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Coronavirus latest news: UK faces delivery delay of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine

The UK is set to face short-term delays in the delivery of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine as the pharmaceutical company upgrades its production capacity.

Pfizer is upscaling production at its plant in Belgium in efforts to produce more doses than originally planned for 2021 – temporarily reducing deliveries to all European countries.

Shipments of the vaccine, produced in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, to the UK are set to be affected this month.

But the overall number of doses due to be delivered between January and March will remain the same, according to the US firm.

Follow the latest updates below.

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6:41AM

Concerns about UK Covid variant in US

Coronavirus infections in the United States have surpassed 23 million – more than 388,000 of which have proven fatal, according to a Reuters tally.

Adding to anxieties over the pace of immunisations, the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention warned on Friday that a new, highly transmissible variant of the virus sweeping the UK could become the dominant form in the US by March.

RELATED: WHO calls for new names for Covid variants to avoid country stigma

6:07AM

Global Covid deaths pass two million

The coronavirus pandemic has spread at a record pace, with global Covid-19 deaths surging past two million.

The World Health Organisation has called for accelerating vaccine rollouts worldwide.

WHO also wants countries to ramp up efforts to study the sequencing of the virus, which has infected more than 93 million people globally since it was first detected in China in late 2019.

The United Nations chief has urged the world to mark the “heart-wrenching milestone” of two million deaths from Covid-19 by acting with far greater solidarity to ensure vaccines are available and affordable in all countries – not just rich nations.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message that governments have a responsibility to protect their people, “but ‘vaccinationalism’ is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery”.

“Science is succeeding – but solidarity is failing,” he warned. “Vaccines are reaching high-income countries quickly, while the world’s poorest have none at all.”

5:57AM

India prepares for daunting vaccination programme

Government officials pray over a vaccine storage box containing Covid-19 vaccines due to leave for various vaccination centres in Mumbai, India, on Friday

Government officials pray over a vaccine storage box containing Covid-19 vaccines due to leave for various vaccination centres in Mumbai, India, on Friday

Credit:
Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

India is set to begin one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination drives on Saturday.

The country, home to 1.3 billion people, has the world’s second-largest caseload, and the government has given approvals to two vaccines – though one is yet to complete clinical trials – aiming to inoculate around 300 million people by July.

Authorities say they are drawing on their experience with elections and child immunisation programmes for the drive, which is a daunting task in an enormous, impoverished nation with often shoddy transport infrastructure and one of the world’s worst-funded healthcare systems.

The vaccines will have high security, so that doses do not end up being sold on India’s large black market for medicines.

5:17AM

Cathedral prepares for vaccination programme

Salisbury Cathedral will open its doors to people aged over 80 receiving the Covid-19 vaccine on Saturday.

The historic site, which was built 800 years ago, will become a venue for the Sarum South Primary Care Network Covid-19 local vaccination service.

Local GPs have invited patients in the over-80s priority group to attend the cathedral for their first Covid-19 jab.

A programme of music on the cathedral’s famous Father Willis organ will be provided throughout the day.

Dr Dan Henderson, co-clinical director for the Sarum South Primary Care Network, said: “It’s great to be further expanding the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Wiltshire.

“Today marks another step towards getting our lives back to normal.

“I understand that people are keen to get their jabs but please don’t call your doctor or the hospital asking about when you will get an appointment, we are following the priority order set out by the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the NHS will be in touch when it is your turn to be vaccinated.

“The huge vaccine programme is a marathon, not a sprint, but we will get to everyone.”

Patients attending appointments are from five GP practices – Salisbury Medical Practice, Harcourt Medical Centre, Three Chequers Medical Practice, Downton Surgery and Whiteparish Surgery.

Only patients invited by the NHS should attend and are asked to only arrive five minutes before their appointment time.

4:09AM

PM closes borders to shut out new Covid strains

Britain’s borders will effectively be closed from Monday amid growing fears over new variants of coronavirus, Boris Johnson has announced.

The Prime Minister has pulled the plug on all travel corridors, meaning everyone arriving in Britain from next week will need a negative Covid test and will then have to quarantine for 10 days. 

The restrictions will last until at least February 15 – but, with other countries well behind Britain in vaccinating their populations, there are signs that travel will not return to normal until well beyond then.

Read the full story here.

4:06AM

US Covid-19 vaccine stockpile didn’t exist

The governors of several American states have accused the Trump administration of deception in pledging to immediately distribute millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses from a stockpile that the US health secretary has since acknowledged does not exist.

Confusion over a vaccine supply windfall that was promised to governors but failed to materialise arose as scattered shortages emerged on the frontlines of the most ambitious and complex immunisation campaign in US history, prompting at least one large New York healthcare system to cancel a slew of inoculation appointments.

Just 10.6 million Americans have received a shot since federal regulators last month granted emergency approval to two vaccines, one from Pfizer/BioNTech and a second from Moderna.

That tally falls far short of the 20 million vaccinations the Trump administration had promised to administer by the end of 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic raged virtually unchecked with ever-increasing record numbers of infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

READ MORE: Trump administration accused of deception over reserve of coronavirus vaccine doses

3:43AM

Two Covid cases on Australian Open flight

Two coronavirus infections were reported on Saturday on a flight to the Australian Open, as Australia recorded a single locally transmitted case and said a cluster appeared to have been contained.

The positive cases were recorded after a charter flight from Los Angeles landed in Melbourne, carrying players and their entourage for the tennis grand slam.

Health officials in the state of Victoria said an aircrew member and Australian Open participant (who is not a player) had been transferred to a health hotel following positive test results for the virus.

“The passengers who have been designated close contacts will be unable to access training and will undertake a standard 14-day quarantine period,” a representative for Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria said.

Tennis players, coaches and officials arrived at a hotel in Melbourne on Friday, before quarantining for two weeks ahead of the Australian Open

Tennis players, coaches and officials arrived at a hotel in Melbourne on Friday, before quarantining for two weeks ahead of the Australian Open

Credit:
WILLIAM WEST/AFP

The inbound infections came as states began to relax travel bans on signs an outbreak in the northern state of Queensland had been contained.

“Unfortunately we have been informed by the health authorities that two people on your flight AR7493 from LAX that arrived at 5.15am on Friday 15 January have returned positive Covid-19 PCR tests on arrival in Melbourne,” according to a letter sent to one of the plane’s passengers.

Australia has agreed to accept around 1,200 players, officials and staff for the major sporting event that is due to begin next month. 

Check out our Australian Open coverage here.

3:17AM

UK faces delays in Pfizer vaccine delivery

The UK is set to face short-term delays in delivery of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine as the pharmaceutical company upgrades its production capacity.

Pfizer is upscaling production at its plant in Puurs, Belgium, in efforts to produce more doses than originally planned for 2021 – temporarily reducing deliveries to all European countries.

Shipments of the vaccine, produced in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, to the UK are set to be affected this month.

A Government spokeswoman said that it is still working to its plan of vaccinating all four priority groups by February 15.

 Read the full story here.

1:05AM

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