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

Coronavirus - 1st March 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 10:37

Summary for Monday, 1st March

  • The P.1 coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil is 'concerning', Nadhim Zahawi says, after cases are found in England and Scotland
  • It is similar in terms of its mutations to the variant first detected in South Africa, the vaccines minister says
  • Health officials are trying to trace one of the cases in England infected with the variant
  • They are one of six cases of the P1 variant found in the UK in February
  • The UK's vaccination rollout will receive an extra £1.65bn in the Budget
  • Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies can take place at licensed venues in Wales
  • There were another 6,035 cases of coronavirus in the UK on Sunday, a further 144 people died within 28 days of a positive test
  • More than 20 million people had received their first dose of the vaccine


Good morning and welcome to today's live coverage. We'll be bringing you updates on the pandemic throughout the day. Here's a summary of the main headlines this morning to start you off:


What’s the latest from Europe?

Here’s a reminder of the latest headlines from across Europe:

  • In Germany, hair salons are reopening from today, despite an increase in the rate of cases over the past seven days
  • Germany will also increase restrictions on travellers from the French border region of Moselle after midnight after a number of cases involving coronavirus variants were discovered
  • Large crowds of people were seen in the French capital over the weekend, despite the high rate of infection in the Paris region
  • Norway’s capital Oslo is to tighten measures over an increase in cases involving the UK variant, with restaurants and non-essential shops to close
  • Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis says his country may use Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine without approval from the EU drugs agency


Summary from around the world

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Covid vaccine acceptance has risen in some countries: study. Willingness to get a Covid-19 vaccine is on the rise compared with last year, a survey of six industrialised countries published on Monday showed. More people in the UK, the US and even vaccine-sceptical France now accept the idea of getting a coronavirus jab. The survey also covered Germany, Japan and Sweden where a similar trend was clear, it said.
  • The Philippines kicked off its Covid vaccination programme on Monday, with health workers the first to be inoculated in a delayed campaign as the country tries to secure supplies to address one of Asia’s most stubborn coronavirus epidemics.
  • Ardern under pressure over latest Auckland lockdown . New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has expressed frustration over rule-breaking by people implicated in the recent cluster of coronavirus cases, leading to further restrictions for Auckland.
  • Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was inoculated with the first dose of a home-grown coronavirus vaccine on Monday, kicking off an expansion of the country’s immunisation campaign that began in mid-January with healthcare workers, Reuters reports.
  • South Africa’s coronavirus alert level has been downgraded from three to one following a fall in infections, president Cyril Ramaphosa has announced, with the change coming into effect at midnight.
  • AstraZeneca has sold its Moderna stake for over $1bn – report. AstraZeneca Plc has sold its 7.7% stake in Moderna Inc for more than $1bn after the US biotechnology company’s shares soared on the back of its coronavirus vaccine breakthrough.
  • The Norwegian capital Oslo is ramping up its coronavirus restrictions after a surge in infections connected to the more transmissible variant first detected in the UK.
  • Cases of the virus variant first detected in Brazil have been discovered in the UK for the first time, Public Health England has said. Three cases have been found in England and three in Scotland. Officials will begin surge testing in the South Gloucestershire postcodes of BS320, BS328, BS329, BS345 and BS346 tomorrow.
  • Nigeria will receive its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines this week, with nearly 4m of its 16m vaccines due to arrive in Africa’s most populous nation via the Covax scheme.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 10:47

Brazil variant 'concerning' but 'minimal' risk of spread - vaccine minister


Coronavirus - 1st March 2021 71b63e10
Nadhim Zahawi said health officials were trying to trace one case of the variant through the postal system

Vaccine Minister Nadhmin Zahawi says the emergence of the P1 Brazil variant in the UK is "concerning", as it has similar mutations to the South Africa variant - meaning it is likely to spread more easily and vaccines may be less effective against it.
Zahawi also tells the BBC that the two cases identified in South Gloucestershire had "followed the rules", getting a test before returning to the UK and filling out the passenger locator form.
He says Public Health England is working with the postal service to try and trace one person who has tested positive for the variant but did not complete the paperwork on their test, which was sent through the post.
The UK's travel controls are "pretty robust" and Zahawi says he is confident that Public Health England would be able to track any cases with surge testing and genomic sequencing as they had been doing with the South Africa variant.

March 'a big month' for UK vaccine rollout - minister

Zahawi also tells BBC Breakfast that the number of vaccine doses given each day is set for a sharp increase to cope with people requiring their second dose within the 12-week period.
He says "March will be a very big month" for the vaccine programme, which will be operating at "probably twice the rate over the next ten weeks as we’ve done over the last ten or eleven weeks".
Zahawi says the NHS has been stockpiling doses for ten days to ensure that there are enough supplies to ensure everyone gets a second jab of the correct vaccine.

South Africa eases restrictions as Covid cases drop

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that restrictions put in place to control the spread of coronavirus will be lowered to alert level one, from level three.
He said that restrictions put in place over the country's holiday period had succeeded in reducing infections levels - from 90,000 a week at the end of December, to 10,000 new infections last week.
Under level one, most remaining restrictions on economic activity will be lifted.
President Ramaphosa said all energy and effort must now go into growing the economy, whilst exercising extreme caution to prevent further spread of the virus.
He said the threat of a third wave is constantly present, as is the threat of new variants emerging.
He said social distancing, avoiding crowds and wearing masks, are more important than ever.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 10:51

Variant risk 'starts to increase' as UK opens up

Today Programme - BBC Radio 4
Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England's Covid-19 strategic response director, says the P1 variant from Brazil is concerning because it is more transmissible and there have also been cases of people being reinfected by it - which may mean the vaccine response is also affected.
She tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme that health authorities are "clamping down" with a number of measures because with these new variants, the "risk starts to increase when you open up" as the UK intends to in the coming months.
They haven't detected anyone with the virus who does not have a history of travel, "but we are prepared to search it out in communities if it is there".
Hopkins says the remaining unidentified person who tested positive for the Brazil variant probably took a home test or used a local authority drop and collect system on February 12 and 13 and they are appealing for them to come forward.
She says they want to "make sure we have gone through every option to find this individual", including tracing them through the postal service or local authorities.

Stronger action needed to block variants - Cooper

Today Programme - BBC Radio 4
Yvette Cooper, home affairs select committee chair, says the government needs to take stronger action to prevent other more dangerous variants arriving in the UK.
"We need to be looking at how these cases have arrived in the country in the first place in order to prevent others doing so," the Labour MP tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"It does show the problems with some of the delays that we've had from the government in bringing the stronger measures in.
"These cases seem to have arrived a month after the Brazil variant was first identified and we were raising with the government the need to bring in stronger measures and stronger action."
The situation highlights "gaps and weaknesses" in the current system, with many travellers taking indirect flights from Brazil, she said.
The government should be learning from other countries - like New Zealand and South Korea - which have other precautions in place like testing at airports, transport home from airports, and an expanded hotel quarantine scheme, said Ms Cooper.
"There is a concern that the government is raising expectations about summer holidays that they may not be able to meet," she says.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 11:00

South Africa lowers alert level from three to one

South Africa’s coronavirus alert level has been downgraded from three to one following a fall in infections, president Cyril Ramaphosa has announced, with the change coming into effect at midnight.
:Left Quotes:  “As we ease restrictions, we cannot let our guard down. The few remaining restrictions under Alert Level 1 are meant to maintain low levels of infections and, in particular, to prevent super-spreading events,” Ramaphosa said.
“We were able to emerge from the second wave because most people adhered to the tighter restrictions and observed the basic health protocols, including wearing masks in public and social distancing.”
The country has also signed a deal with Johnson & Johnson to secure 11m vaccine doses, Ramaphosa announced on Saturday, with 2.8m doses set to arrive in the second quarter.
The rest will be spread over the rest of the year.
Unlike most available vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not require a second shot.

Brazil Covid variant hits UK

Linda Geddes - The Guardian
The government is facing urgent calls for tougher border measures after UK officials said they were searching for one of six people infected with the highly transmissible Brazilian coronavirus variant.
Public Health England said on Sunday that three cases of the variant had been detected in England and three in Scotland , but that the identity of one of those carrying the virus was unknown as they had not provided their contact details.
The P1 variant, also known as the B1128 variant, shares some of the same mutations as the highly transmissible South African variant and was first identified in Manaus, Brazil, in January. It is thought that it could respond less well to current vaccines.
Two of the English cases are from a single household in south Gloucestershire, a member of whom returned from Brazil a month after the variant was first identified and five days before the hotel quarantine policy came into force.
Read more
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 11:04

Ardern under pressure over latest Auckland lockdown

Elle Hunt - The Guardian
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has expressed frustration over rule-breaking by people implicated in the recent cluster of coronavirus cases, leading to further restrictions for Auckland.
The city re-entered lockdown with level-three restrictions in place for at least a week from Sunday following the discovery of a community case of unknown origin.
Health officials investigating over the weekend successfully established that the person, known as Case M, had been infected through contact with a family counted among the recent Papatoetoe cluster.
Read more .

Philippines starts vaccinations

The Philippines kicked off its Covid vaccination programme on Monday, with health workers the first to be inoculated in a delayed campaign as the country tries to secure supplies to address one of Asia’s most stubborn coronavirus epidemics, Reuters reports.
Healthcare workers in six government hospitals in the capital region received Sinovac Biotech vaccines donated by China on Sunday, the only doses the Philippines has received so far.
“You truly are the heroes during this time of the pandemic so it is just right that you be the first in line to receive the vaccines,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told health workers.
The Philippines has reported 576,352 Covid cases overall, including infections with the more infectious British coronavirus variant. It has recorded 12,318 deaths.
It aims this year to inoculate 70 million of its 108 million people to achieve herd immunity and reopen an economy that in 2020 saw its worst contraction on record, due largely to tight restrictions on movement in place since mid-March.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 11:09

Covid has ‘taken wind out of Dutch politics’, analysts say as elections loom

Jon Henley - The Guardian
Coronavirus has “completely taken the wind out of Dutch politics”, analysts say, predicting little change in the makeup of the coalition government after March elections as the prime minister, Mark Rutte, begins cautiously easing restrictions.
Despite three nights of rioting and 400 arrests after the night-time curfew, the first since the second world war, was imposed in January, and one of Europe’s slowest vaccine rollouts, Rutte enters the last two weeks of the election race in a dominant position.
Last week he extended the country’s nationwide 9pm-4am curfew by two weeks – until at least the morning of 15 March – when voting is due to begin in elections that will be held over three days to to limit the spread of the virus.
Read more .

UK government is raising unrealistic hopes of summer holidays, MP warns

In the UK, Yvette Cooper, chair of the parliamentary home affairs select committee, has said the news that up to three cases of the highly transmissible Brazil variant have been identified in the country “show the problems with some of the delays we’ve had from the government in bringing stronger measures in, because these cases seem to have arrived about a month after the Brazil variant was first identified and we were raising with the government the need to bring in stronger measures and stronger action”.
“Only 1% of international travellers are covered by the hotel quarantine system,” she pointed out. “What it also shows I think is some of the gaps in the rest of the system … You can’t fully rely on the pre travel testing because people are likely to have been tested before they fly, but there is evidence to show that those tests maybe up to three days beforehand still leave a significant proportion of cases being undetected.
She continued: “It also shows … the risk of people travelling home from the airport across the UK once they arrive on public transport.”
Asked if there should be a complete ban on flights going forward, she said “there will always be international travel”, for example of people returning home after the expiration of a visa. But she cautioned: “The government is raising expectations about summer holidays that they may not be able to meet.” She said border measures would only become more important as society opens up and domestic cases fall.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 11:18

Children in Republic of Ireland begin phased return to classroom

Rory Carroll - The Guardian
More than 320,000 children returned to school in Ireland on Monday in the first phase of a staggered reopening of schools.
It is the first easing of a strict lockdown imposed in late December when Covid-19 cases exploded, briefly giving Ireland the world’s highest infection rate.
About 260,000 of the children are junior primary pupils and about 60,000 are final year secondary school pupils preparing for Leaving Certificate exams. Other classes are to return to school later in March and April.
Health officials implored parents and the rest of society to continue to avoid household mixing, saying Ireland needed to adhere to restrictions through March.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said its members supported the reopening of schools and would be vigilant about safeguards. “There is understandable anxiety among all in school communities, particularly given concerns around new strains of the virus,” Michael Gillespie, the union’s general secretary, told RTE.
The Irish Times reported that authorities will approve the use of of antigen kits to monitor outbreaks in schools and other locations.

Ivory Coast launches Covax innoculation drive

People began to queue early as the Ivory Coast prepared to become the first country to launch a Covid-19 inoculation drive on Monday with doses from the Covax vaccine sharing facility.
Ivory Coast received 504,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine on Friday, and plans to roll it out to medical workers, security forces members and teachers before vaccinating people over 50, those with chronic diseases and travellers.

Tokyo requests Beijing to stop taking anal swab tests for Covid-19 on Japanese citizens

Tokyo has requested Beijing to stop taking anal swab tests for Covid-19 on Japanese citizens as the procedure causes psychological pain, a government spokesman said on Monday.
Reuters reported that chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said the government has not received a response that Beijing would change the testing procedure, so Japan would continue to ask China to alter the way of testing.
“Some Japanese reported to our embassy in China that they received anal swab tests, which caused a great psychologial pain,” Kato told a news conference. It was not known how many Japanese citizens received such tests for coronavirus, he said.
Some Chinese cities are using samples taken from the anus to detect potential Covid-19 infections as China steps up screening to make sure no potential carrier of the new coronavirus is missed.
China’s foreign ministry denied last month that US diplomats in the country had been required to take anal swab tests for Covid-19, following media reports that some had complained about the procedure.
On that bombshell, I’m handing over the blog to my colleague Clea Skopeliti.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 11:22

Indonesian resort of Bali launches drivethrough vaccination campaign

Indonesian resort island Bali has launched a drivethrough vaccination campaign targeting thousands of hospitality workers, as the popular tourist destination eyes reopening to foreign visitors.
Billed as the first such campaign in Southeast Asia, Bali’s drive-thru vaccinations kicked-off at the weekend, AFP reported. The programme aims to inoculate around 5,000 workers in hospitality and ride-sharing services by the end of this month.
The campaign was rolled out at Nusa Dua Bali Convention Center in Bali’s capital Denpasar, set up in partnership with Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab.
“This drive-thru programme is good, because for us drivers who work on the street every day, we are very vulnerable to being exposed to the virus,” a ride-hailing driver Zul Widodo said.
In August, Bali closed the door to foreign tourists over coronavirus concerns, battering its key tourism sector.
“The Covid-19 vaccine is paramount for Indonesia’s tourism industry recovery,” Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said in a weekend statement.
“The availability of vaccines continues to be a source of hope for people to return to normalcy and boost confidence that they can travel safely.”
The island has recorded 923 deaths and just over 34,000 virus cases.

Lockdown begins in Mirpur - fuelled by UK arrivals

Secunder Kermani - BBC News
The city of Mirpur in Pakistani-administered Kashmir is beginning a lockdown today over fears around the high spread of coronavirus - in part fuelled by passengers arriving from the UK.
For the next week all non-essential businesses in Mirpur have been ordered to close. Schools will be shut for the next fortnight.
Officials in the city told the BBC around a third of all current coronavirus infections were either travellers visiting from Britain or their primary contacts.
It’s not yet known whether the UK’s newer, more transmissible variant of the disease has been detected or not, as genetic sequencing work is yet to be completed.
Overall, with just under 13,000 coronavirus deaths, Pakistan has not been as badly affected by the pandemic as many had feared, likely due to its younger population.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 11:26

Which variants are in the UK and why do they matter?

The P1 variant from Brazil is one of thousands of coronavirus variants, but experts are concerned about three which are now present in the UK .

For the UK variant, there is some research suggesting it may be associated with a 30% higher risk of death. The evidence is not strong and the data is still uncertain though.
The UK, South Africa and Brazil variants could be much more contagious or easy to catch.
Current vaccines were designed around earlier versions of coronavirus, but scientists believe they should still work against the new ones, although perhaps not quite as well.
A recent study suggests the Brazilian variant may be resisting antibodies in people who should have some immunity because they have caught and recovered from an earlier version of coronavirus.
Early lab results , however, suggest the Pfizer vaccine can protect against the new variants , although slightly less effectively.
Even in the worst case scenario, vaccines could be redesigned and tweaked to be a better match - in a matter or weeks or months, if necessary, say experts.

Scientists 'optimistic' on vaccine protection against new variants

BBC Breakfast
Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, says scientists are "optimistic" Covid-19 vaccines will still prevent severe disease when tested against new variants.
He told BBC Breakfast: "At the moment, the evidence we have suggests that certainly the South African variant, and potentially this Brazilian variant - which is somewhat similar - the vaccines that we have at the moment are less effective at reducing at least mild disease and possibly transmission.
"We're optimistic that the vaccines will continue to prevent severe disease but the evidence for that is still fairly limited.
"I think all the manufacturers are now working on the preliminary steps, if you like, to revising the vaccines if that proves necessary."
Prof Finn added that vaccines being used at the moment are "very effective" against the predominant strains in the UK, however.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 11:29

Northern Ireland awaits lockdown exit plan

Ministers are discussing Northern Ireland's lockdown exit plan on Monday morning - but it is not yet clear whether it will be published later as planned.
It is understood the plan will focus on nine areas across social and businesses settings. Each section will take five steps out of lockdown, guided by data.
That includes numbers on the virus infection rate (R number), hospitalisations, vaccine roll out and progress in testing and tracing positive cases.
But there is concern the meeting today could be overshadowed by a row among ministers about post-Brexit border control posts.
Northern Ireland's lockdown has been extended until 1 April , with a review due on 18 March.

Finland declares state of emergency amid rising infections

Jedidajah Otte - The Guardian
The Finnish government has declared a state of emergency over rising coronavirus infections.
Prime minister Sanna Marin last week had made an in-principle decision on declaring a state of emergency, the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper reported.
The main reason for the decision is that restaurants cannot be closed under the current Infectious Diseases Act, the paper reported.
Reuters reports:
The decision comes as new variants contribute to a sharp rise in infections in the country, which has already closed its borders.
The state of emergency would also allow the government to further shut schools and limit movement between regions.
“The government sees it necessary that we all have fewer contacts,” prime inster Sanna Marin told a news conference. “Everyone now has the opportunity to impact how the spring and summer will turn out.”
Several Finnish regions have seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 infections in the past two weeks, with outbreaks among skiers in Lapland and workers at shipping yards and construction sites.
Finland, among the European countries least affected by the virus so far, has recorded 58,064 cases and 742 deaths since the start of the pandemic with 210 people currently hospitalised.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 13:08

Critical care beds "insufficient" in UK - hospital trusts

The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the NHS's "insufficient" number of critical care beds , the group which represents England's hospital trusts has said.
NHS Providers is calling for a review, saying the UK has one of the lowest numbers of beds per person in Europe.
There are 7.3 critical care beds per 100,000 people in the UK, compared to Germany's 33.8 and the US's 34.3.
"It's neither safe nor sensible to rely on NHS hospital trusts being able to double or triple their capacity at the drop of a hat as they've had to over the last two months, with all the disruption to other care and impossible burdens on staff that involves," NHS Providers said.
The government said it was investing £72bn in the next two years in the NHS, as well as spending £9.4bn to build and upgrade 40 new hospitals.

Sunak urged to extend furlough

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is "choosing a course that will actively make the situation worse", claims his Labour counterpart Anneliese Dodds.
She says families have "sacrificed so much" but his "reward" is to hit them with council tax rises, social security cuts and pay freezes.
"Now is not the time for tax rises," she says.
Dodds says in private he said he wanted to get tax rises done now ahead of a general election - something Mr Sunak has denied.
She claims he was "putting the interests of the Conservative party ahead of that of the country".
Dodds called for the chancellor to bring in specific measures.
She says Sunak "must heed Labour's call" to extend the furlough scheme beyond the end of April "for as long as health restrictions are in place and demand remains low".
He should also "right the wrong of always treating" self-employed people as "second-class citizens", clarifying the future of the self-employment income support scheme and expanding its scope.

Teachers not at markedly greater risk than other workers, survey suggests

Robert Cuffe - BBC head of statistics
In early December, the Office for National Statistics took finger-pricks from about 7,000 teachers in 15 local authorities across England.
About 15% of those teachers tested positive for antibodies.
This is not very different to the 18% of people of working age in the same local authorities tested around the same time – in fact, given the margin of error on any study like this, they’re basically the same number.
The study authors are not claiming that teaching is risk-free: they say that going into work increases your risk in any profession.
So the key question is “by how much?" While the study can’t give a precise answer, the numbers should offer some reassurance.
It can’t give a precise answer because “working-age adults” includes people who were working over the summer, who work in restaurants or retail (who might have higher risk) or those who work from home, are unemployed or furloughed (who might have lower risk).
So the study doesn’t give a neat like-for-like comparison that allows us to identify the effect of returning to the classroom compared to teaching remotely.
But the study authors say that similar tests in really high risk environments – care homes or in healthcare – give very different answers: ranging from 25% to 50%.
So it does suggest that teaching, with the measures currently in place to reduce transmission, does not put teachers at markedly higher risk.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 13:12

Vaccine on its own is 'insufficient'

BBC Radio 5 Live
Health officials are trying urgently to trace someone in the UK who's tested positive for the coronavirus variant that first emerged in northern Brazil.
Scientists are concerned the variant may be more transmissible than the original virus, and more resistant to a vaccine.
Prof Stephen Reicher, social psychologist and Sage adviser, told BBC Radio 5 Live that despite the variant being "no more deadly” nor "causing more damage" than the original virus, "it does seem to be more infectious and at this stage we don’t know whether it can evade the vaccine or not".
He said the public needed to do everything it could to stop transmitting the infection and the government needed to have more effective control of the borders.
"While [the vaccine] is great news, on its own, it’s insufficient because if we don’t stop the reproduction of the virus, there’s always a danger of new variants that will undermine the vaccine," he added.
"We’ve got to combine the vaccine strategy with an infection suppression strategy... we haven’t put enough emphasis on this."
Listen to 5 Live on the BBC Sounds app.

Brazil variant shows UK failed to secure borders - Starmer

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says the detection of six cases of the Brazilian coronavirus variant shows the UK has not "secured our borders in the way we should have done".
"It demonstrates the slowness of the government to close off even the major routes, but also the unwillingness to confront the fact that the virus doesn't travel by direct flights," he said, at a virtual meeting with Welsh businesses to mark St David's Day.
Starmer said the experience of last summer told us that a lot of the spread of the virus was through people travelling on indirect routes, which the government had not addressed.
"I still think we haven't secured our borders in the way we should have done, and the sooner that's done the better," he said.
Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford told the meeting he had "worries" about the prime minister's suggestion that international travel could return in May.
“I would build the walls higher, for now, against the risk that we would bring into this country the variants that could be brewing in any part of the world, and could then put at risk all the careful work we have done to try and keep Wales safe," he said.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 13:15

PM denies government too slow over quarantine

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied his government was too slow to implement quarantine on those coming into the UK from overseas, telling reporters "we moved as fast as we could".
His comments come as England's health officials are trying to trace one person in England who has been infected with a concerning variant of coronavirus first found in Brazil .
They are one of six cases of the P1 variant found in the UK in February.
Johnson said of border control and quarantine: "It's a very tough regime - you come here, you immediately get transported to a hotel where you are kept for 10 days, 11 days".
Mr Johnson said the quarantine proceedings, which include testing travellers on day two and day eight, were "designed to stop the spread of new variants while we continue to roll out the vaccination programme".
He said a "massive effort" was under way to prevent the spread of the Brazil variant, after six cases were discovered in the UK.
"If you look at what we have done in the case of the South African variant, a massive effort went in there. The same is going on now to contain any spread of the Brazilian variant."
And he reassured the public that vaccines remained effective - against all known variants.
"We don't have any reason at the present time to think that our vaccines are ineffective against these new variants of all types," he said.

Shadow home secretary demands answers on Brazil strain

The shadow home secretary is calling for urgent answers over how the Brazilian strain of coronavirus reached the UK and one infected person is so far untraceable.
Health officials are trying to find one person in England who is understood to have used a home testing kit but did not complete a registration form.
They are appealing for anyone without a result from a test on 12 or 13 February to come forward.
Nick Thomas-Symonds says he has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel.
He says: “This is unforgivable incompetence from the UK government.
"Despite being warned time and time again, they have failed to act to protect our borders against emerging Covid variants and could put at risk the gains from the vaccine.
“People will be appalled to hear someone with the Brazilian variant cannot be identified, raising questions about how many others may have been missed by quarantine measures.
"There is no excuse for continuing to ignore Labour’s call for a comprehensive hotel quarantine system.”
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 13:22

Everything we now know about Covid-19

One of the challenges for understanding Covid-19 is that all the science has happened under a spotlight.
Usually, by the time you read about scientific research on a news site like the BBC, it has gone through a period of scrutiny, development and evaluation.
That science is not secret as it's being done, it's just something people rarely pay attention to until it reaches a journal.
What's different about Covid-19 is that we all – the public, politicians, journalists – have experienced science at its frontiers.
At the border between the known and the unknown, research is messy, confusing, and sometimes contradictory.
Human fallibility and bias is possible. But this is how it works. This is how we find out how the world operates, and how we move forward to greater understanding as a species.
Over the past year, BBC Future has aimed to go deeper into the science behind the pandemic as it evolved. What have we learnt, and what is still unknown?
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 14:41

Experts fear Italy is heading towards its third wave

Angela Giuffrida - The Guardian
Sardinia has become the first region in Italy to be classified as a “white zone”, meaning many coronavirus restrictions have been dropped, while other regions have been upgraded to ‘orange’ or ‘red’ zones amid a sharp rise in infections nationally.
From Monday, bars in Sardinia can stay open until 9pm and restaurants until 11pm, half-an-hour before a nightly curfew kicks-in. Elsewhere, the curfew begins at 10pm.
The obligatory wearing of face masks remains as do social distancing measures. Christian Solinas, the president of Sardinia, said if the situation progresses well over the next week, then gyms, swimming pools, cinemas and theatres could reopen.
“A white zone does not mean a ‘free all’ approach,” said Solinas. “Instead we need to use it as a motivation to continue observing the highest degree of responsibility.”
The island, which has a population of 1.6 million, registered 77 new infections on Sunday. Sardinia came under fire last summer for reopening nightclubs, which then prompted an increase in cases in other Italian regions due to returning holidaymakers.
Experts fear Italy, which registered 17,455 more infections on Sunday, is heading towards its third wave.
There were 192 more Covid-19-related fatalities on Sunday, bringing the total death toll to 97,699 - the highest in mainland Europe. Hospitalisations and admissions into intensive care have also been creeping up.
Health minister Roberto Speranza said on Monday that the coming weeks will be tough. “It would be nice to say that everything is over…but the truth is that the coming weeks will not be easy.”
Italy is striving to accelerate its vaccination programme, which has been hampered by delays in vaccine deliveries. At the same time, over one million vaccine doses have not been used. As of Monday, over 4.3 million had been vaccinated, of whom 1.4 million have received both doses.
“We have a vaccination campaign to step up in these weeks, and today the numbers are going in the right direction but they need to increase further, and at the same time we have a very strong epidemic,” added Speranza.

Egypt begins registering of gig workers for health insurance and emergency state aid

Egypt will start registering millions of gig workers in order to offer them health insurance and emergency state aid during the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a particularly heavy toll on the nation’s ad-hoc employees, officials said.
Reuters reports:
There are at least 14 million gig workers in Egypt, and while some workers and campaigners welcomed the government’s drive, others warned that many workers could be reluctant to sign up - fearing tax and social security payment demands.
The government said it plans to identify and support 2 million gig workers in the country of 100 million people by the end of this year, labour ministry spokesman Haitham Saad El-Din said on Saturday.
“It is part of a government plan to give assistance to this segment of the society which has been majorly affected by the pandemic,” he said, adding that officials were focusing first on identifying casual construction labourers.
Gig workers who have their employment status registered on their national identity cards under a new “irregular employment” category will be given free social security insurance and be eligible for state welfare programmes.
Egypt’s state-run insurance plan includes life insurance and disability cover, as well as covering healthcare costs.
The announcement is the latest in a series of government measures aimed at shielding vulnerable groups from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
Soon after the coronavirus outbreak began, it launched a programme that supports irregular workers with monthly aid, and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for financial support to be boosted when a second virus wave took hold.
State welfare spending surged 36% in the first half of the current fiscal year, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said recently.

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Students wearing face masks queue outside for their first term exams at Notre Dame school in Cairo, Egypt, on 27 February 2021. Students are sitting their first term exams which were postponed because of coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 14:46

Welsh police facing 'greater hostility' on rules


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People gathered in Cardiff Bay in the Spring sunshine on Sunday

Police officers in Wales say they are facing "greater hostility" from the public when enforcing Covid rules.
The head of the South Wales Police Federation said officers were dealing with "significant problems" of people congregating in public spaces.
As weather improved over the weekend, car parks were closed across several beaches in Swansea at the request of police.
"We understand people are incredibly frustrated these restrictions have been in place for a long while now - however, the rules are quite clear on this, that people shouldn't be travelling to take exercise," Steve Treharne told BBC Radio Wales .
"I don't think the situation is being helped with the circumstances around off-licences being allowed to open, so we've got people congregating," he added.
"Our officers are now facing greater hostility from members of the public and it's not really fair."
Speaking at Monday's Welsh Government coronavirus briefing, First Minister Mark Drakeford called for "responsible" behaviour as more people head outdoors in the Spring sunshine.
"People have spent the long winter months confined at home, people wanted to enjoy the fresh air, but it's still a matter of doing that in a way that's responsible and within the rules," he said.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 14:50

PM defends Covid controls after Brazil variant cases

We've been covering some criticism of the UK's coronavirus border controls following the discovery of a number of cases of a highly transmissible variant from Brazil.
Downing Street has defended its policies saying the current situation, where a person infected with the new variant is being sought after not filling in their details, is "very, very rare".
It is not known whether this unidentified person had recently been abroad,
The prime minister's official spokesman says the requirement for people to isolate when they arrive in the UK has been in place for "a long time".
"We now ensure that people have a negative test before they enter the UK," he says.
"That is why we had those border policies to try and reduce the number of variants that enter the UK and stop the re-importation of cases. The important thing is that when people arrive they follow the border restrictions."
He adds: "In a very, very few rare cases individuals do not complete that information, which means that extra action has to be taken to track them down. That is what we are currently doing with regards to the Brazil variant."

Mexican president 'will ask Biden to share US vaccines'

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is going to ask US President Joe Biden to share some of the US's Covid vaccine supply when they meet at a virtual summit later today, according to Reuters news agency.
Lopez Obrador has frequently spoken out about vaccine inequality, calling for high-income countries - many of which have bought up surplus doses - to help improve lower-income nations' access to vaccines.
He's also called the current system of distributing vaccines "totally unfair".
Biden is apparently open to discussing the issue, but will tell Lopez Obrador that his "number one priority" is vaccinating people in the US, an anonymous White House official told Reuters.
The call comes as the US reports more than 2,400 cases of Covid variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that this isn't the full number of variants circulating - just those that have been found by analysing positive samples.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 14:54

Hong Kong records 200th Covid death as vaccine is rolled out

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
Hong Kong has today recorded its 200th Covid-19 death .
More than 11,000 people have been affected by the virus in the city of 7.4m.
Hong Kong began its inoculation drive on Friday, when the Chinese Sinovac vaccine became available to high-risk groups. From Wednesday, priority residents will be able to book a Pfizer-BioNTech jab .
Hong Kong has experienced four waves of Covid-19 - the most recent, in November 2020, was described by the island’s leader Carrie Lam, as “severe”.
In December, Hong Kong banned flights from the UK, amid fears that the Kent strain of the coronavirus could lead to a wider outbreak. This means hundreds of Hong Kongers have been left stranded in the UK .
The situation does appear to be improving, with Hong Kong gradually relaxing restrictions over the past month - including the reopening of gyms and beauty salons .
But there remain concerns about people gathering at outdoor venues, as the weather improves: a local landmark, dubbed “Instagram Pier”, was reportedly forced to close on Monday due to concerns over people not social distancing.

Everyone on Brazil variant flight will be contacted - Scottish health secretary


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Three passengers who later tested positive for the variant from Brazil flew from London to Aberdeen

At the Scottish government's coronavirus briefing, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has been giving an update on the three travellers to Aberdeen who tested positive for the P1 Brazilian variant.
After arriving at Heathrow, they flew on BA1312 to Aberdeen on 29 January.
Freeman said that all passengers on the flight will be contacted. “If you were on that flight and have not yet been contacted, you will be contacted shortly, so please wait for that," she said.
She said there is no reason to believe the variant is spreading in Scotland. But she added: "We are doing everything we can and all that is necessary to check whether this variant could have been transmitted within Scotland and to identity and break any possible chains of transmission."
Scotland has recorded another 386 confirmed cases of the virus today and no new deaths, Freeman said.
On the anniversary of Scotland's first coronavirus case, she said it was "impossible to adequately express" her gratitude for what the Scottish people have endured to prevent the spread of the virus and for the "tireless and unrelenting" work of health services.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 15:03

Police turn back weekend beachgoers who fail to stay local


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Police turned away more than 100 cars from Formby Beach in Merseyside over the weekend , as people travelled from as far away as Leeds and Manchester to make the most of the sunny weather.
Supt Graeme Robson said it was "totally unacceptable" for people to be travelling such large distances and showed a "complete disregard" for the guidance to stay in your local area.
"Now more than ever people should be taking heed of the advice, so that infection rates can continue to drop, and we can meet the criteria necessary for easing lockdown in the upcoming weeks and months," he said.
Merseyside Police said it also issued 20 fines of £200 for people breaching Covid guidelines at the beach.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 17:02

Cliff-edge camping couple fined for lockdown breach


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The couple's tent was pictured near the edge of a cliff on the Cleveland Way

A couple who set up camp with their child on the edge of a precarious North Yorkshire clifftop have fallen foul of another hazard - coronavirus regulations.
Police fined the 27-year-old woman and 30-year-old man for breaching lockdown rules by travelling from Doncaster and Middlesbrough to Port Mulgrave in the North York Moors National Park.
All three lives had been put at risk by choosing to camp in a place prone to landslips, officers said.
"To travel from Middlesbrough and Doncaster with the intention to camp overnight is obviously a clear breach of the regulations," North Yorkshire Police said.
"Not only were the individuals involved risking their own safety and the safety of the child who was with them, if a landslide had occurred, they would also be risking the lives of the emergency services who would attend the resulting incident."
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 17:06

Seven-hour queues at 'inhumane' Heathrow Airport


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International passengers face tighter controls at airports such as Heathrow

Queues of up to seven hours amid tighter border controls have led some passengers to describe conditions at Heathrow Airport as "not humane" .
One described a mother having to feed her baby on the floor as passengers queued until the early hours of the morning on Sunday, with no chairs or water.
A union for border control workers said Covid security measures for staff designed to prevent infections were to blame.
Lucy Moreton, general secretary of ISU, the union for Borders and Immigration, said staff have been put into bubbles of 10 people to reduce the risk of cross infection - but it meant it was harder to deploy extra staff when needed.
But the Home Office disputed this account. It said the queues were caused by "a large number" of passengers on Sunday failing to purchase in advance the required testing kits to take during quarantine.
"Every essential check stops the spread of coronavirus in the UK. These people should not have been allowed to travel without their testing packages and we are following up with regulators and carriers to ensure the law is enforced," the Home Office said.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 17:09

Covid is making world's poorest even poorer, warns DEC

People in the world's lowest-income countries are becoming even poorer because of the pandemic, warns a Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) report.
Covid-19 is adding to existing issues, such as conflict and climate disasters, and aid workers surveyed by the DEC say they believe humanitarian conditions are at their worst in a decade.
Some "fragile states" are on the brink of famine as a result, which could lead to thousands of people starving, the DEC's Breaking Point report adds .
"Many have little choice but to ignore stay-at-home orders designed to keep them safe. When faced with hunger, they have to go out to find work to feed their families, and masks may not be affordable," Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, and DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed say in the report.
"Sometimes measures to guard against Covid-19, such as regular handwashing, force people to go out, as many homes and shelters do not have running water."

Breaking News 

UK records 104 coronavirus deaths

A further 104 people have died with coronavirus in the UK, the government's daily figures show.
This takes the number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test to 122,953.
There were also 5,455 new infections recorded in the last 24 hours.
On Monday of last week, there were 178 deaths and 10,641 positive cases reported.
The UK has given the first dose of coronavirus vaccine to 20,275,451 people, data from the government shows.
And 815,816 people have received their second dose.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 17:16

'Booster shots' could protect against new variants

BBC Radio 5 Live
Health officials in England are trying to trace one of six UK patients infected with a contagious coronavirus variant first found in Brazil.
Three cases of the P1 variant were picked up in Scotland and three in England earlier this month.
Prof Lawrence Young, a virologist from the University of Warwick, told BBC Radio 5 Live there was hope that current vaccines would protect against this variant.
But, in the future, "booster shots of vaccines" could be given to protect against a multitude of variants, he added.
"You could make a pan-variant vaccine within weeks," he said.
He also said he had "been very concerned about border control from the off".
"The only way to stop variants emerging is by stopping the spread of the virus - the more the virus is allowed to spread, the more it will change and generate variants," he said.
It is important to get as many people vaccinated as possible, and as soon as possible, he added.
Listen to the interview here or listen to 5 Live on the free BBC Sounds app .

Download Festival hits buffers again

This year's Download Festival has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, organisers have confirmed.
The rock and metal event had been scheduled to take place from 4-6 June, headlined by Kiss, Biffy Clyro and System of a Down.
Festival bosses said they were "heartbroken", but had concluded it was "not possible" to host this year's event.
Ticket holders have been told they can retain a place for next year's festival on 10-12 June 2022, or receive a refund.
In January, Glastonbury festival - which also takes place in June - confirmed the world-renowned event would not return until 2022 .
But a number of other organisers have said they are hopeful of being able to host festivals later in the year, after the government's roadmap indicated 21 June was the target date to remove all legal limits on social contact .
Reading and Leeds Festival organisers say they are "very confident" the events will go ahead in late August, with Camp Bestival and Creamfields also planning to stage 2021 editions.
And you can read Newsbeat's guide to where you can get out and get fabulous this summer, here .
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 17:18

More African nations set to receive Covax vaccines

Twenty-four African countries will soon receive Covid-19 vaccines from the UN-backed Covax programme.
They include Kenya and Nigeria, that will receive the vaccines on Tuesday.
Kenya will get 1.25 million doses of the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine and vaccinations are expected to start immediately, according to health minister Mutahi Kagwe.
Priority will be given to front line health workers and the elderly.
Nigeria will receive 3.92m vaccine doses, becoming the third West-African country to benefit from the facility.
The country expects to receive a total of 16m doses from Covax in the next few months.
Ivory Coast on Monday became the first country to roll out vaccines offered by Covax programme.

Global Covid infections rise for first time in seven weeks - WHO

The number of new Covid infections rose last week for the first time in seven weeks, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said in a press briefing.
Dr Tedros also said the rise is "disappointing but not surprising", and urged countries not to become lax in their fight against the virus.
However, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan then said the start of the Covax global vaccination campaign is "encouraging". Ivory Coast and Ghana have begun vaccinating people with vaccines supplied through the scheme.
"This week marks the beginning of what we hope will be the start of a massive vaccination campaign," Dr Swaminathan said, adding that "this is the largest vaccination campaign the world has ever seen".
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 17:20

The day's headlines

We are going to turn our attention to a Downing Street coronavirus briefing shortly, but before we do, here's a quick round up of the day's news:

  • Boris Johnson has defended the government's measures to prevent new coronavirus variants being imported into the UK
  • Border restrictions were criticised after six cases of the P1 Brazilian strain were found in England and Scotland
  • Officials are trying to track down a person in England who tested positive for the new variant but did not give their details
  • The P1 strain is "concerning" and similar, in terms of its mutations, to the variant first detected in South Africa, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi says
  • Meanwhile, passengers are complaining of queues of up to seven hours long at Heathrow Airport's border control
  • And African countries have started mass Covid inoculation drives using vaccines supplied through a scheme set up to share doses fairly with poorer nations


Two things to look out for at the news conference

Chris Mason - Political Correspondent
Firstly, how much will the government be willing to acknowledge that its border controls weren't up to the job in keeping out this Brazilian variant?
These cases relate to before the point in the middle of last month when the rules were tightened up.
Or does the small number of identified cases suggest, broadly, that the systems - at the border and with testing - are working in the vast majority of cases?
And secondly, given one of the conditions of the government sticking to its timetable for lockdown easing in England is there not being variants that change the calculation of risks, what tone will the Health Secretary Matt Hancock strike?
Could this Brazilian variant mean we have to wait longer for the return of our liberties? It's unlikely Mr Hancock will say anything specific on this, but his tone and language will be worth listening to carefully.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 18:35

'Great uncertainty over foreign holidays at the moment'

Thomas Moore at Sky says there is a missing case of the P1 variant but we do not know who or where or whether they've self-isolated. He asks how such a concerning new variant has been allowed to slip through the net?
He also asks Prof Jonathan Van-Tam to level with him over any prospect of a holiday abroad this summer when new variants are crossing our borders and there's still no vaccine with in-built universal protection against all strains of the virus.
Matt Hancock says there's a high chance the identification of the sixth case came through the surge testing used in places where they were looking for other variants of concern.
Without this huge surveillance we wouldn't know about it and about 30% of cases are being sequenced, he says.
On holidays, Prof Van-Tam says "we are still in a zone of great uncertainty about what the virus will do next".
Many of the vaccination programmes in Europe are running behind ours and whether we can go on holiday depends on what other countries will say and do in terms of foreign tourism, he says.
"There has to be great uncertainty at the moment," he says.

Hancock denies quarantine delays put lives at risk

Matt Hancock has denied that delays in imposing quarantine on travellers to the UK has put people at risk.
"We had already put in place measures against people travelling from Brazil," he said, adding that the rules - self-isolating at home - had been followed by the five people detected.
And the health secretary added that there was "no evidence the sixth case did not follow those rules."
He said it showed the system that was in place had managed to control the spread so far, and he pointed to the stricter measures now in place.
Professor Van-Tam was asked what impact the new data would have on our everyday lives, but said it was "going to take time until we can apply the results in a more generalised way".
He said, ultimately, he expected vaccine to lower levels of disease across the country, to reduce the likelihood of infection among the older and more vulnerable.
He added that those given the vaccine would be less likely to suffer "severe consequences" of Covid once vaccinated.
"The ratio of mild to severe cases should increase in favour of mild cases over time."
"The problem isn't fixed yet, but we have identified how to fix it."
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 18:39

'Green pass already exists'- Hancock

Jill Lawless from Associated Press asks what Matt Hancock thinks of the digital "green pass" the EU is proposing to prove Covid-free travel and which steps of the roadmap he is most concerned about.
Hancock says: "This already exists because you need to have a test before you can travel to the UK...and the EU proposal is that certification includes whether you've had the vaccine and whether you've recently had the test. Therefore it's something that we are working with them and others on and it matters that we get the details of this right for international travel."
He says: "The roadmap is designed to be able to see the data before we take each step and we've done it that way in order to be able to have the assurance that we are taking a cautious but irreversible path out of this pandemic."

Poland in talks to buy Chinese vaccine

Polish President Andrzej Duda has spoken with Chinese leader Xi Jinping about possibly purchasing China's Covid-19 vaccines, his aide has told state news agency PAP, despite them not yet being approved by the European Medical Agency (EMA).
"The president also raised the issue of Polish-Chinese cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, including the possibility of purchasing vaccines produced in China," aide Krzysztof Szczerski told the agency.
Poland wouldn't be the first EU nation to buy Chinese vaccines before they're given EU approval.
Last week, Hungary became the first country in the union to start using vaccines produced by Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm.
Hungary also gave emergency approval to Russia's Sputnik V vaccine in January, and has already rolled it out - despite it not being approved by the EMA either.
The EU has been criticised for the slow pace of vaccinations in its member states .

Czech Republic battles world's worst Covid surge

About 26,000 police officers and 3,800 soldiers have been deployed in the Czech Republic to enforce new lockdown measures.
The country is currently seeing the worst Covid surge in the world, with the highest per capita infection rate over the last week.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis has warned that the healthcare system could collapse without the new lockdown restrictions, as a record number of Covid patients in the country are in a serious condition.
Under the new rules, which are in place for three weeks, people are being confined to their home districts, and the two school year groups that were still attending in-person classes - pre-school and second grade - are switching to home learning.
However, people who need to travel for work are exempt from the travel restrictions. Factories are also still open - a decision that Babis has faced criticism for.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 18:47

What did we learn at today's government briefing?

The health secretary hailed new data highlighting the ability of the Covid vaccines to reduce serious illness - and fielded questions about the ongoing search for a missing case of the Brazil variant in the UK.

  • Matt Hancock gave us news of recent data from Public Health England which shows a single shot of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid jab reduces the chance of needing hospital treatment by more than 80% .
  • Mr Hancock said findings from the data - based on those over 80 who tested positive for Covid in hospital - were "very strong" and called the data "seriously encouraging".
  • The search for the one person in the UK who has tested positive for the Brazil variant continues, with Mr Hancock urging anyone who took a test on 12 or 13 February but hasn't got their result back to call Public Health England.
  • He denies that quarantine measures for those arriving in the UK were brought in too late and said the system in place at the time had contained the spread.
  • The roadmap will continue as planned, despite the presence of the Brazil variant in the UK, with Mr Hancock saying schools reopening on 8 March was "right thing to do"
  • Discussions continue with the EU and several other countries about the idea of 'vaccine passports' to enable international travel once again.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 19:46

New data 'vindicates' UK decision on AstraZeneca jab

England's deputy chief medical officer said the latest scientific data had "vindicated" the UK's decision to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to older people.
Some countries, such as Germany and France, have refused to administer the vaccine to the over-65s because of a lack of testing data on older age groups.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation "took a view that it almost certainly would work", after agreeing it was "not immunologically plausible" the vaccine would be effective among younger people but not older ones.
"The PHE (Public Health England) data have clearly vindicated that approach today," he said.
"I am not here to criticise other countries, but to say that I think in time the data emerging from our programme will speak for itself and other countries will doubtless be very interested in it."

Israeli Supreme Court bans track and trace technology


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Israel's Supreme Court has banned the government from tracking the mobile phones of coronavirus carriers.
The technology, developed by counter-terrorism agency Shin Bet, has been used on and off since March 2020 as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus. It uses the locations of people with Covid to track others they have come into contact with.
In its ruling today, the Supreme Court said it feared the surveillance technology - which was initially imposed as an emergency measure - is gradually becoming permanent, and that the government is heading down a "slippery slope of using extreme and undemocratic means in the fight against the epidemic".
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch later tweeted that the ruling was "a crime against the health of Israeli citizens".
The government now has two weeks to stop using the technology.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 19:49

'Brazilian cases show need for tighter controls' - Hunt

Earlier former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the discovery of six cases of the Brazilian P1 variant of the coronavirus in the UK showed the need for tighter controls.
"Absolutely we have got to look at what has gone wrong," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One programme.
"It shows that it needs to be tightened up still further because if we are going to protect the road map out of lockdown then the name of the game is going to be stop new variants coming in, some of which may end up being immune to the new vaccines," he says.
"Where we need to get to is a much, much more thorough combination of test and trace and genetic sequencing so we are not just testing the people who have been near someone who tested positive, but we also are working out where the original infection happened and which variant it is. You can only do that if you bring the cases right down."
However, Hunt - who now chairs the Commons Health and Social Care Committee - says the country was in a much better situation than it was last year.
"The fact that we are going to this trouble over one person who has gone missing says to me that we are in much better shape than we were three months ago, six months ago, where we wouldn't have been anywhere near that," he says.

Vaccine passports 'inevitable' says Tory MP

The chair of the Transport Select Committee believes the introduction of vaccine passports is "inevitable" in light of the European Commission's announcement of an equivalent scheme.
"It just makes sense now to make sure it's workable and will include everything that's needed to give people confidence to fly again," Conservative MP Hugh Merriman told Radio 4's PM.
He added that he hoped the UK would not "tag along" to the EU scheme but "play a really big lead".
"We can do that because our vaccine programme puts us further ahead, so we should be right at the start of this exercise, along with the likes of Israel."
He said the goal was to end up with a standardised app "that is recognised by all."
He added that he was "frustrated" by recent images of long queues of passengers at Border Control at Heathrow airport and he had raised the issue of Border Control staff last year and been given assurances.
"If we start to increase the numbers who can fly, once the vaccination programme is rolled out, then we've got to make sure we get it right.
"That means staff at the airports and the apps we've been talking about."
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Post by Kitkat Mon Mar 01 2021, 19:53

What's happened today?

Here is a brief round-up of the main developments today.

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock has hailed new data which shows a single shot of either of the two main vaccines in use in the UK cuts hospitalisations by 80%.
  • PM Boris Johnson has defended the government's measures to prevent new coronavirus variants being imported into the UK as health officials in England seek one individual who tested positive for the Brazil variant - but did not give their details .
  • School staff do not have a markedly higher risk of infection than other working-age adults, a study suggests.
  • Twenty-four African countries will soon receive Covid-19 vaccines from the UN-backed Covax programme, with Kenya and Nigeria due to receive the vaccines on Tuesday.
  • About 26,000 police officers and 3,800 soldiers have been deployed in the Czech Republic to enforce new lockdown measures. The country is currently seeing the worst Covid surge in the world, with the highest per capita infection rate over the last week.


Goodbye for now

That's all from today's live page team - Ashitha Nagesh, Claire Heald, Jennifer Meierhans, Joseph Lee, Kate Whannel, Lauren Turner, Vanessa Barford and Victoria Lindrea.
Have a good evening and we will be back with more updates tomorrow.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 14:32