UK should share out vaccines once over-50s have been vaccinated, says WHO
A new vaccine designed to combat the South African variant of coronavirus, which appears to reduce the efficacy of current jabs, could be ready for use by the autumn, according to the Oxford vaccine’s lead researcher.
Professor Sarah Gilbert told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the vaccines were “very quick to adapt” and researchers were already working on a version to target the recently-discovered variant.
It came after a study found that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offered weaker protection against the South African variant but could still protect against severe disease and hospitalisation.
The government said it hoped to “normalise testing in the workplace across both public and private sectors” to catch more asymptomatic cases of the virus.
Astrazeneca believes jab will still protect agains severe disease
AstraZeneca has said it believes the jab will still protect against severe disease caused by the mutation.
A spokesperson for the firm said: “We do believe our vaccine will still protect against severe disease, as neutralising antibody activity is equivalent to other Covid-19 vaccines that have demonstrated activity against more severe disease, particularly when the dosing interval is optimised to eight to 12 weeks.”
The spokesperson added that other immune responses, such as T cell responses, may have a role in protecting against disease, and initial data suggests these may stay the same with the variant.
Vincent Wood7 February 2021 17:16
Austria tightens border controls to slow Covid spread
Austria has said it is tightening border controls to all neighbouring countries, arguing that non-essential travel should be prevented during the pandemic.
“The border controls are meant to break the chain of infection which through new virus mutations has grown more dangerous,” Karl Nehammer, the country’s interior minister, said in a statement.
You can find the full story below:
Conrad Duncan7 February 2021 17:02
‘Relief’ for Welsh first minister after wife and mother-in-law get vaccine
Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford has spoken of his “relief” after both his wife and mother-in-law were given coronavirus vaccinations.
The Welsh Labour leader said he was now the only one in his household yet to receive the jab, adding that he was “hugely grateful” that his wife and her mother had received their first doses.
“Due to their conditions they are both in the top four priority groups and have both been vaccinated,” Mr Drakeford told the PA news agency.
“Both experiences were excellent in terms of how smoothly it went and how well it was organised, and they’ve had no ill effects of any sort.”
He added: “I’m hugely grateful, because they’re both vulnerable. And although they’ve been incredibly careful and don’t do anything that puts them at risk, the fact they’ve had the vaccine is a relief.
“You can see how it gives people a different outlook, that they can see the light at the end of all of this.”
Conrad Duncan7 February 2021 16:48
UK reports 373 new Covid deaths
A further 373 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the UK’s total death toll to 112,465, according to government figures.
However, separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 129,000 deaths in the UK.
The government also reported that there had been a further 15,845 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, as of 9am on Sunday.
Conrad Duncan7 February 2021 16:27
UK vaccination total for first doses passes 12 million
More than 12 million Britons have now received their first coronavirus vaccine dose after nearly 550,000 first doses were reported this afternoon.
Government figures showed a total of 12,014,288 people had received the first dose of a vaccine as of Sunday, with the seven-day rolling average currently at 433,851 doses a day.
In addition, 511,447 people have received their second dose of the vaccine so far.
Conrad Duncan7 February 2021 16:15
Pope resumes greeting public in St Peter’s Square
Pope Francis has resumed greeting the public in St Peter’s Square, seven weeks after he interrupted the Sunday noon ritual to discourage crowds from gathering due to coronavirus.
He appeared at an Apostolic Palace window overlooking the square and greeted a couple of hundred people standing apart at a safe distance on Sunday.
“In the square again!” Francis said, appearing in public on the first Sunday since the Rome area regained Italy’s “yellow zone” designation, which carries the least restrictions on movement.
In normal times, thousands of pilgrims, tourists and locals turn out in the vast square on Sundays to hear the pope.
Conrad Duncan7 February 2021 16:00
Government ‘considering excess profits tax’ on companies cashing-in during pandemic
Amazon and other firms which have made huge gains during the coronavirus pandemic could face an “excessive profits tax” under plans reportedly being considered by the government.
The No 10 policy unit is working on proposals for a one-off windfall tax that would impact major businesses which have benefited from a surge in online deliveries, according to The Sunday Times.
Our political correspondent, Ashley Cowburn, has the full story below:
Conrad Duncan7 February 2021 15:44
Premium: When will the PM hold a public inquiry into handling of pandemic?
It has been more than six months since Boris Johnson first committed to holding an independent inquiry into the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic but when will it finally take place?
Our political correspondent, Ashley Cowburn, has taken a look for Independent Premium at when we can expect the investigation to start:
Conrad Duncan7 February 2021 15:21
Shakin’ Stevens speaks of ‘relief’ after receiving Covid jab
Shakin’ Stevens has spoken of his relief over getting the coronavirus vaccine after becoming the latest celebrity to receive the jab in the UK.
The Welsh singer, aged 72, thanked staff at Adams Park Stadium in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and said he felt “totally relaxed” about the process upon arrival – despite having a fear of needles.
When asked about how he felt following the jab, he told the PA news agency: “Relieved. It is the first step to hope and it had to be done to help get life back to normal.
“They were brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I was nervous before I got there but I was very impressed.”
He added: “If you are concerned about having the vaccine then ask the people who can answer your concerns and questions – your GP for instance, who has your medical records. They will certainly help. Go to the right people if you need to understand more.”
Stevens received his first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine with his partner and manager Sue on Sunday morning.
Other celebrities who have received their first jab include Sir David Attenborough, Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench.
Conrad Duncan7 February 2021 15:06
Bangladesh begins mass vaccination campaign with Oxford jab
Bangladesh has begun its nationwide coronavirus vaccination drive with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, aiming to inoculate 3.5 million people in the first month of the campaign.
The south Asian country is seeking to inoculate 80 per cent of its population of around 170 million, with each person getting two doses administered four weeks apart.
However, the government has nearly halved its target for the first month from 6 million people as only a little over 328,000 people had registered for the vaccine by Saturday.
“The wait is over. Today is a historic day for us after such a difficult year,” health minister Zahid Maleque told Reuters on Sunday.
“I took the vaccine today. I am feeling good. Everyone must take the vaccine.”
Mr Maleque added that Bangladesh would get 68 million doses of vaccine from the GAVI vaccine alliance – a global health partnership set up to increase access to immunisation in poor countries.
Conrad Duncan7 February 2021 14:46