Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.
I’m on Twitter @helenrsullivan.
Leading EU countries said Thursday they would resume AstraZeneca vaccinations after the European medical regulator said the jab is “safe and effective” and not associated with a higher blood clot risk after days of commotion around the shot.
Meanwhile French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced a limited month-long lockdown for Paris and several other regions to combat surging Covid-19 cases, while insisting the measures would be less strict than in the past. The lockdown is set to begin on Friday at midnight.
Here are the key developments from the last few hours:
- The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is “safe and effective” and its benefits outweigh the risks, Europe’s medicines regulator announced, but it will continue to study possible links between the shot and a very rare blood clotting disorder.
- Following the review, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Latvia, Lithuania and Cyprus are to resume the use of the vaccine. Ireland said they would make their decision tomorrow, while Sweden said it would report back publicly next week after “analysing the situation”.
- The EU is to send a formal letter to AstraZeneca in an attempt to resolve its dispute over vaccine supplies as it emerged that capitals including Paris, Berlin and Rome backed the bloc’s threat to halt vaccine exports to countries that were not reciprocating, including Britain, amid further delays over jab deliveries.
- Several French regions, including the Ile-de-France region around Paris, are to be subject to a new four-week lockdown from tomorrow, but schools will remain open and confinement will be less strict than in previous nationwide lockdowns, prime minister Jean Castex has said.
- The Ukrainian capital Kyiv will go into a strict lockdown for three weeks from 20 March to contain the spread of coronavirus, elsewhere Bulgaria will close schools, restaurants and shopping malls for 10 days from 22 March in a bid to stem rising Covid-19 infections that are putting pressure on its hospitals.
- The head of a World Health Organization team working with Chinese colleagues to finish a long-awaited report into Covid’s origins has acknowledged its authors could face “pressures”. But he insisted the final product would require unanimous approval from all of the team’s science experts.
- German regional leaders have urged the EU to speed up its review of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and ensure that it could be rolled out efficiently across the bloc once approved.
- The World Dental Federation warned that dentists around the globe are witnessing the collateral damage of the pandemic on oral health and that there is a higher incidence of tooth decay and more advanced gum disease.