The pandemic means the UK can no longer track how many migrants are entering or leaving the UK, says a University of Oxford report.
The university’s Migration Observatory said it meant policymakers were effectively “flying blind” when planning for the impact of migration on schools, hospitals, transport and other local services.
The problem has arisen because the Covid-19 pandemic has meant face-to-face interviews for migrant and population surveys have been suspended for up to 10 months.
It meant key measures of migration and population, such as the international passenger and labour force surveys, have been disrupted and cannot be relied on for accurate data. The same is also true of National Insurance numbers, another indicator, said the observatory.
“There is absolutely massive uncertainty about what is going on with migration at the moment, because all the data sources we normally use have been hugely disrupted,” said Madeleine Sumption, the observatory’s director.
“This has left us flying blind just as the UK is introducing a new immigration system, and will make it more difficult to understand the impacts of new policies.”
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News in brief from around the world
- France has registered four cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil, although its prime minister dismissed the possibility of a new national lockdown for now.
- South Korea on Friday granted conditional approval to Celltrion Covid-19 antibody treatment, drug safety minister Kim Gang-lip said.
- Brazil‘s prosecutor-general has opened a preliminary investigation into its president and health minister for possible negligence in response to a Covid-19 outbreak in Manaus city.
- China reported the fewest new cases in over a month, official data showed, suggesting that the latest wave of the disease is subsiding ahead of the key Lunar New Year holiday period set to begin next week.
- Israel has extended its third lockdown to Sunday, at which point nationwide curbs will be eased slowly.
- The US Food and Drug Administration is planning a rapid review process for quick turnaround of new booster shots if variants of the coronavirus emerge against which the vaccines do not provide protection, the agency’s top official said on Thursday.
- The World Health Organisation’s COVAX initiative aims to start shipping nearly 90 million vaccine doses to Africa in February, while China said it would donate 100,000 doses to the Congo Republic and forgive $13 million in public debt.
WHO urges collaboration to speed up Europe vaccinations
Europe and pharma groups must work together to speed up Covid-19 vaccinations, the head of the European branch of the World Health Organisation said Fon riday, expressing concern about the effectiveness of vaccines on virus variants.
“We have to be prepared” for new problematic mutations of the virus ‘by expanding countries’ capacity for genomic sequencing”, WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told AFP in an interview.
In the European Union, just 2.5 percent of the population has received a first vaccine dose, though announcements by several laboratories of increased vaccine deliveries has raised hopes of an acceleration.
“We need to join up to speed up vaccinations … with otherwise competing pharmaceutical companies joining efforts to drastically increase production capacity… that’s what we need,” he said.
Asked whether the vaccines available since December would be effective against new virus variants, Mr Kluge replied: “That’s the big question. I’m concerned. It’s a cruel reminder that the virus still has the upper hand on the human being.”
Mayweather Tokyo exhibition postponed over virus restrictions
Boxing legend Floyd Mayweather’s exhibition fight in Tokyo this month has been postponed because of coronavirus restrictions, organisers announced Friday.
Retired ex-champ Mayweather, 43, was scheduled to fight against an unnamed opponent at Tokyo Dome on February 28, but organisers pulled the plug with Japan’s borders closed to almost all foreign arrivals.
Tokyo and other parts of Japan are under a virus state of emergency that is set to end on March 7, with attendance at sports events limited to 5,000 or half capacity, whichever is less.
Mayweather’s fight against YouTuber Logan Paul, which was scheduled for February 20, was also postponed last week.
Pfizer withdraws application for emergency use of its vaccine in India
Pfizer has withdrawn an application for emergency-use authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine in India that it has developed with Germany’s BioNTech, the company told Reuters on Friday.
The US company, which was the first drugmaker to apply for emergency use authorisation of its Covid-19 vaccine in the country, had a meeting with India’s drugs regulator on Wednesday and the decision was made after that, the company said.
“Based on the deliberations at the meeting and our understanding of additional information that the regulator may need, the company has decided to withdraw its application at this time,” it said in a statement to Reuters, adding it will in the future look to resubmit its application with the additional information that the regulator requires.
South Kore urges caution over Oxford jab for elderly
A panel of South Korean advisers has urged caution over the use of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for people older than 65, citing a lack of data, the food and drug safety ministry said on Friday.
A decision to limit use of the vaccine, which is on track to become the first approved by South Korea, could complicate an inoculation campaign that puts priority on medical workers and the elderly.
The national pharmaceutical panel has cleared the vaccine for those older than 18, but advised caution on its use for those over 65, the director general of a national safety evaluation body said.
“The panel advised to offer the drug to people over 18, as Europe had recommended, but advised caution over the decision to inoculate those over 65, since no sufficient data has yet been collected,” said the official, Lee Dong-hee.
Australia to ease caps on returning citizens, Perth exits lockdown
Australia’s biggest state will exit a snap five-day lockdown after reporting no cases for five straight days, as the national cabinet decided to lift the temporary caps on citizens returning from overseas from the middle of this month.
Western Australia’s state capital Perth and southwest region, home to some two million people, will exit lockdown from 6pm local time on Friday, state Premier Mark McGowan said, adding the only reason that could change was if local cases were recorded before that time.
With community infections in the country remaining low over the last several days, Australia will relax caps on international arrivals.
Australia will reinstate prior limits on international travellers allowed back each week to some states, after cutting the number by nearly half to around 3,000 in early January after the discovery of virulent new variants of the coronavirus.
Infections in Tokyo may have jumped nine-fold, survey shows
The number of Covid-19 infections in Tokyo may have jumped by nine-fold since last summer, coronavirus antibody tests showed, as Japan tries to rein in the country’s third and most lethal wave of the pandemic ahead of the Olympics in July.
Random testing on people in Japan’s capital in December showed that 0.91 per cent had antibodies to the virus, compared with about 0.1 per cent in a similar study in June, health ministry said in a report on Friday
The study sampled more than 15,000 people and also showed increases in antibody rates in Osaka and Miyagi Prefecture.
Reported infections in Japan have trended down in recent days but the government has signalled it would remain cautious.
NZ resumes refugee intake as virus fears ease
New Zealand said on Friday it will start receiving refugees again this month, nearly a year after it shut its borders to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A group of 35 refugees will arrive in February, with about 210 refugees expected to enter the country by June 30, Immigration New Zealand and officials said.
“With health protocols in place and safe travel routes, we are ready to welcome small groups of refugee families as New Zealand residents to this country, to begin their new lives,” Fiona Whiteridge, general manager for refugee and migrant services at Immigration New Zealand, said in a statement.
All arrivals will have to complete a 14-day stay in government managed isolation facilities.
Panama seeks 3 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine
Panama’s government is seeking 3 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for 1.5 million people, hoping to receive them by March, a letter of intent signed by the country’s Health Ministry showed.
The Central American nation has one of the highest numbers of confirmed infections in the region and said recently it had allocated $56 million to purchase a total of 5.5 million doses for about 80 per cent of its population. It was not immediately clear if Sputnik V was part of that allocation.
“Our geographical position makes us one of the most important centers for connectivity by air, land and sea in our region, and has exposed us to greater risk than other countries,” said the letter seen by Reuters. “The government of Panama through its pharmacy and drug regulatory authority is ready to issue an emergency use license for the Sputnik V vaccine.”
J&J seeks US vaccine approval
Johnson & Johnson said on Thursday it has asked US health regulators to authorise its single-dose Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, and it will apply to European authorities in coming weeks.
The drugmaker’s application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) follows its Jan. 29 report in which it said the vaccine had a 66 per cent rate of preventing infections in its large global trial.
The FDA said on Thursday evening that it has scheduled a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on Feb. 26, to discuss the company’s request for emergency use authorisation.
Vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were authorised a day after such a meeting.
Upsurge in UK dog thefts during pandemic
Britain has seen an explosion in the number of dog thefts since the pandemic and resulting lockdowns started early last year, as demand for pets has surged.
“It’s just as growing a pandemic as Covid itself,” said Wayne May, from DogLost, an organisation that tries to reunite missing canines with their owners using its online database.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years now and 2020 was the worst ever year,” he added, noting there had been an estimated 250 percent rise in dog thefts since last March.
Already known as a nation of dog lovers, a burgeoning number of Britons have been looking for four-legged companions during the virus lockdowns to help overcome loneliness and anxiety.
Prices for puppies in particular but also older dogs have skyrocketed, attracting greedy breeders – and the interest of criminals.
US officials mull sending masks to each American
Biden administration officials are weighing sending masks to every American as they hope to nudge individuals to do their part in lowering transmission rates.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain said in an interview with NBC News that administration officials are looking at using mask supplies that the government already has in its stockpile.
Mr Klain said that the administration hopes to make an announcement on a potential move “in the next few days or next week”.
Joe Biden has pleaded for Americans to wear masks during the first 100 days of his administration. It’s a step he said could help save thousands of lives as Americans await their turn to be vaccinated.