Coronavirus news – live: France says UK ‘blackmailing EU’ on vaccines as Germany warns third wave may be worst

UK Covid-19 vaccinations: Latest figures

France’s foreign minister has accused Britain of “blackmail” against the European Union amid a row over vaccine supplies.

Jean Yves Le Drian said that the UK had resorted to “a bit of blackmail” because they cannot administer second shots as fast as the first round.

His comments come after European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen hinted that the UK aren’t being transparent over vaccine supplies.

She said she had “no knowledge so far of UK exports”.

Asked whether the UK had sent vaccine supplies to the EU, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick simply responded that vaccine shipments are the result of “complex international supply chains”.

Meanwhile, a top German health expert has warned that the country’s third wave of cases could be the country’s worst yet.

Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, said that 100,000 new daily infections are possible.

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Macron says he ‘won’t acknowledge failure’ over Covid surge

French president Emmanuel Macron has refused to apologise for failing to implement a nationwide lockdown earlier in the year, in spite of “third wave” fears in the country.

Mr Macron said that he doesn’t “have remorse” and “won’t acknowledge failure” as Covid cases surge in France.

“We were right not to implement a lockdown in France at the end of January because we didn’t have the explosion of cases that every model predicted,” he said at an EU summit.

“There won’t be a mea culpa from me. I don´t have remorse and won’t acknowledge failure.”

France has implemented local lockdowns, including one which encompasses Paris, in recent weeks and enforced an evening curfew.

Joanna Taylor26 March 2021 11:18

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Tough restrictions planned for UK cruise passengers

Cunard has joined MSC and Princess Cruises in switching their ships to UK waters this summer.

But holidaymakers aboard these domestic cruises will not be allowed to disembark at each port of call unless they are joining an organised excursion.

In normal times, the cruise liners would sail through international waters and passengers would be allowed to roam freely from each port.

But specialist arrangements are being set up.

The UK Chamber of Shipping has instructed cruise lines to set up arrangements with ports along their routes “to allow them to disembark passengers or seafarers with suspected or confirmed Covid-19”.

Other arrangements, like requirements that all passengers be vaccinated, will also be implemented on some boats.

Joanna Taylor26 March 2021 11:07

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Covid deaths falling in Northern Ireland

The number of Covid-19-related deaths in Northern Ireland has fallen for the eighth week in a row, according to new figures.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency recorded 15 deaths in the week leading up to 19 March, down by 17 on the previous week.

The statistics agency counts deaths by looking at death certificates, rather than by recording deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test like the Department of Health.

They put the total death toll in NI at 2,886, while the government puts it at 2,104.

Joanna Taylor26 March 2021 10:53

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TFL issues guidance on staying local when rules ease on Monday

Transport for London (TfL) has issued advice for when England’s stay at home rule is lifted on Monday.

The organisation says: “The government is urging people to stay local where they can and TfL is asking Londoners to consider walking and cycling by taking advantage of the city’s network of safe walking and cycling routes.

“Those who need to use public transport should try to minimise their journeys [and] plan for quiet times and routes.”

Quiet times are defined as 8.15am to 4pm and after 5.30pm on weekdays, and at weekends before 12 noon and after 6pm.

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Joanna Taylor26 March 2021 10:41

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More than 1 in 10 break self-isolation rules, figures suggest

Around three in 20 adults (14 per cent) who test positive for Covid-19 break self-isolation rules, new figures suggest.

The survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the majority (83 per cent) of rule-breakers left home to go to the shops, work or school during their isolation, while a minority (22 per cent) received an unauthorised visitor.

Joanna Taylor26 March 2021 10:35

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People could quit their jobs if they’re not allowed back to offices, Sunak says

Rishi Sunak has said that staff could “vote with their feet” and quit their jobs if British companies don’t allow them back into offices after lockdown.

The Chancellor told The Telegraph that the “spontaneity” of office life is unparalleled.

“You can’t beat the spontaneity, the team building, the culture that you create in a firm or an organisation from people actually spending physical time together,” he said.

Mr Sunak told The Sun that young people particularly benefit from office environments.

“Imagine you’ve just left college or university you start this job in a big company and you’re sitting at home on your own,” he said.

“How do you get to know your peers, how do you learn the culture of an organisation, how do you get those mentors, which are important for your career development?”

Some companies, like Nationwide Building Society, have announced plans to allow some employees to continue working from home if they wish after lockdown restrictions have ended.

Joanna Taylor26 March 2021 10:27

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UK vaccine passports ‘would not be offered until everyone has had jab’

Robert Jenrick has said that domestic vaccine passports would not be rolled out until everyone has been offered the Covid-19 vaccine.

He told LBC radio that the passports were part of a “wide range of options” being considered “in the longer-term, once the whole country has been vaccinated”.

Earlier, he told Times Radio that, if approved, the passport rollout would not happen by May, when some hospitality restrictions are eased.

Joanna Taylor26 March 2021 10:09

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Minister responds to Von der Leyen’s vaccine jab

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has responded to European Commission president Ursual von der Leyen’s comment that she has “no knowledge” of vaccine exports from the UK to the EU.

Asked whether the UK had indeed sent supplies, he told Sky News: “Vaccines are based on complex international supply chains.

“There are elements of the vaccines being produced in the UK, there are elements being produced in parts of the European Union and indeed all over the world – we are working with the Serum Institute, for example, in India.

“So it is critical for all countries that there is the free flow of medical products, including vaccines, across international borders and it would be very damaging if countries started to pull up drawbridges and prevent vaccines, medicines or elements of them from crossing international borders and the UK strongly opposes that.”

Joanna Taylor26 March 2021 09:51

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Mandatory hotel quarantine begins in Ireland

People arriving in Ireland from high-risk countries must undergo mandatory hotel quarantine from today.

Travellers from 33 countries the Irish government have deemed high-risk, such as Brazil and South Africa, must stay in a hotel for 12 nights on their arrival.

This could be reduced by two days if the person receives a negative test on day 10.

The cost per adult for this stay, including all services, is €1,875 (£1600).

Joanna Taylor26 March 2021 09:37

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Pub passports possible, minister confirms

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said that ‘pub passports’ are possible – but not in the near future.

Speaking on Times Radio, he said that the government is “taking to time to consider this issue carefully” and that the “work is happening” on passports, but denied the suggestion that it could be done by the time restrictions ease in May.

“Domestically, there are a range of issues we need to work through, that work is now happening and it will be reporting back later,” he said.

“But if we do go down that route, we don’t anticipate it being in the near term. … We’re taking time to consider this issue carefully. It is a complex issue.”

Joanna Taylor26 March 2021 09:21

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