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

Coronavirus - 26th February 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 15:35

Summary for Friday, 26th February

  • The next phase of the UK's vaccine rollout will be based on age rather than occupation, with those in their 40s next in line
  • There is a "moral duty" to put saving lives first in the rollout, Health Secretary Matt Hancock says
  • Hancock tells a Downing Street briefing that the aged-based approach is "fastest and simplest way"
  • The health secretary also calls on people to "stick at it" in terms of observing the stay-at-home rules
  • "Do not wreck this now... it is too early to relax", England's deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam adds
  • A further 345 people in the UK have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test - a fall of 35% compared with last Friday
  • The Ivory Coast receives its first shipment from the global vaccine-sharing scheme Covax
  • Covid-19 R number across the UK is 0.6-0.9 - that's unchanged since last week
  • Vaccinating people in order of age is the fastest way to cut Covid deaths in the next phase of the rollout, experts say
  • Police and teaching unions criticise the decision not to prioritise their professions in vaccine rollout
  • Czech Republic is set to tighten restrictions again, amid a big surge in cases


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

Latest developments in the UK and around the world

Here’s what you need to know this morning:


Friday's front pages focus on the Queen's vaccine comments


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  • A smiling Queen is pictured on many front pages after she encouraged people to come forward and get vaccinated.
  • "It's selfish not to have the jab," is how the Daily Mail summarises her message which it describes as "historic" and "astonishing". It says it's "highly unusual for the sovereign to take such a firm public stand on contentious issues".
  • "Do one's duty," is the Daily Mirror's headline which sees her remarks as a "stern rebuke to anti-vaxxers".
  • The Daily Telegraph explains that it's been told by royal sources that it's the Queen's "passionately held belief" that everyone should get a jab. It draws a parallel with her decision in 1957 to let it be known that Prince Charles and Princess Anne had been given the polio vaccine to counter public fears.

You can read the full paper review here.

Summary

The Guardian:

  • The French prime minister, Jean Castex, has warned the government will impose new Covid measures, including weekend lockdowns in Paris and 19 other regions , from the start of March if signs of the coronavirus accelerating persist. France has also agreed with Germany to require coronavirus tests for workers commuting across their shared border.
  • South Korea has launched its vaccination campaign. The first injections of the AstraZeneca’s vaccine were given to nursing home workers and patients across the country.
  • Japan will decide on whether to relax its state of emergency in five prefectures on Friday , a week ahead of schedule, after a dramatic fall in new cases across the country.
  • The former British prime minister, Tony Blair, says the length of the Covid outbreak could have been cut by three months if world leaders had collaborated on vaccines, testing and drugs . Blair, who was Labour PM from 1997 to 2007, urged the UK to take the lead in developing a new “health security infrastructure” that would ensure countries coordinate better in identifying emerging new threats as well as developing, testing and manufacturing vaccines and treatments.
  • The Queen has said her Covid vaccine “didn’t hurt at all” and urged those wary of receiving the vaccine to “think about other people”. The 94-year-old was vaccinated along with her husband Prince Philip in January, telling health officials leading the rollout in a video call that she now felt “protected”.
  • The European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has warned against virus fatigue in member states. At a virtual summit, she reassured EU leaders over vaccine distribution, saying she would ban vaccines from leaving the EU if suppliers failed to deliver again.
  • In the US, Joe Biden has hailed the 50m coronavirus vaccine doses given since he took office, but warned that the country must not relax . “We’re halfway there: 50 million shots in 37 days,” Biden said, referring to his ambition of 100m doses in his first 100 days as president. “That’s weeks ahead of schedule.”
  • New Zealand has reported one new community case of Covid-19 , though the infected person has been in quarantine since February 23. The latest Auckland outbreak, now a dozen people strong, has seen Australia declare the city a “hotspot” and close its borders to New Zealand citizens. Air New Zealand has halted all flights to Australia until Sunday, pending review.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 16:11

Brit jailed in Singapore over quarantine breach


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Nigel Skea and his partner Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai arrive at the State Courts for an earlier hearing in February

A British man has been sentenced to two weeks in prison and fined S$1,000 (£539) for breaking quarantine rules in Singapore.
Nigel Skea, from Southampton, left his room on three occasions in September.
The 52-year-old pleaded guilty and admitted that on one occasion, he had walked up an emergency staircase to spend the night with his fiancée, who had booked a room at the same hotel. The couple have since married.
His wife, Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai, was sentenced to one week prison for abetting the crime.
The judge said the sentences reflected the severity of the breach and that the punishment was necessary to deter others from acting in their own interests.
Skea's defence said he had travelled to Singapore in order to propose and they both had been overcome by emotions after not seeing each other for a very long time.

Thousands sign petition against vaccine passports

A petition urging the government not to introduce vaccine passports could be debated by MPs after gaining more than 200,000 signatures.
The online petition says the passports could be "used to restrict the rights of people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine".
On Tuesday, Boris Johnson announced a review of possible vaccine certificates or passports.
Proof of vaccination could allow people to travel or attend large events.
Vaccination is not mandatory, and the petition says passports "would be unacceptable".
The prime minister has appointed Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove to look at the issues involved in any scheme, which could see the existing NHS app updated to include proof of vaccination.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 16:15

EU urged to adopt 'vaccine passports'

Greece and Austria are urging other EU states to adopt coronavirus vaccination "passports" which could help revive Europe's stricken tourist industry.
The idea of the document would be to permit those who have been vaccinated to travel freely within the EU.
The proposal was put forward during a virtual discussion between EU leaders but it faces opposition from some of the bloc's 27 member states.
France and Germany say it could be premature because data on the efficacy of vaccines in preventing a person from carrying or passing on the virus is incomplete.
There are also concerns that enabling a vaccinated minority to enjoy foreign travel while others continue to face restrictions would be discriminatory.
A further complication is the rapid spread of more contagious Covid variants - the English, South African and Brazilian forms - and the possibility of future mutations.

First travellers can leave quarantine hotels


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Guests leave the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, near Heathrow Airport, London, after completing their stay

Some of the first people to check into quarantine hotels in England are being released this morning.
Since last Monday, UK and Irish nationals returning from a "red list" country deemed at high risk for Covid-19 have had to self-isolate in hotels for 10 days at a cost of £1,750.
Breaching the rule can incur a fine of up to £10,000 or 10 years in prison, according to the government.
Eritza East, 37, from Southampton, and her three children have been staying at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow Airport.
"I'm looking forward to seeing my husband, I haven't seen him in seven months," she says.
Eritza said of their stay in the hotel: "It was not ideal, but it wasn't terrible, I've been in much worse accommodation."
She said it was big and the beds were comfortable but the food "wasn't always kid-friendly", adding: "Other than that, the security was really nice and very supportive."
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 16:28

Breaking News

People aged 40-49 next in line for Covid-19 vaccine

People aged 40-49 will be prioritised next for a Covid-19 vaccine, Professor Wei Shen Lim from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has announced.
In phase two of the UK's vaccine rollout, it says priority will be given by age in the following order:
- All those aged 40-49- All those aged 30-39- All those aged 18-29

'Evidence of faster decline in deaths in vaccinated people'

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, says there is evidence one dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces risk of symptomatic case in older people. She says this starts about three weeks after they take the vaccine. There is an even higher level of protection against hospitalisation and deaths.
She says this is really encouraging and supports the rationale of the programme.
She says there are very early signs that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is also performing well in these areas.
She says on the basis of this we’re seeing signs that the rate of deaths and hospitalisations are declining faster in vaccinated groups than in the younger population.
She says now we’re ready to think about what to do in phase two.

'Speed is most important factor'

The JCVI's Wei Shen Lim says they considered whether people from different occupations should be vaccinated next, but concluded that the most effective way to prevent death and hospital admission is to carry on prioritising people by age.
It said studies indicate that the speed of vaccine deployment is the most important factor in helping prevent severe illness and death.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 16:31

Latest Europe headlines

Away from the UK's vaccine priorities now, here is an update on coronavirus news around the rest of Europe:

  • The EU is still lagging far behind Israel, the US and UK in terms of people vaccinated, so EU leaders have vowed to speed up deliveries and sort out the bottlenecks. The 29m vaccinated so far is 6.4% of the EU’s population. The bloc has ordered more than 2bn doses, for a total population of about 450m. But it is also committed to sending vaccines to neighbouring non-EU countries
  • AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said shortages of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine were down to the “very complex biological process that involves thousands of elements to track”. He told MEPs “we are working 24/7 to increase capacity and deliver on these commitments”
  • The AstraZeneca vaccine is not being given to the over-65s in France, Belgium and Germany. The authorities cite insufficient data on its effectiveness in the oldest age group. French President Emmanuel Macron has controversially voiced doubts about the vaccine, but on Thursday he said he would gladly have the AstraZeneca jab, if that was offered to him
  • Dr Klaus Reinhardt, president of the German Medical Association, described the AstraZeneca vaccine as “just as effective” as the Pfizer and Moderna ones. However, more than a million AstraZeneca doses are currently in storage in Germany, as vaccination progress remains slow
  • The Czech Republic is set to tighten restrictions again, amid a big surge in cases. The plan is to extend a state of emergency to the end of March, banning all but essential travel between regions and closing schools, reimposing distance learning. The European countries with the highest Covid deaths per million people are: Belgium (1,900), Czech Republic (1,850), Slovenia (1,830) and the UK (1,790).


Latest world headlines


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Russian diplomats leaving North Korea in an unusual way

And the headlines from further afield...
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 16:40

Breaking News

UK infections continuing to decrease - ONS

Infections have "continued to decrease" across the UK in the week to 19 February, the latest figures from the ONS infection survey suggest.
In England one in 145 people are estimated to be testing positive for coronavirus compared with one in 115 last week.
In Wales it is one in 205 compared with one in 125 last week, in Northern Ireland one in 195 vs one in 105 last week, while in Scotland it's one in 225 vs one in 180 the week before.
Estimates from the ONS survey suggest that about 420,000 people in the UK would test positive for coronavirus.
That is 0.65% of the population, or one in155 people, down from one in 115 last week.
Read more here

South Korea starts vaccinations

South Korea started its Covid-19 vaccination rollout on Friday, with the first doses going to nursing home workers and some patients.
Officials hope to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people over the next month using jabs produced by AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Earlier this week, South Korea’s prime minister told the BBC that he was confident the country would achieve herd immunity from Covid-19 by the autumn despite a later start to its vaccination programme.

Teaching union 'disappointed' by vaccine decision

A head teachers' union said it is "disappointed" the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has decided against prioritising education staff for the next phase of the vaccine rollout.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "The government needs to make a policy decision on this matter having insisted that education is a national priority and having announced a 'big bang' return to the classroom in England.
"It must now back that up by providing a clear direction that education staff will be prioritised in the next phase of the programme."
He said it would be important not only in reassuring staff expected to work in busy and crowded environments, but also in terms of minimising disruption to education caused by staff absence as a result of Covid.
Read more about schools re-opening here .
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 16:43

'Absurd' not to prioritise police officers in vaccine rollout

The decision not to prioritise police officers in the next phase of the coronavirus vaccination programme is a "deep and damaging betrayal" which "will not be forgotten", says the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales.
John Apter says: "There's real palpable anger from all levels within policing about how we have been completely disregarded and ignored in this phase.
"What is expected of policing does put them at risk, it does put them at risk of transmitting this virus.
"They're being spat at, coughed at, rolling around on the ground with people, working in hospital environments, going into people's homes, they can't mitigate the risk of the virus.
"All of that means absolutely nothing."
The chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation Ken Marsh called the decision "absurd".
He told the BBC he was "absolutely shocked" by the JCVI's announcement today, adding: "We have been told over and over again that there would be much heralded top cover for our brave colleagues out there.
"This is not about pitting us against others. This is about being very clear and understanding that we do a job that no one else does in this country."

Spotlight on Indonesia's private vaccines


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The Sinovac vaccine is among the vaccines being used in the national programme

Indonesia has authorised one of the world's first private vaccination schemes to run alongside its national one.
Business leaders pushed for the initiative in order to help open up the economy. The government says more than 6,600 companies have signed up for the scheme, which will allow them to buy state-procured vaccines for their staff.
Some fear privatised immunisation could deepen inequality - but a senior health official said at a news conference on Friday that the scheme will not disturb the separate national roll-out, Reuters reports.
State-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma has said it is in talks to secure Sinopharm and Moderna jabs for the initiative.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 16:52

Germany probes 'bribes for masks'

A German conservative MP, Georg Nüsslein, is being investigated on suspicion of large-scale bribe-taking linked to the supply of Covid face masks. He has called the allegations “baseless”.
He is in the Bavarian CSU – a party allied to Chancellor Angela Merkel, but has now lost his parliamentary immunity. Investigators searched his Bundestag office and 12 properties in Germany and Liechtenstein linked to him.
Prosecutors suspect that he received large sums after lobbying the government on behalf of a supplier of medical masks. The money was not declared to the tax authorities, it is alleged.

Wales to hit 1m vaccinations by tomorrow

More than a million vaccinations will have been given in Wales by Saturday, Wales' chief medical officer says.
Dr Frank Atherton told the Welsh Government press briefing this was a "truly phenomenal performance and a success story that is bringing everyone hope and a path out of this crisis".

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He added: "We are working hard to reach everyone in groups 1-9 by mid-April and all adults by the end of July, subject to vaccine supply matching our ambition."
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 16:56

Breaking News

R rate remains unchanged in UK

The coronavirus R number in the UK remains unchanged at 0.6-0.9, according to the latest figures.
The UK daily growth rate is estimated at -6% to -2%, up from -6% to -3% previously.
R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.

Yorkshire and Humber only England region where cases have not declined

The percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus has decreased in all regions in England except Yorkshire and the Humber, the ONS has said.
It said that in the week ending 19 February the trend in Yorkshire and the Humber was "uncertain" but caution should be taken in over-interpreting "small movements in the latest trend".
Around one in 120 people in private households in the region were estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week ending 19 February while the highest proportion was in the North West at one in 110.
For London the estimate was one in 125 and for the West Midlands it was one in 140.
The other estimates are one in 145 for north-east England, one in 150 people for the East Midlands, one in 175 in south-east England, one in 210 people for eastern England, and one in 240 in south-west England.

Prioritising by occupation 'could have slowed down' vaccine rollout

Wales' chief medical officer says there isn't enough evidence to support prioritising people from specific occupations in the next phase of the vaccine roll-out.
It comes after there has been some criticism for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's latest advice, which is to prioritise people in their 40s next, regardless of their job.
Dr Frank Atherton said there had been "many calls for people from specific occupations to be prioritised for the next phase of the vaccine roll-out".
"The JCVI did consider this," he said. "However, it found there wasn’t sufficient evidence to set specific occupations apart from the general population.
"It also advised that the complexity of delivering this approach would slow down the pace of the vaccination rollout".
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 16:58

What's been happening in the UK today?

If you'd like a catch-up of what's been happening today, here are some of the main headlines.

  • The next priority group for Covid vaccinations across the UK will be people in their 40s , who will receive their first dose once the current phase of vaccinations has been completed
  • Prioritising by jobs rather than age would be "more complex" and could slow things down, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said - but there's been some criticism for this approach, including from teaching and police bodies
  • Levels of coronavirus have continued to fall across the UK , according to Office for National Statistics data. The figures show that in the week to 19 February there were about 421,300 in the community who had the virus - it's a similar infection rate to how things were last October
  • The R number in the UK remains unchanged at between 0.6 and 0.9, according to latest figures
  • The Queen has urged the public to "think about other people" when they are offered a Covid-19 vaccination and take up the offer. She had her first dose of the vaccine in January and said it was "very quick"
  • This year's Pride in London event is due to take place in September, organisers have said. Last year's Pride was cancelled due to the pandemic
  • A British man has been sentenced to two weeks in prison for breaking Singapore's quarantine rules by leaving his hotel room to see his fiancee
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 17:01

'I felt more like a prisoner than a guest'


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Theo Paulse said he felt like "more like a prisoner than actually a guest"

Travellers released from 10 days in a quarantine hotel after arriving in the UK from a country on the government's "red list" said they were treated like "animals" and "prisoners" during their stay.
Many of the guests who stayed at a hotel near Heathrow Airport complained about the conditions, the costs and being kept away from family members as they left on Friday.
They had been at the hotel since 15 February, the first day the government's new quarantine rules came into force, and had to pay £1,750 for a "package" including transport from the airport, two Covid-19 tests, security and food.
Ruth Conway, 84 and her husband Norman, 72, from Keynsham, near Bristol, stayed in the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow Airport after returning from a holiday in Portugal.
Leaving the hotel on Friday morning, Ms Conway said although the staff were "very good", she questioned if they were "joking" when asked if she had a positive experience.
She added: "You could come outside as much as you wanted, my husband's a smoker, so it's desperate for him.
"But it would have been nice to walk around a garden or something.
"That's what I can't wait for, to walk around my garden at home and to be able to get out of one room without having to be escorted everywhere."
A father-of-three has said he was made to feel like an "animal" while quarantining in a hotel.
Theo Paulse, 39, who lives in Torquay, Devon, stayed at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near Heathrow after flying in from South Africa after a family visit.
After leaving on Friday, he told the PA news agency: "For the amount of money they charge, I felt more like a prisoner than actually a guest here.
"I had loads of altercations in the end with staff just not knowing how to treat people because the power went to their head.
"They didn't realise they were dealing with guests, they just kind of felt like they've got to treat you like some kind of animal and keep you in these rooms."
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 17:05

Poland raises age limit for AstraZeneca vaccine to 69

Adam Easton - Warsaw Correspondent
Poland’s health ministry is raising the upper age limit for people receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine to 69 from 65 due to limited vaccine supplies, a ministry spokesman has said.
Wojciech Andrusiewicz said the decision was taken upon the recommendation of the Polish Medical Council. At the start of February the council recommended senior citizens should not be given the AstraZeneca vaccine in line with many other EU countries. The ministry wants to vaccinate younger senior citizens as a priority and limited vaccine supplies has caused the U-turn.
Mr Andrusiewicz also said that two other Polish provinces are in danger of having tougher restrictions reinstated due to the fast growth of new infections. On Saturday, shopping centres, hotels, cinemas, museums and swimming pools will close in the rural north-eastern province of Warmia-Masuria, which is experiencing more than double the national infection rate. Primary school years 1-3 there will return to online classes from next week.
This week Poland has reported its highest daily coronavirus infections since the start of January.

Sir Tom's funeral to be 'quite spectacular'


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Captain Sir Tom Moore's funeral will be "quite spectacular", with soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment to honour him at the service, his daughter has said.
Sir Tom, who raised more than £32m for the NHS with his sponsored walk of his garden in the first lockdown, served with the Duke of Wellington's Regiment during World War II.
Six soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment will carry his coffin into the crematorium on Saturday.
A firing party of 14 will each fire three rounds in unison, and a bugler will sound The Last Post at the end of the private service.
The 100-year-old died at Bedford Hospital on 2 February after testing positive for Covid-19.
His funeral will be attended by eight members of his immediate family - his two daughters Hannah Ingram-Moore and Lucy Teixeira, four grandchildren and his sons-in-law.
His daughter Lucy, 52, said: "There's just going to be the eight of us under full Covid restrictions, we will honour him the best way we possibly can."
Sir Tom asked that My Way by Frank Sinatra be played at his funeral and that his epitaph reads "I told you I was old", in reference to comedian Spike Milligan's famous epitaph "I told you I was ill".
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 17:10

Kenya to receive first Covid vaccines next week

Kenya will receive its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines next week, the cabinet has said.
Frontline health workers, security officers, teachers and vulnerable groups will be vaccinated first.
The government has not detailed which particular vaccine it is acquiring.
The health ministry previously said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had been approved for use in the country.
Kenya has so far confirmed 105,057 cases of coronavirus, according to data from the health ministry.
Read more about the slow start to Africa's vaccine rollout here .

Vote expected on US virus package

Democrats in the US House of Representatives are expected to try and pass US President Joe Biden's $1.9tn coronavirus stimulus package today.
The American Rescue Plan will help fund medical supplies and send emergency financial aid to households and businesses.
The president's first few weeks in office have been dominated by efforts to try and get his plan through. His party holds a majority in the House but the package is expected to face deeper difficulty getting through the evenly split Senate.

Ivory Coast receives shipment of Covax vaccines

The Ivory Coast has received its first Covax shipment of vaccines.
The Covax scheme aims to reduce the divide between rich countries and poorer nations unable to buy doses.
The shipment contained 504,000 doses.
"The fight against the pandemic must be done in a democratic manner," Health Minister Eugene Aka Aouele said. "The democratisation of the fight enables our countries to get the right to the vaccines in the same way as the big nations."
Ghana was the first country to receive Covax doses earlier this week.
The programme is planning to deliver about two billion vaccine doses globally by the end of the year.
The doses being sent to lower-income countries such as Ghana are funded by donations. As well as procuring and delivering the vaccines, Covax partners are supporting local authorities in areas such as training people to administer the jabs and helping provide an adequate cold-chain storage and delivery system.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 17:13

Thousands with asthma will feel 'angry and ignored'

There's been some more reaction to the news that the next to be vaccinated will be those in their 40s, regardless of their occupation or having any health conditions that haven't already prioritised them for a vaccine.
People whose asthma is under control have not been prioritised for the vaccine unless they are formally shielding, regularly take steroid tablets or have ever had an emergency hospital admission.
Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “The decision not to prioritise all people with asthma, who are not already in group four and six, ignores the evidence that they are more at risk of going to hospital with Covid and more at risk from long Covid.
"There are thousands of people with asthma who will rightly feel anxious, angry and ignored by government."
And the Blood Cancer UK charity said those with blood cancers would feel "let down" that members of their household were not being prioritised.
People with blood cancers are in the clinically extremely vulnerable group and should have been offered their first vaccine by now.
But Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK said many were anxious about their household members bringing the virus home with them.
"Over the last month, people with blood cancer have made the case for their household members to be prioritised for the vaccine, and many of them will be devastated to learn that this argument has been ignored," she said.

Hong Kong begins its vaccination drive

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
Hong Kong began its mass vaccination drive today using the Chinese vaccine, Sinovac.
The vaccine is being offered to priority groups that include medical workers, front-line transportation workers, care home staff and people over the age of 60.
Chinese news website The Paper says that the quota of 70,000 places have been fully booked over the next two weeks. A further quota of 200,000 places will be offered between 12-26 March, and high-risk groups can apply online.
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, was vaccinated ahead of the drive on Monday.  She was broadcast live receiving her jab, and told media: "I have to assure every Hong Kong citizen that the government is very serious about the safety, efficacy and quality of vaccines."
Currently, Sinovac is the only vaccine candidate available to people in Hong Kong. However, local news website Hong Kong Free Press says that the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to arrive on Saturday.
Hong Kong will be offering its vaccinations free to all of its 7.4 million residents.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 17:19

Breaking News

UK deaths rise by 345

A further 345 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, according to the latest government figures .
There were 8,523 new cases reported.

UK vaccination first doses surpass 19 million

The daily figures also show that the number of people to receive one dose of the vaccine has now surpassed 19 million - up to 19,177,555.
There were 1,117 patients admitted into hospital.
The seven-day average for cases is down by 16.8%, deaths are down by 31.3%, while hospitalisations are down 20.6%.

Hancock to lead Downing Street briefing

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is to lead a Downing Street briefing at 17:00 GMT.
He is expected to provide an update on the UK's vaccination programme after it was today confirmed that the next phase of the rollout will be based on age rather than occupation .
People in their 40s will be next, once the current phase is completed, followed by those aged 39 to 30 and then 29-18.
The health secretary will be joined by England's deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, and Dr Susan Hopkins, senior medical adviser at Public Health England.
We'll be bringing you all of the updates once it begins.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 18:44

The battle is not won, Van-Tam warns

Pointing to another slide, Prof Van-Tam says you can see quite clearly there are quite a few areas in the UK where case numbers are increasing.
“This is not a good sign and reinforces the fact that I’m afraid this battle at the moment is not won,” he says.
Prof Van-Tam mentions that 19 million first doses have been administered.
But he says these are first doses and people need a second dose.
Given that the totality of people in priority groups one to nine is 30 million people, he estimates there are roughly 40 million more doses to be given to these people.
He does says though that the data is encouraging and he is upbeat about how vaccines will change how we live - there is a long way to go, he stresses.

Do not wreck this now, Van-Tam pleads

Prof Van-Tam says his in-box has been “besieged” in the last week by people who say they have had the vaccine and have asked “essentially now can I start to break the rules”.
He says the answer to this is “no”.
“We are not yet collectively as a country in the right place," he says.
He says he reminds all of the patients he vaccinates that the rules still apply to them and everyone else until the country is in a much safer place.
He urges people not to be tempted to think one home visit is all right.
“My key message tonight is, 'look this is going very well but there are some worry signs that people are relaxing, taking their foot of the brake at the exact wrong time'”.
“Do not wreck this now - it is too early to relax. Just continue to maintain discipline and hang on for a few months.”

How are European countries tackling the pandemic?

Most European countries introduced lockdown measures at the start of the year to fight new peaks in infections and deaths.
Some are now starting to ease those restrictions but others are having to extend lockdowns or introduce new regional measures.
We took a look at how European countries are currently tackling the pandemic from France to Sweden.
Read more here
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 18:49

Decline in US Covid cases 'may be stalling'

A recent decline in Covid cases may be stalling, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control warned.
Dr Rochelle Walensky said the situation was concerning and called for Covid restrictions to remain in place.
According to Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 response team, nearly half of Americans over the age of 65 have had their first vaccine dose.
The US is the worst-hit country in the world with more than 28 million cases and 508,000 deaths.
Since taking office last month, President Joe Biden has made tackling the pandemic his priority.
Tweet  President Biden:
The week before I took office, 6 million COVID-19 vaccine shots were administered. This coming week, our Administration will likely administer over 12 million shots. That’s double the pace in just six weeks.


Fears of a Covid-19 resurgence in Beijing

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

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The Ronding Lidu apartment complex has been closed off

There are fresh fears about an outbreak of Covid-19 in China’s capital city, after pictures appeared online showing a sealed-off residential community in southern Beijing.
The city’s official newspaper Beijing Daily says that residents at the Ronding Lidu apartment complex in the southern Daxing district are being instructed not to leave their homes, and they are undergoing mass testing.
The paper says that it has also attempted to contact a university campus in the same district, after hearing similar rumours online that it had also been ordered to close. So far, it has not received a response.
These reports have reignited fears that part of the city may be set to return to a strict lockdown. In late January, Beijing’s Daxing District went into full lockdown after nine confirmed cases of the virus. People were told to stay at home, all public places were closed and transport links were restricted.
Daxing district, which has half a million residents, ended its lockdown two weeks ago, so there will be questions about whether it lifted them prematurely .
However, in the last 24 hours, no domestically transmitted cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Beijing - or China as a whole.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 18:54

Austria interested in Russian vaccine


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The Sputnik V vaccine is now going to many countries

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has discussed possible deliveries of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to Austria, in a phone call with President Vladimir Putin.
Sputnik V has not been authorised by the EU’s European Medicines Agency, and Mr Kurz made it clear that such approval would be required first.
This month the respected medical journal The Lancet published results showing Sputnik V to be safe and over 90% effective against Covid-19.
Austrian specialists might in future co-produce Sputnik V with Russia, Mr Kurz said.
Russia is reported to be facing some production difficulties with Sputnik V, which is now in high demand worldwide. In the EU, only Hungary is using the Sputnik V jab. But tiny San Marino – not in the EU – has also taken delivery of it.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 19:37

Canada authorises AstraZeneca vaccine

Canada has authorised use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third vaccine the country has approved for use.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the move on Twitter.
The government has ordered more than 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and is soon set to rule on whether to approve the Johnson & Johnson and Novovax jabs.
Canada has confirmed more than 863,495 cases and 21,868 deaths since the pandemic began.

Coronavirus levels 'burning quite hot' in some of UK

Some areas of the UK are "burning quite hot" with rising levels of new coronavirus infections, England's deputy chief medical officer says.
Although coronavirus levels are still decreasing across much of the UK, there are hotspots that buck the trend.
These are in the Midlands, the east and west coast of England and some parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam told Friday's Downing Street coronavirus briefing that the battle is not yet won.
He warned people not to wreck it by relaxing the rules too early.
Read more here.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 21:19

Portugal extends lockdown until 16 March

Portugal's government has extended the lockdown in mainland Portugal until16 March.
It coincides with a new 15-day state of emergency, starting onTuesday, that was approved by parliament yesterday.
The government decision was expected. The prime minister, António Costa, had said that it would almost certainly be necessary to keep extending the lockdown until the end of March, despite a sharp fall in the numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths in recent days.
Today the national health authority reported 1,027 new confirmedcases in the 24 hours to midnight - down from the 28 January peak of 16,432- and 58 more deaths associated with Covid-19.

Greece extends restrictions to other parts of country

Greece is extending coronavirus restrictions to other parts of the country as case numbers continue to remain high.
The measures will affect the islands of Lefkada, Syros and Samos, the town of Arta, the wider area around Corinth and Heraklion on the island of Crete, Reuters news agency reports.
Under the restrictions, which come into effect on Saturday, schools, hair salons and non-essential shops are forced to close.
Athens is also currently under a lockdown that has been extended. On Wednesday, Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said 90% of intensive care units in the Athens area are currently occupied.
Greece has recorded 186,469 cases and 6,410 deaths since the pandemic began.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Feb 26 2021, 21:24

What's happened around the world today?

Here are some of the main headlines from around the world today.

  • Greece and Austria are urging other EU states to adopt coronavirus vaccination “passports” which could help revive Europe’s stricken tourist industry.
  • A group of diplomats from Russia had to make an unusual exit out of North Korea by using a hand-pushed rail trolley due to strict coronavirus restrictions on travel in and out of the country
  • South Korea started its vaccination rollout on Friday with the first doses going to nursing home workers and some patients
  • A German MP is being investigated on suspicion of large-scale bribe taking linked to the supply of Covid face masks. He has called the allegations “baseless”
  • Poland is raising the upper age limit for people receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine to 69 from 65 due to limited vaccine supplies. At the start of February the Polish Medical Council recommended senior citizens should not be given the AstraZeneca vaccine in line with many other EU countries
  • The Ivory Coast has received its first shipment of the vaccine as part of the Covax scheme


Evening round-up from the UK

Thanks for joining us today. Here are some of the main stories we've been covering:

  • There's been much talk today of the UK's decision not to prioritise key workers like police officers or teachers for a Covid jab. Instead, it's been recommended that the quickest way to proceed is to prioritise people by age groups, with the next phase focusing on people in their 40s
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a Downing Street press briefing that this is the "moral thing to do" as it will "save the most lives"
  • During the briefing, England's deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam also warned it is "too early to relax" and that people must stick to lockdown restrictions
  • A study at a hospital has found the Pfizer vaccine appears to slow the spread of coronavirus as well as preventing people getting seriously ill. The findings from Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, support similar research by Public Health England, as well as an Oxford-AstraZeneca study
  • Coronavirus cases in London have reduced "significantly" enough for Sadiq Khan to downgrade the Covid-19 "major incident" status in the capital. Residents have been urged to stay on high alert, however
  • ITV has brought the final of this year's series of Dancing On Ice forward by a week after a string of celebrities pulled out through illness and injury, including one of the contestants testing positive for coronavirus
  • The R number in the UK remains unchanged, at an estimated 0.6 to 0.9
  • A total of 19,177,555 people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in the UK, according to the latest figures . A further 8,523 have tested positive for the virus, with another 345 deaths reported of people who had tested positive within the previous 28 days. Read more on the data here.

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