The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine appears to offer 100% protection against the South African variant and most likely protects against the Brazilian variant, according to two new studies.

Research published by Pfizer/BioNTech on Thursday offers the first in-human evidence of how the vaccine protects against the South African variant that has been worrying scientists.

The pharmaceutical giant said its findings show the vaccine is 100% effective in preventing Covid-19 cases in South Africa – where the South African variant is now common.

It comes as a senior EU official threatened British lives today by vowing to block all UK-bound vaccines from reaching us.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, said ‘zero’ AstraZeneca jabs made in Europe would be allowed to be shipped to Britain in the latest shocking development in the continent’s covid crisis.

Breton’s outrageous comments come after the EU accused AstraZeneca of missing its delivery targets by tens of millions of doses and breaching its contract with the bloc.

Last week the EU appeared to back down on threats to stop vaccine supplies to Britain as punishment, with the UK government insisting it was “confident” the supply line wouldn’t be affected.

Britain’s AstraZeneca doses are currently all produced domestically, and Pfizer jabs are imported from the EU.

But Breton’s vow suggests the EU may still go back on its word and attempt to seize vaccines we desperately need in the UK to keep our lockdown roadmap to freedom on track.

Thanks to our superspeed vaccine roll-out, Brits are looking forward to a summer of freedom as we now considered the best-placed major European nation to cope with the recently emerged third-wave of the virus.

France has seen cases triple since early February to nearly 60,000 cases a day, with doctors in overwhelmed hospitals forced to choose which Covid patients get a ventilator.

And today Pfizer accused the EU of delaying the supply of its jabs to countries battling Covid which are in desperate need of vaccines.

The EU’s crisis is also driven by its shambolic vaccine procurement scheme which is riddled with red tape and has seen France and Germany accused of prioritising their own interests ahead of smaller less wealthy EU nations.

On top of this shameless disinformation from the likes of France’s President Emmanuel Macron and other senior leaders means many Europeans are now too scared to have the vaccines.

There’s a stark contrast between the queues of Brits lining up for their jabs compared with vaccine centres in the EU that appear nearly empty as so few people are showing up to get their dose.

Read our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic

  • MINISTERS WARNED AGAINST INTRODUCING DOMESTIC VACCINE PASSPORTS

    Ministers have been warned against introducing vaccine passports in England by a cross-party group of politicians including senior Conservative MPs and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

    More than 70 MPs, including 40 Conservatives, as well as peers from the House of Lords, have launched a campaign to oppose the move which they say would be “divisive and discriminatory”.

    It comes as a report in The Daily Telegraph suggested a series of pilot tests for Covid passports were being planned which could include the FA Cup final and other sporting events in May, although Number 10 maintained any proposals were still under review.

    But a pledge, signed by Mr Corbyn as well as other prominent figures such as Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, Labour former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and ex-Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, warned the Government against bringing in the scheme.

    It has also been backed by a string of Tory former ministers including Esther McVey, Nus Ghani, Mark Harper and Harriett Baldwin.

  • FOREIGN HOLIDAY HOTSPOTS ‘WILL BE GRADED USING TRAFFIC LIGHT SYSTEM’

    Foreign getaway destinations will be ranked under a traffic light system, with fewer restrictions tied to the places boasting the lowest coronavirus rates and high vaccination take-up, it has been reported.

    Countries will be graded either green, amber or red, according to how well they are coping with the pandemic, it was claimed.

    Hesitancy towards the vaccine across parts of mainland Europe may mean that favoured continental destinations among British holidaymakers are deemed more high-risk than the likes of the US and Israel, where vaccination rates are good.

    Overseas holidays are currently banned due to the UK’s coronavirus lockdown measures, but Boris Johnson plans to make an announcement on Easter Monday about lifting restrictions in England.

    The Times reported that travel to and from so-called red-list countries will be banned, although the Sun newspaper said those arriving back in the UK from such destinations will have to pay to stay at quarantine hotels, as is the current set-up for the worst affected countries.

  • MATT HANCOCK SAYS HE’S ‘VERY WORRIED’ ABOUT NEW ONS DATA REVEALING THE IMPACT OF LONG COVID

    Matt Hancock says he’s ‘very worried’ about new ONS data revealing the impact of Long Covid
  • EMERGENT SAYS IT HAS DISPOSED OF SPOILT COVID-19 VACCINE BATCH

    Johnson & Johnson’s manufacturing partner Emergent Biosolutions said on Thursday that it had discarded the single batch of COVID-19 drug substance that did not meet specifications.

    J&J on Wednesday said it had found a problem with a batch of the drug substance for its COVID-19 vaccine being produced at Emergent’s site in Baltimore, Maryland.

    The New York Times reported on Wednesday that about 15 million doses were ruined, without citing a source.

    “Discarding a batch of bulk drug substance, while disappointing, does occasionally happen during vaccine manufacturing, which is a complex and multi-step biological process,” Emergent said.

  • BRAZIL REPORTS 91,097 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES, 3,769 DEATHS IN 24 HOURS

    Brazil recorded 91,097 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 3,769 deaths from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

    Brazil has registered nearly 13 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 325,284, according to ministry data

  • COVID PASSPORT TRIALS ‘TO START IN WEEKS’ AT EVENTS INCLUDING WEMBLEY FA CUP

    Covid passsports will be trialled in the UK this month – and Brits heading to the FA Cup Final and the World Snooker Championship will have to test negative first.

    A trial for the scheme – which eventually could allow bars and big events to abandon social distancing – will be unrolled within weeks.

    It comes as the Government forges ahead with the idea, despite a growing rebellion from MPs.

    The Telegraph reports that new details of around a dozen pilot schemes will be announced in the coming days.

    The FA Cup final, an FA Cup semi-final, the League Cup final and the World Snooker Championship are taking part, with the Brit Awards also in discussions.

  • POLICE WARN AGAINST LARGE EASTER WEEKEND GATHERINGS

    Britain’s biggest police force is warning people not to gather in large groups over the Easter weekend following an easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

    Forecasters said a “big swing” in weather conditions could bring gale-force winds and even snow to parts of the UK over the bank holiday, while parts of the South would hang on to warmer conditions for the longest.

    The cooler temperatures could limit scenes of revelry seen in packed parks and beauty spots around the country during almost record-breaking March conditions earlier this week.

    But the change in weather could tempt people to meet up inside, which is still banned under coronavirus regulations, except for those in the same household or support bubble.

    While groups of six, or two households, are allowed to meet outside, the Metropolitan Police said larger gatherings, including house parties and illegal raves, will be shut down.

  • PFIZER SAYS ITS VACCINE CONTINUES TO BE EFFECTIVE AGAINST COVID-19 UP TO SIX MONTHS LATER.

    Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, announced updated results Thursday from their ongoing late-stage study of more than 44,000 volunteers.

    The companies said the vaccine was 91% effective against symptomatic disease and was even more protective in preventing severe disease. Of 927 confirmed COVID-19 cases detected through March 13, 77 were among people who received the vaccine and 850 were among people who got dummy shots.

    There were no serious safety concerns and the vaccine also appeared to work against a variant first detected in South Africa, the companies said.

    The U.K. and U.S. gave the emergency green light to roll out Pfizers vaccine late last year followed by many other countries. The vaccine is authorized for ages 16 and up.

    This week, the companies said the vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as 12, based on a study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers.

  • POLAND HITS DAILY RECORD OF 35,251 CASES IN 24 HOURS

    Poland reached a record 35,251 coronavirus cases on Thursday.

    The Health Ministry says 621 more deaths were registered. The previous case record was 35,143 on Friday.

    Hospitals in the southern Silesia region have run out of COVID-19 beds and patients are being directed to other regions. The situation is also difficult in the central region, including Warsaw.

    The government has sped up the inoculation in the nation of 38 million and opened the registration of persons between age 40 to 60 on Thursday.

    So far, almost 6.3 million vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have been administered. More than 2 million are fully vaccinated. In Poland, theres been 2.4 million cases and nearly 54,000 confirmed deaths.

  • INDOOR HOSPITALITY COULD REOPEN IN WALES BY THE END OF MAY

    Wales could reopen indoor hospitality and all holiday accommodation by the end of May if Labour retain control of the Welsh Government, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

    Mr Drakeford said the “ambition” was dependent on Wales’ public health situation at the time and whether he was still leading the country following May’s Senedd elections.

    On Thursday he set out further dates for his road map out of lockdown, which included lifting travel rules and reopening all close contact services and shops on April 12 and reopening outdoor hospitality from April 26.

    Speaking at Thursday’s Welsh Government press conference, Mr Drakeford said he would continue a “careful, step-by-step approach” to lifting the restrictions, but wanted to allow people to “plan even further ahead” by outlining potential easing of measures after the May 6 election.

    Mr Drakeford said: “On Monday May 17, we will see the resumption of children’s indoor activities, the reopening of community centres and the resumption of organised activities for adults for up to 15 people, and that will be able to include exercise classes.

    “Beyond that date, our ambition will be for indoor hospitality and remaining visitor accommodation to be able to reopen ahead of the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May.”

  • ALMOST ONE IN SEVEN PEOPLE SUFFER LONG COVID, FIGURES SUGGEST

    Almost one in seven people who test positive for Covid-19 are still suffering symptoms three months later, according to new UK figures.

    The largest study of its kind on long Covid from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), found people with coronavirus are significantly more likely than the general population to report ongoing issues, which can include muscle pain and fatigue.

    Among a sample of more than 20,000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 between April last year and March this year, 13.7% continued to experience symptoms for at least 12 weeks.

    This was eight times higher than in a control group of people who are unlikely to have had Covid-19, the ONS said.

    Of those who tested positive, a fifth (21%) still had coronavirus symptoms five weeks after their test.

  • CHRIS WHITTY WARNS UK AT RISK OF COVID SPIKES FOR TWO YEARS

    THE UK is at risk of Covid spikes for two years – and travel bans to virus hotspots will be needed into the summer, Chris Whitty has warned.

    England’s Chief Medical Officer gave the grave prediction today – but said coronavirus will eventually become as manageable as flu.

    Read more here.

  • MEXICO REPORTS 5,381 NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES, 454 DEATHS

    Mexico on Thursday reported 5,381 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 454 more fatalities, bringing the country’s total to 2,244,268 infections and 203,664 deaths, according to data from the health ministry.

    The government says the real case numbers are likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently by the health ministry suggested the actual death toll from coronavirus may be at least 60% above the confirmed figure

  • NEW MODEL OF COVID-19 SPIKE PROTEIN ‘COULD HELP VACCINE DEVELOPMENT’

    New vulnerable sites on the surface of the Covid-19 spike protein have been identified by scientists who say their work could help in the development of vaccines.

    Coronavirus is studded with spike proteins that it uses to enter human cells.

    Covid-19 vaccines work by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the spike protein.

    Researchers in Germany have developed a detailed model of the spike protein to identify potential target sites on its surface for the antibodies.

    They said previous models have not shown the flexibility of the spike protein or the movements of the protective glycans – which they describe as chains of sugar molecules – that coat it.

  • DECLINE IN COVID RATES

    Case rates have dropped slightly in all regions of England, Public Health England said.

    Yorkshire and the Humber recorded the highest rate in the week to March 28, with 109.1 cases per 100,000 people, down slightly week-on-week from 112.2.

    The East Midlands had the next highest at 70.1, down from 78.4.

    South-west England had the lowest rate with 28.4, broadly unchanged week-on-week from 29.0.

  • CHRIS WHITTY (CONTINUED…)

    Prof Whitty told a Royal Society of Medicine conference today that Brits must “remain cautious for the next year or two”.

    After that time, it’s hoped, more vaccines will have been approved, while formulas can be tweaked to deal with super-infectious mutant variations more quickly.

    “Technology will find its way through this in the long run,” Prof Whitty said.

    “But there is a period of risk between now and then.”

    He said that if a variant emerges which has “unconstrained growth”, the Government must pull the “alarm cord” and bring back tough measures.

  • CHRIS WHITTY WARNS UK AT RISK OF COVID SPIKES FOR TWO YEARS

    THE UK is at risk of Covid spikes for two years – and travel bans to virus hotspots will be needed into the summer, Chris Whitty has warned.

    England’s Chief Medical Officer gave the grave prediction today – but said coronavirus will eventually become as manageable as flu.

    Read more here.

  • JAB SUCCESS

    Government data up to March 31 shows that of the 35,660,902 jabs given in the UK so far, 31,147,444 were first doses – a rise of 241,906 on the previous day.

    Some 4,513,458 were second doses, an increase of 404,922.

  • TURKEY’S NEW DAILY COVID-19 CASES EXCEED 40,000, HIGHEST LEVEL YET

    Turkey recorded 40,806 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Thursday, the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic.

    Cases have surged since the government eased measures to curb the pandemic in early March.

    On Monday, President Tayyip Erdogan announced a tightening of measures, including the return of full nationwide weekend lockdowns for the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on April 13.

    The total number of cases stands at 3.358 million, the data showed. The latest daily death toll was 176, bringing the cumulative toll to 31,713

  • WATCH: UK COVID CASES PLUNGE 27 PER CENT IN A WEEK WITH 4,479 INFECTIONS AND 51 DEATHS

    UK Covid cases plunge 27 per cent in a week with 4,479 infections and 51 deaths
  • ITALY REPORTS 501 CORONAVIRUS DEATHS ON THURSDAY, 23,649 NEW CASES

    Italy reported 501 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday against 467 the day before, the health ministry said.

    However the daily tally of new infections decreased from 23,904 to 23,649.

    Some 356,085 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 351,221, the health ministry said.

    Italy has registered 109,847 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 3.6 million cases to date.

    Patients in hospital with COVID-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 28,949 on Thursday, down from 29,180 a day earlier.

  • CHART: UK COVID-19 CASES AND DEATHS PER DAY

  • FEARS BRITS COULD FACE FOURTH LOCKDOWN IF MASS CROWDS PARTY IN PARK OVER EASTER WEEKEND IN STARK WARNING

    BRITS could face another Covid lockdown if mass crowds party in parks and gardens over the Easter weekend.

    Experts have warned the virus is still dangerous, as cops plead with parents to keep their kids at home after three nights of breaking up raves.

    The desperate request comes amid fears the sudden mingling since rules were eased could lead to a spike in cases and another lockdown.

    Flouting the rules and dodging social distancing could plunge the country back into tougher restrictions later down the line or delay the roadmap out of lockdown.

    Parks have been shut, booze seized and drunk youngsters escorted home by cops for the past few nights as hot weather saw Brits hit green spaces.

     

  • UK ‘NOT FULLY PREPARED’ FOR PANDEMIC – DR JENNY HARRIES

    The UK was not fully prepared for a pandemic of this type, England’s deputy chief medical officer has said.

    Dr Jenny Harries said more testing would have been carried out if tests were available earlier on, and knowledge about asymptomatic transmission could have resulted in a prompt recommendation to wear masks.

    Speaking at the launch of the new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), of which she is chief executive, Dr Harries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We were not fully prepared for this pandemic and, as I’ve said, I’m very happy to accept there is an awful lot to learn.

    “I think we share some of those failings with many other countries.”

    Asked if the initial response to the pandemic was poor, she said: “I think it had merits and it had things that we would wish to improve.”

  • DECLINE IN COVID RATES

    Case rates have dropped slightly in all regions of England, Public Health England said.

    Yorkshire and the Humber recorded the highest rate in the week to March 28, with 109.1 cases per 100,000 people, down slightly week-on-week from 112.2.

    The East Midlands had the next highest at 70.1, down from 78.4.

    South-west England had the lowest rate with 28.4, broadly unchanged week-on-week from 29.0.



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