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Coronavirus 1) Oxford pauses child trial of AstraZeneca vaccine

“A trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in British children has been paused while regulators investigate possible links to rare blood clots in adults. The announcement came after a day of confusion over whether the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had found a link between the vaccine and the clots, which have been associated with the deaths of seven vaccinated people in Britain. Boris Johnson has urged people to get their vaccines as science advisers estimate whether younger people’s fears over the Oxford jab could threaten a resurgence of the virus. European regulators said that they would decide imminently whether evidence pointed to a causal link between the vaccine and blood clots, which could prompt restrictions on its use in younger age groups.” – The Times

  • Halt rollout for younger people until safety of AstraZeneca vaccine ‘certain’, says adviser – Daily Telegraph
  • England’s Covid vaccine programme could slow sharply, Sage says – The Guardian

Analysis:

  • Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine trials have faced a lot of tribulations – The Times
  • Despite scientific advice to continue getting the jab, answers about fatal blood clots are urgently needed – The Guardian

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Coronavirus 2) Shoppers may need Covid vaccine passports

“Coronavirus certificates could be needed in high street shops this summer, Downing Street has hinted, as Labour said that it was prepared to vote against the plans. Boris Johnson indicated that the government was moving towards a system of domestic Covid status certificates in his press conference on Monday night, although he said that in certain “essential” areas of life such documents would never have to be presented. Pressed for details yesterday on which shops would count as essential, the prime minister’s spokesman did not offer any examples. The certificates will not be needed when non-essential retail opens on Monday, although social distancing rules will still be in place.” – The Times

  • SNP open to voting for Covid passports in England – Daily Telegraph
  • US could overtake UK in vaccine rollout as Biden offers jabs to all adults this month – Daily Telegraph
  • First shots of Moderna vaccine set to be administered in Wales – Daily Telegraph
  • Dementia more common among Covid survivors – The Times
  • Moderna Covid vaccines next week to counter AstraZeneca slowdown – The Times
  • One in three Covid survivors diagnosed with mental health condition – The Guardian

Analysis:

  • UK Covid passports – who’s for and who’s against? – The Guardian
  • The new Covid surge in Chile shows how vulnerable the UK is until we’re fully vaccinated – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Douglas Murray – We don’t need Covid passports or rules that make no sense — we just need our PM to trust us

“AS lockdown begins to lift, we get an idea of what the post-Covid world is going to look like. And as this strange new world emerges, we all have to work out what we are willing to put up with — and what we are not. This week has seen a good test case, with the row over so-called “vaccine passports”. Over recent months the Government have gone back and forth over whether we should need any such thing to go about what used to be our normal lives. And the political struggle is not just between vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi and the Prime Minister. There seems to be a struggle going on within the Prime Minister himself. For Boris Johnson is clearly deeply torn over what kind of society we are going to be as we emerge blinking into the light.” – The Sun

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>Today:

Coronavirus 4) Pupils must wear facemasks at school until mid-May

“Secondary school pupils and college students in England will need to continue wearing facemasks in class when they return after Easter, the government has said. The measure, which it is hoped will limit transmission among older pupils while they are indoors, is likely to remain in place until the middle of next month. Five education union leaders had called on ministers not to rush into removing the recommended face coverings in classrooms after Easter. Yesterday the Department for Education (DfE) said it expected face coverings no longer to be required in classrooms when further easing of social-contact limits indoors were confirmed in England, which will be no earlier than May 17. Pupils and students have been advised to wear facemasks wherever social distancing cannot be maintained, including in class, since March 8, but ministers said the policy would be reviewed.” – The Times

  • Safe summer depends on keeping our distance, advisers warn PM – The Times
  • Teachers reject Covid catchup options of extended school day and shorter holidays – The Guardian
  • Universities angry at PM’s failure to include reopening plan in Covid roadmap – The Guardian

Comment:

Analysis:

  • Disease models are not weather forecasts for the Covid pandemic – The Times
  • Why the models warning of a third UK Covid wave are flawed – Daily Telegraph

Northern Ireland 1) 41 police hurt in Unionist violence

“As many as 41 police officers in Northern Ireland have been injured in what a senior officer called senseless violence. Arlene Foster, the first minister, accused “malign and criminal elements” of whipping up young people into violence and disorder. Petrol bombs were thrown at police, who said that two vehicles were set on fire last night in an area of Londonderry where young people and some children had gathered. It was the city’s seventh night of disorder after it emerged that prosecutors would not charge anyone, including 24 Sinn Fein politicians, for attending the funeral in June last year of Bobby Storey, a former IRA member and Sinn Fein politician.” – The Times

Northern Ireland 2) Protocol critics have no alternative, says EU ambassador

“Political leaders who want the Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland dumped have failed to come up with any better ideas, the EU ambassador to the UK has said, as police confirmed 41 officers were injured during violence on the streets over the weekend. João Vale de Almeida called on unionist leaders to focus on making the protocol work rather than fighting against it, pledging the EU’s commitment to flexibility on its implementation if the British government demonstrated good faith. “The protocol is the solution for the problems created by Brexit in Northern Ireland and that’s where I believe we should focus,” he said. Vale de Almedia was speaking after four nights of disturbances in the Waterside area of Derry and Carrickfergus near Belfast.” – The Guardian

Northern Ireland 3) Whitehall dithering on protecting Troubles veterans, says minister

“The veterans minister has broken rank to openly criticise his government’s failure to bring in a bill to protect veterans who served in Northern Ireland. Johnny Mercer said he was “not happy with the pace of progress” on legislation being worked on by his colleagues to stop elderly veterans being unfairly hounded over incidents that happened decades ago. Mercer is pushing legislation in parliament to protect troops who served overseas, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, after taxpayer-funded inquiries were launched into the actions of hundreds of veterans.” – The Times

Salmond: Sturgeon must open immediate independence talks with Whitehall after election

“Alex Salmond has said Nicola Sturgeon must open immediate independence negotiations with the UK next month if the Holyrood election results in a nationalist “super-majority” – and another referendum may not be required. The former First Minister said nationalist MSPs, including those from from the SNP and his Alba Party, would combine to issue a “clear and unmistakable instruction” to Ms Sturgeon’s government to open immediate talks with Whitehall on separation. Despite the ongoing Covid pandemic, he said a standing independence convention would be established drawn from all Scotland’s elected politicians “to give support and substance to the Scottish Government’s independence negotiating position.”” – Daily Telegraph

We won’t make shows for older people, says BBC… as it pumps £40m into channel aimed at young

“The BBC will not make programmes aimed specifically at older viewers because their tastes are too varied, the corporation has said. Instead, the over-50s are urged to enjoy shows made for a “general audience”. The declaration contrasts starkly with the BBC’s recently published annual plan, which includes a mission to make “more young-appealing British drama and comedy, entertainment and events”. It is also pouring an extra £40 million into the programme budget for BBC Three, which is about to be resurrected as a terrestrial channel with a schedule “specifically aimed at audiences aged 16-34”.” – Daily Telegraph

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