Pfizer vaccine may be less effective in people with obesity, says study

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may be less effective in people with obesity, data suggests. Italian researchers have discovered that healthcare workers with obesity produced only about half the amount of antibodies in response to a second dose of the jab compared with healthy people. Although it is too soon to know what this means for the efficacy of the vaccine, it might imply that people with obesity need an additional booster dose to ensure they are adequately protected against coronavirus. Previous research has suggested that obesity – which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) over 30 – increases the risk of dying of Covid-19 by nearly 50%, as well as increasing the risk of ending up in hospital

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‘We have to win’: Myanmar protesters persevere as forces ramp up violence

Ye Swan Htet, 23, had joined a sit-down protest on a bridge in west Yangon when he saw police approaching. Officers were carrying guns, he remembered, but he didn’t expect them to actually shoot. The protest was peaceful; crowds were singing and clapping. Then, gun fire rang out all around him. Bricks burst open and a branch snapped from a tree. “There was a guy who got hit in his thigh by a rubber bullet, so I carried him to an ambulance,” he said. Ye Swan Htet saw five protesters run frantically towards him. They were carrying his cousin, Nyi Nyi Aung Htet Naing, who had been shot in his lower abdomen. Doctors in a nearby neighbourhood desperately tried to

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‘Myanmar is like a battlefield’: UN says at least 18 dead as security forces fire on protesters

At least 18 people have been killed, according to the UN, after security forces in Myanmar used lethal violence against anti-coup protesters in the most deadly crackdown since the military seized power at the start of February. Live bullets, stun grenades and teargas were fired at demonstrators in several towns and cities as police, backed by troops, attempted to stamp out countrywide rallies held in defiance of the junta. At least 18 people are believed to have been killed, and 30 injured, according to the UN human rights office, which strongly condemned the escalating violence against peaceful protesters. The deaths reportedly occurred as a result of live ammunition fired into crowds in Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myeik, Bago and Pokokku, it

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Pupils’ families in England to be tested for Covid twice a week

Families with children in school or college will be able to test themselves for coronavirus twice a week from home under plans for schools to safely reopen in England from 8 March. Free tests will be provided to pupils’ households, as well as those in their childcare or support bubbles, regardless of whether anyone has symptoms, the government said on Sunday. The rapid tests will be ordered and collected from local sites or administered through workplace testing programmes, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said. Secondary and college pupils will be tested with lateral flow tests twice a week, receiving three initial tests at school before they start taking them at home. Families with college-aged teenagers who were

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Using photo ID in British elections will harm democracy, say US civil rights groups

Plans to force people to show photo ID to take part in UK elections amount to Republican-style voter suppression and are likely to erode faith in the democratic process rather than reinforce it, three leading US civil rights groups have warned. In an intervention that could prove embarrassing to ministers, US groups that were at the frontline of efforts to combat vote-blocking efforts by Donald Trump and his allies, said ID laws disproportionately affected people from poorer and more marginalised communities. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and Commons Cause said that while they did not campaign directly in the UK it was a common principle that such laws, without evidence of widespread election fraud,

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Coronation Street actor Johnny Briggs dies aged 85

The Coronation Street actor Johnny Briggs has died aged 85. He was famous for his role as Mike Baldwin in the long-running ITV soap. A statement from his family said he died after a long illness. “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father, Johnny Briggs,” the statement said. “He passed away peacefully this morning after a long illness, with family by his side. He was 85. “We politely ask for privacy at this time, so that we can quietly grieve as a family and remember the wonderful times we had with him.” The actor played the role in the programme for decades. More follows …

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Vulnerable children ‘forgotten’ in Covid vaccine rollout, say UK charities

Thousands of the UK’s most vulnerable children are being “forgotten” in the coronavirus vaccine rollout, charities have said, as they urged ministers to help struggling families. The country has met its target of vaccinating the most clinically vulnerable adults, but under-16s are not eligible as current vaccines have not been licensed for minors. While most children are relatively unaffected by coronavirus and are unlikely to become unwell with the infection, children with underlying health conditions can be at risk of serious illness. Many disabled children have been shielding since last March to stay safe, and have missed a year of school. James Taylor, the executive director of social change at Scope, said: “Many families with disabled children have been pushed

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Rishi Sunak indicates furlough scheme could remain beyond April

Rishi Sunak has indicated that emergency support measures such as the furlough scheme will be extended beyond the end of April in the budget on Wednesday. In an interview on Sunday, the chancellor also ruled out speeding up the easing of lockdown even if the data improved and defended his “eat out to help out” scheme. The number of furloughed workers in the UK rose by 700,000 to 4.7 million in January, during the third Covid lockdown, according to official figures. The scheme pays up to 80% of salaries to those who cannot work because of Covid-19 restrictions. Asked by Sophy Ridge on Sky News if there would be an extension of the furlough scheme, Sunak said he would “do

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Second world war bomb detonation damages buildings in Exeter

Structural damage has been caused to a number of properties in Exeter following the detonation of a second world war bomb, police have said. The device, believed to be a 1,000kg Hermann bomb used by the Nazis, was discovered on a building site on private land to the west of the University of Exeter campus on Friday morning. A 100-metre cordon was erected initially and this was extended to 400 metres on Saturday at the request of the Royal Navy bomb disposal team. Residents at about 2,600 properties in the vicinity of Glenthorne Road, including 1,400 university students, were evacuated on Friday and Saturday. The controlled detonation of the device took place at 6.10pm on Saturday, with the explosion heard

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More than 50,000 people call for inquiry into use of Queen’s consent

More than 50,000 people have called for a parliamentary investigation into an “unfathomable” mechanism that allows the Queen to vet draft laws before they are approved by the UK’s elected representatives. They have signed a petition supporting an urgent investigation by a House of Commons committee as they are concerned that the “royal family has a worrying and undemocratic ability to influence the government behind closed doors”. The petition was launched following an investigation by the Guardian into an arcane mechanism known as Queen’s consent. Under the procedure, ministers are required to notify the Queen of draft laws that affect her personal property, such as her private estates in Balmoral and Sandringham, and potentially anything deemed to affect her personally.

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