Coronavirus latest news: Europe will not renew order for extra AstraZeneca vaccine doses

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The European Commission has not renewed its order for AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June, amid legal disputes and a pivot towards the Pfizer jab.

According to the European Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, Europe will not order additional doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab moving forward. The European Commission could have triggered a clause for additional 100 million doses of the vaccine.

"We did not renew the order after June. We’ll see what happens," said Breton, adding that it was "a very good vaccine".

Such a move is not unexpected amid fraught relations. Last month the Commission launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines and for not having a "reliable" plan to ensure timely deliveries.

And this week the bloc cemented its desire to use the Pfizer-BioNTech for the bulk of its rollout moving forward. Yesterday, the European Commission agreed to a massive contract extension for a potential 1.8 billion doses of the mRNA vaccine through 2023.

Meanwhile the head of the Oxford University vaccine group urged wealthy countries, including the UK, to share available vaccines with the rest of the world before pursuing plans to offer citizens booster shots.

"We're facing an absolute calamity," Prof Pollard told BBC, pointing to research which shows that around 30,000 people around the world will die from Covid-19 today alone.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

04:15 PM

Britons catching Covid after vaccination get milder form of the disease

Britons catching Covid-19 after being vaccinated get a far milder form of the disease, according to data from the King’s College symptoms tracker app.

The team at King’s said as the number of people being vaccinated increased, those reporting an infection after the jab was rising, but the symptoms had changed.

Prof Tim Spector, lead scientist on the ZOE Covid Study app, and professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s, said: “Whereas in the past about half of people had classic symptoms in the first week, less than a third do now, if they've had a vaccination.

“And so you're gonna get less symptoms, they'll be less severe, they won't be classic, so do keep an open mind and do get a test when we ask you to, that way we'll keep a close eye on it, and make sure that even if mild, you're not going to pass it on to other people.

“The importance of our survey is getting even greater because the disease is shifting. The fact that we haven't relied on those three symptoms like official government ones allows us much more breadth to find out what's really going on, and whether not only the new various might be causing different symptoms.”

Sarah Knapton has more details on this story here.

04:09 PM

Scientists join calls for Champions League final to be relocated

Independent Sage have called for the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea to be held in the UK, rather than Turkey, to reduce coronavirus risks.

The final is due to take place in Istanbul later this month, but Turkey is on the UK's red list said fans should not be travelling to the country to watch the match.

In a statement scientists from the Independent Sage committee said: “We wholeheartedly endorse negotiations between the FA and Uefa to relocate the Champions league final to the United Kingdom in order to give the most fans the best chance of attending in the safest possible environment."

Earlier today Mr Gove said that "delicate negotiations" are ongoing about whether the final should be relocated to the Britain. "Fans in the UK would dearly love to see the final take place in the UK," he told Sky, adding that he is slightly biased as his son is a Chelsea fan.

03:58 PM

Cyprus lifts lockdown with Covid 'safety pass'

Cyprus on Monday will exit a third partial lockdown with a new coronavirus "safety pass" system to allow people to move freely.

"As of tomorrow, Cyprus takes a step towards returning to a more normal pace of social and economic activity," Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said Sunday. "By implementing health protocols, testing the population and expediting the vaccination programme, Cyprus is taking an important step towards exiting uncertainty."

The government is abolishing a system of official approval by text message used to allow people to leave home. Cypriots wanting to enter hospitality venues will now need to show a Covid certificate that the government has named a "safety pass".

Those eligible must have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine or contracted the virus in the past six months or have a valid 72-hour negative PCR or rapid test.

Authorities said the pass is a temporary measure, to be enforced until May 31, to help speed up the island's vaccination rollout in a race to reach herd immunity, with 65 percent of the adult population vaccinated at least once, by end June.

03:49 PM

PM: Vaccine efforts a 'testament to the extraordinary efforts of NHS staff and volunteers'

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03:36 PM

UK: Cases and deaths continue to fall

The latest Government data shows two people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 a of this morning, bringing the official total to 127,605. The seven-day death toll of 67 has fallen by 39.1 per cent compared with the previous seven days.

But it's worth remembering that seperate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies show there have been 152,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

As of 9am on Sunday, the Government said there have been a further 1,770 lab-confirmed cases in the UK, taking the total tally to 4,434,860. Over the last week 14,659 cases have been reported, a 4.3 per cent fall compared with the previous seven days.

03:21 PM

Madrid mayor concerned as parties break out in Barcelona after curfew ends

Exhilarated Spaniards chanting "freedom" danced in streets and partied on beaches as a Covid-19 curfew ended in most of the country, but others feared it was too soon to let go.

In scenes akin to New Year's Eve celebrations, hundreds of mainly young people gathered in Madrid's Puerta del Sol square to applaud the clock striking midnight while in Barcelona revellers headed to the beach with drinks in hand.

Some wore masks but there was scant social distancing as friends kissed, hugged, danced and sang.

"Young people, like everyone else, have been very restricted," said shop worker Paula Garcia, 28, on the beach in Barcelona. "Now was time to give us a bit of freedom to enjoy a little of the summer."

But in the Basque Country, where regional authorities had asked to keep the curfew but were rebuffed by a court last week, some locals were less excited. The Basque Country has Spain's highest infection rate at 448 per 100,000 against a national average of 199.

Social media videos of large groups paying little heed to distancing drew criticism on Sunday. "Freedom does not include breaking the rules," said Madrid's conservative mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, emphasizing that gatherings to drink on the street, known as "botellones", were prohibited.

People dance at the Barcelona beach, as the state of alarm decreed by the Spanish Government is due to end on Sunday - REUTERS/Nacho Doce
People dance at the Barcelona beach, as the state of alarm decreed by the Spanish Government is due to end on Sunday - REUTERS/Nacho Doce

03:08 PM

Eight million targeted by pension scammers in fraud epidemic

Almost eight million people in Britain have been targeted by fraudsters attempting to trick innocent pension savers out of their life savings, Jessica Beard reports.

The number of pension scams has rocketed during the pandemic and it has quickly become one of the most common types of fraud. The number of reported crimes has jumped 45 per cent this year compared with 2020, according to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre.

The Pensions Regulator has said it is investigating more than £54m of lost pension savings, affecting 18,000 people. The City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, has warned the true figure will be much higher.

A survey conducted by LV, the pensions group, found that 14 per cent of adults, or 7.6 million people, had received unsolicited emails, texts or calls from people encouraging them to transfer or release money from their pension. A further 14 million were worried they might unwittingly fall victim to a pension scam because of how sophisticated they had become.

Read the full story here.

02:54 PM

Could clues to the pandemic’s origins be lurking in the Natural History Museum?

The Natural History Museum has unearthed a “treasure trove” of thousands of bat skulls, skins and pickled specimens dating back roughly three hundred years, which researchers hope may shed light on the origins of pandemics – including Covid-19.

By indexing roughly 12,000 samples from three major bat families stored deep in its vaults, the museum aims to help scientists trace where the flying mammals have lived over centuries, and how the viruses they carry “spillover” to humans.

Technological advances in DNA sampling mean pathogens lurking inside the pickled specimens – many dating back to the British Empire – may also be revealed for the first time.

The Telegraph was given exclusive access to the Museum’s bat collection, which includes specimens that pre-date 1753 – when the world renowned institution was founded.

Together with eight other European museums, researchers in London are racing to meticulously document the samples before the end of the year, turning disparate records into a digitised “bat library”.

The journey into the depths of the museum is otherworldly – part Harry Potter, part Joseph Conrad, part Matrix. The contrast with the grand and airy public galleries is striking.

Read the entire dispatch here, or watch the video below for more details:

02:40 PM

Vietnam says new coronavirus outbreak threatens stability

Vietnam reported 102 new Covid-19 infections today, as the Southeast Asian country battles a fast-spreading outbreak which Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said threatened political stability if not brought under control.

Vietnam has been praised for its record in containing its outbreaks quickly through targeted mass testing and a strict, centralised quarantine programme.

But a new outbreak emerged late last month and has spread rapidly in the country, infecting 333 people in 25 cities and provinces, including the capital Hanoi, and leaving around 10 hospitals under lockdown.

"The risk for the outbreak to spread nationwide is very high," Chinh said on Sunday. "We need to deploy stronger measures to curb the outbreak.

"If the outbreak spread nationwide, it would affect political stability, people's health and the National Assembly and People's Council elections, and the consequence would be unpredictable."

The new cases raised the total to 3,332 since the pandemic began, with 35 deaths, the Ministry of Health said. Here's a look at the trajectory of the country's outbreak:

02:29 PM

Heir apparent? Meet the anti-lockdown governor with the White House in his sights

Ron DeSantis, the combative governor of Florida, has emerged as the early joint frontrunner with Donald Trump in the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, writes Nick Allen.

Mr DeSantis, 42, has become a national figure in the US as he lambasted lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions, and aggressively campaigned to keep schools open in his state.

His stance has attracted companies to relocate from New York and California and led to a surging economy, low unemployment and a house price boom.

In political betting markets Mr Trump and Mr DeSantis have now been neck-and-neck for weeks, swapping places in the lead.

This week the governor moved to suspend all remaining coronavirus restrictions in Florida, signing a new law giving himself sweeping powers to abolish emergency pandemic measures put in place by Democrat-led local authorities, including requirements to wear masks.

Find out more here.

02:22 PM

Pandemic in photos

Maubeuge, France:

Medical workers wearing protective face masks accompany a resident during a relaxation session at the "la maison du moulin" retirement home  - REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
Medical workers wearing protective face masks accompany a resident during a relaxation session at the "la maison du moulin" retirement home - REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Athens, Greece:

A man wearing a protective face mask disinfects a sunbed during the official reopening of beaches to the public, following the easing of measures against the spread of the coronavirus - REUTERS/Costas Baltas
A man wearing a protective face mask disinfects a sunbed during the official reopening of beaches to the public, following the easing of measures against the spread of the coronavirus - REUTERS/Costas Baltas

Lomas de Zamora, Argentina:

Heath workers admit a Covid patient at the Dr. Norberto Raul Piacentini hospital, as Argentina experiences record coronavirus tolls, hospitals struggle to keep up with the demand - AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko
Heath workers admit a Covid patient at the Dr. Norberto Raul Piacentini hospital, as Argentina experiences record coronavirus tolls, hospitals struggle to keep up with the demand - AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Kathmandu, Nepal:

Covid-19 patients are being treated outside a hospital as wards are fully occupied at hospitals in Kathmandu. Nepal is struggling with record numbers of Covid-19 infections - NARENDRA SHRESTHA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Covid-19 patients are being treated outside a hospital as wards are fully occupied at hospitals in Kathmandu. Nepal is struggling with record numbers of Covid-19 infections - NARENDRA SHRESTHA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

02:09 PM

Laos reports first coronavirus fatality since pandemic began

The Southeast Asian country of Laos recorded its first death from coronavirus today, losing its place among the few countries yet to suffer a fatality, state media said.

The victim was a 53-year-old Vietnamese woman who had underlying medical problems, including diabetes, and who worked at a karaoke club in a village outside the capital Vientiane, the state-run Vientiane Times website quoted the national Covid-19 taskforce as saying.

Infections have rocketed in the country of nine million since last month, when the worst surges also began in neighbouring Thailand and Cambodia.Laos has still identified only 1,302 infections since the pandemic began.

Related: While India suffers, other Asian countries are also seeing worrying Covid-19 spikes

02:00 PM

Army veteran undertakes extreme challenge to honour his father's memory

An Army veteran unable to attend his father's funeral because of Covid-19 restrictions will honour him with a 100km march carrying 25kg on his back for charity.

David Mossop, 41, originally from Whitehaven, Cumbria, was devastated he could not give a final hug to his father, Colin, 75, who himself served in the Army in the Royal Military Police Corps - as did other family members through the generations.

He said he was "devastated" that coronavirus restrictions meant he could not travel from his present home in Germany for the funeral in February.

His resulting depression came on top of his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and survivor guilt after 12 years of service with the Royal Scots Guards and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

As part of his recovery Mr Mossop has decided to focus on the extreme challenge of a solo march in 24 hours while carrying 25kg of infantry weight in a military-style Bergen rucksack.

The march will raise funds for his father's chosen charity of Help for Heroes. His chosen date for the challenge of Thursday May 13 is Father's Day in Germany, where he works for energy firm E.On.

01:47 PM

Third of adults in England fully protected against Covid-19

Another major vaccine related milestone: A third of adults in England have now had both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, NHS England said.

A total of 44,449,424 Covid-19 vaccinations took place in England between December 8 and May 8, according to NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 541,513 on the previous day.

NHS England said 29,578,216 were the first dose of a vaccine, a rise of 137,003 on the previous day, while 14,871,208 were a second dose, an increase of 404,510.

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and medical director for primary care at NHS England, said: "Yet another incredible NHS milestone has been reached as one in three adults in England have now had both doses of the Covid vaccine - meaning that they have maximum protection from the virus.

"Reaching this milestone is no accident - it is down to months of hard work and everyone in the NHS who has played a role in this is helping to protect millions of people from serious illness and saving lives."

Checkout how rollout is progressing in your local area below:

01:37 PM

US turning a corner in the pandemic, says White House

The United States is turning the corner on the coronavirus pandemic and US health officials are now focused on getting more Americans vaccinated, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Sunday.

"I would say we are turning the corner," Zients said in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union." The task now is to continue building confidence in vaccines and get enough Americans vaccinated to mitigate the spread of the virus and its variants, he said.

It comes amid some criticism from European leaders that the Biden administration should share its stockpile of vaccines directly with lower income countries, rather than advocate for vaccine patent waivers.

The US announcement backing of the patent waiver, which has long been advocated by leaders from poorer nations, NGOs and activists, took many wealthy nations by surprise this week. Advocates say the move would help bolster global manufacturing capacity, while critics say that expertise and raw materials would remain a barrier.

Related: Waiving Covid vaccine patents may be noble, but is it really the best solution?

01:23 PM

China to create 'line of separation' at Everest summit amid coronavirus fears

China will set up "a line of separation" at the summit of Mount Everest to prevent the mingling of climbers from Covid-hit Nepal and those ascending from the Tibetan side as a precautionary measure, Chinese state media reported on Sunday.

Everest base camp on the Nepalese side has been hit by coronavirus cases since late April. The Nepalese government, starved of tourism revenue, has yet to cancel the spring climbing season, usually from April to early June before the monsoon rains.

It was not immediately clear how the line would be enforced on the summit, a tiny, perilous and inhospitable area the size of a dining table.

A small team of Tibetan climbing guides will ascend Everest and set up the "line of separation" at the summit to stop any contact between mountaineers from both sides of the peak, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the head of Tibet's sports bureau.

01:13 PM

Puncture marks in your arm or neck? Dracula's castle hosts vaccine marathon

Visitors to Dracula's castle are more likely to find puncture marks in their arms than their necks this month, after medics set up a Covid-19 vaccination centre at the Transylvanian attraction.

"I came to visit the castle with my family and when I saw the poster I gathered up my courage and agreed to get the injection," said 39-year-old engineer Liviu Necula.

Those who take the jab are handed a certificate hailing their "boldness and responsibility" promising they will be welcome at the castle "for the coming 100 years" - as well as offered a free tour of the "torture chamber".

People arrive at a vaccination center during the vaccination marathon organised at the "Bran Castle" - DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP
People arrive at a vaccination center during the vaccination marathon organised at the "Bran Castle" - DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP

Nestled in a misty valley in the Carpathian mountains, Bran Castle is associated with the 15th-century Romanian prince Vlad Tepes, known as "the Impaler", although he never stayed there.

Dracula author Bram Stoker is believed to have been inspired by Vlad and descriptions of Bran Castle when writing his 1897 novel that helped found the modern vampire genre.

Romania's government has turned to local vaccination drives and 24-hour "marathons" at major venues like the National Library in Bucharest to get as many citizens as possible immunised.

People inside a tent use mobile phones' light to fill-in forms prior being vaccinated during the vaccination marathon - Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP
People inside a tent use mobile phones' light to fill-in forms prior being vaccinated during the vaccination marathon - Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP

"These centres are for everyone who wants to get vaccinated but doesn't feel like making an appointment online," Marius Nasta hospital director Beatrice Mahler told AFP.

But she added that it would still be difficult to reach people living in the many areas without local doctors.

Almost 3.6 million Romanians of the country's 19 million people have received at least one vaccine dose, with authorities aiming for five million by June.

Bran Castle in Romania  - INQUAM PHOTOS 
Bran Castle in Romania - INQUAM PHOTOS

01:05 PM

Third surge of Covid-19 hits Pakistan

Pakistan is struggling with a third surge of coronavirus cases, despite a complete closure of all business and transport that began this weekend and continues until May 16, the end of the Eid holidays.

Pakistan reported 118 more deaths and 3,785 new cases of Covid-19 in a single day Sunday. It has now seen nearly 19,000 deaths in the pandemic.

All businesses are now closed except for essential food stores, pharmacies and fuel stations. Public transport in major cities and town is either at halt or allowed only with 50 per cent capacity while intercity passenger transport is completely shut. Federal authorities also extended school closures to May 21

After receiving the first consignment of 1.2 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Saturday, the government is trying to ramp up inoculations:

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Related: While India suffers, other Asian countries are also seeing worrying Covid-19 spikes

01:00 PM

Second generation vaccines may justifiably be more expensive, says European Commission

A few more details here in this Reuters' report on the news that the European Commission has not yet made any new orders for AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June when their contract ends:

European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said that he expected that the costs of the EU's recent order for more doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines would be higher than the earlier versions.

The Commission last month launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of Covid-119 vaccines and for not having a "reliable" plan to ensure timely deliveries.

"We did not renew the order after June. We’ll see what happens," said Breton, adding that it was "a very good vaccine".

Breton also added that an increase in prices for second generation vaccines could be justified by the extra research required and potential changes to industrial equipment.

The European Union signed a new contract with Pfizer-Biontech to receive 1.8 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines for 2021-2023, to cover booster shots, donations and reselling of doses, the European Commission said on Friday.

"There may be a little extra cost but I will let the competent authorities unveil it in due course," he told France Inter radio.

12:47 PM

UK citizens in Spain refused Covid vaccines amid Brexit teething problems

British citizens in Spain say they are being refused access to Covid-19 jabs, despite orders from the country's national government to extend the vaccination campaign to all residents.

Local officials are refusing vaccinations on the grounds that expats do not have a public health card, because a condition of their post-Brexit residency is that they have to take out private health insurance.

John McKenzie, a 42-year-old with diabetes and heart condition, told The Telegraph he has been to his local health centre in El Sauzal, Tenerife, four times to try to register since the vaccination rollout began at the start of the year.

“The first time they said they cannot register people on private insurance for the vaccine in the absence of any instruction from the Canarian government,” Mr McKenzie said.

“Go away, we don’t vaccinate foreigners,” Mr McKenzie said he was told on another visit. “It’s very frightening not being able to have the vaccine when you have health conditions like I do.”

The Telegraph also contacted the Canary Islands health department, but got no answer.

Read James Badcock's full report here.

12:34 PM

Watch: Why India is struggling to cope with Covid and what the world must learn

12:21 PM

Slovakia to discuss the possible use of Sputnik V jab

Slovakia's government is set to discuss possible use of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine with Moscow, after it was successfully tested in a Hungarian lab.

Slovakian Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky said he will talk with his country's experts and "the Russian side about further developments on this issue."

Hungary offered Slovakia assistance in inspecting the Russian-made vaccine after the Slovak State Institute for Drug Control said it had not received enough information about the Russian jab from its producer to be able to assess its benefits and risks.

The regulator also said the doses it received from Russia differed from those under review by the European Union's medicines authority.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets Sputnik V abroad, called the findings "fake news." It said Slovakia's drug regulator had tested the vaccine in a laboratory that is not part of the EU's official network of approved labs.

The RDIF welcomed the results of the Hungarian tests and said it asked the Slovak drug regulator to apologize "for spreading incorrect information about Sputnik V."

In the meantime, Russian experts have also been also testing doses of the Sputnik V vaccine it delivered to Slovakia. Lengvarsky said he was waiting for the results of those tests and Russian approval for its use before he makes any further decisions.

Slovakia would be only the second EU nation after Hungary to use Sputnik V, which has not been authorised by the European Medicines Agency.

A secret deal for Slovakia to purchase two million Sputnik V shots orchestrated by then-Prime Minister Igor Matovic triggered a political crisis in March that resulted in the Slovak government's collapse.

12:10 PM

New York ditches snow days for remote learning

Pupils and teachers have had to adapt to remote learning across the globe amid the coronavirus pandemic. In New York, the success of online tuition has led to the demise of the much-loved snow day.

"We are sad for a year without snow days," NYCDOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson told CNN. "But we must meet the state mandate [of 180 days of schooling] and we can leverage the technology we invested in during the pandemic so our students get the instructional days required by the state."

Students, parents and teachers all criticised the move, defending the great pleasure of a snow day - when public schools are closed due to heavy snow fall or other extreme weather.

11:59 AM

India turns to ex-army medics as Covid surge sparks calls for lockdown

India is to recruit hundreds of former army medics to support its overwhelmed healthcare system, the defence ministry said on Sunday, as the country grapples with record Covid-19 infections and deaths amid angry calls for a complete nationwide lockdown.

Some 400 medical officers are expected to serve on contract for a maximum of 11 months, the ministry said in a press release, adding that other defence doctors had also been roped in for online consultations.

Covid-19 cases and deaths have been hitting records every two or three days. Deaths rose by more than 4,000 for a second consecutive day on Sunday.

Many Indian states have imposed strict lockdowns over the past month, but pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a nationwide lockdown as it did during the first wave last year.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) called for a "complete, well-planned, pre-announced" lockdown instead of "sporadic" night curfews and restrictions imposed by states for a few days at a time.

"IMA is astonished to see the extreme lethargy and inappropriate actions from the ministry of health in combating the agonising crisis born out of the devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic," it said in a statement on Saturday.

Modi is also battling criticism for allowing huge gatherings at a religious festival and holding large election rallies over the past two months even as Covid-19 cases were surging.

11:40 AM

Wales: 54 cases and no new coronavirus fatalities

Here are the latest coronavirus numbers from Wales: there have been a further 54 cases, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 211,827.

Meanwhile Public Health Wales said no further deaths were reported, with the total in the country since the start of the pandemic remaining at 5,552.

And on the vaccine front, a total of 1,922,881 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been given in the country. Authorities added that 842,047 second doses have also been administered.

11:32 AM

EU did not renew Astrazeneca Covid-19 vaccine order for after June

A snippet of significant news: European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has said today that the European Commission did not renew its order for AstraZeneca vaccines against Covid-19 for after June.

The European Commission last month launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines and for not having a "reliable" plan to ensure timely deliveries

11:31 AM

Sports Minister pays tribute to Indian hockey gold medallists who die Covid-19

India's sports minister, Kiren Rijuju, has paid tribute to two members of India's 1980 Olympics gold medal-winning hockey team, who have died of Covid on the same day.

Ravindra Pal Singh, 60, and Maharaj Krishan Kaushik, 66, had both been on ventilators in hospital. Singh died in Lucknow hours before Kaushik died in New Delhi, their families said.

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11:22 AM

WHO approves China’s Sinopharm vaccine for global use

The World Health Organization on Friday approved a Covid-19 vaccine from China's state-owned pharmaceutical company, Sinopharm, for emergency use, laying a path for the jab to be used in poorer nations via the Covax scheme.

The vaccine, one of two main Chinese shots that collectively have already been given to hundreds of millions of people in China and abroad, is the first Covid-19 jab developed by a non-Western country to win the WHO’s backing.

It is also the first time the WHO has given emergency use approval to any Chinese vaccine for any infectious disease.

A WHO emergency listing is a signal to national regulators on a product’s safety and efficacy, and would allow the shot to be included in Covax, the global programme to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries, which global health experts described as a “game changer”.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO chief, told a press conference: “This afternoon, WHO gave [an] emergency use listing to Sinopharm Beijing’s Covid-19 vaccine, making it the sixth vaccine to receive WHO validation for safety, efficacy and quality.

“This expands the list of Covid-19 vaccines that Covax can buy, and gives countries confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval, and to import and administer a vaccine.”

Find out more about the vaccine here.

11:07 AM

In charts: Vaccine rollout across the globe

10:56 AM

Why Colombia's deadly riots are a warning sign for a continent smashed by Covid

25-year-old nurse Maria Elena Ramírez says her country is in pain, writes Matthew Charles.

“All we can do is scream and hope they hear us,” she told The Telegraph as she marched with thousands of others in the Colombian capital, Bogotá, last Wednesday.

As a health worker, Ms Ramírez kept her job during the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, but her husband, a security guard, was sacked when he became ill with Covid-19 last November. They ended up losing their home as a result.

Like many of those marching, they feel they were abandoned by the state, and there is frustration they are now being asked to pay for the government’s response to the crisis through tax reform.

“They’ve taken so much from us, we have nothing else to lose,” said Ms Ramírez. “We have to fight back.”

As the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic begins to take hold in Latin America, those Colombians tossed back into the precarious position of poverty by the response to the crisis are defying curfews to vent their anger.

Read the full dispatch from Bogota here.

People protest against a tax reform bill they say will leave them poorer as the country battles its deadliest phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic - LUIS ROBAYO/AFP
People protest against a tax reform bill they say will leave them poorer as the country battles its deadliest phase yet of the coronavirus pandemic - LUIS ROBAYO/AFP

10:43 AM

Lockdown’s hidden toll: million schoolchildren a year will need mental health help

More than a million children a year will be given mental health help at school, amid concerns about soaring levels of anxiety fuelled by lockdown.

The head of the NHS said the service would urgently expand its services to help young people cope with the significant disruption caused by the pandemic.

Research shows that one in six children in England aged five to 16 reported having a probable mental health disorder last year – up from one in nine in 2017.

NHS England says approximately 400 mental health support teams will be up and running across 3,000 schools in England, offering support to almost three million pupils by 2023.

Laura Donnelly has more details here.

10:30 AM

Watch: Could clues to the pandemic’s origins be lurking in the Natural History Museum?

The Natural History Museum has unearthed a “treasure trove” of thousands of bat skulls, skins and pickled specimens dating back roughly three hundred years, which researchers hope may shed light on the origins of pandemics – including Covid-19.

By indexing roughly 12,000 samples from three major bat families stored deep in its vaults, the museum aims to help scientists trace where the flying mammals have lived over centuries, and how the viruses they carry “spillover” to humans.

Technological advances in DNA sampling mean pathogens lurking inside the pickled specimens – many dating back to the British Empire – may also be revealed for the first time.

Watch the video below for all the details, or read the full feature here.

10:19 AM

India's vaccination campaign falters as eligibility expands

Since India opened vaccinations to all adults this month, hoping to tame a disastrous coronavirus surge sweeping across the country, the pace of administering the shots has dropped with states saying they only have limited stock to give out.

The country's massive vaccination drive kicked off sluggishly in January when cases were low and exports of vaccines were high, with 64 million doses going overseas. But as infections started to rise in March and April, India's exports drastically slowed down so doses went to its own population. So far, around 10 per cent of India's population have received one shot while some 3 per cent have got both.

At its peak in early April, India was administering a record high of 3.5 million shots a day on average. But this number has consistently shrunk since, reaching an average of 1.3 million shots a day over the past week.

Between April 6 and May 6, daily doses have dropped by 38 per cent, even as cases have tripled and deaths have jumped sixfold, according to Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan who has been tracking India's epidemic.

One reason for the drop in shots is that there are just not enough available, experts say. Currently, India's two vaccine makers produce an estimated 70 million doses each month of the two approved shots - AstraZeneca, made by the Serum Institute of India, and another by Bharat Biotech.

Vaccine supply has remained nearly the same since the drive began in January, but the target population eligible has increased by threefold, said Chandrakant Lahariya, a health policy expert. "In the beginning, India had far more assured supply available than the demand, but now the situation has reversed."

10:07 AM

SNP: 'Hostage fortune' to put time limit on referendum, but intention to hold vote before 2024

Moving back to the UK and election fallout, discussions over when the SNP might push for an independence referendum dominated this morning.

But SNP deputy leader, Keith Brown, told Sophy Ridge on Sky that while a referendum will be held when it is safe to do so after the pandemic, it's a "hostage fortune" to start putting a time limit on when.

"We will know when it's over, we will know when it's safe to have that full-blooded campaign that I've mentioned, but until that happens our concentration has to be focused on the pandemic, making sure that we drive down the coronavirus and look after the public health of the people in Scotland," he said.

Asked whether he can guarantee a referendum by the end of 2024, he added:

"The only caveat to that, of course, would be the pandemic, but, yes, that's our intention, to have that referendum, I've said as soon as possible, and we're making fantastic progress with the pandemic and the fight against coronavirus, as you can see in the figures now, but that threat is still there and there's also the threat of new variants of the virus, so nobody can put time limits on that.

"At the earliest possible opportunity when it's safe to do so we will move to have that referendum, the one that Scotland has just voted for in massive numbers."

09:53 AM

Is Tokyo on the bring of a Covid resurgence?

There are some worrying reports from Japan suggesting that Tokyo might be on the brink of an explosive resurgence of the virus. According to Japan Times, the capital’s fever consultation hotline has been deluged with inquiries from people, after a nationwide holiday period came to an end today.

Here's an extract from the newspaper's report:

"The situation is eerily reminiscent of early January, when Tokyo was hit by the biggest wave of cases yet, driving its medical system to the breaking point and leaving many patients without proper care as they waited to be hospitalised.

"With the conclusion of the Golden Week holiday period, metropolitan government officials are bracing for a worst-case scenario that they fear may be in the cards.

"Their concerns stem largely from a recent spike in the number of calls to Tokyo’s so-called fever consultation center, which typically accepts inquiries on ill health from those without immediate access to primary doctors. How many calls the hotline receives is considered a bellwether for overall virus trends in Tokyo.

"The past week saw the daily number of calls to the hotline soar well beyond the 2,000 mark for several consecutive days, reaching 2,700 on Wednesday.

"The last time the center was inundated with so many calls was late December through early January, when the capital was in the grip of a fresh wave of infections that ultimately led to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declaring a second state of emergency for Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures."

09:42 AM

Watch: Duchess of Sussex calls for more support for women post-pandemic at VAX Live concert

09:30 AM

Governments need to 'rethink' booster shots, says Oxford Vaccine Group director

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford University vaccine group, has warned that vaccines need to now be focused on a global health perspective and for countries to "rethink" priorities.

He was asked on BBC's Andrew Marr Show whether booster shots in the UK should come first or vaccinating the world. Here's his response:

"The question isn't really about boosters in the autumn, it's about what we can do today so that we're not standing by while this happens. History won't look kindly on us if a million people die this month and we haven't acted.

"Countries that have now vaccinated the vast majority of the vulnerable need to be rethinking priorities. We just can't stand by and see that level of catastrophe happen."

He added that the booster vaccines are "something which we have to make decisions on" while experts look at evidence for "the need for them".

09:20 AM

Gove: loosening of lockdown still has green light 'all being well'

Boris Johnson will confirm tomorrow that "all being well", the relaxation of restrictions in the roadmap will go ahead, Michael Gove has said.

The cabinet minister tells the BBC's Andrew Marr rules on hugging and the ban on foreign travel is set to lift as planned on May 17.

"As we move into stage three of our roadmap, it will be the case that we will see people capable of meeting indoors," he said.

"Without prejudice to a broader review of social distancing, friendly contact, intimate contact between families, is something that we want to see restored."

09:12 AM

Gove insists PM debated November lockdown 'soberly and seriously'

Asked on BBC's Andrew Marr if Boris Johnson said the widely-reported "bodies pile high" comment ahead of the November lockdown, Michael Gove insists: "No, of course not"

"I was in the room with the Prime Minister when we were debating the measures that we had to take towards the end of last year," Mr Gove said.

"We did have a debate because, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, locking your economy down is a big step, it's a major step, but at the same time the overwhelming evidence in front of us was that the NHS would be overwhelmed.

"The Prime Minister took part in that debate, as you'd expect us all to, soberly and seriously, weighing up difficult decisions."

Read more: What really happened on night Boris Johnson was accused of outburst

09:07 AM

Covid deaths heading for a peak later this month, scientist warns

Swinging back to the morning news shows: coronavirus deaths are on course to peak globally later this month and the numbers keep increasing in poorer nations, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group has warned.

"We're facing an absolute calamity," Prof Andrew Pollard, of Oxford University, told the BBC's Andrew Marr. He said research shows around 30,000 people around the world will die from Covid-19 today alone.

"We will have a peak in deaths in this current global wave towards the end of this month, and we'll be just shy of a million deaths this month," he said. "So the question isn't really about boosters in the autumn, it's about what we can do today so that we're not standing by while this happens."

Prof Pollard, a key figure in the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, also stressed that ather than planning on boosting their own populations in the autumn, wealthy countries should work immediately to increase jabs in developing countries (see 9:51am).

Related: Global coronavirus death toll is double official estimates, analysis suggests

08:56 AM

Fully vaccinated enjoy new freedoms in Germany

Meanwhile in Germany, people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are exempt from many restrictions from today after the government passed new legislation to restore some freedoms.

Under the new roles, curfews and limits on social contacts no longer apply to those fully vaccinated - more than seven million people - or those who have recovered from a Covid infection.

They will also no longer have to present a negative test result to access certain services such as hairdressers and "click and meet" shopping appointments.

If returning to Germany from abroad, they will not be required to quarantine unless arriving from a country deemed high risk due to virus variants.

However, they will still be required to adhere to social distancing and hygiene measures such as wearing masks in shops and on public transport.

Announcing the measures this week, Justice Minster Christine Lambrecht said there needed to be a "good reason" for any restrictions on public life. "As soon as this reason ceases to exist... these restrictions should then no longer be in place," she said.

08:51 AM

'Such a long way to go' before masks can be ditched, says Oxford vaccine expert

The world is still "such a long way" from dropping face coverings and social distancing, according to the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group.

"I think there is a future with no social distancing and no more masks, but from a global perspective we are still a long way from that," Prof Andrew Pollard told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

He added that in most parts of the world there is "little or no choice" of vaccine, so it is critical that countries such as the UK help bolster global supply.

Rather than planning on boosting their own populations in the autumn, wealthy countries should work immediately to increase jabs in developing countries, he added.

Related:

08:42 AM

Pandemic in pictures

Leh, India:

Health workers wearing protective gear ride a tractor as they sanitise a street with disinfectant in Leh - Mohd Arhaan ARCHER / AFP
Health workers wearing protective gear ride a tractor as they sanitise a street with disinfectant in Leh - Mohd Arhaan ARCHER / AFP

Paris, France:

Police officers have their temperatures taken as they arrive at the Covid-19 'vaccinodrome' vaccination site at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center  - Nathan Laine/Bloomberg
Police officers have their temperatures taken as they arrive at the Covid-19 'vaccinodrome' vaccination site at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center - Nathan Laine/Bloomberg

Gaza City, Palestine:

Palestinians break their Ramadan fast during an Iftar meal set-up to respect social distancing measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, organized by the Islamic Hamas movement which runs the besieged Gaza Strip, at the Palestine football stadium in Gaza city
Palestinians break their Ramadan fast during an Iftar meal set-up to respect social distancing measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, organized by the Islamic Hamas movement which runs the besieged Gaza Strip, at the Palestine football stadium in Gaza city

Colombo, Sri Lanka:

Policemen arrest a man for not wearing a face mask in Colombo - ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP
Policemen arrest a man for not wearing a face mask in Colombo - ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP

08:25 AM

Gove: UK fans would 'dearly love' Champions League final in Britain

The government once more has been asked to delve into the world of football.

Appearing on Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Michael Gove was asked whether the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea should take place in the UK, rather than Turkey.

The final was scheduled to take place in Istanbul later this month, but the country is on the government's red list - barring fans from travelling. Istanbul was supposed to hold last year's Champions League final, which was cancelled due to Covid-19.

Mr Gove said that "delicate negotiations" are ongoing about whether the final - between two British teams - should be relocated to the UK. "Fans in the UK would dearly love to see the final take place in the UK," he told Sky, adding that he is slightly biased as his son is a Chelsea fan.

08:23 AM

India's daily Covid-19 deaths near record, calls for nationwide lockdown mount

Moving away from the morning news shows for a moment, here's a quick update from India - where the dire situation is only worsening.

Coronavirus deaths have risen by more than 4,000 for a second consecutive day - taking the official fatality count to 242,362 (though research suggests this is a massive underestimate) - and calls for a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the virus mounting.

Many Indian states have imposed strict lockdowns over the past month to stem the surge in infections while others have announced restrictions on public movement and shut down cinemas, restaurants, pubs and shopping malls.

And today, India's national capital New Delhi and the northern state of Uttar Pradesh extended their lockdown and curfew rules till May 17.

But pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a nationwide lockdown similar to the one imposed during the first wave last year.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), the umbrella body for all conventional doctors and surgeons, called for a "complete, well-planned, pre-announced" lockdown across the country instead of "sporadic" night curfews and restrictions imposed by states for a few days at a time.

"IMA is astonished to see the extreme lethargy and inappropriate actions from the ministry of health in combating the agonizing crisis born out of the devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic," it said in a statement yesterday.

08:12 AM

Gove: 'No indication' that India variant will delay lockdown easing

On Friday Public Health England designated a coronavirus strain first detected in India, B.1.617.2, a "variant of concern" - upgrading it from a "variant under investigation".

Asked about this decision today, the Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said that he is "genuinely worried" about all new coronavirus variants - but insisted that there is "no indication at this time that [B.1.617.2] will slow down the lifting of the roadmap".

"Thanks to the sense of the UK vaccination programme and the good sense of people across the United Kingdom we can start to lift restrictions," he said. "I expect tomorrow the Prime Minister to confirm that the next stage of lifting restrictions can take place on May 17."

For more information about why experts are concerned about B.1.617.2 - and what it means for a variant to be categorised as "of concern" - head to this Q&A from our Global Health Security team.

08:05 AM

Gove: Government will unveil social care plan 'before end of the year' - but perhaps not in the Queen's speech

The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on care homes across the UK, pushing the sector into the spotlight.

But quizzed this morning about when the government intends to unveil the social care plan it promised in its 2019 election manifesto, Michael Gove was vague.

"Yes we'll be seeing more about social care in the weeks and months to come," he told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme. "You're absolutely right it's a huge issue - with an ageing population... we do need to make sure we improve the operation of our social care system."

He added that the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Helen Whately, Minister for Social Care, are working on a social care strategy to tackle issues including funding and quality.

But pushed on whether these plans will be announced in the Queens Speech, which provides an overview of the government's priority for the coming year, Mr Gove was vague.

He stressed that the speech will tackle the funding of the NHS, and "we'll be seeing more in the immediate aftermath" around social care. Pushed on where the "clear plan" the government promised in its manifesto, Mr Gove said that would be unveiled before the end of the year.

07:57 AM

Watch: We answer your questions about summer holidays, Portugal and Australia

07:48 AM

Gove: Pandemic, not independence, should be Scotland's priority

Michael Gove has dodged questions about whether the Government will block an independence referendum in Scotland, insisting that the pandemic recovery has to be the priority.

"If we get sucked into a conversation about referenda, constitutions etc., then we are diverting attention from the issues that are most important for people across Scotland and the United Kingdom," the Minister told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

Pushed again, Mr Gove added: "You're really saying that the priority when we still have this vaccination programme that we have to roll out, when young people need the jabs in their arms, when we acknowledge that people have spent months out of school... do you think people are really going to say they want legislation on a referendum?

"It is, to my mind, and I'll put it lightly, a slightly skewed set of priorities," Mr Gove added. "It's just a massive distraction."

Related: Boris Johnson asks Nicola Sturgeon to a 'save the Union' summit

07:36 AM

Use 'common sense' when hugging loved ones is allowed next week, says Boris Johnson

Hugging friends and relatives will be allowed from next week, as long as people use their common sense, Boris Johnson will say on Sunday, Christopher Hope reports.

The Prime Minister is due to set out the next stage of lifting restrictions from May 17 at a Downing Street press conference.

Mr Johnson is likely to say that everyone should use their “personal judgement” and their “common sense” when it comes to hugging friends and family after May 17, Number 10 sources said.

The news will be a relief for millions of people who have not hugged anyone for months due to the lockdown restrictions.

The Prime Minister will also confirm changes set out last week that care home residents in England can now go on low-risk trips (such as to relatives' gardens or a local park) without having to self-isolate for 14 days when they return.

Read the full details here.

06:58 AM

Spain ends Covid state of emergency

Spain has lifted a state of emergency in place since October to fight the pandemic, allowing Spaniards to travel between regions for the first time in months.

"It's like New Year's," said 28-year-old Oriol Corbella in Barcelona, where the lifting of the curfew was met with shouts, applause and music.

Although the emergency measure, which expired at midnight (2200 GMT Saturday) will lead to more freedoms, it is a headache for the country's 17 regional governments responsible for health care.

The state of emergency provided them with a legal framework to impose measures - such as nighttime curfews or a ban on non-essential travel between regions - that limited freedoms.

Except for a few days over Christmas when the restrictions were lifted, people have not been able to travel to other regions, go on holiday, or see family.

Discouraged by the surge in infections after Christmas, the authorities did not loosen internal travel restrictions during Easter week, normally a peak travel period in Spain.

But what really angered Spaniards was the fact that foreign tourists were able to pour into the country on holiday while they were banned from travelling to the beach or visiting loved ones.

People dance at the Barcelona beach, as the state of alarm decreed by the Spanish Government is due to end on Sunday - Reuters
People dance at the Barcelona beach, as the state of alarm decreed by the Spanish Government is due to end on Sunday - Reuters

06:51 AM

Long-haul carrier Emirates to ship aid for free into India

Dubai's long-haul carrier Emirates will begin shipping aid for free into India to help fight a crushing outbreak of the coronavirus, the airline said on Sunday.

Emirates made the announcement at Dubai's International Humanitarian City, already home to a World Health Organisation warehouse that's been crucial to the distribution of medical gear worldwide.

Nabil Sultan, the divisional senior vice president for Emirates SkyCargo, said the initial priority would be shipping aid out of Dubai, rather than elsewhere from its network. He acknowledged airfreight costs were high, but said the priority remained getting help to India.

"At the moment, cost is not the issue," Mr Sultan told journalists. "India is going through a major crisis."

The first shipment, including tents to expand hospital capacity and other gear, is being prepared to be shipped later this week, Mr Sultan said.

Relatives of coronavirus victims perform cremation, at a crematorium in New Delhi, - Anadolu
Relatives of coronavirus victims perform cremation, at a crematorium in New Delhi, - Anadolu

05:59 AM

Sydney mask rules extended for another week

Australia's most populous state recorded no new Covid infections for a third straight day on Sunday but extended social distancing and mask rules by a week as the authorities hunted for the source of a small outbreak.

After a Sydney couple tested positive last week - ending a long run without community transmission - authorities reinstated some social distancing measures until May 10, and a campaign to get more people tested, as they scrambled to determine the source of infection.

On Sunday, authorities reported a third straight day without a new case, easing concerns about a wider outbreak in the city, but cited the mystery cause of infection as a reason for extending the measures.

"As the 'missing link' case hasn't been identified we're keen to prevent a super-spreading event," said New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian.

"All safeguards/restrictions will be in place for an extra week, except for shoppers in retail who will no longer be required to wear a mask."

That means the more than five million people living in and around Sydney must wear masks on public transport and in most public venues, while households are limited to 20 guests at any one time until May 17.

05:56 AM

India' numbers rise despite lockdowns

India's total Covid cases rose by more than 400,000 for the fourth consecutive day on Sunday even as several states imposed strict lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus.

India's health ministry reported 4,092 fatalities over the past 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to 242,362.

Cases rose by 403,738, increasing the total since the start of the pandemic to 22.3 million.

Farmers take part in a protest march against the weekend lockdown imposed by the state government in Amritsar - AFP
Farmers take part in a protest march against the weekend lockdown imposed by the state government in Amritsar - AFP

05:40 AM

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