- The risk of a blood clot after Covid vaccination is about the same as on a long-haul flight, Matt Hancock says
- Under-30s in the UK are to be offered an alternative Covid jab to the AstraZeneca vaccine
- There are more than enough Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for under-30s, the health secretary says
- The European regulator says unusual blood clots should be listed as very rare side effects of the AZ vaccine
- The UK vaccination programme is starting to break links between Covid-19 cases and deaths, scientists say
- While a decline in coronavirus cases has stalled, deaths have not followed the same pattern, they say
- Infections are now most common in primary and early secondary school-aged children, the study says
- Unpaid carers looking after terminally ill loved ones during the pandemic struggle to access pain relief, a survey finds
- Sales at non-essential shops are likely to "bounce back" once they reopen on 12 April, analysts say
Good morning and welcome to our coronavirus live page.
Here is a round-up of the main coronavirus stories in the UK this morning.
- The UK's vaccination programme is beginning to break the link between Covid-19 cases and deaths , scientists have said. While a decline in cases has stalled - probably because people are beginning to mix more - deaths have not followed the same pattern, a study has found
- Unpaid carers looking after terminally ill loved ones during the pandemic have struggled to access pain relief , with some patients dying in unnecessary pain, a survey has found. The survey of 995 unpaid carers by charity Marie Curie also finds people have had difficulties getting personal care and respite nursing for loved ones
- Sales at non-essential shops are likely to "bounce back" once they reopen on 12 April, analysts say. Springboard predicts a 48% rise in sales when lockdown restrictions are lifted
- Under-30s in the UK are to be offered an alternative Covid vaccine to the AstraZeneca jab due to the evidence linking it to rare blood clots. The EU's medicines regulator says the blood clots should be listed as a very rare side effect of the jab.
Latest around Europe
- EU countries are to continue following their own rules on which age groups should receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, after the EU’s medicines agency EMA recommended it should be given to all ages. The agency said very rare blood clots should be listed as a possible side effect. Belgium will now limit the vaccine to people over 55, while Spain and Italy will give the drug only to over 60s. France limits the drug to over 55s and Germany to over 60s.
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to change the law to harmonise Covid lockdown measures across the country and not only state by state, according to Bild newspaper. She’s been frustrated by some states’ refusal to tighten rules while infections remain high. In the past 24 hours there have been 20,407 new infections and 306 deaths.
- Three students at Kirschgarten High School in the Swiss city of Basel have landed their entire class in quarantine by faking positive tests to avoid school, Blick newspaper reports. They falsified text messages from the Swiss contact tracing app, which meant 25 classmates and some teachers had to self-isolate.
- A German mayor who got vaccinated before his turn has been suspended from his job in the eastern city of Halle. Bernd Wiegand refused to resign, insisting the dose had been left over and would have just gone to waste.
- Prague hospital head Petr Arenberger has been appointed as the fourth Czech health minister since the start of the pandemic. He replaces Jan Blatny who has been repeatedly criticised by President Milos Zeman for refusing to back Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
- Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, says Covid restrictions will be relaxed in four stages that are each three weeks apart. Norway has managed to limit infections to about 100,000 cases and the government will decide when it can start loosening measures imposed on 25 March.
More key recent developments around the world today:The Guardian
- Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has insisted there would be “no national lockdown,” ignoring growing calls from health experts a day after the nation saw its highest number of coronavirus deaths in 24 hours since the pandemic began. Brazil has also recorded its first confirmed case of the highly contagious coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa.
- Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel is in favour of tightening virus restrictions for a short period to stem rising case numbers, her spokeswoman said. AFP reports that Merkel backs calls for a “short national lockdown”, Ulrike Demmer said, noting that the country’s health system was under growing pressure.
- The Belgian government has said it will restrict access to the AstraZeneca vaccine to just those people over 55 in light of the European medicines agency’s advice that blood clots are a potential side-effect of the jab.
- South America is now the most worrying region for Covid-19 infections, as cases mount in nearly every country, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
- The French health ministry reported on Wednesday that the number of people in intensive care units with Covid-19 increased by 103 to a new 2021 record of 5,729 people.
- Adults under 30 should be offered an alternative vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca jab if there is one available in their area and they are healthy and not at high risk of Covid, the UK government’s vaccination advisory body said.
- The EU drug regulator will begin an investigation next week on whether clinical trials of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine followed global clinical and scientific guidelines, the Financial Times reported. But the official twitter handle for Sputnik V called the FT report “fake” and “incorrect”.
- Moderna Inc’s chief medical officer Tal Zaks said the company should be able to provide a booster shot for protection against variants of the coronavirus by the end of this year, Reuters reports.
What do I need to know about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine?The Guardian's Nicola Davis - Science correspondent, and Jon Henley - Europe correspondent have put together
this guide to what you need to know overnight, which is worth your time:
All medications including vaccines have some side-effects. The most common with the Covid jabs are mild and short-lived, including localised soreness, fatigue or aches and headaches.
However the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab has been linked to a small but concerning number of reports of blood clots combined with low platelet counts (platelets are cell fragments in our blood that help it to clot).
These include a rare clot in the brain called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). In an unvaccinated population, upper estimates suggest there may be 15 to 16 cases per million people per year. But also highly uncommon is the combination of CVST or other rare clots with low platelets, and sometimes unusual antibodies – and that combination is at the centre of current concerns.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said recipients of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab should look out for new headaches, blurred vision, confusion or seizures that occur four days or more after vaccination. The MHRA also flagged shortness of breath, chest pain, abdominal pain, leg swelling and unusual skin bruising as reasons to seek medical advice.
Up to and including 31 March, the MHRA said it received 79 reports of cases of blood clots combined with low platelets, including 19 deaths, following more than 20m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. That equates to about four cases for every million vaccinated individuals.
The MHRA added that 44 of the reports and 14 of the deaths related to CVST with a low platelet count. Of the 19 deaths, 11 were in people under the age of 50 and three were in people under the age of 30. The European Medicines Agency is also examining three cases of venous thromboembolism blood clots involving the Johnson & Johnson jab.
The MHRA says blood clots combined with low platelets can occur naturally in unvaccinated people as well as in those who have caught Covid, and that while evidence of a link with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has become stronger, more research is needed.
Read in full – there’s a lot more information here: What do I need to know about the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine?