Coronavirus UK vaccine news – Fury as EU's Ursula Von Der Leyen threatens to BLOCK AstraZeneca jabs reaching Britain

THE EU sparked fury today by threatening to block lifesaving AstraZeneca vaccines reaching the UK.

Shameless EU chief Ursula Von Der Leyen issued the chilling threat this morning, saying Europe would intercept UK-bound AstraZeneca shipments unless if was given more doses of the vaccine itself.

In a shocking intervention today, she said she would use whatever "tools" possible to ensure Europe receives the number of doses it believes it is entitled to – including effectively putting thousands of British lives at risk.

Boris Johnson official spokesman quickly fired back saying "It remains the case we would expect the EU to continue to stand by its commitments.”

The row from Europe being painfully slow to place orders of vaccines – including AstraZeneca – last year, putting them at the back of queue to receive vaccines supplies.

The bloc has also presided over a bungled rollout that has seen EU countries fall well behind the likes of the UK and Israel in terms of percentage of the population vaccinated.

Even worse, shameless disinformation from the likes of French president Emmanuel Macron about AstraZeneca's effectiveness has seen Europeans reluctant to take it, so the EU can't even use the supplies it does have.

And this week more than a dozen countries suspended the rollout of AstraZeneca jabs over completely unsubstantiated claims the jabs could cause blood clots – something global experts insist is not the case.

France and Italy later resumed the AstraZeneca rollout, admitting the suspension was, unsurprisingly, a politically motivated act that has put the lives of thousands of not-yet-vaccinated people at risk.

All this comes as covid rages on the continent, with Italy forced to enter yet another national lockdown this week, Germany's Angela Merkel suffering a political bloodbath over her handling of coronavirus and France having to airlift patients from overwhelmed Paris.

Meanwhile in the UK more than 25 million people have now had their first dose of the vaccine, schools have returned and our lockdown roadmap looks set for all lockdown measures to be lifted by June 21.

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic

  • Alice Peacock

    CONTINUED

    The government did not say how many doses had been wasted, but the percentage figure suggests it could be more than 2 million, a big number given that many countries have yet to start inoculating their citizens and India itself is only immunising priority groups.

    “Wastage of this elixir-like precious commodity, the most important thing now for an individual or the country as a whole, is absolutely wrong,” top health official Vinod Kumar Paul told a news conference.

  • Alice Peacock

    INDIA FRETS OVER WASTAGE OF COVID-19 VACCINES

    Indian states are being urged to manage their immunisation drives better, following the news that around 6.5% of the country's coronavirus vaccine doses are going to waste.

    One reason for the wastage is that, while many urban vaccination centres have been crowded, some rural sites have had to nudge people to get shots due to a lack of awareness among the public, which can lead to vaccine wastage.

    Once a vaccine vial is opened, doses need to be administered within four hours, making it vital for health workers to coordinate the flow of recipients.

    The federal health ministry has distributed 75.4 million vaccine doses to India’s states, of which some 36 million doses have so far been used. India is using the AstraZeneca shot and another developed at home by Bharat Biotech.

     

  • Alice Peacock

    NO PRESSURE… CONTINUED

    A senior German government source denied that Berlin had exerted any pressure, noting that smaller EU member states such as Austria and Belgium had already raised the alarm.

    “Nobody is being forced to do anything,” said the German source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That’s not how the EU works.”

  • Alice Peacock

    NO PRESSURE

    Officials in European capitals gave conflicting accounts of a round of whirlwind diplomacy on Monday that led Italy, France and Spain to follow Germany in suspending the shot.

    Sources said Merkel telephoned Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to brief him.

    One top Italian health official called Italy’s suspension a political decision not to part ways with Germany.

    Italian sources said Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed by phone that the measure was temporary and precautionary.

  • Alice Peacock

    DECISION TO SUSPEND ASTRAZENECA VACCINE UNDER FIRE

    The decision by more than a dozen European countries to suspend AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot is facing deepening scrutiny today.

    Criticism of the move made by a handful of EU nations comes amid concerns the step could undermine public confidence and delay efforts to beat the coronavirus pandemic.

    The role of Germany, and in particular Health Minister Jens Spahn, is in the spotlight after a chaotic round of telephone diplomacy at the start of the week ended with the EU’s biggest states agreeing to put AstraZeneca on hold.

    Spahn says he acted on expert advice after Germany’s vaccine watchdog reported on what it described as a statistically significant number of cases of a rare brain blood clot.

    AstraZeneca says it has found no evidence that the blood clots were caused by the vaccine. The World Health Organization called on countries not to delay lifesaving vaccine programmes.

  • Alice Peacock

    UK EXPECTS EU TO STAND BY ITS VACCINE COMMITMENT, PM'S SPOKESMAN SAYS

    Britain expects the European Union to stand by its commitment that the bloc will not restrict vaccine exports which are under contract, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.

    Asked for a response to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calling on Britain to show willingness to ship vaccines to the bloc, the spokesman referred to a conversation Johnson had with her earlier this year.

    “She confirmed then that the focus of their mechanism was on transparency and not intended to restrict exports by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities,” he told reporters.

    “We expect the EU to continue to stand by its commitment.”

  • Alice Peacock

    EU THREATENS TOUCHER VACCINE EXPORT CURBS IN DISPUTE WITH UK, U.S.

    The European Union on Wednesday threatened to take tougher measures to curb the export of COVID-19 vaccines, escalating an ongoing row with Britain and the Unites States over their restrictive handling of vaccine deliveries to the 27-nation bloc.

    “If this situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries dependent on their level of openness,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference.

    She said Europe just wants to make sure it gets its fair share.

    “We are ready to use whatever tools we need to deliver on that,” von der Leyen said.

    She warned that the bloc “will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate”.

  • Alice Peacock

    ‘MINISTERS RISK RUINING BRITAIN’S SUMMER OF FUN’

    Ministers risk ruining Britain’s “summer of fun” if they don’t introduce a government-backed Covid insurance scheme for live events.

    Campaigners and MPs are calling for a parachute package to be out in place to help organisers in the event of a Covid outbreak scuppering festivals, gigs or large sporting events.

    Events like the Great North Run are under threat without the insurance according to the Let LIVE Thrive campaign.

    Tory MP Julian Knight said: “It is utterly pointless to spend a king’s ransom on furlough and the culture recovery fund yet not to put the one piece of the jigsaw in place – namely Covid-19 insurance – and scupper what could be a festival and live events season which could lift all our spirits.

    “I respectfully say to the Secretary of State and the Chancellor – who is the real roadblock – that we are in danger of having a summer of none rather than a summer of fun.”

  • Alice Peacock

    BORIS JOHNSON DEFENDS GOV'S PROPOSED 1% PAY RISE FOR NHS WORKERS

    Boris Johnson has defended the Government's proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers.

    Labour's Tahir Ali (Birmingham, Hall Green) said: "Throughout the last year, NHS staff have been working tirelessly to keep our communities healthy and safe during the pandemic.

    "I would like to ask the Prime Minister why has he been economical with the truth when he says that a 1% pay increase is all the Government can afford?"

    Mr Johnson replied that "no" he has not been economical with the truth, adding: "What we are saying is that we so value the incredible contribution of nurses to our country over the last year or more than we want them – exceptionally of all the public services – to be looked at for a pay increase at a time of real difficulty in the public finances, which I think people do understand."

  • Alice Peacock

    BORIS JOHNSON TO RECEIVE ASTRAZENECA COVID VACCINE

    Boris Johnson has said he is due to have his Covid-19 vaccine shortly and it will "be Oxford/AstraZeneca".

    In a show of support for the jab, which more than a dozen European countries have stopped using, the Prime Minister told MPs: "I think perhaps the best thing I can say about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine programme is that I finally got news that I'm going to have my own jab very shortly, I'm pleased to discover…

    "But it will certainly be Oxford/AstraZeneca that I will be having."

    Mr Johnson's comments came after a leading expert said people across Europe will die from Covid-19 as a direct consequence of the decision to halt rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

    Professor Jeremy Brown, from the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said the move by several European countries to suspend the vaccine over blood clot fears was "not sensible" and was "not logical".

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    NORWAY NOW EXPERIENCING THIRD WAVE, SAYS HEALTH MINISTER

    Norway is experiencing a third wave coronavirus infections, Health Minster Bent Hoeie said today.

    "We are in a third wave," he told a a news conference.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    JOHNSON IS 'DEEPLY, DEEPLY SORRY' OVER WHAT HAS HAPPENED DURING THE PANDEMIC

    Boris Johnson has said he is "deeply, deeply sorry" for what has happened to the UK during the pandemic. Labour's Richard Burgon (Leeds East) said a year on from the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, it is clear that "the Prime Minister dithered and delayed with deadly consequences".

    He added: "With the worst hopefully now behind us, isn't it time for the Prime Minister to hold up his hands and come clean with the British people and say those deaths are on me and for that I apologise?"

    The Prime Minister replied: "Well I certainly take full responsibility for everything the Government did and of course we mourn the loss of every single coronavirus victim and we sympathise deeply with their families and their loved ones. Am I sorry for what has happened to our country? Yes of course I am deeply, deeply sorry.

    "Of course there will be time for a full inquiry to enable us all to understand what we need to do better when we face these problems in the future and that is something I think the whole House shares."

  • Alice Peacock

    SUPPORT FOR MERKEL SLIDES AS ANGER GROWS OVER VIRUS MANAGEMENT

    Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives has sunk to the lowest level in a year, according to polling from social research company Forsa.

    The hit in popularity comes as frustration grows over Merkel's government's management of the coronavirus crisis.

    Facing a federal election in September without Merkel, who is standing aside after four terms, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Bavarian CSU sister party dropped 4 percentage points in a week to 29%, the Forsa poll showed.

    That is the lowest level since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany in March 2020 and follows historic defeats in two regional votes on Sunday.

  • Alice Peacock

    OPEN FOR BUSINESS

    Special vaccine passports could speed up the full return to bars, restaurants and theatres, say reports.

    Michael Gove is heading a review into certification which could lead to Brits having to prove they have been vaccinated or received a negative test before heading out on the town.

    The Cabinet Office Minister said the passports could help “reopen the country and return to normal” but then added there may be ethical considerations.

    The review will now look at “the extent to which certification would be effective in reopening parts of the economy and society more quickly and more safely than otherwise”.

    It will also consider the “ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects” of any scheme, reports the Mirror. Read the full story here.

  • Alice Peacock

    CONTINUED

    Another area that has witnesses a steep increase in cases is East Lindsey in Lincolnshire, where in the last week infections have jumped from 45.2 per 100,000 to 91.0.

    March 15 marked a year since the first Covid patient was admitted to hospital in the area.

    The local council this week thanks NHS staff after it had to issue a warning to residents on social media after NHS staff and volunteers received abuse at vaccination sites in the area.

    Elsewhere and cases have also risen in north-eastern Leicestershire, jumping from 44.9 to 89.8.

    In North Lincolnshire cases have also risen from 80.7 to 124.8.

  • Alice Peacock

    WHERE IN THE UK ARE COVID CASES STILL RISING?

    CORONAVIRUS cases are still rising in 121 places in England and this interactive map reveals if your local area is on the list.

    Official data from Public Health England (PHE) states that in the last seven days, 190 areas have seen a fall in infection rates.

    Of the 121 places that have seen a rise in cases over the last week, there are five local authority areas that have witnessed a sizeable increase.

    While Corby is the most infected local authority in England it has also seen the biggest week on week increase in cases.

    Public health chiefs in the area have this week insisted that the reopening of schools has nothing to do with the spike in cases in the area.

  • Alice Peacock

    BRUSSELS THREATENS TO SEIZE OXFORD AZ JAB FACTORIES WITH 'STALINIST' POWERS

    Brussels today threatened to SEIZE factories on the continent producing the Oxford Astrazeneca jab – despite several countries pausing their rollout of very same vaccine just days ago.

    In a dramatic escalation of their furious row with the pharma giant, EU boss Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc could even suspend patents on the lifesaving jab so anyone could produce it – but critics branded the threats "Stalinist."

    In a bombshell intervention, the raging German said she did not rule out triggering emergency powers to "make sure Europeans are vaccinated as soon as possible" – warning "all options are on the table".

    And in an astonishing broadside aimed at Britain she warned the bloc may restrict vaccine shipments to countries whose rollouts are going far better than its own.

    Her explosive comments come despite several EU nations pulling the plug on the very same jab earlier this week, citing fears over blood clots.

  • Alice Peacock

    ‘IT’S A MESS’

    The situation in Europe is getting increasingly desperate as health chiefs in some countries suspend the AstraZeneca jab over unsubstantiated blood clot fears.

    Italy needs 38million shots of the vaccination – as its jabs roll-out was branded a “mess” by senior politicians.

    Here’s everything you need to know.

  • Alice Peacock

    PARIS REGION BRACES FOR WEEKEND LOCKDOWN AS MACRON DECIDES ON NEW RESTRICTIONS

    French president Emmanuel Macron is reportedly deciding whether to impose a weekend lockdown in Paris, and the surrounding region.

    France is facing a "third wave" of the Covid-19 pandemic and an inoculation drive that has been greatly affected by doubts over the AstraZeneca vaccine, French news outlet RFI reports.

    The French capital could be forced into a lockdown at weekends, as Prime Minister Jean Castex suggested on Tuesday, in a bid to prevent the spread of a third wave of the coronavirus.

    Recommendations would be presented to President Macron this morning.

  • Alice Peacock

    EMPTY COVID-19 VACCINATION CENTRE IN GERMANY

    Photos have emerged of an empty Covid-19 vaccination centre in Germany, after the AstraZeneca campaign was put in hold.

    The vaccination centre at the Erfurt, Germany, exhibition centre appeared to be deserted in the images, taken on Tuesday.

    Germany joined a dozen EU nations on Monday in suspending use of the AstraZeneca jab.

    After the AstraZeneca vaccinations were put on hold, thousands of appointments are cancelled in the region.

    An empty vaccination centre in Erfurt, Germany
  • Alice Peacock

    PACK YOUR BAGS!

    The EU is set to agree to a Covid passport scheme that will allow jabbed Brits and those with antibodies to travel.

    The bloc will publish details of its “digital green pass” in order for people to go on holiday in time for summer, it’s been reported.

    The EU’s passport will allow those from non-EU countries to travel there if they are “in a position to present certificates under a system deemed sufficiently reliable,” according to a leaked document obtained by Bloomberg.

    Here’s the story.

  • Alice Peacock

    HEALTH SEC DEFENDS 1% PAY RISE FOR NHS WORKERS

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a one per cent pay rise for NHS workers was an increase, not a cut.

    Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee, he said that NHS workers had been “carved out” of the pay freeze in the rest of the public sector.

    When asked why it was 1% when the NHS 10-year plan made a 2.1% provision for annual pay increases for NHS workers, he said: “The NHS was carved out of the pay freeze that has been applied due to the enormous pressure on the public finances, that has been applied to everyone else in the public sector.

    “We put in place evidence reflecting what is affordable and we of course will study what the pay review body says.”

  • Alice Peacock

    CAMILLA GETS ASTRAZENECA JAB

    The Duchess of Cornwall spoke out yesterday about receiving the AstraZeneca jab.

    Camilla said the specifics of the jab didn’t matter to her, as she said “you take what you are given”, the Daily Mail reported.

    ‘It doesn’t hurt. I was waiting for it to be done and they said, ‘It has been done’. It was painless. It was brilliant. It’s very good when it’s over as you feel more secure,” she said.

    Her remarks come amid concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine; panic over blood clot fears have swept across the European mainland and led to 14 governments calling a halt to the roll-out.

  • Alice Peacock

    CALLS FOR GOVT-BACKED COVID INSURANCE FOR EVENTS

    Ministers risk ruining Britain's “summer of fun” if they don’t introduce a government-backed Covid insurance scheme for live events.

    Campaigners and MPs are calling for a parachute package to be out in place to help organisers in the event of a Covid outbreak scuppering festivals, gigs or large sporting events.

    Events like the Great North Run are under threat without the insurance according to the Let LIVE Thrive campaign.

    The Great North Run’s Chairman, former Olympian Sir Brendan Foster, said: “Insurance is a central aspect of our planning every year.

    "Live events need the government to step in, put these structures in place and give us the security we require.”

  • Alice Peacock

    OVER 50S WHO'VE NOT HAD THEIR COVID VACCINE CAN BOOK THEIR APPOINTMENT ONLINE NOW

    Anyone over the age of 50 has been advised to book their coronavirus vaccine online.

    The speedy jab rollout has nearly finished, whizzing through those aged 56 and above, with just those in their early 50s left to vaccinate before the NHS moves on to the rest of the population.

    The NHS website has updated, telling everyone aged 50 and over to book their potentially life-saving Covid vaccine.

    It means the mid-April target to vaccinate all over 50s and the most vulnerable – the top nine priority groups – could be smashed by the end of March.

    The second phase of the rollout will see the general population jabbed by age group.

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