Coronavirus latest news: UK ‘secretly sent 700,000 AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia’ despite shortage

The Government has secretly flown more than 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia despite a shortage of jabs in the UK, it has been claimed.

Australia’s vaccine rollout was boosted by a shipment from Britain that was kept quiet to avoid controversy, according to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said last month that vaccine shortages in Britain mean there will be no more first appointments for jabs booked in April amid growing chaos with supplies.

But the newspapers claim that 717,000 doses were sent to Australia after being manufactured in the UK rather than Europe, as was widely believed. 

Australia has entered the vaccine row with the European Union in recent weeks after the bloc placed tough export controls on jabs.

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Venezuelan mayor marks homes of virus patients with red symbol

A mayor in central Venezuela has begun placing red warning symbols on the homes of people with Covid-19 and also threatened to cut welfare handouts for those breaking quarantine, prompting the country’s chief prosecutor to open an investigation.

“We are protecting our people,” said Luis Duque, the mayor of Sucre municipality in Yaracuy state, pointing to a white paper sign on a home with a red circle and line drawn through. This indicates that there is a Covid case or a suspected Covid case, so the people are alert,” he added in a video posted this week to his Instagram account.

Telling local radio radical measures were needed as Venezuela tackled a second wave of the coronavirus, Mr Duque said benefits including food handouts and cooking gas could be cut if people did not comply with quarantine orders.

The move by Mr Duque, a member of President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party, brought accusations of discrimination from the country’s opposition and prompted Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab to open an investigation.

Read more: Beijing colour-codes buildings based on how many staff members have been vaccinated [8]


New Zealand suspends entry for travellers from India 

New Zealand on Thursday temporarily suspended entry for all travellers from India, including its own citizens, for about two weeks following a high number of positive cases arriving from the South Asian country.

The move comes after New Zealand recorded 23 new positive coronavirus cases at its border on Thursday, of which 17 were from India.

“We are temporarily suspending entry into New Zealand for travellers from India,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a news conference in Auckland.

India is battling a deadly second wave with daily infections this week passing the peak of the first wave seen last September.

A social worker wearing PPE walks amid burning funeral pyres as he performs last rites of the Covid-19 victims in Bhopal



South Korea reports surge in cases, more restrictions expected

South Korea reported 700 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily figure since early January, and the Prime Minister reiterated warnings on Thursday that new social distancing rules would likely be needed.

Wednesday’s tally compares with an average of 477 cases last week, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency and will fuel fears that the country may be facing a fourth wave of infections.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a government meeting a new wave of infections could disrupt South Korea’s vaccination programme which has been suffering delays as the international vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX struggles to provide promised doses on time.

South Korea also said on Wednesday it will temporarily suspend providing AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to people below 60 as it undergoes reviews in Europe.

Students maintain social distance as they wait to undergo swab tests in Daegu, South Korea



Brazil detects first case of South African variant

Brazil has recorded its first confirmed case of the highly contagious variant discovered in South Africa, a fresh danger sign for a country already ravaged by the world’s worst daily death toll and scrambling to make space for burials.

Scientists warned on Wednesday that yet another new variant could be emerging in Brazil’s inland city of Belo Horizonte.

The Federal University of Minas Gerais said in a statement that two samples taken in the city included a previously unseen set of 18 mutations, including some in the same genes modified by the South African variant and Brazil’s already prevalent variant, known as P.1.

The detection of additional variants adds to concerns that a brutal Covid-19 wave battering Brazil may keep breaking grim records for weeks to come.

Healthcare workers treat a patient among others suffering from the coronavirus at a field hospital set up at Dell’Antonia sports gym in Santo Andre



Venezuela claims sanctions blocking vaccine purchases

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza claimed on Wednesday that without economic sanctions against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, the country would already have purchased all 30 million coronavirus vaccines it needs.

The US, one of many countries not to recognise MMr aduro’s reelection in 2018, has frozen millions of dollars of Venezuelan money in US bank accounts.

It views the election as fraudulent, and along with European and other countries recognises opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s acting president. Washington has handed control of the frozen funds to Mr Guaido.

“If Venezuela did not have its resources blocked we would have been able to buy the 30 million vaccines the country needs three months ago,” Arreaza said in an interview with AFP. “As they are blocked, here we are.”

Graffiti reads “In the face of the new strain, face mask for sure” amid a spike in infections in Caracas



Kent variant most dominant ‘lineage’ in US

The highly infectious Kent variant of Covid-19 is the most dominant “lineage” of the virus in the US, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of CDC, said hospitals are seeing more younger adults being admitted with severe disease, which can be attributed to increasing prevalence of variants.

The Kent variant, known as B117, was first identified in the US in December after it swept across the UK at the end of last year before spreading across the world.

During a White House coronavirus response team’s briefing on Wednesday, she said: “Based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the B117 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States. So there are many different lineages. There are several different kinds of, sort of, wild-type variants, and this is, in fact, the most common lineage right now.”


Music helped UK listeners get through lockdown

Music helped listeners in the UK get through the pandemic-enforced lockdowns, new research has suggested.

More than a quarter of those surveyed said they had increased their listening time compared to before the country shut down, according to a survey from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

Only 11 per cent of those asked said they listened to less or no music at all, the BPI said, and a jump in consumption was most pronounced in the 16-24 age group.

The BPI, the UK record labels association, said 45 per cent of respondents in this age group listened to more music since the first national lockdown in March last year.

And the survey suggested people relied on their favourite songs for a boost while separated from their friends and loved ones.

Read more: The 30 best calming and relaxing songs to listen to [15]


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