Coronavirus latest news: EU preparing legal case against AstraZeneca over vaccine shortfalls

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Inoculated can avoid tests and quarantine, say European officials - STEVE PARSONS
Inoculated can avoid tests and quarantine, say European officials – STEVE PARSONS
  • Covid passports in time for summer holidays

  • ‘Uncompetitive’ PPE contracts failed transparency test

  • Charity hands out record 2.5m emergency food parcels

  • Universities offer to ‘hotel quarantine’ students from India

  • Analysis: Mass testing means we may never reach zero Covid deaths

EU governments have told the European Commission they support Brussels’ plan to sue AstraZeneca for failing to hit delivery targets of the coronavirus vaccine.

Most of the 27 ambassadors gave the long-expected legal action their backing at a meeting in Brussels yesterday. They are expected to give the formal green light to the move later this week.

The commission blames shortfalls in AstraZeneca deliveries for the slow pace of its vaccination roll out, which lags far behind the UK, US and Israel. It has also warned that it will block any exports of the Oxford University jab from the EU until the backlog of hundreds of millions of doses is cleared.

AstraZeneca has said it will deliver about 70m doses by the end of the first six months of the year but had pledged to deliver 300m.

Brussels accuses the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company of being in breach of contract, which AstraZeneca denies, amid suspicions that some EU stock may have gone to Britain or other countries.

The commission has hinted it will not renew the AstraZeneca contract at the same time as starting new talks with Pfizer. The Pfizer vaccine is far more expensive than the AstraZeneca vaccine but has not been beset by the same delivery troubles, which the company blames on production problems.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

08:53 AM

Fake Pfizer doses sold in Mexico and Poland for $2,500 a shot

Fake doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine were being sold in Mexico and Poland for as much as $2,500 a shot, the US drugmaker and an official confirmed.

At a clinic in Mexico some 80 people received bogus vaccines, which appeared to have been physically harmless though offered no protection against the potentially deadly disease ravaging the country, a report in the Wall Street Journal said.

Mexico’s government spokesman on Covid-19 Hugo Lopez-Gatell said “no product was found that could affect” the health of those scammed, adding several people had been arrested.

Lopez-Gatell said the false drugs were offered on social networks for up to $2,500 per unit and were detected by cyber police.

The vials were found in beer coolers and were initially identified by fabricated lot numbers and expiration dates, Mexican officials said.

Confiscated vials of bogus Covid vaccines in Poland contained a cosmetic substance, thought to be anti-wrinkle cream, the company said.

08:51 AM

Spain ‘desperate to welcome’ UK visitors

Spain’s tourism minister has said the country is “desperate to welcome” UK visitors this summer.

Fernando Valdes told Sky News: “I think we will be ready here in Spain. We also think that the vaccination scheme in the UK is going pretty well, so hopefully we’ll be seeing this summer the restart of holidays.”

He added that certificates enabling holidaymakers to prove they have either been vaccinated or recently tested are “going to help us”.

07:59 AM

Covid around the world, in pictures

Two men wearing protective face masks play chess in Alimos, a seaside suburb of Athens - Petros Giannakouris/AP
Two men wearing protective face masks play chess in Alimos, a seaside suburb of Athens – Petros Giannakouris/AP
Cemetery workers grind the ashes of someone who died of Covid-19, at a public crematorium in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines - Ezra Acayan/Getty
Cemetery workers grind the ashes of someone who died of Covid-19, at a public crematorium in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines – Ezra Acayan/Getty
Healthcare workers inject doses of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine during a drive-through vaccination drive in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia - Dedi Sinuhaji/Shutterstock
Healthcare workers inject doses of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine during a drive-through vaccination drive in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia – Dedi Sinuhaji/Shutterstock

07:05 AM

Inoculated can avoid tests and quarantine, say European officials

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC) has said the latest medical evidence shows the risk of an unvaccinated person contracting coronavirus from an inoculated individual is “very low”.

The ECDPC said the risks were so low that requirements for testing or self-isolating travellers could be “waived or modified”.

It concluded – based on the latest available evidence – that there was no risk of severe Covid being contracted through transmission.

The ECDPC said: “Requirements for testing and quarantine of travellers (if implemented) and regular testing at workplaces can be waived or modified for fully vaccinated individuals.”

The only condition would be if there was the presence of Covid variants, which scientists are investigating for their potential to undermine the effectiveness of the vaccines.

07:00 AM

Turkey extends lockdown amid surge of infections

Turkey has announced that it is extending an upcoming weekend lockdown to include a public holiday on Friday, as it grapples with soaring infections.

An Interior Ministry statement said the lockdown will begin Thursday evening and end Monday morning.

Turkey has been posting record levels of infections and deaths since it eased Covid-19 restrictions in early March.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan placed the country under a partial lockdown on April 13, involving an extended evening curfew on weekdays, a return to online education and a ban on unnecessary intercity travel, in addition to weekend lockdowns, which were re-imposed earlier.

The Government has blamed the rising numbers on faster-spreading variants.

06:40 AM

Australia will not give Pfizer to over-50s

Australia’s Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy has outlined changes to the country’s vaccine rollout.

As a result, Pfizer will be rolled out to further groups, but will not include the over-50s.

“At this stage we will not be making Pfizer available to those 50 and over,” he said.

If over-50s in Australia do not choose to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, they have been told more Pfizer doses will be available later this year.

06:25 AM

India beats global record for daily infections

India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections Thursday as a grim coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country sends more and more sick people into a fragile health care system critically short of hospital beds and oxygen.

The 314,835 infections added in the past 24 hours raise India’s total past 15.9 million cases since the pandemic began. It’s the second-highest total in the world next to the United States. India has nearly 1.4 billion people.

Fatalities rose by 2,104 in the past 24 hours, raising India’s overall death toll to 184,657, the Health Ministry said.

A large number of hospitals are reporting acute shortages of beds and medicine and are running on dangerously low levels of oxygen.

06:12 AM

Today’s front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Thursday, Apr 22.

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05:57 AM

Tokyo Olympics organisers report first torch relay virus case

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and CEO Toshiro Muto attend a news conference - Philip Fong
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and CEO Toshiro Muto attend a news conference – Philip Fong

Tokyo Olympics organisers reported the first infection from the nationwide torch relay today, as the pandemic continues to play havoc with the massive event.

Organisers said a man in his 30s who had taken part in the relay in the western island of Shikoku had tested positive for the virus, without specifying his exact role.

They pledged to work with medical authorities to “take the precautions needed to put on a safe and secure torch relay”.

It was the first reported case related to the relay, which has been forced off public roads in some areas over fears it will spread the virus.

The historic city of Kyoto is the latest to express doubts, with local media reporting that the city’s government will ask to hold the event away from public roads.

05:01 AM

Pfizer confirms fake vaccine shots on sale

US drugmaker Pfizer has confirmed that suspect doses of its coronavirus vaccine that were seized in Mexico and Poland were indeed fake, with doses selling for as much as $1,000 (£718) a shot.

At a clinic in Mexico about 80 people received bogus doses of the drug, which appeared to have been physically harmless, though offering no protection against the potentially deadly disease ravaging the country, a report in the Wall Street Journal stated.

The vials were found in beer coolers and were initially identified by fabricated lot numbers and expiration dates, Mexican officials said.

The liquid in the confiscated vials in Poland was a cosmetic substance, thought to be anti-wrinkle cream, Pfizer said.

04:47 AM

China administers about 200 million vaccine shots

Residents line up for their jab at a vaccination site with a board displaying the slogan "Timely vaccination to build the Great Wall of Immunity together" in Beijing - Andy Wong/AP
Residents line up for their jab at a vaccination site with a board displaying the slogan “Timely vaccination to build the Great Wall of Immunity together” in Beijing – Andy Wong/AP

Around 200 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in China, with an emphasis on frontline workers, university students and people living in border areas, health officials said.

China is ramping up vaccination efforts after a slow start that was due in part to the virtual elimination of domestic transmission of coronavirus. Just two local cases were reported on Wednesday, both in the city of Ruili, which borders Myanmar.

China has approved five domestically produced vaccines and exported millions of doses, although some scientists believe they provide less protection that those by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. The Chinese vaccines have an efficacy range of 50.7pc to 79.3pc, based on company data, lower than their foreign peers but still effective.

China is giving millions of shots a day, and its goal is vaccinating 560 million of the country’s 1.4 billion people by mid-June.

04:04 AM

Aspiring homebuyers move in with family during pandemic

More than a fifth of aspiring first-time buyers have temporarily moved in with family or friends since the coronavirus crisis started, according to research.

About 22pc of people hoping to buy their first home in the next two years have moved in with parents, in-laws or friends since March 2020, Halifax found.

On average, they plan to live with their family or friends for seven months.

With many people having had pay cuts, been furloughed or become unemployed during the pandemic, moving back into their childhood bedrooms is one way that people can significantly reduce their outgoings.

03:03 AM

Rashford and Kerridge team up to help others

Footballer Marcus Rashford (left) and chef Tom Kerridge have joined forces to help others in need - Gemma Bell and Company/PA
Footballer Marcus Rashford (left) and chef Tom Kerridge have joined forces to help others in need – Gemma Bell and Company/PA

England footballer Marcus Rashford and Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge have joined forces with their celebrity friends to offer back-to-basics recipe ideas and culinary tips for low-income families to help tackle food poverty.

The Manchester United striker, who last year forced the Government to extend free school meal provision for hard-up children, said he wanted the social media-based weekly tutorials – which will also feature famous faces from the worlds of sport, music and television – to inspire people to make easy but healthy meals on a budget.

His latest campaign, named Full Time: Get Cooking With Marcus And Tom, launches this Sunday and coincides with the Government’s Healthy Start payment scheme, which supports low-income households with grocery shopping.

The duo’s 52 tutorials will be posted on Instagram on @fulltimemeals every Sunday.

The pair said they were inspired to join forces due to their personal experiences of growing up in single-parent households on low incomes.

READ MORE: Marcus Rashford and Tom Kerridge join forces to get more children cooking

02:01 AM

People with a disability experienced more distress during pandemic

Older people in England with physical disabilities were more lonely and anxious and experienced greater increases in depression during the pandemic than able-bodied people, according to research.

The study published in The Lancet Public Health also suggested that those with a disability had lower levels of social contact and experienced poorer quality of life and sleep than those without.

Experts from University College London (UCL) said their findings revealed “disproportional impact on people with disabilities” during the pandemic and called for more support for vulnerable groups.

Study co-author Dr Giorgio Di Gessa, of UCL’s department of epidemiology and public health, said: “As we come out of the pandemic, it’s vital that these neglected groups receive special attention to not only address their physical needs but also attend to the disproportionate emotional consequences that the pandemic has had on them.

“It’s crucial that health and social care providers are able to put care packages in place both during and after the pandemic that take into account the importance of maintaining well-being in this vulnerable sector of society.”

01:30 AM

Charity hands out record 2.5m emergency food parcels

Food bank use rose a third during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Trussell Trust, which distributed a record 2.5 million parcels across the UK.

The charity handed out 2,537,198 emergency food parcels between April 2020 and March 2021.

Almost one million of these parcels went to children – more than one parcel every minute on average, the charity said.

It is the first time the total number of parcels has topped two million.

The Trussell Trust warns that its figures present a partial picture, as unprecedented numbers of people are being helped by independent food aid providers and community groups, some of which sprang into action as a result of the pandemic.

Read the full story here.

12:48 AM

Inoculated could avoid tests and quarantine

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC) has said the latest medical evidence shows the risk of an unvaccinated person contracting coronavirus from an inoculated individual is “very low”.

The ECDPC said the risks were so low that requirements for testing or self-isolating travellers could be “waived or modified”.

It concluded – based on the latest available evidence – that there was no risk of severe Covid being contracted through transmission.

The ECDPC said: “Requirements for testing and quarantine of travellers (if implemented) and regular testing at workplaces can be waived or modified for fully vaccinated individuals.”

The only condition would be if there was the presence of Covid variants, which scientists are investigating for their potential to undermine the effectiveness of the vaccines.

11:45 PM

Today’s top stories

  • Covid passports will be made available to prove people have been vaccinated as early as next month, in time for summer holidays, the travel industry has been told.

  • The “uncompetitive” awarding of government contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic must not become a “new norm”, Britain’s spending watchdog has warned, amid concerns over openness and the use of taxpayers’ money.

  • Universities have offered to “hotel quarantine” students from “red listed” India amid concerns the Government will not be able to cope with an influx of up to 50,000 from the country.

  • Courts are to get unlimited Government funds for sittings to help reduce the record backlog of cases and two-year delays in bringing criminals to justice, The Telegraph can reveal.

  • Medical research charities are facing a “real and present danger” after losing £292 million in funding during the pandemic because people could no longer hold events or rattle donation buckets, the charity sector has warned.

  • Learner drivers have been warned they face a wait of up to eight months to rebook a test unless they pass first time.


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