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Boris Johnson has said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks of the jab and is ‘safe and effective’.

The Prime Minister revealed he will be receiving his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine tomorrow.

“The Oxford jab is safe and the Pfizer jab is safe. The thing that isn’t safe is catching Covid, which is why it is so important that we all get our jabs as soon as our turn comes,” he said in an address from Downing Street.

Meanwhile, Dr June Raine, chief of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said there is no evidence that AstraZeneca vaccine is causing blood clots.

It comes after a number of EU member states including France, Germany, Spain and Italy suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot fears.

Boris Johnson also denied findings from The Telegraph that India’s government was responsible for delaying five million UK-bound AstraZeneca vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India (SII).

In contradiction to statements provided by the head of the SII to The Telegraph, Mr Johnson claimed the delay was due to “technical reasons”.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

06:50 PMBulgaria to resume vaccinations with AstraZeneca’s shots

Bulgaria will resume inoculations with the AstraZeneca vaccine from Friday after the European drug regulator said the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine outweigh any potential risks.

Bogdan Kirilov, head of the Bulgarian Medicines Agency, said that an investigation into the death of a Bulgarian woman hours after she got an AstraZeneca shot did not establish a direct link to the inoculation.

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“We have all the reasons to lift the suspension and start administrating the vaccine again as of tomorrow,” Kirilov said.

The Balkan country has about 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca shots in stock, received before it temporarily suspended its rollout last Friday.

With 350,700 people vaccinated so far with a first dose, the country of seven million people holds the poorest inoculation record in the European Union.

06:47 PMPeople cancelling Covid vaccination appointments after blood clot scares

GPs and pharmacists are warning of rising numbers of people cancelling vaccine appointments or failing to turn up, as a result of “scares” from Europe.

Family doctors said vaccine clinics which had previously been full had seen “no-show” rates of up to 10 per cent, and patients cancelling appointments as a result of their concerns.

Those involved in the rollout said the vast majority of patients were satisfied by reassurances from British regulators, and the World Health Organisation, supporting the AstraZeneca vaccine.

But GPs said the uncertainty had done “real damage”, with doctors now spending “a huge amount” of time trying to explain that no causal link has been found between the vaccines and blood clots.

Those involved in the vaccine rollout said a number of centres had seen cancellations and no-shows rising from around 2 per cent to 10 per cent.

Laura Donnelly and Lizzie Roberts have the full story here

06:37 PMMacron imposes lockdown on Paris amid faltering vaccine rollout

Emmanuel Macron has imposed a month-long lockdown on Paris and several other regions after a faltering vaccine rollout and the spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said the tougher restrictions followed a clear acceleration in the spread of the coronavirus, with France now in the grip of a third wave.

“The moment has come to go further, with more demanding restrictions where things are most critical,” Castex told a news conference.

The lockdown will be imposed on the 16 hardest hit departments, the prime minister said, including Paris and its surroundings, as well as parts of the north. It takes effect from midnight on Friday.

Schools will stay open and people will be allowed to exercise outdoors within a 10 km (6.2 miles) radius of their homes. People living in these areas would not be allowed to travel to other parts of France without a compelling reason.

Copy of How many people have been vaccinated in France?

06:30 PMIreland’s Covid cases have stopped falling, officials warn

Covid- 19 case numbers in Ireland have stopped falling due to an increase in social mixing and attendance at workplaces, a senior health official said on Thursday.

A marginal decrease in social mixing could still reverse the trend, according to Philip Nolan, Ireland’s coronavi modelling chief.

Ireland’s latest figures reveal 76.3 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days, one of the lowest infection rates in Europe.

The reproduction number, which measures the number of people who become infected from each positive case, is between 0.8 and 1.1 and in all likelihood close to 1, Nolan said.

06:20 PMNicola Sturgeon: Dip in vaccine supply will not affect July target

A dip in supply will not affect the target to give all adults in Scotland a first dose of the vaccine by the end of July, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

A shipment of the AstraZeneca jab from India has encountered problems with the head of the Serum Institute of India (SII) suggesting the country’s government may be blocking exports to the UK.

The Scottish Government has said that people in the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) priority groups will be offered a vaccine by the middle of April, while an offer of a first dose will be made to the whole adult population by the end of July.

Speaking before First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon said there would be approximately 500,000 fewer doses coming to Scotland in the next month.

“At present we expect that over the next month we will have approximately 500,000 fewer doses than we had previously anticipated,” she said.

06:16 PMLatvia and Lithuania to restart AstraZeneca vaccinations

Latvia and Lithuania will restart administering vaccinations using AstraZeneca shots on Friday, both countries’ health ministers said.

How are different countries’ vaccine rollouts progressing?

06:09 PMYoutuber quits Italy expert panel on Covid crisis

An amateur coronavirus pundit from YouTube appointed to an Italian government panel on the pandemic resigned Thursday, after widespread disbelief over his lack of credentials

Engineering graduate and business consultant Alberto Giovanni Gerli, 40, has been posting videos about virus trends having no formal training in epidemiology, virology or maths.

On Tuesday, the self-proclaimed “big data scientist” was named as one of the 12 new members of the Technical Scientific Committee, the body that advises Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government on the pandemic.

The new panel had its first meeting on Thursday, but Gerli did not take part “because he announced his resignation from the post,” the Civil Protection Agency said in a statement.

Gerli’s pick raised eyebrows, as he has made a number of baseless claims – stating for example that it would be pointless to apply lockdown measures after the first 17 days of the pandemic.

06:03 PMFrench PM to receive AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday

French Prime Minister Jean Castex will be inoculated on Friday with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, local media has reported.

The European Union’s drug watchdog said earlier it was still convinced the benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine outweigh risks following an investigation into reports of blood disorders that prompted more than a dozen nations to suspend its use.

Castex is due to outline new Covid restrictions for France at a news conference later on Thursday.

05:55 PMItaly to restart AstraZeneca vaccinations on Friday

Italy will resume administering AstraZeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccine on Friday after the EU’s drugs regulator declared them safe, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.

Italy suspended the use of the jab on Monday, one of a number of European countries taking precautionary action following concerns it was linked to blood clots.

“The administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine will resume tomorrow. The government’s priority remains to carry out as many vaccinations as possible in the shortest possible time,” Draghi said in a statement.

Italy’s health regulator AIFA will first have to lift the ban but the health ministry said it expects AstraZeneca jabs to again be in use from 3:00pm (1400 GMT).

Almost 104,000 people with coronavirus have died in Italy since it swept through the country one year ago, and the death toll is still rising by hundreds each day.

05:51 PMAstraZeneca controversy generated small numbers of people not turning up to vaccine appointments

Professor Chris Whitty has said there were “anecdotal reports” of small numbers of people not turning up for vaccine appointments following the controversy over the AstraZeneca vaccine.

He told a No 10 news conference that he expected many of those would decide to get the jab after “a pause for thought”.

“Actually, almost record numbers have been going through in terms of numbers of people taking up the vaccine. Overall, there is no evidence of a significant problem that people do not want vaccination,” he said.

Boris Johnson said he would be marking the first anniversary of the lockdown on March 23.

He said the Government would be pursuing ideas for a national memorial for victims of the pandemic.

05:45 PMRoadmap out of lockdown remains on track despite vaccine shortfall, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has insisted the vaccination programme and route out of lockdown remain on track despite a shortfall in the expected supply of jabs.

A delay in deliveries from India and the need to retest a batch of 1.7 million doses is behind the issues with vaccine supply in April.

The problem with a shipment from the Serum Institute of India (SII) has been blamed by the body’s chief on the country’s government, although Mr Johnson said Narendra Modi’s administration has not stopped any exports.

Mr Johnson said: “We have always said that in a vaccination programme of this pace and this scale, some interruptions in supply are inevitable.

“It is true that in the short term we are receiving fewer vaccines than we had planned for a week ago, that is because of a delay in a shipment from the Serum Institute – who are doing a herculean job in producing vaccines in such large quantities – and because of a batch that we currently have in the UK that needs to be retested as part of our rigorous safety programme.

05:33 PMAstraZeneca vaccine controversy has not affected take-up rate, says Chris Whitty

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, has said the controversy over the AstraZeneca vaccine had not affected the take-up rate.

“If you look at the numbers coming forward for vaccination – well over 90% in the age groups that have gone through the vaccination have chosen to take this up,” he told a No 10 news conference.

“The general public is, as always, sensible and steady on this. They understand this is a dangerous disease.”

He said that once the over-50s had received the jab, it was important that younger age groups took it up.

“People can continue to have significant health problems in their 40s, 30s, 20s,” he said.

“The higher the proportion that is vaccinated, the smaller the risk to everybody.”

05:31 PMMHRA receives five reports of ‘rare’ brain blood clots

Dr Raine said the MHRA had received five reports of “a different, a rare form of blood clot in the cerebral sinuses”.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, she said this was “cerebral sinus vein thrombosis or CSVT, occurring together with lowered blood platelets shortly after vaccination with the Covid-19 vaccination AstraZeneca”.

She added: “This type of blood clot can rarely occur naturally in unvaccinated people as well as with people with Covid-19 disease.”

She said a further review of these reports was ongoing but “a causal relationship with the vaccine has not yet been established”.

Dr Raine said the rate of occurrence for CSVT events among the 11 million people vaccinated “is extremely rare”.

05:30 PMIndian government not responsible for vaccine supply issue to UK

Boris Johnson has claimed the Indian government is not responsible for a delay in the UK’s vaccine supply.

The Prime Minister has praised the Serum Institute of India and that the country is not blocking the supply of vaccine.

Meanwhile Chris Whitty has said the NHS is prioritising vaccinations for over-50s.

05:26 PMChris Whitty: Covid-19 remains a ‘dangerous disease’ despite vaccination rollout

ngland’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty told a Downing Street briefing that Covid-19 was still a “common disease” that was “dangerous” for many people.

“I think it’s important to remind people that at this point in time we’re still in a situation where the Office for National Statistics think that one in 270 people have got Covid,” he said.

“This is still a common disease and it is a very dangerous disease for many people. People dying, people getting significant blood clotting problems, that’s one of the risks of Covid, people having long-term physical and mental effects from Covid.

“This is a very significant disease that is very common, with a very effective vaccine – two vaccines in the case of AZ and Pfizer.

“Real issues that we always have to think about with all drugs, but they are so much smaller than the benefits to getting the vaccines.”

05:13 PMChris Whitty: One in 270 people in UK are infected with Covid-19

Professor Chris Whitty has said all medicine is about weighing up the risks versus the benefits.

Even aspirin has side-effects, he added.

Prof Whitty said the vaccine is giving good protection against a disease that is “still common, and very dangerous”.

One person in 270 in the UK is infected, he added.

The risk/benefit is strongly in favour of using the vaccine, he stressed.

05:10 PMDr June Raine: No difference in rate of blood clots occurring in those vaccinated than un-vaccinated

There is no evidence to support that blood clots are occurring in veins more in those vaccinated than those un-vaccinated, the head of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has said.

Dr Raine said “as a precautionary measure” they would advise with anyone with a headache four four days after vaccination to seek medical attention.

Dr Raine reiterated that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine ‘”firmly outweigh the risks”.

05:05 PMBoris Johnson reiterates AstraZeneca vaccine is ‘safe and effective’

Boris Johnson has reiterated the message from the European Medicine’s Agency that the AstraZeneca jab is a safe and effective vaccine.

The Prime Minister said that a single dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine provides a 60pc prevention from Covid-19, reduces hospitalisation by 80pc, and death by 85pc.

He urged the public to continue taking up the jab when they are called.

Mr Johnson revealed he will receive his own AstraZeneca vaccination tomorrow.

05:01 PMBoris Johnson holds press conference

Boris Johnson is holding a Downing Street press conference.

He is joined by Prof Chris Whitty, the Government’s chief medical adviser, and Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

04:57 PMEMA gives breakdown of countries with reported blood clots

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) was asked for a breakdown on the countries that had reported cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST).

Dr Sabine Straus, head of the EMA’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (Prac), said: “I can give you a breakdown on the CVST, as of yesterday of course.

We have seven cases from Germany, three cases from Italy, two cases from Norway and one from Spain.

“We have, in addition to that, three cases in the UK, and two from India.”

04:49 PM’Difficult to know’ why more cases of blood clots in EU than UK, says EMA

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it was “rather difficult to know” why there had been more reported cases of blood clots in the EU compared to the UK, despite the UK distributing more AstraZeneca vaccine doses.

Dr Sabine Straus, head of the EMA’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (Prac), told a briefing: “At the moment, it’s rather difficult to know exactly the reasons why there is a difference in the cases.

“We are working from spontaneously reported cases and what we know for sure is that the populations that have been vaccinated are very different between the different member states and between the UK.

“That might be a possible explanation but, at the moment, we’re not sure how to explain it.”

It comes after a British man died and four others suffered a dangerous blood clotting condition after being given the AstraZeneca vaccine

04:44 PMSpain to possibly resume AstraZeneca vaccination rollout

Spain’s government has called a meeting of the inter-regional council for the coronavrius response on Thursday to evaluate possible resumption of vaccination with AstraZeneca shots after the EU drug regulator said that the vaccine’s benefits outweighed risks.

Spain is among a dozen countries that had suspended the use after reports of blood disorders.

The council meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. local time (1700 GMT), and will be followed by a news briefing, the government said.

04:37 PMEMA ‘cannot rule out definitively’ link to rare clotting disorder

The European Medicine’s Agency has said they “cannot rule out definitively” a link to a rare clotting disorder.

The agency will update its guidance to include an explanation about the potential risks on both the patient leaflet and in the information for healthcare professionals, the chief of the EMA said.

But Emer Cooke said in a briefing the “clear” conclusion of the review was that the vaccine “benefits in protecting people from Covid-19 with the associated risk of death or hospitalisation outweighs the possible risks.”

The UK health regulator also said there were no links between blood clots and the AstraZeneca jab, or the Pfizer vaccine.

“There is no evidence that blood clots in veins is occurring more than would be expected in the absence of vaccination, for either vaccine,” said June Raine, chief executive of the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The World Health Organization (WHO) also said it was better to take the AstraZeneca vaccine than not, after saying it was looking into available data on the shot.

04:29 PMEMA finds “no evidence of a quality or batch issue’ with AstraZeneca vaccine

Dr Sabine Strauss, chair of the EMA vaccine safety committee, has reiterated Emer Cooke’s sentiment over the benefits of the AstraZeneca jab and that it has found “no evidence of a quality or a batch issue”.

From individual cases across Europe of thromboembolic event that were investigated, the EMA found there is no higher overall risk of such things happening after being vaccinated.

In fact it likely reduces the likelihood of these events, Dr Strauss found.

04:22 PMEMA: Benefits of AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh risks

The European’s Medicine Agency (EMA) has said it is still convinced the benefits of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine outweigh the risks following an investigation into reports of blood disorders that prompted more than a dozen nations to suspend its use.

EMA’s director, Emer Cooke, said the agency could not definitively rule out a link to blood clot incidents and the vaccine in its investigation into 30 cases of a rare blood clotting condition.

It will however update its guidance to include an explanation about the potential risks for doctors and the public, she said.

The agency has been under growing pressure to clear up safety concerns after a small number of reports in recent weeks of bleeding, blood clots and low platelet counts in people who have received the shot.

The agency’s review covering five million people, included 30 cases of unusual blood disorders in people in the European Economic Area (EEA), which links 30 European countries.

04:16 PMU.S. plans to send four million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico

The United States plans to send roughly four million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine that it is not using to Mexico and Canada in loan deals with the two countries, an administration official has said.

Mexico will receive 2.5 million doses of the vaccine and Canada will receive 1.5 million doses, the official said.

“This virus has no borders,” the official told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity. “We only put the virus behind us if we’re helping our global partners.”

The Biden administration has come under pressure from allies worldwide to share vaccine, particularly from AstraZeneca, which is authorized for use in other countries but not yet in the United States.

AstraZeneca has millions of doses made in a U.S. facility, and has said that it would have 30 million shots ready at the beginning of April. The company’s shares rose slightly on the news.

03:59 PM’Lifeline’ social care Covid funding extended

ey funding described as a “lifeline” for the social care sector during the coronavirus pandemic has been extended, the Government has announced.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the sector will receive a further £341 million to help with the costs of infection prevention control and testing.

This, he said, will help ensure care home visits “are safe for everyone”.

Mr Hancock told the House of Commons: “This takes the total infection control fund and testing support to more than £1.6 billion, alongside the free PPE (personal protective equipment) that care homes receive.”

It is understood this represents a three-month extension from April 1.

03:57 PMDominic Cummings sets date for evidence to MPs on Government Covid response

Dominic Cummings has agreed a date to give evidence to MPs undertaking an inquiry into the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The former chief aide to Boris Johnson is scheduled to appear before the joint Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee on May 26.

The date first appeared on a newly-active Twitter account purporting to be run by Mr Cummings, who was at the heart of the response to Covid-19 until he walked out of Downing Street during a bitter internal power struggle.

“Don’t understand why HoC (House of Commons) been so slow to try to understand what & why things went so catastrophically wrong but agreed today I’ll give evidence 26/5,” it said.

“I assume MPs want to hear from all those in room for key decisions. Learning from disaster needs extreme transparency.”

His testimony could be highly-revelatory and potentially damaging for members of the Government.

03:49 PMEU regulator to shortly deliver verdict on AZ vaccine and links to blood clots

The world is awaiting the results of of an initial European investigation into whether AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine is linked to blood clots reported in a small number of people who received the shot.

The European Medicine’s Agency is expected to deliver its report at 4pm GMT.

Concerns over the clotting led more than a dozen European countries, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain, to suspend use of the vaccine over the past week, even though the company and international health agencies said there was no indication the shots were to blame and recommended continuing with the vaccinations.

Clots that form in the arms, legs or elsewhere can break free and travel to the heart, brain or lungs, causing strokes, heart attacks or other deadly blockages.

While many countries have continued to use the AstraZeneca vaccine, there are concerns the debate could seriously undermine confidence in the shot, which is key to efforts to vaccinate the world’s population, especially in poorer countries.

03:38 PMKeir Starmer reveals he had AstraZeneca vaccine

abour leader Sir Keir Starmer insisted people should feel confident in taking the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I think the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, the experts are telling us it is safe and I would urge everybody who is invited to come forward to have the vaccine.

“I myself had AstraZeneca last Sunday, so I’m not just saying this – I’ve had that vaccine, the Oxford/AstraZeneca, it’s safe.

“Please, if you are invited to come forward, come forward and have the vaccine.”

03:31 PMMore dying of Covid-19 now in Europe than in first wave as UK variant takes hold

More people are dying of Covid-19 now in Europe than during March 2020, the World Health Organization has warned.

The WHO’s emergencies lead in Europe, Dr Catherine Smallwood, said she was “particularly worried” about the situation in the Balkans, the Baltic States and Central Europe, where hospitalisations and deaths are among the highest in the world.

The numbers of new cases per million people are also rising so fast that in some countries – notably Estonia, Bosnia, Hungary and Poland – the graphs tracking the virus point almost vertically upwards.

Experts said that the combination of the spread of the more transmissible UK variant coupled with slow government reactions, as well as a lack of vaccinations in some countries, could all be contributing to the spiking numbers and Europe’s looming third wave.

Europes Third Wave — Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases

Jennifer Rigby has the full story here

03:26 PMSir Keir Starmer demands explanation from Downing St over vaccine supply

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for the Government to spell out exactly what the problems with vaccine supplies are.

“The vaccine rollout has been going really, really well and that’s a good thing,” he said during a visit to Edinburgh.

“So, I am concerned about the delays, we need to get to the bottom of it and we need transparency from the Government about what the problem is.

“I say that in a constructive spirit because we want everybody to be vaccinated as soon as possible.”

03:18 PMBoris Johnson to host press conference at 5pm

Boris Johnson will host a press conference at No 10 Downing Street at 5pm this afternoon.

The Prime Minister is expected to provide an update on the AstraZeneca vaccine supply in the UK.

Mr Johnson will be joined by chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine, No 10 has said.

03:13 PMOne in five over-80s in England likely to have had both vaccine doses

One in five people in England aged 80 and over are likely to have had both doses of Covid-19 vaccine, according to NHS England figures.

An estimated 20.3 per cent of people in this age group had received both jabs as of March 14, meaning they are fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

Some 1.6 per cent of people aged 75 to 79 are estimated to have had both doses, along with 0.8% of people aged 70 to 74.

How many people have been vaccinated in the UK?

03:08 PMDonald Trump’s net worth sank by $700m during presidency as pandemic and Capitol siege take toll

Donald Trump’s net worth dropped by $700 million during his presidency, as the economy was ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and his personal brand became damaged in the wake of the Capitol riot.

While still wealthy, Mr Trump’s fortune is down from $3 billion when he became president to $2.3 billion when he left office, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

But his finances could fall further still.

The 74-year-old has at least $590 million in loans due for repayment in the next four years – more than half of which he personally guaranteed.

And his vast property empire, which makes up three-quarters of his fortune, is losing value – worth 26 per cent less now than four years ago.

Jamie Johnson has the full story here

02:58 PMWatch: Ursula von der Leyen risks triggering a global vaccine trade war02:55 PMNearly 94pc of residents in older adult care homes now vaccinated

Some 93.8 per cent of residents of older adult care homes in England eligible to have their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine had received the jab by March 14, NHS England said.

Residents are classed as eligible for the vaccine if they have not had Covid-19 in the previous 28 days.

The equivalent figure for staff of older adult care homes is 75.6 per cent.

Just 62.4 per cent of eligible staff of older care homes in London are estimated to have received their first jab.

Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?

02:47 PM’No proven causal association’ with blood clots and AZ vaccine, MHRA stresses

Phil Bryan, MHRA vaccine safety lead, said: “Where we are now is that no proven causal association with what is still an extremely rare medical event has been proven for the AZ vaccine.

“But we do know that these are highly effective vaccines. We still have a huge burden of Covid disease in the population.

“So, right now, the balance of benefits and known risks of the vaccine are favourable.”

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chairman of the Commission on Human Medicines, said: “Having reviewed all the data that was available to us, as well as reports, what we concluded was that there was no increased risk of peripheral venous thromboembolism based on all the data that’s available to us at the moment.

“We will still recommend that the vaccine is taken when you’re offered the vaccine.”

02:42 PMDuke and Duchess of Cambridge have unexpected chat with paramedic’s father in Bangladesh

Royal public engagements are often unpredictable, throwing up all sorts of unscheduled twists and turns.

So the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took it in their stride today when they found themselves having an unexpected chat on FaceTime with a paramedic’s proud father in Bangladesh.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chat to a paramedic’s father in Bangladesh – PA/Richard Pohle

The couple were visiting Newham Ambulance Station in east London to hear how staff had coped during the pandemic.

As they chatted to paramedic Jay Khan, she asked if it was okay to call her father, Abu, in Banglasdesh as he had been separated from his family since the beginning of lockdown when his mother became sick.

She had soon whipped out her phone and the royals found themselves having a chat with Abu 5,000 miles away.

The Duke, 38, told him: “You must be very proud of your daughter. She’s looking forward to seeing you soon.”

Abu replied: “Yes we are all very proud of her.”

Victoria Ward has the full story here

02:33 PMThe link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots: why it is safe to have the jab02:25 PMCovid case rates rise among children and teens

Case rates in England have risen slightly among children and teenagers, Public Health England said.

For 10 to 19-year-olds, the rate stood at 78.1 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to March 14, up week-on-week from 57.3.

Among five to nine year-olds it rose from 31.6 to 38.6, while for children aged four and under it rose from 32.0 to 33.9.

All other age groups showed a week-on-week drop in rates.

Adults aged 30 to 39 had the highest rate: 82.7, down from 91.2.

02:21 PMBritish man dies from blood clot after taking AZ jab

One British man has died and four more have suffered a dangerous blood clotting condition after being given the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed today.

The five men, aged between 19 and 59, suffered from Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST), although the MHRA said they did not know if it had been directly caused by the vaccine.

The MHRA urged people to continue getting the vaccine, adding that the chance of suffering the condition after a vaccination was currently just one in a million. The condition is so rare that it is difficult to establish an underlying rate for the population.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Dr Phil Bryan, MHRA Vaccines Safety Lead said:“We have had five reports of a unique form of blood clot, Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis concurrent with low blood platelets. This is similar to some of the cases reported through Europe.

“What we don’t know whether these have been caused by the vaccines. We are working closely to determine this, because these illnesses do very rarely happen naturally.

02:07 PMEmmanuel Macron backs EU threat to block vaccine exports to the UK

Emmanuel Macron said he backed Ursula von der Leyen’s threat to impose an export ban on jabs to the UK, amid divides among European countries over her plan to force Britain to send UK-manufactured AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines to the EU

Germany, Italy and Denmark were also said to support the plan at a meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on Thursday morning.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Sweden and Ireland are understood to be concerned the move could hurt European supply chains and businesses if a vaccines trade war was to escalate.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary warned, ‘There are very significant consequences for breaking contract law’.

Any EU export ban would run the risk of retaliation from Britain, which could block vaccine component exports. The Government and AstraZeneca refuse to say if any vaccines have been exported to the bloc but components have been sent to the EU.

James Crisp has the full story here

02:01 PMWear short-sleeves to avoid baring ‘hairy chests’ during vaccinations, Hancock tells MPs

Matt Hancock has suggested male MPs should wear short sleeved shirts to be vaccinated so they don’t have to bare their “hairy chests”.

Appearing virtually, Conservative MP Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) told the Commons that he is due to receive his Oxford/AstraZeneca jab later today as he is over 50.

Mr Hancock replied: “It is wonderful to see the joy on (Mr McCartney’s) face in anticipation of his jab.

“May I say that I hope he gets the opportunity to change, maybe into a short sleeved shirt, because we have seen some colleagues inadvertently have to undo an awful lot of buttons in order to be vaccinated.

“And whilst I can imagine that some more enthusiastic constituents may have enjoyed the sight, I think it is best if we gents wear a short sleeved shirt so that we don’t have to bare our hairy chests.”

01:56 PMGermany records highest daily rise in cases sine Jan 2021

Germany has recorded its highest daily rise in infections since January, with 17,504 new cases in the last 24 hours, Justin Huggler reports.

Although it still has far fewer cases than other European countries such as France and Italy, Germany has been in the grip of a third wave for some time.

The 7-day incidence per 100,000 people has now risen to 90, up from 56.8 just a month ago, and the national disease centre has warned if current trends continue the country’s previous record for cases, set just before Christmas, will be passed by Easter.

The latest figures are likely to influence talks between Angela Merkel and regional leaders on whether to extend lockdown set for Monday.

Europes Third Wave — Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases

01:51 PMIndia and Pakistan suffer resurgence of Covid-19 cases

India and Pakistan reported a big jump in new coronavirus infections today, driven by a resurgence in cases in their richest states.

In efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, the Punjab state in India extended a night curfew across nine districts and the New Delhi city government announced an increase of vaccinations to 125,000 doses per day from around 40,000 at present, officials said.

Local authorities in the Indian state of Odisha sought additional vaccine doses and in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, authorities ordered schools and colleges to be shut across eight administrative divisions until April 10.

Officials in India have blamed the surge in infections mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks. Pakistan says the coronavirus variant first found in Britain may also be a factor.

Maharashtra state, home to India’s commercial capital Mumbai, reported 23,179 of the country’s 35,871 new cases in the past 24 hours, and the rapid spread in industrial areas raised risks of companies’ production being disrupted.

Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart – Cases default

01:47 PM’Mistake’ for EU countries to be over-precautious with EU vaccine

Matt Hancock said it is “a mistake” for European countries to be being over-precautious with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Conservative MP Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) told the Commons: “I have to say I am personally in despair at the short-sighted decisions that are being taken by many European countries and what seems to be their absurd misapplication of the precautionary principle.”

Mr Hancock replied: “Yes, (Mr Bell) puts it characteristically well. It is very important to take all considerations into account when making decisions like these.

“Of course the precautionary principle is an important one, but over-precaution when there are such huge benefits to vaccination is itself a mistake. What you have to do is take the overall public health into account.”

Europes Third Wave — Daily new confirmed COVID-19 deaths

01:43 PMMexico authorities seize fake batch of Russian Sputnik V vaccine

Authorities in Mexico have seized a batch of fake doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, responsible for exports of the drug, has said.

“Earlier today Mexican authorities seized a batch of vaccines designed and packaged as Sputnik V,” the RDIF sovereign wealth fund said.

“Analysis of the photographs of the seized batch, including the design of containers and labels, suggests that it is a fake substance which has nothing to do with the original vaccine,” the fund said in a statement.

RDIF thanks the Mexican government, its customs and Armed Forces for seizing an illegal shipment of a fake Sputnik V vaccine.
👇
https://t.co/x7eCgfylre

— Sputnik V (@sputnikvaccine) March 18, 2021

01:38 PMTory MPs criticise EU states over AtraZeneca vaccine suspension

onservative MPs have criticised some EU member states for suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot fears.

Discussing the AstraZeneca vaccine, Conservative Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) told the Commons: “Now Europe don’t seem to be too keen on using this, could we not use their vaccine?

“And could (Matt Hancock) assure me that the Pfizer vaccine will be available not just for second jabs but for first jabs during the month of April please?”

Matt Hancock replied: “(Mrs Latham) has put her finger on a certain irony in two different positions that our European friends are taking at the same time.

“I think the best thing to say is that I hope following the MHRA’s statement later today, and on consideration by the EMA, then we can get this vaccine going everywhere because the data are really very clear that it saves lives.

“That is what the European Medicines Agency themselves had said throughout the last couple of weeks, and I think it is important to follow the science on this one.”

01:35 PMUK slavery reports going undetected due to pandemic

The number of suspected modern slaves identified annually in the UK has stalled for the first time since 2012 with campaigners concerned that the coronavirus pandemic has hindered efforts to support victims.

About 10,613 potential victims were referred to the British government for help last year – three fewer than in 2019 – according to the Home Office, which said the plateau was mainly caused by Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions.

A rising number of children were identified in 2020 – 47 per cent of all referrals up from 43 per cent – fuelled by a rise in reports of “county lines” exploitation, with drug gangs using young people to move their wares from cities into rural areas.

Anti-slavery charities said the pandemic meant front-line professionals – from police to social workers – had fewer opportunities to identify and engage with possible victims, while some resources were diverted into the Covid-19 response.

“Sadly, this decrease in referrals is not due to there being less victims … on our streets. In fact, quite the opposite,” said Robyn Phillips, the London Project and Survivor Lead for the Human Trafficking Foundation.

01:25 PMScotland vaccine supplies to fall by half a million next month

Scotland will have around 500,000 fewer vaccine doses next month, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

She said this means second doses may have to be prioritised at times in April.

A delay in the delivery of five million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus jab from India is partly to blame for a forthcoming reduction in the UK’s supply.

Speaking ahead of First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said she has had talks with representatives producing the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.

“At present we expect that over the next month we will have approximately 500,000 fewer doses than we had previously anticipated.”For that reason there may be periods in April where we need to prioritise second doses.”

01:20 PMNHS chief Sir Simon Stevens receives AstraZeneca jab

The head of the NHS has received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab today with nearly 22 million people in England now vaccinated against Covid-19

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, is among 2.4 million people aged 50 to 54 who are now eligible for a vaccine, 100 days after the first dose was administered in the UK.

The 54-year-old thanked all those involved in the biggest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS, as he was vaccinated at the Westminster Abbey vaccination site.

Sir Simon Stevens receives the AstraZeneca jab at Westminster Abbey – Aaron Chown/PA

Sir Simon said: “Today marks an important milestone as more than half of adults in England have now had their first NHS Covid vaccination.

“I’m personally delighted to have had my Oxford AstraZeneca jab this morning – it’s quick, painless and effective.”

01:13 PMMatt Hancock: EU should respect ‘contract law’ to ensure UK vaccine supplies

Hancock says EU should respect ‘contract law’ ensuring UK vaccine supplies Asked about the EU threat to hold up supplies of vaccine to the UK, Hancock says all countries need to respect contract law.

He says Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, herself said there should be no restrictions on companies fulfilling their contractual responsibilities. He goes on:

We fully expect those contracts to be delivered on, because there are very significant consequences to breaking contract law.

01:09 PMMatt Hancock: Appointments will not be cancelled after supply issues

The Health Secretary told the Commons that appointments made “will not be cancelled because of supply issues”.

Responding to Jonathan Ashworth, Mr Hancock said: “He asks about supplies from Moderna. We do expect supplies from Moderna in the coming weeks and I am very grateful to Moderna for the work that they have done.

“Of course, we’ve always been cautious about setting out future supply details – and the experience of the last 24 hours makes me even clearer that it is far better for us to set out clear commitments to the public in terms of when people can be vaccinated, which means all over 50s-now can come forward.

“And we are committed to and on target to offer to all over-50s and groups 1-9 by 15th April.

12:52 PMMatt Hancock: UK ‘on track’ to meet vaccination target

The vaccination program is on track to meet the targets we have set out, Matt Hancock has said.

In an address in the House of Commons, the Health Secretary also urged the public to continue taking up the jab.

The NHS will get an extra £6.6bn for the first half of the next financial year to cover extra costs generated by the pandemic, he said.

This is on top of the extra £3bn allocated at the spending review

A further£594m will also be allocated for safe hospital discharge.

An additional £341m will be allocated for adult social care.

12:48 PMMatt Hancock: ‘No changes’ to lockdown roadmap following vaccine supply issues

Matt Hancock has said there will be ‘no changes’ to the lockdown roadmap following supply issues of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India.

The Health Secretary told the House of Commons: “Vaccines are safe and they make you safer than not getting vaccinated. That is an absolutely critical fact.”

He said the Government knows supply figures “move up and down” and that is to be “expected” with the vaccination roll out.

Vaccines from Moderna is expected in the coming weeks, he added.

12:42 PMMatt Hancock ‘proud’ of partnership with India, despite delay

Matt Hancock said the partnership with the Serum Institute of India is one the UK “can be proud of”, despite a delay.

He said: “We have a delay in the scheduled arrival from the Serum Institute of India.

“Now, I want to put on the record my gratitude to the Serum Institute of India for the incredible work that they’re doing producing vaccine not just for us in the UK, but for the whole world.

“Their technology and their capability, which has been approved by the MHRA, is remarkable. The Serum Institute of India producing a billion doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine this year, it truly is partnership that we can be proud of.”

12:39 PMMatt Hancock: 1.7m vaccine doses delayed

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that a batch of 1.7 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been delayed.

He told the Commons: “In April, supply is tighter than this month and we have a huge number of second doses to deliver. During April, around 12 million people, including many colleagues in this House will receive their second dose.

“These second doses cannot be delayed as they have to be delivered within 12 weeks of the first dose.

In the last week, we’ve had a batch of 1.7 million doses delayed because of the need to retest its stability.Events like this are to be expected in a manufacturing endeavour of this complexity and this shows the rigour of our safety checks.”

12:38 PMMatt Hancock: UK supplying Gibraltar with vaccine

The UK has been providing Gibraltar with coronavirus vaccines, Matt Hancock has announced.

Gibraltar has become the first nation in the world to vaccinate its entire adult population, he added.

12:35 PMMatt Hancock: 12m second doses in April ‘cannot be delayed’

Matt Hancock has said the estimated 12m second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine “cannot be delayed” as they have to be delivered within 12 weeks of the first dose.

The Health Secretary said there will be no weeks in April with no first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine administered.

There will be also no cancellation of appointments as a result of supply issues, he said.

Commenting on the delay in vaccine supply from India, Matt Hancock paid his gratitude to the Serum Institute of India (SII).

The SII are on course to produce a billion doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine this year, he added.

12:31 PMMatt Hancock: Vaccine manufacturing is ‘complex’ and subject to ‘unpredictability’

Matt Hancock has said the process of manufacturing vaccines is “complex” and subject to “unpredictability”.

In an address to the House of Commons, the Health Secretary said the pace of the vaccine roll out has been determined by the availability of supply.

Mr Hancock said the UK is “in the middle of some bumper weeks of supply.”

All over-50s can now be offered vaccines for Covid-19, he added.

However he said that vaccine supplies in April will be “tighter” than in March.

Around 12m people in April will receive their second dose, he added.

12:21 PMAlmost half of young adults are now at clinical risk of mental health disorders

Almost half of 18-24 year olds in the English-speaking world are facing a “clinical level risk” of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, and Covid-19 has only made things worse, according to a major new survey.

The results show a “profound societal mental health crisis”, the report from the Mental Health Million Project, an initiative led by the US non-profit Sapien Labs, concluded.

Watch Harriet Barber’s breakdown of the study below

12:17 PMAfrican Union says AstraZeneca jabs should continue

The African Union said on Thursday that countries should continue to use AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, echoing the World Health Organization (WHO) by saying the shot’s benefits outweighed risks.

The recommendation comes after more than a dozen European countries suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine amid concerns over the risk of blood clots.

Africa has lagged wealthier parts of the world in vaccinations, with many countries on the continent using free AstraZeneca shots distributed by a global scheme co-led by the WHO to kick-start immunisation campaigns.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a news conference the “benefits still outweigh the risks” and countries should “move forward”.

The head of the disease control body added that any adverse reactions should be monitored and reported.

Global vaccine rollout – top 10

12:13 PMComment: Global capital is leaving Europe and coming to Britain

The eye-wateringly large monetary outflows from the eurozone may accelerate into outright flight writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.

The consequences of a mushrooming third wave in an un-vaccinated population, with no herd immunity until September, is to protract what Keynes called the “long dragging conditions of semi-slump” for many more months, inflicting such damage that the recovery may be sickly even when it finally comes. While the US is spending $2.8 trillion (£2 trillion) or 13pc of GDP in fast fiscal relief – two thirds this year – the EU has nothing of the kind. The Recovery Fund is for rebuilding later.

Read the full commentary here

12:05 PMPoll results: 94pc of Telegraph readers would still get AstraZeneca jab

This morning we asked you, the Telegraph reader, if you would still get the AstraZeneca vaccine amid the blood clot concerns.

More than 3,000 of you responded in less than two hours, and the results are pretty conclusive.

Asked “Would you still get the AstraZeneca vaccine?”, a massive 94 percent said they would “without hesitation”.

You can still have your say below:

12:03 PMCovid is leading cause of death in Feb 2021

Coronavirus was the leading cause of death in February 2021 for the fourth consecutive month in both England and Wales, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Covid-19 accounted for 30.1 per cent of the 55,489 deaths registered in England in February and 22.2 per cent of the 3,199 deaths in Wales, it added.

The second leading cause of death was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in England and ischaemic heart diseases in Wales.

Covid-19 accounted for more than three times the number of deaths than the second leading cause in England and more than two times in Wales, the ONS said.

55,489 deaths were registered in England in February 2021, 11,421 more than the five-year average (2015 to 2019).

In Wales, there were 3,199 deaths registered, 260 more than the five-year average https://t.co/99rE872mbO

— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) March 18, 2021

11:58 AMEU examining ‘different tools’ to block vaccine exports

The European Commission is examining the “different tools” to potentially block vaccine exports and said they were expecting reciprocity on “vaccine exports not individual producers”.

Chief spokesman Eric Mamer told a Brussels briefing: “In terms of how we’re going to implement this we’re in the process of thinking it through.

“You mention the export authorisation tool, that is one option, we will also certainly be discussing with companies. We’re looking at the different tools that could be at our disposal and we will see what means are necessary for the end.”

Asked how the EU could block Pfizer exports while it is respecting its contract with the bloc, he said: “In our relations with third countries when it comes to exports we need to keep in mind not only what individual companies are doing but what the whole process is delivering in terms of results.

“If in a specific country there is vaccine production, and that actually these vaccine production facilities are also in our contract but that we’re not seeing deliveries of vaccines coming to Europe based on the contract that we’ve signed, this is something that we need to take into account when authorising exports to that country.

“Reciprocity, that is the word, in terms of vaccine exports not individual producers.”

11:51 AMWatch: Tanzania’s virus-sceptic president dies aged 6111:48 AMEurope’s summer holiday is in peril, says Morgan Stanley

Europe could be looking at another lost summer tourist season as Covid-19 cases rise and the vaccine rollout continues to falter, Morgan Stanley has said.

This poses a major threat to the economies of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, the investment bank said.

“Europe’s high cases and slow vaccine drive could lead to a late reopening, putting a second summer at risk – which would exacerbate the north-south divide and could trigger further policy easing,” Morgan Stanley said.

Last year, Europe was able to save some of its summer season with the help of restrictions and seasonal weather dynamics that lowered transmission rates from spring, they added.

“But we are somewhat sceptical that this can happen again this year, given the emergence of new strains, which appear to be more transmissible and dangerous, and have driven an acceleration in cases recently in the euro area, e.g. in France and Italy.”

Morgan Stanley said the south of Europe would see the biggest impact from another lost summer as tourism accounts for over six per cent of European GDP and nearly eight per cent of employment – but much more than that in tourism-dependent countries, such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

11:41 AMEU to send letter to AstraZeneca to resolve conflict on vaccine contract row

The European Commission will send a letter to AstraZeneca as part of its strategy to resolve the dispute with the Anglo-Swedish company over its supplies of Covid-19 vaccines to the bloc, a spokesman from the EU has said.

We plan to send a letter to AstraZeneca that will allow us to begin a dialogue with the company as part of a process to resolve the dispute,” the spokesman told a news conference.

He added the letter was under preparation and would be discussed with EU governments before sending it.

A vaccination centre in Erfurt Germany lies deserted after the country’s suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine – Martin Schutt/DPA

11:37 AMWatch: Vaccine delays ‘no cause for concern’, says Robert Jenrick11:25 AMEffects of AZ vaccine suspension in EU countries ‘not visible’ immediately

Dr Siddhartha Sankar Datta said the effects of temporary vaccine suspension would “not be visible” immediately but that countries should not delay rollout for too long.

“The virus is there amongst us, the numbers are showing that. This temporary suspension is just a temporary phenomenon,” he said.

“The effect of this temporary phenomenon will not be visible in a day or two, we have to look into this very closely.

“However, as the countries have made this decision to suspend, they will have to look into the length of this temporariness.

“If it goes quite broad, days or months, (it) should not be, then I’m sure it will show its effect.”

Vaccination rates in the UK and the EU

11:20 AMAstraZeneca/Pfizer vaccines more effective against Brazil variant

The vaccines from Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech may be more effective against the P1 Brazil variant of coronavirus than previously thought, a new study suggests.

Research from Oxford University, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, measured the level of antibodies that can neutralise – or stop infection from – variants that are circulating in South Africa, Brazil and elsewhere.

It found that vaccines do not work as well against the variants as against the original strain of coronavirus, but that the P1 Brazilian variant may be less resistant to vaccine-induced antibodies than first feared.

Professor Gavin Screaton, lead scientist on the study, said: “This study extends our understanding the role of changes in the spike protein in escape from the human immune response, measured as neutralising antibody levels. The results suggest that P1 might be less resistant to vaccine and convalescent immune responses than B1351 (South Africa), and similar to B117 (Kent).”

11:14 AMCountries should prioritise spending on health like defence, economist urges

The world needs to prepare for future pandemics with the same urgency as it approaches fighting wars, according to a leading economist.

Covid-19 has shown that there is money available for public health in emergencies if needed, but improving preparedness would be a much better spend, Professor Mariana Mazzucato told a special lecture hosted by LSE’s Department of Health Policy and the Global Health Initiative on Tuesday.

“When there’s wars to fight, no one asks where’s the money because it’s created out of thin air. Similarly, you know, a pandemic like this one comes around and all of a sudden trillions are found,” she told the online event.

Moving forward, countries like the UK need to prioritise spending on health much in the same way as they do defence and security, she added.

“We need to realise that, whether it’s climate or health, the really important thing is to start treating [preparedness] with the same level of urgency that we fight wars,” she said.

Jordan-Kelly-Linden has the full story here

11:08 AMWHO not encouraging vaccine passports for ‘ethical and scientific reasons’

Dr Hans Kluge said the WHO was not encouraging the use of “vaccine passports” for both “ethical and scientific” reasons.

“It should not be a requirement for a number of reasons,” he told a press briefing on Thursday.

“First, ethical. There is a global shortage of vaccines so this would increase the iniquities and if there is one thing that we have learned from the Covid-19 pandemic it is that the vulnerable people were hit disproportionately.

“Second, a scientific reason. We are not sure yet how long the immunity lasts once a person gets the Covid-19 vaccine and paradoxically if you get the vaccine you may be protected but still you can transmit the infection.”

10:54 AMThe latest vaccine pictures from India

People get their checkups done before getting inoculated with the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a government hospital in Chennai – Arun Sankar/AFP

Front-line workers wait to get inoculated with the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a government hospital in Chennai on March 18 – Arun Sankar/AFP

A medical worker inoculates an elderly man with the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a government hospital in Chennai – Arun Sankar/AFP

10:33 AMWHO director says AstraZeneca benefits ‘far outweigh its risk’

Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine “far outweigh its risk” and its use “should continue to save lives”.

Addressing a WHO press briefing on Thursday, he said it was “routine to signal adverse events” but people should “have confidence” in the protection given by vaccines.

“The Covid-19 vaccination will not reduce death or illness from other causes,” he said.

“As of now we do not know whether some or all of the conditions have been caused by the vaccine or by other coincidental factors.

“At this point in time, the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh its risk and its use should continue to save lives.”

He continued: “Vaccines work and will eventually allow the return to a new normal but for that to happen we need to rely on science and have confidence in the incredible protection afforded by vaccines against all vaccine preventable diseases including Covid-19.”

10:25 AMPakistan imports Covid vaccines for private sale, starting with 50,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V

Pakistan has begun importing Covid-19 vaccine for private sale, starting with 50,000 Sputnik V Russian shots.

The consignment will be the first of regular deliveries, officials said, and came as the country braces for a third wave of infections.

Officials have again closed schools and begun locking down hotspot neighbourhoods as the UK variant drives a new spike in cases.

Ben Farmer has more on this story.

10:17 AMPeople in 40s might have to wait til May for jabs

People in their 40s are likely to have to wait until May to get their Covid-19 vaccine after problems with a shipment of the AstraZeneca jab from India impacted supply.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said news of constraints in supply was “disappointing” and “a bit of a setback”, and the focus in April will be on giving second doses to people who were vaccinated earlier in the year.

“The impact of this shortage of supplies will happen on the group that we were hoping to start on in April, which is the people under the age of 50 without any pre-existing conditions, who are now going to have to wait until May,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

10:08 AMOn this day last year

Here’s what happened on Mar 18, 2020.

ON THIS DAY LAST YEAR – Mar 18

– UK Covid cases 2,626, deaths 104

– Wetherspoons announces pubs will stay open, but only for table service and no cash payments

– Govt announce schools will close until further notice, no exams

How @Telegraph covered it: pic.twitter.com/6GyGxrlEpg

— Gareth Davies (@GD10) March 18, 2021

10:07 AMNorthern Ireland says AstraZeneca supply issues could put them back four weeks

Patricia Donnelly, the head of the vaccine rollout in Northern Ireland, said issues with AstraZeneca supply lines across the UK will not have a huge impact on the timeline for administering jabs in the region.

Ms Donnelly told the Assembly’s Health committee that plans had been flexed to make more use of Pfizer jabs pending the arrival of further AstraZeneca stock.

She said all first jab appointments already booked will be honoured and those expecting a second jab will also receive it.

Ms Donnelly said more people would continue to get first jabs in April but at a slightly reduced rate.

She said the delivery issues could knock back the rollout plan by four weeks in a “worst case scenario” but said the delay was more likely to be around two weeks.

“I think, worst case scenario, it probably puts us back by four weeks,” she told the committee.

“The mitigation measures that we put in place we hope will only delay us by two weeks, so it won’t have a huge impact.”

09:51 AMPoll: Would you still get the AstraZeneca vaccine?

Ministers, experts and Government advisers have all said the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is perfectly safe after some EU countries decided to halt the rollout due to blood clot fears.

British data suggests that the amount of blood clots seen is no different to what would be expected in the general population.

But a German vaccine regulator said the number of people suffering cerebral blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca jab in Germany was “statistically significantly higher” than the number that would have been expected in the general population and that a link was “not implausible”.

So if you were offered the AstraZeneca jab today – what would you do?

09:38 AMWorld awaits EU medical regulator’s AstraZeneca investigation results

The world awaits a decision from Europe’s top medical regulator into whether there is any evidence to show the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is linked to a small number of blood clots reported in people across the continent.

The European Medicines Agency’s expert committee is set to announce the results of its investigation later on Thursday.

Earlier this week, more than a dozen countries including Germany, France, Spain and Italy suspended immunization using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after reports of unusual blood clots in several people among the 17 million who have received at least one dose in Europe.

Both the EMA and the World Health Organization have said there is no current evidence to suggest the vaccine was responsible and that the benefits of immunization far outweighed the potentially small risk of getting vaccinated.

AstraZeneca said after a careful review of its COVID-19 immunization data, it found no evidence of any increased risk of blood clots in any age group or gender in any country.

09:36 AMBrazil sees record daily cases

Hard-hit Brazil has posted more than 90,000 daily Covid-19 cases for the first time, as the country’s far-right President said he was happy his supporters were holding protests to oppose social distancing, reports Ben Farmer.

The record toll of infections follows a string of records for daily death tolls and warnings that the country’s intensive care wards are on the brink of being overwhelmed. Jair Bolsonaro said the protests made him happy. “They show that the people are alive … we want our freedom, we want the world to respect our constitution,” he said.

Mr Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the disease and clashed with doctors calling for him to take more action.

Brazil now has 11,693,838 confirmed cases. Deaths on Wednesday rose by 2,648, the second highest tally after the record reported Tuesday, and now total 284,775.

09:25 AMHow are different countries’ vaccine rollouts progressing?

As the UK’s vaccine rollout threatens to stutter, here is how it compares to other countries.

How are different countries’ vaccine rollouts progressing?

09:05 AMGovernment learned of supply issues ‘in last few days’

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said the Government had learned of coronavirus vaccine supply issues “in the last few days”, and suggested the problem is not due to reductions from a single nation.

The Housing Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have learned from some of our manufacturers that there are going to be some supply issues in the last few days.

“A number of global manufacturers are experiencing issues.”

Pressed if the issue was vaccine coming from India, he said: “It’s not that there’s any one factory responsible for this or any one country.”

08:30 AMTelegraph’s exclusive interview with CEO of Indian vaccine firm

The Telegraph’s Samaan Lateef has secured an exclusive interview with Chief Executive Officer of Serum Institute of India, Adar Poonawalla.

Q: The UK is facing a shortage of Covid vaccines and attributes it to India. Is there any problem with manufacturing?

A: We have supplied 5 million doses to the UK. I don’t know what are they talking about.

Q: The five million doses – when was this? And was this a bilateral deal?

A: It was supplied to AstraZeneca and they gave it to UK few weeks ago, I think. There was media coverage of it.

Q: How many more will be sent to the UK?

A: It is solely dependent on India. It has nothing to do with the SII. It is to do with the Indian Government allowing more doses to the UK.

Q: Serum Institute was due to send 10 million doses to the UK this month – but just half have arrived, with the five million due at the end of this month now delayed by four weeks.

A: No, there is no stipulated contract period and time in which I am supposed to deliver these doses. I am helping as I can and when I can AstraZeneca and UK to supply these doses.

There is no vaccine shortage. There was never a commitment to supplying doses to the UK in any stipulated time. We just said we will offer our help. India has allowed 5 million doses to go to the UK. The balance doses will be decided to be given to the UK at an appropriate time by the Indian Government. While balancing India and all its needs at the same time.

This clarifies the point that we are not delayed at all giving anything to the UK because there was nothing stipulated that in any finite amount of time were we supposed to deliver 10 million doses. And of course, don’t forget we are primarily supplying the CoVax to poorer nations as they are the ones who have not got the doses. So there is really no question of any delay to the UK from Serum Institute.

08:20 AMExclusive | India behind UK supply shortage

Read more on this exclusive from Joe Wallen and Samaan Lateef.

British MPs’ criticism of the Indian Government’s alleged use of force against peacefully protesting farmers was not behind the delay, according to a source, with exports to other countries also being held.

The SII would still commit to delivering the remaining five million doses as soon as possible, a source told the Telegraph, and this commitment would not “take months.”

“There was never a commitment to supplying doses to the UK in any stipulated time. We just said we will offer our help,” said Mr Poonawalla.

It was waiting for a directive from a “cautious” Indian Government and did not want to anger New Delhi, which was requesting more vaccine doses than the SII had initially allocated, according to an interview Mr Poonawalla gave to Bloomberg on Wednesday.

“We had to dedicate a lot of our capacity, which was not originally planned for India. We’re trying to balance it out as much as possible, but again for the first few months we have been directed to prioritize supplies to India and certain other countries that have a high disease burden,” said Mr Poonawalla.

India has spearheaded the Covid-19 global vaccination drive, with at least 58 million “Made in India” doses being distributed to 66 countries, including 16 million doses for the Covax global vaccine sharing scheme.

While public health experts have showered the country with praise for its selfless approach, the Indian Government has come under growing pressure domestically to stockpile vaccines so that doses can be rolled out for its entire population.

07:54 AMRollout might be slightly slower due to supply issues

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick has conceded the rollout of coronavirus vaccines would be slightly slower than expected because of the supply shortage.

The Housing Secretary told BBC Breakfast: “We are experiencing some supply issues so it does mean the vaccine rollout will be slightly slower than we may have hoped but not slower than the target we set ourselves.

“We’re going to move forward as quickly as we possibly can but it won’t be as fast as we might have hoped for a few weeks but then we have every reason to believe that supply will increase the months of May, June and July.”

07:47 AMCabinet minister ‘dissapointed’ by EU threats

The Housing Secretary has been left “surprised and dissapointed” by the EU’s theat to block vaccine exports to the UK.

Watch his interview on Sky News below.

Robert Jenrick says he is “disappointed” by Ursula von der Leyen’s threat to block vaccine exports to the UK, adding the European Commission president gave Boris Johnson a “very clear commitment” that “contractual responsibilities would be honoured”.https://t.co/3rZfKA3cO4 pic.twitter.com/9UDTgB0TM7

— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 18, 2021

07:43 AMSupply issue due to international imports, minister hints

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick has suggested the issue with vaccine supply is due to doses being imported from abroad and did not deny a reported problem with supply from India.

The Housing Secretary told Sky News: “We’re sourcing vaccines from all over the world and we’re experiencing, occasionally, some issues and that has led to issue with some supply in the coming weeks.”

But asked about supply from India after a reported delay in the delivery of five million Oxford/AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute of India, he said: “I’m not going to get into the specific contracts we have with different manufacturers. We’re sourcing vaccines from many countries all over the world.

“It’s a very complex international supply chain and that does mean occasionally we will experience issues and that’s what we’ve experienced right now.”

07:41 AM’Nobody who has an appointment should be concerned’

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick has said “nobody who has an appointment should be concerned” amid a temporary shortage of vaccine supply.

The Housing Secretary told Sky News: “We do think there are going to be some supply issues in the weeks ahead but this isn’t anything that people should be worried about, we’re still on course to meet our targets.

“Nobody who has an appointment should be concerned, you’re still going to get your second vaccine, all those appointments will be honoured.

“But we always said right from the beginning that a new manufacturing process would have its lumps and bumps, that has been the case in the past and I’m sure it will be in the future.”

07:36 AM’No reason to believe’ roadmap could be delayed, says minister

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick has said there is “no reason to believe” the road map to easing the lockdown will be delayed by the shortage in vaccine supplies.

The Housing Secretary told Sky News: “There’s no reason to believe the road map is affected by this temporary shortage in supply.

“There’s no concern that we are off course on the road map.”

07:29 AMToday’s front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Thursday, Mar 18.

dt

06:29 AMSherelle Jacobs: The five taboo Covid lessons we must learn

The emerging truth we can’t quite face is that while the effectiveness of lockdowns is limited, their side effects are limitless, writes Sherelle Jacobs.

As the one-year anniversary of lockdown approaches, and an inquiry into the pandemic looms, an “official” Covid story is forming. The country seems to have settled on the narrative that the Government failed to take the pandemic sufficiently seriously in the first few weeks: experts are gravely unanimous that a failure to lock down quickly enough cost tens of thousands of lives. Squashed sardines at Cheltenham are seared into the public memory as the symbol of our complacency. The abandonment of Test and Trace last February after Public Health England realised systems could only manage five new cases each week has already become the most notorious “computer says no” moment in the Westminster machine’s history.Speaking to the Science and Technology Select Committee yesterday, Dominic Cummings added his own vivid flourishes to this narrative, calling the Department of Health and Social Care a “smoking ruin” when the crisis struck.This is an astonishingly narrow version of events. Fixating on a few weeks either side of last March overlooks mistakes made before the pandemic (such as the Blair government’s fatal conflation of two separate diseases – influenza and Covid SARS – in Britain’s pandemic planning back in 2005).

Read more: The five taboo Covid lessons we must learn on the first-year anniversary of lockdown

05:37 AMCovid reinfection more common for over 65s

Most people who have had coronavirus are protected from catching it again for at least six months, but those aged 65 and over are more prone to reinfection, new research suggests.

Large-scale assessment of reinfection rates in Denmark in 2020 confirms that only a small proportion of people (0.65%) returned a positive PCR test twice.

However, while prior infection gave those under the age of 65 years around 80% protection against reinfection, for people aged 65 and older it only gave 47% protection, indicating that they are more likely to catch Covid-19 again.

According to the study published in The Lancet, the researchers detected no evidence that protection against reinfection declined within a six-month follow-up period.

Dr Steen Ethelberg, from the Statens Serum Institut, Denmark, said:

“Our study confirms what a number of others appeared to suggest: reinfection with Covid-19 is rare in younger, healthy people, but the elderly are at greater risk of catching it again.”Since older people are also more likely to experience severe disease symptoms, and sadly die, our findings make clear how important it is to implement policies to protect the elderly during the pandemic.

03:59 AM’Do not resuscitate’ orders ‘imposed’ on care home residents

Blanket “do not resuscitate” orders have been imposed on care home residents without their consent during the Covid pandemic, the care watchdog has been told as it warned that the “potentially unlawful” practice may still be going on.

More than 500 residents were made subject to such orders, according to a survey by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), although the true number is likely to be much higher because the majority of care providers did not respond.

Blanket do not attempt cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) decisions were also imposed on people with learning disabilities “who are not near the end of their lives”, the report said, showing a “concerning disregard for disabled people”.

The CQC also discovered a surge in overall DNACPR orders in place in nursing homes, where the number of residents subject to them leapt from 74 per cent to 92 per cent after mid-March last year. The regulator’s damning report could now trigger a raft of legal cases brought by the relatives of people who died.

Read more: Care home residents put on ‘do not resuscitate’ orders without consent

The UK has one of the highest share of deaths amongst its care home residents

03:38 AMTanzania’s Covid-sceptic president dies

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, one of Africa’s most prominent coronavirus sceptics, has died aged 61, after a more than two-week absence from public life that led to speculation about his health.

Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Wednesday that Mr Magufuli died from the heart disease that had plagued him for a decade. She said burial arrangements were under way and announced 14 days of mourning and the flying of flags at half-mast. State television broadcast mournful and religious songs.

Mr Magufuli, had not been seen in public since Feb 27, sparking rumours that he had contracted Covid-19. Officials denied on March 12 that he had fallen ill amid reports that he had flown to Kenya for treatment for the virus.

Read more: John Magufuli: Tanzania’s president and coronavirus sceptic dies aged 61

Magufuli had not been seen in public for more than two weeks – REUTERS

02:41 AMToday’s top stories



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