Coronavirus live news: EMA denies establishing link between AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: EMA denies establishing link between AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots” was written by Jedidajah Otte (now), Rhi Storer, Martin Belam and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Tuesday 6th April 2021 16.02 UTC

The Dutch government will begin opening museums and zoos this month by offering coronavirus tests before entry, ANP news reported on Tuesday, citing the health ministry, in a first easing of far-reaching lockdown measures.

Under current measures, public gatherings of more than two people are banned, restaurants are allowed to serve only takeaway food, and there is an evening curfew, Reuters reports.

Coronavirus cases in the Netherlands are falling, but intensive care admissions are still rising.

Dutch News reports:

The number of positive coronavirus tests declined for the first time in eight weeks during the first week of April, but the pressure on intensive care beds shows no signs of easing.

In total 48,186 people tested positive in the seven days to April 6, compared to 51,866 in the last week of March.

The drop of 7.1% contrasts with a 13% rise the previous week. Hospital admissions declined by 3% to 1,588, but 376 patients were transferred to intensive care, an increase of 18.6%.

The total number of patients in intensive care is currently at its highest level since last April. The fall in cases could be partly due to the Easter holiday period, the public health agency RIVM cautioned in its latest weekly update.

Fans are seen in the Johan Cruijff Arena during the World Cup 2022 Qualifier between Netherlands and Latvia on 27 March, 2021 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. 5000 fans were allowed in the stadium as part of the Fieldlab experiments, which are held to explore how events with public can be organised safely during the pandemic.
Fans are seen in the Johan Cruijff Arena during the World Cup 2022 Qualifier between Netherlands and Latvia on 27 March, 2021 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. 5000 fans were allowed in the stadium as part of the Fieldlab experiments, which are held to explore how events with public can be organised safely during the pandemic.
Photograph: BSR Agency/Getty Images

The Trinidad and Tobago prime minister, Keith Rowley, has tested positive for coronavirus, the prime minister of Barbados said on Tuesday.

Mia Mottley wished Rowley a quick recovery, in comments at a World Health Organization news briefing, Reuters reports.

Updated

Italy reported 421 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday against 296 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 7,767 from 10,680 the day before.

The country’s seven-day average of infections has been declining since 22 March.

Italy has registered 111,747 deaths linked to Covid-19 so far, the second-highest toll in Europe after the UK’s and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 3.69 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 29,337 on Tuesday, up from 28,785 a day earlier, Reuters reports.

There were 221 new admissions to intensive care units, up from 192 on Monday. The total number of intensive care patients edged up to 3,743 from a previous 3,737.

Hungary’s economy will begin reopening as it has vaccinated more than a quarter of its 10 million people with at least a first shot, the prime minister, Viktor Orban, said on Facebook on Tuesday.

Orban, who faces an election in a year, is trying to balance measures to tame a huge surge of coronavirus infections and the need to reopen the economy to avoid a second year of deep recession.

Euractiv reports:

The central European country reported record coronavirus fatalities last week and doctors described hospitals filling beyond capacity, signalling the government may be forced to postpone a reopening.

Hungary has had the highest weekly per capita fatalities in the world for several weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Its health care system has come under extreme stress, the government has said, despite vaccinating a fifth of the population in one of the fastest inoculation drives in Europe.

There were nearly 12,000 coronavirus patients in hospital on Sunday, 1,451 of them on ventilators, the government said on Monday.

But the government has also vaccinated among the most citizens per capita in the European Union and imported the EU’s highest number of vaccine doses per capita, aiding a rapid inoculation drive.

Updated

The UK government said on Tuesday that 31,622,000 people in the country had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, up from 31,582,000 in the previous day’s data.

The figures also showed there were 20 additional deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, compared with 26 on Monday.

The pace of England’s vaccination programme could slow down sharply to 2.7m a week until the end of July, meaning there would be little surplus for first doses until tens of millions of second doses had been administered, my colleague Dan Sabbagh reports.

The latest modelling paper, produced for the Sage scientific advisory committee, said that “the central rollout scenario” provided to academics by the Cabinet Office was “considerably slower” than previously used.

That, the document added, amounted to “an average of 2.7m doses per week in England until the end of July (2m thereafter)” which was compared with “3.2m per week in the previous iteration (3.9m thereafter)”.

Updated

The Czech government has approved its first loosening of coronavirus curbs this year, including reopening shops selling children’s clothing and stationery, the industry minister, Karel Havlicek, said on Tuesday.

Reuters reports:

Limited outdoor operations at zoos and botanical gardens will also be allowed, he told the CTK news agency.

The relaxation will coincide with a return of 1st to 5th graders to school, which the government is likely to approve later on Tuesday, and the end of curfews and limits on movement around the country when a state of emergency expires April 11.

The Czech Republic has been one of the hardest-hit countries by Covid-19.

Shops, restaurants, services and most school classrooms have been closed almost continuously since October.

In March, the government shut all schools and used state of emergency powers to restrict people to their home districts.

Prime minister Andrej Babis’s minority government has come under criticism from opposition parties for its handling of the pandemic. It will let a state of emergency expire over the weekend after struggling to win approval to prolong its use in recent votes.

The government is also seeking to re-open schools, which have faced the longest period of full or partial closures in the European Union, according to UNESCO data.

The loosening comes as the number of daily infections has dropped below a seven-day average of 5,000 for the first time since mid-December. Hospitalisations have also eased.

However, the death toll has more than doubled to over 27,000 since the beginning of 2021 and is the highest in the world on a per-capita basis, according to Our World in Data.

Updated

‘Travesty’ that some countries lack access to Covid vaccines, WHO says

It is a travesty that some countries still have not had enough access to vaccines to begin inoculating health workers and the most vulnerable people against Covid-19, the head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

“Scaling up production and equitable distribution remains the major barrier to ending the acute stage of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a news conference.

“It’s a travesty that in some countries health workers and those at-risk groups remain completely unvaccinated.”

In mid February, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of Covid vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every country vaccinated as soon as possible.

Updated

France is likely to prioritise citizens based in its overseas territories and those with low income for the single-dose Covid-19 vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, a health ministry official said on Tuesday.

Reuters reports:

French president Emmanuel Macron last week ordered a third national lockdown expected to last at least a month in the hope of pushing back a third wave of Covid-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

Meanwhile, authorities are speeding up vaccinations across the country after what critics depicted as a slow start earlier this year. The aim is for 30 million people to have received first-round doses by mid-June, compared with 9.35 million as of Monday.

The other approved vaccines in the EU, which are Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, require a two-dose regimen, whereas J&J’s recently approved vaccine is delivered in a single dose.

This allows for more deployment flexibility, the official said.
J&J’s vaccine, like AstraZeneca’s vaccine, can also be stored at refrigerator temperatures. France expects to receive about 600,000 doses of the jab later this month.

“There are discussions still taking place, but we expect to prioritise first doses to overseas territories, where the vaccines are particularly difficult to deliver,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We are also contemplating the possibility of assigning doses to low-income populations that are eligible to vaccination but who do not have good access to the healthcare system or are hard to reach.”

France has started administering vaccine shots inside the Stade de France, the national stadium that once hosted soccer’s World Cup final.

Updated

That’s it from me for now. I will now hand over the liveblog to my colleague Jedidajah Otte.

Bosnians protest in Sarajevo, Bosnia. They demanded the resignation of ministers in the government accusing them of poor response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bosnians protest in Sarajevo, Bosnia. They demanded the resignation of ministers in the government accusing them of poor response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Photograph: Fehim Demir/EPA

More than 1,000 people have marched through the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, demanding the resignation of the government over what they say is poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The protesters blocked traffic in a central street in Sarajevo while hundreds more joined in from their cars, honking horns through the city. The protesters wore face masks and carried banners reading “Don’t play with our lives,” and “Resignation!”

Authorities said 99 people have died with coronavirus in Bosnia in the past 24 hours, a record for the country of 3.3 million people. Bosnia has so far reported about 7,000 fatalities from coronavirus, which is among the highest per-capita deaths rates in Europe.

Updated

EU drug agency denies already finding causal link between AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots

Europe’s drug regulator has denied it has established a causal connection between the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare blood clotting syndrome, after a senior official from the agency said there was a link.

In a statement to Agence France-Presse, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Tuesday it had “not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing,” adding that it expected to announce its findings on Wednesday or Thursday.

Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of vaccines, had earlier told Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper that in his opinion “we can say it now, it is clear there is a link with the vaccine … But we still do not know what causes this reaction.”

Concerns over rare but serious blood clotting events in a small number of recipients have dogged the vaccine in recent weeks, with more than a dozen European countries briefly suspending its use last month pending an EMA investigation.

Updated

The latest IMF world economic outlook has been published.

In the report, The International Monetary Fund is expecting a stronger economic recovery in 2021 as coronavirus vaccine rollouts get under way, but it warns of “daunting challenges” given the different rates of administering shots across the globe.

The organisation said it expects the world economy to grow by 6% in 2021, up from its 5.5% forecast in January. Looking further ahead, global GDP for 2022 is seen increasing by 4.4%, higher than an earlier estimate of 4.2%.

“Even with high uncertainty about the path of the pandemic, a way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible,” IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said in the latest world economic outlook report.

The US is set to expand by 6.4%. The positive assessment for the US is highly driven by Joe Biden’s $1.9tn (£1.37tn) coronavirus rescue package, which came into force last month.

The world’s second-largest economy, China, will record 8.4% growth this year and 5.6% in 2022, the IMF estimates, after a jumpstart – and heavily criticised – lockdown.

The monetary fund expects European countries which share the euro currency to collectively expand 4.4% this year and 3.8% in 2022. Japan is expected to register 3.3% growth this year and 2.5% next year.

The latest IMF report
The latest IMF report
Photograph: IMF

Updated

US president Joe Biden is set to announce he is shaving about two weeks off his 1 May deadline for states to make all adults eligible for coronavirus vaccines.

From Associated Press:

With states gradually expanding eligibility beyond such priority groups as older people and essential, front-line workers, the president plans to announce that every adult in the US will be eligible by 19 April to be vaccinated, a White House official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s plans before the formal announcement. Biden was scheduled to visit a Covid-19 vaccination site in Virginia on Tuesday, followed by remarks at the White House updating the nation on the administration’s progress against the coronavirus.

Biden is also expected to announce that 150m doses have been put into people’s arms since his inauguration on 20 January. That puts the president well on track to meet his new goal of 200m shots administered by 30 April – his 100th day in office. Biden’s original goal had been 100m shots by the end of his first 100 days.

The White House said on Monday that nearly 1 in 3 Americans and more than 40% of adults have received at least one shot, and nearly 1 in 4 adults are fully vaccinated. Among older people, 75% have received at least one shot, and more than 55% of them are fully vaccinated.

Updated

Hi everyone, this is Rhi Storer taking over from my colleague Jedidajah Otte for the next hour. Please feel free to send contributions to my email address rhi.storer@guardian.co.uk or my Twitter account. Thanks in advance.

Updated

Plans by EU countries to issue vaccine passports should have a legal basis to ensure that they are necessary and proportionate, the bloc’s privacy watchdogs said on Tuesday.

Reuters reports:

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) also warned against using data in such travel documents to create a central EU database.

Tourism-reliant countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal are hoping that vaccine certificates will revive international travel and save this summer’s holiday season. While some countries want an EU-wide approach to the issue, others are planning national schemes.

“Any measure adopted at national or EU level that involves processing of personal data must respect the general principles of effectiveness, necessity and proportionality,” EDPB head Andrea Jelinek said in a statement.

“Therefore, the EDPB and the EDPS recommend that any further use of the digital green certificate by the member sates must have an appropriate legal basis in the member states and all the necessary safeguards must be in place.”

The head of the EDPS, Wojciech Wiewiórowski, said the use of the documents should be restricted and that they should be scrapped once the pandemic is over.

“It must be made clear that the proposal does not allow for – and must not lead to – the creation of any sort of central database of personal data at EU level,” he said.

The watchdogs say EU countries should allow for three types of vaccine certificates – for people who have been vaccinated, recovered or tested – to avoid discrimination based on health data and hence a breach of fundamental rights.

Updated

The Indian capital of New Delhi on Tuesday imposed a night-time curfew until 30 April with much of the country struggling to contain a second surge in coronavirus infections that has eclipsed the first wave.

People walk at a crowded market amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease in the old quarters of Delhi, India, on 6 April, 2021.
People walk at a crowded market in the old quarters of Delhi, India, on Monday.
Photograph: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

Reuters reports:

The next four weeks in India’s fight against Covid-19 will be “very, very critical,” said senior government health official Vinod Kumar Paul, saying the disease was now spreading much faster than in 2020.

“The pandemic has worsened in the country … There is a serious rise in cases,” Paul told reporters.

India, the world’s second most populous country with 1.35 billion people, has administered 80.9m vaccine doses, the most after the US and China, but it lags far behind in immunisations per capita.

Healthcare and similar frontline workers as well as people over 60 have been the main recipients of vaccinations so far. Inoculations of people above 45 began only on 1 April.

New Delhi authorities launched the 10pm to 5am curfew a day after India surpassed the milestone of 100,000 new daily infections for the first time.

The curfew echoes tough restrictions in Maharashtra, the country’s hardest-hit state where the financial capital Mumbai is also located.

Rising Covid-19 fatalities in the states of Punjab and Chhattisgarh are also cause for “extreme concern”, India’s top-ranked health official Rajesh Bhushan told reporters on Tuesday.

Coronavirus cases jumped by nearly 97,000 on Tuesday, data from the health ministry showed. There were 446 new deaths, taking the total to 165,547.

With 12.7 million cases, India is the worst affected country after the US and Brazil.

Updated

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has insisted that the government will make good on its promise to have 70% of the country’s adult population vaccinated by the end of the summer.

To date, 8,743,694 people in Spain have received a single dose of the vaccine, while 2,852,806 have received both doses.

The country’s population is about 47 million. Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Sánchez said the pace of vaccination would be accelerated over the coming weeks.

“We’re going to manage to have 70% of Spain’s adult population – 33 million people – immunised thanks to the vaccine by the end of August,” he said.

The prime minister said Spain had ordered more than 87m doses of the vaccine for delivery between April and September, adding: “That allows us to ensure that any Spaniard who wants to be vaccinated within that period can be.”

Sánchez also said his government did not intend to seek an extension of the nationwide state of emergency in place since last October – which includes the current overnight curfew – when it expires on 9 May.

The prime minister was speaking after it emerged that the regional government of Madrid had held three meetings with the manufacturers of the Russian Sputnik vaccine.

The regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said the meetings had been held “to offer citizens answers”, and attacked the central government for what she termed its tardiness in getting people vaccinated.

”It wouldn’t be the first, or the fifth, or the tenth, time that the Madrid regional government has responded more quickly than the national government and looked into all possible scenarios when it comes to fighting the virus,” she said.

Sánchez responded by calling on regional governments to behave in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility, adding: “The success of the EU has been that we’ve been doing it together and negotiating in the name of more than 400 million people … We want to guarantee maximum safety and that’s why we’re using vaccines that have been approved by the EU.”

Spain has logged 3,311,523 cases of the coronavirus, and registered 75,783 deaths, according to the health ministry. The country is currently facing a fourth wave of the virus.

Updated

Indonesia reports first case of new contagious, more vaccine-resistant virus variant

Indonesia has reported its first case of a more transmissible new variant of the coronavirus known for reducing vaccine protection, but the government on Tuesday said vaccines being used in the country could withstand the mutation.

Reuters reports:

The new variant contains the E484K mutation found in variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil.

It is nicknamed “Eek” by some scientists for its apparent ability to evade natural immunity from previous Covid-19 infection and to reduce protection offered by current vaccines.

Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior health ministry official, said on Tuesday that the one variant case had recovered and did not infect close contacts, adding that the vaccines currently available in Indonesia could withstand the mutation.

However, Herawati Sudoyo, deputy director for fundamental research at the government-funded Eijkman Institute, which specialises in medical molecular biology and biotechnology, said the vaccines’ ability to withstand the mutation had yet to be determined.

[…]

With around 1.54 million cases and 41,900 deaths so far, Indonesia has the highest caseload in Southeast Asia and one of the worst epidemics in Asia.

Its vaccination programme aims to inoculate 181 million people and is relying heavily on a vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac due to shipment delays of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Sweden has registered 21,802 new coronavirus cases since Thursday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday, a marked rise in infections against the daily tally of cases recorded a week ago.

Reuters reports:

The figure compared with 16,427 cases during the corresponding period last week.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 35 new deaths, taking the total to 13,533. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks and could be less accurate than normal due to the Easter holiday last week.

Sweden’s death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours’ but lower than in several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

Updated

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, said on Tuesday that his government expects 25 million Spaniards to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by late July, while confirming the end-of-August target of inoculating 70% of the population.

“The pace of vaccination will accelerate in April and then each month we will improve the vaccination pace from the previous month,” Sanchez told a press conference.

Spain will update its 2021 economic outlook to reflect the impact of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic that weighed on growth in January and February, Sanchez said.

The government projects a 7.2% rebound this year after output tanked 11% in 2020, but the central bank and other analysts expect slower growth, Reuters reports.

People wait in a queue before receiving their first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine outside Enfermera Isabel Zendal hospital in Madrid, Spain, on 6 April, 2021.
People queue to receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine outside Enfermera Isabel Zendal hospital in Madrid on Monday.
Photograph: Sergio Pérez/Reuters

Updated

India’s fight against Covid-19 over the next four weeks will be “very, very critical” as its faces a faster second surge in infections, a senior government health official, Vinod Kumar Paul, said on Tuesday.

India’s daily infections passed the 100,000 mark for the first time on Monday, data from the health ministry showed. It recorded 96,982 new cases on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Owners and workers from the food and hotel service industry protest in Amritsar on Monday against a night curfew imposed by the state government.
Owners and workers from the food and hotel service industry protest in Amritsar on Monday against a night curfew imposed by the state government.
Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Germany should impose tougher lockdown measures for two to three weeks to bridge the gap until more people have been vaccinated and an easing of restrictions is possible, the chairman of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) said on Tuesday.

Reuters reports:

Armin Laschet said the aim of the stricter measures was to reduce the incidence of the virus to below 100 cases per 100,000 and enable compulsory testing, digital contact tracing and some reopening of the economy.

“My plan is for another big effort,” Laschet, premier of Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told ZDF television.

“Then we can enter the new period where we can carefully reopen,” added Laschet, who wants to run as the conservative’s chancellor candidate in a September federal election.

Laschet, previously criticised by Merkel for resisting tighter measures, also wants to bring forward talks with the chancellor and other state premiers scheduled for April 12.

A government spokeswoman was cool on Laschet’s proposals.

“The federal government is always ready for consultations. The condition is that they are well-prepared,” said a government spokeswoman. The reaction among state premiers was mixed.

Despite months of restrictions, Germany is struggling to contain a third wave of infections and many virologists say a tough lockdown is unavoidable. Lagging Britain, Israel and the United States on vaccinations, only about 12% of Germany’s 83 million population has had at least one vaccine dose.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 6,885 new confirmed coronavirus cases within 24 hours and the incidence of the virus per 100,000 fell to 123 from 128 on Monday. However, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said the numbers may be lower as less testing was carried out over the Easter holiday.

Due to its federal structure, Germany has a confusing patchwork of restrictions which varies from state to state. While the city states of Berlin and Hamburg introduced a night-time curfew over Easter, other states, including Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate were experimenting with some easing of curbs.

With an election due in September, many premiers are worried about a voter backlash if they impose new restrictions although polls show more Germans back a tougher lockdown than an easing.

The numbers of Covid-19 patients in hospital in Scotland has fallen to 196, the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed.

She told a Scottish government coronavirus briefing there were 19 fewer people hospitalised with Covid than before the Easter break.

Of these patients, the number in intensive care remains the same as prior to the Easter break at 21, PA reports.

Sturgeon said 2,577,816 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 463,780 have received their second dose.

Updated

The Polish president, Andrzej Duda, believes that the battle against the coronavirus epidemic is being handled well, the head of his office said on Tuesday.

First News reports:

Pawel Szrot told Polish Radio Three that the president has been participating in government activities to lower Covid-19 related mortality and infection rates in the country and “will continue to do so.”

Szrot added that the efforts of the president would be “similar” to those in which he participated before Christmas, such as “meetings with communities that are involved in combating the epidemic, that is to say, medics, the uniformed services and support staff,” said Szrot.

Poland recorded 8,245 fresh cases and 60 further deaths over the past 24 hours to Tuesday morning, compared with 9,902 cases reported on Monday, data released by the health ministry shows.

The number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients rose to 33,544 from 32,656 recorded the previous day, including 3,315 patients on ventilators, against the total of 4,245 ventilators available, the health ministry said on Twitter.

In total, 6,665,384 Poles have received jabs against coronavirus, with 2,074,033 of those having had both doses of the vaccine, according to data posted on the official government website, gov.pl.

Updated

Contract manufacturer Catalent Inc has reached an agreement with Moderna Inc to expand the US production of the vaccine maker’s Covid-19 shot, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The agreement will nearly double the vaccine output at Catalent’s Bloomington, Indiana, plant this month to about 400 vials a minute, the WSJ reported.

The Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Shai Weiss, told reporters that the UK government’s traffic light system for reopening international travel should work towards enabling people to return from “green” countries without the need for coronavirus tests.

He said:

The essence of the framework should allow for a path to green and removal of testing and quarantine when it is safe to do so.

We can’t have a prohibitively expensive testing system that puts businesses, people and families off travelling.

Passengers travelling to and from ‘green’ countries should be able to do so freely, without testing or quarantine at all, and vaccinated passengers travelling to and from ‘amber’ countries should not face testing or quarantine.

Other than for ‘red’ countries, we do not believe quarantine is the answer for controlling the spread of the virus.

Weiss said destinations that should be on the “green” list for international travel from 17 May include the US, Israel and the Caribbean.

He said the US was “vaccinating over 3 million people per day”, Israel was “the world’s leading vaccinated country”, and the Caribbean “has done an awesome job throughout this pandemic of keeping things under control”.

He added: “I think these three areas should be on that list.”

Speaking at the joint press conference, the Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said the United Arab Emirates could be included as “they also have very high levels of vaccination”, PA reports.

Updated

A senior official from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has told an Italian daily it is “clear” that there is a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare form of blood clot but that the cause is still not known, Agence France-Presse is reporting from Rome.

“In my opinion, we can say it now, it is clear there is a link with the vaccine. But we still do not know what causes this reaction,” the EMA head of vaccines, Marco Cavaleri, told Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper.

The official reportedly told the paper that Europe’s drug regulator would be making a statement on the issue “in the coming hours”.

However the EMA later denied establishing a causal connection between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare blood clotting syndrome. See entry at 14.53 BST and full story here. In a statement to Agence France-Presse, the EMA said it had “not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing”, adding that it expected to announce its findings on Wednesday or Thursday.

Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands have all recently limited inoculation with the Anglo-Swedish company’s vaccine to older age groups pending an EMA investigation, while reports from the UK on Monday suggested Britain’s MHRA was considering a similar restriction and could make an announcement as early as Tuesday.

The MHRA’s chief executive, Dr June Raine, said no decision had been made and urged people to continue to get vaccinated.”No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action,” she said.

Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London told the BBC that the clots raised questions over whether young people should get the jab. He said: “There is increasing evidence that there is a rare risk associated particularly with the AstraZeneca vaccine, but it may be associated at a lower level with other vaccines, of these unusual blood clots with low platelet counts.

“It appears that risk is age related, it may possibly be – but the data is weaker on this – related to sex.”

Updated

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not back requiring vaccination passports for entry or exit, due to uncertainty over whether inoculation prevents transmission of the virus, as well as equity concerns, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

In the UK, the Labour party has warned that Covid status certificates, whereby people would have to prove they have been vaccinated to enter shops, pubs and other indoor settings and mass events, could be “discriminatory”, with the party leader, Keir Starmer, poised to vote against the measures, my colleague Aubrey Allegretti reports.

The WHO now expects to review China’s Covid-19 vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac for possible emergency use listing around the end of April, as more data is required, WHO spokewoman Margaret Harris added at a UN news briefing.

Updated

Tanzania’s new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, marked a difference with her predecessor on Tuesday by saying her government would form a committee for scientific research into Covid-19, Reuters reports.

The recently deceased former president John Magufuli had dismissed the threat from the coronavirus pandemic, saying God and steam remedies would protect Tanzanians.

I’m Jedidajah Otte and will be helming this blog for the next few hours. Feel free to get in touch with updates and tips, I’m on Twitter @JedySays or you can email me.

Updated

Today so far…

  • In India, Delhi’s government has imposed a night curfew between 10pm and 5am, taking effect from today until 30 April.
  • Authorities say Australia has not yet received more than 3 million doses of previously promised AstraZeneca vaccines due to the European Union’s export ban. Prime minister Scott Morrison has refused to say how many doses of AstraZeneca vaccine CSL is producing in Melbourne each week.
  • New Zealand and Australia are opening up a trans-Tasman “travel bubble” which will remove the need for Covid tests or quarantine when travelling in either direction.
  • The Philippines recorded a new record high for Covid deaths, however the health ministry said the spike came after 341 deaths prior to April 2021 that had been unreported were added to the tally.
  • French drugmaker Valneva has reported positive results for its Covid-19 vaccine in early stage clinical trials and said it planned to launch a Phase Three trial later this month.
  • German GPs will start administering vaccines today, although the 35,000 practices involved are being hampered by limited supplies.
  • UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that the Moderna vaccine will be rolled out towards the end of April. In a series of media appearances, he also said that the issue of vaccine certification raises “difficult questions”. Opposition shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has called on government ministers to be clearer about plans for the use of so-called vaccine passports.
  • South Africa has signed an agreement with Pfizer for 20 million dual shot Covid-19 vaccine doses.

That’s it from me, Martin Belam, I’ll be back tomorrow. I’m handing over now to my colleague Jedidajah Otte, who will take you through the next few hours…

The Georgian prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, has tested positive for coronavirus amid a fresh spike in cases in the Caucasus nation, despite the start of a vaccine rollout.

“I am feeling well,” Garibashvili, 38, said on Facebook. “I am in self-isolation and continuing to work remotely.”

AFP reports that on Tuesday, Georgia registered 897 new coronavirus cases – three times the average number of daily infections recorded over the past months. Overall, the Black Sea nation of 4 million people has registered more than 275,000 coronavirus cases and 3,832 deaths, the health ministry said.

In May last year, Georgia lifted its coronavirus lockdown and allowed shops to reopen, but a night-time curfew has remained in place.

In mid-March, Georgia began a national vaccination campaign by inoculating medical workers with AstraZeneca’s jab. Authorities have so far ruled out any further anti-virus curbs.

Updated

German GPs due to start administering vaccine today – hampered by shortage of doses

Germany’s general practitioners are due to start vaccinating people today, although a shortage of supplies means that initially the 35,000 practices involved are only due to get around 20 doses a week each. Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, has promised that many more doses will be available by the end of the month, enabling GPs to become a more significant part of the programme.

Amid concerns that not enough Germans are embracing the vaccine programme, mainly due to scepticism over safety, the GP route is seen as an important way of increasing people’s trust. It won’t immediately make much of an impact on the overall vaccine rate. Confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine has been rocked by the national vaccine commission body STIKO’s decision to initially ban it for use in the over-65s, and later in anyone under 60, over health concerns.

Germany is struggling to cope with a rise in virus cases during a third wave of the pandemic, and has not been helped by its sluggish vaccine programme, in which 12.7% of adults have so far received a first jab, and 5.5% a full inoculation. Armin Laschet, the new head of the Christian Democratic Union, has proposed a nationwide “bridging lockdown”.

Laschet, a potential heir to Angela Merkel as German chancellor, has earned both praise and scorn for his plan, in effect a hard lockdown, which he said should last for two to three weeks, to bridge the time before vaccines start to have an impact and to dampen the virus’ spread.

The B117 mutation first detected in Britain is currently the main driver of the spread, and is increasingly being detected in children and young people.

Laschet has also said the urgency of the situation requires bringing forward the next meeting of Germany’s 16 minister presidents to decide on future coronavirus measures, currently scheduled for 12 April.

Commentators haver said Laschet is attempting to step into Merkel’s shoes. Since her recent apology over her proposal for a five-day Easter lockdown, which she admitted was impossible to implement, little has been heard from the chancellor, although it is widely accepted she would like a tougher, nationwide lockdown.

But with Germany in a sense of limbo and caught in a quagmire of rules and regulations which differ considerably from state to state, people, from restaurateurs to holidaymakers, are crying out for guidance and a sense of perspective on the future.

In just under a week, schools are due to go back after the Easter break, resuming the shift pattern model they adopted a month ago. But a programme meant to offer teachers and pupils access to a test twice a week has yet to be properly organised. Among outstanding issues, including a lack of supplies, is whether or not it should be obligatory or voluntary to take the test.

Updated

Here’s a little more detail from AFP on the situation in India, where Delhi has imposed an immediate night curfew a day after the nation posted a record coronavirus surge. Financial hub Mumbai is also introducing similar restrictions.

Alarm has grown since India passed more than 100,000 new cases in a single day for the first time on Monday. New Delhi, which is home to 25 million people, and other major cities have all ordered a clampdown on public movement.

The Delhi regional government said the “sudden increase in Covid-19 cases” and “high positivity rate” meant a night curfew was needed. The ban will be in place from 10 pm to 5 am with only essential services or people travelling to and from vaccination centres allowed on the streets.

Delhi reported 3,548 new positive cases on Monday, still below its peak of nearly 9,000 in November, when it was one of the worst-hit cities across the nation of 1.3 billion people. Delhi has meanwhile ordered one-third of all its vaccination sites at government hospitals to open around-the-clock to speed up the pace of inoculation.

India’s wealthiest state Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, on Sunday announced a weekend lockdown and night curfew on its 110 million population. The state currently accounts for more than half of the new cases reported each day nationwide.

The government has so far shied away from reimposing a repeat of nationwide restrictions imposed in March last year.

South Africa has signed an agreement with Pfizer for 20 million dual shot Covid-19 vaccine doses, a government official told Reuters today, boosting plans to start mass vaccinations from April.

The deal is another fillip for the country worst hit by Covid-19 infections in Africa as it adds to the 31 million single-shot doses from Johnson & Johnson which the government approved on Thursday.

The first batch from Pfizer is expected to arrive later in April, Anban Pillay, Deputy Director-general at the Department of Health, told Reuters. After the Pfizer deal, the government will have enough to vaccinate roughly 41 million people out of its total population of 60 million.

The country has also been allocated 12 million shots under the World Health Organization’s COVAX scheme and is likely to get doses for 10 million people from the African Union’s AVATT initiative.

South Africa’s vaccination campaign was dealt a blow in early February when it put on hold a plan to start inoculations with AstraZeneca’s vaccine, after a small trial showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate Covid-19 caused by the dominant local coronavirus variant.

We are beginning to enter the phase where we see a lot of year-on-year comparisons from the very start of the global pandemic and the impact twelve months of restrictions have had. It’s Spain’s turn today, with figures revealing that international tourism to Spain plunged 80% to 19 million visitors last year – the lowest since 1969.

Reuters report that the trend continued in the first two months of 2021. Data from the National Statistics Institute showed Spain received 284,311 foreign tourists in February, 34.6% less than in January. International tourism revenues dropped 93.3% year on year in February, putting many business in jeopardy.

While most tourists came from France, one in four travellers in February, the number of French fell 87.4% from February 2020, the last month before the pandemic hit.

It is further bad news for a country that used to get over a tenth of its gross domestic product from tourism. Estimates from the Funcas think tank show the tourism sector’s contribution to Spain’s economy slumped to between 4% and 5% last year from around 12% in 2019.

Philippines sets new record for daily Covid deaths after data collection issues

The Philippines has today recorded 382 novel coronavirus deaths, which is its largest single-day level of casualties. However the spike in the figures comes after previously unreported fatalities were validated then added to its tally.

Reuters report that the health ministry said total confirmed cases have increased to 812,760, after 9,373 infections were reported. Deaths have reached 13,817 in total.

“There were 341 deaths prior to April 2021 that went unreported,” the ministry said.

Updated

French drugmaker Valneva has reported positive results for its Covid-19 vaccine in early stage clinical trials and said it planned to launch a Phase Three trial this month.

Reuters report that the company tested its vaccine in 153 adults with three dose levels based on a schedule of two doses with vaccinations three weeks apart.

The vaccine, Valneva said, was “generally safe and well tolerated across all dose groups tested, with no safety concerns identified by an independent Data Safety Monitoring Board”. More than 90% of all study participants developed significant levels of antibodies to the coronavirus spike protein.

“Based on the data assessed, the company has decided to advance the high dose into the phase 3 clinical trial. Other trials, including booster trials, involving antigen sparing doses will also be evaluated,” Valneva said.

The company said it intended to submit the vaccine for approval in Britain in the autumn of this year and said discussions with other regulatory bodies were ongoing.

My colleague Andrew Sparrow has recently opened up our UK politics and Covid live blog for today, so if you want to follow the latest developments in the UK you’ll want to head over to here: UK Covid live news – Labour hardens opposition to ‘digital ID card’ Covid passports plan

I’ll be continuing this live blog with a global focus on Covid news from outside of the UK.

Chris Moss writes for us this morning on one silver lining of Covid pandemic measures in cities – that they provide an opportunity for the flâneur – an aimless stroller or ambler. Moss writes:

One can roam and ruminate equally in Cardiff, Dundee, Liverpool or Belfast. As urban consumer culture spreads, in the shape of delivery vans, Deliveroo bikes, “artisan” coffee shops and the like, you can arguably be a flâneur (there’s also a verb, flâner, to stroll) in towns, villages and countryside.

But to do so requires discipline. Ambling is best enjoyed slowly, daydreaming. “A dandy does nothing,” Baudelaire wrote. The pandemic-struck city, with its permanent Sunday-state, is ideal for leisurely meandering. Use it while it lasts.

Read more here: Why cities emptied by Covid are perfect for modern flâneurs

Voters in four Indian states and a union territory cast their ballots today in elections seen as a test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which faces a tough fight to stop the country’s latest surge in coronavirus cases.

News channels showed voters wearing masks as officials carried out temperature checks and tried to maintain physical distancing in lines.

A health worker checks the temperature of voters at a polling station in Gauhati, India.
A health worker checks the temperature of voters at a polling station in Gauhati, India.
Photograph: Anupam Nath/AP

Modi on Twitter requested people, particularly young voters, “vote in record numbers,” as the polls opened in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu states and the federally administered territory of Puducherry.

Associated Press note that the vote comes as as coronavirus cases in India are rising faster than anywhere else in the world. The results will not be declared until 2 May.

A health worker gives sanitizer to an Indian voter standing in the queue to vote in Gauhati, India.
A health worker gives sanitizer to an Indian voter standing in the queue to vote in Gauhati, India.
Photograph: Anupam Nath/AP

The latest surge in infections is worse than the last year’s peak. India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 73,000 cases per day and has reported 12.7 million virus cases since the pandemic began, the highest after the United States and Brazil.

The government has intensified its vaccination drive in recent weeks, but despite restrictions on exporting doses, the shots have been slow to reach India’s nearly 1.4 billion people. Experts say the surge is blamed in part on growing disregard for social distancing and mask-wearing in public spaces.

While on the campaign trail, politicians have been criticised for often showing little regard for social distancing and attending mammoth gatherings with tens of thousands of maskless people.

Here’s the video clip of New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announcing details of a trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia, meaning Australians will be able to travel to New Zealand without needing to quarantine.

Though most Australian states have allowed quarantine-free visits from New Zealanders for months, New Zealand has continued with enforced isolation for arrivals from its neighbour, citing concern about small Covid-19 outbreaks. The move to allow cross-border travel is one of the first such agreements since the pandemic prompted countries to block foreign arrivals to stop the virus spreading.

 

Ella Pickover and Jane Kirby report for PA that scientific advisers in the UK are warning of the likelihood of a third wave later in the summer as measures to unlock the economy take place.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, a former chief scientific adviser to the Government, said “very good progress” was being made on the roadmap out of lockdown, but that a third wave was possible if the brakes are taken off completely.

It comes after a paper from experts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggested that lifting restrictions in the next stage of the road map “may lead to a small surge of cases and deaths”.

And their modelling suggested that stage four in June, when restrictions are expected to be lifted completely, could “lead to a larger surge of cases and deaths comparable to that seen during the first wave”.

Earlier I mentioned that Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the pandemic modelling group which advises the UK government had said that data showed there may be a case for slightly speeding up the exit roadmap [see 7.48am]. There will almost certainly be pressure on the Conservative government to do so from some of their own MPs who have repeatedly opposed measures to combat the spread of Covid.

Tildsley also said to LBC radio this morning that: “I think we do have very high levels of vaccination now, we do need to remember this, we are protecting our vulnerable. But the vaccines are not 100% protective so when we switch from an R number less than 1 that we have at the moment, to a lot of mixing later on, we may get a resurgence.

“I don’t expect we will have a resurgence of the same scale that we saw in January. So then there needs to be some very serious questions asked. If we do see a rise in cases, if we do start to see hospital occupancy go up a little bit, are we going to put in controls or is it something that we’re just going to try to manage with local testing and so forth?

“I think that’s the question the Government are going to potentially have to answer as we get towards the summer.”

He also compared the situation of the UK with that in France, saying “we’ve only got to look across the Channel and see that France currently has over 39,000 new cases a day, so the virus is still very much around and if we take all the brakes off, then it’s quite clear that there is a very substantial risk of a further wave of infection.”

Minister: Moderna vaccine to be deployed in UK later this month

The UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has completed pretty much a clean sweep of morning media appearances with a spot on the BBC Breakfast television programme. There, PA report, he confirmed that the Moderna vaccine will be in deployment in the UK “around the third week of April.”

“It will be in deployment around the third week of April in the NHS and we will get more volume in May as well,” he told the show.

“And of course more volume of Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca and we have got other vaccines. We have got the Janssen – Johnson and Johnson – vaccine coming through as well.

“So I am confident that we will be able to meet our target of mid-April offering the vaccine to all over-50s and then end of July offering the vaccine to all adults.”

There continues to be a mixed picture on the coronavirus in the US. While the vaccination programme is ramping up nationally under Joe Biden’s administration – at least 107.5 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the US – there are still hotspots.

Reuters report that Michigan on Monday reported a record number of daily coronavirus cases. The state reported 11,082 cases, bringing the total to 779,974, surpassing its previous peak of 10,140 on 20 November. Daily deaths increased by 23 to 17,282.

Local media report that there is hope that expanding vaccines will result in better numbers next month.

“We have to keep an eye on these numbers, we know that and we’re watching them very closely. But again with all the metrics working together we believe at this point we can continue on a vaccine strategy while maintaining all of the limitations that we have in place,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director, Elizabeth Hertel.

Senior public health physician Natasha Bagdasarian told Fox 2 Detroit that the state is encountering its third wave and it’s similar to what happened in November and December.

“Things are not looking good in terms of our current Covid status,” she said. “It very much is like our peak that we saw in the fall.”

Dr. Bagdasarian said the wave started spreading among teens and adolescents between 10 and 19 years old. But now it’s hitting 30, 40, and 50-year-olds hard. Overall, they’re seeing more of those age groups filling hospitals.

“More elderly groups have been somewhat spared this wave and that’s because of the vaccine. It shows that the vaccines is really, really effective,” she said.

The state has 1,500 B.117 variant cases and a handful of other variants. Dr. Bagdasarian said the more variants, the harder it is to control the spread. “What we’re concerned about is, while some variants are already here, we don’t want additional introduction of those variants,” she said.

If you were in the market for a lot of pictures of bats, then we’ve got you covered. This morning we have a photo gallery of researchers at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. They aim to catch thousands of bats to develop a Japanese-funded simulation model over the next three years that they believe could help avert future potential pandemics.

Phillip Alviola, a bat ecologist, holds a bat that was captured from Mount Makiling in Los Banos, Philippines.
Phillip Alviola, a bat ecologist, holds a bat that was captured from Mount Makiling in Los Banos, Philippines.
Photograph: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

They hope the bats will help in predicting the dynamics of a coronavirus outbreak by analysing factors such as climate, temperature and ease of spread.

In the UK, Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has called on government ministers to be clear about plans for the use of so-called vaccine passports.

He said a Government paper published yesterday permits shops and pubs to ask whether someone has been vaccinated as a condition of entry. “The Government just need to clear this up because they’re creating confusion,” he told Sky News.

“I do think it is discriminatory to say to somebody here in Leicester that you cannot go into Next or H&M unless you produce your vaccination status on an app, unless you produce that digital ID card.

“I don’t think that is fair. Now if ministers are saying, that is not what the policy is then they have to explain why does the policy document they produced last night permit that scenario?”, he asked, according to a report from PA.

“So, there’s a lot of confusion out there. I just want ministers to be honest and straight with us and tell us exactly what their policy proposals are.”

The government review said yesterday:

The government believes that introducing a ban on [vaccine certification] would in most cases be an unjustified intrusion on how businesses choose to make their premises safe – although, as set out below, there may be exceptions where the government needs to intervene to ensure equitable access to essential services. It is therefore right that the government provides a means of easily demonstrating Covid-status, in order to ensure UK citizens and residents are not denied opportunities to travel or attend certain venues or events.

Earlier this morning, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News: “Domestically … there will be absolutely no issue around pubs or restaurants requiring any form of certification” during the next stages of easing lockdown in England.

Delhi to impose 10pm–5am curfew until 30 April amid rising cases

In India, Delhi’s government has imposed a night curfew taking effect from today until 30 April. The curfew will be in place from 10pm to 5am every day. Sweta Goswami reports for the Hindustan Times:

“The proposal was prepared by the Delhi government. The lieutenant governor has just now approved the file and it has been sent back to the government. Now an order will be issued shortly wherein the night curfew will be enforced with immediate effect,” said a senior government official on condition of anonymity.

The official said no other curbs other than the night curfew are being ordered as of now. The curfew will mean that all restaurants, weddings, pubs and other places where people gather will have to close up by 10pm every day.

“Only essential services will be allowed in that seven-hour window. Only up to two persons will be allowed to be together. We observed that weddings, pubs, restaurants and other party venues were brazenly flouting Covid-19-appropriate behaviour. Even as most markets shut by evening, those that remain open till late will have to shut by 10pm,” said a second official.

Read more here: Hindustan Times – Starting today, night curfew in Delhi from 10pm to 5am amid rising Covid cases

At his press conference yesterday, UK prime minister Boris Johnson spoke of holding fast to England’s roadmap for unlocking the economy, and complaining that journalists were trying to “take too many fences” by leaping ahead to what happens next. Johnson has repeatedly insisted that his government’s approach to ending this period of lockdown will be cautious, and as a result irreversible.

This morning, however, Dr Mike Tildesley has been on the radio saying that there could be some arguments for lifting restrictions in the roadmap sooner. Tildesley is a professor of infectious disease modelling at the University of Warwick and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (SPI-M) of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

He told LBC: “I was really pleasantly surprised that when schools open we have managed to keep things in check, so I think… if these numbers keep going down over the next few weeks there certainly is an argument to say ‘well actually we’re doing really well with the road map, it could be sped up.’

“I would say I would want to be a little bit cautious over the next few weeks as we get beyond this April relaxation to monitor that just to be really sure that cases are continuing to go down.”

PA also quote him as saying: “Now I will say that if things keep going down at the rate that they are then there certainly is an argument for speeding up the process, but we do know that the later relaxations, particularly the May one when people can stay in each other’s homes for the first time for a long period of time, we might expect that could cause a… quite significant rise in mixing and potentially a rise infections which is why this monitoring is really needed.”

Vaccine minister rules out English pubs and restaurants requiring vaccine certificates as economy reopens

Pubs and restaurants in England won’t require vaccine certificates when they reopen, under the current plans for an exit from lockdown in England, Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi has told Sky News this morning.

Step two of the English roadmap will see shops and pub gardens reopen next week, while the reopening of indoor hospitality venues in step three is slated for 17 May.

(March 8, 2021)  Step 1, part 1

In effect from 8 March, all pupils and college students returned fully. Care home residents can receive one regular, named visitor.

(March 29, 2021)  Step 1, part 2

In effect from 29 March, outdoor gatherings allowed of up to six people, or two households if this is larger, not just in parks but also gardens. Outdoor sport for children and adults allowed. The official stay at home order ends, but people will be encouraged to stay local. People will still be asked to work from home where possible, with no overseas travel allowed beyond the current small number of exceptions.

(April 12, 2021)  Step 2

The official outline plan states that the next steps will rely on data, and the dates given mean “no earlier than”. In step two, there will be a reopening of non-essential retail, hair and nail salons, and public buildings such as libraries and museums. Most outdoor venues can open, including pubs and restaurants but only for outdoor tables and beer gardens. Customers will have to be seated but there will be no need to have a meal with alcohol.

Also reopening will be settings such as zoos and theme parks. However, social contact rules will apply here, so no indoor mixing between households and limits on outdoor mixing. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and pools can also open but again people can only go alone or with their own household. Reopening of holiday lets with no shared facilities, but only for one household. Funerals can have up to 30 attendees, while weddings, receptions and wakes can have 15.

(May 17, 2021)  Step 3

Again with the caveat “no earlier than 17 May”, depending on data, vaccination levels and current transmission rates.

Step 3 entails that most mixing rules are lifted outdoors, with a limit of 30 people meeting in parks or gardens. Indoor mixing will be allowed, up to six people or, if it is more people, two households. Indoor venues such as the inside of pubs and restaurants, hotels and B&Bs, play centres, cinemas and group exercise classes will reopen. The new indoor and outdoor mixing limits will remain for pubs and other hospitality venues.

For sport, indoor venues can have up to 1,000 spectators or half capacity, whichever is lower; outdoors the limit will be 4,000 people or half capacity, whichever is lower. Very large outdoor seated venues, such as big football stadiums, where crowds can be spread out, will have a limit of 10,000 people, or a quarter full, whichever is fewer. Weddings will be allowed a limit of 30 people, with other events such as christenings and barmitzvahs also permitted.

This will be the earliest date at which international holidays could resume, subject to a separate review.

(June 21, 2021)  Step 4

No earlier than 21 June, all legal limits will be removed on mixing, and the last sectors to remain closed, such as nightclubs, will reopen. Large events can take place.

Peter Walker Political correspondent

 

“Domestically, the step two, which we’re coming up to, and step three, there will be absolutely no issue around pubs or restaurants requiring any form of certification,” Reuters report Zahawi saying.

“But it’s only responsible as we see how this virus behaves, as we see how other countries are utilising technology to make sure that they keep the virus under control, then we should look at the same thing.”

Zahawi said the issue of vaccine certification throws up “difficult questions”.

In another media appearance on a busy morning for the minister, he said that parliament would vote on the issue before any type of vaccine passport would be enforced.

Australia vaccine rollout slows after delay in AstraZeneca exports from the EU

Renju Jose at Reuters reports overnight on the situation developing in Australia over the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, where authorities say the country has not yet received more than 3 million doses of previously promised AstraZeneca doses. That shortfall comes amid export curbs by the European Union, leaving a major hole in Australia’s early nationwide inoculation drive.

Authorities had pledged to administer at least 4 million first doses of the vaccine by end-March, but could only vaccinate 670,000 after the European Union blocked AstraZeneca vaccine exports to Australia in the wake of the drugmaker’s failure to meet its shipment pledge to the bloc.

“We were scheduled to have received over 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from overseas by now, which have not arrived in Australia because of the problems with shipments that we’ve seen happening here and in other parts of the world,” acting chief medical officer Michael Kidd told Sky News.

Michael Kidd speaks to the media during a press conference in Canberra last month.
Michael Kidd speaks to the media during a press conference in Canberra last month.
Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Australia began vaccinations much later than some other countries due to low case numbers, recording just under 29,400 Covis-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. But the AstraZeneca dose delay leaves it struggling to step up the pace of its vaccination drive.

The majority of Australia’s near 26 million population will be administered the AstraZeneca vaccine, with 50 million doses set to be produced locally from the end of March. About 2.5 million doses have been locally produced so far with thousands of doses already cleared testing and distributed to the vaccination sites.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, tasked to help with the rollout of the nationwide inoculation programme from May said on Tuesday that slow domestic vaccine approvals and logistics issues will now push deliveries to June.

Pharmacy Guild president Trent Twomey told Reuters he also blamed the slow rollout on a lack of co-ordination between the Australian national government and states, with the latter complaining about slower-than-expected distribution and a lack of certainty on vaccine supplies.

This morning we are carrying a joint op-ed by a group of leading health experts from around the world addressing the issue of global vaccination. They say that even with a worldwide approach to distributing vaccines, everyone is at risk from new coronavirus variants emerging. They write:

At the end of 2020, there was a strong hope that high levels of vaccination would see humanity finally gain the upper hand over Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. In an ideal scenario, the virus would then be contained at very low levels without further societal disruption or significant numbers of deaths.

But since then, new “variants of concern” have emerged and spread worldwide, putting current pandemic control efforts, including vaccination, at risk of being derailed.

Put simply, the game has changed, and a successful global rollout of current vaccines by itself is no longer a guarantee of victory.

No one is truly safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe. We are in a race against time to get global transmission rates low enough to prevent the emergence and spread of new variants. The danger is that variants will arise that can overcome the immunity conferred by vaccinations or prior infection.

What’s more, many countries lack the capacity to track emerging variants via genomic surveillance. This means the situation may be even more serious than it appears.

As members of the Lancet Covid-19 Commission Taskforce on Public Health, we call for urgent action in response to the new variants. These new variants mean we cannot rely on the vaccines alone to provide protection but must maintain strong public health measures to reduce the risk from these variants. At the same time, we need to accelerate the vaccine program in all countries in an equitable way.

Read more here: Susan Michie, Chris Bullen, et al – Global rollout of vaccines is no longer a guarantee of victory over Covid-19

New York state opens up Covid vaccines to all adults over 16 from today

New Yorkers over 16 years old can sign up for Covid-19 vaccinations starting today, report Associated Press. It’s a major expansion of eligibility as the state seeks to immunize as many people as possible.

Beleaguered Governor Andrew Cuomo – who has faced calls for him to step down over allegations of sexual harrasment and a scandal over Covid deaths in nursing homes – expanded the eligibility to the over-30s last week, and announced that people aged 16 to 29 would be eligible starting 6 April. Democratic president Joe Biden has been urging states to open up vaccination shots to more of the population.

In New York state teens aged 16 and 17 will be limited to receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, since that is the only one that has been authorized for use by people under 18. Parental consent will be required for vaccinations of 16- and 17-year-olds, with certain exceptions including for teens who are married or are parents.

About one in five New York state residents were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as of Monday, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A little more than one-third of the state’s residents had received at least one vaccine dose. The new vaccination rules add 1.7 million people to the list of eligible New Yorkers, for a total of 15.9 million individuals, state Health Department officials said.

The UK’s Captain Sir Tom Moore made it his mission to raise money for the NHS by doing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday.

Now, one year and nearly £39m later, his family are asking people to follow in his footsteps and come up with their own challenge based around the number 100 that they can complete over what would have been his 101st birthday weekend.

“This is to ensure that that message of hope is his lasting legacy,” said his daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore. “He gave us hope, so we’ve got to keep hope going. He said to us: ‘This is yours. I started it, now do it your way.’”

Moore’s laps gained the attention of a nation as it entered the first Covid lockdown. He planned to raise £1,000, a figure he had met several times over by the time he was featured on BBC Breakfast shortly after he started. Including Gift Aid, that figure now stands at £38.9m.

He died in February aged 100 and, on Tuesday, Ingram-Moore said: “My father was insisting right until the very end. He was insisting he was going to come back out and keep walking and raise money. So how can we not do it? He gave us hope as a nation. He represented us around the world as a beacon of hope. He’s passed the mantle on to us.”

She is encouraging people to run 100 metres, score 100 goals or bake 100 cakes – whatever they choose. The latter, she said, would have been one of her father’s favourites because he loved Victoria sponge.

Read more of Kevin Rawlinson’s report here: Family of Captain Sir Tom Moore issue Covid charity challenge to UK

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. My colleague Martin Belam will be with you for the next few hours.

I’ll be unwinding with my favourite movie Lord of the Rings:

Keir Starmer is likely to vote against introducing Covid-status certificates if the government presses ahead with such plans, the Guardian has been told, as Boris Johnson promised the documents would not be introduced earlier than mid-May.

A senior Labour source said they did not think ministers had adequately explained how the scheme would work, what its purpose was and the cost to the taxpayer, significantly increasing the chances that the prime minister could lose a vote in parliament:

More than 400 New Zealanders have been convicted of breaching coronavirus restrictions, with one in five of them sentenced to prison terms.

New Zealand passed new laws in May last year that gave the Ministry of Health special powers and provided a legal framework for closing businesses, enforcing lockdowns or creating stay-at-home orders during the pandemic.

Over the past year, thousands of New Zealanders broke those rules – with more than 7,500 breaches recorded across the country.

Most breaches of New Zealand’s Covid rules don’t result in prosecution, but according to new Ministry of Justice data, a total of 640 people were charged with Covid-19 related offences, and more than three quarters of those, or 460, were convicted. Of those convicted, almost 20%, or 85 people in total, were sent to prison. The vast majority – nearly 80% – of those charged and convicted were young men.

However, justice system advocates said the arrests indicated racial bias and profiling in the enforcement of Covid rules:

North Korea pulls out of Tokyo Olympics to ‘protect athletes’

North Korea’s sports ministry said on Tuesday that it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics this year to protect its athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was made at a meeting of North Korea’s Olympic committee, including its sports minister Kim Il guk, on 25 March the ministry said on its website, called Joson Sports. “The committee decided not to join the 32nd Olympics Games to protect athletes from the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus,” it said.

The meeting also discussed ways to develop professional sports technologies, earn medals at international competitions and promote public sports activities over the next five years, the ministry said.

North Korea has one of the world’s strictest quarantine regimes, despite the government’s denial that any cases have been detected in the country.

The measures have allowed the government to increase its control over daily life to levels similar to the famine years of the 1990s, according to analysts.

Outsiders doubt whether the country has escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China, its economic lifeline:

Cases rising in Japan

With just over 100 days to go to the Tokyo Olympics, Japanese health authorities are concerned that variants of the coronavirus are driving a nascent fourth wave.

The variants appear to be more infectious and may be resistant to vaccines, which are still not widely available in Japan. Osaka is the worst-affected city. Infections there hit fresh records last week, prompting the regional government to start targeted lockdown measures for one month from Monday.

A mutant Covid variant first discovered in Britain has taken hold in the Osaka region, spreading faster and filling up hospital beds with more serious cases than the original virus, according to Koji Wada, a government adviser on the pandemic.

“The fourth wave is going to be larger,” said Wada, a professor at Tokyo’s International University of Health and Welfare. “We need to start to discuss how we could utilise these targeted measures for the Tokyo area”:

Indian states call for people under 45 to be eligible for vaccine

Many Indian state leaders have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open up vaccinations to most of the country’s hundreds of millions of adults, following a second surge in infections that has eclipsed the first wave, Reuters reports.

India breached the grim milestone of 100,000 daily infections for the first time on Monday, and cases are likely to stay high again when fresh figures are released later on Tuesday.

The country, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, this month expanded its vaccination programme to include everyone above the age of 45. So far it has vaccinated only about 1 in 25 people, compared with nearly 1 in 2 in the United Kingdom and 1 in 3 in the United States.

“If a larger number of young and working population is vaccinated, the intensity of the cases would be much lower than the treatment that they need today,” Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of India’s worst affected Maharashtra state, wrote in a letter to Modi late on Monday.

Health workers wearing personal protective equipment walk past a quarantine centre in Mumbai, India, 5 April 2021.
Health workers wearing personal protective equipment walk past a quarantine centre in Mumbai, India, 5 April 2021.
Photograph: Divyakant Solanki/EPA

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and many other states have also asked for faster and wider vaccinations, with some flagging tightness in vaccine supplies even for the prioritised groups.

The federal government has said it will widen the vaccination campaign in the “near future” to include more people, and that vaccine supplies are being stepped up.
With 12.6 million cases, India is the worst affected country after the United States and Brazil. Deaths have gone past the 165,000 mark.

The country’s daily infections have risen many fold since hitting a multi-month low in early February, when authorities eased most restrictions and people largely stopped wearing masks and following social distancing.

India has recorded the most number of infections in the past week anywhere in the world. More infectious variants of the virus may have played a role in the second surge, some epidemiologists say.

Jacinda Ardern announces trans-Tasman travel bubble

After nearly a year shut off from the world, New Zealand is cracking open its borders to a trans-Tasman travel bubble. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that the bubble with Australia will begin on April 19, allowing quarantine-free travel
between the two nations. The plan has been in the works for months now – but was paused a number of times after outbreaks of Covid-19 on either side of the border.
Since October, travellers from New Zealand have been able to enter selected Australian states without quarantining, but not the other direction.

At a press conference this afternoon, Ardern said the government was, “Confident not only in the state of Australia, but in our own ability to manage a travel arrangement.”

New Zealand officials warned that those choosing to make the trip should be cautious, as another outbreak in either country could mean the border would close, leaving them stranded in Australia. Ardern told reporters “We may have scenarios where travel will shut down one way. It may therefore leave travellers – for a period of time – stranded on either side of the Tasman.”

Updated

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next little while – as always, you can find me on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

Indian state leaders have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open up vaccinations to most of the country’s hundreds of millions of adults, following a second surge in infections that has eclipsed the first wave.

India breached the grim milestone of 100,000 daily infections for the first time on Monday, and cases are likely to stay high again when fresh figures are released later on Tuesday.

The country, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, this month expanded its vaccination programme to include everyone above the age of 45.

Meanwhile with just over 100 days to go to the Tokyo Olympics, Japanese health authorities are concerned that variants of the coronavirus are driving a nascent fourth wave.

The variants appear to be more infectious and may be resistant to vaccines, which are still not widely available in Japan. Osaka is the worst-affected city. Infections there hit fresh records last week, prompting the regional government to start targeted lockdown measures for one month from Monday.

Here are the key recent developments from around the world.

  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed it will move to the second stage of its lockdown lifting from next week, as non-essential shops, pub gardens and hairdressers will reopen.
  • In France the number of people in intensive care units with Covid rose by 92 to 5,433 on Monday.
  • Another 296 people have died in Italy, bringing its death toll to 111,326. New infections fell from 18,025 to 10,680.
  • Authorities in Saudi Arabia said only people who have been vaccinated or had the virus will be able to do the umrah pilgrimage later this month.
  • The infection rate in Spain has risen again to an average of 163.4 per 100,000 over the last fortnight, as it reported 85 more deaths.
  • Up to 200 workers at Goldman Sachs’ office in London will return to the office this week.
  • The US has now administered 167,187,795 vaccines and distributed a total of 207,891,395 to clinics, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has reported.
  • Mexico’s government reported another 252 more deaths on Monday. It means that 204,399 have now died from the virus.
  • People aged under-30 in the UK may stop being given the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns about rare blood clots.
  • An investigation has been launched in France after a TV exposé revealed “clandestine” luxury dinners in Paris despite the pandemic.

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One Reply to “Coronavirus live news: EMA denies establishing link between AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots”

  1. Authorities in Chandigarh,India must enhance the fine amount for violators of social distancing norms and those not wearing masks or wearing improperly. Raids must be carried out in markets and residential areas and residential societies. Fear must be instilled amongst the violators.

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