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COVID-19: All the latest LIVE worldwide updates - today's updates are also on our Portal page, here)

Coronavirus - 24th February 2021


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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 11:21

Summary for Wednesday, 24th February

  • England's secondary schools face a "big logistical task" as they are asked to test pupils three times in the first two weeks after reopening, says the education secretary
  • Secondaries are being asked to run summer schools to help pupils most in need of catching up on lessons lost to Covid
  • An extra £420m in funding has been announced, along with £300m announced for catch-up projects in January
  • There are concerns about teachers burning out if they have to work through the holiday, and some unions are wary of overwhelming pupils
  • More people with learning disabilities are to be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine
  • It has been announced by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which decides vaccine priorities in the UK
  • Ghana becomes the first recipient of Covid-19 vaccine doses distributed by the global vaccine sharing initiative Covax
  • The Republic of Ireland will keep its highest level of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions until at least 5 April

Good morning

Welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
We will be bringing you the latest updates throughout the day.

What’s the latest in the UK?

Here’s what you need to know this morning:

  • Secondary schools in England will be asked to deliver face-to-face summer schools as part of efforts to catch pupils up with lessons lost to Covid
  • An extra £420m in funding has been announced, along with £300m announced for catch-up projects in January
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the money will help ensure "no child is left behind" due to the pandemic
  • Teachers, experts and unions called the money a "good start" - but warned about overwhelming pupils
  • Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own catch-up programmes
  • About 31,000 women in London are being offered "do-it-at-home" tests to check for early warnings of cervical cancer, as part of an NHS trial
  • - after smear-test delays during the pandemic prompted calls for home-screening kits
  • A Welsh woman whose husband died nearly a year after they were last able to hold hands says the nation’s ban on indoor care home visits is "a form of cruelty"
  • And workers on furlough have spoken of their hope for further financial support in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget next week

What do the UK papers say?

Wednesday's front pages continue to focus on how the UK will emerge from lockdown.

  • "Faster path to freedom if jabs exceed expectations" is the main headline for the Daily Telegraph.   It says a senior government source has suggested the dates for lifting Covid restrictions set out in the official roadmap out of lockdown could be accelerated - if data on the impact of vaccination supports the move.
  • The source stresses any move to speed things up would be unlikely before May, but the government has insisted the dates set out for lifting restrictions are the earliest possible - and any suggestion they could be brought forward is wrong.
  • For many tabloids the focus remains the prospect, however precarious, of a summer break abroad.
  • The Daily Mirror reports a huge increase in demand for summer sunshine getaways - or as the Daily Express puts it, a "stampede for the great getaway" with companies seeing a 600% surge in bookings.
  • The Daily Mail claims that holiday providers closer to home are also benefiting. It says many staycation firms are "cashing in" by doubling prices for holiday cottages - pushing some short breaks to more than £1,000.
  • For the Times, a different type of holiday makes the lead as its headline declares "stamp duty holiday to be extended".
  • The paper says Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce the move in next week's Budget to shore up the housing market, along with further extensions for the furlough and business rates holiday schemes.

View the front pages in full here .

Summary of latest worldwide events

The Guardian
Here are the key pandemic developments from the last few hours:

  • AstraZeneca to deliver less than half promised doses to EU in second quarter – report . AstraZeneca Plc has told the European Union it expects to deliver less than half the Covid vaccines it was contracted to supply in the second quarter, an EU official told Reuters on Tuesday. Contacted by Reuters, AstraZeneca did not deny what the official said, but a statement late in the day said the company was striving to increase productivity to deliver the promised 180 million doses.
  • The World Health Organization said global deaths from coronavirus-related complications have declined by 20% in the last week, with cases dropping for the sixth consecutive week worldwide. Deaths have been falling for three consecutive weeks.
  • Japan regions are pushing to a end state of emergency as virus infections fall. Regional authorities in Japan have urged that emergency pandemic measures be lifted before a scheduled date of 7 March, as new coronavirus cases trend lower, the economy minister said, adding that the government would consult experts before it agreed.
  • An Australian doctor has been stood down after an 88 year-old man and a 94-year-old woman were each given four times the recommended dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.
  • One of New Zealand’s largest high schools has closed again after another student and t wo siblings tested positive for Covid. Health authorities have been trying to test and contact-trace all 1,500 students, but were unable to find and test a small number of pupils and their families.
  • Thailand received its first 200,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac, the country’s first batch of coronavirus vaccines, with inoculations set to begin in a few days.
  • US to vote on Covid relief bill on Friday. The US House of Representatives will vote on Friday on legislation to provide $1.9 trillion in new coronavirus relief, Representative Steny Hoyer, the chamber’s No 2 Democrat, said.
  • Singapore is discussing the mutual recognition of vaccine certificates with other countries, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, calling it a necessary step towards resuming global travel.
  • French ICU patients with Covid hit a 12-week high. The number of patients treated in intensive care units for Covid-19 in France has reached a 12-week peak of 3,435, as regional officials urge for a ban on public gatherings and consider a partial weekend lockdown.
  • Ireland extended its lockdown . Ireland is to start reopening some schools next week but is extending other lockdown restrictions until April to prevent another explosion in Covid-19 cases.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 11:27

First vaccines doses supplied by Covax arrive in Ghana

Ghana has become the first recipient of Covid-19 vaccine doses distributed by the global vaccine sharing initiative, Covax.
A plane carrying 600,000 doses of the of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has landed in the capital, Accra, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef said.
"These 600,000 Covax vaccines are part of an initial tranche of deliveries ... which represent part of the first wave of Covid vaccines headed to several low and middle-income countries," a statement said.
Ghana's ministry of information said priority will be given to health workers, the elderly above 60 years and people with underlying health conditions.
Others to receive the shots are selected members of the executive, legislature, judiciary and their related staff, front line security personnel, some religious leaders, essential workers and teachers.
The delivery of the vaccine doses comes amid talk about rich nations purchasing excess vaccines and making it harder for poor nations to access any.
WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier said that wealthier nations were undermining the global vaccine distribution initiative by reducing the number of doses it can purchase.

Showaddywaddy singer describes 'brutal' Covid experience

The former lead singer of Showaddywaddy has shared his difficult experience Covid-19.
Dave Bartram says he tested positive on 20 January, and "for a month it has been debilitating".
"It bears no relation to flu whatsoever. It is the most brutal virus I have ever experienced," he says.
"There was one night where my chest was so, so tight and I was struggling to breathe and we were closed to calling for an ambulance."
He filmed a video appeal released by Leicester's Clinical Commissioning Group to urge people to get the jab.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 11:35

150,000 more people with learning disabilities to be prioritised

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Jo Whiley's sister Frances, who has a learning disability and diabetes, was admitted to hospital with Covid

All people on the learning disability register should now be prioritised for a Covid vaccine , the joint committee on vaccination has advised the government.
GPs should reach out to all those in this group, says Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of JCVI.
It follows DJ Jo Whiley's plea for people such as her sister, Frances, to be vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Whiley was offered the vaccine before her sister, who has a rare genetic syndrome and lives in residential care.
The broadcaster's sister is recovering after being admitted to hospital with coronavirus earlier this week.
People with a "severe or profound" learning disability in England and Wales were already in priority group six for the coronavirus vaccine, along with unpaid carers for those with disabilities and the elderly.

Surgery waiting lists a 'massive problem'

Waiting lists are now an "absolutely massive problem", the president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England says.
Prof Neil Mortensen says 4.52 million people are now on the list, with 224,000 of those waiting longer than 52 weeks, and "a big plan" will be needed to help tackle the issue.
He tells Times Radio: "I think surgeons are very prepared to be flexible. I think there needs to be more operating time. There needs to be more opening hours for surgery and surgery hubs.
"We have already done well with remote outpatient appointments, with patients not having to come to hospital for assessment and follow-up, but staff are tired and need a pause."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 11:42

Republic of Ireland extends restrictions to 5 April

The Republic of Ireland will continue with its highest level of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions until at least 5 April.
The widely expected decision to maintain Level Five was taken at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
But primary schools will reopen on Monday for the four youngest age groups, the equivalent of primaries one to four.
Final year secondary students will also return then.
Other pupils and students will resume their schooling in a phased manner over the coming weeks along with pre-school childcare.

Poland to announce new covid restrictions today

Poland will announce new regional coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, health minister Adam Niedzielski said, as daily infections rise steeply. Some 12,146 new cases were registered in the previous 24 hours, a rise of more than 3,500 in the space of a week, the minister told private radio station TOK FM.

Sweden eases restrictions on care homes while rules tightened for rest of country

Sweden will ease restrictions on elderly residents of care homes who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, the country’s top epidemiologist said on Wednesday, at the same time as rules for the rest of the country are tightened.
Sweden has reported a rise in cases in the last couple of weeks, raising fears of a third wave of infections and leading the Public Health Agency to warn it would introduce tougher controls to halt the spread of the pandemic. Tighter restrictions are expected to be announced on Wednesday.
At the same time, more than 80% of residents of care homes for the elderly have received their first vaccination against Covid-19 and 64% have completed a course of two shots, an article in Dagens Nyheter reported by Reuters said.

Russia reports 11,749 new cases in last 24 hours

Russia on Wednesday reported 11,749 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, including 1,417 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,200,902 since the pandemic began.
The government coronavirus taskforce also reported 383 deaths, taking Russia’s official death toll to 84,430.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 16:32

What's been happening around Europe?

Europe has been one of the worst hit continents, with a number of countries still struggling to contain the outbreak.
Here are the key developments of the past 24 hours:

  • In Spain, PM Pedro Sánchez has unveiled a package worth €11bn ($13.4bn; £9.5bn) to boost small and mid-sized businesses. He admitted the nation was exhausted by the pandemic, but said he hoped half the population would have had a vaccination by the end of June
  • Denmark is planning to ease some shopping restrictions and allow schools in parts of the country to reopen on 1 March, the government says, amid a further drop in infections
  • Poland is to unveil regional restrictions to counter a rise in cases since measures were relaxed 12 days ago. More than 20,000 people flocked to the main ski resort of Zakopane when it reopened, with many forgetting social distancing
  • The authorities in Sweden are expected to toughen nationwide Covid recommendations later. Several regions have recently stepped up guidelines asking passengers to wear face masks on public transport at all times - not just in rush hour
  • Ukraine is to begin a nationwide vaccination programme, one of the last European countries to do so. Authorities there have repeatedly delayed the start date, sparking mass anger among the population

What are the UK headlines so far today?

We are going to be bringing you the latest coronavirus updates from Prime Minister's Questions soon. Before we do, let's have a recap on this morning's news - we've been focusing on schools and vaccines.

  • The country's secondary schools face a "big logistical task" as they are being asked to test pupils three times in the first two weeks after reopening, says the education secretary
  • He also says the policy of secondary school pupils having to wear masks in classrooms will be reviewed over Easter
  • Secondaries are being asked to run summer schools to help pupils most in need of catching up on lessons lost to Covid
  • An extra £420m in funding has been announced, along with £300m announced for catch-up projects in January
  • There are also concerns about teachers burning out if they have to work through the holiday, and some unions are wary of overwhelming pupils
  • There isn't a strong scientific argument to immunise teachers outside those aged 50 or over, or those with underlying health conditions, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, tells MPs
  • The committee has also announced more people with learning disabilities will be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccination
  • It follows DJ Jo Whiley's plea for people such as her sister, Frances, to be vaccinated as quickly as possible
  • And England's deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, has rejected claims the Covid vaccine could affect female fertility.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 16:41

Hungary uses Chinese vaccine in EU first

Hungary has become the first EU nation to start using China's Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine.
"This is an important day as we begin inoculations with the Chinese vaccines,” Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban announces in a Facebook video message.
Hungary, which has a population of about 10 million, has ordered five million doses of the Chinese jab.
The Hungarian government says it hopes to give the first dose of the vaccine to more than 800,000 people within a week.
The use of the vaccine in Hungary comes before its approval by the EU’s regulator, the European Medicines Agency.
Hungary is already using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, which is also yet to be approved by the EU’s regulator.
The Hungarian government has been critical of the EU’s vaccination rollout, which has been disrupted by delays to deliveries of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, among others.
Mr Orban says it is too early to speak of any easing of restrictions in Hungary, where 410,129 virus cases and 14,552 deaths have been reported.

'Joy' on children's faces as they return to school

The Welsh Government is closely monitoring the impact of the phased return to school, Health Minister Vaughan Gething says.
Speaking at the Welsh Government's coronavirus briefing, Gething says it has been “an absolute pleasure” to see foundation phase children going back to school this week.
“The joy on their faces, and on the faces of their teachers, reminds us of the incredibly important role education plays, not just for learning, but for vital social interaction," he says.
Gething thanks teachers, unions, local authorities and others for the "huge efforts" they have made in bringing children back into the classroom.
“We will be monitoring this closely and, as the first minister said last week, we want to get as many of our learners back into school as quickly as we can – but as safely as we can," he says.

'It is too early to book holidays abroad' - home secretary

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been telling the Home Affairs Select Committee it is too early to book holidays abroad.
Yvette Cooper, chair of the committee, asks Patel what advice she would give to those booking holidays today, to book or wait.
"It’s too early. It’s far too early. We have to look at the data at every single stage and the road map," says Patel.
When pushed by Cooper on whether people should wait until after the global task force report, due to be presented to the Prime Minister on 12 April, to book their summer holiday, Patel emphasised her point.
"It is too early, absolutely. There is a road map… We have to continue with the vaccine rollout. There are four tests that the Prime Minister has outlined that we will need to meet before restrictions change."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 16:44

Sturgeon does not put date on lockdown ending

In Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has been giving her first briefing since announcing her own roadmap for exiting lockdown yesterday.
She says the Scottish government will move faster to ease the lockdown than the timetable laid out, if it is safe to do so.
The first minister says she is aware comparisons are being made with England, where the easing of restrictions is expected to happen more quickly but she says Scotland’s slower approach worked better last year.
Unlike Boris Johnson, Sturgeon says she doesn't want to give a date for when all restrictions will be lifted, because she would be, as she puts it, "making it up".

Sturgeon: New variants could tip us into third wave

Asked about opening up for the summer, Nicola Sturgeon says she hopes to see the Scotland football team play England in June at Wembley but says she cannot give a cast iron guarantee that fans will be able to make their way to London.
Sturgeon tells today's Covid briefing she hopes that from the end of April onwards restrictions on travel can be lifted in parts of Scotland but says they may remain longer for international travel.
While the aviation industry is a priority and she wants to see people go abroad again, she warns there is a risk of allowing new variants to be imported into the country which could lead to another lockdown.
"No matter everything else we are doing right now we risk setting ourselves backwards and tipping ourselves into a third wave of this," she says.
In terms of other businesses she says that she has not given a date for reopening because she does not want businesses to start taking bookings only to have to cancel them again.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 16:46

Covax delivers first vaccines and other global headlines

Turning away from the UK, we can bring you an overview of some of the key developments from around the world.

  • Globally, the number of new coronavirus infections and deaths linked to the disease is continuing to fall, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. The UN agency says 66,000 new deaths were reported last week, a 20% decline compared with the previous week
  • A vaccine-sharing scheme led by the WHO has delivered its first batch of jabs to Ghana. A plane carrying 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has landed in the capital, Accra, today
  • The EU is “catching up” with the UK’s vaccination drive, the European commission president says, addressing criticism of the bloc’s rollout. She tells a German newspaper she “understood the frustration” of EU citizens who want to be vaccinated as soon as possible
  • Hungary has become the first country in the EU to start administering the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. The country has ordered five million doses, although the vaccine has not yet been granted regulatory approval in the EU
  • Regional governments in Japan have called for emergency coronavirus restrictions to be lifted ahead of their scheduled relaxation on 7 March. A surge in infections prompted Japan to declare a state of emergency last month for 11 prefectures.

Cases and deaths continue to fall globally, WHO says

The latest coronavirus report by the World Health Organization (WHO) has offered some cause for optimism.
The number of coronavirus infections recorded worldwide has been in decline for six consecutive weeks, the WHO says in its weekly update .
The agency says there were 2.4 million new cases last week, an 11% decline compared with the previous seven-day period. New deaths dropped by 20% from the figure for the previous week as well.
As of Tuesday, a total of 110.7 million cases and more than 2.4 million deaths have been recorded since the start of the pandemic, according to WHO figures.
However, while many countries are reporting a decline in overall coronavirus cases, reports of Covid-19 variants are increasing.
The WHO says a highly transmissible coronavirus variant first detected in the UK has been found in 101 countries. Another variant from South Africa has been found in 51 countries.
Read more: Coronavirus cases, deaths, vaccinations by country

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 17:00

Breaking News 

UK records 442 more Covid-19 deaths

A further 442 have died with coronavirus in the UK, the government's daily figures show.
It takes the total number of people to die within 28 days of a positive Covid test to 121,747.
There were also another 9,938 new infections reported in the last 24 hours.
Last Wednesday, 738 deaths and 12,718 positive cases were reported.

How are African nations doing on vaccines?

Peter Mwai - BBC Reality Check
You may have noticed us mentioning Covax quite a bit today. It’s a global scheme designed to make vaccine access more equal among all countries, especially poorer ones in Africa and elsewhere.
Earlier, the scheme made its first delivery , which could not have come soon enough for African nations.
They have generally not been as successful as richer countries in securing vaccine supplies.
"It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe," says Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization regional director for Africa.
The final Covax target is to provide up to 600 million doses to Africa, enough to vaccinate at least 20% of the population by the end of 2021.
But John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, says the vaccines provided "will not get the pandemic out" of the continent.
He says African countries will eventually need to vaccinate at least 60% of their populations, with his target for this year being 35%.
Read more: Africa vaccine rollout off to a slow start
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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 17:08

Polish health minister Adam Niedzielski said that restrictions the government plans to reintroduce in a north-eastern region on Saturday will be put in place initially for two weeks.
Niedzielski announced earlier that shopping malls, hotels and schools in the Warminsko-Mazurskie region would have to close as it has reported a relatively high number of new coronavirus infections.

Italy should brace for another month of restrictions due to the threat posed by new strains of the coronavirus, its health minister Roberto Speranza said.
The government is expected to adopt a new decree in the coming days, extending a three-tier system of regional restrictions currently set to expire on 5 March.
“We are in no epidemiological condition today to relax the measures against the pandemic,” Speranza said, indicating that curbs would be extended until 6 April.
“Telling the country the truth is an obligation we must all strongly feel, even when this truth is uncomfortable,” the minister said.
He noted that 25 Italian towns or provinces had recently gone into lockdown due to outbreaks of British, South African or Brazilian strains of the coronavirus.
The faster rate of transmission of the new variants “makes it even more essential for the country to raise its guard,” Speranza said.

Europe’s drug regulator has announced it has started a real-time review of South Korean drugmaker Celltrion’s experimental Covid-19 antibody-based treatment, regdanvimab.
The European Medicines Agency said its human medicines committee was assessing the first set of data it received from animal studies and human clinical trials, and would continue to study them as more data was submitted

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 17:11

Names of unvaccinated can be shared by Israeli government after new law passed

Israel’s parliament has passed a law allowing the government to share the identities of people not vaccinated against Covid with other authorities, raising privacy concerns for those opting out of inoculation, AFP reports.
The measure gives local governments, the director general of the education ministry and some in the welfare ministry the right to receive the names, addresses and phone numbers of unvaccinated citizens.
The objective of the measure - valid for three months or until the Covid-19 pandemic is declared over - is “to enable these bodies to encourage people to vaccinate by personally addressing them”, a parliament statement said.
Israel, a country of nine million people, has administered the two recommended jabs of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus to roughly a third of its population.
As it emergences from lockdown, Israel is restricting certain services, including access to gyms and indoor dining, only to the vaccinated, giving a so-called green pass to the fully inoculated. That too has raised concerns about unequal access for those exercising their right to not be vaccinated.
During the debate on the measure, Labor party leader Merav Michaeli accused right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “denying citizens their right to the privacy of their medical information”.

Sweden to limit opening hours and numbers of those inside shops

The Swedish government has said it would reduce opening hours for all restaurants, bars and cafes as well as tighten limits on the number of people allowed in shops as it seeks to ward off a third wave.
Reuters reports that the government said it would propose that restaurants and cafes would have to close at 8:30pm from 1 March. It adds to a previous ban of alcohol sales after 8pm already in place.
It also said the number of people allowed in shops and malls would be further restricted and that it would provide further details about this measure shortly. All sport competitions below elite level, and for children born before 2006, would also be suspended indefinitely.
Prime minister Stefan Lofven told a news conference:
The situation in Sweden is serious, we have a high spread of infection and it is increasing. We can avoid a third wave if we keep distance.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 18:39

Downing Street briefing: What we learned

  • The education secretary says the "full return" of England's schools and colleges from 8 March is justified by the latest data, which will be supported by a "robust" testing regime
  • On exams, Gavin Williamson rules out any algorithms, saying the government will put its trust in teachers - but there will be no more detail ahead of Thursday's Commons statement
  • Face masks in secondary school classrooms will be a "temporary" measure, to be reviewed over the Easter break
  • Williamson rules out accelerating the roadmap out of lockdown, saying the prime minister has said there are no plans to be moving ahead of the plans already laid out
  • On pupils catching up, Williamson says there is funding for schools to put on "great activities" over the summer, whether education-led or wellbeing-led, but longer school days are not part of the plan
  • On staffing of summer schools, he says the government has given schools "additional resource" so they can bring in extra staff or pay existing staff to come in to give "high quality support" for children
  • Williamson says he's "absolutely sure" young people, who haven't been vaccinated, will not be disadvantaged this summer by not being able to go to the cinema, out for a meal or on holiday
  • On twice-weekly testing in secondary schools, the education secretary says he hopes parents will support schools doing it, adding that all the indications are that there has been an "enthusiastic embracing" of self-testing.

White House to distribute 25 million free masks

The administration of US President Joe Biden will deliver more than 25 million masks across the country as part of its plan to curb the coronavirus.
“The masks will be available at more than 1,300 community health centres and at 60,000 food pantries nationwide,” Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response co-ordinator, says.
“Any American who needs a mask can walk into these health centres or food pantries and pick up high-quality, American-made masks.”
Zients says the cloth masks will be available at no cost, will come in children's and adult sizes, and can be washed for reuse.
In another announcement, Zients says the Biden administration was preparing to roll out about four million doses of a one-shot vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson next week.
Earlier today, US regulators said new data suggested the vaccine was 85% effective in preventing serious cases of Covid-19. The vaccine is awaiting regulatory approval in the US.
“If authorised, we are ready to roll out this vaccine without delay,” Zients says.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 18:46

New Covid variants heightening the threat of a third wave in Germany

New Covid variants are heightening the risk a third wave of infections in Germany and the country must proceed with great care, chancellor Angela Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Reuters reports that the number of new daily infections has stagnated over the past week with the seven-day incidence rate hovering at around 60 cases per 100,000. Today, Germany reported 8,007 new infections and 422 further deaths.
Merkel said:
Because of [variants], we are entering a new phase of the pandemic, from which a third wave may emerge. So we must proceed wisely and carefully so that a third wave does not necessitate a new complete shutdown throughout Germany.
Merkel and state premiers in Germany, Europe’s most populous country and largest economy, have agreed to extend restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus until 7 March.
Hair salons will be allowed to reopen from 1 March, but the threshold for a gradual reopening of the rest of the economy targets an infection rate of no more than 35 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days.
Vaccines and comprehensive testing could allow for “a more regionally differentiated approach”, Merkel said in the newspaper interview, published online today.
In a district with a stable incidence of 35, for example, it may be possible to open all schools without causing distortions in relation to other districts with a higher incidence and schools that are not yet open.
An intelligent opening strategy is inextricably linked with comprehensive quick tests, as it were as free tests. I cannot say exactly how long it will take to install such a system. But it will be in March.
Merkel described Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine – seemingly much less effective than Pfizer and Moderna’s jabs – which some essential workers have refused, as “a reliable vaccine, effective and safe.”
As long as vaccines are as scarce as they are at the moment, you can’t choose what you want to be vaccinated with.

EU states split over vaccine passports, to debate issue

EU leaders will tomorrow debate the issue of certificates of vaccination for EU citizens who have been vaccinated against Covid.
Reuters reports that with the rollout of vaccines now gathering pace, some governments, like those of Greece and Spain, are pushing for a quick adoption of an EU-wide certificate for those already inoculated so that people can travel again.
However, other countries, such as France and Germany, appear more reluctant, as officials there say it could create de facto vaccination obligation and would be discriminatory to those who cannot or would not take a jab.
France, where anti-vaccine sentiment is particularly strong and where the government has pledged not to make them compulsory, considers the idea of vaccine passports as “premature”, a French official said today.
Officials said the EU was working with the International Air Transport Association, which is keen to revive air travel, and with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Health Organization.
But travel with certificates also raised legal questions, officials said, because those last in line for vaccinations could argue their freedom of movement was unjustly restricted by the often months-long queues.
EU officials also point out there is no guidance yet from the WHO and EU agencies whether people who have received two shots of the Covid-19 vaccine can still carry the coronavirus and infect others, even if no longer vulnerable themselves.
It was also not clear if people could be infectious having already fought off the coronavirus themselves, for how long they remained immune and if they too should get certificates.
There is also suspicion that such schemes could provide a way in to greater monitoring of people’s movements and health statuses, a paper published in the Lancet says. However, it added, they could facilitate safer movement and the privacy concerns are neither unique nor insurmountable.
Earlier in February, Greece and Israel signed a deal to ease travel restrictions to Greece for Israelis with proof of vaccination.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 18:59

Tanzanian minister coughs during health briefing

Tanzania's finance minister appeared emotional and sometimes coughed as he gave a news conference to address the state of his health.
Philip Mpango spoke about his condition on Tuesday after being discharged from a hospital in the capital Dodoma, after rumours he had died with Covid-19.
Without revealing his illness, the maskless minister said he was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago “while on an oxygen machine”, adding “my health condition was bad”.
“I thank God for his mercies and grace that I have been breathing normally for the last three days,” Mpango said, flanked by two medical staff, neither of whom were wearing a mask.
Tanzanian opposition leader Tunui Lissu questioned the wisdom of the minister's news conference.
"Has the intelligence of our leaders reached this level? Who allowed this patient to cough on people, instead of being in hospital for treatment or bed rest?" he wrote on Twitter .
Tanzania’s government has been criticised for downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus and failing to publish data on Covid-19 infections.
Last week, the World Health Organization called on Tanzania "to take robust action both to safeguard their own people and protect populations" in other countries.

Tweet  Aggrey 'AG' Mutambo:
Finance Minister Philip Mpango held a press conference to give his condolences to fallen colleagues...but he coughed throughout the presser and sat next to folks not wearing masks...

'Powerful case' for vaccinating police - Scotland's chief constable

There is a "powerful case" for police officers and other key workers to get priority for Covid-19 vaccines, Scotland's chief constable told the police service's watchdog.
Iain Livingstone told the Scottish Police Authority more than 400 police officers and staff have been given "surplus" vaccines - unused jabs which would otherwise have gone to waste.
He says he will continue to make the case to the Scottish government that Police Scotland officers and staff should be a priority group, once the initial rollout of the vaccine to those aged 50 and above and those with underlying medical conditions has been completed.
He says the job involves officers "taking themselves into situations of danger, taking themselves into places where people are breaching the coronavirus guidelines, and the anxiety and concern that comes from that".
"There is, in my view, a strong case to protect officers and staff through vaccination, and through vaccination of officers and staff, therefore, protect the public that they serve," he says.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 19:16

Nearly 200 Covid cases at asylum centre this year

Nearly 200 asylum seekers housed at a former Army barracks have tested positive for Covid-19 this year , MPs have been told.
Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, has housed up to 400 men, with a maximum of 28 sharing each dormitory.
Yvette Cooper says the number of cases is "pretty clear evidence" the site is "not Covid-safe".
Home Secretary Priti Patel says the Home Office has followed public health guidance "in every single way".
In January, 178 people tested positive, with another 19 in February, the Home Affairs Select Committee hears.

Mother in coma with Covid 'should be allowed to die'

A mother with Covid-19 should be allowed to die against her family's wishes, a judge has ruled.
The woman, who is in her early 30s, has been in an induced coma since giving birth to a baby boy last month.
The University of Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust say her chances of survival are slim and ending life-support treatment is "in her best interests".
Her family, who are Muslim, have been asking for more time for treatment and say they believe "only God could end life".
Here is our report from the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves are analysed.

UK variant poses greater risk, Danish study shows

Cases of a coronavirus mutation first detected in the UK pose a greater risk of hospital admissions, Denmark’s health minister says, citing a study.
Magnus Heunicke says the study of cases in Denmark shows people infected with the UK variant have a 60% higher risk of being admitted to hospital.
Now dominant in much of the UK, the variant has spread to more than 100 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
Last week the variant, also known as B.1.1.7, became dominant in Denmark, accounting for 63% of all new infections.
“The Danish study aligns very well with the data already from the UK,” Heunicke says at a news conference. “There is a 60% greater risk of being hospitalised with the British corona variant.”
It is not clear what data the minister was referring to.
Last month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was "some evidence" the variant has caused "a higher degree of mortality".
There is some research suggesting the UK variant may be associated with a 30% higher risk of death. But the evidence is not strong and the data is still uncertain .

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Post by Kitkat Wed Feb 24 2021, 20:43

Your UK headlines round-up

And before we go, here is what has been happening around the UK.

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