Covid news: R rate could be 1 in England, as medics put ‘on alert’ to blood clots post-vaccine

Coronavirus in numbers

The R rate for coronavirus – which refers to the rate at which the virus spreads – could now be at 1 across England, according to the government’s scientific advisors, who increased their estimates by 0.1 this week in a second successive rise.

Meanwhile, the British Society for Haematology has issued guidance telling doctors to be “on alert” to a rare blood clotting condition, after the MHRA said 30 recipients of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have been affected by it in the UK.

There is not yet any confirmed link between the jab and the blood clotting problem, and with 18 million people having received first doses of the vaccine in the UK, any link would be extremely rare and the vaccine still deemed safe.

And ahead of the Easter weekend, prime minister Boris Johnson has urged the public not to meet indoors, even if they have been vaccinated – “because we’re not yet at that stage”.

“We’re still very much in a world where you can meet friends and family outdoors under the rule of six or two households. And even though your friends and family members may be vaccinated, the vaccines are not giving 100 per cent protection, and that’s why we just need to be cautious.”

It comes amid rebellion from MPs over the potential use of vaccine passports, which have been branded “divisive and discriminatory”.

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Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s liveblog following the latest updates in the coronavirus pandemic.

Kate Ng2 April 2021 09:18

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Covid warning from police amid fears new rules ‘almost impossible’ to enforce

Police chiefs have warned that enforcing new lockdown rules may be “almost impossible” ahead of a long Easter weekend which is likely to see people across the country meeting outdoors.

The easing of tight lockdown restrictions after three months led to vast crowds gathering together on beaches and in parks across England this week, drawn out by new freedoms and balmy temperatures.

National Police Chiefs’ Council chair Martin Hewitt described some of the rule-breaking scenes as “disgraceful” and said officers were still encountering garden parties involving dozens of people.

My colleagues Andy Gregory and Vincent Wood have the story:

Kate Ng2 April 2021 09:26

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Professor Chris Whitty recalls ‘several really dangerous misses’ at start of vaccine rollout

Chris Whitty has spoken of “several really dangerous near misses” on the first day of the rollout of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine which led to changes in procedures when jabs are given.

England’s chief medical officer said the “severe near-miss anaphylactic reactions” led to a 15-minute monitoring period being introduced after each jab.

He also predicted a “wide portfolio” of coronavirus vaccines could be available in two years but warned caution over the virus would be needed in the meantime due to the threat of new variants.

Zoe Tidman reports:

Kate Ng2 April 2021 09:30

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Cross-party group of 70 MPs warn against ‘divisive and discriminatory’ domestic vaccine passports

A cross-party group of over 70 MPs have launched a campaign against domestic vaccine passports, branding them “divisive and discriminatory”.

Politicians including Libera. Democrat Ed Davey and Tory 1922 committee chair Graham Brady said the certificates should not be used to “deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs”.

The launch of the campaign comes just days before Michael Gove is expected to announce the results of the government’s review into whether such documents should become a reality, reports our Policy Correspondent Jon Stone.

Read more about it:

Kate Ng2 April 2021 09:45

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Vaccine passports could ‘scupper things’ for hospitality venues, says industry chief

Introducing vaccine passports could potentially “scupper things” for hospitality venues who are trying to reopen, according to Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association.

On whether life could be made easier for businesses by vaccine passports as it could mean there is no need for them to track and trace, she told BBC Breakfast: “This would be an additional burden put on to the pubs. We are desperate to get back open again. We are desperate to do that.

“We will play our part in test and trace but the additional burden of the vaccine passport could really, really scupper things.

“It could make it feel that we are discriminating against sections of the population that have not been offered a vaccination or are unable to have one like pregnant women or a grandad who is probably going to forget his actual vaccine passport because he does not have it on his smartphone.

“It is a difficult process for us to implement in venue and yet today we have not had a consultation with the Government about how we would do this in pubs.”

Kate Ng2 April 2021 09:50

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UK unlikely to experience third wave of infections, says expert

A leading expert in public health has said that the UK is not likely to see a third wave of Covid-19 infections on the scale of that which is currently sweeping through Europe.

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told Times Radio: “I think we are in a very different position for two main reasons – the first one is that they are dealing with the B117 (variant) which unfortunately we exported to them and caused us huge challenges – still does – but much more in the winter.”

She continued: “More importantly, 11.6 per cent of citizens in the EU on average have been given their first dose of the vaccine – that’s all people, not just all adults – compared to over 40 per cent of people in the UK, so you can see they are in a different place than we are.”

Kate Ng2 April 2021 10:00

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UK regulator found 30 blood clot cases after AstrasZeneca vaccine used

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it had identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine – out of 18.1 million doses administered up to and including March 24.

The agency said there were no reports for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but stressed the risk associated with this type of blood clot is “very small” and the benefits of the vaccines against Covid-19 “continue to outweigh any risks”.

Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), reiterated MHRA’s stance on the AstraZeneca vaccine.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday: “I think one thing we can say at this moment is that the benefits (of the vaccine) outweigh the risk.

“As things stand, the risks of Covid, and of blood clots indeed caused by Covid, are massively greater than the risks that may conceivably exist as a result of receiving this vaccine.

“We are in a state of uncertainty at this point about all of this. We don’t know for sure about the causal relationship. And we don’t really know, critically, what the mechanism is and so what implication that might have even for other vaccines.”

Many vaccines currently in use “do have very rare, unexpected serious side effects but we still use them because the balance of risk and benefit is greatly in favour of using them,” he added.

“It could turn out that that’s the case for either one or even more than one of the vaccines we’ve developed against Covid. So, it is always in the end a matter of balancing risk and benefit.

“Just as we all get up in the morning and go to work and take a mortal risk … we find that acceptable because we might die in a car accident or be knocked down by a bus. We have to get used to the idea that using vaccines and drugs and medicines is not without risk, but they’re very, very small risks, and the risks of not using them is obviously much greater.”

Kate Ng2 April 2021 10:15

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Everything you need to know about vaccine passports

As the EU sets out details of its “Digital Green Certificate” and the UK government is expected to announce results from its review into vaccine passports, such documentation has been a controversial subject of debate in recent weeks.

Our Travel Correspondent Simon Calder answers your questions about vaccine passports, from what they are to whether you will need one to travel:

Kate Ng2 April 2021 10:30

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Pakistan, Kenya, Bangladesh and the Philippines added to UK travel ‘red list’

The Department of Transport has said travel bans will be introduced for visitors from Pakistan, Kenya, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

The ban will come into force from 4am on Friday 9 April. International visitors who have departed from or transited through any of the countries in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England.

Simon Calder has the full story:

Kate Ng2 April 2021 10:36

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China aims to vaccinate whole city within 5 days following outbreak

Authorities in a Chinese border city has launched a five-day drive to vaccinate its entire population of 300,000 people.

It comes after the city of Ruili was hit by a fresh outbreak of Covid-19, with 16 cases confirmed since Tuesday. 12 of the cases are Chinese and the other four are Myanmar nationals.

State broadcaster CCTV showed people standing in long queues waiting to receive their jabs. A city official told the broadcaster the previous day that 159,000 doses of vaccine had arrived there.

Officials issued an order for people to stay at home in quarantine and close non-essential businesses, as well as tighten controls around the border with Myanmar to try and stop anyone crossing over illegally.

This marks the first time China has tried to vaccinate an entire city in response to a new outbreak, and comes as the government ramps up its nationwide vaccination drive.

Kate Ng2 April 2021 10:45

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