- Several European countries are resuming use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after EU regulators give the go-ahead
- Germany, France, Italy and Spain are among the countries restarting their rollout of the jab
- There isn’t enough vaccine supply in Europe at the moment to stop a third wave of Covid-19, the German health minister has warned
- The UK saw 7% more deaths than normally expected during 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to receive his first dose of the vaccine later
- He is urging people to get inoculated after reassuring the public the AstraZeneca jab is "safe"
- UK government borrowing hits the highest February level on record
- Paris is set to go into a month-long Covid lockdown as the country fears a third wave
- France has recorded more than 35,000 new infections within the past 24 hours
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll be bringing you updates throughout the day from the UK and around the world. Here are the main headlines this morning:
- The EU's leading states are to restart their roll-out of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after Europe's medicines regulator concluded it was "safe and effective"
- Paris is set to go into a month-long lockdown as the country fears a third wave. France has recorded more than 35,000 new infections within the past 24 hours
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to receive his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine later, as he urges the public to do the same
- The UK government borrowed £19.1bn last month, the highest figure for February since records began in 1993, reflecting the cost of pandemic support measures
- And nominees for this year's Oscars have been told that appearing by Zoom will not be an option. The show's producers say they have gone to "great lengths to provide a safe and enjoyable evening for all of you in person".
- French PM announced limited Covid lockdown for Paris and other regions. French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced a limited month-long lockdown for Paris and several other regions to combat surging Covid-19 cases, AFP reports, while insisting the measures would be less strict than in the past.
- India reported its highest infections since November. India reported 39,726 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its highest since 28 November, when more than 41,000 cases where confirmed. The worst-hit states, such as western industrialised Maharashtra, adopted fresh curbs to restrain the spread of the disease.
- Tanzania to swear in first woman president after death of John Magufuli. Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan was due to be sworn in as president on Friday, a government official said, a historic move that is set to make her the East African country’s first female head of state. Hassan’s ascension to the presidency comes after the death of President John Magufuli, 61, whose death due to heart disease was announced on Wednesday, more than two weeks after he was last seen in public.
- Biden said US to hit 100m vaccination goal on Friday. With the US closing in on President Joe Biden’s goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus vaccinations weeks ahead of his target date, the White House announced Thursday the nation is now in position to help supply neighbours Canada and Mexico with millions of lifesaving shots.
- Cuba approves second homegrown vaccine. Cuba’s drug regulatory authority on Thursday approved a second Covid vaccine candidate for late-stage clinical trials as the country races to secure a homegrown shot to quell its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic and sell abroad.
- European countries to resume AstraZeneca jabs after ‘safe’ verdict. Leading EU countries said Thursday they would resume AstraZeneca vaccinations after the European medical regulator said the jab is “safe and effective” and not associated with a higher blood clot risk after days of commotion around the shot.
- Norway, Sweden to wait before using AstraZeneca vaccine again, even though it has been declared safe by Europe’s medical regulator. The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) said that after an investigation the AstraZeneca vaccine was “safe and effective” and not linked to an increased risk of blood clots. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said it “took note” of the EMA’s finding, but deemed it “premature” at this point to come to a final conclusion.The NIPH said it would issue its own guidance at the end of next week.
- Brazil’s Bolsonaro says health minister swap takes effect on Friday. Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday that the replacement of his health minister will take effect on Friday with publication in the official gazette, as the country had its second-worst day of deaths caused by Covid.
- Brazil suffered second-highest daily Covid death toll. Brazil registered its second deadliest day in its Covid pandemic, with 2,724 deaths, according to the Health Ministry on Thursday. The country had 86,982 new cases. The country is facing a dangerous new shortage of staff in intensive care unit.
- China confirmed first local case since 14 February. China reported 11 new Covid cases on 18 March, up from six cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Monday. The National Health Commission, in a statement, said one of the cases was a locally transmitted infection in Shaanxi province, marking China’s first local Covid case since 14 February Reuters reports. The other 10 cases were infection that originated from overseas.
- Philippines approved emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine. The Philippines has approved Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine for emergency use, the country’s Food and Drug Administration said on Friday.
Vaccinations resume and Paris lockdown: Latest across Europe
- Several EU countries will start using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine again today after the EU medicines agency said it was “safe and effective”. France, Germany, Italy, mainland Portugal, Lithuania and Latvia are among the countries resuming today.
- French PM Jean Castex will get the jab today. In Germany, national and state leaders will hold a vaccine summit with the aim of getting family doctors involved in the national vaccine campaign from next month.
- The Netherlands will resume next week – it says 110,000 jabs have been missed because of the one-week break. Spain will start jabs again next Wednesday and Denmark will decide today. Sweden is holding off for the moment so it can analyse data with its experts. Non-EU Norway is also waiting.
- Twenty-one million people in 16 areas of France will go under a limited four-week lockdown from late tonight, to fight off a “third wave” of infection. Greater Paris is affected along with the Hauts-de-France regions in the north-east, part of Normandy and the south-east. Non-essential shops will shut, but schools and hairdressers will stay open and outdoor exercise will be allowed within 10km (6.2 miles) of your home.
- Criminal offences fell 11.3% in Austria last year, down to 433,811, the lowest number for years because of the pandemic. But cybercrime soared by 26% and Interior Minister Karl Nehammer summed it up by saying “crime has changed”.
'Really important' to keep South Africa variant out of UKThe rising infection levels in countries such as France are “mostly being driven” by the UK variant that originated in Kent, according to a scientist advising the UK government.
Prof Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist and member of the government’s SPI-M modelling group, tells Radio 4’s Today programme that of “more concern for the UK” is some countries including France are seeing the South Africa variant in a significant number - 5 to 10% - of their cases.
He says that is the variant “we really do want to keep out of the UK” because of its possible resistance to vaccines.
The longer the UK can keep it out – or at least at low levels – “the more time we have to vaccinate the whole adult population and to update vaccines to be able to cope with that variant”, he adds.
He says there is a lot of essential business travel between the UK and France but the risk could be reduced by introducing measures such as testing people coming into the country.