- All people aged over 50 in England are now being invited to book their coronavirus vaccine
- It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock stressed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is safe
- He urged people to "listen to the regulators" and "get the jab" when it is offered to them
- It came as 13 countries suspended use of the vaccine over fears around blood clots
- The UK's medicines regulator, the MHRA, has said evidence "does not suggest" the jab is linked to clots
- The EU's medicines regulator also reiterated on Tuesday that there was "no indication" the vaccine causes blood clots
- About 17 million people across the EU and the UK have received a dose of the vaccine
- AstraZeneca said the rate of blood clots was lower then the number expected among the general population
- Former US President Donald Trump has encouraged his supporters to get vaccinated
- In a TV interview, Mr Trump said the vaccine was "safe" and "something that works"
- A further 5,294 Covid cases were reported in the UK on Tuesday, alongside another 110 deaths
- Globally, there have been 2,670,459 deaths and 120,697,267 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of coronavirus developments this Wednesday morning. We'll keep you updated with the main stories of the day.
Latest headlinesUK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has urged people to trust the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is safe , after more than a dozen European countries paused its use citing safety concerns. Both the UK and EU's medicines regulators have said that the vaccine is safe.
In other developments:
- A government scheme to house rough sleepers during the pandemic "exposed the scale" of the issue, MPs say
- Plans to help school pupils catch-up with lessons lost due to the pandemic may not be reaching the most disadvantaged children, a report says
- Former US President Donald Trump is urging his Republican supporters to be vaccinated against Covid-19, saying he would recommend it
- A new United Nations report says interrupted health services caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in South Asia
- Our health and science correspondent James Gallagher explains the side effects he felt after receiving a first dose of the Oxford jab
Latest across Europe
- There’s increasing strain on hospitals in the greater Paris region and French Prime Minister Jean Castex says it’s time for new measures. He says the situation is “highly precarious”. The options being considered today are either weekend curfews such as those around Calais and Dunkirk in the north and the French Riviera in the south, or a seven-day lockdown with schools staying open. Mr Castex has made clear he’ll get vaccinated “very quickly” with the Oxford-AstraZeneca drug as soon as it is confirmed as safe tomorrow by the EU’s medicines agency. A number of countries have suspended its use while they await the regulator’s green light – it’s already made clear the benefits outweigh the risks after a small number of reports of blood clots.
- The European Commission will announce plans for green digital Covid vaccination certificates that enable travel across all 27 member states. The certificate will be forgery proof but it has already raised several issues, such as how to prevent discrimination between people who have been vaccinated and those who haven’t.
- Iceland already allows entry to visitors across the EU’s passport-free Schengen area as long as they have proof of vaccination against Covid. Now anyone will be let in as long as they have a vaccination certificate such as the World Health Organization's "yellow card".
- Ukraine has registered a record daily number of 289 Covid-related deaths. Health Minister Maksym Stepanov says among almost 12,000 new infections are 609 children and 388 health workers.
- Serbia has tightened emergency restrictions until next Monday amid a surge in infections. Prime Minister Ana Brnabic says "everything will be closed, except for food stores, pharmacies and gas stations."
Summary of the main news so far today:(from The Guardian)
- The European Medicines Agency (EMA) says it is “firmly convinced” the benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine outweigh potential risks, insisting there was no evidence linking it to blood clots after several nations suspended the shot over health fears. Experts at both the World Health Organization and the EMA met on Tuesday to discuss the vaccine, with the EMA expected to publish conclusions Thursday.
- French prime minister Jean Castex has said that France had entered a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the seven-day average of new cases rose above 25,000 for the first time since 20 November. Castex also said he intends to get an AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine once European health authorities confirm the jab is safe.
- There was chaos and confusion in Germany and Italy after their decisions to suspend use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid jab, with vaccination centres closing their doors and appointments being abruptly cancelled.
- Two cases of a new coronavirus strain first reported in the Philippines have been found in England. Public Health England said the variant contains a number of notable mutations, including the E484K spike protein found in the Manaus (Brazil) variant.
- Iceland is to allow entry to all visitors bearing proof of vaccination against Covid starting from Thursday, the country’s health ministry said. The move makes the country one of the first European nations to open its borders beyond the Schengen area.
- Former UK prime minister Tony Blair called for world leaders to make sure that groundbreaking future vaccines are not subject to restrictive intellectual property laws.
- The number of deaths from Covid-19 across Europe passed 900,000, according to an AFP tally. There were more than 530,000 additional deaths in the EU and EFTA countries from January to December 2020, against the average number of deaths during the same period between 2016 and 2019.
- The number of new coronavirus infections in the Netherlands increased by 24% in the last seven days, the biggest weekly jump since mid-December, Dutch health authorities said.