Coronavirus latest news: US health regulator questions AstraZeneca vaccine

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  • Exclusive: Care home staff to face compulsory vaccination
  • Airlines axe summer flights over ‘red list’ ban fears
  • Airport visitors could be fined £5,000 for breaking travel ban
  • Boris Johnson ponders sharing Dutch-made AstraZeneca doses with the EU
  • William Hague: EU’s vaccine nationalism is more dangerous than it looks
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A US government agency has raised concerns that AstraZeneca may have included out-of-date drug data in information provided during US trials for its Covid-19 vaccine.

A monitoring board had “expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” a statement from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.

“We urge the company to work with the DSMB (Data and Safety Monitoring Board) to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible.”

The statement comes after AstraZeneca said Monday that stage three US trials had showed its Covid-19 vaccine was 79 percent effective at preventing the disease and 100 percent effective against severe disease and hospitalisation.

Several countries in Europe – including France and Germany – and other parts of the world last week suspended its use because of isolated cases of blood clots.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

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Nine in ten pupils attended schools in England last week, Govt figures show

More than nine in ten pupils attended schools in England last week, Government figures show.

Overall, attendance in state schools was 91 per cent on March 18, up from 89 per cent on March 11, when some secondary schools were staggering the return of pupils.

But attendance in primary schools fell to 93 per cent on Thursday last week – from 95 per cent the previous week, the Department for Education (DfE) analysis shows.

Around 89 per cent of secondary school pupils were in class on March 18 – a similar proportion to the week before, the figures show.

The DfE estimates that 2 per cent of all state school pupils on roll did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons last week, up from 1 per cent on March 11.


Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle: ‘They will not be forgotten’

MPs paused proceedings in the House of Commons to observe the minute’s silence, with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle telling the chamber: “Every single one of us has been affected.

“It is right that we pause now, together with the whole country, to remember those who have died and those who are bereaved.

“Can I say that those colleagues who work with us who have also died, who were serving this House, our thoughts and prayers will always be with them and they will not be forgotten.”

Sir Lindsay said he hoped the “green shoots” were emerging, adding: “Hopefully we’ll have a world that comes back to all of us, none more so than the role that members have played in this House and the way that we’ve worked together – not only for the Government to legislate, but to ensure the Opposition can scrutinise as well.

“It’s been so important for us all to get to this stage and hopefully when we get beyond it we will see a House that comes back.”

MPs observe a minute’s silence in House of Commons 

 House of Commons/PA


Mark Drakeford pays tribute to the Welsh public for uniting ‘in the darkest of times’

First Minister Mark Drakeford has paid tribute to the Welsh public for uniting “in the darkest of times” as the country marks one year since the start of the first UK lockdown.

Mr Drakeford was speaking from the Welsh Government’s Cathays Park building after holding a minute’s silence to mark the anniversary.

He said: “In the darkest of times, we have come together as a country.

“And because of that, today we mark this anniversary with a sense of hope.

“Our fantastic vaccine programme is protecting thousands of people every day and we’re relaxing the restrictions we have lived with for so long.

“As the first shoots of spring appear, we can all have real hope that this year can be so much better than the last.”


Watch: Angela Merkel backs EU threat of AstraZeneca vaccine export ban

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday voiced support for EU chief Ursula von der Leyen’s threat to block AstraZeneca vaccines produced in the bloc from being exported, ahead of a crunch EU summit on the escalating row.

“I support Commission President Ursula von der Leyen,” said Merkel.

“We have a problem with AstraZeneca,” she added.

European officials are furious that AstraZeneca has been able to deliver its UK contract in full while falling short on its supplies to the EU.


Africa’s Ebola outbreak: Good news in DRC as they discharge their last Ebola patient

The World Health Organisation posted to their WHO Africa Region account: “With no more confirmed Ebola cases, a 42-day countdown to declaring the end of DRC’s Ebola outbreak begun just 37 days after the resurgence of the virus”.


A ‘revision’ of the EU’s vaccine export rules to be published on Wednesday

The European Commission has announced it will adopt a “revision” of its vaccine export rules, with details due to be published on Wednesday morning.

Chief spokesman Eric Mamer told a Brussels briefing: “The commission will adopt tomorrow morning a revision of the export transparency and authorisation mechanism.”


AstraZeneca to provide EU with U.S. trial data

AstraZeneca will provide Europe’s drug regulator with data from a U.S. trial of its Covid-19 vaccine and the watchdog could adjust its assessment of the shot if needed, the head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Tuesday.

“The trials point to greater efficacy than what we actually observed in the previous trials that we examined,” EMA chief Emer Cooke told members of the European Parliament.

Cooke, however, did not deliberate much on doubts expressed by U.S. federal health officials that AstraZeneca may have used “outdated information” in the data released on Monday.

“The company has promised to provide us with (data) and we will adjust our assessment if there is any new information that needs to be taken into account,” she said.



France’s Macron seeks faster vaccination rollout

France should be vaccinating “morning, noon and evening”, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday as he battles criticism that the Covid-19 immunisation drive has been too slow.

“We’re going to change pace from April,” Macron said during a visit to an inoculation centre in the northern town of Valenciennes, adding there should be “no weekend and days off when it comes to vaccinations”.

France is tackling a third wave of infections, but is lagging behind many Western countries in terms of the number of people vaccinated.

It has rolled out some 8.8 million doses, compared with over 30 million in Britain and nearly 11 million in Germany.


Pictured: The National Day of Reflection on the anniversary of the first national lockdown

Missioner Stephen Girling holds a candle lit to observe a minute’s silence in Bath Abbey

Ben Birchall/PA

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon observes a minute’s silence in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, Edinburgh

Jane Barlow/PA

Worshippers take part in a minutes silence at Lichfield cathedral in Lichfield



Government reviewing whistleblowing rules amid record pandemic sackings

Whistleblowing rules for workers are to be reviewed by the Government amid record numbers of employees claiming they were fired for speaking up during the pandemic.

Over 2,289 employment tribunal cases where a worker claims they have been sacked for whistleblowing were made between April and December last year, analysis by The Telegraph has found.

The number of Public Interest Disclosure cases, which are at the highest nine-month period on record, have more than doubled since 2014/15.

The Government has now committed to reviewing its existing rules to make sure that they are “fit for purpose”. 

Read the full story from Mason Boycott-Owen here.


UK jobless rate falls for first time since Covid-19 crisis hit

Britain’s jobless rate has fallen for the first time since the pandemic struck, despite the latest lockdown shutting large parts of the economy, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate of unemployment edged back to 5 per cent between November and January, down from 5.1 per cent in the previous three months.

Economists had expected the rate to rise to 5.2 per cent.

The data also showed the number of workers on UK payrolls increased for the third month in a row, up 68,000 or 0.2 per cent in February, in what experts said was a further sign that the jobs market was stabilising.

But payroll worker numbers have now fallen by 693,000 since February 2020 after a devastating year, with more job losses to come after furlough ends.

More than half of this fall – 368,000 jobs – were lost in the hospitality sector as lockdowns and restrictions hammered the industry, according to the figures.


‘No photos, please’: Putin to get his coronavirus jab in secret

After months of extolling the efficacy of the Russian coronavirus vaccine, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has decided to shun publicity and get his jab in private, writes Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow.

The Kremlin has struggled to offer an explanation why the president of the country which developed one of the world’s leading vaccines has been holding out for so long.

The vaccination with the Sputnik-V jab began in Russia in December, and President Putin has portrayed the Russian jab, which proved to be nearly 92 percent effective, as a major achievement of the Russian state and promoted it abroad as the ultimate tool of soft power.

The 68-year-old Russian leader broke the news of his upcoming vaccination during a conference call with officials on Monday discussing efforts to ramp up the immunisation drive.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, disappointed the public on Tuesday by saying that the president, who is known for his action man photo shoots, would receive the vaccine later that day in private since he “does not like the idea” of getting the jab on camera.

“You’re going to have to trust us on this,” Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, rejecting suggestions that the footage of the president getting the jab would be a way more powerful message for undecided Russians.

The fact that the president himself has endorsed it only in words has given rise to widespread suspicion as well.


Pictured: Nation falls silent on the National Reflection Day to remember Covid-19 victims

Care home staff at Westbourne House care home in Sheffield hold a minute’s silence

 Tom Maddick / SWNS

Commuters take part in a minute’s silence on the first anniversary of the first national Covid-19 lockdown, at Waterloo Station in central London


Health workers from the Glasgow Royal Infirmary take part in a minutes silence



Queen reflects on ‘grief’ of pandemic and sends flowers to Duke’s hospital

The Queen has reflected on the “grief and loss felt by so many” as she marked the poignant Covid lockdown anniversary by sending flowers to the hospital where the Duke of Edinburgh had heart surgery.

The monarch paid tribute to the “immeasurable service of those who have supported us all over the last year” in a message honouring the national day of reflection.

A bouquet of irises, tulips, mixed narcissi and ranunculus and the message were carried to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London from Windsor Castle.

The Queen is understood to have wanted to mark the day during which Covid-19 victims are being remembered across the nation with a minute’s silence at midday.

She chose St Barts to receive the flowers following the duke’s successful procedure and recent stay.

The message from the Queen read: “As we look forward to a brighter future together, today we pause to reflect on the grief and loss that continues to be felt by so many people and families, and pay tribute to the immeasurable service of those who have supported us all over the last year.”

The floral gift was handed to the hospital’s chief executive, consultant cardiologist Professor Charles Knight.

Philip, 99, and the Queen, who have been married for 73 years, were reunited at Windsor in Berkshire last week after the duke spent a month in hospital.


Pictured: Royal visit to London vaccination centre

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge marked the #nationaldayofreflection privately during a visit to a new Covid-19 vaccination centre at Westminster Abbey.

They held a minute’s silence in the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor, Prince William lit a candle and Kate left daffodils.

Victoria Ward reports.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Dean of Westminster The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle and Paul Baumann, Receiver General and Chapter Clerk

 Aaron Chown/PA

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive for a visit to the vaccination centre at Westminster Abbey

 Aaron Chown/PA


Nation falls silent to remember Covid-19 victims

People across the UK have taken part in a minute’s silence to remember Covid-19 victims, marking one year since the first lockdown began.

MPs and peers in both Houses of Parliament and ministers in the devolved nations marked the solemn anniversary at midday, while NHS and social care workers also joined the pause for reflection.

Cathedrals in Blackburn, Winchester, Gloucester and York Minster also fell silent in honour of those who have died during the pandemic.

The London Eye, Tate Britain, Blackpool Tower, the Scottish Parliament, Belfast City Hall and other buildings will be lit in yellow on Tuesday evening to mark the occasion.

The public is also being urged to stand on their doorsteps at 8pm with a candle or light.

Rachel Fielding, Virger at Blackburn Cathedral, holds a lit candle during the National Day of Reflection

 Peter Byrne/PA

The Prime Minister, who has offered his “sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones”, observed the minute’s silence privately.

Earlier, Downing Street said Mr Johnson had reflected with Cabinet ministers on Tuesday morning on what had been “a very dark and difficult year” for the nation.


Midday minute of silence coming up – watch live

At midday, a minute’s silence will be observed to mark the one-year anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown.

Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked us to stay at home on 23 March last year, there have been three lockdowns and  4.3 million cases of the virus, as well as 126,172 Covid-19 associated deaths.

The silence is a moment to reflect on all we’ve been through and all we’ve lost during the pandemic.

Pictures from around the country will follow shortly afterwards.


Starmer renews public inquiry calls on anniversary of first lockdown

Sir Keir Starmer has called for an inquiry into the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as the nation marks the anniversary of the first national lockdown.

During a visit to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, the Labour leader told reporters: “We owe both the NHS staff and those on the front line and all the families of those who have died to learn the lessons of the last 12 months, to have an inquiry and to learn what went wrong to make sure we never repeat that.

“I think the Government was very slow to react. They were slow in the first wave, slow to go into lockdown, very slow with protective equipment to the front line.

“Then we went into the second wave and instead of learning the lessons they repeated the mistakes: too slow, not getting communications right and in the end in the second wave we had more deaths than in the first wave, and I think there are some very, very important lessons there.”

Sir Keir Starmer has his temperature checked as he arrives for a visit to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London

 Stefan Rousseau/PA


The ‘Stanley Johnson clause’ allows overseas travel to inspect foreign properties

Overseas travel in connection with foreign homes will be permitted under coronavirus rules to be voted on by MPs.

Under the rules people leaving England for a foreign holiday could face a £5,000 fine but an exemption dubbed the “Stanley Johnson clause” will allow trips for the “purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property”.

The Prime Minister’s father was criticised last July after it emerged he had travelled to Greece to visit his mountain villa despite Government advice urging Britons against all but essential international travel.

He argued that he was on “essential business trying to Covid-proof my property in view of the upcoming letting season”.

The new regulations for the coming months, covering the Prime Minister’s “road map” out of lockdown for England, include a ban on leaving the country without a valid reason.

One of the exemptions allows travel to visit properties, estate agents, sales offices or show homes overseas if a person is seeking to buy or sell a foreign home.

The legislation also gives an exemption for “preparing a residential property to move in” or “to visit a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property”.

Stanley Johnson, father of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, waves to the local reporters outside his Villa Irene in Horto village, Mount Pelion

 Dimitris Kareklidis


Covid deaths involving people aged 80 and over fall by 91pc

Deaths involving Covid-19 among people aged 80 and over have fallen by 91 per cent since the second-wave peak, the latest ONS figures suggest.

A total of 496 Covid-19 deaths in the 80 and over age group occurred in England and Wales in the week ending March 12, down from 5,342 deaths in the week ending January 22.

Deaths for those aged 75-79 dropped 89 per cent in the same period, compared with falls of 88% for those aged 70-74 and 85 per cent for both those aged 65-69 and 60-64.

People aged 80 and over were the second group on the priority list for Covid-19 vaccines, with doses being offered from early December.


Keir Starmer: ‘My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “As we mark one year since our country entered the first lockdown, my thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones since the pandemic began.

“Today at 12pm, I will join people across our country to observe a minute’s silence on this National Day of Reflection.”


PM reflects on ‘very dark and difficult year’

Boris Johnson has reflected with Cabinet ministers on “a very dark and difficult year” for the nation on the anniversary of the first lockdown, Downing Street said.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The PM began Cabinet by reflecting on what he said had been a very dark and difficult year for our country.

“The PM said that we mourn all those we have lost and send our deepest sympathies to their families, friends and loved ones.

“The PM said the last year had also shown the great strengths of the British public, which had demonstrated such resilience and fortitude, and had shown such willingness to work together for a common good.”

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet also were said to have paid tribute to the “extraordinary service” of NHS and social care workers, as well as those in the public sector.

He also praised the “absolutely astonishing achievement” of British scientists and businesses in developing a vaccine and delivering it to half the adult population within a year.


Covid around the world, in pictures

Covid patient Rahamim Havura votes for Israel’s parliamentary election inside an intensive care ward for coronavirus patients at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel

Oded Bality/AP

Medical workers wait at booths during a government-organised session for foreigners to receive the vaccine against the coronavirus disease at a site in Beijing, China

Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Newly elected Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti poses for a picture with a member of the parliament after the parliamentary voting session in Pristina

Armend Nimani/AFP


‘Still further to go’ in vaccinating care home staff

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there is “still further to go” in vaccinating care home staff.

“Thus far 76% of staff in elderly care homes have been vaccinated, and over 90% of residents,” he told LBC.

“But I want both of those figures to be higher.

“One of the problems is that not every elderly resident can be vaccinated, sometimes for medical reasons, and we want to give them as much protection as possible.

“Now, 76% of staff having been vaccinated, that is good news, and that is good progress over the last few weeks, but there is still further to go.”


Belgium discover new African variant

Belgian scientists have discovered a new variant of coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in sub-Saharan Africa, reports James Crisp

Liège University researchers spotted the variant, which is called B.1.214 of Spike Insertion, because of a mutation which had never been seen in Belgium before, broadcaster VRT reported. 

The new variant is no more dangerous than existing ones active in Belgium. 4 percent of infections are blamed on it, which is about the same as the Brazilian and South African variants. 

“The variant is gaining ground in Belgium and especially around Brussels, in Flemish Brabant and Hainault”, Professor Vincent Bours, a genetics expert, said.

“The variant’s ancestry still needs to be established, but it may have originated in sub-Saharan Africa and may have arrived here as a result of travel.”


Deaths drop under five-year average for first time in six months

The number of deaths registered in England and Wales has fallen below the five-year average for the first time in six months, the ONS said.

Some 10,987 deaths were registered in the week to March 12, 4.4% below the average for the corresponding period in 2015-19.

It is the first time deaths have been below average since the week to September 4.


Hancock talks to Spanish counterpart to discuss ‘safe travel’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he had spoken to his Spanish counterpart on Monday about whether travel in a safe way was possible.

Regarding a potential block on vaccine exports by the EU, he told BBC Breakfast: “It is ultimately an international system – the development of vaccines – and there are parts made in different countries across the world, and countries really need to work together on this, I’d urge everybody to work together on it.

“That’s the approach that we’ve taken, and we’re working with colleagues obviously in America, on the continent, in India, right around the world to try to develop as many as vaccines as possible, as fast as possible, and I think that that, rather than throwing up borders, is the best approach to delivering as many vaccines globally as we possibly can.”

He said “no decision” has been taken yet on compulsory vaccination for care home staff but the Government was thinking about it.

He added: “It’s important because those who look after people in care homes have a duty of care towards them and not every resident in a care home can be vaccinated.”

He said there were no plans to introduce mandatory vaccination for the general public.


Boris Johnson sends key aide to India to tackle vaccine supply

Boris Johnson has made a last-minute attempt to avoid a Covid-19 vaccine shortage by sending one of his key aides to India to re-negotiate the import of five million doses allegedly being held by the authorities in New Delhi, reports Joe Wallen.

Lord Eddie Lister and international affairs adviser David Quarrey met with India’s Foreign Secretary on Monday, ahead of a visit to the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and producer of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University jab, in the western Indian city of Pune.

The SII delivered five million vaccine doses to the UK in early March but the Indian Government has allegedly held a further five million doses that London was expecting to receive this month, according to Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the SII. “It is solely dependent on India and it has nothing to do with the SII. It is to do with the Indian Government allowing more doses to the UK,” Mr Poonawalla told the Daily Telegraph on Thursday in an exclusive interview. India, which has struggled to contain the world’s second-largest Covid-19 caseload, is currently experiencing a second wave of infections and the authorities in New Delhi are believed to be stockpiling doses ahead of an expansion of their domestic vaccination programme.


No plans to add Europe to travel red list

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there were currently no plans to put all of Europe on the travel “red list” amid a third wave of cases seen in countries such as France and Italy.

As a month-long lockdown returned to several French regions including Paris, health minister Lord Bethell raised the prospect of having to “red-list all of our European neighbours”.

Mr Hancock told LBC: “We don’t have any plans to do that.

“We do have this red list and the amber list, and at the moment that is working well, so we don’t have plans to do that.”

No plans to add Italy and other European countries to the red list yet

 Ellen van Bodegom


What a difference a year makes

When we woke up in the UK this time last year, we read the headline “24 hours to avoid complete lockdown”, as Boris Johnson threatened to follow the Italian lead with strict lockdown. 

Then, hours later, we were plunged into lockdown. It really was the “end of freedom”, and we’re still living with the restrictions a year on.


Sage member: ‘I got it wrong about how infectious Covid was’

A member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said he was “wrong” about how infectious coronavirus would be at the start of the pandemic.

Professor Calum Semple, asked his thoughts on the last year of lockdown, told Sky News: “The things I reflect on, and I wasn’t a member of Sage right at the start, I really appreciate how infectious this virus was, that was one aspect which I’ll put my hands up and I got wrong.

“The virus undoubtedly is infectious in close-quarters by respiratory aerosol and droplet in close-quarters.

“That’s one of the aspects I certainly didn’t get right.”

He added: “It’s incredibly difficult, what as a society we didn’t appreciate, and as a group of scientists what we didn’t appreciate, was that the virus was going to move into the country essentially through British people returning from holidays in Italy, Spain and France.

“The assumption was that it would be more traditional, long-distance foreign travellers coming back in that would bring the virus in, we hadn’t predicted it would be the surge of our own people coming back.”


Ban on leaving UK without reasonable excuse to come into force next week

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the ban on leaving the UK without a reasonable excuse, included in new coronavirus laws coming into force next week, had not changed the road map plans for international travel.

He told Sky News the global travel taskforce would report its findings by the middle of April, with May 17 the earliest possible date in the road map for international travel without a reasonable excuse.

Mr Hancock added: “Now, having said all of that, it is now too early to know where the global travel taskforce will come out and know what the decision will be for May 17.

“The reason for that is that we are seeing this third wave rising in some parts of Europe and we’re also seeing new variants.

“It is very important that we protect the progress that we have been able to make here in the UK.”


Third wave could come to UK in summer, says Sage member

There is a “likelihood” of a third wave of coronavirus in the summer, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said.

Professor Calum Semple told Sky News: “The concern at present is that in countries where there’s less vaccination and a very strong third wave, that’s the perfect breeding ground for further variants of concern.

“So, at this point, Britain has got its act together, the concern is as this third wave is going on elsewhere, that will generate new variations.

“Even within Britain there is a likelihood of a third wave in potentially July and August time when we do unlock society.

“That third wave we would expect to occur in people that are less susceptible to very severe disease.

“It’s inevitable as we unlock there will be an rise in cases, the key here is have we won the race to vaccinate the most vulnerable members of society so we can keep society open this time.”


Sunak: ‘Covid has caused one of the largest labour market shocks this country has ever faced’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Coronavirus has caused one of the largest labour market shocks this country has ever faced, which is why protecting, supporting and creating jobs has been my focus throughout this crisis.

“We have taken decisive action with a £352 billion package of support.

“The continued success of the vaccine rollout provides us with hope for the future and, through our Plan for Jobs, we will continue to support people throughout the months to come.”


Number of people in work increases for third consecutive month

The number of workers on UK payrolls increased for the third month in a row in February but has fallen by nearly 700,000 since the start of the pandemic, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of payrolled workers rose by 68,000 (0.2%) between January and February.

Overall there were 693,000 fewer workers on payrolls than in February 2020, with more than half – 368,000 jobs – lost in the hospitality sector as lockdowns and restrictions hammered the industry.

The ONS added that 123,000 payroll jobs were also lost in the hard-hit retail sector.

The latest figures show the rate of unemployment stood at 5% between November and January, compared with 5.1% in the previous three months.

Sam Beckett, ONS head of economic statistics, said: “After yet another monthly increase, there were almost 200,000 more employees on payroll in February than three months earlier, although that is still nearly 700,000 down from the start of the pandemic.

“Of the decrease since then, almost two-thirds has been among the under-25s, over half has been in hospitality and almost a third has been in London.”

Commuters walk across the London Bridge during the morning rush hour in London



Sturgeon: ‘My thoughts are with you’

As Scotland’s First Minister faces increased pressure with the Holyrood inquiry concluding she did mislead the Scottish Parliament, she has tweeted: “One year on. Thinking today of all those who have lost a loved one to Covid, and to everyone who continues to make heartbreaking sacrifices as we continue to navigate our way through this terrible ordeal, together.

“Also, many people have lost loved ones to causes other than Covid over the past 12 months. The restrictions in place have made the grieving process even more difficult than it would have been – my thoughts are with you too.”


Merkel backs EU chief over AstraZeneca threat – ‘We have a problem’

Angela Merkel on Tuesday voiced support for EU chief Ursula von der Leyen’s threat to block AstraZeneca vaccines produced in the bloc from being exported, ahead of a crunch EU summit on the escalating row.

The German Chancellor gave her backing to the head of the EU as she extended her country’s lockdown until April 18 to try to break a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic – which she blamed on the rapid spread of the UK variant.

“I support Commission President Ursula von der Leyen,” Mrs Merkel said.

“We have a problem with AstraZeneca,” she added. “We will decide responsibly.”

European officials are furious that AstraZeneca has been able to deliver its UK contract in full while falling short on its supplies to the EU.


Carers may legally need jab to work

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “no decisions” have been taken on whether care home workers in England could be legally required to have a coronavirus vaccine.

Asked about reports on this, he told Sky News: “No decisions have been taken.

“As you know, we have a taskforce looking at the question of certification, of whether there’s things that you need to be able to show – that you’ve had a vaccine, or indeed a test – in order to be able to do.

“That looks both at these questions around international travel, but is also looking at the question of whether, in order to be able to care for people professionally, then you ought to have protected yourself so that you can’t infect others.

“This is something that happens already. For instance, doctors have to have the hepatitis B vaccine, and it’s clearly something that has important moral questions on both sides.

“It is something that we’re looking at but no decisions have yet been taken.”


‘Hardest year in a generation’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it had been “probably the hardest year in a generation” as he reflected on 12 months since the first coronavirus lockdown was introduced.

Asked how he would spend the day of reflection, Mr Hancock told Sky News: “I’ll be working on the vaccine rollout and trying to get us out of this.

“This has been an incredibly difficult year, probably the hardest year in a generation.

“Yet, we all search for hope as well, don’t we? The hope is that we now have a route out of this and that route is possible because of the wonders of science and the scale of the vaccination programme.”


The truth about who wore what for Zoom meetings at home

Almost a third of people working from home during the coronavirus pandemic wore pyjamas during virtual meetings, while one in 10 did not even put on a pair of trousers, according to a YouGov poll.

Findings suggest that around 42% of home workers have experienced “Zoom fatigue” since the pandemic began, though only 14% say they want to return to the office full-time when it is safe.

One in five say they never want to go back.

The research – commissioned by transcription app – comes 12 months after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the UK an unprecedented lockdown would commence to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

A week earlier, the public was asked to start working from home where possible.


Today’s front page

Here is the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, Mar 23.


A year in lockdown

A hallmark of any disaster film is the gradual unravelling of normality – until the scarcely believable becomes the everyday.

So it proved with Covid. What started as a mystery virus in a far off Chinese city soon turned into a tide surging across the western world – one that would in time engulf us all. When Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference on March 23 to announce the imposition of a new national lockdown, it was clear our lives would be fundamentally altered.

Over the ensuing 12 months our world has changed, almost beyond recognition. We have witnessed abandoned city centres, empty motorways, sealed off playgrounds, field hospitals and makeshift morgues. Our only connection with distant loved ones has come from behind a computer screen or pane of glass.

A year in lockdown has precipitated scenes never previously imaginable; a disaster in which we all have played a reluctant role.

Read more: The remarkable scenes you never thought you’d see


Boris Johnson hails ‘great spirit’ of Britons

Britons have shown “great spirit” during a year that has been “one of the most difficult in our country’s history”, Boris Johnson has said on the first anniversary of the coronavirus lockdown. 

The nation will on Tuesday pause in remembrance of those who have died from Covid-19 during a minute’s silence at 12pm, followed by a bell toll.

The Prime Minister will observe the silence privately in Downing Street, as he described the day as a time to reflect.

“The last 12 months has taken a huge toll on us all, and I offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones,” he said.

In a stark warning that the coronavirus crisis is not yet over, the Prime Minister on Monday urged the public to be “under no illusions” that the third wave sweeping the continent is set to “wash up on our shores”.

Read more: Boris Johnson praises the nation’s sacrifice in this ‘most difficult year’


AstraZeneca ‘provided incomplete view of data from US trial’ 

AstraZeneca may have provided an incomplete view of efficacy data on its Covid-19 vaccine from a large scale US trial, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said on Tuesday.

AstraZeneca said a day earlier that its Covid-19 vaccine developed with Oxford University was 79% effective in preventing symptomatic illness in a large trial in the United States, Chile and Peru.

“The DSMB expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” the US agency said, referring to the independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB).

“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible.”

The request cast doubts over the company’s plan to seek US emergency use authorisation for the vaccine in the coming weeks.

Authorisation and guidelines for use of the vaccine in the United States will be determined by the Food and Drug Administration and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention after thorough review of the data by independent advisory committees, said the NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health.

AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.


South Korea’s Moon gets jab

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in received AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday ahead of an overseas trip, as the country began inoculating more senior citizens and health workers in an effort to accelerate its vaccination drive.

Moon, 68, got the shot from a community clinic near his office in Seoul to prepare for a planned visit to the UK for a G7 summit in June.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a health care centre in Seoul 


Moon’s wife and nine aides who will accompany him on the trip, including National Security Advisor Suh Hoon, were also vaccinated, his office said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invited South Korea, India and Australia to attend the summit as guests.

South Korea’s government on Tuesday began inoculating nearly 300,000 people at care hospitals and nursing homes who are 65 or older and medical workers there as it steps up its vaccination drive.


Merkel backs EU over AstraZeneca row

Angela Merkel on Tuesday voiced support for EU chief Ursula von der Leyen’s threat to block AstraZeneca vaccines produced in the bloc from being exported, before a key EU summit on the escalating row.

“I support Commission President Ursula von der Leyen,” Mrs Merkel said.

“We have a problem with AstraZeneca,” she added.

European officials are furious that AstraZeneca has been able to deliver its UK contract in full while falling short on its supplies to the EU. It comes as European leaders are taking emergency action to prevent a third wave of cases.

Read more: Boris Johnson ponders sharing Dutch-made AstraZeneca doses with the EU


Germany in ‘serious situation’ as it extends lockdown

Germany is extending its lockdown until April 18 and calling on citizens to stay at home for five days over the Easter holidays to try to break a third wave of the  pandemic, Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.

In talks that ran deep into the night, the German Chancellor pushed the leaders of the 16 states to take a tougher stance to fight the pandemic, reversing plans for a gradual re-opening of the economy agreed earlier this month after a sharp rise in the infection rate.

“We are now in a very serious situation,” she told a news conference, adding that Germany was in a race against time to vaccinate its population against the coronavirus.

Germany started cautiously easing restrictions earlier this month. But the spread of more infectious variants of the virus has pushed up cases, prompting concerns that hospitals could soon be overstretched without further curbs. More than 3,000 people with Covid-19 were in intensive care beds as of Sunday.

How many people have been vaccinated in Germany?

Today’s top stories

  • Care home workers will be required by law to have a Covid-19 jab under a historic legal change agreed by Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock, The Telegraph can reveal
  • British Airways and other airlines are axing summer holiday flights as a health minister raised the prospect that European countries could face a “red list” travel ban

  • New Covid rules will make it illegal to go to an airport without good reason with fines of £5,000 for anyone who breaks them

  • Sleeping an extra hour each night decreases the chance of catching coronavirus by 12 per cent – but taking a nap in the afternoon raises the risk by six per cent, scientists have found

  • Britain is willing to consider sharing Dutch-made doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with the European Union in a bid to see off Brussels’s threat of a jabs export ban

  • The Prince of Wales has called on the nation to pause and remember those who lost their lives during the pandemic, and to move forward inspired by the resourcefulness, dedication and sacrifice shown by so many