Coronavirus latest news: All adults eligible for vaccines by April 19, Biden to announce

President Joe Biden is set to announce that all adults across the United States will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by April 19, a fortnight sooner than an already ambitious target.

The shift comes after rapid progress in America’s vaccine rollout across all 50 states, a senior White House official told AFP. Mr Biden is set to make an announcement later today after a visit to a visit a vaccination site at Virginia Theological Seminary, just outside of Washington. 

The Biden administration has already surpassed several targets established after the inauguration, including a goal to deliver 100 million doses within the President’s first 100 days in office.

That goal has since been increased to 200 million, which experts say is achievable at the current rate. According to CNN and NBC, the White House will announce today roughly 150 million shots have already been delivered, 75 days into the Biden administration. 

But making every adult eligible for vaccination by April 19 does not necessarily mean that everyone will be vaccinated immediately, and prioritisation by age and underlying health conditions are likely to continue.

Positive news around the vaccine rollout has also been hampered by a steady increase in coronavirus infections, predominantly in younger adults. Rochelle Walensky, head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned people not to let their guard down. 

Meanwhile in the UK, Downing Street has insisted the Government is still on track to offer all adults a coronavirus vaccine by the end of July, despite official estimates of supplies being sharply downgraded.

The Cabinet Office has indicated that an average of 2.7 million doses a week will be given in England until the end of July, down from a previous estimate of 3.2 million.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

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WHO: AstraZeneca benefits outweigh risks, while vaccine inequity is a ‘travesty’

The World Health Organization expects there will be no reason to change its assessment that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 outweigh any risks, a regulatory official told a news conference this afternoon. 

The WHO is closely studying the latest data alongside European and other regulators, in light of reports of blood clots among people who have been vaccinated, said Rogerio Gaspar, WHO director of regulation and prequalification.

He said the WHO expects to reach a fresh assessment on Wednesday or Thursday, but does not believe there will be a reason to change its advice that the benefits outweigh any risks.

At the same press conference Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, said it’s a “travesty” that some countries still do not had enough access to vaccines to begin inoculating health workers and the most vulnerable people.

“Scaling up production and equitable distribution remains the major barrier to ending the acute stage of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dr Tedros said. 

The president of Namibia, Hage Geingob, one of several world leaders invited to address the WHO news conference for World Health Day, also decried “vaccine apartheid”, under which some countries were forced to wait while others received doses.


Afternoon update

Just joining us? Here’s a look back at today’s top stories:

  • A Government pilot of vaccine passports in the UK has been condemned by MPs as “discriminatory”, while Labour signalled it may vote against the scheme in the Commons.
  • But Nicola Sturgeon suggested she expects vaccine passports or certification to be used in some form in Scotland, calling for a “mature, grown-up debate” about their use.
  • Boris Johnson has insisted he will not deviate from his road map out of lockdown, despite warnings from scientific advisers that the plan could result in a third wave of coronavirus cases and deaths.
  • The Prime Minister added that he has not “given up” on foreign holidays from mid-May, and insisted that all adults will be offered a coronavirus vaccine by the end of July as planned – despite official estimates of supplies being sharply downgraded.
  • Promising data from early trials of the Valneva Covid-19 vaccine suggests the jab produces a “strong immune response”, a boom for a vaccine which is set to be manufactured in the UK.
  • A top official from the European Medicines Agency has suggested there is a connection between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and reported blood clots, though the exact cause of the reaction remains uncertain. He insisted that the benefits still appear to outweigh the risks. 
  • Meanwhile Channel 4 News reported that the UK’s regulator is considering a proposal to restrict the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people.
  • Elsewhere, President Joe Biden is set to announce that the US as delivered 150 million vaccines since he took office, and announce that all adults will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by April 19 – a fortnight sooner than an already ambitious target.
  • An Australian government source said the EU has blocked shipments of 3.1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to the country, which now has little hope of getting the remaining 400,000 doses it has been pledged on time.
  • Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been moved to a sick ward with symptoms of a respiratory illness and has been tested for the coronavirus, Izvestia newspaper reported.
  • Indonesia has reported its first case of a more transmissible new variant of the coronavirus known for reducing vaccine protection, but the government said vaccines being used in the country could withstand the mutation.
  • And finally, Tanzania’s new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, said her government would form a committee for scientific research into Covid-19, a major departure from the pandemic-sceptic policies of her late predecessor John Magufuli.

Latest data: 20 deaths, 2,379 cases, over 100,000 vaccines administered

According to the latest Government data, a further 20 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 – bringing the UK total to 126,882.

Today’s figure compares to 56 deaths reported last Tuesday, and it is the first time that fewer than 30 fatalities have been reported since late September. But it is likely that the bank holiday will have affected reporting so we may see slightly higher numbers over the coming days. 

The official figures also show that there had been a further 2,379 lab-confirmed cases in the UK, compared to 4,040 last Tuesday. The UK has now reported a total of 4,364,529 infections since the pandemic began. 

Here’s an interesting analysis from Oliver Johnson, a mathematician at Bristol University, who suggests there is currently a weekly fall in cases of roughly 37 per cent:

 The final piece of data released this afternoon relates to vaccinations. Data up to April 5 shows that of the 37,119,083 jabs given in the UK so far, 31,622,367 were first doses – a rise of 40,744 on the previous day. Some 5,496,716 were second doses, an increase of 64,590.


Pupils must continue wearing face masks after Easter holidays, says Williamson 

Secondary school and college pupils will need to continue wearing face masks in class when they return after the Easter holidays, the Government has said.

It is expected that face coverings will no longer be required in classrooms or other communal areas in secondary schools and colleges in England at step 3 of the road map, which will be no earlier than May 17.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Schools and students have done a great job adapting to Covid-secure guidance and working hard to make sure it doesn’t impact learning.

“We obviously all want to get back to facemask-free classrooms and we will do this in line with the latest scientific data while balancing the interests of students, teachers and the wider community.”

Children wearing facemasks during a lesson at Hounslow Kingsley Academy in West London, as pupils in England returned to school for the first time in two months in March

Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire


Recap: Valneva vaccine could be ‘crucial weapon’ after positive early results, says PM

Promising data from early trials of the Valneva Covid-19 vaccine suggests the jab produces a “strong immune response”, according to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, a boom for a vaccine which is set to be manufactured in the UK. 

Unlike shots from companies including AstraZeneca and Pfizer, the Valneva jab relies on traditional “inactivated” technology and is based on a licensed Japanese encephalitis vaccine produced by the company. 

The results from an early-stage phase one/two study involving 153 people paves the way for phase three clinical trial as early as later this month, the company said. The vaccine was safe and generally well tolerated, with no concerns identified by an independent data safety monitoring board.

Speaking to reporters from AstraZeneca’s Macclesfield site this morning, Boris Johnson said the Valneva findings were “very promising news” and the jab would be a “crucial weapon” against the disease – providing it gains approval from regulators.

It comes as an European Medicines Agency official indicated that there is a link between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and blood clots. The agency is expected to meet and publish an official statement at some point this week. 

 The Prime Minister defended the vaccine rollout when asked about the AstraZeneca jab. He said it is “very important to stress that the best thing of all is to vaccinate our population, get everybody out getting the jab, that’s the key thing and that’s what I would advocate, number one”.


Sturgeon ‘open minded’ about vaccine passports in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon has said she expects vaccine passports or certification in some form in Scotland and called for a “mature, grown-up debate” about their use.

The First Minister said she was “open minded” on the issue of vaccine passports but insisted that there needed to be public support and confidence in the idea.

Speaking at a Scottish Government coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon warned that a scheme to enable people to prove their vaccine or infection status must not “gloss over the practical and ethical issues”.

But she said that the Scottish Government should look “very carefully” at the concept of vaccine passports or certification if it could help society return to normal following the coronavirus pandemic:

“I think we will see some kind of vaccine certification starting to be used. We just don’t know for sure yet, exactly what role they will play.

“I’m not one of these people that says never, ever, ever, because I think we need to be open-minded to anything that helps us get back to normality. But nor am I one of these people that just says we’ll just forget some of the really complex issues that we’ve got to think through.

“Let’s have a grown-up debate about this and trial where that is appropriate, learn lessons as we go, but get to the right position through a mature, grown-up debate.”

Highlighting “ethical and equity issues”, Ms Sturgeon also explained the Government would have to ensure the system was fair for those who were unable to get the vaccine, due to their age or for medical reasons.


Protests in Bosnia amid calls for government to resign over lack of Covid vaccines 

Hundreds of Bosnians staged a protest in the capital Sarajevo today demanding the resignations of top government officials over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and failure to launch a nationwide vaccination programme.

The demonstration came as the country reported a further 99 deaths from Covid-19, the highest daily toll since the pandemic began, following a surge in infection rates in Bosnia over the past month.

Protesters marched through the city centre carrying placards reading “The Fight for Life” and “Resignations and Vaccines”, while others drove in a motorcade, honking their car horns in support. A spokesman for Sarajevo police estimated that about 500 people joined the march and at least 300 people were in the motorcade of about 150 cars.

People stage a protest against Bosnian goverment’s incompetence to fight against coronavirus

Anadolu Agency/Sama Âr Jordamova

The country’s death toll from Covid-19 has now reached 7,052, up from 5,228 a month ago, while a vaccination programme has only been rolled out so far for health workers dealing with coronavirus patients.

The protesters called for the resignations of the central and regional governments, and the introduction of obligatory negative tests for Covid19 to be produced by all visitors entering the country.

“This is a cry for help by Bosnian citizens,” Maja Gasalo-Vrazalica, one of six women who organised the demonstration on Facebook, told reporters. “Our incapable government is gambling with our lives every day of the coronavirus pandemic, and we are gambling too if we remain silent.”


Scammers would target young people with fake Covid passports, banks warn 

Covid passports would lead to a rise in scammers targeting under-30s desperate to get back to major events, banks and consumer experts warned.

Throughout the pandemic fraudsters have taken advantage of the changing circumstances and requirements to trick people out of their money.

Covid passports, which could show vaccination or test data, are being considered by the Government as a way of fully reopening the economy, although it is understood that their use would likely be limited to large events.

UK Finance, the banking trade body, said that criminals would adapt their scams by advertising fake passports or Covid-status certificates.

Martyn James, a consumer expert at Resolver, said that those under the age of 30 were particularly at risk and could be duped into buying fake Covid certificates if they believed they would allow them to attend music festivals or sports events.

Sam Meadows has more details here[19]


UK growth tipped to outstrip US and Europe 

Britain’s growth will outstrip that of the US and Europe next year, the International Monetary Fund has predicted, as vaccine rollouts and huge stimulus efforts power global growth.

The global recovery will be boosted by jab rollouts, economies adapting to lockdowns and a $1.9 trillion (£1.37 trillion) stimulus package in the US, with the UK set to be the fastest growing advanced economy in 2022, the IMF’s World Economic Outlook revealed.

The IMF expects bumper UK growth of 5.3pc in 2021 and 5.1pc next year as it catches up following one of the biggest GDP hits from the pandemic.

It said UK growth would be 0.8 percentage points greater this year as it declared that a path out of the economic crisis was “increasingly visible”.

Tom Rees has the full story here[21] – and follow all the twists and turns in the markets over on our business liveblog[22]


UK is ‘repeating mistakes of last summer’ with focus on holidays

Easing restrictions on foreign travel might be a mistake, according to Professor Devi Shridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University.

“Why are we focused on holidays abroad? It feels like we are repeating the mistakes of last summer,” she told Good Morning Britain earlier today. 

“I’m afraid it we accelerate too quickly then there could potentially be another lockdown, and no one wants another lockdown, we can’t do this again.”

For the other side of this argument, head over to our travel liveblog[24]


India urged to speed up vaccine campaign as country records 100,000 cases in a single day 

Doctors and local government officials are urging Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to extend vaccinations to younger people as the country’s hospitals face being overwhelmed with a second wave of Covid. 

On Sunday India recorded just over 100,000 cases of the disease, with more than half of infections recorded in the western state of Maharashtra. The state reintroduced restrictions on yesterday, imposing a night-time curfew during the week and a full lockdown at the weekend.

The number of deaths has risen sharply alongside the increase in cases, with the seven-day average of daily cases and deaths both rising by nearly 350 per cent since early March. 

The chief ministers of several Indian states and the Indian Medical Association have demanded that Mr Modi speed up the country’s vaccination drive and lower the age of those eligible for the jab. 

“If a larger number of our young and working population is vaccinated, the intensity of the cases would be much lower than the treatment that they need today,” said Maharashtra chief minister Uddav Thackeray in a letter to Mr Modi.

Samaan Lateef has more details here[26]


Pandemic in pictures

New Delhi, India:

A healthcare worker wearing a protective face mask collects a swab sample from a man as India’s coronavirus pandemic accelerates

REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

Gaza Strip:

A picture taken with a drone shows Palestinians burying the body of a man, who died after contracting the coronavirus, at a cemetery in the central Gaza Strip

REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Sant’Erasmo, Italy:

A man receives a vaccine on board the steamboat ”vaporetto” of the Venice Municipal Transport Company, transformed into a mobile clinic for the anti-covid19 vaccination campaign, sailing to the island of Sant’Erasmo, in the lagoon north of Venice

Andrea Merola/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

Daegu, South Korea:

Students maintain social distance as they wait to undergo swab tests for COVID-19 after one student tested positive for the coronavirus at a high school in Daegu



France: Catholic Church promise inquiry after flagrant Easter breach of restrictions

The French Catholic Church has promised a full inquiry after priests celebrated a four-hour Easter Mass in Paris in flagrant breach of coronavirus lockdown rules, Henry Samuel reports.

A video posted on YouTube by Le Parisien shows up to 400 people packed inside Saint Eugène and Saint Cécile’s without masks, while scores of youths were christened in the same water.

Members of the clergy can be seen in very close proximity with no masks, in violation of social distancing rules – and Communion hosts are handed out. The fine for failing to wear a mask in public in France is €135.

The service on Saturday took place despite Covid-19 infection rates spiralling across the French capital, which has become the epicentre of the country’s third wave. Intensive care occupancy has now reached 125 per cent compared to the number of beds available at the start of the epidemic.

A Paris teacher, known only as Etienne, and who attended the ceremony because his brother was being baptised, his said: “I am still shocked. At a time when the health situation in France is serious, where we are closing schools. It’s just criminal! It’s dangerous!”

A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Paris said there would be a full investigation. “Clearly, during this mass, health guidelines were not observed. We will see how we pursue this affair internally.”


Biden accelerates eligibility for vaccination as US hits milestone 

President Joe Biden is set to announced today that the US has delivered 150 million vaccines since he took office in January, and that a deadline to make doses widely available will be brought forward. 

A person familiar with the matter told Reuters that Biden will direct states to widen distribution of vaccines to all eligible American adults by April 19, two weeks earlier than the May 1 deadline previously outlined.

The president is scheduled to tour a vaccination site at Virginia Theological Seminary in Virginia today, before making the announcement at the White House.

The federal government has significantly ramped up the pace of vaccination as it works to end the pandemic. States with limited vaccine supply initially limited early doses to higher-risk groups, such as the elderly.

Biden initially set a goal of delivering 100 million shots into people’s arms within his first 100 days in office, which is the end of April. The goal has since been doubled to 200 million shots.


EU on track for late summer ‘community immunity’ 

The European Commission believes Europe is on track to achieve “community immunity” to Covid-19 by late summer thanks to accelerated vaccination dose deliveries, a spokesman said today. 

The EU should meet its mid-September target of fully inoculating most of its adult population, given that deliveries over the next three months should be more than triple those of the first quarter, Stefan de Keersmaecker told journalists.

“We believe that, on the basis of this, we will have enough doses of the vaccine to reach our very important target of about 70 percent of the adult population,” he said. “That would leave us in a situation where we have sufficient community immunity to fight the virus.”

He confirmed commission figures showing that first quarter vaccine deliveries to the 27-nation bloc amounted to 107 million doses – far below what was expected. 

The under-supply of promised doses from AstraZeneca, the subject of a very public row between the firm and the European Commission, meant a stuttering start to the vaccination rollout.

But, with Pfizer bringing some deliveries of its doses forward and the Janssen jabs about to start, there is increasing confidence that the EU will drive forward strongly in the second quarter.

De Keersmaecker said there should be “about 300 to 360 million doses” supplied between now and the end of June. The EU has a total population of 450 million, of which 365 million are adults.

According to a confidential document used by EU diplomats to monitor vaccine deliveries, seen by AFP, 23 of the 27 member states should have vaccinated more than half of their populations based on total deliveries in the first half of this year.


Colombia’s capital Bogota to enter three-day lockdown from Saturday 

Colombia’s capital Bogota will introduce new restrictions this week, including a three-day lockdown starting on Saturday, Mayor Claudia Lopez said, in a bid to curb a third wave of coronavirus infections.

The decision to place additional restrictions in Bogota this week follows high growth in coronavirus positive test rates and increasing demand for intensive care units (ICUs), the mayor said late yesterday. 

“We’re all going to stay at home Saturday, Sunday, and Monday,” Lopez said in a video message, adding that essential workers would still be allowed out.

The percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive has doubled to around 20 per cent, Lopez said, while total occupancy of ICUs has hit 70 per cent, according to local health authorities.

As well as imposing the quarantine over the weekend, the city will limit when people can go to shops based on their national identity card number starting Tuesday, Lopez said.

People wait to be inoculated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 amid the pandemic, in Bogota

AUL ARBOLEDA/AFP via Getty Images


Valneva news could add ‘a new class of vaccines’, says Whitty

Professor Chris Whitty has welcomed the promising results from Valneva’s early vaccine trial. 

“If confirmed in larger trials this adds a new class of vaccines to help UK and international efforts to control the pandemic,” he wrote on Twitter.

Unlike shots from companies including AstraZeneca and Pfizer, the Valneva jab relies on traditional “inactivated” technology and is based on a licensed Japanese encephalitis vaccine produced by the company. 

Read our interview here[36] with the CEO of Valneva, Thomas Lingelbach, last September, where he explains the benefits of this old-school approach. 


Results of EMA review into AstraZeneca jab expected late tomorrow

Further concerns about the link between the AstraZeneca jab and very rare blood clots have dominated headlines this morning, after a top official from the European Medicines Agency said “it is “increasingly difficult to state that there is no cause and effect relationship”. 

Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, has since said that we should expect the results of the EMA’s review of the AstraZeneca vaccine were expected tomorrow. 

“In close contact with @EMA-News on the pharmacovigilance assessment of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said. “Evaluation expected late Wednesday.”


Watch: Public react to ‘controversial’ vaccine passports concept


IVF clinics ‘exploiting women’ who feel pandemic robbed them of the chance of children 

Women who feel the pandemic has robbed them of their chance to have children are being exploited by IVF clinics charging “eye-watering” prices, the head of Britain’s fertility watchdog has warned.

Sally Cheshire, former chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) urged ministers to give the regulator stronger powers to protect those seeking to start a family from false claims. 

Mrs Cheshire, who has just stood down as chairman, after 15 years at the HFEA, said that repeated lockdowns meant many of those seeking to find a partner, and start a family, felt they had “lost a year of their lives”.

In an interview with The Telegraph, she said too many clinics were trading on the desperation of those struggling with fertility, promoting unproven techniques and exaggerating statistics about effectiveness. 

Laura Donnelly has the full story here[42]


‘Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate’: Spain unveils plans to ramp up immunisation drive

Spain is stepping up its vaccination drive, with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announcing today that a steep rise in deliveries over coming months will allow the country to inoculate 70 per cent of its adult population – some 33 million people -by the end of August.

“The priority now, more than ever, is to vaccinate without respite,” Sanchez told a news conference. “Vaccinate, vaccinate and vaccinate… Anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.” 

Spain expects to receive 87 million doses by September. Sanchez said. Those deliveries will include 38 million between April and June – 3.5 times more than in January-March, when vaccine deliveries across Europe fell short of expectations.

Sanchez set out a series of intended milestones: 5 million people vaccinated by the first week of May, 10 million by early June, 15 million by mid-June and 25 million by July 15.

“We are at the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” Sanchez said, though such hopes have risen before in Europe only to be dashed by unforeseen problems with vaccine production.


Indonesia reports coronavirus case with ‘Eek’ mutation 

Indonesia has reported its first case of a more transmissible new variant of the coronavirus known for reducing vaccine protection, but the government has insisted that vaccines being used in the country can withstand the mutation.

The new variant contains the E484K mutation found in variants first identified in South Africa and Brazil. It is nicknamed “Eek” by some scientists for its apparent ability to evade natural immunity from previous Covid-19 infection and to reduce protection offered by current vaccines.

Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a senior health ministry official, said on Tuesday that the one variant case had recovered and did not infect close contacts, adding that the vaccines currently available in Indonesia could withstand the mutation.

However, Herawati Sudoyo, deputy director for fundamental research at the government-funded Eijkman Institute, which specialises in medical molecular biology and biotechnology, said the vaccines’ ability to withstand the mutation had yet to be determined.

The first case of the variant comes as the country prepares for a reduced supply of Covid-19 vaccines due to export curbs of AstraZeneca’s shot imposed by manufacturer India to prioritise its domestic supplies.

Civil servants gather to receive the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine in Banda Aceh, Indonesia



PM hints that cheap lateral flow tests could replace PCR as standard for travel 

Boris Johnson has responded to a call from the boss of easyJet to allow people to use lateral flow tests – rather than more expensive PCR tests – as part of border requirements when returning from abroad.

In a document published on Monday night, the government said – when non-essential international travel is allowed – it will be based on a “traffic-light” system with those returning from “green” countries not needing to isolate on their return to the UK.

However, the document added “pre-departure and post-arrival tests would still be needed”.

Asked whether cheaper and more rapid lateral flow tests could be allowed to fulfil these testing requirements, the Prime Minister said: “I do think we want to make things as easy as we possibly can.

“I think the boss of easyJet is right to focus on this issue. We’re going to see what we can do to make things as flexible and as affordable as possible.”


Recap: AstraZeneca vaccine linked to blood clots, EMA official says

A top official from the European Medicines Agency has suggested there is a connection between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and reported blood clots, though the exact cause of the reaction remains uncertain.

In an interview with Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccines at the EMA, said it is “increasingly difficult to state that there is no cause and effect relationship between vaccination with AstraZeneca and very rare cases of unusual blood clots”. 

He added that that “in the next few hours, we will say that there is a connection, but we still have to understand how this happens”.

Regulators are examining reports across the globe of a very small number of blood clots in people who have had the AstraZeneca jab.

Cavaleri stressed that the benefits of vaccination still outweigh the risks, though he suggested that more work needs to be done to establish the risk-benefit ratio across different age groups. 

The EMA is expected to meet this week to assess the vaccine, and has signalled it will provide an updated assessment before the weekend. 

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has said the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and urged people to continue having the jab.

But it is reportedly considering advising those under 30-years-old not to have the jab, amid some concerns that the risk of extremely rare blood clots could be marginally higher among younger people.


Next month ‘very, very critical’ in India’s coronavirus battle

India’s fight against Cvid-19 over the next four weeks will be “very, very critical” as its faces a faster second surge in infections, senior government health official Vinod Kumar Paul said today.

India’s daily infections passed the 100,000 mark for the first time on Monday, data from the health ministry showed. It recorded 96,982 new cases today – you can see the concerning trajectory of the country’s outbreak below:


Boris Johnson: We’re sticking to the roadmap 

Reporters also quizzed the Prime Minister about warnings from the Sage scientific advisory panel, which suggest a third wave of cases following the easing of lockdown restrictions earmarked for England in May and June. 

But Boris Johnson said there was no reason to deviate from his road map.

“I just think it’s important we take each step on the road map as it comes and continue to roll out the vaccine, build up our defences, build up the natural resistance of our whole population in the way that we are and then continue to look at the data in the intervals that we’ve set out,” he said.

“So we are going to see exactly what happens from the April 12 to May 17 openings and thereafter through to June 21. At the moment, as I look at all the data, I can’t see any reason for us to deviate from the road map that we have set out, we are sticking to it.”


Boris Johnson: Getting vaccinated the ‘key thing’

Speaking from AstraZeneca’s Macclesfield site this morning, the Prime Minister has insisted that getting the vaccine is the “key thing” amid some concerns about very rare cases of blood clots.

Boris Johnson told reporters that it is “very important to stress that the best thing of all is to vaccinate our population, get everybody out getting the jab, that’s the key thing and that’s what I would advocate, number one”.

Pointing to the falling cases and deaths in the UK, Mr Johnson added that said the vaccine rollout in Britain is already “starting to have a beneficial effect on the trajectory of the disease”. 

The Prime Minister was also asked about the prospect of Covid status certification. He said that several other countries were also looking at “the role of vaccination passports for overseas travel”, which was “going to be a fact of life, probably”.

“I think we are also going to look at the role of a number of signals that you can give that you are not contagious,” he said, listing immunity as a result of having had Covid-19, vaccination status and testing as factors.

The Prime Minister was also pressed on what foreign travel like this summer, following comments reiterating that no decision had yet been made on whether it can be allowed to resume on the target date of 17 May. 

Mr Johnson warned that the UK needed to be “realistic” about circumstances, and suggested it would not be “prudent” to book foreign getaways at this moment in time. 


EMA official: Regulators will conclude research on AZ blood clots by Wednesday

Armando Genazzani, Italy’s representative on EMA’s pharmaceutical approval committee, said it is “plausible” that there is a link between the AstraZeneca jab and a statistically small number of blood clots in people who have had it, Nick Squires reports.

“AstraZeneca has thrown up lots of surprises – as the British experience shows, it is more effective than expected but it has a very rare collateral effect on young women,” said the professor of pharmacology at the University of Piemonte Orientale.

“By Wednesday we will conclude the research on the very rare cases of cerebral thrombosis which have affected mostly young women. It is plausible that these events could have a correlation with AstraZeneca.”

The risks of the vaccination still far outweighed the benefit, he told Italy’s La Stampa newspaper.

“But the ideal would be to exclude women under the age of 55,” from being given the jab. “The risk is very low, otherwise the vaccine would not have been approved,” he said.


Today in brief

Just joining us? Here’s a look at the key developments you should be aware of so far today:

  • A Government pilot of vaccine passports in the UK has been condemned by MPs as “discriminatory”, while Labour signalled it may vote against the scheme in the Commons.

  • There could be a “resurgence” of Covid-19 infections as the country continues on its route out of lockdown, experts have warned.

  • Promising data from early trials of the Valneva Covid-19 vaccine suggests the jab produces a “strong immune response”, a boom for a vaccine which is set to be manufactured in the UK.

  • Requiring holidaymakers returning from low-risk countries to pay for two coronavirus tests will only reopen international travel “for people who can afford it”, the boss of easyJet has warned.  

  • A top official from the European Medicines Agency has suggested there is a connection between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and reported blood clots, though the exact cause of the reaction remains uncertain. He insisted that the benefits still appear to outweigh the risks. 

  • Meanwhile Channel 4 News reported that the UK’s regulator is considering a proposal to restrict the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people amid concerns about very rare blood clots.

  • Elsewhere, jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been moved to a sick ward with symptoms of a respiratory illness and has been tested for the coronavirus, Izvestia newspaper reported.

  • The World Bank has estimated Africa would need about $12 billion for vaccines and their distribution to attain sufficient levels of vaccination coverage to interrupt virus transmission.

  • New Zealand will allow quarantine-free visits by Australians from April 19, creating a “travel bubble” for the neighbouring nations.

  • This comes as an Australian government source said the European Union has blocked shipments of 3.1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to the country, which now has little hope of getting the remaining 400,000 doses it has been pledged on time.

  • And finally, Hungary will begin gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions within days, the government said, as it expects to have 25 per cent of its population inoculated by Tuesday or early Wednesday at the latest.


Updates from Scotland: No Covid-19 deaths for the fourth day running

Nicola Sturgeon is currently holding a coronavirus briefing – here are some of the key snippets so far:

  • Scotland recorded no deaths of Covid-19 patients for the fourth day running, though the First Minister stressed deaths registered are often lower at the weekends. Sturgeon added that 259 people tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, giving a daily test positivity rate of 2 per cent – down from 2.5 per cent yesterday.
  • The first batch of newly approved Moderna vaccines arrived in Scotland yesterday. Sturgeon said that Scotland is due to receive more than one million of the 17 million doses ordered by the UK government.
  • Scotland is set to follow England and make asymptomatic testing available twice a week for all citizens. Sturgeon said country will be taking a “universal approach to asymptomatic testing”, which will see testing expanded in addition to existing testing in priority areas. 

  • And finally, for now, most children will return to school after the Easter holidays. The First Minister said schools will not be required to impose two-metre social distancing rules but will be asked to consider other measures to limit infections.


Thousands dead and a country in turmoil: Brazil’s countdown to Covid catastrophe 

The calamity currently unfolding in Brazil is off the charts. In March alone, 66,570 people died of Covid-19, while daily fatalities in the vast country currently account for about a quarter of the global total. 

A highly contagious variant, P1, is now rampant and there are few measures in place to contain its spread, pushing health systems to the brink of collapse.

Perhaps unsurprisingly a political crisis is also brewing.  The heads of all three branches of the military resigned this week leaving president Jair Bolsonaro – dubbed the Trump of the Tropics – exposed.

There are growing calls for his impeachment and a Bidenesque overhaul of the country’s coronavirus response. 

But for many, witnessing the pandemic unfold over the last year has felt akin to watching a slow motion car crash. Experts say the foundations for the current disaster were laid soon after the virus first reached Brazil, in late February 2020.

We look back at the key moments in Brazil’s countdown to catastrophe in this article[58].


In pictures: Boris Johnson visits AstraZeneca plant in Cheshire

Dave Thompson

Dave Thompson


German GPs finally brought in to accelerate vaccine drive

Germans can get the coronavirus vaccine from their GP from today, Justin Huggler reports. The country’s 35,000 GPs are being brought into the vaccination campaign in an attempt to speed up the slow roll-out.

But GPs have complained they are not being given enough vaccine. Most practices will only have enough to give out 26 jabs a week.

Until now the German roll-out has been largely conducted by special vaccination centres. But it has been one of the slowest in Europe — only 12 per cent of Germans had been given their first jab by Easter — and GPs believe they can do the job quicker.

The roll-out has been slowed by Germany’s strict data privacy rules which have left some regional authorities trying to guess people’s ages from the first names in order to send letters offering them the jab.

In many regions the only way to get an appointment is to call telephone hotlines that are almost constantly engaged. GPs say they can avoid those problems because they know their patients and can easily determine who is most at risk.

But there has been resistance to involving GPs from politicians who fear they ignore the official priority groups and favour patients with whom they have good relations.


Roadmap could be ‘sped up’ if case numbers continue to fall, says Government adviser

Speeding up the roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions could be justified if case numbers continue to fall, a Government adviser has said. 

Dr Mike Tildesley, from Spi-M, told LBC there could be some arguments for lifting restrictions before the dates set out by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He said: “I was really pleasantly surprised that when schools open we have managed to keep things in check, so I think… if these numbers keep going down over the next few weeks there certainly is an argument to say ‘well actually we’re doing really well with the road map, it could be sped up.’

“I would say I would want to be a little bit cautious over the next few weeks as we get beyond this April relaxation to monitor that just to be really sure that cases are continuing to go down.”

Earlier, he told LBC radio: “Now I will say that if things keep going down at the rate that they are then there certainly is an argument for speeding up the process, but we do know that the later relaxations, particularly the May one when people can stay in each other’s homes for the first time for a long period of time, we might expect that could cause a… quite significant rise in mixing and potentially a rise infections which is why this monitoring is really needed.”


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

The new pandemic treaty proposed by world leaders is unlikely to give greater powers to the World Health Organization 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.

WHO member states, including China, are supposed to abide by the International Health Regulations (IHR), a comprehensive set of rules that set out countries’ obligations around disease outbreaks, such as sharing data and not imposing any unnecessary travel and trade restrictions.

Currently, however there is no sanction or enforcement mechanism for countries that do not meet these obligations and the WHO has no powers to enter a country and investigate. 

Our Global Health Security team have more details here[64], while Dr Sophie Harman and Dr Clare Wenham have shared some insightful thoughts on the topic on Twitter:


WHO does not back vaccination passports for now

A quick update here on one of today’s more controversial stories: The World Health Organization has said it does not back requiring vaccination passports for entry or exit, due to uncertainty over whether inoculation prevents transmission of the virus, as well as equity concerns.

WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris added at a UN news briefing that the health agency expects to review China’s Covid-19 vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac for possible emergency use listing around the end of April, as more data is required.

Related:  Opposition to ‘discriminatory’ vaccine passports grows as Labour hints it will vote against them[68]


EMA official says there is a link between AstraZeneca vaccine and thrombosis 

A top official in the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in an interview published today that there is a link between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and blood clots.

“In my opinion, we can say it now, it is clear there is a link with the vaccine. But we still do not know what causes this reaction,” Marco Cavaleri , head of vaccines at the EMA, told Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper.

He added that “in the next few hours, we will say that there is a connection, but we still have to understand how this happens”.

Persistent questions around whether rare but serious blood clots among those getting the AstraZeneca jab against Covid-19 are more frequent than in the general population have undermined confidence in the vaccine in some parts of the world. 

After several countries suspended the use of the jab – including Italy – the EMA declared that the benefits outweigh the risks and it should remain in use. But it has said that a causal link between clots and the vaccine is possible, and is expected to provide an updated assessment this week.

“We are trying to get a precise picture of what is happening, to define in detail this syndrome due to the vaccine,” Cavaleri said. “Among the vaccinated, there are more cases of cerebral thrombosis… among young people than we would expect.”


New Tanzanian President prioritises Covid-19 in stark shift from predecessor 

Tanzania’s new President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, marked a stark difference from her predecessor today by saying her government would form a committee for scientific research into Covid-19.

Recently-deceased former President John Magufuli had dismissed the threat from the coronavirus pandemic, saying God and steam remedies would protect Tanzanians.

His sudden death last month followed weeks of speculation about his health and whereabouts, with some suggestions that the President had contracted Covid-19.

The government, however, said he passed away from heart complications while being treated at Mzena Hospital in the country’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

Related: Tanzania appoints Samia Hassan Africa’s only female political head of state  [71]


Watch: Use of ‘vaccine passports’ in the UK would be ‘discriminatory’, says Labour


Curfew imposed on Indian capital 

The Indian capital imposed a nightime curfew today, a day after the nation recorded a record rise in the number of new coronavirus cases.

The regional government of New Delhi, which is home to 25 million people, said that the “sudden increase in Covid-19 cases” and “high positivity rate” meant that a nighttime curgew was required. Similar restrictions on public movement have been imposed in other major cities.

The restrictions come after over 100,000 new cases were reported in a single day for the first time on Monday. The country, which has the third highest number of infections after the US and Brazil, has recorded more than 549,000 cases in the last seven days – an increase of 40 per cent compared to the previous week.

Delhi also reported 3,548 new cases on Monday, below its peak of nearly 9,000 cases in a single day in November. The curfew will take place from 10pm until 5am, with only essential services and people travelling to and from vaccination centres allowed on the streets.

The Indian state of Maharashtra, which includes the city of Mumbai, also announced a weekend lockdown and night curfew on its 110 million population on Sunday.


Transmission after vaccine holds key to severity of third wave

Asked why the third wave predictions are so pessimistic when vaccine uptake is high, Professor Graham Medley told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It really just depends upon the impact of vaccination, particularly on transmission, so whether or not people can get infected and pass the virus on.

“And we just don’t know that. The vaccine hasn’t been around in people in the real world… only in December it started… so we don’t know what effect it’s going to have in three, four months’ time and that’s the real unknown.

“So it’s a question of genuine uncertainty.

“The only thing we can be sure of is that we don’t know exactly what is going to happen but we do know that, because the vaccine isn’t 100% effective, there will be some transmission, and there will be some breakthrough of immunity.”

Asked if mask-wearing and social distancing will have to continue past the end of June 21, he said: “Yes, so the amount of infection and death is dependent upon not only the vaccine, but also what it is that people actually do.

“And then that’s related to the policies that are put in place.

“Both of those are uncertain – both the policies but also then how people behave with the policies – so it’s quite likely that we will have to see some kind of measures to reduce transmission for a long time.”


Third wave possible, says Government adviser

Professor Graham Medley, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and chairman of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), which advises the Government, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme a third wave could result in more deaths.

He said all three independent models published by Sage “show that, as we open up, as the virus starts to transmit some more, and because the vaccine isn’t 100% safe, then it’s almost inevitable that we will see some increase in infections, and potentially hospitalisations and deaths”.

Asked about the London School of Hygiene model suggesting a third wave as big as that in January, he said: “Yes, but that is quite a pessimistic view. But it is plausible, it’s not extreme.

“Essentially what they’ve done in their group is to choose the more pessimistic (view) – in terms of vaccine efficacy and the amount of transmission that there is after the third and fourth stages of lockdown.

“So we don’t have to go very far into the pessimistic end before we start to see significant epidemics.

“But the other groups are slightly more optimistic about vaccine efficacy and other parameters, and they see much smaller outbreaks.”


Valneva reports positive results from trials

The French pharmaceutical firm Valneva has reported positive results from the early stage clinical trials of its Covid vaccine and is planning to start Phase Three trials later this month.

The drugmaker tested its vaccine on 153 adults with three dose levels based on a schedule of two doses with vaccinations three weeks apart.

The vaccine is based on the technology behind its licensed Japanese encephalitis vaccine. Valneva said that the vaccine was “generally safe and well tolerated across all dose groups tested, with no safety concerns identified by an independent Data Safety Monitoring Board”.

It added that the vaccine was “highly immunogenic” with “more than 90 per cent of all study participants” developing high levels of antibodies to the coronavirus.

The drugmaker said that it plans to submit the vaccine for regulatory approval in Britain in the autumn. Britain has already signed a deal with the company for up to 190 million doses by 2025.


Covid around the world, in pictures

A civic worker rest on the back of a vehicle after sanitizing a building in Mumbai, India

Rafiq Maqbool/AP

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirms a travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia 

Hagen Hopkins/Getty

With a high number of burials in the city’s cemeteries, the Funeral Service of the Municipality of Sao Paulo contracted eight energy towers for the performance of night burials

Vincent Bosson/Avalon


Experts ‘baffled’ by Dutch suspension of AstraZeneca

Thrombosis experts say they are “baffled” at the Dutch government’s decision late last week to suspend use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, pending a further inquiry into potentially serious side-effects, writes Sam Morgan.

 Professor Hugo ten Cate told the NOS broadcaster that he is “becoming increasingly angry about how this has happened”, adding that the decision was made based on incomplete data and without consulting experts.

One Dutch woman was reported to have died after receiving a dose but no link has yet been established. “Ignoring the experts is verging on arrogance,” Professor ten Cate insisted.

Colleague Saskia Middeldorp said “It is as if the people who decide this don’t realise the implications for our vaccination programme.”

The Netherlands was among the slowest EU countries to start administering vaccines and as of 4 April just 10% of people have received a first dose, compared with nearly 50 per cent in the UK.

The European Medicines Agency is due to issue further recommendations this week as part of its ongoing review into vaccine safety. It is likely to reiterate that the benefits of vaccination with AstraZeneca far outweigh the low risk of rare blood clotting events.


Moderna vaccine in UK from next month

The Moderna vaccine will be in deployment “around the third week of April”, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed.

“It will be in deployment around the third week of April in the NHS and we will get more volume in May as well,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“And of course more volume of Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca and we have got other vaccines. We have got the Janssen – Johnson and Johnson – vaccine coming through as well.

“So I am confident that we will be able to meet our target of mid-April offering the vaccine to all over-50s and then end of July offering the vaccine to all adults.”


Normality could take ‘a few years’

Professor Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser, told BBC Breakfast it could take a few years to get back to normal completely.

Asked how long social distancing and face masks might be part of people’s lives, he said: “We’ve lived with flu for many years, and we are unfortunately going to have to live with coronavirus, but we know that over time it will change its relationship with us in the sense that more humans will be immune.”

He said flu in a bad year can kill up to 20,000 people “and so, unfortunately, this is another of the infections that particularly kills more vulnerable, elderly people.

“I suspect we’re going to have to live with some measure of social restrictions at least throughout this year, and we’ll see, hopefully next year we’ll be more and more normal, and in a couple of years we should return to complete normality.”

He said “the issue with international travel is that we do need to hold back importations of some of the strains that may be able to resist the vaccine, and that is very important.

“We’re never going to be able to keep them out completely and, indeed, we know that the South African strain is here in very small numbers. But nevertheless we need to give as long as possible for the vaccines to be adapted so that they can deal with future variants as they emerge, and new variants will continue to emerge all around the world.”


Benefits far outweigh the risks of AstraZeneca jab, says vaccine minister

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) looked “very closely” at reports of adverse reactions to the vaccines, but that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Asked about reports that regulators are considering proposals to restrict the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people, Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: “The regulators absolutely look at, very closely, any adverse incidents through the yellow card system.

“And June Raine, who is the chief executive of the MHRA, our independent regulator, said last night that if you get the invite for the vaccine to take that invitation and get the vaccine and get protected.

“At the same time, they are looking at these very rare instances of blood clotting. To put it in perspective, we have done almost 20 million vaccinations using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Both vaccines have saved something like 6,300 lives between December and the end of February, so it’s important to continue to follow what the clinicians, the scientists, the regulators tell us. And we will absolutely do exactly as they say.”


‘Vaccine passport concept not new’

On the issue of vaccine passports, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser Professor Sir Mark Walport told BBC Breakfast: “The concept of the vaccine passport is actually not new.

“There are a number of countries in the world that require a yellow fever certificate of vaccination in your passport if they’re going to let you into the country. So there isn’t anything new here and it will not be any one country that takes decisions about vaccine certification for travelling overseas.

“When it comes to how you manage single events here, where people may be crammed together at quite a high density in indoor environments, where they may be sitting down for quite prolonged periods, there scientifically if you can reduce the chances of people coming into an event who are actually infected, then you’re reducing the exposure for others.

“So it sort of makes sense. But there are then questions about how you logistically implement that because it’s quite clearly complicated, it could be very onerous if you’re talking about small events with 20 or 30 people.

“But it’s all about reducing the exposure. Personally I sort of think that more as a day pass almost – if you want to go to a particular event or a show in an auditorium indoors, there are three things that they could use. It comes back to if we want as near to normality as we can by June, we’ve still got to be conscious that this virus is out there.”


Poll: Do you support vaccine passports? 

Have your say below:


Shadow health secretary calls for clarity on passports

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called on ministers to be clear about plans for the use of so-called vaccine passports.

He said a Government paper published on Monday permits shops and pubs to ask whether someone has been vaccinated as a condition of entry.

“The Government just need to clear this up because they’re creating confusion,” he told Sky News.

“I do think it is discriminatory to say to somebody here in Leicester that you cannot go into Next or H&M unless you produce your vaccination status on an app, unless you produce that digital ID card.

“I don’t think that is fair. Now if ministers are saying, that is not what the policy is then they have to explain why does the policy document they produced last night permit that scenario?

“So, there’s a lot of confusion out there. I just want ministers to be honest and straight with us and tell us exactly what their policy proposals are.”


MPs will have a vote on vaccine passports, insists minister

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed that MPs will be able to vote on the use of domestic vaccine passports should the Government decide to roll them out.

Asked if MPs will get a vote, Mr Zahawi told Times Radio: “We haven’t even got to the stage where we have decided what we want to do on this domestically, because there are so many issues that do need careful consideration.

“Michael Gove is consulting with all stakeholders, including Parliamentarians, so we are not there yet.

“But the Prime Minister made it very clear, if we do get to that place, then of course we will go to Parliament for a vote.”


EasyJet CEO criticises testing requirements in Britain’s travel restart plan

The chief executive of airline EasyJet criticised some of the government’s plans to restart travel, saying Covid-19 tests should not be required for passengers travelling to low-risk destinations.

Britain’s airlines and travel industry were left disappointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s warning on Monday that it was too soon to say when international holidays could resume, meaning the re-opening could be pushed later than the current date of May 17.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said on Tuesday that there were a lot of details missing from the previous day’s announcement. He said the government’s proposed traffic light system of ranking low risk countries as green and higher risk countries as red made sense, but travel to green countries should not require passengers to take two Covid-19 tests.

“That doesn’t make sense for me…because this could add to cost and complexities,” he told BBC Radio. He said the cost of Covid-19 tests sometimes exceeded EasyJet’s ticket prices.

“That means that you wouldn’t open up international travel for everyone, you would open up for those who could afford to pay it,” he said.


Labour calls vaccine passports ‘discriminatory’

Labour has said the use of vaccine passports in the UK would be “discriminatory”.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told BBC Breakfast the party was “very sceptical” and wanted more details about how they would work.

“I’m not going to support a policy that, here in my Leicester constituency, if someone wants to go into Next or H&M, they have to produce a vaccination certificate on their phone, on an app.

“I think that’s discriminatory.”

He said it “makes sense” to ask people to take a test before going to events such as football games.

But asked if he would vote against any form of domestic Covid passport, Mr Ashworth said: “We don’t think asking you to produce a vaccination passport, which is this digital ID card, is fair. It’s discriminatory.”


ICYMI: Re-watch Boris Johnson’s press conference

If you missed it last night, here is the Prime Minister’s press briefing.

He was flanked by England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance. 


Fears of ‘hellish demi-lockdown’ after warning of new wave

Boris Johnson is coming under fire after it emerged that some measures to counter Covid could remain in place even after all adults have been offered a vaccine. 

The caution came as modelling from the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies showed that the full release from restrictions in June could trigger a new wave of Covid hospital admissions[90] as bad as the January peak.

Sir Iain Duncan-Smith warned Britain was on track to be left in a “demi-lockdown” even when the roadmap[91] is completed. 

“Now the scientists are saying the real issue is variants or a third wave,” he told the Mail. “They want to keep Project Fear going because they are enjoying the control they have, and ministers have caved in to them.

“The result is we are headed for a hellish demi-lockdown, where we have to be tested all the time, carry a vaccine passport everywhere and are under the constant threat of being locked down again.”


Vaccine passports raise ‘difficult ethical questions’, concedes minister

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the use of coronavirus certificates domestically raised “difficult ethical questions”.

On international use of vaccine passports, he told Sky News: “It’s important that we make sure that, operationally, that the protocols are designed and work in a way that is really advantageous to our citizens.

“Which is why the taskforce, looking at this, is working through those protocols, at the same time as the NHS is operationally making it viable.

“So if people do need their certificate, if and when it is appropriate for them to travel, then they will be able to have that certification available to them.

“Use of certification domestically does throw up a number of difficult ethical questions, which is why Michael Gove has been consulting with businesses, with stakeholders, with colleagues in Parliament, so that we listen to all sorts of views.”


‘There may well be’ third wave, says Government adviser

Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick and a member of the Spi-M modelling group which advises the Government, said “there may well be” a third wave in the UK but probably not as high as some modelling predicts.

He told LBC radio: “I think we do have very high levels of vaccination now, we do need to remember this, we are protecting our vulnerable.

“But the vaccines are not 100% protective so when we switch from an R number less than 1 that we have at the moment, to a lot of mixing later on, we may get a resurgence.

“I don’t expect we will have a resurgence of the same scale that we saw in January.

“So then there needs to be some very serious questions asked. If we do see a rise in cases, if we do start to see hospital occupancy go up a little bit, are we going to put in controls or is it something that we’re just going to try to manage with local testing and so forth?

“I think that’s the question the Government are going to potentially have to answer as we get towards the summer.”


No passports for beer gardens, minister insists

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that coronavirus passports will not be required for when hospitality reopens outdoors next week, or when it reopens indoors in May.

Describing the documentation as “vaccine certificates”, as every Government minister has been at pains to point out, he told Sky News: “Next Monday, you can go to a beer garden and have your beer – there is no requirements for vaccine certification or passports that are being referred to.

“In May, you will be able to go inside the pub and enjoy your drink, and there is no question of a vaccine certification being asked for.”


Two-way travel bubble for Australia and New Zealand

New Zealand has approved quarantine-free travel with Australia, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday, completing a two-way corridor for travel between the largely Covid-free neighbours.

“I can confirm that quarantine-free travel will begin in just under two weeks, at 11:59pm on April 18,” Ms Ardern announced after the date was confirmed by her cabinet.

The travel bubble comes more than a year after New Zealand closed its doors in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and six months after Australia allowed Kiwis to fly into selected states without the need to quarantine.

Ms Ardern described it as a world leading move between New Zealand, with just 26 Covid-19 deaths in a population of five million, and Australia with fewer than 1,000 deaths in a population of 25 million.

“I cannot see or point to any countries in the world that are maintaining a strategy of keeping their countries Covid-free whilst opening up international travel between each other,” she said.

“That means in a way we are world leading.”

“I very much appreciate the arrangement the New Zealand government has come to today,” Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press conference.

“We welcome them back as indeed Kiwis will be welcoming Aussies.”


Today’s front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, Apr 6. 


Why Covid passports won’t work for businesses

The idea of carrying papers to prove we’re vaccinated won’t work, won’t be secure and will prompt a backlash from customers, writes Matthew Lynn.

Your terraces are empty. The dance floor at your nightclub is covered in dust. The kit at your gym is getting rusty, and the clippers at your barber shop may well be lost by now. After month on month of lockdown, it is easy to understand why businesses will be rushing to try out the Government’s planned new Covid passports. After all, it will mean they can finally open their doors again, bring the staff off furlough and welcome back a few customers.

But hold on. We can all debate the moral implications of Covid passports, and whether they are an infringement of our liberty or not. The real problem, however, is that they are a terrible deal for the companies expected to implement them. They won’t work; they won’t be secure; the data risks are not worth running; there will be a backlash from customers; and, at the end of the day, it is not the job of private companies to police public health policy.

Read more: For business owners, Covid passports are not worth the risk or the hassle[98]


New Zealand announces travel bubble with Australia

New Zealand has announced it will open a long-anticipated travel bubble with Australia on April 19.

The start of quarantine-free travel between the neighbouring nations comes as a relief to families who have been separated by the coronavirus pandemic as well as to struggling tourist operators.

Both countries have been successful in stamping out the spread of the virus.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says health officials believe the risk of the virus being transmitted from Australia is low and that travel is now safe.

“The bubble will give our economic recovery a boost and represents a world-leading arrangement of safely opening up international travel while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and keeping the virus out,” Ardern said.

Jacinda Ardern

Australia had previously allowed New Zealanders to arrive without going into quarantine but New Zealand had taken a more cautious approach, requiring travelers from Australia to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arrival.


North Korea to skip Olympics over Covid fears

North Korea will not attend this year’s Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pyongyang’s sports ministry said, blowing the final whistle on Seoul’s hopes of using the Games to restart talks with its nuclear-armed neighbour.

The isolated North’s participation in the last Winter Games, hosted by the South in Pyeongchang, was a key catalyst in the diplomatic rapprochement of 2018.

Leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong attended as his envoy in a blaze of publicity, and the South’s President Moon Jae-in seized the opportunity to broker talks between Pyongyang and Washington that led to a series of high-profile meetings between Kim and then US president Donald Trump.

But Pyongyang’s announcement puts an end to Seoul’s hopes of using the postponed Tokyo Games, due to begin in July, to kick off a reset in the now deadlocked talks process.

North Korea’s Olympic Committee “decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games in order to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by Covid-19”, said the Sports in the DPR Korea website, run by the sports ministry in Pyongyang.


Today’s top stories


  1. ^ Coronavirus Article Bar with counter .. (
  2. ^ Politics latest: Boris Johnson says he has not ‘given up’ on summer holidays  (
  3. ^ AstraZeneca vaccine linked to blood clots, EMA official says (
  4. ^ Vaccine passports to become ‘part of our lives’ (
  5. ^ Suzanne Moore: Stop taking the moral high ground over holidays (
  6. ^ Reopening in June could trigger new wave (
  7. ^ Lost in lockdown: ‘My brother survived Aberfan – but Covid claimed his life’ (
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  9. ^ 4:52PM (
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  14. ^ 4:20PM (
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  19. ^ more details here (
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  21. ^ full story here (
  22. ^ over on our business liveblog (
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  24. ^ head over to our travel liveblog (
  25. ^ 3:05PM (
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  27. ^ Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart – Cases default (
  28. ^ 2:51PM (
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  32. ^ How are different countries’ vaccine rollouts progressing? (
  33. ^ 2:16PM (
  34. ^ Brazil’s neighbours build ‘epidemiological barrier’ to guard against out of control virus (
  35. ^ 2:08PM (
  36. ^ our interview here (
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  38. ^ April 6, 2021 (
  39. ^ 2:00PM (
  40. ^ 1:52PM (
  41. ^ 1:45PM (
  42. ^ full story here (
  43. ^ 1:35PM (
  44. ^ How many people have been vaccinated in Spain? (
  45. ^ 1:20PM (
  46. ^ 1:10PM (
  47. ^ 1:09PM (
  48. ^ 12:56PM (
  49. ^ Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart – Cases default (
  50. ^ Migrant workers rush to leave Mumbai over rumours of second lockdown (
  51. ^ Breathless patients queue outside hospitals as a second wave of infections crashes over India (
  52. ^ 12:51PM (
  53. ^ 12:48PM (
  54. ^ 12:44PM (
  55. ^ 12:38PM (
  56. ^ 12:26PM (
  57. ^ 12:20PM (
  58. ^ in this article (
  59. ^ Copy of Coronavirus Brazil Spotlight Chart – DEATHS default (
  60. ^ 12:11PM (
  61. ^ 11:54AM (
  62. ^ 11:46AM (
  63. ^ 11:30AM (
  64. ^ more details here (
  65. ^ (
  66. ^ March 30, 2021 (
  67. ^ 11:25AM (
  68. ^ Opposition to ‘discriminatory’ vaccine passports grows as Labour hints it will vote against them (
  69. ^ 11:17AM (
  70. ^ 11:08AM (
  71. ^ Tanzania appoints Samia Hassan Africa’s only female political head of state  (
  72. ^ 10:59AM (
  73. ^ 10:48AM (
  74. ^ 10:41AM (
  75. ^ 10:23AM (
  76. ^ 10:13AM (
  77. ^ 9:58AM (
  78. ^ 9:31AM (
  79. ^ 9:25AM (
  80. ^ 9:20AM (
  81. ^ 9:07AM (
  82. ^ 9:03AM (
  83. ^ 8:56AM (
  84. ^ 8:52AM (
  85. ^ 8:42AM (
  86. ^ 8:35AM (
  87. ^ 8:26AM (
  88. ^ 8:23AM (
  89. ^ 8:19AM (
  90. ^ could trigger a new wave of Covid hospital admissions (
  91. ^ the roadmap (
  92. ^ 8:16AM (
  93. ^ 8:15AM (
  94. ^ 7:39AM (
  95. ^ 7:32AM (
  96. ^ 7:24AM (
  97. ^ 6:27AM (
  98. ^  For business owners, Covid passports are not worth the risk or the hassle (
  99. ^ 5:38AM (
  100. ^ 5:16AM (
  101. ^ 3:53AM (
  102. ^ remains “some way off” (
  103. ^ are likely to become “a feature of our lives” (
  104. ^ could trigger a new wave (
  105. ^ the UK’s chief medical officer warned (
  106. ^ Boris Johnson announced on Monday (
  107. ^ the Prime Minister has warned (
  108. ^ showed unmasked guests enjoying clandestine champagne meals in luxury Paris restaurants (
  109. ^ told AstraZeneca to cut ties with its manufacturing partner (

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