Experts have warned that restrictions on large gatherings could remain in place for “the next few years” as the world learns to live with the coronavirus.
Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, told Times Radio that he “can’t see us suddenly having another Cheltenham Festival with no regulations again”.
“I can’t see us having massive weddings with people coming from all over the world, I think for the next few years those days are gone,” he added.
Prof Spector also suggested that basic infection control measures – including physical distancing, face masks and handwashing – should remain in place as they “don’t cost really anything to do”.
“I think we need to get used to that and that will allow us to do the things we really want to do more easily and more readily,” he said.
On a more positive note Prof Spector, who created the Zoe Covid Symptom Study, said the infection survey indicates that coronavirus rates are “generally much lower everywhere” in the country, with around one in 170 people infected on average.
He suggested that reinstating the rule of six allowing people to meet outdoors should be “definitely encouraged” around the same time as primary schools begin to return.
But asked about whether private gardens were safer than outdoor pubs or restaurants, he said that “actually sometimes a beer garden is more controlled than people’s homes and gardens”.
“Generally most establishments are well behaved and I think they clean the tables and people keep their distance and I see no reason why we couldn’t move towards that in places that are well set up for it,” he said.
Follow the latest updates below.
Italians flocking to streets and squares spark concerns
Encouraged by relaxed anti-coronavirus restrictions and mild weather, Italians filled streets and squares in the main cities over the weekend, sparking concerns over a possible new spike in infections, Giada Zampano reports.
Photographs of packed piazzas and crowded popular sites in Milan, Venice, Rome and Naples, prompted authorities to pledge to crack down on places where people were failing to socially distance.
Most of Italy this weekend was put under so-called “yellow zone” rules – the softest ones according to Italy’s three-tier system of restrictions, which allow people to dine in restaurants outdoors. An evening curfew, however, remains in place from 10 pm to 5 am across the whole country.
Italy has been fighting hard to contain a second wave of Covid infections, after suffering badly during the first wave in spring 2020.
After crowds descended on bars, restaurants and popular shopping areas over the weekend, Roberto Speranza, the health minister, warned citizens against the high risk of new outbreaks.
“We need the utmost caution across the whole national territory. We can’t waste the progress made in the past few weeks, which is the result of all the sacrifices we faced,” Mr Speranza said.
“Yellow zones don’t mean that the danger is over. The virus circulates and the risk, also due to the new variants, remains high,” he added.
Amazon and other online retailers face tax double whammy
Online retailers such as Amazon face a tax double whammy to help pay for the cost of the pandemic under plans being drawn up by the Government, it has been claimed.
Ministers are already looking at ways of imposing an online sales tax, but they are also now looking at a windfall tax on companies that have made a killing on the back of high street lockdowns, it was reported.
The “excessive profits tax” could be used to keep bricks and mortar retailers afloat after the loss of such major names as Debenhams from town centres.
Amazon enjoyed a 51 per cent increase in sales in Britain last year as people unable to go to the shops switched to online purchases. The firm took £19.5 billion in revenue, but paid just £14.5m in corporation tax, less than one thousandth of its turnover.
Gordon Rayner has the full report.
Matt’s take on events this week
Hungary approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine
Hungarian health authorities have approved Russia’s coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, the government has announced, with 40,000 doses of the jab ready to be administered.
Official testing has been completed “and the vaccine may be administered”, Miklos Kasler, the human resources minister who is in charge of health, said on social media.
The government said earlier this week that it had taken delivery of 40,000 doses of Sputnik V, a first within the European Union. It is the first batch of a total order of two million doses to be supplied over three months.
Initially viewed with scepticism in the West, the Russian vaccine has since convinced experts of its efficacy.
The medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday published an analysis of final stage testing results showing Sputnik V to be 91.6 percent effective against symptomatic forms of Covid-19.
Hungary, a country of 9.8 million people close to Moscow, has repeatedly criticised the slow pace of the EU’s process for acquiring vaccines.
It is also the first EU member state to have reached an accord with the Chinese laboratory Sinopharm, announcing an order of five million doses of its jab.
Coronavirus testing on hold as snowstorm descends
The Netherlands and parts of Germany were blanketed today by a snowstorm that disrupted planes and trains and put some coronavirus testing on hold.
Britain was also bracing for heavy snow from what Dutch meteorologists have called Storm Darcy, which is packing winds of up to 55 miles an hour.
People rushed outdoors to enjoy sledging and playing in the snow in Dutch and German cities despite the bitterly cold conditions with temperatures as low as minus 5 degrees Celsius.
But Dutch authorities declared a rare “code red” emergency for the entire country as it was hit by its first proper snowstorm in more than a decade.
Weather forecasting website Weer.nl said that overnight a force eight wind was measured in combination with snowfall, adding: “This officially means a snowstorm in our country.
“It is the first snowstorm in a long time: the last snowstorm took place in January 2010,” it said.
Oral cancer cases could be missed because patients can’t see a dentist
Cases of oral cancer risk being missed due to the difficulty of securing an appointment, experts have warned.
Healthwatch, the independent patient watchdog, has reported a 452 per cent increase in complaints from people unable to get help last year. In some parts of the country, nine in every 10 calls to the organisation relate to dentistry.
It follows massive disruption to dental services since the start of the Covid pandemic. Dentists in England were shut from the beginning of lockdown to June 8, and although urgent dental-care hubs were established in April, the range of treatments was extremely limited.
The result was 19 million fewer dental procedures by the end of October, according to the British Dental Association.
“Since the pandemic, we have been hearing about access to dentistry from people in all parts of the country, and I think that’s quite a significant change,” said Imelda Redmond, the national director of Healthwatch.
Henry Bodkin reports.
Vaccines: the next generation in the battle against Covid revealed
It sounds like something out of Star Trek, but it has become the latest hot topic: the “next generation” of Covid-19 vaccines, writes Jennifer Rigby.
The issue has risen to the fore over as yet unconfirmed fears the existing crop of vaccines may not work as well against the new variants. But it also has the potential to tackle many other issues that are crucial to ending the pandemic.
These include the obvious: more vaccines means more people get vaccinated. But vaccine developers who have not been in the race to be first – either by design or by circumstance – have also had more time to tinker with their vaccine “recipes”, to make them more suitable for use in certain groups or locations.
“The more goodies we have in the cupboard, the better,” said Professor Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College, London.
“For example, I am asked every day – every hour – if a particular vaccine is good for people with allergies, or a certain type of cancer. And the answer is I don’t know yet, because nobody knows. But more goodies will better resolve these issues.”
For now, the focus is on variants. For example, GlaxoSmithKline and Curevac this week said their “next generation” candidate could be multivalent. This means it may contain several vaccine variants at once, like the annual flu jab.
Read more here.
Jordan reopens schools after a year of closures
Hundreds of thousands of students in Jordan went back to classrooms today 4after almost a year of school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am very happy to see my friends and teacher again,” said seven-year-old Mecca at a girls’ school in Jabal Amman, in the centre of the Jordanian capital.
“I was bored at home. Being at school is better,” the smiling girl said.
Schools and universities in the country have been shut since mid-March due to the pandemic.
Kindergarten and early elementary school levels, as well as students in their final year of high school, went back to classrooms on todayr, the first day of the school week in Jordan, while Christian schools will reopen for those students on Monday.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees also reopened its schools on Sunday for 28,000 students. An education ministry spokesman said more than 773,000 students were going back to the classroom this week.
UK surpasses 12 million vaccinations
Here are the latest coronavirus stats from across the UK:
Another 373 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total by that measure to 112,465. But it’s worth flagging that fewer deaths are often reported on Sunday’s, due to a reporting lag over the weekend.
An additional 15,845 positive cases have been reported, taking the UK total to 3,945,680.
On vaccines, 12,014,288 have now received a first dose of a Covid vaccine across the UK, with 549,078 people getting the jab on Saturday.
Katie Price says her son is ‘safe and well’ after reaction to Covid ab
Katie Price has said her son Harvey is “safe and well” at home after suffering a reaction to the coronavirus vaccine. Her disabled 18-year-old, who is in a priority group for the clinically vulnerable, had the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab on Friday.
Harvey, whose father is retired footballer Dwight Yorke, suffers from partial blindness, Prader-Willi syndrome, autism and learning and behavioural difficulties as a result of a rare genetic disorder.
On Saturday it was reported that he had been admitted to hospital with a high temperature.
Speaking in a video posted on her social media accounts on Sunday, Price, 42, said: “Harvey obviously is home and he’s safe and he’s on form today.”
The former glamour model added: “So, because of Harvey’s complex needs and the complex medication that he’s on, he had his Covid (vaccination), the Oxford one, and just had a vaccination and his reaction was a really high temperature – 39.9C.
“And obviously, with Harvey, I have to really keep an eye on it and I couldn’t get his temperature down. So I phoned Great Ormond Street and they told me to go to the nearest A&E. That’s what we did. Everything was fine; they just said it was a reaction from (the) Covid (vaccination) but today he’s actually on form.”
Price said the doctors and nurses had been “fantastic”.
England: 410 additional deaths reported in hospitals
A further 410 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 75,767, NHS England said this afternoon.
Patients were aged between 28 and 100. All except nine, aged between 42 and 79, had known underlying health conditions.
The deaths were between April 19 2020 and February 6, with the majority being on or after February 3.There were 29 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
Pope Francis resumes St Peter’s Square appearances
Pope Francis has resumed greeting the public in St. Peter’s Square, seven weeks after he interrupted the Sunday noon ritual to discourage crowds from gathering during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Smiling broadly, Francis appeared at an Apostolic Palace window overlooking the square and greeted a couple of hundred people standing a safe distance apart in the cobblestone square. Most held umbrellas on a drizzly, windy day.
“In the square again!” Francis said. He appeared on the first Sunday since the Rome area regained Italy’s “yellow zone” designation, which carries the least restrictions on movement.
Normally thousands of pilgrims, tourists and locals would turn out in the vast square on Sundays to hear the pope. But Italy isn’t allowing travel between regions in the country, and with stringent measures discouraging arrivals from overseas, tourism and pilgrimages have practically evaporated.
Recap: Biden vows to ‘act fast’ on coronavirus relief as he takes aim at Republicans
Kate Bingham on being the ‘brilliantly batty heroine of Britain’s jabs triumph’
“How do I feel about being called the brilliantly batty heroine of Britain’s jabs triumph?. I think it’s entirely fine. I don’t have any problem with that.”
Kate Bingham, the woman credited with giving the UK its head start in the race to procure coronavirus vaccines, expressed her acceptance of offbeat compliments in a wide-ranging interview at the weekend with two European newspapers, Italy’s La Repubblica and Die Welt of Germany.
She also shed new light on the efforts of the Vaccine Task Force, the body she led until recently, to secure orders for the vaccines as quickly as possible. Although she said she had received the full support of Boris Johnson and the Government she denied that she had been given “a blank cheque” and said Brexit had not played a role.
“The Government didn’t say to me ‘you have a blank cheque ‘,” she told the newspapers. “We had to prepare a business case to secure an overall framework budget from which we would then make recommendations, such as ‘we suggest you sign this contract for these vaccines’. We weren’t choosing vaccines on the basis of being cheap. We were choosing on the basis of vaccines being effective and available quickly.
“We paid £10 a dose on average. It wasn’t as if we threw money at it.”
Instead, she said, Britain had managed to place early orders for vaccines by attempting to be “good customers” of the pharmaceutical companies.
Shakin’ Stevens gets the Covid jab – despite needle fear
Shakin’ Stevens has spoken of his relief after getting the coronavirus vaccine – despite having a fear of needles.
The Welsh rock ‘n’ roll star, 72, said staff at Adams Park Stadium in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, had been “absolutely brilliant” and that he had felt “totally relaxed” upon arrival.
Stevens – known to fans as “Shaky” – and his partner and manager Sue both received their first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine this morning.
Asked how he felt following the jab, he told the PA news agency: “Relieved. It is the first step to hope and it had to be done to help get life back to normal. They were brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I was nervous before I got there but I was very impressed.”
Austria tightens border controls to all neighbouring countries
Austria has announced it is tightening border controls to all neighbouring countries, saying non-essential travel should be prevented during the pandemic.
The move to tighten border controls comes as the country is gearing up to cautiously loosen some restrictions this coming week, including allowing non-essential shops and schools reopen.
“The border controls are meant to break the chain of infection which through new virus mutations has grown more dangerous,” Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said in a statement. “During the pandemic, travel should be kept to an absolute minimum.”
The interior ministry said that it had been in contact with German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer over the new border measures and that talks with ministers in other countries were to follow. Austria shares borders with Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia.
Austria reported 1,317 new infections today, bringing the total to 420,644 since the outset of the pandemic. Twenty-two people died, raising the country’s total Covid-19 fatalities to 7,906, according to official figures.
Treat pandemics as a ‘matter of national security’, experts urge UK
Governments must treat health system resilience as a “matter of national security”, with annual assessments of pandemic preparedness.
The G20 Health and Development Partnership (HDP), a coalition of businesses, charities and academics, called for the creation of a body similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility that would be independent from government and have the power to scrutinise health security.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Alan Donnelly, a former Labour MEP and coordinator of the G20 HDP, said the coronavirus crisis had demonstrated why pandemic plans should be subject to the same level of scrutiny as the budget or issues of national security.
He added that governments should redefine health as an ‘investment’, rather than a ‘cost’.
“The British government should create an independent body, a bit like the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), for pandemic preparedness and health system resilience,” he said. “This would report annually to parliament, for parliament to debate.”
Our Global Health Security team have more details on this story here.
Ecuador goes to the polls as pandemic dominates politics – and voting
Ecuador will choose a new president today facing unprecedented health measures due to the coronavirus pandemic and the influence of a populist former head of state who was blocked from a place on the ballot due to a corruption conviction.
Sixteen candidates are vying to succeed President Lenin Moreno, a protege-turned-rival of former President Rafael Correa, who governed Ecuador for a decade and remains a major force despite a criminal conviction that blocked him from seeking the vice presidency this year.
There are so many contenders that an April 11 runoff election is almost certain, but the clear leaders have been a Correa-backed candidate, Andres Arauz, and a conservative former banker who finished second twice before, Guillermo Lasso.
Voters have been ordered to wear a mask, bring their own bottle of hand sanitiser and pencil, keep a 5-foot (1.5-meter) distance from others and avoid all personal contact in the polling place. The only time voters will be allowed to lower their mask will be during the identification process.
The winner will have to work to pull the oil-producing nation out of a deepening economic crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The South American country of 17 million people had recorded more than 253,000 cases and nearly 15,000 deaths of Covid-19 as of Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
Czech minister says pandemic repercussions are worse than WWII
A Czech government minister has warned that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were worse than those of World War II, as she argued in favour of reopening schools.
Schools, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and most shops have been closed on and off since March last year in the country of 10.7 million people.
“Even World War II didn’t cause as much trouble as Covid. Children went to school,” Labour Minister Jana Malacova said in a TV debate.
“Covid is a disease that has made the country stop working for a year, the country is at a standstill, the entire economy is struggling,” said the Social Democrat.
The Czech Republic has registered more than one million confirmed coronavirus cases including over 17,000 deaths, and ranks among Europe’s worst-hit countries in terms of cases and deaths per capita.
Malacova later tried to backpedal, saying she did not mean to dishonour the more than 70 million victims of World War II. “I’m just trying to show we have to find a way out of these blanket closures,” she said.
Latest figures from Scotland
Scotland has recorded 584 new cases and a further seven deaths from the disease.
The latest figures published by the Scottish Government showed that 6.9 per cent of those tested for the virus were confirmed as having Covid-19.
Meanwhile 1,710 people are in hospital with recently confirmed coronavirus, a reduction of 19 from the previous day. That includes 108 people in intensive care, with this total having fallen by nine in the past 24 hours.
Figures released today also show that 839,266 people have received their first dose of the Covid vaccine, an increase of 52,389 from the previous day.
Scotland on track to vaccinate every adult ‘in the summer’
Scotland aims to have vaccinated every adult “in the summer”, according to the health secretary Jeane Freeman.
Speaking to BBC Scotland, she said: “Our ambition is to get through all those 4.5m adults, 18 and over, in the summer. At this point it is not very sensible to give specific dates because there are a number of unknowns, partly what the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] tell us and partly about supplies.”
But she added that Scotland has the infrastructure – vaccinators, support staff and centres – to meet targets.
“As fast as we get supplies we will be vaccinating,” Freeman said.
Scotland’s official target to complete adult vaccinations is September. To date, just over 780,000 people have had their first dose. According to official figures this includes 93 per cent of over-80s living in the community, 99 per cent of older adult care home residents, and 272,365 frontline health and social care workers.
Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?
‘Malawi can’t breathe, Lord, please hear our cries’: South Africa variant overwhelms hospitals
Malawi has declared a “state of disaster” as hospitals run out of ventilators and beds fill up, Henry Kijimwana Mhango reports. Here’s an extract from his dispatch – which you can read in full here:
It’s another sad day for health workers at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital. Despite their best efforts, scores of Covid-19 patients are dying.
As health workers are busy monitoring patients on the hospital’s few ventilators, more and more patients are admitted. Most of them have Covid-19 and some are declared dead on arrival.
A shout goes out to the staff: a fellow nurse has died on duty at a hospital about 50 miles away. The doctors and nurses line up and stand to observe a minute of silence to honour their departed colleague. As soon as they’re finished, ambulance crews arrive to transfer new patients to a hastily constructed isolation centre set up in the national stadium. The hospital is full.
One of the nurses breaks the silence and cries out: “Malawi can’t breathe. Lord, please hear our cries and heal our land.”
Pandemic in pictures
New York, United States:
Bint Jbeil, Lebanon:
Nationwide vaccine drive launches in Bangladesh
Bangladesh launched a nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive with the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday, aiming to inoculate 3.5 million people in the first month.
The south Asian country is seeking to inoculate 80% of its population of around 170 million, with each person getting two doses administered four weeks apart.
However the government has nearly halved its target for the first month from 6 million people as only a little over 328,000 people had registered for the vaccine by Saturday.
Bangladesh has received 5 million of the 30 million doses of the Covishield vaccine it has ordered from the Serum Institute of India, which is the world’s biggest vaccine producer and is making the AstraZeneca vaccine. The country has also received 2 million doses of Covishield as a gift from India.
“The wait is over. Today is a historic day for us after such a difficult year,” Health Minister Zahid Maleque told Reuters. “I took the vaccine today. I am feeling good. Everyone must take the vaccine,” he said.
He added that 567 coronavirus frontline health workers, who were vaccinated last week before the vaccine programme launch, had not experienced any difficulties or side-effects.
Lord Falconer apologises for calling Covid a ‘gift that keeps on giving for lawyers’
Labour’s shadow attorney general has apologised for describing the pandemic as a “gift that keeps on giving for lawyers”.
The Mail on Sunday reported that Lord Falconer made comments during an online event hosted by a legal firm last June, referring to changes to the law during the pandemic.
He reportedly said during the introduction to the seminar: “This is a gift that keeps on giving, the law keeps on changing, keeps on getting more complicated, and is always interesting.”
The Labour peer told the BBC that he was referring to legal questions that arose from frequent changes to the law as a result of Covid-19, but he added: “I very much regret my choice of words”.
He said his comments “were expressly directed to the pace at which the government is making changes to the law and the legal questions that gives rise to”.
Recap: Oxford jab offers ‘limited’ protection against mild cases of South Africa variant – but can protect against severe disease
The Oxford vaccine “provides minimal protection” against mild disease caused by the variant of Covid-19 first discovered in South Africa, according to early data from a small trial.
The study, from South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University, analysed the E484K mutation in some 2,000 people, most of whom were young and healthy.
The team found that the vaccine had “substantially reduced” efficacy against the South African variant compared to the original strain of Sars-Cov-2.
“This study confirms that the pandemic coronavirus will find ways to continue to spread in vaccinated populations, as expected,” said Andrew Pollard, chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial.
“But, taken with the promising results from other studies in South Africa using a similar viral vector, vaccines may continue to ease the toll on health care systems by preventing severe disease,” he added.
The study did not assess protection against moderate-severe disease, hospitalisation or death was not assessed as the target population were at such low risk. But Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, told the BBC she was confident the vaccine would prevent severe illness.
NHS vaccinated almost 1000 people a minute for an hour on Saturday, minister reveals
The NHS vaccinated almost 1,000 people a minute for an hour on Saturday, the vaccines minister has said, as he declared he was “confident” all of the highest-priority patients will be offered a jab by May.
Nadhim Zahawi said that between 11am and midday on Saturday, the NHS vaccinated 978 people a minute. By Friday night, 11.47 million people in total had received at least one dose.
Asked whether the Government was likely to meet its target of 15 million people vaccinated by mid-February, Mr Zahawi said: “The limiting factor is vaccine supply so the vaccine supply remains finite.
“I can tell you that yesterday between 11 and 12 o’clock we almost got to 1,000 jabs a minute, we got to 979 jabs a minute.”
He added: “I’m confident we’ll meet our mid-February target of the top four cohorts, I’m also confident because I have enough line of sight of deliveries that are coming through, that we will also meet the one to nine cohorts by May.
Tony Diver has more details here.
‘No cause for alarm’ around Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine latest
So take whatever vaccine you’re offered – the most important thing is to keep people out of hospitals.
If the vaccines do need to be updated (we don’t know yet), it will happen by autumn. Spring and summer will help keep transmission low until then.
There is no cause for alarm.
— Covid Fact Check UK (@fact_covid) February 7, 2021
Greece extends restrictions on flights
Greece has announced that it is extending restrictions on domestic and international flights until February 15 and February 22 respectively to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
Under the restrictions passengers flying to Greece must receive a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test 72 hours prior to their arrival and undergo random testing for the coronavirus. All foreign travellers are quarantined for seven days.
Travellers from Britain will continue to be required to take a rapid test upon their arrival, while flights from Turkey remain suspended, the civil aviation authority said.
Most flights from non-EU countries are banned, with the exception of 10 countries including the UK. On domestic flights, only essential travel is permitted.
Restrictions on large gatherings likely to be in place ‘for next few years’
Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, has warned that some changes to large gatherings are likely to be in place for “the next few years”.
“I can’t see us suddenly having another Cheltenham Festival with no regulations again,” he said. “I can’t see us having massive weddings with people coming from all over the world, I think for the next few years those days are gone.
“I think we should still continue to do the easy things, keeping our distance from each other in public, masks, handwashing etc, these things don’t cost really anything to do.”
He added: “I think we need to get used to that and that will allow us to do the things we really want to do more easily and more readily.”
Addressing infection rates as seen in his Zoe Covid Symptom Study UK Infection Survey, he said: “We’re moving towards where rates are generally much lower everywhere, we’re seeing about one in 170 people on average affected.”
Asked at what level he would say it is sensible to start easing restrictions, he replied: “I think around one in 250 would be where I start to become more comfortable, but it also depends on the context at the time and things like hospitals and death rates as well, because I don’t think we should be fixated on any one particular parameter, we’ve got to look at the overall picture.”
Today in brief
Here’s a look at the headlines to be aware of so far today:
The Oxford vaccine “provides minimal protection” against mild disease caused by the variant of Covid-19 first discovered in South Africa, according to early data from a small trial.
State-issued immunity passports will not be given out – but those inoculated against coronavirus will be able to ask their GP for written proof of their vaccine status if needed for travel, the vaccines minister said.
Millions of people under 50 years old will be vaccinated at work under proposals being considered by ministers to accelerate the national rollout from the spring.
GPs in England will be paid an additional £10 by the NHS for every housebound patient they vaccinate against Covid-19.
The UK should share any spare coronavirus vaccinations with Ireland, the Sinn Fein president has said.
Teachers have been accused of jumping the queue for vaccines after a city council invited every school to put forward staff to receive the jab, a Telegraph investigation has found.
And elsewhere across the globe:
It is now a year since Dr Li Wenliang died from Covid-19 in Wuhan – he was one eight whistleblowers who local authorities punished early on for “spreading rumours” about a SARS-like virus in a social media group.
Israel has started to ease restrictions nearly six weeks after entering its third nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said he is open to Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine or Chinese alternatives being produced in his country, if they are authorised in the European Union.
The UK should share vaccine supplies with the rest of the world once the top priority groups have been protected, a World Health Organization envoy has said.
And finally, Australia reported no new local coronavirus cases for a third day today, as tennis players geared up for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne tomorrow.
Wales in numbers
There have been a further 461 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 196,060.
Public Health Wales added that another 28 deaths have been reported in those who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 28 days, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 4,989.
A total of 589,622 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had now been given in the country, plus 2,606 second doses.
Public Health Wales says 85.3 per cent of those over 80 have received their first dose of the vaccine, along with 78.4 per cent of care home residents and 81.9 per cent of care home staff.
Lockdown sceptics attack politicians, virologists and journalists in Germany
Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has recorded an increase in the number of attacks and threats made by coronavirus deniers and sceptics against politicians, virologists and journalists during the pandemic, Daniel Wighton reports.
BKA President Holger Münch said in an interview with German magazine Spiegel that the agency was intensifying efforts to tackle the rising radicalisation, including closer coordination with state authorities and police.
“We note with concern that the number of threats and hostilities is steadily increasing. This affects politicians, but also other people such as virologists, who are particularly present in the media during the pandemic,” Münch said.
“We are registering attacks on journalists more and more frequently. The emotionalisation (among the population) is great.”
Münch said the BKA was concerned about a greater infiltration of right-wing extremists and radicals among coronavirus sceptics and conspiracy theorists, who have adopted the name ‘lateral thinkers’ (Querdenkern) in Germany.
“Among the lateral thinkers are conspiracy theorists and people who believe in the occult, but also Third Reich sympathisers and right-wing extremists,” he said. “So there is a proximity to radicals, but so far it is not an infiltration of the entire protest movement.”
Watch: Macron under fire after UK gets first dibs on ‘French’ vaccine
‘Excessive profits’ tax considered for companies who have cashed in on Covid
Companies who has earned bumper profits during the coronavirus crisis could face new tax raids, according to a report.
A leaked email shows the Treasury has asked business leaders to consider the “risks and benefits” of an online sales tax, The Sunday Times reports, as the Government looks for ways to repair the damage to the public finances caused by the pandemic.
Firms likely to be hit by a one-off tax on profits include retailers Amazon and Asos, food delivery firms such as Ocado, Just Eat and Deliveroo, and supermarkets.
The Government is also considering a tax on excessive profits. Amazon, whose sales in the UK were up by 51 per cent last year, to £19.5 billion, is expected to be targeted.
The newspaper says Treasury officials will hold a meeting with tech firms, retailers and other businesses this month to discuss the plans. The Confederation of British Industry and TechUK, the UK’s tech trade association, have been asked to analyse the “customer and macroeconomic impacts” of the taxes.
More details on this story here.
Donation of 600,000 Chinese vaccine doses arrives in Cambodia
The first 600,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines donated by China to Cambodia arrived in Phnom Penh today by special plane, with the doses earmarked to vaccinate health workers and the military.
The Southeast Asian nation of about 16 million people is one of the least impacted by the coronavirus, with just 474 infections and no deaths. But it saw a rare cluster of cases in November.
One of Asia’s poorest countries, Cambodia has been an important ally to China in recent years. Beijing has said it will send one million Sinopharm vaccines to Cambodia, which will be used to inoculate 500,000 people.
Australia said on February 1 that it will provide a $28 million grant for World Health Organization-approved vaccines in Cambodia.
In a welcome speech at Phnom Penh’s international airport, which was broadcast on national television, Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked China for the vaccines.
“Good friends help each other in times of need, in this sense, and this vaccine aid is another important new testimony that reflects the steel ties and strong cooperation between our country and our people, Cambodia and China.”
Oxford confirm trial found ‘minimal protection against mild-moderate; Covid from South Africa variant
Oxford University have confirmed that a pre-print has found the vaccine provides “minimal protection against mild-moderate Covid-19 infection” from the variant first identified in South Africa, B.1.351.
The press release stated: “Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand and others in South Africa and the University of Oxford, UK found that viral neutralisation by sera induced by the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 coronavirus vaccine against the B.1.351 coronavirus variant were substantially reduced when compared with the original strain of the coronavirus.”
“These early data, have been submitted for scientific peer-review, appear to confirm the theoretical observation that mutations in the virus seen in South Africa will allow ongoing transmission of the virus in vaccinated populations, as has been recently reported even in those with prior infection due to earlier circulating variants.”
But efficacy against severe infection from this variant was not assessed in this trial, which included 2,000 volunteers who were on average 31 years old.
Commenting on the results Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity, and Chief Investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said the study confirms that the virus “will continue to spread in vaccinated populations”.
“This study confirms that the pandemic coronavirus will find ways to continue to spread in vaccinated populations, as expected, but, taken with the promising results from other studies in South Africa using a similar viral vector, vaccines may continue to ease the toll on health care systems by preventing severe disease,” he said.
Austria open to Chinese and Russian vaccines – if they’re approved in Europe
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said he is open to Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine or Chinese alternatives being produced in his country, if they are authorised in the European Union.
“It’s about getting a safe vaccine as quickly as possible, never mind who makes it,” he told German weekly Welt am Sonntag.
“Austria would certainly try to make production capacity available at appropriate national firms if the Russian and Chinese manufacturers secure approval and are produced in Europe… just like manufacturers from other countries.”
Kurz also said he would himself be prepared to receive the Russian vaccine if it is approved. “The only important thing is their effectiveness, their safety and their swift availability, not geopolitical struggles,” he said.
Russian-EU relations have suffered in recent weeks over the jailing of leading Kremlin opponent Alexi Navalny, after he returned to Russia from Germany where he was treated for poisoning with a Soviet-designed nerve agent.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also said Sputnik V could be used in the EU, after data published this week in leading medical journal The Lancet pointed to high levels of effectiveness for the Russian shot.
And she has pointed to how “Serbia is vaccinating faster” than other European countries “with the Chinese vaccine”.
Watch: Covid vaccine passports would be ‘discriminatory’, says UK vaccines minister
Ryanair staff raise concerns over Covid outbreak management at airline HQ
Staff at Ryanair who were tested for Covid-19 have raised concerns over the manner in which an outbreak of the virus at the airline’s headquarters was handled.
Internal communications obtained by the PA news agency informed staff of an outbreak in the office at Airside Business Park in Swords, North Dublin on December 9.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) intervened and initiated mass testing at the office. But at least one staff member who was being tested was instructed by a line manager to tell the HSE they had no close contacts in the office in the event of a positive result, it has emerged.
They were advised that names of individuals could not be provided to the HSE “due to GDPR purposes”. The employee was told to advise the HSE they had no close contacts in the office based on “all procedures being followed”.
If the HSE persisted with questions, the employee was directed to refer them to a senior member of staff at the airline.
The revelations come just a week after Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary accused public health chiefs in Ireland of causing “mass hysteria”.
Pandemic in pictures
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
Analysis: Vaccines backlog could put over-50s target at risk
A likely slowdown in new Covid-19 vaccinations due to a growing backlog of booster shots underscores the fragility of the Government’s target of jabs for all over-50s by early May, Telegraph analysis shows.
If second doses ramp up in mid-March – roughly two weeks before the 12-week deadline for revaccination sets in – then the daily pace of first doses could grind to a halt before all over-50s receive theirs, projections based on the UK’s current roll-out suggests.
Getting through the accumulated backlog of second dose recipients at a 10-week delay from their first without an increase in daily capacity would slow first doses down for two months – meaning initial jabs for the 32 million in the nine priority groups by May could go down to the wire.
Yet the projections also show that waiting exactly the maximum of 12 weeks between shots could mean first doses for over-50s by the end of March, as the Government balances rolling out initial immunity to many versus consolidating it amongst the most vulnerable.
Alex Clark has more details – and charts – here.
UK should share spare vaccines with Ireland in ‘spirit of fairness and generosity’
The UK should share any spare coronavirus vaccinations with Ireland, according to the Sinn Fein president.
Mary Lou McDonald told Sky News this morning that a spirit of “generosity and solidarity” on vaccine sharing should extend globally.
Asked if she would like to see excess UK doses being diverted to the Irish Republic, given the slower pace of vaccine rollout in the EU, she said:
“Certainly if there is an excess of supply in Britain and if there is a capacity for that to be shared with Ireland at some point, well, yes, of course, absolutely, the project here is to get people vaccinated.
“This is a race against this virus and against death so, yes, I think a spirit of fairness and generosity needs to prevail in this, my goodness, above all other issues.
“So, yes, is the answer, and if the scenario were vice versa I would expect that a similar generosity would be afforded to the British people because the virus doesn’t care about politics or borders or any of these things.”
Watch: Doctors across the globe reflect on one year of Covid-19
Related: ‘You can’t forget the hissing noise of oxygen’: 12 months on the coronavirus frontlines
‘Remains highly likely’ that Oxford vaccine protects against South Africa variant, says JCVI
Following today’s news that the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab may offer reduced protection from severe disease caused by the South Africa variant, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said it remains “highly likely” that the jab will be effective.
“Evidence suggests the Oxford AZ vaccine protects against disease caused by the predominant Covid variants circulating in the UK,” Prof Anthony Harnden said.
” It remains highly likely that the vaccine will also protect against severe disease caused by the South African variant.”
Booster shots could be required as soon as autumn, says Nadhim Zahawi
Nadhim Zahawi said annual vaccines or a “booster in the autumn” could be required to combat Covid-19 variants.
The vaccines minister said Boris Johnson’s instructions are to roll out the jabs currently approved to help protect the most vulnerable people as quickly as possible.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “That’s the immediate task. At the same time it’s also plan for the future, which is why we’ve talked to all the manufacturers.”
“I was speaking to (deputy chief medical officer) Jonathan Van-Tam this morning. We see very much probably an annual or booster in the autumn and then an annual (jab), in the way we do with flu vaccinations where you look at what variant of virus is spreading around the world, rapidly produce a variant of vaccine and then begin to vaccinate and protect the nation.”
Decisions about easing lockdown must be ‘based on the evidence’, says Nadhim Zahawi
Nadhim Zahawi, asked how long people should be braced for lockdown restrictions, said all the available data will be reviewed from mid-February after the top four groups have been vaccinated.
He told Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “We’ve got a couple of big pieces of research, one in care homes testing every day, one with frontline healthcare workers testing every day, which will give us much better data in terms of the impact of the vaccine on infections and transmission.”
Mr Zahawi reiterated Prime Minister Boris Johnson will outline his plans to Parliament on February 22, adding it is hoped schools can be reopened from March 8 before “gradually reopening the whole of our economy”.
“We have to be mindful we want to make it based on the evidence of the vaccine efficacy and the impact on transmission, hospitalisation and death. It’s a race against death,” he said.
Asked about a study suggesting the Oxford jab is less effective against the South African variant, Mr Zahawi said the virus will mutate to survive – particularly as vaccinations take place.
He added the UK is able to sequence the genomes of the mutations “rapidly” and then talk to the manufacturers about securing variants of vaccines.
More data on Oxford jab in over 65s expected via US trial, says Sarah Gilbert
Prof Sarah Gilbert said that more data on vaccine efficacy in older groups will emerge in the coming weeks and months.
“I would certainly like to see more data in the over 65s and that will be provide once the US trial reaches it’s efficacy read out, but that’s not the data we currently have in the UK trial,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
She added that while there is good safety and immunogenicity data for the older age group, efficacy data is more limited.
This is because few people over 65 in the control group caught Covid-19 during the trial – largely because they were being sensible and avoiding situations where they might catch the virus. But few cases in the control group makes it harder to compare efficacy with the vaccinated group.
Asked about the approach in Europe, where a series of countries have recommended that the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is not used in over-65s, Prof Gilbert said:
“In Europe they do have other vaccines available so they can decide which vaccines to use and which they want to use.”
Mixing and matching vaccines ‘tends to give higher protection’, says Sarah Gilbert
Prof Sarah Gilbert said that mixing different vaccines “does tend to give higher protection”, which is why studies in the UK will start exploring which shots may be compatible this week.
“Now there are more than one licensed vaccine available, using different technologies but with the same antigen spike protein is a really good opportunity to put that into a research study and look at whether we did indeed get higher immune responses. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if we do,” she told the BBC.
Prof Gilbert was also asked if the 12 week gap between Oxford-AstraZeneca jab was an absolute cut off. She said no, “I wouldn’t expect to see a big drop on after 12 weeks”, but leaving it much longer is not advised.
She also urged people to make sure they get both shots as this will result in much longer term immunity. “Definitely do have the second dose but don’t worry too much if it’s 13 weeks instead of 12, I don’t think it will make much difference.”
She also said she “wouldn’t be particularly concerned” that the Pfizer jab will become less effective if a second dose isn’t given within three weeks.
New vaccine to fight South Africa variant could be ready by autumn, says Sarah Gilbert
Prof Sarah Gilbert told the BBC that a version of the Oxford vaccine that applies specifically to the South Africa variant is “in the works”, but is not quite ready to be used in people yet.
“But as all the developers are using platform technologies, these are very quick to adapt. So last year, all of us took our platform technology – whether an adenovirus vaccine or an mRNA vaccine – and we slotted in the genes of the spike protein which was common at that time.
“This year we’re doing the same again. It’s easy to adapt the technology and develop a new vaccine which will have to go through a small amount of clinical testing – not nearly the same amount as we had to go through last year.
“This year we expect to show that the new version of the vaccine can develop antibodies against the new variant. Then it will be very much like making a new flu vaccine… there are regulatory procedures well established to do that, which is called a strain change, and vaccine developers know how to go through that process.”
Asked whether new vaccine may be approved and manufactured by the autumn, Prof Gilbert added that “yes, it is looking likely that it will be ready by the autumn.”
“We’re already looking at the first part of the manufacturing process in Oxford, that will be passed on to other members of the manufacturing supply chain as we go through Spring. And it looks very likely that we will have a new version ready to use by autumn.”
Does that mean we can expect a big vaccine booster campaign in Autumn? Prof Gilbert said we’re waiting for data to confirm whether this is necessary – but preparation is essential.
“We’ll be ready if we need to use [different versions]”, she added.
Pressure on health systems will ease if Oxford vaccine only protects against mild cases of SA variant
Earlier today the FT reported that early trial data suggests that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may offer only limited protection against mild disease caused by the variant of Covid-19 first discovered in South Africa.
Speaking to the Andrew Marr show Prof Sarah Gilbert, who heads the Oxford team developing the jab, because this trial was small the conclusions drawn are limited.
“That trial is quite a small trial so there may not be much opportunity to look at the impact of particularly something like severe disease,” she said.
Asked about the real world implications if the trial results are confirmed, Prof Gilbert added:
“What we’re seeing from other vaccine developers is they have a reduction in efficacy against some of the variant viruses. What that is looking like is that we may not be reducing the total number of cases – but there is still protection in that case against deaths, hospitalisations and severe disease.
“That’s really important for healthcare systems. Even if we’re having mild and asymptomatic infections, preventing people going to hospital would have a big effect.”
She added that at the moment there is limited data on the efficacy of vaccines against different variants in older people.
Britain ‘not looking to introduce’ vaccine passports, says Vaccines Minister
Britain will not introduce Covid-19 vaccine passports, but people will be able to seek proof from their doctor if needed for travel to other countries, Nadhim Zahawi has said.
“We are certainly not looking to introduce it as part of the vaccine deployment programme,” the Vaccines Minister told Sky News.
“One, we don’t know the impact of the vaccines on transmission, two, it’d be discriminatory. I think the right thing to do is make sure people come forward and be vaccinated because they want to rather than it being made in some way mandatory through a passport.”
“If other countries require some form of proof then you can ask your GP – your GP will hold the record – and that will then be able to be used as your proof that you’ve had the vaccine.
This comes after growing calls, most vocally from Tony Blair, that some sort of vaccination travel pass is “inevitable” and the Government should lead efforts to great an international norm.
Asked about vaccine passports on the Andrew Marr show, the Labour politician Ed Miliband added that the party was “open to this”. But he insisted that strengthening the post-travel quarantine systems should be the priority.
“We’ve five or six weeks after the South Africa variant emerged and we still don’t have an effective quarantine system,” Mr Miliband said.
Related: Tony Blair calls on Boris Johnson to lead drive for global vaccine passport
Supply remains ‘limiting factor’ for vaccine rollout
Nadhim Zahawi has said nearly 1,000 vaccines a minute were provided in an hour yesterday morning – but supply remains the limiting factor for vaccine rollout.
“The limiting factor is vaccine supply so the vaccine supply remains finite,” the Vaccines minister told Sky News. “I can tell you that yesterday between 11 and 12 o’clock we almost got to 1,000 jabs a minute, we got to 979 jabs a minute.”
He added that is is “confident” the Government will meet mid-February targets to offer everyone in the top four cohorts a vaccine.
“I’m also confident because I have enough line of sight of deliveries that are coming through, that we will also meet the one to nine cohorts by May,” Mr Zahawi said. “It’s a tough target by the way, many many people who are clinically extremely vulnerable have to be reached by GPs, some can’t travel.”
He later said the UK was starting to store second doses of the vaccine, preparing to provide both first and second doses of vaccines next month.
Government must not rush lifting of lockdown, says Ed Miliband
The pandemic has demonstrated the entrenched inequalities in Britain, according to Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Despite a mixed few days for Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Miliband told Andrew Marr that leaders have “good weeks and bad weeks” but that Sir Keir has led the fight on how to rebuild society fairly after the pandemic.
Asked what Labour’s criteria for easing lockdown, Mr Miliband said he expected it would actually be quite similar to the Government.
“I don’t think the Government should rush on this. They have a plan, which is to look at this and make an announcement on February 22,” he said.
“What’s the lesson we’ve learned from a year of crisis? Don’t stop and start, don’t exit too quickly – do this cautiously and judiciously and have a quarantine system that works.”
Government will publish plans to ensure ethnic minorities take up vaccines
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the public would be hearing more from the Government on how it plans to ensure those from ethnic minorities take up the Covid-19 vaccine.
“We keep ethnicity data and we are publishing ethnicity data,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday. “We also know what the population is of the top four (JCVI) cohorts and population of the top nine cohorts – that is known to us.
“But because this country, as Boris Johnson quite rightly said, we don’t mandate vaccination, we don’t force it down people’s throats – we do it by persuasion, by sharing information, by explaining to people how good it is for them to stay safe for them personally and their family and community.
“We know the level of uptake and to focus on those groups we need to focus on to make sure we get the hard to reach groups. This is an important issue. We are focusing on it and you will see more from us, with the NHS, so we deliver for all communities.”
Related: Long memories of ‘unequal healthcare’ drive vaccine hesitancy in ethnic minorities
‘Let’s not return to tiers’, says Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham has urged the Government not to return to the tiered system enforced last autumn, arguing that a “phased national release” would be more effective.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday, the Greater Manchester Mayor said the regional approach was “divisive” and created confusion around the rules.
“Let’s not have a return to the tiers that we had before,” he said. “We don’t believe they worked and the better approach we think would be a phased national release from lockdown where other sectors can return after schools when it’s judged right to do so.
“That also means keeping in place the national support for sectors that will take longest to return.
“We don’t feel the tiers worked. It was a divisive approach in the end and created a lot of confusion amongst the public as to the rules that they were being asked to follow.”
Mr Burnham added the tier system “at no point” brought a sharp decline in the number of Covid-19 cases in Greater Manchester. He also suggested that early March for the return of schools “feels about right”.
Prioritise poorer areas for vaccine rollout, says Andy Burnham
Poorer areas of the UK, where life expectancy is lower, should be prioritised for vaccine rollout, according to the Greater Manchester Mayor.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Andy Burnham said that vaccine allocation nationwide “has got to be a judgment based on health”.
“What I’m saying is that the life expectancy rate varies very widely across the UK – there are places where it is 10 years behind the areas where it is highest, so basically what that means is that, in those areas, people who are in their 60s have the same level of health as people in their 70s in other areas,” the Labour politician said.
“It also is the case that those same areas where life expectancy is lowest tend to be the places where more people are out at work in those key professions, working in essential retail and supermarkets or driving buses or driving taxis, so clearly they are at greater risk.
“I’m not saying diverge completely from the phased (approach) set out by ages put forward by the JCVI, but what I am saying is put greater supplies of the vaccine into those areas where life expectancy is lowest and allow greater flexibility for people to be called earlier.”
Imperial vaccine expert urges caution over Oxford variant study
Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading Covid-19 vaccine research at Imperial College London, urged caution after it was suggested the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offers limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant.
He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s a very small study with just over 2,000 people and it’s not published so we can only judge it from the press release and press coverage. But it is concerning to some extent that we’re seeing that it’s not effective against mild or moderate disease.”
Prof Shattock said the study participants had a mean age of around 31 and it is not yet clear whether they had both doses.
He continued: “Oxford, as well as other groups, are already working on vaccines against these variants… we will need to keep updating the vaccines to keep ahead of the virus.”
Prof Shattock later added: “I think everybody should remember that having a vaccine is going to prevent you ending up in hospital with these current strains.
“We also need to be cautious about still, even though you will get some protection from a single dose, behaving as if you don’t, in order to maximise your chances of getting total protection when you get that second dose and minimise the chances of being able to transmit it on if you get one of these variant strains.”
UK should divert doses once most vulnerable are protected, says WHO envoy
The UK should share vaccine supplies with the rest of the world once the top priority groups have been protected, Dr David Nabarro has told Sky.
“It’s really a question of what makes sense economically, what makes sense for society and how we want to be remembered in 10 or 20 years time.
“Do we want to be remembered as those who had the cash could afford to vaccinate their entire population – and countries that didn’t have the cash had to cope with an increasing, possibly quite dramatically increasing, death toll among their health workers? I don’t think so.”
Related: Diverting some of Britain’s vaccines to the global rollout is a scientific, economic and moral imperative, says Jeremy Farrar
“In the end, we are human.”
WHO Special Envoy on Covid-19 @davidnabarro says the UK should give vaccines to other countries when those most at risk and the over-50s are vaccinated – “it’s a question of how we want to be remembered”#Ridge pic.twitter.com/sF299PoG0p
— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) February 7, 2021
Israel eases restrictions after six week lockdown
Israel has started to ease restrictions nearly six weeks after entering its third nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Some businesses began reopening on Sunday and people are now allowed to move more than a kilometer (half a mile) from their homes. But schools remain closed and international flights are severely restricted.
Israel instituted its third national lockdown in late December as new infections spiralled out of control. Israel has recorded over 686,000 cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic last year and 5,074 deaths, according to Health Ministry figures.
At the same time, the country has launched a major vaccination campaign. More than 3.4 million Israelis have received the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and at least 2 million have received a second dose.
Related: The ‘magic’ has started: early data shows Israel’s vaccination campaign is working
WHO envoy ‘hopeful’ leaders will support more equitable global vaccine rollout
David Nabarro, a World Health Organization special envoy on Covid-19, has told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he’s “really hopeful” that world leaders will recognise that huge disparities in vaccination rates across the world is “not really the way forward”.
“The world should be accessing these vaccines in an equal way because right now health care workers everywhere are at risk, older people are also at risk,” Dr Nabarro said. “And the only way to deal with a global pandemic is to get fair shares across the world now.”
He added that there is an economic, moral and scientific case for all countries to support equitable distribution of live saving jabs.
Related: Lib Dems urge UK to share vaccines with poorer countries ‘in parallel’ with domestic roll out
First jabs arrive in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has received 500,000 doses of the AztraZeneca vaccine from India, the first to arrive in the country, which is still waiting for emergency approval from the World Health Organisation before it can use them.
Ghulam Dastagir Nazari, head of the immunisation program at the health ministry said the doses would be stored in Kabul until the emergency authorisation was received, which it hoped would happen in a week.
The vaccines were produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is producing the AstraZenecca/Oxford University vaccine for mid- and low-income countries.
Health workers, security force members, teachers and government employees would receive the vaccine first, he said.
Nazari said China also planned to send 200,000 doses of the vaccine, while Afghanistan expects to receive enough vaccine through Covax to cover 20 per cent of the country’s 38 million population.
Related: Global vaccine scheme unveils country-by-country plans to distribute 330m jabs by July
NHS accused of using Armed Forces in publicity stunt
Half of the military personnel ready to roll out vaccines have not been deployed, The Telegraph can reveal, as the NHS has been accused of using the Armed Forces in a “publicity stunt”.
Despite the appointment of 101 Logistic Brigade in the Government’s vaccine rollout, senior Tory MPs questioned why Brigadier Phil Prosser, the unit’s commander, has only appeared alongside Boris Johnson at one coronavirus press conference since being tasked with progressing the rollout last month.
Read the full story here.
Chinese whistleblower doctor remembered
The message was tucked into a bouquet of chrysanthemums left by a mourner at the back of Wuhan Central Hospital to honour a Chinese whistleblower doctor who died from coronavirus one year ago today.
It was simply the number of a Bible verse, Matthew 5:10, which says: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Dr Li Wenliang died from the virus first detected in Wuhan. A small stream of people marked the anniversary with visits to the hospital, some leaving flowers.
The 34-year-old ophthalmologist was one of eight whistleblowers who local authorities punished early on for “spreading rumours” about a SARS-like virus in a social media group. His situation, eventually made public in media reports, made him a potent symbol for the perils of going against official messaging in China.
The Chinese public embraced Dr Li, whose presence online painted a picture of an ordinary person. His wife was pregnant and he was soon to be a father. He sent the “rumour” because he wanted to warn others.
The public also watched as he fell ill with the disease he was warning them about, eventually worsened, and died.
Wuhan one year on: The city that appears safe from Covid – but at what cost?
Players ready for first Grand Slam after quarantine drama
Australia reported no new local coronavirus cases for a third day on Sunday, as tennis players geared up for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne tomorrow.
The Australian Open will have a reduced attendance of 30,000 fans a day – about 50pc lower than usual because of Covid protocols.
Those public health protocols, which have been credited with making Australia one of the most successful nations in battling the virus, forced players into a two-week hotel quarantine after landing in Melbourne in January.
More than 500 staff and players tested negative on Friday in re-testing required after a worker at their quarantine hotel caught the virus.
Follow the latest Australian Open news here.
Tennis champ questions LTA’s Covid protocols
Former world number one Andy Murray has raised doubts about the Lawn Tennis Association’s health protocols at its high-performance training facility after he tested positive for Covid-19 and had to miss the Australian Open.
The three-time Grand Slam winner was forced to pull out of the first major of 2021 in Melbourne after he was unable to find what he called a “workable quarantine” following a positive test on January 14.
“I stuck to all of the protocols. I couldn’t pick it up anywhere else because I hadn’t left my house or National Tennis Centre for 10 weeks, and then there were some positive cases there,” the 33-year-old said.
READ MORE: Andy Murray ‘p—– off’ at LTA over slip in bio-secure standards he claims left him with Covid-19
Exclusive: Teachers jumping queue for vaccines
Teachers have been accused of jumping the queue for vaccines after a city council invited every school to put forward staff to receive the jab, a Telegraph investigation has found.
The Government has set a target for the first four priority groups, including everyone over the age of 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable, to be vaccinated by the middle of February.
Former education minister Tim Loughton said anyone not providing “intimate care” for “clinically vulnerable” children was jumping the queue.
Read the full story here.
Hotel quarantine regime needs a ‘sunset clause’
Hotel quarantine needs a “sunset clause” otherwise foreign travel could be destroyed for years, hotels and MPs have warned the Government.
They want ministers to spell out a clear exit strategy for the quarantine which will see an estimated 1,425 passengers a day from 33 “red list” countries required to self-isolate in Government-approved hotels at their own expense for 10 days from February 15.
They fear the regime will decimate travel if it continues through the summer by deterring Britons from going abroad for fear their destination could be added to the “red list” of nations with new Covid variants, forcing them into quarantine hotels on their return.
Read the full story here.