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The UK is likely to be protected from a third Covid-19 wave but the EU is at risk due to the pause in their vaccination rollout, the former chief executive of the MHRA has claimed.
Sir Kent Woods said it was “very unfortunate” that countries including Germany and France had delayed the delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine over unfounded concerns about blood clots.
His comments come as sixteen regions of France – including Paris – have entered a new lockdown.
“It may have contributed to a third wave,” said Sir Kent. “I think the wave was probably on its way but nevertheless it’s very unfortunate that there was the pause for two reasons.
“Firstly, it loses time. The second aspect is public confidence. Will people now be willing to get their vaccine as quickly as possible? That’s the way these successive waves are going to be stamped out.”
Discussing the UK’s vaccine rollout, he added: “I have great hopes that as the proportion of the population who have been vaccinated increases, we will be able to protect ourselves from a third wave.”
The Prime Minister is due to receive his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine today as a host of European countries announced they would return to using the jab following fresh safety assurances.
Follow the latest updates below.
Director of the Oxford vaccine group: ‘We are absolutely confident in the vaccine’
Professor Andrew Pollard said the European Medicines Agency (EMA) calling the AstraZeneca vaccine safe and effective would help “rebuild confidence”.
“This is incredibly reassuring, the processes are working, the safety monitoring that we all expect from our authorities is happening,” he said.
“This is extremely good news and we should be reassured that process is working exactly and moving along exactly as it should.
“I think what they have very clearly stated is that we absolutely are confident in use of the vaccine, that it’s not associated with the blood clots as was originally raised.
“We’re really not in a battle with each other or the vaccine, we’re battling a ruthless killer that within the European Union has killed 600,000 people in the past year.”
Vaccine supply delay in UK will not have big effect, says senior scientific adviser
Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said the delay in vaccine supply in the UK will not have a big effect on the vaccine rollout.
He described the delay as “slightly disappointing”, but added: “I don’t think the delay will have an enormous effect.
“We’ll still have enough vaccine to largely continue with the programme.”
He said of bigger concern was the South African variant of Covid-19, adding: “Overall, I’m optimistic with this one caveat that we do need to keep these variants of concern at bay.
“Until we can update the vaccine, rolled out the vaccine and really hopefully the whole adult population which will be this summer, at that point we’ll be in a much safer position.”
Covid-19 certificates may help larger events return, says Culture Secretary
Oliver Dowden said: “From June 21, if all goes to plan in the way that I described, we hope to get people back in significant numbers.
“We’re piloting the different things that will enable that to happen – clearly it will have to be done in a Covid-secure way.
“You would expect, and we will be testing these things, things like one-way systems, things like masks, things like hand hygiene and everything else.
“Another thing that we are considering is a Covid certification, and we will be testing whether we can use Covid certification to help facilitate the return of sports.”
Vaccinations alone are unlikely to contain coronavirus infections in the UK, study warns
The University of Warwick’s modelling concluded that gradually easing lockdown restrictions and achieving high uptake of Covid-19 jabs can minimise future waves.
However, Professor Matt Keeling added: “Our modelling suggests that vaccination rollout in adults alone is unlikely to completely stop Covid-19 cases spreading in the UK.
“We also found that early sudden release of restrictions is likely to lead to a large wave of infection, whereas gradually easing measures over a period of many months could reduce the peak of future waves.”
He added that the huge success of the UK’s vaccine rollout so far – coupled with the government’s gradual roadmap for easing restrictions – are cause for optimism.
Vaccine manufacturer claims Biden and India at fault for UK delays
Boris Johnson has denied that the Indian government blocked a delivery of five million vaccine doses to the UK after the manufacturer insisted it had been ordered to hold back the vital shipment.
The Prime Minister insisted the Indian government was not responsible for the delayed delivery of AstraZeneca jabs from the Serum Institute of India after the firm’s chief executive said the decision was “solely dependent on India and has nothing to do with the SII”.
Experts suggested the UK had been caught in the crossfire of an international scramble for vaccine supplies after the delayed shipment threatened to derail the rollout of jabs in the coming weeks.
Read the full story here.
Adults living with children only slightly more at risk of developing Covid-19, study finds
Researchers investigated whether the risk of infection and admission to hospital from coronavirus differed between adults living with and without school-age children during the first two waves last year.
They found there was a “small” increased risk of infection and hospital admission for those aged 65 and under who lived with children during the second wave between September and December.
However the peer-reviewed study, which has been published in the BMJ, found it did not lead to an increased risk of death.
It also found no evidence of a noticeably increased risk of infection during the first wave in the UK between February and August, compared to those adults who do not live with children.
Travel patterns will be permanently changed, industry leaders predict
Latest Government figures show bus usage outside London is at 46% of pre-pandemic levels after reaching a high of 63% in November 2020.
Train passenger numbers have been even harder hit, currently standing at just 21% of normal following a recovery to 43% in September last year.
Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy said last month that train timetables should not return in full even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted, due to improved reliability.
The industry estimates that demand for commuter journeys may only return to as little as 60% of what it was before the crisis, due to the rise in people working from home.
Boris Johnson’s hospitalisation sparked ‘jostling for position’ in No10
Ever since his near-deadly bout of coronavirus last year, debate has raged about the extent to which the experience changed Boris Johnson’s approach to tackling the pandemic.
His most loyal aides have always insisted it did not change him at all – but some allies now privately concede that he emerged from his hospital stay a different man.
Now, for the first time, some of those who were closest to the centre of power while Mr Johnson’s life hung in the balance have spoken about both the moment they feared they might lose him and the Cabinet in-fighting his absence prompted.
Read the full story here.
Children’s return to school hasn’t led to rise in infections, figures show
Children returning to school has not led to a rise in Covid infections, as the first data shows just 0.05 per cent of secondary students tested positive.
Of the 2,762,775 lateral flow tests that were carried out on secondary pupils, just 1,324 were positive, according to the first official figures.
A detailed analysis by Prof Jon Deeks, an expert in biostatistics at Birmingham University, has found that the number of positive cases among pupils are far lower than ministers expected.
Read the full story
Map of UK’s seven-day Covid-19 infection rate, by local authority
‘At risk’ footballers should be given vaccine, says Southgate
Gareth Southgate says the Government should consider sportsmen and women receiving the coronavirus vaccine once “vulnerable people” have received their dose.
The England manager also suggested that it might help the NHS if football was able to buy supplies, while stressing that players should not be vaccinated ahead of “key workers and teachers”.
Southgate accepted that concern over vaccine shortages had complicated the situation, but said that players were at risk, with this summer’s European Championship involving players travelling across the continent.
Read the full story
Cases in India reach 3-month high
India reported 39,726 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its highest in more than three months, as the worst-hit states, such as western industrialised Maharashtra, adopted fresh curbs to restrain the spread of the disease.
The tally of infections stands at 11.51 million, the highest after the United States and Brazil. Deaths rose by 154 to 159,370, data from the health ministry showed.
Cuba approves second homegrown vaccine for late phase trials
Cuba’s drug regulatory authority on Thursday approved a second vaccine candidate for late-stage clinical trials as the country races to secure a homegrown shot to quell its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic and sell abroad.
The Communist-run Caribbean island nation, which has long experience with developing and exporting vaccines, is one of a handful in the region that have not started vaccinating against Covid, as it is counting on its own candidates. This month, Cuba started late-phase trials of its most advanced experimental vaccine, named Soberana (Sovereignty) 2.
On Thursday, the Cuban regulatory authority gave the green light for it to start such trials for Abdala, named after a poem by 19th century Cuban independence hero Jose Marti, which like Soberana 2 targets the spike protein of the novel coronavirus.
High-risk laboratory workers process Cuban vaccines in Havana – rnesto Mastrascusa/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
PNG tightening restrictions as cases surge
Papua New Guinea officials will tighten internal border controls, restrict personal movement, and enforce mask wearing in public from next week, as the country confronts a steep rise in infections.
Officials in the Pacific island nation of 9 million people also said they will bar mass gatherings, close schools and may order burials in a “designated mass grave” as part of sweeping measures to slow the spread.
PNG has recorded a spike in cases in recent weeks, with hundreds of new daily cases.
Neighbouring Australia has pledged 8,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for PNG health workers, and asked the European Union to release 1 million doses of its supply, as local media reported patients being turned away from overrun hospitals.
Read more: More dying now in Europe than in first wave as UK variant takes hold
Philippines approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use
The Philippines has approved Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Friday.
The vaccine, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, is the fourth to get emergency use authorisation in the Southeast Asian nation as it battles a renewed surge in infections.
“The known and potential benefits of the Gamaleya Sputnik V vaccine…outweigh the known and potential risks of said vaccine,” FDA chief Rolando Enrique Domingo told a news conference.
Cases, deaths and vaccinations, coronavirus world map
Mexico announces new border restrictions
Mexico announced on Thursday restrictions on non-essential crossings at its border with Guatemala to curb the spread of Covid-19, a move that coincides with increased migrant flows towards the US.
The government also prolonged the closure of its northern border with the US to all but essential land traffic in response to a pandemic that has left more than 196,000 people dead in Mexico.
“To prevent the spread of Covid-19… restrictions will be imposed on land transit for non-essential activities on the northern and southern borders,” the foreign ministry said on Twitter.
It said the restrictions would begin on Friday and remain in effect at least until April 21.