Britain’s Department of Health said on Sunday that the medicines regulator must be given time to carry out its review of the data of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
The Telegraph revealed on Sunday that the Oxford vaccine will be rolled out from January 4 across the country under plans being drawn up by ministers.
The Government is aiming for two million people to receive their first dose of either the Oxford vaccine or the Pfizer jab within a fortnight as part of a major ramping up of the inoculation programme.
The Telegraph also disclosed that mass vaccination centres at sports stadiums and conference venues are primed to launch in the second week of January, provided the regulator approves the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine within days.
Commenting on The Telegraph report, a Health Department spokeswoman said: “We must now give the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) the time to carry out its important work and we must wait for its advice.”
Follow the latest updates below.
Canada confirms first cases of UK’s Covid variant
Health officials in Ontario said on Saturday that two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus variant first detected in the UK have appeared in the Canadian province.
The Canadian cases, identified in a couple in southern Ontario with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contact, came as the province went into lockdown on Saturday.
“This further reinforces the need for Ontarians to stay home as much as possible and continue to follow all public health advice, including the province-wide shutdown measures beginning today,” Dr Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer, said.
Ontario has had more than 2,000 cases per day for 12 consecutive days.
Last week, Canada extended to January 6 a ban on passenger flights arriving from Britain and expanded enhanced screening and monitoring measures to travellers arriving from South Africa, citing the rise of the more infectious variant.
Coronavirus cases surpass 80 million
The number of Covid cases worldwide has topped 80 million.
Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University reported the mark on Saturday morning after 472,000 cases were recorded on Christmas Day.
The number of deaths related to the pandemic across the globe stands at 1.75 million.
The US is by far the leader among nations in cases of coronavirus illness, reporting nearly 18.8 million on Saturday. India follows with 10.2 million; Brazil has counted 7.45 million. There have been more than 330,000 deaths in the US, 190,000 in Brazil and 147,000 in India.
British mutant strain of virus spreads to Japan
Japan’s government will temporarily ban entry of all non-resident foreign nationals as a precaution against a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant that has spread across Britain.
The entry ban will start on Monday and last until January 31 for the time being, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on Saturday.
Japan banned entry of non-resident foreigners from Britain and South Africa last week, but is further stepping up border control after confirming the new variant in seven people over the past two days – five returnees from Britain who tested at airports and two others in Tokyo.
Japan is also suspending exemptions of a 14-day quarantine for Japanese nationals and resident foreigners on a short-track program that began in November. The entrants now must carry proof of a negative test 72 hours prior to departure for Japan and self-isolate for two weeks after arrival, the ministry said.
Japan’s health ministry confirmed on Saturday two cases of the new variant – a man in his 30s who returned to Japan from Britain on December 16 and his relative, a woman in her 20s with no history of visiting that country. Both patients are hospitalised in Tokyo.
On Friday, the ministry said the new variant was detected in samples of five returnees from Britain between December 18 and 21 who tested positive at airport inspection. All but one who complained of fatigue had no symptoms.
Japan had 217,312 cases as of Saturday and 3,213 deaths.
‘We’ll get our freedom back, we’ll be able to embrace again’
Italy, Spain and France joined Britain, China, Russia, Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Serbia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia in starting their vaccination campaigns.
“We’ll get our freedom back, we’ll be able to embrace again,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said as he urged his countrymen to get the shot.
But polls show only 57 per cent of Italians intend to get the jab, whereas scientists estimate herd immunity can only be reached if 75 to 80 per cent have it.
Flare-ups of the virus continue to force nations to toughen restrictions, with Austria beginning a third national lockdown on Saturday.
French health minister Olivier Veran would not rule out a third lockdown if authorities decide it’s necessary to tamp down infections.
101-year-old Edith receives her vaccination
Vaccinations in all 27 European Union countries had been set to begin from Sunday, after regulators approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 21.
But some countries began on Saturday: a 101-year-old woman in a care home became the first person in Germany to be inoculated, and the first jabs were also handed out in Hungary and Slovakia.
Vaccinations begin in EU nations
EU nations started vaccinating their most vulnerable groups on Sunday as a more contagious coronavirus variant spread internationally and the World Health Organisation warned that the current pandemic would not be the last.
First doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in EU countries including hard-hit Italy, Spain and France on Saturday, ready for distribution to retirement homes and care staff.
The approval and roll-out of vaccines has boosted hopes that 2021 could bring a respite from the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.7 million people since emerging in China late last year.
However, in a video message ahead of the first International Day of Epidemic Preparedness on Sunday, World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was time to learn the lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“History tells us that this will not be the last pandemic, and epidemics are a fact of life,” he said.
“Any efforts to improve human health are doomed unless they address the critical interface between humans and animals, and the existential threat of climate change that’s making our earth less habitable.”
Confessions of a divorce lawyer during the pandemic
Divorce lawyer Vanessa Lloyd Platt, who runs a family law practice, has taken on extra staff to cope with growing demand, thanks to lockdown…
Since lockdown began at the end of March, the number of divorce petitions started through my firm has risen by 40 per cent.
And because social distancing has put an end to face-to-face consultations – plus, couples are shut at home together – many of my conferences take place on Zoom, in people’s cars. I’m calling it ‘divorce on wheels’.
Lockdowns and the restrictions around them have not been good for marriages.
People are glued together for inordinate amounts of time without the usual respite of work, socialising and hobbies.
The hatred has gone to a new level.
Shoppers ignore warnings to flock to Boxing Day sales
Boxing Day bargain hunters defied calls to “behave as if they have the virus” as queues formed outside shops as early as 4am.
Thousands of shoppers descended on retail outlets across England to make the most of the post-Christmas sales.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had urged people to “think carefully” about avoiding Boxing Day crowds with 24 million, 43 per cent of England’s population, now under Tier 4 restrictions.
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