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Michael Gove minister says no final decision on the domestic uses of certification will be announced until 7 June at the earliest, when MPs return to Westminster from a week-long recess. He stressed it might not be introduced in time for the planned fourth stage of the roadmap, from 21 June.
Gove was asked to carry out a review of the potential for certification three months ago, when Boris Johnson announced his roadmap to reopening the economy.
Confirmation of people’s vaccine and testing status – most likely through the NHS app – was initially envisaged as a way of allowing many
Argentina reported a record one-day number of new Covid-19 cases of 41,080 on Thursday, amid a second wave of infections that has made the country one of the hardest hit in the world, pushing the local health care system to its limit.
The nation of 45 million inhabitants has so far registered a total 3,663,215 cases and 76,135 deaths, according to official data, making it one of the countries with the most deaths per capita along with neighbouring Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil.
Argentina began a strict lockdown for nine days on Saturday to get the virus under control. But the rollout of its vaccination program has been slower than promised by the centre-left government of the president Alberto Fernandez.
Current lockdown measures include a suspension of in-person school classes, a nightly curfew and take-out-only restaurant service.
The Covax global vaccine-sharing programme said on Thursday it needs $2bn in additional funding by the beginning of June in order to boost coronavirus inoculation programmes in lower-income countries, AFP reports.
“We need an additional $2bn to lift coverage … up to nearly 30%, and we need it by 2 June to lock in supplies now so that doses can be delivered through 2021, and into early 2022,” the mechanism’s organisers – which include the World Health Organization and the Gavi alliance – said in a statement.
“If the world’s leaders rally together, the original Covax objectives – delivery of two billion doses of vaccines worldwide in 2021, and 1.8 billion doses to 92 lower-income economies by early 2022 – are still well within reach,” the statement said.
“But it will require governments and the private sector to urgently unlock new sources of doses, with deliveries starting in June, and funding so we can deliver.”
Covax said it has already delivered 70 million vaccine doses to 126 countries, but faces a shortfall of 190 million at the end of June because of the “severe impact on Covax’s supply in the second quarter of this year … [from] the terrible surge of the virus in India”.
India’s Serum Institute is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, producing 1.5bn doses a year even before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Even though Covax will have larger volumes available later in the year through the deals it has secured with several manufacturers, “if we do not address the current, urgent shortfall the consequences could be catastrophic,” the organisers warned.
Covax welcomed the vaccine pledges made so far by countries such as France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates.
The United States has promised to supply around 80 million doses – the largest donation from a single country – but has so far not said how the jabs would be distributed or which countries would receive them.
Matt Hancock is under mounting pressure to explain why the UK government failed to protect care home residents at the outset of the Covid pandemic, as he sought to salvage his reputation after Dominic Cummings accused him of lying.
The health secretary claimed for the first time it “wasn’t possible” to test all care home residents for Covid before they were discharged from hospital last March, because the testing capacity was not yet available.
But the shadow social care minister, Liz Kendall, said that explanation “simply doesn’t stack up”.
“There were over 530,000 tests carried out in the UK by 20 April, yet they couldn’t test 25,000 people discharged from hospitals to care homes, after we saw it sweep through care homes in Italy, France and America?” she said. “The reality is, they wanted to free up the beds and they didn’t prioritise older people.”
She accused Hancock, who previously claimed to have thrown a “protective ring” around care homes, of changing his story to “wriggle out” of responsibility.
My colleague Aubrey Allegretti has the story:
Shipping Covid-19 vaccines to Africa is not just a moral duty but it is also in Europe and the world’s interest in order to prevent the resurgence of new virus variants, the French president Emmanuel Macron said in Rwanda.
Macron said France was on track to deliver 30 million Covid-19 vaccination doses to Africa by year-end, that Germany would also deliver 30 million doses and that collectively the European Union would deliver more than 100 million doses to Africa this year.
“To help Africa get vaccinated … is first of all a duty of solidarity, and it’s also quite simply …in the interest of all European countries, all the countries in the world,” said Macron during a visit to a vaccination centre in Kigali on the sidelines of a state visit.
He said that if all countries did not get vaccinations, the virus will continue to spread and develop new variants which then in turn may reappear in countries that have already vaccinated their populations.
“Therefore this strategy is not just a moral duty, but a health requirement,” Macron said.
The Covax facility, backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), aims to secure 2 billion vaccine doses for lower-income countries by the end of 2021.
The first winner of Ohio’s first $1 million Vax-a-Million vaccination incentive prize was driving home when she received a call about the good news from the state governor Mike DeWine, AP reports.
“A whirlwind,” Abigail Bugenske, 22, said on Thursday morning during a news conference. “It absolutely has not processed yet. I am still digesting it — and I like to say that it feels like this is happening to a different person. I cannot believe it.” Bugenske said she plans to donate to charities but then invest most of it.
The winner of a full college scholarship was eighth grader Joseph Costello of Englewood near Dayton. “Very excited,” Costello said as he sat between his parents, Colleen and Rich, during the virtual news conference. Although it’s a long way off, Joseph said he’s thought about Ohio State or Miami of Ohio for college.
Bugenske said she received the Moderna vaccine as soon as she was eligible, long before the lottery was announced. The Costellos said they were already vaccinated and had planned to have their children vaccinated by the end of the month, but the lottery announcement inspired them to move those appointments up.
During a scheduled visit to Cleveland, the US president Joe Biden said, “Ohio has a new millionaire! I tell you what, who wouldathunk it, a million bucks for getting a vaccine? But it’s working.”
More than 2.7 million adults signed up for the $1 million prize and more than 104,000 children aged 12-17 entered the drawing for the scholarship, which includes tuition, room and board, and books. Four more $1 million and college scholarship winners will be announced each Wednesday for the next four weeks.
DeWine, a Republican, announced the program May 12 to boost lagging vaccination rates.
The Ohio Lottery conducted the first drawing Monday afternoon at its draw studio in Cleveland using a random number generator to pick the winners ahead of time, and then confirmed the eligibility of the ultimate winner.
Participants must register to enter by phone or via the Vax-a-Million website. Teens can register themselves, but parents or legal guardians must verify their eligibility. The names of entrants who don’t win will be carried over week to week. The deadline for new registrations is just before midnight on Sunday.
“I know that some may say, DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,’” the governor said when he announced the incentive. But with the vaccine now readily available, the real waste, “is a life lost to Covid-19,” the governor said.
The concept seemed to work, at least initially. The number of people in Ohio aged 16+ who received their first dose jumped 33% in the week after the state announced the lottery, according to an Associated Press analysis.
But the same review also found that vaccination rates are still well below figures from earlier in April and March.
More than 5.2 million people in Ohio had at least started the vaccination process as of Monday, or about 45% of the state. About 4.6 million people are done getting vaccinated, or 39% of the state.
Nationally, more than 165 million Americans have started the vaccination process, or about nearly 50% of the population. More than 131 million are fully vaccinated, or nearly 40%.
Vax-a-Million is open to permanent Ohio residents who have received either the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or their first part of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccination.
DeWine’s proposal inspired similar vaccine-incentive lotteries in Colorado, Maryland, New York state and Oregon.
In Colorado, the Democratic governor Jared Polis said the state will have a weekly lottery for five residents to win $1 million to incentivise vaccinations. Colorado is setting aside $5 million of federal coronavirus relief funds that would have gone toward vaccine advertising for five residents to win $1 million each.
Africa needs at least 20m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine within six weeks if those who have had their first shot are to get the second in time, the WHO said on Thursday.
“Africa needs vaccines now,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa. “Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope.”
The WHO statement underlined the importance of respecting the recommended interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses to ensure a recipient’s prolonged 81 per cent protection rate.
“In addition to this urgent need, another 200m doses of any WHO Emergency Use Listed Covid-19 vaccine are needed so that the continent can vaccinate 10% of its population by September 2021,” the statement added.
As of 26 May the continent had registered more than 4.7m cases of coronavirus with nearly 130,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
The United States called on Thursday for the World Health Organization to carry out a second phase of its investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, with independent experts given full access to original data and samples in China, Reuters reports.
The US president Joe Biden ordered aides to find answers to the origin of the virus that causes Covid-19, saying on Wednesday that US intelligence agencies are pursuing rival theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China.
“It is critical that China provides independent experts full access to complete, original data and samples relevant to understanding the source of the virus and the early stages of the pandemic,” the US mission to the UN in Geneva said in a statement.
My colleague Peter Beaumont has put together this explainer on what we know so far about the animal host and lab leak theories:
Up to three-quarters of new UK Covid cases are thought to be caused by the variant first detected in India, as the reported number more than doubled to almost 7,000, Matt Hancock said on Thursday.
The variant, known as B.1.617.2, is now dominant in the UK and has been linked to a rise in cases in hotspots around the country. Data released on Thursday by Public Health England (PHE) shows 6,959 cases have been confirmed so far in the UK, up from 3,424 the week before.
Meanwhile, experts said the link between Covid cases and hospital admissions had been greatly weakened but not broken. Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, the health secretary said Covid cases were now at their highest level since 12 April, with 3,180 reported in the UK on Wednesday, but thanks to vaccinations the “link from cases to hospitalisations and to deaths is being severed”.
But experts say the link is not yet broken because only 44% of adults have received both Covid jabs and the vaccines do not offer 100% protection against hospitalisation. “You can see that in Bolton but you can see [it] most clearly in Scotland,” said Prof Christina Pagel, director of UCL’s clinical operational research unit.
The full story is here:
Good evening from London. I’m Lucy Campbell, I’ll be bringing you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic for the next few hours. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.
Here is a quick recap of all the main Covid related updates from around the world:
Canada’s prime minister said:
We support the call by the United States and others to better understand the origins of Covid-19. I know there are a lot of theories out there, but we need to make sure we’re getting to a full and complete airing of the facts to actually understand what happened and how to make sure it never happens again.
Update from earlier post:
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) statement did not identify which two of the 17 agencies constituting the US intelligence community believed that the virus had originated with infected animals and which agency believed it originated with a laboratory accident.
In both cases, however, ODNI said the agencies which did lean to one or the other explanation did so with “low or moderate confidence” – which in spy jargon means they believe the evidence supporting their view is far from conclusive.
Officials declined to discuss which agencies had voiced tentative views on the virus’ origin, Reuters reports, but stressed that a large majority of US agencies believe information is insufficient to determine that one scenario for the virus’ origin was more likely than the other.
The first group of foreign tourists in more than a year touched down in Israel on Thursday, after the government began opening its borders following a drop in Covid infections.
Small groups of vaccinated foreign tourists – up to 30 people – have been allowed to enter as of last Sunday, Reuters reports.
The ministry then hopes to expand the number of groups and, in July, allow individual tourists.
The US intelligence community on Thursday acknowledged its agencies had two theories on where Covid-19 originated, with two elements believing it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals and a third embracing a possible laboratory accident as the source of the global pandemic.
“The US Intelligence Community does not know exactly where, when, or how the Covid-19 virus was transmitted initially but has coalesced around two likely scenarios,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said, adding that the majority believes there is not “sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.”
France has reported that the number of people in intensive care units with Covid-19 fell by 124 to 3,206, according to Reuters.
The health ministry also reported 142 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals.