Coronavirus UK news update – Pfizer vaccine offers 100% protection against South African Covid variant

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine appears to offer 100% protection against the South African variant and most likely protects against the Brazilian variant, according to two new studies.

Research published by Pfizer/BioNTech on Thursday offers the first in-human evidence of how the vaccine protects against the South African variant that has been worrying scientists.

The pharmaceutical giant said its findings show the vaccine is 100% effective in preventing Covid-19 cases in South Africa – where the South African variant is now common.

It comes as a senior EU official threatened British lives today by vowing to block all UK-bound vaccines from reaching us.

Thierry Breton, the EU's internal market commissioner, said 'zero' AstraZeneca jabs made in Europe would be allowed to be shipped to Britain in the latest shocking development in the continent's covid crisis.

Breton's outrageous comments come after the EU accused AstraZeneca of missing its delivery targets by tens of millions of doses and breaching its contract with the bloc.

Last week the EU appeared to back down on threats to stop vaccine supplies to Britain as punishment, with the UK government insisting it was "confident" the supply line wouldn't be affected.

Britain's AstraZeneca doses are currently all produced domestically, and Pfizer jabs are imported from the EU.

But Breton's vow suggests the EU may still go back on its word and attempt to seize vaccines we desperately need in the UK to keep our lockdown roadmap to freedom on track.

Thanks to our superspeed vaccine roll-out, Brits are looking forward to a summer of freedom as we now considered the best-placed major European nation to cope with the recently emerged third-wave of the virus.

France has seen cases triple since early February to nearly 60,000 cases a day, with doctors in overwhelmed hospitals forced to choose which Covid patients get a ventilator.

And today Pfizer accused the EU of delaying the supply of its jabs to countries battling Covid which are in desperate need of vaccines.

The EU's crisis is also driven by its shambolic vaccine procurement scheme which is riddled with red tape and has seen France and Germany accused of prioritising their own interests ahead of smaller less wealthy EU nations.

On top of this shameless disinformation from the likes of France's President Emmanuel Macron and other senior leaders means many Europeans are now too scared to have the vaccines.

There's a stark contrast between the queues of Brits lining up for their jabs compared with vaccine centres in the EU that appear nearly empty as so few people are showing up to get their dose.

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

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    JAB SUCCESS

    Government data up to March 31 shows that of the 35,660,902 jabs given in the UK so far, 31,147,444 were first doses – a rise of 241,906 on the previous day.

    Some 4,513,458 were second doses, an increase of 404,922.

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    WALES TO OFFER COVID JABS TO EVERYONE IN PRIORITY GROUPS BY SUNDAY

    Wales will become the first country in the UK to offer coronavirus vaccines to everyone in its first nine priority groups by Sunday, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

    The UK-wide priority list covers care home residents and staff, frontline health and social care workers, clinically extremely vulnerable individuals, people aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions, and people aged 50 and older.

    At Thursday's Welsh Government press briefing, Mr Drakeford said 57% of adults in Wales have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while almost one in five have received their second jab.

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    HELD TO RANSOM

    Britain has been told it will get “zero” supplies of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine made in the EU until the company fulfils its commitments to the bloc.

    The warning came from top Eurocrat Thierry Breton and it comes as the World Health Organisation slammed the “unacceptably slow” pace of Brussels’ jab rollout.

    He said “zero” jabs would be shipped across the Channel if the company failed to meet its commitments to the bloc, the Financial Times reports.

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    COPS SLAM 'VAGUE' COVID RULES

    Cops have today slammed the Government’s “vague” coronavirus rules and added they don’t want to fine people for having BBQs or hugging their loved ones.

    Boris Johnson this week dropped his Stay at Home slogan in England and has instead opted for a Stay Local message to encourage people to be cautious as lockdown eases.

    But Chief Constable James Vaughan today said he wants to "get back to preventing crime, rather than fining people for having a barbecue or hugging their mum".

    He told the Government: "Like the travel guidance throughout the pandemic, it is slightly vague. The message from the Government whilst in this phase of the lockdown, it is still to say broadly local.

    "That is the advice. It is very difficult to enforce because there are no regulations behind it. I am not sure the stay local message is going to be very strong."

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    JOHNSON AND JOHNSON COVID VACCINE SHIPMENTS FACE DELAY

    An employee error at a vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore has resulted in 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson shot being thrown out and future shipments delayed. 

    The mix-up happened at a plant run by Emergent BioSolutions which partners with both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca on their Covid vaccines.

    The vaccines use the same technology, transmitting a harmless version of the virus into cells to create antibodies. 

    You can read more here

    Shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be delayed
  • Chiara Fiorillo

    WIDE PORTFOLIO OF VACCINES COULD BE AVAILABLE IN TWO YEARS

    A "wide portfolio" of coronavirus vaccines could be available in two years but a cautious approach is needed in the meantime, England's chief medical officer has said.

    Professor Chris Whitty also said it is not a "realistic starting point" to think any policy can completely stop the import of variants to the UK.

    While he said technology and the ability to tailor vaccines to new variants will eventually "find a way through", there remains a level of risk before then.

    He said the approach is cautious "because we've got such a difficult situation to go through at the moment".

    Chris Whitty said a cautious approach is needed at the momentCredit: AFP
  • Chiara Fiorillo

    VACCINE SUCCESS

    An estimated 93.1% of people aged 50 and over in England have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, figures suggest.

    Regional estimates range from 84.5% for London to 95.9% for south-west England.

    The figures, from NHS England, are for first doses of the vaccine up to March 28.

    Here are the estimated figures for each region:

    South West 95.9%

    South East 94.7%

    Eastern England 94.4%

    Midlands 94.3%

    North West 92.8%

    North East/Yorkshire 92.7%

    London 84.5%

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    PFIZER VACCINE 'PROTECTS AGAINST COVID-19 VARIANTS'

    The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine appears to offer 100% protection against the South African variant and most likely protects against the Brazilian variant, according to two new studies.

    Research published by Pfizer/BioNTech on Thursday offers the first in-human evidence of how the vaccine protects against the South African variant that has been worrying scientists.

    The pharmaceutical giant said its findings show the vaccine is 100% effective in preventing Covid-19 cases in South Africa – where the South African variant is now common.

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    COVID RATES AMONG TEENAGERS ON THE RISE

    Covid-19 case rates among 10 to 19-year-olds in England have risen to their highest level for nearly two months, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England.

    Rates for this age group stood at 109.8 cases per 100,000 people in the week to March 28 – up from 102.3 the previous week and the highest since 127.6 in the week to February 7.

    This is likely to be a reflection of schools reopening in England from March 8, and also the mass testing programme in secondary schools, PHE said.

    Rates have fallen slightly in all other age groups.

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    PM DEFENDS IDEA OF VACCINE PASSPORTS 

    A domestic coronavirus "passport" showing whether someone has antibodies or a negative test "will be useful for us as we go forward", Boris Johnson has suggested.

    peaking to reporters in Middlesbrough, Mr Johnson said "there's definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports".

    "You can see already that other countries, the aviation industry, are interested in those and there's a logic to that," he said.

    "I think when it comes to trying to make sure that we give maximum confidence to business and to customers here in the UK, there are three things – there's your immunity, whether you have had it before, so you have got natural antibodies; whether you have been vaccinated; and then, of course, whether you have had a test.

    "Those three things working together will be useful for us as we go forward."

  • Chiara Fiorillo

    BAR OWNER HIT WITH DEATH THREATS FOR SERVING PINTS DURING LOCKDOWN

    A bar owner has been hit with death threats after refusing to stop serving pints during lockdown.

    Kash Pungi vowed to stay open despite council officials ordering him to stop serving pints and slapping him with a £1,000 fine.

    He claims his set up at the Cleethorpes Beach Bar, in Lincolnshire, is in line with Covid rules but has been met with backlash from a local who threatened to “bludgeon him with a lead pipe".

    A sinister social media post read: “Stop messing around and leave him to be.

    “I’ll bludgeon him with a lead pipe and the matter will be sorted. I’ve got experience in such matters.”

    Kash Pungi is going to carry on serving Brits pints despite being slapped with a fine
  • Chiara Fiorillo

    SCOTS WARNED AGAINST LARGE EASTER GATHERINGS

    Large gatherings over the Easter weekend could reverse progress in suppressing coronavirus, Scotland's chief medical officer has warned.

    Dr Gregor Smith said rising case numbers elsewhere in Europe show the situation remains "fragile" and could change quickly.

    His warning came as Scotland recorded another eight coronavirus deaths and 400 positive tests in the past 24 hours.

  • Katie Davis

    'LOCKED DOWN BRITS WILL MISS RELAXED MORNING ROUTINES'

    Exercising before work, not having to rush and tucking into a leisurely breakfast are among the things Brits will miss the most when their morning routines return to normal.

    A study of 2,000 adults found four in 10 feel the pandemic and the lockdowns have given them more time in the mornings.

    As a result, 46 per cent think mornings are now more relaxing, with more than a quarter using their extra time to exercise before their working day begins.

    Others tuck into an elaborate breakfast they previously wouldn’t have had time for (20 per cent) or simply wake up later (46 per cent).

    But with restrictions being lifted and the return to normal life on the horizon, 30 per cent are worried about going back to the stressful morning routine.

  • Katie Davis

    WHO SLAMS EU'S 'SLOW' JAB ROLLOUT

    The vaccine rollout across Europe has been slammed as “unacceptably slow” by the World Health Organisation.

    The UN body said the failure was "prolonging the pandemic" and described continent’s virus situation as "more worrying than we have seen in several months”.

    "Vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic,” said the WHO director for Europe Hans Kluge.

    “However, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow.

    “We must speed up the process by ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now.”

  • Katie Davis

    MORE THAN A MILLION BRITS PLAGUED BY LONG COVID

    They thought their coronavirus illness would last just a few days – but more than one million Brits are plagued by long Covid weeks and months after their infection, new statistics show.

    The condition leaves people with persistent symptoms months after they had the coronavirus, including fatigue, muscle aches and hair loss.

    Doctors are still working out how to cure “long haulers” problems, which can make life miserable and leave people off work.

    The Office for National Statistics has been measuring the scale of long Covid in the UK.

    It said an estimated 1.1 million people in private households in the UK had “long Covid” in the four weeks to March 6.

  • John Hall

    WALES TO EASE COVID RESTRICTIONS CAREFULLY

    Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government would continue its "careful, step-by-step approach" to lifting the restrictions.

    "I do now want to look further ahead, to the next review cycle – at the end of April – and into May, to help us all plan for the future," he told the Welsh Government briefing.

    "All of these dates are provisional and are, of course, subject to the public health situation at the time.

    "We are dealing with a very different virus this time. It is fast-moving and unpredictable. I want to be able to carry on with this programme of unlocking restrictions."

  • John Hall

    MORE THAN HALF OF ADULTS IN WALES HAVE RECEIVED A COVID JAB

    Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford has told the Welsh Government briefing that 57% of adults in the country have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

    He said almost one in five have received their second jab.

    "Take-up is excellent – in over half the groups the count is more than 90%," Mr Drakeford said.

  • John Hall

    FUEL PRICES RETURN TO PRE-PANDEMIC LEVELS AHEAD OF EASTER WEEKEND

    Rising fuel prices have reached pre-pandemic levels, hitting drivers venturing out on the roads over Easter.

    The average cost of a litre of petrol and diesel at UK forecourts is £1.25 and £1.29 respectively, according to Government figures analysed by the PA news agency.

    Pump prices have not been that high since February 2020.

    The increase comes as coronavirus restrictions were eased across the UK this week.

  • John Hall

    BORIS JOHNSON SAID VACCINE PASSPORTS WILL BE NEEDED

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said vaccine certification has a role to play in the future.

    Speaking at a B&Q in Middlesbrough, Mr Johnson said: "There's definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports.

    "You can see already that other countries, the aviation industry, are interested in this and there's a logic to that.

    "I think when it comes to trying to make sure that we give maximum confidence to businesses and customers in the UK, there are three things – there's immunity whether you have had it before so you have natural antibodies, whether you have been vaccinated, and of course whether you have had a test."

  • John Hall

    LOCK THERAPY

    Exercising before work, not having to rush and tucking into a leisurely breakfast are among the things Brits will miss the most when their morning routines return to normal.

    A study of 2,000 adults found four in 10 feel the pandemic and the lockdowns have given them more time in the mornings.

    As a result, 46 per cent think mornings are now more relaxing, with more than a quarter using their extra time to exercise before their working day begins.

    Click here to read more

  • John Hall

    BRITS VOW TO CONTINUE SAVING AFTER LOCKDOWN

    More than half (55%) of people aim to keep their current savings habits beyond the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, according to a survey.

    And more than a third (37%) said they will be putting off spending money as much as possible until the economy stabilises, TSB found.

    However, just over a fifth (21%) said they will not hold back on their spending as lockdown restrictions are eased, as they want to enjoy themselves, the poll of 2,000 people in March revealed.

    Marta Kijowska, TSB's head of personal current accounts, said: "The pandemic has changed our behaviour towards money, and we've seen our customers spend less and save more.

    "It's important to feel in control of your money, and we see our customers increasingly wanting help to continue to save and budget so they can make the most of their money."

  • John Hall

    OVER-50S AND VULNERABLE URGED TO BOOK COVID-19 JAB AND TURN UP FOR SECOND DOSE

    The head of the NHS is urging anyone who is eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine to book one immediately and for people to turn up for second doses when called.

    April will see fewer available vaccines due to a slowdown in supply from India, with GPs told to concentrate on delivering second doses and vaccinating the over-50s and vulnerable groups.

    NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: "We're well on track to meet our April 15 goal of offering NHS Covid vaccination to everyone aged 50 and over, as well as other high risk groups.

    "In just the past two weeks, we've now jabbed nearly 85% of people aged 50-54, and over three million of the highest risk people have also now had their top-up second dose."

  • John Hall

    RETAILERS ALLOWED TO REOPEN FITTING ROOMS FROM APRIL 12

    Clothes shoppers will be able to use fitting rooms again after more than a year when non-essential shops reopen on April 12.

    The Government has released new guidance on fitting rooms after advising shops after the first lockdown to keep changing rooms closed "wherever possible" unless essential.

    Retailers have been calling for updated regulations in an effort to compete with online rivals, reduce return rates and restore faith in high street businesses.

    The new guidance published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) allows for fitting rooms to be reopened provided shops introduce measures to minimise transmission of the virus.

  • John Hall

    COUPLE FORCED TO LIVE IN SHED DURING PANDEMIC

    A couple have been forced to live in a shed after they struggled to find work during the Covid pandemic.

    Macaulay Johnson and his partner Shannon Cullen, both 21, left their Nottinghamshire home when they could no longer pay the rent.

    With a trolley full of clothes and their Playstation, they set up a tent in different spots of Gedling borough hoping the local authority would offer support.

    You can read more here

  • John Hall

    ALMOST ONE IN SEVEN PEOPLE SUFFER LONG COVID SYMPTOMS

    Almost one in seven people who test positive for Covid-19 are still suffering symptoms three months later, according to new UK figures.

    The largest study of its kind on long Covid from the Office for National Statistics, found that people with coronavirus are significantly more likely than the general population to report ongoing issues, which can include muscle pain and fatigue.

    Among a sample of more than 20,000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 between April last year and March this year, 13.7% continued to experience symptoms for at least 12 weeks.

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