Coronavirus latest news: Take AstraZeneca vaccine to ‘leave lockdown behind’, Arlene Foster urges

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  • PM accepts he made a mistake in delaying first lockdown 
  • ​The link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots: is it safe to have the jab?
  • Travel news latest | Portugal to come off the ‘red list’ today​
  • Lockdown one year on: Ten reasons why so many Britons have died
  • Why did Boris Johnson take so long to tell us to stay at home?
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People need to take the AstraZeneca vaccine to “leave lockdown in the rear view mirror”, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster has said. 

The Republic of Ireland has temporarily paused administration of doses as a “precautionary step” after reports of people suffering blood clots in Europe.

However the vaccine’s manufacturer has insisted it is safe, saying a review of available data in more than 17 million people who have been vaccinated across the UK and EU has shown no evidence of an increased risk.

Arlene Foster said: “I am looking forward to taking it, either this week or next week, depending on when I am able to get my vaccine booked for but it is very important that people continue to take the vaccine.

“We have made huge progress in the UK in relation to the vaccine so it is important that people continue to do that so we can leave lockdown in the rear view mirror and we can move on with our lives.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

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1:28PM

Increase in infections could be linked to schools return, admits Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon said there is no room for complacency after a slight increase in coronavirus cases following the return of children to schools in Scotland.

Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily briefing on Monday, she said she could not rule out the possibility that a rise in cases over the last week was linked to the return of schooling.

She said: “It is important to note that over the past seven days we have actually seen a slight increase in cases and we will be monitoring that carefully and it does provide us with a reminder that there is still no room for complacency and that our room for manoeuvre is limited.”

Children in P1-P3 returned to Scotland’s schools on February 22. On Monday, they were joined by classmates in P4-P7, with secondary school pupils returning to in-class learning part time.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Can we rule out a link between schools partially reopening and a bit of an uptick in cases? No, I don’t think we can.”

Map of UK’s seven-day Covid-19 infection rate, by local authority
1:21PM

‘No immediate plans’ to change school holiday dates in Wales

There are “no immediate plans” to change school holiday dates in Wales for this academic year, education minister Kirsty Williams has said.

She told a press conference that £78 million had been made available to schools and colleges to ensure they had the staff and resources to support pupils.

“There are no immediate plans to change holiday school dates for this academic year,” Ms Williams added.

“As to what schools will look like in September, I have learned over this last year not to make predictions.

“Clearly, we will want schools to be as back to normal – the old normal – as possible but it’s impossible at this point to say where we will be with some of the Covid security measures that we’ve had to put in place.”

1:14PM

Ugandan leader has not had Covid vaccine as he is ‘careful’

Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni has said he has not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 because he is “careful” and is still weighing which jab to take, days after the East African country began its inoculation campaign.

The 76-year-old’s apparent hesitation may fuel already significant vaccine scepticism in the country, which is in the earliest stages of its roll out of the jab.

Many African countries have struggled to get doses and have not administered a single shot.

Health workers queue to be vaccinated against Covid-19

Ugandan health workers queue to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in Kampala

Credit:
Luke Dray/Getty Images Europe

Uganda began vaccinating health workers and the elderly last week after receiving 864,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from COVAX, the World Health Organisation-backed programme to provide vaccines to poor and developing countries.

1:02PM

Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective, says PM

Downing Street has sought to reassure people about the safety of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains both safe and effective, and we urge anybody asked to come forward to receive a vaccine to do so.”

There was “no evidence” that blood clots are any more likely to occur following vaccination, the spokesman said.

It comes after Ireland and The Netherlands temporarily suspended the use of the jab over concerns about blood clots. 

12:57PM

Students at Welsh universities to return to campus on April 12

All students studying at universities in Wales will be able to return to campus from April 12, the country’s education minister has said.

Kirsty Williams told a press conference in Cardiff: “From April 12, it is our expectation that all students can return for blended learning for the duration of the summer term.

“Universities have planned for more teaching and learning to continue in the summer term than is usually normal in the academic cycle.”

Students will be offered coronavirus tests before returning to university, with twice-weekly lateral flow testing available for all students and staff who cannot regularly work from home.

12:49PM

Police chief calls for clarity over handling of protests during lockdown

One of Britain’s most senior police officers has called for more clarity on how forces should deal with protests during the pandemic following controversy over the handling of the Sarah Everard vigil.

National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt said the difficult decisions faced by police commanders have been made harder under lockdown restrictions.

His comments followed fierce debate over a memorial event planned for the 33-year-old, who went missing while walking home in south London on March 3 and was found dead in Kent the following week.

Mr Hewitt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that policing demonstrations and public order is always “incredibly challenging”.

He said: “You are balancing different rights, you are balancing legal regulations, you are balancing health and safety. They are very difficult decisions for commanders on the ground to make in any set of circumstances.”

12:36PM

EU vaccine row prompts Austria’s vaccine co-ordinator to resign

The official in charge of Austria’s purchases of coronavirus vaccines has resigned just days after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz raised concerns about vaccine distribution within the EU.

“Clemens Auer asked me yesterday to relieve him of his functions as vaccine co-ordinator,” Austria’s Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said in a statement.

The announcement comes three days after Kurz said there had been a lack of transparency surrounding deals between some EU states and vaccine manufacturers.

However, Monday’s statement pointed to problems with the way Austria itself had handled the vaccine procurement process within the framework established by the EU.

Anschober said Auer had “in one concrete case not forwarded information on to me.”

12:26PM

Take the AstraZeneca vaccine to leave lockdown behind, urges NI first minister

People need to take the AstraZeneca vaccine to leave lockdown in the rear view mirror, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster has said.

Ireland has temporarily paused administration of doses after reports of people suffering blood clots in Europe.

Mrs Foster will be booking her jab for this week or next after the rollout was extended to those aged over 50.

The DUP leader said: “The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) have been very clear that it is safe to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I am looking forward to taking it, either this week or next week, depending on when I am able to get my vaccine booked for but it is very important that people continue to take the vaccine.

We have made huge progress in the UK in relation to the vaccine so it is important that people continue to do that so we can leave lockdown in the rear view mirror and we can move on with our lives.

12:15PM

German ICU doctors urge immediate lockdown amid third wave fear

Intensive care doctors in Germany have warned that the country needs to make an “immediate return” to partial lockdown if it is to avoid a dangerous third wave of the pandemic.

Nnurses take care of a Covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit of the University hospital of Aachen

Nnurses take care of a Covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit of the University hospital of Aachen

Credit:
INA Fassbender/AFP

“From the data we currently have and with the spread of the British mutation, we would argue strongly to return immediately into a lockdown to avoid a strong third wave,” Christian Karagiannidis, director of Germany’s intensive care register, told broadcaster RBB.

We won’t gain much from staying open for the next one or two weeks, because that will quickly bring us to a high level and make it twice as hard to push the numbers down again

12:10PM

Portugal extends UK flight ban to March 31

Portugal has extended a ban on flights to and from Britain and Brazil until March 31, with only humanitarian and repatriation flights allowed. 

Direct commercial or private flights to and from the countries have been banned since January to limit the spread of new variants.

As of March 7, passengers flying indirectly to Portugal from Britain or Brazil have also had to present a negative Covid-19 test taken 72 hours before departure and quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Portugal, which has so far reported 814,257 cases and 16,684 deaths, began easing a two-month nationwide lockdown after a surge in cases caused by the Kent variant of coronavirus. 

12:00PM

Two vaccine doses offer similar protection as natural immunity post-infection

Two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offer similar protection against coronavirus as natural immunity after infection, new research suggests.

None of the 1,456 healthcare workers at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust who had received two vaccines had a symptomatic infection when followed up more than 14 days after their second vaccination.

The study saw the same high level of protection in unvaccinated healthcare workers who had contracted Covid-19 naturally.

They had 98 per cent fewer symptomatic infections than unvaccinated individuals who had not been infected before, researchers say.

11:52AM

Cuba and Taiwan push for homegrown Covid vaccines

At first glance, little beyond their island status links Cuba and Taiwan.

But complex relationships with neighbouring superpowers have pushed both countries to bet on home-grown coronavirus vaccines.  

In Cuba, decades of sanctions imposed by the United States have inadvertently created a thriving biotechnology industry.

Cuba becomes the first in Latin America to start third and final phase of clinical trials of vaccines in Havana,

Cuba becomes the first in Latin America to start third and final phase of clinical trials of vaccines in Havana,

Credit:
Shutterstock

Four vaccine candidates are in development in the communist country, including two which entered phase three trials this month.  

Meanwhile, 9,000 miles away on China’s doorstep, growing fears Beijing could use access to vaccines as a further means of political coercion have raised the stakes for two Taiwanese jabs currently in phase two trials.   

Sarah Newey and Nicola Smith have the full story here

11:47AM

Firemen in France halt use of AstraZeneca vaccine 

Firemen in France’s southern Bouches-du-Rhone region have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for their staff after signs of negative side-effects. 

France and Germany have decided to continue administering the shot while other European countries, including Ireland, Norway and the Netherlands, have suspending its use on safety grounds.

11:38AM

Hospitals could redeploy staff  who refuse vaccines,

Hospitals can consider redeploying staff who have refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine, a new NHS document suggests.

In the material, NHS England sets out how employers could consider moving workers who have declined the vaccine to a “less exposure-prone setting”.

The document sets out steps on how employers can ensure their staff who have declined the offer of the vaccine are safe at work.

Measures include making sure they have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and that they have had a mask fitting, if they need to use certain respirator masks.

NHS workers should also have awareness of infection control and undertaken the appropriate training, and that they have an up-to-date risk assessment.

Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?
11:30AM

Police break up hokey-kokey dance in Alexandra Park

Police broke up a crowd of parents and children performing a hokey kokey dance yesterday in Alexandra Park. 

No Covid fines were issued to the group of dancers. 

11:22AM

One metre distancing just as effective as two, US study finds

Children going back to school may need less distancing than previously thought according to a new US study.

Researchers found no difference in the spread of infections in schools where youngsters were kept three feet apart and schools where they were kept six feet apart.

Children wore masks in both sets of schools.

The researchers concluded in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, that: “Lower physical distancing policies can be adopted in school settings with masking mandates without negatively impacting student or staff safety.”

11:15AM

India records worst day of infections in 2021

India has recorded its highest single-day caseload of 2021 as the country’s second wave gathered momentum.

Officials recorded 26,291 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, with more than half of those from the western state of Maharashtra.

Poor adherence to safety precautions seems to be driving a fresh wave of infections.

The daily tally of cases has been climbing again for weeks, with Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh also reporting a surge in infection. 

India has so far recorded more than 11 million Covid cases and 158,000 deaths.

Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart – Cases default
11:09AM

Italy, Spain, France and Germany to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

Developers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine have announced they had reached production agreements in key European countries as the EU’s medical agency deliberates official approval for the jab.

Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), said in a statement that his organisation had secured “agreements with companies from Italy, Spain, France and Germany to launch production of Sputnik V”.

Mr Dmitriev said the deals would allow for the supply of Sputnik to the European market “once the approval is granted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA)”.

If approved Sputnik would become the first non-Western coronavirus jab to be certified for use across the 27-nation bloc.

The EMA launched a rolling review of Sputnik V earlier this month, but several EU countries have already begun distributing it

11:03AM

Hong Kong’s tough rules see babies isolated

Families in Asia’s financial hub of Hong Kong are suffering isolation and trauma after strict coronavirus rules have led to babies being separated from parents and those with newborns herded into tiny quarantine quarters for up to 14 days.

Hong Kong authorities have ordered that anyone testing positive must go to hospital, including babies, while all their close contacts, even those who test negative, are sent to makeshift quarantine camps.

“It’s crazy,” said one mother, who said she had to abruptly stop breastfeeding following separation from her seven-month-old son last week after she was diagnosed with Covid-19.

10:51AM

South Korean province orders testing for foreigners

South Korea’s most populous province has ordered all of its foreign workers to be tested for Covid-19 by Mar 22, sparking complaints of long lines and logistical problems, as well as of implicit xenophobia in government messaging.

Last week, Gyeonggi province issued a sweeping administrative order mandating all international workers be tested after at least 275 foreigners tested positive, many in outbreaks at manufacturing plants.

The province says the order covers roughly 85,000 registered foreigners as well as an unknown number of potential undocumented workers, while those who don’t comply could face fines of up to 3million won (£1,895.

10:29AM

Wales off to the hairdressers

In a much-anticipated moment for many Welsh people, today is the day they can rid themselves of their lockdown locks.

Senior stylist Robert Brooks cuts the hair of Carmen Smith at the Lazarou salon in Cardiff, Wales

Senior stylist Robert Brooks cuts the hair of Carmen Smith at the Lazarou salon in Cardiff, Wales

Credit:
Ben Birchall/PA

The Talking Heads hair salon in Whitchurch, Cardiff, open for the first time after the Welsh Government relaxed the rules following three months of closure

The Talking Heads hair salon in Whitchurch, Cardiff, open for the first time after the Welsh Government relaxed the rules following three months of closure

Credit:
Wales News Service

10:24AM

Turkey plans to be first to accept UK holidaymakers without Covid checks

Turkey is set to become the first country to allow Britons in for summer holidays without requiring a vaccination certificate or negative Covid test, writes our Home Affairs Editor Charles Hymas.

The Turkish Government is so confident that the vast majority of Britons will be vaccinated by the Summer that it expects to be able to lift its requirement for holidaymakers from the UK to have a negative PCR test.

It means that Turkey will be open to Britons for summer holidays as soon as the Government lifts its ban on non-essential travel, expected as early as May 17.

Read the full story here.

10:16AM

Indonesia delays Oxford jab rollout

Indonesia will delay the administering of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine due to reports of blood clots among some recipients in Europe and would await a review from the World Health Organization (WHO), its health minister said on Monday.

The European Medicines Agency has said there is no indication that the events were caused by the vaccination, a view echoed Friday by the WHO, while AstraZeneca said on Sunday its review has shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.

9:52AM

Covid around the world, in pictures

Anti-lockdown protesters Men in Black Denmark demonstrate in Copenhagen

Anti-lockdown protesters Men in Black Denmark demonstrate in Copenhagen

Credit:
Martin Sylvest/AFP

A civil police officers order people to leave a night club during operation to crack down on parties that violate covid rules amid a surge in cases

A civil police officers order people to leave a night club during operation to crack down on parties that violate covid rules amid a surge in cases

Credit:
Amanda Perobelli/Reuters

9:29AM

Danish woman who died of blood clots had ‘highly unusual’ symptoms

A 60-year old Danish woman who died of a blood clot after receiving AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine had “highly unusual” symptoms, according to the Danish Medicines Agency.

The woman had a low number of blood platelets and clots in small and large vessels, as well as bleeding, it said.

A few similar cases were found in Norway and in the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) database of drug side effects, Danish Medicines Agency said.

“It was an unusual course of illness around the death that made the Danish Medicines Agency react,” it said in a statement late on Sunday.

Norway said on Saturday that three people, all under the age of 50, who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine were being treated in hospital for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets, which were labeled “unusual symptoms” by health authorities.

Denmark, Norway and Iceland said last week they would halt the introduction of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

9:27AM

Jaba O’Riley: The Who’s Roger Daey gets vaccine 

The Who star Roger Daey says he is “grateful” to have received his coronavirus jab.

The singer, 77, who is also patron of the Teenage Cancer Trust, had the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I haven’t had blood clots and I haven’t got horns growing out of my head. I’m really grateful,” he told Good Morning Britain.

9:10AM

Pre-Covid office working life unlikely to return, says Bank of England governor

Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey has said pre-Covid levels of office working are unlikely to return, and most workers will adopt a hybrid approach to their jobs when restrictions ease.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we will see things change, because I think some habits and some practices will prove to be sustainable.

“I think there will be for many people more of a hybrid model of working at home and working in a place of work.

“I think we’ve already seen the retailing industry change quite dramatically in the last year and although I would expect some of it to change back it, it won’t entirely change back.

“I would be very surprised if we went back to exactly as we were before Covid.”

8:54AM

‘All is well’ with Oxford jab, says minister

Policing minister Kit Malthouse claimed that scientists have said “all is well” with the Oxford coronavirus vaccine, after its rollout was temporarily paused in some countries amid concern around blood clots.

Asked if a review was needed over the jab, he told BBC Breakfast: “No, the scientists tell us not, and they tell us that all is well.

“As far as I can see, they tell us that the incidence of these things happening is no greater than you would expect in the population anyway.

“Obviously, the vaccine has been through very rigorous medical testing, clinical trials and all the rest of it, before it was brought forward.”

Mr Malthouse added: “I’m hoping to be jabbed myself in the next couple of weeks and I will happily take the AstraZeneca jab into my arm when it comes.”

8:53AM

Over-50s will be vaccinated in next few weeks, says JCVI

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said that all over-50s will be vaccinated within the next few weeks.

He told BBC Breakfast: “In primary care, we’re still vaccinating cohort six – all with underlying illness – and some of seven.

“But, throughout the country, we’re going down to cohort nine.

“Most people over the age of 50 will be vaccinated really within the next few weeks – so it is tremendously successful.

“Those first nine priority groups included 99% of all hospitalisations and deaths, certainly in wave one of the pandemic, so we’re feeling very optimistic.

“We’re seeing a very sharp reduction in the deaths and hospitalisations throughout the country.”

8:43AM

Boris Johnson out for morning run

Wearing what has become his trademark running gear – the Prime Minister has been out for a run again this morning. 

Boris Johnson in his hat and jumper

Boris Johnson in his hat and jumper

Credit:
LNP/Ben Cawthra

Boris Johnson is spotted running in a London park this morning

Boris Johnson is spotted running in a London park this morning

Credit:
Splash News

8:37AM

Women more likely to get jab side effects, says JCVI

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said women were more likely to get side effects from the Oxford jab.

People who get the jab are more likely to get side effects after the first dose than the second, he added.

Asked whether people might experience some side effects, he told BBC Breakfast: “Yes, there are. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – for the first dose – seems to give quite a lot of minor side effects like: a very sore arm; fever; malaise; headache and sometimes chills which may last for up to 48 hours afterwards.

“They do seem to be more common in women and in younger women.

“With the Pfizer vaccine, which we are given at the moment, it seems to be the reverse – side effects are more likely with the second vaccine.

“The message is once you’ve had your first Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – if you do get some side effects which are unpleasant take some paracetamol. And don’t not have your second vaccine because of the side effects because the second vaccine is likely to be less reactogenic than the first.”

8:33AM

Public would be informed ‘straight away’ about jab concerns

Professor Harnden said that if there were any concerns about the jab, then the public would be informed “straight away”.

He said the European regulator of medicines, the British regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the World Health Organisation and AstraZeneca have “all said this vaccine is safe”.

“The data that we look at on a weekly basis on JCVI and a daily basis at MHRA are reassuring that there is no link, so we are right in this country to press on,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“We will keep monitoring this and if there is any safety signals that we are concerned about, we would let the public know straight away.

“At the moment, the message is absolutely clear – go and get your vaccine when offered.

“I spent all yesterday in our practice vaccinating with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – I would not be immunising my own patients unless I felt it was safe.”

8:11AM

‘No demonstrable difference’ in blood clots, JCVI professor says 

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said there was “no demonstrable difference” in the number of blood clots seen between the general population and the 11 million who have so far received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab to date.

He told BBC Breakfast: “Safety is absolutely paramount and we monitor this data very carefully.

“We have given 11 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to date and there’s no demonstrable difference between the blood clots in those that have been vaccinated from those in the general population.

“We have to remember that there are 3,000 blood clots a month on average in the general population and because we’re immunising so many people, we are bound to see blood clots at the same time as the vaccination, and that’s not because they are due to the vaccination. That’s because they occur naturally in the population.

“One ought to also remember that Covid causes blood clots. So, the risks of not having the Covid vaccination far outweigh the risks from the vaccinations.”

8:04AM

Haircuts in Wales from today

People will be able to tame their manes today in Wales for the first time in weeks as hairdressers open their doors. 

The changes mean that from today: 

  1. All primary school pupils will return to face-to-face teaching, as will exam-year students in secondary schools. Wholesale school re-opening will not take place until after the Easter break
  2. Hairdressers and barbers can re-open for appointments 

Read Wales’ lockdown rules here.

7:58AM

Trials show lower rate of blood clots after vaccine, Prof says

Prof Pollard closed his interview with the BBC saying: “The clinical trials are quite reassuring because they show a lower rate of blood clots in those who have been vaccinated. 

“But it’s absolutely critical that there are careful evaluation of these cases. 

“In the meantime we really need to make sure people are protected against Covid.” 

7:57AM

Oxford vaccine boss denies calls to suspend jab

Asked whether the UK should suspend the use of the Oxford vaccine, Prof Pollard told Today: “I think we have to balance that against the huge risks that are of Covid. 

“If we have no vaccinations and we come out of lockdown in this country, we’d expect tens of thousands more deaths this year. And as you will know, a number of countries outside Europe are seeing an increase in cases again. 

“Italy, France, Germany, Poland – all have the start of a new surge in cases. So it’s abs critical that we don’t have a problem of not vaccinating people and have the balance of a huge risk – a known risk – of Covid against what appears to be so far by the data that we’ve got from the regulators, no signal of a problem.” 

7:53AM

UK data ‘very reassuring’, Oxford jab director says on blood clots

Professor Andrew Pollard, the Oxford jab director, has said that the UK data looks “very reassuring” amid concerns surrounding the vaccine and blood clots. 

He told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “Safety is clearly absolutely paramount and it’s absolutely right all our public health bodies are monitoring it closely, but it’s important to understand that a lot of stuff happens to people in normal times. 

“And in  he case of blood clots here in the UK, we see about 3,000 cases of blood clots happening every month. 

“When you put a vaccination campaign on top of that, clearly those blood clots still happen and you’ve got to try to separate out when they occur and whether they are related to the vaccine or not. 

“The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) very clearly have said they are not seeing any increase in the number of blood clots than they would normally see.”

Prof Pollard pointed to a study in Finland which showed that there was no change in the amount of blood clots in the weeks before and after people had their Oxford jab. 

He added: “At this moment, we’ve got the most data from the UK, which looks very reassuring, but of course it’s absolutely right there is monitoring of safety and this gets looked into.” 

7:37AM

One year of lockdown: Why did Boris Johnson take so long to tell us to stay at home?

Dominic Cummings had just delivered the news the Prime Minister least wanted to hear, Associate Editor Gordon Rayner writes in a special report.

Scribbling in red pen on a whiteboard in Boris Johnson’s office, the PM’s chief adviser had drawn a crude graph to demonstrate that the Government’s analysis of coronavirus had woefully underestimated how quickly it had spread. The NHS would be overwhelmed in as little as three weeks, Mr Johnson was told. “Christ!” the Prime Minister spluttered. “We’ve got to move now on this!”

Downing Street insiders say the previously unknown meeting on the morning of Saturday, March 14 last year was the moment lockdown became inevitable.

Yet it would be another nine days until Mr Johnson issued his historic “stay at home” direction – a delay that senior figures in Government are now admitting was a mistake.

Read the full report here.

7:30AM

Shadow policing minister says vigil officers showed no ‘sensitivity’

Shadow policing minister Sarah Jones said there was not “sensitivity” in the policing of Saturday’s Sarah Everard vigil at Clapham Common in south London.

“I think most people will agree that police have had to make a really difficult call often through Covid and I talk to police all the time as the shadow policing minister, and I have talked about some of these challenges,” the Labour MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I think there were two things that went wrong. The first was that an agreement wasn’t come to in advance with those women who really just wanted to pay their respects

“It wouldn’t have been unlawful if an agreement had been reached, that’s what the judge said, and it was unfortunate that an agreement wasn’t reached.

“Then I think it was wrong the way it was policed on the night, the sensitivity wasn’t there.

“I think it speaks now to the issue of the Government trying to rush through legislation that changes the laws again on public processions and assemblies and protests.”

7:09AM

Today’s front page

 Here is your Daily Telegraph on Monday, Mar 15.

dt

7:00AM

Malaysia racing to close rubber glove supply gap

Malaysia, the world’s biggest rubber gloves manufacturer, is racing to increase production to close a supply gap caused by the coronavirus pandemic that it warns could last until into 2023.

The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (Margma) said on Monday the country was in an oversold position of 160 billion gloves.

“The lead time currently is about seven months for the gloves to be delivered to the end customer,” Margma President Supramaniam Shanmugam said, adding that demand would remain robust until the second quarter of 2022.

Even with global production expected to ramp up to 420 billion this year from 380 billion last year and annual growth of 10-15%, Supramaniam said excess demand could run into 2023. Malaysia expects to supply 280 billion, or 67%, of that increased global supply.

Employees check latex gloves in the watertight test room at a Top Glove Corp. factory in Setia Alam, Selangor

Employees check latex gloves in the watertight test room at a Top Glove Corp. factory in Setia Alam, Selangor

Credit:
Bloomberg

6:41AM

Calls to alter 2022 GCSE’s

Next year’s GCSE exams must be altered to make them fair for students who have missed more teaching time, the Labour Party has said, as research shows Year 10 students have lost one in eight days of classroom time since their courses began.

Labour will on Monday urge ministers to set out plans for exams in 2022, including “meaningful adjustments” so students who have missed more teaching time are not disadvantaged.

The Government has confirmed that GCSE, A-level and vocational exams will take place in 2022, after two years of disrupted results caused by school closures.

Read the full story

6:32AM

France facing hospital crisis

As France was hoping to avoid another national lockdown, it was facing a hospital crisis with intensive care beds in the Paris region running out.

The coronavirus has killed more than 2.6 million people around the world, with much of humanity going through varying levels of Covid-19 restrictions.

People have been growing weary of the economically painful curbs, however.

6:12AM

Thailand to start AstraZeneca rollout

Thailand will start using the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday after a brief delay due to concerns over its safety, officials said, with the prime minister and his cabinet due to be the first to receive it.

Natreeya Thaweewong, director of the spokesperson’s office of government house, made the announcement about the inoculations, which were delayed from Friday, in a chat group with media on Monday.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul had earlier on Monday said the AstraZeneca vaccine, over which there have been reports in Europe of sporadic blood clots, would be given to the cabinet on Tuesday if cleared by local health experts. 

5:32AM

Italy reimposes restrictions as cases surge

Coronavirus restrictions were reimposed across much of Italy on Monday.

Despite immunisation programmes gathering pace, surges in infections remain a threat and Italian authorities reimposed restrictions on three-quarters of the country until April 6 to suppress an outbreak fuelled by the variant first detected in Britain.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said Sunday the government hoped these strict measures and ongoing vaccinations would allow a relaxation of curbs later.

“Each dose of vaccine injected is a step in the direction of the way out of the crisis,” he added.

Schools, restaurants, shops and museums will close, including in Rome and Milan, with residents told to stay home except for work, health or other essential reasons.

Carabinieri patrol the streets during the last weekend before the new measures against the Covid-19 pandemic come into force

Carabinieri patrol the streets during the last weekend before the new measures against the Covid-19 pandemic come into force

Credit:
GIUSEPPE LAMI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

5:18AM

Papua New Guinea facing crisis as infection rate rises

Half of Covid-19 tests from the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG) processed by Australia have been positive, the leader of Queensland state said on Monday, prompting calls for faster vaccine delivery.

PNG’s Western Province lies within a few miles of Australia’s northern border, and Queensland laboratories are assisting to investigate the worsening outbreak.

Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Papua New Guinea was “on the doorstep” and she held real concern about the rising infection rate there.

“Out of the 500 tests that our health authorities have done for PNG, 250 have come back positive,” Ms Palaszczuk told reporters on Monday.

Ninety new cases were recorded in Papua New Guinea on Saturday by its government, and a World Health Organisation weekly update was due to be released later on Monday.

Cases, deaths and vaccinations, coronavirus world map
2:54AM

Mexico’s president knocks US over vaccines

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took a dig at the US government on Sunday, saying the United States has not helped Mexico with coronavirus vaccines.

Lopez Obrador thanked India and Russia, which have each sent small amounts of vaccines, and China, whose firms have promised millions of doses.

Lopez Obrador said “I hope that soon I will be able to say thanks to the US government, because I am sure they are going to help too, it is just that that haven’t done so so far.”

Mexico has seen almost 195,000 deaths, and almost 2.2 million cases. The country has approved 6 vaccines, and has so administered about 4.34 million shots.

A woman visits the grave of a relative at the Municipal Cemetery, as the coronavirus outbreak continues, in Nezahualcoyotl, State of Mexico

A woman visits the grave of a relative at the Municipal Cemetery, as the coronavirus outbreak continues, in Nezahualcoyotl, State of Mexico

Credit:
Reuters

2:40AM

Dutch to vote in Covid-dominated election

The Netherlands begins three days of voting Monday in a primary test of a European government’s coronavirus policies, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte set to win another term in office.

With the country under its tightest Covid-19 restrictions including an overnight curfew, polling stations will open mainly for at-risk people on Monday and Tuesday before the main election day on Wednesday.

Police used water cannon to break up anti-Rutte protests on the eve of voting, and riots against the introduction of the country’s first curfew since World War II rocked the Netherlands in January.

But Mr Rutte – in power since 2010 and one of Europe’s longest serving leaders – is expected to emerge as head of his fourth coalition government owing to his steady handling of the pandemic.

Police officers detain a protester during a protest on the Malieveld against the coronavirus policies and the government

Police officers detain a protester during a protest on the Malieveld against the coronavirus policies and the government

Credit:
Getty

2:05AM

New York pays tribute to Covid victims

New York, the US city most bereaved by the coronavirus, paid a moving tribute Sunday to its 30,258 dead, one year after the start of the pandemic.

“More New Yorkers lost than in World War Two, Vietnam, Hurricane Sandy and 9/11 put together. Every family touched in some way, and for so many families a pain, a pain that is raw,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a live virtual ceremony, after calling for a moment of silence to honour the victims.

The Democratic mayor heralded the “health care heroes” who “saved lives,” sometimes at their own expense.

The virtual ceremony began with a short recital by the New York Philharmonic, in front of lit candles on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge on a chilly and windy night.

Large black and white photos of the victims were projected onto the bridge.

Faces of victims of Covid-19 are projected onto the Brooklyn Bridge 

Faces of victims of Covid-19 are projected onto the Brooklyn Bridge 

Credit:
Getty

12:19AM

Stop ‘moving the goalposts’, say MPs 

The Government must stop “moving the goalposts” in decisions on coronavirus restrictions and should publish data thresholds for its road map out of lockdown, MPs have urged.

A report by the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee criticised a lack of transparency from ministers throughout the pandemic.

It said the framework for lockdown and tiering decisions changed “repeatedly”, with decisions not always appearing to reflect new information.

The committee warned that this had led to confusion and mistrust among the public – despite trust being a “crucial factor” in the success of the response to the crisis.

The MPs said the Government’s priority must be to ensure there is a “clear and consistent framework for making lockdown decisions as a path back to normality is charted”.

12:08AM

Today’s top stories

  • Boris Johnson accepts it was a mistake to delay the start of the first national lockdown, close allies have said, while insisting the Prime Minister was let down by scientific advisers.
  • Turkey is set to become the first country to allow Britons in for summer holidays without requiring a vaccination certificate or negative Covid test.
  • With more than 20 million Britons now vaccinated, scientists are learning why some react more to the Covid jab than others.
  • Angela Merkel’s party suffered heavy defeats in regional elections on Sunday as voters turned on her government over its handling of the coronavirus crisis.
  • A Treasury mandarin who played a crucial role in assessing appeals by the collapsed lender Greensill Capital to access Covid loans  previously helped encourage greater use of the controversial form of finance in which it specialised.