Covid UK news live: Latest Philippines variant- and AstraZeneca updates

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Two cases of a new coronavirus strain first reported in the Philippines have been found in England, with Public Health England (PHE) saying the variant contains a number of notable mutations.

Concerns have been raised that vaccines may not be as effective against a protein found in the strain.

It comes as Matt Hancock sought to reassure the public the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, insisting there is no evidence the coronavirus jab has caused blood clots after some European nations halted its rollout.

The health secretary urged the public to come forward and get the jab, as the the European Medicines Agency (EMA) conducts a full scientific review after France, Germany, Spain and Italy paused their programmes.

The regulator, which approved the vaccine for the EU, says it currently “remains convinced” that the “benefits of this vaccine outweigh the risk”.

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P&O launches UK ‘voyages to nowhere’

No vaccination, no voyage – that will be the rule for the UK’s leading cruise line when it resumes domestic sailings in June, travel correspondent Simon Calder reports.

P&O Cruises says only people who have received both Covid-19 jabs, and waited a further week, will be allowed onboard the first voyages the company plans to operate since April last year.

The company’s first departure will be from Southampton on 27 June. Britannia will make a series of three- and four-night “voyages to nowhere” – with no ports of call. Instead, the captain will try to set a course for sunny weather.

Samuel Osborne17 March 2021 08:53

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No evidence AstraZeneca vaccine has caused blood clots, Hancock says

Matt Hancock has there is no evidence the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has caused blood clots after some European nations halted its rollout.

The health secretary urged the public to come forward and get the jab as the the European Medicines Agency (EMA) conducts a full scientific review – with France, Germany, Spain and Italy pausing their programmes.

The regulator, which approved the vaccine for the EU, says it currently “remains convinced” that the “benefits of this vaccine outweigh the risk”.

It is due to offer a further update today after several European countries halted its use due to reports of some people suffering blood clots following vaccination.

Mr Hancock told broadcasters: “The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is safe, we know that over 10 million people have had it in this country, and that’s what the British regulator says but also the World Health Organisation and even the European regulator.

“We keep the effects of these vaccines under review all the time and we know that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is saving lives in the UK right now so if you get the call, get the jab.”

The health secretary added in an article for The Sun that “there is no evidence that vaccines caused these clots”.

Samuel Osborne17 March 2021 08:35

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Two cases of new Philippines coronavirus strain found in England

Two cases of a new coronavirus strain first reported in the Philippines have been found in England.

Public Health England (PHE) said the variant contains a number of notable mutations, including the E484K spike protein found in the Manaus variant.

Concerns have been raised that vaccines may not be as effective against this protein.

The new strain has been designated as a “variant under investigation” (VUI) rather than a “variant of concern” (VOC), such as the Manaus strain.

PHE said it had now identified two cases of the variant in England and that all appropriate public health interventions were being taken.

It said that one of the cases was linked to international travel and the other is still being investigated, but did not confirm where either had been found.

Samuel Osborne17 March 2021 08:02

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Linking AstraZeneca vaccine to blood clots a ‘big jump’

Linking the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to blood clots was a “big jump”, the former chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has said.

Sir Kent Woods told BBC Breakfast: “The vaccine has a very strong safety record, and [people] shouldn’t hesitate to get the vaccine.

“The events that have been described are events that occur not infrequently in the general population, and to establish a link with vaccination is a big jump.

“The second point to remember is that the people who have been preferentially vaccinated are not simply the average population – they are older people and people with less good health histories, so you will expect these events to occur to some extent anyway.

“And the key challenge for the regulatory agencies is to establish whether the event rates which are being seen in vaccinated people is any higher than would occur in the population if they were not vaccinated.

“And the data we have from organisations which have the most data, which includes the WHO (World Health Organisation), the European Medicines Agency, and the MHRA suggests that actually the events that are being reported or other fewer than one might expect.”

Samuel Osborne17 March 2021 07:46

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Good morning and welcome to the latest coronavirus updates.

Samuel Osborne17 March 2021 07:38

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