair Bolsonaro in which he defended his pandemic response and pledged to ramp up vaccinations.
  • Cuba will administer experimental Covid-19 shots to nearly the entire population of the capital city, Havana, by May, as health authorities carry out phase three trials.
  • India has detected a new “double mutant variant” of the coronavirus, adding to concern as the government struggles with the highest single-day tally of new infections and deaths this year.
  • And finally, Hong Kong authorities have halted the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine citing defective packaging, triggering scenes of confusion in inoculation centres across the city.

11:26 AM

WHO: Covid deaths increasing for the first time in weeks

Global deaths from Covid-19 are on the rise for the first time in weeks, the World Health Organisation has said.

Deaths around the world rose by three percent in the past week, according to the body’s latest round up of the pandemic’s spread, Ben Farmer reports.

Both cases and deaths had been falling from their peak in January, but infections began to rise again several weeks ago and deaths are now following.

New easily spread coronavirus variants and the relaxation of restrictions are driving the resurgence. While Europe and the Americas remain the biggest hotspots, cases are rising sharply in India.   

Experts have warned that while the pandemic may appear to be nearing a close in some regions, the global picture is far less positive:

11:14 AM

Merkel to drop Easter closure plans after widespread backlash

Angela Merkel and leaders of Germany’s federal states are set to ditch a plan agreed just yesterday for two extra “rest-days” around the Easter holidays to try to break a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, government sources have suggested.

At talks that ran into the early hours of Tuesday, the Chancellor and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states had agreed to call on citizens to stay at home for five days over the Easter holidays, declaring April 1 and April 3 as extra rest days.

But the move drew criticism from all sides, with businesses lamenting the extended lockdown and medical experts saying the new measures were not tough enough to prevent the exponential spread of more infectious variants. 

Merkel, who had wanted an even tougher stance to fight the pandemic, called an unexpected meeting with leaders of the federal states for this morning to discuss the situation.

The crisis meeting took place against a backdrop of growing public frustration with the conservative-led government over the slow rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and extended lockdown measures.

“No plan, no clue, no courage,” ran a headline in the online edition of the mass-selling Bild daily above a picture of Merkel and two state leaders.

11:06 AM

Matt Hancock unveils ‘mission-driven national institution for health security’ 

The Government has unveiled further plans for a new agency focused on responding to future pandemics and health crises, which will be lead by the current deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries.

Matt Hancock said the new body, called the UK Health Security Agency, will be a “dedicated, mission-driven national institution for health security” will be launched on April 1.

“UKSA, as it will be known, will be this country’s permanent standing capacity to plan, prevent and respond to external threats to health… UKSA will work with partners around the world and lead the UK’s global contribution to health security research.

“Next, UKSA will be tasked to prevent external threats to health, deploying the full might of our analytic and genomic capability on infectious diseases… in all, helping to cast a protective shield over the nation’s health.

“Even after years without a major public health threat, UKSA must be ready, not just to do the science, but to respond at unbelievable pace.”

The UKSA replaces the National Institute for Health Protection, which the Health Secretary announced was being revamped last summer. 

11:00 AM

Care home provider ‘not breaching employment law’ by insisting staff are jabbed 

The chief executive of independent care provider Barchester Healthcare said the company does not believe it is breaching employment law by insisting new staff have a Covid-19 vaccination.

“In the end, it is a hugely difficult decision. We have an overriding responsibility and a statutory duty to keep our residents as safe as possible, and that is in law,” Pete Calveley said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he added: “We also have to understand human rights and we have to understand employment law.

“But we believe that the risk to our residents and the demonstrable increased risk if you have not had a vaccination trumps all of that.”

Mr Calveley said all staff are tested three times a week and that, among the 10,000 of its 17,000 staff who have been vaccinated, only 5 per cent had returned a positive result 10 days after receiving a jab, compared with 15 per cent among unvaccinated staff.

“There is three times the risk of bringing it into a care home,” he said.

10:55 AM

PM under fire for ‘greed’ comments  

Vaccine campaigners have accused Boris Johnson of a “warped” understanding of the crisis after he joked that “greed” and capitalism had contributed to the success of the jabs.

The Prime Minister made the comments at a private meeting of Tory MPs, but then hastily sought to backtrack as he praised AstraZeneca for supplying the Oxford vaccine at cost.

Following Mr Johnson’s comments to the 1922 Committee on Tuesday night, the Global Justice Now campaign, which is campaigning for wider international access to jabs, hit out at the Prime Minister.

The organisation’s director Nick Dearden said: “The Prime Minister will call this comment a slip of the tongue, but it’s an incredibly revealing remark.

“It shows just how warped his understanding of this crisis is.

“We have a vaccine because of massive public investment and the remarkable work of scientists at publicly-funded universities. We’ve rolled it out because of our incredible National Health Service.

“Greed, however, drove big pharma to privatise this work and withhold doses from millions worldwide to protect their profits.

“And, if Boris Johnson keeps letting it happen, there’ll be more coronavirus mutations that could send us back to square one.”

10:27 AM

Wearing face masks when you have a cold could become norm

Asked whether people will need to continue to wear masks and keep up social distancing for a long time, Professor Neil Ferguson told BBC Breakfast: “I suspect later this year, the mandates, the legal requirements to do some of those things will have gone.

“I think there’s an interesting question as to whether people’s behaviour changes as quickly. People have got used to being very cautious around each other, used to wearing masks.

“I can’t predict how quickly that will change or whether we’ve actually seen a permanent change in society, to some degree.”

The scientific adviser added: “I think it’s quite possible that this pandemic, which has been an immensely traumatic event for this country and for the world, will cause significant long-term cultural changes, behavioural changes in the population.”

He said, for example, it is routine in Southeast Asia for people to wear masks if they have a cold or any sort of respiratory disease.

“I can’t say whether that kind of cultural norm will cross to Europe, to the UK, but it’s quite possible that it will going forward.

“We have got used to being careful, particularly if we’re slightly ill ourselves, about not wanting to infect other people, and so those sort of things may well happen here.”

10:07 AM

‘Fair and sensible conversation about vaccine sharing is critical’

Jane Halton, co-chairwoman of the Covax initiative – which is working to provide vaccines for low and middle-income countries – said it is time for a “fair and sensible conversation” about the sharing of vaccines.

Asked about the growing gap between the rich and poor world when it comes to vaccines, she told Times Radio: “I don’t know that I’ve actually got to the point of outrage yet but I would say a high level of anxiety and concern.

“We are on the cusp of doing the right thing or the wrong thing and decisions that we make the next few weeks and months will determine whether we actually get the whole world out of this terrible mess, and not just the high-income countries.

“We make sure we get sufficient vaccine to those countries around the world who need it, who can then actually vaccinate their vulnerable populations so we can bring the acute phase of this pandemic to an end.

“And we’ve already seen challenges with export of vaccines from a number of countries. If that continues and Covax cannot deliver on its promise of two billion doses to that Gavi 92 (the low and middle-income countries eligible to get access to vaccines through Covax) but also to other countries who’ve ordered, then we will not be able to achieve our objective.

“And that’s why having a fair and sensible conversation about sharing vaccine is really critical.”

10:03 AM

‘Jabs should be compulsory for NHS staff’

The chief executive of independent care provider Barchester Healthcare has said he thinks coronavirus vaccinations should be compulsory for NHS and care home staff.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Pete Calveley said care home residents are among the most vulnerable in society and Covid-19 can “spread like wildfire” in these settings.

Since January, Barchester Healthcare has enforced a policy that no new member of staff will be recruited unless they have had the vaccination or are prepared to get one, with a similar policy imposed on new residents.

“We have written to every member of staff on a weekly basis, we have given them up to four meetings personally with a general manager or a divisional director, we have provided evidence of effectiveness, safety and a reduction in transmissibility as it arises,” he said.

Mr Calveley said vaccine-hesitant staff have also been offered a series of webinars with leading molecular biologists so they can raise their questions with experts.

09:50 AM

‘Testing needs to be scaled up against new viruses’

Looking back, Professor Neil Ferguson said one key conclusion that could be reached is that there is a need to be able to scale up testing against any new virus that emerges.

“Our biggest problem back in January, February, early March, was that we had very limited testing so we had a very limited idea of what was going on and we basically had an impossible choice – do we try and test a very small subset of travellers coming in from some countries, we can’t test them all, or do we focus testing in hospitals to get a sense of how many infections are already in the country, because we knew we wouldn’t be picking up everything coming in?

“That, beyond everything else, meant that we had too little information to go on to judge, for instance, the timing of when to introduce lockdown. That can never happen again.”

He added: “I would say everybody from the Prime Minister down has generally been doing the very best they can, and I know I and my fellow scientists have been, but of course we do have to learn lessons.”

09:38 AM

‘Professor Lockdown’ optimistic roadmap is on track

Professor Neil Ferguson said he is “optimistic we’ll be able to start seeing each other again in the next month, which is within the road map plan”.

The scientific adviser added: “Depending what happens in other areas of the world, travel may be one of the later things to be relaxed. But I think we… whilst not everything will be back to normal by the summer, certainly by the autumn, it will feel a lot more normal.”

He said the rationale behind vaccinating children, particularly teenagers, is to reduce transmission and to protect them for when they are older.

Prof Ferguson said booster jabs in the autumn will be “critical”, adding: “We don’t yet know how long the immunity lasts from the vaccines we’re giving, but natural immunity to coronavirus probably lasts a year or so, so it’s entirely likely we will need to boost immunity.

“We can’t stop things like the Brazilian and the South African variants forever and they are different immunologically.

“The current vaccines are not as effective against those strains probably, so for that reason as well we want to update vaccines and boost people’s immunity.”

09:30 AM

Boris Johnson runs with Dilyn ahead of big day in Commons

Boris Johnson faces both PMQs today and he is set to be grilled by senior MPs over his handling of the pandemic later when he appears in front of the Liaison Committee, made up of Commons select committee chairs a few hours later. 

He’s geared up for his big day with his morning run. 



a man and a woman walking a dog on a leash: PM Boris Johnson and his dog Dilyn are both greeted by a well wisher as takes his daily morning exercise in London  - Nigel Howard


© Nigel Howard
PM Boris Johnson and his dog Dilyn are both greeted by a well wisher as takes his daily morning exercise in London  – Nigel Howard



a man and a dog on a leash: Boris Johnson's dog Dilyn jumps up at a passerby as Boris stops to chat with the stranger. Boris was spotted pounding the streets of Westminster early this morning - SplashNews


© Provided by The Telegraph
Boris Johnson’s dog Dilyn jumps up at a passerby as Boris stops to chat with the stranger. Boris was spotted pounding the streets of Westminster early this morning – SplashNews

09:03 AM

Belgian MEP insists AstraZeneca has ‘potential problems’ with side-effects

Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts said the AstraZeneca vaccine has “potential problems” with side-effects, despite regulators ruling it is safe.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “The EU Medicines Agency has said, even if there are problems, the advantages of the vaccine outweigh the potential problems that we are seeing.”

He made the comments after criticising the pharmaceutical company for allegedly misleading the EU over its ability to deliver on orders, but said some EU politicians have been “over the top” in their response to concerns about cases of blood clots.

But he further accused the UK-based firm of putting out misleading test data.

“My quarrel with AstraZeneca is on test data, and that dates back from the autumn and it has surfaced in the US recently,” he said.

Mr Lamberts said he is also angry about AstraZeneca’s alleged “inability to deliver, combined with a form of arrogance towards the EU as a customer”.

08:58 AM

EU politicians may have orchestrated smear campaign against AstraZeneca, MEP admits

Pressed on whether the UK-based vaccine-maker is entitled to accuse the EU of orchestrating a smear campaign against it, he admitted some politicians may have “instrumentalised” their citizens’ concerns to “do some AstraZeneca bashing”.

He continued: “Does AstraZeneca have problems fulfilling its delivery promises? Yes, absolutely, and that’s one issue.

“Does AstraZeneca have unexpected secondary effects? Let’s study this before taking extraordinary measures.”

08:57 AM

Belgian MEP doubles down on blood clot claims

Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts has repeated claims that the AstraZeneca vaccine is linked to blood clots despite it being declared safe by the European Medicines Agency.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “Did we witness secondary effects in a very limited number of cases? It would seem so.

“Norwegian studies seem to point to causality between the vaccine and some blood clots.”

He made the comments after criticising the pharmaceutical company for allegedly failing to deliver on its commitments to the EU.

08:28 AM

AstraZeneca ‘over-promising and under-delivering’

Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts has accused AstraZeneca of “over-promising and under-delivering” in its dealings with the EU, calling it “a company that cannot be relied upon”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he blamed quarrels over exports of vaccines between the EU and other countries on the UK-based firm rather than strained relations between the bloc and the British Government.

“We are in this position because of the inability to fulfil promises of a vaccine manufacturer – in this case AstraZeneca,” he said.

He continued: “(AstraZeneca has been) over-promising and under-delivering by massive amounts – we can foresee that they have bungled up at least twice their test data so we can see that everything points to a company that cannot be relied upon.”

08:14 AM

Urgent lung cancer referrals fall by a third

Urgent lung cancer referrals have fallen by a third, as a consultant blames the “stay at home” message.

Some 20,300 fewer people were referred for treatment in England between March 2020 and January 2021 compared with the previous year, according to an analysis by Cancer Research UK. This is a 34 per cent fall in patients.

The charity has now warned that multiple lockdowns have resulted in damaging delays in life-saving treatment, as people are either ignoring symptoms altogether or putting off seeking help in order to comply with Covid-19 rules.

Dr Neil Smith, Cancer Research UK’s GP adviser, said: “Covid-19 has created a perfect storm of problems.”

07:53 AM

Expectations of NHS ‘need to be managed’

Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, has called for the Government to manage expectations about what the health service will be able to deliver once it reopens fully.

Mr Mortimer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme staff were experiencing “clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and stress” adding that the pandemic has “taken a significant toll on them”.

“What we are saying is we just need a sensible reopening and restart of our non-Covid services,” he said.

“Those have continued albeit in much reduced circumstances over the last four months but we just need to have a proportionate set of expectations about what it is NHS staff can do in the coming weeks and months.”

07:38 AM

Teenagers would get jabs before younger children

Teenagers would get the Covid jabs before younger children if they were rolled out to children, according to a JCVI member.

Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said more than one study was needed before decisions were made about extending the vaccination programme to children.

“We’ll need to do more than one study,” he told Good Morning Britain.

“If it does turn out to be necessary to immunise children, I think it is more likely that we would prioritise teenagers over younger children, simply because the evidence we have at the moment is that transmission of the virus is more likely to occur from and between teenagers who are a little bit more like adults.

“I think what we need to learn before that, what proportion of the population we need to immunise in order to get effective herd immunity and to suppress circulation of the virus .

“In order to do that we need to have a clear understanding of how efficiently the vaccines actually interrupt infection and transmission and that evidence is still on its way at the moment.”

07:33 AM

Children’s jabs ‘certainly something we might need to do’, says JCVI member

As Ben Riley-Smith and Laura Donnelly exclusively reveal on the front page of today’s paper, children are in line for Covid jabs from August

Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that no decision had been made yet on extending the Covid-19 vaccine programme to children.

He told Good Morning Britain: “As far as I know there has been no decision made to immunise children starting in August, or indeed any decision been taken to immunise children at all at this point.

“But it’s certainly something that we might need to do.”

Referring to a clinical trial on the use of the Oxford vaccine in children, he added: “That’s why we’re doing the study and we will be doing more studies of the other vaccines in children over the coming weeks.

“In order to establish that vaccines can safely be used in children, we need to do that.”

07:29 AM

Today’s front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, Mar 24. 



a close up of a newspaper: dt


© Provided by The Telegraph
dt

06:52 AM

Children to get vaccines from August

Children will start getting the Covid vaccine as early as August under provisional government plans to push for maximum immunity from the virus, The Telegraph can reveal.

Two sources involved in preparations said that was the soonest point at which Britons under the age of 18 would be given the jabs – months earlier than expected.

Safety data on the critical child vaccine study being run by Oxford University – on which ministers are waiting before making their final decisions – is expected shortly, with its conclusions due in June or July.

Israel, the country with the highest proportion of vaccinated citizens, is already giving jabs to 16 and 17-year-olds after deeming it safe.

Supporters of the plan see the mass vaccination of children as a way to minimise the spread of infection, but critics note the relatively low risk Covid poses to youngsters and the still-emerging safety data.

Read more: Exclusive: Children in line for Covid vaccines from August

05:54 AM

EU ramps up the pressure over vaccines

Brussels will today propose rules that would allow the EU to restrict the export of vaccines to countries like Britain with high vaccination rates.

Ursula von der Leyen has demanded “reciprocity” from Britain after she said the EU sent 10 million vaccines to Britain over the past six weeks, mostly from Belgium’s Pfizer plant, but the UK exported no jabs to the bloc.

Boris Johnson said on Tuesday night he does not believe in blockading vaccines but is under mounting pressure from Cabinet ministers if the EU pushes ahead with a ban.

“We in this country don’t believe in blockades of any kind, of vaccines or of vaccine material. It is not something that this country would dream of engaging in,” Mr Johnson said.

Read more: EU could cut AstraZeneca exports to countries with high vaccination rates

05:42 AM

Humanity has lit a way through the darkness 

As the country remembers those we lost, Judith Woods reflects on how resilience played such a crucial part

A minute’s silence for those who have lost their lives. A simple spring bouquet from HM the Queen to hospital staff at St Barts in London. Candles of remembrance shining like beacons on the nation’s doorsteps.These were the modest markers of an extraordinary anniversary few imagined we would reach; twelve months since the first Covid-19 lockdown.Amid grim warnings of a third coronavirus wave, this was a moment for reflection not revelry, an acknowledgement of how far we have come on a journey that is not yet over.From the Houses of Parliament in Westminster to Carlton Hill in Edinburgh, the people of Britain stood together in poignant silence and remembered those who had lost their lives.

Read more: A year on from Covid lockdown, humanity has lit a way through the darkness 

 

03:46 AM

Record daily death toll in Brazil

Brazil’s daily Covid-19 death toll soared past 3,000 for the first time on Tuesday as the hard-hit country struggled to contain a surge of cases that has pushed many hospitals to breaking point.

The health ministry registered a record 3,251 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing Brazil’s overall death toll to nearly 299,000 – second only to the United States.

The milestone came on the same day President Jair Bolsonaro installed his fourth health minister of the pandemic, facing pressure to change tack after downplaying the virus and flouting expert advice on containing it.

Cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga, 55, took over the post from Eduardo Pazuello, an army general with no medical experience whose handling of Covid-19 was widely criticised.

03:18 AM

Hong Kong suspends Pfizer vaccine over ‘flawed’ packaging  

Hong Kong suspended use of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday after its Chinese distributor informed the city that one batch had defective bottle lids.

The city’s government said the suspension was immediate while the matter is investigated by distributor Fosun Pharma and BioNTech, the German company which created the vaccine with American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer.

BioNTech and Fosun Pharma have not found any reason to believe the product is unsafe, according to the statement. However, vaccinations will be halted as a preventive and safety measure.

The defective lids were found on vaccines from batch number 210102. A separate batch of vaccines, 210104, will also be not be administered.

Macau has also suspended use of the jab.



a bus driving down a street next to a fence: Hong Kong said the suspension was a preventative measure - REUTERS


© REUTERS
Hong Kong said the suspension was a preventative measure – REUTERS

02:32 AM

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