FEARS of a link between the Oxford / Astra-Zeneca vaccine and blood clots has seen more EU countries suspend it’s rollout.
The Netherlands today became the fifth country to suspend the jab following Ireland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway.
Meanwhile other countries, including Austria and Italy, have black-listed a particular batch of the jab over concern the Astra-Zeneca jab could lead to higher incidents of potentially lethal bloodclots.
The evidence for such a reaction appears to be patchy and research in the UK suggests the vaccine has no impact on the liklihood of developing a bloodclot compared with not taking it.
The World Health Organisation also reiterated its guidance that the Oxford / Astra-Zeneca vaccine is safe and the risks of not being vaccinated against Covid-19 far outweigh the risks of getting a jab.
The suspensions add yet another layer of chaos to the EU’s bungled vaccine rollout, which ranges from a shambolic jab procurement scheme to leaders such a French president Emmanuel Macron engaging in disinformation.
The UK jab rollout is set to increase in coming days thanks to renewed supplies and a staggering 36% of the population already vaccinated – all signs of a bright summer ahead and an early end to lockdown.
But on the continent vaccine take-up is so painfully low that cases are once again spiking, with Italy today being forced back into a new national lockdown to prevent hospitals being overrun and France having to run special covid planes to evacuate patients from an overwhelmed Paris.
Meanwhile in Germany Angela Merkel’s CDU party was hammered in two state elections as the public lost faith in the country’s Covid response.
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VARIANT CAUSES WORST-EVER DEATH TOLL IN BRAZIL
Things are starting to look much brighter in the UK.
But in some countries, the situation is getting worse rather than better.
Brazil reported 2,216 Covid deaths in the past 24 hours – the third day in a row that fatalities exceeded 2,000.
That means the country is experiencing the worst run of deaths since the pandemic began a year ago.
The health ministry also reported 85,663 new coronavirus infections, its second highest number for a single day.
The pandemic is surging in the South American country, driven by a highly contagious new local variant.
BRITS WILL BE ABLE TO ENJOY SUMMER, SAYS PROFESSOR LOCKDOWN
Professor Lockdown has said he is “80 per cent sure” that Brits will be able to enjoy this summer as the vaccine rollout beats back Covid.
Neil Ferguson, one of the scientists who spearheaded the UK’s lockdown policies, believes most restrictions will be lifted as around one third of population have already had their Covid jab.
Prof Ferguson was speaking on the first anniversary of his grim warning that Covid rates in the UK were much higher than original estimations.
“It is highly likely that we will have driven Covid down to very low levels of case numbers, and we can begin enjoying summer,” he said.
However, despite his 80 per cent prediction – he warned there remains a 20 per cent chance that mutating virus variants could derail the progress, reports The Observer.
VIRTUAL COMMONS PARTICIPATION SHOULD END WITH COVID RESTRICTIONS, MPS SAY
Virtual participation in Commons debates should cease as the final coronavirus restrictions come to an end, the Procedure Committee has recommended.
The cross-party group of MPs said the temporary “hybrid” proceedings should be extended until stage four of the Government’s roadmap for easing restrictions, which is earmarked for June 21.
But in a report, they said the House should ultimately revert to “all aspects of its pre-pandemic practice and procedure” after that point.
The MPs did, however, recommend that officials are given the scope to further develop the hybrid proceedings allowing virtual and in-person participation in case it is needed in the future, such as during the Palace of Westminster’s restoration works.
Committee chair Karen Bradley MP said: “The Government has set out a cautious and steady easing of lockdown restrictions, and the House of Commons Commission has set out a similar roadmap for the House at an administrative level. This committee’s recommendations for a return to something approaching ‘normality’ are consistent with both the commission and the Government, but the ultimate decision must be made by all MPs.”
WHATSONSTAGE AWARDS HONOURS 21 ‘ANGELS’ FOR THEIR WORK DURING THE PANDEMIC
The WhatsOnStage Awards have honoured 21 people for their contribution to the theatre industry and society as a whole during the coronavirus pandemic.
The recipients, dubbed “angels”, were honoured during the 21st annual edition of the theatre awards night.
Among those to be given awards were Elaine and Graeme Blackmore, who hosted a free community online stand-up event titled Whole Lotta Comedy to provide entertainment during the pandemic.
Leontine Hass was also recognised for helping performing arts students by providing online lessons and industry events to keep them engaged with theatre during the pandemic.
Alex Young was honoured at the ceremony for setting up the Corona Day Plays Theatre Company to offer people the opportunity to read scripts together online.
GOVERNMENT MUST ACT URGENTLY AND SET OUT PLANS FOR EXAMS NEXT YEAR, SAYS LABOUR
Ministers must urgently put in place a plan for next year’s GCSE, A-level and vocational qualification exams, Labour has urged.
Shadow schools minister Wes Streeting called for the Government to guarantee there would be a “level playing field” for pupils who have missed the most learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He will use a Westminster Hall debate on Monday to urge ministers not to repeat mistakes made this year.
Mr Streeting said: “The Government’s poor planning and preparation has created a second year of exam chaos. Ministers urgently need to set out plans for next year giving teachers and pupils time to prepare and adjust their teaching.
“Exams remain the fairest and most robust way to assess pupils, but ministers must guarantee a level playing field for pupils who have missed most learning this year.”
BRAZIL REGISTERS 1,127 NEW COVID-19 DEATHS
Brazil reported 1,127 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours and 43,812 new cases of the coronavirus, the Health Ministry said on Sunday, ending the most lethal week since the pandemic began a year ago.
The South American country is fighting a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by a new, more contagious local variant of the virus that has overwhelmed intensive care wards in most large cities.
The week saw 12,818 deaths in Brazil from COVID-19, an average of 1,831 fatalities a day. That was far above the 1,000-death daily rolling averages for January and February and points to the gravity of the resurgence.
Brazil has now registered 11,483,370 cases in all, while the official death toll has risen to 278,229, according to ministry data, in the world’s deadliest and most widespread outbreak after the United States.