Covid news — live: France, Germany and Italy suspend AstraZeneca vaccine as ‘precaution’ over blood clot fears – The Independent

WHO assessing AstraZeneca vaccine

Boris Johnson has today backed the Oxford vaccine and said he would take either approved Covid jab offered to him when it came time to get his inoculation.

He also urged the public to get their coronavirus vaccines, despite the AstraZeneca jab being suspended in several countries, including Germany, France and Italy, amid concern around blood clots.

The vaccine’s manufacturer has insisted their jab is safe and the UK’s medicines regulator has said the available evidence “does not suggest the vaccine is the cause” of clots.

A No10 spokesman said today: “The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains both safe and effective, and we urge anybody asked to come forward to receive a vaccine to do so.”

Ireland announced on Sunday it was suspending use of the jabs as a “precautionary step” following reports of serious clotting in adults in Norway which left four people in hospital. The Netherlands also said on Sunday it was suspending use of the jab as a precaution for two weeks.

But the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said a review of available data of more than 17 million people who have been vaccinated across the UK and EU has shown no evidence of an increased risk.

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EU medical regulator backs Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine

The European Union’s medical regulator again today reiterated that the benefits of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine outweigh the potential side effects, as Germany, France and Italy became the latest countries to suspend use of the jab.

A European Medicines Agency statement said: “Events involving blood clots, some with unusual features such as low numbers of platelets, have occurred in a very small number of people who received the vaccine.

“Many thousands of people develop blood clots annually in the EU for different reasons. The number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population.”

The regulator is working with UK counterparts at the MHRA and will review information on Tuesday, before holding a meeting on Thursday to discuss the findings.

Additional reporting from PA

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 17:14

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Britain records 64 more Covid deaths

The Government said a further 64 people have died of Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total Covid death toll to 125,580.

There had been a further 5,089 lab-confirmed cases in the UK – bringing the total to 4,263,527.

The total number of reported Covid-19 tests carried out in the UK since the start of the pandemic has passed 100 million.

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 17:03

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Tories could see ‘vaccine bounce’ in local elections

The Conservatives could be set for a vaccine bounce in May’s local elections, according to analysis by elections commentator and Tory peer Lord Hayward.

Lord Hayward said the Tories have opened up a “six or seven per cent” lead over Labour since the beginning of December, according to analysis of polling surveys from Savanta ComRes.

The Independent’s Whitehall editor Kate Devlin reports

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 16:41

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US needs to ‘stop getting fixated on herd immunity’, says expert

Dr Anthony Fauci has the Covid crisis should not be measured through “herd immunity” but by vaccinating as many Americans as possible.

It comes as the US have reached more than 3 million coronavirus jabs in a single day for the first time.

The nation’s leading infectious disease expert said: “We should not get so fixated on this elusive number of herd immunity. We should just be concerned about getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can, because herd immunity is still somewhat of an elusive number.”

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 16:25

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Home Secretary urges public not to protest while Covid-19 restrictions in place

Priti Patel has urged people not to participate in large gatherings or to attend protests while Covid-19 regulations remain in place.

It comes after the Met Police were roundly criticised for how they policed Sarah Everard’s vigil in Clapham on Saturday evening.

She told MPs in the House of Commons today: “Over the past year during the coronavirus pandemic, the police have been faced with an unenviable and immediately difficult task.

“It is one for the most part that they have approached with skill and professionalism, helping to enforce regulations as determined by Parliament with one crucial objective in mind, to save lives.

“This House approved those changes by 524 votes to 16 on January 6 this year. Sadly, as of Sunday March 14, more than 125,500 lives have been lost to this horrible virus.

“It is for that reason that I continue to urge everyone for as long as these regulations are in place not to participate in large gatherings or attend protests.”

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 16:15

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UK economy to recover to pre-Covid level by end of this year, says Bank of England governor

The UK economy will recover to its pre-pandemic level by the end of this year as restrictions are lifted, the governor of the Bank of England has said.

Andrew Bailey said he was more positive than before about the country’s economic prospects and that the impact of restrictions appeared to be reducing over time, writes The Independent’s Ben Chapman

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 16:02

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France and Italy join Germany in suspending AstraZeneca vaccine

French and Italy have followed Germany in suspending the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

President Macron told a news conference today that French authorities have decided to stop jabs at least until Tuesday afternoon, when the European Medicines Agency will issue its recommendation over the vaccine.

Italy also announced they would temporarily stop the jab. The Italian medicines authority AIFA said it was taking the decision as a “precautionary and temporary measure” pending rulings by the European Medicines Agency.

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 15:47

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Police in a ‘no-win situation’ when enforcing lockdown rules, claims federation leader

National vice chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales Che Donald said officers are “damned if they do take action and damned if they don’t”, when enforcing Covid lockdown rules.

Officers were accused of being heavy handed in its treatment of women who gathered in memory of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in Clapham on Saturday evening.

Mr Donald said: “Policing during lockdown is a no-win situation for frontline police officers trying to protect the public, they are damned if they do take action and damned if they don’t.

“Ultimately, frontline officers have become pawns in a political situation.

“There is a need to reiterate the call for clarity around Covid-19 regulations to avoid further confusion over laws and rules when lockdown measures are lifted.

“The Government’s mixed messages added to the escalation of events on Saturday.”

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 15:24

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Hairdressers open and primary school pupils return in Wales in next stage of lockdown lifting

Hairdressers have reopened and primary school children have returned to class in Wales today as the country took its next steps in lifting its Covid lockdown.

At the weekend the country lifted its “stay at home” message and allowed families and friends to meet up outdoors.

Meanwhile eager customers took advantage of hairdressers and barbers being reopened to tame their unruly lockdown hairdos.

Zoe Tidman has the latest on Wales coming out of lockdown

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 15:12

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Germany suspends AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot concerns

Germany has today confirmed it is suspending use of AstraZeneca‘s coronavirus vaccine amid concern over reports of blood clots linked to the jab.

Tom Batchelor has the latest on this breaking story

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 14:50

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Oxford vaccine pause could do ‘more harm than good’ says expert

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician from the University of Cambridge, said the decision to pause the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout in some countries, including Denmark, Norway and Ireland, could be doing “more harm than good”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “I think these pauses, I don’t think you can consider these as being cautious.

“They actually could be doing more harm than good.

“If it means there is a delay in rolling out the vaccine to people who would otherwise have a vaccine, then that will cause harm.”

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 14:38

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Boris Johnson ‘happy’ to take either AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine

The Prime Minister, 56, has not yet been called up for his jab but has thrown his weight behind both approved vaccines – Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

A No10 spokesman today confirmed he would take either vaccine when it came time to have his inoculation.

Mr Johnson’s backing comes amid a slew of countries temporarily suspending use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab after reports from Norway of a small number of vaccinated people who had developed serious blood clots.

The Independent’s political editor Andrew Woodcock has the details

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 14:20

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Covid infection rise could be linked to schools return, says Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon said there has been a slight increase in coronavirus cases following the return of children to schools in Scotland.

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

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

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

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

Additional reporting from PA

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 13:57

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Boris Johnson backs ‘safe’ and ‘effective’ Oxford jab

Downing Street has sought to reassure people about the safety of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after multiple countries have suspended use of the jab due to potential side effects.

A No10 spokesman said today: “The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains both safe and effective, and we urge anybody asked to come forward to receive a vaccine to do so.”

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

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 13:33

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Italy enters fresh lockdown, shutting shops and schools

Italy has plunged into a fresh Covid-19 lockdown today after a surge in cases.

Half of the country’s regions are facing fresh restrictions in a bid to suppress the latest spike in Covid infections that have left hospitals struggling to cope with a surge in new admissions.

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 13:13

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Students in Wales set for campus return on April 12

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

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

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

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

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 12:56

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Do we need to pay back Covid debt?

Trillions has been spent by governments globally as the spread of coronavirus led to numerous lockdowns and economies juddered to a halt.

Additional funds had to be found to keep people afloat and stop businesses going bust. While huge investments had to be made into vaccine development and health services.

The Independent’s economics editor Ben Chu explains just what we are going to do with all the Covid debt.

Do we really need to pay back coronavirus debt?

Governments have borrowed trillions of dollars, pounds and euros to fight the coronavirus pandemic. That money has been used to pay people’s wages during furlough, paid for grants to keep businesses afloat, pumped extra money into health services, and so on. But as we reach the end of the coronavirus crisis, we are going to pay that back, aren’t we? The Independent’s Economics Editor, Ben Chu, explains what we are going to do with all the coronavirus debt.

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 12:40

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Customers ‘relieved’ as hairdressers reopen in Wales

Hairdressers and barbers threw open their doors today in Wales as the country took its first steps out of lockdown.

Customers at Sleep When You’re Dead barbers in Cardiff, South Wales, said they felt “relieved” and “refreshed” after having their hair cut professionally for the first time in 2021.

David Saunders, 38, who runs a healthcare clinic, said: “I’m just relieved. I was going a little stir crazy.

“My wife says having a haircut is really important to how I am around the house, and with family and work. When my hair is a mess, I feel as if I’m appearing as a mess. I think the health aspect and psychology is really underestimated.”

Dan Thain, 36, who own a fire and security business, said: “I feel refreshed, a bit more normal and ready to go again. It’s like we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Additional reporting from PA

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 12:17

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Danish woman died from ‘highly unusual’ blood clot symptoms after AstraZeneca vaccine, agency says

A Danish woman who died shortly after receiving the AstraZenecaCovid vaccine had “highly unusual” symptoms, the country’s medicine agency has said.

The 60-year-old patient had a low number of blood platelets and clots in small and large vessels, as well as bleeding.

Joe Middleton15 March 2021 12:01

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Portugal extends ban on flights from Britain

Portugal has extended a ban on flights to and from Britain for another two weeks.

Direct commercial or private flights between the countries have been banned since January to limit the spread of coronavirus variants.

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

Portugal has also extended its ban on flights to and from Brazil.

Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 11:47