Coronavirus latest news: Merkel defends EU’s troubled vaccine drive

Angela Merkel on Monday defended the European Union’s troubled vaccine drive, saying there were “good reasons” the rollout had got off to a slower start than in some other countries.

The German Chancellor has promised all Germans a coronavirus vaccine by the end of September following growing anger that delegating responsibility to Brussels has slowed down national inoculation programmes.

The Chancellor held crisis talks on Monday night with pharmaceutical executives, state premiers and European Commission officials over Germany’s slow rollout of the vaccine.

Only about 2.8 out of every 100 people have been vaccinated in Germany, compared with 9.7 in the US and more than 14 in Britain. 

“It is true that in some areas, the pace became slower, but there were good reasons for it to be slower,” Mrs Merkel told reporters in Berlin. “There will be no shortage of money or commitment” to meet the target, she said, but admitted that Germany’s current production schedule does not allow for a more aggressive rollout.

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Merkel’s dilemma

As Angela Merkel sat down to crisis talks with vaccine manufacturers on Monday, she faced a dilemma.

The veteran chancellor has had a good pandemic until now. But the European vaccine debacle has hit Germany hard, and Mrs Merkel has a tough choice to make. At home, there are calls to abandon any semblance of solidarity with the European Union and follow Britain’s lead in going it alone to secure enough vaccines for her people.

But on the wider European stage she has dominated for more than a decade, she faces nervousness and suspicion from EU partners who fear Germany may be about to abandon them in the race for vaccinations.

Germany’s highest-selling newspaper, Bild, made its preference clear on Monday in an editorial  for “National bulk orders of the best vaccines the world can offer, if necessary outside the EU — no matter the cost.”

Read more: Merkel faces tough choices over vaccine procurement


Runny nose should be added as symptom, GPs urge

A runny nose should be counted as a Covid symptom, GPs have said. 

A group of more than 140 doctors, writing in the British Medical Journal, are urging the chief medical officer to include symptoms like a running or blocked nose, muscle pain, and headaches as criteria for a test. 

They say at the moment they are having to encourage patients who turn out to have coronavirus to lie about their symptoms in order to access a test, which means that far too many cases are being missed.  

Dr Alex Sohal, an East London GP and lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, said she is regularly reviewing patients with mild symptoms – for example, a runny or blocked nose, sore throat, hoarseness, muscle pain, fatigue, and headache – who subsequently turn out to be Covid positive.

She writes: “These patients have frequently not even considered that they may have Covid-19 and have not self-isolated in the crucial early days when they were most infectious.”


PM pushes to reopen schools as Covid cases fall

Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to ramp up preparations for reopening schools after being told the UK is now past the peak of the current wave of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that the Government’s immediate focus must be on education and is expected to announce further measures to help children catch up after almost a year of disruption.

Mr Johnson’s optimism on school reopening is built on the success of the vaccination programme. 

The Telegraph has learned that from next week, over-65s will be invited to book appointments for vaccinations, in the clearest sign to date that the Government expects to beat its target of offering jabs to all over-70s by February 15.


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