Johnson & Johnson blood clots ‘extraordinarily rare’, says Government adviser


The US drugs regulator has not found a "causal" link between the J&J vaccine and blood clots - JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP

The US drugs regulator has not found a “causal” link between the J&J vaccine and blood clots – JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP

Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

Blood clots associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are “extraordinarily rare”, a scientist advising the Government on its coronavirus response has said.

The UK has ordered 30 million doses of the vaccine, which is also known as Janssen, although it is yet to be approved for use by regulators.

“We still don’t know whether they are directly related and caused by the vaccine but it seems possible that they could be,” Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Covid-19 clinical information network, told the Today programme.

“It wouldn’t be surprising to find the J&J, the Janssen vaccine, also causes rare blood clots because it’s based on an adenovirus technology which is not that far away from the technology being used in the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Prof Openshaw said any blood clots were “extraordinarily rare events” and likened the risk level to “if you [were to] get into a car and drive 250 miles”.

It comes a day after the European Medicines Agency said that it has started a review to assess blood clots in people who have been given the Johnson & Johnson jab.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

09:57 AM

Vaccine passports: Inside Israel’s experiment as large events and indoor dining return

Last Thursday, as Tel Aviv nightclub Haoman 17 prepared to re-open after closing for a year during the pandemic, management had a niggling concern, writes Campbell MacDiarmid.

How would Israeli partygoers respond to the new entry requirement that they carry their country’s covid passport – known locally as the Green Pass?

As doors were due to open at 11pm, office manager Emma Tokatly checked the CCTV cameras in the club that helped make the coastal city a world famous party destination. Outside she said she saw something the club had never witnessed in its 16 years of operation: a perfect, orderly queue.

Israel’s experience rolling out the scheme could prove illustrative as the UK government considers Covid passports as a way to reopen the economy. However there are objections from opponents over privacy, civil liberties and data protection concerns.

Read the full dispatch here.

09:33 AM

India hit by worst day of coronavirus cases to date

India reported a record number of coronavirus cases today as the state of Maharashtra went into a weekend lockdown.

145,384 cases and 794 deaths were announced by the health ministry, in a spike which ministers have sought to blame on crowds and cynicism around face coverings.

It follows four previous records in the last week alone. Around 900,000 recent infections are still thought to be active.

People stood behind a barrier at a Mumbai vaccination centre where appointments were suspended - Punit Paranjpe/AFP

People stood behind a barrier at a Mumbai vaccination centre where appointments were suspended – Punit Paranjpe/AFP

Maharashtra, which has the most cases anywhere in India, will remain in lockdown until Monday. India has the world’s third-highest caseload with 13.2 million infections since the start of the pandemic, behind only Brazil and the United States.

Yesterday saw vaccine appointments at dozens of hospitals cancelled due to a shortage of supplies.

Harsh Vardhan, the federal health minister, has dismissed the notion that India is running out of doses – accusing states of trying to “divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just continuously shifting the goalposts”.

09:16 AM

Covid may prove just the shock the economy needed

The International Monetary Fund, no less, has announced it, so it must be true, writes Jeremy Warner.

Only this time, the IMF’s army of economists might actually be right; in contrast to the financial crisis a decade ago, Covid is unlikely to inflict much, if any, lasting damage on advanced economies, with many of them expected to have recovered all the growth lost to the pandemic by the end of next year.

Just to be clear, this is not merely about economies returning to pre-Covid levels of GDP. In most cases including the UK, rapid vaccine rollout should enable this to happen far sooner.

Rather, what the IMF is saying is that less than two years hence, most advanced economies will be almost as big – actually even bigger in the case of the US – as was anticipated before the pandemic struck.

In broad brush economic terms at least, it will be as if Covid never happened. Compare that to the financial crisis, which inflicted permanent wounds, such that even today GDP in many Western economies remains considerably lower than it would have been.

08:57 AM

Blood clots ‘extraordinary rare’ after Johnson & Johnson injection

Blood clots associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are “extraordinarily rare”, a scientist advising the Government on its coronavirus response has said.

The UK has ordered 30 million doses of the vaccine, which is also known as Janssen, although it is yet to be approved for use by regulators.

“We still don’t know whether they are directly related and caused by the vaccine but it seems possible that they could be,” Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Covid-19 clinical information network, told the Today programme.

“It wouldn’t be surprising to find the J&J, the Janssen vaccine, also causes rare blood clots because it’s based on an adenovirus technology which is not that far away from the technology being used in the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

08:30 AM

Step two of roadmap will see Leicester reopen after year in the wilderness

After nearly a year under some degree of lockdown restrictions, businesses in Leicester – the UK city that was the first to be plunged into a local lockdown – are more than ready to open their doors for customers on Monday, writes Poppie Platt.

Jonathan Wainwright, 27, runs The Cradock Arms pub in the city with his family. The pub’s beer garden will reopen on Monday, while their second business, The Clarendon, will have to wait until indoor hospitality restarts on May 17.

Jonathan Wainwright, the general manager at the Cradock Arms pub - John Robertson

Jonathan Wainwright, the general manager at the Cradock Arms pub – John Robertson

While outdoor hospitality is better than full closure, the unreliable British weather poses a challenge: only a third of the pub’s beer garden is covered, meaning customers might be deterred by rain.

Preparing for reopening, the Wainwrights found stock that had gone past its sell-by-date during lockdown. They had to “pour 37 barrels of ale and lager down the drain” and chuck out boxes of bar snacks.

Read the full piece here.

08:14 AM

Coronavirus deaths above 400 in Russia

Russia has reported more than 400 new coronavirus deaths today and 8,704 cases, more than 2,000 of which are in Moscow.

The country’s coronavirus crisis centre confirmed a further 402 deaths, which brings the overall toll to 102,649.

However the government’s Rosstat statistics service has reported a much higher toll of 225,000 between April 2020 and February 2021.

Reported cases in Russia peaked on Christmas Eve last year, when 29,935 new infections were recorded.

Cases have averaged around 9,000 amid the country’s vaccine roll-out in recent weeks.

08:00 AM

Pubs reopen Monday – but some drinkers will be forced to mask up outside

Pub drinkers in some parts of England will be forced to wear masks even when outside from Monday, thanks to even stricter rules for reopening drawn up by some overzealous councils.

Landlords have been told they must enforce mask-wearing by their customers when they are walking around beer gardens, despite national guidance that only requires face coverings indoors.

A staff member wears a face mask as she serves customers at the The Shy Horse pub and restaurant - Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty

A staff member wears a face mask as she serves customers at the The Shy Horse pub and restaurant – Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty

Councils have set up enforcement teams that will patrol pubs looking for rule-breakers, and landlords fear they could face fines if their customers are caught.

The Government’s guidance says drinkers must wear masks if going inside a pub to use the toilets or to pay at the bar.

One notice from Ribble Valley Borough Council told pubs in Lancashire that “face coverings must be worn by customers, except when seated to eat or drink”.

Tony Diver and Ben-Riley Smith have the story.

07:46 AM

Prince Philip’s funeral to differ from splendid procession he was due

Until the intervention of the pandemic, Prince Philip was to have had a short but splendid procession – with full military honours – from St James’s Palace to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, writes Hugo Vickers.

At that point, he was to have been transferred to a special Land Rover and taken to Windsor Castle for a funeral in St George’s Chapel.

Flowers lie outside the British Consulate-General, Hong Kong, after Britain's Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, died at the age of 99 - Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Flowers lie outside the British Consulate-General, Hong Kong, after Britain’s Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, died at the age of 99 – Tyrone Siu/Reuters

The Prince was also not looking forward to being 100, since he hated any fuss. No national service had been planned. Indeed, there was a suggestion that the Duke had decided all that would be seen of him on June 10 would be him going to church.

Clearly, due to pandemic restrictions, it is most likely that there will be a procession within a closed castle, followed by a limited funeral service in the chapel he so loved.

Read more: Pre-pandemic arrangements have been shelved

07:40 AM

Brazil Covid inquiry ordered after daily deaths surpass 4,000

The Brazilian Supreme Court has ordered Congress lawmakers to begin an inquiry into President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Deaths reached 4,195 on Monday and 4,249 on Wednesday, with more than 349,000 coronavirus fatalities recorded.

A further 93,317 confirmed infections and 3,693 new deaths were recorded yesterday.

The World Health Organisation has described Brazil as in the midst “raging inferno of an outbreak”, but a defiant Mr Bolsonaro – who has opposed lockdowns and expressed deep cynicism about vaccines – has branded the imminent inquiry a “stitch-up by the Left”.

Brazilians queue to refill oxygen cylinders to be used by coronavirus patients in Caracas - Pedro Rances Mattey/AFP via Getty

Brazilians queue to refill oxygen cylinders to be used by coronavirus patients in Caracas – Pedro Rances Mattey/AFP via Getty

Bolsonaro said the Supreme Court justice has “no moral courage” and called for them to be impeached.

Brazil’s hospitals are currently under severe pressure amid the spread of the more contagious P.1 variant, which originated in Brazil and has become dominant there.

07:18 AM

Outbreak struggle in Thailand

Thai authorities struggled to contain a growing coronavirus outbreak just days before the country’s traditional Songkran New Year’s holiday, when millions of people travel.

Health officials reported 559 new infections on Friday, following increases over the previous two days. The government response has so far centred on closures of nightlife venues in 41 provinces for two weeks. Governors of some provinces are placing restrictions on travellers arriving from elsewhere.

Such daily increases are rare for Thailand, which has weathered the pandemic far better than many nations through measures including strict border controls that have decimated the country’s lucrative tourism industry. Thailand has also experimented at times with curfews, alcohol bans and closures of schools, shopping malls and restaurants.

The outbreak is increasing criticism of the government and its handling of the pandemic. While Thailand has only recorded 30,869 infections and 96 deaths, critics say the vaccination drive is too slow.

07:10 AM

Curfew as Colombian capital battles a third wave

Stay-at-home orders are set to come into force for the eight million inhabitants of Bogota, as the Colombian capital battles a third wave of infections, adding to curfews already covering seven million across four other major cities.

Elsewhere in South America, Argentina entered a night-time curfew on Friday, running from midnight to 6am every day until April 30.

It will be in force in the country’s highest-risk areas, mainly urban centres, where bars and restaurants will close at 11pm.

Both Argentina and Colombia have recorded about 2.5 million coronavirus cases, numbers surpassed only by Brazil in the region.

07:07 AM

Lockdowns as vaccine shortages hit around the world

Fresh lockdowns and curfews were imposed on tens of millions of people from India to Argentina today, as Covid-19 infections surged again and vaccine roll-outs were hampered by shortages and scares over side effects.

In India, the worst-hit state of Maharashtra was running out of vaccines as the health system buckled under the weight of the contagion, which has killed 2.9 million people worldwide.

Having let its guard down with mass religious festivals, political rallies and spectators at cricket matches, the world’s second-most populous nation has added more than a million new infections since late March.

Every weekend from Saturday until the end of April, Maharashtra’s 125 million people will be confined to their homes unless travelling or shopping for food or medicine.

India has inoculated 94 million of its 1.3 billion people, but The Times of India reported on Friday that states on average had just over five days of stock left, with some regions already grappling with severe shortages.

04:48 AM

Amid the pandemic comes a volcanic eruption

Evacuees travel on a farmer's truck as they leave the village of Rose Hall following the eruption of La Soufriere volcano on the eastern Caribbean island of St Vincent - REUTERS/Robertson S. Henry

Evacuees travel on a farmer’s truck as they leave the village of Rose Hall following the eruption of La Soufriere volcano on the eastern Caribbean island of St Vincent – REUTERS/Robertson S. Henry

Cots, tents, and respirator masks poured into the eastern Caribbean island of St Vincent as officials expected to start distributing them on Saturday, a day after a powerful explosion at La Soufriere volcano uprooted the lives of thousands of people who evacuated their homes under government orders.

Nations ranging from Antigua to Guyana offered help by either shipping emergency supplies to their neighbour or agreeing to temporarily open their borders to the roughly 16,000 evacuees fleeing ash-covered communities with as many personal belongings as they could stuff into suitcases and backpacks.

The volcano, which last erupted in 1979, kept rumbling as experts warned that explosive eruptions could continue for days or possibly weeks. A previous eruption in 1902 killed about 1,600 people.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves asked people to remain calm, have patience and keep protecting themselves from coronavirus as he celebrated that no deaths or injuries were reported after the eruption in the northern tip of St Vincent, part of an island chain that includes the Grenadines and is home to more than 100,000 people.

03:57 AM

Italy continues to struggle with death rate

Stalls of the Antignano market, in the Vomero district of Naples, Italy - CIRO FUSCO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Stalls of the Antignano market, in the Vomero district of Naples, Italy – CIRO FUSCO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Italy recorded 718 Covid deaths on Friday, the highest in months, but health officials say the spike from 487 a day earlier is due to a backlog of deaths being reported in Sicily.

Italy’s death toll has remained stubbornly high as the very contagious British variant became prevalent and as the vaccination campaign for the most vulnerable population has lagged.

Italy has recorded 113,579 deaths in the pandemic, second in Europe to Britain’s 127,233, where the vaccine campaign is much more advanced.

The president of Italy’s National Health Institute, Silvio Brusaferro, told reporters that the new contagion has reached a “plateau” in Italy, with 18,938 new cases on Friday. They began dipping below 20,000 last week.

Much of the country remains on partial lockdown, with a 10pm curfew and high schools only partially open.

02:58 AM

Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral to be ‘Windsor family affair’

A notice of Prince Philip's death is displayed on the large screen at Piccadilly Circus - Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

A notice of Prince Philip’s death is displayed on the large screen at Piccadilly Circus – Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral had been meticulously planned in accordance with his wishes. But Buckingham Palace confirmed on Friday that coronavirus restrictions meant all arrangements had been completely revised.

Much of the planning for the funeral has had to be adapted to avoid the gathering of large crowds, because of strict restrictions and social distancing guidelines.

They include an online book of condolences on the Royal family’s official website rather than conventional public tributes, and no lying in state.

The Queen and Prince Philip, who celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November, had been living largely in isolation at Windsor, because their age put them at heightened risk from Covid-19.

Read the full story here.

02:54 AM

More hurdles for European vaccine roll-out

Europe’s stuttering vaccine roll-out faced multiple hurdles on Friday as EU regulators said they were reviewing side effects of the Johnson & Johnson shot and France further limited its use of the AstraZeneca jab.

The US drugs regulator said it had not found a “causal” link between the J&J vaccine and blood clots, but that its probe was continuing after “a few individuals” suffered complications. “Both conditions can have many different causes,” the agency said.

Johnson & Johnson released a statement saying the company was aware that “thromboembolic events… have been reported with all Covid-19 vaccines”.

02:42 AM

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