Covid vaccine news live: EU to reveal findings on J&J ‘clot link’

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The European Medicines Agency are preparing to present the results of their investigation into possible links between the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine and rare blood clotting cases later today.

Last week, Johnson & Johnson suspended its vaccine rollout in the EU after the US Food and Drug Administration recommended officials pause its use while the rare food clot cases are examined. Six cases of the rare clotting disorder were identified in the US, out of nearly 7 million people who were given the single-dose jab in the country.

Meanwhile, the US state department is to issue advice to Americans to avoid 80 per cent of countries worldwide, as the pandemic continued to “pose unprecedented risks to travellers”.

In a note to the media about its updated travel guidance, the department said this will bring it more in line with travel advisories from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and “does not imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country”.

Read more:


Israel and UK consider ‘green travel corridor’

Israel and Britain are discussing the possibility of opening a “green travel corridor” between them due to the success of the two countries’ vaccination campaigns, reports Reuters.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the issue was discussed at a meeting between foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi and UK Cabinet Minister Michael Gove in Jerusalem.

A statement from the ministry quoted Mr Ashkenazi as saying: “We will promote, together with the UK, mutual recognition of vaccines in order to allow tourists and business people from both countries to safely return to their routines.”

The ministry added that both countries had made “great progress” with vaccinations and therefore opened the “possibility of creating a green travel corridor” – although it gave no timeline for implementing it.

Last week, Israel said it would start allowing the entry of vaccinated tourists groups into the country from 23 May.

Kate Ng20 April 2021 11:30


Everything we know about the Indian variant of Covid-19

The discovery of 77 cases of a new coronavirus variant, which first emerged in India, has caused concern among scientists and the government.

Officials consider it a “variant under investigation (VUI)” rather than a “variant of concern (VOC)”, which includes Manaus, UK and South African variant.

Samuel Osborne outlines everything we know about the new variant:

Kate Ng20 April 2021 11:16


Everything we know about the Indian variant of Covid-19

The discovery of 77 cases of a new coronavirus variant, which first emerged in India, has caused concern among scientists and the government.

Officials consider it a “variant under investigation (VUI)” rather than a “variant of concern (VOC)”, which includes Manaus, UK and South African variant.

Samuel Osborne outlines everything we know about the new variant:

Kate Ng20 April 2021 11:15


Wearing two masks can double effectiveness of face coverings, study finds

Wearing two face coverings can nearly double the filtering efficiency of the masks against particles the size of the novel coronavirus and reduces the chances of wearer contracting Covid-19, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina found that double masking enhanced filtration by eliminating gaps and poor-fitting areas of masks.

My colleague Vishwam Sankaran has more on this story:

Kate Ng20 April 2021 11:00


Primark to repay £121m furlough money

Shoppers queue outside Primark store on 12 April in Stoke on Trent

(Getty Images)

The owner of Primark will repay £121m in furlough money claimed through the government’s job retention schemes and pay out a dividend to shareholders.

This is despite a dip in profits due to stores being closed for more of the autumn and winter period due to lockdown.

Associated British Foods (ABF) said in its 2021 interim results announcement that sales were down 17 per cent to £6.3bn and adjusted operating profits fell 50 per cent to £319m in the six months to 27 February.

But chief executive George Weston said the decision to repay the cash was a reflection of the company’s confidence that Primark will once again become “cash generative” as stores reopen.

He said in a statement: “With most of the Primark stores closed for more than half the period, the management team demonstrated operational agility in response to the measures employed by governments to tackle the pandemic.

“Primark sales after store reopening demonstrate the relevance and appeal of our value-for-money offering. We are excited about welcoming customers back into our stores as the lockdowns ease and are delighted with record sales in England and Wales in the week after reopening on 12 April.

“With our success in a number of new markets, as wide-ranging as Poland and Florida, we are as convinced as we have ever been in the long-term growth prospects for Primark.”

Kate Ng20 April 2021 10:45


IATA chief accuses companies of profiteering from Covid PCR tests

PCR swab tests are often required for travel

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The head of global airline industry body IATA has hit out at the high cost of PCR testing, accusing some companies of profiteering from the COVID-19 tests, and calling for the industry to challenge whether PCR tests are necessary.

“We’re clearly seeing evidence of profiteering by people who have jumped on the testing bandwagon” Willie Walsh, IATA’s new director general, said at an industry conference on Tuesday.

“The cost of testing should be significantly lower than it is. I think we’ve got to challenge whether PCR testing is necessary,” he said.

According to analysis, PCR tests could cost a family of four returning from a country on the government’s to-be-confirmed “green list” about £600.

Prices for the tests vary from £60 to over £200 but average £128 according to Abta. This is double the cost in parts of Europe, where the EU has agreed tests can be zero-rated for VAT and some governments cap the cost.

Kate Ng20 April 2021 10:30


Greece lifts quarantine restrictions for travellers from certain countries including UK

Travellers from more European countries, as well as Israel and the US, can visit Greece without having to quarantine for seven days if they hold a Covid-19 vaccination certificate or negative PCR test issued within the previous 72 hours.

The Greek Civil Aviation Authority said the countries made exempt from quarantine restrictions are EU member states, the UK, the US, the UAE, Serbia, Israel and non-eu members Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, who are part of a European travel pact.

Government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni said the new travel rules were a “pilot measure” as Greece prepares to reopen tourism services next month, noting that tourists are also subject to domestic travel restrictions.

Kate Ng20 April 2021 10:15


New Zealand airport worker tests Covid positive a day after world’s first travel bubble with Australia opens

A worker in New Zealand’s Auckland airport has tested positive for Covid-19, a day after the country opened the world’s first major “travel bubble” with Australia to allow quarantine-free visits.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the worker was fully vaccinated and had tested positive during routine testing. She said the worker was cleaning planes coming from countries which have a high number of coronavirus cases.

My colleague Akshita Jain reports:

Kate Ng20 April 2021 10:00


Putting India on travel ‘red list’ was necessary due to ‘upward trend’ in UK variant cases, says expert

Professor Sharon Peacock, head of the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK), has said that putting India on the “red list” was a necessary step due to an “upward trend” in UK variant cases.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons on Monday that 103 cases of the variant that first emerged in India – known as B.1.617 – have been identified in the UK so far.

The variant has 13 mutations, including two in the virus’ spike protein known as E494Q and L452R – however, Public Health England experts are unsure if any of the mutations mean the variant is more infectious, more deadly, or can evade immune responses.

Prof Peacock said more work needed to be done to determine if the variant should move form being one under investigation to a variant of concern.

But she said the decision to put India on the red list was an “important step in controlling further introduction of this variant in the UK”.

“The number of B.1.617 genomes detected in the UK has risen in the last three weeks.

“Even though this is at or less than 1% of the genomes sequenced in the UK overall, the upward trend in cases warrants action whilst ongoing uncertainties over the level of threat posed by this variant are evaluated,” she said.

“Public Health England indicated on Sunday that a few cases are not linked to travel – but the vast majority of cases have been in people who have travelled.

“Contact tracing, testing and genomic surveillance of people with Covid-19 will provide essential information on the extent of transmission in the UK that is no longer related to travel (community transmission), which will in turn inform public health actions.”

Kate Ng20 April 2021 09:45


Further lockdown restrictions to be eased in Wales next week

Six people from different households will be able to meet outdoors in Wales from Saturday and outdoor hospitality can reopen from the following Monday, the First Minister has announced.

Mark Drakeford said cases of new coronavirus infections continued to fall, but people making use of the eased restrictions would still need to socially distance from those from other households or support bubbles.

A number of other measures are also expected to be announced by Mr Drakeford on Friday. Find out more from Eleanor Sly:

Kate Ng20 April 2021 09:30

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