Coronavirus latest: UK set to receive ‘tens of millions’ more vaccine doses

Load new posts

Updated at 2/15/2021, 5:49:27 PM BST

Primrose Riordan

Hong Kong is set to approve the Covid-19 vaccine Coronavac for emergency use after the local government’s advisory panel said it would recommend its distribution in the city.

The move comes after Sinovac Biotech, the Chinese company that makes it, was granted an exemption from a Hong Kong government request that vaccine makers’ phase three trial data first be published in a medical journal before their products received the green light.

Professor Wallace Lau, the head of the panel, has previously said the company instead directly provided the panel with data from phase-three clinical trials of the vaccines in Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia that are yet to be published in a peer- reviewed journal articles.

“There is no pressure at all from anyone,” Lau said, “on making the recommendation.”

Lau said the data showed the vaccine was effective, adding that he planned to release a report on his panel’s review of the vaccine over the next week.

The Financial Times has been your guide to the pandemic since the first outbreak was detected over a year ago. Here are some of the developments we were reporting on a year ago today:

• UK health officials drew up plans for how NHS hospitals would treat patients in the event of a surge in coronavirus infections. Scientists were warning that the chances of preventing larger numbers of cases were fading by the day. Two days earlier, France had reported the first Covid-19 death outside Asia.

• British passengers on the stricken Diamond Princess cruise liner, on which hundreds of people had been infected, were urging the UK Government to evacuate them after the US announced plans to repatriate its citizens.

• A Japanese couple in their 60s who had been staying at a resort on Hawaii’s Waikiki beach tested positive on their return home.

• Bill Gates warned that coronavirus in Africa could overwhelm health services and trigger a pandemic resulting in 10m deaths.

There have been 2.4m deaths officially recorded due to the virus to date. For all the latest on the pandemic, visit the FT’s coronavirus home page.

The pandemic has forced everyone to reexamine personal finances, whether it’s dealing with a pay cut, how to best use cash from staying home, managing the ups and downs of investment markets or using this time to make a career change.

On this week’s Money Clinic podcast, debt problems are in the spotlight. Presenter Claer Barrett hears from a couple in their 30s who have each run up credit card debts of more than £10,000 ($13,500).

Like millions of others, Duncan and his partner were furloughed from work — receiving 80 per cent of their salaries, but still having to pay 100 per cent of their bills. How can they get their finances back on track — and could speaking to a debt adviser help?

Listen to Claer and personal finance experts discuss how anyone can start their own debt-free journey on the podcast here.

Valentina Romei

Almost one in five people in England has some level of immunity to coronavirus, figures showed, giving another boost to the prospect of an end of lockdown.

An estimated 19 per cent of the population had coronavirus antibodies over a 28-day period to February 1, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday, suggesting they either have had the infection or have been vaccinated.

The level more than doubled from 9 per cent in the month to December 7. London at 25 per cent had the highest positivity rate of any region.

The immunity figures come as Boris Johnson prepares to lay out next week his strategy for how to relax extensive coronavirus restrictions.

The prime minster has said officials will need to scrutinise the data before they make any firm decisions. Ministers are under pressure from business and Conservative backbenchers, however, given declining numbers of new infections and the speedy rollout of vaccines.

The proportion of the population with the antibodies is significantly lower in the other home nations. In Wales and Northern Ireland, it was at about 14 per cent, while in Scotland the rate was only 12 per cent.

While the prevalence of antibodies was greater in the oldest adults thanks to the roll-out of vaccinations, younger people also had a high positivity rate, a sign of how the infection has spread among that demographic. Indeed in Wales and Scotland, those aged between 16 and 24 had the highest rate of any age group.

Harry Dempsey and Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe

The UK is in line for “tens of millions” more coronavirus vaccine doses as the rollout extends beyond individuals most vulnerable to infection, the jab deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi has said.

More than 15m individuals in the UK have been given their first shot in just over two months and the country has raced ahead of most others in protecting its population.

Zahawi on Tuesday said that supplies would increase in March and April, as over-50s are in line for a shot and the most vulnerable groups begin to receive their second jabs.

“I see much greater volume in March and April – tens of millions of doses coming through,” he said on Sky News. The government would double its vaccine deployment capabilities in the next 10 or so weeks to maintain the break-neck pace, he said.

Concerns remain that vaccine makers could struggle to increase supplies quickly, and that the need to administer second shots could present obstacles to offering first doses to all over-50s by May.

However, Zahawi added: “I’m confident we’ll hit our target, which is about 32m people who have at least one dose and of course those who need the second dose will have that as well by the end of April.”

Kevin Holden Platt in Paris

On April 15 2019, the apocalyptic images were broadcast live across the globe from Paris: whirlwinds of fire flashing through the upper tiers of Notre-Dame cathedral that transformed its spire into a blazing missile which crashed down through its ancient limestone vaults.

Parisian pompiers did battle with the flames through the night. By dawn, a wider contingent of protectors had begun to form, who joined forces to intermesh virtual reality, 3D modelling and cloud computing to create a “virtual twin” of the cathedral to power its real-world rebirth.

Basing the simulation in the cloud is allowing scientists across the world to recreate Notre-Dame despite the obstacles created by the coronavirus crisis.

Read more here

Commuters crowd the Dadar railway station in suburban Mumbai on Friday

Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi

Technical glitches in India’s vaccination app contributed to low numbers of people getting their second coronavirus vaccine doses.

States started giving the second dose over the weekend, but demand for the shot has been subdued and issues with the CoWin app meant that names of people eligible for a shot were not shown in the system.

As of the latest data on Monday, just 98,000 healthcare workers had been given a second shot. India has given a total of 8,418,653 people the first dose in a drive that was launched on January 16.

The government has approved two vaccines for use, the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot and another made by Bharat Biotech, an Indian company.

An average of 300,000 people are being vaccinated daily, but experts say that India will need to significantly ramp up its coverage to hit its target of vaccinating 300m people by July.

George Russell in Hong Kong

China’s health agency on Tuesday reported 16 new coronavirus cases, up from nine a day earlier.

All 16 were imported from overseas, the National Health Commission said in a statement.

Eight of the new cases were recorded in Guangdong province in the country’s south, while five were identified in Shanghai.

Two cases were found in Sha’anxi province and one in Sichuan.

There were no new deaths, the NHC said.

There were also 11 new asymptomatic infections, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, compared with 10 a day earlier.

China saw a resurgence of the disease in January in its northern provinces of Hebei, Heilongjiang and Jilin in the country’s worst outbreak since March 2020.

Local authorities imposed lockdowns, travel curbs and mass testing in a bid to contain the disease.

Michael Mackenzie in New York

Few companies are more motivated to promote the return to the office than those in real estate, whose portfolios of office property could be in serious trouble if the pandemic entrenches working from home.

Brookfield, the Canadian-owned investment group, says that three-quarters of employees at Brookfield Place, its US headquarters at the foot of Manhattan, have been back in the office since late November 2020 — and it has a playbook other businesses can follow.

“It was important to demonstrate to our tenants that it was possible to bring people to the office,” said Brian Kingston, chief executive of Brookfield’s real estate group. “It is possible to do this and do it safely.”

Read more here*

Dr Karen Ong scrapes ice from her car windshield in Galveston on Monday

George Russell in Hong Kong

Officials in Houston said power outages across Texas due to a winter storm knocked out electricity supply to a facility storing Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine on Monday.

Health workers scrambled in icy weather to distribute the 8,000 doses stored at the facility before they became unusable.

The vaccines were distributed to hospitals, a county jail and Rice University.

More than 2m people across Texas were without power late on Monday after a massive storm system hit as far south as San Antonio.

“The ability of some companies that generate the power has been frozen,” said Greg Abbott, Texas governor.

“This includes the natural gas and coal generators,” he added. “They are working to get [power] generation back online.”

Houston’s health department said city-affiliated Covid-19 testing and vaccination sites would be closed on Monday and Tuesday due to the weather.

Leo Lewis in Tokyo

Even before the coronavirus pandemic brought an economic shutdown and the collapse of tourism, the outlook for Japan’s sprawling, technology-shy regional lenders did not look good.

Japan’s 100-plus regional lenders have more combined assets than the entire Italian banking system but seemed to be a chronic, unsolvable problem after two decades of ultra-low interest rates plus an ageing, shrinking population and a moribund economy.

The virus, which hit regional economies particularly hard and redoubled the lock on low rates, appeared only to make the situation worse, but some are hopeful that the crisis may have offered some chance of salvation by finally normalising digital transactions.

Read more here

Edward White and Kang Buseong in Seoul

South Korea says it has now secured enough vaccines for 79m people as the government seeks to boost confidence in its inoculation plans amid rising pressure on the global vaccination supply chain.

Vaccinations of the country’s 52m people are set to start on February 26.

But the speed of the first phase of vaccinations has been dialed back after health officials on Monday decided against using the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs on people over the age of 65, an about-face from an initial approval a week ago.

That U-turn, coupled with delays and uncertainties in global vaccine procurement, has pushed officials to buy an additional 23m vaccines from US groups Novavax and Pfizer, in order to obtain earlier vaccine deliveries.

Seoul has not announced its plans for the surplus jabs.

Still, South Korean officials say the country remains on track to vaccinate about 70 per cent of the population by September and reach herd immunity by November.

Aziza Kasumov in New York

Corporate America started to turn the page on the coronavirus-induced downturn in the fourth quarter, less than a year after the pandemic sent financial markets into a tailspin and pushed the US into recession.

Revenues for companies within the blue-chip S&P 500 index rose 1.3 per cent year on year in the final three months of 2020, while profits climbed 3.4 per cent on the same basis, according to data from Refinitiv.

The return to sales and earnings growth — following three consecutive quarters of contraction — has come sooner than many analysts had expected, boosted by government stimulus and looser monetary policy from the Federal Reserve.

Read more here

Yuan Yang in Beijing

Chinese entertainment stocks soared after box office receipts reached historic highs during the lunar new year holiday, topping Rmb1bn ($155m) per day for three days in a row, according to government figures.

A rally in Chinese entertainment shares in Hong Kong was led by Imax China, which surged by as much as 88 per cent.

Shares in the designer and maker of high-performance cinema screens traded at HK$18.36 on Tuesday afternoon, 32 per cent above its previous close.

Production company Ali Pictures’ shares also rose by more than 30 per cent on Tuesday.

China’s box office revenues so far in 2021 had already surpassed Rmb10bn as of Tuesday morning, according to Dengta Data.

The holiday surge in China’s box office sales underscores the divergence between it and the US’s waning ticket sales.

According to entertainment services firm Maoyan, in 2020 China’s box office became the world’s biggest, with Rmb20bn (US$3.129 billion) in sales.

Despite capacity limits of 50 per cent being placed on cinemas, the release of domestic blockbusters boosted ticket sales.

Box office takings were also helped by Valentine’s Day falling within the seven-day Spring Festival holiday.

Delphine Strauss in London

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak should set out plans in next month’s Budget to phase out the furlough scheme as soon as conditions allow, an influential think-tank said on Tuesday, arguing that the UK economy could not adjust to a “new normal” until most emergency support was removed.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said most support measures should be phased out gradually rather than brought to an abrupt halt. In particular, there was no need to scrap the £20 per week boost to universal credit, since the UK benefits system remained much less generous than those of its peers.

But the economy would not be able to adjust properly while the furlough scheme remained in place — although a more targeted version of the scheme could be needed for sectors such as aviation.

Read more here

Daniel Andrews, Victoria’s premier, briefs media on the pandemic on Monday

George Russell in Hong Kong

The Australian state of Victoria is ready to extend a hard lockdown planned to end on Wednesday, its leader warned on Tuesday.

Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria, said he would not make an announcement on the easing of restrictions until Wednesday.

“I’m not in a position to definitively commit to that, because these next 24 hours will, of course, will be crucial,” he said at a briefing.

Andrews said the new variants of Covid-19 that had emerged this year had dramatically increased the risk of a wider outbreak. “This is wildly infectious — more so than 2020.”

He has already ruled out the resumption of aviation this week. “Flights will not be returning on Thursday,” he said.

Andrews said he was in discussion with Australia’s federal government to build a new purpose-built quarantine facility in Victoria to take the strain off hotels.

The facility would most likely be built near one of the airports close to Melbourne, the state capital that endured a 100-day lockdown in 2020.

The premier said the new centre would be based on a Northern Territory open-air camp facility.

“It would be a cabin-style, village-style environment, where there would be fresh air, where there would be not zero risk but lower risk,” he said.

George Hammond in London

Close to half a million people in the UK have fallen behind on rent or mortgage payments as a result of coronavirus, according to a study published on Tuesday, which urged ministers to intervene to prevent the debt crisis from worsening.

As many as 450,000 out of an estimated 750,000 people in arrears on housing payments, have fallen into debt as a direct result of the pandemic, the study by the Resolution Foundation think-tank found.

The estimates, based on a survey of more than 6,000 working-age adults in the UK, provide the starkest evidence to date of a ballooning rent and mortgage debt crisis which has been fanned by the pandemic.

Read more here

George Russell in Hong Kong

Malaysia will roll out its national Covid-19 vaccination programme on February 26, the government announced on Tuesday.

The inoculation campaign will begin five days after the first shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrives on February 21.

The south-east Asian country’s prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, is in line to receive the country’s first jab.

“Vaccines are important to protect yourself, your loved ones and those around you,” the prime minister said in a briefing on Tuesday.

The Malaysian government has approved a plan under which frontline healthcare staff would be first in line to be vaccinated.

Groups at risk, such as the elderly and those with serious health conditions, would be next.

Jude Webber in Mexico City

Mexico began vaccinating people over 60 on Monday after supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab arrived from India, but the rollout was plagued by long queues and delays.

Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City mayor, said nearly 19,000 people had been vaccinated in the capital after a day in which people complained that they had to wait hours for their shots.

Earlier in the day, Sheinbaum apologised for delays in some places, saying the vaccines were en route.

Nationwide, 23,369 people over 60 received the jab on Monday, the health ministry said.

Sergio Aguayo, a political commentator who received his vaccine, narrated his experience on Twitter saying officials wrote a person’s number in the queue on their hand in marker.

Aguayo ended up waiting four hours and complained about the “errors and disorganisation” but praised the good spirits of people waiting for jabs.

Before Monday, Mexico had vaccinated front-line medical staff and some teachers with the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. Supplies of that jab have been on hold for nearly a month but were due to resume on Tuesday.

Overall, Mexico has applied 749,682 vaccines. Just over 86,000 healthcare workers have received the full two-jab course. Nearly 17,500 teachers in the southeastern state of Campeche have also received their first jab in the hope that schools there can reopen soon.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has faced criticism for vaccinating teachers when not all health workers have received their full course, and for promising to attend to over-60s in remote areas, where Covid-19 transmission is low, instead of urban areas with high transmission rates.

Critics say the president has one eye on mid-term elections in June and his promises of inclusion for historically marginalised communities.

George Russell in Hong Kong

Australia’s drug regulator on Tuesday approved the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, making it the second immunisation to be permitted in the country.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration said it would provisionally approve the vaccine for adults 18 years and older.

TGA’s approval allows the second dose to be administered from 4 to 12 weeks after the first.

The regulator said the approval is subject to certain strict conditions, such as the requirement for AstraZeneca to continue providing information to the TGA on longer-term efficacy and safety from clinical trials and post-market assessment.

TGA said although patients over 65 years old demonstrated a strong immune response in clinical trials, “there were an insufficient number of participants … to conclusively determine the efficacy in this subgroup”.

Initial supply of this vaccine would be imported, but TGA said it was anticipated that the vaccine would eventually be manufactured in Australia.

George Russell in Hong Kong

US states on Monday identified 65,455 people in hospital being treated for Covid-19, half the number recorded at the pandemic’s peak in January.

Another 1,078 deaths were recorded, according to Covid Tracking Project data. There were 55,000 new cases reported.

Monday’s CTP analysis lacked data from several states — Alaska, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming — as well as the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory.

While a total of 1.1m tests were conducted, many testing centres were closed due to freezing weather in Texas, Colorado and other states.

Gideon Long in Bogotá

Peru has appointed its fifth foreign minister since the start of the coronavirus pandemic following the resignation on Sunday of Elizabeth Astete as part of a growing scandal over politicians jumping the queue to receive vaccines.

Allan Wagner was sworn at the presidential palace on Monday. A 79-year-old career diplomat, this is his third stint as foreign minister.

The government has been rocked by revelations that a number of politicians received vaccine shots late last year and early this year, before they were available for health workers and the general public.

Astete resigned after admitting she received a shot in January.

The country’s former president, Martín Vizcarra, is embroiled in the scandal after local media reported that he and his wife, Maribel Díaz Cabello, got the Chinese vaccine produced by Sinopharm late last year.

Vizcarra confirmed he had indeed received the jab on October 2 but said it was as part of a clinical trial.However, on Saturday, the university conducting the trial in conjunction with Sinopharm issued a statement saying that neither Vizcarra nor his wife were part of it.

Elizabeth Astete resigned as Peru’s foreign minister on Sunday

Health minister Pilar Mazzetti resigned last week over the issue and her replacement, Oscar Ugarte, was sworn in over the weekend. He is the fifth health minister the Andean nation has had since the pandemic began.

Vizcarra was president of Peru when the pandemic first hit. He was impeached in November over unproven corruption allegations but his replacement lasted less than a week in the midst of nationwide protests over the way he had assumed power.

The country is now under the leadership of an interim president, Francisco Sagasti, who has vowed to guide it through to a new election scheduled for April. He has said that all officials who received the vaccine secretly should tender their resignations.

Peru has been one of the worst hit countries in Latin America by the pandemic and at one point had the highest per capita death rate anywhere in the world. The country of 32m people has recorded over 1.2m cases and nearly 44,000 deaths.

Last week it started vaccinating health workers with the Sinopharm vaccine.

George Russell in Hong Kong

National Australia Bank, one the country’s four biggest lenders, reported flat profits for the first quarter of its financial year on Tuesday, as lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic added uncertainty.

The bank posted net profits for the quarter ending December 31 of A$1.7bn (US$1.3bn), a similar figure as reported in the same period in 2020.

Improving economic trends in Australia and New Zealand were encouraging, said Ross McEwan, chief executive.

“At an underlying level, performance has been sound in the current competitive, low-interest rate environment,” he said.

There were still a number of uncertainties, McEwan added. “These include the impact on customers of ongoing health alerts.”

Sebastian Payne in London

The UK is considering rapid coronavirus testing for the entertainment industry to allow mass gatherings to resume later this year in situations where social distancing is impractical or uneconomical.

Officials confirmed that plans were being drawn up for rapid testing to be rolled out once most of the economy had reopened. “Quick turnround testing is part of a plan to get mass gatherings back,” one insider said.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson said that so-called “vaccination passports” could be introduced for international travel, but would be unlikely to be required for domestic pursuits, such as dining out.

Read more here

Residents of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, wear face masks

George Russell in Hong Kong

Nigeria is evaluating four coronavirus vaccines for possible approval, including Russian, Indian and Chinese jabs, the government said on Monday.

The west African country’s drug agency said it was investigating Russia’s Sputnik V, the Covishield-branded AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India, Covaxin by India’s Bharat Biotech and China’s Sinopharm jab.

The health ministry said it had obtained a free allocation of 1.4m doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, of which 500,000 are expected by the end of this month.

Dr Osagie Ehanire, health minister, said the government had to choose from more than 50 “serious Covid-19 vaccine candidates”, including two developed in Nigeria.

Neil Hume in London

BHP, the world’s biggest mining company, announced a record $5.1bn interim dividend as half year profits hit a seven-year high on the back of surging prices for its most important commodity, iron ore.

Shareholders in the Anglo-Australian company will receive a payment of $1.01 a share, up from $0.65 this time a year ago, after what its chief executive Mike Henry described as “very strong” results in spite of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It reflects our underlying performance and confidence in the outlook,” said Henry, who took the helm of BHP just over a year ago.

Under its dividend policy, BHP pays out at least 50 per cent of underlying attributable profit to shareholders. Like its rivals Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Vale, it has benefited from surging prices for iron ore, the key ingredient in steel.

Shares in BHP have surged more 130 per cent from their pandemic lows in March, and it recently overtook Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever as the biggest company in the UK with a market capitalisation of $170bn.

George Russell in Hong Kong

Turkey plans to devolve some of its anti-pandemic measures to its 81 provinces, state media said on Monday.

The central government in Ankara plans to start the process by sharing seven-day averages of new coronavirus cases in each of the country’s provinces, the Anadolu news agency reported.

Dr Fahrettin Koca, health minister, announced the move after a meeting of the country’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board.

Anadolu quoted him as saying provincial public health councils, armed with real-time data, would be able to “take decisions regionally when necessary”.

Joe Rennison in London and Eric Platt in New York

The riskiest borrowers in corporate America are making up their largest share of junk-bond sales since 2007 as yield-starved investors hunt for returns and bet on an economic recovery.

More than 15 cents of every dollar raised in the US high-yield bond market has been sold by groups with ratings of triple C or below since the start of 2021, a Financial Times analysis of Refinitiv data shows.

The lending boom comes while optimism mounts over the prospects for US economic growth as the country rolls out Covid-19 vaccines and the Biden administration lobbies for a $1.9tn stimulus programme.

Read more here

George Russell in Hong Kong

Los Angeles is expected to prioritise second doses this week to ensure people are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, the city announced on Monday.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Los Angeles would receive just 54,000 doses of the Moderna and 4,000 doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines this week. Only 4,600 first doses will be available throughout the week.

“In accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the county public health department, the city will prioritize individuals whose second doses are due in the days ahead,” Garcetti said in a statement.

Since launching a vaccination programme in December 2020, Los Angeles has administered more than 315,000 vaccine doses — 90 per cent of its current supply.

“Our City has the tools, the infrastructure, and the determination to vaccinate Angelenos swiftly and safely — we simply need more doses,” said Garcetti. “Our density and demographics have made our region an epicentre of this crisis in recent months.”

He called for a “reliable, consistent supply of vaccines”.

With that, Garcetti added: “We can get more shots into people’s arms, bring down rates of infection, hospitalisation, and death, and defeat this pandemic once and for all.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department is coordinating the vaccination programme.

George Russell in Hong Kong

More than 142,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine arrived at Sydney airport on Monday in the first delivery to Australia.

This is the first shipment of 20m doses of the Pfizer vaccine that the country has bought, the office of prime minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

Australia’s drug regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, will batch test the vaccines before they are distributed.

Morrison said vaccinations would begin on February 22.

George Russell in Hong Kong

Moscow’s mayor said on Monday he hoped the city would be free of most restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus by May.

Life in the Russian capital has become more normal, with just 30 per cent of employees working remotely.

High school students have returned to face-to-face instruction, restaurants and clubs are allowed to be open until 6am, and some restrictions have been relaxed for operations of theatres, cinemas and concert halls.

Sergei Sobyanin noted that it is still too early to conduct mass events in Moscow or cancel stay-at-home regimes for elderly residents and people from risk groups.

There were 2,139 new coronavirus cases reported in the most recent 24-hour period in Moscow, barely down from a peak of more than 2,400 cases in October 2020.

Nearly 1m people in the capital have been infected.

George Russell in Hong Kong

The head of the World Health Organization on Monday urged vigilance and warned against complacency, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to trend down in terms of the number of new cases.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of weekly reported Covid-19 cases has fallen by almost half this year, “from more than 5m cases in the week of January 4 to 2.6m cases in the week starting February 8 — just five weeks”.

The WHO chief said the reduction was due to “simple public health measures … even in the presence of emerging variants of the coronavirus”.

“The fire is not out, but we have reduced its size,” Tedros said. “If we stop fighting it on any front, it will come roaring back.”

Israel will start easing lockdown restrictions, opening stores and cultural venues, after a rapid drop in new infections among its vaccinated elderly population. A coronavirus cabinet voted to reopen some venues such as malls to the general public, while restricting access to gyms, hotels and movie theatres to those who can show proof of vaccination.

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, has said he did not rule out the possibility that people could be given domestic “vaccine passports”. “We will look at everything,” he said when asked about the possible use of documentation. Johnson said his preference was to use a combination of vaccinations and rapid turnround lateral flow tests.

A woman in quarantine gestures from her room at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, near Heathrow Airport

The first passengers arrived in airport hotels in the UK to begin 10 days of isolation as tougher quarantine measures came into force aimed at limiting the spread of more dangerous coronavirus variants. The Radisson Blu at Heathrow was among hotels to take in a small number of travellers coming from high-risk countries on Monday morning.

The EU’s anti-fraud office has cautioned governments to be alert to schemes to sell fake Covid-19 vaccines as its member states attempt to make up for an initially slow vaccine rollout. “We are hearing reports of fraudsters offering to sell vaccines to governments across the EU,” said Ville Itälä, director-general of the European Anti-Fraud office.

Mitchells & Butlers, the UK’s largest listed pub company, plans to raise £350m through a share placing as the hard-hit industry presses the government to set out when venues will be able to reopen. The group, which owns the Harvester and All Bar One brands, said it would offer 167m new shares at a 36 per cent discount to its closing price on Friday.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, has been handed the same pay rise as staff across the company, in which he oversaw the launch of one of the world’s most promising coronavirus vaccines. Soriot received a base salary of £1.29m, annual bonus of £2.3m and payouts under a long-term incentive scheme worth £11.1m for 2020.

Dr Stephaun Wallace of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle receives a Novavax jab from Dr Tia Babu during clinical trials

Novavax, one of the unexpected success stories of the Covid-19 vaccine race, is about to finish enrolling its US trial in record time, bringing it another step closer to fulfilling orders to inoculate 50m Americans. The 30-year-old biotech — which has never before successfully brought a drug to market — has almost enrolled the 30,000 participants in its US trial.

PensionBee, the UK financial technology start-up, will enable customers to become shareholders under plans to list on the London Stock Exchange. In 2020, PensionBee reported a 77 per cent increase in revenue to £6.3m, with growth boosted as more people relied on online channels to manage their money during the pandemic.

Read More

Leave a Reply