Covid vaccine UK news – Blood clot fears 'overblown' and Europe's AstraZeneca jab ban WILL kill people, JCVI warns

NEW cases of the feared South African coronavirus mutation have been confirmed in the UK.

Surge testing have been rolled out to the Sandwell area in the West Midlands to offer more tests to locals, after infections of the mutation which could threaten the UK's lockdown lifting roadmap were discovered.

It comes as Public Health England launched a probe into a new Covid variant from the Philippines after two cases were discovered in the UK.

The health authority said the variant contains a number of worrying mutations, including the E484K spike protein found in the Brazil strain.

Concerns have been raised that vaccines may not be as effective against this protein.

A statement from PHE read: “The variant includes a number of notable mutations including E484K and N501Y, which are found in several other variants of concern.

“Public Health England has identified two cases of this variant in England. One of the cases is linked with international travel and the other is currently under investigation.

“All appropriate public health interventions are being undertaken.”

Meanwhile, an expert warned the EU is heading for "disaster" after multiple countries decided to suspend their AstraZeneca vaccine rollout over unsubstantiated blood clot fears, an expert has warned.

Germanybecame the 14th country to suspend the jab following Netherlands, Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Italy and Thailand.

And just an hour later France revealed it was shutting down its AstraZeneca rollout for 24 hours as well while the blood clot claims were looked into.

The evidence for such blood clotting appears to be patchy at best though and research in the UK suggests the vaccine has no discernible impact on the likelihood of developing a blood clot compared with not taking it.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on March 10 it would be investigating a spate of blood clotting cases in Europe.

But it later urged countries to continue vaccinating because the benefits of being protected outweigh any potential risk.

The UK medicine regulator – the MHRA – also says the jab is safe and encourages Brits to accept their offer of a vaccine when it arrives.

And the World Health Organisation also reiterated its guidance that the Oxford / Astra-Zeneca vaccine is safe.

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic

  • Alice Peacock

    SUPPORT FOR MERKEL SLIDES AS ANGER GROWS OVER VIRUS MANAGEMENT

    Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives has sunk to the lowest level in a year, according to polling from social research company Forsa.

    The hit in popularity comes as frustration grows over Merkel's government's management of the coronavirus crisis.

    Facing a federal election in September without Merkel, who is standing aside after four terms, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavarian CSU sister party dropped 4 percentage points in a week to 29%, the Forsa poll showed.

    That is the lowest level since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany in March 2020 and follows historic defeats in two regional votes on Sunday.

  • Alice Peacock

    CONCERNS VACCINE PASSPORTS COULD BE 'DISCRIMINATORY'

    Brits holding out for a holiday will be thrilled with the news the EU is introducing vaccine passports.

    But Vaccine MInister Nadhim Zahawi has expressed concerns that the passports could be "discriminatory".

    He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge last month: “One, we don't know the impact of the vaccines on transmission.

    “Two, it would be discriminatory and I think the right thing to do is to make sure that people come forward to be vaccinated because they want to, rather than it be made in some way mandatory through a passport.

    “"If other countries obviously require some form of proof, then you can ask your GP because your GP will hold your records and that will then be able to be used as your proof you've had the vaccine.”

  • Alice Peacock

    HALF OF ALL ADULTS TO BE JABBED BY END OF WEEK

    Half of all adults in the UK could be vaccinated by the end of this week as the jab rollout surges ahead. 

    Some 24.4 million Brits have already been inoculated – under two million short of half of all over-18s in the country.

    It comes after over 770,000 jabs were given out over the weekend – with 512,108 doled out on Saturday alone. 

    Supplies are also set to receive a boost this week, with around four million doses to become available. 

    NHS England has written to vaccine providers to urge them to ensure they have the staff in place to ramp up capacity. 

  • Alice Peacock

    ‘KEEP GETTING ASTRAZENECA VACCINE’, SAYS MATT HANCOCK

    The Health Secretary has urged Brits to keep getting the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

    He wrote: “The UK’s vaccination rollout is a national success story. It’s a tribute to everyone involved and shows what our country can achieve.

    “From the Vaccines Taskforce to the NHS, our Armed Forces and the people coming forward in their millions, the roll-out has been a massive national effort.

    “We all have a stake in that success. After all, vaccines are only useful when they become vaccinations.

    “This is so important, because we know getting the jab is the best way to protect ourselves and the people around us. It is also our way out of this pandemic.”

  • Alice Peacock

    PORTUGAL REMOVED FROM ‘RED LIST’

    Portugal has been REMOVED from the UK’s “red list” which banned all travel to the country – in a huge boost for summer holidays later this year.

    Travel to the country has been prohibited over Covid variants, and returning Brits were forced to pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10 days at a quarantine hotel.

    Portugal, the only country in Europe to have been on it, has now been taken off – giving Brits hope of a summer holiday later this year.

    This means travel will not be banned and anyone returning from the country can instead quarantine for 10 days at their own home.

    It was originally placed onto the red list due to the risk of new variants, in particular the Brazil variant due to its connecting flights to the country.

  • Alex Winter

    PACK YOUR BAGS!

    The EU is set to agree to a Covid passport scheme that will allow jabbed Brits and those with antibodies to travel.

    The bloc will publish details of its "digital green pass" in order for people to go on holiday in time for summer, it's been reported.

    The EU's passport will allow those from non-EU countries to travel there if they are "in a position to present certificates under a system deemed sufficiently reliable," according to a leaked document obtained by Bloomberg.

    Here's the story.

  • Alex Winter

    'IT'S A MESS'

    The situation in Europe is getting increasingly desperate as health chiefs in some countries suspend the AstraZeneca jab over unsubstantiated blood clot fears.

    Italy needs 38million shots of the vaccination – as its jabs roll-out was branded a "mess" by senior politicians.

    Here's everything you need to know.

  • Alex Winter

    CAMILLA GETS ASTRAZENECA JAB

    The Duchess of Cornwall spoke out today about receiving the AstraZeneca jab.

    Camilla said the specifics of the jab didn't matter to her, as she said "you take what you are given", the Daily Mail reported.

    'It doesn't hurt. I was waiting for it to be done and they said, 'It has been done'. It was painless. It was brilliant. It's very good when it's over as you feel more secure," she said.

    Her remarks come amid concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine; panic over blood clot fears have swept across the European mainland and led to 14 governments calling a halt to the roll-out.

  • Katie Davis

    'MINISTERS RISK RUINING BRITAIN'S SUMMER OF FUN'

    Ministers risk ruining Britain's “summer of fun” if they don’t introduce a government-backed Covid insurance scheme for live events.

    Campaigners and MPs are calling for a parachute package to be out in place to help organisers in the event of a Covid outbreak scuppering festivals, gigs or large sporting events.

    Events like the Great North Run are under threat without the insurance according to the Let LIVE Thrive campaign.

    Tory MP Julian Knight said: “It is utterly pointless to spend a king’s ransom on furlough and the culture recovery fund yet not to put the one piece of the jigsaw in place – namely Covid-19 insurance – and scupper what could be a festival and live events season which could lift all our spirits.

    “I respectfully say to the Secretary of State and the Chancellor – who is the real roadblock – that we are in danger of having a summer of none rather than a summer of fun.”

  • Katie Davis

    UK COVID DEATHS HALVE IN A WEEK

    UK Covid deaths have plunged by more than half in a week with 110 fatalities and 5,294 cases recorded on Tuesday.

    A week ago, there were 231 deaths and 5,766 coronavirus cases recorded in Britain.

    It comes after a surge in mass testing among millions of schoolchildren returning to classrooms last week.

    The latest figures mean 4,268,821 people have now tested positive for coronavirus in Britain since the start of the pandemic.

    Altogether, 125,690 people have died from the disease.

  • Katie Davis

    CONTINUED

    Giorgio Mule, a junior defence minister, told newspaper Il Messaggero: “It is a big mess, there is no point denying it.”

    It comes as 18 European nations paused the use of the Astrazeneca vaccine over blood clot fears. 

    Nicola Magrini, head of Italy’s medicines authority, yesterday claimed the decision by countries, including his own, was political. 

    EU regulators again dismissed safety fears, saying “at present there is no indication vaccination has caused these conditions”.

  • Katie Davis

    ITALY'S COVID ROLLOUT BRANDED 'A MESS'

    Italy's coronavirus vaccine rollout has been branded a “mess” by senior politicians amid fury over Europe’s ban of the AstraZeneca jab

    The country has been left looking for 38 million shots of the jab – as a string of EU nations suspended it over unsubstantiated blood clot fears. 

    The ban comes as a blow to Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s ambitious vaccination strategy, which aims to inoculate 80 per cent of the population by September. 

    His plan relies on Italy receiving 16 million doses by the end of the month, rising to 52 million in the second quarter of the year and 85 million in the third quarter. 

    But of these, 2.9 million were due to come from Astrazeneca in the first two weeks followed by 10 million in the second quarter and 25 million in the third. 

  • Katie Davis

    PRINCE CALLS FOR PANDEMIC-STYLE RESPONSE TO STOP OBESITY

    Prince Charles has called for a pandemic-style response to stop kids getting fat – and wants doctors to prescribe “good quality food”.

    He praised the way healthcare workers reacted to Covid in an article, saying it should be applied to tackling chronic health issues.

    The Prince of Wales wrote in Future Healthcare Journal: “When we hear that a quarter of 14-16-year-old girls are self-harming and almost a third of our children are overweight or obese, it should make us realise that we will have to be a bit more radical in addressing these problems.  

    “As medicine starts to grapple with these wider determinants of health, I also believe that medicine will need to combine bioscience with personal beliefs, hopes, aspirations and choices.

    “Doctors have a crucial role in affirming the importance of good quality food just as they do good quality medicines.”

  • Katie Davis

    ‘CANCER DEATHS WILL RISE FOR FIRST TIME IN DECADES’

    Cancer deaths will rise for the “first time in decades” due to the Covid pandemic, charities have warned.

    Experts say a slump in diagnostics and delays in treatment will contribute to falling survival rates.

    One Cancer Voice, a group of 47 British cancer charities, says the problem could be avoided with urgent action to address problems stemming from the pandemic.

    Together they said more money and staff are desperately needed to reduce a growing backlog of cancer cases.

    Private facilities should also be drawn in to help with the crisis, the group said.

  • Katie Davis

    CHINA TO ALLOW VISITORS BACK

    China is ready to open its borders to foreigners – but only if they have had a Chinese-made vaccine.

    The country has largely reopened after tough lockdown measures brought the virus under control.

    Now China is looking to ease border restrictions that have left many people with work and family in China stranded for 12 months.

    A notice issued by China’s embassy in Washington said it would begin to process “visa applicants inoculated with Chinese Covid-19 vaccines”.

    The embassy said the would-be visitors must have had two vaccine doses or a single dose at least 14 days before applying for the visa.

  • Katie Davis

    'DEADLIEST DAY' WAS IN SECOND WAVE

    The UK suffered its worst day for Covid-19 deaths during the second wave of the virus, new analysis confirms.

    A total of 1,463 deaths occurred on January 19 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

    This is four more than the 1,459 deaths that occurred on April 8 2020, which was previously the UK’s “deadliest day”.

    The total for January 19 has only now overtaken April 8, due to a small number of deaths that have recently been registered.

    The figures have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and provide the fullest picture so far of how the Covid-19 pandemic has unfolded in the UK.

  • Katie Davis

    OPEN FOR BUSINESS

    Special vaccine passports could speed up the full return to bars, restaurants and theatres, say reports.

    Michael Gove is heading a review into certification which could lead to Brits having to prove they have been vaccinated or received a negative test before heading out on the town.

    The Cabinet Office Minister said the passports could help “reopen the country and return to normal” but then added there may be ethical considerations.

    The review will now look at “the extent to which certification would be effective in reopening parts of the economy and society more quickly and more safely than otherwise”.

    It will also consider the “ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects” of any scheme, reports the Mirror. Read the full story here.

  • Katie Davis

    PORTUGAL REMOVED FROM ‘RED LIST’

    Portugal has been REMOVED from the UK’s “red list” which banned all travel to the country – in a huge boost for summer holidays later this year.

    Travel to the country has been prohibited over Covid variants, and returning Brits were forced to pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10 days at a quarantine hotel.

    Portugal, the only country in Europe to have been on it, has now been taken off – giving Brits hope of a summer holiday later this year.

    This means travel will not be banned and anyone returning from the country can instead quarantine for 10 days at their own home.

    It was originally placed onto the red list due to the risk of new variants, in particular the Brazil variant due to its connecting flights to the country.

  • Katie Davis

    ALMOST 90% OF KIDS HAVE RETURNED TO SCHOOL

    Nearly nine in 10 pupils have attended schools in England since they began to fully reopen last week, Government figures show.

    Around 89 per cent of secondary school pupils were in class on March 15 – a week after schools began to stagger the return of these pupils for mass testing, the Department for Education (DfE) analysis shows.

    Attendance in primary schools began at 96 per cent at the start of last week, but it fell slightly to 94 per cent on March 15, the figures suggest.

    Overall, attendance in state schools steadily increased from 68 per cent on March 8 to 89 per cent on March 11.

    The DfE estimates that 1% of all state school pupils on roll did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons on Thursday last week.

  • Katie Davis

    CONTINUED

    He reveals in the documentary that while Oscar did not die of Covid he believed it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the pandemic.

    “I didn’t get to say goodbye to Oscar. And I suppose there are people whose family’s members died in intensive care who neve had that chance either, and it hurts,” he says in the documentary which aired tonight at 9pm.

    As the segment wrapped, a clearly emotional Holly, 40, fought back tears as she encouraged viewers to donate to their local NHS charities.

  • Katie Davis

    EMOTIONAL TIME FOR THIS MORNING HOST TALKING DEATH OF COVID DOCTOR’S SON

    This Morning’s Holly Willoughby fought back tears as an ICU doctor on the frontlines of the Covid pandemic revealed his son had died.

    Professor Hugh Montgomery appeared on Tuesday’s show to talk about the importance of people watching ITV’s documentary 2020: The Story of Us.

    The landmark feature-length documentary by Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald tells the story of coronavirus in Britain through the experience of people affected.

    Prof Hugh admitted he wouldn’t be watching it as it would be too traumatic to revisit the harrowing hospitals scenes as NHS staff battled the Covid pandemic.

    The professor also choked up in tears as he revealed his 17-year-old son, Oscar, died in May.

  • Katie Davis

    CONTINUED

    In his foreword to the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, the Prime Minister said when work began on the document in early 2020 “we could not have anticipated how a coronavirus would trigger perhaps the greatest international crisis since the Second World War, with tragic consequences that will persist for years to come”.

    He added: “Covid-19 has reminded us that security threats and tests of national resilience can take many forms.”

    In a section on global health – listed as one of the “transnational challenges” facing the world – the document said: “Infectious disease outbreaks are likely to be more frequent to 2030.

    “Many will be zoonoses – diseases caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites that spread from animals to humans – as population growth drives the intensification of agriculture and as the loss of habitats increases interaction between humans and animals.

    “Another novel pandemic remains a realistic possibility.”

  • Katie Davis

    ANOTHER PANDEMIC IS ‘REALISTIC POSSIBILITY’

    Boris Johnson’s defence review today warned another pandemic is a “realistic possibility” by 2030 as population growth sparks more viruses.

    The PM today revealed his biggest shake up since the Cold War to MPs – as he vowed more nukes and billions of pounds of extra cash to keep the nation safe in future.

    His major shake-up revealed that infectious disease outbreaks are likely to be more frequent by the end of the decade.

    Population growth and the loss of natural habitat would increase interaction between humans and animals, fuelling the risk of a disease spreading from one species to another, like what is thought to have happened with Covid-19.

  • Katie Davis

    EU TO AGRRE COVID PASSPORT SCHEME

    The EU is set to agree to a Covid passport scheme that will allow jabbed Brits and those with antibodies to travel.

    The bloc will publish details of its "digital green pass" in order for people to go on holiday in time for summer, it's been reported.

    The EU's passport will allow those from non-EU countries to travel there if they are "in a position to present certificates under a system deemed sufficiently reliable," according to a leaked document obtained by Bloomberg.

    It comes as pressure piles on Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as Brits eagerly await news of when they can travel abroad again.

    The digital pass will also allow travel for those who have tested negative or who can prove they have gained a level of immunity having recovered from Covid, the document states. 

  • Katie Davis

    'KEEP GETTING ASTRAZENECA VACCINE', SAYS MATT HANCOCK

    The Health Secretary has urged Brits to keep getting the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

    He wrote: "The UK’s vaccination rollout is a national success story. It’s a tribute to everyone involved and shows what our country can achieve.

    "From the Vaccines Taskforce to the NHS, our Armed Forces and the people coming forward in their millions, the roll-out has been a massive national effort.

    "We all have a stake in that success. After all, vaccines are only useful when they become vaccinations.

    "This is so important, because we know getting the jab is the best way to protect ourselves and the people around us. It is also our way out of this pandemic."

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