Coronavirus news – live: Vaccines push leaves half of England with antibodies, but new jabs ‘needed in a year’

Boris Johnson ‘hopeful’ of no more Covid lockdowns

Global leaders, including prime minister Boris Johnson, have said countries must coordinate to protect the health of future generations and deal with future pandemics.

Mr Johnson and 23 other leaders, including France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, said in an open letter that Covid-19 has been a “stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe”.

The letter said a treaty for pandemic preparedness and response will be needed to combat future health crises, adding that a “renewed collective commitment” would ensure “universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics”.

Meanwhile, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned of a “high likelihood” that coronavirus cases will rise as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased.

He said the “impact in terms of an uptick” should be “modest” if people continue to stick closely to the rules, by meeting outdoors only and practicing social distancing.

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Half of people in England now have antibodies against Covid, study says

More than one in two people in England are now thought to have antibodies against coronavirus, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In a sign of the increasing success of the UK’s vaccination programme in protecting the public from the virus, the ONS said it estimated around 55 per cent of the population would test positive for antibodies after a blood test in the week ending 14 March.

Our Health Correspondent Shaun Lintern reports:

Kate Ng30 March 2021 09:57

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Lowest number of Covid deaths registered in week ending 19 March since October – ONS

A total of 963 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending March 19 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – the lowest number since the week ending October 16.

The figure is down 36 per cent on the previous week’s total.

Around one in 11 (9.3 per cent) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to March 19 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

Kate Ng30 March 2021 09:49

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More than 110 million vaccine doses administered in China

China has given 110.96 million vaccine doses as of 29 March, according to data released by the National Health Commission on Tuesday.

On 29 March, the country carried out about 4.3 million vaccinations against Covid-19.

Kate Ng30 March 2021 09:22

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Most employees will return to office post-pandemic, says City of London leader

A City of London leader is confident that most workers will return to their offices after the pandemic, bringing back trade for cafes, pubs, restaurants and other businesses that are in the city centre.

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, told BBC radio there would probably be changes to the way people work as a result of the pandemic.

“What people are telling us is that they are expecting their central office base to remain at the core of their business with people coming in three or four days, working different hours, so we are expecting the bulk of the return,” she said.

“What it will mean in terms of the overall footfall, we are not yet quite clear.”

Ms McGuinness said developers were revving up plans for new buildings in the City, home to the giants of world finance.

“We’re already seeing in our planning applications a real surge of interest in getting office space in the City,” she said. “I think (we have seen) so far this year 80% of all the applications we saw last year,” she said.

“So, continued interest and continued commitment to that office space, but a different way of using it.”

Kate Ng30 March 2021 09:00

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‘Notoriously difficult’ to determine virus origins, says WHO expert

Dr David Nabarro, World Health Organisation (WHO) special envoy on Covid-19, said that it is “notoriously difficult” to find the origins of a virus.

“Finding the origins of a virus – when you’re trying to explain where a disease has come from – is notoriously difficult,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We don’t know the precise origins of HIV, we don’t know the precise origins of Ebola and it will take a long time to find the precise origins of Covid-19.

“We’re on the way – we’ve got four hypotheses, we’re testing them all. The research that needs to be done is known.”

He added: “It always takes much longer than people think to find where these things have come from.”

His comments come after the WHO’s international expert mission to China concluded in a report that Covid-19 “likely” passed on to humans from bats via an intermediary animal.

The hypothesis was deemed “likely to very likely”. The report, seen by AFP on Monday before its official release, also all but ruled out a theory that the virus was leaked from a lab in Wuhan.

Kate Ng30 March 2021 08:45

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Public concern about coronavirus ‘drops sharply’, poll finds

An Ipsos MORI poll has found that Britons have become less concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, despite it remaining the biggest issue facing the country.

The proportion who believe Covid-19 is a big issue for the UK fell from 72 per cent in February to just 49 per cent in March, said the March 2021 Ipsos MORI Issues Index.

A third of those surveyed see the pandemic as the single biggest issue (34 per cent), a decrease from almost six in ten last month (57 per cent).

The fall in concern is particularly significant among older and younger Britons compared to those in middle age brackets. Among 18-34s, the pandemic is mentioned as an issue for 44 per cent, 59 per cent among 35-54 year olds and 43 per cent among the over 55s.

Those aged 65 and over were among the least likely to mention the pandemic as big issue (39 per cent).

Worries around other issues have risen, such as about poverty and inequality, education, unemployment and immigration.

Mike Clemence, associate research director at Ipsos MORI, said: “This month’s issues index suggests the public may feel the end of the pandemic is in sight. While half still see Covid-19 as a big issue for the country, this is significantly lower than last month, when three quarters felt the same way.

“Concern is notably lower among older age groups, which may suggest the vaccination captain is having an impact on public perceptions – although worries are also lower among the younger Britons who will not yet have been vaccinated.

“Yet as concern about Covid falls we also see other worries begin to rise. We have recorded significant increases this month in worries about the NHS, poverty, education and housing.”

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Scientists fear emergence of vaccine-evading Covid mutations within next year

New coronavirus mutations could emerge within the next year that significantly reduce the effectiveness of the current Covid-19 vaccines, scientists from across the world are warning.

The failure to provide even and equitable access to the vaccines is heightening this risk by allowing the virus to continue spreading freely among some of the globe’s poorest and most vulnerable populations, the experts say.

Our Science Correspondent Samuel Lovett has the story:

Kate Ng30 March 2021 08:15

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Sir Lenny Henry pens letter urging Black Britons to get Covid jab

Sir Lenny Henry has written an open letter to encourage Black Britons to take the Covid-19 vaccine, signed by some of the most high0profile names in the UK, including film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, author Malorie Blackman and radio DJ Trevor Nelson.

In the letter Sir Henry acknowledges the “legitimate worries and concerns’” that people feel, adding: “We know change needs to happen and that it’s hard to trust some institutions and authorities.”

He continues: “But we’re asking you to trust the facts about the vaccine from our own professors, doctors, scientists involved in the vaccine’s development, GPs, not just in the UK but across the world including the Caribbean and Africa.”

My colleague Nadine White reports:

Kate Ng30 March 2021 07:56

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Boris Johnson appeals for caution as chief medical officer warns there will be an ‘uptick’ in Covid cases

Boris Johnson has appealed for the public to show caution when meeting relatives and friends in the coming days, as his chief medical officer warned that there will be an “uptick” in coronavirus cases due to the relaxation of controls coming into effect today.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the prime minister said that the graphs for infection among the younger age groups were “curling up like an old British Rail sandwich”, three weeks from the reopening of schools in England on 8 March.

Our Political Editor Andrew Woodcock has the full story:

Kate Ng30 March 2021 07:52

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Global leaders call on countries to unite in face of future pandemic threat

The world must work together in a highly co-ordinated manner to protect future generations against future pandemics, world leaders have said.

Prime minister Boris Johnson and 23 other world leaders, including France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, said in an open letter that Covid-19 has been a “star and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everybody is safe”.

They called for a new treaty for pandemic preparedness and response and said there was hope the world “can build a more robust international health architecture that will protect future generations”.

“We believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response.

“Such a renewed collection commitment would be a milestone in stepping up pandemic preparedness at the highest political level.”

It added that there is a shared commitment to “ensuring universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for this and future pandemics”.

The new international treaty would also look to improve cooperation across a range of fields, from systems alerting about potential pandemics, to the sharing of data and distribution of vaccines and personal protective equipment.

The letter said: “At a time when Covid-19 has exploited our weaknesses and divisions, we must seize this opportunity and come together as a global community for peaceful cooperation that extends beyond this crisis.”

Kate Ng30 March 2021 07:48

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