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Coronavirus - 16th March 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 16:47

Summary for Tuesday, 16th March

  • The European Medicines Agency says there is "no indication" the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots.
  • The World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are reviewing the AstraZeneca vaccine
  • Eleven European countries have halted the vaccine rollout after a number of cases of blood clots
  • WHO experts have said there is no evidence of a link but are meeting to review the vaccine as well
  • Hairdressers and garden centres will reopen in Scotland from 5 April
  • Travel restrictions in and out of Scotland will end from 26 April, and pubs and cafes can open until 8pm
  • Northern Ireland will begin to ease some restrictions on outdoor gatherings from April
  • Bakery chain Greggs is to open 100 new shops in 2021 as it bets on a post-pandemic recovery


Welcome to today’s Live Page. Here are the main coronavirus headlines.


Latest in Europe


  • With vaccinations of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on hold in much of Europe, European eyes are now on the EU’s medicines regulator EMA, which has so far insisted it’s safe and should still be used. EMA safety experts are reviewing latest information today and will update their advice on Thursday. Latvia, Slovenia and Cyprus have become the latest to suspend use of the jab.
  • A German vaccination summit of federal and state leaders planned for tomorrow has been postponed until the EMA updates its advice. Meanwhile, Germany’s public health agency has warned that infections there are rising exponentially.
  • France’s health authorities are investigating a new Covid variant at the centre of a cluster of cases in Lannion in Brittany. Several people have shown symptoms of the variant which does not show up in a normal PCR test. President Emmanuel Macron says new measures will be taken in the coming days to fight the spread of Covid.
  • The Norwegian capital Oslo is closing all middle and high schools and put a two-person limit on visits to people’s homes amid record Covid infections. "We have never before seen such a high level of recorded cases," said mayor Raymond Johansen.
  • Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has tested positive for Covid and has begun self-isolating. She said on Facebook she was closely monitoring her health and staying home but still carrying out her duties.
  • Children’s swimming lessons are being allowed in the Netherlands from this morning for the first time since December. Limited outdoor exercise is also being allowed at sports facilities for adults over 27.


Experts to assess AstraZeneca blood clots reports

Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are meeting on Tuesday to assess the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, after 11 European countries – including France, Germany, Italy and Spain – paused their rollouts.
It comes after there were a number of cases of blood clots in Europe reported after the vaccine was administered.
Both the UK medicines regulator and the WHO say there is no evidence of a link.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is also meeting and is expected to make a decision on the vaccine’s continued use on Thursday.
Currently, the agency advises that the benefits of having the vaccine outweigh the risks of any side effects.
Belgium, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine have said they would continue to administer the jab.
Read more.

Analysis: Have countries pausing AstraZeneca got it wrong?

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
The key question that has to be asked is whether this is cause or coincidence?
Would these clots have happened anyway?
The 37 reported cases are below the level you would expect. What is more, there is no strong biological explanation why the vaccine would cause a blood clot.
That is why the WHO and the UK say there is no evidence of a link. And the EMA has suggested the vaccine should continue.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, the decisions by individual nations to pause their rollouts have baffled experts.
And this is not the first time countries in Europe have exercised caution about the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Germany, France and others did not initially recommend use of the vaccine for the over-65s. That has now been reversed, but the impact is still being felt, it seems.
Now, with supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine going to waste, deadly consequences may ensue.
France, Germany and the other major European nations all have higher rates of infection than the UK, and face the prospect of things getting worse before they get better.

What the UK papers say about jab suspension

"Chaos" is how the Daily Telegraph describes the decision by major EU countries including France and Germany to suspend use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine because of concerns about blood clots.
The paper says the move has baffled British experts, who point out that the EU’s own medicines regulator insists the jab is safe.
"There is no data to support what they're doing", one Whitehall source tells the Daily Mail - which believes the suspensions are "reckless" and could cost lives .
The Times says British and European regulators have "rushed to the defence" of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. It says the European Medicines Agency says the blood clots causing concern seemed to be no more common among people who had the jab and insist that the benefits "outweigh the risk of side-effects".
The Daily Express calls it a "shameful" situation and asks on its front page, "what on Earth are the EU playing at?"
The Independent website agrees that the scientific consensus on the vaccine's safety is "overwhelming" - and says reported cases of blood clots "could easily be coincidental" .

AstraZeneca vaccine 'is safe' insists Foreign Secretary

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has insisted the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, after 11 European countries paused rollout of the jab over safety concerns.
"People should get the vaccine," he told BBC Breakfast.
He said the UK regulator, the MHRA, had been very clear "there is no additional risk from taking the vaccine".
He added, "the EU's own regulator has said there is no grounds to suspend the rollout - and that is echoed by the World Health Organization".
"We respect the processes and the procedures that some other countries may need to go through," said Mr Raab, but he insisted: "This vaccine is safe".
"People should continue to take it - to protect themselves and to protect their friends and family."
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 16:52

The inside story of Downing Street's battle against the virus

Laura Kuenssberg - Political editor
It began, insiders say, with an initial "lack of concern" and the absence of a "proper" plan.
The BBC’s political editor hears from senior ministers and officials, past and present, on the inside story of No 10's battle with the pandemic, as the crisis deepened.
Here's how 12 turbulent months unfolded , through Boris Johnson's hospitalisation, a prime ministerial "rush of blood" over summer reopening and the apparent success of an "expensive gamble" on vaccines.

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Analysis: Odds clearly in favour of vaccination

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
It is understandable anyone going to get vaccinated would be concerned given the decision by 11 European countries to pause the rollout of the AstraZeneca jab.
But the regulators in the UK and Europe are clear that vaccination should continue, even though some individual nations have taken a different approach.
Why? It’s all to do with risk.
From what has been published so far, the chance of a blood clot after vaccination is very low and, at this stage, looks like it could be in line with what you would expect to happen anyway – coincidence rather than cause.
In comparison, the risk from Covid to those currently being offered the vaccine is significant.
Most of continental Europe is still working its way through the over-70s.
If they are infected and have symptoms, they have around a one in four chance of becoming seriously ill and needing hospital care.
In the UK, those in their 50s are being invited. They have a one in 10 chance of needing hospital care.
What is more, one of the most common consequences of serious Covid illness is blood clots.
When it comes to risk, the odds are clearly in favour of vaccination.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 17:01

UK deaths 3% above normal levels in early March

Robert Cuffe - BBC head of statistics
There were 13,107 deaths registered in the UK in the week of 5 March, 3% above the usual level for this time of year.
Last week, they were 9% above usual levels.
2,279 of these deaths involved Covid-19, down by 920 on the previous week.
Statisticians advise that the weekly death figure can rise and fall by 5% due to chance variation, so this is within the “normal range” of deaths for early March in a non-pandemic year.

UK vaccine adviser says AstraZeneca jab 'safe'

An expert advising the UK government on vaccines says he doesn't understand the "nuances" behind some European countries deciding to halt their rollouts of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine - which he insists is safe.
Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the data on the vaccine from European nations needed to be looked at, as some countries suspended its use due to concerns about blood clots.
He told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "What I don't understand is the nuances behind the Europeans' decisions and their data and that will become apparent in the next few days I hope and will be filtered through our regulator."
Asked about Norway as an example, Prof Harnden said: "We don't know quite what the frequency is, what the sub-type of the population that they're seeing them in, or the type of clot that they're seeing. All this information we need to find out.
"Because of course each population is different, is genetically different, is geographically different, and it may be that vaccines work differently in different populations."He said he has "no doubt that this vaccine is safe and effective", adding: "I would not give it to my patients if I thought there was any chance that there would be a major side-effect that would come out."
Read more on European concerns about the AstraZeneca jab here .

Halting AstraZeneca rollout a 'political' move

The decision by some European countries to suspend the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is a "political one", the director general of Italy's medicines authority AIFA has said.
Italy, Germany, France and Spain are among the countries to halt the use of the vaccine after a number of cases of blood clots were reported in Europe following the vaccine being administered.
"We got to the point of a suspension because several European countries, including Germany and France, preferred to interrupt vaccinations... to put them on hold in order to carry out checks. The choice is a political one," Nicola Magrini told Italian daily newspaper la Repubblica.
Magrini said that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and that the benefit to risk ratio of the jab was "widely positive".
There have been eight deaths and four cases of serious side-effects following vaccinations in Italy, he added.
AIFA will take two to three days to collect all required data and once "doubts are cleared we can carry on at a faster speed than before," Magrini said.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 17:10

Northern Ireland Executive approves plan for full school return

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed primary school pupils in years P4 to P7 (ages seven to 11) will return to class next Monday, BBC News NI understands.
It has also approved a proposal to allow all other pupils in post-primary schools to return by 12 April after Easter.
However, this will be subject to another review at the end of March, in light of public health advice.
Ministers are meeting to formally assess the coronavirus restrictions, which have been in place since 26 December.
There have been some adjustments to the rules but households are generally still not allowed to mix indoors, pubs, cafes and restaurants remain closed except for takeaway, and most shops are shut.
BBC News NI understands ministers are also discussing calls to allow up to 10 people from two households to meet for some outdoor activities, such as golf.
You can read more about Northern Ireland's Covid-19 restrictions here .

People in UK with antibodies doubles in a month

Robert Cuffe - BBC head of statistics
The number of people in the UK with Covid antibodies has nearly doubled in the month from 3 February to 3 March.
About one in three people (33%) in the UK are estimated by the Office for National Statistics to have antibodies to coronavirus – evidence of recent immunisation or an infection.
A month ago, the figure was about 18%.
This figure is lower in Scotland where it is slightly fewer than one in four people, but close to one in three in each of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, the percentage of people testing positive for antibodies was higher for those aged 70 years and over in England, Wales and Scotland.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 17:18

Brazil to get fourth health minister since pandemic began


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Marcelo Queiroga takes office with Brazil's health systems under severe strain

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has announced he is appointing a new health minister - the fourth since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Marcelo Queiroga, a cardiologist, is to replace General Eduardo Pazuello, an army officer with no medical training.
Bolsonaro, who has consistently played down the gravity of the virus, has faced widespread criticism over his handling of the outbreak.
Announcing the appointment, he said: "From now on, we are going to a more aggressive phase regarding the fight against the virus."
Brazil is approaching 280,000 Covid-19-related deaths - the second highest number in the world, behind the US.
Infections have continued to surge, made worse by more contagious variants. Last week the country exceeded 2,000 Covid-related deaths in a single day for the first time.

A different feel to this year's Cheltenham Festival

Frank Keogh - BBC Sport at Cheltenham
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Thousands of people attended last year's Cheltenham Festival

For four days in March, the Cheltenham Festival usually welcomes thousands of visitors for its annual horse racing carnival.
This year's event, which gets under way this afternoon, is different - a town normally in carnival mode is eerily quiet. Where banners and marquees should herald the boisterous crowds to come, there is calm.
Last year's meeting was the last major UK sporting event to be staged before the first coronavirus lockdown 12 months ago.
It attracted criticism for continuing while the coronavirus crisis was in its early stages.
What will the meeting look like this time?
The televised roar that traditionally greets the first race will be a recorded version. There will be hundreds in attendance - jockeys, trainers, officials and a limited number of media - whereas last year's total numbers topped 250,000.
Lateral flow tests and temperature checks form part of a series of coronavirus protocols for those attending.
There will be about 40 catering staff on site, compared with 4,000 in previous years. There will be no bookmakers and betting shops are closed, but millions of pounds will still be wagered by punters from home.
Special areas have been created to minimise mixing of jockeys and trainers - with a red zone for the home contingent and green zone for Irish visitors.
Irish jockeys and trainers and staff are being regularly tested before arriving in the UK and isolation units will be available should there be any positive cases.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 17:24

Public anger rising in Jordan over virus response

Yolande Knell - BBC Middle East correspondent, Jerusalem

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Protest in Jordan's capital Amman over Covid restrictions

Police in Jordan have used tear gas to break up crowds demonstrating against health restrictions, even as the country registered a record number of Covid cases.
Hundreds of mainly young protesters gathered in cities across the country in defiance of a night-time curfew, which was extended last week.
On the streets of the capital, Amman, young people burnt tyres and threw stones at riot police, who responded with tear gas.
Overall, dozens were arrested. There were shouts of “down with the state of emergency” and “down with the government”.
There was also continuing anger over the deaths of seven Covid-19 patients at a government hospital which ran out of oxygen , in the city of Salt on Saturday.
The incident already forced the health minister to resign.
On Monday, Jordan reported over 9,400 new coronavirus cases - its highest one-day tally since the start of the pandemic.

Bournemouth set for 'exceptional' number of post-lockdown visitors

Covid marshals, drones to monitor crowds, and a park-and-ride scheme are just some of the measures being planned in Bournemouth ahead of an expected influx of visitors when lockdown ends.
Thousands of people flocked to the south coast resort when the first lockdown was eased last June, which led to the council declaring a major incident.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council has agreed an extra £2.4m to bring in a range of resources.
It said "exceptional" numbers were expected when current restrictions end.
It added: "Peak days will be managed like a major event."
You can read the full story here.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 17:27

AstraZeneca is of specific concern - French MEP

Véronique Trillet-Lenoir, who is a French oncologist and an MEP, is asked by BBC News why the AstraZeneca vaccine is coming under more scrutiny than other authorised vaccines such as the Pfizer vaccine.
"We have maybe a specific regard on AstraZeneca. As you know, the firm did probably not fulfil all the commitments [it] made in the contracts with the EU. The vaccine is not that effective on the South African variant, so there are some warnings on these vaccines, which probably led the governments to be even more cautious on it."
On the suggestion that the decision might be seen as a political move, she says that as a medical doctor, she tries to "stick to the scientific evidence" and hopes the suspension will be lifted if the vaccine is shown to be safe for specific populations.
How do we know Covid vaccines are safe? BBC Online health editor Michelle Roberts explains here .

EU regulator says review of AstraZeneca jab to be concluded on Thursday

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has been holding a press conference in response to concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Eleven EU countries have now paused their rollout of the jab as a precaution following a small number of blood clots in vaccinated people.
The EMA says the blood clots are being looked into but are "very rare" and not above the number of blood clots seen in a normal, unvaccinated population.
Nevertheless, it says it has asked experts to look into the events, adding it will deliver its verdict on Thursday.
Emer Cooke, EMA executive director, says: "Our experts are working tirelessly to carry out this assessment as quickly as possible, but it needs a scientific evaluation, we need to have the facts first, we cannot come to a conclusion until we have done a thorough scientific analysis and we owe it to the European citizens to deliver this clear and science-based response."
You can read more about the vaccine rollout in Europe here.

No evidence AstraZeneca jab linked to blood clots, says EU regulator

We've got a bit more from the European Medicines Agency press conference now.
Responding to concerns about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and a very small number of blood clots in recipients, the EU drugs regulator says it wants to "stress at present there is no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions".
Executive director Emer Cooke adds: "In clinical trials, both vaccinated people and people who received the placebo have shown some very small number of blood clot developments.
"The number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population."
She adds that the benefits of the jab outweigh the risks.
"Vaccines for Covid-19 help to protect individuals from becoming ill, especially healthcare professionals and vulnerable populations such as older people and people with chronic diseases," she says.
"This is a very important consideration in our assessment of the benefit-risk."
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 17:33

Germany 'should not have suspended vaccine'

Jenny Hill - BBC Berlin correspondent
The seven cases of a rare type of brain thrombosis which caused Germany to pause its use of the AstraZeneca vaccine were "very probably" caused by the jab, a senior German politician has said.
But Karl Lauterbach, who is a medical doctor and the health expert for the Social Democrats who govern in coalition with Angela Merkel’s CDU, said on Tuesday morning in a television interview that Germany should not have suspended the vaccine and that its benefits outweighed the risks.
The specific type of cerebral blood clot is seen usually 50 times a year in the general population, he said. According to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which advises the German government on its vaccine programme, there have been seven such cases (three of which were fatal) among the 1.6 million people who have been vaccinated.
"That [the thrombosis] is very likely due to the vaccine. Otherwise, you see that 50 times a year in the population in Germany. There are seven cases in the 1.6 million people who’ve been vaccinated. So the connection makes physiological sense."

Sturgeon to set out dates for easing Scotland's lockdown

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to set out dates for the end of the "stay at home" rule and the reopening of shops and hospitality in Scotland shortly.
Some measures could be phased in from 5 April, with further changes later in the month and more to follow in May.
We'll bring you updates from Ms Sturgeon's speech here, while our colleagues in Scotland will provide fuller coverage from Holyrood in a separate live page.
You can read more about what to expect from Ms Sturgeon here.

Seven new deaths confirmed in Scotland

A further 597 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Scotland, Scottish government figures show.
This takes the total number of positive cases in Scotland to 210,605.
There are 440 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, a decrease of seven, and 42 in intensive care, which is an increase of two from Monday.
A further seven deaths - of people who tested positive in the last 28 days - have been registered.
It comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon prepares to set out dates for easing Scotland's lockdown rules.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 17:36

Breaking News

Scotland's lockdown easing - the key dates and events

Here are some of the key dates from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's speech to Scottish parliament:
2 April - "Stay at home" message becomes "stay local"
5 April - Hairdressers reopen, more students return to in-person teaching, outdoor sports for 12-17-year-olds resume
12-19 April - All pupils back in full-time school
26 April - Six people from three households can meet outdoors, four people from two households can meet indoors in some settings, shops reopen, some indoor and outdoor hospitality resumes but alcohol is only permitted outdoors, funerals and weddings can take place with up to 50 people (without alcohol)
17 May - Further opening of hospitality with alcohol permitted indoors, four people from two households can socialise in a private home, adult sport can resume outdoors, cinemas and bingo halls can reopen
Early June - Six people from three households can socialise in private homes, indoor non-contact sport can resume
Late June - A phased return of some office staff
You can read more about Scotland's plan to ease retrictions here.

Northern Ireland to ease Covid rules on gatherings from April

Emma Vardy - Ireland Correspondent
Northern Ireland will begin to ease some restrictions on outdoor gatherings from April, as part of the first steps agreed by Stormont ministers to ease the coronavirus lockdown.
Six people from two households will be allowed to meet in a private garden from 1 April.
That figure is then expected to rise to permit 10 people from two households after Easter, on 12 April.
Ministers have also agreed changes to rules on sport activity from April, with some activities - like golf - able to resume.
It is understood that the stay-at-home order that came into force in Northern Ireland in January will be relaxed from 12 April, subject to public health advice nearer the time.
However, it is understood there will be a continued focus on the “work from home" messaging.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 17:43

Dutch 'Covid' election under way


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A cyclist votes at a drive-in polling station for cars and bicycles on Monday

A general election in the Netherlands - which is seen as the first major test of a European government's coronavirus policies - is taking place over three days to ensure voting is adequately socially distanced.
With coronavirus restrictions in place, polls opened for vulnerable voters on 15 March, and everyone else votes on Wednesday.
Cycle-through polling stations, plastic screens and personal red pencils are among the extra measures used to create a Covid-safe election, says the BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative VVD Party is expected to gain enough support to secure a fourth term, in an election involving 37 different political parties.
Read more here about what's at stake in the election.

Breaking News 

UK vaccine first doses approach 25 million

There have now been 24,839,906 first doses of a Covid vaccine administered in the UK, a rise of 386,685 over the past 24 hours.
In addition, 1,663,646 people have received a second dose.

Breaking News 

UK records a further 110 Covid deaths

The UK has recorded a further 110 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, down from 231 at this time last week.
There have also been a further 5,294 positive cases reported, down from 5,766 last week.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 17:47

Charities warn cancer death rate could rise post-pandemic

Christian Hewgill, Newsbeat reporter
A group of 47 cancer charities says that without urgent action, the UK's cancer death rate will rise for the first time in decades.
One Cancer Voice estimates that millions of people have had their cancer care affected in some way by the pandemic.
The group of charities says the NHS needs more resources.
It also wants to see more staff available to diagnose and treat cancer, with greater NHS access to private facilities in order to "clear the backlog".
Radio 1 Newsbeat has spoken exclusively to One Cancer Voice about the impact of coronavirus on cancer care - and those who have been personally affected.
Read more here.

South Africa variant cases spark extra testing in West Midlands

Extra testing is being carried out in a neighbourhood in the West Midlands after cases of the South Africa variant of coronavirus were found.
The variant is not considered to be more dangerous than other versions of the virus, but it's considered a "variant of concern" because it could spread more easily and potentially be more resistant to vaccines.
The Department of Health says additional testing is being rolled out in the DY4 postcode of Sandwell, north-west of Birmingham, to help monitor and suppress cases of the variant.
Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help increase understanding of variants and their spread within these areas.
People living in the DY4 postcode are being strongly encouraged by the government to take a Covid test when offered - whether they are showing symptoms or not.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 18:56

Norway vaccine concern over 'blood clot cluster'

Norway's decision last week to pause the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was taken as a precautionary measure, Sara Watle, senior physician at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said.
She told BBC World News : "The four cases were clusters, so they were reported to us in a very short period of time.
"And the four cases have all occurred in patients under 50 years of age, and they all have a rare combination of symptoms with blood clots, haemorrhages and low platelet counts."
It was "too difficult for us to conclude" whether there was a link between the blood clots and the vaccine, but pausing use of the AstraZeneca jab had been "a very difficult decision", she added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously said there is no evidence of a link between clots and vaccines and urged countries not to halt vaccinations.
AstraZeneca has said there is no evidence of an increased risk of clotting due to the vaccine.

Europe seeing 'cascade of bad decision-making' over vaccine

European countries pausing use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine are risking the lives of their citizens and "throwing caution to the wind", Dr Anthony Cox, who researches drug safety at the University of Birmingham, has said.
He told BBC World News : "What we seem to have had is a cascade of bad decision-making that's spread across Europe."

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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 19:03

France marks first anniversary of lockdown

Hugh Schofield - BBC News, Paris

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A year on, France is still dealing with the Covid crisis, and seeing around 25,000 new cases a day...

Exactly a year ago, France announced that it was going into lockdown because of Covid.
President Emmanuel Macron made an evening appearance on national television, telling people that the country was now “at war” with the virus.
Initially, the confinement was to be for just two weeks.
More than half of France’s entire population - 35 million people, a record - watched President Macron on the evening of 16 March telling them what most suspected was coming: that from noon the next day, they were to be confined to their homes.
The previous days had seen a growing sense of foreboding, as first schools were shut, then cinemas - then bars and restaurants. On the morning of Tuesday 17 March, there was a rush on the trains, as Parisians and other city-dwellers sought refuge with relatives in the country.
And then the uncanny stillness descended. It was to last not two weeks - as President Macron initially announced - but two months.

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...and the country is still under night-time curfew, with some areas - like here in Nice - still under weekend lockdowns

A year on, France has been through a second lockdown, and is now under a night-time curfew. The number of daily new cases is around 25,000, and in some areas, like Paris, the number of Covid patients in critical beds is reaching saturation point.
The vaccination programme is slowly moving into gear, with five million people so far having received at least one jab; but President Macron’s promise to inoculate all those who wish to be inoculated by the end of the summer will require a very rapid increase in the pace.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 19:08

What do we know about new Brazil variant cases found?

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
Two more cases of P.1 Brazil variant have been identified in England, one in the West Midlands and one in the London borough of Haringey.
This variant has a mutation – known as E484 – that means it can escape some of the immune response, which may mean vaccines work less effectively against it.
Both cases are linked with international travel to Brazil. The case in the West Midlands was identified following their arrival at Birmingham Airport, where they were tested and quarantined as part of the managed hotel quarantine process.
The London case was picked up through surge testing. Surge testing will be stepped up in the affected area, and contact tracing teams have undertaken a comprehensive investigation to identify any further contacts.
The latest cases bring the total number of P.1 variant cases in the UK to 12 – nine in England and three in Scotland, all of which have links to travel or to a previously confirmed case that has travelled to Brazil.
With more than a quarter of all positive cases sent for genomic sequencing to see what type of virus has caused the infection, the fact so few cases has been found shows the P.1 variant is not spreading widely.

Russian media cast doubt over vaccine safety

BBC Monitoring - The world through its media
Accusations that the AstraZeneca vaccine is unsafe have received extensive and mostly unquestioning coverage in Russia.
Pro-Kremlin media are contrasting the jab with Russia's own vaccine, Sputnik V, which they describe as "the world's best".
"A tremendous vaccine scandal: Britain's AstraZeneca is killing people across the world," claimed the presenter of 60 Minut, a talk show on Russia's most popular TV station Rossiya 1.
"Thank God no-one in Russia has been vaccinated with it," he added.
Russian commentators have given short shrift to assurances by the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that there is no indication that the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots.
Instead, state TV's Channel One falsely claimed that the jab caused "deaths and side-effects".
The vaccine used in Britain may be lethal - according to Russian TV - but at least the UK has a vaccine, and Brexit should be thanked for that, several commentators have argued.
"Had London not divorced the EU, London would be standing before Brussels cap in hand," said NTV television.
Because of problems with vaccination in Europe, the EU's existence itself is now in question, Russian media have suggested.
"Why do we need the EU if it can't protect our lives?" is the question often asked in Europe, according to one commentator on Rossiya 1.
And if the EU does fall apart, rest assured Russia will have played a role, the Kremlin-funded TV channel said.
"Will we break up the European Union?" asked a presenter on Rossiya 1 TV. "We will. We will. Or it will fall apart on its own," she said.
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 19:34

How is lockdown being lifted across the UK?

One of our main coronavirus stories today is about the easing of Scotland's lockdown , with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying "brighter days are ahead of us".
But what are the plans across the UK?
Sturgeon says she hopes the country will be in level zero - that is, "nearly normal" - by the end of June.
In Scotland and Wales four people from two different households can now meet outside.
In England, the next relaxation of rules will take effect on 29 March - and includes allowing six people or two households to meet up outdoors.
Northern Ireland has extended its lockdown until 1 April, with a review of current measures due later this week.
Here's our full explainer on the four nations' plans - and check out our postcode tool to check the rules where you live.

Serbia to tighten restrictions

Serbia has announced that emergency restrictions will be tightened from Wednesday until next Monday.
PM Ana Brnabic says "everything will be closed, except for food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations".
Serbia has vaccinated more of its people than any other country in continental Europe, and is using Sinopharm (which is Chinese-made), Sputnik V (Russian) as well as the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
"Whether [vaccines] come from China, the US or EU - we don't care as long as they're safe and we get them as soon as possible," Ms Brnabic has previously told the BBC .
But the number of new coronavirus cases has surged in recent days. The 14-day incidence rate stands at 855 per 100,000, reports the BBC's Guy Delaunay in Belgrade.
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Tue Mar 16 2021, 20:01

President Biden embarks on Covid 'Help is Here' tour


Coronavirus - 16th March 2021 6fcd4111
President Biden's first stop is in Philadelphia

US President Joe Biden is embarking on a series of visits across the US to promote the huge Covid relief plan which he signed into law last week .
The first stop of his "Help is Here" tour to highlight the economic stimulus plan is Pennsylvania, where he is expected to visit a small business.
The $1.9tn (£1.4tn) programme is popular with most Americans, despite the fact that no Republicans in Congress voted in favour.
The bill includes $1,400 payments to a majority of Americans (excluding those on higher incomes), an extension of jobless benefits, and a child tax credit that is expected to lift millions out of poverty.
It also provides support for businesses, state and local governments. Some of the funds will go to the coronavirus vaccination drive.


That's all from us...

That's the end of our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for today. Here's a recap of the day's top stories:


Today's coverage was brought to you by Julian Joyce, Paul Gribben, Alexandra Fouche, Victoria Lindrea and Hamish Mackay.

Thanks for joining us.

    Current date/time is Mon May 17 2021, 13:13