EU will not block UK vaccine imports, Michael Gove says

Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

The EU will not block Covid vaccines headed for the UK, Michael Gove has confirmed.  Mr Gove, Cabinet Office Minister, has said it was made clear between Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen that vaccine supplies would not be interrupted. “We’re confident that we can proceed with our vaccine programmes exactly as planned,” he said.

“Last night the Prime Minister talked to President von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and made clear that we need to have the contracts that have been entered into honoured properly. “And it was made clear that that supply would not be interrupted so we can proceed with our plans and make sure that our so far highly successful vaccination programme can continue.” It comes after the European Commission backtracked on its move to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to stop the unimpeded flow of jabs from the bloc into the region on Friday.

There were concerns that supplies of the Pfizer jab, manufactured in Belgium, could be delayed entering the UK after the European Commission also tightened the rules on the export of vaccine doses produced in the 27 EU countries. The UK is scheduled to get 3.5 million Pfizer doses over the next three weeks. Mr Gove said the EU recognises they made “a mistake” in triggering Article 16 and the UK was on course to meet the target of 15 million vaccinations by mid-February.

5:29PM

What happened today?

That’s it from us for another day, here’s a roundup of today’s main events.

Join us again from 8.30am tomorrow for all the latest.

  • The EU backtracked on a decision to temporarily override part of the Brexit deal amid an ongoing row over vaccine supplies.
  • The EU will not block Covid vaccines headed for the UK, Michael Gove confirmed. The Cabinet Office Minister said it was made clear between Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen that vaccine supplies would not be interrupted.
  • Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster urged Boris Johnson to replace the Northern Ireland Protocol after the EU’s fiasco over vaccine controls at the border with the Republic of Ireland.
  • Former Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith accused Brussels of an “almost Trumpian act” by threatening to override part of Northern Ireland Protocol.
  • The Government said a further 1,200 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 105,571.
  • Government data up to January 29 shows of the 8,859,372 jabs given in the UK so far, 8,378,940 were first doses – a rise of 487,756 on the previous day’s figures.
  • Italy and Vietnam both announced the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • Portugal said on Saturday it only had seven vacant beds left in intensive care units (ICUs) set up for Covid-19 cases on its mainland, as a surge in infections prompted the authorities to send some critical patients to Portuguese islands.
  • India reported its lowest active number of novel coronavirus cases in seven months on Saturday, a year after the virus was first confirmed in the country.

5:25PM

Germany orders Covid jabs for 2022

Germany is ordering vaccines for 2022 in case regular or booster doses are needed to keep the population immune against variants of Covid-19, Health Minister Jens Spahn said today, amid growing frustration in Europe at the slow pace of vaccination. Speaking at an online town hall of healthcare workers, Spahn defended the progress made on procuring and administering vaccines, saying 2.3 million of Germany’s 83 million people had already received a dose.

“We are now actually ordering further vaccines for 2022, to have at least some on hand,” Spahn said. “Nobody knows if we’ll need a booster… With production capacities now being extended, we’ll order vaccines as a precaution. If we don’t need them, good, but if we do then they’ll be available.”

Some of Germany’s powerful regional premiers joined the chorus of criticism of the federal government on Saturday, ahead of Monday’s meeting of a new vaccination task force that will bring national and regional players around the same table with pharma companies and European Union representatives.

5:23PM

The battle to keep Antarctica Covid-free 

Tourists could return this year, but the experience will be very different, Simon Parker reports. Sub-zero temperatures, month-long snowstorms and icy underfoot conditions make Antarctica one of the most dangerous places to live and work on the planet. At the 70 permanent research stations, domestic quarters can be claustrophobic, and the outside fieldwork relies upon skis, snowmobiles and heavy machinery.  

Thousands of miles from the nearest intensive care unit, Antarctica has never been an ideal place to break a bone, have a diving accident or simply catch a cold. Supply ships try their best to arrive on schedule, but fresh food is rare, the winters are long and dark, and a vital medevac may be a long time coming.  Now – just like the rest of the planet – Covid-19 has made living so remote even more hazardous.

And while Antarctica managed to stay virus-free for most of 2020, an outbreak at the Chilean Bernardo O’Higgins research station at the start of December saw 36 soldiers and engineers test positive. With a six-month polar night now fast approaching, the rest of the continent remains on high alert.  Read the full story here.

5:15PM

DIY dentistry boom as coronavirus drives patients to self-treatment kits 

Dental patients have been warned against “taking matters into their own hands” amid a boom in sales of DIY treatment kits, surgery closures and fears over Covid-19, Sam Meadows reports.

Boots, the chemists, said that sales of at-home kits for lost fillings, caps and crowns were up by 87 per cent in the past three months of 2020, compared to the previous year. The products which proved popular included a “long-lasting” temporary repair for caps and fillings and a first aid kit. Dental surgeries are now open but are operating well below capacity because of restrictions on patient numbers in place.

Read the full story here.

5:09PM

Italy’s Covid death toll reaches 88,279 

Italy reported 421 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, down from 477 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 12,715 from 13,574. Italy has now registered 88,279 deaths linked to Covid-19  since last February, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the sixth-highest in the world. The country has reported 2.542 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with  Covid-19  – not including those in intensive care – stood at 20,098 on Saturday, compared with 20,397 a day earlier.

4:57PM

Italy approves AstraZeneca jab

Italy’s AIFA has approved the use of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, a source from the medicines regulator said. The vaccine, which received a green light by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Friday, is the third cleared for use in the European Union. The others approved for use in the EU are the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech and one by Moderna.

The Aifa source said the regulator recommended “the preferential use” of the vaccine in people between the ages of 18 and 55 years old. EMA had said there were not yet enough results for people over the age of 55 to determine how well it worked in that group. But it said the vaccine could still be given to older people.

It comes after Germany said the jab should not be given to over-65s. Read more: German response to Oxford vaccine is unfair blow for UK scientists and will cause needless worry

4:38PM

12.3 per cent of UK population receives vaccine

Government data up to January 29 shows of the 8,859,372 jabs given in the UK so far, 8,378,940 were first doses – a rise of 487,756 on the previous day’s figures. Some 480,432 were second doses, an increase of 2,178 on figures released the previous day.

The seven-day rolling average of first doses given in the UK is now 359,656. Based on the latest figures, an average of 413,816 first doses of vaccine would be needed each day in order to meet the Government’s target of 15 million first doses by February 15. In total, 12.34 per cent of the UK population has now received a vaccination.

4:26PM

UK official death toll reaches 105,571

The Government said a further 1,200 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 105,571.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 122,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK. The Government also said that, as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 23,275 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 3,796,088.

100,000 cumulative Covid deaths in UK4:12PM

‘We need a reset’, says Gove on EU/UK vaccine row

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said the EU has acknowledged it made a mistake in triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol and agreed a “reset” on relations is needed.

He told reporters: “I think the European Union recognises that they made a mistake in triggering Article 16 which would’ve meant the reimposition of a border on the island of Ireland. “But now the European Union has stepped back. “I’ve spoken to the European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic about this and we both agreed that we need a reset, that we need to put the people of Northern Ireland first.”

4:08PM

‘Supply that we have paid for, is going to be delivered’

Mr Gove added: “We’re confident, we have assurances, that the supply that we have procured, the supply that we have paid for, is going to be delivered.”

4:07PM

UK vaccine supplies will not be interrupted, Gove confirms

Michael Gove has said it was made clear between Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen that vaccine supplies would not be interrupted.

The Cabinet Office minister told reporters: “We’re confident that we can proceed with our vaccine programmes exactly as planned. “Last night the Prime Minister talked to President von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and made clear that we need to have the contracts that have been entered into honoured properly. “And it was made clear that that supply would not be interrupted so we can proceed with our plans and make sure that our so far highly-successful vaccination programme can continue.”

4:03PM

Seven Covid ICU beds left in Portugal 

Portugal said on Saturday it only had seven vacant beds left in intensive care units (ICUs) set up for Covid-19 cases on its mainland, as a surge in infections prompted the authorities to send some critical patients to Portuguese islands.

Health Ministry data showed that, out of 850 ICU beds allocated to Covid-19 cases on its mainland, a record 843 beds were now occupied. The nation of 10 million people has an additional 420 ICU beds for those with other ailments. The ministry said the number of daily infections was 12,435, dipping from Thursday’s record, while there were 293 deaths.

The Justice Ministry said on Friday its institute of forensic medicine, whose role includes handling autopsies for the police and others, had requested a refrigerator truck to preserve bodies as funeral homes were not able to take them fast enough. An association representing funeral homes said public hospitals were also running out of refrigerated space to preserve bodies. Some hospitals have installed cold containers to ease pressure on their morgues.

With mainland beds running low, three patients needing critical care were airlifted from Lisbon to the Portuguese island of Madeira on Friday, where the health system is under less pressure.

Portugal’s coronavirus crisis in pictures

A COVID-19 patient transferred from Lisbon arrives at Nelio Mendonca Hospital in Funchal, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Funchal, on the island of MadeiraCredit:REUTERS/Duarte Sa Healthcare workers in PPE stand outside a Civil Protection tent in the new pre-triage and triage area for COVID-19 at Santa Maria Hospital, Lisbon.Credit: Horacio Villalobos / Corbis via Getty A funeral worker wearing a protection suit places a sealed casket of a Covid-19 victim in the refrigeration room containing other caskets of coronavirus victims at a funerary parlor in Amadora, in the outskirts of Lisbon, on January 29Credit:PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP 3:41PM

Pakistan secures 17m AstraZeneca doses

Pakistan’s government has secured 17 million doses AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine under the COVAX scheme, a government health official said on Saturday. About 6 million of the doses will arrive in the first quarter of 2021 and the remainder by the middle of the year, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Faisal Sultan said on Twitter. Pakistan signed up last year to the COVAX facility coordinated by the World Health Organization to support lower-income countries in accessing vaccines.

3:19PM

Five arrested after fire at virus-hit military barracks

Five men have been arrested after a suspected arson attack at a virus-hit military barracks in Kent, where hundreds of asylum seekers have been living.

A fire that broke out at Napier Barracks in Folkestone on Friday has sparked a police investigation and a row between the Home Secretary and refugee charities. The barracks, which have been housing about 400 people, has been dogged by accusations of poor conditions and recently at least 120 residents reportedly tested positive for Covid-19. On Friday heavy smoke and flames were seen pouring from the military-owned site amid blaring alarms.

The Home Office said windows had been smashed and a building had been set on fire. However, police said that it would be “inaccurate” to refer to the incident as a riot and it was not being treated as such. On Saturday Kent Police said five men had been arrested, including a 31-year-old on suspicion of assaulting a security guard.

The force said no serious injuries were reported, however a “significant amount of damage” was caused to one part of the site by the fire, which is believed to have been started deliberately. Read more: Channel migrants set fire to Kent barracks after Covid outbreak

2:57PM

‘Caring and kind’ healthcare worker dies contracting Covid

A hospital in Wales has paid tribute to a “caring, kind and well-respected” healthcare worker who died after testing positive for coronavirus. Swansea Bay University Health Board said Helen Mills, 56, who worked in the minor injury unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, provided “much happiness and laughter” to her colleagues.

A statement released by the health board on Saturday said Mrs Mills, who lived in Port Talbot, had worked as a healthcare support worker in the unit since 2008. “Her colleagues at the minor injury unit described Helen, aged 56, as very caring, kind and a well-respected member of the MIU family,” the statement added. “She always provided excellent care to the many thousands of patients she met during her career.

“Her dry sense of humour brought much happiness and laughter to the team. Although her loss has brought great sadness to us, the memories of Helen will never be forgotten. “We will always be grateful for the significant contribution she made, and for the rays of happiness she brought to both fellow staff and patients.”

2:47PM

7,701,203 vaccines administered in England

A total of 7,701,203 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between December 8 and January 29, according to provisional NHS England data, including first and second doses, which is a rise of 437,886 on the previous day’s figures.

Of this number, 7,253,305 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 436,360 on the previous day’s figures, while 447,898 were the second dose, an increase of 1,526.

Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?2:34PM

Pressure mounts on Von der Leyen amid EU vaccine fiasco 

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, today faces calls to resign amid accusations of a “vaccine nationalism” Credit:OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP 

Brussels was determined to force AstraZeneca to its knees at the start of the week but by the end of it, it was the European Union which was left humiliated, James Crisp, Brussels Correspondent, reports.  Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, today faces calls to resign amid accusations of a “vaccine nationalism” and fierce criticism in her home country of Germany.  Mrs von der Leyen, who had taken personal charge of the AstraZeneca issue, badly botched the response to the pharmaceutical company’s failure to fulfil EU orders of jabs.

She had moved to impose a “vaccine border” on the island of Ireland as she stepped up threats to impose an export ban on jabs to Britain. At a stroke, she trashed the bloc’s reputation worldwide and sacrificed the moral high ground the Commission had taken over the Irish border during Brexit negotiations.  Read the full story here.

2:23PM

Further 681 Covid patients die in England

A further 681 people, who tested positive for Covid-19 have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 71,226, NHS England have said.

Patients were aged between 18 and 101 years old. All except 23 (aged 47 to 92 years old) had known underlying health conditions.

100,000 cumulative Covid deaths in UK2:17PM

PM ‘in awe’ of parents rising to challenge of lockdown

Boris Johnson has said he is “in awe” of the way parents have risen to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic as schools remain closed to most children. The Prime Minister wrote an open letter to parents, carers and guardians to say they have responded “magnificently”, with the Government having faced sustained criticism for its handling of education during the pandemic.

This week he said classrooms in England would remain closed to all but the vulnerable and children of key workers until March 8 at the earliest, having been closed since the Christmas break. Wales is planning an earlier phased return to school starting after the February half-term, providing Covid-19 rates continue to fall. In the open letter, Mr Johnson wrote: “Whether you’ve been welcoming a baby into the world without all the usual support networks, finding new ways to entertain a restive five-year-old when the soft play centre is shut and playdates are but a distant memory, or steering a teenager through the emotional stresses and strains of these unprecedented times, you have been dealt the trickiest of hands yet played it magnificently.”

Read more: 

2:01PM

Germany expects 5m vaccine doses in next 3 weeks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a government declaration on the annual economic report 2021 in the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, 28 JanuaryCredit:CLEMENS BILAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

Germany says drugmakers will deliver at least 5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to the country in the next three weeks. The Health Ministry says on Twitter that Germany has already received 3.5 million doses in the past five weeks and administered 2.2 million shots.

Health Minister Jens Spahn says the new figures for deliveries from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca were “good news after a difficult start.” Germany has given the first shot to about 2.2 per cent of its 83 million population. Nearly half a million people had received both shots by Saturday.

It’s recommended the second shot be given 21 to 28 days after the first. Chancellor Angela Merkel has summoned the governors of Germany’s 16 states, which are responsible for organising the vaccine drive, to discuss the slow rollout on Monday.

1:44PM

Janssen vaccine results show complete protection against death from Covid after one dose 

Britain is on course for its fifth vaccine after Janssen announced results showing its jab gives complete protection against death from Covid after just one dose, Sarah Knapton reports. The Janssen jab, created in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson, means five of the seven vaccine candidates backed by the Government have now succeeded. 

Although the jab showed just 66 per cent efficacy – far lower than other vaccines – nobody who was immunised ended up in hospital or died during the 28-day follow up. Read the full story here.

1:30PM

‘Wholly disproportionate’ to invoke Article 16, Philip Rycroft says

Philip Rycroft, former Department for Exiting the European Union permanent secretary, warned the EU’s move to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol risks lowering the bar for triggering it. He told Sky News: “It was wholly disproportionate to what they were seeking to achieve – it was unnecessary.

But it bears all the hallmarks for a bureaucracy that is under huge pressure, acting before it was thinking straight. “This is an indication there will be lots of stress points in our relationship with the EU in the weeks and months ahead. That’s the reality we face now we’re not a member state.”

Asked if it lowers the standard for invoking the clause, he said: “There is of course a risk of that. “There are concerns in Northern Ireland, there are concerns amongst British politicians, about how the rules are applied. “This will undoubtedly put wind in the sails of those who say the UK should be applying these safeguard clauses pretty early on.”

1:16PM

Couple tie the knot on Covid ward after ‘year of waiting’ to marry

Couple tie the knot on Covid hospital wardCredit:University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust 

A couple who have known each other for  46 years have married on a coronavirus ward in Coventry.

Phillip, 78, and Patricia, 88, from Coventry, tied the knot at the city’s University Hospital where Patricia is being treated for Covid-19. University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust said the couple had planned to marry after the pandemic, but after a year of waiting their plans changed and asked the trust to help arrange their wedding. UHCW staff member Joanna Shakespeare issued a call on Twitter for a registrar to perform the ceremony which took place on Friday. 

In a statement the trust said: “Thanks to our thoughtful staff, dedicated chaplains and Coventry Registry Office, the couple said “I do” this afternoon on one of our wards with Modern Matron May Parsons and Junior Doctor Leigh Anne Brace as witnesses. “It may not have been the wedding they imagined, but our amazing staff were able to add some much need sparkle to make their ceremony special by adding a few traditional touches, such as ‘new’ decorations, ‘borrowed’ rings, an army of ‘blue’ bridesmaids and, most importantly, an ‘old’, timeless love.”

12:51PM

Families could be asked to pay Covid funeral fines 

Bereaved families could be asked to foot the bill for any fines if a funeral service is in breach of coronavirus restrictions, it has been reported. The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) has told the BBC it is considering suggesting to its members that they ask families in some areas to guarantee to pay the cost of any potential fines.

The NAFD reportedly added an alternative option could be to arrange funerals with no family members in attendance. It comes a week after a funeral director from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was fined GBP10,000 for holding a service in breach of coronavirus restrictions. Under England’s lockdown rules, only 30 people are allowed to attend a funeral.

However Hertfordshire Police said a service held in Welwyn Garden City on Thursday, January 21 had close to 150 people in attendance. Superintendent Nick Caveney said: “We have issued a GBP10,000 fine to a funeral director from Mansfield for not managing this event correctly and advising their clients of the rules. “This was a clear and blatant breach of the current restrictions, which are necessary in order to protect the NHS and help save lives.

“We implore all business owners to ensure that they are following the restrictions safely and responsibly.”

12:32PM

European travelers to Iran must isolate for 14-days

Worshippers keep at a safe distance from one another due to the coronavirus pandemic, at the Saint Sarkis cathedral in the Iranian capital Tehran, during a mass celebrating of the Armenian Christmas, on January 6,Credit:ATTA KENARE/AFP 

Travellers to Iran from Europe will be required to self-quarantine for two weeks after testing negative upon arrival, a health official said on Saturday. Travellers from other regions, including neighbouring countries, will have to have tested negative before arrival in the country, Alireza Raisi, spokesman for the national coronavirus task force, said on state TV. Mr Raisi said travellers arriving from Europe should be holding negative test results, will be tested again and will have to self-quarantine even if their test is negative, state media reported.

Previously, people coming from Europe were only required to test negative. He did not say when exactly the new measures will go into effect, saying only “from now on.”

12:12PM

EU used NI to ‘cover up their vaccine omnishambles’, UUP leader claims

Steve Aiken, Ulster Unionist Party leader, has described the actions of the EU in a dispute over vaccine supplies as a “tipping point” and urged the UK Government to intervene to protect Northern Ireland. “The EU cynically and deliberately used Northern Ireland in an attempt to cover up their vaccine omnishambles with a political one,” he said.

“The EU’s actions show that they do not have our best interests at heart. Northern Ireland and its people have been cynically used and exploited as a negotiating chip by the EU and they will do it again in the future for selfish political reasons. “Therefore it’s long past time for the UK Government to step in to protect Northern Ireland’s interests.

“The reasons given by the EU for triggering Article 16 were unwarranted, however Northern Ireland’s are very real, including disruptions to trade and growing societal anger. “It would be a weak UK Government that would continue to sit on the sidelines as an observer and let its people be treated in such a manner.”

11:55AM

UK medics fly to Eswatini to help combat Covid surge

A team of medics from the UK’s Emergency Medical Team (EMT) is deploying to Eswatini in southern Africa to provide support and specialist expertise in hospitals that are battling the coronavirus pandemic. The team of 11, which includes four British medics, will fly from London Heathrow today to provide urgent training and clinical supervision to those treating patients critically ill with Covid-19.

As of 27 January 2021, Eswatini has a total of 15,051 Covid-19 cases and 522 people have died from the virus. The country has seen a surge of new cases and fatalities since December, and has limited access to testing and treatments.

James Duddridge, Minister for Africa, said: “Our UK Emergency Medical Team will save lives by using their world-leading specialist expertise and skills to make sure medics in Eswatini are best equipped to treat those seriously sick with coronavirus.”We stand by the people of Eswatini in the battle to bring this outbreak under control. This dreadful disease does not respect borders, and none of us are safe until we are all safe.”
11:38AM

How low paid workers are most at risk of death from the virus 

Care workers, hospitality staff and taxi drivers are among the workers at the highest risk of dying from Covid-19, amid concerns of a widening gap between rich and poor during the pandemic, Anne Gulland reports.

The latest mortality figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that, far from being a great leveller, among those of working age Covid has taken the biggest toll on the most vulnerable: those who work in frontline professions, are unable to work from home and are the lowest paid.  By contrast, people working in professional and managerial jobs and who are more likely to be able to work from the comfort of their own home are at the lowest risk of dying from the disease.  Read the full report here.

11:19AM

WATCH: 12 months on the coronavirus frontlines

When sailors return from long journeys at sea, the sensation of being rocked around on the waves lingers long after stepping ashore.

For doctors on the coronavirus front line, it’s the tinnitus-like thrum of oxygen support systems which outlasts each shift. “Ask anybody in this hospital to describe what Covid sounds like and it’s the hissing of high flow oxygen,” Dr Marc Mendelson tells The Telegraph from his office in the infectious diseases department at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. “These machines make a hiss, and that stays with you.

It’s almost like being on a boat and feeling a bit motion sick. When you leave those wards you can still hear it.” This weekend marks a year since the World Health Organization designated the spread of the new coronavirus as a global health emergency – the highest warning level under international law.

The 12 months since that declaration have taken a considerable toll on those on the frontlines in the UK and across the globe.   Sarah Neweyand Jordan Kelly-Linden spoke to doctors from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Argentina to reflect on the year gone by. Read the full story here.

11:09AM

96 tourists fined for breaching Covid rules in Austrian ski resort

Austrian police have found 96 foreigners from across Europe at the ski resort of St Anton am Arlberg in breach of pandemic-related rules on entering the country and the national lockdown.

The mayor of St Anton, one of Austria’s top resorts, said this week that dozens of young tourists from across Europe had recently come to his town and circumvented lockdown rules under which ski lifts are open but hotels are closed to tourists. “Among others Britons, Danes, Swedes, Romanians, Germans, Australians, Irish people and Poles were checked and fined,” the police force of the western province of Tyrol said in a statement issued on Friday night. The operation was carried out on Friday evening with 15 officers, and those found in breach face fines of up to 2,180 euros (GBP1,929), the statement said.

The police did not say exactly what offences had been committed but said the foreigners had breached lockdown and immigration regulations as well as the law on registering an address. Read more: French ski season ‘a complete write-off’ as Government extends lift closures

10:41AM

Man charged over suspicious package at vaccine plant 

A police forensic officer walks past a bomb disposal unit van outside the Wockhardt pharmaceutical plant in Wrexham, Britain January 27Credit:REUTERS/Phil Noble

A man has been charged after a suspicious package was sent to a coronavirus vaccine production site in north Wales. The item, which was not a viable device, is reported to have been received at the facility in Wrexham on Wednesday morning.

Anthony Collins, 53, was arrested by Kent Police in Chatham the following morning and has since been charged with dispatching an article by post with the intention of inducing the belief it is likely to explode or ignite. Collins, of Chatham Hill, Chatham, has been remanded in custody to appear at Medway Magistrates’ Court on Saturday.

10:31AM

In pictures: WHO team investigates vaccine origins

Members of the World Health Organization team leave an exhibition about the fight against the coronavirus in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province.

The team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic visited another Wuhan hospital that had treated early COVID-19 patients on their second full day of work on Saturday. Credit:AP Photo/Ng Han Guan Journalists huddle around a medical worker about to administer a dose of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 coronavirus disease at a clinic in the city of Blida, about 45 kilometres southwest of the Algerian capitaCredit:RYAD KRAMDI/AFP  Funeral workers wearing personal protective equipment move a sealed coffin containing a Covid-19 coronavirus victim before the cremation at Keputih crematorium in Surabaya, East Java, IndonesiaCredit: JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP10:15AM

EU criticism grows over vaccine row

Spanish foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez-Laya told BBC Newsnight on Friday the EU’s triggering of the Article 16 was “an accident”. But the bloc has continued to warn of further action, saying: “Should transits of vaccines and active substances toward third countries be abused to circumvent the effects of the authorisation system, the EU will consider using all the instruments at its disposal.” Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said “lessons should be learned” and warned the protocol “is not something to be tampered with lightly, it’s an essential, hard-won compromise, protecting peace and trade for many”.

The EU had sought to justify the measure as being needed to prevent Northern Ireland being used as a back door to move coronavirus vaccines from the bloc into the UK, “due to a lack of supply threatening to disturb the orderly implementation of the vaccination campaigns in the member states”. Regardless of the U-turn, French President Emmanuel Macron backed the EU seeking to “control” vaccine exports as he raised questions about a lack of doses being delivered by Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca. “It should be controlled because there is questionable behaviour and we will be receiving fewer deliveries that do not honour the contractual engagements agreed,” he said in an interview with media, including the Guardian.

Read more: Macron accused of ‘managing demand’ to cope with shortage of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

10:07AM

Vaccine rollout ‘puts a barrier in the way of the virus by mid-Feb’

Virologist Dr Chris Smith said the vaccine rollout should “start to put a barrier in the way of the virus” by “mid-to-late February”. He told BBC Breakfast this prediction is based on the fact it takes “two to three weeks” after having a vaccine for immunity to start to kick in, plus “a further time to consolidate that”. Dr Smith said: “Yes we’re making enormous strides, yes we’re getting the vaccine into lots of people, but we won’t expect to see it really begin to bite, I would say, for a few more weeks yet because as those numbers climb, and as people’s immunity builds, that’s when we’re really going to start to put a barrier in the way of the virus.”

Read more: How many Covid vaccinations have been given in my local area? Use our postcode tool to find out

9:52AM

Don’t delay vaccine appointments, experts urge

Experts have said people should not delay getting one of the coronavirus vaccines currently available in the UK in favour of waiting for a different version becoming available later this year. Prof Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC Breakfast: “I don’t think people should be swithering about which jab to get, it’s not like choosing between different consumer products, for example.

“I think we should recognise that if we’re offered an appointment, we should take it up.” Virologist Dr Chris Smith added that the newer Novavax and Janssen vaccines are not likely to be approved by the MHRA until “probably midway through the year”.

9:47AM

Saturday’s front pages: ‘EU chiefs behaving like the Mafia’

Here’s how UK nationals reported today’s EU vaccine row.

Saturday 30 January front pages9:34AM

Can the EU demand supplies from UK-made factories?

Confused about the EU vaccine row? James Crisp, Brussels Correspondent, explains the fall out. AstraZeneca’s British coronavirus vaccine factories should be treated as if they were part of the European Union, Brussels said yesterday, as its war with the pharmaceutical company escalated yet again. 

There is a clause in the contract between AstraZeneca and the EU that says that AstraZeneca’s two production plants in Britain should be treated as if they are part of the EU.  That is important because, if accepted, that would oblige the company to produce EU jabs from the UK as part of its reasonable best efforts.  But the relevant clause also stipulates that the UK should only be considered part of the EU for that section. 

It is arguable that that would cause the rest of the obligations on the UK plants to fall away but EU officials said they were confident that was not the case.  With the two sides divided on the interpretation of the contract, a lengthy legal battle in the notoriously slow Belgian courts looms, unless a settlement can be reached.  Read more: 

9:16AM

Brussels accused of ‘almost Trumpian act’

Former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian SmithCredit:ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/REX 

Former Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith accused Brussels of an “almost Trumpian act” by threatening to override part of Northern Ireland Protocol under its coronavirus vaccine controls.

The Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Years have been spent trying to ensure goods will flow freely and there will be no hard border and last night the EU pulled the emergency cord without following any of the process that are in the protocol if one side wants to suspend it. “And they did that, in my view, without anywhere near the understanding of the Good Friday Agreement, of the sensitivity of the situation in Northern Ireland, and it was an almost Trumpian act. “The relationships are complex, we need to spend much, much more time, much, much more money and much, much more resources in getting this relationship right.

The EU cocked up big time last night but we all need to work in the interests of preserving Northern Ireland. “It is not just a backdoor for goods going to Britain, it is a very sensitive place and we have a duty of care between the EU and the UK to preserve no hard border and stability in Northern Ireland.”

9:09AM

Worldwide coronavirus update

  • India reported its lowest active number of novel coronavirus cases in seven months on Saturday, a year after the virus was first confirmed in the country.
  • The Vietnamese health ministry approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first Covid-19 vaccine to be approved in the country.

  • The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 12,321 to 2,205,171, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday. The death toll rose by 794 to 56,546, the tally showed.

  • The Australian Open will be allowed to admit up to 30,000 fans a day, around 50 per cent of the usual attendance, when the Grand Slam gets underway on Feb.

    8, Victoria state sports minister Martin Pakula said on Saturday.

  • Lorry drivers will not be affected by France’s decision to close its borders to non-European Union countries from Sunday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said. French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the measure on Friday night, warning of a “great risk” from the new variants of Covid-19.

9:02AM

First Minister urges PM to replace protocol amid EU fiasco

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster has urged Boris Johnson to replace the Northern Ireland Protocol after the EU’s fiasco over vaccine controls at the border with the Republic of Ireland. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Brussels’ threat on Friday was an “absolutely incredible act of hostility towards those of us in Northern Ireland”, adding: “It’s absolutely disgraceful and I have to say the Prime Minister now needs to act very quickly to deal with the real trade flows that are being disrupted between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” The DUP leader reiterated calls for Boris Johnson to enact Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol over the shortage of some food.

“We’ve been asking the PM to deal with the flow problems and, indeed since January 1, we’ve been trying to manage along with the Government the many, many difficulties that have arisen between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and there are actions he could take immediately,” she said. “There is great unrest and great tension within the community here in Northern Ireland so this protocol that was meant to bring about peace and harmony in Northern Ireland is doing quite the reverse. “The protocol is unworkable, let’s be very clear about that, and we need to see it replaced because otherwise there is going to be real difficulties here in Northern Ireland.”

Pressed whether that would be in breach of an international treaty, she said: “Well it didn’t seem to bother the European Union yesterday when they breached the treaty in terms of their embarrassment around their vaccine procurement.”

8:54AM

WHO appeal to UK: ‘You can wait’ to vaccinate whole population

When asked to clarify whether once the UK has vaccinated the top nine priority groups, it should help efforts elsewhere instead of continuing its own immunisations, Ms Harris told BBC Breakfast: “We’re asking all countries in those circumstances to do that – ‘hang on, wait for those other groups’. “We’ll also appeal to all the people of the UK – you can wait. “Also, what’s going to save lives right now is bringing down your transmission, and what brings down your transmission at this stage is not vaccines, that will take a while to kick in.

“What will bring down your transmission are the things that you’re all working very hard to do: the limiting physical distance, limiting gatherings, ensuring you’ve got good ventilation, wearing the masks where you need to, and identify every person who’s infected genuinely self-isolates… all those things really do work, there are lots of countries that have put them in place effectively and made them work, and that’s what we all need to do be doing. “Rather than rushing to vaccinate one country, we need to be doing the lot and we need to be doing it together.” Ms Harris added that “we are in an extraordinary position” after having several approved vaccines one year on from when the WHO first described the spread of coronavirus as a “public health emergency”.

8:40AM

WHO urges countries to pause vaccine rollout after vulnerable get jabs

World Health Organisation (WHO) spokeswoman Margaret Harris said it is urging countries to pause domestic immunisations once their health workers and vulnerable groups have been vaccinated, as “morally” and “economically” the right thing to do, and because rollout “needs to be fair” across the world.

She told BBC Breakfast: “We’re asking countries, once you’ve got those groups, please ensure that the supply you’ve got access to is provided for others. “While that is morally clearly the right thing to do, it’s also economically the right thing to do. “There have been a number of very interesting analyses showing that just vaccinating your own country and then sitting there and saying ‘we’re fine’ will not work economically.

“That phrase ‘no man is an island’ applies economically as well. “We in the world, we’re so connected and unless we get all societies working effectively once again, every society will be financially effected.”

8:37AM

Oxford professor accuses Macron of ‘demand management’

Sir John Bell, a professor who is part of the Oxford University vaccine team, accused French president Emmanuel Macron of “demand management” over his claims the AstraZeneca vaccine is “quasi-ineffective” for the over-65s. The professor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m not sure where he got that from.”

He acknowledged its original study only had small numbers of elderly people, with many shielding themselves from the pandemic, but added: “The numbers still pointed toward a very highly effective vaccine but the numbers were small, in fairness, we always accepted that.” But he said other studies proved “elderly people responded just as well in other age groups” and that “there’s really persuasive evidence that this is a protective vaccine in those populations”. “I suspect this is a bit of demand management from Mr Macron,” he added.

Pressed if he thinks he is trying to reduce demand, Sir John said: “Well, if he didn’t have any vaccine the best thing you could do is reduce demand.” Read more: Fury at Emmanuel Macron’s ‘nonsense’ claims about Oxford Covid vaccine

7:41AM

Brussels accused of ‘almost Trumpian act’ over NI vaccine threat

Former Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith accused Brussels of an “almost Trumpian act” by threatening to override part of Northern Ireland Protocol under its coronavirus vaccine controls. The Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Years have been spent trying to ensure goods will flow freely and there will be no hard border and last night the EU pulled the emergency cord without following any of the process that are in the protocol if one side wants to suspend it.

“And they did that, in my view, without anywhere near the understanding of the Good Friday Agreement, of the sensitivity of the situation in Northern Ireland, and it was an almost Trumpian act. “The relationships are complex, we need to spend much, much more time, much, much more money and much, much more resources in getting this relationship right. The EU cocked up big time last night but we all need to work in the interests of preserving Northern Ireland.

“It is not just a backdoor for goods going to Britain, it is a very sensitive place and we have a duty of care between the EU and the UK to preserve no hard border and stability in Northern Ireland.” Read more: EU threatens war-time occupation of vaccine makers as AstraZeneca crisis spirals

7:25AM

Taiwan reports first Covid death since May

Taiwan’s government on Saturday reported the island’s first death from Covid-19 since May, as it battles a small and unusual outbreak of locally transmitted cases. A woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions died after being infected with the coronavirus as part of a domestic cluster connected to a hospital, said Health Minister Chen Shih-chung.

The new outbreak has infected 19 people since the start of the month, centring on a hospital in the northern city of Taoyuan. Mr Chen, reporting four new cases from the hospital cluster, announced the death, bringing to eight the total number of deaths in Taiwan from the pandemic.

Cases, deaths and vaccinations, coronavirus world map5:54AM

US makes masks mandatory on public transport 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a sweeping order late Friday requiring the use of face masks on nearly all forms of public transportation Monday as the country continues to report thousands of daily Covid-19 deaths. The order, which takes effect at 11:59 p.m.

EST on Monday (0459 GMT Tuesday), requires face masks to be worn by all travellers on airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares and at transportation hubs like airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations and seaports. Read more: What executive orders has President Joe Biden signed?

5:11AM

Migrants set fire to Kent barracks after Covid outbreak

Channel migrants have set fire to their Kent barracks. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, called the fire an “appalling” incident which is “offensive to taxpayers”.

The asylum seekers set fire to one of the blocks at Napier Barracks, near Folkestone in Kent, in protest at their treatment after an outbreak of Covid-19 at the base. In what one source described as a near riot, they initially barricaded staff into a room and blocked entrances before starting the fire, which led to eight fire engines being sent by Kent fire and rescue service. Read the full story

3:46AM

WHO visit second Wuhan hospital in virus probe

Members of a World Health Organisation team investigating the origins of the pandemic visited another Wuhan hospital that had treated early Covid-19 patients on their second full day of work on Saturday.

Jinyantan Hospital was one of the city’s first to deal with patients in early 2020 suffering from a then-unknown virus and is a key part of the epidemiological history of the disease. The team’s first face-to-face meetings with Chinese scientists took place on Friday, before the experts who specialise in animal health, virology, food safety and epidemiology visited another early site of the outbreak, the Hubei Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine Hospital.

The team plans to visit hospitals, laboratories and markets. Field visits will include the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Huanan market, Wuhan CDC laboratory.

They will speak with early responders and some of the first #COVID19 patients.https://t.co/Owd6GEBoAj

— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 28, 2021
3:13AM

Mexico plans to import AstraZeneca vaccine from India

Mexico plans to import about 870,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from India in February, as well as producing it locally, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday. Mexico and Argentina have a deal with AstraZeneca to produce its vaccine for distribution in Latin America, with financial support from the foundation of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

“We are also getting AstraZeneca vaccines, apart from the agreement we have with them – these vaccines are being made here in Mexico – we will bring AstraZeneca from India,” Mr Lopez Obrador said in a video broadcast on social media.

Meanwhile, deliveries of Pfizer’s vaccine to Mexico would “very probably” resume on Feb 10, LMr opez Obrador said, after global delivery delays by the US company. Mexico was expecting about 1.5 million doses from Pfizer, he noted.

Read more: Delaying second jab could help fight against new variant

A baby Jesus figurine available for sale in Mexico City ahead of celebrations of Candlemas Day. Vendors said that some customers want a way to give thanks for family members having overcome the virus.Credit:AP2:24AM

 Australian Open allowing up to 30,000 fans a day

The Australian Open will be allowed to admit up to 30,000 fans a day, around 50 per cent of the usual attendance, when the Grand Slam gets underway on Feb 8, Victoria state sports minister Martin Pakula said on Saturday. The limit will be reduced to 25,000 over the last five days of the tournament when there are fewer matches, but Mr Pakula said the announcement would ensure some of the biggest crowds for a sporting event since the beginning of the pandemic.

“It’ll mean that over the 14 days, we will have up to 390,000 people here at Melbourne Park and that’s about 50 per cent of the average over the last three years,” he said.c”It will not be the same as the last few years but it will be the most significant international event with crowds that the world has seen in many, many months.”

Read more: Djokovic and Williams play in controversial Australian Open warm-up event

2:18AM

Colombia reaches vaccine agreements with Moderna and Sinovac Biotech

Colombia has reached agreements for doses of developed by Moderna and Sinovac Biotech and plans to begin a mass vaccination campaign on Feb 20, President Ivan Duque said on Friday.

The Andean country’s government aims have at least 1 million people vaccinated by the end of March, Mr Duque added. Colombia, a country of about 50 million people, hopes to vaccinate some 34 million people in a bid to achieve herd immunity. Colombia previously announced agreements to secure 10 million doses each of vaccines developed by Pfizer and AstraZeneca, as well as 9 million doses of a vaccine developed by Janssen.

It also has secured 20 million doses of vaccines via the COVAX mechanism backed by the World Health Organisation. Read more: Janssen vaccine results show complete protection against death after one dose

1:30AM

Canada tightens travel restrictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced stricter restrictions on travellers in response to new, likely more contagious variants – including making it mandatory for travellers to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense when they arrive in Canada and suspending airline service to Mexico and all Caribbean destinations until April 30. Mr Trudeau said in addition to the pre-boarding test Canada already requires, the government will be introducing mandatory PCR testing at the airport for people returning to Canada.

“Travellers will then have to wait for up to three days at an approved hotel for their test results, at their own expense, which is expected to be more than £2,000,” Mr Trudeau said. “Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement.”

He said the measure will be take effect “in the coming weeks”.

Read more: Full ‘red list’ of countries from which UK arrivals face mandatory hotel quarantine

1:27AM

Pfizer resuming vaccine shipments to Panama

Pfizer has informed Panama that shipments of its Covid-19 vaccine will resume to the Central American country the week of Feb 15, the Panamanian foreign minister said on Friday. Pfizer will deliver 450,000 doses in the first quarter of the year, said Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes. Panama’s first batch of Pfizer vaccines on Jan 20 was fewer than expected due to global delays by the company. 

Read more: Recovery hinges on swift vaccinations here and for all

The president of the Club Rotario of Panama presents a face shield with an iconic Panamian ‘red devils’ bus design on it in Panama CityCredit:BIENVENIDO VELASCO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock1:22AM

Vietnam approves AstraZeneca vaccine

Vietnam’s health ministry approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for domestic inoculation, the first coronavirus vaccine to be approved in the country, the government said on Saturday as it battles its biggest outbreak yet. Vietnam reported 34 new infections early on Saturday in its latest coronavirus outbreak, and seeks to accelerate procurement of vaccines. Of the new cases, 32 were detected in Hai Duong province, the epicentre, and two in neighbouring Quang Ninh province, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

It added that the country has recorded more than 1,700 cases since the disease was detected a year ago, including 873 locally transmitted infections. Previously, Vietnam said it was in talks to procure 30 million doses of vaccine made by AstraZeneca. Late on Friday, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Vietnam must have a vaccine within the first quarter.

Read more: Vietnam braces for Covid surge as UK variant is detected in fresh outbreak

A car is driven through disinfectant mist to enter the venue of Vietnam Communist party congress in HanoiCredit:AP1:08AM

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