Coronavirus live news: Moderna jab for under-50s in UK in April; Mexico death toll revised up by 60%

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Coronavirus live news: Moderna jab for under-50s in UK in April; Mexico death toll revised up by 60%

In Australia, unions are using the end of the jobkeeper payment to urge the government to lift the minimum wage, saying low-income earners will spend the money and help stimulate economic recovery. Calling the end of the government wage subsidy a “grim” day for workers, Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said she was concerned about the effect of withdrawing the pandemic support measure, with up to 150,000 people expected to lose their employment as a result:

Hong Kong says initial investigation of BioNTech vaccines shows no ‘obvious systemic factors’

Hong Kong’s government said an initial investigation by Germany’s BioNTech and Fosun Industrial into its coronavirus vaccine did not show any “obvious systemic factors” during packaging after use of the vaccine was suspended in the city and neighbouring Macau this week. Reuters: Authorities on Wednesday halted the use of a Covid vaccine developed by BioNTech citing defective packaging, triggering confusion in inoculation centres across the city.

The suspension came as the Asian financial hub has faced a sluggish take-up of vaccines due to dwindling confidence in China’s Sinovac vaccine and fears of adverse reactions. In a statement published late on Saturday, the city’s government said the investigation results did not rule out that the situation was “caused by environmental conditions during the long-haul transport process.” It was not related to the cold-chain and logistical management of the vaccine and random testing of intact vials delivered to Hong Kong did not uncover any issue of leakage, it said.

Both Fosun and BioNTech considered the vaccines to have no safety risks and people who have received them “do not need to worry”, the government said. The remaining part of the investigation will focus on “ascertaining the integrity of the intrinsic properties of the relevant batches of vaccine, and that the batches are safe for use.” The government said it was following up with Fosun and BioNTech to complete the investigation within a week to allow for a resumption of supplying the vaccines to the public.

The city started vaccinating residents with doses from Sinovac in February and began offering the one developed by BioNTech in March. The BioNTech vaccine is distributed in Hong Kong and Macau via a partnership with China’s Fosun Pharma, while BioNTech partners with Pfizer in markets outside greater China.

China reported eight new Covid cases on 27 March compared with 12 new infections the previous day, the country’s national health authority said on Sunday. The National Health Commission said in a statement that all of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 19 from 27 cases a day earlier. The total number of confirmed Covid cases in mainland China now stands at 90,167 while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636. The last reported death was on 25 January.

Updated at 3.45am BST

There has been debate over which of the two vaccines being used in Australia – Pfizer and AstraZeneca – are more effective, AAP reports.

“One of the things I would say to people about the vaccines in Australia, take the first one you are offered,” Jane Halton, from the national Covid-19 commission, told Sky News’s Sunday Agenda program.

“They are both going to do what we want them to do, which is to prevent severe disease and death.”

Halton is also co-chair of the Covax global coordination program that helps develop vaccines and ensures they are distributed around the world.

So far the program has helped to get 31m doses to 57 countries and the objective this year is for 2bn doses. She also warned last year of “vaccine nationalism”.

Asked if Europe’s response in blocking vaccines to Australia falls into that category, she said: “Absolutely.”

“Domestic governments have an obligation to protect their populations,” she said.

“What we can’t do is to have that done at the expense of the globe and vulnerable people right around the world.”

Updated at 3.41am BST

Half a million Australians vaccinated

More than half a million Australians have now been vaccinated against Covid, with the rollout boosted by the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in Melbourne. AAP: The first of 50m Australian-made AstraZeneca doses have been distributed and more will be on an ongoing basis, health minister Greg Hunt said.

He said the decision to produce the vaccine at CSL had ensured Australia was one of the few countries with “strong, clear” domestic supplies going forward.

More than 507,000 Australians had been vaccinated as of Friday – 329,000 vaccines administered in state and territory vaccination clinics, 97,000 in general practices and more than 80,000 in aged care homes, Hunt said.

“Our GPs have played a vital role in this expansion and have not only been vaccinating over the week, but many practices are continuing to vaccinate on Saturday and Sunday this weekend,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

Updated at 3.27am BST

Queensland authorities say man had not hosted party

Coronavirus live news: Moderna jab for under-50s in UK in April; Mexico death toll revised up by 60%

Queensland authorities say a man who later tested positive for Covid-19 had not hosted a party while he was supposed to be isolating, drastically reducing the potential for a cluster in the state to expand.

On Saturday, the man was said to have hosted 25 people while he was supposed to be isolating after receiving a Covid-19 test. But it was revealed on Sunday that only five people had seen the man during this period, and most of them were his housemates.

Queensland’s health minister, Yvette D’Ath, said it was “extremely unfortunate” that incorrect information had been circulated regarding the party, but she said the information had come from the man, a 26-year-old landscaper from Strathpine. There was one new Covid-19 case detected in the state in the past 24 hours, the brother of the landscaper, who appears to have had Covid-19 earlier and has since recovered.

Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said it was important to remain vigilant, despite the significant reduction in people identified as close contacts of the positive case.

“It’s far far too early to relax because we know our two current cases have been out infectious in the community for the last week.”

Queensland police say the landscaper was now believed to have not committed any criminal breaches of Covid-19 restrictions.

Updated at 3.28am BST

Brazil Covid-19 death toll exceeds 3,000 for second day

Brazil recorded 85,948 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 3,438 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said on Saturday, the second day in a row fatalities have exceeded 3,000. Brazil has registered nearly 12.5 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 310,550, according to ministry data.

Germany must suppress virus now or risk losing control, Merkel aide says

Germany must bring down coronavirus infections in the next few weeks or risk new virus mutations that are resistant to vaccines, and should impose night-time curfews in regions with high caseloads, said a top aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel according to Reuters. “We are in the most dangerous phase of the pandemic,” Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “The next few weeks will determine whether we can foreseeably get the pandemic under control.”

If the number of infections rises rapidly again there is a growing danger that the next virus mutation will become resistant to the vaccine, Braun said. “Then we would need new vaccines, then we would have to start vaccinating all over again,” he added. After a popular backlash and legal hurdles, Merkel was forced to ditch plans for an extended Easter holiday intended to try to break a third wave, but Braun said it remained imperative to reduce the number of infections.

In regions where the number of cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days is more than 100, he spoke out in favour of additional curbs. “That’s where regional curfews in the evening and at night can help, because we have the highest infection rates at meetings in people’s homes,” he said. Coronavirus infections have risen sharply in Germany in recent weeks, driven by a more transmissible variant of the virus and moves to ease some restrictions. On Saturday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 20,472, while the reported death toll rose by 157, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

Braun said he expected the infection situation to ease in May, helped by the impact of vaccinations and the onset of warmer weather. “By Whitsun (May 23) we will see the first positive effects – provided the situation doesn’t get out of hand by then.”

Australian state of Queensland records one new Covid case

Queensland has recorded one new case of coronavirus overnight but the infected person has recovered and aren’t infectious at the moment, authorities have said. The man is the brother of a Brisbane landscaper who tested positive to the UK variant on Thursday. Queensland police also revealed on Sunday that a man in his 20s whose positive Covid test was announced on Saturday did not host a party for 25 people while awaiting his test results as initially reported.

Instead he had contact with five others, “most” of whom lived in the same house.Here is the latest list of Covid hotspots in the state that were visited by infected people:

Updated at 12.44am GMT


Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

I’ll be bringing you the latest Covid news from around the world for the next few hours. Germany must bring down coronavirus infections in the next few weeks or risk new virus mutations that are resistant to vaccines, and should impose night-time curfews in regions with high caseloads, said a top aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Meanwhile Brazil recorded 85,948 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 3,438 deaths from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said on Saturday, the second day in a row fatalities have exceeded 3,000.

Here are the key recent developments:

  • Facebook has frozen Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s page for violating policies against spreading misinformation about Covid-19 by promoting a remedy he claims, without evidence, can cure the disease, a company spokesman said.
  • More than 150,000 people have died from coronavirus in the UK, according to a Guardian analysis.
  • Turkey has recorded 30,021 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, the highest number this year, Reuters reports.
  • Italy reported 380 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday compared with 457 the day before, the health ministry said.

    The daily tally of infections fell slightly to 23,839 from 23,987 the day before, Reuters reports.

  • France has recorded 42,619 new cases on Saturday compared with 41,869 cases on Friday, Reuters reports. The total number has surpassed 4.5 million.
  • Allowing international air travel without testing at UK airports risks reversing “all the good our vaccination programme has done“, an infectious diseases expert has warned. He called for efficient testing and tracing at airport and supporting people to self-isolate.
  • The Philippines will reimpose tougher coronavirus measures in the capital of Manila and nearby provinces, a senior official said on Saturday in order to fight a surge in infections.
  • Spain will require people arriving from France by land to present a negative Covid-19 test following a rise in Spain’s infection rate. The requirement will not apply to truck drivers, people who cross the border for work, and people who live within 30km of Spain.
  • Brazil‘s coronavirus situation is likely to deteriorate even further, experts have warned, forecasting that the nation’s death toll will pass the United States’ by the end of the year.
  • The World Health Organization says it has not ruled out any theory on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, despite one top official earlier this week appearing to dismiss the idea it had escaped from a laboratory.
  • Indonesia‘s vaccination drive will slow down next month due to India’s delay in exporting AstraZeneca vaccines, its health minister has said.

    India has temporarily suspended large vaccines exports as it seeks to step up its own inoculation efforts amid surging infections.

  • Ireland’s health minister has suspended vaccination provision at a private hospital in Dublin after it emerged that it administered spare jabs to staff at a private school.
  • NHS England has passed the milestone of 25m first vaccine doses administered across the country, after a further 344,008 people received a shot.

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