Coronavirus latest news: Vaccine passports a ‘rather silly measure’, says David Davis

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  • PM says UK can look forward to ‘brighter days ahead’ in Easter message
  • Covid passports for return to normal life may not be ready for months
  • Grandparents could use passport app to screen birthday party guests
  • Gove comment: It is time for a discussion about Covid certification
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A Covid certification scheme planned by the Government is a “rather silly measure,” Tory former cabinet minister David Davis has said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to release details of a vaccine passport scheme on Easter Monday. The Government has confirmed any scheme would be part of a wider pilot of a return to large scale gatherings.

Mr Davis questioned the need for certificates, on LBC radio: “It is really rather hard to see what the purpose of this test is. It is very different from anything we have done in Britain outside wartime. We are not used to presenting papers – or the electronic equivalent – to go to the pub or to go to a football match. That is not what we think of our freedoms.

“Once you have got the population to above about 70 per cent vaccinated then you have got herd immunity. So it is very difficult to see what they are trying to stop.

“The idea that we’d somehow stop (coronavirus) variants by this rather silly measure in Britain alone is nonsense.”

Liverpool City Council announced on Sunday they would not be taking part in the certification scheme.

A spokesman for the council said: “The line which was briefed out yesterday by the Government about Liverpool’s events being included in the vaccine passports trials is incorrect – none of our events in Liverpool will involve them.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

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2:26PM

Pope Francis urges countries to speed up Covid vaccine distribution in Easter message

Pope Francis urged countries in his Easter message on Sunday to speed up distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, particularly to the world’s poor, and called armed conflict and military spending during a pandemic “scandalous”.

After saying Mass, Francis read his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message, in which he traditionally reviews world problems and appeals for peace.

“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened,” he said.

The pope asked God to comfort the sick, those who have lost a loved one, and the unemployed, urging authorities to give families in greatest need a “decent sustenance”.

He praised medical workers, sympathised with young people unable to attend school, and said everyone was called to combat the pandemic.

“I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries,” he said. 

Our Foreign Staff report.

Pope Francis leads the Easter Mass

Pope Francis leads the Easter Mass

Credit:
Alessandra Benedetti – Corbis

2:00PM

What are Covid vaccine passports and how might they work in the UK?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected on Monday to confirm for the first time that a system of Covid certification is being developed to allow people to return to sporting matches, theatres and other major public events, as well as travelling overseas for holidays.

The Government defines Covid certificates or passports as something that can show you have had either a vaccine, a recent negative test, or antibodies from having the infection within the last six months.

All your questions about Covid vaccine passports are answered by Tony Diver here.

Vaccine passports in other countries
1:40PM

How Covid variants have swept through Europe and could spell trouble for British holidaymakers

The Government’s ‘cautious’ approach to reopening leisure travel could hinder trips to the Continent, as France and Germany battle the contagious Kent variant.

Read the story from Alex Clark here.

How the Kent variant has put holidays in Europe in doubt
1:29PM

Maharashtra in India to impose stringent Covid restrictions from Monday

India’s richest state, Maharashtra, said it would impose stringent Covid-19 restrictions from Monday as there has been a rapid rise in infections, a state minister said on Sunday.

The state will shut down malls, cinema halls, bars and restaurants from Monday evening and impose a complete lockdown on weekends, Nawab Malik told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

Coronavirus cases continue to rise rapidly in India with the number of new infections nearing all-time high on Sunday, largely driven by infections in Maharashtra, home to the country’s financial capital Mumbai.

The country reported 93,249 new cases in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, according to data from the federal Health Ministry.

People crowd a wholesale shopping market ahead of Holi festival in New Delhi, India, 26 March 2021

People crowd a wholesale shopping market ahead of Holi festival in New Delhi, India, 26 March 2021

Credit:
RAJAT GUPTA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

1:17PM

Covid passports for return to normal life may not be ready for months

Covid passports designed to return life to normal in Britain might not be ready until the autumn, The Telegraph can reveal.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, will on Monday confirm for the first time that a system is being developed that will allow people to return to sporting matches, theatres and other major public events, as well as travelling overseas for holidays.

The Government is trying to find a way to prove it is safe for people to gather at crowded events by either presenting proof of being vaccinated, or a recent negative test or being protected with antibodies from having the infection within the last six months.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail will still be allowed to open in coming weeks according to the Government’s roadmap as long as they follow Covid-safe guidance.

Read more of the story from Christopher Hope here.

Covid passports
12:50PM

Government trials for return of mass events intended as ‘learning experience’, says minister

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston has said the Government trials for the return of mass events were intended as a “learning experience” to understand how to “manage and mitigate” the risks of coronavirus transmission.

“It is not just about certification. The earlier pilots almost certainly won’t involve any elements of certification but it will involve testing, making sure that people are tested before and after the events,” he said in a pooled clip for broadcasters.

“What we will be looking at is the mitigation measures. So ventilation, one-way systems, hygiene measures, all of those kind of things to help inform long-term decision-making.”

12:30PM

Serbia offers foreigners a vaccine amid over-supply due to low take-up by Serbians

While most of the world struggles to secure enough Covid-19 vaccines, Serbia faces a different battle – how to persuade its citizens to get the life-saving shot.

The small Balkan country has so many vaccines available it has even offered jabs to any foreigner who can get themselves there, sparking an influx of thousands of “vaccine tourists” from neighbouring countries.

With around three million doses already in hand – a buffet of Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and Sinopharm – and two million of those already administered, one of Europe’s poorest corners has quickly found itself among the continent’s fastest vaccinators.

However, according to the government, little more than a quarter of those eligible to receive the precious shot applied for one. After Serbia vaccinated most of those who came forward, the pace started to stall.

“I beg you, people, get a vaccine,” Serbian populist President Aleksandar Vucic pleaded.

“We have them and we will have more, I beg you, in the name of God, take them,” he said.

“It’s clear that there is not a sufficient number of people willing to get vaccinated,” president of a doctors’ union Rade Panic told AFP.

According to Serbia’s leading epidemiologist Predrag Kon, lack of interest is “solely a consequence” of anti-vaccine misinformation being spread online by fearmongers.

A medical worker waits for people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Belgrade, Serbia

A medical worker waits for people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Belgrade, Serbia

Credit:
Darko Vojinovic

12:03PM

‘Brighter days ahead’, Boris Johnson says in Easter message

Boris Johnson has said Britain can look forward to “brighter days ahead” as the country celebrates Easter.

In his Easter message, the Prime Minister acknowledged it had been a “very tough” year, but said the holiday brought fresh optimism.

“This has been a very tough 12 months. But, as ever, the arrival of Easter brings with it new hope,” he said.

“And, this year more than ever, it brings the promise of brighter days ahead for us all.”

Mr Johnson acknowledged coronavirus restrictions meant many Christians would again be unable to celebrate their most important festival in the way they would wish.

However, he paid tribute to the way in which they had shown the teachings of Christ and the message of his death and resurrection “permeate through every aspect of daily life”.

“That’s why I’ve lost count of the number of church leaders and congregations that have stepped up to support us all in these very challenging times,” he said.

Boris Johnson acknowledged it had been a 'very tough' year

Boris Johnson acknowledged it had been a ‘very tough’ year
11:55AM

French Open postponement a possibility, says sports minister

French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said it was possible the French Open could be postoned for the second year amid the Covid-19 crisis.

France entered a third nationwide lockdown on Saturday to contain the coronavirus spread, although professional sports have largely been spared.

The French Open, which last year was postponed by four months and took place in front of limited crowds, is due to start this year on May 23.

“We are in discussion with them (the French Tennis Federation, which organises the event) to see if we should change the date to coincide with a possible resumption of all sports and major events,” Roxana Mărăcineanu told France Info radio late on Saturday.

“Today, although high-level sport has been preserved, we try to limit the risks of clusters, of spreading the virus within professional sports.”

President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that he was expecting to re-open the country in mid-May.

Roland Garros, Paris, France in September 2020

Roland Garros, Paris, France in September 2020
11:28AM

Trial events in Liverpool will not require ‘Covid passports’, says council

Events taking place in Liverpool to trial how venues will operate safely this summer will not require people to show Covid-19 vaccine passports, the council has confirmed.

Boris Johnson is expected to set out plans for a “Covid status certification” scheme to enable the safe return of mass gatherings and indoor events as lockdown restrictions ease in England.

A series of trial events are planned for the coming months as officials look to find a way for venues such as football grounds and nightclubs to reopen without the need for social distancing.

The Government included a number of Liverpool events on an initial list of pilots, and said: “Covid-status certification will also be trialled as part of the pilot programme.”

But a spokesman for Liverpool City Council said on Sunday: “The line which was briefed out yesterday by the Government about Liverpool’s events being included in the vaccine passports trials is incorrect – none of our events in Liverpool will involve them.”

The council said the Events Research Programme (ERP) will be used to provide key scientific data on how events for a range of audiences could be permitted to safely reopen as part of Step 4 of the road map out of lockdown.

The council said: “The pilots will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols could ease opening and maximise participation, including the use of lateral flow tests – but there will be no use of so-called ‘vaccine passports’.”

10:59AM

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter service touches on lessons of pandemic

The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged people to choose a “better future for all”, rather than live in a society that only benefits the rich and powerful.

In his Easter Sunday service, Justin Welby said society had a “choice” to make over the coming years as it emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The archbishop said: “In this country, in this world, we have a choice over the next few years.

“We can go on as before Covid, where the most powerful and the richest gain and so many fall behind. We have seen where that left us.

“Or we can go with the flooding life and purpose of the resurrection of Jesus, which changes all things, and choose a better future for all.”

The archbishop’s message also touched heavily on the topic of death, with reference to all those who had died since the start of the pandemic.

He described the past 12 months as “yet another cruel period of history taking from us those we loved, ending lives cruelly and tragically”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivers his sermon during the Easter Day Choral Eucharist service at Canterbury Cathedral

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivers his sermon during the Easter Day Choral Eucharist service at Canterbury Cathedral

Credit:
Gareth Fuller

10:30AM

PM’s foreign travel ‘traffic light’ system explained

Boris Johnson is expected to on Monday outline the Government’s approach for easing restrictions on foreign travel when its global travel task force reports on April 12.

The traffic light system will be based on a range of factors – including the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

Travellers arriving from countries rated “green” will not be required to isolate – although pre-departure and post-arrival tests will still be needed.

For those classed as “amber” or “red”, the restrictions will remain as they are with arrivals required to isolate or enter quarantine.

The letter comes after the same group of airline bosses on February 18 called on the Government to outline a recovery road map for the industry so they could plan for the summer.

At the same time they called for further economic support for UK aviation to stimulate and strengthen any recovery when it comes.

10:05AM

Airlines call on Boris Johnson for green light for take-off within months

Bosses from leading UK airlines are asking the Prime Minister to give them the green light for international travel within weeks, it has been reported.

The chief executives of British Airways, easyJet, Jet2.com, Loganair, Ryanair, Tui and Virgin Atlantic as well as trade body Airlines UK wrote to Boris Johnson as ministers made it clear the ban on foreign travel will be in place until at least May 17.

When it is lifted it will be replaced by a risk-based “traffic light” system with red, amber and green ratings for countries around the world.

Airline chiefs said in their letter, published by The Sun, that they recognised restriction-free universal travel may not be possible by May 17.

“However there can be no economic recovery without aviation, and we are confident we now have the tools to enable a safe and meaningful restart to travel in May – allowing us to return to our job of reuniting friends and family, supporting trade and business and allowing Britons to enjoy a well-earned break again,” the letter stated.

It added: “We believe vaccinated passengers should not be subject to travel restrictions and that testing can also reduce the barriers to travel including for areas that are considered to present some risk. Only very high-risk areas would be subject to more stringent measures.”

Key travel dates
9:30AM

Starmer’s Easter message pays tribute to Christians in the pandemic

Sir Keir Starmer has paid tribute to the Christian community for its work supporting others during the coronavirus pandemic.

In his Easter message, the Labour leader said he was “in awe” of their efforts over the past 12 months.

“The Christian community has always been there for the marginalised and for those that need support and help, but over the last year that has shone through so strong and so visible for everybody to see,” he said.

“Whether that’s work in churches with foodbanks, I’ve seen so many in our churches supplying food to those that need it in our communities.

“Whether it’s vaccine centres in our church or just the pure volunteering and looking out for people within our communities.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done during this pandemic. Thank you for all that support and community spirit.”

He added: “I know Easter is a special time for Christians. It’s a time for hope and renewal. And, as we come out of this pandemic, I think those values will be so important to us as a nation.”

9:05AM

Matt Hancock summoned to High Court to justify opening shops before pubs

Matt Hancock has been ordered to the High Court on Tuesday to justify why he is allowing non-essential shops to open before pubs and restaurants.

The legal action has been brought by nightclubs operator Sacha Lord and former Pizza Express boss Hugh Osmond to try to force the early opening of hospitality venues.

According to High Court documents seen by The Telegraph, the pair are challenging “the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 to the extent that those Regulations provide for non-essential retail businesses to reopen before indoor hospitality businesses”.

The order from Mr Justice Swift says that “the Secretary of State shall by 10am on Tuesday April 6 2021 file and serve his response to the application” from the pair.

Read the full story from Christopher Hope here.

Matt Hancock

8:38AM

Vaccination not necessary for participation in mass gathering trial events

The University of Liverpool’s Professor Iain Buchan said vaccination against Covid-19 will not be necessary for those participating in trial events as part of the scheme to enable the safe return of mass gatherings and indoor events.

Prof Buchan, who will assist with running the scheme in Liverpool, said he did not “recognise the conversation earlier” with Prof Mills about vaccine passports.

“Vaccination will not be a criterion for admission to events: It will just be a test for particles of live virus in your nose,” he told BBC Breakfast.

He added that only those who have provided their consent would participate in the trial.

“This is a research programme based on good science and good ethical conduct is to seek consent, so consent is required to attend the event,” he said.

The Prime Minister is launching nine "vaccine passport" pilots from mid-April, including three football showpieces at Wembley

The Prime Minister is launching nine “vaccine passport” pilots from mid-April, including three football showpieces at Wembley

Credit:
Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

8:01AM

‘A lot of open questions’ about Covid certification scheme

Professor Melinda Mills, director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford, said there are “still a lot of open questions” about the Government’s planned “Covid status certification” scheme.

She told BBC Breakfast: “There’s scientific questions, there’s logistical questions – how will it work – with an app or a paper version? – and there’s real ethical questions as well, too: do I have to pay for the testing if I haven’t been vaccinated or had that opportunity?

“So there are still a lot of open questions.”

The sociologist said there may be concerns in the community about the storing of private information as part of the scheme, while forgeries could become an issue if paper documents are used.

“Once you have forgery you will lose your legitimacy, so it will be really important to understand technically how this will work,” Prof Mills said. “The only way to build trust in these systems is through transparency.”

7:49AM

Bollywood star tests positive as India virus surge worsens

Bollywood star Akshay Kumar said on Sunday he has tested positive for Covid-19, becoming the latest Indian celebrity to contract the virus as the vast nation battles a new wave of cases.

India reported 93,249 new daily infections on Sunday, according to health ministry data, the highest increase since September, taking the total known cases to almost 12.5 million.

“I wish to inform everyone that, earlier this morning, I have tested positive for Covid-19,” the 53-year-old actor tweeted.

Kumar said last year that he drinks cow urine daily to stay healthy – a practice some Hindus believe has medical benefits, including against the coronavirus.

7:33AM

Countries unlikely to face sanctions if they fail to comply with treaty 

The new pandemic treaty proposed by world leaders is unlikely to give greater powers to the World Health Organisation than the current regulations, say insiders.

Some 24 world leaders, including Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, last week called for a new international pact to ensure future pandemics were better handled.

The move reflects concern that China was too slow in alerting the world to Covid 19 and continues to restrict access to raw data and laboratory information that may be relevant to establishing the virus’s origins.

Read the full story

7:05AM

Third wave in France ‘to peak mid-April’

Paris is going through a third wave of the pandemic which risks putting even more strain on saturated hospitals than the first wave in March and April last year.

Even with a new round of restrictions coming into force this week, Health Minister Olivier Veran predicts that infections in France will peak only in mid-April, while hospital admissions will continue climbing until the end of the month.

Alarming forecasts leaked to the French media from the Paris public hospital authority AP-HP last week showed anywhere from 2,800-4,400 people in intensive care in the Paris region by the end of April even with a strict lockdown. In the first wave, the number peaked at 2,700.

Medical workers tend to a patient affected with Covid-19 at the Amiens Picardie hospita

Medical workers tend to a patient affected with Covid-19 at the Amiens Picardie hospital

Credit:
AP

5:29AM

Vaccine tourists welcome as Serbians say ‘no thanks’ to jabs

While most of the world struggles to secure enough Covid-19 vaccines, Serbia faces a different battle – how to persuade its citizens to get the life-saving shot.

The small Balkan country has so many vaccines available it has even offered jabs to any foreigner who can get themself there, sparking an influx of thousands of “vaccine tourists” from neighbouring countries.

The situation is the result of a diplomatic juggle between East and West that saw Belgrade secure deals for nearly 15 million vaccine doses for its population of seven million.

With around three million doses already in hand – a buffet of Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and Sinopharm – and two million of those already administered, one of Europe’s poorest corners has quickly found itself among the continent’s fastest vaccinators.

However, according to the government, little more than a quarter of those eligible to receive the precious shot applied for one.

People carry Orthodox icons as they take part in a protest against coronavirus vaccination and restrictions in Belgrade

People carry Orthodox icons as they take part in a protest against coronavirus vaccination and restrictions in Belgrade

Credit:
Reuters

2:26AM

Canada surpasses 1 million cases

Canada on Saturday crossed the threshold of one million coronavirus cases as the country faces a third wave of infections, forcing several provinces to tighten restrictions in recent days.

With 2,000 new cases of Covid-19 announced in British Columbia on Saturday evening, Canada topped one million cases since the start of the pandemic, according to figures reported by Canadian broadcasters. Just over 23,000 people have died.

Canada is grappling with a third wave of cases amid the rapid spread of variants, which are more contagious.

The two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, headed into the Easter weekend tightening public health measures.

2:11AM

US stops AstraZeneca vaccine production at Baltimore plant 

US President Joe Biden’s administration on Saturday stopped a Baltimore manufacturing plant that ruined 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine from making another vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The administration has put Johnson & Johnson in charge of the troubled manufacturing plant, the report said.

The US Health and Human Services’ extraordinary step will render the Emergent BioSolutions facility solely devoted to making the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, and is meant to avoid future mix-ups, according to the report, which cites two senior federal health officials.

Johnson & Johnson said it was “assuming full responsibility”, confirming the changes, the report added. 

1:13AM

Brazil hopes veterinary facilities can help increase vaccine output

Brazil hopes to use veterinary facilities to increase Covid-19 vaccine output, authorities said on Saturday, as the country accounts for the world’s worst daily death tolls and its vaccination efforts lag.

Brazil already makes or finishes coronavirus vaccines at its two main public health institutes, although those efforts have not been enough to supply Latin America’s largest nation.

Marcelo Queiroga, Brazil’s fourth health minister since the pandemic began, said he hoped to include veterinary facilities that make vaccines for pets.

“This is not just to supply the internal market and increase our capacity but also for Brazil, as a leader in Latin America, can offer its vaccines to other countries,” Mr Queiroga told reporters.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva watches as a nurse prepares a dose of Sinovac's vaccine 

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva watches as a nurse prepares a dose of Sinovac’s vaccine 

Credit:
Reuters

1:09AM

Today’s top stories

  • Covid passports designed to return life to normal in Britain might not be ready until the autumn, The Telegraph can reveal.
  • Grandparents will be able to scan Covid passport apps before allowing family members into their birthday parties or gatherings under plans drawn up by a company developing a coronavirus passport app for the Government.  
  • Matt Hancock has been ordered to the High Court on Tuesday to justify why he is allowing non-essential shops to open before pubs and restaurants.
  • Worshippers reacted with anger after police “brutally” ordered them out of a Good Friday service and threatened them each with a £200 fine for breaching Covid restrictions.
  • The “man who broke the Bank of England” is among a clutch of hedge fund investors to have increased bets against travel ticketing app Trainline amid forecasts that demand for public transport may not recover to pre-pandemic ­levels.