Hello and welcome to our continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, with me, Alison Rourke.
Before we kick off, here’s a summary of the top points so far:
- The French prime minister, Jean Castex, has warned the government will impose new Covid measures, including weekend lockdowns in Paris and 19 other regions, from the start of March if signs of the coronavirus accelerating persist
- South Korea has launched its vaccination campaign. The first injections of the AstraZeneca’s vaccine were given to nursing home workers and patients across the country.
- The Queen has said that getting her Covid shot did not hurt at all and urged those hesitant about getting the jab to “think about other people rather than themselves”. In the extraordinary intervention, the 94-year-old monarch, whose private health matters are rarely discussed publicly, marks a significant endorsement of the UK’s vaccination programme and furthers efforts by the government, NHS and other members of the royal family to address vaccine hesitancy across the country.
- One year after the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Brazil, the country passed 250,000 Covid-19 deaths, with the virus still spreading freely as a national vaccination drive struggles to gain momentum. The country is facing a new stage of the pandemic with variants of the virus that are three times more contagious, the health minister Eduardo Pazuello said. Among them a new variant from Amazonas state, which has caused international alarm and has been identified in at least 17 Brazilian states, in addition to variants first identified in the UK and South Africa.
- Israel is to put on hold its programme to send Covid vaccines abroad amid legal scrutiny, according to Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz, following criticism at home and abroad of so-called vaccine diplomacy after it planned to send token amounts of jabs to foreign allies rather than Palestinians .
- Amid criticism from members of the European parliament, AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot said he hoped to meet its “best efforts” commitments on the number of Covid vaccines the company could deliver in the second quarter, after big cuts in the first three months of the year.
- The African Union is backing calls for drugmakers to waive some intellectual property rights on Covid-19 medicines and vaccines to speed up their rollout to poor countries, but a pharmaceutical industry association claims managing the complex logistics of rolling out vaccines was what was slowing down jabs – although lower yields are hitting supply.
- Four out of five of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses delivered to EU countries are yet to be used on a patient, as the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, admitted to an “acceptance problem” among Europeans being offered the jab.
- Bahrain became the first nation to authorise Johnson & Johnson’s new single-dose coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, the government announced.
- Cyprus is to reopen high schools, gyms, pools, dance academies and art galleries on Monday in a further, incremental easing of the country’s second nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
- Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said that an independent panel found the company’s Covid antibody cocktail to have “clear clinical efficacy” in reducing the rates of hospitalisation and deaths in patients .
- China denied that it subjected US diplomats to Covid-19 anal swab tests following reports from Washington that some of its personnel were being made to undergo the procedure.
- The world’s largest brewer, AB InBev, reported that its annual profits were cut by half last year as bars and pubs closed around the world due to the pandemic, though it still made almost $4bn net profit as “consumers rapidly adjusted to the new reality by shifting to in-home consumption occasions”.